Episode Thirty One - Brawl on the Nature Route
“So, how are we doing this?” Juniper crouches down to tie her shoes. The post midday sun seeps into the room through the narrow crevices in the wall, leaving sharp angles of light across the tatami floor. The brightness forces her to squint as her fingers finish the last knot.
“Fei needs more time, so we’ll have to defend her for as long as we can.” Kitsune rolls up his sleeves and centers his tie, then proceeds to comb through his effervescent hairstyle.
Today is a big day, and each member of the crew wants to look their best when their violent guests arrive. Smoothing out the flaps of his navy blue blazer, Zylo says, “Well, I’m ready for the ass kicking of a lifetime.”
“Don’t worry, I have total faith in us,” Renzo assures, tying the last bit of chain around his hefty forearm.
“Yes. Renzo’s faith and his willingness to take a beating is all we need.” Kitsune walks toward the garden. “I’m gonna tell Fei we’re heading out.”
Hungry and eager for breakfast, Zylo walks over to the supplies and reaches into the nearly empty bag. He anxiously searches for something good and finally pulls out a chicken patty burger.
“Hey, pass one here!” Juniper extends a hand.
The last few items of food are split before Zylo finally digs his teeth into the cold but delicate crunch of the chicken patty. My, what a stale flavor! The cold sandwich tastes delightfully uninspiring but Zylo’s hungry stomach yearns for more. His taste buds sit stiffly from the bland taste but his stomach couldn’t be more pleased with each swallowed bite, grumbling for more.
Kitsune returns. “Ready?”
The crew somberly nods, mouths stuffed with food.
They walk out of the temple doors and are immediately greeted by the bright sunlight and brisk mountain air. The gravel and rock crunch beneath their shoes as they tread stylishly across the temple grounds toting their crude weapons.
Their defensive strategy is to keep the other hunters away from the temple grounds by fighting a distance down the winding road. With the steep mountainside cliffs circling each side of the peak, this wide road becomes the single entry point for the enemy crews.
The New Pirates reach a short distance past the cherry blossoms, and decide to huddle together.
“Pirates walk like warriors. Stay on your toes and don’t get wrecked,” says Kitsune. “Let’s get this over with so we can go home. Ganbarou.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Drinks are on you after.” Juniper slaps his chest and breaks off from the group.
“Did we finish that Ogre Slayer?” Zylo mumbles, following after her.
As they leave, Kitsune’s smile drops into a grim scowl, and he quietly mutters, “Let’s see who wins today, Kuro.”
“Bleck! What’s with all this naturey stuff?” Violet grimaces with repugnance. Her long ponytail sways along the sides of her shaved head as she fidgets and groans. “We should’ve taken the cab all the way up, this is dumb.”
“It’s a mountain, Violet. Breathe it in, it’s good for you.” The ground lightly trembles after each of Miranda’s heavy steps. The dense mass of the totem hoisted over her shoulder is horribly unnerving, particularly to anyone walking beside her.
“Eck no! No no no! Let’s kill them and get this over with, or I’m gonna jump off this cliff. And you can watch me, I’ll do it,” Violet rants.
The Split Se7ens march in a wide formation taking up the entire width of the road.
“Hey yo. Next time, we bundle up the grass from the cilantro guy and the purple stuff from the other day,” Ronnie chuckles excitedly from his wild idea, failing to realize he’s been repeating the same thought for ten minutes now. He passes the blunt to Cody.
“Oh snaps, that’d be nice. We gotta make sure we have a ton of muffins, and pizza, and muffins ready for that one!” Cody is similarly eager. He takes the last puff of the blunt and thoughtlessly flicks it to the ground.
“Pay attention, guys,” Miranda scolds.
“What the hell are those things?!” Pouting like a child ready to throw a tantrum, Violet points up the road at the row of cherry blossom trees. She nearly retches in disgust.
The Se7ens continue walking until noticing Kitsune sitting atop a large boulder beside the short hill. He calls, “Well now, Se7ens. You’re the first to the party. How embarrassing.”
Violet hops in ecstatic joy, excited to see her prey presenting itself. “Ooh…you know we’d never be late for you, Kitsune–chan!” Her tongue writhes out of her wicked smile. She quickly traipses toward him, legs twisting in front of the other while the tip of her hockey stick drags behind her increasingly fast pacing feet.
