He had already picked up a few pounds of dried beef, refilled his waterskin and his trusty liquor flask, and purchased a new tent and a fresh set of spare clothing with a matching cloak. Scratching his chin, Aaron thought on what else what he would need for his journey.
“Hey, can I get another cloak? One that would fit comfortably on someone with narrow shoulders about a head shorter than me?”
The tailor standing before Aaron was a lean man with a neat little mustache. Far from the flamboyant tailors from the cities he had heard many unflattering stories about, this man was comparatively rough and tumble, having grown up in a farming community and crafting clothing with durability and practicality in mind.
Still, that didn’t stop his snide comments.
He turned to Aaron and shot him a sly grin, “Oh, narrow shoulders, eh? For a lady?”
Aaron’s eye twitched as he barely refrained himself from clocking the tailor. What was he, thirteen? Or maybe he was, getting so worked up at such a childish remark at twenty-five. Pushing back his annoyance, Aaron simply nodded.
“I’ll see what I have in stock.”
Aaron was fully aware that parading a hellhound around with only a thin layer of black cloth to disguise her wasn’t a very bright idea. but he supposed a cloak could come in handy one day or another. If she took the precaution of holding back her tail and folding her ears, one could mistake her for a human in the dead of night.
“Here we are. It’s a bit longer than yours if that’s alright.”
That it was. Black on the exterior with red cloth lining the inside, it would fit well around Valerie’s shoulders. And being bit longer, it could cover up those fuzzy bottom paws of hers. With a small nod, Aaron accepted the cloak from the tailor and returned the favor by dropping several copper coins into his hand. The tailor grinned at Aaron while he pocketed the money.
“Thank you for your business, sir.”
With a fresh cloak around his shoulders, a lightened coin-purse, and a refilled rucksack, Aaron stepped out from the small shop and back to the well-worn dirt roads that made up the streets of Tellum.
Leaning against a small home for a moment of respite, Aaron thought long and hard about what else he’d need on his journey.
He wouldn’t need a bow or any snares to hunt small game, on account of the ferocious huntress willing to gather their meals. Aaron was somewhat relieved. He had always been a lousy shot with a bow and never learned to properly set a trap.
‘What else could I use…? I could buy a new tent with the money I was going to use for the bow and snares…‘
Taking another step forward to continue his waltz around the town, he felt his dull short sword bang against his hip.
“Yeah, I’ll need a new weapon.”
Fortunately for him, there was an old family friend who just so happened to own the humble mantle of the town smith.
“Might as well pay him a little visit.” Aaron murmured to himself, unleashing a loud yawn soon afterward. With his droopy, baggy eyes and sunken expression, one could easily tell he desperately needed a good rest.
But he had been trained in the Legion’s army and was able to stay up for a week straight. Of course, he’d never needed to do that beyond basic training, but his personal record afterward was four days. While he wanted nothing more than to crash into a soft and warm bed, he still had business to attend to. And so, ignoring the protests of his sore legs, he walked on.
“Psh… babe~! It smells great right here. Can we get some and jerky and a fresh loaf?”
Aaron’s stopped in his tracks, looking towards the shadowy gap between a smokehouse and baker’s shop. Sitting there, sniffing at the fresh scents of toasted bread and spiced meats, was a familiar hellhound.
“Valerie, what the fuck do you think you’re doing here?!” the human hissed, scrambling towards the alley where the ebony canine lay hidden in the shadows.
“I caught a big, tasty bear and got tired of waiting for you. Seriously! You take longer to shop than human women.”
“It’s only been two hours…” the human grumbled, turning his back to her and looking around for any witnesses. Finding none, he returned his focus to Valerie, “Look, I’m sorry you had to wait so long, but there’s still a few more places I’d like to visit before we get going. So here, take this. If someone sees you, they might get curious, but at least the town won’t go into an uproar over a monster.”
Removing the smaller cloak from his bag, he handed it to Valerie.
“No. I don’t do clothes,” she grunted, pushing it away.
“N-no?! What the hell do you mean no?” Aaron sputtered, pushing it back towards her, “You’re lucky no one saw you on the way here! Now put on the fucking cloak.”
