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Shadow

A cold blooded Assassin who desires only one thing: the total destruction of Te'i Sai

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

Description

Birth Name: Unknown
Character Alias: Shadow

Appearance:
Image


Written appearance: Shadow stands tall with a straight posture and always dresses in a faded black jacket with the sleeves cut off just above the elbow. His hair is about five to six inches long and is rather spiky, resembling grass on the plains in the wind. His shirt is typically black as well, though it can vary. He wears black pants which are loose to his frame and perfectly suited for his flexibility and agility in combat. He wears black boots with steel toes and heels which he uses to crush bones and damage internal organs in combat.

Sex: Male
Home Nation: Unknown
Current Location/Residence: Unknown
Exact Age: Unknown
Height: 6' 0"
Weight: Approximately 190-205 lbs
Hair Color: Black
Eye Color: Crimson Red
Complexion: Fair
Body Type: Athletic/Sculpted
Blood Type: O negative
Fighting Style: Makes heavy use of both hard and soft styles
Adaptability Ratio: 9-10

Personality

Personality: Shadow is always a dark, cold, calculating and secretive individual. His lack of trust in people is always a strain on anyone who comes into contact with him and travel with him on any kind of regular basis. Though he doesn't try to keep everyone in the dark, it is his unconscious nature to not provide important details for his fellow comrades. Whether this is out of fear for their safety or out of arrogance, nobody can say.

Shadow is quite childish, having grown up in torturous and brutal conditions as a child. He longs for a normal life, and at times can still act like a child himself when his curiosity reaches a peak. This aspect of his personality is one of the reasons that a very special someone fell in love with him during their first journey together. Before they parted ways she promised to wait for him and made him promise the same, even though he didn't really understand what she meant by it.

Quirks: His blood red eyes are his most distinguishing feature and are what earned him the title of "The Red-Eyed Demon". His entire body is littered with scars from battles that others cannot even begin to fathom, but his ferocious fighting style would give no indication that any of them left any sort of lasting injury despite their size.
Likes: Being alone, spending time on rooftops, fighting strong opponents, enjoying time out in open terrain with a light breeze where he can just relax and not worry about anything.

Dislikes: Large groups of people, people who lie to his face, thieves, other Assassins

Special Talents/Skills: Roda I'l Lousta

Equipment

Weapon/s of Choice: Twin daggers custom designed by Shadow himself

Weapon/s of Last Resort: Swords

Weapons you avoid: Guns

Weapon/Training History: Shadow's training began the day he learned to walk as a baby. The first thing he was taught to do was kick his legs and flail his arms ahead as a form of defense. By age two Shadow was fighting with regular use of punches and kicks against the other infants and children of Te'i Sai who were undergoing the same training. From the get go, Shadow proved himself to be stronger than other children his age, and even those who were older, and so he was chosen by the Grandmaster Takai to become his personal disciple.

Training from age five onward was pure hell and literally torture for the poor child. Shadow was not allowed to make mistakes, and if he did he was severely punished. If he failed to perform up to expectations, which was quite often, he was beaten to within an inch of his life and then brought to the designated doctor of the fortress for healing so that training could resume the next day.

Shadow's training was brutal to an extreme that no other Assassin's had ever been. Literally tortured into the perfect killer, he was constantly drenched in his own blood and the blood of those he trained with. This combination of blood scents became like a drug to Shadow's subconscious, and as he grew and the levels of his own blood began to decrease, he constantly wanted for more. He would actually resort to deliberately letting his opponents cut him so that he could take in the two scents and feed the desire for blood. This lust for blood became known throughout Te'i Sai as Roda I'l Lousta, translated from the ancient language of the Assassins as "Lust for Death"

Over the years, Shadow's training took several turns. Focusing on stealth, single combat tactics, politics, tracking, capturing, escape, manipulation, deception, military tactics, leadership, weapons, close combat, long range combat, herbology, poison crafting, bomb making, and anatomy.

The combination of all these aspects of the life of an Assassin were typically chosen and given out to individuals piece by piece so that specialists could be trained, but Shadow got the entire package during his training. Shadow's mind was always incredibly sharp, but his true genius as an Assassin was revealed when he went against the five Grandmaster's plan in favor of a different tactic to eliminating a group of ten senators from Cre' Est when he was only fourteen years old. His plan involved a lot of risks, but promised the greatest return upon success, and the Grandmasters had to admit that it was sound in concept and design and so went ahead with it. Shadow was able to secure success and his training began to intensify at the behest of the other four Grandmasters. Takai initially objected, as his training was already brutal enough, but eventually he gave in.

Shadow was trained until he broke through the floor and then trained again. It became too much for his young mind and he lost his sanity and went on a blind killing spree to release his hatred and frustrations. Eventually he was subdued and locked away until the doctor was able to help him regain his sanity and grip on reality. Soon after that, Shadow met someone important to his life and future, and so the idea of rebellion began after he lost this person to "illness". He later discovered that her death was caused by Takai himself, and so his plots for revenge began.

History

Biography: Shadow was born in the year 574 Post Union to a young woman named Meya. Her husband was not Shadow's father, and in fact was not the father of his younger sister either, but was never the less the figure he came to call father until he was killed shortly after Shadow's fifth birthday.

Shadow was raised from birth as an Assassin and trained through torture to be the perfect killing machine. He was taught from a young age about anatomy and how to inflict the most pain possible with the smallest amount of effort. Nerve pathways, vital organs, arteries and joint locks/breaks were among the first things Shadow learned to master by the time he was fifteen years old. Shadow's intelligence is that of a genius, but since his life has been so focused on the life of an Assassin, he is unfamiliar with other aspects of normality. This is the primary reason for why he seems so childish when his curiosity reaches a certain level.

When Shadow was seventeen years old, he met a young woman named Iris Di' Nelma. This energetic and kind hearted young woman became his first real friend and taught him about friendship and kindness. These concepts clashed with Shadow's inner nature, and in his struggle to understand them he dropped his guard and Iris's influence on him was discovered by Grandmaster Takai. The evil man decided that she was corrupting Shadow, and so had her lunch poisoned on the day she went on a picnic with Shadow for the first time. She later succumbed to the poison, but asked Shadow to be the one to end her life peacefully in her sleep, but not before confessing to him that she had fallen in love with his innocent and somewhat naive personality. Shadow shed his first real tears of sorrow as he waited for Iris to fall asleep before cleaving her heart in two.

Shadow fell into depression after this event, but was later convinced after examining Iris's remains that she had not died of natural causes. He invaded the Takai's personal library and found his personal journal where he wrote about the day he poisoned her meal, and Shadow almost lost control of himself as he chucked the book across the room. He put the book back and raided the library of Te'i Sai where he found out the truth behind what the organization originally stood for as keepers of balance and peace among the five nations hundreds of years ago and how it had slowly changed over time into an organization of killers who didn't even know what they were fighting for. At that point, Shadow vowed to destroy the current leadership of Te'i Sai and return the honor and dignity of the organization by rebuilding it and redesigning it to suit the ideals it originally stood for.

When Shadow was twenty years old, he encountered a young woman named Taira who joined the Assassins and who became his personal protegee. He taught Taira the truth about Te'i Sai, and she agreed to help him in his quest. He later befriended a Mercenary named Drake, and a beautiful warrior named Linde. He was later reunited with what was left of his family when he found his younger sister as he continued to work on slowly destroying Takai and his influence on Te'i Sai. Over the course of one year, this group of unlikely allies forged strong bonds with each other as they fought for and protected each other after Shadow finally managed to kill Takai and threw the mountain fortress of Te'i Sai into chaos.

With the death of one Grandmaster, Shadow knew the fight had only just begun. He was confronted by his mother shortly after his success, and found that she was in fact the true Grandmaster of Te'i Sai, even above the others such as Takai. She had orchestrated Shadow's entire life up until he met Iris, and she was the one who provoked Takai to investigate Shadow's excursions which led to her death. Shadow fought against both her and her personal mini army of Wraiths, highly trained and skilled Assassins rivaling him in strength and speed before finally killing her and sending the Wraiths into hiding.

Shadow parted ways with his friends when he was twenty two years old, one year after conquering the mountain fortress. Drake returned to his fiance. Taira continues to train to this day and has vowed to resume her role in the fight before it is over. Linde fell in love with Shadow and vowed to marry him, even though he still doesn't understand her or why she would want to marry him. Era returned home to Cre' Est where she is currently studying to become an architect for the purpose of building a home for her brother when he returns from his long journey.

Shadow himself continues to this day to search for ways to destroy Te'i Sai while he continues to take small bites out of it across the continent. Who will he encounter next? Will they survive the conflict engulfing the continent? What lies ahead as Te'i Sai's remaining branches take up arms against Shadow and the other Assassins who have now also taken up the fight against them?

Only time will tell.

So begins...

Shadow's Story

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Shadow
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Footnotes

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The City of Xi' Mael


The night was cold, and the scent of blood filled the air.

Silence enveloped the city as the moon crept out from behind the clouds to light the rooftops where he now stood. At his feet was the body of his latest victim, a lesser known bounty hunter who had made the mistake of coming after him alone. His chest was open from the groin to the throat, his ribcage split perfectly down the middle exposing his lungs and stomach from under the torn muscles of his upper torso. Blood trickled out of both the gaping wound and the mouth of the poor soul as he looked up at his killer with lifeless, grey eyes.

Suddenly, there was a cracking sound behind him. He whirled around to face what was coming, but it was nothing but a cat which had found its way to the rooftop with him. He sighed and placed his daggers away in their sheaths tucked behind his lower back, hidden behind his lumbar region and fitting to his form so as not to stick out or reveal their presence.

He looked out across the landscape ahead of him, rivulets of light shining on the shingles of the buildings ahead gave it a very ocean like appearance. It was quite beautiful. If he wasn't so busy tonight, he would have stayed to admire the view a while longer, but tonight he had no such time. He was waiting for something important.

Before long, what he was waiting for came to pass as a huge explosion rang out in the distance towards the edge of the city. The shock waves were strong enough to force him to tense to avoid being blasted off the roof he was on, as even the lifeless body at his feet slid forward against his legs. The initial shock wave subsided, but the rumble beneath his feet had only just begun. The building beneath him shook violently as he gritted his teeth and turned his head away against the wind and dust that followed it.

The rush of dust and wind around him was quite the rush, but there was no time to acclimate to the adrenaline that began to flow through his body. He had known this explosion was coming, but there was nothing that he could have done about it. He was unable to find any reliable source that could lead him to the explosive's exact position, and so he had taken up a safe distance from the general vicinity where he knew it would be coming from to wait for it.

Now that the explosion had gone off, he was on the hunt for the one who he knew was responsible for it. There was a madman loose in the city who claimed that he was the Red-Eyed Demon, and that he was going to level the whole city before he was done with his rampage. He advertised this by writing the messages in blood on city walls, and he promised that the killing would only get worse after the individual explosions were over.

He ran across the rooftops to get a better view and finally found what he was looking for. Below him in the streets was a man slinking through the shadows of the alleyways while other people fled for their lives through the streets. He approached the edge of the alley as the crowds of fleeing people increased in density and grabbed a helpless woman from among the league of fleeing insects scurrying through the streets and pulled her deeper into the darkness. He watched for a few moments as he threatened her life if she didn't do as he told her, and in her desperation to protect herself she tried to punch him to get away, but her brave hearted attempt backfired quite spectacularly.

The woman's captor blocked her punch and delivered one of his own directly to her nose, breaking it on contact and sending a stream of blood down her face and shirt as he threw her into the wall. She bounced off the stone structure next to her and collapsed in a heap to the ground. Rising slowly, she tried to get to her feet and run, but her aggressor tripped her before she could get her footing. She fell to the ground again and before she could rise the attacking man pulled her by her hair into a standing position and began to punch her in the lower back. Every blow landed deadly accuracy, and as he looked on he began to piece together what the deranged man was doing.

