Chp.2, Rendezvous

The old worn path was all that he could see now. Dragging his feet he trudged on, his head hanging low while staring at the dirt beneath him. He was on the familiar route, his familiar route. This back-country traverse would lead him to his master, and to another assignment.

During the midst of his travel, Kendai spotted a rare spring laying beside a clutter of trees. He was not thirsty, but he needed to wipe the blood off of him before he could head into town, his old home. Squatting down to scoop up some water, he felt a sharp pain ripple from his waist as his face began to feel numb. That Azuka had really done some damage to him, despite the outcome.

Deciding to relieve the pain, he plunged his head into the spring and felt the cool water sooth the blisters and fresh bruises on his face. Upon returning above the surface, an old woman hovered about him, looking in interest. Her appearance was like tanned leather and her body was hunched over from use. Dark lines marked the bottom of her eyelids and a mended cut showed on her cheek. "You look broken, are you going to be all right?" the old lady asked, reaching into her outfit and retrieving something of a medical kit.

"What do you want? You have a lot time on your hands for someone as old as you, shouldn't you be counting your final days?" Kendai spat, in-between heavy breaths.

"Well," the insulted woman replied, "Here I thought I could be useful and give you hand."

As soon as she had pulled the medical kit out, she sheathed it again and began to walk away, mumbling something about 'rough types.'

Kendai didn't care in the least if she left, but his wounds were really hurting and they began to ache. With one great heave he got back on both feet and followed behind the woman who, in response, turned around and held out a sharp kitchen knife in her defense.

Kendai laughed; "Little master swordsman, huh?"

The old lady made a few target-less stabs at the air to scare Kendai off, but it was to no avail; Kendai drew his fearsome blade.

"Gotta say," He said jokingly, pointing his two-hander at the woman, "I definitely beat you in range."

The old lady closed her eyes; "I'm already near the end of things; what you do now won't really matter." She lowered the knife, eyes still shut.

Kendai gave a little chuckle to himself and kicked one of the old lady's legs, who then fell on the dirt path rather abruptly. "I have no reason to take your life," Kendai started, "I just washed, c'mon now." He swooped down and took the medical kit from her and then took a relieving gasp of air. Immediately, he applied a few bandages to his face and continued on, though at a much quicker pace.

The little town of Hisen was just getting ready to settle down as Kendai entered its village gates. He had not permanently lived in Hisen since he was twenty, and he was now twenty-eight, making it an eight year absence. He was sure that he would be barraged by townsfolk who wanted to know of his travels, as they always did, but he also sure he would see some more familiar faces, like those he used to take school with.

Sure enough, a brawny-looking man with a dirty outfit strolled up to Kendai. Kendai recognized him as Juy, his old friend from craftsman education.

"Well, if it isn't Kendai, you never leave for long do 'ya. But you never stay long either, why is that?" Inquired Juy, honestly asking.

"If you must know," started Kendai rather coldly, "I have busywork to do, and I must get many things in order to do that business. Things that you cannot find around this sleepy town."

"Oh," said Juy, "you mean taking care of him." Juy became a little frustrated. "That guy was never right when I knew him, and if you ask me, he still doesn't have stability in the mind." Juy put a hand on Kendai's shoulder, "You know, just cause you were friends with that guy way back when don't mean you have some kind of…obligation."

Kendai knocked off Juy's hand; "I don't really care what you think. I will do as I have always done and repent for my mistakes." Kendai then gave Juy a smirk; "And if I were you, I'd be on the run by now."

"Why's that?" Juy asked, sounding very concerned and a little afraid, "who's coming after me?"

"Let's just say that you might of accidentally spilled some noble blood."

With that, Kendai left Juy in a state of utter confusion. Juy had no idea that Kendai had used his name, but it was an empty threat. The real Juy Kendai took as his alias was some noble who was bed ridden and couldn't come to the meeting. However, any opportunity to send Juy in a state of extreme worry was worth taking. The sun began to settle, and Kendai reached his destination, an old wooden shack on the outskirts of town. It mostly consisted of rotted wood, and the dwelling leaned a little on one side, but it was all his master could afford; none of his ideas ever really went into fruition. Going up to the crooked door, he turned the knob and pushed it open.

He was immediately greeted by the usual scene: A man dressed sharply in all black stood at the bedside of an enormous blob of loose flesh; the decaying body of Kendai's dying master and friend; the informant. Kendai knew little of what ailment struck his master, but judging from the blackness of the skin and the profuse odor that emanated from his body, it must have been something very malignant.

"You finished your job," the informant spoke, "you got a little banged up?"

"Yeah," answered Kendai, "but…"

"You made it through, of course," the man in black finished.

Kendai always found it a little eerie how this man knew the details of his every mission. He wondered on numerous occasions if this man was spying on him at every moment.

"Yes," the wheezing voice of his master cried out, "you always have had exceptional luck…"

Kendai looked at his master's eyes, or at least where they should be, as two large folds of black, decaying skin covered them.

"That is only because I am working to carry out your final wishes…"

His master gave a motion that could be called a nod, though it was more of a body tremor, but both of the other men were used to it.

"Nilus," the informant began, "what should his next target be."

