That was all it took.
In that instant, all sound in Raven’s vicinity was gone. The sky was still pitch black and the blood tainted air currents that swirled around Raven were still as violent but now moved as if in slow-motion, and not a single sound was heard.
The image of how that soundless wind caused Raven’s clothes and midnight purple hair to sway around her, while those blood-red eyes of hers shone like two embers from hell, would give even the most hard-skinned and coldblooded of men nightmares for the rest of their lives – and that was not counting the supreme aura of death that surrounded her, seemingly forbidding life itself to exist in her presence.
Meanwhile, further north – almost at the very top of the continent – Fenris had already returned to his grandchild’s side when he suddenly felt a tremor in his soul.
Without hesitating, Fenris scooped up his grandchild and deployed his strongest protective barrier around them both, thoroughly sealing them inside. Intently, Fenris looked out over the surrounding area, trying to locate the source of his reaction.
Noting his grandfather’s behavior, the white, fox-like creature in his arms looked up at him with clear-blue eyes, clearly confused by what was going on.
“Is something wrong, grandfather?”
Fenris shook his head and didn’t reply.
‘Did I just feel . . . afraid?’ he questioned himself in shock as his gaze drifted towards the south.
Hundreds of miles away, at the very heart of Sky City, two vicious eyes flashed open amidst the flowing water stream within the central peak. The eyes fixed their gaze north with a profound stare that seemed to pierce through the numerous mountains in their path.
They looked on, intrigued by what they saw, but no words were spoken.
Not many were close enough to feel the actual force of Raven’s unprecedented killing intent but a few were.
At the bottom of the ravine, Javelin felt a sudden deathly presence weighing down on him, suffocating him to the point where even his heart had a hard time beating.
Images of blood and carnage flooded his mind as more dead souls than he could count seemed to swarm him; pulling and clawing at his soul, as they called for him to join them, to die with them.
Minute fissures started to spread over the surface of his normally red soul prism which now seemed to grow duller by the second. In agonizing pain Javelin collapsed on the ground, wailing a soundless howl.
Oddly enough he wasn’t afraid, not in the least, but he was in pain. It was a pain that surpassed anything he had felt previously and before he knew it, Javelin was hoping – begging even – with all his heart that those dead souls would get their wish; that he would die.
Suddenly, just as Javelin’s soul was at its uttermost limit, a soft light spread around him, encasing him within. At once, Javelin’s vision cleared as the overbearing feeling of death withdrew from him. That soft, nurturing light filled his soul with warmth and a sense of security, and it didn’t take long before Javelin’s soul prism was once more bright red.
Collecting himself from the shock Javelin glanced down at his wrist. There, a blue and gold bracelet was humming softly as wave after wave of light pulsed out to strengthen the membrane around him.
“Raven. . . .” he whispered before abruptly snapping his head upwards, facing the top of the ravine. “Raven!” he said again, shouting it in panic this time, but as he got up on his feet and took a step towards the mountain wall a burning sensation seared at his forehead, forcing Javelin’s body to stop in place.
“The soul-oath!” he exclaimed and swore to himself; there was nothing he could do, except helplessly stare up at the place where he had last seen Raven disappear out of sight.
While what Javelin had received at the bottom of the ravine was merely a stray remnant of Raven’s Ode of Woe, the people and spirit beasts in front of her were not as lucky.
Although still standing, the souls of the two Shadow Blood Raptors had long since been shattered leaving them as dead shells. Yet, even in death they were too afraid to move so they remained standing, locked in place.
The same fate would have befallen the essentially weaker Dunlin and Jack even faster, had it not been for Raven’s meticulous control of her killing intent. As far as she was concerned, such a swift death – even if it was fear induced – would be far too kind an end for her wretched cousin. No, she had other plans for them.
Hoatzin watched as Death incarnate slowly walked towards him. A snow-white hand stretched out towards him and, by reflex, he called out in fear. “Don’t kill me!” he shrieked, not caring if anyone could hear him.
For a moment Death seemed to pause before gently removing the net that bound him.
“Eh?” Surprised, Hoatzin looked up at Death’s glowing eyes only to see boundless sadness reflected back at him – or perhaps, loneliness would be more fitting. . . . He blinked. “Sister?”
Only now did Hoatzin’s mind clear enough to realize who he was looking at. It wasn’t Death, sent to claim him, it was his beloved younger sister!
Raven said nothing as she backed away from him, the sad loneliness in her eyes once more frosted over by the purest killing intent imaginable to man, and Hoatzin couldn’t help but feel regret; even without any killing intent actually reaching him, he had feared her! In that moment he knew that something had broken between between him and his sister, and he had been the one to break it.
Returning her attention to the other two boys, Raven withdrew most of the pressure she had been putting on Dunlin, letting his mind surface from the sea of death she had plunged it into.
Immediately the boy started hyperventilating and Raven unceremoniously slapped him a few times before Dunlin calmed down just enough for him to be able to focus on anything but his overbearing fear. Dunlin’s eyes nervously darted around, trying to make sense of what had just happened to him. He quickly noticed Jack, locked in place on his Shadow Blood Raptor; the boy’s muscles were twitching endlessly – as if he was having a seizure but being unable to move – while white froth was forming at his mouth.
