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Post by Yoruen Tue Aug 31, 2021 10:08 am

“Newdale, huh?” Shane read out loud as he held up the folded newspaper in hand, just enough for him to read the headlines sprawled across the page and the article. His other hand moved automatically to the cup of black coffee on the table in front of him, bringing it up to his mouth for a sip. A female employee walked over to the table that he was seated at, her face slightly blushing as she held her head low and quietly put down some change on the table.

“Your change for the coffee, sir,” the girl spoke softly before walking away at double speed. Shane had raised his head to look at the girl but he caught barely a glimpse before the girl had turned away and ran off. With an amused smile on his face, Shane pocketed the change and went back to reading the newspaper. He had frequented this cafe for three days in a row and although the communication between him and the waitress had been brief, their eye contact had hints of flirting. After taking another sip of his black coffee, Shane turned his attention back to the newspaper.

Reading further into the article, it mentioned the rise of conflicts due to the construction of the church, which the Edritch community didn’t really take friendly to. Newdale was supposed to be a town that symbolized a future where all races could live together in harmony, but as always, when it came to religion, even the most minor of things could be deeply scrutinized, taken apart and reassembled into something of major proportions.

“A classic case of two tigers cannot share the same mountain,” Shane mumbled to himself after finishing the article and putting it back down on the table. His hand wandered again to his coffee cup and brought it up for another sip as he considered his options. He was just a town away from Newdale, and if he travelled via flight, it wouldn’t take him too long. The decision was quick and within seconds, Shane gulped down the remainder of his black coffee, the heat not even registering to him, leaving the newspaper on the table as he walked off.

Two hours later, the Draconyte landed in the back alleys of Newdale. This was the first time he had been here, so while he was in the air, he had already caught a glimpse of where the construction site for the church was. The back alley where he had landed was just two blocks away from the church. As he neared the construction site, the chaos of the protest began to reach him. People were crowding around the construction site, holding up signboards and banners but the protest was considered quite mild-mannered.

As he squeezed through the crowd, muttering his apologies here and there, Shane gradually reached the front of the crowd. He could go no further forcefully as barricades had been set up and there were also people manning the barricade. Every now and then, one of the protestors would get too riled up and do something stupid like trying to climb over the wooden barricades to cause trouble but the guards acted equally quickly to stop such behavior to the best of their ability. The last thing they would want to do was to do anything stupid and causing the protestors to suddenly erupt into a riot.

Approaching one of the people on the other side of the barricade, Shane jovially called the man over and began explaining. When he told the man that he was here to volunteer and help out, the man was quick to accept the offer from Shane and gave him some directions to meet at another part of the construction site.

When the two of them met again, Shane was quickly brought past the barricade and led to a place where there were plenty of tables and chairs.

“Sorry, I didn’t get your name earlier. What’s your name again?” the man asked.

“It’s Shane. I didn’t really get your name either. It was too noisy earlier. So what will I be doing here?”

“My name’s Michael. It’s going to be dinner time soon. The caterer will be delivering the food to us, and then along with the rest of the volunteers, you will distribute it to the workers when their work is over,” Michael explained as he used his right hand to point to the group of volunteers who were standing together to one side. As Shane glanced at them, he could see that there was another lady wearing the same shirt that Michael was wearing in the middle of explaining something to the other volunteers as well.

Michael followed Shane’s gaze and smiled slightly, before saying, “That’s Orea. She’s explaining the same thing to the other volunteers. Let’s join them.”

Shane nodded with Michael and joined the group. When Orea saw Michael, she quickly moved through the small group of people, cutting a line straight through the middle and approached Michael.

“Is everything okay, Orea?” Michael enquired after he noticed the anxiety in Orea’s expression. The anxiety quickly got to him as well, as his smiling visage turned into a frown. The protest over the construction of the church that was growing in momentum, along with the small troubles that had come with it, had been gnawing at the nerves of all those involved in the project. With each new problem that cropped up, their sense of dread grew along with it. At this point, any sort of hiccup could have the potential to blow up into something huge. And that would be an absolute nightmare for them.

Luckily for Shane who was just beside Michael, Orea just spoke to the latter in a low voice, not a whisper. He could easily listen in on the conversation. There was also no indication from Michael to keep Shane out of the conversation.

“Earlier today, the caterer told us that they would be sending us the food earlier. But it’s already thirty minutes past the allocated time. Do you think something might have happened?” Orea bit her lip after speaking.

“Hmm.. I’ll go check it out,” Michael responded and turned around to look at Shane. “Do you think it will be okay if you tag along?”

