This is another tale of souls and swords...
Once, there existed on a great continent, three countries: the Grandall Empire, the Kingdom of Dalkia, and the Halteese Republic. The Kingdom of Dalkia and the Halteese Republic waged a great war against one another for countless years. The Grandall Empire stayed out of the conflict, amassing its armies in silence.
In a time where King Chester, the Great Tactician and instigator of the war which later came to be known as the Mantis War, had not yet appeared in the annals of history.
The key figure in the war was a mere cadet of the Grandall Army.
One foot in front of the other is all he had truly been paying attention to; right, left, right, left a kick of dirt and a crunch of chilled grass beneath his boots. An early frost had settled in and many people had scrambled to prepare for the harsh winter to come. To sell their goods and to buy said goods before they were gone – all to get one up on your competition or to be sure you can feed your family.
He came to a stop once one of his escorts spoke to him. Before him had been two soldiers, dressed identically: light greaves which rose a bit over the knee, those tasteless tan leggings that seemed to go great with everything, silvered gauntlets that matched the greaves, and a breastplate which was redder than blood. Beneath all that had been chainmail which did little against the cold and to top that all off had been the silvered helmet which sported two arching spikes towards the back of the wearer's head. Typical dress for the typical rank and file if anything, of course, he was proud that he could diversify himself a bit.
He wore a light chest plate underneath his overcoat –which had his shoulder plates and neck protected and also strikingly fashionable in design – his bottoms were a deep dark forest green and his boots were a standard brown. His hands were covered by what appeared to be thin gloves, however these were personalized and had small strips of steel worked into the leather for added protection as well as a little added weight.
"This him?" A feminine but commanding voice inquired as a shadowy figure studied him. He squint his eyes to see if he could make out her features but due to the lantern burning brightly behind her, he was able to see nothing. The escort before her confirmed with her and asked if there was anything else which she needed as well as any news to send despite the backwater for which they were at. "No, but do keep your wits about you." She then took a step outside of the small housing and surveyed her surroundings. With a slight nod, the two soldiers took their leave.
He watched as their blades reflected the moon's light as they passed him by. The two were likely returning to central to report that he had been safely delivered and from there, he guessed they would drown themselves in the local tavern. Turning his gaze to the land before him, he noted the silence which hung around the area. It sounded much like someone were lying in wait but with a subtle wind blowing ever so lightly; it was difficult to tell if anyone were moving from yonder or not.
"Your name is Meiga, correct?" With the question, he stiffened but was quickly waived off – telling him that he need not be so formal in addressing her. "We are afield, and if you recall correctly, that is not the best of things to do." Nodding, he agreed as well as apologized. "If you like, you're welcome to a drink, but do keep in mind that we are still on watch."
She was taller than him by a few inches - two or maybe three - her hair was cut short to where her bangs hung in front of her…green eyes. Meiga stared for a moment. He had never seen one be as swarthy as she to be with eyes colored as she had. From there had been her armor: A thick breastplate with a gilded trim running from the center, the edges, and lastly the collar of her otherwise pitch black breastplate. The only true feature that stood out was the wings which encircled a blade aimed downward. The wings were outlined in the same gilded fashion as was the sword; this insignia rested just above her heart and it was an insignia which he knew well enough.
Her gauntlets were unremarkable as was the rest of her attire, but he noted that her armor was absent of any faction based color, in other words, no red, no gold (aside from the filigree based trim), or blue. The tone of her voice and colors worn told him well-enough who he had been speaking to.
"It is an honor to meet you Commander Surina." She crossed her arms and seems to be slightly irritated that he chose to address her as such. In any case, he continues. "I'm not sure how it has gone but can you tell me of the area? Any changes at the least…?"
"Aside from the deathly silence? None." Her mock tone says much as Surina turned her gaze to him. "Even with the chill of the air, venison still roams these parts nightly. For them not to do so drew my attention. Either they have been driven off or hunted." Meiga noticed that the commander had yet to blink after she laid her green eyes on him. "Your Commander has informed me of several tracks which litter the area that belong not to our own, and it was upon her request that you be added to her paradigm."
"I-I thought I would…"
The commander shook her head. "I've an addition coming to my unit but you are not him." She closes her eyes as if she were recounting something. "I'd honestly prefer you to who I hear I'm being given but that choice is not mine to make." With her last sentence, she spoke practically through her teeth. Meiga understood instantly that she was not thrilled by who was being added to her unit. Before he could ask who, Commander Surina raised a hand and looked to her right. Looking up he could see a figure approaching and from this distance and the moons light, he was able to make out the red armor approaching.
Another escort had been the first thought which crossed Meiga's mind, of course, he had been correct. His armor had been a dull silver and across his heart had been the Crest of Grandall, the symbol of the dragon. A long sleeved red shirt had been underneath his armor and through that self-same shirt had been the integral of chainmail. His leggings were a dark color, but he could not tell what, though his greaves were the same dull silver as his armor with accents of red. These greaves covered most of his legs, ending at roughly at the half of his thigh. Commander Surina addressed him as he came to a stop yet Meiga noticed a pistol at his waist and a blade at the opposite of it.
"I trust you had the pleasant journey Kusanagi?" He jumped as she spoke to him but from his angle, he could not see her and likely only thought Meiga was standing here by himself. Listening to him speak, Meiga took Ky as a more timid individual especially since he made the same mistake which Commander Surina corrected him of not doing. "This," She began as she extended her left hand out towards Meiga. "…is your charge, beyond this, he is now your responsibility." Meiga was unable to see his face due to the present lighting, but he could guess his expression given how shaky his voice had been. "Do not screw this up Kusanagi."
"Y-Yes Commander Surina!" He sheepishly replied all while Commander Surina gnashed her teeth. Quickly intervening, he approached the commander and thanked her for her insight and time. By doing this, she calmed herself but only by that of trickling molasses. With their quick departure, Meiga noticed another woman whom had been sitting in a chair near the lantern. From a quick glance he was able to tell that she was a red haired young woman whom had currently had her bare feet mounted on a table right beside the lamp. Beyond that, he could see nothing more.
