Chapter 91 – A Compound’s Security

Chapter 91 – A Compound’s Security

“Ah, Dean Wrikax. It’s nice to finally meet you.”

“That’s what they all say…” Davídrius muttered as he stepped past Colonel Saito and opened the door to his office. “Let’s get this done.”

“…Right,” Saito deadpanned, remaining outside the doorway for just a few moments as he stared incredulously at the Dean’s back. Before he entered the office himself, however, a woman of average height approached, sporting naturally tanned skin, long black hair tied back into a ponytail, and the same white, beige, and brown desert robes as the rest of the Tresnon denizens Saito had seen. The one key difference with this woman, however, were the black gloves she wore that went up just past her wrists.

“Sorry ‘bout him,” the woman commented quietly as she passed Saito to enter the office herself. “You get used to it.”

“Not exactly encouraging,” Saito muttered under his breath, though finally stepped into the office himself and closed the door behind him. While this was the first time he had seen the woman sharing the room with him and Davídrius, the Colonel nonetheless knew her to be Ralak, WCU’s Head of Combat. When Saito had arranged to meet with Davídrius to discuss the Keys and current events, Davídrius had insisted on having Ralak present, to help “provide insight.” Saito wondered what this insight could be, but with everything he had heard from Captain Travis about the events on Nimalia, he could guess well enough.

“A’ight…” Davídrius took a seat behind his desk, which seemed barely large enough to properly classify as a “desk”. The office around it was similarly austere, to the point that Saito wasn’t certain if Davídrius ever actually used the room — but those idle thoughts were pushed away as the Dean continued speaking. “You wanted to talk about the… ‘Keys’, huh?” Davídrius remarked, briefly passing Ralak a glance as she leaned on the side wall before shifting his attention back to Saito, who was standing across the desk from him. “And about the ‘situation’ here.”

“That’s right,” Saito replied. “I’ve heard that things are getting a little wild, lately.”

“’Wild’ is overstatin’ it,” Davídrius responded, “…but I can’t argue that somethin’s up.”

“The Bleeders are definitely up to something,” Ralak stated.

“So I’ve heard,” Saito remarked. “The recruits ran into Bleeders once just a few hours out of here, again over in Relédiaka… and then again, just recently, in Riverana.”

“You even heard about that one…” Davídrius muttered. “Tch. You ‘bout to try and grill me, just like that other guy did last month?”

“I’d certainly like some answers. Without context, it seems like you’re carelessly placing our recruits into danger all over the globe. That said,” Saito quickly added, pre-empting Davídrius as the Dean opened his mouth to speak, “I know your history, and I’m not about to call the former members of Hero Machina ‘careless’. I’m sure there’s context — I just want to hear it. Maybe the recruits are farther along in their training than I expected?”

“You’d have to ask Kaoné ‘bout that one,” Davídrius replied. “She’s the one in charge of teachin’ ‘em. From what she’s said, they’ve been makin’ decent progress, but still ain’t no where near the level of skill that would be useful in an actual fight.”

“So you say, but the recruits have all already been in a couple of fights before they even arrived on Nimalia.”

“So? Newbies get lucky all the time. I sure did, back when I first started out.”

“Let me take over for a second,” Ralak interjected, drawing both mens’ attention to her. “I’ve only worked with the recruits directly once, but I’m still the Head of Combat, so I’ve been filled in ‘bout where they stand. And…” She passed Saito a doubtful glance. “…I’ve heard they only got their Chaotic abilities a few months ago. Is that right?”

“All the facts seem to point that way,” the Colonel replied.

“…Well, if that’s true, they’re doin’ much better than expected. I still wouldn’t put them on par with other students the same age as them, but in raw combat ability, most of ‘em could beat any 1st- or 2nd-year student in a fight. So about on the level of a 3rd-year, if a little below.”

“That doesn’t sound very impressive…”

“Even 1st-year students here have been usin’ their abilities for seven or eight years,” Davídrius pointed out. “And while WCU ain’t as selective as the other Schools of Chaos, it still takes skill and hard work to make it here.” He then nodded toward Ralak. “I trust her judgment. If she thinks the Keys are on the same level as 3rd-year students, then they’re on the same level as 3rd-year students. And for all the attitude problems the Keys got, that kinda progress is impressive.”

“You keep calling them ‘Keys’,” Saito interjected. “That term is from those prophecies, right? I heard from the Captain that you weren’t a fan of them. Did that change?”

“Tch…” Davídrius snorted in irritation. “No. The old man’s prophecies are still just as stupid as ever. Kaoné was the one who started callin’ ‘em Keys, and… it just stuck. Don’t really have anythin’ else to call ‘em by.”

“Well, it’s succinct and evocative, at least. I think I like it. That aside…” Saito glanced between Davídrius and Ralak. “If you think the Keys are as skilled as you say, is that why you’ve been putting them in danger?”

“I ain’t intentionally puttin’ anyone in danger,” Davídrius quickly countered. “Their run-ins with the Bleeders were entirely unexpected… and, to be honest, the main reason I agreed to talk with you today.”


