like blood on snow - Chapter 1 - Skiptripp - 原神 (2023)

chapter text

The first thing he does is inhale and exhale.

To inspire.

The sky is obscured by streaks of pounding snow that falls to the ground without the gentleness one would expect in winter. Gusts of wind howl in his ear, tirelessly twisting and twisting the angry purple locks pressed to his skull.


The snow crunches, muffled under sharp black boots. The air crackles with the cracking of obsidian chains, the turbulent silence turning into a chorus of screams and helpless screams that are quickly broken. Chains loop around the flesh, tightening their grip while a broad clay sword slices to create an artistic touch of purple in the monochrome landscape.

A hideous shade of red matches the ruby ​​stones and detailing in the greatsword's quartz hilt, traces of guts and entrails spilling from the blade edge like a wolf licking its lips after a hearty meal.

The blade is hungry, the chains are hungry. Both attack their prey with masterful coordination. A perfect dance, staged by a man with such brutality that it could only be fueled by inner conflict.

Only then can he still the restless, burning emptiness that gnawed at his core, its white-hot tendrils enveloping every fiber of his muscle. every cell. Every thought and every word. Rough glow in your veins. Sparks fly in her scarlet eyes.

As the chains and sword fill with bleeding, the equally blood-soaked man surveys the fruits of his labor. An act of slaughter; Not a single servant survived.

Good, because they didn't deserve to breathe, the man thinks – the words are so clearfastleave your lips His fists and jaw clench as the thought echoes in inorganic silence. The void keeps flashing. He craves more, and his weapons would soon call for more sinew and blood to gnash his metal teeth.

He has to feed her - but for that a hunt has to begin. A path to follow, information to gather. Only then can he locate his next target.

The Fatui tent is several meters from where he was previously standing, and he carefully picks his way through the grisly debris of his own creation to get inside. The gentle way he avoids the dismembered limbs and heaps of organs and tissue is a hilarious contrast to the merciless and wanton method of his murderous rage.

He reaches the tent opening, lifts the flap to enter, and finds fresh sheets of paper scattered around – he wonders if they were scattered by the wind or the officers' surprise when he broke into the camp a few minutes earlier. .

The brown-clad rebel picks up as many relevant pages as he can and flips through them with a sense of urgency.

He squints at the crude letters - he has yet to become fluent in the nearly three years he has traversed this inhospitable country - and selects the few letters he recognizes to decipher his hunt, the leads him further east. That's all he needs to know.

Leaving tent and papers behind, he weaves his way through half-frozen corpses again with the agility of a dancer. They are hardly recognizable as people.

He thinks the gory display is an example of the organization he so bitterly despises; Wrapped in a bow of scattered guts and painted in the color that represents everything he hates but encapsulates his entire identity.

His horse waits patiently in a quiet wooded area a quarter of a mile up the road, turning his head and pricking up his ears to thank his master. He whinnies softly, ignoring the man's actions, and gently nudges his shoulder.

"Thanks for waiting," he murmurs to the bay, gently untying the reins from the log he's tied them to. In contrast to the countless bodies he left behind, man reserves his gentle side to the animals.

His horse is a faithful steed given to him by his father as a child; They grew up together and formed a lifelong bond that has stood the test of time — especially now that they've been so far from home.

Come to think of it, your foster brother got a horse too. They galloped through the vineyard they both called home, hacking into puddles of mud and slashing their wooden swords at tiny cryogenic slimes that lurked on the lake shore, pretending to be the horsemen they had become.

The wooden swords were soon replaced by sharpened steel swords, and their horses were decked out with the proper gear befitting their position as defenders of their nation. Their father was exceedingly proud and hugged his children with all the luck in the world.

Oh, how times have changed. But he already knows that.

He frowns softly as he pulls down the stirrups. From time to time, memories of her home, her childhood and her family come to mind. He's not sure why. It's as if the emptiness is driving him toward destruction while reminding him that he's still human.

He became no shell, no soulless monster.At least not yetHe remembers, moving forward and upward as he settles into the saddle. Constantly battling the dark, baleful flame that lights his chest, he always matches his capricious temper to yours.

Why upset him with memories that are irrelevant to him now? Your father has been dead for three years. Your brother could be, too. He has no one but himself and the animal that carries him around so faithfully.

Just say these words to yourself. The darkness retracts its tentacles and curls into the scarlet man's core to sleep as he urges his mount to a steady gallop. The two journey into a forest that stretches endlessly beyond them, their bodies shadowed in the strong embrace of dull wood.