As the area was surveyed, everything seemed as if it were still. There were no animals scavenging for food and not a fool to wander with their rum in hand. This silence and stillness bothered her. No matter the night, she knew that someone, somewhere were to be moving about and if all were as silent as it had been, then something far worse was soon to reveal itself. It was no different from her travel here, when long-winded stretches of silence drew breath, the worst was always yet to come. She did not budge as the wind had picked up a bit. This caused leaves to twist, twirl, and flip much like a waltz as the aforementioned howling wind blew them across the silent land. Night had long since fallen and the moon was as ardent as it was full. Its gleam of light had been sparse due to the overcast of clouds this night. These elements along with others had been signs of an early winter. Nevertheless, with that knowledge, it had still been fairly warm and warm enough to not need winter-wear.
Despite what may reveal itself, massive or lesser in severity, there were those of course who had a duty to defend this still and silent land; a land of hidden treachery and an even more obscure underlying meaning to everything that had even been within this country. This country, built upon hidden corruption was Parousia, ruled by its current emperor, Strife Astlar. He was a young ruler who was no more than seventeen years of age when he ascended to the throne. It was said that he had killed his siblings out of madness and fear.
It was to be expected if you had an open mind about things. Especially when a country were the prize to be rewarded for whoever was chosen to rule. Naturally, as far as she had assumed, he was fed little, treated cruelly and possibly slept with a dagger underneath his pillow. Again, if you had an open mind, you would know that nothing is of pure smiles and merry.
The moon was covered by clouds when she opened her eyes. She had been silent the entire night unless she had been speaking to a small and terribly rare black dove. This dove was a Messenger. Messengers or Messenger Birds often carried small letters to allies—best used for short distances rather than lengthy trips. Of course, this also depended on the species of bird being used as a Messenger. As this dove sat upon her left shoulder, she had been in a state of meditation until she had opened her eyes and as she came out of this state, a brief thought of her allies came to her mind. She knew of them to either be celebrating or possibly actually taking their positions seriously. Yet, it varied upon which unit she were to speak of…
As part of the Border Forces, she, Raisa, a soldier of the Parousian army, was charged with defending the very border of her country from any hostiles. Despite the fact that this was not her country of origin, she had not much a choice in the matter and that she knew. Of course, the situation, their situation, was a delicate and complicated one.
No matter what her intentions were on that night months ago, she had still committed two crimes upon this land she was now charged with protecting; despite the fact that she had been charged for all three crimes instead of her actual two. In fact, the only way for her to truly be released from the slavering jaws of her "crimes" were to join the military and since she was just as formidable as some of the sergeants and lieutenants of the army she needed not much training. For a woman, she had done well when she had sparred against several of the higher ranking officials within the Grandallian Army; better than most of the commanders who had difficulty proving themselves in such sport. One woman that had especially been stricken by the eye of the green monster was Commander Abelia. She was used to bathing within the spotlight and was of good character albeit unable to cope with defeat or being outshined.
When the two of them had sparred, Raisa, wielding her Wōdāo, Sapphire, proved victorious in combat. The news of Abelia's defeat spread like wildfire and Raisa was quickly becoming a top choice for many of the other commanders to personally request for her to join their unit.
They had all been disappointed when she was assigned to the unit Gungnir, who was under the command of one of the recent academy graduates. She, Priya, was a fair and just woman and by Raisa's observations, she had deemed her a good-hearted and level-headed commander. Despite Priya's lack of outright strength and emotional fortitude, Raisa respected her for many other reasons. Priya was not one to live for the limelight as Abelia did and Priya often put herself after others—a trait that Raisa herself, had rarely ever seen—she was also well versed in mythology as well as weaponry.
Aside from those few things, Raisa respected Priya because she was just the individual she would want her commander to be; knowledgeable, generous, and even self-sacrificing if the time called for it. Most of the other commanders were nothing more than glory-seeking bastards who drank themselves to death and ogled nearly any woman or man that passed them by. Yes, there were a good few feminine commanders within the military and some of them have done nothing more than used their body to attain the position they currently had. That alone was one reason why Priya was favored—she acted none like the whores of the military.
No matter though, Raisa was proud of where she was and even more proud of the unit she was assigned to yet, she now turned her head to her left. In this direction, there had been a path which after some time, led to a fork. The reason she had turned her head was due to the fact that she had heard voices emanating from the aforementioned direction.
There were additional military personal stationed about this area and most of them she knew either by face or by voice; Raisa thought it essential if she were to know her allies so that she could differentiate them from her enemies if she were to be protecting anything, especially if it were during a time of visual difficulty.
"It is not that of Surina's unit," She thought as she listened to the voices. Raisa could not hear them perfectly, yet, she knew the voices of those who belonged to Surina's unit, Exalted. Raisa had also ruled out the possibility of the individuals being that of the squadron Relic. The reason she ruled Relic out with such a swift thought was due to Relic bearing no male soldiers. "...They are entirely different individuals." Realizing this and that neither of them were not drunk, she then asked herself a question. "Why would travelers be out and around these parts at this time of night?"
It was common knowledge that Parousia had declared that no civilian be about the border when the sun had chosen to sleep. This was to eliminate confusion between ally and enemy and it had been by the military's general for that choice to be made. As she continued to ponder about her next course of action, it was then that her heart had begun to beat faster with excitement.
"…Brigands." She was calm as this realization sunk in. For the most part, she wondered if the opposition would truly be a challenge. Mostly, common Brigands were unorganized and easily dealt with if one were prepared; though to function at night could spell disaster if they used their surroundings to their advantage.
"I wait for them to grow closer." Her plan was slowly formulating as their voices became clearer and as such, she was able to hear them conversing.
"I would have never thought of you to be such a woman Judas."
"I am not a woman," The man named Judas protested. "I've nothing to fear!" His voice sounded as it had just begun to break. It made him sound as if he had been speaking through his nostrils.
"Hm…" Raisa then pondered. "I do wonder how much 'man' resides within you."
As she pondered this, she reached for a small strip of parchment. Her eyes were well adjusted to the darkness and in addition to that she could see fairly well in the darkness of the night. Reading the parchment to ensure she was sending the correct one, she then folded it twice and then attached it to a small string. With her free hand, she turned her palm skyward and the small dove flew into her palm. This dove was a fairly intelligent creature. As it landed in her palm, it instantly lifted a foot and allowed her to slip the string around its ankle. After that, the dove reached its head down and took a piece of the string in its beak and pulled it tight to its ankle. After kissing the dove upon its head, Raisa raised her arm and the black dove flew.
"Nothing is to be feared while here in this wilderness of this hellish country." The dove chirped only once, which alerted Judas. "What was that?"
