Chapter 12 - Collateral Damage
“Agathon, don’t make me-”
Wind pushed outwards from Agathon, throwing Shinyaki away. He hovered and flipped in the air, landing stylishly and paying little mind at his scythes scraping against the floor.
He looked up.
“GET A HOLD OF YOURSELF!”
“Do not presume to be above me, Shinyaki!” The ground cracked harder.
A great deal of people were leaving their homes and wherever else they were at, running to both the gates and the ships, trying to reach safety from the apparent earthquake.
“Never! It’s HIS authority I represent, remember?!” He crossed his scythes, “persist with this one-second longer and you’ll have forced my hand!”
Agathon looked at him with different eyes, as if awakened. One of the cracks extended and stretched against a house, opening it and tearing it apart.
“It is too late,” Agathon replied, a bit calmer.
“Not for us to go and leave all this destruction up to speculation.”
Agathon jumped and leapt to land next to Shinyaki and it was relevant to note that the ground where he had stood caved in at his leap, revealing a large and deep hole.
“My apologies,” he simply said.
“Save it for him, I don’t care,” Shinyaki replied. The ground around the hole Agathon had leapt out offgave way and opened in their direction. They leapt to land a few feet away.
“Let’s just go,” Shinyaki urged, spiteful at the mess Agathon had made of things.
“What about them?” Agathon asked with anger in his voice, motioning towards Jomiko and Kazuki. Shinyaki looked over to them.
He looked away and pushed Agathon to run towards the boats, following. Jomiko opened her eyes startled and shook her head out of her shock.
Nothing? She moved to follow but Kazuki quickly grabbed her shoulder to keep her from running off.
She jerked her head towards him with fury in her eyes but was met with the solemn and melancholic defeated gaze of Kazuki. He almost pleaded as he said, “please.”
“But we’ll lose them!” Jomiko looked towards them and stepped again to follow but Kazuki grabbed her firmly.
“It’s just money, Jomiko. It’s not worth dying for.” A house crumbled near them, ironically portraying both Jomiko’s head and spirit as they bowed in acceptance.
She clenched her fists tighter, knowing full well, deep inside, they really were no match for them. She shoved Kazuki’s hand off and turned her back on the two fleeing foes.
“Thank you,” Kazuki said, a bit dismissively, “we should get a healer for Sanpu. And fast.”
“Is that a crack at my skill, Kazuki?” A voice came from their side. Kazuki jerked to the side, startled, but Jomiko simply glanced sideways at Miyabi.
Miyabi was already with her hands drenched in blood, placed firmly on top of Sanpu’s wound and glowing pink. The rain had drenched her hair and fur, making the pinkish hue, on the white that covered her, a bit darker. She looked tired.
“It huuuuurrrrts…” Sanpu cried, desperately flailing around.
“No, it’s some other life-saving bunny Lan,” she sarcastically spat while she tried to keep Sanpu still. “Be still, you idiot! That only makes it hurt more.”
“HAHAHHAHA,” Sanpu laughed out loud, “pain makes me feel ALIVE!” he slapped Miyabi in the face, throwing her aside.
She jerked back up with an appalled look in her face, her cheeks reddened more from embarrassment than from the slap.
“Well then, get used to it and die!” She kicked him.
And that made him only sob and cry harder.
“Sniff…please, please I’m sorry, just make it stop, it hurts soooo muuuuch. Fuun’na! Where’s my sister?! FUUN’NA!”
“Alright alright, jeez, calm down,” Miyabi again crouched and started healing, but soon enough Sanpu changed his painful frown into an exhilarating grin.
“HUURRR, YEEAH!” He moved to punch Miyabi again but this time, Jomiko bent over and jabbed Sanpu in the neck.
His head bounced off the strike and fell on the wet floor, passed out.
“Shut up,” Jomiko told him.
“Well, thank you,” Miyabi said, implying she should have done that sooner, “now will you please go and help some people? They don’t quite deserve to die over your stubbornness, I don’t think.”
“What?” Jomiko protested, “it’s not our fault, Agathon did this!” She opened her arms, motioning at the earthquake that was now afflicting the city.
The rumbling was not subsiding, and neither were the screams and yells.
“Yes, and it’s not Sanpu’s fault he was impaled, either, is it? All he had to do was shut up and step aside so that scythe guy could calm his ally down, but no, you all need blood on you. Well here,” she waved her hand, splattering the blood of Sanpu’s wound at Kazuki and Jomiko.