The snow-covered trees keep their secrets. The hard foliage muffles the hoofbeats that echo on the forest floor. The birds perch on low and high branches as if watching someone behind them.

The man trusts that the thicket of the forest with its bark and bristly undergrowth will protect him.

The news of the massacre in the Fatui camps first reaches the surrounding villages. At first it's just a whisper, muffled between people. A single spark is sown, flint is struck. An ember glows and in its place a small flame arises - the word spreads and soon a fire of rumors has extinguished any possibility of ignorance.

Everyone knows.

Our neighbor found the bodies just five miles from here the other villager tells another in a hushed voice. It's as if talking loudly about the rebel evokes his presence. Nobody wants to incur your wrath.He says he was marked for life. It can't be a human's work. It must be a demon, he swears by it.

So the “Crimson Ghost” is a name that sends shivers down your spine when you say it. Aptly named for the demon's violent displays, the number of tents soaked in blood and mutilated human remains reaches an all-time high. Now even larger cities listed on the country map will receive news of the Phantom's ruthless carnage.

It's no surprise that Cryo Archon eventually finds out about the crimes himself. As the loving mother figure of her nation, she takes pride in protecting and embracing her people. Their children.

Of course, when a mother's children are slaughtered with no end in sight, her mercy is at an end. Her temper cracks in the same way the surface of a foot chips on frozen ice.

A messenger from her throne kneels before her and delivers the rumors that have come true. The woman in an alabaster robe, platinum blonde locks falling around her shoulders, listens with matchless stoicism. She thanks them for their duty and they leave the room.

Once they're gone, her knuckles curl to brilliant white and a growl tugs at her tender lips. People seem to assume that the rage of an unleashed fire is the deadliest element; but they would be fools, for they bear no witness to a bearer of eternal frost.

The Archon is determined to capture this murderer, this corrupt smut that dares to tarnish the purity of his alabaster kingdom. She enlists a very unusual candidate for her mission; his latest herald, the Twelfth.

Although he is naive, inconsiderate and rude, the woman sees her own bloodlust as an asset. Your will to fight is endless, like an ocean that never dries up. She smiles softly as the copper haired young boy kneels in front of her. A token of your respect. His loyalty is etched into the Fatui insignia that adorns his fur-lined cloak.

"Tartaglia," she says, prompting him to get up. "I have a top priority mission for you."

She trusts that he will get through this. He's already worried and she can almost see the twinkle of excitement in his bleary eyes as she explains her goals.

They're actually pretty simple; Capture the Crimson Phantom - alive, the Tsarina claims - and bring him back to the palace. He must stand trial for his crimes against her people, and it seems he will give this rebel the quickest and easiest death penalty on the spotremovedvery painless. She needs to see this monster with her own eyes.

"He will suffer for his betrayal," she whispers, her words forming icicles. "He will pay for mocking my nation and embarrassing my army."

"Understood, Your Majesty," you Twelfth Harbinger replies softly. It's a phrase he's said thousands of times in his ministry. His smile exudes confidence and betrays his arrogance. Confident and rather smug; charming traits that show a woman that she has chosen the perfect soldier for the job.

She dismisses him and he quickly leaves the magnificent room. The Archon herself smiles; She knows he won't let her down. The phantom doesn't realize what it expects; The murderous fool may have his darkness, which he handles tactfully, but so does his harbinger.

The Abyss was not kind to the boy, but bestowed on him a power that put him a step ahead of mortals. His thirst for violence and bloodshed make him a relentless watchdog - and she lets go of the leash.

Find him at all costs, dear Tartaglia,she whispers. Snowflakes begin to fall from its crystalline roof.

Hundreds of kilometers away, the scarlet-haired rebel checks into a small, remote inn. An endless snowstorm is raging in front of the building, causing the windows to shake and creak from the force of the wind.

It's pitch black and the lobby is lit only by a few oil lamps spread across several tables. Nobody in this humble village recognized him, at least not at the moment.

Still, with one hand he pulls the black cloak he wears close to his body, while with the other he drops a few mora into the innkeeper's outstretched palm. He avoids eye contact as much as possible and turns to climb the shabby wooden staircase as the landlord bids him good night.

Man always knew he had a target on his back. It's been painted on him since he came to this barren land; He gained a keen sense of alertness and security, the result of experience.

