I heard him long before I saw him. In a thick grove of trees, nearly impossible to see, I spotted him and moved closer to listen.
"Please. You must return. She awaits you." I heard a man pleading. I heard my target scoff.
"She still tries to bring me back, even though it was her who told me that she'd rather see me dead than come back. And even if she had not told me that, why would I return to-" My target looked away, almost disgusted. "I could never willingly return to that place. At least here I am cared for." I had been far too quiet. My breathing was faint and I had avoided any and all fallen twigs. Yet, he looked my way, as if, despite the grove blocking out most light and thus making me invisible, he could see me clearly. And his friend was gone.
Does he see me? I thought, eyes wide with shock. Then in a flash, he was gone. Carelessly, I jumped to my feet, intending to back away and run.
And ended up bumping into him. My breath caught in my throat as I felt the cold piercing through my clothes.
"You know, it's rude to listen in on private conversations." I turned around, mentally steeling myself for the inevitable feel of that cold spear I'd heard so much about.
Instead, I heard a slight chuckle.
"Am I really that intimidating?" I opened my eyes and found myself staring no, gazing sounds better- at light blue eyes.
"Um, um, um, um
" I stammered out, mentally surprised at myself. Normally, if some guy was this charming, I'd still be able to pull out Muramasa, slash them a new one and leave them drowning in their own blood. Here, I was pretty much paralyzed. That is, until he turned away.
"You realize it's not safe outside Rosedream City without extra support, right?" He asked.
"I'll be fine. I don't need help." He scoffed, sounding like ice cracking.
"Against loners, you'll be safe no doubt. Against large groups of, say, ten and twenty others, you'll be dead in a heartbeat. So, come join us."
"I might. Where will you be?" I asked.
"Ask where the stormy village lies. People will know immediately where to point you." And with that, he was gone. I shook my head, trying to free myself of his charms. He hadn't recognized me, thank the gods, so at least I still had the advantage of surprise on my side.
But I knew who he was.
Giovanni Tanaka, the Ice-Cold Assassin.
The number one assassin in all of Sadame.
And I was about to kill him.
Once I was far enough away from both the village my team and I called home and her, I laughed. If that was the Dragon Assassin, Kilala Shinkawa, then taking her down a notch would be a breeze. Unlike me, where my nickname came from the ice that was my blood, hers was because of the dragon tattoo that lined her lower face. She wore a mask because of it.
I had heard that when it came to assassinations, she was utterly ruthless.
Yet, when she saw me, she became putty. Still though, if she had heard Nikolai and me talking, then she had one large piece of ammunition to use against me. While it was impossible to prove, the very idea of Kilala knowing what I truly was
I shuddered to think about it.
"Gio!" The voice brought me out of my thoughts. Alyssa rushed towards me, obviously panicked. I took a deep breath, preparing yet another lie to my older sister. "Where the hell were you?! We've been worried!"
"Sorry, Alyssa. I
I needed some time to myself, that's all." A Red Skull, Artemis, came up from behind Alyssa. Artemis was my mentor, ironic considering he controlled fire. As usual, he wore the red outfit that indicated his class, a red cloak with a skull hood.
"Without telling anyone where you were going? You of all people should know how dangerous the outskirts of Rosedream are!" He reprimanded.
"Don't worry. I went prepared. Besides, it was more a spur of the moment thing, anyway." Alyssa rubbed the bridge of her nose, groaning.
"It's bad enough that you're the leader of this team. It's worse if we lose you." She hissed. She hated that I roamed the empire so freely with my team of demons. She told me many times she wanted me to go back home with her.
Every time, I told her no.
After a while, she stuck around, saying she wanted to at least be able to cart back my dead body.
"Don't worry. I haven't even been injured once since forming this team. What's the chances-" A shriek caught our attention.
"Who would be stupid enough to attack this place?" Artemis asked. I reached into the pouch on my back to grab at the shortened form of my weapon of choice.
"Don't know. But let's find out and show them why Rosedream is a safe place." With that, I rushed ahead, listening for any more screams.
I heard the scream and headed for it. Seeing the village would have to wait. I pulled out my sword, Muramasa, and hid in an alley, waiting for whoever ran by. Sure enough, the thief, carrying a large bag of coins, almost ran past me.
Except my sword cut his side as he ran by. The blood covered me and Muramasa glowed before absorbing the blood. The thief fell over, already dead when Giovanni and a couple others came by and saw him. I was completely hidden from view as one of them, a Red Skull, knelt down and looked at the dead thief.
"Wow. There's so much blood I can't even tell where he was cut."
"That much blood? Don't tell me she's here!" A female gasped.
"Alyssa, calm down. Even if she's here, she's not looking for trouble." I blinked at Giovanni's words.
"What makes you so certain she's not here to cause trouble?" The Skull asked. Giovanni knelt down and picked up the bag of coins.
"This would be enough to feed all 12 of us for months. Do you really think she'd leave this behind?" He handed the bag to the Skull. "Go find the owner. Alyssa, please go find something to help clean this up." The two nodded and went their separate ways. He looked back before softly saying, "It's safe for you to come out now. Although the blood was a bit much." My eyes widened.