“Aaron, I’m a hellhound! No man can tame me, so don’t even think about telling me what to do!” she snarled, folding her arms over her chest. Turning her back to him, she pouted and took a step away.
“Alright, fine. Just hang around here and watch me get beheaded for fucking a monster.” Aaron spat, tossing the cloak on the ground and turning away, continuing on his path.
“N-no! Wait a sec, Aaron!” she cried, hopping on his back.
Grunting as he was thrown forward, Aaron stumbled towards the dirt road, just managing to catch himself before he face-planted into the open and showed the entire village the hellhound latched to his back.
“W-what is it now, Valerie?”
“I-I’m sorry. The last thing I want is for you to get hurt.”
‘Damn. Why’d that make my heart skip a beat?‘ Aaron growled to himself, feeling the hellhound’s fuzzy ears nestle into his shoulder.
“I-I’ll put on the cloak.” she said, hopping off his back, “But only because I don’t want you to get hurt, got it? I don’t take orders from anybody, not even you.”
“Understood.” Aaron nodded, stifling a chuckle as he watched the hellhound awkwardly slide the cloak over her head, around shoulders, and down her body. He had to admit, watching her softly squirm as she shifted uncomfortably in the red and black cloth was almost adorable, for whatever reason.
“I-it’s itchy…” she whined, the hood over her head shifting as her ears perked up and down under the fabric, “I hate it.”
“It’s alright, Valerie. You don’t have to wear it if you don’t want to.”
“Really. If you could sneak into town without being spotted, you can sneak back out, right?”
The cloak flew off Valerie faster than his eyes could track. Now free of the stuffy cloak, Valerie struck a pose and grinned, “Of course I can! You can count on me, babe~”
Leaning over, she took Aaron by surprise by pulling him down for another kiss. It wasn’t as nearly as raw and sexual as their other two. This one was quick and pure, a simple kiss goodbye, like one a wife would give her husband before he went off to work.
“J-just be careful, Valerie. I’ll find you outside of town later, alright? Here, take these supplies and start setting up camp. I’ll find you after I’ve finished up here.”
“Don’t worry about me! Hurry up and come back soon, babe~!”
Grabbing the heavy rucksack and packed tent from Aaron, she set off, carefully scanning the area for any villagers before sprinting from one area of cover to the next like a trained assassin.
“Just when I thought I was starting to understand women…” Aaron groaned, preparing to go back on his own path, but noticing at the last moment that the cloak he had bought her had vanished.
He looked back up to see if Valerie had taken it with her, but she had too, had disappeared.
‘Shit… am I insane? I’ve haven’t known this girl for two days, and I’m already comprising my mission for her. Bah, whatever. Like it or not, I’m stuck with her, so I might as well get used to havin’ her around.’
The smithy was just about the same as it always had been. Aaron could see the old, round-bellied man hammering a pitchfork back into shape from behind the counter.
“Hey, old man. You’ve got a customer. You could at least say hello.”
The blacksmith turned his bald head around. While he initially wore a sour frown, a large grin appeared from under his bushy, auburn beard when he spotted Aaron, “Ah. I figured it was you. Yer the only little bastard I’ve ever known that’d be so disrespectful as soon as he walked through the fuckin’ door.”
As the smith stepped up to the counter, Aaron broke out into large grins in return. Pulling each other into a bear hug from over the counter, they stepped away and shared a hearty laugh.
“How are you, Connal?”
“Ah, ya know. Just getting’ fatter and losin’ my hair… but you, lad? By the gods, you were no wimp before ya shipped off, but now ya look like you could forge a shield with yer bare hands!”
Breaking away from the hug, Aaron couldn’t help but blush at that.
“C’mon, old man. I’ve still got plenty of room to improve.”
“I’m just glad ye made it back alright. The world took yer father and mother too soon, it’d be a damned shame to lose you as well.”
Aaron flinched. He hadn’t heard what happened to Douglas, had he? Of course not, how could he?
“C-Connal… I have something awful to tell you. Douglas… he… he was murdered. I’m on a quest to avenge him and make his killer pay for what’s he done.”
