Claymore [KMnZ] – Senshi no Kyōji
‘Claymore’ by Norihiro Yagi
“Kin Metsuki no Zansatsusha -Senshi no Kyōji”
Part I of IV
DISCLAIMER: Claymore belongs to Norihiro Yagi, not me. The genius mangaka didn’t even give me a single character, last time I checked… This storyline is based on the manga Claymore and thus contains spoilers for both the manga and the anime through the current colume as of January 3rd, 2008.
Warnings: Violence, tasteful romance, language.
Theme Songs: Rakuen [Do As Infinity], Gomenasi [Tatu], Raison D’etre [Nightmare], To Zanarkand [Nobuo Uematsu], Antoinette Blue [Nana Kitade], Danzai no Hana [Kosaka Riyu], Baby’s Tears [Kosaka Riyu], Ignore [Kosaka Riyu], Albion [Eguchi Takahito], Persona [Blue Man Group], KI-SE-KI [BeForU]
Main Characters: Larkir, Lucrecia, Clare, Jean, Flora, Miria, Helen, Deneve, Undine, etc.
If you have seen this posted on fanfiction.net, it’s because I posted it there.
She had always been a loner, she mused, her reasonably short silver hair swishing in the winter breeze. She had always been more comfortable in the winter-like weather, much like she had always been more comfortable with her youma father than with her human mother. The village children had somehow always sensed that something was wrong, and it was; her mother had never mentioned a father to the rest of the small town. She remembered those days well… Very well indeed, for as a so-called Claymore, her memories never truly faded.
Her very own youma father had cared about her in his own way, she knew, but he was a monster at the same time. All the same, it was his blood that had given her the traits of the half-breeds, though until now it had never occurred like this. What she knew of the story was rather vague; her father had been feeding one night and stumbled upon Cessa, her mother. Not wanting to die, she had gambled with the devil – and had won. She would hide him and not notify anyone, and in return, he spared her.
When she had been born, both of her parents were amazed that she had survived… Her mother had tried to love her, to her own credit, but finally realized that her child was more beast than human and had left her daughter in the care of the youma. Of course, being only a half-breed had brought about its own troubles; it had taken quite a while before she was accepted. Still, her only remaining parent had taught her to fend for herself.
Frowning, she remembered the day she had killed her first human. Driven by sheer hunger and exhaustion, she had called upon the use of her claws and limbs, and as she feasted on her prey, the son of the man she had slaughtered entered the room. He had screamed then, and beat on her back until she had turned around to kill him…
…but found that she was unable to. Instead, she held him close to her. The boy had fought her iron grip until he realized that he was not going to be killed, and had simply sobbed in her transformed arms. When the group of youma found her like that, they had abandoned her out of shame and anger. From there she had walked a full 30 miles until she found a place she could call “home”.
About three months later, a youma had terrorized that village, and seeking acceptance, she had fought it and won… though not before she had been forced to reveal the nature of her strength. Only days later, she was sold to a nameless organization…one that men and youma alike called Claymore.
Now, she was number 7 in the organization – after the death of the former number 7 in Pieta, she had been promoted from twelfth to seventh on sheer ability alone. Best known as ‘Blackheart’ or ‘Aven’ Larkir, she kept her past a secret, much like the reason she had risen through the ranks so quickly – she appeared to be only 17, yet possessed the same intelligence borne of experience that stronger warriors did. She was 75% youma, and though she kept the urge under control, she craved human flesh because of the high ratio of youma-to-human blood. Simply put, she was too much of a monster and not enough of a human. Her eyes were always golden, and when she released 30 percent youma power [usually enough to transform a Claymore’s face], her arms would manifest the change by more or less awakening into winged appendages that she used to both block and gain an aerial advantage. She possessed more power than even the former ‘Blood-soaked warrior’ Ophelia, but because of the unusual nature of her power, she remained silent and out of sight. It fit, she thought bitterly, that she would be hidden away like the so-called ‘failed creations’, since in a way, she was much the same. She supposed that it was nothing out of the ordinary, the organization was created by humans and humans were flawed beings. Of course they would want to hide the blemish that she created by existing.
The snap of a twig behind her suddenly alerted her to the other being’s presence. Shifting her hand slightly, she extended her claws, silently allowing for her hand to display the characteristics of a youma.
“Larkir.” The voice was strangely smooth and light-she recognized it immediately and dropped her assault towards the unknown figure. A female padded softly into the clearing-for all purposes she was human, though she exuded a purely youma aura. Her auburn hair was tied back into a long braid, and her piercing hazel eyes reflected the dim light of the clouded moon. Tanned skin was covered with elf-like garments and a heavy earthen-coloured travelling cloak. A sword very similar to a Claymore’s hung on the newcomer’s back, but for a silver-eyed slayer, there was no mistaking it. This was an Awakened Being carrying the sword of a Claymore.
“Lucrecia,” the single digit replied by way of greeting.
She called the awakened one by that name because of the relationship as friends they had once had… And still did. Her former comrade-in-arms had perfected what the warrior Riful had been attempting to learn when she had overexerted and awakened – the Artemis Swordstep. They had been friends from their initiation into the organization, they had become slayers together; Lucrecia was, for a brief time, a single digit. But one night, everything had gone desperately and completely wrong.
The two had run across an Awakened Being on a routine job about one month into Lucrecia’s new life, though she didn’t even realize the danger since Larkir had never told her friend about them. Larkir, despite her considerable skill level, had been wounded, and her friend and comrade-in-arms had been nearly killed protecting her injured partner. In truth, ‘Artemis’ Lucrecia would have died had she not awakened. All the same, Larkir had reported her comrade’s death to the organization [falsely] in order to keep her friend still alive. Somehow she had gotten away with it – either that or the organization didn’t want to have to face what was not an immediate danger.
“’Lark, are you alright?”
“I’m fine,” she remarked tonelessly, pulling her sword out from behind her. “I need to practice,” she sighed, allowing her light golden hair to fall back behind her.
“Mm,” Lucrecia agreed. “How so?”
“I need to sharpen the blade of the Quicksword – it isn’t nearly enough to completely slice through an awakened being yet. And Miria’s phantom step… if I combined the two, it might work,” she thought out loud. “It’s not like I have my own lethal technique or anything, anyway… I just borrow my comrades’ techniques.”
“What if you instead learned Ilena’s Quicksword and then awakened your legs to gain even more speed?” The awakened one sat down neatly beside her comrade, carefully folding her arms together in a non-threatening way. Whether they were friends or not, the day Larkir got an order to dispatch of her, Lucrecia knew that she would not hesitate to do so. At the moment though, they were just friends, and Larkir allowed her to feed when she needed to… all the same, as far as other awakened beings went, she ate far, far less than most.
“True, it could be a good start, but if I added certain aspects of the Artemis swordstep, then it would be completely lethal once perfected.”
“Don’t mistake your limits, ‘Lark. You might be more youma than other warriors are, but you’re combining two – no, three – techniques that even exceptional slayers had trouble controlling. You don’t want to end up… like me…” The former warrior sighed almost inaudibly, drawing in her breath slowly through pursed lips.
“You know, you don’t have to keep up that human appearance when we’re not being watched,” the silver-eyed slayer remarked, watching with some degree of fascination as Lucrecia nodded gratefully and released nearly all of her power in a short burst. Her braided hair fell loose and became bladed extensions, her back bent over as sinewy wings branched out in an almost-dance. With a sigh of contentment, she completed her partial transformation into the elf-like being that her sword style had been named after – her awakened form could have been called angelic had it not been for the golden, slitted eyes and the reasonably wild look to the former warrior’s body. Like most youma, she was still human-like in shape, though she possessed what was easily ten times the strength and speed. Folding her dual wings back behind her, she returned to her seated position when she looked up questioningly into her companion’s golden eyes.
“There’s another warrior coming – not too powerful, but all the same…” Lucrecia sounded worried, her sprite-like form nearly instantly moving into its former façade. “I’ll fight her if she tries to kill you. But… Don’t use your real form, okay? You won’t need to,” the Claymore responded, not taking her eyes off of the star-filled sky. If Lucrecia released her awakened form to fight, she would need to hunt again. The organization was already suspicious enough as it was… But she was honestly living on borrowed time; the so-called ‘Claymore’ organization was still trying to figure out how to kill her without sustaining reasonably heavy losses. And they didn’t even know about Lucrecia yet. Oh, well, she thought, not really caring anymore. Yawning widely, she displayed sharp teeth – just another manifestation of her high concentration of youma blood.
The warrior paused for a moment, sensing the aura of one of her comrades nearby, as well as that of an Awakened One. Looking to her partner, she nodded and they moved towards the two to intercept. Instinctively noting the power of the awakened aura, she turned back towards the area, though what she found there surprised her even as she drew her heavy sword. The two were talking quietly, sitting next to one another as if neither posed a threat to the other. She stepped over towards the two, completely on her guard, and began to swing her sword towards the awakened one…
…and the clang of another sword stopped her. The warrior had stopped her sword.
“If you’re going to try and kill Lucrecia, I suggest you bring at the very least two more warriors,” the teenage slayer sighed. “Besides, she’s not really a threat at the moment.”
“I can speak for myself, despite popular belief,” the awakened being grumbled, and cuffed the back of her companion’s head lightly. Standing and turning towards the newcomers with inhuman grace, she moved into a defensive position behind Larkir.
“Who are you?”
“Larkir, number 7. And you two?”
“Clare, number 47.”
“Jean, number 9. Why is an Awakened One with you?” When the single-digit warrior sat back on the ground and said nothing, Jean repeated the question.
“Because she’s my friend, and she’s nearly harmless,” came the response. Clare eyed Lucrecia dubiously, still unwilling to believe it. Noticing Clare’s confusion and doubt, Larkir nodded to the former warrior, who once again partially released her power long enough to allow wings to appear and fly her away. An uncomfortable silence filled the calm area and unease seemed to emanate from the weaker warrior in waves.
“You’re ‘Blackheart’ Larkir, the one who took Ophelia’s name as the ‘blood-soaked warrior’,” one of the newcomers – the one named Clare – said, comprehension slowly dawning on her. “And that’s because that monster travels with you and helps you fight.”
“You’re pretty quick, you know.” The smooth voice came from right behind her, where the Awakened One was currently sitting on a tree branch about ten feet above them. Clare, who had not been paying any mind to the presence of youma auras, jumped back, drawing her sword without any hesitation. Not seeming to care, the former Claymore continued in her line of thought, “most of your kind doesn’t really seem to think about that, even though you’re smarter than humans. I certainly didn’t think in that manner before I awakened, so I suppose it’s a forgivable offence, but all the same…”
“Before you awakened; so you do remember that?” This time it was Jean.
“Of course; even though you may not be able to tell, I was once the warrior called ‘Artemis’ Lucrecia. Formerly number eight in the organization.”
“You were the one to perfect the Creature of the Abyss Riful’s technique,” Clare responded, partially in awe.
