A carriage slowly continued down the road as the sight of a large stone wall came into view. The young boy inside the carriage continued to stare down at his book as his father continued to drone on about the rich family pride that they were expected to uphold.
“You see my son, you are expected to carry on the Pynn family name, and do your duty. We pride ourselves on what we do. No matter what it is, we work hard to make it happen.”
The boy looked up from his book as the carriage stopped.
“Can I go with you on the trip down into The Pit this time? I want to know what’s down there.”
Looking over to his wife, the father of the boy turned to his son, and smiled.
“You’re thirteen. We were going to take us with you so that you could understand just what it is we do.”
As the boy closed his book, the carriage door opened revealing two young girls dressed in silver plated arm that stood out in the sunlight.
“Greetings, lord and lady Pynn,” one of the girl’s spoke in a polite but gallant tone.
“Nice to see you again, Ralyin. Are we ready to descend by the end of tomorrow?”
“We have almost everything ready. In the best case, we can move out by tonight, otherwise, we will likely have to delay it for one day.”
“Not a problem. See to it.”
“As you wish. Your living quarters have been prepared as well.”
“Ah. Thank you. We shall go, and inspect the other areas of the wall before we rest though.”
“What should I do, father?”
“Roam free, Aystaria. Best that you get a feel for the area that you will be visiting more often now. Xyia can accompany you.”
Aystaria looked upon the face of the girl before him. She was the same height as him, yet even though she appeared thirteen, she was actually in her late twenties. Her hair was as white as snow, and flowed down to her shoulders. Aystaria had always wondered why the few people he knew of white hair, always had one eye that was of red color. His parents had never explained why this was the cause.
Xyia smiled as she leaned closer to Aystaria, her relatively large breast coming clear into his line-of-sight. He was never afraid to talk to girls, yet being around Xyia always seemed to throw him off his thoughts. The lower part of his body seemed to feel the need to express itself too as Aystaria leered over Xyia’s body.
“Well, where would you like to go first, Aystaria?”
Aystaria’s stomach growled loudly as he held his arms to his stomach, and blushing slightly.
“I guess we should get you food then.”
Following behind Xyia, Aystaria entered into a small nearby house that served as the kitchen for food within one sector of the southern area. Xyia quickly made a small meal for Aystaria has he looked over the drawing of a map in his book. He had studied about The Pit through the various books that he had at his disposal. While all of them contained little information, there was enough to understand that it was a brutal place where only the strong survived or more likely, the suicidal went to die.
Every book written about The Pit always contained vastly different information which most often contradicted other information. Out of the possible thousands of different books Aystaria had read on The Pit, there was only one book that stood out to him. This book was given to him at the age of six. Aystaria’s father had given him a book entitled Abyssinia, which was supposedly a family heirloom that had been past down from generation to generation. The book had been, at least according to his father, in the family for over one-thousand years. It was bound in a dark leather that Aystaria always questioned if it was from another world. What always stuck Aystaria as odd, however, was fact there was no name of an author on the book to speak of. Only a symbol. Each page inside the book was made of a unique vellum that felt heavier than that of the average book. Even the type on the page looked as if the ink was not of the same world.
Yet, of everything in the book—from the tales of monsters to the artifacts that were uncovered—it was the unknown layers of The Pit that drew in Aystaria’s curiousness. Spanning six full pages was a detailed drawing of the layers in The Pit. In total, the map showed six layers. Each of them were different in appearance, and based on the notes that Aystaria had read many times, the first two layers were considered relatively safe. The Light Bearers had built different encampments, and settlements to allow the circulation of goods from the different layers. By the third layer, the landscape changed into a barren wasteland shrouded by a shadowy mist.
Aystaria had noticed in other books, the information regarding the third layer varied, however, almost all of them incorrectly described the third layer as being of rolling hills, and meadow lush grasslands. Most of the books would stop after the third layer, yet this one contained information on six layers. In the few years that Aystaria had been to school, he learned that something wasn’t connecting between this one book, the countless others, and the education that he had learned in school. Below the third layer, the book spoke of the fourth layer that grew trees that twisted in knots, and appeared as dead as a corpse. Within the depths of the fifth layer was a frozen lake that held small hot pools of water. Unlike the warm water of the hot springs throughout the world this water was said to boil a man alive. Only of note was an area that served as an oasis of sorts where the water was warm enough to bathe in. In the book, Aystaria had noted that there was said to be a stronghold described as being made of pure black stone. This fortress was appropriately named the Shadow Fort. While there was plenty of information on the layout of the fort, there was nothing as to who built it, owned it or if people were even living in it.
