I really need to write faster...
Hey but since only one person really reads this, I'm fine.
Anyways, please review after to tell me how I should improve ^^
Rainari= Rai-nari, not rain-ari, but rai-nari.
Chime was 12 in Intro: Part II, now he's 18 1/2
"Lo giorno se n' andava, e l'aer bruno
Toglieva gli aniamai che sono'n terra
Dalle fatiche loro"
Translation: Day was departing, and the dark air was taking the creatures of earth, their labours
Dante, Inferno, Canto II, 1-3
Six and a half years later:
The man lying limply on the bed gurgled.
It was obvious that the man was rich, and that he liked to indulge in his riches. You could see the evidence, the luxurious and expensive materials decorating the room, the smell of rich wine from the best vineyards on his breath.
No one heard the man's gurgling, as they were already dead. Except for the assassin himself.
Cloaked in black, and looking every inch as an assassin from romance novels and action stories do, his target hadn't noticed him yet. That was what the cloak did, as long as he stayed in the shadows he would stay hidden.
If the assassin was younger and hadn't been so experienced, he would've softly grinned to himself.
Everyone one else in the man's lavish house was dead, and the man himself was dying. But the man was taking an awfully long time to die.
"Here, let me help you with that," whispered the assassin as he approached the man, and then fluidly took a thin dagger from his sleeve and stabbed the man.
"Scream all you want, no one will hear you." He murmured in the ear of the dying man, and turned away.
If he hadn't turned away, he would've saw the man's lips almost form the beginning of a curse. Almost.
The assassin jumped from the windowsill, and into the night.
I forced my head up, and rubbed my eyes. Papers were scattered all over my desk, and I had spent most of the night reading them. Not willingly of course, the head of my guild had forced me at sword point, promising to stab if I didn't help her with the paperwork. I didn't feel like getting impaled that day, so I had quickly agreed.
The scraping sound of wood on wood echoed in the room as I got up from finishing the annoying paperwork, and I could feel the slight pangs of hunger from having not eaten anything in around fifteen hours. I quickly walked out of my bedroom, and into the hallway leading to the door.
Forcing the front door of my rented rooms open, I made sure to lock all of the locks. Then, I let the door slam into the wall.
Passing down the hallways, and through the courtyard, and out the main gate, I wiped my hair away from my eyes. As I strode through the morning crowds and towards the vendor I usually visited for my morning meal. After eating, I dragged my heavy, long white robe up and glanced at the crowd around me.
Everyone was walking around on the streets, and it was harder than usual to navigate the main road. I got bumped, and jostled around, and I think a few thieves tried to pick my pockets.
The thieves would've gotten a nasty shock, despite my long white silk robe, I wasn't rich. And I only carried enough in my pockets for a piece of rough paper, or small meal. My annoyingly long robe was for my position as someone-high-enough-to-thrust-paperwork-upon-in-the-guild, and I think that was the only reason the head of my guild, the guild master, had promoted me. Besides, white tends to stick out in a crowd, as its the colour of the sick or the dead. People wear white to mourn or to warn others they're sick.
Hospitals are white for that reason.
Hospitals also make me feel slightly sick when I walk into them, but I rather not think about my memories involving me working in a hospital.
I guess I was lost in my thoughts as I passed by the stand selling mirrors and other things made out of glass. I could see my red, slightly glowing eyes looking at back at me in one of those mirrors, and I looked away.
Eyes are one way to tell if someone's a magic user or not. Unusual hair colours and eye colours can happen when someone's born into a family of magic users, or halflings. Other than colour, halflings are no different than humans. The magic running in their flesh usually messes up their ability to do spells as it tangles up with the magic their drawing from their magical core.
But, no matter how many magic users there have been in your family, your eyes can only start to glow after years of working on your magic, and having enough power for it to radiate in some ways. Eyes are one of the most common, and they're one of the most subtle. Changing colour is fairly common, but glowing is another thing.
My wandering, and lack of any apparent reason to walk around makes me stand out a bit in the crowd if you bother to watch. Most people when they're walking, have a drive, a destination in mind. I'm not most people.
I find myself bumping into another person, and subtly getting away from them as fast as I can without attracting attention.
That's when the piece of paper crashes into my face.
Ripping the paper of my face, and reading it, I groaned. Being summoned to the guild master's presence either meant: some kind of punishment for whatever you did, more paperwork, or a truly, troublesome assignment.
Neither one of those choices were appealing, and now I was stuck having to meet my guild master in person and get ordered to one of the above (or if the gods truly hated me that much, all).
