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Literature
No One is Left Behind
Meta Knight has learned a lot of things through his adventures. Learning is a constant; no knight is ever perfect, and a warrior who stops learning is as good as dead. So he observes as he fights, and carry his lessons with him.
One of the most important lessons is to never assume an enemy is dead unless one sees the body.
He orders the Halberd to go after the Dream Star. He can feel his ship creaking as it moves through space. It’s warried after battle. But it follows his commands and flies back to the battleground.
There are still remnants of the explosion that happened mere minutes ago. The emptiness has become a sea of shrapnel. In a distance away, Meta Knight can see pieces of the faceplate of the cursed machinery.  It is not a body, not some physical form becoming star matter. But it is proof that the battle has been won.
There is also a lack of life. A lack of energy. A lack of pink, shooting across the sky and filling the silence with happiness.
Meta Knight stares in
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The Abyss Part 3 :iconimaginationstarie13:imaginationstarie13 0 0
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The Abyss Part 2 :iconimaginationstarie13:imaginationstarie13 0 0
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The Abyss Part 1 :iconimaginationstarie13:imaginationstarie13 0 0
Literature
Gods
Shulk is alone when Zanza makes his offer.
“Become one of my disciples,” Zanza says. The helmet that he wears prevents Shulk from looking into his eyes. Shulk imagines that they are triumphant and gloating. He wonders if Zanza is like this because he is a god, or if it’s because every single living being in the world is dead save for the four surrounding him.
Shulk tries not to look at the Trinity, who are surrounding the god. Dickson has a taunting grin on his face. It is the same smile that he used to give Shulk when he was little. A younger Shulk had loved those smiles, because it meant that he did something clever. Now it makes Shulk feel sick.
The stars around them feel like their pushing against the Homs. He had once wondered what it would be like to escape the titans and enter the sky. It was the dream of every Homs at one point or another of their lives. The Nopon and the High Entia may also have had those dreams.
It is too late to ask anyone if this was true.
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Literature
Dying Lullaby Chapter 15: Ghosts
October 15, 2:16 PM
Remains of Gotham

Dear Cassandra,
I wish that this letter could be without these final instructions. But I am afraid.
There are moments, even now, where I doubt myself and what I am about to do. I do honestly believe that I would have made these same exact choices had I survived that night. I would not have allowed the Justice League to get away with killing my family. But I am certain that part of this rage is not my own. I fear that the soul fragments have affected us more than we thought.
As of this moment, the soul fragments are keeping us alive and giving us our powers. Gotham had said herself that she believes the fragments have very little of her personality. Our wills should have naturally overpowered any of their influences.
I think this used to be the case before we had died. Our deaths triggered something, so that they no longer were simply a source of power, but also an influencer of our anger. We are no longer the o
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Dying Lullaby Chapter 14: Chaos :iconimaginationstarie13:imaginationstarie13 1 3
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Dying Lullaby Chapter 13: Demons :iconimaginationstarie13:imaginationstarie13 0 3
Literature
Ib: Siblings Together Ending
"Fabricated World" flashed once, and Garry closed his eyes out of instinct. When he opened them again the frame was gone.
"Ib, look! The frame…!" he said. "Now may be our chance!"
He wanted to jump. He wanted to run and become a part of the world on the other side of the canvas. Above all, he wanted to go beyond this world and protect the girl who was clutching his hand.
But there was another obligation that he had to fulfill.
"Here, let’s get you up there safely." He leaned over and picked Ib up. The girl let out a startled cry. "We can’t have you tripping-"
"Ib?"
Ib’s head quickly turned to the sound of the voice. Garry’s followed, a different urgency filling his movements. A woman in red was walking towards them. For a second, panic filled Garry. Was it possible for more portraits to escape their own frames?
"There you are! Your mother was worried sick!"
The young man tightened his grip on Ib. He couldn’t let the gallery beat them. Not this time.
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Literature
Dying Lullaby Ch 12: Golem Part 3
October 10, 12:00 PM 
Metropolis
Dryad had taught Kon Metropolis’s history years ago. The former Robin’s words were bitter, yet filled with wonder and awe. The clone learned of dazzling new economies, sunlight, and hope. Even before Superman’s arrival, Metropolis was brilliant. It was such a stark contrast to Gotham.
Kon swung his fist, cracking the concrete structure of the building. Confusion and breakage surrounded him on all sides. It reminded him of his own escape from Cadmus labs. But things weren’t in his favor that night. Behind the chaos, the scientists were ready to strike him down.
(these people are defenseless)
He punched the building again. It began to collapse, and he flew towards the sky.
The sun glared at him. He could see the chaos unobstructed below; humans darting around the street, cars frozen in place or trapped in varying accidents. Some cameras were even f
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Literature
Dying Lullaby Ch 12: Golem Part 2
October 9, 10:12 PM 
Metropolis
Kon watched a cloud blot the moon out of the night sky. He considered flying over the cloud so he could continue his moon gazing. He quickly decided against it; the others were supposed to be arriving soon.
He looked around the garden again. Many of the plants had unseasonably bright flowers. He wondered how many of them were genetically modified.
(like me a genetic monster experiment)
“It is a rather beautiful night, it is not?” Kraken asked, walking towards him from the dirt path.
The clone grunted. “It doesn’t matter.”
The Atlantean gave him a knowing smile. “You have already started,” he said, his head nodding to the hole next to Kon.
“I was bored.”
“I can continue for you if-”
“I can finish.” Kon reached for the shovel he had laid on the ground earlier. There were slight indents on the woo
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Literature
Dying Lullaby Ch 12: Golem Part 1
October 7, 10:12 PM
Gotham City

Kon sat against one of the cavern walls, listening to the screams of the imprisoned Justice League. He could distinguish the different voices if he wanted to; Green Arrow was full of rage, Aquaman was in pain, and the Flash’s voice was just sorrowful. However he was mesmerized by the harmonized sound that came into the cave.
(did I sound like that?)
The Kryptonian closed his eyes. In the darkness, his mind built him an illusion of Cadmus. The labs had just enough light to reveal the experiments being conducted. There was a maze of passageways between the important creations, separating them from possible companionship. The floors were alive with technology and new experiments. The rock walls-
(stop it don’t think about them)
There was a loud scream from Aquaman. Kon’s eyes snapped open and, for a second, everything appeared red.
“Shit.” He shut his eyes. “One, two, three…”
When he got
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Dying Lullaby Ch 11: Succubus Part 3 :iconimaginationstarie13:imaginationstarie13 2 0
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Dying Lullaby Ch 11: Succubus Part 2 :iconimaginationstarie13:imaginationstarie13 1 0
Literature
Dying Lullaby Ch 11: Succubus Part 1
October 2, 9:26 AM
Washington DC
A crack of light broke into the room. It was an irregularity; Muse’s only visitor was Lampads, and the man was currently working towards their final plan. She refused to turn and greet the other, however. Knowing that he had come down provided her with enough amusement.
“Should I call you Doctor Fate or Nabu?” she asked. “It makes no difference to me.”
“You shouldn’t be alive,” the being replied back. Muse could hear the voice of Zatara underneath the power. She wondered how much the human -
(poor man)
-understood of the situation.
“Yes, you did see to that. Death, however, was only a hindrance. The truth always rises up in some fashion or another.” She closed her eyes, the memory of her own death playing out before her. “What allowed you to believe that you could get away with this?”
“It was for the greater good. The others und
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Dying Lullaby Ch 10: Harpy Part 3 :iconimaginationstarie13:imaginationstarie13 2 0

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May as well, right? Right. I think...

