Chapter 7 - A Convenient Quest
The old Lan bull eyed Kazuki, threateningly.
There was an entrance to a tower several feet behind him. Obviously, he’d come from there, instead of up the wall like the bull and Arata. He was more normal in that regarded.
“I’m not paying you. Leave and I’ll allow you to live.”
“Now that was definitely the wrong thing to say,” Kazuki told him flatly before taking off in a dash.
His sword hung back, pulled by inertia as Kazuki charged the bull.
The bull opened his arms, flapping open his cloak.
“AHHH…” his hands flashed red and flamed in an instant of focused power that preceded a violent forward push. “HOAAHH!”
The air combusted into a massive ball of fire which formed so full of purpose it was already shooting towards Kazuki before it was fully formed. It was the size of his body.
Kazuki hesitated not one muscle as he leapt above it, spinning and turning to get the legs out of the way. In mid-air, he steadied himself, bringing the sword to swipe downwards on the Bull, but when his eyes caught him again, the bull was already pushing his arms again towards him.
Kazuki felt a wall of wind hitting him on his chest, which more of a rude interruption than a painful one, after all, Kazuki’s sword had been an inch away from the man’s horned head. Instead, he was sent back and away.
He flew back and crashed against the wall of the tower he had come from, which was still dissipating the fire that had hit it due to Kazuki’s dodge. The fire, vindictive as those things are, caught onto his clothes even though he bounced off in a grunt. He fell to the ground with a roll, to stop the fire from properly catching on.
He followed the motion into a defensive stance and gave thanks that the towers were square instead of round. He could have easily been deflected him the wall and that wouldn’t have ended well, it would have ended far below the wall at a very unhealthy speed.
He saw that the bull was turned to the side, walking towards the ledge of the wall with clear intentions to simply leave. Which was embarrassing, people usually only tried to run away after they’ve been bested.
“Farewell, you idiotic brats.”
He was interrupted by a loud “THACK!”. They both turned to see a chained sword stuck on the ledge of the building. Arata surged into view then, landing into a crouch right beside his sword with the tenacity of a true adventurer.
Then he coughed and almost lost balance. He recovered fast, however.
“Leaving…uff….so soon?!” He was sweating hard and his hands were trampled and bleeding but his face, it was was smiling triumphantly.
“Yes, very impressive,” the bull jested. Then he dashed to leap off the wall and away.
Arata threw his other sword to intercept and pierce him, which made the bull flinch back. The sword pierced the air in front of him for a second before the chain whipped at it to slash back at him. He spun and dodged to the side, allowing it only to cut a piece of his cloak, and accidentally approaching Kazuki. Arata had just then stepped down from the ledge, second sword in hand.
“One way or another…” Arata tried to say something impressive but he was too tired, he bent over to gasp for some air, gesturing an apology. The sword he had thrown lazily stumbled on the ground.
“You’re going to pay,” Kazuki said, and that made Arata look up. He was honestly surprised to see Kazuki there, but even more so that he had ended his sentence.
“Kazuki? Ha ha…that’s awesome, finishing my sentences!”
“Shut up!” Kazuki demanded.
Meanwhile, two other guards were leaving the tower Kazuki had used, finally awake to the commotion.
“I say, what’s going on, here?”
“You there, old man, hands down!”
The tower was broken up a bit, with a little dent where Kazuki had bounced out of, and a bigger one where the fireball had collided against. The fire was subsiding, incapable of burning that thick concentrated mass of rock. The bull was eyeing around him, Arata on one side, Kazuki and two more on the other.
“Children, we’re going to need you to put down your blades as well.”
They both ignored them.
“Surrender…old man,” Arata said, tired but standing straight. He pulled his second sword into his grasp. “You’re surrounded. Just give up and pay what you owe us.”
The bull looked a bit tense as he considered what to do, but decision relaxed him completed. He didn’t lower his guard but relaxed his stance.
“No matter what different kinds of magic you have, this is over. Don’t be stupid.”
“Don’t ignore us, we want all of you to put your hands down and let go of your weapons.” The other guard joined in, “yes! Consequences will be grave if you don’t.”
“That’s what I’d tell you all,” the bull replied, “if you brats showed the intelligence to listen!”
He breathed in and suddenly his skin flashed with concentrated energy just before he rammed his fist into the ground.
“N—”, “cra--!” Neither Kazuki or Arata were able to say anything before a loud bang sounded out, lifting dust and rock.
