Chapter 24 – Grace
The name of the girl held no significance to Morth but hearing about the failed kidnapping left him to wonder if these kidnappers were simply incompetent or whether the people harboring this girl were strong as well. After hearing every detail the man had to say his heart finally relaxed.
“Come. Lead us to their home. You will take us to them.”
A look of glee on the man’s face. He was sure there would be great rewards for his contribution this time around.
Morth looked on at the pitiful man completely unaware of his situation with some peace of mind in his conclusion ‘If there was anyone even remotely worth being weary of, they would have killed the kidnappers and this one here to ensure their safety. It’s more likely the girl was handed off to a small normal family for them to hide her inconspicuously in plain sight.’
Morth followed behind the man who was standing outside the doorway unable to move further with the guards blocking him and unable to move back with Morth behind him. He walked at a fast pace giving everyone instructions unaware that he was already a caged rat scurrying towards his own execution.
They soon reached the house and Morth had 16 of the guards split up and quarantine the the vicinity. They were to remove or evacuate civilians and then guard the parameter to ensure no one got in or out.
‘There’s nothing strange… But with the importance Jen said this girl has… It’s stranger that there’s nothing out of place than if there were…’
He was a cautious man by nature and finding nothing out of place was equivalent to finding something out of place in his mind. So he told two of his guards to take the lead as he blended in with the other seven.
The guards had no subtlety as they ran up to the front doors and smashed their way inside by kicking them in. Two more soldiers making their way inside behind them.
“You two! Stop! Under imperial order you are under arrest!”
“I know!” Dillan had already sensed them before they broke through the doors he simply hadn’t had enough time to do anything other than tell Lily to hide. Seeing the situation play out into a worst case scenario he lunged himself at a closet.
The ‘quiet’ soldier in the back yelled out of no-where. Until now he’d gone unnoticed in the face of the two leading guards but now his eyes shone with a thick killing intent that would be impossible for anyone not to notice. His mind only thinking ‘How could I possibly allow these people to do as they wish. In front of me! In front of me you’re useless!’
He stepped forward and flash stepped in front of Dillan not even a moment later with his hand thrust forward intending to gut Dillan through the chest with his bare hand formed into the shape of a blade!
Eve was horrified. Dillan confused. Neither able to process the situation in time to even react. They couldn’t even understand how he’d moved so fast much less do anything to stop him! There didn’t even seem to be a path of movement; he had just materialized right there in front of him!!
Just as the mysterious soldier’s hand was about to spear Dillan’s chest he felt the sword slowing around him. His entire body bogged down, he could feel his speed slowing down and it took him but a moment to realize what was happening due to his battle experience.
It wasn’t his body, but his mind slowing down forcing his body to slow down… ‘Domain!’ He thought all but a moment later as his mind screamed at his body awake as he removed the effects on his mind and body and retreated in time to see a sword appearing where his body had just been!
Sweat covered his brow, formed in that single moment. Understanding dawned on him as he quickly realized how close he’d just been to death.
Staring at the serious threat in front of him he quickly calculated his strength. ‘Domain! He has a domain! I didn’t even sense his approach… At least… Spirit Domain stage..!’
The realization of the type of opponent in front of him stilled his entire body and mind alike. The instant he realized the man before him was at the spirit domain stage not only did he lose the will to fight, but his entire mind froze. Not a single thought formed as to how to avoid death if this man chose to kill him at this instant. His previous confidence in himself now completely gone.
A bead of sweat trickled down the side of his face as he watched as both of the two charges he’d been sent to capture dropped onto the floor.
Dillan and Eve hadn’t even able to react to the soldier before their eyesight darkened and unconsciousness overcame them as fear and dread overcame them at the thought, the possibility that they had just been killed. Dread filling them not because of their own fear of death but at the prospect of leaving Lily and Haru defenseless and at the mercy of these men. They knew, they knew what would happen to them. “No!!!”
Even with their strong wills, they passed out instantly. Not staying conscious long enough to witness the soldier pulling back and everything that followed.
Realizing the situation being as dire as any he’d ever faced before Morth threw away any illusion of dignity as he knelt on the ground on one knee with his right fist clenched to his heart as he stared down at the ground “My name is Morth, I greet you on behalf of the Imperial Guard.”
Although his words weren’t belittling to himself, his actions were more than evident of his position. In one gesture he indicated his submission while also stating his backing should the man before him take action against himself or his men. His men had been on guard this entire time, but upon seeing their leader take a kneeling position and salute the newcomer, despite the hesitation and lack of understanding they followed suit.
His sword remained still, “Your intention?”
“I am here to apprehend these two criminals, and any children or relatives they might be harboring.”
The timbre of the swordsman’s voice deepened slightly “Your exact orders?”
