At least it looked like everyone had made it through the scuffle without having sustained any sort of wound from bites or claws, one large possible source of infection thus eliminated. The silver-haired Vice President breathed a subtle sigh of relief, looking about. The atmosphere here, now more than ever, seemed cold and depressing, the small village centered around the town square surrounded by a despondent chill. It was as if the land itself was withering away, slowly succumbing to whatever curses and misery had been placed upon it by this plague, the smell of rot and decay now more than ever present in the soft breeze. Just what exactly would the group get themselves into? Only time would tell. In any case, everyone scattered about, seeking out their respective targets in hopes of finding something related to their mission within this devastated place, the God of Ishgar doing the same, eyeing a somewhat larger, white stone building at the other side of the town square. The town hall perhaps? He'd have to find out.
With hasted and determined steps, the damp dirt crunching lightly under his feet with each move, the Rune Mage, his left eye still glowing with eerie, charcoal darkness and crimson, made his way towards the building, paying little moments of attention to the fellow members of this scouting party only by passing side glances as they all entered the respective domicile or area they had picked out. Of course, for Mars and his heightened senses, they would remain within earshot, though he hoped that this fact would remain true for each other as well. What purpose, after all, had a team without jolly cooperation. Without giving the matter much more thought, the man simply walked up to the large front entrance of the stone building, a door of admittedly rotten, though once probably solid and sturdy construction blocking his advance. Without paying this circumstance much mind, the Vice President raised one leg and, in a quick sweep without further ado, kicked it in, the door, rusted hinges still attached, sent flying into the building itself, with audible crack crashing into a shelf.
So far, so good. No horde of undead came sprinting at him in their restless fury, and more than that, his ears picked up no movement from inside the house at all, other than a few oversized, mutated flies that seemed startled by the sudden movement, scared away from whatever rotting mucus they had been feasting on. The dust-smeared windows only allowed dim light to enter what appeared like an entrance hall of sorts, the now open doorway the only reliable source of admittedly sparse daylight, illuminating what seemed like a large round table, chairs all around it, a counter vaguely visible in the darkness behind. Joh closed his right eye, the flood of conflicting information reduced to only the visual input from the ocular capable of piercing the omnipresent twilight. "I see ...", he mumbled to himself quietly as if lost in thought, letting his gaze swerve slowly from the left side to the right of the wide room. It seemed like this building had served a very distinct purpose, at least that was what Johann presumed. It appeared like he was standing in the ever-rotting remains of what had once been a guild hall.
The walls were covered in dust-greyed red and gold banners, the simplistic, yet functional symbol of the organization adorning all of them. A half-snapped blackboard in one corner of the room had served as their job board, and the bar and reception area was still somewhat intact, bottles filled with dull liquid neatly arranged on display behind it. It was truly a tragedy. The room, apart from the dust and occasional blackened stain that looked suspiciously like long, long dried blood, appeared as if frozen in time. Glasses were still sitting on the bar counter, ceramic plates and rusty cutlery positioned as if someone just had set them down for a meal. It seemed bizarre, and a part of him wondered what this place had been like a long time ago when laughter would still fill these halls, when friendships were formed here and adventures had. Maybe there had been someone like himself here? It mattered not. Everything had given way to death and decay. The man stepped inside, slowly, cautiously, the floorboards creaking with every gentle step. The leader of the small scouting party looked around. No obvious source of information in sight, aside from ancient flyers which had described jobs that would perhaps never reach a conclusion, or perhaps would never need one, in detail, long since yellowed, the ink on them vanished.