Immediately, Raisa ceased her movements and paid attention to his drastic change in tone. "Is that…fear?" She thought to herself.
"Did you hear that?"
"Apparently Judas has a decent sense of hearing." With this knowledge, Raisa knew that even though his fear was beginning to show, his ears could be a significant threat if he used them to his advantage. Turning her green eyes to the night sky, she winced none as the moon was drawn before her eyes and it was with the unsheathed moon that she saw the black dove flying off towards Priya's location.
"Judas, cease your fearless cowardice."
"Well, in the time that is present, why not force you to truly show your cowardice Judas?" As this crossed her mind, Raisa would then devote her time to scaring him to the point where his comrade could not rely on him to do anything whatsoever. All the while, if she did things correctly, she would draw the two to her and confront them then. Before she did this, she realized that the dove should have made it to Priya by now.
Watching the moon as it was swiftly abducted before her eyes by clouds of a menacing obscurity; she then looked to the land below her current position and heaved a light sigh. As she had predicted, something far worse was bound to happen…
Half an hour had passed since the black dove had taken flight and by the dove's delay, Raisa knew that Priya had gotten the message. However, at the current moment, Raisa had been silently laughing to herself and she thought it to be hilarious to continue her antics. Gripping the sheath of her weapon, she waited and listened to what was being said by the two individuals.
"I-I'm serious, do you not hear that?"
"Judas," The man began. "Shut your mouth!"
"B-but, how can I relax when something is out there?" At the sound of a small knocking, Judas jumped and did the best he could to keep a shrill shriek to himself, however, a part of it escaped before his mouth was covered. She had been timing her knocks with the breeze which had been coming and going. By doing this, one would be pressed to believe it had simply been the tress creaking within the wind.
Raisa could not hear anything that was being said from Judas due to the fact that his mouth was covered. Although she could not hear him, she did not care. She herself had been silently laughing at his actions; however, her laughter would soon be ended by her own enthrallment.
"If you keep being loud, he'll come down here release you himself!"
"Expended?" She thought to herself. "He will die for being afraid?" Correcting herself so that she could think clearly, she moved just a little closer so that she could continue to listen in on the conversation that she had been eavesdropping on for the duration of half an hour.
"Yes, yes, it is true but we must act promptly if we are to execute his plans accordingly." The second male protested.
"Judas, I order you to silence yourself."
"Orders are very well orders Judas," The second male taunted.
"Now shut up already!"
"A third? I'll kill him to." After she stood, Raisa made her way onto the beaten path so that it would seem as if she had been traveling during the night.
"Fear nothing, for we are laying down the path which shall change history!"
"Arrogance…" She pointed out to herself. "Arrogance is never held with form or spine to stand on its own." As the men, a group of three slowly approached, Raisa thought of a plan of attack. "Arrogance is the head of this mass, he will send his legions to dispose of me…" She paused as she checked to see if her dove had returned yet. Alas it had not.
"Judas, staggering are messages of the weak!"
"What is that light up ahead?" A silent sigh was heaved as Raisa's combative mindset slowly began to ascend from its dream-like state.
Her mind temporarily fell silent as the reflection of what appeared to be armor emerged from behind the sloping hill which was in-between her eight and nine. Her plan set in her mind, Raisa had turned away, so that her back would be facing them.
"We should be where the sounds originated Sir."
She knew by her ears that they were less than fifteen yards from her. With this knowledge, her immediate knowledge and care of anything other than the situation at hand ceased to exist as her soul was clenched even tighter within her grasp.
It already appeared as if she were heading in the opposing direction. Though to make it fool-proof, she advanced a few steps from her post with her weapon at the ready. Her Wōdāo was cleverly held in a fashion which was close to her body. With the darkness and the way she had planned to stand, her weapon would be out of sight to them.
"Sir!" As the second male spotted Raisa, she did not move any further away from them, instead she adjusted herself and held her Wōdāo even closer to her side and made sure she stood sideways to them. The only way they would know she had a weapon about her would be the revolver strapped to her right thigh. The only way they would know that she was armed to the teeth would be if another of their number had emerged from her left. Yet as she thought of the revolver, which would be facing them, Raisa quickly adjusted the holster and garter and turned it inward towards her inner thigh.
"Civilian, by order of our Empreror, Strife Astlar, I command you to halt." The arrogant male commanded her. "What say you as your nature?"
"A wench of some sort," The male who spotted Raisa interjected before adding on to that. "Maybe we can have some fun with her?"
Raisa lightly growled at the fact that she was seen as a helpless sex object. She believed that it had only been the three of them and by estimating the way they each walked, none of them were at her caliber. Watching the three males draw nearer, what she believed was the head of the three stepped in front of them.
"Wench," As this word entered her ears, Raisa gnashed her teeth as the arrogant male followed the words of his subordinate. "Where is it for which we may," He paused and snickered to his men as he turned to them and as he turned to face Raisa he continued. "Find a suitable place other than this wilderness?" Raisa said nothing. The men looked at each other with confused looks before he addressed her again. "Wench," Her grip around the sheath of Sapphire intensified as the word penetrated her once more. "I demand an answer of you and if you refuse, we shall find it within you ourselves!"
"You want to twist me as you so see fit?" As this thought crossed her mind, she stared at the three all while her green eyes narrowed. The silent wind gently blew across the valley, as if it were death passing ever so stealthily across the border.
"She must be deaf." The puberty-struck male muttered.
"If she were deaf she would not have stopped you fool!" Raisa silently laughed as the arrogant male yelled at his subordinate. After he had yelled, he turned to face her once more, he slowly began to advance.
"Even if she is deaf, I bet she can move just like all the rest."
"Wench, you are beginning to anger me," His eyes fell from her face and pass her overlapping belts which seemed to hold daggers at her waist and down to her legs. Even though the bottoms she wore were baggy, he still knew of her to be ripe. "…And you do not want to see me angry." One of the three males, being Judas looked to the sky as the moon was covered by clouds, and as she observed them; she noticed that Judas seemed terrified as the only true source of light had been blocked out. "You think of me to jest with you wench?" The arrogant male inquired.
"Their armor resembles that of our own army." She realized this just before the moon had been concealed. "This is a setup..." She heard the second male approaching her and instinctively focused on him. "I may be wrong; but, they are impersonating soldiers which results in them dying anyway."
