For several days Axel examined the weapons from top to bottom. Daytime was spent largely in the holo-training room, and nights consisted of tweakings and refinement. He would have worked twenty-four hours straight, but a combination of his mom’s loving yet strangely demonic prodding, and Nadja’s tired groans convinced him to succumb to annoying necessities like food and sleep. Some days he loathed being a squishy human.
Day in day out he spent running tests, only stopped when he experienced his episodes with a vengeance. They were becoming more frequent, more intense. He didn’t have a clue when, if ever there was going to be fixed. Just that the sensation of thousands of hot needles grew worse with each attack.
On a late sunny afternoon, Axel was still reeling from another attack many hours before. The meditation session had gone only marginally better today, and left him more tired than anything else. It was a small improvement, the only upside being that he was now collapsed on the living room couch out of exhaustion instead of groaning, aching fatigue. At the very least, he could see what he was doing now. Today he was looking through his gauntlets while his notes rested on his lap.
No segment was hidden from his high-tech eyes as he looked for the slightest flaw or defect in the weapons. He was determined to ensure they would function perfectly in combat. The casters fired dead on in the shooting range, thankfully not singeing his hands now that he had extended the casters reach out from his palms.
The extension mechanisms worked wonderfully as well. They could reach out at ninety degree angles, though he wouldn’t use that function until he got used to them. He didn’t have much desire to get a painful piercing or scars, despite Katja’s insistence to the contrary. For now they would only extend forward, and they did so very well with the unusually satisfying clanks and whirrs of advanced machinery. Axel lost count of how many times he simply extended and retracted the blades and casters simply for the joy of hearing that metallic “kashunk clink clink.”
Ejection functions were proving...Functional. The real difficulty with ejecting blades for dual wielding wasn’t the swordplay itself, that was the easy part under his mom’s and Aunt Glynda’s teaching. Rather, the difficulty was in catching them after ejection. Though that could be solved with practice and experience.
Other than that, the weapon was excellent. Combination function was flawless to assemble the double-edged blade. The only real difficulty was the dust activation. Though that was no fault of the weapon.
Axel grimaced as he jotted down notes on the swords performance. His craftsmanship was successful. Incredibly so. He had spent much time researching the history of Remnant weapon crafting and diligently reading the weekly weapons magazines, and he had to admit that these were excellent tools. Even his dad agreed they were well-made, especially when Axel made him promise his praises weren’t based on parental emotions. The weapons were perfect.
The problem was him. His episodes had led to more than a few curb stomp affairs at the fists of kill-droids or Grimm claws, and those were only on the non-lethal setting. One such incident occurred just as he was about to finish the last of an Ursa pack. The majority had been eliminated with relative ease, and the last one had estimated its odds of survival.
Naturally it fled. Axel had quickly pursued and was about to pounce it.
But before the blades made contact, his eyes erupted with the sensation of needles making contact with his pupils. Like so many times before that sensation had branched off from his brain through his entire body. What would have been a quick and stylish kill turned into a painful, both physical and emotional, tumble over his own feet and a nearby rock. The mistake had launched him down a steep hill, where he was naught but a rag-doll to smash against the ground, as well as through a tree, before ending up in the simulated mud. The Ursa claws came crashing down on him soon after.
His Aura was strong enough that he endured the brunt of the damage thankfully, but his back still felt sore from that days old failure. His failure.
Because he wasn’t good enough, wasn’t strong enough to overcome his impediment.
His notebook was closed and placed next to the gauntlets. Today had been a painfully long day filled with hard training, homework, and more than a few ugly looks from his sister. He was still determined to keep training and working. More than anything he wanted to get out there in the world. To fight and kill Grimm.
At least that’s what he thought he wanted ever since his accident. Nowadays it just didn’t seem so appealing, less courageous and heroic than he first thought. Between his soreness, crappy eyes, and the loss of Nadja’s view of him as a brother, he was having the worst week. Then, a smirk came to his lips.
“Correction brother, you are having the worst week of your life so far. You will have many more which to screw up.” Axel made his voice high-pitched and nasally, mimicking his sister as if she were a squawking peacock. Though the effort made his throat hoarse, almost like karma was striking him once again. He quickly grabbed his water bottle, chugging it down and washing his throat. He sighed, satisfied with the nourishment.
“Well no matter what happens, I’ll always have you water.” he chuckled.
“Now now Axel.” A new voice echoed through the hall from behind him, punctuated by the loud clip-clop of heels. Axel’s hair stood on end, like the bells of hell, the familiar sound signaled the arrival of only one person.
