Under a gloomy sky, a hooded girl is standing on a gabled roof of one of the half-timbered houses lining the dark street. In her hand is a half-eaten apple.
Her name is Raia.
She’s no more than a silhouette in the pale moonlight except for the silver necklace glinting around her neck. Her eyes are fixated on two young men running along a quiet street. One of them is wearing a long black coat, a sword clenched in one hand. The other man has a muscular figure clad in a dirty brown trench coat, speeding away from the swordsman.
Raia takes a bite of the apple without taking her eyes off them. The wind blows cold, her black cloak thrashing and flapping behind her, but she remains still.
On the street below, the burly man whirls around and releases a spherical light. The swordsman swings his sword and the light dissolves into particles. He then throws himself forward in an arcing leap and lands on the ground ahead of his opponent.
The burly man jumps in surprise and slams a foot into the swordsman, sending him sprawling across the ground. He lifts his hand and releases another ball of light.
The swordman springs from his feet and leaps forward, sword raised in both hands. Before he delivers a critical blow to the burly man, Raia already loses interest and turns around. As she takes the last bite of her apple, a female voice echoes from a distance.
Her brows furrow together and she murmurs to herself, “What is a stupid person doing outside this late at night?”
With a surly expression on her face, Raia leaps up, hopping from roof to roof until she reaches the second street and settles on the ridge of a roof. She darts her eyes around, looking for the source of that voice. That’s when she spots her, a lone girl walking along the street.
The girl keeps turning her head, denoting that she is looking for something . . . or someone.
Then something catches Raia’s pale eyes.
A silhouette of a man can be seen hiding in a narrow alleyway between two houses. Half of his head is peeking out, eyeing the lone girl. Raia knows he is no doubt waiting for her to draw nearer — which only denotes one thing.
Frowning, Raia closes a fist around the silver cross pendant dangling on the ends of the chain around her neck. Then she bends her knees.
“Answer my call, Raphael,” she whispers, and the silver necklace transmogrifies into a longsword with fiery glory that lights up the night surrounding her.
At that same moment, the man comes out from his hiding place. The girl yelps a surprise, freezing on the spot.
Raia jumps from the roof, cloak fluttering around her, and she lands on the ground across them.
“No one deserves to be happy. If I am in misery, you will have to join me,” the man is saying, his voice is as cold and dark as the night.
“Run!” Raia yells as she advances, but the girl only gives her a puzzled look, and she stands rooted to the ground.
“W-what? But papa . . .” The girl fumbles for words, then her eyes dilate with horror upon seeing the hooded girl’s flaming longsword.
Raia swings her sword vertically at the man, but he leaps backward before the flaming blade touches his skin.
“I said run!”
Still flustered, the girl scampers in the direction she came from like a frightened puppy, not knowing that she will encounter an injured swordsman.
Raia unleashes a thrust attack, and her opponent hops backward.
“A blessed soul,” the man states in a dry tone of voice, staring at Raia — at the flaming soul flickering inside her chest.
As an Elysian, Raia’s soul is blessed and it has the appearance of a flame, which is only visible to an Outcast’s eyes.
The man then hurls himself upward and lands on a pitched roof house.
Raia’s frown deepens. He has fast reflexes and he seems to be aware of what I am. This one must only be possessed. Her eyes narrowing to a slit as she looks up at the man.
An Outcast is a demonic being, whether they are possessed or tainted. As for the man, he’s clearly possessed by a lost spirit seeking revenge.
An innocent human is an Outcast’s prey.
The man stretches a hand below and a light flickers out of his palm. It forms a round shape, its size expanding, then he releases it, shooting forward Raia like a bullet.
Raia holds up her flaming sword and slices the spherical light into particles. The specks of light drift through the air before fading. She bends slightly forward and leaps into the air, her cloak flapping in the cold wind like a pair of wings. As soon as she lands on the slanting roof, she swings her sword in a downward strike. The man jumps.
Frustration pours through her when the man turns tail, roof hopping away from her toward the direction the girl had gone to. She lowers herself into a crouch, sword clenched in one hand, then throws herself forward to a broad jump.
Raia slows her momentum as she lands on a roof behind the man, not wanting to make any noise for the sake of anyone sleeping beneath her feet. She tightens the grip around the hilt of her sword in both hands as she lifts it over her head and swings it hard downward.
