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Prologue

The hunter paused, loading his rifle. Beside him, more wolfofficers were readying themselves. A great dog was pulling on the lead, ready to attack. The dog was about a meter and a half tall to the shoulder, a pale grey colour. It had dark grey stripes splitting the fur, and bright green eyes. It was strong, the lead stretched taut and strained. The man waved his hand, silently signalling his men forward. The night was quiet, and the forest was full of the noises of the wilds. The half moon shone above their heads as they neared their destination. A small shed stood before them. It was old, and the door was broken, its hinges broken and rusty. The dog growled a deep sound like the rumble of thunder. Quietly, the men spread out to surround the shed, aiming. There was a squeaking noise coming from inside the shed, and then a quiet growl, silencing them. There was a sound of movement, and a slender nose poked out from the doorway. A beautiful she-wolf stood in the doorway, a dusky brown with heather coloured eyes. She looked around at the bluecoated figures surrounding the den, hackles pricking. Then she turned round and went inside. Inside, there was a sound of barking, urgent. There was a cracking noise, and two men at the far side of the clearing collapsed. Two daggers were stuck in their backs, and blood pooling around them. The hunter looked back at the 2


shed, and was unsurprised to see a man with white hair standing before it. The man was in his twenties, but had an aged look about him. The Hunter let the dog go. It snarled, leaping forward at the man. He stood still for a minute, then, as the dog was upon him, stepped aside easily. The dog missed, but twisted as it landed with speed of a striking snake. It flew at the man again, catching him on the arm. Blood spurted from the man’s arm, but he stood there, lifting his arm up with the great dog hanging from it. Disdainfully, he shook it loose. The man shook his head, as if trying to clear it. Then he snarled, frustrated. The Hunter watched him, while the circle held. “Stop. You cannot win, you are outnumbered. You are going to die, as will your mate and young.” “No! I won’t let you.” the man snarled, then leaped into the air, letting three daggers fly from his hand. They struck more in the circle, and they collapsed in a spray of blood. He landed behind them, and sprang sideways, tearing more holes in the walls of the circle. As one, they opened fire. Bullets showered into the man. He was no longer man. Instead, a great wolf stood in his place, a blazing white. It had burning amber eyes, glowing with the age long enmity between the two races. The bullets sprayed into his body, blood spraying from the wounds. The wolf snarled, shaking the bullets off like flies. He leapt at the great dog, teeth tearing into the flesh. The dog howled, rearing up and sinking his teeth into the wolf’s hind leg. He pulled hard, tearing the wolf free and sending him flying into the shed. It trembled dangerously. The white wolf pulled himself to his feet, taking a shaky step forward. He was 3


trembling in surprise, blood staining his bristling fur red. He leaped again, straight at the great dog. The dog twisted, grabbing hold of the wolf, and shaking him like a toy. Grabbing him by the chain around his neck, the wolf held tight, and the Dog now trying to pull the wolf off was choking himself. The dog had a grip on his head, and biting with crushing force- The wolf was falling unconscious with the pain. With a great tug, the wolf came loose. The wolf was unconscious, but hadn’t let go of the collar. Two fangs spun upward, gleaming red in the moonlight. They had broken when the Dog had pulled the wolf off, and now the wolf could no longer bite. It was unconscious, blood dripping from its wounds, and the hunter signalled the body to be taken away. The she wolf suddenly flew from the shed, eyes blazing with the loss of her mate. There were two shots, and she fell, blood beginning to spread across her chest and between her eyes. They rolled up into her head, and she coughed up blood. She twitched, and lay still. The great dog walked up to her, sniffed, and grasped her by the scruff, carrying her to the van that lay hidden in the forest. Three nosespoked out of the Door. Three wolf cubs stepped out, sniffing the air and calling for their mother. Two were dusky brown, and the third was white, like his father. With a burst of bullets, they were shot instantly, before they could see any more of the clearing. The Hunter began to turn away, when a small sound made him stop. A fourth cub was coming out of the shed. He was pitch black, and smaller than the others- the runt of the litter. He had deep purple eyes, and he was snarling at the Hunter, walking forward on unsteady legs. The hunter walked forward and 4


picked the cub up. It struggled, biting him with tiny teeth. He stared at it for a moment, and took it with him. It had stopped struggling now, and was flopped as though all the fight had gone out of its body. He tucked him into a bag and chucked it into the back of the van with the mother and father. The group drove off, leaving the moon shining over the bloodstained clearing.

Chapter One

In this world, humans and wolves have been at war for a long time, as long as any living person can remember. In the beginning of the world, people discovered the way to harness the power of an element, and turn it into something else. The element would be able to do the will of the one controlling it, such as boiling, changing shape, freezing, or exploding. Wolves had evolved, so as to escapethe humans. They could change their forms to human, and blend in with the other humans in cities without detection. After a while, humans became wise to this, but it was impossible to do anything. They instead gathered forces and killed more wolves. Everyone in this world can accessthis elemental power, with training and knowledge, but in time, people forgot about it. Now, those with that power were hired for the military, and used in war. Wolves also went over to the military, for protection, or becausethey had to. Wolves knew of this power, and could harness it too. Somewere captured and forced into 5


serving the army, causing more war and more hate. **** Dark woke with a jerk, sitting bolt upright. Cold light filtered in through the grimy windows. His head was buzzing as though it was filled with thousands of angry wasps. He couldn’t remember what had happened last night. Rubbing his head, he looking around, and heard what had disturbed him. At the end of the old warehouse, three officers were searching noisily. All of them were armed, with long range rifles. He sat up, wishing they weren’t there. He twisted over, raising his head above the boxes where he had spent the night. They were whispering, but their voices carried easily to Dark’s sensitive ears. “Do you think he’s here?” It was a female voice, belonging to a young woman with blond hair. “Remember, we had sources. Plus, he has a tracker anyway.” A man, with untidy black hair. “From the centre?” The woman again. “Yes. Anyway, we need to get him before he does any more damage.” The third person was a raven-haired man. He hadn’t spoken while his companions talked, surveying the room with sharp eyes. Then he closed them, seeming to scent the room. Suddenly his eyes flew open, staring straight at Dark. The other two followed his gaze, spotting him, and raised their guns. Dark leaped to his feet, trying to shake off the mist that 6


fogged his brain. He heard the shots, and threw himself sideways. He reached for a metal pole that lay on the ground, and reached for his energy. The pole twisted, glowing with a purple light. It became a sword, sharp and light. With a cry, he leaped out of his hiding place, and at the officers. Spinning the sword, he aimed at the black haired man. He dodged, slipping sideways. The woman brought round her gun, and fired. The bullets missed, smashing into the boxes. “He’s fast!” she yelled. Dark spun in midair, dodging the bullets, then came to stand on a box. He shook his fringe from his eyes. The Man with raven-hair hadn’t drawn his gun, but he put his hands together. His gloves had a mark of power on them. It glowed, and a sheet of ice blocked Dark off. Dark jumped over it, standing on top of the ice-wall. “Are you the Ice Elemental, Colonel Jay?” he called down at the man. The woman and man came up, flanking the Colonel. They took aim, ready to shoot. The colonel nodded, and then spun his hand sideways, a band of ice expanding, forming a curved spear. It shone, cold and deadly. He let it fly, and it sped upward. Surprised, Dark brought round his right arm, instinctively fending it off. The sleeve of the robe he was wearing ripped, but the Ice-blade glanced off. The woman gasped, shock flashing in her eyes. “What? -” Dark snorted. “Great, now you’ve torn it.” he pulled the robe off, throwing it sideways. He was wearing a black sleeveless shirt, and black trousers. His right arm was made of metal, up to his shoulder. He was small, but had an athletic build. He had 7


a terrible scar across his right eye, from just above it, to halfway down his cheek. “Heart-metal?” the colonel said, and the woman, still surprised, nodded. There was a noise of running footsteps from outside, and suddenly, Dark was surrounded. More officers had appeared, circling the group. Dark growled in frustration, then shifted. Now, a young midnight black wolf stood on top of the icewall. There was a scar across his eye, and his metal arm was now hidden, beneath fur. Awkwardly, he leaped down. Purple eyes burning, he dashed right, attacking the officers. The man fell, bleeding from a wound in his shoulder. Dark twisted away from another bolt of ice. He landed, slipping on a sheet of ice. He crashed onto his side, and instantly, three officers leaped onto him. Strong arms were wrapped round his neck and legs. He twisted, trying to break free of the iron arms wrapping round his chest. He knew the scent well. Major, a giant of a man, working in the military, was also an Elemental. He specialised in metal, and had faced Dark plenty of times. He saw a gun being pointed at him. He tried to twist away, but the grip on him just tightened. The gun flashed, and a stun dart thudded into his shoulder. He continued to struggle relentlessly. The gun flashed again and again. On the fourth shot, Dark began to feel the numbing effects of the drug. He tried to pull away, and the arms released him. He staggered to his paws, but the world was spinning, and the circle surrounding him was a blue blur. He fought forward, trying to run. He couldn’t. The fogginessreached his brain, and he fell forward. On his 8


side, he tried to growl, to fight off the hands that grasped him and lifted him, but his strength had drained away. He drifted unconscious, sinking away into a dark hole. He was carried by the Major and put in the back of a van. Colonel Jay melted the Ice-wall, and taking a last look around the warehouse, he left.

Chapter Two

Dark felt like he was being dragged upwards from a river. Sleep dragged him down, but he continued to struggle upwards. He blinked. He was lying on a bed in a dark room. There was a door in the corner of the room, and a window on the far wall. He twisted over, trying to fully wake up. He heard a knock at the door, and two men came in. one of them was Colonel Jay, and the second Dark didn’t recognise. “Good, you’re awake. How do you feel?” “Go away.” Dark grumbled, sitting up. He was surprised to be human, but didn’t show it. “That’s not very nice. I should have killed you, but I didn’t. Many of the higher ups want your blood.” The Colonel rebuffed him, as though it was a conversation between a father and son. Dark growled quietly, and stood up. He was unsteady, but at least he could stand. “I’m fine. Well, as fine as you can be if you’ve just been 9


knocked out. Oh, Where am I?” Dark said sourly. “Central. This is Lieutenant Cross, by the way.” he gestured at the blond haired man next to him. Dark sat down with a bump. The central? Damn. This is bad He thought dully. “I’ll send some food through. You know how things work round here. I expect you’ll be up and around again soon.” Colonel Jay said, then turned round and went back through the doorway, Lt. Crossfollowing. Dark knew all too well where he was now. He remembered the place he had spent the first fourteen years of his life in. He was sixteen now, and had managed to escapea year ago. Since then he had been running free, destroying everything he met. Before that, though, he had lived here. It was a Training facility of the military, for the Wolves they ‘employed’, and the dogs they had bred. The dogs were mixed breeds with Wolf blood, to make them stronger. They were large, powerful and fast, bred to kill wolves. Dark remembered vaguely the time he had been brought. He had been hand raised, becauseevery she-dog they had tried to pair him with had kicked him away, and the other pups had attacked him. All becausehe had been the runt, and because he was a wolf. Of course, when he began to ‘help’ train the young pups, he had been beaten up pretty badly. As a yearling, he had been put with other wolves, who had bullied him. Eventually, he had grown to hate everything. He grew stronger, too, and began to fight better than the wolves he was pit against. He knew how it worked. The wolves would fight each other, and if a wolf began to lose too often, it would be retired and used as a toy for the younger dogs they were training. 10


Eventually, it would be killed. The wolves would then fight the Dogs, training them up and developing the breed. Then, when there were female dogs, they would be trained, and if some didn’t do as well, they would be used to breed, and develop the dogs further. Wolves would be brought in now and then, to mate with them. It made Dark feel sick. Then, one day, Dark had been led to a hospital-like room. They had removed his leg, and replaced it with heart-metal, a strong but flexible metal that was good for anything. The pain had been terrible, and he had been locked up in a tiny cage, in the same room, as other wolves had similar things done to them. Their cries of pain had stayed with him always. He had gotten used to his new leg, and one day, two handlers had come to take him back to fight. He had let them open the door, and slip on the collar. Then, as they were crossing the courtyard, he had turned on them. He killed them both, and guards had come out, but he killed them all easily. He leaped the walls, which were extremely high, but with all the fighting, he had grown strong, and the new leg let him power over and away. He had plenty justification for his killings. They had killed his entire family- his mother, brother and sisters had been shot, and the dog known as Akuma had destroyed his father here, at the centre. He shivered, remembering the giant figure of Akuma, the silver-striped dog. The Dog who had been at the killing of his father had been Akuma’s own father. The two were alike, but Akuma had a large dark grey patch on his head, like a helmet. He woke from his reverie, when the door opened, and food was brought in, and put on a table. The guard left without 11


speaking. Dark moved forward, sniffing it cautiously. He was about to eat, when something inside of him repelled the thought. He turned away and sat down on his bed. Grumpily, he lay down and closed his eyes. Chapter Three

Dark woke. He was starving, having gone a month without eating. He didn’t know why, but he couldn’t eat. They had tried to persuade him to eat, but he refused them. He would not give in; he wouldn’t bow down to those people. He heard the door open, and a single boy walked in. He had silvery blue hair, with a short plait at the end, going half-way down his back. He had silver-green eyes, and he walked up to Dark quietly. Dark drew in his scent carefully, and was surprised to find it a wolf’s. He sat shakily up, lack of food making his head spin. “Hello, Dark. I am Silver, a wolf just like you. But, I am with the military, unlike you, and am respected there. You could be respected too, if you would join the military, you would be safe and protected.” Silver said, his voice low, like the sound of a stream trickling over pebbles. Dark sat back, leaning on the wall. “Ha! So that’s how you aren’t locked up, like me. Why would I want to go as low as that? You’re nothing more than a dog of the Military! I, unlike you, have pride!” Dark snarled. Silver seemed amused at his outburst. “I do this so I can live. Anyway, I like you. You have an interesting spirit, even though you’re weak with hunger.” 12


Silver turned around, heading to the door. He opened it, the paused. “Eat some food and get strong, Dark.” He said, walking out. Dark sat there, thinking about it. He knew he would get ill and die if he didn’t eat soon. But that would mean that he had lost. There was no way he would lose. He would escape, next time he was called to train. Which would be soon- today- most likely. He lay down again, saving his energy. He was tired, so he drew energy from the elements. They wouldn’t erase his hunger, but at least he would have more energy. There was a second knock on his door, and two guards walked in. “You are in Hall C. You can be wolf, or human, but you are not allowed to use your powers.” One of them stated the rules. Dark stood up, shifting to a wolf, and came to stand beside them. They set off with Dark between them, passing through the courtyard. It was raining, and soon Dark was soaked. As they entered the large building that made up the main body of the facility, Dark caught a scent of Silver, but couldn't see him. They stopped at one of the large double doors, and the guard knocked. “Enter!” a voice called. The guards opened the door, and came in behind Dark. They went to sit at the stands at the end of the room. Three people sat there already. Silver, Colonel Jay, and another guard. Silver nodded at Dark, and the Colonel signalled for the training to beginning. There was a fourth man in the room, holding a sword in one hand. The room itself had a sandy floor, soft beneath Darks paws. They circled for a minute, and then Dark attacked. He bounded once, speeding up, then flew at the man. The 13


man dodged, bringing round his sword, catching Dark on his metal shoulder. Dark landed, spinning round on his forepaws and crashing into the man. His teeth met the man’s shoulder, and he bit hard. Blood sprayed into Dark’s mouth and onto the sand- his belly groaned with hunger, but years of fighting had made him stronger than most people, and he was no less as formidable as before. The man yelled, twisting sideways and slamming Dark to the ground. Winded, Dark lay stunned. The man was stronger than he had realised, faster too. He scrambled to his feet, and was surprised to find blood trickling from his side. There was a gash there, long and deep. Dark leaped again, feinting right and left. The man lashed out, catching Dark. The tip of the blade buried deep into Dark’s chest, and he screamed. He twisted from side to side, trying to get it out. With a ripping sound, the blade suddenly snapped, half of it sticking from Dark’s chest. The man stumbled backwards, holding his broken sword. Dark shifted back to human, looking down at the sword. He stood up, swaying on his feet. Taking the end of the sword in his metal fist, he pulled it out. Blood dripped from the tip, staining the sand. He stared at it, and then sprang forward, bringing it high above his head. Slashing down, he weaved around the man, dodging and attacking. Always, he stayed just out of reach of the man. Dark suddenly felt the tip of the other end of the sword slide into a joint in his metal arm. The man laughed, twisting the sword, catching it inside. Dark tried to pull free, but it was caught. With a wrench, the man slashed down with his broken sword, and the metal tore. Dark stumbled backwards, horrified 14


as his arm trembled and snapped, just below his shoulder. The arm dangled uselessly from the end of the mans broken sword, mangled. Dark staggered to his feet, metal arm swinging loosely. The man attacked this time, swinging his sword at him. Dark was on the defensive now, dodging away from the blows. Blood was running in two streams over his eyes, and down his cheeks. There was blood running from the corner of his mouth too, and from the hole in his chest. “You’ve lost too much blood now, wolf. You wont live this time!” the man smirked, attacking again. He slammed into Dark, sending him flying across the room, and siding on the wall. Dark crumpled, head handing on his chest, barely conscious. A wide smear of blood lay of the wall, dragging down to where Dark lay. The man walked forward, grabbing Dark by the shirt and lifting him up. “You dead yet?” “T-thanks. The blood has left my head, so I can think clearly now.” Dark whispered. With a cry, he stabbed the man in the side, with the bare sword blade in his clenched hand. It cut into his skin, and the man yelled, dropping Dark. Dark barely stood on the ground before he leaped again. The ceiling was glass, and this was where Dark aimed for. It shattered, shards of glasspiercing Dark. He set off, leaping across the roof, splashing blood everywhere. He heard another smash, and saw Silver out the corner of his eye. He leaped into the courtyard, sprinting across. A patrol of guards appeared out of nowhere, blocking his path, crouching and shouldering their guns. Dark slid to a halt, turning around. Silver stood behind him, growling. Rain washed some blood from Dark’s face, and he called out. “You move one step, and I 15


will incinerate everyone!” “Dark, you know better than us the effect water has on your flames. Anyway, how would you be able to hold out long enough?” Silver yelled, flexing his gloved hands. Dark saw a power circle draw on the back, and recognised it. Silver was a Water elemental. Dark leaped again, this time back the way he came. Mid-air, he shifted to a wolf. He hung directly above Silver, before landing and taking off. With three legs, it was hard to keep going, but Dark raced off. The power in his haunches came into play, and even with three legs, Silver could not catch him. He twisted round, racing alongside the second building. Aiming at the high walls, he began to lengthen his stride. He took three huge strides, and then leaped. He flew at the wall, stretching out his full length. He began to run again, as he hit the wall, using his momentum and claws to run up it. He reached the top, turning to face the group assembled beneath him. They opened fire. Dark laughed, just as a bullet hit his front leg. He stood for a moment, and then tumbled forward, falling to the ground. There was a flash of silver, and a great silver wolf flew through the air, catching Dark by the throat. Silver landed, holding the unconscious Dark between his teeth. Colonel Jay walked up to him, ruffling the fur on Silvers head. “Well done, Silver.” Chapter Four “Wow, Dark! You must have nine lives or something!” Silver grinned, staring down at Dark. 16


“Unnnggghhh.” Dark groaned, one eye open. He was heavily wrapped up in bandages,across his chest, head and arms. “I’m not a cat.” Silver watched him for a moment. “Well, you could have died. You are really tough, though. You ran off, and caused quite a bit of trouble. And while you were starving! Now that’s something.” “Well, if you spent a year running away from this place, fighting the very best the military has to offer, you get pretty good.” Dark said, opening his other eye and looking around. The Room was clean and white. There was a window at the end of the room, open, with a fresh breeze coming through. He was on a bed, with a tray of food on a table beside him. He stared at it for a moment. “This is the Central Hospital, isn’t it?” Dark asked. Silver nodded, looking out the window. “How long have I been here?” “Two Days.” Dark stiffened, but didn’t say anything. He turned to the food, taking the tray, and sniffing it. He began to eat, hungrily, deciding that it would be better if he was stronger before he tried to run again. When he had finished, he lay back on the pillow and stared at the ceiling. He looked suddenly at his right arm. The metal was jagged at the end, with a few wired trailing out of it. “Damn it. Now I have to get this fixed.” “Don’t worry. I’ll get my mechanic onto it.” Silver shrugged. Dark tipped his head to one side, frowning. “What?” “My mechanic. She’s got this way with heart-metal. She absolutely loves it, too. I can call her over this week, and she can repair it for you.” Silver explained, and then when Dark 17


continued to look confused, he took off his cloak. Two metal arms. They were up to the shoulder on both sides, gleaming. Dark stared. “They did this to you, and you still don’t hate them?” he snarled, disgust dripping from his voice. Silver shook his head, pulling his cloak back on. “Train accident. Lost both of my arms, and had to get Heartmetal ones. My friend, Eve, was a mechanic, and made them for me. She lives in the country, but she’ll come.” he said, standing up. “I’ll give her a call.” Dark watched him leave. The room was quiet, and Dark closed his eyes, enjoying it. He listened to the noise of the city, and heard the voices of people walking past. The trains were loud, bringing people in and out of the central. Five minutes later, Silver walked in, followed by the Major. Dark felt his hair begin to prickle defensively, but he kept his voice calm. “Hello, Major.” “Dark, Eve says she’ll be over at the end of the week.” Silver said, walking over to stand beside him. The Major walked into the room, stopping before his bed. “Dark, there is a proposition for you from the Colonel. He says that if you accompany Silver in his duties, you won’t be killed now. All you have to do is stick with Silver in his jobs and travels.” Major said in his loud voice. Silver nodded, waiting for Dark to answer. Dark sighed. “Maybe. I’ll stick with him for now, and see how it goes. I don't have much of a choice do I?” he said grudgingly. Silver grinned, and the Major nodded. “I will report to the Colonel. Silver, there is a caseof killings in the city of Ro’heth. Check it out, when you can.” he turned to Silver. Silver nodded, and the Major left. 18


