"GRAHH!!!!" There was a flash of purple, and then the yoma screeched an ear-piercing noise before splitting in half, blood spraying from its body. A wavy short-haired blonde stepped out, a smile playing upon her lips as she lowered her claymore, which was stained with glistening purple yoma blood. She took a few silent steps towards the ruins of a building, and stopped after approaching a pillar. She paced slightly in front of it. Thoughtfully, she tilted her head back to examine the tall, rusty object.

"Ah," the young woman commented in a feminine voice, "I would normally feel terribly guilty to destroy the only object still standing upright in this pile of ruins, but…" she took a side wards leap, swung her claymore across the pillar in an instant, and landed on the ground, crouched, "…this time I suppose I have an excuse for destruction." Still smiling, she turned her head slightly, just in time to see the pillar split in two, revealing a yoma behind it, who also divided into two with another shriek.

"Your raw strength is still as powerful as a crazy gorilla's, eh, Sophia?" called a rough voice. Sophia stood up and swung her claymore so it pointed sideways, the blood dripping off.

"Some things never change…Noel." Sophia turned around to face Noel as the spiky short-haired female leapt from the top of a crumbled building, landing perfectly in front of a smiling Sophia.

"Your childish monkey jumping proves that." Noel furrowed her brows and turned her head quickly to glare at Sophia.

"Did I hear wrong?"

"Oh, I wouldn't know. It is your ears after all, no?" Noel glared at the smiling face for a brief moment before raising her sword, which was dripping with purple blood.

"Alright. You picked the fight. Let's settle who's Number 3 right here and now!" Noel growled. Sophia swung her sword sideways, tossing off the remaining yoma blood, and pointed it with perfect accuracy at the short-haired's face with her usual confident smile.

"Fine by me."

"What do you accomplish by fighting each other…Noel, Sophia?" Noel, who was just about to lunge, turned her head along with Sophia, even though she knew well whom this voice belonged to. A light breeze blew past, blowing the long white hair and the cape in the wind.

"Long time no see, Irene," Sophia called, smiling at the tall claymore walking towards them as she sheathed her claymore, acting as if nothing had happened. Noel just grunted and turned away, lowering her sword. Irene gave zero response but to continue walking, no expression showing on her face, as usual. Being the calm person she was, she showed no signs of hurrying forward to meet up with the other two, but took her time and continued walking at her old pace. Sophia watched as Irene closed the distance between them step by step, and inclined her head slightly.

"You haven't changed at all, Irene. Still taking your time, as

usual." Irene briefly looked at the two as she arrived. She was exterminating yoma in another part of the town. Unlike Sophia, who had light remaining smears of yoma blood stained on her sword, and Noel, who had a sword dripping with yoma blood and a smudge of purple upon her cape as well, Irene looked as if she just received some new armor and a new sword.

"You've got quite a firm grip on the Number 2 rank don't you, Irene? You don't have any traces of yoma blood anywhere, not even on your sword. And you don't even smell slightly of blood!" Noel continued with a little grin, impressed. Irene glanced towards her again, and closed her eyes.

"I am no longer Number 2." The other two looked up. Sophia's smile faltered, and Noel looked confused.

"What?"

"I have recently demoted to Number 3, making you two Numbers 4 and 5. Another warrior promoted and became Number 2 only awhile ago." Irene reopened her eyes slowly and turned her head slightly. "Her name is Priscilla. Just like the organization's Number 1, Bishou no Teresa, she can dispatch any enemy she faces without releasing any of her yoki." The other two followed Irene's gaze, and noticed a short haired blonde in claymore armor, sprawled on the floor, clutching her head as her claymore lay motionlessly in front of her. Noel stepped backwards slightly with surprise.

"What!? That's only some little girl! Fuck, I'm not going to accept being demoted because of some little bastard!" Noel stormed forward as Irene said, "Try fighting her if you don't believe me. That child…will someday surpass Teresa." Noel ignored and stomped up to the girl, who was still rubbing her head.

"Oi! You there, little girl! I'm not accepting you as Number 2, alright? That's that! You're only some warrior that the they probably screwed up on…I mean, look at the way you are now, on the ground, rubbing your damned head! You look more pathetic than 47!" Noel, angry at her demotion, bellowed at Priscilla. Priscilla apologized over and over as she quickly retrieved her claymore and stood back up, brushing off her armor.

