Through the snow Fertig moved his way towards his resolution, the snowfall was 6 inches tall with more inches to come. There were explosions accompanied by gunfire in the background from the valley nearby but that didn’t bother him, he just concealed himself in the forest and continued walking.
In just a month of searching he pinpointed the location of his prey at the most Northern parts of Wachstum and due to the battles and unpredictable skirmishes taking place here there was no way the criminal would make his way out alive, the bounty on his head was too high for anyone to ignore.
“Well look at this.” the lead bandit said to his second in command as he handed him the telescope.
“What an idiot walking alone. We won’t even have to use our weapons to get his things. I wonder what he has.” his subordinate replied while looking through the telescope.
“That’s an odd cloak he’s wearing. Seen one of those in paintings, it looks like a 15th century hooded cloak, not as long though.”
“Sounds like the man knows his clothing.” his subordinate then took a closer look and noticed that he was armed, “Looks like he has an army sword, sure as hell he isn’t in the army though.”
“Fool must have fought in the civil war like me. I’d hate to steal from a brother but it is how it is. Signal to the others.”
The bandits made their move and he stood firm and still. Two groups of five in front of him rose up from the snow and started to walk towards him shoulder to shoulder with lever rifles in hand, their leader and his team however came from behind he, they had to jog a bit to reach a favorable distance from him but they didn’t mind much, they knew their prey wouldn’t budge.
“They must have settled for me after all.” he thought to himself. The two bandit groups in the front walked just close enough to keep a good shooting distance to pacify their victim if he were to run and their leader of course just kept walking behind him to loot him.
“Alright! You know the drill.” the lead bandit said once he was close enough, he walked with his finger on the trigger and barrel resting on his shoulder. “Hand over what you have and we’ll let you live.”
He had no response despite the fact that thirteen rifles were pointed at him.
“Come on don’t be stupid. We already outgun you, there’s no way you could kill us all.”
Still no response. The leader of the bandits sighed.
“Alright, he must be frozen in fear or the ice got to his brain.” he tilted his head to indicate to his right hand man to forcefully steal from him however that isn’t going to be what happens.
“Huh?” before his right hand man could get close enough the snow rose from the ground and an intense wind swirled around them causing a wide and dense snow devil that obscured the view of the bandit riflemen along with their leader.
He had casted a wind and water spell beneath his feat, the last thing the bandits would have expected. He quickly turned his sword’s sheath sideways then pulled it out with his right hand and slit the throat of the criminal in front of him in one motion. He then sprinted towards one of the bandit groups in front of him.
The snow devil was still active and hid his rapid advance, once he was close enough he used another air spell to charge at his enemies and closed the gap between them with haste. He boldly chose to put down the criminal in the center of their formation and lunged his sword at him, before any of them had much time to react he quickly shifted both his feet towards the enemy on his left and slashed the criminal behind him in a full stroke and aligned his sword with his right shoulder, he quickly turned his head and lunged for the criminal in front of him, due to the extra leverage space from the other attack it gave the lunge extra penetration power.
His next target was the one in front of him. He sprinted again but this time his opponent caught wind of what was going on and aimed his rifle right at him and he was close. Too close. Before the he could aim down with his iron sights but his opponent made a sudden change in his direction. He pushed off with his left foot and went diagonal towards the right. When both feet hit the ground he cut the barrel of the rifle crosswise towards his left shoulder and moved his left foot towards the right to support the movement. With his sword now over his left shoulder he slashed the stomach of the criminal and if his timing was right he was nearly in the firing line of the bandit behind. Then Fertig tactical rolled forcing the bandit rifleman to quickly adjust his aim again but it was in vain.
Once again he used the spell from before and quickly closed the gap, he pierced the enemy’s heart and grabbed the barrel of his gun with his left hand and stole it from him he then dropped his sword and put his right hand on the gun’s with his index finger on the trigger.
“Guys what the hell is going on?” the bandits tried to reason with what had happened.
“I can’t bloody see anything what happened?”
“Idiot it couldn’t be.”
“Wait, the snows clearing up now. Where’s the other team…” he looked to direction that the other group should have been in.
