The clouds hung low over the mountain, clutching at leaves and thickening in hollows. The sun had dipped below the tree-line and, although light still bloomed across the sky, the darkness too was starting to gather in the hidden spaces. It seemed to seep up out of cracks and roots and spread in pools.

Aiko sat, cross-legged, looking out at the mountain where it loomed beyond the edge of the village. The moon would soon rise, and she would pick up her sword and stalk the ways of the forest. She was out of time. The dragon must die. Tonight.

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