“Ro’heth? It’s next to the mountains that border the western region, isn’t it?” Dark looked at Silver. He smiled, excitement flashing in his green eyes. “It’s been agessince I’ve been out of the central.” he explained. “I’ve been watching the training and patrolling mainly. Orders from the top, but It’ll be nice to fight properly again.” Silver’s face fell, but brightened again. “Oh well. As long as your arm gets fixed, we can go. I have to go now. I want to know what we’ll have to do.” Silver left, leaving Dark in the room. He sat up, looking around. His chest ached painfully, and he grimaced. Not only would he have to wait for his arm, but he had a feeling he won’t be allowed to leave until his wounds had healed. He sighed, lying back. He looked at his torn arm, and tried to move it. The metal groaned, but didn’t move. Disappointed, he turned over, ignoring the pain. He stared at the walls, bored. Picking up scents, he tried to work out who’s they were. He recognised a few, from people he had met or been guarded by. There were two just outside the doors: obviously, they didn’t trust him to not attempt an escape. Tired, and very bored, he fell into an uneasy sleep. He dreamed of the time when he had been with his mother. He remembered his brother and sisters clambering over him and pushing him away. Then it changed. He was a year old, trying to pull away from the pup that had grabbed him round the neck in training. It growled between its teeth “You are useless. Runt!” then the other pups took up a chant, calling together “Runt! Runt! Runt!” The hatred welled up inside him, hatred to those who had killed his family, those who had teased and 19


bullied him. He remembered the pain in his leg as he had had it removed, and the pain when his Heart-metal leg had been attached. Then the fierce joy of the fight, as the dogs and people that had made his life a misery fell beneath his jaws in a shower of blood. He growled, racing away into the night, killing everything that tried to stop him. He was free, free to do whatever he liked. Dark fell into a more comfortable sleep, the dream slipping away into darkness. Chapter Five

“He’s in here, Eve. Dark’s sleeping at the moment, I think.” Silvers voice cut into Dark’s dream. He heard the door open, and two pairs of feet walk in. he blinked his eyes open, turning over to see who was with Silver. “Nah, I’m awake.” he yawned, sitting uncomfortably up. There was a girl holding a case, which she set down. She had dark blond hair, and hazel eyes. She smiled at Dark. “Hi, I’m Eve.” She introduced herself. “So, you’re Dark?” “Yeah. Um, thanks.” He nodded, wincing at the movement. Eve walked forward to look at his arm. “You’re smaller than I thought you would be. All the things you’ve done, and all that.” she said, as she turned to examine the other half of his arm. “Who’s small?!” Dark growled, eyes flashing. Eve laughed, and then turned to her box, opening it. It had pieces of metal, and various tools. 20


“How did it get this broken? Heart-metal shouldn’t break like this.” she gestured to the other part of Dark’s arm, lying on a chair. “I got the arm about a year ago or so ago. But, if you’re on the run all the time, you can’t keep up with maintenance.” Dark shrugged. Eve looked at him sternly, pausing with a spanner in her hand, from his arm. “Well, that’s your fault, isn’t it, if you ran off killing people?” She said, frowning. Dark narrowed his eyes dangerously. “Did you read the news?Did it say anything about what they were doing?” Dark snarled. Eve shook her head, curious. Dark rolled his eyes. “You think im a manic killer like everybody else. I’ll tell you my reasons- you can choose who’s right yourself. When I was about two-weeks old, a group of the military hunted down my family. They found us, too. They killed my father, mother. I had two sisters and a brother, and they shot them all. I was the runt of the litter, always the last to be let in to play, or feed, or do anything. For some reason, they didn’t kill me, but took me to the Training facility here. You know it, right?” He paused, and Eve nodded, listening intently. “I was housed with some other she-dogs there with litters, but I was rejected. All becauseI was a wolf. All becauseI was a runt. So I was hand raised, and when I was a year old, I was put in the pen with the rest of the year-old pups. I was left out, and scorned by the other dogs. I would be forced to train against the young dogs. I had no training myself, and was continuously beaten, and hurt. I eventually grew stronger. I began to surpassolder wolves, and I went up the rank. Fuelled by hatred, I won training sessions, and began to ‘help’ train 21


the military too. Sometimes I went up against dogs of the military, and I would beat them. They would fight me with swords, but I would escapethem and attack myself. I was small, but strong. I was five, when I went up against the top dog. The same one that helped kill my family. I fought my best, but was beaten. That dog was huge, a demon of as creature, with such a hatred for wolves, that It overpowered me. I felt the energy in the lights above us.” He paused for breath. “Suddenly, it exploded, catching fire. That was when I became an elemental, and began to use it while I was locked in my room. I could control it, and make it move, or change shape. I was allowed to research it in the library there, and I studied it. I was forbidden to use it in training, unless I was up against someone else who was an elemental. The military tried many times to hire me as a dog, but I never did. I was ready to escape, but there was never a chance. I spent another eight years there, fighting and exploring my element. Then, one day, I was chained and led to a building. A hospital, smelling of pain, drugs and fear. I was locked in a tiny cage in a room, and left for about two days. When they came back, they chained me to a table. I was muzzled, and I couldn’t bite, or move at all. They knocked me out, but I could feel the pain clearly, and when I woke up, I had no right arm. There was a pool of blood, and it was soaking into my fur. They knocked me out again, and the pain was even worse. I could feel something being screwed into my shoulder, stiff and heavy. Then the arm was attached. Then there was something like a shock of electricity, and I woke up. I had a metal arm, from the shoulder to my paw. That was a mistake, of course, becauseI now had metal 22


claws, but after that, I was in shock. I was lifted into the cage and left to it. I got used to it soon, and began to see what I could do with it. I discovered my second element then- Metal. I could change my arm into something else, give it a blade or turn it into a sword. Then, after a week, I was led back to the rooms. I escaped, killing everyone that tried to stop me. I ran away, and they never caught me. For a year, at least.” he finished, looking at Eve. She was shocked, then nodded. “It’s horrible. And they do that to lots of wolves, don’t they? Taking away limbs and replacing them. It’s not normal, unless required. No wonder no one knew about it.” she said, then they both turned to Silver, looking for his reaction. He was looking away, staring into the distance. “I knew.” Eve rounded on him, bristling. “What! And you never told me?” “Wait, Silver, why have you got two metal arms? If they did it to you too, why did you join them?” Dark said suddenly. Eve shook her head. “ I’ve already told you. I lost them in a train accident. I was on a train, and it crashed. I lost both my arms, trying to get some people out. I can’t really remember, I lost consciousnessand had to get dug out. I had managed to free ten people, but then in doing so, I got trapped. It was the only way to free me. Eve came out of nowhere, and made me two heart-metal arms. Thankfully, it turned out we were just outside the village where we lived. No one knew why we had crashed, but in time it was forgotten.” Silver said quietly. Eve nodded, then turned round and went back to work. “Dark, how old are you, anyway?” 23


“Sixteen, why?” “Sixteen. Wow, I’m taller than you, and I’m fifteen!” Silver exclaimed. Dark growled at him. Silver laughed and sat down beside him. “Silver, I told you and Eve about my past, so you tell me about yours.” “Okay, that’s fine.” Silver shrugged. “My Dad worked in the military. My mother had me, and we lived in the country, in a village called Liro. I was friends with Eve, and we went to the school together. My mother was a she-wolf, but my father was not. Still, I was a wolf, and in the village, no-one cared if you were a wolf or not, so I was fine. I read about elementals, and began to study it out of school. Father had lots of books about it, and I read them. I chose water, and began to learn about it. It made mother smile when I brought her something that I had made. One day, though, she died. She died of a heart-attack, we think. After that, father took me to central with him, and I stayed with his brother. Uncle's wife was nice, and she looked after me, and when I was twelve, I was asked to join the military. I did, and I travelled, sorting out riots and things like that. Then, I was in the train-crash, and lost my arms. When I went back, I was patrolling and staying in central. Then, you came, Dark. That’s me, pretty much.” said Silver, smiling slightly. “You must be the youngest in all of the military ever to have been accepted.” Dark was surprised. “You’ve done lots of things, haven’t you? a water elemental” Dark laughed. “Just don’t splash me.” “Actually, I can do a bit of metal too, but just to the point of 24


changing its form.” Silver said. Dark winced as Eve moved his arm slightly. “Okay, I’m ready. Dark, I’ll put the two parts together, and connect the nerves, and I’ll be finished!” She said, placing the other part of his arm below the shoulder. The edgeswere smooth, and a fresh plate overlaid it. She placed them together and began to work again. Dark stared at the ceiling, waiting. “I’m connecting the nerves now, okay?” Dark nodded, and felt the shooting pain as the nerves connected, and clenched his teeth. It faded, and he opened his eyes. Eve was turning his arm in her hands, checking it over. She nodded, putting it back down. “There we go! Fixed.” Dark lifted his arm, turning it and clenching his fist. It responded, moving. He circled his shoulder. Eve smiled, and Dark concentrated. The metal flowed smoothly into a sharp triangular blade. He nodded appreciatively, and it flowed back. “Thanks, Eve.” Silver grinned. “Great, we can go now!” “Not yet. They only just put stitches in yesterday, so they won’t have healed yet. They won’t let me go.” Dark said. Silver looked thoughtful, and shrugged. “You’re a wolf. Wolves heal quickly. I’ll go tell them.” He turned and walked out the door.

Chapter Six

25


Colonel Jay walked in, leading Silver and two officers behind him. He looked directly at Dark, then nodded. “The doctors say you can go, but take it easy, Dark, until your wounds have sealed properly.” he said. Silver walked past him, sitting on the edge of Darks bed. He handed dark a small rabbit-skin bag. Dark took it, opening it and checking inside. “Where did you get this?” he asked. “When you were caught, they picked it up. It had your stuff in.” Silver said. Dark nodded his thanks. “You know Lt. Cross, and this is 2nd Lt. Husky. They are to accompany you on your journey. If needed, we will follow you. Remember, you are not to do anything. This is a reconnaissance trip only. Wait for orders before you do anything.” Colonel Jay told them sternly. Silver and Dark nodded together. The Colonel turned round and left. Dark looked at the Lieutenants. Lt. Crosswas tall, with spiky blonde hair, and intelligent eyes. 2nd Lt. Husky had long bluesilver hair, down to his shoulder, and steel-grey eyes. He was shorter that Lt. Cross, but seemed to be more dangerous. They both were younger than thirty years, but experienced. They nodded at Silver, then followed The Colonel, leaving Silver and Dark in the room. Painfully, Dark swung out of bed. He pulled on his clothes that Silver had brought him. The tear in his cloak had been repaired, and he pulled it on over his metal arm. Finally, he opened his bag, and pulled a packet out. Silver watched curiously, as Dark opened it, pulling a necklace out. It was a piece of black string, with a long fang on it. �What�s that?� Silver asked. Dark paused, turning to face him. He didn�t answer, but put it on, clipping it carefully on. 26


�This? The fang on the end is a wolf fang. The wolf in question was my father. Before he died, he was fighting a dog, and grabbed it by the chain-collar it wore. It pulled him off, but it broke his teeth in two. That�s how he was caught: he couldn�t bite anymore.� Dark muttered. Silver looked at him for a long time, then turned away. �Come on. I have the tickets for the train, so we need to go.� Silver led the way, while Dark followed. He was uncomfortably aware of the stares of the other guards as they passed. Outside, they waited for the lieutenants, then headed to the Station. The trains thundered past noisily, causing Dark to leap back in shock. Silver laughed at him. �Have you never been on a train before?� �N-no! I ran everywhere. Apart from that one time, when I jumped on the top of one to escape.� He added, after a brief hesitation. Lt. Husky stepped forward, standing beside silver, looking around warily. Dark noticed it, and turned to look at him. �It�s okay, there is no one really dangerous here, I can tell.� he grinned. Lt. Husky stared at him, then relaxed. �How do you know?� he asked, surprising dark. 27


�It could be senses.I don�t really understand it myself, but everything has a certain scent. Including emotions, so I can smell fear, or violence, or happiness. There is a bit of nervousness,and excitement, but that is about it.� He explained. �Just people worried about missing trains, and kids on their first time on a train.� he shrugged, and Lt. Husky stared at him. Silver smiled. �You can tell all that? I can�t, not easily.� �Practice!� Dark winked at him. Lt. Crosswatched Dark out the corner of his eye, distrustfully. Oblivious, Dark waited for the train. Suddenly, it thundered to a halt before him. Silver led the way onto it, and into a compartment. Dark sat next to the window, and Silver sat opposite him. Lt. Husky sat next to Silver, leaving Lt. Crossto sit next to Dark. He stared out the window, watching the world pass. The train was noisy, clattering over the land. Every now and then, it jerked, making Dark�s wounds twinge painfully. He shifted his position, so he could watch everything passing the train. They passed a village, and went past a lake. Silver was staring at Dark. He looked quizzically back at him, and Silver shrugged and looked away. �Doesit rain much in Ro�heth?� Dark asked worriedly. Lt. Husky stared at him, like he thought Dark had gone crazy. Sliver laughed at his expression. 28


�A bit. But, you�ll be fine, right? You can use metal instead.� �Yeah. But if it is raining for ages, and everything is wet, then I get a bit�um, lethargic. I�m uselessin the middle of a storm.� Dark grumbled miserably. �Why, it shouldn�t affect you? The fire is a separate element, not part of you!� Silver was confused, and Lt. Husky was looking at Dark curiously. Lt. Crosswasn�t watching, but listening intently. �I�m not sure, but becauseof circumstances, I have a large attachment to fire. Once I actually collapsed, becauseit was fine one moment, then it began to pour down.� Dark sighed, and flexed his right arm meaningfully. Silver nodded, but when he looked away, he continued to look confused. Dark stared meaningfully at him, then mouthed sideways. �I�ll tell you later. Do the Lt.�s know about my metal arm? � Silver spotted it, and twitched his head. Dark got the message.No. He nodded, and leant back in his seat. He closed one eye, dozing peacefully. Soon, he fell into a deep sleep.

29


Chapter Seven

Someone shook his shoulder. He blinked, and sat up quickly. The train had stopped. Silver was standing over him, shaking him by the shoulder. He stood up, picking up his bag. �I�m ready.� Silver nodded, and led the way out of the carriage. Dark followed, with Husky and Crossbehind him. The station was crowded, and Dark jumped at every sudden noise, looking around him. Silver walked beside him, calm and used to large crowds. Husky walked on one side, while Crosswalked beside Silver. Dark jumped at the noise of a train, and whipped round. �You really aren�t used to large crowds, are you?� Silver asked, amused. Dark whipped around again at the noise of a bell. �No. Well, yeah, I�m not used to them! I spent a year by myself, remember? I avoided crowds like this! But, that�s not all. Feelings come to me naturally, like a voice inside my head.� Dark paused, then continued to walk. �Imagine one voice, telling you information, all the time.� �That doesn�t sound too bad.� Husky said. Dark glared at him.

30


�Then, imagine many voices, telling you information. Lots of information, flowing into your head, all the time. Everywhere, whenever I am in a crowd, always the same. They wont stop! � Always..� He trailed off, shaking his head. Silver gave him a sympathetic look. �Is it always like that?� Silver asked, worried. �Yeah.� �Lets go to a quieter place, then.� Silver decided, walking away from the crowds. Dark followed him, as they walked past and began to emerge from the crowd. �But, you weren�t this nervous when you were in central, and its even busier there. What�s troubling you?� �Nothings troubling me, but let me check.� he looked around, sniffing the air. He froze, the hair on the back of his neck prickling. He whipped round, and saw a wolf walking between the crowd, a dark brown wolf, with light seeming to shine from it. He froze, and the wolf turned to face him, before turning and racing away. Dark took a while before he realised he was growling. Silver was looking around, And husky and Crosshad there hands on there guns. He let himself relax. �Its okay.� Cross looked annoyed, and Husky looked relieved. Silver looked nervous. 31


�Okay.� He said slowly. �We need to find a place to stay the night.� �No, follow me. I know somewhere we can stay.� Dark shook his head, turning and leading the way into the town. He checked around him, then walked along the path. In the open, he relaxed and stopped checking around them. �Dark, have you been here before?� Husky asked, warily. �Yeah. When I escaped, I spent a month or so in the central, killing everything as I went, then ran south.� Dark shrugged. �Why did you come south?� Silver asked, worried. Dark didn�t seem to hear him, but turned down an alley, and out onto another street. The houseshere had small gardens at the front, and he headed along the street, before stopping before a small house, with two floors and a pub beside it. He stopped, and looked at it. Dark turned round. �Umm, stay here. I�ll go see if they�re in.� he said nervously. Silver heard him add in an undertone. �I hope not. It was a nice life.�

32


Chapter Eight

Husky and Crosswalked to stand either side of Silver, and Dark opened the gate. He walked forward, and knocked on the door. No-one answered, then the door flew open and a woman with dark brown hair leaped out, flying at Dark. She crashed into him, and sent him flying. He sprang back to his feet, and turned to face her. She straightened up, brushing the hair from her eyes. She was about thirty, and her eyes were pale blue. �I thought I taught you better than that, Dark.� she said, then turned to where the three people were standing by the gate. �Are these friends of yours?� Dark shrugged. �This is Silver, Lt. Cross,and Lt. Husky.� Dark said, watching carefully. She rounded on him, bristling.

33


�Why did you bring the military here!� she snarled, eyes flashing. Dark flinched, taking a step back. �We needed a place to stay, and they have some stuff to do in town!� he defended himself. She relaxed, though her face was still stern. �The killings?� Dark nodded, and she let out a deep sigh. �You three, come inside, and have something to drink.� she called, and Dark nodded at them. Nervously, they walked up the path. Dark joined Silver, and followed the woman. �Who is she?� he asked in an undertone. �My master. She took me on, when she found me.� he answered. The woman paused, then yelled. �Lilly! Dark is here!� she called, then turned around. �my husband is out, but my daughter, Lilly, is here.� she told them, and there was a patter of feet and a girl ran in, spinning round. She had blonde hair, and blue eyes. They lit up as they fell on dark. �Dark! I knew you�d come back sometime. Who�re your friends?� she asked. Dark stepped aside. �This is Silver, Lt. Husky and Lt. Cross. They have some work to do in Ro�heth.� he told her. She nodded at them, saying a quick hi. 34


