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View Full Version : The Master (Codincx) vs Zhelan (Lobotomizer)



Codincx
06-16-2016, 10:35 AM
We both had a two week's time for writing the battle. No extra rules were added to the classic format.

As it is always, we will highly appreciate any form of CnC.




‘So, you’re saying that might turn into a serious threat?’ My voice wasn’t bearing the mocking sarcasm it would ordinarily have. After all, I was talking to someone with an opinion worthy of considering.

‘Yea, I would warrant so. Of course, you know how it is, a 99% chance still might end up not happening, but it’s a whole load of risk you’d be talking of.’ Inquisitor H was sure in his voice. Of course, the 99% was just an example, since anything even remotely that risky would be treated as a full-on emergency, but it did mean that the problem at hand was deserving of taking measures.

‘All right. If such is your warrant, then I say you’re free to dispatch any countermeasure you see fit. I trust your ability to judge forces correctly.’ Indeed, the Inquisitor has proven himself most capable on repeated occasions. To not give him my trust in this case would be not only a terrible insult, it would also be terribly stupid. All in all, he did know more than me about his forces, and would be in a better position to make the judgement of the countermeasure.

‘Well, thanks for that one then.’ No matter how you looked at it, you couldn’t miss the fact he used to be a friend to me since a long time. After all, he was one of the few persons who could address me this casually without getting himself a quick ticket to the punishment chambers down below. ‘I can’t say I don’t understand your surprise though. I was just as certain as you in the fact someone that high up wouldn’t manage to find the sheer stupidity to betray the Empire. It’s a death sentence.’

I chuckled. ‘Indeed it is. You’ll make sure of it, too’

He returned the sadistic chuckle. ‘Indeed. I guess the rest of the bunch are to be spared where possible? Or did she finally convince you?’

My chuckle turned into a laugh. ‘Nah, not yet. She’s damn trying though, that’s for sure.’ I smiled to myself at the thought of the talk with my Mistress. Hell, she was insistent on those unnecessary casualties.

‘Well that’s good. You know I don’t like to waste men.’

A short nod was enough to answer. ‘Of course. You’re not High Inquisitor for nothing, H.’ I took a look at the screen in front of us. ‘So, anything else of relative interest?’

He blinked fast at me for a split second, then scratched his chin. ‘Uhm. Good question you’re askin’ there.’ He popped a few windows on the screen open and closed. ‘Oh. There’s this guy.’ An image of an Asian-looking man popped on the screen. Nothing more could really be said about him, but it’s not like the image quality was terribly good, either. I raised my eyebrows at that. ‘No idea of the fellow’s name.’ Yes. Very informing, H. ‘We just thought he may personally interest you. See that kid over there?’ I looked at where he pointed. Indeed, although blurry, I could see the vague shape of a kid. Perhaps female, perhaps long-haired male. Couldn’t really tell. ‘Seemingly, some people have called her a demon, on some occasion. Of course, by itself doesn’t sound that unusual, but there’s more. She herself makes some rather occult comments every now and then, with the man answering. She does not seem related to him, for that matter, although they travel together.’

I tilted my head. ‘Are you implying those people talking of demons may be right?’ Was H going insane? That wouldn’t have been good. One insane guy running this Empire was more than enough already.

‘Not yet.’ He popped a video open. ‘Watch.’ In the video, a security cam footage, you could clearly see a man’s weapon fly out of his hand, for no reason whatsoever. It looked as if something hit it from the side, but nothing seemed to actually physically hit. I hummed meditatively at it. H turned back to me. ‘To that, the man always seems aware of dangers. You could say it’s just street smarts and awareness, but some of my guys claim it goes past that from time to time. They’re not the most reliable of them, sure, but dubitable info is still info.’

‘Hm. Indeed it is.’ I leaned back on my chair. A demon? Could that be true? If so, what could I gain from that? ‘Interesting. I’d like it if you could send some of the boys to get that guy here. Sure enough, only if you’ve got what to spare.’

H tilted his head. ‘Come on. We both know perfectly well that riff-raff is plenty enough to spare in hordes. I’ll tell you what we find out and didn’t know.’

I nodded. ‘Sure. And keep me updated with the little rebellion the Shadowmaster is planning.’ Shadowmasters. A pseudo-military role within the Inquisition, mainly responsible for coordinating shadow ops. In charge of a retinue of personal Shadows, of various specialisations, it wasn’t a really low position. As such, rebellion from someone like that was not a matter to be ignored. Especially when most of them are inoculated against betrayal. Hm. I’d have to look over the methodology applied in inoculation in retrospect to the individual’s psyche, when we get him. Flaws in that aspect aren’t tolerable, at all.

‘Of course. I guess this means we’re done here?’

‘Pretty much.’ I gave him a grin. ‘Why do you ask?’

H replied my grin with a sly smile. ‘Oh you know, been a long day. Done a lot of work. I wouldn’t mind a pair of pretty, well trained slaves. And a bottle of some good something.’

I chuckled. ‘Sure. Don’t bother calling, I’ll ask someone to bring them to your room. I don’t think you’d mind if you find three instead of two though. Or four, for that matter. The slaves are uncharacteristically eager to go when it’s your room we talk of. Way more than mine.’

‘Well, I’m not implying anything, but I don’t keep a psychopathic, way-too-sadistic woman around my quarters. Unlike someone else I know…’

I laughed at that. ‘Yeah, keep commenting like that and I’ll send her to you…’

‘Please no.’ His tone was half joking, but the other half was genuine fear. Sure, he’d probably end up on top from that fight, but really. He wouldn’t escape without marks. Lots and lots of marks.

I laughed. ‘Kidding, kidding.’ I got up from my chair, and so did he. ‘Well, see ya some other time then.’ I raised a hand in a friendly salute.

‘See ya.’ He returned the gesture, and left for his quarters. He indeed had a long day, and a long week before that. And, given the current rebellion, he’d have an even longer week. He did deserve his free time, whenever he could snatch it. I left for my chambers.



*


Minutes later, I was in my chamber. My mistress was already there, painting. She had always been talented, only she did it quite rarely in these days. After all, whom in her un-right mind would paint when they can torture? Quietly, I glided over the floor with my footsteps, taking a seat on the couch behind her. I synched my breath with hers, so she wouldn’t notice me.

Just seeing her was always enough to make all tiredness go away in a fleeting instant. People always talked about how the fires of passion went cold after the first few years of marriage. Maybe that was right. But it was certain, the love was still there, if it existed in the first place. Like it was with us. I had to struggle to swallow a chuckle. Where would you think you’d find true love? A naïve couple, or one of priestly pure people. Certainly not here, in the heart of this den of misdeeds.

‘Dear!’ Oh. Dammit. She noticed me. It took her something less than an instant to leave the chair and instead collapse in my arms.

