For some, the night was an unknown. A terrible unknown that could doom one to an unforeseen end. To others, it was their home, their comfort, and their companion. They lived their lives in the dark and made their ends in the shadows. It was not something to be feared, but a blanket of comfort that nestled itself within their brow and welcomed them into its embrace.
To an assassin, it was all these things and more, but to the average man it was quite the opposite.
“What news have you from the border?”
Despite the raucous laughter from an anteroom nearby, two nobles of great power and influence were in deep discussion. They sat in a luxuriously decorated room sipping wine and smoking cigars while a lavish feast was underway throughout the large and exquisite mansion. They wore expensive suits that cost as much money as the average family would spend in a year and their grand mustaches and greased back hair were well trimmed.
Many nobles had gathered within to partake in something that many would deem wasteful but to those of higher birth, was a necessity. It was at these feasts that many a political machination saw fruition and where plots and manipulation was the order of the day. Only those of noble birth or of extreme wealth and influence could participate and it was here that every man, and woman, had a price. For some it was money, for others it was an opportunity or benefits.
There was of course more innocent pursuits such as youths of influence finding love or perhaps a good f****** from one noble cuckolding another in some secret place. There were no true friends here, only those of use and those who were mere objects to be thrown away for power.
“Our armies and many of our elites have been placed on the front for some time. Even our family’s master class being was sent. I’m sure it is no different for your family. Tensions at the border have greatly increased recently and there have been several skirmishes. Many of our spies have detected strange movement from the Imperium. I’m afraid it’s only a matter of time and the situation in the city is volatile as well. It’s already bad enough that all of our most powerful beings have been sent to the border.”
The noble whose hair was beginning to gray, and small wrinkles had begun to mar his aging face, sighed deeply.
“We have yet to fully recover from the last war and yet these foolish warmongers are rattling their sabers once more? Absolutely ridiculous. How is a man to do honest business in such troubling times? There was nothing to be gained from the last war, they were a peaceful nation with no ambitions to expand and now this! Those Warhawks in the council have finally lost their minds.”
Across from the older gentleman sat another middle aged noble belonging to the same political party. While his hair had yet to gray, it was greased and combed over to hide the balding area which was becoming more apparent. He also wore a monocle over his right eye and just as his staunch ally, had the noble air of a gentlemen used to influence and power. He only radiated the aura of a high level intermediate class being but he represented one of the powerful families within the Federation of Lords.
The powerful families with the Federation had strong foundations and were often led by one or two master class beings. These powerful beings were often secluded or excessively training in order to advance and only took part in the most important of matters. For everything else, they left it to representatives chosen by the family among their members. Those chosen as representatives were not necessarily those with powerful classes or high levels but those who possessed classes suitable for politics or business.
The two largest and most influential families within the Federation even had a legendary ancestor each who were old monsters. They were the most powerful beings within the Federation and had protected the security of the nation for a couple hundred years. If these beings died, the Federation would most likely soon follow or at least would find itself in a precarious situation in international affairs. At the least, the Federation had a powerful military and economy which would not necessarily fall even if they lost their Legendary beings.
“Indeed, what our country needs to focus on is developing new trade routes and internal infrastructure. We are beginning to fall behind other nations and for a nation that prides itself on being a republic, it is truly abhorrent. Just look at this city, there are areas which haven’t been developed in over a century! Decaying buildings, filthy beggars living in the sewers and underground pathways rotting with creatures crawling around harming our citizens! It’s truly embarrassing. Every proposal we make in the council to develop the nation fails the vote citing a lack of money, but yet we have the resources to go to war?”
“It’s not all bad news. I am very close to convincing Lord Briarwood to changing his stance. He has been in some financial difficulty lately and I have been attempting to entice him to our side. I think with a bit more time and a little more pressure on our end, he will have a change of mind.”
The two men chuckled at the mention of pressure. They had been using some underhanded means to suffocate the business prospects of Lord Briarwood. They would then act as if they were his savior, offering him a solid investment to prop up his businesses for favors in the council.
“In the end, it is for a good cause.”
After toasting each other, they smoked their cigars in a relaxed manner and began to discuss more frivolous pursuits and the latest gossip. Unfortunately for them, they had no means of detecting the shadow that was moving just out of their sight, drawing nearer undetected.
“The Church of Murder sends its regards.”
The voice that seemingly came out of nowhere startled the two men, who before they could make a sound, were quickly dispatched. Their throats had been cleanly sliced open with none being the wiser. They bled out and slumped in their chairs.
