Author's Note

This fanfic describes the backstory of Shadow the Demon Assassin, struggling with his past life and the inner power within him. I may plan to put up rape scenes, but I have very little intention to and will focus more on the action and story. All edits will be done on this one page.

So, without further adieu:

Prologue: Fickle Fate

I am Shadow, a masterful Demon Assassin shaped to kill any target without regrets. I was raised and trained by the Heavenly Knight Tamamo, but before that the Ilias Kreuz tried to shape me up into their "perfect" monster hunter. They employed almost every trick in the book just to get recruits and murderers.

I was born in a small village at the northernmost point in the Noah region. I didn't know what it was called or anything important about it, since everything turned to ash the moment I was born. There were screams and the sounds of crackling fire, metal clashing with metal, and the sounds of bodies being cut open; I saw a figure with a long curved sword strike down other figures. I probably cried really hard back then as the crisis went on in my village, but I was so young and I couldn't do anything. The very beginning of my life, a complete living hell, my real family being killed off. After the crisis passed and the sounds faded, I was picked up and cradled into someone's arms, smothered into her humongous chest. I don't know if I should have been happy or scared back then, because that was the true start of my living hell...

Immediately after the crisis I was taken to the Ilias Kreuz headquarters in the Noah Region, hidden to the southwest. That woman who picked me up raised me as if I was her kid, although her breath smelled very very bad. She called me "Shadow" for crawling into dark corners and sneaking up on that woman. She kept a good eye on me until I was 5 years old and began understanding things. That woman called herself Python, had giant noticeable tits, always wore a two-piece bikini, blond spiky hair, and her back was engraved with a tattoo of some winged figure with an interesting smile on her face. She told me about other creatures in the world, called monsters, and said they should die because they're evil, stating they polluted an innocent village with their nefarious ways. She wasn't very specific; "They're evil" is all she ranted about.

Every day after Python's explanation of the monster race was then "take your son to work day and hire him". There was a large amount of people who were as tall as Python and some surprisingly around my age. Everyone that was around my age, including me, looked around in confusion and curiosity until Python took the stand and announced something.

"My fellow Ilias Kreuz," she started. "Our great Goddess has given us these children, more strength for our armies to crush those puny monsters!" Shouts of cheers from the adults were made at that statement. "You little people, know that the monsters are the root of all evil! Monsters will do anything to put their evil hands on your body and soil your life! We are Ilias Kreuz, the hunters of evil! You youngsters are now a part of us; we will hold your hands in your futures and you will learn to be strong to rid the world of monsters that plague our lives! For our great Goddess Ilias!" Python then turned around to flash the tattoo on her back while chugging brownish liquid down her throat and eating large chunks of cheese. The adults in the crowd roared and boomed their cheerings. Some of the kids started to cheer with the adults, but I just stared blankly.

"Okay, kiddies!" One of the male adults approached us kids. "It's time to begin. If you'll just follow me..."

Chapter 1: Ilias Kreuz's Training

"And here we are, the weapons room. Your training begins immediately." That man took us kids to a room stashed with weapons; swords, bows, spears, almost every type of weapon available for use. We each took a careful look at the weapons The one that interested me was a sword; the shiny silver metal looked cool and it felt really light.

We then proceeded outdoors to the training site, a big field lined with straw dummies and an obstacle course. The instructor told us to attack the dummies every day and stay off the obstacle course and we did, for two straight years. During that time was nothing but boredum; Python nor the other adults wouldn't help us as they said we had to learn ourselves, though really they were just drinking more brownish liquid, eating cheese, and laying in bed 24/7. It upsetted me a bit, but I couldn't do anything else but strike the training dummies with wild attacks. I felt that the dummy wasn't being shredded and losing its straw fast enough, so I eventually decided to pick a second sword; I felt so amazed when I doubled my offensive efficiency, using two swords in both of my hands.

Still, training was boring; we kept doing the same thing over and over again, and the obstacle course was still off-limits. After half a month I decided to leave the training grounds and improve myself elsewhere. I wandered to a lake not far away. There was a nice cool refreshing breeze from the air and the lake; it felt peaceful and tranquil, and gave me the feeling to lie down all day and rest. But I couldn't slack off, I had to train for Ilias Kreuz. The outskirts were the perfect training spot, I thought.

"Concealed Blade!" I cried out my first developed skill as I struck forward in a straight line and back, cutting tall grass ahead with my two swords. This skill was a quick unsuspecting slash, but at my level it needed improvements. I sighed as I continued training and slashing imaginary targets and tall grass. I could feel the rush of speed getting faster and my sword arm getting stronger with every use of the skill.

I came to that lake everyday, but two years later I stumbled onto something that I shouldn't have. One of my Concealed Blades cut the grass that concealed something: a female girl standing alone int he distance. She was a little taller than me, had green skin, a small blouse and skimpy panties, and had protruding flowers and leaves from her body. She wasn't human, but a monster; Alraune. I had never seen a monster up close until now. Ilias Kreuz ordered its fellows to kill monsters, but somehow curiosity got the better of me; she was a cute girl that I observed from afar. However, it didn't take long for her to notice me and stare me down.

"Ara? A human, all the way here? Fufufu..." she giggled in delight as she approached me.

Chapter 2: First Blood?

A monster engaged in a combat stance stood before me. Even though she was cute, there was a wrong feeling about her. "You're a cute human, I think you'll make me VERY happy!" she exclaimed and tried to wrap me up. In self-defense, I immediately slashed her vines, but they moved out of the way. "Please don't make me fight..." I nervously said while biting my tongue on accident. But she only licked her lips and eyed me. "Fufufu, you look so scared and you're shaking; this'll be easy."

I tried to counterattack with a forward thrust, but she dodged the attack. "Flail Wildly!" I cried out, striking in random directions toward her, but she easily avoided them all. I saw one of my fellows trainees using it, though failing miserably like that made me feel naive and stupid. As she dodged my pathetic attacks, I accidentally tripped and fell on the ground. Note to self: Never use Flail Wildly again.

The Alraune immediately took advantage of the opening and straddled my lap. "I thought you'd be interesting if you found me that easily, but were you flailing wildly? I'm extremely disappointed..." she said as she leaned over to me and kissed my cheek. Her breath was stunning; it released a fragrance that made my head feel woozy and numb. Before I realized it, I was in a trance and left completely helpless. "Fufufu, how are you feeling~?" the Alraune said as she suddenly started rubbing her panties against my groin, letting out cute moans. She continued for a few seconds, then suddenly stopped and looked at me curiously. "Ara? That's weird. You're not hard at all...? Looks like I need to step up my game!" she said as she moved her panties to the side.

Suddenly, another emotion came into me. Her attempts to "please" me failed, so it wasn't lust. It was anger; I didn't like her attempt to try to rape me and steal my young virginity! I immediately snapped out of the trance and noticed she wasn't holding down my arms; I made a wide slash with one of my blades, hitting her square in the shoulder. She reeled back and screamed in pain, but I wasn't done. "Concealed Blade!" I screeched at her as I rushed toward her and slashed with my two blades, hitting her in the chest and back. The Alraune cried more as I mounted her, with my two blades held high above her face. Her expression quickly changed; she didn't feel lust, but was now deeply afraid of me. I still felt mad and tried to stab her, but I blinked at her and suddenly got a better look at her scared face. My attack immediately stopped just inches from her face. I was breathing heavily; I didn't know what to do now.

"Meanie!" she cried and pushed me off and ran off into the distance. I simply stared, unsure of my emotions. I switched from lust to anger and then to remorse in a matter of seconds. "Just what did I do...?" I asked myself, confused about my actions. After a few minutes, I got back up and left the area, deciding to return to Ilias Kreuz.

Back at base I immediately realized I failed to kill a monster and felt another emotion: shame. How could I face them if I wasn't a heartless killer they made it easy to be? I went home, wanting to talk to Python. However, the house smelled like whiskey and god damned cheese again. "Huh? What the f**k you want?" she asked me while laying on her front on the bed, topless; she was obviously drunk again, and this happened every freakin day. "..." I said nothing; I shouldn't mess with her while she's woozy in the head. "F**k you!" she cried out to me and stuck her tongue. I turned around exited the house; looks like I'll have to deal with my emotions alone, again...

Chapter 3: Conflict

I was only seven, muddled by confusion with my first confrontation with a monster. "Why couldn't I kill her?" I kept asking myself.

I needed answers right away; I headed to the headquarter's library to look for details about monsters, but most of the books were labeled "Serve the Goddess!", "Glory to Ilias Kreuz!", "Monsters Must Die", and "How to Dissect a Monster". I didn't have time for crap, I wanted to know, I needed to know! And then it caught my eye: "Monsterpedia - The Encyclopedia for Monsters"; this wasn't a religious or murder book, it was a database of monsters.

I opened the book and looked at the first page. "Have you seen a being with distinguishing features? Tail, pointed ears, or entirely made of gooey substance? These creatures are called 'monsters'. They live in the world with humans and live as much as we do. However, there is one thing they will always try to do when they come into contact with humans: sex. They may seem cute or attractive but don't let it fool you; they will always try to attach their monster parts onto a human's parts, causing a man to feel happy or 'pleasured' but in reality they mostly are using the man only to please themselves." I shuddered a bit at the last part of that sentence; are monsters selfish? Is that why Ilias Kreuz hates monsters so much? I doubted I could find a book that actually describes sex in the library. "Once a man submits to sex, he may never escape. Be wary of them and their actions. If a monster tries to have sex with you, run away or fight back in self-defense."

One thing that struck me off: "self-defense"? This wasn't a typical murder book that said "monsters are evil" and that raise a lot of red flags. An Ilias Kreuz couldn't have written this; who did? I decided to flip through the pages to see if I could find anything new, but sadly there wasn't any more answers. I couldn't let another question distract me, I had to find out why I couldn't kill that monster. I seized the book; any librarian or Ilias Kreuz wouldn't care, since they're all drunktards.

Was I not strong enough? Was my training not enough? I decided to continue my training, striking down the training dummy while venturing to the serene lake to practice. Hoping my skills would improve, and hoping I would figure out why I couldn't kill her.

"Alraune..." That thought kept giving me cold shivers. "Just why couldn't I, Alraune...?" It's been exactly a year since our first encounter, but the question still lingers in my head. I decided once and for all that I had to meet that monster again, maybe now I would get a better understanding of what happened. I went back to the spot where we first met and battled. "Alraune..."

Chapter 4: Reunion and Apology

"Hehehe... No Alraune here, but us Frogs, ribbit!" A bush near the lake shook, and not one, not two, but five Frog Girls jumped out of it, ready for a fight. "Please, let me go. I have no intention of fighting, and none of us will get hurt if we cease fire." I tried to reason, though I should have known it was futile. "Hehehe, how about you stay still and none of us get hurt, ribbit?" The eldest, tallest frog replied. I sighed and pulled out my two swords, engaging a ready stance and analyzed my opponents.

The first one tried to glomp me, but I slid under her; if I jumped on her, her slippery mucus would make me fall and vulnerable. I tried to thrust into her seemingly exposed back, but her two legs stretched outward and hit me, pushing me down. I quickly got up and evaded the second's glomp, rolling to her side. Her arms weren't long as her leg, so that wouldn't stop me from making a wide slash into her side. She screamed in pain as the third one attempted to stomp me from above, but gravity wasn't fast enough compared to my dodge and I struck her back. The fourth one then used a tongue attack; it was very fast but I barely managed to dodge. As her tongue pulled back, I tried to use the opening and attacked her, but the fifth and eldest frog girl stopped my attack with her hand and pushed me down.

"You ass! Let's restrain his movements! On three...!" The eldest cried as the other four surrounded me. I braced myself for whatever would come. "Two! One! Tongue Abyss!" All five simultaneously shot their tongues at me, but I somehow managed to dodge their attack in a split millisecond! Phew! Their attack accidentally caused their tongues to tangle with each other, reeling them in and positioning them right next to me. "Blink Dagger!" I cried out, quickly rushing to each individual monster and slashing them twice, knocking them back and getting untangled. The eldest growled at me and was quick to get back on her feet while the others struggled. I gripped my swords as I readied for another attack: "Concealed Blade."

"Stop. Nature's Guardian." as I neared the eldest frog girl, a sudden white light appeared, and the next thing I knew I was sent soaring into the lake! "It's been a while... but I can't let you harm these monsters." I got out of the lake and stared at my sixth attacker. "Y-you!" The same Alraune from a year ago! This time she was wearing a skirt instead of just panties and a blouse, and had a serious expression and a battle stance. "Please, let me handle this human." she told the frog girls. "But--!" the eldest was immediately cut off with a stern look from the flower monster. "Grr... fine! Retreat." The frog girls fled back into the lake, but not before the eldest stuck her tongue at me. Once they were gone, the Alraune dropped her stance and approached me until we were ten feet away, though I could tell she still had her guard up.

"For some reason," she began. "I've been wanting to see you again. You're Ilias Kreuz; that retched alcohol and stinky cheese is undeniable proof." Grr, I've been meaning to wash that off, but nooo, Python had to stink up the bathroom! "But why didn't you kill me or the other frog girls? And why didn't you get erect despite the combination of trance and my dry humping?" I blinked at her; she seemed a lot more mature and serious than from our previous encounter. "T-that's what I want to know too, the first part I mean. Ilias Kreuz says monsters are evil, but..." She sighed, giving me an annoyed look. "Do you believe that? Well, I guess I DID attack you first; I let my monster instincts get the better of me and I apologize." she replied, looking down at the last part. That shocked me greatly; a monster, apologizing? That goes all against Ilias Kreuz! This can't be a facade, she really does seem regretful. "I don't know what to believe, but you really do seem sorry. I'm sorry that I let my emotions get the better of me." I replied, slowly sheathing my weapons.

A flower appeared from her body and started to spray me with some powder. But this felt different; it wasn't a weird numbing trance, but a sweet smelling fragrance that smelled so much better than Ilias Kreuz's foul stench. "T-thank you, I've been meaning to get that smell off." The Alraune then smiled at me before approaching me with a hand held out. "I can tell you're not one of them, and I doubt you can put up a facade. I'm Rose, a sweet-loving Alraune; let's be friends~" she said with a light giggle but a serious look in her eyes. I nodded and reached out to touch her hand, causing me to blush; this is the first time I've ever touched a monster, and boy it felt a lot better than being with Python. I could feel the cold shiver fading away"... Shadow. Somehow it feels nice to be with a kind monster, and not those Ilias Kreuz jerks..." I don't care if I'm going against Ilias Kreuz or not, I've already broken enough rules, besides they don't treat me better like this monster; at least she cares about me.

Chapter 5: New Training, New Friendship

"Tag, you're it!" I cried out as I ran up to Rose and tapped her arm. I've been friends with this Alraune for quite a long time while still living in the Noah Ilias Kreuz compound. It felt more right to be with my new and only friend than the ones who pretend to 'care' for me. I couldn't report my only friend, and I knew they would hunt us if I tried to flee. It's a secret naughty thing to do, but those things never bothered me. I felt so free and alive; I'm nine now and we did a lot of usual kid things while I wasn't training on my own.

"Nope~ Tag~" Rose tried to counter with a vine, but I backflipped out of the way. Even though they're not human things, it wasn't right for me to make silly rules and let her down. But I couldn't stick the landing right and fell backwards, falling onto someone who wrapped her arms around me. "Gotcha~! Wind's Mirage!" I laughed as I stumbled onto Rose, the one in front of me being an illusion. She was more powerful than me and I admired her; I knew she was holding back from me a long time ago, so I could guess she has a lot more tricks up her sleeve.

I looked up to her as she started ruffling my hair. I couldn't be happier than I was before. "I had lots of fun today." she smiled, laying my head down on her flat chest. We laid down and stared into the sky, with sunset falling. "It's really serene and peaceful. I'm really glad we're friends." I told her, blushing a bit. She smiled and nodded.

Unfortunately I could only stay for sunset; neither of us could risk Ilias Kreuz up my ass. "Farewell, let's play again sometime!" I always told her before I left. I loved how my friendship with Rose was getting stronger, yet my status with Ilias Kreuz stayed the same.

I returned home, expecting everything to be the same, with Python constricting her meal. But to my surprise, she was waiting for me, and there wasn't a trace or smell of alcohol or cheese anyway. "Where have you been young boy?!" she screamed a loud voice that shocked me; I assumed she knew my secret and I was done for. But instead she approached me and led me into the house. "I was training as usual!" I replied with a half-true statement. She just nodded. "Oh, okay. Well good. Tomorrow's a big day so you'd better get some sleep!" This shocked me; I wasn't being punished? And we're having a big day tomorrow? It's been four years and the last "big day" was just introducing us to some lame training field. I didn't have much expectations so I just nodded and slept.