"How did you know I was still here?" I walked out of the alley.
"Considering who I am, I've learned to pay very close attention to my surroundings." He stared me down. "Anyway, thank you for stopping the thief. Even I have to admit that I wouldn't have been able to catch him in time."
you're welcome." I leaned against the wall.
"So, what are you planning?" I didn't say a word. His response was to put his hands to both sides of the wall, trapping me with his larger-than-normal wings. I didn't show fear until I looked right into his eyes. Anger was very evident and I was cornered. I couldn't pull out Muramasa and confirm that I was up to no good, nor could I continue to stay silent.
"I'm not up to anything, I swear. I got stuck here while heading to
" I looked down, my memory failing me at the worst possible time. I felt a twinge of pain in both my shoulders.
"Don't lie to me. My patience is running thin with you."
"I honestly forgot the name of the planet. It was far from here, but my ship took a stop here and then left without me. Is it just coincidence that I landed in the same place as the number one legendary assassin? Yes. Yes it is. So, will you please let me go?" I asked, trying to keep my voice steady. He looked at me for a few moments then finally let go of my shoulders and stepped back. I tried rubbing the circulation and warmth back into my shoulders, where his cold arms had gripped me. I heard him quietly swear under his breath before looking at me, arms crossed.
"Do you have another weapon? One that won't make a person bleed out immediately?" I slowly nodded and unsheathed my Sunrise Sword, a broad orangish-red sword that gave off a warm glow. He held out a hand to take it from me and without hesitation, I handed it to him. Watching him try to hold it almost made me chuckle.
"You don't know how to handle a sword, do you?" I asked, trying to hide my smile.
"Honestly, I'm used to my spear, but I didn't want to use it this time." I raised a confused eyebrow and suddenly felt a cold rush of air on my back.
Then felt a slash go across my back. I yelped and whirled around to find who did that even though I had an idea who it was.
"Will you stop moving?" Each word was punctuated with a slash on my legs, my back and sides. Finally, I heard the sword clattered to the ground and I fell to my knees, not sure where the dead thief's blood ended and mine began. "I hope it wasn't too bad of injuries. But, if you come into the village with all that blood on you, with none of it yours, my
friends will get suspicious." Giovanni held out his hand to me, but I slapped it away.
"I can get up myself-oww!" As I tried to stand, pain shot through my legs, sending me right back to the ground.
"I honestly hope I didn't cut the hamstrings too deeply. I only meant to cripple you for, at most, two days." I glared at him.
"Cripple me?! What did I do to deserve-" He lifted me to my feet then picked me up.
"Nothing. But, with all that blood on you, hardly any of it yours, if I brought you in, there's no telling what the team would do. However, if you were injured
" I smiled.
"They'll help me, right?" I asked and he nodded.
"Correct. Now, hang on tightly." I clung to him and we took off.
I kept a calm look as I ran to the stormy village, where the rest of Team Ice Storm stayed, resting or practice sparring.
However, mentally, I was in a panic. The woman I was holding was the number two deadliest assassin in all of Sadame. Yes, I had crippled her to keep an eye on her for more than one reason.
But now, one of those reasons was I didn't want to see her hurt. I found myself honestly baffled. Of all the women out there, why this one?
You act shocked that fate can't bring you with someone
suitable for you. I wasn't prepared for the voice and nearly lost my footing before slowing to a stop and looking around. The cool city was replaced with a vast snowy field.
I took a breath and laid Kilala, who had amazingly fallen asleep in my arms, on the ground.
Is it that surprising to find that this is the one for you, Giovanni? I closed my eyes and sitting down, fell backwards. Unsurprisingly, I felt myself being caught and lifted up to meet her eyes. She was a giant by all definition of the word. My patron goddess, the Goddess of Ice, Tsuki.
Ah~ You still trust me to catch you, but you cannot trust me to show you your love? I was used to cold; my blood was ice. Still, Tsuki's words cut through me.
"It's not that I don't trust you, Lady Tsuki; I'm just
concerned." I whispered.
Do not be concerned. It will all make sense in due time. But, still, be warned. Change is coming. Tragedy will strike close to you. She sat me down and knelt to meet my gaze, Do not be angry at her, however. This will all make sense in due time. Now then, I must be off. Farewell, Giovanni. I opened my eyes and found myself and Kilala just outside of the gates to the stormy village. Kilala was still sleeping when I picked her up and walked inside.
"So, now he knows what's soon to happen. Thanks for doing that." I looked over to my sister in-law as she headed over to us. I changed out of the ice form back into my normal dress.
"No problem. So, how are you gonna explain to Kilala about what's gonna happen soon?" I asked, looking at 'Iris' with a look of confusion. The irony was not lost on any of us, her using the name of the destroyer for a goddess of earth.
"Don't worry about it. I'll explain it to her in due time." I looked back at my brother, who was eyeing the couple.
"This guy is..." He shuddered. "Why do I have a feeling that this isn't gonna be a one-time thing and that we'll be dealing with them on a regular basis?"