Kazuki winced but Jomiko just took it quietly, even though her expression could make an army think twice about aggravating her.
“Satisfied?” Miyabi asked, unnafected by Jomiko. “Now go and help, I’ll take care of your little monster, here.” Miyabi plunged her hands into his wound again, focusing.
“You-” Jomiko moved to hit her but Kazuki again grabbed her shoulder.
“Let it go. If we’re not going to chase them, we should help these people out.”
“It’s not our fault,” Jomiko stated, aggressively brushing his hand aside.
“No it isn’t. But they don’t care whose fault it is, they just want to live,” Kazuki remarked.
“Ain’t that the bloody truth,” Miyabi allowed, blood squirting against her cheek.
“Plus, they might reward us.”
Kazuki turned his back to Miyabi and ran to help someone. Jomiko swung her arm aside with a small spin, cutting the rain in an arc.
She sniffed and this time sneezed.
“Ah crap…should’ve kept the coat.” And with that, she ran off.
Miyabi had to pick up Sanpu at one point, to keep them both from falling down a crack, but otherwise, she was free to heal him, and afterwards, to try and help with stopping the earthquake.
Fortunately, she wasn’t the only one in the city with some experience in geomancing so even though it took them around twenty minutes, they were eventually capable to calm the earth and diffuse its self-destruction.
Still, everything within a yard of the point of origin, Agathon’s casting, was completely totaled, either swallowed by the coast or just crumbled down and tore apart.
Around thirty people died in the event and more would have died if it wasn’t a port city. Most everyone sought shelter on the ships, which freed anchor and sailed away for the duration of the catastrophe, safe at sea.
Sanpu would live to be crazy another day but that didn’t make Jomiko feel any better about the defeat. She had been maddened into silence. She was staring and glaring at everything and everyone, too upset to find any words worth saying.
She and Kazuki, along with other adventurers, helped save quite the number of lives still. But while that would make others feel successful, it did nothing for her. Every person they saved was the same as every person who died: a manifestation of their defeat.
Then they helped rebuild. They gave the guards and law of the city their explanation - the seal of Fairgrifen sure helped with that - and just all around made time however they could, waiting for Arata and the others to arrive.
Arata feared the worst when he first laid eyes on Stormdream. It was now less a dream and more a storm. The rains he remembered the city for still poured but the city he remembered did no longer stand.
He saw mounds of rubble and reconstruction frames, and parts of the dock were still passively crumbling into the water. Both watchtowers at the gate were destroyed.
“Volceiso. Jomiko, Kazuki and Sanpu,” Arata casted, worried.
Two bracket-like symbols glowed into existence, hovering next to each of his ears. They were white and shiny. He waited for them to accept the call.
“Yeah, Arata?” Jomiko’s voice called out, as disgruntled as ever, but that immensely relieved Arata. “Finally, are you here?”
“We’re flying down to meet you, what happened?”
“Just get down here and we’ll tell you. Go to the docks, just off the main square entrance. We’ll meet you there.”
“Yeah, ok.” Arata closed his eyes, dispelling the communication. “They’re at the docks, follow me.”
“Is my brother alright?” Funn’na asked immediately.
“I suppose so, she didn’t say anything.”
“He better be,” Fuun’na half-threatened.
They flew down to the stables just off the gates. After all, flying by the city would probably be perceived as a threat and that was the last thing he wanted to be to that city.
Fortunately, even though it was raining, it became quite sunny. Seemed the city had decided to bring a bit of the dream to the storm, give its people a break. By the time they reached the gates, the sky had opened up and sun had made its appearance.
They passed through the gates easily and then walked down and through the main square to the docks, looking around in awe.
“Crap…” Fuun’na had to admit, “it’s a lot worse than it seemed from up there.”
“Was this really because of their fight? Just look at this destruction…” Pixa noted.
“I knew that bull was bad news,” Arata commented, dangerously impressed. “I bet this is his work. Nobody just ruptures Fairgrifen’s wall on a whim, I doubted from the start that was the best he could do.”
“But this?” Pixa pointed out. Arata nodded in agreement, he shared her sentiment.
Still, it was remarkable to see people already working to rebuild what was destroyed. Some looked happy, others miserable, but mostly, they just worked hard on rebuilding and recovering their home, all still under a shower of rain that never stopped peppering their hoods and overcoats.
It didn’t take long to find Jomiko and the rest.
Fuun’na was the first to react, she was so exhilarated to see Sanpu alive she immediately ran to him.