“Yes, that would have been me,” the Artemis practitioner replied, jumping gently from the tree branch to land with a soft thump in front of all three warriors. “I take it that for now, at least, you two aren’t going to make any other attempts on my life?” Clare’s and Jean’s silence indicated that yes, the former warrior was safe for now. Sitting down, Clare sighed; since she, Jean, and Galatea had met Riful, their lives had been thrust into the relative depths of insanity. She jumped, startled, when both of her new companions walked past her and into the small lake, not unlike the one where she had fought the awakened Ophelia. Watching curiously, she marvelled at the Awakened One’s sudden change into her true form, and then, even more surprisingly, Larkir released her youma power to nearly her limits, though for some reason, she didn’t change at all – her face remained passive, smooth, human… The only thing that appeared to have changed was her eyes. They shone in the darkness as something more feral than the golden eyes which normally marked the transformation, for they were flecked with green in that gold.
Releasing her youma power roughly halfway [which would be near the limits of most so-called Claymores], Larkir raised her sword to the ready.
“The new idea with the Quicksword tonight, then?” The rough voice of Lucrecia’s awakened form posed the question to her companion. Clare shifted uncomfortably; wasn’t that technique only hers and Ilena’s?
“Sure…” the warrior whispered, anxiously licking a bead of sweat from anticipation from her lips as it fell. At the Awakened One’s nod, she leapt forward, her entire spirit focused on the mastery of that which never could be mastered.
In short, that which could lead to her downfall.
And, of course, the only technique that was sought after but never found. A controlled partial awakening.
That was going to change soon, and all four beings in the clearing knew, without the faintest doubt, that it would be sooner than later.
The sheer size of both youma auras was astronomical in and of itself, but what Jean and Clare were witnessing was far beyond that. Both recognized the signs of awakened limbs when they saw them, and it was obvious to both that this could not possibly end well.
In the pool of water, Larkir battled with herself to keep her half-awakened form from progressing further into the depths of madness. Letting her legs completely awaken, she just let go of the control she had on that part of her anatomy. She knew that she couldn’t control it and her spirit… so she stopped trying, and let her legs transform. The pain was unbearable; every nerve ending was afire…
…and it was gone. Looking down at her legs, she saw something far beyond her expectations. Her legs were armoured, strong… she could almost taste the power coursing through her body – it made her want to feel more, it already felt so good… “Larkir!” The cry came from the awakened one now, but she could already see that her friend was out of her control now. Looking on helplessly, she moved out of her friend’s current range, readying her sword to kill Larkir, if necessary. She regretted suggesting this to her friend, but she had truly thought that a Claymore as powerful as Larkir could control it…
“If she awakens and can’t pull herself back, we’re going to have to kill her,” the former warrior admitted. “Physically, she’s too strong to be pulled back – her body is the one in control, not her mind. Mentally, however, she’s strong-willed and just stubborn enough to probably force the flow to shut down – she would end up like me; awakened but still fighting to keep my human heart intact through force of will alone.”
“Lucre…cia…” The strangled whisper came from the struggling Claymore as she fought to hold back her power long enough to plead for a merciful death. “I can’t… stop the flow… kill me while I’m still human…”
Three sets of eyes looked on as Clare moved to stop Lucrecia. Tears running down her pale face, Larkir’s eyes widened as she screamed, having lost control over her human side – Jean gasped in shock – it was a replay of a few weeks ago. With a burst of energy, she transformed into a being utterly beyond the youma and Claymores alike… an awakened one.
Demonic wings protruded from her back, her ears sharper and more pointed. Her short hair was bladed, her arms were armoured, and her left arm had a bow directly above her forearm. Her legs were still humanoid in appearance, but they were jointed backward at the knee. Her entire body was black, like Riful’s or Isley’s, and feral intent was clear to anyone looking in her slitted golden eyes. Exhaling from her mouth, she unintentionally gave them a view of her now vampiric teeth – if they were sharp before, they didn’t even compare now. It appeared that her entire build was meant for speed, but all of them knew that Awakened Beings of this calibre were still stronger than average ones.
“I don’t know if I can turn back…” The whispered fear surprised them all, save Lucrecia. While she had been prepared to kill her friend, at the same time, she had been quite confident in her comrade’s ability to preserve her human mind. “I can hold my body still for an instant, but in that moment, you’ll have to cut my head off… I don’t know how you did it, Lucrecia, but I can’t… I’m unable to control my youma side for much longer.”
“Align your energy with mine,” Clare said, stepping into the pool of water towards the awakening warrior. Turning to the single digit, Clare focused her energy and felt it just as she had the last time, but then it changed –
– And the violent spirit of a youma was laid bare before her; a teenager barely shielded from it knelt in a circle of light.
“I can’t stop it,” the girl whispered sadly to no one in particular. “I’m going to awaken and die.” Clare stepped into the small circle of light, and the warrior, whom she automatically recognized as Larkir, jumped back.
“Listen to me. I need your help, but if it works, you’ll survive.” When the teenager nodded, she explained it as quickly as possible.In the world outside of their communication, both Larkir and Clare had fallen silent. The water around them pulsed with odd energy, yet neither of them appeared to see. Their eyes were open, yet in a sense, they were closed. Another heartbeat later, the water rose around both of them as the energy surged and met its climax.
Opening her eyes, she saw her… fingers? Looking at Clare, she wondered who the warrior really was, but refused to ask out of mere curiosity. If she needed to know, she would ask her new friend.
“Larkir!” The joyous cry came from Lucrecia, back in her human form. “’Lark, I was so worried about you – never do that to me again!” More or less tackling her friend, she held her in a tight embrace, so caught up in her joyous emotions that she kissed her best friend’s lips, though only for an instant.
“Get off of me already, I’m alive,” she gasped, feeling like her ribs were cracked. Shaking her head to clear it, she turned towards Clare and Jean. “But I might just need some new clothes…”
“Truek,” the single-digit called, annoyed. She knew he was nearby, and the way he always acted around her occasionally made her want to break the cardinal rule just to get rid of him. “Come out already, I want to get back soon. Unlike some of us, I actually like my sleep.” Trying to appease her own annoyance, she went on to grumble at him. “Bastard.”
“Interestingly enough, I just got here with orders from the organization,” the black-cloaked man remarked, tossing a new uniform to her from his perch on a nearby boulder. “You are to lead a hunt to the north of Pieta. Normally we would send you alone, but in this case, since you seem to have picked up two comrades, it was decided that all three of you will go.” He motioned for her to come closer, and as she did, he grabbed a fist of hair. Yelping, she hopped back, rubbing her scalp angrily. Fortunately for her, he hadn’t pulled out much, just enough to show it to her. It was pure white now, rather than the light gold it should have been.
“I see,” she sighed. “So it’s just another trait of my youma blood slowly taking control. Next time, make it worth my energy to look.” With that, she walked out of the area, leaving the organization’s runner where he sat.
“Lucrecia, about earlier…” She had just explained to the party what was going on – The so-called ‘Silver King of the North’ Isley had some of his ‘forces’ feeding off of random towns in the north. They would be headed there in the morning, and on the way they were to check in occasionally for assignments as they cropped up in nearby towns.
“I’m sorry, ‘Lark… my feelings got the better of me,” the former warrior admitted. “I was so worried, and when you came back, it felt like… like my whole being was celebrating, really.”
“But you didn’t mean it that way, did you?” When Lucrecia refused to respond, she continued, “I’ve always been able to read you much like a book, so whatever you say – or don’t say – will just confirm my thoughts.”
“I – no, wrong train of thought there, you are the only one who still acts like I’m human, despite the measures that you go through to ensure that I remain myself. It was the only way I could still thank you without you really noticing it… I tried to protect you for as long as I could, until you became too strong for me to shield any longer. I still try, honestly I do, but the truth is that I do have some feelings for you,” the elf-like warrior admitted readily. “You’re my friend, my comrade, my guardian, my… well, you’re really my everything… and I can’t ever ‘be with’ a normal human.”
“It’s not like I don’t understand where you’re coming from, you know,” Larkir commented, rather amused at her friend’s sudden inability to speak properly.
“Then you understand?”
“Of course, but it doesn’t mean that I necessarily return it… Or that I necessarily can. Our lives are meant to be lonely. That’s why we’re raised the way we are. It’s cruel, but it’s the only truth I have left to cling to.”
“I see,” Lucrecia replied quietly, her head bowed slightly after this revelation.
“I’m sorry, but I just can’t return those feelings, appropriate to our situation though they may be.” With that, she left for the night, falling asleep in the bend of a tree branch.
So long… Too long. And still, there wasn’t ever enough time.
It had been several years since Lucrecia’s awakening, and only days since her own. She was grateful to Clare for her rescue, but it left her with more questions than answers, in all honesty. All the same, she was still a so-called Claymore; no matter what was on her mind, she had assignments to complete – in this case she was travelling north to Pieta and clearing the villages in her path as she went. Leaving to meet the black-cloaked man from the organization, Larkir began the daunting task of just finding him. It was bad enough that he was intelligent – he could hide from her for hours if not days – but he was also human, which meant that she couldn’t sense him, either. At the same time that she grew frustrated with him though, she knew that he had the immunity of the cardinal rule. She simply sighed and waited. She knew Lucrecia was sleeping nearby – no sane Claymore would allow an awakened being this close without keeping track of them – threat or no.
“You’ve already completed your last task, then,” he commented, stepping into the open. “Lately, you’ve been more efficient than ever, it seems.”
“Either that or you’re growing complacent – as always,” she remarked wearily. “What was so important that you called me out here at midnight?” Judging by the mirthful look on what she could see of his face, it was clear that he was going to give her some tedious assignment because she was in the area.
What do you know, I was right… Something simple enough to be considered tedious…
Going by what he looked like alone was an astoundingly bad idea in this case, though, as she quickly found out.
She sighed as she reviewed the assignment. She, Jean, and Clare were to find and eliminate an awakened being – it was a former single digit – actually, the warrior had once been number three – so of course she had been warned to be careful; there was nothing new there, for sure. Apparently it had eliminated five members of a nearby village in a single night. Silently walking back to her companions, she pondered over the assignment. An awakened being nearby, maybe it had been following them for some time now, it hadn’t fed often but when it did its appetite was usually voracious, and… The truth hit her like a ton of bricks. Visibly shaken, she stopped and shook her head as if to clear it.
They might be asking her to kill Lucrecia. Maybe, maybe not, but all the same it was best to be careful. Purposefully striding into the small area that they had chosen as a resting point for that night, she walked up to Lucrecia and touched her shoulder, startling her out of light sleep. Motioning for silence, she walked off with her friend and began to question.
“Have you… gone hunting recently, Lucrecia-san?” Her voice, normally emotionless and sarcastic, was cold and oddly detached.
“Once, yes, but only because I had to. That was several days ago, though.”
“How many?” That was really all she could ask because, as much as she wanted to hate herself for it, she was talking about human lives here. If she said anything else, there was nary a doubt that her head would come off from one of her numerous comrades; it would probably be willingly, too.
“Three. They were sick and dying; when I explained to them what they were sacrificing their lives for, they offered their remaining lifespan to me,” she replied softly. “You know I never feed without asking unless I truly need it.”
