On the way to the Grand Labyrinth
Raphael left China and was now heading toward Turkey. While travelling, Raphael was thinking of his mysterious illness.
-What could it be? Was it really the consequence of the final phase of Soul Edge's curse? I may have reached to conclusion a little fast… But it is still worsening… I wonder if I did an error in destroying the Holy Stone? What if it had really cured us? We are already dying, what worse could it have done?
Raphael looked at his hand, the burning mark the Holy Stone left was still very apparent.
-But with what it did to me, I don't think it would have done anything good to us… even if this monk said so… maybe it wasn't the reason of my fatigue but it really was dangerous to us… Nothing can cure us except Soul Edge… Humpf! I studied medicine and I don't even know what we have!
Raphael had some regrets.
-We were perfectly fine in Toulouse! Why did I have to go? …To secure our future… Ha! How hilarious! I put us in an even worst position than ever!
Raphael sighed and lowered his head.
-…But what is done is done… It's too late for regrets… All I can do is keep going… for Amy…
Raphael became very worried thinking about Amy; what if she already died? He tried to push the thought aside and continued on his way. It was the only way. But each time he stopped to rest, he dreamed about his daughter and it always was unhappy dreams; she was sick and dying, she was already dead, she was crying… And he woke up tormented and not rested at all.
He finally reached Turkey and stopped in a city named Van. A very beautiful city positioned near a very big lake with a big ancient fortress overlooking it. Raphael rode into the city and wondered what he should do.
-I now have to find this… forgotten labyrinth leading to the land of the gods… It won't be easy… At least, Siegfried Schtauffen is also heading there. If I ask about him, I may find the place… At least, the general direction… And it's him that I want to find in reality. Maybe I could also ask in temples and places of worship, they may know something about the land of the gods…
Raphael went into temples and any places he thought people could know about ancient legends but found nothing. In the evening, he went in a bar to ask about Siegfried Schtauffen also known as Nightmare the Azure knight.
When he asked the customers, some told him they did saw a young blond man with a giant sword coming here but didn't know where he went after that.
A serving girl came to Raphael sitting at his table while he finished his meal and asked him:
-Are you his older brother? You do look alike…
Raphael was surprised at this statement.
-Non, I am not. We are not related at all. I don't see where you get this idea…
-But you do look like him. He was handsome… And you're even more handsome.
Raphael was embarrassed. He even blushed when the woman began to massage his shoulders from behind. It seemed she didn't just want to speak. Even if he hated flirting, he might as well thrive on this now for information.
-Thank you for the compliment, mademoiselle. And did he tell you where he was going? Did you speak to him?
The serving girl leaned over Raphael's ear and changed her voice's tone to a more flirtatious one.
-Call me Yeliz… I tried to speak to him but he pushed me away and wanted to stay alone in his corner. He didn't look really friendly, he spoke to no one! After a while he left.
She suddenly remembered something.
-Oh yes! He did say something… But… it's a little noisy around here… We should go somewhere less crowded to continue our conversation… Come outside… in the back alley…
Raphael knew that this woman wanted something: him or his money; in the back alley, it could be an ambush to steal his money. He would have to stay alert. They went outside and Raphael tried to spot any suspicious thing in the alley by quickly scanning around. All seemed normal. He then turned his attention to Yeliz while still trying to keep alert. He almost didn't look at her while they were inside. She was really beautiful, her browns eyes had a so sweet gaze, her face had very delicate features and her neck... seemed... most tasty. Raphael unwillingly felt his vampire lust coming over. He now wanted to bite her and drink her blood. It has been a long time since he hadn't drunk blood and the blood of beautiful women taste so delicious.
After his fight with Kilik, he didn't feel his bloodlust for quite a while. He put that on the account of his worries for Amy, but the victims on his way here were very few compared to his previous trip toward China. But now Yeliz should not have asked him to be alone with her; she will soon be one of the few…
The temperature outside had changed; it seemed like there would soon be a thunder storm but neither of them cared about it. Raphael got closer to the serving girl and put his arms around her waist while she put her arms around him.
-So, what did he say, ma douce amie? Asked Raphael on a pleasant tone with his most charming smile.
