Episode Forty Two - We Are Baya
‘This is it. The end is near.’
Zylo taps his foot impatiently on the carpeted floor. His hand fidgets at the sides, fingers continuously tightening and loosening around the lengthened rod.
The elevator is spacious with more than enough room to fit the ten hunters and still have walking space. Each of them wait in silence, pondering how the next ten minutes might turn out. Realistically, few are optimistic.
“Glad to see you two here.” Zylo nudges Jacks’ elbow and glances at Elza.
“Why would you expect any less?” replies the very much alive and handsome man. “Besides, I couldn’t possibly miss a party everyone else was invited to.”
“How’d you get away, Elza?” asks Juniper.
“I didn’t. I fought until there were none left to take me. Then I walked back,” Elza explains with the sternest glare anyone has ever seen. And no one doubts her story. Not one bit.
“Okay guys. Stick together, cover one another, and don’t back down unless you have to,” announces Kitsune. “We fight as one crew. Us, against him.”
The hunters nod in silence.
’One side is going to lose and die, and their existence will be erased for all eternity. As long as one of us gets him, we win.
Sounds easy enough.’
The elevator doors spread wide and the group races up the red carpeted steps. Their numerous feet clomp and shuffle through the stairway, blatantly declaring their presence.
The regal double doors of the phoenix slide open upon their approach to reveal the final battleground—the enormous throne room of the King.
The fluctuating lights are dim and the air quiet with a low hum. Inside, the two bodyguards remain standing at the sides with expressions ever so indifferent.
Sitting between them on the short steps is King Kuro eagerly awaiting their approach. His teeth bare white as he speaks, “Well, this is the moment we’ve all been waiting for. You’ve all come to face the King.”
Kitsune advances ahead of the large group and doesn’t slow his pace for a second. “Glad to see you’re not afraid to die, Kuro.”
“You’d like that, wouldn’t you? To take my Soul for yourselves like hungry peasants? Come on, then!” King Kuro stands and snaps his fingers, “Ren, Mira, go!”
Suddenly, the two statuesque bodyguards launch from their positions. Their movements are dauntingly swift, sprinting a fast curve along the sides of the room charging daringly toward the intruders.
King Kuro takes off his cloak and casually rolls up his sleeves. Amid the chaotic tension of the room, his face bears a contrastingly calm smile as he delicately walks down the steps. “Come on, Kitsune. It’s about time we settled this dispute, like hunters.”
Zylo races toward the fast charging male bodyguard.
Ren’s appearance remains the same, hair shaved at the sides with the middle kept long and tied into a short, folded top knot. His expression is indecipherable, eyes mysteriously kept hidden behind his dark aviator sunglasses. During his run, he swiftly flips open the flap of his black suit to reveal a silver metal bat strapped to his waist.
Zylo swings his rod wide when Ren is but several feet away.
Surprisingly, the bodyguard drops exceedingly low to the ground and slides under the swinging steel. He follows through with the momentum and swipes the bat against Zylo’s exposed body.
The wind is knocked from Zylo’s chest and he immediately stumbles to his knees, falling over and keeping his body lifted from the ground with one arm. “Ack!” he coughs, “Well, that was unexpected…”
Ren continues forward. His bat deflects Juniper’s guitar while his foot kicks into her stomach. She hunches over in pain and quickly leans away to recover.
Jacks and Marina swing their weapons simultaneously but the skilled bodyguard tumbles under with incredible speed. His sudden maneuver evades their weapons and closes enough distance to head butt Jack’s chest.
“Stop it, you whacko!” Marina swings again but her weapon is too slow for Ren’s swift bat. His metal weapon wails against her kneecap and she collapses, screaming.
Ren returns to Jacks and drops him with an uppercut to the chin, then finishes Marina with a back kick.
In just a few seconds, the bodyguard shatters their entire momentum.
Mira is equally intimidating. Her shimmering blonde hair is French braided around her head with two strands hanging beside her ears. Her elegant ruby necklace sparkles with her disarming golden eyes. There is no visible weapon in her hands, but her deadly stride more than reveals her martial prowess.
