Chapter 40 – The Flowers Of Death
by lemuel moo
At the same time when the meeting between the Flowers Of Death and the Sigrun group was happening, Valerian and Cindy appeared on a hilltop at the north of Aelfsige City with fifty other SPAW operatives.
The SPAW operatives were armed with submachine guns, grenades, and weapons of their choice. If an individual were trained in swords, he would carry a sword. If another were trained in pole techniques, he would bring an extensible steel pole.
Valerian asked Cindy. “So who’s our informant?”
Cindy replied. “Athena Sigrun. She should be here anytime now.”
Moments later, a car appeared before Valerian and Cindy and Athena emerged. Valerian recognized Athena and asked. “Haven’t we met?”
Athena was there when Valerian was interrogating Gale and Aunt May on the night of the City Plaza battle, but Athena played dumb. “Really? I don’t recall.”
Cindy nudged Valerian. “That’s such a cheesy pickup line! C’mon, you can do better than that!”
Athena looked beautiful, and she was one of the top ten beauties of Aelfsige Academy when she was still schooling. Her hair was silky black, slightly smaller breasts than Kasumi but shapely with volume nevertheless, and she usually dressed in denim. With a black tank top.
Athena brought her custom-alloyed pen with her, and it was as though she was carrying a spear.
Valerian didn’t know Athena before so Cindy introduced both of them. “This is ‘the Gatekeeper of Sigrun’, Athena. We buy information from her family, and that’s how we know Squad Thirteen is in the warehouses in the valley ahead.
Athena, meet Valerian Tze. He’s the captain of today’s operation, and he will be leading the men to storm the warehouses.”
Both Athena and Valerian shook hands, and Cindy continued to discuss the mission.
“We wanted to nab the culprits who started the City Square battle, and we found out on that day, Squad Thirteen deployed in two locations. Two of their lieutenants were in City Square, while the rest were involved with battles against the Black Diamond Syndicate.
Athena located their headquarters, and the goal is to catch Charlie Spitfire, the leader of Squad Thirteen. Hence, this is called ‘Operation Spitfire’.
Any questions so far?”
Athena observed the SPAW forces and asked. “Do you have other reinforcements other than what I’m seeing?”
Cindy replied. “No. Is that a problem?”
“We’re attacking their headquarters, and I’m expecting a couple of hundreds in there. Unless you have a brilliant strategy in your mind, I would expect reinforcements to cut Charlie Spitfire’s escape route.
Even if your operatives are strong enough to handle a few enemies per individual, this operation is not going to meet its objectives in catching Charlie Spitfire.”
Valerian asked Athena. “What do you suggest?”
“Look for underground tunnels, and lay siege around the river and the forest behind the valley. Charlie Spitfire has military experience. Even if our surprise attack caught him, he wouldn’t allow himself to be captured that easily.”
Valerian agreed and looked at Cindy, but the latter shrugged. “Fifty was all I was given. If you need reinforcements, talk to your superiors. You’re the captain of this operation.”
Valerian promptly called his superiors. After a moment of discussion, Valerian returned to the group and said. “We’ll have aerial support from five helicopters with an additional twenty-five operatives, but they need time to get ready.
Cindy, take half our men and lay siege at the back of the warehouses. Look for signs of underground tunnels, and if you see it, report to me through comms.”
I will lead the rest and infiltrate in stealth. The helicopters will arrive approximately one hour from now, and when they come, we will commence the raid.”
Athena continued. “I’m only hired as an informant and advisor to Valerian so I’ll be following him around. I’ll take the backseat and defend myself, but all of you are on your own without my help during fights.
One last thing. Look out for traps. Claymore mines, motion and sound detectors are not out of the equation.”
The operation started, and Cindy moved with twenty-five men toward the back of the warehouses, while Valerian and Athena infiltrated from the front.
There were about seven warehouses in the area, and there was a fence surrounding the warehouses with barb wires. Enemies were patrolling the field, and Athena pointed to the warehouse at the furthest east.
“My sources tell me Charlie usually hang around that warehouse. We’ll see if we can infiltrate and hide near the warehouse, but if we can’t, that’s the warehouse we should storm into when the helicopters arrive.
