Prologue

The sun beat down relentlessly upon the grass and animals that called the meadow their home. The flowers swayed restlessly in the cool breeze, and the trees sat comfortably, their roots nestled snugly on the ground. Birds and insects flocked together to mate, feed and enjoy each other's company.

A lone figure swept across the meadow, enjoying his cool stroll on the soft wet grass. He was the only solitary living thing on the meadow, but he didn't seem to mind it one bit, especially since he disliked human company. The birds and creatures of the meadow provide more than adequate company for him.

The person was dressed heavily, a huge black cloak draped around him. A hood was pulled over his head, concealing his face and features from any curious onlookers. As it was, he didn't want to be identified.

His reverie was interrupted, however, when he spotted something in the distance. Whatever it was, it was heading toward him at a very high speed. He peered at it, attempting to make out what it is, but then realized that it wasn't an it.

It was a them.

A whole group of bandits were charging at him. They were riding on horses.

How medieval, the guy thought.

The bandits pulled up in front of him in a shower of dust and sand. The leader, a fat, grinning man who looked too heavy for his horse, leaned forward and stared at the cloaked figure.

"Hello there, Mr. Acolyte," he greeted. "I'm sure you've something of value, otherwise you wouldn't be traveling alone in the wilds. Can you please hand it over peacefully, or else…" he pulled a huge scythe from his scabbard.

"I'm not an acolyte," the hooded person replied, ignoring the bandit leader's threat.

"A priest, then."

"Neither."

"A houshi?"

"No."

"A bouzu? (monk)"

"No."

"Then what are you?" the leader roared, growing irritated.

"Er…boss, do we really need to know?" one of his lackeys from behind him asked. "Let's just grab whatever possessions he have and get out of here."

The boss breathed heavily with irritation. "Fine." He pointed his scythe at the person. "Hand over whatever stuff you have on you and I'll let you go with your life."

"No."

The leader grew impatient and irritated at the guy's unnatural calmness. He was acting as if he didn't care if he got run through by his scythe.

No. It seemed more likely that he was confident of taking on the entire group of bandits by himself.

The leader growled furiously. "Go to hell!" he screamed, raising his scythe and slashing it at him.

In a movement too fast for the bandit leader's eyes to see, the cloaked figure raised his hand. A bright flash of light emanated from him and the boss's scythe fell from his hand, shattered into several pieces.

"What in the…?"

"Boss!" several of his lackeys cried out. As the leader rode his horse back, the rest of the bandits drew their own weapons and charged at the impertinent person who dared defy their leader.

However, even as they charged forward, the boss caught a glimpse of the hooded figure's eyes.

They were glowing red.

The leader shuddered, feeling a sudden chill. He blinked in surprise when he realized that the person's aura had amplified tremendously, taking on a dark, vicious persona. The temperature of the surroundings began to fall drastically. Nearby, the animals and insects began scurrying for cover, aware of the imminent danger that was approaching. The leader began shivering uncontrollably.

"Fall back!" he shouted, realizing that something was amiss. "Fall back!"

It was too late. The figure raised his hand. Without warning, dozens of howling spirits and specters materialized behind and around him. The shapeless, mist-like forms of white revenants glared at the bandits with eyeless eyes and charged forward. The bandits all halted in mid-stride, their horses rearing up and flailing in panic at the formless terrors that were heading for them.

However, the specters ignored the living tissue of both man and beast, and instead headed straight for their weapons. Metal shattered as the ghosts struck them, smashing their weapons and rendering them all unharmed.

As quickly as it began, the attack was all over. Bandits opened their eyes, only to see that they remained alive. Most of the horses had tossed off their riders and were galloping far away from the mysterious figure.

The bandit leader gasped. In all his life, he had never seen so much power. This was no ordinary traveler that he usually preyed on.

He was much more powerful.

The bandit swallowed hard. "He's a Keeper too!" he shouted to his lackeys. "Summon your Avatars! All of you! Prepare to launch your final attack!"

He had an inkling that none of them would survive the oncoming onslaught, but he wasn't about to give up without a fight.

All the bandits summoned their Avatars, deadly guardian creatures that ranged from fire demons to armored beasts, each with their own characteristic and unique abilities, and prepared for a final assault. The bandit leader summoned his very own Avatar, a giant Ankylosaurus-like creature that was capable of burrowing underground and causing earthquakes.

"Attack!'

The single command spurred all the Avatars to launch a unified assault, combining their powers and blasting the hooded figure. The combined power struck the person and exploded, creating a small crater.

The leader panted, relieved. "Did we destroy him?" he asked one of his lackeys.

"We sure as hell did!" the bandit exclaimed, grinning. "No one can survive a blast like that!"

But the bandit boss frowned when he realized that the horrifying aura had not faded yet.

"So you do have a little fight left in you," the cloaked person said in a totally different voice. He sounded gleeful, and seemed as if he was having fun. His hood was blown away from his face, revealing a young teenage boy with short black hair and glasses. His once mahogany-brown eyes were now glowing a deep shade of red.

