Episode Forty One - Siege of the Citadel
The early morning light climbs low over the horizon. The rays deviously hover around the curtains of the window into the room.
Zylo is the first to awake to the lingering scent of alcohol. He opens his crusted eyes, running his hands through his ruffled hair, and sniffing his breath on the palm of his cupped hand. There is a stagnant odor of pizza and garlic bread accompanied by the pungent sting of soju, but Zylo isn’t sure if it’s his breath or the room.
He slowly climbs to his feet making sure not to wake Renzo or Kitsune lying asleep on both sides of him. Quietly tip-toeing to the sink, he looks into the mirror to find his face pale and eyes drooping. Fortunate his head isn’t throbbing in pain…
Zylo turns on the faucet and rinses the terrible mixture of flavors in his mouth, then splashes some warm water over his cold, undead face.
The water revives him.
He dives his entire head under the faucet this time, letting the warm water run over his dirty hair. His hands scrub through his scalp hoping to clean the dirt and grime collected over the past few days. There is something strangely satisfying as he watches the pool of discolored water flow rapidly into the drain.
Refreshing and awakening, he thoroughly wipes every corner of his face with a soaked towel and exhales a slow, comforting breath. His hair is back to its pristine snow white, though the rest of his body could use a wash.
For a moment, he forgets the main event of the day. His moderately tranquil morning is dramatically interrupted by the timely reminder that today, is the day to kill King Kuro. He sighs at the thought.
“You’re an early bird.”
Zylo looks up from the sink to find Kitsune’s reflection in the mirror. His hair is messy and sunglasses sit crooked over his eyes. Rarely has he seen Kitsune with such a shabby appearance, when he hasn’t been beaten up.
“Yeah,” says Zylo’s gruff, unused voice.
Kitsune goes around the room and taps everyone’s foot, effectively waking each of them. They abruptly jerk away, moaning and groaning and begging for more sleep.
“Guys.” Kitsune sweeps the trash with his foot. “Time to get ready. The other crews are charging the Citadel.”
At his word, the hunters jump awake.
They’d only have about twenty minutes to sober up and prepare. Juniper picks up her guitar from the corner and returns to her room for a quick shower.
Zylo doesn’t have much to bring aside from his two silver rods which are already sitting comfortably in his back pocket. After patting off his clothes and rubbing the stains with water, he feels more than ready for the big day.
Kitsune and Renzo, on the other hand, feel inclined to groom and clean every part of themselves and their outfit. A comb drenched in warm water brushes vigorously through Kitsune’s hair while a thick brush sweeps thoroughly across Renzo’s clothes. Their respective black tie and bowtie are straightened and centered at their collars, and their sleeves neatly rolled up to the elbows.
No matter how this day ends, they will go out in style.
“Yeah…sorry about the mess we left in the room,” Kitsune tells the motel clerk. “We left everything in a big pile though, so should be easy to clean up. Charge the expenses on this card.”
“Ready for this?” Juniper stands beside the group in the parking lot. Her crimson hair is still dripping wet from the shower, and her guitar is slung over her shoulder, strapped on tight and ready.
“Better time than any. Let’s get this show on the road.” Xin grips the side of the truck and leaps clear into the bed.
Kitsune returns from the lobby with an eager smile, “Any last words?”
“Let’s put King Kuro in the ground, and then have the biggest dinner of our lives.” Fia’s voice is firm with conviction as she climbs into the truck bed with Juniper and Zylo.
“That’s a plan,” agrees Renzo. The engine revs up and the truck departs for the very center of Fortune City, the Citadel.
‘This is it. The final assault. The rest of my life and the next life will be decided in the next few hours. If King Kuro wins, then it’s the end. Fortune City will become a feeding ground of life force. If not, then we, the survivors, will get to live on in whatever way we please… Either way I suppose, it’s been some journey.’
