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Back into the Way

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   Darkness filled the room and the silence gave no comfort.  Looking about the room bodies littered the room in heaps.  This was going to take some help to dispose of the bodies and to get this fully cleaned up.  Kade knew who he could ask, he also knew what that was about to mean.  His life as a dishwasher was possibly about to end.  It was worth it.  Jo’s life was on the line and his freedom.  The statement must have been made to the Inner Circle after killing Yaba.  Now…now, who must he kill?  Ahatsunu warned him that the Order wouldn’t allow him to have the quiet life that he wanted.  Kade’s response echoed in his head, “Let them.  If they harm, try to harm, or even threaten the innocent people here.  I will kill them.  I will bring the whole damn order down into a giant pyre.  Or I’ll die trying…but I promise I will take many of you with me.”.  The message must have been received and handled about as well as he imagined.  Kade thought more carefully on the situation.  Why didn’t they send the Apok’s in force to kill him?  Why take Jo?  Why not just kill him when he’s been vulnerable, which admittedly was more often than he’d like.  

   Looking at his dark mask staring at him with a chest full of his past surrounding it, Kade closed his eyes inhaling a large breath and exhaling out in an attempt to relax his body and heart rate, more for what he was about to do rather than what he had just done.  Kade knelt down in front of the chest formally on both knees gave a bow and before raising his head speaking in a language he and the symbiote shared; which was unique to all Apok’s and their symbiotes,   “Ol niis nonca i humilitva sa nvd.  Ol wim nvd gi once again de help ozazm gain bayr one fvuat i important de ozazm sa iolci balt de fvuose dso would harm an itocent.” (Translated from celestial: “I come to you in humility and need.  I will need you once again to help me gain back one that is important to me and bring justice to those who would harm an innocent.”)  Kade didn’t raise his head he kept it lowered with his eyes shut waiting to hear from it.  In his mind he heard the voice that he had not heard in so long, “Gi sa ol chis one.  Ol wim help gi lap ol ethare g nvd sa desire.  Zir kures de help gi lap ge wieth de brin fvue lel fvual.  Frvdom.  Where gi trvuld ol wim be wifvu gi…Ioiad.” (Translated from celestial: “You and I are one.  I will help you for I share your need and desire.  I am here to help you for we wish to have the same thing.  Freedom.  Where you tread I will be with you…forever.”)  Kade opened his eyes raised his head grabbing the mask out feeling the cold and smooth alien material the mask was made from.  His hands were almost tingling with familiarity, there was a comfort in that.  Kade pressed the forehead of the mask to his own closing his eyes once again, “Thank you.”

   Silently Kade moved with a renewed haste across the roof tops of the city of Consequence.  His feet were light enough to not make a sound as he landed with every leap.  After he had dressed and prepared he realized they left behind many clues where they would be hold Jo.  He knew that was on purpose.  This wasn’t about her…not fully anyway.  The mask rested on Kade’s shoulder like a pauldron for now.  As it did it was helping him, speaking to him about what it saw and could feel around them.  Kade reacted and moved with a renewed awareness, it was like he’d never taken it off.  

   Kade was a shadow in the darkness moving faster than most can see.  Being with the mask again he could feel that all too familiar increase to his abilities and power surging through him performing maneuvers that he normally couldn’t…and that was saying something.  

   Kade chose his weapons carefully.  He knew he was going against what the Order called Ethadows, or Shadows.  They weren’t Apoks, they were what they send after Apoks if an Apok could not be sent…guess the order assumed they better have a back up plan after they made the Apoks and realized they were capable of a lot more than they had imagined.  Bringing firearms was useless against them, you can’t ever get a clean shot on them as well as when you do they manipulate the darkness around them to swallow it up.  You end up just wasting ammo and concentrated on a target that may be just drawing you in while the rest surround you.  Kade had seen them work…no even close up.  The surprised of the firearm he had was the only reason it had even been effective.  They know he’s coming now.  They’ll be ready.  He brought with him Diamond Fire, some Nyl metal kunai, Maliega, Raker, and some Nyl metal shurikens.  The star metal wouldn’t cut it and normal steel never truly works well against those so resistant.  For now his more traditional armor would suffice until he arrived then…he caressed the mask on his shoulder knowing what he would need to do.

