༺ A Horrid Puppet Show Starring the Progenitor – 5 ༻
The low rumbling of a beast echoed in the abyss and swept past our ears, striking our muscles with momentary convulsions. Me, the Regressor, and Finlay.
The Dog King always took the side of mankind, their closest companions, and never intervened in human quarrels, even if it meant shutting their eyes and blocking their noses… But when it came to blood-borne monsters, they didn’t show a shred of affection or trust. As such, in a battle between humans and vampires, Azzy was man’s most powerful ally.
She bared her fangs in the truest sense toward those who were once mortals.
Finlay yelped a hurried command, summoning forth a whole host of dark knights from the ground. Clad in black, sturdy armor, and wielding weapons of every kind, the dark knights stood guard over Finlay and the vampire.
Thud. The dark knights with darkness-coated tower shields took formation and blocked the front lines, while sharp lances protruded from their midst. They waited cautiously for the Beast’s approach, holding their breath. Should she make an impetuous advance, they would surround and hunt her down.
However… be it spear, shield, lance, armor, or dark knight, none of them could stop the King of Dogs.
Azzy pounced with a great howl. By the time they had registered her action, her figure was already in the middle of the dark knights. The Regressor lost sight of her in that second, and even the wind blew a beat late, unable to follow Azzy.
Snap. Azzy jerked her head up and one dark knight’s head flew up. The smoke that burst out instead of blood was black. So black. The Dog King signaled the start of a massacre with the dark knight’s life.
The front line turned their shields, the spearmen tried to change direction, swordsmen brandished their blades, and mace knights raised their arms high. But they couldn’t follow through with their attack— Azzy’s every move crushed their armor, shattered their weapons, and tore their black bodies asunder.
Her voice pierced the air with a warlike howl as she unleashed an onslaught of overwhelming violence upon her enemy. Azzy was a beast in human shape, a scourge to bloodfiends who toyed with corpses.
The blood of humans was a trigger. The smell of blood that belonged to the people dogs so dearly loved enraged their King. The Progenitor could conceal even the smell, for her mastery of bloodcraft had reached the peak, but not Finlay. This disgusted Azzy, provoking in her a desire for destruction.
A dark knight, caught by her claws, disintegrated like smoke. After crushing one enemy and ripping out the throat of another, she was onto her next foe, and then the next. It all happened so fast.
Looking at it simply, she was steadily defeating the knights, one strike at a time. But this occurred at such speed that it resembled an unfurling wildfire. Everywhere Azzy struck, the dark knights crumbled like a ripple, unleashing billows of smoke and splatters of blood.
Watching the swift decimation of the knights filled Finlay with horror.
“O Progenitor! That beast!”
At his cry, the vampire slowly waved her hand, bringing back the scattered darkness and blood to rise anew, forming a huge shape—a giant dark knight, towering at a height of 5 meters and clad in armor that was a meter thick, armed with a massive mace tempered in blood.
Just as Azzy sunk her fangs into the neck of a remaining dark knight, the giant brought his mace crashing down at a speed that defied his massive size. The heavy mace collided with Azzy’s head, causing a deafening shockwave that shattered concrete in all directions.
Then the tranquil aftermath of the tempest ensued. The echoes of collision faded into silence. My ears were filled with a cacophony of static. In the aftermath, only the settling rubble stirred.
Amidst the chaos, the giant dark knight twisted his mace halfway and thrust it forward. The attack was executed with the precision of a finishing move, short and powerful.
And when the giant dark knight lifted his arm, it revealed that the mace was gone from the middle.
Azzy, her four paws planted in the ground, raised her head. Clenched between her jaws was the other half of the giant’s massive mace, seemingly three times the size of her own body. Such weight and hardness would typically cause teeth to fracture and gums to weaken, yet Azzy effortlessly lifted her jaw, as if mouthing a mere toy, and shook it from side to side.
Thump, clank, crunch, snap.
The massive mace quivered with surreal intensity. As she shook her head, reminiscent of a dog shaking off water, everything within a 5m radius to her left splintered into a swirling cloud of dust and smoke. The remaining dark knights, the giant’s legs, and the concrete floor all proved equally powerless in the face of Azzy’s might.
Pulverization. That was the sole word capable of encapsulating the devastation that had unfolded.
Snap. The mace head broke off in the middle of it all, unable to withstand the force of Azzy’s shaking. Unaware, she went on shaking several more times before spitting out the mace, now only a stick, and glaring at Finlay and the vampire.
Faced with her ferocity, Finlay felt fear seep into his being. Then, consumed by fury at his own fear, he began to scream.
“It’s no use!! You’ve yet to see all of the Progenitor’s power!”
Finlay’s fanatic belief in the Progenitor gave rise to overflowing madness. He used his ability to grasp the vampire’s heart. Feeling her heart clench, the Progenitor’s body twitched for a moment. A fleeting ember of clarity flickered in her eyes, only to fade away.
With his temporary control over the Progenitor’s heart, Finlay forced the movement of the blood flowing in her.
“O Progenitor! May you show your power to that animal!!”
The dark knight legion was the greatest force at the vampire’s disposal that could be summoned without any preparation or risk. Although they couldn’t last even a moment in front of the Dog King, that wasn’t where their true value lay.
