Heart of Shadow

Villages destroyed; towns bereaved of life; people dying. The witches have returned in full strength, and they leave death in their wake...


5. Kisaro







    "I'm intrigued. How did you kill three Majo so easily? None of you are wounded. And more to the point, how did you realise that you were faced with illusionary magic?"

    The room was black with small, rounded windows. At a mahogany desk sat a tall, hawk-like woman with unpleasantly piercing features and equally sharp blue eyes. Her attire consisted of creaseless grey material, while her fingers - three of which displayed carefully polished silver rings - drummed at the wood. Before her stood the six Majo Hanta - Raiyo, Kisaro, and the other four they'd previously worked with.

    Kisaro couldn't think of something more dreadful than this particular element to the Majo Hanta profession - the report. Admittedly, it was completely necessary, but that didn't mean he had to like it. Raiyo didn't appear to mind it, but then again, the idiot didn't appear to mind anything.

    "It was Kis who realised it was illusionary magic," Raiyo piped up enthusiastically.

    "Kis?" the woman repeated. "Step forwards and explain, please."

    Shooting his friend a glare, Kisaro took a step towards the woman. "It was simple. The image didn't seem right. We were met by two people in great wind; their coats did not flow in the same direction as the gale. What was more, the bodies had been thrown into a heap - something too immoral for normal people to do to their own so quickly after their deaths. The Majo possess no emotion. When creating illusions of defeated villages, this is their downfall."

    Without allowing the woman space to question him, Kisaro bowed his head slightly, and stepped back.

    "Interesting," the woman mused. "Who killed the Majo and their Kojin? Were you all involved?"

    "That would be Kisaro and Raiyo," one of the other Majo Hanta spoke up. "They killed the first two and helped with the third."

    "And their Kojin? Kisaro and Raiyo killed them also?"

    "Indeed," the other Hanta nodded. "The two of them took down a fire Majo and her Kojin, and then moved onto the illusionary one. The rest of us had split up to find any others, and Raiyo and Kisaro helped me to fight away the third. I managed to kill the Kojin, but Raiyo dispatched of the Majo."

    For a short moment, the woman studied the face of Kisaro. "Boy, elaborate," she ordered. Kisaro scowled at the word 'boy', but obeyed her and spoke again. "We detected the Fire Majo easily enough. It was relatively simple to judge where her flames had come from after she tried to slaughter us in an ambush, so Raiyo and I sought her out and killed both her and the Kojin."

    "Oh? I believe Fire Majo are somewhat powerful opponents," the woman said, tilting her head. "Surely such an opponent should have at least wounded you."

    Raiyo grinned. "Nah. You should've seen Kis. He dodged the flames when he was right in front of her, and killed her easy."

    "Equally, you killed the Kojin. Such creatures are gifted with extra powers; you slaughtered it before it even had time to fight back," Kisaro added quickly. He hated the attention. It was, of course, inevitable, but it would be best if at least some of the other idiots in the room could stare at Raiyo rather than him.

    "And the illusionary Majo?" The woman's blue eyes were as sharp as daggers as she stared at them intently, as though examining them.

    "Again, easy," Kisaro said, before Raiyo could add anything else about him. "Raiyo climbed onto the roof of one of the more stable houses, identified a fleeing Majo, and directed us there."

    "Where you killed them both," Raiyo put in helpfully. Kisaro shot his friend another glare, trying to tell him to shut up for once, but he was - as always - oblivious. Why couldn't he simply remain quiet? It was hardly as though Kisaro wanted any more stares of awe - he'd already received enough of those on the way to report the mission's result. Rumours spread quickly - too quickly.

    "Excellent," the woman said finally, her fingers not once ceasing to drum repeatedly upon the desk. "You are free to leave. Kisaro, Raiyo, please remain."

    A few of the other Hanta glanced back at them with curiosity, but it seemed they were glad to leave. Filing out of the oak door, the four Hanta left without protest. The woman stood.

    "What is your knowledge of the Tentai Kishi?" she asked. Her tone was slow, deliberate. The Tentai Kishi - Celestial Knights. Every Majo Hanta had heard of them.

    "The Tentai Kishi is the elite band of Majo Hanta. Those who are seen as fit to join must undergo an unforgiving trial, through which they may acquire a place among the other Tentai Kishi. Their pay is higher, though they are expected to work at a higher standard. The more difficult of missions go to them," Kisaro replied smoothly. Quickly, he tried to generate possible reasons for the woman's suggestion of this particular subject. There could only be one answer. Kisaro took a deep breath, not daring to hope, and spoke again.

    "You're asking us if we'd like to take the trial, aren't you?"

    Beside him, Raiyo broke out into a grin, looking between his friend and the woman. Kisaro gave him a sidelong glance, and saw instantly that his eyes were brimming with excitement.

    The woman smiled, though it was not a kindly smile. More the look of amusement in the eyes of a predator that knows its prey has no escape. "You're as smart as I thought you to be, boy. The next trial is in only a week. It seems luck is on your side. The trails occur only twice a year, and you've managed to prove yourselves only a week in advance. If you decide you're up to it, then be back here in eight days, at midday. Understood?"

    "Understood!" Raiyo beamed, bowing his head in gratitude. "Thank you!"

    The woman shrugged. "You may not thank me come the end of the trials. Or perhaps you'll be too dead to speak." Her eyes dared him to argue. Apparently, Raiyo was too ignorant to recognise the challenge within her face.

    "Nope, I'll be alive, and I'll be one of the Tentai Kishi," he told her firmly.

    She simply smirked, and gestured to the door. "Dismissed."

    Kisaro turned instantly, not bothering with farewells.

    "Remember," her voice called after them. "The trials are known for one thing, and that's their ability to render a man useless. Be careful you don't shatter yourselves completely. I want to at least gloat, and corpses aren't much fun to show off to."

    By this time, Kisaro had swung open the door, stepping lightly outside and away from the woman. He didn't look back.

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