Leave the rest to your reinforcements.”
Valerian nodded, and the group hid in tall grasses and trees to reach the eastern fence. Athena activated her [Cursed Ink Technique], and [Cursed Ink] dripped from her pen and onto the ground. The ink seeped into the ground and disappeared.
“I’m using my [Cursed Ink] to check if traps are hiding behind or before the fences. My [Cursed Ink] can travel through the ground, and it will alert me when it comes into contact with traps.”
Valerian was hugely impressed with Athena’s techniques. Valerian asked. “How does your [Cursed Ink] work?”
“That’s trade secret.”
Sure enough, there were sound and motion detectors behind the fences. Athena’s [Cursed Ink] enveloped the detectors without triggering the alarms, and the [Cursed Ink] disabled their ability.
“There isn’t anyone behind the fence right now. Move quickly, and let’s penetrate their camp.”
Upon Valerian’s orders, the SPAW operatives moved out to cut the wire and create a hole in the fence silently. Athena’s [Cursed Ink] continued seeping into the ground, and Athena was looking for areas where the SPAW operatives could hide.
Athena’s [Cursed Ink] disabled the traps behind the warehouse, and she beckoned everyone to hide there. At once, everyone moved into behind the warehouse, and Valerian checked his watch.
“We have ten minutes!”
Athena and the rest of the SPAW operatives nodded. Athena proceeded to mask her face with a cloth, and Valerian asked why, but she didn’t answer.
The SPAW operatives looked for ways to infiltrate through the roof, and one of them found an air duct that they can climb into. Athena’s [Cursed Ink] flowed through the air duct and deactivated sensors that were hiding there. One of the SPAW operatives wanted to climb into the air duct and get into position, and Valerian gave the order.
Suddenly, a grenade was lobbed into the air duct, and it exploded, killing the SPAW operative instantly. Valerian realized that their stealth had been compromised, so the group prematurely commenced their raid before the helicopters arrive.
Valerian quickly comms to Cindy. “Support us in the camp right now! We’ll be surrounded before the helicopters arrive!”
Cindy abandoned the plan to the cut escape routes and began rushing into the camp.
Valerian asked Athena. “How did they find us out?!”
“There must be someone who has a unique ability which can detect us. In any case, we must prevent ourselves from being surrounded before the helicopters arrive.”
Valerian looked for a place to retreat, but the fences were blocking them behind. Bullets were fired from the enemies, and though Athena didn’t want to help SPAW, she didn’t want to die too. Thus she erected a massive wall of [Cursed Ink] and prevented bullets from hitting them.
Athena sent the bullets back to their enemies and shouted to the SPAW operatives. “Shoot through the wall of ink! It will penetrate!”
The SPAW operatives fired their guns, and the bullets pierced through the wall of ink. Enemies started to drop like flies, and the SPAW operatives took the opportunity to retreat.
Suddenly, a flaming saber cut through the [Cursed Ink Wall] and it ferociously aimed towards Athena, but Valerian activated his [Iron Sand Palms] and parried the saber with his bare hands!
The [Iron Sand Palms] strengthened and hardened the palms of the user and allowed the user to block weapons and bullets with bare hands. By a flick of the finger with technique, Valerian could blow a hole through the skull of an opponent, and a slight press from his fingers could break the wrists of his opponents,
Valerian perfected the mastery of the [Iron Sand Palms], where his palms were not only potent but were able to radiate heat and burn upon contact. The flaming saber could not burn his palms as Valerian parried easily.
The [Cursed Ink Wall] was destroyed, and it was Charlie Spitfire who was holding the flaming saber. He was a man with short blond hair, wearing a beach shirt and shorts, and had an earring on his right ear.
Charlie saw Valerian and greeted him.
“Ah, the special guest combat instructor from Aelfsige Academy! I see that you wanted to drop by at my place! What can I do for you?
And isn’t that the lovely Athena Sigrun? Your [Cursed Ink Techniques] is very impressive indeed!”
Valerian asked. “How did you know we’re here?”
Charlie replied. “Ah, you see, I have a lieutenant whom I nicknamed ‘Radar’, and he has this psychic ability to detect presence using his powers.
