The Right Kind of Wrong
Chapter 25: I Will Not Bow
Perspectives in Bold.
Lyrics and time changes in Italics.
Disclaimer: I do not own MGLN nor its characters.
A solitary figure gazed at the illuminated city from the balcony of a penthouse apartment overlooking the capital city of Mid-Childa. The cool evening breeze swept her ash blonde hair to the side as she leaned against the cast iron railing. Car alarms, voices of the dawn, and police sirens drifted through the night air. Darkened eyes gave no heed to the endless shuffle below her. Instead of skyscrapers, street lights, and car horns, her mind's eye beheld limestone temples, glowing torches, and whispers of living ghosts.
A time long forgotten...
Translucent waves of heat rolled over a golden sea. A gust of wind whipped a spray of sand at a shimmering steel plate, jagged and half buried in the sand. Further away from the protruding metal, the desert worked at devouring an billowing bundle of cloth.
Suddenly, the base of the black and silver mass shifted. The on-looking falcon cocked his head to the side as he watched from his perch on a torn mass of metal. The cloth shifted again. Slender fingers emerged from the mass and curled into a fist.
Hazy dark blue eyes hesitantly opened only to close abruptly at the blinding sunlight surrounding the ill-fated traveler. She stood on unsteady legs, pushing the black and silver fabric away from her over-heated body. A sudden gust of wind-swept across the sand dune the traveler found herself on. Her dark beige hair whipped into her face, finding its way between chapped lips. Furry ears, sharp and white-tipped like a lynx flattened against her head. A tail of the same color fur wrapped around a voluptuous form. Aside from the two feline attributes, the odd stranger of the desert looked every bit human.
As the wind died down, those cat-like ears twitched at slight scrap of talon against metal. Not-so-human reflexes were on display as the woman smoothly pivoted and withdrew a serrated knife. Startled, but intrigued the falcon hopped to the other side of the protruding sheet of metal. Predatory eyes watched the stranger bobble from sudden movement.
The woman placed a palm against her forehead to quell the throbbing and disorienting dizziness. She found her answer for her uncertain footing. Crusty blood stuck to her hairline above her left eye. The sting at her own touch indicated the probable cause of her concussion-like symptoms.
Blue eyes combed over the wreckage. There was no sign of life among the scattered pieces of metal that stretched over two miles. She touched the silver pouch at her side for reassurance. A triangular pendant poked left thigh letting her know of its safe keeping.
The woman returned to the place she awoke. Her knife tore through the retirements of her parachute, creating a thin sheet for protection from the sun and a strip of cloth to wrap around her face.
Her baby sister and brother were nowhere to be found. She need not worry about Gabriel, who was well versed in the sword and survival. Alexandria was exceptionally strong and under normal circumstances would be fine. However, the situation was far from normal. She had no magic. If Lexi found herself in the same situation with she didn't know how long the younger woman would last.
Into the desert wasteland she wondered. The end of the second day approached and she collapsed under the intense desert heat. In the distance she heard the bleating of animals, the jangle of chains, and the shouting of men. A caravan emerged from the shimmering heatwaves like an illusion. She tried to muster the strength to move, but could not. She looked to the side and noticed a falcon watching her. As the caravan came closer the bird of prey took to the skies.
When the ash blonde awoke her feet and arms were shackled. She looked up to see the wooden bars of a moving wagon. The wagon was full of men and women clothed in rags. The wagon rattled as the sand shifted beneath. Outside of the moving prison cell, men astride tan furred animals watched them with dangerous eyes. They were prisoners, they were slaves. She was a slave. Heavy eyelids closed once more and she lost herself in the rough rhythm and sounds of the caravan.
Past Present time, Mid-Childa Apartment...
A fragile orange glow emerged in the east. Blue eyes remained glazed over memories, but the woman's heart ached with uncertainty for the battle about to take place. Miles from where she stood atop of the world, her life's purpose took the first step toward an undecided future.
Present... In a northern forest of Mid-Childa...
Tendrils of sunlight crawled over the mountain ridge, chasing the sleepy darkness from the forest. Burgundy eyes glanced to the right, Chrono nodded and entered the silent woods. Before stepping forward, Fate looked to her left and caught sapphire eyes staring in her direction. It is too late to stop Nanoha from joining the fight. All Fate hoped for was the young woman's safety.
Warm wine red eyes turned into hard rubies when a ray of sunlight fell on them. At that moment she began her march into the woods.
Signum assessed her situation. For twenty minutes she ventured into the woods without seeing a squirrel much less an assassin. Her ear bud hadn't even buzzed with static. The overwhelming silence wore on her nerves.
A small twig cracked beneath Signum's black boot. To the knight's ear it was thunder rolling. In the midst of her next step a prickling sensation coursed through her neck. She ducked, then hid behind a wide tree trunk for protection. As she turned to hide, a pearl handled throwing knife embedded itself in a large tree. Her gloved right hand hovered over the hilt of the blade resting on the outside of her left thigh.
Trees and thick brush surrounded the knight. She grabbed the serrated hunting knife strapped inside her right boot. The seven-inch stainless steel blade would have to fend off the attack of the Number pursuing her.
Erie silence of the forest gave away her enemy's movements. She felt the foreign presence closing in on her. Hearing the slicing of air, Signum ducked, then propelled herself forward from a kneeling position.
A sharp blade embedded itself into an old broadleaf right behind her. Narrow tree trunks with barely three feet of separation slowed her pace. Low lying thicket and fallen trees made her escape doubly difficult.
Signum cursed her luck for choosing the densest part of the forest. Her opponent lingered a step behind her. The brief head start she gained earlier was rapidly decreasing. She quickly switched the hunting knife into her left hand, braced her left shoulder into a smooth trunk, and drew her crossbow from a thigh holster. The bow snapped into place after being drawn. She ripped out a red nock bolt and slid it into place with a practiced ease. A trained eye narrowed on her target.
