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91 Flee

    *Clang* *Clang* *Clang*

    The Lord stopped playing with his glass of wine, surprised by the noise. Were his soldiers back from their excursion?

    *BANG*

    The town hall's doors burst open, with a soldier running in, worn down and severely injured. His entire body was covered in blood and one of his arms was bent in a horrifying way. The scene shocked the Lord, who couldn't understand what was happening.

    "WE'RE UNDER ATTACK"

    With his last breath, the soldier yelled those words and fell to the floor, dead.

    The maid present gasped, and her eyes started tearing up. A flood of memories from when the Empire attacked them surged, and she remembered her close ones dying in front of her. Were these bastards finally coming back to finish the job?

    The Lord had quickly gotten up from his chair in response, but the only thing he did was standing there, trying to process what this meant. Were the intruders related to the Empire instead of those prisoners? If so, he had just done a major mistake and the only thing he could do was fleeing.

    With that realization hitting him like a ton of bricks, he turned around and ran across the room, seizing a bag and filling it up with everything he could get his hands on. His actions stunned the already terrified maid, who couldn't get rid of the dark memories that swirled endlessly in her mind.

    "My... My Lord... Where are you going?"

    "Shut up and run if you want to live!"

    "But... But the army will surely repel them right?"

    "You mean the lazy bastards who've been sitting on their asses these last few years?! HAHAHAHAHA"

    The scrawny man's laugh was clear and filled with contempt. It was obvious he didn't care for them at all and merely viewed them as pawns. If they could stall long enough for him to escape, their lives would have meaning.

    "On top of this, do you really think we're being attacked by castaways from here? If we were, our soldiers wouldn't come back in this state"

    He pointed to the corpse on the floor and scuffed. In his mind, there was only one entity that could threaten this place, and it was the Empire. He didn't know why they had finally decided to come here, but he wasn't about to find out.

    *CLANG* *CLANG* *CLANG*

    The outside noise was becoming louder and louder, prompting the Lord to hurriedly leave the Town Hall, leaving behind a now petrified maid. When she had heard his last words, it was as if her world crumbled and her worst fears had come true... The Empire was back...

    With that thought sinking further and further into her body, she fell powerlessly to her knees, with tears running down her cheeks... The weight of all those years in exile hit her all at once, which sapped away any energy and will to flee...

    "Looks like I'm going to meet you all soon again..."

    ***

    "Everyone that takes a weapon against us is to be killed without mercy, understood? Also, gather the inhabitants. I don't want to cause a mass hysteria. I want you to explain to them who we are and why we're here"

    "Yes General!"

    Akata's troops were sweeping through the village after easily dealing with its front gate. Since Albanel had sent half of their soldiers to intercept them, they were shorthanded on defending the perimeter, which caused the front gate's defenses to be considerably weakened. That, on top of having a berserker, made everything all too easy.

    The troops had initially been appalled by their General's orders to kill neutralized soldiers, but they quickly realized that they were people who captured and tortured innocent men... Being weak-willed on a battlefield was a death sentence more often than not, and they weren't willing to gamble their lives away for scum like them.

    After killing another 30 soldiers, they finally reached the center of the village and saw the town hall. It was the classiest building they had encountered so far, which made Eloise wonder who was inside.

    "Guard the exterior and inform me when the entire populace has been gathered"

    "Yes General"

    After organizing the troops, Eloise entered the edifice. Even though it wasn't big, it was luxurious, even compared to the ones found in Akata. The amount of work needed to build something like this in this inhospitable region and small village... She simply couldn't fathom it.

    As she went further in, she finally arrived in the room where the soldier had died and laid in a pool of blood. What caught her attention, however, was a woman sobbing on the floor. She hadn't even raised her head when Eloise entered the room, which made her raise her guard.

    "Are you okay?"

    The sobbing stopped, and the woman slowly raised her head, exposing her swollen red eyes.

    "If you're going to kill me, please do it now..."

    The sentence was said slowly and resolutely, which surprised the General. How was this person already resigned to die?

    "I'm not here to kill you"

    The maid looked up again, now with eyes filled with grief.

    "Liars... You're all liars... The Empire is scum and I won't beg for my life... Just end it"

    Eloise suddenly understood. This woman must have heard the clashes outside, and when that soldier ran in, she assumed that they were a division from Krakow.

    She couldn't help but sympathize with her. After all, she was also a victim of the tyrannic regimes that occurred across the land.

    "I'm not here on the Empire's behalf..."

    "STOP LYING"

    The maid exploded in anger, unable to contain her overflowing emotions. Why did these Empire bastards have to be so heartless? Couldn't they simply kill her without making a fuss about it?!

    Eloise realized she wouldn't be able to get through with words alone, so she reached deep down in one of her pockets and took out an iron coin before throwing it next to the woman.

    *Cling*

    It made a clear metallic noise when it landed, and it settled at the woman's feet, right in front of her eyes. She couldn't help but look at it, and when she did, she realized that the woman in front of her wasn't lying.

    She had never seen the coin's pattern before, and it was obviously iron, which wasn't supposed to be used as currency.

    "Who... Who are you?"

    She quickly gathered back her thoughts and questioned Eloise because even though she wasn't from the Empire, she still could be someone from an enemy region.

    "We come from a nearby village that sent two envoys here before. Do you know anything about that?"

    Eloise's tone was firm and ruthless when she mentioned the last part, sending a chill down the maid's spine. Now everything made sense... Albanel had offended someone they couldn't afford to, and now it had to pay the price...

    "Yes..."

    Her voice had finally stabilized, but the amount of sadness contained in the answer made Eloise think of the worse.

    "Where are they?"

    "I'll show you..."

    The maid shakily got off the ground, and led Eloise to a 'basement' of some sort. After descending a small flight of stairs, they arrived in front of a thick wooden door, and before the maid opened it, she spoke.

    "Death would have been a better fate than what you're about to see..."
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