I'm having dinner at a restaurant near the hotel where I'm temporarily staying, watching my target stuff his mouth with more food than should be physically possible. His name is Gerald Anderson, and he is among those who presume to call themselves The Council of The People, a group formed under the pretense of advising this once great kingdom's leader, a boy of twelve, on how to rule. In actuality, they feed him lies about the happiness of the people, telling him how content we are and how his wisdom inspires us, oppressing us all the while. The nobles who support them are allowed to do as they please with us common folk. It's been a long time since we were considered more than cattle. To them, we are no longer human. Anyone who opposes The Council mysteriously disappears, or absolute proof about a crime they've committed gets discovered, the king remaining non the wiser. How exactly do they succeed in taming the many? Aro, the puppeteer pulling the king's strings and the leader of The Council has the power to control minds. Only a few possess the capacity for magic, and even fewer can use it to such an extent. To even be capable of using it, you would require a power stone. There are many kinds of those, but few fall into the hands of sorcerers, which is the only time they have real value. Instead, they're mostly worn by nobility as accessories. Gerald gets up and goes over to the bar, so I get up and follow him. The only way around the guards that are constantly with him is for him to willingly dismiss them, which only happens when he's having sex. It's one of the least kept secrets in the kingdom that he prefers men much younger than himself, so I'm qualified to get him alone. I sit on the opposite end of the circular bar from him, making sure he can see me. I smile and pulled the golden chain out from underneath my shirt and put it on display; A known symbol pleasure houses use to make it easier for their employees to be identified. It takes the old lecher less than ten seconds to notice it, and he smiles at me, revealing a set of disgusting, yellow teeth. I smile at him playfully, then add a wink, and he's hooked. Strutting over like he's the best thing since bread, he puts his hand on top of mine. "I couldn't help but notice how lonely you look, boy." The words nearly make me sick. "How would you like to keep an old man some company?" I turn to look at him. "I have to warn you, sir; I'm wildly expensive." He gives out a hearty laugh. "You let me worry about that, boy. I am one of the richest men in the kingdom, after all." "Oh?" I smile dumbly. "I had no idea I was in such esteemed company." "Take me to your brothel, boy." he orders, all playfulness gone. "It's quite a bit away. Perhaps we could use my room instead?" I offer. "It's in that hotel right across the street." "Fine. Fine." he waves his hand dismissively. "So long as you keep your mouth shut, I'll make it worth your while." I take him by the hand and start leading him toward the place where he would meet his end. We slowly go up the stairs as I prepare the key, and as soon as we enter, he slams the door shut and kisses me. I close my eyes and let him do what he thinks we're here to do. It's disgusting, but it's why I'm here. He pushes me back towards the bed, then climbs on top of me. He smells like gin and shit, and you never would have assumed he was a noble at that moment. As his hand gets closed to my groin, my hand gets closer to the knife I have hidden in the right sleeve of my jacket. I sit up and kiss him deeply enough for him to close his eyes, then strike. He never gets the chance to scream, as the blade pierces his windpipe. Blood spurts all over me after I pull it out. The disgusting old man brings his hands to his neck, trying to stop the bleeding, but I can tell from the look in his eyes he knows he's going to die. He falls on top of me, still thrashing. I lie there until his lifeless body finally comes to a stop, then push him to the ground. I'm surprised he doesn't fall through the floor. I take out the onyx in my possession - the power stone that lets one control the dead to a certain agree - and guide its power all over his body. Within moments, Gerald Anderson completely decays, then turns into dust, leaving no trace behind. "Ave Tyr." His death marks the twenty fourth life I've taken, and the first councilor the Rebellion has struck down. I ruffle my hair and crumple my clothes, making it look like we went through with the services he expected of me, then wait in the room for fifteen minutes. Once it's done, I walk out of the hotel and head toward one of my partners in this city. It's easy for a sorcerer to track down a sorcerer whose power they're used to, as each of us gives off a unique signature. I'm not surprised in the least to find her in a tavern, drinking ale and cheating a bunch of suckers in poker. This has gotten her into her fair share of trouble in the past. Her small build, big blue eyes and innocent demeanor make it impossible for strangers to tell how formidable she is. "En," I say as soon as I walk through the door. "Let's go." She gets up the table, stocking her usually empty bras with the cash of her fallen opponents, an idiotic grin on her face. "Ah, well. It's been nice knowin' ya fellas," she winks at them. "Thanks for my new horse, and dress, and house and everythin' else. Love ya!" The people of this town are under the impression that we're twins, despite the fact that I'm tall, tanned and dark haired, while she's short, blonde and pale. How, you ask? Simple. En is one of the best illusionists in the entire kingdom - certainly the greatest one I've met - and she's glamoured herself to appear a certain way in the eyes of the magicless. That, combined with my unique ability to sense a person's desires, makes us effective at infiltration and assassination. "Did you really gamble while I risked my life?" I ask, and she does her best to imitate an innocent smile. "We'll