The traps and the detectors are merely my toys to play with, but I prefer to depend on him for surveillance.”
At that moment, the SPAW helicopters arrived, and Charlie quipped. “That’s my signal that I’ve got to go! I’ll be looking forward to fighting with you again.”
“Not so fast!” Valerian yelled.
Valerian attacked Charlie with his palms and the latter parried with his blade. Charlie unleashed his [Eight Trigrams Of Fire] by slamming the ground with a fiery swing, and from the center of the impact, eight lines of flames burst from the field in different directions!
Valerian placed his palms below him, and the flames struck his [Iron Sand Palms], so he was unharmed. However, a couple of SPAW operatives didn’t expect the attack, and they were sliced into two by the line of flames!
Three operatives died under Valerian’s command, and he was enraged. Valerian used his [Iron Sand Palms], and his [qi] gathered sand from the ground into his palms. With a ferocious thrust, Valerian pushed the sand into Charlie’s direction, and each grain of sand became claymore ball bearings!
As the sand flew towards Charlie, Charlie spun his fiery blade rapidly in a circular motion, and it deflected the sand away from him. Unfortunately, Charlie’s men were struck by the ricochets, and the sand grains punctured their bodies.
A helicopter floated near Charlie, and a couple of SPAW operatives jumped from the helicopter to engage him. But Charlie gathered his energy unto his blade and unleashed his [Fiery Blade], a long-range fiery projectile fired from compressed energy in his sword.
The [Fiery Blade] not only slashed the SPAW operatives horizontally, but it also sliced the helicopter into two, and the aircraft crashed into the ground in flames.
Valerian gave chase, but Charlie jumped behind the burning helicopter and sent the two pieces of burning metal into Valerian. With both hands on each burning metal, Valerian pushed and deflected them away with his [Iron Sand Palm].
However, Charlie disappeared, and Valerian clenched his fists in frustration.
“We’re underprepared! So many of us died in vain!”
As Athena walked up to Valerian, helicopters from news corporations hovered around the area to see the operation in action. Athena didn’t want to expose her presence before the media, so she said to Valerian quickly. “I’ve got to go now. You’ll be able to wrap things up here from now on.”
Athena jumped over the fence with a single leap and disappeared into the forest behind the warehouse.
Valerian looked at his dead comrades and vowed that he wouldn’t make the same mistake again.
The next day, news of Operation Spitfire erupted everywhere.
They showed a video clip where Valerian was fighting toe-to-toe with Charlie Spitfire, and his bravery enamored everyone. The scrutiny of the City Plaza battle died down, and Aelfsige City celebrated a hero in their midst.
“Wow, Mr. Valerian is so awesome! Look at how he fought with the enemy commander!”
“Ms. Kasumi is so lucky!”
Gale was intrigued by the video clip on his phone as well, and he peered intently at the skills of Charlie Spitfire.
“…Isn’t that the [Eight Trigrams Of Fire]? And that’s the [Fiery Blade]!”
Reynard asked. “You recognized those techniques?”
“Yeah, my childhood friend uses these techniques. I’m wondering if this Charlie is related to my childhood friend.”
Clere and Jacinta were intrigued and asked Gale. “How was your life before you arrive at Aelfsige Academy? We’ve never heard you talk about it.”
“Raine and I were living in the countryside, and we moved from town to town. Training and fighting filled my days because I happened to live among martial artists.”
The school bell rang, and Kasumi entered the classroom with Miss Mia.
Kasumi addressed the class. “Tomorrow’s your camp! Are you excited?”
The students roared and cheered as they were pumped for camp.
“Good! Just some final announcements. Mr. Valerian will be assigned to our class, and he will take — “
Before Kasumi could finish her sentence, the girls in the class celebrated as though they won the lottery. Only Jacinta and Clere stared blankly at the reaction.
Kasumi laughed at the girls’ response.
“I’m happy that you’re so excited for him! As Mr. Valerian is new, I want the class to be friendly and take good care of him, is that clear?”
One of the students asked. “Ms. Kasumi, aren’t you happy that boyfriend is coming too?”
The rest of the students erupted with catcalls and cheered at that question. Kasumi stole a glance at Gale, and Gale was reading his book.