The scattered darkness began to gather into a cluster and formed a hole, from where a black arm suddenly emerged. It was a dark knight, clawing back to his feet. And the same thing happened in all the shadows existing in the abyss.
The dark knights who fell to Azzy’s claws and fangs rose again, one by one. In seconds, the dark knight legion had restored its original number. The resurrected knights stood off against the Dog King, their eyes gleaming red in their helmets.
“The dark knights will rise infinitely! They are puppets that can be recreated the moment you defeat them!!”
Finlay screamed wildly as he pointed a finger at Azzy, and the dark knights obeyed his command, beginning to march. They advanced on a single opponent. Even though they were many, the sight of the dark knights fearlessly daring to approach the Beast King was awe-inspiring.
“Be swept away by the ocean of blood, beast!!”
Finlay screamed again, spitting blood from his mouth, anticipating the King of Dogs to be worn down by the infinite numbers and ultimately fall.
But while Azzy had little intelligence, she wasn’t stupid. Azzy glared at a certain spot, instinctively drawn to the scent of blood. She growled deeply and lowered her body, planting her front paws on the ground. Her hind claws dug into the concrete as her front paws tensed. She was a predator low on her fours, preparing to leap.
Just as Finlay sensed something off, his ominous premonition became reality.
Azzy barked and pounced over, targeting the vampire who was sitting on her coffin and staring blankly at the situation. The moment her feet lifted, her figure was already springing toward the vampire. Her sharp claws tore through the darkness. Her outstretched arms were already so close. The Beast King’s unbridled ferocity loomed over the vampire’s frail and delicate form. Her attack was so intense that it seemed as though the vampire would be obliterated in an instant.
Finlay’s eyes bulged in their sockets.
Regardless, he wasn’t capable of stopping her. He couldn’t even register what was happening. All he could do was display belated astonishment in apprehension.
But in the blink of an eye, just as Azzy was about to plunge her claw into the vampire’s chest, a pair of crimson hooves descended upon her. She was sent flying back faster than she came.
Azzy’s body crashed halfway into the ground, only to rebound and rise low in the air. The sanguine steed twisted around and leaped above her, striking Azzy with its hooves the size of a human torso.
Thud. The sound of flesh meeting hoof was loud enough to reach me. Azzy soared through the air as if she were a small ball, faster than any ball I could throw at that. And in an instant, accompanied by the crumbling of bricks, the entire 3rd-floor wall of the prison transformed into a cloud of dust, beyond which Azzy disappeared.
The steed neighed after all was done.
The sanguine steed Ralion, the Progenitor’s first familiar who obeyed only her, had joined the fray upon sensing a threat to its master.
Finlay let out a pathetic laugh, akin to a man who had stumbled upon a flicker of hope amidst the depths of hell.
“Haha! Ralion! That’s right! You finally listen to my—”
Ralion cut him off with a disdainful snort. Yet even that was like a storm. Taken off guard, Finlay was sent hurtling through the air. He tumbled and rolled across the ground, eventually managing to right himself with great effort.
“You bastard! I control the Progenitor at this moment. I am regent! Since you are also her retainer, you must obey—!”
Naturally, the sanguine steed didn’t budge. It merely let out a forceful snort, gaze fixed on the spot where Azzy had disappeared.
Finlay was bewildered to see Ralion still in a battle-ready stance.
“Huh? Why are you…?”
The reason soon revealed itself. Jolted, Finlay turned his head slowly.
The earth rumbled. From a distance, somewhere on the prison’s 3rd floor, the enraged beast was making the world shake. Finlay’s face turned ashen.
“It can’t, be. How could she be unscathed after taking such a deadly blow?”
The King of Dogs. She was man’s greatest friend, a beast of unchanging loyalty… and a hunter born with the talent to take down enemies.
Finlay had misunderstood something. The reason the Dog King hated vampires was their undead nature. Even humans recoiled at the sight of lifeless corpses. How could dogs, with their heightened sense of smell, accept the presence of walking corpses emanating the scent of their fallen companions?
But her hate was merely a repulsion and didn’t translate into an unwavering resolve to eliminate an enemy. The ferocity that made her a beast wasn’t aimed at vampires themselves.
“…I can’t believe it. You still had more power left, Dog King?”
Against a beast for an opponent, the Dog King transformed into a hunter.
A fleeting figure soared into the sky, leaving behind a swirling trail of dust in its wake. The speed was so incredible that the dust clouds spun in a frenzy.
The blood that formed Ralion’s body partially erupted. Half of its neck, along with its flowing mane, disappeared as splatters of blood stained the ground below.
Azzy gracefully touched down behind the steed, expelling a mouthful of bloody flesh. The torn remnants plopped onto the ground.
Ralion let out a pained whinny, staggering heavily from the lethal wound, but only briefly.
The remnant flesh melted into its shadow, and in the blink of an eye, its neck had fully regenerated. It had harnessed the power of the Progenitor to heal itself.
Despite recently losing part of its neck, Ralion continued to glare at Azzy, its combat spirit still aflame. It pawed the ground, tearing into the concrete and unearthing the solid surface.
Azzy appeared just as baleful. She barked in discontent that Ralion still standing strong despite the wound she dealt. She stood tall, claws digging into the ground.
The two beasts held that standoff for a few seconds, and then, as if in unspoken agreement, released a simultaneous battle cry. Howling and neighing, they charged toward each other.
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