Joy of all joys.
The person who's the head of my guild stands below my chin, and she's very touchy about the subject. If you even as much as insinuate the fact that she may be tiny, she'll shock you without any second thoughts.
She won't apologize either.
She calls herself Rainari, she doesn't tell us her family name. I can understand, and the others in the guild don't bother her about it. Our guild is one of the more...relaxed ones. We're hardly a guild, actually most of us just use the guild to get jobs. Most of us live far away, in cities in faraway parts of one of the four main provinces.
I'm stuck here, in Kinshiro the capital city of the Empire of Phoenix, because of my (unwilling) promotion as one of the guild's Council members. Due to the lack of any willing volunteers (honestly, we're barely even a guild, guild moral is nonexistent, and we all have ulterior motives for joining this guild, mostly because guilds give a better opportunity for jobs) she had to choose someone because of the (mostly) accidental death of my former Council member.
I blame him for dying and making me take his place. I also blame Rainari, and she knows and doesn't care.
Since then, I've been plagued by this annoying, terrible thing called paperwork. It's a good thing I get payed to do it, or else I would've snapped and burned a lot of stuff. A lot, like maybe half the city? I think I can manage burning the whole city to ashes, but that's just a guess.
So, I found myself sitting down on one of the cushions on the floor with my long white robe surrounding me like a cloud, something I find annoying because people tend to step on it like that. Then I, the victim, get scolded for that very act, while they get to act like they're some kind of poor, normal unfortunate person.
Its annoying, and I usually have to refrain from killing the person and smile at the nuisance at the same time.
The last man I killed died from an elaborate, marble statue that fell on his head. I'm not really sure if he deserved it, but I like to make my kills look accidental.
Its easier that way.
But, back to the matter on hand.
Morbidly staring into Rainari's eyes (was that a crackle of lightning I just saw in there?), I waited for the verdict of how I was going to be tortured. Eighteen was such a short time in this world.
"Chime...surprisingly...someone actually asked for you."
And stared a bit more.
It was widely known that, I, Chime wasn't exactly a people person, well widely known inside the guild at least. I've threatened clients, almost killed them, and once I cheated one out of all his money (he deserved it, I swear).
I hadn't killed one yet, because now I'm a reformed person. Before, I was held off by my greed and fear of eating my own cooking (actually just my fear of my cooking, as when you're poor, you can't buy food from food stalls and vendors).
I think that my silence and gaping, idiotic expression told Rainari everything, because she added: "Well, not specifically, but...They didn't say you couldn't be hired, and you're one of the few that meet their qualifications and...You just happen to be the one closest to them right now."
I nodded, slowly. Slightly shocked, I sat back a little and ignored Rainari's guilty expression, which was probably because she was sending me to do the job.
"And..besides," She took in a ragged breath after saying those two words, nervous, of what she was going to tell me.
Years of practice had honed my ability to look calm no matter what, and I forced a fake smile on my face, while Rainari returned the favour. We looked like a pair of porcelain dolls, fake and empty.
She passed a letter to me. The name written on it was faintly familiar, but I couldn't quite remember who or what it was from.
"This was from the army."
Her voice broke through the silence.
"Yesterday, they came looking for you. They didn't specify what they wanted. They didn't talk much. Then they left this."
I broke open the letter.
My eyes scanned from top to bottom, right to left. 1 I read through it quickly, and skipping some of the useless parts that were obviously just little niceties.
I slammed the letter back down on the clean, polished table.
My face was pale, I could see my milky reflection on the table, and there was a gleam in my eyes that belonged to a corner animal.
"What do they want?" Rainari's voice asked me, concerned and curious.
"It's a draft."
"Draft?" Disbelief was obvious in her voice.
"Yes, draft, call to arms, forced recruitment. Ignoring the useless, polite propaganda, it's a draft."
"There aren't any military campaigns going on right now, there haven't been any for around a year and a half. Unless..."
"They're planning one."
"Why you? Why not recruit others that have more power?"
"I don't know, for some reason they want me. Maybe since I can heal and do damage with my spells, and I also have served within the military, I'm desirable."
"Still...They usually aim to snap up more...front line type mages. The kind that causes major damage with just one spell. The really powerful ones. No offense, but you're obviously not that kind."
The silence settled back down as we both thought about the letter and what it meant.
"Well...obviously we have a problem."
"Thank-you for pointing out the obvious, Rainari."
My voice came out cynical and doubting.