The short-haired Number dug her heels into the soft earth. She halted all forward motion by wrapping her right arm around a smooth-bark trunk behind her. The bolt embedded itself into the soft white bark of the tree trunk six feet in front of her. Her target took off again. She was about to pursue when the sound of beeping caught her attention. In a haste, she covered her face with a mask. The assassin ran through the spray of splinters as if they were nonexistent.
Signum raced forward, her pursuer steps behind.
Present... Mid-Childa Apartment...
The woman on the balcony closed her eyes, allowing the memories to ease her momentary worries. She tightened her grip on the polished cast iron. Hundreds of years passed and she could still smell the sand of the unforgiving desert.
Long ago and far away from Mid-Childa...
In the desert market, the sun's rays beat down on her slumped form. Her once pale skin reddened and peeled. They didn't feed her. Only the occasional sips of dirty water were provided. If she fainted in front of customer they would never get rid of her.
Her lynx-like ears were the source of blatant stares and whispers but never resulted in her purchase. Try as she might, she wasn't able to decipher the strange tongue the onlookers used. However, their fear of her was not difficult to decide.
Four days passed with no food. Her stomach should have ached in pain from the lack of food, but that wasn't the case. Her ravenous hunger was mental, born out of habit rather than need. She should have been dead, but she remained.
On the fifth dawn she felt it. A tidal wave of energy. Footsteps paused in front of her shriveled form. With dead eyes she glanced up from her shackled feet to the source of the oppressive energy. Captured. The only word to describe the moment.
Violet orbs pierced her entire being. They seemingly began to glow behind the thin black veil as they stayed fixed on her slouched form. Distantly, she felt the trader's iron grip on her bicep yank her to her feet. Without warning her mind was pried open with an unnatural ease.
As smooth and slippery as silk a new consciousness slid inside her mind. The frantic beat of her heart pulsed through her limbs as another voice echoed in her mind. Failure to respond led to the foreign presence wandering around her mind at incomparable speed, flipping through her memories like the pages of a book. Then, the invasion ended. The silk eased her nerves.
"What is your name, traveler?" The silken voice asked mentally, in her language.
"You already know my name, why do you ask for something you've already taken?"
"I've taken nothing from you." The smile hidden beneath the veil deepened her distrust. "Forgive my intrusion into your mind. I only wished to understand you, traveler."
She sighed and twisted the chain in her hands. There was nothing to lose. "Linith."
"My name is Aurora. Those closest to me call me Aura. You, traveler, may call Aura."
"What do you want from me, Aurora?"
"I see you are not charmed, why?" The playful lit to Aurora's voice was not lost on Linith.
"Should I be charmed by one who enters my mind without consent?"
"Yes. And by my enchanting beauty." She heard the undeniable humor in Aurora's mental voice. And charmed she came to be... slowly.
Present... Mid-Childa Apartment...
A golden light shone behind her from the living room of the penthouse. Dark eyes casually shifted to the side, but she didn't turn her head to see the source of the light emerging from the inside of the apartment.
She felt the slight spike in her energy moments before the light appeared. She need not turn to know the identity of the person behind her.
From the dissipating glow, emerged a large wolf with blood stained gold fur. The darkened apartment glowed once more as the wolf's paws widened, and claws receded into clear nails on the hands of a man. The golden light receded leaving in its wake a man with shoulder length sandy blonde hair.
"HOW COULD YOU?!" He yelled at the woman on the balcony.
The woman remained silent, unmoved by the outcry.
"WHY DIDN'T YOU TELL ME?!" His voiced filled with anger and pleading. But he didn't move from the spot where he appeared. He balled his hands into fists at his sides. His body shook with anger as the woman remained still. His advance halted at the sound of gentle, pained plea.
"Fang." The voice sliced through his outrage and left him weak. "You know I couldn't do that."
"You called me away when I should have been with her. Protecting her. Fighting with her." The woman heard the heart-breaking agony in his voice.
"I've placed a terrible burden on you, haven't I?" The woman asked softly, but the man with slumped shoulders heard her. "When the human partner dies, the wolf follows." She bowed her head, dark eyes filled with sympathy. "But you who is both Alicia's partner and my familiar must bear the pain of the loss and continue living. I'm sorry." A heavy silence filled the space between them, "Do you resent me for holding you here?"
The blonde lowered his golden eyed gaze to marble floor, ashamed of himself for allowing his emotions to get the best of him, "No." He felt his anger ebb with the word, fading into melancholy.
"Despite our many years, great friends have been far and few in between. And their passing never gets easier, does it?" The blonde man slipped into black slacks and a black satin dress shirt. He didn't respond. Instead he lifted his gaze to stare at the now straight back of his master.
Ash blonde bangs were brushed to the side as the woman turned around. Dark eyes filled with years of wisdom connected with dull golden eyes. "She knew." The woman paused to conjure her words, "Alicia didn't want you to be there. And I promised her you wouldn't be."
"Mortal matters..." He whispered dejectedly.
The blonde man's black tipped wolf ears drooped to the side displaying his disheartened state, "It's not fair."
"It is what it is." The ash blonde spoke in voice void of emotion.
"Sabine interfered first, why can't we?"
"Her master intervened first." The woman ground her teeth, "But it's no longer manipulated by either of their hands. Jail Scaglietti is deciding things on his own now and they know better than to expose themselves clearly." She sighed heavily, "We've done as much as allowable. I will not stoop to their level and get involved in a mortal fight." Dark eyes narrowed on the blonde man before her, "Nor will you."
The man in black nodded, but ground his teeth, "How can you stand by while Fate fights?" His golden eyes fell back to the white marble, "While they both fight."
"Because this is Fate's battle. She must learn what I cannot teach her."
"One of them will die, Linith? Can you handle that?" The man hesitated asking his master the next question, but felt obligated to steel her resolve. They needed to be certain of each other's decisions to watch from the sidelines. "Don't you love Precia?"
"I am in love with only two women." The woman crossed her arms over her white and brown leather jacket. Her short fingernails dug into the brown leather sleeves. Those deep, old pools of midnight blue darkened considerably, "Precia is not Aura. The Precia I cared for died long ago, but her will lives on. And I will support the daughter for which she sacrificed her heart and soul."