That was what Lucrecia always did – unless she was denied for too long and on the verge of losing her human self. She only fed when she absolutely needed to, and then she would approach villages or small settlements in her human form, explaining that she had to live for her sister, her closest friend, and her protector – and usually there were those so stricken with illness or dying for some reason, or even those with no reason to live any longer – and they would give themselves to her in exchange for kindness to their families or homes once they understood the consequences of not doing so. There were times, though, when the former warrior showed compassion and instead used her own power of regeneration to help those in need after approaching villages. A simple infusion of just a few drops of blood would lend inhuman regenerative powers to humans while keeping them from being like the Claymores; they didn’t have superhuman strength, longevity, or the ability to release any youma power. They were just normal humans after whatever ailment they had been infected with was cured. That was Lucrecia’s true power. She was never much of a fighter because she always silently mourned the dead – youma or human – after each fight. She was not, and had never been, fit for battle.
“Larkir?” The quiet voice drew her back into herself and out of her reverie, only to give her a shock that she had not been anticipating. The former warrior still donned her human clothes, but had transformed her body into the silver-eyed slayer that she had once been. Her light golden hair shone in the moonlight, her silver eyes were wide and compassionate as Larkir looked on.
“If you’d like, I can get you a uniform – I had the organization repair your insignia and give me a new uniform – that was the first insignia I wore after you left. I wore it until I found you, months later.” Lying down on the cool moss, she turned her head to the former single-digit. “After you came to me, almost out of control and nearly without your humanity intact, I almost died, remember?”
“Yeah… I remember telling you that no matter who I had been, you were the stupidest of all Claymores for allowing me to get anywhere near you without drawing your sword. And then…” Lucrecia trailed off, gently rubbing her finger over the scar on her friend’s face. “I gave you this. I can remember you laying my sword in front of me, telling me that the organization had declared me a lost cause– ”
“– Begging you to listen to reason and let me pull you back, even at the cost of my own sanity. At first you thought I was just trying to kill you, until I let you pierce through my body and crush my arms. All the while, I was still trying to get the truth through your skull, wasn’t I?”
“Mmm. That you were. Persistent as ever, but then it felt like I blacked out, and when I woke up, I was in your arms, and you thought that I was dead. You were crying for me as much as you were from the pain, I think.”
“I don’t cry from pain.” This evoked a wry smile from Lucrecia.
“That’s the only time that I’ve wanted to kill you, really… The rest of the time was spent thanking you for not losing hope in me,” Lucrecia admitted, her silver eyes filled with tears as she moved from a sitting position to a reclined one, laying next Larkir. “After I awakened, I barely had the willpower to make sure that you were alright rather than killing you there and I admit that I lost hope in myself. You’ve always had that strength to push me through the hard times, and because of you, I’ve kept living.”
“I’m glad for that, then. You’re still alive for me if not yourself, and that is a comfort to me.”
“Larkir, I…” The warrior’s head turned to look at Lucrecia with her gold, slitted eyes.
“You’re reaching your limit, aren’t you?” The voice had come from Jean. Clare, too, was awake and listening. “You’re just looking for somewhere to die now,” the single-digit continued, somehow hitting all of the awakened one’s concerns right on the head. “It’s because you don’t feel like you can retain your human consciousness much longer, isn’t it?” The former warrior nodded gently, turning her head away from the three warriors. To her surprise, Jean continued with words of encouragement and understanding. “Don’t give up yet. We’re still here, and despite our differences, we’re pretty much the same as you, so until we get an order to dispatch of you, you’re with us, alright?”
“If you don’t mind… I’ll be back shortly,” Larkir nodded and sprinted off into the distance.
“I knew that I felt something out here, and what do you know, I was right…” Glancing at the pretty girl bathing in the stream right in front of her, she drew her sword. “If you don’t want me to lop off your head right now, I suggest you show me your true form.”
“Hmm? What’s that?” The blonde turned her head ever so slightly, revealing eyes of the purest blue. Her pale, fragile skin flushed as she turned towards the single digit. The blade of the warrior’s claymore bit into the girl’s shoulder before she could do anything more. “You were aiming for my head there, weren’t you?” Her full lips forming into a smirk, she allowed her form to release itself, fully ready for battle.
The gigantic being in front of her had no particular pattern to its form, its multiple legs and well-armoured body reminding her almost of a bug. Its horned head was curved outward, angry spikes protruding from the appendages working as arms.
“Well, now, and to think that I was even the slightest bit worried…” Her actions were a blur as she accelerated into an approximation of Miria’s phantom step. Her left arm forced her Claymore into the bronze shell, grunting as her arm was shaken by the force of impact. As she flew backward, shattering a few trees, she allowed herself the release of thirty percent power – it allowed her to land on her feet rather than in a disadvantageous position. That in itself increased her speed minutely, but it was her wings that gave her the best advantage. Curling her arms inward and around her own body, she watched the monster’s projectile-like spines as they flew toward her unprotected body…
…and curses flew from the awakened being as they literally bounced off of armoured wings. When the wings parted, the Claymore behind them grinned ferally as the veins in her arms bulged to accommodate the increased blood flow.
Launching herself into the air off of one of the shattered trees, she spun as she cleared the treeline. Her silhouette against the moon looked positively demonic. Every part of her seemed to exude a dark aura as she flew downward, shattering a tree as she pierced through one of the awakened one’s limbs. As the former warrior looked around to see what had hurt so suddenly and so badly, cruel laughter floated down from the sky once again.
The Claymore was perched on a tree, her golden eyes glowing in the darkness as she mocked the struggling beast. Leaping from the branch, she grabbed onto the former warrior’s front left leg, smashing her sword down on it with another burst of maniacal laughter. Out of control, she slung her sword into the beast, not giving the monster a chance to react as she haphazardly thrust her sword into the main body, continuing to release more youma power, raising it from fifty percent to sixty percent. Her arms rippled with the new muscle growth as she continued to slowly power up, raising one percent at a time. Blood spurted from a wound and splashed onto Larkir’s face, but the warrior didn’t seem to care; she licked at it and once again shoved her sword up and into the body, eliciting a harsh shriek of pain from the awakened one.
An extended claw jabbed past her seemingly forgotten defence, piercing her stomach and then part of a lung. The Claymore let out a choked scream, revealing her sharp, pointed teeth. Narrowing her slitted eyes, she hissed in pain as the wound healed instantly. Flapping her wings and propelling herself into the air, Larkir caught a few of the spikes mid-air and shot them back right at the awakened one. Her sword lay forgotten on the ground – all that was left of the once-collected warrior was the few shreds of her uniform, it seemed. Her golden eyes glinted in satisfaction as the scent of blood hit her nose once again. Her senses were assailed with the essence of pain in the air – it was nearly tangible – and she leapt down to her prey once again, hands easily extending into claws and ripping another leg off. Unable to regenerate, the former warrior shrieked and attempted to flee, but was blocked easily by the Claymore. No matter where she tried to run, the slayer seemed to be there already.
Her hands were completely clawed, her wings and body were patterned with vines. Slamming a hand down to the ground, the trail of vines spread to the terrified awakened one. Veins may have been more appropriate, for they were merely an extension of her own body, linked to her nervous system and brain. She was close to her limit, yet her yoki kept rising, and all of the nearby warriors could sense that. Not that Larkir cared. She was completely berserk in her bloodlust. As the vines wrapped around the struggling being, she lunged forward and into the fray, her sharp teeth ripping at another limb as her claws brutally tore through another, turning the beast into a bloody fountain. The vine-like extensions wrapped tighter and tighter around the former warrior’s throat as Larkir revelled in the gore she had caused. A cruel smirk twisted her expression as she looked on at her struggling prey, cocking her head in dark amusement and holding up her left hand for the awakened being to see. It was attached to the vines. Laughing with the guarantee of victory, she held it up, open, for a moment longer. Then she clenched it shut, her claws biting into her own skin as she did so. A loud, sickening crack echoed through the bloodstained battleground when the opponent’s neck snapped.
Clare, Jean, and Lucrecia stood watching from a thick tree branch, both in awe and disgusted by the sight. They watched as mere bystanders as Larkir snapped the awakened being’s neck and ripped the head completely off, veins in the limp body snapping with small pops as she did so. Nodding to both the warriors, Lucrecia hopped down into the battleground, followed shortly by Jean and Clare.
“Strike for semi-fatal wounds. It’ll be enough to stop her,” Lucrecia called in explanation as she parried an attack from the frenzied warrior. Slinging her sword around in the Quicksword, Clare stepped forward and sliced into Larkir’s ribcage, but with a snarl, the single digit leapt away to heal, only to be stopped by Lucrecia. Having transformed half of her body into its awakened form, she was more than enough of a match for Larkir, even in this state. Lucrecia expanded her arm and split it into five as she usually did in her awakened form, using it to suspend Larkir’s hands long enough for the fifth limb to plunge into her stomach and through the back, nearly breaking her spinal cord. Screaming her pain and rage to the sky, Larkir made one last attempt to free herself before falling limp to the ground, wounds already beginning to heal even while her youma energy began a steady decline.
Lucrecia gently caught her friend and set her on the ground as she transformed back into her human façade and rushed up to cradle Larkir’s prone form. Carefully brushing white hair off of the warrior’s bloodied face, she watched the wings recede into her back and her teeth return to their normal less vampiric state. Placing a hand over the wound in her stomach, Lucrecia gently eased the healing process along. Sighing quietly, she laid her claymore beside her, not looking up as the two warriors approached cautiously.
“Does she always fight like this?” Jean was the first to speak.
Not always, but whenever she hasn’t fought in a while or she fights alone, she goes more or less berserk. Because she’s 75% youma, she always lusts for human flesh and blood, though she keeps the urge under control. If she’s faced with an extended fight, then this happens.” An undercurrent of bitterness in her voice, she continued, “This is what happens when one tries to make a naturally occurring Claymore even more powerful.” Wiping the blood off of her friend’s face and hands, she barely kept her voice steady and kept talking. “All I can do is clean her up after the fights, or if possible, fight with her, because it spares her the pain of realizing what she really is. She’s already more powerful than many awakened beings are when she’s like this, but… it would hurt her so badly to realize that all along, the organization was right to try and kill her. She’s too powerful and too intelligent at the same time, and that makes her a valuable but dangerous asset to the organization. She probably has the same amount of power that ‘Dark’ Alicia does, if she were ever to awaken. The organization would have to classify her as something close to an Abyssal One simply because of her power. Unfortunately, she’s very unstable as it is, and while she is strong, she’d never be able to harness that power without some serious help along the lines of what they use for Alicia. I’ve seen them training her before – I was just a child but they kept saying that Beth was too weak to awaken and fight with the same power as her twin. So the weaker sister uses a ‘soul-link’. At any rate…”
“So that’s the truth, isn’t it? That’s why you’re still with her, instead of killing yourself.” Jean spoke again, interrupting, but it was more along the lines of thinking aloud than continuing or halting any actual conversation.
“Aa,” the awakened one agreed uneasily. “As odd as it sounds, I’m her last lifeline and her last connection to humanity. She’s intelligent and…. well, really, without someone else around to keep her from realizing what she really is, she would probably either kill herself out of shame or awaken out of anger.”
A quiet groan issued from Larkir’s mouth, the tang of blood on her lips as she woke.
“Hey there,” Lucrecia murmured, wiping the last bit of blood from her comrade’s face. “Welcome back to the living, sunshine,” she joked, clearly trying to cheer up some so that Larkir wouldn’t realize how worried they had been.
“Shut up,” Larkir muttered. “So what happened?”
