Introducing INK, the Writer's Currency » RPG's New Design Team » Now Open: RPG Staff Applications » 10 Years of RPG: Share Your Story » Can't Send PMs? Need Your 10-Forum Posts NOW? » A (Friendly) Reminder to All Romance RPers. » The Newbie's Guide to RolePlayGateway: Read This First! »

0
followers
follow

Era

The "Bleeding Rose" of Cre' Est

465 views · last seen in Cre' Est
a character in “Assassin's Pledge: War of Attrition”, as played by KumoriRyuu

Description

Name: Era
Alias: The Bleeding Rose
Appearance: Image

Description: Era's posture is almost exactly the same as Shadow's. She stands with her back straight and her shoulders pulled back, and her clothing is similar to his as well (at least in terms of functionality). She wears a black shirt with a lot of cleavage, which is not helped by the fact that she is very well endowed, and she wears a short black skirt that goes down to about midway down her thighs to show off her legs. She wears white shoes and has a red band on her left arm just above her elbow. Her hair falls down to just passed the center of her back, and is very straight as opposed to her brother's hair which is shorter and much more wavy once it reaches a certain length (which is why he keeps it short and straight). Era's eyes are the same crimson red as her brother's, and her skin is mildly pale by comparison where her brother's is more tan.

Sex: Female
Home Nation: Shaharan
Current Location/Residence: Unknown
Exact Age: Unknown
Height: 5' 9"
Weight: Approximately 140 lbs
Hair Color: Pink
Eye Color: Crimson Red
Complexion: Fair
Body Type: Athletic
Blood Type: O negative
Fighting Style: Heavy use of both Hard and Soft styles
Adaptability Ratio: 7-9

Personality

Personality: Era is just as dark and cold as Shadow is, having been born to and raised by the High Master of Te'i Sai. Her training was designed to mimic Shadow's down to the finest detail, and she is just as intelligent, tactical, lethal, and ruthless as he is. While she is much more adept at blending in with humanity and behaving like a normal young woman, she still has trouble understanding the normality which she has become accustomed to mimicking. If she were to be left alone with normal people, she would still stand out, but not as much as her brother would.

Much like her brother Shadow, she can be quite childish when confronted with aspects of normal life which intrigue her. However, unlike her brother, she has almost no control over her temper and will viscously attack anyone or anything which angers her in any way, shape or form. She has no shame either, and will flaunt her natural beauty and assets to achieve her goals whenever she feels it necessary. While she would never give or sell her body for any reason, she will show it off if it means a good distraction and entertainment while watching the hapless men before her squirm and trip over themselves.

Quirks: Her blood red eyes are her most distinguishing feature, and they are what earned her the alias "Bleeding Rose" of Cre' Est. Her body, like her brother's, is littered with scars, bruises and other such markings which tell of her battles and violent past. Her skin is soft and smooth, and belies the unbelievable musculature which lies just beneath the surface.

Likes: Spending time on rooftops, sparring with her brother, watching the rain fall
Dislikes: Crowds, obvious liars, thieves, and other Assassins

Special Talents/Skills: Roda I'l Lousta (Yes, she shares this ability with her brother as well since she was raised in the same conditions)

Equipment

Weapon/s of Choice: A spear made of Orichalcum designed and forged for her by the High Master of Te'i Sai
Weapon/s of Last Resort: Blunt Weapons, Two Handed Weapons
Weapon/s Avoided: Guns

She carries a belt with numerous small pouches similar to her brother which hold a variety of items from throwing stars, vials of salves and other medicines, needles, wire, smoke bombs, and other miscellaneous items.

History

Weapon/Training History:

Era's training began the day she learned to walk under the High Master of Te'i Sai. She was dropped into a pit as an infant at the age of one year, and live weapons were dropped into the pit as well to see how long it would take for the first of them to kill either themselves or one of the others. Era killed two other infants and injured all the others with a small blade which she waved around wildly, and was rescued from the pit immediately after the others fell. She was then taught the basic punches and kicking maneuvers into her two year old state, and she proved immediately to be her brother's equal in terms of intellect and skill. She became the High Master's personal disciple after they saw her potential and knew that she could be a counterweight to Shadow just in case things went wrong with him in the future.

Training from the age of five onward was literally torture of the highest form, and not a technique ever used on a child before save for her brother. Any mistakes which were made were punished severely, and if she failed to perform up to expectations she was beaten to within an inch of her life and left to recover on her own outside in the wilderness for twenty four hours. Once that time was up, if she was still alive, her training would resume whether she was ready or not. Needless to say, she always managed to survive somehow, but became cold and detached as a result.

Her training was exactly the same as Shadow's in that it was brutal to an extreme which nobody else had ever been pushed to before. She too was literally tortured into the perfect killer, and being that she was constantly drenched in her own blood, as well as the blood of others, she too fell victim to the dreaded fate which was Roda I'l Lousta. When the High Master compared the two, they noted that Era was, quite literally, "The female portrayal of the Red-Eyed Demon." With this comparison drawn between them, Era was very often compared and contrasted to her brother by her peers and superiors, and she came to despise the brother she had never met for such things.

She was trained for all aspects of Assassin life, but she proved to be strongest in stealth and tactics. She mastered single and double weapon combat, hand to hand combat, politics, tracking, capturing others, escape, manipulation, deception, military tactics and leadership, herbology, poison making, bomb making, anatomy and physics. Her body was honed to the absolute limit which it would allow, pushing her musculature, cardio vascular endurance and stamina, speed, reaction times and general body reflexes to the zenith of her potential.

The combination of all aspects of Assassin training culminated in a female duplicate of the Red-Eyed Demon, but she was never deployed on grand scale missions as her brother was out of fear of her ending up with her brother's faults (such as the independent thinking), and instead kept to more stealthy and discrete missions. This also lent itself to her loathing for her brother as he was always considered the stronger child to the High Master, and when she met him face to face for the first time, the two of them clashed. They fought to a standstill, with Shadow taking an upper hand in the later stages of the fight thanks to his longer arms and legs while also managing to exhaust her. Since she didn't have the same level of combat experience he did on a grand scale, she did not have the same stamina he did and inevitably lost the battle in her own eyes, though it was officially called a draw since it was ended before a winner could truly be decided.

Like her brother, Era is an extremely dangerous combatant, and is considered by all of the surviving Grandmasters to be the strongest woman alive.

Biography:

Era was born in the year 576 Post Union to a young woman named Meya, who is in fact the High Master of Te'i Sai. She was raised in seclusion and only ever knew her mother for the first several years of her life. When she was approximately seven years old, she was introduced to the five Grandmasters of Te'i Sai, and also sent on her first real mission as an Assassin. Her phenomenal success led the five Grandmasters to further consult with the High Master about turning her into a duplicate of her brother for the purposes of acting as a backup for the Red-Eyed Demon in case anything ever went wrong with Shadow himself.

Era's cruelty and her lust for power as a child were a fantastic sign in the eyes of the High Master, but were dangerous in the eyes of the Grandmasters. When she was in her early teens she slaughtered a group of civilians when one of them insulted her appearance and her eyes (this was before Shadow's reputation as the Red-Eyed Demon was worldwide). Era's first experience with Roda I'l Lousta came not but another few weeks later, and she, like her brother, slaughtered over one hundred innocent lives in the span of a single afternoon.

Era did not meet her brother until she was nineteen years old, and when she did the two of them instantly engaged in combat. The outcome of the fight was undecided, though Shadow clearly held an advantage thanks to his longer limbs and higher stamina. Era stayed with him after a conversation with him during which he revealed the truth behind the Grandmasters and the High Master. At first, she was unwilling to believe him, but when she returned to the High Master and questioned them, she found Shadow's words to be true. She returned to him, and although she did not let go of the details of their past, she did decide to accompany him and believe in him and his cause.

Era participated in Shadow's battles against the Grandmasters and was responsible for killing one the Grandmaster from Shaharan. She has been an instrumental asset in his fight, but has always been one from the darkness as the "Bleeding Rose" of Cre' Est. Though the entire world knows of this alias, it is not as highly feared as the alias her brother is known by.

So begins...

Era's Story

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Shadow Character Portrait: Sereinia Lucis Nouralail Character Portrait: Era

INK

Horizon
"In times, the sun had never failed to rise and set on the horizon... and so do we..."




"Shadow's sister... Era..."

This was one of the main concerns that lingered within Sereinia's mind. A lot of things happened and everyone did their best to explain the reasons for it. She was taken far from Cre' Est by the request of the Empress Regalie, her mother. It was also by the will of the Cretian Empress that the four of them were together once more. The issue about the Royal Knights coming after Shadow was put on hold. Still, she cannot help but be concerned of her birth parents. Emperor Eonis was still in his coma as Shadow informed her. Then judging by what was happening inside the palace, she was certain that an inner tempest would sweep everyone away to chaos.

It had been explained to her that the Rulers of Cre' Est shall be fine. Sereinia was protected once more from danger without her knowledge. Yet, what mostly eats at her consciousness was able to bid the Empress and the Emperor a proper goodbye. It would have been nice if that was done. Well, there was no use dwelling on events that had already come by. She must look forward to the future and live in the present. As such...

"Here Dr. Nora! Your Lettuce!"

The Cretian Princess was at the Triveilan Market buying ingredients and supplies for them. Dietrich and Mayumi were still at Lion's Mane and she had implored them to not worry about her. The market district was not that far from their inn anyway. So, she came alone. It was quite hard to be inconspicuous as Shadow had reminded them. After all, Sereinia had lived in this nation for such a long time after the deaths of her adoptive family. Speaking of which, she had wanted to visit her Aunt Beatiz. There was no doubt in her mind that the elder woman was worried sick despite with the letters she had sent prior. However, it was not the best time. The current situation would bring only more danger than relief. So for now, she would keep quiet about where she was.

"Thank you Mrs. Greer."

Upon taking the paid Lettuce, Sereinia felt someone's gaze on her. There was nothing wrong with that. Most of the time, those eyes belonged to some of her patients or the townspeople she was acquainted with. However, this one was different from the rest. As such, she looked around her with such a curious expression. Soon, she found the eyes that caused her such an odd feeling. A pair of crimson red eyes looked back at her unflinchingly.

"Shadow?"

This was the only word that left Sereinia's lips as she went towards where those familiar eyes were. However, the moment she moved away from the stall. It disappeared from her sight. This caused confusion within her. She wondered if it was just her imagination. Thinking about it, if that was Shadow he would have come to her without hiding. In addition, it couldn't be Yarun as remembered how intensely red those eyes were. So, the only thing that was left for her to identify to whom those eyes belong to...

"Taira has informed Era of your presence and importance, Sereinia, so she will likely seek you out..."

Shadow had told her that Era would most likely search for her. Still, Sereinia was not entirely certain of the reason for such an action. In any case, she also wants to meet Era. After all, she is Shadow's sister and family. She was also curious to what the girl would be like. Will she be like Mayumi or perhaps Layla? Adding to that, she wanted to make new friends. Hopefully, Era was going to be fine with that. But for now, she had concluded the red eyes sighting as a mere illusion. As such, she continued with her shopping.

"I need to buy some medical supplies..."

Muttering to herself, Sereinia made her way with ease through the crowd of people who would occasionally greet her which she returns pleasantly. Soon, she reached the medical store and bought the things she needed. When the transaction was done, she exited the shop and saw those red eyes once more so prominent upon the dark background of an alley directly opposite of the store.

"Could this really be..."

Yet before anything could be concluded, a strong wind passed by making Sereinia's long raven black hair fly with such ferocity. It obscured her vision as she placed her hand to her head to maintain the other strands to stay put. When the wind had passed, she looked at the alley once more and those red eyes were gone.

"Huh? Another illusion?"

Sereinia wondered to herself. It was hard to believe that she was hallucinating on broad daylight. In addition, she was not sleep deprived to suffer such mental ailments. Although, there was a slight emptiness in her for not having Shadow beside her. It cannot be helped for she now understood that he was the man she adored. Thinking about it, a faint blush tainted her cheeks. Perhaps, it was caused by such desire.

"Do I miss him that much?"

Shaking her head, Sereinia did it in a manner almost completely childish. She only did it to calm herself and to dismiss such thoughts for now. There was no time to think of things especially now. Taking a deep breath, she proceeded to return to the inn. She had already brought everything that she needed. After all, she did promise to come back as soon as she can. Looking at the skies, she could see Sora's form flying above. Their avian companion was truly a helpful friend to have around. With such a thought, a small smile decorated her face.

"Excuse me."

Those words averted her attention as she stepped away. It seemed that she was impeding the pathway due to her actions. Sereinia apologized so sincerely however while doing so, she sensed once more that odd feeling. Looking to her side, she saw those red eyes once more. They gazed upon her with such intensity. It was finally decided that this was not a mere illusion or anything. This was for real and the fact that this could not be Shadow. There was only one possibility as she spoke it.

"Ms. Era?"

From the darkness those ruby red eyes glowed and simmered, threatening to burn a hole through Sereinia's heart and soul before finally revealing the being they were attached to. From out of the shadows, the figure of a young woman came forth very slowly. Her fair skin and long pink hair betrayed her as none other then Shadow's younger sister, Era. Standing tall at 5' 9", she was just barely shorter than Sereinia was, but her muscle mass and athletic figure told the good doctor that Era was anything but the sweet, delicate flower that she was by comparison.

Era came forward with a calm stride, standing before Sereinia with a smile that did not seem sincere in any way, shape or form. It was, in fact, the exact same smile which Shadow gave to those he was either going to kill, those he was lying to, or those he simply did not care for. Sereinia had received this smile once or twice during the first leg of their adventure together when she and Shadow had first met, but seeing it again likely brought back memories of that strange and frightening time. The fact that Era's cold gaze looked exactly like Shadows was not helping the situation, given that the two shared strong physical similarities in the jawline, shape of the eyes, shape of the mouth, and even their ear shape. All genetic ties of blood relation, confirming, without the red eye coloration, that they were beyond a doubt brother and sister.

Era came forward and looked Sereinia dead in the eyes, walking a single circle around the good doctor as she examined her up and down before stopping in her original position and giving her that same, empty smile as before.

At first, Sereinia could not comprehend those subtle touches of intimidation or emptiness. For she was completely taken aback by the similarities between Era and Shadow. The traits which tied those two as blood siblings. It was also the same thing with Amalthea and Xenon. They were not completely alike yet, there are tidbits of traits that allow them to be defined as siblings. If Sigmund was still alive and she was never called back as a Cretian Princess, she wondered if people would recognize them as brother and sister. They did not even had an ounce of similarity in regards to physical appearance. With such a thought, a haze of sadness flashed ever so briefly in her eyes.

"Well met, Sereinia. Taira has told much about you and your ties to my brother... If you don't mind my asking, what is such a delicate flower as you doing in such a setting as this? Traveling alongside the Red-Eyed Demon? Taking on a series of trials and issues which aren't really even your own? What drives you to behave like this I wonder?"

She asked, cocking her head to the side with an impish smile, although the tone of her voice betrayed a deadly seriousness and warning beneath the surface. It was fairly clear that what Shadow said was true, that Era was here first to test Sereinia before continuing further down this road.

Snapping from her far off look, Sereinia had finally noticed that Era had come close to her. The Princess only hoped that Era did not find such an action rude. It also seemed that she was checking her like an object for sale or auction. But now thinking about it, the smile on Era's face reminded her of a memory in the past. It was the exact smile she disliked seeing on Shadow before. She did recall reprimanding him for such a thing. In any case, she allowed those thoughts to be dismissed. There were questions being asked of her and it was her morality to never lie.

"I told him that everything he breaks. I will fix it. Although, I am not certain how much I could really do. I will still do it. Even if the whole world turns against him, even if everyone calls him a liar, and even if comes to hate himself, I will be by his side always. This is my resolve. and that is...."


It was spoken with complete honesty and pride. Sereinia had a genuine smile on her lips while her amethyst eyes seemed to sparkle with such an answer. She had always pondered before the reason of her coming with Shadow. At their first meeting, she had gone to him to be kept safe from his enemies and also out of curiosity of what kind of a person was the infamous Red-Eyed Demon. Then, it just happened. She was not certain when or how it developed to such a feeling. Actually, she would have been lost to such an emotion without the aid of the Empress Regalie. Looking above her, she could still sea Sora soaring above. Her feelings was yet to be revealed to Shadow, himself. She did not want him to worry about reciprocating it or what to do. It is best for him to simply stay focused on his goals. So, she would also concentrate on the things she could do. Gazing back at Era, there was a brilliant confidence in those eyes and sincerity. Her cheeks had a faint blush making her look more beautiful as she continued on.

"Because I am a girl who is selfishly in love with him."


Era's smile faded, and all sense of playfulness, caution, or even respect faded into nothing. As she stepped forward, Era's face came within a mere inch of Sereinia's, her red eyes widening and glowing brighter in the same manner as Shadow's did when he was facing a powerful and evil foe.

"To love him... What does such a thing truly mean to someone like you?"

Era asked as she started walking a slow circle around Sereinia like a wolf circling its prey.

"The first to love him opened his heart to the world, but for this she paid the ultimate price which caused his heart to darken yet further... The second to love him was the one who rescued his fading heart and proved to him that he was in fact a human being and not a Demon whose only purpose in life was to kill, not to mention she could stand up to him in combat when necessary, and once even defeated him when he entered Roda I'l Lousta... What have you to offer him, Princess of Cre' Est? What is there for your heart and your feelings to provide him that he has not already found?"

She asked, Era's voice dripping with ire and venom as her eyes continued to glow ominously in the darkened street.

Sereinia noticed the changed in Era's demeanor. She was slightly startled by it. However, those eyes so similar to Shadow did not brought her uneasiness. Instead, it give her a certain understanding. It seemed so odd to find a semblance of comfort in those eyes that many had denoted to be frightening and hideous. For anyone who had seen such a thing would obtain certain death. Was she not afraid of death? No, she was afraid of it. Yet, there are matters in her life that take precedence before such thing.

"Nothing."

This was the simple answer of Sereinia to Era's question of what would she be able to give Shadow. She was not familiar with the women in Shadow's life. Although, she had met Linde during the Bloody New Year event. She knew well that in comparison with such a person. There was nothing she could win against. She was useless in combat and gives more trouble than she was worth it. Many thing had happened to her that she could remember Shadow commenting that she was a trouble magnet. Although, it was spoken in a playful manner. She knew there was truth in those words.

"I can only give him trouble. I always have. From the very moment we met. It was always him saving me. That has not changed even now. Furthermore, at some point... I must chose whether to stand for my throne or stand by his side. I know that this time I have with him is simply a reprieve."

Lowering her head, Sereinia's grip on her shopping bags tightened. Her demeanor eroded to broken fragility and sadness. At the same time, her voice had the tone of bitter sweetness to it.

"As a doctor, I could help him with his wounds. As a princess, I am a responsibility. As a woman, I am a burden. It is also no secret to him that our beliefs vary greatly on how to do things. It would even lead us to argue at some point. That is why he would do what he does best. He would hide it from me."

Raising her head, Sereinia's eyes glowed with renewed determination. Tears gathered on it making it shimmer so delicately as she continued on.

"Despite knowing all of that. I want him to share his troubles with me. I want to know everything he feels. I do not want him to hide anymore. I want him to be free. I want to be the one to scold him, to argue with him, to remind him, to welcome him back home without pretenses. I might not be reliable in stopping his rampage as I am worthless in fighting. I may not be able to promise of not hurting him in the future. But, I will promise to be his protector even from himself. This time, I will protect him."

Era was somewhat shocked to see the Princess react to her with such resolve and unflinching bravery. In the face of those demonic red eyes, she showed absolutely no hesitation or reluctance to answer whatsoever, nor did she stutter or act like there was any intimidation at all. In the past, Era had used the exact same glare to frighten and intimidate men twice her size into submission without a fight, but this girl, this Princess, was taking it all in as if it were nothing.

... Interesting... Era thought to herself.

"So... You will protect him?" She asked as she continued to circle Sereinia like a wolf.


"You know Linde said the same thing just before she found out that Shadow's path was too much for her?"

Era said, coming to stop in front of Sereinia.

"Linde is just as in love with him as you are... perhaps even more so given how much she sacrificed for him during the years they spent together. She thought she could protect him, just as you think you can now. She tried, many times, but failed. Since Linde was a powerful healer, a gentle lover, and a ferocious fighter. I am trying but I cannot see, Princess, how you will succeed where she failed."

Era came forward again, placing her face right in front of Sereinia's.

"Give me one reason to trust your word that you can do what she could not... If you can't, you're dead where you stand." She threatened.

Amethyst eyes looked at the crimson eyes of Era without wavering. Sereinia listened to those words about Linde. True, how could she protect Shadow when a more powerful woman than her had chosen to divert from such a path. From the very beginning, the roads she and Shadow ought to travel were vastly different. She was a traveling doctor who sworn an oath to save lives. He was an assassin who knew only to kill to achieve his goals. Now, she was a princess that will inherit the right to rule a nation. Their roads never connected from each other to begin with. It never had, but still...

"You are right. I never knew that this was love. I just recently discovered it in a seemingly harmless conversation. The things that Linde gave I cannot and never will replace that. She can be a better protector than I can. I cannot do battles and I would not. Her love is great and I will never compare mine to that. Because we two are different individuals."

Sereinia paused for a moment and felt the tears started to trickle down her face. Yet, there was no sadness or fear in those eyes. Instead, there was brimming sincerity and determination.

"But I will not die by your hands or any one else. I will live. Killing is not an option. I am not a sympathizer for such a thing. I know that at some point my life will be in the hands of death and there would be a time where destroying everything in my path could be the only viable option to survive. But do understand, I make my own choices. So, I will chose to defeat you and survive. I will never allow Shadow to feel alone again or be left behind. So even if I had to face a demon or the gods themselves to keep him safe, I will make the impossible possible. I will with everything I have though, it is not much. I will not let him go ever again. I will stand by his side whether you like it or not. I will never give up on him and that is my promise."

In all of Sereinia's life, she had never made light of her promises. It was like telling a lie. She never did such a thing growing up. As such, her promises are her bonds. It was something she will never break no matter what happens.

Era stared deep into Sereinia's eyes as she spoke, examining every tiny detail on the Princess's face and within those deep purple eyes she was known for. Everything about them told Era that what the Princess said was true, and if she was willing to fight a hopeless battle to prove her love, then that was enough for Era.

The young girl with red eyes backed away from Sereinia to a distance of two paces, and watched her for a moment longer with indifference carried in her expression, but it was soon broken by a most unexpected turn.

"Your heart is true, and though you are a fool, those in love can be considered nothing less."

Era said, a genuine and gentle smile crossing her lips with her eyes betraying admiration and respect.

"Sereinia, I apologize for the harshness of my questions. Though I did it to understand who you are, I regret that I must be so brutal in my methods. I, like you, have sworn to protect my brother from all that would bring him harm, be it physical, mental or spiritual. My brother may be one of the most powerful men alive, but he is still only a man after all."

She took a step forward and embraced Sereinia, gently wrapping her arms around the girl's head and shoulders as she held her close.

"You have a strange and special gift, according to Taira, to help my brother realize further his humanity. His enjoyment of the festival before all chaos was unleashed is one such example of what you do for him. As deeply as Linde loves him, and as much as he cares for her, she was unable to open him to such things. It was one of the many reasons for which she decided to leave his company, because she knew that she had failed him and that he needed something more than she could offer."

Era kept her hands on Sereinia's shoulders, but backed out of the embrace for a moment.

"It seems that you have that gift which Linde could not give, and I can understand now why Taira wanted me to find you."

Era took a moment to smile at Sereinia once more before taking a few steps away from her and looking towards the rooftops above them.

"It seems he has found us..."


She said, and no sooner had she said that than Shadow's form came into view and landed softly by his sister's side.

He stood up straight, looking at Sereinia and ten at Era, who nodded to him with that same smile she had given Sereinia. Shadow let out a relieved sigh, and smiled at Sereinia as well. Standing side by side, the similarities were even more striking than trying to compare them mentally, and Shadow and Era could very well have been taken as twins were it not for Era's pink hair and slightly more feminine facial features.

"I do hope my sister didn't cause too much trouble."

Shadow said, extending his hand out to Sereinia. Looking at the hand Shadow reached out to her, Sereinia took it gently and had a very cheerful smile on her face.

"Welcome back, Shadow! I was very happy to meet your sister, Ms. Era."

She then looked to Era and then to Shadow multiple times. It was almost quite adorable as Sereinia resembled a child truly mystified. She did see twins and people who looked alike however, there was something enthralling about the presence of these two before her. Without a hesitation, she gave her shopping bags to Shadow with a wink as if to compensate and then with a free hand took hold of Era's hand.

"You two will be coming with me right? I will prepare a delicious treat."

Giving both hands that Sereinia held a tug, she gaze towards the Lion's Mane and waited for the response of the two. At this moment, she knew that there would be a lot of obstacles and danger. Moreover, she could be much helpless in any situation. However, she was happy with him and here right now. Honestly, this is what mattered to her the most.

"Live."

That was the word of her mother. So, Sereinia will live on and follow her heart even if it would be deemed foolish. This was her treasure and she will cherish and protect it with both of her hands.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Shadow Character Portrait: Mayumi Character Portrait: Sereinia Lucis Nouralail Character Portrait: Dietrich "Leer" Faust Character Portrait: Era

INK

Dietrich Faust




Dietrich glanced at Mayumi as she emerged from the door that led onto the roof of the Lion's Mane. She plopped down and began reading a book. He paused from practicing his forms and rested Gewalt on his shoulder.

"I thought you were with the Princess." He stated, raising an eyebrow at the bird circling the building. "You think its alright to leave her alone?"

Upon hearing her response, Dietrich's attention was grabbed by a group of people approaching the inn. He recognized two of them immediately, the third was an unfamiliar woman. He could only guess that this was the sister Shadow told them about. If that was the case, than it seemed Shadow didn't consider her dangerous. She was beautiful, but held herself with a deadly grace that betrayed her lethal experience. Dietrich sighed; so many worthy foes, and he couldn't fight any of them.

"Well, looks like they've already gotten chummy with Shadow's sister." He pointed out to Mayumi.

He waved a greeting down to the three in the street and then headed for the stairs.

"You want to come and meet your new comrade?" He asked the silver haired girl.

He proceeded down the stairs into the main hall of the Lion's Mane, and cleaned off a table for the group that would be entering the doors at any moment.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sereinia Lucis Nouralail Character Portrait: Era

INK

Sereinia Lucis Nouralail
"Sometimes the warmth you need comes from those far from you..."



Image
"So, Sereinia... If you don't mind my asking, what was it like growing up with a loving family? I heard from Shadow that you have an aunt or something like that here in the nation of Triveila whom you care about very much. So what was it like growing up with someone like that?"

Looking at Era, the good doctor continued with her walk while Era accompanied her. She then looked at the sky where the sun was quite bright. The sky was a beautiful azure while the city itself was bustling with life. Everyone was unaware of the darkness that hides from the deepest recess of this nation. However, she did not want to think about it for now. After all, she had decided to live in the present than in the past or future.

"It was a warm feeling like none other."

Remembering the days of her childhood, a bright smile could be seen on her lips. Sereinia could recall where her adoptive father would constantly dissuade some of the village boys away from her. It was really comedic and how delicious his pastries and bread were. As for her adoptive mother, she was so kind and quite the tomboy who would wrestle her husband when needed. Then, there was her little brother who she think of as her world. He was always hopeful and cheerful, even when his future seemed so bleak.

"Before I lived with my Aunt, I had grew up with a father, mother, and a little brother. There are times we get into arguments. Yet, it only showed we cared for each other. Every time, I am with them. It was fine to be who you are without any pretenses. A place of complete security."

Then, Sereinia recalled the sad events that occurred which obscured such happy memories with tragic ones. Her deep amethyst eyes had a glaze of loneliness in them. As such, she lowered her gaze and continued on.

"Losing them made my world crumble. It was then my Aunt Beatiz took me in. She was loud and rambunctious. I did not want to do anything with anybody at that time. Still, she pestered me relentlessly. It was like she wanted to make my time move once more."

Stopping from her walk, Sereinia gazed at Era once more. She was not sure how Era and Shadow were raised but she could assume some things. The two siblings never had a normal childhood like hers. As such, she could tell herself that she was far lucky. Even though, she was adopted. Her family treated her without pretenses. They expected nothing from her but to live as she had wanted. It was nothing short of a miracle for her. As a result, a bright smile was again on her lips.

"I always worry her and I do not want that. I write her letters to ease her concerns. It is nice to know that wherever you go, there is someone waiting for you. You have a home to come back to. Someone who does not expect anything out of you. A place where you can just be yourself. Although, she would often scold me from time to time. It was out of her love and desire not to see me get hurt. A gentle support for me."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Shadow Character Portrait: Sereinia Lucis Nouralail Character Portrait: Era

INK

Shadow




Era listened to Sereinia's story and thought to herself about whether or not to tell Sereinia the nature of both her and her brother's upbringing. Shadow, no doubt, had at least told her that they were basically tortured into killing machines, but she had to wonder as to whether or not he'd been more specific as to just how brutal it was and how alone they truly were during that time. Shadow and Era had known exactly who their mother was, but she was never actually considered as a "mother" to them due to what she had done to them, but more specifically, Shadow.

