Apolline called out in confusion, but whatever else she had to say was stuck in her throat for the man in question had shifted from his place with an incredible display of speed, reappearing next to a weeping Britney whose hands had suddenly shot up, her fingers reaching for Natasha’s unprotected neck. However, she wasn’t surely expecting that a ribbon of red energy to whiz at her right before she could get ahold of her startled hostage, hence forcing her to retreat and scurry back; not without some damage though.
“Use your analysis! She’s not a Predator, not even a human for that matter!” Stephen yelled at the gobsmacked expressions of his friends, “Encircle her, quickly!” he ordered as he adjusted his sword once again for another attack, which was interrupted when the woman had shapeshifted into a black eagle with surprising swiftness and darted past him, her peck abrading a gash on his cheek as she flew by, whereupon blood skidded down.
John woke up from his daze and leaped forwards, swinging his axe down at the eagle who skillfully maneuvered out of the blow with a flap of her wings and dove down at him, her feathery body mystically elongating and morphing into a scaly snake, her maw open wide as she attempted to bite down on him. Thankfully a fireball was hurled at her, sidetracking the snake’s movement to avoid being scorched alive, but the wound she had previously received kicked in, compelling her body to plummet onto the wooden floor with a thud from the strain.
“We’ve got her!” Natasha prepared another flame in her hand.
Frank stepped fast alongside Sarah, Daphne, and Apolline who surrounded the bleeding snake, their weapons ready to either strike or fend off. The reptile hissed before transmuting back to the woman she had formerly taken the stead of, her now humanly hand propped to her abdomen where a cut was discernible through the oozing blood. Her pale features stretched in anger as she glared at them.
“Well… it seems we finally managed to tame you.” Stephen narrowed his eyes, the tip of his blade pressing slightly against her carotid artery, “Here I thought we would have to undergo a dangerous fight. But we actually brought you down with surprising ease.” he continued in an even tone, “I’m not going to ask you for any last words because honestly, I wouldn’t give a single f***.” he steeled his hand, ready to pluck her life away with a single flick of his wrist.
His heart rate accelerated. No matter what he convinced himself of, the woman in front of him was not a goblin, yet he couldn’t afford mercy, not in that place.
“Stephen… she possesses high intelligence, and is capable of holding a conversion with us, in our own language to boot.” John stopped him, “Put down your sword… for now.” he drawled out, but it seemed his attempt was unsuccessful for the younger Predator still held his position, absentminded, the grip on his weapon tightening, “Stephen…”
Lowering his gaze, Stephen reluctantly nodded with a grimace. The older man was right, having a smudge of information regarding anything related to their situation or whereabouts was of great value. Still, he couldn’t help but feel the need to get rid of the threat in front of him. He relented at last.
Britney’s lips curled upwards into a mocking smile, “If you expect anything of me then you might as well thrust that sword in my heart, my lips are sealed.” she spat out.
“She’s a feisty one, isn’t she?” Frank chuckled, earning himself a piercing look from the woman.
Stephen ignored his group fellow’s unnecessary comment and queried, “Do you know where we are?”
“Hah, you don’t know where you even are? Are you for serious?” she burst out in laughter, “I never knew I’d stumble upon someone who would ask me such a stupid thing.”
“Well then, if it’s such a stupid thing as you said you shouldn’t have any problems answering us.”
The shapeshifter took on a thinking pose, “What about no?” she grinned.
“What about f*** you?” Stephen blurted out, his eyebrow twitching, “Damn, is she on her period or something?” he wrinkled his nose.
“Period, huh? I wonder if we’d drink that, I mean… it’s still blood…” Frank casually remarked before his face scrunched up in regret at the way he had phrased his sentence.
“…” everyone stared at him in sheer astonishment whereas the women sent him a disgusted glare, even the shapeshifter was frowning at him. Apparently, periods were something that plagued all women, regardless of the race. Frank shrunk in himself, realizing his mistake before mouthing out an apology.
