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The Fighter Project (The lore of LF2 HongBa)
I have thought of making a novel-like thing for my mod, LF2: Story of HongBa, to help me properly organize the whole story of the game. I may post here irregularly and you're welcome to comment on its integrity.

There are a bunch of chapters for the whole lore:

Prologue - The Fighter City

1 - Unexpected guest
2 - Pursuit of the mask
3 - Intention of the union
4 - The Stronghold
5 - Whisper of the cloaked
6 - Hong Ba
7 - Unpleasant gathering
8 - Disdained
9 - Louis
10 - Beginning of the project
11 - The forbidden tower
12 - Ritual
13 - Name of the city
14 - Need for hero
15 - Insurrection (I)
16 - Insurrection (II)
17 - Exon
18 - End of the project
19 - Residue of the project

Epilogue - We shall not meet again

The mapping of the lore to game (Click to View)
Thanks given by:
Prologue - The Fighter City

A squad of rangers are standing still in a large, clean field polished flat. Bright sunlight showers the ground and gentle breeze of wind is blowing, but they are not distracted, dressed in tidy uniforms, they look like some sort of honored statues.


A loud, hoarse voice is commanding the squad, which follows the order without delay or hesitation. The voice comes from a muscular figure, his clothes are of dull yellow, with torn sleeves and are slightly ragged. His eyes seem to project a blade whatever he looks at, but his face does not show bloodthirst, for the least. His figure alone has a disturbing presence, like a upright sword pierced to the ground.

The man and the squad are not one, but are trying to be. For some time, the man has not stopped keeping his soldiers in shape. While this is typical for a nation with compulsory military service, the squad seems more war-weary for the kind.

Of course, some rumour would rise around the man who hold on the fellows to his own. He does not answer this directly, just replying he is preparing the protect something, and his rank would generally end most conversations. He is slightly fond to discuss with his comrades though, and his men are more inclined to keep his secrets to themselves.

He would think this moment could last forever, and gathered them years ago. And now he might be content of it.


The sun is high in the sky, and the commander stops his training for lunch with his men. In a dome-shaped canteen with crudely crafted rectangular tables, they enjoy plain, standard meals, or at least their spirit would let them enjoy that. They are living a disciplined way, different and enclosed.

"Commander, tomorrow is the beginning for that ceremony."

A soldier is talking to the man who stands out for his bright shirt colour.

"Yes, we are trained, right? No worries."

"Thank you, sir."

The commander slightly frowns and says:

"No, don't think too much about that. I just want to make sure you are alright."

He leans against the chair back and looks upward, looking at the roof momentarily, and leans forward for the meal.

"Thankfully we won't hit something again. But for the time being, let's make this simple.
Just show what you've got. I'm not rusted and so you won't."

The soldier nods with appreciation, and continued on the meal.

"And I hate ceremonies." The man mutters some words with something in his mouth.
"Mmmph... cough cough!" He is choked by food and went with a few pats on his back.
Thanks given by:
1 - Unexpected guest

It's a quiet night with the full moon high in the sky. Apparently, the squad has finished the day's training and returned to their dormitory to rest.

(Another boring day gone.)

The commander thinks to himself and tidies up his bedroom before reaching his bed for sleep.

A loud creak suddenly kicks in from above the roof of the bedroom. It almost shakes the walls of the room and barely dazes the commander. He jumps for a little, but quickly rolls across the room and grabs his sword on the rack, on another side of the room.

The man hurriedly assumes a pose with the sword point to the front, and positions himself at the center of room. He quickly glimpses for any sign of intrusion.

But the room becomes silent again.

The silence is soon broken by footsteps in front of the door. Because the bedroom is not connected to other buildings, the sound of shoe against concrete is easy to be heard.

The man slowly walks towards the door with a deadly look.

The door knob is turned and he prepares for a strike, the blade ready to slash whatever comes in.

And the door bangs open.

A cloud of smoke seeps in and the man stumbles backwards, horrified.

He runs to the other side of room and is about to kick a corner of wall, but is stopped by a squeaky voice.

"No, wait!"

The man turns around and see the smoke is quickly dispersed. There is a slightly tall man standing at the door.

His eerie eyes glow in red, and he is dressed in gladiator clothes with two heavy-looking bracelets marking his appearance. He is staring at the man with a stern look, but looks much younger than a typical soldier should be.

The man's eyes quickly skims across the intruder's body, and he say: "Who are you?"

The intruder looks across the room and replies calmly: "It's been a while, comrade-"

"I'm not your comrade!" The man's sword resumes pointing at the door.

"Oh, I expected more of it." The intruder quietly steps into the room, he does not assume a pose but his presence makes the man incapable to break his concentration.

"Did you really forget me, Swordmaster Deep?"

"No, you shouldn't come here." The man is slowly shifting towards his bed which has a nearby window.

"Of course I shouldn't... I have a concrete reason to come." The intruder stops at the door inside of the room.

"What is it?"

"The union is going to steal the mask."


"The artifact your authority obtained after Julian was defeated, will be stolen!"

"I don't believe it!"

The intruder grinned for a little.

"If you won't let them making any funny moves, I suggest you act now."

"I still wouldn't believe you. Why would you tell something that doesn't benefit you?"

"Of course there is benefit. You will see that soon."

The intruder leans back, instead of falling onto floor he transforms into a swarm of bats, and they flew out of the room into the dark sky.

The man is again alone in his room, grimacing at the floor. Several men are running toward his room. He steps out of his room and greets the worried soldiers.

"I am not injured. But I must confirm this grave news shortly. Two of you will accompany me to the command center. Also tell the squad to stay alert throughout the night."

Before he sets out on the carriage, he marks a word:

"If this is real, there will be one hell of battle waiting for us."
Thanks given by:
2 - Pursuit of the mask

Three horses are running through a barren plain.

It's midnight and Deep is heading to the command center, only a couple miles from their barracks. Only a few soldiers are on overnight duties and footsteps of horses seem to echo on the plain.

A smart-looking young man has emerged from behind the iron gates of the center. He is holding a faintly glowing stick, and momentarily concentrates. Soon he give a simple gesture with his hand and several guards followed him.

They greet the trio after the latter arrived before them.

"Greeting, Deep."

The young man walks towards the commander who is now wearing light gear and a badge.

"Have you received my message?" Deep asks after he gets down from his horse.

"Yes. But I would least expect you to come here at this moment."

"I know. It was a very unusual cause. To think Bat had to infiltrate the barracks to inform us."

"Let's just get this over with. Follow me." The young man turns his back and returns to the command center, the trio following them.

"My team has started a routine check on the security signals. Only a few minutes left before we can get a picture of what's wrong."

The man points to several glowing maps on the walls of a large room, then takes a carved stone from a nearby table and starts hovering on another map on a table.

"...Honestly, I hope your news was a joke."

The man mutters, and turns to Deep with a wry smile.

"Hmph. You have your point. I could be just paranoid." Deep is crossing his hand, watching at maps on the walls.

"You could? You shouldn't."

"Of course I'm not paranoid." Deep's eyes match with the young man's, but quickly averts.

"Yeah I can sense that from you. Bat loves to scare the sh*t out of everyone."

"Huh. Just go on."

"Okay, the primary test is done. It seems like nothing is unusual."

Deep's face gets slightly more intense.

"Really? Bat wouldn't do such folly things."

"Then we could do some more tests... or we can leave it alone."

"You could not possibly ignore... grr, I forget."

"Forget what?"

"Nothing. I shouldn't really trust him. I might do something about my parts instead."

Hearing this, the young man stops hovering his stone and turns to Deep.

"You are probably tired. I can continue the check for you, make sure you get a proper rest for the ceremony."

Deep stretches his body and says: "You're the boss." and prepares to leave the room.

"Or how about I show you a trick or two?" The young man takes his stick, put aside on his table.

"No you can't be serious-" Deep's face grows skeptical.

"Hold on a second." The stick is pointed at several maps quickly and glyphs on the maps emit a faint but colorful glow. The glow shortly subsides.

"There, done. I just did a quick scan on some local systems." The young man has a confident smile. "If everything's alright, the glyphs should respond with a color spectrum."