Connal looked he just took a hard punch to the gut. Stepping back, the rotund old blacksmith fell to his stool, clutching at his singed apron.
“W-who did it? Who murdered Douglas?”
Hopping over the counter, Aaron walked up to him, “I’m sorry, Connal. I can’t tell you.”
“Because you’d try to stop me.”
“Dammit… first your mother, then your father… and now your little brother…”
The smith rubbed a few plump fingers under his eyes, wiping the tears away. Aaron leaned down in front of him, “Connal, I’m sorry I can’t tell you. But trust me, it’s better off if you didn’t know.”
“I-I understand, Aaron. Even if it’s the blasted emperor himself, I wouldn’t try to stop you, but I respect that ya don’t want me frettin’. Still, I’m not gonna let you leave here empty-handed.”
Taking to his feet, Connal stomped over to a closet near the back of the room. Throwing open the door and stepping inside, Aaron could hear the man rooting around for something.
“Aye, here we are!” Connal cried joyously, walking back out with two muscular arms wrapped around a chain-mail vest and a gargantuan sword tucked in its sheath.
“Connal, is that-”
Nodding, the smith draped the chain-mail over one shoulder and presented the blade to Aaron with two hands, “Sure is. This is me ol’ family sword. But it’s yours now, lad.”
“C-Connal, I appreciate the offer, but I can’t possibly-”
“I ain’t takin’ no for an answer!” Connal bellowed, “I never had a son of me own to pass her on, nor an apprentice. She’s better in your hands than rusting away in me storeroom.”
Gingerly accepting the blade, Aaron drew the mighty weapon to check it. Around four feet of raw iron, the sword was long, heavy, and looked as sharp as the day it had been. Old Connal had taken good care of her, evidently.
A black leather handle, forward-sloping quillons, and a simple, round pommel. Turning it around, Aaron stared into his own reflection on the blade’s shimmering surface. It was a claymore of fine craftsmanship, no doubt.
“Thank you, Connal. I’ll use her well.”
“I have no doubt ya will, lad.” the smith nodded, handing over the chain-mail vest and a small bag to Aaron.
“I get what the armor is for, but what’s in this little bag? I’ve already accepted so much from you, I shouldn’t take any money…”
“Open it up.”
Undoing the small bit of string holding the bag shut, Aaron pried it open with a single finger and took a look inside.
“Shaving razors?” Aaron muttered, picking up one the iron tools by its thin blade.
“Take ’em, kid.” Connal chuckled, “No offense, but you look bleedin’ silly with a beard.”
With a nervous laugh, Aaron ran his hands through the scraggly mess of hair around his chin and cheeks, “Y-yeah, I guess so.”
“Good luck, Aaron. And whoever that murderous pig yer after is, give him a bloody, painful end for old Connal, eh?”
The sword on his back was heavy, but it was nothing Aaron couldn’t handle. Stepping out in a small patch of grass just outside the limits of the town, the gray-haired man unslung the blade from its sheath and gave it a few practice swings.
Aaron swung the claymore around, both hands clasped against the black leather handle. Each mighty slice cut through the air and rustled the grass below, sounding off with a loud swish.
It would definitely be harder to use than the hefty broadsword he grew accustomed to during his time colonizing the archipelagos for the Legion, but he was certain it’d work out just fine after enough practice.
That would come later, however. He was more than ready for a hearty dinner of bear meat and a long, well-deserved rest.
With another thundering yawn, Aaron sheathed his new weapon and looked back towards Tellum. The sun was setting, but before he left the little town for what very well could be the last time, he still had one last friend to visit.
The tavern was just the same as it always had been. Tired, dirty farmers sitting in the booths and chugging ale. Some gambled with each other, rolling dice and throwing darts. Aaron never saw the appeal of throwing your cash away for a small chance to win more, but he supposed there was nothing better to do in this town after a hard day’s work.
“Aaron, how’s it going? Shit, I was starting to think I’d never see you again.”
His friend was a lean youth with slicked black hair and sharp nose. Manning the bar, it was his job to numb the pains and woes of the farmers every night.