I kissed the tip of her ear. ‘Really, I tried to not disturb you. S…’

She put a finger on my lips. ‘No being sorry for that. Understood?’ I smiled. There was no one else in probably the world who would address me like that. I loved her so much.

‘Yes, Mistress.’ We both laughed. ‘But you know, you could’ve remained there longer. I do enjoy seeing you paint, you know?’

She gave me a disbelieving look. ‘You enjoy seeing me, period.’ Well. I couldn’t deny the truth of that statement. ‘So, anything interesting with H?’

‘Well, rebellion.’ She looked at me, obviously not having expected that. ‘Really! A Shadowmaster, too.’

She was genuinely surprised. ‘Aren’t they…?’

I nodded. ‘Yeah. They are inoculated. I have no idea what that guy’s psyche has wrong with it.’

She got a spark in her eyes. ‘Do we torture him?’

With my arms occupied in holding her, I just softly bashed my face against her shoulder. ‘You goddamn maniac! No!’ I got a half-sad look from her. ‘Or yes, depending on how much resistance he shows.’ A happy look. ‘But not unless really needed! No excess damage!’

She gave me a feigned look of sadness. If you’d ask me to explain her in one word, that’d be paradox. The reason for that is too long to explain here, but to exemplify, she looked cute just now. Talking of torture, as the most sadistic person in an Empire dealing in sadism and sin, and she looked cute. I shook my head at that, getting a smile and laugh from her.

‘Goddamn you, dear.’ My voice was joking, of course. I guess I was a paradox too. The heartless, merciless Master of the same Empire of Sin, joking with a warm tone. Indeed, our relationship made no sense whatsoever. I kissed her deeply at that thought.

A few eternities of kissing later, we slowly came back into normal discussion. Or, well, normal-ish discussion. Okay. Fine. Non-normal discussion. Namely, about the other thing H told me of.

‘So, you’re saying that guy has a little demon kid?’ She was damn good at putting points… interestingly.

‘Yes, that’d be what it looks like. Of course, it may and probably is just a load of crap, but you never know.’ After all, it wouldn’t be the first time to hear rumours of the paranormal. That being said, after the event with the disappearing man and his “Council”, I had taken an interest in investigating the more physical rumours. After all, like H said, we almost had too many riff-raffs, so no problems with manpower to spare.

‘Hm. I want to meet a demon!’ Honestly, she was not in her right mind. Well, that’s why I loved her. I wanted to meet a demon too.

‘Indeed! I wonder if it’s going to be a high-level, adult talk, or if the demon behaves the age he looks like. Or, hell, is that age. Everything’s possible.’ Hm. Now that I just said it, it was right. If the demon was the real deal, I’d have no info on his powers whatsoever. Wouldn’t be riskless to try talking to it.

‘Don’t worry, dear! Our own Demon should be enough of a match for another one.’ She snapped me out of worrying over it now. You’d think, that after years and years of training to control my facial expressions, no one should be able to read them. But no, my Mistress could still read them. Sometimes I wondered if she even does that. Maybe she just listens to my thoughts.

‘Okay, okay. But our Demon is, after all human.’ Barely-so, but human. Or, at the very least, ex-human. Still, not a certain bet against a supernatural entity. ‘So, I’m not su…’

She kissed me quiet. I returned the kiss. Maybe she was right. Why worry over it? It didn’t even happen yet. Her tongue played in my mouth. Well, it was hard paying attention to something else with her doing that, too. I just begun leaving myself into it, turning her around and laying her down on the couch, without once breaking the kiss. She clung to my neck, as one of my hands begun sliding down her narrow waist…



*


I was in my study, dozing off on the chair, as one of my personal retinue slaves entered the room. I knew him by the pace and demeanour of making sounds when moving about, but I turned my eyes to watch him anyway. You could never be too careful.

‘Master.’ He began with a low bow. ‘H sent this for you. He said you’d know what it is.’

He placed a sealed envelope on the table, then bowed again. I gestured to him with my head that he can leave, which, after another bow and ‘Master’, he did. I was left with the envelope. Updates on the various situations in the Empire, no doubt. Lazily, I extended a hand after it, and got the contents out into sight.

A quick read between the lines was enough to tell me what was going on. The rebel Shadowmaster had been caught, alive. Good. That’d mean we could interrogate, and psychologically reassess him. I had to put some of the higher-ranked Inquisitors to that. His Shadow retinue was half-killed, due to martyr actions for their leader. The rest were caught. Not as good as it could’ve been, but once-rogue Shadows were dubious forces at best. It wasn’t much of a loss, either. Now then, the rest of the report.

The guy with the demon kid had escaped. After killing ten people. With a sword. While followed and blocked off by a horde of about fifty. If my reflex of controlling my reactions wouldn’t have stopped me, I’d have shown a lot of surprise on my face. This was almost certifying the info. Street smarts wouldn’t be nearly enough to do that. Also, a sword? In this age? Interesting. The detail report also contained information about some of those invisible hits people were taking, and some spectral or translucent energy seen by the rest of the mob while the hits were going on. Hm.

I took a pen, and piece of paper. Even if this guy wasn’t the babysitter of a demon, with that amount of skill, he’d still be worth taking note of. As such, my pen danced on the paper, writing orders to H. Namely, to send out a full-fledged Inquisitor after him, together with a full retinue. The caretaker man would be disposable, if no other way would present itself, but the demon kid had to be taken in at all costs. No harm would be to be brought on that one. If it could even be harmed, that was. I pressed the button calling for the slave, and sent him to H. If a rebellion could be solved in a few days, but this guy couldn’t be taken in by fifty people in the same amount of time, that was a sign.

Call it a hunch, if you will, but I was rather sure this guy would be exactly what he was advertised as. If not more.



*


Silence. No motion around. I was gazing at H, and he gazed back with an understanding look. We both were still. I had trained years to control my expressions, but even I showed clearly what was going through my mind now.

I opened my mouth to speak. ‘…’ And I closed it right back before I even begun. I swallowed, looking downwards. It was… it was very unexpected news.

‘Yes. That report is true.’ H was just as disturbed as I was. It made very little sense. The report he spoke of, it was of how the abduction mission for the demon kid went. That man that played caretaker…

‘So…’ I stopped, closed my eyes, and drew a sharp breath. I voided my mind, leaving emotion alone now. It was time for intellect, not feel. ‘We have a dead Inquisitor on our hands?’

H nodded. ‘And about half the retinue. That man is not human. The scouts we had there mentioned clearly of how he seemed to know what the Inquisitor’s plans were beforehand.’ He shook his head. ‘He flawlessly outdid an Inquisitor in both strategy and single combat. He won with a sword against a gun goddammit.’

I blinked slowly. Interesting. He killed far less in the previous mob. Was it because they weren’t as much a threat? Easier to evade than subdue? ‘Are you considering supernatural powers? Prescience?’

