RWBY: Break the Storm

5: Shipping

Ever since he was four, Axel had always thought that airships were the most luxurious means of travel. They were quite spiffy and shiny when viewed from absolutely any angle, could be outfitted for tasks ranging from combat to search-and-rescue to stealth op’s, and sported some of the most advanced and sophisticated technology in the whole of Remnant. Also, they could fly at mach speeds. Because of their many uses, the vehicles were quite popular. His dad conducted business trips on his own private airship, the military used them frequently for stealth, rescues, full on dogfights with Grimm, and there were even some variants designed solely for racing. For Axel, airships were the way of the future, where gasoline and oil would be antiques of the past to be replaced by glorious glowing flying machines.

So why didn’t this one have air-conditioning!?

With companies sporting large enough budgets to purchase entire islands, one would think they could outfit their top of the range transportation with some basic necessities, like cooling for when airships inevitably crowded with panicked civilians. Naturally when people were shoved into one space together, they tended to make the air a lot warmer with all their pesky exhalations and shared body heat. This resulted in what should have been an exciting trip on a flying wonder into a pained squeeze in a cramped chair between a squealing baby in its mothers arms, and a particularly burly soldier who kept fiddling with his rifle. The former annoyed Axel to no end, and the latter was some kind of escort, though Axel wasn’t sure why such a service was needed for a civilian transport. But what he did know that was between them and the countless other sweaty and panicking people, his sanity was being shaken down to its roots.

Axel wasn’t even sure why these people were panicked, just that their constant fretting and blubbering had turned his first airship ride into a whirlwind of painful elbow jabs, crowded rooms, and the deafening squeals of children echoing through the ship. Even with three spacious decks there was not one spot where he could sit down and read his books.

Thankfully airships did have observational areas, an outdoor section. On the front of the ship, this space wasn’t used by most people because the average person did not possess the stomach for seeing the staggering heights the airships could reach. Even the small squad of troops on board couldn’t withstand the environment for more than a few minutes before they had to quickly attend to other matters. But for a boy who had fallen to his near-death, the view was quite pleasant.

". . .That was dark." he muttered.

Axel’s grim musing left him a little disturbed. Since when did he start viewing the accident as a benefit like this? He couldn’t remember when he had started thinking along such lines, and it worried him to picture what kind of person he’d grow up to be. He didn’t want to end up a brooding sour man with a constant five o’clock shadow and an inner monologue. If he started wearing all black leather...

But one glance down at the lush fields, the shimmering rivers, and distant snow-capped mountains laid his fears to rest. All thoughts of black leather, no matter how comfortable it might be, disappeared from his mind. From this high, the landscape blended together, going from dark green trees to bright lime-green fields. The features flowed like the brush marks of a painting, as if whatever divine power existed had hand-crafted it all to produce a work of art unlike any seen in creation. Anyone gazing upon the marvel would surely find something worthwhile, something inspiring.

It wasn’t a cure for his eyes, but it was a damn good sight. He was scared at first to walk out into the roaring wind and rather frigid air. All it took was a few steps forward. But if he hadn’t moved forward he would still be trapped inside like the others on board the ship, too frightened to go anywhere, to see what was before him. Once he gained his airship legs the winds were beneath concern, and he could take solace in what he had accomplished; enjoying the scenery. That and getting away from screaming children, which was an accomplishment in and of itself.

With the wind blowing in his face and the cool scent of a pine forest drifting into the atmosphere, the thought occurred to Axel that he was a very long way from home. Farther than any of his siblings in fact. Nadja was chomping at the bit when she heard she’d be stuck at home while Axel went on a “high class vacation.”

According to Aunt Glynda, this town would be over a three hundred miles from Beacon. Not that far considering Remnant’s massive size, but with the constant threat of Grimm such a journey was unthinkable to most of the populace. The majority of people were comfortable to stay within the four kingdoms boundaries, so only the very brave, foolish, or wealthy would even start to think about building homes and towns in the more dangerous regions. Which raised the question of why he, a mere boy, was making the journey to one such town.

He had posed that exact question to Glynda and his mom, but the Wicked Witch redirected his question, saying that he would get a roadtrip and a chance to tinker with Krieger technology. It wasn’t that he was ungrateful for the chance, but it was an odd matter over which to make such a journey.