The flaming blade passes through the man’s body like a ghost object. Even though there’s no damage to the physical body, he still screams in excruciating burning pain and falls from the roof. But before his body hits the hard surface, thick vines sprout from the ground, ensuring the body with a safe landing.
Raia saunters to the edge of the roof and stares. Vines?
Something dark in the shape of a flame slips from the man’s body and hovers in the air — a lost spirit. It’s a vengeful spirit that possesses people; a weapon of the Great Wizard.
Raia holds the blade before her face and closes her eyes.
“Raphael, pour thyself with Absideon and destroy the darkness thy blade touches. Purify the tainted soul and send it to the Elysium,” she whispers in a form of a prayer, and the bright orange flame around the blade of her sword turns purple.
Her eyes bolt open and she jumps from the roof, heading down to the lost spirit. The hood falls from her head, revealing long wavy dark purple hair that flutters in the wind. She raises her sword and drives the blade to the lost spirit.
“Raphael, now! Flame of purification!” she bellows, her deep voice resonating around the place.
The purple flame around her sword spreads out and surrounds the lost spirit, cleansing the darkness shrouding it.
Raia lands on her feet gently, cloak rustling, and stares at the soul oozing with brilliant light like a white flame - a purified soul.
“You may now rest in peace,” she whispers, and the white soul disappears into thin air.
“Papa!” someone yells, and the girl from before comes rushing at the unconscious man lying on the vines. “Papa. . .?”
“He’s fine,” Raia states, and the girl smiles at her.
“I know, he told me.”
A look of confusion flash across Raia’s face, wondering whom the girl is speaking of. She stares at her in bafflement when tears roll down her cheeks. The man is perfectly fine, and the girl is aware of that herself, yet she is crying. Why are these humans so emotional?
Had it not been for Raia, both the girl and the man would have met their doom already. What is the girl even doing at this hour? When Raia’s eyes turn to the unconscious man, whom the girl keeps calling papa, she arches an eyebrow.
Maybe she was looking for this man, Raia thinks. Fortunately, according to the man’s reflexes, he was just possessed, so he hadn’t tainted that many innocents. Humans are too weak to handle such emotions, not knowing that they’re welcoming something even more dreadful.
Emotions, if not handled well, can be someone’s worst enemy.
The girl wipes her eyes free of tears and looks at Raia, eyes lingering on the flaming longsword in her hand.
“That thing didn’t really do anything to him?” she asks, glossy eyes meeting Raia’s pale ones.
“What? It did something,” Raia answers, her deep voice matching the solemn look on her face.
The girl’s eyes widen in alarm, but Raia’s facial expression remains unchanged. Instead, she grips the purple hilt of her sword and runs her eyes over her weapon. The blade is made of pure silver with violet edges, and there’s a silver cross emblazoned on the center of the crossguard. The fire surrounding the blade is called the holy flame, it is the divine power of her weapon against Outcasts — evil beings that possess people and infiltrate their world.
“It’s my Blessing, Raphael, ” Raia speaks in a low voice, referring to her sword. “It’s a sword blessed by angels to fight beings from the Underworld. A divine weapon yielded by disciples. It won’t harm a human being.”
The girl nods as though she is already aware and is only confirming that information from her. “So you’re a disciple that fights those . . . evil spirits?” Her tone sounds more of a statement than a question.
“No,” Raia answers in a quiet voice. “Not officially, at least.”
The girl opens her mouth to say something, but a yawn from somewhere interrupts her, follows by gentle treads of boots.
Raia looks over her shoulder when a guy with sandy hair emerges from a dark corner. He wears a long black coat with purple trimmings, dark pants, and dark leather boots. A cross shield badge is attached on one side of his chest, and it’s glinting as he limps toward her.
He is wearing the uniform of Nirvana Order, an organization that Raia is looking for and the sole reason she came to this land.
Raia draws her eyebrows together upon realizing that he is the swordsman from before. His presence already caught her attention after seeing him summon his Blessing, indicating that he is one of those people she’s looking for.
“Those vines came from you,” Raia states in a faintly accented voice, looking at him with a grim expression. Her sword dematerializes from her hand and the silver cross necklace reappears around her neck, winking in the dark.
The guy shrugs, an amiable smile is plastered on his face. “Yep. And you finished that one, eh? Tough girl.”
Raia frowns at his casual behavior. Then a small glint on his right ear catches her eyes — a piece of silver cross earring.
