“In the deepest depths where no light prevails, soldiers battle the shadows never to be known by the world above. These soldiers were the first of their kind to fight against the darkness that threatened to wipe out humanity. Twelve soldiers gave up the sun to battle the darkness within—”
“Aystaria, this is boring.”
“Well Rita, it might be better for you to learn some history.”
“But history is so boring,” Rita said with a sigh.
Aystaria closed her book as she looked out the window of the carriage. Pulling up to the large gate, she could see a guard standing there looking half-bored as if he cared little for the job he was assigned. As the carriage stopped, the guard approached the window.
“State your business,” the guard said in a monotone voice.
With a cheerful smile, Aystaria uncovered the bandage on her arm—revealing the emblem on her wrist.
“Ma’am, you need to have a crest or offical badge to get through this gate.”
“Oh, I see, you’re new. Would you mind going to get your captain, please?” Aystaria asked with a cheerful expression.
The guard sighed as he headed into the nearby guardhouse that was small in size compared to the wall it was built against. After a few minutes, a girl appeared dressed in an odd style of clothes. She was far shorter than the height of the window which forced her to jump, and grab onto the window frame in order to hoist herself up.
“Aystaria, long time no see. How have you been?”
“Well enough, Captain.”
As the captain peered into the carriage, she could see Rita who was swaying back, and forth with a cheerful expression on his face, despite having both arms cut off.
“Should I ask?”
“It’s best if you didn’t, Captain.”
“Right then… go on.”
Without another word, the captain waved the carriage on much to the annoyance of the guard. After pulling into the gate, and stopping, Aystaria grabbed a rope as she lead Rita out of the carriage. Aystaria paid no mind to the soldiers that stared on at where led, indicating that it was tied to something every man held as valuable.
“What is it, Rita?”
“Can you at least get Rita some shoes for the journey?”
“Nope, you’ll be fine,” Aystaria said with a firm tug of the rope.
“Ow, ow, ow, ow! Be gentle, Aystaria. It’s sensitive after what you, and Feldia did,” Rita said in a girly shy tone.
Rita’s blushing face made her appear cute, and innocent to all the nearby soldiers.
“Keep it up Rita, and I’ll milk you for everything I can.”
Fear showed on Rita’s face as he quickly went silent.
Aystaria made her way down to the first layer with Rita following behind her. She knew exactly how long it would take for the two of them to reach the fifth layer if they continued to move at a steady pace. While the road the Shadow Fort was long, Aystaria had learned of a few shortcuts along the way that sped up the time to get there. After a few hours of travel, Aystaria carefully tied Rita up to a tree, hanging him in such a way that would cause him pain if he tried to move. Resting against the tree, Aystaria fell into a half state of being both alert, and asleep.
“What is it, Rita?”
“If you keep talking, I’m going to tighten the rope.”
“P-Please… no… I’ll be good.”
Aystaria teasingly tugged down on the rope, forcing Rita to scream out like a girl.
“What is it, sweet little Rita?” Aystaria asked in a playfully mocking tone.
“P-Please be nice to me…”
Tugging on the rope a bit harder forced Rita to stand on the tips of his toes just to keep the weight from pulling at his hidden dagger.
“I’m sorry, what was that?”
“Please me nice to me, master!”
“Eh, close enough. Good night, Rita.”
“G-Good night, master…”
After taking a rest for some time, Aystaria awoke to find Rita still standing in a way that was painful if he tried to move. Taking note that the sun was just setting over the horizon, Aystaria lit a candle, and placed it in her portable lantern. With a long yawn, and taking the time to stretch for a second, Aystaria smiled as she looked over to Rita.
“Hope you slept well, Rita,” Aystaria said with a mocking smile.
“I did, master…”
“You learned to be obedient really quick, didn’t you?”
Aystaria carefully brushed back Rita’s bangs as she smiled.
“I’m starting to feel thirsty.”
A loud moan echoed throughout the woods to the point two guards standing at the gate that separated The Pit from the inside of the wall sector could hear it.
“Did you hear that?” one guard asked.
