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A note from ShroudWolfe

♔ Shoutout to Bernardino C. and Lolop 12 for becoming Patrons! ♔

 

Chapter 23: A Macabre of Death

 

“Just push the red crystal!” Naomi growled as she nudged Fallon’s elbow with her foot.

The Warlock sighed as she glanced back at the B-ranked Air Mage that lounged across the three chairs with a bored expression. “If I say the Erros is lying, that means he goes back to his jail cell.”

“What?” Naomi turned her head and frowned, unable to see past the blinds. “Well—whatever! Send him on to be executed and keep going. Gods, what did I do to deserve such a boring assignment?”

Fallon faced forward and tapped the green crystal. Lieutenant Green's gaze moved from her window to the file before him, where he jotted down a quick note and motioned for the guards to send Prisoner 731 on his way to the executioner.

The Warlock rubbed her collar bone, which had fully recovered thanks to the Blessing delivered by the Paragon. Still, Fallon had not been able to get much sleep with her head filled with worries about Corbin’s approaching mission and Orion’s uncertain future. She shifted her feet, unable to sit down thanks to the troublesome babysitter Fallon had gained since arriving at the Garrison.

‘Not sure what happened with Julian, but Naomi is an improvement, albeit an annoying one.’

“How many do we have to get through again?” Naomi asked as the Lieutenant rang the bell for the next prisoner.

“Today? Another two hundred at least,” Fallon replied. ‘Since the Paragon expects me to make up for lost ground yesterday.’

“Fuuuuck!” the Air Mage groaned. “Just execute them all.” The woman sat up and stretched as she propped her booted feet against the window ledge and stretched her long dark-amber arms behind the chair. “They could at least skip the Esus. They’re useless anyway.”

Fallon ignored the Consultus’ comment as she focused on the prisoner already seated at the table. Today’s evaluations were less focused on murder but with an equally unsettling serving of rape, kidnapping, torture, and human trafficking mixed in.

‘As much filth as we remove today, how long before these jail cells are full again?’ Fallon wondered as she tapped the red crystal. The Warlock folded her arms and watched the kidnapper take his last walk to the courtyard.

“When do we get a break?” Naomi whined as she played with her braided auburn hair. “And how long do those last?”

“Probably after we’ve finished another ten. The Lieutenant will let us know.”

“That fucking Materia?” Naomi snorted as she dropped the braid and moved over to the mirror to study today's interviewer. “Like I’ll wait to take my cue from the likes of him.”

“You can always take it up with the Major if you have a problem with that,” Fallon replied cautiously as she took advantage of the empty seats to rest her legs.

Naomi shot a glare in her direction but rolled her neck with a sigh as she returned to sit one chair over from the Warlock. “So, you’re a Seviner. Bet that information would be worth a pretty Prum—”

“If you want to risk angering the Paragon,” Fallon interjected sharply, feeling somewhat grateful for her white mask.

“And how would he know it was me?” Naomi replied as she blinked innocently. “Someone is bound to find out about you after yesterday’s fiasco.”

“Well, if you lie to the Paragon about selling me out, I’ll know,” Fallon answered coolly as she turned to meet the Air Mage’s gaze.

Naomi blinked, turned to face the screened window, and whispered, “Fuck.”

Their break came after Lieutenant Green returned the forty-ninth Erros to his cell. Fallon and Naomi both rose with tired sighs and turned towards the stairwell.

“It's about time,” Naomi growled as the guards outside unlocked the door to let them out. “How long is a break again?”

“Ten minutes, Consultus,” Lieutenant Green answered as he hefted the box of finished evaluations against his chest and turned down the hall.

“Only ten?” Naomi rolled her neck with a dramatic groan and turned towards the nearest guard. “Well, show me to the cafeteria. I need something to drink, or I’m going to fall asleep in there.”

“The prison cafeteria doesn’t open for another couple of hours,” Fallon replied as the guard, who appeared to be a Trion, hesitated.

“Then what are we supposed to do?”

“Use the latrine. Or go outside for some fresh air,” Fallon answered as she folded her arms and turned in the direction of the second courtyard she had been shown the day before.

“Fresh air sounds fine,” the Air Mage muttered as she trailed behind. “I could use a smoke.”

“I don’t know if they allow—”

“Save the lecture, Seviner,” Naomi snapped as she shouldered past the Warlock down the hall.

Fallon cringed beneath the Air Mage’s careless tongue and hurried after her. “Could you not call me that out in the open?”

