To The Red Line (Chapter 6: A Wanted Man)

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NIGHT approached finally by the time Mika and the others arrived at a small lively village named Islez. The village was  famous for it's night market and small festivals, including the fireworks. It was also the home town of Mika’s newly ...

NIGHT approached finally by the time Mika and the others arrived at a small lively village named Islez. The village was  famous for it's night market and small festivals, including the fireworks.

It was also the home town of Mika’s newly acquaintance and also Shinji’s long-time and childhood friend, Kazuo.

“Welcome to Islez, Your Highness!”

“It’s nice to see you again, Your Highness! Please come in!”

Two men, members of the Warriors, greeted them cheerfully at the South Gate Entrance.

The Warriors, was one of the two organizations that was formed by the three Elders who governed the village, to guard and protect the town from either internal or external crimes outside of the village.

All members were hand-picked and selected by the Elders themselves.

The other organization was ‘Healers.’ They specialized in medical treatments and other fields related to it. Their duties were mainly to assist the Warriors on the sidelines in any missions.

Though sometimes, the Healers would also be helping out on dangerous field missions such as infiltration.

The two Warriors bowed their heads respectfully to Shinji before letting him and the rest into the village.

Shinji thanked the Warriors and entered. Behind him, Mika’s blood ran cold as ice. Her body was as stiff as board when she followed closely behind him into the Entrance. She kept her face lowered and eyes planted on the ground.

When Mika finally looked up and their eyes met, her heart nearly stopped it's beating at the surprised given look on their faces.

They recognised me as a Spirit! They’re gonna chase me out!

Mentally and physically prepared herself to be thrown out, Mika was greatly surprised when she received a warm smile from each Warriors.

“Welcome to Islez, Malady. Please go right in.”

Shocked at their politeness and not trusting her voice at the moment, Mika nodded back at them and quickened her steps to where her two companions were.

“Ye okay?” Kazuo asked.

“I-I’m fine!” Mika smiled with a red faced, reassured him she was fine before looking at her surroundings.

To her astonishment, more people had gathered around them and surrounded Shinji. Some of the old folks had even given him fruits and good luck charms for him to take on the journey.

The children immediately stopped playing when they saw him. They smiled brightly and ran toward him, hugging and clinging on his legs.

Mika was rather surprised when Shinji responded well toward them. She’d expected him to feel annoyed or even irritated with children. He didn’t seem to be the type of man who would enjoyed having children as company.

Shinji had in fact, proved her wrong, when he lifted a small girl in the air, which made her giggles girlishly.

Just who exactly is this man? Mika couldn’t helped but to wonder with a small grin.

“Oi, can I get some loving here too?”

As soon the words sprouted out from his mouth, Kazuo was mercilessly ambushed by the children.

Mika laughed heartily at the scene. Her laughter didn’t went unnoticed by the two men.

“It’s been quite a while since the last time ye came here for a visit, ain’t it Shinji?” Kazuo said quietly.

Shinji merely nodded. He finally put down the happy little girl he’d lifted in the air earlier, much to her reluctant.

“Things haven’t changed since much, have they?” Shinji patted one of the children’s heads before gently, he excused himself from them.

“Actually they do. But let’s talk more about that once we get to the Elders, yea?” Kazuo answered half-heartedly.

The trio made their way to the deeper part of the village where the Elders lived when something something caught Shinji immediate attention: each of the rooftops had a barrier that connected to one other.

The connected barrier formed a big and wide forced shield that covered the entire village.

“What’s with the barrier?” Shinji asked Kazuo, one finger pointed at the transparent barrier above them.

Kazuo looked up. “Ah that. It’s for protection. Ever since what had happened in Andania, we’ve been taking extra pre-cautious. Ye never know when they’re gonna attack us next, so might as well be prepared for it The Elders had even asked the Warriors to increase the patrol around here. Recently, there were few of the Spirits caught wandering around. They were killed, of course... By Ralph and his croons.”

Shinji momentarily stopped walking. He managed to quickly recovered his steps before anyone noticed and carried on. He said nothing and simply nodded his head.

Of course he should expect to hear the man’s name while he’s in Islez. This is his home after all. Though, it has been awfully a while since he last heard it.

When Shinji had decided to come here, he knew what to expect in Islez. He was prepared to face the music.

Gazing his Apprentice from the corner of his eyes, Shinji just hoped and wished that his Chosen Apprentice would get over her trauma and fears soon.

Things would get ugly very soon.


The trio were getting nearer to the Elders’ Residence when they heard a high-pitched and girlish squealed caused the trio to halt.

“Oh my Goodness! I can’t believe my eyes! Is that really you, Shinji?!”

Two out of the three heads turned to look at the owner of the voice coming from behind them.

