The Shinigami: Act 5 "Empty Shadow"


The home of the next unfortunate Overlord was a barrow somewhere in the Jerall mountains. It was a cold and damp night. It smelled like moss and decomposing wood. Only faint noises like droplets and slow footsteps can be heard. It was dark, but she could see very well in the dark. She was a trained Samurai of Akaviri descent, after all. She already felled a few Draugr, Nordic undead that inhabit the ancient crypts of Skyrim. There were only a few left, daybreak was nearing, and she was near the main Sanctum.

It was all too familiar for Risa, the Shinigami. For seventeen years, she has been doing this. However, something was quite odd.

The Shinigami used Daisho form for there were multiple enemies. She evaded every swing of the undead Draugr's axe. She ducked and slashed, leapt and spun, dealing the killing blow. It was as if she walked and ran sideways on the walls eventually somersaulting into a blur, inflicting savage strikes. There was even an instance where she cocked her katana backwards to slice a Draugr vertically in half while blocking a blow from a battleaxe from behind.

And when the Overlord woke, it never even had a chance to remove itself from the coffin. Her wakizashi found itself in between its eyes, siphoning its soul out. Cleared. “Another day at the office”, she thought.

While she was cleaning up the selected loot, she saw a shadow near the entrance that ran through. She knew something was odd. She was being followed.

She thought maybe vampires were stalking her. She was a threat, after all. Then she chased the shadow outside only to find nothing. It was good to have eyes at the back of her head. She new she was being watched from the very beginning, but she did not have a sabrecat's legs. Chasing after a stalker would be a difficult task especially from a distance.

Even with a heavy bag of loot, it did not weigh Risa down. She kept herself fit throughout the years. Besides having Akaviri blood, her fitness kept her youthful in appearance. That was her secret if the Nords of the Pale Pass wanted to know. With that said, she ran home. It was best to quickly traverse the icy wastes of the Jerall mountains unseen especially that she knew she was being stalked by something most likely undead.

After dropping the loot in the middle of the road, she jumped through her bedchambers' window, locked it, then closed the curtains.

The Shinigami was still panting heavily when she double checked the room for any intruders. She was alone. She went in front of her mirror again to check for injuries. She removed her cuirass first. With just her white under tunic covering her bust, she turned in front of the mirror to check her arms, back and shoulders.

Then she raised one arm after the other to check the sides of her chest. “Not even a bruise. This is getting too easy”, she thought while moving the strap of her black undergarment under the tunic a little to the side to check her right shoulder. “But this hurts. Must've gotten carried away with my katana”, she thought again while rotating her shoulder backwards to alleviate the pain. “I'm getting too old for this, I must retire soon”.

Risa then proceeded to remove her pants. She twisted and turned to look at her knees. Her left knee was a bit swollen. “Yes, definitely age is catching up”. She hiked her tunic upward then pulled the string of her undergarment a little bit down to check on a bruise on her left hip bone. It wasn't the Draugr who did that. She hit a wall upon doing her acrobatic moves earlier. “Getting a little too slow too”.

Then she thought of the one stalking her a while back. Was that a vampire, or something else? She thought. “I better get to the bottom of this before it takes my life”. She feared for her life. It was something she hadn't felt for a long time.

Suddenly, a surge of overwhelming emptiness fell upon her. Seeing her son sleeping on her bed would have given her more courage. Alesan's hugs and kisses would have eased all the pain off. Then there was Eljar. He would've been a comforting help with regards to this. He would've known what to do in an instant.

Then she removed her tunic. She saw herself in the mirror bare naked with only her undergarments on. She thought, “this is the real me. Just another human being, no one else knew, no one understood, just unlucky to be born as Daimyo”.

She faced her bed with tears in her eyes, while removing her upper undergarment then slumping into bed to cry herself to sleep.

A typical snowy morning followed the next day in the Pale Pass. It was windy so the fog had already cleared up by sunrise. The Shinigami's loot was already taken by the retainers. Eljar was first to the scene that morning, reporting to Captain Halfdan immediately. There were no signs of unusual activities from the angel of death this time. It was just the typical bag of loot from the barrows.

“Funny that a few years back, this would've caused alarm among us”, Halfdan said.

“Now we're somewhat relieved it's just this”, Eljar replied somewhat dissatisfied with the collection of gems and equipment.

However, he did find something unusual. There were footsteps on the snow at long intervals coming from the mountains towards the loot. Eljar thought about it first before reporting to the Lady's Housecarl, Captain Halfdan. “Our friend was running away from something, Taichou-Senpai”, he spoke.

“How in the world would you know that? A full night had passed”, Halfdan asked.

“Precisely, and the footsteps were still there, partially covered, even if snowfall was constant throughout the night.”


“It meant that the foot strikes were powerful enough to plunge deep into the snow not to mention the unusually long distances in between the footseps.”

