A Hero's Journey

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Chapter 6

"Perceive that which cannot be seen with the eye." ― Miyamoto Musashi

Just finishing up in area 8, Nia and Blake find it difficult to trust the situation they find themselves in. The young Shifter still hasn't returned, though he had promised to only be busy for a few minutes. They decide to wait a little longer in case Jude's on his way. Sitting on the edge of a small abyss the two are listening to the, surprisingly calming, sound of the crashing waves below. Sadly the calming sound is suddenly interrupted when they hear a screech from miles away. And after sharing a worried look, the siblings begin running as if the shadow itself was chasing them.

"Well, you wanted your chance… Here it is." Jude says as he and Relm stand next to each other in shock.
"We need to fight!" Relm shouts, taking her chain and sickle of her back.
"But…"
"There's no time for this, Jude! Want to show us your skills? Then let's go." She bellowed, starting to attack the legs of the giant shadow.
Jude doesn't know why she's aiming for those specific points but he decides to follow her lead for now. Taking his sword out of its case, he swiftly rushes after her. They're attacking the spider with everything they've got. But attacking, while also being careful to block or jump away from its counterattacks (as one of its legs could probably slice you open with one cut), wasn't as easy as originally thought. The two Shifters eventually find themselves fighting in a pattern, even beginning to synchronize their attacks, until they suddenly manage to break two legs at once and the shadow falls down with its life essence is exposed.
"Go purify the legs!" Relm orders while she continues to attack the shadow, now that it's in a weaker state.
"Shouldn't I help you?" Jude asks, running towards the legs.
"If you don't purify its legs in time they will grow back and you'll have to break them again."
"And we don't want that to happen… got it," he replies while purifying.

As Relm continues to fight and lure the spider away from Jude, he struggles with not being able to help her. He eventually decides to focus more on the purifying than the battle and, with a sudden rush of energy inside him, it actually seems to go faster.
Jude had completely forgotten about his multiple Mitama. But now he could feel them, and the power of these fallen heroes, inside him. Multiple souls residing in one body, it could certainly help one regain some hope in difficult battles. With the rush of power giving him newfound energy he finishes the purifying a lot faster. Luckily purifying is indeed quite easy, much like Aiden had told him. However, as soon as he wishes to continue the battle, a flash of white light blinds his vision once again.
"No." He whispers to himself. "I will not panic. This is not the shadow attack from seven years ago. I am not alone. I have my fellow Shifters. I can do this." Jude repeats, eventually vanquishing even the slightest bit of panic left. The young Shifter is now more than confident he'll be able to finish this mission without having to remember his past.
"Can I ask a question?" Jude asks, joining Relm in the battle.
"Are you done with-
"The legs? Yes."
"Then yes, you may." She says, beginning to look a little tired from the fight.
"How did you know to hit its legs?"
"My Mitama. When we see through their eyes we can perceive things the normal human eye would not. Shifters use it to spot shadows' weak spots, rare materials and many other things."
"All right." He hesitates while closing his eyes and focussing on his Mitama. All of a sudden the young Shifter doesn't need to open his eyes anymore. Though he thought seeing with your eyes closed would be impossible, the world through is Mitama's eyes is actually quite fascinating. Everything is bathed in a blue hue and he can see the weak spots of the spider, namely, its legs and head.
"You did it! However don't use it for too long as it will tire you out."
"Got it, let's do this!" He exclaims as he slices another leg off.
"Nice job, new guy." Relm compliments with a smile while focusing on the next leg.
"So, we're friends now?"
"What do you mean?"
"You weren't exactly welcoming on my first day…"
"Oh, that's right. I'm sorry, guess I was a little afraid of even more competition."
"I know that feeling all too well."
"Tell you what; we're more than friends. From now on we're partners, and we'll both prove the Captain that we're the best Shifters in town!"
"That's the spirit." He replies, laughing because of her enthusiasm.

Even though they might not be official Shifters for that long, Jude thinks they're actually doing great against the huge shadow. Jumping and hitting from all sides, they are weakening it with every strike. Then again, he also notices how the fighting is beginning to tire them out. But his thoughts are abruptly stopped, because the moment he hits one of the sickles on the spider's head, an angry voice calls out.
"Relm! What in the world are you doing here?" Nia thunders as she and Blake enter the area.
"I'm sorry, but can I explain later?" Relm apologizes, while dodging another attack.
"When did that thing get here? The scouts didn't say anything about these larger shadows." Blake wonders, unsheathing his hook swords from his back and rushing into battle with the other two. Nia, on the other hand, stays closer to the gate to begin with firing arrows at the spider.
"It's impressive how you two have been able to hold this thing off all on your own." Nia comments from a distance.
"Hear that Jude?" Relm cheers with a proud smile on her face.
"I'm glad we could hold it back." He replies while searching for Blake, who had suddenly disappeared. He can see his hawk flying around, still signing, but the blind Shifter is nowhere to be seen.

