Hope you like.

Audrey was better at it than him, but when Rubel explained the rules and civics of the infamous code itself, the whole thing took a while to sink in. There were over two thousand lines of rules, and every regulator that was stationed here was required to know them by heart. Audrey seemed engaged and took it all in, conversing with Rubel whilst leaving Raki more and more out of it. He didn't really mind. She was the official representative here after all, and he was her protector.

When Rubel was done explaining everything he apparently knew, Audrey left to think alone, leaving Raki alone with the older man. Rubel approached him, said nothing, instead he slipped something weighty into one of his side pockets. He checked what it was a moment later and it discovered it to be a sack of coins. He wondered what it was for, but when he turned to ask, Rubel was already gone.

Afterwards they were toured around various places of interest within the Capitol by guides, as usual eliciting many strange stares from the human population. For reasons neither he or Audrey could understand, they were both allowed to carry their weapons; their massive claymore swords mounted on their backs for everyone to see. Audrey's long blond hair and silver eyes a complete giveaway.

It was explained to them by their guides that they were the first non human entities officially allowed within the city of decades. Every inhabitant here were completely oblivious to the horrors of outside life and for the most part seemed to live s relatively peaceful life. An entire generation of humans had never even seen nor heard of the existence of monsters, and that realization alone took a while to process for them both. The people seemed to be living in relative peace. Thousands of them. Tens of thousands, all living in different districts and yet all bound by the same rules, by the same code.

Their guides led them to different sections of the city; which they soon discovered to be separated into three distinct sections; the one where they were staying at was the rich and political centre of the city, the middle section was for the majority of the working class, and the outer section was reserved for the military. Each district was separated by a wall, though it was no where near as menacing as the one surrounding the city itself, but enough to separate the city enough to make it seem like the people within it lived in three separate worlds.

As they toured through the largest middle district, both him and Audrey expected to discover yoma or other shape shifters amongst the population, but interestingly, there were none to be found. Everyone thus far seemed to be one hundred percent human, at least at first glance. Perhaps the city 's ability to keep out unwanted visitors was better than they thought.

When they arrived at the border to the outer military section of the city, the level of security reached ridiculous levels. They were all stopped and searched methodically, including their own guides. Once again they were allowed to keep their swords, a fact they did not bother to dispute so they went along with it.

When they finally got into the district, their eyes popped wide open from amazement. There were thousands of regulators engaged in marches and drills, all of them heavily armored in plate-mail and an array of heavy weapons, similar to the academy yet more numerous. Their tour guide explained to them that the city had over a million active duty regulators, and many million more human soldiers in reserve. That figure stunned them, but considering the incredibly large circumference of the city, the regulators sure had a lot of ground to cover. Tens and tens of miles of it.

Amongst the regulators, there were also numerous weapons of war; siege weapons that seemed to be designed to target large creatures like dragon beasts and awakened beings, as well as troop transportation and defense vehicles which were pushed by large imprisoned dragon-beasts across large and heavy chains.

There were regulators that were also chained up like animals and left in a dirt pits to wallow in mud. It was explained that this was done on purpose as these were a special type of regulator known as berserkers, and it was their job to run into enemy formations, awaken, and cause as much damage before being taken down.

They toured the military district for a short while before returning back to the inner sections of the city, passing by the middle and heading straight back to the wealthy centre where they started. It was here where they attended various meetings where Audrey introduced herself to people that seemed to hold important positions in governance,Raki thought. He didn't really know what this whole thing was about. His job wasn't to know what was going on. His job was to watch and protect Audrey.

Nothing was out of the ordinary during the first two meetings, but by the third, he felt it in his gut before it even happened. As they moved into one particular meeting hall, both Raki and Audrey could sense the clear presence of yoma in the air. Soon they discovered three of them hidden amongst a small crowd doing their best to blend in but failing miserably - at least to them. They wore the same expensive suits as everyone else, blending in almost perfectly with their unaware victims were it not for the horrific looks to their faces. It seems as if someone had forgotten to tip them to the presence of the claymore and her guard. One seemed to get so panicked it seemed as though it was ready to run away in a panic but did t end up quite doing it. For the most part they stayed cool, and remained curious as to what two claymores were doing here.

Raki was thinking to draw his sword and kill them, but Audrey held his hand and whispered to him not to cause a scene. He didn't understand exactly what she was thinking or what her strategy was or how much influence Rubel had on it. He certainly didn't like it, but he did listen to her, reluctantly. He followed Audrey's lead.

Audrey pretended as if she didn't know the yoma were really yoma, though she did occasionally pass a mean glare over to them as a reminder who was really in charge. Raki enjoyed those moments though. He could tell the yoma were deathly afraid of her, especially when she would bring her hand out for a shake if only to mess with them.

After many hours of boring meetings, Raki got more than sick of it. It's not that he wasn't glad things seemed to have gone smoothly, but he did wish there was something more for him to do.

During one particular meeting, he went for a little stroll around the perimeter of a high rise building, and when he looked out at the general city, he noticed something catch his eye. A dark figure moved across the rooftops at high speed, faster than any human could possibly pull off. He wondered what it was, and when he glanced back at Audrey, it was clear she noticed it too, and she gestured for him to go and investigate.

So Raki moved like the wind. He leapt off the roof and went in pursuit of the elusive figure. The streets below were far too busy for anyone to have noticed them moving. Both him and the figure moved like shadows, a blur to the human eye. Even the human guards that stood at almost every street corner didn't see a thing.

Raki chased it almost to the end of the middle district where the buildings cramped together and crumbling apart. While the rich inner section he left behind was lovely, clean and high class, this part of the city was more a slum. Dirty and forgotten.

Raki chased the figure though a busy tight street where everyone wore old dark rags that made them all look alike and hard to distinguish. In an attempt not to lose his target, Raki picked up his pace, plowing through a busy marketplace and doing his best not to knock away too many people, but it was unavoidable, and when he pushed over a vegetable cart, he briefly apologized to their screaming owner before throwing him a few golden coins from the money sack Rubel had given him earlier.

The pursuit continued down ever narrowing alleys that seemed to be only large enough for small children to pass through. Surprisingly, The dark figure could go through it by hugging the wall and crab walking through it, so Raki attempted the same, but he found that his chest was too big to fit through, so he exhaled a large breath and only just managed to squeeze himself through the narrow space.

When he finally reached the end, Raki was relieved to finally be in an open space and having the space to expand his lungs again. But he didn't have time to waste. Up ahead in a dark street, he noticed his target continue to run and meld in to a bother busy crowd of people further up ahead.

This guy just won't quit...

