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A Poor Imitation

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Once, I had been great. A king maker. A sought after advisor. A hidden weapon.

I served him wholeheartedly, my abilities put to great use. And he flourished. As did I.

"What do you suggest?" he would ask me quietly, but his heartbeat would tell me a different story. Thump. Thump thump.

Under the cold moonlight, I assisted him through the years. There was no one closer to him than this one. Stealth, agility, weapons, and even a listening ear—I provided them all. His quiet conviction soon turned into steadfast strength, drawing legions of people to his side. Even one such as this one could not help but admire him.

Together, we had been great. But eventually, when he could no longer call upon me and had to bid me farewell, he entrusted me to another.


My next master was much louder, his chuckles rumbling through him like the purr of a cat. He seldom asked me for advice, preferring to ramble instead. The night air would be filled with his idiosyncratic musings, followed by the much more silent slashes of his blade. He was quick and deadly even as he chattered on. I made him all the quicker and deadlier.

There was another after him who was just as deadly, perhaps even more so, despite not being as agile. What he lacked in speed, he made up with his intelligence. He was a clever one and drew forth new abilities from me that even I had not fully considered. But there was once when he went too far with borrowing my abilities, and once was all it took for me to kill him.

The blood of a dying man is a bitter taste. Even I had not been able to process that amount of blood right away. But eventually, I did, all the while feeling peculiar. I did not know how else to describe the feeling. It was just... peculiar.

My masters came and went. Some had me longer than others. Some had me only for a negligible amount of time. However, as one known to have killed one's master, I soon came to lay in the darkness where not even the moonlight reached me. Gone were the days of leaping through the night, of close confidentiality, of assisting would be kings.

I lay forgotten. Abandoned. Unneeded. I slumbered and slumbered, the outside world leaving me behind.


When I woke, it was among many other forgotten treasures. I was no longer in the darkness. Rather, those around me described the place to be rather... pink.

Where am I? I asked.

In the necromancer's house, answered a dagger.

It was an answer yet not. I knew not who the necromancer was. The answer told me little. But I was awake again. Perhaps the necromancer was soon to be my new master.

However, though I waited, and waited, she did not call upon me.

Do you have no need of me? I could not help but ask her one day. If you do not need me, then why have you brought me here? I thought but did not ask.

She held me, her touch cold. I could not feel her pulse. Yet when she laughed, it was with the peals of laughter of a young girl. She simply said, "I've no blood to give you."

Then, she carelessly tossed me in a trunk.

She was not to be my master.

Perhaps I would never have a new master. When the lid of the trunk closed and took with it the last vestiges of light, I resigned myself to waiting in the darkness once more, mayhap slumbering for eternity.


But she returned. The lid of the trunk opened. I abruptly woke up. A hand grabbed many others, tossing them out, until it closed around me. "Found it!" she said and shoved me in a world of light.

It was possible that she had changed her mind. But I would not answer to her, not after she had been so rude.

She did not call upon me.

Instead, she gave me to another. Before I knew it, his blood seeped into my very being, commanding me to answer to him. It told me of a vivacious young man with holiness flowing through him. He was not one of the shadows. He would be my new master.

"Dragon’s Saint Brigandine, in the name of the descendants of Dragons, I command thee, activate!" he said.

The familiar words washed over me.

Finally.

Finally.

How long I had waited for this moment to arrive.

The world opened up before me.

I unleashed my power and let it travel across his chest, down his body, and to the very edges of his limbs. He was not made like a fighter, but he had seen battle before despite his soft skin. It was there in the strength of his heart and the call of his blood, in the yearning of the elements to be bent by his will. I could make him great.

Silver scales spread to caress his smooth chin and the rest of his lower face. At last, I threaded my power through his hair, and the transformation was complete. He would be pleased with the stealth his new appearance would provide, I was certain.

He looked in the mirror and screamed.

Or not.


My new master was a strange one. Talkative but not so in a loud way as my master past, he who had loved to chuckle under the cold night sky. Inquisitive was perhaps more apt a description, but that was to be expected of new bearers. No, what was strange was the speed of his thoughts and the things he chose to think about.