H gave me the look of a man without explanation. ‘I don’t know, Michael.’ Calling me by name, was he? He really was disturbed. In all honesty, he never had the habit of using my name, even back way before the days of the Empire. ‘I really don’t have any idea. This surpasses me. How do you beat a man that god-forsakenly skilled?!’

I stopped. He was desperate. In his career as Grand Inquisitor, I could tell he never felt as powerless. After all, up until now, warfare was against humans. Now, it was something else. ‘I’ll take this one, H. Contact the Legion and get me ready a full retinue of Inquisitors, with their men as well. The Legion should provide a full assault force. Where is the man now?’

Inquisitor H blinked at me, then moved sharply to the desk, putting up a map on the computer screen. He was back in his demeanour already. ‘There.’ He pointed on a road between two towns. ‘We have ultra-long-range scouts on him at all times now.’

‘Good.’ H was still himself, it seemed. I closed my eyes and made my calculations. I gestured towards a slave. ‘Tell the Merchant Prince to fund whatever Grand Inquisitor H will require in the next 24 hours. No matter the prices.’ A quick bow and answer and the slave was gone. ‘Now, H, I want you to get the government there to evacuate the town. Terrorist attack et all.’

The Inquisitor leaned back. ‘Are you really going to turn a whole town in a deathtrap?’

I stood up. ‘Deathtrap? No, no. A man of that ability should be spared if possible. A dead enemy is good, but a live ally is better.’ I turned around, and spoke over the shoulder. ‘I’ll leave the logistics of this trap to you. I just had to snap you out of that catatonic state. You’re still the spec ops commander here.’

‘Oh, yes, Master.’ I could feel the determined sadism in his voice. He was going to tailor a trap not even prescience could evade. He was that good, once you got him that focused.

I left the Inquisitorial Quarters. Took a few quick turns along the corridors, and reached my study. I collapsed in my chair. For heaven and hell’s sakes though. All the worry I kept burrowed while talking to H exploded outwards. A single man and a kid got me to almost fully utilize the extent to which the Empire could influence the world. No, that was wrong. A demon kid and his inhumanly skilled caretaker. I wasn’t at battle with normal forces here. This extent of using the power was needed, even if it turned out unnecessary. After failing twice, we had to estimate the opponent at the absolute highest level of ability. If that was an overestimation, no problem.

But… what if even that was underestimation? What could a demon do, actually? Up until now, we fought the caretaker. What if the demon could just blow up the whole town trap, as if nuking it? It was a thought I shuddered at. Maybe it was better to not try. Not take the risk to upset a too strong entity on my Empire, and thus risk my full death. Hm. What were the chances of this happening, though?

Well. Pretty high actually. 50%. Due to there being two possibilities, and equally likely, as I had no info. So, I staked the empire on a coin toss? For what? Was it worth it?

Yes. If the demon was caught, he may mean my road to immortality. And that was worth it. If you never took a risk, you could never win. You’d die of entropy before the riskless opportunity presented itself. And when the reward you seek is as high as the one I look at, the risks will only be higher, and the stakes greater. Of course, the fact I’d reach immortality through the demon wasn’t certain either, but the fact I’d reach some enlightenment or another was.

As such, I had to plunge in this risk. H knew his job, and he’d be able to minimize it. And in end, thinking about it, was the risk truly 50%? Maybe not. A demon that strong wouldn’t be that peaceful, would he?

That demon kid and his caretaker had to be ours. Too many questions rested on their heads already.



*


I blinked slowly at the screen. I was in the command room of the Inquisition, sitting in a rather comfortable armchair, with my Mistress on my lap and arm. Grand Inquisitor H was on a similar chair, not far from me. The rest of the room was filled with slaves and inquisitorial workers, erratically cluttering about like ants.

It was time to see how H’s plan would work.

‘So, you told me not even someone with future sight should be able to see this one coming, right?’ H nodded, closing his eyes while doing it. He was sure of his answer. ‘Tell me more, then. How does it work?’

‘I’ll have to be fast, since our caretaker and his demon are leaving the town soon.’ He begun gesturing. ‘So, you have the town, right?’ I nodded. ‘Having had the government silently evac it, on the grounds of ‘terrorist attack soon, but we’d put up an ambush in return’, claims which the Empire will ensure are going to seem true, we had the opportunity to fill it with our own agents.’ Yes, the might of the Empire and capacity of the higher class slaves. Sure, the town wasn’t particularly big, but we had enough to simulate the whole population of it. Almost scary, when you thought about it. ‘Our target suspected nothing. Given the fact we planned to put all this into motion the moment he began leaving, we’d make it harder for him to spot it in the future. Seemingly, he didn’t see it, as he fell into the trap.’ Indeed. The target had checked in at a rather inexpensive hotel a few days ago, and now was about to leave the town, having just checked out. ‘So, from now on, literally every building in the city has a 3-man intervention team, each with very finely tailored orders, and much bigger teams in specific places. For one thing, every single exit is under complete lockdown.’

‘Cunning bastard. Betting on making it physically impossible to get out?’ My Mistress grinned at my comment. H was a smart devil. He’d have more than that in the bag, I was sure.

‘Somewhat.’ As expected, he had more. ‘The actual plan has considered all possible routes for the target to leave from, and will vary its…’ A few gunshots were heard, and we both turned our heads to the screen, to watch the target turn away from the Inquisitor’s group. ‘Well, I guess I’ll just tell you as we go. Watch.’

I watched. The target met up an intervention group, and ran away. Inevitably, he’d run into another. Then run from that one. To run into one more. Some he chose to go through, by killing them. I could clearly see the powers H’s men talked of: guns flying from people’s hands, and an immense skill with the blade. Well, the men were expendable. The demon kid, which closely followed his caretaker, was not.

As the pressure increased, the man seemed to know much better where to head to. Interesting. Now he begun avoiding traps before they sprung, and large groups before they got a chance to act. Of course, since they only served as barriers in H’s grater plan, it wasn’t a problem, but interesting nonetheless. Why would he become better oriented when under more pressure? Maybe he just had clearer options with his ‘future-sight’, with the amount of possibilities being increasingly lower? I watched him dance between large groups and small ones, all the way into a subway station. The trains were off, and tunnel sealed on one side with a wall, although much farther off that he could see. Still, he went the ‘right’ way from the get-go.

As the camera images changed, the tracking drone being unable to fly underground reliably in the chase, and thus forcing us to use cameras mounted in the walls, I wondered how much he had left. Surely, he was approaching some form of final trap.

‘Watch.’ Inquisitor H seemed to have guessed my thinking. I looked at the screen intently.

The tunnel ended into another station. The station was filled to the brim with troops. It was enough to stop a tank brigade, let alone one man. From the tunnel on the other side came a force equally strong. Pincer between two forces, blocked off by a tunnel. I smirked. This wasn’t necessary. It never was. It was just H’s safety measure in case either the demon or the caretaker turned out much too strong.

