Chapter 74 = Questions and Answers
Disclaimer: Although all characters here are of my own invention, the original idea of Yoshies, Birdos, etcetera, are copyright of Nintendo, and I make no money from writing this.
It was far too late when the bright flash of chi signalled Tsi-Lau’s return to her body. Within a moment she surmised what had happened from the absence of Sira’s body, and the presence of her Sensei’s. Crossing over to the lifeless purple body, she sighed and whispered a prayer under her breath, bending down and gently touching her white stomach…
Her hand came away slightly sticky, and she blinked. Saliva… it must have been bloody… I guess that other vampire wanted some food… but it was doubtless a bonus for him to lick it from the body of my teacher, that kayatin…
Silent, she retrieved what remained of the leather leotard and put it back on the body, feeling bitter about the callous exposure of Yasei-Yeiko’s body and wondering if anything else had been done to her… but then she remembered. Five minutes. They would have barely had time to kill her… but how unlike her to fall so quickly…
She began to check the pockets on the leotard, careful by nature of the pins and other weapons within, though none of them could hurt her. Eventually she found what she was looking for; her set of guild rank stamps, and knowing what she had to do Tsi-Lau made the mark upon her scabbards to signify what had happened; she was the successor to her sensei, and had now taken her place. As she was replacing them, she found something else inside the pocket, and took it out; a scrap of vaell parchment, folded neatly but carefully so as not to damage it.
She unfolded it and read the symbols of the guild’s code swiftly. My student, if you are reading this, it is too late for me. I can see many things when I am in the trance, the future being but one of them. I have my doubts about my own future, about my own life… but, it is not for me to be like you, a creature of the darkness. Do not bring me back to the world, for I have failed and cannot aid you any more. I write this hoping it will never be seen by your eyes, but fortune favours the prepared…
Grieve not for me, for life is but a temporary prison of the mind and soul from which I have been freed. My time is over and yours now begins; you are on your own path now, your own journey, with only what you have learned to guide you. Do what you believe is the right thing… trust in your judgement… and remember that I shall watch over you in spirit, my student.
Taráya, your Sensei.
Underneath the scrawling code she found four words in plain Yoshian… Ka stóllada ki, Valina.
The silver assassin used all of her willpower and training to fight the urge to bury her head in her hands and cry.
When Darkmark walked into the flat, the last thing he expected to see was played out in front of him; another assassin had come, and had Samintha held at knifepoint. Tamaroro was nowhere to be seen.
“Stay back, or I’ll kill her!” the assassin shouted, a yellowish Yoshi with a menacing tone to his voice.
“What would you kill her for?” Darkmark asked, putting Sira’s body to one side, trying not to make eye contact with her flatmate. “Your leader is dead…”
“Her orders remain regardless.” The assassin replied, clearly unbelieving.
“I have heard that it’s not a welcome tactic among you to take hostages.”
The assassin chuckled. “You’re right. Best get rid of her so I can fight you…”
He jammed the knife into her back and made her scream, but she wrenched away from him and opened up a clear shot for Darkmark, who threw a bolt of raw psionic energy at the assassin. It struck him hard and he stumbled back, but as he had not been using any chi he was able to recover and stood straight in time to catch another attack, this time from Skafria, who had his sword pressed against the assassin’s neck before he could react.
“Kill me if you want.” He spat. “But more will come. Until you’re dead, we won’t rest until you’ve been sent to the afterlife!”
With a cackle, he vanished in a cloud of smoke and did not reappear. Darkmark rushed to Samintha’s aid and pulled the knife from her back, thankful that the small dagger had not hurt anything seriously, and managed to heal her after two attempts, finding that the stab wound was harder to heal than a small cut.
“Where’s Tamaroro?” He asked, and she pointed to one of the bedroom doors.
“In there… why do they keep coming for us… and what happened to Sira…?”
“Another assassin got her…” he said sadly as Skafria went to find the infant. “She died honourably though, and we avenged her death…”
“What… what am I going to do?” she sobbed. “I can’t stay here… but if I move away, I can’t take Tammy with me… or if I went to the residences, I couldn’t keep him there either…”
“We’ll sort something out.” Darkmark said calmly. “I think I might know someone who could help. I’m going to leave Skafria here to keep an eye on you, but I shouldn’t be that long anyway…”
“Wait, where are you going?” she called, as he opened one of the large panelled windows and crouched on the windowsill.
