A man stood high above the surface of Hollow. Staring over the edge of one of the many floating islands that dotted the landscape, the man watched as conflict tore up the streets below. He waved his hand, and a child ran over to him, gripping a small device in their hand.
“Now, what is it you see below, Ahsat?”
The girl looked over the edge of the floating island. She dropped to her knees, making sure to keep the device from scraping against the dirt. She peered over the edge.
“I see two Hunter squads; they are fighting Vindicators.”
The girl looked up at the man; she then looked back down at the conflict below. Her eyes focused on the fighting. She tracked the movements of all involved, and before long, she amended her last statement.
“A, Vindicator… Why are there so many Hunters for just one Vindicator master Reaf?”
Reaf waved his hand, signaling for his device. Ahsat rushed to her feet, handing over the device.
“A true Vindicator is trained from birth, fed the crystals that grow in their mountain, they become ever stronger. Skin as hard as steel, impossible speeds, magical abilities. Far more than any other Holite, at least more than most. The fact there are only two Hunter squads on this one must mean the Hunters are preoccupied today.”
“Ah, that is why we have brought the prototype. Are we going to test it on this conflict?”
Reaf looked down at the device in his hands; he touched through the menus before looking back to Ahsat.
“I brought the prototype in order to test it; it is convenient that its purpose happened to be here today. A true test of its abilities, instead of simple combat training.”
“You were going to train it on Hunters?”
“I was going to train it on anything that crossed its path, but this is better though. This is intended.”
Ahsat watched while Reaf hovered his finger over the activation button, his eyes watching intently on the conflict below.
“What are you waiting for, master?”
“I am waiting for the Vindicator to be in a better position. No more questions, we will be waiting a while, and I need to concentrate. Because if I deploy this prototype wrong, the test will be over before it begins.”
Ahsat sat down on the ground; peering over the edge,. She tried to decern the position that her master was looking for. The shrill screams from below were quickly overrun by the low rumble of a wall collapsing.
Dust from the wall settled, and the pale white skin of the Vindicator gleamed in the morning light. The dust seemingly repelled from his perfect skin. Meanwhile, the dark dust settled on the streets and the three Hunters that stood around the Vindicator.
“Three smote, three left. I am yet to break a sweat; how is it looking behind those masks? My guess is that there is mainly sweat, but soon it will be blood.” The vindicator said as he eyed his opponents.
Their black plague masks hid their expressions, and the dark thick clothing they wore was adorned with flowing cloth that made their movements hard to gauge. The largest of the Hunters leaped into the air and disappeared into thick black smoke, then the second one did the same.
“Your comrades have abandoned you, leaving the smallest with a pointy stick to take me on?”
The Hunter mask hissed, venting smoke through the stitching.
“You zealots are so confident, too confident.”
Lunging forward, the Driver drove his lance forward. The Vindicator stood his ground, waiting for the lance to come in range. As it came within arms reach, the Vindicator raised his hand, pushing his palm against the blade. It sparked against his skin and slid past his face. The Hunter stepped past the Vindicator, having to step several times before regaining their footing.
“Are all Hunters this clumsy? My masters had me come here to train; this is my day of adorning. I have been told by others that it would be the hardest day of my training, but so far, I am disappointed. Maybe they should have sent me to Rem, where the Hunters have actual training.”
The Driver turned back to the Vindicator, slashing and lunging with vigor. The Vindicator parried every strike, merely needing to step back in order to make sure no strike landed. He laughed as strikes tickled at his thick skin. Then without warning, the Driver disappeared into a thick black smoke. The Vindicator was taken back by the sudden retreat, then by the tightness around his ankles. Out of the corner of his eye, he spied one of the other hunters that left before, their body still surrounded in smoke, and their whip was tightly wrapped around the Vindicator’s legs. He struggled against the whip as the Clamp tugged tight on his whip, attempting to pull the Vindicator’s legs together. But the strength in his legs was proving to be too much, not that it mattered. The Clamp knew he had done his job as his eyes hidden behind his mask looked upwards to the sudden apparition of their largest comrade. Shrouded in the thick smoke that flowed off of him mixed with the tatters of cloth that adorned his armor. Falling by the weight of his weapon, the Hammer slammed his club downwards into the Vindicator. The Vindicator’s fast reaction time allowed him to raise his arm in defense, but with his attention distracted, his leg was pulled together. Panic started to set in as he felt his feet be pulled from the Clamp’s whip, and his body started to be forced towards the ground as the Hammer’s club slammed into his arm. The Vindicator noticed another small cloud of smoke appear behind the Hammer’s hulking form. The Driver was now high in the air, his spear aimed downwards towards the Vindicator. He tried to move, but the bindings on his legs kept him lazy as the club pressing down into his arm pinned him. The Driver’s lance was drawn back and thrown downwards, the blade pierced into the Vindicator’s chest, bringing forth a scream of pain the Vindicator had only used at his weakest moments in training.
“Master, it does not look like we will get this Vindicator into a position we want. The Hunters are sure to kill him.” Ahsat said as she peeked her eyes over the edge of the floating island. Her masters laugh, drawing her attention.
