He looked at me and nodded. He slowly went over the prisoners and picked out five knights, one of them the officer who gave me the bad vibes. Heather and Rock pulled them from the line as Arnold and I watched. They were put by aside. “Thank you.” I said, but Healer didn’t respond and slunk back to Hammer.
The five knights kicked and bellowed like dying pigs to which Rock had to knock them unconscious and just pile them like firewood off from the rest of the knights. “You’re not going to kill us. The Kingdom will have your heads if you do!” The Knight I stood behind sneered at me when he turned to look at me. The rest of the knights stared at me as well. Some sneered with open hostility while others pleaded silently – hoping – that I would spare them from the fate that Arnold had ordered upon them for their role in.
A few whispered their final prayers. Those were the ones that cut me the deepest. I was not a trained killer, I was not a soldier. Hell, I wasn’t even a weekend warrior. Yet, through the sheer twist of fates, here I was with my pistol in hand. Tens of eyes in the dark abysses of open windows stared at me in anticipation of my next move, only the faint gleam of the moonlight on their eyes gave them away. “Alright.” I whispered as ejected the magazine into my hand, checked the round count.
I came to the conclusion that the longer I prolonged it, the longer the knights before me would await in agony. I was not being kind by making them wait, or so I finally reasoned myself with. Curses spilled from the knight before me while I leveled the barrel to his forehead. His rant came to a sudden halt while he tried to process what I was about to do. Then he began to threaten me with his knight title, informing me it was a crime to kill a knight without reason and other laws, and doctrine. His rant did the opposite effect he wanted. It made it easier to kill him.
I squeezed the trigger and fired burst from the muzzle as the round spiraled for a split second through the air. Then it carved its path through the knight’s head. The man slumped forward without a word as silence followed.
The next knight pleaded with me. He offered me all his gold. He had no other words aside from repeating his offer. So I finished the deed and moved onto the next. A few others offered different things; lands, their daughters, their sons, and even their wives. I didn’t feel any guilt with those men. The ones that haunted me were the ones that looked up at me with despair in their eyes. The gleam of hope that I’d take pity on them and spare their lives. Only a few stayed silent without bothering to look at me.
With each knight, I felt more disconnected with myself and executing the knights felt more, and more… Monotone. Hesitation long left my heart by the time I had killed most of them. That was until I stopped at the last one. Somewhere along the line, I eventually stopped asking if they had any last words. Most of them were just monetary offers or them offering me their children and wives. Yet, this one provoked a feeling deep in me to ask. “Any last words?” My voice was flat and unfeeling as I stood behind him.
“Are you religious, good sir?” His voice was calm and peaceful, he looked up, and his eyes were just the same as his voice. I shook my head. “My family was,” I answered. “Was?” He asked. “Was.” I repeated. “Ah… You don’t mind if I say a prayer for you?” Somewhere in me, something broke. I didn’t know why, but I didn’t want to finish this massacre “Please. Do.” I said as my eyes found their way to where Arnold was. I don’t know when it happened, but he looked at me with a small smirk. One I was liable to shoot him for after asking me to repay with the blood of the knights.
The knight began to recite his prayer as the moon hung high overhead. The stars seemed to brighten and the torchlight glowed slightly brighter. Then his prayer ended and the scene returned to normal “I’m ready.” He said. My eyes didn’t leave Arnold and his shitty smirk never disappeared. I switched back to the knight and pulled the trigger for the last time.
“Well done. One last batch and the debt is forgiven.” Arnold said after a few moments. The heavy scent of iron lingered in the air once I was aware of the massive pool of blood that amassed around the bodies. And in the all of this, the last knight was the only one to die with a peaceful expression.
. . . . . . .
The morning light roused me from my troubled sleep. Nightmares of the Night Dread, the executions, and the other monsters plagued me against my will. I sat up with a heavy heart, regret that these past few days had not been a dream itself, but a cursed reality I couldn’t escape. I rubbed my sore eyes with my right hand while I grabbed my headset from beside the pillow, slid it on, and called for Lily. “Yes?” She replied. She had been quiet most of the night and I wanted to check up on her. “I didn’t want to look at what you did last night, so I kept myself busy rewriting the system to accommodate the new code.