“Hey, Nathan. I’d just thought I’d drop by one last time while I was still in town and say hi.”
Nathan looked quizzically at his friend, “Aaron, what’s up, man? You look like shit, and that fuckin’ beard is-”
“Yeah, yeah. I’m going to shave it off later.” Aaron butted in, “Whatever. Just take care of yourself, Nathan. This could be the last time we ever see each other.”
“Aaron, what the hell are you talking about? You can’t just barge in here looking like a lunatic after being off at war for more than three years then start spewing some nonsense about how this is the last time we meet! What the hell is going on?!”
“Ah… I-I’m sorry, Nathan, I’ve already said too much. Just take care of yourself, alright?”
“Wait, Aaron. C’mon, man. I have no idea what’s gotten into you, and if you don’t want to share with me, that’s perfectly fine, but… gods, just sit down and have a drink. It’s the least I can do for you. On me, alright?”
Aaron grunted, tapping his fingers against the bar, “W-well, I guess one drink wouldn’t hurt…”
“Haha! Now you’re talkin’. Just sit back and relax.”
Aaron sat down at the bar, offering his old friend a warm smile. Just as he was about to ask Nathan how his wife was doing, a loud crash sounded as the door to the tavern swung open.
Swiveling his head around, Aaron saw a squad of about twelve armed and armored soldiers stroll into the establishment.
They came equipped with the Legion’s combat standard. Chain-mail suits, galea helms, iron chest pieces, and yellow tabards displaying a crimson hawk. They also bore winged javelins in their hands, gladiuses at their sides, and crimson parmas on their backs, showing readiness to use force if any foe dared step in their path.
All save for the leader. He wore no helmet, showing off his neat brown hair. Instead of a spear or gladius, a finely crafted longsword was hung at his hip. His armor came equipped with two pauldrons, and his greaves and gauntlets appeared thicker and heavier.
“Legionaries? What the fuck are they doing out here?” Aaron muttered, eyeing the men as they strode forward. All of the farmers ducked away, going quiet as a bunch of church mice.
“Oh gods…” Nathan gasped, “A-Aaron, just stay cool, alright? Just act natural, and if they start fucking with you, just take it and do whatever they tell you to. Got it?”
‘What exactly is going on here?’ Aaron thought to himself, turning back towards the bar and taking a sip of the bitter ale Nathan presented him.
“Nathan, how’s it been?” the leader laughed, taking a seat at the bar two spaces away from Aaron. To him, Leon’s tone was jovial. Even friendly. But that didn’t seem to help ease Nathan’s nerves. The bartender slid over to the legionary, forcing a grin.
“C-Corporal Leon! What can I do for you this fine evening?”
“Your last payment was two silver short, you sniveling fuck.” Leon snickered, “Did you really think we wouldn’t notice?”
‘What’s up with this guy?’ Aaron asked himself, staring wide-eyed at the smiling corporal.
“W-wow. Hold up, Leon. I-I didn’t put that money together. It was my boss. I’m sure this is all just a big misunderstanding… he’s in the back right now! Please, let me go get him.”
“Alright…” Leon huffed, reaching over for a glass and bottle of wine from over the bar, pouring himself a drink, “But don’t even think about sneaking out the back or some other clever shit. I know where you and your wife live… for heaven’s sake, she’s a beauty. You’re a lucky man, Nathan. The things I would do to her… well, you’ll find out if you don’t get me my fucking money. Got it?”
“I-I got it.” Nathan squeaked, dashing to the back of the tavern.
‘These fucks are shaking the place down!‘ Aaron realized, suddenly fuming with anger. Clenching his fists, he made up his mind. Ignoring his friend’s words, he decided he would intervene.
It was an awful idea. It had nothing to do with him. But he’d sat idly by and watched the Legion bully his friends and loved ones before, and he sure as hell was never going to sit by and watch again.
“You shouldn’t be here.” Aaron growled, “You should be at your outpost in Fort Eonoir. That’s almost a three day trip on horseback west from here.”
“Oh my, a cheeky one! You’re awfully brave. Or maybe just flat out fucking stupid.”
“You have no right to demand money from these people!”