When he began his vengeance mission, his crimes could be dismissed as isolated incidents - but there's no denying that he's now left a mark, a pattern to follow.

Maybe there was a point in his time here when he thought about quitting - maybe the carnage he's caused won't work. Perhaps tearing the delirium-fueled chains and hell from his clay sword did him more harm than good.

The lingering smoke and metallic smell of human blood are odors that haunt him - but they feed the emptiness inside him so well, quelling the hate and anger that comes with it. He never bothered to grapple with this internal dilemma. Let the darkness feast - somehow it makes you feel more complete.

His head keeps spinning as he enters the decaying room. He locks the door and checks every drawer and corner for possible evidence of a conspiracy against him. He runs his hand over the top shelf of a crumbling dresser. Satisfied that there is nothing out of the ordinary about her, he then lights a small candle on the bedside table.

The heat, while slight, is better than freezing in this uninsulated chamber, the man suspects. It's a repetitive routine, but for him it's necessary. Eyes are everywhere, and even in such an isolated location, the hairs on the back of his neck still stand up.

It never hurts to be careful - if he misses something, it could be the beginning of his downfall.

From the few hours of sleep to which he is accustomed, he rarely rests. The years he has spent traversing this land of eternal winter have not improved his well-being; Paranoia etches itself in the crevices of his sunken, holy eyes, the result of his sleep deprivation. The obsidian thing lodged in his chest only grows heavier and darker—a tumor that feeds on his hate and loathing.

There is no doubt that the man is beyond exhausted, both physically and mentally; However, your retaliation will take precedence. For his father, for everything he lost that day. He was little more than a child, a promising rider - and yet they didn't care.

They didn't caremere boyhad to put his own father out of his misery as he suffered from the illusion they created - the illusion that ironically now sits on his right hand. You got onemere boyand forced him to play the role of a murderer. He is defiled, his soul rotted by the plague that has taken root in their raging host.

I was stupidatNothing remained of him but the shell of what he could have been.

He can't really rest until he burns them all to ashes.

As he lies down on the wire bed - fully clothed and ready to run at any moment - his eyes close and he falls into a fitful, fitful sleep.

He remembers him and his brother playing hide-and-seek among the vines that dotted the estate's fields.

They spent their childhood days in the heat of the sun, surprising each other with ambushes among tangled vines. Big smile with gaps in your teeth. Bubbling laughter vibrates in the air - it's a sound of pure, unbroken joy.

Today the boy crouches in a spot more overgrown than elsewhere, watching for signs of his brother's approach.

He's sure he won't be found; Nestled between chartreuse vines and a large supply wagon, he thinks he's found the perfect hiding place. Until it wasn't so secret anymore.

"I have you!" Her brother calls and breaks her trance. Kaeya pulls herself across the thin wooden trellis that holds the vines in place and brushes back the sky-blue strands of her shoulder-length hair. He leaps up to glare at the fire-headed child as he lands on his feet and grins from ear to ear.

He is no longer the shy, withdrawn son his father adopted a year ago; Now he's standing tall and confident, bending over his brother with his hand outstretched.

He admits he's flabbergasted that he didn't escape Kaeya's discovery - but it was fair play and the two are getting tired anyway.

"You won - again," he admits with a sigh. But it's all fun and the game they played will continue tomorrow. There is always tomorrow.

He takes his brother's hand and stands up, just in time for them to return to the main house. Soon Adelinde would be searching for them, berating them as usual for their scraped knees and grass-stained pants, and frowning as she tried to untangle her unruly mass of purple hair. No doubt freshly squeezed grape juice was waiting for them in a glass jug in the main room.

Dad would come home at night, just in time to read the boys his bedtime stories of dragons, knights and heroes galore - and then they would fall asleep to the chirping of crickets and the soothing night breeze outside the window. . Her life is peaceful, her life is holistic. All is well.

The man's eyes open in a sleepy haze. It can't be more than two hours since he fell asleep, but he's used to it. Insomnia has long robbed you of the happiness of a good night's sleep.

Suddenly realizing his pillow is wet, he puts a hand to his face and feels the rivets of half-dried tears sticking to his cheeks. The strong smell of salt gathers at the corner of her mouth.

Oh,he thinks.

i cried again

Tartaglia begins his quest by following a fragmented set of clues - it's not much at first, but it's something. He's confident that like a snowball rolling down a mountain, his wealth of information will only increase as he tracks down this criminal.