I sidestepped her disapproval, though I was inclined to side with her. Self-hate aside, I was more interested in the system at the moment than regretting recent events. “How bad?” I asked. “There was more code than necessary to the point that the system should have only taken around twenty gigabytes, but it was close to fifty. I’ve managed to cut it down to twenty-five. You should see the interface load quicker now. I’ve managed to uncover requirements to unlock a few weapons in the shop. I’m currently looking into the battle restrictions.”
“Well done, Lily. You’re the best.” I praised her from the bottom of my heart. “You’re welcomed…” Her voice was close to a whisper. While she was just a digital being, she was part of the reason I hadn’t lost my marbles already. A small distraction that went a long way in this crazy situation. I slipped my feet over the edge of the bed where my bloodied boots. I suppressed my emotions as the faint scent of blood wafted up to me. A slight breeze had slipped through the uneven seems of the boarded walls of the Inn. I took a moment to still my heart and put the boots in my inventory.
Just like she said, the UI loaded within a blink of an eye and the touch response was just as quick as well. Before, the system loaded like a Bethesda game.
When I glanced momentarily to the rest of my gear and saw how bloodstained the new clothes I had bought were. My jeans were caked with blood around the front legs and the hem. My carrier was caked with blood from Agatha as well as the damage from her sword around my mid-section. I placed my pistol down on the straw-filled bed and stripped everything off before throwing the clothes stained in blood inside my inventory as well. Standing bare as the day I had been born, I noticed something peculiar…
I wasn’t a muscular boy, I had noticed my body had toned up quite a little. A lot of baby fat had burned away and I had a pretty nice figure now, it seemed to make my body more androgynous. I rubbed my chin in hopes that I may have finally started to grow facial hair, but alas, it was as smooth as a woman’s.
Pulling away from my looks, I skimmed through the shop and bought a fresh set of all black clothes. I skimmed around some more and found cloaks in the modern section. I didn’t even know that was a thing still, but I guess fashion was an unknown beast in of itself. There were tens of designs, some really cool – like a feathered cloak. I wanted that one, but I opted for a cloak with an asymmetrical design with a large hood to accommodate any headwear I may use in the future. The cloak was made from black cotton. The front cut came up to my upper thigh while the back reached down to just past my knees. The total came out to 200.
I summoned the clothes and set them on the side table as the bed was soiled with blood. I walked over to the door where a wooden bucket of water sat. It was handed to me by the innkeeper before I came to my room to wash up, but I had been too tired to do such. Since I was going to change my clothes, I might as well clean myself.
A rag rested over the lip of the bucket, a few inches above the waterline. I moved it to the chair by the table and cleaned myself thoroughly. Once this was done, the water and rag were discolored with grime. After I air-dried, I slipped into my new clothes, savoring the feeling of being clean like a civilized human. After shaking around, I sat in the chair and laced up my new combat boots before browsing through my new inventory. I had used all four of my saved up loot boxes yesterday and I had a good haul, at least, in my book.
The first loot box, the one used to bust into the Guild house, was a gray and burned at the bottom from entering the atmosphere. It was… an interesting haul. Inside was a pink Instax Polaroid camera with ten film boxes, each able to take ten pictures each. I had some experience with it, but it definitely was not an item I’d expect to be in a loot box. There was also a rusty iron sword inside. The sword was quickly filed away under trash, a big thanks to Lily’s new code that allowed me to organize my inventory.
The second loot box was a purple drop. Unlike the grey pod, this one was in good condition – retaining its color even after it hit the ground. Inside was a small red ornate wooden chest, like the ones you’d expect to find jewelry in. Etched on its top was a picture of a blank playing card. When I opened it, I found three cards firmly seated upright in a weird black form, like the form you’d use in a gun case but softer.