Xin smiles confidently, turning his torso side to side to evade Mira’s abundant knee strikes. He fakes a step to the left, expecting to land a roundhouse kick to her exposed right side.
He is mistaken.
Mira sees past his fake and charges forward. She closes past his coming roundhouse and leaps into a fast rising elbow, ramming the hard end of her arm into his jaw.
Xin’s smile is well faded by the time he hits the ground.
“Ugh…steel plates at the joints…” he groans, massaging the immediate bruise beside his chin.
A rapid flurry of batons twirl fast against Mira, but her equally fast reflexes easily adapt the pace. Like a wild haze of movements, Starlet and Mira trade blows and blocks with neither landing a hit.
Suddenly, Mira breaks the pattern and spins her body full circle into an elbow backswing. The bodyguard’s attack clangs against Starlet’s blocking batons, immediately followed by a rising knee kick into her stomach.
“Oof…” Starlet crumbles into a slouch, but is given no time to catch her breath.
Mira pushes off from Starlet’s shoulder and launches high into the air above. The falling gravity pulls Mira downward with speeding momentum, and her elbow drops overhead onto Starlet’s skull.
Mira is silent, but her actions are deafening.
“What did you want to speak to me about?” King Kuro walks calmly toward Kitsune, weaponless and unafraid. In an instant, he dashes over the ten-foot distance between them, appearing beside Kitsune with his fist dug far into his gut.
“Old friend, I’m willing to listen,” King Kuro whispers before kicking the back of Kitsune’s leg, dropping him helplessly onto one knee. He allows Kitsune to tumble away the following second, and watches him recover onto his feet.
Dusting off his shirt and shoes, Kitsune says, “Kuro, I’m going to smile when we take all that Soul from you.”
“Oh, Kitsune. This is gonna be so easy.” King Kuro watches intently with an arrogant smile, and extends his hand motioning his fingers, “Come on. Let’s see if you can do it. Let’s see if you can take it from me.”
Kitsune chuckles for a second, then leaps forward swinging his pipe over King Kuro’s head.
With a fast motion of his arm, the King effortlessly shields the attack and suspends Kitsune in midair. He thrusts his palm forward and Kitsune is tossed aside like a ragdoll.
“This is fun. Try again, Kitsu—”
Zylo bangs the steel rod against the barrier. Pushing with all his might, he drives the metal tip through the shield until finally striking King Kuro’s shoulder. The barrier absorbed most of the force but the attack still pushes the King into an uncontrollable stumble.
“Argh, damn it!” cries King Kuro. The sight of his own weakness infuriates him. “Kitsune, must you continue to haunt me with your failures?”
“It’s poetic.” Kitsune stands firm, one hand gripping his pipe and the other comfortably resting in his pocket. “You’re gonna be killed by the first person you wronged.”
“Is that so?!” King Kuro lunges with furious speed, slamming his palm into the center of Zylo’s chest. The heavy blow throws Zylo back, but King Kuro’s amazing speed shifts behind him and elbows the back of his head.
Zylo falls forward and is quickly slammed to the ground by a full body tackle. He rolls in a wicked barreling motion, body dragging along the dust and dirt of the grand floor.
“Well…” Zylo coughs and pants, “at least I found the most efficient way to clean this glorious throne room.” He climbs back onto his feet and feels the fresh aches vibrant across his body.
King Kuro races to the steps and reaches behind his grand seat, revealing a long mahogany and gold colored sheath. “This is my throne.” He grips the handle and elegantly draws the shining katana blade, “I’ll kill you dogs before you take it from me.”
King Kuro rushes toward Kitsune and Zylo with the shimmering blade in hand. He was simply toying with the hunters before, but now he means to kill.
Just as he reaches past the steps, two metal chains lash violently against him. Renzo attacks from across the room, but King Kuro skillfully parries the weapons.
His blade grinds against the chains, feet sprinting toward Renzo as fast as wind. He closes into melee distance and the silver sword swishes across the large Pirate.