-Well… he spoke to the barman. I heard him; he asked directions for Sinop, a city near the Black Sea. But by what I heard, it wasn't the city that interested him… He just wanted to go somewhere near there.
-Can we stop talking about him?
-You don't know where?
The woman sighed.
-No. I don't know where. But it seemed near Sinop. Can we talk about more interesting affairs?
-If you wish…
The woman lifted her head and closed her eyes, waiting for a kiss. But Raphael had other plans of his own and Yeliz didn't see that Raphael's mouth was not exactly preparing for a kiss: his mouth opened showing his pointy fangs and was slowly coming toward her neck. But before the vampire had time to do what he wanted, he suddenly felt observed and swiftly began turning to see what it was but he got stabbed in the left rib and fell down with a groan. The fact that he quickly turned just before the hit saved his life or else he would have been stabbed in the heart. Yeliz opened her eyes and saw a woman with a black ponytail in front of them while Raphael was at her feet, moaning and clutching her skirt in pain. She started to scream. The ponytail girl interrupted her.
-I just saved your life!
-Ahh! You killed my boyfriend!
-Your 'boyfriend' wanted to kill you! He's a vampire! Now get away! I must seal him and stop him from doing any more victims!
She pushed the woman away but while she did that, Raphael had painfully got up and backed away. Taki could see that Raphael seemed scared of her. He looked like a cornered animal.
The serving girl screamed and threw herself at Taki to protect Raphael.
-Leave him alone!
As Taki tried to fight off Yeliz without harming her, she angrily told Raphael:
-You always have someone to help you, monster! Minion or not!
Raphael seemed in pain while he held his bleeding wound but he weakly smiled as he looked at Taki. Even if he didn't look too confident, he unsheathed his rapier to help his intended victim against Taki.
Suddenly some men from the bar got out. The bar's bouncers. Yeliz screamed hysterically:
-This woman is an assassin! Stop her!
She then came beside Raphael and held him protectively.
-She tried to kill him!
The men began to run toward Taki and the ninja saw that some even had guns. They began to fire at her. Taki threateningly pointed her finger at Raphael as she backed away while evading the bullets and told him:
-You won't escape me, demon!
Taki then jumped on the roof and escaped the men while Raphael held his bleeding wound trying to cover the black blood. He turned toward the serving girl who looked worried and weakly smiled to her:
-Thank you… You saved my life… Yeliz…
The woman smiled back at him.
-Come inside, I'll take care of your wound.
-…Euh… Non, merci… I will take care of my wound by myself. I think I will have to flee the city now. But I do appreciate what you did for me…
Raphael took her hand and gallantly kissed it. Yeliz insisted:
-But you can't go alone while this killer still roams free!
Raphael looked at her and told her:
-You should think about your own safety first. Go back inside the bar. I can take care of myself.
Raphael was feeling guilty of what he was about to do to her before Taki's interruption; he didn't want to hurt her now that she tried to save him. The girl looked at him, unsure if she should do as he told her.
-Go inside, Yeliz. I will be alright. Thank you again.
She then obeyed and went back to the bar with the men, one of them also asked Raphael if he wanted to get inside to wait for the guards and get some treatment for his wound but Raphael declined and went to the stable to search for his horse. He didn't want to involve the city guards in this and he didn't feel secure in this city now that this ninja was after him again and that he was still tired and wounded. As he walked toward the stable, still staggering from the pain of the wound, he grumbled as rain began to fall.
-The ninja found me again! I must flee at once! Damn ninja…!
Raphael entered the stable but got a nasty surprise.
-My horse! Someone stole my horse! That ninja! She will be the death of me! …If it's not my illness.
There was no other horse in the stable that Raphael could steal. It was totally empty. Raphael suddenly felt observed; lightning suddenly illuminated the sky as the storm began and from the corner of his eyes, Raphael saw a woman silhouette in front of the stable entrance. Without waiting to see more, he ran at the back of the stable, disappeared into mist beside a small window and reappeared on the other side of it.