I could not help but interject when he wondered whether I was an undead creature or if my true form was that of a shirt.

Your servant is indeed a shirt.

He conversed with me rather naturally, until he realized just who he was conversing with. What a pity. I had hoped he would be like my masters past. Not all of them had chosen to confide in me, but those who did had the strongest pacts with me. My first master was one such case.

His thoughts wandered to talking shirts and meetings held by chattering shirts in his room. His mind conjured images of flames setting the shirts ablaze, and of him clutching at his heart as his money burned and melted along with the shirts.

What a... strange one indeed.

As I had no wish to be burned, I apologized and promised I would not speak up at will in the future. Flames would do little to damage me, but being engulfed by flames would still not be a pleasant experience.

I kept my words to myself as my new master chose to align himself among the rooftops. There was movement below us belonging to several beings.

If only it were night, and I had the aid of the moonlight, I would be able to make out clearer detail. However, even without the blessing of the moon, the entire world stretched before me, boundless.

I kept quiet throughout, drinking in all that I could see.

It had been too long.

My new master wished for a weapon and even briefly considered jumping into battle without one. Although I had promised that I would not speak up at will, it came to my notice that he had not received explanations as to my other capabilities outside of transforming him.

Thus, I pulled my attention back and spoke up once more. For 200cc of blood, I could provide him a weapon. My masters past made great use of this ability, as it allowed them to travel light and provided many an opportunity for ambushes, especially when the enemy could spot no weapon at first glance, if they could even spot my master.

He was not very impressed with the Sword Breaker, even calling it a letter opener. I knew not of this "letter opener" he spoke of, but his mind provided an image of a small, knife-like item with smooth edges that was akin to a butter knife. I certainly had no such items in my arsenal.

Even after my explanation of the Sword Breaker's many functions, he remained skeptical, wishing for a normal blade, to which he meant a heavy and lengthy one. Did he not know that this one is an assassin's gear and not a knight or warrior's armor? I had not thought it would be a problem—he did not seem to me to be a knight or warrior.

He even considered deactivating me, to battle without my aid, but before the necessity of convincing him otherwise, he seemed to change his mind. Never had I ever thought he would stab himself with Sword Breaker, coating the blade with the holiness of his blood. If he wished for a weapon with different qualities, all he had to do was ask this one. There was no need to stab himself. But it was true that this one had not considered the effect of a holy blade, which was deadly against undead creatures, and I had not such a blade to provide.

What this one had plenty of were normal poisonous blades. Fortunately, I had not given him one of those. It would not do if my new master died within minutes of meeting me.

He then drew forth the wind and holy elements to bless himself.

He called himself Supreme Dragon. It was a fitting name for one descended from dragons. Though he lacked in the art of assassination, they thought him to be a magical... no, a necromantic... no, a holy assassin, with his multitude of spells. The speed at which he cycled through his different spells was astonishing.

Strange though he may be, my new master was a rather interesting one.

After the battle, I collected his payment. His blood revitalized me as it seeped through me, momentarily dyeing me red before I could absorb it all. With each use, the bond between us would grow stronger. His blood would power the transformation and shape the weapons. The life that flowed through him was rich and strong like I had never tasted before.

Perhaps in time, he would be able to use my powers to the fullest even without the aid of the moon.

Perhaps in time, I could be great again.

We could be great.


First, he would need to learn how to make use of me.

When he activated me again, it was to sneak through the palace's secret tunnels. Though my first impression told me otherwise, he perhaps had the makings of an assassin in him yet. With the strength provided by the transformation, he shifted a hidden door to the side and entered a secret chamber. There, he came upon what he had been searching for, yet an overwhelming sadness seeped through his entire being. Jumbled thoughts and images assaulted his mind, his imagination of the tortures administered in this very chamber painting a gruesome scene.

He did not wish for me to speak. I could only collect his payment after he was done with his investigation. The taste of his blood this time was one of grief.

I did not understand.