Bolstered by the Cryo-Archon's trust in him—and the knowledge that he'll likely have to fight with all his might to capture the phantom—that's motivation enough; He seduced himself with the idea of ​​wielding his hydroblades in a fantastic performance, a gripping battle with blood spattering the snow beneath them.

It slices through muscle and bone, the rush of pure adrenaline as he imagines the fear that flashes in that bastard's eyes as they realize their misfortune to meet someone like him. He's shivering, but not from the cold.

No, he's used to the weather - he shudders at the prospect of a really good fight. He's just as addicted to it as any other illegal substance, craving more and more as the loser collapses under his feet. Pursuing the elusive arsonist is just the solution he desperately needs.

He is galloping on his chestnut horse when he and his men reach the edge of a distant suburb and brake their horses to a walking pace. His Majesty had hired several agents to help him with his task, but honestly he was perfectly capable of working alone.

He glances at the modest crew of eight, a mix of rangers and wizards—the Harbinger has hardly spoken to them except for instructions and orders. This is unlikely to change; Frankly, he doesn't want them to interfere with his mission.

The less they know the better - plus they're good bait should the fire-wielding phantom decide to appear in their midst.

They enter the city, their hooves beating the cobblestones while buildings and houses of stained brick and frozen wood greet them on either side. Like many villages, it's humble at best - reminding Tartaglia of his own hometown, much further south, overlooking an icy peninsula.

He's almost reminiscing, but stays focused—the presence of a herald like him commands attention and respect. Most of the townspeople bow their heads in greeting and call him "Lord Harbinger" as he and his entourage pass.

Still, he pays them little attention, his lips barely twitching in a small, polite smile as he searches the various stalls in the market for anyone who may have had contact with his target.

It's a kind of blind sack, but he decides to take pictures from afar and catch the attention of people nearby. He halts his horse in the center of town, followed by his humble squadron.

"Greetings to all!" ' he begins, his tight-lipped smile growing genuine. His voice reverberates around the court with a beautiful echo and he uses the acoustics to keep going.

"I am Tartaglia, His Majesty's twelfth herald. I have been tasked with tracking down and capturing a man responsible for the ruthless slaughter of countless soldiers in Fatui's ranks. He managed to escape our hands for a long time and I want to correct that.

"These heinous crimes cannot go unpunished - we do not condone this needless bloodshed, even for those who flagrantly violate the laws of this nation. I promise to track down the one known as the "Crimson Ghost" and ensure he faces the gravest consequences we can inflict."

The crowd that gathers around them grows, but everyone is silent. They listen carefully, dozens of eyes contemplate the harbinger in all its glory. Tartaglia clears his throat, picks up his winter coat, and pulls out a scroll of parchment. He unfolds it, revealing the outline of the Phantom's supposed appearance.

"I ask you, good subjects of our blessed Archon, if anyone might have met him." As he shows the photo to the crowd, he speaks, making them lean forward, squint, and try to recognize him.

He hopes he hasn't hit a dead end - the journey from the palace has left him with only crumbs and he's starting to feel the pressure.

Suddenly an elderly man shuffles through the crowd - he says he is the innkeeper of this town and sees a few travelers from other nations here and there.

The twinkle of recognition in his watery eyes gives the Harbinger hope - and it turns out the Elder is a goldmine of information. Not only does he confirm that the phantom is distinctly red-haired, tall, and broad-shouldered compared to previous reports, he also mentions that the fugitive and his horse are clearly foreigners.

Trying not to widen his eyes at the revelation he's found, Tartaglia leans a little closer, as if the man's words are about to disappear in the freezing air. He demands that one of his subordinates write the description, but it is the last part of the innkeeper's descriptions that catches the Harbinger's breath.

"I've spoken to enough guests to recognize a Mondstadt accent when I hear it. He also had a bright red gem in his right glove - like a vision, but not quite."

A vision, but not quite.Illusionwas definitely the first word that came to mind. The Harbinger not only had an insane cut in his ranks, but also an ill-gotten illusion.

Suddenly it is difficult for him to keep his stoic composure. Her hands grip the reins a little tighter, her heart pounding in her chest as the adrenaline surges through her system.

Oh, this motherfucker is in a mighty struggle when he finds him - and heorfind it.

Thanks are given, albeit in a hurry and in a hurry. A large section of the crowd opens to give way to the horses, and while Tartalgia spurs his horse on, his only thought is on this red-haired enigma from Mondstadt and embroiling him in the merciless fury of his own blades.

