Even standing outside the thick protective wall surrounding the mansion, Javelin had no problem hearing the depraved wails of something that had long since lost its touch with humanity. Through his link with Raven, Javelin could feel her anger and unbelievable killing intent, and all he could do was to quietly pull some of that killing intent into his own soul prism, hoping that it might help Raven keep her wits about her.
Suddenly, a familiar red bird flapped down on his shoulder. The two of them glanced at each other but said nothing.
Within the mansion, the inhuman screams had caused a frenzy as servants and guards rushed towards its source, none of them noticing the black figure that slipped out through the no longer well-guarded back gate.
“Let’s go,” Raven commanded, her voice sounding even colder than usual.
Her black figure quickly disappeared down an alley, heading towards the closest shoreline, and was closely followed by a very solemn Aves. The latter had been forced to wait outside with Javelin, but hadn’t been able to bear it for more than a few minutes before silently rushing in after Raven. Clearly, he had seen everything that happened inside.
Another glance was exchanged between Javelin and Hoatzin before they too disappeared into the darkness. Behind them, Earth Empire’s Ambassador Mansion became increasingly chaotic as soldiers and servants alike tried to find out what had happened to Canis.
It wasn’t until the group of four was back in the courtyard of the Water Dome house that Javelin finally asked what Raven had actually done to Canis. He had only heard screaming like that once before, and Javelin could only guess what Raven had done this time.
Raven shrugged, her cold yet ferocious aura still overbearing. “Nothing much. . . . She was already pretty far along thanks to yesterday’s poison; I just gave her a little shove.”
“A little shove?” Aves spoke up for the first time, sounding a bit nauseous. “You practically broke her soul prism and drove her into insanity!”
Raven’s eyes narrowed dangerously, but if Aves noticed it, he ignored it.
“Not practically, Aves; literally. What of it?”
Aves blanked for a moment. “I-I know she was a bit rude, but she was only a girl! To break her like that. . . .”
“She threatened my family.”
There was no remorse in her voice at all.
“E-even so. . . “ Aves started, but Raven cut him off this time.
“Aves, you are here as my guardian, and so far I have humored the notion. If you insist on following me even when I tell you not to in the future – and meddle in my affairs – I will no longer be amused by your presence.”
She said it very matter-of-factly, with no trace of killing intent whatsoever present in her cold eyes. Others who heard her might not think she was serious, but Javelin could clearly tell from her emotions that she was truly displeased with Aves this time. Then again, the killing intent in her soul prism still seemed a bit unruly. . . .
Not bothering for a reply from Aves, Raven headed towards her room. “Get some rest, Javelin; even with Canis out of the picture, tomorrow won’t be easy.”
The door shut behind her with a loud thud. Still standing in the courtyard, Javelin glanced over at Aves, the latter’s face bearing a pale expression.
“She is just a bit riled up, Aves, don’t-. . .”
Before Javelin could finish his sentence, Aves’ body shifted, his white hair flashing as he jumped out of the courtyard. On Javelin’s shoulder, Hoatzin sighed.
“Now sister has done it. . . . I know Protector Aves is not that much stronger than she is, but two hands are better than one. Who knows how he will treat her after this?”
Javelin was silent for a long while, staring up at the black-blue ceiling of the Water Dome. Finally, he too sighed and started walking towards his own room. “Aves will come around. He must have guessed by now who was behind Dunlin’s death, so Raven’s . . . disposition shouldn’t come as too big a surprise.”
“. . . . I guess so.”
As Javelin stepped into his room, Hoatzin spread his wings and took to the sky. The latter really didn’t like the feeling of being stuck underneath the surface of the ocean and would never have followed them down if he didn’t want to make sure Raven made it back safely to her quarters. Now he had no reason not to return to the surface.
Javelin glanced at the disappearing silhouette of the fiery bird before closing the door behind him and heading for his own bed. He didn’t lie down on it, though, and instead sat down silently with his legs crossed.
He thought back on the conversation he had overheard between Raven and Limpkin, and then on the horrid screams coming from within the Ambassador’s Mansion. . . . While Raven’s expressed faith in his abilities had warmed him, Javelin couldn’t help but feel that Limpkin had nonetheless been right in his doubts.
