Akali: the Fist of Shadow
As she prepared to rush from the shadows of the room to slay the oblivious man, a memory flashed through Akali’s mind.
The padded wooden post was just twenty feet from her starting position on the training ground. Her mother, Kaji who was watching sternly, yelled “Strike!”
Gritting her teeth, with hopes to satisfy her mother, the twelve-year-old girl leapt from her spot with blinding agility toward the post, but only made it half way there.
“No!” Kaji yelled angrily, “Too slow, you would have been sliced in two by now!”
“Yes mother, I will be faster next time.” Akali said unenthusiastically. This frustrated her mother even more.
“Akali! If you are to succeed me, you will learn respect and determination!” Kaji approached her daughter with burning eyes. Akali knew from hundreds of similar experiences what was coming. Kaji drew back her hand, glaring down mercilessly at her daughter…
Akali shook away the hurtful memory, but felt enraged at it. She could never forgive her mother for her relentless and harsh training, but without it, she would not have the skills she needed now. She flew forward from the shadows toward her target. Landing only a few feet away, she spun around with her twin Kamas aimed for the man’s heart.
“Uhng!” was the only sound that escaped the target’s mouth before he dropped to the ground.
The dead man’s bewildered guards only saw the spray of blood before they could react, but Akali had rushed back into the shadows just as fast as she had emerged.
Akali gave no thought to what others called “honorable” fighting since her only responsibility was to assassinate and disappear. She never knew her targets’ names or backgrounds; only that they disrupted the balance of Valoran, the nation she called home. She had long since lost any feelings of guilt or remorse for her actions.
By now, the sun had long set and the guards sounded alarms and sealed off the perimeter. The assassin was on the roof of the building, perched beneath an overhanging ledge of a higher roof; she had no doubt she would evade any security measures. Hiding in shadows came easy from years of experience, and Akali had mapped out every dark place of the vicinity on her way in. She dashed with incredible speed from shadow to shadow while ensuring no one could detect her. Nearly to the edge of the enemy facility, a patrol stood directly between her and the last and only shadow she could hide in. She could simply attack and draw attention, but she decided to wait calmly.
“It’s the Kinkou, I just know it. Who else would kill Shan Zhang?” the leader of the patrol posed.
“He’s had it coming for a long time, in my opinion. The Order doesn’t just let people like that live” the second guard explained.
Akali smirked at the reputation her group had acquired over the last decade. The Order, known as the Kinkou was why she was hiding in shadow, why she killed a man unknown to her, and it was why she must not be discovered. She was one of three shadow warriors within the Order. Her role in the Kinkou was as “Pruner of the Tree”, the assassin of the group. It was seen as the most unmoral assignment of the group, but as her mother had always said, “We do that which must be done”, they would stop at nothing to keep balance throughout Valoran.
The guards continued their patrol around the perimeter, and Akali focused on the next shadow near the fence which outlined the perimeter. Only a small distance behind the patrol, she dashed nearly thirty feet to her location. The rear guard turned quickly to react to the air rushing past him, but he saw nothing.
“Must be the wind” he guessed. After carefully scanning the area, the patrol moved on.
Akali then realized they had mentioned Shan Zhang, a name she recognized. She had heard of a Shan Zhang raiding villages all around the northern section of the continent. He was a general in Zed’s Order of the Shadow – the Kinkou’s opposing faction. Akali laughed as she made her way back to her own Order. “One of Zed’s trusted generals, dispatched in no more than a couple of seconds!” She thought. She was looking forward to informing the other members of the Kinkou, Shen and Kennen.
As Akali arrived at the edge of the Kinkou’s camp, her excitement was immediately shattered. The camp seemed desolate; their supplies shredded, some shelters blazing, others marked with deep gouges from swords. Akali ran from tent to tent searching for anyone; Kennen, Shen, even a lower ranking warrior. Fear coursed through her mind - if any of the triumvirate were slain, she could not fathom how long it could take to find another member. She had become deeply connected to Shen and Kennen through years of fighting and strategizing together.
Suddenly, Akali could hear faint, scraping breaths. She recognized that noise; it was the sound of approaching death. She quickly followed the sound of the breathing into a nearby shelter. As she passed through the entrance, her breath was caught in her throat; her deepest fear had been realized. Shen lay bleeding on the floor of the tent. Akali threw herself to the ground by him.
“What happened?! Who did this?!” Akali screamed through choking, sobbing breaths.
“He.. they.. took Kennen… north.” Shen quietly whispered.
“Who?! I will find them! Tell me who!” Akali exclaimed.
Shen struggled to find the energy to speak, “It was.. him… Zed.”
Akali’s face grew crimson with rage. She had only dreamt of this terrible day. She knew Zed as the Kinkou’s number one enemy. He had posed a threat to the Order for a long time, and Akali grew to despise him. “I will kill Zed and all that he loves!” she screamed with hatred resounding through her voice.
“No.. you must not.. disrupt the balance..” Shen winced with pain.
Akali, still furious at the situation, grimaced at Shen’s condition. She knew it was only a matter of seconds before he was gone. She held her tongue for his sake.
“Maintain balance... Akali.” even to his last breath, Shen’s only thought was of the Order and what it stood for – balance between good and evil throughout Valoran. He lay silent and motionless on the floor of the tent. Akali could not bring herself to believe what was happening. She cried loudly and embraced Shen’s cold body.
It seemed like hours before she stopped sobbing, but her mind raced. She was silent for a while – she stared at the floor in a cold, emotionless gaze. She thought of all she had fought for with Shen alongside her; all the memories of her friend now empty and wasted because of one maleficent being. She became even more enraged at the thought of Zed. Now there was no going back. Akali had decided what she had to do; the very thing she had trained to do for the entirety of her life. She was going to find and kill Zed, regardless of Shen’s last wish.
Her emotionless, stoic expression became a maniacal grin. “I’m coming for you Zed! You’ll be dead at my feet! I will stop at nothing!” she screamed at the sky with fiery eyes and clenched fists.
Not far off in the distance behind Akali, a shadow with a satisfied grin vanished into the dark forest.
To be continued...
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