Sparks fly as the blade clashes against Renzo’s chain-wrapped forearms. The impact is strong and nearly knocks him back, but his sturdy entrenched body remains firm.
King Kuro quickly sidesteps, simultaneously lowering his sword to a different angle before swinging upward. The swift tip cuts fast through Renzo’s triceps, and his arm falls weak to his side.
The blade twirls back, readying again before slicing horizontally across Renzo’s stomach. In a swift motion, King Kuro strides past his victim following the sword’s attack.
A smirk rises over his lips, and he turns back to find Renzo pulled to the ground by Kitsune. The blade only cut through air.
“I said try not to die!” Kitsune scolds and scrambles back to the fight.
Zylo and Elza converge on King Kuro from opposite sides. His rod swings low and her umbrella lunges straight, both aiming for the King standing at the center.
Eyes glancing to each of them, King Kuro steps toward Elza first and slides beside her thrusting weapon. Her umbrella tip swishes past his body while he readily swings the blade.
The sharp edge sweeps toward Elza’s face and her eyes widen with fear. Before her mind could comprehend a solution, her reflexes act and the umbrella pushes open. The sudden expanding flap forces King Kuro away and successfully blocks the incoming blade.
When Zylo approaches, King Kuro slides a few steps back and the swinging rod unintentionally whacks against Elza’s umbrella. Their joint attack was clumsy and poorly coordinated.
With an arrogant smile, King Kuro retreats toward the steps and presses a switch by the armrest of his throne seat. Simultaneously, the panels around the room tremble and rise, gradually welcoming the glorious rays of the sun and revealing the world.
“Remember this, Kitsune?” King Kuro begins. “Remember the excitement when we first came here? The thrill of being hunters? We had goals, ambitions. What happened to that?”
Kitsune stares vacantly through his lenses reflecting the bright light. “You became a murderous tyrant, that’s what happened.”
“I had to! This was the only way to free ourselves and live like the immortals we are! Without the Elders, we can truly live with the power we’ve earned! The power we deserve!”
Kitsune steps toward the raised throne with his pipe pointed firmly. “You freed yourself and enslaved the rest, just like all tyrants. Baya doesn’t need that.”
King Kuro laughs and slowly shakes his head, pitying Kitsune’s ideals. “We’re the all-powerful hunters, the legendary reapers. We lose so much for Baya, and we deserve so much more than being mere pawns. I shouldn’t have trusted you.” From atop the steps, the shadow of King Kuro’s image explodes toward Kitsune in a storm.
“Stop moving around so much!” Juniper furiously swings her guitar one way and the next, but Ren weaves through each attack.
The bodyguard moves efficiently as though each step was part of a predetermined choreography. Ren leans his chest back to evade the incoming guitar, and hastily returns the offensive.
His bat swings in swift motions but Juniper stays on her toes, managing to safely dodge each attack. Maybe it’s the adrenaline coursing in her veins or the fear of being struck, but Juniper keeps one step ahead of him.
“You’re quick,” he mutters, eyeing her closely and stopping his assault for a moment.
“It talks.” Juniper catches her breath and cautiously watches the bodyguard’s every movement. “What are you?”
A smirk rises at the corner of his lips before shortly drooping back to its usual blank expression. He charges.
Juniper swings her guitar forward, but Ren steps to the side and she misses. His swift metal bat drives into her stomach and rises slowly with his grin.
Quickly stepping back, Ren readies the finishing blow until Juniper tumbles beside him into a backswing. Her guitar smacks dead against his back shoulder and the sharp pain in his nerves forces the weapon out of his hand.
“Gah!” Ren grunts, watching his metal bat drop to the ground. He anxiously turns to find a devilish smile on Juniper’s red lips, just before the hard rim of the guitar bashes into his face.
The vibration of the powerful attack reverberates from Ren’s cheek to her guitar, tingling through her fingertips as his body flips into the air.
She spits, “Suck it, bitch.”
“Rah!” Xin hops into a spin kick. The hard sole of his foot slams against Mira’s raised knee block, and she returns with multiple kicks to his side.