They were sat around the table, when The woman turned on Dark. �I thought I sensed your presence when I was out at the station. I thought you�d come.� she told him. Silver looked confused. �What do you mean, �sensed his presence�? Dark, is that what you were growling at?� he asked. Dark nodded. �I am not like other people. One, I am a wolf, like you and Dark, and also, I am a seer.� she explained. Husky looked at her, incredulous. �You�re joking! I thought they were just legends to stop people being bad.� he said, shocked. Silver looked between Husky and the woman. �No, they are quite real. You didn�t tell them?� she asked Dark. He shook his head, not meeting Silvers gaze. �Well, a Seer is someone or something that has done something terribly evil. I was born one, so I never went through the horror of that evil.� she began, looking at Dark. �If you kill someone, their spirit, their soul, remains intact. But there are a few who know how to destroy their spirits too. They are torn apart, and they never get to where you would call �heaven�. There are Death gods, who�s job is to destroy these killers and guide these torn spirits to heaven. There is on unforgivable thing, though, and that is to tear apart a child. To do so is great evil. Dark, is a Seer, also. He became one a month 35


after he escaped the facility, and fled south. I found him, starved and half-mad. I helped him, and trained him.� Dark shivered, gritting his teeth. �Dark, you have done well concealing it.� �Dark. If you stay with me, I need to know everything.� Sliver told him, shaken. Dark raised his head, staring at the fire. He looked sharply at Silver, his gaze intense and burning. �Very Well. I do not wish to keep secrets any longer. I am tired of running, so I will show you. Change to a wolf, so you can understand me.� he stood up, changing to a wolf. Silver copied him, and the woman stood too. �Dark. Is this what you really want?� she asked. He nodded. Then, closing his eyes, he stood tensed. He shook, then his eyes snapped open and he backed away, trembling. The woman changed to the brown wolf and stood beside him, resting her muzzle on his back. She murmured in his ear, and he closed his eyes. His fur bristled, and he growled quietly. Husky and Crosswatched warily, and Silver stood opposite him. His eyes flew open, and Silver stepped back. They were a burning, blood red. He snapped his head round, and leaped into the air, flying at Silver. Before Crosscould move, the shewolf slipped between them, and Darks jaws snapped shut on her neck. She stood still, and Dark slowly released her. Blood was dripping from her neck, but it was a dark black. She stood 36


still, while Dark staggered back, then crouched before her, sleeking back his ears. She stood over him, calmly. �Dark, Silver is waiting.� she prompted, and Dark sat down, wrapping his tail over his paws. He looked calm. Silver sat down opposite him, and the she-wolf stood beside him, watching Dark. �You want to know how I became a Seer?� he asked, his voice low. Silver nodded sharply. �Before I came here, I attacked a house of the military. I know you�ll remember, it wasn�t that long ago. I killed the man and the woman. They had a young child, only three. It watched as I destroyed the souls of its parents, then it began to cry. It was noisy, so I killed it too. I remember tearing its soul apart. As I left the house, I felt a powerful force cramping my legs. The pain was intense, and I collapsed. I was nothing. The entire place was white, and there was a book. Opened it, and inside were names. Many, many names. Some I recognised as the ones I had destroyed, and the world faded away. All I knew was that something amazing was there. I felt myself go into the book. I was being dragged along, and as I wet I saw names, flashing past, and information cramming into my head. It was destroying me, and my body had begun to break apart, dissolving. Namesand dates, flashing past my eyes. Then I realised. It was the truth. The truth of everything, and what I had done. As I realised this, I pulled back, and broke away from the book. I woke up just 37


before the military arrived. I ran, terrified, from what I knew. But I was a Seer, and I never regretted what I�d done.� Silver stared at him, disgusted. Crossand Husky were watching, unable to understand wolf-talk. �Dark, why? Why did you do it? I remember that family, they were good people.� he growled. �Silver, my life was destroyed by the military. They killed my family, my brother and sisters. They were younger than three years, and Silver, we are almost human, otherwise we wouldn�t take this form. They didn�t care about it then, so why would I care either?� he said dismissively. Silver snarled furiously. �A life�s a life! It was their job, to kill! You shouldn�t have destroyed them, no matter what happened to your family.� he growled. Dark stood up, bristling. �You should understand.� dark snarled, shaking with anger. Then he snorted, looking at the floor and turning away. �But, why should you? You are a dog of the military through and through. You would never understand, let alone care, about what happened to my family. Why should you, when you have sent many wolves to their deaths?!� He barked, then leapt into the air, racing across the room and springing out the open window. Lilly raced into the room. �Was that Dark?� The she-wolf nodded. �He�ll go on a 38


rampage if he�s spirit form. Thank god I can see them!� she whipped round, shifting into a wolf and racing after Dark. Silver looked helplessly after her. �What did I do?� he asked, human again. Husky looked shocked, but Silver silenced him with a glance. �Don�t worry. He ran off twice the first time I met him, but he always came back. I think he�s upset, but in that form, he gets angry easily.� She answered him, sitting down on a seat. �Oh, I�m Ash, by the way. Ash Warden. Silver, don�t worry; He�ll be back.� Silver looked worried, but sat down opposite her. �Are you an Elemental?� Crossasked, looking at her. She paused, and returned the look. �Yes.� �Why don�t you join the military? Your skills as a Soul Eater, and an Elemental would come in useful.� Crosstold her. Ash looked back at him, glaring. �Why do you think I stay down south, away from the central? I was against the military from the moment I was old enough to fight. I won�t become a weapon to be disposed of whenever they want.� She snarled fiercely. �Anyway, I don�t think I would that useful to the military.� she said, looking away. 39


�Doesn�t look like it, from what we�ve seen.� Crosssaid, raising his eyebrows. �Let�s put it this way. When I was born, I was not always a Soul eater. However, I had a high spirit-power, and my soul was very loose. Then, one day, I became a Soul Eater. Since then, I collapse at random moments. During these times, my soul can leave the body, and walk around. Handy for scouting without having to leave any place, but until my soul comes back, I am completely helpless. If my soul is killed, then I will die. If my body is killed, I will become a lost one. I will most likely forget everything, and wander around until a Death god finds me.� she sagged. �That�s what happened today, when I found Dark.� Crosslooked at her thoughtfully for a long time, then turned away. �How long will it be before Dark and Lilly come back?� Silver asked, after a while. Ash looked at him. �The longest it took him to come back, once, was a week.�

40


Chapter Nine

A patter of paws sounded behind Dark. He looked round, and saw a light gold wolf running up to him. It was Lilly, so he looked back round to stare at the mountains, where the sun was sinking. She sat down next to him, shivering. Her fur was thinner than Darks, as she had been born and raised in the south. The chilly night air was blowing around them, with fresh scents blowing off the mountain. She was breathing hard, and for a while she leaned on Dark, sharing his warmth. �Why did you run off? I just saw you fly through the window and race off like a Death god was after you!� she asked, wrapping her tail over her paws. �I got angry, that�s all. I said something stupid, and ran off.� he growled softly, lying down and tucking his paws underneath him. His eyes connected with Lilly�s, burning red into light blue. �Are you going to come back?� �Maybe tomorrow. Right now, I want to stay outside. It 41


would be an idea to see whether the killers come out tonight.� he shrugged, then stared silently at the mountains. She looked at them too, as the sky became a red haze, the last rays of sun disappearing. Shadows stretched around them, splitting the light areas up like yawning chasms. �How did you get up here? This is the tallest building in the town. The only way up is from the inside, and the jump from other buildings is impossible for anything but a spirit, Death god or something like that.� he asked quietly. �Just becauseI�m not one of them doesn�t mean I cant do the same as you. I have had the same training as you.� she poked him in the side. He winced, her paw jabbing him on the scar from his battle a million years ago. She noticed, stepping back and surveying him critically. �You�re hurt!� she gasped. He looked away, and she pulled him to his feet, walking around him. She parted the fur along his side, and gasped at the long scar. She nosed it gently, then walked round his chest. He lifted his head, and she stopped. �What did this?� she exclaimed. �Sword. It snapped, but it missed my heart, thankfully.� he grumbled, then stepped away, licking the fur on his chest, flattening it over the wound. She walked up to him, and pressed her muzzle into his neck. �Stupid. You shouldn�t have been hit.� she murmured affectionately. He sighed, closing his eyes. 42


�I got caught a while after I went back. It happened during a training session, and I wasn�t a sharp as usual. I wouldn�t eat, but you should have seen the man that did it to me. He got off worse, I think. I would have gotten away, but I got shot and fell.� �Even Seers need to eat. You not eating is interesting, though.� she said, amused. He growled gently at her, and she pulled back. �If you want to stay here, its okay. Do you want some company?� she asked, and Dark looked at her gratefully. Settling beside her, he pressed his fur into hers, and she stopped shivering. Closing her eyes, she dropped to sleep. Dark kept his eyes open, watching the horizon. Stars were beginning to light up the sky, and the moon rose, shining over them like a great white eye. Putting his head on Lilly�s shoulders, he fell asleep. **** Lilly prodded him awake. He blinked sleepily, then staggered to his paws. The sun was climbing in the sky, barely above the mountains. �Lets head back.� she said. He shook himself, then padded over to her, and they leaped off the edge.

Dark slunk into the house, nervously looking around. Lilly 43


was outside, looking for something. He scented the air, then saw a shadowy wolf sitting outlined against the fire. It rose, then raced forward, crashing into him. He barely had time to draw breath before he was bowled trough the door and into the back garden. It had a high stone wall, strong and tough. He was rolled onto his back, but he continued rolling, throwing off Ash. She leaped, and Dark sling under her, rearing up into her belly and sending her spinning sideways. Sliding across the hard ground, she attacked again, lashing out with her forepaws then flinging him into the air. He crashed into the wall, and slid down. Standing up, he shook black blood from his eyes, and attacked. She dodged, but dark changed position and caught her. Blood sprayed into the air, slashing over Dark�s fur. She shook herself loose, and bounded forward. She crashed into his chest, teeth digging into the area around his sword wound. It opened, and pain shot through darks body. He felt his limbs burn, and flopped down. He saw Silver, Cross, Husky and Lilly standing beside the door, watching. New power cursed through his limbs, driven by pain and anger. He twisted, throwing her off. Without pausing, he crashed into her, biting hard on her leg. His teeth met bone, and she writhed furiously. Legsscrabbling at his side, she tore clumps of fur from it. Thrashing from side to side, she caught hold of his chest again, and bit hard. He let out a howl of pain, not letting go of her leg. With a snarl, she loosened her grip, drawing away, and 44


Dark released her leg. He began to turn away, when she leaped at him. His legs disappeared from under him, and he crashed to the ground. Her teeth met his throat, and he froze. She released him, and stood back. �You�re out of practice. We will continue your training today.� she growled, then walked off. He lay there, legs slowly regaining their strength. Lilly ran up to him, followed by Silver. �Are you okay?!� she gasped, ready to help him. He shrugged her off, and stood up. He stood panting for a minute, then shifted back to human. His eyes went to a muddy brown, then to purple. Silver stood beside him awkwardly. �I�m sorry.� he said, and Dark nodded. �Its okay, I�m sorry too. I was just a bit annoyed, that you couldn�t understand.� Dark replied, and began to walk forward. Lilly stood on one side of him, Silver on the other. �That was amazing! Lilly told us that Ash was there in spirit from, but it looked like you were fighting thin air. And wounds were just appearing form nowhere, then you went crazy!� Silver exclaimed. �After seeing you fight starved, I thought you were amazing! But you still couldn�t beat her, could you?� Dark shook his head. �Believe me, I�ve tried. She�s just too good.� Dark 45


shrugged. �Don�t those hurt?� he asked, pointing at the blood staining Darks clothes. �A bit. Only the chest one, really, seeing as she bit directly above where the sword went in. The scratch on my head doesn�t hurt at all.� he shrugged, yawning. Crossand Husky sat down at the table, joining Ash and Lilly. Dark looked at her briefly, then sat down. She stared directly at him, and he returned the gaze. �Silver, you can train with us, if you want to.� she said, and Silver nodded. �Lieutenants, what is your skill in swordplay?� she asked Crossand Husky. They glanced at each other. �The military are trained to fight with sword�s and guns. Why?� Crossanswered, curious. �Then you may spar with us too.� she said, and Dark nodded. �That way, we can prepare for any fights.� he said. Cross looked doubtful. �We were ordered not to get into a fight. Scouting trip, remember?� �That is virtually impossible. We�ll run into them anyway, 46


if we have to find out about them. That�s the best way to discover the strengths and weaknessesof the enemy.� Ash shrugged, standing up. �I�ll make breakfast.�

Chapter Ten

A man walked down the stairs. He was tall and powerful, with short black hair and brown eyes. He paused, nodding a welcome to them all, then sat down. �Hello, sorry I didn�t see you yesterday. I am Joe,and you�ve met my wife.� He said, and Crossgave him a reserved nod. �Dark, how are you? � he said, smiling. Dark shrugged. �As okay as you can get after sparring with Ash.� he suggested, tapping his shirt, where the blood was drying. Joe hook his head, and rested back on his chair. Silver looked out of the window, where it was beginning to rain. Dark folded his 47


arms, and grumbled unhappily. �Trust it to rain before we go training. I am going to die, trust me.� he said, looking at Silver. �Is it possible for a Seer to die?� Silver asked him, twisting round in his seat. �Yes, but it is very hard for a normal person to kill one. Not so hard for a Seer to kill another Seer, even though it is still pretty hard.� Dark answered, and Silver nodded. �In training, you can bite and scratch, it wont kill me. Might hurt, if you break the skin, but I�ll be surprised if you can get near enough to.� Silvers eyes widened. �I wont break the skin.� he promised. Dark shrugged, then began to rub his arm. Crosswaited patiently as breakfast was handed out. It was toast and sausages.Dark hungrily ate his, and rested back on his chair. Once everyone had eaten, Ash stood up and left the room, heading through a door in the side of the kitchen. Dark stood up, and Silver did the same. �Joe, are you going to watch?� Dark asked, as Joestood up. �No. I think I might help.� he said, grinning. Dark frowned worriedly, then shrugged. 48


�Okay.� he said, and Silver looked at them both. �Are you a wolf too?� he queried, interested. Joenodded, his grin widening, and shifted. Silver gasped, and Husky took a surprised step back. Joe�s wolf was huge. It was a coal grey, with a paler belly and lower jaw. It was almost as tall as Silver to the head, and very powerful. He had a cross-shaped scar on its chest, and another smaller scar across the bridge of his muzzle. His eyes were steel grey, shining. Crossstared, then walked up to him, and walking around him. �You�re even bigger than Akuma. More powerful too. It could be interesting to see a battle between you and Him.� Joesnarled, a guttural noise that seemed to vibrate through the room. �I am strong, yes, but I don�t enjoy fighting. I�m more of the peaceful type, but if I have to, I will fight. I doubt you would risk the being of your best dog to cross with me, Lieutenant.� he said in rumbling tones. Dark didn�t change form, and Ash walked into the room, holding two objects wrapped in cloth. Husky looked at her curiously. �What are they?� he asked, walking up to her as she lay them on the table. �Swords. You and Crosscant use the elements and make one yourself, so I always keep some of the better ones I make in case.� she explained, unwrapping them. They were long and 49


about five centimetres in width. They were double edged, and sharp, and the hilts were brass coloured with bandages wrapped around it. �Some grip. Dark, come and help me.� she said, and placed a sword opposite her, and passing her hands over it. It seemed to reshape, and when she finished, it was bright and sparkling with a new edge. Dark nodded, placing his hands on either side if the sword, and doing the same. He picked it up, balancing it. He was satisfied, and handed it over to Husky. �I�ve changed it a bit, to what the military fight with. It should be similar, and its been made stronger, too.� he said. Husky took it, weighing it up and nodding thanks to him. Crossexamined his own blade, and seemed surprised. �Silver, can you make your own? Not on your arm, but a separate blade.� Ash instructed Silver, who nodded, and did so. It was similar, with a double edge, narrow and light. Then he looked at Dark, who was the only one without a sword. �Dark, are you going to make your own sword?� he asked, and Dark grinned. �Yes.� he said, and flexed his metal arm. A fiery red light expanded from it, forming the shape of a hilt. It twisted, then began to spread out. It became a blade, lengthening and twisting. The light coming from it was bright, so it was near impossible to see what the sword looked like. Then it stopped, and Silver stared in surprise. 50


The blade was thick, twice the width of Silvers own, and heavy looking. It was straight on the back, with a pointed end. It then had a steady curve back to the hilt, which was a burning red. Dark held it loosely, the tip of it just above the ground. �Isn�t that to heavy?� Husky asked, and Dark shook his head, twisting it round and offering it up to him. He took it, and lifted it, examining it carefully. �It weighs the same as the one you gave me! Maybe even less�� he gasped, and Dark took it back. �Spirit-Blade. It is strong, and broad, so it can withstand blows and cut through Spirits. But, it weighs very little, so it can be carried easily and not causetoo much drag.� Dark said, lifting it easily. �That�s a strange shape. Why�s it shaped like that, it looks like a great knife.� Silver said, amazed. �Its one-edged. You have a double blade, but this has only one. The other edge is thicker, and good for parrying attacks.� dark explained, and Crossnodded at him. �It�s a good sword. I prefer double edged ones, but a singleedge is just fine.� he commented, and they filed outside. Rain splashed down onto Dark, and he shivered, his arm beginning to hurt. He felt the familiar tiredness, but he shook it off. Ash walked up to him, her long hair tied back. �You 51


will fight with Cross. Silver is with Lilly, and Husky is with me. Joewill do some training with you, Silver and Lilly.� she told him, and Dark nodded. He walked over to Cross, who was waiting for him. �I�m with you, for now. Come on.� Dark said, and he and Crosswalked into a corner. Silver was already fighting Lilly, the noise of their swords clashing loud. Crossturned to face him, but Dark was already racing forward. With a cry of surprise, he dodged, and tried to attack back. Dark laughed, sword dancing forward, and he struck again and again. He was surprised to find Crossblocking his blows, but continued to push forward. He kept focused, the noise of the others fading away, until it was only him and Cross. He leaped backward, as Crossswung back at him, and attacked again. His sword tapped Crosson the hip, gently, then something suddenly brushed past him. He stumbled, loosing his balance, and tipping sideways. Crossstruck forward, but Dark regained balance. The blade was heading towards him, aiming at his chest, but he focussed. The world seemed to slow, and he bunched his legs beneath him. Then, with the blade almost touching him, he jumped into the air, dodging it. He flew into the air, above Cross, and landed behind him. He crouched down, landing on a hand and his feet, balanced again. He struck, but cross parried it, knocking his sword away. Dark felt like he was moving through mud; no matter how he tried, he was too slow to tap him again, and found himself 52


being pushed back, his blows beginning to block and knock aside Cross�s. Suddenly, Crosspulled back and lowered his sword. Dark pushed back up, standing up. His brain seemed fogged up, and he shook it away. �You seemed fine to start with, so what happened?� Cross said, walking up to him. Dark closed his eyes, then paused. Something at the edge of his vision made him stop, and his eyes flew open. The world seemed to have a greyish tinge, and Crosswas standing next to him, waiting for an answer. But what stopped dark was the strange misty shape at the side of the garden. It was crouched on the wall, with a skulllike mask covering its face. It looked a bit like a wolf, but Dark knew it wasn�t. Crossbegan to look concerned, and asked him. �Dark? Are you okay?� but dark ignored it, and began to walk forward, raising the sword, ready to attack. The rain was still falling, but Dark felt alive, even though his mind was still clouded. He was about to attack, when it twisted round and disappeared from sight. Slowly, the world regained colour, and Dark shook himself. Crosswalked over to him, and Dark turned round. �Sorry about that. A Lost one was watching us, and could have meant trouble. But it ran off, and I have a feeling it�ll be back.� Dark said, and Crosslooked annoyed. �You�re eyes kept on changing from purple to red, really quickly, and you had begun to fight really slowly. I though it 53


was something wrong, but are you ok?� �Yeah. The rain had begun to affect me, but I�ll be okay. The run in with a spirit woke me up.� he said, and Cross nodded. �Dark! Come here. You too Cross.� Ash called, and they walked over to her. The others had gathered round her, and Dark stepped in beside Silver. �I�ll fight Cross, Dark, you can fight with Silver, against Joe. Husky, you can fight Lilly, and I can supervise.� she said, checking them off. Joewalked over, flexing his claws. Silver looked at him, then nodded. Dark shook the rain from his sword, and placed it beneath the overhang at the side of the house, then shifted to wolf. Husky was circling with Lilly, who had a long, narrow sword. Silver was waiting, facing Joe.Dark padded up to him, and gave him a nod. Joewalked forward, flicking his tail at them. �Fighting in a pair is similar to fighting by yourself, but you must work together, as a unit. You must protect and help your partner, just as you would do yourself.� he said, his voice rumbling. Silver nodded, and Dark twitched his ears. Joe stepped back, and Dark looked at him. �Just attack me. To start with, I�ll try to dodge you.� he said, and Dark drew his lips back, snarling. Silver slid of sideways, and began to circle him. Dark continued to growl, making it build up inside him, 54


tearing through his jaws. He paused, then Silver attacked, clamping his jaws on Joe�s front leg. Dark raced forward, his paws sliding on the wet grass as he pushed forward. Without hesitation, he leaped high into the air, and came down. He bit hard on Joemuzzle, jaws clamped on either side and drawing blood. Joeshook his head, almost shaking Dark off, but he stayed on. Joelifted a paw, taking Silver off the ground. He jerked it upwards, and Silver was thrown into the air. Joetwisted round, rearing up onto his hind legs, and lashed out with a forepaw. It slammed into Silver as he was falling, and slammed him to the ground. Silver let out a cry, and Dark gripped harder. He could see Silver pinned down, Joepressing on his lungs with a giant paw. Dark let out a snarl, and began to spin himself, rotating around his jaws, and he span faster and faster, teeth cutting deeper into Joesnose. With a cry, Joereared back, shaking his head. Blood was spraying into Darks eyes, and he could only just see. Silver was scrambling to his feet, shaking. He leaped forward, jaws clamping onto Joesthroat. Darks jaws loosened, and Joethrew him off. He span in the air, and grabbed onto Joe�s head as he twisted. Swinging there, he dropped down, then flew up to join Silver, grabbing onto the fur around Joe�s neck. Silver growled a greeting, and he hung there. Suddenly, Joereared up, falling backwards and rolling over, trapping Dark and Silver beneath him. Now, Darks nose was pressed into Joesfur, unable to breath. Silver was slightly 55


higher than him, only his lower body trapped. Dark twisted, trying to free himself. He couldn�t let go, his head pressed into the ground. He saw Silver bite hard, and Dark saw a spray of blood appear on Joesneck. Keep going Silver, you have a good grip now. Dark thought, but to his surprise, he saw Silver let go. He managed then to wriggle away, twist, and leap up to attack Joesmuzzle. Silver bit hard on the bloody area where Dark had bitten, and Joelet out a roar of pain. He reared up, and Dark was freed. He gasped for air, momentarily stunned, then twisted sideways. Just in time, he slipped away, before a giant paw crashed down, just where his head had been. He scrambled to his paws, and saw silver being shaken off. He landed beside Dark, and stood still. �That wasn�t bad. Dark, you�re spin was good, and Silver, well done on freeing Dark. I was hoping you would.� Joe commented, walking up. �I�ll teach you a few attacks.�

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57


Chapter Eleven

Dark let out a long breath, and rubbed blood from his muzzle. Silver acknowledged his comment, and waited. Lilly span past, her sword a silver blur as she attacked Husky. Husky was struggling, but managed to block her. �You see that tree?� Joesaid, pointing with a flick of his tail at a tall tree behind the wall, where a small wood led onto a field. Silver nodded. �Watch this. Dark you know it, but you can touch it up.� he said, and raced forward. He gathered his muscles, then leaped up. He bit a strong branch, and began to spin round it, rotating his jaws. He let go, and dropped back. The branch snapped, and dropped beside him. Dark nodded. �If you perfect it, it will cut through things, but it normally relies on the strength of your teeth. They cut, but if you grip to tight, you wont spin. Too loose, and you�ll not cut.� Dark said to Silver, who nodded.