Era closed her eyes and stopped walking, leaning against the building nearest to her and turning her head towards the sky. As she combed through her memories, and the details as to the subtle differences in the way she was trained from her brother's training, she couldn't help but smile out of sadness.

Shadow's birth itself was considered an accident, as the Highmaster hadn't intended to have children when they took over Te'i Sai. Never the less, Shadow was born all the same. The Highmaster had planned on killing the child until he opened his eyes for the first time, and those crimson spheres within were revealed to the world. The possibilities for what those eyes could do to others, the images and messages they could send with but a glance were almost endless. It was only because of his eyes that he was spared a premature death, and it was because of those eyes that he was turned into the Red-Eyed Demon.

Shadow, at the tender age of four months old, was placed in a pit with several other infants and live weapons were dropped into the pit. Shadow had picked up a small knife and wailed it around, cutting several other children and actually killing several of them. He was rescued from the pit after about four hours, and when he learned to walk at the age of eight months, he was already being taught to mimic the Master Assassin movements of punching and kicking, and by the age of two, he was already a fighter with a level of strength beyond that of his peers.

When he was only five years old, Shadow took his first life as a professional Assassin. He was sent out to kill a man on a suicide mission, but remarkably, despite the fact that he was apprehended for killing his target, he was able to escape and returned to Te'i Sai on his own. When he returned, the Grandmaster Takai had the child beaten and was preparing to kill him when the Highmaster intervened. Once again, his life was spared thanks to the Highmaster, but only to have him thrown to the wolves and trained by the Grandmasters themselves. Over the next year, the "training" was little more than torture to destroy his mind, body and spirit, and before his sixth birthday he was a lifeless shell.

When he was seven years old, the legend of the Red-Eyed Demon began with Shadow taking the lives of over ten people in a single night by sneaking into a church and shooting the priest and some of the choir. This was Shadow's first and only venture using a gun, as it proved to be too loud and obnoxious for his taste. He then switched to a sword, but found it too slow. He settled on dual daggers since they were small, concealable, fast and accurate. Over time, Shadow's training intensified, and by the time he was twelve he was already an equal to Mayumi's current level of skill. The legends of the Red-Eyed Demon spread like wildfire from a simple bogey-man story about a demon possessing a child on a single night of death and sorrow to a living, breathing, nightmare which gripped the entire continent in fear by the time he was fourteen.

All along the way, in these first fourteen years of life, Shadow had taken well in excess of two and a half thousand lives. His eyes were the single nightmare which gripped the entire continent to a greater extent than even the thought of global war. The thought of the Red-Eyed Demon laying eyes on you was the ultimate bad omen, and that if you met his gaze you were already dead, and that your body just didn't know it. By the time he was seventeen, Shadow's personal body count had risen to over seven thousand. Shadow had been known to have mercilessly slaughtered innocent women, children, elderly and even the sickly. He'd killed homeless people for the fun of it, and had purposefully disobeyed orders from the Grandmasters themselves to the point where he'd go out and kill dozens of people just to pass the time.

He was under consideration for the position of Grandmaster until his disobedience reached a peak, and he was henceforth rejected as a candidate even though it was a well known fact that he was stronger, faster, tougher, and more skilled than any of them.

Most of Shadow's problems disappeared when he met a young woman named Iris Di' Nelma, but after her death his homicidal tendencies returned to him in force, and out of anguish over her passing he vented his rage by purposefully triggering Roda I'l Lousta in a heavily crowded area of the Capitol City in Shaharan, which ended with the deaths of over three hundred people. Shadow's time of mourning lasted until the day he chose to rebel against Te'i Sai at the age of twenty one years of age. Shadow met Taira and Era in the course of the first few months, and met Linde and Drake shortly thereafter. The five of them together were able to topple the Roda Valley branch of Te'i Sai in the nation of Cre' Est by isolating and killing the Grandmaster Takai. Era was responsible for killing the second Grandmaster in Shaharan about two years later, thanks to Shadow drawing the attention of the fortress into the open while Era infiltrated and conquered.

Since then, Shadow's recovery, both mental and physical, had been very slow and very rough. Linde was a definite pillar of hope and strength for him, but after she departed from his company, Shadow's recovery slowed and regressed somewhat. Era had seen a positive change in him since that time to now, however, and she was now quite convinced that Sereinia was a large cause for that recovery.

She finally opened her eyes and looked at Sereinia with a smile.

"Shall we return to the inn now? I have a feeling that Shadow will return before long, and when he comes back I have a strong feeling that some alone time with you might do him some good." She said, giving Sereinia a wink.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sereinia Lucis Nouralail Character Portrait: Era

INK

Sereinia Lucis Nouralail
"Do you know I have three wishes and one is..."



"Shall we return to the inn now? I have a feeling that Shadow will return before long, and when he comes back I have a strong feeling that some alone time with you might do him some good."

The Princess wondered if it was normal for a human to change emotions so quickly. She is a doctor and yet this condition was something completely foreign to her. Era's playful innuendo accompanied by a meaningful wink had caught Sereinia off guard which instantly made her fluttering feelings of bliss and fulfillment turned into seemingly having fleeting butterflies within her stomach which was impossible to begin with.

"Eh...?"

Adding to that, Sereinia could feel her blood rushing to her cheeks from the heat radiating from her face. She was certain that they were now red as a ripen apple. As a result, she quickly walked ahead of Era in an effort to hide her blushing face. She also lowered her head to add more cover from the passing crowds. If she had no realized the meaning of her feelings, she would have simply answered the question and would not act like a child caught stealing a cookie inside a jar. However, this was normal right?

"Yes, let us return..."

This was the rather hurried response by the Princess who was still blushing furiously about having the notion to spend some alone time with Shadow. Sereinia was truly confused for before she would not be bothered by the fact being alone with the man. In reality, she had been with him most of time without the company of others. During those memories of hers, she had not once felt this awkwardness. Perhaps, it was because of her coming in terms of her feelings than ignoring them all together. Stopping from her tracks, she did not directly looked at Era as she asked.

"Do you really think he would be happy with me alone?"

Her eyes were looking on the ground as if it was the most interesting in this world. Fidgeting hands as Sereinia placed them behind her. The manner she asked her question could be identified as bashful in every manner. This only made the Princess appear so adorable and fragile. The uncertainty and the hopefulness in her words were well-delivered without any sort of deception.

"I want him to be happy..."

Those words acted more like a reminder to herself. Sereinia's blush receded and the rapid beating of her heart settled into its normal rhythmic phase. She knew for a fact that Shadow and everyone were going to do something once more in Triveila. Their plans eluded her and she did not want to know them as well. It was for the better as she would have been quite dejected and rebellious towards Shadow's way of doing things. As such, she was left blank in such matters. She had also reminded Shadow that violence could never be the best solution. However, their opinions on how to do accomplish a goal were greatly different. Yet, she cannot help but run after him and wish him happiness all the same.

"Era..."

ImageRaising her head, Sereinia position her body sideways as she faced Era with those deep purple eyes of hers filled with gentle realization and sincere resolve. There was also a loving smile on her lips.

"I really love Shadow."

After that declaration, Sereinia had a rather more pleasant atmosphere around her. She may be seen as a fool for falling in love with a man who had been condoned by the society as a Demon. People will describe her as irresponsible as she would rather stay beside a criminal than take her duties as a Crown Princess of Cre' Est. Being a selfish daughter could also be added, she was having a grand time here with everyone while her birth parents were riddled with problems. There were the Empress who was fighting against enemies in the dark and The Emperor who had yet to wake from his coma. She knows all of these but this time here and now. All she wanted was to think of what she could grasp for now. Moreover, she wanted to spend a little more time with him.

"I wonder if he is already back at the inn..."

She asked to no one in particular as it was more of a query to herself. Although, Era was free to answer it. In any case, Sereinia was more happy than before as she continued on her way to return to the inn. Hoping, Shadow would be there done with his chores.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Shadow Character Portrait: Mayumi Character Portrait: Sereinia Lucis Nouralail Character Portrait: Dietrich "Leer" Faust Character Portrait: Era

INK

Shadow & Era




Shadow returned to the inn just as the sun had gone down, enjoying the ability to walk freely through the streets with brown eyes thanks to those wretched little eye drops. While he didn't like hiding his eyes from the world, as there was a certain comfort brought to him by the distance, fear, and respect they garnered, Shadow did truly enjoy walking the streets as a normal person would. It gave him more of an insight into how people lived, moved, spoke, and went about their days. If he wanted to blend with the crowds, this was the way to do it.

When Shadow returned, Era had brought Sereinia back safely, and Mayumi and Dietrich seemed to have had a little interaction as well, albeit not much if Shadow knew Mayumi as well as he thought he did. The poor girl was still almost as closed off as Shadow had been when he first started his rebellion after meeting Iris all those years ago. He knew that it would take some drastic changes in her life to show her what she truly was and why it was that she was not really a weapon. If there was one thing her previous master had made difficult for Shadow, it was proving that she was a human first and a weapon second.

Shadow greeted everyone upon his return and laid out his plans for the morrow. Shadow and Mayumi would take the fight to Te'i Sai, whose headquarters lie in a conveniently central location within the city. With any luck they would find the Grandmaster and kill him before he could retreat from the city and return to his true fortress outside the Capitol City over three hundred miles away. If he got out of the city before Shadow and the others got to him, they'd never catch him before he made it back, so stealth was paramount. Shadow and Mayumi would leave under cover of darkness, with Shadow donning his original uniform of all black materials which Era had kept for him all this time. Dietrich would patrol the streets, and wherever he saw Te'i Sai or Roda Ah K'mht which he knew he could defeat based on Shadow's descriptions, he was to engage and annihilate. If he suffered injuries, he was to return to the inn where Era would be guarding Sereinia.

It was simple and straightforward, but it presented a lot of risks to all parties involved, though Shadow and Mayumi would be taking the brunt of the punishment if things were to go wrong.

After discussing the plans, Shadow left everyone to their own devices once more. Mayumi did what she usually does, which was to take to the rooftops. Era decided to dot he same, though she decided to patrol the surrounding area for potential threats or spies. She offered Mayumi the chance to tag along and help her if she thought it was necessary, but she didn't wait up for a response. If Mayumi was going with her, she would tag along and keep up on her own. Dietrich was still a bit of a mystery to Shadow, and he didn't much pay attention to where he went for the time being. He knew, however, that eventually he'd have to have a more in depth conversation with the Line-Breaker to better understand who he was and what he could do. The training was great, but Shadow could only learn so much from actions alone.

In the meantime, Shadow took Sereinia with him on a stroll through the streets, keeping his eyes hidden behind the veil that was the eye color changing drops he kept with him, as there were still other people out and about since the sun's light was still peeking over the horizon.

"Sereinia, what do you think of Era?" He asked, looking over at her as they walked together.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Shadow Character Portrait: Mayumi Character Portrait: Sereinia Lucis Nouralail Character Portrait: Dietrich "Leer" Faust Character Portrait: Era

INK

Dietrich Faust
"On my own against the odds. Good, I won't have to check my swings."




"Patrolling again... I suppose that's what I'll be used as for now. Too useful to keep back with the Princess, not useful enough to use on the front-line."

Dietrich cast furtive glances around himself as he blended the best he could in the crowd. He had bought a long black cloak earlier, and was using it as a kind of make-shift disguise. Of course he couldn't mask Gewalt, but at least his armor, shortsword, and other gear would be hidden. With luck, he would appear to be just another wandering sellsword.

"Well, to be honest, that's exactly what I am..."

Then again, Dietrich wasn't so sure if he had ever been "just another sellsword". He had never fought for money. He had fought because that was all he knew how to do, and because he loved it. Still, the feeling of inferiority that had been gnawing at him ever since beginning this adventure refused to leave him. He had fought his way all the way to what he thought was the top, the highest rung of the ladder, the top of the food chain. Now though, his eyes had been opened to see that the ladder was much higher than he had first thought. On top of that, it seemed that when the ladder ended, a small flight of stairs waited. Shadow was up there somewhere, on those stairs above the ladder.

Early on, Dietrich had decided that he wanted to climb that ladder, and reach those stairs. It would be incredibly unsightly if he were not able to provide an acceptable challenge for the man that would one day grant him his Doom. Shadow's training had been incredibly helpful, Dietrich felt like he had reached a new peak in ability, but it still wouldn't be enough. Not if he wanted to climb higher.

He abandoned the streets, tightly packed with morning traffic, and moved into the alleyways. It was still cool and dark in the alleys, the sun had yet to rise high enough to penetrate the deepest corners of the city. Very few people wandered these areas, for fear of thieves and muggers, none of whom could pose a threat to him. Dietrich hated these places. The people in the slums seemed to exude an unshakeable aura of pure hopelessness. The people had no fire, no passion. They were dead, but still walked. No matter how prosperous, every city had these places.

Normally Dietrich would avoid such a slum. However, he had a suspicion that if any assassin chaos ensued in the city, following Shadow's attack, it would most likely begin here. The abandoned, forsaken dark corners of the city would make easy staging grounds for murderous bands. All that was left to do now was to wait for the inevitable. The exciting prospect of imminent combat made his palms begin to tingle with anticipation.

Briefly, his thoughts drifted to the Princess. Dietrich wondered if she would be safe at the Inn, without Shadow or himself to guard her. Then he remembered the presence of Era, and his mind was put to some rest. He had no first-hand knowledge of her ability, but Shadow had made it clear she could handle herself. Mayumi was with Shadow, so she would be fine. Actually, now that he thought about it, Dietrich was the only one on his own today. The realization made him grin.

Either they're trying to get rid of me, or they think more of me than I realized.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Shadow Character Portrait: Mayumi Character Portrait: Era

INK

Shadow




Once Mayumi had made her way over to his side, Shadow looked over at her, then to Sora, and then back to the compound before them. His mind was working in ten directions and thinking of all the possibilities which could present themselves, or at least those which were the most likely to occur. No matter which one he went with, he couldn't figure out why this was going so well. Te'i Sai was never this sloppy, nor were they ever this lax on their defenses. If the Grandmaster was here, he was either extremely confident that whoever was with him inside would be enough to stop Shadow, or just a fool who had forgotten how dangerous Shadow truly was.

"... Stay close and stay quiet... I don't like this." He said in a quiet and low voice.

The two of them approached the wall of the compound and scaled its side to a third story window. Shadow hopped inside first, and found the room to be just another empty room with a bed, dresser, desk, mirror, and wardrobe. It was as if it was a room in a regular house.

... Could Taira have been wrong about this? He thought to himself as Mayumi hopped in behind him.

Shadow led her through the compound room by room, checking each one and each time he did so he found nothing waiting for them. One by one, the rooms yielded absolutely nothing in his search for the Grandmaster. It was beginning to grow tiresome and very frustrating for Shadow to continually find nothing when Taira said that this was in fact the place where they needed to be. The search continued for about one hour's time until Shadow called an end to it. They had searched every room and checked each one for any signs of hidden passages, but there was nothing whatsoever to find. As they stood in the hallway, Shadow pulled out Taira's letter to him from one of the small pouches on his belt in the back beneath the Twin Daggers.

He read it one time through in its entirety to see if there was anything he'd missed, and then there was a chilling, and horrifying realization which struck him like a cold and ruthless slap to the face.

"Mayumi......" He said quietly.

"Get out of here... now." He said, his voice soft but commanding.

No sooner had he said those words than did several of the rooms suddenly burst into flame around them. The entire compound was rocked by a large explosion from the basement, knocking both Shadow and Mayumi off their feet. As they fell to the ground, Shadow looked up to see one of the overhead beams falling directly onto Mayumi, but thankfully Shadow was able to flip his body over in time to take the impact of the beam as he held himself over her. He shoved the beam off of his back and picked Mayumi up, forcing her to her feet and pushing her towards one of the rooms with a lesser amount of fire.

"Go!" He shouted.

Shadow had other matters to attend to now, and it was clear to him that Mayumi was no longer safe by his side.



"... So my dear, what do you think of our plan?" Came a dark, cold voice from the shadows around her.

Taira's hands and feet were bound, and her lower left lip bleeding with several other wounds indicative of torture to be found across her body. Her arms were weak, her legs trembled from what had been done to her, and her voice had grown raspy and soft. She looked up as best she could, her eyes landing on those of her captor who stood before her with a subtle but wicked smile on his face.

"You'll never be able to pull it off..." She declared, her voice cutting off from pain and hoarseness at the end.

The figure before her laughed audibly, but made no move from his spot several feet away.

"Ah, my dear Taira. So much faith in your master... It's touching, really. However, you seem to have overlooked the fact that he and I are as equals in almost every way. You cannot truly expect him to stand against me after what's about to happen to him, can you?"

Taira tried to force a smile but her lips would not move. She could only glare at him defiantly.

"Do not overestimate yourself... You'll never be his equal no matter how hard you try." She said, pride in her voice.

At that statement, the figure before her turned cold to match his tone of voice, his smile having since withered.

"Hmph. Your ignorance blinds you, Taira. If only you knew how far back the two of us really go, you'd not be so confident in your master's ability to defeat me."

Taira spat at his feet once her lips found strength again to do so, and she continued to glare at him defiantly and speak with confidence and pride despite the fact that her voice was weak and she needed several breaks to catch her breath in between words.

"It seems to me that you are the one who's... Ignorant here... Especially if you truly believe what you're saying... Your past means nothing in the face of the here and now, and Shadow has you beat... You know it too, don't you? That's why you have to... Resort to such tactics to beat him... Because he's too strong for you in a head to head match?"

The eyes of the figure before her flashed with rage as he slammed his fist into the side of her face, knocking her over in her chair onto the floor, blood trickling from her mouth into a small puddle around her face.

"You know nothing, girl. If I wanted it so, he would already be dead. These tactics mean nothing in the face of my skill and ability, they simply help to ensure that I get what I want. The powerful deserve to rule over the weak, and Shadow is the weakest of them all. He deserves to be humiliated, broken down, and discarded like the trash that he is. You can believe what you like, but your master will fall before me soon enough, and there is nothing you can say that will change that."

With that, the figure stormed out of the room, leaving her lying on the floor bound to her chair as her blood slowly gathered around her head.

As she lay there, thinking about what would happen to her, an explosion went off in one of the rooms around her which shook the walls, floors, and ceiling of her prison. It wasn't long before small fragments of the building began to fall onto her, each one stinging and feeling like another fist which found its target against her.

"... So this is where my story ends... How ironic." She thought to herself.



Shadow dashed through the burning house which was beginning to collapse, rapidly checking and rechecking each room he passed for signs of what Taira described in her letter. When Shadow had first read it, there was a certain word which caught his eye, but at the time he'd thought nothing of it. Only now, too late, did he realize that she was telling him that she was trapped. Her letter led him here because this is where she was, trapped inside this building as it was about to crush her to death. He knew now, after reading her letter, what to look for as far as passageways which he'd missed with Mayumi, and after searching as fast as he could for several minutes and weathering the heat of the flames, Shadow found what he was looking for. He pulled on a small statue in one of the lower rooms which provided the sound he was looking for, though it was barely audible through the flames and creaks of the weakening wood of the house around him.

Shadow tore the carpet away and saw the door to the chambers below. How he missed this before was unknown, as when he had walked on it before there was no sound to convince him it was hollow. Obviously, those who designed this place were much more shrewd than he thought, but this was no time to admire the work set into this place. Shadow broke through the small stone door which was unlocked thanks to that statue being moved, and slid down the ladder to the lower chambers beneath the house. One by one, he searched through each of the small confined spaces until finally, he broke down one final door, and there she was. She was lying very still on the ground, a small pool of blood gathered around her head. Shadow ran to her as fast as he could and tore her bindings, lifting her into his arms and making a mad dash for the exit.

He had some difficulty carrying her up the ladder, but when he made it back to the house the flames had only intensified and made escape nearly impossible, even for him. His eyes and mind worked frantically to find an exit he could use, until he was forced to realize that he was too late, and that the time had come already. Shadow looked up towards the ceiling and heard those horrible sounds of support beams giving way, and he looked to Taira in his arms, who looked back at him with sadness in her eyes as tears welled up within them. Shadow cupped her head into his shoulder and knelt down on one knee, setting her down in a curled up ball in front of his body as the beams overhead finally gave out. He wrapped his arms around Taira and held her in close to him flexing his body the moment the debris came into contact with his flesh, and was buried beneath a mountain of rubble which used to be the compound of a venerable family which likely met its end when Te'i Sai decided to take over.



Elsewhere in the city, a Line-Breaker was making his rounds in the city.

All around him, there was a gathering of men in grey robes with the red insignia of Te'i Sai following him. Though they didn't really have any reason to be doing so, they followed him anyway, as one of them had recognized him from the events several months ago when Shadow met his end. They lined themselves up on the rooftops, keeping quiet as could be as they continued to follow the Line-Breaker until at last, he had reached a rather isolated location where they could work their magic. They had no intention to kill him, but roughing him up would at least be a fun exercise.

At least... That's what they thought when they jumped off the rooftops and landed in a circle around him.



Era was sitting quietly and reading a book in one of the chairs near the window of the inn when the sound of the explosion in the distance caught her attention. Her head shot away from the book and to the source of the noise, and her eyes were wide with anxiety. She stood up, dropping her book to the floor as she approached the window. She looked out, passed the rows of rooftops before her to see the smoke just barely visible in the distance beginning to rise into the sky, signaling that something was horribly wrong.

Era could feel deep inside, that sensation that her brother was in danger.

Ever since they were little, even though they had never met until they were adults, Shadow and Era held a powerful bond which transcended the circumstances surrounding their upbringing and cemented their relationship as brother and sister. No matter the distance between them, when things went wrong, they could sense it. Her mind was linked to her brother's in a way most would never understand, but she could feel the emotions running through his mind and she could almost see through his eyes what was happening. One thing was certain, however, and that was that she was not going to tell Sereinia about where her brother was at the moment. Likely, if the good doctor was as in love with him as she claimed, she'd feel it too... that sense that something was horribly wrong.

Era was unconsciously beginning to try and leave through the window when her ears caught a sound which instantly turned her back in Sereinia's direction. She lunged forward and pushed Sereinia out of the way and caught the wrist of an Assassin from Te'i Sai in her right hand. In the hand of the Assassin was a large knife which closely resembled Shadow's Twins in overall design, but they were not made of Orichalcum, nor were they ever going to present the same kind of threat as the Twins did once in Shadow's hands. Era twisted his wrist and snapped both bones in his forearm just a short distance away from where her grip was, and she planted her foot deep into the man's stomach, churning his insides as she ground her foot in deeper and deeper until she heard his back crack. It was not broken, but it was a signal to her that she had done enough. She threw him aside and immediately pulled Sereinia in close behind her.

"Stay on me Sereinia, and do not wander." She ordered.

Carefully, Era led Sereinia out of the inn and into the streets, on her way to a special safe house which only Era and Shadow knew of. Along the way, she had to protect Sereinia from several would be attackers, but thanks to her skills, they proved to be as nothing. After almost ten minutes of running and fighting, Era led Sereinia to a lone house on the edge of town and got her to go inside once she checked that it was clear.

"Stay here and stay quiet until I come back for you. This city is becoming a battleground, and the farther you are from it the safer you'll be. I know that your first instinct will be to find Shadow, but you'd be doing both him and yourself a favor by staying out of it this time. If he knows you're safe, he can act to his full potential. If he knows you're in danger, he'll be worried about you and his focus will be split. It's safer for both of you if you remain here."

Not really waiting for an answer, Era closed the door on Sereinia and locked her inside. The lock for this door was on the outside, and Era had the only key. She put the key away and ran back into the city, intent on finding and helping her brother out of the mess he had gotten himself into.



Over an hour passed before the debris had weakened enough for him to slowly rise and push it off of himself and Taira.

Shadow was exhausted and wounded from the sheer weight of the rubble and debris falling on him, but by some stroke of unimaginable luck, several support beams remained in tact just enough to support a large sum of the debris above him so that Shadow had enough room to lift what was on top of him off so that he could get Taira out of here. The house was smoldering now, having burned for over an hour already, and Shadow picked up Taira and pried his way free of the debris around him. As he walked into the clean air outside the now burned down compound, his lungs found relief, as did Taira's, who now coughed to get some of the smokey residue from her throat.

Shadow set her down and sat down next to her, both of them exhausted from the aftermath of the house coming down on top of them. Shadow was strong, but holding up several hundred pounds of weight off of Taira from a burning building was no easy feat. He could feel that, while nothing was broken, he was in need of medical attention if he was to come out of this cleanly. Several points on his body were burned and/or deeply bruised, and if he was to recover properly, he'd need access to supplies he was not yet carrying with him. He stood up as best he could and flexed his body, feeling out where the worst points were from the pain they caused before straightening his back and cracking his neck. He looked at Taira, who was now unconscious, and picked her up once more and walked back into the city.

Slowly, step by step, Shadow's consciousness threatened to fade as well.

It wasn't until a stroke of luck came his way once more in the form of Era, who rapidly ran to her brother's side. She carefully embraced him and checked his wounds, applying a mild ointment to dull the pain in almost every location in question before agreeing to take Taira to Sereinia at Era's safe house.

Shadow, on the other hand, had someone to see... And it wasn't long before Shadow's patience was rewarded when Kiiro came forward to face him from out of the chaos which had since engulfed the city since Shadow's confinement in the burning compound.

"... Kiiro." Shadow said in a low and threatening voice.

Kiiro only smiled at him.

Shadow's galre said it all, and Kiiro's smile responded in kind. There were no real words which needed to be voiced between them. They were born on the same day, tossed into the same pit as infants, and brought up as Assassins at the same time. The only difference was how they were trained and by whom, but never the less Kiiro eventually was able to attain the same training which turned Shadow into the Red-Eyed Demon, and had since become his physical equal in strength, speed, agility, skill, stamina and endurance. The two of them had held an unnatural hatred for each other since they day they were born, somehow knowing even then that they would forever be enemies in all things. They stared at each other for a few moments longer, sizing each other up, until Kiiro made a rather unexpected move...

He walked away.

Shadow was rather confused and dumbfounded by what had just happened, as Kiiro had never backed away without a fight before without good reason. Shadow was exhausted and wounded, and now would have been the perfect time to fight him if he wanted to kill him. Shadow would not go down without a fight, but his chances for victory were not very high in his current state. For Kiiro to walk away required circumstance which eluded Shadow's mind as he tried to figure out what was going on. All around him the city was chaos. People screaming everywhere and running for their lives. Te'i Sai and Roda Ah K'mht both fighting in droves in the city streets. Fires and people fighting fires in several locations around the city. It was just one big mess, and somehow Kiiro was connected to it, but if he was willing to walk away from Shadow... How involved was he?

Shadow's answer came in the form of another individual who appeared to him from out of the haze.



Era made her way back to the safe house and unlocked the door. As she threw it open, Sereinia was inside waiting to be let out, but there was no time for that.

"Sereinia, help me stabilize Taira. After that we can go find Shadow. Get everything you have with you and anything you need from this room. It's stocked with medical supplies. Hurry!" She demanded.



Back in the streets, Shadow stared down this new opponent who stood before him. For whatever reason, Shadow could not gauge his abilities. Shadow had trained for so long, and had so much combat experience, that he was able to gauge any opponent's fighting prowess at a glance without ever needing to see them fight. This man though was different, and that had Shadow worried. If he had enough control over his body to hide his fighting prowess, then he was obviously going to be incredibly dangerous.

The man before Shadow was about six feet tall with dark brown hair cut short but straight along the top leading into a small point just above his forehead. There was grey around his temples, but other than that there were no outward signs of aging. He was lean, muscular, and held a similar build to Shadow, albeit slightly bigger. His face was clean and devoid of scars or signs of fatigue. His eyes were clear and sharp like that of a raptor, and his weaponry consisted solely of a single sword which was obviously made from Orichalcum judging by the handle and what little of the blade Shadow could see.

Once again, as with Kiiro, there were no words which needed to be spoken. Shadow rotated his neck in a circle and loosened up his shoulders, stretching his legs and arms both before standing up straight and waiting for his opponent to finish doing the same. When they were both satisfied, they glared each other down once more, neither one willing to instigate the first strike. In order to force the issue they inched closer and closer to each other, each step bringing them that much closer to being within striking range. Finally, they had reached arms length and were within range, but both were still reluctant to engage first. They stepped in circles around each other, neither one wiling to do anything more than feel the other out for any signs of weakness. Both fighters had a near flawless guard despite the fact that their hands were down, but each could tell the other was ready at any given moment.

Finally, the first move was made.

This unknown enemy struck first, and the speed at which he moved caught Shadow completely off guard. Shadow could not stop his attack, nor get away from it fast enough to avoid damage, and he ended up taking a glancing blow to the right side of his jaw as he staggered away a few steps to analyze what had just happened. When he felt his jaw and drew his hand away, there was a small trickle of blood coming from it. He looked at his opponent's hand and saw a small piece of flesh being flicked off of his index knuckle, and Shadow realized that the punch had come at him so fast that it actually caught his skin when it glanced to the side and tore a small section of it off.