The man stopped at the sight of the new force, turned around, and saw the one at the back. He sighed, and took the blade to his own neck. Dammit. We needed him alive! A pair of bullets from the back blew it out of his hand, first hitting the blade to get it away, then the handle to disarm. The man widened his eyes. He had not expected this one. Inquisitor H, on the other hand, had. I left out a relaxed sigh, to express my gratitude.

The Inquisitor chuckled. ‘Heh. You thought I’d let him do something like that?’ He shook his head. ‘Not me. I’m too much of a professional for that.’

I left a chuckle of thanks back, as did the Mistress. The stop came rather quick though, just as the Inquisitor’s men charged the target with tasers. Funnily enough, they didn’t work. Well, it wasn’t unexpected, as the men quickly dropped them, charging into hand-to-hand. Unarmed. You’d assume that was unsafe, given the skill of the caretaker, and it was, but just for the men. For the operation though, not really. Not when you are backed by a cannon able to leave a large hole into a tank.

The fight was over quicker than I expected. Seemingly, while very skilled, the man couldn’t outdo the hand-to-hand of six Legion I soldiers, and found himself subdued extremely fast. The demon kid put up much more of a fight, even throwing one of the men right away with sheer force, but was subdued as well. Funny. It was somewhat anticlimactic, but it worked. They were in our custody now. I watched them be bound and carried into a transport cage, then into a vehicle. They’d be here, at the headquarters, in a few hours.

I signalled my Mistress to get up, and I followed shortly after. One step brought me near H’s chair, and the Inquisitor stood up as well. I extended my hand, and he shook it.

‘Marvellous work, H.’ I took a step back, and begun clapping. My Mistress and the rest of the people in the room very quickly followed. H bowed low.

‘Thank you kindly.’ He went back up. ‘I guess you’d want arranged a personal interrogation, correct?’ I nodded at that. Of course I’d want to personally overseer all of the process. Or, in fact, not overseer, but actually be the one doing it. ‘I assumed as much. The paired rooms the Ivory Tower specially prepared will be ready for visiting as soon as he arrives. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a transport to orchestrate.’ He bowed shortly, and left.

All of this charade was a success. And a lot of worry over nothing from my part. The demon was mine now.

It was all a bit too easy, if you asked me.



*


Hours later, I was in front of the heavy white door to the caretaker’s room. I’d interrogate him first, leaving the demon for second. Best for last, as they said. The door opened, and I entered, my own Demon after me.

I could now clearly see the man. He wasn’t standing out much, with no traits to especially identify him from. I took a seat, with a bulletproof panel of glass between me and the caretaker. My Demon stopped right behind the chair.

‘Hello.’ No answer. ‘I am The Master.’ Still no answer. ‘I run this whole thing.’ He was good at keeping silent. ‘Now that I’ve introduced myself, mind telling me your name?’ No answer. Again. I rolled my eyes at him. ‘Look. I get it if you don’t want to discuss, but really. A minimum of politeness wouldn’t hurt, you know?’

‘Why would I talk to my captor?’ His voice was plain, tone rather lacking.

I sighed. At least I managed to get something out of him. ‘Does it matter?’ I put my elbows on the small table in front of me, interlocking my fingers below my chin. I looked at him straight in the eyes. ‘If I want you to talk, trust me, I will get you to talk.’ My tone was harsh, threat clear. He didn’t seem too phased by it though. ‘It’s just up to you to choose how much you suffer before you talk.’ I leaned back on my chair again. ‘But, I’d rather avoid that. You are a capable man. If I’d try to make you like this guy’ I pointed at my Demon. ‘I’d likely miss out on a lot of your finer skills. And purposes.’ And knowledge, although I didn’t voice this last bit. I thought of his job as caretaker for the demon kid. ‘So, let’s talk. Like people. I’m sure we can come to an agreement, without me needing to resort to force. You seem a sensible person.’ I gave him a look that clearly stated it’s my preference to do as I said, but that I’d not stop if I had to do what I didn’t prefer.

He blinked at me rather slowly, almost mocking. ‘Fine. I’m Zhelan.’ Oh, a name. Progress! Now I knew how to address him. ‘I’m not afraid of your threats.’ Solid tone, no unnatural fluctuation. Nor overly rigid. Same with facial expressions. He wasn’t lying in the least. ‘But, I’m aware I may never leave here without your grant.’ I raised an eyebrow. He was accepting his inferiority? Peculiar. ‘But you need me too.’ Oh, interdependence pact. I smirked, and by that telling him I knew what he was up to, and interested. ‘If you don’t happen to want a hugely powerful demon rampaging in your house, killing every single living being here, of course.’

I chuckled. ‘Indeed, I’d prefer to avoid that.’ A thought of worry silently passed through my mind, but it left no mark on my expression, as I wavered it away fast enough. One of the main tricks to straight-face bravado, or lying, was to trust in your own lies. ‘So you’re not a helper of the demon. You’re a prison warden.’

‘Somewhat. She carries her prison, but someone has to keep the lock in good condition.’ I nodded. A seal of some sort was my guess. Really, the details didn’t matter much. ‘But to repair the lock, a locksmith needs materials.’

Of course. ‘What do you need then, locksmith? The Empire can provide anything.’ It wasn’t even a lie. Anything he’d be able to get, the Empire would be able to get thousands of.

‘Humans. Criminals or the likewise, to sacrifice every now and then. To keep the seal active. And places. If you keep her in the same place too long, the seal weakens.’ I had to admit, he was skilled. Mixture lie, near perfect control over himself. Would have fooled over half of my peers in psychology, let alone a normal man.

‘Humans I will provide. We have plenty.’ I leaned in. ‘But I’d appreciate if you didn’t try to lie to me again. You’ll stay locked.’ It was funny, how he himself watched for a lot of my own expressions. I was sure he cursed the half-mask, as well as the training I had. ‘I can tell lies and truths apart as easily as you can. If not easier.’ Again, a very well controlled reaction, but I could see his surprise for a very faint second, and even then quite well concealed. ‘I know you’re good, but I’m a psychologist by profession. No need trying to hide. I’ll see it anyway. Just like you’d see me.’

‘Very well. So I can’t get out easy, it seems.’ He sighed, just the same way I did it to ease the atmosphere. He was a practical person, in the end. If negotiation was the way, he’d take it. ‘I guess we’ll need to trade, then?’

‘Yes.’ I got my serious tone. ‘We begin on equal footing. Both of us need to be here so the demon stays put.’ He nodded. ‘Now, to make demands. I assume you want freedom?’

‘Obviously correct. What do you want?’

‘Knowledge.’ My answer didn’t seem to surprise him. ‘Most importantly, anything that may lead to immortality.’ I saw a reaction at him. Not sure why, but a very well hidden reaction had been there. Couldn’t exactly tell what it was, though. ‘If I have that, more can be gained in time. But you need the time first, and that’s not possible when racing against the hourglass.’

