Chapter 6 - Violence in Fairgriffen
Once inside, Arata and Jomiko had separated the group again to look after the old bull. It was, after all, a very big city.
Jomiko was alone, Kazuki was with Pixa, and Arata had partnered with Midori.
Jomiko started out jogging from place to place, but impatience soon drove her to walk at quick march about the stores and passer-bys, looking to hear of the old bull.
“C’mon, he’s big, old and a Lan bull! How could you miss him?”
“I…I dunno, I didn’t see…”
Kazuki and Pixa were less intruding.
“Excuse me, sir? Have you seen an old Lan bull? He’s a business associate, but never showed up at--”
“No, I’ve seen no bull, excuse me.”
“Oh, sorry, thank you!” Pixa always apologized for the bother.
Arata and Midori actually mingled with whom they talked, getting a tad bit distracted. Arata, at that time, had his two swords chained to each other at the hilt. It was a long chain, arrayed at his back in a spiral for easier carry.
“So you don’t get many Lans around these parts, uh?”
“Not really, no, so you’re bound to find your bull.”
“Yeah, no worries, it’s not that big a deal,” Arata acknowledged, smiling, “by the way, we’re not doing that well when it comes to money, do you know any cheap place we can spend the night at? Or eat at?”
“Cheap? In Fairgrifen?” The black-haired, mulatto Jun scratched his head, looking around perplexed.
“No, what I mean is we don’t know our way around Fairgrifen,” Arata snickered, “I just mean if you know someplace that’s less expensive than others?”
“Oh, of course!”
“Arata!” Midori called out, and Arata and the Jun he was talking to both turned their heads towards her. “I found someone who spotted him! Said he was wearing a cloak and hood, though, which is odd. He wasn’t before.”
“No, no he wasn’t,” Arata nodded. He thought for a second and then remembered the guy he was speaking to. “Oh, sorry! Guess we’ll maybe talk some other time, we better go while there’s still a chance we’ll find him.”
“Yeah, I get it. Just look for the Withered Cactus, you hear? That’s a good place. A tavern, it also has some rooms, usually.”
“Alright, thanks a bunch, man.” Arata waved as he followed Midori to pursue the bull’s trail.
Meanwhile, Jomiko was holding a boy who had tried to pickpocket her. A Pan no older than 12, she imagined. She was holding him up by the collar so to look him in the eyes.
“I-I-I’m sorry! I’m just very hungry!”
“Hungry? You’re fatter than most o’ the cattle I’ve seen around here,” she accused, and she was right. He had plump cheeks and a slightly inflated belly.
“Please, please don’t kill me!” The child cried, desperate.
“I’m not gonna kill you, but I am gonna—”
Jomiko’s thirst to hand out a knuckle of justice was interrupted by a loud crash. She was in the middle of one of the market streets, and turning her head, she saw that a wooden stand had collapsed. She let go of the kid when she saw silhouettes jumping from the rooftop of the building against which the stand had been raised.
The building was two floors higher than the other buildings in that block, it reached up to five stories.
She quickly recognized Sanpu, with Fuun’na at his side. They landed and meant to run but Sanpu landed eyes on her. His body awkwardly stopped and turned towards her.
“Jomiko!” Fuun’na then also noticed her, following Sanpu.
Sanpu was bleeding from a wound on his left shoulder, holding his double-bladed battle axe in his right hand. It dragged over the ground but she knew he could swing it fine with one arm, just less accurately. Fuun’na had some cuts but was fine otherwise. Their eyes were both…”engaged”.
“We got some butt-hurt thieves wanting a piece of us.”
“More like all our pieces,” Fuun’na corrected, “and cut apart.”
“She gets the point, damn it.” Jomiko looked at them not the least bit surprised.
“How many butt-hurt thieves?”
“Well…” he looked back and, on queue, dozens of dark-robbed warriors dived out of windows and the rooftop of the building they had leapt out of.
More then arrived, fresh to the fight, pouring in from streets that led to that square. It didn’t take long for Jomiko to count them, there were close to fifty of them.
“Seriously, can’t you guys go somewhere without making a bunch of enemies?! Who’d you upset? The army?”
They turned and assumed a formation on each side of Jomiko, tired but still up for a fight.
“What can I say?” Sanpu said.
“We’re marauders, not diplomats,” Fuun’na completed.
Jomiko scoffed, and took up a fighting position.
“Lucky for you I’ve been spoiling for a fight for a couple of days now. And I know you’re not doing this for free so I get a cut.”