Sure, Javelin had made astounding progress since he became Soul Bound to Raven and had even managed to break through to the Champion realm at the low age of thirteen. On the Trinity continent, this was a huge accomplishment, but it still paled miserably in comparison to Raven. Biologically, she wasn’t even ten yet, but was not only already a stable mid Champion but also clearly had the ability to fight against even high Champions without being at a disadvantage. If she let loose completely, Javelin wasn’t even sure if a low Spirit Master would be able to kill her.
Two days had passed since he had gained access to a larger part of his past life’s memories, and with it over a hundred spirit connections. Javelin could already feel his cultivation speed increasing drastically, but rather than feel excited about it, Javelin felt even more depressed now. So much had improved with those hundred spirit connections, and yet Raven had more than twice the amount of spirit connections he had – how would he ever catch up?
In his mind, several memories not entirely his own flashed by. He saw the adult Raven ruthlessly fighting off intruders at the North Pole base – her eyes devoid of emotion as she slashed and shot her opponents with incredible precision. It was a fascinating and fearful sight, but he also saw Raven’s slightly awkward expression as she was caught, red-handed, with a large tub of chocolate-chip mint ice cream, tugged safely in her lap as she indulged in a ‘midnight snack’, her rabbit-slipper-donned feet dangling happily beneath the table she sat on. The stark contrast between these two scenarios had shocked both Eric and Javelin silly and only strengthened the enigma that was Raven Night.
At the time when she was protecting Eric, Raven Night had been 25, and in a world bereft of spirit essence and Divine Skills, the battle prowess and overall skill set that she possessed had stunned Eric. He couldn’t help but wonder at what kind of life she must have led before they met. He had known that she was some sort of mercenary, but to be able to do what she could do . . . .
Thinking about the second childhood that Raven Nightingale had received, Javelin subconsciously clenched his fists in anger. It was just too unfair! So little support, so little happiness. . . .
Yet, unless he gained more spirit connections than Raven, there was nothing he could do. He needed to strengthen his soul – and quick – or he would always be one step behind and unable to protect her even in the slightest.
Once more, Javelin realized the importance of remembering more of his past life, but suddenly the words Eric had spoken to him in his corridor of memories returned to him: “I must admit that there are a few doors that I’m keeping locked, too. . . for your own good.”
Determination flashed by in Javelin’s eyes before he swiftly closed them and forced himself to slow his breathing. His mind stilled, and as the secluded state of meditation descended upon him, the pitch-black darkness in Javelin’s mind slowly started to brighten. Soon, he was back in the now familiar white halls of the research facility.
“Back already, kiddo?” Eric’s familiar voice suddenly greeted Javelin. Turning around, he found the slightly disheveled man staring back at him with amused eyes. “You have already checked all the unlocked doors available to you at the moment.”
Javelin stared resolutely at Eric.
“No, I haven’t.”
Eric frowned but didn’t seem to miss Javelin’s meaning. “I told you before, Javelin: some things are better forgotten.”
“But I have to remember!” Javelin shouted, feeling frustrated. “I want to be able to shoulder her burdens – I can’t do that like this!”
“And you will – with time – but you have already remembered a lot, and pushing it further might do more harm than good.” Eric was very solemn as he spoke, clearly unwilling to unlock whatever memories he had prevented Javelin from remembering.
“They are my memories! I deserve to know!”
For a long while, the two men said nothing, but eventually Eric sighed. “Fine, if you want me to unlock the rest of the memories that I have access to, I will.”
The scenery around Javelin and Eric changed as the corridors twisted into what resembled a dark basement and half a dozen metallic doors were evenly spread along the walls.
“Go ahead,” said Eric, sounding anything but pleased, “but you have been warned: you will regret this.”
Javelin steeled himself and headed for the closest door.
It was still early in the morning when Raven silently entered Javelin’s room. As expected, the boy sat motionless on his bed, deep in meditation.
Soon after they had returned from dealing with Canis, Raven had felt his soul prism growing in strength again and she had guessed that Javelin had once again started to remember things from his past life. There wasn’t enough spirit essence around to form more spirit connections this time, but that didn’t stop the soul from growing stronger.
Silently, Raven watched Javelin, an odd expression on her face. She couldn’t help but wonder what he would remember this time . . . and whether or not he would hate her for it.
“Is there really nothing more I can remember?” Javelin asked, feeling desperate.
He had spent hours looking at the memories Eric had locked away, but while what he had learned was heartbreaking – the death of his mother in cancer, the endless torment that had been high school, the pain of his first girlfriend cheating on him – Javelin could still feel that his soul prism hadn’t improved that much in strength, compared to his first influx of memories, at least.
