Date: 839 Passes Ago
The world was painted the color of blood. A blur of campfire smoke rose to mingle with the sky’s heavy underside. The clouds streaked overhead in accelerated motion, cold shafts of energy tracing over the massive expanse.
Do they consider themselves my opponents?
As the sun began to fade into mid-afternoon haze, the next one came. And another. And another. Each was hewn down mercilessly by the wide strokes of his silver blade.
They are more rightly defined as victims.
They had no face. They had no name. They didn’t even have a number — he had long since lost count. The blood on his hands became the only soothing presence, the hunger for death a sweet taste in his mouth. The scent of sweat and steel the only thing he could call his own. And he possessed these things viciously.
It is my gift, my power, my right.
He was the Annihilator. The Purger. The one who was feared while fearing nothing.
I am KudakoRe.
And they were nothing more than savages. They knew nothing of civilization. Of city. Of learning. Of knowledge. Of truth, justice and honor.
They couldn’t even begin to know, being no better than beasts. He dealt with them like beasts. He hunted them like a predator would a herd. One by one, he would pick them off.
For a very long time, they had no idea what lurked outside the shadows of their borders. It was only now, years later, that they began to realize. Now they knew his name. They knew his face. And they feared his blade.
This wasn’t the first time they sent a slavering “army” to take him. They were the finest warriors the people of the Inner Realms could train, but they lacked every grace imaginable. Their skill was the epitome of undeveloped. This was not the most pitiful force they had mustered to bring him down, but it was certainly the most laughable.
There is little challenge in slicing butter with a well-honed broad-blade.
A hoarse cry rose to his right as a pair of warriors dropped down from the rocky alcove. Their swords were nothing more than poorly crafted short-spanned bronze blades. Their armor was nothing more than sheets of leather strapped to the more vulnerable parts of their body.
Kudako allowed one of the bronze blades to meet with his own. With a spry twist, he shoved the first attacker back to intercept and disarm the second. Hours of battle had done little to wear away at him. Standing head and shoulders taller than any of the people of the Inner Realms, their best strikes did very little to sap his tremendous strength.
And so it ends.
He gave the disarmed attacker a kick to the chest, sending him slamming into the rocky hillside. Twisting the haft of his naginata between his hands, Kudako sprang forward, burying the blade deep into the other’s rib cage. Blood and entrails exploded in fountains as he sliced through flesh, bones and organs with no discrimination.
How weak flesh is.
It wasn’t the most articulate display — he knew plenty of other more ornate moves. But he wasn’t in it for the flash, he was there to kill. And in his experience, this was killing at its finest.
The attacker buckled as Kudako yanked the naginata out of his midsection with a final spin of his wrist. Choking, the man’s body began to spasm wildly, a ripple of blood quietly seeping across the hard dirt earth. The first warrior gave a hoarse, garbled cry, backing away from the vision of death. Eyes wide in terror, he turned and fled into the rocky land.
Billowing shapes of winged haze reflected from the surface of the spreading crimson pool. Kudako quietly stepped over the body of the fallen warrior. His pale blue eyes narrowed as he leapt forward, ears straining to catch sound of the retreating attacker. Puffs of upturned sand led into a downward slant where the ground dipped into a crevice between the rocks.
So it is a chase, is it?
Kudako followed swiftly, holding his weapon ready in both hands. He could feel the walls above him narrow into slanting pillars of dark stone that stretched in futile desperation towards the sky. Their tops were misted away in the draft of crouching cloud banks.
There’s only one way in, beast. Was it so wise to corner yourself?
Silence pressed around him as the shadows of the stone pillars threw the hollow into darkness. His footsteps echoed within his ears, slowing into a careful jog as sound became muffled. An ethereal fog alighted over everything, strangely lucid and warm… not unlike the touch of a living being.
His eyes narrowed at his surroundings. The warrior he was chasing had vanished.
Something does not feel right.
The ground became illuminated by a pulse of energy from above. The hair on the back of his neck stood on end as his vision sparked with an after-image of the light. A deep rumbling growl reverberated, echoing through the bowels of the darkening clouds.
Something is there?
Something immense. Something more immense than he had ever felt before.
Within the clouds?
Kudako’s eyes flickered back and forth between the sky and the ground, a growing sense of dread building. Motion swept through him. He broke into a run which lead him deeper into the chasm.
