It had begun with a simple, rudimentary greeting—"Care to go for a ride, ma'am?"

The owner of these words was a man whose rough features were refined by an exotic Latino aesthetic. The grin that he flashed her was laced with charm and flirtation, but it was lopsided—and that should have been more than enough to give away his true stance.

Rosemary wasn't granted the time to politely decline and sidestep the man, no. Not even a moment was offered for Rose to wrap her head around the odd question before she was unceremoniously scooped up into the arms of this stranger. Rose let loose a cry, more in surprise than in fear, as she was swept off her feet and carried bridle-style. Womanly instincts drove her to grab onto her purse strap unless it slid off her shoulder from all the motion. Without further ado, Rose was promptly hauled away into the back street, her purse swinging haphazardly in their wake.

Rose clung onto the man as they headed in an unknown direction towards an unknown location. Externally, Rose showed no tell-tale signs of fear. She wasn't trembling or breathing hard. She was still in a daze with her mind trying to figure out whether to corral this event away as reality or fantasy; was this actually happening?

Once they were off the main road, the man's agility dramatically increased. He shot up a fire escape at breakneck speed, reaching the rooftop where a beautiful garden stood serenely against the sky-blue backdrop. Picking up the pace, the man sprinted towards the edge and cleared the distance between two rooftops with ease.

Adrenaline blew open Rose's pupils and ripped off the curtain of content, drowsy placidity that had swathed her mind. A quiet Sunday morning stroll to the florist suddenly veered sharply to mortal peril. All at once, her head exploded with thoughts as the actuality of the situation sunk in: she was being kidnapped. Every possible modi operandi ran through her mind of who, where, what, why, why, why was she being kidnapped? Ransom, murder, sexual gain, human trafficking, revenge—not a single dark corner was left unexplored in the abyss of possibilities as to what motivated this event to occur.

As if sensing Rosemary's internal turmoil, her kidnapper was kind enough to spare her a half-glance and a brusque explanation.

"I have no intentions of harming you." His tone was causal. "That said, I recommend against shouting for help or trying to escape lest I might, eh, drop you by accident. So be a good girl and keep quiet, eh?"

No intentions of harming her…? Rose repeated his words in her head until finally, some clarity was shed on the situation.

If this man was telling the truth, if she wasn't just an accidental victim of nondiscriminatory kidnapping, she had been targeted and he was looking for Jack—then there was a strong chance little John had been scoped out as a target as well. Her focus abruptly changed course, shifting from her own safety to the status of the only other person that may have hostage value.

"My son—" she blurted out, perhaps even stupidly, "—where is he? Is he alright?"

She hadn't really expected an answer. She was half-prepared to be dropped, like her kidnapper had so gleefully promised. But Rose knew she would never forgive herself if she didn't at least try. She would sooner fork over every pearl and pendant in her armoire than allow her son to be put in harm's way.

The man flashed her a sliver of a grin. "I wouldn't know about that… you're his mother, aren't you?"

His elusive words had Rose tying her head into knots for the remainder of the trip.

Scenery blurred around them. They were somewhere in the outer district of the city now; tourists had all but disappeared from sight and the number of pedestrians on the streets was narrowing to single digits. Eventually, Rose felt the man's pace downshift to a lower gear. He pitched over one last rooftop before coasting to a stop.

"Here we are," the man announced, gently unloading Rosemary on the ground.

Hyperarousal instincts kicked in the moment Rose felt her kidnapper's embrace release from around her. She immediately sprung to her feet and bolted away. Rose barely gained a few steps of distance in the opposite direction when a cybernetic hand suddenly grabbed her by the arm and tugged her back.

"Going somewhere, senhora?" the man remarked lightly, even as Rose struggled in his grip. "After all the trouble I went through to bring you here, the least you could do is stay put."

Another tug prompted Rosemary to whirl around and come face to face with her kidnapper. The fear must have shown on her expression because his tone softened when he addressed her.

"No need to look so scared. I said I wouldn't harm you. And I am the type of man who keeps his word."

Rose wouldn't trust that honeyed promise.

The man released her arm, only to reach for her face instead. He wrapped his fingers around her chin, eliciting a tense gasp from Rose. A thin layer of polyethylene divorced the foreign touch from skin to skin contact, though it did little to alleviate the violation of the experience. Yet even despite the dubious gesture, there was no lust permeating through his fingertips, no devious ulterior motives lingering beneath the surface. The man's touch was purely platonic. The man examined Rose like she was fine art, combing her over with a gaze suggesting aesthetic appreciation, tilting her head this way and that to capture all the angles of her features. His eyes were distant and misty, as if his thoughts had drifted to another time, another place.

