Thanks goes to Gangsta Spanksta for helping me with this chapter's edit.
The Lion of the North and the Warrior of the East.
They had no chance of winning, and she knew it from the beginning. What was the Organization thinking, sending her, the current number eight, along with twenty-two, twenty-seven, and thirty-four to hunt something like that, something so powerful that it was utter suicide to pursue? That Awakened Being was simply untouchable.
Yes, he was simply untouchable. He moved faster than her phantoms. His claws were deadlier than even her claymore in her skilled hands. And he had broken through their formation every time with frightening ease. No, not only was he strong, not only was he fast, but the son of a bitch had to be intelligent to boot.
Number twenty-seven slashed at him pointlessly, a true exercise in futility, as fingernails were stretched, flesh pierced, and blood spilled. She moved no more.
"Bastard!" cried twenty-two, her luxurious, long hair flapping beautifully as she leaped into the air, her sword aiming dead for his head. Sadly, the lion was immune to that beauty, unimpressed, as he accompanied her in the air, while she could only look on helplessly, before claw drank blood. A legless body now lay on the ground, blood spilling out from her mouth, as her eyes stared off into nothingness.
The Phantom's eyes were resolute yet fearful. Her gaze travelled from her surviving comrade to the monstrous humanoid lion who stood before them. His claws were soaked in the blood of the other two silver eyed women.
A lion; that could only mean one thing: their foe was none other than the feared lieutenant of the Silver King, Isley, someone whose name had been feared since the first war between the Organization and Awakened Being. He was the former number two, the Silver Eyed Lion King, Rigardo. And this was bad.
Number eight and number thirty-four stood proudly, or at least attempted to do so, considering that number thirty-four had peed herself, against the former number two. It all just seemed like a joke, a very bad one.
Was it all just a mistake? Did the Organization not know that this is who their enemy was to be? Or was it all an intricate plot to murder her? She couldn't be too sure, since, after all, that Rubel fellow didn't seem trustworthy to her.
However, whatever the case, she didn't have time to consider the possibilities. She had to focus, focus on the problem at hand, and that was the claws. Already, she had been cut by them, yet no blood was shed.
"I see." Spoke the Lion for the first time, his voice surprisingly human. "Fitting movement for a commander."
She swung her claymore at him; he blocked, the metallic sound filling the air, as claw struck steel. She didn't gain her name, The Phantom, by chance, but then again, neither did he. He parried a strike aimed to take off his head and felt a sudden pain from his leg. Apparently, number 34 foolishly had decided to enter the fray and had been arrogant enough to wound him. Bad Move.
"No..." cried out Miria, as the purity of the white snow was tainted by red.
The unlucky Claymore never truly comprehended what move had wounded her. She just felt the harsh, stringing pain and saw the Lion retracting his blood soaked claws. And then there was only darkness.
The Lion slowly turned to the fallen Phantom.
"And then, there was only one."
Night fell in the North, and the inhabitants of the town of Sonja slowly exited their homes. Their destination was "The Pirate", one of the few bars on the frozen plains. There, on the sign of the door, was engraved a feminine figure, a good indication of just what kind of bar this was, one where one could not only buy food and drink but also entertainment and company for the long cold night.
"Everything has its price, it seems, even human honour," thought Rigardo as he entered the bar.
It was noisy like any other bar. The men who filled this place were all naturally ill-mannered. The North was the harshest place to live on the Continent, and these were men whose lives were anything but easy. People here had to constantly toil from day in to day out with little joy in their lives, constantly suffering through the northern cold and the merciless wind, while having to be on a lookout from the hidden yoma presence within their own. No matter how long he had lived, it would always astonish him how these frail beings, these humans, could endure so much and yet manage to go on. It was only these late hours at the bar, the only time, when those men could enjoy themselves, and they did their best to make each night as memorable as they could before the hell of day besieged them.
"Even so, they could be a little more restrained."
He ignored all the stares his unusual outfit was providing him with, while purposefully avoiding looking towards a group of men, ten or so, betting on the dogfights, something which would only cause him hunger. His silver eyes travelled along the length of the large room until he found them. Hunkered down at a table was a young man along with an even younger lady.