In the sixth layer of The Pit, is said to be cast in a veil of shadow so thick that one cannot see five feet in front of them without a lantern. Beyond that, there was little information as to what the six layer held other then a dark forest that was like an endless maze. It was stated in the book that a few had managed to get lost in the forest that had been dubbed the Wandering Woods.
Aystaria continued to read through the book until Xyia appeared with a plate of food in her hand. Serving it with a smile, she placed the plate down as she sat across the table from Aystaria. Without a second to delay, Aystaria shoved the food into his mouth—not even thinking about what he was consuming. Xyia looked over the book that Aystaria had on the table.
“Have you read that whole thing?”
“Twice now. Just making sure I can commit it to memory.”
“Why is that?” Xyia asked.
“In the event I don’t have this book, I want to have the knowledge on-hand.”
“But how do you know the knowledge in there is even correct?”
“I just have a feeling that it’s all accurate.”
Xyia smiled as she flipped through the pages of the books.
“Just a feeling?”
“Is that wrong?”
“Not at all. Sometimes acting on a feeling is good. It can save your life.”
Aystaria finished the last of his meal, and downed the cold mug of fresh milk. Wiping his mouth clean, he returned to his study of the book as Xyia smiled, and moved to sit beside him.
“You want to know a secret?” Xyia whispered in Aystaria’s ear.
“What is it?”
“Everything in that book is true.”
“Forgive me if I don’t take your word for it, but how do you know?”
Xyia removed the small wristband around her left wrist revealing a black inked emblem of a dagger that was pointed downwards in a cracked skull, with six swirls surrounding it. Aystaria studied the emblem on Xyia’s wrist, and the one on the cover of the book. Both were exactly the same.
“Okay, you have my attention.”
Closing the book, Xyia giggled as she quickly ran off.
Heading for the exit, Xyia turned around, and smiled as she looked to Aystaria.
“Catch me if you can.”
Giggling as she as she exited the house, Aystaria quickly got up from the chair, and followed after Xyia. He kept track of her position through the various people going about their duties, and assignments. Aystaria struggled to keep up with Xyia as she vaulted over the different wooden crates, and other objects that were stacked near buildings. Using one of the crates to spring off of, Xyia managed to get onto the rooftops of the buildings. Turning to see Aystaria carefully climbing up the stack of crates slowly, she Xyia couldn’t help but giggle as she sat down—waiting for him to make his way over to her. After getting up onto the roof, Aystaria appeared as if he was struggling to catch his breath. Falling to the ground, and looking up at the Aystaria continued to breath heavily as Xyia laid beside him.
“You are incredibly out of shape.”
“I… just didn’t think… I would have to be chasing you down like this. My body was sore from the journey just to get here.”
“Tsk. Tsk. Using that as an excuse? For shame, Aystaria,” Xyia said with a smile as she handed Aystaria his book back.
Aystaria opened the book, and looked through each of the pages.
“Tell me, did you write this book?”
Xyia giggled loudly as she closed her eyes.
“I couldn’t write a book.”
“Then… what is the symbol?”
“Your parents had planned to tell you, but I guess I can spill the beans.”
Aystaria looked to Xyia with anticipation.
“We are going down into the fifth layer of The Pit.”
“I take it we will be going to the Shadow Fort on that layer?”
“Yes. The Shadow Fort is home to secret unit that many do not even know exist.”
Xyia stood to her feet, and looked to Aystaria with a serious expression.
“You may have realized that white hair isn’t a common trait among us humans. We move faster, and are stronger than the average human. The reason for this is because we have are half-Ryizaviran.”
Xyia pulled out a small black coin, and placed it on the ground.
“Try to lift that.”
Aystaria gripped the coin, and pulled only to find the coin was stuck firmly in place. For a few minutes, he tried his hardest to move the coin, but did not get it to move even one millimeter.
“That coin is from a world beyond our borders, deep in the sixth layer. You can’t pick up that coin because you are just a human, whereas I am only half a human.”
“You said something about a secret unit. You’re apart of this unit?”
“Do you recall what your history books teach?” Xyia asked as she looked up at the sky.
“The Light Bearers are said to have kept the darkness of The Pit at bay from creatures not of our world.”
“It’s a lie.”
Aystaria stood to his feet as he hung onto the words that Xyia was telling him. He had always believed the world he lived in was hiding something, but now he was finally starting to understand.
“The truth is, we Shadow Takers are the ones that fight back the darkness. We enter into another world beyond the veils of light, and throw away the sun for what is on the other side.”
“Why is it people don’t know of your existence?”
“Because we’re monsters,” Xyia said with a smile.
“You don’t look like one.”
“Doesn’t mean others don’t see us that way.”
“Shouldn’t people know the truth though?”