Jude continues to fight, trying to not worry about it, when out of nowhere another leg is cut off. He looks around again. Nia is standing on one of the bridges in the area, still firing arrows from a distance. Relm is now standing next to him, as a tree had fallen on the spot she was standing before, and he didn't cut if off either. Then he remembers… the Mitama's powers. Blake's Mitama can obviously turn himself, and possibly others, invisible for a short period of time. The moment the Shifter appears again it is as if Relm has realised the same thing as Jude and she begins to run around faster than the speed of light while continuously hitting the shadow from all sides. Though, at this speed, the strikes are almost invisible as well. With every attack his colleagues execute Jude begins to understand that Blake has a Mitama with the deceit specialty, Relm has one with the speed specialty and Nia with the defence specialty. After watching them use their powers, he begins to wonder what his own Mitama could do. Sadly, this moment of not paying attention is enough time for the shadow to run towards Jude and hit him straight in the abdomen with a blow of one of its remaining legs.
"Jude!" Relm exclaims.
"What's wrong? Was he hit?" Blake asks, trying to see through his Mitama's eyes.
"Focus on the fight you two." Nia orders them as she places her bow on her back and begins to run towards Jude, who is lying on the ground a little further away. She can hear him moan from the pain while rolling him on his back but as she starts to examine the wound she's relieved to see it's only heavily bruised.
"Are you okay?" She asks with a hint of worry in her voice.
"Of course I am, it's only a bruise. The impact was the worst part." Jude responds, while Nia helps him stand up. He then gives her an encouraging smile before picking up his sword.
"Go, I've got your back." Nia says as she, too, prepares to resume the fight. After a short nod, he's fully focussed again.
"Doing all right without me?" He jokes, joining the battle with a determined expression on his face.
"Thank goodness you're all right," Relm says with a sigh of relieve.
"Can't get knocked out during my first big fight, can I?"

While Relm is focussing on the back of the shadow and Blake is mainly going for its horns, Jude decides to try out the real power of his Mitama. Focussing, the familiar rush of power begins to flow through him again. In the next few seconds he's caught in a cloud of red smoke and rushes to slice the two remaining legs off in one blow. All amazed by the sudden power of the new recruit the others stare in complete shock until they realize the enemy is on the ground with its life essence exposed. Jude quickly purifies the legs but is stopped when he wants to get back.
"I can finish this, everyone get back!" Nia shouts from a distance. While Jude can stay where he's standing, he sees Blake and Relm are beginning to back away from the spider, which is still lying on the ground. Suddenly a blue light emerges from the arrow that Nia is holding, as if she's charging up. Next thing they know she fires the arrow and hits both the horns and remaining sickles on the shadow's head, thus defeating it.
"That was amazing," Jude mumbles, awed by the skills of his new colleagues. Compared to these Shifters, his roommates from the Midgar Shifter base are nothing but big jokes.
"Quick, we must purify it." Blake urges while they all rush to the dead corpse of the spider. The moment they're done with the ritual another blue light emerges from the shadow.
"Another Mitama I suppose?" Nia asks, smiling proudly.
"Yeah," Jude responds with a tired sigh.
"Your third one!" Relm exclaims with a slight hint of jealousy.
"Fourth actually…"
"Impressive," Blake comments as they all share a relieved laugh.
"Well then, we should get back and report to the Captain. I find it strange that this huge shadow suddenly appeared on our mission without anyone knowing about it. That also brings me back to my first question, Relm… why did you come with us?" Nia states.
"Oh, that's right I was supposed to explain. Well, I just had a feeling, I guess. I felt something big was going to happen and this would be my chance to prove myself. Actually, I think both Jude and I proved ourselves, right partner?" She says with another big smile.
"It seems we will have a lot to explain when we get back. Let's go." Blake says, beginning to walk towards area 0.

"I do not know if I should be angry or proud at you, Relm." Captain Grant says with a deep sigh after the four Shifters finish with explaining the whole mission.
"I'm sorry sir. I promise it won't happen again."
"You might be a little troublemaker but you're a good Shifter." He admits, smiling.
"Thank you sir," she smiles back. After seeing the girl smile multiple times Jude notes how there's always a spark of mischief behind, yet her eyes are also full how childlike innocence.
"And you…" The Captain begins, turning to Jude: "did very well too. I have high expectations of both of you." As he begins to walk away he seems to realise something and turns around one more time. "Oh, and thank you for helping them out there Nia and Blake. You both did well."
"Thank you, sir." They reply simultaneously while saluting.
"I'm so glad you're all okay." Yuki says, coming from behind the counter for a group hug. But as Jude accepts it, he can't hold back a soft grunt after a jolt of pain shoots through his body.
"Are you all right, Jude?" Nia asks.
"I'm fine. I told you it's just a bruise." He answers, trying to let them stop worrying about him.
"Heard you killed your first big shadow today, nice job spiky." Aiden shouts as he enters the base: "And you've got some bruises to prove it!" He then adds with a laugh.
"Great to see you too, Aiden."
"Come on, I know the mission would have been a lot more fun with me there." He responds, giving Jude a pat on the back, though the impact was a lot harder than Jude expected.
"So did it go well? No strange flashbacks?" The Shifter promptly whispers in Jude's ear. Clearly Aiden had been a little worried about him. So Jude is glad he's able to tell him that everything went well.
"Since there are no more missions for today, I think we should all call it a day." Nia says before she exits the building. After a few seconds the others decide to follow her advice and leave the base as well. All but Blake, who decides to stay and talk to a troubled looking Dyne.