Raki slipped into the crowd as well, and quite easily at that. Even though he was quite a large man, and had a massive sword across his back, everyone seemed far to busy to notice any of that. Raki followed through a few more winding down alleyways and side streets doing his best to keep up, but whether it was due to the large crowds or he was simply too slow, he began to lose sight of the elusive figure until he lost sight of it entirely.

But he didn't give up. Raki kept moving forward until he was met with an intersection of alleys and he had to chose between turning left to a wider path or right to a more narrow one. While he hated the narrower option, he chose that one, thinking that's where he would have gone if he were being chased. He went all the way down the path until a certain door to one of the shady buildings caught his attention. It was very ordinary door at first glance, with its green paint half scrapped off, but there was just something about it which warranted investigation.

Raki approached the door which he noticed had a half broken doorknob. When he placed his hand upon it, he was startled when a large hairy arm came out from the shadows and grabbed at him. Raki looked over and noticed there was a large bold thug with a mean face looking at him as though he has crossed a line.

Raki felt threatened, and so he shoved the man backwards with considerable force, staggering him as he slammed into the wall. Another thug then fell down from the rooftops behind him, and Raki ducked to avoid a large wooden club from smashing his head in. He managed to shove the one with the club backwards as well, giving him enough time to analyze them,

Both of them are yoma...

No more playing nice...

Raki pulled out his sword from the sheath across his back, and in one smooth motion, sliced the first yoma into two separate pieces. The other one then charged at him again with the club but despite its size, the yoma didn't put up too much of a fight, and when Raki revealed his superhuman strength, the yomas eyes widened in fear as had understood its fate. It died a fraction of a second later when its head was removed from its neck.

That takes care of that...

Raki reached for the door handle again, and this time was allowed to open the door the whole way. Unfortunately, there was nothing really behind the door to be excited about. It was just the interior of a poorly managed house, dark and abandoned, exactly what anyone would have thought from the outside.

He went inside to investigate further, and discovered a trapdoor in the centre of the living room. He opened it and then went down an old wooden ladder which led to a small tunnel. He followed the tunnel until he heard the sounds of a large crowd chattering up ahead, and soon enough he discovered a rather large place hidden away in secret; A large open chamber that was filled with what seemed like thousands upon thousands of people all gathered at a type of party or marketplace event. Every single one was dressed in identical black robes, and they all wore animal masks to cover their identities.

There were raised platforms scattered about the crowd, some of which contained cages of dragon-beasts, and others with chained up of the ones still in their humanoid forms. By the looks of things, they were not being treated very well. Some were being whipped for no other reason than for the entertainment of the crowd, of cruelty that made Raki cringe.

This is Inhumane...

...Is that even the right word?

Curiosity made him want to find out more. He knew he had to blend in, so after discovering one of the black robes alone, he was surprised to learn that it was a woman and not a man. Raki knocked her unconscious and dragged the body away where nobody would discover it for a while. He removed the mask and was saddened to see an otherwise ordinary middle aged woman, someone who looked almost exactly like the countless faces he passed by in the markets earlier.

He took off her long cloak and used it to cover himself, and then placed the animal mask over his face as well. He then slipped rather easily into the crowd rather easily and roamed around for a while until, studying the different types of dragons that were being shown and apparently sold. He heard shouts from auctioneers atop the platforms and bids from the crowds from those that wished to purchase what was being sold.

Raki continued exploring about for a little while until there was some type of announcement and the crowd began heading towards the an empty main stage up the front. Raki pushed his way through the crowd so he could get a better look. What he saw shocked him.

A woman was walked on stage. Her hands and ankles were bound by shackles, and she wore a collar around her neck which connected to her lead carried by a man in black with the mask of a bird. But as Raki recognized the grey battle suit she wore, he soon realized she was no ordinary woman. She was a claymore.

Her face was down in misery. Her silver eyes shining cold and dim. There were hard lines across her face from dried up tears, running around the black dirt that was smudged all over her dirty unwashed face. Raki instantly felt sorry for her, but knew there was nothing he could do as he came here to watch and observe not necessarily get himself and Audrey kicked out of the Capitol.

The masked man in black that stood next to her then cleared his throat and then the crowd went silent.

"ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your participation in the marketplace. I hope you've been impressed by our current showing. Today, we have a very special piece of merchandise, one that needs no introduction. You all know who I'm talking about. So without further ado, allow me to get straight to the chase. The buyout price is ten million credits."

Interested whispers could be heard back and forth from the crowd. The man in black atop the stage stood in silence he watched the crowd, feverishly looking around..

"I'll have her for five million!" A man yelled out from the crowd.

"May I remind you, this is not an auction," The man in black grumbled dismissively. "Ten million credits. No more, no less. Do not waste my time with any offers or deals as none will be accepted. Final chance. Are there any takers?"

The whispers amongst the crowd gradually died down until there was silence yet again. Raki had no idea how much ten million credits actually was in the context of things, but it was sounded like a whole lot as nobody appeared to have the money.

With no response from the crowd, the man in black then turned to the claymore and announced. "Very well then. Shall we move on to the punishment then?"

The claymore was led down into the crowd which gave them way but not very much. The crowd began to grow excited, and it was clear by then that she was being paraded about, at least for now.

The claymore was led to the centre of the crowd where the chain was removed and then she was pursued by dozens from the crowd, some of which were given long sticks to hit her with while others simply threw stones. Perhaps it was due to her bindings, but she moved slowly for a claymore, still fast enough to evade her attackers, though still tripping over once or twice due to a strange lack of balance.

Raki watched anxiously as he struggled to hold back doing something stupid, but it became harder and harder the more she tripped over humiliatingly and tumbling over only to be beaten by sticks. She managed to escape quickly though, and they only got a couple hits in on her. Raki noticed she was heading towards him, and he wondered whether he should stand aside or leave things to fate and stand his ground.

The claymore appeared to look straight at him for a split moment and then trip over one last time only to fall into his arms when he reached to break her fall. While doing so, she accidentally knocked off his mask, revealing his face straight to her. Up close, Raki could see the hurt across her. Up close, She appeared youthful, though she had a hard and pointy face, pretty but tough, as was evident by the lines across her face and the many scars across he body

Her eyes widened a though she was either very afraid or very comforted by him. Raki wasn't sure, and whether it was out of panic or something else, the claymore flailed her arms and got one of them stuck in one of his side pockets and hereby ripping it open, causing the sack of coins Rubel had given him to fall to the crowd and spilling a small portion of its contents out.

Everyone froze. Everyone including Raki. The woman, in her desperation appeared sorrowful and immediately fell to her knees and scrambled to collect the coins from the floor with shaky hands. Raki felt sorry for her so he knelt down to help her collect them even as the crowd watched in with an uncomfortable silence. When they were all collected, the claymore picking up his mask as well and gave it all back to him.