Shadow was amazed at the speed at which his opponent moved, and he knew then and there... This was a fight he could not win.



After Era and Sereinia had stabilized Taira and allowed her to sleep in the safety of Era's safe house, Era led Sereinia through the streets to Shadow as fast as they were both humanly able to go. Era was able to feel each blow of the fight within her soul, though her physical body did not suffer the same pain. Finally, the fight was over, and she could sense that Shadow did not walk away victorious from it all. Through the streets and alleyways she led Sereinia to her brother, and finally found him lying unconscious in the middle of the road with either of the Twins embedded into the ground on either side of his head.

Oddly enough, this was an ancient symbol of respect from one warrior to another, victor to loser, to plant the loser's weapon(s) into the Earth at or around the head.

Shadow drew breath yet, but it was clear to Era upon a single glance that Shadow would not be waking up anytime soon.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Shadow Character Portrait: Sereinia Lucis Nouralail Character Portrait: Era

INK




Thus, it began. The operation which entailed Shadow's and his allies lifelong goal, The fall of Te'i Sai. At the very least, Sereinia was informed of this detail. She knew of the organization from the myths before her ascension as a Princess. Now, she knew them well through experience and also through the various lectures she had received at Cre' Est from the hands of her private tutors which included self-reading. Once covered with honor was now blemished with the atrocities of sins. It would appear that no one was immune with the degradation in the hands of time. Even with that knowledge, she could not still help but be opposed to such an idea. Was there no other way than giving death? Yet, she also understood that the ways of such people had been ingrained deeply in their souls. It made her wonder if her vision of peace will be realized or was it really a foolish dream?

Thinking on it, Sereinia released a small sigh as she was preparing some of the medicines. She had been in such situations that the group would returned occasionally with some souvenirs from their expedition. Although, she has faith in them to return alive. There was still her never-ending concern. She only hoped that Shadow, Mayumi, and Dietrich would come back all safe and sound. With that lingering thought, she grabbed hold a small flask to begin her concoction of her own medicines. But in that instance, the flask escaped her grasp and shattered on the wooden floor. Yet, her attention was not taken by the crashing sound of the glass. It was the terrible and nauseating feeling of dread.

"Shadow..."

As if a premonition, an explosion from the distance took her and Era's attention who was left behind to watch over the Princess. The anxiety that Era was showing only cemented Sereinia's awful feeling. Something has terribly gone wrong. Her heart beat faster than she could ever anticipated and her complexion was slowly turning into a paler hue. She must find them. She must find him now. But before she could do such a thing, she was pushed away and the sound of bones breaking returned her slightly to the present. In the midst of her personal turmoil, an attack to her person was presented. This was a trap. It only fueled her fear for the safety of Mayumi, Dietrich, and Shadow further.

"Stay on me Sereinia, and do not wander."

Era's words cut through Sereinia's hazy consciousness as she felt her being pulled by Era to stay behind her. She did as she was told and soon the two of them were out of the Inn. Yet, it was not without a few tackles which was the same even when they were on the streets. The question of their destination entered the Princess' mind however, she was not able to ask Era about it. Not until, they had arrived at a lone house which was quite a ways from the main city proper. She wondered what they were doing here when it was clear that something bad had happened to their friends especially to Shadow. The fear and dread would still not subside within the Good Doctor's heart.

"Stay here and stay quiet until I come back for you. This city is becoming a battleground, and the farther you are from it the safer you'll be. I know that your first instinct will be to find Shadow, but you'd be doing both him and yourself a favor by staying out of it this time. If he knows you're safe, he can act to his full potential. If he knows you're in danger, he'll be worried about you and his focus will be split. It's safer for both of you if you remain here."

Before Sereinia could answer whether she approved of this action or not, the door was closed in front of her with the lock mechanism echoing through the still house. The memories of how Taira locked her up to avoid the events of the Bloody New Year flashed briefly through her mind. She tried opening the door yet, it was completely sturdy and she highly doubt that Era would leave her alone without an assurance that she could not leave without a miracle which the Princess was not capable of without the aid of another.

Lowering herself to the floor, Sereinia replayed Era's words to her much like a broken record. The truth in those statements cannot be denied. The last time she recklessly involved herself in the fray lead to his father's current state and trouble to the Twin Protectors who Shadow had asked to watch over her. Her actions always lead to irreversible consequences which she would carry as her sins for all time. Yet, the urge to search for Shadow on her own remained strong. Perhaps if she was much like Linde, she would not be too much of a burden in events like these. Yet, her morality of not harming continued to hamper such notions. In the end, she could only pray.

"Divine Auxureilla, please kept them safe... Please let them all return to me safely especially him... I beg of you..."

The Princess was uncertain how much time had passed by. But, she was sure that impatience was creeping on her like an awaiting predator. She had already looked around the house she was taken to. There were ample supplies here both for medical care and living expenses. This was for sure one of the safe houses. It was quite convenient that such structures were placed around the continent but also a bit saddening for the urgency to have one. Perhaps, someday they could make do without such a thing. It was then the door was opened halting Sereinia's thought in the middle. There was Era carrying a heavily injured woman which she could only identify as Taira.

"Sereinia, help me stabilize Taira. After that we can go find Shadow. Get everything you have with you and anything you need from this room. It's stocked with medical supplies. Hurry!"

Instinct of being a Doctor overtook Sereinia's concerns. For now, it was important to treat the wounds on Taira. Quickly tying her hair up, she proceeded to check the obvious wounds that could be seen. She immediately applied a primary aid to it and then continued treating it to ensure that it would not be infected or evolve into a critical one. The wound on Taira's head made the Princess concerned the most. She could treat the outer results of the wound and such. However, she could never correctly gauge whether there would be a lasting effect. For now, she must what she can. Once that was done, she checked for other injuries that might have been hidden by Taira's clothes. Finding a lot than anticipated, she could only conclude that this girl was tortured either for fun or necessity. Perhaps, it was even for both reasons. When Taira's condition was pronounced by Sereinia as stable, Era took her away to find Shadow.

Image "Please... Benevolent Gods and Goddesses, make him safe... Please, I beg of you."

Soon, the two of them reached their intended destination. There they saw Shadow lying on the ground. Those of eyes of purple that had the subtle lingering of fear grew large with the realization of her doubts. Without further ado, Sereinia broken free from Era's side and ran towards Shadow. The memories of his presumed demise played in her mind much like a silent film. She never wanted that to happen ever again. Lowering herself to the ground, she immediately checked for his pulse. It soothed her worries that it was still present.

"Shadow... Oh, Shadow..."

Taking out some of the medical supplies she had taken with her, Sereinia began applying first aid and also checked the condition of Shadow's body. It was in a terrible yet manageable condition. The aftermaths of a battle was the certain cause of his injuries. There were also some burned marks that made her conclude that Shadow was involved with the explosion beforehand. However, she could not properly treat him at the middle of the streets. Looking over her shoulders, her purple eyes met with Era's.

"Era, help me carry him. We need to take him to safety now."

After stating that, Sereinia gently caressed Shadow's face. She did not know what happened here or the meaning of those daggers embedded on the grounds beside his head. All she understood was that Shadow needed help now more than ever. It also meant that someone had the ability to render the infamous Red-Eyed Demon unconscious or has the stroke of luck on their side. Whatever the case maybe, she could not care about it for now.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Shadow Character Portrait: Sereinia Lucis Nouralail Character Portrait: Dietrich "Leer" Faust Character Portrait: Era

INK

Dietrich Faust
"Just climbing that ladder..."




Dietrich casually drew Gewalt from his back as the circle of cloaked figures seemed to materialize around him. He had to give them credit, they played their strengths well. From the calm, almost lackadaisical atmosphere that radiated from them, Dietrich had to assume they thought of him as simply a toy to play with. The thought made him smile savagely. He remembered Shadow's warning about the types of enemies he might encounter, and searched them for any distinguishing insignia. They were all clothed in a uniform way, long grey cloaks that masked their equipment; just as Dietrich's own black cloak hid his. Still, Dietrich couldn't imagine they that they wouldn't be carrying all types of vicious weaponry. He noticed the red symbol of the assassins' guild that Shadow had told him of. If he remembered correctly, these were roughly the same quality of men that he had fought against in his last brush with assassins.

The ring of cloaked figures did not speak, but observed him silently. Dietrich adopted a basic stance, with his greatsword held at his hip, the pommel facing forward and the blade reaching out behind him. They stood for a few long moments, Dietrich facing the ring of mute grey-cloaked killers. Dietrich snorted and stomped into a wide stance.

"No need to talk, I know what you want and who you are. I speak with my blade." Dietrich spoke.

Abruptly, he launched himself forward. He was taken aback by the explosive energy with his which his legs shot him towards the line of men. It was thrilling, his long black cloak billowed behind him like a shadow attempting to catch up with its source. The assassins seemed similarly surprised, and the men directly in his path took a few steps back. Nonetheless, Dietrich came within range amazingly fast. He bellowed a deep challenge and sent six feet of steel screaming through the air.

"Taste a real warrior's blade!"

Image

The assassins, caught completely unprepared in their ignorance of Dietrich's skill, only barely managed to leap over the blade as it passed. Dietrich's face contorted into a mask of effort as he fought against Gewalt's own momentum. Completing an act of masterful swordsmanship, he delivered a return swing with the back-edge, ripping through the assassins as they were in mid-air. They screamed as Gewalt bit into their bodies.

Not watching to see them fall to the street, Dietrich immediately spun around, lashing out with a wide sweep. The assassins around him had attempted to close the gap when he attacked, and they suffered for their mistake. Dietrich moved through them like a force of nature, using the sheer weight, length, and momentum of his massive blade to rip through body after body. He could tell that the assassins were not at all prepared for him. They had never fought an opponent that could couple competent speed with raw power. They had simply underestimated him.

Dietrich's berserk fury, paired with Gewalt's length and momentum, cleared a blood-soaked space for him to move. The assassins attempted to back off and reorganize, but Dietrich gave them no such chance. He chased them down, hacking through rips and thighs, opening stomachs and ending lives. Quickly though, the surprise of his assault wore off, and the assassins began to play on their strengths. They danced out of his reach and began using projectiles.

Knives and throwing stars filled the air, they were too small to be anything other than an annoyance though. Dietrich avoided them as best he could, letting the ones that grazed the unprotected portions of his limbs fuel his rage through pain. Still, he was at a disadvantage now. The assassins were staying out of range of his sword, and he realized that it wouldn't be long until they deployed weaponry capable of penetrating his armor. A particularly large throwing knife suddenly connected with his thigh. He grunted in pain, before ripping the blade out and casting it away.

"What's wrong? No man brave enough to meet me alone? I'm sure you're bitter about your dead friends, don't you want to take my life with your own hands?" He roared.

The remaining assassins paused in their attack; at first, Dietrich thought that his taunt had somehow affected them, but without warning, the assassins suddenly fled. They vanished down the alleyways and side-streets before Dietrich could protest. His first reaction was to pursue them, but they had all left in different directions, and Dietrich realized that there was something more to this than there seemed. They seemed to have been following some kind of order. He turned and surveyed the rooftops around him.

"Someone must have been watching from up there, somewhere. They must have ordered a general withdraw. For what reason though?"

Dietrich glanced around, only now realizing the scope of the chaos that he had caused. Bodies were literally piled in the street. He wasn't normally one to keep a kill-count, but Dietrich was unashamedly proud of his new found ability. At least thirteen assassins had been sent to the Coward's Pool by his hand today. Even more had been carried off by their friends, some of whom would die before reaching safety.

"Just climbing that ladder... I suppose."

He took a deep breath, and began cleaning the blood from Gewalt on the grey cloak of a fallen foe. He wondered what his comrades were up to. Abruptly, he realized he was bleeding. Gashes and cuts oozed red ichor on his upper arms and legs, the most prominent of which was a large puncture wound left by the large knife that had stabbed into his thigh. He smiled despite himself.

Motion in the corner of his eye caught his attention, to his surprise, he spotted the Princess and Era running down the street that intersected with his own. His first reaction was that something had gone wrong, there was no other reason for the Princess to be out running through the streets. He pursued as fast as he was able, his left leg slowly going numb.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Eventually, he was able to catch up with them, but the scene that awaited him was startling.

"Era, help me carry him. We need to take him to safety now."

Dietrich caught his breath and approached the two women.

"Don't bother yourself, ladies." He said, addressing them both. "I'll carry him, just tell me where I'm going."

He approached Shadow's body, but stopped to face Era. "If its alright with you that is, he's your flesh and blood. But I've got a feeling you're in a better position to cover us than me. On the way you can tell me what the hell is going on."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Shadow Character Portrait: Sereinia Lucis Nouralail Character Portrait: Era

INK

Shadow




When Shadow woke up the world was spinning. His body ached and some of his joints felt like they'd been put through a grinding machine. He looked up at the ceiling to get his bearings, and found himself back in Era's safe house. Era herself was not far away, likely doing a perimeter check, and Sereinia was quite close to him and seemed to be quite tired. After going through all of this when it was supposed to be a quick and easy trip could not have been without consequence for the poor girl. Shadow and the others were used to this, but Sereinia, having come up in a normal background, would likely never be used to it.

But Shadow couldn't worry about that now.

He did a quick assessment of his body by flexing individual muscle groups and adding and subtracting tension in a few key areas to feel out where his body needed the most attention. He could feel that there were three cracked ribs, though none completely broken which was good. Within his left forearm, the radial bone had a hairline fracture along its length from his wrist to about two or three inches down the bone. That would be difficult to treat without a few key ingredients, but luckily Shadow was able to spot the ingredients in question in one of Era's cupboards. His left knee was slightly banged up, but would not need more than a good soaking in hot water and some TLC to bring it back up to proper shape.

Other than that, Shadow was relatively unscathed, if severely roughed up on the surface.

He sat up slowly, using his elbows to push his upper torso up first, following with his mid back and finally his lower back until he was sitting upright. It was an odd feeling for Shadow to know that he had been defeated in combat, and by one so seemingly calm and at peace that why he was connected to Kiiro eluded Shadow completely. The fact that Kiiro had his chance to kill Shadow, but instead allowed this warrior to fight with him instead proved that the Assassin had a bigger agenda than Shadow had initially thought. What he was up to remained a mystery, but Shadow doubted that he'd seen the last of that warrior.

He looked around, and as Sereinia approached him he gave her a smile and a nod to let her know he was alright, but his face gave a different message as he continued to look around.

"... Where's Mayumi?" He asked.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Shadow Character Portrait: Sereinia Lucis Nouralail Character Portrait: Era

INK

Shadow




"What if something happened to her? I have to go find her. Mr. Dietrich, please look after Shadow. I will look for Mayumi."

Shadow heard this and immediately responded.

"You aren't going anywhere with the city in this state." He demanded, rather harshly.

Shadow was injured, irritated, and definitely affected by his loss in combat to whomever that warrior was. However, he was clear headed enough to know that going out into the city with it in such a chaotic frenzy of Assassin activity was not an option. Injured as he was, Shadow was in no condition to fight, and as such he was unsure if he should send Era out to look for the girl just yet.

"... We will wait." He declared as he laid back down, albeit with some difficulty from his cracked ribs.

They all sat, more or less, in silence for over ten minutes before Sora finally appeared outside and landed on the roof's edge above the doorway. Era opened the door and brought the bird inside, and Shadow knew exactly what had happened.

"Sora never comes back alone... Mayumi's been taken." He said quietly, sadness touching the tip of his tongue.

Era closed her eyes and let out a small sigh, brushing her long hair back and allowing her fingers to run through it. Though she wasn't quite as well acquainted with Mayumi as the others, she held a certain level of respect and adoration for the little girl who wanted to be an Assassin. In Era's eyes, she was still too young and too weak to measure up to Shadow and her expectations, but she trusted Shadow's judgement and respected his choice to train the girl. However, with Mayumi at her physical peak, there wasn't much they could do for her if she met her match. With Sora coming back without her, and with Shadow certain that she was taken away, it seemed that their worst fears had just become reality.

Shadow took in a deep breath and let it out on a quiet sigh, a small flash in his red eyes temporarily lighting the entire room with an eerie red light for but the briefest of moments before it disappeared as quickly as it had appeared. The flash was so fast that to most it would not have even been visible, but Era and Sora both picked up on the change and started to slowly back away from the bed upon which Shadow was laying. That flash of light was an indication that two things were happening behind Shadow's quiet eyes and calm exterior. One, that his anger was beginning to reach dangerous levels. And two, that Shadow's Gift was beginning to activate on a subconscious command which was dangerous for everyone within this little safe house.

Every Assassin with the Gift had a special ability or quirk which came with it which was as unique as the Assassins themselves who possessed them. This Gift only blessed about one in every hundred thousand Assassins, and to have three which had the Gift in Shadow's company was nothing short of a miracle. Shadow, Era, and Mayumi all had the Gift, but so too did Kiiro, Shadow's former most dangerous enemy. Whether the man who defeated him in combat held the Gift was unknown to Shadow, but he didn't sense it when they were fighting. However, what was known to him was that Kiiro had the Gift, and a very dangerous one at that.

Shadow's Gift, on the other hand, was by far the most potent and most dangerous, both consciously and subconsciously.

Shadow's Gift actually held a total of three unique abilities. The first was that Shadow's eyes could give off a special frequency of light which could effectively blind anyone he made eye contact with, though it was a temporary affliction, but anyone who was fool enough to take his eyes away from Shadow in combat would suffer defeat either way. The second was that Shadow had the conscious ability to nullify his nervous systems response to outside stimulus, which meant that he could nullify his body's response to pain no matter how badly damaged his body was. Third, and by far the most dangerous, was that Shadow could deliberately induce a state similar in effect to the "True" Red-Eyed Demon state during which he would negate all subconscious limitations on his strength and abilities, but at the same time he would sacrifice his ability to distinguish friend from foe as the rush of chemicals necessary to sustain this mental state would diminish his ability to think clearly outside of reacting to the combat situation he found himself in.

Right now, that third and final state was dangerously close to being unleashed, but Shadow was able to keep his calm just long enough to suppress it. Shadow's control over that last part of his Gift was typically no issue, but whenever his anger was pushed to a certain threshold, it was incredibly tempting to just let it go. However in the presence of his sister, Taira's unconscious sleeping form who was still injured and in need of recovery, and Sereinia who was completely defenseless against him if he let go, he had to keep himself under control. However, he made a silent promise that the next time he encountered either Kiiro or that warrior, he was going to let go and that they would pay for what they had done not only to him, but to Mayumi as well.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Shadow Character Portrait: Sereinia Lucis Nouralail Character Portrait: Dietrich "Leer" Faust Character Portrait: Era

INK

Dietrich Faust
"Come to think of it; I'm not getting paid for this at all."




Dietrich felt a cold chill go down his back, and at the same moment, Era backed away from Shadow's bed. He glanced around the room at the various occupants; everyone appeared tense and coiled up like metal springs, even the bird. After a few moments he grunted softly from the residual pain in his bandaged thigh, and stood up from his seat. He crossed his arms in front of his chest, and proceeded to lean against the far wall of the small room by the window.

"Well, I suppose that's that. I agree that its much too dangerous for us to move at the moment. As much as the thought of leaving the girl to her fate galls me; my job is to protect the Princess." Dietrich announced in a matter-of-fact tone.

He took off his leather gloves and laid them on the windowsill.

"Still, I doubt that you'll abandon the girl, captain." He continued, addressing Shadow. "You just rest and come up with a plan, then let us know your orders."

Dietrich took another look around the room; he still wasn't used to being around these people, and he didn't think he ever would be. They were all very different from him, and he knew that they felt the same about him. He was, for all intents and purposes, still an outsider. A sellsword with no personal stock in whether this "mission" succeeded or not. It was actually quite amusing, he figured they must think of him as some despicable thug who burned farms and destroyed families for money. In truth, Dietrich hadn't really considered himself a real mercenary in a long time now.

"Come to think of it; I'm not getting paid for this at all. Uirlin's Blood! If I don't die spitted on steel, I'll die of starvation after this is all over. Now there's a terrifying thought, being denied the Eternal Battle because of insufficient funds."

Finally, he eyed the unconscious girl also laid out in the room. He had never seen her before, and was quite curious as to what her connections were to everyone else, as they seemed to be familiar with her.

"Who is this?" He asked, gesturing towards her. "An old friend?"

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Shadow Character Portrait: Sereinia Lucis Nouralail Character Portrait: Dietrich "Leer" Faust Character Portrait: Era

INK

Shadow




Shadow looked over at Dietrich as he made his position clear, but he never moved his head or body. Only his gleaming red eyes slowly slid to the corner to look over at the Line-Breaker. It wasn't his place to judge, but Shadow felt that the Line-Breaker was missing the bigger picture of what was at stake and why it was important to get Mayumi back.

"Who is this?" He asked, gesturing towards Taira. "An old friend?"

Shadow took in a breath through his nose, held it a moment, and let it out silently on a sigh.

"That girl's name is Taira, and she is the first one to have joined my fight against Te'i Sai over six years ago. She was my first protege, and has since become a master of the ways of the Assassin in her own right, much in the same way Era has. Though not as proficient as either Era or myself, Taira is more than a match for most Master Assassins."

"Mayumi cannot be saved right now, as Kiiro will be guarding her far too closely. I don't intend letting any of you cross his path right now. The risks are far too great... But we will get her back, that, I promise. Mayumi is my protege, but more than that she is one who made the choice to resist and fight against Te'i Sai. That choice is a message which I intend to protect and nourish, as it is the single truth which will bring about Te'i Sai's destruction..."

Shadow let that thought trail off for a moment, as he had something else to tell the Line-Breaker.

"This fight, Line-Breaker, is much more than you realize..." He began.

"Te'i Sai was founded ages ago by a group of peaceful monks who sought to bring nothing but peace to the people who settled this land. Hence the name: "Te'i", which means shepherd. "Sai", which means peace. Te'i Sai's official translation is "Shepherds of Peace." Throughout the ages, that message was distorted and twisted, and now the wretched organization seeks nothing further than to gain complete control and dominance over the five nation's ruling powers. This ensures that they would indefinitely control the entire continent and its populace. How they think. How they practice their faith. Who their Gods are. Where each nation buys and trades for their goods. Ever single facet of life would controlled by people who's entire lives revolved around taking to the ultimate extreme to get what you want."

He turned his head over towards Dietrich and glared at him with those ruby red eyes of his aglow with suppressed rage.

"Think of it, Dietrich... A world governed by those who have done absolutely nothing for this world except end countless lives for the sake of what they claim is the "greater good." Do you agree, Line-Breaker, that the greatest good which any leader can provide for those they seek to shelter and protect, is to provide them a better future?" He asked.

"What good can possibly come from Te'i Sai controlling how people think, act, feel, and even believe? What kind of a world would it turn into? What peace could possibly be found? I know the Grandmasters inside and out, as they trained me for over twenty years. They are not men of faith, vision, or peace. Their only goal is to rule, and their only rule is absolute. As one who was specifically born and raised for the purpose of being their instrument of destruction and to bring about their vision, I know that a world in which they rule would be a world of death and despair."

His eyes gazed deep into Dietrich's as he uttered his final questions.

"Will you, Dietrich Faust, allow Te'i Sai to destroy the order which created you, and shaped you into the warrior you are today, without a fight? Will you allow your God to be cast aside like garbage for the sake of faithless and Godless rulers like the Grandmasters of Te'i Sai? Will you allow your life, your mind, and your very soul to be destroyed just because Te'i Sai is stronger than you and can force you to physically submit? I am inclined to believe the answer is "no," but the fact is, Dietrich, that the vast majority of the people of Cre' Est are not strong enough either mentally, physically, or emotionally to resist Te'i Sai's strength and power. They have no chance if Te'i Sai succeeds, and that is why I fight: Because I can and will resist to my dying breath. That is why the Grandmasters want me dead as quickly as possible, because they know that they would never be able to break me and that my very existence now has become the ultimate threat."

Shadow's eyes stopped glowing all of a sudden, and he leaned his head back down and closed his eyes.

"It only takes one voice to start an avalanche, Dietrich... As long as I continue to live, I am a threat. If I turned my attention to preaching instead of fighting, my words would be enough to bring people hope and courage even in the face of Te'i Sai's overwhelming strength and lethality. Their physical might would mean absolutely nothing if they could not bend the will of the people they intend to rule. So long as the Red-Eyed Demon lived to continue preaching the message, and as long as that single symbol continued to elude the "strength" and "lethality" of Te'i Sai, the people would know that they were not as great a threat as they had previously assumed. And that is what they fear most of all."

Shadow took in a breath, stopped short slightly by a sudden burst of pain in his chest as his lungs expanded into his cracked ribs, but it settled slowly as he released the breath.

"Within this world, my own future has yet to be written. My future is uncertain... But I wouldn't have it any other way. Since I have the choice of an uncertain future versus one dictated by Te'i Sai, I choose uncertainty over their rule any day. I have that choice, and so does everyone else, but Te'i Sai would never wish for anyone to know that... The one thing about my own future which I do know to be certain is that I will spend every last breath I have fighting for a future in which nobody, yourself included, must feel the depth of despair I suffered when I had thought all was lost to me so long ago. I will fight to my last breath to ensure that nobody must suffer the wrath of Te'i Sai as I have. If anyone knows what a future with Te'i Sai will bring, it's me..."

Shadow let out a single small sigh through his nose, and miraculously, he fell asleep.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Shadow Character Portrait: Sereinia Lucis Nouralail Character Portrait: Dietrich "Leer" Faust Character Portrait: Era

INK

Sereinia Lucis Nouralail
"Child, when you open your eyes, the world will never be the same..."



Image
She knew how useless it was going out there especially in such a chaotic time. However, she had to do something or the shame would eat away at her. They could not just let Mayumi alone there. The visions of the past filled her consciousness. It was terrifying to see Mayumi in that state again. But hearing the harshness in Shadow's tone was enough to halt any reckless tendencies she had come up with. Her logic returned in an instant as she would more likely attract more trouble than finding Mayumi's whereabouts. For now, she must stay here and faithful wait that the Gods would not let any harm come to the young girl.

Looking at the gruff protector that the Empress had sent to her side, Sereinia knew the truth in those words. She returned to her seat as she silently listened to the exchange between Dietrich and Shadow about the origins of the Te'i Sai. She had heard them as a ruthless organization when she was younger and learned about them extensively within the archives of Cre' Est upon being heralded as the Crowned Princess. Time truly holds an intriguing yet fearful mystique for it encompassed the change turning such peaceful endeavors into bloody tributes. Lowering her head, she looked at her hands now placed on her lap. The concern and agonizing guilt continued to plague her. It was only being held back by the greater need not to cause more trouble than what was already happening.

Firmly holding her hands together, Shadow's words were like a haunting lullaby to her ears. Soon, it was no more as he had fallen asleep. The strain on his body, both mentally, and emotionally might have been too much in combination. There was also the existing fatigue as well. For now, she must do her best to tend to his health. After all, she is a doctor before being a princess. Glancing at Sora perched at the window sill, she offered a look of regret and apology. When done, she stood from her seat and took some of her concocted medicines. At the very least, she could do something to alleviate the difficulty in moving and breathing due to the cracked ribs.

"Era... Mayumi will be fine right?"

This was her lingering question before injecting Shadow with a medicine that would boost the natural regenerative quality of the bones and at the same time provide some pain relief from the muscles that had been bruised from the impacts done by his mysterious opponent. After doing so, she raised her eyes of purple and looked at Era awaiting her answer. She must have faith however, the truth still remains. Faith could only take you so far.

Setting Changes... 22191 => 22174

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Shadow Character Portrait: Sereinia Lucis Nouralail Character Portrait: Era

INK

Era




"Era... Mayumi will be fine right?"

Era was leaning against the wall and listening to Shadow speak to Dietrich about Te'i Sai and its history, and when Sereinia asked her question she was a little lost in her own thoughts, but the question still made it through. She looked over at Sereinia, but then slowly looked towards the floor and let out a sigh through her nose in silent frustration.

"... Shadow told me about Kiiro after my first encounter with him, and if you want honesty Sereinia, then you should prepare yourself for something of a shock..." She said quietly.

She didn't want to lie to Sereinia about this, but speaking with honesty was going to give the doctor more to worry about. Never the less she provided Sereinia with an answer, and as she spoke her expression filled with sadness.

"Kiiro is undoubtedly the most talented converter on the face of this planet. We had an ally, Zenou, back when we first began our fight against Te'i Sai. He was highly devoted to the Goddess Raggella, a powerful fighter, and a highly devoted and loving husband to his family. It only took one day for Kiiro to break him. One day to destroy his faith in Raggella, one day destroy his fighting spirit, and one day to convince him that killing his family was how he'd lead them to the peace they sought all this time... Zenou is now an empty shell, a mindless soldier who fights for Kiiro, and he was as strong as any in his beliefs and devotion to his life and family. Now, he has nothing, and all he knows is that he must fight us at Kiiro's command."

Era looked back towards the floor and sighed to herself.

"If Kiiro sets his mind to breaking Mayumi's, then there is no doubt in my mind that she will lose everything she is to him and find herself on the receiving end of Shadow's Twin blades before too much time has passed... It will be the only mercy Shadow can provide her if Kiiro turns her."

