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Kerberos


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« Reply #15 on: December 21, 2014, 07:57:05 am »

Four goddamn months.


Mana leaned on the open window of her room with one arm pressed on the sill, using her free hand to sandwich a cigarette between her thin fingers. The cold wind felt refreshing against her bare skin, while the morning sun warmed her florid cheeks. She did not take a single puff of the tobacco, merely keeping it held in place to burn. It reminded her of him, of the happier parts of her past. She knew it was unhealthy to inhale the smoke, but she was addicted to the memories it contained. The three Kerberos agents had arrived in the inn of the supposed human trafficking ring, and they were to stake out in here till nightfall for the activities to begin.

The scenery beyond the window was uninteresting, to say the least. The city was architecturally sound, designed intelligently for orientation and security. However, it was dull to look at, from a tourist’s point of view. It was not the fault of the architects, but the buildings were colored a gloomy grey, just like the people that lived in it, and like the clouds above them.

It was nothing like Yoitsu, thought Mana. Yoitsu was warm and lively, despite the snow and the frigidity. The houses, though mostly made of wood, bore festive colors of crimson and ivory. Even the trees were beautiful and vibrant, bearing pink petals during springtime, and varying shades of green, yellow and red leaves in autumn. The people were passionate like fire, and they were friendly and inviting. It was such a contrast to the blue-blooded Olstrom. The thought of her home made her long for her return journey, but she had to stay, at least until she found her sister.

A sudden knock on her door made her drop her vice, and she let out a silent gasp as she watched it fall out of the window and onto the pavement down below. She scowled at her carelessness, but her deadpan expression slipped back as she stepped towards the door to open it. Bijou was standing in the corridor, looking a smidge surprised at the assassin’s state of undress. Her attention wandered away from Mana, and towards the scent of the room. “I didn’t know you smoke.”

“I don’t,” replied the Yoitsun curtly. “Can I help you?”

“You should wear something before you embarrass Werner,” suggested the normally quiet northerner. The bodyguard of the Kerberos leader had come to grow closer to Mana over the month, although she was still mostly silent for the majority of the time. Oddly enough, she did not seem to have made friends with any of the other members of Kerberos, at least to Mana’s knowledge. Bijou shrugged nonchalantly, and continued, “Or not, if that’s your intention.”

“I’m not concerned with that,” said the easterner, although a slight curl at the end of her lips belied her words. She had no interest in the alchemist, but he seemed like the goody-two-shoes kind that would provide her with some amusement. “So what do you want?”

“To talk,” answered Bijou with a measure of finality. On that note, Mana let her comrade in, shutting and locking the door behind her. The northerner closed the window and drew the curtains, and Mana followed with the idea to ward her room with a talisman to shield themselves from eavesdroppers. She pasted the piece of symbolic paper on the door, upon which it glowed a ghostly green to indicate its activation. Deciding that it was safe to speak, Bijou took a seat on the bed and started, “Tell me about your sister.”

Mana heaved a sigh of distaste, and she threw herself on the bed lazily to make herself comfortable. “She has a heart of ice and the forked tongue of a viper. She’s unorthodox in her methods to get what she wants, and she has no qualms about hurting anyone in the process.”

“I can gather that much from what I already know of her,” claimed Bijou. “How did she become a monster, while you manage not to?”

The assassin blew her hair away from her eyes boredly. “It was my fault. I fell into a pit of shōki when I was fourteen while playing with Mizuki. I don’t know the term for it in your language, but it was the fog responsible for spawning the animus.”

“Miasma,” spoke the northerner helpfully.

“Thanks. I was trapped in it for too long, according to my mother. There was no curing such a severe infection, but the local onmyōji was able to save me by sharing half of the miasma to Mizuki. If the infection is reduced, it would be treatable over time.

Everything went wrong on the night of the ritual. There was an invasion of animus, because the monsters sensed that one of theirs, me, was in the village. The attack ruined the ceremony, and it caused a complete transfer of the miasma in my body into my sister. She was overcome by evil and bloodlust, and ended up killing the onmyōji before fleeing the village. I spent the next four years training and chasing her down to stop her rampage.