"I see." Molten carmel eyes assessed his master's strong shoulders and hardened eyes. "You were thinking about her, Aura. I felt it."
Linith sighed. She turned back to the city, "Yes." Again the memories consumed her busy mind. Fang watched silently as his remaining master lost herself in another time.
For six months she served Aurora in her temple. Aurora held the position of priestess. The priestess was both respected and feared by her patrons and outsiders. Aurora never ventured into her mind without permission after the market.
The priestess mentally conversed with her, which is how she came to learn the language of the common people. Linith left only her eyes to be seen throughout the day. Her odd hair color and ears only attracted unwanted attention.
From other attendants she learned Aurora was the daughter of ruling lord of the land. Her father had recently remarried. The strange-looking princess was loved by her absent father, but was the daughter of a mistress and could not live the life of a traditional heiress. Aurora's appearance and her presence served better to inspire devotion of the people and inspire fear in opposing forces.
Stranger of the stars, a title Linith was bequeathed from her fellow attendants. Some people were kind, others avoided her completely. In time she learned something about herself that made her thankful Aurora no longer delved into her mind. She did not possess the magic she once held, but she did possess magic.
One night she summoned the courage to ask about Aurora's gift. Whether her mental prowess was the product of magic. The priestess was genuinely happy to answer her. "Yes, mortal magic."
"What do you mean?"
"There is both immortal and mortal magic in this world." It was a late night. The desert chill did not affect her like Aurora, who was bundled in a fur blanket. "In this world, immortals walk among us. They're different types of immortals and different forms of magic. My teacher, who taught me to control my gift, she is immortal. Some immortals are purely that. They do not die no matter the injury or illness. Others they call the mortal immortal, given everlasting life, but vulnerable to death by mortal wound."
"Is that the extent of their power?"
"For some. Many have unique abilities. The control of the seas, the sky, the earth. Some practice the craft. The weaving of words. The mixing of potions. Some are masters of summoning, and such."
"Then what is the difference between immortal and mortal magic?" Linith frowned at the information being given to her. From what she recalled of her world immortality did not exist. Though it was highly sought after myth. A myth she was privy to learn existed.
"My teacher told me that mortal magic is fairly new to this world. With each generation less immortals are born. Their population, she believes, will steadily decline." Aurora settled into her bench overlooking the dimly lit desert oasis. Men shouted and tables crashed in the distance. "You see. Mortal magic evolves. That is why it is a curiosity to immortals, who remain unchanging through the decades."
Aurora smiled, "This is the most invested in our conversations so far. Though a bit one-sided I'm enjoying it."
"Please just continue," Linith said with a sigh.
"Of course. Mortals change over time. We start weak, become strong, then fade into weakness. Though our physical energy fades with time, our magic grows stronger."
"But immortal magic doesn't?"
Aurora nodded, "To an extent. Immortals reach maturity in terms age and magic. They cannot go beyond that point. They can hone their skills and improve on their use, but never become more powerful than a certain peak." Aurora frowned, something Linith rarely saw. "Mortal magic is limited only by age. If one is devoted enough to its study they can become..."
"Extremely powerful." Linith finished.
"Yes. But there is a physical limit to how much power one can use. That is a truth both existences." Aurora paused as a tiny ball of fur wobbled onto the veranda from inside Aurora's room. "Hello my little Fang." A small rough pink tongue licked Aurora's sun-kissed skin.
"What will the people think when they see their pure priestess hiding a flea ridden mutt?"
"I'm sure I will hear much disapproval, but I care not of the opinions of others. I am a woman before I am priestess." Aurora told Linith in her language. They often conversed in Linith's language when alone. Something swirled in those dark violet eyes, but the look was brushed away along with a strand of dark purple hair. "Where was I?" Aurora asked as she gently laid Fang in her lap and stoked his soft hair.
"The limitations of mortal magic."
"Ah yes. One must be strong, with enough energy to actually wield powerful forces. With continued use of magic one will grow tired and fatigued. If they exceed their limitation, they stand the chance of death." The priestess stopped and flipped over the pup in her lap.
"And immortals? Don't they have such limits?"
Aurora frowned, "Immortals may not possess magic as powerful as mortals, but they have a greater magical stamina. They are able to recover from fatigue faster. In a battle of strong magics, immortal and mortal, I am uncertain as to who would be the victor."
"Why? An immortal is..."
"Immortal." Aurora finished. "With magic nothing is certain."
"You believe differently?"
The priestess appeared to truly think about the question. "I believe death is the inescapable fate of all living creatures. Some of us are just granted longer lives."
"I see." Linith nodded accepting the priestess' words.
"Do my beliefs confuse you?"
The foreigner shook her head, "No. Just an immortal..."
"Is immortal." Aurora laughed in understanding. "Magic defies logic, traveler. Remember that well."
Linith rolled her eyes, "Immortal until proven mortal then."
"Or mortal until proven immortal." Blue eyes narrowed on the priestess, who in turn rolled her violet orbs. "I need not look into your thoughts to see the things you hide from everyone else." Aurora stood, carrying a sleeping Fang in her arms. "I care not what you are. But others may. Do a better job at hiding your magic, Linith." She didn't know how Aurora knew she was immortal. Perhaps the priestess could sense a type of magic or sensed it when she explored her psyche in their first encounter.
"You do not hide yours."
"Its a part of my allure." Aurora said with a serious tone, her back turned to Linith.
The priestess entered her chambers, but halted her movement when the servant spoke up, "Has a mortal ever become immortal?"
"No." Aurora immediately answered. The priestess turned to her servant, "When an immortal is born they grow up as any other, but when they reach maturity they become frozen in time. Unchanging from then on. One can recognize an immortal from birth. A ring of gold around their irises." The priestess laid Fang on his bed. "I have never heard of a mortal becoming immortal. I have never seen immortality passed on from an immortal to a mortal." Aurora paused, taking a step closer to the foreigner, she whispered, "Nor have I seen irises with silver lining."