“Do not be so quick to mock your sister. She is far more valuable than a bottle of water.”
The motherly yet disciplinary tone, the steady beat of the heels. He knew them well. Axel slowly rose from his slouched position with a faint grunt, turning to see this unexpected guest. Of course there were the jet black heeled boots that reached to her knees. That oddly patterned short purple cape flowing behind her as she briskly strode through the halls. The pale blonde hair, and of course the piercing green eyes decorated with professional oval glasses and perpetually cross eyebrows. The Wicked Witch, or as the Krieger children called her…
“Aunt Glynda!” Axel sprung from his chair. All feelings of exhaustion lifted themselves from his body. With rocket-like velocity the young Krieger flew from the couch, heading straight into Glynda’s arms. First perfected by Katherine for usage in pranking her friends, the trademark Krieger charge.
But Glynda had literally run into the Krieger children one too many times before. With a snap of her finger, the blue-haired projectile lost all velocity, suspended in midair mere inches from her figure. Axel’s pounce had been completely halted by Goodwitch’s magical prowess. Now he was suspended in a faint purple field, floating about as if in water.
“Damn. You got me.” Axel laughed as he hovered in the swirling bubble.
“Mind your language young man,” Glynda waggled her finger.
“Oh come on Glynda, you’re always saying to not be afraid of self-expression.”
“Yes,” Glynda sighed. “but you need not...Revel in it in polite company. Understand?”
“Yes Auntie. Can you please put me down now?”
With an arched eyebrow and frown, Glynda dispelled the bubble, leaving Axel to promptly fell to the hard stone floor with a surprised yelp and a thump. Some days were like this, especially whenever he’d try to jump Glynda. It wasn’t always easy, and she had recently gotten wise to her strategies, but it was always fun to see her stoic exterior falter in the face of adorable children.
“Are you hurt at all?” she asked.
“Well, my entire body is ridiculously sore from training.” Axel pried himself up.
“But otherwise I am absolutely peachy.” He gave a toothy grin. “I could run fifty miles, yessir.”
“Your sense of sarcasm is intact at least.” she mused. Glynda extended a hand.
“Thanks.” he replied, rising with her help.
“Thank your mother. You somehow inherited her attitude.”
“What about my dad? Do I have his-”
“You mostly lack his more eccentric tendencies. Thankfully. Let us leave it at that.”
Axel shrugged. Glynda’s knowledge of his dad’s teenage-era peculiarities were for the moment concealed to him. For the time being, he was simply content to see a friendly face. Even if that face more often than not displayed a perpetual expression of annoyance to all around her.
Axel slowly strode to the couch, grabbing his gauntlets and reattaching them to his arm.
“You have completed your weapons.” Glynda observed.
“I have. Took me way too long just to fix the extending mechanism.” Axel looked up at Glynda with a raised eyebrow. He couldn’t tell if it was a legitimate statement or if it was his teenage mind working wonders with words “Aunt Glynda, did that sound like a-”
“On the contrary,” she silenced him “you should be proud of yourself. Most students require an entire school year in Signal to construct and perfect their own. Even your father took longer to make his...Unique construct. Congratulations Axel.” Glynda eyed the gauntlets with practiced eyes, and found the craftsmanship to be satisfactory.
“Thanks Auntie.” Axel was positively glowing at his idol’s appraisal. With a final adjustment to his gauntlet’s securing mechanisms, he looked up to face Glynda with a proud smile. But Glynda’s eyes gazed into Axel’s own, and saw he wasn’t nearly as cheerful as he looked. His smile was being faked, and the glint in his eyes was dull. The little Krieger boy was merely putting on a show for her. Unfortunately it wasn’t one she was unfamiliar with. The boy had yet to notice the slight crimson tint in his eyes glowing circuitry-like patterns.
Katherine had said that Alexander theorized it was some chemical imbalance affecting the glow. Whatever it was, the appearance of the shade indicated the aftermath of his episodes.
Today, it was more prevalent than Glynda had ever seen before, in both person and the images Katherine emailed her. Glynda had a knack for finding the smaller details, but she didn’t need it to see the red marks in Axel’s eyes.
“So, what brings you to our humble abode?” he asked, not noticing Glynda’s inspection.
“For the most part I am here on business with Katherine.”
“Can I ask if this business involves Grimm?” Axel asked with a sly grin.