58


�What does a perfect one look like?� he asked Joe.Joeshook his head, and stepped back. Dark bunched himself, then raced forward. Ash, Lilly, Husky and Crosshad stopped to watch. Dark bounded forward, powering himself up, then leaped forward. He stretched out, then tucked up, spinning around and around. He flew at a branch, thicker than the one Joehad snapped, and flew at it. Silver stared, amazed, as Dark seemed to go through the branch. He stopped spinning, straightening out, and landed on a tree trunk. He dropped to the ground, breathing hard. His eyes were burning red, but cooled down, fading back to purple. The branch snapped, and fell to the ground. It landed vertically in the ground, sticking upwards. Dark walked forward, still breathing hard. �Well done dark, you�ve gotten better at it since last time I saw you.� Ash said, walking up to him. But you shouldn�t need to use spirit power to help you.� Silver stared at the branch, then at Ash. �I�ll try it.� He gazed at a branch, thinner than Dark and Joe�s, and took a deep breath. He raced forward, and jumped. He managed to get the branch, but he only span once before he lost his grip and fell back. He landed on all fours, and looked round. �Grip stronger, and use your jaws to move around it.� Dark walked forward, and stood beside Silver. 59


**** Grabbing the branch, he span round, once, twice, and began to pick up speed. Silver heard a click, and let go, dropping back to the ground. The stick followed him, dropping to the ground. He picked it up and walked over to Ash. She had been watching him, while Dark trained with Joe. He could see Dark just now, rolling over with Joetrying to pin him down. �Well done. You�ve nearly got it. Keep practising, and I can make tea.� She said, nodding in approval. Silver nodded, and put it down on the pile. Suddenly, he heard a bark of surprise. �Dark!� Whipping round, he saw Dark disappear over the wall and, and run into the city. Ash raced out of the house, in wolf form, and followed. Lilly was hard on her heels, and after brief hesitation, Joefollowed. With a yelp, Silver ran after them, a single leap clearing the wall. The light was beginning to fade, and Silver raced beside Lilly, following Ash deeper into the city. Joeloped steadily behind them, Long strides keeping pace easily. Ash suddenly leaped up to run on one of the smaller roof�s, leaping up the pipes that created a high pathway around the whole town. Silver followed her, struggling to keep his balance on the smooth metal surface.

60


Banking left, Silver saw Ash leap up onto the roof of a block of flats. They were almost directly beside the trainstation, and the tracks split the town in two, passing by the flats. He saw a great chasm ahead, splitting the Building from another, on the other side. Ash gathered herself, then leaped the gap. Lilly and Joefollowed without hesitation, but Silver stopped, staring at the distance. The wind was picking up, whipping around him and blowing him forward. His fur was blown forward and back, the wind tearing through it. He shook his head, backing away. The others were waiting for him, staring at him. Then Joeflicked his tail, and began to walk away Lilly followed, but ash looked at him for a long time, before running after them. He growled in frustration, and turned away, walking back to the other edge. He turned round. The others had gone, but he gritted his teeth, growling and lashing his tail. Bursting forward, he raced across the roof. He felt power coursing through his muscles, and let them go. Taking one long bound, he pushed away from the edge, and flew into the air. The wind blew him forward, guiding him across, and suddenly he felt his paws touch solid ground. He stumbled, but regained his balance, and raced away. A figure stepped out from behind a small block on the roof. It was Ash. She gave him a wolfy grin. �I knew you�d come.�

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Chapter Twelve

Silver raced after Ash, and saw Lilly and Joestanding on a lower Building, casting around for scent. He pulled up beside them, and sniffed the air. Ash paused with her nose in the air, hackles rising. Walking over, he felt something cold and Menacing wash over him. Faintly, he could scent Dark, but it was swirling around in the darkness. Then ash paused, and walked away, Hackles still up, and scented the air again. Silver shook off the feeling, and followed her over. �He�s over this way, just up there.� Ash whispered quietly, and Lilly bounded over, Joe behind her. With a Nod, Ash slunk up to the top of the building beside them and looked over the edge. Dark was standing with the wind in his fur, walking back and forth agitatedly, every now and then throwing his head up and scenting the air. With a twitch of her ears, Ash beckoned them to follow her. They stalked around and up behind some crates. Dark stopped and whipped round. His fur was bushed up and his teeth were pulled back over his teeth, baring them in a snarl that was whipped away in the wind. Silver hesitated, but Ash leaped out at Dark, and he followed her. With a twist, Dark avoided her attack and snaked sideways, immediately sliding into a crouch. He raised his shoulders aggressively and barrelled forward, crashing into Silver. The breath vanished from his lungs, and he was flung into the crates. They splintered behind him, and 63


he lay for a moment, dazed. He saw Lily going for Dark, grabbing him by the neck and thrusting him to the ground. Blood sprayed from her jaws, but without pausing, Dark reared up and threw her off. Silver wondered what was going on. Darks eyes were blazing red, like hot coals. Silver struggled to his paws, ready to attack. Leaping forward, he bit down on Darks leg, and felt the metal twist. Eve is going to kill me for that, he thought. Joegrabbed in his great jaws, and bit down on his chest. Dark groaned, and twisted violently, trying to throw him off. Lifting him up, he slammed him down on the ground, and Lilly grabbed his paw. Ash bit down on his throat, holding him still. Suddenly, Dark stopped moving, the fire in his eyes fading and leaving them. They stared blindly at the sky, reflecting the clouds. Ash let go suddenly, and twisted round. Silver let go too, staring at Darks body. Washe dead? Suddenly, there was a bark from Ash, and he saw her leap forward, attacking thin air. Then black blood sprayed into the air and he realised Dark was spirit walking. There was a growl from Lilly and she left Joeby Darks body to race forward. Ash was struggling to hold on, seeming to be hovering in mid air, holding onto Dark. Lilly raced forward, but Ash suddenly twisted and blood splashed onto the ground. Lilly was flung backward, a gash in her throat. Silver ran over to her, ready to help, but she was already scrambling to her paws, blood dripping from her throat. �He span round and kicked me in the throat. Ash has him by 64


the back of the neck, but he�s still fighting.� she rasped, and threw herself back at the space beneath Ash. Silver followed her, unsure where to attack. Ash suddenly seemed to crash to the ground, as though gravity had realised what was happening, and got her down again. She twisted to avoid the fall, but she kept a hold on Dark. She stood with her head down for a minute, then lifted it up. Blood was dripping fro her jaws, and a gash along her side oozed blood sluggishly. �He collapsed. We must get back now, quickly. The town isn�t safe anymore.� she said, bending down, and picking Darks spirit up. Joeflung his body on his back, and carried him back. Lilly began to help Ash, who was having trouble with the spirit. Silver padded to walk beside her, looking at her quizzically. �Darks spirit is bigger than him. Its nearly the size of Joe,and more powerful. I hope he�ll be okay: He lost a lot of blood and Ash had him by the throat.� Silver shuddered, and bounded up to walk beside Joe. �Crossis going to kill me. I know it.� Joeflicked his ears comfortingly. �That should be amusing.� 65


�Thanks for the reassurance, Joe,it helped greatly.� Silver said flicking him on the shoulder with his tail. They reached the house early in the morning, and as they crept inside, Crosswas waiting for them. Husky was sleeping in his chair, but woke up when Joeshifted back to human. Dark slid onto the ground, and lay still. Standing up, Cross walked up to Silver. Ash and Lilly walked in, and Crossnodded to them. Then he whacked Silver across the nose. Surprised, Silver sat down with a bump and shook his head. �Idiot! I�m meant to watch you, and protect you! Those were my orders, and it would mean bad for me if you got killed or badly hurt!� Crossyelled, glaring angrily at Silver. �You could at least consider things before you go racing off into the night!� Husky looked up at Cross. �You don�t have to be so harsh, you know Cross. He�s fine, and Hitting him isn�t going to make him heal.� he muttered calmly, looking amused. �When Dark ran off like that, we had to follow him.� Silver explained when he was human again. Husky bent down to look at Dark, who was lying on his side looking blankly at the ceiling. �Is he okay?� he asked, waving his hand above Darks head. Ash nodded, and sniffed the area where Spirit-Dark lay. Then 66


she placed her paw on his side and shook it. There was a groan, then silence. �Unconscious. I had to knock him out to get him here. Something had agitated him, he wasn�t listening to any of us.� she bent down and picked him up in her jaws by the scruff. Silver, bring Dark up to his room.� she said, and Silver nodded, shifting to wolf and taking Dark�s scruff in his jaws. Slowly, they dragged him up to one of the four rooms on the second floor. There were two beds, one for Dark and one for Silver. Silver put Dark on a bed, and turned to Ash, who was laying his Spirit beside it. �What�s going to happen now?� he questioned. �Wait for his spirit to recover, then it �ll return to his body.� Ash said, shaking Darks shoulder again. No Response. Ash stepped back and left the room silently, head down. Silver stared at Darks body, then nudged him with his nose. The fur twitched, but nothing happened. Sadly he slunk out, and headed into the kitchen. Lilly was washing her throat beside the fire, and looked up at Silver as he entered the room. He padded over to her, and sat down. Crosswas sitting with Husky at the table, talking in lowered voices. Joehad disappeared, and Ash was making an early breakfast. Yawning, Silver shifted back to human, leaning against the wall beside the fireplace and enjoying its warmth. Husky flashed a sympathetic look his way, then turned back to Cross. 67


His body ached, and where he had collided with the crates was painful. Ash had scratches along her side, hidden beneath a top, but still bleeding, soaking through the material. She didn�t seem fazed by them, though, and Silver was amazed by her strength. He stood, walked over to the table and sat next to Husky. They stopped talking, and Silver turned to Cross. �Are you going to tell the military, or are we going to wait for more information?� he asked. �I�ve passed on the information we have, but it is very little. I think they�re going to send down some strength, but they might not.� Husky muttered, and nodded thanks to Ash as food was put on the table. Between mouthfuls, Crosstalked to Silver. �We can ask Dark what had him worked up when he wakes, it might give us something interesting.� Lilly picked some food from the table and disappeared upstairs. Silver nodded, thinking. �Something must have got to him, he was very angry.� he said, and helped himself to food.

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70


Chapter Thirteen

Dark groaned. His head felt heavy, and his body was one big bruise. He panted heavily, trying to shove off the fog that grasped his head like jaws. Opening one eye, he watched faces swim before him. They were blurred, but sharpened eventually. Cross, Husky and Silver were watching him. �Dark?� silvers voice, seeming to echo across a large distance. He twitched his ears, his breathing calmed now. �What was it, dark?� Crossthis time, and Dark snarled suddenly, broken memories returning to him. �Them. It was them.� he rasped. �A wolf. In danger. Called out for help.� he closed his eyes again, breath shuddering and jerking. �We can help the wolf now, where is it?� Silver said worriedly. Dark gasped for breath, opening his eyes. They locked onto Silvers, and he paused, moving one paw then another, underneath. Him. He pushed upward, half standing, shaking. T 71


hen he groaned. �No use. He�s Dead.� he said bluntly, then his legs gave way and he spiralled into darkness. **** The air tingled, sending Dark�s hairs on end. He blinked, the fogginessin his mind blowing away. He realised he was human again after raising his hand to check it still worked. The metal was slightly twisted, but after a bit of moving, it smoothed out. Blood was crusted around his neck and leg, but he ignored it. Sitting up painfully, he looked around. He was in his old room, the plain white walls and the large window. The two beds. They were familiar. He knew that one wall, beside his bed, opened onto a street. The one in front of his bed, and behind his head, joined the pub and the house next to them. He could see Silver sleeping calmly on the second bed, the cover rising and falling in rhythm to his breathing. There was some disturbance in the air, that chilled Dark. Suddenly, without warning, a ripple appeared in the wall that joined to the pub. It was just beside his bed, above a table between him and the Window. Like a pebble dropped into a pool, the ripples expanded from a central point and faded. He scrambled sideways, worried. He couldn�t senseanything, but a deep darknesson the other side of the ripple. Then, something began to emerge from it. First a foot, bare, stepped delicately onto the table. Then another, and a person followed 72


them. Wih a shock, he reaslised it was human, and also that it was a girl. She was young looking, with long black hair tied back. She wore a strange black robe, with white edges. She stared past, through the other wall. In her hand, a long broad sword was clasped. It was similar to his spirit blade, but had a strange aura on it. �Who are you?� he asked, his voice hinting a snarl. The girl ignored him, and continued to look around the room. �It�s near.� she murmured, and headed towards the next wall. Dark twitched, irritated, then stood half up. She still ignored him, and he leaped at her, lashing out with a foot and kicking her down. He pinned her down with a foot, and snarled. �Don�t give me �it�s near� dammit!� she lay still, shocked. �You can see me?� �Obviously, stupid. You cant just walk in here and expect someone not to notice!� he growled, keeping her pinned. In one fluid movement, she sprang up and unbalanced him. He landed on his bed, and jumped up again. She faced him, and shook herself. �Who are you?� he repeated. �My name has no importance, at the moment. I want to know 73


why you can see me.� she said, her voice calm. Irked, Dark sat down again. �Why shouldn�t I be able to see you?� �Answer the question.� �It wasn�t a question to begin with.� She sighed. �Fine, I�m a Spirit, happy now?� �Not particularly. If you�re a Spirit, then I can see you. I can see you becauseI�m a spirit too. Are you in spirit form now? � he asked, and she stared at him. Confusion flickered in her eyes, then understanding. �You are different to me.� she said quietly. �I�m a Death God. But, you aren�t. And you�re not some bad soul killing everyone, or a soul that, for some reason, didn�t get to heaven. So that means you are a destroyer of souls, and have faced punishment.� she said slowly, her face betraying no emotion. Dark could smell, though, that she was unhappy and angry. He nodded. Energy cracked around her. �I should kill you now, and get rid of that power, but they are not my orders.� she grumbled, the looked at him. �Do you know anything about what is killing the souls and people here?� 74


�Wait. Did you say �Death God�?� he interrupted her. �Yes. Why, don�t you believe me?� she said, her voice slightly sharp. �Why are you here?� �I was sent. There is a lot of spiritual activity around here. I have to sort it out.� �Is there a sort of society dealing with lost souls?� Dark said, sceptically. She nodded, and he raised his eyebrows. �look, the Society finds Bad spirits and kills them. They also find lost souls and guide them up. They also kill the ones who can destroy souls, becausethat is a generally evil power.� she explained, rolling her eyes. �Now, I need to go and destroy the bad ones. Go back to sleep.� she added, and dark felt a powerful will beating own upon his own. Angrily, he shrugged it off. Surprised, she retreated through the wall. He stared after her, confused. He scented the air, and caught hold of hers. Fixing it in his mind, he explored deeper into it, following it like a silver stream. Closing his eyes, he saw images flash before his eyes. The mountains. A cave, swallowing up the darkness. Broken images of creatures surrounding him. A glow of blood-red eyes. Fear, and anger. Pain. Tracing a creature, following it back down to the city. Suddenly, her eyes showed up in the images, blue and sharp as 75


daggers. �Leave, now. You don�t belong here.� and the images flickered and snapped. A jolt of energy, pure and hot, slashed at him, and he opened his eyes. He was on his back on the floor, and sweating. He was sure that she had felt him probing her memories and shook him off. He stood up and flopped onto his bed. Exhaustion swept over him and he dropped into a deep sleep.

76


77


Chapter Fourteen

�I know where they are.� Dark said. Crossstared at him in surprise, and Husky looked up from his toast. Lilly and Silver were training outside, with ash supervising. �How?� Husky asked. �It�s a long story. But I know that they are going to move, very soon, and we have to kill them. Right now.� Dark said uncomfortably. Crossshook his head. �That wasn�t the purpose of our trip. Anyhow, we cant attack with such little information. It could be a trap!� Cross said, and Dark gave him a burning look. �Then I will go. The danger is there, definitely. But do you want to let our enemy get away? That is not how I work, that�s for sure.� he growled softly. �No.� Ash appeared in the doorway. �Not on your own.� Silver came in, followed by Lilly. They stopped and looked between Crossand Dark, then sat down at the table. 78


�Fine, we can maybe have a look. But we won�t attack.� Husky suggested, ignoring the look that Crossgave him. �Fine.� he said, annoyed. �Tonight. I�m not sure when they are going, but it isn�t long.� Dark growled, and Ash nodded. �Where are they?� �The mountains. A cave, that leads deep into it. I know the way.� Dark said curtly. Silver jumped to his feet. �How?� �I know.� Ash gave him a long look. Then she dipped her head. �I wondered when they would come.�

Chapter Fifteen

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Dark pulled himself up the last ledge, and turned round. The others were struggling up behind him. On his back was his spirit-blade, gleaming with a dark light. Silver unsheathed his sword, holding it ready. �Where are we?� then he turned around. �Oh.� Dark looked at the rearing ridge along the very edge of the cliff. It disappeared out of sight. “Up there. We better go, rain is coming. I don’t want to get wet before we start, it wouldn�t bode well for us.� Ash leaped lightly up behind them, followed by Lilly and Joe, who was carrying Husky and Cross. �They chose it well. A normal human would never have climbed that cliff.� said Ash, drawing her sword. Lilly was in wolf form, and her ears were twitching nervously. Joedropped Husky and Crossto the rocky ground. They were trembling, but drew their guns. �I�m never climbing this cliff again.� Husky said. �Heh. I had to carry you two up as well.� Joegrowled good humouredly. Dark shook his head, a mist was settling in, and the ridge was disappearing. �Come on, are we going or not?� Dark said impatiently, 80


then, without waiting for an answer, began to follow a distinct path that wound up to the ridge. Silver glanced at Lilly, who shrugged, and leaped forward. They picked their way up, following Dark. He scrambled along the ridge. It was getting narrower and narrower, and the mist was impenetrable. He heard a shriek, and twisted, but saw no body falling from the side. �I�m fine, sorry!� Husky�s voice echoed eerily to him. Dark sighed and turned round. He saw a tail disappearing into the mist, but it was gone before he could notice it. He reached for his element, and sent trickles of fire along the path. It was clear. Silver appeared beside him and gasped. A gaping chasm had opened in a wall of rock, at the end of the ridge. They edged towards it, and Dark saw the others emerged from the mist behind him. They walked up to him, and spread out. �Can you senseanything, Dark?� Crosssaid. Dark tried to send his fire into the gloom, but it was cut off with a strange sucking sound. Dark shivered. �No. Its too dark, but we can go in a little way, and see.� he suggested. �Cross, Husky, stay here. You would be at a disadvantage in there. The rest of us are wolves. I�m sorry,� Ash said to 81


Crossand Husky, who had opened their mouths to object. �But I won�t allow it. I need you to stay here and warn us if anything comes.� �We have to protect Silver.� Husky snarled suddenly, surprising Ash. �We wont attack them, I promise.� she glanced sternly at Dark, who looked away. �Fine.� Crosssaid unhappily, and Silver nodded to him. Dark walked to the chasm, and paused. He heard signs that they were following, and walked inside. Inside, it was pitch black, with no sound at all. The silence pressed in on Dark, along with a strange warmth. He walked forward, using his sensesto guide him along a winding tunnel. Suddenly, it opened up around him. It was still dark, but he sensed an enormous cavern open around him. He continued to walk forward. There were cages,piled in huge sizes. He smelled blood, fresh and dripping into a puddle. He saw a red light ahead, and headed for it. �Dark, wait up!� He paused, and Silver and Lily joined him on either side. �Ash and Joeare following, don�t worry.� He barely heard her, he had found the scource of the blood. There was a strange bowl, with a red blood-scented liquid in it. There was a dripping noise, and every now and then, another 82


drop fell into it. He suddenly froze. �Don�t look up.� he whispered, and glanced above him. Something black and white was hanging above their heads. It was rotating slowly, and as it turned, Dark saw its face. It was long, but mauled beyond recognition. Its blood was dripping into the bowl. �Dark? We have a problem.� Lilly said nervously. Dark looked down and saw strange creatures surrounding them. They blocked the entrance, and Joeand Ash were backing up to them. They were big. Very big, with glowing eyes and a strange sort of bony armour. There were spiked wings and gleaming teeth. There were giant wolf-like creatures, with great claws. Their jaws were dripping with blood. Dark weighed his blade in his hand, then the things leaped. Dark was slammed into the stone wall. Silver had shifted to a wolf, and was leaping and spinning away. Lilly was running, bounding left and right. There was a roar, and Joewas thrown into the air. Dark leaped forward, slashing left and right with his sword. They shrunk back, and he attacked again. They dodged quickly, and attacked back. Claws curled round his body, and he found himself flying into the air. He twisted, and came down again, sword sweeping through the thing. It cut from its head down to the floor, and with a splitting scream, it twisted and vanished. He ran forward, trying to reach Silver and Lilly, who were backed up and surrounded. With a yell, he leaped into the air, and tried to catch the largest one. It turned and its horned head smashed into him. He crashed into the 83


ceiling, causing great cracks to appear. He dropped, and crashed to the ground. Lying still, he didn�t move. He could hear someone calling his name, from far off. Then he pushed himself up. He was shaking, black blood dripping down his face. His eyes were burning red, fierce and determined. He was about to attack again, when Something staggered in front of him. It looked human, but it had spikes on its arms and shoulder, and a mask on its face. They were bone white, with intricate red markings. Black eyes stared out of the eye-holes, with red slits for pupils. It held a sword in its hand, and before he could react, it had dashed forward and attacked. The blade pierced through his chest, and he was thrown onto his back. The thing stood above him, twisting the blade in its clawed hands. Its eyes were narrowed cruelly, and Dark felt himself loosing consciousness.Suddenly, the thing stood back and withdrew its sword. It flicked blood from it, and Dark rolled over. He pushed himself up, and then swaying, to his feet. He could hear the snarls of Lilly and Silver behind the wall of creatures. He raised his head, to stare at the thing facing him. He picked up his blade, and lurched forward. The thing waited patiently, then charged forward. It whirled it sword, and brought it up to meet Darks. It pushed him back, and he slid towards the wall of the cavern. Their blades were locked together, and the creature was pushing him back. Swiftly, Dark leaped upwards. The creature stopped instantly, and twisted its hand. Its sword suddenly stretched, split in two, and sliced straight into Darks own. It glowed, then broke, 84


falling down to the ground, where they pierced the rock and stayed still. He landed badly, his injured side almost collapsing. Ragewelled inside him, strong and white hot. With a yell, he sent flames at the thing. At first, nothing happened, then he broke through the barrier and the creature screamed. A pillar of fire opened up from nowhere and shot towards it. It twisted round it like chains and picked it from the ground. Then with a sweep of his hand, sent it crashing into the ceiling again and again. It was burning and being broken up: dark released it and let it fall. Without watching it, he shifted to wolf, and raced along the tops of the cages.He saw Lilly, Joeand Ash disappearing down the tunnel. Only silver was left, trying to reach the exit. He was nearly there, and only three things blocked his way. They were larger than the others. Summoning his failing strength, he leaped of the end and spun towards them. He struck the first, momentum carrying him through the second, and then a last spurt took him through the last one. They twisted and disappeared. He slammed into the wall and fell down. Silver ran to him. �Dark!� he was about to help him up, when dark snapped at him. �Silver! Get a move on, I�m coming!� Silver nodded, and tore off down the tunnel. The place was collapsing, and Dark raced after him. He could barely run, though, and the attack had nearly used him. Four creatures had pursued them, and 85


dark saw Silver running ahead. They were both nearly there. So were the creatures. Dark turned, and Silver stopped too. �Dark, what are you doing!?� he yelled. �Go, Silver.� he snarled back. To make sure, he sent a pillar of fire towards him. Silver turned and fled. The things were on him. One grabbed his metal leg, and twisted it. It tore off, and Dark spun backwards. The other three fell on him, tearing at him. One embedded its fangs in his side, and tried to tear him in two. Dark screamed, and made an explosion. It blasted from himself, flinging the creatures away. He felt a lurch beneath him, and the tunnel split in half. The ridge itself began to collapse, and Dark slid sideways with the things and the rocks, and plummeted down the cliff.