Mika was instantly taken by the petite and cute female figure, while Kazuo snickered, widely. Shinji on the other hand, was petrified.

He’d recognized that voice anywhere even from a far away distance!

Damn! How could I've let my guards down?

Shinji had both of his arms crossed on his chest. He grumbled unidentified noises, all while waiting for the usual impact to come and hit him.

The impact, as he’d predicted, came in forcefully, and hard as a stone the moment it landed on his chest, causing Shinji to nearly tripped his left foot, and stumbled few steps backwards.

Shinji let out a loud gasp, before he growled irritatingly when a pair of arms wrapped themselves around his neck.

The strong arms then began to pull him closer, and before he knew it, something pecked him on the cheek!

Mika watched bemusedly with an eyebrow raised at the scene. It’s one thing to literally jumped on top of Shinji, but it’s another thing to peck him on the cheek!

His girlfriend?

A young petite girl with long straight rosy hair tied in two long ponytails on each side of her head. she wore a white kebaya top dress made from sheer material that was adored with detailed pink birds patterned embroidery.

On her legs, she wore a pair red silky fit pants with butterfly batik patterns.

She was perhaps, the one and only girl in all of Fulaina who ever dared to do this to him.

“Rinda.” Shinji growled lowly.

He quickly took a very deep breath and sighed, “Let go of me, Rinda.”

Rinda ignored his calling and remained firmly still. Her grin widened.

“Oh, for goodness’s sake! Let go of my neck, you brat!” Shinji yelled on top of his lungs and yanked her arms from his neck.

He managed to yank one of her arm, but Rinda wouldn’t have any of it. She tightened the grip on her other arm around his neck.

Letting out another deep sigh, Shinji reminded himself to stay calm, that it was no use to fight against her and just simply accepted his fate as it was.

AS IF!

This time more forceful, Shinji grabbed the small girl’s arms on his neck and successful pushed her away from him.

“Boo! You’re mean, Shinji! You have no idea how much I’ve been wanting to see you!”

Shinji rolled his eyes.

Reaching out a hand to his neck, he gave it a massage. Just when Shinji thought he could finally freed himself from her, she rapidly hit him on his arm.

“Ouch! What was THAT for?!”

“You, for being a jerk! Why didn’t you return any of my calls, or reply any of my letters?!”

Shinji groaned and gritted his teeth annoyingly.

This had became a ritual. Each time they would meet, Rinda would always put on a dramatic stun like this. Shinji knew the girl well not to play her game, of course.

Ever since the Elders had found her abandoned at the gateway one fine morning by unknown parents, when she was merely a baby, Shinji had played a role of raising her along with the rest of the villagers.

Shinji often thought of her as an annoying younger sister-one he never had but greatly cherish and cared for.

After a moment, Shinji began to feel annoyed with the constant whisperings and giggles of other people. He glared sharply at them, making them turned away.

Meanwhile, Mika watched intriguingly at the whole scene. Her curiosity was getting the better of her. She wanted to know what type of relationship do the two of them have, not because she was jealous or anything. Oh no. It was merely to fill in her interest, that’s all.

Spending time gossiping with Luna had it’s benefits after all.

While she pondered on these thoughts, Mika felt something was thrown at her.

With her quick reflexes, she caught the thing in her hands-a red apple. Raising her eyes, she saw Kazuo winked at her and took a bite of an apple as well.

“Why the long face? Jealous much?” Kazuo asked between munching the apple.

Mika shook her head. “No. Not really. Out of curiosity, who is the girl though?”

Kazuo munched. “Her name’s Rinda. She is Islez’s proud and best Healer. When she was ten, she’d made a very bold public announcement: she vowed that she would marry Shinji when she’s older!”

He chuckled madly.

“Six years later, she’d made the same bold public announcement-this time, it was her ‘engagement’ to Shinji! Mind you, it was just a one sided thing. The poor guy had never proposed nor mentioned anything about getting ditched whatsoever. Everyone knew about it, but they all decided to just play along, for the heck of it anyway. Ever since then, Shinji rarely comes here to visit.”

“Interesting.” Mika nodded interestingly. She took a bit of the apple and gasped at the wonderful and sweet taste of the apple!

So it was true after all. Islez has the best apple in all of the world!

In her own amusement, she failed to notice that Kazuo was looking at her with a broad smile.

As the comfortable silence between them (minus the noisy background made by Shinji and Rinda) began to settle, a loud shattering female voice caught their immediate attention.

“Thief! Someone help!” A woman cried out when a young man snatched her handbag and ran away.

“Hold it right there, punk!”

Three fast darts nailed the thief on his clothes, stopping him from running any further.