Linith ground her teeth. How could she hide when her eyes gave her away.
"Fear not, Linith, your blue eyes make it had to distinguish the truth. Only recently has the mark become prominent."
"Is that why you keep me around? To keep an eye on me? To see what kind of animal I am?" Her tone held anger, but she didn't know the source.
Aurora held her ground. "No." She stared at Linith, then turned away. "Goodnight, Linith."
"Why?" The servant followed the priestess into her chambers.
Aurora sighed heavily, "I am not studying you, Linith. I am curious about who you are, not what you are."
Linith stopped at the foot of Aurora's bed. That was not the answer she thought she would get. She felt guilty for getting angry with someone, who had shown her nothing but kindness. Aurora refrained from entering her mind, spoke her language, and went out of her way to teach her about their culture. "I'm sorry. That was inappropriate. Goodnight, Aura."
"You were foretold to me." Aurora whispered, looking away from Linith's curious gaze. "When I was a little girl my teacher, she told me I would help a stranger from another world to find her fate." Violet eyes finally lifted to meet curious blue. "I didn't believe it. I craved free will. The ability to decide my path. Then, when I was twelve I dreamt of you for the first time. I dreamt of hair the color of dark ash. Of ears I wished to touch. I craved to know if those ears were as soft as they looked. Of eyes as blue as the western sea. Ten years later my dream came to life." The priestess averted her intense gaze. The darkness of the room did well to hide her rosy cheeks.
Linith held her silence. Embarrassed by the confession and at the same time intrigued. Aurora's complete honesty left her defenses in a heap at her sandals. "Your bewitching methods could still use a little work," the servant teased.
The priestess smiled. Linith saw the playful light return to Aurora eyes, "I will charm you yet, Linith." The servant shook her head about to walk out of the room.
"There is an exception." Linith frowned and turned to face her master once more. Aurora didn't look at her, but instead stared at the curled up form of Fang. "A woman. I cannot consider her immortal, but that is what she has become. Others pay for her immortality."
"What do you mean?"
Aurora whispered her next words, "She is not like you and the others, whose immortality is at their own cost. She is old hag who absorbs the life and now the magic of others." Finally violet eyes met Linith's dark blues. "Be careful, Linith. She is forming her own kind. A spell, no other is capable of casting created her."
Linith stepped forward, never having heard the fear that filled Aurora's voice. "Aura, who is she?"
Aurora shook her head. In silence of the room, she murmured a term Linith would not forget, "Lamia." Vampire.
Present... Mid-Childa northern forest...
A dismembered tree fell. The crash echoed through the sleepy forest. "What was that?!" Chrono asked over the intercom. "I think it came from the eastern end of the forest."
"That's Signum's section. She hasn't reported anything. Give me a sec'." Amy instructed him as she tried to determine Signum's exact location.
"Sounds like she doesn't have time to report anything. I'm gonna head over."
"Chrono hold your position." Shamal's tired voice ordered.
"I don't care if all you're fighting is mosquitos. Stay where you are!" Amy commanded, "You'll put yourself in danger if you wander into someone else's section."
The blue haired knight pouted. He was insanely bored. "I know I just." Then he felt it. That crawling feeling as if someone's fingertips were dragging slowly and lightly across his spine. He was being watched. "Never mind. I just got busy. "He cut off the connection and heard the slight shifting of leaves to his right flank mirroring the presence on the his left.
His mind instantly shifted into business mode. One means stay and two means go. "Screw this shit," he silently cursed before running and weaving through the trees. Fighting two juiced up assassins was most definitely not on his desired agenda for the day.
Chrono ran at a full sprint through the woods, trying his best to avoid upraised roots and foliage. However, the distance between him and his pursuers gradually decreased. Suddenly, an attacker emerged from the shadows, appearing in his peripherals.
As if sensing the rear attack, he dived to the right as the attacker sliced the air above his head. Landing in the bush with a few scratches was a lot better than landing headless. Quickly, he rolled over to greet his frustrated attacker. Instead he heard the sickening crunch of bone and sinew. A sprinkling of his attacker's blood landed like heavy raindrops on his face.
The metallic, iron-like smell filled his nostrils and turned his stomach to stone. The dark blue wolf spared him one glance, then resumed its 'playtime'. Chrono's unlucky attacker dug his hands into Durandal's midnight fur, but the effort was fruitless. The wolf's long canines sunk into the man's neck, ripping through arteries. Hands raised in defense fall to the ground as blood gurgled from his open mouth as he struggled to breath.
Chrono looked away from the bloody scene to watch a woman with a skin-tight navy blue catsuit running towards him. His right hand wrapped around the black leather grip of his sword. With his thumb pressed firmly against the gold disk-like pommel. As the Number closed in on him, he pulled his blade from its sheath. He stepped to the left as his opponent struck downward and to the right. The sharpened steel edge of his blade slid against his opponents blade, redirecting the brunt of the attack away from him.
With practiced ease he shifted his grip on the hilt, he grasped the bottom of the hilt with his left hand and rotated his right hand beneath the cross-guard. His timing matched that of his opponent as she shifted the force of her original attack. She swept her blade in an arc, sliced through the air, and kept the blade fixed at her midsection. The fluid pivot of his dancing partner impressed Chrono, but he stood ready to parry the upward cut of the assassin.
Muscle tensed and reverberated under the strain of the colliding steel. Chrono gripped his hilt tightly. He didn't change his calm façade, but the Number unnerved him. Between her nearly glowing eyes and that she used only one hand to swing her blade with such power made him weary. He wasn't scared but he sure as hell wasn't stupid. After their first exchange he knew momentarily sacrificing his pride in exchange for leveling the playing field would be well worth it. He just needed to lead her on a little further.
They broke away from each other. The woman launched herself at him, swept her blade in an arc to the left. Her killing intent was clear in both her eyes and the ferocious way she swung her sword. He managed to parry her strike. However, the three knife like claws on her right hand swiped at his abdomen. Only able to jump backward to avoid the attack, she managed to slice through his padded leather vest. Luckily, his body armor underneath prevented any serious damage.