"Don't interrupt Chime, but, there might be a solution."
I drummed my fingers across the table, impatient.
"Well? Please tell me about it then."
She sighed, and leaned closer.
"Do the assignment I originally summoned you here for. You'll manage to escape military service."
"An assignment pardoning me from military service? I fail to see how that would work."
"Well, its simple; the only ones who can dissolve a call to arms is the royal family. So this assignment it to guard the crown princess."
It looked like it was going to rain now, as the clouds gathered in the grey sky. The wind was blowing hard now, and my dark hair was being blown into my face no matter how many times I pushed it out of my face. Traditionally, depending on what region and province you were from, here at least, at court, long hair (shoulder length or more) worn loose or in a ponytail was the norm. But these days, men usually wore their hair short. Buns, and elaborate butterfly style braids and the like were for women.
My long ponytail was mainly for my employers, as an attempt to look respectable (and besides, hair dressers were expensive and I didn't trust anyone enough to let them cut my hair).
There were still people on the streets, like always, it hadn't rained yet so they weren't scurrying for cover right now. I pushed through, impatient to get home.
I was seething inside right now, as I had no choice but to do one or the other. Military service or guarding a princess? Which one was worse.
Rainari expected me by midnight to choose, so which one?
There was a light rain now, by the time I walked to the main gates of the compound. I walked through the courtyard, and unlocked my door, kicking it open.
My bad mood followed me as I walked inside my study, I carelessly walked past the stacks of paper, and letting the paper fall on the ground.
I growled as I looked at the draft, it was in my hands, and ripping it to shreds looked very tempting right now.
Which was what I did, and after the grisly deed, I cremated the pieces in my fireplace.
It was raining hard now, you could hear the droplets of water as they slammed into the ground. My windows were open, but I didn't care. Rain fell into my rooms but I didn't care.
I didn't know how long I spent there, sitting in my dark study, staring at the dying fire I created with my magic, and thinking about my choice.
I forced myself up, and walked back out of my rooms.
I had made up my mind.
"Pick your poison."
I sighed after saying it, unsure if I had chosen the right thing.
She nodded, sadly.
"The lesser of two evils, right?"
"Depends. While guarding a spoiled, bratty princess wouldn't be the most enjoyable thing ever, but thats heaven compared to military service."
It wasn't really a question when Rainari asked that, more like an agreement.
My memories of that were blurry, but I knew the general gist of it.
"You know how bad the Jianma campaign was."
Her voice was...hesitant? I'm not sure, I was terrible at social interaction.
"Please, just accept my decision and get on with it, Rainari."
"As you say. But do you-"
"Rainari, just get on with it."
Silence reigned for a moment. Then I added; "Please."
"Since its you, I'll agree."
As I walked home, I could hear her whisper; "Just please don't let me regret this."
I woke up the the feeling of rope binding my hands and a gag that was roughly shoved in my face.
It was still night, I could tell from the darkness of my room. How many hours had it been since I left my meeting with Rainari and fell asleep on my desk at home? No matter now, I was being kidnapped.
The rough rope scratched against my wrists, and the hum of magic in them buzzed into my skin. I was powerless, the ropes were enchanted specifically to bind spell casters like me. Helpless, like a bound pig, I was carried for what seemed like forever, and my captors made sure I was unaware of my surroundings.
I was not wealthy, nor was I important, so why was I to be trussed like a pig and abducted?
As minutes passed, the speed I was carried at decreased, and the air around me became cooler.
I still couldn't use magic, and I still had no idea of where I was.
The helplessness I felt, and I knew that I couldn't do anything to escape.
My captors had taken me by surprise, and I didn't have a single thing on me at the time to help me get out of the rope binding me. I don't know how they managed to bypass the magical wards I'd placed over my rooms, and then survive the traps I had placed for intruders.
Though, first things first, escape from my captors.
Sadly I had no time to attempt an escape because I was suddenly, roughly dropped onto the ground.
I groaned into my gag at the pain, but the gag prevented the noise from being heard.
My captors removed all my bindings, quickly and efficiently; leaving no room for gentleness. I forced myself up with my elbows quickly, my magic already materialized an undetectable layer of protection underneath my clothes.
The room they dropped me in was empty.
I took on a long, steady breath to calm myself. My heart was beating erratically, something I had spent years training myself not to do. The year and a half of relaxation had obviously dulled my skills.
Even though no one was in it didn't mean they didn't have some way of spying on me. Bunching a bit of my magic together, I released it in wave.
