Another long day, another painfully slow talk with a politician too scared to take action against the Grimm, but not so afraid that they wouldn’t immediately enlist the aid of and offer hefty paychecks to a pair of Hunters to save them. If that wasn’t annoying enough on it’s own, the damnable fools had been bossing professional Hunters around on how to deal with a threat they had been trained for years to fight against.
The paperwork and meetings were an important aspect of doing Hunter work. After all It was necessary to coordinate and catalogue Grimm attacks to predict patterns and allocate resources, it’s just that there were days when it could weigh on a person’s shoulders like so many bricks. Blabbering, incessant bricks.
For the Grimm Reaper and Wicked Witch it was relieving to just get outside. Now that they went through with the usual bureaucracy, the two of them could get some coffee, kill some time together, and enjoy the night air. Frigid, howling night air that rushed through the high mountains located north of the city. In the late autumn the nights were getting quite cold. It was a good think they got two cups each, otherwise they’d both be very cranky.
“I still cannot believe you talked me into this Glynda!”
Of course there were some things two extra large coffees couldn’t cure, like the furious ramblings of a half-demon woman with a serious vendetta against the very concept of peace and quiet itself. Katherine had been ranting from the first second they stepped out of the mayor’s office to the coffee store, to their stealth transport, through the mountain pass, and up to their current lofty position. What’s more, she had continued talking without once losing her place in what Glynda was convinced was a script of grievances. Katherine’s emotions had been boiling up the entire day, any second she could burst. It was a wonder she was even able to keep herself from smashing the entire mountain range in frustration. Thankfully she’d only cause one or two minor rock slides since they’d arrived.
“This. Is. Ridiculous!” Katherine’s fist slammed into the cliffside with force that shook the mountain. Off in the distance Glynda could hear the cracks and crashes of pieces of the mountain being displaced, falling and shattering to bits that stumbled down to the valley.
Okay, so Katherine had caused three rock slides since they’d arrived. Still it was progress, after all she’d caused three times that many in their first semester, and no less than two earthquakes under the mess hall.
“What ever do you mean Katherine?” Glynda was curious to see if she could get a few more of the natural disasters out of her friend before the day was out. Katherine certainly seemed eager to provide with eyes that could outright incinerate with the fire Glynda could see in them, clear as day.
“I mean Witch, that your idea of bringing Axel with us was utterly ridiculous.” Katherine snarled in a demonic tone. “I still haven’t the foggiest clue on how you managed to convince me it was anything close to a good idea!” Katherine’s fist clenched so tightly that her knuckles turned white, and even started shaking a little as the Grimm Reaper continued to ramble on. The sight was oddly amusing for Glynda.
“Perhaps you should calm yourself Katherine, relax a bit before the attack comes.” Glynda spoke to her with neutral voice and demeanor. Though her calming words had the exact opposite effect on her oh so tranquil, collected friend. Just as the very last syllable left Glynda’s lips, the titanium sledgehammer that was Katherine’s fist slammed through the cliffside. It was as if solid rock was paper under her strength, and the mountains reflected this fragility when the ground the two stood on shook. Shook so intensely that fissures cracked into its surface, branching out from when Katherine’s fist collided. Dust fell on their feet and rocks tumbled all over the formerly flat area that was their perch. Glynda could see the very top of their own mountain start to crack, scattering pieces down its sides. One such slab plummeted straight to them with ever-increasing speed.
“Rain can be so irritating.” Glynda muttered. With a single flick of her wrist, the massive chunk of rock ceased all downward momentum mere feet above their heads. Now it was coated in a faint purple glow of her magic, an amusing sight for the Wicked Witch. She rotated the boulder in the air with the slow movements of her fingers, watching it with mild interest to pass the time. Meanwhile, Katherine remained where she was though she had removed her fist from the cliffside. Somehow her coffee was still intact, which was quite impressive and a real sign of her unique self-control. Though Glynda quickly tired of this enforced silence, and with a huff she dropped her hand while simultaneously slamming the boulder deep into their perch with a nearly deafening crunch.
“Katherine.” Glynda called her friend, but she remained silent and stationary. “You do not need to reiterate the nature of this mission.” Katherine’s eyes suddenly shot up to glare right into Glynda’s own with feral fury, barely restrained by her control.