1) How long have you been on DeviantArt?
According to my front page, 8 years. *looks again* Holy Ho-oh, really?

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I feel like I answered this before. And my answer is probably a repeat: no idea. I was in the phase of teenage stupidity. Doesn't stop me from liking the username, though.

3) Describe yourself in three words.

Imaginative, evil, indecisive.

4) Are you left or right handed?

Right.

5) What was your first deviation?

So I'm going through my gallery to figure this out, and holy Ho-oh, I don't even remember all of the stuff I posted! I'm just going to guess off the top of my head it was Yu-Gi-Oh! related.

...and yup, Yu-Gi-Oh! fanfiction ahead. The Curse War Chapter 1

It's kind of weird, because I was thinking about old characters and updating the stories in my head. What time will do to you, right?

6) What is your favourite type of art to create?

Fanfiction. Writing in general, but fanfiction has always been special.

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Digital painting. I should try it more.

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02 - Yami or Yugi...? by Ricku, apparently.

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That's really hard. I have 650+ pages of favorites. (...yeah.)

If I had to guess-timate, I would say it's between fandom art and fashion/jewelry stuff.

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What's with all of this stuff that makes me choose? Right now, I'm going to say Scarlett-Knight because I love her clothing designs.

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AlexFuji18 and Ketrino because they are really cool people who I would like to meet in person one day. They both mean a lot to me, even though I took a long time of being off.

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This goes back to the two I just mentioned. I admired them both a lot when I was really active. AlexFuji18 has so many cool ideas and devotes a lot of herself into her ideas, and Ketrino is a writer that I admire, especially her supernatural stuff. They are both really cool and I told myself that I will reach their level one day.

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Words. And I will argue that words are art. They aren't visual but they are sensory and people can make them into such beautiful works.

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Uh, long transportation rides? It becomes a necessity to think and imagine there.

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Honestly, no idea. I think that meeting artists in person at conventions rank really high on that list, though. (Just to establish, kevinbolk is an amazing human being.)

Activity


Meta Knight has learned a lot of things through his adventures. Learning is a constant; no knight is ever perfect, and a warrior who stops learning is as good as dead. So he observes as he fights, and carry his lessons with him.

One of the most important lessons is to never assume an enemy is dead unless one sees the body.

He orders the Halberd to go after the Dream Star. He can feel his ship creaking as it moves through space. It’s warried after battle. But it follows his commands and flies back to the battleground.

There are still remnants of the explosion that happened mere minutes ago. The emptiness has become a sea of shrapnel. In a distance away, Meta Knight can see pieces of the faceplate of the cursed machinery.  It is not a body, not some physical form becoming star matter. But it is proof that the battle has been won.

There is also a lack of life. A lack of energy. A lack of pink, shooting across the sky and filling the silence with happiness.

Meta Knight stares into the floating scrap. His fears over Kirby rematerialize from the past. The pink warrior is brash. Inexperienced. Young. Entirely susceptible to mortality.

It takes him a few moments to find the puffball. But there, amongst the wreckage, is the telltale sign of pink. The robot armor is badly damaged, but Meta Knight can see Kirby right there, right in the seat and looking as peaceful as ever…

He directs the Halberd to approach and then –

Meta Knight feels frozen in place. The Robobot Armors had shown no sign of conscience, even when Meta Knight was brainwashed and on their side. Meta Knight had just assumed that they were just more machinery. Mindless.

But Kirby is unconscious, and the Armor had set them free from the confines of the piloting seat. The lights in its eyes flicker, then fade.

Meta Knight sets the Halberd forward, full force. Even his body is shaking from his previous fights. But he has to get to Kirby. Get to the Robobot Armor.

If there is anything that Meta Knight has learned in his lifetime, it is that all warriors deserve happy endings.

---

Susie stares at the knight. Really stares down on him, as if that alone could somehow tell her if he has gone insane from battle.

If she had access to all the technology that she once had, she would have been able to tell in an instant. They had scanners and a working database of every living organism the Haltmann Works Company has come across. Even if they had not seen this particular species of natives before, it wouldn’t take long to draw a definite conclusion.

But all that is gone now. Everything she has known is gone.

Still, Susie manages to keep her voice as even as possible. “You saw the Robobot Armor save little pinky?”

The knight – she never actually got his name, in all the time that he had spent under her control – nods once. He remains a being of few words. Susie wonders how much it pained him to even explain the problem moments before.

“And now you want me to fix it.” This time, she doesn’t phrase it like a question. He nods just the same.

Susie can already feel the argument forming within her. It should be impossible. The Robobot Armors were designed to be fought with. Ruled over and commanded. Controlled. And even if this knight is telling the truth, she can see the damage from across the room. Wiring exposed, metal plates missing in chunks, and that is not to mention what little remains of its arm.

It would be impossible. A dream, really.

But didn’t she put all of her hope in little pinky? Against all the odds?

“I can’t promise anything,” she says. “And you’ll need to get some things for me.”

The knight nods once.

Susie looks at the Robobot Armor again.

“Just imagine, Susanna. Machines that can help build dreams!”

She banishes the memory as quickly as it appears. There is no time to dwell on that.

---

Sometimes, King Dedede wonders how he can end up being the smartest creature in the room.

That’s not to say that he’s dumb. Far from it. Even with his rivalry with Kirby (and the many incidents with food stealing), King Dedede is the king of Dreamland for a reason. He happens to excel in some things more than others.

He just didn’t expect to be the one with the solution for this.

King Dedede pounds a fist at Kirby’s door. The pink puffball has been hidden away in their little home for weeks. The Waddle Dees have even reported that there has been a sudden abundance of food throughout the kingdom. Long ago, this would have made the king happy. But he is not that king anymore.

It takes a full two minutes before Kirby appears in the doorway. There are remnants of tears still in their eyes. Beyond them, King Dedede can see that the curtains by the bed have been drawn open, as if Kirby has spent all of their time looking towards the sky.

Then again, knowing the pink puffball, that’s probably all they have been doing.

King Dedede doesn’t speak. He picks Kirby up with one hand. The puffball doesn’t fight back. They hang limply. Sadly.

The king turns around and tosses Kirby onto his back. It takes a few seconds for Kirby to get the hint, but King Dedede waits until he can feel Kirby securely holding on. Then he moves forth to Dedede’s Castle.

Surprisingly, the castle repairs had taken a week to complete. (There is something to be said for the Waddle Dees and their building abilities. The outer stone has never looked so bright.) The doors open as they approach, and two guards salute King Dedede as he enters. The Waddle Dee with the bandana is beyond those doors, directing more guards to patrol the area. They spare the two a glance, spending a few extra seconds to look worryingly at Kirby.

King Dedede brings Kirby up one of the towers. He can feel the pink puffball move as the two of them ascend the steps. It is the sounds, he thinks. Machinery and electricity and something that had filled the air of Pop Star all those weeks ago.

The king jostles Kirby. Not in a cruel way. But a promise.

In the room at the top of the tower, there are masses of silver aligning the walls. Machines whirling and beeping and making whatever noise they are supposed to make. Brightly colored wires and large tubes link them all together. The air crackles with electricity. And they all feed into one place.

Meta Knight and Susie look towards them as they enter. Behind the two is the Robobot Armor.