“Sure,” Shane nodded without any hesitation. With a keen sense for danger, Shane had a hunch that tagging along would definitely see him better used than staying here.

“I’m really sorry that I just dragged you into this without asking you in advance. Truthfully, I think that we might run into some trouble, and from your physique, I assumed that bringing you along would be helpful,” Michael spoke up after a period of silence, as the duo walked through the streets of Newdale.

“Well, if we are being honest, I was quite glad that you brought me along as well. I thought there might be some trouble that caused the delay of the food delivery as well. So there’s no need to apologize,” Shane replied with a wide grin while clapping on Michael’s shoulder with his hand.

“I’m glad! Well, anyway, we will be there soon. It’s just right around the corner,” Michael replied in a more cheerful tone after letting out a sigh of relief.

“Is this the first time you guys have ordered from them?” Shane asked as he began to look around inconspicuously when they rounded the corner. Ever since they moved out from the construction site, he had felt himself being watched, but the feeling of having eyes on his back had increased significantly ever since they rounded the corner. He had turned his head around to glance casually around him, as though a tourist checking out the sights, and each time, he had found people watching them. He had made sure not to make eye contact with any of them, each glance a quick sweep before returning his attention to his front.

“We’ve ordered them since we started the construction. Why do you ask?” Michael replied as he turned around to look at Shane who was lagging behind him. They were already at the restaurant, with Michael’s hand resting on the door handle of the glazed glass door, just about to push it open.

“I have a feeling things might get really hairy,” Shane replied with a shrug and then stepped forward, gently taking Michael’s hand off the handle and then gripping it to push the door inwards. A bell hung above the door rang gently, announcing their entry and also directing the hostile stares of eight people in the restaurant towards them that were quickly masked. However, even Michael had already realized the situation they had walked into.

“I’m from the church construction crew. Is Sebastian here? I want to talk about our order for today’s dinner,” Michael asked in a level voice, acting as though nothing was amiss.

The people in the restaurant exchanged quick looks and someone raised his hand as he walked forward.

“I’m Sebastian. Err, is there anything wrong with the order? We’ve already got it all prepared,” the man spoke as he approached Michael with a hand behind his back.

Michael raised an eyebrow at the man’s reply and then exchanged a glance with Shane.

“Nope, nothing’s wrong with the order. But…. I know everyone working here and there’s no one called Sebastian here,” Michael responded with a shrug and a smirk.

The man claiming to be Sebastian froze up and the moment he recovered, he lunged forward, the hand hidden behind his back pulling out a kitchen knife. “You brat!”

“How rude!” Shane scolded as he quickly stepped in between the two and before the knife could be stabbed into him, Shane had clamped down on the man’s wrist with his hand in an iron grip and moved forward, shifting his right side forward and striking the man in the face with his elbow. A sickening crack spelled the breaking of the man’s nose as his head jerked backwards, losing his forward momentum and just dropping to the ground on his back while clutching his nose in pain when Shane released his grip.

“Get them!” one of the men suddenly called out and the remaining seven men began grabbing whatever tool that was closest to them.

“This is more like it! Michael, I will hold them here! You get the Golden Titans!” Shane laughed out loud as he moved in for the fight. Trained to fight since young, Shane immediately snatched the upper hand against the uncoordinated lineup of opponents. Adding his stronger physique of a Draconyte hidden behind his magical guise of a human, Shane was in his element.

The brawl within the restaurant was an all or nothing fight. Aside from using his fists and legs, Shane was grabbing everything within range that he could use. The first weapon he grabbed was a chair, snatching it off the ground by one of the legs and smashing it into two of the men charging at him with cleavers in their hands. The two of them took the unexpected attack head on, the wooden chair crashing into them, breaking apart from the impact, and threw them both to the ground.

The swish of a knife being swung behind him got Shane scrambling to the side as it slashed through the air, which would have cut down his back had he not evaded. He returned the favor with a low kick, aimed at the man’s shins which brought him stumbling forward before receiving a two-fisted hammering blow to the top of his head. The sixth human finally fell to the ground, unconscious from an uppercut palm that lifted him entirely off the ground a few inches before crumpling back down. By then, most of the restaurant had already been affected by the brawl. Broken tables and chairs were everywhere.

Breathing heavily, Shane wiped the sweat off his forehead with the back of his left hand as he glanced around the store to find the seventh person. The blue-haired man was leaning back in his chair, smirking as he watched Shane destroy his men. There was no malice whatsoever in his smirk. There was only condescension. After a staring contest between the two of them, the man finally stood up from his chair.