“Shouldn’t I? Because as I remember, you told me to bring my own child into a town about to be attacked by Grimm! What part of that sounds remotely sane to you, Witch?” Glynda sighed, rising from her seat as she put down her coffee.
“The town won’t be attacked, because we’re here.” Katherine seemed to not hear Glynda’s words again, in fact she was still clenching her coffee like it was a Grimm’s neck.
“I’m not comfortable with bringing him anywhere dangerous. He should be at home, safe and reading books or tinkering with his gadgets, not in a town where a horde of Grimm is readying to attack. That boy can’t be somewhere like this. For all we know his eyes could be acting up right now. What if he gets an attack and-”
“Damon!” Glynda shouted, shocking Katherine from her stupor. The Hunter looked at Glynda with still angry eyes, like Glynda was the source of the problem.
“Please do not give me that look, it’s very unsettling.” Katherine smirked at that. “Furthermore, please do not blame me for the decision to bring Axel here. You still have a poor memory after all these years, you forget that you agreed to this Katherine. You agreed to my idea of bringing your son here. I listed out all the risks to you, I held back no details or hypotheticals if you agreed.
“Do you think you can just-”
“And you did agree. You agreed knowing full well the risks you’d be taking.” To this, Katherine had no defense, nor accusation to fling at her friend. The fire in her eyes, while never having died since the day she was born, receded as her anger died down as well.
“I know I agreed. But I’m still not happy that I did Glynda. Axel shouldn’t be out here, he should be back home.” Glynda sighed, knowing she was about to risk her neck with her next words.
“With whom exactly? Alexander? He’s a loving father, but he’s far too busy with his company to even think of being a stay-at-home father to look after Axel. Do you mean his siblings then? The twins are already busy with military training and their schooling to be reliable babysitters. Nadja is...Less than fond of him either. Katherine, leaving him at home would make him miserable and hopeless with his situation, and no doubt resentful of you.”
Katherine made a single face at her old friend, and with a mighty breath and the full power of the Damon bloodline, she took a heavy swig of her coffee. Well, at least she was certainly alert and ready for a long night fighting the good fight against Grimm.
“You really know how to lay down some gospel truth Glynda.” She chuckled, her voice coated in a bitterness that rivaled that of the jet-black coffee in her hand. Oddly enough, she was one of those people who would calm down the more coffee they ingested. After a few more gulps, Glynda could see and hear Katherine’s breathing slow.
“I know this is hard for you Katherine. But if you don’t let Axel take even the tiniest risk he’ll-” Katherine raised a finger, signaling Glynda to stop for a moment.
“What is it? Hear anything?” Glynda dropped into combat mode as she turned her senses to the outlying forest and mountains through which the horde would have to wind through in order to reach the mountain pass. Grimm could be approaching at any moment at this late hour. Fortunately Katherine’s own alertness dropped, shaking her head as she slumped back down on the hard ground.
Glynda strolled over to her comrade, the woman that she considered her closest friend in her life. She didn’t know the pressures of having a spouse or a family. For Glynda, the job was all that really mattered to her, is was all that she had wanted. Katherine wanted all of that and more.
“Katherine,” Glynda sat beside her. “Axel has potential he doesn’t even know is there. If he’s given a chance I have no doubt he could become a fine Hunter alongside so many others. You love him and fear for him, as you should. But if you-”
“If I don’t let him get out and try, I’ll be stifling his potential.” Katherine sighed. “I know it all Glynda. I’ve thought about this hundreds of times in the last week. That boy wants to be a Hunter so badly. I want him to succeed Glynda. I just can’t help but feel scared for him, he could have an episode at any moment.” Her fist clenched around her coffee again, only this time Glynda could feel a dark energy channeling into her fist. Katherine was channeling, however inadvertently, her demonic powers.
“Yet here I am, waiting on a far-off mountain for a Grimm horde that by rights we shouldn’t even have to bother with! Don’t lecture me on how this is our ‘mission!’ I know this is important Glynda, but I can’t just help but worry with these damned maternal instincts!”
Katherine’s wrath fell upon her coffee cup But instead of crushing its plastic frame to pieces as Glynda expected, the cup was launched high into the air, flung with the might of Katherine’s arm. The cup had no downward arc as it rocketed off into the horizon, it only kept flying up and up into the atmosphere, and Glynda swore she could see a tiny vapor cone around it not unlike that around a jet breaking the sound barrier. When she could no longer see it, Glynda turned back to see her friend leaning up against the still dented and fractured cliffside with her arms cross and a stiff frown on her face.