And yet, still - he's interested. Even fascinated; The notion that someone is able to perform an illusion with seemingly no ill effects tells them that this tramp also has a sight. There is no other logical explanation, he realizes. It just means the man he's targeting is no ordinary assassin - he has some skills.

His suspicions are confirmed when one of his men, whom he has sent out to explore the snowy horizon, returns with a trembling voice at the mention of a bloody camp to the northeast. Ignoring the masked ranger's cowardice, he changes direction towards the scene. When he arrives, he notices that the blood is isolated in small spatters.

However, as he and his group continue walking, a disturbing noise is heard under his horse's hooves. In response, the animal lifts its leg and Harbinger realizes it is a human lung. In fact, torn organs, limbs and bodies are scattered throughout the tents, reports say.

Tartaglia is immune to the terrifying sight and laughs to herself.

"So this is how our phantom wields its power," he comments loudly - but no one dares to answer.

The guy's a bloody butcher and he doesn't bother to hide his crime. It is a message read loud and clear by the harbinger.

"I'm glad I saw what he's capable of before I caught him!" But he's not intimidated.

In fact, the almost artistic knowledge of dismembered tissue and bone only sharpens your resolve. He'll be a worthy opponent for a change - not one of those poor pathetic souls.

He had reports drawn up, documents collected for evidence purposes - a flag is a signal for another squad to clean up the chaos. They have done their duty and can now follow the trail left by the phantom in front of them.

Tartaglia fled into the strong wind as another blizzard rolled overhead, and couldn't help but grin madly from ear to ear.

The ice digging into her cheeks and the rhythmic pounding of hooves are muffled instead of the blood pounding in her ears. Nothing else matters; it is so easy. Just weather this storm and the killer he's looking for will be right there.

And he will be ready.

Earlier in the morning, the phantom prepares to leave the inn. He pulls his black cloak over his fire-decorated jacket and squints at the relative amount of sleet pouring through the window.

"There must be a heavy storm today," the innkeeper warns him as he pulls the doorknob to leave.

The tramp pulls back the hood covering his head to hide his prominent hair and simply replies, "I'm fine, thanks."

"Fine, if you insist. Your horse will also be fed and brushed. Good luck on your journey then."

He no longer answers and braces himself against the waves of the wind. The weather is still fairly calm considering that this country is constantly plagued by snowstorms.

But when the opportunity presents itself, he seizes it; Otherwise, he might be stuck in a city where he might be recognized.

The crimson-robed rebel saddles his horse in record time and gallops from the cobblestone streets to the unforgiving polar plains. Stone meets frozen ground, the spirit's breath misting the air as his horse's nostrils flare with the exertion.

The emptiness in the man's chest raises his twisted, ugly head as he sees tents silhouetted in the distance. As he dismounts and ties his horse to a tree about a mile away, he stops dead in his tracks.

What was the point?

Would burning the flesh and tearing these soldiers apart by the dozen bring their father back? Would he make amends for Fatui's heinous deeds?

The possibility that his nearly three-year campaign in this godforsaken country didn't stand a chancePurposeand notAnswermakes him swallow hard. He pauses, holding the summoned Claymore in one hand and the delusion practically on fire in the other.

There is so much turmoil in him that he is practically bursting at the seams. He tends this void like a living being, feeding it tortured screams and gory shards of blood. He was blank the whole time and terribly stoic - he was completely deaf to the destruction that would spiral others into madness.

Tendrils twine tightly around his sword hand, black smoke pouring from his body in haunting whispers. His hand holding the doorknob begins to tremble.

What would dad think?The problem is a burning, excruciating sting that remains like a deep wound. He never bothered with the theoretical question and pushed it aside to remind himself that this is the reality and that his father is actually dead.

But if he had watched his son, his own flesh and blood, become an apathetic killer - instead of the obedient cavalry captain he could have become...would he forgive you?

Not to mention the fact that he almostdiedHis own brother in the same night is another layer of the sick, bloodstained tale he was able to weave for himself.

Instead of getting rid of this emptiness, he allowed it to fester. Instead of facing his losses, he ran away from them. Instead of allowing himself to be healed, he became a deadly weapon of his own creation.

Thoughts begin to spin, the painful feelings that he has now distanced himself from surfacing. He feels everything. Absolute emptiness. Fury. Sadness. The burden of his crimes lands on his shoulders and digs into his grip, reminding him that what he has done is irreversible.