need the money to get to the capital, right?" She's not wrong. Nareth is our next destination, where the rest of the council members will be killed. They're far from the biggest threat to us, but the people they surround themselves with will be tough to get through. "How much did you use?" She cocks her head. "Anything we should worry about?" "No," I shake my head. "Just to get rid of the body. I'll probably just get a nosebleed." It was the way of power stones. Nothing came without a price with them. The use of an onyx means your body will start bleeding some time the following day. The more you use it, the more blood comes out. It's even possible to die from it, which is why a lot of sorcerers steer clear of the stones. Not everyone is lucky enough to have that choice. Without them, we wouldn't stand a chance against some of the kingdom's higher ranking sorcerers. "That's good," she says as we walk past the town limits. "I'd hate to have to get a new partner so soon." Just another perk of being in this line of work. People died left and right. It was better to avoid getting attached to anyone. You never know when your grief and the anger that comes with it might hinder you. "You got our masks on you? It would seriously suck to get on a wanted poster." I nod, taking them out of my bag. Mine is black, with the lower part of it stretch forward in a beak, which earned me the codename Raven within Tyr. En's is is white, resembling a swan. "I still don't understand why birds are given to assassins," I confess. "How exactly are birds murderous?" "Ain't about that." She shakes her head, her annoyingly constant smile on her face. "Birds can fly anywhere, which means they can infiltrate anything. That's what it's supposed to be about, anyhow." We finally get to an empty well, and I can't wait to get out of this awful desert town. I've got sand in places I wasn't even aware sand could physically reach. "You've got it?" She nods, then pulls out a small flask out of her own bag and starts pouring its contents into the well. Instead of water, a green liquid comes out and starts swirling in the air at the top of the well. Within seconds, she's created us a portal. "Ladies first," I offer, but she just scoffs. "I'm no lady. Not anymore." Suit yourself, then. I jump into the well and watch the lower part of my body disappear into the swirling vortex. I emerge from the main portal back at HQ, a large, underground fortress. As I step out of the large well, one of the keepers, a blonde boy around ten years younger than me, bows respectfully. "What did I say about doing that, Hasta?" I shake my head as the words leave my mouth. "You're not my butler." "It is the way of-" "It's the way of your people. Blah blah." I wave him off. "Yeah, I get it. But you're not with your people right now, kid." He's an Enian, the same race as En is. Their basic characteristics are blonde hair, blue eyes and pale skin. Whenever they're captured by the king's men, they typically get turned into sex slaves, as blonde hair is pretty rare in the capital. "You don't see En doing that, do you?" Almost as if she'd hear me, my partner comes out of the portal. "Manners are bullshit." Hasta nearly faints as he hears the words. The two don't get along well, mostly because he's proud of his people, whereas she couldn't care less. I can't say I blame him. He has nothing else in this world, just like the rest of us; No family, no friends, no home. He'll learn how little our former lives matter during his stay here, which I hope won't be as short as most of them. I actually like the boy. He's got hidden spunk. "I wasn't gonna bow to you, anyway," he says, making me chuckle as En frowns. "Have you no respect for your elders?" "You're two years older than me." "Exactly! I'm your elder!" I walk away before they can force me to take sides. "Go report to the boss, will ya?" I throw over my shoulder, then leave the room. What I'm about to do might not be particularly professional, but being a assassin really makes one tense. I need a drink, and more. It doesn't take me long to get where I plan on getting both, since I've been here for over two years now, and know the fortress just about as well as one could. I knock on the door, and a brown haired girl slightly younger than me opens. Her green eyes light up at the sight of me, and she throws her arms around my neck, then kisses me deeply. I push her inside, taking my shirt off as soon as the door closes. We're both already used to each other's bodies, so there's no shyness. If you can die at any moment, you might as well live life to the fullest. She stripes completely nude, but I don't do anything to remove my pants; She prefers to do that part. In fact, she's really hands-on, which isn't that common for women. Most of the ones I've been with only lied there, expecting me to know what they want me to do without even telling me. "Nice to see you, too, Ry," I can't help but smirk as I say it. Our relationship isn't romantic in the least. Actually, I think she might even be my best friend here, not that there's much competition. We both know what the other likes, and we give it them. It's as simple as that. Getting emotionally attached would only cause us pain when the other inevitably dies. "No talking." She pushes me down on her bed, then climbs on top of me, leaning down to kiss me again. She brings my hands up to the headboard and ties them to it with her sheet. "When we're done here, you'll be begging me to let you finish." She's probably mad I was given the latest mission instead of her. She's one of the birds, too - a peacock, to be exact. She's personally wanted to kill Anderson because of what his men did to her family, but the boss cared more about the mission than our personal feelings, which is what a boss should be like. The only reason I was chosen over Ry is because of the old man's preference for men. I'm well aware she's incapable of making me beg. After fifteen