Taki jumped on the stable roof, ran on it and spotted Raphael on the other side of the stable as he was beginning to flee. She jumped on him but he quickly turned with his rapier ready, like if he had waited for that, and slashed her left leg as she landed, before he began running away again. Taki fell down then painfully got up while she looked at the vampire turning in an alley.
-Don't even try!
Ignoring her wound, she began to pursue him. She followed him all the way to the ancient abandonned fortress of Van just beside the great lake as the storm intensified and thunder roared. Taki ran up the many stairs of the fortress when she suddenly noticed Raphael standing on top of them with his rapier drawn. Lightning illuminated the sky again making Raphael's silhouette stand out as his cape wildly flowed in the wind.
-Well, At least your stance is correct, heh! stated Taki as she continued climbing the stairs toward him while slowing down a bit.
-… pff…pff… I have enough of you… ninja! pff… I'll get rid of you… pff… once and for all!
Raphael was still exhausted from his run and had difficulties taking his breath back but he tried to keep the best menacing stance he could.
-I'm glad you don't flee anymore!
-… pff… pff… Unfortunately, …it seems I will never be able…pff… to get rid of you… unless I kill you… But … I have been far less ruthless… than last time in my travels… I am not always the monster you saw… on our previous encounter… This time, I was able to control myself on my way here…
Raphael then added, a little embarrassed:
-…Except you did catch me on a guilty time… but I didn't leave a bloody trail… I only drank… when necessary. You certainly found me with your secret way… not by the bloody trail I left…
-Indeed. You did seem less bloodthirsty on your way here. The shards had a really bad influence on you. But still, on the way, you attacked and killed people. And from that, like you were about to do again, you can't refrain yourself. You also took another evil shard… You really don't give up, do you?
-I need those shards to live.
-Relying on such power will only bring rise to new evil. It's futile…do you not understand that?
-And now, you will seal me, like you tried last time?
-Yes, I have to. I've no choice. I can't allow you to go any further
Raphael's gaze changed for a second, fear was visible in his eyes then they became hard and cold.
-Your petty trick will not work. I will not give you the chance to strike again. This time, I'm ready to escape your sutras. I learned what your papers were. I asked on my way. They are special holy papers that have the power to destroy or cast out demons and repel evil when put on doors.
-Even if you learned, it won't stop me from sealing you.
-I'd rather die than be sealed away like a demon!
-It'll be over quickly. Get ready!
-Yes, it will.
Raphael threw himself at Taki with his rapier pointing at her. A clap of thunder echoed in the night.
-That's enough! Die already!
Taki evaded the vampire's attack and swiftly slashed back at him. But Raphael dodged the weapon and jumped away from Taki before he launched at her again and tried to push her down the stairs's side which had no guardrail. Taki nimbly jumped up the now slippery stairs. The rain was falling without stop, rendering the stone stairs very hazardous. Taki quickly got up the stairs and went to the floor of the tower where Raphael stood before. Raphael quickly followed and tried to slash her again as he reached the floor but Taki greeted him with a circular kick on his face which almost sent him tumbling down the stairs again. A lightning bolt felt down at this instant on the great lake, illuminating all while rain kept on falling. Raphael then unleashed a combo of slashes while throwing himself at Taki who backflipped away before she came back with a slashing strike that Raphael swiftly parried.
-Give it up… not that you're going to listen!
-Do not delude yourself, wretched fool! I will never surrender! The likes of you could never stop me!
Raphael then slashed again at Taki who swiftly dodged.
-I shall celebrate your demise by drinking your blood, ninja!
Then thunder rumbled like if the fortress was crumbling under the furious assaults of the fighters.
-Now, it's over! I won't hold back!
Suddenly, Taki's right arm went on fire and the ninja hit the floor with it:
An explosion hit the ground in front of Raphael and he fell down. He quickly got back on his feet only to get stuck by something like a lightning bolt.
Before he had time to realize what happened, another explosion, even bigger than the last one exploded before him, sending him flying into the air before he fell down with a loud thud.
Raphael painfully but quickly got back on his feet.
-Ungh… Extraordinary… I'm quite impressed… It seems your sutras are not the only magic you wield… But I learned some moves too… Would you like a taste of my powers?
