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i realize this isnt very origanal at all, but im trying to use some previously failed ideas and make them work, positive feedback and constructive criticism is much appreciated, if you just plain don't like it, go read something else
Everything was a blur… I could hear a wind blowing through the trees… I opened my eyes everything was blurry. But I could tell I was in a forest…I faded out of consciousness… I heard a voice… sounded female but I couldn’t tell what she was saying.
When I woke up next I was in a bed in a room I’d never seen before. I sat up and looked around. The window was letting in enough light to see everything in the room, there wasn’t much a wooden dresser, a table with some candles placed on it along with a pair of clothes. The door opened and a young girl stepped through, holding a plate of food and a cup. “Oh good, you’re awake.” She smiled.
“Yeah… um… where… where am I?” She placed the food and drink on the table beside the bed.
“You’re in my home; my mother found you in the woods outside the village… passed out.”
“Oh.” She had long dark hair and a cute face; she couldn’t have been older than sixteen and was wearing a simple green cotton dress.
“So… What’s your name?” she asked.
“My name is…My name is…” I couldn’t remember…I couldn’t remember anything… “I… can’t remember.”
“If you don’t want to tell me it’s okay, you don’t have to make up an excuse.” She sounded a bit offended, but was obviously trying to hide it.
“No, really I can’t remember my name… I can’t… remember anything.” Who… who am I?
“Really… well… what were you doing in the woods?”
“I don’t know… actually, why was your mother in the woods when she found me?”
“She was looking for ingredients… she’s an alchemist.”
“Yeah, she makes medicine and potions. We’ve… probably helped every family in the village at least once in the last year.”
“Yes… well… I have chores to get back to… Stay here and rest, see if you can remember anything, I’ll tell mother how you’re doing.”
“My name is Saichi by the way.”
“Oh sorry I… guess I forgot to ask.” She smiled and walked out. As I ate the food she’d left and tried to think and remember… something… anything… but nothing came… I fell asleep shortly after that.
As I slept I dreamt a bit I guess, I couldn’t remember most of it when I woke up, but I remembered hearing a name… I guess it was my name… When I woke up, it was morning. I got out of bed and put on the clothes on the table, a pair of well-fitting cotton pants and a slightly tight, dark blue long sleeve shirt… and some… armor? There was some light metal armor underneath the clothes, a chest plate and two Vambraces. There was also a pair of plated boots under the table. I left the armor where it was. I left the room and walked out to the small hallway to an open room, the living room I guessed. The house was relatively small, but it had a cozy feel to it the furniture was mostly wood, carved, but well made. There was a stone fire place with sizable stacks of wood placed on either side.
I could hear the sounds of dishes being moved coming from a doorway, there was a lot of sunlight flooding through when I walked through the doorway. I saw a woman by the sink. For a moment I thought she was Saichi, she looked very similar to her but then I realized that she was significantly older. “Um… good… good morning.” She turned and smiled.
“Oh, good morning dear.”
“You’re Saichi’s mother, yes?”
“I am, come, sit.” She gestured to a small dining table.
“Thank you.” I sat down at the table and she brought me some water and food. Then she went to continue with the dishes she had been cleaning.
“Thank you… for… well everything”
“It’s quite alright dear, though if it’s okay with you I’d like to ask you a few things.”
“…Alright, I’ll answer… what I can.”
“Thank you dear.” After I finished with my food, (It was a bit cold; I guess I slept through breakfast.) And she’d finished with her work; she came and sat across from me.
“Saichi told me that you said you couldn’t remember anything, is that right?”
“Yes… though I have remembered one thing… At least I think I have. My name… I couldn’t answer Saichi when she asked for it yesterday… but I guess I remembered it while I slept…”
“So what is it dear?”
“My name… My name is Nao.”
“You don’t sound sure of that…”
“Do you remember your sir name?”
“No, just my given”
“Oh… do you remember anything else? Like if you have any relatives, or where your home might be?” I thought hard for a bit and tried to remember but couldn’t.
“No… Sorry I don’t.” there was a long silence.
Then she asked, “Did you used to be a soldier or a knight?”
“That armor that was under your clothes in your room… You were wearing it when I found you.”
“Oh… It was mine? I didn’t recognize it.”
“Yes, you also had a sword. It’s by the closet in your room.” There was a long silence as I thought about whom I might have been and why I would have needed these things “Do you have anywhere to go? Do you know what you’re going to do?”
“No… I’d like to know who I was and… why I had those things… But…” where would I start?
She smiled gently. “Well, you may stay here if you wish, at least at least until things get settled and you decide on what to do.”
I smiled “Thank you ma’am, thank you so much.”
She smiled. “You’ll have to pull your weight around here though, work like the rest of us.”
“Of course… wait… rest of us… are there more here than just you and Saichi?”
“Well… No… My husband is off fighting in the army…” She seemed troubled by the question, so I didn’t press questions about him, but it got me curious. Fighting? Army? Was there a war? I guess I’ll ask Saichi later.
“Um… this may sound like a strange question… but what country are we in?”
“You don’t know?” I shook my head, “You’re in Rokneer”
“Rokneer… where is that?”
“I think we have a map around here somewhere.” She got up to look for it and returned briefly after, with it. She laid out the map on the table, “This is Rokneer.” She pointed to a small land locked country dotted with lakes and a bit to the east of the map, which was mostly land masses, so it must have been a map of just the continent “And this is where we are.” She pointed to an empty place in Rokneer.
“There’s… nothing there?” she laughed lightly
“Yes, our village is small and relatively recently settled, my husband’s grandfather was still young when this town was settled, but compared to many of the other villages it’s still fairly young.”
“I see.” I studied the map, the countries were all in strange shapes and I had never heard of them, where am I really?
“So… can you remember where you might be from?”
“No, to be honest… I’ve never even heard of these countries.”
“Oh” There was a pause then “Well if you’re going to be staying here it’s time you get to work.” She smiled.
“Oh… sure, no problem.”
“Go out behind the house and help Saichi tend the garden, would you dear?”
“Sure… oh… um… what should I call you?”
“Ah, I forgot to introduce myself, you can call me Mrs. Yuuki”
“Okay, well I’ll get going on the garden.” She nodded, got up and walked off to the other room; I went back to my own and put on my plated boots and walked outside. I walked out the door; the sun was hot and blinding, as my eyes adjusted to the bright light I noticed the village around me. There where houses around, they were all made of logs and had thick straw roofs. The land was flat enough that I could see most of the village from where I was. There were a few particularly large building around, I assumed they were shops, as I made my way around the house, I saw the garden, I was expecting to see crops, but it looked more like a flower garden, with all kinds of strange assorted plants, there was a small fence around the entire thing, it looked like it was made out of branches rather then cut wood. A bit strange but I didn’t think much of it, there was a small gate not far from the side of the house, I walked through and noticed Saichi as she tended to the plants.
She turned her head and smiled at me, “hey there stranger, how are you feeling?” I smiled.
“Better, your mother told me to come help you with the garden.”
“Well then I could use the help, could you fill this pail with water? There’s a small stream just beyond the garden.”
“Sure.” I went as instructed and found the stream. There were flowers growing on the sides of it and bugs buzzing about, there also seemed to be a strange… glowing to the water. As I examined the stream I noticed that though the stream was several feet deep I could see straight to the bottom and that the water was almost perfectly clear. The bed of the stream was slightly reflective and the light bounced back up through the water. When I returned I asked Saichi about it, she said that she didn’t know much about it but that she had always found it beautiful. I agreed. “What are all of the plants?” I asked. There were all kinds of strange plants in the garden, some were magnificent flowers, some frankly looked like black shriveled shrubs, and some actually looked like miniature trees. She tended to each of them with a different method.
“They’re different ingredients for my mother’s alchemy recipes.”
“Yeah, she taught me to grow all of them.”
“Wait, you grew all of this yourself?”
“No, but I’ve been helping mother with them for as long as I can remember. I started tending to them myself a few years ago.” There was a pause as I examined some of the different plants, when I touched a purple one with a white stem, the white stuck to my finger. It was sticky and smelled strong enough to make me sneeze. Saichi laughed at me.
“Ugh, what is this? It smells so familiar.”
She smiled. “It’s lavender.”
“Oh so this is what lavender looks like. It’s used in alchemy?”
“Yeah, it helps with fatigue and nervousness when used properly.”
“Hmh, I didn’t know that.”
“Yep” She went on tending the plants and gave me instructions on what I could do to help. She even taught me how to take care of a few of the easier ones. Honestly I couldn’t memorize most of it, but it was an interesting experience.
Eventually she asked “So did you ever decide on a name for yourself?”
“Yeah… I guess I remembered it last night…”
“You guess? Are you sure or not?’
“No, not really”
“Well what is it?”
“My name is… Nao… At least I think it is.”
“Hmh, what is your sir name?”
“I… Don’t know…”
“Hmh, well, it’s nice to meet you Nao,” she smiled, “I’m Saichi Yuuki.” I smiled.
“Nice to meet you.” When she finished, it was nearly sunset.
“Alright, it’s time to head in.”
“Alright” We headed inside; Mrs. Yuuki had gotten dinner ready. After we ate I went on a walk around the village. Saichi decided to show me around.
We walked outside, the sun just over the horizon. She showed me where the shops were and the local inn. “So… How old are you?” She asked.
“Well, you don’t look much older than me, so I was curious.”
“Oh…” I thought for a moment… eventually a number came to mind, “I’m… I’m seventeen.”
“Ah, I figured you were about that.”
“Hmh” There was a pause; we were walking back to the house. “Oh… um… Your mother said I could… stay at your house for a bit until I get some memories back… Or decide what I am going to do.”
“…Are you… Okay with that?”
“Did you think I wouldn’t be?”
“No… well… maybe, I wouldn’t think most people would be.” She smiled.
“Hmh, well, you seem like a nice guy, and we could use the help around the house and on errands, so it’s fine.” I smiled I was lucky to have met such nice people. We went inside and parted to our rooms. It took me a while, with so many things on my mind, but eventually I fell asleep.
When I woke, I was on the verge of screaming, was I having a nightmare? I couldn’t remember. In any case, I was glad that I didn’t actually scream. I wouldn’t want Saichi and her mom worrying about me anymore than I’m sure they already do.
Over the next month, I continued to stay with Saichi and her mother, I helped around the house, tended the garden with Saichi, ran a few errands, I even met the local Blacksmith. He showed me a few of his best swords, even let me hold one… when I took it in my hand… it felt right like my muscles knew exactly what to do with it… It scared me a bit so I gave it back quickly.
In the next few days, Mrs. Yuuki introduced me to a friend of hers, a hunter named Jin. “You ever been hunting boy?” he asked in a thick accent, though I couldn’t place where the accent might be from. He was quite large, tall, thickly built, and he had a tough face. His long red hair was tied back in a horse tail.
“No… I don’t think so.”
“What? Every good man should know how to hunt. Do you even know how to shoot a bow?”
“…No…” He looked like I had just said something ridiculous. There was a long pause.
“Would you mind if I brought the boy along with me on the next few hunting trips? He needs to learn to survive on his own.” Mrs. Yuuki smiled.
“Not at all, I think he should learn as well.”
Over the next few weeks I spent my time either helping Saichi with chores or out hunting with Jin. He taught me how to shoot a bow with accuracy and how to skin animals, I still wasn’t too great at it, but I’m still learning. I still wondered who I was… Who I am… Why I’m here, pretending to ignore my curiosity…I don’t know, I’m still curious… but it’s nice here, I like these people, and I’m happy just to know I have a home… Sort of… without these people I would probably be… off lost somewhere… or long dead.
It had been a month since I started hunting with Jin. We were out in the woods hunting deer and hare. I had figured out a trick of hiding in the trees, making me harder for animals to detect when I am still. I spotted a hare and lined up my shot… I missed, but only just. “Not a bad shot, boy.” He seemed amused.