What sort of witchery is this?
His hands gripped the haft of his weapon nervously, brows lowered over sharp eyes. His feet danced in a spiral as he attempted to scan the rock walls in every direction at once.
“Show yourself, beast!”
At the sound of his voice, the whole chasm came to life. They were there, hundreds of them. Hundreds of them and something else… something huge and terrifying.
For the first time that he could remember, KudakoRe — the killer, Purger and fearless Annihilator — suddenly felt the weight of defeat within his chest.
The ground under his feet jolted and began to sway, unsettling his dance and sending him to his knees. Flashes of energy sizzled and shot through the sky, cracking the clouds and sending a rainfall of stone from the walls above. Hundreds of slitted green eyes lit within the pulse of white, flickers of bronze reflecting off countless weapons.
A cold feeling dropped in the pit of his stomach as his gaze lifted skyward.
It came as a spiral of darkness and light. The heartbeat of the earth drummed beneath him. The tempest descended down against the backdrop of crimson sky. A collective roar rose in a wave, rivaling the thunder that shook the ground under his feet.
It was overwhelming –
– two things his life had –
– been devoid of, now ripping through–
– every limb of his body all thoughts torn from –
– his mind as his own scream fought to –
– touch the sky. –
Drifting… streaming… distant…
Rising… falling… shifting… becoming…
Where am I?
~You are not.~
I am not? I am not what?
~You are not. Therefore you do not possess a “where.”~
I do not understand… I am here. I obviously have to be somewhere.
~You are not.~
Fine. Then I am not. Now where is my weapon?
~It is not.~
Where did you put my weapon?
~I did not.~
You think you are amusing, do you?
~You think you know everything, don’t you?~
What does that mean?
Perceive what? That I don’t have a–
My hands! What happened to… my… my… Oh Great Light, what happened to me? I do not see–
~Correct. You do not see.~
Am I..? Did I… die?
~You tell me.~
I… I do not know…
~You’re finally beginning to admit that?~
I want to know what happened to me!
Flicker-images shot through his mind on a pulse of light. Suddenly, he could see his own body. It lay broken and torn upon the stone ground, pierced through with so many blades it was hard to tell the flesh from the sword. But he knew it was himself. His own weapon lay broken beside the mangled form of his hand.
Overlaid upon this vision was a second, more haunting image. Faces. Countless faces with dead eyes. Not a one did he recognize, yet each one he knew.
Each soul pointed their gaze at him and acknowledged him as their murderer.
It cannot be!
~Such is the way of Earthian life.~
The images shifted and were suddenly gone. Though the gazes were no longer visible, he could still feel the weight of each pair of eyes burning upon him. And he knew his guilt.
~One lives until one dies. Unless one can touch the sky.~
Touch the sky? What do you mean?
~KudakoRe. I have come to present you a choice.~
Who… are you?
Dreigiau? What’s that?
~I am Dreigiau. I have come to present you a choice.~
~Life beyond your fate.~
Life? But if I am dead, how can I still live?
~Spirit moves beyond life and death. Only the physical can truly be destroyed.~
I do not understand…
~You don’t have to. Simply answer me this. Do you wish to return?~
~Do you want me to show you how to touch the sky?~
But… why… me?
Look who I was!
~Who were you?~
I was… I was an Annihilator. A murderer!
I killed countless of people to fulfill the oath of the Re clan. But now…
I can not help but wonder how I could feel justified in doing that. How could I ever have been so blind? Why am I only seeing this now?
~Because such is the way of things.~
What can I do?
There has to be something I can do.
~There might be.~
You know something, do you?
~It is in the choice I am offering to you.~
~Become a servant of the Dreigiau.~
~I have need of your skills, KudakoRe.~
And that is my choice? Become your servant or –
~Resign yourself to your fate. Yes.~
Why should I become your servant?
~I will give you a chance to return. To redeem.~
~I will give you the power to touch the sky.~
I want that power.
~It comes with a price.~
What sort of price?
~You must have a new body. Your old body has expired. However, I warn you that your new form will reflect the flawed nature of your character.~
But I will be able to return.
~You will not be as you once were.~
I cannot become much worse than I was to begin with.
~If you are sure, then speak your choice, KudakoRe.~
My choice is…
I will serve the Dreigiau.