“You almost finished the beast off when it somehow knocked you out,” Clare responded tonelessly, to Lucrecia’s surprise. “We arrived in time to finish it off and protect you.” When Larkir looked to Lucrecia for confirmation that this was indeed the truth, the awakened being subtly nodded. More at ease, the warrior sat up cautiously, putting a hand to her head and rubbing.
“Ehh… at least the job’s done, right?”
Everyone nodded mutely and it remained silent until Larkir slung her bloodied claymore over her shoulder and headed back towards the makeshift camp.
“If you already knew about Lucrecia’s existence, why didn’t you ask me to kill her?”
“She was useful,” the response came floating down through the trees. “We received no requests about her, and we knew that because of your unusual background, you could possibly control her.”
“Then I’m going to request that you give me a uniform for her. She wants to help in Pieta.”
“That could cause an interesting uproar,” Truek replied, tossing a spare set of arm- and leg-guards down from his rapidly shrinking pack. “If you insist, though, I can arrange for extra uniforms in her size…” Not really chancing anything to lack of information, Larkir responded quickly.
“And how does this benefit the organization? I’ve been around long enough to know that before any of your lot will do anything kind or helpful, it has to become either a serious problem or a real benefit.”
“Mmm, don’t say such things, your imagination deceives you. Also, you’ll be at the mercies of another handler after tonight. His name is Torias; don’t beat up on him too badly, eh?” Tossing the rest of the pack to Larkir, he left in the direction of Sutafu – the headquarters of the organization.
Her latest mission completed, she set off for the predetermined arrival point with her newest ‘handler’.
As she arrived, a mass of limbs tumbled out from a tree. The first thing she noticed was his clothing – it made no attempt to hide his face. The second thing she saw were his silver eyes. Black hair, tanned skin, and silver eyes? It made no sense to her, but for all his looks, he was just human. Painfully human for his klutziness, even. Still, she envied him. She had never been human, and thus had never made those mistakes.
“So you’re Torias?”
“Uh…hai. Are you Larkir?” At her glare, he flushed, clearly embarrassed. “I’m just one of the boys that the organization picked up – not many of us actually get to serve, and a lot of us are just kept for menial work. You’re the first warrior I’ve had the honour to meet,” he remarked, looking her up and down. “Anou… Larkir-san…”
“Why are your eyes gold? You aren’t using any youma power, are you?” He looked around nervously, almost seeming to sense the yoki flowing smoothly from her body. She shifted on her feet uncomfortably, but knew that she had to reveal it to him – those were the rules.
“I’ve never been human. I thought the organization would have told you that by now,” she scoffed.
“W-what?” Apparently he hadn’t been told.
“I was born half-human, half-youma. Because of that, when the organization put youma flesh and blood into my body, I lost another half of what little humanity I already possessed. I’m three-fourths youma now. That’s why my eyes are always golden. It’s called ‘unconscious release’, and it does that without my will being involved.”
“Then why is your hair white?” he pointed out.
“Because it is; do you have any other irrelevant questions?”
“Anou… no. I apologize for asking,” he murmured, obviously a bit disappointed in himself. “I just wanted to know, that was all.”
“I should apologize as well,” she replied, her gaze softening. The boy couldn’t have been over 17, she noted. “I didn’t mean to upset you; it’s just that my lineage is a rather… touchy subject.” She realized that he must have been some sort of failure as well, since he was assigned to her without being told anything. “Why did the organization send you out here, anyway?”
“Well, they said that I was going to be working for a warrior who would soon be finishing her term of service, and so they just told me to keep an eye on her and make sure that she finished her last weeks in grace.”
“Soon be finishing my term of service, eh? So I’ll just have to be more careful from now on,” she remarked.
“What do you mean?”
“I’ve been a so-called Claymore for about twenty-five years, which is exceptionally long, even for us. Rafaela and I are currently the oldest warriors in the organization; she’s at around thirty years. The average term of service before we awaken is… ten years, more or less. In your human years, I’m stuck at seventeen years old. And because of my high percentage of youma blood, the organization has been trying to… dispose of me for my entire term thus far. They’ve sent weak warriors, strong warriors, but every since time myself and my companion have fought them off.”
“But the organization would never do something like that!”
“I wish I could agree with you. However, I can’t, because I know it’s true. Actually…”
She was cut off by the brush of a sword against her neck.
“You feel like fighting, right? You could always just die gracefully, though that’s no fun…”
“What am I, an awakened one?” Acrobatically leaping to the side, she realized that the other warrior’s target was now Torias. Pushing him to the side with her body, she called to the warrior. “You just tried to kill a human. Do you really find life not worth living?”
“I can only get punished if someone finds out,” came the response. “Since you’re going to die here all the same, I figured that I could have some fun while I was at it.”
As she shoved Torias back down and behind her, she realized that this must have been one of Ophelia’s few friends – they were all like her in terms of personality. Looking at the symbol, she recognized the girl immediately. It was Ophelia’s symbol with a horizontal slash along with the vertical one.
“Rianne,” she breathed. Rianne had been promoted to number four some time ago following her friend’s death as an awakened being, but she had never seemed this powerful when viewed from afar.
“Heh. Finally recognizing things now that you’re just another cornered animal?”
Larkir didn’t feel the need to respond to that, and so she closed her eyes, releasing her youma power as she always did when fighting her own comrades. Her wings spread as usual, and when she opened her golden eyes, they were tainted with green. As she raised her sword, a slash opened above her hand, though it was obviously meant to sever it.
“You’ll have to slice with more power if you really want to cut off a limb. Remember that you’re not dealing with your normal human or youma bones.” Raising an eyebrow, she surveyed the wound calmly; it seemed that whenever she released her yoki, her personality became more aggressive and feral, much like a youma. “However, if you really must know, they’re the strength of our former comrades – the awakened ones.” Smirking, she launched herself into the air and flew downward at Rianne, swinging her sword and slicing an arm – not too deeply, she wanted to give the warrior a chance to change her mind about fighting – and when she showed no signs of wanting to give up, Larkir sliced both arms completely off with what little knowledge she had of the quicksword.
The anguished cry hit her only a second afterward, just after the huge yoki did. Various trees were blown back by the strength of it, and the entire hillside seemed to crumble.
She already knew why they had sent this warrior after her – it was her similarity to Ophelia and her joy in killing. But the huge yoki was proving that there may have been another motive – to test the warrior’s limits, perhaps? Tossing her sword into Torias’s hands, she sent a concentrated burst of yoki at Lucrecia. That was her signal to come out. Her sword in hand, the former warrior entered the newly-cleared area, her brown braid blown back over her shoulder. She had not yet assumed the form of her former self full-time, so when she raised her Claymore, Torias looked confused.
“I’ll explain later,” she called to him, nodding to Lucrecia, who hopped up to her side.
“Take care of him – this one’s a bit like Ophelia. I can’t fight and protect him at the same time, though…” Clare and Jean appeared behind Lucrecia. At the same time that the two appeared, Lucrecia hopped off of the rock to engage the hostile warrior, buying them a little time.
“Clare, I hate to ask this of you, but… Do you think that you could stop me… if I fought her as an awakened one?”
“It’s too risky,” Jean responded before Clare even opened her mouth. “There’s no guarantee that we could bring you back, even if you kept your human mind.”
“Lucrecia can, but you’ll need to tell her for me. Defend her with your life, because if she dies, I’ll awaken, and there’s no way that I can defeat this warrior as I am now. I don’t want either of you two caught up in this – stay here and trust me.” Jumping back into the fray, Lucrecia resurfaced as the two assumed defensive positions around Torias.
“Lucrecia, Larkir said that you’ll need to bring her back after she awakens…”
“So the enemy’s that tough?”
“Apparently,” Jean commented, ignoring the wide-eyed looks sent in her direction by Torias.
“I’m going to borrow a trick from Alicia and Beth, I think. I’ve seen them fight before – it was before they completed her, though. I wonder if I can do it…” Trailing off thoughtfully, Lucrecia shouted down to her friend. “Larkir, align your yoki with mine when you do it!”
Larkir had looked towards her friend when she had shouted, and since she was no longer fighting with her sword, it proved to be a fatal mistake. Laughing suddenly, Rianne lunged into an attack and cleanly sliced a wing off. Unlike her opponent, Larkir didn’t scream or even cry out. Hissing in pain, her eyes settled on her target, who had already reattached the severed limbs. Narrowing her golden-green eyes, she focused her energy and began to regenerate the wing – a difficult task since she was an offensive-type warrior – but abruptly stopped, realizing that for now, she didn’t need it.
Nodding to Lucrecia, she closed her eyes and forced her youma energy to rise, faster than it wanted to, and stronger than she usually needed it. With a choked scream she awakened, trying desperately to preserve her human mind.
Lucrecia closed her eyes at Larkir’s signal and subtly aligned their youma energies together, almost perfectly. She felt the bloodlust wash over her, but kept diving into the maelstrom of emotion and feeling, finding Larkir’s mental image of herself in the centre of it. Fending off the worst of it, Lucrecia and the teenager strengthened the shield surrounding them and maintained it. This was Larkir’s human mind, and thus the only thing that needed defending since her body was already awakening. Entwining their hands, the two faced the darkness together.
Awakening was always a delicate moment for Alicia and Beth, but nobody could afford for it to be right now. Rianne, sensing an unguarded body, leapt for the chance. Clare leapt down from her perch on the rocks above, blocking the sword barely long enough for Larkir to finish her task.
Once again, her body was completely black, well armoured, and winged. This time, however, the wings were different, as was the shape of the body. The wings were better-shaped, and more like the ones she possessed at thirty percent power. Her body was still fit for agility and mobility, legs jointed backwards and clawed at the feet. The bow above her left arm had lengthened a bit, made more for power now instead of range. Her golden eyes were narrow and focused, her vampiric white teeth showing as she snarled at her opponent. Firing the bow at Rianne, she noted how the Claymore seemed surprised when the senbon-shaped arrow pierced her shoulder. Rianne was easily past fifty percent, but seemed to still be undaunted by the fact that she was facing an awakened one alone. Swinging her sword upward into one of Larkir’s four wings, she froze suddenly.
The arrow appeared to be melting onto her body, more specifically her arm. When it stopped advancing onto her flesh, Rianne tried to swing her sword again and found that she could not. A half-smile from the awakened warrior, and she found her sword at her throat.
“Damn you…” Rianne forced her yoki up further and broke the controlling substance off in several pieces.
“Oh, so you could withstand that… you’re quite strong,” the awakened Larkir replied, her personality having changed once again, calmly shooting one arrow after another in the general direction of the single digit. As soon as they made contact, they spread over her body and struggled to control it.
“V-Vines?” Rianne seemed surprised. This time, as the black substance spread over her body, silver vines followed it.
“Relax. This can be so much more comfortable for you.” As the warrior continued attempting to stuggle, she again commented, “Because you can’t escape anymore… It would probably be a lot smarter to just submit, I’m feeling generous today…” Having heard that, Rianne raised her yoki to its absolute limit and was in the process of breaking through the substance when Larkir decided that it had gone on long enough. When she raised her hand and slowly tightened it, the substance began to tighten around Rianne’s entire body and squeeze more and more, until several cracking sounds came from her body, finally becoming a gushing torrent of blood. The warrior had died in agony.