Tomorrow did turn out to be a different day; Python had made a second announcement with all the Ilias Kreuz gathered. "My fellow Ilias Kreuz, did you enjoy your training? Well, you're all coming of age; today is the day we step it up! It's time we hone that training to the test!" I groaned a bit, some of the others starting cheering. "At long last, we finally don't have to hit dummies anymore! It really paid off!" shouted one of the youngling members. Python continued. "Are you ready? It's time we hit the real training course! We have a course of obstacles from climbing to ambushes; can you survive?! And that's not all, we're letting you newbies spar to your heart's content and find out how tough it is to battle like your life depends on it! By next year, if you newbies can come out on top in our exam, we have a big reward for you! Now get to it, for Ilias!!" the crowd went wild as Python drank and flashed her Ilias tattoo like four years ago. This is a surprise; they're now giving us the advanced course in training!

All of us trainees were led to the obstacle course. It consisted of many trials like stepping stones, ladders and ropes, and intoxicating succubus flowers. The objective was to survive the entire course in the fastest time as possible, of course. The first course had a bunch of mats laid in an angled position facing toward a straight path above mud, and the objective was to jump from each one of them; the first guy who tried it seemed to get it down, but slipped on the fourth platform and fell into the mud. "Hehe... I have high expectations for you, my boy." I looked over my shoulder; it was Python, and I simply nodded to her.

I tried to go second, but I was immediately pushed to the side. "Stand aside, noob! Let the Ace show you how it's done!" I growled at the person who pushed me; Ace, a blonde straight hair kid with an average build around my age and a two-handed sword user, a very arrogant and competitive kid whom I bumped into once or twice over the years. It took no effort for him to skip through the first course and the second course, consisting of crawling over a ceiling net over mud, was a slight breeze to him, but the third course stopped him there; running through the intoxicating scent of succubus flowers. Upon breathing their fumes, he was immediately stopped, collapsed on the floor, and wet his pants.

The others laughed as I shook my head in disappointment and attempted the course. I too made it through the first and second courses a bit faster than Ace, using my arms and legs to give me the push I needed. The third course: I remember the fumes Rose put on me a long time ago; I quickly held my breath, shut my eyes, and zipped through. I felt the perfume land on my body, but I couldn't stop there; I had to push and push. Once I knew I was through, I took a deep breath and stared at the fourth obstacle course: a 15 foot wall, about many times my height. There wasn't any way I could jump that! I tried a running start and pushed off my legs, but only my fingertips could each the top! I had to call it quits, disappointing the crowd. "Boo! And you got so far, too..."

The next few days I would find myself running around the serene lake to strengthen my legs and do push-ups to strengthen my arms, among other things. "Five minutes, six minutes, seven minutes... I seem to be getting slower with every lap." I panted as I noticed my time. I suddenly noticed Rose looking at me with a curious stare. "Ilias Kreuz *pant* put us *pant* on an *pant pant* advanced training course *pant pant pant*." I told her the situation. One of her roses aimed at me and sprayed a shower of water. Ah, that felt so refreshing! "T-thank you! *pant*" I collapsed. "No longer playing the sword-waving barbarian, I see. It must be hard playing along with them, but don't forget I'm here to help." she said, sitting down next to me and playing with my hair again. I quickly got back up and ran the track again until I passed out.

It's been a month since that training course was introduced and I could feel myself getting a little stronger with every push, but still I couldn't vault up that wall; in fact only seven people managed to get to it but none could pass it, the rest got stuck with the trance. I was the first to get by the succubus flowers, and I could definitely see myself bypassing that course even faster and faster; somehow I have a strong immunity to pleasure, as Rose pointed out from the time she first tried to rape me, but none of us could determine why other than the possibility of an anomaly. She wanted to test my sexual immunity, so I allowed her to have her way. "Are you feeling good~?" she said as her hand was in my pants stroking my groin, but minutes felt like hour as I could feel my erection grow... by a centimeter. This disappointed her greatly but at least she got over it quickly and was happy to help either way.

Month six: I've been sparring against Rose once or twice every month, but she beat me on every turn. "Petal Dance!" Rose cried as she summoned a gale of wind and roses; back then they would hit me and send me spiraling into the lake, but I quickly sidestepped as the attack was launched. I charged at her, feeling the breeze as I ran fast toward her. "Concealed Blade!" I cried as I attempted to cut her with a forward dash, but she evaded by diving into the earth. "Nature Shift. Vine's Snare." She immediately followed up by summoning a large thick vine to ensnare me. "Blink Dagger! Concealed Blade!" I counterattacked with a spin to cut the vine and tried once again a dash attack. "Too hasty; Nature's Guardian." That one shockwave skill again that she deploys before I get close. She was right; I was being too hasty and I ran blindly into the shockwave again. "Damn!" I shouted as I flew back into the water. I swam back to the shore, where she waited for me and helped me out.

"Clearly," she giggled. "You still have a lot of work to go..." I nodded, getting back on my feet and dashed toward her.

Chapter 6: The New Blade

"Nature's Guardian." Rose cried as I tried to use Concealed Blade on her again. I smirked as I stopped just before reaching the radius, then quickly approached her once the shockwave faded. Once she opened her eyes after channeling the technique, she was shocked to find my two swords centimeters from under her nose. "Ara? You've finally caught up to me with a fake out. And that only took you three years!" Rose exclaimed as she hugged me tightly. She seem so proud of what we've accomplished over the years. And now, tomorrow's the day of the 'final exam'.

Rose looked at me and held my hands. "Good luck tomorrow." She leaned into kiss my lips. It was a stunning feeling, and my first instinct was to kiss her back; it didn't put me in a trance or made me feel lustful; no it was some kind of weird feeling that made my heart beat little faster. I smiled and thanked her for all her help.

But that kiss didn't stop there; she tackled me and pinned me down before taking off her panties. "I-I like you a lot... S-Shadow." she looked away, blushing, as she quickly rubbed her little entrance on my groin in my pants, causing her to moan a little and her entrance leaking juices. I felt the stimulation, causing me to moan. "Y-you feel so g-good!" she moaned and whined a little more before increasing her pace. After a minute, she screamed my name before collapsing, her juices soiling my pants. She panted as I combed her hair. "T-thank you... Even though you didn't get erect." I helped her get back up and put her panties back on.

"By the way... could you help me improve my swords with your magic?" I asked her, telling her the way I wanted them upgraded. She looked confused but nodded and used her magic to empower them. "Hm? You decide to have a weapon upgrade AFTER our battle? Either way I have confidence in your abilities." I thanked her for the weapon upgrade and went back home.

Tomorrow's a big day and a big challenge...

"Zzz... five... more... minutes! Goddammit!" I yawned and sprawled out over the bed. The alarm clock buzzed and I looked at the time: 6:00am. I don't know why but Python insisted we start immediately at 6. I took my brand new weapon and wrapped it around in cloth; it was going to be my secret weapon and I planned to unveil it at the end. I went back to the armory to pick out two temporary swords and went to the training grounds. The first thing we were all required to do was run the obstacle course.

"Okay kiddies, today's the big day!" roared Python. "It's been a full year and it's now time to put your strengths to the test! Are you ready?! First up we have our obstacle course; survive the dangers in the fastest time and you win! Once we're done with that, we go to a sparring tournament, and whoever comes out on top wins! The person with the highest scores in both activities gets a fabulous reward! For our great goddess Ilias!" the crowd cheered as Python once again flashed her Ilias tattoo. We all stepped up to the course; I decided to go last.

It was disappointing to see over 75% of the entire trainees fail to get past the beds of succubus flowers, and 20% of those who did couldn't jump over the tall wall. Next after that was running over platforms that spewed hazardous fire at random directions that claimed 1% of the group, a slightly soft approach to the second to last course: hanging metal vertical poles. But the poles weren't the problem, it was the trance tranquilizing darts that came along with it, and 3% of the group couldn't get past even the first bar.

"Watch and learn, noobs!" the ever arrogant Ace was second to last. He quickly sped through the angled platforms and the ceiling net, and this time he covered his mouth to get past the succubus flowers. He was left coughing a bit at the end, but that didn't stop him from a single jump past the wall and speeding through the flaming platforms. Ace took a breather for a bit before springing onto the first metal bar, then quickly moved over to the second one before the trance darts came flying through. A few more darts flew through and nearly grazed his cheek, causing Ace to nearly slip, but he held his grip on and managed through, even crossing a large gap between the poles.
He roared and was cheered on as he made it to the final course... A large empty platform? As he approached the center, the floor around him opened up to reveal large towers that emitted electricity. They were everywhere and all zapped Ace; he couldn't escape and was left completely jolted on the platform, paralyzed. The electric towers withdrew while another larger area opened, revealing a giant wooden dummy. Unlike the training dummies, this one moved toward Ace very slowly, as if it were giving him a chance to fight back. But alas, he could only watch in agony as the dummy went closer and closer and closer. It was finally standing over Ace and stood still for ten seconds, but its victim was still paralyzed. It then proceeded to kick Ace off the platform. "Oh! He made it to the final course and still lost! Well, give it up for Ace!" the disappointed crowd at least still gave a small cheer.

And now at last it was my turn. After witnessing all the objectives and everyone else failing, I had confidence that I could complete the course. Like my first attempt, the first three courses were a breeze to me, and I even managed to get past them in less time. I took a deep breath and stared at the tall wall; if Ace could get up there in one try, so could I! With determination, I sprinted and pushed my feet off the ground; with a leap of faith, my fingertips touched the top and gripped! Hooray! I vaulted myself over and sprinted across the flaming platforms, dodging the fires out of the blue. I got here much faster than Ace, but now the real problem began.
I leaped onto the poles and gripped them tightly, a dart zipping past my face. I quickly transitioned over to the next one and the next; a dart came straight at me and I couldn't dodge, so I acted on instincts: block with the blade. Enough though I let go with one had, my other hand and legs gripped onto the pole tightly. I maneuvered over to the last few poles, but as I made the leap onto the final one, a dart came straight at me and hit me square in the neck! I slipped and nearly fell into the mud, but somehow my body still gripped onto the pole tightly. I could feel my fingers sweating, but no matter what I just couldn't let go. I pulled off the dart and waited a bit until my head stopped spinning on its own, and vaulted myself onto the final platform. The crowd looked shocked, but rooted me on with cheers. That delay cost me a fraction of a second behind Ace, damn! I had to finish the final course to beat him!
Unavoidable electric jolts shocked me at the final platform. I collapsed, stunned, as the giant wooden dummy appeared and approached. I looked up at it; I'd be lying if I said I wasn't frightened at this point. "I have confidence in your abilities." I could hear a voice in my head. Rose; that's what she said last night. I couldn't give up. I couldn't let things end here or my training and friendship would all be for naught. The hulking creature neared me as I felt my body and nerves struggling. It pulled out a large blunt weapon and attempted to strike down! At the split last millisecond, my body broke free of paralysis and instinctively blocked the attack with my swords. The crowd gasped as I struggled under the weight, but I managed to slide out. The dummy tried to strike me again, but I jumped out of the way and onto its weapon, creating an opening and allowing me to run up to the head and strike it down!

The creature collapsed; I was the first and only one who completed that exam! The crowd went wild at my achievement. "Wow, what an impressive performance; give it up for Shadow!" Python also cheered, making the crowd boom louder. "And now, it's time for the second trial!"

A tournament styled match-up was the second trial, a competition of who's the strongest. I've proven to be the fastest and most resilient, so now that one last test awaited. My swords at the ready, I stepped out to greet my first opponent.

First up was a dual claw wielding ninja. He was very agile and took little effort to jump above me, but his blows were weak and easily parried. Speed alone doesn't mean anything when I can just parry him and wait out until he got tired. As a last-ditch effort, he tried to throw a shuriken at me, which I blocked effortlessly. Now out of juice, my opponent could only feebly parry, which too proved futile when I shattered his claws with a single strike. Left completely defenseless, the ninja immediately surrendered. How shameful.

Next was a chubby dual cleaver, giving off an evil butcher-like persona, shouting things like "I cut your head!" From my observations, he had a lot of upper body strength despite his chubby appearance, but very little speed and frequently called out which part of my body he was going to strike. I had to play it safe, otherwise he could easily cut me open! My opponent started with a high attack, but I ducked and sweeped his legs. But that didn't stop him from rolling back onto his feet and making a low slash. I jumped over him while slashing his behind, causing him to stumble again. As I turned around, one of my opponent's cleavers were thrown at me; I couldn't dodge in time, causing a grazing wound on my shoulder. I cried out as it rapidly bled. Back on his feet, the butcher quickly retrieved his blade and stood above me and attacked with a downward swing. Rolling out of the way or using my hands would just prolong the fight, so I had to use a different tactic. My legs kicked out, blocking his arms with my feet! With my free sword arms, I repeatedly jabbed his knees until he fell and collapsed. I got back up, kicked his cleavers out of the way, and held my swords above his neck. He quickly surrendered and begged for me not to butcher him, giving me another win. I quickly bandaged my wound before returning to the battlefield.

The remaining fights were unimpressive, mostly consisting of single weapon wielders. "At last, we finally fight face-to-face, Shadow!" my last opponent, unsurprisingly, was Ace. He had his massive two-handed sword ready, and I gripped my two swords tighter. "It's now time for the final battle, Shadow vs Ace! Fighting for their great goddess Ilias! Who goes home victorious?!"
Ace didn't hesitate for a preemptive strike. He was quick on his feet and dashed toward me, making a downward slash. I thought the attack would be slow, but it turned out the weapon seemed lightweight to him; the attack was so fast that I had to parry! The weight of the blow was so massive that it pushed me onto my knees, but Ace wasn't done. To my surprise, his weapon had a secret; the top of the weapon had a handle that detached itself into a smaller, dagger-like blade! He took no time in taking advantage of the opening and stabbed me square in the chest. I screamed in pain from the attack, but Ace wasn't done; he quickly made a wide slash with his giant blade that sent me tumbling!
"Dammit..." I panted as I got back on my feet, dusting myself off. He completely caught me off guard, twice. Parrying wouldn't work; I'd be easily overpowered if I did. "Concealed Blade!" I charged at him full speed, but he simply smirked and readied his stance as if he was expecting it. "Ultimatum!" With his giant weapon held high, he made a powerful upward slash, striking down against my blades and instantly shattering them, the force of the impact causing me to tumble once again! "C-crap..." my body felt weak and ragged from all that impact; I had difficulty getting up now. "Hah! You may have beaten me on that first exam, but not this time!" Ace laughed as he approached me. I resisted trance and paralysis, but the pain seemed a bit too much this time. I could feel my myself falter more the closer Ace got, and the voices cheering for Ace didn't help me either.
"No..." I heard a voice ring in my head. "No..." That voice was unmistakable: R-Rose?! "You've already gotten this far. Are you going to throw it all away? If you lose here, everything we've accomplished will be forever lost." Those words kept ringing in my head; she was right. I couldn't lose here, not now not ever! I struggled to get back on my feet, but wobbly knees wouldn't stop me. The crowd gasped, and Ace was taken aback a bit as I finally managed to stand. "Oh? You've still got a bit of fight left. No matter, you're still going down!" With my two temporary blades broken, I now had to resort to my trump card; I reached for the weapon behind my back and readied myself.
Ace once again charged at me with a strike, but I retaliated with a downward slash of my new weapon, cutting off its cloth and hitting both of my opponent's knees, then spun once more to hit close to his eyes, creating a scar. Everyone was shocked to discover my hidden swords; Rose had fused their pommels permanently together, forming a long staff-like weapon with two blades on its end. There were very few staff wielders, but the armory completely lacked a weapon like this. Though this was my very first time wielding it, I had confidence that my training would not go unrewarded. "You bastard!" Ace screamed as he recovered from the attack and struck again, but I dodged to his side and struck. This time he quickly parried with his dagger, so I had to quickly move back. "DAMN YOU!" Ace was now pissed and went all berserker-frenzy.
"HELL WIND!" he roared as he rapidly spun numerous times in an attempt to slash me. I retaliated with my own spin, "Blink Dagger", clashing and creating an offset! After the attack, Ace was left completely dizzy. "WHERE'D YOU GO?!" I was right behind him now and executed a Concealed Blade to his rear, making a direct hit. This only caused him to roar more angrily, but I could see that his eyes were reddening with blood and he was tiring. "TERMINATE!" Ace angrily slammed his sword on the ground, creating a large shockwave. I jumped out of the way, but Ace was far from finished; he attempted to rush toward me with a stab. "GOT YOU!" But I narrowly moved out of the way as Ace actually stabbed the thin air right beside my hip. He pulled out the dagger blade and stabbed where my shoulder would have been, which fell to the ground harmlessly, as his main blade created a large upper slash; if that really hit me and cut me internally I'd be dead. "I DID IT! I KILLED SHADOW!" Ace roared, obviously oblivious to what had actually happened. I kicked his hand to knock his weapon out of his hand before unleashing a new attack: "Shadow Strike". This was a focused wide slash attacking with both blades simultaneously, inflicting very high damage. This knocked Ace down on the ground for good, leaving me finally victorious! No matter what, I didn't give up, despite the odds!

"Finally, after an epic battle, we have come to a concluding end! Shadow is our grand winner and our grand addition to Ilias Kreuz!" the crowd cheered as I finally passed their expectations. I was left speechless, and slightly peeved; they take this many years to make us into their "perfect" hunters? "And now, we have a big surprise for you!" I was led by Python back to the center stage; there was something on the center covered in cloth. A trophy, or was it much more grand?