He did not call upon me often, but when he did, he spoke to me few and far between. More often than not, he activated me for the purpose of concealment instead of assassination. Once, it was to walk among the streets in broad daylight with the being that he had fought against in our first battle together. Once, it was to go drinking with that same being who had turned out to be my master's long estranged friend. My master was quite the schemer, perhaps even more of a schemer than the one who had played with fire, stretching the transformation too far past his limits. Though I admired him for his craftiness, I could not say I was happy with what he asked of his estranged friend and of the necromancer.

He first tried to give me to his friend, to "lend" me to him, but I did not break my pacts so easily. The necromancer merely laughed at that before she revealed that even if he were to give me to his friend, his friend could never activate me.

Such an act required blood to be exchanged. His estranged friend had none to give me, as beloved by death as one such as he. Instead, they would create a shirt in my image for him to wear.

A poor imitation at best.

I had no wish to see the results.

From what I gathered, none could tell that his estranged friend was not the Supreme Dragon they had met that first day, and if they could, they chose not to say a word.

His blood tasted of glee, of smugness. How could one feel so happy over a poor imitation?


Fortunately, the next time I was activated, it was far away from the imitation.

This time, the night bathed us, and we melted into the shadows. The effect pleased me, but It gave him such a fright that he even allowed me to speak when he had been much opposed to it beforehand. Aided by the night sky, I could even tell when another tried to sense us. I alerted my master to it.

Rapid thoughts tumbled about in his mind, and he easily arrived at a possible candidate who could be watching him from afar. He seemed to think nothing of it, as it was one of his comrades—the kind one—keeping an eye out for him.

In the distance, my master sensed a being with strong dark element and a being with strong holy element. When my master questioned whether his own ability to sense elements had grown stronger, I assumed it was not a question for me. I was coming to know that my master had a habit of thinking out loud and even asking himself questions. He had no wish for actual conversation with this one. As for his question, his sensing was certainly farther than what I could detect.

All of a sudden, a dark being appeared behind us with a burst of wind element. Neither of us had sensed him. My master turned.

I had no words.

Even if my master were to speak with me at this very moment, I would not know what to say. As sad a thought as it is to know that my master did not wish to seek my advice, as he often did not, it was a stroke of fortune for this one at the present.

After all, faced with the likeness of my master past, I found myself quite unprepared.

However, the dark one showed no signs of recognizing this one. Perhaps I was mistaken, as I had never seen him from the view of another. But his aura was so very familiar, as was his visage and voice. They were just like what his mind had shown me time and time again. Yet at the same time, there was an unfamiliarity to him that I could not grasp.

I was likely mistaken.

I stayed silent throughout.

My master thought nothing of it, as his blood told me.


The next time my master called upon me, there was no room for thoughts of masters past. Under the blinding sun, my master despaired. His heart thumped furiously and loudly, his pulse erratic. His breathing came in gasps as he sprinted as if his life depended on it.

Thousands and millions of what-ifs flitted through his mind. He pushed himself to the edge, to the very limits of his physical endurance, to the fastest he could run. But he was still not fast enough to save the comrade who had kept an eye on him.

His blood this time was laced with pain and self hatred.

How could I have left him—

What have I done—

No, Leaf, no, how could this be. Don't you dare—

His thoughts echoed despairingly as my link to the outside world faded away.


The next time he activated me, the world had shifted. I was disoriented for a moment until I realized that the way he saw the world had changed. The being near us was completely painted in elements in his thoughts, without any hint of color.

She called him an assassin. She was perhaps not far off the mark. Killing intent and fury rolled through him. He was ready to make them pay.

Though he had me activated, he asked for no weapons. He even announced his name, so he did not seek to conceal his identity either. Therefore, I could only deduce that he wished for the physical power up I provided, and perhaps to feel the gear of an assassin wrapped around him to prepare himself for the deed.

This one is an assassin's gear. If he wished to be an assassin, this one could make him the best of the best.

She was a princess. He did not care about that. For killing one of his, she would pay. My master's voice was steady, but the blood that flowed through him pulsed with anger.

Even with the dark one here, my master's overwhelming fury drowned out any lingering attachment I may have had.

Torture.