minutes of her bouncing up and down, she gets off and stares at me, sulking silently. "You know you want this even more than I do," I say, smirking as her resolve crumbles away. She undoes the bindings around my hands, and I flip us over, then get to doing my share of the work. By the time we're done, which isn't that long, she's pouting. "Only because you were gone for three whole days, Kol." I'd tell you I'm surprised, but that would be an outright lie. Most days here I have to avoid staying in the same room for more than a few minutes, lest I risk her finding me and dragging me away. Now, sure, we aren't romantically involved, and it's not that I don't want to hurt her feelings out of the goodness of my heart, but that any grudge she might hold against me as a result of defiance could come back to bite us both in the middle of a mission, which is a dangerous time to be bitten in the ass. "This seemed like something you'd like, by the way," she says, taking a book out of the drawer of her bedside counter. Oh crap, we're at the point where we give each other things. "We aren't at the point where we give each other things, by the way." Oh, well nevermind then. "Some rich guy bought it for me while I flirted with him. It's interesting. The main character is a sorcerer." "What?" That's a surprise. Sure, everyone was aware sorcery existed, but we were discriminated against. Sorcerers have no legal rights, and we're often executed just for existing. The main religion of this kingdom - the one which worships the god called Anesh - is against everything supernatural, despite the fact that gods are also supernatural. It makes about as much sense as every other religion. It's a surprise to learn someone was bold enough to write about sorcery and then publish the book. If the author isn't careful, he could be persecuted. I take the book from Ry and take the cover in. "The Sorcerer's Vengeance by Eliza Drucelli," I read out loud. "A woman wrote this? I'm guessing they already killed her." It's one of those places where women couldn't legally own money, and where they were mostly expected to just marry rich men and have them be the providers. Honestly, we're in the fourth century. They should stop acting like we're still back in the Seison times. "Nope." Ry is smiling smugly. "She uses magic, too. Gave a guy a fake name and made him copy the book she wrote, then distribute it throughout the kingdom. She gave the guards a slip and is still at large. The guy she used is the one who got killed for it." I'm probably supposed to say something like 'poor guy', but I have no pity to spare on strangers. "Feel free to stay here and read," she adds. "I'm heading out now." "Mission?" "Yep." I don't tell her goodbye. If you do that, then your business with the person is done. They have no obligation to come see you again, and I don't want that. I don't want anything about this to be final, so I settle for another choice of words. "Good luck." She nods, a grim expression on her face, then steps out of the room. I stare at the closed door for several minutes, assuring myself she'll be fine, and that even if she doesn't make it, it wouldn't affect me. Finally, I open the book and start reading. The story is about a young boy named John, who discovers he's a sorcerer. A neighbor sees him create fire one night, so the royal militia is called to take him away. His parents and older sister try to protect him, but end up being killed in the process, so he swears revenge against the kingdom. He ends up joining a gang full of members with a similar goal to his. They all want to bring about change. Hours pass as I read through it, feeling extremely uneasy. The book is nearly an identical copy of my life, from my family to the Rebellion. Who could the author actually be? Eliza Drucelli, I'm going to find you.
You would probably assume the boss of the Rebellion of Tyr to be some sort of unstoppable warrior badass. Truth be told, he might actually turn out to be powerful, but the old man prefers to go about everything the peaceful way - if possible, that is. I knock on the door of the boss's office and enter without waiting for permission. He shakes his head softly, already used to my lack of fucks to freely hand out. "You wanted to see me, boss?" "Yes," he says. "Also, please don't call me that. We are in this together. At least, if you won't call me by my first name, use Shimura as the replacement." He keeps his eyes closed the entire time. Being a gifted sensor, it's not as much of a burden as it might be for anyone else. "Yeah, sure." I stop myself from rolling my eyes, since he deserves more respect than that. "What's the mission?" He smiles softly, and someone else knocks. "Come in, Hasta." The boy in question opens the large door and peeks his head in. Truth be told, I'm surprised he can even push it open, considering how small and skinny he is. His shoulders aren't all that wide, either. He claims to be fourteen, but I wouldn't put him over twelve. "What did you want to see me about, Mr Shimura?" People are always more formal when they're nervous, and being formal typically just makes the person you're being formal towards more nervous. It's not just a waste of time, but an actual liability. I prefer being casual. "Kol, I want you to take Hasta to any small town we have a portal in, then teach him how to handle himself in real life situations," the old man says, and I mentally groan. Sure, I like the boy enough, but he doesn't seem all that competent, which means I'm about to like him a whole lot less. "Use any method you deem fit," he adds, and I give the kid an evil grin, then throw an arm around his shoulder. "C'mon, let's see what you're made of." I know what he really wants me to do; Teach the boy what it's like to take a life. We don't have a lot of time to train new recruits, so they mostly have to learn on the job. If they die, that just means they weren't strong enough to bring about any meaningful