Chapter 7: Truth

Python pulled off the cloth, revealing the last thing I never wanted to see: a tied up monster. This wasn't just any monster, it was the very one I've known and befriended all my years: Rose! I never expected Ilias Kreuz to capture her behind my back, and I just saw her yesterday! "You know our mission," Python began. "And you've proven you're capable of Ilias Kreuz. You know what to do now with this wretched monster." It wasn't just a "trophy", it was a final rite of initiation to prove my worth as a member of Ilias Kreuz; speed, endurance, strength, and now intent!

I looked down at my 'prey', who ironically was my best friend and the one who helped me become strong. She looked back at me with a scared look. That same look from three years ago, when we first met... And now the past has come back to haunt me. I never wanted this to happen again; it's all my fault she's in this mess. Why did I pick up a sword? At first it was Ilias Kreuz telling me to, but after I met and unintentionally frightened Rose, I never wanted to see her scared or afraid again; I had to help her somehow. But now it's happened again. I could feel my mind and body shiver as my nightmare came back. What do I do...? How do I end it...? I looked at Rose blankly for a bit, who hung her head down. I closed my eyes and made my choice.

I gripped my blade staff handle tightly and raised it high above her head. Every Ilias Kreuz member looked in expectation as I moved in to strike Rose! However, I suddenly stopped inches from her neck and moved in to stab Python with my rear blade, but she quickly blocked it with her own long curved sword, shocking everyone but her. "Muhehehe... So you're true colors have shown." Instead of getting angry like I assumed, she was instead smirking and laughing. "I hoped you wouldn't have gone that way, but I knew you would have taken that path, that you would betray us after all we did for you." I growled at her; she always knew I was friends with Rose? "You never helped me at all! You just sat on your ass drinking your crappy beer and swiss cheese! This monster helped me more than any of Ilias Kreuz; you were the last person I could ever go to help to!" But Python laughed it off and engaged a stance. "Stupid words from a stupid boy. And stupid boys deserve their punishment of death!"

I quickly cut off the ropes tying up Rose. "Thanks!" she said. "No problem. Let's show this bastard the blossoming of our friendship!" I replied. I couldn't send her away; I knew she wouldn't take 'no' for an answer, besides neither of us alone could take down this madwoman, especially since she's leading the Ilias Kreuz Noah division. "Serpent Strike!" shouted Python as her blade suddenly shot straight as us at an intense speed speed, prompting us to dodge, however that blade suddenly split into two and went both directions we dodged to, and impaled our chests. Her blade reeled back as we winced in pain.
We both got back on our feet and regrouped as an two Ilias Kreuz soldiers joined up with Python, but she kicked them in their groins. "Don't interfere you noobs!" She was slightly distracted, giving us the chance to attack. "Petal Dance - Concealed Blade!" Rose stood behind me and blasted me with a heavy force of wind as I used my speed skill, sending my spiraling forward towards Python at lightning fast speed; she was too late to block as she was distracted and I cut her cleavage, creating a large 'X' scar on it. I quickly regrouped after the successful attack.
"F**k! My boobs!" she cried out. That attack did something, but not enough. "I'm done playing games! Devil's Fang!" hissed Python as she charged her sword and unleashed seven powerful waves of energy in the form of snakes, soaring through the air so fast that neither of us had time to dodge. "Nature's Guardian." Rose stood in front of me and tried to deflect the blasts with her own shockwave, but it was futile as Python's energy waves were unaffected and landed directly on us, sending us soaring through the air and causing us to land in a 69 position. That attack left us both weakened, but I tried to keep fighting, moving Rose's body aside for me to get up.
"You're pathetic! I should have killed you earlier! You should have stayed dead, along with that rest of that wretched town!" Her words shocked me as a mental image formed in my head: a figure killing other figures, a fire crackling, and the sound of screams of people dying. I quickly connected the dots along with what Python said: she caused the murder of the people I never knew in a town I never knew other than my birthplace... "You... You instigated my life! I hate you!!" I screeched at her and charged, but suddenly I felt an intense pain in my body that caused me to collapse and spasm. "Hahaha! Looks like the poison's taking in full effect! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!" I felt myself weakening and my body shutting off; I reached out for Rose, but the poison got to us. "I'm sorry..." My eyes felt heavy and I couldn't stop them from closing... Was this the end for me and her...?

"Ugh..." I felt my body coming back from unconsciousness; I was still alive? I felt something cold beneath me. I finally opened my eyes and looked around; Ilias Kreuz and snow... they took me to Yamatai Mountains. I looked around and saw Rose; I was glad she's okay, but I felt Ilias Kreuz had something sinister in store for me. "Get up, you fool." Python saw me recover and picked me up, then forced my blade into my hand and gripped my sword arm very tightly, forcefully holding my weapons close to Rose's neck. "Kill this monster and we'll spare you, or suffer the punishment!" ... No matter what I couldn't kill my best friend, not if it meant being rewarded.

"No... I'm sorry Rose." I shut my eyes, knowing what was coming. "YOU BASTARDS! DIE, DIE, DIE!" I felt Python's arm tighten on my arm as she moved it to force me into killing Rose. "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!" I screamed at the top of my lungs. Suddenly the force of 'my' attack stopped. "What the- I can't move! Gahh!!" Python reacted as if my body forcefully stopped like a statue, then let go of me as if my arm was on fire. "I'm not going to kill my friend! You say she's a 'monster'? I say YOU'RE the monsters!! I say YOU should be the ones to die!!!" I screamed again and gripped my blades tighter before cutting off Rose's ropes again and angrily charged at the shocked Python and even more shocked Ilias Kreuz goons. I immediately felt my consciousness black out at that moment, but I before that happened, I felt something... blood... silence... darkness... Something wicked and demonic...

"Nngh..." I can feel my eye muscles opening again. Everything was white around me; did I die, did I fail to protect the one dearest to me? "Shadow...?" A familiar voice rang again. Rose appeared in front of me and hugged me tightly, tears in her eyes. "Thank you..." I nodded. "You're welcome... During that incident between you and Ilias Kreuz, I realized how dear you are to me. I couldn't kill you, no matter how hard I tried. I now know my true purpose in this world: to defend the innocent creatures being oppressed on by the evil forces at work. I'll do everything in my power to protect the people I treasure." I finished. Rose leaned in to kiss me on the lips; I kissed her back. "I see... She was right about you. You've finally beginning to understand." 'She'? Understand what? Before she continued, she waved her hand over my eyes.

I looked around in confusion after her hand passed over. I was now in some kind of feudal Japanese house, with Rose sitting right next to me. She smiled and hugged me tightly. "Welcome back, Shadow. After a whole year, you're finally back." I was taken a back; a whole year? I was in a coma for a whole year?! What happened during then, and what happened during Ilias Kreuz? I suddenly noticed my swords right next to us and was surprised to have taken on a completely new appearance: their blades took on a demonic-like appearance, with bat wings and a demon's eye on the guard, but the most unique aesthetic was that they were glowing black. I looked at my own clothes and found out that they were completely replaced with dark blue and lightweight clothing, along with a blue feather ornament and silver horn-like object attached to the left side of my face. This left me with many more questions, but Rose put her finger over my lips as she began recalling what happened:

Immediately after I screamed "NOOO!", a dark aura manifested itself around me. It didn't give off a sinister nor evil feeling, rather there was a heavy murderous intent. That aura then extended itself to my clothes and my weapon, transforming them into their current appearances. Everyone around me, Ilias Kreuz and Rose herself included, were shocked at my transformation. But my body didn't hesitate; as if acting on its own will, I immediately dashed to all of the Ilias Kreuz soldiers, save for Python, in the blink of an eye, instantly killing them with Blink Dagger.
"What the hell?! Serpent Strike!" Python cried out and tried to use her elongated blade, but my body instantly turned invisible, surprising Python when I was nowhere to be seen. "Where are you, you bastard?!" My body appeared a distance behind her; she immediately turned around and attempted to attack. "There you are! Serpent Stri--!" Instead of allowing her to attack, I cut her off by stabbing my sword into the ground, erecting the blade under Python's foot, piercing it, causing her to grab her foot and jump up and down in pain..
"Grr, f**k you! Devil's Fang!" hissed Python as she unleashed her seven energy dart snakes. My sword arm was raised and began to vertically spin my weapon so fast that it could barely be seen. The darkness on my blades suddenly tripled in length and continued to spin, slashing down the snow beneath me and destroyed all seven of her wave attacks! "What the f**k?! My ultimate skill completely destroyed by that measly attack?!" Python reared back in shock; I once again didn't hesitate to slash her chest twice with my elongated dark blades, which then dispersed afterwards. The impact of my next attack, Concealed Blade, blasted her some distance and she landed hard into the snow.
Python started to cough up blood and the injuries I caused continued to pour blood out rapidly. "Please... *cough cough* No more... *cough*" she whined as she managed to get on all fours. Pathetic, one of the commanders of Ilias Kreuz, surrendering! I continued to fail to hesitate and instantly teleported behind her with thick black smoke appearing on my starting and ending locations as I did so, and slashed her back twice, causing her more pain as she fell forward. My free arm grabbed her hair from behind and held her up as a power of darkness flooded into my sword arm before I widely slashed the face of her Ilias tattoo, splitting her into half! My prey could only let out soft gasps that were muffled by blood as her lower body dropped to the ground. I eventually released her and dropped her top half to the ground, a huge pool of blood gushing out from her bisected body and into the red snow. She wasn't moving anymore. She was dead, lifeless; I had killed the leader of the Ilias Kreuz Noah division.
My body then turned to the last and only witness to the catastrophe: Rose, who only gave off a shocked expression. I walked over to her slowly; she wasn't afraid, she could only stare blankly. My free arm reached toward her cheek and gently caress it as my body collapsed onto her, finally worn out from the battle and my internal darkness.

"Death... Is what I caused? Like a Demon's Curse... struggling to break free from its chains...?" I could only stare at awe at Rose's story. Not only did I unconsciously kill Ilias Kreuz loyalists with minimal effort, I had a recently awakened power lying dormant within me empowered my current abilities. Normally it would be unbelievable, but I immediately believed her as the evidence proved otherwise. This answered a few things, but presented a new question: "What is this inner darkness within me?"

As I was pondering on that question, the door suddenly slid open, revealing another monster who was cute as Rose. She wore a kimono, had a Japanese fan, had long orange-yellowish hair, and had distinguishing monster features of pointed ears and nine tremendously fluffy tails; a Kitsune. "Well well," she smiled at me with a giggle. "You've finally awoken. Fufufu~ You're cute~" The kitsune approached me while giggling and skipping in a rather cute manner, but I knew she meant serious business; I remembered that the most distinguishing feature of a Kitsune is that the number of tails signified their power, not only that I could somehow sense a ridiculously powerful, chilling aura. "Mistress Tamamo." Rose got up and bowed before the nine-tailed Kitsune with utmost respect. "Tamamo?" I asked. I recalled the Monsterpedia not mentioning anything an important figure named 'Tamamo'. "Yep, that's me~!" the Kitsune giggled again; I could tell she had an extremely playful demeanor.
The nine-tailed Kitsune then picked up the Monsterpedia, placed her hand on the cover, and closed her emerald eyes. I could feel a very faint power coming off her hand, as if she was channeling magic into the book. After opening her eyes again, she flipped open a page and presented it to me: an entry... about Tamamo! It said she was one of Four Heavenly Knights, the strongest monsters in the world before the Monster Lord, and is the most powerful animal-type monster of all, serving as the leader of the entire Kitsune race. This left me at awe; I could tell she was the queen of the Kitsunes and that she was very powerful despite her childish facade, but being nearly strong as the Monster Lord was quite the shocker! But wait, if that book had sealed up contents and obviously had some relation to her, was she the one who sealed it in the first place? Did she actually plant that book in Ilias Kreuz's base for me to find? And why would a Heavenly Knight be interested in me?
"I know what you're thinking." Tamamo said as she sat down on my lap, hugged me, and petted my head. She felt very soft and fluffy, but that wasn't important. "Yes, I did play a role in all of this. Your power..." she continued, rubbing her hand over my chest in an almost-seductive manner as if to feel my heartbeat. "That darkness stirring in you feels like from an ancient and powerful monster. The power within you is too strong to be left unchecked. I'll explain in more detail, including everything about you up until now. This is a long story; are you prepared?" I nodded. Finally, I would get to know the truth, the REAL truth of my life.

"Where to begin? Let's start with your birth. You were born in a small village at the northernmost point of the Noah region, a place where humans and monsters lived peacefully, like in the region's kingdom, Grand Noah. I immediately detected your darkness's faint presence and immediately went to investigate, but by the time I got there it was too late: the town was already under attack by Ilias Kreuz forces. I highly doubt they knew of that hidden presence within you, so your birth happening just right before they attacked is most likely a sheer coincidence. Anyway, I couldn't just storm them right away; if I did it would not only give the Heavenly Knights an even worse image, but it would also provoke them."
Tamamo then turned over to Rose, who began to speak continue the story. "The appearance of a Heavenly Knight before a terrorist organization would be too risky. As a result, a simple aide like me was sent to watch over you. Mistress Tamamo had it all planned out; she knew your darkness would react and slowly awaken over time, so she instructed me to give that awakening a push. It seemed to have taught you a life lesson, too, about your emotions toward me specifically, and for some reason seems to make you quite resistant to sexual pleasure." Rose finished. Everything they say keeps leaving me in shock...
"After that power awakened and made you commit murder like a true assassin, I arrived. The Ilias Kreuz were already dead, and I took you both back to Yamatai Village. With this Ilias Kreuz division completely leaderless, I sent my Kitsune force coupled with Grand Noah's force after them and dispatch them. Grand Noah was left in charge of the aftermath, and jailed the terrorist forces for their crimes. What happens to them afterward I wouldn't know. That power within you can never stay hidden forever; it would get out one way or another, and the Monster Lord would hate it if humans were to discover that and use it for their own nefarious deeds." Tamamo wrapped up the story. "Now I've answered all your questions, haven't I? There's one more question though... that can only be answered by you."

"What will I do now?" I looked up at Tamamo, then Rose. Ilias Kreuz was the first group I've known, but they've done nothing but try to force my hand. These two monsters saved my life and are giving me my free will; Ilias Kreuz was wrong, monster's aren't evil, rather they're compassionate beings who look after others. "The answer's obvious, isn't it? I'm eternally grateful to you both, since you folks held my hand all the way through. I have nowhere to go, and my power isn't yet fully tamed. I can count on you both to continue looking after me and holding my hand; it's such a pleasant feeling. One day, I'll get strong to protect you both... Thank you..." I replied. The two monsters smiled and hugged me, smothering their small chest and soft bodies against my face. "You're very welcome. We'll help you harness your darkness, but right now I have other matters. Please get some more rest." Tamamo said as she got up and left the room.

"Thank you, Shadow." Rose said as she laid her head on my chest. We both cuddled as we stared into the ceiling, smiling.

Chapter 8: "Mighty Assassin"

"*Yawn*..." I took another day of rest as Tamamo instructed. I stretched my arms and yawned loudly; I felt much better now and felt that I could get out of bed and do whatever. I decided to get up and explore the village I was welcomed into. I grabbed my weapons, but shortly after I picked them up, they emitted a faint glow before vanishing into thin air! I panicked a bit and searched for them for five minutes before eventually giving up; I'd come back for them later.

Outside of the house I exited led me to a small shrine area, with a young white two-tailed Kitsune sitting before a rather large group of humans. The humans kept clapping their hands twice and bowing and presenting tofu to her, saying "Oh! Mighty Fox! Have some thin fried tofu!" It's as if they worshipped her as a goddess, just like how Ilias Kreuz worships Ilias; quite the interesting custom. I quietly approached the group; the humans suddenly noticed me and began clapping their hands and bowing before me just like they did with the Kitsune, who simply looked up at me while happily munching her food. "Oh! Mighty Human Monster!" they chanted. Err, 'Human Monster'? Tamamo did say I possessed a monster's power... but that sounded very weird to me. "Uh... Technically I'm an assassin..." I corrected them. "Oh! Forgive us, Mighty Assassin! Here, have some thin fried tofu! Please enjoy your stay at Yamatai Village!" ... Okay... Weird, but whatever. I sat down next to the Kitsune and accepted their food. "Um... Thank you for the generous offer...?" I replied, quietly eating the tofu given to me. The Kitsune looked at me and I shared her some of my tofu. "Mmn, thank you Mighty Assassin! If you're looking for Mistress Tamamo, she went out for a bit. Perhaps you can explore until she gets back."

I thank the two-tailed Kitsune as I got up and walked around. The streets were bustling with monsters and their human worshippers. "Oh! Mighty Assassin! Have some food!" Villagers approached me and respected me like they did with the monsters; I couldn't turn their offer down. I asked where the village chief was, and was directed to his house. "Oh! Mighty Assassin! Welcome to Yamatai Village! Mighty Fox has requested we make your stay comfortable." I knew it; Tamamo always has a hand in things. Weird welcoming, but with good intentions. "Thank you, Mighty Chief." Calling them 'mighty' still felt odd to me, but I figured I would have to get used to it eventually. The chief told me that the humans in Yamatai always treat the monsters with utmost respect and suggested that I pay a visit to them, handing me a dish of fried fish and a ball of yarn to give to the Cat Shrine and rice ball, onigiri, and soba to the Snake Shrine. I thanked the chief again before heading out.