The past weeks have been filled with flagging hope. Susie has confided in King Dedede that she wasn’t even sure if the Armor had a conscience. Meta Knight has steadfastly confided in the king that the Armor had something more than metal bits. So they repaired and talked and waited. But despite everything, the Amor’s lights remain dim. Lifeless.

King Dedede would never claim that he is the smartest being here. But in this moment, for this problem, he wonders how the other two missed the obvious.

He pulls Kirby off of his back and places them gently in front of the Armor. Kirby just stands there, staring.

Susie moves towards Kirby. “Little pinky…” She looks down, then turns to the Robobot Armor. “We’ve tried everything. It won’t even react like the Armor is designed to. I don’t know…”

Kirby takes a step forward. Then another.

“Poyo?”

The lights of the Armor flicker.

---

“I am Raglor, the twin brother of –”

Kirby pulls their helmet on tighter as the Robobot Armor roars forward.

“What in the galaxy –”

In Wheel Mode, the Robobot Armor is as invincible as Kirby is. Maybe even more so.

The front wheel of the Armor smacks into the floating being and sends him flying back into his ship. Meta Knight and his Meta-Knights have already arrived, surrounding the ship and drawing their weapons. Still, they stay clear of Kirby and the Robobot Armor. Which is fair; neither Kirby nor the Armor itself are very good drivers.

The two circle around, driving through some minions who attempt to leave the ship. The buttons in the cockpit light up with each enemy they toss back. Kirby shouts in delight.

When no more enemies come out of the ship, Kirby directs the Armor to park in front of the ramp that had descended from the ship and dug itself into their picnic blanket. The pink puffball hops out of the cockpit and gathers up what remains. There are still several apples, cherries, and even a whole cake that survived the invasion. Kirby piles it into the Armor; Susie had added several features while fixing the Robobot Armor, one of them being a compartment for food. Kirby had shared several slices of cake with her for that alone.

Meta Knight flies gracefully to land on the other side of the ramp. The knight looks unimpressed by this new villain. At least, that’s what Kirby thinks the knight looks like. It’s hard to tell with the mask.

The Robobot Armor blinks several of its lights in Meta Knight’s direction. The knight nods in return, and then gives another nod to Kirby. Kirby waves back before hopping back into the cockpit. Kirby is good at defeating enemies of Pop Star. They are not, however, very good at cleaning up afterwards.

Kirby points towards Dedede’s Castle. If they are unable to have the picnic outside, maybe they could have it on top of the castle. King Dedede would probably eat some cake with them. And Meta Knight and the Meta-Knights could come along after they were done as well.

The lights in the cockpit blink in agreement, and then the two are roaring off across the fields.

No One is Left Behind

I finished playing Planet Robobot. I cried for a good three minutes at the ending. Then, while showing the ending to someone else, I started crying again.

So this is how I think Planet Robobot should have ended. Because all warriors deserve happy endings.

(Also, I'm aware that technically the Armor is called "Invader Armor" until Kirby takes over, then it becomes "Robobot Armor." But I just call it Robobot Armor throughout.)

Kirby was created by Masahiro Sakurai. I do not own Kirby. (But I own a lot of the games.)

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You open your eyes and gaze at the land before you. It remains unmoving, as if caught in ice. The valley rolls out and covers everything it touches in green. A lake is nestled nearby, the surface rippling but only so slightly that it distorts the reflection cast upon its surface. The mountains extend behind the valley. It is supposed to be yours. All yours.

You look down. There are two warriors before you. They look in your direction, but they do not look into your eyes. The realization comes to you instantly; they are terrified of you. The feeling is familiar and you don’t know why. It inspires fear in you. Then anger. Before they can move against you, you go forth and strike them both down. It only takes a swing from each hand to grind them into the dirt. The anger fills you even more at the sight. It consumes your body and you strike them over and over and over.

One warrior comes apart. Her guts spill out, smashed and bloodied, and the smell is so bad yet so tantalizing that you stop attacking. You lower your head and soon your mouth is full of guts. They taste as they smell; bitter and sour and ruined. If you weren't so hungry you would have spit them out. But you are so, so hungry that you just eat and eat and try to get your fill.

They aren't enough. You wonder if there ever will be enough.

You smell the flesh before you see it. It is coming towards you. Before you can even stand it is within reach. The human is shaking, terrified. The fear, the guts, smell delicious.

You rip into the body and eat. The hunger, the everlasting hunger, grows a little quieter.

You eat until there is nothing but bones left. You look up. Maybe you’re expecting more. Maybe you’re expecting nothing.

A girl stands before you. She smells just like you, and unlike the other beings you have seen she doesn’t seem scared. Her hands and dress are covered in blood. There are feathered wings on her back. They are pristine, and somewhere in your head, you think of snow and a silver king. But there is no king before you. There is only this girl.

She stares at you as if she is waiting for you to answer her. You open your mouth, and your voice supplies a sound before you can think.

"C... Clare?"

The name comes out of you easily once you say it. Clare. Clare. This Clare is important. You are important to Clare.

You say the name again. You realize that, underneath the blood of your meal, your teeth are larger than you are used to.

The girl begins to cry. It makes you want to reach out to her. You don’t know why.

You look down at your hands. Like your teeth, they are unfamiliar. They are large and made of armored flesh. They remind you of monsters. One of them moves under your stare, and you watch mesmerized as it becomes something different. A sword.

For a moment, you think you can remember another being with hands that can turn into weapons. But the memory is vague and disappears as you try to focus on it. You realize that your head should be filled with memories, things that can explain the familiar and unfamiliar. But there are only a few there, and even then they are only shadows.

The anger is being replaced by emptiness.

"I... I..."

You should be terrified. Upset. Why aren't you? Why does this feel okay?

Clare reaches out for you, her small arms wrapping around your waist. For a moment, you think that she is somehow smaller than what she should be. Or maybe you are simply bigger. She is sobbing against you. It makes you shake. "Thank you. Thank you. Thank you."

The confusion, anger, emptiness, everything, fades. You lift your arms, the sword becoming a hand again. You hold onto the girl as she cries. The memories, you think, don’t matter right now.

------------

You sleep that night in a body that doesn't feel like your own. It is an odd sensation. You think that you are dreaming. Except that cannot be true, because the hunger is real and never ending.

When you wake up in the morning, Clare has brought you several creatures. They are not human nor warrior; just animals, moving things that you feel like you recognize. You open them up with your hands. But they are not just hands anymore. They change again and again and you can name whatever shape they take. Axe. Mace. Sword. And then back to your hands.

The guts taste different than humans. They fill you, but your tongue is unsatisfied with the meal. You don't know what it is, but there is something about the food that is foreign to you. It doesn't fill you like a satisfying meal should.

Clare watches you as you eat. There is a carcass of an animal besides her, and the remains of the guts sit in her hands. The fresh blood has soaked through her dress.

"Raki?" Her voice sounds so small, and if you had still been eating you wouldn't have heard her.

You look at her. The word is familiar. You don't know why.

She runs up and hugs you tightly, burrowing her face into your shoulder. She has started crying again. You return the hug. You can feel the tears running down your own face.

"Raki! Raki!"

Clare repeats the word over and over. Each time, you feel like you are close to recognizing what it is supposed to mean. What it is supposed to mean to you. But your memories don't come back. You try not to lose what little you do have.

Clare is important to you, and you are important to Clare. It is the only thing you know and you cling to it as if there is nothing else in the world.