“What?” Naomi stopped short as she reached the crossways and turned about. “Oh, sure,” the Air Mage rolled her eyes as she glanced down each hall. “They need better fucking signs!”

‘They probably designed the prison this way to make it harder for prisoners to escape,’ Fallon mused as she gestured towards the right hallway.

Naomi huffed and turned in the indicated direction—then halted abruptly as a deafening explosion ricocheted through the hallway and shook the floor beneath the Air Mage and Warlock’s feet. “What—in Thana’s netheral fuck!”

Ignoring the Air Mage’s rather confusing choice of words, Fallon whipped around as the sound of steel, screams, and a spine-tingling snarl echoed down the halls towards them. Five prison guards poured out of a door close by and ran towards the sound as the Warlock activated [Infernal Gaze].

A maze of walls, doors, and stairs filled Fallon’s vision with scattered red figures that could either be prison guards or Erros. Fallon focused on a congestion of red blotches near the Garrison Prison’s far northern wall where something large barreled its way through several lines of guards with frightening efficiency.

“Well, come on!” Naomi called out as she slapped Fallon’s back and jogged in the direction the guards had gone. “Let’s go check it out, Seviner.”

“I don’t think—”

“What, are your Praeditus robes just for show?” Naomi taunted as she doubled back and grabbed the Warlock’s wrist. “Consider this an extended break and chance to stretch our legs.”

‘If it’s a Monster, I could use the experience,’ Fallon reasoned as she jogged behind the Air Mage. ‘But why would a monster break into the Garrison, let alone the Prison when there are so many more readily available refugees lying defenseless outside the city wall?’

What bothered the Warlock the most was the fact that she couldn’t pin down the Monster long enough to identify its rank. Judging by the rapidly disappearing dots of what Fallon assumed to be the prison guards, this Monster was pretty powerful and probably several ranks higher.

“We need to move faster than this,” Naomi said impatiently as she paused long enough to tap a hand to her chest, then repeated the same motion on Fallon.

Air Mage Active Skill—Haste III (Tier III)
An elemental buff that increases the target’s movement speed by 45% for 10 minutes; also increases the target’s attack speed by 30% for 5 minutes.

When the Air Mage pulled on Fallon’s wrist again, the two moved forward so quickly the Warlock hardly felt her boots touch the floor. They reached the next crossway in the corridor and halted as Naomi listened intently for the sounds of battle.

“Which way?” the Air Mage growled with annoyance.

“L-left, but—” Fallon’s words were cut off again as she was yanked down the left hall.

A grouping of prison guards around Major Kellen appeared, and Fallon instantly dragged her heels, much to Naomi’s annoyance.

The Major glanced over his shoulder sharply at their approach and scowled. “Consultus Naomi, what are you doing? Get her out of he—"

Bloodlust filled the hallways as something resembling a chain flew past the Major’s head to impale one of the Consultus standing beside him. Kellen growled savagely as he turned and brought his Claymore down against the dripping chain. The clang of metal on something even stronger echoed through the hall before a second chain appeared from nowhere and whipped the Major through the air directly towards Fallon and Naomi.

Thanks to [Haste III], Fallon and Naomi were able to dodge the flying Major. Fallon turned and stared as spike chains, formed from some sort of red metal, whipped through the remaining Consultus guards and impaled them to the wall and floor.

“What in Dolin’s blistering asshole!” Naomi whispered tensely as her hand froze around the empty scabbard at her waist. Like any visitor, the Air Mage had turned in her weapon before entering the prison as Fallon’s escort. “Fuck!”

A chain blitzed through the air towards the Air Mage but clanged off the Major’s Claymore as Kellen jumped up to intercept it. Fallon stared at the alien metal links that tightened and coiled around the Destroyer’s weapon like a living limb. The chain jerked, dragging the Major forward with it as Kellen held onto his Claymore and activated [Demoralizing Shout].

At the end of the hallway, the other five hooked chains ripped themselves free from the impaled guards and turned towards the Destroyer, Air Mage, and Warlock.

“You better run, Seviner,” Kellen whispered hoarsely as the rest of the monster came into view.

The writhing chains all connected to the back of a long, muscular, crimson body covered in hardened scales that reminded Fallon of an aquatic monster she had seen once in a painting. Six long, muscular legs led towards a reptilian-like head with no eyes and two short stubby horns, while a row of fanged teeth spread into a death-like smile.

At the last second, before Naomi grabbed Fallon’s wrist and yanked the Warlock back down the way they had come, [Infernal Gaze] finally kicked in with the monster’s information.