“Whatever,” Sanpu agreed.
“Alright, cover my flanks, then. Fuun’na, arrow them up, please.”
“Got it,” she nodded, putting her big sword away in exchange for her bow at about the same instance as three thieves figured they’d be the heroes to the all others. Two other thieves had figured the same only they were not so keen to risking their lives so promptly, instead electing to throw a total of five knives.
Jomiko span in-between two of the knives, grabbing hold of them, and finished the spin by shoved them in two of the leapers, halting their momentum, then pushing them down with a crouch. They landed on the ground hard, grunting and bleeding internally.
Sanpu waved his axe to intercept the third guy’s way and let physics work it out. And physics worked out most of the blood splatter onto Jomiko.
Jomiko groaned in frustration, remembering that fighting with the Blood twins was always a bloody business. She also noticed four more courageous enemies yelling their charge.
She charged right back.
Meanwhile, Arata and Midori were on a fast march to catch up with the bull. Last they heard, he was heading for the gate, as if he was leaving.
That would be bad.
They were so busy hurrying that Midori was unable to evade a tall, bulky figure in a cloak and hood, as they crossed the outer corner of a house right into each other.
“Ow!” She fell, and that feeling, the clash itself, was all too familiar. She could remember that bone-hard torso anywhere. And sure enough, when she looked up, she saw the bull glancing from her to Arata, with realizing eyes. Recognizing even.
Arata himself seemed perplexed beyond measure, looking at the hulking thing that comically covered itself with a cloak and hood too small for his size.
“Well,” Arata voiced out, awkwardly, “isn’t this a sur--”
An aggressive explosion interrupted Arata. It was the bull, and it was so abrupt it pushed Midori off balance and into a fall. She tumbled back, dust and sand blowing her away. Immediately afterwards, a second one sounded out; Midori got up, frightened, drawing her Xenia with every intention to use it, but then she realized what the explosion had been.
The bull had rushed past her, and his first step had been so strong and pushed him forward so fast that it had generated a blast. Even now, the bull was leaving a trail of dust as he sped away.
She noticed a second trail, following him.
Wait! She looked aside and didn’t see Arata.
Arata had reacted immediately, having considered that the bull, like him, was capable of performing such a quick dust off. It was because of their naturally strong legs backed up by sturdy hooves.
Arata was now he was in pursuit.
He saw the bull looking back at him. He sped up, gaining distance.
“Uff.” Arata hopped, taking a deep breath, and landed a strong step, speeding up. He controlled his breathing, steadying it rhythmically as he sped along, keeping up.
He didn’t understand where the bull expected to escape to, as he wasn’t running towards either of the city’s exits. He expected, then, he was being led into a trap. But he kept going. Losing the bull would mean he’d probably flee the city and this time, he’d be covering his tracks. Looking out for them. That, in turn, meant Jomiko would make Arata pay for that failure and that was simply scarier than any trap the stranger had prepared for the odd chance that some adventurer he had swindled would find him in the most inaccessible city in the world.
Back at the market, Jomiko and the blood twins were still fighting. They were still surrounded though now it was mostly by dirt and sand, all bloodied with their defeated foes. Jomiko made another count under heavy breath. Twelve remained.
But then more yelled out from the near distance, calling to her attention.
“Crap, man. What did you two do?!”
“We killed this gang boss. Apparently the rumors that he was about to take over the city were true.” Fuun’na commented, shooting an arrow through someone’s head.
“A gang? Why do they care, then? Shouldn’t they be fighting over leadership?”
“Yeah, that’s what we figured, but turns out these guys really looked up to their-oy!” Sanpu ducked under a short-sword, shoulder-shoved the attacker and waved his axe, lazily slicing through him. “Their boss,” Sanpu finished as the attacker moaned away his life.
“Well if they’re criminals, where’re the town guards?!”
She kicked the point of a spear’s shaft that had been thrust at Fuun’na, breaking the blade off, and Fuun’na shot an arrow through the attacker’s chest. Jomiko then grabbed hold of the spear shaft and span, waving it back at Fuun’na, who ducked under it.
The staff knocked out two more guys who had approached from behind Fuun’na, and then returned to block a descending sword, which carved halfway into it. That meant it was half stuck; Jomiko twisted her makeshift staff, wrenching the sword free, and whacked the attacker in the head.
As he fell back, she batted a couple more attackers away and then turned to catch a flying knife with the staff.