I first went to the Snake Shrine where I was greeted by an albino lamia. "Oh! Mighty Snake! The village chief asked me to give this to you!" I imitated the human villager's actions. "Oh my, thank you. I am Shirohebi, and you must be Shadow, the 'Mighty Assassin' under Mistress Tamamo's wing. Good to see that you're doing well after one whole year coma. I have high hopes for your future." She was very polite, so I thanked her for her kindness. "You monsters are very friendly." I commented. She began to explain that the village only allowed friendly people due to its history of violent humans forcing monsters out to the area's mountains, which in turn caused the monsters to attack human travelers. I shivered a bit when she explained that her elder sister was also forced out; I felt bad and didn't want to inquire painful memories like that, so I quietly left.

I next went to the Cat Shrine, where a furry cat humanoid, a Nekomata, was laying down basking in the sunlight. "Nya?" When I approached, she noticed me and crawled up to me curiously. "Oh! Mighty Cat! Have some dried fish!" I held out the fish to her and she sniffed it. Her eyes seemed to light up as she then ate the fish out of my hand. "Nya nya!" After finishing the fish, the cat pushed something towards me: a bell. "Nya!" A gift? I picked it up and felt a power surge flow into my body. "Mmn...? I... can feel myself getting a little stronger. T-thank you." As I wrapped the bell's strap onto my left wrist, the Nekomata gently nuzzled her face into my leg, purring with yarn in her mouth. I took the yarn and waved it around, causing the cat to paw at the string and chase it around. "Good Kitty~" After a few minutes of playing, she eventually glomped me and held me down, nuzzling against my face and licking it. I petted her and cuddled her for a bit as she purred loudly, content with being with me. "Nya~"

"...-dow... Sha-... Shadow wake up... Wake up!" I could feel something bop on my head. "Ehh?!" I looked around and saw the Nekomata laying on top of me, just waking up and quietly mewing. I looked around some more and saw the two-tailed Kitsune from this morning poking my forehead. "Wake up, sleepy head!" Eh? I looked around again and saw sunset; jeez just when and how long was I asleep? "Mistress Tamamo's looking for you!" Oh crap, when did she get back? I quickly put the Nekomata off me, and clap my hands and bow in apology. "Nya~ Nya~"

I picked up some thin fried tofu from a human worshipper before following the two-tailed Kitsune to the Fox Shrine. There, Tamamo, along with a seven and eight tailed Kitsune. The seven tailed one had a gold color scheme and had a mostly beast-like appearance, with the human parts her upper half. The eight was colored reddish and somewhat resembled more of Tamamo and the two-tailed Kitsune, albeit with a fox-like face and large fox paws. I immediately clapped my hands twice and bowed before her while presenting an offering of thin fried tofu, saying "Oh! Mistress Tamamo! Er, I mean Mighty Fox! Please excuse my tardiness and help yourself to tofu!" The Kitsunes quickly helped themselves and happily ate the tofu I offered. "Thank you for your offering, Mighty Assassin. I see you've gotten well acquainted with this village." Tamamo replied, still happily munching her food.

The seven and eight-tailed Kitsune bodyguards quickly finished their helpings before approaching me and sniffing me. "So, you're Mistress Tamamo's human underling, Shadow?" the eight-tailed began. "I am called Yao, and this is Nanabi. We're the strongest members of the Kitsune, besides our Mistress of course." So they're her two right hands. It must be impressive to reach that kind of power level. "Fufufu, I can see that small dark power lying within you. You'd better not disappoint us..." Nanabi continued after Yao, lightly caressing her seven tails around my body. "You seem like a fun guy, won't you 'play' with us?" the Kitsunes laughed joking, causing me to shiver slightly, but I stood my ground.

"Are you enjoying yourself, Shadow?" Tamamo piped in, having finished her meal. "Good, because you'll be friends forever with all of us! We hope to make you happy~" the nine-tailed said, giggling as ever. I nodded and once again thanked her for her kindness. "By the way... where were you this morning?" I asked. "Oh? I was handling stuff at the Monster Lord's Castle." Tamamo replied. "I see..." Did she report me to the Monster Lord and the other Heavenly Knights or something? I could only ponder as to what they all thought of me. Tamamo gently patted my head and led me to the room I was resting in for a year, then tucked me into bed. "Anyway, you've had a long day today. I advise more rest; tomorrow I'll help you hone your inner darkness. Good night~"

Chapter 9: Inner Darkness

"Hahaha! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!" That laugh... that one evil laugh from that one evil snake lady. Even though she was dead, I couldn't get it out of my head. I was standing in an empty space of light before Python materialized in front of me. "You're dead! Go away!" I shouted. This is all a dream, but why does she still haunt me? "Are you still going to help those stupid monsters?" She asked. I quietly bit my lip. "TOO SLOW!" Python hissed and suddenly stabbed me; I couldn't dodge in time. Her blade stuck out from my body, just like how I killed her. I coughed up blood as she pulled out her blade, leaving me on the ground as blood pooled out from under me. "You pathetic idiot! You should have stayed loyal to our Goddess! What a sad sorry piece of trash!"

"AHHHHHHH!!" I screamed at the top of my lungs, breathing heavily. I quickly observed the room and my body and noticed nothing out of the ordinary; I really was having a bad nightmare. I found myself curling up and shaking as the door suddenly slid open. "Shadow?!" It was Rose, who saw me in my panic state. She immediately went up to me and hugged me in an attempt to calm me down. "Shh, it's okay... It's just a bad dream." Tamamo and the other Kitsunes shortly burst in, and after seeing the situation, they all hugged me. I let out a sigh of relief and look up to the monsters. "I'm okay, thank you. I don't want to be a burden, so let's get going."

After failing to search for my swords again. Tamamo led me a short distance outside of the village; a lake and a grassland, just like my training days in Ilias Kreuz. "One way or another, you will have to do something about those nightmares. Are you ready?" Tamamo said, spectating me. "I'm ready!" I shouted full of confidence, drawing my right arm behind me as I engaged a stance. Suddenly my dark blade staff materialized itself onto my hand! I jumped a bit before examining the weapon. "Woah, that was totally unexpected..." I told myself, noting that it materialized when I had that fighting spirit. I quickly concluded that the weapon was now a part of my inner darkness, an extension of myself that I could call on at my own will. But I knew it would take me time to grasp and control.

"You're quite full of surprises~ A blade staff user, I haven't see one in centuries~ And that stealthy technique too." Tamamo commented. 'Stealthy'? Ah, an unseen weapon coming out of nowhere, just like what I did now. "It's been a year since you've gotten fully customized with your own sword; how about we start slow and get back to your usual fighting style and abilities first?" I nodded in agreement and waved my sword, frequently spinning it around and slashing with it. Tamamo summoned a magically controlled training puppet for me to fight against while explaining its swordplay of "Cursed Sword Skills". Though I had used it thrice, twice while conscious and only for a short time, the blade staff actually was harder to use than I originally thought; the motions were a little complex and I could risk bisecting myself if I used it wrongly. I had to make every spin and every slash precise that I wouldn't end up cutting myself. It took me about three months to finally get all the motions down, including my three own assassin blade skills.

I made my usual stop in feeding and bowing before the monsters before heading back to the training field. I materialized my swords and executed Concealed Blade against the training puppet, which flinched a little as I moved back to my original spot. It retaliated with a five-hit slash, Death Sword Chaos Star as Tamamo dubbed it, using its katana, but I countered with a five-hit slash: Blink Dagger. The dummy using a lunging thrust attack, Bloody Fissure Thunder Thrust, but I blocked the feeble attack, however the puppet insisted on putting pressure. Instead, my blade staff vanished and the dummy accidentally lunged forward than intended from the slash's pressure; I evaded the attack, spun around the dummy while materializing my swords, and performed a wide slash behind. The dummy then collapsed and stopped moving, 'dead' from my Shadow Strike skill. I had finally improved most of my current skills as well as learned and mastered my fourth skill and the control of materialization process of my weapon.

"Very impressive, Mighty Assassin~" Tamamo, her Kitsune fellows, Rose, Kitty, and some humans commented while spectating my ability. Tamamo then approached me. "Your swordplay is quite astonishing and your speed is impressive. Now, we need to move on to your inner darkness and to harness it. Are you ready?" Finally! I'm so hyped up to use my inner ability that's been dormant for so long! "Kitsune like me are experts at earth magic. You imagine yourself as one with the earth itself; only by imagining you are a mountain you will then be a master of earth magic. That concept also applies to wind, water, and fire, and should also apply to your inner darkness. Focus yourself as one with your darkness, and it will guide you."

Tamamo's explanation seemed rather simple, but actually seemed harder than I thought, compared to materializing my blade. I took a deep breath and closed my eyes. I recalled the four skills Rose described: Shadow Meld, causes me to turn completely invisible; Ghost Stab, generates my blade from another location by stabbing into a surface; Black Reaper, triples the length of my blades using darkness for only a couple of attacks; and Shadow Walker; a teleporting mark that allows me to move myself or my comrades for strategic purposes. "Come on, you can do it, Mighty Assassin!" The spectators cheered me on. I tried executing a Ghost Stab and drove my blade into the ground, but on contact, nothing happened. "Dammit, work!" I shouted furiously and repeatedly stabbed the ground. Eventually the attack did work, but not the way I wanted it to; the blade came up right under my foot and struck it, causing me to jump up and down in pain, the spectators disappointed. "With all these monsters holding your stupid hand, you'll always be a weakling... Hahaha!" Gah! Why are you haunting me, you stupid voice?!

Damn, it was a lot harder than I thought, and my plaguing nightmares weren't helping at all either. Over the nine months, leaving me at 12 years old now, my darkness abilities were a huge pain and difficulty. Ghost Stab, when I didn't accidentally stab myself, hardly came close to sword length; Black Reaper didn't even grow an inch; Shadow Meld couldn't completely cloak me; and Shadow Walker was doing nothing. During the months, Tamamo and her hands left again to do business at the Monster Lord's Castle. I sighed and plopped onto my bed, exhausted. "Shadow? I'm coming in!" It was Rose. She hugged me tightly and tried to comfort me through these hard trials. "You don't learn everything instantly. You didn't learn all your sword skills in a matter of seconds, no you learned it in a span of few years. It took me a long time for me to fully develop my own magic, too, and I'm sure Mistress Tamamo or any of the Kitsune master their earth magic in one day too. You've already gotten so far, you can't let yourself down." Rose said, combing my hair. "I know you're trying to comfort me, but thanks anyway." I replied, slumping on my bed. Rose cuddled with me and slept with me through the night. She was right; it's only patience that will get me far.

The next morning, I made my typical route of feeding and worshipping as usual. Suddenly there was a loud "thump" noise coming from the entrance. I rushed out and saw a dreaded monster: eight lamia bodies all attached together with two large dinosaur-like feet. "Hiss! I am Yamata no Orochi! Give me sacrifices or this worthless town will perish!" she bellowed, using her heads to knock away a Samurai and Kunoichi Elf effortlessly. Damn! Tamamo nor her aides aren't here to help out. This monster... almost seemed to resemble Python; was that a coincidence? "Please, save us Mighty Assassin!" the humans cried, clapping their hands and bowing before me. I materialized my weapon before appearing against the mighty beast.
"Oh? A cute little human boy, standing against me with a toy sword?" Yamata laughed. "Let's have a little fun, shall we?" I quickly took the preemptive strike and shouted "Concealed Blade!", attacking her with ten slashes from my weapon. However, to my surprise, her snake heads somehow managed to nimbly avoid my attack! "Hahaha, pathetic!" Yamata taunted as her snake heads moved in to surround me from all directions. As she stuck out her tongues, I executed a "Blink Dagger" to hit five of the eight eight heads twice each. The attacks hit, causing her entire body and all eight heads to rear back in pain.
"Gah, you hit me! No more playtime, you little insect!" Yamata screamed as all her eight heads started to headbutt me in rapid succession. They were moving so fast that I barely had any time to dodge! It didn't take long for Yamata to get a lucky hit that sent me flying across the field and tumbling into a cart! I groaned in pain, paralyzed by the movement. But Yamata didn't stop there; she charged at me and all eight heads stuck their elastic tongues at me. "Nature's Shield!" another voice cried: Rose. My alraune pal appeared before me, erecting a barrier of leaves and tree roots around us, stopping the attack. "Ew! Poison ivy!" Yamata said, followed by spitting noises. "That won't hold her for long." Rose proceed to move her hands over me and generate energy into them, then pushed that energy onto me, recovering my health.
"Hahaha! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!" my vision suddenly slipped back into that empty space of light; the nightmare. "Are you still going to help those stupid monsters?" Python immediately materialized in front of me again and attempted to stab me, once again giving me zero time to think of my answer. "Yes!" I shouted and parried the attack. I felt another surge of power flowing through me, and saw my body and weapons giving off a radiating dark glow. "Yes! I'm going to help them, and neither you nor your stupid goddess can stop me!" I shouted again, managing to fling off Python's sword and stab her heart. "Gah... You... pathetic..." she winced in pain. "You're the pathetic one, you're the one whose always held me down, telling me to follow your stupid path. No, I'm not going to follow you, but my own path. AND YOU CAN'T STOP ME, SO GO AWAY DAMMIT!" the figure in front of me then seemed to vanish into a cloud of smoke, but instead turned into a snake that tried to slither away. I didn't hesitate to stab its head, which then vanished into particles of light. "I'm sick of your crap, Ilias! I don't need you to be strong! These monsters I've known are good people and always look after me until the end!" I shouted, feeling the darkness within me getting stronger and radiate more power, slowly covering the light in the space. "But you... you're nothing but lies and bull! Once we meet... I'LL KILL YOU! I'LL RID OF YOUR GOD DAMN INFLUENCE!" I roared, the light fading away completely and being covered by nothing but darkness.
My vision turned back into the real world. Rose was finished healing my concussion, but Yamata no Orochi was on her rampage, frequently smashing her head into the barrier, greatly cracking the wood. "Shadow Walker." Rose was suddenly teleported away from me in dark smoke before the barrier finally shattered. "Got you! Huh?!" I stood in front of Yamata with a glare myself; Rose stood on the sidelines after being teleported away. "What... What's that strange feeling?! What is this vibe you're giving off?!" Yamata hissed. She quickly regained her composure before restraining me with her long necks; I only smirked before teleporting out of her bind with "Shadow Walker", then struck her rear. She hissed angrily and tried to surround me, but I countered with a Black Reaper and enhanced the length of my blades; with a tripled length and in close proximity there was no way she could dodge. Each head took two more hits from my attack, causing her to rear back. I executed a Ghost Stab, a full length of my blade appearing right in front of Yamata. "This is your only warning: back off now." I told her. Yamatai no Orochi hesitated for a few seconds before turning around. "Hmph, fine! Curse you! I'll be back next year... maybe!"

I let out a deep sigh, my aura and swords vanishing. I turned back to the town, who shouted praises and thanks. "Oh! Mighty Assassin! Thank you for saving our town! Please, have some sushi!" It took me almost a year to finally learn how to properly execute my skills; with focus on my goal and my unwavering determination to defend those important to me. But still, I had long ways to go before fully perfecting my darkness...

Chapter 10: Demons of the Arena

"Nnn... Shadow...!" Rose moaned, her cute voice echoing the room. It's been a year since my darkness swordsmanship was developed; now I'm 13. In addition to continued training and servicing the village, Rose has been doing... 'stuff' to me. She said it was an order from Mistress Tamamo, so I couldn't complain and let Rose keep me bedridden. "Haah... You've gotten bigger than when we first met..." I shut my eyes and breathed heavily.

The next morning, I went fishing in a lake for the Nekomata, or "Kitty" as I called her which she didn't mind. "Nya~" Kitty appeared and gently nuzzled my arm, purring and mewling. She had two scrolls in her mouth and pushed them towards me. I took the first one from her and it said: "Grand Noah's Queen's Cup! Come one, come all, fight in our spectacular tournament!" Woah, a competition? Finally another way to hone myself. I look at the date: two days from now. I looked at the second scroll and it turned out to be a world map, including the geographical area of the Noah region. I thanked Kitty and gave her my catches of the day before asking around for details. They explained that it was a tournament held once every four years with humans and monsters competing against the top, but it didn't seem like any of them partook at all. "Mm, this is the first time you're leaving Yamatai. Are you sure you'll be safe?" Rose asked when I told her what I was planning to do. "Yes. I've survived long enough now, I'm sure I can handle a tournament. I'll be back in a few days, hopefully without severe wounds." Rose leaned in and kissed my cheek before hugging me.