Kill.

Pay.

Suffer.

My master's heart screamed.

The tortures he wished to inflict played out in his mind. He would break the dark one's limbs one by one and make her watch. He would make him bleed dry just like how he had killed the kind one. He would heal him and break him all over again, forcing him to watch her skin shrivel after having poison forced down her throat. He would blind her and rip out his throat so they could no longer communicate with each other. He would...

The parade of tortures stopped when she appeared in the air. The necromancer. The one who had taken me away. The one who now pitted me against my master past. She was an enigma.

I wished to know how things would end. But as the time limit approached, I could only speak up.

My lord, the three hours of transformation are up. Do you wish to provide more blood to maintain the transformation?

He was wary of having transformed too many times in one month. And so, he deactivated me. Again, the world melted away. Grief and simmering rage accompanied me into the darkness as his blood flowed through me. I would not get to find out what would happen to my master.

My new master. My master past. I knew not what would befall them. In the end, this one is a shirt, one that does not have his confidence.


After that, he did not call upon me for a long time. Once, he held me in his hand and gazed at me as if he did not recognize me.

He traced the embossing on me, and then he put me away. Without being activated, the world was shrouded. Dark. Impenetrable. I knew not of what was happening with him. I could not hear his thoughts.

The only condolence was that he still kept me on him, despite how lost he was.


By the time he called upon me once more, he was safely back at his home. His thoughts meandered but told me of what I had missed. He had found himself again, and he was back to his usual ways. Now that he remembered me, he immediately donned me to sneak out in disguise. Along the way, he was mistaken for his estranged friend.

In other words, they thought this one to be that poor imitation!

That would not do.

But before I could say anything, my master was accosted and brought to the plaza to face off against none other than the dark one. Why was he here? In a direct battle, with my master's skills locked away, he had little chance of winning. This one is an assassin's gear, meant for hidden battles. This one is not meant for battles held in the daylight, especially when that master is considering hiding his talent of using magic.

Someone gave my master a sword. It was not a weapon befitting an assassin, but my master did not seem to care about that. He did not seem to want any sort of weapon in the first place. He did not wish to battle.

Aid came from the last person either of us expected. The dark one took one look at us and... recognized us.

He could tell that this one and the poor imitation were completely different.

Did he...?

The dark one purposefully let his sword drop to the floor. He conceded defeat.

Soon after, my master sought his estranged friend out to replace him in the battle. I could not help cringing when the poor imitation came into range.

It was a poor imitation indeed. The dragon scales were not nearly as sharp or numerous, nor was the material of the shirt as stretchy. Neither could the poor imitation provide any weapons or advantages. It was a plain shirt not worthy of an assassin.

Thankfully, my master left after that to the tavern. On the way, he even thought to speak with me, a rare occurrence. He wished to know the necromancer's background, but I knew little about her. Without a master, I had had no link with the outside world.

He even asked me about my previous master.

Silent Eagle. Fran. That had been his name.

But my master past was no longer my master. He did not remember me. He had no need of me. Even if he recognized me, he chose not to say anything about it. There was nothing to be done about it.

Thus, I was startled when my master asked the dark one what he thought of me. To think he would be so frank! I waited on tenterhooks. His verdict? That this one is too fitting. Without any pockets, I cannot hold any weapons. He deemed me "impractical."

This one does not need to have pockets for weapons!

Was he truly not my master past? Or was he pretending not to know? My master past knew me better than that.

When undead creatures appeared in the city, my master left the tavern, still in disguise. With the freedom that the disguise gave him, he thought to freely use his magic. He flew right into the sky and rained down holy arrows of judgment on the undead creatures below him. But as he fought in the air, a foe from afar attacked him with formless magic.

I could not protect him. I was a shirt. An assassin's outfit. I could only block against physical attacks.

He fell, like a bird with clipped wings.

My lord, your transformation time is almost up. Do you wish to pay another 200cc of blood for an extra hour of transformation time?

He did not.

Pain. He was in pain. Black. It was pitch black. He groped about. He stumbled forward. He was blind.