“Split Se7ens, Ricochet Riders and Concretes are heading out now. We rush the Citadel, break through and kill King Kuro, and then have a nice meal downtown before sunset,” Kitsune explains from the front seat.
“That’s it, then? Charge him until one of us gets him?” Juniper asks.
“Sorry, but that’s all we can do. We’ve all signed the contract, so best one wins. None of you die, alright? I’m gonna kill Kuro, but none of you die before I do.”
The truck races onto the freeway toward the final battleground. Standing high in the distance, the exceptionally tall Citadel tower hovers over the rest of Fortune City.
More than half of the total crews of Baya will be fighting King Kuro and his defending loyal teams. From different sections of the city, the New Pirates, Red Wreckers, Split Se7ens, Neon Supreme, Metal Monkeys, Ramen Blues, Concrete Brawlers, Ricochet Riders and Breakers Sunrise will be meeting to attack in unison.
This will undoubtedly be one of the most monumental and influential fights in this generation of Baya hunters.
“Five minutes,” Kitsune announces.
The Citadel is surrounded by skyscrapers, office buildings, and upper-class condominiums, and the hunters grace the upscale neighborhood with their rustic truck’s divine presence. Passing pedestrians would scowl appallingly at the sight of the vehicle, as though they’d seen something horribly obscene and offensive.
Despite the poor welcome, the T-wrecks continues its rampaging path without a care. Within moments, the ground floor of the Citadel emerges into view, and everyone braces for impact.
The enormous double glass doors of the Citadel come closer and closer but there is no intention of stopping. In fact, Renzo accelerates even further. The truck explodes up the low steps of the building grounds and launches into the air.
In an instant, the hood of the truck smashes through the double doors. The glass shatters and explodes into thousands of crystals around them before scattering over the pristine floor.
The hunters brace on to the sides as the vehicle lands with a heavy thump, bouncing hard and skidding far across the entire lobby. The truck swerves and spins, and the tires screech to a halt at the far end of the room.
“Well,” Zylo peeks out from the truck bed. “That got my blood flowing.”
The ceiling is stunningly high while the room is spacious and empty. Fancifully decorated, the lobby is just as immaculate and omniscient as the hunter bastion within.
“Ikuzo,” Kitsune slams the truck door.
“Yeah, let’s go!” Xin doesn’t wait any longer and leads the group to the numerous platforms placed at the end of the room. Spirits as ready as their weapons, the six hunters eagerly transport into the Citadel.
Scattered across the wide floor of the main chamber are numerous bodies of hunters. They’re unmoving, but dead or unconscious indistinguishable.
Only Fin of Shark Princes and Cody of Se7ens remain lively, fighting at the far side of the room.
Zylo hastily charges toward them and hurls one of his rods. The metal weapon smacks Fin dead in the face and she screams, tightly clutching her nose. She is finished by a single whack of Cody’s pool stick across her stomach.
Further within the hall echoes the sound of angry grunts and clanging metal, and the Red Wreckers rush to explore. They race noisily through the floor and shortly find Ronnie of Se7ens cornered against the wall by Mace and Bomba.
“More Shark Princes? Get outta here!” Xin kicks off the wall into a powerful roundhouse sweeping across Mace’s blocking wrench. The Shark Prince is vigorously pushed back into the narrow hallway, nearly tripping over an unconscious body.
Xin lands onto his feet and immediately jumps into a spinning whip kick, striking Bomba’s face. He instantly drops limp.
A familiar, confident smirk appears over Xin’s face as he stretches his exerted legs, relishing in his recovered abilities. He’s been bed ridden at the motel for the past few days and finally feels liberated. “Your move.”
Mace stares blankly for only a second before scurrying deeper into the hallway.
“Wow, I really didn’t think he was going to run,” says Xin.
The New Pirates and Red Wreckers follow the path into the dining hall, only to be immediately stunned at the sight. Hunters lie atop the messy pile of tables and chairs, and their weapons remain scattered over the floor.