change. It doesn't take us long to walk to the well, which functions differently from the one back in that shitty sand filled hellhole. The well there only leads back to this one, the source of the portals we use. This one, however, can send us toward any transportation well we've marked with our runes. All I need to do is carve the rune of the well I wish to go to, and the portal will connect to it. The carving itself will disappear within minutes, since the well uses its own magic to repair itself. We wouldn't be half as successful as we are without it. "Any requests, Hasta?" I ask, and he shakes his meekly. Alright then. His first lesson will be to ditch his shyness. If you want something, demanding it will work most of the time. He'll learn to make his own choices after this. I take a knife out of my coat and carve the rune for Memphis into it. We emerge from the well on the other side, and the boy pales as he realizes where we are. "But why here?" "'Cause you need to toughen up," I reply. Memphis is a town where thieves thrive. Everyone who has stolen goods to sell comes here and sets up a tent. Since they're surrounded by other thieves, they use enchanted items as security. For example, you can't leave a tent with something you've not paid for. Well, unless you happen to be a sorcerer who can counter the tents' power. "Alright," I clap him on the back, making the boy stumble. "Steal anything from any of the tents. We aren't going back until you do. I'll be acting as a member of the royal militia afterward, meaning you'll have to get away from me." Hasta's eyes widen. "But how? You're a shadow weaver. I can't fight that." "I didn't say you're supposed to fight me," I elaborate. "I said you're supposed to get away from me. Steal an item worth stealing, then make sure I don't find you for a full hour, after which you have to come to the well without me noticing you. I won't be anywhere near the well, so the only thing you have to make sure of is not to run into me in the town. If I catch you, as you've already assumed, I'll mop the floor with you, and you'll have to steal all over again." He shrinks back, worry evident in his eyes. Good. Be worried. "Also, if any of them catch you stealing, they'll kill you. Now beat it before I do it myself." He yelps, but turns around and runs into town. What a silly little fella. He didn't even hear me say the conditions under which he would fail - he can't fail, by the way - so why's he so nervous? Besides, it takes experience to be able to slip something out of the tents here. He should be messing up right about..... "Get back here, you little shit!" Yep, called it. I disappear down into my shadow, which then starts moving toward the source of the noise with incredible speed. Umbral magic is taxing, sure, but once you get the hang of it, it can act as a second limb. When I reach the tent Hasta chose, I slip in from under it and watch the show. Four large men have him trapped in a corner, each of them wielding a blade. Quite pathetic of them, really. Imagine a pack of wolves teaming up to take down a puppy. "I-I'm sorry," Hasta says. "I'll put it back, so please leave me alone." His voice is laced with worry rather than fear, which is pretty odd. One of the men sneers. "Yeah, right. You steal from us, you lose your head. Those are the rules. Take 'im, boys." The one with a curved blade steps forward, a distasteful smile on his face. "Hey, boss," he starts "mind if we play with this one first? Such a cutey might even fetch a nice price." Hasta's eyes widen even further at that, and he starts shaking uncontrollably, tilting his head to the right so much a bit of his hair falls over his left eye. He stares at the curved blade in the brute's hand. "Good idea," the man from before speaks again. "A pretty thing like you might even be the best whore of Nareth some day. Take him, boys." Suddenly, the man who stepped forward stabs himself in the neck. No, that's not it. I look at Hasta again, and he finally notices me, his face a complete blank. Talk about a one-eighty. He's a gifted weapon waver, which means his magic lets him control steel, and if he works on it, he'll even be able to create steel out of thin air. The man didn't stab himself; Hasta willed the blade into his throat. There you go, boy. You're learning fast. "What the-" the boss starts, but before he can get a full sentence out, a short chain rips itself from around Hasta's neck and heads for the man's own. Non magic folk aren't that good at predicting the moves of sorcerers, or at keeping up with us. The man drops the two knives he's holding and tries to remove the chain, with little success. His face starts turning purple while the remaining two idiots just stare in disbelief. In one swift move, the chain snaps the man's neck, killing him instantly. "You're so rude," Hasta says as the two knives his victim had fly toward him, allowing him to catch them. The men start walking backwards, so I move my shadow form out of the way. Regular shadows may be immune to physical harm, but making myself intangible that way would deplete my reserves of power. "P-Please," one of them starts, his voice trembling like that of a child begging his parent to stop spanking him. "He made us, s-so can't you just let us-" He never gets the chance to finish. Rather than use the knives in his hands, Hasta controls the entirety of the shop's arsenal. Every single sword, knife, axe and spear goes through the men, painting half of the tent an eerie crimson. Before I can even tell the kid he did a good job, he turns around and sprints away. Lovely, now I really have to catch him. I emerge from the shadow and put my mask on, glancing at the bodies piling in the shop. They're just thieves, so someone'll probably assume one of the other merchants here killed them. With my luck, the militia might just add them to Raven's list of victims. Since they have no clue who most of us are without our masks on, they've