BLACK SOUL HUNTERS BOOK TWO.
Four years after the devastating effects the hunting game brought upon the hunting community, they're struggling to strive and maintain peace throughout Azahla. However, other forms of darkness are lurking about, forms they never heard before, much more dangerous and more powerful.
The sun dipped behind the horizon, casting soft glows of red, orange, and yellow so inherent to autumn. The skyline was filled with dark outlines and contours of the shabby houses from the nearby village, and it was all peaceful. The fireflies were emerging from the pond flanked by willow trees; and through the wavy branches and leaves gap, the slow ripples of water mirrored the stars above. It was the sky on Earth. Aldrest longed to be sitting there and taking in all the beauty of nature, at least just for a fleeting instant, away from the madness these four years had brought upon him.
He paced around the circular room he knew so well since he was a young student at the academy, scolded and reprimanded by the headmaster, Candravar, for his inexcusable behavior and attitude toward the other students. The curved walls were lined with bookshelves containing volumes of precious knowledge left untouched when Candravar died that gloomy dawn four years ago. The walls still breathe the memory of Candravar. There were large rectangle windows giving a view of the dark, mossy brick castle of the academy, and a large mahogany resolute desk set against a window, creating a large shadow on the floor with the dying lights of the sky.
Aldrest had learned to enjoy darkness and silence in this room, and solitude as well. Sometimes Albert came in to inform him of the progress the new, young hunters were doing, and Shizuma seldom came. She was too busy teaching. This room held dreadful meetings with the outside hunters too, which Aldrest didn’t enjoy. The news often times were devastating, the random and unrelated murders and massacres were increasing, separating the hunters to hunt down the black souls by themselves.
After the game, the number of licensed hunters decreased, thus the community suffered severely. The prison designed to hold the hosts of black souls was guarded by few hunters. On top of that, the influx of new, young children who also had the ability of channeling energy was increasing, and there weren’t enough, or qualified hunter-professors, to teach them. Therefore, the surviving students (who were now licensed hunters and weren’t many), had remained in the academy to pass on their knowledge to the new students. This year, they would be graduating their first generation of students, since the game, into the hunting examinations. Aldrest was thrilled by that, since he never actually took the hunting examinations. He was interested, nonetheless, because he belonged to the board of examiners.
Several incidents had occurred after the game, the community was crippling and it was obvious they needed a leader to hold them together while they filled in the gaps. That was when Rothus took place as a leader for the hunters in general, and Aldrest took the leadership for the academy. Both of them tried to work together to coordinate the scouts of hunters sent to capture black souls’ hosts in missions. The academy had become headquarter for hunters, where students and licensed hunters shared experiences and moments together. At least one licensed hunter and some students from the last year were sent to the simple missions, in order for the students to gain experience, and the hunter to have aid. Most often than not, the students came back wounded and injured, but they enjoyed the thrill of hunting down the black souls.
Aldrest had to visit someone tomorrow, maybe the key for the complete captivity of the wandering black souls. The problem with the black souls was that they were energy, non-tangible, and they could transfer from soul to soul. After corroding one, they would leave, but the host had enough black energy in them to perform acts of evil against the weak or others. He hoped against everything that the mysterious person that had contacted him two days ago wasn’t a bluff.
His eyes lingered on the side of the desk, where his two katanas stood. The only training and fighting he had received was with the sporadic confrontations with Axel. His strength, stamina, and agility were decreasing as the years progressed. He rarely went out in missions with his students; instead, he studied and researched the answer to destroying the black souls. However, he had secretly been training his body, mind, and spiritual energy. He stretched and relived the last great battle he had against anyone at all. Four years ago, against Axel, he had barely won. Axel still held a grudge against him, or that was what Aldrest liked to think. Competition always kept hunters in shape, and their ego under control.
There was a faint knock on the door he recognized so well, the hinges creaked when the wooden door swung open, and the slim figure of Shizuma slid through the tiny opening. She hadn’t changed at all; her lovely face and enticing body remained the same. Age hadn’t taken a toll on her energy as it had done with Aldrest. Her whip was securely strapped on her hip and the strands of loose hair were sticking to her neck from the light sweating. She smiled demurely as she walked to him.
“Hey, how did it go?” Aldrest asked kindly, stroking her arm.
“They’re getting better and better,” Shizuma replied, “but I can’t say the same about you. Is something wrong?”
Aldrest inhaled deeply. “No, it’s just that meeting I have tomorrow with the mysterious man. It drives me insane when he mentions the possibility of re-capturing the black souls. In four years, I’ve been researching and studying that possibility and nothing yielded. It seems almost impossible and too good to be true that the solution will be within my grasp tomorrow.”
Shizuma held Aldrest face between her hands. “Don’t think so much about it, Aldrest. Whatever comes tomorrow cannot make things worse or better than they are now. Just go and hear what he has to say.”
Aldrest nodded. “Are the others in?”
“Axel is still out with some students on a mission; remember that village where several women disappeared and then turned up dead with their blood drained? He’s on that. The others are here.”
“That sounds like a dangerous mission to send students in, who authorized it?” Aldrest demanded.
He sighed, “I can’t even have my thoughts straight.”
“You’re working too hard,” Shizuma stood on her toes and pressed her face against Aldrest.
Aldrest wrapped his arms around her small waist and breathed in her sweet aroma and warmth. It was always good to have Shizuma close to him.
“Let’s go to the pond,” Shizuma suggested. “I saw you looking yearningly at it from your office. Maybe we can even wait for Axel and the students’ return. They should be back soon.”
Aldrest nodded in agreement. “I would like nothing better.”
Both of them walked down the huge spiraling stone steps to the first floor and exited through the massive double doors of the entrance. They walked the courtyard into the lush, green field and sat with their backs against the willow tree. The night wind caressed their skins with delicacy and the crickets played a symphony for them. All was good and peaceful, at least for now.