“I’m just a bit tense is all Glynda.” she grumbled.
“I know Kat.” Glynda rose from her own seat and reached down into the box they acquired from the coffee shop, pulling out another extra large cup. When the Grimm Reaper was on the war path, one learned to have several extra coffees on hand.
“But Axel won’t be in any danger. We’re here to fight the threat, your son is back in Gale, where he can watch us alongside Lieutenant Bastet from behind giant, firepower-laden
turrets. He will see the people in the city afraid of the Grimm threat, and us fighting to protect them from said Grimm.” Glynda leaned up to her friend. “Coffee?”
“Oh God yes.” Katherine snatched the mug out of her friend’s hand. With a single dip of the lid, she took in a massive gulp of the searing hot liquid, being nothing more than lukewarm water to her iron stomach and throat.
“That help?” Glynda asked.
“Mostly.” Katherine affirmed. Glynda nodded with a miniscule smile. From seeing her friends calm if grumpy demeanor, she could tell the storm in Katherine’s eyes had subsided. She was still worried beyond belief for her son, but she had spoken her mind to someone who would listen - with the occasional snark - and blown off steam. She was at least calmed enough to focus on their mission. Now she just needed something to pulverize.
“You’ll feel better once the Grimm get here.” She assured as Katherine kept on chugging. Upon hearing her friend. Katherine abruptly lowered her coffee, looking off to the side with narrowed eyes. She quickly laid down the mug on a nearby boulder and gently pushed Glynda aside to gain a clear view of the distant valley. She sniffed the air, her heightened senses stretching across the landscape. Glynda set aside her own coffee and readjusted her glasses.
“Where are they?”
“Ten clicks to the north, and twelve clicks to the north-east and north-west. There’s three herds of Grimm coming from different lairs and converging with each other as they get closer. That’s new.”
“What is?” Glynda asked, readying her riding crop.
“Usually its just the largest herd that comes to attack, the one with the most strength gets the first pickings. The smaller groups stay back and scavenge what they can. They’ve never cooperated like this before. They’re gathering together Glynda.” Katherine quickly whipped around to glare at her friend. “They’re coming, fast.”
“How delightful.” Glynda chuckled. She cracked her knuckles, eyeing the valley with her less honed senses. It was getting to the point that even she, with her measly human sense could smell and hear the approaching horde. The Grimm had a distinct smell of sulfur that was rather faint when a single one of them was near. But an entire herd of them were impossible to not notice when the cloud of their stench came drifting by. As it was now, Glynda was just beginning to catch the scent. They were coming, and they were indeed coming very fast.
“They’re moving faster than we thought.” she said. Katherine agreed.
“At this pace we’ll be able to box in the entire horde. I’ll close off their only route of escape with Dämon Kraft.” Katherine drew a small black rod patterned with dark blue flames, barely the length of her forearm.
“Oh yes Katherine. Obliterate them with the might of a single minuscule rod.”
“Come now Witch, you know me better than to show a silly thing like restraint when it comes to Grimm.” With a flick of her wrist, Katherine’s weapon quickly extended into a six-foot staff that she twirled in her hand. Her weapon. Her magnificent tool that mowed down and burned all who would oppose her. Made of material her clan kept hidden from the world, precious metal that made it nigh indestructible.
“I can expect you will be using your more...Unique abilities yes?”
Katherine nodded in response, and signaled Glynda to take up position several feet behind her. Glynda quickly strolled to her spot and readied her riding crop, something she found far more useful for channeling spells and directing objects than a flimsy wand or cumbersome staff. From where she stood, she could begin readying her spells while being clear of Katherine’s aura. Some things existed that even the Wicked Witch needed to stand clear of, and one of those was a half-demon awakening their power.
Katherine jabbed forward with the arm holding her staff. The ends bend towards her, several mechanisms within unfolded a tiny slit in the staff to spring out a thin but durable cord. The cord’s arrow nock shot out from the center, pulling the cord taut and finishing the weapons transformation. No longer a mere staff, it was a mighty bow to rain down hellfire.
Glynda could feel that deep ocean of power stirring in her friend, a strength Katherine rarely used. She could feel rumblings of it in the air right now, electrifying the atmosphere itself with a dark power as Katherine’s voice changed. It became deep. It became black. It became demonic.