While she was being a proper fighter, Sanpu was hopping around, dodging the attacks as best he could, the battle axe arcing through the air, dragged by his motion to covering his sister’s flank and to occasionally swing across someone. He couldn’t avoid getting cut, unfortunately. His blood was still running, especially due to his continuous physical effort, but marauder that he was, that all just strengthened him.
Until it was too much.
“I’m starting to feel dizzy,” he complained, referring to the blood loss. As if suddenly aware it was about to lose one of its greatest entertainers, the universe finally brought the city’s guard to purpose.
“Crap!” Jomiko reacted.
“No no, that’s good, we’re with them,” Sanpu pointed out, letting the axe fall to the ground. He sighed, tired, and leaned on it.
“Yeah… but do they know that?” Fuun’na asked, releasing one final arrow on a thief.
Jomiko had locked an enemy’s head between her right thigh and was choking him so he would pass out. He did at about the same moment the guards engaged the remaining thieves. A pan, wielding two tomahawks, jumped ahead into the fray, leading his men.
“Well, I’ll make sure they do,” Jomiko pointed out, running to help them out.
“Hum, good idea,” Fuun’na knocked another arrow.
At the same time, at the opposite end of the city, the old bull had made a turn, wall-running across the side of a house so he wouldn’t have to break for the turn. Arata did the same.
And then, the great city wall became visible ahead of them. The bull headed straight for it.
No…he can’t. Arata thought,in disbelief.
Bull didn’t much care about what Arata believed, however. Upon approaching, he snorted quite loudly, throwing his arms back. He glowed for a second and then sped up so instantly the hood ripped back against the horns.
It hung back in tatters as his body suddenly jolted into another kind of speed.
Ah crap…fine! Arata grabbed his swords. You gigantic raisin!
The bull leapt into the wall, crashing his hooves against it with no small strength, such that small craters formed around them. He then glowed yellow once more, a heat-wave surrounded him as his body sped up the wall, pushing against gravity.
He decreased speed considerably but having a normal running speed while going straight up was still faster than Arata could manage.
That is why he didn’t replicate the effort.
Arata, upon approach, broke and spun around to allow his feet to slide across the dusty floor as he threw his right sword up as far as he could. When he felt his back bounce off the wall, he pulled on the chain in a way it sent a wave of movement along its length. When it hit the sword’s hilt, it jerked it back so abruptly the sword pierced the wall.
He jumped and grabbed on the chain, pulling as strongly as he could. He got up to the sword in four one-hand leaps, and on his last one, intending to land on the blade with his feet, he threw his left sword. He jerked the chain so that as soon as his feet touched his sword, the other one had already pierced the wall above him.
He grabbed the chain and pulled on it, back-flipping to pull the sword free by pushing it loose with his feet, against the hilt. Finishing the back-flip, he grabbed hold of the sword with his right hand just as he grabbed the chain with his left.
He didn’t exactly know how he’d expect to have enough energy to fight after repeating that dozens of times but it wasn’t like he was thinking things through anyways. He was happy enough it was working.
He had brought the chained swords in case Kazuki’s plan to enter Fairgriffen had failed but never thought he’d be under in such a hurry to do the climb. Doing those acrobatics with such tight timing was taking every ounce of focus he had so he didn’t even look to see he wasn’t going fast enough to keep up with the bull. Even though he wasn’t exactly lagging, he couldn’t expect to pull himself, one-handed, and cover as much distance as a normal run.
The bull looked back, which is to say down, to see he was in the clear. He was surprised by Arata’s tenacity but not nearly enough to give him any decent chance to catch up.
He continued running, climbing the wall.
“Humpf, idiotic youngling. He’ll get tired long before he reaches the top, and probably fall to his death, too.”
And that would serve. He had a mission to accomplish, and all that was left for him to do was to return with the stone. It had taken him the better part of a year to procure it, he would not risk losing it now. He would run all the way back to Spellraven if he had too.
It took him a couple of minutes but he finally arrived at the top. He stepped over the ledge, glowing again, his aura turning off.
He landed on the ground easily enough but immediately leaned back to catch his breath. He sighed, winded and tired.
“Uff… how I miss my youth…”
“That’s not the only thing you’ll be missing,” a voice said from his side, alerting him.
He jumped away from the voice and turned to confront it. He found a Rei completely dressed in black, with contrasting red eyes.
Kazuki was puffing out air, visibly tired from some kind of exertion, probably running. However, he drew out his sword steady and composed.
He paced himself towards the bull.
“Or regretting, for that matter.”