"It's a one-time thing, honey. Don't worry about it." Iris smiled and disappeared. Once she was gone, my brother sighed.
"Would it not be easier to go in our real forms? Why the charade?" I didn't answer; just sat and watched the magic unfold.
"Mmmm... that was a good... nap... huh?" I looked around, wondering what happened and where I was.
I got my answer in the same instant.
"Ah good, you're awake." I saw the light blue dress and the small wings before I got a good look at her face. I wondered briefly if she could be an angel, which then made me wonder how an angel could survive in the Netherworld. "Kilala, correct?" I nodded. "I'm Ellen. The healer in this...motley crew."
"One healer... in a team of 12. How...?" I began, only to look out the door and see a pair of... cat ears? Ellen followed my gaze and frowned.
"Isabelle, come in." She skipped in, green eyes bright. Her hands were behind her back, like she was holding something.
"Hello. You must be Giovanni's... 'friend'. I'm Isabelle." I blinked at her in confusion.
"Um... friend?" What could I tell her, that I was here to kill him? Instead, I told her, "Well, we just met really. Nothing-"
"Yes! He's still on the market! I still have a chance!" My face turned as red as my eyes.
"Wha...what? Why would you think... oh my..." Ellen immediately began pushing Isabelle out of her hut.
"Please leave, Isabelle. She needs...her rest." And as Isabelle left, Ellen called out, "And give Artemis back his staff! I could easily see it behind your back!"
"She's... interesting, isn't she?" I blinked.
"...Yes she is. But, when she really wants to fight, she's good at what she does. Poison, thievery, fast as a whip." Ellen explained, "But, never mind that. How are you feeling?"
"My legs hurt." I said simply, rubbing where they were bandaged.
"Ah yes, odd about that. They were cut, bad enough to need quite a bit of attention, but the cuts were... clean. They were deliberately done to cripple. I thought they were from the spat with the thief, but... I've never seen someone do that." I didn't want to tell her it was Giovanni.
"Really? I... I... I don't remember what happened. One minute, I was fighting the thief, next minute I was here." I feigned forgetfulness.
"Then, it seems it was good that Giovanni found you when he did. All that blood on you... you could've bled out." I looked around for my clothes and instead found a large blanket to wrap around myself, "Odd that of all people he offered to clean your clothes..." Just when I thought my face had returned to its normal shade, it turned bright red again.
"Has he come back with my clothes yet?" I asked, covering my face.
"No, not yet."
"Well, when he does, can we speak? In private?" I whispered. Ellen smiled.
"Gladly. In fact, I'll see if I can find him really quickly." She headed out and I sat up, finding my swords nearby.
"Well, I'm surprised he didn't take those." I muttered, looking for a certain sheath.
The crimson sheath and maroon hilt would be eye-catching to anyone else, but I was so used to it that it didn't bother me anymore.
Give me her blood. I heard from Muramasa.
No. I can't. Too risky. We need to only watch this time. I thought back to the demon. I read -not long after I acquired Muramasa- of a demon named Horace, who was so bloodthirsty that he devoured anything and everything he could grab. It got so bad that a set of Black and White Witches fought him and eventually sealed him away in a sword.
Since freeing him would require utterly shattering the sword with a holy weapon, which would also destroy him, he preferred talking to me, telling me to kill more. Since I was an assassin, it was easy to do that. But now, faced with the one person who, if I killed, would propel me into fame
I couldn't kill him.
I never thought the 'L' word would come to mind so quickly, but, when it came to him
"Kilala, may I come in? I brought your clothes." Ellen wasn't joking when she said she was gonna fetch Giovanni for me. I looked around. No windows; just the door to let in natural light.
It was now or never.
"Yes. Please come in. We need to talk." I moved to the door and before he could react, pulled him inside. Barely eyeing my partially clothed body, he coughed slightly before speaking and setting down my folded clothes.
"What is it, Kila-" He was so busy focusing on me that he didn't fully pay attention, allowing me to kick him hard, knocking him into one of the cots and onto the ground. Grabbing Muramasa and unsheathing it, I raised it high above him.
"Say goodbye, Giovanni." I brought it down
I had expected the blade. And despite the years of threats on my life, I flinched and closed my eyes, not wanting to see my assassin.
Nothing. I only opened my eyes when I heard her crying. I looked to my right and found the blades mere inches from my head.
"I can't even kill you. What kind of assassin falls in love with her target?" She cried, her face in her hands.
How much did the person pay you?" I asked.
"Nothing. I came here alone." She explained. I opened my mouth to ask something else, but then, the door opened.
"Giovanni, we have-" The words died in Isabelle's mouth at seeing Kilala and me.
I cannot think of even a single situation where it is perfectly understandable for a half-naked woman to sit on a man's chest, and there not be a perverted context. Thankfully, Isabelle couldn't see the blade or she'd kill Kilala herself. And what I said next didn't help matters any.
"Isabelle, this isn't what it looks like." Kilala's glare made it clear that I'd uttered the worst phrase.