“Yeah, well…” Leon said, chugging down a sip of wine, “We’ve been out investigating reports of a monster! We need money to fund our efforts. It’s not like we’re here just goofing off… right, fellas?”
“Right. We’re sticking our necks out protecting these people. Is it so wrong that we expect a little compensation for that?” snickered a legionary from behind Aaron.
“Even you’re just visiting, we’ll need just a teensy bit of coin… for a toll. Only fair, right? After all, it’s thanks to us this pretty little town isn’t a monster-infested rat hole.”
“Not our fault the Legion pays us in peanuts! We’re hardworking men, and we need plenty of food. Our salary just wouldn’t cut it.”
As the rage and nervousness sunk into his gut, Aaron realized he wasn’t going to get out of the encounter without a fight. He only had three gold pieces on him, and while that was no small amount, he had a sneaking suspicion that the gentlemen surrounding him weren’t about to give any change.
He had killed before, and he’d do it again if he had to. Only this time, he wasn’t slaughtering monsters and their husbands. He’d have fewer qualms about taking the life of a legionary, especially ones so lacking in moral fiber.
‘Heh. Who am I to talk about morals? Well, these assholes started it. And I’m going to finish it.’
Aaron shrugged his shoulders, “Well, you know what they say. Pay in peanuts, and you get monkeys.”
For a long moment, the bar seemed to be frozen in time. After a few tense seconds, a flying dart from a farmer’s hand thunking against its cork target seemed to shatter the silence.
“You wanna take that back, you smarmy fuck?” the soldier to his right spat.
“You’re right; I’m sorry. I shouldn’t insult monkeys like that.”
“Boss? Can we teach this dumb cunt a little bit of respect?”
“Go on ahead.” the corporal chuckled, “Just go easy on the poor bastard, eh? I’m pretty sure he just lugs that big ass sword around because he thinks it makes him look tough.”
‘Great. Looks like I’ve officially made enemies with the Legion.’
Aaron was positive it would happen sooner or later, but definitely not in Tellum. It didn’t matter if a legionary was a serial rapist who burned down entire villages on a whim, any vigilante justice was met swiftly with the empire’s full wrath. And the fact Leon would most likely fabricate a story about how he was the aggressor wouldn’t exactly help him in court.
Aaron couldn’t handle all of them, but he swore anyone foolish enough to take him head on would soon meet a bitter end. Rising from his seat, Aaron wrapped a hand around his claymore.
“Alright, who wants the first turn kicking the shit outta this clown?”
A single legionary stepped forward, his face flushed red and reeking of alcohol. He had drunk beforehand, evidently. With his lance clutched in one hand, he motioned for his comrades to step back, “I got this, fellas.”
“All right, Ben!’
“Give ’em hell, Ben!”
Ben was a disgusting little creature, with a flat nose, beady eyes, and yellow, gnarled teeth. And the drunken sot was either so arrogant or stupid that he hadn’t even bothered to pick up his parma.
‘Too bad for him. Hopefully, my sword skills aren’t too rusty. I haven’t given this big bastard more than a few practice swings, so I’ll need them now more than ever.’
“Here I come!” Ben cackled, rearing back his weapon.
Sloppy and telegraphed would be the only two words Aaron would use to describe Ben’s attack. The swordsman simply leaned to the side, grabbing the hilt of his claymore with one hand and the shaft of the spear with the other. Not giving Ben a chance to yank his weapon back and slice his fingers, Aaron pushed it to the side, leaving the legionary wide open.
“Rot in hell, you ugly bastard!” Aaron roared, now gripping the claymore with both hands and slinging the massive weapon off his back. After the blade arced over his head, Aaron brought it down on Ben’s helm.
‘Guess I still got it.’
The silent bar erupted into a series of panicked cries as the Aaron broke through the helmet and sliced the legionary’s cranium down the middle. The instant Ben slipped off from the bloody blade and his body hit the floor, half the farmers in the bar were already scrambling for the exit.
The death of his comrade caused Leon’s unshakable and smug demeanor to crumble like dust in the wind. An ugly grimace appeared on his face, his right eye twitching in frustration while his left narrowed in on Aaron, burning with hatred.