Releasing her hold on the dead body, Larkir turned and jumped up to the perch where the other warriors were, her body becoming human as she sailed through the air. Sweat dotted her brow and her hair was matted with blood, but she was still herself. Golden eyes fell on Lucrecia, silently thanking her. Extending her hand toward Torias, she offered him an apology and a kind of repayment for putting him in danger.
“I need to talk to this one,” she explained to the others, waiting for them to disappear and return to wherever they had been. Leading her new ‘handler’ along, she stopped by a stream and looked at him, apologizing. “I need to clean up a bit… if you don’t mind, I can talk to you while I wash.”
“Anou… I… I don’t mind,” he said, blushing madly as she removed what little was left of her armour and uniform shirt, shortly followed by the waist pouch [or skirt and pants]. She could hear his heart rate rising quite well due to the after-effects of awakening, and called back towards him in response.
“If it’s too embarrassing to watch me, you could always just look away.”
“Oh… anou, you’re probably right, it’s just that I’ve never seen –”
“Never seen a woman naked before?” At least she seemed amused, Torias thought with an inaudible sigh of relief. She seemed nice enough now, but having seen what she could do was enough to make him worry for his own safety. A quiet chuckle told him that she found all of this rather funny.
“Who was that woman earlier? The one with the brown hair – she had a claymore from the organization, didn’t she?” Looking at him sharply, Larkir realized that for all his clumsiness, he had a sharp mind.
“Yes, she did. She is a former warrior.”
“An awakened one, then… why is she with you, if you don’t mind me asking?”
“She was – is – my best friend and something akin to a sister. She was number eight in the organization before she awakened.”
“You’re full of surprises, you know,” the black-haired youth commented wryly. “I’m done interrogating you now, if you feel the need to ask me anything, go ahead.”
“You are too,” she shot back. “Most ‘handlers’ don’t bother telling us anything about themselves.” Beginning to shake the water out of her hair, she recalled the colour of his eyes and wondered about it. “How did you come to be born with silver eyes, Torias?”
“Apparently my mother was a Claymore… she died shortly after giving birth to me. All I’ve ever really known is the organization, but I don’t have enough youma blood to be considered a threat or have much of a use,” he sighed. “I can force my eyes to change gold and give me a boost of strength and speed, which is what you guys all call ten percent, but that’s it.”
Larkir stopped to consider this, pausing in her ministrations towards her hair. “So you know what it means to be an outcast like me, eh? Not too surprising, though… a lot of the other Claymores swear that all their handlers must’ve had some kind of tragic past.” Torias handed her a cloth as she rose from the water, shivering slightly when her wet skin hit the cool air.
“You’ve already mastered the art of making supplies form out of thin air, I see,” she snorted. “You’re well on your way to becoming one of the black cloaks in your own right.”
Lucrecia watched from a distance once again, on guard for whatever reason. Masking her youma aura, she sat idly behind a tree, half-listening to their conversation as she thought back to earlier; her mind kept drifting to the incident a few days ago when Larkir went berserk. It wasn’t entirely unusual, but it was still cause for worry. She hoped that Larkir never found out about the truth behind her insane strength, but she also knew there would come a day when she wouldn’t be around to help Larkir after every one of those battles. Lucrecia wondered what would happen, though she was intelligent enough to know what the outcome most likely would be.
She would awaken; unable to focus enough to stop the building yoki in her body, she would remain out of control until the organization or the abyssal ones would be forced to cut her down. It had happened to Priscilla, one of the former number single digits of the organization. According to Riful of the West, Isley had ‘cut her down and made her his woman’… but Larkir was stronger than that… right?
What would become of her after Lucrecia died?
“After I’m gone… will you become Lucrecia’s guardian and ‘handler’? Whoever survives the longest will become the new number seven. That’s the agreement I made with Truek, and it was approved by the organization. Whichever one of us awakens or dies first loses the rank.”
“Yeah. You suspect that the organization will kill whichever one of you survives though, don’t you?” His silver eyes closed for a moment, sensing her unease and mild distrust from his seat. “I can’t help it, you know. Youma blood and all that,” he finished, smiling half-heartedly.
“Aa. I see.” Larkir dried off her hair and began the short process of dressing in her new outfit; she then turned to Torias and rubbed him gently on the head, messing his hair up and making it stick out at odd ends. “Sorry for putting you in danger today, Torias.” Smiling a little in his direction, she kept talking. “You know, a lot of Claymores are like that warrior from earlier today – we have nobody that we’re attached to, and so the only thing we learn to care about is how many youma we can kill or how strong we are. Nothing else really matters to us.”
“Why do so many of you turn murderous?”
“Loneliness, mostly. So many of our ranks never even remember what it is to love or to feel love at all. Thus, we don’t make friends easily, and usually when we do, it’s because we happened to be in the same place at the same time. In all honesty, the only friend I’ve ever had is Lucrecia, and she’s more of a sister than a friend.”
Hearing that, Lucrecia smiled sadly; she should have known that Larkir would’ve been fine with this new ‘handler’. She was more open on the surface than a lot of Claymores, but only Lucrecia really knew her. Standing up and walking back to the spot Clare and Jean had picked for the night, she left the two to themselves.
“I’ve never really… made friends, either,” Torias explained cautiously. His silver eyes widened as he sensed a slight burst of youma energy coming from Larkir, who was sitting close to him on the sun-warmed rock, seeming to enjoy the sunset.
“Aa, that gives us a similarity, doesn’t it? We’re both loners, to a certain extent.”
“True enough.” Standing up and brushing himself off, Torias offered her his hand. Taking it, Larkir thanked him with a brief smile. “I need to head back to the regional headquarters for now, so until then, watch your back.”
“I don’t need to tell you to, do I,” she mused, almost laughing outright when he blushed. Struck with the desire to see him smile again, she placed a hand on his shoulder. “Remember to keep your personality when working within the organization, right? Too many of the black-cloaks forget that.” He did indeed smile, and before he left, she offered another rare smile and went on her way. She had never been in such a good mood, especially after having to kill one of her pursuers from the organization, but as she saw it, it was because of the company. Slightly melancholy, she returned to the bloody remains of Rianne’s body and buried them calmly, wishing that she hadn’t had to kill her simply because of the organization’s – and the warrior’s own – pride. Stabbing the sword into the ground above her fallen comrade’s head, she placed a small flower as an offering to a woman dead for the lack of understanding. Moving back towards camp, she tried to imagine a place and a time where this kind of thing wouldn’t happen, and with that hope in mind, she entered the clearing and lay down next to Lucrecia, propping her sword up against a tree behind them.
NOTE: This chapter deals with Larkir’s past. Just so you don’t get confused. =)
The children of the organization were usually used to the harsh realities of life; having been orphaned and usually sold to the organization prior to their initiation. The day Larkir arrived, there had been a beginner swordsmanship class starting, and she had insisted that she participate in it.
“You have to hold your sword like this, missy. You can’t just fight with your fists,” the trainer explained for about the ninth time.
“Watch me.” With that, she stomped out, her hands in those same fists.
Later that night, a curious girl about her age snuck off with dinner, trying to find the young Larkir. Wandering into the forests near the organization, she found the short-haired girl sleeping underneath a large tree. The forests surrounding the place were infested with youma, but neither girl seemed to care very much – they didn’t consider the fact that they could be attacked.
“Hey, you, wake up!” Shaking Larkir awake, she began doling her food out to the sleepy girl. “You missed supper, so I brought you some of mine.”
“Dinner, huh… that’s what I was thinking,” something said from behind them. Larkir and the other girl flinched, not expecting or anticipating a youma.
“Run!” Both girls took off, the food forgotten, but as fast as they were, their pursuer was faster. The youma cut them off, and the girl cowered behind Larkir, who spread her arms wide, mocking the youma. Her silver eyes met his and flashed gold.
“You-you’re a Claymore already?!” The youma was incredulous, but he figured that since she had no sword and was just a child, she would still be easy prey.
For a second, she disappeared from his senses and then reappeared on his back, her hand clawed as she ripped through his back, brutally twisting his spine with a grunt and ripping it out even as the youma’s natural regenerative powers replaced it. Tossing it to the side carelessly, she plunged a hand into his guts, next to where his spinal cord had been, and twisted. At the same time, the youma forced his hand into her belly, even as she killed him and instinctively ripped the arm out of her body.
“Ugh… Help me out here…” The human girl responded to that by shuddering in disgust but coming over and getting blood all over her clothes in the process. It took what felt like hours to get back to the organization, but Larkir was still alive by the time they got there. She passed out as they arrived, barely summoning the strength to drag her feet into the main hallway of the huge building. The last thing she saw was a Claymore dragging her friend into the hallway with her.
“We need to give her blood, fast. She’s going to die if we don’t do anything. Her natural regenerative powers as a human are far too weak for this. It’s too early and it’ll be painful, but we need to turn her into a half-youma now. If she already had the flesh and blood of a youma, it would be different, but…” But I do! She tried to say something, but then, the world went black once again.
“Hello,” she remarked to the large-eyed face directly above her. “It’s you again. Are you okay?”
“You’re awake, and… worried… about me?” That was when she noticed the tears, flowing silently from the girl’s blue eyes. “B-but… you were the hurt one…”
“What’s your name?”
“M-me?” At the young Larkir’s nod, she answered, albeit hesitantly. “I’m T-Trisha. Who are you?”
“Me?” Tilting her head downward to look at her hands, she responded quite honestly, “I’m a monster.”
It had only been days following the attack that Larkir had joined the classes of the older Claymore recruits. All of her fellow compatriots were teenagers, and almost all of them hated her.
“She’s only seven, I’ve heard. Why is she in our class?” That was Ophelia’s precursor, Kanata, braid and all. She still seemed kind of nice, though, surprisingly enough, considering the evil that she spawned by in turn training Rianne and Ophelia before she died at their hands.
“I’ll bet she can’t even hold a sword up. Just wait until she fights against us in the arena.” That was the weaker warrior-in-training tagging around with the braided girl, Lilith. The very mention of the arena sent a slight shiver of anticipation down her spine. The Claymore recruits would fight there to the brink of death to accomplish several things at once; they would begin to understand their limits [something that Larkir already knew as a naturally occurring half-breed], they would learn how to fend off attacks from multiple fronts, and they would determine their status and number rank.
Every year, it was inevitable that some of the rather green recruits would mistake their limits and awaken; though there was always a single-digit nearby in that fragile time to rescue them. The only newly-made Claymore to ever successfully ward off and kill an awakened one in the arena on her own was a former single digit warrior, Riful. Never having even battled a youma before, she had remained steadfast and eventually lopped her classmate’s head off. The only thing she had ever admitted to regretting was the fact that the girl had been her best friend, and that any future friends she made wouldn’t awaken unless they wanted her to do the same to them.
“Alright, you lot. You’re getting to learn how to release your youma power, or yoki, today. It’s instinctive for youma, but if you try hard enough you can tap into it and use it at will. The first one to successfully reach thirty percent power gets tomorrow off, since they’ll already understand it if they manage.” As the words left the instructor’s mouth, a burst of yoki surprised her, causing mass panic among the ranks. The seven-year-old Larkir stepped forward, her silver eyes glowing gold as always, her arms rippling with the sudden muscle growth.