She appeared to take one last long glance at his face before he covered it back up again with the mask. Her eyes narrowed.

"You don't look like one of them...who are you?" She said quietly so only he could hear.

Raki tried to deepen his voice, and replied quietly as well. "I'm just uh, some guy." Raki stuttered. "The better question is, Who are you?"

She looked at him as if he said something strange. "…You really don't know?"

"I have no idea. All i see is a pretty lady in an unfortunate situation."

"Pretty…lady?" She said in confusion, though he did notice her eyes going back to his side pocket where the hefty coin purse was.

Raki knew he couldn't trust anyone, not even someone who he thought was just a victim. Audrey gave him strict instructions not to do anything stupid, and this whole situation was clearly in that category.

"You have a lot of coin..."she said.

"I don't have that much...and almost all are fake..." Raki said, nervously tapping his pocket. It didn't seem like she believed him though.

"I beg of you, please purchase me. Please be my master."


"I'll be the best slave you've ever had, i promise."

"Why...me?" Raki said.

Her voice edged on begging. "You seem normal. Don't leave me with these freaks. They are all masochist weirdos. Please, let me be yours. I choose you!"

Raki was stunned. Everyone was looking at him. The claymore. The crowd. There was nothing but silence as everyone awaited what would happen next, how Raki would react. Already a few of them were giving him strange disapproval looks, and Raki could hear them whispering to each other no doubt gossiping about him. They had all seen his face, but interestingly, it didn't seem to raise any red flags. Perhaps nobody knew nobody here, and he was no less suspicious than the next person.

The claymore noticed this too. She pulled her head down sorrowfully. "They are getting suspicious. Hit me."

"What?" Raki said, confused.

"You must punish me for disrespecting you...Do it now, Hurry"

"I won't hit you. I could never hit a woman."

"Then slap me. I beg of you, please. Do this for the both of us.."

Raki passed her an uncomfortable look, but she seemed to be very serious about it. He didn't want to hit her but the crowd was watching and things were beginning to feel less awkward and more tense.

He felt bad about it, but he did as she told him, and so he slapped her across the face hard enough to make it look convincing but not too hard to hurt too much. She almost fell back from the blow in an exaggerated manner, clearly putting on a show to make things seem as dramatic as she could. She was a good actress, Raki thought. Fake Tears began to flow from her eyes as she collected herself, She crawled forward on her knees until she grabbed at his shoes and began to kiss them in a submissive manner.

The man in the bird mask approached them carrying a coiled up piece of rope, unwinding it to reveal a cruel whip with many small hooks across the end.

"Do you wish to administer punishment to the slave? Or shall I do the honors?" He said.

"Uh, What now?" Raki said.

The man in the bird mask handed the whip to him, but Raki was slow to reach for it. When he eventually did, he looked at the claymore who had her head down low, as if mentally preparing herself for the pain that was to come.

What the hell is going on here?

Does everyone here expect me to use this on her?

"...I forgive her. Punishment is not necessary." Raki said, handing back the whip awkwardly.

The man in black titled his head as if he had heard something odd. The whispers in the crowd increased to murmurs and grumbles.

"She is a slave without a master. The code dictates that she is deserving of punishment whether you forgive her or not, as you very well should know." The man said coarsely , his voice deep and angry.

Raki looked around at the crowd and knew he had to do something to break the tension and expectation. He couldn't afford to buy any more time.

He reached into his pocket and pulled out the sack of coins, unsure if it was in fact enough to buy her.

"I wish to purchase the this slave." Raki said.

After Raki purchased the claymore slave, the coin sack in his pocket still felt just over half full but surprisingly still somewhat hefty. He wondered why nobody seemed to question where he got such a large sum of coins, or whether he was even a resident of the Capitol itself, but he just went with it. The man in black happily took his coin and handed over the slave with no questions asked.

Her shackles were removed by his request, and she was given a robe and mask to cover her features, and with that, she followed him back out into the streets like a child follows their parent. The man in black had warned him. Just a friendly reminder, do not, under any circumstance, compromise us by revealing her identity in public. Do so, and we will kill you and everyone you care about.

The claymore followed him outside and back through the busy streets of the slums. That last warning still ringing loud in his head, but he shook it off, knowing that for now, he had other problems.

I bought a slave…Does this make me a bad person?

What's Audrey going to think? I hope I did the right thing...

...Should I introduce myself properly?

...might be a better idea to do it now rather than later...

He stopped walking, turned around and decided to say something to her, but for some reason he drew a blank and literally couldn't think of anything.

Why were you so chatty before and now...

You won't say anything?

Neither am I, I suppose, but I thought you would say something...

The claymore stood where she was, perfectly still and at attention. Her mask was distracting. it made it impossible to tell what she was thinking, although if he looked close he could a glimmer of silver shine through the two eyeholes of the mask, and they focused right at him.

She's going to bolt off the moment we walk into a busy street...

Oh well. Maybe that would be for the best.

She wouldn't be safe with me and Audrey anyway.

Raki turned back around and continued on, feeling incredibly awkward about this whole situation. He had no idea just how seriously this claymore was with this narrative, or if her motives were entirely different to what he expected. As the slipped into a busy street, he expected her to disappear, but that didn't end up happening. As he looked back every now and then he saw she was always faithfully behind him. She followed obediently, never smitten to any outside distraction, her focus always on him, for better or worse.

Soon enough they arrived back at the inner districts where the number of guards skyrocketed. They were at almost every corner, and each one attempted to stop them for questioning, but when Raki showed them the special signed document that Audrey had given him, they gruntingly stood down and let them both through.

A Royal executive pardon comes quite useful...

When they arrived at the tall hotel building where him and Audrey stayed at, the woman behind the counter appeared alarmed at the sight of his masked companion, but she made no comment, besides the usual welcome.

They went up to the higher floors and then down the hall until he found his room. Raki's heart was beating loudly in his chest as he placed his copy of the key within the lock.

What the hell am I doing?

Is this even a good idea?

Nevertheless, he opened the door, gesturing for her to go in before him. She did, and then he followed suit. She observed the luxury place for a little while before standing at attention in the direct centre next to the pool and water fountain. Raki was a little surprised. He thought she would comment on the grand luxury of the place.

She stood in silence, still wearing her mask and awkwardly facing him stubbornly as if awaiting to be addressed.

"Did you want to take off your mask? I don't think you need it anymore." Raki said.

Still, she did not move or respond in any way, and it was beginning to make him feel threatened. It was as if she had some motive he didn't know.

"Why are you ignoring me? Stop it!" Raki said frustratingly. "Is there some rule from your stupid code that's telling you to do this?"