“No, you’re all mistaken. Mr. Valerian isn’t my boyfriend!”
“Aww… but we really think he likes you! Both of you will look like a cute couple!”
Kasumi wished she could scream “I LOVE GALE GAINSBOROUGH!” to her class, but she remained calm and collected.
“As I have said on many occasions, Mr. Valerian and I are just colleagues, and there will not be romance between both of us.”
The class started whining. “Ms. Kasumi! Your standards are out of this world!”
Kasumi peeked at Gale again, and this time Gale acknowledged her statement by nodding his head.
Ivy was having breakfast when there was a text message which reads, “[Imperial Edict]: All commanders are to report to Rafflesia at 10:00 am.”
The Flowers Of Death run a system of messages, and imperial edicts were the highest form of authority in the organization. It overwrites directives, rules, and regulations, and everybody had to obey the Boss of the Flowers Of Death without hesitation.
Failure to obey was considered treason, and punishable by death.
There were hardly any imperial edicts given by Rafflesia, and Ivy surmised. “Something major is about to happen!”
Ivy finished with her breakfast, put on her working clothes, and drove her car to the Flowers Of Death headquarters.
The headquarters was at a private garden owned by Rafflesia. It was also a greenhouse. The temperature in the greenhouse was cool and controlled, and all sort of plants were grown.
Rafflesia liked to have its meetings in a bright sun-lit area. Garden chairs with tables were nicely placed, and it was as though the ladies were about to have a tea party.
Ivy arrived and saw Celinda with Camelia at a corner. She walked forward to greet them. “Good morning ladies! Have you had your breakfast?”
“Good morning Ivy. Yes, we did.”
“Good, I wonder why did Rafflesia summon us for. Do both of you know why?”
Camelia answered. “Let’s wait for Rafflesia, and he will address your question later.”
After a while, a brunette wearing a painter’s hat and painter’s clothes ran in. She was carrying a large art paper with big brushes on her hands.
The brunette panted. “I thought I was late! I’m glad I’m on time!”
Ivy smiled at the brunette and said. “Good morning Louise! I’m glad you’re on time too!”
Louise bowed respectfully before Ivy, Celinda, and Camelia. “Good morning, Ivy! Good morning, Celinda! And good morning, Camelia!”
Camelia sighed in exasperation. “Louise, didn’t I tell you many times that those who get to meet in this room are of the same rank? You shouldn’t keep bowing to us like that!”
A loud shout from the back erupted from the entrance of the room. A lady bodybuilder, with blond hair and wearing an army tank top, walked in. Her footsteps were full of force, and the floor cracked with each impact.
Despite the overwhelming muscles that protruded every part of her body, the lady bodybuilder’s face was pleasing to the eyes.
“You should rise to your status, Louise! I can’t believe you still don’t know how to act your rank. Stop bowing when you talk!”
Louise bowed apologetically to the lady bodybuilder. “I’m so sorry, Nikki!”
Nikki’s eyes flared. She picked Louise up and pressed her shoulder blades to force her to stand straight.
“Speak from your diaphragm with gusto and don’t bow!”
Another lady walked in with a red slit dress similar to Ivy. She has short hair with ear studs.
“You ladies are so noisy in the morning. Turn it down.”
The lady was staggering while she walked, and Ivy asked. “Are you having a hangover, Vice?”
“There was this stupid man who wanted to make me drunk and sleep with me, so I drank a little too much,” Vice replied. “He didn’t get what he wanted though. I accidentally choked him to death.”
Ivy laughed. “Oh, did you? Did you take his wallet with you as well?”
“Well, he’s one of the CEOs of some steel company. I cashed out the blank cheque he gave me earlier.
I’ll transfer the money to our treasurer when I’m out of my hangover. I can’t even put my car keys into my car correctly.”
Vice sat on the chair beside Ivy and slept on the garden table. “Wake me up when Boss is here.”
A nurse walked from the entrance and greeted everyone. Her uniform couldn’t hide her curves and her chest.
“Good morning ladies! It’s so rare that an imperial edict summons us!”
Louise tried to bow but Nikki was still pressing her shoulder blades, and the former could only greet with an upright posture. “Good morning, Florence! It is rare! I wonder what are we going to discuss today.”