"He's just a…gaki?" one of the bandits asked, surprised.

"Hai…" the kid grinned malevolently. "A gaki who can kick your ass…"

"Get him!"

With the revelation that their opponent was just a kid, the whole horde of bandits and their Avatars launched themselves at him, ready to pulverize him to the ground. Only their leader hesitated.

"Matte! Mina!" he shouted, realizing that something was not quite right about the kid. "Hold on!"

The kid was still exuding an extraordinary dark aura, which overwhelmed the surroundings. The climate had plunged to arctic conditions, and only the fur coats that the bandits were wearing offered any protection against the cold.

The kid dodged one of the bandits' Avatars, weaving and evading their attacks with astonishing ease. He brought up a hand, and in a single swish summoned a black sword that glowed with dark energy. The blade burned frostily with dark fire, giving whatever bandit and Avatar that stood too close to it an unnatural chill.

"Let's have some fun, shall we?" he asked, still grinning malevolently.

"Damn you!" yelled a bandit. He launched himself at the kid, his tiger-like Avatar snarling and growling with bestial fury. The kid parried its claws and knocked it back, causing it to skid a few meters away from him.

"He's only a bakar gaki!" another bandit bellowed. "We should be able to get rid if him!"

The kid sighed. "You're all such a disappointment," he sneered. "Well, I suppose it's time to end this quickly."

He raised his hand. Sudden winds blew around him strongly, pushing the bandits and their Avatars back. A sudden flash of light burst from the ground and an earthshaking roar resonated throughout the meadow.

All the bandits' jaws dropped open at the awesome sight.

The kid was now standing on top of an enormous dragon's head. The huge dragon towered over all of them, spreading its enormous wings that stretched for meters. Its dark scaly skin seemed as hard as black steel, with its gargantuan jaws opening to reveal rows after rows of fearsome teeth. Its massive claws gleamed and curved wickedly, eager to cut into anything within its reach.

The dragon faced the whole horde of bandits who were backing away and roared furiously. Its golden eyes narrowed at them, an azure fire burning inside its dilated pupils. The roar cut across the entire meadow, sending even distant animals scampering for safety. The bandits were too frozen with fear.

The dragon flapped its wings and took off. It unleashed a deafening bellow before glowing a deep azure blue. A bright energy burst from it and enveloped the area, turning the whole area into an iceberg.

The leader blinked and opened his eyes. His Avatar had managed to shield both him and itself away from the blizzard. Unfortunately, all his men and their Avatars were frozen solid, trapped in huge blocks of ice, their expressions of horror frozen on their faces for the rest of eternity.

"Oh my…"

"At least you seem stronger than all those losers," the kid sneered, a malevolent grin on his face. His dragon swooped down in front of the bandit leader, who was visibly pale and shaking uncontrollably.

"You! You…you're the legendary Frost Keeper of the Eternal Ice Walls, aren't you?" the bandit boss stammered.

"That's what they call me," the kid conceded. "But I prefer to be called Hideto Fujimoto. Not that you need to remember it."

The leader tried to scurry away with his Avatar.

Hideto snorted. His dragon's maw yawned and released an azure beam that struck the ground in front of the leader's Avatar, creating a thick ice wall that cut off any means of escape.

"I so hate to part company so soon," he said. "You should face me like a man. I so detest cowards."

Realizing that he had nothing to lose, the leader turned around, facing Hideto squarely for his final challenge.

"That's better, isn't it?" Hideto remarked idly.

"Go to hell!" the leader roared and charged forward. His Avatar bellowed a deafening battle cry as it bounded toward the hovering dragon, its spiked tail raised for combat. It took off the ground and swung its massive, deadly tail at the dragon.

There was a single movement. Then…nothing.

The Ankyklosaurus Avatar toppled onto the ground, dying. It flailed about in its throes of death, wailing and screaming pitifully. The bandit leader fell to the ground as the same agony wrecked his body.

I'm going to die, he realized. Whenever an Avatar dies, its owner dies along with it.

And my Avatar's dead.

As the ground rushed up to meet his head, darkness overwhelmed him.

Hideto watched the bandit leader and his Avatar slowly disintegrate from sight. He shut his eyes and took off on his dragon, ignoring the series of explosion as one by one, the ice blocks containing the rest of the bandits shattered, crumbling both human and Avatar alike into a million pieces.

His dragon soared toward the horizon at an incredible speed. All the while, Hideto seemed a little detached from reality and his powerful dark aura began diminishing. His eyes were losing their red color and returning to mahogany brown. Whatever cruelty and savagery that left him was replaced by guilt.

And his dragon vanished, leaving him to plummet from a thousand feet up in the air to the ground.

Author's Note: Sorry this story took so long. I just had a tough time planning on what to write, but I finally stuck to this idea. I hope you guys like my new story, and I look forward to seeing your reviews. Thanks to Deepcheese and Nekoyoukai09, who have always supported my other story, and contributed to the creation of this story as well!