Hardcore: Qi Worlds

Chapter 110

Chapter 110: The Unforgiven 3

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Reyas’ heart pumped with sweet joy. The Dread Lord was finally dead. The bitch who had caused them so much hurt, first and foremost with the death of Anastasia and the almost as painful abduction of Benzhi. 

Not knowing where he was and if he was in pain was a moment by moment torture which had only been abated somewhat when they met Fain a week ago.

The bitch was dead and Reyas was so happy. It was even sweeter since the bitch’s warriors were all flat on their backs, giving her a moment of elation before she had to focus on killing again.

Reyas: yes! finally.

Gisael (feelings of relief and closure).

Benzhi (feeling of sadness for what they had to go through without him, feelings of joy now that they are together).

Benzhi: kill any who stand.

Gisael, Reyas, Fain (furious agreement).

“I tell you what; If you want to continue to fight, get up. Otherwise, drop your weapon and stay down,” Benzhi commanded the enemy combatants. He was not one to kill a foe who surrendered, but he probably would have made an exception in the Dread Lord’s case.

The knights began to rise. Benzhi laughed, and Reyas laughed alongside him. She ran to the closest one and sent a pick through his skull, his shielding was abysmal compared to her ferocious qi strike backed by her Gael qi strength.

It was hardly fair, as soon as she saw him move she was upon him, but she did not care. This was war, and she wouldn’t have had a problem with massacring them on the ground. It felt so good to be fighting alongside him again; she felt like they were unstoppable together.

Almost unstoppable, there was a hard lesson at the battle of Sandstone.

“Get up, get up,” she yelled, and he laughed.

“I want to pick your brains,” she laughed maniacally, spinning her picks in each hand. She wished she could use her fire like Fain used her cold, imagining a burst of flame from her hands melting an enemy in their armour. All she was good for at the moment was lighting campfires.

The five knights who dared to stand were dead in moments, and the remaining gladiators cowered in fear. None moved from the ground. Reyas began picking up weapons and throwing them into a corner. She was joined by Gisael and Pian. Fain and Benzhi kept watch in case there were any attempted surprise attacks.

Benzhi: is there somewhere appropriate your portal master can send this mob?

Fain: oh yes.

Benzhi: thanks sweetie.

“Portal Master!” Benzhi called, and the diminutive Shirkt came running, “can you open a portal to a far off place for out defeated foe to take a little holiday?”

Shirkt nodded vigorously, “I know just the place, the surface world, there is a cold one's camp many weeks journey from here.”

“Will they die from the cold ones as soon as they enter the camp?” Benzhi asked.

“I am sorry, no they will not master,” Shirkt replied, careful to not say second qi sage.

Benzhi sighed. “Ok, two things, call me Benzhi, nothing else. And two, that is what I want. A place we can send them that does not mean instant death.”

The portal master went about his business making a portal to the cold one's camp and within a dozen heartbeats, its deep blue light brightened up a corner of the ludus yard.

“Thank you, portal master. All right, you lot. All through, now go before I change my mind and end your miserable existences,” Benzhi shouted with ferocity.

One asked a question as he made his way to the portal, “Where shall we go once we go through? Do we come back here?”

“I do not care, do you as you please,” Benzhi stated simply.

“You,” Benzhi pointed to the Gladiator trainer who couldn’t help but poke his head into what was once his practice yard. He was not fit to partake in the battle, but he was close by.

“Yes, master?” Genoci asked.

“Take me to where the bitch,” he couldn’t bring himself to say her name or title, “kept the hoard she sold me for.”

“It will be warded,” Genoci informed him.

“Let me worry about that, you just take me there,” Benzhi ordered his old trainer around.

After all the living warriors had left, Benzhi threw all the weapons through the portal and had it closed.

It was a sure bet that none of the Gladiators could open a portal. They were effectively marooned weeks away from the castle.

“I’m beginning to love this portal shit,” Benzhi said. “Lead the way Genoci.”

It was not long before they had their hands on two and a half thousand qi kernels.

Benzhi: Fain, do you know a way we can cause the most amount of damage in the shortest amount of time?

Fain: let me think about it….

Fain: there will be a way to release all the qi slaves. That will cause capital damage to the Tendulkar clan. As for physical damage to the castle, we could bring done some of the central load bearing pillars or walls.

Benzhi: ok, think on the structure and take a look around. I will secure these kernels. Gisael, Reyas, go with her and ensure she is safe. You never know who is lurking around the corridors.

Benzhi opened a portal to the dwarven stronghold in the Alpine Forest.

“Ok, portal master, Pian, sorry to ask you but help me throw these bags through,” Benzhi asked.

When they finished throwing the bags through he said, “I’ll be right back,” and he stepped through himself.

<break>

The group met in the great hall after they had finished their tasks.

“I let everyone know we are ok and where we are,” Benzhi said out loud for the benefit of the portal master and Pian.

Reyas explained how she had sent a letter and they must have been worried.

Benzhi laughed, “Too right, Ailen had assembled a war band of Gaels, Grey Elves, Wood Elves, Dwarves, and Men. He had over two hundred ready to march to Sandstone and demand they portal them here. I got back just in time!”