Rinda smirked proudly at her victory. While she may be the villager’s best- skilled Healer, that certainly didn’t stopped her from practising the ‘Art of the Shadows’-a useful Skill that was often used by the Warriors for their missions or errands.

“Atta girl!” Kazuo grinned proudly. He came behind her and started messing with her hair, much to her dismay.

Rinda smug proudly at her small achievement. It was like taking a candy from a baby. Though she had not yet been on any dangerous missions. The Elders still wouldn't allowed her no matter how hard she pled. They feared she was still not ready for that kind of mission. Darn them!

Rinda on the other hand, knew by heart that she was more than ready to take the challenge. All she needed now was a little push so that the Elders finally get to see how ready she was!

The villagers and two Warriors were called to the scene, they surrounded the thief and arrested him. He was to immediately taken to see the Elders for punishment for the crime he’d committed.

“Shinji! Shinji! did you see that? Did you see how cool I was?”

Rolling his eyes, Shinji patted her head. “Yes. You did a wonderful job. Well done.”

Shinji was about to pull his hands away, much to great dismay, the girl happily clung on his arms once again.

“For Heavens’ sake! Let go of my hand, woman!”

Rinda pouted. “You’re mean to greet your cute little fiancée like that after not seeing her for so long!”

“Rinda, you’d INTRUDED my mansion just a month ago, and will you stop with the whole fiancée fiasco thing, you little brat!”

“Kids! That’s enough! Honestly, ye two are embarrassing me!”

Kazuo finally stepped in between them. He pulled Rinda with one hand, while his other hand had wrapped around Mika's waist, away from the man who was now snarling so hard, Kazuo thought he might just attacked them.

“Let’s not keep the old geezers — I mean, the Elders waitin’. Shinji, we’ll leave ye behind if ye don’t start moving your arse. Come along, ladies!”


SOMEWHERE further away from the lively village, there was an old abandoned hut belonged to a group of well-trained men, all members of the Warriors and known throughout the village as the ‘Notorious Ralph’s Gang’. Or, as Rinda would kindly called it, 'Ralph and his Pathethic Goons'.

One man with a long scar on his right cheek, sat at the centre among the men. He wore a brown and black armour, two pairs of brown furs as shoulders plates, a dark brown pelt, lastly, a long sword on his hips.

His left hand was playing with a sharp pen-knife.

Knock. Knock.

One of the men got up to his feet and opened the door. It did not take the man to return to his seat and presented a letter to his leader.

The Leader read the letter before a satisfied smirk plastered on his scarred face.

“Looks like our first operation is a successful one, Boys.” Ralph spoke in his deep, rich voice.

“What should we do about Arnold? Should we rescue him?”

“Later. We shall rescue him later. What’s more important now, is that the lamb has entered the lions’ den. Tell our dear friend to get ready and prepare the next operation tonight.”

“Yes, sir!”

The same man who had brought him the letter stood up and left.

“I’m still not convince of his loyalty and frankly, some of us are very doubtful of his intention, Ralph.” Exclaimed one of the followers. “What if he decides to sabotage our plan in the end? We’re risking too much by letting him in to join us for tonight in the first place. What if he decides to switch loyalty-”

“At ease, mate.” Ralph grinned amusingly. “I’ve known him since our younger days. The man may be an insufferable womaniser, but when it comes that one thing, even a man like him could never forgive nor forget.”

Ralph threw the knife on his hand, straight to the small old photo hanging on the wall.

The knife aimed directed at a boy’s forehead of the old photo. Close-up, it was a picture of several familiar faces — a seven years old Shinji and an older, youthful Suzumi, both were smiling serenely and gracefully.

Above them, on Shinji’s right was Kazuo, striking a pose while to his right, was an older looking man with messy dark blonde hair tied in a high ponytail. He posed with one hand on his waist, with a confident smirk the moment the picture was captured.

“Tonight, vengeance shall be ours! The blood of the White Wolf Prince shall be ours pleasure to spill! Tonight, the murderer who is responsible for Kai’s death!”


FOUR figures finally arrived at the Elders’ Residence Home where the three Chiefs of the village known as the Grand Elders who protected the village lived.

One of the Grand Elders, a man in brown loose robe with lots of wrinkles on his forehead and white long and curly beard, greeted them upon their arrival.

“Welcome to Islez Village, Your Royal Highness Prince Shinji. We have been expecting for your arrivals and are excited to have you here with us once again. Pardon me, may I ask who is the beautiful young lady standing behind you, Prince?”

“She is my Chosen Apprentice. Her name is Mika.”

"Ah! Well, a warm greetings to you as well, Lady Mika. I am Shion, the youngest of the three Elders of this village. You may call me Shion.”

“Thank you. It is nice to meet with you as well, Shion.”

Shion nodded and turned his full attention on Shinji.