------------

The hunger growls. No matter how much you eat, it sits in you and never lets you go.

Clare continues to bring you creatures, and you do not protest. Somewhere in your head you know that Clare is doing the best that she can. Her Yoki is huge, but she doesn't know how to use it. You don't know how to use your own, however, so you cannot teach her.

You don't know why you want to teach her. But the want sits in you, quieter than the hunger but just as present and determined.

It is a few days later before Clare looks at you with intent.

"Can you become a human?" she asks.

You stare at her. Human? Had you looked human before?

When you do not answer, Clare frowns. "The first time it happened for me, I just woke up looking human. I don't know how Teresa did it."

You try and imagine what your human form looks like. Why does it feel like you have not been a human for a long time? Perhaps you haven't.

Clare looks towards the mountains. You follow her gaze. For a second, you imagine another being with wings, pristine and white like Clare's, flying into them. You imagine a large sword. You think that the sword is yours. But that doesn't make sense; your hands can turn into swords. Why would you need another?

"I don't know why she isn't back," Clare says. She is starting to cry again, but this time she wipes her tears away. "But she'll come back. She always comes back."

You want to say that Teresa will always come back to Clare. You do not know who Teresa is, but you know that the statement is true without any doubt. You whisper the name, and you think of a smile faintly appearing on lips.

"Should we go find her?" Clare asks aloud. She doesn't look at you when she speaks.

Teresa. Teresa. Teresa. Now the name won't leave you. You whisper it over and over.

"I don't sense anyone else. Maybe it will be okay if we go find her."

Teresa. Teresa. Teresa.

"We need to find her," Clare says. She smiles at you as she does. "She can help you turn human again."

You think it is an odd wish. You are sure that you haven't been a human for a long time. You don't know why you would want to be human.

Clare goes into the house and moves things into a bag. It looks big for Clare, but she carries it without tipping over and when she walks, it is with purpose. She takes a sword, one that has an odd hilt and shines in the light and makes you think of the stars at night, and carries it in both hands.

You do not say anything as Clare brings you into the woods.

------------

You don't know how long it has been when Clare makes you stop walking.

You have brought down trees with your movements, and Clare has tried to move you around them so you will knock down less. She says that knocking over trees is bad. You don't know why it is bad. But you follow her instructions and move slowly.

But today Clare makes you stop completely. She is looking ahead, and you feel like something is before you that you do not understand.

You sniff the air. You smell the blood.

Clare pushes you back before you are able to jump forward. You don't understand why. There are humans there. There are humans and their warm delicious guts and the hunger within you is telling you snatch them up and devour them whole.

“Wait! We don’t know –”

A scream pierces the air. It sounds familiar, as if you have heard it before. Different people, different humans, but the scream is still the same.

Clare lets you go. “Come on!”

You follow her forward. The trees fill the air with thunder as they fall before you. You can feel your jaw changing, opening and ready for food. You think that this will be the time, this time you will have your fill and that hunger will be quiet.

The two of you come upon a large group of humans. They are male and are laughing while one of them is twisting in the center of their gathering. The smell of blood reaches you before you see the crimson red splashed across the man's stomach. His fear is swallowed by the laughter.

Your hand turns into a blade before you think about it. You cut down two of the humans, and the smell of the blood and the guts call out to you. You open your mouth and begin to eat.

The humans around you scream. It's annoying and they are beginning to run and you can't let them leave, because if they leave there will be less food and that hunger will just keep demanding and demanding for more and more.

You hold out your arm, the one that was a blade, but it's now turning into a bow, and your other hand is already reaching out and drawing back with rods you think are supposed to be arrows, but you know they are part of you because you weren't carrying arrows before but why does that matter, really? You send the arrows flying and many of the humans falls, with blood and guts being exposed to the air and you can smell them and your hunger is just so, so demanding right now. Clare is moving around too, cutting humans down with her hair and you can just hear the screams, smell the fear that is surrounding you both and you know that it will be a feast because not one of these humans can escape.

You begin to eat again, and the taste of human is delicious. You don't know how Clare can stop eating humans, how she could stop you from eating them, because they are tasty and the blood makes you think of a well-deserved meal and –

You look up. Clare is standing over the man from earlier. The one who screamed and had his blood and guts spilling out before you two even did anything. The human is whimpering in pain. For some reason, the fear is not as delicious as it is with the other humans. It feels like something in you is hurting. You cannot name the reason for this pain.

Clare leans over and cleans some of the blood away with her hands. Underneath, there is the gleam of metal. The pattern on the armor is familiar. It makes you think of large walls. It makes you think of someone saying, “Thank you.”

You move forward. Now that you are listening, you can hear the faint voice repeating and chanting words over and over. The words "please" and "mercy" are said often.

Clare looks at you. "He's going to die," she says. "He's in so much pain."

You look at the armor again. You recognize it, but you can't bring up the memories for why you recognize it. But you must have seen it before, because your bow becomes a blade once again and you raise it above this human. The human's eyes are closed and his words are becoming groans and weighty breaths.

"Please," the human mutters.

You bring the blade down, separating his head from his body.

Clare doesn't move. She stares at the head, tears in her eyes. "I wish we could have helped him."

You watch as she cleans away more blood, arranging the man's hands so they are resting on his chest. She moves the head back to his neck. Throughout it all, the man looks peaceful.

While you two are eating the other humans, you find a sword with a strange hilt. It doesn't look like the swords of the other humans; rather, it looks like the sword that Clare has been carrying since the two of you have left the valley. As you stare at it, you wonder why the sword is so important to you. You take this other sword to the man with the armor and place it by his side.

You don't eat the man with the armor. You and Clare leave him alone as you finish your meal and continue your search for someone named Teresa.

------------

The two of you only walk for a little while more before Clare stops. She gestures to an open space beneath some trees, and you sit there.

Clare sits next to you, leaning against your arm and watching the sky as night falls. She points to the stars as they appeared. "My mama liked the stars," she says. "I think my papa liked them too."

You look at her. You think about the stars being spirits of the dead. You think about them watching over you. You think that you can remember telling someone with blond hair, almost white, that the stars are always brilliant and at peace.

You think that the memory is important. You wish you could remember more.

Clare falls asleep against you, clinging onto your hand as if she expects you to slip away. You hold her against you as she sleeps. You think that this is how you are supposed to care for someone who is important to you.

You think about a sword cutting into you with wounds that are not deep but enough to slow you down. You think that this is also love.

When you wake that morning, there is a name that is sitting on your tongue. But it is long gone before you can even speak.

------------

You can smell the human city before you can see it. The area is surrounded by mountains, and when you are finally able to see the city you just see the walls that surround the settlement. Out of all of the places that you have passed, this is the one that is threatening to bring out the memories that have yet to come.

"Rabona!" Clare says.

The name is familiar. You repeat it. "Rabona."

"It's the holy city," Clare says. "Papa used to tell stories about it. He said that the knights here are the strongest on the continent!"

"Rabona," you repeat again. "Rabona."

"You got your sword from here," Clare says. She holds out the sword she has been carrying. It shines in the sunlight. "Remember?"

You can't remember. But you know that the memory is there. It is waiting, you think, for something. But whatever that something is has yet to come.

Clare looks around the area. "Teresa said this is the center of the continent. Maybe she'll find us here." She gives you a smile. "Let's stay here for a bit!"