‘Immortality is a curse. You don’t want that.’ He kept everything well in check, but a very discreet undertone in his voice betrayed him. He talked from experience. Some very bad experience.

I went closer. ‘You know a lot about that, don’t you?’ I could see him stop the reflex to swallow. It was obviously a sensitive subject to him. Trauma, maybe?

‘Not rea…’ He stopped, and got a neutral expression on his face. ‘No reason to try lying about this. If you spotted the earlier lie, I wouldn’t be able to conceal this either. Yes, I know a lot about it. No, it’s not for sharing.’

I leaned back again. ‘Zhelan.’ My tone was, in fact, rather soft. This wasn’t a moment to seem an enemy. ‘I understand that your role is to watch over that demon. Thus, I can assume you’re not an evil man. Given what I do, I’m sure you would enjoy having as little to do with me as you can.’ He didn’t answer, but I could see agreement in his eyes. He indeed would’ve rather avoided dealing with me. ‘I’m not surprised. It’s willingly that I take this image. But I’m not an evil man. I just need to seem one to be able to use my power like this.’ I could see the tint of disagreement in him. It was hard to trust your captor, after all. ‘No. I’m not a sheer power maniac. I need this power so I can help humanity prosper. For the many to evolve, the few need to suffer. Drastic measures, taken. I don’t ask you to agree with my ideals. I don’t ask you to befriend me. What I ask you is to allow me to decide if I want to curse myself or not. For the sake of the many.’

What I said resonated with him. Not much. Very little, in fact, but it did. He was quiet, pondering what to tell me. ‘It’s not what you’re looking for.’ He wasn’t lying.

‘But maybe I can turn it into what I need.’

‘No.’ A certain answer. ‘You wouldn’t be able to get what I have anyway, let alone a derivate. I’m cursed, by that girl in the other room.’ As expected. It probably meant she’d need to be unsealed if she was to give me anything, curse or otherwise. ‘I travel to make her change her view of the world. The more she stays put, the more she’ll become rooted in her old ways. Those ways will get no one nowhere, good or evil. Do you understand my pilgrimage now?’

I nodded. ‘Yes.’ He didn’t lie at all. The way he opened up, it wasn’t uncommon for people, once they were left without options. Just like I did earlier, he bet on that I’d resonate with him. And I did. ‘And why don’t we help each other?’

He blinked. ‘How?’

‘I’ll let you free.’ I gave me an untrusting look, but interested. He knew I wasn’t lying, but he was wondering what was in it for me. ‘And I’ll help you with your goal. Money. Men. The opportunity to see wonders like none other. I can give you that.’

‘I don’t need it, but it would help. It’s not a bad offer. But it depends on what you ask in return.’

‘That you return to me after she changed. That you give me the opportunity to knowledge.’

‘What if I lie? What if, after she gets ‘cured’, I’ll bring her to destroy you?’

I took my mask off. It was to show him I lacked any form of lie in my statement. ‘That is your choice, if you wish to bring her back into a being of destruction or not. But as I said before, you look like a sensible man. You wouldn’t do a whim judgement like that.’

He looked at me. ‘Indeed. I wouldn’t. So, what do you propose?’

‘I let you go. It pains me to do so, and I won’t try to hide it, but it’s the wisest choice here.’ I sighed deeply. My Mistress wouldn’t get to talk with the demon girl. That’s all the girl needed, the sadistic, catastrophic lady that I called the love of my life. For that matter, I wouldn’t get that talk either. Too much of a risk to Zhelan’s little quest. ‘And I’ll help you in any way you require that I can provide without too much expense. In return, I’ll want you to come back here, and give me a chance to try and turn this whole world better, not just one demon. You make the first step, then you present me the knowledge. Ten, I’ll do the hard walking.’ I was honest. A better humanity would mean a safer place for me and my beloved. Perhaps, I could even somewhat let the Empire fade. But for that, I needed his knowledge. And maybe more. ‘Deal?’

He didn’t answer. Silence dripped around. Funny, how deep silence almost made a sound. It’s not an easy thing to describe, but too much lack of noise feels somewhat physical, like you’re under an immense sea of lead water. ‘Deal.’ He’d come back. From his voice, he’d keep that promise. He had no reason not to.

‘I’ll see that you get escorted out. You’ll be left with a way to contact me back, and a way for me to find you easier.’ I tapped on a small button on my table, and it scanned my fingerprint. The wall between me and him slowly retracted into the floor. I extended a hand. ‘A pleasure, Zhelan. I’m looking forward to further cooperation.’

Zhelan, in return, shook my hand. ‘Not quite a pleasure, but acceptable…’ He made a pause. I knew what he wanted to say.

‘Michael. My name is Michael.’

‘All right. It’s been a nearly-pleasure then, Michael. I’m not looking forward to next time, but I’ll keep my word. I’ll decide then if you should die or live.’

‘Well, until next time then, Demon Caretaker. The best of luck be with you in your endeavour. We both want to see it succeed.’

‘Indeed we do. Until next time, Michael.’



*


He was gone. It’s been three hours. One of watching him be escorted, one of trying to convince my Mistress that no, she really shouldn’t have talked to the demon kid. And one last hour for me to ponder my own choice. It was the least safe bet. Maybe I could have gotten way more out of him if I were harsher, and way safer in the long term.

But I had a feel I wouldn’t have. I just felt that Zhelan was the kind of man to be hunted by fate. To that, I couldn’t have gotten anything out of the sealed demon anyway. Of course, I might have been wrong. Maybe, in a few years, or decades, he’d be back, and decide I should die. I won’t go down easy. I won’t go down at all, if I could help it.

But for today, I was the victor. I traded in nothing for nothing. Freedom for the promise of knowledge, but I was the one who took the freedom in the first place, and I got no knowledge out of it. I knew Zhelan knew that. But even so, for some reason, I was rather certain this little gambit wouldn’t end in my death. He just didn’t seem the type of man to throw a choice before knowing the full picture.

And I had a good opening move into showing him that full picture, by helping him. This whole deal that began today wouldn’t finish until years later. Then, I will have to walk on thin ice, but my goal of immortality, for the first time in my life, was vividly before me.

I now had a wire to guide me. A thin one, and a long shot, but it was there.

It was a start.







“Zhelan, was it? I have heard of your exploits...truth be told I’d wanted to test you, explain to you our cause. A man of your mettle is...quite rare. Now I stand before you, and there is no better an opportunity.”

He studied the other closely for a moment. “You would should know better than to peddle your cause with a hostage in tow.”

There came a childish snort from Ilen, even as her tiny frame was retrained by the hulk behind her. “I do not find myself captive, Zhelan, merely tied up.”