It wasn’t until a servant entered after some time that screams broke out throughout the residence sending the nobles into a frenzy of fear. Two of their own had been slain just like that without anyone knowing and in their minds it could just have well of been them.
Another night, let’s hope there are no more incidents.
The head constable that oversaw the nightwatch stood at his office window staring out into the night. The cityscape by moonlight was a beautiful sight and the city itself was well lit with many colored torches shining as beacons throughout.
The building that housed the headquarters of the city guard and enforcement department was one of the larger structures within the city. Being the head constable who oversaw the night watch, his office was located in the highest place and his window offered an excellent view over the city. He especially loved the view by night and since he often had to work these obscene hours, it was one of the few pleasures of his job.
Unfortunately for him, his moment of peace and quiet was suddenly and abruptly disrupted by shouting from below.
Hmm, what’s the commotion now? What is that in the distance….
He wasn’t too pleased about the sudden commotion but this was his job after all.
“Sir! Sir! We have an emergency!”
One of the man’s subordinates rushed into his office while shouting nervously.
“Officer Deran, what is with all the commotion?”
“Sir, we are getting reports of fires breaking out within the city!”
“So have the fire brigades take care of it. Don’t they have mages assigned to them to handle these types of situations?”
“Normally that would be the case but they are requesting assistance.”
While Officer Deran was giving his report, another officer frantically ran into the office with an expression of panic.
“Head Constable sir! Reporting!”
“What the hell now? If it’s about the fires, Officer Deran has already informed me.”
“Sir, it’s not about the fires. We have reports of beggars streaming out of the underground sewers and tunnels. They are rioting in the streets and there are also armed citizens mingling in with them. They are spreading the fires and even pulling innocent civilians out of their homes and murdering them in the streets. They are also attacking the fire brigades members, especially targeting the mages.”
“What the f*** is going on in this city!? First there’s the explosion at the theatre, now this? Did everyone suddenly go crazy!? Dammit! Quickly organize all of the city guard, including the day watch, this is an emergency! Send word to the council immediately in case we need to mobilize the council guards! F***… why is this happening now!?”
The dawn of a new day was fast approaching and the chaos that had inflamed the city throughout the long night had no impact on the quiet place where Lenia and Aleks temporarily resided.
The ‘Soul Puppets’ that Aleks had created had completed their objectives in riling up the various criminal groups under their control. They had begun the fires which swept through the city initially causing a panic which spiraled into riots that lasted through the night. It was quite surprising, but the city was already on edge and boiling from within.
The social inequality, rampant poverty, and hatred of the nobility fueled the extreme anger of many who bore powerful grievances. Seeing an already existing opportunity to cause chaos, or perhaps just an opportunity to gain benefits, many crawled out of the deepest of holes.
Businesses were looted, buildings burned, and the families of the innocent defiled in horrid scenes of rape and murder. It was as if wild beasts had been unleashed on an unsuspecting populace for the very first time. The desperate, abused, and forgotten completely threw way any sense of morality fighting over the scraps they could get their hands on. The city had never experienced such a gruesome event and it was well beyond Aleks’s expectations.
Beneath all of this, certain key and influential individuals were swiftly and secretly dispatched, one after the other.
While this was taking place, time passed leisurely and quickly for Aleks and Lenia. The ‘Soul Puppets’ under his control along with some of the more powerful members of the former Don’s organization carefully guarded the residence and killed any who approached without question. They didn’t even bother to clean up the corpses which acted as a warning deterring any who might have ideas. Of course, the criminals had no idea that their former boss was now a dead man and that the two former personal bodyguards of Don Gregorio were now mere puppets.
Aleks had already used his ‘Soul System’ ability to upgrade Lenia. For her, it felt like only mere moments but the process had in fact lasted many hours.
Not only did Aleks need to carefully analyze the data available to him to make the appropriate choices for Lenia’s advancement but the process of advancing her class required time. This wasn’t the normal process that people advanced and so it was essential for Lenia to meditate and consolidate the power welling up within her.
This was her first time being conscious through the process and it was a new experience to her. She reveled in her newfound power and silently absorbed the power while comprehending her new abilities and strength.
For Aleks, once he was done finalizing his choices for her, it was mostly a waiting game. He spent that time in contemplation while carefully observing the changes within Lenia. His thoughts especially revolved around his mask. He had yet to send his consciousness into the world within the mask.
He was hesitant, perhaps even slightly nervous. It was a necessary step to evolve his own power, but there was a lingering fear.
He had to face the man he once called brother.
The first man I killed with my own hands.