Monster—Dementher ᚢᛜᚲᚾᛟᚹᚾ. Rank: ᚢᛜᚲᚾᛟᚹᚾ. Level: ᚢᛜᚲᚾᛟᚹᚾ.

Dementher ᚢᛜᚲᚾᛟᚹᚾ. Health: ᚢᛜᚲᚾᛟᚹᚾ. Mana: ᚢᛜᚲᚾᛟᚹᚾ.

‘A Dementher!’ The Warlock spun around and focused on running as fast as she could beside the panicked Air Mage.

“If you happen to meet another Dementher, runaway and summon me as quickly as you can. They will eat you as soon as they would any other human,” Asmodeus's clear warning echoed like a drum in her ears.

“Fuck! Fuck! What was that!?” Naomi exclaimed shrilly as she slammed into the corner of the crossway and turned right.

The scent of blood and battle rippled down the halls behind them as Fallon spun around the corner after the Air Mage. Her eyes scanned over the skeletal structure of the building around them, and she quickly located a nearby stairwell that led up towards the roof. The Warlock sucked a sharp breath as Kellen’s dying scream echoed somewhere in the distance. Fallon quickly shook her head and rubbed a trembling hand against the symbol on her chest as she whispered her familiar’s name. “Asmodeus!”

Silas grimaced as his Spellweave Black Chimera Boots squished against a pile of guts left behind by his familiar’s rampage. He adjusted the satchel bag around his chest and wiped the mess against the tattered remains of a dead man’s torso.

Silas Moore. Nucleus (Ingenium). Class (Warlock). Rank (A). Level (83)
Warlock Silas. Health: 619,641/619,641. Mana: 237,465/247,856.
Experience till next level: 689,321/1,830,400.
Status Effects: [Familiar’s Ether Link], [Dementher’s Anguish], and [Aura of Resonance].

Finding the Dementher was easy enough. All the Warlock had to do was follow the trail of blood, organs, and dismembered bodies. Silas soon found his rather troublesome Dementher feasting on the remains of what appeared to be a Destroyer’s corpse, judging by the bent Adamantine Claymore lying on the ground close by.

“We don’t have time for this, Mammon,” Silas said as he circled the hungry Dementher. “We need to find our target and move on before that Paragon and his useless Praeditus realize the Monster Surge was a distraction.”

“Such well-cultivated Nucleus,” Mammon growled as a black tongue slid out from behind its fangs to lick the blood smeared across its face and snout. “I could not resist—Master.”

Silas narrowed his eyes on his familiar and then pulled out a crudely drawn map as he tried to determine their location. “This place is like a Dementher maze!”

“You brought his scent, did you not, Warlock?”

Silas nodded as he reached into the satchel bag to pull out a man’s scarf, which he dangled in front of the familiar.

Two large slits appeared on the eyeless Dementher’s head as it inhaled and then licked the pale blue scarf embroidered with lightning bolts. “I have his scent!”

“Good, then let’s keep moving. And remember, no witnesses.”

“Oh dear,” Mammon chuckled mockingly. “I suppose that means I should hunt down the two Ingenium that ran away just now.”

“Mammon,” Silas growled the Dementher’s name with evident impatience.

“Not to worry, Warlock. Phosphorus can lead you to the target while I clear away all remaining witnesses.”

“Be sure that you do. I have no intention of reporting our failure to Prince Eckhardt,” Silas muttered as he waved on the impatient familiar. The Warlock watched with hardened eyes as the Dementher’s body turned invisible once more, the deadly chains that grew from its back fading from view until only a trail of bloody monster footprints remained that spread further apart as it increased its pace.

The Warlock shook his head as he returned the scarf to his satchel and pulled out a hefty, medium-size book of crimson leather with titanium clasps.

Weapon—Grimoire of the Deceiver. Grade (A). Quality (Legendary)
A book bound in Dementher skin written in the language of the Ancienter.
Note: While the language is difficult to decipher, owning a bound Grimoire permits a Warlock to maintain control over an unwilling Dementher. However, in order to do so, the Warlock must sign their name in blood to one of the Grimoire’s pages. Destroying this book removes all constraints on the Dementher and kills the Warlock.

The Warlock placed his hand over the fist-sized ruby embedded into the cover as he channeled his will to the Dementher bound by the Grimoire. “Come forth, Phosphorus, and show me that which I seek.”

At Silas’s feet, a dark glowing red line appeared on the blood-splattered floor that trailed down the hall and then turned left. The Warlock followed the trail created by Phosphorus’s magic and spared only a passing thought of pity for whatever Ingenium Mammon would soon be eating.

 

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