Finally, she answered in a smooth, emotionless voice. "Yes master. Rule number sixty seven. A newly owned slave must not speak until they are given their first command by their master. So to answer your question, master, no I was not ignoring you. If you wish for me to take off my mask you must command me to do that, or do it yourself."

"...are you serious? You want me to command you?" Raki said.

"Yes, that's the idea, master."

"I command you to take off your mask..." he said. And she did just that. Now that things were calm and he could see her without distraction, he noticed her face was not one of a slave, her body strong like a soldier, or a dancer.

"Look, so this whole situation took me by surprise," Raki said as he scratched his head in his bewilderment. "One moment i'm chasing some mysterious guy across the city, and the next I arrive at a slave market and end up buying a slave. I don't usually do these things so I feel really quite lost right now..."

The woman tilted her head funnily and said. "I understand, master."

"I'm Raki by the way. I don't think you ever introduced yourself. And you are?" He held out his hand to her for a shake, but she did not reach for it, and instead stared at him oddly.

"You deem me worthy to shake your hand?"

"Of course. Why wouldn't I?"

After a brief moment of self doubt, she slowly placed her hand against his and they shook hands as though they were already friends.

"My name is Slave. But you may name me whatever you wish."

"Slave huh? No that won't do. What was your name before you became...this?"

The claymore's face turned sour, and she looked away as though she were embarrassed, clearly not happy having to say it but doing it anyway."…Karter."

"Karter, how did you end up being a slave anyhow?"

"I made a mistake I shouldn't have." Karter said, her features twisting in shame. "I failed justice. I disgraced my honor. Being demoted to a slave of the code is my punishment."

Raki took a step back, both literally and figuratively. "You really take this code thing seriously, huh?"

"The code rewards those who serve humanity well, and punishes those that make mistakes or betray its cause."

"Who wrote the code?"

She appeared flustered. "The first grand master. The founder of the code."

"Right...Look, you keep calling me master, I am not your master, no one is." Raki asserted.

Her features changed as if he had said something wrong, incorrect or offensive. "But, you are my master. You legally purchased me. That entitles me to you to do with me as you wish."

"I don't care what the code says. The whole thing sounds stupid. No person should ever be owned by someone else..."

"You think so?," she said, "but It truly brings me great joy to serve you. I cannot wait for the next command you are to give me."

"So you'll do...anything i tell you?" He said


Raki moved towards one of the lounge velvet lounges and collapsed against it with a loud sigh, holding the bridge of his nose with a pinch of his fingers as though thinking profusely about something. She sat down beside him and placed a hand across his lap.

"Master, Have I permission to speak freely?" She said.

"You do..." he said uncomfortably sitting up straight but not facing her. It was difficult to think with her hand across his lap. It as warm and pleasant, and very distracting.

"Master, I want to thank you for taking me away from those other freaks and weirdos. I am truly, truly grateful to have such a handsome and merciful master... " She said with a sultry smile as her hand moved to his inner thigh where she began to stroke up and down with sensual precision.

Raki didn't quite want her to touch him, especially in such a private area, but he didn't attempt to stop her, frozen by inaction. He was surprised she would even dare to touch him considering she considered herself a slave, although she may have suspected he was not a cruel man, and so she simply did what she thought she would get away with. With such simple touches he could feel his loins burning with desire, and he felt embarrassed when he began to harden under her touch. She had noticed it too, and from her lips escaped a curvy smile of satisfaction.

"I'm sorry, I can't." Raki said as he pulled both himself and her hand away.

Karter lowered her head in sorrow. "Have I displeased you, master?

"No it's not that, you see, there's uh, someone else...I like..."

Her face ripened with curiosity. Her head tilted ever so slightly to the side. "I see."

Raki nodded. "Yeah...thing is, I doubt Audrey will ever approve of me having a slave, so you can see the dilemma I've gotten myself in."

"I could serve her also, if you wish."

Raki waved his arms up in frustration. "No, you don't get it. Look, if I really am your master, then I could command you to do anything, right?"

"The code doesn't mention what is proper conduct between master and slave. It is assumed that the master knows best."

"So theoretically, I can command you to do anything?"

"Rule number one. A slave must obey every command given by their master, even if that command were to conflict with any of the other rules in the code. If you were to command me to kill someone on your behalf, I will attempt to get it done, bar none. If you command me to end my own life, I will do that also without a moments hesitation."

Raki cringed. He couldn't believe what he was hearing. He thought for a little bit until he came up with an idea. He looked at her and she at him intriguingly.

She added: "forgive me Master, but I must assume you're from some place far away from here."

"What makes you say that?"

"Your knowledge of the code appears to be..." She said, pausing as if to choose her next words delicately. "Lacking."

"Well, you could say that I've been living on an island, but look," he said, changing the subject. "I think I know a way we can all be happy. What if I command you to be free?."

"Command me...freedom?" She said, brows creased in bewilderment.

"You said you must obey every command given right? So, then I could command you to be free. Free from me. Free from the code forever, right?."

She watched him with awe, confusion clear in her eyes. "You'd...really do that?"

"Sure. But only if you tell me about your original crime. What could you have possibly done that was so horribly bad they condemned you to this way of life? You don't seem like a criminal or anyone worthy of being punished at all. What's your story Karter?" Raki said.

Karter lowered her head and sighed a sad sigh. "A couple weeks ago, I lost a very important battle. My strategy failed, and as a consequence, thousands of my soldiers lost their lives for nothing. I let the whole Capitol down. I let humanity itself down. Due to my incompetence, the dragon kind have retaken territory they didn't hold for hundreds of years. So You see, master, I am deserving of punishment. Do not feel any pity for me for I do not deserve it. I am a failure and I must be rehabilitated."

Raki replied. "So you lost an important battle, I'm sure you did your best. Learning from losses is even more important than celebrating your victories, you'll be stronger next time.."

She nodded. "Yes, That is a good attitude to have."

"You were a regulator?"

"Affirmative. I was the General of the army." Karter said, straightening up like a soldier as though a pride from deep within her burst outwards.

"You mean, the capitals army?" Raki said dumbly.


"So General. What do you plan to do if you are freed?" Raki said.

"I will return to active duty, back to my post and continue to help defend the Capitol and its people."

Raki placed a hand across his chin and folded his legs as he pondered. "Alright then. I think you deserve a second chance, so, as your master, I officially command you to be free. You are no longer my property. You are officially relieved of your slave duties. Do I have to sign to make it official or is that statement alone enough?"

She stared at him in befuddlement for a while, as if the whole thing did not quite yet sink in. And then her face turned to admiration, and a broad smile drew across her lips and she bowed down respectfully before him with a hand across her chest.