Morth hesitated for a moment as he considered lying, but as he recalled the actions just moments ago, any thoughts of deception were dashed away. “These two are criminals harboring a girl. I was ordered to retrieve the girl and await a Lieutenant for his arrival.”
It was only after speaking that SOLDIERX mustered the courage to look upwards. His eyes moved up from the man’s feet and common black swordsman garb. No armor, only loose black pants, shoes and upon reaching his belt he finally noticed the man’s sheath, sword inside as his eyes bulged nearly out of his sockets.
Ignoring that the man had sheathed his sword, he only lowered his head further his thoughts a mess. ‘That’s sheath has a royal seal! Only royals may display them! Fuck! What the hell was I even assigned too!? How the hell is this an easy assignment!?’
Morth’s thoughts were in shambles as he’d been worried for his life but a moment before, and now his pallor had only worsened. It was one thing to meet a strong foe in the middle of a city, it was another to step onto the wrong side of a prince. Even more so if the prince was as strong as this. In fact, he’d never heard of a prince this strong in the past few years, not that it mattered… This man could kill him, and legally at that.
All he could do now was curse Baron Hill and Jen and pray to the gods that if he made it out of this mess he’d throw his resignation in that idiot’s face first chance he saw him!
“Uncle…Erith?” a small voice brought Morth out of his stupor as he looked up to see a child peeking out of the room next door. A small little girl, pale snow skin and such beautiful eyes that made him feel a tender warmth wash over him.
He had to shake his head to a moment and trigger aura to encompass him to shake the strange feeling loose. Confusion washed over him as he wondered what had just happened as he avoided the little girl’s gaze. ‘Glamor? What the hell is going on!?’
He’d felt like he’d sidestepped one land mine only to step onto another before. Now he simply felt like he was doomed to blow up. Morth knew his limits as a warrior, but he’d survived battles that stronger men would’ve been felled in because his instincts. His instincts never steered him wrong, and at this moment they were screaming at him to run away from these people in front of him. ‘Nothing about this situation or these people makes sense!’
Taking a quick look behind him he could tell his soldiers were already staring at the little girl like some sort of divine angel. A slight shiver roused his quickening heart beat as he regretted turning out. If he’d had a small hope of escaping with his life before, now he felt all but certain he’d be beheaded if for no other reason than to silence him.
Erith took stock of the situation but his heart was in turmoil as he looked at the innocent little girl behind him and the men in front of him. He could easily kill them and give his friends some time to escape, a short reprieve. His haze hovered as he gazed into the distance where his dojo was. Where his young little student was arduously training.
He’d already made up his mind, but thinking about Haru gave him pause. It was only as he looked down at his own sword, at the masked symbol that could only be seen by those with aura without his permission. He let out a loose breath.
“Your exact orders then, are specifically to apprehend this girl?” Erith asked in a somber voice.
SOLDIERX stopped arguing with himself inside of his mind as he trembled. Acutely aware of the change in tone in the man’s voice. The man called Erith who he’d already racked his brain trying to remember but failing to recall even a single detail about him which gave him both hope and dread.
“Yes.” He spoke in a hoarse voice, pleased he’d managed to say the word without stuttering.
Erith grabbed Eve and Dillan by the scruffs of their necks and walked back inside the house “Carry on.”
Morth took a moment to think about whether he just heard what he thought he just heard. ‘Is he just toying with me?’
“Uncle.. Er..ith?” Lily’s voice cracked as her eyes grew wet but Erith didn’t look her way.
Even though Erith had all but told him that he could take her, as he glanced back and forth inbetween the girl and Erith his body wouldn’t move.
Life and experience had taught him to trust his instincts. His instincts had served him well and right now they were screaming at him to get away and as far from Erith and that little girl as soon as possible. The prospect to walking closer to Erith or taking the girl stilled his body.
Unable to move his body to fulfill the action, he stayed kneeling. Not a single noise, even the guards stayed still. They had sectioned off the house and the vicinity knowing their mission and proceeding professionally. There was not a single other person around and the sounds of their breathing was the most notable noise.
Surprising all of them including Erith, it was Lily that broke the silence.
Taking small steps towards the soldiers, her actions surprised all of them. Just as she’d neared Morth she turned her head towards Erith but gazed at her parents before speaking in a low voice, a near whisper “I understand…and I forgive you. Take good care of him.”
Before turning around and walking into the crowd of soldiers. Erith clenched his teeth looking down at Eve and Dillan. He knew the pain this would cause them, and Lily’s words struck a cord with him but even so his heart of hearts did not budge.
Morth’s eyes widened but took the initiative to take advantage of the situation and leave. One was letting him and one was willingly leaving, ‘This is it!’
“I’ll be taking my leave sir.” Standing up and moving as fast as he could he waved at his soldiers to follow as the escort left the home leaving Erith to put Eve and Dillan down on their couch.
Staring at them, he took a moment to collect his thoughts. Wondering if they would tell Haru.