   Rvulper, his symbiote, directed him and helped enhance his ability to see the trail the Ethadows left.  Undetectable by normal people or to the normal eye.  This was something that was going to need magic to see, even then it was more of a feel that you’d have to be accustom to.  Tendrils of misty shadow snaked through the air as he followed it.  They weren’t hiding their trail like normal, which made Kade realize what this was really for.  They drew him to them.  Guess he shouldn’t disappoint.  

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   Deep into the Warehouse District, in an abandoned textiles factory, large brick and mortar building Kade could see the trail leading there and he could see the weak points and fractures to the structure of everything.  It was time to put his game face on.

   Grabbing Rvulper regarding the mask for a moment he swallowed in hesitation and then placed it on his face.  The mask encompassed Kade’s face, the transformation had begun.  Kade closed his eyes as the symbiote moved over him like a thick living liquid, wrapping, binding, and penetrating through to his very bones and nerves.  The pain shot through Kade as the process happened, it was familiar but it had been so long it shocked him a bit.  The pain was coupled by a surge of energy like electricity firing through his veins.  Kade and Rvulper were merging, he knew Rvulper was the true Reaper Ghost.  It had chosen him though, many were surprised.  Though it was undeniable, they were a more one with each other than most Apoks and their symbiotes.  Kade felt his enhanced abilities grow and the power of it’s more cosmic and divine nature made could be felt, he knew exactly what to do with it all.  Rvulper knew he was here to help and not to control.  They had that battle already.  

   The transformation was brief, though it at times felt like it took much longer than seconds.  Kade stood with his living armor surrounding him black with glowing red lines, his mask now a face with glowing amber eyes the hood covering his tied back hair that didn’t change.  Wrapping a mask around the nose and mouth of his new more frightening visage.  He could see everything now.  There were at least 20 Ethadows but there was one…one more powerful.  “They sent an another Apok?”  the mix of both Kade and Rvulper’s voice modulated it in one almost demonic way.  Information was being shared mentally but that was a shock to both.  “Guess Chosan and Itmen Ixen (Bright Fire in Draconic) were convinced this was the only way to go about it?”  Both seemed confused by the methods.  Apoks were not ones to sink to kidnapping or hiding.  Something felt out of place.  Why do you need both Ethadows and an Apok?

   Jo sat blindfolded, gagged, and tied up with her hands over head suspended between two pillars.  Ethadows moved around her tapping her with their blades making her cry out from time to time with muffled screams over the sounds of her shackles clanking together as they did so.  The torment seemed to give them joy.  Jo’s shackles would jingle as she writhed around kicking at unseen foes with her unbound feet.  The movement would hurt her shoulders, though she would try to endure just to keep them at bay if she could.  

“That’s enough!”  Lines of crimson showed up through the dark then the glowing eyes.  Kade emerged from the darkness as if he owned them.  Standing with scowled and masked brow all of the Ethadows took notice as Kade strolled into the room.  Jo didn’t recognize the voice, but it had given her some reprieve at the moment.

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   Ethadows surrounded him as he entered in.  A familiar voice though modulated by her mask, came from the shadows as she dropped from the ceiling from a silken line in her arachnid carapace armor.  “You’re either losing your touch or this little girl has tripped you up Kadama.”  Ahatsunu flipped onto her feet with agility of a dancer and sauntered up to Jo’s legs putting her clawed fingered hand on her legs scratching lightly, but still drawing blood making Jo wince and cry from under blind fold streams of now dirty tears, the sound of her shackle ringing as she kicked and wiggled.  

“Stop it!”  Kade yelled but didn’t advance, he could seen 10 of the Ethadows who had surrounded him, but felt the others lurking within the shadows stills.  “Why did they send you Ahatsunu?”