"She must be struck with fear." The second male added onto his ally's initial verbal thought of Raisa being deaf. As she thought of it, so far, the puberty-stricken male was the only one out of the three which did not insult her; therefore she would in fact truly save him as the last kill.
The visibility had now been little to none; however, the rush-light which rested a short distance away from them, which was the original safe-house that Priya had assigned her to, gave them some form of light, although it had been little. She had been waiting for them to get close enough. Little did they know the moon was their greatest ally for the moon revealed her weaponry; however, now that the moon had been obscured, they knew of her to carry at the most, daggers which rested within their sheaths at her waist.
"I don't think we should be-"
"How many times are you going to attempt to change the course of what we do?"
"Just what I've been waiting for…" Raisa thought.
"Since she is, as you have said, struck with fear, then we shall help her quell a bit of that fear."
"… Death is only thing that will become of pestering me…" Her grip slightly tightened around her sheath while her right hand, did nothing more than produce cracking sounds as she forced her bones to do so, this caused one of the three males to flinch. "Even if it be you must be hunted down, one by one…I will break each and every one of you."
Following her second threat, the male who had been leading them laughed at her threats. "What makes you, a woman capable of killing men?"
The first male was arrogant, that and he obviously saw himself as above the opposing gender. "The only thing it is that you are truly good for, is selling yourself or lying down for us all, so please, do yourself a favor a—"
He was cut off by the sound of gunfire.
Staring at who she assumed to be their commanding figure's corpse, the second male was silent while his mouth had fallen agape.
"Oops…" She began before smirking. "As I said," Raisa paused as she holstered Vindicate. "I've not time and patience with pompous, sexually struggling, children." The second male, horrified, stared at her with rage in his eyes as he tried to find words, however, none were found. "It is often said that the eye of the beholder is the beholder that will bring death." Lifting her arm, she turned a balled fist to the two men who were standing before her. "As the Beholder, I grant you death, which I hold in my very hand."
Before she could draw her second revolver, Heartless, Judas shrieked in that high-pitched progression of puberty and immediately after that, he turned and ran while the second male stood his ground.
"Judas, come back here this instant!" The second male shouted, however, Judas, the male who shrieked, continued to run on.
"That leaves you to die alone…" After she spoke those words, the male yelled some form of obscenity and then charged at Raisa. A smirk kissing her lips, she quickly holstered Heartless and then with her opposing thumb, she lightly pushed Sapphire from its sheath and then placed one foot in front of the other.
"Come," She invited as he continued to charge. "…And die!"
As he took a wild, large swing with his short sword, Raisa easily swayed underneath his attack and without blinking, drew Sapphire and cut through her charging opponent without changing her footing.
As he groaned, his sword and shield had dropped to the earth below, the second male slowly turned around and stared at Raisa. His staggering posture easily had shown the pain he had just been inflicted.
As the moon, free from its captors, bathed the land beneath it within its silver gleam, he was able to see that the sword that was in her grasp was that of another country. He was also able to see her revolvers. She had fooled him. Yet he had realized this far too late.
"Simple really," She answered as she stood erect and rid her blade of blood by swinging it. "You do not know the way of the sword, nor do you know how to defend yourself," As she slowly began to sheath Sapphire, the dying male gagged only to spew blood from his mouth. "That; and you are failure as not only a human but the proud production between man and beast… if nothing else," From the large gash which slowly festered as did the cracks through his armor of vermilion, his blood had begun to retreat from him as if he were the plague while Sapphire slowly slid even further into its sheath. "…You are a mistake and a sad excuse of a warrior…"
Sliding Sapphire completely into its sheath, Raisa's second opponent, with his last breath, fell to the bloodied dirt which he once stood upon, dead.
"Such a simple task," She began as she withdrew the revolver Vindicate, which she used earlier. "It is almost insulting that a pathetic cretin was the price for you to be used." As she recalled the male who ran, she thought it to be fun in order to hunt him down and see how he fought. After all, she was a soldier now, so why not exercise her right to kill her enemy?
Traveling down the path that the man fled, Raisa reached into a small leather pouch and withdrew a small metallic tube with her right hand. This tube, held gunpowder within it. It was the very source of her revolvers Vindicate and Heartless. These two revolvers were what replaced the use of a sub melee weapons which other members of her unit carried however, she still carried them yet, Raisa rarely used her daggers.
"That reminds me," She thought to herself as she knelt down and placed Sapphire on the ground while she reloaded Vindicate. "Priya spoke to Surina about a sword." As this random thought passed through her mind, she recalled never seeing this sword at all whatsoever. "It must be hidden weapon then. Either that or..." Raisa halted as she heard footsteps echoing in the distance. "...She must speak of a weapon that was lost or that has yet to be received."
Concealing the tube within the leather pouch at her right side, Raisa stood and continued to slowly move on while holding Vindicate in her left hand, while her right, she held a sheathed Sapphire.
A few moments had gone by and as she approached the fork in the path, she slowed her pace to think of which way to go. As she recalled, one path led to nothing while another led to the opposing side of the valley in which they had been guarding. As she thought of the possibilities, she eventually came to the conclusion that the stronghold of the Brigands was for which lied at the opposing end of the valley.
"There is only one way to find out isn't it?" With these words, Raisa decided to follow the path which would bring her to the very edge of the country of Parousia. Her mind held not a drop of the poison known as fear as she progressed within the night as others who are false to their beloved 'toys' fear their opposition.
Raisa knew no such thing as fear for fear is nothing more than allowing yourself to be defeated by whatever or whoever you view as being above you. Her life was thus far was one where she could show no fear. Not only that, but her own mother, killed by those of the cloth showed not a touch of fear as death slowly devoured her being in the form of flames. It was also her mother who taught her to never show fear nor ever show that she were willing to accept defeat.
"Life knows nothing more than my existence," Holding this within her mind, she knew it was the truth for if the world knew of her might, they would revere her as a Goddess of War. "My blade is my soul, I shall live by the sword even in death for the death of my sword," Raisa's grip around a sheathed Sapphire intensified as she progressed through the night. "…Is the very death of my soul itself. It is for this reason, this union of soul and sword, for why I will forever Live by the Sword."
Moments had passed after she recited that to herself. Raisa continued on and after nothing more than listening to the wind and leaves crumpling as they touched the ground; Raisa's mind had placed her motivation to the rear as an odd structure slowly crept into her view.