But at the same time he was happy to get outside the house and see the world, from atop an airship no less. This was another benefit of a Hunter lifestyle, you could travel anywhere and everywhere in Remnant. Other professions like soldiers, traders, and archeologist did get to go out and explore or fight monsters, but none of them had the incredible freedom, that sense of having the whole world at your feet that Axel always pictured with being a Hunter. He felt the joy of having the endless possibilities, washing over him in the icy wind and the rays of the sun.

Maybe that’s what he was looking for in being a Hunter, the freedom. Killing Grimm was an important part of it, but he had been thinking long and hard on that, and found killing just wasn’t as appealing as Anton and Katja had described. Whenever he saw those two in the training room, it was like they derided a sick euphoria in the act of ripping their opponents to shreds. He almost felt sorry for the Grimm they fought, and those were just holograms.

Not that it wasn’t fun to fight, but Axel didn’t draw the same kind of joy his older siblings did. For him it was simply fun to use one’s skills in combat and think of solutions to the problem, not tear enemies limb from limb with a grin. So maybe the freedom of a Hunter is what he truly wanted, to travel the world fighting monsters, discovering lost civilizations, and returning home to tell stories of his adventures, like his mom.

Axel smiled to himself as he looked out over the land. It was late afternoon by now, when the sun was beginning to dip to the east and turn its rays a deep gold. He averted his gaze from the burning orb, and caught sight of a small lake in the distance. Surrounded by large trees, it would’ve been difficult to spot from the ground. But from here he could see anything and everything. Its smooth, motionless surface absorbed the sunlight, glowing as if blessed by a higher power. The sight of this, and indeed of all the countryside filled Axel with sheer awe. If he became a Hunter, this would all be his to explore. To see everything it had to offer...Every single inch of it….

To wander….Endlessly.

Hills, caves, oceans, mountains. He would wander across the entire world. In any direction he wanted to, for countless miles. Pausing his travels only when Grimm came his way. Then he would kill them, and continue an eternal journey. No direction. No goal. Only a horizon to journey to. The vast wilderness would be his home. The farthest, darkest corners of the world his basement and attic. All of it would be his to explore. For his entire life. Away from home and family and friends. Only walking and killing. Forever..

Axel felt a shiver run through his spine. In one instant the landscape, with all its expansiveness, appeared a howling wasteland. Filled with great beauty yes, but beauty that seemed only to alleviate the life of one who wandered the earth. They were decorations, simply random shapes formed as the planet was born and shaped for billions of years.

If this is what endless freedom would bring him, he’d rather not bother. Without something to journey to and innumerable possibilities, how was he supposed to find something worth traveling for? Without that thing, that greater something he had yet to find, then he might as well abandon all worldly possessions and become a deranged hermit.

“Damn.” he muttered, turning away from the landscape, leaning against the railing as he looked back at the airships interior. He couldn’t endure the spectacle of nature for much longer. It was still packed with civilians all panicked and sweaty. The sight of them filled with worry was unpleasant, but at least it was an unpleasantry he could cope with. He knew misery, in himself and others. Out there was was the spectacle of nature, but it only decorated the vast reach of the wilderness. The life of a Hunter was to journey in combat against the Grimm, to slay humanities enemies without hesitation or regret regardless of where the evil lay in the world. If he didn’t want to butcher the monsters who sought to kill his race, or journey the planet free of the restraints and limitations normal people were burdened with, than what else was there? There had to be something more for him to reach for…

His mind raced, looking for an answer. Any answer to help him find something to strive for, but the space in his head that contained the answer was a big useless pile of nothing! But just as he was about to start tearing out his hair in frustration, a piercing sound echoed throughout the ship.

“Alex Korite please report to the cockpit, report to the cockpit Alex Korite. Repeat, any person named Alex Korite is to immediately report to the bridge. Post-haste.” The high-pitched shrill of the captain’s first mate, an energetic and squeaky woman Axel had met when he boarded with Glynda and his mom. She had spoken so fast that it was as if she started and ended a conversation by herself, and he didn’t even have time to ask if she needed water, a break, or a single freaking breath until Glynda ushered to the snack bar. Presumably she was still up there with the human-shaped helium deposit.