He can't bring his father back.

He cannot take back the insults he spat at his brother that night.

He cannot revive the men he killed in a blaze of pure hatred and hatred.

But at the same time he knows he can't go back. Time cannot be reversed and what it started cannot be stopped.

He takes a deep breath and raises his claymore. If the emptiness growing within swallows him alive, so be it; It is the bitter price of his vengeance and a high price for all the suffering he inflicted on those who returned home.

Forgive me father, Kaeya, everyone.

I am really sorry.

With drawn sword and flying chains he runs towards the camp. As with every other outpost he has attacked, he does not leave a single survivor. A cold-blooded killer's mask returns to harden his expression as he flies off again - this time on a collision course.

Tartaglia doesn't expect to be so lucky in his search that the very man he's looking for stands in his way. Given the freshness of the crime scene and the fact that the blood hasn't even run cold, he assumes the Phantom must be at least a few miles ahead of his squad; That means if he drives like a devil, he can catch up.

The thrill of the chase is what keeps your heels glued to the horse's side and propels it forward, a breakneck gallop through the ever-increasing snowstorm.

His Majesty must be impatient, or at least frustrated, for even he shudders at the prospect of frostbite penetrating his gloves; But he doesn't dare curse the storm, hard as it may be to look ahead. In fact, he sees practically nothing. Even his men are out of sight, though the rhythmic hooves suggest they are only marginal.

For a long time, the battle-hungry Harbinger hears nothing but the whirring of the wind in his ears and the clinking of metal on leather rivets. It's a constant tunk-thunk-thunk that almost threatens to lull him and his group into a sense of monotony.

But, the copper-haired man recalls, bending his horse's neck for a better view, that's exactly what the phantom wants. And judging by their speed, they couldn't have been at least a kilometer short of their target - and he might have heard them coming.

Twelfth's abilities lend themselves to aspects beyond actual combat, and that's kind of a sixth sense. It gave him an advantage when stealth was mandatory, and it serves a very good purpose when he feels close to his target but can't visually confirm anything.

Suddenly he wakes up and uses his vision to summon his weapon. The giant of a sky-blue bow Apparates in his hands as he lets go of the reins, using every muscle in his lower body to keep him centered as he levitates in the saddle.

It's a feat that would drive most ordinary men and mortals insane or trampled to the ground by their horses. But he is no ordinary mortal, that much is clear. He aims his bow and the glowing arrow within it toward the Alabaster Void to the northeast.

He's no stranger to the void - not that he wants to satisfy his dark insecurities yet again - but this time it gives him the seclusion he needs to get closer...closer...closer..

THWIP!Your arrow will draw the string in an instant, making your presence loud and clear. He smiles as he lowers her, holding the reins with his free hand for balance. His heart is almost pounding when he hears a clear voice in the distance.

His senses did not betray him; He points directly at the ghost, and as the heavy snowstorm momentarily disappears, he sees the man and his horse suddenly dodge and move away from him.

A sinister, toothless smile lights up the Forerunner's face. The bastard chose to run, huh? He would regret this very soon.

He tells his subordinates to follow him, surround the phantom and keep their eyes on it. However, he makes it clear that the fight was only between himself and his target.

He climbs back into the saddle and raises his bow. Tartaglia uses the power of his Hydrosight to fire a series of projectiles that freeze in mid-air and are aimed directly at the Phantom and its mount. Let the snow freeze your elemental attacks - ice shards tend to deal more damage than water drops.

As the Phantom skillfully dodges every Ice Missile the Harbinger sent it, it finally looks up at its pursuer. He could see the strands of scarlet hair curling across his hooded face, barely revealing the man's equally fiery eyes.

The man's piercing stare is hard and seems icy despite the embers flying from the Claymore he summons. The look of a murderer, a man who has seen everything and also lost everything. His bloody journey across this land was undoubtedly relentless.

"Crimson Phantom! We're finally meeting!” calls Tartaglia, now only a few steps back. The phantom lets out an angry "kick" between its teeth, obviously more annoyed than frightened.

The crimson-robed criminal swings his sword at one of the Fatui agents who got too close, and a ray of blood adorns the white storm. But it's not so much the impressive aim of such a large sword that catches the Harbinger's attention; No, it's the Pyro Craze, glowing and dimming as the Phantom's growing rage.

Tartaglia is impressed. Really damn impressed. The Phantom kills several of its men with the effort of a hot knife through butter.