He gracefully lifted his rapier in the air and the blade began to go up in flame. Raphael swiftly whirled with his fire weapon, came back toward Taki and struck her, sending her down the floor.
-Better luck, next time!
As Taki painfully got up, Raphael tried to catch his breath again. This move he learned just some time ago was really demanding in energy. When Taki was almost up, Raphael launched himself at her again. He ran and made a slide kick to trip her down. The slippery floor helped him reach his opponent but Taki jumped up before he could trip her. She then landed behind Raphael and turned to slash him.
-Wicked soul, prepare to die!
Raphael quickly turned too and swiftly deflected the strike with his Flambert. He was still afraid that Taki may decide to use her sutras or any other magic on him but for this, she needed her hands, so he disappeared into mist and reappeared behind her, letting go of his rapier and trying to grab both her wrists. They began to wrestle, Taki smashed Raphael on the wall of the fortress and down the floor but he never let go of her wrists while they went from one side of the tower to the other. But as they both were on the side of the fortress near the cliff, Raphael deliberately threw himself down the fortress wall, bringing Taki with him. They both fell toward the raging water furiously crashing on the rocks and the cliff, but then Raphael changed to mist and reappeared on top of the fortress. He quickly looked over the edge of the fortress to see if Taki had fell to her death but couldn't see anything; the abundant rain was obstructing his vision as water was running down his eyes. The lake was sending powerful waves crashing loudly against the rocky cliff making it even harder to see anyone in the water. After some times, he could not detect the ninja's body anywhere and moved away from the edge, laying down in exhaustion. He muttered to himself:
-It looks like I have the last laugh after all…
Raphael laid on the wet floor of the tower taking his breath back as rain fell down on him, leaking on his face. He hoped the ninja was really dead; she was like a spider; disappearing when we think we killed them… He really hoped she would not come back now because he would not be able to face her; he was too tired; if it weren't for the rain falling on his face and keeping him awake, he would have certainly lost consciousness from his efforts and his wounds. His wounds hurt so much; especially the one Taki did to his rib outside the bar. He tried to ignore it all this time but now the wound was making itself felt and it was really painful. A clap of thunder suddenly resounded and Raphael hoped it was the death knell for the dangerous ninja.
After a while, he decided to get up and leave, the rain and the wind were beginning to be cold and it was getting very uncomfortable. Beside it was still too risky to stay here. On his way to Sinop, he would have all the time to moan and to wallow in self pity, he couldn't delay any longer. He staggered down the stairs and went back to the city where he quickly stole a horse and left the place.
-I shall have to take another victim in the next town. Especially now that I am wounded. I think I can't regenerate my own blood since I'm a vampire; each time I'm wounded, I'm thirstier.
He added like if it was evidence:
-Of course, I'm dying; I can't live unless I steal the life of others…
Except for drinking, Raphael rode without rest to Sinop. There he asked if someone had seen a young long haired blond German man named Siegfried Schtauffen or Nightmare the Azure knight and holding a giant sword. In the evening, a bunch of fishermen told him they saw indeed a young man matching this description. They even told him they saw him just some hours ago walking on foot on the beach toward west. They didn't know where he was going but since it was just some hours ago, Raphael got excited. He thanked them and guided his horse toward west.
-He is on foot! I shall be able to get to him before he goes in this land of the gods! I…
He suddenly fully realized the consequences.
-…am near to get the sword! Amy, hold on! Soon I will get the sword! We will be cured from this deadly tiredness!
He forced his horse to gallop as fast as it could.
Raphael rode all night on the beach of the Black sea, following the traces on the beach that he thought were Siegfried's. But the traces were not too clear as the person seemed to have walked near the water, so most of it was erased. But sometimes Raphael could detect two pair of traces; one longer and one smaller… Maybe he wasn't following the right traces… But each villagers or fisher he asked that evening on the way said that there was indeed a young man in armour with long blond hair and a giant sword walking that way only some hours ago… but he was alone.
As the sun was rising, Raphael began to wonder.
-Am I following the right traces? I should have caught up with Nightmare by now … Who am I following? Is there somebody else? I didn't see any straying traces either… Nightmare must still be on this path too…
This Siegfried Schtauffen was a strange man, since he was searching for him, Raphael had heard many contradicted stories; sometimes people said that he committed many slaughters as he got past their village but sometimes he was the most discreet person they ever seen. He was really hard to follow.
