Episode Thirty Four - No Mourning for the Deceased
“Come on, come on, we gotta go!” Kitsune hops down the temple steps.
The hunters scramble wildly across the dirt field, carrying the injured into the New Pirates’ truck and Neon Supremes’ convertible.
“Where’s Vetus Fei?” shouts Juniper getting out from the driver seat of the truck.
“She’s dead. We need to move, now.” Kitsune catches the keys from her and takes the wheel.
“Come on, carry them in and let’s go!” yells Starlet from the driver seat of her car.
“Is she…really gone?” Marina trembles with watery eyes as she places Cecile’s lifeless body into the backseat. She died seconds after King Kuro stabbed her, and there was nothing they could do.
They’ve never seen a hunter die.
Juniper tucks Fia’s legs carefully into the truck bed, cautious not to upset her large wound.
“Thank you…” Fia winces from the pain, leaning all her weight against the side. She tightly clutches her wide and open chest wound hissing bright blue under her arms.
“Wait, what about Bull?” Zylo turns and sees Bull’s enormous body slumped over, silent and motionless on the same spot of ground.
‘Oh no… Don’t tell me…’
“Bull’s…dead…” Fia says through her agitated, sobbing voice.
Seconds later, Bull’s hefty body starts to disintegrate and his essence vanishes into the air.
“Oh my god! Cecile!” cries Starlet at Cecile’s similar passing. The same happens to Rolly laid out on the temple grounds.
Steaming and hissing blue, layer after layer of their bodies fade into streams of dust blowing into the wind. Bull, Cecile, and Rolly are no more, their lives forever extinguished and their spirits wiped from existence.
The other hunters never expected to see a fellow hunter die, nor do they have a procedure to handle the situation. All they can do is watch and accept the reality of death.
“Renzo and Xin are still down the road. We need to pick them up, now,” Kitsune bangs the side of the driver seat door.
Jacks walks over to the truck carrying Elza tenderly in his arms. “Please. Take care of Elza.” Her body is light and frail with only the slightest sign of strength remaining.
“Got it.” Juniper helps lean Elza against the side of the bed, then climbs in herself.
“Thank you,” Jacks says, and closes the panel to the truck bed.
“No… Where are you going?” Elza struggles to ask through her pain. “Get in here…now!”
Jacks turns away and faces the temple doors. “Just go already, nerds. Don’t let her die.”
“What are you gonna do?” asks Zylo from the truck bed.
“I’ll try to buy you guys some time.” Jacks slowly walks toward the temple pagoda. He glances back at Elza’s desperate, weeping face, and mouths, “I’m sorry.”
“NO! Get in here now!” Elza cries.
Jacks waves farewell and gradually disappears from view as the truck descends the downhill road. Elza screams and tries to climb out, but Juniper quickly restrains her.
The two vehicles race through the cherry blossoms in a whiff, both anxious to complete the hasty pickup in time.
Renzo slowly rises from the ground, shortly dragged by Starlet and Marina toward their car. The girls nearly crumble to tears as they look into the empty backseat. All traces of Cecile’s body are gone with no evidence of her existence.
“Bastard took my legs…” Xin chuckles while being carried arm in arm between Zylo and Juniper. His smile wears thin and a miserable frown replaces his usual confident face.
“Guys, hurry up!” Kitsune spots the shadow of King Kuro in the side-view mirror zooming down the road faster than a car.
Juniper slides Xin snug into the passenger seat of the truck, then quickly slams the door shut.
Not enough time however, and King Kuro is seconds away.
“Go, Kitsune, just drive! Ike!” Zylo rushes to King Kuro with a wide swing, forcing him to stop and dodge.
The King tries to circle around for the truck, but Zylo is incessant and sticks close.
Kitsune slowly pulls the truck away, “Are you sure?!”
“Just go, goddamn it!” Juniper swipes her guitar side to side, hoping to distract the raging monster, and just barely succeeding.
King Kuro dodges with ease, eyes locked only on the truck. It’s clear he only wants Kitsune dead.
He has that effect on people.
The truck and silver convertible speed off, racing along the curve of the road and eventually disappearing behind the distant mountainside. This leaves Zylo and Juniper alone with the King.
“You Pirates are such pests. Time to die now.” King Kuro’s composure grows unstable, and for the first time in a very long time, Zylo is afraid. Senseless rage floods into the King’s mind, and his eyes grow dark. The sweeping shadow of his fast body swoops toward the two Pirates.
Zylo fails to see King Kuro’s knife, and his arm is slit. He catches a knee kick to his back, an elbow to his oblique, and finds himself stumbling toward the steep mountainside.
Juniper weaves her head from King Kuro’s slash, then blocks another with her guitar. She gradually steps toward Zylo, and finally closes the distance by tumbling under the swiping knife.