John shook his head in exasperation. Since questioning her like this was revealing itself to be meaningless, he decided to apply more ‘persuasive’ ways to get something out of her. With an abrupt kick on her wound that sent her tumbling back on the floor, followed by a shriek of pain, he asked, “I’m sure you know the following developments, why not spare yourself the sorrow? Eventually, you’ll spill everything out, might as well give in now.”
“John?” Sarah draped a hand over her mouth, dumbstruck, as were everyone else.
The older man ignored her and continued, this time with a punch straight to her face that split her lips and drew out sprinkle blood, “Nothing?” he pressed.
“…” the auburn-haired woman grinned and licked her lips clean of the red liquid, “That’s it? Just a kick and a punch?” she sulked in mock-disappointment, “Aww, it seems that you’re not heartless enough to see a maiden endure anguish, how chivalrous.”
John scowled, he’d use more painful methods, but he was not alone, and Sarah was there, he couldn’t bring himself to let her see certain things, not yet, at least. Stephen scooted closer to him, and whispered to his ear, “I know what you’re thinking about, and just so to ask but were there any ropes in that hut you scoured before?”
“Ropes?” the older man raised an eyebrow, “Yes, there were several of them, not in perfect conditions though. Why do you ask?”
“I have an idea, could you please go and fetch them for me please?”
John stared at him for a moment before nodding in acquiescence and waltzing out of the shack.
“Oh, why did you stop?” Britney’s taunting voice echoed out, “Have you finally come up with something terrifying.” she hummed.
“You sure are a talkative one for a captive.” Stephen remarked leisurely, “Either way, you’ll be seeing soon what we have in store for you, I’m sure you’ll like it, no… what am I saying, you won’t like it, that’s the point of it after all…” he then started scanning the room they were in, as if looking for something specific, probably related to his earlier request to John.
“Ehm… Stephen?” Natasha softly poked him on the arm, “What are you up to?” she queried, her face showing visible signs of concern.
Despite everything, they were still not used to such a lifestyle they were currently going through. Killing goblins to survive was one thing, but willingly making a person suffer pain was quite disturbing. Of course, she knew before handedly that her mind was not quite right when the conflict against the goblin that had made her awaken occurred, however, there were lines she wasn’t keen stepping out of.
“Huh, nothing you should worry your pretty little head over.” he winked at her before shifting his eyesight upon John who had just walked back in, his hands fumbling with worn out ropes as he attempted to untangle them, “Here you are.” he approached the dark-skinned Predator, “Is there any suspended rafter outside?”
“Uh, yes, actually there’s one where goblins used to hang their food on.”
“Perfect. Lead the way, please.” he turned to Frank, “Grab our guest while I carry the other one.” he sidled up to Damien, taking a careful look at the injured young man.[Analysis Complete!]
“Hmm…” Stephen munched on his lips thoughtfully, “Good.” he clamped the male shapeshifter by the collar and started dragging him outside, where the rest of the group was heading at. He curiously noticed Britney frowning at him when he tactlessly hauled Damien along, but paid it no further heed.
The dark sky rumbled with thunders, announcing the oncoming downpour about to befall upon the lands. The group, plus the two shapeshifters, found themselves afore a wooden joist that was fixed vertically on the ground, whereupon another one was horizontally attached to the latter’s utmost end, animals’ decomposed carcasses hanging upside down from it, their stomachs slashed open for everyone to see their insides.
“I have a faint idea of what you want to do.” John muttered after a short pause, “I wonder if it will work.”
“Might as well try and see.” Stephen pulled Britney’s arms back, knotting her wrists together with a rope, “If done right it should cause a lot of pain without shedding blood.” he added another batch of ropes just to be sure, she was a Rank 2, after all. “Good.” he breathed out, feeling a bit restless at what he was about to do, but forced himself to calm down nonetheless.