The young man was none other than his Monarch, and his only reason for being at this bar; the young lady was the only woman that he, the Lion King, could never lay hands on, his master's concubine. His monarch had long silver hair flowing down his back and wore a elegant blue cloak that, among these poorly dressed labourers, really made him stand out like royalty. The concubine was a brunette with short hair who also wore a cloak, a pink one. Currently, she was clasping the hand of her liege, seemingly only having eyes for him. These were his masters and probably the two most powerful beings in the world.
"What took you so long?" asked Isley, as his right hand rested on Priscilla's while his left raised a bottle of wine to his lips. As his master did so, Rigardo signalled a barmaid to bring him something to drink, before his master continued. "We've been waiting, Rigardo."
Grabbing a chair, he allowed himself a moment to rest. His silver eyes closed for the first time in four days. "I was hunted by a group of warriors. Their leader was quite intelligent. I tried to loose them, but in the end, I had to fight."
If Priscilla had heard him, then she gave no sign of it. "The Organization needs a new single digit…" started Isley, his tone indicative of a question, as a barmaid appeared, giving Rigardo a bottle of beer. It was bad even for his unrefined tastes; the barmaid herself would most certainly be a much tastier treat.
"I couldn't kill them," Rigardo said, trying to control his awakened instincts.
Isley unintentionally raised his eyebrows "The Lion King couldn't finish off a prey? The world is certainly changing."
"Please, do not address me by that name," he requested, as he saw a smile appear on his king's lips. "That was a long time ago, and you still haven't forgotten."
Silence had established itself amongst them, and Isley used it to finish off his own drink. The wine only served as a flavouring for his mouth, and the aftertaste it left was bittersweet as it disappeared with such ease. This was not the first time that Isley had lamented about his inability to get drunk, something that awakening had robbed him of. It didn't matter though, because before the night was out, he and Priscilla would drink from the splendour of another kind of red, a much more sweeter and potent one.
"What is your opinion on love, Isley?" Rigardo asked suddenly.
The King was taken by surprise; he caressed Priscilla's hair before answering.
"A futility at best and an impossibility at worst. Something I've never truly experienced, nor do I desire to."
"Why do you want to know? One of the Claymores that hunted you happened to catch your eye?"
"Sort of…" he said, drinking the beer again.
"Just take her to your bed. It's just another one."
"No, this time is different..."
Isley sighed; he looked at his brother in arms like an adult would look at an ingenuous child. "Have you forgotten what I told you, Rigardo? If they are awakened beings, then they are our servants. If they are yoma, then they are our slaves," Isley said, before his voice turned to a whisper, "If they are humans, then they are our food, and if they are Claymores, then they are enemies."
Rigardo shook his head, looking down "I know that!"" –
"Also, never do anything for woman that she wouldn't do for you."
The Lion's eyes narrowed, as he looked angrily at Isley. "And that comes from the man that will challenge the Empress of the South for the sake of another woman!" Rigardo signalled towards the cuddly Priscilla. No sooner did he finish his words than he felt the King's gaze stabbing at him. Each side's Yoki was instinctively raised, as some people at the bar felt a sudden sickness overcome them. Rigardo now feared that maybe he had gone too far this time, but it didn't take long for Isley's expression to change to a calmer one, as he stood up with Priscilla by his side.
"Whatever, you can take care of yourself. But believe me, there is no such thing as love on this Continent," he said, placing a hand on Rigardo's shoulder. "Remember, you can sing about it, write poetry about it, but in the end, it all comes down to one thing: you penetrating her. And also, whatever I do with Priscilla and for her is none of your concern," he finished, before slapping his lieutenant friendlily across the face before leaving, completely oblivious to the luxurious look that Priscilla was receiving.
Rigardo didn't watch them leave; he was deeply lost in thought. He also never considered love as something that should be expressed in poetry nor fantasized about, yet Isley's raw logic didn't please him a bit, since certainly there was more to love, real love, than simple genitalia action. However, Isley could have a point. Was love possible on this Continent? Could love flourish on a land where yoma disguised themselves as the fathers and mothers of those they preyed upon, the very children who if unlucky to survive would have their flesh corrupted by that of Yoma? And could he, an archdemon, one who delighted himself with the taste of human flesh, feel any sort of love at all? He didn't have the answers to these questions, so he simply raised his bottle to his lips, once more, before making a signal to the seemingly joyful girls who wandered around the bar, ready to satisfy the needs of their clients.