“Amusing sight, isn’t it?” A soft yet unbelievably vicious voice filled his ears, tormenting his very soul. Slowly, as if unwilling to look, Dunlin turned his head around and his eyes immediately met two glowing embers which were like windows to hell itself.
Dunlin yelped in fear. Instinctively he pushed his body backwards and away, causing himself to tumble off his mount, but before his body could hit the ground a cold hand reached out and grabbed his neck, halting him mid-fall. Dunlin desperately tried to activate his spirit essence, thinking that his low Champion cultivation would be enough for him to wrestle free, but nothing happened. Only then did he notice the heavy weight of two Limiters around his ankles.
‘When-. . .’
Before he could finish his thought the voice spoke to him again. This time the words were whispered right by his ear and with them came the stabbing pain of a rupturing eardrum.”Now, now, dear cousin, is that the proper reaction when meeting your long lost relative?”
“Who . . . Wha-what are y-you!?” Even through the pain Dunlin could feel blood trickling down the side of his cheek, but he somehow managed to stutter out his question by sheer willpower.
“Oh? You don’t recognize your own cousin? How depressing. . . .”
“I don’t . . .” started Dunlin but as his fearful gaze studied Raven a little closer his eyes widened in shock. “N-Nightingale?”
“Pin pon!” Raven smiled coldly. “I knew you wouldn’t forget your dear little cousin.”
“Bu-but . . . you d-d-” he tried, but the words wouldn’t come.
“Died?” Raven offered. “Look at me, do I seem dead to you?”
Dunlin did look at her. The clearly male air that Raven Night usually exhibited was gone without a trace. Instead, the person in front of him had a surreal elegance about her that was only intensified by the wisps of bloody smoke that twisted themselves around her body. Her ground-long midnight hair floated eerily around her jade-white face, giving her an even more mythical appearance. Although scared out of his wits, Dunlin still had to admit that the girl before him was a mesmerizing beauty. As for whether she was alive or not . . . it was honestly hard to tell, considering how much death surrounded her.
However, admitting that this Raven was his long-dead cousin was not something Dunlin was willing to do. She, along with the rest of her family, had been killed and burned beyond recognition; there was no way anyone of them had survived. Besides, his cousin had only been four at the time, how the heck would such a small child have made it all the way to Sky City?
Suddenly feeling the cold tip of a blade pushing through his clothes and stabbing at his stomach, Dunlin’s gaze fell on the shimmering blade Raven held in her other hand and his eyes widened in more shock. Finally he had no choice but to accept that Raven was who she claimed she was, for Dunlin recognized the fine sword that had gone missing after the Nightingale’s death, the ‘Nightingale’s Blessing’.
“You’ve accepted it now?” Raven phrased it like a question but didn’t wait for a reply. “Good – then you know that you and I have some unfinished business, dear cousin.” Slowly Raven pushed the blade tip further into Dunlin’s abdomen.
Dunlin wailed in pain but feeling Raven’s killing intent he braced himself against the pain and forced himself to speak. “Please,” he begged, “we didn’t mean to-” The blade moved a bit faster. “Argh! I mean it wasn’t my fault! I was only nine!”
Raven’s hand paused, as her eyes latched on to Dunlin’s. He tried to look away but Raven tightened her grip around his neck and forced his head back to face her.
“Indeed,” she said, her voice sounding a bit kinder. “I do guess it’s a bit much to blame you for your parents’ decisions. . . .”
Dunlin sighed a breath of relief as the blade of the ‘Nightingale’s Blessing’ was pulled out slightly.
“But,” added Raven, her hand pausing yet again; “tell me, have you not enjoyed being the prefecture heir?”
Dunlin blinked, startled.
“Have you not, time and time again, misused the authority you’ve been given to bully those weaker than you?”
Dunlin paled. “That’s . . .”
“Have you not repeatedly tried to bully, maim, or even kill, people like Javelin and the Griffin twins who might challenge your self-professed superiority?”
“And did you not, only minutes ago, threaten to kill my dear Hoatzin for a second time!?”
Raven’s voice had gradually grown from a soft whisper to a thundering roar with every new accusation. The air around her grew violent again as the first claps of lightning smacked down on the horizon. At the same time, the pressure from the Ode of Woe became too strong, finally collapsing the two already dead Shadow Blood Raptors to the ground taking Jack with them.
Noticing the change, Raven calmed herself down a notch or two – she didn’t want to accidentally kill Jack – before once more speaking to Dunlin.
“Besides,” she said, and this time her words were calm, cheery almost; “your mother is definitely fully responsible for heartlessly killing off her own flesh and blood. Since I want her to suffer, and even more so than we have, I really have no choice but to kill you in the most painful way I can imagine, right?”
Raven finished her reasoning with a smile and a playful wink that fooled no one, before effortlessly stabbing her sword right through her cousin’s abdomen. By design, not a single vital organ or artery was severed by the razor sharp blade.
“Look on the bright side, Hell will be a walk in the park after this.”
With that, Raven twisted her sword and Dunlin screamed; he screamed like he had never screamed before, but that was only the beginning.