“Tch. Look, I ain’t the biggest fan of outsiders comin’ in and meddlin’ with my business, not least of all members of a foreign military. That said…” The Dean momentarily cast his eyes to the side, as if stewing over his thoughts. A moment later, he continued, “I do realize the Keys’ve been gettin’ in more trouble than I’d like, and I’d like to… apologize for that.”

“I appreciate the apology, but it ultimately doesn’t mean much if you don’t do anything to change how things stand.”

“You think I don’t know that?” Davídrius retorted with a scowl. “Look, the Bleeders — and to a lesser extent, the Nanocreatures — are the central threat. Until we deal with that, the Keys’ll never be completely safe — hell, ain’t no one completely safe, here.”

“I take it that’s why Ralak is here, then?” Saito questioned. “To talk about the Bleeder threat?”

“So you know my history, then…” Ralak muttered.

“Sorry, but I heard from Captain Travis. From Luke.” The Colonel passed Ralak an apologetic smile before returning to a neutral expression and turning back to face Davídrius. “Let me ask you a question first, though. If the Keys aren’t safe here, then why not just transfer them elsewhere? There are other Schools of Chaos, aren’t there?”

“Tch…” Davídrius’s brow furrowed and he crossed his arms, frustration emanating from his every movement and expression. “WCU ain’t the only one, no,” the Dean answered, “but the whole reason the Keys are here an’ not somewhere else—“

“—Is because it would be politically inconvenient for them to be somewhere else?” Saito finished. When surprise crossed Davídrius’s face, the Colonel continued, “from what I’ve heard, the Schools of Chaos are supposed to be prestigious, selective institutions. I bet the Keys were placed here instead of elsewhere because, no matter where they go, they’d be accused of displacing Nimalian students — it’s just that it’s easier to hide the Keys from the general Nimalian public by putting them in Treséd rather than anywhere else. Am I right?”

“…Heh.” Davídrius adopted a bitter smile. “You’re more savvy than I expected. But if you knew the answer, then why bother askin’?”

“I wanted to see if we were on the same page,” Saito replied with a similar smile. “I wasn’t sure if Nimalians would actually be that cynical. I must say, for former heroes of the galaxy, following that logic to put the Keys in WCU is a pretty cold, if calculated move.”

“Implyin’ that WCU is worse than elsewhere aside… I agree. Not to mention how fuckin’ ironic it is, that everyone looks down on Treséd for bein’ wary of outsiders, only for them to force outsiders on us because they don’t want the fuckin’ outsiders… it’s fuckin’ stupid.”

“And yet, you still accepted them,” Saito commented. “Despite what you’ve said about outsiders, you still help them out the same as anyone else. That’s commendable, in it’s own way.”

“Huh?” Davídrius stared incredulously at the Colonel, only to quickly divert his gaze and begin uneasily scratching his beard. “…Tch. Not like I had a choice to take ‘em in.”

Saito chuckled to himself. “Heh. If you insist.”

“Not often someone can put Davídrius on the back foot like that,” Ralak remarked with a smirk. “But let’s get to the main topic, we’ve wasted enough time.”

“Yes… the Bleeders.” Saito’s expression quickly turned stern. “I’ve already heard everything you told Travis, so we don’t need to rehash everything. With the situation being what it is, though — that is, with the Keys effectively locked to WCU for the time being — I think it’d be in both of our best interests to put this emergent threat to rest. So if you have plans to deal with the Bleeders, I’d like to hear them, and help out, if I can.”

Davídrius and Ralak exchanged a brief glance. “…We still don’t know much,” Ralak began, “the Bleeders captured in Relédiaka and Riverana ain’t talked much — or at least, if they have, we haven’t been told. So we still don’t know where they got their armors from, or how that one idiot in Riverana got past trained security to steal an Ayas.”

“Can’t even fault Kievkenalis for that one,” Davídrius commented. “He’s been tryin’ to replace the SFC guards with NSD ones for years, now. At least that accident a few days ago should help ‘im show just how stupid and incompetent the SFC is, heh.”

“Is it possible the SFC was in on it?” Saito questioned. “The Ayas are powerful tools, after all. I wouldn’t put it past a PMC to work with criminals to steal one.”

“Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised, but the accident only happened a few days ago. They’re still lookin’ into it.”

“It would explain how the Bleeders suddenly got powered armor,” Ralak pointed out, “but it also seems too sloppy. Like someone wants us to think it’s the SFC.”

Saito passed Ralak a wary glance. “Are the Bleeders smart enough to do that?”

“Normally, I’d say ‘hell no’, but…” Davídrius sighed. “…Somethin’s definitely been weird about their activity these past couple months.”

“The Bleeders ain’t a centralized group, you see,” Ralak explained to Saito, “usually, ‘Bleeder’ is just a name that different gangs all across the continent take for themselves to try an’ give themselves some rep. It’s an easy way to tell others where you stand, and what your intentions are: stealin’, rapin’, and pillagin’.”

“Hell of a thing to advertise,” Saito remarked.