It made sense. They wouldn't keep sensible information, or really any information about the guild for that matter, in the guild hall itself, which would be open to the public. No, there had to be some room in here that had served as this guild's archive, if something like that even existed here. Of course, the man wasn't entirely sure of all the procedures required to run a guild, though ... if there was one thing Johann more than knowledgeable about it would, with certainty, be paperwork. The books and paper they had used as a storage medium for their information, Johann was convinced, would not be found in the cellar. The damp air would ruin the ink and parchment, meaning the objects of his desire would likely be on the second floor, where he assumed the offices had been located. He would still search the basement later ... just in case. With that, the man set his sights on the stairwell that led up to the second floor, proceeding with the same caution from before, his open eye methodically searching through the room, the silver-haired male trying to piece together the events that had occurred here after the plague had broken out. Perhaps the guild members had barricaded themselves within this building? Unlikely, the windows and entrances seemed untouched. From the state of the interior, it seemed like when news of the plague approaching had arrived the members had simply fled. Perhaps their best option.
With now quicker steps, the man had reached the stairs, walking up before turning a corner that would lead to another set of stairs further up to the second floor, stopping just when he did so. His heightened sense of smell had picked up the scent before his eyes had spotted the corpse, a sickly, slumped form sat against the stone walls of the building, emanating an unbearable stench of foulness and death. Johann swallowed hard to stop himself from gagging. Still, a few observations stuck with the VP. The body was dressed in what appeared like decent light armor of metallic origin, a helmet covering most of the head. Seemed like he had stumbled over one of the long-deceased members of this guild. He sighed, moving forward once again, his thoughts going back to the task he had come here for originally. He simply had no time to be held up by insignificant things like this one. Though, this time, he did not get very far, taking two steps when the corpse suddenly sprung to life as if it had waited in ambush for just the right moment, plunging a clawed hand down into the VP's calf as it pulled itself up with a beastly snarl, Johann staring right down into its semi-skeletal eyes. The sharp pain triggered an instant reaction, Mars, more out of instinct than anything, pushing himself to the forefront of consciousness within the vessel, grabbing the creature by the head and hurling it through the air, smashing it into one of the stone walls. The material broke with a loud crack, splinters and dust erupting out in a cloud of grey filling the stairwell, dissipating after just a few moments, the upper half of the undead now a bloody smear spread across a crater in the wall, it's lower half slowly sinking to the ground.
It seemed like this triggered a reaction, the formerly dead silent space beginning to erupt in vicious growls and snarls, bodies beginning to shuffle and doors bursting open. So much for empty and abandoned. Within seconds, the creatures that had been dubbed "Pathogen Walkers" were charging at him from both sides. The God of Strength braced himself, raising his fists in anticipation of the first wave, his right eye now, too, changing color, the two pupils piercing the darkness with intense, carmine glow. A snarling, awkwardly stumbling zombie basically threw itself at him from further up, flying down the stairs, Johann's gloved fist meeting the creature's rotten face mid-jump, it's neck snapping audibly as it the swing launched it back the way it had come, the creature crashing into something out of sight. It did not take long for the second one to follow up. The runes on the man's body slowly began to glow, black scripture digging its way across all visible skin before it was set alight with magical energy. In a sudden burst of speed, the Vice President moved to intercept the monstrosity, grabbing the stretched out, clawed hand and twisted it around its own axis and bending it inward, the creature's radius and ulna crushed in the process, causing the decaying limb to dangle from the extremity without support. The creature would, as presumed, barely notice this circumstance, and instead swing its other arm around for a strike at the man that was now within close distance. Too close, in fact. The God of Ishgar barely had any room to fight, and so, after ducking under the strike and touching the zombie's torn open chest lightly with the tip of his index finger, jumped back, finding his way into the guild hall.