I eventually managed to catch her, but the damage she had done to the land was enormous. I decided to work as a mercenary to atone for my mistake and her destruction. I send most of my money back to Yoitsu to help in their recovery efforts. The government decided to send her away from Yoitsu instead of executing her, because I pleaded with them to spare her life.”

“It would have been better to let her die,” commented Bijou, not mincing her words.

“I know, but I was to blame for what she is now,” said Mana with a sigh. “More importantly, she’s my sister.”

The northerner lied down beside her lazily. “You think she can be saved?”

Mana’s words were filled with uncertainty. “I can only hope.”
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« Reply #16 on: December 30, 2014, 02:25:37 pm »

Nine goddamn days.

--------------------------

Before the warm hearth of Cerise's reading room, the polar opposites of Maire and Agnethe once more engaged in a sparring match. Would they be safe to venture outside, they would train there instead, but even if their faces weren't on any wanted posters, the fact remained that exposing themselves posed a risk to the rest of their revolutionary detachment. At least in here, they had warmth and familiarity, which made for a relatively comfortable, if slightly more sweaty match.

As her balanced greatsword exchanged blows with Agnethe's agile spear, Maire recalled the send-off that they had given Werner. Having been the only man within their base in some time, he'd been routinely teased about being around and working with attractive women, none of which he'd ever made a move on. This time was special, however: Bijou herself was on the job along with the relatively new Mana, meaning the alchemist had two gorgeous, deadly, and deadpan women to accompany. The tribal had made sure to give her good friend a thorough ribbing, much to his chagrin and Cerise's amusement.

For her part, Agnethe's mind was clear during the match, though she would not admit to participating in her counterpart's poking fun. Despite her silent, cool expression most of the time, the ex-officer too enjoyed reminding Werner that he had friends, even if it was usually by messing with him in regards to women. She could recall a time where, on a wager with her redheaded companion, she had attempted to play matchmaker between the brawler and their leader. Ciara, needless to say, was as terribly amused as Werner was embarrassed, yet the both of them had a good laugh after.

Cerise had also become a bit wealthier that day.

With a clang that reverberated sharply through the room as spearhead met claymore tip, the two rebels stepped back and lowered their weapons. Maire chuckled, "Hey, it's kinda weird without Cerise watching us like a hawk, innit?"

"Indeed," confirmed Agnethe. Both of them set their weapons against the wall, the huntress stretching her body out during the break while the spearwoman simply wiped some of her sweat away. "It, too, has been some time since our company was separated like this. Cerise fills in Sidhartha's role in her absence, and Werner works in tandem with our Yoitsu ally."

"Yeah, I kinda wish I'd gone along... But I suppose I didn't fit that job description well, huh?" Maire laughed again, gesturing to the couch. Agnethe nodded, and the two plopped down next to eachother for a more prolonged rest. "Look at it this way, though: least we get a break from the workload lately."

Shrugging, her snow-haired comrade relaxed. "I do not question the amount of work we do. It is for the good of Olstrom. Provided that we succeed, anyhow."

"You don't think we'll make this happen?" questioned Maire, not in hostility, but in curiosity.

"I believe there is always a chance of failure. I learned this lesson well under General Sorvino, and so too did she learn it when she was in my place. The most we can do is strive to minimize the chances of failure, or to push past a less-than-desirable result," Agnethe concluded, shutting her eyes to rest them.

The tribeswoman mulled these words around her head for a good few moments. She knew about failure in her own way; were she to be oblivious to failure, she'd be a fool, not to mention a disgrace. Nodding twice, Maire too relaxed. "You're right. That just means you and I have to do our damndest to see the revolution to the end, right?" She offered her fist to Agnethe, who cracked one eye open to sight it in before raising her own.

As they bumped, Agnethe offered a mild smile. "Indeed, meine freundin. To the end."
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« Reply #17 on: January 02, 2015, 09:05:30 am »

Two goddamn days.


The morning passed fairly uneventfully after the conversation with Bijou. There was a small, entertaining moment when Werner visited Mana near noon for an invitation to lunch, and he ended up receiving an eyeful of nudity from the easterner. It was the first time he saw her genuinely giggling, though he did not watch her for long out of embarrassment and thoughtfulness, since she was still wholly undressed. It was almost as if she had momentarily broken character in a play, and Werner could hardly connect the melancholic, pokerfaced assassin with the cheekily grinning girl standing before him.