“Hey, I almost got it, and my name’s Nao.” He chuckled.
“I’ll stop calling you boy when you can shoot better than me.”
“I’ll take that challenge.” I went back up into my tree. I climbed a bit higher so that I could see over the trees. When I looked back at the village, what I saw horrified me. There were large pillars of smoke coming up from where the village was. “JIN!”
“What is it boy?”
“THE VILLAGE… IT’S BURNING!” I jumped from the tree and fell to the ground, when I hit the dirt I expected the landing to be painful, but we had to get back to the village as soon as possible. The strange thing was, it didn’t hurt. While I was in the air my body reacted on its own. Like it had done things like this many times before and it knew just what to do, and I landed painlessly. Strange… but I didn’t have time to think about it. Jin and Iran full speed back to the village. As we approached the city, the woods became clouded with smoke. It burned our eyes and lungs, but we pressed on. We arrived at the gate of the village or what was left of it anyway.
The gate was almost entirely destroyed, one of the poles had burned through and collapsed, the remaining support and the beam above had fallen and continued to burn. From inside the village, what I could hear terrified me. I could hear swords clanging in what was probably combat, along with the screams and crying of women and children, but the smoke was thick and burned my eyes. I couldn’t see most of what was going on. I drew the hunting knife Jin had given me and ran into the village. We found a few survivors and Jin guided them out. I ran ahead to find Saichi and Mrs. Yuuki. When I found Saichi, she had a sword in hand, and was fighting a soldier of some sort. He was clad in armor and chain mail, with garments of crimson and white. Her form was poor and she was losing the fight. When I saw she was in danger, something in my mind and body clicked, I had to save her. I took my knife and threw it at the soldier. Again my body reacted perfectly and the knife hit him in the throat, through a weak spot between his chain mail and helmet. Where did I get these skills? I didn’t have time to think about it. I ran over to Saichi. “Are you alright!?” She was breathing heavily how long had she been fighting?
“I’m… I’m fine, how did… how did you do that?” I didn’t know honestly myself.
“No time, Where’s your mother?” She coughed probably choking on the smoke.
“She’s… She’s farther into the village, she was in the market… when the attacked.”
“Alright go back towards the gate and find Jin, I’ll go find her.”
“No… I’m going too.”
“You’ll just be putting yourself in danger!”
“I don’t care! She’s my mother!” Stubborn girl
There was a moment of silence “Fine but stay close to me, and if we get attacked, no matter what happens, you run. Understand?” She gave me an irritated glare, and then nodded. “Alright, come on.” We ran onward towards the market. She did her best to keep up. The smoke got thicker as we neared the center of town.
We arrived in the market. The smoke so thick we could hardly see most of it, but the clanging of sword, cries and screams continued all around. The wind picked up and blew away some of the smoke. Through a moment of clarity, I saw Mrs. Yuuki… protecting a group of kids from a soldier. He was clearly of higher ranking than the others, wearing armor and a garment clearly more complicated than the others. Mrs. Yuuki was putting herself between the children and the soldier.
“Go, run!” she screamed at the children.
“But… Mrs. Yuuki…”
“GO!” she commanded. The children nodded and fled as they were told, infuriating the soldier.
“Mrs. Yuuki!” I called. She looked at me, fear was in her eyes, but there was also something else. Resolve, she knew what was going to happen.
“Go, get out of here!” she yelled
“No!” I set my aim on the soldier.
“Shut up already you b****!” pure arrogance in his voice. He lifted his sword to strike her down.
As I watched, time slowed down. I threw the knife; he was ready and dodged it, but only just. The knife cutting some of the thin chain mail on the edge of his neck. Then… he slashed Mrs. Yuuki through the shoulder, the blade stopped at her mid-section. Mrs. Yuuki screamed… and so did Saichi.
… Why… Why did all this happen… Why did she have to die…. These are all good, kind people… why do they all have to suffer… because of you, YOU BASTURDS!!!! I could feel a rage growing, burning inside, consuming me. A need for justice… I called it justice, but maybe it was just simple revenge, either way, it didn’t matter, they deserved to die for what they'd done to everyone… to Mrs. Yuuki. “grrRAAAAH” I snapped, I moved. In a blink I was in front of the man, gripping his head with a strength I didn’t know I had. Before he even had time to react, I smashed his face into the ground, crushing his head into a bloody mess. I was losing myself to the rage, becoming more like a wild animal then a person.
I didn’t care. When I looked down at my hand, my entire body had been engulfed in a translucent black flame. I could also feel something was different about my teeth… fangs? My upper and lower canine teeth had lengthened noticeably. I still didn’t care, didn’t have time to think about what I was becoming, my rage burned like the flames consuming me, they all had to pay!!! Something, a presence, guided my body. I held out my hand in front of me and an energy shot through it. The sword, the one I had been found with, crashed through my window and shot through the air toward my hand point first. I skimmed my hand over the top of the sheath as it flew by caught it by the hilt. The sheath kept going and embedded itself in the ground, the sheer force of the impact made the dirt around it scatter, leaving a small crater. As I tightened my grip on the sword, it to, erupted in with the black flames engulfed my body. I held the double edged backward and kept it held back, the blade almost parallel to the back of my arm, the larger side of the guard facing away from me. Then… the presence told me something… I didn’t hear what it said; rather, I felt what it was telling me to do. It wanted me to kill, and so did the sword, I could feel it calling, begging me to use it, begging for a taste of blood.
Through my rage… I heard Saichi say my name…I knew she was staring at me… I couldn’t bear to look up at her… I thought ‘she must be terrified of the monster I've become’ “Saichi…” I said through a demonic, layered voice, like another, deeper, jagged voice overlapping my own “get... somewhere safe. Find… Jin.” I could feel my rage growing again.
“Nao…” she sounded… not scared… but concerned.
“GO!” I roared. I swung the sword, dark flames traveling with it, the pressure clearing the smoke. I saw tens of soldiers in the distance, either fighting the few village men who could defend themselves, or slaughtering the others.
I pushed off the ground and leapt at least thirty feet into the air, almost like I was flying, and came down hard on a soldier, stabbing my sword through his shoulder strait down into his body. The flesh where the blade had touched blackened and cracked, the cracks glowing like embers. The man looked as though he was screaming, but no cry rang. All that came out was blood and ash. His entire body ignited with the same black flame that had engulfed me. He screamed, this time managing a small cry. He burned away to nothing more than a pile of ash in but a moment. His cry had attracting the attention of the surrounding soldiers. They all just stared at me, and I at them, looks of horror on all but one of their faces. The last looked frightened, yet puzzled. A look of realization and absolute terror struck him.
“General… general Garret? No, you're dead; you’re supposed to be dead! KILL IT, KILL THE DEMON!!!!”
Though terrified, most listened to him, stepping towards me, weapons raised. A few tried to run. ‘NONE OF YOU ARE GETTING AWAY WOTH THIS, YOU ALL HAVE TO PAY!!!’ I leapt and dashed in front of the fleeing soldiers, there in an instant, even though they were tens of meters away. I slashed the closest soldier from his right shoulder to his left hip, cutting him in two with ease, blood immediately spraying out of him. Like the last, the area around the cut blackened and cracked. He ignited and burned away to ash in less than a second. I spotted the next coward and moved on. Even faster then before, I was there in a moment, slashed him, and moved on to the next, one after another; they too, all burned away.in all there had been about seven that had tried to run, and now thy were nothing more the scattering piles of ash.
I had finished with the cowards, now to finish the rest of the basturds off. I chose a random soldier from the large group that had been watching me, preparing to even remotely try to defend themselves. I moved, faster than they could see, and stabbed him through the stomach, ripping my blade out through his side. Blood sprayed everywhere, on the ground, on his fellow soldiers… all over me. He burned and crumbled to ash. The other soldiers quickly formed a circle around me, determined to kill me and spare their own lives. They came at me one after another. I cut down each as they attacked. They quickly started attacking me in numbers. Eventually, one was able to pierce me through the back and out through my stomach. I could feel every inch as ran through, the blade emerging just left of my naval. As I staggered, more came, running me through one after another in various places. I could feel every one of them. The pain excruciating as each one ripped through my flesh and embedded itself in me. I thought I might pass out from the pain but it strengthened my anger and rage. I could feel a missive amount of energy building up inside. The dark flames around me darkened and grew. I let it out, the flames exploded; a massive force of pressure and wall of black flame traveled outward, killing and burning most of the group around me. The swords were ejected from me by the sheer force of the explosion, my body quickly healing and closing the wounds they left. They flew outward and impaled the few soldiers who had survived the blast. I looked around… one… two… three survivors, and the one who had called me general garret, crawling out from under the bodies of his comrade.
I quickly finished off the few who had survived, then looked at the one who had apparently recognized me. As I approached him, he started crying. I stabbed my sword into the ground; I wanted to kill him with my own bare hands. He fell to his knees and pleaded with me to spare him. I laughed “I have no mercy for the weak.”… Wait… what? Those weren’t my words… weren’t my thoughts, just how much of a monster had I become? What was this presence that had a hold over me?
I grabbed the soldier by the throat and lifted him off the ground, his flesh turning black where I touched “Die” I punched him in the stomach, breaking his lower ribs and probably rupturing some of his organs. I threw him against a building and started beating him. He was little more than a bloody mess after just a few punches… but I just kept beating him.
I was losing myself to the violence, I just kept laying into him “die die die DIE DIE DIE!!!” then I felt something I wasn’t expecting. A soft pair of arms wrapped around my chest from behind, and I felt a gentle figure press against my back.
“That’s enough, Nao”
It was Saichi. A bolt of fear shot through me, I was a monster, was still burning. What if the flames hurt her? What if her skin blackened and died at my touch like the soldiers had? I pushed her off and leapt away. Thank the gods, she was unscathed by the flames.
“Nao…” her face and tone were full of concern.
I looked down at my bloody, burning hands. What a demon I’d become. “Saichi…I’m…I'm sorry.”
“Nao… its ok now… the fights over… everything's ok now.” She said trying to calm me down. We both knew she was wrong, nothing was ok…. nor would it be for quite a while… if ever. I could feel tears burning at my eyes, as I remembered Mrs. Yuuki… but I didn’t let them fall. Right now I had to fight this monster I had become, if I didn’t, the presence that had a hold on me might make me hurt Saichi. The presence was still telling me ‘kill…kill’ and because I wouldn’t, it tried to move my body for me. I could feel my muscles trying to move against my will, taking all my strength to keep them in place.
‘Kill… kill more… kill her’ the voice commanded.
“NNOOOO!!!” I screamed, struggling to get control of my body.
A wave of concern and fear, not of me, but for me, washed over Saichi's face. I looked into her eyes and could see my own reflected in them. They were glowing a dark, malevolent yellow.
“Saichi…I'm sorry… stay…” I backed away “stay away from me!” though it took all the strength and will I had; I managed to get control of my body. I fled into the forest. I had to get away from her and get myself under control before I hurt an innocent… before I hurt her.
I had to be rid of this power. I ran as far as I could, boy still burning before the demon tried to take over my body again. I… I need to get rid of this power, get as much of it out as possible. I did the first thing that came to mind, I collected and forced as much of the flame and energy flowing through me and condensed it, the black flames around me darkening and growing like before, but much more intensely than before. I let the power go, the black flames exploding with hundreds of times more force than before, ripping trees out from their very roots and tossing them gods knows how far. When it was over, I stood and looked around, none of the trees that were left were alight and the dark flames around me were all but gone. A massive wave of fatigue hit me, and I passed out.
I opened my eyes; it was black all around, and… I… I couldn’t feel my body, Iike I was nothing, just… there. In the darkness… I saw a face slowly faded into view… it had dark black hair, pale skin, and sharp features… it was my face… but at the same time it wasn’t, the features were sharper than mine and the seemed to have an… anger about it, even though he made no expression.