86


Chapter Sixteen

�Dark! SILVER!DARK!� Ash yelled, watching the cliff collapse with dismay. Crossand Husky were staring, wide eyed, as it slid away into fog. Suddenly, from the fog, a figure appeared. It was running, with its tail in the air, fast, and leaped down the slope, just as the ridge disappeared. It was Silver, covered in blood. �Silver!� Crosssaid, relieved. Then his face grew worried. �What happened?� 87


�Dark used that attack, and killed three of those things. We fled down the tunnel, but there were a few following us. Dark stopped, and I was about to go to him, when he told me to go. It was scary, he looked terrifying. I ran, and he sent fire after me, to make sure I left. I don�t know anything after that. The ridge exploded and collapsed.� Siler gasped between breaths.

�After Joe, Lilly and Ash arrived, we all were worrying about you and Dark. Then, when there was that explosion, the whole thing just broke off.� Husky said, and looked over to where the dust was settling, rising from the bottom of the cliff. �There�s no way Dark could survive that.� Lilly groaned, and turned to stare down at the cliff bottom. There was a slope, created by the ridge, that led to the ground. �We have to find him anyway.� Joenodded, and picked Crossand Husky up. Ash led the way down, with the others picking their way down behind her. They left a trail of blood, and Silver was barely standing when they reached the bottom. Crosslooked in dismay at the long stretch of broken cliff-face. �He could be anywhere!� **** Dark gasped for air. The crushing weight of boulders were pressing down on him. He had a fang embedded in his 88


shoulder, and he had lost his metal arm. The pain was building, and he was barely alive. He tried to summon fire, but it wouldn�t come through the dark sludge in his mind. He called harder, and it began to come. It was dragging thorns through him, but at last he had it. He pressurised it, turning it into a force that would clear the rocks from him. It wouldn�t come. He growled, and breathed a flick of hatred and anger into it. It rent the world apart, shattering boulders like they were pieces of moss, shards spinning away. He gave a final scream, and collapsed. �Did you see that?!� Joeyelped, as half of the pile was thrown into the air. �Its those creatures again!� Lilly growled. �Is there no way to kill them!?� Husky yelled in dismay. Ash stared silently as the pieced settled. �No, it�s Dark.� they stared at her. �But he can�t still be alive, not after that fall!� Silver said, amazed. �I know Dark. He wouldn�t let himself die before he had killed every last enemy.� she murmured, and took off. They scrambled after her, and reached the area where the rocks had been scooped away. 89


�I don�t see him. Everything looks wet and black.� Husky said doubtfully. �What is It?� he added, reaching forward to touch it. Ash snarled a warning at him. �Blood. Look, up there.� she said softly. They looked. About halfway up the pile, a body hung upside down. It was Dark, his head and paws dangling from the rocks, his teeth bared in a snarl. One eye, glowing red, was slightly open. It changed focus, then rolled up into his head and closed. Together, they pulled the rocks away, unearthing Darks body. They carefully lowered him to the ground, and Lilly nosed his fur. It was glistening, drenched with blood. She gasped when she saw the great fang stuck into his shoulder. Ash leaned in and tapped it. �It�s from the creatures. He must have ripped it from its head.� she said, shaking her head slowly. �We have to get him back, and you, Silver. You wont make it far. Joe, carry them both, please. Lets go.� Joedipped his head, and slung Dark over his back. Silver was about to protest, when Joetook him by the scruff like a puppy, and lifted him off his paws. Lilly grinned, and Silver threw her a look. She stopped. Ash turned and began to walk back towards the town. It began to rain, washing the blood from her wounds. There was a strange scent in the air, and she kept a watch, sure that they were being followed. Crosshad his gun drawn, and ready. 90


Husky was walking beside Silver, watching as Silvers eyes began to close. Lilly was walking beside Cross, eyes darting from side to side. Joealone seemed relaxed, only worrying about Dark and Silver, who were unconscious, one possibly dead. They took a path along the roofs, until they had reached home. The rain was beginning to wash away the memories of the fight, but they all knew that the scars would never fade.

91


Chapter Seventeen

Dark looked around. He stood in a strange desert-like place. It was dusty, and the sun blazed high in a white sky. Thirst burned his throat, and he tied to spot water. A way off, there was a small forest. He made for it, hobbling along. His shoulder felt strangely numb, and the other had only half a leg attached. 92


He stumbled, but got to his paws and continued. He was panting, tongue lolling from his mouth. He suddenly felt a shadow cover him, and he whirled round. There was nothing there, but a horrible stench washed over him. It was the scent of carrion, and blood, and rotting bodies. Flies buzzed round his head, and he flicked them away, irritated. Suddenly, something struck him across the head, and his paws gave way. He shrank back and away, hiding in the darknessthat swallowed him. **** �Dark�� �Dark�� The voices flowed past him, on a sea of blood. He felt cold, and small. The voice called again. It sounded familiar, but he couldn�t place it. The word sounded familiar too, but it was still hidden away. �DARK�� the voice said again, more forceful. It came flooding back, it was his name. They were calling for him. But who were they? What did they want? Dark opened his eye a tiny amount. His vision was blank, pitch black. He panicked, twisting and flailing his paws. A familiar scent washed over him, and something pressed into 93


his fur. �It�s okay.� it was female, and Dark opened his eye a bit further. The vision was faded, and blurred. It swam dizzyingly before him. He closed his eye shut tight. He ached all over, and he couldn�t feel his front legs. After a while, he opened his eyes again. The scene was still blurred, but no longer waving like a mirage before him. It was a jumble of colours, but the voice was clear and calm. �Come back, Dark. Your not dead yet.� Ash. The name flickered vaguely through his mind. �Wake up Dark.� Lilly. Hmm. Another name. Silver, Cross and Husky. More names. He opened his eyes properly. Black. It was dark outside, but he was inside. His room. He beat his tail slightly, and it responded with a faint thumping noise. He twitched his legs. Two good, but the front wouldn�t move. He lifted his head. He twitched his ears, picking up sounds. There was a scent of blood. His own blood, and with a violent lunge, he twisted to where the Fang was buried in his left shoulder. His right shoulder had only a small part of leg attached, the metal jagged and dented. Taking the fang in his teeth, Lilly�s voice sounded. �Don�t, Dark!� she sounded worried. He ignored her, gripping it tightly. He pulled it slightly. It didn�t budge. With a sharp yank, he tore it out. Fresh blood spurted from the hole 94


left, and he threw the fang away, licking it with quick strokes. Lilly nudged his head away and took over, gently washing the wound. �Will he be okay?� Silvers voice, and Darks saw him sitting up in his bed, with bandageswrapped around his arms and chest. �Mmmph.� Dark said. �I�ll be fine.� Silver looked him in the eye, and nodded. Crosswas staring at him, looking unnerved. �How can you, you were flattened by a cliff!?� he exclaimed. Dark stared at him, then he sighed. �Its my way. I will not die until I have finished my purpose in life. I�m not sure what it is, but I wont go before I finish it. Plus the fact that becauseI am a I am not exactly wanted in the world of the dead or �heaven�.� he said, Flexing his claws. Crosslooked at him for a moment longer, then dipped his head and looked away. Dark yawned, and put his head down on the covers. Ash stood up and left, followed by Cross. Husky stayed, with Lilly. They both watched Silver and Dark. �Dark, when you can get up again, you wont be able to do much until your leg is repaired.� Lilly said apologetically. Dark gave her a measured look, then turned away. �I�m not worried about that.� he pointed out. �It�s that 95


I can�t feel my other leg.� Lilly stared at it, and sighed. �Ash thinks there was some type of poison in the fang. It will get better, though.� �Its all cold, icy cold.� Dark complained, and curled up in a ball of black fur and went to sleep. **** Dark and Silver recovered slowly, until they were allowed out. Dark stood up, swaying. His left leg felt weak, and ached slightly. His right leg would twitch painfully every now and then. He stretched slowly, and carefully. Silver had shifted into a wolf, and was standing ready beside the door. His pelt was laid with thick scars, but he showed no pain if he felt any. Dark nodded, and padded up to his side. He still stood slightly shorter, something he noticed with annoyance. He carefully slid down the stairs, Silver helping him if he slipped. Joewas sitting beside the fire, by himself. �Are you going out again?� he asked, looking up. Silver nodded. �I want to run again. I have only been in the garden for half a month. I want to go out for a bit.� Dark said, shaking his fur.

96


�Ash and Lilly are out. Be careful.� Joewarned. Darks pelt flashed with annoyance, but could senseconcern flowing from Joe. Together they left the house, and Silver gave a great leap, snapping his jaws together, then landed and raced away. Dark gave a yelp of surprise and started after him. His leg began to work smoothly, and he loped after him. Silver slowed down, then as dark caught up, ran hard away towards the river that lanced through the land. It was heavy and fast, with train tracks on either side. They broke from the cover of the town and raced joyfully across the thin grass. Dark leaped and twisted, revelling in the supplenessof his muscles. Silver banked sharply and headed towards the river. It was visible, and already had trains passing on either side. He hesitated briefly, but saw Silver gather his muscles as they neared. Without hesitation, Silver flew into the air, clearing the track and gliding over the river. A train passed before him, and he landed safely on the other side. Dark raced forward, pushing his leg to its limits. With an enormous leap, he let his muscles loose. Silvers eyes widened in amazement as he arced through the air over the river. There was a clattering of wheels, and suddenly a train came round a bend in the river. Darks leg suddenly gave a painful spasm, an dark felt himself falling. He was heading for the tracks! Silver barked a warning, and Dark landed on the edge 97


of the tracks. The train was almost upon him, and he jumped in the air. His leg didn�t respond, and the train slammed into him. He was flung like a toy into the air, and unconscious, hit the river. He floated for a second, then his head went under. Silver stared frantically at the foaming water, but couldn�t see Dark. �Dark! Dark!� he called, but the only reply was the thunder of the water and the crash of the trains.

98


Chapter Eighteen

Dark woke to the feeling of water washing over his body, lapping at his fur. He was a giant bruise, and his head was spinning painfully. He blinked, and saw a muddy stretch of land, bordering the river and a dirty city. The city was cluttered and grey. The paths were concrete, mirroring the buildings and skyscrapers that gathered around the river like a cluster off wasps to honey. He could pick up faint scents of wolves, but none of humans. Another scent came to him, one that flashed in his mind. Food! He felt starving, and struggled to his paws. His entire body screamed in protest, and he looked around. The river was calm and sluggish, reflecting the city. The mud had many paw prints in it, some fresh, some many days old. Then he saw the food. It was a chicken, still fresh. He padded up to it, and scented it warily. It was clean, and there was no other scent around it. 99


Hungrily he wolfed it down, and it seemed gone all too quickly. After a while, he staggered to the river and lapped at it. It was gritty, but quenched some of his thirst. He stopped, feeling that he was being watched. There was no scent of anything, so he turned back to the river. He could see his reflection, but hardly recognised himself. What he could see was a small black wolf, with only one front leg, and covered in mud. His pelt was clumped together with mud, and littered with scars. His fang necklace was dirty, the fang caked in mud. The only brightness was in his eyes, But even they bore scars, and they were tight with pain. There was a long scar that twisted over his right eye, and another three that scored across his muzzle. He shivered, and looked around. The city seemed empty, but there were wolves tracks and scents all over. He began to wash his pelt, and as he did, he could feel where he had hit the train. His shoulder was shaky, and already weak from the bite. It was trembling, so he sat down and started washing it. Soon all the mud from his pelt was gone, and he had smoothed the fur down over the scars. Tirednesswashed over him, and he found a cardboard box to curl under. He thought of Silver, and his face flashed before his eyes. It was how he had looked before any of the goings on, when he had just met him. He had been younger looking, with excitement in his eyes. Then he compared it to how he had seen him last. There had been horror and pain reflected in his 100


eyes, and his pelt was ragged and torn. Dark closed his eyes, his whole body trembling. He had done that to him. He had caused him all that pain. He stood up, ignoring the pain in his leg, and leaped onto a wall. Throwing back his head, he howled. He put all his pain and loneliness into the howl, letting it pour out and flow across the city. He slid back under his box, wasted. Curling up, he wrapped his tail over his ears and slipped into an uneasy sleep.

101


Chapter Nineteen

After a few days, Dark felt his strength returning. In the city, he had never met any other wolves, apart from sometimes seeing a flitting shadow or hearing their howls. It had been crows and ravens, and he had tried to catch them. They hadn�t tasted too great, but it was better than eating rubbish. He stretched, and slipped down to the Waterside. After a quick drink, he twisted round and leaped up the wall to get onto the roof. He walked along, turning to the area he hadn�t 102


been too. It smelled of food, and wolves. It seemed to have a large shelter-like building, and it was there that the howling had been coming from. He loped carefully along the rooftops, bracing himself for every jump. Eventually, he reached the corner of the city. It seemed even colder than the other place, but he could see recent signs of wolf activity. A scattering of bones, a tuft of fur caught on a crate. He paused, before leaping down. He stumbled when he landed, but straightened quickly, and began to wander deeper to the centre. He paused, awarenessprickling, and he looked sideways. A group of young wolves were in a circle around a rubbish fire. They were slightly older than he was, and much larger. He could see a few girls, too, but it was mainly young men. Four of them were staring directly at him. He twitched, irritated, and returned their stare. One of them, a dark brown colour, twitched his ears, and slid off the oil barrel he was lying on. The other males followed him, and opened in a line before him. The four starers stepped forward, and the brown male spoke. �What do you want?� he growled, flicking his tail back and forth. Dark stepped back, lowering his gaze. �I�m just passing through.� he mumbled, slicking his ears back. The four stared at him, exchanging glances. Then the brown one stepped straight up to Dark, thrusting his face directly into Darks. Dark flinched, and pressed himself into the 103


ground. �Who are you?� �Don�t you know its rude to ask someone their name without giving your own?� Dark returned, but pressed himself into the ground even further. The male twitched, and growled softly. �You�re weak. You didn�t even say it to me directly. I think you�re a little, arrogant, ignorant-� he broke off, eyes widening as Dark gave a snarl and leaped upward. He had been slowly creeping forward, and as he leapt, he crashed into the wolfs chest. He gave a grunt of surprise as he was sent flying into the air. Dark twisted upwards and grabbed onto his throat. Still in the air, he gave a jerk and tore it out. The wolf dropped to the ground and choked a last breath. His body gave a spasm and lay still. Dark spat out blood and wiped his face with a paw, disdainfully flicking the blood from his claws. The watching wolves froze, then cries broke out. �He killed Hyena!� �No way!� The three left facing him stared at their dead friend, then turned back to Dark, raising their hackles and baring their teeth. One, a pale grey, raced forward snapping its jaws. Dark pushed forward and the wolf dropped to the ground, blood pouring from its throat. As one, the rest of the 104


pack surged forward, all trying to attack Dark. He stood calm, then exploded into action. The first wolf went down. Two more. Down, Down. But as he killed them, the rest all leaped, and Dark was staggered under their weight. Their teeth tore at him, and blood began to spread in a pool beneath their paws. He went down, and the pack suddenly withdrew. He saw them go to Hyena and pick him up, carrying him back to the fire. Dark found himself human again, blood oozing from beneath his jacket. It was punctured with teeth marks, and there was dust and blood matted into his hair. He staggered to his feet, and stumbled away. Eventually, he found a small alley and stumbled into it. He slid onto the wall, pushed himself another few steps, and collapsed. Curling up into a ball, he faded into darkness. Chapter Twenty

Dark turned onto his side, unwilling to wake up. A hand shook his shoulder again. He curled up tighter, squeezing his eyes shut. �Leave him, he�s exhausted.� a voice said quietly. �He�s slept long enough!� a second voice protested.

