The curtain of night covered the city. John held a heavily wounded man in his arms. From the chest down, the man was stained red by his own blood.
Man: John, remember. Darkness is your loyal friend...
John the Shadow Assassin: I understand, teacher! I will never let you down again!
The man closed his eyes. John held his tears back while holding his teacher’s hand, humming the nursery rhyme he always sang...
John the Shadow Assassin: ‘Who killed the robin? I did.’
John the Shadow Assassin: ‘The sparrow says, I killed the robin, with my bow and arrow—’
Guard: He’s there!
The guards opened the door of the abandoned house. In the dark, they cautiously searched through the house. Suddenly a “swish” whooshed into their ears and the leading guard’s head was detached from his body. The other guards stepped back in fear. John’s voice echoed inside the house, humming the nursery rhyme. The sharp arm blade cut off another head—
John the Shadow Assassin: ‘Who killed the robin—’
Guard: Stay away from me!
John the Shadow Assassin: ‘When the knell sounded for the poor robin, all the birds in the air sobbed.’
Walking away from his teacher’s body, John’s figure faded into the darkness of an alley, only his weeping voice lingering...
After slaying the one hundredth person, John started seriously counting his kills.
Once, when John was about to decapitate a man with his arm blade, he found himself intrigued by the target’s expression as he asked for mercy. He cut off his legs. John found the man’s bloodcurdling scream delighting. He then kept torturing the man until he was on the verge of death. But he was not content, he wanted more of the screams. Suddenly, a voice rung in his head...
The Dark Astralist: Do not indulge yourself in the pleasure from others’ pain.
A certain power flushed into John’s body, bringing him back to his sanity. The gore appalled him. Endless killing would only cause his fall...Since then, John would meditate beside a frozen lake at regular intervals, calming his mind with the ice water.
As time passed, he became noted for his fighting skills. The Gods’ general invited John to join as an assassin specifically recruited to bring down Demons. He thought this might be the chance to reach a balance: killing “diabolical” demons as a reminder to himself not to fall into blood lust.
In just a short period of time, his renown spread through the army of Gods. The God general felt threatened because of this and hence sent him on a mission to assassinate a formidable Demon general.
God General: John, this is your target.
Looking at the picture of the Demon general, John knew that it was a tough mission...Then, he realized what his superior intended. However, to an assassin, nothing mattered but the death of the target.
John the Shadow Assassin: Understood.
John took the command and vanished from the camp.
Lü Bu the Warlord: It seems like your superiors do want to get rid of you.
Lü Bu the Warlord: You know your stuff. How about coming over to us?
Lü Bu the Warlord: You’re really good. I’ll give you one more chance. Join us!
John looked at the Demon general coldly. He had slashed the enemy over a thousand times with his arm blade, but not a single trace of the attack could be seen on the general.
Lü Bu the Warlord: So you’re not giving up. Then die!
When the Demon general attacked, John blended into the shadow. The heavily injured assassin retreated from the camp of Demons and began a long escape. Consciousness blurred, he ran into the Cancer Court, collapsing in front of an altar. Smell of blood woke the Astralist of Cancer...
Astralist of Cancer: Poor child!
The Astralist used the power of constellations to suppress the spread of the Demon general’s blood, but John did not return to his consciousness. The blood contaminated him, and claws and horns grew out of his body. The Astralist channeled more power into him. John felt the power of constellations fighting against the demon’s blood and discovered that it was the same power which helped him calm in the past.
Astralist of Cancer: My boy, I know what you have been through...
Astralist of Cancer: Are you willing to devote your life and shoulder my responsibilities?
John the Shadow Assassin: Yes, I am. Your wish shall be my command!
John followed the Astralist. The Astralist of Cancer instructed him on the ways of channeling constellational power. With his talent, he mastered the skill in no time. On a day when John was doing his routine training, a silvery light suddenly flashed at him. John swiftly moved from where he stood, only to see a giant scorpion sting piercing through the place.
Alma the Sickle Assassin: Die!
From the clothes of the attacker, John knew that she was sent by the Gods to eliminate him...
John: Stop it. You’ve been deceived!
Alma the Sickle Assassin: You wish for mercy?
John: Listen to me first...
Alma the Sickle Assassin: Die!
John: You are deceived!
John: They have manipulated you to purge dissidents from the army of Gods.
Alma the Sickle Assassin: Nonsense!
Seeing it not possible to dissuade the assassin, John brought down his opponent with his giant claw and vanished into the shadows. After the fight, he had no doubt that the Gods’ general was a selfish imbecile and there would be more of foolishness coming. He sneaked back into his old camp and discovered that the general had no concern for his men’s survival
God General: Fight! Fight till your death! Fight even when you’re dead!
John felt his anger surge from within. However, to protect the soldiers, he assassinated his enemies’ commander before returning stealthily to slay the Gods’ general. Then, he returned to the Cancer Court...
Astralist of Cancer: John, you know everything now.
John: Sorry, my teacher...