Its eyes shot open, dark yellow and glowing like mine had been, glaring at me. “You can’t escape me that easily.” It hissed in the same demonic, layered voice that had been mine, smiling a wicked, twisted smile.
“What?” it didn’t respond, just vanished into the darkness again. I felt something… heat, intense heat, burning me. I looked down, though it didn’t feel like it, there was the rest of my body, and then the pain hit me, burning, turning me to ash. I felt my flesh blacken and crack, the cracks spewing out fire. I thrashed about in the pain, trying to put myself out, but to no avail. As the blackening and cracks were about to completely consume me… I heard a voice.
“Wake up… please… wake up Nao.”
My eyes shot open and I instantly sat up. I was in a small crater, probably from when I let out the energy. Reminded of that, memories of what had happened flooded my mind. Mrs. Yuuki was gone… I’d never see her again, never be able to talk to her again. The things I’d done today… the people I've killed… I felt a wave of guilt wash over me… what I had felt in that dream… is that what it had felt like when I killed those men? Oh god, what had I done. My head fell into my hands, what had I done?!?
I felt a cold hand on my back. “Nao… are you ok?”
“Saichi... what are you doing here… I told you to stay away from me… I'm a monster.”
“No, you're not, you saved the village… avenged my mother.”
“And I became a... a demon to do it. I killed all those people.”
“… It had to be done, they would have killed everyone.”
“I’m dangerous. I told you to stay away… why didn’t you?”
“I'm not scared of you.”
“No… but you should be… because I am…” lightning flashed in the distance and thunder rolled through a few seconds later, It began to rain.
“If this ever happens again... what if I hurt you… what if I hurt an innocent.”
“How are you sure?”
“You’re not a bad person, you couldn’t hurt an innocent person if you wanted to” she smiled at me.
From just that I knew… to smile after all that had happened… that no matter what power I had… or how much I worked… I’d never be as strong as her. I didn’t know if she was right or how she had that much confidence in me… but it managed to cheer me up a bit
“… Come on” I managed to push to my feet, though I still felt exhausted and looking up at the rain as it fell. Maybe this will have put out the fires. “If you stay out here, you'll catch a cold. Let’s get back to the village…” ‘And try to rebuild and salvage what we can.’
She got up and we started heading for the village. Within the first few steps, I started tripping over my own feet; I could barely keep myself upright as it was. Before long I tripped and fell, Saichi caught me and… ended up supporting for quite a while. After about half an hour of walking, the village came into view. The fires had died and the smoke was gone… but the smell of ash and burnt flesh still hung heavy in the air. The damage to the buildings was bad, but manageable. It wouldn’t take too long to rebuild, though… it would take much, much longer for the scars of today to heal.
As we entered the village, the people who were left were quite busy, either burying the dead or repairing their homes however they could. A few welcomed us back and went on with what they were doing… a few shot me a fearful look and quickly turned away.
“Saichi… go check on the house ok… I’ll go… get your mother… we’ll dig her a proper grave tonight.” I said, failing to keep the sadness I felt from showing in my voice.
“… Okay” I could see it in her eyes and hear it in her voice… she was doing even worse than I was… of course she was.
Saichi went off to the house… if there was anything left of it, I couldn’t see from where I was. I went into the market where Mrs. Yuuki had died, on the way finding the sheath to my sword and strapping it onto my back with the harness attached to it. When I got to the market, it wasn’t hard to find her. She hadn’t been moved, but there was a white sheet draped over her body. My eyes burned with tears… but I didn’t let more than a few fall, there was work to do now. There would be time for tears and crying later… for everyone. I lifted her body, clothe and all, from the ground, most of the blood had been washed away by the rain, but what was left still joined the rest of the blood stains on my clothes and dripped as I carried her back to our house.
When I arrived at the house, I breathed a sigh of relief. While the surface of the walls was scorched and bits of the roof had been burn, it was still standing and sound. The logs that made up the walls were still solid and it didn’t look like the fires made it inside. The fire must have started at the other end of town, as the surrounding homes were relatively undamaged as well. I placed her body in the garden, thank the gods, it had been untouched by the fire. And went into the house to see if there was anything I could cover or preserve her with until we had time to dig her grave. When I walked in, I found Saichi, sitting on the couch with her head in her hands.
She looked up at me, eyes red and wet looking, like she had been crying and was about to start again. She took a deep breath, composing herself.
“Sorry, sorry. I’ll get back to helping the others.” She got up and tried to rush out the door. I stopped her, bringing out my arm as she walked past and brought her into a tight hug. She was strong, stronger than me… but no one’s heart in indestructible.
“It’s alright, you’re not alone, we’ll put her to rest her together and say our goodbyes properly… I can’t say I know the pain you're in… but you don’t have to bear it by yourself…”
She just stood there in my arms for a while, both of us in silence, tears quietly streaming from her eyes and face buried in my shoulder. After a while she asked “how did you…”
“I don’t know… just felt like something I should say… maybe something you needed to hear.”
She took in a deep breath and composed herself. I let go and put my hand her shoulder. She smiled a gently at me. “Thank you, Nao.” I smiled at her and nodded. She walked out the door.
“Go find Jin and see if there’s anything the others need our help with.” I called as she left. She nodded back at me and was off. I left soon as well, after covering Mrs. Yuuki's body more thoroughly and went to find Saichi and Jin. The rain cleared after a few hours, we finished helping what with we could, repairing structures or bringing supplies. I had also found my sword; still where I had stabbed it into the ground where I had left it. When I lifted, it did not ignite as it had, but I could still feel its malevolent aura and thirst for blood, so I quickly put it into its sheath on my back. When it was sun set and we had helped as much as we could as time allowed … it was time to put Mrs. Yuuki to rest.
I nodded at Saichi and she nodded back. We left the rest to the others and headed back to the house… to make a proper resting place for Mrs. Yuuki.
“We’ll bury her in the garden…” I said…. It seemed like a good place for her.
“I think she’d like that…” Saichi said through a shaky voice.
“It’ll be ok.” … it was all I could say… but… even I wasn’t sure. We arrived at the house shortly.
“Are you ready for this?” I asked my voice slightly shaky.
“… Yes.” Tears were threatening in her eyes, but she wiped them away and tried to compose herself
I put my hand on her shoulder. “Don’t cry… not until… not until this is over… then… you can let it all out.” She nodded and took a deep breath. We walked into the garden. I picked up Mrs. Yuuki and moved her to the edge of the garden so we could work, picking a spot for her right in front of the prettier flowers of the garden. I dug with my hands and Saichi with a small shovel in one hand that she had used for planting, and the other bare. Most of the tools had ended up lost or burn during the fire. Along with the blacksmiths shop, so we couldn’t get any other tools to use. As we dug… tears burned at my eyes as I thought about saying goodbye. When I looked over at Saichi… her eyes looked wet too. When the hole was done, we eased Mrs. Yuuki into her place, clothe still over her. I didn’t take it off; I didn’t want Saichi to have to see her mother as she was, cut and open. We gently covered her and then… we just stood there before the grave, silently saying our goodbyes. As we finished the grave… it had begun to rain again
I could feel tears streaming down my face “Now… now is the time for tears.” Saichi nodded, tears already streaming down her face as well. I wrapped my arm around her in an attempt to comfort her… neither of us sobbed, or whined, or whimpered… we just stood there in the rain, tears falling and starring at the grave, washing away the sorrow as best we could.
After about half an hour of just… morning… Saichi said “Come on Nao…lets head in… we’ll get sick if we stay out any longer.”
I wanted to reply… but all I could manage was a nod.
We headed inside and changed into some dry clothes, I just put on a short sleeve shirt and some cotton pants I had picked up in the market after I started living here. When I went into the kitchen to make some dinner, Mrs. Yuuki had taught me to make some basic stuff. Saichi was already there, dressed in similar attire to me but the fabrics of her clothes looked much softer than mine. She had assembled some cooking ingredients.
“Dinner will be ready in a bit.”
“Alright, thank you.”
After dinner was done we ate in silence, then Saichi asked something that caught me off guard, but really shouldn’t have.
“Nao… did you know those soldiers?”
“On your armor… I saw the crest on the back of it. It was the same crest as on the garments those soldiers wore, the crest of Demon King.”
A bolt of fear struck through me and my chest tightened. “Do… do you think all this happened… because of me?”
“… Oh… no, I didn’t recognize them, I knew the crest when I saw it only because my armor bore the same crest… maybe I really did use to be a soldier…” what If I was? What if I did things like those soldiers did today, destroying entire villages, with the power I have… it would have been easy… what did I do… who was I?
“Saichi… who is this Demon king you mentioned…”
“The Demon King… is the reason for what happened today, he’s been trying to take over the continent for years now… and he’s winning, most of the western side is his… and it looks like his border has finally made it to us…”
Her mother had said that Saichi's father was in the army… he was probably fighting this demon king. After all that had happened, it probably wasn’t a good idea to question her about him, so I’ll save that matter for later.
“The army on this side is fighting them right? Shouldn’t we have known this was coming?”
“Our army is few and far between, they don’t have time to watch a little village like ours all the time.”
Then I thought of something… something that needed to be asked… part of me really didn’t want to… but part of me knew I had to.
“Saichi… one of the soldiers… I think he recognized me… he called me General Garret… and you found me in armor bearing those basturds symbol… if it turns out I was a soldier… that I was this General Garret…”
“It won’t matter.”
I was flooded by relief, surprise, and confusion all at once.”wh-…what?”
”It doesn’t matter if you were a soldier then… you're Nao now… and Nao’s a good person, Nao spent days with me in the garden and helped Jin hunt…Nao defended our village, our home… Nao saved everyone and avenged my mother… Nao is who you are now, and who I know. That’s what matters.”
I'm sure the relief I felt was visible “Thank you… Saichi.” Though I still wasn’t certain myself about whom I was…or if I would like who I was…. it helped. She smiled at me.
When we finished with dinner I helped Saichi with the dishes and we both retired to our rooms… the house… seemed so quite now… even though it wasn’t particularly loud the before, it was a noticeable change.
As I’d done many times before, I lay in my bed and pondered who I was… but this time I had a lead. Garret, who was he… was I? What kind of person... what kind of soldier? While it looks like he… I was a soldier; it’s hard for me to imagine I was of high ranking. I walked over to my armor, still on the table. It was very light fitting, the metal was relatively thin and the chest plate only large enough to cover ones chest and barely ones shoulders. The vambraces were equally light and thin, though the left was heavier and thicker than the right, meaning the sword was meant to be held in the right hand. I took the chest plate and examined once again the crest on the back, a shield and decorated dragon, same as the garments of the soldiers. With this light of armor, how could I have been a general? All the other higher ranking soldiers had been wearing heavier plated, decorated armor, though none bore the same written design of mine, just precious metals here and there. The design was like silver flames and thorned vines coming, reaching over the armor; though none of the thorns were in face coming out of the armor, they were only in the design… did that mean I had my power before? That they knew of it? I ran my fingers along the lines of the design.
Out of curiosity overcoming my former… fear of the armor, I tried it on. It fit perfectly, the vambraces equally fitting. I noticed a small bulge on the left vambraces, like a tiny bubble half way bulging from the metal, when I put my finger over it, I discovered it actually pushed into the armor, when I pressed on it, the metal around it turned black, the color then spread to the rest of the metal, then to the chest plate and opposite vambraces. I noticed that my plated boots, which were by the door to my room, had also changed. Part of me was perplexed by this, how could this be happen? The other part just found it a bit amusing. Then a thought came to my head, stealth, this armor was used in stealth missions probably... maybe assassinations… but… would a general really be assigned such missions? Not only that… I'm only 17… I think… how could someone of my age attain such high status? I took off the armor and lay down in my bed for a while, trying to come up with answers to what questions I could, or at least theories. After a while, I undressed and blew out the candle on my bedside table… though I knew I wouldn’t sleep, not after all that happened today.