“They didn’t.  I came on my own.  Chosan doesn’t know I’m here, but the Inner Circle does.  They agreed to leave the rest out of this…for now.”  Ahatsunu moved around Jo sliding her fingers across her legs as she spoke.

    Kade was perplexed.  Ahatsunu just came to warn him a couple days ago.  “Why?  Why would you do this?”  Pained sorrow filled his tone.

“YOU LEFT ME!”  Her rage was palpable filling the room with her energy scaring Jo and some of the Ethadows.

“We weren’t together like that.”  Kade was confused.

“No…no we weren’t.  But I needed you.  We were raised together.  Trained together.  We became Apoks together.  I’ve never known a day without you.  We were more than whatever this…this nobody can give you!  Then you left.  Why?  Because some collateral damage?  We live by another set of rules and laws Kadama.   I’ll let her go, but you come home with me now.”  Ahatsunu waited for along minute while Kade wrapped his mind around what was happening.  She was right.  They’d been through so much together.  More than most.   Years of bleeding on the same battle ground and in training.  They had each others back.  Until…

“Kadama!”  Ahatsunu yelled.

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“It’s Kade.”  Kade replied lifting his gaze to meet hers.  With that she signaled to the Ethadows.  The first ten surrounding him rushed Kade.  Summoning Rake, the changed claw, or chain whip with a karambit, materialized into his hands.  Kade moved flipping over some attacks simultaneously parrying shots from others with the chain of his weapon.  Landing with ease he loosed the spiked whip part of the weapon swinging it over heard in a circle the releasing it like a harpoon at one of the Ethadows piercing through his chest, some of his heart was pulled through the hole when Kade yanked it free, redirecting it with a jumping flourish at three coming at him cutting them enough to back them up.  Pulling the weapon back into hand two rushed in, Kade circled to the side wrapping their arms with the chain and flipping them over driving the karambit into one and the spike into the other.  

   Kade had to tactical roll out of the way pulling the bodies with him to trip up another rush.  This time he went hand-to-hand moving quickly with parries and counter strikes with each one.  Punching one with a straight blast to his jaw, while kicking the other in the liver with a sidekick, and turning that into an oblique kick against the knee of the other smashing it sending the man screaming to the floor.  That was enough time for him to summon Maliega and a Nyl metal kunai.  Moving with purpose and design he cut through the rest of the 10, putting 3 kunai into one of the men, putting his shurikens in different ones, as well as keeping 2 kunai left for possibly needing to break through he shackles.

   Kade approached Ahatsunu being met with the rest of the Esthdows.  Drawing Diamond Fire, the blade shimmered prisms even in the darkness of the abandoned plant.  The straight blade gave some hesitations to the Esthdows at first.  Then one brave soul after the next trying their hardest to kill Kade found their demise.  He moved methodically and with purpose.   Deflecting shots and parrying attacks.  Using intelligent footwork to move away from attacks all while brutally cutting and stabbing his way through them ripping open their wounds, not simply cutting.  Blood made the floor sticky and the musty smell of the old plant now had a metallic scent.  By the time it was done the room once again had bodies lying everywhere.  Ahatsunu crawled up Jo and held a blade to her throat, “I’ll kill her Kadama.”  Ahatsunu sad the last with a biting tone.

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“Why?  You know that won’t stop me from killing you.  Not now.”  Kade hid his nerves from the situation.  He hated seeing Jo in peril, but he was going to need to think of something.

  Suddenly Jo and Ahatsunu come crashing down to the floor, Jo freed from her shackles, both shackles having nails jammed into the locks…she broke the locks, Kade was impressed with how resourceful Jo was, must come from living in Hellifyno.    Ahatsunu was now stunned from the sudden crash to the floor.   Jo pulled the blindfold off and the gag looking to find Kade…she remembered the name Kadama from dealing with Yaba.  Seeing only the frightening crimson and black figure standing there with a bloody sword in hand.  She scuttled back seeing the arachnid demon woman behind her.