As she slowed her pace, she looked to the tree line which had been to her right and saw that as her cover. Deviating from the beaten path, Raisa concealed herself within nature and slowly continued on towards the structure. It wasn't long before she had come across additional opposition.
"Let us make haste Gabriel, we musn't be absent from our post."
"Following I am, you needn't worry of me Curien."
"…More of them." As she told herself this, she thought of ambushing them, however, she then realized that it was better to follow them and then destroy whatever base they were heading to. "Ease it must be for such height of this to be crafted." She thought to herself as she listened to her surroundings. "Either way if it were of ease, it makes little sense for such a construct to be crafted within our limits and for not one to even notice."
It was true, before the two units had been deployed to this area as well as the squadron, there had been two other units which were reported missing after three days of searching for them.
"Perhaps these Brigands are the reason behind their disappearance." As this thought settled into her mind, she realized that there could be several other reasons as to why the units before them had disappeared. Though those reasons were insignificant at the moment; silencing her mind, Raisa continued to silently stalk her enemies through the vegetation.
"It's been a bit of time since we've heard from Brecca, don't you think?"
"Aye," Curien began. "Still, we've a position to guard."
As the first man stood, he stretched and then looked down to his comrade. "Do you think Grandall have learned of us Gabriel?"
"Unlikely." Curien answered. "These fools are nothing more than silent peasants who have been infiltrated."
Watching his comrade approach the stairway, he implored him that animals had been out during the course of the night.
"It doesn't matter me much, I am a hunter after all."
"You know this land differs from any normal animal attack."
"As I said, I am a hunter, and what I hunt is what keeps men like you lying in bed awake as scared as your wives are."
"Hmph," Turning his head away from him he continued. "Then go and die fool."
"Gladly..." With that word, Gabriel proceeded down the steps of the insignificant stronghold.
"…That fool is going to get himself killed one of these days."
"This is too long for me to wander," She thought. "If I wait, more than likely, someone will come down, perhaps I should cause some form of racket." Thinking that the latter was the better of her ideas, Raisa ceased her movement and then lifted Sapphire. It worked once before and in the manner they were acting, word of what had happened with the previous trio had yet to reach them. "This should frighten them and if not, it should prove to get attention."
Curien was contemplating whether or not he should seek out his comrade, however; he eventually chose not to for the man's pride was enough to keep him outside of the tower for another two hours. "When he is scared enough he will come running back." He convinced himself.
A single high-pitched noise broke the calm demeanor he had. A result of this broken demeanor was for him to jump from his chair, and instinctively place a hand upon his rapier.
"He who be foolish, reveal yourself!" Although he commanded this, nothing was heard. "Gabriel?" He called for his comrade once more, however; he still heard nothing. Curien knew he had not been hearing things for the night was far too silent for that to occur.
A loud knocking sound had now begun to make him even more nervous.
His grip increasing upon the cruciform hilt of his broadsword, Curien decided to venture forth and down the stairwell with caution. Gabriel had not answered his calling, not only that, but it had bothered him that Gabriel had not made a sound when he had left the tower itself. Slowly descending down into the darkness of the stairwell, Curien noticed that the torches which had once illuminated this area of the tower had all been put out.
The sound had changed. Without thinking, Curien drew his rapier and slowly continued downward.
Whatever had been causing this noise was heavy. That he knew. Growing even closer to the source of the sound, Curien called for Gabriel once more, however; he still heard nothing.
Descending even further, Curien had begun to sweat. He knew this was something that would be vicious, even so, he continued on. Curien gulped as he hugged the wall which was opposite of the source of the sounds and to his fright, he ogled the body of his comrade, Gabriel.
"Gabriel!" His yell was loud and hearty; he rushed down to Gabriel's body only to cut it down. To digress, as Gabriel was hung by the neck, he was already dead. Holding his bloody body in his arms, Curien heard yet another sound, this time, he looked upwards slowly and his eyes grew wider as he realized who was before him. "R—Raisa…"
"Y—You are stationed out here?"
"That I am." Looking to the man she had just killed, using his own whip to hang him, she then looked back to Curien.
"So, you allied yourself with the thieves now have you?" She now asked.
"Hm, and your loyalty seems to be to them as well."
Against her better judgment, she did feel a little remorse for what she had done. As she recalled, Gabriel was like a brother to Curien while to her, Curien was somewhat a brother as he had appointed himself. Curien was older than Raisa by a number of years.
His face held hair which lazily slept upon his face and his eyes revealed his mid-life age. His armor was that of vermilion and so was the armor of Gabriel.
"I will let you live if you leave now," She began as she lifelessly watched Curien cradle Gabriel. "But if you choose to stay, I will have not a choice for I cannot guarantee your survival if you do choose to stay here."
"If you choose to stay, then your grave shall be the abysmal flame..." Not another word was said from her as she turned away from him. She knew that she had wounded his spirit as well as his judgment, yet, Curien was no fool. More than likely he would leave and allow himself to be thought of as dead, yet, it was up to him how he would choose his fate.
"You… look like you're having the worst day to life yet, Gabriel…" He sheepishly spoke as his voice began to break. "The death in your eyes… as fresh as that of the blackest of roses…" Lifting Gabriel's head to his lips, Curien kissed his forehead and then slightly lowered him. "All of the sun, which had once lighted me with pure warmth, has now left be a terrible winter might which threatens my very survival." Gripping his limp hand with his own, his left eye began to tear. "Your haunting face shall forever linger as I continue to live on and as your shivering ways haunt my mind, I know of your tips to once bear warmth."
Curien's grey eyes took in the illumination which had begun to slowly spread from the bottom of the stairwell. Raisa had started a fire. Knowing her, the fire will be more than enough to devour this insignificant tower and everything in it.
Looking back down to the deceased Gabriel, Curien's fingers ran across his face.
"You are now forever lost to the Blind World of despair and there, shall be not one who shall ever care… for in the Blind World, there is not such a thing as care." Listening to the flames fester as if they were guided to him by Death, Curien carefully situated Gabriel on the steps so that he would not tumble down. Standing on his own, he watched the flames as they revealed themselves to his grey eyes. "You have been faded from this world, and now you are alone, existence it is which I must use to atone for the mistake of drawing you into this very scheme of mine… for it is neither part of this world you remain… no, not here…"
Slowly ascending the stairwell, Curien did not take his eyes off Gabriel as the flames of death began to caress his body in an embrace that only the damned would enjoy.