I sat in the dark for hours, eyes closed, but no sleep came. Whenever I started to drift off… I would see the faces of the men id killed… or hear their pain filled screams… or the scene of Mrs. Yuuki's death… playing out before me again. I was constantly jerking awake. I wonder how Saichi's holding up… I'm mean I lost a friend and a care taker… but Saichi… she lost a mother… someone who shed known and loved all her life… it can’t be easy... I meant what I said… I can’t possibly understand what pain she’s in.
As though summoned by thought, Saichi's scream rang out from her room. My eyes snapped open. I stopped thinking and let instinct take over, I leapt out of bed and flew out my door. My right hand had ignited into black flame. I was in Saichi's doorway in a moment.
“Saichi!” my burning hand, though black, let out a dim light that flooded the room.
She sat up “Nao.”
My mind returned and I realized what was happening. “You… you screamed…”
“I'm… I'm fine… I just had a nightmare…”
“Oh… alright… as long as you're ok… I've been having them too.” I looked down at my burning hand; I felt energy moving through my hand, moving with the flame. I willed the energy to stop, cutting it off, like tightening some muscle inside my hand that wasn’t there, restricting the energy flow. The flame slowly died down and extinguished. The room only illuminated by the moonlight, though both of our eyes were already adjusted to the darkness. Saichi looked me up and down, then looked away and blushed. I looked down and realized why, I was only wearing the shorts I used for undergarments.
“Oh… sorry” I stepped out behind the doorway. “Need anything before I go?” of what I could actually provide…
“No… I’ll be fine...”
I started to walk back to my room.
“You said you were having nightmares too… do you want to talk about it?”
I smiled “… shouldn’t I be the one asking you that?” there was a pause… neither of us knew what to say or how to describe what we were feeling “Try to get some sleep… well talk in the morning if you want…” with that I went back to my room and continued the cycle of dozing off only to be haunted by memories. When I did finally manage to get an hour of sleep, it was not a pleasant one. The face from before showed in a fashion similar to before, with me again floating in the darkness. I couldn’t hear what it said, something about the power I had.
When I woke, the sun had just made it above of the horizon and my room was bathed in its red light. I got dressed and left my room, checking on Saichi, she was still sleeping. I grabbed my bow and quiver and left, it was going to be harder to get by from now on, the market was a wreck so the village was probably low on supplies as is. I wanted to get out and catch something for dinner before Saichi and I headed out to help the towns people. I stayed close to the village, afraid something would happen. It was unlikely that the demon kings army would send an investigation of the missing soldiers in only a day after they arrived I'm the village… but I couldn’t shake the thought they might attack again.
I clamed and moved about the trees around the village, though not much was around. The scent of smoke still lingered and had driven off most of the game. After an hour of searching and moving through the trees, I finally spotted a rabbit. It was a good size, but was a ways away, I had to get closer. The tree closest to me in the rabbits direction was close enough to jump to and had thick branches. When I jumped, landing didn’t make too much noise, but the rabbit turned towards to the tree. I didn’t think it could see me through the leaves, but I was perfectly still until it turned back to continue eating. I took my shot, it hit its mark, though the shot wasn’t immediately killing, I could easily finish it off.
When I returned, I strung up the rabbit to bleed and cleaned the blood off my hand in the stream. When I headed inside, Saichi was up and making herself breakfast.
She smiled at me “morning, where have you been?”
“Getting dinner, I figured things… were going to get a bit tough in these next few days, so I went and got food while I could.”
“Hmh… Jin came by while you were out, we’ll go help out after breakfast”
I nodded. After breakfast we went out to aid the town’s people, I worked on repairing the buildings that were damaged, but still standing and gathering food to replace what we were missing. The stores the village had were the first to burn in the fire apparently, so there was little to go around. Saichi and Jin helped salvage and gather resources, or clean up the ashes in another part of the town. Some people still shot me fearful looks, but most people’s attitude towards me was unchanged thankfully.
I kept working as long as I could; when I got home it was well past dark. I looked like Saichi had found the rabbit I caught, there was some food put out on the dining table. I found Saichi sleeping on the couch with a blanket over her. I shook her shoulder gently, “hey…”
Her eyes cracked open “good morning” she said with a sigh.
I smiled down at her “Hey, sorry I'm late.”
She yawned, sat up and stretched “It’s fine.”
“Okay.” I sat down beside her
“I need to talk to you about something.”
“We might… be leaving the village in a few days. Jin says we won’t be able to stay here much longer”
Hearing that, I was a little more relieved than I should have been. I knew we weren’t safe here. I loved this place, but It wasn’t worth sacrificing our lives for… and I knew they were coming… more soldiers were on their way.
“Where will we go?”
“East to the next town for a while, then farther after that.”
‘So were just going to run from these basturds… wonderful’ then a though hit me… that soldier… if he knew who I was, maybe others in the army would too, and maybe even some of the people of the demon kings nation… here was a chance to find out how I was… but to do so, I would have to leave Saichi and Jin. Could I do that? Mrs. Yuuki told me to protect her, and I can’t well do that if I'm off on some adventure… then again… maybe she's safer away from me, that face… that voice… I can still fell their presence somewhere in my mind and soul… they’re clawing to get out… what if they do, and I end up hurting her?
“Hmh? Oh, sorry, lost in thought.”
“Um… nothing… I’ll tell you tomorrow.”
“…okay.” Her voice had a hint of concern.
“Yeah… anyway, you should get to bed, it’s late.”
She yawned “yeah yeah.” then headed for her room.
I ate the food she had left out for me and headed to my room; I fell into bed and pondered my fate. Do I go with Saichi and head east, or do I take my life into my own hands and head for the kingdom?
Along with other things, these thoughts kept me up for quite a while, when I did finally start to drift off… the nightmares came again, the voices, the screams, the faces of the people I've killed… that face… the one of the presence that now haunted my mind. I'm sure if I had actually slept and had to endure it all of hours rather than moments… I would have been driven mad. I woke the next morning exhausted, but managed to get out of bed and get dressed. I walked out to the living room and heard Saichi in the kitchen. I walked in and saw she was cooking.
She turned and smiled “morning.”
Something popped into my mind, how long did we have till we had to pack up and leave? “Hey… Saichi”
“Did… did Jin say when we were leaving?”
She became slightly more somber, she couldn’t be happy to leave the place shed grown up in. “The day after tomorrow…”
“That soon huh…”
“I… no reason, just wondering.” I should have told her what I was thinking, but I was… afraid to, what if she objected? What if she got upset... actually, how was I going to explain any of my would-be plans to her?
“… Ok…” I could tell from her tone, she knew I was hiding something.
After we finished eating I went into the forest to catch dinner while Saichi continued helping Jin. While I felt bad about not helping, Saichi said it was fine and there was little more we could do considering when we were leaving. I guess she was right. During the entire hunting trip, while I tried to focus my body, my mind was agonizing over how to tell Saichi I might not be staying with her and Jin. She was strong, and I didn’t know how much or how little she actually cared about me, but I didn’t think she could handle much more loss… but… I owed Mrs. Yuuki... and owed it to myself and whoever I was, to find the answers about myself, who was I? Was I a merciless soldier? an assassin? A murderer? How many nights had I spent pondering this? How many more nights of sleep would I loose agonizing over not knowing, and the strong possibility that I was a monster, even in my past life. I couldn’t decide, do I be selfish and leave Saichi and Jin behind to find myself, or stay with them, not knowing, forever in their debt for taking care of me, a lost soul… no, I can’t stay with them over sentiment... but I can’t stay indebted to them forever, I have to make my own way, and this was the perfect opportunity to do so… I have to know… to repay Mrs. Yuuki and them for taking care of me for so long. Maybe I'm just making excuses, part of me doesn’t want to leave, I care about Saichi, and Jin, I want to help them… but part of me knows I have to do this, I have to find myself… Saichi… I'm sorry. (Note from author: if the previous paragraph made absolutely no sense, please inform me and I will do my best to properly organize it)
When I returned I had caught a small deer, cleaning it on the spot and carried it back. I strung it up to bleed and dry, then cleaned myself off in the stream and headed inside.
“Welcome back.” Saichi greeted me.
“Yeah… we… we need to talk.”
“I'm… I’m not going east with you and Jin…”
She stood there, staring at me. In disbelief? In sorrow? In anger? I couldn’t tell, she made no expression. “Why… why not?”
“ that soldier knew me, called me a general, which mean I was probably in their army… if I'm ever going to find out who I am, who I was, the answers lie inside the kingdom… I need to go… to find out for my sel-“
“And what about me and Jin and everyone else! Are you just going to leave us behind!” she was angry, tears were burning in her eyes
“You know I don’t want to, but I have to. I owe this to your mother; you and she have taken care of me for so long with me giving little in return, if I never find who I was, it will have been in vain.”
She stood there, glaring at me for a while
“I'm sorry… but I need answers, I need to know.”
“I just lost the only family I had, and now you're going to leave me too!?” tears were streaming from her eyes
“If… if you're going, then I am too!”
“If you're going to the kingdom, I'm going with you.”
“No… no you're not.”
“Yes I am!”
“No you're not!” what was she thinking? The kingdom was probably crawling with soldiers, and if they found out where we were from, they'd be after us, I could fight, I could handle myself, but I wasn’t sure of my own ability to protect her, to bring her would almost certainly end in her injury.
“Because it’s dangerous! Mrs. Yuuki told me to protect you!”
“Then why are you so willing to leave!?”
“Because!... because I'm dangerous too… and you're better off away from me…” I'm a monster, and I could still feel that… presence… it still wanted out, wanted out, it was weak right now, I could easily keep it under control, but I was constantly hear its growls in my mind, who knows when I might lose control again. If I did… and I hurt Saichi… I don’t think I could live with myself. I could barely live with myself now, with the lives id taken still haunting me when I closed my eyes.
“Nao… that’s wrong and you know it.”
“No… I can feel it, that… thing, wanting out… wanting to hurt you… I can’t trust myself.”
“You’re not coming and that’s final… I can’t… I can’t let you get hurt because of me… I know this is a selfish path… but I need to know…”
She didn’t respond… she just stormed off to her room, anger in her face and tears in her eyes. When this is all over, I’ll have to apologize to her. I went back to my room to prepare what I would need… actually, now that I think about, where am I going? I'm going to have to get an updated map; something told me the one Mrs. Yuuki showed me was well out of date. Maybe I’ll ask Jin later if he could help me. I got my things together, what few I had anyway. My bow, quiver, some tougher clothing I could use as travel clothes. I looked over at the armor I had kept on the table, picking it up and examining it once again. It would be useful to have some form of protection on the road, though the insignia could be a problem, I could put clothe on over it like, but even then if one did manage to see it, it could cause problems, maybe I could hammer it flat? Or at least make it indistinguishable. I wonder if the black smith still has a hammer I can borrow. I looked over at my sword, since that day in the market; I had kept it at the side of my closet and hadn’t touched it since… I… I didn’t want to take it with me, but I may need its power in the future. Maybe I’ll find another sword or such I can use instead, and only use that one in emergencies. If I was right about how my apparent skills worked, it didn’t matter what sword I use. Maybe the black smith still had one lying around. Though from how little there was to go around right now, maybe I should let the towns folk have it, I'm sure the journey to… wherever they were going couldn’t be easy even if we were in friendly territory, so I should leave what they have left to them. They need it much more than I do.
After packing everything I thought I’d need that I wouldn’t be able easily obtain on the road I went to bed to at least attempt sleep. To no avail, I was kept up for quite some time. I still was haunted by the ghosts of the men I killed, part of me knew it was necessary that I had, but part of me just couldn’t forget. When I did finally did manage to doze off, I had a strange dream.