Finish what you're doing. I'll tell you afterwards." She slammed the door hard enough to make the hut rattle. It was dead silent between us for a few minutes before Kilala finally got up and grabbed her clothes.
"I'd ask you to leave, but I'm willing to bet that Isabelle's gonna tell everyone and you're gonna have a hard time explaining this." She was dressed in a moment and wrapped her two other swords to her back. She pulled Muramasa out of the ground and sheathed it.
"What do you mean, 'I'm gonna have a hard time explaining this?' What about you?!" I demanded, jumping to my feet.
"Once I help you deal with whatever Isabelle was about to say, I'm leaving. There's no way I'm showing my face around here after this." She turned away from me as she tied her hair back up.
"Actually, if you can, stay here for a little while." I asked. I heard her sigh before she turned back to me.
"Fine. Now, let's see what's going on." I lifted the cot back up and made sure everything was put back in order. That done, we walked outside, all eyes on us as we exited the hut.
"Hello, lovebirds." Ellen greeted us. Rubbing the bridge of my nose, I found it was the only way I didn't glare at her or Isabelle.
"We will talk about that later. What is going on?" Ellen gestured to a tree outside the village gates. I walked outside to see what was so interesting about it, when my breath caught in my throat. "Oh no."
One of my warriors was hanging in the tree, his throat slit and a playing card in his chest. I knew those types of playing cards well as I shot down the warrior and pulled out the card.
'Found you, Assassin of Ice.' Was all it said. The team moved forward to hear me and I pocketed the card before they could react.
"We've gotta get out of here." I said, then repeated it louder.
"Why? This is our home." Artemis said.
"It won't be for much longer. Get as much of your stuff as you can; we've gotta leave." I couldn't dare them about Riven. That now, she had tracked me here. I couldn't tell them about any of the 5 assassins.
For telling them about the others would reveal me to be one.
This was starting to get bad. For an angel, I found myself lying more and more. And no amount of feathers could make the truth hurt less.
I saw the card. How had Riven found him?! Had she been tracking him as well? Then again, if she was
Then I was also on her list. My eyes widened at this thought. I looked around at all the huts. A good majority of them were wooden. There was a Red Skull, one known to be a master of fire. I could make him burn down this entire village, allowing us to escape, but, if Riven was here, too many people would be easy pickings for her. While Giovanni was distracted, I raced to meet his sister, Alyssa. Besides myself and Giovanni, I'd see to Isabelle, Ellen and Alyssa's safety.
"Where are you
" I looked around and saw her on her knees, enclosed in a circle of water. "Alyssa!" I called out and she glared at me.
"Excuse me, but I was busy-" I held out Muramasa, looking as if I was gonna stab her with it, "Wha- what do you
what do you want." She whispered, eyes wide.
"You've got some other place you can go to? Maybe you can teleport?" I asked, menace in my voice.
"Eterna. Mine and Giovanni's home. Why?"
"Think you can take Isabelle and Ellen with you?" She slowly nodded. "Good. I'll bring them here, you take them to Eterna. Giovanni and I will be fine."
"How do you know? You two just met!"
"Just a hunch. Now, I'll bring them here. Until then, do. Not. Leave." With that, I ran off to find Isabelle and Ellen.
"Kilala, what are you doing?" Giovanni asked, seeing me leave his sister's hut.
"No time to explain. Just follow my lead and go fetch Ellen. I need to get Isabelle." I was so tense that it was obvious.
"Tell me what you're planning and I'll do so." I glared at him.
"Look, try as you might, we can't take everyone. And the longer we delay, the quicker Riven will get here and kill us, including you and me. So, get Ellen and take her to your sister. Alyssa's gonna hide them." That said, I calmed down.
"I can't do that. These are my team-" I kept a bag full of sleeping powder in a side pouch. Grabbing it, I scattered some into Giovanni's face. As he coughed, trying to fight it eventually sliding against Ellen's hut and falling asleep- I quickly ran and found Isabelle. Shoving her towards Alyssa's hut, the only way I got her to willingly leave us alone was the promise of seeing Giovanni again. Once she was gone and after assuring Ellen that Giovanni was only sleeping, she willingly left. I knew the powder would only last about another 10 minutes, so now I had to rush.
Finding the Red Skull was easy. He was still looking at the dead warrior.
"What a shame he fell victim to that. Strong, too. We'll never find someone as strong as- oh. Hello, Miss Kilala."
"Hello. I never quite caught your name. What is it?" I asked.
"Artemis. So, I guess you're staying with us." I smiled, slowly nudging him back inside the gates and to the middle of the village. Mentally, I felt bad, but I knew sacrifices had to be made.
"Yes. Well, if there are still people alive." Before he could ask, I widened my eyes.
One other trait about me, besides my sword, was that I had the ability to drive people to suicide with my eyes. Usually, by commanding to do so.
Occasionally, I could also drive those same people to murder others for me as well as kill themselves.
That's exactly what I did. He let out an inhuman cry and I ran for Giovanni as I heard Artemis beginning a fire spell. Giovanni was just beginning to come out of his forced sleep and I found myself screaming, crying, begging for him to just get up. Helping him up, I ran out of the village as I heard the sounds of a massive fire starting.