“Your Highness, Lady Suzumi has already informed us about you and your Apprentice arrival beforehand. Thus, we have already prepared you a humble banquet for the two of you to enjoy. Please help yourselves up these stairs for the banquet and enjoy your stay here.”

“We will be staying just for tonight, though. My Apprentice and I have lots of travelling to do. Nevertheless, we are truly grateful for your kindness and hospitality, Elders. Thank you once again for having us.”

“Oh, please do not mention it, Your Highness.” Dauz, the Second Elder spoke. ” We’ve been a loyal and constant support to the White Wolf Clan for generations. Our only regret is that you are no longer wish to live here. But please know, that should your heart desires to come back and live here with us again, we will always be welcoming you with opened arms.”

“Thank you.” Shinji lowered his head in a small bow.

“This way, please.” Shion gestured them to the stairs that would lead them to the banquet.

“Ye guys go on ahead. I just remember, I’d made a plan tonight. Maaan, what a pain.” Kazuo sighed heavily.

“What? You’re not coming with us, Kazuo?” Rinda asked, rising an eyebrow.

“Nope. Sorry, Doll-face. Wish I could join ye. Buut, this hulky stallion has a date with a beautiful lady. Wouldn’t want to make her angry now. Shinji, sorry about this.”

Shinji nodded. “It’s fine.”

“I DON’T BELIEVE YOU!” Rinda shrieked angrily. Her well-known temper made even the calm and wise Elders to shrink in fear. “After you had literally begged me to make the ‘Onion-Beef Stew’ all day long, you DARED to make a plan behind my back?! Well, you can very well sit on whoever dumb girl you had a date with for all I care, Kazuo!”

Kazuo reacted differently after Rinda’s angry burst. Instead of gotten angry and taken back by her crude words, he roared with laughing. Reaching out one hand, patted on Rinda’s head gently like a father trying to calm down his young daughter after she had a fit.

“I’m really sorry, princess.” Kazuo chuckled. “I know ye pissed, Rinda. Tell ye what, save me whatever the leftovers. I’ll eat them when I get back. Promise. Besides,” He then pointed at Mika and Shinji. “I highly doubt these two, could finish everything on the table. Anyhow, I really need to get going. I’ll see ye folks later! Ciao!”

“Hey, wait! Ugh!" Kazuo was long gone before Rinda could speak. Stomping her foot on the ground, she fumed.

“Honestly that insufferable man! Despite telling him many times before NOT to wander around during dinner time, he does it anyway!”

Shinji snorted at Rinda’s complains. “He’s not a bloody child,Rinda. You can’t chide him like one either. Let him do whatever he wants with his life.”

“Oh that’s easy for you to say! Who do you think he looked for when he wants someone to clean up his mess? That’s right. ME!”

“Then YOU shouldn’t let him bullied you into it.” Shinji gave her a sharp glare with arms crossed on his chest.

For all of Rinda’s constant long love letters, there were times when she had wrote and complained to him about Kazuo’s irresponsibilities and lecherous behaviours with the women in the village.

Shinji had read them all without her knowing, and had secretly scolded the older man for dumping all of his mess on her. It appeared he might need to give the older man another round of good scolding before he left this village.

At that thought, Shinji sighed.

“You and Kazuo seem relatively close. Is he your brother?” Mika’s question broke the tension in the air.

“Nah. We’re house-mates thought. I have been living with him for as long as I could remember.”

Rinda shrugged. “But yea, you could say that we’re practically siblings in a way. Of course, that man sucks at being an older brother! He’s lousy at it too! The only thing he ever does is chasing after women while I have to do all the chores in the house, including the bills!”

“He doesn’t works?”

Rinda heavily sighed. “He’s been offered to become a part of the Warriors before. Each time they came to the house to offer him the job, he fled like an idiot to who knows where. Sometimes, he’ll be gone for months! When he does comes back home though, he’d often bought along a large sum money! He never tells me or anyone where he got it from! What a dumb-arse git!”

Though she complained a lot about Kazuo, Mika could clearly tell there was no doubt that Rinda cared and concerned a great deal about Kazuo more than she let on.

Hearing about their relationship reminded Mika of her own relationship with her adopted brother, Guy.

Oh, she missed him greatly ever since he’d left Luyas for his Intensive Training. It made her feel slightly jealous of the younger girl walking beside her.

Mika let out a small sigh.

I didn’t even get to tell goodbye to him..

Soon, they arrived at the dining table. At the sight of the food served on the table in front of them, Mika could not for the life of her, resisted the sound of her stomach growling loudly.

Only after she was given permission by Shinji to eat till her heart content, Mika did what any starving girl would do — dig in.