The creature that had been cursed by the man's magic turned to follow the VP with a guttural snarl, but stopped in its tracks just a moment later, a deeply black rune lighting up where the silver-haired scripture mage had touched it, its body, at once, turning brittle before slowly falling apart, leaving behind nothing but ash. Great, that was dealt with, but ... "Shit", the word rushed through the man's head as now more and more of these walkers emerged from the shadows, from all nooks and crannies, the relatively extensive hall quickly getting crowded. "This is all it takes to for you to break into a sweat?", the deep, distorted voice of Mars echoed through the man's head. "No. I-", Johann's attempt at a response was at once interrupted. "Looks like it's time for me to come out and play". The VP did not respond, rolling his eyes before closing and opening them just a moment later, a broad grin spreading across his face. "Now, I won't be as soft with you as the old man, tssehe", the Lord of War extending a hand, with a gesture, beckoning his mindless foes to come closer. Naturally, the foes did so without question and would have done so even without taunt. Mars hesitated not either, closing his fingers, his crimson and ink-black blade appearing in his hand. The first attacker lunged at him, causing Mars' grin to broaden. Without much bother, the Lord of War cut the creature down, a lazy sweep of the weapon separating the already withered monster into two, the lifeless halves sinking to the ground before him. The implication that the VP, his vessel, the vessel of the Second Seal wasn't able to deal with these lowly beasts by himself seemed almost offensive to War, a circumstance which, of course, he had come up with himself, an excuse to take control for a short period.
Naturally, for him, these weaklings were but playthings, however rotten and infected they may have been. It would only be fair, to himself and to the world, to rid this land of these parasites once and for all. With one practiced motion, he twisted the blade around, a set of iridescent, golden runes flaring up all along the blade of the sword, flowing into each other, intertwining, before just a moment later thrusting it upward, the room instantly filled with a blinding light. The creatures would stand no chance. Every corner, every cranny, every tiny bit of this hall would be cleansed by hallowed light, the blessing burning away at all foes until the light would rescind back into the weapon, the runes fading, leaving behind nothing but scattering ash. "And that, old man, is how it is done. You're welcome, Mortal, for I, the great Mars have-", the overdramatic monologue interrupted before Mars could go on again. "Yes, Mars, I know. Thank you so much". The sarcasm was evident. Still, now, finally, the Vice President of the West Fiore Trading Company could finish the job he had come here for in the first place.
Letting go of the blade, the weapon once more vanished into the thin air it had come from, it's wielder taking a deep breath. He had disregarded his own advice, staring down at his leg. Of course, the wound the walker had inflicted had already closed itself back up, but the plague had undoubtedly gotten into his bloodstream. There was no way around it ... he guessed he'd have to wait and see how it would affect him, if it would at all. Mars generally did a good job at keeping all sorts of infections, diseases, and parasites away from him, but ... this plague was different. As if nothing happened, the VP headed for the stairwell once more, this time actually making his way to the second floor.
This area of the building was lit more generously, daylight hitting the side of the hallway and an array of doors to the right from several large windows on the left. The first door on the right was snapped in half, a broken, mangled corpse thrown over what was left of the wooden construction. Johann peeked inside the room, his head swerving from left to right as his eyes wandered. It seemed like he had finally hit the jackpot. In the middle of this room was a wooden desk, the walls covered by shelves, old books, yellowed letters and endless piles of job flyers stacked on them. Seemed like he had found what he had been searching. A good few minutes later, the man exited the building, within his pocket something that had distinguished itself from the rest of the useless pieces of information he had found: A map. Admittedly, it was old and of relatively simple make, and yet, this was more than he had hoped to find, the now rolled up piece of paper he had found in a sealed coffer in one of the desks providing the group with a tangible benefit that would help them in their endeavour.
And it seems like he had found his way outside just in time as well.
It appeared all others had had similar encounters as well, the sounds of combat reaching his ears, his head immediately turning towards a very specific building It seemed like everyone was handling themselves, though ... "Sivvy ...". It was all he managed to produce in the form of a weak whisper before darting off towards the stone structure which, as it seemed, had been a home for someone a long time ago. Bursting into the house, Johann immediately began looking around, with hasted steps making his way from room to room, and still, nothing. There was no trace of the young woman, except for ... her scent. Johann took a deep breath, an endeavour that almost threatened to forcefully expel the contents of his stomach, but it was there, and it was coming from a certain directionleading him into what appeared like a long-abandoned office. The partially uncovered entrance into a dark space that led down behind a bookshelf was a surprising sight, though the mysterious shriek and the girl's scent both had come from down there. The silver-haired male did not need to think twice, rushing down the steps, his eyes once more becoming seemingly dancing orbs of red within deep darkness. Admittedly, however, with the complete absence of light, it was hard to see, Johann consequently lighting up the runes on one of his hands with discoloured fire, the purple glow providing a decent enough light source to see into the hallway before him, his eyes immediately widening when he saw it.