decided to keep info on our masked selves. To the council, the king and Aro, I only exist as Raven, a sorcerer who manipulates shadows who's killed nineteen of their own. Of course, the five I didn't include are the ones they haven't been able to pin on me. Please tell me the kid was smart enough to put his own mask on. I'm about to step out when I hear something crash behind me. Turning around, I see a skinny, pale guy around my age on the floor, his hands held in front of him in defense. He's wearing form-fitting black pants, and a black trench coat, making his bright red shoes stand out. "Please! I didn't see your face, I promise," he says, shaking his head hard enough to make his long-ish black hair wave about. "I'll just turn around and be on my way." He stands up and tries to walk away, but I wrap his shadow around his right foot, holding him in place. "You must've heard the commotion," I say, taking a step toward him. "Why'd you come investigate if you're too scared to actually do anything?" I walk around him so that we're face to face again, and I'm surprised by the dark reds of his eyes. "I just figured they dropped something and came to help!" He raises his hands in surrender. "Honest! Oh, please don't kill me, mister Raven." He realizes his mistake as soon as I do. Only an official knight would know to call me that. I pull my knife out and make a slashing motion toward his throat, but he falls back and lands on his ass, making my attack miss. "Please," he says, still trembling. "I'm just an apprentice!" I'm not just if his move just now was on purpose or a coincidence. Something about him is definitely fishy. I wrap more shadows around his body, binding him to the ground. "Don't do this! I have a wife and kids!" His eyes start watering, and I can't help but feel pity for him. Not because of the wife and kids nonsense - everyone tries that trick. It's because he's so incredibly pathetic. "Ok, if you do end up killing me, please find the family of Leonidas Aberconway and send them flowers." I groan and make the shadows' hold tighten. "Stop talking. I'm thinking." So far, every life I've taken deserved to be taken. Those who spill innocent blood have no place in a rebellion that opposes those who spill innocent blood. Do I kill this man so he can't spread the word of Raven being in Memphis, permanently staining my soul, or do I let him live and risk it all? I raise my knife, still unsure of what to do. "I don't wanna die a virgin," he blurts out, and my mind is all but made up. "I thought you said you had kids." He starts darting his eyes from side to side, clearly trying to find the right words to use. Honestly, how'd someone like this make it as a knight? He smiles then, suddenly as calm as possible. One second he's there, and the next he's gone. I whirl around, trying to see if he teleported, but he's not in the tent anymore. The sound of a suit of armor hitting the ground catches my attention, and I see Leonidas standing there, a surprised look on his face. "I barely touched it." I groan, then throw the blade at him, which he dodges by taking a clumsy step back. I pull out two more and throw those, too, but he trips over the fallen armor and they go through the tent's canvas. Thankfully, no one from outside screams, which means I probably didn't murder anyone. "Can't we talk this out peacefully?" He's back to being nervous. I spread my shadow into five ropes, which I hurl at him. Just as they're about to hit, he falls through the ground. There's no hole or hidden door or anything. He simply goes through the floor. That must be what he did the first time. A sorcerer. "That's my Leo slip," he whispers into my ear, standing right behind me. I take out one of my last three knives and whirl around, but he's already on the other side of the tent. "I'm gonna trip you up now, by the way." With that, he runs straight out of the tent, screaming like a banshee. "Help! A scary man inside the tent touched my butt! I'm defiled!" What an asshole. Still, if he has more knights here with him, I better run and get Hasta. I hope the idiot hasn't gotten himself into more trouble. Disappearing back into my shadow, I start dashing across the town, going from building to building, alley to alley, trying to find the kid. After a few minutes, using magic becomes too exhausting, so I leave the shadow and remove my mask, placing it back in my- My bag is gone. How? When? Oh, back at the tent. "That fucker!" I kick the nearest trash can, knocking it over. I expect trash to fall out of it, and, in a way, it does. Hasta rolls straight out of the bin, holding unto the two knives he recently claimed as though his life depended on it. "Hi," he says, frowning up at me. "How'd you find me?" I'm not sure whether to kiss him or stab him in the neck, but I'm sure I'm glad he's here. "Militia. We gotta go." He stands up and dusts himself off. "They deserved it," he says, and I know exactly what he means. The men he killed are haunting him, not as spirits, but as memories. "They did," I assure him. "They were gonna kill me." "They were." The words do little to calm him down, which is to be expected. After my first kill, I wasn't able to eat for a week, and nothing anyone told me helped at all. Most people don't know how to use words properly; They just use them. The world would be better if people were only capable of speaking after they thought about it for ten minutes. Still, he's a lot tougher than I was back then. He'll pull through. I put a hand on his shoulder, then do something I hardly ever do; I praise him. "Good work." He nods halfheartedly, then turns around and starts walking, and I follow him. We calmly walk along the streets, trying to draw as little attention as possible. At the very least, he seems to have enough sense to do that without my guidance. They grow up so fast. Just a chapter ago, he was arguing over manners. Just as we walk past a building, someone walks into me. "'Scuse