Chapter 6:

John's Message

Magic and the Black Cloaks

"John, you found anything?"

I have no idea how I was selected for this... as of now, I was dangling inside of a chasm that could possibly collapse at any moment using a descender, this thing was almost so deep the rope I was using wasn't enough to reach the bottom, but one thing was for certain down here, it would need more exploring.

The cave this led into was obviously hidden with a purpose. Looks like we might've stumbled upon something amazing for once, being out here for days and slowly losing people was certainly a drain on some of the other's minds.

And so was it for mine, I hated being out here but with the finding of this chasm, things might be looking up for once. Though I wish my crew would stop repeatedly yelling down here, it's like they want this thing to collapse in on me.

I was already equipped with an ascender so I gave the rope three tugs as we explained when I came down. Three meant I was coming up, two meant I was stuck, and one meant to leave me for dead.

I was thankful I didn't have to pull only once but when I heard something growling from behind me, I didn't dare turn around but in fact put on the ascender faster than I ever have before. Scaling up this ice wall with the automatic magic fueled system zipped me up faster than the Preying Ice Bear could tear me to shreds and before long, I was back at the top of the opening only to see no one waiting for me.

Well, not as if I could see very far at all. It was snowing quite heavy today, usually we wouldn't come out on a day like this but with numbers and supplies going down, we were getting desperate for results and now that we finally had some, I was even more desperate to find out where my buddies had gone.

For them to up and vanish like this is unusual, if those things had got to them, they would've left a sign, this was really making no sense. Maybe that's why I started shaking with fear, why was I left alive through all that?

"You should have left when you had the chance..."

And now my questions had been answered, those things did get them. Running in the snow with my view distance close to nothing would be suicide. If the things didn't get me, I'd freeze to death not knowing where to go and expending all my energy, I'd be better off fighting that damn monster bear in the cave.

I knew I should've just become a butcher like my father wanted but no, I wanted to play hero and join the military...

Look where that got me... in the middle of Ruina about to die without a name on some mission that wasn't even completely official. But, back to the matter at hand, these "things" that have been hunting us are more than likely humans, Imperial humans at that.

If I had to guess, they were probably specially trained Black Cloaks, it made a lot of sense considering what we know about their training or what we think we know about their training. Scare tactics were usually some of their favorites, and if I could say anything about them, they were damn good at it.

"I'm sorry! I'll leave, just let me live! I... I'll go back to Breidal and just become a farmer or something! Please, please, please, don't kill me!!!"

I never thought my life would come to this. Begging in the snow to be something besides a crossed-out name on a registry.

Black Cloaks were merciless, I already knew I was getting nowhere with this, the only reason I bashed my face into the snow was to not see the sword that will eventually cut my head off...

"Stand, fool..."

"We have use for you yet. Your countrymen trust you, we need that."

Do they want me to lie to my platoon? ...On a usual circumstance, I would never do something so deceptive but hell, if they were telling me to do this, I really must have struck gold down in that chasm.

This place was stupidly hard to reach and that chasm had a Preying Ice Bear and probably some other monsters lurking in it. But when striking gold, you have to be sure the other miners don't see you, in this case, the miners were Black Cloaks who want me dead or gone.

But, I listened to their words. If I had the chance to go home and become a butcher, I'll take it.

"What...? What do you want me to do? I'll do it! I'll lie, I'll even kill! As long as I get to go home!"

This biting cold, the violent deaths, stubborn soldiers, and cave diving... I was sick of it.

"Tell them nothing is here. That's all, we'll spare your pathetic life as long as you never mention this to a soul. We'll know."

By this point, I was probably the only one to figure out that these were just Black Cloaks playing spirit. But, I wasn't about to disobey them, anything to get out of this hellscape!

"I'll do it! You can count on me, this chasm led nowhere! I get to live now, right?"

I still felt like I was talking to no one. These guys were good at hiding, not as if I was looking for them, I can barely see 6 feet in front of me, why would I even dare to try and find them. That just sounds like asking to be killed.