 

THE home-coming banquet was fantastic and very satisfying. The meals were absolutely mouth-watering and surely filled in any empty tummies.

By the time Shinji and the others had finished with their meals, they could no longer be able to walk properly to their resting quarters.

The two Valued Guests had excused themselves for the night and retreated to their given rooms. Rinda too had retreated after dinner. She’d left after giving Shinji a bone-crushing hug and a kiss on his cheek, much to his great dismay.

“The banquet was so nice! The villagers are so kind! I feel bad though for the chefs who had to keep on feeding us.” exclaimed Mika, rubbing on her full tummy.

“Don’t be. Those chefs loved nothing more than to feed people, especially guests who’d travelled far to come here. Of course,”

Shinji gazed on her from the corner of his eyes. “With your monstrous appetite, they would loved nothing more than to feed someone especially like you.”

Mika’s face turned bright red.

“I-Im certainly not a glutton, Shinji!” Her hands moved to cover her stomach in self-conscious. “It’s just that, while I was living as a Knight, I’ve been taught to always eat a meal while you can still afford to. Because you may never know when will be your next meal is.”

Shinji stopped walking beside her. He turned to look at her with in stoic, before suddenly, he poked on her forehead!

“I agreed that you should eat while you can. However, I don’t you realised the way you looked at the food earlier, as if you haven’t been feed at all!” He flicked on her forehead.

“Still I have to thank you for not leaving any leftovers behind. Especially the Onion-Stew. That moron can starve to death for all I care.”

Mika, who was busily rubbing her forehead blinked unexpectedly at his thanks.

“You’re welcome. It was pretty delicious. Miss Rinda’s such a wonderful cook!”

Shinji nodded before entering a dark room. He flipped on a switch and Mika’s eyes widened at the very spacious and wide Practice Room.

Her eyes instantly roamed around the room, especially at weapons displayed hanging on the walls.

The room were covered with wooden flooring. Beaten Dummies were all over the place; some of it was lying down, beaten with knives.

Shinji walked toward the long shelves filled with bamboo swords. He took one and then turned toward Mika.

"Why are we here, Sir?"

Shinji gazed sternly at her at calling him ‘Sir’, but said nothing. He held on the bamboo sword with both hands.

“What happened earlier today at the river, had me greatly disturbed. You were hesitated and it had nearly cost us both of our lives, Mika. Do you understand how dangerous and critical the situation was?” Shinji spoke in a deep and hushed voice.

His looked straight in her eyes.

“Why?”

“Why what, Sir?”

“Why the hesitation, Miss Mika?

Mika sucked in breath and averted her eyes from his deep gaze. Clenching her fists, she said, “The one who had attacked us was my own kin. How do you expect me to simply kill it? Last time I drew my sword...”

Momentarily she paused as visions of Andania came back to her in a flash.

Mika shook, getting rid of the visions and tightened her fists.

“Last time I'd drawn my sword, I ended up massacred half of an entire town. Half of it! Do you have any idea what it feels like? To have your hands stained with innocent blood? To massacre those innocent lives!”

Mika breathed in heavily. She shut her eyes and bit her lower trembling lips.

“T-the only reason why I was even given the title as the ‘Knight of Luyas’ was all because my adopted father. I didn’t get the title because I earned it. I wasn’t even allowed to join any Knights’ Seminars or Advance Trainings, fearing that I might kill someone. Accidentally or not.”

Mika looked up and smiled weakly at Shinji. Her eyes were glossing with tears that threatened to fall any time soon.

“They were right. I did killed them.”

Shinji said nothing for a longest time.

After a while, he pointed out the edge of the sharp sword at Mika.

“Dwelling in self-pity is such a waste of time.”

Sheer rage forced her to look up and glared at him.

“Self-Pity? I-”

Shinji cut her words off.

“I will only say this once, Mika. This mission is highly significant. Our very future lies and depends solely on the outcome of our mission.Be that as it may, I will not let anything nor anyone to jeopardize the mission. So I suggest you get over the guilts that you have over Andania and get your head together so that we may survive this mission. Do you understand me, Miss Mika?”

She nodded hesitatingly.

“Good. Now then. I assume you know how to fight. I don’t need you to slow us down because of your guilt.”

“Guilts?” Mika gritted her teeth. “What do you know about guilts, Your Highness? Have you been in a battlefield before? Have your hands ever stained with innocent blood whom you don’t even remember you’d killed?”

“Draw your blades, Mika.”

“I know I need to get over it! The past month, I’ve done nothing BUT trying to get over it! But it doesn’t works overnight, Your Highness! The massacre will always keep me awake and haunts me. Day and night. So forgive me if my guilts tend to get the best out of me sometimes!”