"I am humbled by your kindness...master, I mean, Raki." She said with a new playfulness. "I promise I will find a way to pay you back the coin you used to purchase me."

"Oh don't worry about that. I'm glad to have helped you out. To tell you the truth, it was't even mine anyway."

"You stole it?" She said.

"No, it was given to me. It's complicated."

Karter smiled. "Everything is always so damn complicated, ain't it?"

"The world wants to beat us down but we can't let it. And that means, sometimes we have to help each other so we can help ourselves." Raki said.

Karter stared at him as if he was the most fascinating thing in the world, though she clearly did not understand what he was about. Then, she bent herself forward, and Raki thought she was going to kiss him. It all happened too fast, and he found himself frozen as he felt her warm lips pressed against his own. It was less a romantic kiss and more of a unique way to show appreciation, at least that's how Raki interpreted it. She pulled away after a moment and then said,

"My door will always be open to you, Raki. Come and see me some time, or better yet, join me on the battlefield.

Raki didn't say anything back. She threw him a military salute, and then was on her way out the door. He had no idea where she even stayed at, or whether he would ever see her again, or how she could even avoid detection and show herself to the public.

She did take her mask, right?

Audrey sighed in exacerbate relief when the day was finally over. She had met with everyone her schedule had mandated her to do, and yet, she didn't really get much out of the whole experience. She faced resistance everywhere she went. Getting herself legally allowed to vote was one thing, and changing the laws was another. Her task was monumental and she wondered whether Miria was right to have faith in her to conduct such a task.

But instead of worrying about herself, she was more worried about Raki. She had hoped he had returned sooner, and she grew worried the more time had passed. He was never far away from her. Always watching out for her, always protecting her. She really like that about him. His absence was like a cold, unpleasant chill.

She hurried back to the lobby of their stay, where the usual friendly and professional woman at the counter had something to say to her besides her usual welcomes. The counter lady appeared to be concerned about something, and after Audrey asked her what was wrong, she began to explain how she saw Raki return a moment ago with another woman.

Another woman?

Those words peaked her curiosity.

What could Raki possibly be doing with another woman?

Audrey thanked her and then eagerly felt the need to hurry back to the room, but in that moment, across the corridor, she noticed at the opposite end a woman in a long robes heading down the opposite way. A closer inspection confirmed her to b more than just a human. Her silver stare was a dead giveaway. In her hand she held a flat white object that appeared to be a mask, and was about to put it on before they noticed each other.

Alarmed, Audrey stood where she was, unsure whether to feel threatened or happy about the fact that she was meeting one of her own kind after quite some time. Before they intersected each other, the claymore stopped before Audrey, making her feel intimidated. The claymore had marks of a veteran, and a no nonsense gaze with those overly intense silver eyes.

"You must be Audrey."

Audrey nervously replied, her brow raised. "I am. And you are?"

"General Karter."

"Wait...I've heard of you..." Audrey said, thinking back "You're supposed to be discharged for some offense to the Capitol..."

"I was, but not anymore , and it's all thanks to Raki." Karter said. She then stepped closer into Audrey's personal space before smirking in her face. Audrey initially thought it was an attempt to threaten her, but there was an element of playfulness to it.

Audrey didn't know how to interpret that" What are you...trying to say? I don't understand? What do you know about Raki Where is he? Did you hurt him?"

"No I didn't," said affermingly before adding in a serious manner. "He is a good man...I only hope you are worthy of him. Goodbye for now."

Karter then continued to walk off, leaving Audrey behind with dozens of still unanswered questions.

Audrey allowed her to go. She didn't care about the woman as much as she worried for a Raki. She put herself together and hurried her way to the room. She needed to see him to know for sure if he was safe. She couldn't take the word of a random person she didn't know. She could see that the door to their room was already opened, and when she entered, it was a relief like no other to like no other to see him standing against the far window, peering down at the city below.

"Raki. What happened?" Audrey said, her voice deep and laden with intimacy.

Raki was slow to turn around. He seemed as if he wasn't sure himself. Audrey dropped her things, and then approached him. He seemed to contemplate the correct words to say to her, until finally he swallowed the lump in his throat and just let it out.

"I bought a slave." he said.

Audrey looked at him blankly, unsure what he meant by that. "You bought a...slave?"

"Yes, but then I freed her."

Evelina had charged them with the crime of of 'playing' in a restricted area, and their sentence was swift, but surprisingly not as severe as expected. Evelina didn't end up torturing them or anything like that, at least not physically, but she did have something in mind. She strangely allowed everyone else go and then forced Miria and Hysteria to run laps around all day around the entire perimeter of the wall, with the losing having to continue on all night as well.

It was quite a daunting prospect. Miria enjoyed running but not for white so long, and not even the amazing view of the outside land or the Capitol within could keep their wonder for very long under such circumstances. The Capitol was truly massive, and so was the wall that surrounded it. Just one lap was at least thirty or so miles by Miria's estimation, an insane distance when put into context. The other end of the wall was so distant it could hardly be seen.

Nevertheless, since was a competition, Miria aimed to prove to Hysteria that she was the better long distance runner, and she aimed to prove it by leaving Hysteria behind in the dust, so to speak. Of course there was no dust out here. Just cold hard stone and mortar which the wall was made of.

Hysteria had met her challenge and her glares, and for the next couple hours they ran neck and neck, neither deciding to use their abilities to conserve energy. At first, they had a bit of fun with it and shoved each other around now and then, but as the hours went by both soon understood that the race could go either way and so they concentrated on winning.

Miria knew that she had more stamina than Hysteria, though the latter had longer legs, which proved to be a quite the advantage when running a cross country style race. Even without their powers they both ran faster than an ordinary horse at gallop speed, and sometimes even faster than that, but only when a quick burst was needed. Most of the time, they both focused on disciplining their minds the most. Neither wanted to lose.

Miria was still impressed with Hysteria's general athletic ability. She was preserved exactly as she was during her time, and not many claymores of official city, especially the higher ranks bothered to keep themselves at peak physical condition all the time, and Hysteria was no different, who only did what was needed to be done and never any more.

When the sun almost disappeared behind the horizon, Miria had noticed Hysteria tiring, so she increased her own efforts in order to pull ahead. Hysteria had determination, and Miria was willing to return nothing but the same. She was already tired as is and did not want to run for another twelve hours or so if she could avoid it. She didn't want to lose. She was sick of losing to Hysteria. She wanted a Hysteria to lose instead.

Evelina had left behind a few of their guards as observers and general rule keepers. They watched the race and set up the rules and regulations, which weren't very many. One of them even appeared to hold a notebook and tool notes on them.

