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Ten years had passed since the day that figure had picked the child up, and she grew up within the black tower, along with shadowy figure she came to call “Zet”. They lived beside each other, but that didn’t mean they ate together, played together, or slept with each other. Never. Except for when Zet would observe her did it rarely stay beside her.
Today, was one of those days.
On the training ground built outside the temple, both Zet and the girl exchanged blows with weapons in hand. The girl wielded a pure white sword, Zet carried a large jet-black scythe. When the scythe lightly grazed the girl, only gods knew how many times that had happened already, she retreated to create distance between them. She wiped the sweat that had built up on her forehead with a sleeve as she tried to get her breath in order.
It had been thirty minutes since the observation had begun, and she knew she had reached her limit. Zet rested the scythe on its shoulder as it spoke with a mellowed voice.
“What is wrong? Exhausted already?”
Zet did not mean to demean her, it never did. Zet stated the simple truth after observing her condition. Even so, with a deep breath, she kicked off the ground. The girl got Zet within range of her sword and twisted her body to attack at its flank, but the sword did not reach. Its black scythe swooped downward to redirect her sword, and white sword only ended up pierced into the ground.
“Fumu. Well executed [Swift Feet Technique], but the direction was too linear.”
Zet whispered as if it was only for himself, then it swung the scythe tremendously fast. The girl pulled the sword back and used it as a shield. The blow was so powerful that it caused wind storm-like pressure. She couldn’t withstand it as she was knocked into the air.
Attacked by a sense of numbness, she was dizzy for a while, but somehow, she bit her own tongue. She regained her clarity and landed back on the ground with her feet. She wiped away the blood that leaked from her mouth. She regulated her breathing and noticed her arms convulsed horribly.
“I’m fine. Not yet… I’m not done yet.”
The girl suppressed the shaking in her hands by force and tightened her grip on the sword. She swung the blade and had set up an [arc]; A sword domain so to speak, allowing her to intercept any attack from any direction, even from a blind spot. It was once of the sword techniques Zet had taught her.
“Are you ready?”
Zet asked as it swung the scythe as if it was as weightless as a twig. The girl tightened her grip.
[E/N: Author said she didn’t reply, but replies afterward, so I removed the conflicting part.]
“I am ready.”
The moment Zet heard her answer, it felt discomfort on its back. It jumped to the side, narrowly dodging a downward swing by a paper-thin margin. The girl had sneaked behind it and raised her sword for another attack, but stopped. She had to stop. What she attacked had merely been Zet’s afterimage, and its blade was now dangerously close to her neck. A cold sweat ran down her forehead.
“Your footwork still needs some polishing. Shall we end it here today?”
With that said, Zet disappeared – melting into the ground. As soon as it left, the pressure surrounding the temple shattered, and serenity returned.
“Thank you for today.”
Once her strength had returned, she thanked the ground where Zet had melted into. The girl’s daily routine was a fixed schedule. Zet taught her many things, which ranged from the continents recent situation, language, war tactics, magic, swordsmanship, and martial arts. Once when they were in the forest, Zet had taught her how to hunt and cook. What it referred to as an “Observation” was more of educating and training for the girl.
One day, during an observation.
Zet told the girl that she was human. It explained to her, in its usually hard to understand speech, but it didn’t mean to confuse her. Then what about Zet? Why did Zet look so different from her, the girl asked.
“What am I? Indeed… I am different from the humans of this world. I am what they call, ‘Grim Reaper’.”
Once she heard the unexpected reply, the girl’s eyes gleamed. One of the books Zet had brought had described what a “Grim Reaper” was. According to the book, a grim reaper was described as a terrible entity that reaped the souls of humans indiscriminately – The death of all living beings. That was written at the end of the book. When the girl asked Zet if it was here to reap her soul.
“That is a false assumption. We never directly reap the souls of living beings, only those who are about to die. After a human dies, it’ll be too late for us to reap their soul.”
It said. To be exact, the “grim reaper” in the book was depicted to wear a ragged cloak, but Zet, right now, looked like a shadow that flickered and burned. If she had to choose which one to believe, she’d chose Zet, and so, the girl deemed the book as fraudulent.
The girl aked after a session of sword training; the swordsmanship and martial arts she’d been learning – the art to kill other humans -, what was it useful for? Humans would kill their brethren to eat, as they were war-like and cruel creatures. There was only one human in the temple. With no other human to kill, she felt that it was unnecessary to learn it.
“You’ll understand in due time.”
Zet merely responded after a short silence. Naturally, as a shadow, Zet had no expression. Therefore, she couldn’t really understand the meaning of those words. However, she could have sworn Zet had grinned.