It was afternoon now. With everything packed up, I left Yamatai. According to the map, I would have to take a route through the mountains, and according to the villagers the path wasn't too difficult to traverse through. I sighed in relief, but it turns out that the area was a snowy-capped mountain! "Wah...!" It left me shocking, "easy"?! Oh well, at least it wasn't snowing harshly, so I carefully trekked through the mountains for what felt like hours. It felt really cold, but I somehow managed to get through with no problems, though it's already sunset by the time I reach dry line. I continue to walk on for what felt like more hours until I finally arrived in the big city. It was an astounding place, another area where humans and monsters were living together! I was quite surprised, but I didn't have time today to sightsee; I was extremely pooped from all that walking from Yamatai to this kingdom so I went to the inn. I didn't bother renting a room, a mere waste of the small cash I have on hand, so I climbed up to the rooftop and fell asleep there, looking up at the starry night before passing out.

"Mmn, that was a good nap!" I stretched, the feeling of sleeping on concrete rooftop not bothering me one bit. I jumped down off the inn's roof and headed out towards the colosseum, a large stadium building that couldn't be missed. As I walked around, I noticed how humans and monsters coexisted peacefully, on a much larger scale than Yamatai Village; I wondered how the rest of the world fared. I went to the registration area and signed up for the Queen's Cup; the guards eyed me a bit. "He looks so young... Will he be okay?" one of them said. "Eh, he'll be fine! No one dies here, and everyone gets rewarded in the end, so it's all good man!" the other said. I stayed silent and also signed up for practice rounds, but the wait list said the next match would be in 30 minutes.

Grand Noah is a coexisting plane, with humans and monsters living together. In addition to the chatter and the two races holding hands, there were numerous shops with monsters selling various products. The only one that interested me was an Alraune's florist shop. I had never gotten a gift for Rose yet, have I? "Ah, a rose by any other name is just as sweet~ Here, you can have it; it's on the house!" the shop owner said cheerfully. I thanked her before heading back to the square; there were 15 minutes left on the waiting.
I then remembered that Tamamo mentioned that Ilias Kreuz's Noah division are being held up in the dungeon of Grand Noah. I went up to the castle, but the guard stationed outside refused me entry. A feeble attempt, since I Shadow Melded past him and went into the dungeon in my hiding state, reappearing in a shadowy corner. "F**k you! Curse you stupid monster filth! Let me out of here!" a diehard believer cursed and screamed at the guards, a Dullahan and a Cerberus, both who seemed incredibly annoyed. "Shut up! Gah, how annoying!" barked the three Cerberus's heads. I used Shadow Walker to teleport into the cage and appeared behind the Ilias Kreuz diehard believer from the shadows, grabbed from behind and held my materialized sword at his throat, the blade only visible. "Yes, shut up." I said quietly into his ear. The believer shivered as the other jailed members looked on in shock and the monsters engaging a battle stance. "Who are you?" the Dullahan asked. "It-it can't be... S-shadow... that traitor!" one of the Ilias Kreuz members shouted. "Be a good boy and behave, or suffer the consequences." I replied, kicking my hostage in the groin, causing him to collapse and be stunned as I Shadow Melded away with a seemingly sinister laugh. The two monsters opened the cage, but I was already long gone. "Stay here, I'll go look for him!" the Dullahan cried to her comrade as she ran out of the dungeon. The Cerberus looked around a bit, noticing that the Ilias Kreuz had all finally shut up.

"Shadow? It's your turn to fight." a guard called my name. I got up and headed into the arena. "Hey... doesn't he look a little too young?" the guard said to another guard. "Stop worrying so much, he'll be fine!" I ignored their gossip and continued heading in. The stadium was an impressive sight, a large battlefield just for two competitors. There were a lot of female audiences cheering; cheering that I get raped. What the hell, is this some freak show? Whatever, I drowned out their voices and waited for what came out in front of me: a Minotauros, wielding a large menacing axe. "Hoho, a young boy! Are you ready to get milked by me?" I took a deep breath and prepared to materialize my sword, but I realized that there were too many spectators; showing off my darkness here would compromise my safety. I held off my swords and engaged a neutral stance. "How about you take the first strike instead?" I offered. "Gladly!" the monster with the six-pack went in to grab me, but I dodged. "Hey, stop moving!" she shouted, chasing after me. I couldn't let her touch me or I'd be done for. "Let her hit you!" one of the spectators shouted. "Minotauros Crash!" the monster shouted while attempting to slam her axe on me, but I nimbly evaded. "HOLD STILL DAMMIT!" she shouted with repeated axe drops as if she were trying to hammer me, but I continued to evade. "CRASH! CRASH! CRASHHHHHHHHH!!" her final last crash had a lot more speed and force than before. Before the impact made its mark, I used Shadow Walker to move out of the way at the last second, the crash making a crater and a lot of dust. "Hah! ...Huh?!" the Minotauros exclaimed in surprise when she couldn't find me after the dust cleared. "Behind you!" a spectator shouted, but it was too late. With speed faster than the blink of an eye, I executed Concealed Blade and struck the tired monster from behind with my 'invisible' swords. She collapsed, causing the crowd to gasp, followed by booing seconds later. I sighed, dusted myself off, and left the arena.

"Who... the heck is this guy?!" the spectating guards commented as I passed them. "He beat that Minotauros... in a flash! He's as fast as Kyuba!" another said. "That's impossible! No one is as fast as that her!" Kyuba? That word interested me a little, but it sounded like they were exaggerating so I simply ignored them. As I walked, I noticed a noblewoman in my path. I could sense a dignified aura coming off her. She clapped, saying "That was an impressive performance." She then walked over to me and whispered into my ear: "The queen wishes to see you in person." Eh? The Grand Noah Queen herself? I was shocked; I had no idea that a royalty member would be interested in me, so I nodded and followed the noblewoman. "Ah, your majesty! Eh? Who is this?" the guard standing outside of the castle greeted us. I connected the dots: the noblewoman is actually the Grand Noah Queen herself, in disguise. "Please, this is my guest." the noblewoman said. The guard agreed and let us through, where I was led to the audience room. With her disguise off, the Queen formally introduced herself and complemented my ability before explaining a situation with the colosseum, about how it was a battlefield that turned into a sex house, and requested that I fight and win in the Queen's Cup to turn the situation around. I quietly nodded, saying that I only wanted to train myself. "Ah, my fifth attempted champion! I entrust the fate of the colosseum to you." The Queen acknowledged me and suggested that I get some shut eye before the big day tomorrow.

I sat in the waiting room until my name was called on. My first round was against... a human male. He frowned and complained that he wasn't fighting up against a monster, then threw in the tower immediately after. This annoyed me, causing me to kick him in the groin before turning around to leave. The crowd booed at both the match-up and the fact that I knee'd a perverted fool.

My next foe was against a... Kitsune! The very same two-tailed one from Yamtai. "Wawawa... Shadow? I only wanted to observe the competition." We were both surprised, but that mattered little since we both knew I could overpower her easily. She rubbed her tails on my body, but I shrugged it off and pinned her down quickly, causing her kimono to fall down slightly. I saw her little exposed body which caused me to blush a little. "You're... cute." I said, caressing her cheek. I felt something awaken in me again, and the next thing I knew my hands were fondling her body. "W-what are you doing?!" the Kitsune whimpered and moaned cutely. I don't know what I was doing, but it felt very pleasant; my hands continued rubbing and caressing her, slowly moving down to her thing between her legs. "K-Kya~!" Kitsune screamed. She suddenly fell unconscious and dazed. I then suddenly snapped back to reality and looked at her defeated body, the crowd cheering wildly. I quietly shook my hands a bit before leaving the stadium.

"What the hell did you do?!" the disguised Grand Noah Queen shouted angrily. "I-I don't know...!" I stammered a bit. I really don't know what I did to that Kitsune, I just hoped she was okay. The Queen eventually calmed down and sighed a bit. "Well, whatever, at least you're halfway through the competition..." the queen sighed again before leaving the waiting room. My name was called on shortly afterward.

My third opponent: a Centaur Girl. "Hm, you're the one who defeated that Minotauros yesterday. You may be fast, but I'm faster, so get ready!" she shouted and charged at me, attempting to ram me with brute force, but I narrowly dodged. She was fast, faster than the Minotauros, but it really seemed like she was exaggerating when comparing my speed to hers. "Hmph!" She tried to reverse ram me, but I dodged again. "Hey! Stay still!" as the Centaur continued to try to charge me. "Yeah, stay still!" the female spectators shouted in unison, cheering for the monster again. I used my strategy from the Minotauros fight: evade and wait for an opening. I lured her to one of the colosseum walls, where I expected she would blindly charge me and hit the wall. Kicking up dirt and readying herself, the Centaur Girl charged at me with an intense speed just like the Minotauros's final attack, but before she made contact I teleported out with Shadow Walker. She did just exactly as I planned and ran straight into the wall and was bounced off, causing her to daze and stumble by the impact. I reappeared in the midst of the Centaur Girl's dust cloud which faded to reveal my presence. "H-he beat that Centaur and didn't even lift a finger...!" someone from the audience shouted. The match once again belonged to me, but the crowd continued to boo my antiques.

It was finally the semi-finals, and my fourth opponent was a Dullahan, the same one monitoring the Ilias Kreuz. "Oh, a little boy. Hm, don't I know you from somewhere? Well, whatever." Her sword readied, she attempted to slash me while simultaneously striking me with her hair. I dodged her feeble attacks, but she suddenly stopped further assault. "So that's your strategy. You're going to try to evade my attacks and see an opening, but if I don't attack while keeping my guard up..." Dullahan noted, engaging a defensive stance while her eyes staring intently at me. "Shoot, I was hoping you wouldn't read me, but no matter." I moved in and attempted to hit her with a low sweep with my legs, but she jumped up. With myself exposed, she squatted onto my lap and dropped her sword down on me, but before it could make contact it was suddenly blocked by... 'nothing'! The Dullahan was slightly shocked that 'thin air' stopped her attack briefly, but suddenly her sword fell down, crashing into the ground right next to my head. As she struggled to pull out the sword, I escaped using Shadow Walker, and took the opportunity to strike on her rear. But she wasn't done; she got back on her feet and with her sword she charged me and slashed, only to be blocked by 'thin air' again and her sword driven to the ground. "What the hell?! What kind of warlock are you?!" Dullahan shouted as I slipped behind her faster than the eye can see and made an invisible slash to her back, causing her to stumble forward again. "Gah! Enough, I yield!" the Dullahan shouted, rage quitting. The audience was stupefied at the defeat of a royal guard member before resuming their booing.

What kind of opponent awaits for me at the finals, I wonder. I wondered if I had to use my darkness for the next battle. "It's time." a guard called out to me and escorted me to the colosseum battlefield. There, the Grand Noah Queen in her royal outfit began an announcement. "It's been so long since we've had a human fight with honor in our colosseum! Please, let's honor our competitor, Shadow!" However, instead of loud and rowdy cheers, there was a small "yay" and a few hand claps, as if it was forced. Me and the queen paid the minor cheers no mind. "And now, your final opponent awaits: Kyuba, our undefeated succubus champion!" the crowd went wild as the name 'Kyuba' was mentioned. I recalled hearing the guardsmen mentioning her name and implied her to be extremely fast, and if she's undefeated that means I've lost squat, but I can't give up here; I may have to use my darkness after all. As I steeled myself for what lied ahead, a figure gracefully floated down into the arena. She had large demonic wings and tail, with long purple hair and had a rather beautiful figure with a humongous chest, bigger than any other woman I've seen. She winked and blew kisses to the audience, which only caused them to cheer louder, but she gave off a windy, ridiculously powerful, and chilling aura. "It can't be...!" I muttered under my breath; that aura is on an equivalent level to Tamamo's! This woman, is she a Heavenly Knight? That explains her status as undefeated.
"At last, Shadow-boy. You've entertained me pretty well, especially with that 'show' of yours~" Kyuba giggled. I hadn't fought Tamamo yet, but the difference in level between us is insane! "How should we play~?" Kyuba asked, making various lewd suggestions, but I stood strong and unfazed. "Oh, you're the serious type then? Very well, lets play, Shadow-boy~!" Kyuba suddenly moved at an impossible speed and gave me a light punch to the chest, sending me tumbling down, then moved in to touch my pants and rubbed that spot furiously. Damn, she's way more faster than I am! I couldn't fight her in my current state, not without my trump card. "What's wrong, Shadow-boy, not going to fight back?" Kyuba taunted, sticking her tongue out. I let out a moan as she rubbed me, but quickly shrugged that off and generated my blade staff to strike her shoulder. She looked at me in surprise when I moved in to stab her, the distraction of her advancements toward my pants leaving her off guard. The crowd gasped in shock and surprise. "He... He hit her...!" someone shouted. "Who the hell is this guy?!" another shouted. My blades were now fully visible for all to see. "What kind of trickery?! That must be how he hit all his opponents!"
"Hm, not bad, what a nasty surprise attack." Kyuba commented, dusting off her mantle. "No more games!" I shouted, my voice echoing within the arena. My body began to radiate with power that could be felt by the other monsters in the arena, continuing to surprise the audience. "This guy... is he even human?! Those swords, he's some sort of demon!" Even Kyuba looked surprised, but I didn't hesitate to assault her with Concealed Blade, hitting her four times in the chest, followed by a Shadow Walker to reposition myself behind her to attack her unsuspecting rear. I then used Shadow Meld to keep myself hidden as she turned to face me, and used Blink Dagger to slash her ten times in surprise. "Kya?!" Kyuba shouted surprised as she took all the hits, but then started smirking and giggling again while dusting off her mantle before blowing me a kiss. "That power... That was quite an unexpected performance, well done~! Ah, you must be Tamamo's underling! No wonder she grew interested in you. Very well, I surrender." The crowd gasped in shock and I too was left surprised. A Heavenly Knight's giving up that easily? It's as if she wasn't even trying! I 'defeated' her, but this all seemed to go too well for her...

However, before another word could be said, something once again dropped out of the sky like a meteor. When the dust from the impact cleared, it was a green figure, a dragonkin. She was armored and had a large two-handed sword and stared at me with her golden eyes. She gave off another ridiculously powerful and chilling aura, along with a fiery atmosphere; yet another Heavenly Knight. Everyone, the audience, me, and even Kyuba, were surprised. "WHAT THE HELL?! IT'S GRANBERIA!!" a member of the audience shouted. "W-why is she here?!" the entire audience murmured at another unexpected event. "Shadow... we finally meet face to face. Tamamo's told us all much about you. The aura you radiate intrigues me. I challenge you to a duel!" Granberia said and shouted, raising her sword at me. "Aw, stealing my spotlight, Granberia?" Kyuba asked with a worried look on her face. Granberia sighed a bit with her eyes closed before speaking up, with her face reddening. "... If it bothers you so much Alma, how about we have our own 'duel' after?" Kyuba, or Alma as Granberia called her, hugged her fellow Heavenly Knight before flying off to the audience stage. "Are they... really going to duel?! Two demons clashing... for an epic battle?!"
"Now come, Shadow!" Granberia cried, calmly holding her sword. It was difficult getting a read off of her, but I knew she wouldn't pull any punches. Why that succubus gave I up don't know, but it was quite clear that Granberia's motive is to take this battle all the way through. I can't show any hesitation or fear, nor can I disappoint any of the Heavenly Knights, especially Tamamo. I rushed in at blinking speed execute my hidden Concealed Blade quickly used Shadow Meld to turn invisible before using Blink Dagger, following up with a visible Ghost Stab that sent out two blades from underneath and a four-hit triple lengthened Black Reaper, I finally appeared in front of her once more using Shadow Walker and finished off my assault with Shadow Strike. Granberia calmly took all the hits; all my attacks seemed to manage to leave small cuts that dripped out small pints of blood, but they were pretty much kitty scratches to her. "Oho~? Even though you're nowhere close to my level, your darkness sword skills are very impressive, so much they could kill a queen's royal guards. Tamamo trained you well, assassin." Granberia commented on my abilities, but I was already panting, a little exhausted from using only five of my skills, as if my own inner darkness wore down my human body.
"Lightning Sword Flash!" Granberia cried out, performing a thrusting motion. It was a lot faster than the training dummy's Bloody Fissure Thunder Thrust, almost on equal level to Kyuba's speed. That brief window allowed me to Shadow Walker out of the way, reappearing behind the dragonkin to slash her rear, but she still didn't flinch. "Hm, what an astounding dodge ability, acting as one with the shadows." Granberia commented once again. The audience's seats began filling up with monsters and human warriors who cheered for the both of us, eager to see our epic battle continue. "Very well, it's time I take this battle seriously. No more words; we shall speak with our blades!" the dragonkin said as she closed her eyes briefly. As she had done so, I could feel her fighting spirit and her flaming aura strengthen, along with a windy aura similar to Kyuba's, an earthly aura similar to Tamamo's, and one other aura that I had no idea about. The hell is with this woman and her elements?!
I gripped my sword even tighter and moved in to attack with a Concealed Blade, but despite my speed she somehow dodged my attack! The crowd, too, was surprised, but I couldn't let that shock stop me; I moved in via Shadow Meld to use an invisible Shadow Strike, but somehow Granberia dodged again! It didn't matter how fast I was, or whether I could not be seen, it's like she was somehow reading my movements and knowing where I would strike. She wasn't kidding when she said she would take this battle seriously! I stabbed the air in front of me to generate a Ghost Stab in the air in front of my opponent, but Granberia slashed the attack before they fully generated, cutting my darkness as if it was like paper! Just how many surprises does this woman have?! "There you are." Suddenly Granberia appeared right in front of me and moved in to slash my neck; I instinctively tried to block but the attack pushed my sword arm away with ease and allowed her to strike my neck, and cancel my Shadow Meld. I screamed in pain and stumbled backward a little as a large cut mark was made on my neck, dripping lots of blood, but was I lucky to survive that attack...? But Granberia didn't stop her relentless onslaught; she moved in to thrust my shoulder even more faster than before, striking my shoulder and causing me to tumble backward into a wall. I collapsed, and no longer had the strength to get back up on my feet. I felt my fighting spirit beginning to fade. Granberia walked over to me as I pitifully struggled to get up, but she didn't hesitate; her sword was suddenly lit ablaze, and she jumped up to the wall above me to smash her sword directly down into my head! I immediately passed out when the blade came into contact with me.