“I didn’t know you were into that kind of stuff,” Brintey snorted as she tried to free herself of the binding, but even though she was of a higher ranking than her captors, her skills laid mostly on her shapeshifting ability, her body attributes were barely above the average standards, and the injury she had gotten before was hindering her from transmuting into any small-sized animal. The constant blood loss was paling her face up.
Ignoring her, Stephen motioned John to propel the other loose end of the rope over the horizontal timber, where he grabbed it anew after it had descended on the other side, creating a triangle rectangle sort of shape with the cord that was now in the older man’s hands.
“Oh God…” Apolline was horror-struck as she realized what they wanted to do, “Isn’t that a bit too overboard, Stephen!?” her voice resounded louder than she had intended.
Frank chimed in, nervous, “What are they about to do?” he was clueless, although he knew the method they were about to use was supposed to be painful, he was ignorant as for the how. Natasha, Sarah, and Daphne who were within earshot strained their hearing to listen better.
“It’s a kind of torture called Strappado, it was used during the late 1800s, mostly by the inquisitorial branch of the church.” Apolline explained, “The cords would suspend the victim mid-air whilst the weight of their bodies would press against the joints of their shoulders, add in the gravity and you wouldn’t forget that pain for a long time.”
“…” they gaped, once again focusing their attention on the ordeal that was slowly unfolding before their eyes.
“Last chance, Britney.” Stephen crouched down, “I don’t know why you’re so adamant on withholding us simple information, but…” he locked his eyes into hers, “… it’s gonna hurt like hell, so… it would spare me the effort of making you go through that s*** if you could kindly put some clarity into our doubts, I mean… it would be better than undergoing that,” he pointed at their handmade tool of torture, “And trust me, you don’t want to. Ah, f*** it. I’m not good with words.” he threw his hands up in the air, “So, whatcha gonna do?”
She held his gaze for a moment before spitting out venomously, “Do your worst.”
“Is that so?” Stephen clambered back to his feet, “Is that…so?” he reiterated quietly, his voice almost a whisper that was lost in the wind as he sent her a last pitying look that soon turned into freezing determination, “As you wish.” he made his way to where John was standing at, “Is it a problem if I’m the one to do it?”
“No, but…” John furrowed his brow at him, “Are you sure?”
Stephen gritted his teeth, “Yes.”
“Don’t force yourself.”
“It’s okay, just give me the cord.”
John adhered and yielded it to him before sauntering a few yards back, where Damien was sprawled on the soil, intermittently squirming. He had also noted that the young man was a shapeshifter, he wondered where he had earned those cuts from, it certainly didn’t seem like the work of a goblin.
Taking a deep breath, Stephen closed his eyes, streaming his Encore Power through his hands to augment his strength, something he had only theorized recently. A red sheen covered the outline of his hands and fingers, it was feeble and almost invisible, but it was there.[You have gained the skill Encore Manipulation, Lv.1.]
Stephen jerked the rope back slowly, propelling Britney to be elevated from the ground as her arms yanked back, her feet dangling in the air.
“Aaaaaaaahh!” the shapeshifter let out a shriek that tore through the howling wind and the cracking thunders, “Aaagh! F***! F***! F***!” her shoulders stretched, the bones emitting warning sounds.
“Oh no…” Frank grimaced, averting his gaze, but the screams were picturing the image crystal clear, “That’s brutal…”
Sarah had turned around, her hands clenching her ears shut. Natasha was not faring any better but she was forcing herself to look at it, hoping it would have not lasted long. Daphne and Apolline were staring at the happenings dazedly, silent, their hearts thumping against their chests and ringing out in their ears in a cacophony of sounds, outsounded only by Britney’s wails.
“So, will you speak?”
Stephen haltingly released his hold on the rope, aiding her descent as her feet met with the ground.
“I’ll take that as a no.” ignoring the bile soaring up his throat, he pulled back again, continuing with his endeavor despite the ever so growing sickness.