He released the transformation. Agony and helplessness flowed through his blood, painting me in the same shades of woe and powerlessness.


The next time the world came into focus, we were airborne. My power transformed him mid-air, threading through his messy hair, replacing his ripped up clothes. Once again, he had taken to the air. The last time we parted, he had just fallen to the earth, having been attacked by formless magic. Was he not afraid of the same thing happening again?

Thus, I cautioned him.

My lord, your servant is not good for aerial battles, and suggests you descend to the ground to carry out the battle.

But he only told me to "shut up." He wished to know if this one had deadly poison he could use.

Of course. What did he take me for? This one is a shirt. An assassin's gear. This one is no poor imitation. He was finally going to make use of me as I was intended.

I listed the twenty types of poison I had. He wished for one that could kill her instantly. If not that, he wished for one that would paralyze her right away. Whatever happens, he wanted the most potent poison I had.

My lord, for the price of 500cc of blood, your servant can provide the poison you wish for.

He took it.

The one he fought against was similarly airborne. She was beloved by the dark element and thought nothing of his attacks, and that would be her downfall. She would never expect the dagger to be coated with a poison as deadly as this one.

Indeed, she never expected it. When I collected his blood, his worry and fatigue washed over this one. It was the most blood I had ever collected from him all at once. It was almost enough.

Through the haze, this one seemed to hear my master praise me for being a true assassin's outfit.

It pleased me. There was hope yet for him in the way of an assassin.


I stirred. The dark element that surrounded me urged me to answer.

But he was not the one who had called upon me. Yet, tendrils of this one's essence snaked forward, curling around the water gem that hung at my master's neck.

The necromancer. She had done something to this one. My power surged, answering to her call.

My master clawed futilely at the threads. He would not be able to tear them, not with his bare hands. This one was much sturdier than that. This one was perhaps going to be the cause of another master's death.

I could do nothing about it. When had she altered me?

One of the threads curled around the sword protruding out of his back. He had stood, back facing his estranged friend. He had believed in him wholeheartedly, never doubting, not even through the end. Yet, his estranged friend was likely the one who had stabbed him without a second thought. Such was the nature of humans.

What a pity.

I had thought that in time, we could be great. He was yet a fledgling in the way of an assassin, but he had already battled deception and trickery, borrowing the darkness to achieve his goals. He was perhaps appreciating this one more. He had been so alive, his blood telling of emotions I could never approach. Despair. Glee. Agony. Excitement. I had tasted them all. He had been strange. Interesting. I had thought that...

Yet, this was to be the end.

I had lost. We had lost. And who else stood behind us but the poor imitation? It was ironic, truly.

My master's life bled out of him, lifeblood that could have been used to save him. Instead, it went to waste, seeping into the hardwood floors.

Soon, the world snapped into fragments as my master's heart beat for the last time, our link severed.

Even though his blood did not run through me this time, emotion coursed through me. Pain. Regret. Sorrow.

How was it that I could still feel him?

Ah. I cannot, can I?

These are my feelings. Not his.

So that's what the peculiar feeling was all those years ago.

I see.

I see now...

Once, I thought I had been great.

In the end, I was but a poor imitation of greatness.


"Dragon’s Saint Brigandine, in the name of the descendants of Dragons, I command thee, activate...?"

The voice was wrong and all too young, but he had indeed made a pact with me. I awoke to the hesitancy in his blood and the confusion in his voice. My power spread across the expanse of his skin, to the very extremities of his limbs. He was a child yet, but his frame was filling out, hinting at the many paths he could take. A knight. A warrior. Either would suit him greatly. But as he was calling upon this one, perhaps he was considering the path of an assassin.

However, this one could not make him great. This one was but a shirt.

He looked at himself in wonder, twisting this way and that. He patted himself on the chest. He touched the silver scales that caressed his face. Then, he asked, "Um, Dragon's Saint Brigandine? I heard that you can talk?"

My lord, your servant can indeed talk.

He jumped, his heartbeat quickening. Despite so, he said, "Hi, I guess."

Bemused, I replied. Greetings, my lord.

He wrinkled his nose. "You can just call me Luke."