Little by little the man continued to beat the poor woman into the ground, striking first to her back, then her stomach, then her face before finally picking her up off the ground and throwing her into the wall again. The woman's blood began to slowly pool around her as she twitched on the ground in pain and agony. Her captor had clearly had enough of his game as he finally reached for his weapon, a gruesome sword at his hip. He kicked her onto her back and lifted her up and laid her down on her back on a small bench nearby. She was too weak to fight and too weak to call out for help as the man brought his sword and drove it down through her chest, the blade piercing flesh, muscle and bone before reappearing beneath the bench.

The woman's eyes went grey and blank as her body went limp on the blade. Blood began to soak the front of her shirt and ooze down the blade that now pinned her lifeless body to the bench. The man slowly drew his weapon from her body and watched with glee as she slid off the blood soaked wood to the floor of the alley. He brought up his blade and licked the blood from it as he placed it back in its sheath and laughed to himself out loud. He complimented himself before strolling away towards the back end of the alley where he could find another victim from the still fleeing crowd around him.

The young man wasted no time as he slowly redrew his daggers and walked forward to the absolute edge of the roof. The moon behind him shone his silhouette into the alley walls below, catching the attention of the deranged maniac below him.

"Who's there?!" He shouted angrily.

The young man didn't answer him, only stood there and watched as the killer in the street below him walked through the alleyway to get a better view in the light of the moon. As the young man's face came into view the killer stopped dead in his tracks as he looked up into a pair of blood red eyes which glared down at him. His own red eyes were in fact fake, as he was using special eye drops to temporarily 'stain' his eyes a reddish coloration. He instinctively drew his sword and turned to flee the scene as the young man rolled his eyes and jumped to the next rooftop.

The chase continued for several minutes before the killer finally stopped in a more open street where he had about eight feet on either side of him where he had room to see and room to maneuver should his enemy appear for a direct confrontation. He turned around in the street as a couple more people ran by him to get away from the explosion which had occurred a few minutes ago. The fires were still raging in the near distance, the light of the fires glowing weakly on his blade as he continued to analyze his surroundings. There were a few whispers echoing through the streets, but he figured it was just the wind around him before he finally heard a solid and defined "thud" behind him.

He turned around but was met by a rush of air as the young man's arm swept passed his face. He staggered back a couple of steps and felt his throat with his left hand. He held his hand up and saw blood cascading down his pale white flesh. He looked up and smiled at the youth before him, and without any further words or sounds fell onto his back and dropped his weapon into the street. His eyes slowly lost their light and the youth stood above his lifeless body and smirked before turning and walking away.

Once he was back on the rooftops, he ran towards the explosion to see what the extent of the damage was. When he arrived, it wasn't what he expected from someone who had managed to elude him for over two months. The building that actually housed the explosive was decimated, but the surrounding area was relatively unharmed. The people fighting the fire with buckets of water and blankets to try and kill the flames. As he stood there, a shout echoed forth from one of the shadows nearby. He looked down and saw a small gathering of people pointing up at him shouting "It's the Red-Eyed Demon!!".

The sudden announcement forced him to turn around and run from what would have become an angry mob as he had no way to prove his innocence in all the chaos. Despite having the body of the killer, the red coloration that he had created for himself had faded away. To other people, it was just another dark spot on his reputation and another body for his personal count. He finally found a nice quiet spot at the top of a nearby church where he was able to sit down and take a breather as he looked up at the night sky once again.

"... Another imposter dealt with, and another city whom I cannot save." He said quietly to himself.

He had come to this particular city to eliminate a set of puppets that Takai, the former Grandmaster of Te'i Sai before his death, had placed into power to control this section of the kingdom near the border of Cre' Est and Shaharan. Before he had the chance to do so, however, they had caught wind of his intentions thanks to a small group of renegade bounty hunters whom he had hired to find his targets. They ended up betraying him for more coin than he had originally offered, which he couldn't blame them for, but never the less he hunted them down for betraying him and slaughtered them in their own hideaway.

While his efforts in this city had been wasted on a bad decision, he had learned something important through the experience and now had an even more interesting hunt to look forward to.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Shadow Character Portrait: Aerith
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INK

Streets of Xi' Mael

Hours had passed and Shadow was now on foot in the empty streets in the wee hours of the morning when the sun had yet to peek over the horizon. The buildings were passing by more quickly than he expected, and he realized that he had in fact been daydreaming for most of the last hour. He looked around and got his bearings, recognizing a specific building he had mentally marked earlier in the week which told him he was near the far eastern edge of the city.

He saw a bar that was still open with a few people in it a short distance away and decided to walk inside for a drink of water.

Boldar's Bar

As he entered the room he donned a crude hood he'd fashioned for his jacket which had previously been tucked under the collar to hide his eyes from the candle light so he didn't scare anyone. As the door creaked open several heads shifted in his direction, each one with either a scowl or a stupid grin adorning their features. He walked straight to the first empty table he saw to his right near the door and a window and sat down.

An attractive young waitress approached him slowly, apprehension swallowing her otherwise beautiful features as she obviously was not comfortable with so many strange and drunk men in the bar at this time of early morning.

"May I help you?" She asked quietly in a sweet and high pitched voice.

Shadow looked up at her from under the hood, his eyes still hidden from view and spoke in a soft, low voice.

"Water."

She nodded to him and walked to the barkeeper, telling him what Shadow had asked for. There were a few laughs from around the bar when the word "water" reached their ears. While the barkeeper never the less complied with the request, a couple of the other men in the bar stood up and walked over to him. The one on the far left was drunk off his ass and no real threat in his condition. The one in the middle was quite clear headed and obviously a well trained fighter given his build and his muscle tone. The third one on the right was almost drunk, but had enough of a clear mind to understand that his friends wanted to pick on someone.

"Well, wot 'ave we here lads?" The man in the center asked.

"I'm figurin we got us a newbie there boss!" The drunk on the left replied.

"So what should we do with 'em boss?" The one on the right asked.

"Well there mate! Wot say you? Wanna 'ave a real drink wiv us?" He asked while he leaned in to within a few inches of Shadow's face.

Shadow himself listened to the irritating questions and glared at the leader from under his hood. He knew that it would be a bad idea to do such a thing, but he decided to do it anyway. He lifted his hood back about two inches, though he kept it on, and allowed the candle light to shine on his eyes as the men all leaned in. The two who were drunk backed away immediately, but the leader simply laughed at him and knocked the hood completely back off his head.

"C'mon! Ya gotta do better 'n that!" He laughed.

"Looks like we got ourselves another "Red-Eyed Demon" 'ere fellas! C'mon! Let's rough him up and show 'im wot 'appened ta the last "Demon" wot came 'round these parts!"

The other men gathered confidence at his words and moved in, ready to fight. The barkeeper and his waitress both stepped away to the corner of the room as Shadow prepared himself for something rather unpleasant. The leader came in first, swinging a wild punch with his right hand at Shadow's head. Shadow simply turned in his chair so that his body was at a forty five degree angle away from his attackers and brought his open hand up and caught the punch. Despite the fact that he was sitting in a chair, both his feet were on the ground and his shoulders and hips were aligned with his hand for maximum absorption of the blow.

The punch stopped cold a few inches away from Shadow's head, catching the attacker off guard. Shadow took the opportunity to quickly backhand the man in the Philtrum just under the nose. The blow was fast and hard, and the shock to his brain caused him to lose consciousness almost immediately. He dropped to the ground and his friends, who had yet to sober up, still came at him on both sides. Shadow stayed in his chair and leaned back on the hind legs, allowing the two men to fall forward without a target for their fists to land on. He reached out and punched both men in the bottom corner of their jaws, snapping the thin bones along the side and dislocating both on contact. Had they too not lost consciousness as quickly as they did, they would have been writhing on the floor in agony as the wound was so close to the brain.

He reached up and caught them in his arms as they started to fall and set them down gently on the floor at his feet on top of their "boss". He put his hood back on his head and looked to the waitress who was holding his water. She immediately knew what he wanted and she trotted over to give him his drink. He took the water from her and drank it in a few big gulps. After handing it back to her he stood up and dragged the three unconscious men into an empty booth on the other side of the room, all propped up in seated positions as they slept off their drinks. Shadow turned back to the woman for a moment and stared at her, watching as she stared back with fearful eyes.

"If anyone asks, these men got too drunk and passed out. Do you understand?" He asked in a low voice.

She blinked for a moment and nodded to him.

"O-of course." She said hesitantly.

Shadow nodded back to her and scanned the room for a moment, the other men avoiding his gaze while the barkeeper looked at him somewhat suspiciously. He knew it wouldn't do to stay any longer than this so he took his leave and walked outside.

Streets of Xi' Mael

As he stepped outside he looked down into an alleyway just a short distance away and decided to check inside it. When he walked up to the entrance, his eyes drew him to a little girl hiding in a large cardboard box who trembled with uncontrollable fear. He was not much for helping people, as he didn't know what they'd need to feel better, but something told him to help this child.

He walked forward and knelt down in front of the box as the girl looked up at him and turned away out of fear. He placed his hand on the young girl's back, receiving a whimper of fright in response. He rubbed her back for a moment and she turned her head to look at him again. He did his best to smile for her, as he knew she could see his red eyes from under the hood. Neither knew quite what to do at that point, so Shadow took the first step.

"Are you here alone or do you have a family to go home to?" He asked quietly.

She looked innocently up at him and turned to face him while sitting down cross legged. She didn't say anything for a moment, but then she finally spoke up.

"My mommy and me got separated when we ran from the big boom earlier. I don't know where mommy is, but I want my mommy!" She said.

Shadow sighed, more to himself than to her, and stood up. He held her hand and made her stand up with him as he walked her down the street to the first clinic he saw. There were no churches in the immediate area, nor were there any inns or taverns he'd care to place her in so the clinic had to do.

Unnamed Clinic

Once inside he looked over at the first nurse who walked out of the back room to greet them and waved her down.

"This child has been separated from her mother. Could you look after her?" He asked.

The nurse smiled at him and nodded.

"Of course we can. Come here sweet heart." She said sweetly to the girl who came forward and took her hand.

"Thank you for bringing her here. We'll put the word out first thing in the morning when the doctor comes in at sunup. She'll be back with her mother soon." She said cheerfully.

Shadow bowed to her and walked outside.

Streets of Xi' Mael

Helping children was not a common thing for him, but it felt good to know that the girl still had her mother to go home to. Shadow had no such luxuries in life, and so when he had the chance to help people evade the pain he felt every day he took it. He didn't know what else he could do at the moment, as he was growing rather weary. He decided that the best thing to do would be to find a place to rest for the night until the sun came up in the next few hours. The rest wouldn't be as long as he'd like, but it would be welcome none the less.

He scaled the nearest building and found a nice spot tucked out of sight of anyone below and sat down and fell asleep. The sun would wake him once it hit his face, and when that happened he would be able to continue the hunt once his body had some time to rest.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Shadow Character Portrait: Aerith
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INK

Light crept over the edges of the buildings and shone into the corner of his eyes from underneath his hood, alerting him to the fact that day had finally broken. When he opened his eyes, he guessed that it had been about four hours since he had fallen asleep earlier. He stretched his arms above his head and rotated his head in a circle, cracking his neck as he did so. To further awaken himself he used both hands to slap the sides of his face. The shock was more than enough, and before he knew it he was bright eyed and fully alert to the world around him.

He stood up and walked around on the rooftops for a few minutes and found himself wandering unconsciously back towards the area where the explosion had taken place. It was odd for him to return to such a place, but in the end it would be entertaining to see how everyone would react to him with his hood up.