“It’s better if they didn’t. Trust me, Aystaria. One day you will understand.”
“Can I join your unit?”
The question took Xyia by surprise before she smiled, and placed her hand on Aystaria’s head.
“How about you actually have the stamina to keep up with me first, okay?”
Aystaria couldn’t help but be amazed by the wonders of The Pit. Each layer they delved into grew increasing dark, and peculiar as the book had described. Xyia stayed close to Aystaria as she explained the various oddities that they came across on their trip down into the The Pit. The biggest thing that bemused Aystaria was the vague sense of traveling. Moving from one layer to the next did not feel like they were heading down, nor did it feel as if the transition from one layer into the next was noticeable.
After a few days had passed, Aystaria could feel the temperature in the air change as he noticed the snow on the ground, and trees. While it was a white land of beauty, he could feel his body shaking even though the large warm coat that had on. Seeing Aystaria shake from head to toe, Xyia smiled as she removed the black overcoat she was wearing, and placed it over Aystaria.
“Thank you, but won’t you get cold?”
“I’ll be fine.”
Aystaria could feel the heat radiating from the inside of the warm jacket. It felt as if it had been woven from a fabric not of this world.
“Wait, is this made from—”
Xyia smiled as she cut him off, already knowing where he was going.
“Yup. It is indeed.”
“How am I able to wear this though? That coin was impossible to move.”
“There are different types of material, and they all vary in grade. We use a simple star rating to determine the durability of the item. A one-star item is extremely durable, and lightweight to the point that a normal human can use carry it, while a five-star item is still durable but heavy.”
“So, that coin was a five-star rating, and this coat is a one-star?”
“Can you teach me more when we get to the fort?” Aystaria asked.
“Of course. In fact, if you look up there, you can see the fort,” Xyia said as she pointed up to a far off cliff.
In the distance, Aystaria could see a large fort that sat at the edge of a clifftop. He could see there was only one winding path to the fort while surrounding the rest of the area below was the frozen lake. As Aystaria exited through a clearing in the forest he could see the beauty of the frozen lake with his own eyes at the edge of the ground. Making his way over to it, he noticed a pocket of water that bubbled as if being heated from below. Before he could lean over to see the clear water, he heard Xyia shout his name.
Grabbing him, and pulling him back as the water in the pocket shot up like a rush of liquid, Aystaria began to feel his heart racing.
“Let’s try not to lean of the deadly water, okay,” Xyia said with a smile.
Continue down the pathway, and up to the fort, Aystaria was amazed by just how big it truly was. A large gate closed off the outside from the inner section with two guards posted to keep watch. They both had white hair, and were dressed in black armor that resembled knight’s armor.
“Is everyone in this fort apart of the Shadow Takers?” Aystaria asked.
Passing the gate, and entering the courtyard, Aystaria was greeted by a large open area paved in stone. The snow had appeared to be shoved from the stone with small snowflakes still on the ground.
“There are some humans here that act as staff. Groundskeepers, maids, and some guards. But yes, most of the people here are apart of the Shadow Takers.”
“Exactly how many of you are there?”
Aystaria continued to follow his father, and mother until they came a large grand door. Upon opening the door, Aystaria was greeted by a large great hall that held many wooden tables with various Shadow Takers partaking in meals or off-duty activities.
“Um… a lot,” Xyia said with a smile.
The chatter of different voice echoed throughout the great hall as Aystaria walked down one of the aisles. He was more surprised by the fact that no one was paying him much attention, as if him, and his parents being there was nothing more than a normal occurrence. Deep down, Aystaria felt vastly intimated by the looks of the various Shadow Takers.
“Don’t be afraid, Aystaria. Most of the people here are nice.”
“Relax, I’ll always be here to protect you,” Xyia said with a smile.
Aystaria continued to follow his parents through a nearby doorway at the back of the room that lead into a long hallway. Entering into another room with a crimson red door, Aystaria noticed that it was similar to the large dinning room at his manor. On the large wooden table were six candles.
“I want you to observe everything you see here today. Do not speak unless you are spoken to. Understand me?”
“As you wish.”
Aystaria’s father stood at the head of the table as he waited for a moment. After a few seconds of silence, Aystaria could hear whispers coming from the shadows. In that moment, he could see figures starting to emerge as six individuals sat down in the chairs with the candles in front of them. Aystaria leaned over into Xyia’s ear as he whispered.
“Who are they?”
Before Xyia could say anything, the echoes of a voice rang out through Aystaria’s ears.
“You know we can hear you, boy.”
Aystaria’s father turned to him, disappointed that he had failed to listen to him.
“Bring him forth,” one other voice said.