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�If everything I�ve heard about him is true, then he�s had a lot happen to him.� �If everything is true that we�ve heard, then I�m a shadow. He�s way too small.� the second voice retorted. Dark�s eyes flew open and he sat up quickly, anger flashing in his eyes. �I�m not small!� he growled, narrowing his eyes. Then he froze. Sunlight was streaming in through the window, carrying a scent of cherry blossomsand water. The room was small, tidy and bright. Then he stared at the two people standing beside him. One was tall, in his twenties, and had dark red hair. The other was the woman who had come into his and Silvers room in Ash�s house. �Where the heck am I? And what are you doing here?� he exclaimed, directing them at the woman. �He remembers.� she said, surprised. The man shrugged. �DoesIt matter?� he snorted. Dark flopped back, lifting his right arm up. The metal was still twisted and broken. �What have you heard about me?� Dark asked, staring at him. He caught his scent, and memorised it. �Nothing important. I don�t believe them.� he said. �Would you believe it if you saw something?� Dark said, 106


following the scent down the mans memories. Then he picked the one he wanted, and readied himself. �I would have to, I guess.� the man shrugged doubtfully. Dark nodded. With a twitch of his hand, a flame burst into existence, flickering, then slowly he spun it, making it into a loop, then a flaming sword. It faded quickly, and Dark let out a shaky sigh. �I haven�t done much for a while.� �Did you really survive a cliff fall?� the man asked, eyes wide. Dark nodded, and the man shook his head. �Where am I, anyway?� he asked again. �This is the society where I work.� the woman answered. �Okay. Next, why am I here, exactly? Last time I checked, I was still in that city, after a pack of stupid wolves attacked me.� �When you saw me, I admit I was surprised. Not many can see a death god. Then you say you�re a Seer, so that was okay. But then somehow you managed to get into my memories and find information. When I felt your presence, I was really surprised, so I decided to follow you.� she began. �When I found that you had left with a group of wolves, and 107


two humans, I was worried. Then, when you went into the mountain, I must say I thought you were pretty stupid. You knew nothing about your enemy. I waited, and when I heard disturbance, I had to retreat further away. Then three wolves came out, and you weren�t with them.� �Suddenly, your friend came running out, without you. And then there was a giant explosion and the cliff, along with the ridge, started to collapse. And you were dug out, I saw that. The shadows weren�t killed, I had to go after them. But I asked the rest of my group to keep an eye on you, and they did. When you were hit by the train, I heard of it, and then when you were in that city, we managed to get you and brought you here.� she finished, and Dark nodded. �Oh, why did you kill those wolves?I was watching, you just killed five of them, no questions asked. They weren�t being overly aggressive, and even if they were, they didn�t deserve to be killed.� she asked, and them man started. Dark flashed a look at him. �They blocked my path. I told them I was passing through. They attacked me.� Dark shrugged. �but if you want a reason, I was bored. That�s all.� �You killed them.� the man said angrily. �becauseyou were bored?!� Dark nodded. �I haven�t a problem with killing.� The man stepped back, 108


and sat down on a chair. �Don�t you even get worried about it? Even when I am sent to kill shadows, I still have bad thoughts about it, sleep badly.� �Sometimes. But if I don�t want to worry about it, I won�t. What happens is in the past, and it cant hurt you. Sometimes.� Dark said, looking out of the window. The woman shrugged, and the man closed his eyes. �Either way, enemies you make in the past will come to you in the future. Remember that.� The man warned him. �But, anyway, when you are stronger, you can come to the rooms. You can learn a lot here.� The man added. �This is a training area, so come when you have gotten better.� Dark stared at him. �You called those creatures �shadows�. What are they?� he asked. �A shadow was once a real person, but it�s body was destroyed, and its spirit killed. It is left on the earth, with no senseof good or bad, and slowly it becomesa bad spirit. There is a separate realm populated by shadows. The society must gather them up, and lock them in there.� the man explained. �Unfortunately, sometimes a hole opens up in the wall separating the two worlds, and shadows are sucked through. 109


They can create holes, too, and get into the world. They prey on souls. The brighter the soul, he more they want it, feeling hate towards everything that has a body to call its own, or an entire spirit. It eats them, and they too become Shadows.� Dark stared blankly at the wall. He had destroyed souls in the past, and hadn�t realised what he had been creating. Was it possible that some of the shadows he had created had fought him, in the mountain cave?Then he turned to the man. �I�m fit enough. I can train now, no problem.� he said, eyes burning. The woman shook her head. �Your spirit is stronger than your body. It isn�t weak to be unable to do anything. Acknowledging your weaknessesis stronger than facing an entire horde of shadows.� she said, and the man stood up. �Don�t leave the room until you are told you are fit to.� together they left. Dark stared at the door for a while after they had gone, then sat up. His left arm was tired, achy, and his right arm extended from his shoulder to just above his elbow. After a while, he stood up, and saw the bandageswrapped around his torso. They weren�t very tight, and he hadn�t noticed them before. He stood beside the window, watching the occasional death god walk past. He could hear shouting and the clang of swords striking each other, and tried to pinpoint them. A building across the square. He focussed on it, and could tell that there was a training session going on 110


inside. The amount of spiritual power was great, and seemed to flow across the square towards him. He leaned on the window and stared at the sky. Summoning fire, he let a flame burst out, hovering in front of the window. He spun it, making it bend and twist into different shapes. It flickered out, as Dark began to tire. He sat down on the bed, and stared at the wall, bored. Suddenly the door opened. Two figures entered, both male, about the same age as Dark. He looked at them in surprise, and they paused, before one spoke. �Do you want to come out? Saraki said you were bored.� he said, and Dark gave a small, sharp nod. �Good. He said you can�t do any training yet, but the sooner you get exercising, the better you�ll recover.� the second one said. Dark stood up, and shifted to a wolf. They blinked at him, surprised. �So, you are a wolf! Why do you have a metal leg?� one of them said. He had messy black hair, and wore silver-rimmed glasses.His eyes were sharp blue, and intelligent. The second boy had brown-blond hair, and soft brown eyes. Dark paused, twitching his tail nervously, looking away. The boys glanced at each other, then beckoned for him to follow them. The walked on either side of him, and Dark could tell that they were wary of him. �How much have you heard?� he said, surprising them 111


both. �Not much. Just about how you came here, and that you are a wolf. Nothing else.� the dark-haired one said. Dark stepped outside, letting the sun warm his fur. Then he paused, hackles rising, as a scent washed over him. He traced its source, and saw a figure standing beside a window, half in shadow. As he looked, the figure withdrew and the presence followed him. The boys stopped too, but couldn�t see what was bothering Dark. He yawned, and they continued walking. �Do you have names?� Dark asked. They laughed, and Dark flicked his tail. �Yes, we have names. I�m Mira. And his name is Haru.� The one with dark hair said. Haru nodded, and Dark grinned. �I don�t think I�ll tell you my history. It is very long, and not very nice. I�m surprised I�m actually allowed out, anyway.� Dark said. Mira grinned. �Go on.� �No, you don�t want to know.� �We have a lot of time. We are allowed to stay off until you are fit to join the rest of us.� Haru prompted. Dark shook his head. �Not here.� Mira nodded and turned round. Dark followed 112


him, and they stopped before a window. Inside, two figures were fighting, their swords flashing in the light. They broke apart, and one of them began to glow, a ball of power circulating around him in a sphere. The person slashed his hand down, and the sphere exploded, sending their opponent flying into the air. �What was that?� Dark asked, eyes wide. �Spirit power, a force using your power to make a pure energy form and using it in battle.� Haru answered, turning around and taking the lead. �Do you use it? I know everyone had spirit-power, but yours is really strong for a person who isn�t a Death God.� �No. I have some other things though, that I can fight with. As for how I have a lot of spirit power, that could be becauseI am a Seer.� he said, shrugging. Mira and Haru gasped. �But, that�s wrong!� Mira exclaimed. �Why did you do it?� �I�ll tell you. Lets go back, and I�ll tell you everything.� Dark suggested, and the other two nodded.

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Chapter Twenty-One

�I understand why you did it, now. But even so, it was still evil.� Mira sighed, after Dark had stopped speaking. Haru nodded, and Dark leaned back on the wall. �They never showed any sympathy or feeling to me, and I responded to that in the same way. The way I was brought up made me stronger, to their loss.� Dark said quietly, and Mira glanced at Haru. �But, you are really amazing! You�ve seen so much, and I cant wait for training. I want to see you fight.� Haru exclaimed excitedly. Dark smiled. �You�ll probably see me fight a lot if you stay around when I go back. The Shadows we were fighting will have regrouped now, and we haven�t seen the last of them, I�ll bet anything.� he said darkly. �You might be a fighter and all, Dark, but you need to lighten up.� Mira said lightly, raising his eyebrows. Dark snorted. �If you expect something bad to happen, you wont be surprised or unhappy when it does. Or you will, but you�ll 116


have known it would happen anyway.� he responded, letting a flame blossom in his hand. Mira stared at it in awe. �Why do you keep doing that? Its kinda scary.� Haru said, looking at the revolving flame warily. �Its fun. Plus, it fills in for entertainment if I�m bored.� Dark said, closing his hand over the flame and extinguishing it. He stared out of the window, at the darkening skies. �I cant fix my other arm, though. I don�t know why, but the meal wont respond to me. Even though I can still summon my sword, I think.� he added, sliding his hand through the air, opening a silver rift in the air. It solidified, revealing his sword. He grabbed the hilt, checking it over. There were faint cracks in the blade, which he smoothed out gently by running his hand over them. �It smashed in the cave.� he explained, glancing up at Haru and Mira. They nodded, and Mira reached out. Dark handed the sword to him, and he ran his gaze over it. Then he balanced it, and examined the hilt. �This is an amazing sword. It reminds me of mine. Similar shape, and weight.� he said, and handed it to Haru, who turned it in his hand and nodded. Dark took it back, and spun it round so that the blade was facing the wall. He set it down carefully beside the wall, and black material wrapped around it like bandages.He glanced at it briefly, then looked at Mira. 117


�I like this shape. My fighting style was best for a one-sided blade, so I stick with it. � Dark said, looking at Mira. He nodded and stood up. �We�ll need to go now. Take some rest, and we�ll see you tomorrow again.� he said apologetically, and Haru stood up too. Dark nodded, and turned to face the window. Haru and Mira left, and Dark watched a blood red sky fade to black.

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Chapter Twenty-Two

Dark walked beside Mira, and they passed a field surrounded by more buildings. �How big is this area?� he asked, staring at them. Mira looked around, then answered. �All I know is that there are twelve Squadsand led by two people. Then there are smaller groups within them, and they each have a field and group of buildings to themselves. Then there is a place for human-shadows, and trespassers. Like a 119


prison, really. I�m in squad five, with Haru. We had a session today, but you still cant train yet, so I asked if I could stay off.� he explained, and looked around nervously. �This is squad nine area, and their leader is very strong. They say he was the best student in the whole place. At the top of every Squad, there are three of the best in the academy, you could call it, and two generals. They patrol and stuff like that. Each squad tries to get the best of the best, and hope that one day they will become a great leader. Ulkorria is the leader of this Squad, and can be pretty hostile towards other Squads. He�s strong and fast.� Dark looked round warily, but there was no one around. The breeze was fresh, like it was coming off water. He could scent it too, and turned across the field. There was a group of trees, and he aimed for it. Mira walked beside him, and they came out onto a large pond. The water gleamed and danced, almost seeming to not be liquid, but a gas. Mira walked forward and took a deep breath. He relaxed, and sat down. �Sit down, we can stay here for a while.� he said, and Dark walked forward. He stopped suddenly, the hair on the back of his neck prickling. There was barely a warning, but Dark threw himself down and shoved Mira out of the way. There was a flicker and a deep welt open up in the ground. Mira gasped in shock, and scrambled back to a tree. Dark had shifted, and was staring around wildly. Suddenly 120


there was a flash of white, and someone appeared before him. Mira gasped in shock, eyes wide. �It�s Ulkorria!� Dark whipped his head round, bristling. Ulkorria had moved again, his face inches away from Darks own. He got a glimpse of pale skin, frosty blue eyes, and bluesilver hair, before they moved again. Dark leaped into the air, confused, and skittered wildly, looking for him. He cant be that fast! he thought desperately. He spread out his senses, and could feel Ulkorria spinning around him. He paused, the lunged forward. His teeth grazed flesh, but something biffed him on the nose. He tumbled backwards, surprised. Ulkorria appeared again, blood on his wrist. He looked surprised, and Dark launched himself forward. Ulkorria didn�t move, but at the last moment, twisted sideways. Dark adjusted, and leaped. He hit Ulkorria hard, knocking him down, and bit his left shoulder. Suddenly there was a pain in his side, and a dagger, glowing white hot, embedded in his shoulder. As Dark reeled backwards, the Dagger stopped glowing, and the flesh around it was like a fresh burn, sealing the dagger in. Dark growled angrily, his fur making him twice his normal size. He was about to leap again, when another Scolding hot dagger hit him in his other shoulder. Then a hail of them advanced. Dark leaped, higher than the daggers, and they splashed into the pond. Mira was crouched against the tree, eyes wide and frozen. Dark landed beside him, and he jumped. �Dark! Quick, behind you!� Mira yelled, and Dark danced sideways, two more daggers hitting the ground. Dark lost his 121


balance, his right half-leg twitching painfully. Ulkorria was standing in front of a tree, calmly watching Dark. He was wearing a long white sleeve-less robe, and black kimono style clothing underneath. A white cloth belt tied an empty sword sheath to his hip, its resident in the hands of Ulkorria. He had sandals on, white socks on underneath. He barely had time to see this, though. Dark snarled, anger building up inside of him. He channelled it, grabbing the two daggers from the ground. They burned briefly, then lengthened. They were now at least a foot long each, and Dark hurled them at him. They flew through the air, and embedded themselves into Ulkorria. He was thrown backwards by the force, and twin spurts of blood crossed the pond. Ulkorria had a blade in each shoulder, and his face was white with surprise. He was standing still before a tree, and Dark bounded towards him. He leaped and began to spin, speeding towards him. His eyes were burning red, and a glowing black and red aura flowed round him. Ulkorria danced sideways, and Dark flew past him and into the tree. The tree split in half, directly up the trunk. Dark lay at its foot, blood leaking between his eyes. He was gasping, pain shooting through his right leg at every move he made. Ulkorria bent down to him. �I am faster than you. I am stronger than you. Those daggers will never come out, unless it ask them to. Until then, you are paralyzed, unable to move. You cannot beat me, Wolf.� he said softly. His eyes stared deep into Darks own, and he suddenly felt fear. He shook, then closed his eyes. Ulkorria was 122


right, he couldn�t move. Ulkorria stood up, and turned round, beginning to walk away. Dark growled, loudly, letting it vibrate through his body and spill from his jaws like rolls of thunder. Ulkorria stopped. �You cant move, wolf.� he said, amusement in his voice. Dark closed his eyes, and let out a harsh bark. Ulkorria turned round. Dark stared into his eyes, and thrust himself to his paws. Ulkorria will beat down on his own, almost knocking him over. Dark growled, and snapped his head round to the dagger. He tore it out, then the other. They dripped his black blood onto the grass, and Ulkorria�s eyes widened. Dark hurled himself at Ulkorria, who was standing before another tree. Before he jumped, he saw Ulkorria begin to move. �I�m not falling for that again!� Dark growled, and let the daggers go. They flashed, and struck him in the shoulder, one after the other. He was pinned to the tree, and Dark leaped. He span fast, and was about to hit him on the chest, when he slid sideways like he had hit a glasscabinet and slid off sideways. He hit the shield hard, and it wobbled dangerously, but held and he lanced off millimetres from Ulkorria�s head. He flinched, and Dark crashed to the ground, and lay there, spent. Mira walked up to him, wide eyed, and bent down beside him. �Dark�.you beat Ulkorria. I�m sorry, though, I was told�� he trailed off. Dark didn�t answer, the world was growing dark around him. He blinked, and Mira shook him on 123


the shoulder. �Don�t worry, I think the dagger drained you quite a bit.� Dark nodded, a sharp jerk of his head. Ulkorria had detached himself from the tree, and walked over. �Stand up, wolf.� he said, his voice cold and frosty as his eyes. Dark growled faintly, closing his eyes. A foot nudged his shoulder, and he opened them again. Ulkorria was staring at him. �Get up.� he said. Dark sighed, and rolled onto his chest. Slowly, he stood up. He swayed, and stared angrily at Ulkorria. He was surprised to see him smiling slightly. �Amazing�� he said. Dark sat down again, and Mira stared at Ulkorria. �You�re the first person I�ve seen be able to pull out my daggers. Or stand afterwards.� he said quietly. Dark snorted and turned to the holes in his shoulders. He began to lick them, cleaning away the blood. He stayed silent, and continued cleaning his fur until it was shining and covered the holes on his shoulders. He turned to Ulkorria, and stared him in the eyes. He held his gaze, until Ulkorria looked away. Satisfied, Dark tucked his head on his paws and curled up into a furry ball. He grew still, and his eyes flashed red before closing slowly. Mira shook his shoulder, eyes worried. �Dark? Are you okay?� he asked, his voice nervous. Dark slipped from his body and into spirit form. Silently, he walked 124


round the back of Ulkorria and Ignored Mira�s increasingly worried voice. With a leap, he hit Ulkorria and bowled him over, grabbing him by the neck. Mira scrambled backwards, and Ulkorria froze. Dark growled into his ear. �You are not stronger than me. You didn�t know me, and you couldn�t predict me, and so I overpowered you.� he said softly. Then he let go and stepped back. Ulkorria rubbed his neck, wiping away a trace of blood. Dark grinned and threw his head back. He howled, calling out to the world in general. Birds took from the trees in surprise, and Mira started. Slowly, Dark let his howl wander off, and he walked up to Mira. He jumped and stared at Dark. �Wow. Is that you?� Dark nodded, and Mira grinned. �You soul really is bigger than you body!� Dark growled softly, and grinned. �Why were you so frightened when I left my body? Cant you see me?� he asked, and Mira shook his head. �No, I can see you, but your more of a glowing red outline. Plus the fact a living being isn�t meant to be able to leave their body of their own free will.� Mira shrugged. Dark waved his tail, amused, and turned round to Ulkorria. He was 125


sitting up, rubbing his neck. He saw Dark looking at him, and returned his gaze. �I�ll tell them you can train now. Your better.� he said, grudgingly. Dark nodded, and stepped into his body. Dark gave a shuddering breath, and rolled over onto his belly. Standing up, he shook his head as the world span around him. Mira walked up to him and kneeled down. Looking intensely into Darks eyes, he nodded slowly. �You have a lot of spirit power. Its never really bothered me until now, when I think about it.� He said, and dark flicked his ears curiously. �But its always there, shining around you. Death Godshave greater spirit energy than normal souls. Your neither, but you have an amazing amount.� he explained. Dark sighed, and stretched painfully. �Come on, you should head back. The wounds don�t seem serious, but you�re tired.� Mira suggested, and Dark nodded reluctantly. Mira stood up, and glanced around. Ulkorria had gone without a sound. Dark shifted back to human, and walked beside Mira. �Come on, lets go.� Mira said quickly, walking away. Dark turned and followed him, surprised, and tried to see Mira�s expression, but his face was in shadow.

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Chapter Twenty-Three

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Dark yawned loudly, staring at Mira blearily. �Why d�you wake me?� he complained, picking up his sword. Mira stared at him. �If you don�t get up soon, you�ll make us late. You missed breakfast.� Mira explained patiently. Dark glared at him, and jumped up. He slung his sword over his shoulder, and shook his head. �Okay, I�m ready.� he grumbled. �We can go now.� Mira glanced at him, then shrugged and led the way out of he room. Haru was standing outside, impatiently tapping his foot. Dark looked at him, and he straightened. Both of them carried their swords, attached to their belts in metal sheaths. Haru�s was narrow and long, with a twisted handle and wide guard. Mira�s was long too, but broader and less curved. The guard was like a pair of wings, four of them, coming out at angles to one another. Mira drew it, showing it to Dark. �This is Shimori.� he told Dark, who looked at him, confused, but Mira put away the sword before he could ask. Haru grinned, and drew his own sword. Out of its sheath, it gleamed with a strange light, that seemed to be there, but also not be there. �This is Varimaru.� he added to Dark, who looked at him 129


blankly. �What?�� he began, but before he could finish, a group of people clad in the black wear of a death god rounded a corner and raced past them. They had their hands on the hilts of their soul-blades, and ran between the three boys without looking at them. Haru whipped round, eyes wide, hand flying to his sword. Then her dropped it and yelled after them. �What was that for!?! There�s no hurry!� he yelled at the disappearing figures. Dark heard one laugh, before they disappeared round another corner. �Just leave them, Haru.� Mira advised, a smile playing on his lips. Dark blinked, and grinned. Turning round, Haru muttered under his breath. �One day�.� he said, and Dark laughed. �You�ll get them, and they�ll all be trembling in their shoes!� he finished. �Yes, you�re going to be the scariest captain ever!� Mira joined in, and Haru bristled. �Oh, come on Haru, what�s got you all worked up for?� Haru shook his head. �Nothing.� he muttered. Dark stared at him. �Dark, aren�t you scared about meeting the rest of Squad 5?� he asked, changing the subject quickly. Mira nodded, a look of 130


caution flashing over his face. Dark looked between the two of them as they continued. �I�m not scared. I think.� he began, stopping and looking into the sun. �If they doubt me, they will have a reason to. I will find those reasons, and if they are incorrect, I will prove them wrong. If I am challenged, I will respond without hesitation. Are you all Death gods?� he growled softly, and for a second, his human face looked very wolf-like, proud, fierce and clever. Mira glanced at him, surprised. �Sort of. Death Godsor Soul Reapers, are the names we go by in your world, I guess.� Haru answered for him, then he shrugged. �Come on, lead the way, Mira.� Nodding, Mira turned and walked towards another building, with a double opening door. A few people were walking towards it, some pausing to greet one another, others sitting down on the ground and reading. As they walked in, Dark noticed that people were giving him wary or hostile looks. He ignored them, but Mira and Haru seemed to be getting agitated as more and more looked at them. �Calm down, both of you. Its weird. They�re your squad members, they aren�t looking at you, they�re looking at me. Let them stare. One day they wont distrust me.� Dark muttered quietly at them. Mira nodded, and turned into a room. It was a large clear room, with only three walls, opening out onto a grassy clearing bordered with trees. There was a 131


line of benches around the edge of the room, and some people were sitting on them. �Hey, doggy!� someone called at Dark, walking up to their small group. Dark turned round, eyes narrowed. A boy with blonde hair, and a fringe that went completely over one of his green eyes, stood in front of him with an arrogant half smile on his face. �Yes?� Dark answered coolly. The boys smile grew wider. �So, you are actually a dog?� �I think you�ll find its wolf.� �it�s a dog.� the boy said, smirking. Dark bristled, and his eyes glowed slightly red. �Are you wanting to make a point?� he growled slowly. �Or are you just going to stand there?� The boys smile vanished. Turning around he walked off. Dark shook his head. �Annoying.� Mira shook his head at Dark. �Just don�t get into any fights. Leave it for the Shadows.� he advised, just as a woman walked into the room. She passed them without a word, but everyone stopped and turned to face 132


them. �Right! Draw your soul-swords.� she said. Dark blinked, then summoned his sword. It seemed to quiver slightly as he held it. Dark saw a varied shape and size of the blades that were drawn, some long and narrow, some with curved or sickle like shapes. �Break into your usual groups and practice changing their shape, summoning your first stage shapes!� she said, walking between them. She had black hair, tied back in a plait. She wore glassesover her deep blue eyes. She stopped before Dark, a quizzical look on her face. �You must be the wolf that was brought from the human world.� Dark nodded. �I am second seat in Squad Five, Izumi Shiga. I have heard that you know Lieutenant Yuhara and Captain Ishiru, and of your battle with the shadows that led to the loss of your right arm.� �I can fight with my left as well, so it is fine.� Dark said, meeting her eyes. She looked at him, calculating. Dark didn�t blink, but held her gaze levelly. �That is good. You may stay with Haru and Mira. Join in with them and ask any help if you need it.� she said, then turned away and headed towards another group. Mira shrugged and beckoned to a girl and boy standing a little distance away. They walked over, looking at Dark suspiciously. �Hello, Dark.� the girl said. She had strawberry blonde hair 133


and green eyes. He nodded back to her. �My name is Kimiko Erizawa. This is Hiroshiro Ayame.� she introduced herself, then the white haired boy beside her. He nodded reservedly to Dark. �Do you have a spirit sword?� she asked. Dark nodded, lifting it slightly so it reflected the light. �Do you know its name?� she pressed. Dark blinked, and looked at her. �They have names?� she sighed, and the boy rolled his eyes.

