Chapter 32 – Outnumbered

  • by lemuel moo

While Gale was fighting in City Plaza, Agatha Sigrun was in her war room that was built beneath her house. As her house was built on a hill, and she owns the hill, Agatha created a massive headquarters by hollowing and building rooms within the hill.

Agatha spent most of her time on the phone because she wanted to find out who had the authority to shut down SPAW deployments on a moment’s notice. She figured there couldn’t be too many people who had the influence, but many of her contacts didn’t realize there was a battle going on at City Plaza.

It was frustrating for Agatha since she couldn’t intervene in the City Plaza battle with her agents directly without understanding who was behind it.

While Agatha was looking through her list of contacts, her phone rang, and she quickly answered the call.

“Athena? How’re the reinforcements from the Black Diamond Syndicate? Did you meet any ambush?”

Athena answered. “Yes. Squad Thirteen have their lieutenants deployed and set in ambush. Our agents managed to expose and flush them out, but battles are not major, so no one was hurt.”

“Good. Exposing them is a prelude to victory. With the strength of the Black Diamond Syndicate’s assassins and our agents, they wouldn’t dare to do anything rash.

How’s Clere?”

“Clere’s been obedient. We stayed back from fighting to figure out the ambushes from the enemies and Clere’s putting her strategist’s mind to good use. It was thanks to her that we could find out where the ambushes were hidden so quickly.”

Agatha couldn’t hide her pleasure from Clere’s brilliant mind. “Clere’s been such a scholar in our family, so I’m not surprised that she could one day replace me in my role.

Alright, good job girls! Make sure to crush those Squad Thirteen lieutenants if they try anything hasty!”

“Roger that!”

Agatha ended the call and then asked her attendant for reports on City Plaza.

“Sally, has Zeel and his gang reached Gale yet?”

Sally was Agatha’s lieutenant in the latter’s war room. “No, ma’am. Several traffic jams block them on their way, but Zeel decided to force his way through regardless. Right now, they are driving their bikes through pedestrian walkways and parks to get in.”

Agatha nodded. “That’s good to know. I’m happy that Zeel isn’t the type to follow the rules.

How about hacking the surveillance cameras in City Plaza? When can we get a look inside?”

Sally answered. “That’s not progressing well, ma’am. Someone is thoroughly prepared against us, and it will take us several more hours before we can finally look into City Plaza.”

Agatha pondered for a while. “This tells me someone from the military is also behind this operation. It’s not just a politician or two who greenlit this war.

Did they find out Gale’s secret, or are they trying to flush it out?”

At that moment, the doorbell could be heard from Agatha’s house. Agatha routed the doorbell to her underground war room digitally, so she would know who was at her door through a hidden camera.

Agatha’s supercomputer scanned the face of the person, and it identified her as Nancy Sheffield, a nurse from a local private hospital. She was one of the girlfriends of Zeel’s biker friends.

Agatha spoke through her phone to Nancy at the door.

“Hi Nancy, this is Agatha Sigrun, and I’m swamped right now — “

“I’ve information of who is behind the war at City Plaza!” Nancy hastily interrupted.

“Oh? Come into my house first.”

The door swung open automatically, and Nancy walked in. A robot greeted Nancy after the door was closed behind her, and the robot had a monitor.

Agatha spoke to Nancy through the robot. “Okay honey. I’m in my war room right now so I can’t meet you physically, but tell me what you know so that I can help those boys who are fighting for Zeel and Gale.”

Nancy quickly pulled out the paper that Dinah gave her and showed it to the robot.

“Dinah, Zeel’s old flame, provided this information about who is behind the City Plaza battle right now. She’s currently held hostage by Mr. Raul, the lynchpin from the ‘Last Legions’.”

The robot scanned Dinah’s handwriting, and the words flashed in front of Agatha. In an instance, Agatha pieced everything together and found out the other two syndicates that were behind the City Plaza battle.

“Ah, okay. That’s very helpful Nancy. Thanks for letting me know.

I’ve got a request to make of you. I’m not sure if you were followed, so to ensure your safety, I need you to stay here until this is over and my robot will tend to you. If you need to sleep, bathe or eat, feel free to talk to the robot, okay?”

Nancy nodded and replied. “Okay!”

Sally then turned to Agatha and asked if the information provided was useful.

Agatha answered. “It’s definitely useful. I’m already aware that the Twin Stars Syndicate would be behind this operation, and we have found out from Athena that Squad Thirteen is going to block reinforcements. The missing link is this lynchpin, Ramada Strider.”