"You're pleasing to the eyes," he finally murmured. "A beautiful rose."

When his hand dropped from her face, Rose let out a breath she didn't realize she was holding in.

"When my husband comes…" she began, fumbling out threats.

She interrupted by yet another tinkling laugh. The man grinned, his handsome face crinkling in mirth. "Yes, that is the plan. Raiden should be arriving any moment now, so why don't you sit back and enjoy the show?"

So her assumptions had been correct. A sense of protectiveness immediately overwhelmed her. Rose glared at her kidnapper as if the daggers shot from her eyes would strike him down dead. "What do you want with Jack?"

He waved away her daggers. "A little fight, that's all. Your husband and I were destined to cross blades."

Once again, his answer to her question only begged more questions. Rose stiffened, feeling put off by this man's overly causal demeanor.

"Jack doesn't take lightly to those who threaten his family," she said firmly, "And if you've done anything to my son…"

At this, the man sighed and shook his head. "Senhora, if it puts your mind at rest—I have not touched your son. I've never even laid eyes on the boy."

"How do I know you're telling the truth?"

Her kidnapper put on a look of mock offense. "What? Would a face like this lie to you?"

Yes, her mind automatically went to. "I have no reason to trust you. You abducted me… you want to fight my husband…"

He dropped the act, switching off his charm in trade for a slice of sincerity. "You have shrewd wit, ma'am. Never trust a sleeping lion." He graced Rose with an unabashed smile. "But alas, I am not a lion. Your son is safe."

It was difficult not to believe what she so desperately wanted to believe. The crushing boulder on Rose's chest lifted slightly, but her defenses remained unyielding nevertheless.

The man's gaze lingered on Rose. His lips suddenly quirked a touch as if he found amusement in some private joke she was unaware of.

"You really are the perfect woman," he uttered, raising his hand as if cupping a wine glass. "Beautiful. Loyal. A fiercely protective mother."

Was that… supposed to be a compliment? her mind echoed incredulously. This man—just what was he playing at? He took flirting too far. Rose unconsciously recoiled into herself, her arms wrapping closer around her body as a shield against whatever he had to throw at her.

The Latino eased into a slow saunter around Rose, checking her out like a predator did to a prey. Rose watched the man closely and kept him within her visual field, refusing to expose her back to him.

"It's little wonder why Raiden chose you as his wife," the man drawled as he circled around her in slow, idle steps. "Your temperament makes you the perfect sheath."

Questions swirled about in her head. "What are you talking about?"

"Don't tell me you haven't seen it before." He tapped his temples. "Your husband's darker side—the one he keeps repressed. The killer within him sings out to bathe in the blood of his victims… yet he holds back, because of his family."

All at once, Rose was babbling rote phrases, "You're wrong. Jack is not like that. He kills for good—to maintain peace—"

Her kidnapper laughed, but this time there was no tinkle or warmth in his voice. His mood was shifting, warping into something far from amicable.

"Is that what you tell your son when he asks why papa does what he does? 'Papa kills bad guys, the ones who deserve it'," he mimicked, "…I suppose lies are better than the alternative, are they not?"

"Be quiet," Rose demanded, her voice escalating into a fierce whisper. "You don't know what you're talking about."

Her words had its intended effect: he stopped. The man stopped mid-invective and set his gaze on her, his hands still frozen in a conversational pose. Seeing the man's frigid stare sent a massive wave of iciness running down Rose's spine. Fear sprouted from the pit of her stomach. Had she offended him?

Rose was rooted to the ground as the man dropped his hand and slowly descended on her.

"Do you actually believe what you said? That Jack kills for good?" he murmured, laying upon her a heavy-lidded gaze.

"I know it—"

Rose was cut off by the sudden touch of lips faintly brushing against her earlobe. The man had closed the final stretch in distance without warning, encroaching on a personal space reserved for only her family and loved ones.

"Ma'am. No one can deny your loyalty towards your husband." His voice was low and silky in her ear, a tool of seduction - like the Devil's. "But let me ask you a question: How well do you really know him?"

She swallowed, the curve of her throat flexing as the hard lump made its way down her throat.