“Repeat again, a person named Alex Korite is to report to the bridge on the spot. Now. At present moment. Immediately. Muy rapido. Post-haste. Half-past now. Post-haste means immediately.” Her speech pattern was somehow more irritating than Axel’s curious codename. Aunt Glynda said it was necessary to prevent anyone wanting to collect a ransom on a billionaire’s kid. His mom didn’t need a codename given that no man on Remnant would try to threaten the Grimm Reaper. So he was stuck with a dumb codename only barely different from his actual name. He even had the same initials.

“To reach the cockpit, the bridge, the helm, please use the stairs located at the center of every deck. Repeat, use the stairs to reach the bridge. Post-haste.” He also had that high-pitched yammering to put up with. So that was fun.

“Alright alright I’m coming up!” He groaned. He would do anything to end the pestering. He just had to make his way to the elevator. If memory served, that was located toward the bow of the ship, right below the bridge. If this was any other ship, getting there would be a straight shot. But since this place was jam-packed with passengers, it would probably be a lot more difficult.

From the observation area he would have to go back through the labyrinth of sweaty humans. Trying to weave through them all just to get out here was nigh-impossible, and had left him with a fair share of narrow misses from people’s elbows. Going back through the crowd might leave him with far worse, like bite-marks or banged shins. There had to be another way up to the bridge from here. If he couldn’t go inside…

Actually, that wouldn’t be too difficult for him. The airship’s hull was smooth, but he had been able to climb marble walls in the rain. The only danger was the wind, and the airship now seemed to be slowing down somewhat. It was probably nearing the city in fact.

As it was now he was at the very front of the ship with the bridge in the far back, up two decks most likely. If he was quick enough and watched his surroundings as well as the weather, he could pull this off and reach the bridge before Glynda made her first rant.

His first step was to get off this observation area. He looked up, seeing more than a few easy places to grip on the ship’s hull. Easy.

With a few looks around to ensure nobody kept track, Axel crouched low, bending like a cat as he readied himself. Just like Glynda said, ‘take time to prepare beforehand, ready yourself before you jump into the fray.’

He took a single breath,, and jumped with dust-scattering force. He shot straight up, past the numerous windows of the main deck and so quick that nobody inside noticed the gray blur soaring upwards. He kept going up and up, and when he reached the apex of his jump, Axel’s arms shot out and grabbed the ridge of the upper deck’s top window.

Careful to pull his legs up for better support, Axel hopped from window edge to scaffolding to an emergency hatch as he climbed the airships lantern jaw-esque bow. The previously roaring wind was merely a stiff breeze on his back that only made him feel more alive as he traversed the vessel. At the most he’d climbed houses in the slums, but climbing a moving airship was something far more amazing. He flung himself up and over the edge, landing in a roll with not so much as a bead of sweat on his brow, and set off in a quick dash along the ships hull toward the stern, his legs moving with a speed gained from countless hours of training. That and running from his mother’s battering ram hugs.

He kept low to the ground, tilting his body forward with his arms held out behind him. A technique he found that was more useful for maintaining a low profile under cover of night than any practical use in combat.

He raced along the hull with a steady beat of his boots tapping the thick metal that coated the ship. Up here the only things that could see him were birds and those stationed in the cockpit. But as Axel zipped along the last stretch of the hull, he glanced up to see that the present crew were engaged in heated conversation with the Wicked Witch and the Grimm Reaper. Katherine looked absolutely livid at the captain for some reason, while Glynda seemed merely annoyed. That or pleased, or miserable, or in love. It was always hard to tell what exactly she felt. But for the moment, none of them noticed his approach, which was just perfect for him.

Axel made a gentle curve along the starboard side of the ship with a new burst of speed, running near the high rectangular structure of the bridge. Just as it loomed directly overhead, Axel slammed on his breaks to screech to a stiff halt, kicking up a whiff of dust as he did. Then, his boots whirred as they fired up with energy. He crouched low, and jumped just as the soles of his shoes lit with small blue flames. The technology of his prototype rocket boots were strong enough to send him flying at low mach speeds, but he was just fine with using them to increase his parkour abilities. He flew dangerously close to the smooth metal, which raced past him as the rockets flared, propelling him next to the bridge’s window, and switching off as he stepped down to a adjacent platform.. With nary a sound, he rested atop the outlying metal, leaning against the window as the argument continued inside, and an interesting sight it was.