“What’s wrong? Thinking about how you’re going to explain to your superiors how your friend here got his head split open while you fuckers were out mugging civilians?” Aaron taunted the enraged soldier.
“He was murdered by heretic while we were out relaxing. The bastard was out for revenge after we killed the monster plaguing this town.” the corporal spat.
“Well, you’re half right. I’ve laid with a monster. She’s not my wife, but we’ve done things…” slinging his bloody blade over a single shoulder, Aaron raised his other clenched fist up and shut his eyes, looking like he just was overcome by the taste of a delicious meal, “We’ve done things that would make an Ellsworth whore blush.”
Aaron supposed he was having far too much fun with the soliders. After all the guilt piled on his shoulders after doing the Holy Legion’s dirty work, taking down some of their corrupt goons was almost cathartic for him.
“You…. you motherfucker! Kill him! I want his head, boys!” Leon roared, drawing his own long-sword and rushing towards Aaron. The gray-haired man was soon surrounded by angry legionaries, ready to stab and slice him into a bloody pile of mush.
‘Fuck! Can’t take all these assholes at once.’ Aaron thought, spinning on his heel and dashing towards the exit, ‘I’m sure I can take all of them one at a time. I bet these idiots have never been a real fight in their lives.’
“S-stay where you are!” the legionary who hopped in front of the exit stuttered, defensively holding up his parma and ready to thrust his spear into Aaron’s heart.
Dashing forward, Aaron instead broke to the left, holding the flat of his claymore’s blade up to his forearm in lieu of a shield. Taking a running leap, Aaron crashed through the window, hitting the ground with a roll before he sprung up and kept on running.
Hustling out through the door, the legionaries kept up their pursuit. Leon, however, broke away from his men when he saw a saddled horse tied up to a fence. The ugly, ungraceful thing was undoubtedly used for tilling fields
While it was far from the pure-white destriers that the archetypical knight would use to charge headlong into battle, the equine still gave Leon a wicked idea.
Unseen to both men, Nathan stood in the back of the bar, shaking like a leaf and sweating bullets. Swallowing his fear, he could only say one thing.
‘They’re stubborn bastards, I’ll give ’em that.’
Turning a corner, Aaron dashed through the town, looking for anything that would help him out of his predicament.
The living hell he went through during his stint in the Legion’s military pushed his body and mind far beyond anything that the average legionary stationed in the homeland would ever go through. But Aaron was still human. After two sleepless days filled with hiking, running, and sex with a monster, Aaron was just about ready to collapse.
His legs stung. His heart pounded in his aching chest. But he couldn’t stop. He had to find a way to escape, or he was a dead man.
‘I can’t keep this up for much longer… gotta finish it quickly.’
Turning a corner, Aaron dashed into an alleyway. He figured if he pushed himself just a bit harder, he could lose them by darting between the houses until they lost track of him…
With several loud clops and mighty neigh, a large, brown horse blocked the other side of the alley. Riding atop the beast was Corporal Leon, a smug grin plastered on his face.
“Oh, fuck me…” Aaron swore, backing up. On the other side of the alley, the soldiers began pouring in, the first one in line aiming his spear right at Aaron’s back.
“Well? What’s it going to be, fella?” Leon chuckled, hopping from the stolen horse and drawing his longsword. Twirling it around in his hand, he tossed it into his opposite palm and aimed it right at Aaron’s heart, “Would you prefer to get sliced, or skewered?”
With no witty comeback coming to mind, Aaron simply drew his claymore once again, defensively raising it up as he backed away from Leon. The corporal unslung the parma from his back, holding it forward and shuffling towards Aaron.
He couldn’t go too far. He’d be walking right into the legionary’s spearhead. But he couldn’t just sit there and engage Leon. He was sure he could win, but not so quickly that his buddy wouldn’t run up and impale him from behind.
‘Fuck! What am I going to do?!’
With a loud whine that sounded like the horse feared for its life, it bucked and fled, leaving Leon and Aaron far behind.
‘W-what got him so worked up?’ Aaron couldn’t help but wonder despite his rather bleak situation.