“Ramada Strider?”

“Ramada is a lustful old fogey, the leader of the Devonites. The Devonites seldom engage in battles, and Ramada prefers to use influence to get his way.

If I know Ramada is behind this operation, then I know which military officer was bribed into stopping SPAW from deploying. Other politicians are behind this as well.”

“Military officer? Why would a military officer be involved?” Sally asked.

Athena continued. “Politicians may have power to decree directives, but military officers execute them. Several commanders have the authority to stop deployments, but I’ve checked them in our region and found that they didn’t know who did it.

The person who decreed the order is higher in authority than my contacts so they couldn’t do anything about our current situation. If it’s Ramada, then Colonel Jack is behind the SPAW’s orders.”

“Colonel Jack? Isn’t he only in charge of science and research for SPAW in the headquarters? Why would he have the power to stop deployments in our region?” Sally asked.

Agatha answered. “Colonel Jack has made significant progress with his portfolio, so recently the World Alliance upgraded his authority and allowed him to work autonomously in the name of science. That man is serious trouble, and I doubt I can get a politician powerful enough to overwrite his commands in time.

However, there’s a specific thing that bugs me about Ramada. There’s an old strategy from his playbook which he frequently uses to ensure his victory.

Patch me to Athena and Clere immediately.”

Sally created a group call between Agatha, Athena, and Clere, and the ladies responded in unison. “Yes, Mom?”

“Clere, I have a question. Do you know who has been hanging out with Gale besides Raine?”

“Err… myself, Jacinta, and Reynard.”

Agatha paused for a moment before asking, “my memory fails me. Who is Reynard?”

“Oh, he’s the guy whom Gale recently trained, and he sliced Dylan in his chest during his duel,” Clere answered.

Agatha pondered for a while before giving orders.

“Athena, release Clere from your [Cursed Ink]. Clere, return to my side this very moment. We’ll need to find Reynard and put him under our care now.”

“Why, Mom? What happened?” Clere asked.

“We’ve found out one of the remaining lynchpins by the name, Ramada Strider. He loves kidnapping and threatening his enemies into submission. If Reynard has been mixing around with Gale, I’m sure he will be a target as well.

I’m not worried about Jacinta, and Raine is under the care of Rei, but I know next to nothing about Reynard. Return to me at once and on your way, tell me everything you know about Reynard. I will try to locate him with your help, and hopefully, we can find him before our enemies do.

And one last thing, Athena. I’m preparing the Phoenix Arrow.”

Athena replied. “Are you sure, Mom? She said never to use the arrow unless it’s an emergency. You’ll lose — ”

“Oh, I’m sure she’s going to be happy that I used it. The moment I use the Phoenix Arrow, cease your operation and return to me.”

Clere didn’t understand anything about the Phoenix Arrow, but Athena replied, “okay Mom.”

Once Agatha ended the call with Athena, Athena licked her finger again and wiped the seal off Clere’s arm. Athena’s shadow stopped merging with Clere’s, and Clere was free.

“Go! Your friend may be in danger, and you’ll need to be as fast as you can!”

Clere nodded and quickly sprinted her way out.

———-

A cold gust of wind blew at City Plaza as Gale, and the assassins continued their fight. Neither side wanted to initiate the aggression for a long while.

Gale wanted the stand-off between the assassins and himself to last as long as possible. He knew that the assassins were waiting for reinforcements, but he reckoned that such an audacious plan to fight him in the middle of a city was bound to be filled with risks.

The World Alliance and SPAW could face massive uproar and protests from the public. Moreover, it could incite and galvanize other vigilante groups to uprise against them. The World Alliance wouldn’t want the assassins’ battle to drag.

Gale trusted implicitly that Agatha Sigrun was able to find help and get him out of trouble. He didn’t know how help would come, but his trust was rewarded many times before so he needed to gain time for support to reach him.

The assassins didn’t understand why an unknown person such as Gale could wield this amount of power. Individually, they were afraid of Gale since they were only mercenaries and it wasn’t their intention to lose their lives over money. No matter how strong these assassins were, they could never measure up to Gale’s tenacity and killing aura because Gale wasn’t afraid to lose his life.

Serban knew that the assassins were afraid, so he stepped forward to challenge Gale. He knew enough that if they wait too long, they would be defeated by doubt before Gale could crush them.

Gale saw that Serban put himself first, and applauded his courage.