"I-I'm sorry! The yoma took awhile…and I accidentally hit my head on a pillar…I'm sorry!" Priscilla explained in a high pitched, apologetic voice. Noel wasn't about to take that, though.

"I'm not accepting you as Number 2 without a fight!" Noel roared, and she raised her sword, ignoring Priscilla's continuous apoligies, and swung it at Priscilla. CHING!

"Che…" Noel muttered darkly. Irene was, in an instant, behind Priscilla and had extended her own sword, preventing Noel from striking Priscilla, who covered her head with her arms and was trembling. On her arms were a bit of purple blood that splashed off of Noel's blade. Irene's eyes averted slightly to meet Noel's.

"Stop it, Noel."

"But this little-!!"

"Irene's right, you should certainly behave yourself and settle down for a bit, Noel~" Sophia added as she brightly stepped forward from behind the angry tomboy. Before anything else could happen, Sophia went on.

"There must be a reason why Numbers 2-5 are all gathered here. Any one of us could have taken out this town, even with the number of yoma present. So what is it?" Sophia asked, tilting her head slightly and resting one hand on her hip. Irene retrieved her sword, shaking Noel's sword, which was clashed tightly on top of her's, away from Priscilla. Obviously standing no chance against former Number 2, Noel cursed, accepting defeat, and withdrew her sword.

"Our new mission…is to kill the organization's Number 1," Irene stated. Sophia looked up with a little surprise, but made no sound. Noel, however, wasn't shy about hiding her shock and made a disturbing, loud noise that can be described as somewhere between a gasp and a shriek. Priscilla remained silent.

"Normally, I would never take on Teresa, no matter how many members were in the group or how high they were ranked. But now we have Priscilla…perhaps we'll stand a chance." Irene turned to the quiet girl and said, "We'll give you the support and back up you need. Just focus on claiming Teresa's life." Priscilla's old look of fright and uncertainty turned into one of determination, and she sheathed her sword, responding in a solid voice, "I understand, Irene-san."

Shortly after this assassination party met, they set out in search of Teresa. Meanwhile, a wavy blonde long haired woman and a brown haired girl were standing in a room of an inn, observing the large circular room on the second floor. It was elegantly designed, and the furniture was new.

"Is this really okay, Teresa?" the brown haired asked uncertainly, looking around the large room Teresa had paid for. The young woman only smiled and walked up to an armchair, plopping down on it.

"Don't worry. We're only staying here for two days, so we might as well make ourselves as comfortable as possible. Besides…" Teresa set her sword against the wall, "as a former claymore, I get paid pretty high. I've never had any reason to spend my money, so you could say I'm even happy to have a reason to spend." The little girl smiled wide and then climbed up the bed.

"Teresa?" she called. The blonde turned her head.

"What is it?"

"Will they really…come after you?"

"My comrades?"

"Yes. Will they really come kill you?"

Teresa was surprised at the question. She gazed at the little girl, curled up on the bed, her green eyes trembling slightly with concern.

"Don't worry about it, Clare. I will be fine. Trust my words," Teresa assured with confidence. Clare gave Teresa a long look, and then smiled warmly before dozing off. Teresa observed Clare's sleeping face, and then turned her head, catching glimpse of her sword. Her eyes rested on her symbol. She was the strongest claymore ever created, Number 1, Bishou no Teresa. An unbeatable warrior. But she knew they weren't going to give her a special pardon, even if she was the strongest claymore. It wasn't that simple. They wouldn't let it slide that easily, Teresa thought, her eyes narrowing slightly, knowing them, they would probably keep sending warriors to their deaths. Teresa couldn't help but smile slightly. Since it's me, it's probably Number 2 through Number 5 who's coming after me this time. Teresa lifted her head and smiled faintly. She sensed a large yoki. She knew this presence very well, and wasn't surprised to sense 2 others, also two yoki she knew well, along with that large yoki. Those other two weren't as large, but they weren't small either. She wondered where the Number 5 would be, but this didn't concern her at all.

"As I thought," she said before the door opened, revealing a white haired claymore with a cross symbol.

"Yo. It's been awhile, Irene. I'm glad you look so well." Number 1 and former Number 2 looked at each for a few seconds, Teresa with a faint smile and Irene with a calm expression.

