Chapter 1 - The Beast Has Fallen
The beast was massive.
It was defeated, though, belly up and with what arms it had left spread open in acceptance of death. It had put up a good fight. Its claws were sharp and swift, its teeth dangerous and pointy, its neck nimble and agile, its feet huge and heavy. Its eyes, large and predatorial, somewhere between feline and reptile, had failed to intimidate our heroes. Even with six of them. Its screeching roar had failed to frighten and its muscles, heavily noticeable all across its impressive torso, as well as across the many arms it had, failed to impress.
It was bleeding green out of its mouth and severed limbs. The blood was pouring down like a beautiful green-colored cascade of water, with such an overflow that the puddles on the ground were on their to becoming a small lake.
Some fires were still roasting parts of it, the flames being blown away by the serene breeze that helped that sunny day be a beautiful day for monster slaying.
Its slayers watched in prideful awe, the beast that they had brought down. There were 7 of them, standing in the very wide trench, almost a road now, which the beast had carved through the floor while trying to escape. It had almost escaped too, making them pursue it across many yards. That was why they had had to sever or otherwise debilitate its limbs. The beast was, additionally, notably filled with arrows, which looked really tiny on it, like small pins, and it also sported a number of cuts, all differently deep and wide, all across its body and head.
“And on that day, the beast did fall!”
The other seven looked up to see the eight: a brown-haired teen, with green eyes and green suit over his brown fur, along with very noticeable ram horns and hooves instead of feet. A boy of the Lan race named Arata.
“Arata, what are you doing?” A boy of the Rei race asked away. His name was Kazuki, and he dressed in black which matched his straight black hair, it all ever emphasizing the annoyance in his red eyes.
Arata, still with a light streak of blood running down his forehead, lifted up his two swords, one in each hand.
“They called it undefeated! They called it mighty! We called it dead!”
“Oh my...” Another of the slayers, Marmalade. She was a girl also of the Lan race, a unicorn, with a yellow horn and purple hair. She face-palmed carefully, so as not to hurt herself, and looked away in embarrassment.
“And dead it is! Woooo!” And he started dancing. Marching in place, waving his arms around for the silliness of it all, Arata danced on the behemoth’s corpse. More specifically, on its belly. “Oh yeah. It’s dead.”
“Arata, for crying out loud…Jomiko,” Kazuki looked at his teammate in agony, but he didn’t find her. “Jomiko?” And then he heard her.
“Oh yeah, we killed it!”
Jomiko was dark-skinned, sporting long dark blue hair so much so part of it was tied into a long ponytail that reached half-way across her back. A rat of the Lan race and thus possessing the defining tail and ears, much like Arata’s sideways ram horns. She had joined Arata in a synchronized victory dance. They were now shuffling giddily, their sides turned to the watchers.
“It’s dead. It’s so dead. We’re awesome! So awesome!”
“Man, can you guys stop embarrassing us?” Kazuki melancholically asked to the side. “Right Pix--?” He didn’t find his friend there either. His eyes closed in pain when he heard her voice join the others.’
“Look at it. It’s big, it’s huge, it’s strong, it’s dead!”
Pixa was of the squirrel race. She had pink eyes and hair and a very brown fur under what was usually a blue and white dress. Unlike Jomiko, she had noticeable buck teeth. Her squirrel tail was wagging in delight as she followed her teammates’ arm motions, waving them around in a very silly jolliness.
They were all wounded, though. Arata had blood streaking down his forehead, Jomiko had bloodied fists and her fighting uniform, a sleeveless one-piece, was ripped up. Pixa was untouched, however. Together, before the great sense of victory, none of that matters. With huge grins, they mock-danced their heart out in celebration.
The remaining three warriors were Miyabi, Leaf, and Ringo.
Ringo and Miyabi were untouched, but Leaf, Kazuki, and Marmalade showed cuts and bruises around the vicinities of their extremities. No one had gotten seriously hurt, however, so they weren’t giving it much thought.
A sigh came from Kazuki’s side.
“I’ll never understand why you guys follow Arata,” Leaf commented, placing the arrow back on his quiver. Leaf was a Fea with clear yellow skin, blonde hair, blue eyes and long pointed ears, who dressed in his nation’s green.
“We don’t,” Kazuki said, flustered, “we all have equal standing.”
“In theory…” Miyabi said, nose up, to spite him, “but practically, it’s as Leaf says, isn’t it?” Miyabi was a bunny of the Lan race; she had white fur, rabbit ears, and a fluffy tail, plus pinkish white hair, blue eyes, and was at the time dressed in pink.
Kazuki frowned, looking at his teammates gain.
“Check it out! It’s dead! Check it out! It’s dead.”
“They-they’re dancing,” Marmalade put in, blushing.
Kazuki sighed, and Miyabi laughed, amused.
Ringo meanwhile pulled on Leaf’s shirt. She looked at him intently but embarrassed. Leaf rolled his eyes, saying “go ahead…”
Ringo was another Fea, same color of skin but sporting red hair and mismatched eyes, one red and the other green. She was dressed in gardening clothes and was notably shorter, and younger, than the rest of them.
She was a funny addition to the celebration and one that finally quieted down the grumps of the group.
A couple of days of traveling later, the group of eight were about to reach their contractor. They were all healed up, even if their clothes still showed signs of the battle they been in. Jomiko and Kazuki were carrying an eye together, one they had taken from the beast, as a token to prove of their kill. It was still pretty big and heavy, enough so they needed both to carry. It was evidently dried up.
Their surroundings were deserted prairies. Fields of green with no trees in sight stretched in all directions; combed by the wind, the grass blades waved in wild patterns, ever in a perpetual dance of tranquility.