"Giovanni, stay with me. I know what I did was a bit much, but I couldn't have you interfering! Now wake up!" I found a small lake nearby and fearing the worst, dived into it with Giovanni. After a minute of staying underwater, I came back up to the surface, taking in a big gasp of air.
"That could've been bad. But at least, a few of them are safe." Looking around, my look of relief turned into horror. Giovanni was nowhere to be found.
"Oh no. Gio-" The gasp died in my throat as I was suddenly and quickly pulled underwater. I met the light blue eyes before he gestured for me to swim upwards. When we reached the surface, he saw the burning village and whispered, "You burned it."
"Not exactly. Artemis burned it." I explained and then gasped at seeing her on the shore. "M-M-M-M-My lady!" Iris gestured to us. We swam to the shore and she pulled us into an embrace.
You're alive, just as I predicted. She said, smiling as she let us down.
"Yes, but my team isn't. And I didn't do a thing to stop it." Giovanni stared at the site.
There is nothing you can do. Riven would've killed them instead. This way, only 5 have survived the battle. But, now you two must leave. This can no longer be called a home. We will be watching.
"Lady Iris, do you know a place where we can go?" I asked.
I cannot tell you. Just know love will keep you going. Now, I must leave
I smiled as she vanished, leaving behind only flowers.
cryptic. But still, we have to go. You said Alyssa, Isabelle and Ellen are safe?" Giovanni asked. I nodded, "Good. That takes one thing off my mind. Now, before we leave Sadame, we need to ensure that Riven thinks us dead. Got a dagger? Or at least, something sharp enough to draw blood?"
"I don't wanna be cut up again." I groaned as I pulled out a small knife.
"Not you. If she's primarily after me, then seeing this will draw her off us." Taking the knife, he walked closer to the burning village gates and looked at the knife before drawing down his entire left arm and dropping the knife inside the fire. I rushed towards him, terrified, when I got a surprising sight.
Water was dripping out of the wound.
"How in the-"
"Family trait. The bloodline is ice. It takes a lot to kill us, but it doesn't mean getting cut doesn't hurt." He winced as he shook off the blood into the fire. To my surprise, some of the blood didn't drip off his arm.
"Giovanni, wha- what's going on with your arm?" He looked at the slashed arm, and the growing icicles on it. "I have to say, though, it looks like they can be used to slash someone with. Don't you agree?"
"Maybe? I've never seen it do this before. Then again, I've never had a reason to slash my arms before." When the wound healed he explained that unless it was a near full body burn, the family can heal rapidly- he looked one last time at the village, then at me. "Come on, Kilala. I think I have an idea of where to go. I just hope we reach the place in time." We rushed off.
Somewhere, in the back of my mind, a small part of me was furious about all this.
Mostly the part about how I was running with the woman who had not only decimated most of my team, but had nearly killed me as well.
It didn't take long to silence that voice.
When Team Ice Storm came to Rosedream City, I had chosen it because it was close to a dock. Sadame, as I quickly came to learn, was one of the best places to go to get to other planets in the Estratan Empire. Rosedream City had one of the biggest and busiest docking areas in Sadame.
Perfect for a pair trying to escape.
Or so I thought.
"Guards?!" Kilala pulled me into a building as a man in a red and black guard outfit walked past.
"Working with Riven, obviously." One curious aspect of Riven was that she was incredibly rich. Rich enough to hire her own assassins to take out her enemies.
Yet, she was one of the top 5. The playing cards I mentioned earlier? Razor-sharp sheets of metals designed to look like playing cards. Often they had notes on them, like who the victim was and why they deserved to die.
"She didn't just track you or me. She's thinking ahead." Kilala whispered and I grabbed at the pouch holding my shortened Holy Longinus.
"We're gonna have to fight to get to those ships." Kilala looked at me, stunned.
"Are you nuts?! There's too many!"
"Do you have a better idea?" Silence from her. "Look, I dread it as well, but, if we're gonna escape, we have to get to those ships. So, ready your sword."
"Um, Giovanni?" I turned to look at her and briefly saw the dragon tattoo that outlined her face before I felt her lips on mine. A brief bout of confusion turned into passion. Once we broke off, I couldn't help but smile at her as she retied the mask on her face.
"Now that that's over with, care to explain?" I asked with a chuckle.
"Wanted to give someone a real kiss. If we live through this, can we share another one like that?" She asked.
"If we live? I'll fight a thousand men if it means getting another kiss like that." She actually laughed.
"Right." I slipped out a short stick. "That's your weapon? I've heard about-" As it elongated into its true form as my Holy Longinus, I heard her breath catch.
"Enough gaping, Kilala. On the count of three, we exit and fight to the ships. Doesn't matter which one. Ready?"
" She whispered, her hand pressed against one of the double doors.
" I did the same.
"Three!" We rushed out, weapons at the ready.