I was on a large circular metal platform, floating in the darkness, I at one end, and the… the face, whatever it was that I had been seeing was on the other, only now he had a body, he looked a lot like me, but his facial features were slightly sharper than mine, and something about the way he carried himself seemed… savage, his body engulfed in black flames, my own in some kind of glowing, white energy. I had a sword in hand and so did he. His was the black sword that still lay in my room, mine was different. The sword was slightly longer than his arm, its mostly black with a half inch silver color on the blade that stretches from the blade toward the center, the main shape of the sword was relatively simple, mostly a perfect rectangle save for the top 4 inches which came to a perfect point, the hilt was actually part of the main metal if the sword, points coming out at the bottom of the blade at a downward angle, one is about four inches, the other five, on the side of the hilt with the bigger spike there was a one third circle extending from the hilt to just above the base of the blade, the third circle also had , similar to the shape of the hilt guard, several small, flat points on the outer side. The only difference in mine was that where his was black, mine was white, the color radiating some king of dim light. I looked into his hate filled eyes; we both knew what we were here to do, though I don’t know why I did. He ran at blinding speed towards me and I at him, slashes on both sides were thrown and when the blades came into contact, a bright purple energy sparked from the contact point, as if the blades were reacting, and maybe repelling, each other, his wicked expression illuminated by the glow. In the moment after the swords first contact I woke in a cold sweat, the sun just showing its top over the horizon.
I rubbed my eyes, what was that dream, it felt… real, and I could remember it perfectly. Something had… changed about me since it, like a small weight had been lifted from my shoulders… and just as that feeling sunk in, that demon’s face flashed through my mind, with that same wicked grin. Why am I haunted by this thing, he’s probably connected to those flames… but why do I have them in the first place? And who was he? He looks like me… but he’s not me. Did he have something to do with this Garret person? I could only guess… which is why I'm leaving for the kingdom.
I left the house before Saichi woke and got food for the day, then headed for Jins residence. I made my way to his house, it was like the most of the houses, only roughly damaged and still usable. I knocked on his door and after a moment he opened the door.
“Morning Jin, I um… I need your help with some things.”
“Of course, come on in and we’ll talk.”
I stepped inside, the inside of his house. It was relatively large compared to Saichi's, and smelled of cooking meat. He lead me to a table and invited me to sit.
“Now, what is it that you need?”
“Um… well, how is the village on supplies right now?”
“Not good, were low on… well, everything, barely enough food to go around.”
“I see.” I was a bit nervous, how would he feel about me leaving, my leaving Saichi to go find myself. “Do you think… we could spare a map and a sword?”
“Well, sure, if you could find them, but why are you asking for such things? We know where we’re going, east, I'm sure Saichi told you.”
“ yeah… she did… but I'm not going with you guys… one of the soldiers recognized me Jin… and I've been thinking… that the answers about who I am lay in the kingdom… so that’s where I'm going.”
He was silent for a moment, taking in what I had said. “And you're sure about this? Sure about leaving Saichi and the rest of us?”
“… yeah, I'm sure, I… I need to know… who I am.”
“Then I’ll help with what I can”
It almost surprised me how little resistance he put up, was he really just going to let me leave “thank you.” He got up and brought a map to the table, it was obviously newer then the one Mrs. Yuuki had shown me. Even this town was on the map, Okern.
“Well, if you're serious about this, then the first place you'll be wanting to go is Drockn. It’s the closest town ruled by the kingdom from here.” He pointed to a rather large town, compared to Okern anyway, near the western edge of Rookneer.
“How far is this?”
“About two weeks walk from here, shorter if you have a horse, but many of ours were killed in the attack and I don’t think we have one to spare.”
“That’s fine, just the information is help enough.”
He took a pen and marked a line across the map. “There, that is the border of the resistance and the kingdom as it is now.” Assuming that Rookneer was on the side of the resistance as it hadn’t actually been taken yet, the kingdom was huge, covering about three-fourths of the map. ”and this, is their homeland.” He pointed to a country to the far north-west, in the corner of the land mass, named.
“Then that’s where I'm going, it’s a start anyway.”
“You do realize how far that is, yes?”
“I know, I don’t expect this journey to be a short one.”
“Well, as long as you know what you're in for. You can take that map if need be, we have more.”
“Thank you.” I rolled up the map. “There is… one more thing I need.”
“Do we… have a sword to spare?”
“Hmh, why do you need a sword? Don’t you already have one?”
“I can’t use that one, not until I know the full extent of its power, is it is now, its utterly lethal, I don’t want to… to kill anyone else, I just need something to defend myself.”
“A sword can still kill. “
“But it’s not the same as that sword.”
“What’s wrong with it?”
What did he mean what's wrong with it? That thing was evil. Wait... did he… not see me when I was that monster. “its… hard to explain.”
“… Well, we might, I’ll ask the blacksmith. Anything else you need.”
“Yeah… take care of Saichi for me.”
He smiled “Of course.”
After discussing a few more supplies I might need on my way to the next town, I gathered a few things the town could spare of the things I would need and headed home to pack up. Walking inside I looked around, the immediate space was empty, Saichi was probably in the garden or some such. I went in my room and organized what I had. Realizing I didn’t actually have a pack to hold these in on my travels. I looked around the house for one to no avail. I went to the general store trying to see if I could find one. When I got there, though the store wasn’t there anymore, burned to ash, the owner was there, packing up what he had left like everyone else. He had some, but none to spare, said everyone else needed them for the trip ahead. I told him that was fine and headed back.
Entering the house, Saichi was sitting on the couch, looking like she was deep in thought.
She snapped out of her trance and looked at me “hey”
I remembered our fight yesterday and felt bad about it, I still thought I was right, but I didn’t want to part with hostilities between us “sorry… about yesterday.”
“It’s fine.” Though she said that, it didn’t really sound like she meant it “Actually, I have something for you, come on.” She lead me to… Mrs. Yuuki's room? She opened the door and we reluctantly stepped inside. Saichi walked over to a chest on the opposite wall and opened it, inside was a sword, a bag, and a full set of light armor.
“Here, I know you probably don’t have everything you'll need on your journey, so take what you need”
“I… wha?” I was taken back a bit, why was… she giving me these, they were her fathers, her last families, how could she give them away so easily. “I… I can’t take these.”
“Why? How can you give something like this away so easily?”
She was silent for a moment “were moving out anyway, I won’t be able to take much with me, and you need them more than I do.”
“Please, nao, if it’ll help you, take it.” There was pleading in her eyes, along with… something I couldn’t identify, what was she thinking?
“I… ok… thank you, I’ll pay you back one day.”
“Take it as a promise you'll come back.”
I smiled at her” ok, I promise.”
She smiled, slowly turned and walked out of the room. I knelt down and rummaged through the chest for anything of use, I didn’t need the armor set, but found some wraps and a hard leather chest plate that would serve as good under armor and took the sword as well. At the bottom there was a long, black leather coat, putting it on, it fit my shoulders perfectly. The coat had two buckles on the chest and abdomen to close it, but the coat itself continued all the way down to my knees. It was almost entirely black with bits of a red design here and there. It was surprisingly easy to move around in. The inside was white and had a soft fabric, pockets littering it; there was one on either side over the chest and more as it continued on. I took a strong liking to the coat and took it with me as well.
I went out of the room and headed to mine to put what I took with my other things.
“Wha- where did you get that?”
“Uh… it was in the bottom of the chest, why?”
“I haven’t seen that since I was little, I thought father had taken it with him.”
“What is it?”
“He use to where that all the time, he was a bounty-hunter before he met my mom. He’d always where that jacket on his jobs.”
“Oh” I started to take it off, it probably had a lot of sentimental value to her.
“No, it’s fine, you can take it, I was just… surprised.”
“Oh… you sure? You can have it if you want it.”
“No, it’s fine, you take it, maybe it’ll bring you lucky” she smiled slightly.
“Heh… maybe, thanks.” I went back to my room and gathered my things, tomorrow, we move out, I say goodbye to Saichi and go to the kingdom… honestly, I'm a bit nervous. The sun was starting to go down. What will tomorrow bring? What will the kingdom be like? Will they know what I've done or recognize me? What will Saichi do when I go?
After dinner we retired to our rooms without a word, there was a strong awkward tension between us. I got my things organized and in order and got into bed, tried to sleep, playing for a peaceful night. To no avail, I was plagued by nightmares again, though I couldn’t remember much and awoke sitting up in a cold sweat. I looked around my room and saw my pack on my desk. Today was the day we leave.
I had a silent breakfast with Saichi, we both knew what was coming, but we just didn’t know what to say to each other, and we headed out. The town’s people were rallying in the center of town to organize their convoy. I helped with what I could, after that, Saichi, Jin and I pulled away for our last words before we left.
“You’re sure about leavin’ on your own? Sure you don’t want to come with us?” said Jin
“Yeah… I'm sure.”
“Well, best of luck to you then, I hope you find what you're looking for.”
“Yeah, me too.”
Saichi was staring at me, waiting for Jin to end his piece.
She smiled a weary smile. “Take care of yourself, and come back safe.”
I smiled “I will. I promise. Thank you for taking care of me this whole time, I’ll pay you back one day.” We still couldn’t find proper parting words.
She nodded “no, thank you for all you’ve done for me…”
I couldn’t think of any more to say and the convoy was starting to leave.
“Well… its time I got moving too, cant mooch off you guys forever. Jin… take care of Saichi.” He nodded, but Saichi… smirked slightly? I didn’t think much of it at the time. We turned and started head of separate was. As I walked away, I heard Saichi say something to Jin, I couldn’t hear what she said, but he laughed.
I headed out the west gate and headed for the next town, keeping my map folded and in hand to that it displayed the road I was on in the center, paying close attention to how the road curved. The path was paved with broken, ancient looking stones and was lined with trees and flora. Shade covered the road with broken light seeping through the leaves. I examined the map; there was a tiny village in between Oakern and Drocken. I could stop there for supplies and maybe a night with a roof over my head, it still looked a weeks’ worth of walking away and id have exhausted what I couldn’t hunt for by then.
The forest seemed to extend forever, the path curving gently with tree lines, making it hard at times to see where it lead. Thankfully the map was detailed and I could tell the path and it matched up fairly well. The trees came together above and made a canopy above the path, as I walked on growing thicker. In the hours since I had left the sun had risen high and the air had warmed significantly, becoming thick and humid, even under the shade. It was hard to tell exactly what time it was, the trees blocking most direct light and making it hard to tell where the sun actually was, the only real indication being the direction the occasional beam of light seeping through the leaves. Life clearly flourished here, an orchestra of bird and insect calls constantly sounded around me, and I could see small animals running about in the distance in the forest, the forest floor however only had a select few plants actually growing and was covered in dead leaves, the canopy above blocking sunlight to vegetation that might sprout below.
After a few hours of walking it started to dark, still in the forest, I had hardly made a dent in my distance to the next town, but I was pretty sure I was on schedule. I stopped and went a small ways into the forest to set up camp, didn’t want to be sleeping on the road. The kingdoms men were probably on their way to investigate what had happened to their men, and I didn’t want have to deal with them. The sun shed bright orange and red light over the canopy, illuminating the leaves and making the entire forest seem to glow, as the sun hit the horizon, the light changed to a bright yellow, all shadow seemed to disappear and all was bathed in twilight. Just as it was about to go dark, I had gotten a basic shelter build and a campfire started and had put out the thin bedroll I had brought with me. I would probably ditch it when I got to the next town, while it was soft and comfortable despite how thin the fabric was, it was still big and awkward compared to what was on the rest of my pack, and I didn’t particularly need it. When the twilight that had flooded the forest ended, it was completely dark save for my fire, the moon having yet to rise. However, the orchestra of life ever ceased the calls of nocturnal animals and insects had replaced the birds of the day. In the distance I could see the reflections of eyes in the distance of some mid-sized creature. I had an idea. By the light of the fire, I quickly gathered the brush on the ground into a ring around my camp, at the same clearing it of all but the ring of kindling. I lit the ring and it quickly spread around the campsite. That should keep them at bay, with that, I got out and ate some dried meat, then retired to the bed roll, I wasn’t particularly looking forward to sleep, but the sooner the sun rises the sooner I could get moving again.