Cody and Ronnie’s euphoric high fuels their reckless impulses and they break into a run just ahead of her. The Se7ens charge fervently through the uphill road, eager to take their prize.
Their motivated spirits, however, are prematurely cut short by swift chains of metal smacking against both pairs of sprinting feet. Cody and Ronnie are instantly propelled forward, forcing a short-lived scream before their voices are rudely stifled by the pavement.
Violet’s vision is too focused on the annoyingly confident Kitsune to worry about her fallen crewmates. She continues past but her raging thirst leaves her blind to the hunter approaching from the side.
Juniper’s feet drag behind a trail of dirt as she races down the hill full speed. She springs into the air, kicking up dust and rock, and cocks back her guitar. Her shadow shortly casts over the road and when Violet turns to look, catches the heavy side of the guitar smashing into her awestruck face.
Violet’s head pulls back with a shriek and her body spins.
“Suck it, bitch,” curses Juniper before spitting on the ground.
“Ugh…” Violet rises in a twisted pose with knees pointed inward and torso slumped over. Her head slowly tilts up with a crazed smile smeared across her face. Then, she explodes toward Juniper with a violent swing.
The unrestrained force of the hockey stick smacks against Juniper’s graceless block, nearly knocking the guitar from her hand.
Not a second later, Violet brings the stick back and the tip smacks flat across Juniper’s face. The powerful attack fueled by her frenzied rage sends Juniper sprawling to the ground.
“Look at you now!” Violet leans down with a joyful smile over her opponent’s fallen body.
Standing at the rear, Miranda lifts the totem over her shoulder like a loading cannon, aims the trajectory, and cocks back her arm readying to fire. In an instant, the massive strength transfers from her arms into the weapon, effectively launching the totem a far distance up the road.
The speeding missile tears through a clutter of trees toward Renzo. He tries to run but the collapsing trees and branches erupt into an obscuring cloud of wood chips and dirt all around. The cloud takes a moment to clear, and in the aftermath is nothing but an enormous pile of broken tree trunks and leaves.
Kitsune tightens the grip of his trusty pipe and races for Miranda. Closing quickly, he pulls his weapon into an upward swing, but thumps powerlessly against her blocking forearms. He attacks again and strikes under her rib cage, but she stumbles ever so slightly.
His trusty pipe failed.
He throws a desperate kick to redeem himself, but ineffective against her muscled stomach.
Miranda grins wide.
A heaving back-swinging forearm aims for his head, but his pipe quickly blocks. Relentless, her powerful haymaker strikes his nose dead on. The punch shoots him away, throwing him onto his back as he covers his leaking nose with one hand.
“Kuso…” Kitsune groans, “Why does she hurt so bad...”
A fast blur zooms over the road toward Violet. He runs into a speeding side swing and slams the lengthened rod against her chest faster than she can scream. Her legs rapidly stomp and kick out to retain balance, but she eventually topples over.
“Catch you later!” cries the passing image of Zylo.
He closes fast beside Miranda and wallops her stomach with the hard steel, forcing her to slouch forward.
She grunts from the attack but doesn’t drop.
Moving faster, Zylo runs up Miranda’s sturdy chest like a wall, pushes off her shoulder and springs up with the long rod raised over her head. Gripping with both hands, the weapon comes down in reeling momentum, cracking the hard steel against the center of her skull.
“GAH!” she screams clutching her concussed head.
Again, her body doesn’t fall but instead, stands firm enough for Zylo to kick off her body and avoid her retaliating fists. He lands softly on his feet beside the injured and bleeding Kitsune.
“You know, Miranda? You and Kitsune have some real chemistry. You like beating his ass, and he likes getting his ass beat by you…” Zylo’s eyes intently watch Miranda’s movements, then turns to his partner, “You alright?”
Kitsune adjusts his sunglasses and tie, “Dude, you came late as shit. Demo, I’m fine.”
“Sorry, but you know me, I like to keep them waiting. Also, I had to stop off for Violet.”
Suddenly, Zylo’s instincts scream an alert, and he throws up his rod to block an incoming bowling ball. Light flashes from the shielding weapon and the bowling ball is sent hurling back toward the direction it came.