He paid no attention to the blonde's satisfied smirk and slide his left foot behind him. He had a feeling she would start with her sword again. He was ready. The aggressive blonde closed the distance between them and struck downward as if trying to dash his existence into dust. Chrono pushed forward, building strength from his legs to push the Number's sword upward. Thrown by her prey's sudden force, the blonde was unprepared for the knight's driving attack.
Within her space, Chrono brought down his sword and delivered a harsh blow to the Number's exposed abdomen with the pommel of his sword. After delivering the breath-stealing hit to the assassin, he drew away his blade, pivoted on his left foot, and slashed the exposed back of his opponent.
Knowing he bought himself only a few moments according to Fate and Shamal's warning, he turned and ran into the caves. Maybe he should have finished her off, but doubted his ability to do so outside of the cave.
She may have been momentarily caught off guard, but the strike to her back made his decision for him. When Chrono slashed at her back the resulting wound should have sliced midway through her body. Instead the armor she had on deflected most of the strike and the only proof that remain of his attack was a thin cut. It looked as if he cut her with a pocket knife, when she should have been split open.
Elsewhere in the Mid-Childa forest...
The pink haired knight considered her weapon again. Her sword was too dangerous to remove in the thicket. Just a little further until meadow she thought. She sprinted through the bushes ignoring the thrones that latched onto her white leather jacket.
Finally, she broke into the green meadow lit up by the morning sun. Signum holstered her crossbow and tightly grasped the hunting knife. The silver glove of her right hand sparkled, catching the sun's rays at the right angle. Her purser dashed into the meadow holding to twin sai.
The roman numeral 'VI' stood out in gold stitching on the assassin's navy blue catsuit. "You have nowhere to run."
"Who said I wanted to." The light blue hair of the assassin shifted in the light breeze. As soon as the meadow was motionless, the Number began her approach. Almost cautious, the assassin struck first. The first crossing of weapons was like a test. Or possibly a demonstration.
Though Signum read the assassin was young underestimating her could prove fatal. Anyone with enough strength to force Fate to expose her other side was not to trifled with. Not to mention she hated wasting time.
Her opponent was fast, obviously well-trained with her weapon of choice. Signum met her strikes, but the strength the woman was exercising wasn't lessening. A particularly harsh strike glanced off of her serrated blade, but the force of the attack threw her off-balance. She stumbled backwards two steps and her opponent capitalized.
Sein slashed her across her exposed back, slicing through the armor. The twin sai glanced Signum's side. She spun on her heel face her enemy, that was too close for comfort.
She had enough. Signum unlatched the sheath at her side. She grasped the sheath and undid the latch holding the weapon encased. She had to create an opening.
Separated by a few feet, Signum threw the hunting knife at the young assassin. Like sand to the eyes it did the job of distracting Sein. The assassin blocked the makeshift projectile. In that brief moment, Signum lunged forward.
The tip of the sheathed sword drove into her opponent's open abdomen. Sein bent forward. Taking full advantage of the attack, Signum spun and ripped her sword from its sheath. The sword glowed red when her right hand was completely wrapped around the hilt.
The blade was thin like a rapier, but came to an end as a triangular tip shaped like any other double-edged sword. It wouldn't be threatening if not for the two red laser beams that extended from the two points of the triangular tip to the blade's cross-guard.
As soon as the blade began to glow, Signum felt her energy slowly drain from her body into the glove of her right hand. Without hesitation she swung her blade in an arc about her center of gravity. There was the slightest hiss as the blade sliced through the midsection of the Number as if she were cutting through nothing but air.
Signum turned away from the collapsed halves of her adversary. She quickly switched the blade to her left hand. As soon as the odd sword was in her leather glove it ceased its dangerous glow. She fell to her knees and sheathed the lifeless blade.
Her limbs grew weak and her heart hammered in her chest. The new weapon was effective, but absorbed too much of her energy. Her ragged breathing would cause anyone to believe she just ran a marathon. She stood and collected her hunting knife, but couldn't bring herself to go further.
In the sunlit meadow, she collapsed with a thud. She just needed to rest for a bit, she thought before passing out. Passing deer ran from the meadow after catching the smell of burnt flesh in the air.
Elsewhere in the Mid-Childa forest...
"Hey Amy," he slowed his breathing, "I'm in the caves." She immediately knew where he was. It was where he trained when they were young.
"What's going on? There's no camera's in there." There also wasn't much light in the cave aside from the meager amount of sunlight that filtered in to illuminate the unique blue crystals of the cave.
"I got a blonde wolverine on my ass." Chrono smiled despite his situation. "And I think I just pissed her off." He said more seriously.
"Due." Amy recognized the signature of the assassin. "Do you need back up?"
"No. Durandal evened the odds."
"I'm guessing you played coward." The blue haired knight adjusted the glove on his left hand. He wasn't excited at the prospect of using his new weapon, but he would do what was necessary to take down his enemy.
Chrono watched the entrance to the cave. "I used logic. I'll check in when I'm done here." His left hand withdrew a second blade from the scabbard on his back.
Amy knew it was a confident statement to ease her worry, but her nerves reacted anyway. "Good luck." Chrono nodded to no one as the line went silent.
At the entrance, the Number stepped into the unfamiliar territory. Through the darkness Chrono could see the anger and hatred contorting the woman's features. In the forest he saw the roman numeral 'II' on the woman's back. Lucky me, he thought upon seeing the mark. He read her file. She was the most cunning and dangerous of the group. Chrono also read about her talent for escaping death.
Those reasons led him to playing the coward and leading the two attackers into Durandal's den. The footing in the cave was difficult to navigate for anyone who didn't grow up training in the cave. Whether or not he made it out of the cavern. The underground lair would be the assassin's eternal coffin.
Chrono squared his shoulders and watched as the Number neglected the poor footing of the cave. She leapt over the small rivers separating them. Her eyes seemed to glow even brighter in the dim blue light. Fate warned him about their use of wolf blood as a performance enhancer. The pouch attached to her waist earlier was gone. What he was about to face was surely superior to the assassin he fought moments ago.