You nod your head in agreement. Something wants you to stay here. It is not your hunger, but it is something close to it.

The first night you stay in the mountains overlooking the city, you dream of knights in shining armor. You dream of standing before the city, never once going inside its holy grounds. You dream that you are too impure, too much of a monster, to be let inside. You dream of a knight walking towards you. You dream of being given a sword.

When you wake, you take the sword that Clare has carried. With the hands that still do not feel like your own hands, you look at it in the rising sunlight. It glows, but this time you think that there is something different in the light that it reflects back.

You wonder if you will ever stop being enough of a monster to be let inside.

------------

It is another presence that wakes you three nights later.

The two of you have sat on the mountain for days. Clare spends her time telling you stories. Now that the two of you are not walking around, Clare talks more and more. She talks about her life with her mama and papa, when the creatures called Yoma were only things from bad dreams. She talks about Teresa, who rescued her from the Yoma that killed her parents and tortured her for fun. She fills the time and part of you wonders why, of all things, Clare stays with you.

She has talked herself to sleep again, and you have fallen asleep quickly after. But it is the presence of another, the presence of Yoki, that wakes you.

You are careful to not wake Clare as you move. In the darkness, you can see a large mass moving towards Rabona. It is a creature like you; big and shaped oddly and so very very hungry. It laughs, and something in you knows that it intends to eat the city.

The Yoki, you realize, is familiar. It makes you think of fast movement and roars. It makes you think of pain.

One of your hands is turning into a bow and suddenly you are standing up, having let out a barrage of arrows at the approaching figure. Clare wakes up, and jumps at the sight of the other creature.

"Who is it?" she asks.

You don't answer, as you do not have an answer. Instead you push yourself forward and move to stand between the monster and the city. The humans behind the walls are shouting, their voices blurring together in your ears. Before you is the creature. The monster.

The monster has a large gash across its chest. One eye is blinded, and part of its arm looks crushed. It is not your doing; your arrows are scattered untouched. Despite its injuries, it stands tall and the Yoki is formidable.

It laughs. "You finally awakened, Raki?"

It is the same name that Clare calls you. One of your hands tightens, and you realize that you have picked up the sword that Clare has carried since the valley. It feels small in your hands. But the weight has finally become recognizable, and you cannot imagine parting with it.

The monster laughs again. "Holy Sword Raki, even now. But you were always weak. Give it up and let me eat."

You point the sword at the monster. It feels familiar. It feels like it happened a lifetime ago.

"Even now, you follow Isley's lead," the monster says. It roars at you, frustration and sadistic pleasure all within the voice. "I should have killed you a long time ago."

A memory finally appears. You were once a different kind of monster, one who struggled to maintain humanity in all the madness. You once watched as others lost their humanity, lost everything, and became twisted monsters. You once saw a man with long hair turn into a monster to protect you.

You remember having pride in being that man's pupil. You remember promising to kill that man one day.

The monster before you strikes, and all you can do is fight back.

------------

Memories, you think, are a fickle thing.

They come as you fight, and it is disorienting as you try to separate reality from the past. But you cannot completely ignore the memories; you're afraid that if you do, they will disappear into wisps of smoke and you'll never have them again.

You remember being human. You had a mama and a papa just like Clare. You also had a brother who loved you dearly and would give up the world to protect you. You remember days spent helping your papa with the chores and your mama with the cleaning. You remember playing games with your brother.

You remember when your brother was no longer your brother. Instead he was a monster who looked like your brother and ate your parents. Then you were all alone in a house soaked in blood and you were just a bad omen.

You remember the man in black taking you in, and them cutting you open to stick monster guts inside of you. You had a hole that ran down your body. It was held together by a thread and you wished that it would heal. It was never going to leave, you thought. It was a sign that you were no longer a human, you would say. You had silver eyes and blond hair. You carried swords and would strike down monsters who looked like humans because you wanted to save people.

You remember more of the man with long hair. His name is Isley, and his final act of love towards you was to cut you down enough that you could not follow him into the abyss. He was your mentor. He gave you a reason to live.

You remember feeling betrayed. You remember promising that you will save Isley from being the monster that he had become.

------------

The monster is fast, but you move on instinct and can block most of its attacks. You can't remember a time where you were able to do it as well as you do now. You remind yourself, through the haze of memories, that this is one of the things you have been preparing yourself for.

The monster fights you with a ferocity that terrifies you deep inside. But you keep going, because now you remember why Rabona is so important to you. You cannot let this monster stain its steps.

Fighting back, however, feels impossible. The speed that the monster goes at is fast enough that you cannot land a hit. Every strategy, every movement, that you have practiced cannot hope to strike the beast. You think for a moment that you have forgotten the difference between a Number 5 and a Number 2.

The beast lands a strike on you, and you are sent flying into the city. The pain registers in your head. What shouts at you, however, is the sound of screaming humans. You have entered the city. You have polluted it.

You look up at the sky. The stars are looking down at you. You can remember the stories your mother used to tell of the stars. They are those who have passed on, she had said. They have found peace in the heavens.

You had promised yourself to give peace to those who have become monsters. You cannot keep that promise if you are dead.

You take up your sword and move forward. The monster, the warrior once named Rigaldo, is within the city walls. But it is not feasting. Instead, it is fighting something much stronger than it.

"Clare," you mutter to yourself. You rush forward, following the sounds of fighting throughout the streets until you find them.

The girl has her wings and her halo, and fights with movements that you recognize as those you have taught her. Her Yoki has grown, just like you and Teresa always said it would. It is not an ocean, not quite, but it has grown and could consume the city if it wanted to. The chance for the Organization to kill her has passed.

You tighten your grip on your blade and run forward. You will not allow Clare to fight alone, not even now.

The monster that was once Rigaldo is screaming, crying. He tries to strike Clare, but Clare blocks before he can even begin to move. She runs past him, and suddenly he is missing a leg. The burst of Yoki she released should scare you.

Rigaldo moves blindly towards several buildings. The knights of the holy city, roused from whatever sleepy guard post they occupied, watch in terror and awe. An easy meal.

You move between Rigaldo and the knights. It has been years and years since that one knight gave you a sword and thanked you. The knight must have passed since then. But you still carry the sword, and you must owe that man something. He gave you a name. He gave you kindness.

Rigaldo, the ugly beast that he has become, laughs. "You're not a warrior anymore! Give it up!"

"I'm sorry, Rigaldo," you say. "I failed you once already. I won't fail you again."

You move before Rigaldo can realize what is happening. The head of the monster falls. It leaves your body numb, and that sadness that you had for every one of your comrades that fell to their own Yoki fills you again. You don't know how you could have forgotten it.

"Raki?"

You lift up an arm, and Clare barrels into you. She is crying. Her wings are covered in rubble and blood, and her halo pushes uncomfortably against your chest. But she sounds sad. Sounds human. If all of the knights were elsewhere, if the two of you were alone, you think you would be crying too.

"Let's go, Clare," you say. "Teresa is probably looking for you."

Clare cries harder.

You grunt, and try to angle her head so the halo isn't pushing quite so hard into you. "I'm okay," you say. "I'm okay."

The knights scattered before you. They look at each other nervously. It must be a sight, you think, to see such monsters on holy ground.

"Sorry about the mess," you tell them. You gather Clare into your free arm as best you can, your other still carrying your holy sword. "We'll leave."