The trio eventually got together during lunch, eating at the complementary buffet provided by the hotel. The alchemist still looked a little red from the earlier encounter, and was unable to properly look at Mana in the eyes. Bijou stayed silent, but it was clear from her livelier-than-usual mannerisms that she was just as amused as Mana. The northerner was quick to bring everyone’s minds back into the game, however, dismissing the humor when she noted to her comrades that she had spotted the traffickers in the same room.

“At your four,” stated Bijou curtly, and then stuffing her mouth with fries.

Mana relaxed her shoulders consciously to avoid becoming conspicuously tense, looking from the corner of her eyes to spy on their targets. They looked wealthier than the normal civilian, some decked out in jewelry and other forms of accessories or expensive coats. Aside from that, their faces were easily forgettable, although she noticed the signs of drug abuse on some of them. Once she learned enough, she returned to her food, occasionally casting a glance to check their positions. Werner did the same, albeit having an easier time as he sat across her. Bijou, on the other hand, paid them no attention.

“Intel’s right,” remarked the northerner matter-of-factly, cleaning out her plate swiftly.

“Seems like it,” replied Werner with a nod, “Tonight, then?”

“Or now?” suggested the Yoitsun, tapping on her ketchup-stained knife, “It’s possible.”

Bijou shook her head. “Red-handed.”

*

Night befell the city as the three Kerberos members prepared for the mission ahead. Idle hands do the devil’s work, and Mana spent the half dozen hours sharpening her blades, fitting her poisonous blow dart needles into the strap around her thigh, and warming up her limbs for stealth and speed. She stood before the bathroom mirror and masked her emotions under a visage of professionalism, performing final checks on her appearance at the same time. When everything was done, she headed to Bijou’s room, as did Werner.

Bijou was dressed the same as always, as though she required no preparation whatsoever in any mission she was involved in. Mana had never seen the bodyguard with any other equipment aside from a pair of silver gauntlets, and that seemed to be the only thing she needed. Werner, however, was well-equipped with various powders and vials, ready to cause various forms of afflictions on his enemies at a moment’s notice. Mana was in between them, possessing only her hidden blades (including a couple in her boots) and her blow dart.

“Here, wear these.” Werner pulled out facemasks from his coat pocket and distributed them to his companions. “They’ll protect you from the drugs. We can’t be too careful.”

Mana slipped it on immediately. “I’ll lead.”

The three rebels left Bijou’s room and began with an ascent to the roof of the hotel via the stairs. The top of the building was unremarkably plain, but sightseeing was not part of their schedule here. With a single punch, Bijou shattered the ground beneath them, breaking only the surface and leaving the roof space intact. They snuck in like mice, with Mana leading the way with the map of the route in her head. The cramped crawling space was expectedly dusty and filthy, and the assassin was thankful for Werner’s mask to shield her from inhaling the dirt. At least a bath was only a short distance away, thought Mana.

As they neared their destination, the sickeningly sweet scent of aphrodisiac grew stronger. Moans of pleasure became audible, as well as the obnoxious laughter of their victims. Mana signaled to her allies of their arrival, and she whipped out her blow dart in one hand. Werner nodded in acknowledgement, moving further ahead of her to get closer to the traffickers. Bijou followed suit, stopping above a particular tile on the ceiling and gesturing to the Yoitsun of her readiness.

Mana lifted the tile on her end slightly, taking a peek at the scene below. It was a celebration of vice, with alcoholism in the form of dozens of empty wine bottles, a lustful display of women driven senseless by drugs, and the immoral taking advantage of them. The easterner took in a deep breath through her mask, and then readied her blow dart, aimed at a familiar face from the buffet. As soon as she gave a thumb up to her comrades, she blew into her pipe. The needle found its place in the neck of the trafficker, and its sedative poison spread through his veins and into his heart almost instantaneously.