His hand - his cybernetic hand ghosted up the slope of her cheeks, the pads of his fingers gliding over soft skin without actually making contact. Rose shivered, yearning to shrink away. Eye contact with the man was stubbornly averted, yet Rose could feel his gaze burning into her skin, peeling away layer upon layer of muscle and sinew.

"How much time do you actually spend with your husband? Jack is away at his job for weeks at a time with your only means of communication with him being… what? Telephone calls? Emails? He leaves messages on the phone telling how much he misses you and your son and that he'll be home very soon. And you, senhora, are so willing to eat up the lie that this is all there is to his life."

"But deep down inside, beneath the concrete walls of denial you've built to preserve your happiness, you know the real reason why Jack is always away from home. He enjoys what he does. He loves killing. And the satisfaction of bloodlust is not something you can provide him with."

"Stop. Stop it."

Her hands flew up to her face, blindly swatting away his touch. Rose ducked and swerved away from the man, reaping in only a few moments of peace before he appeared on her other side, refusing to leave her field of view, her mind's eye. He forced his way through her defenses, intent on occupying her consciousness like a malevolent ghost that clung to the living.

"The reason why Jack moved his family to a remote country isn't to protect them from his enemies—it's to protect his family from seeing him for what he truly is."

"What do you know about your husband, senhora?"

"Does he tell you what he does at work?"

"Does he tell you his nightmares of which he wakes up from in the middle of the night?"

"Does he share with you glimpses of his past during your most intimate moments together?"

"Does he describe to you, in detail, the way he slaughters countless of men, running his cruel blade through their bodies while he drinks in their screams for mercy…"

He ripped her hands away from her ears and took them for his own, inherently ensuring she had nothing else to hide with.

"You are nothing to Jack," he hissed into her face, "You are merely a prop he keeps around to play up his fantasies that he can lead a normal life. A cardboard cutout wife so he has someone to greet him at the door once he's done washing the blood off his hands. Your role can be replaced by an infinite number of mindless, pretty women to serve the same function in Jack's life—"

"Enough. That's enough. Be quiet." Rose was torn between laughter and tears. "Be quiet and let me go!"

Her kidnapper obediently complied, loosening his clutches and allowing Rose to tear her arms out of his grip. The young mother stumbled away, claiming back her precious space and withdrawing into the solace of her own cradled arms.

"I accept all those parts of Jack," she avowed, "I knew what Jack was and the things he did in his past when I married him. Nothing you say will change the way I feel about my husband."

Rose was shaking even as she stood defiantly against this hateful man. He had gotten under her skin, there was no denying that; the evidence was laid out for all to see. Rose wasn't sure if she was more disturbed that he was able to unnerve her, or that she allowed him to do so. His words were like the blunt blade of a knife prying apart the already visible cracks to her façade. His words were nothing less than echoes of her own words, the same whispers she told herself while she lay awake in an empty bed at 3 in the morning.

Up to now, her kidnapper had done comparably little harm to her in the way of external trauma. A cursory look over of her body revealed no evidence of manhandling or tell-tale signs of battery, perhaps a tiny bruise or two on her forearms, if even that. No, the damage he inflicted ran deep beneath her skincall it 'internal bleeding' if one wanted to complete the medical metaphor.

As Rose leveled a firm gaze at her kidnapper, a thought crept in the back of her mind that if he only knew what she knew about Jack.

The Latino changed his stance and readjusted the position of his feet on the ground. He was seemingly unperturbed by the outcome of their previous battle. Some of his laid-back attitude resurfaced, evident in the way he lifted his shoulders in a half-shrug, as if to say, 'okay, you got me'. That lazy, shit-eating grin once again found a home on its owner's face, and Rose realized she preferred his cruel malevolence to this slipshod side of him. Rose turned her head away, shielding her gaze from her kidnapper and his reawakened laxness.

"Humor me, senhora. Have you ever killed before?" she heard him say.

Why wouldn't he leave her alone? "…No. Never."

"Can you? If you were given the chance, that is?"

"No." The response was shot back without hesitation.

The man filled the air with a low, throaty chuckle. "You sure about that?"

A flash of metal appeared in Rose's peripheral vision, prompting her to turn around and catch a glimpse of what the man held in his hand.

It was a handgun.

An automatic gasp escaped her mouth. Fear instinctively gripped her body when Rose saw the firearm, even though it wasn't being pointed at her. Funny thing how she wasn't terrified the way she was now until her kidnapper revealed he had a gun. Awareness that the man was armed came early on in their encounter; he made no attempt to hide the large sheathed blade slung at his waist. Yet there was something unreal about the sword he carried, as if it laid in the realm of action movies and video games rather than reality.