None of them stop you as you walk to the city gate. The only thing you can hear over Clare's sobs are their collective whispers. No one follows, and you think it is for the best. The hunger, after all, is still within you. It will always be in you, even more permanent than the hole that once scarred your body.

It is sunrise when you have returned both you and Clare to your resting spot. Clare is no longer sobbing; instead, her head is buried in your shoulder, and her breathing indicates a peaceful slumber. She stirs a little as you place her down, but otherwise remains still.

You look down at your body. It is the form of a human. You don't know how, but you have returned to a form that you recognize. The thread, the hole tearing through your body, is gone. You wonder what color your hair is. You wonder what color your eyes are.

The scent of human fills the air, and you turn away from the city to see a group of men on horse approaching. They are talking to each other and from their movements you suspect that they are drunk. The way that they carry themselves makes you think that they cannot possibly be peaceful travelers. Bandits, possibly.

You take up your sword and go forward. In seconds, you have scattered the horses. The riders lie on the ground, blood spilling and soaking into the earth. They are all screaming in fear. You pick the one closest to you and open their stomach with your hands. There is terror in the other men as you eat.

Clare is standing before you when you finish the first human.

"Eat, Clare," you say. "We still need to find Teresa."

The girl nods, and picks a man who has been screaming the loudest of the remaining humans. "Are they bandits?"

You almost tell her that you don't know. You almost tell her that no matter your morals, you are still hungry and these humans are not the shining knights that you care for. But instead, you nod. "They were drunk. Probably off of their last kill."

"No! No!" One of them is sobbing as he screams at you. "We were just celebrating! We didn't do anything!"

"Ignore him," you tell Clare. "You did really well fighting against Rigaldo. He was the Number 2 of my generation."

Clare opens the man up with her hands. The smell of fresh guts is delicious.

"Teresa was Number 1," Clare said. "She doesn't talk about it much."

"Do you know what it means?"

"It means that she's the best, right?"

"It's a bit more complicated than that. A lot of it is based on power," you explain. "But some of depends on how well you listen to orders. The Organization doesn’t want a loose cannon being Number 1."

"Oh." Clare pauses before she sinks her teeth into human guts. The other humans are whimpering, the realization of their end finally sinking in. "But you said Teresa is really strong?"

"The strongest Number 1 that I have ever met," you say.

"Wow." She smiles brightly. "That must mean she's really, really strong."

“Probably the strongest warrior ever,” you say. “I don’t think I have ever met someone who could be stronger than her.”

“Then where is she?” Clare asks. “She said she wouldn’t be long, right? So where did she go?”

“I don’t know,” you admit. You bring a handful of blood and gut to your mouth. The warm liquid dribbles down your chin. “I don’t think she is hurt. Maybe she went to take down the Organization.”

“Wh – What?!”

Clare’s surprise, and overall openness to express her emotions, makes you laugh. “Teresa would do anything to keep you safe,” you say. “And right now, the Organization is your biggest threat.”

“But – But – That’s dangerous!”

“Not for her,” you say. “The Organization has never created anything that can stand up against her. And I don’t think that they ever will.”

“So she’ll be safe?”

“Always.” You look down at her meal, still squirming as the last of the man’s life slips away. “You better eat, Clare. We’re going to be traveling for a while.”

“Okay.”

The humans become delirious as they wait their turn to die. The two of you ignore their prayers and cries. As you have told yourself before, they are probably bandits. No one would miss them.

------------

It is weeks before you find the Yoki that matches Clare’s. The girl runs out to meet the woman, chanting “Teresa” over and over as she does. You follow close behind. The way that Teresa’s face changes at the sight of Clare reminds you of your own happiness from a time long past. You wonder if that was how Isley looked when he heard news from you. You wonder if Isley ever cared as much.

Teresa’s eyes are quick to land on you. “I’m surprised,” she says. “I thought you had better control.”

You shrug. “You took too long.”

“I did. Sorry about that.” Teresa pats Clare on the head. As you walk closer to the woman, you can hear Clare crying against her. “What happened?”

“Some old comrades of yours,” you say. You reach over and poke Clare in the shoulder. “They thought they could kill Clare.”

Clare lets go of Teresa for a second, standing back and looking straight into Teresa’s eyes. “It was the two warriors from before! The ones who tried to kill you!”

Teresa’s brow furrows. “Hm. I was wondering where those two went.”

“You knew them,” you say. It was meant to be a question, but the way that Teresa reacted tells you too much about the situation. You wonder, briefly, if the two warriors had felt as you did; they had failed to save a comrade from becoming a monster, after all.

“Muscular Sophia and Storm Wind Noel,” Teresa says. “They’ve always been nuisances. I never did like them.”

“They’re dead now,” you say. “They wouldn’t leave.”

“Good. Two less people to worry about.”

You frown at Teresa’s statement. “Where were you?” you ask. “You said that you wouldn’t be long.”

“The Organization was trying to keep me away, probably from this crybaby.” She pats Clare on the head again, and Clare moves to fix her hair. “I told them I was leaving them for Clare before… everything. They probably thought they could get to me by getting her first.”

“It sounds like something they would do,” you say.

Teresa chuckles. “They seem to miss out on quite a bit, however.” Her eyes fall towards your holy sword. You had taken a belt from the drunk bandits that you ate just outside of Rabona, along with a set of clothing. They feel comfortable and worn, a vast difference from the clothes you bought yourself when you remained in hiding in your valley.

“Is there something wrong?” you ask. You look down at yourself, wondering if there is a spot of blood in the fabric.

“Your eyes,” Teresa says. “You seem happy.”

You almost repeat her words. Happy? Is this what happiness is? Being a monster left to roam the earth, devouring the people you once swore to protect?

Teresa shakes her head. “What would I know? I just think you look less lonely. Maybe having company helped.”

You look down at Clare. She has returned to clutching onto Teresa, as if the older woman would disappear if Clare even considered letting go. But she looks at you. It reminds you of the time where you were just washing clothing and wondering what your life had become, and Clare had asked about the hole in your body.

“Maybe,” you concede. “So, Teresa of the Faint Smile, do you have a plan of where to go now?”

“Not in particular. Somewhere to rest and eat.”

“Can we…” Clare trails off. Both you and Teresa look at her, waiting for her to say more. Clare, however, buries her face into Teresa’s side. “Why can’t we go back home?”

“Home?” you say. You stare at Clare, your thoughts racing and freezing at the same moment. You don’t think you have called a place “home” since your family was killed. The closest you had was Isley. Isley felt safe to be with. Isley felt like home.

Teresa sighs. “We can’t go back to the cabin, Clare. Now the Organization knows where it is. They’ll be attacking every week if we were so obvious.”

Clare clutches onto Teresa tighter. Her frame begins to tremble.

“You crybaby,” Teresa says fondly. “We can make a new home somewhere. They can’t always find us.”

“Anywhere that you want,” you add. “And a house as big as you can imagine.”

The girl’s grip on Teresa slacks, and you share a sigh of relief with Teresa.

“And we can still train?” Clare asks.

“Always,” you say. “Even when you surpass me.”

“I…” Clare flushes, drawing out laughter from you.

“Well then. Let’s at least find a place to settle first,” Teresa says. “We have the whole continent to choose from.”

------------

In the end, the three of you decide not to build a physical house. The Organization has surely heard about you all by now. Settling before being chased off sounds unappealing. Even as the rumors settle, neither you nor Teresa want to trap yourselves to one location.