The assassin crossed the remaining distance between them. Her blade cut through the air with such force, it was as if he could feel the blow before it made contact with the edge of his sword. Chrono ground his teeth. A quick succession of blows were exchanged. The Number seemingly refused to give him time to catch his breath.
Finally, the assassin lowered both hands and began to circle him like a shark. Chrono gave up his calm mask. His arms shook from the strain of receiving a constant barrage of vicious attacks.
"You won't make it out of here alive, coward." She growled out. The threat forced his brain into overdrive. His dark blue eyes followed her all too graceful movements. Much to his chagrin the jagged and slippery cave floor had no effect on her agility. It was an unexpected hitch in his plan, but this was the better terrain of the cave.
Rhythmically, drops of water hit the cave floor. Each droplet marked a passing second. Finally, Due stepped forward. She brought her sword down on his right side with so much strength he used both swords to block her high strike. With a smirk the Number swung her forearm into the knight's exposed abdomen, flicking her steel claws out to rip through his abdominal armor.
"Argh." He couldn't contain a pained groan. He didn't have touch his stomach to know the damage done. The armor was shred and blood trickled to floor from a sizable slash.
Due flicked her tongue against the cold steel of her middle claw, catching a falling drop of blood. "I can't wait to taste the blood of your wolf, knight." Dark blue eyes narrowed on the grinning woman, "I'll be sure to kill him myself."
She approached again and Chrono beat her to the attack. The Number grabbed the left sword with her claws and brought her sword down. Chrono managed to use his free blade to guide the blade away. She moved with the deflected momentum.
Due stepped back only to pivot in a circle and attack again with just as much force. He continued to dodge her supernaturally strong attacks. She swung her blade with such effortlessness and moved with the grace of a dancer.
Even when he faced off against Fate he never felt the same ache in his bones from matching her attacks. He did his best to conserve his energy. However, he deflected her strong strikes lasted only so long.
The way his eyes sometimes strayed from her form drew Due's curiosity. "You dare take your attention from me, coward."
"Well, you're not exactly my type." She didn't find the comment very humorous.
Due inhaled deeply and ran her claws against her blade. Chrono ignored the screech of metal, but saw the clawed hand of the Number glow. As Due pulled her claws away from her blade, Chrono felt a wave of heat approach. Fearing the heat waves blistering in his direction, the knight dove behind a pillar of limestone. The heat wave hit the small river behind Chrono. A cloud of dust and steam filled the cavern.
His weapon just became a necessity. Quietly, he sheathed the sword in his left hand. He tried his best to stay aware in the confusion. Abruptly, Due appeared behind him. He blocked her claws with his remaining sword, but he was forced to block her sword with his left arm guard.
He stumbled away from his attacker and let his left arm to hang at his side. The armor managed to prevent any bloodshed, but the shear blunt force left his forearm fractured. His body couldn't take much more. In hindsight he laid low for too long.
Chrono launched his attack. Due parried the swift and calculated strikes of the suddenly fierce knight. The blue haired vet swallowed all his pain and put all of his energy into driving the woman where he wanted. With one strike he moved her away from him. The small distance gave him time to grab for the bulky gun in his left hip holster.
He removed the weapon and fired. The Number grinned as he obviously missed due to his injury. Taking his weakness as her advantage, she attacked. Chrono holstered the weapon and parried Due's lunges.
After a succession of exchanges, the knight found a pattern to her movements. The assassin left a brief opening in her guard and Chrono took full advantage. He swept his blade in an arch and the white steel edge was painted red when he finished.
"Son-of-bitch!" She growled, then removed a necklace with a vile like object hanging at the end. Ripping the vile off her neck, she jabbed the autoinjector into her necklace. Her eyes rolled back as the intoxicating black fluid flowed through her body. Before his eyes Chrono could see the wound stop bleeding. The glow of her eyes visibly reignited and he grit his teeth to prepare for the attack.
The woman threw the injector to the cave floor and marched towards him. She slammed her blade against his. He couldn't grasp the blade with two hands and Due pushed his right arm up leaving him exposed. The knight anticipated her next move. He turned his armored back to her slashing claw.
The attack sent him stumbling forward, across the small river of the cave. Exhausted, blood dripped down his armor staining the cave floor crimson. Due grinned at the breathless knight. Chrono pulled out a stainless steel vial from his pocket without his enemy seeing. He undid the cap with his thumb, having abandoned his sword beside him.
The predator took her time approaching, figuring these were the knight's last moments. She wanted to savor his fear and make him beg for mercy. However, when her glowing eyes finally connected with his no emotion present lingered in those blue eyes. She frowned at his weak attempt to throw something at her. She didn't want to take her eyes off of her enemy in case he still had some energy left.
Unfortunately for her when she looked down it was too late. The light blue liquid from the vial mixed with water of the river she was standing in. Much to her horror, she was immobilized in a frozen river. Chrono regained his breath and stood. The furious Number struggled to break free but couldn't move.
She threw her sword at him, but he easily dodged it. His expression is blank. His steel-blue eyes hold a strange detachment. Once more he withdrew the bulky weapon, "I didn't miss." He backed away from the motionless assassin. Her legs felt numb, but her anger kept her focused on the man before her. He lifted the gun to the roof of the cave, using his right hand to support the weapon.
She noticed a second trigger on the gun. He squeezed the second trigger, then said, "I'm sorry." He jogged towards the cave exit as the ceiling began to shake. A high frequency weapon embedded in the cave ceiling caused tons of stone to fall on the trapped Number.
Chrono ran into the sunlight as the cave buried his opponent alive. He sheathed his sword and holstered the weapon he could barely hold.
The honorable warrior bowed his head as rock closed off the entrance. That was not how he would have preferred to win. He preferred it had been blade to blade, but dying was not an option.
"Chrono," she tried to keep the panic out of her voice, "are you okay?"
He was bleeding more than he liked, but replied, "I'll live."