Astralist of Cancer: I am not blaming you; you actually helped me.
John: I don’t understand.
Astralist of Cancer: My duty is almost done. You will succeed the Court-hood of Cancer.
John: My teacher, you...
Astralist of Cancer: I had asked you whether you would shoulder my responsibilites.
Astralist of Cancer: From the moment you accepted, you have become the Court’s successor.
Astralist of Cancer: Witnessing what you did, I am now more certain of your suitability.
Since then, John became the Court of Cancer, always monitoring generals of Gods. If they undervalued their men’s lives, his claw would be waiting to tear them apart.
Zeus decided to strike and break the tower linking the two realms. Before, the Gods had appointed the Courts of Zodiacs the heavy responsibility of protecting the realm of Human. The Courts, naturally, did not refuse. Only John, the new successor as the Court of Cancer, had questions.
Court of Cancer - John: ‘The Courts of Zodiacs was always given few responsibilities.’
Court of Cancer - John: ‘Now a sudden duty...Could something have happened in heaven?’
When the savant appointed a new Court of the Zodiac from heaven, John deliberately led the savant to the edge of the Court. To learn the answer from the savant, he half-asked and half-demanded the reason behind...
Savant of Spring: Honorable John, I certainly know the reason.
Savant of Spring: But do you agree to answer my questions in return?
John nodded at him. The young savant stretched out his hand and John shook it without hesitation. A glowing sign appeared on the back of two’s shaking hands.
Savant of Spring: Constellations witness this vow.
Savant of Spring: After you, Honorable John.
Court of Cancer - John: Why separate heaven from the realm of Human?
Savant of Spring: A number of Demons had intruded heaven by unknown means...
Savant of Spring: Although they were driven back, Zeus would not allow this to happen again.
Savant of Spring: He had issued this decree for this purpose,
Savant of Spring: to eliminate any possibilities of this from happening — at least superficially.
Court of Cancer - John: Then on the genuine—
Savant of Spring: My turn, Honorable John.
Savant of Spring: What is your true doubt?
Court of Cancer - John: Why should I tell you?
Savant of Spring: Because of our vow.
The rune on the back of his hand glowed. The memories of killing on orders came to mind. The rules he had been following...
Court of Cancer - John: Why...Why did the Astralist use its power to change me?
Court of Cancer - John: A bloodthirsty monster like me —
Savant of Spring: Evil is actually the result of virtue being tortured by one’s thirst.
Savant of Spring: Do you not feel content after stopping evil?
Court of Cancer - John: What if I returned onto that path? What if I restlessly tortured people again...
Savant of Spring: You will not, because tenderness is more alluring than gore.
Savant of Spring: As to my last question...Can I ask you for a favor instead?
John nodded again and the runes on the back of their hands faded. An odd feeling spread out from his heart, the vague feeling of enlightenment and release mixed with an indistinct sense of dissatisfaction...
Savant of Spring: I am sending the bloated Leo to you, please deflate him a little.
Court of Cancer - John: Mr. Mimir, You know we do not work for anyone.
Savant of Spring: What if this is a friend’s request?
Court of Cancer - John: You want to be my friend?
Court of Cancer - John: Mr. Mimir, please remember that friends only serve as tools for assassins —
Savant of Spring: ...and a necessary sanctuary, is it not?
Court of Leo - Galio: I know of your reputation.
Court of Cancer - John: Thank —
Court of Leo - Galio: That was not a compliment...
Court of Leo - Galio: ...but praise for me when I defeat you.
Court of Leo - Galio: So this is the power of constellations...
Court of Cancer - John: You’re a quick learner.
Court of Cancer - John: ‘Just like me —’
John grew familiar with the Courts as the time he had spent with the Courts grew, and he could not help but admire the meritorious lords of Zodiacs. Poppy commuted to the realm of Humans with unmatched vigor; although Pollux was mysterious, there was no problem he cannot resolve; the well built Armstrong was reliable and led the Courts on numerous missions, while Persephone may look like a naive girl, she actually had the most clarity in thought among the Courts.
Statue of God of the Sun: Court of Cancer, the Demons —
Court of Cancer - John: Understood.
The Astralist assigned another mission. Now John could understand the Astralist’s words by reading the constellations. He could even perceive vague images from them, like seeing his mission target through the magic eyes on statues.
John once asked the Court of Sagittarius for advice:
Court of Sagittarius - Hertz: Unless you let me cut open your head for a look, I have no way of knowing.
Court of Cancer - John: ...Ha, ha! You are so humorous...
Court of Sagittarius - Hertz: Astralists and Courts of Zodiacs affect each other.
Court of Sagittarius - Hertz: Only you can understand the Astralist of Cancer.
Hence John did not dwell on to the matter. He worked alone like before and observed the realm of Human with the eyes of constellations. He hid in the dark and eliminated uncaptured evil with his blade as he used to.
John knew from his heart that he was never virtuous. He just happened to be embraced by people of virtue —