me," the person says, and I both freeze and cringe when I recognize the voice. It's the asshole, and he doesn't have my bag. He smiles at me, then leans in a bit too far. "Why hello there, cutie-pie." Oh fuck no. "No," I tell him, trying to lower my voice a pitch or two so he can't recognize me. "I have a wife and kids." Suck it, asshole. His smile falters, and he sighs. "All the good ones are taken." Thankfully, he walks away. When he's out of earshot, I answer the question in Hasta's eyes. "Royal sorcerer." He nods without saying a word, and we're back to walking toward the well. I'm so busy thinking about how the kid's gonna be handling this a few days from now that I don't even pay attention to where we're walking and instead just follow him. After a good half an hour, the blue eyed buy turns around and looks at me, a small, forced smile on his face. "I have absolutely no idea where I'm going." I flick his forehead. "Idiot." Now that I have the lead, it takes us only another half an hour to unwrap the mysteries of the maze created by his lack of geographical orientation skills, and we're finally back at the well. It is only now that I realize my bag isn't with me, and my portal flask is in my bag, and the asshole has it. "Stay here," I order Hasta, who becomes more alert. "Don't let anyone near the well. Kill them if you have to. If I'm not back in a day, I'm dead." With that, I turn around and run back into Memphis. Leonidas Aberconway, you're a dead man.
I spend two full hours running around Memphis like a headless idiot. I go from tent to tent, check every single one of the town's many abandoned buildings, and even go through all the brothels. I don't find the smirking asshole until I reach the cathedral on the opposite side of the town from the well. There are two royal knights guarding the front, which can only mean someone important - like a royal sorcerer - is inside. Leonidas didn't strike me as particularly religious, but I know better than to judge a book by its cover. The red sun painted on the giant doors lets me know they worship Anesh in this place, and I've met enough of his moronic followers to know what their customs are like. I walk up to the guards and greet them. "Malio Anesh." Loosely translated, it means 'praise Anesh'. "Malio Anesh," the older of the two replies, then takes out a white moonstone. It's the only power stone anyone is capable of using, regardless of whether they're a sorcerer or not. It has no use in combat, but it's useful for situations like this, as the stone can be used to sense whether there's magic in someone or not. "Clear," the guard says, then points to the door with his thumb, and his partner opens it for me. Shadow magic is the only exception to the sensory rule. For whatever reason, the stone doesn't work against umbramancers. This is one of the reasons I'm so important to the Rebellion; The palace where the king and Aro live is filled with guards, each of whom has a moonstone of his own. The only one of us who can get close enough to Aro to strike is me, which is why the boss hates sending me on dangerous missions. In fact, he probably put me on training duty just to keep me away from anything too dangerous. I can't wait to tell him how safe this whole thing is. I walk into the cathedral and see Leonidas kneeling in front of the altar at the far end. It's just the two of us in here. Under any other circumstances, I'd already be attacking him, but I've never encountered an ability like his before, so I decide to play it carefully. His head perks up when he hears the doors close, and he turns around to smile at me. "Oh, it's the hottie." Honestly, I've had worse than him. "Had a change of heart after learning I'm a knight?" "Not at all," I reply, walking toward him. "I wasn't aware you would be here." I'm so full of shit. "I'm just here to say my daily prayers." "What a coincidence," he says, his stupid smile widening. "So am I." He's so full of shit. He might've acted like a clumsy idiot back at the tent, but that doesn't mean he isn't dangerous. I can't shake the feeling of him merely presenting himself as a silly bumblebee, hiding the wasp beneath. "Care to join me?" "You remember my previous answer, right?" I kneel down when I reach the altar. "Oh, it's nothin' like that," he defends, raising his hands, which must be something of a quirk to him. "I wouldn't dream of defiling the place of our lord and savior, Anesh." I give him a side glance. "Aren't you a bit too thin to be a knight?" He chuckles softly, then holds up a glove covered hand. I try to sense what he wants from me, but get nothing from his mind. It's like both physical and mental attacks go through him. The glove falls through his hand and lands on the floor, followed by his black coat, revealing a black t-shirt. "Pretty cool, right?" I nod, trying to lower his guard. "But... isn't sorcery forbidden to the people of Anesh?" He's either stupid enough to show it in public, or there's a good reason to not be scared. "Quite so," he says. "Good thing I'm not a man of god." His smile widens. "And neither are you, Raven." I jump back instantly, avoiding the knife he tried to slit my throat with. I take out my own and throw it at him, an action he mimics. The two weapons meet each other mid-air and clatter away, landing on the floor. I take out my last blade, and a look of panic crawls unto his face. I take one step forward. "Why would you work for an asshole like Aro?" Another step. "Sorcerers don't owe the people of Shura a damn thing." He tries to take a step back, but trips on his own foot and lands on his ass. I know better than to think it was accidental. "P-Please stop there," he says, voice trembling. "Don't make me kill you." The ways he says the last sentence sends chills down my spine. His voice shifts to a completely different tone, and all traces of emotion leave him. I might as well be looking at a doll. "Oh yeah?" I smirk, making it seem like I'm getting