"I am here for your head, Teresa," Irene said in a quiet voice, not moving from her spot from the door. Teresa tipped the chair on one leg and spun it 45 degrees so she faced Irene.

"And you think YOU can accomplish that?" Teresa, slightly smirking, leaned back in her chair comfortably and crossed her arms, not at all afraid or concerned. "Go ahead. Give it a try. I don't mind, as long as you keep that sleeping girl out of this." Deep gashes appeared in the walls as a slicing drone was heard.

"Don't worry. It will be over before she wakes up." In a flash, Irene had darted up near Teresa, who responded by snatching her sword and standing up, knocking the chair out of the way. Irene's first move was a slash from Teresa's shoulder diagonally down to her waist while Teresa reached for her sword, but Teresa sensed that coming, and leapt upwards, flipping in the air and landing a few feet away, her sword in her hand, at the spot where Irene was only a moment ago. Irene reacted quickly, though, and shot towards Teresa like a bullet, quickly taking her place behind the blonde. Without giving Teresa another moment, Irene slashed downwards, which Teresa nullified with an upward slash of her own. Then, a slash to the left by Irene, which Teresa rendered useless by slashing to the right with equal power. Irene narrowed her eyes slightly and used Kousokuken, Quick Sword. Teresa acted quickly, and deflected every attack with her sword. The loud clashing of swords was heard, and that was enough to wake up a startled and quite terrified Clare.

"Teresa!" Clare called in a concerned voice. Irene sliced at Teresa's head. Teresa ducked, and an angle of her hair was sliced. Perhaps Galatea would've protested and made a comment, but it didn't bother Teresa much at all. Irene quickly lunged down, and Teresa narrowly evaded by hopping backwards twice and then sliding across the nicely polished wood floor, stopping a bit in front of Clare.

"Don't move," Teresa warned, and then she cursed and spun around when she heard a loud "YAHOOOO!!" that sounded like the voice of former Number 4, Noel. CRASH!!!

"Gyeh…!" Noel growled, lunging at Teresa when her first attack missed. It had, however, successfully destroyed the floor, revealing a slightly confused and surprised Sophia with her sword pointing upwards. Apparently, Sophia was just about to execute her part in the mission, which was to use her unparalleled strength and completely destroy the floor of Teresa's room after Noel's first attack (which was supposed to hit, or at least not make the first floor cave in because of the fight raging on the second floor, by the way), which would successfully send Clare falling and Teresa jumping at Clare. But unexpectedly, Teresa didn't flip backwards at Noel's attack but lean to the right, causing Noel, who was too surprised and had swung too ferociously and fast to change directions of her attack, to smash down the floor, which was crushed except for a part around, fortunately, Clare's bed.

"Gosh," Sophia called, sighing and smiling again at her comrade with a "it can't be helped" expression, "this is the reason you used to always be stuck at Number 4, it's because you aaalways mess up our plan." As Noel angrily hissed and diverted her attention to Sophia, Sophia wasted no time to shoot upwards.

"Well then, we'll just pretend that was an extra step…I'll

make up for your careless mistake," Sophia said as a slight smirk spread on her face; she easily slammed her blade onto Clare's bed, sending Clare and the remains of the bed falling downwards.

"Tere-!!!!!!"

"Clare!" Teresa shouted, cutting Clare off before she sliced horizontally across Sophia's body. Before the blood even splattered from Sophia's stomach, Teresa was already zipping across the room to seize Clare. Sophia had backed up, but the strike still drew blood from her stomach, and Sophia slapped a hand to her wound before blinking slightly slower than normal, and her eyes turning golden in the process. Even a light, near-painless cut like that could be proven fatal later on, like if Teresa attacks that area once more or something. That's why Sophia decided to heal it as quickly as possible, even releasing 10% just to speed up the process. Noel crouched a tiny bit, and then shot out in a blur before disappearing and then promptly reappearing before Teresa, who had Clare secured in her arms.