Deep is puzzled. "You mean... a rainbow?"

"That's right."

"John, it's not time for games!" Deep glares at the young man.

"Well, everything's fine so why not?"

"I mean, do it again, at that map with domes."

John turns at the hoisted map with domes drawn on it, and points it. It glows with a red light.

"Nothing strange."

"Now swipe it across the maps, the dome one in the middle."

John waves the stick. His smile soon disappears. The glow from the map with dome changes with rhythm, but definitely does not match that of other maps.

"Grrr..." John starts to wave his stick more, and finally investigates the glyphs on the irregular map.

"I regret to tell you, your message may be right." John orders an operator to take several backup maps with domes drawn.

"Let's get real. We should have a secure place to discuss the matter." John invites Deep to another room without windows and closes it.

"The controls of the command center may be tampered or changed by someone familiar with the center. This is grave news." John has changed to a serious tone.

"Do you think Bat or the union has access to the center?"

"Not likely. It should come from among the few of us."

"You mean the fighters."

"That's right. I will keep this and the investigation secret."

"So... what about me?"

John starts sketching on a paper, backed by a map on the table between them.

"It is most probable that Bat informs you first to divert your attention. But we should compensate the handicap as much as we can. Therefore, you should be responsible for informing the boundaries to stop the infiltrators."

"Or Bat is just helpful on this one."

"How so?"

Deep points his finger on a route from the center to boundaries, and says: "A number of communication routes are in my patrol. I can place blockades and narrow the search, and if anyone tries to cross the line I'll know it quickly."

"Yes, you can do that, but how does stopping the intrusion help Bat?"

"I don't know."

"There, the plan's done." John pushes the map forward and Deep rolls it up.

"I will send a team for damage assessment and securing the locations with tampered security. Your mission is to approach and stop possible infiltrators covered in these routes." John has issued the order.

John adds: "I cannot mobilize the main troops during the ceremony, but I can arrange several of them, which means for the time being you will be the taskforce for the incident."

"Time is ticking, I will be going." Deep farewells to John and leaves the command center straight to the barracks.
Thanks given by:
3 - Intention of the union

"Commander, we will prepare for the blockade and you can decide which point we can secure fast."

Three men riding on horses are moving fast across the plains again.

"The routes for escape are enclosed but complex, since they are intercepting with the residential area. We could make it if we catch them before they hide in there."

They soon arrive at their barracks and form an assembly.

"Comrades, listen up! This is an urgent alert. We have received an order from the center that an unknown number of infiltrators are trespassing across the passages between the south gate, the south residental area, the imperial passage and the treasury."

Deep paused for a short while after his speech.

"Our mission is to intercept and disarm all possible infiltrators located at, and not limited to these location. It is possible that they are heavily armed. Now your platoon commanders will brief about your individual duties."

The soldiers quickly splits into five squads, soon two squads are heading to far south. A small squad has headed to the north, as a relay to the command center.

Deep is leading one of remaining squads to the residential area, the place where buildings are much denser than of the barracks and the surrounding of command center.

This is a gloomy place, unlike where Deep and John live in, they are ranked as "fighters", an honorable title that are awarded to those both excels in military aspects and have taken a place in the republican judgement of governing the whole city.

As Deep states, this place is,


Deep constantly mutters this word whenever he returns to this place.

"We will split into three groups to perform a rough search on possible hiding places of infiltrations. The boundaries of the city is being blockaded, this will enclose the area."

Just as Deep has further split his troops, a loud explosion has caught the attention of his troops.

"It's the wall! They've been breached!"

Deep takes a scroll from his backpack and starts yelling at it: "Platoon C, what is happening!"

"We are under fire!"

"What fire?"

"The wall has been breached and infiltrators are transporting large number of firearms!"

"How many?"

"More than my platoon can suppress! They also have demolition gear!"

Deep turns to his squad.

"We are going to contact with Platoon C at the southwest gate, until assisting troops arrive, we will face hostiles which has firepower not less than a whole platoon. Approach and engage!"

"Boss, the arms are working properly. Should we advance?"

A number of slippery but strong fellows are hiding behind a number of barricades, which are guarded by guerilla fighters, thin but fiercely throwing arrows and rocks across the streets. They are defending against a dozen armed soldiers, prepared but unable to advance.

"What're you talking about? Our task is to lure them."

"Sorry boss. Shall we retreat now?"

"No. I will stall them for a while, you prepare for a swift retreat."

A man with black bandana as opposed to others with red slowly emerges from behind the barricades. He steps inside a circle drawn with red chalks.

"Patch him in."

The circle slowly emit a faint light and the guy straightens his body, then starts to speak:

"Come out where you are, deep!"

"Huh?" An electric surge sudden runs across the commander's body. He bent over in response to the sharp pain caused by it.

"Commander, what's wrong?"

"Take that scroll out of my pack, something is hacking at me!"

A lieutenant takes out a slightly charred scroll out and throws it away.

"Wait, no, open it... with insulation." Deep stands up and starts to walk towards the scroll, to the lieutenant's surprise.

"No this is dangerous!"

"Do it! It's only a transmitter."

The lieutenant opens it and sees the glyphs of the scroll are glowing.

"Buzz..... H.. Hello!"

The scroll is functioning but emits an unfamiliar voice.

"Who are you!" Deep responds with hidden anger.

"Cough cough. You know me, but let's just say I am Bane."

"Bane?! You are supposed to have fallen from grace with the union!"

"Yeeees and no. I am loyal to the union."

"What do you mean?"

A chuckle comes out from the scroll.

"Don't waste my time!" Deep signals the lieutenant to track the origin of the interference from the scroll.

"Oh yes I will cut to the chase. This artifact... will be quite useful."


"I will tell you, once we unlock the potential of the... mask, we will finally break from the control of the fighters. This... devastation will be salvation for all of the citizen of the city!"

"You madman, you are just going to destroy everything! You're even saying it!"

"It's quite different. The madman... will be... you!"

"What do you mean?"

"Enough of this chitchat! You can just sit and watch everyone turn the back on you!"

The scroll stops glowing and lays dormant.

"Grr.... Lieutenant, have you found the origin of interference?"

"Only the direction and approximate distance are found, but we will reach there in no time."

"Then let's move!" Deep rallies his squad and head straight for the southwestern path.

The squad arrives at the streets, but it is covered in flames. A number of unoccupied building are burning wildly and citizens in nearby buildings are being evacuated.

"Commander, we should call on the firefighters. The chase may cause more damage to the city and we should press on."

"Agreed. Let's head on-"

A swarm of bats emerge from window of a nearby intact building, and starts landing in front of the squad.


The soldiers draw the weapons and start surrounding the swarm. The swarm transforms into the young man with glowing red eyes, which is now staring at the soldiers.

Deeps signals to hold the fire and walks forward.

"Bat, stay outta my way!"

"You surely look well here." Bat ignores his intent and starts mumbling.

"Bat... I've warned you. You think your little words will deter us from what we're doing?"

"No. Why would I deter you when you need help?"

"Fine... state your business, quickly!"

Bat draws several rolled papers from inside his bracelets. He throws them to Deep, and Deep's soldiers are checking them for any threat.'

"The union is retreating from the city. All of them."

"It can't be!"

"This is a replica of maps for their escape routes, they also extracted several relics and can exchange the escape routes quickly."

"What for?"

"To ensure the only important artifact, the mask is smuggled out."

Bat turns his bracelet for a while and watches them, and continues to speak.

"Unfortunately this jointed effort of smuggling is difficult to intercept."

"I will handle this." Deep responds with a grumbling.

"I mean, this theft is carefully prepared, you cannot possibly stop it."

"What do you mean it is prepared?"

"The whole union is planning to steal the mask for their purpose."

"Then surely you'll be more than glad to cooperate with them!"

"Alas, I don't want to. I am inclined to cooperate with you."


"As an ex-fighter it surely is better to side with who I know. I have given you the placements of union troops fore the least, I wish you good hunting..."

Bat turns his back, although still surrounded, he again transforms into a swarm of bats and flies into the night sky.