I was awakened by the sound of yelling and the beating of hooves. The fire I had made had burned out to little more than coals. I could see men through the trees, it was a convoy, hung lanterns on carts lighting it. I crept closer, careful to keep quiet. Getting a closer look, it was a kingdom army convoy, it was small, no more than forty men, probably a response to the men they had lost to the village, to me. Still, it looked too big for a mere investigation… unless… what if they knew what had happened, that the village was cleared out, it wouldn’t surprise me if they had been spying on us since the attack. What I could hear confirmed my suspicions, one of them, a higher ranking looking soldier said something about “finding them before they get to the next village”. Damn it… what do I do? ...I could stop them, fight them, kill them to protect the others, but… I closed my eyes and the terrified faces of the men id killed flashed through my head. Then I thought of the towns folk… if I didn’t act now, they might be found, hunted down… so it’s either the soldiers, or my friends. These guys have to die… damn it.
I willed my energy to my hands and body, only my hands ignited, though I felt my body strengthen with the energy. I drew Saichi’s father’s sword and dashed toward the convoy. I leapt from the tree line and plunged my sword into the closest soldier he screamed in agony, the sword ripping through his shoulder, myself landing on top of him. This sword wasn’t like mine, I had to finish him off manually, I ripped the sword out, blood spraying out and drenching my clothes, and quickly slashed off his head. The others had all taken notice of me, one already approaching me. He tried to impale me through my back, but as he went for the stab I swung around on one had to face him, pushing up at him and sent my sword up though his chin and out through his skull, killing him instantly. I ripped it out, sheathed my sword and grabbed both of theirs, duel wielding. They were lighter than mine, but their hilt guards made them awkward to use in my reverse style of wielding.
All at once they came at me, as the first threw a slash I deflected it with my own with the left sword, bringing the other around after it. He saw it coming and brought up his shield, blocking it. He kicked me in the stomach knocking me back. I didn’t give him room to breathe, as I was knocked back, I caught my foot and plunged toward him, swords aimed, both were driven though his stomach. As he toppled over, I took his sword and prepared for the next, this wasn’t like before, I was starting feeling sick, all the blood and gore right in front of me, before I was mad with rage, I didn’t care, but now… this… this was just wrong. I shook the thoughts from my head, I had to concentrate, had to get more active. As the soldiers closed in, I went on the offensive, engaging the closest one and dispatched him, slicing of his sword arm after a clash and running him through. Strengthened by the flames energy, I picked him up and threw him, sword still stuck, at another soldier, impaling them both. The more I fought, the darker the flames grew and the more they spread, it was already half way up my arms. I could feel the presence from before making its way into my head, trying to take over, I could feel my mind filling with its rage, making me stronger, faster…. and taking sanity as payment. I had no weapon in my hands now, one of them came at me, aiming to run me through, I reacted, everything slowed down, I moved around the sword, grabbed the blade, bent it out of the way with one hand, and with the other grabbed his neck and slammed his head into the ground, killing him. I was starting to not care what I was doing, not care that I was killing, not care about the gore that had sickened me… I was becoming a monster.
No, I had to get this over with before I lost control. “COME ON! FIGHT ME!” They came at me in number, becoming more packed around me, slashed at me, my mind sped up, I was able to react more easily, twisting and dodging, deflecting or manipulating their attacks, making them hit each other instead of me. When I at last gained some breathing room, the presence had sunken in even more, the flames all the way up to my shoulders, it commanded me to draw the demonic sword but I refused, doing so would only hasten the flames spread. A larger, heavy soldier came at me with a massive axe; I dodged easily, but found it was getting harder to move. He came to hit me with the other end of the axe, and though I tried to move, for a moment, just a moment, my body delayed, and I was sent flying and reeling on the ground. He came quickly, bringing down the axe over his shoulder. I rolled out of the way, getting into a crouching position in the process, the axe imbedded itself in the ground, I leapt at him, and kneed him in the jaw with all the force I could muster, sending him to the ground. I quickly grabbed the axe, ripped it out of the ground and brought it down on him, slicing him from color bone to stomach. I ripped it out and in a flurry used it to take out most of the rest, leaving only one, cowering by a tree. I turned toward him, dropped the axe and appeared in front of him faster than he could see. Grabbing him by his throat, I lifted him off his feet, staring him strain in the eye; I could see my own glowing in reflection.
“Go back to your Demon King, tell him what happened here. Tell that village you were heading to is under the protection of a demon, and if he sends anymore they’ll meet the same fate. Tell him… Garret lives, and if your kind come again, Garret will come for his head next.” He couldn’t breathe but nodded as best he could, I threw him to the ground and he scrambled away down the road.
Once he was out of sight, I tried to put out the flames on my arms, and after much concentration and struggle, I managed to get them to extinguish. I stumbled back to my camp site exhausted. As I walked I could barely keep my footing. I neared the camp… almost there. I tripped on a vine and fell to the ground. I almost didn’t want to get up. I opened my eyes, then everything flashed black… what was? The ground beneath me cracked and broke, opening a small fissure under me. I snapped awake and tried to hold myself up. From the darkness in the fissure, black tendrils reached up and wrapped round my arms and legs, pulling at me dragging me down. The sides of the fissure crumbled and I was dragged into the darkness, what was going on? I fell into the pit and everything went dark.
I opened my eyes but could see nothing; it was like my dream again, lost in a sea of darkness. I couldn’t think strait, it was like being in a fever dream, my mind unable to hold onto thought or make sense of anything. I closed my eyes, and when I opened them again, I was lying in a field, grass slightly taller than my face. The sky was a deep, malevolent dark yellow with black clouds circling above, yellow light shining through their lining. The grass was brown and dead, there were some patches that were grey from burn and ash, some blood stained red. All around rang cries, screams, and calls for help, the beating of hooves and the boom of cannons. I sat up, on my left there was a man, in some kind of uniform, he was mangled and covered in blood, probably his own. He was crawling towards me.
“He-… help… me, water… please… water.”
“I'm sorry, I don’t have any.” His image was terrifying, one of his legs was half gone severed at the knee, the other was gone entirely. Much of his skin was burned and he was missing a hand, how he was alive I couldn’t guess. He didn’t last long after that, falling dead before he could even reach me. What was going on? I tried to stand but fell immediately
“Wha?” I looked down at my legs… or where they should have been, onw was severed just under the knee, the other just over. It was no clean cut, flesh and bone jagged and shredded.
I panicked, screamed, “what the... what the hell’s going on!?” in the distance, I saw something on the horizon, a tower of black flames shot into the air. ‘what was…’ the tower fell, in an instant the screaming an shouting intencified, but I couldn’t make out what anyone was saying, all I knew was I could hear people dying, on a line of soldiers a ways from me, cannons were exploding, men were being thrown around and body parts flew through the air. I saw something race across the field in a blink and the same thing happened to the soldiers on the other side. Then, whatever it was, it was in front of me, standing above me. I couldn’t see who it was, their body a silhouette in the fire, but they looked down at me with bright glowing yellow eyes, they raised what looked like a sword, and brought it down on me. I closed my eyes just before the impact. I thought it was the end… but the blow never came. When I opened my eyes, I was back in the darkness, floating.
‘what's going o-… what's happe-… what… what?’ I couldn’t think, couldn’t concentrate, couldn’t remember anything, I knew what had just happened… but at the same time I didn’t. I couldn’t remember, it was like a dream, I could remember what had happened, but the mental images were fading away.
When I opened my eyes again, I was laying on a floor, the ground was moist and it was incredibly hot in humid. I worked myself to my feet and looked around the room, in the center there was a large fire illuminating the room. The walls were… were…
’ oh my god, wha-… what the hell… what the hell is this!?’ the walls were made out of what looked like flesh, of it, what “skin” there was, was bright red. Where there wasn’t skin, it looked like mangled or melded together muscle and other tissues. It was covered in what looked like mucus or some other such slime. I could see the entire was moving, like it was pulsing to a heartbeat.
‘I have to get out of here!’ there was a door sized opening on the other side of the room past the fire. I ran out the door.
I nearly fell to my death in doing so, just outside the door there was a walkway that edged along the wall, it extended about five feet out, but after that it was a drop strait to… strait to…
‘What the hell… where… what the hell is this!?’ it was in the shape of a giant cylinder, the “room” ceiling came up about 40 feet above me in a dome. Below, there was a giant, endless pit, extending down so far all I could see was darkness at the bottom. There were four columns of what looked like lava pouring down into it from openings in the ceiling. The walkway I was on spiraled downwards into the chasm. The walls were all made of the same flesh like the last room, the entire structure pulsing. It smelled of rotting flesh. Around me rang an orchestra of screams and unholy cries, like thousands of monsters all crying out to each other. I thought I was going to be sick, I had to get out of this hell hole… but there was only one way to go… down. I started moving. As I made my way down, I noticed there ware sections of the wall that weren’t flesh, they looked like bone or ivory. When o got closer, I could see, it was bone, bones of humans, that had all been melded together to create a solid, smooth wall of bone, there were large holes, hexagonal in shape, but none were regular, the edges of which, the wall curved to, the line on the edge of the holes looked sharp as a blade. When I came t the wall, I examined it further, why was this here? I touched the edge of one of the holes. Less than a second after I did, a boney, rotten looking hand extended out of the darkness behind the wall, and grabbed my arm. Behind the wal, there was… what may have once been a man, not it looked sick with rot.
“Help… me!” It shouted, its voice garbled and wet sounding.
From the darkness more came, reaching for me, grabbing at me. “No, let me go, let me go!” in just a few seconds the wall had become a mass of reaching, grabbing, rotten hands. I shook myself free, but in doing so stumbled back to the edge of the walkway. I lost my footing and fell, screaming, into the darkness.
After falling for a full two minutes, I hit some kind of ground, I didn’t go splat, as I thought I would, but I did feel the full force or the impact. My body writhing in pain, to the point that I couldn’t make myself move, all I could do was lay there and suffer.
After a while, I was able to move and sat up, above, I could still see where I had been, but it was little more than a speck in the distance. I was on a large, circular, stone platform; the lava from above flowed down around it and made a ring. Suddenly, spikes shot out of the ground where my forearms where and impaled me, I felt every inch as they shot through, blood seeping out. I screamed in agony for a second, then the spikes shot smaller hooks out of the sides of the tom and came back down slowly, pinning me to the floor, which had started rising into some kind of table. Then, I noticed someone was here with me, part of me wanted to turn and see who it was, but my mind was too concerned with the pain in my arms. Then, the presence leaned over me, looking down at me from above, it was that demon, the one from before, with yellow eyes and his twisted smile still very much there.
“Welcome to my old home.” It said in its layered, harsh voice. Then it proceeded to take out a long knife, and swiftly stab me, first strait through my stomach, then my heart. He left the dagger embedded in my chest and laughed as it slowly killed me, cutting my heart with every beat. The pain was unimaginable, every beat felt worse than the last, I thought I should surely pass out from this kind of pain, but I didn’t, I stayed awake, and felt myself slowly die… until I did, everything faded to black, my heart stoped beating, and I closed my eyes in defeat… but… I was still here? I tried to open my eyes, I could, and when I did, I was looking up a mass of leaves. I shot up and looked around… I was… back at my camp site? I put my hand to my chest, the dagger was gone, but I could still feel a twinge of pain… had it all been a dream? Because… it sure as hell felt real, I could remember every second of what had happened… I almost wish I couldn’t.