“Can I go now?”
The words had been spoken so plainly that they even took some of the students aback.
“I’m leaving. I did what you wanted me to, so I’m going,” the child commented impatiently.
“If you can already do that, then release your yoki to fifty percent.” The girl complied, clearly annoyed – her mood showed through her golden eyes, which were flecked with red. “Alright… Larkir, was it?… You can go now…” As the young Claymore-to-be took stomped off to the dorms, the instructor – number 11 in the organization – felt a chill. This child was going to be quite powerful, she felt.
Four years passed quickly, and with her bloom into adulthood came her first ‘assignments’. Essentially, she was far enough ahead of her classmates that already existing Claymores would come and retrieve her for what could only be called babysitting. Many of the warriors came to enjoy the lithe warrior-in-training’s presence, and often she would hunt youma with them. Coming and going for days at a time had its effects on her, but because of that she consistently had the finest yoki control and the best attacking styles of her regular comrades.
Finally, almost half a year later, the time for the arena came. The rules for the entire thing were defined to the teenagers as ‘anything goes’. All of them were given swords with their own emblems on them, and in turn, they fell unconscious one by one. The organization had found it curious that Larkir had fought alone until she was the last one standing, and had discovered that she had the ability to gain an advantage from her high yoki. When the battle was over, eight out of the fifty recruits had awakened, and three of the recruits – not including Larkir, who had taken on Riful’s record and met it – had taken down an awakened one together. It looked to be one of the most successful generations yet, and even Chief Rimuto was seemingly happy… until he saw her. Larkir. The abomination.
“I want her dead,” he murmured. “If she is to ever awaken, she would be on the level of young warriors Rafaela or Luciela, at the very least. We can’t afford for warriors like her to lose their humanity.” At his nod, the Claymore observer had turned on the girl that had passed the arena test with flying colours.
It was the first Claymore that Larkir had killed, but certainly not the last. From there, she had been certified and had taken one of her former teachers’ positions in the organization as number 9. About three years later, a young girl joined the organization and became a half-breed, and that was when her life changed for the first time since becoming the golden-eyed slayer.
“It’s a real warrior!”
As soon as she left for the training grounds, some of the young recruits were awed by her glowing gold eyes. She left them behind as she entered the youma-infested woods close to the headquarters to train. Unsurprisingly, it was rumoured to be a ‘forest of death’, since any recruits that ventured out alone rarely came back in one piece, let alone alive. The other part that didn’t surprise her was the fact that not only youma but awakened beings roamed the forest freely, often surfacing to pick off nearby towns and villages.
“Hey, sis…?” A small hand tugged on her cape, causing her to stop walking as she turned around. “What’s it like to be a real Claymore?”
“It’s dull, rather repetitive, and annoyingly bloody.” More or less ignoring the youth, she continued striding into the thicket with only a slight indication that she had paid attention to the long-haired girl. “You’d better go back, because if you get attacked, I’m not protecting you.” She didn’t really care, being the cold-hearted warrior everyone in the current ranks knew her as. Larkir sensed the presence of a so-called voracious eater only a second before the curious child said something.
“Anou, not to be rude or anything, but there’s a person behind us.” The little girl pointed unabashedly at the stranger behind them, who was smiling.
“Ah. Thank you, little one,” she sighed, exasperated already, pushing her away roughly. “And who might you be?” She unsheathed her Claymore with ease, levelling it at the still-smiling woman.
“Didn’t anyone ever treat you to respect your elders? My, the warriors today have an attitude.”
“Aa. That they do,” Larkir sighed, agreeing readily with the awakened being, who seemed amazed that the warrior had agreed with her assessment. She seemed to let down her guard for only a second, and the awakened being lunged, suddenly complete in her transformation, which only took the blink of an eye. “You know, I really don’t want to fight an awakened one today. Maybe tomorrow,” she complained loudly, easily cleaving through the arms sent her way. “But today seems to be one of those ‘whatever fate provides for you’ days, you know?” Slicing cleanly through the thick neck, she utterly crushed the youma in a matter of seconds. “You okay over there?” Nodding towards the little girl who was now covered in blood, she made sure that the warrior in training was alright before turning around to head further into the forest.
“You said you wouldn’t protect me,” the timid voice replied. “But you did. Why?”
“It would be my fault, and I don’t really feel like dying just yet.” Looking around at the trainee, she was a little confused at how easily the girl accepted the tragic reality that she would be living in. Quite frankly, she was astonished and quickly began to gain a new respect for the child. “What’s your name?”
“Teresa,” the girl said, smiling widely. “Can I keep going with you as long as I can protect myself?”
“How about this: I’ll train you so that you don’t need me around. Fair?” Teresa nodded eagerly, and then realized that she didn’t know the warrior’s name.
“What’s your name, big sis?”
“Larkir. I’m number 9. Come with me, first we’ll get you wielding that sword.”
Some years later, Teresa had surpassed her and they had lost contact over the time span, but it had been Teresa that had taught her that even Claymores could love. She and Teresa had been like sisters, and when that relationship broke, it hurt her to admit that it was probably for the better. In all the time that she had spent with the younger Teresa, now called Teresa of the Faint Smile, her fighting skills had diminished bit by bit until she was no longer fit for battle. It had taken nearly seven years to get back on-par, and by that point, she had been a warrior for almost 10 years. Craving companionship, she had eventually taken on a new recruit as her own project, and since she had done such a good job training her first ‘pet project’ Teresa, they allowed her to raise and train the girl named Lucrecia.
Over the course of ten years, she and Lucrecia formed a bond that was nearly inseparable, though that was how they preferred it. They had almost the same fighting style, until Lucrecia perfected former number one Riful’s technique and used it to gain a name for herself until she, too, surpassed Larkir. The older Claymore had given up her former rank – rank 9 – and it had been handed to Lucrecia while she, Larkir, had taken rank twelve. After a few missions, they had been sent on their first awakened hunt, and from there, they had what looked to be an illustrious career.
That was when the worst had happened – after a mission involving a town that was mostly made up of youma, they had run across an awakened one.
“What the hell…? Didn’t know that this was here.”
“Larkir, you get the left.” Lucrecia had been the mission leader as always, and so she was the one calling the shots, even if her friend and mentor was more experienced. The new target was about three metres high, armoured, and about ten times as deadly as the youma from last time. They underestimated it and overestimated their own strength. By about twenty minutes in, Larkir had been gravely wounded, a deep cut across her back dangerously close to her spine; it only went to prove that even veteran warriors like herself could still be severely injured in combat. Lucrecia was fighting alone, her long hair bloodied and some of the numerous small braids coming undone. Forcing her yoki up to its limits, Lucrecia swiped at the awakened ones legs, moving her own quickly to avoid the counter-swipe. Using the Artemis Quickstep was tiring, but fighting while using it was even more exhausting. She had forgotten that whilst she fought, her body was being worn down by the cruel mistress called fatigue.
The awakened one, finally sensing an opening, had brutally ripped a leg off, destroying it so that she had no chance of regeneration. Crying out in pain, she never saw Larkir crawling towards her, trying desperately to reach her, trying to help her by any means possible…
The former warrior left them to die, uninterested. From there, it had been several long hours before anyone from the organization had arrived, just after Lucrecia had awakened.
“Lu… Lucrecia… stop please…” As she watched the rampaging beast that was her friend kill off most of the relief warriors, she wept silently, finally succumbing to the urge to sleep until she was healed.
“You’re awake.” The words from years ago hit her skull and jerked her awake.
“Lucrecia! Where is she – I’ve gotta go find her – ”
“Not at the moment, you won’t.” The familiar voice was her overseer, and as Lucrecia and Larkir had jokingly called him, her ‘tamer’. Truek was his name, she dimly recalled. “You can’t until you’re stronger.”
“Then do tell me what I have to do,” she replied sarcastically, angered at his calm mood, “to save my best friend, and return her to the organization.”
“You can’t, simple as that.”
“She’s an awakened being, a monster incapable of reason. Let her die, or kill her yourself, but let go of the past. It doesn’t exist anymore.” A loud thump came from her general direction as she pulled her partial skirt on and picked up her claymore. “Cool your head, Larkir. Take time to train and focus your energies. You will be strong enough, one day. Just take your time and rest, train, and relearn all that you have to.” Those were the last words she heard before falling unconscious once more, and it was a full week before she woke up.
“Welcome to Pieta,” Lucrecia muttered to the small group of miscreants. She had been here years ago, as a Claymore. Actually, this had been her region. The land of Alfons, where Pieta was located, was a familiar sight to her. Alfons was, after all, her home. Smiling as she recalled her childhood, the childish slayer seemed almost radiant in the harsh glare of sunlight from the snow. “This isn’t going to be easy if you aren’t used to fighting here, because your muscles will freeze up more easily, but you’ll have slightly more traction in the snow to compensate.”
“Mmm,” Jean replied noncommittally. She was going to follow Clare, no matter where she was going. Looking around, she finally commented to the rest of the group, “Larkir’s gone.”
“Let her be,” Lucrecia told them. “She does that when she needs some time to think, and she hasn’t really had a break from battle or travelling for a week now. I can report for her.”
Brushing her hair out of her eyes, Larkir sighed and slipped out of her rigid personality long enough to relax a bit. Her eyes were silver again for the first time in almost thirty years. Ever since her awakening, she had been able to revert her eyes to their natural colour and change her body’s appearance slightly. Since her natural eye colour was silver, she looked just like any other Claymore now; unfortunately though, it took enough effort that it usually just wasn’t worth it.
“Oi, Larkir, you had us all worried!” That was Lucrecia, calling up to her. As she joined Larkir on the rocky bluff overlooking the snow-swept city, she marvelled at the night-time darkness slowly creeping over the city. “Beautiful, isn’t it?”
“Yeah… Do you ever wish you could be just a normal human and live in a village like this?”
“Sometimes, I guess. I’m happier travelling with you, though,” the young-looking Claymore replied, curling up next to Larkir as she had when she was a child.
“Hmph. You never change.” Shaking her head while smiling slightly, she picked a hand up, out of the snow, and brushed it through Lucrecia’s hair affectionately. “It’s still a shock, seeing you like that instead of your old appearance. You look like the sixteen-year-old that awakened.”
“Can’t be helped, I guess,” Lucrecia replied with a small smile. “It would raise too much suspicion among the ranks if I had my green eyes and brown hair.” She sat there for a few moments before offering another bit of information. “Tomorrow, we’re sorting groups out, since everyone’s here now. Tonight, we rest. The overall commander decided on that.”
“Who’s the unit commander? It’s not Rianne, and Rafaela’s too antisocial for the organization to send her out, so maybe it’s Galatea…?”
“Nice try,” Lucrecia sighed. “It’s the number 6, the one they call ‘Phantom’ Miria. I dunno what the organization’s thinking, but whatever. I wonder what she’s like, but I don’t think it really matters, ne? We’ll survive, like we always do.”
“I hope so,” the white-haired warrior remarked quietly, once again stroking her charge’s long hair. “I hope so.”
“Number 10 Amane, team Lucrecia.”
“Number 12 Israfel, team Larkir.”
“Number 13 Veronica, team Jean.”