Mika rapidly blinked her eyes. In her outrageous fit she didn’t released her cheeks were damped by tears. The boiling rage that built up inside her was gone. Brushing her tears away, something caught her attention immensely.

Shinji stood with the bamboo sword pointed at her. His stance showed that he refused to back down no matter what.

“Listen,” Shinji spoke, a trace of his customary flippant tone still present, though Mika realised his tone was gentle.

“You can blame yourself until you die or you can stand up, move forward and take responsible for the lives that you had took unintentionally. There’s no good or bad when it comes on defending and protecting your one precious life in the battlefield. There is only Life and Death. Kill or be killed. Survive or die. Regardless of them all, what I chose to believe the most is, the heart. Your heart reflects who you are and your intentions. Say if you were to draw your blade because you have no other choice but to fight back, because you have to protect yourself and survive in doing so, then it’s fine. It can’t be helped if you have to kill someone in order to protect yourself in the process. It’s selfish, yes. But again, it can’t be helped. That’s why it is called ‘self-defence’. However, should you were to draw your blade against someone when your life,by all means, is not threatened and without any valid reasons at all, and you chose to kill that person, that’s when you are wrong.”

Mika swallowed. His words pierced her heart.

“It’s true that you’d killed them. You took away their innocent lives. Your hands are now stained in their blood. Your own grieve and guilt are regrettable but understandable. The remorse you feel is even proper. But you can’t keep doing this to yourself. You’ll go mad and eventually die out of guilt. What you can do, is to try not to repeat the same mistake ever again. If you can run, then you run. If you are not able to run, then you fight. Fight to protect the people who are important to you. Mostly importantly Mika, you fight for your life. So which one it will be? Will you draw your blade against mine?”

Shinji drew his bamboo sword and charged wildly at Mika, who reluctantly took out her twin blades, and countered at the very last minute before his wooden sword almost hit her head.

Shinji took a few steps back.

“Not good enough! Put more efforts into it! Pretend that I am your enemy, and I want you DEAD!”

With a loud growl, he attacked her again.

There was no doubt in Shinji’s mind that Mika was very nervous-her hands were trembling as she parried his attacks.

Back, forth, back forth-the two of them repeatedly attacked one another as if they were dancing, flawless.

Shinji was determined to break through her fear of fighting people, to break through her thick shell. He was determined to make Mika stronger-stronger than she’d ever been.

While the two of them were busily engaged in swordsman battle, none of them were aware that someone was silently keeping watchful eyes on them, hidden on the rooftops.

A pair of glowed eyes watched the pair sparred fiercely.

Attack.

Block.

Parry.

Attack.

The rapid repetition went on for about a whole hour. The flow increased as they reached to their peaks before it finally ended.


Mika panted heavily, as she inhaled and tried to catch her breath. Sweats were dripping from her forehead, her attire was already soaked. As time passed by, Mika slowly gained more confidence in her attacks and defences.

Training with Shinji had been hard, but at least now, Mika knew not to hesitate on drawing her blades against her enemies, and sharpened her skills.

Mika knew Shinji was a Master in swordsmanship, despite chosen to use a gun as his primary weapon. Based from what she had heard from Lady Suzumi, he’d been taught to train swordsmanship at a very young age-younger than when she’d been a young Trainee in the Knight’s Academy.

Shinji on the other hand, had a hard time avoiding her blows due to her fast endurance and flexibility. He was lucky he’d managed to avoid her last attack that aimed closely at his head in full power.

As they sparred, he’d made notes on how he could help her improved more of her skills. Mika had perfect aims. Each of her aims were deadly, and her endurance against pain was excellent. Her skills were impressive.

What Mika lacked of, was courage -courage of fighting against human being.

At the very least, there
’s an improvement, and a room for more.Shinji thought briefly. Straightened his back, he took a long deep breath.

“I think that’s enough for tonight. How do you feel? Are you feeling less nervous now?”

“Y-Yeah. I guess.”

Shinji nodded. “Good to hear. Bear in mind, this is only the start of your trainings. In between during our travel, I would like to continue with this training until I’m confident enough to know that you are no longer scare to fight in the battlefield.”

“Yes, Sir.”


The man who had hidden on the rooftop and spied on them, had also left the Practice Room around the same time as them. He had a thin, firmed line on his lips.

The man jumped down to the ground silently, and landed safely on his two feet before he began making his way to the Elders' Residence where he lived.

He walked steadily, with his hands inside the each sides of his jacket’s pockets. His back was slightly hunched, and he hummed a tune.

As the man made his way back home, he was greeted casually by a group of Warriors who were retreating for the night, wishing him a goodnight rest.

Yes, he had been spying on the pair for quite some time now, gathering informations on those two for his ‘friend’. Yet, the man found himself in a deep conflict-he was deeply unsatisfied with the outcome.