Gisael: will we go back after bringing down the castle?

Benzhi: no, we should try to close off any threat from the Daughter first. And I left someone important behind at the arena.

Benzhi approached Pian and looked her directly in the eyes, “Do you know me?” he asked. “Gisael and Reyas say I have forgotten you with my memory wipe and that you will be most offended. I need to know if there are any gaps.”

Pian looked nervous, she looked at Reyas, who smiled and nodded.

“Yes, I do know you,” she answered convincingly.

“Ok, then what’s my favourite food?” Benzhi asked.

Pian looked up at the ceiling as if in contemplation, while she secretly watched Reyas, who held her hands in the shape of a small round object. She mouthed the word, nuts, Pian thought.

“I believe your favourite food is the male testicle to enhance your strength and sexual prowess,” she said deadpan again.

Fain: I don’t think we have time for this.

Reyas couldn’t help herself anymore and broke out laughing, her mirth went through the link as well as through the hall. It even extracted a giggle from Gisael.

“Oh, I get it now…very funny,” Benzhi said, waving the joke away. “More importantly, how do we bring this place down?” he asked, looking at Fain.

Fain said, “We need to pull apart the wards on the great hall walls then a few well-placed qi strikes before rushing through a portal to safety.”

Benzhi nodded, “Let’s do it.”

“Ah, disabling the wards will not be easy,” she said, “they are well made and protected.”

“Oh, breaking shit is my speciality, let's give it a try,” he replied.

Fain smiled, she recalled when he unpicked the grandmaster sealer’s weave in moments. But at that time, he had the luxury of watching the weave take place. This time, the already complete wards were in place. It was not a simple task to pick them apart, the wards had protective wards which needed great skill to disarm. In some cases, a greater skill than the creation or at least greater knowledge than the creator.

Benzhi: oh ye of little faith.

Fain: are my thoughts that transparent?

Benzhi: you leak like a sieve.

Fain: hmm. I will have to rectify that.

Benzhi: why?

Fain: because…maybe I would like some privacy to consider and weigh.

Reyas: there is nothing wrong with being an open book. You are a good person Fain, despite being a Myrkalfar.

Fain: thanks, I think.

Benzhi: you are beyond smart, you will find a way to compartmentalise I am sure. And you will become more comfortable over time with sharing your thought processes in the future. It can save time, and sometimes four heads are better than one.

Gisael: especially for some one.

Several (Mirth).

Benzhi enacted qi sight. 

“Where to next?” the portal master asked.

“As close to the Val’Tien arena as possible,” Benzhi replied.

GRF: we’re going back?   (Gisael, Reyas, and Fain altogether)

“Yes, we are. We are collecting the important someone,” Benzhi answered.

GRF confused: who?

Benzhi: Scintilla - he shared images and emotions of his only comfort while in captivity. His only comfort other than training and making the powers that be in the Val’Sharam lives hell.

He viewed the wards lining the walls, some were to strengthen, and some were to protect those wards against such a thing as they were attempting now. He would need Fain’s aid. He remotely layered his qi sight onto her eyes. 

Fain normally used a third eye technique for qi sight, it was different to Benzhi’s technique where he just layered his eyes with thin films of qi until he could make out the patterns. Over time, he had refined the technique, especially when he was learning qi healing, he needed to see smaller and smaller elements in the patterns.

Fain: oh my, I have never seen details like this. This must be your qi affinity. And you were able to remote qi technique your qi sight onto me..oh, wow. Oh. I now know I made the right decision to give up everything to follow you. This is amazing.

Fain: there, see the protection ward. 

She focused on it.

Benzhi: yes.

Fain: can you unravel that? Work from the outside in.

Benzhi: piece of cake.

Fain: ?

Gisael: he means its easy.

Gisael had two years of Benzhi interpretation experience on Fain.

“I think everyone should go through the portal now,” Fain announced.

No one had to be told twice, they knew the plan was to bring down the great hall and most of the castle with it.

“What about the slaves?” Benzhi asked.

“You should portal them out if you want to deny them from the Tendulkar clan. Otherwise, they will just be used with whomever they promote to a Dread Lord or as caretaker until one powerful enough emerges to take the title,” Fain explained.

“Shit, I better run down and portal them out. I’ll be right back,” he said.

Fain: where will you send them? What anchors do you have?

Benzhi: only a couple. I will send them to the Alpine Forest.

Fain: you intend to keep the slaves? Reyas and Gisael told me a little about your home, they were vague on some points, not trusting us with everything.

Benzhi: wise of them. Our main mission is to protect the Alpine Forest, it is at the core of what the Vanguard does. We find ourselves in strange situations sometimes given that is our main goal. Like right now, for instance. But to answer your question, no. We will not be keeping the slaves. They will be free to live in the Alpine Forest. I abhor slavery. I intend to abolish it.

Fain: I admire the sentiment, we did not keep slaves at the Coterie, but there are millennia of tradition with the Myrkalfar and other kingdoms. 

Benzhi: not my problem.