The wind suddenly became stronger, almost pushing him and his horse. Raphael continued moving forward. He suddenly saw some kind of hill and saw some sort of entrance, like the entrance to a cave, but somebody seemed to be sitting in front of it, mostly relaxing. It seemed to be a man. He was laid down with his head resting on his arms. As Raphael approached, the man rose on his feet and took his weapon, which seemed to be a Chinese sword, before coming toward Raphael who could now see that it was a young man, Asian but with reddish hair… Raphael wondered who this could be and where was Siegfried Schtauffen. He also wondered with a little annoyance when he saw the young man pick his weapon, what does he wanted. Raphael didn't want to fight again.
The young man came to him and told him on an arrogant tone:
-I don't like... the look in your eyes.
Raphael choose to ignore the young man's insult and asked him coldly:
-Did you see a long haired blond man near here?
-No. I only saw a short haired blond man and I gotta say, I'm much better looking!
The young man looked at Raphael with a defiant look like if he waited for a reaction. Raphael looked at him with a cold and furious gaze while he thought: How dare you! Insolent fool! But he tried to keep his calm and answered:
-I asked you a question, the least you could have done is answer politely.
Raphael pointed to the cave.
-Where does this cave leads to?
-I don't want you to go there!
Raphael was really getting annoyed at this kid.
-'Cuz… I don't like your face!
Raphael got down of his horse and went toward the entrance. The young man cheekily placed himself in front of him. Raphael gestured toward him to get away. Had he not been that tired, this kid would have received a spanking long ago.
-Do not get in my way.
-Like hell! You're the one in my way!
-Do not anger me anymore than this. Now get out of the way, insolent boy!
Seeing as Raphael was losing patience, the young man seemed satisfied and smiled confidently.
-I've been itchin' for a fight!
Raphael rolled his eyes and answered:
-Yes. I haven't noticed…
-I'm on fire! Said the young man as he couldn't stay at the same place and was now jumping up and down in anticipation.
-Well burn and leave me alone!
-Wanna see... just how strong I am?
-Non! I don't have time kid! I'm not amused!
The morning was rising and the sun was becoming really bothering so Raphael didn't want to stay outside talking to a kid who was just looking for a fight. Unlike the young man, he may really burn. He began to walk on a determined pace toward the entrance.
-If you don't mind, I am going inside.
-Well I do mind!
-Well then follow me, I shall beat you inside, foolish boy.
-Okay! Don't see any inconvenient! The sun really is hot!
-I'll give you the punishment you deserve for your insolence!
They went inside. It looked like a normal cave. Raphael and the young man stopped were there was some place for a fight and Raphael asked the younger man:
-All right, what is your name?
-Yun-Seong. And yours?
-Raphael Sorel. Why didn't you want me to come in here?
-I told you I was looking for a fight!
-And that's why you went into the middle of the desert in front of this cave just in case somebody would pass by and you could have a fight with him?
The young man seemed a little embarrassed of what to say.
-What is the truth, kid?
-… I got lost?
Raphael looked at him with his arms crossed and waited for the real answer. Yun-Seong didn't want to tell him the truth; that he came here accompanied by his friend, Talim, a young priestess of the wind who told him she had to cure a man infected by Soul Edge and that the wind told her to come here to meet him. He didn't want to leave Talim alone for this task but she told him she had to do it alone so he reluctantly let her go inside and waited for this tainted man that she had to cure. His plan was to beat the guy enough so that he would be weak in front of Talim in case her purification ritual didn't work. He was certain Raphael was this man and he had to beat him now. He also hoped Soul Edge was in the place but he first had to take care of the stranger for Talim, he would then go search for the Sword of Salvation even if Talim, and mostly everybody else, told him it was evil. It could not be, it was the sword of legend! And even if it was, he had to save his country, Korea, with it from the invading Japan. He would just have to destroy it after he used it or something like that. And he didn't fear the sword. But for now, he decided to skip the embarrassing questioning. He took his fighting stance and told Raphael:
-Talk is cheap...let's get this on!