“Number 14 Cynthia, team Miria.”
“Number 15 Deneve, team Undine.”
“Number 16 Rikki, team Jean.”
“Number 18 Lily, team Flora.”
“Number 20 Yukie, team Miria.”
“Number 22 Helen, team Larkir.”
“Number 24 Zelda, team Undine.”
“Number 30 Kiō, team Flora.”
“Number 31 Tabatha, team Miria.”
“Number 35 Kayla, team Lucrecia.”
“Number 36 Haruna, team Undine.”
“Number 37 Natalie, team Jean.”
“Number 39 Naoya, team Lucrecia.”
“Number 40 Yuma, team Larkir.”
“Number 41 Molly, team Flora.”
“Number 43 Deanna, team Undine.”
“Number 44 Daine, team Jean.”
“Number 47 Clare, team Flora… It looks like that’s all there really is to this. Rest tonight, because tomorrow, we may be fighting for our lives.”
An uneasy murmur ran through the crowd as they all separated out into the small units. Larkir’s group was made up of numbers 7, 12, 22, and 40. Pulling them off to a side, she told them each individually that she wanted to spar with them to accurately test their strength. She saw Lucrecia doing the same to her group, made up of numbers 7, 10, 35, and 39.
“Is it just me or does it look like your group is a bit of rough luck, Lucrecia?”
“They’ll stand for me in the end, Larkir. I’m almost completely sure of it.”
“I hope you’re right, because if you aren’t, it’s your head the organization’s going to be taking.
“True enough, though –”
“You two! I’d like a word with you both, please. Follow me.” The voice belonged to the operation commander, ‘Phantom’ Miria. “I need to speak to you both.”
“So you’re both rank number 7 because one of you is an awakened being?”
“Both of us are,” the older warrior stated flatly, deciding that there was no point in concealing the truth. “I awakened a week or two ago, and Lucrecia has been awakened for several years now.”
“Does the organization know?”
“Yes. For the moment, they’ve decided to allow me to live. We’ve hidden Larkir’s awakening from them for the present, so they’re not gonna ask for a while unless we give them reason to,” Lucrecia offered with a half-grin, her control on language slipping a bit in her haste to clear herself of any suspicion.
“I understand. One question though,” Miria remarked, the questioning tone obvious in her voice. “How are you still on our side if you’re an awakened one?”
“I was born a human,” she explained. “But Larkir wasn’t. It’s because she’s so strong in spirit that she can control my human will when she needs to. She’s pulled me back about twenty times in the past few years.”
“I see. That’s more than I really need to know, but thank you both for sharing.”
“Sure,” both replied simultaneously.
“But… Larkir, right?… I do need to speak with you privately.”
“Of course. Lucrecia, I’ll talk to you later. Go spar with your group,” Larkir said, waving her off carelessly. Used to her mentor’s rather interesting gestures by now, Lucrecia was not offended in the least with the manner in which she was dismissed. “Now what do you want to speak with me about, commander?”
“For this mission, I will need to know your actual strength. That includes your strength as an awakened one. If you can’t control it when you need to on the battlefield, then it’s useless to have that kind of power.”
“So what you’re saying is that you want to fight me as an awakened one, and if I lose control, you’ll kill me.”
“I suppose,” Miria admitted, threading her fingers together on her knees as she sat.
“Then I refuse. I have no desire to become any more of a monster than I am. In all of my life, I’ve seen everything from a young girl that became the top Claymore of her generation to awakened ones that were more powerful than the Creatures of the Abyss, but I haven’t lost control of my yoki save for once. I refuse to lose control again.”
“How long have you been alive?” The question was innocent enough in its rhetoric, but Larkir was used to that tone; that was the tone her former handler had always used on her when he wanted an answer.
“Why do you need to know?” Cursing herself mentally, she realised a second too later that the question had let slip several things: 1, that she was rather protective of how old she actually was, and 2, that she was older than she let on anyway. When Miria just glared at her, she finally gave up. It wasn’t like Miria would tell, she supposed. “I’ve been a so-called ‘Claymore’ for almost 26 years. That puts me at around… 40 years old.”
The phantom warrior just stared. Rafaela was 45 years old, but to her knowledge, the number 5 was the only one that had ever reached an age above 30. Apparently not, she thought dryly, unsheathing her sword.
“Back to my original request. I need to see your strength.”
“I can’t do that, commander. I’m sorry.” She began to walk off when she felt more than heard Miria’s sword whistling down to hit her. Easily whacking the sword away on her own, Larkir turned and sent a plea towards Lucrecia, praying she would feel the abrupt change in yoki and respond. It only took a moment before she felt the slight shift signaling Lucrecia’s already-masked presence, and so she turned to Miria and told her, “I’ll fight you in a moment. I have no desire to destroy any more armour tonight.”
Walking off rather quickly, she shed her armour and quietly spoke with Lucrecia, informing her of the situation. When she returned, she stabbed her sword into the ground before Miria.
“So you will fight?”
“I have nothing to lose in this,” Larkir’s calm reply came as she stretched, catlike in her grace. Her yoki was already at ten percent as she gazed at the overall commander. “I will fight you with whatever amount of power that I deem appropriate.”
“I understand,” Miria responded, drawing her own claymore and readying her stance. “You have the first move.”
As soon as the words left her mouth, Larkir’s lithe form became a mere blur against the snow-covered backdrop. Reaching out to search for Larkir with her yoki, she found the warrior on the bluff high above, wings already ripping through her uniform.
“Are you still certain of your decision? If I kill you, I refuse to be held accountable.”
“If you can manifest that much power, I’d be more than willing to turn command of this operation over to you.”
“Very well. Remember, you asked for this battle.” Her last word was punctuated with another abrupt disappearance, and then, from above, a claymore brushed her hair as she barely dodged the attack. “Not bad, commander,” the taunting voice said, a smirk all but visible in her tone. A loud thump signaled the awakened being’s return to the earth and Miria turned to face her, raising her sword and blocking the older warrior’s basic attacks.
“You suppressed your strength,” she said questioningly, continuing to fight as she did so. “Why?”
“You aren’t enough of a threat to worry about, commander Miria. You aren’t trying to kill me, because you don’t want to lose my strength on the task force. Unless you try to kill me, I will have no need to surpass my own limits. So you understand what I’m saying?”
“It’s not that you’re wrong,” Miria responded, sensing an opening and landing a shallow blow on the other warrior’s shoulder. “But I won’t try to fight you unless you seriously try.”
“Fine, then.” The huge blast of yoki that followed nearly knocked Miria off of her feet. When she looked up, a black creature of a normal human size stood before her. Her first thought was something along the lines of ‘that’s all?’, but when the creature in front of her began to attack her, she realised that Larkir’s awakened state was more powerful than she could handle on her own. Of course, she also knew that Flora at the very least had picked up the huge increase in youki, and she knew that she and three others were on their way to her current position.
The hand with the bow moved towards her and she accelerated into her famous speed, attempting to hack off a limb when she was swatted away.
“Miria!” It was Flora, she knew instinctively, and she felt more than saw Undine and Jean.
“I’m alright, but… she awakened fighting me. I can’t handle her on my own.”
“Then what’re we standing around here for? Let’s go!” That was Undine, who leapt forward and was immediately pinned down to the ground by a series of four black arrows. They spread to the rank-11 warrior’s torso, and held her immobilized.
“Undine, try to break free!” Flora was already making headway towards Larkir with the windcutter technique, but was stopped when another black arrow whistled through the air, knocking her sword out of her hand.
“What the…” Miria felt the overall power increasing once again. “She hasn’t released even half of her power in this state yet,” she breathed. “No wonder she was so strong as a warrior…” Blinking to clear her eyes of the blood dripping from the small cut that had opened above her eye, she yelled to the entire group this time. “All of you that can, get out of here, now! Let her go!” Pulling a bloody Undine from the remnants of the awakened one’s trap, Miria began to head away from the monster, going somewhere, anywhere…
Black vines wove around her ankles, tripping her easily and dragging Miria and the others back. Jean cried out as the vines pierced her flesh and ran beneath it and controlling her nervous system, either killing her or knocking her out. Either one was just as bad, because Jean could no longer fight to keep the awakened-form Larkir from slaughtering the entire force of warriors gathered in Pieta.
“Is this sufficient power, commander?” The gravelly voice stopped her dead in her tracks. “I can stop now, if you want.”
“Yes!” That was Flora, who was finally getting a breath of air after being face-down in the snow for under a minute.
“Alright then. I’ll revert if someone has a spare uniform.”
Five minutes later, she was completely unconcious in Lucrecia’s arms; the only proof of her awakening were her backwards-bending legs, which were slowly reverting to normal, and the blood dotting her new uniform from the obvious strain placed on her body during awakening. Her skin tone seemed lighter than ever against the blood-red snow.
“You really care about her, don’t you?”
“Yes!” She didn’t realise that she had said it aloud until Flora smiled and placed a gentle hand on her head. “Anou… I’m sorry…”
“Don’t worry about it. Worry about your own strength; you’ll need it to protect yourself,” Miria replied in place of the number 8, taking a step back and wincing as one of her wounds from the battle began to gush blood. “Damn. I guess I’ll go lay down. I exhausted my yoki in that.”
“Wait a second, commander Miria,” Lucrecia called, gently setting her mentor down in the snow and assuming a partially-awakened form. As a result, Miria raised her sword, as did Undine, but when the youth [in terms of appearance, at least] raised her hands in silent surrender. “Put out your arm. I can heal it for you.” Hesitantly, the overall commander did so, gasping when the girl extended her fingertips and penetrated the skin, somehow filling her with warmth.
“What are you doing to me…?” She felt tired, as if her energy was being sapped from her at a record rate.
“Healing. It’ll take just a moment more, and then you can rest. Until then, keep yourself awake.” She was as bossy as Undine when she wanted to be, and the threat of having to fight again was enough to keep Miria on her toes and awake. “Done,” she announced a moment later. As she once again suppressed her yoki and withdrew from the commander, Miria’s body sagged to the ground, collapsing with a soft sigh. “She’ll come to in a few hours,” Lucrecia announced, turning back to Larkir. “It’s not something I can keep doing, but does anyone else need to be healed?”
For the first time during the mission, the entire elite force was awed into silence. It was only broken when Undine snorted.
“We ain’t even needed here, are we?”
“Quite on the contrary, you are,” Lucrecia replied. “She tires out relatively easily because she isn’t used to her awakened form. I usually spend a lot of time protecting her,” she added.
“So we’ve got two warriors that are actually awakened beings here,” Miria sighed, her head propped up by her hand in exhaustion. “And just when things started getting bad, I found out that not only does the organization know what one is, but both awakened beings are using the technique that Alicia and Beth use at the same time to keep their human will intact, which means that if one of them dies, so does our entire task force.”
“We have a chance of surviving, then?”
“She’s saying that we have an unpredictable element, you idiot.”
“If I can explain a little from what I’ve seen…”
“Go ahead, Jean. Your opinion is as important here as it would be anywhere else.”
“Both awakened warriors are dedicated to protecting humans, and one of them has never even fed from humans. The other only feeds when she’s about to go completely berserk.”
“Go on, if you would,” Deneve replied, genuinely interested by the turn of events.