It seemed as though his mom was chewing out the captain for something. Axel couldn’t hear what exactly, but the captain looked no less pleased with the predicament he found himself in; being ranted at by a Hunter known for her terrible strength while his the ship was filled to the brim with panicked passengers and soldiers with itchy trigger fingers. But whatever Katherine was upset over, it didn’t seem to involve the passengers. She had that look in her eyes that Axel had seen whenever any of his siblings would hurt themselves. She had it every time she finished a meditation session with him. Eyes of fierce, terrifying love for someone she wanted to keep safe. Today it was more fierce than he had ever seen before, and it would probably only get worse the longer he wasn’t on the bridge. He just hoped he’d survive the inevitable lecture

With a cautious light in his eyes, Axel tapped the thick glass, creating a sturdy note as a herald of his arrival. Before his hand had even moved for the second tap, the eyes of the Hunters, the captain, and that shrill harpy disguised as a mortal woman all whipped around to see a smiling blue-haired teen waving at them all while perched just outside the bridge. The captain and the lady were just confused, maybe even a bit dumbfounded. Glynda looked about ready to fling Axel across the continent, and his mom was...Terrifying. Thankfully the windows didn’t open.

Or so he thought. He saw the harpy flick a single switch on the control board, and the window that he had been leaning on quickly slid open, thus allowing his rapid ingress inside and an intimate salutation with the bridge floor punctuated by a heavy thud. He forgot those had been installed recently. By his dad’s own company no less.

“Alex Korite is now officially on the bridge.” The squeaky voice declared to the captain. Now he was in pain and be annoyed at the same time.

“I can see that Lieutenant.” he responded, and Axel could imagine the gruff man burying his face into his palm at having a seemingly clumsy kid allowed on his bridge alongside two Hunters. Both of whom came to Axel’s side and pried him from further diplomacy with the floor, much to his relief and Glynda’s exasperation.

“Alex, did you really have to climb the outside of the ship to get here?” Glynda sighed.

“I mean..I didn’t have to, but it was a lot faster than the elevator. More fun too.” The Wicked Witch raised her eyebrow at his attempt at comedy, accepting it as another oddity of the Kriegers. But the Grimm Reaper was considerably less amused. In fact she looked furious with her son.

“Alex,” she ground out, “that was very reckless of you. Did you not once think what could’ve happened if you’d slipped or gotten lost? Or had an episode? Do you have any idea how terrified I was when you didn’t show up when the Lieutenant called for you? Why do you have to make this-”

“Excuse me Katherine.” All three turned to look to the deep voice that spoke. Now that he had regained his senses, Axel saw the captain, a rabbit faunus. Like a captain, he carried himself with impeccable dignity and confidence of a person befitting his station. Unlike a captain, his clothing was ragged, torn, and decorated with several patches. He bore a leather jacket over his official shirt, the only item of clothing that designated his position aside from the pin on his jacket breast.

His pants were a dark brown, faded in places from countless hours spent sailing under the hot sun. He wore some kind of combination of athletic and formal shoes that were the only well-kept piece on him. But despite that, and his adorable bunny ears, he commanded the whole room with a presence that called the attention of even the Grimm Reaper herself. After all, it was his damn ship they were using.

“Before you no doubt scold him into oblivion, I would like to know the lad’s train of thought for climbing all over my ship.” he chuckled. Despite being a well-built and large guy, he seemed only curious with this boy that was of such importance to two world-famous Hunters. He looked at Axel with an inquisitive glint in his eyes. Axel steadied himself and looked back with honesty.

“I wanted to test my abilities. Captain.” he replied.

“How so?” the captain questioned, giving Axel a raised eyebrow, no doubt imitating Glynda. A not entirely unsuccessful attempt that had Axel suppressing the urge to giggle like a schoolboy. That was just the last thing he needed, giggling between two legendary slayers and a ship’s captain.

“It’s just that….” Axel paused, rubbing the back of his head as his mirth died down. “I want to become a Hunter when I grow up. If I want to do that I need to keep in shape, and use any opportunity I can to flex my skills. Climb a wall, spar with a friend, shooting ranges, that kind of thing.” To this reply the captain nodded, but looked ever more curious with this blue-haired Tarzan.