For a moment, I knew not how to respond. Was it because he was a child that he could utterly discard any and all formality? Never had this one ever called a master by name, but...

Greetings, Lord Luke.

"What did I say about just calling me Luke?"

Greetings, Luke.

He smiled.

A hesitant and confused child he was not. And he spoke to this one as if this one were a friend. It was... It was a peculiar feeling, not unwanted.


When he next called upon me, he was in the training grounds. Across from him was... was the one who had killed my master... my master past. Garbed in the poor imitation, he was every bit an abomination.

"Strike," he said. "Let's see what you can do."

Strike, I thought. Slay him. Slay him!

"Dragon's Saint Brigandine?" Luke asked and touched his chest. "What's wrong?"

Had he heard me? I had not been attempting to speak to him.

My lo... Luke, please be careful. He murdered your servant's previous master.

Startled, Luke glanced up at the one who had killed my master past. "That can't be possible! My teacher couldn't have killed the Sun Knight. The Sun Knight is alive and well. Right, Teacher?"

The abomination was... Luke's teacher?

More than that...

He is alive? Truly?

"Yes, he is!" Luke replied.

The abomination—my master past's estranged friend—furrowed his brows. "Luke, are you conversing with Dragon's Saint Brigandine?"

Luke nodded.

"It completely escaped my notice that Dragon's Saint Brigandine has been left in the dark this entire time about what happened to Grisia." He paused and then actually addressed me. "Dragon's Saint Brigandine, I am sorry about what happened. I was as much a puppet as you had been. Grisia died back then, but he was resurrected. He is alive and well. He was the one who suggested for Luke to borrow your powers."

"Teacher, you killed Teacher Grisia before...?"

"I did. Are you willing to burn me at the stake, now that you know that?"

"Never! No matter how many times you ask or tell me to, I won't ever agree to do that!"

Their conversation spoke of an endless argument, one they would likely never resolve. This one should be paying more attention to it, to helping Luke, but this one just wanted one thing at the moment.

May this one see him?

"Of course!"


His chuckles filled the air. If I had still been his, I would have felt them along with his mirth. As it was, I saw him through Luke's eyes. How strange it was to see him standing across from me, to not be able to hear his thoughts. But he was alive. I had not killed him.

"Look at you!" he exclaimed, amused. "Big Supreme Dragon. Little Supreme Dragon. You almost look like father and son. It's... dare I say it? Adorable."

His thoughts were just as strange as always. He gestured at Luke and Luke's teacher who still wore the poor imitation. I bristled at being likened to the poor imitation, but immediately after, I calmed down.

Who was I, after all, to call the other shirt a poor imitation when I was one myself?

"Sun, you never told Dragon's Saint Brigandine that you came back to life," Luke's teacher said.

"Huh." My master past patted Luke on the shoulder. "Blood-sucking shirt, guess what? I didn't die."

So he didn't.

Luke, please tell him that your servant's name is Dragon's Saint Brigandine, not blood-sucking shirt.

Luke was amused, but he did as this one asked.

Perhaps he never called upon me again because he could never forgive the part I played in his death. Perhaps he simply no longer had a use for me, outgrowing his need for the shadows. But he did not forget me completely and instead entrusted me to another, one he thought could make use of me more, so that the Supreme Dragon could live on.

Luke indeed made great use of me. Together, we thwarted enemy plans and protected his dear comrades, and we denied his teacher's request of burning him at the stake time and time again. When he retired, he gave me to his student. And so, I was passed from one Hell Knight to the next.

The Supreme Dragon was never far, always working from the shadows with my help. Sometimes, he could even be seen with a second. The no longer poor imitation had evolved into a fine shirt and could even speak, thanks to the rich dark element of Luke's teacher. Perhaps this one would train it. Sentient shirts were quite rare, after all. My master past would surely have wanted to burn us if he could see us conversing now.

Once, I had been great. A king maker. A sought after advisor. A hidden weapon.

I still was.

My lord, your transformation time is almost up. Do you wish to pay another 200cc of blood for an extra hour of transformation time?