"Hey buddy, how are you?" He asks, standing next to his desk. Dyne's desk is located in the right corner of the Shifter base and is always surrounded by giant stacks of books and scrolls.
"I'm fine…" Dyne begins, still deep in thoughts while reading one of his new books. However, the minute he looks up at his friend he knows that, even though he's blind, he can't be fooled by his poor lies.
"Don't tell me you're still sad about the fact that Jude wasn't able to tell you a lot about Midgar and its technology." Blake jokes.
"No, no it's not that." Dyne responds, managing a little smile as well.
"That what is it?"
"Well… I'm a bit worried." The analyst eventually admits.
"Why?"
"Because of the last mission. That giant spider appeared through a Rift hole! They haven't been seen since the Big Rift and it worries me even more that it could find you so easily, let alone open a Rift hole wherever it wants."
"You have a point there." Blake admits, pondering about the occurrence as well. Dyne uses this moment to inspect his close friend.
His hawk sits on his shoulder, as always, and he looks a bit tired but that could just be a result of the exhausting mission he had just returned from. Other than that, he looked fine. For as long as he can remember Blake's high IQ, logical thinking and deductive reasoning have helped Dyne, and many others, in very difficult times. Growing up with the twins in the north, Dyne remembered how he and Blake had always loved reading the old scrolls their parents would get them. Still, even Blake seemed to be struggling with this new twist in their research about shadows.
"The Rift holes…" He eventually says.
"What about them?" Dyne asks.
"You've always wondered about them, haven't you?"
"Well yes, both them and the Mitama."
"Why again?"
"Mitama are the souls of fallen heroes, heroes that risked their lives to protect this world from the shadows. Still we've have almost never heard of them. No books, no ancient scrolls, no lore or tales, completely nothing. The Rift holes have to be connected with this somehow. I have a theory. I think that shadows can distort space and time to devour these heroes and change history while doing that."
"It basically means they can travel through time… You know, that theory begins to make sense somehow. But this makes the fact that this shadow could open a Rift hole so easily even worse."
"What if they're trying to create another Big Rift?" Dyne asks but immediately regrets his idea when he sees Blake's face turn even paler than it normally is.
"You know, we don't need to worry about that right now. We'll just continue with collecting data like we always do, it will be fine." Dyne quickly decided to end their thoughts.
"You're probably right. I'll see you tomorrow." Blake responds as he, too, leaves the building.

The rest of the month continues in a normal pattern. Jude is getting used to his new life as a Shifter in the Figera village and feels as if he is getting closer to his friends with every mission they complete. The thick walls he build around him when he was younger have started to crumble with every warm smile from Yuki, a nice talk with Dyne or a new phrase from Captain Grant. His training with Aiden is also working great. He no longer has panic attacks or strange outburst during his mission and he couldn't be more thankful for Aiden's help with that. During these training missions there was another young Shifter who would often pitch in. Relm. Jude liked fighting alongside the girl. Their fighting styles mixed well and, with both of them being one of the younger Shifters around town, they understood each other. After only a few missions their attacks were almost completely synchronized. The villagers have warmed up to him as well; Daidara has made new armour for him, while Jude continues to bring him all the materials he can find in the Otherworld and Raven will often help him understand his Mitama better.
Jude also discovers that the Nyssa can indeed shift between the worlds. One day he came back from his mission and suddenly Astra was back with a bag full of materials. They have even made it a habit to go on little trips with each other to collect more materials in the Otherworld. Furthermore, the young hero has managed to free more Mitama on his missions, with a very enthusiastic Dyne as a result. And not only because he can now add more fallen heroes to his research books but also, as Dyne states, because: "Most people with the gift can hold around fifty Mitama, which will usually take them a few years to collect. Jude has already freed more than twenty in a few weeks!"
But, even though the shadows have been appearing to be rather calm lately, another Mitama visits Jude in his dreams to warn him for some big occurrence in the nearby future. Despite the fact that the last warning proved to be true, Jude decides to not tell the others for now.


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