“Fia,” Kitsune mutters.
“Red Wreckers,” Zylo nods.
Cody recovers onto his feet and rushes back to the fight. He spots Juniper and immediately charges while swinging his pool stick. “Come on, Ronnie! Grow some balls and fight her!” he shouts, continuously missing his attacks.
With a strong sense of indifference, Juniper casually steps away from the long reach of Cody’s weapon. She is more troubled about her scuffle with Violet—infuriated even. Her two fingers run across her bruised cheek and busted lip, and her eyes focus with burning tenacity.
Ronnie rushes the flank trying to catch her off guard, but Juniper lunges toward him faster than his weapon can swing. She roars, “Yeah, grow some balls to make this even EASIER FOR ME!” The guitar runs through his chest and his body flips into the air.
Without stopping, Juniper dashes past Cody smoother than a rushing wind. Before he has time to panic, Cody looks down to find her guitar already driven into his stomach. The pain takes a moment to settle in, and he finds himself unable to stand.
“Cody, please,” Juniper mutters beside his ear before pushing his lifeless body off her guitar. She turns back toward the road, and quickly rallies her crew, “Pirates, regroup!”
The scattered Pirates slowly come together. Renzo crawls out from the huddled mess of ruined trees, and together with Zylo and Kitsune, the New Pirates slowly retreat back up the road toward the cherry blossoms.
A familiar male voice echoes from the distance, “Are we late?”
From the road emerges a fast approaching group of three, the Red Wreckers.
Xin races up the path with the same red fitted cap on his head. His messy dark-brown hair has slightly grown, seeping further out from under the cap and lightly covering his forehead.
His partner, Bull, appears as gargantuan as usual if not even taller in comparison to Xin. Over seven feet tall, he wears only a red vest and nothing underneath to shamelessly show off his large abdominals. His massive fist pounds heavily against his palm in a masculine display of strength.
The last Wrecker, Fia, also dressed in a thick red vest with a tight white t-shirt, charges at the center of the group. Her long copper-red hair is tied into a draping ponytail that sways past her shoulders as she runs.
“Se7ens? Pfft, get outta here!” Xin sends a heartless kick and drops the crawling Ronnie back to the ground.
The Split Se7ens are nearly crumbled aside from Miranda still standing tall. Bull stomps and howls toward her, “Face the champ!”
She stands unflinching, cracking her knuckles and preparing for the blitzing behemoth. “Come on, Bull! Come get it!”
Bull’s fists swoop left and right, but Miranda’s dodging body keeps out of reach. She keeps her palms raised and ready to intercept the next attack, only Bull throws a violent uppercut.
Miranda quickly turns her body using her foot as a pivot, and Bull’s punch swishes through air. Her unsettling grin marks her eager offensive, and her body rushes forward.
Miranda’s heavy fist pounds into Bull’s cheek and knocks him back. She steps into an uppercut of her own and the bare knuckles hammer into his jaw with a loud thud.
“Ah, that hurt!” Bull leers at Miranda while wiping the spit from his busted lip. Then, his eyes unexpectedly glance past her and his mouth subtly curves into a smirk.
From behind, Xin hops into a punishing side kick, and drives the steel bottom of his shoe into her back.
Miranda swings around but Bull’s fast hook thumps against her cheek. She stumbles away, and Xin’s heel shoots out with a wicked back kick. The onslaught continues and she is unable to escape.
“Damn you, Reds!” Miranda bellows, angered but helpless by their assault. When the last breath of her booming roar fades, her body collapses with a loud thump rocking the ground.
The vibration wakes Violet and she rubs her head in a daze, “Ugh, these damn Pirates… Reds are here?!”
The Wreckers continue up the road, eyes locked on to the last of the Se7ens crew, Violet.
“Wait, WAIT!” she screams as they approach. “Can we please, please, please let’s beat up the Pirates together? Hm? Wouldn’t that be a better idea?”
Fia glances to Xin, “That would be, actually.”
He shrugs, “Fine either way.”
Turning back to face the New Pirates, a malicious smirk rises across Violet’s face and she impatiently charges head first. The Red Wreckers follow in a frightening stampede.
The defensive New Pirates move into the shade of the cherry blossom trees, and the delicate scattered petals welcome their hastening retreat.