“Coram me inferno.” The air around Katherine burst and the ground cracked. Her body illuminated with a fiery blue aura. It possessed no heat and it moved like slow water, but it had a weight to it like the deep sea. Katherine’s hair lit with a far brighter flame, and moved about as if caught in an invisible wind.
“Aperta sunt, et vident indignis.” The blue flames exploded as Katherine spoke the second line of her chant. What was once a sluggish flow in the air had flared into a silently raging fire. Katherine’s hair thrashed in the air while her eyes turned a deep blood red. Eyes that had been memorialized in song throughout human history. If the eyes were the windows to the soul, than Katherine’s eyes showed a power born from the darkest pits of Hell. Pure darkness repurposed through Katherine and her clan to burn, to freeze, and to wipe the whole of Remnant clean of the Grimm. So when Katherine looked over to Glynda, she found it a bit unsettling when those eyes met her own with all the hellish power they possessed. It only grew worse when Katherine smirked.
“Come on Glynda, let’s make the Grimm go kablooey!”
And then reality came crashing back down around Glynda’s eyes.
“Just fire your damn arrows Damon.” she hissed.
“Aye aye Kapitän!” Katherine looked back out at the horizon, where the night wind howled through the air. Be it gales or blizzards, the wind didn’t matter to her archery. Katherine cracked her wrist, and then cracked the air around her free palm with power. A ball of red-black flame sparked into existence in her grasp. Katherine drew back the bowstring and shaped the ball into a massive flaming arrow. For several tense moments she waited.
“How close are they to the valley?” Glynda asked through her meditation.
“We could just burn them up before they even arrived.”
Katherine simple shrugged.
“How can I miss out on the opportunity to show off for my kids? Besides Glynda, I know you can’t wait to show Axel the indomitable power and might of the one and only Wicked Witch.” Glynda’s mood turned sour, the slightest crack in her concentration.
“You aren’t saying no.” Katherine taunted in her singing tone.
“Damon, fire the damn arrow before I rip your-”
“The Grimm are in position! Fire in the hole!” Katherine aimed at the thin stretch of land that opened into the small valley, and released the arrow. In defiance of gravity the arrow traveled into a deadly straight line and whistled through the air. The arrow disappeared into the night, and for a few seconds there was silence.
Then the other end of the valley exploded. A massive fireball erupted where the arrow struck, with a shockwave that vaporized the nearby trees, scorched the earth, and even rocked the mountain range to scatter even more gigantic boulders and fracture them into more jagged pieces. The fire spread across the bottleneck, roaring so loudly that Glynda could hear it from even miles away. The light was like the opposite of light. Its glow was unsettling and in defiance of reality. This transcended Dust and magic itself. There were some days when Glynda was glad there were so few of Katherine’s kind left in Remnant.
Katherine thrust her arm forth again and Dämon Kraft’s parts clanked and whirred, reverting the weapon back into its staff mode. She twirled the mighty weapon overhead, and slammed it into the rockface. With a slow breath she dispelled her Damon power. Her blazing aura disappeared into the air and her eyes reverted to their normal color.
“There, the trap is set.” Katherine said. Glynda merely sighed.
“Your Ignem Inferni magic is always so destructive.”
“You mean effective!” Katherine boasted. “Now come on. I want to tear these things limb from limb before they get near my kid.” She ripped her staff out of the rock, readying it at her side. “Let’s get down there.”
“For once Katherine, we agree completely.” Glynda stood beside her friend. They stood at the precipice, looking out on the valley.
The forests mostly obscured the ground, but Glynda could just make out the black shapes beneath the green. Hundreds and hundreds of writhing, scrambling shapes that were racing to the only other way out, straight to Lantern’s Gale. These creatures sought only to tear and rip and eat the populace. Many times before they had succeeded. Humans past had fought and died against them, only to one day fall in combat, freeing the creatures to wreak havoc on humanity.
Today was to be yet another day when the Grimm who expected a herd of sheep, would find two Hunters before them. The Wicked Witch and the Grimm Reaper would crush this horde, and they would do so thoroughly and magnificently. Without a word to break the silence they lept into the open air. They flew off the cliffside into the jaws of death, determined to shatter the teeth and burn the tongue.