“Among the assassins, you’re the only one with guts.”

“…I’ll have to admit we’ve severely underestimated you. Numbers don’t matter when you’re so skilled.” Serban replied. “However, you’ve yet to see the best of me.”

Serban started his martial arts training when he was young by melding poisons with his techniques. He was a skilled apothecary, and the Animal Zodiacs relied on his vast knowledge of poisons for advice.

Serban often experimented with various venom from poisonous snakes, and he would inject tiny amounts of poison into his body to build resistance against venom with the help of his carefully crafted serums.

Once, Serban nearly lost his life because of his experiments on his own body. However, his efforts began to pay off as his body not only built resistance against poison, but he could produce venom as a snake would. With the help of special breathing formulas, Serban melded poison into his [qi], and he was able to release toxins in his techniques at will.

Serban never thought he needed to use poison against Gale, and he usually refrained from using poisonous attacks because his stamina drained quickly if he forced his body to produce venom. But Gale proved himself a formidable foe, so Serban didn’t want to hold back any longer.

The other assassins quickly backed away from Serban as a pale green aura began cloaking Serban’s body. Gale instantly knew that Serban was going to use poison attacks and he readied himself to face the challenge.

“So what kind of poison have you been training with?” Gale asked.

“You’ll find out soon enough,” Serban answered.

To prevent himself from getting poisoned, Gale cloaked his arms with his energy and stopped Serban’s [qi] from seeping into the pores of his skin upon contact. However, there were other silver needles in his body which prevented Gale from cloaking his entire body with his energy. Thus, Gale needed to be cautious against Serban.

Serban spat corrosive poison at Gale and the latter dodged. Serban then used his [Viper’s Tail Whip] and attacked Gale at his left side, but Gale parried with his [Soul-breaking Snow Palm] and met Serban’s right claw. Gale’s freezing [qi] met with Serban’s poisonous [qi], and both energies canceled out each other.

Gale used both palms and used his [Snow Avalanche], a wide-area energy attack where its power was unleashed from the center of his palms. Serban quickly met Gale’s palms with his [Viper’s Smite], and Serban’s claws collided with Gale’s palms. Even though Serban’s attacks were poisonous, Gale overwhelmed Serban’s power with his freezing energy, and the latter was blown away by Gale’s force!

Gale’s [Snow Avalanche] created ice crystals on the ground, and the muscles in Serban’s arms and hands suffered frostbites! However, a sharp pain flowed down Gale’s spine, and Gale found himself staggering in his footsteps!

“Odorless nerve poison. So even your breathe is poisonous.” Gale remarked.

Serban smirked at Gale. Serban’s pores were emitting a poisonous gas, and that was the real reason why the other assassins backed away. The nerve poison prevented Gale from using his muscles properly and increased the probability of cardiac arrest.

“I can’t take any chances with you, Gale. You’re too strong for a direct confrontation.”

The other assassins prepared shurikens, darts, throwing knives and other weapons, and showered Gale with them. Gale gathered his strength, steeled his will against the poison and punched the ground with his [Fire Cloud Fist]. A massive explosion erupted, and the shockwave deflected all the projectiles away from Gale.

Serban quickly dashed forward and attacked Gale from behind with his legs, but Gale ducked and landed his feet on Serban’s chin with an upward kick. Serban was knocked back momentarily, and Gale channeled his energy on his right fist.

“Eat my [Volcanic Punch]!”

It was the same punch which Gale hit the ground with, and it caused a massive explosion upon impact. Gale’s [Volcanic Punch] sunk into Serban’s gut and the latter’s stomach burned instantly. Serban flew from the impact and crashed onto the ground a hundred feet away.

However, Gale spewed blood as he over-strained himself because of the nerve poison. He immediately activated his [Turtle Breathing Technique], which could neutralize toxins by pushing them out of from his sweat glands. He recovered slightly after vomiting blood and regained his composure.

The rest of the assassins saw an opportunity to take Gale down, and they rushed forward to attack him. The wave of attacks resembled the training which Gale did with Reynard, and Gale sent a barrage of fiery punches back with his [Fire Cloud Fist]! As Gale was much quicker than the combined efforts of the assassins, all of them were punched multiple times in quick succession, and they were thrown back after receiving several blows each.

The assassins took severe beatings, but Gale wasn’t out of the woods yet. The assassins quickly picked themselves up to continue the war of attrition.