“I thought it would make make you more willing to listen.” The Master spread his arms magnanimously. “I will be curt; I have a mission to improve all of humanity, no matter the cost, and the task comes with dangers. Will you not join me? Proper compensation will be given, of course.”

He could not respond. There was only the thought of Ilen, and what he could do to save her, yet nothing came to mind other than the two choices presented to him. As the silence drew out, Ilen’s expression drained of her typical carefreeness, replaced with anger and disgust.

“You will consider servitude...for this?” She spat. “You betray yourself, Zhelan! I knew a more capable man than the one standing before me quivering in his boots!”

A pause. “I will take your offer.”

Ilen did not wait for longer. She broke free of the arm lock that held her in place, lunging straight for the Master, only for her head to be caught by a burly hand of the Demon. Only a small gasp of surprise came from her as she was brought head first into the concrete. The demon returned to his position, as nothing ever happened, leaving a motionless Ilen on the ground, her skull almost certainly cracked upon by the impact.

“Ilen…!”

+

He awoke to the usual whispers of Ilen, ever so familiarly gentle, yet with a hint of mockery embedded in her tone.

“How long will you stay asleep, good keeper?”

He rose without warning, inadvertently bumping heads with the other as he did so. Ilen stumbled back, rubbing her forehead with a sour look.

“Zhelan!” She exclaimed, “You…”

Her words stopped there, for she had noticed something different. It was subtle, a barely noticeable change in his features that seemed, for his usual stone cold demeanor, all too striking to her. It spelt to her a frustration that she had ceased to see for many years.

“How many cycles has it been?” She asked, her brows furrowing a fraction.

“Enough that I don’t remember.” He replied simply. His hand brushed at his temple but for a moment before setting a weary set of eyes on Ilen. “I have a request, Ilen.”

“A favour from myself, you ask?” Ilen twirled at her fringe coyly, clearly feigning ignorance. “What could that possibly be, I wonder?”

He ignored her tone. “I need you to follow and listen to my every word.”

“You understand that I have no incentive to do as you say, yes?” She raised a brow. “Your death makes no difference upon this world.”

“It is not my life I fear for. It is yours.”

Those words jolted her to an extent she could not hide. Ilen studied him with narrowed eyes, of which all her childish cheer had evaporated from. “You are lying.” She concluded firmly, but those words belied a disatisfaction in her frown.

“All I ask from you is self preservation.” There was no hint of jest in his severe tone.

A deathly silence hung between the two as they both stared the other down, seeking a tell in their expressions and demeanor. Gradually, Ilen’s lips began to warp into a twisted smile of bitterness and bemusement.

“You are manipulative, Zhelan,” She whispered ever so softly that he could only just hear her, yet brimming with an icy hostility that scarce few could withstand without shivering.

Zhelan nonetheless held his ground, offering little reaction to her tone. “If so, I must have learnt it from you.”

Ilen continued to smile, but did not laugh. He had intentionally crossed the line, and she was none too pleased.

“...Very well,” She conceded, though her hostile tone did not change. “If you so insist that I am too weak to survive on my own, then lead me as you see fit. But you will tell me everything.”

Zhelan closed his eyes briefly as he organised the myriad of memories from every past cycle, so numerous that they had melded into a foggy cloud of visions. He began to speak slowly, growing more confident with each word. “You should remember the events one week before. One assassin carried information to a location. One I had hoped would give answers to the many attacks before.”

“A facility of sorts. I recall you made quick work of the men there.”

“The two are unrelated. That I know now. The facility belonged to an individual with vast power extending throughout this land, whom which I have now drawn the ire of. Until I may remove him, our lives will continue to be in danger.”

“An individual with vast power. A ruler, I suppose?”

“Of a vast network of criminals, too large and powerful to be quashed by other rulers.”

Her lips tugged at one end, and her features now seemed not so severe. “You are not joking, surely?”

“No, I am not.”

There came a quiet titter that slowly grew in volume, until it became a barely restrained laugh, dispelling all of the tension that once hung between them.

“A ruler of criminals!” She exclaimed between gasps of breath. “I could not have sorely heard a more ridiculous premise…!”

“This is not a tale I’ve spun, Ilen,” Zhelan spoke wearily. “Do not downplay what he possesses.”

“Certainly…” Ilen replied, even as the mirth in her expression stayed. “You are quite forgiven, Zhelan, for your slight earlier. I cannot be more eager to see how you may defeat him, if it is true what you have said.

“You will have to listen to me.”

“Every order until the very end.”

Zhelan eased himself closer to her, and began to summarise what will happen, the actions that she must take, every other possible scenario that may occur. Even as Ilen conveyed her wish to be spoiled as little as possible, the full explanation must have taken at least half an hour, for drawn had long assed, and a strong light began to stream through the thin blinds of the windows.

“So then, when does this all begin?” Ilen asked as he stood up, her voice filled with anticipation.

Zhelan did not answer immediately, instead striding across the room and to the door. Though his hand rested against the knob, they hesitated to turn. As if braving himself, he stole one final glance at Ilen.

“Ilen, what would you do if I had to surrender myself to servitude?”

She blinked. “What a strange question. What you do has nothing to do with me, surely you know that?”

“I see.” He turned away. “Then, let us begin.”

The door swung open, and an impact against his temple was the last he remembered as his consciousness left him.

+

The waitress swung by a little dark corner in the cafe, swiftly placing down two cups of coffee with a polite smile. He returned it with the same, and after passing a small tip, returned his gaze upon the other sitting opposite him.

“Zhelan, was it? I thought this day would come...but then, it could be worse. I could be dead after all, or worse.” He gave a wry smile as he reached for his cup only to realise his own hands were shaking.

“Nerves.” He laughed it off.

“Close your eyes and concentrate on your breaths. I can wait.”

He was reluctant, but nonetheless did as he was told, slowly breathing through his nose and silently counting each one. When his opened his eyes, he seemed to appear more stable, and his hands not quite shaking.

“You really have a way of seeing through people...almost like him.” He shook his head, seemingly deep in thought.

“You know this man. The Master, as he is called.”

“I suppose I do, with the description you gave me. Michael. That’s how I called him. Truth be told, I never knew who he was exactly, but I suppose you’ve helped answer that question.’ He took a sip from his cup, slowly savouring its bitterness. “I don’t have much to offer, really. I don’t know where he stays, what he or the organisation does. I’m just...some guy.”

“He believed you were worth it.” Zhelan studied him for a scant few seconds. “Tell me about Michael. Who he is to you.”

“What can I say? He’s an old friend of mine. He was...obsessive. That was the worst part about him, and it became worse a couple years back. I’m sure that’s why he’s doing...whatever it is that he’s doing.”

He paused, then shook his head. “I think I can tell what you’re going to do. I can’t say he didn’t have it coming, but you’ve got to believe me when I tell you he’s not just some psychopath.”