"… Beyond all that is good you have passed and since now you have passed, you have faded beyond all that can repair. May God be merciful to your soul." Leaving the tower behind her, Raisa held a mind full of thoughts; however, those thoughts were placed on hold until this night's shift had concluded. His speech, she had heard and for his words to be heard, it meant that the two of them were paid in order to defy if not sabotage Parousia.
Additionally, she knew of them both to be that of a God in worship while Raisa herself, was faithless. Raisa believed that there was not such a thing as One Savior for this torment the world is in proves that there is no such thing as peace or the Celestial World or even a Paradise.
"These thoughts are thoughts of a dead woman," She told herself. "I shouldn't think of these as I live for these thoughts should prove to lead me to my grave." Shouldering the rifle, which she had taken from Gabriel, she continued down the path towards her true destination.
As time had passed, Raisa had continued down the path, she knew that she was nearly at the end of the valley. When that end came, she should be at the stronghold of these so-called warriors.
"Life it is I hope you chose Curien." Her mind was slightly distracted by the fact that her acquaintance had chosen a dark path to follow. "If it were not for you then…" Her voice trailed as she held Sapphire before her eyes. "…I musn't become distracted…" Forcing her arm back down to her side, Raisa pressed on. To her luck, and to her estimated guess, she had been correct. Looming not too far in the distance had been a light which she could see.
There was no mistaking that this light was that of a torch and as she progressed, she could hear at least five men talking and carrying on in their business. This was the perfect time to catch them off guard. Drawing Vindicate from its holster, Raisa slowed her pace and then slowly eased her way down into a crouching position so that she would not be seen. After a few steps she had then slumped down to the ground with her heels skyward.
Slowly crawling on her stomach, Raisa slowly made her way across the grass which, due to her jacket's dark red color; she would be hidden against most of the eyes which may look to her position. What had also given her an advantage in camouflage had been the fact that the moon was yet again, covered by clouds.
Reaching the peak of the hill, Raisa leered over the small hill; she could see that there had been nine soldiers guarding what appeared to be a stronghold. Raisa's guess was dead right it would appear.
"Has Gabriel made contact yet?"
Observing the complex, Raisa noticed that it had been fortified. Additionally, there had been a flag which jutted forth from the complex as if it were the horns of a beast. This flag, orange in base color bore a black insignia and slowly danced with the wind as their passionate lovemaking was that as a tongued kiss to the skin.
"Not at all," The second soldier answered. "Should we send a scout?"
"They may be a challenge, but if I think this through before I barge in, then there will be not much to worry of."
"No, three to be sure that the job is done," Looking around, he then opened his mouth and prepared to speak. "Uriel, Brecken, Sara… you three go on and ensure that Gabriel and Curien are still alive."
"Ay, we shan't be long." One brigand answered. "Yes Sir!" Another chimed. The woman, Sara, said not a word; she merely stood and shouldered her rifle.
"She holds nothing more than a rifle and at best, a dagger." Watching the two men tail her, she saw that they both carried short swords and shields. What shocked her was that they all wore armor which was that of vermilion. "This is indeed quite the plot."
Flattening herself onto the hill she was on, she watched the three walk past her and thought of shooting one of them; however, as she prepared to aim, Sara immediately turned in her direction, which forced Raisa to quickly holster Vindicate and lay on the hill in motionless silence.
"Sara, come on," Uriel commanded as he and Brecken both passed her by. "We can't leave you behind." Listening to his words, Sara followed without a word.
"Well, Sara has senses. That is without question a threat… even so; her judgment was delayed due to Uriel's words." Looking forth to the remaining impersonators, Raisa slowly fell into thought. "Eliminating the three would be a simple task, yet, Sara may make that task difficult."
"H—Hey, I got it up!" As one male said that, others crowded around him and began to cheer. He had been balancing a sword in the palm of his hand by its hilt. Her green eyes watching this, she counted and reached a total of six enemies.
"They are novices…" Watching the sword fall and the other males began to boo and demand a re-try, as he took up the sword once more; Raisa had decided that she would not use her revolvers to fire, but only to injure. That is unless she were given no choice that is. "This approach will be swift…"
"Damn it, Darren stop screwing around!" At the sound of his voice, Darren squealed and dropped his sword. "You needn't play games while out here, for the Border Forces are not to be taken lightly!"
"What makes you say that?" The male name Darren inquired.
"What makes me say that is due to our scouts,"
"So…they have investigated the country long before this night?" Raisa lifted her head in slight amazement. "The worst is yet to come of this conflict…"
"Scouts…?" Darren repeated.
"Clearly he is not well versed with his unit's plan." Raisa thought. "Yet, this could mean that those who impersonate could also be joining them without much knowledge of what is to come or what has been laid as brick to the castle…"
"Yes, our scouts have seen and even observed who has been assigned here this very night and it is best not to attract the attention of either the units stationed."
"Who's the main threat we have to be worried about?" Darren now asked.
"Obvious isn't it…?" Raisa thought to herself.
"The unit Relic, its Commanding Officer, Annebella has been a soldier for over seven years and has proven her strength by being the sole survivor of Halteese's small ambush on her unit."
"So?" The leader of the group repeated. "She killed the entire platoon of forty to the last man a few years back and is regarded like a goddamn heroine." This knowledge was something that Raisa did not even know. She along with the other males were in silent awe. "She is stationed on the opposite side of this valley and she is a severe threat. If anything, she needs to be sniped, longbowmen upon the hills and her whereabouts and patterns need to be tracked."
"Who else is out here that we need to be wary of?" Another male asked. Raisa studied him. He had a revolver about his right leg and a knife about his left. A broadsword was sheathed at his waist and he hadn't a helm.
"Salgado's daughters…" With that said the males all stopped moving. "…Yes, they are both here and command separate units Gungnir and Exalted along with a soldier who goes by the name of Raisa,"
"Heh…you know it to be the truth now don't you?" Her pride had begun to swell as she continued to listen in.
"Raisa has bested nearly half the commanders which this country carries and she also is a bladesmith, a gunsmith, and is fluent with several weapons foreign to this land. Along with her is Ky, who is also of the unit Gungnir," He paused as he cleared his throat. "He may not be much but his strategies are what will elude and dispatch you. He dances about the blade and strikes when you've nothing in reserves."