The Assassins of Te'i Sai were known for their dark grey robes with the symbol of the ancient Assassins engraved on the center of their chest and the center of their back in a dark red coloration. Also, the belt buckle they adorned had the same symbol, also in a dark red coloration. Their boots were typically black, as were the pants they wore under the robe. They covered their faces with cotton black masks. The cut for the eyes made them appear rather sinister and aggressive, which suited their new lifestyle in their efforts to put an end to Shadow's activities.

Shadow was wearing no such outfit. His black jacket flowed down to about his knees in length and waved out behind him like a flag. His black pants and boots both were somewhat faded from having had them for so long, and his shirt was also a black faded black coloration that matched the rest of his attire. His jacket had a hood attached just behind his neck that was not really a part of the original design. When the murders and framing started, he figured it wouldn't be a bad idea to bring a hood into the picture. The problem was that it closely resembled the hoods of Te'i Sai. Had their hoods been black as well one could easily suspect him of being a member of Te'i Sai right away.

He approached the area of interest and found himself staring down in the same spot he had been during the previous night when someone shouted that the Red-Eyed Demon was standing on the roof. He hopped down in one of the alleyways and approached the rubble of the now smoldering ashes of the building and found weapons scattered across the ground. One of them was in the rubble itself, and he guessed that there had been some kind of scuffle. The weapons weren't that great of quality, but they looked nice.

He stepped into the empty shell of a building and picked up what looked to be the most expensive of the blades. It was unbalanced and very flashy, no doubt a decoration for a noble. Nobody with a head for combat would ever carry such a blade and expect to actually fight with it. Using it for ceremonies where they were purely for display, yes. Combat, no. He tuned the blade sideways in front of him and let the weight of the weapon bear down on his left index finger. He dragged the blade across from end to end and pulled it away when he was done.

"... No cut." He said as he checked his finger.

He examined the edge of the blade again and found that, although it was indeed sharpened, it was not professionally done. This blade would only cut when used with excessive force, rather than the weight of the weapon being enough to break skin. He found himself to be glaring at the blade in disgust as he grabbed the end of the blade with his left hand and bent the sword until it snapped somewhere in the middle into two pieces. He tossed one piece to each side of him as he exited the rubble and gathered the other weapons to examine them. When he was finished, he laid them down in a circle around the now broken sword. This display was an ancient symbol of blatant disrespect to whomever the weapons initially belonged to and was something only other Assassins or well educated bounty hunters and mercenaries would know about.

He smiled at the thought and walked over to a bench near the side of one of the buildings to watch the crowd as the people went about their daily lives. It was only about eight to nine hours after an explosion and already they were back to normal as if it had never occurred. He had to admire the people's resolve to continue with their activities, what with all the chaos of the world around them. But then again, the fact that the Assassins were all at war with each other over territory and influence made it easy for the people to deal with such events as they were almost weekly occurrences over the last year.

I almost feel sorry for them He thought to himself as he closed his eyes and crossed his arms in front of his chest.

He could hear everything around him very clearly despite the conversations of other people and the gentle sound of the wind blowing past the buildings. It was a peaceful morning despite what had happened, and it was the perfect environment for Shadow to enjoy a little more time of relaxation before continuing on with his journey.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Shadow Character Portrait: Aerith
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INK

Time ticked by slowly and the day began to fade yet further into the darkness as Shadow kept watch over the would-be Assassin killer that slept not more than fifteen feet away from him. She was actually quite pretty to look at when you went passed the mask to see her face, and she was in fantastic shape physically which Shadow guessed was the reason why she was tough enough to survive this long. Her injuries would take at least a week to heal with the herbs he had given her, and hopefully within that time he'd convince her not to try and remove his head from his shoulders.

Shadow sat back and laid down on top of the vent box and stared at the sky as the first stars began to shine in the dimming light. One thing had led to another quite rapidly over this last month and he was mentally exhausted from what had transpired. In the last month he'd taken down four corrupted senators who were puppets of Te'i Sai, rid himself of countless aggressors in the form of bandits, thieves and other Assassins, and managed to somehow take down eight imposters to his name and reputation. None of this had been easy, and though he had made it through miraculously without a scratch he had a feeling his luck wouldn't hold up. As good as he was, he was still only human, no matter how much he wished otherwise.

Sometimes it feels like you're invincible, and then life takes an unexpected turn and your mortality is forced on you with the greatest of prejudice. Shadow knew the feeling well as he slowly slipped into his memories of that day.

It was three years ago almost to the day when Shadow engaged in a face to face battle with former Grandmaster Takai of Te'i Sai in Roda Valley. The mountain fortress built into the side of the majestic peak of Mt. Heresta at the center of the Continent was where he grew up and where almost all of his training had taken place. The one thing that mountain was never considered to be in Shadow's mind, however, was home. He was told that home is where you "hang your hat", though he never really considered anywhere he went to be home.

That day, however, was one to remember forever. Shadow had infiltrated Te'i Sai with the help of a very special friend named Taira who was one of his first real apprentices as an Assassin. Thanks to her he had managed to reach Takai's offices without detection and fought with both him and Korvaiis, the man who was then second in command of Te'i Sai. The fight was a losing one and Shadow was stabbed in the leg, run through the chest and broke his left leg after fleeing from the confrontation. He had, however, managed to kill Takai during the conflict before escaping. Takai had grown too confident during the encounter when Shadow gutted him during a rushed attack, spilling his intestines and lower stomach onto the floor of his office before jumping out the three story window into the Grand Training Hall below.

Shadow would have been finished if his knowledge of anatomy wasn't where it was at that time. He knew he wouldn't avoid the blade that pierced his chest, so he guided it through his body while taking great care in the moments that he had to avoid his lungs, stomach, liver and his abdominal aorta in his back. The blade went clean through to the other side and by some divine miracle it missed everything important, leaving Shadow wounded, but no worse for wear than when he had been stabbed in the leg. Shadow barely escaped the Assassins who came after him before collapsing in Raggella Forest outside the fortress in the Valley. It was there that he met someone very special to him, though he had lost contact with her two years ago.

Shadow decided it was best not to dwell on the past for too long and so he forced himself to open his eyes. When he did, he found he had daydreamed for almost an hour, and the sky was now fully taken over by the night. Brilliant purple and blue colors weaved and flowed through the air as the stars glittered in the heavens. He had always loved watching them, but with a potential threat sitting fifteen feet away he dared not admire them without checking her every now and then. No sooner had that thought crossed his mind when the young woman began to wake up, checking herself in her slight delirium as she awoke before making eye contact for the first time.

"How are you feeling?" He asked calmly, trying not to sound threatening.

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Character Portrait: Shadow Character Portrait: Aerith
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Shadow was called out of his thoughts by the sudden flash of steel flying in front of his face as a small knife was embedded in the stone ground beneath him. His eyes followed it to its landing place and saw a letter in the blade. He looked quickly towards where the knife had come from, but whomever had thrown it was already gone. He picked up the knife and examined it, smiling to himself when he recognized the specific craftsmanship of the blade near the hilt. Removing the note, he held it up to a small bit of light behind him and read it silently to himself.

"Our enemies are on the move and are closing in on your location here in the city. Remaining would be a fool's errand Shadow, so I highly suggest you gather your belongings and get out while you can. If you follow the path north from the city's eastern gate towards the mountains you will come to a small cottage where a reliable informant will be waiting for you. From there you will have to deduce where to go on your own.

Stay safe Shadow,

Taira"


Shadow put the note away in his jacket and stood up, wiping the tears from his eyes with his jacket sleeve and drawing in the powerful resolve he usually held.

"I'm sorry Aerith, but I have to go now. Keep steady for the next few days, clean the wound every morning and afternoon and replace the herbs with the contents of this pouch." He pulled a small pouch from his waist and tossed it beside her right leg.

"It's the same special blend of herbs that I used on your wounds when you slept earlier, so you'll have to brace yourself for a pretty bad stinging sensation each time but it will only last for about thirty seconds before it becomes more of a soreness than a sting. Stay safe and out of sight of men like these and you should be fine. If you wish to follow me and continue our conversation, come find me in the city of Mei' Xion on Cre' Est's western border. Use your skills to track down a trader named Zennou and he will point you in the direction of my hideout in the city."

He gave Aerith a light bow before turning away from her.

"I look forward to our next meeting Aerith. Farewell."

With that, Shadow took a few rapid steps forward and disappeared into the darkness. He stepped lightly and quickly through the cobblestone streets and found his way to the rooftops once more where he quickly managed to locate the eastern exit from the city and promptly took to the ground once again as he knocked out the guard and ran to the dirt road leading north towards the forest at the base of the mountain pass about twenty miles ahead. The cottage Taira mentioned in the note was well known to him, as was the informant who lived there, and he almost had to smile at the thought of seeing him again.

Shadow continued through the night and into the next morning at a steady jog before he came to his destination about six hours later when the sun began to rise above the mountains.

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INK

Shadow took the time to discuss with his contact the details of what was to come. His prey had been on the move for some time now, and now was about to cross the border to Triveila. Apparently the young King and Queen of Triveila were surrounded by greedy and arrogant "supporters" who were meant to help guide and protect them, but who were instead seizing power piece by piece under everyone's noses and making it look legal. Through manipulation of the process of power, they had all but turned the King and Queen into nothing but figure heads.

"Seems I have new targets on top of my old ones..." Shadow said to himself as he exited the cottage.

His contact was an old friend who was once one of the Assassins of Te'i Sai back when Shadow was still a teenager but who had deserted them when he saw a brutal murder within the ranks that was never reported or investigated. How could he support an organization that didn't care about lost members? Shadow never really cared much either way, but he could understand the frustration of not having support when it was otherwise promised.

Shadow tucked a few documents he'd taken from his contact away in a small clip behind his back and began the trek towards the border. It would be nightfall again soon, spending all day discussing strategy and tactics with his contact had eaten most of this day and he had some ground to make up.

Along the way he took the time to practice his knife throwing on every target that made itself available. Falling leaves, dead branches, stones that were in close proximity to one another where the blade could squeeze through, flowers on bushes, and even specific blades of grass whenever they were taller than those around them. His accuracy was as strong as ever, but he still felt the need to practice every day so as not to lose his sense for it. There was a delicate art to throwing the daggers he'd designed, and though he had long since mastered it he was of the opinion that you could never truly master a weapon, only guide it as its humble servant towards it target.

As night descended upon him Shadow stopped his advance. Soon the creatures of the night would stir, and he didn't care to be caught in the middle of a Devil Wolf hunting party. The beasts, while formidable even one on one, presented a challenge that not even Shadow cared to face if he could avoid it. The creatures looked and sounded like wolves, but they were well over nine feet long and weighed an average of seven hundred pounds. Anyone foolish enough to fight a group of them was on a suicide mission and Shadow had no intent of falling victim to such a dangerous enemy.

Luckily for Shadow the Devil Wolves were particular to a specific section of Triveila's forested region in the southwest near the border between Gweynura and Triveila. The Devil Wolves almost never journeyed outside their main territorial region in the forests and they avoided the open plains like the plague since they were too large to sneak up on anything in such open terrain. Shadow found a secluded spot about ten miles away from what looked like a small village that was obviously within Triveila's border judging by the spacing of the lights in the windows. He took what he had and set up a small camp for himself.

Once a fire was made he took out the documents from before and began to scan them again to check and double check their contents. The first was a list of names and descriptions of his new targets. The second was likely locations of his targets as well as other areas of interest for him to look into suspicious activity or possible new weapons and clothing to disguise himself. The third was another list, but this time written in the ancient language of the Assassins, and one which described to him a secret location beneath the Capitol City that was supposedly a maze within a maze. At the center was supposed to be something spectacular, but Shadow wasn't one for treasure hunting.