ahead of myself. "And how will you do that? Pass through me?" It's a decent enough of a taunt attempt, but it's not enough to rile him. Rather than respond verbally, he points a finger at me - or something behind me. I jump to the side just in time to avoid a blast of fire, which then engulfs Leonidas instead. A brown haired man in either his late twenties or early thirties is standing there, wearing the same black armor as all members of the royal militia do. "For the nineteen people who've fallen to you, Raven, I'm about to get revenge," he says, deep voice filling the cathedral. There's a ring on his left hand, a ruby on top of it, which explains the earlier fire. "So rude, Cassie," Leonidas says, stepping out of the smoke unharmed. "That could've hurt me for real, y'know." "You'll live." With that, he throws a melon-sized ball of fire at me, which I dodge by jumping to the side and landing on one of the benches people would normally sit on. The knight repeats his attack, and I dodge it the same way. This time, however, he uses his other hand to throw a fireball directly where I'll land. I point my fist at the ceiling, and a long shadowy rope flies out of it and connects, then reels me in, lifting me out of harm's way. "Oooh, so cool", Leonidas comments, awe-struck. I can't help but roll my eyes at him. "Are you daft?" He merely shrugs at the inquiry. "There's certainly a theory or two about it." Fuck this. The knight I only know as Cassie clasps his hands together, and a much larger ball of flame appears above him. It's easily bigger than a carriage. Despite the cathedral now being full of black smoke, I can clearly see them both. When you work as an assassin for five whole years, you tend to get used to seeing in the dark, and this doesn't quite compare to that. "Begone, rebel scum!" He throws the attack at me as he screams, so I enter my shadow and move a lot faster than his fire, travelling across the ceiling and to the wall on the side. His attack blows a hole in the ceiling, which is gonna be a good escape route once this is done. I move beneath the benches, making sure they can't see me, and emerge from the shadow once I'm behind the knight. I stab at the back of his head, but a hand comes out of it and catches my wrist. "Close one," Leonidas says as he fully steps through the man. "Gotta be careful with shadow weavers, Cassie. Can't drop your guard." His extremely infuriating smile is in place. "Good thing we have the Leo pass." I frown slightly. "I thought it was the Leo slip?" He rubs the back of his head awkwardly. "Oh, yeah. Well, see, thing is I'm still working on-" I don't wait for him to finish. I stomp my foot down unto his shadow, which then bursts out as a wave of darkness, consuming them both. As expected, Leonidas walks out of it without a scratch, but the other guy is down on his knees once the spell is over, clutching his head. Shadows can be used to crush someone's body, sure, but letting darkness consume their minds is far more cruel, which also makes it far more powerful and far more exhausting. I throw look at the discarded coat on the floor and see my bag is inside of it, so instead of continuing what would surely be a losing battle for me, I slip back into my shadow and quickly move to the coat, then get out again, taking the bag along the way. "That was so rude," the smirking asshole comments, shaking his head. "I'll have to punish you with my Leo jab." He jumps at me, preparing to swing his fist. The other knight is recovering, too, so I decide to cut my losses. Before the punch can hit me, I shoot a rope of shadow at the hole in the ceiling, which then brings me closer to it. While still in the air, I release the spell and fire another rope at a tall building near the church, then bring myself toward it. The combo only took me about three seconds, so the knights shouldn't be able to catch up. Just in case, I enter my shadow one last time, nearly ready to collapse from exhaustion, and I speed toward Hasta and the well. As soon as I'm there, I toss him the bag, then fall down on my knees. "Are you ok?" He walks up to me, kneeling down to inspect me. "You don't look hurt." "Portal.." I breathe out, and he nods, then throws the liquid in. Within moments, we have ourselves a vortex. Before we can go in, however, Leonidas slips out of the ground, standing behind Hasta. The asshole has the nerve to smile and wave at me. When Hasta notices him, he doesn't look scared at all. Instead, he just looks surprised. "What're you doing here, Leo?" Hold the fuck up. Hasta knows this clown? "Hiya," the asshole greets, looking at me the entire time. "Sorry about that. I just wanted to see what the great Raven could do in a realistic scenario." What? What's he talking about? I really don't like this guy. He steps aside and gestures toward the well. "Shall we, comrades?" "You know him?" I give Hasta an annoyed look. Please tell me he's just an old friend. "Yeah," the boy replies. "He's the one who recruited me for the Rebellion. Why?" "He's a knight." I point at the asshole. "He literally just tried to kill me, with some help of his militia buddy. There's no way he's with us." "Oh, that," the asshole starts, still smiling. "I'm stationed at the capital. As the second seat of Tyr, I am technically your superior." I throw a knife at him, which passes right by his head. "Or not. Your call. Your call," he panics. I don't trust him, but I think I trust Hasta, so I let the two of them go through the well first, then follow after. Once we're on the other side, I put a hand on Hasta's shoulder. "You passed, by the way. Congrats." His eyes light up like a cat's when it sees a box. "Really!? Thank you!" He throws his arms around me. Ugh. "Thank you so much, sir." "How about none of that," I say, peeling his hands away. "Also, don't call me sir. I'm not that old." I point my final knife at Leonidas. "I'll tell the boss how everything went. You go do whatever it is you do