Aystaria carefully made his way over to his father as he stared upon the six figures sitting at the table. All of them were obscured by shadows aside from one girl who seemed a bit off.
“I take it this boy is your son, lord Pynn.”
“So you’re the son, maybe we could have some fun,” the odd girl spoke.
“Um… I’m sorry, what do you mean?” Aystaria asked nervously.
“I mean what I say, we can become newly weds today!”
Aystaria blushed at the words the girl spoke.
“Andateika! Cease your banter.”
“My bad, I’m sad…”
Andateika sat down in her chair hugging her knees to her chest.
“I apologize for her… odd behavior. Now, answer me. What is your name boy?”
“And why is it you are here?”
Aystaria looked to his father, but he did not speak.
“My father originally wanted me to learn what it was he did but…”
“Ass!” Andateika yelled out.
Andateika giggled as Aystaria took at second to breath, and a smirk appeared on his face.
“I want to be a Shadow Taker.”
Silence fell in the room as Andateika herself even looked puzzled by what was said.
“Wow, you must be great in bed because you have a big head,” Andateika giggled.
Aystaria felt his face turn a bright red as he looked down to make sure nothing was showing.
“Anyways… lord Pynn, ensure your son is with you. He should at least see the world for himself.”
“As you wish.”
“You are free to go. Three days from now, make sure you are ready to leave.”
“Awwie, I don’t want Aystaria to go, please let me be your ho,” Andateika said as she jumped up from her chair, and wrapped her arms around Aystaria.
“You don’t make any sense, you must be dense,” Aystaria said as he pushed the girl off of him.
“You should know I’m really sweet, you can even lick my feet.”
“I’m not into that, but maybe I could rest my head in your lap.”
“I can meet you in your room, you will be my groom.”
“Okay, I think we done, I got to run.”
Without another word, Aystaria headed for the exit with his father. He felt his heart starting to beat as he realized what had happened in the room.
“Can someone explain what happened?” Aystaria asked.
“Xyia, take my son to his room, and fill him in.”
Xyia nodded as she grabbed Aystaria gently by the hand.
“Follow me, okay?”
Aystaria laid back on his bed as he looked up at the ceiling. He thought about everything that Xyia had told him. It was a lot to take in after only one day, but he enjoyed learning new things. Overall, he was excited to see this new realm beyond the borders of their reality, and meet with the various Ryiza in the new realm. The Ryiza were of two types, either a mindless creature that would kill on impulse or a sentient being that could understand emotions, dreams, and desires.
It was hard for him to imagine that Ryiza were alive, and wandering the streets of the cities throughout the world. He thought back to his friends, and began to question if they were Ryiza that could understand pain, love, and all the same emotions, and desires like other humans. Turning over onto his side, he closed his eyes as he decided to focus on what he would have to do for the next three days.
Over the course of three days, Aystaria studied in the fort’s library that held many books on the shadow realm that he had learned was called Enfieria. Every book he read he learned something new. He had even managed to find a book on the language spoken in the world of Enfieria. During that time he practiced what he had learned with Xyia, but by the end of three days he found that he was only able to speak the language at a basic level—just enough to converse.
On the day of the trip, Aystaria felt both nervous, and excited as he prepared himself to enter the world of Enfieria. With Xyia close to his side, Aystaria, and his family followed the group of Shadow Takers that would escort them to the shadow realm. They were tasked with reaching out to a small village, and to help them understand the culture of Temeraire in hopes of getting the villagers into a position of nobility.
“Aystaria, stay by me at all times. The world of Enfieria is not to be taken lightly. Do you understand?”
Like the transitions to the other layers, Aystaria found it hard to tell when they had entered the sixth layer. Yet, he started to take note of the shadowy fog that had grown thicker within the forest. Before long, Aystaria realized that he was unable to see about five feet in front of him. The Shadow Takers appeared to know where they were going even through the heavy mist.
“What is it?”
“How does this fog look through your eyes?”
“For us, the fog isn’t there for about sixty feet or so. That’s about the max distance we half-Ryiza can see. A full Ryiza can see about double that.”
Aystaria continued to follow just behind his parents as two Shadow Takers stayed ahead about ten feet ahead of them. The shadowy mist that surrounded the area didn’t seem to let up as Aystaria wondered when they would be entering into the shadow realm.
“We just entered Enfieria,” Xyia said as she looked to Aystaria.
“Did we? It doesn’t feel like anything as changed other then the fact a few a bit sleepy.”
“Yeah, entering for the first time tends to do that.”
“So, what’s out there?”
“Woods at the moment. We won’t reach an open clearing for at least a mile or two.”