He decided it was best if nobody knew about this supposed treasure and so he tossed the parchment into the fire and watched as it slowly burned away. If he found the time to return and look into it, he would, but for now he needed to keep attention away from the Capitol City so that he had an easier time finding and eliminating his targets.

After a couple hours Shadow began to grow restless, and so he stood up and walked away from the fire. He drew his daggers and began to practice a form he'd made which featured smooth and graceful movements designed to slip in and out of enemy defenses. Though it was simple in theory, during combat when enemies were flailing to and fro it was much harder than it initially seemed. Most who practiced some form of combat training but never put it into practice believed that reflexes and intuition take over and that you'll be alright if you trust your training. The sad fact is that was wishful thinking, and no matter how well practiced your moves were, if you didn't actually put them to practical use against a living thing, they were useless to you. Shadow had found this out the hard way when he was thirteen.

Throughout the night he continued to practice different routines ranging from forms, meditation and listening, to more aggressive and violent routines such as using his weaponry against the surrounding environment to hone both his strength and his endurance. Striking at fallen logs was particularly useful as they were stationary and gave a perfect gauge of just how well trained you truly were if you struck them with a weapon. If you felt even the slightest backlash from your attack, you were pushing too hard and forcing the attack which would inevitably come back to haunt you when the battle was over.

As the minutes ticked by, Shadow began to feel more and more that something was amiss. The air began to grow quieter, the animals more still, and even the wind began to fade.

"... Looks like I have company..." He said quietly to himself as his attention turned back to his campfire.

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INK

Shadow walked towards his fire and tossed a single rock into the center of the flames.

As he watched the rock shift colors in the flames, the slight rustling of leaves in the trees and the faint aroma of metal not his own began to coat the moisture of the night air around him. The scent of looming battle was exciting, as he did not often find strong opponents to give him the taste of battle his soul cried out for. While he didn't like to admit it, Shadow lived for conflict and death and relished in the thrill and the rush that they brought to him.

He looked up and forward, leaning his head back as he arched his neck and cracked it to one side. He straightened his neck and looked ahead, watching the embers of the flames rise and disappear into the air in front of him as he heard the faint sound of footsteps gathering in a circle around him. His mouth widened slightly into a smirk as he turned on his heel to face the new circle of guests.

Dark grey robes with the red insignia of the Assassins adorning their chests stood before him as he continued to smile at the one in command. It was a man he knew well from his past, one who had a hand in his training when he was younger. He was in his mid thirties and was no pushover despite his lack of time outside the fortress where he was first stationed before Shadow's rebellion. After Shadow's escape from the mountain fortress in Roda Valley, he was moved to Triveila's Hidden Temple deep in the mountainous forests where he became a more active participant in the hunt for Shadow's head.

"It's been a while, Ven." Shadow said in a low and raspy voice.

The man's hood came up and was laid to rest behind his head as he looked at Shadow with murderous intent.

"I'd hoped never to have to face you myself Shadow. I was sure that you would have been killed long ago due to your arrogance in your own skills and your ignorance of the world around you. How is it you've survived?" He hissed.

Shadow's smile widened as he turned his head to scan the circle of Assassins around him. His eyes were straight, like that of a Raptor scanning the horizon for prey. A few of the hoods went down ever so slightly as he looked in their direction, and Shadow knew from that single gesture that they were afraid of him. His eyes scanned each man in turn before his eyes landed on Ven once more, the smile still on his face.

"I have survived because I have changed. Perhaps once I was arrogant to my skills, but when I killed our Grandmaster I saw how little my skills were worth in the face of a true adversary. Once, I though of only myself and would do anything to have my way."

Shadow took a moment to wipe the smile from his face before he drew his Twin Daggers and set them against his forearms.

"Today Ven... I fight not for myself. I fight for that which I believe in. I don't think you've seen the damage that Te'i Sai has caused to the people of this continent. They can no longer put their faith in their Kings and Queens. They can no longer let their children play in the streets without supervision. They can no longer believe in a future where they can live and die in peace without the constant threat of finding themselves under Te'i Sai's thumb. Today, the people of this continent live in fear thanks to what we've done, what we've been doing for hundreds of years."

Shadow's grip on his daggers tightened as his stance dropped a few inches lower.

Ven shook his head and scoffed for a moment as he drew his sword and pointed it in between Shadow's eyes.

"You're such a naive fool Shadow. Sheep need a strong shepherd to guide them towards the future where the wolves don't prowl. The people you speak of dream of peace, but what does that mean? No Shadow, these people don't need your version of peace, they need guidance. They cannot live in this world without proper guidance, and that is what we've given them. That's what we created you for after all!" He said with force as he took a step forward.

Shadow took a step forward as well, accepting the private challenge to battle.

"Am I so naive Ven? Am I so ignorant of the world around me? You, who haven't walked the streets where the people tread dare to lecture me of what they need? You haven't seen what they have, what they lack, and what they need. Takai created me as an instrument of fear and death, not a means to guide people. Killing helpless men, women, elderly, and even children. Children, Ven. I have mercilessly killed innocent children for no reason because Takai said that I should not hold life in high regard and that nobody is truly innocent and immune from death."

His daggers flashed in front of him, catching the light of the fire behind him for a moment as if he had harnessed it on the blades and used it to heat the air around him as the shimmer of the fire surrounded his silhouette.

"You have been blinded Ven, and you will either open your eyes or you will die... I will know your answer by the time this battle is over." He said, again in a low voice.

Ven's anger began to build as he slid another step forward. He knew this would be a short battle, but one in which only one of the two combatants would walk away from. The other Assassins had at first been brought as backup in case Ven failed, but the moment he stepped forward to challenge Shadow one on one they became not but observers to a fight between masters.

Shadow's next step forward started the battle, and two blades clashed in the firelight. Shadow stepped right as Ven stepped left, cutting off his first advance. Shadow's smirk returned as his right foot came forward and swept Ven's leg out from underneath him. He recognized the attack too late to dodge it or life his leg out of the way, but he was able to force his sword into the ground momentarily to balance himself and pushed back with his back leg to regain his balance. He pulled his sword free of Shadow's trap and renewed his attack with a stabbing attack towards Shadow's chest. This movement was a serious mistake and Ven knew it the moment he made it.

Shadow's reflexes had always been the sharpest Ven had ever seen, and today they were beyond what even he remembered from Shadow's past training. Shadow's torso rotated ninety degrees and his sword slipped by harmlessly as the blade in Shadow's left hand slid up and protected his body from any possible changes in direction while the dagger in his right hand came up and forward. The tip of the blade stopped but a mere fraction of an inch away from Ven's throat, and he had to hold back a gulp to avoid making contact with the razor edges of Shadow's weapons. Shadow himself had created those blades and they were crafted from an ancient and exceedingly rare metal called Orichalcum. The metal was strong enough to completely annihilate other metallic objects, and with how Shadow folded and refolded them during the forging process, they were sharp enough to slice through almost all other metal weapons.

Shadow demonstrated this unique ability by turning the dagger in his left hand towards Ven's sword and driving it forward and into the ground. His dagger began cutting through Ven's sword when the tip of the long weapon hit the ground, and before long the blade snapped in two. Ven stepped back and looked at his weapon, a sword his father had given him when he joined Te'i Sai's Assassin ranks when he was fifteen. Had he not been so focused on Shadow he would certainly have shed a tear. For now, he could only stare at his weapon in shock as Shadow threw a kick into his upper chest and sent him flying off his feet.

Ven stood up a few moments later after shaking off the shock of the impact. He tossed the remains of his weapon aside and stepped back, Shadow's silhouette still outlined for him by the fire behind him.

"So you have destroyed my weapon, what does that prove?" Ven asked in a cold and unemotional voice.

Shadow stood up straight and looked Ven dead in his eyes. The sight of Shadow's darkened silhouette and glowing red eyes were enough to shake even Ven's confidence as he stared into the depths of Shadow's darkened soul for the first time in years. The glowing and churning coloration of his red eyes caused a chill to run down Ven's spine as he awaited an answer to his question.

"... I have done the same to you as Te'i Sai has done to others. As a warrior your weapon is your soul, your connection to this world. Your weapon is a reflection of you, and it is a symbol of your pride and contains your hope for a future in which you and your weapon continue to prove your worth. Now take this empty and naked feeling within your heart and amplify it Ven. That is how the people of Cre' Est feel so long as Te'i Sai is in control of their lives. It is for that reason that I fight Ven, and it is for that reason that you cannot win. You have no hope left."

Shadow placed his daggers away and turned his back to Ven, a gesture in which Assassins signified that they had completely destroyed their opponent, whether they lived or not. Ven didn't take kindly to the gesture of course, and in his rage he made a foolish mistake. He rushed Shadow for all his worth, to which Shadow simply side stepped and grabbed his lower jaw in his left hand as he tripped forward.

Shadow kicked a smaller branch in the fire which launched the rock he had placed in the flames into the air. He grabbed it in his right hand, his gloves shielding his flesh from direct contact, and shoved the burning rock into Ven's mouth and slammed his right hand down on top of his head. The impact forced his jaws to close on the solid object in his mouth, and shattered a few of his teeth against the burning piece of Earth. His screams were muffled from the obstruction as he fought with all his might to free himself. Shadow held fast, and before long Ven fainted from the pain of his broken teeth and the searing flesh inside his mouth due to the heat of the rock. As he collapsed, Shadow released the pressure which allowed the rock to finally fall free to the ground as he slowly set Ven down on the ground. Blood trickled from his mouth as Shadow took a step away from him.

The other Assassins came forward and took Ven's unconscious body away before they disappeared into the night. Shadow looked at the blood on the ground and let out a sigh. It brought him no joy, despite the smile he had carried in battle, to do such a thing to Ven and simply let the others take him away. Shadow's heart ached, but not for Ven. His heart ached that he found he was still capable of such acts of violence. Simply beating Ven had been enough for him, but when attacked again he resorted to something that he knew would bring unbearable pain and agony to Ven and the others.

He sat down on a log by his fire and sheathed his daggers as he sighed once more.

"... One day, I'll learn to control it." He said quietly to himself.

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Character Portrait: Shadow Character Portrait: Mayumi
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INK

Shadow listened intently as he waited for his guest to show themselves, and he didn't have to wait long. Though they wore a cloak and hood, it was obvious that a woman now stood before him. When she spoke, she conveyed what he almost felt was a sense of familiarity. He wasn't sure who she was, but he heard no hint of fear in her voice when words began to come forth.

“I’m not here to fight.” She said calmly.

Shadow examined her tone of voice, body posture, and breathing for a brief moment before sliding his dagger back into its sheath.

Though he didn't know who she was, it was clear that she meant no real harm though he was sure she could give as good as she got judging by her bearing and lack of fear in his presence. His red eyes usually was enough to make those who saw him quake in fear at his reputation and the legend that was growing around him through the years.

"So, do you and your bird plan to remain at a distance or will you join me by the fire?" He asked evenly.

He had seen the bird flying against the skies towards the treeline though he still couldn't make out exactly what kind of bird it was. The shadow of the raptor in flight was barely visible in the dim lighting as the moon began to set behind the clouds, but never the less Shadow's keen eyes managed to spot it as it disappeared into the greenery of the trees.

"I have no intention of fighting with you either, as I've already had my fill as you can probably tell by the large pool of blood simmering ten feet in front of you."

He brought his hands forward and interlocked his fingers together as he brought his hands up in front of his face and leaned forward slightly. His position would make it nearly impossible to launch any kind of meaningful attack, though if he was attacked at the correct angle he could still do some decent damage. Otherwise, it was a very open and unguarded posture for him to be sitting in given the present company he now kept.

He figured she was in a listening mood, but he couldn't be sure so he kept his eyes on her though his posture said he was off guard and not a threat.

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Mayumi could tell that he was observing her and by the way his red orbs shifted slightly upwards she assumed he had spotted Sora too and then he spoke again.

