Bounty office, Mainland
Kyra adjusted her mask. She was looking for work, more specifically, work for the combat focused members of the Crimson Circle. The jobs on the bounty boards were pitiful, they gave barely any lamina and were more suited for singular bounty hunters rather than highly trained operatives. This meant that she had to find jobs at the bounty office, where all of the high-priority targets were displayed.
Kyra, Mikhail, and Rorik had made a name for the Crimson Circle by completing a few of these. Rorik took out a cult, Mikhail reduced a bandit camp to a pile of ash and dust (Kyra still had no idea what he used to do that), and Kyra herself took down a powerful dark mage.
Seeing a job that sounded interesting, Kyra took a closer look.
Recent Hawk Camp Sighting
As many bounty hunters know, the Hawks are a bandit organization that have given the people in mainland much grief. They burn farms to the ground, they pillage, they murder, and they steal, But no more!
The AG has generously given the bounty hunters guild a generous reward to pay for this scourge to be eradicated. This reward will apply to all bounties involving the Hawks. For this specific job, you will be tasked with destroying a camp that the city scouts have recently discovered as shown on these coordinates…
The bounty page went on and on about how it was the duty of bounty hunters to assist the AG with it’s various duties… Yada yada standard stuff. What really interested Kyra, was the reward money for the job.
Reward, 100,000 lamina
You rarely saw that kind of reward money anymore. At most, you could probably get a tenth of that for taking out a rogue AG. This meant one of two things, either: The AG was getting generous with it’s bounty offers (unlikely), or the Hawks were something to be taken seriously. Probably the latter.
Kyra took the paper and showed it to the attendant.
“Y-you want to take on these guys?” They asked.
“Well… I guess I can let you take the job, but the Hawks are sadistic. I’ve heard they kill farmers that don’t cooperate with their demands and that their leader is an ex AG-”
“Just give me the job.” Kyra ordered.
The attendant gulped and stamped the bounty.
“Good, I can feel you’re energy reaching out.” Rorik said, “Try to push it further, you need to be able to sense me from across the room.”
Steven concentrated on extending his power. He was able to sense things within a few feet of him, but that was it. Still, according to most scholars, even a few feet should be impossible for someone without magic. Maybe Rorik had awakened something after all…
Steven’s radius of sense was slowly expanding, he could feel the energy radiating from Sasha in the other room as she enchanted… Something. He reached his sense out further, he could now sense Mikhail meditating upstairs, they seemed to be on the edge of a breakthrough… He could sense Rorik now, but something felt… Off… About their aura when compared to the others-
“Well done!” Rorik exclaimed, interrupting Steven’s train of thought.
“How… How?” Steven asked, “How were you able to teach me to sense energy? That should be impossible…”
“I do have one working theory. Would you like to hear it?” Rorik asked.
They boy nodded.
“Okay, so after observing the meridian network of everyone else in the clan, I was able to see that those who have their first mind awakened seem to have stronger flows of energy within them. This is what allows them to have the capacity to sense energy, though, the mind itself is what makes you able to cast magic.” Rorik explained, “You already had an unnaturally high amount of energy flowing through your network, but I think that with a little tweaking of the channels… I’d be able to teach anybody how to sense energy. Not to mention what other combative skills that having an efficient meridian network can get you.”
“Huh…” Steven said as the front door opened.
“Any luck with the bounty board?” Rorik asked.
Kyra grinned, “About that, grab Mikhail and meet me in the living room.”
Mikhail whistled at the sight of the reward, “So… I’m guessing this isn’t just your average everyday bandit group?”
“If you got paid for huge understatements, you’d be given the reward to this bounty. The Hawks seem to have pissed the AG off enough for them to sponsor the Hawks’s bounty. This puts up some red flags, but I’m sure we can handle it if we all go together.” Kyra informed them.