Raphael knew the young man would not talk anymore and also got ready for the fight.
-All right! I'm getting pumped up!
Yun-Seong threw himself at Raphael with a speed Raphael had not expected. Raphael parried with his rapier at the last moment before he struck back with a kick in Yun-Seong's stomach. The young man backed away but quickly launched himself again at Raphael with a combo of strikes that sent the older man slamming into the rocky wall.
-That was nothin'! There's more where that came from! Proudly stated Yun-Seong.
But Raphael replied with a graceful slash on Yun-Seong's shoulder sending blood pouring on the rocky walls that Yun-Seong hit as he tumbled down.
-Dammit, that really hurt!
-This was to be expected. It was foolish of you to anger me. Realize your place, in this world.
Yun-Seong got up and attacked again but got welcomed by a combo of hits from Raphael. As the young man fell down again, Raphael asked him on a mocking tone:
-What's wrong? You don't want to fight anymore?
Yun-Seong got up and told him:
-Come on! I was just getting warmed up!
He threw himself at Raphael and they both clashed together. Both of them taunted the other as they both were proud fighters and had to be the best.
-Come and get some!
-Nice try but you cannot go against my blade!
-Is that all you've got?
-How boring! Now watch quietly and learn.
-Ha ha ha! You look like an idiot!
-I'm not here to play. Are we done?
-Damn, I'm just way too good! Huh?
-What a joke! Heh! Fool! You delude yourself!
-Piece of cake! Yeah, I'm unstoppable!
But as the fight went on Raphael's tiredness caught up again with him. He had difficulties taking his breath back and was more on the defensive than the offensive. Yun-Seong tried to taunt him again:
-Come on, don't chicken out!
Yun-Seong suddenly threw him an insult:
-Geezers and kiddies should stay home!
-Geezers? Pff… pff… What is a geezer? Isn't it an old person in your coarse language? Pff… pff… Are you calling me old?
-Yeah, geezer is an old guy!
Yun-Seong seemed proud of the insult he just threw at Raphael, mostly of the effect it had on his adversary, and smiled wickedly. Raphael gritted his teeth in anger but quickly closed his mouth, not wanting to show his fangs to this kid, mostly now that the boy seemed to win. The kid didn't seem to fight seriously but if he knew, he would never spare a monster like him.
-How dare you!... pff…pff…
-You want me to hold back a bit?
Yun-Seong was saying that with a big taunting smile on his face which angered Raphael even more. He was deeply insulted to look like a loser and had difficulties not showing his teeth and taking back his breath. He put his hand in front of his mouth and looked at Yun-Seong with a sullen expression. Suddenly Yun-Seong told him:
-All right, you can pass. I had enough fun.
Raphael looked at Yun-Seong a little surprised while still trying to catch his breath without seeming to do so. He wondered why the sudden change of heart: Was it that Yun-Seong considered him too loser to be a challenge? Or that Yun-Seong himself was tired and wanted to end this while he had the winning hand? Whatever the reason, Raphael was glad he could now continue on his way. He was certain this place must be the labyrinth and Yun-Seong knew it but tried to hide it from him.
-Well then, have a nice day, kid.
-I will have a nice day… I just didn't feel like losing today, you know?
He then added proudly:
-And by the way, these skills... it's all talent!
Yun-Seong continued with his boasting for a while as Raphael was walking away. Seeing how Raphael seemed exhausted, Yun-Seong thought that he must have had enough. But he looked at Raphael with some apprehension for Talim. The guy seemed talented with his blade but at least he seemed to get tired fast enough. Yun-Seong really didn't understand why Talim wanted to meet that guy so much to purify him but he knew it was very important for her so he had reluctantly let him pass. Yun-Seong hoped that Talim would be alright.
As he was getting out of the cave, he almost got knocked over by a woman with a black ponytail who ran into the cave very fast. Yun-Seong suddenly got worried for Talim and turned back to follow the woman inside. He ran inside but found no traces of the woman; he kept running deeper into the cave and suddenly found four entries to the labyrinth. He randomly took a corridor and went deeper into the Grand Labyrinth.