The sounds of a howling echo shattered through the silence as Aystaria covered his ears from the sound. Looking around, he noticed that each of the Shadow Takers had their weapons out, and at the ready. Xyia appeared alert as Aystaria noticed her eyes were scanning the area rapidly.
“Xyia… What was that?”
“Don’t stray from my side, Aystaria. Those were shadow wolves. From the sound of it, there’s at least fifty.”
“If I tell you to run, then you run. Got it?”
“Just do as I say.”
Aystaria nodded as he remained close to Xyia. The sounds of the howling wolves grew louder as Aystaria tried to figure out where they would be coming from.
“Xyia, ten on the east side,” one of the Shadow Takers called out.
“I see them.”
Xyia turned to Aystaria.
“Stay right here.”
Watching Xyia disapear into the darkness, Aystaria tried to recall any information he may of had read in any of the books. Aystaria could hear the sounds of a few wolves dying followed by the sound of a single scream from a girl. The rustling of leaves being trampled underfoot closed in as Aystaria scanned the area—to no avail. Out of the shadows, two wolves pounced at Aystaria’s mother, and father ending their lives with a quick ripping open of the jugular. Unable to feel his legs, Aystaria froze in fear as he watched his parents get eaten alive by the five other wolves that appeared for a feast.
Even though Aystaria could not see Xyia, he knew that staying was a quick road to death. As he took a step back he could hear another howl that echoed throughout the sky. Running through the shadows with hardly any way to know where he was going, Aystaria rushed past many different trees, and branches to get around from the wolves. He could hear their footsteps as they dashed through the trees as if they didn’t exist. Continuing through the woods without even knowing just what direction he was going, Aystaria felt his foot snag on a tree root. Falling flat on his face, he could feel the pain in his face but also his foot. Trying to stand up quickly, he felt the pain surge through his left leg as he turned to see ten wolves all spaced out in an arc, and ready to strike.
As one wolf leapt forward to attack, Aystaria closed his eyes. In that moment, he heard the sound of a whimper before silence over took the area. Upon opening his eyes he could a dead wolf laying at the feet of Xyia, her sword plunged deep into the creature’s skull. Her arm had been mauled, but she still held her blade in her hand ready to fight.
“I refuse to let you die, Aystaria.”
With ever bit of strength she had, Xyia fought off the wolves managing to take some of the wolves before her wounds were starting to get to her. As she remained alert, she watched the six wolves as they circled around trying to throw her off guard. Taking out one with ease, Xyia tried to fight off two more but sound found herself bitten at the ankle. As she continued to fight off one, she began to realize that the wolves were getting smarter. While she had managed to take out one more wolf, one had slipped through her defenses, and pounced on top of her. In that moment, Xyia fought to keep the wolf at bay only to over at Aystaria, and smile one final time.
Aystaria turned away from the horror, but the screams echoed throughout his ears. He couldn’t open his eyes now as he didn’t want to face the truth that happened just a few feet in front of him. Even though he wasn’t ready to die, Aystaria knew there was no way he would be able to outrun the wolves. Yet, he was shocked at how silence the area was around him.
“Hey, are you okay?”
The voice was that of a girl who was kneeling down in front of him. As he looked up at the girl, he could see that she had long white hair with a braid that flowed down to her thighs with a black ribbon tied at the end. Her voice was cheerful, and her smile lit up the darkness like a candle. While her build was petite, and slender she didn’t give off any impression of being weak. She was dressed in a white short top that showed her bellybutton, and crimson red shorts. A pair of white thigh-high socks, and ankle-length blue boots completed the overall look of the outfit. The one thing Aystaria noticed was the mark on her left wrist. It was the same mark that identified all Shadow Takers.
“Y-You’re apart of the Shadow Takers…”
A cute giggled escaped the girl’s mouth as she twirled on the ball of her foot ending with a striking pose fit for a popular girl in school.
“Yiania Byalsheir, commander of the Shadow Takers Unit Six.”
“Did you kill all those wolves already?”
“Don’t worry about that, okay? You’re safe now,” Yiania said with a smile.
Without warning, Aystaria wrapped his arms around Yiania as tears flowed from his eyes. He could feel Yiania’s warming embrace as she hugged him gently.
“Can you stand?”
“I think I twisted my ankle pretty bad.”
“Not a problem.”
Aystaria was taken by surprise as Yiania lifted him in her arms like a gallant knight carrying a princess. He couldn’t help but blush from the feeling as Yiania carried him off with the rest of her unit following behind her.
“Make sure to grab those dog tags, Gorath.”
“Sure thing, commander.”
Returning to the Shadow Fort safely, Yiania carried Aystaria to small room that held various medical supplies atop different shelves. Placing him on the medical table, Yiania looked over to one of the girls.