“So, these guys have been killing and robbing civilians? They definitely deserve to be stopped, but…” Rorik frowned, “Why the huge bounty? There’s other bandit groups that do the same…”
“I don’t know, we’ll just have to keep our guards up I suppose.” Kyra said, “Also, Ivy and Sasha made some small improvements to our masks and armour. Apparently, our masks have a voice changing enhancement to them and the armour got some extra defense in the vital areas. So, suit up and lets go!”
“So, Rorik?” Kyra asked as the group traveled through the thick forest of mainland.
“Exactly how much combat training did you receive in boot camp?”
“Well… I left for my first mission before it was completed… Which was the mission that I defected on.”
Kyra sighed, “Okay, but how much training?”
“Uhhh… I think the extent of my training was first aid, exercise, and a friendly ‘Don’t die’ from the instructors.” Rorik said, listing the subjects off on his fingers.
Kyra rubbed her temples in frustration. “Good gods, you know nothing. Mikhail?”
“I can blast stuff with magic.” Mikhail said proudly.
“Well, at least you have a few years of experience…” Kyra sighed, “Okay, Rorik is getting advanced training after this mission.”
“You have been: Burned, bashed, pierced, slashed, burned, blasted, shot, stabbed, and shocked during the various hunts that you’ve been on in mainland.” Kyra explained, “Many of those injuries could have been avoided if you knew the first two things about fighting. Now shut up, we’re almost there.”
The gang slowly crept up over a hill, at the top, they could see the camp spread out before them. The camp consisted of shoddy wooden walls with some watchtowers at the corners. Each watchtower was manned by at least one archer. Numerous campfires and tents were laid out inside the encampment.
“Rorik, sense the camp’s energy.” Kyra said, “I wanna know what the average bandit can do.”
“Got it.” Rorik said as he closed his eyes and focused, “most of the bandits are pretty weak, but there are a few scarce magic users among them. About five I think.”
“Good, anything else?”
“Yeah, I sensed something… Bad, that’s the only way to describe it.”
Kyra frowned, “What do you mean?”
“Magic, powerful magic. Magic that feels inherently malevolent. Like it’s constantly trying to consume everything around it at once, but it’s being stopped, which only makes it angrier. Eviler”
“Okay, so that one is probably the leader. You said that the bandits were relatively weak, exactly how weak do you mean?” Kyra asked
“The tougher ones are inexperienced at best, the weaker ones are old or sick. Either way, they won’t pose much of a threat.” Rorik reported.
“Alright I have a plan.” Kyra said, “Focus your most powerful spells in the most densely populated areas. GO!”
Kyra leaped up into the air and conjured a tornado with her wind magic, Rorik followed suit with a huge ball of lightning, and Mikhail fired a vortex of dark energy.
Those poor bastards never knew what hit 'em. Even though the bandits on the watchtowers saw it coming, they couldn’t raise the alarm in time. Even if they did, It wouldn’t have helped. Lightning, wind, and shadow tore the camp asunder. The few survivors were either dying on the ground or running away.
Only one man still stood.
This man was dressed in furs and bones. His impossibly muscular frame would put most expert weight-lifters to shame, moreover, he had a gigantic sword on his back with a serrated edge. Warpaint marked his scarred face, and his clothes were permanently stained with what appeared to be dried blood.
“That’s him.” Rorik gulped, “That’s the magic I sensed, it’s emanating from him.”
“Aw, afraid of my power are you?” The man’s voice rumbled as he spoke. “Good, you should be.”
The group approached. Kyra drew her spear. Mikhail grabbed a staff he bought in town. Lightning crackled across Rorik’s fingertips.
“Oh? You aren’t running? Isn’t this a welcome surprise!” The man’s laugh sounded like an earthquake, “I see you can use magic! Good! I was hoping you wouldn’t be pushovers, but make no mistake, you’re all dead.”
The man drew his sword and rushed forward. He was met by a blast of darkness from Mikhail, which he shrugged off. He swung at Rorik who was able to sidestep the vertical slash, but unable to dodge the kick that came afterwards. He went flying across the field before rolling onto his feet.
