Chapter 43: In pursuit of justice
Strangers in a strange land, in a time where they did not belong. Led by someone they had only met hours ago, a stranger yet someone wrapped in a familiar predicament. It is easy to form a bond over shared treason. Even easier to form one over revenge. Disguised as justice. Or justice disguised as revenge. It did not matter. Only the end-goal mattered. Halfway between the familiar and the unknown, the hunt waited. Waited for their newest member to take up the mantle of a leader. Teaching them how to hunt..how to see.
“To see…” Aurora repeats, “so I can weave the aurora again..” Slightly confused Shana looks at her, vaguely knowing what it is that she wants, but unsure how to deliver. “She needs an idea about where to go.” Jures voice resonates through her mind. “ We have set you on the right path, but now we need you to help us find the direction in which to proceed. Telling us will be useless, it is not how we are used to do things like this. Use the ravens, little hunter. The ravens see…and share with their master.”
A memory comes to her. Of a tall denizen...the one with the deer skull...with two ravens on his shoulders...how The Hunt sent the ravens to chart new strange lands..how what the ravens saw, the hunt knew and could go. His name.. Blodeuwedd..with Huginin and Muginin..creatures of existence that were no Rinne but something else. Something willed, created over time.
“Give the order...hunt leader...”
She closes her eyes and feels the frost run through her veins like a river. Suddenly she can remember and feel how it is done, but even more, no, but most of it, she feels the instinct. Not everything can be done with words, actions or even a combination of the two. Sometimes, you need something more powerful: a feeling.
That is the word that fits the feeling the most.
A feeling of curiosity, freedom, caution, wings in the wind, the world like a map below you..
The realization of the feeling and the word spoken combine into a call for assistance, but not like an order, more of a request.
And Huginin and Muninin, ravens white as frost and pale like crystals of ice appear and start flying close to her, answering her call.
Because in her call, she not only uttered the feeling of the raven, but also that of her own will and desire, a goal that almost consumes every other thought now that the pursuit is really starting to take shape.
“As important and grave as your wish is,Snow-haired Ice-blue-eyed hunter, do not forget to enjoy the moment. Nobody ever forgets the first time they fly with my ravens.” Blodeuwedd has materialized besides her , the eyes in the deer skull shining with a cold bright light.” Enjoy the flight of the raven as you see what they see.”
The moment he says it Shana knows how. She can see the world in front of her, but also see the world through the eyes of Huginin and Muninin as the ravens fly away over the land, charting the area in the direction her thoughts set them on: The direction of Malachite's trail. ‘A lot of grassy areas and small hills..it will be easy for Aurora to navigate through this one’ she thinks as she analyses the images the ravens share. For what seems like an eternity, all they see is grass and hills. But eventually, they start to see some signs of human activity. a dirt track, a plastic bag, thrown away soda cans, car tires carelessly left behind… She has to subdue a shiver of rage that goes through The Hunt as they are shocked and insulted by the way humans treat the land in these days. Perhaps these humans need to be taught as lesso- ‘NO, that is not your objective!’ Startled she recollects her thoughts and pushes way the anger, as this time it is not her own.
The ravens fly onward, seeing humans. But something is off. They act like humans, look like humans..but...all of them are torches...faint torches..but how can they be so weak? ‘These torches have been created recently, a matter of hours!’ Realising what happened she groans: ‘Malachite...’
Suddenly she sees it and she forgets about the fate of the torches: in the distance, a silhouette of a simple temple complex, like there are so many in Japan, remnants of the feudal era and some even from before then. Somehow she knows that this is the place. It seems deserted..or is it? Beneath the temple roof...that shadow...is that...Shana feels no need to check. She would have known even if the ravens did not spot the Nietono no Shana disrespectfully stashed away below a small berry bush, half-covered in dirt so the ravens almost missed it if not for a tiny reflection. She knows for sure. He is there.
The Hunt shivers in anticipation, as this time they are influenced by hér emotions, instead of the other way around. She has found her target. The hunt has found a target.