“All of you can go. Myikaru, you’re up though.”
Myikaru had long hair that flowed down just past her hips with a small ribbon tied off at the left side—held in place with a needle. She wore a black cotton shirt button-up shirt with a white leather coat over it, and a white short skirt with black accents. A pair of black thigh-high socks with a pair of white knee-high boots laced fitted with purple shoestrings completed her odd getup which made her appear seductive, and sexy.
“Be aware that Myikaru has a fetish for everything.”
Aystaria started to blush as he watched Myikaru remove his boot carefully.
Before Aystaria could say anything, he felt Myikaru’s warm tongue licking his sock like dog. His face quickly blushed a bright red as he tried to pull his foot away.
“Myikaru, would you mind being nice to the girl we just saved.”
“G-Girl? But I’m— Ow!”
The feeling of Myikaru gently twisting his ankle made Aystaria whimper in pain for a second but soon after, he realized the pain was slowly starting to subside. Myikaru licked her lips like a hungry girl staring at a slice of cake. Without warning, she placed her face into his sock, inhaling the aroma like a scent of fine fragrance.
“Myikaru, if I have to remind you one more time, we’re going to have a chat later,” Yiania said with a smile.
Aystaria watched as Myikaru removed his sock, and pulled out a bandage from a nearby supply box. Myikaru couldn’t help but lust over Aystaria’s petite barefoot as she drew her mouth closer to his toes.
“Myikaru,” Yiania said in a sarcastic tone.
“I can’t help it commander. She has such beautiful feet.”
Shoving his toe into Myikaru’s mouth, Aystaria laid back on the table, and stared up at the ceiling.
“If you’re going to do that, at least bandage it properly. Also, I’m a boy.”
Myikari jumped up quickly as she straddled Aystaria’s hips.
“What turns you on? Breast? Thighs? Ass? Feet?”
“How about you do the job you were told, and maybe I will tell you what I like later.”
“He’s a cutie. Can we keep him?”
“Down girl, I saw him first. You do your job,” Yiania said as she approached Aystaria.
Like a trained dog, Myikaru headed back down to Aystaria’s feet as Yiania traced her fingers through Aystaria’s long hair.
“I see you’re not crying over the death of your parents, Aystaria.”
“So, you knew my name?”
“Well, of course. I knew your mother, and father. They were nice,” Yiania said as she crawled atop the table, and straddled Aystaria’s hips.
Aystaria stared into Yiania’s eyes. He noticed that one was of orange color while the other was a dark crimson red.
“So Aystaria, here’s a question for you. What do you plan to do now?”
“Well, I have no family. No home to go back too. Guess my only option is the join the Shadow Takers.”
Yiania giggled as she rested her head on Aystaria’s chest.
“You’re a bad liar. You want to express how you feel, yet, you’re using jokes to try, and play it off. It’s something all of us Shadow Takers do.”
“Is it now?”
“Mhm. Are you sure it’s what you want though?”
“Right then, Myikaru, can you gather the others please?”
“On it, commander.”
Myikaru left the room within a flash as Yiania held out her hand.
“Follow me, Aystaria.”
After putting on his boot, Aystaria grabbed Yiania’s hand, and followed her down the hallway. The two of them came to a large black door after a few minutes that was grand in appearance. On it was the same emblem that Aystaria had seen on Xyia’s arm wrist. Opening up the door revealed a large open room shrouded in shadows. Aystaria could only see a lit candle sitting on the table along with a black chalice accented in a slight golden leaf color. Standing off to the sides were the other members of Unit Six, their faces showing no sign of expression.
“What is this place?” Aystaria asked.
“The place where you either live or die,” Yiania said with a smile.
Aystaria followed behind Yiania as she made her way over to the small alter in the center of the room. Looking around, Aystaria could see two chains that disappeared into the darkness. As Aystaria stepped up onto the small block that acted as the foundation of the alter, Yiania turned to him—her expression remaining the same.
“On your knees, please.”
“Something tells me this is how Shadow Takers are born,” Aystaria said as he watched Yiania chain his wrist down to the floor.
“That would be correct. We ingest the blood of the Ryiza, and we become half-Ryiza,” Yiania said as she pulled out her dagger strapped to her thigh.
Slicing opening her palm, she allowed the blood to pour into the chalice before finally turning to Aystaria, her smile never faltering.
“I hope you survive because I’d hate to have to kill you.”
Pouring the liquid into Aystaria’s mouth, the room went silent as they wait for the moment of truth. In a few seconds, Aystaria could start to few something twisting inside of his body. The pain felt like someone ripping out all the nerves from the inside of his body slowly. His screams echoed throughout the room as he desperately struggled to break free from the chains. He could feel his body was starting to change as it underwent the process of turning into a half-Ryiza.