His fist fully penetrated the ground and from it, cracks surged and ripped open, trailing from the Bull to about fifty feet beyond Arata, and all the way back to the tower, and a bit more than that downwards. The wall complained about the suddenness and violence of this interaction by roaring and cracking apart like an earthquake had suddenly overwhelmed it.
Arata and Kazuki hopped in time but the two guards were flung over the side by the shifting ground, as if jerked outwards. The wall crumbled and broke to pieces, huge pieces of it just falling to slide off to the side.
From the hop, Arata had landed on one of them, a boulder now, but that still had the ground on its top, and watched the bull amongst crumbling rocks and sliding pieces of the wall. The wall stood sturdy beneath the sixty something feet mark that was crumbling, everything else being jettisoned by gravity and whatever cascade of concussive forces the bull had jumpstarted.
The whole thing lasted more or less a short minute, but it seemed like many to Arata. He saw Kazuki diving towards the bull but he just leapt away, allowing Kazuki to take his rock platform. Kazuki jumped off it immediately, landed on another, and again leapt after the bull.
Arata looked on, seeing them hopping from rock to rock, as his own fell. The bull kept staying one step ahead of Kazuki. Arata finally saw an interception point just as his l decently sized rock platform began to flip around for having collided with the sturdy, un-cracked part of the wall.
He leapt off as strongly as he could, heading for a boulder where the bull was going to land. As he approached, though, he noticed the bull hadn’t finished a flip to land on his feet but was rather still diving at it head-first.
“No!” he threw a blade to swing down at him from the top, and catch him before it was too late, but the sword caught a rock falling from above and bounced back. Arata allowed it, so he wouldn’t be stopped by it, and instead keep his momentum.
The bull just pushed his hands against the boulder, breaking it in half. He dived right through it like paper, barely dodging Arata’s second slash. Arata’s momentum took him away from the bull’s downward trajectory.
He threw a sword at a bould and pulled, turned his trajectory and doing his best to stay aware of his surroundings through his peripheral vision. He saw Kazuki stepping on one of the pieces that had broken from the bull’s boulder and leap off it.
Arata bit his lip, flipped backwards and reeled his sword in. Once he felt his feet making contact with the vertical wall that was falling behind him, he leapt towards another rock, flipping and kicking it so to leap after Kazuki.
His vision tunneled to the point where he didn’t even notice has he left the cascade of rock and stone. Suddenly, he found himself surrounded by open sky and a lot of empty space. He saw the Bull sort of gliding away, his cloak fluttering like a cape.
I knew it. Straight up flying’s too tough but light-falling he can do. I’m still in range, though!
He spun around and turned, lying down in the air while letting all his chain loose, and then threw his right sword as hard as he could. He saw the sword fly far and far away before he pulled on the chain, turning and flipping so to send the sword flinging and wave across the air towards the bull. He waved his whole body downwards to give the pull strength.
The sword slashed the air and swiped across the bull, drawing blood and another piece of his cloak. But he didn’t fall, and if he felt the wound, he didn’t show it as he kept gliding downward and further away.
Arata was falling much less lightly, and increasing in speed. He looked up and could see boulders and huge rocks coming into view to rain down upon him and he wasn’t even sure shoving a sword through the wall would support his weight. The likelihood of him surviving that mad attempt to catch the Bull was very low, and even still, all he could think was: Jomiko’s gonna kill me...
It didn’t handle his weight, which is why he sent his second sword when the other was halfway to the wall. The first broke his fall, and almost his wrist, but expectedly came loose. The second stuck well. The chain curved and brought him to collide with the wall as violently as possible but, he hoped, not more violently than he could take.
His right shoulder took the brunt of the hit. Knowing he had no time to waste, he took a breath and frowned in pain.
He threw the sword that not stuck to his right and held onto the chain so it would swing it all the way to the left. With timing, he whipped the chain to again make the sword stuck against the wall.
What’m I doing? This won’t work!
A tingle of fear made him shiver as the mountain of rocks dove around him. One of the first ones hit the sword he was holding, knocking it loose and leaving him very little choice on what to do. He hung on for dear life as gravity swung him over and out of danger.
He swerved his body with the motion, wincing and squeaking as he barely dodged a very big boulde.
The rest of the rocks fell away from him. He saw them fall, breathing hard, and then looked up at his other sword, which was saving his life, to see that it was safe. He saw Kazuki hanging off his own sword, much higher than him, however.
He felt too tired to climb back up just then. Instead, he turned around to the outside world and hung there, watching the crumbled top of the wall fall. He shivered and looked ahead to watch the bull becoming a silhouette against the hard sun. Slowly, he was gliding back to the ground and due to the height of the wall, he would be landing far enough away.