“So, do you and your bird plan to remain at a distance or will you join me by the fire?"

"I have no intention of fighting with you either, as I've already had my fill as you can probably tell by the large pool of blood simmering ten feet in front of you." He informed her.

‘He has keen eyes.’ She took note.

Mayumi cautiously made her way over, seeing as the young man had shifted his position into an unguarded one but never the less still took no chances with letting her guard down.

She could feel his eyes on her as she crossed the distance between them and sat on a fallen log by the fire opposite him.

“You are Shadow. Correct?” she asked him monotonously and waited for his confirmation.

Her eyes scanned the area every once in a while out of habbit, Sora covering the area behind her. The wind was starting to grow chilly like she was used to, and knowing that it was her favorite time of day, it comforted her a little. Mayumi allowed her tense body to relax a little, but not to the extent that she was off-guard.

All of a sudden, the world spun around her and she nearly fell off the log she sat on, but fortunately her quick reflexes helped her get her footing in place again before she had the chance to fall.

‘What was that?’ she questioned herself and wondered if she was hallucinating.

She reasoned that it must be lack of rest for the past few days added with non-stop travelling. Recently, she had also been having the feeling that she was being followed.

‘Was that hallucinating too?’

After a while of thoughts on her little problem, she decided to ignore it and quickly finish her business here so that she could move on. She never liked staying in once place for longer than necessary. It just spelled trouble to her.

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Her approach was calculated and careful and there was a special grace about how she moved that reminded him of someone from his past. It was almost comforting, had it not been for the fact that it was coming from someone he didn't know or trust.

Still, she was an interesting one.

Shadow seemed to have a knack for meeting interesting and dangerous people, which was further confirmed when she next spoke.

“You are Shadow. Correct?” She asked.

Shadow's red eyes locked onto her eyes and the red coloration began to swirl and darken in the firelight. While it was usually rage which triggered this reaction, this time it was shock more than anything else. He unconsciously let his right hand slip back to the handle of his dagger, but caught himself in time to stop just before actually grasping it.

"... How do you know that name?" He asked in a lower voice than before.

"Only four people have ever known me by that name, most of whom are dead. One was the Grandmaster of Te'i Sai's mountain fortress here in Cre' Est who is the one who gave me that name, but he now lies dead and buried beneath the fortress. Two was my mother, Meya, the secret head of Te'i Sai and one of two individuals pulling the strings of the Grandmasters themselves. She too lies dead by my hand. Third was a young Assassin whom I trained and brought with me into battle against Te'i Sai, and who now lives as a shadow to mine."

He saw her falter for a moment and waited until she had regained control before speaking again. He was unsure if it was a lack of rest and mental relaxation, or something else which could prove troublesome. Either way, he continued.

"And the final person who knew that name was something of a hermit, living by himself in the wilderness. A man with no family as far as I know, and no connection to the outside world save for the skills he acquired in his life. I don't know what his name is, nor if he's still alive, but I was able to confirm that he was training someone before I lost contact with him not long ago. I know for a fact that it was Te'i Sai who killed him, and that they left a note attached to his corpse which spoke to kill me. I never saw the body or the note, but one of my scouts did and was kind enough to warn me to be on my guard."

He shifted his weight in his seat, now taking a more upright seated position. While his position was still open and relatively non threatening, it was none the less very guarded which signified that he was becoming somewhat anxious with her.

"So I'll ask you once more: How do you know that name?" His voice had returned to its normal pitch but was slightly louder in volume this time.

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"And the final person who knew that name was something of a hermit, living by himself in the wilderness. A man with no family as far as I know, and no connection to the outside world save for the skills he acquired in his life. I don't know what his name is, nor if he's still alive, but I was able to confirm that he was training someone before I lost contact with him not long ago. I know for a fact that it was Te'i Sai who killed him, and that they left a note attached to his corpse which spoke to kill me. I never saw the body or the note, but one of my scouts did and was kind enough to warn me to be on my guard." He said.

Mayumi recognized the details of the last person to be her master and now knew that Shadow knew her master.

‘It’s confirmed. Te’i Sai killed Master.’ The aura around her darkened with hatred for a split second before returning to its usual nature.

"So I'll ask you once more: How do you know that name?" He asked louder this time.

She wondered if she had made the wrong move by mentioning his name, but she had needed to confirm his identity though. His body tensing told her that he was no longer relaxed and his guard was up, showing signs of anxiety. At that moment, she knew she had to do something about it that minute or risk the chance of losing the trail she had been following for a year.

She slowly took out the letter from one of her many skirts’ pocket, the letter containing the words he had just spoken not a minute ago. Her pale gloved hand held it out to him above the fire, not minding the heat. Knowing words would not convince the man before her in his current predicament, she gave him solid evidence thinking it to be a better choice.

“From the details of the last person you have just spoken about, I am sure you are talking about my master. I refuse to do as the letter says for I know it was not my master who wrote it. I was here to find out who had killed him and wrote this letter, but it seems my questions have already been answered.” She explained in a monotone.

“I need to be sure though. Does the dark red symbol on that letter represent Te’i Sai?” she inquired.

Suddenly, the pained cry of a person was heard somewhere northwest of them.

‘Another victim.’ The girl thought, but felt the small achievement was not good enough.

She had set up traps in her blind spots earlier before entering the small forested area where they currently sat in, lowering the risk of any attacker catching her off-guard. She had been hearing faint thuds all around the area during their conversation, notifying her of the people or animals being caught in her traps. At the same time, she took it as training, improving her skills.

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“From the details of the last person you have just spoken about, I am sure you are talking about my master. I refuse to do as the letter says for I know it was not my master who wrote it. I was here to find out who had killed him and wrote this letter, but it seems my questions have already been answered.” She explained in a monotone.

“I need to be sure though. Does the dark red symbol on that letter represent Te’i Sai?” she inquired.


Shadow was skeptical, but never the less relaxed his body and stood up to take the letter from her. His six foot frame dwarfed her as she sat on the log and he reached out to accept the letter. He looked at it front and back and examined the parchment it was written on. It seemed ordinary paper, but it was actually a special skin made out of the distinctive paper like flesh of a creature known as the Acro Fi'l, a kind of wombat that lived only in the forests of Roda Valley, Te'i Sai's Cre' Itian Mountain Fortress.

Suddenly, the pained cry of a person was heard somewhere northwest of them.

Shadow's ears perked up and his eyes slid from the letter to the direction the cry came from. He didn't react to it, as it was not in his nature to go out of his way to help someone where there was no benefit save for "moral achievement". He looked back to the letter and opened it up to read it's contents.

Kill Shadow...

He recognized the handwriting immediately, and he now knew that once again, he was going to have to be on the run. The handwriting came from none other than the head of the Wraith's, Kiiro. The Wraiths were a team of what were known in the trade as Super Elites, Assassins with training and skills that far transcended those of normal Assassins and who could hold their own in combat against any opponent and against any opposing weapon. Shadow himself was one of the Super Elite, but he was not a member of the Wraiths. They were a squad put together by Te'i Sai's second in command of Roda Valley known as Korvaiis. Kiiro was his son, and was the one whom he wanted to take over Te'i Sai now that Grandmaster Takai was dead and gone.

"... So Kiiro's on my trail once again... Perfect." He said as his eyes darkened and churned once again in the moonlight.

He took the letter and tossed it into the fire, watching with some satisfaction as the red engraving erupted into flames and disappeared. He looked back at the young woman before him, but he offered no smile or hint of emotion as he spoke.

"No matter the circumstances behind how your master died, nor how you came to find me, there is really only one thing that you should be concerned with at this point young lady: Run." He said as he walked back over to sit down on his log again.

"Kiiro, leader and by far the most powerful of the Wraiths, is now hunting me once again despite his defeat the last time we met. If you stay in my presence for too long, you'll meet him for yourself and you will die, of that, I can guarantee... About your master, there is no doubt in my mind that Kiiro is the one who killed him. I regret what happened to him, as though we weren't really friends, we weren't enemies either and I had great respect for his skills and his bravery to live a life in opposition to Te'i Sai where most all others live in fear."

His eyes looked over to hers once again, and he was now completely relaxed despite what he was saying.

"Kiiro is far too powerful for you to defeat or to hunt without getting yourself killed. Should you choose to go after him, his fellow Wraiths will find and kill you before you ever get close. So if you have any thoughts of revenge in mind, abandon them right now. I knew your master well enough to understand that he was beyond thoughts of revenge and spite, and as his pupil you should be too. Instead, why don't you tell me what his final words to you were before his death. It might help me determine how best to proceed with investigating this mess and helping you find a way to put his soul to rest which is what he'd prefer as opposed to you getting yourself killed without meaning or purpose."

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She watched him as he examined the letter, his face expressing recognition when he read the letter’s contents.

"... So Kiiro's on my trail once again... Perfect." He said.

‘Kiiro?’

The letter was then tossed into the fire and she watched warily as the man watched the letter burn with what she thinks to be a satisfactory look.

"No matter the circumstances behind how your master died, nor how you came to find me, there is really only one thing that you should be concerned with at this point young lady: Run." He told her as he went back to his seat by the fire.

At the word ‘Run’ she felt something within her burn. She, a weapon, was to run from the enemies she was supposed to defeat. It sounded weird to her, but the explanation she received next made the weirdness about the situation disappear.

"Kiiro, leader and by far the most powerful of the Wraiths, is now hunting me once again despite his defeat the last time we met. If you stay in my presence for too long, you'll meet him for yourself and you will die, of that, I can guarantee... About your master, there is no doubt in my mind that Kiiro is the one who killed him. I regret what happened to him, as though we weren't really friends, we weren't enemies either and I had great respect for his skills and his bravery to live a life in opposition to Te'i Sai where most all others live in fear."

His eyes met hers through the shadow of her hood and she could feel that he was at ease despite what he was saying.

"Kiiro is far too powerful for you to defeat or to hunt without getting yourself killed. Should you choose to go after him, his fellow Wraiths will find and kill you before you ever get close. So if you have any thoughts of revenge in mind, abandon them right now. I knew your master well enough to understand that he was beyond thoughts of revenge and spite, and as his pupil you should be too. Instead, why don't you tell me what his final words to you were before his death. It might help me determine how best to proceed with investigating this mess and helping you find a way to put his soul to rest which is what he'd prefer as opposed to you getting yourself killed without meaning or purpose."

Mayumi pondered on his words. He didn’t sound like he was lying, but why would her master not want her to avenge his death? Why was he killed? Why would her master care if she was killed without meaning or purpose? Why…?

Never-ending questions with new ones adding to the pile every day, haunted her mind since the day her master was brutally killed started flowing once again. So many questions she wanted answers to but knew she had no right to question her master’s doings.

‘Run. Live in fear.’ The words he spoke that caught her attention earlier echoed in her mind.

“I will not run but observe my opponent and conquer flaws that still exist in me. Fear doesn’t exist in me, this weapon that exist only for its master with the only purpose of fulfilling its master’s wishes. If I die, I die. A weapon without its master is a meaningless useless thing. What really matters is if I have fulfilled my master’s wishes.” She spoke in a monotone, her face in its usual expressionless way.

“If what you said about my master not wanting me to avenge him is true, I’ll stop it this instant. I was on the path of revenge since he was killed a year ago but if that is not his wishes I will not pursue it any longer.” There was no hesitation in her voice as she spoke, showing her loyalty and obedience to the mysterious man who she called master.

“His last words to me before he was killed were, ‘Patience is a virtue. Watch, study, observe. Never Assume and Always Be Prepared.’” She recited it from memory as they were embedded into her mind.

There was some kind of a warm sensation that filled her every time she recited those words. It felt like her master was still alive somewhere, but when reality hit her and she realized it wasn’t true the warm sensation would vanish. She never understood what it was, brushing it off as nothing.