“So . . . what’s your name?” the guy asks, but Raia only narrows her eyes at him.
“You’re hurt,” Raia states in a flat voice, eyeing the shallow scrape on his knee through the hole in his pants, remembering how the burly man landed a powerful kick in his stomach.
A bit careless, this one.
“Sit and let me heal you,” Raia utters in a quiet voice.
The guy blinks at her, appearing to be confused. “Heal? What do you mean?” Then he gives a dismissive wave of his hand. “Anyways, I’m okay. Just hit my knee while chasing an Outcast at the first street.”
“No, he’s not okay,” the girl says. “He’s been wincing in pain while we were watching you.”
Raia keeps a straight face as she shoots out her foot behind him and trips him up.
The guy lets out a wince as he slumps to the ground. Before he can say anything, Raia kneels before him and gently puts her palm on his bleeding knee.
A warm glow of light pours out from her palm, and the guy stares at it in a dumbfounded expression. The wound on his knee seals up without feeling anything except for the warm sensation coming from Raia’s palm.
“You can really heal?” he asks in sheer amazement.
Raia remains mute while she heals him, her other hand is clenched on the ground. Once she’s done, she rises to her feet and smoothes her cloak.
The guy stares at his once bleeding leg through the hole of his dark pants and blinks. He then pulls himself up, a bright smile spreading across his boyish face.
“Damn, you really can heal,” he blurts, eyebrows raised. “What branch are you from? Judging from your accent, you’re clearly from the south. So I guess. . . Uriel?”
“No one,” Raia answers in an abrupt tone of voice. “I came here to be an Aragon.”
“Oh? Not an official disciple yet? So you just finished your apprenticeship? Congrats!” He extends a hand to her. “I’m Raiden Oliver Kara, by the way. And you are?”
“Raia? Just Raia? What about your surname?”
One corner of Raia’s mouth twitches in annoyance. “Raia Allen, and no surname.”
“I see. Anyways, we can’t wait to have you in the Order. So who’s your master?”
“You ask too much,” Raia snaps, giving him a frosty look.
Raiden smiles sheepishly and scratches his nape.
“How is papa? Is he really okay?” the girl says, seizing their attention. She looks up at them with tearful eyes. “Why won’t he wake up? I thought he’s already okay.”
Raiden inches closer to the girl and gently rests a hand on her back. “He will, after a day or two. And don’t worry, he’s fine now. Physically, at least.” His brows furrow ever so slightly.
The girl’s forehead creases in confusion, but her eyes are sparkling in alarm. “What do you mean?”
Raia steps closer to them, still wearing her grim expression. “That man was possessed by a lost spirit. The darkness clouding his mind and heart was the reason he became a target. A person in despair will become a vessel for the lost spirits. Their negative emotions attract those beings from the Underworld.”
Raia frowns, making her face look grimmer than it already is. “The lost spirits are those who died with resentment — cursing themselves and this world for their unfortunate fates. Since their souls are impure, they can’t have access to Elysium. That’s why they linger here to taint souls and be a weapon to help the Great Wizard in destroying humanity.”
Elysium is another dimension, the abode of the God of Light, Azarios, divine beings, and saved souls. No living persons have ever seen that place unless they die and become a spirit. But only those souls that aren’t contaminated with darkness can go there. And those souls who enter that place can be reincarnated.
Raiden nods. “Once they successfully possess someone, that person and the spirit will become an Outcast. But with our Blessing, we will separate them from their chosen vessels and destroy the darkness that surrounds their souls. In that way, they can still be reincarnated in this world.”
Tears escape from the girl’s eyes. “It’s my fault. My papa always works so hard just for me, but here I am, a worthless daughter who can’t even find a job or do anything for the family. He’s the one who always takes a risk just to raise the family ever since mama . . . .”
The girl bites her lips, trying to hold back tears, but clearly failing.
Raiden’s expression softens. “It’s no one’s fault. If there’s someone to blame, it’s the Great Wizard. He aims to destroy the purity and innocence of humanity by siding with the Darkness. He wants the world to turn away from the Light. That’s why we exist, disciples who are called by the angels. Bringing an end to that scenario is an Aragon’s job.”
A hush silence falls over them, and Raia closes her fist around the cross pendant dangling on the ends of her necklace. She grips it tightly and lifts her head, looking up at the dark sky as her master’s words ring in her mind.
"We exist to destroy the darkness that corrupts human souls.”