Rose was no stranger to swords. She had witnessed Jack wield one with deadly proficiency back then, back before he had been robbed of his body. But the number of people who chose to utilize bladed weapons were few and far in between. They required skill and technique to use. In the hands of an untrained person, a sword was like a toy.

Guns were different. Even in the hands of an unwitting civilian, a gun could potentially end in death.

The man made no movement to aim the gun at Rose. Instead, he held the gun out to her with his fingers curled around the barrel and the trigger pointing away from him. His intentions were clear: take it.

"I've taken you hostage and seek to kill your husband once he arrives to save you. Still think you can't pull the trigger?"

In a blink of the eye, Rosemary seized the gun out of his grasp and aimed the weapon at his head. Both her hands gripped the gun's handle tightly, her stance wide, mirroring amateur fashion. Trembles outlined her slender frame.

In the face of death, the man was jarringly calm. He spread his arms wide open, as if to welcome - as if inviting the bullet to pierce his brain. His expression betrayed nothing but peaceful acceptance and complacency, and Rose vaguely wondered if this was the ultimate outcome her kidnapper intended to have from the beginning.

"Innocence from murder is very difficult to give up voluntarily, much less having it taken from you," the man murmured evenly. They were an ambiguous set of final words, fitting perfectly with the rest of the cryptic anecdotes he had relayed to her up to now.

Less than an inch separated him from life and death. Less than an inch. It was the amount of space her finger needed to move.

Rose awed at how simple it would be kill her kidnapper right there and then. The man's arm and some other undefined parts of him may have been cast from high-grade steel and metals, but she wasn't aiming for those parts of his body. The barrel of the gun was pointed squarely at his forehead.

Technology had come so far in her short lifespan to the point where virtually any part of the organic body could be replaced with cybernetics. Limbs, internal organs, even spinal cords—life now came with a price tag. But for all of society's technological advancements and biomedical nightmares, the human brain remained as one part of the body that could not be reconstructed. There was nothing in the realm of science that could even begin to salvage the gooey, pink mess of a dilapidated brain. No surgery, no procedure, no amount of nanomachines could repair a fatal injury to the mind.

As a psychiatrist, Rosemary knew the fragility of the human brain all too well, both mentally and physiologically.

And for that reason, she fell.

Rose applied pressure to the trigger and shot the gun, the recoil sending her arms snapping backwards. Sudden pressure, followed by a dead silence.

She tumbled to the ground, gun clattering from her hands, the echo of an ear-splitting crack still ringing in her head.

The man stood there immobile, flicking his gaze to his feet where a dashed scuff was left on the ground by the bullet. He had neither flinched nor moved a muscle when Rose shot the gun. Silently, he leaned down and picked up the firearm, stashing it away in one of his waist pockets.

"Now do you understand, senhora? You, never having the experience of taking another person's life, cannot hope to understand Jack, who has killed many. A killer's soul cannot be redeemed through love or family. Such sentiments are for the romantic, the naive."

"—ROSE!"

A familiar voice rung loud and clear in Rose's mind.

She raised her head and looked behind her.

Mounted on the adjacent rooftop was a nightmarish monster, a modern-day gargoyle. His ebony casting was adorned with jagged edges and sharp points. His face, whatever human part of it was left, was partly obscured by an swathe of fabric which pushed back tufts of platinum blonde hair and revealed a sharp blue eye. It was her husband.

Raiden's gaze riveted between his fallen wife and his upright enemy. "Rose! Are you alright? Did Sam hurt you?"

Behind Rosemary, Sam looked insulted at Raiden's suggestion.

"Jack…"

Rose made a motion to get up, but was suddenly blocked before she could run towards her husband. Sam had swiftly strode in front of her to act as barricade between the couple, the implication of his action speaking for itself.

"Ah, good timing, blonde!" Sam called to his rival. "Your lovely wife and I were just having a chat… care to join us, perhaps?"

Predictably, Raiden's expression confronted in rage. "You sonofabitch—what do you want with Rose?"

Sam let Raiden's waves of anger hit him head-on, unflinching, smirking. The Brazilian shifted his weight from one leg to the other, his hand coming up to rest at his sword hilt as he regarded his rival's fury with cocky confidence. There was a mocking edge in his voice as he spoke, an insufferable arrogance that had been downplayed during his interactions with Rose.