But for now they are still far away from there..so far away..
Her eyes narrow as she feels the same anger she felt before; the same icy-cold fiver of rage flows inside of her, swiftly joined by the enormous mass of feelings of the Hunting Lords. Feeling the displeasure and the anger of all those creatures inside of her, all these entities that feel angry towards the same creature. For their own reason, but mainly because Malachite is about to open a gate towards those monsters that took their life and nearly took their world as well. So much anger... And yet her own anger seems to be stronger,stronger and separate. It is as if she feels angry once more because her most precious partner is now in the hybrid’s hands; the most powerful Crimson Lord in Guze, Flame of the Heavens and God of Destruction, Alastor is now in Malachites possession, held a pathetic hostage! Not to mention her sword, Nietono no Shana, a weapon created by the hands of the most powerful Mystes, Tenmoku Ikko, better known at one point in time as the ‘Monster Torch’. The loss of her sword does not hurt as much as the loss of Alastor, but it still stings. Nietono no Shana… the sharpest oodachi, japanese longsword and the first and last weapon she had ever weilded over the years.. now in another ones hands, almost disrespectfully… In the hands of an enemy.
In her anger Shana quickens her pace, jumping from tree to tree, running even faster than if she was on the ground. Her newly made icy sword lies in her hand with a reassuring weight, ready to strike everything that dares to stand in her way. For some reason and to her slight displeasure, Shana remembers the hybrid’s lessons as she runs, about how to focus on using her power in this warped environment. Even from this distance the corruption of existence is noticeable, she can feel the throb of it all around her. But it does not frighten her anymore. With every step she takes, it seems that the half-denizens lessons are getting burnt into her mind bit by bit. Finally she has started finally to understand how it works and how to focus. Vengeance and justice are powerful motivators after all. And every step she takes, every fast leap, is making her come closer. Like a fiery..no..Iced Angel of unescapable wrath.
“My control of my strength is returning, I feel it! But it is still not enough! I must focus more! What is this overwhelming need? The Hunt? Is this truly how someone who hunts feel? Is this how predators feel when running after their victims? Is this...how a Denizen feels while hunting on his own?” She wonders as she I runs faster and faster, feeling the cold and emotion engulfing her, guiding her.
“That wound..not lethal..” Sthiss says suddenly, hovering beside her in the air as he effortlessly matches her speed, his snakebody slithering through the air andthe frost on his feathers in the setting sun making it look like he is covered in small diamonds.
“Perfect angle..Lower and he would have hit a major artery..higher and he would have punctured a vital organ... Had you stayed down...it might have closed in time..your movement made it such a serious wound...”
She continues to face forward while running, jumping from three to tree or running through open spots in the forest. But with her silence she asks the Denizen-ghost what he is trying to say, to imply. If the wound was never meant to be lethal, no, was made in almost the only way for it not to be lethal..then… “Sthiss, we need more speed.” Aurora speaks with a commanding voice, still the first in line as she channels the aurora above the trees and on the ground for all to walk on, abruptly interrupting her train of thought.
Sthiss only answers with a ruffling of his feathers. As he does, she suddenly feels a chilling wind behind yher, an icy polar wind that intensifies or calms depending on the speed of which the Snake Denizen ghost ruffles his feathers. it certainly explains the Frost part of his title.. A flash of a memory.. a pyramid like a staircase..people kneeling down…snow during the summer..worship..and just like that the images are gone again, lost in the maelstrom of hundreds of lost souls.
Meanwhile the ravens attract her attention again. They have spotted movement near the buried Nietono no Shana. This time there is no doubt: it is Malachite. the setting sun reflects of his bracelet and necklace as he grabs the longsword he stole from her. He seems...tense. He leaves the protection of the trees and temple structures and walks towards a large open area..he is waiting. And, even while she is still far away she can feel it: a feeling that causes the ravens to shriek in disgust, and The Hunt to shiver in anticipation: Something is coming. something terrible. something dark. something...from them. Something from the Six…the Karka…is there.