In the moment that he collapsed, Bijou and Werner broke through the ceiling and into the sinful room, taking out the stunned traffickers with minimal effort. Mana continued taking out the further ones with her darts from above, making sure that none of them had the luxury of time to take out their guns. Within a couple of minutes, the room had fallen quiet, save for the mindless moaning from the drugged. Deciding that it was safe, the assassin dropped down from the ceiling, landing softly like a cat onto the floor. “Leave that one alive. We’ll need to question at least one of them.”
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« Reply #18 on: January 18, 2015, 04:54:46 pm »

Fog rolled into the town of Daitan at noon, inconveniencing the townsfolk and travelers alike in forcing them to traverse its haze. For obvious reasons, travelers had the shorter end of that particular stick, lacking the residents' familiarity of the streets. Among those newcomers to town, a meager four armed Olstrom soldiers advaced along the sidewalk, the footfalls of their jackboots echoing through the fog. At their center was an officer proudly wearing his decorations, a Captain's insignia among them.

From the rooftops above, Agnethe followed along with the contingent, quietly crawling along on all fours as a cat would. Her vision was keen enough to maintain a lock on the group despite the fog and maintain a safe but comfortably close distance. Meanwhile, Maire weaved through the alleyways and stayed ahead of their path; she'd been to Daitan a couple times before and had a grasp of the layout.

For both girls, the mission briefing still hung freshly in their minds...

"Daitan is a small town situated less than a mile from the southern borders of Olstrom," detailed Ciara to her two warriors, the three of them arranged in the sitting room with Cerise. "Its strengths lies in its commerce and in the even hand of its governor; he's more sympathetic to the well-being of his people than he is to the reigning regime."

"Ain't that a classic tale... So what's so special about us going there?" questioned Maire, hanging out in her chair upside down, legs hooked to the top of the seat to keep her suspended.

The ex-general folded her hands in her lap, elaborating. "We've received intel that one of my former peers, one Captain Amalric, has been sent to Daitan. The official reason is to oversee the local garrison's training and observe commerce in action. In reality, his goal is to coerce the governor into shifting his focus onto the garrison; most likely, Olstrom is considering another unprovoked southern advance."

Cerise scratched her eyebrow, commenting, "There's hardly a better way to prepare for a tyrannical march than to prep the benevolent town's soldiers. Maire's right: this really is out of fiction."

"It's not the type of story you'd expect in reality, is it?" Ciara chuckled. "Regardless, I'm sending you two -" she looked to Maire and Agnethe as she carried on, "- to eliminate him. You're to move out immediately, and meet a plainclothes agent to learn what you can about the Captain's routine. The time and place is in your hands, just make sure you're not caught and leave no traceable evidence."

She paused for a moment, as if remembering something. "The Captain had a habit of keeping a personal unit of handpicked soldiers with him outside of  his quarters. If you run into them, be creative."


True to the agent's report, Agnethe watched Captain Amalric and his entourage making their way to a particularly narrow street. The spearwoman chanced getting closer, taking full advantage of the weather. From her observations, it would take them three minutes to clear this street, and they were the only five individuals within; if the agent was correct, this street was rarely frequented due to being a popular area for muggings. Maire inched her way up the alleyway that they were beginning to pass, her hand resting on a battleaxe. Though her intellect was questionable, she had the wisdom and experience to know that bringing a smaller weapon to a more narrow space was the way to go.

One minute into their march through the street, Agnethe leapt down from the roof to the fore of the procession, landing silently in the fog. She waited, timing her action out carefully before stepping forward and throwing a previously unseen knife into the unknown as her free hand reached behind her back. Hearing the meaty puncturing of human flesh silencing what would've been an ear-splitting yell of pain, she confirmed her kill and brought out a short-hafted spear, waited carefully for the sound and sight of the soldier's body pitching forward to the ground, then stepped atop his head and gazed upon the remaining three troopers and their Captain.

"Wh-who the h--" The next man in line was cut off as his temple was swiftly slammed by the shortspear's butt, the former officer withdrawing it before taking a lunging step forward and palm-heeling the unconscious trooper into Amalric and bowling him over. The two soldiers behind him reached for the swords at their hips before Maire's axe split the rearmost man's skull down the middle. His companion distinctly identified the sound of bone and grey matter being cleaved and turned around, only to find Maire already advancing on him and swinging wide, taking his arm off at the elbow before he could defend himself. She stepped forward and slashed through his neck, cutting off the shocked scream about a second in. That much sound would be allowed, for it would have a much-desired lure effect. All according to plan.