“We’re not in a combat zone kid.” he chuckled. “There’s no need to worry here.”

“It could be a combat zone at any moment.” Axel said, earning a surprised look from the rabbit faunus. “Grimm are hardly known for playing by the rules after all. They’re instinctual and will take any opportunity to hunt us all, which means that any moment is one where a Grimm could attack, even if it’s an airship.” Glynda and Katherine looked at him as he continued, the former looking intrigued while the latter tried to suppress a great swelling of some unknown feeling within herself. Whatever it was, it only spurred Axel to continue.

“If I’m going to be a Hunter, I think I need to be ready for any danger, regardless of supposed safety.So I took the opportunity to make sure I was in shape in case of such a problem. ” Axel finished as he crossed his arms, faintly proud of himself. But then he realized he had effectively lectured a man many years his senior, and possibly insulted his prized vessel.

“Not that your ship isn’t safe, it just doesn’t hurt to be prepared.” Then his self-confidence took another painful dip as his true rationing came to the surface

“That and it was kind of fun to run on an airship.”

For a straight minute, there was only silence. The harpy creature seemed more occupied with averting her gaze away from the current issue in the bridge, looking out on the horizon as she adjusted the controls. Axel remained where he was, rooted to the ground between two of the strongest women on the planet, both of whom were well within their rights to yank on his ear at a moments notice. But the captain grinned, and let out a low, grumbling chuckle deep within his throat. The gruff faunus didn’t look annoyed at all with the words of a kid who’d just run around his ship like an obstacle course.

“Goodwitch, you’ve got quite the interesting kid on your hands.” he laughed. “This one’s got a good head on his shoulders. Can’t say I disagree with his logic,” He eyed Axel “even if you did just hop all over the hull. If this kid’s aiming to be a Hunter I’d say he’s got a good chance.” Glynda, in a true rarity of expression, formed the tiniest of smirks on her lips. To further Axel’s confusion, It was a smirk directed solely at his mom.

“The captain seems to agree with-”

“Glynda, stop talking. Now.” Glynda’s words were utterly stomped into nothing when the Grimm Reaper’s eyes flashed with that same protective rage Axel had seen minutes before. Even with only basic training, he could sense something stirring in his mother’s aura. There was some restlessness in her that threatened to snap at the slightest provocation. This anger wasn’t like her at all, and for all he knew, he was the one who caused it by being late.

“Um, Hunter Katherine.” He looked back to her. “I’m sorry I was so reckless in getting here. I’ll take the elevator next time. I promise.” Axel felt his head dipping in shame, but a hand rested on his shoulder. Glynda’s. Axel’s gaze shot back up to see his godmother positively struggling to give him a reassuring smile.

“Just think twice before you pull a reckless move like this again, understand?” Axel was becoming more confused and uneasy by the second. A giant rabbit faunus who praised him for running all over his ship, and his mom and Glynda had switched personalities. Where was the Wicked Witch who would lecture him endlessly on his mistakes, or the Grimm Reaper who would hug like a grizzly bear? Now it was Glynda who being soft on him, while his mom had looked away from him, gazing out to the horizon with her arms crossed.

“Okay. . .I Won’t. . .Glynda. . .” he muttered as the situation confused him more and more. Fortunately the captain finally regained order on his damn ship, coughing to bring at least Glynda and Axel back to attention.
“Now that we have our precious cargo on the bridge,” He turned to the harpy. “Lieutenant, announce to the ship we are to dock soon. We need to offload these people as soon as possible.”

“Wait, we’re already here?” Axel asked. He had completely lost track of time.

“The ride has only been two hours long Alex.” Glynda looked annoyed. “How long did you estimate the journey was?” Axel felt another shiver go through his spine as the shrieks of children and that terrible smell of sweat resurged in his mind.

“Longer than time itself.” he whispered.

Meanwhile, the mic was clicked into activity by the shrill-voiced woman whom Axel now only knew as the “Lieutenant.”