A sickening cough filled the air as Nilus cleared his congested throat; "This time I want not the extinction of a man….no…but that of a devil."

"A devil sir? The man in black coyly asked.

"Yes, a demon said to have…," Nilus began, but was broken off by a short tap of Kendai's foot, signaling that Kendai did not want a background for this man, just his location and appearance.

"Well, my friend, this is no ordinary task, I must give you as much information as possible for you to be ready."

"Quite right," vouched the informant, "we wouldn't want you coming back in rougher shape than you are this time.

Kendai gave a sarcastic shrug and continued listening to his diseased master; "His name is Guirras, a vagabond of reputable nature, who's mental toughness has gained him the title of 'devil'. His signature dress is a dark, flowing, violet robe and outlandish brown hair. He carries on him a giant blade, much like yours, but even larger from what I can gather from the reports."The room fell silent as Nilus began soothing his throat after his speech; apparently it was too much for his body to handle.

"I am getting very tired now," he managed to get out, "Dausen will help you if you require it…"

With that, Kendai guessed that Nilus had closed his eyes, if he even needed to, and fell asleep. The informant, Dausen, approached Kendai and held out a fresh handkerchief.

"You got a little more bleeding, clean yourself up. You're gonna head out to the grand city of Arcaynus tomorrow," said Dausen with as much professionalism as possible.

With a confused gleam in his eyes, Kendai knelt down in a corner of the old place and began what would be a long night of recuperation.

Sun rise. Little speckles of light penetrated the loose wooden walls and the open windows of the house. As far as Kendai could tell, his master was still asleep, though he could never be sure. He did notice, however, that his old friend Nilus had quite the grin to his visage. Nilus knew that this assassin bit was not some kind of faithful deed to fulfill a dying man's last wish, but a chance to get back at Kendai, who had betrayed him in the past. Taking a closer look at the pompous man, Kendai felt his hand shift involuntarily to his sword's handle. One strike, and he would never have to do this ever again, but…

"Are you ready?" a voice boomed behind Kendai, who immediately jerked his hand to his side. It was Dausen who had spoken, carrying a little case of rations for Kendai. Giving his body a small stretch, Kendai nodded at Dausen and took the rations. Pushing aside the door, he squinted as the morning sun intruded upon his weary eyes. The air was neither hot nor cold, just a perfect blend of the two. The trees were soaked with morning dew, giving a sense of freshness to his surroundings. Even the dirt underneath his boots felt particularly perfect. It was too bad Kendai had to leave all of this for the bustling, crowded city of Arcaynus. If his target really was some kind of devil, you'd think that he'd heard the name before, but the name Guirras got no response from Kendai's memories.

A few hours of continuous traveling later, the dirt roads became stoned streets occupied by people of many different backgrounds. He was definitely getting closer to Arcaynus. The air became more stale and heavy as he edged closer to the city's outer limits; the dozen or so people on the streets became hundreds as he reached a large, wooden gate that read "Arcaynus North Entrance" in large, easy-to-read letters. The north distrinct was were all of the rich lived, some of them probably the relatives of the men he assassinated in the Avuitis meeting. He was expecting to find this "Guirras" here instead of the lower city districts. Rich men loved a good fighter, and a devil would really draw their attention.

As if agreeing with Kendai's assumptions, a large crowd of upper-middle class and nobles gathered around the central square, watching two fighters duke it out. Kendai looked intently, but neither of them fit the description of Guirras. He grew steadily uneasy as he felt a presence behind him get closer until, suddenly, a firm had nudged him in the back.

"You stand out of the crowd too much, nobody would ever pay that much attention to two unknown fighters…," a voice said behind him, "if you are looking for me, try a little acting."

The voice was almost as sarcastic and free as Kendai's, maybe a little more so. But it also sounded very threatening and serious at the same time. Taking a quick glance behind him, without moving his head, he saw a man with long, flowing brown hair that seemed to be a little darker than Kendai's own.

The man's hand tightened its grip and began to push Kendai through the crowd. As confused civilians questioned his manners, Kendai was forced to the front of the crowd. With one giant push from his mysterious assailant, Kendai landed in-between the two current combatants and knocked one of them out of the make-shift ring created by the citizens. The other stared a Kendai ravenously, but the brown-haired man knocked the flustered fighter out of with one great kick that made a loud crack as it twisted the man's spinal cord upon impact. A few citizens recoiled in horror after this; a few applauded, but now Kendai was able to get a full view of his new acquaintance. He had a violet cloth wrapped about him, and Kendai could see the handle of a massive blade hanging from behind his left shoulder.

With a nervous tint, Kendai called out, "Guirras, I presume?"

Stretching his muscles, the man replied, "No, but I know who you are. We go way back."

Kendai was dumbfounded. He knew many people growing up; could this be some long-forgotten foe?

The crowd gasped as Kendai felt an iron-like fist belt him in the gut. Taking two steps back, Kendai cursed at himself for being off guard.

"Nah," the man replied, repressing a laugh as he spoke, "just felt like screwing with ya."

As this unusual man reached for his blade's handle, Kendai couldn't help but feel a mix of terror and admiration. "Guirras, the devil," Kendai said in a whisper, his own hand reaching for his sword, trembling as it did so.