Florence looked around and asked. “Where’s my partner? She’s the gardener, and she should be here already!”
“I’m already here!”
A lady popped up from a bush. She has beautiful brown curls that flowed to her waist, and she wore a gardening vest.
“It’s been forever since I last saw you, Laura!”
Florence and Laura hugged each other tightly. Celinda asked, “Didn’t you two went for a concert together yesterday?”
Florence replied. “We did, but I had a graveyard shift this morning, so I left early, and we missed a few hours of each other!”
Florence and Laura were inseparable. A few hours away from them meant decades. Celinda rolled her eyes and remarked. “I shouldn’t have asked.”
“Is everyone here?”
Rafflesia walked in with its secretary. The secretary was also the treasurer, and her name was Rose. Ivy nudged Vice, and the latter woke up.
Rose poured tea and prepared sweets for the ladies as Rafflesia began its meeting.
“Ladies, I have great news from yesterday. The Mistress of Secrets called me to ask if I wanted a psychic defector from SPAW, and it was an offer that no syndicate can refuse. Celinda is a prime example, and I must say our Flowers Of Death are so much better with her around!”
Florence asked. “Oh, who’s this young lady?”
“She’s a student from Aelfsige Academy. Her name is Jacinta Heywood, and she’s the classmate of Clere Sigrun.”
Ivy immediately interrupted. “I know her! Dylan talks to me about her! Can I have her as my recruit?”
All eyes looked at Ivy with dissatisfaction except Camelia and Celinda. They were all vying for a capable recruit to join their ranks, and Ivy dropped Dylan’s name to get an advantage.
“Unfortunately, part of the deal from the Mistress of Secrets was to place Jacinta under Celinda. So you can’t have her, Ivy.”
Ivy cracked her teacup as her temper flared. Rose went forward to replace the broken cup with a fresh brew of tea.
“It’s not like you’ve done any psychic training before, Ivy. Celinda was well-known in SPAW, and she almost became one of their commanders there.” Rafflesia said. “Placing Jacinta under Celinda was a natural fit. Even if the Mistress Of Secrets didn’t demand that I would.”
Ivy clenched her fists as her fury burned.
Rafflesia continued. “Furthermore, Jacinta broke the psychic power scale at a hundred and fifteen. I dare say she’s the top gem in SPAW at the moment.”
Everyone exclaimed except Celinda and Camelia. “A HUNDRED AND FIFTEEN?!”
“Yes, you didn’t hear me wrong — a hundred and fifteen. I told the Mistress Of Secrets that I can’t even name five persons who scored in the nineties.
All of you have been through this drill before. SPAW isn’t going to allow Jacinta to join us, and I will be coordinating with the Mistress Of Secrets for a war with them.”
Laura asked. “What did you give up for Jacinta? I’m certain that the Mistress Of Secrets wouldn’t give Jacinta for free.”
Rafflesia answered. “Kasumi and Sunny. We wanted Sunny to join Ivy, and Kasumi to join Florence, but I gave up both of them for Jacinta.
Furthermore, Jacinta will not be allowed to fight against the Mistress of Secret’s agents. That includes Gale and his friends. I must say it’s a minor sacrifice for someone at a hundred and fifteen psychic score.”
Ivy got even angrier because she wanted the [Steel Maiden Technique] badly and she lost that chance when Rafflesia gave up Sunny for Jacinta.
Rafflesia knew that Ivy would be angry, so it said. “Of course, it’s a blow for Florence and Ivy to lose their targets. I intend to give the following pills to you as compensation.”
Rose took out two boxes, and in those boxes, there was a [Red Jade Pill] and a [Blue Jade Pill].
“Usually, such rewards are given by me when one of you deserves to be rewarded.” Rafflesia continued. “Ivy, the [Blue Jade Pill] will strengthen your magic powers by a few levels. Florence, the [Red Jade Pill] will increase your vitality and energy tremendously. Take these as my compensations to both of you.”
Rafflesia was a master of concocting pills, and its strength as one of the top five strongest in the world was based on these pills. Its medicines were highly sought after, and each pill could fetch millions of dollars.