"Heh… you want to know why I abducted your wife? I'll tell you, then. I'm still a bit sore about missing my chance to face off against the Ripper. A shame really, but could I do? Monsoon isapologies, washigher in the chain of command, after all. …Then I thought, what better way to draw out this bloodthirsty persona of yours than by stealing what's most precious to you?" Sam concluded his declaration with a dramatic sweep of the arm at Rose.

Rose vaguely came to realization that this man was going to die.

The look in her monster husband's eyes—eyewas a give-away sign that Sam was going to die.

Panic, alarm, and fear immediately broke from the rest of the pack and rushed to the forefront. Rose could only imagine what kind of emotion her visage showed, because Raiden reined in a significant portion of the rage that permeated his demeanor when he caught hold of his wife's expression. Seeing Rose caused a rubber band to snap back and pull together pieces of the mask around himself. It was akin to a mother stumbling into the room of her teenage son, the instantaneous reaction of surprise and shame and all-too-late efforts to shove magazines under the blanket in some sunk attempt to hide a guilty act that was only normal for a boy that age.

"Oi, cat got your tongue?" Sam jabbed, stealing glances at both parties. "Should I take your silence as consent to haul away your wife?"

Raiden could do little more than pay lip-service to his enemy. "You lay so much as a finger on her, and I swear I'll…" he growled.

Sam maintained their line of eye contact as he walked backwards with his arms fanned out, taunting, "You'll what?" He whirled around abruptly and snatched Rose by the wrist, yanking her towards him with unexpected roughness. "You'll kill me? In front of Rose's mindful eyes?"

Restraint slipped from Raiden's grip witnessing his wife being manhandled. "GET YOUR HANDS OFF HER!" he roared, scuffling forward. He stopped at the dead edge of the roof, his heels crunching into the eaves, and reared a furious gaze at the Brazilian. "This is between you and me, Jetstream! Leave Rose out of this!"

To Rose's own disappointment, she played the part of the damsel in distress too well by letting out a whimper. Sam saw it fit to pull Rose closer to him, essentially trapping her lithe body against his flank. All the while, his eyes never once left Raiden.

"You better not hold back on me just because your wife is here." Sam cocked his head. "What's wrong, Jack? She never watched you kill before?"

Those words had Raiden shifting his gaze to Rose once more, the restraint and hesitation on his features like an open book.

Sam's eyes narrowed.

"Che if you won't let yourself go willingly, then I'll simply have to find other ways" He drew it at last. The weapon boasted an almost over-the-top design; its blade was red like blood, if similes were capable of being any more clichéd. The Murasama skimmed through the air and found its way to the base of Rose's chin, resting just below the jugular. "Tell me… if I slit this woman's throat… the Ripper will have to come out, no?"

"Stop" Raiden's voice suddenly lost all strength. "—you—don't you dare—…"

Stop it, Sam, she prayed. Stop it.

"Make up your mind, Jack—we don't have all day here!" Rose heard her kidnapper bellow gutturally. "The Ripper is coming out to play one way or the other!"

The keys to his self-control; Raiden was dropping them, one by one. They slipped between his fingers as he desperately lunged and grabbed at them. To Rose, poor, poor Jack looked for all the world like a perfect motion capture of that saying 'caught between a rock and a hard place'. Whether he restrained the beast, or let it loose, he would lose either way.

'Jack…' Rose squeaked out in her head. 'Don't do this…'

The words wouldn't form in her mouth. The katana pressed taut into her skin; she felt if she breathed too hard it was going to slice into an artery—-—...

She watched her husband take a deep breath. His aura was morphing; there was a sudden chill in the air. When he finally spoke to her, it was in a voice that wasn't his own.

"Rose. Close your eyes. This won't take long."

The blade rippled against her neck.

"JACK! DON'T!"

Rose could feel Sam's curious gaze set on her, but her eyes were focused only on her husband.

"Jack," she breathed, "…don't you remember?"

Oh, if only Sam knew. If he only knew how close he had gotten to the truth and yet still remained so far away from it.

Rose had always been painfully aware of how distant her relationship with her husband was. Jack tried so hard to be the perfect husband, the perfect father. He lived two sets of lives, and she could only be part of one. But it had always been that way, hadn't it? They were like an electron and proton maintaining the existence of an atom. Never touching, but nevertheless wholly dependent on one another.