“Attention all passengers. Airship is nearing destination, return to your seats post haste in the event of turbulence or some meteorological phenomenon that could result in the ship’s instability. To keep you informed, these phenomena include but are not limited to-”

“Please Lieutenant,” Glynda moaned. “Make your announcement more concise.” The Lieutenant seemed to huff in annoyance, but it was almost too quick to be mistaken for a human exhalation.

“All passengers, please return to your seats. We are about to land in the town of Lantern’s Gale. Make sure all you have all your belongings on hand before disembarking. We thank you for choosing to fly Air Peppy.” With that she clicked the mic off, wordlessly shifting to a nearby control panel. Axel looked at at the captain, raising an eyebrow.

“Excuse me, but ‘Air Peppy?’ I’ve never heard of this airline.” To this the captain pointed at his inexplicably shiny badge with a proud grin that showed his massive teeth.

“Welcome aboard the Arwing, captained by yours truly, Peppy Caelum!” He declared, almost knocking the ship off course with a sweep of his arm, though the Lieutenant thankfully caught the controls before any turbulence occurred. Axel could almost hear a groan from Glynda, deep within her throat like she was trying to suppress an intense loathing. As if to hide it, she looked to Axel, switching to her teacher mode.

“We’re using a freelance ship to get to the city. Peppy is an associate of mine, and he was the only one willing to fly us out here on such short notice. He has a knack for pulling off jobs the commercial airlines can't take.”

Axel nodded “That explains why we left at six in the morning at least. But wait, why did we take this ship when there’s already an official route to Lantern’s Gale from the capital?” To this the captain laughed like old Saint Nicholas himself, though considerably more boastful in its tone.

“Because the official lines are all closed right now kid. Nobody wants to go anywhere near Lantern’s Gale right now! That’s why these two called me up, along with all those lovely people you’ve no doubt met.”

This just got more and more confusing for Axel.

“Why doesn’t anyone want to-”

“You won’t need to worry about it at all Alex.” His mother suddenly spoke. “Come look at the view, we’re finally here.” Glynda looked at Katherine with her usual annoyance, though Axel could see an extra edge to it. They didn’t look like they’d kill each other, but Axel sensed they were on the edge of a verbal spar the likes of which he had never seen before.

So to sum it all up, he was in a faulty ship called Arwing with a high-pitched military faunus apparently lacking the need for oxygen, his godmother who looked ready to lay some pain down on someone, his juggernaut mother who was more cross than when she missed her morning coffee, and a rabbit faunus ship captain named Peppy. .

There were two possible explanations for this scenario. Either his episodes had resulted in full-on hallucinations, or the world around him was far crazier than he ever imagined, and he imagined quite a lot. Perhaps a view of the countryside would calm his rapidly deteriorating sanity.

Once he managed to steady himself, Axel scrambled to find a good viewpoint pointedly several feet away from his terrifying parental figures. He found himself settling next to the Lieutenant, who was at least quiet and probably sane as she worked the controls.Then his eyes found themselves being pulled to see their destination, and he found that the view was more amazing than he’d ever imagined. Beneath the shining golden rays of the sun was their destination.

The first aspect of the view that stood out to him was how shiny the town was. Even with his shades on it was almost blinding. It was surrounded by a gleaming snowy white wall that reflected the golden afternoon rays, shining with an intensity that rivaled the sun itself. Thick, smooth, strong walls, decorated with dark veins. Axel realized that it was in fact a marble coating that covered the entire structure. It wouldn’t make sense for it to be entirely marble. Firstly because it would be useless for keeping out Grimm. But most importantly, marble alone would crumble into dust under the titanic weight of the turrets situated on the top of the wall.

Massive black and gray machines sporting four guns bigger than anything he’d ever seen, even his dad’s private basement cannon. The main body was a perfect orb, smooth and just as reflective of the sunlight as the walls. Axel could see at least eight smaller guns situated between their bigger brothers as well, and a small blinking green light that indicated the turret’s status between a few inactive spotlights. A few of them followed the airship’s course as it came closer, no doubt contributing to the captain’s anxiety. Truly a masterpiece of craftsmanship, a literal shining example of firepower. Any single turret would scare off most would-be raiders, but Lantern's Gale apparently had enough money for marble coating on a giant wall, so a couple dozen of the things were no problem for them. He couldn’t wait to be let on the wall and tamper with those magnificent tools of destruction later.