“. . . No,” Eric replied after a slightly too long pause. Javelin’s eyes twitched.
“What is it?” he pushed.
Eric shifted his body, subtly blocking an unlit corridor in the already dark basement. Javelin’s eyes widened and, without hesitating, he pushed his way past Eric. He ran as fast as he could, the corridor growing darker with every step. Behind him, Javelin could hear Eric’s mournful voice, pleading him to stop – to not look – but Javelin had to look. He couldn’t help it…
Suddenly, a pitch black door appeared up ahead, and even before Javelin reached it, the hinges creaked as the door swung open, letting him rush straight in.
The world around Javelin shifted; it was still as dark, but heavy rain was falling from the sky. The smell of decomposing leaves and burning oil mingled in the air. He was in a forest, or perhaps a large park of some kind, but Javelin could still see the dimly glowing spears of metropolitan skyscrapers, stretching high above the trees in the distance.
Instantly wet and cold, Javelin slowed his steps, searching for Eric. Oddly enough, the scientist was nowhere to be found and, without thinking about it, Javelin headed further in between the dark trees. Suddenly, his eyes narrowed and he ducked in behind a large tree; further ahead, two dark figures were speaking in hushed voices. The heavy rainfall made it hard for him to hear what was being said, but something within him screamed at the importance of their conversation. After a moment’s pause, Javelin made a silent dash for a closer tree.
“. . . -re demanding results, Raven – you know that.”
‘Raven?’ Javelin peeked out from behind his new tree, looking over at the two figures.
“I know, Victor,” a cold but familiar voice snapped. “You don’t need to remind me, over and over, every time we meet. I know my objectives well; as soon as Professor S is done with his research, the data will reach the Union. Within a month, at most.”
A shudder ran through Javelin and it had nothing to do with the cold rain that was soaking him to his bones. Even with the hood covering her face, there was no doubt that it was Raven who was speaking, but Javelin really didn’t like what she was saying. . . . Had she only been after Eric’s – his – research all along? And who was she talking to? That voice also felt familiar, somehow.
“And the professor?” the man called Victor pushed.
“Get the data, at any cost. No loose ends. Those are my orders, so that’s what’s going happen.”
“Really?” the familiar voice chuckled. “At the ball, I got the impression that you were rather attached to our young Professor Solar.”
Javelin’s eyes widened. He suddenly understood who the other figure was – it was the man Raven had talked to at Eric’s prize ceremony, right before the crazed activist tried to blow them all up.
“Can you really do it?” the man continued, oblivious to the thunder of emotions his words were stirring up within Javelin. Victor pointed two fingers at Raven, emulating a gun. “Can you . . . off him?”
For a moment, Raven said nothing, and to Javelin the entire world seemed to quiet down with her silence – even the rain practically slowed to a halt. Then, with a flash, Raven grabbed hold of the man’s two fingers and pulled as she slipped in behind him. Her other arm pinned Victor’s neck, clearly cutting off his air flow. She whispered something in his ears that Javelin couldn’t hear, but his heart screamed for it to be Raven’s last words before killing the man.
Once she had said what she wanted, Raven loosened her grip and backed away. Blue-faced, Victor grabbed at his neck, rubbing it slightly before suddenly bursting out in laughter.
“Haha, I didn’t think you were this deceptive; to fool even me with your lovey-dovey act! Then again, I should expect nothing less from Raven Night, the undisputed number one assassin in the world. . . .”
Raven laughed with him; a harsh and merciless laugh that was so far from the cold but at least . . . human laughter that Javelin had gotten used to.
Javelin felt his legs go weak underneath him and, before he knew it, he found himself kneeling on the ground – his heart aching with pain, his lungs deprived of air.
There was a rustle in the wet leaves in front of him, and even though he wanted nothing more than to run away, Javelin still couldn’t stop himself from looking up. There, standing less than a meter away, was Raven.
Her pitch black eyes stared at him, devoid of any human emotion.
“Ra-. . .” Javelin started, but Raven silently pointed a gun at him. She tilted her head to the side, causing the water on her hood to drip down her face, forming fake tears on her cheeks.
Before Javelin had the chance to really register what was going on, a bright flash lit up the rainy night. In the next instant, he lay on his back, heavy raindrops falling on his face as unimaginable pain coursed through his heart.
The already dark world around him faded, leaving only the imprinted image of that heartless Raven – looming over him with indifferent eyes as he felt his life seeping away.