The soldiers have confirmed the papers are safe and give them to Deep and his lieutenants.

"This is a highly flexible setup, but our troops may break through just in time, at the south gates of the city."

Deep then leads his troops towards the gates, which is already rumbling with faint fighting noises.

A small group of monks are mediating near the gates, in a gatehouse difficult to see.

"The time has come." A leading monk with brownish-red robes unlocks the door and leads his group out, to greet with Deep's troops, which has become slightly tired after fending off waves of union soldiers.

"Greetings, warriors."

"Greetings, but please return to safe places at once."

"We have a message for your commander, the Swordmaster. This is my seal." The leading monk presents a stamp-like block carved with delicate markings.

The soldiers let the leader to greet with Deep, and he takes out a letter from his sleeves.

"An anonymous letter with the signature of tower? It is strange news."

"I hope this information will be useful for your task."

"You knew my task?"

"I was only briefed on the theft of a relic in the city, but I am a guardian of the bridges surrounding it, so I am also tasked with protecting relics from smuggling out of the city."

"Fine by me." Deep is now busy reading the letter.

"That's a bad thing, really bad." Deep is frowning after he folds up the letter.

"What is it?"

"Bat has been hiding inside the volcanic area for a while, the military site is still unsure what he has done there."

"Should I take action to warn the city?"

"No. I will act as the relay point for this incident. Now we will resume securing the gates. You may leave now."

"As you wish."

As Deep's troops approach the gates, two threatening figures leading a number of masked troops are suddenly charging from outside the gates.

One of them is a black masked person with purple bandages all over the body, another is covered in full metal armor. Behind them are masked soldiers, and everyone except the armored man are using purple glowing powers that launch projectiles and empower their fists, breaking the outer defense line with ease.

Deep senses an unusual power from inside the body and blades of the knight. He recalls this sensation of fighting this kind of enemies before, but this one seems very different. He decides to approach them carefully.

The duo have now broken through the gates and stand before Deep and his troops, and the masked man taps his mask, which causes the opening of mask at his eyes to glow red. Then he pummels the ground and a strange but regular symbol is impaled on the ground, which consists of a list of familiar minor symbols.

The masked man turns his back and Deep orders his troops to open fire, but the knight raises his shield and it emits an intense light, that forms an impenetrable shield for a short while, deflecting the flury of arrows coming at them.

"Engage them in close range!" Deep yells and draws his sword, charging forward with his soldiers.

The knight slightly backs down and flails his shield powerfully, deflecting whatever blows coming to him. He is backed by other masked soldiers that use arcane blasts to push back other soldier trying to surround the duo.

The fight comes to a stalagmite and though Deep is capable to land a few heavy blows to the knight and defeat some masked men, he couldn't surround the group of defenders as they orderly retreat from the city.

The sun is rising, and the pursuit of the mask ends in a failure.

Deep has not retrieved the mask, although he returned a large number of relics the union used to distract his troops. He is allowed for a break from the regular training for a few days, and his troops will attend the ceremony later.

However, Deep cannot stop of thinking of what Bane said:

"The madman... will be... you!"
Thanks given by:
4 - The Stronghold

A clear, loud ringing noise is coming from a decorated telephone. A sturdy man wearing full uniform and sitting takes the call, with folders of documents piled on his table just before him.

"Yes.... Yes. Shoot it."

He begins flipping a book of records with the other hand.

"Yes I am fine. And the information your team gathered are now here. Now... to page 16 and appendix A,C,H..."

He glimpses across pages drawn with strange symmetric symbols.

"From what you have deciphered, this is roughly translated as 'With big king, we will get strength and we will get you'. I have also received a debriefing of the incident from your part."

He flips the book to another page drawn with masked figures.

"Are you sure about this?"

He starts writing on a piece of paper, just besides the book.

"But that's irrational if we hesitate on the matter for too long.... Yes, yes yes. I understand. So what's on your mind?"

He writes down a name below his list of things.

"You seem to be confident about him. He surely should be familiar with the site, but why haven't I heard of his name?"

He seems puzzled and rolls his eye.

"Greg, cryomancer, now what? I don't get it. Why won't you tell me right away? Don't laugh on me!"

The man couldn't get a hint and eventually finished his call.

"Greg has come upstairs to meet you." A lieutenant enters the room and informs the man.

They then left the room across simple corridors and are about to greet him, but are stopped by two followers of him.

"He will be here soon."

As the three are wondering, something is put on shoulder of the man.

It feels sweaty but quickly becomes itchy and quickly unnerves him.

He turns his head in disgust and grumbles: "What are you doing-"



"Bwahaha! You are still so naive."

"Quit scaring me like that, Freeze."

"Shouldn't you come with something more friendly?"

"Not until you stop sneaking up on me."

"Such a shame, I thought you've softened a bit. But let's start our business first."

The six men have gone inside a conference room with several maps, weapon instructions, directions and plenty of pens.

"I'm officially supporting your team, starting with investigation of the volcanic military site. As you know, I worked there for at least 3 years and have brought intel of the site, inside and out." Freeze begins the conversation.

"That I am also familiar with. We have pinpointed the vital locations for defense of the site. If they are damaged, the site will be in danger." Deep points at several large crosses marked on a map.

"I have not received report of major damage in any of the sites."

"Really? So the vulnerable points at the site will be most worthy for investigation."

"Agreed. Unfortunately, I have tried to communicate with the site but several relay points have failed."

"What do you mean?"

"I have estimated origins of interference for remote communication. It seems several points at the site are installed with arcane devices that imitate a normal return signal."

"That means, someone familiar with the site, perhaps our people are doing this."

Freeze draws several bent yet clear line across the map, which cross over the markings precisely.

"The best way we can clear out the threats hidden in the sites is an infiltration course. Although we don't expect we'll be facing our comrades. We can just patch into the site to grant access."

"As if he would let us that way."

"Who is he that you are saying?"


Deep and Freeze have arrived at the southern entrance of the volcanic military site. It is several loosely connected strongholds built on steep slopes of a mountain, with five camps extending alongside the cliffside facing the north. The site should give a great view of the plains north of the mountain, but the southmost stronghold is blocking the view of the duo.

"Allow me to introduce the intelligence officer for this mission, Rose."

Freeze allows a rather short but clever woman to come out of his team, as they and Deep's troops are formed before them.

"Honored to meet you, sir." Rose salutes to Deep.

"She is rather new but very talented. I may entrust her for operations in my absence. For now, let her explain most of the current situations." Freeze added.

"Commander Deep and Freeze, we will do a military handshake with the stronghold first. This is the default backup authorization check when telepathic communication failed, as we confirmed earlier. If this succeeds we can contact the stronghold and perform the investigation at ease."

"And if it fails?"

"We will perform a check on outer shells of the strongholds. This is not in violation with the codes of military site. By the way the military handshake is performed by using a close-range transmitter at a certain range from the stronghold, it can be coded for secure one-to-one communications. We have already set up the machine and tuned to their frequencies."

"So, we may have granted access to the stronghold by now."

"Unfortunately, no."

"Why is that?" Deep joins the conversation.

"The stronghold states that they are already investigating on the signal interference."

"Well we can just perform the shell check."

"Alas, the stronghold recommends us not to do so."


"They are also checking at the shells as they also know some interference are coming from the behind the shells."

"So we can do nothing but just sit by then?"

"Not really. Although we are not resorting to entering the site, we can assist the outer shell check by calibrating the signals near the strongholds, and get partial information about interference."

Rose unrolls a scroll which she packed along her packages and shows it to the duo.

"This map has already been wired with several of transmitters we have planted alongside the boundaries of the site. But wait... isn't this glyph not responding?"

"A glyph lays dead as opposed to others which are faintly glowing."

"Is the transmitter corresponding to this failing, or the glyph is faulty?" Freeze is watching over the map for hints.

"The transmitter should have been activated 5 minutes ago. But there is no response."

"What do you mean by no response?"

"I'll immediately contact the team at that transmitter."

Rose steps aside and quickly dials her fingers on some finely shaped stone. She returns shortly.

"The team isn't responding. We won't know what happened to them."

"This is unusual. We should move there at once to see what happened."

