It was nearing dusk the skies were bringing down a light rain, it was early spring and the air was damp and chill. The valleys were lush and green and the mountain range not far off was shrouded in mist, some way away was the town of Doga and faintly the sound of fading combat radiated from it. Those towns people who witnessed the battle were awestruck with both wonder and fear, it seemed to have came to an end so quickly. Six Yoma lay dead in the main street, their bodies in different states of destruction their blood soaking the cobble stone and being washed away by the rain.

They had been terrorizing the small town now for about a week, killing and eating nearly a dozen villagers in the meantime. No one dared to yet come out of their locked up homes, they were just as afraid of the Claymore as they were the Yoma and especially at how unbelievably powerful this one seemed to be. The six Yoma seemed to be nothing to her, they might as well have stood still and let her kill them. Now she stood motionless the decapitated and eviscerated bodies scattered about her armored feet, slowly she moved re sheathing her sword turning and began walking toward to entrance of the town where she had entered not long ago.

Before she reached the gate an old man and his wife both wearing hoods to shield then from the rain came up to her, the man was carrying a double wrapped bag in cloth they both looked very wary and scared but confidant enough to approach her.

"Please miss...accept our greatest thanks for saving our town from those Yoma, they had killed...so many. But...t thanks to you Claymore they will no longer be tormenting us, please do accept this payment for your great service to us all."

He held out the wrapped bag tentatively to her, it was obviously heavy with coin. She looked the old man in the eye's her brilliant silver meeting his old faded blues, he managed to keep her gaze when many would have either looked away or ran...she was slightly impressed with this.

"Keep it. You should know that I am not able to accept payment myself, after I am gone a man in black will come to collect my fee. Be sure he get's it, I have no need or want for your payments or gifts I only completed my mission."

She broke their gaze, her long silvan hair was braided in the back with long bangs running loose framing her lovely face. Her ears were like an elf's fairly long and pointed graceful, her armor the same as any other Claymore except all metal parts were richly and intricately engraved. The old man and his wife just watched as she left through the gate not looking back, even for a Claymore this one seemed to them different in some way. Some how she seemed a great deal more dangerous and powerful than any other to have ever passed though the small town of Doga, her cold demeanor was the same and the only physical difference was that her armor was etched beautifully.

Some time later the Claymore found and set up a small make shift camp in the mouth of a cave near the town of Egon, after a fire was started and enough fire wood collected she thrust her sword into the ground and sat leaning against it after slipping off her fauld, vambraces, spaulders and sabatons and neatly placing them next to her. She stared into the warm blaze of the fire, her thoughts unknown other than the crackling of the fire and the soft patter of the rain outside the mouth of the cave.

Her name is Valerie, aka Valerie "The Stoic". Ranked number one in the organization, most powerful of the Claymores and rumored to be powerful enough to easily have a place amongst the top eight most powerful Claymores in history.

Next morning at first light she was already on the move, she passed closely by the small town of Egon her pace seeming to slow some what. Her eyes gazed along it's boarders and town center from the hill top she was walking along, stopping for a moment. The wind tugged at her silver hair as she stood, to some Claymore not to mention humans this would seem strange. Few knew that before all of the cataclysmic change that crashed into her life the past year and a half, the small town of Egon was the sight of her first mission...and also the place she had lost her only friend...also a Claymore but that story is for another time.

As Valerie moved on she cleared her mind of depressing thoughts, the day was young and there was much traveling to do this day if she were going to get to the spot where she would rendezvous with her assigned Agent from the Organization to acquire details of her next mission.

Arriving late that evening very near the land bridge that would bypass the Central Region Toulouse and take her into the Southern Quadrant of Mucha, she made camp and later met with her Agent in a clearing not far from her camp in the ancient hard woods. The man was skinny and frail looking wearing all black including a cloak and a face partial face covering and a staff, he was sitting atop a large old stump in the clearing and she could see his smile in his dark eye's as he saw her approach. As was taught when becoming a Claymore she was wearing only her two piece suit and her mock neck with her symbol emblazoned on it at the base of her throat.