"Sivvy!", he called out, rushing over to the young woman. She was wounded. Only now Johann's intrigued gaze would find the remains of the amalgamation of flesh and bones that lay slumped on the cold concrete ground. "What the hell is this?", the question was wholly redundant. The essentials he could deduce himself, the thing hadn't been friendly, the girl had killed it, she had sustained an injury. She probably wouldn't know much more about it than he. "Are you hurt, Sivvy? Let me see", he kneeled down to inspect her leg. It was a pretty nasty wound. The creatures monstrous teeth had torn into her with ease, it seemed. The God of Ishgar frowned. If only he had been a little faster ...
"Don't move", he instructed his mentee with serious tone before continuing "This might sting a little". Well, perhaps, in truth, more than just a little. He couldn't be sure how her body would react to the negative maledict, but if he wouldn't act now, there was a good chance this wound would be infected, and she would likely lose the leg. A risk the VP wasn't willing to take. Not when it came to the girl. She insisted on being useful, and he figured that it would be within her interest to keep her in a state that allowed for her to be. The skin on his arm turned into an ashen white, turqouis lines running down the extremity before finally coalescing in his hand, gently brushing from one end of the wound to the other. It was probably accompanied by harsh pain, but the wound would close back up, the bone, the tissue, the skin, all would be restored back to their previously undamaged state. Briefly, around the girl's head, a swirling halo of charcoal-black crystals would appear, but vanish as quickly as they had come. Johann breathed a sigh of relief before standing back up. "Let's talk about this outside. Can you walk?". He would ask specifically about that due to the side effects of the maledict. Perhaps she couldn't even feel her leg, let alone move it, in which case he would, wordlessly gesture for the girl to get on his back so he could carry her. If she could, well ... all the better.
Regardless, he would find his way back outside with his mentee, from where he would once more call back the group with a snap of his fingers, his voice amplified by his runic magic. "Everyone, please return at once".
As soon as they all had returned back outside and come back together, Johann would speak once more. "Okay, with certainty, I can say that we are not safe here. This is not a suitable place for a forward operations base". Well, that much was obvious. In honesty, he wouldn't blame these people for thinking him incompetent for putting them through all this trouble. "We'll keep looking for somewhere to rest. Hold on to the things you have discovered for now. We can talk about that later, for now it's important we keep moving". That said, it was time to discuss one finding. "I managed to stumble upon an old map detailing the region, and it seems like there is a larger city about a days march away from here. That is our new destination. I'm certain we will find information about this plague there. That said, we'll have to make camp somewhere along the way". With that, the man took a deep breath. "If there's anything of importance, please let me know now. If there's injuries, I will heal them. Any questions?". He would, using the maledict, heal any injuries that would need treatment, and would, of course, answer all questions the group had.
After that, he would bring out his compass and take a look at the map before poiting the group in a direction and give the marching order. They would have a good few hours on the road ahead of them, and they had to be prepared, though, of course, there would be more than enough time for conversation. Additionally, the man was more than happy to, on the journey, discuss any findings the members of the scouting party had made. Of course, if the girl would so desire or if it was required, he would still carry Sivvy. It truly seemed like this place was a lot more dangerous than he, or anyone involved in the planning of these missions, had anticipated. Well, for now, they'd have to grit their teeth and make the best of what they had with whatever they could. The plague had to be stopped at all costs.
Word Count: 3.649
Word Count Total: 7.348 / 12.500