Amy was silent, but found the answer acceptable, "Okay."
"What's happening?" He leaned against the entrance to the cave and ripped open a brown package. He dabbed at his wounds with a handkerchief and poured the Bleed-X hemostatic powder on his wounds.
"Johnny is in a sniper war. It would be best to stay away from there." Amy sighed, "You should probably head to Signum's location. I think she may have passed out from using her weapon."
"Okay." The bleeding had stopped for the most part, but he would last long if he didn't get some bandages. "Tell me where."
Midnight blue eyes shifted to the opening front door.
Fang rolled his eyes as he caught the scent of the intruder.
"What about Lamia stellarum and Dominae?" The new comer asked.
"They will not come into being if Fate does not succeed." Linith sighed, "As of now they aren't a concern. All they need to do is survive the battle. If Fate does what I believe she will, then and only then, will Lamia stellarum and Dominae be awakened along with the others."
"Yeah. So your girl better do what she's suppose to." The woman of short stature announced in a tired voice.
"Why short-stack? Afraid of revisiting pre-school." Fang said with a grin.
Light turquoise eyes narrowed on the furry-eared man. "For your information, dog boy, yes. I'm not entirely fond of the idea of shrinking another foot. I can't even remember how tall I was."
"As much as I would love to hear how this argument ends, I'd rather know why you're here, Rein."
Blue gray hair of the short assistant shone under the light of the penthouse bar. "Making sure neither of you makes a decision we all regret." She dropped a few cubes of ice into a glass and filled it halfway with vodka. "No mistakes this time." Turquoise gems stared at the memories flowing in her cup. "If my mistress doesn't rise in the next century, I don't have enough energy to exist outside of that book."
"Don't worry I'm sure Hayate will rub your book the right way."
Rein ignored Fang's comment and stared at Linith. "Will Fate release mortal magic?"
"I believe she will. Alicia told her there is no risk in destroying the spring." Linith moved into the apartment and closed the patio door behind her.
Gray hair swayed from side to side, "What will be the price?"
"I don't know." Linith threw herself back into the black leather couch.
"She reminds me of your wife." Linith's jaw clenched at the comparison and Rein's turquoise eyes don't miss the way Fang tensed. "Well, personality wise."
"Fate is different." Linith's tone made it clear this was not a topic she wanted to delve into.
The short woman relented and sat down on the loveseat. "So when do you plan on telling them what's going on?"
"When it becomes necessary."
"Necessary? I think it's pretty clear we are past necessary. As soon as mortal magic emerges from the watery grave we agreed to lock it in, they become the prey. And as soon as she is well fed. Your mother-in-law won't hesitate to come after immortals, namely us, the ones who sealed her away."
"I'm well aware." A weary hand ran through ash blonde locks, "I wished for mortal magic to be locked away with the jewel seeds. Sabine nor her mistress have moved until they were born. But Fate nor the others are ready to know the truth yet."
"We will tell them as soon as they can handle it," Fang defended his master's words.
"I don't have to remind you what happened the last time we underestimated Sabine." Rein warned in her high feminine voice. "Hayate may not have her power yet, but I'm certain she is my master. I can feel the pull of magic from all of them. We need to warn them as soon as possible."
"We will, Rein." The assistant nodded, appeased by Linith's promise. She downed the rest of her drink.
A guilty expression crossed Rein's face. "So I came here because I was thinking about helping them."
"I figured." Linith admitted with a smile.
"This sucks." Fang whined and stood in the middle of the sunken living room. A golden light enveloped the blonde man. The light flashed a brilliant white glow, then disappeared leaving behind a large golden wolf sitting in the living room. The majestic beast padded up to Linith and nuzzled his large muzzle into his master's open hand. He laid down beside the leather couch.
Turquoise turned soft, "I'm sorry, Fang." Rein knew too well the pain of losing a life companion.
Fang bobbed his head in acknowledgment.
Soft hands ruffled the golden fur of the wolf. Linith spoke softly, "Alicia is still with us," she scratched behind the wolf's ears much to his liking, "I saw her off myself."
Rein smiled at the duo. Centuries passed, they all changed in form and spent years apart. Yet, they were still uniquely the same. Fang sat loyally at Linith's side as he had done in the desert palace years ago. Though in those days he was a simple guard dog.
Linith lacked the painted-on tattoos she once wore as a bodyguard to the desert priestess. A priestess who fell in love with a stranger from the stars. Turquoise eyes glazed over as distant memories were summoned to her surface thoughts. Memories of her own stranger from the stars.
She was mercenary back then, paid to capture the priestess of the neighboring town. The mortals back then called her the dark sorceress. Creativity wasn't their strong point. Thievery and murder were her primary focus. Magic was a unique skill set that got her more jobs than the rest. Of course, the two feet in height she currently lacked also came in handy.
The capture of the priestess would be her biggest score yet. She heard the stories of the fierce bodyguard that protected the priestess, but she didn't fear that. She wasn't even afraid of the stories about the powerful priestess that stole thoughts from your mind. These stories existed everywhere and none she heard had proven true. Mortal magic that existed was still in its infancy and no mortal was capable of such a power.
She was a realist and a pessimist. A realist that was quickly and easily disarmed the moment she snuck into the temple chambers of the priestess. That single bad decision changed her life forever.
At the time she was certain her punishment would be death and Linith was ready to carry out such a consequence. However, the priestess stared at her with entrancing violet eyes that seemed to drown her own will. For the first time in her life she felt completely defenseless as another consciousness sifted through her thoughts and memories like sand.
"You who sought death, shall now find life." The priestess told her, but her mouth didn't move. No sound was made in the silent chamber aside from her labored breathing.
In her dazed state she didn't decipher the meaning of the words, but her questioning was quickly answered. "She has a fighting spirit." Another woman moved out of the shadows and into the dim moonlight glow of the room. "She is an ideal guardian for the book." In the ethereal light, the woman with dark black hair, pale skin, and purple lips seemed like the demons some men in her profession spoke of.
Feeling the threat to her life, she tried desperately to summon the flow of magic in her. However, the room repressed her entire being.