Before the soldiers of Freeze and Deep is a smashed machine still leaking faint arcane energy, and a few dead soldiers with blunts and arrow wounds. From the markings of the arrows they appear to come from inside the stronghold.

"It can't be!" Deep cannot conceal his worries anymore.

"What's wrong?" Freeze asks.

"The best conclusion I can come with is the stronghold is hiding something from us. Even though it is reasonable to set a blockade during an internal investigation, this is hostile reaction towards allied units doing field duties.

"Are you serious about this?"

"If we don't brace our troops against further movements from the stronghold, our troops will be in grave danger."

"I will alert our troops for defense, inform the command center and let's say my prediction has come true."

"What prediction?"

"I suggested infiltration course in the first case."

"Do you mean?!"

"No, that's completely not my idea. The idea came from long ago, starting from when I left the site. I was suspicious of why was I moved to another position."

"That change was not long after the Julian War."

"Yes I know. But I was ordered to move by John, not the commander in the site."

"He may be just worried about your health since the incident."

"Who knows? Anyway, enough talk. Let's gear up for some actual work."

Deep and Freeze part to their tents for final preparation, donning their stealth gears.

"I have started up a short-range illusion device near the crevice of the wall. This will keep you undetected until you enter the walls of stronghold, and dispel the illusion placed at the wall."

Rose is giving instructions at the repaired campsite. Deep and Freeze are being temporarily invisible and slowly walk towards a gap on the wall.

"Freeze, how did she know the stronghold is using illusion?"

"The union is partially funded by the fighter association, it is no surprise we get hold of their technologies to safeguard ourselves."

"It's not under my jurisdiction but... okay."

They enter the site undetected, and Freeze opens a scroll without glyphs, just written diagrams and instructions.

"As discussed, we will disarm any illusion devices that Bat has installed, based on approximated locations and the arcane signature of the devices. We should also send back information of devices using some protocol, preferably at the site, then our teams outside will determine the true intention of Bat... or whoever is doing the job."

"Freeze, you have suspected someone other than Bat is doing it."

"Right. As you told me the possibility of Bat entering the site the second time is none."

Freeze puts his scroll back into his suit, and starts to sense the environment by putting his hands on the walls.

"With my ability of sense heat, we could go through the stronghold with ease. Now, slip through the west corridor."

Freeze whispers and Deep is soon no more. Freeze then follows and finds several soldiers in the corridor, knocked out quietly.

They come across a few rooms and arrive at the weaponry storage. It is a very large room with high roofs compared to common rooms and corridors where soldiers patrol more frequently. It is full of deployable automatic crossbows.

"What the... " Deeps is astonished by the sight of it.

"This place has changed very much in the past few years, and now we have this." Freeze shows a bit of disbelief on his face.

"It must be the reason behind their blockade! Freeze, could you make an imprint of the weaponry here, and NOT send back to the site."

"Certainly. We might have delved into something we'll never go back. Wait, did you say NOT to send back?" Freeze turns his head to Deep.

"Yes, for our safety. Now let's get to the next room, which should be housing a jammer."

Freeze is wiring a compact and unfamiliar box with some glyphs fixed to metallic sheets.

"That will do it, just wait for the results." He is monitoring the box which emits a quiet humming, with Deep staying at a corner of room, monitoring any changes outside the room.

"We are getting progress in disarming the transmitters and our team should get detailed information about the sites now. We could contact Rose a while later." Deep's eyes are swifting but he looks calm.

"I just got a coded message from Rose." Freeze straightens a piece of scroll with wires sewed into it.

The scroll is shaking lightly and Freeze quickly sketches some letters on some paper, then starts reading it.

"Rose reports there is no further threats coming from the stronghold."

"Not even one?"

"None. That's strange. The stronghold becomes completely silent even with our camps still staying here. Or at least our camps pretend to."

"What do you mean?"

"Rest assured, my team has prepared a safe exit route for us, but is also feinting to station near the stronghold for a while. It also ensures the best transmission speed between us and the sites no matter which stronghold we have gone to."

"So it means we can meet our team as fast as we can when we exit?"

"Exactly. Now it's done, let's move to the next structure." Freeze packs up his kits, hides the now-disabled device and leaves with Deep for other hidden devices.
Thanks given by:
5 - Whisper of the cloaked

A scroll is shaking inside the armpack of Freeze's clothes. He unrolls it and is reading.

"What's it now?" Deep stops and asks.

"Wait... it's not a typical message. It is written in different header."

"So another person has access to the channel?"

"It can only be done by someone at the transmitter. And probably by one of the deputy officers of me."

Freeze proceeds to read the scroll and sketches.

"What's this.... No. That's impossible."

"What is it?"



"Our team may be intercepted, but why abandon the mission? Either way our teams outside might not be able to retrieve us safely. There are only a few devices in northwestern stronghold, so we may leave the remaining work to the stronghold and retreat." Freeze then tucks the scroll back and signals Deep to exit from the corridor they're in.

As they are about to walk into the outer corridor of the building, a blonde man with seething glance appears before them at the other end of corridor.

"You... I'm not familiar with. Identity yourself." His loud and clear voice echos across the corridor.

Two soldiers accompanying the man at other side approaches them. The two soldiers do a quick search on their clothing, but don't find anything interesting, since Deep and Freeze are dressed in their uniform, they have even assumed identity with counterfeit cards and badges.

"Step aside." The man takes a bunch of metal wires from the hands of a soldier, and throws one of them at Deep. The wires has a faint white glow.

Deep doesn't understand it and let the wire hit his chest, it falls to the ground and lays dormant.

"So it's you." He throws another wire at Freeze, but he swiftly steps back and avoids the wire. It emits  a sharp light as it is very near to Freeze.

"Remove their masks!" The man orders the soldiers to advance, Deep and Freeze backs down but they find themselves surrounded by two more soldiers. They are grabbed from behind and pulled off they mask, revealing their face.

The man then started clapping for a short while, and resumes talking.

"It's been a while, brother. Or should I say, Greg the Cryomancer?"

Freeze keeps his silence.

"You've made a most dramatic entrance to the scene. Now tell me, what you are up to?"

Freeze doesn't response, just glaring at the man, with a face somehow similar to him.

"You should know something better than keeping your vow of silence." The man walks up and take a wire on the floor, and proceeds to wire it onto the suit of Freeze. It starts to spark very loudly, as if it can destroy any equipments touched.

"No! Fine, I will speak." Freeze struggles to avoid the wire but is locked by soldiers behind.

"Take them to the room." The man turns his back and the soldiers move Deep and Freeze to another room with smell of rust.

"I have come with a proposal which you will gladly accept." The man is now crossing his legs, sitting on a comfy chair, looking at Deep and Freeze, now disarmed and bound on racks.

"You will forfeit your mission, giving up your intelligence you have gathered here, and I'll promise this little incident never happened."

"You should have a more friendly proposal than that, George." Freeze replies.

"George? You will address me properly!" The man thumps Freeze's belly with his fist. "Now how about you? Will you take the offer, Deep?"

"The deed is done." Deep replies with a smile. Freeze is now watching Deep at the right side, his face being a mixture of fear and confusion.

"What deed is it!?" The man comes close to Deep and shows signs of anguish in his eyes.

"I will tell you... At that moment of time..."


"They with have a laaarge source of material-"

"For what?"

"To assemble-"


"Oh yes, yes. You shouldn't hurry so much though. I get distracted easily."

"Hmph!" The man backs down and sits on the chair.

"You should be more grateful for what I did. Don't you have something else to do?"

"Don't think your bluffing with work."

"I am not bluffing, why else would we get in here?"

"Because you want to set us up?"

"No. Because your site has some vulnerability to be fixed up."

"I already called on that one. I don't need your help."

"But how would you explain the transmitter device outside the southern stronghold is destroyed by your forces?"

"I have no record of sending any troop out of that stronghold today."

"Liar. Corpses of our troops are still there."

"I didn't lie. There is no record and no mobilization, even our weapons are intact inside the storage, and our soldiers have rigid attendance record... unlike yours."

"How dare you call me that!" Deep tries to struggle on the racks to no avail.