More blood flowed from Gale’s mouth as he balanced his attacks with recovery techniques in his body. Gale was over-straining his body because of the poison, but he was used to fighting with a handicap. His wounds only perpetuated his greatness in the sight of his foes.

At that moment, the Hundred-And-Eight Crusaders arrived in City Plaza from a distance. These assassins’ skin color was bronze, and Gale understood that they practiced a breathing technique called the [Bronze Curtain]. Their skin was as hard as bronze as a result, and their bodies were largely resistant to heat and freezing attacks. Gale’s [Soul-Breaking Snow Palms] would not have much effect on them.

However, the Hundred-And-Eight Crusaders were not immune to impact, and all Gale had to do was to beat them into a pulp with his [Fire Cloud Fist] with brute force.

The leader of the Hundred-And-Eight Crusaders saw that Gale was still standing up and marveled. “I thought it was a joke when the lynchpins called of us to fight against one man but look like this Gale is something else.”

The Hundred-And-Eight Crusaders’ arrival heartened the rest of the assassins and Serban said, “he’s not your average fighter. Underestimate Gale, and you’ll pay dearly.”

Serban’s stomach was burnt, but he injected himself with his poisons which helped him regain his strength. He could use venom to recover or to augment his power.

Gale assumed a battle stance and his right arm glowed red while his left arm glowed blue. As he swung his arms from left to right, after-images formed from his movements. Gale’s intense energy formed the after-images as he forced Serban’s poison out of his hands with his [qi].

The assassins were all mesmerized by his graceful but threatening movements as Gale was like a warrior with more than a hundred battles’ worth of experience. One hit by Gale’s palms or punches could even be lethal, and the assassins kept their distance from Gale.

Gale took the opportunity to expel all the poison from his body, and then faced the leader of the Hundred-And-Eight Crusaders.

“I’ve heard about the assassins who stole the [Bronze Curtain Manual] from the Jade Dragon Temple and became famous for being part of a private army who staged a coup d’etat in another country. Bullets can’t hurt your bronzed skin, and the private army won with your help.”

The leader of the Hundred-And-Eight Crusaders peered intently at Gale and replied. “That may be true, but you seemed more than ready to face us.”

“Of course.” Gale breathed deeply, and power surged through both his arms as they were cloaked in a fiery red aura. “I would like to see if my [Fire Cloud Fist] is stronger than your [Bronze Curtain].”

“Let’s see you try.”

Immediately, the Hundred-And-Eight Crusaders rushed forward to fight Gale. Each of them swung a weapon, and Gale’s fists burned with energy.

A sudden shout boomed from a far corner of City Plaza. “[Zackloft’s Rail Gun]!”

In a flash, a torrent of electric chains flooded towards the Hundred-And-Eight Crusaders in ultra high speed and crashed into them! The assassins were swept away from Gale as Zeel swung his chains ferociously with Sunny’s magnetic powers. Each of them crashed into different directions as though they were ping-pong balls.

The sibling’s combination attack prevented the Crusaders from overwhelming Gale. However, the Crusaders picked themselves up quickly as their [Bronze Curtain] technique absorbed most of the impact.

“Brother, do you have to shout our technique’s name like that?” Sunny was immensely exasperated with Zeel’s sudden outburst.

“Why not?! Isn’t it cool?”

As Gale lifted his eyes, he smiled as he saw his friends coming for his rescue. Subsequently, Zeel’s bike gang crashed into the scene, and engine noises filled the air.

Zeel yelled out to Gale. “You alright bro? We’ve come to help you!”

“Did you come up with that lame-ass technique name?” Gale asked.

“Is that how you reward me for rushing here to help you, Gale?!” Zeel retorted.

The Hundred-And-Eight Crusaders picked themselves up from the ground and regrouped. Gale warned the biker gang with a loud voice.

“These guys practice a skill called the [Bronze Curtain]. They are immensely hardy so you’ll have to wear them out before they’ll stop.”

Zeel then barked a command to his biker gang before charging into the Hundred-And-Eight Crusaders.

“Alright, guys! Let’s give them hell!”

The bikers charged into the assassins, and the second phase of the City Plaza battle began.

———-

[1][Snow Avalanche] is derived from [雪崩], or [xuě bēng].
[2][Volcanic Punch] is derived from [火山拳], or [huǒ shān quán].
[3][Bronze Curtain] is derived from [铜布衫], or [tóng bù shān].
[4][Fire Cloud Fist] is derived from [火云拳], or [huǒ yún quán].

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