"Ugh... Damn, my head's throbbing." I finally regained consciousness. I looked around and discovered that I was in the infirmary. There wasn't anyone around but the two-tailed Kitsune, sitting on my lap bouncing while her kimono was loosened to expose her chest. "Ah, Shadow~! That was quite a battle, huh~?" she exclaimed, getting off my lap and patted my groin a bit before getting clothed again. I apologized for humiliating her earlier, but she replied that she didn't mind. The Grand Noah Queen then entered. "Feeling better, champion? Congratulations on winning the Queen's Cup!" the queen exclaimed. I technically did win since Kyuba surrendered and Granberia wasn't an official participant, but I refused any gifts that was offered; treasury or gold, I'm no mercenary. Though the queen had high hopes of the colosseum becoming less of a pervert show, she mentioned that Granberia did 'something' to my unconscious body with her foot, and then she and Kyuba are 'playing' together, and they've been doing it for three straight hours and are still doing it now. I simply told her to have faith in the future, which she thanked me for and wished me well in my own future before leaving.

Shortly after, Tamamo entered. "Hehe~ Did you two have fun~? Are you ready to go home now?" If you're here, you engineered something again, didn't you? Tamamo then teleported us back to my room in Yamatai Village; I plopped down on my bed as the two-tailed Kitsune left the room and Tamamo came up to me. "Man... two heavenly knights in a row. I can never catch a break." I let out a sigh; I fought two, but that leaves two more. Tamamo then proceeded to explain the truth behind the two knights I faced: Kyuba, or Alma Elma, is a succubus queen carefree like the wind with unrivaled martial arts, but frequently tends for forfeit for some reason; Granberia, the swordswoman of fire, has peerless sword skills and using all four elements to her advantage, despite her main attribute. Tamamo also explained to me briefly how Granberia dodged me: the element of water. "Still, it's very impressive for a human to stand against them. But for someone to defeat all four? That's ways off for anyone, even you."

"Shadow, do you know what Critical Ecstasy is?" Tamamo asked me. I didn't really get a good grasp on what it really was, so I shook my head. She then began to explain its concept of how men become frail and weak due to sexual pleasure. "But, you seem really resistant to it, most likely because of that inner darkness within you. In fact, you even managed to reverse that situation on that Kitsune for a moment, which no human has ever done. Simply put: If you win you get to take advantage of your opponent, but if you lose your opponent is still able to take advantage of you." Wow, this Dark Critical Ecstasy lets me reverse the situation? It's an astounding ability, one I would have to get used to and make use of in the future if I didn't want myself to be frail and weakened. Tamamo smiled as she sat on my lap to rub herself against me, leaning in to massage my shoulders. "You should really rest right now, it's been a long day for you of fighting. I'll make you feel better~!"

Chapter 11: Clean-up Duty

"Go mad with pleasure! Seven Moons!" Nanabi cried as her seven tails simultaneously shot out toward its target: me. I'm now 15, with another two years passing by my life, continuously training since my inevitable defeat against Granberia. The attacked traced me like heat-seeking missiles, prompting me to run around Nanabi in circles. The attack finally stopped as I noticed Nanabi wrapped-up in her own attack. With muffled cries as she tried to unwrap herself, I took advantage of the opening and slashed her, knocking her down. "After seven losses in a row... It's finally my turn for this..." I said, unzipping my pants and approaching Nanabi from behind as she was down on all fours. "N-no...!"

I let out a pleased sigh after finishing with Nanabi, zipping my pants back up as she drooled onto the ground. "Haa...~" I defeated one of Tamamo's hands, I'm one step closer to being a possible match for Tamamo herself. "I hope you had fun, but now I have a task for you." Mistress Tamamo appeared and placed her hand over my shoulder, teleporting us to the square of Grand Noah, where many humans and monsters of nearly the entire population were rallied up. I'd never thought I'd be back here so soon. "Let's cut to the chase. Grand Noah's spreading awareness and performing clean-up duty of lake pollution at the request of the slimes living in the Noah region. I need you to participate in clean-up and defense duty. That is all, now I must return to business." Tamamo said as she patted my head before backflipping and teleporting away. A slightly vague request but I couldn't turn down the mistress.

The group headed to the northwest, starting to clean up the lakes in a clockwise motion around the Noah region. "Yo, Shadow! You were epic during that Queen's Cup, man! You gotta tell me your secret." One of the soldiers in the clean-up crew spoke to me, but I ignored him, focusing on my duty of weaving my net to catch the trash in the lakes. Everyone, human or monster, appeared to be working hard. Just then, someone else approached me with a familiar voice and a familiar disguise. "It's a huge risk to bring everyone around, we could get attacked at any point, but we have to work to help the slimes and other monsters." It was the Grand Noah Queen, also working hard to monitor the situation and even perform clean-up herself! I was slightly shocked at her majesty doing such a duty. "It's been a while... Has the colosseum held up well?" I asked. "Hm, well yes and no. There's been a lot more actual fights than before, but the 'unfortunate' fiasco shows still keep happening. I may have to hire another warrior for the next Queen's Cup." the Queen replied with a little sigh. I told her again to have faith before resuming my duties.

There wasn't any attack on our first stop, so we moved on northward, careful not to enter the warzone of Plansect Village. I wiped the sweat off my face as the group slowly progressed through the region. However, along the way to our next destination, a large creature attacked! This creature was green and towered over many of us, with long blade-like arms pinning down the captain soldier, whose struggles were futile. It was a Mantis Girl before us. "Heehee, tons of humans to mate with!" the creature laughed in delight. I executed Concealed Blade to push her off her prey, allowing the human to regroup. "I'll handle, this! Circle around her!" I shouted orders, which were followed by the group, however Dullahan stayed behind to fight alongside me. "Huh, I'd never thought I'd see the day I'd be fighting along with a human..."

Mantis Girl tried to strike us down with her massive arms, but we moved out of the way. The monster seemed more intent on attacking me first, so I focused on evading while Dullahan continued to strike the creature's rear, cautiously avoiding Mantis Girl's attempts to kick her and smack her with her tail. I could tell her fighting style greatly improved since we've last met. The Mantis Girl then turned her attention to attack Dullahan, and in response I attacked the creature's rear at lightning speed with another Concealed Blade. Mantis Girl then returned her attention to me, creating a simple pattern. Eventually the monster became tired, and Dullahan channeled magic to restrain the enemy with her hair, allowing me to move in with Shadow Strike. The Mantis Girl shrieked by the attack before collapsing. "Mm, you've gotten stronger since we've last met." Dullahan commented as she moved in to kiss my cheek, but after making contact I pushed her down to the ground and pinned her. "Heh, you've gotten more talented as well, but that Kiss of Ecstasy won't be enough to seduce me. Now come on, we can't play around, the others are waiting for us." I replied, getting her back on her feet.

We caught up with the group and continued cleaning out the lakes and ponds throughout Noah with no other attack. I wiped the sweat off my face and let out a long sigh, looking at many wagons carrying trash bags. "Well, we've finally cleaned up everything, I hope. Good work everyone, let's go home!" the captain soldier cried. Everyone, especially the slimes in the party, were cheering in creating another step towards coexistence. As we walked back to Grand Noah from the westernmost area, I saw another lake from the distance. "Don't go toward there." the Grand Noah Queen approached me, with a serious look on her face. "That's Undine's Spring, or Taboo Spring as many call it. No one is allowed to go there, by demand of the Queen Slime, else we'd face her wrath." I nodded, but kept staring at the lake. "But... I get a strange feeling from there, as if something's calling me. I want to go investigate just a little bit. I'll be fine." I replied. No one in the group could stop me, so I went.

"Woah..." The spring, or lake as it appeared to be, had a very tranquil and serene appearance and feeling, like the one I first went to many years ago. I felt like I could relax, but I also felt a slight sense of danger. "Stay away... Don't come any closer..." a voice rung as I neared the lake. The voice boomed so darkly that it sent a chill down my spine. I was stunned as a slime girl emerged from the lake, casting down her cold dark gaze at me. She gave off a ridiculously powerful and chilling aura, the same one that Granberia and Alma Elma gave; Erubetie the fourth Heavenly Knight! "I dislike humans... Why have you trespassed on my territory? We slimes hate pollution and have preserved this lake for our brethren. If you foolishly cannot understand that, then receive this." Crap, I could tell she wasn't going to hold back; she's intent on killing me! I immediately used Shadow Walker to retreat to a safe area. "I'll melt you away... Feel the anger and sorrow of our race as you dissolve into nothing." Erubetie said as she created a massive tsunami from her body, the humongous water wall covering a gigantic radius; it even reached my evacuation point and slammed into me, knocking me flat to the ground! That attack drained me completely; I couldn't move. "You... what is with that power...? How the hell did you survive...? No matter..." Erubetie continued to generate more tsunamis as if she was going to attack in rapid succession. That attack left me crippled, I couldn't do anything but meet an inevitable death...

"Stop!" a voice cried out as a figure slipped between us, a slime girl from the clean-up crew, joined by many more! The power radiating from Erubetie ceased, but her cold dark gaze didn't fade. "... Why are you protecting this human, my brethren?" the Queen Slime asked. "This human and all of Grand Noah helped us cleanse the pollution within Noah's waters. We're sorry we didn't get your permission first, but please spare his kindness! Punish us instead!" the slime girls begged. Erubetie went silent for a bit before speaking up. "... Requesting the humans... for help? ... Traitors!" Erubetie cried out as her radiating power returned with a resummoned tsunami, acting completely irrational compared to the other heavenly knights. However, just before the third wave could slam into me and the slime girls, yet another wave of water appeared, this time forming a wall around me and the slime girls, blocking Erubetie's attack! "It can't be... No... This is your doing, Undine." Erubetie muttered as another figured appeared; she had a body resembling a mermaid but was all slime in appearance. "You're being too irrational. These slimes were trying to help with the pollution in waters. You should actually be thanking them, not killing them." the new slime girl, or Undine, said. Erubetie again fell silent before speaking up "...Well fine. I'll won't meddle with your affairs. As for you, human, you'd best not get in my way again..." she said, quietly sinking back into the water. I slumped onto my back, breathing heavily, the slime girls surrounding me along with Undine approaching. "You'll have to forgive us." Undine began. "With the waters around the world polluted and endangering the lives of the slime race, the queen's been on the edge. In fact, I was the one trying to reach out for help, wondering if we should give humans another chance, and it seems I was right. For that, you have my thanks, human." Undine said, leaning in to kiss my forehead. "I feel an unusual power flowing through you... Ah, that's right, you must be Shadow, the human with a mysterious dark power. Your existence is slowly being well known among these parts. Please handle that power with care; it's probably more difficult to master than the power of water. Anyway, as much as I'd like to personally 'reward' you for your help, I'm afraid I can't stay for very long. We'll meet again, I'm sure, but for now I hope these slime girls will take care of you after all you've done today. Farewell."

Undine said with a smile as she returned to her spring. The slime girls took me back to Grand Noah, where they convinced the innkeeper to give me the luxury rating despite my protests, and took me into the shower while "rewarding" me for my assistance. After the bath scene, they took me to lay down and sleep on a king-sized bed as they snuggled on me and held me close to them. "Thank you for helping us again! I hope one day the water all over the world will be cleansed and inhabitable for us slimes and humans, then the queen won't be angry anymore!" one of the girls exclaimed before I drifted off to sleep.

Chapter 12: First Target

After getting up and getting "rewarded" in the shower by the slime girls again, I thanked them and left the inn, wandering the streets of Grand Noah, waiting for something interesting to happen. Sure enough, interesting found me: a pigeon landed on a bulletin board next to me, with a note in its possession. I looked at the board; it was lined with lists of requests. None of them interested me, except for one: "Something's strange happening in this mansion. Ghosts, zombies, and a sorceress, these rumors keep piling up! I need someone to investigate these matters! If you do, I'll give you a nice handsome reward! - San Ilia Guard Captain"

I didn't care about the reward, I cared more about the issue at hand. I took the notice with me and asked around for where San Ilia is. The tool shop owner was nice enough to give me a map of the world and explained that San Ilia greatly worshipped the goddess Ilias, meaning that the kingdom despised monsters. I thanked her and set off, taking a carriage that took about three days to reach its destination. It was the first time I've ventured outside of Noah, but at 15 years of age I felt that I was ready to take on the world.

The kingdom of San Ilia had numerous churches and was completely filled with humans, just like back with Ilias Kreuz in Noah. The atmosphere and the memory made me a bit uncomfortable, so I quickly went to the castle. "Halt! No outsider is allowed entry!" The guards standing outside the castle ordered. I showed them the request note. "Hm, I see. Wait one moment." One of the guards went into the castle after seeing the note. A minute later, he came out with another guard; he looked a bit different but I could tell he wasn't much better than his fellows. This guard captain began examining me. "Ah, I see you've gotten my note. You look like a fine mercenary. As it says, there are many rumors about this mansion to the north of the kingdom. Some ghosts, some zombies, some sorceress or something and all that crap. I want these rumors to be silenced for good; can you do that?" I simply nodded and left, heading to get information from the kingdom before moving on; the informants I went to explained the mansion's history of a rich lady dying from a disease and how the house transformed into an execution ground and then into a graveyard, along with some men disappearing on entry while others returned while extremely frightened and scarred. With everything I needed to know, I set out for my target destination.

This "Haunted Manor" was lined with a dark mist, had numerous graves, and an occasional "ooh" sound; it could send off an ominous feeling that send chills up a normal person's spine. But I've already faced off against three of the four Heavenly Knights, and they'd be more fearful than some silly ghost or zombie. I opened the door of the mansion, leading me into the foyer. There was no one but bits of dust and rusted wood lying around. It all seemed a little too quiet, as if there was a trap, but my senses proved otherwise. "Ooh" moaned a voice. I quickly Shadow Melded and observed a lone figure entering the room: a mere zombie girl. I didn't hesitate to decapitate her in a flash, causing her body to fall onto the floor, however her arms and legs still moved around, and the creature crawled and patted the floor as if she was searching for her head. I moved into bisect the rest of her body parts, splitting them off. The zombie girl was left completely in pieces, but the body parts continued to move around for a while until coming to an abrupt halt.

"Sheesh... So the rumors are true...?" I muttered. Zombie Girls only exist through animation of their body, so this 'sorceress' is a necromancer, but I have yet to see a ghost. My train of thought was interrupted by more "ooh" sounds and the arrival of more zombie girls. They quickly met the same fate as the first one, though this time these zombies took a little more effort to bisect. I let out a sigh as the floor of the foyer was littered in zombie body parts. "Wawawa! My experiments!" another voice, this time non-zombie like, cried. In my revealed state I looked up at the top of the stairs; a young looking girl appeared in a shocked state. She had pale skin, two pointed horns, black hair with ponytails, wore a dark nurse-like outfit, and carried a small brown leather bag. The girl ran down the stairs examined the room. "My precious experiments..." she cried before facing me. "W-who the hell are you?! Frederika!" the girl cried out. A large shadow appeared behind me, a hand, and it moved into slam me down. But I quickly moved out of the way, and the hand slammed into the girl. "Ack! Hey, get off me!"

