Euphoria and tranquility comforted Shinku, who found himself floating - under the sea? Yet around him was nothing but darkness and shadows. Yet still, he couldn’t deny the damp embrace of water, touching every inch of his skin. Slowly, he turned, swaying his arms to look around in a desperate attempt to find out where he was. Yet somehow, the instinctive feeling of familiarity assured him that he’s somewhere safe.
‘I welcome you once again in my kingdom.’ The familiar voice of Orochi suddenly snapped him into attention. The shadow demon’s voice was followed by the silhouette of a giant serpent that slithered around him in a graceful, continuous motion.
‘Your kingdom?.’ Shinku asked in confusion as he floated, or engulfed in what seemed like nothingness.
‘Well, should I say, my kingdom in your own mind?’ Orochi hissed, his tone speckled with mockery.
‘So what do you want?’ The assassin of shadows prompted, obviously annoyed at the shadow demon’s irksome humor.
‘Haha, straight to the point as always. I would have answered some more questions I can see in your mind like, yes, you’re in a dream. Or rather we’re in a dream or hold on, haven’t you been dying to ask where I was when your clan was slaughtered?.’ Orochi continued with his mockery.
‘And what’s the point of asking that?’ Shinku retorted almost immediately. As if trying to cut anything that would have come after the question.
‘Really? I would have helped you back then. Imagine…’ The snake demon hissed but was then cut short by the assassin of shadows.
“Please just tell me what you want!” Shinku snapped, his fists suddenly tensing up in anger.
‘Jeez, you bore me sometimes kid, you know that? Very well on with business.’ Orochi responded with a child-like gruff.
The shadow demon then started to hiss and chanted words that all sounded unintelligible to Shinku. Words, which almost sounded like independent syllables started to form into a long mantra, repeated yet all sounded different. Or perhaps Shinku was just confused by Orochi’s mysterious chant.
Suddenly, dust-like particles started to dance like a twister around Shinku. Along with the whirling dust, the view around him started to morph, with rock formations shaping up from the dust particles. The shifting was as quick as a heartbeat, with Shinku’s surroundings ending up in what seemed like the interior of a rocky cave. He found himself standing on a narrow rocky path barely lit by unknown glitters of light. At the end of the path stood a sleek cylindrical pedestal seemingly made out of black limestone, with its tip thicker than its base. Above the pedestal were three stones of varying shapes floating and moving in a circular motion.
‘They’re beautiful aren’t they?’ Orochi tempted, suddenly appearing beside the pedestal.
Speechless, Shinku can’t help but be drawn by the stones’ inexplicable charm. He approached carefully, his eyes fixed at the faintly glimmering stones. One was crimson red, shaped perfectly like a drop of single water. The other stone, taking the shape of a budded rose, glimmered in a deep purple hue while the last one, which barely resembled an arrowhead glowed in bright orange.
‘Those stones contained my very essence. If you collect all of them, you’ll experience the full extent of my power.’ The shadow demon taunted, moving close to Shinku as if whispering something in the assassin’s ear.
‘And what’s in it for you?’ Shinku inquired, doubtful of Orochi’s motive.
‘Agh is it that important? You need power don’t you? The power to destroy those bandits that murdered your whole clan? Now it’s within your grasp! Well...at least once we find all those stones.’
For a moment, Shinku was somehow dazzled by the shadow demon’s speech, his hand raising to try and capture the stones in front of him, only to realize that they’re merely holograms.
‘Why don’t you have them by the way?’ His instincts however, urged him that there’s more to the stories of the stones than what the shadow demon has told.
‘Oh for the Arbiter’s sake! Aren’t you interested in getting stronger?’ Orochi grunted, his impatience showing up in his speech.
‘I’m just wondering. Once we complete all those stones. What happens next?’ Shinku continued with his inquiry, yet his eyes remained to be drawn by the beauty of the stones.
‘I already told you, haven't I? You’ll experience the full extent of my power!’ Orochi exclaimed, this time back in his enticing tone.
‘And then?’ the assassin of shadows asked yet again, still unconvinced at the shadow demon’s speech.
‘Ughh alright! Then I’ll have the chance to finally break away from this vessel. But, my loyalty remains with you my master.’ Orochi blurted out, yet ended up with endearment.
‘I don’t recall you calling me master until now.’
‘Oh haven’t I?’
‘And you haven’t answered my previous question. Why don’t you have them?’ Shinku continued to ask in curiosity. His tone however, remained bland as his focus stuck to the floating stones.
‘Well obviously someone took them away and hid them somewhere around the crossroads.’ The shadow demon answered, trying to repress a rising rage.
‘So you got robbed? By whom? And why would they just hide it instead of using it?’
‘Those stones could only be useful with that sword of yours.’
‘So why steal it?’
‘And why must you know? What’s important is that you’d get a lot stronger once we get them.’
‘Ok then. Where should we start?’ A hint of doubt could still be seen in his eyes yet, the assassin of shadows chose to move forward with the conversation.
‘Well, those pirates would lead you to it.’
‘How about the others?’ Shinku asked immediately, his eyes now shifting towards the shadow demon.
‘I don’t know yet, but I’m pretty sure they’re not here. I just felt that blood stone here but not the others.’ As soon as Orochi spoke of it, the stone that shaped like a water droplet suddenly rose, moving nearer the assassin of shadows. ‘That’s what we’d find by the way.’
‘Well, what are we waiting for?’
‘Haha! I knew you won’t fail me kid. Very well! Awake!’
In an instant, all the scenery around him crumbled into dust. A sensation suddenly struck him as if his soul was being pulled elsewhere even though he remained still.
A few moments later, the assassin of shadows jerked off his bed, his heart suddenly racing rapidly. He gasped, as if short for air until gradually, his body calmed down finally putting him at rest. He looked around and instantly noticed a note stuck on his window from the outside. Immediately, Shinku stood up to open the hotel room’s window and collect the note. Without any hesitation, the opened it up to reveal a message in crude handwriting.
North Gate ASAP!
Quest: Restless Steel with John Connor
Word Count: 1137 / 10,000