"Now now now, who's talking?" The man comes up with a menacing grin as he watches Deep is moving futilely.

He proceeds to take some scrolls out of Freeze's suit, laid on the nearby floor.

"I must admit though, your intention are pretty pure, Freeze." He flings a scroll in front of Freeze. "How would you not do some meaningful things other than helping someone you are not intended to help?"

"I was ordered to disarm rogue devices. But there's a disagreement to your methods."

"Surely you can ask me nicely. I would even put up a cup of tea for you."

"No, you have changed."

"Changed? How?"

"There won't be chance of tea anymore."

"Hah, it seems so. Why are you named after ice while I am after fire? After all we are only brothers bound by cursed genes."

"I'm not like you."

"Of course you're not like me. Pure as snow, something like that should never suppress the fire that consumes everything. Anyway, I should resort to asking your commander-in-chief instead."

The man takes a plate with metallic wires and dials for a while, and starts talking to it.

"Sergeant, how's the information done?... Good. I should contact the center shortly. Yes. You have a message for me?"

He turns away from Deep and Freeze and whispers for a while, and turns back with an uncertain look.

"Greg, it seems you are more resourceful that I thought. But another pesky infiltrator won't stop us."

"Another? There's nobody."

"Your petty deception won't trick me."

Deep stays silent until the man leaves them room, and signals Freeze with a few taps of his feet to the rack board.

"We are possibly monitored, stay low." Freeze muttered.

Deep is looking around the room, there is little thing except unpolished stone walls, dim candle light and metal chains bind binding themselves to wooden racks. The chair is taken and the only door is shut, not letting any light to pass through.

He is slowly feeling very sweaty.

"Freeze, did you feel it?"


"This room is very strange."

"Don't be a fool, would a day's torture make you suffer so much?"

"No! The roof is going to melt!"


Loud crumbling noises come from all directions outside the room, and the roof slowly cracks open, pouring rubble all over their body.

"Freeze! Now!"

Freeze holds his fists and balls of cyan energy form around him, creating ice spheres that protect his arm and wrist. The rubble dropping on the sphere shatters the spheres into shards and they lay broken. Freeze flexes himself to push away some rubble away from his body, and now he is holding a blunt mace-like thing bound together by ice.

He flails the thing lightly, removing the heavy parts, and it extends back from his hand to his wrist, forming a ring between his handcuffs and wrist. With the counterweight of rubble, Freeze easily breaks his handcuff using ice as an expanding latch. He then proceeds to free himself and Deep.

"What's going on?" Deep and Freeze are now listening at the door, nearly stuck by rubble and very loud behind the doors.

"I don't know and I have no other operatives to back me with this method." Freeze replies.

"You mean you don't have a backup plan?"

"No, I just haven't assigned anyone else to infiltrate."

"Okay-" Deep says and yanks the door, Freeze peeps outside but sees no one, and both come out into a smokey corridor.

"This is on fire." Deep signals Freeze to follow to a clear way. Freeze takes a thin long piece of metal and imbues it with layer of ice, and gestures Deep to crouch.

"What's this?"

"You forgot we're still naked."

"Hrrr... so what? You mean to use this stick for what?"

"Watch this." The metal piece is now resembling an antique sword, but Freeze grabs it with his other hand and breaks it into two.

"You want to give me-"

"No." He throws tip part towards the end of corridor, it lands on the floor and explodes with a loud glass-like noise.

"What's that!?" Sound of footsteps can be heard from behind the corridors. He readies the remaining of his ice bar and imbues another ice piece from a nearby rubble he grabbed on. He throws the bar and it lands on the ground, beginning to glow brightly. The soldiers are about to step on it due to the smoke, but the bar rapidly bursts into petals of ice which impales them and freezes them instantly.

Freeze readies himself with his newly created blade and runs forward, cleaving the frozen soldiers and the icicles binding them altogether. They fall apparently dead, and the icicles melts shortly after.

"Now, get their gears and get the hell out of here!"

Deep and Freeze changes into soldier's clothes quickly and proceeds to descend through the stairs.

"Stay right there!" The man who was in the interrogation room is waiting at the far bottom of the stairs.

"Firen..." Deep gives up his disguise and shows up his face.

"You... you have done too far!" The face of the man is pure red.


"You have had what you are meant to do, I shall not let you out of this site!"

"We did nothing!"

"Stop playing dumb! Your mission is to destroy the military site, and for this, you two shall forfeit your lives!"

"That's impossible!"

"I should have known you two are but decoys of John... The true one carrying out the job is the third infiltrator."

"There is no men other than us! You are being ridiculous!"

"Yes there is. And he has completed the rest of tasks."

"What task do you say?"

"The task of setting up the fuzes in the site!"

"There are not even bombs!"

"Yes there are, what you have just 'dismantled' are the triggers of the bombs - the actual objective of what you are preparing for. The illusion devices are just a smoke screen!"


"All the bombs are linked by both remote triggers and activation triggers, which means all of them detonate at the same time when all the dummy transmitters are dismantled. I must applaud on how careful John has planned this."

Firen momentarily looks around the plains and strongholds behind the door. They are all covered in flames.

"But now, you will answer your crimes!"

A cloud of flame forms in his right hand, which he raises and pulls backward. His soldiers have surrounded the duo while they are talking, and a soldier kicks open the door from behind.

As Firen throws his ball of fire upwards, Freeze climbs over the armrest and jump over the opposite side of wall, while Deep jumps down a few steps. Soldiers are running downwards with blades and bows trying to aim at both of them. The fiery ball blasts at a part of staircase and some stone blocks of the stair breaks off, which the pursuing soldiers narrowly run past the gap.

Freeze readies himself with a newly created ice blade while running, he knows Firen is running up to stop him, but Deep has no suitable weapon of his own now. He proceeds to throw the blade down a set of stairs, predicting Firen would come by the corner.

He did. The blade is surrounded with a freezing aura, about to touch Firen who just shows up at the lower end of the stairs, but he is aware of it, using his back of hand engulfed in frames to bash the blade aside, and has stored another ball of flame in another hand.

Firen throws the fire ball as the preemptive strike, but Freeze has started running down the stair, although he has also stored a ball of ice readied in his left hand. He throws it straight down the way, and the two balls collide with a loud explosion of shattering ice, leaving an area of both cold and hot air, where the men clash.

Firen and Freeze are now fighting, with the former's fist against latter's claws, unable to overpower each other. Deep is further upstairs as he didn't jump down, busy evading arrows and retreating down, avoid blows from blades of soldiers.

Deep didn't find anything of value, and his body heat will melt ice swords quickly, so he is struggling to find anything of use. He only got a standard soldier sword which he would break with his aggressive usage. Therefore, he has to choose whether to defend against the troops or get Freeze to break from the bottom floor. And neither of them is good choice.

He has to come with a plan.

It is a makeshift one, he hides at a corner of the stair, and the pouring pursuers are just about to reach him, and he throws the blade right at the face of a soldier. It hits hard but deals no real damage, but the soldier is dazed. He falls over, tripping a few soldiers behind and Deep hurries down the stairs again, meeting with the fighting men.

"Watch out!" Freeze yells as he attempts to throw Firen away as he succeeded in grabbing his arm, but Firen quickly resumes balance and has not stopped running, right towards Deep upstairs. His whole body begins emitting flames and his footsteps leave charred scar on the floor.

Deep senses the man has transformed into a huge running fire and has no choice but to climb over the armrest and jump down. But Firen isn't done yet, he also climbed the armrest and proceeds to jump over, landing right before Deep. Without weapon Deep can only run away from Firen like chick chased by eagle, although he is more agile, Firen leaves flame burning wherever he treads and he can't think of a way to break through.

A shard of ice flies across the area and lands beside Deep.

"Use it!"

Freeze signals Deep to not face Firen in the front, and Deep rolls, taking the shard which resembles a deadly knife. Freeze is proceeding to throw a few ice blasts to his location. Deep stops running and faces Firen, now about to bump into him, and does a sidestep. He swiftly swings the shard at the back of Firen, unable to turn around, but it barely misses.