“Everyone has their reasons. I’d hoped to learn his.”

The man laughed bitterly. “Not even I know that. His wife, maybe. Never did meet her, though.”

“Do you have his number?”

“He changes numbers often, he’s paranoid that way. I’d give you the last number he had, but I don’t think it’ll go through..”

“I see.” Zhelan finished the rest of his coffee, downing the bitter drink in one breath. “I will see what needs to be done. Thank you for your time.”

The other shook his head. “And good luck to you, too. I don’t know if you’re brave or just insane taking this alone but I’m not one to judge.”

+

He felt her blade pierce through flesh. Slowly, as if the woman savoured every moment of the dissection. His pain diverted to a corner of his mind, he merely watched her with expressionless eyes, daring for her to end it all.

“Rise and shine, my dear boy.”

He was roused from his sleep bound against a chair, fully expecting his innards half exposed, yet finding himself still untouched. Another vision. Idly, he watched before him, an unnaturally pale woman whose features may have once caught the gaze of many men, but now hold a subtle yet unsettling feeling to them. Not unlike Ilen, He mused. He did not try to speak, for he knew the gag at his mouth would forbid him so. Only, he had to wait.

“I saved you from some scary men, you see? And I would certainly appreciate a live subject to help out in my medical studies. An incision or two…”

She stopped abruptly, all the cheer and excitement drained from her face, for she realised his reaction was far too calm for one in his position. As if he knew all that was to happen, and that he feared none of it.

“You are a strange person, aren’t you? No matter.”

She procured a set of antiseptic wipes alongside a set of surgical equipment, but she managed little else more, for a light flashed across her eyes and an impact sent her stumbling into the ground. Scarcely could she register what had happened, before a swift blow from behind sent her crumpling to the ground.

“Unscathed, Zhelan?” Came the cheery reply as Ilen broke him free. “To think that you require my handholding at the very beginning...I wonder if I’ve pampered you so.”

“Perhaps, but now would not be a good time.” He retrieved his bindings, carefully tying the woman’s hands behind her back as well as gagging her mouth as she did with him.

“It does make me ponder, however,” Ilen remarked idly. “Just how will they know what we’ve done?”


“Cameras. Mechanical eyes that can record their vision and have it displayed elsewhere.” He replied as he hoisted his captive upright, pressing the scalpel tightly at her throat. There came a weak muffle from her, but he simply ignored it.

“Hmhm, you humans have certainly improved vastly over such a small span of time.” Ilen paused for a moment, blinking in surprise. “Oh, they certainly do come quick.”

As if on cue, the doors burst open, and through it came two men. One, an average built man with sharp features that matched his dignified demeanor, and another, a hulking mass that seemed barely human in its outward appearance. The Master and the Demon. For all the time he had to brace himself, the Master still inhaled sharply at the impossible sight that beheld him. Just two people, a man and a child, wormed their way into threatening the greatest asset in his life. But he forbade himself from showing further emotion. He could manoeuvre out of this. He always had.

“Zhelan, was it? I have heard of your exploits...truth be told I’d wanted to test you, explain to you our cause. A man of your mettle is...quite rare. Yet not only did you live, you now stand in my holdings and with my most trusted assistant in your grasp. All in but one week.”

He strolled to one side with his arms folded behind his back, extruding an air of calm and assurance, yet never taking his eyes off the other.

“I am a man of negotiation. Whilst expendable, I would prefer if that woman did not die, and am willing to offer payment for her release. Mark my words however, that should she die, the Demon and I will ensure a painful and lengthy torture.”

“Ohh.” The cream haired girl blinked, casting him a look that seemed to hold more than childlike curiosity. It carried purpose, and her crimson eyes seemed to pierce through every fiber of his being, reading his every move. “So, this is the one who wishes you dead, Zhelan. He certainly has that air about him. Calm, collected, but with that hint of mania in him. People like him go far, you know. Another of my kind would love him as a pet.”

“You can’t tell if he under the influence of one.” Zhelan replied, more a statement than a question.

“No. Not unless they wish to make themselves known.” She tilted her head at the man with a bemused smile, completely unfazed by the tense atmosphere. “‘The Master’, was it? Truth be told, hearing your name and your standing, I almost passed you off as a villain from a poorly written storybook. But I suppose you deserve credit, even if your composure needs work. That hand of yours is rather telling, don’t you think?”

“I have little to say to you. I only wish to negotiate, and my terms are clear and simple.” He cast her a severe look alongside his iron cast tones, but for just a fraction of a moment he’d turned his attention to his hands, and the child burst into a fit of giggles.

“Yes, you are everything I would have liked in Zhelan. Tell me, dear human, what is it that you seek? You sit upon what I am told a large empire of wealth and power, yet you are not satiated. Are they not enough, or do they not simply interest you? Alas, what else could it be...immortality you seek?” She circled him slowly, watching for a reaction in his cold exterior. “Close, not quite. Ah, perhaps…”

She retreated to the silent captive, lovingly stroking at the woman’s waist with the most twisted look that would have chilled a normal human, much more because of the jarring dissonance with her features. That last action cracked the Master’s composure ever so slightly, for something flashed in his eyes, and he no longer seemed to possess the same assurance as before. Changes that are almost imperceptible, but only just noticed by her, for she gave a knowing smile, but said no more.

“Are you finished, Ilen?” Zhelan’s voice came severe in stark contrast to her playful tones.

“Oh, I suppose.” Ilen stepped away from their captive, shrugging a little as she did. “He is everything you’ve told me, Zhelan, perhaps a little more. Truth be told, I would prefer if you did not remove him. Storybook villain as he is, few are ever as interesting as him.”

“I will put your words into consideration,” he replied simply, so dry his words that scarcely anyone could believe they were in jest.

“She was careless.” Zhelan turned toward the Master with all the calm as with a teacher going through a simple lecture. “She sought pleasure from suffering. Those whom were captured she diverted them to her quarters for experimenting behind your back. She knew you would protect her no matter what happened, and was quite insistent on letting us know her ties to you.”

There was a loud muffling from the Mistress, but the cold steel pressing against her neck silenced any more protests. The Master flicked his eyes between her and Zhelan, still retaining much of his composure despite all that had been said.

“You...have a rather sick sense of humor, Mister Zhelan.” He gave a thin smile.

“That would be Ilen,” Zhelan simply replied, ignoring the jab at his waist that swiftly came after.

“Perhaps pursuing you had been a mistake from the start.” The Master shook his head. “We can part ways here and forget all of this. I only wish to preserve my way of life, and I am sure you do not desire further retaliation.”

“A truce without a higher power to enforce it would be hard, Mister Master.”

“And yet you’ve shown me you are quite capable of finding your way into my doorstep unmolested. I am at a bigger disadvantage than you are.” The Master smiled thinly, ignoring the snicker just across him.