“To get answers to questions I can’t find by myself.” He replied, before taking off into the night.
Darkmark was mildly surprised when he entered the church and found it almost completely shadowed in darkness, lit dimly by candles around the edges. The only movement within was that of the pastor, sweeping the floor free of dust and humming a tune to himself as he did so, clearly preoccupied.
The brown Yoshi coughed once to catch his attention, striding forward through the darkness to meet him, and the both of them sat down at one of the benches to talk.
“I think I remember you… I saw you on a reward poster recently.” Vachez said, starting the conversation.
“Just some people with clouded judgement and blind obedience.” Darkmark replied curtly. “I’m out of here tomorrow.”
“What have you come here for?”
“For guidance, of course.” Darkmark said solemnly, trying to sound dark but not too intimidating. “We all need help sometimes.”
“Yes, yes we do… what questions would you like me to answer?”
“Already I have witnessed several deaths within the past few hours… the safety of someone I know is at risk, but they cannot make themselves safe without abandoning someone else. There’s a little orphan by the name of Tamaroro that-”
“Tammy is alive?” Vachez asked, cutting in, suddenly looking up with a hopeful gaze. “I rescued him when his parents were killed, but he was taken from me to an orphanage. How is he?”
Darkmark took a deep breath. “He escaped, and from what he told us I do not blame him. We found him on the verge of death, being brutally attacked by some humans who went looking for him, and we saved his life. Since then he had been staying with the one who healed him, but now she’s dead…”
“I would love to take him back if you would let me.” Vachez said, answering Darkmark’s request before he even asked it. “I will not let them take him from me again.”
“Thank you. I can’t look after him… I’m not someone who should look after children.”
“Well, why not?” Vachez asked, tapping the ring on Darkmark’s finger. “Someone once wanted you to…”
“That was then. But now… my hands are stained with blood, and the darkness is coming for me… so many deaths I have had to avenge… so many lives I have taken… I know what I must do, but whether I can do it when the time comes, I do not know…”
Vachez thought for a moment. “What are you saying?”
Darkmark’s eyes flicked up to meet his gaze. “I am saying that I have sold my soul to the darkness. There is no longer any way for me to turn back from the road I have chosen… nothing I can do any more…”
Surprisingly, the dark grey Yoshi shook his head, before taking hold of an end of his scarf, and holding it up so Darkmark could see the Octotheist emblem stitched into the black fabric. Just like the mark on his arm that had faded away, eight small circles around the edge of a larger circle made up the emblem, though the stitching made them slightly angular. “This is more than just a symbol. There are the eight principles associated with the gods… Hope gives us comfort in our time of need, Luck affects so much of our lives, the Future is where we must always look to, Power is the strength we need to survive, Love helps us find happiness, Wisdom guides us wherever we go, Life is the gift we all are given, but Death comes to us all eventually…
“You see, Marcus, it’s not that what the God of Death said or what his followers want that’s such a problem… if you truly are a follower of the darkness, you will know that… but he gave in to the evil forces and tried to destroy his own people. He sacrificed innocent lives to gain power, to get what he wanted. He was not afraid to sink to any level if it would attain his desires. That was why we shun him and why we detest him…”
“My hands are stained.” Darkmark repeated. “Not just with the blood of humans, but of my Yoshian brethren too…”
“But is it the blood of the innocent?”
“No.” he said firmly, after a moment of thought. “Not one person that I have killed did not deserve to die.”
“Then there you have it. If what you say is true, you do follow the teachings of the Lord of Darkness’s followers. They believe that killing is the only way to achieve peace, but only through the deaths of those who deserve to die, not those who are innocent.”
After a few moments of silence, Darkmark stood up. “Thank you.” He said, handing the priest some money.
“Take it.” The brown Yoshi insisted. “Perhaps Tamaroro will need it. If not, the church may find a use. It’s not my concern.”
Striding calmly and confidently out of the church, Darkmark took off into the sky and took one last look over the city he would be leaving tomorrow. So many deaths here, so many innocent lives taken… but not by his hand. They would go to the underworld, but he would not…
To be continued…