Amalric lay pinned beneath the knocked out soldier Agnethe had pushed into him, quite visibly panicking, even through the fog. He reached for the pistol on his hip before Maire stomped his heel onto his wrist, prompting a yelp and foiling his attempt. The huntress kept her posture, lowering her axe blade down near the Captain's head as her comrade-in-arms relieved the unconscious man atop him of his sword, taking it into her free gloved hand. Wordlessly, she turned and drove it down into Amalric's forehead.



"D'you think that'll be enough?" questioned Maire curiously. By now, the two of them had retreated from Daitan and were close to the car they'd hidden further off, the huntress cleaning her axe blade as they went along.

"I believe so," Agnethe confirmed, nodding as she too cleaned her knife. The 'crime scene' flashed through her mind as she pondered the evidence. "The evidence will show that one of Captain Amalric's accomplices drew his sword and attacked both him and his fellow troops. Maire's skull wound will be attributed to either a feat of strength or, more likely, to a vagabond ally. The severed arm and beheading are more than viable sword wounds, and it is well known that Olstrom soldiers are required to carry a standard-issue knife in the event of close-quarters combat, making my thrown kill a simple conclusion. The garrison and authorities will focus on determining what happened and prosecuting the soldier clearly responsible for the murder, taking valuable time away from prepping for a southern march." These things were not unfamiliar to Agnethe, as she'd been in the Olstrom army for enough years to have a clear idea of what would happen.

As the spearwoman put her knife away, Maire shrugged and accepted her confidence. "That's that, then. You wanna drive or ride shotgun?"

"I'll drive. Feel free to nap," Agnethe quipped, much to her comrade's grinning satisfaction.
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« Reply #19 on: February 03, 2015, 10:12:49 am »

The trio of assassins returned from their mission after three days of fairly uneventful journey back to the headquarters in Autain. Ciara Sorvino gave them little time to rest, requesting for debriefing as soon as they were back. They convened in the usual meeting room at nightfall, with a roaring fireplace warmly welcoming their homecoming. The rebel leader seemed to have come back from a trip herself, judging by her bloodstained cloak, but she would keep the tale to herself. Bijou returned to her duties as the guard, standing outside like a bouncer as usual and leaving Mana and Werner inside the room.

The Yoitsun concisely went over their successful dismantling of the trafficking ring and the murder of all the crime lords involved, while the alchemist provided any missing details. Once they finished the regaling, Mana continued, “We managed to secure a hostage for interrogation after the assassination. He provided a few incriminating details to the origin of the drug used to muddle the minds of their slaves, and we spent a day tracking to no avail. We found the plantation responsible, but Mizuki wasn’t there, which was to be expected.”

“What did you do with the plantation?” asked Ciara, tossing her cloak to feed the flames.

“Razed it to the ground,” answered Werner remorselessly. “The burnt remains would at least fertilize the earth.”

“I did, however, find evidence that my sister was there,” said Mana, showing a page in the folder she brought along. “The papers indicate her as the owner of the plantation.”

“At least you know that I’ve been telling you the truth,” stated the raven-haired ex-general. “Is there anything else you’d like me to know?”

The easterner shook her head and sighed. “I don’t think so.”

A pensive pause lingered for a moment, and then Ciara spoke, “I know you’re frustrated at the lack of progress on your sister, Mana, but she is extremely hard to pin down.”

The assassin nodded in resignation. “It’s far more likely that she finds us.”

“You should try to lure her out, then,” suggested Werner. “Make her come to you on your terms.”

“I would if I knew how,” replied Mana, giving him a defeated smile. “Thanks for the idea anyway.”

Ciara doused the fire with a jug of water. “We’ll end the debriefing here. Go and rest up. You earned it.”
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« Reply #20 on: June 23, 2015, 01:50:23 am »

With Werner's return, that meant that Bijou returned to her duties under Ciara, freeing up Cerise. That in turn meant the four rebels were reunited, at least until the next job that separated them came along. The next morning, once she deemed the alchemist had rested enough, Maire coerced her three comrades into their usual stomping grounds - Cerise's reading room - to hang out.