“It was running. In a hurry then. But where did it go?”

Eljar had to be careful not to reveal the Shinigami's identity, and had to think about his next answer. He only wanted to point out that the culprit was running. There was no footfall headed away from the bag of gems indicating the culprit must have felt the place was secure, and therefore stopped running. It could dangerously hint that the Shinigami lived within the settlement.

He had now put himself in a delicate situation. He had to act swiftly without suspicion. “Must've been really the angel of death, Taichou. It flew back to Sovngarde”, Eljar jested to delay himself.

“Not funny”, yes, it wasn't. Halfdan thought that it wasn't one of Eljar's finest witty comments. He must be hiding something. Although suspicions somewhat ended with his next answer.

“Our houses are build from stone and wood. I was half joking, Senpai. It didn't fly. It ‘half flew’ or leapt to the closest building and hid itself until it was safe then fled. But not to the afterlife”, Eljar, once again jested, but made more sense.

The long house was indeed, very close to where the loot was. The long house. Eljar thought what in the world was the Daimyo thinking in leaving the loot so close to her residence. Halfdan then ordered to search the long house for clues of the Shinigami's whereabouts.

“Great job, Eljar”, Eljar thought he led the investigation closer to the Shinigami in actuality. At the very least, he and Risa were off the hook for now.

“Come to think of it, I haven't seen the Daimyo yet. It's mid morning already”, Halfdan said, alarmed.

Suddenly, Eljar was starting to panic as well. They both rushed inside the long house to look for Lady Risa. “Oh no. This is bad”, he thought. Not that he was concerned about the Lady's safety, he was worried that she may finally get caught. And it was because of him.

Halfdan ordered the chamber maidens to look for Lady Risa in her quarters. She wasn't there. “What in Oblivion is she doing? She's gone mad”, Eljar thought in panic.

“I am here”, Lady Risa said while coming out of the doorway of her children's room, surprising everyone. “I apologize for my tardiness. I couldn't sleep last night”, she added.

She was already garbed in her grey Nordic fur Kimono, ready for attendance. Her eyes were swollen.

“Are you feeling alright, milady? We were worried about you”, Halfdan said upon noticing her obvious distress.

“Never better, Taichou. So what is this fuss all about?”

“Eljar here has pointed out that the Shinigami was here in the vicinity of your residence, madam”, Halfdan replied.

Lady Risa looked towards them both, smiled and ordered them to meet her at the main hall. Upon hearing this, Eljar could've sworn he saw the Daimyo glare at him. Thankfully, her eyes were swollen so it wasn't that obvious.

“Oh shit. She's gonna kill me”, he thought.

At the main hall, Halfdan explained the events leading to the situation. Lady Risa commended them both for a job well done. “At least the investigation is pointing us towards something”, she said while glaring at the same time sarcastically smiling at Eljar. Then she ordered Halfdan to leave her and Eljar in private.

“Alright, here we go”, Eljar dreaded in his thoughts.

“I apologize for my behavior the other week, Makenzo-Sensei. I shouldn't have lashed out at you like that. You deserved better and a great amount of respect”, Eljar painfully blurted out these words.

“First you lash out at me then you almost blew my cover”, Lady Risa answered coldly.

A moment of silence followed afterwards. She just looked at him. Eljar looked at the floor at most, switching at random things around the room. It was excruciatingly dark and cold inside the hall. The room was awkwardly silent for a mid morning luncheon, only hearing the muffled cackle of townsfolk outside.

“No matter”, the Daimyo broke the silence. “Your actions the other week were already forgiven. You were only concerned about everyone's welfare. And today, you were only doing your job. Brilliant, actually, as ever. Unfortunately, it just led to unwanted circumstances, but really, I admire the way you work. I'm proud of what you've become, Eljar”, she said this time with a real smile.

“Are you alright? You've been crying”, Eljar said suddenly breaking Risa's stern expression. She looked away for a moment then stood up.

“Follow me”, she said while walking back to the corridor leading to her chambers.

Eljar followed her, but they did not enter her room. Instead, they went in to a smaller darker room. She offered Eljar a chair. He sat down and found that the chair was too low for him, even small at the sides. She lit a candle and sat on what seemed to be a child's bed. They were in her children's chambers.

“I could not sleep in my room last night so I grabbed my clothes for today's work and slept here”, she said with some deep sorrow in her tone.

“I believe that's your son's bed”, Eljar replied not sure if he chose the right words for the situation.

“My eldest child, Sigurd, passed away moments after his birth. I believe everyone knows that”, Risa replied. “About a year later, Merida was born. She also died moments later”, she continued. “I couldn't bear lose another one. So I prayed to god that I would give everything up to keep my next child safe from harm. Then about two years, Alesan was born, that was his crib”, she added pointing towards an infant's bed chamber at the opposite side of the room. “This was his bed when he grew up a year later. They all left me here.”