Near the end of the final lap, Miria looked over her shoulder and saw with glee that Hysteria was now quite far behind, and no doubt doomed to be the loser. Neither of them had the energy to waste on using their abilities, not now, no matter how much they wanted to, and she knew how badly Hysteria wanted to. She could see it across her face. Hysteria had slowed down to a crawl by their standards, and the distress and disappointment was clear. At first Miria felt satisfied to see her rival in a disadvantaged position: she couldn't wait to brag about it to her about it later, but as the end drew near, Miria suddenly felt a different feeling flood through her. Guilt. As much as she liked winning, she hated seeing others losing..

Miria couldn't believe she actually considered it, less actually doing it. She knew she couldn't have it any other way, so she slowed down and stopped to a halt only a foot away from the finish line.

Just one more step...

Why am I holding back?

What am I doing?

Hysteria caught up a moment later, slowing down to a halt next to her and also not crossing over the line. She was clearly exhausted and out of breath. Neither decided to cross the finish line, and instead took the time to stare at each other out of raw passion.

Miria decided to say something. "So. Maybe if we step over the line together, it could be a tie, and we would both only have to run six hours each instead of the full twelve."

Hysteria appeared to listen but seemed conflicted as well. She looked as though she were about to say something but, but then she glanced over to the side and then quickly and sneakily stepped over the edge, and thereby winning their race. Miria stared at her in disbelief. Hysteria then walked off without saying a word, no thank you or anything, and without even looking at her.


I'm not sure sure what I was even expecting...

Miria had began to regret giving up first place so she could please Hysteria. Hysteria clearly wasn't a team player, at least not with her, and that made her incredibly frustrated since things were always so on and off between them.

She felt a tap across her shoulder. It was from one of the regulators as a reminder of her task. Miria sighed as she prepared for the task ahead. She was tired but not exhausted, but after running for at least another ten hours or so until morning would no doubt ware her out.

So she ran. For hours. And the whole time she could only think about one thing. She imagined Hysteria laying comfortably in her bed back at the dorms while she was stuck here sweating her ass of like a complete idiot. At first she thought Hysteria had made her into a fool, but with every step it became clearer to her that she had done it all to herself. Hysteria took advantage of her because she allowed it.

She ran until the sky turned bright red and the morning sun rose from behind the horizon, and even further than that until it was up and shining bright yellow half way up the sky. The regulators stopped her then, and she was allowed to go back to the dorms. It was better late than never, but still, Miria doubted she could or would get any sleep. She only had at most half an hour until the assembly bells rang, or least she thought. As soon as she arrived at the dorms and landed her head across her pillow, the assembly bell rang.

The students assembled at the center of the academy where they arranged themselves atop the usual grassy area, separated into their two usual groups; males on one side and females on the other, and then divided further according to island and rank. All awaited to be addressed, until finally Evelina herself walked on stage in a slow cat walk, her heels loud thuds that thundered the stage. She reached the centre and stood idly, absorbing all the different eyeballs that were glued on to her, enjoying the attention to herself. She flicked her hair to the side unnecessarily, and then cleared her throat and said.

"I'm sure you all must be wondering exactly why it is that you've been called here, so allow me to put you out of your misery. You will be fighting on behalf of the Capitol and it's people against the dragon invasion, yes we do get these occasionally, and no, not all of you will return alive I'm afraid. Such is the reality of war, too bad so sad...Each of you will be receiving missions which will help tip the scales of important battles out there in the big bad world. But don't worry, your trainers fill you in on everything later, so pay attention to what they say. Remember, they are smarter and wiser than you. I'd also like to remind you all that this academy's reputation is my reputation, so I expect you to do good by my name..."

Evelina then paused as she strutted across the platform with both hands behind her back. "if not, the punishment will be severe, and trust me when I say severe. Students who fail to impress me are going to have a very bad time at my academy, so I suggest you all do your best out there, and if that's not good enough, then do more than your best. If you can't do that then please don't bother coming back. Death might be a better option for ...Are there any questions?"

Besides a few murmurs and whispers, there was a general silence from the group of students. Miria looked around and wondered if anyone wanted to say something, if anyone was brave enough. She noticed Skye was a little less rebellious than her usual self, and like everyone else did not even bother really saying anything back. Most of the time when Evelina asked a question, it was really more a statement anyway.

So Miria decided to take the liberty to say what everyone was thinking;

"Headmaster, your presence on the battlefield would be a morale boost to us all. Surely you will be joining us in the battlefield so we could see first hand your utter supremacy."

Evelina tensed her lips together, staring at Miria with a look could have frozen fire.

"Ah Miria, I'm glad you asked me that, because I will be leading your group."

Later that day, Miria still couldn't quite believe that Evelina had decided to come along with them. She thought that running laps around the perimeter of the Capitol was punishment enough, but this was a hundred times worse. She had no proof but she had reason to believe that Evelina could read minds, which made her the most dangerous enemy yet.

And now that they had left the academy and were intimately close with her and her guards, the paranoia reached its peak.

Can you really read my thoughts?

Do you know what I'm thinking now?

Evelina rode at the very back of their travel party, atop her majestically armored steed. She was surrounded by two dozen regulator protectors, none of whom were given steeds of their own.

I will stop you...one way or another...

Evelina looked at her in that moment as if she had indeed read her mind, and sent a playful wink in her way. Miria froze in bewilderment, the hairs across the back of her neck rising. She couldn't be certain Evelina could read minds but that wink was either the proof that settled it or just a mere coincidence. Uncertainty freaked her out more than anything. Not knowing was the worst type of torture.

Miria sighed. Things weren't all that bad though. She had run for over twelve hours and had no sleep, but she wasn't tired. Shed done worse during her seven years in Alphonse.

Her old group was back; her friends and fellow deserters, and now that they were away from the academy, all of a sudden there was a sudden shift in power. Even though a Evelina and her at least two dozen guards had them outnumbered, things felt more even then they should.

While the other groups headed off in a westerly direction, Evelina brought them the complete opposite way, into flatlands that eventually broke into forestry mountain terrain. They marched for hours, and yet within all that time, Evelina had not discussed the specifics of the mission to anyone, or where they were going and what they were going to do.

"This is ridiculous," Helen said, looking back at the envoy of guards that followed them. "Why are we being herded around like cattle? We have a right to know where they're taking us!"

"Go and ask Evelina then." Deneve said.

"Are you kidding me? Maybe you should since you'll more likely survive all those holes her guards would put through you."

"We must be be patient," Cynthia said. "Evelina is counting on us misbehaving, so we should do the opposite, right Miria?"

Miria sighed. She just didn't know. Evelina was always good at tripping her up. Nothing made sense when it came to her. Evelina appeared to know things that shouldn't be possible, and implied to to have eyes everywhere. Whether that was a metaphor or literal Miria still hadn't quite figured out yet.