A sudden gust of wind blew the hood that shadowed her face off, revealing a pale face and long silver hair. Deep pools of red-black orbs stared at the man before them with not an emotion that seemed to exist within their owner.

She would have stopped the hood from falling off, but didn’t see a reason to hide her identity from him.

“But… if revenge was not what he wants me to do. Then what is? I know Master never leaves without a reason.” She was still not too sure if she could trust his words.

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Blood red eyes searched the darkened red and black pools they now stared at from across the fire, and Shadow contemplated both her words and the final words of her master. As she spoke about being a weapon, he had to wonder what was truly going on in the depths of her mind. Was she truly brainwashed to the point where she didn't believe that she was anything but a weapon? Such a mindset was not only dangerous, but tragic, and Shadow knew it all too well for he had been the exact same way at one time.

Being raised as the top Assassin of Te'i Sai, he was taught that he was the weapon and that everything else was just fodder for his wrath. Neither man, woman, nor child was safe from his blade when he set his sights on them. There had never been any emotion, sympathy or regret about what he had done until the idea that he was a weapon and a weapon only finally was extinguished from his mind.

Her master's words rang out and sparked something from his memory. The memory was repressed and difficult to access, and Shadow had a bit of a hard time deciphering it as his brows furrowed a bit while he dug through his thoughts trying to access the memory.

‘Patience is a virtue. Watch, study, observe. Never Assume and Always Be Prepared.’

No matter how hard Shadow thought, he could remember only the words, no face or environment to go with them. He remembered things about the man she spoke of, but he could not remember his face or where exactly he had lived. Those words had been spoken to him verbatim once before, but try as he might he just couldn't bring the memory to the surface. He stopped trying and allowed himself to relax as he closed his eyes and let out a sigh.

"... So you believe that you are but a weapon do you?" He asked, bringing back that topic in his mind to replace the words of her master.

"I can relate. When I was first being trained as Te'i Sai's top Assassin I too thought that I was but a weapon. However, with time, I was proven wrong. Nobody is only ever one thing in life young lady, nobody. Even your master had multiple talents and viewpoints about himself and the world around him. I doubt that he really intended for you to end up this way." He said as he looked up at her once more, taking in her features and committing them to memory.

"My guess is that sometime during training your mind began to falter, taking more abuse than it could handle from his methods of training, and so to preserve what sanity you had left he gave you a single purpose to live for that your mind could focus on. In this way, he saved your life. Also, doing so ensured that you remained under his control. Otherwise, you would have suffered the same fate that I did when I was younger." He said, somewhat sadly.

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"... So you believe that you are but a weapon do you?" He asked.

She looked at him with a neutral expression, questioning his words in her mind.

"I can relate. When I was first being trained as Te'i Sai's top Assassin I too thought that I was but a weapon. However, with time, I was proven wrong. Nobody is only ever one thing in life young lady, nobody. Even your master had multiple talents and viewpoints about himself and the world around him. I doubt that he really intended for you to end up this way."

Though her face was void of emotion, she was in fact struggling on the inside to understand his words. What he spoke of was foreign to her, it was the first time someone had spoken of this to her.

"My guess is that sometime during training your mind began to falter, taking more abuse than it could handle from his methods of training, and so to preserve what sanity you had left he gave you a single purpose to live for that your mind could focus on. In this way, he saved your life. Also, doing so ensured that you remained under his control. Otherwise, you would have suffered the same fate that I did when I was younger.” He said with an emotion she did not find a need to understand.

She felt aroused by this strange subject, something urging her to find out what it meant.

“I do not understand what you speak of -“

She was about to continue when she felt a slight shift in the surrounding aura, Sora’s sharp signal only confirming her suspicions.

‘Danger.’

The sound of metal cutting through the wind at extreme speeds came soaring towards her from behind. Spinning round just a second before the weapon reached her, she managed to direct it away from her using her armguard. Black-red orbs scanned the area in front of her, watching for any signs of movement. The forest that surrounded their small clearing going silent with the danger that lurked within them.

“Just as he said. The young girl has potential.” A deep voice spoke.

Senses spread wide, sensing even the slightest shift in the air, she stood in a position that would allow her to retaliate attacks in any angle. Her senses seemed to be ringing alarm bells in her head, warning her of the dangerous opponent she was about to face.

A man in a black outfit of light body armor stepped out of the shadows from the trees in front of her. His outfit was similar to Shadow’s, excluding the jacket Shadow wore, and carried a sword of medium length on his back Mayumi took a cautious step to the side making a little more distance between them. The man had dark brown hair with pale skin and viridian eyes. He was an averaged size man but she knew better than to judge others by their appearance.

“Unfortunately, you have failed to do as the letter said. This is quite unexpected. It seems we have underestimated your intelligence.” The man spoke with a hint of amusement.

‘Is he the one Shadow had talked about earlier?’ She wondered.

“I refuse to do anything for anyone else besides my master.” Mayumi replied calmly, her eyes never leaving the man.

She was still wary that Shadow was behind her and counted on Sora to watch her back for her, trusting no one but herself and her pet.

“Such loyalty and determination, but what use are you when your master is dead?” he questioned with mockery.

Mayumi’s eyes flashed with killing intent for a moment. The man seemed to have caught the look in her eyes at that moment and chuckled.

“Don’t worry child. Your loyalty will be of much use to Te’i Sai in future. Unfortunately, I’m not here for you today.” He told her as his dark eyes shifted to the man behind her.

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Shadow's ears snapped the instant he heard the bird in the trees giving off a non audible signal to its master and he shot to his feet at the same moment that Mayumi managed get to hers and deflect an incoming knife thrown at her from the trees. It didn't take long for the scent of leather to reach his nose, and he knew then and there what they were about to face. Sure enough, it was confirmed.

“Just as he said. The young girl has potential.” A deep voice spoke.

Shadow kept his eyes glued on the darkness of the trees as a man clad in ebon clothing and body armor walked out from the trees and locked his eyes on Mayumi.

“Unfortunately, you have failed to do as the letter said. This is quite unexpected. It seems we have underestimated your intelligence.” The man spoke with a hint of amusement.

“I refuse to do anything for anyone else besides my master.” Mayumi replied calmly.

“Such loyalty and determination, but what use are you when your master is dead?” He questioned with mockery. “Don’t worry child. Your loyalty will be of much use to Te’i Sai in future. Unfortunately, I’m not here for you today.” He told her as his dark eyes shifted to the man behind her.


Shadow came forward and, although his hand was gentle, the force of the push was not as he shoved Mayumi off to the side and stepped passed her while drawing both of his daggers shortly after. In response, the man in black armor drew his sword and took a defensive posture, pointing the tip of the blade in between Shadow's eyes as the two of them braced for what Shadow knew to be a short but very intense fight. Never before had he failed to defeat a Wraith, but each and every time they managed to push him to a specific limit that was not easy to do.

"So, Shadow..." The man said as his stance lowered a bit. "I'm surprised you didn't kill her on sight. You could have easily enough, couldn't you? Don't tell me you're getting soft?" He mocked.

Shadow didn't move, his legs rooted as if a part of the Earth beneath his feet as his right heel dug into the ground, shifting the dirt beneath it to create a support point. His mind raced as his opponent began to circle to the left, his stance wide and prepped for battle.

For what seemed an eternity, the two simply stared each other down before the first move was made. While he normally let his opponents come to him, Shadow this time instigated the attack himself. His right dagger flew forward in a stabbing motion as his left came up for a defensive posture. The wonderful thing about fighting with two blades was the they served both offense and defense simultaneously while remaining separate and variable whereas other weapons were either one or the other and had to shift with the flow of battle.

The sword came back towards his body while pointing at Shadow as he parried the stab off to the side and tried to use the parry to line up a stab of his own, Shadow's second blade coming forward and jamming the flat of his sword against the Wraith's chest as the two were suddenly face to face and within inches of each other. This sudden burst happened in less than half a second, and had Mayumi not been well trained she very well may have missed the finer details of what had just happened.

In less than half a second, Shadow had closed an eight foot gap, stabbed at his opponent and also anticipated the parry and pinned his weapon to his chest. However, his opponent too had anticipated such an ending and managed to position his feet in such a way that Shadow could not advance forward, but would instead be forced to retreat to break the coupling of their weapons and renew his assault.

"You're as fast as they say." The Wraith commented as he shoved Shadow back and disengaged for but an instant before regaining his defenses.

Shadow landed a few feet away and took a step back, readying himself as well for a renewed assault as the Wraith took the initiative this time and lunged in with a full fledged stab of his sword. Shadow parried the attack off with one blade, but his opponent had let go with his right hand at the last second and caught Shadow's hand as it instinctively came up for a slash at the forearm. Clearly, it would not be easy to gain a strong counter attack against this one. He was already proving stronger and a bit faster than other Wraith's he'd come across, which led him to believe that this one was higher in the rankings within the social order of the Wraith's hierarchy.

Shadow took the opportunity and jumped into the air, rolling on his opponent's back as his left hand was held in place. Using the hand as a pivot point, he turned in his roll and managed arch his right arm above and around his head, landing squarely behind his opponent. In this new position, Shadow's left hand had crossed his arm in front of his chest while his right hand was free and clear. Had his opponent not managed to feel him out and partially turn with him, he'd have been completely defenseless against the maneuver. The Wraith wasted no time in pulling his right leg up and in for a kick to Shadow's stomach, which managed to hit it's target.

However...

Shadow's musculature was extremely tight and unforgiving, and the Wraith, as powerful as he was, only hit and bounced away from how solid Shadow's stance was and how powerful his abdominal muscles were. Instead, the Wraith turned it to his advantage by using Shadow as a launch pad to gain distance instead of digging in for an attack.

This little dance happening in just under four seconds from when the first stab was attempted.

With distance regained and a new attack set up, the Wraith again dove inward for a stab, but this time he aimed higher towards Shadow's throat instead of his stomach.

Shadow had been trained to instinctively parry anything below his own shoulders, but anything aimed above his shoulders was fair game as far as he knew. However, Shadow had trained to block instinctively anywhere through his own private training and experience, and so the attack hit nothing but air as Shadow ducked underneath it and managed to slice part of his armor away around the lower abdomen as he swiftly and gracefully slid his stance low along the ground to allow himself freedom of movement as his opponent sailed passed him. Shadow regained his standing posture, but now held a dangerous disadvantage.

His opponent now had his back to the fire, making it slightly more difficult for Shadow to see a definitive outline not counting the fact that his opponent was already clad in ebon black armor. Clearly this was not lost on his opponent as he lowered his body against the firelight behind him to cause it to hit Shadow's eyes yet further. With his vision no longer in full use, Shadow closed his eyes and listened closely to what was in front of him. As his breathing slowed, the world around him began to slow with it. The breathing of the Wraith, Mayumi's breath a short distance away, the sound of the fire and the breeze of the wind all sharpened in his ears as his sight vanished from use.

With every breath, every shift in the Earth, Shadow saw the world around him as his opponent came in for another strike. This time it was a slash across Shadow's left shoulder aimed through towards his knee. The blow was met by the dagger in his left hand blocking it and stopping it cold despite the fact he wielded it with two hands vs Shadow wielding his dagger with one hand and Shadow's right blade came up and slashed another chunk of his armor off. As he backed away, Shadow rushed him and bashed him off his feet by digging his shoulder into the man's sternum, near knocking him into the fire itself as he walked around to his right to get the fire out of the way of his vision.

His eyes opened and the sight of his opponent with the light on the side made for a much easier position than against, and so Shadow repositioned his daggers and prepared yet again for re-engagement as his foe drew near once he was on his feet.