"Go. Do as we said..."

They gave no confirmation as to if I was going to be spared or not. I didn't know if I should take that as a good thing or not, there was the prospect that it was their way of saying I was gonna live or that was their way of telling me I still wasn't safe.

If anything, I just pray for a quick death in the end. I told them that but of course, got no reply.

Getting out of this bitch was tough with only myself, but my little death angels guided me back to my basecamp when I went off course. Even though we came in fifty strong, we were reduced to a bumbling group of twenty in just six days.

It was even more shocking that they led me back even though we had just moved camps the same day, we really stood no chance at all. But, while approaching my fellow countrymen, it was time to put on the fireworks.

They were watching.

I ran to the inside of the cave and yelled, "They- They got them?! They killed them all! I came back as quick as I could! There was nothing there! Nothing, damn it! YOU GOT THEM KILLED, YOU BASTARD!!!"

There was a hint of actual emotion in there. Most of the guys who came back were usually out of their minds so I had to come in cursing at the Major who was still somehow alive through all this.

I was quickly restrained by my fellow soldiers and told to calm down as I thrash about screaming obscenities at the top of my lungs. But, after a few minutes, I settled down and just sat on the cave floor.

I hoped that play was good enough but I picked my head up as the Major walked over to me.

"...So... you're telling me there was nothing there?" His face was trying to seem tough but wow, he was bad at hiding it.

That was one of the last spots we could possibly search and for a fact, there was definitely something there. But, that was going to remain hidden, I don't have a secret that I wouldn't ever tell anyone but I do now.

The Relic of Ruina was lost forever and then found by a stupid Breidalian. Heh, that would be kinda funny.

But I shook my head no, "There was nothing but snow and a hole in the ground that led nowhere." I tried my best to sound hopeless.

And from the look on the Major's face, it was successful.

"...We're leaving."

My facade fell for a moment and my face shined with hope, "R-really?!" I stood up so quick that I almost lost balance.

"Yes, there's nowhere else that could possibly hold this relic, we're low on supplies and manpower."

I know it isn't going to be that simple but, I went to collect my stuff. I'm just wondering how many people are gonna die before they actually let us walk free, my assumption is that they want a few of us to walk, so we can tell this ghost story and not send any more parties up here.

And hell, I was on board with that. Even without these damn Imperials killing us off one by one, this place was simply unbearable in every sense of the word, I don't wish this cold upon my worst enemies.

In fact, my worst enemies were here also suffering with me. Though since they're Black Cloaks, I don't doubt they were armed with heated clothing like we were, even then, it doesn't really help with the penetrating cold.

It wasn't long before we were on the march out of the 9th circle of Hell.

Everyone was on edge, we all knew it was only a matter of time until we were attacked but we decided to try and use the fast path even if we were spotted. No one wanted to be here any longer but, when the winds became blinding, and the whispers came from nowhere, I soon found out why they left the Major alive all this time.

He was the one who's seen it all, the one who's commanded it all, they wanted him to feel guilt and portray this as something that shouldn't be done.

The figure that walked out from in front of us felt like nothing more than a normal person wearing a white cloak, but when they removed the sword from their hip, I just stood there unsure of what to do.

We all had weapons but our fighting spirits were too low to possibly want to attack back, we were more prepared to die than anything.

And that's just what happened to some of us.

The "spirits" came from all sides of us, twenty in total, they were even there for 10 seconds before our twenty men became just five.

I couldn't see anything, or rather, I stopped myself from seeing anything. I knew the pure white snow was soaked in red, organs were thrown about, and those were some of my closest friends.

If I look, I'd rather kill myself right here. I have one thing on my mind and one thing only.





The five of us left Ruina unimpeded by everything. The weather even got nicer as we left, monsters didn't attack us, and we didn't lose any men.

We all knew why, we were messengers and for one, we were gonna sing like songbirds. No one deserves what those Imperials put us through but the message was sent across.

Don't come back. Ever.

Once I retire from this job, I'm gonna become a butcher just like my dad wanted...