Setting Changes... 22174 => 22191

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Shadow Character Portrait: Sereinia Lucis Nouralail Character Portrait: Dietrich "Leer" Faust Character Portrait: Era

INK

Dietrich Faust
"Where I come from, a man's greatness is judged by the quality of his enemies."




"Within this world, my own future has yet to be written. My future is uncertain... But I wouldn't have it any other way. Since I have the choice of an uncertain future versus one dictated by Te'i Sai, I choose uncertainty over their rule any day. I have that choice, and so does everyone else, but Te'i Sai would never wish for anyone to know that... The one thing about my own future which I do know to be certain is that I will spend every last breath I have fighting for a future in which nobody, yourself included, must feel the depth of despair I suffered when I had thought all was lost to me so long ago. I will fight to my last breath to ensure that nobody must suffer the wrath of Te'i Sai as I have. If anyone knows what a future with Te'i Sai will bring, it's me..."

Dietrich considered Shadow's words as he slipped into an unconscious sleep. He could not help but respect the Demon, despite their differences. Where Dietrich was from, a man's quality was judged by the might of his enemies, and Shadow struggled against mighty foes indeed. His worldview was intriguing, and the passion with which Shadow spoke his mind humbled Dietrich.

Unlike Shadow, or most other people he had met in his travels, Dietrich had never questioned his destiny or ultimate future. From the moment he had been able to think coherently, he had known that he would die in battle. The Rite of Uirlin had merely been a formal acknowledgement of that fact. He had met many a man in his days, who would spend sleepless nights pondering the meaning of their life, if their destiny really meant anything worthwhile. Dietrich had always found their ideas of "free-will" to be very strange indeed.

Throughout his entire life, Dietrich's fate had been set, and he had lived his life accordingly. To his people, there was no uncertainty, no fear of the future. Each Veilbrandian had a thread of destiny, which was stitched by the black crones into the endless tapestry of existence. When your thread ended, that was that. Instead of worrying about tomorrow, about what would come, Dietrich focused on the now. The feeling of a rough, leather covered sword-hilt, the smell of roast pork, wine, and blood, the fiery gleam in the eye of a worthy brother or foe, these were the sensations that the mountain folk of Veilbrand lived for. They knew what awaited them at the end of their thread, and did not worry themselves about the future.

He understood that Shadow was trying to explain why he should fight Te'i Sai, to give him a moral obligation to do so. Personally, he cared nothing for Cre'Est, for the Empire, for any of the establishments of humanity. Such secular, vain kingdoms would inevitably be swept away by time or new kings. Still, the Demon's words did strike a chord.

"Will you, Dietrich Faust, allow Te'i Sai to destroy the order which created you, and shaped you into the warrior you are today, without a fight? Will you allow your God to be cast aside like garbage for the sake of faithless and Godless rulers like the Grandmasters of Te'i Sai? Will you allow your life, your mind, and your very soul to be destroyed just because Te'i Sai is stronger than you and can force you to physically submit? I am inclined to believe the answer is "no," but the fact is, Dietrich, that the vast majority of the people of Cre' Est are not strong enough either mentally, physically, or emotionally to resist Te'i Sai's strength and power."

Dietrich had known from the beginning that he would die spitted on steel. He had never questioned that, never complained about his lot in life. He was one of the last Line-Breakers, one of the last representatives of Uirlin on earth. It was fitting that he would represent the Powerful One in these decisive days. He had decided to fight Te'i Sai long before, but he realized now that Uirlin was reassuring his path.

"I'm not a mercenary anymore. I'm not a sellsword. I'm a Line-Breaker, one that has wandered for far too long."

Dietrich was dragged out of his introspection by the words of Shadow's sister.

"Kiiro is undoubtedly the most talented converter on the face of this planet. We had an ally, Zenou, back when we first began our fight against Te'i Sai. He was highly devoted to the Goddess Raggella, a powerful fighter, and a highly devoted and loving husband to his family. It only took one day for Kiiro to break him. One day to destroy his faith in Raggella, one day destroy his fighting spirit, and one day to convince him that killing his family was how he'd lead them to the peace they sought all this time... Zenou is now an empty shell, a mindless soldier who fights for Kiiro, and he was as strong as any in his beliefs and devotion to his life and family. Now, he has nothing, and all he knows is that he must fight us at Kiiro's command."

Era looked back towards the floor and sighed to herself.

"If Kiiro sets his mind to breaking Mayumi's, then there is no doubt in my mind that she will lose everything she is to him and find herself on the receiving end of Shadow's Twin blades before too much time has passed... It will be the only mercy Shadow can provide her if Kiiro turns her."


"Raggella..." He stated abruptly, glancing from Era to the Princess and back again. "Its no wonder your friend broke, he chose to serve a weak goddess."

He realized the tactlessness of his comment, but at the moment he didn't care. The short delve into the group's past, and the cowardly methods of this "Kiiro", had his blood running hot.

"I don't know much about your former clan's shadow witchery." He addressed to Era. "But I have faith in our little one; I feel Uirlin looks favorably on her. The Powerful One does not release his grip on those who please him so easily as the Tree Goddess."

He removed Gewalt, still in its scabbard, from his back and leaned it against the corner of the room. He returned to the window, enjoying the fresh air in the cramped room.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Shadow Character Portrait: Dietrich "Leer" Faust Character Portrait: Era

INK

Shadow




Era looked over at Dietrich with a scowl on her face.

"Do you really think that the Goddess Raggella is weak, Dietrich?" She asked.

Her red eyes started glowing, but there was a natural menace in them which Shadow's eyes had been lacking in recent months. Despite this, there was a wicked smile on her lips as she stood up from leaning against the wall and walked towards him.

"Your ignorance is quite staggering, Dietrich, if you truly believe that the strength of the Gods are comparable to one another..."

She stood right in front of him, glaring into his eyes with that smile, and obviously taking a sadistic pleasure in speaking to him in this manner.

"Your God, Uirlin, is the same as all the other Gods which mankind has created over the time of its existence. Uirlin is nothing more than a faith based figment of your imagination put in your head when you were younger as a way to control what you think and how you view the world to suit the purposes of the ones who taught you. They do not know any better about what is true in this world than anyone else, and all of their claims about how their God Uirlin acts and looks upon those in this world is nothing more than fantasy and nonsense. Again, it's all a way to control how you think and act. As all Gods and Goddesses are the same in this respect, there is no way for one to be stronger than the other. Just because you were told that your "Powerful One" will protect you does not mean that he actually can, and do you know why?" She asked as she leaned in and put her face right in front of his.

"Because he's weak, just like you." She hissed.

She then leaned away and turned her back to him, an ancient sign of complete disregard.

"Why do you think Shadow is keeping you from Te'i Sai and away from Kiiro as much as possible, hmm? It's because he knows that if Kiiro got his hands on you, he'd break you just as easily as he broke any man who came before you. Zenou was a good man, and as I said before his mind was nearly unbreakable by all standards. His faith in the Goddess Raggella gave him a mental stability and a strength which I have never seen matched by anyone, even you Dietrich. Put simply, he was stronger than you are today in every respect. Physically, mentally, emotionally, the list goes on. The only person I've met who is stronger than Zenou is Shadow, despite his lack of faith in the Gods. Yet, for all of his strength, Kiiro broke Zenou in less than a day."

She turned back to face him again.

"You can spout whatever nonsense your order has taught you all you want Dietrich, but the cold hard truth of the matter is that if Kiiro sets his mind to breaking Mayumi's, he will do so and there is nothing that your pathetic God Uirlin can do to protect her. For her sake, we have no choice but to hope that Kiiro has more important matters to deal with than breaking her mind, as that's the only thing that will save her now."

Shadow's eyes opened up as he slowly rose to a seated position on his bed and looked over at both Era and Dietrich.

"This argument isn't helping anything you two, so just save your energy."

He looked to Dietrich.

"I am afraid that what Era says is true, Dietrich. If Kiiro makes up his mind to break Mayumi, he will do so and there is nothing that can be done to save her if that happens. We just have to hope that he has a full agenda and spares Mayumi from that fate for the time being. But in the meantime, save the arguing for after Te'i Sai falls. For now, get some rest." He said as he laid back down to close his eyes again.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Shadow Character Portrait: Sereinia Lucis Nouralail Character Portrait: Dietrich "Leer" Faust Character Portrait: Era

INK

Dietrich Faust
"I know the end of my story already."




Era looked over at Dietrich with a scowl on her face.

"Do you really think that the Goddess Raggella is weak, Dietrich?" She asked.

Her red eyes started glowing, but there was a natural menace in them which Shadow's eyes had been lacking in recent months. Despite this, there was a wicked smile on her lips as she stood up from leaning against the wall and walked towards him.


Dietrich felt her eyes pour a wave of blood lust over him. His palms started to tingle, his neck and face flushed red.

"Your ignorance is quite staggering, Dietrich, if you truly believe that the strength of the Gods are comparable to one another..."

She stood right in front of him, glaring into his eyes with that smile, and obviously taking a sadistic pleasure in speaking to him in this manner
.

Dietrich couldn't help but return the smile with his own sneering grin, he'd never been approached this way by a woman before. It was an interesting experience. Era's light build and femininity were not exactly intimidating, but Dietrich knew she was more than she appeared.

"Your God, Uirlin, is the same as all the other Gods which mankind has created over the time of its existence. Uirlin is nothing more than a faith based figment of your imagination put in your head when you were younger as a way to control what you think and how you view the world to suit the purposes of the ones who taught you. They do not know any better about what is true in this world than anyone else, and all of their claims about how their God Uirlin acts and looks upon those in this world is nothing more than fantasy and nonsense. Again, it's all a way to control how you think and act. As all Gods and Goddesses are the same in this respect, there is no way for one to be stronger than the other. Just because you were told that your "Powerful One" will protect you does not mean that he actually can, and do you know why?" She asked as she leaned in and put her face right in front of his.

"Because he's weak, just like you." She hissed.

She then leaned away and turned her back to him, an ancient sign of complete disregard.

"Why do you think Shadow is keeping you from Te'i Sai and away from Kiiro as much as possible, hmm? It's because he knows that if Kiiro got his hands on you, he'd break you just as easily as he broke any man who came before you. Zenou was a good man, and as I said before his mind was nearly unbreakable by all standards. His faith in the Goddess Raggella gave him a mental stability and a strength which I have never seen matched by anyone, even you Dietrich. Put simply, he was stronger than you are today in every respect. Physically, mentally, emotionally, the list goes on. The only person I've met who is stronger than Zenou is Shadow, despite his lack of faith in the Gods. Yet, for all of his strength, Kiiro broke Zenou in less than a day."

She turned back to face him again.

"You can spout whatever nonsense your order has taught you all you want Dietrich, but the cold hard truth of the matter is that if Kiiro sets his mind to breaking Mayumi's, he will do so and there is nothing that your pathetic God Uirlin can do to protect her. For her sake, we have no choice but to hope that Kiiro has more important matters to deal with than breaking her mind, as that's the only thing that will save her now."


Dietrich listened quietly while Era raved. He had obviously hit some kind of nerve with his comment, and he did feel guilt for that, at first. By the end of her tirade, though, he had utterly lost his patience with the woman. His face was an unnerving shade of bluish-purple, his mouth contorted into an ugly grin. Every part of his being screamed out for retaliation, to explode in a torrent of bellowing fury, but he restrained himself. The last thing he wanted was to make this situation any more tense or unpleasant for the Princess. Besides, trying to argue with words was both pointless, and unsightly before Uirlin. So, he submitted to Era's scorn. Her words meant little to him anyway.

Neither he nor Uirlin were affected by what she believed. If disbelieving the gods was how she built up her pride and sense of superiority over those who did, than she would answer for it eventually.

Shadow's eyes opened up as he slowly rose to a seated position on his bed and looked over at both Era and Dietrich.

"This argument isn't helping anything you two, so just save your energy."


"Argument? Heh, you mean whipping session?"

He looked to Dietrich.

"I am afraid that what Era says is true, Dietrich. If Kiiro makes up his mind to break Mayumi, he will do so and there is nothing that can be done to save her if that happens. We just have to hope that he has a full agenda and spares Mayumi from that fate for the time being. But in the meantime, save the arguing for after Te'i Sai falls. For now, get some rest." He said as he laid back down to close his eyes again.


Dietrich could feel his disgust with the whole situation mounting to dangerous levels. He nodded in agreement with Shadow, retrieved Gewalt, and headed for the door.

"I'll take first watch, I suppose that's all this "weak" man can do." He began.

He reached the front door of the room, but turned back. Despite his efforts of self-control, he couldn't let her have the last word.

"You want to know the difference between this weak man and you assassins and your ilk? You have been bred to kill, and I have been bred to fight. You have been trained from birth to strike from the shadows and destroy men with deception and shadow, and I have been trained from birth to face my enemies head-on, with dignity and honor. I do not believe that being one of the greatest killers in the world makes you strong, Era. The number of pitiful lives these assassins like Kiiro have ended or corrupted does not make them stronger than me. Being able to kill me doesn't make them stronger than me. You know why?"

He paused, a bit embarrassed at his outburst.

"Because I know the end of my story already. They cannot take anything from me, any pain they inflict on me is temporary, they cannot threaten me with anything, they have no power over me. Keep the Princess safe, yell if anything happens."

He left.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Shadow Character Portrait: Sereinia Lucis Nouralail Character Portrait: Dietrich "Leer" Faust Character Portrait: Era

INK

Sereinia Lucis Nouralail
"Still, there is hope to count on. It is why we keep on living.."



Image

Uncertainty filled her. There was no wrong or right in the belief of Faith. What ailed her more was the knowledge that the existence of her fears were the truest of all in her opinion. It frightens her so much. Era's words carried undeniable truth. The fate of Mayumi weighed heavily more over her. Dietrich awkwardly gave comfort through the means of Gods. However, it somehow turned into a words of debate. Through all of it, she simply stayed silent. She could hear every word that the two threw at each other. However, the true meaning behind the statements never registered in her mind. She lowered her head to hide the piercing doubt in her eyes. It was not dissuaded even when Shadow spoke to prevent further confrontation. She did not even utter another word even when Dietrich had decided to leave the premises in favor of being the first watch. Sereinia remained quiet through all of it.

From the distance, no it was near to hear. She heard the words to rest. Yet, she cannot help but be bright awake. The harrowing worry and the inevitable chance that Mayumi would be broken and turned into their enemy. She just couldn't imagine it even. If it comes to that, she would certainly come in between Shadow or Era. It would cause a lot of problems but she was willing to go through all of it. For in the end, she could not simply allow such an event to pass. Making fists with her hands, she closed her eyes and finally ended the tensed silence that she had started.

"Mayumi will be fine. We will get to her in time. I am certain of it."

Going to where Sora was perced, Sereinia's purple eyes had a certain glow of certainty and the tinge of unyielding hope. Perhaps, such thing was for the best. After all, if one goes to a battle with the very idea of being defeated then it is already a reality even if it has yet to pass. So, it is for the best to have a positive outlook on things.

"Do not worry Sora. Everything will be fine. You will see."

Her tone had a soft tone to it as she gently patted Sora. After doing so, she looked at Era and then to Shadow. Nothing would happen if she remains all depressed about the current matters. She must not lose hope no matter the circumstances. After all, everyone had believed that Shadow had died but she refused to do so. Now, she was with him again. So, she will continue to do so. She will wait patiently and support all of them as best as she could. And when push comes to shove, she will be there for them no matter what.

"I will also take my rest as well. Good night."

With that said, Sereinia went towards one of the beds and decided to take her rest for the night while sealing all her fears in a tight lid.

Setting Changes... 22191 => 22174

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Shadow Character Portrait: Sereinia Lucis Nouralail Character Portrait: Dietrich "Leer" Faust Character Portrait: Era

INK

Shadow and Era




The evening came and went, and a rather sleepless night had taken hold of all those within the company of the Red-Eyed Demon. His pride was wounded beyond the wounds he suffered to his body, and his anger at being defeated burned like an immortal candle within his heart. He relived the fight in his mind over and over again, seeing the different moves of his opponent and studying the fighting style he saw in his art. The man was swift, precise, and had this way of connecting the blow even if you had begun to dodge and moved from his initial path of attack. How he was able to continually force this connection eluded Shadow until he broke down the movements in his mind one inch at a time. He spent hours through the night breaking down the entire fight in this manner, until he knew each and every move that man had made against him and how it was he had connected so many attacks as he had.

Upon the morning, Shadow's wounds were more or less stable and he was capable of standing and walking though it did hurt to breath deeply from his cracked ribs. Those would still take days to heal yet, but most of his other wounds were just bruises and recovering skin from the burns he suffered in the fire. Taira was awake, and chose to go to another one of their allies to recover and promised to send word to Shadow when she was ready to rejoin the fight. Until then she would rest and train whenever able to keep her edge, and Shadow would not have to worry about her for much longer. Everyone else, on the other hand, were a much more constant worry.

Era and Dietrich's little spat about the Gods last night was loud and obnoxious. Both sides arguing their case and thinking themselves in the right. Truly, Shadow lived without faith in the Gods because they never did anything for him except prove that mankind will forever walk the path of self destruction regardless of how many believe in the Gods or not. For Dietrich, he said his future was certain and that he'd die from glorious battle. Shadow had serious doubts about that. Dietrich's size and armaments would prove most intimidating for Te'i Sai in the future, especially if he continued his training with Shadow. He'd be much more likely to be poisoned or shot from long range, which wasn't the kind of death that he was hoping for. Shadow would have to keep an eye on him in the coming weeks to be sure that didn't occur.

In the meantime, Shadow had more important things on his mind as everyone gathered with him in Era's little safe house. Shadow discussed with everyone their next move, as they had to get Mayumi back as quickly as possible, but Era was the only one in a position to be able to do that. Shadow was out of action, temporarily, and Dietrich was not anywhere near ready to infiltrate an establishment which was run by Kiiro and the Wraiths. Being Shadow's equal in almost every way, Era would be the only one capable of such a feat, but Shadow was still uncertain about letting her take on such an assignment. She would claim she was ready for it, but there was no telling if Kiiro himself would be there to stop her. Nor was there any guarantee that the one who defeated Shadow wouldn't be there. Since Kiiro and the one who defeated Shadow both likely knew that he would fight to get Mayumi back, neither was likely to stray from her for long. If that was the case, Mayumi was lost.

Shadow wasn't about to give up hope though, and so he decided on another course of action. It was a move Kiiro would not expect, nor would he be willing to let pass him by. Shadow and the others would move ahead as if they didn't care about Mayumi's disappearance, and instead would continue fighting against Te'i Sai and Roda Ah K'mht in the city. Kiiro would not be able to resist taking a look, and if he thought that Shadow was there as well, all the better since he'd likely send the one who defeated Shadow into the city to find them. In the meantime, Sora would be able to locate Mayumi, as Kiiro usually kept his prey out in the open to prove that he was not afraid of losing them. This would allow Sora to fly high into the skies and pinpoint her master's location and then guide Sereinia to her.

And yes... Sereinia was a part of this mission. Shadow needed all hands on deck for this operation to succeed, so she would be taking to the field with them. Sereinia would be the last person Kiiro would expect to go to Mayumi's side and help her get free, so she was the perfect person to send. She looked like any ordinary civilian, and her identity as the Princess of Cre' Est was not well known outside of the Mother Nation. Shadow, Era and Dietrich would take to the forest outside the city and take the fight directly to Te'i Sai's main base here in Triveila while Sereinia waited for Sora to locate Mayumi and guide her to the girl's location. For the task, Shadow gave Sereinia a serrated knife with a six inch blade to hide on her person somewhere until she found Mayumi. That knife would be the key to getting Mayumi free of her bonds, and then the girl would be able to protect Sereinia on the way back. Wherever Kiiro went, the Wraiths were close behind. If he was off investigating Shadow's attack on Te'i Sai's main base, they would be with him as backup and Sereinia would have an open window to find and free Mayumi and get out before they returned.

This was going to be an unbelievably high risk operation for everyone involved, save for Era. With Shadow not fighting at full capacity, and Dietrich being deemed ill prepared, physically, to attack Te'i Sai's base of operations, Era was really the spearhead of this operation. Her prowess as a fighter was currently the strongest of the group, as she could easily kill either Shadow or Dietrich right now, so she was the one who'd be in charge of the battle ahead. Sereinia was now going to be on her own, but Shadow had faith that she'd find Mayumi and free her and that the two of them would return safely. Sora would be the beacon for Shadow and the others that the two girls were safe, and that they could retreat from the battle once the signal was given. Te'i Sai's arrogance would never allow them to pursue Shadow and Era's retreat, as they wanted them dead in face to face combat so that they could declare their superiority officially rather than through underhanded means. Dietrich was of no concern to them, so they wouldn't bother pursuing him anyway.

With the plan known to everyone, whether they liked it or not, Shadow stood up and walked out the door with Era in toe to begin the rescue operation for Mayumi. Sora was sent high into the skies to pinpoint her master's location, and Shadow and the others waited by the city gate for a sign from the bird that her master was located. The minutes ticked by like hours, and slowly, Shadow's hopes that Mayumi was visible began to fade until he saw Sora begin to dive upon their location. Shadow's face suddenly carried a determined smile as he watched the bird descend with great vigor, and swooped to a halt and hovered in front of Shadow and company. She flapped her wings to keep herself aloft, but also turned her head back around and then looked back to Shadow. He nodded to the bird and looked over his shoulder to Sereinia.

"Stick to the shadow's of the forest and keep Sora in sight at all times. It's going to be difficult given the dense foliage of the canopy, but if Sora goes out of sight just utter a short, high pitched whistle like that of the native Chiua bird and Sora will descend upon your location and point you in the right direction. Stay safe, Sereinia, and good luck."

He looked to Era and Dietrich.

"Let's go... Te'i Sai has a debt to pay this day." He said, his voice low and full of ire.

Shadow then began to run ahead with Era and Dietrich close behind as they disappeared into the forest beyond the city gates. He led them though the dense woods at a steady pace, doing his best to help them conserve as much energy as possible for the fight. They had to go over and under fallen trees, large boulders, and hidden spots of dirt and mud before they finally came upon the base itself hidden in the brush on the side of a hill. The base itself was part of the land, buried beneath the surface to hide it from potential attackers. The entrance was a large pair of double doors covered by natural ground and grass, nearly perfectly camouflaged in the hill's face to outside view unless you took a good long look at it. Shadow looked over to his right and saw a single sentry crouching in one of the trees just off in the distance. Shadow took out a single dart from a thin belt he carried around his chest and threw it at the sentry. The sentry suddenly grabbed his neck, choked for a few seconds, and then fell to the ground with Era there to break his fall and keep the sound quiet. Regardless of whether or not this battle was real, they needed the element of surprise on their side.

Shadow waited for Era to return and confirm the sentry was dead before he then took another look around to make sure that things were running smoothly. He wasn't going to take any chances today. His injuries meant he could only fight at about 55% capacity, and that was only going to be enough to protect him from Assassins below the Master rank. Anything higher would have to be dealt with by Era, as Dietrich was not ready to fight such foes yet. Shadow waited patiently for any signs that Te'i Sai was on to his plan, but found absolutely none to speak of. He took a few steps out of the forests edge towards the hill and slowly peeled back the dirt and grass that covered the door on the right hand side. He grabbed the large metal indentation which served as the handle and pulled the massive door back to a fully open position. It took quite a bit of effort through his injuries to do so, but he managed to accomplish the feat none the less. Shadow then looked back to Era and Dietrich and gave them a simple hand gesture to prepare themselves for combat.

Shadow looked back into the gaping darkness of the void before him and threw a single small explosive which he concocted shortly before leaving down into the darkness. After a few seconds, there was a rather large explosion from such a small device, and Shadow smiled to himself as he retreated to the tree line to rejoin Era and Dietrich. Sure enough, there was a sudden flood of Assassins which poured out from the doorways and prepared themselves for combat against an army, but found only the three warriors to contend with, and so many of the higher ranking Assassins walked calmly back inside to let the others deal with the intruders. They all knew about Shadow's defeat and his injuries, and thus didn't consider him much of a threat right now. Era was another matter, but she wasn't as well known as her brother so they obviously forgot about her lethality if the higher ups really went back inside so quickly.

Shadow brought out one of his Twins, as he didn't have the strength to fight with both right now, and prepared himself for a rather unpleasant fight.

Setting Changes... 22174 => 22191

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Shadow Character Portrait: Dietrich "Leer" Faust Character Portrait: Era

INK

Dietrich




Shadow then began to run ahead with Era and Dietrich close behind as they disappeared into the forest beyond the city gates. He led them though the dense woods at a steady pace, doing his best to help them conserve as much energy as possible for the fight. They had to go over and under fallen trees, large boulders, and hidden spots of dirt and mud before they finally came upon the base itself hidden in the brush on the side of a hill.

Dietrich struggled to keep up with the two assassins as they glided through the forest ahead of him. Even with his wounds, Shadow was still outpacing him, and Era was easily leaving him behind. A mixture of body type, equipment, and training styles made sure that Dietrich was well behind the siblings. Unlike Shadow, whose body tapered down to a narrow waist and long legs, Dietrich's waist was wide and square. This resulted in a lumbering gait that was little use in extended running. He was still pondering his reaction to Era the previous night. After mulling it over in his mind again and again, he had decided that he hadn't made too big a fool of himself. Things could have gone much, much worse. He contended himself with the knowledge that he hadn't allowed the situation to spiral into violence. He believed that his single reply to her abuse had been sufficient; he had defended himself without directly retorting or insulting her. Still, he wondered what she thought of his reply. If his initial estimation of her was correct, than she most likely didn't care one way or the other. For some reason, that thought amused him.

Presently, Shadow and Era stopped ahead of him at the base.

Shadow and Era dealt with a sentry, and then Shadow slipped some explosives into the door of the base. Within moments of a loud crump of the detonation, a veritable horde of assassins began storming out of the base. Dietrich noticed that the majority of them seemed to be outfitted similarly to the assassins he had encountered the previous day. He chuckled darkly as Shadow withdrew one of his daggers.

Dietrich drew Gewalt in one fluid motion from its sheath on his back. The assassins hurtled toward them in silence. In fact, the whole forest around them seemed to have all of the sound sucked out of the air. Near absolute silence reigned as the assassins closed the distance. Dietrich's mind instantly assessed the situation. Shadow was injured, which meant that Era would most likely be doing the majority of the real killing here. Which meant that his best option for contributing to this fight would be to cause as much confusion and chaos as possible, so that Era and Shadow could pick individual targets to eliminate. Dietrich's blood boiled with anticipation. He let out a horrendous cackle that shattered the silence and launched himself toward the oncoming horde.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Shadow Character Portrait: Dietrich "Leer" Faust Character Portrait: Era

INK

Shadow and Era




The fight was just as difficult as Shadow had imagined it would be for him.

His ribs ached, the muscles along the side of his body from top to bottom were screaming out with fatigue and pain, and all the while he fought to stay a step ahead of those whom he was fighting against. With his body pushing on all cylinders while forcing its way passed the deficiency which came with his injuries, Shadow knew he wouldn't last very long in this battle if the enemies kept coming the way they were at this moment. One after another without pause, like a swarm of ants trying to overpower a larger insect intruding upon their territory. However, while this was painful and would require dedication, the main purpose of distracting the powers that be proved to be efficient and working.

Era, on the other hand, was having a field day.

One by one she toyed with those who came to fight her, as they didn't seem to recognize that the red coloration of her eyes meant anything about her relationship to the Red-Eyed Demon. The Bleeding Rose was not quite so famous as the Red-Eyed Demon, but was infinitely more devious in combat than her brother was. As one Assassin came to fight with her, she feigned weakness to draw him in close and then lashed out by grabbing his sensitive parts and crushing them under the extreme power of her grip. The sound it produced and the feeling it provided was quite horrific, but it got the job done, and seeing him slowly dying of pain and shock was more than enough to make it worth it to Era. The next Assassin rushed her which proved to be a fatal mistake. Era's consciousness of her surroundings was second only to Shadow's himself, and she knew full well where every enemy which surrounded her was at that exact moment. This Assassin rushing her never even saw her blade coming, but before he could even really understand what had happened to him he suddenly found himself staring at the sky with his chest covered in his own blood as his breathing became steadily more difficult as his lungs filled with the vile red fluid.

Minutes ticked by, and more and more often Era had to get closer to Shadow to protect him from the advances of the numerous Assassins swarming his position. Despite the fact that Era had established herself as the most dangerous entity on the battlefield, the Assassins still considered Shadow to be their priority target. This mildly insulted Era, which in turn led her to become even more vicious in her efforts to counter their attacks, even going so far as to swipe Shadow's Twin blade which was not in use and use it for her own purposes. She did not have any Orichalcum weapons with her at present, as they were in another safe house a good distance away, so his would do just fine for slashing arms and legs off and slicing open rib cages, which she did with great efficiency and speed.

Finally, the moment Shadow had been waiting for arrived. Sora flew overhead and gave a silent signal to Shadow by flying in two distinct circles above him that both Sereinia and Mayumi were safe and away from the battlefield.