"I knew this trick!" Firen has ceased his fiery run and turns back towards Deep, to Freeze's surprise.

He proceeds to fight Deep with Fists, but cannot overpower him. Deep has some tricks in unarmed combat and tries to repel him but is unable to do so.

A few bows are aimed at Freeze and have just shot, Freeze has no way but to draw an ice shield with his power and block them, running towards a safe corner.

"Get that broomstick!" Deep is being overpowered by Firen as the latter imbues his fists and legs with intense hit, so Deep has no choice but to evade every blow he makes.

Freeze sees a heavy beam of wood being covered in rubble, dropped in the recent explosions of the building.

"Do it!" But Freeze has no idea to break the beam from the mess.

"Break it!" Freeze realizes the way from what Deep suggests, and punches the rubble, which charges the innards of the rubble quickly with cyan light. It soon booms into masses of rubble flying across the room, and the beam is broken into two parts, flying across the floor. Freeze then proceeds to fortify himself with the rubbles by using icicles to mend him a barrier, shielding him from further arrow strikes.

Deep backs down and swiftly takes one portion of beam, nearly as tall as him, but Firen sees through this and readies a ball of fire right at him. Deep however sweeps the floor, dusty by the damage of the fire steps, and uses it to shield the fireball. The ball isn't affected by dust, but Deep succeeds to block a blow with the tip of the beam, now burning wildly like a torch.

"This wouldn't hold long." Firen readies another blast with his other hand.

"Is that so?" Deep runs stepside towards Freeze, now in a fully covered barricade.

"Hasn't Freeze forsaken you?" Firen throws the ball with a grin.

"No!" Deep again sweeps the burning beam, but he rolls around and approaches the rubble, and runs atop of it. The blast however is already aimed at the rubble and soon blasts it, causing a short flame to burst out of it. Deep jumps back to the floor narrowly before the rubble is hit, smearing the beam in the progress.

He now directs the pitch black, steaming tip of the beam towards Firen, the beam is shaped into a pointy stake, a weapon only a strong man can wield with ease.

"A pointy stake will not hold you for long. You see?" Firen's confidence is not shaken, and he looks back at the stairs where the soldiers are descending to surround the duo.

"What?!" The soldiers are at least one storey too far from reach the duo. A number of glaciers are fused with rubbles fallen onto the stairs. They formed sturdy, irregular blocks across the passage of the lower stairs, some soldiers are busy breaking them and a few are trying to tie ropes to descend to no avail, due to narrow standing places.

"You still cannot escape, our guards have already converged at this exit-"

Freeze senses danger behind the exit door of the bottom of stairs, and extends a part of icicles before Deep, standing aside his barricade.

Firen is caught by a strong explosion coming from the door, the blast pours plenty of hot gas across the floor and he is blown away for a few steps. He couldn't open his eyes for a moment but is only slightly hurt.

Unaffected by the explosion, Freeze grabs Deep by his hand and swirls himself, creating a hurricane around himself, breaking free from the barricade and using the ice remains as shield, and escapes through the blown exit.

"No... Don't let them go!" Firen is infuriated and orders the troops just broken through the remaining obstacles to chase them.
Thanks given by:
6 - Hong Ba

Freeze and Deep have broken their way from the exit just blasted wide open by likely an artillery shot. They are now being chased by the soldiers further inside the building.

Their first sight outside is a burning ground which is filled with battle roars, weapon clashing sound, and other strongholds they see are being sieged. The plain they are standing is in complete chaos.

The duo have to transverse across the plains to reach their campsites for escape, for the least, but the paths are blocked and the vast area of stronghold has made the field a maze. They have no choice but to hide from Firen's pursuit, and to search the way before the stronghold is secured, no matter who is securing this.

Deep also has to abandon his makeshift weapon somewhere. He gets through a narrow passage and damages the supports around it, sticking the pointy wood inside the passage and collapsing it. Though it makes up for some time stopping the advance of the troops, Deep is not even sure if the path ahead can lead to safety.

Freeze on the other hand is still recovering from spending his energy on breaking the exit, invoking  has left him crippled and must rest after some running. Therefore, Deep is forced to take care of him for a while, after he blocked the soldiers behind them.

They are now inside a trough, temporarily safe but must advance soon. Deep is busy scouting near the edges but can only hear unordered footsteps. just as he turns back to Freeze, the footsteps from a side is enlarged. Deep quickly readies himself and slips to shadow cast by the heights of slope.

The footsteps get much louder from all directions. Deep cannot identify where and how many of men are surrounding them, and keeps silence as much as they can.

The trough is surrounded by high shadows, and the footsteps are silenced. A tough-looking figure with bow and on a warhorse leads the troops. He reaches out very near to the edge of trough, and throws a torch into it. It remains burning inside the trough, illuminating the pathway. Knowing the location of the duo, the figure directs his horse near a dead end of the trough, and throws another torch.

It lands not far from the duo, and they now have no place to hide. A few soldiers nearby aim their bows at the duo, but the figure gestures and they sheathe their weapon.

"We finally meet, the legendary swordman."

The figure speaks toward the trough with a foreign accent.

"Who are you?"

"I am Dante, one of leaders of the union. I have come to return some favors."

"What favor do you mean?"

"Here, take this!"

The figure turns his head and signals a follower on horse to toss something down the trough. It clashes with some metallic and rock creaking sound. Deep is skepctial, but proceeds to approach it. He has no choice.

It is a couple of sheathed ordinary swords. The sheathes are slightly damaged in the drop, but the swords are intact. They are much better than broken metal everywhere, he supposes and take them.

"You shall survive with these, I now have returned a favor for the agent."

"What agent are you referring to? And what the hell are you doing here?"

"Isn't it obvious? I've come here to clean up the mess that you have produced. But I should be grateful for all of these."

"Grateful for what?"

"You'll find it soon enough." The figure signals his troops to turn around and move forward.

"Wait, I'm not finished yet!" Deep yells at them but that has no effect. But since he is spared  by Dante, he would better not mess with them and continue his escape. Knowing this, he gives a sword to Freeze, recovering and regained stamina to walk again.

The path in front of the duo are blazed, although shrapnel and dead bodies are laying around, there is no immediate danger to them. Deep and Freeze are capable to clear the path with relatively little effort, their swords can fend off guerilla fighters without using much energy of their own.

Finally, they come across the path around the western stronghold back to the city gates. If they make it through the city guards will be contacted in no time and they will be safe. The path is connected to a hill with archery station which is rather undamaged, and is a crucial point in guarding this path. Deep observes the station but it is not alarmed, unlike most stations inside the strongholds. He is about to pass the path quickly due to troops starting to close up on him, but he sees an intense light glowing from the top of the station.

An explosion occurs atop of the station, bursting small number of concrete pieces away. They do not fall far, but an illuminated figure has appeared at the explosion place. This is an immensely powerful being that his aura can be felt even by someone far away. Soon a couple of cavalries reach the figure. They seem to be alarmed and surround the figure, but soon stop it and step aside, with another man on horse reaching him. They walk towards the edge of the roof.

"That's Dante." Freeze recognizes the figure on horse. But the other one is otherworldly and seem to far surpassing him in might.

The mysterious man starts running along the edge towards Deep's direction, and jumps down the wall, albeit not with large momentum, he falls straight towards the ground. Some energy expanding from his fists extends backward, acting as a glider against the walls and the energy blades slash along the walls of station, letting him safely landing on the nearby ground. He is facing hundreds of soldiers slowing walking towards him, with all sorts of weapons pointing at his body.

He does not care for them, and straightly stares at a direction of the crowd. There is a man who caught his attention. He retracts his hand and grabs his cloak from behind, flailing it aside. The same action invokes a gust of wind that unearths pieces of rubble on the floor, and they fly straight away from them, hitting whoever is in the way. The crowd in the front are devastated and the man starts running, stepping on damaged ground and soldiers running in chaos, but resists his movement in no way.

He shortly jumps down and swirls his hands again, this time he holds energy in hands resembling ancient bronze swords, but are razor sharp. The spinning pushes the soldiers that he is landing on far away, causing slashes on them. The soldiers further away are pushed aside by the weights of flying soldiers.