I walked on, on the path to the town, trying to wrap my mind around what had happened. Why was I always having these nightmares, they seemed to get worse after I use my powers, so they might be connected, but regardless of whether I used them they nightmares came. What's happening to me? What were those places? The battle field and the… whatever in hell that was. I shuttered at the thought of what I had seen in that pit. That presence, that monster, he was there, said that was his home, is that really the kind of place that thing came from? I wouldn’t be surprised, but still, to think a place like that exists. I shook the thoughts from my head and tried to suppress the memories of last night, I didn’t want to remember what I’d seen, or thought I’d seen… what had really happened last night? I saw the ground open up, felt myself get pulled in… but I woke up on the ground like nothing had happened… I laughed to myself, was this punishment for the things I’d done or simply the price for having my power? And why do I have this demon in my head in the first place?
The day went by without incident, I walked on, I hunted near sunset and went to bed when it got dark. That nights nightmares weren’t as bad as last nights, but still bad. I was a child, in a house, there were people, my family probably, but I couldn’t see their faces, for a brief moment is was nice, then, they were gone, the house was burn, and I was still inside. I woke as a burning rafter fell on me.
After two days of similar dreams… things started to get bad. I'm starting to see thing outside my dream. Sometimes things would peak out from the trees, and when I looked at them, they vanished. Occasionally the sky would turn red, and the monsters would emerge from the woods, coming in all shapes and sizes, some merely looked like deformed humans, others looked like something out of hell itself, but they were humanoid at least, and I could read their movements and cut them down, but they still did their own share of damage to me during the hallucinations, I wasn’t use to dealing with such creatures. At that point its fight or die. When it’s over the sky turns back to normal and the injuries to myself disappear. Though the damage to the area cause usually stays, meaning even in these delusions, my body still moves. This is starting to get maddening, I know these are being cause by that demon, but I'm afraid of what will happen if I don’t fight, I might die for real, or worse, the demon will get control… with the power it has, I can’t let that happen. I was starting to grow paranoid, when would the next attack happen? What awful thing will I have to witness tonight? It was all starting to get to me; I started staying up as long as possible in an attempt to stop the nightmares. I was always checking over my shoulder. I knew they only attacked when the sky turned red, but still, I couldn’t shake they feeling something was watching me, they were watching me. I guess I really was starting to lose it. After another day of attacks and nightmares, I was almost at the village, thank gods, maybe there I could find a few answers, it is part of the kingdom after all. Maybe I was just being hopeful, but I just wanted all this to be worth something, I wanted to know if there was a way to stop this madness, my madness.
That night as I sat by my fire, I could hear rustlings in the foliage around me, but I couldn’t see anything but glowing eyes in the darkness, what were they? They looked much bigger than what I had dealt with before. I kept Saichi’s sword unsheathed and ready just in case. I couldn’t afford to rely on that dark power, not anymore. If they didn’t kill me, it would, I had to fight this on my own. I set up a fire ring, but it did little to detour them they grew closer and closer, I jumped to my few, whipping around, trying to keep an eye on all of them. One, whatever it was, tried to attack from behind, leaping through the ring of flames and tried to tackle me to the ground, fangs and claws bared. I was fast enough to whip around, using its own weight, sent my sword through its chest. It fell to the ground, nearly on top of me, and lay on the ground dead. What the hell was this thing? It looked like a dog or wolf, but its claws were sharp and hooking like those of a cat and large elongated canine teeth, both were large in comparison to the creatures size, which in itself, it was as large as a man. On its head, were short, sharp horns like that of a goat, running parallel to its laid down ears, its open eyes had read irises and along its back were short, scale like spines.
I… I had seen this thing before, but I couldn’t remember where. It was a vokara; they were a form of chimera, naturally accruing animals that looked like mixes of more common creatures… how did I know any of this? There was no time to question it, more were coming and I had to be ready. I ripped my sword from the creatures flesh and prepared myself.
It was hard to see them through the flames, I did my best to observe their pattern, but they were dodging every which what, some though the flames and back out without even coming close to me, others only barely missing me as they lunged. That was it though, they weren’t trying to hit me, they were… trying to confuse me? Just how smart are these things. I heard one jump at me from behind, as I turn, its massive jaws sunk into my arm, I nearly screamed, it wasn’t the worst id felt over the last few days, but I could feel every bit as it crushed and cut my arm, I tried not to panic, thankfully it hadn’t got my sword arm. I raised the weapon and quick as I could drove it though the creatures eye and through its head. It killed the beast, blood spraying out of its impaled eye, but the sword was caught in it’s skull.
“Shit!” I panicked and tried to rend the blade free, but it was a useless effort, while the blade made its way out, I was attacked from behind and knocked face first to the ground, the vokara tearing into my shoulder, the adrenaline helped with the pain this time, but it was still excruciating. I reached behind me, grabbed the beast by the head, and threw it over me with all my strength, it didn’t go very far, but at least it was of me. It twisted to its feet as I jumped to mine.
“Come on!” it lunged at me again, just as it was about to make contact, I grabbed it by its throat and chest and threw it over me, ripping my sword from the other vokara, trying to hold down the one I was fighting with my other, injured hand, I brought the sword down in a stab and pierced the beast through the heart, but there was no time to relax over the small victory, more were already coming. As they came lunging, I did my best to avoid their attack, cutting into them as they flew by.
As I cut into the latest one, another came and bit into my leg. I sliced it away as fast as I could, but they knew I was crippled, they seemed to all come at once, combat with humans is one thing, but this was madness, one came, and as I cut it down, another bit into my arm as the blade was still in the first. I instantly dropped the blade, my nerves unable to concentrate on what to do from the pain. But something was strange, I smelled burning flesh, I looked at the creature, it had burst into black fames and was burning away like the soldiers had. Why did that happen? I wasn’t using my powers. I looked down at my arm, from the wound was seeping some kind of liquid, darker than black, and there were small wisps of dark flame irradiating from it.
“What the?” the vokara knew what had happened and were keeping a margin of distance from me, circling me, observing me. “Stay back!” I swung my arm at them, the liquid spraying on a few, making a hissing sound and burning patches into their fur. In my mind I heard a low, layered, voice whisper “you're mine now, Nao.”
“Get out of my head!” the liquid seeping from my wounds was like oil, It caught the dark flames, my wounds all burst into the black fire, but it wasn’t like before, it was actually burning me, it was burning me alive. I screamed in agony as the flames spread over the rest of my body and my skin burned away. The flames grew bigger and darker, long since engulfing my body, burning away my skin, my pain seemed to feed it more, as it burned me away, it grew fasted. It started pulsing out with fire and engulfing the entire wood in flames, blowing away trees and flora. The vokara had long since ran. ‘Make it stop… Make It Stop!’ but it didn’t stop, it just grew, it was completely consuming me. I finally passed out from the pain, but it was like I didn’t, I fell into a pit of darkness in my mind, a small shimmering window watching my body destroy all aroZ it above. I was sinking into the darkness, away from my body, but I still felt every bit of the pain. ‘someone.. help me’ tendals and darkness, darker than black, started covering me, consuming me, but there wasn’t a thing I could do about it… but in the darkness, as it was about to destroy me completely, I was a white, glowing hand reach down to me, chasing away the darkness around me, but the darkness on me was slow to retreat, determined it seemed to drag me into oblivion. I tried desperately to rip myself free and reach back at the hand. Slowly, the hand materialized from the arm up into the form of a girl, her entire form glowing white, the form seemed familiar, but my mind was too broken and panicked to think of who it was. She slowly drew closer, quickly enough to catch up with the darkness pulling me down. Grabbing my hand, she pulled me out of the darkness and into an embrace, irradiating light and chasing away the darkness. The light was warm and comforting, like sunlight. Slowly, she pulled me out of the darkness and back into my body. I opened my eyes, back in my body, but everything was blurry, over me stood a female figure with dark hair leaned over me, her hand hovering over my chest, glowing like the one I had seen. Her voice was familiar as she called my name, but my mind was a blur, I couldn’t think strait or recognize who she was. The fatigue from fighting for 5 days strait finally all hit at once and I lose consciousness.
I opened my eyes; it was morning, the sunlight shining bright through the leaves of the canopy above. My head was resting on something soft; I looked up and saw… Saichi...Saichi!? She was leaning over me… I was resting in her lap!?
She looked down at me and smiled innocently “good morning”
I instantly shot up and whipped around staring at her. “What… what the hell are you doing here?!” she was wearing attire similar to mine, fitting brown pants and white shirt, she had a long brown leather jacket and under it I could see daggers attached to her belt, her shoes look almost like light combat boots. By my stuff I had put down for camp was a slightly smaller pack and a stronger looking bow then mine.
“That’s quite a way to greet someone” she said with a smirk.
“Why are you here…what are you wearing?”
“My old hunting gear, you knew Jin for all of three months, I knew him for fourteen years, you seriously think he wouldn’t teach me how to survive, and fight, on my own?”
“Well… true, but you didn’t answ-“
“I’ll explain later, for now we should get moving.” She was clearly=y avoiding the question.
“No, how are you here? How did you know to how to find me? Was it…” something clicked in my mind “was that you… who saved me last night?”
“…yeah, that was me.”
“how did you… what was that, your hands glowed, you pulled me out of that darkness, how did you do that?”
“I'm…. I'm not sure exactly... come on, lets get moving, ill tell you what I know on the way.”
I was hesitant on whether or not to go along with this for a moment, but decided I might as well go along with it. “Okay, let’s go” we gathered our stuff, put out the fire and moved out. “…wait, you're supposed to be heading east with the rest of the village.”
“Well, now I'm coming with you.”
“No, you should head back while you can and catch up to them.”
“Nope, I'm staying with you.”
“It’s dangerous out here.”
“I can handle myself.” She said sounding annoyed. Though judging from her equipment, I didn’t doubt her.
“I set out alone for a reason.”
“Yes, and look how well you’ve faired. Less than a week and you were on the brink of madness.” Well… she wasn’t wrong about that.
“…fair enough… but still, I'm dangerous, you'll get hurt if you stay around me.”
“You won’t hurt me Nao, you know that, or rather, you can’t hurt me, I've never felt the burn from your powers...” I…guess that was true, I still didn’t know how these powers really worked, and her powers, whatever they were, seemed to protect her from them.
“I really can’t win here, can I?”
“Now you're getting it.” She smirked
“I still expect answers later about you’re apparent new found abilities.”
She laughed “of course.” Though she still seemed hesitant about it.
As we walked the trees slowly started getting shorted, transitioning to little more than bushes and eventually opening up to a vast grass land on rolling hills, it was almost like a savannah, the tall grass a light brown color with live, green grass near the bottom, though it didn’t come onto the road entirely, the real grass a few feet of the road, along the road it wasn’t that tall, but it was already starting to break through the stone and gravel along the sides, eventually if it wasn’t maintained it the land would devour the road entirely. We walked silently, Saichi watching the road; I didn’t want her to notice I was a little in awe at the landscape. The air was warm but not quite as humid as the forest had been. There was a gentle breeze blowing the heat away and waking waves in the grass.
“Have you been this far from the village before?” I asked Saichi.
“Yeah, I've been to the edges of the country on trips with Jin, but that’s about as far as I've ever been, Rookneer a tiny country after all.”
“Hmh…” I lost my train of thought and stared out at the land once more, so in just a small country the landscape can very this much… I wonder what the rest of the continent would hold, once this was all over… If I made it that long, maybe I’d go traveling for a while.
After hours of walking, we stopped and made camp. Lands like these didn’t harbor much game, so we ate what we had stored, it wasn’t much, but it was enough to get by. In the distance there was a faint glow over the horizon, we were getting close to the next village.
“Do you think the next village will be controlled by the kingdom?” I asked
“It’s a strong possibility, though I hadn’t heard anything.”
“Not very talkative today are you?”
“You’ve been lost in thought all day.”