“Get up, get up!” she pulls him to his feet and drags him step by step away from the King. Chances are, they won’t survive the next ten seconds.
“Time to finish Kitsune’s contract.” King Kuro explodes toward the couple slashing both knives in a cross pattern.
A flash of white light envelops their vision, and a loud boom quakes the ground.
Zylo’s eyes gradually open to find himself flying backwards through the air with Juniper hugging his side. His shield managed to block the attack, but the incredible force launched them off the peak.
The couple soars over the mountain and gradually descends toward the ground, falling frighteningly closer and closer to the treetops below them.
“No, no no!” Juniper cries, covering her face from the branches with one arm and holding on to Zylo with the other.
They start to drop at a decline, and their bodies helplessly smash through thick treetops and branches.
Zylo reaches out for anything to slow their speed but only catches a number of painful cuts and grazes along his arms.
Suddenly, the ground becomes dangerously close.
“Brace!” Juniper shouts.
The couple holds each other tight as their bodies thump against the hard dirt. They begin rolling down the steep hill, arms and legs hitting rocks and twigs while their screams echo through the forest.
Zylo tries to reach out with his rod. The metal tip bangs against rocks and tree trunks but finally slows their momentum to a manageable speed.
Juniper rises to her feet as she rapidly steps down the steep hill, and manages to wrap her arm around a tree trunk. Her other hand grips on to Zylo, and together, they hurry to catch their breaths.
“That…was very dangerous,” Juniper pants. Her face is bleeding and clothes riddled with tears and stains.
Zylo is no different. His sleeves are torn and his arms hissing blue from multiple scrapes and King Kuro’s knife wound. Lying on the ground, he struggles to calm his nerves, “We’re alive, thank goodness, we’re alive!” He laughs, releasing Juniper’s hand and grabbing on to a tree of his own.
“We need to get out of here. I think my phone’s broken.” Hugging the tree tight with one arm and reaching into her pocket, she reveals the shattered screen of her mobile phone. The buttons click but the phone is unresponsive.
“I think mine works. Let’s get down from here first.” Zylo slowly releases his grip on the tree, and rapidly stumbles down to the next one, and the next.
Little by little, they descend the harsh mountain. Rocks and rough bark scrape their palms, but they persist. Their bodies are sore and aching in all places, and never before have they felt so utterly exhausted. They take a rest every few minutes, but shortly return to the dreadful descent.
The steep incline eventually levels out and the bright city lights begin immersing their vision. Uncontrollable smiles appear across their faces, filled with joy to return to the society they’ve almost forgotten.
“So, what did Fei leave us with?” Juniper asks.
The sky is dark and the area even darker except for the distant road brightened by streetlights. They roam through a trash littered dirt field under the tall highway road, devoid of life.
“A contract. For King Kuro. I guess that means we can kill him now, sort of.” A high fence blocks the way to the road, and the couple sighs, knowing their tired bodies must climb.
“How did she make a contract? He’s Baya.” Juniper pulls her legs over the top of the fence.
“He broke the rules making contracts for innocents, so I guess she went even further. That’s what took her all night…” Zylo’s feet land on the ground with a heavy thud, and suddenly all the aches and bruises on his body scream out for attention. “Ah, damn that hurts!”
The phone in his pocket starts to vibrate, and his weary hands hesitate to draw it out.
“Zylo, daijoubu?!” Kitsune shouts. “And Juniper? Where are you guys?”
“Where are we?” Zylo looks to Juniper, but she shrugs unknowingly. He turns back to the phone, “We’re not sure… Took us a while to get down that mountain. Where are you?”
“We drove pretty far to make sure we got away from Kuro. Now, we’re staying at this motel.”
Zylo continues toward the road. “Did Bull really die? And the others? How did King Kuro do it?”
“I wasn’t lying when I said he accumulated a lot of Soul. He’s far beyond us.” There is silence except for Kitsune’s steady breath. Then, “Now that he’s contracted though, we can actually kill him.”
“That’s fine and all, but we could barely touch him today.”
Kitsune sighs, “I know…I’ll figure something out. You guys gonna be okay?”
Zylo smiles at the sight of a bustling neighborhood further ahead. “Yeah, we’ll be fine.”
“Not me,” Juniper groans as she stretches her aching back. Each moment that caused each sore and bruise remains a painfully vivid image in her mind.
“Okay. Stay safe, hit you guys tomorrow.” Kitsune hangs up.
The two Pirates sway through the city streets arm in arm for nearly an hour.
“I can feel him, his life force. It’s eerie…” Juniper mumbles. Her arms tightly clutch each other trying to stay warm and safe.
“I know, me too,” Zylo mutters. “At least we know where he is…” he abruptly yawns.
“Yeah…” she yawns too, and the pair collapses at the entrance of an alleyway.
“Good night,” he whispers, leaning into her chest.
“Night,” she kisses his forehead and they fall asleep beside each other.