He was very certain that the White Wolf Prince had sensed his presence and knew that he was spying on them. After all, nothing slipped from the Prince’s sharp eyes.

What bothered him the most was that the Prince had done nothing. He didn’t blow his cover.

Nothing.

Somewhat that had made him feeling more really irritated toward the White Wolf Prince. Sighing deeply, the man looked up and realised he just reached his home.

“I’m home.”

The man opened the bamboo sliding door, and was in the middle of locking the door when an icy feminine voice greeted him in the dark.

“Welcome home.”

Kazuo instantly turned his head around in a surprise. He found himself being stared at by a very grumpy looking Rinda dressed in a long pink night dress gown.

Her long curly hair in loose, and arms crossed on her chest. Her right foot was tapping on the wooden floor impatiently.

She glared at him so intensive he might as well has a hole in it.

Oh Hell.

“Hi Rinda!” Kazuo smiled sheepishly.

“Don’t ‘hi Rinda’ me! Do you have any idea what time is it now?! We had a deal, Kazuo. You’d promised me no more late nights out after twelve! And what time is it now? It’s two freakin’ o’clock in the morning!”

Kazuo cringed at the loud shrieking voice shouted at him. He even had to cover his ears.

Rinda’s angry and pouted face was cute. Even Kazuo had to admit it. But her temper... Her temper was something to be feared about.

Beside Suzumi, Kazuo could easily count the amount of women he’d met in his life that actually made him shivered in fear when provoked.

“Ah, darlin’ sweet Rinda! Did ye really wait up for me all this while to come back home? I’m touched!”

“Of course not, Moron!” Rinda grunted and rolled her eyes.

“Oh. Then why...” Kazuo paused and looked at her pinkish frills nightgown. All the sudden, he let out a loud out a dramatic shrill.

“Oh my Heavens!”

“W-What?”

“I-I never thought ye were actually the bold type to go after a man at night, Rinda. I mean, I’d always thought you were so reserved and-”

Something smacked on his face-her fist.

“You pervert and IDIOTIC bastard!” Rinda flushed a deep shades of red. She glared narrowly at him, with both hands were on her hips.

“Honestly! What kind of girl do you think I am?” She huffed. “Unlike you, I have my eyes only set on one. And that man is Shinji!”

“Right,right. good to know.” Kazuo rolled his eyes. “So what brings you out here?”

Rinda sighed deeply at his question.

“I couldn’t sleep. I’d thought of checking out on Shinji-don’t you dare open that big mouth of yours or I’ll hit you again. Remember last week?”

“That last one didn’t count! Your hands were covered with bloody onions when you’d hit me. Anyone would have cried!”

Ignoring his rants, Rinda continued. “While I was hoping I could have a word with him after the banquet, I couldn’t seem to find him! I’ve asked around but no one has seen him either. I should have known he must be tired from the trip coming all the way here...”

Kazuo eyed the girl pitifully. He knew Rinda had the hugest crush on Shinji for a longest time. He gave her credits for being bold enough to say it out loud. Kazuo watched over her.

He watched how her love for the White Wolf Prince bloomed over the years. He knew despite Shinji’s constant rejection and harsh words toward her, the latter cared deeply about her. Perhaps not in the same way that she’d hoped and wanted him to be.

Ah, puppy love.

A bitter-sweet smile formed on Kazuo lips as he watched the young girl before him tried to compose herself. Her pride won’t let her cry over a matter like this.

At least, until she’s alone in her room.

“That girl. The girl whom he’d claimed to be his Apprentice...” Rinda spoke in a low tone.

“What about her?” Kazuo raised an eyebrow.

“Is she the-the one? The one that he’d been waiting for?” Rinda quickly shook her head and turned away. Her back was facing him.

“Never mind. Forget what I’ve just said, okay? I’m going to bed now.”

“Aye, as Malady’s command.” Kazuo made a bowing gesture.

“You should go to sleep too. I forgot to mention the Elders wanted to see you early in the morning for something. They didn’t say what though.”

“I see. Thanks. Oh, and Rinda?”

“What?”

“Thank you. For waiting for me.”

Rinda snorted. “Whatever, dum-dum."

And then, she smiled.


“Oh my Lord, I’m so sleepy!”

Shutting her bedroom door, Rinda immediately collapsed on her bed. She reached out for the many pillows nearby and bought it closer to her chest.

“Stupid Kazuo,” she muttered, recalling what had happened a moment ago.

While her body needed a much deserved rest after a long and hectic day, her mind couldn’t stopped thinking about the nagging feeling she been feeling for quite some time now after the banquet had ended.

The anxious feeling kept piling up as time passed by.