“Something on your mind?”
“I guess…oh yeah, I believe now you’re supposed to tell me about how it is you knew to come after me, and about those abilities of yours.”
She gave me a surprised look, then pushed out a frustrated breath “fine… I’ll do the best I can, but really I’m not even sure…” she pause a moment, I’d guess collecting her thoughts “ the first night after we left I had a feeling something bad was going to happen, when I got to sleep, I had this… dream… vision? I don’t know, but I saw you, falling into a darkness, then watched you as you suffered through your… whatever they were, that battle field, that…. Hellish chasm. The entire time I watched you there was this lady behind me, glowing white, telling me that if your visions didn’t stop you…. Would be destroyed by them, that shed grant me the power to help you… I didn’t believe it all at first, but when I woke up my hand was glowing and I could feel this… energy and I was on the trail you had taken with my stuff… and I…. knew, where you where, like there was a top tethering me and pulling me to you… I know it all sounds crazy but when I found you, you were… well, you were in a bad way… so I don’t know…. Maybe I’m crazy, or maybe the Makers are on your side…”
It sounded strange, but then how would one explain something like that, and crazier things had happened, I had black fire from a demon coming out of my hands after all. “Heh, maybe the gods are playing with us…”we didn’t speak much after that, both of us thinking heavily on all that had happened to us. Though that night, for the first time in what felt like a life time, I slept peacefully, so much so Saichi had to kick me awake in the morning.
“Wake” kick “UP” kick. I almost didn’t, I just wanted to bury my face in the fur of my bed roll, but I had taken enough of a beating over the last few days and slowly stretched myself awake and up.
“Get up, we need to get packed and moving before it gets too hot out.”
“I thought this was my journey.”
“Yes well, I’m taking over management.” She smiled
I laughed “Fine, fine.” I got up and looked myself over, most of mu wounds had almost completely healed, though there was still small scarring or marks. I healed fast I was starting to notice, I wondered if that was common or if it had something to do with the demon… probably the demon. Speaking of… I didn’t feel its presence as I had before when I started traveling… I hadn’t felt it since… since I reunited with saichi, she drove away the demon that night… but was she keeping it away too? I sparked up a small black flame in my hand, testing if I could still use my power, it worked. So she wasn’t affecting my powers, but the presence was defiantly gone. I guessed I should be thankful; I was at ease for the first time in what felt like an age.
After waking up a bit, I looked at the map, from the geography it looked like the next village wasn’t too far off.
“The next town isn’t too far off, wanna stay there for a day or two?”
“Sure, it'd be nice so sleep in a real bed.”
‘Hmh, the inn will probably cost us, and I don’t have much money except for what little I made from working in the village’ “how much money do you have on you?”
“a little, I didn’t need it much, we always traded or got for ourselves what we needed, why?”
“I can’t imagine the inn will be cheap, even if we do have our own food and drink.”
“True… but oh well, we’ll cross that road when we come to it, maybe we can find a quick job there or something.”
I smiled “yeah.”
We packed up the camp site and started on the road, the morning air was crisp and a slight chilled wind licked at my back. The rising sun made the sky in the distance look deep red, the clouds like burning smoke, red light and darkness mixing, almost as if… foreboding something, but I felt no sense of dread or angst, the demon that tore at my soul was gone for now, and I could finally find some peace in this journey. We walked on, myself deep in thought, only keeping enough attention to follow saichi and the road, I spaced and lost myself to the sight around me, the burning sky and waving shadows of the grasses in the wind, I don’t know why I was so taken by them, this land didn’t seem uncommon, but it was as though I was experiencing these things for the first time, an effect of the amnesia perhaps? Though if that were so, why could I remember, or at least use my skills if my experiences were gone? Strange. Though maybe I shouldn’t question such things just yet… I don’t even know who the real me is.
Though I tried to distract myself, the walk that day went by at a snail crawl, neither me nor saichi spoke most of the way except to catch a rabbit for food, it was almost like we were afraid to talk to each other, we both knew where conversation would lead, I didn’t want to talk about the things I’d seen before she’d arrived, and neither of us wanted the conversation to lead to… Mrs. Yuuki, or the village the day it burned, we weren’t ready, even though we had already said our goodbyes. We didn’t want to be reminded of what we… I had walked away from.
Well into the afternoon, we started to be able to see streams of smoke over the horizon; we were nearing the village from the map, before long we could see the stone walls that surrounded it. Thin towers of smoke rose from chimneys and before long they could hear the sound of a living town coming from within. Strange… why was this town intact, when ours had been nearly burned to the ground if they were on the same road? sure the kingdoms army would have come through here. I asked saichi.
“well… I don’t know, maybe they surrendered early and the army went easy on them?”
“hmh… maybe.” I doubted it, then the army attacked our village, there was no battle, there was no surrender to be declared, it was just,,, a massacre. Though I hadn’t been there from the beginning, and I didn’t know the whole story. Maybe when the memory wasn’t so… fresh and sore, I could ask her.
As we passed by farmers working the fields, we entered the town. It was small, he could see the wall on the opposite side of town over the houses. The center seemed to be a market and a larger building, with the houses built around the edges with little more than small alley ways between them. The houses, or rather, buildings I guess, were made of stone with roofs of wood and hay, similar to the ones of where theyd come from. For a small town, they seemed to be prosperous, though looking at the people it almost seemed otherwise, everyone was in a rush, most with worried faces. It was no wonder why, before long I noticed Army soldiers patrolling around. I tried to shake the memories away and control myself. “Hey, how much money do we have?”
“You already asked that.”
“Well I wanna know the exact amount… so I can know how we can spend it wisely.”
“Didn’t I already say id manage things?”
“yeah, but would you rather I know, or come to you every ten seconds asking how much we have left when I need money?”
“i… fine, we have about 500 exr.”
“Exyren. I would have thought you'd know that, given you’re carrying some.”
“I guess it just never came up. I just took the coins, didn’t really look at them. So how far will that get us?”
“a night at the inn and a few drinks if they're cheap, given that we’ll be eating what we already have.”
“I see…” I watched as a man was dragged off by the gaurds.
Saichi snapped her fingers “hey, you okay?”
“yeah, yeah, I'm fine.” Anger rose in the back of his mind but he tried to suppress it. He could only imagine what saichi was dealing with.
We came to a building with a large front window and saichi walked in. there was a hanging sign by the front door in the shape of a shield with an outlining illustration of such on it. Drawn on there was what looked like a large crack or break in the shield, as well as small pieces that looked like they were cut from the edges. Across the top was what looked like the name of the shop. The “broken-shield inn”, I guess saichi knew what she was doing. I walked in to see saichi already dealing with the inn-keeper. The man was old, bald, and had a long grey beard.
“Last door on the left.” I heard him tell her. She turned back at me gestured for me to follow then headed to the room. Entering, the room was dark and smelled of old wood. There were two beds, a desk with a candle on it, and a window facing the east. “Not too bad.”
We set our stuff down and chose our beds. Saichi plopped down on hers. “so, what do we do now? We have half a day left before night fall.”
“Hmh… I don’t know. Take a look around town? Pick up what we need and see if there’s a place to sell off what we don’t? or,” I plopped down on my own bed and laid down. “We could kick back and relax a bit.”
Saichi looked thoughtful for a bit, and then whispered something I couldn’t make out.
“Nothing, let’s go ask the innkeeper if there's a general store or something.”
I hopped off the bed “as you wish.”
We left and after consulting the innkeeper found the shop. It was small but paid us for the furs wed collected getting here and we lightened some of our traveling load. After a few hours of walking the town, and trying to keep myself calm watching the soldiers parade around like heroes, we went back to the inn and ordered a few drinks.
“So, are you a traveler?” the old in keeper asked serving us the drinks, which saichi wasted no time on.
“I guess you could say that…”
“I see, you wouldn’t happen to be headed north would you?”
“Well, north, north west…”
“Why? All that’s that way is the kingdom,” he lowered his voice to a hush, barely audible over the roar of conversation that filled the place. “ nothing but war and danger…”
“Well, I'm looking for something… or maybe, someone.”
“I see, then… perhaps, would you mind doing me a favor?” he placed down two mugs of beer. Saichi didn’t waste any time with hers. Couldn’t really blame her.
The question surprised me, but I nodded. “I have family up north, my son and grandchildren. I’ve been meaning to send something to him, but the guards raid the mail, won’t let us send anything without inspecting it themselves, and I'm afraid theyd take it if the found it.”
“What is it?”
“A family heirloom, a locket, It isn’t worth much on its own, but it’s been in the family for generations. I don’t trust the guard not to take it if I send it by official courier… what I’m saying is, could you take it to my son for me? If not that’s fine too, I just thought perhaps…”
“Sure, I guess, is he in the next village over?”
“Yes, just north of here. Eeh.. Do you have a map? I’ll show you.”
“Yeah, I’ll go get it.” I went to my room and retrieved the map, on the way back I could hear bits of conversation. The words “taxes” and “bullshit” seemed to be quite frequent.
“Here” I handed him the map and he quickly scribbled down the location and notes on how to get to his sons place.
“There we are, when are you planning on leaving? Ill give it to you then.”
“We probably won’t stay long past dawn.”
“Alright then. Excuse me.” He walked off past the counter to a room down the hall, probably a store room. I drank down half the mug of beer before it warmed, saichi already almost done with hers. The innkeeper returned to the counter and poured her another round. I looked around, the towns folk didn’t very much, most were then, some with hands covered in dirt from the fields, some with slightly better clothing, merchants probably, and some thinner than most sitting alone with their drink. This town… its people were nothing like those of oaken, there was an aura about them, sad and angry at the same time. Oaken wasn’t the most wealth by any means, but this was just…
Outside there were figures moving, lights shining through the windows, why? Not many would go out at night, even in a small town like this. Part of me got paranoid. Thinking it might be another hallucination, that he’d begin seeing the creatures again. But to his relief, it was just guards moving about. What were they doing? The roar died down as the crowd noticed the lights. When it was hush I could hear faint shouts and yelling. After a few moments later the lights faded and the commotion in the bar resumed.
“Looks like things are bad here too.” I mumbled to myself.
“Of course they are. They’re here…” Saichi said in a bit of an irritated voice. It looked like the beer was getting to her.
After a few more drinks and a bar fight Saichi and I retired to our rooms. We lay in our beds, I couldn’t tell if Saichi was asleep or not, but I just stared up at the ceiling, thinking of all that had happened since I was “Born” into this world, and what I was doing. What was I even doing? I had no leads, no information, just a direction to follow…. Should I have stayed with Jin and the others? My mind boggled and second guessed itself over and over, until I gave up and turned on my side, trying to accept that I had chosen my path already and I shouldn’t look back.
“Hey, you awake?” Saichi whispered. I couldn’t see in the darkness but it sounded like she was facing me.
“Can I ask you something?”
“Sure.. I guess.”
“Where exactly are we going?”
“… I’m still figuring that out. For now I kind of wanted to lay low but… you have a point. I don’t exactly have a lot of leads on figuring out who I am… or where I should go. Really I had just planned to head to the capital of the kingdom… but now that I think about it I’m not really sure what I’d do once I got there…”
“So you have no plan?”
“I’m working on it…”
“I'm… there's a barrack here, look at all the guards. Further ahead there in the next town it will be larger. We can probably get some information there… one way or another… I don’t know Saichi.. I really.. I’m sorry, heading off on my own, leaving you behind, for something that now after this past week I’m doubting I need… I’m sorry… but even so I’m not giving up. I’ve set on this path and im not turning back. If I do, all this pain will be in vain.”
“I know.. I kind of figured that’d be your answer… but I believe you. I hope we find what you’re looking for. Though I doubt you’ll be happy with it.”
“Even if I'm not… I have to know.”
“I know… I just want you to be sure.”
“I am…” we lay there in silence for a while. I think I fell asleep first.