That was where they found themselves now, though circumstances were decidedly different from normal. Werner found himself cornered on the couch by Maire, while Agnethe and Cerise sat on the floor by the fire, observing them with amusement in the latter's case.

"So, you were pretty lucky, weren't you?" Maire insinuated with a lecherous grin. "Went on a mission with a couple cute girls, including Bijou! She almost never goes out!"

"It was just a job," Werner returned, a bead of sweat already trailing off his brow. He hadn't received this kind of treatment from his companions for some time, though he could never get used to it.

The huntress snickered, shaking her head. "So what? You had the perfect opportunity to do stuff. C'mon, didn't you peek at Mana in the bath?"

"N-no! God no!" He shook his head several times in succession.

"What about Bijou? Didja put some aphrodisiac in her food and throw her to the floor?" Maire probed further as Cerise giggled, knowing where this was liable to lead. Even Agnethe concealed a smirk behind her palm.

"W-what?! No!" Werner blushed. "That's unethical, and it's not like she was my target or something!"

Agnethe shifted her weight, continuing to keep her palm over her mouth. "Moreover, she would have killed him for such an offense. He's clearly alive."

"True," Cerise agreed with a nod.

The pugilist sighed and palmed his forehead. "Ugh... Alright, sure, they're both attractive women, but why would I do such things? They're my comrades. Besides, I go on jobs with you guys all the time and I've never done anything to you."

"Oh? So you're callin' them attractive, but we're 'guys'?" Maire cackled behind her teeth as her grin widened, coming off as equal parts feral and teasing as she continued to rib Werner relentlessly. "What do they have that we don't? Do you like small chests like Bijou's, or maybe exotic girls like Mana get you off?"

Thoroughly cornered and caught in his own words, Werner groaned loudly and held his temples. His three companions laughed in turn. Sure, it was merciless teasing, but the four of them at heart were glad to be back together and able to have ridiculous moments like this.
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« Reply #21 on: July 18, 2015, 11:29:42 am »

[One week later]

Knock! Knock!


“Mana! Are you there? Let’s play Go!” Cerise rapped on the assassin’s door a few times enthusiastically, with the board game tucked beneath her other arm. When no one responded, she tried for the door knob, and was puzzled to find it unlocked. The redhead quietly peeked into the room with curiosity. Mana seemed to have gone out early in the morning without a word, which was unlike her, since she was not exactly a morning person. Moreover, she would usually inform one of them personally, and often it would be Cerise. Most of the easterner’s belongings were still lying around, so it was unlikely that she left for good. “That’s odd…”

The rebel in red stepped into Mana’s room. Lying on the work table was a scrap of paper, with something scribbled upon it messily. Cerise swiped it up for a close look, and with widening eyes she read aloud, “Wrapping up my job here with my sister. Do not look for me, too dangerous. I’ll be back to say my good-byes.”

“She’s insane! I get why she’s doing that, but…!” The redhead left the Go board on the table, and swiftly rushed out of the room to alert her comrades.
 
*

“You should try to lure her out, then. Make her come to you on your terms.”

Werner’s words stuck with Mana long after she had left that meeting, and it hung in her mind for many restless nights. She had to find a way to bait her sister out to meet her, but the animus-possessed sibling still had her wits and cunning about her. Unless the assassin compromised herself in some fashion, it was unlikely that Mizuki would come out at all. She would have to do something utterly foolish and death-seeking, something that would catch the attention of the animus.

Mana wandered into the cold and misty wilderness alone, far away from civilization. She had to do this alone, or her sister would not come. She pulled a bag of human blood of questionable origin out from her cloak, and splashed it all over the earth. Next, she uncorked a vial of powder from her utility belt, and sprinkled it on the bloodstains. This was enough preparation to bring her sister out in due time, thought Mana. To Mizuki, it would smell like Mana was injured, and attempted to treat herself with Yoitsun herbs.

However, Mizuki would not be the first to emerge from the white fog.  Low, guttural growls came from several directions at once, and the familiar howl of wind preceded the gathering of dark clouds around her. Four-legged beasts with glowing crimson eyes spawned from the obscuring smoke, scratching the ground with their razor sharp claws and cracking the air with their whip-like tails. The animus were here.
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