He stops before a commander of troops, the troops being incapacitated due to the blast and assault.

"I have come to declare... war on the fighters."

The man speaks with an old, powerful voice. His hair is completely white and he is dressed in blue light armour that looks like steel but is otherwise unfamiliar.

"What... what have you come to?" The commander is shivering, pointing his blade at the stranger.

"WAR. And today is only the beginning of it."

"We will stop you now!"

"You still have no chance to stop me. Anyway, I only come here to see my progress marked by my follower."



"What? You mean Dante of the union is joining hands with you?"

"Yes. And by that he has chosen a truly strong and reliable ally."

"You are a fool to oppose the city! And so is Dante!"

"Can't you even admit that you are in fear, that your blade is shivering and you are sweating inside?"

The commander is unable to answer him, but deliberately tries retain his pose against the man.

"Oh well that's okay. Killing your soldiers anymore does no good to me today. And mark my words, I am Hong Ba, the overlord from the Nation and I will claim your land in no time."

The man turns around and flails his cloak again, it causes a small shockwave around his standing ground and causes the ground to project flying spikes away from him. They are poweful but the soldiers barely manage to shield from them, suffering minor injury. The man is no more.

Firen has been chasing the duo all along but was forced to share a number of his troops to reinforce the devastated forced of the other commander. Deep and Freeze take their time and hurry across the path to the south, straight back to the city boundary. The station that the powerful man arrived is now engulfed in flames, with troops fighting nearby and some soldiers retreating to the north. It seems Dante who was at the station has planned an escape route for himself.

Among the continued chaos, the duo finally manage to get through the path to the boundary, but they are confused of the plain they see. There were supposed to be either campsites supporting them or attacked camps, but now there is nothing. They have to return into the city after a while longer, and a dire turn of fate already awaits them.
Thanks given by:
Chapter 7 - Unpleasant gathering

"Commmander! It is great to see you return in one piece. However we are sorry that we are unable to maintain the campsite. They were struck down by forces of stronghold and we had to retreat early."

A band of soldiers are moving towards Deep and Freeze, it seems they are holding the flags of the duo's platoons.

"Thanks... but why did you end up here?" Deep can't wait to know what actually happened.

The group are assembled just outside of the city gates.

"The commander center are concerned about our safety and ordered us to retreat. We were trying to maintain contact after the senior commander has lost contact, but the assault two hours ago was too strong."

"Then there is actually another assault upon our sites, yes?" Freeze asks.


Deep is unsure of how to explain the matter, and just asks: "Is the city ready for us?"

"For what, commander?"

"Will it welcome me?"

"Yes. In fact, the administrator of the commander center, John has issued an order to meet you in person. Freeze has been called by another officer for his debriefing."

"I see." Deep responds, but his eyes swifts for a while, finally returning to the squad before him.

"Comrades, I have a question to ask."

"Yes, sir." The senior soldier at the corner, representing the squad responds.

"Do you trust me?"

"Yes, sir!"

"Not this way... I mean, do you consider myself to be a trustworthy man, of consistence and loyalty to the city?"

"Yes, sir!"

"...Rest easy, just answer in more personal terms."

The senior soldier paused for a moment, and replies clearly: "Sir, we think you as one of the most patriotic people in the world. We will follow you for your cause with our lives."

"If someday I am not a patriotic person, what will you do?"

The soldier could not reply. The whole squad falls into dead silence.

"I see. I must still thank you for your answers." Deep then returns into the city with his squad, and proceeds for a debriefing, before setting off to the command center.

The sun has just risen and there are few people patrolling around and inside the command center. John has already prepared a conference room and brought a list of newly written documents in it. Deep enters it, and now there are only the two men.

John breaks the silence.

"I have expected you to come here. Take a look at these."

He pushes a number of written papers, stamped and glued with pieces of maps.

"Deep... I have not expected this."

Deep is speechless. What he sees is a list of charges against him, issued by the military site and signed by both officers of site and center. Deep's facial expression slowly grows hostile, and after quickly skimming several documents, he throws them back on the desk.

"You have set us up all along!"

Deep jumps out of his chair, furious at John who hasn't changed his pose.

"Deep, snap out of it! It's not as planned."

"Yes you planned it!"

"Stop, let me explain-"

Deep sweeps his arm across the desk, pushing everything aside from the desk, and walks up to John.

"Now you are going to take your precious place as the city's ruler, and make us gambits? You will not see the end of this!" Deep has quickly grabbed John off the chair, threatening him.


"Now what? You're going to admit it?"

"Shut up."


"Shut up!" John kicks Deep away and backs down for a step, regaining his balance.

John is now looking very angry, as Deep could imagine from a such gentle men. He takes his wand from behind his robe and directs it at Deep, yelling:

"Did you think you are here just to babble about how you have been suffering in an accident?"

"An accident? You are the cause of it!"

"You can be arrested and put on trial as soon as you enter the city! It is already a miracle you are talking with me. And, thank me for it-"

"Hell with you!" Deep proceeds to leave the room, opening the door.

"that I did it all for you!"

"What?" Deep is staring at him, but his astonishment is minimal.

"Deep! You will be under arrest if you leave now!"

"...You!" Deep bangs the door shut and turns to face John.

"You will understand this situation! Explained by me!"

"No, I already understood it!"

"No, stop your yammering and listen!" John sheathes his wand and proceeds to pick up a document falling on the nearby floor.

Deep moves back and stands, laying at a corner with a clear view to the door and the window behind John. It's a clear view to a wide area of the city. He would want to retain as much advantage as he can when somebody breaks in.

"Now settle down and listen." John continues to pick the remaining documents after confirming Deep is not going to do any sudden moves.

"The mission's original purpose was to disarm the illusion devices planted at the volcanic site, so that the site will be unable to hide any unauthorized weaponry and the city can assemble another taskforce to investigate the abnormal behaviors of the site."

"So you mean you knew the site is hiding anything all along?"

"No. I have not been informed about these. The site is a very strong military force, and is managed by several fighters. We are incapable to order them, because of the council system."

"The council system specifies the fighters are disallowed to take a monarchy position."

"Yes. The site has developed a rivalry with us. Therefore I was aware that you were put in risk when you took that mission, but I have never expected it to turn up like these..."

"You don't mean?"

"I never expect the site to come up with a bombing attack and follow with an invasion from the returning union troops! You must understand me."

"Why would I need to trust you?"

"Because I am unable to set up an attack at the site."

"Is that so? You have performed really well as a liar, my troop has evidence that an extra infiltrator is sent from other than our teams!"

"I never knew of that."

"You must know of that!"

"No, and by not knowing that, the only people that know the illusion signatures from the military site were yours. None of my men or anybody else could possibly know to decode the sequences directly involved in this mission."

"You must be hiding something!"

"No, I promise you I do not."


John takes another document, changing the topic.

"And Deep, in the debriefing of this mission... I am expected to discharge you from the army, and strip you of the rank of fighters."

"I expected so. You have already cornered me."

"Albeit I will not do so."


"Instead, I am offered a transfer of you to the volcanic site."

"What? You are insane!"

"It is not my choice to be made. The site actually demands a person directly responsible for these!"

"So you are selling me huh?!"

"No. I do not intend to transfer... or sell you, as you say. However, the union has openly declared war on us, and they have banded with a strong foreign force that seriously threatens the city, the site now is in direct danger after the collateral damage just happened to it."

"You are just saying you will send me to die!"

"No... You will live. I... I will be responsible of this, but not now."

"You will never take the responsibilities!"

"It is not the time. I have staggered my reputations for protecting you. Above all of what I said to you, you are still my trusted companion and I will do my best to keep you alive."

"I do not have any trust left for you."

Two soldiers knock on the door and John allows them in.

"Take him back to the barracks. He will leave this place and this will be the end of it. Keep him safe."

Deep backs from the soldiers trying to grab him.

"Don't touch me! I will walk!"

Taking a sealed message written and signed by John, Deep leaves the command center and heads back to the barracks alone. His lieutenants have packed the belongings for him, including rations, survival kits, some books and his signature heavy sword.