He soon found his answer when someone landed right behind him. The warm heat and fuzzy tail brushing against the back of his knees left no doubt as to who it was.
“Valerie? How did you-”
“I’ve got some pretty sensitive hearing, Aaron. I could hear a racket going on in town and got worried, so I dashed over here as quick as I could to see if you needed help!”
“Good gods! He wasn’t kidding about laying with a monster!” the lead legionary behind Aaron gasped, now trembling, “What do we do, Leon?!”
“W-what do you think, you fucking dolt?! Kill her! Kill both of ’em!” the corporal cried, noticeably shaken.
“Thank the gods you’re here, Valerie. This is the second time you’ve saved my ass. I owe you big time.”
“Well, I can think of a few ways you can pay off your debt back at camp~” she cooed, her claws extending from her fingers, “After we finish off these guys, of course.”
“Right. I’ll take on the swordsman, and you handle his men.”
Leaving Valerie to her own devices, Aaron swung his sword over his head, slamming it into Leon’s parma. Doubling back from the mighty blow, Leon regained his footing and thrust his longsword forward.
Aaron yanked his claymore back into position, deflecting the blow with the flat of his blade. Over the cries of agony and terror coming from behind him as his new companion tore away, Aaron’s exhausted brain formulated a battle plan.
‘Don’t have any room to swing my sword in the alley… I’ve gotta push him out into the open.‘
Slamming his sword down onto Leon’s parma once again, Aaron didn’t pull back. Instead, he summoned up a surge of strength, and with a mighty roar, pushed Leon forward. The clearly inexperienced warrior whimpered as he was forced out of the alley and onto his back.
He hustled to his feet and raised his sword back up, but it was far too late. Now with ample room to swing his sword, Aaron had already reared it back, throwing a mighty blow forward. The claymore smashed right through Leon’s longsword, sending the broken blade and handle flying away.
“N-no!” Leon whined, fighting through the pain of his stinging hand and gripping his shield with both. He cowered beneath the crimson parma, his whole body jittering in terror, “M-mercy! I’m begging you!”
“Funny. Where was my mercy? Would you have given any one of these innocent farmers you shook down mercy? What happened to that merciless psycho back at the tavern, huh?!”
Aaron lashed out his foot, kicking the shield away. Now completely defenseless, Leon took to his feet but was soon back squirming on the ground when Aaron swung at his legs. After the blade slicing into his hamstrings, Leon was sent spiraling into the dirt. Rolling over, he held both hands up, still groveling for mercy.
“N-no… please… m-my father is a rich man. Very rich! H-he’s the governor of Krovrin! I-if you let me go, I’ll be sure to-”
A wet squelch overcame the corporal’s pleading. Having heard enough, Aaron shoved his claymore into Leon’s throat.
“There. Maybe that’ll shut you up.” Aaron snarled, twisting his blade, “After all that shit you talked, I thought you’ve put up more of a fight.”
Leon could only give out a few pathetic gargles, blood spurting from mouth and neck and soak the dirt a deep crimson.
“Nice work, babe~”
Yanking his blade from the dead man’s esophagus, Aaron looked over to find Valerie standing by a pile of legionaries corpses, covered from head to toe in blood.
“How many of them did you kill, Valerie?” Aaron asked, wiping his claymore clean of blood and bits of flesh.
“Uhm… it was kind of a rush, so I don’t really remember. But I remember some running away after I killed the first three. Should we go after them?”
“Don’t bother. It doesn’t even matter if any got away… look around.”
She did. And what she found was that every house around them had shone with lantern light through the windows. A few terrified faces peeked at them, and the sounds of nails pounding into wood began filling the air as the people of Tellum began boarding up their homes.
“Unless we’re planning on killing the entire village, what happened here tonight will get out. There’s no helping that.”
“Because of who I’m after, I would’ve made enemies with the Legion eventually. Let’s just go back to camp, Valerie. I’m exhausted.”
Taking a few stumbling steps forward, the hellhound quickly slipped under his right arm, propping him up. And walking away from the pile of corpses they left in their wake, Aaron couldn’t even care less that she was coated in blood.