“What I’m saying is that the only thing that makes those two different from us is their level of willpower and their strength. They’re both stronger than me, and maybe even you, commander,” Jean replied, gazing off into the distance. “Larkir is the stronger of the two and actually defeated ‘Crimson’ Rianne on her own, but the awakened one knows her fighting style well enough to act just as strong.”
“Larkir is stronger than me. Her latent human power most likely rivals Beth’s, and perhaps even Alicia’s when she awakens.”
“How do you know, Miria?”
“We fought… I lost,” Miria replied hesitantly. “One of the awakened ones healed me after the battle, and then I passed out,” she said, rubbing the back of her head with a disgusted expression on her face. “Those two are far beyond our level of power… the original number 7 – Larkir – could probably deal about 50 percent damage to a Creature of the Abyss before she would be defeated.”
“Her strength is her humanity, but it’s also her greatest weakness because she’s unwilling to pass that limit, right?” That was Deneve, acute as usual.
“Precisely. If there was a way to force her beyond that without losing her humanity, she would be the number 1. There’s no doubt that she could be the number 1 if not for Alicia.”
“She will surpass Alicia one day,” a new voice told them. “That’s why she’s marked for death – because Alicia would never be able to take her head.”
“Who…?” Helen raised her sword and brandished it at the shadowed figure. “Whoever the hell you are, get over here and explain yourself!”
When the figure entered the light, Miria, Clare, and Jean gasped simultaneously.
“I was in the area. I’m to monitor the lot of you and make sure you don’t abandon your posts.”
“I see,” Miria replied bitterly. “So not only is there a zero chance of survival, but if anyone tries to survive, the organization will come for their head.”
“Not necessarily.” Untying a pouch at her side, Galatea tossed it to the floor. “Use them as you wish to – someone like you will know what to do.” With that she began to walk out of the lit cave when a voice called out to her.
“I’m truly grateful, Galatea.” It was Jean. Without even turning, her response was the same as it had been the first time.
“I told you, I don’t hear the thanks of the dead.”
They watched the number 3 walk away into the swirling snow with an awed expression on their various faces, especially Clare’s. Galatea was known for being kind, though she always wore the same cryptic smile Teresa did. Perhaps it was just her imagination, but for a moment, she thought she saw Teresa before she lost sight of the warrior in the snow.
“Oh my god…” Lucrecia whipped her head around to identify the speaker, but when she looked she saw the youngest warrior present, Amane, reaching out to comfort the woman.
“It will be over soon enough, win or lose. Just fight as well as you can, alright?” Her clear, high voice seemed to calm the weaker warrior enough to stop shaking in response to the sight of over forty awakened ones. “That’s it. Just keep trying to focus on what you need to do, rather than the odds.”
“The kid’s well spoken,” Undine explained, jerking a thumb in the girl’s direction. “It’s stuff like this that pisses me off – what’s the organization thinking, sending a twelve-year-old into battle like this?”
“We never had a choice to begin with, commander Undine,” Deneve replied, mentally adding to her statement.
We never had a choice… or a chance.
When the muscular warrior grunted in acknowledgement, she turned back to the task at hand, rushing forward at her commander’s signal.
Lucrecia forced her yoki to pass its natural limits easily, handing her sword over to the number ten – a child capable of releasing devastating destruction – and nodded to her. That was the signal to begin powering up for the technique Amane was named for; the ‘thundering sword’ was easily able to slice through an armoured being in a single hit. Worrying her lip as she released her yoki to around forty percent, Amane’s arms ripped through her uniform sleeves, shredding them and making them fall to pieces below her, a carpet of impurity on the blanket of snow.
Larkir didn’t choose to reveal her true form; she would fight as a human until she no longer could do so. With an unintelligible scream of anger, she launched herself forward and, holding her claymore out to the side of her body, sliced through the limbs of two awakened beings, making it that much easier to kill them.
“Now, Cynthia!” Veronica had pinned down one of the awakened ones Larkir had just sliced through, Cynthia finishing it off with a deep slash to the neck.
“Harunaaaa!!!” The ear-splitting shriek caught everyone’s attention for a second – the warrior was in the process of awakening. Past her limits, her body was already reforming into a white-armoured beast; it seemed to be a cross between an angel and a demon. Her white body crumpled as Clare simply stuck her blade through the girl’s stomach, effectively disabling or killing her. Only an instant later, the newly-awakened one was after her would-be killer.
“No ya don’t!” Undine sliced through Haruna’s throat and moved on as the body once again crumpled – the former warrior was still alive, but she was unable to move or threaten anyone else.
“Thanks,” Clare muttered as she moved on to team up with Flora.
All in all, they looked to be skilled, organized, and fully capable of surviving, Rigald thought, amazed despite himself. It seemed that the organization had managed to create quite an interesting generation, but there were one or two that he couldn’t tell…
Were they weak or strong? They seemed to be two leaders of the troops that had been deployed to Pieta. Oddly enough, they weren’t normal Claymores… one of them was awakened. She fought in her awakened form, looking back occasionally to make sure that none of her comrades accidentally targeted her. Laughing mirthlessly, she turned to her target and calmly surveyed the brown, scaly awakened being. She blinked once, tilting her head as if curious, and then, with a loud crack, the target’s head fell off, cleanly sliced from its shoulders. Blood splattered all around her, but at the same time, none of it got on the leader – she was already away to support what looked to be her team. None of them were good enough to be a threat to him, he supposed, but that female awakened one… he couldn’t have that. Growling in annoyance, he released the form of the silver-eyed lion he was so well-known for.
“No… that’s… that’s Rigald, the lion.. what is he doing here?” Miria spoke the words quietly, almost reverently, as the lion-like being transformed and ripped through Veronica – while not a leader, she was still quite strong. Cynthia screamed in sheer rage, and found her blade caught in the snow Rigald had been standing on mere seconds ago. Next was Undine, muttering a curse as she fell, her body ripped into several pieces as her arms were sliced neatly off and away from her body. Blood seeped everywhere, and as Lucrecia checked for signs of any life, she felt a heartbeat. It was faint, and growing fainter, but it was still there. Smiling grimly, she set about her task at hand.
“Larkir, get my back,” she called, hoping she wasn’t distracting the warrior from anything else, though the white-haired woman appeared at her back immediately. “Thanks.”
“No problem,” she laughed, parrying a blow from an awakened being who had appeared behind her. “Just concentrate on that. I’ll take care of you.” Her arms rippled with new growth as she allowed her body to awaken while she fought with her spirit alone for the first time. Gasping for breath, she felt like a drowning swimmer until she let her right arm run wild, utterly destroying the awakened one’s body… and then Flora got in the way. “Flora! No… get away…!” Flora leapt away just in time to be pierced by three of her senbon-arrows. The shock was in her open eyes as she fell to the snow with a soft thump.
“Flora!” Clare had seen the woman fall to the ground and knew exactly what had happened.
“Flora…” She fell to the ground, suddenly human again. The woman died in Larkir’s arms – she didn’t try to curse at her, or even act mad. She just smiled in understanding and closed her eyes with a faint choking noise.
“Lucrecia! Heal her, please,” the reverted awakened one sobbed. “I did this to her…”
“Hand her over,” Lucrecia demanded, unable to bring herself to muster much kindness in her voice as she desperately tried to both keep Undine alive and now revive Flora. “I’ll do what I can, but I won’t be any use if I’m hit.” Glaring at her mentor, she fully awakened and began to transfer blood and warmth to the two injured and dead warriors. Flora’s heart started with a little prodding from Lucrecia, and when she opened her eyes faintly, the awakened girl whispered to her, “don’t let anyone know you’re awake. If you remain like you’re asleep or dead, then nobody will sense your yoki – you’ll survive the fight. Not many of us will. You nearly didn’t.”
“I… I understand,” she said, looking pained. “Will Undine be alright?”
“Hard to say, but she should be. Now… sleep.” Transferring the exhaustion from her body to Flora’s she watched the warrior fight the urge to rest until she no longer could, and then turned back to Undine.
“Ah… haah… haah…” Her breathing was heavy, but she could still manage. Wrenching Lucrecia’s sword away from the newly-dead body of twelve-year-old Amane, Larkir placed it to the side and angrily attacked Rigald in a fit of fury. “You bastard. You were one of us once, too,” she cried into the wind.
“I may have once been one of you, but I was never as weak,” he retorted, clipping her wings with his own claws. She flapped away, seeking other, easier prey. Her sword lay long-forgotten by Flora and Lucrecia.
“Bastard,” she muttered, only half paying attention as she fought two awakened ones simultaneously. Sighing, she closed her eyes and shot three arrows into the sky – one landed in her first target’s shoulder – it looked a bit like a spider; two of them landed in the stronger one’s neck – this one looked like a cross between a horse and a bird. It was rather strange, she decided in that split second. The weaker awakened one turned its attention to pulling out the senbon, and in that instant, her bow became a sword and cleaved through him from top to bottom. The stronger one, sensing an opportunity, leapt and actually managed to sever a wing. Her ability to fly taken away, she lashed out in pain and frustration at the horse-bird and destroyed its head with a blow. Looking at Lucrecia from afar, she saw Rigald leap…
…she would never make it there fast enough.
She accepted this, and still pushed her body to reach in time. Watching the lion-like monster cleave through her friend’s inattentive body, she cried out… and realized that the overall commander, Miria, had dragged her out of the way. She reached Rigald and cleanly sliced an arm off, hissing as she retreated.
Her body reverted as she fell onto his claws, shot from behind her. Choking on her own blood, she found herself looking into Lucrecia’s golden eyes as she lay there, unable to speak.
No… it can’t end like this… Lucrecia was crying. She barely felt the cold, and didn’t hear any of the fighting. All she heard and saw was Lucrecia. Holding her last breath, she reached a pale human hand up to wipe away one of the tears and barely managed a smile before the pressure in her lungs became too great.
It’s alright, she told herself as the world began to fade. At least Lucrecia will live… as a human… That final thought flashed across her mind as she died.
“LARKIR!” Her eyes were wide – she didn’t know what to do without her mentor and friend. “No… wake up… it’s okay… I’m here…” Resting her forehead on her mentor’s body, she didn’t even see Rigald die at Clare’s hand or Jean die because of Clare’s uncontrollable yoki. She built the last of her strength up – that was all that she focused on as she pressed her life desperately into the white-haired slayer. As she died, her only thought was to save Larkir.
Don’t worry. The soft voice invaded her mind as she floated here, somewhere between life and death.
Lucrecia, wake up. She opened her eyes, noticing her chestnut-brown hair as it floated freely around her. A smiling apparition stood before her, reaching out its hand to her.
“Larkir? Is that you?”
You died saving me, didn’t you?
“I… I think so…”
Why? I’m not worth a life… much less yours.
“Yes, you are… you’re my everything,” she whispered, crying as she felt Larkir’s cool hand on her own.
I think… I think it’s alright, though. I think I can live as long as you remember me. The golden-eyed slayer smiled cryptically as she let go of Lucrecia… and disappeared.
PS: Sorry it’s so short [only 5 pages T_T] but if I said anything else I’d be breaking into Part 2, Tenku no Tsume.
END OF KIN METSUKI NO ZANSATSUSHA PART ONE: SENSHI NO KYOJI