Instead the three of you explore the land. You forget, sometimes, that there is more to the continent that the town you lived in as a human, more than the Organization’s buildings in the otherwise deserted east, more than what you were assigned to as a warrior. It is easy to see that Teresa, too, had little concern for places beyond her assignments.

You both fall to Clare’s will. There are towns to see, forests to explore. You see the ocean for the first time in your life. It is so vast that you stare out into the horizon for what feels like hours.

Somehow, Teresa and Clare seem larger than it.

Every night, you tell Clare about the legends from your childhood. You tell stories about knights and gods, truth and justice, and about holy cities that are always out of reach.

One morning, you wake to the realization that Clare’s Yoki has surpassed yours. It is not a surprise; you knew the day was coming for some time. You knew that, no matter what, you would do nothing to stop Clare from reaching her potential.

“She’ll get stronger yet,” Teresa says. “Another Abyssal One.”

You hum in agreement. “The Organization was already in trouble when Isley awakened. I wonder how they are scrambling now.”

“They’ll likely do as they always do. Wait for a request.” Teresa looks at you, then towards some far horizon. “And how long will it be until you go north?”

“I don’t know,” you say. “Whenever I have the ability to kill Isley, I suppose.”

Teresa shakes her head, a smile of amusement on her lips. “Is it pride that says you have to be the one who kills him?”

“Not pride. I made a promise,” you say.

“You were a foolish warrior.”

Isley had called you a warm-hearted fool. He once said that it was a sign that you were a good person.

“I’m still foolish. I didn’t change too much from that.” You draw out your holy sword, the one that gave you your moniker and hope, and point it at the north. “Isley was everything to me. I won’t let his wishes be in vain.”

“Hmph. He probably didn’t know just how foolish you were.” Teresa draws your claymore, the one she has been carrying since those last days of you being only half monster. “It must be nice.”

------------

One day, before entering a town, you stop at the edge of the woods. Teresa and Clare both turn and wait for you.

“I don’t know what my awakened form looks like,” you say. It is true; you were so preoccupied with your lost memories that you have not stopped at some lake to see what exactly you have become. You haven’t transformed back into that form since Teresa has returned.

Teresa shakes her head. “I don’t have an idea. And you probably shouldn’t take your awakened form right now, unless we want to attract attention.”

You turn to Clare.

The girl smiles brightly. “You look like a knight from the stories. You’re bigger, and your hands look a little less like the armor, but I think you make a good knight.”

You and Teresa share a look. You are both smiling.

“We can start calling you ‘Holy Knight Raki’ if you want,” Teresa says teasingly.

“No,” you say. “’Holy Sword Raki’ is good enough.”

------------

It is during one of the rare times that you are alone that you run into Isley.

You are in one of the last towns before you are in the northern region, where the snow only touches the area for part of the year. Teresa and Clare have gone to a town farther south. Clare dislikes the cold.

Even though his hair has gone from blond to silver and his eyes no longer have the unnatural shade, you still recognize him. It is more than just his physical appearance. It is in the way he carries himself, you think. Isley remains a man with history behind him. He remains a man with a burden.

When he sees you, he stares at you for a full minute. You almost laugh. You think better of it.

You instead wait for him to approach you. The nerves you have been expecting for years do not appear. Maybe they went away with the voices. Maybe they were only the remains of you being a bad omen.

“Raki,” Isley says. “I did not expect to see you.”

You don’t hold in your laughter this time; you don’t think you have ever heard Isley this uncomfortable in your life.

“I wasn’t expecting to see you either. Rumor had it that you actually like the cold climates,” you say. “I guess not all rumors can be true.”

“I taught you better than to trust such things.” The words are in the open before Isley can look horrified. It is odd to see the man so distraught over something you have accepted a long time ago. You can remember the day when he approached you as a trainee quite well. Back then, Isley had always been the one to comfort you.

You gesture towards the busy street. The weather is currently kind, and vendors have set up a market in the open as a way to celebrate. Children are running throughout it all. The smell of humans is tempting, but not overbearing. The hunger had been satiated hours ago, at the very least.

“Walk with me,” you say. “For old time’s sake.”

It takes you three steps before Isley is there, walking besides you. You offer him a smile. He looks anywhere but you.

You pass the town, the busy noises, cheers and conversation overpowering the undercurrent of sadness that runs with any group of humans. Children are weaving in and out of the crowd, playing some game that you think only they can understand. One bumps into you. His attention had been elsewhere. You can count the seconds it takes for him to realize what he has done, for him to bring up the courage to look you in the face.

By then, his companion is by his side. “I’m sorry, mister! Me and my brother were just playing –”

You laugh, and wave them away. “I was a boy once too,” you say. “Go. Enjoy this day.”

The two run off. Your eyes linger, following them throughout the street. You wonder if this is how you looked to others, when you were a human boy and only cared about playing games with your brother.

Isley remains silent throughout it all.

Soon the two of you are at the edge of the town. There are no humans nearby; their voices and the smell of their guts are the only things that can reach you here. You listen for a moment, trying to discern one word from another from the mass of noise. But they are too tangled to be understood. You close your eyes anyways, trying to keep all the sounds within your memory. The years alone have left more of a toll on you than you would like to admit.

“I dreamed about meeting you again,” you admit aloud. Isley remains behind you, out of sight and silent. Maybe you should be demanding that he talks. Maybe this is something you deserve after all of this time. “It’s taken me a long time to figure out what I should be saying to you.”

“You never held back before,” Isley says. His voice is low as he speaks. “Even when you thought the words were stupid, I would always…” He trails off.

You smile. “I will always appreciate what you’ve done for me, Isley. I would have died without your guidance.”

“That isn’t what you want to say to me, is it?”

“No,” you say. “I wanted to tell you how angry I am at you.”

The tone of your voice doesn’t change. Nevertheless, you can sense Isley tensing behind you. There is a movement in his Yoki. A ripple, but nothing more to indicate an attack.

You continue on. “I had no sense of purpose without you, Isley. I thought the rest of my life would be fighting Yoma and Awakened Beings by your side. Even if you had used me as a shield, I would have been happy.

“And then you awakened. Did you know that the Organization made me retire after that happened? They were scared that I would follow you. Riful said that I could rival Rigaldo.”

“There were… rumors.” Isley spits out the word as if it is poison. To the man, the monster that has retained his form, it probably is. “I thought about verifying them. However…”

“You were building an army?” you ask. You still won’t turn around, won’t look at the man who taught you how to survive. Having his Yoki so close, so definable, is enough. “There are rumors about that, too. I think you would be surprised how much gets around this continent.”

“Are you upset about this supposed army, then?” Isley asks.

“No.” When you had first heard the news months ago, tucked away in a corner of a small tavern for the night, you had laughed hard enough that you had knocked over your drink. Teresa had kicked you under the table. Her lips, however, had her infamous faint smile. “I expected it sooner, actually. I think the Organization did, too.”

“There is a time and place for everything.”

You consider his words. “The attacks on the Organization. You think that they’re vulnerable enough now to continue unhindered.”

“As much as I dislike rumors, there has been a considerable amount of evidence showing that they have been weakened. I would be remised if I did not take advantage of the opportunity.” Finally, Isley walks so he is within your peripheral vision. You watch, observing everything that you can. The other Awakened Being wears a thick winter cloak over his shoulders. It shows little wear; just another part of the human persona Isley takes to, you think. You wonder, not for the first time, that perhaps Isley was never a human.