Shane held up his fists as he assumed his battle stance once more, but before he could even do anything, his would-be opponent disappeared from where he stood and the next thing Shane felt was a crushing blow right in his gut and was blown back into the wall. Shane flew right into the wall spread-eagled before sliding down to stand on his bent legs. Again, his opponent was too fast. Through the middle of taking a breath, another punch landed on his chin, an uppercut that lifted him up slightly before slumping back down.

The Draconyte didn’t even have the time to think, his mind as blank as a sheet of paper.

And then as he sat down on the ground, head slumped forward, the bottom of a palm smacked into his forehead and pushed backward to slam the back of his head into the wall. His face was a mess, blood dripping down the sides of his face as well as from his mouth. However, the fiery eyes were unyielding despite his defeat.

“Those are some nice eyes, but it’s a pity you can’t do shit. I bet you thought you were cool, destroying those six guys but let me tell you. They were bottom feeders. Errand boys. Scapegoats. Disposable. Expendable. You get the idea right?” the blue-haired man said with a smirk on his face. This time, the killing intent was there for all to see.

“Who are you guys?”

“For now, we are nameless. But we are the resistance. And until the day, only humans are left in this world, we will not stop,” the man said as he began to apply pressure on Shane’s forehead but the latter refused to even utter a sound.

“Heh,” the man scoffed before letting his hand go and standing back up. Shane’s head nodded forward from the sudden relief, trying his best to stand back up. “Well, you can consider today your victory. You did spoil our plans after all.”

The man was going to continue to speak but at that moment, the thundering of multiple footsteps could be heard approaching them rapidly.

“I will see you again,” was all the man said before walking calmly to the kitchen.

When Michael and the Golden Titan members finally entered the room, the man was no longer there. All that was left behind was a devastated restaurant and seven heavily injured people. Shane’s vision was already blurry when Michael ran towards him and knelt down to check his injuries, before finally going out like a light.

It was the middle of the second day when Shane woke up. The nasty headache struck him so hard when he tried to get up that he instantly dropped back to the soft plush pillows. The plain and pastel colors of the room’s interior with the waft of medicinal chemicals was enough to tell him where he was. He obviously knew why he was here. After letting out a huge sigh, Shane slowly raised his upper body again into a sitting position and gave the whole room a proper look around.

A nurse passed by the semi-open door, but quickly moved back to Shane’s room. After a brief inspection from a checklist on the writing board, the nurse finally declared that Shane was healthy enough to be discharged. The process was rather quick, but when Shane got to the payment counter, he was mildly surprised to find that his hospital bill had already been paid.

“It’s been paid by that gentleman over there,” the employee behind the counter said as she craned her neck up to look around the room and then pointed with her pen somewhere in the room.

Shane followed the direction of the pen and smiled slightly when he saw that it was Michael who stood up from a comfortable one-seater and waved at Shane.

“Thanks Michael but --” Shane was stopped halfway through his sentence by Michael.

“No no, it’s okay. You got so beat up because of the church construction matters. We can’t possibly just leave you here in the hospital without doing anything. In fact, paying for your hospital bills was the least we could do. We would be happy if we could do anything more for you.”

“No no, it’s okay,” Shane said as repeated what Michael had used to stop him mid-sentence earlier before laughing out loud. “This is already enough for me.”

“I’m glad then.”

“Oh yes. Did the Golden Titan members get anything out of those guys?” Shane asked as the two men walked out together out of the hospital.

“The guys you beat up didn’t know much. All of them said the same thing. They were paid by someone to poison our food so that the construction would be stopped.”

“But what happened to the restaurant workers?”

“After searching around, the Golden Titan members found them gagged and tied up after being beaten unconscious and left in the employees’ break room.”

“What about the seventh guy? The one that totally wrecked me?” Shane asked as he let out another sigh.

“They tried to search for him by fanning out, but there were no traces or clues to look for him. They could only give up,” Michael replied with a wry smile on his apologetic expression.

“I see… Anyway, I think I will be off now. Sorry I couldn’t be any more help to you guys,” Shane said as the two walked past the hospital gates and out of the compound.

“Don’t worry too much about it. You helped us immensely. Imagine if I was there alone. I wouldn’t have been able to do anything, and the construction crew and volunteers would have been poisoned. We just couldn’t thank you enough, Shane.”

“Well, I guess I did something good in the end then!” Shane let out another laugh before patting Michael on the shoulders once more and walked ahead after saying another goodbye.

What Michael did not see was the determined expression on Shane’s face after he walked away, fists clenched.

“I need to get stronger.”

Total: 3062 words
-- Event: 2000 words
-- 2 x Novice quest: 1000 words

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