The agents' riderless horses run off into the snowy landscape, eventually leaving the two alone. It's the moment he's been waiting for as he pulls back his bowstring to fire another arrow, but just as he raises his arm, the phantom unleashes its flaming chains of obsidian.

"Ah, a man of few words and many deeds!" Says the harbinger, beaming. He is completely drunk on adrenaline, his eyes are shining with the adrenaline he is experiencing.

He bursts out laughing madly as he narrowly repels the sudden onslaught of the glowing metal, fire and water merging into steaming vapor.

Apparently, this angers the Crimson Rebel even more, and suddenly he tries to get close enough to try to put the chains around Tartaglia's arm. However, he is cautious and obviously unwilling to interfere more than necessary. Its quick attack and dodge tactics are only designed to disarm the Fatuus enough to flee.

Trouble is, the Tsar's faithful dog has sunk his teeth into his prey and all that's left to do is deliver the killing blow.

It is very tempting to push your limits. He knows he was ordered to capture the Phantom alive, but the intensity of the battle has pushed him to the limit. Her self-imposed inhibition instantly shatters.

Even his target seems troubled by the Harbinger's insane state, and the man sends streams of pyrotechnics in all directions. It's a futile effort. Tartaglia smiles as he activates his own Electro Illusion, merging it with the cerulean waters he sent out to create a massive, charging wave over the ember-laden offensive.

Her opponent suddenly retreats, but part of the wave hits him, forcing him to scream in pain. Still, he blocked the rest of the attack with his Claymore, leaving him uncomfortable and soaked but not dead.

Tartaglia realizes that the man has found his equal; The soldiers were weak compared to the man in front of them, easily slain, and killed en masse. But a Harbinger, high-ranking agent, and arguably the closest thing to the gods in terms of power - they're beyond even the infamous Crimson Phantom to defeat.

"Ready to surrender?" Tartaglia mercilessly provokes and summons endless streams of hydro and electric attacks. They vary in composition, from darts to roaring waves that he sends into the mix in a bolt of living electricity.

He became even more frantic and euphoric as he watched the scarlet-haired man struggle to dodge his every move, even though his own fireworks were swift and deadly even when he dodged them. He also wears it out quickly. He didn't even answer with a single word.

After the final blow from his grapple hammer, so close that Tartaglia can feel the flames burning in his nose, his target suddenly turns his horse and flaps his heels down, urging it to gallop off him.

He steps back – he doesn't think the Phantom a coward, but still grins wildly at the prospect of defeating him, slicing his flesh to the bone, or at least just watching the light fade from the bastard's eyes –

Just as he is about to raise the bow again to stop the galloping man, his euphoria breaks off. It's a hard slam on the brakes, the excitement dying in an instant as an eerie crackle fills the air like thunder and pale, icy streams shoot out seemingly out of nowhere.

Even more angry that his race didn't end, he sees that the man's horse has been forced to the ground. The animal let out a shrill, startled whinny, front paws drawn up as it half dragged and the spirit was thrown hard, almost crushing it under it.

It's the end of a fight he least expected and one that infuriates him downright. His hands tremble from the unchanneled energy still coursing through his veins, and he searches through the billowing veils of thick snow for the culprit he has unjustly thrown himself intoextinguishbattle.ExtinguishMission.

But he doesn't notice the silouhette watching from afar, the true victor of their short-lived battle. This time they share the spoils of mission success, smiling in the shadow of a lace mask.

The scarlet devil knows he'll be caught, it's just a matter of when. His crimes have left their mark, the burns from the hot metal he manipulates are so distinctive it's hard not to attribute them to someone of his skill.

Yet one never understands the reality of the moment they are finally found. It's actually about the poor animal caught in a trap and helpless at the mercy of his fate as the dogs get ever closer.

But no matter what the cost, he will get out - at least that's what he imagined. His intrinsic determination knows no bounds, but he has clearly outgrown any reception he has experienced in this nation; which is practically none.

He urges his horse verbally and with his leg signals, trying to put as much distance as possible between himself and his last charge. He looks back every few seconds, just enough to make sure the only figures riding in the blizzard are he and his mount, and just enough to make sure he only hears four hoofbeats.

Desperation to escape turns to alarm as a projectile of pure hydro is fired in their direction. It barely whizzed past her ear, a few strands of red hair clipped in its path. If he had stood a few millimeters to the left, he could have pierced his skull.