All the cards were made from plastic and color coded, all of them styled after a trading card like Magic the Gathering or Pokemon.
The first card was green with an A-10 Thunderbolt in all its glory mid-strife. The name of the card was “Airstrike Summoning: A10 Thunderbolt (x2)” The following description was as followed. “Summons the above aircraft into the area for two passes. User will have a moment to mentally pan out the area of attack before the plane passes. If the user is unable to visualize the line of attack and the plane passes over, it will still count as one strife.” The A-10 Thunderbolt, or nicknamed Warthog, was a ground soldier’s best friend and a notable American plane. It was a delicious thing to have backing me, but I wondered if there was a connection to the color coding.
The next card was a gold card and depicted a floating airdrop with a parachute attached. The name of the card was “Resupply (BASE USE ONLY)” with the following description, “Card fills are magazines, clips, on-person supplies, vehicle gas tanks, and recharges batteries. Broken swords and arrows in inventory or on-person will be repaired to new condition. This summon card only works for User’s base and only one base, and only your soldiers (Summons & designated soldiers)”
The card was quite impressive just by its usage, but it was useless at the current moment.
The last card was a golden card with a blacked out soldier with a question mark over its head. “Permanent Squad member Summon” with the following description, “Summons squad member via orbital drop. Gender, race, and gear are randomized. Summoned will be loyal to the death. Gold summon gives soldier full load rifle or shotgun setup.” Out of the three cards, this one was the one that caught my interest the most. Stuck in this foreign land, having someone that I could trust with my life was a godsend. However, since the summon will come down in a drop pod, I had to do it out of the settlement.
The third drop was a purple pod, reminding me of a certain alien game, it came with a Spartan Armor Systems Light Weight Sentry plate carrier with two multi-curved ceramic plates, and trauma pads. The carrier came in flecktarn camo, but hey, it was better than nothing. Though, I was quite happy with my luck considering my current carrier had been stabbed through. With time and wear, that gash would grow and I’d lose my plate.
Moving onto the last drop, it was a golden drop. I had gotten an AK-47 WASR 10 with Magpul folding stock and handguard. It also came with a rail mount, sling, foregrip, and an EOTech Holographic sight attached. It also came with four Magpul curved polymer thirty-round magazines and one-hundred-and-twenty rounds, enough to fill all four magazines completely. I summoned the rifle along with its small green ammo crate to load up.
I took out my new carrier and loaded up the plates and pads. Then I noticed that the rifle magazines weren’t going to fit in my pouches. Disregarding the pouches I had for the en bloc clips, I purchased matching camo pouches for the new magazines and slotted them on. With the new carrier, my eyes were opened to the divine world of Ceramic plates. The weight I shaved off was instantly felt. The old carriers were metal plates and weighed me down. Now with these lighter plates, I figured I’d tireless and I’d be as agile as a cat – hopefully.
I slung my rifle around me and let it dangle slanted across my chest. I checked my war belt and found everything okay, aside from the empty magazines and dirtied sidearm. I summoned my cloak and managed to get it on correctly after a few tries. Then I covered my entire body. It looked awkward with the buttstock printing by my shoulder and the barrel printing by my left leg. I folded the stock and tried again. This time, I rustled around beneath the fabric to find a decent place to hang it while I stood so it wouldn’t make me suspicious, but no matter what, the rifle would show somehow.
With a sigh, I resigned to knowing it was going to print and just left it against my chest.
The good news of the whole situation was that I found that it was a good choice to have picked the asymmetrical cut for the cloak. Having a higher cut upfront allowed me to draw the rifle without too many snags. However, if I wanted a seamless draw, I had to let the rifle dangle at my side. I could do that, but for now, I wanted to leave my sidearm more accessible.
With my new set up completed, I took off the cloak, unslung the rifle and sat down.
Now I had to spend the mind-numbing time to load each magazine. Five pistol magazines and four AK magazines. Round by round.