"Within an elaborate management office sat a simply dressed man. Atop his clothes he wore a thick gold chain which indicated that he was a high member of government. On his desk a thick book was laid open and many empty containers of ink were sprawled on nearby counters, evidently this man did a lot of writing."
"The man himself had simple black hair that was cut short and neat. His hands were currently folded in front of him and he was staring with furrowed brows as the two Holy Knights in front of him gave an in depth report into the recent events of the Gerf border."
"By all impressions it seemed the man was listening quite closely and cared a lot about what the two Knights had to say. However, upon closer inspection one could see the man's eyes had no interest and he was only wearing a façade of interest, a common courtesy in the political world."
"In reality the man was simply waiting for the opportunity to nod and move onto more important topics."
"And that summarizes our report on the recent events near the Gerf border and the massacre of Border Town Itzes."
I had just finished reporting everything that had happened to Border Manager Farks and while he would look at us and nod from time to time I couldn't help but shake the feeling he didn't care one bit.
"So this Holy Knight who ran away, what did you say his name was?"
Farks nodded then pulled out another large book from a drawer. He dropped it down with a plop onto the desk then flipped it open scanning the pages with his finger. His finger came to a stop on a certain line.
"Mmmm yes. Holy Knight Pitri recently succeeded to full Holy Knight following Paragon the god of purging. He was indeed assigned to border town Itzes, the records say he recently arrived in the Capital a week before you under the business of gathering supplies."
"I have three witnesses available if you require testimony sir."
Farks waved his hand and laughed.
"No need Holy Knight Luna I trust your words in this matter and the fact that his town was destroyed and I haven't even received a report from him is telling enough of his guilt."
Farks scratched his chin in contemplation for a moment.
"Such an individual is unfitting for the organization, Paige!"
An attendant girl near the entrance popped her head in.
"Notify the guard to capture Holy Knight Pitri and strip him of his status as a Holy Knight then send him to the dungeon."
Paige bowed then left.
I raised my eyebrows in surprise. I wasn't expecting Farks to be so understanding, I expected him to take the side of the Holy Knight over the surviving trio for sure.
"My thanks Sir, I'm sure the trio will be happy to know justice was brought. What about the powerful item that was missing from the sacrifice spot?"
"That is quite a crucial aspect true, however at the moment we have no way of tracking it. I have assigned the issue to the Relic Collection Team within the Holy Knights. They will take the initial starting point to analyze sacrificial weapons currently in the vault and create a tool that can help track and identify them. Unfortunately that will take some time but at least we have a point to start thanks to Holy Knight Zera."
"All I do, I do for the Empire sir."
"Mmm, yes indeed. Now, onto more pressing matters. As you know with the recent loss of Bruckus there is a need for someone to advance and fill that spot. Holy Knight Luna your achievements these past years have caught our attention and we feel you are the most fitting candidate to advance."
"I'd be honored to give it a try sir."
Farks nodded then pulled out two pieces of parchment from his drawer and handed one to me and Zera.
"This is the detailed overview of the mission we plan to send you on. As you know the Empire tends to collect dangerous relics or artifacts and send them into our vault here in the Capital for safe keeping."
Zera and I nodded.
"One such relic had been located in an ancient crypt recently and was being transported back to the Capital via an armed caravan but the caravan never arrived, it was due three weeks ago."
"What kind of relic was being transported?"
"It was a small hand-held crucible that by all appearances would be meant for crushing up herbs or medicinal plants, however, the Relic Collection Team on duty found out that the crucible had the effect to magnify poison. Any poison made in the crucible would become a hundred times more deadly and spreadable, thus the Relic Collection Team deemed it to be a class A dangerous utility item and sent it back to the Capital to enter the vault."
"But it never made it."
"Indeed, once the caravan failed to show up or send word we sent out a scouting party only to find the remains of the looted caravan a week out within Empire lands."
"How many people had been guarding it."
"Twenty normal well trained foot soldiers and one Holy Knight of purging. They were all found dead on the scene."
Twenty soldiers and a Holy Knight were not an easy force to overcome and no large enemy forces could move within Empire borders without us knowing which meant this was the work of a powerful contracted individual.
"How did they die?"
"Poisoned, we found the signs of a campfire and meal prep, it seemed they died after consuming dinner."
"Hmmm, it seems a poison contracted individual took interest in this poison magnifying utility relic. But how did they know about it?"