The town itself was thankfully far less sparkly. The area closest to the wall was mainly large grassy fields adorned with large deciduous trees. There was a small lake, only used for scenic purposes by the looks of the smooth paths and benches situated around it.

Further inward, there were small houses. Though a small house for this town were quite lovely. Clean and well-kept, small garden or a porch next to a driveway. Each one was unique in it’s own way with varying colors and layouts. The houses grew larger, rising in stories and quality the closer they came to the town center, which was a small city on its own. There were restaurants, stores, apartment buildings up the wazoo. Towering structures that rivaled the capital city in their magnificence. That, and they were just plain cool. Sharp angles on some, smooth curves on others, each one was varied like the outer houses. Each one was a work of art in their own rights, but together they wordlessly spoke of a city embracing the heights of artistry and engineering. And the city was huge, unquestionably enormous. This wasn't a small village, it was a metropolis. The wall alone was at least one thousand and five hundred feet tall, and some of the buildings absolutely dwarfed them.

There was an aspect that most cities missed, and one that contributed to the cities unnatural gleam was how clean it all was. No smog or smoke, no pollution to speak of. He couldn't even see a garbage dump in the city limits. It was a beautiful balance of nature and technology. According to what he read, Axel learned that Lantern’s Gale was known for having one of the smallest carbon footprints on the planet. The town largely ran on solar energy, and a hydroelectric dam somewhere in the northern mountain range. The cars were electric, as was the public transportation system of streetcars. Their agriculture was largely conducted underground, which would explain why there were very few visible crops.

But what thrilled him, what filled him with absolute glee was that this whole city was his to explore. Not a single inch would hide from him. He'd always wanted to have an entire city in which to run around. Now he had his chance. Turrets, fast cars, and by the looks of it, plenty of areas in which to go roof-hooping.

The ship flew over the wall, passing slowly above the skyscrapers while the Lieutenant transmitted data to the town’s defense systems. Axel could see the landing stations near the town’s.

“So how exactly long will we be here again?” he asked as the ship came in low.

“A few days.” Glynda responded. “You’ll have time to see the sights here, don’t worry.”

“Just remember you two, we’re not here on vacation.” Katherine interjected, glaring at Axel with her arms still crossed. “Glynda and I will be on business while you’ll be looking at the turrets, and only the turrets while we’re here. You’ll have an escort for the duration of our stay here, and I don’t want you running anywhere. Do you understand me kiddo?”

Axel felt that deep sinking feeling in his stomach as his mom’s eyes bored into his very soul. It was like being stared down by a dragon. A dragon that didn’t want to eat him, only hoard him away to its lair. If this was his mom being protective, he could only begin to grasp how her enemies felt when she was in full-on Grimm Reaper mode.

Fortunately, nothing escaped the eyes of Glynda Goodwitch, and she would most certainly notice her friend and colleague staring down her own child.

She knew that Katherine would never dream about harming her children, nor would she allow harm to come to them. Despite her glares, Katherine was just worried sick for his safety. With all the strength of a Hunter and half-demon she would smash aside any opponent that would threaten her children, and be an impenetrable wall against danger for her little ones.

But that was exactly the problem.

Sometimes protection wasn’t the correct course if you wanted somebody to grow and mature. When it was from a menace they couldn’t possibly survive encountering, of course one had to act and shield those to weak to defend themselves. But there was a point when the shield became a barrier for those under its protection, only serving to lock them within, away from the world’s horrors and wonders.

Glynda had nothing but respect, and maybe even a minuscule amount of familial love, for Katherine Krieger. Only a tiny smidgen of it though. But her friend needed to ease up on smothering her child if Axel was to get anywhere, if he wanted to become a Hunter.

For now she could only ensure Axel made it to their hotel room without leaving him further confused and terrified of the situation. At the moment he looked close to fainting, poor little guy. He looked out at the city with a sparkle in his eyes, like so many other potentials she’d recruited. All those eyes filled with wonder at seeing the world around them, the infinite possibilities they could achieve if only they were given a chance to show their abilities. Some of the kids she found proved unable to rise to the challenge before them, while others blossomed with potential into powerful warriors in their own rights. In a world that let so many children slip through the cracks, she’d be damned if she ever let a single one go without a chance.

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