"Right...yes...for now we employ...strategic patience..." Miria replied.

"That is a fancy way of saying; do nothing." Hysteria said.

"No, i think it's clever," Tabitha said, giving a grudging look Hysteria's way. "Waiting for your opponents to make the first move means you can respond with a counter attack."

"Its not like we have any options. Evelina has the advantage over us for now." Deneve said.

"So it looks like we're quite screwed..." Yuma said.

"I do believe there is one bit of good news in all this." Hysteria said.

"Since when are you an optimist? I've always seen you as more of a queen of darkness type." Helen said.

Hysteria gave her s dirty stare before continuing. "Since Evelina has decided to grace us with her presence, I find it unlikely that this mission could be all that dangerous. As long as we stay close to her, we should be safe."

"Thats true," Miria added. "Evelina wouldn't put herself in any real danger. She must have some other motive for coming along with us.

"Maybe she's trying to get in our heads..." Cynthia said.

"Its definitely working." Helen said.

"Maybe she wants to see us in action. I mean, we are quite interesting after all, at least, some of us are..." Roxanne said, fixing one of her pigtails.

Rafaela grunted annoyingly. "We could guess her motives all day, but it won't do us any good."

"We really shouldn't even be talking about this...Evelina may be listen..." Miria said, but stopped when to the surprise of the whole group, Evelina herself budded in on their conversation.

"What were you girls talking about?" Evelina said.

Everyone went silent as they stared at her. Evelina had left her guards and come all by herself, sneaking up behind them without anyone noticing, a feat that was impressive on its own. It isn't easy sneaking up on a group of claymores, especially them, and the fact that Evelina did it so easily was a bit disturbing. Miria looked at the faces of all her friends and allies and she could immediately tell they were all thinking the same thing.

Evelina is disarmed...

And without her guards...

For some reason everyone looked at Miria, so she felt like it was her job to speak for the group. She was the unofficial captain after all, at least according to Tabitha.

"Why haven't you told us about this mission yet? We all deserve to know "

Evelina tensed her lips, lines forming at her brow as she either pondered or schemed something back, but then it all loosened and a smile returned to her. "Is that so? What else do you think you deserve? No, please tell me I'm curious."

"We deserve to see your godly powers, because with all due respect headmaster, we don't believe what we don't see."

Evelina took a moment to look at each one of them in the eye.

"Goddess powers." Evelina corrected.

"Right, goddess powers..."

Evelina scanned the faces that focused upon her. She seemed to glow at all the attention, not afraid at all. Miria wasn't sure if Evelina was even fully aware that at some point one of her friends could very well attempt to stab her out of no where. Some of her friends seemed more confused than afraid, others more bewildered and frozen. Hysteria was the one she was most concerned about. either her or Rafaela. She could never quite quite predict what those two were going to do at any time.

"Usually my presence elicits excitement, and yet, none of you appeared be very excited...why is that? You all have this dead look to you, what's wrong my dear students? Do I make you shy? Are you dazzled by my good looks and fabulous charm? Don't answer, of course you are." Evelina said, her sharp teeth being exposed as she smiled chillingly at them.

Evelina exuded an otherworldly confidence, and it was mystifying why. Nobody knew how to properly behave around her. It was as if she were an entirely different species.

A snap was heard nearby, and all faces turned over to their side to where the sound came from. It came from the trees up a slope. It was the snap of a piece of bark, bigger than a twig and done by something that was at least as big as a human. Every claymore raised their weapons, expecting an ambush.

"I sense multiple incoming..." Tabitha said.

"Dragons? Awakened beings?" Miria said.

"No...they're one us of us..."


"I believe so. But they are good at hiding their auras." Tabitha affirmed.

"Miria turned to Evelina for answers. "...Are they with you?"

"Why no. This is rebel territory," Evelina answered, her face mysteriously tense and uncomfortable. "And when I say 'rebel' I don't mean children like yourself. These are actual deserters and traitors to the Capitol. They can be quite nasty, trust me."

"You knew they'd be here? Is that why we're here? To fight them? We are not mercenaries." Deneve said.

"Or murderers." Miria added. "We will not get ourselves involved. Send your regulators."

"What she means to say," Hysteria interjected. " is if you were to pay us in coin, preferably gold, then perhaps it may be worth our while..."

"That's not what I'm saying I'm saying at all. And...why would you even need gold?" Miria retorted.

"Gold is gold, Miria. You should learn to be more economical." Hysteria said.

Evelina snuffed "Do not forget your place. You are students at my academy, and as my students, I order you to take out these sorry lowlifes, and you will do it before sundown. That is an order."

"I thought we were students, not soldiers." Miria moving up into Evelina's personal space. An audible gasp escaped the mouths of some of her friends as the two stared each other down. Evelina seemed angry, but out from her lips came calm and precise words.

"They have human prisoners. Women and children, taken from a village near here. Do you know what they do to human prisoners? Besides raping the women and castrating the men, they also like to employ the most horrific torture techniques that I've ever seen, and you can bet that I've seen a lot. Now, are you willing to save the precious hostages or not?"

Clare was relieved. The fortress mountain was nowhere near as difficult to penetrate as she had feared. Both her and Teresa snuck in through a piping system from the top, which didn't end up being all too necessary as the whole place appeared to be completely abandoned anyway. The facility was some kind of research facility with half used machines and equipment scattered about, tables and desks moved untidily and some knocked over as if hundreds of people suddenly picked up and left like they were in a rush to leave.

Since the coast was clear, Teresa insisted on bringing the Violettas along, to which Clare objected strongly. But Teresa being as stubborn as she was did not listen and soon returned with the four anti warriors that they hid outside for their own safety. Clare watched them closely. The mountain base seemed familiar to them, and there was a distinct sadness to their face as if they had all been here before and had bad memories of it, or rather just one did and they all shared in the grief.

The Violettas led them down a spiral staircase that descended into the depths below. Apparently that was where they would find the final Violetta, so that was where they were going to go. The fortress base ran much deeper than both Teresa and Clare had expected, and soon the number of steps they had passed was over a thousand, not that they were counting.

Many times it felt as if something was going to jump at them from around the corner, but nothing ever did. Eventually they lowered their guards enough and things got boring again until Clare noticed Teresa staring at her in a very particular way.

Clare blushed. "What?"

"You are by far the most interesting thing around. Why wouldn't I be looking at you?"

"Concentrate. Forward. Stop messing around, Teresa." Clare said with a totally unamused face.

"I just want you to know that you're great..."

Clare grew confused. "That's good to know..."

"And that I'm really lucky to have you."