Kyra met the bandit leader head-on. Her spear flashed between orange, white, and blue as she chained together different magic attacks.
“Ngh, I see you’re the leader of this merry little band.” The man said as he swung his sword, “You’re definitely the most powerful, but you’re no match for my TRUE power!”
The man leaped back and sheathed his sword, “For I am Nar Ashna! User of the lost art of sacrifice!” he said as he summoned a red and black magic circle.
An enormous blast of red and black energy was hurled directly into Kyra, who disappeared in a huge could of dust and ash.
“DAMMIT!” Rorik shouted as he ran towards the man, “I’LL KILL YOU!”
Nar was suddenly blasted from behind as pain racked his entire body. He almost lost control of his magic from the sudden strike. He looked down to see that Rorik had simply punched him. Impossible, this weakling can’t have possibly hit him that hard. No, the weakling probably cast a spell, yes, that sounds right.
“Die.” Nar said as he summoned a magic circle pointed directly at Rorik.
Just then, the seed of energy that Rorik had planted in Nar’s mind core exploded. Shattering the magic circle and causing him to nearly lose consciousness from both the feedback from his canceled spell and Rorik’s energy detonation.
“Divine shower!” Mikhail shouted as dozens of small light blasts assailed the large man.
Rorik jumped away as Nar was hit by the full force of the attack.
“NRRRRRRRGHAAAAAAAAAAAAH!” Nar yelled as he charged Mikhail, pummeled him into the ground before kicking him across the field and into a tree.
“You…” Rorik muttered
“What? Weakling.” Nar asked, “Your friends are dead. One reduced to ash, and the other pulverized. Now, give up and die!”
Rorik clenched his fist, “You… ARE GOING TO PAY WITH YOUR SOUL!”
Rorik jumped forward and grabbed the man by the head. time slowed down as he visualized Nar’s meridian network. First, he started snapping the meridian channels holding the man’s system together… One by one, the strands holding Nar’s magic energy were dissolved into the aether as Rorik destroyed them.
Nar, in this time, had begun to reach for Rorik before he was immobilized by unspeakable pain. The agony was so intense that it resonated with his very soul. With every passing second, the pain only grew more intense. He began begging, pleading, attempting to bargain for his pitiful life.
These cries fell on ears that enjoyed each scream.
Next, Rorik ripped apart each core in the man’s body. Starting with the legs… Then the arms… then the torso…
Rorik pushed the whimpering man to the ground. He stood over the monster that killed his friends, and laughed. It was low at first, then slowly rose higher, and higher, until Rorik was laughing at the top of his lungs.
Then, he started breaking bones.
The entire process took an hour at least. Rorik started with toes and fingers, then to knees and elbows, ribs, shoulders, hips, ankles, spine, jaw, teeth, and finally…
Nar’s cries for mercy were silenced as Rorik crushed his skull with a final stomp to the back of the head.
“That was… Disturbing to watch.” Kyra said.
Rorik swung around.
Kyra was standing there holding Mikhail’s unconscious body over her shoulders. Her mask was cracked and she was charred in a few places, but otherwise okay.
“I just… I saw you and Mikhail get pummeled, and…”
“Don’t.” Kyra interrupted, “I’ve heard of people getting violent and even deadly when they’re angry, but that was something else. I’m taking Mikhail back to base. Stay here until you’ve sorted yourself out.”
Rorik sat there, unmoving.
It had been a few hours. He had shaken himself out of it and sat beside Nar’s mangled corpse.
What had he done?
More importantly, why? Why didn’t he feel bad in the slightest?
Lightning crackled along his fingertips.
“ARRGH!” Rorik shouted in fury as he started recklessly destroying everything around him with magic. Lightning, light, and fire. Shock, sear, burn. Bolt, beam, blast. Rorik poured all of his rage, frustration and anger into his frenzy. By the time he was finished, all wildlife vanished from the area. The trees were blackened and smoking, and Rorik lay in the middle of a massive smoldering crater of his own making.
With a sigh, Rorik picked himself up, and walked back to town.