I heard the shrieks and knew immediately what was happening. A fight was breaking out between Riven's guards and the top two assassins. I had expected lots of blood and mayhem, but even I was surprised at the blood that the female was covered in. The fact that she was moving with ease told me none of that blood was hers.
But the male
I let out a shudder. He fought with fluidity and grace that told me he'd done this for years. And how he killed the guards put a chill down my spine.
He was a demon. Holy weapons i.e., weapons used by angels- weren't even supposed to be touched by a demon. He held it and fought with it like it didn't even affect him. And if the trident didn't cut and freeze its victims, the touch was enough to leave the guards screaming in agony.
It was working well for them. Then, close to my ship, they were surrounded. Some of the guards were holding mini-flamethrowers.
"Tsuki, need your help here
" I whispered and felt my sister's mental contact.
"What's wron-oh no!" Then I felt the rage from her. And Iris.
"Riven, you screwed up big time." I watched as vines surrounded the guards with flamethrowers, covering them.
And then squeezed. It was like watching pulp being squeezed out of an orange.
"Better get the two on-board before the others come." Iris told me. I nodded.
"Hey, guys! Hurry up!" I called out, startling the two assassins. Neither of them hesitated as they ran to the inside of the ship. I started up the ship to take off and raced down the steps to meet them. To my surprise, the female pulled me into an embrace.
"Thank Iris, you saved our lives." She breathed as the male put a short stick into a pouch on his back.
"No problem. And don't worry about paying for anything. I was
told that you two were coming and made some arrangements."
"What kind of arrangements?" The male asked.
"Um, not much, honestly. I was able to get you in a high-class room, but
there's only one bed. There was no way to get you a room with two beds." I expected to be killed right at that moment. Instead, the female laughed.
"That'll be enough. Right, Giovanni?" He shrugged.
"We'll be fine. I mean, since we're not paying for it, can't really complain. At least Kilala will have a nice bed to sleep on." Kilala looked at him, eyebrow raised.
"And where will you sleep?"
"The floor." Kilala looked at me.
"What is our room number?"
"Um, 204. Can't miss it." She smiled and grabbed Giovanni's arm.
"Thanks, Captain. And you're sleeping with me. Come on." She told Giovanni as they headed up the stairs to the guest rooms.
"What?! Kilala, you can't be-" I heard him arguing with Kilala the entire time as they headed to their room. As I headed to my private room, I felt a warm embrace.
"You did that on purpose." My sister giggled.
"Did what? All I did was ensure their safety." I smiled as she walked next to me.
"There's plenty of rooms on this ship that have two beds."
"Nothing you wouldn't have done, Sabrina." She rolled her eyes.
"True. So, where are you taking them?" She asked.
"Not sure, honestly. Far enough from Sadame that Riven won't find them easily, but close enough to where we can keep an eye on them." I explained.
"Estrata, maybe?" Sabrina suggested. We reached my room and went inside.
"Hell, no. Even if it's chaotic right now, there's no way they'll be safe. Especially because I've picked up people coming from Estrata and they're blaming the princess's death on one of the five assassins. Giovanni and Kilala head there and they're dead." Sabrina looked around.
"I should've asked this sooner, but, this place isn't bugged, is it?"
"Not a chance. I hit this ship with so much electricity that even if Riven could hear our conversation it'd be so garbled and scrambled as to be useless." I explained and watched as Sabrina's hair stood on end. She saw it and frantically tried to brush her hair down.
"I get it! I get it! Knock it off before I burn you, Ethon." Smiling, I made the electricity in the air dissipate. "It'll take me forever to straighten my hair back to normal."
"By the way, I have to ask." Sabrina stopped fiddling with her hair to look at me, "What the hell is Giovanni?"
"What do you mean?"
"He's got a holy weapon. If he's really a demon, how is it not burning his hand off every time he uses it?" I explained, remembering the fight earlier.
not really a demon. He looks like one, but that's really all it is. The reason why Kalle and I are watching him and Kilala is because of who he is."
"And that is?"
"He's Seraph Zel's son. For the most part, he's an angel. But, since he willingly left Celestia, he's not a fallen angel." I heard about types like him. Fallen angels were angels banished to the Netherworld for one reason or another. Types like Giovanni were grouped in with fallen angels because there really wasn't a proper title. Plus, it was rare to leave Celestia for the Netherworld.
But, for a child of the Seraph to leave Celestia willingly?
That was as rare as rare could get.
"...This isn't a one-time thing, is it? Until he gets back to Celestia somehow, we're keeping an eye on him, right?" I demanded.
"Not the entire time." She looked at the wall and smiled, "Wow. I can see a bright thread right now from Room 204."
"Does that mean-" I started to ask, to which my sister put a finger to her mouth.
"It means nothing... for now. If it really glows, you'll know." It was times like this that I wanted to hit her.
Isabelle and Ellen were just asking me where we were going when I heard Artemis screaming.
"Alyssa, if you have a plan, better use it now!" Isabelle screamed and I looked out the door. A massive fire was starting and if I didn't do something, we'd be fried. I looked around for a large area, one that wasn't covered in ice or blazing hot. Finally, I found an area that was safe and traced a quick circle with a glowing finger.