“They’re as crafty as ever,” you say. Even now, the Organization hasn’t collapsed upon themselves. No one is quite sure how; Teresa alone decimated many of their forces.

“You could help me.”

Your surprise shows easily on your face. Isley turns to look at you. His eyes, a gray color that sometimes slip into the ice blue of his awakened form, show no emotion. No questions, no favor towards you. No love.

“You are incredibly strong, Raki. You would be my second in command. That witch in the west that Dauf has attached himself to could not stand up to us,” he says.

The expression on your face melts away. The dreams of seeing Isley again, the anger, return. But you keep it out of your voice. “I know.”

“Join forces with me, Raki.”

“No.”

Isley is startled, more startled than when he first spotted you in this town. He opens his mouth, but whatever words he is trying to form fall quiet. He closes his mouth.

“You have forgotten yourself,” you say. “I knew it the moment you awakened. I didn’t blame you back then, but now…”

There are many ways to finish the sentence. Many ways to call up memories of Clare, how she put aside her own hunger upon awakening to share with Teresa. Other ways to convey Teresa’s words, her retellings of how she ruined landscapes and lives to search the continent for a human girl the Organization had taken from her. Maybe there is even a way to convey the confusion you suffered in your own awakening and how, even when your memories were not with you, you knew that Clare was the most important thing there.

Instead, you say, “Now I know better. That’s why I still want to kill you, I think. Because you aren’t the Isley I remember.”

Isley shakes his head. “You are far from the ‘Holy Sword Raki’ I remember, either.”

“I’ve gone through a lot of things,” you say. “I wish you were there to see them.”

Isley stares at you, contemplating your words. You stare back for a while, as if you could follow his thoughts from his face alone. But then you turn away. You have to remind yourself that this Isley is not your Isley. You are not his student.

You wonder if Isley, the strong warrior who was Number 1 and feared the monsters his comrades were becoming, knew of this fate.

“Things would have been different,” Isley says at last. “Perhaps the Organization would have sent us both away. We could have taken out most of the monsters on this continent without having to report back to anyone.”

You recognize the tone of his voice. Nostalgic. Wishful. Everything that you despised in yourself for years, on days when the voices would just not leave.

“You left me, Isley,” you say at last. “You abandoned me to play king. Hell, you had Rigaldo as your second in command. Did you ever think about what I was going to do without you there?”

“You retired. You could have lived peacefully –”

You laugh. “It wasn’t my choice, Isley. The Organization made me. And I listened, because I had nothing left. I told you that night; you gave me everything.”

“Is that what’s stopping you from joining me?” he asks. There is hesitation in his voice. But there is also his pride. Well earned, you think, as the Abyssal One of the North. As the first Number 1 of you all.

“No.” You offer him a smile. It comes to your lips easily. It makes you remember Clare’s bright one, Teresa’s faint one. You remember your parents’ smile, your brother’s, all of them human and easy and never once trapped with the undertow of nightmares. You remember your own, during those days as a trainee with Isley. “I found something else to live for.”

Isley closes his eyes. He nods once. “I see.”

You begin to walk away.

“You said you were going to kill me,” Isley calls out to you. “Have you changed your mind?”

“No.” You turn to look at Isley. For a moment, you think you can see the Number 1 of the male generation. The Silver King of the North. Isley, your mentor. “This may sound idiotic to you, but I intend to kill you one day. But not today. I promised someone that I would help her train.”

Puzzlement runs through Isley’s face. “Your new reason to live, I presume?”

“You would have liked her,” you say with a chuckle. “She’s a good student.”

“I see.” He frowns, and turns away. “Please don’t call yourself an idiot, Raki. You were never that.”

The words are out of your mouth before you realize. “A warm-hearted fool, then?”

Isley laughs. “Yes. Farewell, Holy Sword Raki.”

“Goodbye, Isley.”

It takes you two days to locate the other two. It is in another town, one that is blessed with warmer weather and a quieter setting. There is a fountain in the center of it. A statue of the twin goddesses sits within the pool of water. Clare balances herself on the stone border. Her footsteps are sloppy; she could balance herself if she wants to, but there is a game that plays out in her eyes as she runs on the narrow ledge.

Teresa looks at you. She does not bother with a greeting. “The other Yoki with you two days ago was Isley’s, wasn’t it?”

“I wasn’t expecting him,” you say. There is a smile on your face, the same one from the conversation with your former mentor. It has yet to fully leave you. “I never thought that I would be able to talk to him. It was…”

You pause. The word sits on your tongue, as if it is confused about its existence.

“It was nice,” you say. “I’ll miss him when he’s dead.”

Teresa sighs. Her eyes have not yet left Clare. “You told him you were planning to kill him, didn’t you? I’m surprised he didn’t try to kill you on the spot.”

“Things aren’t that simple,” you say. If they were, you would probably have asked Teresa to kill him herself. Isley, after all, is nothing compared to Teresa. “He’ll fight back when the time comes.”

“He would be a disgrace as a former Number 1 if he didn’t.” Teresa shakes her head. “Clare wants to go to the west to see the old castles. Is there some outstanding promise you made to Riful that we should know about?”

You laugh. “You would be doing her a service if you kill her. But no reason to seek her out.”

“Good. It would have been a pain otherwise.” She turns to you. There is a faint smile on her lips, a genuine one that is becoming less rare. “Shall we head out?”

“Yeah.” You turn your attention to the girl running around the fountain. “Clare!”

Clare looks at you, her face lighting up at her name. “Raki!” She launches herself off of the ledge, taking a few steps before barreling into you. You catch her. Laughter spills out of you.

For now, this is enough.

deviantID

imaginationstarie13
Human Textbook of Randomness/Starie
Artist | Student | Literature
United States
Hello everyone! I'm Starie, living in my mind, which currently occupies the universe. I'm mostly a writer, although I do draw once in a while.

I update somewhat irregularly, just to warn you all.

I'm an odd chick who knows a lot of different genres, including those I don't write about. I play some video games, read, and a whole bunch of things.

So look around. :D
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:iconpoetrymann:
Poetrymann Featured By Owner Sep 10, 2016  Professional Writer
Thanks very much for the fave...and an apology for being so late with this.
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:iconimaginationstarie13:
imaginationstarie13 Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2016  Student Writer
No problem! Being busy is not a terrible thing.
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DylanSeto Featured By Owner Jun 9, 2016   Artist
Hey~~

Just wanted to thank you for the fave!

Also, since I'm currently focusing on music, I was wondering if you'd be interested in listening/sharing my music?

If you are, I can link you to where you can find that stuff!

-Dylan Seto
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FearlessFibreArts Featured By Owner Jan 14, 2016  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
Thank you so much for faving my smocked cowl! I really appreciate it!
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imaginationstarie13 Featured By Owner Jan 14, 2016  Student Writer
No problem :D
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Teensyweensybaby Featured By Owner Jan 13, 2016  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
Thanks for the fav
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imaginationstarie13 Featured By Owner Jan 14, 2016  Student Writer
No problem :D
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Andulino Featured By Owner Jan 12, 2016  Professional Artisan Crafter
Thanks for the favorite my Birds marquetry! ;)
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imaginationstarie13 Featured By Owner Jan 14, 2016  Student Writer
No problem :D
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Sillybilly60 Featured By Owner Aug 11, 2015   Digital Artist
Thank you kindly for the fav! +fav
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