I was only doing a simple detection spell. Albeit silently. And subtly. And with more skill than the usual apprentices that do this.
Three presences, two completely unmagical, one with a very small core indicating that they only had a beginner's grasp on their magic, were watching me. The one with magic, was the closest while the two others were further away.
I turned around slowly, leaking my magic into my eyes. It had become second nature for my eyes to naturally adjust to darkness by using magic, but they required a conscious effort to see through solid spaces.
It was then, just a few seconds after I leaked magic into my eyes, that I realised all three people were female.
It was evident, in the curvier form of the fairer gender, and subtle differences varying from form to form. The tallest one, what really gave her gender away was her hair, if it weren't for that I would've mistaken her for a man, in her scale armor and tall height. The magic user was easy to tell, and the shortest one wore the unmistakable women's yukata, a light, cheap robe most servants wore on top of their inner clothes.
"Come out, I know you're there." I softly called out to them, hoping that they would come and face me so that I could have a better idea of what and who they were.
It was the tallest one who stepped out first, her sword in her hand; unsheathed. The sword came at me fast, faster than I could see. I barely had enough time to dodge most of the damage, and my white robe had taken the rest.
Sometimes, that white robe came in handy after all.
That sword slashed down at me, and nearly severed one of my hands. I barely managed to draw my hands inside my sleeve when that sword came thrusting towards my chest.
I jumped back, kicking my attacker; I could hear the slight groan as a sudden response to what just happened.
Panting, I threw my magic into the women, too panicked to even shape the magic into something. Sloppy, around a year and a half ago, I could've set her on fire with that magic. A testament to how the lazing around I did had dulled my skills.
The sword came lashing back at me again, but someone was also behind me, forcing me to jump to the left, as to avoid both of my attackers.
The one behind me had caught a fistful of my robe, and held onto it tightly. Then, she attempted to reel me in, like a fish she had caught.
I slammed into her, forcing her down. As she struggled to get up, I sent a bolt of ice towards her abdomen, trapping her on the ground. Panting, I got up, just as the sword slashed towards my left leg. Falling onto the ground, the sword cutting through the air just a few finger spans above me, narrowly missing my nose. Kicking my attacker in the shins, I got up into a crouch, and locked the women in a prison of ice which I knew would not hold.
That was just a distraction.
I forced the magic out of me, making it soak into all the surfaces around me, making it buzz into the air. Stab yourself, I commanded, keeping the flow of magic from me to the surrounding steady, Fatally stab yourself.
First, I slowed the mind, making it slow and complacent. Then I planted the thought in, smooth and steady.
Mind magic is...best described as tricky. Finicky, temperamental. It isn't absolute as elemental magic or healing. Influencing the mind depends on who and what you're doing. Keeping an eye on the tall one, I let go of the connection between my magic and the command.
After stopping my current attacker, I took care of the one already on the floor, binding her to it with a simple binding spell.
A grunt came behind, turning around I found the warrior reaching for her sword on the ground, struggling to remain in control. I kicked it aside,but that had just been a front for what she really was reaching for. Instead, she managed to grab a dagger hidden inside her pant leg, and stabbed herself in the arm with it, breaking the illusion instantly. Blood stained her sleeve, but she just roughly took the sword out of her arm with a grunt, and kept on attacking.
I was stumbling now, barely avoiding most of her blows.
I winced as she whipped the steel at my leg, even the robe couldn't save me from falling down. A wave of hastily magicked wind swept her away, but even then she got back up at me.
Fire scorched her, but her armour had probably been enchanted to resist fire, as she ignored that blast.
I gasped as I got stabbed in the arm myself.
It hurt, the biggest injury I had received in some time. I forced the blade out of my arm with my other one, and pulled the sleeve of the robe-which had been at my elbow at the time of injury-down. A second sword( when had she gotten that?) swept behind me, shoving me onto my knees.
Steel at my neck, she stood above me.
I was at her feet, helpless.
"Bravo, a magnificent display." Smooth voice, feminine, powerful.
I doubted it was the one above me, or the one still on the floor. It didn't
Somebody else had entered, the third female who had not participated in the fight beside her. As I looked up, straining my neck, I stopped breathing for a second.
So this was the person behind the shadows.
My gaze was upon the Crown Princess Aotueni.
Quick simple pronunciation guide:
r's are pronounced like how the Japanese pronounce them, a mix of r and l.
1 In the Phoenix Empire,they read right to left, and write their words vertically.