"Alright! Everyone fall back now!" He yelled out.

Era responded by throwing him his Twin dagger and covering their escape as the Assassins watched them all leave the site, utterly confused as to why Shadow would just leave like that. They would likely get a stern punishment from the higher level Assassins for not pursuing Shadow, but that was not his concern at the moment. The deed was done and Mayumi was safe once again... for now. As Shadow and the others made it to the rendezvous point just outside the city, Shadow had to stop and sit down to catch his breath and take a pain killer which he had Era concoct for him using some supplies he was carrying. It would take about an hour to kick in, but he would still be able to stay on his feet long enough to get to safety and get some real rest.

He was exhausted, more so than he'd been in a long time for anything else. When Mayumi and Sereinia appeared, it was a sigh of relief for him to see them both safe. Era was keeping a close and watchful eye on their surroundings as Shadow silently greeted Sereinia and Mayumi with a nod of his head as speaking had become difficult with his damaged ribs.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Shadow Character Portrait: Mayumi Character Portrait: Sereinia Lucis Nouralail Character Portrait: Dietrich "Leer" Faust Character Portrait: Era

INK

Dietrich Faust
"This was what he truly excelled at. He was soldier, a warrior, not a duelist."




Dietrich's eyes glinted with insane fanaticism as he waded through the perpetual mist of blood that seemed to hang in the air around him. How much of it was the enemies, and how much was his own, he wasn't sure. Gewalt spun around him like a spirit of death, stealing lives away with every stroke. Daggers and short swords stood no chance against the ravenous, momentum fueled blade. The most the assassins could do was to stay out of his six foot radius, but even this proved extremely difficult in the press of bodies. Still, several assassins managed to get inside his guard and deal damage before they met their end.

As soon as he had charged into the fray, he had lost sight of Shadow and Era. He had no time to worry about them. While they might be able to look out for each other and fight at the same time, it took every ounce of Dietrich's concentration in order to keep the horde at bay. The raw fury of his initial assault had surprised and demoralized the assassins, but now that the surprise had worn off, Dietrich was slowly being overwhelmed.

The fight went for several minutes, and Dietrich grinned savagely as he felt himself beginning to tire. No matter how many men he cut down, another took his place instantly. The press of men had grown too great, it was time to change tactics. He thrust Gewalt through the sternum of the closest man, lifting him off his feet and throwing him into the crowd.

He laughed aloud as he ripped his katzbalger from its scabbard, and went to work. This was his kind of fight. This was a smattering of what a real battlefield was like; confused and disoriented men stumbling around and slipping on the blood and guts of their former friends. This was the kind of fight that Line-Breakers were meant for. This wasn't the time for concentration or a cool head, now he had to join the horde. He had to become one with the chaos, give himself up to the animal fury and kill everything he saw. There was no more mercy, no more forgiveness. The only way he would emerge from this fight victorious was to fight with everything he had, with tooth and nail if need be.

This was what he truly excelled at. He was soldier, a warrior, not a duelist.

He hacked around himself in tight, close arcs, slashing open faces contorted with fear and dismembering quivering limbs. The short, wide blade of his sword excelling in the very environment it was designed for. He aimed for major arteries, but in actual practice it didn't really matter in such close quarters, every stroke effectively ended the fighting capabilities for whomever he chose as his victim. At the same time, though, he felt the stinging sensation of blade after blade open the exposed flesh of his arms and legs. He was loosing blood, fast.

With a furious snarl, he shot out a huge hand and gripped a low level assassin by the throat. He lifted the man off the ground and crushed his windpipe before thrusting his blade through his sternum. He cast the carcass aside and shoved his way through the press of bodies, cutting and killing as he went. He melted back into the crowd, using the confusion of battle to his advantage. Instead of trying to see through the fog of war, he surrendered himself to it utterly. In response, he quickly lost all sense of direction. But it didn't matter anymore, he was going to die here anyway.

"Alright! Everyone fall back now!"


The voice came from behind him, rising above the wails of the man he had just impaled. Dietrich summoned his final reserves of strength and forced his way through the now greatly diminished crowd. He retrieved Gewalt as quickly as he could, and raced after Shadow.

"Not today, it seems."
__________________________________________________________________________________________________

Dietrich staggered forward, using Gewalt to steady himself. His breath came in ragged gasps. Blood oozed from his legs and arms, and his limbs were going numb. He didn't think a major artery had been cut, but he could still feel his life flowing out of his body. Still, he managed a small smirk as he finally caught up with the group. The Princess had found Mayumi. They stood together in silence, apparently they had just run into each other before Dietrich had caught up with them. He saw Shadow give a silent nod of acknowledgement to the Princess. She had succeeded. Dietrich's opinion of the Princess suddenly peaked, she had managed to complete an extremely strenuous task, one few other people would be able to do.

Red ichor suddenly spilled into his eyes, blinding him. Apparently, there was a rather deep gash on his forehead that he hadn't noticed. He took another staggering step towards them.

"Well... look who it is... the little neck-snapper's back..." He said between gasps as he approached Shadow from behind.

He stumbled in his blindness, tripping himself with his own greatsword. He fell flat on his face, but managed to pull himself up to one knee with an almost super-human effort. He attempted to wipe the blood from his eyes, but only managed to smear it over his face. He turned his head in the direction he had last seen Era standing.

"I think... I killed more of 'em... than you..." He chuckled insanely.

He took a few more ragged gasps.

"By the way... Why aren't they following us huh?"

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Shadow Character Portrait: Mayumi Character Portrait: Sereinia Lucis Nouralail Character Portrait: Dietrich "Leer" Faust Character Portrait: Era

INK

Sereinia Lucis Nouralail
"You will listen to me as a doctor, right?"



Image
“Are you ok?”

Unwavering purple eyes looked at Mayumi yet it did not fail to show the weariness of the Princess. She may have endurance in terms of operating a patient under long hours however, she was not trained to apply such stamina when moving around through the thick foliage of the forest. Regardless, the tiredness was not felt entirely as Sereinia was just so grateful that her choosing of the door was not incorrect. The Gods and Goddess had heard her prayers to lead her to Mayumi. Furthermore, there had been no other interference or trouble along the way as they escape from the Safe House. More importantly, she was glad that Mayumi was now badly hurt as she had imagined and came to worry about from past experiences and information from Era and Shadow.

"Yes, I am fine. I am just so happy you are fine Mayumi."

After saying that, Sereinia embraced Mayumi once more to show how much she cared for the younger girl. It did not matter to her that this was not the right time to do a thing since they are strictly on a schedule. At the same time, she did not care if Mayumi find such gesture odd or revolting. She was just so glad that the silver-haired girl was now safe and sound beside her. For now, it was the only thing that mattered to her.

"I was so afraid that something awful had happened. I am just so thankful that you are here with me now."

When the doctor's emotion had returned to its normal baseline, Sereinia released the younger girl and smiled with such affection and relief. Now, it was time to deliver the good news to the others. Understanding that Sora had given the signal that both of them were safe, she held Mayumi's hand as if an assurance that the girl was not a figment of the Princess' imagination.

"It is time for us to meet with them."

Soon enough, the two girls had arrived at the promised meeting place. Sereinia looked at Shadow who appeared to be exhausted. This was not the first time she had seen a tired version of him. However, she felt a tinge upon seeing how hard the assassin had tried to fight despite knowing his current condition. Releasing Mayumi's hand, she gave the younger girl a nod of the head and went towards the man she loves. She inspected the man's condition and had a worried expression. His wounds had been put under stress too much. Some of them had reopened. But before she could speak, Dietrich had arrived in a form completely befitting of a bloody soldier.

Her eyes widened in distress seeing some of the visible wounds on Dietrich's form. Despite that, the larger man did not waste time having a small debate with Era who did not mind answering it. However, Shadow was certainly not in the mood for such frivolous dialogue. Sereinia went to Dietrich's side while Shadow was still speaking. She took out the small pouch that she always brings with her for such emergency treatments. Looking at the man which the Empress had asked to protect her, she cannot help but wonder how she would interact with him. Solomon was an image of a respectable Knight while Yarun was quite much like child. But this person, he was seeking death. And her, she was seeking to prevent it.

"Judging from these wounds, you are lucky enough to have your major arteries untouched. However, the numerous and deep lacerations compensate for such."

While saying that, Sereinia had already began cleaning the wounds with such efficiency and delicateness. One can see how she had come to be known as someone who had miraculous hands Furthermore, the speed and skill she was showing and the eerie calmness she possessed show how experienced she is as a Doctor. After the disinfection process, she added a certain ointment around the wounds. It is mixture of hers that served as a numbing agent for what she was about to do next. She quickly took out her needle and thread which she had sterilize prior but not committing to chances, she had washed it with alcohol once more. It was then she stitched the wounds that she had concluded as deep. One of it would be the wound on Dietrich's forehead. While doing this, her eyes showed incredible focus.

"I know you seemed like the idea of fighting physically. However, I would forbid you do such things until these wounds are all healed. This is the Doctor's orders. Do you understand?"

She cut the final thread of the last wound that had been sutured. Her face had a serious expression that one would be reminded of how the Empress of Cre' Est spoke with such authority. There was no humor in those eyes and her tone would not permit any complaints as she looked at Dietrich. Once she was done with the stitching, Sereinia proceeded to place small bandages on the wounds to prevent it from infection or irritation but not before applying another one of her salves that promulgate faster regeneration. Packing up her things, she did not wait for the man's response for her attention was now on Shadow who was obviously in pain.

"As your Doctor, I forbid you to help him stand. You are still not in the best of conditions and straining yourself will not help anyone."

Sereinia's tone was completely strict and filled with authority that reminded everyone that she is a princess destined to be an Empress. She looked at Mayumi knowing the girl was in much better shape than Shadow could be at the moment.

"Mayumi, please help me support Dietrich."

After stating that, Sereinia placed Dietrich's arm around her shoulder. She is not the strongest in the group however, in such things, she could endure more than others really think she could. Then, she returned her eyes to Shadow.

"Taking pain killers will only prevent you to feel the pain but it does no good to your injuries. Do not try to contest me in this, Shadow. I am invoking my authority as a Doctor now. I have no need for patients who would not follow my advice. Do not make me do something drastic for you and Dietrich to follow me."

Eyes of purple showed complete determination and seriousness in her words. Sereinia looked at Shadow and then to Dietrich. The Princess resembled much like a stern mother or mentor that would not relent no matter what. She then looked at Era.

"Let us go then."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Shadow Character Portrait: Mayumi Character Portrait: Sereinia Lucis Nouralail Character Portrait: Dietrich "Leer" Faust Character Portrait: Era

INK

Shadow and Era




"Taking pain killers will only prevent you to feel the pain but it does no good to your injuries. Do not try to contest me in this, Shadow. I am invoking my authority as a Doctor now. I have no need for patients who would not follow my advice. Do not make me do something drastic for you and Dietrich to follow me."

Shadow listened to Sereinia speak with authority, but silently smiled and shook his head.

No need for patients who would not follow your advice eh? Shadow thought to himself as he recalled the countless times he ignored her advice in the past while pushing himself through his past injuries.

He was in no mood to argue outwardly though, and so he simply stood up straight and jerked his head for Era to come and follow him. Mayumi was in toe and Dietrich was being propped up to walk with Sereinia and Mayumi helping him. Their pace would be very slow, but luckily there was a safe place nearby to retreat to. The safe house from before was too far away for Dietrich in his current state, so Shadow thought of another location just outside the city's walls where they could all go. It was a small cabin which he built himself long ago as a sort of waiting area before missions in this city when he was a teenager. It was surprisingly sturdy given that Shadow had only the basics of construction down at the time, and would serve as a fine place to rest for the time being.

Despite his injuries, Shadow walked at the head of the group as he led them to the cabin. It took upwards of about one hour to do so, given Dietrich's state of injury, but they made it safe and sound as they entered the small structure and laid Dietrich down on the single bed that was there so that his body could release its tension of trying to stay upright and focus on healing. Shadow, meanwhile, was not one to rest so easily. He walked outside despite Sereinia's earlier warning and began to stretch his legs out side to side and slowly grew lower to the ground until he was in a full splits position. His left leg hurt a bit, but it was just from bruising which had occurred. It was his ribcage which bothered him the most since there were a few cracked ribs along his left side which made breathing difficult and the task of going towards the ground somewhat difficult as well. Never the less, Shadow used the discipline and resistance to pain he was known for to ignore it and push through as he always had before.

While once again ignoring what should have brought him to his knees, Shadow was fully aware of how far he could push these injuries before finally settling to allow them to heal. It was something of a habit of Shadow's to push his injuries farther than when they were initially obtained, providing a greater level of pain to deal with so that next time he encountered the source of the injuries he'd be that much more prepared to deal with them and/or avoid them. While not the most physically productive of methods, it had served Shadow well as he once again began to replay the fight with that mysterious warrior in his mind. His speed, reaction time, power and fluidity for a warrior of his size was absolutely astounding to Shadow, and that was saying something.

All his life he'd been used to being called "pound for pound the strongest man alive whose skills are unequaled."

But now there was someone who was a match for him and, in fact, had defeated him outright. Shadow's replay of that fight went on and on like a broken record for what seemed an eternity until it was disrupted by the sound of Era walking towards him. His eyes opened and he looked up at his twin sister as she looked back to him with a slight amount of shame present in her eyes.

"... I'm sorry Shadow, I let it happen again and I have no excuse. There is something about that man that I just don't like, and I can't seem to help wanting to throw his words back in his face." She said quietly.

Shadow closed his eyes again and went back to his concentration on the fight with that unknown warrior, but kept enough focus on Era to answer her.

"Your competitive spirit doesn't allow you to let him live down his failures nor celebrate his successes. Remember that he is but a Line-Breaker, a warrior isolated for long periods of time away from civilization who believes in a God of war and seeks an honorable death. His training in the order may have been enough to put him ahead of most average warriors, but against the might of Te'i Sai he's not even registering as a threat to them yet. His training with me has yielded results allowing him to defeat lower level Assassins, and those which I saw today were but recruits and those who were undergoing the Initiation Ritual. Some of them weren't even Assassins yet which is why he found it so easy to cut a path through them despite his injuries. Were they all Assassins, even lower level Assassins, his swinging of that blade would have caused him only death without a single kill to show for it."

Era nodded as she listened, trying to figure out for herself what drove her to behave that way around Dietrich.

"Dietrich has yet to understand that his life is not meant to simply be thrown away in glorious combat, but thanks to the indoctrination from his order I doubt he ever will understand that. In the meantime I must continue to prepare his body for fights much worse than that which we had today. If I can't make him strong enough to wield that giant blade of his with one hand while at the same time teaching him everything I know about fighting with one hand free, then he's as good as lost to us. Using two hands on that blade is a death sentence to him if he faces off against Assassins from Te'i Sai again, let alone Roda Ah K'mht with their superior numbers. Te'i Sai is growing weary of their war with Roda Ah K'mht, that much is clear given how many new Assassins I saw coming to meet us today. They are going so far as to fast track the Initiation Ritual in an attempt to bolster their forces, but I doubt it'll make a difference which is why we're targeting them first."

Era brought her thoughts away from Dietrich and focused now on her brother.

"So if we can kill the Grandmaster here once you've recovered, then what?" She asked.

Shadow looked up at her for a brief moment.

"Because if we kill him then the entire base will empty and the Te'i Sai code demands that they never again touch a blade or take up a combative life pursuit. They will abandon the life which they leave behind completely and become a part of the "normal" world again. There are those who will refuse to abandon it because it's so deep in their blood, but they will be so few and far between that they will cease to become a threat over time without any outside interference from any of us... At least, most of them will. However, I know that Sereinia was targeted by Te'i Sai back in Cre' Est despite the fact that there shouldn't be any Te'i Sai presence there. I'm guessing that some of the remnants found an employer who would let them keep their Assassin heritage in exchange for hiding them from society so they could continue living in the darkness. We have a lot of work to do between now and the next time we attack that base, but for now we need to rest."

Era nodded once again in silence, but had one final question to ask.

"So what are you going to do about Dietrich?" She asked.

Shadow's eyes closed and his head drooped down a bit as he began to think to himself on the matter. He was silent for a few minutes straight before finally opening his eyes and looking at Era again.

"I'm going to take him somewhere... Special... And he will train with me one on one for three months time. If and when he finishes the training, I can almost guarantee that lower level Assassins will pose absolutely not threat to him, but only time will tell just how powerful he'll become in regards to being able to fight with higher level Assassins. I'm aiming to make him a match for an Elite, but with another seven levels above the Elite I'm not sure if it will be enough as we continue. Te'i Sai's lower level rankings are dropping like flies in the war against Roda Ah K'mht, but again, only time will tell... Now, leave me be Era. I have much to think about." He said before lowering his head further to rest his eyes while he continued to stretch silently outside the cabin.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Shadow Character Portrait: Era

INK

A Sin Most Unwanted...

Shadow and Era

"Anger, sadness, fear and confusion. Combined they all lead to a single truth: Oblivion. It is down this single merciless path that the Red-Eyed Twins now walk, and salvation was denied them long ago by the Gods... It is the fate of all those who walk this path, to wind up at deaths door without a key and suffer the endless fate that is Oblivion so near to the Gates of the next world, but never shall they know its respite."

- The Highmaster of Te'i Sai


Under the morning sun, Shadow still sat outside the cabin in his seated position having lost complete track of time in this thoughts the previous night. Again, Shadow obsessed over that fight, reliving it again and again pointing out to himself where that mysterious warrior excelled and where he failed. He came to realize that though he and the warrior were evenly matched in strength, gauging by how hard his attacks hit, this warrior's skill and reaction times exceeded Shadow's own despite his two decades worth of training as the Red-Eyed Demon. It burned him to his very soul to know that this one could so easily defeat him where everyone else had always failed. Compared to this new opponent, Solomon and Yarun were afterthoughts in the back of Shadow's mind. Never would he actually fear the thought of combat against either of the two Royal Guards, yet when it came to this one lone warrior working alongside Kiiro, Shadow found that he was indeed afraid of him.

Era had slept very little, spending most of her time guarding the perimeter as Shadow stewed over the last few day's events. His body still ached, but he didn't even recognize the sensation anymore. His thoughts were buried so deeply in figuring out a way to defeat the mystery warrior that he had neglected to concern himself with daily necessities such as hunger and sleep and his body was beginning to pay the price for it. His weight over the last three to four days had dropped a few pounds, something that would otherwise be unthinkable to someone of his physique and near perfect physical condition. But Shadow's body was indeed beginning to suffer for his neglect and harsh training, and the evidence came in his slightly malnourished state. To anyone without a good eye, the suffering of his body would go unnoticed thanks to the clothing he wore. Era had noticed though, while she was making her rounds, and she was none too happy that her brother was beginning to spiral downhill like this.

She had seen before the consequences of a powerful warrior losing to a superior opponent and not being able to recover, mentally, from the defeat. Bitterness, regret, and a whole lot of "what if" statements would soon follow. If Shadow could not shake the humiliation and frustration of the outcome of this fight, he would soon lose himself in his own self pity and vengeful thoughts that he would likely begin to make fatal mistakes in combat in the days ahead. Era had no idea what to do or how to inspire Shadow to let it go, nor did she have any words which could help heal his now wounded pride. She could only hope that he would see that a single loss does not a coward or a weakling make, and that if he simply were to calm down and take a step back and observe with calmness once again that he would find the solution he so desperately craved.

This obsessive behavior was beginning to cloud his judgement, as was evidenced by his idea that he would take Dietrich somewhere private to train.

If Shadow went that far, he would likely kill Dietrich before the training was over in his current state of mind. Shadow nearly killed Era and Taira both during training once after suffering from wounds in battle years ago which had also wounded his pride in such a way. Era knew his heart was in the right place, but when his pride was damaged there was never any predicting how far he would go to avenge his loss and restore his pride. In all honesty, it was this frame of mind that Era feared the most about her brother. It wasn't his skills or his ferocity in combat, it was his vengeful nature and how easily he let things like this get to him and drive him to the brink of complete insanity about restoring the pride he had lost. Shadow being Shadow was nothing to fear, but Shadow in a vengeful state... That was a whole different beast all together.

It was well known to Era that both her and Shadow's eyes did the same thing whenever their emotions flared. One, they began to glow. Two, they changed colors. The first part was usually a sign of excitement or flaring anger, though the anger was under control and only served to make them stronger. The second, however, usually meant something much worse was on the way. Whenever Era had observed Shadow's eyes darkening in the past, it meant that he was becoming blinded by rage. This change heralded a rather harsh and unpredictable environment whenever Shadow was around, and more than once it had caused injury to allies in the past when they tried to calm him down. The most frightening change came whenever Shadow's eyes darkened to a deep crimson red very much resembling fresh blood from a new open wound before it had time to adjust and become brighter in color, and this change meant that he was on the brink of losing his self control to his rage and frustration. It was this change which Era feared the most, as it typically led Shadow to deliberately induce Roda I'l Lousta as an outlet.

As Shadow stood up to look at the sun as it rose over the horizon, Era came in close to get a good look at him. His eyes were their usual shade of red which eased her mind for the moment as to how the predictability of his actions. How long it would stay this way given how he was obsessing over his defeat was anyone's guess, but Era had the feeling that before long she would have her answer if Shadow could not find a way to let it go. It really burned at Era that she could not do anything for him in this regard, as her only real experience with "letting go" was to wrap up loose ends as quickly as possible to find her resolution. She had never suffered defeat in combat to anyone except her brother. Since he was her only family and she loved him very much, she could never see defeat to him as a bad thing. It was instead something which pushed her to train harder to catch up to him. Shadow had nobody to keep him grounded anymore after Linde left his companionship. It was all rather sudden too, which had Era confused as to why she would leave so quickly and easily. She was just as powerful as Era was at least, and never had shown any weaknesses in the past nor any signs of tiring from the fight against Te'i Sai... So why leave just like that?

Era could only wonder.

Linde had been Shadow's pillar of strength before her disappearance. Her brief showing in Cre' Est to calm Shadow down when he entered Roda I'l Lousta during the Bloody New Year event was something of a miracle, and a brief one at that. Once Shadow told her he was leaving, she stayed behind which had Era thinking that she must be living in Cre' Est right now which was something of a shock. Shadow and Era were both born in Shaharan and raised in Cre' Est with Te'i Sai, but Linde was actually a Triveila native. Why she would switch to Cre' Est was something of a mystery, but Era could think of a few reasons if her suspicions about why Linde left were correct. If Era's hunch was right, Linde was looking for a safe place to be and Cre' Est was still the safest city in terms of its military presence and the city guards. Era was curious about Linde's current situation, and thought to herself that visiting her might be in order once Shadow made up his mind to train Dietrich in private or not.

Era continued to watch Shadow as he stood still as a statue and watched the sunrise. It was unnatural for him to be this quiet in the morning when usually there was so much to discuss and go over, especially after the events of recent days. Shadow was injured, slightly malnourished, mentally shaken and otherwise a shadow of his former self. Era couldn't help but feel sorry for him, and her heart ached that she couldn't do anything for him. If she knew how, she would do so in a heartbeat, but growing up as the Bleeding Rose of Te'i Sai, she knew only how to be an Assassin. She didn't know how to be the loving, caring sister that Shadow needed her to be. All she could do was watch and wait, and if the time came she would do what she had to in order to mitigate the damage he would inflict on himself and others.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Shadow Character Portrait: Mayumi Character Portrait: Sereinia Lucis Nouralail Character Portrait: Dietrich "Leer" Faust Character Portrait: Era

INK

Dietrich Faust
"You been watching me sleep?"




Dietrich's eyes slowly opened.

"It still evades me? My mighty Doom?"

The first thought that crossed his mind put him in a sour mood. Still, it was nice to know that there was something better in store for him. He could feel his body wrapped in bandages, around his arms, thighs, and forehead. He attempted to flex his right arm under the sheet of the small bed, and was met with a stinging pain.

"Not yet."

He stared up at the ceiling. The bed felt nice. It had been a long time since he had gotten a good sleep. Despite his wounds, he felt refreshed. The Princess had done good work.

He wasn't sure where the others were. The last thing he clearly remembered was Shadow getting hot at his sister, and then the concerned face of the Princess. She had been speaking, but the meaning of her words had been lost on his blood-starved brain. He vaguely recollected being supported by two thin forms, and walking forward along a path. He had thought he was being escorted to Uirlin by his Handmaidens, apparently he had been wrong.

For some reason, he remembered Era. He had boasted pretty highly back there, while kneeling at her feet. He felt a twinge of shame, such actions were not looked well upon by his patron. Real warriors let their actions speak for themselves, only fools and cowards boast with words. He mentally reprimanded himself. Shadow's sister most likely though even less of him now.

"Then again, why do I care?"

Dietrich wasn't sure. He didn't want to, but at the same time couldn't deny the fact that he desired to impress her, or more accurately to prove her wrong. It was strange; never before in his life had met someone whom he clashed with so dynamically. It was actually quite thrilling to think about. As he had knelt there, soaked with blood, sweat, and dirt, the only thing he had wanted to do was throw all her contempt right back into her face. It was made all the more pitiful when he realized that the "foes" he had slain had truly been little more than boys. Not a single enemy of any real power had fallen to Gewalt's edge, and yet here he was, bandaged stiff and lying in a bed. Still, that was part of being a Line-Breaker, learning your weaknesses, and destroying them like any other enemy. Wasn't the reason why he had followed Shadow in the first place to find equals to test himself against? To grow stronger, until finally meeting one who would send him to eternity?

He couldn't blame Era for not understanding him, or why he fought even when victory was utterly unattainable. His beliefs were archaic, simple, and he knew it. But it was the only life he knew, it was who he was, his essence, his meaning for life, and he couldn't feel any less animosity towards her despite her ignorance of what it meant to him.

He glanced over, spying Mayumi leaning against the wooden beam in the middle of the room. She seemed deep in thought, staring off into nothingness; despite himself, Dietrich remembered Era's words about what she believed would happen to Mayumi. He couldn't imagine what the young girl had been put through.

"You alright?" He asked, his voice sounding strangely loud in the still room. It was a weak question, but he didn't know what else to say. "You been watching me sleep?"

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Shadow Character Portrait: Mayumi Character Portrait: Sereinia Lucis Nouralail Character Portrait: Dietrich "Leer" Faust Character Portrait: Era

INK

Sereinia Lucis Nouralail
"There was a time, that even the Gods don't have the answer. You know why? Because you already have it..."



All through the night, there was an impenetrable silence that hanged in the air. Even though it was so heavy, no blade can hope to pierce through it. Sereinia was not oblivious to it and deemed it necessary to allow time to do its momentary aid if it was plausible. For now, she focused on tending to Dietrich's wounds now they were in a proper location. The treatments were soon done and there should be no foreseeable complications if the man would permit himself some old good-fashioned rest. Yet somehow, she believed that it would be quite difficult to do so which she had done so many times with Shadow. In truth, she would never understand what was wonderful with fighting to the death or the spill of blood. She understood that it was a way of life they had been either born or forced into. But to consider it beautiful or wonderful, she never will.

When she was done with Dietrich, Sereinia opted to check Mayumi for any injuries that she might have received while in the custody of the Te'i Sai. There were just a few scrapes and bruises but nothing to be considered critical which was refreshing to her knowledge. Yet, the words of Era and Shadow continued to play within her mind about this Kiiro's method of persuasion. She did notice that something seemed to bother the younger girl. At the very least, she had learned to understand the simplest yet subtle gestures of Mayumi. This was made possible due to them spending time for quite some time. Before, she could never figure out the younger girl but now it was different. Yet as the same, she decided not to probe for now. She respects privacy and it also looked like the younger girl needed to figure some of things on her own. There are times that the answer one seek could only be given by no one else but themselves.

In any case, the Princess had decided it was time to confront Shadow about his own injuries. The man was stubborn as a mule or even more stubborn. There would be likely a series of scolding from her part but somehow, she was not insensitive to see that something hanged heavily around him. If she would take a guess, it was about his defeat. The idea of that was a surprise to him as he prided himself to be very strong. So, what does it mean to be strong really? Could it really be measured by the number of foes one had defeated? The number of techniques and skills that had been mastered? She truly wondered. In any case, she pushed those thoughts away for now. However, she changed her mind when she saw Era conversing with Shadow. That is right... It would be better if Era was the one who talked to Shadow. They are siblings and even deal with the same trade. So for the night, she would allow Era to handle her own brother. She found some place to rest for now as the adrenaline that aided her had now released its hold on her. Weariness enveloped her and it did not take long for her to fall asleep. Unknown to her, the real topic of the conversation between the brother and the sister.

The next morning, Sereinia was now up and about. She found Dietrich was still unconscious so, she checked his wounds in a very feather-like manner as to not disturb the man. When she was satisfied, she had decided to prepare some breakfast for all of them. It was not that hard as there are some supplies laying around somewhere in the cabin. She ensured that the meals were healthy and would promote the natural resistance and recovery rate of their bodies. After all, this was only just a small time of reprieve. There would be more obstacles in their way and enemies aiming for their lives would still come especially for Shadow. She wondered if the Empress felt frustration in regards about the Emperor. Perhaps, when she gets the chance to she would ask. For now, she continued with cooking.