   Kade spoke as easily as he could, allowing the top part of his face to be exposed showing his hazel eyes.  “Go find a place to hide, take this,”  He pulls Maliega from one of the dead Esthdows.   She hesitates with a cringe but snatches it quickly as she jumps up and rushing out of that room holding the knife in both hands.

   Kade’s mask returns to the full mask seeing Ahatsunu wearing Huil (Silk in Drow) with six eyes and a mouth with mandibles on both sides.   He noticed her wielding Pincer, her artifact shortsword from the unseelie fey, and Venom an enchanted dagger with a paralyzing poison.  Kade was prepared for it.

“Fine.  You want out.  This is your only way!”  She was fast, probably faster than Kade.  Had his ability to anticipate attacks not been a reflex, he would have been done for.  Being cut by Pincer sucked, but you don’t want to be stabbed.  Once it penetrates the skin metal lines whip out of it wrapping around organs and anything else in it’s wake, severing them into tiny pieces.  Meanwhile Venom was dangerous no matter what.  A cut or stab by this and whatever it stabbed is put into a state of paralysis, making everything more difficult.  Getting stabbed in the heart or having an artery cut still dangerous but it’s instant death.  

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  Kade parried and counter struck with every attack, she was fast and moving with a lot more agility she cut him across the gut and side with Pincer showing her speed and training.  One of her big perks, she can see moving in slow motion, which for us it’s still fast but she handles it with ease.  This dangerous dance of give and take, blades clashing and each one moving so fast that it defied reason.  Jo looked in to see the battle at hand, staring on in awe as the two were so quick and dangerous…like a movie in triple fast forward quick with moments that looked like glitches as they moved.

   The battle was fast and with a short time he’d been cut 3 times and his left arm was paralyzed by Venom, though it took a couple of stabs.  With one arm disarmed Ahatsunu, pinning her to a pillar with a blade to her neck,  “I don’t want to do this.”  Kade pleaded.

“You better, because I won’t stop.”  Pride in her voice and look, she was serious.  Kade gritted his teeth and plunged Diamond Fire into her neck pulling it out from the side making sure the wound was fatal.  As she slumped down he helped her to the floor while the mask faded off her falling with a sad clatter to the ground.  “Keep Huil safe.  She always liked you.”  Ahatsunu gurgled and smiled a bloody smile, “This is freedom.  I did love..”  As she reached up touching Kade’s face the last statement fell silent with her remaining breath escaping her.  Kade stayed knelt down holding Ahatsunu in his arms, his mask now off his armor returned to that of his normal form, tears streaming down a pained looked on his face as he sobbed over his dying friend.

   Jo hearing the fighting end but seeing the scene in front of her comes closer to Kade gently setting the knife down and hugging his neck.  He melted into her the most vulnerable he’s ever been.  She stood giving him space watching on ready if he needed anything.

   After a long moment.  Kade rights himself, “Please wait for me outside, I need to clean this and send my friend…and fellow Apok off properly.  I would like to do this alone please.”  Jo reaches for him, but he’s asking for his space and she respected that.  She left slowly wishing there was more she could do, but he needed this and she will be there waiting after.

   Jo was half expecting a large fire or the building to go up in flames while Kade strode out like a badass with the blaze flaring behind him.  Instead he walked out with his head hung low carrying Ahatsunu weapons and mask in hand.  “Let’s go home.  Hopefully the help I asked for has cleaned up my place.  But maybe we should take the sleep over to your place?  My furniture is…well…I need new furniture.”  The moment was still deep in him even as he tried to bring levity back into the moment.  He had been wounded and was limping a bit.  The weapons they have are made for hurting those with extreme power.  “Careful.  My left arm is paralyzed, for awhile any way.  I need to tend to these wounds too.”

   Jo nods seeing the sorrow still deep in him from what happened.  “Let’s get you home then.  You know, we have a lot to talk about.” she propped his paralyzed arm around her shoulders as she wrapped an arm around his waist.  Kade simply nodded, she wasn’t kidding.  He knew that this was long overdue.  “We should get an Uber, it’s going to take too long to walk.”  Jo’s sentiments made Kade laugh in pained gasps but he had to agree.      

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