Rakurai, Tsbuaki, Helyna and Arashi trudged slowly through the Flooded Forest, feeling downtrodden, naturally, after the imperial forces found the Hikari ruins. Well, not very many of them, but even if no soldiers had been present, two top-ranking Abyssal Sanctum soldiers is more than enough. Since the main front gate was the only way out without fighting through soldiers, and Kasai was in the other direction, they had to circle back, and listening to the countless screams of children your own age...and enough to tear anyone's soul out. They were long gone before the massacre had reached any kind of conclusion. They had heard the enduring sound of clashing blades and Bowgun fire, so they decided to blind themselves with whatever sliver of hope remained, in order to delay the realization of the more than likely brutal truth. If they faced it now, the magnitude of loss and trauma would overwhelm them.

Either way, there was no time to even stop and think about that now. Their mind were elsewhere: there as a monster amidst the dusk. Everyone called it the "Nightstalker", due to its uncanny ability to cling to the shadows, killing quickly and without mercy, picking off unwary hunters one by one with a series of swift hit-and-run attacks. Nobody had ever seen it. At least, nobody alive. All it did was let loose a sotto voce growl every once in a while before instigating a rhythmic series of sharp crucnhing noises when it snapped twigs and branches as it stalked off further into the night. It terrified them, but they were too busy concentrating on the Nightstalker, ears cocked intently in an attempt to detect the most miniscule sound of movement, to feel fear, or even talk. The only sounds in the barely visible surrounding were chirping crickets, rustling leaves and bushes, and the foursome's short, sharps breath in contrast with the Nightstalkers barely audible yet clearly resonant wheezing.

Suddenly, the heavy breathing stopped, and, almost exactly by the second, so did the hunters. Now, a total, absolute, all-encompassing silence snuffed out nature's buzz. The entire forest had silence itself, like an audience waiting for the next act of a play. The minute clearing that the group had reached was lit by the moon, but the entirety of the forest outside the clearing was made of a ceiling of greenery, and even that could no longer be seen. In fact, it was so dark that the people before them, the floor and the moonlit yet pitch black and starless sky were the only things that were all. It was as if the four young teens had been placed in a spotlight upon a stage.

Sudddenly, though the four didn't see it, the nightstalker grubled inaudibly... and pounced.

The stage had been set for the next act.

To Be Continued in: Fate and Freedom- Interlude: Ashes of the Fallen

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