Fain: but you are making it your problem.

Benzhi: no, I am making it the slavers problem. They either stop, or I will stop them.

Fain: you can’t fight them all!

Benzhi: no, we cannot. Not yet.

Fain: you are scaring me.

Benzhi: change is never easy. Trust in me. 

Fain: I will try. Let me think about the problem.

Benzhi (Mirth): you do that. I am liking having you around already sweetie.

Fain sighed as she inspected the wards. He had run down to the slave quarters, talking with her the whole time and maintaining the remote technique at such a distance.

Fain: how do you maintain this technique from down there?

Benzhi: through the link, but it is taxing me now. Are you done?

Fain: yes I believe so, but I will need it back to assist you. My qi sight is not half as detailed as yours.

“You’re back? That was quick, did they all make it through the portal?” Fain asked.

“I opened the portal and told them to either stay here and be slaves or go through and be free. I left it open with a guard on the other side,” he answered.

“A good guard I hope, if you left it unattended,” she replied.

“Only a dwarven warband and a few wood-elf guardians, enough to handle small problems,” he answered. “Let’s bring this down. Ready?”

Fain: yes, ready.

Benzhi: I will start here on the outside. Good?

Fain: yes, that is good.

With Fain’s guidance, Benzhi was able to unpick the protection wards and then the wards strengthening the walls themselves.

Benzhi: go through now, I will lay a few blows in and follow.

With Fain safely through the portal, he took great relish in bringing down the great hall, burying everything below it and collapsing everything above it. As the stone collapsed about him, he held his shield above his head, while using barrier and two layers of stoneskin as he dived through the portal unscathed by the avalanche.

On the other side of the portal, dust and debris followed in his wake.

“Close, close,” he yelled, and the portal master worked feverishly to drain the portal of qi, dissipating its existing before large stones came smashing through to possibly crush someone.

“Thanks, Fain,” Benzhi said, standing up and brushing himself off. He patted the portal master on the back, “And thank you too, portal master.”

Gisael recalled that this would be the time when Anastasia would remind him to call the portal master by name, “His name is Shirkt,” she said sadly.

“Thank you Shirkt,” Benzhi said sadly.

Fain was a little confused at the sudden sadness amongst the three, until the connection informed her as to the why.

“Now, how do we get in?” Benzhi asked, looking at the arena in the distance.

“I would suspect we walk,” replied Shirkt.

The Vanguard ran to the arena, forcing their way through the lower corridors until the came upon the section where participants were accommodated.

“Our section was down there,” Benzhi said, “I think.” The underground corridors of the arena were a maze.

They had been gone for a long time, but matches had gotten underway again after a small cleanup and the return of the crowd. The show must go on and all that.

Noises from a contest of arms could be heard from above as they ran through passageways, twisting left and right. 

Reyas and Gisael were behind Benzhi, followed by Fain and Pian, with the portal master at the rear.

Gisael: what about Dyrk? We left him here unconscious.

Fain: he will return to the Coterie, only the portal master is stubbornly set on this path with me. As much as I have tried to dissuade him, he is infatuated with the second qi sage.

Benzhi: I promised to deck the next person to call me that.

As Benzhi made the next turn, the area was suddenly very familiar. They were here, in the Val’Sharam section.

With one more turn, he rounded on the rooms where he relaxed before the duel.

“Ghehena!” he exclaimed as he ran into the Myrk Paladin.

“Fury!” the startled Ghehena yelled.

“No, not Fury. Benzhi,” Benzhi said, “always Benzhi. And you knew my memories were stolen. You said nothing.”

“That is not my place,” Ghehena replied, “as it is not yours to question. You are a slave of the Daughter of Val’Sharam, you cannot do as you please.”

Benzhi: tell the portal master to open a portal behind Ghehena to a far off place on the surface world.

Fain: he is not like the gladiators, he will be succoured back.

Benzhi: yes, but it will take much time no?

Fain: yes, it will. He will have to qi bubble and request the succour or portal. Send him to Qizhu. It will take longer for the bubble to reach his portal master.

Benzhi: yes, do it.

Fain turned to whisper to the portal master.

“Listen, you overgrown lump of a Myrkalfar. I reject being anyone’s property. In fact, I am taking it upon myself to declare war on the House of Val’Sharam until a satisfactory settlement can be made. One which does not include any form of slavery,” Benzhi said.

Ghehena was normally in control of his emotions, especially around the man he had previously called Fury. But to reject his station and declare war incensed him so much he did not even notice Fain whispering to the old Myrkalfar in the rear.

A portal opened behind Ghehena, and before he even drew his sword, before he emoted his aura, Benzhi had kicked him in the midsection, sending him flying through.

“Close it!” Benzhi called, standing with shield ready at the portal’s boundary.

And with a flash, it closed, with Ghehena presumably fuming on the other side.

Benzhi: don’t attack.

A werepanther ran out of the room, after hearing the ruckus and threw her arms around Benzhi’s neck.

“Fury, you came back!” she cried with tears in her eyes.

“Of course I did,” he replied, “but, you must call me Benzhi from now on Sin. That is my real name.”