Rolling on her side, Rinda was about to close her eyes and tried to get some sleep when she felt tension in the air. From the corner of her eyes, she could see a shadow was standing behind her door.

Body immediately tensed, slowly and quietly, Rinda got off the bed, and carefully took out a set of small knives she kept hidden underneath her pillow, before she proceeded to the door.

Holding onto her breath, with the knives wrapped around her fingers, Rinda turned on the doorknob and ready to attack the person behind the door — someone collapsed on her floor the moment the door was opened!

Rinda quickly moved aside. Shock was written all over her face. She took a closer look at the man lying on the ground. Her eyes widened when she recognised who it was — one of Shinji’s many assigned bodyguards.

He had three arrows on behind him. Blood was dripping from his mouth and all over his body, creating a pool of blood on her floor.

“What happened?” Rinda carefully pulled the arrows one by one from his back and treated the wounds.

The guard roughly took one of her hand and grip it tightly.

“The Prince... Attacked... In the Forest... Hurry..." His hand dropped and he stopped breathing.

Rinda pulled back her hands, and was fast on her feet, heading to the direction given by the deceased guard.


AT the exact moment Rinda’s unexpected encountered with the deceased guard, Shinji and Mika were dashing for their life throughout the thick forest to the wide field.

All the while, they were forced to avoid flying arrows and booby traps set by a group of assassins that were hot on their heels chasing after them.

After their little sparring session, the pair had called it a night and were just about retreat to their own chambers, when they were ambushed by a bunch of assassins, who had been waiting impatiently for them at the hallway.

They’d murdered two of the guards who were in charged of guarding Shinji’s door, before they processed to chase the fleeing pair out to the forest.

Unknown to any of them, someone had been there. He had been the one who carried one of the surviving guard with a mortal wound, and had dumped him in front of Rinda’s door, to alert her of the current situation.

Mika gasped as an arrow shot on the ground. It’d nearly missed her right ankle. Looking up, her eyes widened at the sight of thousands of arrows shooting down on them.

“Look out!” Shinji yanked her closer to him and lifted one hand, facing the sky, and created a strong small barrier above them as the arrows falling down onto them like heavy rain.

As the last arrow fell down from the sky, a deep grouchy voice greeted them.

“Impressive as always, I see.”

Shinji dropped his hand.

“Ralph.”

Ralph smirked as he took few steps forward. Behind him, the Warriors had created circular walls to avoid them from escape.

Shinji pulled Mika behind him as Ralph getting closer.

“Prince Shinji Karou. Please, allow me to personally welcome you to Islez.” Ralph’s eyes wandered to the Spirit girl behind Shinji.

He grinned.

“It appears that our Prince has grown up after all. Bringing a young beautiful woman to be introduce to the village. How lovely. Kill two birds with one stone, so they say.”

“Touch her and I’ll shoot you. You know damn well I never miss my targets.”

“Ah, possessive as always. I see that part of you still hasn’t changed.”

Shinji glared dangerously at the man and his mocking words. The last person he ever wanted her to meet would be this self-absorb obsessed Spirit Maniac.

Ralph would cold-bloodedly murdered them without any hesitation or mercy regardless of gender or age. His obsession with killing the Spirits had greatly increased with the sudden outbreak that happened at the Red Line.

His reasoning for killing them was because he bore a deep grudge and hatred against them for murdered his parents when he was still a child, before he had come to Islez as an orphan.

Ralph sneered at Shinji’s long silence. “You have lots of nerves to come back here, you murderer bastard!”

That caught Mika’s immediate attention.

Murderer? “What is he talking about?” She asked Shinji, who grunted lowly.

Ralph smirked. “It seems to me your woman over there has no clue who she’s with. Allow me to explain. You lover here, had once killed a man. And not just any man, oh no! He’dkilled a man closest to his own heart! A man whom he’d looked upon on!”

"How pathetic.”

Shinji pointed his gun at Ralph. “You’re wasting time telling her about something that’d happened in the past. Besides, The man who should have killed me had let me lived on for seven years. Your words mean nothing to me. They’re nothing with bullshits."

Ralph grin increased. He laughed mockingly.

“I won’t be so damn cocky about it if I were you, pretty boy! What makes you think he hasn’t done anything but to just wait for a perfect moment to strike you when you least expected for what you’d done?”

Mika was getting even more confused with the situation. Who were the people they talked about? She felt Shinji flinched at those words came out from Ralph’s mouth.

One long calloused finger pointed at the shadow hidden amongst his men. Soft footsteps approached them.

“Listen, girl! The man who had been mercilessly murdered by the hands of this bastard here, was a man named Kai. Ironically enough, he had also happened to be his older brother!"

As the light from the fire torch shone, revealing the identity of the man who was approaching them, Mika gasped aloud.

“Kazuo!?"

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