“Sis,” he reacted, smiling glad to see her. She threw herself at him, not really concerning about hurting him. He winced in pain, “ow!”. He pushed her off violently. “Dammit, watch it!”
She gasped, appalled. “You’re gonna talk to me like that on our reunion?!” She smacked him.
“Ack, I’m wounded, you idiot!” He kicked her.
She looked at his bandages and tears filled her eyes. “Awww…”
She hugged him, filling him with kisses. “My poor sweet brother…mhuah.” She tried to comfort him in a way it left everyone else awkwardly looking away.
Sanpu just giggled. “Stop iiitt…I’m ok, I’m ok.”
“Miyabi.” Arata was surprised to see her. “You’re here?”
“Good thing, too. Sanpu would be a corpse right now if it wasn’t for m--”
In a jerk, Fuun’na lashed out and smacked Miyabi.
“Don’t say that! Never ever ever! I’ll be a corpse way before he is!”
“No way, sis, I will,” he pushed her around.
“No I will,” she pushed him into the ground and then jumped on him. They started wrestling over the floor.
Miyabi just massaged her cheek, gawking at them not exactly knowing how to react. They had forgotten about her almost immediately.
She looked up at the rest of them for help.
“Are those two insane??!”
“Duh,” “yes,” Jomiko and Arata replied together. She looked at Arata spiteful, adding “ugh, I’d forgotten how annoying you are.”
He grinned, “I’m happy you’re all okay. So what happened?”
“Agathon had a friend,” Kazuki spoke, “A Jun gladiator who uses dual scythes, and can cast lightning and other physical enforcing magics, like speed. Me and Sanpu fought him,” Kazuki then glanced at the two blood twins, dirty and wet already. Sanpu’s wound had already reopened because of the makeshift struggle. “That wound’s the result of when this…Shinyaki, decided to fight seriously. It was over in one move, we were no match.”
“It also looked like Agathon got angry for being despised,” Jomiko mentioned and was about to say something else when Arata interrupted.
Jomiko twitched, she really wasn’t in the mood to be interrupted.
“The bull,” Kazuki told him, “it was odd. Let me tell you all that happened.”
In a couple of minutes, Kazuki and Jomiko had recounted the strange and cryptic behavior that Agathon and Shinyaki had had, particularly of the importance given to the stone.
“This stone seems important,” Arata deduced, “and this level of multi-class…it’s not average at all. We’re dealing with something very dangerous here. And you say they were afraid of someone?”
“Yes, one can only imagine how powerful this individual must be…” Kazuki pointed out.
“Or what he wants with the stone,” Pixa pointed out.
“Speaking of which,” Sanpu called out, pushing Fuun’na away in compounded giggling “we should-hahaha- we shouldn’t waste any more time. Sto-stop it for a second, jeez. Let’s board a ship and –agh! Hahha- and follow them.”
“Where did they go, though?” Jomiko asked, angry, “that’s the point. They boarded a ship and escaped both the earthquake and us. There’s no following them now.”
“Oh, hold on,” Miyabi interrupted all of them, “I need to take this call. Accept Volceiso.”
The bracket-like symbols materialized and Miyabi spoke.
“Leaf? No yes, I imagine it must be hard to find privacy. How are you two? Yeah, they’re here. Uh uh.” She looked at Arata, “he says to tell you you’re an idiot. Also…that you can thank Ringo for forcing him to pay you back for your earlier kindness.”
“What?” Arata and Jomiko asked in a chorus. Jomiko again glared at Arata. “Stop echoing me!”
“I don’t do it on purpose,” he apologized, scratching his head in helplessness.
“Uh uh. Ok, got it, we’re right behind you.” She closed her eyes, shutting off communication.
“He’s aboard the ship the bull and his Jun friend took,” Miyabi pointed out, “he’ll let you know where they port.”
She showed off a victorious smile which Jomiko took as insultive. Seemed to imply that without them, they’d be pretty much screwed.
It didn’t help that Arata coughed a laugh and poked her shoulder, repeatedly.
“Isn’t it good we didn’t fight them, eh? We gave them what we had and now they pay us back, that’s how--”
She slapped his hand off in an abrupt interruption.
She twitched, incapable of admitting Arata had been right to avoid a battle when the bull first walked out on their pay.
“I said shut it!”
She stormed off.
“Let’s just find a ship and get on with it, I want a rematch.”
If they had their whole group…and especially if Leaf’s party was helping, there was definitely a good chance they could take them.
Jomiko could hardly wait.