"Ah, it is good to see you again Valerie. I hope the journey here treated you well, also I must say you did a very nice job back there in Doga. The townspeople seemed relived that the Yoma problem could be so quickly and painlessly taken care of, regardless of their thoughts about you or any of our other warriors."

Valerie's face did not change, she always seemed blank almost like a machine. She sensed his smile falter slightly under that covering he wore, she never did like him not any of the Organization's men. She was wary of them and did not hold them much in any regard much less a high one or a low one for that matter, as at times it had seemed that they were trying to kill her by proxy by sending her on suicide missions randomly. Most any other Claymore would likely have been dead by now from some of the missions she had been sent on, nearly dying once and many others she had come close to being gravely wounded.

"The road is a road weather there is one or not, traveling suits me fine."

She paused for a moment, frowning inside.

"What is my next mission?"

"My my, you really are never talkative Valerie...you really must learn to open up more."

"That is NONE of your concern...I am a soldier and do what is asked of me from the Organization, and that is quite enough for me."

He let out a sigh, and was quiet for a moment then spoke.

"Very well then. Your next mission is in a town not too far from here, a day and a half away. The town of Musha, they seem to be having a problem there that sounds an awful lots like a Voracious Eater..."

Valerie stopped him mid sentence with an upraised hand.

"You mean an Awakened Being..."

He cocked an eye at her, she was extremely knowledgeable and faulted himself for thinking for an instant she was the slightest naive.

"Um...yes. But from what our sources say it may or may not be one, perhaps just a very experienced Yoma perhaps two."

She placed a hand on her hip as he continued.

"In any case number one, when you arrive in Musha rent a room at the local Inn. Wait there as we are sending another warrior to lend any assistance you may or may not need."

Her silver eyes fixed on him with intense scrutiny at this information, wondering what the Organization was thinking. She became even more wary as this mission seemed very peculiar...perhaps yet another attempt on her life, but of course she had no proof and did not have any for the other incidents either.

"Another warrior? That is odd...even for you and the Organization, IF it is an Awakened Being you know she will likely be in my way."

For a moment he seemed to laugh some under his breath, his attitude become almost giddy.

"Well as you say...IF it is an Awakened Being, you should have at least one other warrior to accompany you. Help doesn't hurt you know, in any case it is not negotiable...orders ARE orders Valerie."

He paused for a long moment, then continued in the nearly gleeful tone that she took as smug and intolerable.

"The warrior that will be joining you on this hunt will be the Organization's current number Nine, so I doubt that she will prove to be a hindrance to you or the mission...also...I think you will find MUCH in common with her actually."

She opened her mouth to ask about this last bit as he got up and began to walk away, conversion over apparently. She closed it just as fast, she thought just as well to be rid of him than asking possible stupid questions. She had no idea why they would send another warrior as she had proven on more that one occasion that she was far more than capable of taking care of herself, even when fighting an Awakened Being that most would die fighting with a group. The last bit of what he had said tugged at her mind however, it stuck and made her wonder...she did not know nor had ever met number Nine.

Arriving back at camp she sat against her sword, after a while those thoughts quieted and she slept and uneasy sleep. The dreams came and went some pleasant, most were not. Mainly flashes from her time of becoming within the Organization, which were nightmares in their gritty detail. Not all were bad, flashes of the friend she had found in those dark times as they became fellow warriors. They had comforted each other through the worst it their transformation, funny how they could only sleep if they were huddled up together as it seemed the only way to ease the pain and lonely suffering. Flashes of her childhood, a little girl with long red hair tied back in white bows of linen not a care in the world.

She arrived in Musha a day and a half later in the afternoon, the sun was hot but a cool breeze lazily blew across the plane between the mountains the town lay in. She found the Inn easily and managed a room, she didn't care much for it she was not used to a roof over her head. Not but an hour later a knock at the room door, she already knew it was #9 as she sensed her yoki aura coming from a way off even though this one seemed to be very good at hiding her yoki. When she opened the door the face her eyes gazed upon made her legs feel slightly weak, she knew this face.