At the center of this massacre is a wild orgy of violence between almost every crew of Baya. Their beloved dining hall has become a ruthless battleground noisy with a cacophony of chaotic fighting.
“See you guys on the other side.” Zylo charges out toward the melee, and the united team shortly follows.
Renzo strikes first. His wicked chain stretches far across the room, reaching over furniture and fighting groups before latching on to Flash’s unsuspecting arm.
“What?!” Flash panics. Weapon still gripped in hand, his swinging arm is unable to move any further, and he turns back to find his current opponent, Marina, smiling at his handicap.
“Buh-bye, sweety!” The tip of her sledgehammer bashes against his jaw, and he is knocked out cold before even hitting the ground.
Fia cocks back her arm, eyes tracing Mace as he escapes into the room. Carefully lining the shot, her arm pops forward with an underhand motion and the bowling ball shoots out.
The ball soars through the air but Mace whips around just before impact and smacks away the projectile. Fia leaps high and skillfully spikes her weapon back toward him like a volleyball. The dense sphere strikes his desperate block and nearly pushes him over.
Not a second later, Fia closes with an uppercut to his chin and a side kick to his chest. Mace flies back and crashes into a ridged clutter of tables and chairs.
The room grows hot and the chaos escalates. Angry grunts and roars echo from the walls accompanied by the sounds of clashing weapons and breaking furniture.
“Come on! Hit me!” Starlet’s batons persistently block Rumble Bee’s and Parker Jay’s attacks. One hit after the other, their weapons bang ineffectively against her protected forearms.
“Is that all?!” Her batons begin twirling and flurrying against them in defiance. She lands a quick swipe across Parker Jay’s ribs, immediately following up with a ruthless front kick. He falls back and Starlet hurries to block Rumble’s large fry pan overhead.
The heavy metal clangs down against her weapon, but Rumble holds and pushes on Starlet. She strains to resist his weight, sweat spewing from her forehead for the first time today.
Then, Rumble unexpectedly pulls away, shifting his wok to block a swinging guitar. The colliding weapons clash louder than a gong with the vibration tingling through their fingertips.
Juniper grits her teeth as she pushes off from him, “You’re pretty annoying Bee, you know that?”
“I play hard to get.” Rumble ducks under a guitar swing and says, “You’re pretty aggressive though…I like that.”
He slowly follows Juniper’s movements, but his eyes blatantly look her up and down to examine her curves. “I’d let you get it.”
“That’s cute, thinking you’re even on my level.” Juniper relaxes her shoulders and smirks, “I might not let you have it…” her eyes stare seductively before glancing beside him, “but she would.”
Rumble turns and catches a wild flurry of batons pummeling rapidly against his body.
Her weapons hit fast and end with a spinning backswing across his face. His head cocks back and the iron wok drops to the ground with a final clang.
Before he collapses, Juniper calmly traipses forward and drives her guitar fast into his gut. “How you like that?”
Rumble drops silently into a heap beside the other bodies.
“Alright, girls!” Starlet and Juniper cheerfully high-five.
The Lightning Boys and Shark Princes are defeated, leaving the remaining crews loyal to King Kuro quickly outnumbered. They strive to finish off the rest, but too soon for a victory dance, of course.
A heavy tension radiates into the atmosphere as a rushing silhouette streaks across the far distance of the room. The fighting grows thin and all eyes turn toward the source of their sudden anxiety.
The Ricochet Riders are awestruck, and too slow to react. Within moments, the swift shadow cuts through them one after the other.
Birdie is the last to be struck. Her chest is splashed in blue ichor before her eyes could even notice. She gasps in shock and drops to her knees, arms clutching the wide gash across her stomach.
The remorseless shadow doesn’t stop. He shifts beside the Concrete Brawlers and the steel hidden beneath the cloak swipes across Bonita.