The black-haired enchantress spoke again, "What do you think, Alexandria?"
Another feminine voice from the shadows responded, "I sense a great deal of strength from within her. She fights still. What is her name, Aura?"
Violet eyes lost their original otherworldly quality, but still possessed a strange allure, "She has no name." That time the light purple lips moved.
"Does she have honor?"
"She's a thief." Linith scoffed.
"But even a thief can have honor. Much like a servant." Aura responded with a smile.
Blue eyes of the bodyguard hardened. With a speed the others rarely saw, Linith brought her blade down and stopped it an inch from the assassin's neck. The hired hand didn't flinch, a cold hatred filled her eyes. The bodyguard smiled as the thief spoke with loathing, "I'd rather you kill me than what it is you have planned."
"Trust me, I'd love to grant your wish." Linith looked to the shadow. "She is what you have searched for."
"I see." The black-haired enchantress saw the nod from the shadowed sorceress, "Begin the binding, Kaira."
The memory remained fresh in her mind. Like fire burning through her veins. Time became a distant sensation. Minutes, days, months. She couldn't discern what exactly was happening. All she could feel was her whole physical form being torn apart. Her mind ripped open and exposed. Foreign knowledge invaded her weakened conscious. Languages and forms she never knew were suddenly understood. Heat consumed her and just before her fragile mind could break, the flow of information ceased.
In the cold dark recesses of her psyche, a rhythm like no other she heard before called out to her. Though she was exhausted, her entire being was numb. An underlying pulse pulled at her mind. It was a current she couldn't escape, and despite her will, her spirit responded.
Suddenly, the beat surrounded her. Though there was no noise or voice echoing in the dark. Alexandria, she heard. The name floated into her consciousness. A blanket of calm fell over her, soothing fears she didn't want to acknowledge. She desperately wanted to fight her desire, but easily surrendered to the calm. Surrender was a concept she would quickly come to associate with Alexandria. Submission of her own free will.
At that moment, she became guardian of the Tome of the Night's Sky and it's master. However, as soon as she was able, she tried to kill Alexandria. And she failed horribly. She quickly discovered that their lives were intertwined.
Alexandria's energy was her energy. Alexandria's anger, though rare, was her anger. She despised the idea of being controlled, of feeling like a pet, and being named Reinforce.
But time with Alexandria changed her. A woman of quiet strength and beautiful optimism changed her view of the world. Love seeped into her heart and bleed the hatred from it.
A life with Alexandria, filled with love and magic became her only wish. In a single moment of distance between them, her dream was bleed dry.
Present... Mid-Childa apartment...
Her darkened turquoise eyes looked up to see dark blue eyes filled with a mixture of sympathy and anger. "Sorry, I guess my thoughts got a little too loud."
Linith nodded, "I understand."
"Sabine took your wife and your sister." Rein shook her head, "You lost the most."
"We all lost. Immortals and mortals." Blue eyes hold that ethereal glow Rein had seen in violet orbs centuries ago.
"If I had never entered this world, Aurora would have lived a peaceful life." Linith admitted to Rein. Her mind returned to the penthouse she sat in. "But I doubt Aurora would have lived a peaceful life. The world wasn't ready for mortal magic back then."
"It is now?" Rein questioned, "Was mortal magic ours to curse? It returned to where it came from. From the Earth itself. And no mortal has been deemed worthy yet."
"We had no choice back then." The ash blonde answered with practiced coldness. "Alexandria had part of her magic stolen. The rest she gave to you."
Rein interrupted, "I know. She gave me the rest so I could fight in her stead when the time came. The first mistress of the book died in my arms. I failed completely in my duty and I failed her." The short woman poured another drink, "Your witch of a mother-in-law stole what belonged to us. Our magic. A mortal broke the rules first. Sabina would have killed more mortals and eventually immortals if we let her. That leach wasn't going to stop. If we hadn't sealed her away she would have absorbed the mortal magic she could."
"If we hadn't wished for mortal magic to be sealed, Sabina and her mistress would have too much power by the time the worthy ones were born. That is something I prove to myself everyday." Fang growled next to Linith, "He says we should have killed her."
"I've thought about that for centuries. But we weren't strong enough or in any condition to do much more than cast the binding." Rein sighed and downed another glass of vodka.
"This time we make it right." Linith declared. Over her shoulder, the first rays of dawn emerged from the darkness. They along with the rest of the immortals, including Sabina, would feel the grand presence of mortal magic entering the world if Fate did as instructed.
It no longer mattered that Sabina was awake, all that mattered was protecting the fate of future generations. When mortal magic emerged so would Sabina from whatever cave she was hiding in. They would send her right back to her grave, permanently.
"It's starting," Rein echoed Linith's thoughts. Silence reigned over the three of them. The sun rose into the Eastern sky. Sabina would die. Her mistress would live on and try to absorb the Foretold's power, but at least the Foretold would have time to prepare. Time given to them by Linith, Rein, and Fang.
Rein was dragged out of her thoughts by a certain scent in the air. She bent down to smell in Linith direction, "Fang?" The wolf tilted his head to the side, trying to understand the guardian's expression. "You smell... bad."
The wolf growled in response. Such an exchange of playful comments made even the worst situations better. These things took away their shared loneliness and the pain they accumulated over their long lives. Each overcame loss faster than others, which was expected of those who saw many lives fade away. There weren't numb from their many years. They understood the celebration of life. Old souls bound together by loyalty that would never fade even if they turned to ash.
A/N: Okay I apologize first to Lily Testarossa, Lance58, and FateTestarossa19 who I told I'd have this out much earlier. But I have rewritten this chapter like 4 times cause I just could not figure out the right way to introduce the backstory or if I even should. Though I think the final product worked out pretty well (and just added to the list of questions about this story). I'm sorry for the long hiatus. Bad Romance is in the works and I'll probably finish it by the end of this week cause it flows easier than this story. Also, if you're looking for simple humorous fanfic check out my fic 'Couples Therapy' for a good time. Thanks for reading!