Soon, it was done as she offered some of the morning meal to Mayumi and prepared something easy to eat for Dietrich and Shadow due to the condition of their bodies. It was then she came out of the cabin and noticed the two siblings somewhat surrounded by a tensed silence. Sereinia wondered what happened while she was asleep. Even more, the dark air still loomed over Shadow. Taking a deep breath, she looked at Era.

"Good morning, Era, Shadow. I prepared some breakfast please help yourselves."

After stating that, her eyes went towards Shadow's form. Sereinia gave Era a simple nod as a gesture as if to inform her that she would intrude in their private moment. She then went towards Shadow as she now stood beside the man who looked at the rising sun in a rather distant manner.

"Hey, did I not tell you before? I will listen to everything that is bothering you. I may not understand most of it but it is better than thinking a solution to what is bothering you alone."

Image Sereinia then carefully peeked at Shadow as the morning breeze blew around them. She tucked some of her tresses behind her ear as she released a small sigh and looked at the rising sun as well.

"You do not have to always know everything. You also do not have to keep it all together all the time. Because in the end, we are just mortals we can break."

She stretched her arms forward and had a thoughtful expression on her face as Sereinia recalled a memory in her past. In truth, she was not certain if it would help Shadow or not but, it was better to have some conversation and knowing him, he would be more stubborn which she had always seen and experienced most of the time.

"There was a time, I considered myself a God. Thinking about it now, it sounded so silly. But during those times, it was about right."

Returning her arms to her side, Sereinia glanced at Shadow wondering if he was listening to her or not. After doing so, she looked at the sun once more. She had a rather bittersweet smile on her face when she spoke again.

"I was always correct. I never make mistakes. I can easily do things other finds hard to do. Then, that happened. I broke."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Shadow Character Portrait: Mayumi Character Portrait: Sereinia Lucis Nouralail Character Portrait: Dietrich "Leer" Faust Character Portrait: Era

INK

Mayumi





"You alright?" He asked, his voice sounding strangely loud in the still room. It was a weak question, but he didn't know what else to say. "You been watching me sleep?"

Mayumi glanced out of the corner of her eyes down at Dietrich from her position on the wooden beam above them. No reply came, and more silence surrounded them. Returning her gaze to their rightful place the young archer was back to staring blankly at the ceiling. Mayumi let her memories of the past years flow freely through her mind, projecting it mentally onto the ceiling before her and playing it out like a scene. Half the night passed as she played her memories back and forth, and then the image of a man with silver white hair surfaced before her. `

Mayumi recognised the image as the one she had in her last vision. The one where a chain of warm flowing blood somehow connected her to him despite the walls that was self-made to protect themselves from the deadly world where only the strongest survived. Comparing the images, the man who had his entire back facing her in the older image seemed to have turned more to the side in the newer image. She could almost see his face now.

‘Who are you?’ Mayumi questioned as she stared at the image that always seem to draw her in. She was almost sure that her question had been heard by him even though she had not said it aloud.

Mentally exhausted from the long play back of memories, Mayumi leaped up from her lying position and landed on her feet with an inaudible thud. Slipping out of the cabin through the same way she had come in previously, Mayumi was back on the rooftop. Whistling a silent signal for only her loyal companion to hear and understand the lone archer was off into the night where she belonged.

In the forest that surrounds the cabin


Mayumi scouted the area and set up traps around the perimeter of the cabin while Sora hunted for food. The teen found out that she could take the sweet taste of meat again, but anything sweeter than that would have her taste buds, thus stomach, rejecting every single bit of whatever food it was.

Image


Satisfied with her work, Mayumi did some training to maintain her current form. She climbed up trees leaping from one to another and going back down all along with weights on, did quite a few laps of nature’s obstacle course which included swinging from vine to vine to get across a lake that was near a kilometres travel and fighting wild animals along the way. Any weakness that she found was assessed and after doing so, retrained to perfection.

After half an hour of splitting stretches to prevent any injuries or crams from her workout, the teen assassin did some stealth and accuracy training. Spotting a flock of flying wild ducks as potential target practice, she aimed for a few feathers and was quick to shoot them off which startled the poor ducks causing them to disperse in a frenzy. Sora was quick to catch the still soaring arrows and return them back to her saviour where she was rewarded with a piece of raw meat. This continued for a while with Mayumi creeping up on all sorts of wild animals, even a black panther that she found out of nowhere.

When the night neared its end, Mayumi knew it was time to head back. On her way back, Mayumi chanced upon a calm flowing river and decided to cleanse herself and wash her clothes as well while Sora joined in at the edge of the river.

Sunrise, back at the cabin


Reaching the cabin before anyone awoke Mayumi crept through the door and placed the deer meat Sora had hunted near the cooking area before settling herself on a chair where she leaned back calmly against the wooden walls of the cabin. A while later, Sereinia awoke and started to prepare the morning meal for everyone. When it was done, the doctor offered her some, but for reasons unknown Mayumi refused it.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Shadow Character Portrait: Mayumi Character Portrait: Sereinia Lucis Nouralail Character Portrait: Era

INK

A Sin Most Unwanted...

Shadow and Era

"Though they were born of my flesh and blood, I will never know what drives them. Both seem to draw strength from a source yet unknown to me, and as I observe and calculate it occurs to me that my eldest child, the one called Shadow, is troubled deeply beyond what anyone else can imagine. Whether this is from his upbringing in Te'i Sai and a manifestation of his confusion, frustration and fear... Or perhaps simply a deep and as of yet unidentified source, I do not know. I do know this, however, as I know my own child well enough... His breaking point is soon to be realized."

- The Highmaster of Te'i Sai


"Hey, did I not tell you before? I will listen to everything that is bothering you. I may not understand most of it but it is better than thinking a solution to what is bothering you alone. You do not have to always know everything. You also do not have to keep it all together all the time. Because in the end, we are just mortals we can break. There was a time, I considered myself a God. Thinking about it now, it sounded so silly. But during those times, it was about right. I was always correct. I never make mistakes. I can easily do things other finds hard to do. Then, that happened. I broke."

Shadow listened to every word and processed them as they came, but his gaze on the horizon never wavered. Somewhere deep in Shadow's heart he knew what Sereinia was saying was true and that he needed time to think on the problem, but for now he was more focused on what to do about defeating that mystery warrior when next they met. Era, who had retreated to a distance but still kept her brother and Sereinia in view just beyond the trees, watched the conversation and examined the sudden but incredibly subtle changes in her brother's body language.

... He's frustrated for certain, but... There's a new change which I don't recognize. I wonder what it could mean... She thought to herself.

Shadow's eyes had been glaring hard at the horizon, but seemed to all of a sudden lose their luster and poise as Shadow's eyelids sank slightly and his body relaxed completely. Any tension which had been building was released and all manner of energy exertion was also lost to him. Shadow sat down cross legged and put his hands in his lap while closing his eyes. It was a typical meditative posture, and one which Shadow had used quite often in the past when it came time to meditate during training.

"Thank you for your kind words Sereinia, and thank you for preparing breakfast. I'll join you inside in a few minutes, but there is something I must do first... Era." He called at the end.

Era appeared and approached slowly.

"Fetch Mayumi... She and I have something to discuss before we join everyone for breakfast this morning." He said in a rather low voice.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Shadow Character Portrait: Mayumi Character Portrait: Era

INK

Mayumi





Outside the cabin around the border between the forest and clearing


After Mayumi refused the meal, she head back outside without anyone’s notice, careful to avoid any sudden breeze so that she would not alert those with sharp sense of smell. Sora had left her side and taken off to the skies, cleverly hiding herself among the thick clouds so that sunlight would not cast a shadow on her. Only Mayumi would know where she was now as the young archer had a bond with Sora that no one could ever have.

Finding herself a tree branch that was around 15 meters above the ground, the 15 year old basked in the cool gentle breeze that carried from Shadow’s direction to hers, thus carrying whatever conversation he had, to her. A few silver strands was carried with the breeze, flowing like the ribbons she saw on little girl’s heads while they ran about playing, which led her to ponder upon their use. Were they for strangling people who threatened their lives? She thought carelessly. Closing her eyes, Mayumi drifted off lightly as she continued to listen in on the conversations, until…

"Thank you for your kind words Sereinia, and thank you for preparing breakfast. I'll join you inside in a few minutes, but there is something I must do first... Era." He called at the end.

Era appeared and approached slowly.

"Fetch Mayumi... She and I have something to discuss before we join everyone for breakfast this morning." He said in a rather low voice.


Mayumi’s eyes opened almost in a lazy manner and looked in the direction where Shadow was. She had a clear view on the cabin despite the cooling shades of the tree she was in. Seeing Era about to head back inside, she decided that she did not want to make the older girl waste a trip inside only to find that she wasn’t there.

Climbing her way down till she was 6 meters above the ground, she leaped with a cat’s grace and somersaulted 3 times when she was down to 3 meters high before landing soundlessly on the forest ground.

“I heard you.” Mayumi told Shadow as she walked up to his side with silent footfalls.

“What is it?” She asked the man.

If the girl had been speaking to anyone else other than Shadow, no one would notice the slight coldness that was laced within her usual monotone.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Shadow Character Portrait: Mayumi Character Portrait: Era

INK

A Sin Most Unwanted...

Shadow and Era

"My children are my life, whether they believe my words or not. I have nothing but their best interests and their future at heart. They were born for greatness, and have since attained it though they have yet to reach their full potential. Both of them could be the most powerful warriors in the world, yet their unchecked emotions and attachments hold them back to the future which could so easily be theirs. If only they had listened to me when they had the chance... They could have avoided the fate which they have since brought upon themselves."

- The Highmaster of Te'i Sai





“I heard you. What is it?” Came a rather cold and harsh tone from the girl who used to speak to him with respect.

Shadow's eyes glided over to Mayumi upon hearing her tone of voice, and he simply stared at her for a few long, uncomfortable moments before speaking to her.

"You obviously have something important on your mind if you've worked up the nerve to speak to me in that tone of voice." He said, his tone reaching a new level of harshness of its own which he had never before aimed at her.

One thing about Shadow that nobody really seemed to understand to even know about was that he was not the type to take being spoken to in such a manner and let it slide. The last time someone spoke to him like that, he put them through a cinderblock wall and left them to heal without any supplements or pain killers. Hearing Mayumi speak to him in such a manner really set him off, especially with the way he'd been feeling of late. He was in no mood to hear sass from the young wannabe Assassin, and as such he was ready and willing to strike her if she spoke to him like that again.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Shadow Character Portrait: Mayumi Character Portrait: Era

INK

Mayumi





The harshness of Shadow's voice did not surprise Mayumi. In fact, it seemed normal to her as she lacked in reading emotions. It was his words that made Mayumi realise the foreign feeling in her tone.

The teen immediately suppressed any emotions she found showing till not even the slightest bit was detectable. Her face going into a flawless stoic mask with not even the slightest wrinkle of the forehead to be found while her Heterochromia iridum eyes went dead of emotion.

"There is nothing on my mind. For that I apologise." Mayumi spoke in a monotone.

Now, she was unpredictable. Her form tense and alert.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Shadow Character Portrait: Mayumi Character Portrait: Era

INK

A Sin Most Unwanted...

Shadow and Era

"Shadow... My first born... He despises me for what I have turned him into and does not realize the true potential of his gift of life. He could be so much more than just the Red-Eyed Demon. Would he just put his mind to it, he could easily conquer this entire continent and bend its people to his will through fear and power. Era, my second born, is just as lethal as her brother. However, she seems to suffer from an inferiority complex, as Shadow has always been the stronger child, mentally so. Whereas Shadow's will is comparable to the unyielding invincibility of Orichalcum, Era's is made of steel and can easily be bent or broken. Though she fights to attain that same Orichalcum drive as her brother, I fear her desire to match him will lead to an early grave..."

- The Highmaster of Te'i Sai



Shadow's eyes were set squarely on Mayumi, silent anger present and unflinching deep within their crimson gaze.

"You're right, you don't have just anything on your mind." He said quietly.

"You have so much more on your mind, Mayumi. Try as you might, and as good of a job as he may have done, your previous master's teachings of hiding your emotions and blocking from outer view the nature of your current mental state is completely ineffective against me. I can see right through your veil, Mayumi, so do not try to hide yourself from me. When you have something to say, I expect you to speak out."

He took a step towards her and glared down at her, giving her a silent reminder that he was her present instructor and that he was in complete control of the situation which they found themselves in. Within this silent stand off between them, Shadow easily dominated the young Assassin in training in terms of will power and insight.

"Now speak." He demanded.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Shadow Character Portrait: Sereinia Lucis Nouralail Character Portrait: Dietrich "Leer" Faust Character Portrait: Era

INK

A Sin Most Unwanted...

Shadow and Era

"I fear almost nothing in this world more than the idea that my son will inevitably destroy those few things in life which he has come to cherish. Be it by his own hand, or the hand of another, I know that my son is fated to a life of suffering beyond which anyone else will ever know."

- The Highmaster of Te'i Sai



Shadow heard Mayumi's steps fade to the distance, and the sounds of Sora flying higher into the skies to where he could no longer hear her wings told him that Mayumi had now disappeared. The sound of her disappearing footsteps meant little to Shadow's overly focused mind, and as he stood up to walk into the cabin Era stood before him with her arms crossed in front of her chest.

There was a disturbing silence between them for a long time before Era finally spoke.

"You are a true piece of work brother... Driving away your young protege because she doesn't feel like she can talk to you." She said, her voice low and cold.

Shadow's eyes began to glow violently, but Era's matched his flash for fiery flash.

"You need to stay out of my business Era." He replied.

"You made it my business when you asked me to train her!" She replied sharply.

"She has been with Sereinia and I for almost a full year now and she still will not explain to me what troubles her or trust me to be able to provide her with guidance. If she will not trust me as her master, then I will not play at being her master if she's just going to keep hiding her emotions!" He yelled back.

Era's teeth made an appearance and she struck out at Shadow's head, a move which was promptly blocked.

"I don't care if she threw up in your mouth and scratched your favorite blade! You have a responsibility to that little girl to guide and protect her as she tries to find her way through the chaos which surrounds her!" Era yelled.

Shadow flipped Era's arm and twisted it behind her back, to which she replied by purposefully dislocating her shoulder and turning around to strike at Shadow with her free hand. Shadow let her go and blocked her attack, to which she used the maneuver to jump away and pop her shoulder back in while still baring her teeth in anger.

"If you feel so strongly about this then why don't you go after her?! I'm finished playing at being her master!" Shadow yelled back.

The two Blood Twins again locked themselves in combat as they struck out at each other with tremendous force. The power from their blows sent small waves of pressure through the air which disturbed the leaves in the trees, causing many of them to begin to fall around them as they moved about the small clearing around the cabin. Their kicks which missed their targets and struck the ground left imprints of their feet in the dirt as they continued to fight. Shadow and Era were two of the strongest and most skilled fighters in existence, and to have them fight against each other like this was truly a spectacle of the rarest kind.

The Blood Twins were truly intent on killing each other.

"You were never playing at being her master! You are her master! That little girl was counting on you to help her and guide her and you abandoned her when she needed you most! It doesn't take a psychiatrist to see that the poor thing is confused and in need of help! And what do you do?!" She yelled at him.

Shadow said nothing as they continued to fight. Blow after blow they continued to trade attacks both successful and unsuccessful while Era continued to yell "What did you do!?" at him. Both of the Twins received minor injuries from the fight. Shadow's cracked ribs came back to haunt him with how hard he was fighting, but that wasn't the worst of it. Era's powerful and precise attacks left Shadow fighting for breath as two more ribs suffered the same fate as his earlier injuries and several new bruises and scratches would soon become prevalent. Era suffered a bloody lip, a few bruises, and would soon feel a few sore spots around her stomach and shoulders.

Then, something extraordinary happened.

In a single movement, Shadow was lifted off the ground and thrown to the ground... hard. The sound of his body hitting the surface of the ground was intense and sent a wave of air out to all sides creating a circle of dust around him as he lay there coughing while he tried to catch his breath. Era stood over him with her knee pressed lightly against his throat as she grit her teeth and glared down at him.

"What did you do!!??" She yelled down at him.

Shadow could not answer, as his wind still would not return in the face of what had just happened. Era stood up and took a step away from her brother, still glaring down at him with disappointment clear in her expression.

"You're not strong enough to admit it brother... You failed her." She said softly.

With those words, Era turned her back to her brother and walked into the cabin.

Shadow stared at the sky, the pain in his body and the lack of breath in his lungs not helping his bewilderment. He still could not understand why he lost to that other warrior before, and now he had just been defeated by his sister. Era had never defeated him before, ever. Despite the fact that they were evenly matched in terms of their raw skill, Era's shorter arms and legs gave Shadow a dangerous and distinct advantage in combat over her... So how did she defeat him this time? Shadow was not at full strength, but he still should have done better than that.

His fist clenched some of the dirt surrounding his body as he slammed his fist into the ground while he grit his teeth in frustration.

So then WHY?! He thought angrily to himself...

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Shadow Character Portrait: Mayumi Character Portrait: Sereinia Lucis Nouralail Character Portrait: Dietrich "Leer" Faust Character Portrait: Era

INK

Dietrich Faust




The front door of the shack swung open and Dietrich emerged, leaning on Gewalt's crossguard, as the sounds of violence erupted outside the cabin. He prepared himself for an honorable death; he was wounded, weak, and dressed only in his undergarments and linen shirt. Instead of the carnage he expected to see though, what waited for him outside the cabin was a clash of emotions. Era and Shadow were going at it, and they weren't playing. They swirled and raged faster than Dietrich could accurately see, and the air was ripe with their fury.

"You were never playing at being her master! You are her master! That little girl was counting on you to help her and guide her and you abandoned her when she needed you most! It doesn't take a psychiatrist to see that the poor thing is confused and in need of help! And what do you do?!"

Dietrich's brow furrowed as he watched their duel. It was obvious that burning feelings were involved, and from Era's words he guessed they had something to do with Mayumi. He wondered what they could possibly be fighting about. Still, he knew better than to intercede. Instead he watched, patiently observing the conflict like an old wolf watching two stags gore each-other. His lips retracted over his teeth slightly as he tried his best to absorb Era and Shadow's movements. This chance would not go to waste.

They moved with fluid, deadly grace. Their fists and legs striking out with blinding speed. Neither of them seemed to be gaining any ground; Shadow was the superior combatant, but with his wounds he and Era appeared to be on roughly equal footing. Still, something was off about Shadow that Dietrich couldn't quite put his finger on. In addition to his physical wounds, he didn't appear entirely focused, as if he was torn mentally. This was a death sentence in combat with fighters of their caliber.

Despite this realization, Dietrich still couldn't quite believe what he was seeing when Era sent her brother reeling to the ground. She advanced on his prostrate form, and rested her knee against his throat. The thought occurred to Dietrich that the only person who could help him climb the ladder of strength was about to be killed. Still, something held him back.

"What did you do!!??" She yelled down at him.

Shadow could not answer, as his wind still would not return in the face of what had just happened. Era stood up and took a step away from her brother, still glaring down at him with disappointment clear in her expression.

"You're not strong enough to admit it brother... You failed her." She said softly.

With those words, Era turned her back to her brother and walked into the cabin.


Dietrich shot Era a dark smirk as she brushed him aside and entered the shack. It was a wordless message of barely restrained violence. He understood that she could easily take him apart in his present condition, but he couldn't help himself. He sighed as the surge of bloodlust faded from his veins.

"One day. Not today, or tomorrow, but one day."

He walked over to Shadow, still lying in the dirt. The Red-Eyed Demon radiated an incredible, frustrated fury. Dietrich knew how he felt. He wrapped his right arm around Gewalt, stiffly planted in the ground.

"You look like Hell." He said.

He paused for a few moments, looking down on the man who wanted to save the world.

"I don't know what that was about, and I don't care. So don't worry about me trying to console you." He began, a rather brisk tone in his voice. "But, I will say this. Thinking about what you could have done different won't solve anything. I'm sure you already know that, I'm just reminding you."

He extended his left arm down, reaching towards Shadow.

"Come on, lets go eat breakfast."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Shadow Character Portrait: Sereinia Lucis Nouralail Character Portrait: Dietrich "Leer" Faust Character Portrait: Era

INK

A Sin Most Unwanted...

Shadow and Era

"Strength is judged differently by many people... Shadow is physically one of the strongest men alive, but mentally, he's not as strong as he may appear. The ease with which others can set him off is disturbing to me, and I fear that someday it will be this trait which proves to be his ultimate downfall. I know not if Shadow will ever recognize the weakness, or if he will accept others pointing it out to him. No matter what, I will watch over my beloved son until the day one of us dies..."

- The Highmaster of Te'i Sai



"I don't know what that was about, and I don't care. So don't worry about me trying to console you." He began, a rather brisk tone in his voice. "But, I will say this. Thinking about what you could have done different won't solve anything. I'm sure you already know that, I'm just reminding you."

He extended his left arm down, reaching towards Shadow.

"Come on, lets go eat breakfast."


Shadow looked up at Dietrich, his eyes losing their glow and intensity as he squinted in the face of the light of the sun beaming down upon his face. He took Dietrich's arm and hoisted himself up before letting go and looking at the cabin door.

"... I'm not hungry..." He said quietly.

Shadow had lost his appetite the moment Mayumi departed, and since then his lacking of desire and motivation was beginning to skyrocket. His strength was ebbing, and his body felt like it was on fire after than scrap with Era. He didn't have anything more to say as he walked over to a nearby boulder and sat down on it, crossing his legs and closing his eyes to meditate.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Shadow Character Portrait: Mayumi Character Portrait: Sereinia Lucis Nouralail Character Portrait: Dietrich "Leer" Faust Character Portrait: Era

INK

Sereinia Lucis Nouralail
"I am not all sunshines and spring as it seems..."



In all of the events that transpired before her very eyes, Sereinia was a silent watcher. She did not see any need for her to intervene at any point. There are times that were better left unsaid. However, the departure of Mayumi from the group was something that she did not expect to happen at all. Instead, she had concluded that Shadow would do something to call back for the young girl who seemed to bear a burden that has yet to be identified. It was during these kind of situation that they should be there as quiet support if need be. There is nothing wrong to prod people for inspiration but the way it was delivered or acted upon should be chosen with great care. Noticing Shadow's varying emotions, he had failed to do so. When Mayumi turned her back on them, she had opted to follow after the young girl in efforts to stop her departure. However...

"You made it my business when you asked me to train her!"

As such, it was no surprise when Era let out her own opinion on the matter. Sereinia was prevented from moving as she did not want the two siblings to turned their debacle into a bloody fight. To her, there was enough violence and malicious actions done out of consideration. Yet, the blows continued without her doing anything to prevent it. For, it seemed an invisible wind gripped her so tightly not to intervene at all. She remained paralyzed in the entire ordeal and somehow, something thick and burning bottled from within her. At that moment, she was not certain what it was. Dietrich who was supposed to rest inside the cabin had made the first move on Shadow who now wanted to sulk in her opinion rather than a meditation. As for Era, she had returned to the cabin. Space is much needed for these two individuals right now.

"... I'm not hungry..."

That was it something snapped inside Sereinia as she took a deep breath. She finally moved as she placed her hand on Dietrich's shoulder.

"Go inside and eat breakfast. I will handle this."

Her voice still had the tinge of gentleness in them however, there is also a certain budding annoyance in her tone which was very rare to be heard even when she is upset about something or when in argument with Shadow on his methods of training. Eyes of mauve gazed at Dietrich which delivered the silent message to not argue with her at this matter please. After so, she removed her hand and went to where Shadow is.

"So you will just sulk here like a child who lost his favorite toy and do not tell me is meditation."

Sereinia started. She stood beside him as her eyes looked down on Shadow's form.

"I have never thought you to be a sore loser. Even more so to lash out to others just because of it."

Her experiences in losing and being defeated may not be the same for the one that Shadow had experienced. At the same time, her memories of being reclusive was the effect of her downfall. There may be similarities yet, there was still a vital difference in all of these.

"You lost your drive because of a defeat. Did you really think that you could always stay on top? No one can do that even Gods fall."

Sereinia released a sigh and looked at the distance. She was not the best help in combat so what could she possibly say about. All she knew from it is that the methods were abhorrent to her. After all, she is a pacifist and that was not going to change.

"But what makes you stronger is not the battles you won or the experiences that made you superior. These things in the end are trivial when we fall."

She returned to look at Shadow. Her eyes had a certain glint of sad realization and at the same time a powerful encouragement.

"Why do we fall? I asked myself that always. Then, I found out. It is so we can learn to pick ourselves up."

Sereinia now stood in front of Shadow as she lowered herself to level with his face.

"If this one defeat makes you limp perhaps, you are not a demon after all. Demons are resilient they always fall but even then they would grab to any string thrown their way and make the climb."

Then, she delivered a hard slap across Shadow's cheek which she had never done before. Her eyes were flaming like a burned amethyst projecting her anger.

"That is for lashing out on Mayumi which is very immature of you and for rejecting the breakfast I made as well."

Sereinia stood from her position and released a deep breath before smiling brightly as if the slap never happened.

"I told you I will always be by your side even if everyone turns their back at you or even when you turn your back on me. I will be there even when you turn your back on yourself. I will fix what you break."

Looking at the forest, Sereinia was not sure if it was safe or not. However, it was better to see how far did Mayumi go. She could not let the girl be on her own when it was obvious that Mayumi had something on her mind that she had yet to comprehend probably.

"We will be looking for Mayumi and that is final and when we do, you would apologize to her. In the end, Shadow you are not just her Master. You are her family. We are the only family she could have. Do not take that away from her."

Directing her eyes to Shadow, Sereinia now had a gentle countenance but there was something about her that would not take a no for an answer. She reached out her hand to him.

"Come on. You can be depressed another time. For now, you must act. Do not let it go like that. Be resilient. Climb up."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Shadow Character Portrait: Sereinia Lucis Nouralail Character Portrait: Dietrich "Leer" Faust Character Portrait: Era

INK

A Sin Most Unwanted...

Shadow and Era

"A child will always be a child... No matter how strong he becomes, my dearest son is indeed a child locked in a man's body and he has no control over his reactions to inconvenient and unwanted truths in his life. His reaction is to fight or hide, not to stand and face it with dignity and pride. Era is much more sound and grounded, and her ability to improvise and work around her problems exceeds that of her brother by a wide margin... I truly fear for him."

- The Highmaster of Te'i Sai



Shadow was not surprised that Sereinia began to lecture him, but he was rather surprised when she slapped him. He was so unprepared for it that he actually lost balance and nearly fell off the rock he was sitting on. The only thing which kept him there was a quick reaction by catching himself with his right hand. The slap was crisp and clean, and it actually stung him a little bit which was new. He was used to Mayumi landing punches and kicks on him with all her strength and he was able to brush it off without much thought. But this slap... It was something new and something more than just the sting of her hand.

".... Mayumi will not return to us." He said quietly.

"You can search for her if you want to Sereinia, but you will not find her. I have enough trouble keeping track of her when she doesn't care whether she is found or not. If she doesn't want to be found, she won't be." He said as he stood up slowly off the rock.

As Shadow stood up, and his mind finally had the wake up call it needed to think about something other than his defeat, he realized just how weak his body was as his legs buckled. Shadow went down to his knees, catching himself with both hands before allowing himself to fall to the ground. His arms were shaking, as were his legs, and not just from pain. It was exhaustion he was suffering from as well. That all too familiar feeling of not having enough fuel to sustain itself properly. Shadow stood up slowly, forcing his body to work when it was crying out that it could not, and stood up with clenched fists.

Shadow turned to the rock he had been sitting on and punched it with all his might. A large crack came forth, but blood also dripped from his knuckles as he held his fist there where the large crack had formed. Shadow pulled his fist back slowly, and then lashed out once again with his left hand, further cracking the large rock and once again causing blood to drip from the knuckles on his hand. Shadow pulled his left hand back quickly and the brought his right leg up and kicked it down hard on the rock, splitting the remains into two distinct halves as he grit his teeth in frustration and effort before losing his balance and falling to his side.

Shadow was breathing hard, which was unheard of from him after something so simple. His body was reeling. Blood dripped from the knuckles on both hands, the rock was destroyed, and Shadow now sat there with his body trembling from pain, exhaustion and anger. Now that his mind had a few moments to stop thinking about the defeat, he finally realized what he had done and how wrong he had been. However, he also knew there was nothing he could do about it. Shadow needed to recover, both physically and mentally, but he also could not put a stop to his plans even though Mayumi was gone. Shadow had the opportunity to kill the Grandmaster of Triveila, and he was not going to pass the chance if he could help it. Killing the Grandmaster would be enough of an accomplishment to make up for his previous defeat, but nothing would be better than going back and finding him and defeating him to prove that their first match would not be a repeating pattern.

Shadow did not look at her, as he was too ashamed to do so, but he still spoke to Sereinia.