"Crap!" The ghost curses, maybe a little louder than it should. He just revealed his location, but that was pretty clear from the arrow's trajectory. Those following him know he's there, and their eyes widen as they watch the entourage catch up with every step.

He's not so concerned about the sudden onslaught of about eight soldiers trying to surround him as he is about the man in elegant robes with copper hair, a red mask over his head and a huge sky-blue ribbon he's holding currently. His hands. There is a manic, distorted smile on his face, an amused laugh playing around his lips.

He's a harbinger, that much is clear. He has a vision, a hydro, judging by the waves of water he summons and hurls at him with ruthless abandon. Water naturally freezes, making your projectiles even more dangerous.

The ghost steers his horse left and right to avoid them and hears them hit the snow in rapid fire. Instead, he directs his anger at the nearby Fatui soldiers, and if any of them get too close, he will summon his Claymore and slash their chests open without warning.

The other men fall without much effort, but amidst the flames and embers the Harbinger advanced to close the gap of several paces between them. He aims with the fusion of electro and hydro, something that almost surprises the crimson rebel - if he hadn't swung his sword to lean against it, he would have been completely electrocuted.

He lets out an involuntary cry of pain as a severe tingling runs through his affected arm, but aside from being soaked through, he's not worn out.

Of course, he doesn't think about defeating the mad Fatuus - he expected to destroy all Fatuus years ago; And though the determination to do so burns in his head, he knows the reality is far more bitter.

He is alone. The landscape in which they fought offers neither trees nor other formations to ward off further attacks. It's completely flat and visibility is poor amid relentless snow waves.

Above all, he exhausts himself; Exhaustion threatens to seep into his bones, and the horse beneath him begins to weaken in gait. Regardless of the emptiness pounding in his chest, desperately trying to ignite his fire, he knows that if he keeps entertaining her, he will die - and he must stop himself from even thinking that he was from the start has a death wish.

There is a stark contrast between shedding blood for revenge and shedding blood just to take your life in it.

He then interrupts his Delirium's chain attacks and shatters the metal with a flick of his wrist, causing it to burst into mere sparks. Instead, he heel-butts, spinning his mount toward the unseen horizon. Anywhere to escape the frantic, almost rabid Harbinger who just can't stop.

Overall. Maybe even home if he can. It is time.

He's been here a long time and he's tired. So exhausted. His chest aches, this time not from emptiness but from his heart – the desire to just stop what he's doing, to abandon this ill-planned mission and finally get back to where he came from. Finally clean up the mess he left behind and accept your losses.

He won't admit defeat, but isn't stupid enough to allow himself to be captured or killed. But perhaps right now it's foolish to let the spark of hope he's given up for so long flare up inside him - to overshadow the emptiness he's nurtured, if only for this second. A mere candlelight of pure hope.

I'll make it.

Barely deflecting his mount's head to dodge another volley of arrows, he quickly hid his sword and concentrated his energy to ride away.

But life is cruel, and the crimson man was proved not only for three years, but also this second. The gods turned their backs at that moment - maybe her life was blessing enough, but not enough to bless her attempt to escape.

Within seconds, everything begins to collide; Suddenly his horse bends beneath him, and he barely registers as a collection of thick, bright chains emerge from the veil of snow.

They are like snakes that wrap themselves around their partner's leg and twitch it roughly. The force of the sudden fall knocks him out of the saddle and falls onto the frozen ground. He can hardly comprehend what has happened when a crushing pressure is felt on his body. Combined with your chronic fatigue, that's enough to effectively end your campaign.

He remembers that the ground is icy. He shudders; his scarlet and black cloak scarcely warms him. His unruly hair is in a heap across his face and the stabbing pain he feels everywhere is unbearable.

He can't do much else and wonders if his life will end like this. He desperately wants hope to flare up in him againpossiblyhe can get up andpossiblyhe can summon his sword and chains again, andpossibly- Onlypossibly- There's still a way for him to escape. But maybe not sure.

Of that he is sureThey havetriumphed - the organization responsible for everything he hates, for everything that was snatched from him and left him so empty - triumphed. Is it a metallic taste on your tongue - or is it blood? So maybe he's dying.

The trapped beast feels its eyes closing against its will and its consciousness fading. He barely hears the dogs approach his prey when the blizzard stops. The snow crumbles into individual flakes, the howling winds fall silent and fall silent.

And so Diluc Ragnvindr can only breathe in and out.

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