“I'm sorry to hear that, Daimyo-Sama”, Eljar said, not knowing how to react when Risa started to let a tear drop.

“As you all know my late husband was a Great War veteran who fought under the banner of General Jonna. He was there when the Imperial City was liberated. I'm sorry, Eljar. I must be taking so much of your time.”

“No, go ahead. I'm here. I'll listen.”

“You always are a good listener even with that mouth of yours”, Risa jested amidst the tone of the conversation. Eljar let out a faint smirk. Then she continued.

“He was already retired when General Tullius asked him to go to Solitude with him to become an Imperial Legate. He obliged even against my will. I just knew it could go very wrong with him going to the capital. A cold war between the empire and the Jarl of Windhelm, Ulfric Stormcloak was already brewing at that time. And Ulfric was a very close friend of my husband's. They started out fighting for the same Legion before.

“What my husband saw in Solitude greatly disappointed him, but he knew it from the very beginning that the empire would succumb to the Aldmeri Dominion, anyway. He just needed confirmation.”

“Then why did he agree to go there in the first place?”

“So he could have a hand to change things. At least, politically. He became one of Ulfric's allies in Solitude. They shared the same vision for Skyrim, both true Nords, as they call themselves”, then she paused. Her tone started to hint a little bit of anger when she continued. “The ‘truest of true Nords’ wanted Nord education for our Alesan so he brought him to the capital. Alesan has not even seen summer.”

“Well that's a tad insensitive to his wife and mother to his children”, Eljar replied with some empathy.

“At least that's what he said. But the underlying purpose there was for safety. The Pale Pass isn't exactly situated in a strategic point of view. Just take a step south, and you're in Cyrodiil, the Heartland, seat of the empire. They could take our son easily without his protection for political leverage. He even wanted me to go with him, but I have duties here.”

“But Solitude is surrounded by Imperial loyalists.”

“It wasn't before. Yes, there were loyalists, but it was more of a political battleground being the capital of Skyrim. Opposition was still strong at that time.”

“But not strong enough to prevent his death.”

“Killed by a cutthroat inside his Solitude home in Proudspire Manor. My guess is the criminal was hired by his enemies. My son was fortunately in nursery school”.

Then Risa fell silent, and started to sob. “My poor children..”, she continued to sob. Eljar hesitantly sat beside Risa to comfort her, fearing the bed might actually break under their weight, still jesting within his thoughts. He always had a tendency to push terrible moments aside. Add the fact that he did not know how to console a crying woman, especially the one he valued the most.

“I did not have time to mourn my husband, Eljar”, she continued once again. “I had to protect my son. From those disgusting Aldmeri pigs! You know how I did it? I shouldn't have done it. I'm a terrible mother”, she exclaimed.

“I'm sure you're not, Risa-Sensei. You did what's best for him”, Eljar replied while awkwardly putting an arm around her shoulders to console her.

“I sent my son to be adopted by a Redguard pirate.”

“Wow, that is terrible. Care to explain?”

“He isn't exactly a pirate. He was a retired Imperial Legate who was a trusted friend of my husband. Decided to retire as a sailor to live a life of adventure in his final days.”

“Alright. Then why him?”

“I needed Alesan to be as far away as possible for his safety. Our friend has connections in the capital of Hammerfell, Sentinel, where the Dominion and empire have no grasp. So they boarded him to a ship going there. What everyone knows is that he's in Windhelm, in school.”

Then Risa fell silent again. She wiped her tears, and thanked Eljar for his time. “That's why I'm doing this”, she spoke. “I started out collecting souls from the undead and raiding bandit camps out of duty for my people. Now I do this for my son. I'm making sure all is secure and stable before I leave and search for Alesan then return to the peaceful place I've built for him”, she added with a little more conviction. “Eljar”, she continued.

“Yes, Daimyo-Sama? You can tell me anything”, Eljar responded.

“No one knows about this.”

“Of course, Sensei.”

“Good. You are dismissed, Samurai”. Eljar stood up and bowed saying, “milady”, then walked away. As he approached the door, she called for him once more, “El-Chan”. It made Eljar feel like he was floating with Risa's renewed endearment towards him. However, it quickly snapped back to reality and he felt like falling face first on the ground with her next question. “We're friends, right?”

He didn't even bother to look back to hide his disappointment. But at least he felt that he was rejected in a good way this time. “Of course, Makenzo Nee-Chan, of course”, he answered as he walked away.

Then he thought once he was outside already, “Nee-Chan? What the fuck was that.”

Inside her children's room, baffled, Risa thought of Eljar's manner of addressing her. “Nee-Chan? Now he pretends to think I'm his older sister? What a fool. If he only knew.”

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