“Yeah, well, the Bleeders work mostly through fear. They don’t have to try as hard to steal from a Compound if their reputation scares the people into just givin’ up their stuff,” Ralak commented bitterly. “But what I’m tryin’ to say is that normally, different groups of Bleeders don’t work together. Recently, though, it seems like they are. Like there’s someone behind the scenes, coordinatin’ everythin’.”

“That would make sense. But, as much as a central leader is a strength, it can also be a weakness,” Saito pointed out. “If we take out the person that’s holding things together, then their whole operation should fall apart.”

“Agreed,” Davídrius replied with a nod. “Only problem is, we still ain’t found that person. I’ve heard a couple rumors about some new Chaotic the Bleeders have with ‘em, known as ‘Feral’, but I don’t got any idea if they’re the leader or a lackey.”

“Which also makes me worry…” Ralak muttered. “Most Bleeders are all about gettin’ their name out there, and bein’ recognized. They don’t got the patience or ego to hide.” She then passed Davídrius an uneasy glance. “I only know one other person who did…”

“…You ain’t talkin’ about Strén, are you?” Davídrius remarked incredulously. “That bastard did the opposite of hidin’!”

“Only after he first revealed himself. Before that, he pulled a bunch of different groups together without actually puttin’ his name out,” Ralak countered. “I would know, because my group was one of ‘em.”


“Who’s Strén?” Saito questioned.

“An old figure from over 20 years ago,” Ralak replied with a scowl. “Managed to pull together one of the largest groups of Bleeders in recent history. Almost had enough to threaten even Compound Tresnon… until he died, thanks to Davídrius and his friends.”

“Bastard deserved worse,” the Dean snarled.

“Men like him often inspire copy-cats,” Saito pointed out. “If he was around only two decades ago, then there’s a good chance that whoever’s behind the Bleeders today knew Strén back then.”

“Even if that’s true, it still doesn’t get us anywhere,” Davídrius replied. “It ain’t like we got some kind of comprehensive list of every Bleeder everywhere. Hell, I don’t think such a list even exists of people livin’ in Tresnon, or anywhere in Treséd. For the time bein’, we can’t focus on that line of thought.”

“What else are you planning to do, then?”

“Shitty as it sounds… not much, for now. We need more info, on where the Bleeders are, and what they’re up to. I’d especially like to know more about this ‘Feral’ person, but we don’t got any leads on that, right now. These next couple weeks are gonna be a problem on their own, anyways…”

“Why’s that?”

“Spring Break and Hunger’s Bane always bring more people through Compound Tresnon,” Ralak answered. “This place might have walls, but there’s still only so much we can do to screen people who come or go. And we can’t just completely bar people from comin’ in, it would go against Tresnon’s established principles…”

“I see…” Saito nodded in understanding. “So a Bleeder Chaotic could enter the city, pretending to be here for the holidays, and then cause trouble once they’re inside.”

“That’s exactly it,” Davídrius replied. “Now… it’s unfortunate that Kaoné left for the break, but a couple other friends of mine are gonna be visitin’ for Hunger’s Bane. Between them, me, and Ralak, and Selind to lead the Defense Force, we already got plenty of heavy-hitters to watch the place. Not to mention a whole school full of Chaotic students, but I’d really prefer not to drag them into this… best to leave this kind of thing to professionals and experienced folks. That’s where you come in.”

“Let me guess. You’d like my squad to help with security?”

“…Much as it pains me to ask, yeah. I was gonna ask that Gavon guy, too.”

“Heh. What happened to being wary of outsiders?”

“’Wary’ doesn’t mean ‘absolute distrust’,” Davídrius countered. “I know competent help when I see it, and it ain’t often that I get folks like you or your Eximius Vir in Compound Tresnon.”

“I see. I have to be upfront with you, though — my team and I have been working almost nonstop for months, now. The two weeks we have on Nimalia were meant to be, for the most part, a break.”

“The main traffic increase is around Hunger’s Bane, and the couple of days before and after,” Ralak stated. “We only really need your help for those days — or even just for Hunger’s Bane itself.”

“I don’t even need y’all to do full-on patrols,” Davídrius said. “I’m sure Selind would appreciate it if you took a shift or two on the walls, but ultimately, all I’d like is for you to keep a look out as you spend your time here, and report any suspicious activity immediately. And if you think you can stop it in the moment, then you can try that, too.”

“…Well, we are the guests, here. It’d be awfully rude of me to refuse even as little aid as you’re suggesting,” Saito remarked. “I’ll let my team know. We’ll keep a look out for any of these Bleeders.”

“Thanks. I appreciate it.”

“Same to you. I know you don’t like us Earthians being around, but I appreciate that you at least trust us enough to inform us about the Bleeder threat, and to ask us for help.”

“…Tch.” Davídrius snorted. “Don’t think pretty words are gonna make me think better of you.”

“Didn’t expect it,” Saito remarked with a smirk.

“Yeah, yeah, whatever,” Davídrius replied dismissively. “That covers everythin’ you wanted to talk about, yeah?”

“That it does. Thanks for your time,” Saito responded, turning to leave the office. “I’ll keep in touch about the security issues. But for now, I have a couple other stops to make…”