Ivy looked at the [Blue Jade Pill], and her anger subsided. Having a single pill was almost equivalent to five years of training, so Ivy had no complaints.
Florence received the [Red Jade Pill] happily and wanted to cut the pill into two to share with Laura.
Rafflesia looked at Ivy and instructed. “That said, I don’t want you to deal with Dylan anymore. If Gale’s group of friends get hurt because of you, it will be hard to justify my agreement before the Mistress Of Secrets.
Consider this as an imperial edict.”
Ivy bowed. “I understand, Boss.”
Rafflesia then turned to Celinda. “You’ll lead the efforts of protecting and training Jacinta. That will prove you’re a leader to her, and I expect victory against SPAW.
I will treat this as a special case because Jacinta is that precious. If you need me to fight, order me into the battlefield. Consider this as an imperial edict.”
Celinda and Camelia bowed. “We understand, Boss.”
“I want all the commanders to welcome Jacinta when she arrives. She’s going for a school camp tomorrow, so her induction program will start after the school camp. She will continue to be a triple agent under SPAW, Sigrun, and us until she clears our induction program. After that, she is exclusively ours. If you catch her reporting to SPAW during the school camp, don’t be alarmed.
I want Jacinta protected from today onwards, and I expect all of you to give your fullest cooperation to Celinda and Camelia. Their words are my words.”
All the commanders bowed in reverence.
“Last but not least,” Rafflesia continued. “We have a rule where we don’t allow any male to be part of our organization and our premises.
However, in the future, I will invite or coerce Gale Gainsborough to be here.”
All the commanders were wide-eyed. “WHAT?!”
“It is the late Queen Erin’s will. She’s the founder of the Flowers Of Death, and she tasked all leaders of the Flowers Of Death to find a man that could satisfy her all her criteria. Whoever takes this seat of mine is bound by a blood covenant which reflects her will.
When I met Gale Gainsborough yesterday, the magic from the covenant triggered in my heart. He fulfilled the criteria of Queen Erin.”
Louise asked. “B-But Boss, what is Queen Erin’s will? What is Gale here for and what will he do in our organization?”
Rafflesia shook its head. “I can’t reveal that until Gale Gainsborough is here. It’s part of the covenant which I’m bound to.
This certainly means we will not accept assassination jobs against Gale Gainsborough. We’re not bound with an agreement with the Mistress Of Secrets, but with Queen Erin’s will. Command your teams to do likewise, and consider this an imperial edict.”
All the commanders bowed. Rafflesia arose from its seat and left the private garden.
When Rafflesia left, Louise heaved a sigh of relief. “Whew! So many imperial edicts today! I wonder if I can remember all!”
Nikki replied. “Don’t worry. Rose will give us the minutes of our meeting.
I’m curious over Gale Gainsborough. We never had a man here, so why now? Did something happened yesterday during your negotiation with the Mistress Of Secrets?”
Celinda and Camelia looked at each other. “Gale Gainsborough was there, and he threatened our Boss. Gale merely didn’t want Jacinta to lose her moral compass. I don’t see how threatening our Boss gives Gale the special treatment of entering our premises.”
The commanders pondered about it for a while.
Florence suddenly said. “It’s no use thinking about it! Boss said it would either invite or coerce Gale Gainsborough to be here. That also means we may have to capture him one day!”
Vice groaned. “I accidentally kill my captives. I’m not good for this job. You ladies can go ahead.”
Laura said. “Gale stood against over a hundred assassins recently and wasn’t subdued until he sacrificed himself for his classmate. Capturing him will not be easy.”
Ivy laughed. “Capturing Gale will be a piece of cake! You just told us the answer!”
Laura looked at Ivy and realized. “Oh, you mean holding his classmate as a hostage? That goes against my morals. You can do that if you want to, Ivy.”
Florence looked at her watch. “Gosh, look at the time! I’ll need to go shopping with my friends! I’ll talk to you ladies later!”
Nikki and Louise looked at each other. “Yeah, we should leave too.”
In the end, everyone left, and Rose quietly kept the tea back into the kitchen.
[Eight Trigrams Of Fire] is derived from [八卦火轮].
[Fiery Blade] is derived from [火焰刀].