“ARE YOU OKAY?”
He looked back up again to see Kazuki looking not the least bit concerned.
Arata coughed an ironic laugh. Technically, he hadn’t suffered a single hit but he had utterly broken himself maneuvering around that stupid wall. In fact, he noticed a foul taste in his mouth which alerted him to the fact he had coughed blood.
“No,” he said, though maybe not loud enough for Kazuki to hear. A loud crashing then roared from below as the bigger pieces of rock all but smashed against the hard hand ground, lifting a cloud of dust and debris. Luckily that hadn’t happened on top of any gate.
Now that I think about it, Fairgrifen’s gonna be pissed. Two guards are dead and a chunk of the wall broke loose. How will we ever explain this? Especially to Jomiko. She’ll be more pissed than they will with the mess we’ve made.
She’s always pissed when the mess isn’t hers, he added to himself, sulkily.
A good number of hours later, after Arata and Kazuki managed to get back to the safety of solid wall ground, they were met with a very large contingent of guards and immediately taken into custody.
The good thing was they had their wounds healed and bandaged and were taken to court with an almost admirable efficacy. Indeed, that had all taken place in the rest of the day, Dusk was still setting into its somber darkness when they were in front of Fairgriffen’s judge and aristocrats. Nobody else was there.
Oh, except for Jomiko, Sanpu and Fuu’na. They were, to Arata’s definite surprise, brought in after and made to stand beside him and Kazuki.
The judge grumbled and coughed, looking over a scroll in lazy interest.
“So let’s see here…close to two hundred dead…slaughtered in the streets.”
Arata opened his mouth in awe. Then he glared at Jomiko in comical interrogative, gesturing his bandaged hands in a panic.
What?! TWO HUNDRED!?
“Thieves and criminals,” Jomiko pointed out, raising a finger, “and a lot of them were taken out by the guard, it wasn’t us.”
“And none of you registered your entrance,” the judge said from the stand, ignoring the comment, “you’re illegals.”. The stand featured the judge, surrounded by all the aristocrats. The stand surrounded the culprits in a circle, which included everyone but Midori and Pixa. They were somewhere doing something, who knew?
“Well, it’s too expensive!” Jomiko complained, as exasperated and forward as ever.
“In respect,” one of the aristocrats spoke out, a fat Jun with mean black eyes and tanned skin. “the men they killed are linked to the guild. My agents confirm it’s been completely dismantled, most of its members dead at their hands.”
“Do we know for a fact all of them were killers? And if so, what right does that give these unregistered foreigners to slaughter the lot? Criminals get sentences, Faircloth, they get exile or jail, killed? Yes, that may happen. But still, justice must be observed, and we must do the observing,” the Aristocrat arguing had a full grown brown beard, strong dark eyes and light skin. He was a Pan and had a bulky body.
“I understand, my friend,” the stubby remarked. “But understand that those two twins were hired by me to bring the leader of the guild under custody.”
Sanpu and Fuun’na smiled, untouchable, and Jomiko couldn’t help but think the fat man had actually ordered them to kill the leader, not arrest him. Why else would he have contacted them, of all people?
“Two marauders?!” The Pan sharply complained. “The blood twins, they’ve been called. The city’s seen nothing but bloodbath after bloodbath ever since they showed up and you want me to believe you expected them to apprehend that vulture? PFAH!”
Faircloth threw his cup off his stand in a demonstration of revolt.
“They were close to him!” The fat man replied angrily, “I’d rather he be dead than scavenging around. He was planning to take over the whole city. Besides, you should be happy he’s dead, now we can’t interrogate him and know how deep his pay offs went.”
The Pan slammed his fist on his desk.
“They are MY agents. They killed ‘that vulture’, and everyone who attacked them was part of his ilk, they’re all better dead if you ask me. The guild wasn’t about stealing to eat and survive, it was about mounting a revolution!” He slammed his own fist, “I’ve got documents to prove it. He would have had us all dead by the end of the year!”
“It’s true,” Sanpu said, interrupting them. “He wanted to cut us in on the plan. He also knew Mr…Faircloth had hired us to betray him. He tried to buy us off to kill all of you,” He lied.
“See!” Faircloth rose up, “open your eyes! They shouldn’t be incarcerated, they should be given what I, in our name, promised them.”
“And what about this wall business?” The judge said from behind a scroll. He was balding on the top of the head and had a pointy white beard. A Pan too, who actually looked quite the kid. “two guards dead?”