"How are we to compete with the blood relatives of Salgado?" Darren protested.
"Darren has a point sir," Another male chimed in cutting the leader of the group off. "He was a powerful man and a great commander in his time, and he knew not defeat. It was only old age which had killed him and now you bring us out here with his daughters; the daughters of a man who led raids against Halteese where each raid was a success? How are we to stop them if they are trained by not only that monster, but Girardot too?" Before the man could speak, there was a rustling noise in the brush behind two of the males. Taking up their arms, the only male with a firearm, slowly approached with his ranged weapon in hand.
"It's just the wind, relax." A male near the doors of this stronghold had pointed out. However, he was wrong. As the male with the revolver turned away, he was impaled through his chest. A wet gargling sound he made as blood began to drain from his mouth and as he flailed about, Raisa extracted Sapphire and then kicked the helm-less male to the ground.
"Jerich!" One of the males cried.
"Don't worry," She began as a small smile began to form upon her face as she sheathed a bloody Sapphire. "…It is fatal…"
The leader of the group quickly drew his cutlass and charged her while the other four males charged her as well.
"You'll pay for what you've done!" Darren shouted as he was the first to reach her. Evading his swing, Raisa pulled the end of her tsuka and from it, a chain had extended. Quickly getting behind Darren, he instinctively spun around and attempted to impale her, yet Raisa eluded his attack and was again behind him. He again turned and attacked yet this time; Raisa used the chain and instantly caught his sword she then twisted her arm, she quickly spun around Darren once more and had successfully ensnared Darren within a choking embrace. Kicking the back of his thigh, Raisa had forced him down onto his knees.
A male called. As the advancing men ceased their advance, they each randomly took a small amount of distance for fear of accidentally harming their captive ally. As his choking breaths desperately attempted to grasp life, Raisa decreased his ability to breath by placing a foot firmly to Darren's back.
"…I don't lie down with dogs, in order to rise with your diseases…"
With that said in a chilling tone, Raisa chose not to hear any more of this flea's pleas. Her grip intensifying upon her tsuka, Raisa followed up by jerking and then twisting her Shéng Biāo–ultimately snapping Darren's neck. Spinning around, she then released her Shéng Biāo, freeing the corpse and as this was done, Darren's body fell to the ground—dead. Raisa quickly took her form in the stance of her primary combat style and her eyes were transfixed as if her glare were a demon's thirst for her next victims.
"Maletta…?" Lost within her mind, she came back to reality when the second soldier charged for her. Raising her sheath, Raisa used this as a defensive mechanism which, by parrying the short sword her current opponent used, she quickly dodged the attack their leader. After evading his attack, Raisa evaded another attack by leaping in the air and flipping over the charging blade. Easily seeing an opening, she caught the male's neck with the Shéng Biāo and ensnared him. Not taking the chance of them stalling again though, Raisa drew one of her daggers and quickly impaled his skull.
Tearing the dagger away from him and paying little attention to his bloody blue eyes falling from his skull, she sheathed her dagger and then drew Sapphire and as the next male ran to her with a rapier, his thrust was met by her sheath. Easily, the rapier slid into the sheath of the Wōdāo and with his only weapon incapable of being used, she head-butted him which made him stagger backwards and then impaled the ground with Sapphire. Dodging yet another strike from the leader, Raisa tore the wedged rapier from her sheath and delivered two quick slashes to him and in his breached defense; the first slash forced him to drop to his knees after both his thighs were deeply cut and the final slash was clean through his throat.
"Damn you, woman!" Recovering from his stagger he attempted to take her Wōdāo in hand, however; Raisa would not accept anyone laying their hands upon her weapon.
The final male called but it was too late. After the shot rang out, blood had splattered against her last opponent's face just before Amir's corpse fell to the ground. Raisa had taken Vindicate to arms and shot Amir through his right eye. The last of her current opposition stood and stared at the male known as Amir and said nothing. He shook. A cold sweat had washed over him and Raisa could clearly see the sweat pouring from his face as if he had just emerge from a river after bathing.
He was absolutely terrified. Holstering her firearm, she calmly walked over and took up her beloved Wōdāo and as she did she quickly ducked and then thrust her Wōdāo skyward. The sound of Damascus cutting through weak metal pierced the air and shortly after, the axe which he held dropped to the blood sullied ground beneath her. Jerking her weapon as it lie wedged within his chest he gagged and regurgitated blood over Raisa's velvet jacket as well as the left side of her face.
"You're too slow…" She smoothly stated as his right arm lifelessly rested on her left thigh. His left arm had hung over her right shoulder and was covered in his own blood. "Your speed is impressive for such weaponry; but you need more to kill me…" Pulling herself away from him and slowly withdrawing a bloody Sapphire from the male's chest, she said nothing as he stood for a few seconds before he fell unto his knees. Blood gushing from the hole within his armored chest, he looked to the moon as blood also began to pour from his nose.
"Beautiful thing it is, is it not?" She inquired as she flung blood from her blade and then sheathed it.
He muttered as he looked to his killer. As he looked to her, he saw that she had two wheel lock forms of revolvers at each of her thighs and also two daggers which were in sheaths at her waist. Also, she had that sword which she had impaled him with. Aside from her arsenal, he looked to her face—she was beautiful in appearance. Her red hair, only long enough to rest upon her shoulders gently blew with the wind as she watched the moon. Looking to her wheel locking ranged weapons, he then looked at her feet and noticed her attire had been foreign.
"Japanese...?" He thought as they were what appeared to be shin guards and sandals. Although they were covered in blood, her feet looked as if she took great care of them.
"I have learned from my mother," She stated as she wiped blood from her brow. Before she said anything else, Raisa untied the headband which coursed her forehead. "I have years upon you when it comes to training." As she said this, Raisa opened her jacket and then she placed the headband which once coursed her forehead into her inner jacket pocket. "Perhaps if there is another life, you will be victorious in our battle. You never know, but here and now, that is not case."
His vision began to blur as he looked down to this pool he had knelt within. He was able to see his own reflection. A sad thing it is to watch yourself slowly die while you are incapable of doing anything about it.
"Under different circumstances, you could have learned much, but that cannot be…for that I do apologize." He looked up as she said the last five words. Alas, all he could do was smirk before he fell forward and after making a small splash, he moved none. She did not blink as more blood splattered onto clothing and even when a few droplets crashed against her face, she blinked not once. Raisa, young in years as she was had already been used to the sight of blood just as she was used to the art of combat.