“Well, almost done. It was kinda fun, though!” Jomiko put in. Arata agreed with a chuckle.
“We fought well,” he agreed. He was leading the party back to the town since he knew the way.
“Some more than others…”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Arata backtracked and squinted at Kazuki with the same force of intimidation one would expect from a very crossed, very angry toddler.
Kazuki rolled his eyes. “Nothing, nothing…”
“Still, it’s odd that monster was worth all that prize money,” Leaf mentioned.
“What do you mean?” Arata still asked, “you saying I didn’t fight, uh? Uh?” He poked Kazuki.
“We were surprised too,” Jomiko put in, “but the guy was clear. I made him repeat the value, like, five times.”
“It’s true,” Kazuki agreed, trying to ignore Arata
“I took out, like, so many legs!” It was a challenge. “A thousand! What’d ya do, huh? Huh, Kazuki?”
“And how are we to split it?” Miyabi asked.
“Equally, of course,” Pixa ventured.
“Are you listening to me, Kazuki?”
“What, Arata?” Kazuki jolted, his impatience ended.
Miyabi voiced over the commotion a very unappreciative “really? ‘Cause I think some of us are entitled to more.”
“What did you mean by that?” Arata asked Kazuki, reminding him.
“Mean by what?” Kazuki asked, purposely feigning ignorance while Miyabi continued:
“Because, well, some of us didn’t do much,” she added, nudging towards Kazuki.
“Ha!” Arata pointed, shoving his finger in Kazuki’s cheek. “She said what you said about me about you.”
“What?!” Jomiko rose her voice in confusion.
“No no, you’re right, I did nothing. I only punctured its brain… nothing much,” Kazuki sarcastically stated.
“Please, darling, you threw your sword at his head…” Miyabi added with a patronizing wave, “I’d hardly call that contributing.”
“It pierced his hea--humpf,” Kazuki shrugged, interrupting himself. He was above explaining his contributions. “Whatever.”
“We’re splitting it equally, aren’t we?” Pixa asked.
“Of course we are,” Jomiko and Arata said, in a chorus. Realizing it, Jomiko eyed Arata in anger while he giggled amused. “You’re so annoying,” she said, squinting her eyes.
“There’s the town!” Arata pointed out, “follow me!” He marched forward at full speed, already having forgotten all about Kazuki’s slight.
“Hey! We’re carrying a huge eye here, remember?!”
“Oh, right,” Arata excused with a light bow, followed by a chuckle. He kept up with their pace as they approached the little town in the middle of a valley. It was surrounded by wooden palisades, which was a change of scenery from all the grass.
It had its two gates guarded by soldiers. They were adventurers and they were about to collect on the prize of their quest, it was the favorite part for most of them.
“What do you mean he’s not here?!”
Jomiko was angry. She was talking to a hostess over a counter of a bunkhouse, left responsible for giving them the bad news, sweating as she hoped Jomiko ascribed to the unwritten rule of not killing the messenger. The monster’s eye had been placed on the ground outside where the rest of the party stood in guard. The hostess, a large and plump Fea with white hair and green eyes, quickly looked confused.
“You just missed him, actually. He left a few hours ago?”
“Are you kidding me?! He gave us a fortnight, it’s been, what, a week?” She looked back at Arata who nodded in a pout. She looked back.
“Okay but--. I don’t know, he left no messages nor any word through which you can…well, maybe he’ll come back?”
“Yeah, sure, and maybe it’ll rain money, too,” Jomiko snapped at the hostess, angry.
“Don’t get snappy at me,” the hostess tried, “it’s not my fault you got swindled.”
Jomiko growled in a rage, insulted and offended. She turned around and left the tavern, Arata skipping his feet, following her but not too closely.
“Where is he?” Pixa asked, curiously, apparently much more ignorant to Jomiko’s mood than everyone else.
“What do you mean gone?” Miyabi immediately asked.
“I mean gone. For a few hours now, too. Let’s go check with the guards.” Jomiko sounded angry enough that nobody thought to argue at that point. Not even Leaf.
But when they arrived at the village gate and asked for the old bull with the silver horns, they confirmed he had left.
“What is this?” Arata questioned, confused.
“We’ve been had, is what it is,” Jomiko spoke, marching away from the guards at an angry pace, “he wanted the beast dead, but didn’t have the money to pay for it, so he conned us.” She punched her own hand. The strike echoed with power.
“Or… you conned us,” Leaf suggested.
Jomiko and Arata turned to argue but he already had an arrow cocked and aimed at Jomiko, the fastest of them. They reacted intimidated, for a second, due to the surprise of it, but quickly relaxed, realizing what Leaf was doing. Kazuki dressed his face with a lack of emotion, looking calculative. Jomiko reddened insulted while Arata frowned in confusion and Pixa in ignorance.
“We need that money, tomorrow. We wasted an entire week hunting that thing with you guys, so one way or another, I want it. Now.” Leaf gestured menacingly, looking ruthlessly in their direction.
The wind whistled past the now divided, silent party, failing to lower the tension that had settled. The guards, recognizing a group of chaotic adventurers when they presented themselves, quietly decided to check up on the outside of the gates.
Marmalade, flustered and hesitatingly, joined her immediate part members by focusing her magic. Her hands glowed red. In response, Kazuki reached for his sword, a lot less hesitating, and Jomiko lifted her fists and positioned her feet apart, in defiance and combat readiness.
Both Pixa and Ringo looked on, helplessly against it all.
Arata looked from one side to the other, one hand going for a sword, the other lifting a harmless and pleading palm, all showing his indecision as to how to proceed.