"Come on... come on... open..." I breathed, then felt the blast of cold air.
"Yes! Isabelle, Ellen, come on!" They ran through the portal and I followed just as the fire reached my hut, setting it ablaze. The last thing I saw before the portal instantly closed was a spare pair of pants catching fire. "Well, at least I'm home, so no worrying about pants." I whispered, then relief turned to pain. In my haste, in assuring the portal was closed, I stayed behind. And got a few embers on my arm. "Put me out! Put me out! Put me out!" I screamed, patting at my arm, which made things worse. My arm was already beginning to bleed and water was dripping out.
"Spell of the elements: Water!" A large rain cloud appeared over my head and drenched me in water. At least it put the fire out.
"Thanks, Mom." I whispered, soaked as my hair covered my eyes. Even so, I still saw her walking up to us. For one thing, how many women can wear a forest green flowing dress and look good?
"No problem, Alie. Now, you told me you wouldn't come back until you brought your brother with you. I don't see Gio with you, so what changed?"
"Just as I predicted. Ah, where are my manners? I am Illura, ruler of Eterna." I brushed my hair out of my face and gestured to Isabelle and Ellen.
"Mom, this is Isabelle. And Ellen."
"Pleasure to meet you two. Now, Alie, let's get you inside and dried off so you can explain." Mom turned towards the castle that served as our home. All three of us started to head inside, but Isabelle looked around, a frown on her face.
"So, Giovanni's not here
" She looked heartbroken and I almost wished Giovanni was here just so he could make her feel better.
"He's not dead, that's for certain." Mom said.
"Why? That fire was far too massive. Most of our team was trapped. And I didn't see either Giovanni or Kilala when she sent us to Alyssa." Ellen explained.
"I know neither of them are dead because if that's what it took to kill them, they wouldn't be in the top 5." I stopped walking.
"Top 5? Of what?" At that, Mom started laughing. Loudly. We stopped, confused.
"My gods, are you naďve, Alyssa?! You of all people should know!"
no? I'm not certain what you're talking about." I slowly shook my head.
"The Assassin of Ice. Does that ring a bell?" I had heard that title. Like someone who could wield ice. Someone like
Meaning the warrior's death wasn't accidental. It was to lure him out.
We were targeted.
"Mom, mind if I go with a few soldiers to find Gio?" My fury could've made my blood boil. How many years had he lied to me? And to the entirety of Team Ice Storm?
"No you may not. If you find him, any other assassins hunting him and Kilala will attack all three of you. It's a risk. Giovanni knows how to get here. If he and Kilala find themselves in a dangerous situation, he'll come here."
"It's dangerous enough!" Ellen exclaimed.
"Maybe to any of us, yes. But for now," Mom sighed, "All we can do is hope they return to us alive."
I woke up cold. Confused, I opened my eyes...
And almost shrieked, until memory poked me. Still, my memory hadn't fully returned, so for a moment, I wondered why I was sleeping with my enemy.
"Think back, Kila. Why are you with him? Were you drugged at some point, or-" I thought I was quiet.
"You drugged me so you could burn down my village, killing all but 5 of us. Does that ring a bell or should I go on?" He was half-asleep; it was obvious in his voice. Still, it did its job of cutting through the fog in my brain.
"Now I remember. Question though. What happened last night, in here?" He glared at me, an eye twitching.
"I'd rather not think about that." I chuckled as he turned on his side, trying to block me out.
"That bad?" He turned over to speak, closed his mouth and covered his head with the pillow. "Tell me. Or shall I force it outta you?"
"I'd rather sle- OWW!" His hair was short, but I still managed to grab a handful and force him to sit up. I found myself grateful for my family's natural strength at that moment. A knock on the door made me get out of bed letting go of his hair in the process- and crack open the door just enough to peek out.
"Sorry, did I disturb you?" A woman, probably 3-4 years older than me, stood outside the door.
"We just woke up. But, it's fine." Then it hit me.
I wasn't wearing the mask. She could see the full dragon tattoo that gave me my signature title.
"Ah, I'm terribly sorry! Anyway, I'll make it quick. The captain wants to know if you and your... mate are stopping on Terra Cova. That is his next stop." My eyes widened at that. Terra Cova. My home.
"Yes. Yes we will. Thank you, Miss-"
"Awane. Calcifer Awane. My husband's the captain. Anyway, farewell, Kilala. Good luck on your journey." I almost shut the door, but then turned back to the door, opening it wide.
"Wait! How did you... Know... My... Name...?" She was gone. Shutting the door, I turned to Giovanni, who was still rubbing the back of his head where I had grabbed him by his hair.
"Dare I ask?" He growled.
"Nothing. Anyway, get dressed. We're landing soon."
"Terra Cova. My home. Not likely we'll be recognized there." I began slipping on my pants and tying the belt around my waist.
"And why not? If it's your home, then won't the people there be the first to know about the assassins?"
"It was more my mother than me that made the planet famous." I looked down, knowing the next question.
"Who's your mother?" I took a breath, briefly looking up to see him sitting in a chair, mostly dressed save for the boots.