“Hopefully you will get to hear about the mission I have next week. But I must inform your mother tonight first.” Glynda looked at her watch.
“Which should be in thirty minutes as a matter of fact.”
“Really?” Axel was surprised. “I thought it was still mid-afternoon..”
“You work too hard Axel. I rarely say this, but take some time to relax.” Glynda spoke with a rare sympathetic look in her eyes. She beckoned Axel to follow her, and he quickly caught up with her in a stroll down the halls of Kreiger Manor. He was at first surprised that Glynda of all people was cautioning him on overworking when working was supposedly all she did, at least if his mom’s tales of Glynda’s legendarily brutal work-ethic during their own days in Beacon were to be believed.
“One must move forward, but charge forth without reservation and you lose your footing.” he quoted.
“I am pleased you remember your assigned reading at least.”
“I suppose that’s one of my dad’s more beneficial qualities.” Axel chuckled.
“True. He may have been a bit frail in combat, but I could never question your fathers intelligence. He can always craft a device to solve problems.” she sighed. “They didn’t always work as I’m sure you know, but at the very least he worked hard, and stayed dedicated to his projects until he somehow ended up building that colossal company of his.”
“Hey Auntie, you’ve said only two people ever matched your flawless record at Beacon. I know dad was one, because he sometimes rambles about his ‘glory days’ at dinner.”
“Yes. Your father was one, the other was your mother’s best friend.”
“Morrigan. From what mom said, she was a great woman and Hunter, right?”
Glynda’s eyes flashed with an emotion that almost nobody saw. Sadness.
“She was very much so. Not only was she my academic equal, but she had even rivaled me in combat. Between her and your father’s fierce competition, I had my work cut out for me.”
“I bet you loved it though Aunt, having rivals that had you constantly on your toes.”
“...It was not...Unpleasant.” she admitted, but smiled. “Morrigan was a great rival, and an even greater friend. She was always full of love and joy, and we could always count on her skills.”
“I wish I had met her. I only ever remember the funeral when I was about six.” he sighed.
“Her passing was hard on all of us. But we know she is in a place truly worthy of her,” Glynda looked to the side as her lips curled in a petulant frown. “and hopefully one that can withstand her glee for apocalyptic spell work.”
“I bet a lot has changed since your time.” Axel looked up at her with genuine awe. In the orange sunlight of a hot summer’s day, the golden rays shined on Glynda’s hair. She glowed, an almost divine figure and legendary Hunter, talking to him as a friend and a godson. He had read entire books on famous and notable Hunters in history, and Glynda was one of the most decorated of them all. One who stood against entire armies, overwhelming odds. This was what he truly wanted. To be a legendary hero.
“It has. These days I am not focused solely on battling Grimm…”
“What else could you possibly be focused on?” Axel asked, slightly confused.
“Protecting, Axel. Defending the future to be specific. I did say I was mostly here on business with your mother, but there is another reason for my arrival.”
“Your intense love for children showering you with praise?”
There was a brief but deathly silent pause from her.
“The other reason is that I hope to ensure the future of Remnant has protectors. The next generation inevitably must take up the duty of the previous ones. Leadership of nations, production of goods, the collecting of knowledge. But in this world, the most important is the protection of human and faunus kind, for that we need men and women willing to rise up to the challenge and serve as guardians for others. Today I hope to ensure the future has another such guardian.” Axel’s eyebrow arched in response. Tonight was certainly going to be interesting, even when not considering the fact that the “Twin Devils of Beacon” would be under the same roof. Speaking of which, he couldn’t pass up this opportunity.
“Aunt Glynda, you said my dad was an excellent student. What about mom?”
“Ah yes. Your mother was an absolute genius when it came to physical combat and battlefield tactics. But to put it bluntly, if I may?”
“Sure thing.” Axel said. He knew exactly where this was going.
“When it came to homework, group projects, or a task that required any degree of studying, your mother was without a doubt,” Glynda breathed in deep. “The absolute worst student I ever had the immense displeasure of having to work with!” She bellowed.
“I HEARD THAT, WITCH!” Katherine’s voice echoed through the entire house like the thunderous wrath of whatever divine power. Though if there was a god, it had been long since scared off by Axel’s mom. Glynda was hardly convinced though.
“THAT WAS MY INTENTION, DAMON!”
There was a good chance that between the “Wicked Witch” and “Carnage” Katherine, no amount of money would be able to repair the damage brought forth from their “childhood squabbles.” Surely, dinner was going to interesting.