�Every sword has a unique name, and its partner can call it to releaseits power.� she said, drawing her sword. It was narrow and long, with two ribbons on the end, red as blood. �This is Itorahi.� she said, lifting it up so that it was before her eyes, splitting her face in half. �Extend, Itorahi!� she cried. The sword glowed with a green light, blinding, until the light branched off so that the end had four deadly sharp points like a fork. They all writhed like living creatures, and the light faded. They continued to move, and she nodded. �See?Ask your sword its name. Normally it wont answer for a long time, but soon you might gain its trust and it will tell you.� she told him. Dark grinned, an idea occurring to him. �I have a way, I think.� he said, closing his eyes. She looked at him quizzically, and gasped when he opened them again. 134


They were burning red, glowing like hot coals. They looked straight through her, focussing on something she couldn�t see. Hiroshiro stepped back, shock etched on his face. Darks glowing eyes rested on his sword, and he concentrated. Slowly, he dragged up its consciousnessfrom deep within like dragging an anchor through mud. Eventually it glowed on the surface of the sword. He probed it, trying to find identity or a name. The world swayed around him, and he blinked in shock. He was standing on a flat surface, like a rooftop, but the world seemed distorted. The clouds scudded vertically across the sky. Suddenly he noticed he was not alone. A burning wolf stood before him, eyes a glowing orange surrounded by a body that was built up of fire. It flicked burning ears. �What do you want?� it said, voice echoing in the empty world. �Who are you?� Dark asked. The flaming wolf twitched its tail angrily. �You have not proved yourself worthy to know my name, Wolf.� he said, voice quiet. Dark scraped the grounds with his foot, irritated. �Why wont you tell me?� the wolf just stared at him, then the ground dissolved beneath him and they both dropped into a dark place. Dark looked up and saw the bright day 135


disappearing above him, until the only light was from the burning wolf. Slowly, a dark rock face appeared behind it, stretching into the distance. Studding the wall was the hilts of countless swords, gleaming in the reflecting light of the wolf. �If you know me, you will be able to find me in one of these swords. Only one is me- the rest are useless,and will be incapable of bea ting me in a fight.� the wolf told him. �Your task is thisFind me amongst these swords. If you can beat me in a fight with that sword, it is the sword that is my first stage. Begin.� the burning wolf finished. Dark growled angrily, staring at the great wall before him. Racing forward, he leaped as high as possible, landing on the hilt of one sword and using it as a step. Grasping the one before him he swing it round in time to fend off the wolf. It snarled, and bit through the sword, which melted away. �That�s one.� it growled, dropping away. Dark glanced around, panic threatening to overwhelm him. �Calm down!� he hissed at himself. �Think!� looking around, he tried to spot a familiar hilt amongst the others. The wolf bit him on the shoulder, bringing him off the wall. He grabbed another sword and swung at the wolf- it melted on contact, but sufficed to drive it away. It padded away, turning to round on dark once again. Checking on the marks, he was shocked to discover that the wound had been burned shut, 136


and the blood was blackened and charred. What gave me the ability to find spirits? He thought furiously. Of course! Shifting to a wolf, he leaped into the air, twisting away from the wolf that snapped at his flank. Landing again on the hilt of a sword, he teetered dangerously. Dammit! Stupid leg! he snarled mentally. Just as he was about to slip, he leaped forward again, climbing up the wall. The burning wolf leaped after him, every now and then attacking and pulling him down . Soon, he was high up the wall, and the floor had disappeared. His eyes raked the wall, looking for spirits. He saw plenty, a faint glow around the edge, but none were familiar. Suddenly, he saw a faint red glow high above his head. Flattening his ears, he raced forward, gathering speed as he flitted along the sword hilts. The wolf appeared before him, reaching for his throat. Now! dark snapped his body around. With a tremendous leap, he grasped at the rock, using his claws to run directly up the wall. The wolfs teeth singed his tail, but he ignored it- one hesitation, one misplaced paw, one slip- would causehim to fall to his death. The red wolf had recovered, and was pursuing him, catching up incredibly fast. The hilt of the red sword was drawing near, two ribbons dangling from the hilt, a black and a white. Dark leaped, hanging from the sword next to it by his teeth. He dragged himself up, seeing the fiery wolf leaping at him. Reaching forward, he pulled the sword from the rock and swung it round, closing his eyes. There was a massive flash of fire, erupting in a pillar and 137


licking the fur around darks muzzle, fading into night. Dark felt exhaustion washing him, buffeting him. His paw slipped on something, something dark red, and he fell. Fell. He jerked in shock, panting heavily. The burning wolf stood before him, head bowed. Dark realised with shock that he was human again, back in the strange roof top city world he had first seen the wolf. His attention flicked back to the wolf, as it moved. Raising its head, its fiery eyes burning into his own. �My name, is Rimura.�

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Chapter Twenty-Four

Dark blinked, staring at the concerned faces of Mira and Haru. He looked at Kimiko and Hiroshiro, smiling. �Are you okay? You�ve been staring at that sword for a minute or so now.� Mira asked, eyes worried. Dark looked at the sword in his hands. �I told you he wouldn�t be able to find out its name. It takes agesfor anyone to gain its trust and get its name.� Hiroshiro said quietly. Darks eyes flashed, amused. �Well, I may have something to tell you.� he raised his sword, letting it reflect the light. �This is Rimura.� Haru stared at him, Mira gaping in shock. �But, That�s impossible!� Hiroshiro said, glaring at Dark. �If that�s its name, then you will be able to change its 140


form.� he challenged, Dark looking unsure. �I�ll give it a go, but I�m not sure what will happen.� he began, and raised his sword. A voice sounded in his ear, like the hissing of fire. �Do you trust me?� the wolf said, leaning over his shoulder. Dark nodded to him. The wolf dipped his head. �I will not releasefully, becauseyou have yet to discover my full strength. You know what to do.� Dark blinked, the wolf vanished, and he closed his eyes. Then he pulled at his energy, pouring it into the sword. The four watchers gasped as the sides lit up, a red light whipping around it like fire. Its light shadowed Darks Bowed head, and stirring up his hair. He opened his eyes, and they flashed red. �Shatter, Rimura!� he commanded. The sword burst into flames, licking its side but not actually burning him. The metal stretched at the edge, forming sharp hooks that returned to the blade, then jutted out again. They resembled small metal waves, burning red. A web spread along the blade, like branches of a tree, yet red as blood. They glowed and burned brightly, and it began to drip from the sides. As it fell, however, it solidified and became a small red petal. Soon the air was filled with them, whirling around Dark and creating a breeze. Hiroshiro stepped back, shock on his face. Dark began to tire, and he withdrew some of the energy. The petals faded, but the sword stayed fiery, webbed with blood. 141


�Seal, Rimura.� he whispered, and the sword faded, the fire withdrawing into the hilt and the web fading without a mark. �I think that Rimura showed us his name, Hiroshiro.� Hiroshiro dipped his head, and drew his own sword. �Daruoshi. Freeze!� he called, and the sword glowed white and blue, The hilt twisting and becoming a blue curved metal. The blade flattened out and split down the middle. Halfway, it stopped and branched out, sliding and shifting into a new form. Suddenly, it stopped, revealing the new blade. It followed a normal blade, until it split into two small but sharp blades, similar to wings. They then continued along the blade, more wings coming out at even intervals, until the tip of the blade. The colour was pale blue, but definitely a metal. Dark stared at it, impressed. One by one, Haru and Mira both released stage one spirit forms, Varimaru becoming long and sharp, the end split into a v-shape, like a snakestongue. The guard became two snakes that moved and hissed, flashing long white fangs. Shimori emitted a blinding white light, and became curved like a fang, broad at the hilt and narrow at the tip. Mira had withdrawn the light, but the sword stayed in the same white fang shape. Around the room, there was flashes of light and various sword taking shape. Soon, all there had a sword in a new shape, and turned waiting for Izumi Shiga. She stood up, leading the way out to the area at the back. There were 142


dummies set up at the end, and she pointed to them. �You know what to do, but this time, stay still and extend the sword.� she said, walking outside to sit on the grass. �Go on.� she prompted, opening her book. Dark stood still, until Mira nudged him. �Come on. Just follow us.� he said. Dark looked around and saw the others had all lined up in there groups, gone outside, and were sat down on the grass in lines. Dark followed the rest of the group outside, and sat down. In front of him were Hiroshiro, Kimiko and Mira. Haru was behind him, watching quietly. Beside Hiroshiro was the blonde boy, and an orange haired girl. There were two others, both boys. The five stood up, stepping forward, facing the trees at the end of the area. Dark suddenly noticed the lifelike dummies before the trees, and wondered what they were going to do. Dark watched with interest as the five took turns attacking the dummies opposing them, releasing the first stage of their soul blades to destroy them. The blond boys sword had snapped from the hilt, shooting like an arrow through the chest of the dummy, but still splitting it cleanly in half. Like a boomerang, it had turned and reattached to the hilt. Hiroshiro�s sword had stretched like a whip and torn apart the dummy like a straw doll, the wings along either edge ripping into it. The next two lines of students had all taken their turn, the dummies repairing themselves after each turn.

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Dark stood up, ignoring a hostile glance from the blond boy. The others had all stood with him, and he waited his turn as they all released their swords. Then it was his turn; he closed his eyes briefly, and then opened them. They were burning red, and at once the sword rippled, the strange web of blood spreading over it. The wave-like flat metal claws jutted from the end, gleaming. He looked at the dummy before him, and thought. Attack! The sword made a strange jarring noiseit was sliding apart slightly, becoming a flexible sword that was many times longer than its original state. He swung it, and felt it burst into flames as it folded out towards the target. The fire at the head of the word took the form of a leaping wolf, guiding it towards the dummy. The sword struck one side of the dummy, sinking deep into its �shoulder�. It stopped, and Dark raised his hand, bringing it back through the shoulder and into a connected, short sword again. He heard a whisper from behind him, the blond boy speaking to someone in front of him. �Useless! It didn�t even break right through the dummy!� Dark gritted his teeth, about to turn away, when he saw a light emanating from the cut he had made in the target. He looked at it hard, watching the red light become flames ripping from inside the cut. There was a sudden scream of rending metal, and the dummy exploded, beams of fire shooting from the smoking dummy and catching the trees. Dark nodded, satisfied, at the shocked look on the boys face as he went to sit down. The fire beams turned to the blood red petals, floating down to the ground. 144


Mira looked at him, surprised, as he sat down behind him. �That was great! You�ve only done it before, but that extension was incredible, I�ve never seen one do it like that before.� he whispered, looking over his shoulder. Dark nodded to him, �Actually, I think Rimura helped again.� Looking up, he saw Haru draw Varimaru. The snakeshad already emerged, and were along the sides of the sword. With a flash, they became metal rods, attached at three points along either side, then stretching even further along, with the sword also stretching between them. It curved upwards, the smashed down with blinding sped on the dummy, shattering it into many pieces. He returned, looking pleased with himself. Soon, the classbroke up, leaving to their rooms, or going out into other squad areas. Mira waited with Haru, Kimiko and Hiroshiro for Dark at the exit of the building. Dark walked up to them, watching them talk to one another. He came up behind Hiroshiro, pausing. �Hi.� Hiroshiro jumped, along with Haru. Kimiko laughed, and Hiroshiro glared at her. �What? I was just surprised.� he said to her, bristling. Haru nodded, and Dark grinned. �Am I that scary?� he said teasingly over Haru�s shoulder. Kimiko smiled, nudging Hiroshiro. 145


�Shiro and Haru have been jumpy lately. Is there something wrong?� she teased, joining in. �Is Shiro a little kitty, scared of the big bad wolf?� Mira laughed. Dark blinked, surprised, then laughed. �No! Haven�t you heard? Captain of Squad Nine, Captain Ulkorria was beaten in a fight by someone! And he told the rest of the squad that he never saw his opponents face, or found out his name. Those who investigated at the area said they could sensea strong spiritual pressure, but it was not one from here!� Hiroshiro objected. �This means that the attacker was not from this society! We must have a stranger that has broken in, and if they beat Captain Ulkorria after he attacked them, they must be incredibly strong! They could be dangerous�� Haru put in, eyes flashing around the area, as though expecting an armed person to attack there and then. Mira glanced at Dark uncomfortably, and then looked away before it was noticed. Kimiko looked at them both, eyes missing nothing. �Do you know anything, you two?� she said accusingly.

Chapter Twenty-Five 146


�N-No!� Mira stammered, but didn�t meet her gaze. �Fine, I was there.� Dark nodded uncomfortably. �It wasn�t like I hurt him badly! Just a bite and two daggers to the shoulder. But I was hit much worse.� He complained, gaining the full attention of Haru and Hiroshiro, who were staring at him. �He had stopped bleeding before he left, I�m sure.� he defended himself. Mira nodded, but Kimiko was staring in shock at Dark. �Apparently, he had lost a lot of blood before he was found. A bite that wouldn�t heal, that dissolved any bandage that was placed on it like acid.� She said quietly, worried. �Wouldn�t that be you, Dark?� Dark blinked, a growl rising in his throat. �No. It couldn�t be, none of my bites have ever done something like that. What arm was it on?� he asked, snorting. �His left shoulder. Four marks, two on either side of the body. They were deep, and didn�t look very good.� Kimiko told him, and Dark stared at her, eyes wide. �You bit him there, didn�t you? I was you!� Shaking his head, Dark protested. �It can�t have been me! Maybe someone else attacked him, or something, but I wasn�t me.� Kimiko shrugged, while Hiroshiro and Haru 147


stared at him with mouths gaping. Mira was looking unsure, and for a while they said nothing, just staring around the circle. �Dark�you fought the Captain of Squad nine�and survived. After being hit with his daggers.� Hiroshiro began slowly. �Amazing. I�ve only heard of one other who managed that, and that was a captain. He only just got away, and both sustained terrible injuries. One other.� �He was pretty out of it afterwards, but the Captain cleared him for training. Dark survived, that�s good, right?� Mira broke the silence. �Anyway, let�s go back. I want to go to the rooms early tonight, I�m tired.� The others nodded, welcome to the distraction. They turned, and began to walk, when Kimiko stopped and turned to Dark. �You coming?� he shook his head. �I think I�ll stay out a while longer. It�s nice today.� He shifted into a wolf before Haru could object, and sprang away. He dived into a bush, and waited for the others to go. He watched them turn and walk away, chatting animatedly about the squad nine captain. He waited, watching them go, and felt an unexpected pang. They belong here, in this world he thought. But what about me? Where do I belong? Quietly, he slunk from beneath the bush and sprang up onto the roof. He could see more stretching into the distance on either side 148


of him. He sat down or the top of the roof, and licked his paw, drawing it over his ear. Then he curled up, tucking his tail over his ears and falling asleep. **** �What�s that spirit power I can sense?That�s not normal.� a voice said, floating down into Darks dreams. �It�s an animal. Not human.� another voice said. �Animals don�t have spiritual energy, idiot!� a third voice, louder this time. Dark pulled his tail over his ears tighter, trying to float down into sleep again. �Yes they do! That, or we have a strange animal up there.� the second voice said heatedly. Dark listened to them arguing, until he pulled himself upright. Eyesglowing, he walked down to the edge of the roof to stare at the four men below him. They looked up as his shadow fell on them. Their eyes widened- against the sun, all they could see was a black shape with bristling fur and purple flames for eyes. Dark hissed angrily at them. �Shut up. You just woke me, and I�m tired. Go and argue somewhere else.� he growled. For a minute, the men stayed put, unsure. Dark leaped down from the roof, landing in the middle of them. They stared at the black wolf for a while, before one spoke.

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�A wolf? Ha, he�s too small to hurt us. But we should take him to Captain Ishiru, just in case.� one suggested. Dark slid out his claws, letting every one gleam in the sunlight. �Do you need persuading?� he enquired politely. The men paused, then turned and walked off quietly. Dark stretched, annoyed. Now he was awake, he may as well go somewhere else. He sighed, leaping agilely to the roof and walking along the roofs, looking as men and woman passed beneath him, some looking up curiously as his shadow passed over thembut before they looked, Dark had already gone by them. He spotted a few people who looked like captains, wearing the same black kimono and White robes as Ulkorria. He passed them, and some stopped, looking at him like they knew him, sometimes smiling. After a while, he dropped from a roof and padded into a quiet glade, a few trees bordering the edge. It seemed to follow into a forest for once, and Dark loped calmly towards it. Underneath leafy green branches, he sat down in the roots of a tree at the edge of the forest. Looking around, he listened to the voices of people passing the other side of the walls and buildings. Staring at the sun, he heard a rustle in the leaves above him. Shifting to human, he looked up into the branches. The blond haired boy was sitting there, legs handing over the edge of the branch, holding two cups. �I thought I�d find you.� he said, dropping down to sit beside Dark. �Do you mind if I sit 150


here?� he asked. Dark shook his head, wondering what the boy wanted with him. �Today, your Soul-sword was interesting. Have you used it much before now?� he asked, looking at Dark. �Yes. When I have been required to fight as a human, I will use him.� �interesting. Oh, By the way, I�m Gin. Gin Himori.� He introduced himself. �You thirsty?� he asked suddenly, offering Dark one of the cups. Dark paused, then took one gratefully. �I�m Dark.� he said, unbuckling Rimura and laying it on the grass beside him. �How long have you been here?� �A while. But one day I�ll be a Captain, so all the time here is better for me.� he said, grinning. �Your sword. Doesit have a name?� Dark nodded, picking it up. �Rimura. Why?� Dark answered, and Gin looked surprised. �You�re a strange one, Wolf boy. This is Near. An no reason, just curious. I have had a lot of practice releasing the first stage, I�m used to it now. But Captains need to have achieved third stage, before they can become a Captain.� Gin answered, taking a sip from his cup. Dark though to himself for a second. 151


�When Near is spinning, isn�t it dangerous?� �No, it�ll only his its target.� Gin said, confused. �That�s not what I meant. I mean, you�ll be completely open for any attacks that are made while its spinning. One day, you�ll be battling a real opponent, who will be faster than you.� Dark said, surprising Gin. �You seem to know a lot, wolf boy.� Gin said slowly, a curious edge to his voice. Dark shrugged, looking at the sky. �How long have you been here, learning to fight? I�m guessing not long- but I have had to fight ever singe I was a cub. I have experience of a much older person.� Dark explained carefully, voice distant and lost in memory. Gin looked at him, then started suddenly. A loud clanging was echoing through the area, and there was a lower noise- people running hard on the other side of the wall. Dark jumped to his feet, alarm flashing across his face. Gin was at his side in seconds, beckoning Dark to follow him. �What is it?� Dark asked, drawing Rimura. �The bells- They haven�t sounded for a long time, so something big has come up. Probably Shadows, but normally they can be dealt with quickly. We�d better go and see what�s up.� 152


Chapter Twenty-Six

Dark leaped forward, crossing the rooftops quickly. Gin was running behind him, hand on his sword. �Are you sure this is the way?� Dark called over his shoulder, slowing down to run beside him. Gin nodded, pointing ahead to where a large crowd was gathering. Dark flicked his ears, dashing forward to leap to another roof. He could see Mira and Haru standing near the front, looking around. Dark Slowed down, shifting to human again and edging towards them. Gin followed him, landing lightly on the ground. �Mira, Haru.� Dark whispered over their shoulders, making them start. �What�s going on?� �There is a place in the living world that has just been attacked by Shadows. We had a group on watch there, and they aren�t replying to calls. But the Shadows are causing loads of trouble- the captains of the twelve squads are going to decide what to do. They are in that building there.� Haru 153


explained, pointing at the building across the square, past the crowd. A group of people were standing before it, facing the crowd. �The lieutenants are there- the first and second seats will be passing the news around the rest of the circle.� Mira added, glancing at him. Gin stepped forward, looking around warily. �Dark. I just heard that there is a group down there that aren�t soul reapers.� he paused. �Wolves.� Dark looked at him, eyes confused. �So, what about them?� �They can all see the shadows, apart from two humans who are being guarded by the two younger wolves.� Dark listened, eyes thoughtful. �And the other wolves?� �Two others, a male and female. They say the male is the biggest wolf he�s ever seen, and the female is so fast that she could easily compete with the soul reapers.� Dark stiffened, then relaxed, though his eyes were bright and interested. �Shh! The Captains have decided!� Hiroshiro whispered, and Dark and Gin looked round to see the twelve squad captains standing in a line across the yard. Dark spotted the captain of his squad, squad five, Akura Ishiru, and Captain Ulkorria. The other ten waited patiently, until the first captain 154


in the line stepped forward. �We are going to send down a group to sort out the shadows. The captains of squad five and nine will take some of their squad down, and sort it out.� The captain dipped his head, stepping back into line. Captain Ishiru nodded her head, and Dark glanced her head. She had dark hair, tied back into a plait, and her eyes were leaf green. Her eyes were staring into the distance, unfocused. The crowd began to disperse, and Dark turned to follow Gin when he felt someone�s gaze on him. He blinked and turned round, searching for his watcher. Then he saw Captain Ishiru, her leafy gaze locked onto him. Dark looked at her, then dropped his gaze. He waited till her eyes had left him before he turned to Gin, who was waiting impatiently beside Mira and Haru. Hiroshiro was standing a little way off, looking at the sky. Joining them, they headed back towards the Squad Five buildings. Older Soul reapers were hurrying back and forth, passing word and returning to their area. �It would be nice if the Captain chose some of us to go down to the world of the living. Its been a while since we went, hasn�t it?� Hiroshiro was talking to Mira, who nodded. Haru was smiling, but his eyes were thoughtful. �They�ll want a team of Fully fledged reapers, not some in training.� he said discouragingly. Gin nodded, and Mira and Hiroshiro looked upset. Dark shook his head. 155