This time, as his opponent lunged forward Shadow had a surprise in store for him. The stab came up towards his chest once more, but Shadow's daggers went out and to the side, blades pointing inward with the tips pointed towards the ground. The two daggers came in on each other like a pair of scissors, and cleaved the approaching sword into three distinct pieces as his opponent's shock and his lapse of concentration spelled his doom after the short bout. Shadow's left blade turned flat and came up against the man's throat, a simple pulling of his arm followed and Shadow's foe dropped to the ground holding his throat and coughing horrendously.

Blood seeped from behind his hands as he tried to catch his breath, but it was no use. He was now choking on his own blood as Shadow's daggers returned home to their sheaths whilst Shadow himself turned to face his dying opponent. He grabbed him by the chin and hoisted him to his feet, the Wraith coughing blood on his way up. Shadow looked him dead in the eyes and simply glared at him until his eyes turned grey and his body went limp as he drowned in his own blood. Shadow let his body fall and kicked it away several feet with minor effort before heaving a sigh and slowly returning to his log to sit down and enjoy the warmth of the fire.

Before long, he remembered someone whom he'd since shoved to the side and looked over at her.

"... Sorry..." He said calmly as he then looked back to the fire.

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Mayumi had heard Shadow’s footsteps coming closer towards her from behind but wasn’t ready for what happened next. The moment she felt his hand on her shoulder, she tensed and didn’t had much time to realize what he was about to do. She was shoved to the side with much force that had she not fast reflexes she would have fallen clumsily to the ground. Flipping forward with the force of the shove, she landed on her hands before landing in a crouch with a cat’s grace at the side lines of the soon to be battle field.

The two men drew their weapons and took their stances. Mayumi took this opportunity to study the two men’s fighting style while still being on guard in case there were more enemies around.

"So, Shadow..." The man said as his stance lowered a bit. "I'm surprised you didn't kill her on sight. You could have easily enough, couldn't you? Don't tell me you're getting soft?" He mocked.

The man’s mockery didn’t seem to affect Shadow as he kept still, not moving from his battle stance as his opponent began to circle to the left with his stance wide and prepped for battle.

During the few minutes that the two men stared each other down, Mayumi could feel the intensity of the nearing battle building with each passing second. Then, the battle begun with Shadow’s right dagger soaring forward in a stabbing motion as his left came up as a defense.

The sword came back towards his body while pointing at Shadow as he parried the stab off to the side and tried to use the parry to line up a stab of his own, Shadow's second blade coming forward and jamming the flat of his sword against the Wraith's chest as the two were suddenly face to face and within inches of each other. Mayumi’s eyes were focused on the battle as the flurry of attacks occurred within half a second catching evens the slightest movement made.

In less than half a second, Shadow had closed an eight foot gap, stabbed at his opponent and also anticipated the parry and pinned his weapon to his chest. However, his opponent too had anticipated such an ending and managed to position his feet in such a way that Shadow could not advance forward, but would instead be forced to retreat to break the coupling of their weapons and renew his assault.

‘He’s fast.’ Just as she thought that, Shadow’s opponent spoke her thoughts.

"You're as fast as they say." The Wraith commented as he shoved Shadow back and disengaged for but an instant before regaining his defenses.

Shadow landed a few feet away and took a step back, readying himself as well for a renewed assault as the Wraith took the initiative this time and lunged in with a full fledged stab of his sword. Shadow parried the attack off with one blade, but his opponent had let go with his right hand at the last second and caught Shadow's hand as it instinctively came up for a slash at the forearm.


Mayumi observed the fight, her eyes not leaving them for even a second. The two men were almost on par with each other and Shadow seemed to be having difficulty landing a stronger counter attack against his opponent. The fight continued with Shadow quickly gaining the upper hand while Mayumi continued to watch the battle closely, not a single detail missed with her trained eyesight.

Soon, the battle neared it's end.

This time, as Shadow’s opponent lunged forward Shadow had a surprise in store for him. The stab came up towards his chest once more, but Shadow's daggers went out and to the side, blades pointing inward with the tips pointed towards the ground. The two daggers came in on each other like a pair of scissors, and cleaved the approaching sword into three distinct pieces as his opponent's shock and his lapse of concentration spelled his doom after the short bout. Shadow's left blade turned flat and came up against the man's throat, a simple pulling of his arm followed and Shadow's foe dropped to the ground holding his throat and coughing horrendously.

Blood seeped from behind his hands as he tried to catch his breath, but it was no use. He was now choking on his own blood as Shadow's daggers returned home to their sheaths whilst Shadow himself turned to face his dying opponent. He grabbed him by the chin and hoisted him to his feet, the Wraith coughing blood on his way up. Shadow looked him dead in the eyes and simply glared at him until his eyes turned grey and his body went limp as he drowned in his own blood. Shadow let his body fall and kicked it away several feet with minor effort before heaving a sigh and slowly returning to his log to sit down and enjoy the warmth of the fire.

"... Sorry..."
He said calmly after a while before turning back to the fire.

Mayumi stood and walked over to the now dead man. Bending down to feel his pulse on the neck, she assured herself that he was dead.

“Is this man one of the wraiths you spoke of?” She asked as she stood, staring at the corpse.

If that man was who she thought him to be, then she would know for sure that Shadow’s words were true and not lies to deceit her. It would indeed be difficult to defeat a man like that at her current level, not to mention, a group of them. She would have to start training rigorously if she had any intentions of killing one in future.

‘I’ll lay low and train, for now.’ Her mind spun with plans a thousand steps ahead for her future training.

She was determined to avenge her master in some way. They would pay for killing the man who gave her a reason to continue leaving. She would have probably been dead long ago had the mysterious man not found her. Then again, since that day she found him murdered, her reason for living had slowly been fading. If it weren’t for the thought of revenge, she wouldn’t be here today as well. As she had said earlier, a weapon was meaningless without its master.

‘I knew your master well enough to understand that he was beyond thoughts of revenge and spite, and as his pupil you should be too.’ Shadow’s words rang in her mind, her plans vanishing with those words.

‘What exactly does Master wants me to do then?’ She questioned her mind that had no answers.

Her goal up till now was to avenge her master, but now that she has no mission, she would no longer have a reason to live, but leaving her master unavenged... Could she do that?

“Such loyalty and determination, but what use are you when your master is dead? Don’t worry child. Your loyalty will be of much use to Te’i Sai in future.” The words of the man flashed in her mind.

“What would Te’i Sai want with me? A weapon that skills cannot compare to theirs.” She turned to face Shadow. Though her face was expressionless, her eyes showed a hint of what she felt deep within, ‘hopeless and lost’, before returning to it’s dull state within the blink of an eye. If possible, they seemed more lifeless than before.

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"Is this man one of the Wraith's you spoke of?" She asked.

Shadow's eyes glued themselves to hers, searching the depths of their black and red pools for both questions and answers of his own. As to what those questions and answers may have been, only time would tell but he could feel a few of them being brought to the surface already.

"Yes, he was a Wraith." He said quietly.

"Judging from the slight boost in speed he held over others I've fought in the past, he's not just a Wraith... Perhaps a Ceres Wraith, one of the next rungs up in the ladder in their hierarchy." He said as he reviewed the fight in his mind.

"There is a system for the Wraith's hierarchy, and Kiiro sits at the top and is a serious cut above the others. If you thought that the fight between the two of us tonight was intense," He said, gesturing with his head towards the corpse, "You don't want to see the fight between Kiiro and myself when it comes around again. The two of us are due for a serious rematch, as though I technically defeated him last time, the fight was interrupted before it could reach a true conclusion."

He shifted his weight a little, keeping his eyes on her.

“What would Te’i Sai want with me? A weapon that skills cannot compare to theirs.” She turned to face Shadow. Though her face was expressionless, her eyes showed a hint of what she felt deep within, ‘hopeless and lost’, before returning to it’s dull state within the blink of an eye.

Shadow studied her for a long moment before answering.

"You have a special gift, young lady. It's more than likely why your master rescued you in the first place and chose to train you, to try and bring that gift to the surface where it could be utilized in full. For better or worse, he's done a good job until now. In order for you to access this gift, you'll have to come to a certain realization at some point and it will be up to you to understand what that realization is. For now, concentrate on one thing: Get stronger." He said, standing up and walking towards her in a relaxed state.

"Your potential exceeds that of anyone I've ever seen at your age. If you trained seriously in the same manner I did when I was coming up the ranks, you'll be more than a match for any low end Wraith within little over one year's time. The fight we had tonight will still seem impressive, but well within your grasp by the time you're truly at your peak. So, I have a proposition for you and that is to train and travel with me." He said, stopping two paces away.

"I have met many people in my travels who have been a great help to me, all of whom carried a special gift of their own. It takes more than one person, no matter how strong or skilled they may be, to bring down a giant like Te'i Sai. I didn't destroy the first two branches on my own, I had help. Now, I am alone, and in need of aid once again. I have the third Grandmaster in my sights after two years of tracking and searching, but I have not the means to reach him alone. If you truly want to avenge your master's death, don't look to the man who killed him, look to the organization that created the man who killed him. If we bring down Te'i Sai, Kiiro and the others will not have a reason to exist, much the same way you don't believe you have a reason now. The only difference is, you do have a reason." He said.

"So, will you accept my offer?" He asked.

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"You have a special gift, young lady. It's more than likely why your master rescued you in the first place and chose to train you, to try and bring that gift to the surface where it could be utilized in full. For better or worse, he's done a good job until now. In order for you to access this gift, you'll have to come to a certain realization at some point and it will be up to you to understand what that realization is. For now, concentrate on one thing: Get stronger."

The moment he stood and started walking her direction, she grew wary of him even though she could tell he was in a relaxed state.

‘Does he mean a gift to kill?’

"Your potential exceeds that of anyone I've ever seen at your age. If you trained seriously in the same manner I did when I was coming up the ranks, you'll be more than a match for any low end Wraith within little over one year's time. The fight we had tonight will still seem impressive, but well within your grasp by the time you're truly at your peak. So, I have a proposition for you and that is to train and travel with me." He told her, stopping two paces from where she stood.

‘Train and travel with him?’ she repeated in her thoughts.

"I have met many people in my travels who have been a great help to me, all of whom carried a special gift of their own. It takes more than one person, no matter how strong or skilled they may be, to bring down a giant like Te'i Sai. I didn't destroy the first two branches on my own, I had help. Now, I am alone, and in need of aid once again. I have the third Grandmaster in my sights after two years of tracking and searching, but I have not the means to reach him alone. If you truly want to avenge your master's death, don't look to the man who killed him, look to the organization that created the man who killed him. If we bring down Te'i Sai, Kiiro and the others will not have a reason to exist, much the same way you don't believe you have a reason now. The only difference is, you do have a reason." He said.

A new chance at avenging her master’s death, a new mission. What reason did she have to refuse an offer like this? Thinking through her options carefully one last time, she made her final decision.

“If it means getting to avenge my master’s death, I accept.” She said without hesitation, looking Shadow straight in the eyes.

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“If it means getting to avenge my master’s death, I accept.”

At her words, Shadow winced inside. She was still set on the idea of avenging her master's death and so far it looked to be the only reason she had for accepting his offer. He knew that there would be little he could do to change her mind on the matter of vengeance, but at the very least he hoped to be able to prove to her that she could find new reasons for living aside from killing others who had done her harm.

"Very well then." He said calmly.

He turned his back to her and walked back to the fire and looked up towards the sky as the clouds revealed the moon's position to him. He did a quick calculation in his head and then turned his attention back to his new apprentice.

"With the failure of the team sent to kill me earlier today, Kiiro is going to be putting someone new on my tail to keep an eye on my movements before the end of this week. I'm not worried about that, but I am worried about him finding out that you are alive and training with me. That being the case, it's time for you to disappear for a while. From this point, head north into the mountains. They are entirely comprised of rock with very little soil and it will be impossible for them to track you there. From the mountains, go as far west as you can back towards Triveila and meet me in the forest outside the southern gate of a small village called Shielg. It's fairly remote and contains excellent terrain for the kind of training I need to put you through."