The large hand moved away and the girl got up and dusted herself off. The then stood by the figure with the humongous hand: a giant towering zombie. "What's with you? Why are you going crazy in my laboratory?!" the girl cried. "Oh I'm just on a request to take you and your 'toys' down. Say, I heard the Monster Lord didn't condone necromancy? She'll be very very pissed." I replied; this was something I've heard Tamamo say once or twice. "Hahaha? A human, declaring the orders of the Monster Lord? Don't make me laugh! My name is Chrome, and as you say I am a necromancer. You've got a lot of nerve coming here. I'll make a nuisance like you into a new experiment! Get him, Frederika!" Chrome cried as the zombie, Frederika, shambled towards me. "Understood, master." She said as she moved in to grab me, but the attack was too predictable and slow, allowing me to easily jump out of the way. Despite being a towering undead monster with infinite stamina and high vitality, she had one fatal weakness: slow speed. I moved far too fast for the giant zombie to catch. "What the hell?! Why can't you get him?!" Chrome shouted angrily.
Unfortunately her endurance was rather high, though as to be expected for a powerful zombie. I felt myself panting a little bit, and that small distraction allowed Frederika to land a hit. "Crap...!" I shouted as the attack knocked me down on the floor. Frederika quickly took advantage of the opening and held me down, her waist above my body. "Hahaha! Congratulations, you'll be the first man for Frederika! Now, use your killing move!" Chrome shouted. Frederika quickly dropped her waist down, but I used Shadow Walker to teleport out and evade that 'killer move'. "Hahaha... Huh?! Where did he go?!" I appeared from the ceiling, but it didn't take long for my enemies to notice. "Huff..." I panted a bit as Frederika's hand moved to grab me, but I evaded while roll slashing across her entire arm, leaving huge injury marks that caused the zombie to recoil back. "W-what the?!" Chrome cried out in shock. Frederika's attack didn't stop, but my attacks grew fiercer as I messed up her other arm really bad in the same way, and continued to do that to her body and legs. Eventually, the zombie was laying on all fours as if she was exhausted. "What did you do?! Get up, Frederika!" Chrome cried out again, but it was futile. "Exploit Weakness..." I muttered quietly, pausing a little bit. "I've met other higher endurance opponents where my slashes were nearly futile. What better way to deal with that other than striking their weak points? And now, Shadow Strike!" I proceeded to bisect the downed Frederika with darkness empowered slashes in rapid succession, cutting off all her body parts and leaving her in pieces along the floor.

"Wawawa!" Chrome cried out at the loss of her masterpiece zombie. The floor beneath us suddenly started to crack and give away; I moved to an uncracked portion as Chrome and the zombie pieces of the girls and Frederika fell through the floor. I then jumped into the floor, landing on my feet as I saw Chrome get back on her feet. "What the hell did you do?! First you break Frederika, next you break the floor of my laboratory! She was my ultimate masterpiece!! I'll make you pay! I'm going to be your opponent!" Chrome angrily shouted as she begun radiating power, levitating in the air as she pulled out a hacksaw. "I've had enough of this." I snatched her hacksaw and threw it to the side before pushing her down to the ground. "Wawawa?! How the hell did you-?! Ow!" I flicked her nose to interrupt her ranting. "Zombies aren't your toys; it's forbidden and cruel to mess around with the dead, and isn't right. How would you like it if I defiled your body?!" I shouted as I pulled off her pants and lifted up her shirt before unzipping my own pants. "W-wha-!? AIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!"

"What a cute succubus body, too bad you devoted yourself more into necromancy and less into sexual arts." I said after I finished with Chrome. She had a pleased expression on her face and was drooling as she laid down on the ground in a complete trance. I got up, zipped my pants back up, and took a dismembered zombie girl arm as proof of Chrome's defeat. "Reflect on this; I'll let you go this time but I may not be so kind again." As I turned to leave, something caught my eye: a pink transparent figure smiling a little bit at me before fading away. "You're welcome, Frederika."

"Hm, it looks like that 'ultimate zombie' fell, and so did that necromancer." A mysterious figure examined the foyer of the mansion, the outcome of the battle between the demon assassin and ultimate zombie which left many large holes in the walls and ceiling and one giant hole on the floor. The figure jumped into the hole and examined the crypt, spotting a dismembered Frederika and a Chrome still in a trance. The figure then approached Chrome and eyed her naked body, noting her drooling and blissful face indicating that she was in pure ecstasy, but what really attracted the figure was the large white puddle left between her legs. "Looks like he roughed you up pretty well." the figure said, chuckling, bending down to scoop up the liquid in several vials. "Perfect. Although you failed to make him your guinea pig, these semen samples will do nicely. Well done, Chrome. Savor whatever is left, whenever you get your brain fixed." The figure continued chuckling, finishing collecting most of the liquid before leaving.

"Here, I took care of that mansion. It's just some necromancer." I told the guard captain, throwing the zombie girl arm at him. The guard caught the arm and stared at it before it suddenly moved to grab his pants. The guard screamed and dropped it, then pulled out his sword and stabbed the arm repeatedly, along with other guards joining in. "Aiee! Kill it! Kill it! Fine, take your reward!" the guard captain screamed as he reached into his pockets, but reacted as if he found nothing; the good sum of gold was already in my hand. "Whatever, my work's done." I muttered as I left to take a carriage back to Yamatai Village.

Once I got back home, I immediately went to my room and plopped down on the bed, exhausted from the traveling. It didn't take long for Tamamo to enter after. "Ah, welcome home. The first actual missions are always the hardest, aren't they?" Tamamo giggled as she started rubbing my shoulders. "It wasn't that bad, just a little nuisance that needed to be dealt with. By the way... I want to learn teleportation and telepathy. Eventually I'm going to have to take more long-distance missions and I need someone to give them to me directly. Are you all right with that, Mistress Tamamo?"

Chapter 13: Second Target

It's been a year since I've taken that first assassination mission, and I've yet to receive another interesting request. I've continued to resume training, this time fighting Yao. "Brace yourself! Eight Moons!" Yao cried out as all her eight tails shot out simultaneously. I moved out of the way, but unlike Nanabi, these tails shot out faster and continued to attack every time I dodged, being very relentless and giving me no opening. Even with Blink Dagger the attack still kept coming. "You can't dodge or parry forever!" Yao shouted. I slid back and executed Ghost Stab, generating a sword straight at her face. She broke her concentration and leaped back, getting a graze on her cheek in the process. I quickly followed up with a Concealed Blade and pinned her down to the ground, lifting up her skirt as I did so. "You did well, but this is my eighth win in a row now." I smirked as I moved in. "N-not my pu-- AHHHHH!!"

I wiped the sweat off my face after finishing with Yao. "Testing, one, two, three." a voice rang out in my head. It was Tamamo, telepathically speaking into my head. "Yes, is there something I can do, Mistress Tamamo?" I replied, mentally replying. "I have an extremely vital mission for you. One of my scouts reported a Scylla messenger meeting up with the leader of Lady's Village, the ruthless amoeba Cassandra that despised the previous Monster Lord's ideals. I want you to eliminate this messenger immediately; she's an ally to one of our most wanted enemies. Do not capture her; take her down by any means necessary. And don't bother dealing with Cassandra, she's too much for you right now; just focus on your task. Infiltrate, eliminate, and evacuate, got it?" Tamamo ordered. "Understood, I'll head there straight away."

I concentrated my focus and after a moment I simply vanished from Yamata Village and reappeared not very far from the Lady's village. However, when I appeared, a monster was standing in front of me, a Medusa. "Hm?" the monster turned around, but there was nothing behind her. "... Must have been my imagination." I let out a sigh of relief after Shadow Melding to avoid being spotted. I stealthily infiltrated the village while hiding in the shadows; it was filled with elegant woman, but I could sense a monstrous power flowing through each and every one of them. Up ahead was a mansion, which obviously belonged to the leader of the village. When I entered the mansion and remained hidden, the living room had two figures: one was a very refined lady wearing a red dress and light-green hair, and the other was a Scylla monster. Both of them were having tea and talking. "So, this 'Black Alice' wants me to be a part of her crew to rebel against the current Monster Lord, and I get to eat all those stupid and weak humans? Hm... What an interesting proposal..." the refined lady, Cassandra spoke.

"Hm, it looks like we have an eavesdropper..." Just as Cassandra said that, the walls of her house suddenly transformed into a sticky-like substance that brushed itself on my feet. The elegant woman's dress also transformed, revealing to be an amoeba-like creature. Both my enemies began to stare me down. "How rude... You're that human with that strange power aren't you? Well no matter; I'll teach you proper manners over dinner!" Cassandra engaged a fighting stance as the Scylla messenger went behind her. The field left me at a complete disadvantage; stopping at any point could get me stuck, so I needed to be light on my feet. I immediately went after the messenger and stabbed her heart; to her and my surprise, Cassandra didn't bother to defend the messenger. "W-what...?! *cough* W-why... didn't you... protect...?" the Scylla messenger coughed blood as she collapsed. "Hmph, the world revolves around the strong dominating the weak. You could have defended yourself, weakling. And pfft, Black Alice? She's been dead for 500 years! If she wanted to strike a deal she should have come herself! Now die!" As Cassandra idly chatted to the dying monster and dissolved her with her flesh, I attacked the surrounding wall to tear it off. "And you, trying to escape are you?" the amoeba returned her attention to me as she tried to grab me with her sticky flesh, but I narrowly dodged and continued striking down the wall. The same patterned continued for a while, but both of us knew I was getting tired. "Hah, looks like you can't keep up after all, weakling!" Cassandra taunted as I notably slowed down. Shortly after that I was panting, and my foot got stuck on the flesh of the ground, a fatal slip-up on my part.

"Are you ready, human? To be dissolved and eaten away? Hahahahahaha!" Cassandra taunted again as her core body approached me. However, just as her hand moved in, I used Shadow Walker to free myself and return to the wall and used Shadow Strike to remove the cellular blockade. A light shown through from the hole, blinding Cassandra. "What...?!" Cassandra shielded her eyes; I took advantage of this and escaped via Shadow Meld and ran out. "Grr... Dammit! How could I let my prey escape?!" I heard Cassandra's angry shouts as I escaped the village.

"Hee hee... that Shadow is something." said a giggling mysterious character standing atop of one of Gold region's mountains, observing the human fleeing from the Lady's Village. "What do you think, Beary? He'd make a fun plaything, wouldn't he?" the figure spoke to a stuffed bear, holding it so ever tightly. "It's a shame Cassandra rejected our cause. Oh well, whatever happens to her is no longer my problem. But Shadow... I'd love to play with you one day, over tea and cookies and maybe a dance too. Until then~" the figure continued to giggle before vanishing.

"*Pant Pant*" I finally managed to get a safe distance away from the town. "Mistress Tamamo? *Pant Pant* It's done, the messenger's dead." I telepathically contacted my mistress. "Excellent work. You sound very exhausted; I'm going to teleport you here, all right? Three, two, one." The area around me flashed white as I was warped back to Yamatai Village, with Tamamo waiting for me. I quickly explained to her the details of my task. "Wait, what?! Did you say 'Black Alice'?! It can't be..." Tamamo exclaimed with a concerned look on her face. "Just who is this 'Black Alice' fellow?" I asked. "Black Alice was the tyrannical eighth Monster Lord who tried to conquer the world before being stopped by the legendary Heinrich 500 years ago. There's been a rumor that one person's trying to gather allies to rebel against our monster lord under the name of 'Black Alice', and so my suspicions were correct." Tamamo let out a long sigh before perking up again. "But I'll tell you more about it later. Right now, you deserve your reward." Tamamo licked her lips, undressed herself, and pounced on me, dropping her waist down. "Hora Hora~"

Chapter 14: Doppelganger

"Good morning, Shadow." I woke up to another morning by a voice: Rose. "Ah, good morning." I replied, rubbing my eyes. "It's been a while... Since we've last been together. I understand you're busy, but..." the Alraune said, approaching me. "Ah, I've missed spending my time with you, too. It's been seven years since we've known each other, hasn't it? Okay, besides I haven't had anything better to do today." I nodded and held Rose close to me. She held me tightly and led me by the hand.

Rose took me out to one of Yamatai's mountains overlooking the village. It had a really nice view, and nearby cherry blossom trees danced around us. It felt so serene and peaceful. "We've known each other for ten years, haven't we? I remember it just like yesterday..." Rose began, leaning her head onto my chest. I've known her since I was 7 years old and now I'm 17; the time must have flied pretty fast to where I am now. "Yeah... I remember it too, how you always held my hand during my growth. Thank you for being there for me when I needed it the most." I smiled happily, leaning into kiss her lips; she kissed back. "Mistress Tamamo... I'm happy that she led me to you. Shadow, thank you for everything. I... want you..." Rose said, blushing as she laid me on my back and straddled me.

"*Huff Huff* A-amazing..." I moaned quietly. Rose was left unconscious after our ordeal, and I noticed it was sunset. I got back up, but as I prepared to pick up Rose's body, I felt something amiss. I sensed an attack aimed for me! I immediately blocked the attack, but the creature attacking me was completely unexpected. "W-what...? Who are you...?" I got a closer look at my opponent and it turned out to be... me? The creature possessed identical clothing, weaponry and aura to mine, but had a more feminine appearance. "Hmph. And here I thought you would have gone down easily and accepted your death... Oh well." the figure said, laughing in a sinister manner. "I'm just a doppelganger... or I'm simply you. The rumors are true about you, your power is extraordinary... Once I get rid of you it'll be mine forever! Hahahaha!" What... I never knew doppelganger monsters existed... I never found an entry in the Monsterpedia! What the hell kind of person is this?!

I gripped my sword tightly. Rose was still unconscious, but this clone seemed more intent on dealing with me. I never once thought I'd fight someone nearly perfectly mimicking me, so I had no idea what would happen. I rushed in to attack at blinding speed, but my doppelganger effortlessly parried the blow. "Hah, have you forgotten that I'm you? I know all your abilities and tactics!" the creature taunted as she made a wide slash, however I also parried it as well. "But if you know my skills, then I should know how to counter your attacks as well, right?" I said. The doppelganger growled as we continued to fight, our attacks continuing to offset each others. "Concealed Blade!" I cried out to quickly dash slash her. "Concealed Blade!" the doppelganger cried out as well, perfectly mimicking my attack and completely offsetting each other. "W-what...?" I was left in shock, but the doppelganger just laughed. "What a splendid killer move! It's just too bad you offset it well..."

"The power of darkness overflowing my body...! You're lucky to be born with such a power! It feels so destructive, as if I could destroy anything!" my doppelganger laughed evilly. "Blink Dagger!" I cried and rushed her down with ten rapid slashes; "Blink Dagger!" but she did the exact same thing, continuing to perfectly imitate my skills. "Black Reaper!" I took a leap back and increased the length of my blades with darkness to attack. "Black Reaper!" But, once again she used the same technique to offset. It was plain as sight that anything I did she would copy it perfectly.

Our battle continued to rage on for what seemed like hours, but our attacks continued to offset each other. "Hah... looks like you're getting tired!" my doppelganger taunted. She was right, the continued battle only seemed to sped up my demise. "But... that means you're getting tired too." I replied; if my stamina usage is high, then it should affect her too; I could see her beginning to tire. "Hmph, well then, let's see who wears out first!" I couldn't help but agree; one of us had to wear our from our repeated onslaughts. Eventually, the doppelganger's attacks pierced through my defense, hitting me square in the chest! "You've reached your limit!" my enemy laughed as I screamed in pain. I finally fell to my knees, panting; the doppelganger pushed me onto my back and stood above me. "Ah, the glorious sound of your demise~! Now die; Shadow Strike!"

I shut my eyes as the sound of a slashing noise occurred... but I felt no pain. I blinked a bit and my vision saw the one thing I never wanted to see: Rose shielding me with her body! "I... won't let you... *cough* harm my... *cough* lover..." Rose quietly said as she was stabbed square in the chest, very close to her heart! I felt a part of me die at this point. The doppelganger reared back a bit as if to observe the situation. I got up and laid Rose on the ground, panicking. "No... I never wanted this to happen...!" I cried out in agony and in tears, but Rose looked up at me and caressed my cheek, smiling. "It's... okay... *cough* I'm happy... That I could do... this... I love you... Shadow..." I still cried; an assassin isn't supposed to show his feelings but I never wanted my friends to die on me like this. I kissed her lips as she fell silent, her eyes closed and became unmoving. "HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! How cheesy! How does all the pain feel?! Makes you want to die, huh?!" the doppelganger mocked, laughing manically.

"You... monster...! You imitate me, then you kill my best friend! I won't ever forgive you!" I shouted at my clone, struggling to get back on my feet. "Oh, still got some fight in you? Well, it won't last! Concealed Blade!" the doppelganger shouted while charging at me, but as she did I felt something stirring up in me. A feeling of dark intentions: murder, and somehow a mix of joy, stoic, calmness, and anger. I gripped my sword ever so tightly than I had in my life. As the doppelganger's blade was inches away, an aura of darkness suddenly enveloped my body, the force pushing the doppelganger away!! "Ugh... W-what the hell was that...?!" the doppelganger shouted before her eyes went wide in my direction. I looked at my body, the aura of darkness so thick and visible to both of us! "Twisted... Demon...!" my lips muttered. My dark power was going berserk!

"I-I can copy that too...!" the doppelganger shouted, but nothing happened. "What?! Why can't I do it?!?" the doppelganger gave off a confused expression, but my lips smirked and my body didn't hesitate to attack. I assaulted with Concealed Blade, this time attacking with twelve hits instead of the usual four! "Argh!! How can this be?! I'm the superior one, dammit!" she scowled as she used Blink Dagger. However, my Blink Dagger went on for double the normal length, the last ten additional attacks not being offset. Being reared back, she used Black Reaper. However, I used Shadow Walker to flee to a safe location while gaining Shadow Meld's cloak. I retaliated with my own Black reaper, which had quadrupled in length instead of tripled, outreaching and hitting her, along with an additional four hits. "This isn't fair! I'm supposed to be winning!" she shouted and reeled back, but my invisible cloak did not disappear. I used Ghost Stab and struck her twice with blades from underneath, causing her to hop and grab her foot; at the same time I emerged from the Ghost Stab. She was now tired and finally on her knees in the same position I was. "Game over; Demonic Shadow Strike." I appeared next to her and slashed her with a powerful darkness flowing through my blades, hitting her square in the back. She was instantly chopped into two and her pieces fell down, dead, lifeless in a pool of blood.

