UPDATE SEPT 22nd: Minor edits made

The chime of the city bells rang through the streets, signifying the late afternoon hour. The people of Tairan said their good-byes to fellow co-workers and classmates as they made for home to enjoy their Friday evening. The cobblestone streets grew busy with pedestrians, their only mode of transportation being a leisurely stroll.

Students crowded around the school yard, the buzz of conversation filling the air. It was nearing the end of the school year, meaning exams were just around the corner. There was both anxiety and excitement as the students discussed study plans for the weekend.

A few of them were more comfortable studying alone, preferring the comfort of their books over friendly chatter. One such student had decided to start even before arriving home. They sat under the shade of a schoolyard tree, their bag nestled beside them with books scattered around the grass. Amber eyes focused intently on the book in their lap, completely oblivious to their surroundings, such as the hand creeping around the tree trunk.

"Heya, Damien!"

"Gah!" Damien jumped at the sound of their brother's voice. They turned around and shot him a glare, "Daniel, don't scare me like that!"

Daniel smiled sheepishly, "Sorry, didn't mean to startle you so bad." His gaze fell to the mess of books splayed around his sibling, "Decided to start early?"

Damien sighed, irritated, before shifting onto their knees to pick up their mess, "I was waiting for you. I got impatient and figured I'd start studying while I waited."

"Yeah, sorry about that, the teacher wanted to get some final words in, y'know? She sure can talk!"

Damien looked up from their bag and cocked an eyebrow, "For over half an hour?"

"You know teachers, they can go on forever when talking about your future plans."

Damien's eyes fell back to their bag as they fit the last of their books in the cloth sack, "You mean about your Slayer career?"

Daniel looked down to his little sibling with concern. He could hear the dejection in their voice as they zipped up their bag and began walking down the now empty pathway. Daniel quickly caught up and matched pace, "Actually, she suggested I take another year for some special classes. Make sure I'm ready before I head off and stuff."

"For what? Don't you always ace all your exams?" Damien cast their gaze to the ground.

"Practical exams yeah. Written exams, not so much."

Damien laughed while giving him an incredulous look, "Something tells me it was less about your B's and more you having blown up a bunch of classrooms."

"Hey, that only happened twice! Plus that hasn't happened in years."

"Years?" Damien smirked, "Didn't that happen last year?"

A pause. "Okay, maybe it was more than twice."

The two made their way through Tairan. The school for those born with a blood stone was located to the far east of the city. Accommodations for the traveling Slayers that passed through were a short walk away and within sight from the windows. Groups of students were often shown around, allowing them to learn first hand what Slayers were like, and what jobs were in store for their future. The area was off limits for citizens otherwise, and so the siblings headed west for the residential sector.

They talked along the way, as they always did. Despite being two years apart, they dreamt of one day traveling the land together as Slayers, as many young people did when the blood of Engel carried through their family. More than a third of New Earth was born with such a blessing, with over half of them taking the deadly job of protecting people from the Shade.

A shrill scream interrupted their conversation and made their blood run cold. Tairan was known for being peaceful, so the sound of such terror froze the surrounding people in place.

"It came from the plaza!" Damien sprinted down the street without hesitation.

Daniel blinked at his sibling before shaking his head and calling out, "Hey, wait up!"

They hadn't been far from the source and had arrived in only a moment. Damien had run dozens of meters in seconds, leaving Daniel lagging behind and gasping for air. "Wait! *pant* Damien!" When the two reached the entrance to the circular clearing, they were stunned to silence.

A girl huddled against the fountain rim while pedestrians watched on in horror. Looming over her was a creature, it's body shrouded in darkness despite the sunlight. Dark mist wafted off whatever was left uncovered by it's natural hide armour. Eight legs protruded from it's bulbous body with red eyes gleaming and fanged mouths dripping with black ooze. It didn't attack her as it crept ever closer. It wouldn't dare attack the helpless girl, lest it ruin its meal provided by her terror.

"The heck's a-," Daniel spoke between breaths, "Shade doing here?"

"We can figure that out later! Right now that girl needs help." Damien responded, dropping their backpack and reaching into the black pouch clipped to their side. A Shade had never gotten so far into Tairan before. "The guards won't get here in time!"

With a flick of their thumb Damien unclipped the flap, the stud scoring it deep enough to draw blood. From within the pouch they pulled out a small red stone that glowed faintly as their blood smeared its surface. They brought it up, clutching it within their fist, "Come, Falcon's Edge!" then flicked it to the side. As they did the light within shone even brighter, emanating through their fingers. The light took shape before shattering, leaving behind a black and crimson sword, the signature colours of a blood weapon.