The soldiers of Deep are assembled the last time and they saluted Deep leaving the barracks to the boundary, silently crying.
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8 - Disdained

The sun is shining brightly over a war-weary ground composed of damaged highway bridges. A few soldiers emerged from behind the rubble southern of the bridges. They are cloaked, and are checking their supplies consisting of typical military kit and a transceiver. They set up the transceiver on a stable ground and proceed to set up a camp.

"He will coming soon." One soldier is telling another.

The other nods and stands near the camp, observing the surroundings with binoculars. He quickly takes notice of a lonely figure coming from in a minor sandstorm, and informed the other.

The figure approaches the camp. It appears he is carrying a large load of heavy material, and apparently he is ordered to take as much payload as his body is allowed to take. He is wearing backpack and towing two carts at the same time.

However, the camp didn't send any support to relieve his load. The figure slowly but stably arrives at the campsite, and the sandstorm gradually stops.

The figure is Deep, now donned with support gear which enhances his ability to transport cargo. And he is definitely unhappy about it.

"Get in there and set up the bows. The commander is waiting." A soldier from the camp orders him to take his load to a field nearby, and resumes his duty.

Deep keeps his silence while building several unfamiliar constructs, unpacked from inside his carts. Some time later another soldier signals him to go inside one of the camps.

"Welcome to the outpost." A familiar man greets Deep, although he does not leave his seat. Deep is standing before him.

"I remember you. You have been assigned one of co-operators of the volcanic site."

"Yes. Just call me Henry. Sit down." Henry glimpses across the floor inside the camp, but there is nothing to sit except a stool which he is sitting on.

Deep's face shows suspicion, and Henry signals a soldier aside to go outside and find a blanket.

"I have heard of what you have done in the site. I think having your... aid will be most convenient in settling the situation between us and the city right now."

"What do you want from me?"

"You are a source of information I cannot let loose of."

"I see. Very wise choice." Deep shows a bit of disgust while complimenting him.

"The volcanic site also has come to a decision. That you will lead in the testing of the unreleased weapon."

Henry pauses for a short while, and takes a couple of crafted wooden chess pieces from inside his pocket. They appear to be a knight and a cannon.

He holds the cannon piece before Deep and proceeds: "I assume you might have seen this."

Deep doesn't answer and watches Henry puts the knight on the floor, slightly tilted by the ground underneath.

"You don't have to answer me, I am just implying that this is not stable either." Henry then puts the cannon next to the floor, but it rolls on the floor due to tilted ground.

"What do you mean?"

"The site originally intended to punish you by putting you as the test subject of the weapon. I somehow disagreed on the idea, and came to the decision that you will be helping us on the weapon. After all, we are out of hands."

"Straightforward enough for me."

Henry takes the cannon, and then the knight piece. Putting them on his left palm, he poses his hand near to level of his eyes.

"I will not be responsible for any damage incurred by your misuse of the weapon."

"I know."

"And you are also tasked with a mission."

"Fine. Tell me."

"Reclaim at least a dozen samples of crossbows stolen by the union."

"Why are you telling me this?"

"Are you surprised that I am giving you authority after what you have done?"

"Uh, yes. But just get this over with. Tell me."

"Make no mistake, I am not giving you any advantage by letting you access the weapons. It's just you are the candidate for the exercise, and it is also an insurance to me... the site."

Henry straightens the chess pieces in his palm, and takes the cannon by his fingers.

"And if you do something unexpected..."

He gently pushes the knight aside with the cannon.

"Get over here."

A soldier signals Deep to join a campfire after a day's work, a dozen of them are now sitting near the fire, under a dark night.

"Let's welcome our newest recruit, Deep. Or should I say, one of the big men that we are serving for?"

A muscular man welcomes Deep and Deep goes sitting besides him.

"Don't be so quiet. We surely want to know more about you!"

Deep sweeps across the area. Many of the soldiers residing here are also looking across the campfire, but many are curious about him.

"Hey." The man taps Deep's shoulder.

"Oh. Yes... I'll tell." Deep stretches himself slightly and sits comfortably on the ground.

"As your leader Steve said, I was 'dispatched' to the front line. Specifically the War Dogs, your team. From today I will be responsible for coordinating the fights. And I brought these crossbows you saw today."

"I see." The man interrupts his speech.


"Let's cut to the chase. Because we got many recruits here I will state the rules here before we go further.
This is War Dogs, a cleanup team that takes care of what the Fighters have shortcoming-"

The man stares at Deep with a hollow gaze momentarily, but turns his sight back to the fire and continues:

"So we only have one thing exceeding others: Causality. To maintain our morale, positions don't mean everything, you must help each other as best as you can. And if you don't, both or all of them die."

He paused for a moment, Deep starts to feel nervous since he doesn't feel the other listeners to flinch.

"This has happened several times before, get used to it."

Deep slowly turns his head towards the man while the campsite is in awkward silence.

"What do you mean by 'This has happened several times before' ?"

"Hmph, I expected so from someone who lives so far away from us. But I'll explain it."

The man takes a small notebook from his pocket and reads it quickly.

"The War Dogs was established under the Fighter's command, specifically Henry. Its sole purpose was to cleanup whatever the trouble the Fighter caused during the Julian War. I expect you are ready to hear the truth, yes?"

The man acknowledges a nod from Deep, and continues.

"The fighters did not succeed in defeating Julian in one try. As such a great deal of pressure was put onto the society in military backups. The fighters are the blades, and we are the shields. We were the force on keeping the fighters in condition to try again, for the expense of civilian lives."


"The War Dogs has therefore become a valuable commodity in generally everything involved in war. In short, we turn from dealing with enemies into dealing with war itself."

A small noise arises in between the soldiers, and quickly silences.

"I'm sure our new buddy Deep knows much about the high society, but take care of him, it's the boss's order."

"As you say-"

"Wait." The man interrupts again. "I forgot to add War Dogs isn't quite noble. It's a 'thriving gang'. You get it?"

"Yes. Not noble." As he answered he noticed some eyes hidden behind some men fade their wary gaze.

"Continue." The man slightly sits back and leaves the conversation to Deep.

"I think you may be interested about being a fighter, so let's begin with..."

Deep starts to share his experience in his career, and the others listen patiently, some also raise question that Deep answers quickly.

After a night's talk, the man concludes the night with several man extinguishing the fire and soldiers going back to their camps.

Deep wakes early as usual the next day and goes for assembly, now as a platoon leader. He leads soldiers looking slightly malnourished but alert. His impression is they are not very different from his own, but senses something unusual.

After taking orders from the muscular man, named Steve and called the commandant, he brings his men to scout for a foggy area ahead with a couple of prototype crossbows.
"I suggest you take care of these bows, Henry said he's out of stock." A senior soldier informs Deep when he is target practicing with several soldiers. Deep agrees, soon he see a scout hurriedly reporting back.

"A large force of several dozen mixed infantry are heading towards us, they will arrive in about ten minutes!"

"Urgh, can we move these bows now?"

"No sir, it seems the bows are designed to fix firmly on the ground."

"Damn it, the autofire hasn't been calibrated."

"Sir, we are ordered to stand our ground since this chokepoint is vital to cover weaknesses of our other sites."

"I know it." Deep turns to the bow, now partially loaded, but can only shoot in one direction.

"...Prepare your defenses. Scout, make sure none of our man stands in the line of this." Deep rides behind the bow, he looks like stuck with it on the ground and others back off.


Using the fog as advantage, Deep orders a volley of arrows launched into the emerging shadows. While the forces at far seem to flinch they start to slowly expand.

"There are many of them! They will engage in no time!"

"Force them to converge at the line of the bow!"

Another volley of arrow are launched soon, slightly flinching the sides but the hostile forces are about to emerge from the mists.

Deep pulls the lever of crossbow, and bolts are shot, piercing the fog vigorously.

Far cries of pain are heard from the shadows, but the forces keep marching.

"Load!" Deep waves to the right, taking a bunch of bolts and stuffs them into the quarrel, but he has no time to load them. Arrows and magical blasts are starting to land onto the defenses. He instead jumps away from the bow and draws his sword, rushing into the front where soldiers are shielding.

(To be continued)
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