“No!” Migs charges with cricket bat in hand, but the knife continues through him, and he drops beside his crewmate.
Zylo locks on to the dark haze of King Kuro’s fast moving body, and races out to meet him. Several enemy hunters from the Lost Rockets crew interrupt his path, but Zylo easily puts their efforts to waste.
His steel rods beat against their bodies in rapid succession without remotely slowing down his pace. His heart beats fast and his adrenaline flows, mind reminiscing over his near-death encounter with King Kuro at Pearl Sky Peak. Hopefully, this will turn out better.
“Get out of my way!” Zylo’s eyes quickly trace the King while his reflexes effortlessly dodge incoming attacks. Speedily racing through, he storms past in a huff leaving behind a trail of unconscious hunters.
“Rah!” Miranda roars, swinging her enormous totem and finally hindering King Kuro’s rampaging momentum.
The King swiftly leans his head back from the heaving weapon and at the same time, chucks his knife forward into her chest. The pointed weapon stabs into her abdominal and she bellows furiously.
Miranda’s hands desperately pry the weapon from her body, but King Kuro’s heel pummels her stomach. The kick forces her into a slouch and she falls forward onto her knees, dropping the totem entirely.
King Kuro dashes forward for the killing blow.
“NO!” Violet’s hockey stick smacks away King Kuro’s knife just inches away, and he recoils in failure.
“How dare you!” The King’s eyes pulse with rage. In a split second, his body speeds toward Violet in a blurring haze. The dark shroud of his cloak envelops her and a bright light flashes across the room.
When the white fades, Zylo is found standing between King Kuro and Violet with his lengthened rod raised in her defense. His protective Shield repels King Kuro for a full second before the knife rips through and grinds against his steel weapon.
The King’s strength is immense, but Zylo pushes back with sudden vigor. Sparks ignite from the friction of their grinding weapons, and Violet follows up with a swing of her hockey stick.
King Kuro glides smoothly across the floor keeping away from them. “So you’ve made it, my traitors,” his voice projects. “Where is my charming renegade, Kitsune?”
“Thought you forgot all about me!” Kitsune’s metal pipe swishes through the flap of King Kuro’s flowing cloak and misses.
“How could I forget you? You’re my dearest friend.” King Kuro’s insincere words escape calmly from his wide grin as he circles Kitsune. “Has our relationship always been so fragile?”
King Kuro’s readied knife shoots forward.
Kitsune deflects the sudden attack but stumbles off balance, quickly catching a knee strike to his side. King Kuro’s knife swishes back around, and Kitsune watches as the pointed tip arcs for his throat.
He blinks and immediately hears the sharp metallic clang just inches from his face. The knife was unexpectedly blocked by the flat tip of a shovel.
A familiar voice speaks, “You scrubs need help?”
Standing beside Kitsune is Jacks, and beside him, his eternal partner, Elza. Jacks’ signature leather jacket is dirtied and gruff but remains stylish and distinguishable.
“Glad to see you survived your fall, Jacks. How fortunate. Now you can die with the rest.” King Kuro backs off, but his expression is without fear.
“Don’t count on it, hater.” Jacks swings out his shovel but King Kuro strides away. Step after step he effortlessly hops back from the swinging weapon.
King Kuro’s bellowing laugh resounds through the dining hall, “Let’s settle this in a more grand location. Face me where it all started, Kitsune. Let’s go!” Within seconds, his body disappears past the red carpet and around the corner.
“He’s heading back to his throne room,” says Elza.
“So, ikuzo!” Kitsune makes for the hallway, “Violet, handle the rest! Metal Monkeys will be here soon to help!” He races after his bounty.
The New Pirates, Red Wreckers, Neon Supreme, and Immortal Spades run down the red carpet, leaving the Split Se7ens to deal with King Kuro’s remaining hunters.
Violet faces the chaotic room and licks her maliciously smirking lips. “It’ll be a pleasure.”