The darkness around me then faded away along with my second blade staff; I fell on my knees and collapsed to the ground. I stared at Rose and tried to crawl to her. "T-thank you... and I'm sorry..." I muttered as my eyes failed me, and so did my body.

"Well well, he certainly put up a fight." chuckled a voice. Two unknown figures were standing atop a higher mountain that overlooked the fight; one was tall and slim while the other one was short and carried a stuffed bear. "Yes, he looks like a great dancer. I'm looking forward to meeting him in person one day." giggled the other figure with a very light blush. "Ah, it looks like the fox is here to clean up the mess." said the taller figure. A nine-tailed kitsune appeared on the battlefield and observed. Upon spotting the dead creature, she absorbed power into her tails and blasted it with a humongous beam, leaving no trace of its existence. She then picked up the unconscious human and alraune before teleporting them away. "A fox? Oh, I prefer rabbits, hee hee." the younger figure giggled more. The taller one closed its eyes as if in thought. "Either way... I now have more of Shadow's semen samples..." the figure said while holding out more vials of white liquid and gave one to the younger figure. "... And now I have more data of his fighting technique. It's certainly a surprise for his ability to suddenly evolve in the middle of battle. The Darkroid held out very well, despite being just a prototype. This will certainly accelerate our plans and I'm sure it'll help with 'that' project." the figure finished, laughing. "Hm... I'm not sure which of my mouths I should stick his stuff into... Oh well, I'll figure it out~ I'll see you two later~" the younger figure giggled more before the two vanished.

Chapter 15: Final Test

"Ugh... W-what happened...?" My eyes opened, my surroundings indicated I was in a room that looked identical to Yamatai, and Tamamo stood in one of the corners, along with an unconscious Rose next to me. "Ah, you're awake. At least this time you weren't unconscious for a whole year." the kitsune said as she approached me. "What happened...? Is Rose...?" I asked with a worried expression. "She's... alive... but in a coma. That attack she received was near-life threatening, but she's lucky enough to be alive. She just needs a lot of rest..." Tamamo explained. I reached in to caress her cheek and buried my face on her chest. "... I'm sorry... Thank you for helping me get this far and making me who I am... I'll fight against all our enemies... for you and Mistress Tamamo."

Tamamo then held my head close to her chest, holding onto me tightly. "Rose is so very loyal to me; her actions were never in vain, and neither are yours. She trusted you, and kept by that until the very end... She loves you so dearly, much like I do." Tamamo said, stroking my hair and kissing my forehead. "Now, I'm afraid there's far more pressing matters. That creature you fought was no ordinary monster, and no doppelganger monsters exist outside of fiction. It was... artificial." Tamamo said with a concerned expression on her face. "How...? Well... This is top-secret information that only the Heavenly Knights and the Monster Lord knows of, but I trust you. I've received reports about a strange scientist roaming the world and delivering technology to the Haunted Manor in Natalia, the Witch Hunt Village in Safina, and the Grangold Kingdom in Gold, and according to Grangold's Magic Society the woman is named Promestein. According to my sources she is also technologically capable of creating artificial creatures; that 'doppelganger' was one of her own creations, or chimera, I'm very certain of it. And... remember Black Alice...? There's another rumor that she... may be still alive after 500 years. Those stories, everyone has their own image of them, so what everyone says may not be a reality. These two are our top priority enemies now, and I have a feeling the two are working together against the Monster Lord..."

I stared at Tamamo a bit, trying to grasp her explanation. I've known her for a long time, so I knew she would ask "Do you understand?" and "What will you do?" just like when we first met. "... That doppelganger, she had almost all my powers didn't she? It's quite obvious this Promestein was trying to use my power for evil deeds. I have a feeling she'll make another doppelganger and use it against me. I know little of Black Alice, but I know that if either of them get a hold of my power, it won't end well. No, only I can use my power... and I want to use it to serve you and the Monster Lord. I won't use it to serve anyone else, not them, and especially not that puppeteer Ilias. Please, let me prove it to you that I'm worthy of being your servant, your right hand!" Tamamo looked at me curiously after making that exclamation, then smiled. "You want to prove your loyalty? I'm happy to hear that! Are you ready?" I nodded. Tamamo perked up and then led me by the hand out of the room.

I followed her into a long beautiful castle-looking hallway. It was dark and eerie, filled with monsters instead of humans. It didn't take me long to realize that I was in the Monster Lord's Castle; it was more pretty than I had imagined it to be. On the sides were monsters like an elderly powerful succubus and vampire, a legendary behemoth, and even Nanabi and Yao were present. "Tamamo's got a new slave?" someone on the sidelines asked. "I recognize that figure... It's the human with that monster power, Shadow! I saw him fight at Grand Noah's colosseum several years ago!" another exclaimed. So it seems my reputation has reached all the way here as well. As I continued to walk, I felt a light tug on my pants; I looked down to see an Imp with her hand on my clothes. "H-hey, can we play... pretty please? I'll make you feel good~ I promise~!" the Imp said. I kneeled down next to her and patted her head lightly. "I'm sorry, but Mistress Tamamo needs me right now. Perhaps we can play after, pinky promise?" I replied, and we both agreed on the pinky promise.

Eventually I was led deeper into the castle, a dark hallway. I sensed the power of three other beings: the Heavenly Knights. "Welcome, Shadow-boy! You've come a long way, haven't you~?" Alma Elma greeted me and pulled me into a hug. "It's been a while, I hope you've improved your training?" Granberia said. But Erubetie stayed dead silent, as if she was still disgusted with me. "Well, Shadow? It must be an honor to stand before all four of us. I have one more test for you before you can fully pledge loyalty to the Monster Lord; are you ready?" The answer was pretty damn obvious for all of us; I nodded in agreement. Tamamo bowed her head. "You've fought against every knight... except me. Show us how skilled you truly are, show us how much you've grown! Prove to us you're capable of being Her Majesty's servant!" Tamamo cried out, engaging a battle stance. Finally it's come down to fighting the master; I've waited for this for so long!

I immediately generated my blade staff and moved in to strike, making a wide slash on Tamamo's chest, but her body took no scratches! I managed to rough up Alma Elma and Granberia a little, but there were no scars on Tamamo's body! "I almost forgot... Kitsunes are experts in earth magic. Despite your tiny body, you're almost like a giant mountain standing in my way." I commented, and we both knew I was right of course. Tamamo then aimed a punch at me, but I narrowly dodged. The punch hit the wall, making a huge crack into it! "Holy... If I didn't dodge that I would have died!" She then tried to tackle me, but I once again moved out of the way; she landed head-first into the floor, causing it to crack and splits! When she got up, one of her tails grew and shot towards me but I ducked; it flew over my head and smashed into a column, instantly destroying it and causing part of the ceiling to fall! Tamamo continued her earth attacks by rolling towards me, but once again I narrowly moved to the side where she crashed into a wall, causing it to come crumbling down! "...Excuse me, little Tamamo? Would you please stop destroying the castle?" Alma Elma asked, and Erubetie added on "...Just who do you think is going to fix this?" Tamamo laughed and said "Why Shadow, of course! After I defeat him... But if he defeats me then I'll do it."

"Quit moving around!" Tamamo shot her tails toward me simultaneously. I dodged them but they kept moving towards me. One of my backward jumps eventually landed me onto something soft; one of her tails! I was too slow to move away, getting myself wrapped up in a vice-like grip stronger than a lamia's; it was impossible for me to get free! "Guh... Crap..." I shouted as I struggled and attacked her tail, but nothing worked! "Fufu... You have no chance of victory. Just give up or I'll make it tighter." I ignored Tamamo and continued resisting, however that only made the grip tighter. I continued struggling, but I felt my resistance getting weaker, which I knew Tamamo would notice. "Oho... are you ready to give up?" Tamamo grinned, but I could sense her... disappointment. "It's... impossible..." I whined, my struggling getting weaker and weaker. Tamamo then frowned at this. "... Just what's impossible, you idiot? You're the man that so many humans and monsters looked up to, even I trusted you. You even stood your ground against many difficult battles and even other Heavenly Knights, so how am I impossible? And that power, were you really meant to have it...? ... Think back. Just who are you? Why did you come here? Was your resolved always this easily shattered?"

I listened to Tamamo carefully as she said that. She wasn't chastising my failure, she was trying to help me. It then flashed into my mind: everything I did and everyone who helped me up until this point. "I'm... an assassin! The inheritor of a dark power! I'm here to pledge loyalty to you and prove my worth, assassinate all the evil ones who make mischief and defy the monster lord! No one is going to stop me from ruining my mission!" I shouted at the top of my lungs. I briefly saw Tamamo smile as I held my swords horizontally, generating every ounce of darkness from my inner body. "Twisted Demon!" my second blade staff was generated and I made a wide slash with both of my blades, slashing the tail binding me and cutting it off! "Ahh! My fluffy tail!" Tamamo shouted before regenerating the slashed off piece with magic. The other heavenly knights, save for the stoic Erubetie, all looked surprised what I had done. "That was really something! You sure have grown quite a lot over the years! My other attacks don't seem to work very well, so!" Tamamo exclaimed, throwing off her kimono to expose her small body; my heart needed to stay strong.

The epic battle between the Demon Assassin and the Heavenly Knight of Earth raged on. I moved in to use Concealed Blade and attacked her twelve times, and to both of our surprise, Tamamo flinched in pain! "Ouch... You finally managed to damage me. It's been so long, I've nearly forgotten what pain feels like...! Okay, now it's time for me to fight truly seriously!" Tamamo was incredibly skilled at sexual arts, using her hand, small chest, foot, tongue, and tails; truly a worthy adversary. I managed to evade some of them, but those that landed gave off a pretty strong sensation, nearly overpowering my Dark Critical Ecstasy; I was barely able to escape the trance from her face lick! She also kept trying to trick me into getting bound again, but it wouldn't work a second time. On the other hand, my offense was turning the battle to my favor, wounding Tamamo pretty heavily; we both knew her earth wouldn't allow her to dodge, so we were damaging each other pretty well. I continued to throw every skill at my disposal against her while using Shadow Meld and Shadow Walker to move around and dodge her attacks.

"*Huff Huff*... *Huff Huff*" I was on my knees, panting after surviving a direct hit from her Nine Moons attack. Tamamo was equally exhausted and on her knees as well; clearly we were both evenly matched. "Hmmhmm... I've been pushed into a corner... I'll show you my secret skill!" Tamamo panted a bit as she put her kimono back on and one of her tails shot into the ceiling, breaking it. The moonlight from above began to shine in, causing Tamamo's nine tails to shimmer with light as they spread out, beginning to charge up a deadly attack! The hell was she going to unleash that could break the castle!? "Here it comes, my ultimate attack! Moonlight Cannon!" Tamamo shouted as the tip of her tails came together to fire a humongous laser beam towards me! Somehow mustering up the very last bit of my strength, the power of darkness flooded into my sword arm! "Demonic... Shadow Strike!" As crazy as it was, my final effort was to slash the beam itself! Our attacks collided! Two extreme forces pushing against each other! The laser beam was finally cut by the darkness blade, splitting it into two and sending them off in opposite directions! "Hrm... Im... pressive..." Tamamo muttered as we both collapsed at the same time! Both of us were down for the count, none of us having the strength left to move; a double knockout!

While the Kitsunes were pouring their power into me and Tamamo to revitalize us, the castle's citizens looked at the result of the battle, murmuring amongst them. "No way...! A human beat a Heavenly Knight...?! He actually split her Moonlight Cannon in half!? Impossible!" After a while, we both managed to get back on our feet, and Tamamo looked extremely happy. "You've become really strong! Even though I wore you out in the end, you still managed to bring me down. Congratulations, you pass. I now fully acknowledge you as one of my right hands, and a loyal servant to the Monster Lord!" Tamamo bowed her head and we shook hands. The monsters, including the other heavenly knights but Erubetie, approached me and complimented me. "You did it, Shadow-boy! You're one of us now!" Alma Elma exclaimed, pulling me into a tight hug and kissing my forehead. "You didn't disappoint, Shadow. I'd love to spar with you again, experience fighting that improved power of yours." Granberia said, smiling and patting my back. But Erubetie still stayed silent, grumbling.

I've come a long way... From defecting Ilias Kreuz to being accepted by the Four Heavenly Knights themselves. I'll do everything in my power to serve them, after all they love me as much as I love them. I'll do everything in my power to assassinate all their enemies and repay their gratitude and assistance. The Heavenly Knights... accept me as family now, and I couldn't be happier.

Epilogue: The Demon Assassin

As we were all cheering, we were interrupted by a sudden flood of power that was greater than all the monsters in the room, including the Four Heavenly Knights combined! We all turned to a large open door up ahead, and a loud booming voice filled the room. "Welcome, Shadow! The mighty human-monster assassin acknowledged by my Four Heavenly Knights! Now, appear before me! The Monster Lord who rules over the monster domain!" Me and the other Heavenly Knights walked into the door, the throne room of the castle. The room had steps leading up to a throne, and sitting on that throne was a lamia. She had purple skin, a crimson tail, and long silver hair with pink flowers; had many markings etched onto her body; she wore a very exposed top, a very small skirt, and black gloves that extended up to her elbows; and had two horns coming out of her hair; she was more physically beautiful that I had initially thought, but the darkness radiating within her was stronger than mine, enough to send me chills.

"Well done making it here. I am the Monster Lord, Alipheese Fateburn the Sixteenth!" the creature's voice boomed. The Heavenly Knights got on one knee, and I quickly followed suit; Alipheese slithered down the steps and approached me. "Stand, so I can observe you." the Monster Lord ordered. "Yes, Lord Alipheese." I replied standing up. "There's no need for formalities, and you may call me Alice." she said, observing me and sniffing me a bit. "Yes Lo-- Alice." After a moment, Alice smiled at me. "Quite obedient you are. Tamamo raised you very well. And that power within you is very strong, enough to match Tamamo herself. I'm very impressed. Do you, Shadow, pledge complete loyalty to me and my Four Heavenly Knights forever and assassinate all the evil begins in our path?" I nodded and grinned. I could tell she wasn't an evil person, despite what the humans say. "Yes, Alice! I'll do all in my power to eradicate your targets! Our goal in maintaining peace and order throughout the world shall not be stopped by anyone! I shall serve you until my dying breath, but until then, I am one of your weapons!" I exclaimed. Alice chuckled at my response. "Well said. I'd appoint you as my Fifth Heavenly Knight, but a half-human holding such title would appear strange to many. Instead, you shall serve as one of my devils, my Demon Assassin! Since Tamamo and the other Knights put their full trust in you, I shall put mine in as well. You've done a splendid job, but now I am ordering you to rest yourself, and that goes for you as well, Tamamo. When I am ready, I shall inform you of your tasks. Very well, you are all dismissed!" All five of us bowed one last time before leaving the throne room.

The other three Heavenly Knights left the castle to do their own thing while Tamamo led me back to her room, with a smile on her face. "Congratulations, Alipheese recognizes you! Now, I want to reward you. You've come a long way, and you deserve it!" Tamamo plopped her back onto the bed after removing her kimono, spreading her legs slowly. I jumped on her and took her; that was one hell of a reward! Both of us leaked thrice during the ordeal; I suddenly remembered the Kitsune marriage law required her to simply get to me leak three times, but I wondered what if the law included me getting her to leak too. Either way, because of that Tamamo and I pledged marriage to each other, and we had a wedding ceremony a few days afterward. "I love you, Tamamo. You've always been there to train and watch over me, and now its my turn to do the same thing for you." I told her during our ceremony, and both of us were happy.

Unfortunately I visited the one person who couldn't come: the still unconscious Rose. I held her body tightly and cried, kissing her. "Rose... I've been accepted by the Heavenly Knights and the Monster Lord. I've come so far in my journey, all thanks to you... I'm so sorry I failed to protect you... I want to make it up to you once you awaken... I love you..." I grabbed her hand as I said that. I stared at her body a bit after those words, but she still didn't wake up. After laying with her a bit, I left.

I kept my promise to the Imp and 'played' with her, along with the other monsters in the castle; Tamamo didn't mind. I frequently visited Yamatai Village and Grand Noah and their citizens continued to praise and look up to me, but I refused to partake in further colosseum battles due to preserve my strength when Alice requested my services. "Shadow, are you there?" I heard Alice's or Tamamo's voice telepathically contact me. "I have a task for you. I need you to eliminate..."

I am Shadow, a masterful Demon Assassin shaped to kill any target without regrets. I was raised and trained by the Heavenly Knight Tamamo and accepted by the Four Heavenly Knights and the Monster Lord. I use my talents to serve them and maintain peace and order throughout the world... and destroy the evil that lingers throughout the world!

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