Of the most noticeable, his long flowing hair changed into a pale color of snow white, while his left eye turning a crimson red color. Another scream left his lungs as he coughed up black blood onto the floor.
“Well… there went my lunch for today,” Aystaria joked as he tried to calm his breathing.
“Still can crack jokes I see, that’s good,” Yiania said with a smile.
Aystaria started to feel the pain in his body subside as he looked up to Yiania.
“Yes,” Yiania said as she unshackled Aystaria.
Grabbing a small branding iron from the alter, Yiania placed it over the candle.
“There is just one more thing left to do.”
After getting the branding iron hot, Yiania turned to Aystaria, and pinned him down onto the floor. With a sadistic smile, she drove the iron into his left wrist, kissing his lips before he could scream out from the pain. Aystaria felt a mix of both pain, and pleasure as he tried to understand exactly what he was feeling. As Yiania removed the branding iron from Aystaria’s skin, she smiled as she ended the kiss.
“Well Aystaria, you’re all mine now.”
“I guess I don’t have a choice in this, do I, commander?”
Yiania giggled as she stood to her feet. Placing the brand on the alter, she grabbed her dagger, and dipped the tip in the rest of the blood. Carefully etching out the number six near the top of the brand on Aystaria’s wrist, Yiania smiled as she looked over to him.
“You signed up for it, so nope.”
Once she was finished, Yiania held out her hand with a cheerful expression on her face.
“Let me properly introduce you to the team.”
Yiania pointed to each of the members as she introduced them.
“We have Myikaru Haryune the Lewd, Gorath Ironblood the Brave, Orphina the Greedy, and Scarlett the Masochist.”
“I’m… not going to be able to remember all your names.”
“Don’t worry, Aystaria. You’ll learn. After all, I’ll be training you,” Yiania said with a smile.
Two years passed as Aystaria learned, and trained to use his abilities to there full extent. In a span of another four years, Aystaria had formed a bound with the members of Unit Six, and most noticeably his commander. He learned many things from her, from her unusual combat style to all the ways in which pain could be inflected. Aystaria felt pride in the fact that he had learned so much within the few years.
Aystaria continued to read through his book as he made mental notes of all the things he came across in the world of Enfieria. The banks just outside of the city of Athelas were considered one the most beautiful spots, yet not many knew about it the small area that was secluded. As Aystaria continued to read, he could feel the fingertips of Yiania playing with his long hair like a child.
“I’m almost finished, Aystaria.”
“You put me in this top, and this skirt. It feels like you’re trying to make me into a girl.”
“But you make a cute girl.”
“Do I? So, are you into girls?” Aystaria asked with a smile as he looked to Yiania.
Yiania giggled as she looked to Aystaria with a shy expression, her face blushing slightly.
“I’m into you.”
Aystaria looked over the long braid that Yiania had done to his hair, tying off the end of it with a black ribbon. Taking the initiative, Aystaria pinned Yiania down onto the grass as he stared into her eyes. He couldn’t help but smile as he gazed upon her beauty.
“You’re truly a beautiful girl.”
“Tyhmä,” Yiania spoke in a shy tone, her face blushing a deeper shade of red.
Running his fingers through her hair, Aystaria noticed the golden hair clip that held back her bangs.
“I should buy a hair clip to hold back my bangs. They always seem to get in the way.”
Yiania giggled as she removed the hair clip from her bangs, and brushed Aystaria’s bangs to the side before clipping his hair back.
“There. Now it won’t get in the way of your beautiful eyes,” Yiania said with a smile.
A loud cough disturbed the tender moment between Aystaria, and Yiania as they both looked to see the rest of the team staring on.
“You two should get a room. Unless you plan to just do it here in front of us,” Myikaru said with a sly smile.
Yiania smiled as she looked back to Asytaria. With a fake cough she spoke in a sarcastic tone.
“Aystaria, the commander is not allowed to engage in such behavior with a member of her own unit. Please refrain from showing such lewd displays of affection in public,” Yiania said with a playful wink.
“So, in private is perfectly fine, I see.”
Aystaria smiled as he got off of Yiania, and helped her up.
“One week from now we enter Enfieria. All of you remember what’s going down, right?”
“You may have to remind Myikaru. After all she did seem to be fixated on me more than she should have,” Aystaria joked.
“That is true. I did stare at you with lustful eyes. Your body, your hair, your ass, your thighs, your legs, and feet everything was just so—”
“Repeating the plan then for the one who is too horny to listen,” Yiania said as she cut Myikaru off.