"... I don't want you to force yourself to bear the responsibility of fixing my mistakes, Sereinia... This is my problem, and when I find the opportunity to make up for what I've done I will do so. For now I must focus on what's ahead, and the Grandmaster of Triveila won't remain here for long. Once I kill him, we'll have the breathing room to search for Mayumi. She can avoid Te'i Sai no matter how hard they search, but we cannot."

He crossed his legs and took a breath.

"I need time to think... I cannot continue doing anything in the state I'm in now." He said quietly.

Setting Changes... 22191 => 22174

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Shadow Character Portrait: Sereinia Lucis Nouralail Character Portrait: Dietrich "Leer" Faust Character Portrait: Era

INK

Dietrich Faust
"Like a dog that became the biggest and strongest on the farm, only to get involved in a feud between wolves who outclassed him in every way."




"Go inside and eat breakfast. I will handle this."

Dietrich was about to protest, he had already eaten when he woke. Then he caught the look in the Princesses' eyes, and thought better of it. He hurried away, finicky about witnessing another conversation that was none of his business. A queer and unnameable emotion overcame him as he hobbled back to the shack.

Shadow wasn't invincible.

No man was invincible, he knew that. Still, it was quite something to see a man, whom he had begun to look on with reverential respect, in such a state. Where would he go from here if Shadow faltered now? If he gave up? Dietrich had sworn to protect the Princess with his life, he was duty bound to put himself between her and any danger that faced her. He would never break that oath, but despite all of his determination, mettle, and devotion to his God-King, he knew that there was no way he could defeat the foes that hunted them, not at his present strength and ability. The best he could do was take as many to the afterlife with him as he could, die an honorable death, and give the Princess a chance to run as far as she could.

In this war between assassins, he was a complete outsider. An alien in a foreign war. He had been caught up in something that wasn't any of his business through a whirlwind of chance and circumstance. Like a dog that had become the biggest and strongest on the farm, only to get involved in a feud between wolves who outclassed him in every way.

He looked down on his bandaged body.

"Heh. A battered hound, dieing to protect the farm girl from the wolf pack. How poetic." He murmured.

He stopped before the door to the shack. His brow furrowed as he rested his head against the decaying wood. In the midst of his sullen moment though, his old smirk came unbidden across his face.

"By the Coward's Pool! What am I thinking?"

That was exactly what he wanted, wasn't it? How more worthy a death was there? The intertwining of his destiny and Shadow, the Princess, and Era was no accident, no circumstance or chance happening. Uirlin himself had made that clear to him. He was here for one reason, and one reason only. To die an honorable death against an overwhelming opponent, that he might join his God-King in the Eternal War. That was his purpose.

It didn't matter if he was a dog amongst wolves, he would account for himself. Instead of depressing him, the thought filled him with a sense of grim humor. A dog among wolves, he liked the sound of that. As long as Gewalt was in his hands, soaked in wolf blood, he would die happy. He opened the shack door, and gave Era an acknowledging look. He had forgotten that she was inside. He momentarily considered walking right back out the door, but his cot called for him. He hobbled over to it, set Gewalt against the wall again, and lay back.

He lay in silence for a few moments. He couldn't relax. No matter how hard he tried, his body remained on edge as he lay vulnerable in the same room as the assassin. He almost laughed aloud, it seemed no amount of mental assurance could convince his body that she hadn't enough interest in him to end his life.

"Like a dog trying to sleep next to a wolf." He thought.

He said nothing. He didn't feel like doing anything that might goad the woman, despite how much her reactions made his blood light up.

"Not yet. Dieing in bed is no death for me."

The Princess entered.

Setting Changes... 22174 => 22191

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Shadow Character Portrait: Sereinia Lucis Nouralail Character Portrait: Dietrich "Leer" Faust Character Portrait: Era

INK

A Sin Most Unwanted...

Shadow and Era



Image



"Contesting that which makes one human is a folly only a shameful beast would make. Sadly, my son has no knowledge of how to deal with loss. He's always been the most powerful fighter. He's always been the most focused hunter. He's always been the top of the pyramid... And for what? When the day comes when Shadow faces down his own demons and comes face to face with defeat, how will he respond? I can only wonder."

- The Highmaster of Te'i Sai



Shadow sat outside for what, to him, seemed an eternity. After analyzing every detail of his previous fight, he was no closer to figuring out how he was bested. Every minute aspect of his posture, stance, guard, structure, focus, and reaction was nothing unique or completely foreign to Shadow, so why had he been defeated? The thought continued to eat away at him as he grit his teeth and punched the dirt by his side. Shadow felt little to no pain anymore as he was too far gone in his own thoughts to notice outside stimulus such as pain. He glared into nothing as he continued to try and understand in his mind what exactly had happened and why it was that this warrior from nowhere was able to best him in combat. Shadow had never suffered defeat before, save during training against the Master Assassins when he was a child. But that was a child fighting an adult who had years of experience over him. Today, those same Master Assassins would be nothing to him but an annoyance... So why was this stranger so much more?

Shadow's thoughts were interrupted when Era suddenly appeared behind him and slapped him across the back of the head.

"So, are you done pouting now?" She demanded.

Shadow shook his head to shake off what she had just done and looked over his shoulder, remaining silent.

"Tch. It's pretty clear to me that what Sereinia said is true. You're a sore loser brother, and that is beyond shameful. If you have any pride, you'll take one of your daggers and gouge your stomach contents onto the ground for such behavior."

Shadow blinked.

"Ugh... You really don't get it do you?" She asked.

Shadow shook his head.

Era rolled her eyes and smacked her forehead with her palm.

"You've always been strong, brother, but strength isn't what makes your world go round. Open your eyes and look around you. What do you see?" She asked.

Shadow took a second and looked around, but he saw nothing of utter importance.

"Nothing." He replied grimly.

"All I see is what's currently around me, and that isn't much. Just a destroyed boulder and some forested areas with a little hut over there."

Era smacked the back of his head again, this time to a grunt of anger and a hard glare from her brother. Her reply was simple. Silence, and an unintimidated stare.

"Brother, you're hopeless. You take things so literally and personally that it amazes me that you've only just now been defeated by an opponent. You're blinded, Shadow. It's as simple as that. Your whole life has been lived in sheer and utter confidence that you are the strongest warrior in Cre' Est and that nobody can beat you, but now someone has. What happened afterwards? You're sitting here wallowing in self pity and resentment, which is doing nobody any good."

Shadow stood up, albeit somewhat slowly.

"All I need is to figure out what he did and it won't be-"

Era suddenly jolted forward and punched Shadow square in the jaw which sent him flying backwards into the rubble that was once the boulder he destroyed in anger. Her breaths came in large, slow, forced spaces as she tried to keep herself together.

"... I will say this once, and only once, so you'd better listen closely brother... You. Are not. Invincible." She said slowly.

"Everyone loses eventually Shadow, no matter how good they are. Do you think that Sereinia has been successful with every single patient she's had as a doctor? Do you think Dietrich has ever gone a day without knowing that he can be defeated? Do you think that I am proud of the fact that I have too been defeated by others in the past and only just escaped with my life? What about Mayumi? Kiiro has nearly killed her twice now. How do you think she feels about how easy it's been for him to get so close to ending her life?!" She yelled, tears of anger and sorrow beginning to well in her eyes.

"You're going to die Shadow." She said rather calmly given the intensity of the tears.

Shadow's own eyes grew a bit wider in response, but more out of anger than anything else.

"If you don't get over this and move on, you're going to die. This loss is already eating away at you mentally and it's causing the rest of us great pain. You've already abandoned your student, and I doubt you even realize what you meant to her. Sereinia is putting on a strong face for you in hopes that you'll realize on your own what I am telling you now, but you've failed in that regard as well. I know how much your strength means to you brother, but you need to realize right here, right now, that your strength is not your only asset. You've trusted it and relied on it for so long that you've begun to forget what other assets you hold. Your intelligence, your calculating mind, your ability to solve problems... You've so much more to offer than brute strength and speed alone, but you're blind to that truth right now because of your ego. You've never lost before, but now that you have you can't accept it. Well brother, it happened, and there's nothing you can do about it. Even if you find that warrior and defeat him, it will never erase the loss you suffered to him."

Shadow's anger suddenly faltered, slowly diminishing as Era's words finally sank in passed his frustration.

"Everyone loses Shadow. It's in the very nature of our species to fight. Whether we win or lose means nothing brother, it's our ability to stand and press onward that defines us. Sereinia has tried to tell you this before, but you closed your ears to her wisdom and shrouded yourself in what was convenient for you at the time... You cheated death once before brother, but I very much doubt that it will ever happen again. It's time for you to understand that your strength is not what makes you who and what you are. You are the Red-Eyed Demon, the most powerful Assassin in the world, but it is not your strength that gives you that title and the lethality that you are known for." She said as she knelt down in front of him, placing her hand against his cheek.

"It's your intelligence, Shadow. You raised yourself after you turned eight years old and became an Assassin, and you did it without anyone else's help. You taught yourself the ways of the warrior, of the Assassin, of the healer, and you did it on your own. You trained yourself in every weapon a human being can hold, and you did it all on your own. You earned the title "Red-Eyed Demon" on your own brother. Te'i Sai didn't give it to you, they only formally recognized what was already there."

Shadow took in a small, silent breath and let it out on a sigh as he slowly looked at the ground.

"Brother... Please. Come back to us. I don't know who you are right now, and I don't like what I see." She pleaded.

He looked back up at her, his veil of anger finally erased from existence in its entirety.

"Come back, brother. Please..." She pleaded as her tears fell anew.

Shadow's mind was a whirlwind of information, but there was one piece of it which was clear and coming through more so than any other in his mind: "My name is Kyero, and I am the Red-Eyed Demon."

Shadow smiled softly and brought Era into a hug, to which she nearly lost grip on herself as she continued to cry into his chest. He held her close and closed his eyes, stroking her head like a good brother should to his weeping sister as his body and mind finally released all the weariness, anger, hatred, and resentment they had been holding. The release felt wondrous to his exhausted mind and soul, and he was finally able to think once again with perfect clarity and calmness.

"I would say I'm sorry, Era, but it would be a waste of breath to do so. Instead, allow me to simply say that I am ready to eat. I am rather hungry after all." He said with a smile.

She chuckled through her tears as she backed away from him and wiped them away, nodding silently to him as they stood up together and walked to the hut. Era walked in first, still cleaning away the tears which had stained her face as Shadow walked in behind her. His aura had changed completely, and the air of calm, authoritative and silent power had finally returned to him. He was no longer clouded by anger and resentment, and was back to his old self. He looked to Sereinia and smiled, offering her a light bow of his head as he approached.

"I'm sorry it took me so long to accept your meal, but I'm ready to eat now if it's still available." He said quietly.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Shadow Character Portrait: Sereinia Lucis Nouralail Character Portrait: Dietrich "Leer" Faust Character Portrait: Era

INK

Sereinia Lucis Nouralail
"Welcome back..."




Upon entering the hut, Sereinia went to Dietrich's side. There was no exchange of words but subtle gestures. She checked up on his wounds and to see if they were healing accordingly. If not, she would have to do what is needed to ensure it does. Thinking about it, this man had always been speaking about the beauty of death. She respects his view of religion and beliefs. Yet, she could not see anything about such a masterpiece about dying even with the honor acclimated to it. Because to her, when someone dies, it is the end. There is no coming back. There is nothing. Perhaps, to those who died they can find something in that blackness. But what about those left behind? The burden left on the living is considered tedious than the lure of death.

Regardless, he was not the kind to tell people how they should act or what they should believe in. Those things can only be decided by an individual on their own. Whatever they do, she only hoped that they would not feel obligated in doing so rather, they should feel enlightened. "It seems your wounds are healing nicely. I would require you to take it easy for a few more days. Today is not your time to die." There was a small smile present on her lips as she said this and then proceeded to change his dressings and applying the needed medication. When it was done, she courteously left the side of her assigned protector. She wondered what was the Empress thinking about sending this man with her or even to be returned to Shadow's side. Although, she cannot raise a complaint at all.

She only hoped that everything was fine back at Cre' Est. After all, her parents are there along with those people who are related to her. In the end, they were also her family despite the certain differences in opinions. Taking a seat, she began to busy herself with taking care of her medical tools and then arranging some supplies that could be needed for their travels ahead. Although, she is still worried about Mayumi. The girl might be physical strong and would be able to protect herself if needed. Yet, the girl was still a child in terms of her emotions. She could only hope that when they see each other again, the girl would still be as resilient as ever.

It was then she heard the door opening. Sereinia looked towards it to see Era entering who seemed to be crying. She was about to ask the source of such tears and wondered if Shadow had done something once more childish in her opinion. However, she was not able to do so as the man followed behind his sister. The dreary cloud that plagued him was no longer as he seemed to return to his old self. There were obvious surprise and relief present on her face even more so when Shadow looked at her way. A smile and a light bow given to her as the man approached. She remained in her position as his words left her very happy.

"You better eat all of it, Shadow..." Sereinia started slowly with a rather odd tone. Then, there was a moment of silence in between before she spoke once more while flicking his nose in a playful manner. "This will be your punishment from me." After stating that, there was a very bright smile on Sereinia's face illuminating her beauty more than ever along with a bit of rose-hue tainting her cheeks. "Welcome back..."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Shadow Character Portrait: Sereinia Lucis Nouralail Character Portrait: Dietrich "Leer" Faust Character Portrait: Era

INK

A Sin Most Unwanted...

Image



Image



"A new observation has been made... His resilience continues to astound me and exceed all expectations. When a challenge is conquered, there is nothing which will prevent him from regaining his momentum... Interesting."

- The Highmaster of Te'i Sai



Sereinia flicked his nose, which earned a somewhat confused look for a moment, but his smile quickly returned.

"I suppose I deserve that..." He said, rubbing his nose with one finger.

"Welcome back..."

Shadow nodded as he sat down at the table to eat his meal.

"I cannot say that finding my way back from that slump was... pleasant," He said, glancing sideways at Era who smiled at him while rubbing her eyebrow with her left middle finger.

"But it's good to be back." He said as he took his first few bites.

He ate his meal in silence from that moment on, not wanting to or bothering to speak as he had nothing of importance to say. As he ate, the wheels in his mind began to turn as he planned his next move. Roda Ah K'mht was a problem, but Te'i Sai was a greater one. Te'i Sai had been eliminated in Cre' Est and Shaharan, but here in Triveila they were still as powerful as ever. Shadow reflected on his recent actions and realized that many of them had been done out of spiteful revenge and not of proper planning to damage Te'i Sai at its heart. He needed to regain his momentum, and the only way to do that would be to allow himself and the others to recover for a few days before pressing a fast and ruthless attack against Te'i Sai's main base here in Triveila.

But that could wait until after his meal.

In the meantime, he wondered what was on Dietrich's mind as his eyes slid over to the Line-Breaker.

Setting Changes... 22191 => 22174

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Shadow Character Portrait: Mayumi Character Portrait: Sereinia Lucis Nouralail Character Portrait: Dietrich "Leer" Faust Character Portrait: Era

INK

Dietrich Faust




"It seems your wounds are healing nicely. I would require you to take it easy for a few more days. Today is not your time to die."

The corner of Dietrich's mouth tugged into a tight, lopsided smile as Sereinia changed his bandages.

"Today is not your time to die."

"Unfortunately, that seems to be the case..." He thought as the familiar tightness of the new bandages pressed against his skin.

It was strange, being alone with her. Out of those who remained in their merry little band, he felt that they were the least compatible. They had absolutely nothing in common. Mayumi had been like her little sister, and Era was quickly becoming an older sister figure, due in large part to the Princess's relationship with Shadow. Meanwhile, Dietrich was just the bodyguard. The inept bodyguard at that.

As he lay there in the silence, after Sereinia had finished cleaning his wounds and moved away, he considered the gravity of his responsibility. He had sworn to protect her, but he had never protected anything or anyone in his life. His entire life had been attacking, assaulting, line-breaking; lashing out without thought or doubt, never considering how his actions impacted those around him. All he knew how to do was swing his sword. That was all he was, that was all he could do, that was all he had ever done.

As he lay there, watching the fragile woman as she arranged her medical implements, he finally began to understand. He was going to have to change, adapt. If he was going to succeed, and fulfill his oath, he must become more than a juggernaut. He had to become more than a sword, fueled only by anger and regret. He must now be a shield as well.

At that moment, the door swung open once again. Era entered first, her face flushed and eyes slightly teary. Behind her came Shadow a smile on his face and in his eyes. Dietrich couldn't help but smile in return as he exchanged a few heart-to-heart words with Sereinia, and then settled into a seat close to where he was laying.

"I cannot say that finding my way back from that slump was... pleasant," He said, glancing sideways at Era who smiled at him while rubbing her eyebrow with her left middle finger.

"But it's good to be back." He said as he took his first few bites.


The silence resumed as Shadow began to eat; but it was a peaceful, content one. The air was light, and not charged with anxiousness as it had been when it was just Sereinia and him in the room. After several minutes, Dietrich noticed Shadow glancing over at him. It occurred to him that he was the only person who hadn't said anything in greeting yet. He sat up in his cot and voiced what he was sure everyone else was wondering.

"So." He began, his voice cutting through the silence. "What's the plan now? Do we go after Mayumi; or do we continue on our way?"

Setting Changes... 22174 => 22191

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Shadow Character Portrait: Sereinia Lucis Nouralail Character Portrait: Dietrich "Leer" Faust Character Portrait: Era

INK

A Sin Most Unwanted...

Image



Image



"A child will always turn to an adult when in dire straits, at least all normal children will. But when it comes to my son, his only source of comfort and solace is within his own mind. It takes something very drastic and very special to break through his defensive barriers, but I've seen only one capable of doing so before. I had originally planned on leaving her alive, but it seemed that Grandmaster Takai took a less than keen interest in the matter and took it into his own hands... I will have to reprimand him for that someday, if I find the time."

- The Highmaster of Te'i Sai



"So." He began, his voice cutting through the silence. "What's the plan now? Do we go after Mayumi; or do we continue on our way?"

Shadow's eyes had remained on him through his question, and they finally broke away as he swallowed the final bite of his meal and gently pushed his plate forward as he stood up from the table.

"If Mayumi has mastered anything about being an Assassin, it's the art of stealth. Even I cannot find her when she does not wish to be found. We needn't worry for her safety at this time. Instead, we must find a safe place to rest and recover until our wounds have healed and we are back in peak form."

He picked up his plate and dropped it off by the sink before returning and leaning against the wall.

"Right now, my primary focus is keeping an eye on Te'i Sai's activities here in Triveila. Everything about their infrastructure revolves around the Grandmasters. If they fall, the Te'i Sai code demands that all active members in that Grandmaster's respective branch cease all activities and sever all ties to the organization. If the Grandmaster of this branch disappears, then our mission here is over. Until I can confirm their location, I will rest and allow Taira's informants to take care of that for us. Taira herself seems to have figured this out as well and is recuperating on her own."

His eyes fell on Sereinia.

"How would you suggest we spend out time?" He asked.

Until they recovered, they were free to spend time as they wished, and Shadow wanted to know what Sereinia wanted to do.

Setting Changes... 22191 => 22174

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Shadow Character Portrait: Sereinia Lucis Nouralail Character Portrait: Dietrich "Leer" Faust Character Portrait: Era

INK

Image
Image

"Would it be too much or be considered as selfishness, if I say for once that I want to go back to where it all started for me and you?"




Comfortable.

The atmosphere was lighter than it was earlier. Tension had been lowered considerably and even with the stillness, it was quite fine. Although, Sereinia was still a bit concerned about Mayumi. She had no doubt of the girl's skills in terms of being an assassin. There had been many instances that she had seen it at firsthand. Nevertheless, the worry would still be looming over her. To Shadow, she is a pupil but to her, the girl had become a sort of surrogate sibling and even at times, a daughter to her. There was a time that her real mother, the Cretian Queen had noted her to be a mother. She could only hope that the younger girl will be fine and to assure that when Mayumi comes back, there will be people waiting for her with open arms.

Once Shadow was done with his meal and placed it in the sink, the Princess proceeded to clean up. It was an awkward thing if the people around her had known her to be of Royalty first. Menial chores and such does not suit her, but then again, this was a normal activity for her. From when she was young, she knew how to do housework and enjoy the simple pleasure of a humble life. As such, she finds it quite restricting back at the palace where the servants handle everything. Often, she would voice out her discomfort but she would be turned down nonetheless. So doing these so-called trivial chores were pleasant to her and oddly soothing.

As she washed the dishes and all, Sereinia listened to the course of action that Shadow had. Judging by everyone's condition, Era and her would be on the good side. In terms of fighting, she was completely a liability unlike Era. Even then, Era would have a hard time fighting the feared Te'i Sai of the continent of Cre' Est on her own. As for the boys, Shadow and Dietrich definitely needed to recuperate if they truly intend to enter a battle so fierce. If it was in her opinion, she would have told them to simply let this go. But, it was an opinion of a girl like her that had not suffered as they did or find the exhilaration a fight gives worthy. Regardless, she was here staying with this ragtag group if he remembered what Yarun had described them to be sometime ago. Their views on things are conflicting but, these people were home to her.

It was then, Shadow directed the topic to her. Sereinia blinked a couple of times before completely comprehending the question that had been asked. Grabbing a towel, she dried her hands with that and wondered if it would be fine for them to concede with a wish of hers. "My town is not far from here... So, if it would be fine... Can we visit my Aunt Beatiz?" Her eyes of amethyst held an innocent glow and subtle warmth about the thought of seeing her aunt. Due to circumstances, the planned reunion at the Official Introduction at Cre' Est had been postponed indefinitely. But if there was chance, she wanted to see her aunt whom she also considers as her home.

"You can take time to rest there and I don't think it would be trouble to stay at my place over there." Speaking of which, it was at her town where everything began for her. She met Shadow and Mayumi in the light of an incident. It was rather nostalgic to think back on it. Time had passed considerably since that day. Many things had happened which made her wonder what could happen next. No one really knows.

Setting Changes... 22174 => 22191

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Shadow Character Portrait: Sereinia Lucis Nouralail Character Portrait: Dietrich "Leer" Faust Character Portrait: Era

INK

A Sin Most Unwanted...

Image



Image



"My son has a will of Orichalcum and his ability to endure is second to none. However, I have seen one person bend his will to her own before, but her influence was silenced by Grandmaster Takai. I was interested in what would become of him if things continued, but Takai saw her as a threat to his ultimate weapon. Though I too see my son as a weapon and a means to bring this continent to its knees, I also see him as my son and a human being with the capability to change for better or worse. Seeing my son change and adapt of his own accord fills my heart with pride... But if he begins to change beyond the scope of the course I have intended for him, I may have to intervene."

- The Highmaster of Te'i Sai



"You can take time to rest there and I don't think it would be trouble to stay at my place over there."

Shadow was silent for a few moments as he considered the options which were presented from such a course of action. On one hand, the visit would be a boost of morale and mental security for Sereinia being on familiar ground and seeing a loved one. However, on the other hand, returning to a place where they had encountered Te'i Sai before and battled right outside her aunt's home could prove a fatal mistake. However, the last time they were there Shadow only had Mayumi by his side and at the time she was only good for acting as a final defense for Sereinia. This time, Shadow had Dietrich and, more importantly, Era. She alone would be able to handle any trouble that came their way, and if Shadow and Dietrich could recover during the down time, they'd be all the better off.

"Very well Sereinia. We will make for your aunt's home in one hour. Pack anything and everything you feel you need and be ready to head out."

He looked over at Era.

"Era, I'll need you to acquire transportation. Dietrich and I cannot travel like this without stressing our wounds."

Era nodded to him.

"Got it. I'll have it ready in ten minutes." She replied as she left the building and disappeared into the night.

Shadow looked over at Dietrich.

"Gather what you need and prepare to travel. Change your bandages when necessary and drink this." He said.

Shadow walked over to a small box sitting on the table and took out a small vial of a light blue liquid out of it to hand to Dietrich.

"This will assist with your muscle restoration. With your cuts as deep as they are, I'm less concerned about your skin and more about the musculature damage you've suffered. If you ever want to wield that blade of yours properly again, you'll find this invaluable." He remarked.

Shadow then took another vial out with a more light reddish colored liquid and then looked at another vial with a light blueish-green liquid. He compared them to each other for a moment, considering his options before finally putting the blueish-green liquid back and drinking the red one for himself. He put the vial back and closed the box as he looked over at his Orichalcum daggers which were sitting nearby. Somewhere along the line he had forgotten about taking them off and putting them inside before his spat with Mayumi. He walked over to them and picked one of them up in his hands and examined it.

For a long time, Shadow stood silently staring at his dagger not saying a word, but the expression on his face told the whole story.

Shadow had forged these daggers himself long ago when he was just entering his teenage years. When he ascended to the status of Master Assassin at age fourteen, he was required to forge his own weapons. Thanks to the graces of Grandmaster Takai, he was allowed to forge them out of some of the last stores of Orichalcum which existed in the Roda Valley branch of Te'i Sai located in Cre' Est. These daggers had been with him since his earliest days as the Red-Eyed Demon, and even today they still gleamed pristine and without a single sign of age or stress. No cracks, no dents, no dull patches. Clean, clear, and sharp as the day they were forged. These daggers could quite literally cut through anything with only mild effort on Shadow's part, and weighing in at 45 lbs a piece they were more than formidable as blunt weapons when the blade was not necessary for use.

Shadow had never considered life without these weapons, but as he continued to stare at them in silence he began to think to himself that it was time they parted ways... at least for now.

Shadow smiled to himself as he closed his eyes and picked up the other dagger. Shadow walked to the door and exited the building, walking to the pile of rubble which used to be the boulder outside as he cleared some of it away and began to use the daggers to dig a hole. He spent a few minutes there clearing enough space for them, and when he was done he placed the daggers in the ground and covered them up. He patted the ground until it looked as if nothing had ever disturbed the earth where they now hid, and carefully replaced the rubble exactly as he'd left it piece for piece. Taking a single step back, nobody would ever know they were there.

Shadow walked back inside and sat down in a chair to wait for Era's return, which came not long after. She had managed to procure a single horse drawn cart with room for two people in the back with the wagon and two up front driving the horses. It was smaller than their last, so everything in the wagon had to be fairly small. Thankfully, Dietrich's sword was the largest item they had, and it would fit in the wagon without an issue so long as Dietrich was willing to keep it hidden. If they were to make it to their destination safely and not attract attention, their weapons had to well hidden from public view. Even a simple bounty hunter with a desire for competition could give away their position. All it took was a single pair of ears from the wrong person to send word to Te'i Sai that Shadow was here, and they couldn't have that. Shadow himself looked over at a small pouch nearby where he kept his eye changing drops and placed a single vial of the substance into one of the small pouches on his belt before returning to his seat.

Once everything was ready to go, Shadow got inside the wagon's front seat and told Era to hide in the back. Era's light pink hair was a near dead giveaway to who she was in the eyes of anyone from Te'i Sai, but Shadow's black hair and disguised eye coloration all but made him invisible to them. All of Te'i Sai knew his eyes, but very few knew him by face. Dietrich would be in the back with Era while Sereinia sat up front with Shadow. While this was not an ideal combination for Dietrich and Era, as they still hadn't worked out some of the issues they held against each other, Shadow knew that it would be best to keep Sereinia with him as she was known in their destination and would be able to easily disguise their identities and intentions.

... However... There was something else that needed to be done.

Shadow had never wanted to reveal it before, but he had revealed it to the Empress of Cre' Est on a whim. He knew Sereinia, and he trusted her completely. It was time she knew.

"Sereinia." He said quietly, doing a brief check of the area around the wagon to make sure Dietrich could not hear.

When he was certain Dietrich was not in a position to hear what he had to say, he leaned in close to Sereinia.

"My real name... It's Kyero." He whispered softly.

He sat back a bit and smiled at her, happy to finally tell her his real name. It was a small weight lifted off his shoulders, but an important one to be sure. Shadow had always felt that hiding his name from those he kept close was important, but lately he had begun to change that view. He felt that he would soon tell Dietrich his real name in time, but it was not quite time for him to know.

From the ancient lineage of Cre' Est's founding fathers, "Kyero" was a name passed down through the generations to every first born son in the household Dezantro. "Kyero" literally translated to "Demon", given that the first son of the Dezantro name earned the nickname "Demon of the North" through his aggressive and merciless combat style. He served as one of Cre' Est's founding fathers when the settlers first landed on the continent from Mar Valoa, and he went on to become a very important and influential figure. Throughout the passage of time, every first born son within this ancient bloodline was named "Kyero" in honor of their ancestor, and to always remind them that within their veins flowed the blood of the Demon of the North. It was fitting that Shadow was regarded as the Red-Eyed "Demon", given his bloodline and history within Te'i Sai. While Shadow, and indeed almost everyone living on the continent of Cre' Est, knew this history, few knew that the bloodline still existed. It disappeared several thousand years ago and disappeared into the pages of history. But what not but a literal handful of people alive today knew was that it was this ancient bloodline which founded Te'i Sai and since became the bearers of the title "Highmaster".