No matter how many seasons passed, the girl continued her strange life with Zet…
It had been fifteen years since Zet first met the girl. There was no change at all in her dailey life. Their sessions of observation were repeated daily without pause. If she had to say, the content of the training and education had become more advanced. Other than that, she was also given a name to avoid any inconvenience in the future.
The girl had also undergone major changes during the years. Zet’s tutelage developed her body to be as strong as a wild beast, but that didn’t mean that she didn’t look like a regular fifteen-year-old girl; evident from her sinewy limb and still growing plump breasts. Combined with her doll-like features, anyone who passed her would turn around to get another glimpse. She had turned into a beautiful young woman.
The girl woke up as the sun rose as usual and rose from her bed. She let out a long yawn as she stretched her back. The sounds of her a few bones cracking made her even more comfortable. She took a towel that hung on the wall and put it around her neck. She left the bedroom and walked along the corridor that led down toward the courtyard.
She loved the serene atmosphere that came with sunrise. It could be said that she always woke early just to enjoy this moment.
She eventually arrived in the courtyard, her first destination. The sunlight shone through the gaps between the lush green leaves, and she squinted her eyes a bit, then began to draw some water from the well with a bucket. With the collected water, she washed her face and rinsed out her mouth. A comfortable smile came when the water-filled her empty stomach.
Alone by herself, the girl made her way to the kitchen for breakfast. There, a simple stove made of bricks and a small table. The girl worked with familiarity and concentrated magic to the tip of her right index finger. She drew the magic from her body, combined a small amount with the elements in the air. As soon as it was successful, blue particles gathered on the tip. When the light became condensed, a small fireball the size of a bean had been formed.
Satisfied with the result, the girl shoved the fire into the stove. White-hot flames burned on and she used the poker that leaned against a nearby wall to adjust the heat. At first, she didn’t know how to properly control the output of her fireball. That caused the stove to explode a few times, but every single time, the stove would be restored the next day as if it never happened. She chalked this strange event as the work of a [Mischievous Fairy Comet] that was described in the book concerning mysterious phenomenons. The book told the story of a mischievous fairy named Comet who liked to exchange things to prank on people, and enjoyed watching the result in secret.
Once, the girl wanted to see the truth of the matter. So she hid in the corner of the room all night long, but Comet never appeared; no matter how long she waited. She ended up leaving her hideout for observation time and when she returned a while later, the stove had already been restored. The girl hadn’t given up yet. She ended up spending several days staked out for the fairy, but Comet never came, leaving her wish unfulfilled.
After a while, she was utterly disappointed once she found out that the stove had been repaired by Zet through magic.
She shook her head after she recalled that bitter memory, and wiped her forehead with the towel. She then put a pot containing yesterday’s soup on the stove and waited for it to warm up. A short wait later, sizzling could be heard from the pot. Followed by the drift of an appetizing scent.
“Thank you for the meal.”
She finished her meal alone and quickly cleaned up the mess before she headed to the education room. There several rooms within the temple beside the one she used for her bedroom, but all of them were in a dire state. It was only natural since no one managed the place. The same applied to the education room. When she pushed the door open with the familiar magic diagram on it, the door actually fell apart. Apparently, it had been rotten for years now.
The girl was not particularly concerned with that. She proceeded to the center of the room and sat at the only desk and chair inside. Usually, Zet would appear from the void soon afterward, all he needed to do was wait for it. Doubt never crossed the girl’s mind. Zet never appeared even after waiting for half a day. A strange feeling overcame her and she approached the podium that Zet regularly used.
Along with a jet-black sword she had never seen, there was also a letter and a scarlet-colored jewel on the podium. The girl looked at the letter. It was addressed to her. She read and reread it many times, and then she took both the jewel and the sword before she rushed out of the temple.
She surprised herself, but she called out Zet’s name as loud as possible. Zet never responded to her calls before, but she could still hope. Her voice only echoed throughout the forest. Still she continued to call out for the shadow until she lost her voice… but Zet never came.
“Zet… Zet… Zet…”
A warm substance overflowed from her eyes as she repeated its name. As her vision blurred, she unconsciously rubbed away the substance as it rolled gently down her cheeks. She immediately realized that it was “tears” that humans shedded when they felt sad, but she still didn’t understand why her chest felt painfully tight. A pain different from the one she suffered from during training. It was not described in any books of the books she had read.
How long had passed?
She wiped away the tears with her sleeve, and she noticed something. The handle of the sword in her hand felt similar to something. It looked different, but it almost definitely felt like Zet’s scythe… She embraced the sword. Her eyes were strangely calm…
On that very same day, the girl left the temple… And never returned.