The only thing new about this was that she was fighting for another's purpose and cause—even though she did not want any part of it. Heaving a sigh, Raisa got to her feet and looked over her six slain enemies and recalled one of them screaming something about Maletta.
"If that hesitation were stronger…" She trailed in speech as she realized that her hesitation was that of a novice. In addition to this, she gnashed her teeth.
Hearing creaking, which emanated from her clock of three, Raisa looked onward and saw the helm-less male she had attacked first lazily leaning against the wooden door to the stronghold which he had been defending with his slain allies. Seeing that he was clearly unarmed and that blood had been gushing from his back, she slowly approached him and when she was less than three feet from him, she stopped and stared at him.
Her shadow against the stronghold is what made him turn to face her. As she stared into his eyes, she could see fear and as he stared into hers, the flickering rush-light above them both were reflected in her green eyes. To him, it seemed as if this was his own personal omen of death for within her eyes were Hell itself. As he slowly shook, Raisa decided to ask the dying male a question.
"Fear bites you as if you were already dead… why do you stand in place?"
"Hm, well, it seems you have an issue with speaking." Smirking once more, she then told him of his fate. "I shall help you speak…"
Taking steps away from him, the man still tried to speak yet, Raisa was already preparing for her method of attack.
"No, please d—augh!"
The sound of steel piercing bone filled her ears and she shoved Sapphire deep into his chest for the second time. This time, she drove her Wōdāo until her tsuka was the only thing she was capable of seeing. His warm blood bathed her bare hands and her jacket as he had attempted to reach out for something—what that something was she had not a clue yet, his arm was now slung over her shoulder and her breasts pressed against his penetrated armor.
"…Oh, wait," Raisa then placed a bloody index finger to her nether lip which left an imprint of blood upon it. "Were you trying to say something?"
She jokingly asked as she performed the same jerking maneuver as she did with the other male on Jerich.
"R—Raik…" He looked into her eyes; he realized that this was not Raiko but Raisa. As he recalled, Raiko's eyes held a playfulness that any male could see and most males were tempted by the lustful gaze she would give yet, she, this woman before him held the eyes of a begotten child. She cared not for joy or anything, she only cared for one thing; and that thing was death.
"I am Raisa," She began. "I rarely drink and when I do, I never become drunk. You are of course, one of the unfortunate ones who have mistaken us…and I grow weary of you who do this for I am no whore."
He had attempted to speak but the pain in his chest was too great for him to mutter such an easy task. She had stepped to his side and with one hand, Raisa tore Sapphire from his chest and instantly he fell to his knees. The male looked to the sky as blood poured from his mouth. It had now truly dawned on him that he was dying and a visual factor that aided him in this realization had been that the moon was yet again covered by the clouds as he tried to look at it. Raisa had turned away as he fell forward and splashed his blood about the dirt ground.
"Never speak of us within the same sentence…"
Standing completely erect, she swung Sapphire towards her right and by doing this; she flung his blood from Sapphire and then sheathed it. Ignoring the blood, which had stained the door of this small but impressive stronghold, she now looked to the complex that was in front of her.
"…So," She began after her silence. "This is where the rats are held?" She expected no answer for she already knew the answer to this question. "You think there would be more children prancing with blades that whores can even use." Cracking the bones within her right fist by balling it, Raisa allowed herself to drift off into thought."Even if lacking, training would give structure and allow them to be challenging…or more threatening than falling out the bed within mid hours of night."
As she approached the stronghold of the Brigands, she looked at the magnificent work that was constructed upon the country's border and then turned her green eyes to a single torch which hung next to the door of the stronghold. Reaching for and eventually taking hold of the rush-light, Raisa lifted the light source by its stalk and then tossed the light source to the ground before the stronghold.
As it slowly burned, Raisa then drove her right hand into her leather pouch and withdrew gunpowder. Crossing her body with her right arm, a lifeless smirk shattered her straight face as she released the black powder unto the flame.
"A star it burns as it can be, yet, as it is that for which is of the Devil's name." Instantly igniting, Raisa turned and began to walk away; however, she ceased her movements and placed her right hand on the tsuka of her Wōdāo. She had been feeling this presence the entire night and now, it was even closer than it was earlier.
With what she could tell, there had been more than one enemy which had been lurking within the shadows and now that the Brigand's last stronghold cried in breaking wood from the strength of the fire's bite, she knew that if either of them were to move, that she would be able to see them as if it were within the middle of the morning.
Of course, that depended on their armor, for if they wandered too close, the fire behind her would reveal their position due to the reflections within her enemies' armor and if they lacked mail of all kinds, then they could possibly pass her by or ambush her.
"...My work is never done… now is it?"
Chapter: I End
Raisa has an assortment of weaponry which are both visible and also hidden. She believes in being not only professional but also prepared. Raisa's current weapons on hand in this chapter are as listed:
Sapphire: A keepsake weapon which was given to her by her mother. This Wōdāo is fairly considerable in weight and has taken years of getting used to. This weapon is made of Damascus steel and is a formidable weapon for whoever is against such a craft.
Heartless: One of her Wheel-Lock Revolvers of her own make.
Vindicate (Judge): One of her Wheel-Lock Revolvers of her own make.
Daggers: These weapons are rarely used and are considered back up weapons as well as last resort weapons.
Shéng Biāo: A Shéng Biāo is one of the flexible weapons in Chinese Martial Arts. This weapon is 10 metres long and is also made of Damascus Steel. Instead of rope, this weapon is made of steel in the shape of a thin but strong chain. This weapon holds a steel dart at the end and is used to catch opponents at a distance as well as ensnare foes as well as disarm them. Raisa is capable of using this weapon to twine, bind, circle, strike, pierce, as well as strangle. For the purpose of surprise, this is a hidden weapon which lies within the detachable tsuka of her Wōdāo.
Raisa also slips up, albeit occasionally, when she is speaking. Hence, "I wait for them to get closer" versus "I'll/I will wait for them to get closer". She has only recently learned how to speak English.
Wōdāo: Literally means sword/knife, is a Chinese sword from the Ming Dynasty. It is long and slender, yet heavy, with a curved back and sharp blade. The Japanese Samurai Warriors were also adept with the very same weapon, just not forged with Damascus.
Shéng Biāo: Is also known as Jōhyō in Japanese.