“We are not after this one; we are after the one that will come to save this one. If they actually let their adorning come alone to fight Hunters, there would be none left to fight. Well, all except Sephrial, of course; that winged bastard was killing Hunters since before his adorning.”
“Would our prototype hold against Sephrial master?”
Reaf looked down at Ahsat with amusement in his eyes.
“You think we could build something to take on Sephrial?”
Ahsat looked back up at Reaf, confused.
“Well, we can create anything to beat anyone. That is why we are safe up here, is it not?”
Reaf knelt beside Ahsat.
“The only reason we are safe is because those stronger than us have no interest in us.”
“Does that include Sephrial?”
Reaf’s attention was caught as he noticed a plume of white smoke appear from the forest outside the town’s borders.
“Oh, here is the real fight.”
Reaf stood up eagerly with his finger re-positioned above the final button on his device.
The Vindicator on the ground screamed as his right arm was hacked off by the tiring Driver. His attacks got sloppier as his muscles started to drain energy.
“Scatter!” Screamed the Hammer as he looked up.
The Hammer and the Clamp both disappeared into smoke. The Driver sluggishly turned his head just in time to see the white plume of smoke make impact with him. The Driver slid across the ground; a deep wound burnt into his leg. The new Vindicator stepped out of the smoke surrounding him, his beautiful visage only second best to the flaming sword in his left hand. Its golden sheen gives a strange lumination to the flame.
“Adornie, pick yourself up. You have failed your test. You are to return to the mountain.” Said the regal new Vindicator.
“You here have defeated one of my Adornie’s. You should feel good; that is not something that is easily achieved. But I shall not falter like my trainee.”
The Adornie held his arm to his body as he ran from the city. Using his master’s presence as a distraction.
“I am lord Conflagra of the Vindicators. Your purging shall be in the name of Sephrial and in alignment with summoning the Crystal Maw.”
Conflagra raised his sword and brought it down into the Driver. His limbs tensed before falling limp.
“A pitiful excuse for a combatant made weary from removing a limb.”
Conflagra looked around at the cowering eyes that peered out of the reinforced buildings that built up the city.
“Pathetic heathens, no wonder your protectors are weak if these are those they protect.”
Lord Conflagra turned and walked away, following the path of his Adornie, when a sudden devastating crash tore up the road behind him. His motion stopped. Turning around, he watched as a large mechanical humanoid rose from the tar and brick of the road.
Reaf and Ahsat watched from above as their creation began its duty.
On the side of its head, it was branded.
“AVU – 002”
“What new monstrosity is this?” Conflagra laughed as he looked at the shaky frame of the AVU. “This is even more of a joke than the Hunter vermin that guards your cities.”
The AVU walked slowly towards Conflagra, stumbling on the rubble it created. Conflagra grinned as he walked forward; raising his sword, he slashed forward. The flame dethatching from the sword and arcing towards the AVU. Conflagra’s smile faltered as a shimmering visage surrounded the AVU that moved the flames away from its shaky form.
“Interesting; I guess a more physical approach is needed.”
Conflagra lunged forward. His eyes were cold and focused on his target, striking with precision. They felt their hand vibrate as their sword clashed with the same energy field that stopped his flame. His eyes focused as he scanned the shield but failed to notice the arm reach towards them. Conflagra was grabbed and tossed across the street like a rag doll. His sword scattered to the ground.
Eyes from homes locked onto the sword, the desire for its power welled up in those who saw its potential. One man burst from his door, sprinting across the street. He picked up the sword and started to run. Conflagra raised one hand out to his blade, it started to wreath in flame, and the man soon found himself covered in fire.
“You dare soil my weapon with your touch? You are lucky I have no time for you today, or your punishment would have been much worse.”
The screams from the man slowly faded as the flames died out; Conflagra walked over and picked up his sword from the charred corpse.
“As for you, robot. We have unfinished business…” his words were cut short by the sound of whirring metal and the cascading of the shells as gunfire unloaded towards Conflagra. He leaped behind the nearest building to avoid the bullet storm, waiting patiently for the gunfire to cease. As soon as the sounds stopped, he pulled the corner, sprinting at full speed. His eyes were focused but wild. Looking for the weakness or for the point of entry where he could plan his next strike. Watching the wobbly robot, he noticed the shield was localized to the front. He planned his movements carefully, making sure to be ready for any strike. With a few well-placed steps, he found himself behind the AVU and within its shield. The sound of sparks and tearing metal filled the air, floating back up to the ears of Reaf and Ahsat.
“Master, it looks like that was disposed of quite quickly. Only two encounters with the Vindicator.”
“Yes, your right. But you’re also wrong. I could never have hoped that that prototype would last against one attack from such a high-ranking Vindicator.”
“But isn’t this just a waste of time and resources then?”
“No. We now know that the shields are already strong enough to withstand them. The maneuverability will need some work. But that can be dealt with later. Come, Ahsat. We have new blueprints to draw up.”
“Yes, master Reaf.”
Reaf walked back towards the floating city behind him; Ahsat was in tow. Meanwhile, down below, the AVU was torn to pieces by Conflagra. After ensuring that the AVU was not going to stand again, Conflagra made his way from the city, seeing to his Adornie, who remained outside the city wall, arm bleeding and head spinning.