Clare tossed her the 'look' "Why are you acting weird? Are you...feeling bad about something?"

Teresa peered away and crossed her arms. "What would I have to feel bad about?"

"Oh I don't know. Maybe the fact that you accused me of stealing from you? maybe that." Clare said.

The two stopped moving and took the time to properly look at each other. Clare took a step closer and the two had a moment. Teresa looked at her in a real manner, in a manner Clare knew must have been difficult for her. "I was wrong to use that word, it wasn't right. Can you forgive me?"

Clare lowered her face, sighing. "...I'm sorry too, I shouldn't have been so mad at you. I understand if you're feeling vulnerable...I...I'm the one being selfish here."

"That's not true," Teresa dismissed. "You have every right to be mad at me. The truth is, I'm a lousy friend. I don't know how you put up with me."

"I don't put up with you. I don't know what it is, but I love you and everything about you. But you hurt me when you made it clear you trust nobody. Including me."

"Clare, I do trust you..." Teresa objected.

"I thought you and I were at a place where nothing else mattered as long as we had each other, but It seems like that was only me. Why won't you open up to me? I always feel like I'm prying but it's always that way with you. "

Teresa blew away a strand of dangling hair that that was across her face. "...This feels so much like déjà vu."

"What does?"

"This whole conversation. It's reminiscent of when Irene and I were...closer, a long time ago. It was complicated. Things even turned violent, but then afterwards we made out and everything all was right as rain...until next time." Teresa said.

"You mean made up." Clare said.

"Sure, Clare."

Clare rolled her eyes. Teresa wasn't being serious again, but even so, she was smiling, and it was infectious. Clare wasn't even entirely certain if Teresa was joking or not and she was afraid to ask. Clare felt the edge of her lips tugging upward, begging for a smile, but she held it back.

"Can you be serious for once?" Clare said, her voice pained.

Teresa pointed to her face with her index finger, tilting her face slightly. "I am being serious. This is my serious face. Can't you tell?"

"Believe me Teresa, it doesn't make me happy to know that you're losing your powers. If I really am the cause, I understand the conflict you must be feeling internally, and I truly regret that. Just know that If there's anything I can do to change things, i would not hesitate to, you know that."

"I know. And I was wrong about one thing," Teresa said, "Being alone wolf isn't nearly as great as having you as partner in crime."

"Well I suppose we are technically trespassing." Clare said.

The descent to the very bottom didn't take as long as they had expected, and when they arrived, they were met by a half opened metal vault at the end of an open room. They glanced at each other to share in their intrigue.

They stepped through, and inside was a wide open warehouse. Or a factory, Or a lab. A factory-lab. Most of the space was taken up by metal boxes that caged many large creatures; mostly dragon-beasts, but there were noticeably some awakened beings amongst too. They were also wrapped up in tight wires that occasionally made odd hissing and buzzing sounds. It was electricity. And it made Teresa's skin crawl.

At the far end there was an exclusive space reserved for the largest of all the creatures in the room that was too big for any cage.

It was a some sort of dragon, but not like any they had seen before. A huge menacing creature with long scales covering the entirety of its body and a large set of bat like wings across its back. It had a long neck and the face of a lizard, with sharp alligator teeth sticking out from its extended snout. It wasn't housed in a cage, chained to the side of the wall like a dog with a massive metal collar across its neck, one that seemed just a little too tight and cruel. Unlike the dragon beasts, this creature did not stand on its hind legs like a humanoid does, but rather it appeared to be more of an animal and walk on all four of its legs;.

The beast had its eyes closed, and it appeared to be sleeping, wrapped around by its own tail and undisturbed by the moans and groans of its noisy neighbors.

"What is that?" Clare said, marveling at the creature which she estimated to be be at least fifty meters across and almost a hundred with the tail included.

"Does it matter? Let's try not to wake it..." Teresa said.

Teresa moved towards the Violettas, and for a bit they muttered ineligible things between each other. She then returned to Clare,

"So...it seems as if the last Violetta is located that way." Teresa said, looking at the direction of the dragon.

Clare traced Teresa's stare and noticed that her friend wasn't actually looking at the dragon, but something beside it. A door in the wall. One that was painted the same bored grey color as the wall around it which made it mostly invisible if one wasn't looking for it.

"But...the dragon..." Clare objected.

"Is fast asleep." Teresa said.

Clare was quieted by that, though her nerves pulsed strongly through her body. She was afraid, but also excited to face those fears alongside Teresa.

"You're going first this time."

Teresa smiled. "And here I was getting used to following your leadership. Looks like you want mine again."

As they approached, they passed by the cages of other animals and awakened beings, each of which reacted with frenzy at their presence. Clare had her stare locked on to the closed eyes of the massive dragon ahead. She expected at any moment for the dragon to wake up from all the loud cries and roars, but it still did not wake even as they were only a few meters away and feeling its hot breath as it torrents of air from its nostrils.

At the end, Teresa broke into a sneak as she went ahead to place her hand across the doorknob, and gently push it down to open the door to let them all inside. When they went inside, they noticed a man standing atop a pillared platform high above them. He was instantly recognizable even though he was so far away. Clare noticed Teresa tighten her fists in fury.

"Tell me my pet, will you ever grow tired of killing me? Does it not get futile?" Jeves said.

"No. In fact, It actually gets better every time." Teresa said, a wicked grin settling across her. "So you may as well swallow that poison pill you have prepared in your mouth right now before I break off your jaw and force it out."

Jeves laughed a crazy old man laugh, then he said "What do you have planned, my pet? The Violettas...I see you've collected them, but they are no use for you. They know no language and have no feelings. Using them to come here is an obvious move for you to make, one I've been prepared for..."

"Where is the last Violetta?" Teresa said firmly.

I have no need for this one. You want her? Here, have her! See if you can break her fall without breaking her neck!" Jeves said, then laughing a crazy laugh that was so intense he ended up running out of breath.

Something was pushed off the edge. It was as he said. Violetta. She fell down the ledge but was caught by Teresa who leapt in the air and grabbed and cradled the frigid Violetta before landing across the floor safely.

Teresa put the anti warrior down who then joined the in with her lost sisters.

"Alright, we have them all, can we go?" Clare stressed.

"I would love to stay and find his sorry ass, but I think I should listen to you." Teresa said.

They had noticed that Jeves was no longer atop the platform. And there was no way to get up to their either. There was no obvious way forward, and neither of them felt particularly thrilled having to go back to the beast pit but there was no real choice. The ground began to vibrate, and the next thing they knew, the walls that separated them front the main room were raised upwards by a secret secret mechanized system, exposing them to the beast bit chamber yet again, except this time, none of them were in their cages at all.

to be cont...