Shadow was, by right of birth, the next Highmaster of Te'i Sai and the direct descendant of the ancient founding father and hero Kyero Dezantro. Though Shadow himself never wished to be named Highmaster of Te'i Sai, he was none the less very proud of and protective of his ancient bloodline. Te'i Sai as an organization would never allow him to take the mantle of Highmaster though thanks to his treasonous actions taken these past several years. It was fine by him though, as again, he never wanted to be Highmaster. He was not out to rule Te'i Sai. He was out to destroy it. If that meant annihilating an organization which his ancestor's founded, then so be it. He would live his life and pass his bloodline his way. He would not be held back by traditions and the expectations of others.

"I'm sorry I never told you before. You have long since earned the right to know my name." He said quietly as he looked ahead and gave the reins a quick yank to get the horses moving.

Now they were off, and heading for Sereinia's aunt back where this whole adventure began. It felt odd to Shadow to be revisiting such a place, as he had always made a point of never being in the same place twice. However, with Sereinia involved, he could make an exception... Just this once.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Shadow Character Portrait: Sereinia Lucis Nouralail Character Portrait: Dietrich "Leer" Faust Character Portrait: Era

INK

Dietrich Faust




Shadow looked over at Dietrich.

"Gather what you need and prepare to travel. Change your bandages when necessary and drink this." He said.

Shadow walked over to a small box sitting on the table and took out a small vial of a light blue liquid out of it to hand to Dietrich.

"This will assist with your muscle restoration. With your cuts as deep as they are, I'm less concerned about your skin and more about the musculature damage you've suffered. If you ever want to wield that blade of yours properly again, you'll find this invaluable." He remarked.


Dietrich took the vial from Shadow's outstretched hand. He pulled the stopper and sniffed at it suspiciously. He had never been fond of such strange medicine, it stank of sorcery to him. Still, he trusted Shadow enough to believe he wouldn't poison him or sell his soul, so he downed the foul liquid. The taste was horrendous, but he forced it down.

While the others busied themselves with their respective tasks, Dietrich prepared to depart. He laid all his belongings on the cot, and snorted with derision at the state of his equipment. His armor had taken more than just a rough beating, it was all but destroyed. The new breastplate had been ravaged, covered in holes and gouges where bodkin arrows or an assassin's spike-knife had punched through. He had enough experience with their enemies now to know first hand how useless a shell of ordinary steel was against them. He casually tossed it aside in a corner, it would be cheaper to just buy another than try and get it repaired. Still, he was disgruntled, he felt naked without it. The gauntlets were still useful though, he strapped them onto his forearms. He slipped on his plain white arming shirt, and his tattered leather boots.

Finally, he wrapped his long black cloak around his shoulders and fastened it at the neck. It served a dual purpose now, to hide both his katzbalger short-sword, and his bandaged and beaten body. With his wounded state hidden, Dietrich's sheer size and silhouette could scare off many would-be brigands. Still, he wouldn't be very much use if anything serious happened before he could heal.

Once Era returned with their transportation, Shadow decided on their places. Dietrich would sit in the covered back of the wagon, in order to better hide both Gewalt and Era. Meanwhile, Shadow and Sereinia would sit up front. Dietrich didn't bother to ask where the cart had come from, he would rather not know really. Instead, he slid his great-sword into the wagon and, with no small amount of effort, hauled himself in as well. The wagon was built for transporting goods, not people, and Dietrich's wounds flared with pain as he lowered himself onto the wooden floor. He leaned his head back against the canvas covering, and extended his legs, his feet pressing against the wooden frame. Era "sat" next to him, on the opposite side of the cart. With Shadow and the Princess up front, the cart slowly began to trundle down the forest path.

Every bump sent shockwaves of pain rolling through his nerves, but it wasn't unbearable, just enough to make sure he would never fall asleep or become comfortable. He looked over at Era. Out of the bunch, Era was the only one who seemed to harbor animosity towards him. For what reason exactly, Dietrich couldn't place, though she had made it clear she believed he was useless. Still, he couldn't help but think that Shadow's seat placement had been for more than simple convenience. It was a sound military decision really, one that he had seen work many times over. You put the people who don't get along into the same unit. After a few engagements, they begin to get along, or at least tolerate each other. It was simple human nature.

A thought occurred to him, something that someone had asked him a long time ago, in what seemed another life. He smiled a lop-sided grin, and would have laughed if not for the pain he knew it would have caused.

Why not? Its going to be a long-ride anyway.

"What are you going to do, if your brother succeeds? I can't see you settling down, or having a family."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Dietrich "Leer" Faust Character Portrait: Era

INK

A Sin Most Unwanted...

Image



Image




The ride was comfortable enough to Era as they went about their journey towards Sereinia's aunt's home. Era had long ago closed her eyes and decided to meditate while waiting for their arrival, but she was brought out of her meditation by the sound of Dietrich asking her a question.

"What are you going to do, if your brother succeeds? I can't see you settling down, or having a family."

She opened one of her eyes and looked over at him.

"It's not a matter of if he succeeds, it's when he succeeds." She said with a small hint of pride in her voice as she closed her eye.

"Te'i Sai and Roda Ah K'mht are powerful organizations, but they both have a very fatal flaw which my brother has continually been able to exploit to stay a few steps ahead of them: They are predictable. As long as they are predictable, they will never be able to defeat us. You, on the other hand, are a different matter entirely." She said, a small twinge of venom filling her voice.

"I heard you mention something before about Te'i Sai Assassins not being strong, and your reasoning was that those who strike from the shadows are not what you consider strong or some nonsense like that. Such a statement only proves your ignorance and the limited sense of vision your "Order" had on the subject of strength."

She took a breath and let it out on a sigh.

"It may surprise you to learn that Assassins from Te'i Sai do not actually strike from the shadows, they merely move through them. Whenever an Assassin from Te'i Sai strikes, it is face to face. While it may not be the most honorable organization in terms of long term goals for the continent, its operatives never strike from the darkness or when a targets back is turned."

She looked back over at Dietrich.

"Your "Order" did only one thing right when they taught you that "glorious" combat and death were what would lead you face to face with your God, and that was giving you the tools you needed to live an honorable life style. However, there is no such thing as "glorious" combat Dietrich. The only word that truly and accurately describes it is "ugly". Do you really believe your Order wanted you to die, or did they want you to live? They gave you that blade and combat experience for the purpose of keeping you alive, but taught you that death was what awaited you and what you strived for. Do you not see the hypocrisy in that Dietrich?" She asked as she looked away from him.

"I am interested to meet this Order of yours, but I doubt very much they'd appreciate me pointing out their mistakes right to their faces. Still, do answer my question if you can: Do you believe your Order wanted you to die, or did they want you to live?" She asked again, still looking away from him.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Dietrich "Leer" Faust Character Portrait: Era

INK

Dietrich Faust
I've chosen the path of the warrior, the Line-Breaker, of my own accord. No one pressured me into it, it wasn't expected of me, I chose it; knowing full well the way my life would end.




"I am interested to meet this Order of yours, but I doubt very much they'd appreciate me pointing out their mistakes right to their faces. Still, do answer my question if you can: Do you believe your Order wanted you to die, or did they want you to live?" She asked again, still looking away from him.

Dietrich's grin sobered as he let the weight of his head rest against the canvas covering of the wagon. Era's assault had been sharp and decisive, the swift alteration of the subject was brilliantly done. He guessed that she either did not respect him enough to even answer his own query, or she didn't know the answer herself. Still, she had asked him her own question.

"It is not something that is spoken of to outsiders normally, but you seem genuinely interested. Keep note, this may be the most you've ever heard me say at one time." He chided. He took a deep breath, gathering his thoughts. "Your points are valid and sound, and I truthfully did not know that the Te'i Sai operated in such a fashion. Still, I believe you've misunderstood me. If I didn't think the Te'i Sai, or Roda ah.... whatever, were worthy martial opponents, I wouldn't be here. Strength I said, and strength I mean, but strength of character, not body. I do not consider Te'i Sai strong, because they use their power to purposefully crush those beneath them, to terrorize and control. In my eyes, someone who is truly strong does not lord it over the weak, instead they match their strength against their equals or superiors.

"The first thing you need to understand is that Uirlin does not demand death from his followers. He is known as the God of War in Cre'Est, and he is truly the patron of warriors, but a more correct translation from Old Veilbrandian would be Lord of Conflict. I'm sure I don't need to explain to you of all people that human beings can only grow and develop through hardship. Even our very muscles and tendons are in a constant war against each other, their endless battle creating movement. So it may surprise you to learn, that Uirlin is thought of in the older, more rustic highlands of my home country, as the God of Growth. He is the one who watches over the pines, constantly climbing higher and higher against gravity, striving amongst themselves for the greatest amount of sunlight. He reigns over the wolves, climbing the ranks of dominance within the pack, and the elk, butting heads to win mates.

"But, his greatest joy is observing the growth and development of men and women. From the day of our conception, he guides us towards greater and greater challenges. The ultimate glory is success, in whatever field you choose for yourself, whether it be war, or baking cakes. There is no dishonor in failing, so long as you get back up again and continue striving, but running from those challenges is the ultimate act of cowardice.

"You wanted to know if my Order wanted me to die or live. The answer is, both. There is nothing wrong with living to me, or any Line-Breaker. Living is conflict, and growth, an endless worship service you could say, to Uirlin. Death is the ultimate, finalizing conclusion to all things in this world. What I strive for, what Line-Breakers, or anyone who passionately follows Uirlin, strive for isn't death, but to grow as much as we possibly can before death takes us.

"It just so happens to be, that the only way I can grow on my chosen path, is to chase death. I must fight worthy adversaries, and I must grow from every single battle. I've chosen the path of the warrior, the Line-Breaker, of my own accord. No one pressured me into it, it wasn't expected of me, I chose it; knowing full well the way my life would end. I hunt death, knowing that it will lead me towards growth, and give me opportunities to become stronger. War is ugly, and I take no pleasure in hurting or killing others, but it is a natural part of life. Ideally, I only want to fight people who want to fight me. And when I die, I'll die knowing that I was trying to become as strong as I possibly could."

Dietrich stopped abruptly, suddenly very aware of how long, and how passionately, he had been talking. He flushed slightly, and quickly looked out the back of the wagon at the road receding behind them.

"Sorry for the theological lecture, but I needed to go from the ground up to make my point. I don't really expect you to understand though, a strange faith for a strange man eh? Maybe, one day, if I don't find my death following your brother, I can take you up into the mountains to meet one of our hermit shamans. I'm sure they would be happy to argue with you all day long, might even show you how they wrestle bears."

He glanced back at the hard-eyed woman and gave her a smirk. This was the first time that he had ever expressed his life-style to another person through language before. It was strange, but he felt strangely excited. At that moment, he wanted nothing more in the world than to fight Era, if not with steel, than with wood or his fists, to show her what he meant through his body, not his words. Sadly, both his wounds, and his manners restrained him. Still, he no longer noticed the bumps on the road.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Dietrich "Leer" Faust Character Portrait: Era

INK

A Sin Most Unwanted...

Image



Image




Era listened through Dietrich's lesson on his faith and Order, and for the first time she realized that she had just betrayed one of her own core beliefs. She jumped to conclusions without fully understanding the world through the eyes of those she accused. She could not but smile to herself as she closed her eyes and leaned her head back as the cart hit a few rather large bumps which nearly toppled her had she not reacted so quickly to steady herself. She took a moment to let out a small sigh of relief and personal aggravation which she actually held towards herself for what she had done this whole time.

"... I suppose I owe you an apology then..." She said quietly.

"I think at last I can finally understand you and accept what you are. I have seen the worst that this world has to offer, and I have seen many of our allies die before their time. I have become so... oddly protective of those who follow us that I seem to have forgotten what it meant to be a protector. I failed to protect Mayumi from Shadow's wrath when his mind fell ill of his failure, and I failed to truly protect you by ignoring one of my own core beliefs."

She opened her eyes and looked over at him, her eyes soft and her smile sincere.

"I do apologize Dietrich for the trouble I have brought upon you." She said silently as she looked away.

"I have been a most ungracious wench haven't I?" She asked as she closed her eyes.

She smiled to herself once more as she leaned her head back and let out another small sigh through her nose as she slowly shifted her body against the items at her back until she was leaning back at about a 45 degree angle and turned her head away from Dietrich and fell asleep. It had been a long while since she'd gotten a truly good sleep, a flaw which had proved to assist in Shadow's temporary downfall. That was one of the things which the Crimson Twins were never all that great at: Resting. Forever pushing onward relentlessly towards their goals and never stopping to appreciate the lives they had. Era knew this, but she was always reluctant to come to terms with it. Just before she finally found sleep, she asked herself the question why she didn't rest a bit more often. However, she couldn't come up with an answer before she fell asleep.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Dietrich "Leer" Faust Character Portrait: Era

INK

Dietrich Faust




She opened her eyes and looked over at him, her eyes soft and her smile sincere.

"I do apologize Dietrich for the trouble I have brought upon you." She said silently as she looked away.

"I have been a most ungracious wench haven't I?" She asked as she closed her eyes.

Just before she finally found sleep, she asked herself the question why she didn't rest a bit more often. However, she couldn't come up with an answer before she fell asleep.


Dietrich snorted at Era's remark, and watched her from the corner of his eye as she smoothly slid into sleep. She was truly a remarkable women. She had a hardness, a strength of spirit, that he had never seen in a woman before. She wasn't pretending to be a man, Dietrich had seen that before in many mercenary camps. No, she was just tough-as-nails, down to the core.

"Apology accepted." He muttered.

He would not be falling asleep so easily. He looked out the back of the wagon, taking in the landscape receding behind him. It reminded him of something, the trees and path moving past around him, but he couldn't put his finger on what exactly. Still, he couldn't shake the feeling of nostalgia. His hands quested out from beneath the folds of his ink black cloak, eventually coming into contact with Gewalt's cold blade. He liked making sure the man-sized sword was still close at hand, despite the fact that he would hardly be able to wield it effectively in his current condition.

"We've been at this a good while, old friend." He thought. "I wonder how much longer we've got left? Pretty soon, one of us is gonna give; who will outlast who, I wonder? I'd hate to have to replace you."

He tried his best to relax in the bouncing wagon, but sleep eluded him. He wondered what Era really did plan on doing, if she lived through this. She didn't seem like the type to plan too terribly far ahead. For that matter, what would Shadow do? He lived for his goal, the destruction of Tei'Sai; what would he do when he attained that goal? Dietrich suddenly realized that he was becoming far too interested in these people. He was here to protect the Princess, or die trying; not to make friends. Still, this was the longest he had ever traveled with one group of people, eventually they would become more than acquaintances by simple nature.

Setting Changes... 22191 => 22174

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Shadow Character Portrait: Sereinia Lucis Nouralail Character Portrait: Dietrich "Leer" Faust Character Portrait: Era

INK

A Sin Most Unwanted...

Image



Image



"Blood leads only to blood, and my son continues his path of destruction and violence. Despite the warnings of his seniors he refuses to release his hold on his lust for the purest and most grotesque form of combat in existence: genocide. While my son is not inherently evil, it is none the less a fact that he craves the sight and smell of blood. How long will this affect him, and how long before it consumes him completely? I have no answers. Despite my status as the Highmaster of Te'i Sai, my sight, when it comes to my own son, is very limited. My daughter is easy enough to read and predict, but her brother is an entirely different beast. They may have been trained the same way, but they were raised very differently.

I can only wonder how long it will be before my son discovers the truth for himself..."


- The Highmaster of Te'i Sai



Shadow accepted Sereinia's kiss with a smile as he looked out ahead down the road towards their destination.

"I understand..." He said softly.

"I sometimes wonder if I deserve happiness. Looking back at the things I've done, it seems a sin to me that I be allowed happiness in the slightest. However, I learned to look passed that not long ago and accept what may come. If it is a sin, then it would not come so easily." He said rather happily.

Truly, he'd never been happy before. Truly happy. Shadow's life was filled with so much suppressed resentment, rage and sorrow that he'd never truly felt that he earned any happiness that he experienced. However, it was Linde who convinced him that happiness was for everyone regardless of their history. He stopped trying to argue with her long ago, and thinking of her brought a new kind of smile to his lips as he fondly remembered their first fight.

Shadow had been wounded after his attack on the fortress in Roda Valley. He had been run through by the Grandmaster's blade, luckily he'd guided it through safely avoiding his organs and arteries, but only just. He's also taken several slash wounds to his thighs and chest, and found it difficult to stand. When Linde found him in the forest, he was barely breathing. After she tended to his wounds, he awoke and tried to leave. Linde would not have it, and she tried to stop him from leaving. Shadow resisted, and even before it had truly begun it was over. In his weakened state Linde had easily defeated him and forced him to lay down again to rest. It wasn't even really a fight now that he thought about it, but looking back he wouldn't trade the way they met for the rest of the world.

He looked out ahead and took in a fresh breath of the air around them as they continued on. It would be another few days before they reached their destination, and when they arrived they'd have to be on the lookout. Te'i Sai scouts were always stationed wherever there had been a confirmed sighting of Shadow, and with his display the day he and Sereinia met, there was no doubt in his mind they'd be there to greet him. Luckily, Era was with him as well. If Era could find and eliminate them without setting off an alarm, they'd be home free for several days until the scouts were finally replaced. However, that'd take time, and they would all be long gone by the time any of the new scouts took up their positions.

As they went about their trip, Shadow spent most of his time partnered with Sereinia. On a few occasions he gave the girls some time together, but mostly the pairs stayed as they were. For the most part, Shadow did not speak unless spoken to, but on a few occasions he told Sereinia about what his life had been like. With everything that had gone on, he'd never really told her just how horrific his childhood was, or how brutal his teenage years were on his body, mind and health. Since he'd already told her his greatest secret, his name, he figures she may as well know everything. It was, after all, not the first time he'd revealed the full extent of his past to someone.

He told her about how he'd been raised as a child in complete isolation. It was almost as if he had been raised as a criminal. His "room" was nothing but a box with no windows and a bed. He had a single cabinet for his clothing, which was nothing but a single black jacket, a pair of pants, some boots, and a belt. He was allowed access to a single pair of steel daggers at the time until he was twelve, at which time he was presented with the dual Orichalcum Daggers he was famous for. During his teenage years, his training was ramped to a difficulty that was quite literally impossible. Shadow was unable to complete the training and thus was punished at the end of every day with serious and horrific beatings against Master Assassins whom he had no hope of defeating. When he was finally strong enough and skilled enough to pass the training he was pushed to even greater extremes. The Grandmasters literally ordered him to do the impossible, and though he could not initially succeed, he kept at it. Shadow's physical limits were not simply surpassed, they were outright annihilated.

Te'i Sai took its Assassins to the absolute zenith of their potential, and though this meant that once they reached their peak there was nowhere else to go, Shadow didn't believe that for one second. He had been considered to have reached his zenith of potential when he was twenty years old one year before his rebellion, but he continued to grow stronger yet as he continued training and continued to change. Shadow's life was the literal definition of Hell, and though Shadow had found a way to safely distance himself from the horrific environment he was trapped in later on after his rebellion, he never really lost that drive to continually defy his limits which put a lot of stress on his body. Shadow's body was in its peak condition, yes, but at a terrible cost to his overall health and mental stability over the years. Roda I'l Lousta's very existence was proof enough in and of itself.

However, despite the trauma it took to get here, he was glad to be here. While he didn't enjoy what he did or why he did it, he was content with where he was right now.

----------------------------------


Two and a half days passed, and as the evening sun began to set they had arrived at their destination. Shadow pulled the wagon into some of the dense trees surrounding the village as he sent Era out to look for Te'i Sai's presence. Shadow, in the meantime, had since recovered to about 80% of his original strength. From all his years spending time in the healing springs in Cre' Est when he was younger, his body had absorbed the healing qualities of the water and it had since become part of his body's natural healing system. Thanks to this, his recovery was much faster than it should have been. However, this was not a bad thing, and thanks to a few vials of special concoctions Era had whipped up along their journey, Dietrich was also making great strides. He wasn't as far along in his recovery as Shadow was, but he was walking without pain and could lift his sword again. How well he'd do in a fight with that massive blade in his state was anyone's guess, but never the less he was up and moving around without difficulty.

Shadow, Sereinia and Dietrich remained by the wagon until the sun went down. Era had been gone for about three hours, and when she finally returned she had some rather grave news.

"There is no Te'i Sai presence here." She reported once she made her reappearance.

Shadow's eyes narrowed and he looked back towards the silent village.

Normally this would be a good thing, but if there was no Te'i Sai presence, that could only mean one of two things. One, they were planning a massive attack elsewhere and needed all hands. Or two, they were gone because someone else had already cleaned them out. If Te'i Sai was gone and Roda Ah K'mht had taken their place, then there was no telling what kind of trouble was waiting for them within this village. Shadow looked over at Era for a moment, but since she didn't mention Roda Ah K'mht, Shadow was quite certain that meant they had no presence here either.

"Let me take a look around. Stay here for a few more minutes. I'll be right back." He said as he turned and entered the village.

He stuck to the darkness as much as possible, looking out for anything out of place that he could possibly see. However, everything was quiet and normal. But to Shadow, normal meant something was wrong. He looked over every single nook and cranny of every alleyway and checked every building he came across. Still there was nothing. Shadow couldn't put his finger on it, but Era had been right about the fact that there was no trace of either Te'i Sai or Roda Ah K'mht anywhere in the village. There were also no signs of Te'i Sai having ever been there at all in the first place. None of the rooftops he checked held any signs or evidence of having ever been used by anyone save for Era's occasional footprint. Shadow spent about thirty minutes checking things over, but when he still found absolutely nothing, he returned to the wagon.

"I can't find anything either... I don't like it." He said quietly as he looked back towards the village.

"I suppose I should be happy that there's no trace of their existence here... But still, we'd best stay wary." He said as he beckoned them to follow him into the city.

Setting Changes... 22174 => 22191

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Shadow Character Portrait: Sereinia Lucis Nouralail Character Portrait: Dietrich "Leer" Faust Character Portrait: Era

INK

Image
Image

"It is called a home when you return and someone will be there to say, welcome back."




During the duration of the journey, Sereinia remained by Shadow's side with the occasional times of being with Era. After all, there are still matters that only girls could talk about. Men would not even hoped to understand some parts of it. In any case, the trip was what she could say peaceful. There were no troubles or even attacks from anyone who were after Shadow. Truly, it was quite a nice break from all of the tension, sadness, death, and violence. For once, everyone could take a nice time to simply relax and think things through without any kind of interruptions. Moreover, these were the atmosphere that Shadow and Dietrich needed to fully recover from their injuries and mental doubts.

Especially when Shadow had revealed to her the darkness of his past, she had an idea before that his childhood must have been difficult being trained as an assassin which he was now. However, it seemed her conclusions did not even reach to a point which how he had described it. He was bathed with such pain and violence to create who he is meant to be fore the Te'i Sai. They wanted to remove his humanity and attachments meant to hold back one's potential. Throughout his tale, there are times that Sereinia cannot help but cry. It was not because of pity or out of sympathy. Rather, she truly felt sad.

Her childhood was normal as it could be. She had enjoyed being a child as much as she could. No wonder, Shadow truly lacked the skills for normal interactions and even some of the fun festivities this continent celebrates. In a sense, he was much like a child in such matters. Furthermore, she could truly see that Shadow did not regret the things she had experienced. It had forged him to what he is now. Then, there was also the thing about them meeting. It made her wonder if he did not become the Red-Eyed Demon. Would she be able to meet him? What kind of circumstances would that be? But, no matter what. She was rally thankful he was here by her side now.

Soon enough, they reached her town. She could feel the excitement and the familiarity of the place. It was very comforting in every sense. At the same time, she cannot wait to see her Aunt. She could already imagine the array of questions that her Aunt would bombard her with. But, it really did not matter. Honestly, she was looking forward to it. But for safety reasons, Shadow and Era checked the town if there were any unexpected guests or there was a trap from Te'i Sai or Roda Ah Kmht. Fortunately or now, it depends on how one could see it. There were no traces of those assassins at all. She was thankful for that. Sereinia did not want to involve the townspeople more so, her Aunt in a possible crossfire.

Once Shadow gave the signal to follow him, Sereinia got off the cart and happily walked towards the town. The familiar scenery was such a wonderful sight to her eyes. She really missed this place far more than she had expected. Upon reaching the entrance, some of the kids playing had already recognized her. "Miss Nora! Miss Nora! Miss Nora is back!" They shouted in a frenzy of happiness as some of them run towards her and wanted to hug her which she had granted with a bright smile. She queried how they were and have they been good while she was away. Even some of the residents joined with welcoming her, but what mattered most was... "Sereinia is that you?" Looking though the small crowd, Sereinia saw her Aunt Beatiz carrying a small basket probably containing some goods.

"Aunt Beatiz... It is me, Sereinia. I am back home." Her Aunt's surprised expression slowly turned into that of a tearful and very happy face as the older woman ran towards her abandoning the basket on the ground. She then hugged Sereinia tightly and then greeted her. "Welcome back home, child." Sereinia nodded happily and returned the embrace. After a while, she then remembered to introduce her companions. "Aunt, I brought some friends of mine. I hope you do not mind them staying at our house for some time." Her Aunt released her and then looked at Shadow, Era, and Dietrich. "Of course! Any of your friends are welcomed here!" Sereinia smiled thankfully at this and then looked a the others. "Welcome to the town of Treget." She said with a bright smile.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Shadow Character Portrait: Sereinia Lucis Nouralail Character Portrait: Dietrich "Leer" Faust Character Portrait: Era

INK

A Sin Most Unwanted...

Image



Image



"To my son, the world is cruel. His thoughts never wander far from combat or the thought of someone trying to kill him. He's lived for so many years under pressure and in fear that he's never learned how to relax and accept the fact that not every corner of this world is flooded with evil. I hope that he someday learns to accept the truth about the world, and learn to reject the lies and veils that Te'i Sai covers the land with."

- The Highmaster of Te'i Sai



Shadow hung back a fair distance as Sereinia went forward to greet the children and her aunt. Her aunt began to welcome him, Era and Dietrich to the town, but Shadow made sure to keep his head angled down so she couldn't see his eyes. Regardless of whether or not Sereinia knew him and told her aunt he was not going to hurt her, he was still the Red-Eyed Demon and Sereinia's aunt would not likely drop hostilities or suspicions just because Sereinia said it was alright. At least that was what Shadow thought.

Era, however, was more accepting of the Beatiz's offer. She came forward and greeted the children, the little girls of which instantly fell in love with her hair as she smiled at them and let them stroke it and toy with it. She was always one to get along with people, as she was usually taken as an albino rather than the sister to the Red-Eyed Demon. She sat down and talked with the kids for a moment while Shadow inched closer but kept his eyes hidden from Beatiz as he approached. He didn't want to scare her, and he didn't want to cause her or anyone else any stress or fear.

Setting Changes... 22191 => 22174

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Shadow Character Portrait: Sereinia Lucis Nouralail Character Portrait: Dietrich "Leer" Faust Character Portrait: Era

INK

A Sin Most Unwanted...

Image



Image



"... Today I encountered my son for the first time in many years, and I barely escaped with my life in tact. He knows well my identity already which has me concerned. I do not share in the trait he is most famous for, yet he was able to identify my face as belonging to his own bloodline. His perception to such complicated matters is peerless, yet when it comes to the simple things he seems to be clueless. I do not know where this inability to distinguish between peace and eerily convenient situations comes from, but I believe that a conversation with the other Grandmasters is in order."

- The Highmaster of Te'i Sai



Shadow and the others were invited inside by Sereinia's aunt, but Shadow still had trouble letting go of how quiet and peaceful the city was. This was still within Triveila where Shadow had previously been encountered, so why was Te'i Sai leaving it alone? It didn't make sense to Shadow why this place would be so empty and devoid of any Assassin presence. Still, the thought that lingered in the back of his mind was that it was a pleasant environment despite his paranoia.

Era was more open to conversation than her brother once she accepted the reality that Te'i Sai was not here, and she engaged Sereinia's aunt in conversation quite quickly. She was not shy about revealing her identity, nor that of her brother which came as something of a shock to Beatiz, but when Era assured her that they were not the monsters they were made out to be she was able to calm down and look at them simply as people. It must have run in the family, at least to Era's eyes. Sereinia had accepted Shadow and herself quite quickly despite their identity, and Beatiz had done so as well. It was easy to see where she got it from. Era decided that it would be good for Shadow and Beatiz to have a quiet chat alone, so she invited Sereinia and Dietrich upstairs to check the Line Breakers still recovering wounds while Shadow and Beatiz spoke.

The two of them spoke for quite a good long while, and by the end of the night Shadow and Beatiz had both come to the same conclusion about the nature of Shadow's mission and the path he was beginning to take.

For the good of all, Sereinia was left behind with her aunt while Shadow and the others departed to prepare for their assault on the next headquarters of Te'i Sai in Triveila. Their journey culminated in success, but at a price. They later learned that while they were busy dealing with Te'i Sai, Roda Ah K'mht had taken over the region and had also managed to infiltrate, rebuild and repopulate the mountain fortress in Cre' Est which Shadow had destroyed several years ago. One step forward, two steps back. Such is the nature of the path Shadow has chosen to walk, and while he will never look back or regret his decision to fight, he may yet come to regret the lingering effects it has had on those he's left behind...

The End