�I want to go and meet these wolves who can see shadows. They cant be left to defend by themselves.� said Dark, after a pause. Then he sighed. �But the way I see it, I�m the one who is least likely to go. One, I have just gotten here. Two, I�m probably under the list of �to be proven trustworthy� I was brought here by a soul reaper, and haven�t actually been in battle since then- no one knows who�s side I might be on.� he shrugged, and Mira looked shocked. �But when Rena brought you back, you were accepted into the squads. They trust you, Dark!� Haru objected. Dark smiled, a strange expression on his face. �But how far will it go?� Hiroshiro opened his mouth, about to reply, when a Soul Reaper with pale hair ran up. He paused briefly, before turning to Dark. �Dark, Gin Himori, Mira Ruyoku and Hiroshiro Ayame. The Captain wished to see you.� He said, nodding at the four. Haru and Kimiko blinked, before dipping their heads respectfully. �Hello, Ritsu.� Gin said, then glanced at Dark, who was wearing a puzzled expression. �This is the First seat of Squad Five, Ritsu Suyuchi.� he whispered quickly. Ritsu smiled slightly, nodding to Dark. �Thank you for the introduction, Gin.� he said, then looked 156


at the sky. �But really, the Ishiru needs to talk to you four. I�m sorry Kimiko, Haru, I don�t know what she wants with them. Head back to your rooms, or wait outside. Seeyou!� He beckoned to Dark, who shifted. Ritsu blinked, then began to run. Gin drew alongside him, and Mira stayed beside Dark. Hiroshiro paused to glance at Kimiko, before racing forward to run beside Mira. Bounding forward, Dark glanced at Mira, who was running beside him. �What do you think she wants?� he huffed, and Mira looked at him. �No idea.� They ran on, following Gin and Ritsu, who were talking to each other. Dark pulled up beside Ritsu, listening. �I don�t know what she wants! But I wonder why we are taking such a large group to deal with a few shadows- and then Ulkorria will bring his lot. Shadows don�t need to have any more than one or two of us to finish them off.� Ritsu complained, and Gin nodded. �Unless there is another reason for us to go down there. Maybe this is a cover for something else?� He offered, glancing at Ritsu. �If it is, then it could be a problem.� Dark said, looking forward at the building they were approaching. Ritsu slowed down till he was walking, and Gin dropped back beside Mira and Hiroshiro. Ritsu nodded slightly at Dark, before he 157


stopped in front of the doors. They opened, and the red headed man who had been in Darks room on his arrival stepped out. �Ritsu, the Captain can see you now.� he said. Ritsu dipped his head. �Lieutenant Yuhara.� he greeted him, and the man nodded, stepping back, letting them in. Ritsu led the way inside, and along a corridor to a sliding door at the end. He knocked, and entered. Dark followed Gin inside, and took in the room quickly. It was plain, with a small round table in the centre and small flat cushions on the floor around it. On one of them sat the Captain of squad five. She motioned with her hand for them to sit down, and they did so. Dark sat beside Mira, with Ritsu between Hiroshiro and Gin. The Captain paused briefly before speaking. �I have called you to tell you that you will be joining us when we go to the Shadows. We will be leaving immediately, so you will stay here.� Dark nodded, while Mira glanced at him excitedly. Doubt flickered in Ritsu�s eyes, and the Captain glanced at him. He met her gaze, before nodding. �Squad nine are also bringing some of their younger squad. It will give these four a chance to work in a team with older Soul reapers, and they aren�t helpless.� she explained, and Dark detected embarrassed waves from Ritsu. �Stay in this building, and prepare yourselves.� she dipped her head, 158


dismissing them. Ritsu stood, and beckoned the other four to follow him. Out of the room, Dark turned to Mira. �Poor Haru and Kimiko, they would have wanted to come.� Mira nodded, and Hiroshiro shrugged. �Come on, we need to get Dark the Squad uniform.� Dark blinked, and Hiroshiro laughed. �Your one of us now Dark.� Gin nodded, and led the way along the corridor. �Hey, Shiro, do you think that Captain Ulkorria will come?� Mira asked Hiroshiro. �Maybe, but if he does, there will be two Captains there. Which means that the Shadows are a really big problem. Captains just don�t get called out to deal with a few Shadows.� he replied, worry in his eyes. �I would feel better if he didn�t go, it would mean they don�t have a large problem with the Shadows. Anyhow, here we are.�

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Chapter Twenty-Seven

Dark stepped out of the room. He was wearing the black kimono-style Soul Reaper clothing, with a white band on his right arm. The band had a black 5 on it, like Gin�s, Hiroshiro�s and Mira�s. He had Strapped Rimura to his back, and nodded to the other three. �Lets go.� Standing, Gin led the way out of the building, and into a courtyard. Already, more than half of the Squad Five patrol had gathered there, milling around impatiently. Ritsu was standing beside Izumi Shiga, and Rena Yuhara, the one who had brought Dark from the Living world. Beside her, was a fourth Soul Reaper who Dark didn�t know. All had their swords drawn, and were talking quietly in the shadow of a wall. Quickly, Rena and the one Dark didn�t recognise peeled away and leaped over the wall. Mira and Hiroshiro walked 161


over to join the group, and Dark followed with Gin. Dark could tell that the others waiting there were impatient to go, and tensed ready to fight. Suddenly, he sensed another feeling, splitting through those of Squad five. He knew it well, and stepped back instinctively, just as the rest of the squad parted in the middle, to let a second group passthrough. At the front a single man walked in a white robe with a large black Nine printed on the back. Captain Ulkorria and his squad had come. Almost at the same time, a calm wave spread from an open door in the side of the building. Captain Ishiru stepped out, with Lieutenant Yuhara behind her. Dipping her head to Ulkorria, she swept her robe round to gather her Squad. Dark walked beside Gin and Hiroshiro, with Mira on Gins other side, and the Two captains led the way out of the yard. They had walked a short way, when two Soul reapers walked up to them. Two boys, with a nine on their left sleeve, joined Gin and Dark, nodding to them. �Hey, Gin.� one of them said coolly. �Long time no see, right?� gin tilted his head. �Maybe.� he returned, and the boy with dark blond hair shook his head. The other boy, who had Pale brown hair glanced at Dark, an Dark noticed that his eyes were different colours. One golden eye and the other a pale green-yellow. �Hey Dark.� Dark started, and the boy smiled. �Its not very common for a wolf to be welcomed into the Society, and even 162


less so for one to be brought from the world of the living. Word of you spread quickly. I�m Katashi, by the way. This is Hikaru, him and Gin met each other on their first time in the living world, got in trouble and became friends. More or less, anyway- they get in a fight every time they meet normally.� he added, nodding at the boy talking to Gin. Hikaru flashed an annoyed look at Katashi, his dark green eyes sharp. �Kata.� he said dangerously, but Katashi waved him away. �Ignore me, if it helps.� he said, and Hikaru snorted. Mira walked up, Hiroshiro following. �Dark, Gin. We�re nearly at the gate, so get ready. Ritsu is telling everyone that we will come out right by the Shadows, so when we arrive, we need to be ready to fight.� Hiroshiro said, while Mira drew his sword. Hiroshiro already had Daruoshi in his hand, and Dark quickly drew Rimura. Gin and Hikaru had drawn ahead, and had both drawn their swords at the same time, before stopping to wait for the others. Katashi looked interestedly at Darks huge sword. Katashi paused, before sliding his sword from its sheath. It was long, with two blades attached to the hilt, side by side, with an inch gap between them. Then he stopped, looking past Dark, to a large stone oblong. It looked a bit like a doorframe, without a door. Where a door would have been, a sheet of white light rippled like water. Dark turned, eyes wide, to stare at it. 163


�This is the gate. When we passthrough, keep running until you come into the living world.� Gin told Dark quietly, and Hikaru grinned. Katashi, Mira and Hiroshiro had gathered together, joining the other three. The rest of their two quad groups had already begun to head into the gate, led by Ulkorria. Ritsu and the First seat of squad nine were standing on either side of the gate, swords in hand. Quickly, Dark and the other five passed through the gate, running hard. Dark tried to get an understanding of the dark spacearound him, but he only got back an unimaginably large space, with no apparent sides or roof. Then they burst out onto the rooftop of a large grey building. Around them, the soul reapers had ran off to find the Shadows. Dark raced forward, Flanked by Gin and Katashi. Hiroshiro twisted, and he and Mira sprang off the edge to combat a large Shadow. �Gin! Are you going to come with me, or are you too scared to fight?� Hikaru yelled, and Gin leaped after him. �Ha! I�ll show you how to fight!� he yelled back at him, and dashed off, catching up to Hikaru and arguing as they joined the fight. �Told you, Dark.� Katashi grinned, but Dark had frozen, staring at a roof in the distance, where a huge flying Shadow was attacking a pair of bloodied wolves. As he watched, a light gold wolf was thrown into the air and smashed into the ground. Beside it, another wolf leaped at the Shadow, blood 164


disguising the colour of its fur. �Dark?� Katashi asked, worried. Dark snarled loudly, leaping forward. Katashi jumped after him, leaping over the rooftops. Dark saw the Shadow bank left, dodging the bloodied wolf, and dived at the fallen one. The wolf overshot, twisting to land. Dark leaped, ready to crash down on the Shadow. The fallen wolf was struggling to stand up, and the Shadow was drawing near, and Dark landed before it, ready to attack. The Shadow opened its hooked beak, and blood sprayed into the air.

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Dark Struggled to hold the shadow in place. His sword was blocking the Shadows beak from snapping shut, but it suddenly fell back and dissolved into the air. Katashi grinned at Dark. 165


�You could have told me you were going! Oh well, one less shadow. And you saved these wolves, is that why you came over here?� he said, walking up to him. Dark nodded, looking at the pale she wolf. She lifted her head, nodding at him. Then something landed on his back, bowling him over and gripping onto his shoulder with strong jaws. �Dark!� Katashi shouted, bringing his sword round to knock the wolf off. But he paused when he saw that Dark was laughing. With a twist of his arm, he threw off the wolf. �If he had wanted to hurt me, he would have bitten the other arm.� he said standing up. The wolf stood up, shaking itself. �Are you okay, Silver?� The wolf huffed, walking over to Dark. He shifted back to human, eyes annoyed. �Well, I guessI have to say thank you.� Silver said grudgingly, then looked at Katashi. �Who�s this, and where did you come from, Dark? What are you doing here?� Silver said, not unkindly. �This is Katashi, of Squad nine. As to what we are doing here? We came to sort out the shadows. Silver, stay here with Lilly and help her. I�m guessing that Ash, Joeand the Lieutenants are here too? I�ll find them. Maybe, Ash might try to kill me again.� Dark said, beckoning to Katashi. �Come on! Lets go and get some Shadows.� 166


Katashi nodded to Silver, then jumped away after Dark, who was laughing. It wasn�t long, before they were surrounded by Shadows. Dark lashed out, splitting the Shadow in two. �Where are they coming from? Every one we kill another two come!� he yelled at Katashi as he flitted over his head. �I don�t know! Dark, there are too many of them. We�re in trouble!� he said, backing up to Dark. The Shadows leaned in, about to attack. �There is never too many, we can take them!� Dark snarled stubbornly. He span his sword, slicing through two of the Shadows. �You�re mad Dark!� �Maybe, maybe not. Shatter, Rimura!� he yelled, and the Sword burst into flames. A web of Blood spread across it, and began to drip off the edge. The blood became petals, floating in the air around them. �Dark, what are you doing?� Katashi asked quietly, backing up. �Killing these Shadows.� he growled back at him, and he watched with surprise as the entire blade began to shrink, 167


while the petals accumulated into a blizzard, whirling around them. Dark swung the smaller sword, directing the red petals, moving them faster and faster. The Shadows were getting closer, when suddenly one leaped. Dark slashed the air, and the petals flew at it like bullets, piercing it and spraying blood onto its fellows. The petals whirled, then began to freely stab the Shadows, and they fell. Dark grinned, eyes burning red, then felt a wave of tiredness crash on him. Katashi gasped from behind him. �Dark, your spirit energy is crushing me!� Dark turned round, and saw Katashi half kneeling on the floor. Suddenly, before Dark could react, A hollow swiped him aside, and a red stain speared on Darks clothing. He landed hard, and felt his breath whoosh out of his lungs. Rimura regained normal shape as the petals suddenly redirected and poured around the blade, slowly merging and becoming a single blade. Katashi stood up, springing to Dark and Slicing the Shadow in two. He helped him to his feet. �I�m sorry Dark, I distracted you!� he gasped, but Dark shrugged. �Don�t worry, I�m okay. The Shadow only grazed me.� He said. �But we might have a problem. The Shadows have recovered, we�re surrounded. Completely.� he said, watching the shadows closing in from the sides and from the sky. Katashi raised his sword, grinning. �Stop talking, Dark. I�m in Squad Nine, we don�t back down.� He said, and Dark grinned too. 168


�I like it. Come on, lets sort them out.� Dark said, tensing his muscles. Before they could act, something shot through the Shadows, scattering them and making many of them fall and disappear. Moving too fast for Dark to see them, a dark shadow flitted past them, creating a cloud of dust. Dark tightened his grip on his sword, as he saw something move in the dust. Five figures were approaching, and soon the dust had cleared enough to see them. Gin and Hiroshiro, half supporting Mira between them, while Hikaru brought up the rear, sword in hand. Mira waved when he saw Dark, and as they drew up beside them, he shrugged Hiroshiro. �What happened?� Katashi asked Hikaru, motioning at Mira. �I don�t know, but he was bashed up badly.� Hiroshiro replied, releasing Mira. He staggered rubbing his forehead, then shrugged. �Don�t worry, I�m fine now. Dark, that was good work you did there. No wonder we were all brought, though, it �s a wide area and too many shadows.� he said, waving away Gin. �then a wolf came, and helped us four. I don�t know where she went though.� Dark glanced around, scanning for Ash. Movement caught his eye, and he leaped, spinning and bringing round his sword. Ash flinched away from the tip, shifting back to human. �Hmph, well done.� she said, 169


rubbing her neck. �But you took your time.� she snorted, then turned to face them all. Katashi met her gaze, then turned away. �Come on, we should find the rest of the patrol. There are too many to deal with on our own.� Hikaru said impatiently, and Gin nodded. “Lets go.” Dark walked beside Mira, watching him in casehe collapsed. Suddenly, he stopped. Mira glanced at him questioningly. “Trouble.” he said grimly, and before Mira could reply, he leaped away, disappearing fast. Ash stopped, then whirled round. Her eyes were blank, yet her frame shivered angrily. “That idiot.” she snarled, then turned to face the others. “Find the rest of the patrol. I’m going to get Dark.” she said, her voice commanding. Mira looked like he was about to object, but Hiroshiro blocked him and the five left. Ash dashed away, disappearing into the dust. Chapter Twenty-nine Dark dashed through the clumps of shadows, killing them before they could react. Captain Ulkorria was trapped by five huge shadows, each as large as a five storey building, defending an injured squad member. Dark could smell the blood already flowing from a wound in the captains side, and he could smell the squad members fear. With a leap, he cleared one of the shadows and slashed downwards with his sword. Surprised by the newcomer, the largest brought its giant foot down, aiming to crush Ulkorria and the other man. Letting out 170


a lupine scream, Dark shifted and Sliced through the foot, shoving Ulkorria out of the way. “Move, Captain!” he yelled, fixing the shadow before him with a piercing glare. Ulkorria picked the man up, nodded curtly at Dark, and leaped through the gap. Dark turned, ready to leap away, but to his horror found the exit blocked. The giant shadow was in the shape of a wolf, with a white mask. Moving fast, it flung Dark into the air and then slamming him into the ground. Dark felt a rib snap, and struggled to stay conscious. The Shadow moved back, as Ulkorria reappeared, bringing his sword down on the Shadow. It broke apart, and he turned to look at Dark. “Idiot.” Dark huffed and stood up, limping slightly. Turning so that they were facing away from one another, he grinned, picking his sword up in his teeth. They were surrounded. Dark snarled, and leaped forward, twisting in a circle so that the blade slashed a hole in the mask of the nearest shadow. Ulkorria was fighting with two Shadows, but he was holding his own. Dark killed another two shadows, when a blinding pain exploded in the back of his head. he struggled to his feet, but he felt detached, like he was watching from behind a wall. A shadow was racing forward, but Dark could barely concentrate through the pain- he couldn’t run, couldn’t fight. The shadow was about to crush him, and no-one could help. Vaguely, he saw Ulkorria whirl, and yell his name, but his vision was fading into black. Fangs grabbed his scruff, hauling him away and into the air. He couldn’t see, couldn’t feel. He was thrown roughly to the ground, and he snarled, trying to turn and fight. he slipped on something warm and sticky, and suddenly the smell of blood 171


flooded his nose. His stomach heaved, and he hacked up a foul smelling liquid. He fell onto his side, the world spinning around him. He felt a paw on his shoulder, shaking it. Sound was beginning to return- there was a voice calling his name urgently. Light returned to one eye- the other remained stubbornly dark. A brown wolf appeared in his vision, and Dark scrambled away, hackles raised. “Hey! Its me, Katashi!” Dark froze, shock spreading across his face. Katashi walked warily across to him, stopping a meter away. “By the way Dark, your left eye...” he stopped, mismatched eyes scared. “I know, i can’t see out of it.” Dark said, worried. Katashi shook his head. “Its...changed. Weird. It looks like its staring right through me. Scary.” He shuddered. “Anyway, what happened? You wouldn’t move, I thought you were dead or something.” Dark got to his feet, about to reply, when more foul smelling liquid spilled from his mouth. It was black, and Dark flinched. Stumbling to Katashi, He leaned heavily on his shoulder, breathing hard. “Are you okay?” Dark nodded, then mumbled. “Broken rib, I think.” Katashi nodded, then slowly walked forward, checking Dark frequently. “Lets find the others- I left them to find you.” Katashi said, heading towards a tall building, near where they had come through, where a massof Soul reapers were waiting, moving around and checking injuries. As they drew closer, Lilly and Silver burst through the crowds, followed by Hiro, Mira, Hikaru and Gin. Lilly was smiling, her injuries forgotten, but it faded as she saw Dark’s eye. “What happened!?” she said, leaping forward to nuzzle his 172


cheek and her tail lashed against his flank. He leaned against her, and the four soul reapers crowded round Katashi as he shifted back. Silver stood a little way off, watching Lilly with and irritated look in his eyes. Dark looked at him, surprised. Silver walked up to him touching noses. Briefly, their eyes met, and then Silver looked away. “Good to see you again.” he murmured, and Lilly gave a bark of laughter. “You should have seen him when he came back, after you were hit by the train. He was fretting like a mother she-wolf! Don’t do that again, okay?” she said, and trotted a circle around Dark. Silver pressed himself against Dark, supporting him. The seven of them walked back to the Soul reapers, and They quickly began to open the path back to the Spirit world. Captain Ulkorria nodded at Dark, and Ritsu walked up to them. “Are you all okay?” he asked, looking worriedly at Dark’s eye. They nodded, And Dark shifted back quickly. “Yeah.” “We are going back now...the captain said that its okay if you don’t come back.” he paused, and Gin’s eyes widened. “Whaaaaat?! Unfair.” he complained, and Mira nodded. Hiro looked calmly at Ritsu, waiting. “Dark belongs to this world. Its his choice.” He said, and Ritsu nodded. All eyes were on Dark now, and Silver, still by Dark’s side, tensed. Lily had gone to find Ash and Joe, while the Lieutenants were standing in a corner, waiting. “Ill stay. I need to get my arm fixed, but I will come back.” he promised, and they nodded. Katashi looked at him suddenly. “I’m staying too. How will Dark get back without one of us?” he growled. 173


“No, Katashi. You go back with your squad. They need you, just like I’m needed here.” Dark said, shaking his head. Katashi frowned at him, but stepped back. “Its open!” A voice yelled, and a rip opened in the air. The Soul reapers stood up, and began to leave. Ash and Joeappeared will Lilly to watch them go. Dark’s friends stepped forward, before leaping into the space. katashi was the last to go, and he lifted his hand, waving, before springing into the darkness. The hole shut behind him, and Dark turned to Ash. She looked at him, then beckoned the lieutenants over. “Where are we?” Dark asked, as they walked up. “The North. We’ve been following the Shadows for a while. This city is all but abandoned. The Northern border is not too far from here. There is also another Wolf prison nearby. We have a building that was abandoned to stay in.” she replied, leading the way down. Dark blinked, trying to focus through his left eye, but it was still dark. Sighing, he followed her from the rooftop. Chapter Twenty-nine Dark shivered, curling closer to the fire, trying to warm up. the lieutenants had thick clothes on, and the wolves had winter coats. Silver walked up to him, waving his tail. Holding a chunk of metal in his jaws. Dark watched him, surprised, as Silver lay it beside Dark. “Its heart metal. Hold your arm out beside it.” he explained, and Dark lay down, stretching it out. Holding it still, Silver crafted an arm using his elemental, and attatched it to Dark’s 174


half. “Thanks.� Dark smiled, flexing the repaired arm. He shifted back to a wolf, and Silver did the same.

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