"Grah!" Noel growled, swinging her sword wildly at the blonde, who dodged every swing with no visible effort. Teresa easily reached out her sword and scratched Noel's arm, causing blood to spurt out. Hissing, Noel continued to attack, but this time with much more ferocity. Sophia promptly arrived, joining Noel in her attack. Sophia had much more strength than Noel, and with her 10% release, her strength boost was clearly visible. After seeing her destroy the floor they were now standing on (the first floor; the terrified owner decided he would rather have them tear down the inn rather than tear him down, so he ran away) with only as much as a tap with the tip of her blade, Teresa realized how much they've all improved during the time she hasn't come into contact with them. Irene's Kousokuken certainly went up a few levels in both speed and power, Sophia's normal strength was even greater, Noel's agility…

"You guys have all gotten better. I'm looking forward to seeing how much Elda improved as well. Where is that girl?" Teresa inquired. It was strange that she didn't sense any presence of the Number 5, Elda.

"Number 5 isn't Elda anymore," Sophia stated before stabbing at Teresa's shoulder, missing, and destroying half of a counter. Teresa didn't know this piece of information, but she didn't react very dramatically.

"Replaced, then?" Teresa casually asked Sophia with her light smile visible upon her face. "Who's the lucky girl who got promoted to Number 5?" Sophia smiled and replied, "Oh my, you are mistaken; the lucky girl has not only demoted Elda, but Noel, Irene, and I as well. The lucky girl who promoted to Number 2…" Sophia slid backwards after clashing swords and matching strength with Teresa, just in time, as Noel jumped off the top of the stairs and stabbed at Teresa, who stepped away. On her face was slight surprise at this piece of information. Someone powerful enough to replace Number 2, Irene…? The most powerful warrior in the current generation, or at least, the generation Teresa knew; Irene had been second only to Bishou no Teresa for a long time…

"Oh? You got replaced, Irene? How depressed you must be feeling," Teresa called to Irene with a slight smirk. Irene bolted forwards, and then crashed her blade down on Teresa's with a surprising amount of force, not looking a bit bothered by the taunt.

"Now, Priscilla!" Irene commanded. Teresa didn't understand what or who Irene was calling out to until she suddenly felt the slightest aura, and spun her head around, still matching power with Irene's sword. She was surprised when she saw how close Priscilla was to her before she even felt her presence at all. There was another one? Impossible, I couldn't sense her at all, and even as close she is now, I can only barely sense her! Teresa thought, sincerely shocked. Teresa swung her sword to the side and tossed off Irene's sword the best she could to get a better look at Priscilla. A child? Teresa thought with even more surprise.

"I am Number 2, Priscilla. Please excuse my rudeness, but I am here for your life, Teresa!" Priscilla exclaimed before swinging her sword at Teresa.

"That fool!" growled Noel after hearing this. Sophia,

who had retreated and withdrew her 10% back to 0%, stood at a safe distance from the fight with one hand over her stomach wound, which had completely healed with her release and left only a little rip in her armor, and the other hand holding her sword, resting it over her shoulder.

"My, my," she commented with a slight smile, "the original plan was to have her backstab Teresa before Teresa could register she was there, but it seems Priscilla had something different in mind. A more dramatic entry, it appears. We've got ourselves another plan-changer."

"Che!" Teresa raised her own sword and struck Priscilla's aside before leaping several meters away and setting Clare down behind a rock. This child was much more powerful than Teresa had expected her to be. If she wanted to hold off Priscilla without getting a scratch, she'll have to use both of her arms.

"Te-Teresa…" Clare choked out in a fearful and worried voice. "Be careful, Teresa…" Clare wrapped her arms around Teresa's waist. Teresa watched the little girl's action and smiled warmly.

"Don't worry about me, Clare. I will be back. Trust my words." With that, Teresa stood up and raised her sword, a surge of determination running through her. She had to win this battle. Even if she could only faintly, if at all, sense this new Number 2's yoki, she had to win. For her pride as Number 1and as the strongest claymore created. For Clare.

"Oi. Irene. Noel. Sophia. Priscilla." Teresa called, her eyes glowing a brighter silver. The four looked at her. Teresa tightened her grip on the handle of her sword and bent her knees slightly, slipping backwards a few centimeters. She was addressing everyone, but the one she was really talking to was the new Number 2. The two gazed at each other, Teresa with her fierce and confident eyes and Priscilla with her determined, naive ones.

"Watch out."

And then Teresa shifted her right foot slightly, denting the ground with her foot, crouched down lower, and suddenly shot off, leaving what appeared to be a very light afterimage. On the face of the afterimage…was a faint smile.