Kestari turned to his men. ‘Take the mother and daughter to the church. These corpses will go to the mortuary. Come with me, little one,’ he said, taking her by the hand to his horse. She readily allowed him to.
Her mother took another horse and they went to Brother Gods Church. Rila had long been abandoning her duty to worship her god - it seemed useless to her if nothing changed - but this turn of event seemed to shake her inner self. Maybe there was such thing as miracle and you just had to wait for it.
The scene blurred again, and Rila felt something extremely ticklish in her throat before she was thrown to the real world again. She breathed hard, air seemingly difficult to enter her body. Ilami dominated Rila’s view, expressionless.
‘Why did you do that?’ Rila said, aware of the blade still pointed to her throat. ‘Why don’t you just kill me? You know you can and - and you know I’ll kill you if you don’t.’ Kill or be killed. It was obvious at this point she was to be killed.
‘I’m not an assassin,’ Ilami said, surprising RIla with the sharp edge of her tone. ‘I don’t kill when instructed. I’d know my victim before I decide she should be killed or not. Even if I’m forced to kill, I’ll never escape the nightmares the corpses reward me every time I sleep.’ She tilted her head. ‘Which reminds me, assassin. What is your worst nightmare?’
Rila took a sharp breath. ‘No. No, no, no, no -’
The world faded again.
Kestari trained Rila in the art of fire; how to attack, defense, and maneuver. He also taught her spells from other elements. Apparently, while one was attuned to an element, it didn’t hinder one to practice other, minor elemental spells.
A year later, Kestari gave her a mission. ‘Assassinate this man,’ he said, pointing to a bearded man drawn on a paper lying on the table. They were in his study room. ‘He’s been promoting acceptance among the sinners - the murderers, the rapists, and so on. We can’t have that. Those who sin must be punished.’
She gulped. ‘Assassinate?’
Kestari stared at her. ‘Yes. I’ve told you, Rila. You will serve Xesar and Lio, and as the priest of Xesar, He has told me to finish this man’s life. And I give this mission to you to prove your worth to the Church.’ He leaned against the wall. ‘My kindness can only go so far. If you do nothing to help the Church, the others would no see no reason for you to stay here. I couldn’t defend you.’
Rila inspected the drawing. It was clear what she had to do. She nodded. ‘I’ll take this mission.’
The world blurred again, colours turning to water before they stayed in their positions.
Rila was in a crowd facing Danizen - her target. He was giving a speech about how love was universal and that gender should not be a reason to limit it. As she listened to him, she wondered if it was possible for a man to love a man and a woman to love a woman. She never heard of such thing and the people that represented it. She shook her head. Curiosity shouldn’t be in her way to kill the man. She walked to the nearby tree, deserted, casting a shadow on the afternoon grass.
‘Seresta erventa, firenzi or cornanza,’ she uttered, remembering the spell she had learned to render herself invisible. ‘Seleste revana or denize es farar.’ Threads of light circled around her until too much of them made a cocoon of light before it disappeared, completing the spell.
She held up her hand, palm open, and whispered, ‘Firenzi arwe.’ A tiny ball of fire formed on it and changed shape into an arrow. She directed it to the man. Now, for the command spell. ‘Lari -’
Someone’s shoulder brushed hers, affecting her balance as well as her aim.
‘-za.’ The arrow launched itself to Danizen, but it wasn’t precise. Instead, it hit one of his guards on the shoulder.
Rila’s eyes widened as the person who had accidentally stumbled on her passed by. She failed. Chaos spread through out the crowd as people screamed and yelled, scattering like madmen. The guard clutched his shoulder. He didn’t take out the arrow as it would only worsen the damage. Healers had already rushed towards him, preparing themselves to start the treatment process.
Rila looked around, panicked people would see her, but the spell still held. Her attention shifted to Danizen, and she gritted her teeth. She needed to finish the mission. But she didn’t know if attacking in a close distance was a risk worth taking. She still hadn’t trained herself melee combat. All the spells she’d learned were long-ranged, made to ensure her safety. Plus, wizard guard had already put up a shield, a dome of glowing pentagons, around Denizen.
In the midst of the disorganization, a figure passed. They wore loose garment, white as the colour of death. Their face was hidden by a cloth mask, and they wore a black conical hat. They approached Danizen and turned to a blur that attacked his guards and healers. As the wizard guard fell down, the shield surrounding Danizen disappeared. They passed him in a flash. Danizen collapsed. Rila could see blood soaking his blue tunic. The assassin exited the scene.
‘You failed,’ someone whispered to RIla’s ear, causing her to jump. Behind her was a woman wearing the exact same garment as the previous assassin. It was only her long hair that betrayed her gender. ‘Kestari won’t be pleased, but at least he’d know you have the capacity to kill. We only need to train you in hand-to-hand combat. Come with me.’ With that, the woman walked away, not waiting for her.
Rila followed her, worry settling in her chest like rocks. What would Kestari do now that she failed? What was her punishment? She rubbed her arm, watching the woman. Would she be like her when she became a full-fledged assassin?
The day after, Rila was denied food and water.
Her vision changed, Ilumi’s face dominating the scenery. ‘I see more,’ she whispered. ‘The first man you killed after that, who fight the same cause as Danizen. His wife and two daughters you slaughtered as well as they get into your way. The act of killing is as natural to you as breathing is. But the effect - you couldn’t escape them. Their faces were your nightmare every night. Sometimes you wondered if those people you killed deserved to die in such manner. Sometimes you wondered if you were doing the right thing.
‘What do you think now, Rila?’ Ilami’s gaze didn’t waver. ‘Do you still want to be an assassin?’