Mira’s springing hands reach for Xin’s shoulders but he desperately throws a front kick. She jumps back to evade, but immediately dives toward him again and this time, her hands clasp tightly onto his collar.
Pulling him side to side and shifting his balance, Mira throws rapid knee strikes against his stomach and chest, pummeling his disoriented body with the hard plates on her legs.
Xin frantically tries to break away but her grip remains unrelenting. Every second she clings on is another kick he isn’t sure he can take.
She combos into a fast elbow swing across his cheek and his head snaps back, concussing him further. Her knee rams into his gut again and forces him back into a forward slouch.
“Get off me!” Xin’s vision is blurred and his body leans obediently to every direction she pulls. He leans and turns until suddenly, his foot places surprisingly firm on the ground.
With this small opportunity, Xin resists her pull and quickly raises his leg, placing his foot against her stomach. Then, he kicks out with all his strength.
Mira rips away from him like a stubborn bandage, and Xin follows with a vicious roundhouse.
She raises her knee and forearm to block but the powerful momentum of the kick slams her off balance.
As she steps back to catch herself, Xin front flips into the air and falls into an axe kick over her head. The steel plate encasing his heel strikes the top of her skull, and her chin hits the ground.
Xin sighs with relief and wipes the ichor from his busted lip, “Well, that was fun.”
King Kuro slices across Kitsune’s pipe before stepping away from Jacks’ jabbing shovel. He deflects Fia’s bowling ball with a quick swipe, and doubles back to a less exposed position.
Elza, however, chases fast and thrusts her weapon forward. She aims for his throat, but his blade shoots out to retaliate.
The sharp edge runs past the tip of her umbrella and continues through the shaft, eventually cutting across her arm. He turns the handle and butts her in the stomach.
Elza stumbles, and the swift blade slashes across her waist. Her umbrella quickly plants into the ground and absorbs her weight as she collapses.
“Elza!” cries Jacks, recklessly attacking King Kuro with vengeful hate.
“What did you expect to find here?!” the King shouts, ducking and weaving from Jacks’ uncoordinated attacks. He easily parries the shovel before thrusting the katana into Jacks’ arm. Drawing from the wound, he lines the blade for the killing blow.
At the last second, Zylo forces King Kuro away with his speeding rod, and Jacks safely escapes from the conflict.
Gripping his wounded arm, Jacks crawls beside Elza and carefully drags her from the battle. She is still alive, but her body is weak and immobile from the injuries. The gash is wide and long, and Jacks’ eyes cannot seem to dry.
“Don’t close your eyes, Elza. Don’t fall asleep now,” he sobs, “you’re the only one who can protect me.”
She softly smiles back.
“Fight me! Come on!” King Kuro calls furiously to the hunters as he circles the room. “Baya is strong, Baya does not die!”
Courageous or maybe careless, Zylo rushes head on, swinging persistently but clanging ineffectively against the sturdy blade.
Xin charges to his aid, running into a spinning roundhouse but quickly repulsed by the King’s shield. He and Zylo are launched away as though they were never there.
One after the other, the hunters engage King Kuro, but each fail to deal any real damage.
Kitsune tries his luck. He rushes past Xin’s fallen body and leaps up with a fierce downward swing, only the blade shrieks across his pipe.
“Just give up already!” The force of King Kuro’s slash tosses Kitsune away, but Juniper emerges to take his place.
King Kuro continuously blocks her series of jabs, and quickly parries the following attack. Her guitar is redirected, and he thrusts the blade forward.
Juniper’s reflexes desperately pull her away, and the sword misses.
The katana dances in the air, moving to reposition itself, then thrusts out again.
This time, she fails to evade and the sharp tip stabs straight through her collarbone. Juniper cries in pain as she scrunches and falls to her knees, muscles tightening around the blade to restrain the rampantly hissing wound.
Placing a foot on her shoulder, King Kuro slowly draws the katana from Juniper’s body, and watches her essence drip from the edge.