“I can scarcely believe that is what you think. Nothing but total disbandment of your forces could convince me of your words.”

“Disbandment.” The Master scrunched his face in disgust. “Tell me, Mister Zhelan, do you believe yourself an ally of justice, of the greater good? What I fight for is an end to what ails humanity, no matter the means. What do you fight for?”

“To restrain at least one being who ails humanity.” He answered. “I know full well what you intend to imply, but the better side of your actions have little need of the army you wield.”

“Hmph, I do not pretend my ways are popular. Enforcers and deterrents are necessary for what I do.”

“Pity.” Zhelan shook his head, though the word did not match his tone. “Still, we can come to an agreement, as fellow people who seek to improve humanity. Ilen here is a demon suppressed only by human sacrifices. If you can offer a man from your employ to her every week, it would be a great help.”

There was a lengthy pause as The Master rested his gaze at Ilen, who decidedly bared her unnaturally sharp teeth.

“That man by your side. I am sure he would be good for the purpose.” Zhelan suggested. “Ilen will consume him, your wife will return to your side, and we will leave peacefully, contacting you every week for the next sacrifice.”

“There is no reason for it to be him.”

“Bodyguards are expendable. This is but one way to assure your adherence to our deal.”

“You are grasping at straws, but very well.” The Master glanced at his bodyguard. Just once, and the hulk understood his master’s orders. Like clockwork he strode towards Ilen and, as he stood between both her and Zhelan, swung his arms in a blur of motion to disarm the latter.

It happened all too quickly. Zhelan, his right arm now forcefully pulled away, summoned the spiritual energies planted in the walls. All five bolts struck the hulk squarely in the chest, forcing him to stumble back from the combined impact. Zhelan quickly abandoned his captive, stepping forward to deliver a series of punches, all in rapid succession yet delivered with such strength that the Demon is forced to fend off the blows and retreat. A melee ensued between the two as Zhelan continued the assault, but the hulk bore none of the sluggishness expected of his build. He reacted quickly to the straight punches, blocking them with nearly matching speed and, utilizing his weight and bulk crashed into Zhelan with a shoulder smash that sent him flying into a desk. He stroke forward to aim a final blow, but Zhelan quickly rolled away, a timely set of spiritual bolts against his opponent buying him enough time to stand up and fight.

With all his previous momentum lost, Zhelan seemed to be dwarfed by this inhuman opponent, who clearly outmatched him physically. Barely recovering from diverting several powerful strikes, he was forced to dive under a high jab, closing into his opponent and repeatedly striking against the abdomen. It appeared to work for a fraction of time, as the impossibly close distance hampered the Demon’s ability to retaliate, but as Zhelan felt a large set of hands grip the back cuff of his neck it became clear that nothing would stop this beast.

Zhelan was thrown against the opposite of the room, slamming against the wall once more. He was no longer able to recover quite so quickly, and as the Demon bore down upon him he was forced into the defensive, gradually worn down by the overwhelming melee.

And then it happened. A large crack that sounded from within the Demon. The hulk spun around with a grunt of pain, but that was all it could do before it took another punch squarely in the abdomen, crumpling onto the ground with little resistance and revealing a smug Ilen standing behind it.

“You are rather pathetic, Zhelan.” She smiled, but that expression was short lived as a shot rang out in the room, and she too fell to the ground without a word.

The Master quickly set his sights on his next target, but his lack of training made him far too slow. One bolt struck the revolver from his hands, another few square in the chest, and there was little more resistance he could afford. Still winded, he could only watch as Zhelan brought a hand down upon him, and that was the last memory he bore.

“Zhelan…” Ilen murmured in a weak voice. He knelt beside her, a rare furrow in his brow as he examined where she had been shot.

“You humans speak of a kiss of life. Perhaps…”
:”The wound is in your shoulder. You will heal just fine.” He concluded firmly.

Ilen’s eyes flared. “You...are a spoilsport, Zhelan.” she scowled, her voice now as strong as it had been before.

“Humouring you would be counterproductive,” He replied tersely. “Feed on the bodyguard and we will leave this place.”

“Oh? You won’t kill them, then?” She blinked in surprise.

“It is not in my place to determine who deserves to die, short of fuelling your seal.”

“How contradictory of you.” Still she obliged, and for the moment as she brought her hands onto the collapsed hulk the two stayed silent. Finally, as she stood back up with the soul acquired, she spoke once more.

“Nothing did quite work according to plan, did it?”

“No,” Zhelan admitted. “I had hoped to break the trust between him and those closest to him. But to them he is a man who can do no wrong. Neither did I expect to be saved by you...once more than expected.”

She turned away. “I pitied you. A kicked puppy should be given love, or it will lose all charm.”

“I see.” Zhelan averted his gaze as well, and for a moment the lifeless gaze of Ilen’s corpse flashed across his eyes. How could he think himself able, if he could not protect the both her and himself together?

“Let us leave. I pray this will be the end of it all.”

“By your leave.” Ilen flashed him a smile, and the two left together as one.

Alphaeus
06-22-2016, 03:57 PM
Well....

They were both wonderful reads. I can tell that I don't need to be terribly picky about my CnC here.

You both had a few Grammar errors, but nothing glaring of repetitive. Mainly the sort of thing that every writer has. My only suggestion on that note would be try to be a bit more thorough on proof reading -- I can say that because I suffer from the same problem.


That being said, now for the real CnC.

I'm voting for Codincx's piece. The plot was clear, the details vivid, the setting well laid out, and the primary characters meticulously portrayed. He hit a great balance, and maintained it throughout the work.

Lobo, though your writing is still excellent, I feel that this story lacked a bit in a clear development of the plot. I do not know how the characters arrived at their current situation whatsoever, so I am constantly feeling a bit lost in the fog while trying to understand what is going on. Though your descriptions were quite good, they seemed sometimes to be lacking in certain areas, leaving more to my own conjecture than I would have liked.


That's really all I have to say.

Great job, both of you!

Codincx
06-24-2016, 03:43 AM
Well, the voting has closed.

I've decided with Lobo that we will not extend it, but if you do happen to take the trouble of actually reading through our works (spoilers: them together are about 10 000 words of various crap; not sure if worth it), we still will appreciate any CnC you might happen to have. Hell, even if it's just a 'I thought his/hers was better for no damn reason' sort of thing.

Lobotomizer
06-24-2016, 07:16 AM
We'll have the votes going on for a little longer until the end of the month. If anyone has someone in particular they want to vote for just post on the thread.

Codincx
06-24-2016, 07:19 AM
I confirm Lobo's post, we changed our mind about extending.

Indeed, we'll go on until the month ends, but the votes will have to be as posts, since the poll can't be convinced to still work. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Codincx
07-04-2016, 09:06 AM
With no new votes, the battle concludes, in, like last time, a draw.

A great thank you to all voters, and even more so to CnCers.