"Well...are you going to let me in or are were going to stand here all evening?"

Quickly regaining her composure seamlessly she stepped aside letting the warrior through, soon they both sat in silence for a moment. It was Valerie who spoke first, very uncharacteristic of her nature, she could not help it in this instance though.

"Jean...#9 of the Organization, I had no idea it would be you."

Jean looked up and gazed at Valerie somewhat puzzled at what she said.

"We've never met before this day, how do you know my name #1?"

Instead of being cryptic as she normally was, she decided to be upfront and frank. The mission ahead might very well be a dangerous one, and in this world one could not be guaranteed anything let alone a second chance. She needed to get this off her chest, it had been a very long time.

"For a very long time I once only knew your face, it has been etched into my mind since I can remember. The warrior who saved my life from the yoma in the Western Quadrant Lautrec, in the City of Hanel. There were several yoma in disguise in the city, one of them had been in the form of my aunt and had come that evening killing my parents and nearly myself...I was 11 then."

Jean simply sat looking at her leader, listening to the tale she was telling.

"You...Jean, it was you. I could never forget that day, when you looked at me after killing that yoma your face became embedded into my mind. I was in the process of being outcast like others whose family had been impersonated by yoma, and I remembered from the tales I had heard growing up that once a Claymore's business was done, that not long after a man in black would come to collect their fee. Frightened at the idea that I would be thrown out I sought to hunt down this man in black when he came, and that I did. But it was not just the fear of being outcast that drove me to confront him, I saw you as my savior. Like a noble knight, you saved me and asked for no thanks and it made some thing in me awaken and then I all I wanted was to see you again so I could thank you."

Jean moved forward to speak but Valerie held up a hand stopping her for the moment, her eyes opened and gazed right into Jeans as she continued.

"The man stated that if I ever wanted to see you again, it would have to be on their terms, I knew it was bullshit even then I was not stupid. But I seen an opportunity in what he said, that when we did meet I could meet you on your own terms on even ground. Meaning as a fellow comrade in arms, and this very thought made me swell with pride in hopes that you might be pleased. But I know now that you are likely not to be pleased, I threw away my humanity to become a warrior. I still don't give a damn to this day, I did what I still feel is right. I just had no idea the day would come so soon, that we would meet even though it has been years since that day."

Jean sat silent for a moment, her eyes were searching Valerie with confused intent as if she were seeing some thing that should not be there. When she spoke the only thing that came out at first was the stupidest thing she could say, tongue tied as she was.

"I needed nor need any thanks, let alone a sacrifice like that."

She saw a dejected expression come across the once stony features of her leaders face for a moment, then she looked at her symbol and noticed some thing.

"What is your name?"

"It is Valerie...or better known now as Valerie the Stoic. Ranked number 1 in the Organization."

Jeans eyes widened a little, they had told her that the warrior she was to meet up with was very powerful and a high rank...but number 1?.

"Valerie..."

She trailed off for a moment, then memory flashed vague scenes. Looking Valerie in the eyes, studying her facial features. Her mind flashed red hair around Valerie's face, with...what seemed cotton bows in it and a much younger face. Her eyes widened as complete recollection hit her, she remembered this face out of thousands.

"I...I am sorry, I failed you Valerie."

She bowed her head in a gesture of defeat, but suddenly a hand flashed to her shoulder spaulder gently pressing her back into an upright position. She was met by Valeries steely silver eyes, the look in her face was not one of anger but more akin to a happy sadness as her other hand came to Jean's shoulder.

"Never be sorry, you did not fail me Jean. My mother passed away from her wounds not long after the attack, I had no one and Hanel was on the verge of getting rid of me like all of those who survive. In a way I had a choice, I made the one that I felt I wanted to make. I had nothing, nothing but the memory of the one who saved my life. I chose to become a warrior, I was not forced and I understood what it meant. And now that we have met and have come to terms, you Jean are my family weather you accept it or not."