Drawing out a small map off the area they would be operating in, Yiania explained the basics of the plan.
“We will be conducting a joint operation with the rest of the Shadow Taker Units. Our target is the shadow lord. The locals call him Cyridel, who rules with an iron fist. Our mission is simple, kill him.”
Aystaria looked around the courtyard of the Shadow Fort at all the units that had gathered for the joint operation. He had grown to befriend a few of the other members such as Feldia the Formidable who was of unit one. While both of them were different in their views, they both respected each other. Another member he had interacted with was Sia the Face Stealer who had approached him with the threat of taking his face. Yet, before anything could be done, Yiania ensure that Sia kept away from her treasure.
Looking over all the unit commanders, Aystaria came to the realization that out of all of them, Yiania was the youngest of the them all. Being only twenty-one years of age, she was considered immature by many of the Shadow Takers. This did not stop her from pushing forward to the point many considered her to be a prodigy.
“So, Yiania, question for you.”
“What is it, Aystaria?”
“When this is joint operation is over, you want to get a room together?”
Yiania giggled as she smirked looking over to Aystaria.
The single strike of a bell rang out through the area as all of the Shadow Takers turned to look at the balcony tower where a figure stood dressed in black.
“Tonight, the operation will begin,” the figure spoke as its voice echoed throughout the courtyard.
Aystaria leaned into Yiania’s ear as he whispered.
“That’s the commander over the whole Shadow Taker Units, right?”
“Yeah, he oversees everything.”
“Tonight, ensure that you do not fail. Now go!”
Like a swift fleet of shadows, all of the units made haste—leaving the courtyard empty with no trace of sound. Aystaria followed behind Yiania as they led the tip of the spear into the sixth layer. Rushing through the woods, Aystaria kept his eyes scanning the horizons for monsters while he continued to keep an equal amount of distance between himself, and the rest of the team. Like a pack of wolves, Unit Six moved deeper into the woods until Yiania stopped.
Aystaria could see the shadowy outlines of figures in the distance. In total, ten Ryiza were presence within his line-of-sight. Yiania turned to her team, and smiled. With a simple gesture of her thumb slitting her throat, everyone in the unit maneuvered to engage the Ryiza, and eliminate them as quickly as possible.
Aystaria wiped the blood from his sword as he looked over the battlefield. Ten corpses laid still as blood poured out of them onto the ground. The battle had only lasted six seconds, yet this is what they were trained to do. Aystaria scanned the area around him as he tried to get a sense of where they were at within the realm.
“You would think after so many trips into this place, we’d have map or something,” Aystaria said.
“Considering we still haven’t been able to explore much of this world, we should be glad we have vague sense of direction, and time in this place.”
Aystaria scanned the area until he heard a voice in the distance.
“Did you hear that?”
“I didn’t hear anything.”
Without warning, Aystaria headed in the direction of the voice.
Failing to listen to Yiania, Aystaria continued on through the woods as he grow closer to the voice that echoed throughout his ears. Entering into an opening clearing, Aystaria could see a little girl crying as she sat on a lone rock. She was of pale skin with long unkempt black hair that flowed down to her lower back. Her clothes were like that of a beggar’s with rips at random places, and covering down to her thighs. She’s crying? She must be a Ryiza that isn’t mindless, Aystaria thought as he made his way closer to the girl.
“Hei siellä, oletko kunnossa?” Aystaria spoke in calming tone.
As Aystaria placed his hand on the girl’s shoulder, he felt a chill run throughout his body. The fear of seeing a horrible disfiguration before him made his heart stop for a second. Shit, it’s not a sentient Ryiza, Aystaria thought as he tried to pull his blade from his sheath. Before he could act, the Ryiza let out an ear shattering scream that forced him, and his teammates that had finally caught up to him, to cover their ears. Without a chance react, Aystaria felt himself being pinned down to the ground by the screeching creature as he struggled to break free.
The swift strike of a flying dagger entered the creature’s head. Tossing the creature to the side, Aystaria removed the dagger, and threw it back to Yiania. Catching it at the hilt, she sheathed the dagger back into her thigh-hostler, and made her way over to Aystaria. Helping him to his feet, she looked at him with smile.
“You know what I have to do to you later, right Aystaria?”
“String me up naked by my…”
Aystaria’s body shook at the thought of what Yiania had done to him once before just for fun.
“Right… sorry commander.”
“Well, I’m just—”
Before Yiania could finish her sentence, she—along with the others—could feel the ground start to tremble under their feet. From out of the ground, Ryiza appeared by the dozens.
“I guess we’re going to have fun tonight, right team?” Yiania asked with a cheerful expression on her face.