“And a portion of it blown to pieces!” Another Aristocrat complained, lifting an arm in revulsion. He was a Jun, red-haired and black-skinned with orange eyes, but also a victim of sedentarism and abundance. “It’ll take months to fix that thing, a part of the tower near it also collapsed.”
“Rock can be replaced. Men cannot,” another Aristocrat pointed out judgmentally. He was a Jun, the only one of them all who was thin. He had clear white skin, white hair and silver eyes which were covered in circles from lack of sleep. “I want to know what happened.”
“That’s why we’re here,” Arata rose his voice before Jomiko could steam at them. She snorted, swallowing her words. “We’re adventurers who’ve been cheated on a very large pay. We followed our employer here, he was a large Lan bull? We chased him but he turned out to be too powerful for us to stop him. He escaped.”
“You turned out to be too much of a pansy!” Jomiko yelled out.
“Hey, the guy crumbled the wall beneath us. And yeah, he ran up to its top, Jomiko, it’s a wonder I managed to get up there to fight him in the first place,” Arata tried to excuse himself.
“It’s true,” Kazuki put in, “he was very powerful.”
“Well I think that much is obvious, don’t you?!” The Jun, who was riled up about the Wall, pointed out.
“Did they actually do anything?” The skinny Jun asked. The judge read up on the parchment carefully.
“No…,” he said, weakly, “I mean, the goat boy pierced a few holes into the wall with his sword, but considering the circumstances, we can let that go as long as he pays for the damages.”
“WHAT?!” The riled up Pan banged his hands, “this is an outrage!”
“Calm down, Laer,” the skinny requested, waving for patience, “it’s the bull we’re after. And in any case, they really don’t look like they’d be able to pay the entry toll, let alone compensate us for the wall and tower.”
“I’ll cover their costs,” Faircloth offered. They all looked at him suspiciously, with the kind of suspicion that wasn’t really based at all in that particular offer, but in a mountain of other achievements and actions that had piled up across years of experience.
That is to say, even Jomiko felt how much Faircloth wasn’t trusted.
“Don’t look at me like that,” he asked, offended, “I mean to find the bull. That’s my job, isn’t it? He floated away from Fairgrifen, he’s already out of our reach. This is exactly the kind of thing you outsource to adventurers and this lot clearly have the motivation to take the job seriously. They will go after him either way, it seems clear to me.”
“Totally,” Jomiko agreed, happy again. “We’ll totally do it, we’re as qualified as it gets. Send us in and we’ll nab him and bring him back to ya. All we ask is a decent quest’s pay and the respective risk insurance.”
The Aristocrats eyed each other for a few moments. They seemed to be communicating with their eyes. Whether there was some kind of telepathic contact going on, they didn’t know, but the fact was that the judge raised his voice without hearing any further comments.
“It has been established you are not responsible for the wall, nor accountable for the lives of the many men and women who assaulted you with deadly intentions. But you are still accused, and guilty, of illegally entering Fairgrifen.
“Still, taking into account the reason for which you did so, we offer scratch this crime off the record if you accept to take on this quest on behalf of Fairgrifen: to find the Lan bull who has so grievously damaged us, shunning our hospitality, and bring him back so that he may face just consequences for his crimes.” He took a shorter breath that everyone who had tried to pay attention to the long-windedness of his sentence.
The twins were whispering at each other in small giggles, making fun of something.
“Should you accept, we will not only disregard your past crime but compensate you according to the standard fee for a class 4 Bounty. What say you?”
Jomiko and Arata traded glances, and then they looked at Kazuki too. They traded nods.
Jomiko looked around the room and all the aristocrats as if judging whether to trust them. She wasn’t, really, it was just for show. She stopped on the judge.
“Sounds like we got a deal.”
“Done then,” the Judge nodded, before looking aside at his colleagues. “I at this moment declare this session ended. May we reconvene later to discuss reparations and other legal matters.”
He looked back at the four, “as to you: Justice Overseer Faircloth will deal with you on the matter of your mission. Make Fairgrifen proud, adventurers, and rest assured it will reward you handsomely.”
Fuun’na raised a hand.
The Judge peered down at her.
“Well excuse me, but can we get some in advance, though?” She questioned. “I could really eat something,” she shrugged with an absent smile while pointing at her belly with her other hand.
The judge rolled his eyes, along with most other Aristocrats, while Arata and the rest of them giggled into their hands.
Except for Kazuki. He just smiled in a sort of condescending “humpf”.