"We suspect that individual worships a poison god and most likely knew about the item for a while but was waiting for the best moment to snatch it, the Relic Collection team could only spare one Holy Knight for guard duty and it wasn't a Holy Knight of healing so its a bad matchup against poison."
"This is quite problematic indeed, this item could enhance the poison contractors powers to a great deal, do we have any leads on who it might be?"
Farks shook his head.
"We have no leads on who the person could be, however we do have a way for you to track them."
Farks placed a small circular disk on the table, it had a small blue arrow pointing in one direction.
"Before the Relic Collection Team sent the relic into transit they had recorded its energy signatures, we imprinted this onto a tracking device and now this device will always point towards where the device traces lead."
Zera reached out and picked up the device, as she rotated the device it always pointed in the same direction.
"Does this device have a range."
"It's range is about one hundred kilometers however the issue is that once it gets within a few hundred meters of the source it won't be able to ascertain the specific location of the item, that's where you will have to do some investigation to find it."
"Hmm I see, this is quite a useful tool."
Farks nodded then rapped his knuckles on the desk.
"This item is extremely dangerous when it falls into the wrong hands and it already has, you two must go out and recover the item and eliminate this thief if possible. Be careful as one Holy Knight was already no match for this foe but if you wish to advance to Inquisitor this is a hurdle you must overcome."
"We will complete this without fail sir, I will go prepare two horses now so we can speedily pursue this thief, pardon me."
Zera got up and bowed slightly then left the room in a hurry, evidently she had been wrapped up in a sense of purpose with this mission and was excited to get going.
I stayed behind sitting watching Border Manager Farks, he had returned to scribbling notes in his large book.
The last words of Bruckus went through my mind.
'Damn that Border Manager for ordering me to keep things lax...'
After a few moments he realized I was still there and looked up at me curiously.
"Was there something else you needed Holy Knight Luna?"
"Sir, you wouldn't happen to have ordered Bruckus to keep the border army lax did you?"
Border Manager Farks stared at me with an emotionless face for a long time before putting down his pen then stroking his chin.
"Mmm no I don't believe I did, why would I give such an order anyways, that would mean I was purposely trying to decrease the Empire's defenses, that would make me a pretty bad Border Manager. Why do you ask?"
"I was just curious because I had noticed that troops were very lax at the border and Bruckus had mentioned being ordered to do it before he died."
I laughed coldly then waved my hand and leaned forward crossing my hands, looking closely at Border Manager Farks.
"However I knew I was probably mistaken, I mean the border being lax resulted in allowing the enemy to sneak attack us, many soldiers died and the border town of Itzes was massacred. Like you said, it would be very unsightly if it was the Border Manager who ordered that."
"Indeed it would be, but alas I never gave such an order, as you know, Bruckus was always the curious one, who knows if he was fully sane in the head."
Farks continued denying all claims with an emotionless face and I knew there was no way I could push it further now. In the end I didn't have any proof, and Farks wasn't giving me any reaction.
I nodded then got up to leave, I noticed that Farks never stopped looking at me as I walked towards the door. When I put my hand on the door handle the words of Pravus echoed in my mind.
There was still one thing I could try. Still facing the door I asked Farks one last question.
"Sir, you wouldn't happen to know what a 'War Quota' is would you?"
As soon as I said that sentence it felt as if the entire room's temperature had dropped below zero. Surprised by this feeling I turned and was surprised to see that Farks was staring at me with a cold expression, but just as quickly as it came Farks faced returned to emotionlessness and the cold feeling in the room faded.
"No, I've never heard of it."
I nodded slowly then opened the door to leave.
"I thought so, I will put my best foot forward to complete this task then ascend to Inquisitor Border Manager Farks."
As the door was closing I heard Farks call out.
"Indeed, I wish you the best Holy Knight Luna."
Then it closed shut and with it my hope that I had been mistaken about Brackus's last words were cut off.
Farks most definitely gave the order and he also knew about War Quotas, what exactly was going on I didn't know, but I did know hundreds were dead because of it.
For now I would finish this quest and ascend to Inquisitor.
And after, I intend to find out what the hell is going on in the Empire.
*Back inside Farks office a few minutes later*
Border Manager Farks stared emotionless at the closed door through which Holy Knight Luna had walked through for a long time, eventually he called out.
His female attendant opened the door and popped her head into his office.
"Tell the guards to send that captured Holy Knight Pitri to my office, I want to have a chat with him."
"Right away sir."
When the attendant left the room all that remained was Farks who had returned to scribbling notes in his book.
On his face a small dark smile had formed.