She couldn't be on the battlefield with Jack, fighting alongside him. She couldn't even serve on his radio support team like she had once done nearly a decade ago. All she could do was welcome back her husband with open arms after he returned from his long stretches of absence. She could provide some semblance of a normal home life and maybe cover half his cybernetic maintenance expenses with her private practice. And at night, when John was tucked away and sound asleep in the room down the hall, she could be his confessional. The darkness was the lattice that separated them while she relieved Jack of his sins.

Over the years, she coaxed them out of him, one by one, details of his past and present. Stories, no, fragments was a more accurate word, of Liberia. Of the Patriots. Of recent events. Jack lapsed into a trance-like state, sometimes facing away from her and mumbling against his arms, into the sheets, to the wall. Memories and events tumbled out in clips and pieces, never chronological, often devoid of times, locations and identities. His words hung suspended in the air and she took them in, made them part of herself.

Her goal wasn't to fix. Jack couldn't be fixed. (And god only knows she had hopes once upon a time. She had a whole plan mapped out, a whole methodological procedure of which psychotherapy to use, what steps to take, and pills even, because every psychiatrist knew that pills were the real shrink.) All she could do was provide Jack with palliative care and pray. He gave and she took. If she could shoulder his burden a little bit, alleviate the guilt by a couple of ounces, make it hurt just a fraction lessthat would have been enough.

It was thanks in part to her training as a psychological counselor that she was even able to take it all in, all the things he told her. Anyone could listen to gruesome stories and faze it out: modern media had created a society desensitized to violence and the current jobs on the market practically legalized killing. It took so much more to swallow the horror and weigh it against human standards and be able to look at your husband the same way the following morning. More than once, Rose had to stop herself from slipping out of bed and sleeping on the couch once Jack fell asleep. More than once, she found herself reevaluating her life decisions when she woke up the next day. But she did it. She did it for Jack.

Names were unimportant scraps of information Jack had long emptied from his mind. They were replaced by vague pronouns 'he' or 'they' or 'we''he' being anybody from a child soldier on Jack's squadron to the mercenary that Jack stabbed in the lungs. Every once in a while, Jack would slip out a 'Pa'. 'I' was a frequent customer, though there were nights where Jack would seemingly not refer to himself at all. And there was never a 'you', except for that one time.

"…he's been coming out more," Jack told the ceiling one night not so long ago. A beat. "You're not there."

Picking up work at Maverick meant spending long stretches of period away from home. Without his family to distract him, Jack's mind had time to wander into dark corners. That man, Sam, was right. Rose was a sheath in every sense of the word, a sheath to Jack's bloodied sword. She was his rock to keep him grounded, his anchor, his emotional crutches.

Rose had kept those words in her heart to this day.

"Jack…" Her voice was small and soft, yet there was an undeniable trace of resolve. "…I'm here now."

Like staticRaiden snapped out of his stupor, looking as if he had just been slapped.

"Rose…" His voice was twisted with emotion. "He's going to kill you… you don't know what Sam's capable of…"

Rose had a very good idea of what her kidnapper was capable of. Even with a mundane name like that, he was a terrifying man. Without a single verbal threat to her vitality, the Brazilian was able to reduce her to near tears.

"Jack… even if I die, I'm always going to be here with you. Remember that. I'm here with you… so you can't fall into Sam's trap… you can't let the Ripper out, Jack!"

All at once, Rose's neck was no longer barred by the crimson blade; her execution had been annulled. Relief had no time to spring to her chest as she was shoved aside with much more force than necessary, sending her toppling to the ground with a reflexive cry. Sam's imposing form loomed over her, katana hauled behind his back as he barked down at her, looking markedly disgusted.

"Keh… lady, what did I tell you? Sentimental stuff like that doesn't belong on the battlefield!"

Moments before Raiden seized advantage of Sam's turned back and lunged at him like a starved beast, Rosemary looked up and locked eyes with her kidnapper one final time. In contrast to his words and even the exaggerated expression he chose to don, there was a strange glint in the man's gaze, something akin to warm amusement and hope. And there was also sorrow, as if in apology, echoing the unspoken words: "Eh… senhora… I am sorry I was not able to keep my promise."

Then suddenly, Sam's back was to hertense, flexed, his muscles stretched taut and quivering as he strained to block Raiden's blade with his own.

Rose quickly scrabbled to the side as the rooftop transformed into a battle arena for the two swordsmen.

She watched on as a spectator like she had done her entire life, the din of their clashing blades ringing through her hollow thoughts.