"Kanashima Shinkawa." I heard the thump of him and the chair falling over. "I figured that would happen. Are you okay?" The brief swearing I heard a minute later answered my question.
"Just my luck that I'd end up with her daughter." I walked over to him, and helped him to his feet. "Thank you. But now, I have to ask. Why are you an assassin? If I've heard correctly, she's got enough influence to ensure you and future generations are safe."
"Simple. I wanted out of her shadow."
"I know that feeling. Well, whenever you're ready, Kilala, we'll head out and wait to land." It didn't take long before the captain indicated that we were landing in Terra Cova's dock.
"Abigail! Nexus!" The two wooden golems that served as my guardians trotted to my side. Sitting up in my hammock, I silenced them with a whisper.
"Someone's coming. Be vigilant." They took off into the woods that hid my home from view. And I jumped up into one of the larger trees, watching for anyone daring to venture near here. I had lived for 50 years; I was planning on living a lot longer.
"Kilala, where is your mother's home? All I see is jung-what the?!" I couldn't help but chuckle at the sound of someone springing one of the many traps that lined my home. Still, curious at hearing my daughter's name mentioned, I moved forward by jumping from tree to tree, my natural Earth affinity giving me a massive advantage.
"Hold still! I'll cut you down! But first, let me grab your spear!" My heart stopped in my throat at seeing who was ensnared.
I had heard rumors of the number one assassin, but had never seen him.
"Kilala, don't touch it! It'll-" Her cry of pain made me jump on top of the branch, right above him.
"And what are you doing with my daughter?" I growled.
"Mom, let me explain! But first, why did your spear hurt my hand?" It looked almost ridiculous seeing him dangling from the rope around his ankle.
"Please let me down and I'll explain as much as I can." Kilala looked at me, pleading. Rolling my eyes, I pulled out a knife and sliced through the rope, snapping it in two. I thought the kid was fast enough to be able to right himself before he hit the ground.
At least he was able to fall flat on his back, while I landed on my feet.
"You okay, Giovanni?" He nodded, and grabbed the stick.
"That's a spear?" I asked.
"Yes." Seeing my look of skepticism, he groaned. "Don't tell me I need to prove it!"
"It would help." I said, crossing my arms. Sighing, he stood to his feet, seemingly clutching the stick tighter. It responded by elongating into a long trident which was covered entirely in ice.
Then I sensed it.
"Away from me! Your kind does not belong here!" He hid it well, but I knew what he really was and it honestly scared me.
"Mom, what are you talking about?" Kilala was terrified and Giovanni was backing away, the spear returning to its shortened form.
"Please don't flip out. As I said, I will try to explain as much as I can. Just let me-" I dug my hands deep into the earth, pulling out a large chunk of earth, rock and grass. "There's no way you're willing to hear me out, is there?"
"I hope you made peace with yourself."
I stood there, holding the chunk, listening for Iris.
He's not the enemy. Listen to his words, both of you, for it will very well protect you.
"But he's-" I said.
I know, but one who has left Celestia willingly. Do not harm him.
"Giovanni, explain yourself. Like why you're here." I said, replacing the chunk back into the earth.
"Like why I'm- Besides the spear, what else gave you the clue that I'm not who I say I am?" Kilala looked at him, surprised.
"Not who you... What was Lady Iris talking about?" Then her eyes widened. "You left... Celestia..." Giovanni sighed.
"Yes, I did. The main reason was I wanted out of my mother's shadow. I couldn't stand the pressure placed on me to follow in her footsteps. So I left Celestia for the Netherworld simply for the freedom it brought me. Of course, I would time it when the Estratan princess died and I became the number one assassin."
"Understandable. But, for curiosity's sake, who is your mother? Some higher-class angel or something?" I asked, crossing my arms.
"Try the highest-class angel. Seraph Zel." As much as I wanted to hurt him, it made sense why he desired freedom. In Celestia, he was probably under more pressure than the Seraph herself. Poor kid.
"Come inside. I'll have Abigail and Nexus lead you past the traps." Kilala avoided the traps with ease; I'd trained her too well.
"Abigail? Nexus?" Abigail stomping by with Giovanni under her arm had to be the funniest thing I've seen in a long time.
"I am incredibly glad no one else can see this." I heard him grumbling. Once we reached my home, Abigail lowered Giovanni before trotting off.
"Humiliating, yes. But it beats triggering any more traps, correct?" I asked. He refused to look at me, instead looking to the skies.
"Or was this too embarrassing for your prideful self?" Kilala nudged him slightly.
"Guys, please be silent." As Kilala and I fell silent, wondering what he was hearing or sensing, he stood there, eyes closed. "We've got a problem. Looks like Riven hired some extra help." His eyes opened wide and he looked toward Terra Cova's docking area miles away.
"Like who? Who could she possibly hire?" Kilala demanded.
"Sai and Aristotle." He shuddered, but to my surprise, Kilala fell to her knees, tears forming in her eyes.
"Not them. Not those two. Anyone but those two nightmares
" She cried out.