Damien kept their gaze forward, "Can you cover me, Daniel?"

Daniel nodded while reaching into his jacket pocket, "Of course, just give me a minute to-"

"There's no time, just use weaker spells!" Damien shouted before dashing off.

"Huh, weak spells…" Daniel pulled out a small book, his own stone latched into its cover, and flipped through the pages, "Hmm, do I even have one?..."

Daniel's outward pondering was lost on Damien as they sped toward the Shade. Their eyes scanned over the creature, attempting to formulate a strategy.

"Arachnid's are part of the armour class, so-" They got in close, slashing at its legs. The blade clashed against the hide of the thick appendages. The attack dealt no damage, though was hard enough to draw attention. The Shade shifted to look to where it was hit, but found nothing there. It's large size made it too slow to see as Damien darted towards the girl. They stood ready, and as the Shade turned back to its prey Damien swiftly slashed at its eyes. It screeched and reeled back, blinded by the sudden attack.

With the creature distracted Damien turned to the girl, "Run!" They caught themself from speaking further after getting a good look at her. She was greatly weakened, the Shade having taken far too much of her energy to move.

Damien looked back to the Shade as it recovered from the weak attack and readied itself for combat. They posed for a counter, eyes quickly scanning for the best points to strike. Their grip tensed as the Shade approached, "C'mon Daniel, I don't have my shield…"

The Shade lunged forward, taking a couple steps before swiping with one of its front legs. Damien ducked away easily and countered with a strike to the back of its leg. It stumbled to the side, but before it could recover Damien stepped and struck again.

Strike after strike Damien slashed at the Arachnid, taking full advantage of the speed difference, but watching their footing as they did. Each dodge sent debris flying up from the street as the Shade's stomps crumbled the stone beneath it. One hit from such a behemoth would be hard to recover from. Damien danced around it, covering their face as stone and dirt was flung from their foe's attacks. "This would be easier with my buckler," they thought to themself. The Shade's attacks were simple and telegraphed, allowing Damien to rely on their precision. Dozens of hits into the fight, fatigue started to weigh at their limbs. Damien breathed heavily, their steps growing slower. They glared down the Shade. Its injuries were apparent, but Shade never tired.

Damien growled in frustration before glancing behind them, "Daniel! I told you-" They stopped short at what they saw. Daniel had finally chosen a spell...

"Dammit Daniel." They muttered while facing the barrage of magical, flaming stones. In a blink they ran to the girl, "Sorry about this," before roughly dragging her into the fountain. Damien could feel the heat of the magic against their backs as they landed in the cool water. The stones made impact with the Shade and the ground, resulting in an explosion. Fire, dust, and debris rained upon them as the two sat frozen in the water. Thankfully, all that remained of the Arachnid was broken cobblestone and black dust.

Damien stared at the damage in disbelief before sighing to the girl, "Sorry about that."

She looked to them sheepishly, "You, um, already said sorry."

They shook their head, "The first was for grabbing you, that one," they narrowed their eyes as Daniel ran towards them with a large grin, "was for him."

Daniel reached the fountain, still out of breath, "Sorry for the wait! Had a hard time thinking of a weaker spell."

"That was a weak spell? You blew up the plaza!" Damien retorted whilst helping the girl up and out of the water.

"Blew up? Pfft, that wasn't an explosion. Not flashy enough."

Damien sighed in frustration, "Either way, maybe next time wait for people to get out of the way before firing off a wide hitting spell, yeah?"

Daniel shrugged, "Why? You're both human, it's not like it would actually injure you."

"It would still hurt!"

"Um," the girl finally spoke up, interrupting the quarreling siblings, "Thank you, both of you. I don't know what would have happened if you two hadn't been around."

Daniel leaned in, "Worry not, fair maiden, for you have been saved by Daniel Glynn." and winked, "You're welcome."

Damien ignored him and turned their full attention to her, "Did you see where the Shade came from?"

She thought for a moment before shaking her head, "I'm not sure, it just came from the shadows."

"Hm, strange. How could it get so deep into the city?" A commotion broke their train of thought. Down the street they had come from, uniformed guards rushed towards them. "Oh good, we can explain things to the guards and figure out where-Daniel! Don't run off!" Damien noticed too late that Daniel had bolted the moment the guards had come into view. They dispelled their blade and tucked their stone away before rushing after him, "You can't run from them every time, dammit!"