Fertig took a kneeling position and when the snow was just clear enough to see the other side he pulled the trigger. Naturally his first target was the one who looked his way first. Despite being in solitude for eight months his precision was flawless. He shot off three bullets each one hitting the enemy and then ran towards a tree, naturally the remaining two detected his position and started fire his way.
"Stop!" the lead bandit yelled after shooting him with the most accurate shot so far. "Put down your rifles, it's over. You win, take what you like." the two remaining put down their weapons with hesitation, the leader of the bandits realized what the his enemy was, a former Caster in the Common Army and one of the first Investigators the Delegation created. Fertig had no interest in spoils and put his rifle down and continued down his path.
Fertig finally made his way through the forest and into a farming town. He walked around in search for an inn and to his luck there was one close to the outskirts of the town. As he approached the inn he could hear voices in the inside along with some live entertainment.
He opened the door and casually walked in. The lively inn turned silent and stared at the stranger and spoke silently. Fertig paid no attention to them, he simply walked and sat down at the bar a seat away from a young woman. The owner of the inn approached him, he had seen more odd figures in his life and didn't really find this 'too' unusual.
"What would you like?" he asked.
"Whatever is warm." Fertig replied has he placed a silver coin on the table. Nowadays most people carried around checks or paper money but a silver coin was also greatly appreciated. The owner poured him some warm alcohol and took the coin which was proof that the stranger did not want trouble and the noise slowly picked up.
"So where are you from lad?"
"I'm the type that does a lot of wondering." Fertig said as he picked up the glass. He nearly drank all of it, warmth never tasted better.
"You know they say there's no place like home."
"My home is Wachstum."
"Speaking of Wachstum, how'd you even get here? You know there's fighting going on." the owner finally decided now would be the most reasonable time to ask without sounding indecent.
"A full battle between the Delegation's 2nd army, 16th Battalion against the Restorationist's 5th Legion."
"How'd you make it here?"
"Walked through the forest." the noise in the inn had finally picked back up to it's former self, seeing that the stranger was no real threat over a short time was all they needed to continue their socializing and fun.
"Normally there are bandits out there looking to ambush injured soldiers in battles like those." the owner said as he poured more alcohol in his glass.
"Is that so? Seems like I chose the right road."
"I guess so."
"I see you have an old service rifle." Fertig pointed out, the owner had it leaning against the counter out of sight. Due to the fact that Fertig never took his off his hood and had most of his face concealed the owner was impressed, "What's your story old man?"
"I fought against the crown." he said as he put his hand on the counter and looked up to think, "It was 27 years ago. I served as one of the high rebel officers in the Central Campaign but that was a long time ago. After the war I met my wife, settled down, had two kids, and now I'm just the owner of this inn. Not bad huh?"
"Not bad at all." Fertig said in agreement.
"And what about you?" the girl next to Fertig looked at him, she could no longer just eavesdrop, he was too interesting, "What's your story?" without looking at her he replied.
"There isn't much to my story. I grew up in a small village and joined the Common Army when I was 18." A reason, an excuse, and a story, although not necessarily in that order it was all he needed to keep suspicion off him in the long run. News of Wachstum's best investigator sent to kill the greatest criminal in the nation then having shady character going place to place was no way to hunt a criminal.
"Is that so? I think there's more to it than that." she asserted, the owner on the other hand had moved on to tend to the orders of other guests.
"There isn't. I just wonder, looking for a piece of mind I'll never find."
"Why is that?"
"Saw a lot of people die for no reason. That's all."
"Oh… I'm sorry, I shouldn't have..." she looked down realizing she was once again being intrusive.
"My brother is a soldier in the Common Army. He's been gone for a while." not the best trade of stories but it was something.
"I'm sure he'll come back in one piece."
"I hope so." the owner came back around with more alcohol but Fertig declined it by signaling stop with his hand.
"I don't intend on drinking heavy." he reached inside his coat and pulled out another silver coin. "I'd like a room" the owner took the coin and inspected it more closely.
"Last room on the 4th floor." the owner took a key out of his pocket and handed it to him.
"Thank you." Fertig stood up.
"Wait, what's your name?" the girl asked.
Authors Note: The last line is actually a SCP reference.