“I heard nothing.”
“It sounded like a girl…”
“Not our problem.”
“Not our problem.”
“Again, not our problem.”
Aystaria stopped as she looked out to the frozen lake at the depths of the fifth layer. She, and Rita had been traveling for eighteen days through the layers making the trip in about half the time it would have taken. With the Shadow Fort in sight, Aystaria turned to Rita with a smile.
“Almost home, Rita.”
Receiving a heart-warming pat on the head from Aystaria, Rita blushed as he looked up to Aystaria.
“You know, your life is in my hands now. Maybe you should try begging me,” Aystaria said with a sadistic smile.
“Y-You’re acting just like—”
Aystaria tugged the rope tightly as she lifted Rita off the ground. Rita tried to scream out only to find his mouth gagged covered by Aystaria’s hand. The sadistic smile that Aystaria had, faded into an expression of murderous intent.
“If you speak her name in my presence, I will turn you into a full-fledged girl, Rita.”
“Ow, ow, ow, ow, I-I’m sorry! P-Please, forgive me, master!”
Releasing the tension on the rope, Aystaria looked to Rita with cold, dead eyes. Her tone was serious, and showed no tone in remorse or care.
Without delay, Rita followed behind Aystaria, and kept his mouth shut. As the two of them approached the gate of the Shadow Fort, two guards stood at the entrance. One merely leaned against the stone wall as she crossed her arms over her chest. Her gaze was expressionless with a deadpan stare as she looked to Aystaria. The other appeared far too happy to the point she seemed like a psychopathic murder. Her stare was fixed Rita as her grin from ear to ear appeared unnatural beyond human standards.
“It’s been a long time, Maria, Pytrina.”
“Yeah,” Maria said as she continued to lean against the wall.
Pytrina continued to grin as she moved closer to Rita like a stalker. Wrapping her arms around Rita from behind. Rita’s face turned a bright red as he grew flustered by Pytrina’s direct contract.
“Ri-Ri! I’m so happy to see,” Pytrina said as she gently bit down on Rita’s ear.
“Tiedät, että pidät siitä,” Pytrina whispered into Rita’s ear.
“Ei, lopeta se!”
Aystaria smiled as she revealed lifted up her skirt slightly to reveal the hidden dagger strapped to her thigh.
“Pytrina, would you kindly leave my toy alone before I have to make that grin permanent.”
Without a second to delay, Pytrina removed her arms from around Rita, and stepped back. Aystaria lowered her skirt, and made her way into the inner compound as she held onto the rope tightly—Rita struggling to keep pace. Entering into the main building, Aystaria made her way past the sea of Shadow Takers who stared on for a few seconds before returning whatever they were focused on previously. As Aystaria walked down the hallways, she recalled the time she spent with her parents before their death.
Along with her parents, Aystaria fondly remembered the times she spent with her team. Everyday was a new chance to learn from them, from progressing her knowledge to studying advanced magic techniques. She found being with them was a joy, and loved what she did. Yet, as the years passed by, she realized that she had changed.
“What is it, Rita?”
“Think you for saving me,” Rita said as he blushed slightly.
“Pytrina always had her eyes on you, even before then.”
“Yeah. She’s crazy.”
“Well, no need to worry about her now. You are mine, and you belong to no one else.”
Aystaria continued down the hallway until she came to a door she remembered well. Inside was the same as she had recalled—table, candles, and shadows. Stepping up to the table, Aystaria watched as the figures formed in the shadows, and converged into the various seats at the table.
“Aystaria! Long time no see, how do ye be?”
“Nice to see you too, Andateika.”
“So, why have you come here?” one of the council members asked.
“That is a good question. I actually have business with the military commander of the Shadow Takers,” Aystaria said as she looked to the shadowy figure across from Andateika.
The figure leaned forward as his face became clear in the candle light. His face was covered by a black mask that hid his mouth, and nose. Red eyes gazed back at Aystaria as she continued to smile.
“What could I help you with?”
“Well, Varjo, I’d like to bring back Unit Six. That’s all,” Aystaria said with a smile.