when you're free." I've got some questions for the smirking asshole, too, a sentence perfectly made known by the knife. Hasta runs off, as energetic as any normal kid his age would be after getting his first kiss, though his worries and duties far outweigh those of regular folk. Oh, well. Life's not fair. "You wanna confirm if I'm really a rebel with Mr Shimura, right?" Leonidas gives a salute, a serious look on his face. "As you wish, sir!" "You're a right fine cunt, you know that?" I take a step forward. "Just move. You should know the way." He sighs, but turns around and heads toward the office. "Call me Leo, by the way." "I think I prefer Mr Cunt." "But you're the one being mean!" "This knife'll be mean to your asshole 'less you keep moving those chicken legs." He glances down, but continues to walk. "My legs aren't skinny.." he mutters, and I really, really wanna stab him. "Oh, hello, Ry." I lean my head to look past him. Sure enough, she's back from her mission, a small scar on her right cheek, but otherwise unhurt. "Oh, hey," she says. "I see you two have met." She grins at me, and I know what she's about to say, so I answer beforehand. "Maybe later," I tell her, gesturing toward the skinny asshole with my knife. "I've got a few questions about this guy." She crosses her arms, a small pout on her lips. "If it's about how someone as annoying as him got in, I can answer that much. He may not look it, but he's pretty strong, Kol. Only Mr Shimura is above him." She gestures toward the knife. "That thing can't hurt him, and he's more than capable of escaping you. You're really just wasting time." "Besides," the asshole interjects. "Mr Shimura is expecting me to report on everything I've learned as a proud member of the militia." He throws a smile at me over his shoulder. "Which you're not eligible to know." He sticks his tongue out. Holy mother of.... "Fuck it then!" I throw my hands in the air, then turn around and start walking. "Done with this shit." It's one of the healthiest things for your mental state you can do; Announcing you're done with shit. The other healthiest thing is telling someone to fuck off. Before I can get far, the ground beneath me turns into sand, into which I start sinking. "What the hell, Ry?" She undoes it, bringing me back up on solid ground. "Sorry," she says. "But Mr Shimura does want a report on the baby you tested, and wants the two of us plus En to be there." She sighs. "No breaks for us. The man's a slave driver." I frown, but follow after her, doing my best not to think of the idiot as I walk past him. Honestly, what could the boss be thinking? Sending one of us in as a spy is dangerous enough as it is, but choosing a joker like him? Not only that, but he doesn't trust me enough to hear about it? Why is everyone but me aware of him? I'm our third-or, well, fourth now- best. I deserve to know. "Don't let him get to you," Ry tells me, looking at me worriedly. "I don't like him, either, but the boss is pretty clear we can trust him." "Oh, like hell we can," I snap. "He told the entirety of Memphis I molested him!" She blinks a few times, then bursts out laughing. "Ok, maybe I do like him just a little bit." "Choke and die." I almost lash out at the boss as soon as we enter the office, in which En is already standing, but one look from the man calms me down. I don't know what it is about him, but he has that effect on all of us. I don't even know what magic he uses. "Thank you so much, Ry," he says, then pulls out a piece of paper from a drawer at his desk. "Our ranks are nearly strong enough to officially go to war with the kingdom. All we need is for you to recruit these people." En picks the paper up and looks it over. "They are a rebel gang known as the Dead Poets. Their goals align with our own, and there are several noteworthy sorcerers among them." "Haven't they been around for a while?" I ask, having heard stories of them even back when I was a kid. "Why bother with them now?" He gestures toward Ry, who takes it as a sign to speak. "The last mission I had involved killing an intruder within the Rebellion. He bargained for his life by giving me info on the Poets. We finally know where they are now." "And you will recruit them," the boss concludes. "Their help will be invaluable. Like most sorcerers, they use masks to hide their identities during their attacks on the kingdom." En then starts reading from the paper. "According to this, the leader among them is known as Red Queen, and is considered one of the two biggest threats to the kingdom, alongside Mr Shimura. The other two on here are Efreet, an A ranked pyromancer, and Golem, an earth user, also A ranked." She hands me the paper when she's done. "Don't we also have only three A ranked threats?" I ask, examining the drawings of the masks. Red Queen has a white mask with a woman's face drawn on it in red. Efreet is a demonic-looking red, and Golem just kind of looks like a turtle, and I'm not sure what it's supposed to be. "Which is why we need them," the boss answers. "Also, we have four A ranks, mind you. Myself, Leonidas, Lilith and you. Now, let me make one thing very clear." He stands up and walks around the desk, something he does on all of the really dangerous missions. "If they refuse, leave in peace. You are not there to infiltrate them or to fight them. If they insist on being equals rather than subservient, that is fine. Don't engage any of them in a battle, and don't say anything that might aggravate their top three, as they're known to have lousy tempers. As soon as things start looking grim, retreat and return. Your safety is the top priority." Of course it is. I'm an A, and the two girls are both Bs, meaning the rebellion will probably fail without us. I can't believe he thinks I'm stupid enough to get myself killed. (This is the part where you ignore the fact that I forgot to get my bag back from Mr Cunt right away.) "Go on now. I've explained to En where they are."