He took a moment to let this plan sink in, which he could see by her subtle reactions was not going to be a problem, before continuing.

"We will be training there for a period of exactly two months before we continue with our plans to attack Te'i Sai. During that time, I will be your new master. I do not go by a title when teaching others, so either respond to commands and requests with calling me by name or by saying "Yes sir"." He said sternly.

"I will give you one warning about this path you are about to take and if you cannot accept what I'm about to tell you then you have but one option, and that is to walk away. Your master may have shaped you into a weapon, but you are a weapon with a dull edge. In order to sharpen the blade of your soul properly, I'll have to completely retrain you from the bottom up. Everything you ever learned from your master will either be disposed of, or refined. I can see from your posture and the way you have handled yourself since our initial meeting that you carry little to no fear of what lies ahead, and that is one thing your master has done right.

However, do not think that this training is simply going to be difficult. At times, it is literally going to be impossible for you. Either by design or by the limitations of your body's size, structure, or physical capabilities, there are going to be times where you will not be able to perform what I demand of you. There is a method to the madness, and it will be up to you to discover what the methods are on your own. When our time of training is over, I will be testing you on the knowledge and skills you have gained when we are through... If you live through it of course."

He took a moment to look back at the fire, and then let his eyes slide over to the corners as they locked on hers once again.

"When training is done, you are going to fight for your very survival against me in a one on one confrontation. If you can stave off my attacks for a period of two minutes, you have passed my training and I will know that we are ready to proceed. If you cannot, you'll die."

He slowly turned his head, his eyes seemingly the point of rotation as opposed to his neck as he came to face her fully.

"So are you still willing to accept this path?" He asked, his eyes glued to hers.

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"So are you still willing to accept this path?" He asked, his eyes glued to hers.

Hearing the word ‘impossible’ sparked something within her, something she hadn’t felt in a while was slowly beginning to stir awake. Forgetting her master’s trainings was impossible, but thinking back since the day she was picked up by her master, she couldn’t remember a time she did something that was plainly possible. It had always been impossible or extremely impossible. Her addiction to the word ‘impossible’, was like the temptation of a tigress’s when she spots her prey and pounds on it with determination.

This training she decided, she would definitely go through it. If this was what it took to accomplish her goal of revenge, then so be it. No matter what it took of her, even if her life was lost, it didn’t matter. If she did not go through this training she would be better of killing herself rather than wandering through the Nations aimlessly.

‘Master, this will be for you.’

She turned to face her new master fully.

“Disappearing will not be an issue for me for I have lived my life in a non-existent way.” She spoke without an expression.

“As I said earlier, I will not turn my back on anything but conquer them. I will go through your training no matter how tough and come out either stronger than before or dead.” She stated her decision, determination flowing through her though her face failed to express.

“But I am confused about this man you speak of, Kiiro. What exactly does he want from me? Does he simply want to kill me? Or does he want the special gift you said I had?”

She had been trying to figure out what Kiiro wanted but still did not see what he could possibly want from her. She could only understand if he wanted to kill Shadow and her, other than that it was beyond her. Could they want her pet, Sora? She glanced at her pet well hidden in the shadows of the trees.

“Master had said that it was better to know what your enemy wanted before they strike so that you would be prepared and necessary precautions could be taken.” She explained, her sights back on Shadow.

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Shadow kept his eyes on her through her questions and then looked away towards the fire to think for a moment. He considered her confusion and then decided that it was only natural for her to be confused.

"... Kiiro most likely is interested in the gift you bear. It's a special gift that I've only seen on two other people in my life. However, I would tread cautiously with questions about this gift if I were you. If Kiiro truly sees it for what it is, then you have serious problems. If Kiiro sees it as nothing more than a means to an end, then you'll be safe from him for a time. I doubt that he recognizes it for what it truly is, but still we should be prepared for either situation."

With that, he stood up and kicked the fire, dousing it with his boots into the dirt before looking back to her. In the moonlight, he was still plainly visible despite his black outfit. Had the moon been hidden, he would have been nigh impossible to see. He looked over to Mayumi, red eyes glowing like small red jewels, casting a faint red hue into the air around them without the fire to hide it. The red spheres hovered for a moment just passed Mayumi's head, looking into the forest behind her, then found their way to her own eyes once again.

"It is time." He said quietly.

"Now, disappear into the mountains to the North and meet me at the location I gave you. I expect to see you there in no less than three days time though it is typically a five day journey with the route I described. Consider this your first leg of training, though it will be by far your easiest. No go..." He said before turning half way towards the West.

"And before I forget, keep your bird out of reach for the time being. I don't want you relying on her for directions. You'll find this place on your own in three days, or you won't find me waiting for you at all. You'll have your time to train with the bird ahead, but for now tell her to stay out of reach." He said before he turned his back completely.

"Good luck." He said before disappearing into the forest.

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She watched him disappear into the forest, in which the moment he left felt familiar metal talons descend their weight upon her right shoulder. Mayumi turned to face her accomplice, its dark keen eyes focused on hers as was hers focused on it, showing their strong bond and understanding of each other in that short moment.

“Go fill your needs and meet me in the greeneries outside the southern gate of Shieg 3 days from now.” She instructed.

With a nod of it’s head, Sora flew off into it’s freedom of 3 days. Once Sora was out of sight, Mayumi got to work, disposing off any evidence of her existence but left the corpse where it was for it wasn’t hers to deal with. All was done under a minute.

Bearing shadow’s words in mind, she lifted her cloak’s hood over her head concealing her identity and set off at medium pace into the shadows of the forest. She headed north like Shadow said and sure enough, she could see the figure heads of mountains.

‘Should be able to reach by noon.’ She estimated.

Clearing her mind of thoughts, she blended in with the atmosphere around her and continued her travel, her guard up as usual never failing to maintain, while observant eyes scanned their surroundings as they travelled deeper into the forest.

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Traveling at great speed Shadow ran over boulders, through the tress, and even swam under water on his journey to Shielg. The city was small, barely four thousand people, but none the less a haven for those who didn't want to be found. The surrounding countryside was littered with dense woodlands and jagged mountains just to the east at the edge of the Great Mountain Range which split the continent in half down the middle. Shadow found his destination within twenty hours of traveling from the moment he left the young woman behind to find it on her own using the route he gave her.

Deliberately giving her the long route enabled Shadow to find the best possible location to train her without interference from the outside world, and also gave him time to scout the area to ensure that it was safe beyond the shadow of a doubt. Though nowhere was truly 100% safe from Te'i Sai, anything was better than being out in the open.

Shadow walked the entire perimeter of the small city in less than two hours and scouted for several more as the sun began to set on the end of this day. His eyes adjusted to the lowered light levels and his vision began to increase in efficiency. Truly, it was one of the few true gifts which Te'i Sai had given him. His glowing red eyes took in ambient light on a level only accessible to cats and other nocturnal animals. While he saw perfectly during the day, his vision was even better at night.

He found the location about two miles to the southwest of the city's Southern Gate and set up a marker for himself by sticking one of his poison tip needles into the bark of a tree. From tip to tip, the needle was covered in a concentrated hemotoxin which targeted the blood of its victims and could also melt flesh if external exposure were to go untreated for more than about half an hour. Shadow's gloves defended his skin from the effects, but never the less he was already on his way to the river to wash them.

After rinsing his gloves and returning to the desired location, Shadow began to look around and saw several unique and well developed opportunities for pushing the girl to her absolute limits. The mountain trails were her morning jog, the forest her jungle gym, the rocks were weights, and the ground her bed for the next full month once she arrived. Shadow used the entirety of the night to set up specific areas for use and then sat down as the dawn approached on the final day before her expected arrival. Shadow sat down in the center of his training ground and crossed his legs as he closed his eyes and prepared to meditate. His own training would be slowed by teaching this young would-be Assassin, but never the less he would bear with it and train on his own when her time was done.

"I hope you're ready..." He said quietly before beginning his meditation.

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Shadow's meditation took a total of three hours to complete, which was unusually short for him but there were other things on his mind that would not rest. He opened his eyes and stood up from his spot in the center of the small clearing and looked back towards the city as he decided it was time once again to check his body for any signs of deterioration. It was a constant struggle for Shadow to maintain his strength and agility when he did not have access to the facilities of an organization like Tei' Sai, but it was not impossible.

After a jog back to the village he broke into one of the first houses he found and saw a large mirror in one of the bedrooms. It would do nicely for his purposes, so he took off his shirt and jacket and his vambraces and gloves. He stood perfectly erect in front of the mirror, checking his muscle tone and size from the front, both sides, and the back. Shadow's most prominent muscle groups in his torso were his pectoral muscles, the latissimus dorsi, and abdominal muscles. The muscle groups that were slightly less prominent, but none the less noticeable, were the serratus muscles, the obliques, and the trapezius muscles.

Shadow's arms were well defined as well, with the deltoids, triceps, biceps, extensor muscles and radialis muscles all holding a relatively equal tone quality all throughout his arms. He was slightly unsatisfied with his serratus muscles and his obliques not being equal to the rest of his torso, and so he decided that it would not be a bad idea to focus on them for a while. While he always worked every muscle group in his body during training, working certain muscles more than others was common for anyone and everyone due to the difference in size of the group, functionality in their chosen field of work, and other limitations. Shadow saw no limitations and knew that if his muscles weren't all in perfect equality that he would fall out of balance and his body would reach limits sooner rather than later.

That was the main problem with most who used extreme workout routines. They all either focused too heavily on one group at a time, one group, period, tried to balance but didn't pay enough attention to how to do that, or thought they could balance everything with awkward and impractical workout routines. Almost all of these mistakes were all too common in the world today, and Shadow held an extreme distaste for those who claimed to have an "unorthodox workout regime that kept them in peak form". Unorthodox workout routines were dangerous, unstable, and not worth the trouble they caused on the body.

Shadow replaced his clothing and left the house, choosing to study his lower body muscles at a different time and place. His legs were the most powerful muscles in his body, there was no disputing that fact. Shadow could life men twice his weight from an unconscious, dead weight, position on the floor over six feet into the air by kicking them with one leg. He could stop animals in excess of three times his weight from jumping at him by using both legs as a springboard to knock them backwards. It was one of the reasons he'd survived encounters with Devil Wolves in the past. He knew that he didn't need to worry about his legs at the present time, though they would need to be checked soon in the near future.

When he returned to the training grounds he removed his jacket and shirt once again, but left his vambraces and gloves on as he looked around and saw what he was looking for. Two large but still accessible boulders to the side underneath a large tree would serve the purpose of weight training. He picked one of them up with both hands and tested its weight, guessing it was about forty to forty five pounds. The boulder was about a foot wide and eight to ten inches deep with some substantial weight to it for something that small, which led him to believe it was a leftover from one of the quarries in the mountainside that was dumped during a shipment. He took it with him to the center of the clearing and began to lift and turn with the rock in hand, focusing on movements that would target his obliques first as they were larger and easier to target than the serratus muscles. Simple overhead stretch routines served the purpose well, as the obliques moved in sequence with the upper body and could not be moved or rotated on their own.

Working like this for a period of approximately thirty minutes, Shadow was decently satisfied he'd gotten used to the weight as his obliques and even his lats were starting to burn a little bit. He put the smaller rock down and picked up the other, slightly larger rock from the tree and guessed it to be around sixty to sixty five pounds which would work well. He resumed this stretching and rotating routine for another half an hour, and when he found that it was becoming difficult to rotate at all from the strain on his muscles he was satisfied that there was no further need to do so. He put the two boulders away by the tree again and stretched out without them for ten minutes, letting his muscles relax and flex back and forth to get the blood flowing again as he started thinking about what he would do for training himself when his new protege arrived.