From the city of Lantern’s Gale, the only sign the people had of the oncoming storm was the sound. It was not the sound of Grimm howling in the night. That was inaudible; masked by the rumble of the mountains, the shaking of the ground, and the unnatural roar in the air from an unknown source. People could tell where it came from though, the distant mountains where two powers beyond comprehension were fighting the swarms.
From atop the wall, two unsuspecting but anxious people watched the spectacle. Up this high, Axel and Bastet could see the glow of a small-scale war being waged. It was hard to make out without the binoculars. But if they used the binoculars, the two would be blinded by looking too closely at what could only be described as raw power. It was the might of humanity destroying the horde of Grimm.
That, and there were two fireballs the size of the skyscrapers. In the mountains they could see the glowing orbs of destruction. One was a radiant and smooth purple, more akin to the steady glow of a lamp than an explosion. The other was a more fiery variant that was covered in a deep sapphire blaze. Axel didn’t need to use his Aura sense to know which was which.
“Now that Bastet, that is what happens when my mom doesn’t get her morning coffee...Or when she has too much evening coffee...Either way it results in pain for everyone involved.” Axel chuckled as he leaned up against the wall from their catwalk. He was practically choking from trying to hold back his laughter.
“I bet Glynda planned that. She knew what would happen if mom got too much coffee! So she used my mom’s caffeine rage! I can see it now!” With the image of his mom tearing apart the countryside screaming for more coffee etched into his mind, Axel fell on his back in joyous hysterics. For the first time in a month he ignored the pain of falling on a hard surface that was utterly trounced by the image of the Grimm Reaper craving caffeine. Bastet for one, was less amused and more horrified.
“I knew that Miss Krieger had a knack for collateral damage, but seeing this level of...Overkill completely eclipses everything I ever saw in the military. This power breaks all the laws. Physics, dust-conversion, nature. Everything, smashed to tiny little pieces..”
“Yep, mom’ll do that! Everything crumbles when she’s out for coffee!” Axel giggled.
“One explosion of this size I haven’t seen since...Ever.. Never. Not possible. Incomprehensible. Unfeasible. Completely incalculable. If it was one fireball that would be acceptable. With all their power and considerable prep time a single Hunter could manifest such an explosion. But these are two, two massive fireballs created at a moments notice. The two of them did it with such ease. The power of those two is-”
“Incalculable?” Axel interrupted. Bastet saw that he was still on his back, but quickly rising back to his feet. “It’s amazing, I know.”
“You aren’t the least bit frightened by seeing your mother conjure up so much power on a whim? The fact that we can at this moment see her carving apart hundreds, maybe thousands of Grimm to shreds like paper-mache does not fill you with the most minuscule amount of fear, dread, anxiousness-”
Bastet’s neck creaked as it rotated to look at the boy with no sanity. The boy was watching the destruction not seen since the dawn of the planet with childish awe. So either he lived in an environment far more dangerous than any on Remnant, or he had discarded every single last marble he possessed years ago. Based on what his file showed and the training methods that Miss Krieger put her children through, either one was equally possible.
“Are you alright Bastet?”
“Pardon?” Bastet’s mind had wandered off to parts unknown in but a few seconds. She didn’t notice that the boy with no sanity had regained his footing. With his curious eyes, he looked out on the battlefield.
“Well, I am not unpleasant at this point in time. I expect I will acclimate to the sight of my boss wreaking untold havoc on the landscape. It’s unsettling, unnerving, eery, but I will adapt.”
“Well, you do get used to it after a time. But I don’t mean that.”
“I do not follow Krieger.” Bastet responded. Very rarely was she ever left in the dark.
“Well..I apologize if this is sudden considering the fantastic light-show, but did you notice anything odd on the way up here? I’ve had this feeling since we arrived. One second, I’m going to feel out the air.” Axel’s eyes narrowed. He wasn’t focusing on the horizon. He wasn’t even looking at the battle that was lighting up the entire mountain range. Bastet could feel it in the air around them, a power that unknowingly resembled that of his mother. His eyes were unfocused while his other senses cast themselves forth into the air.
It was a fairly common ability commonly called Aura sense. One’s aura was normally confined to their body and extended onto tools or weapons. But when a person gained enough experience with their aura, it could extended outward as an energy field. But the most unique usage, and the least common was an ability seen only in those with what could only be described as having a unique resonance with the world.
According to the few accounts describing this phenomenon, it could be a positive outlook on life, or a nihilistic view of the humanity, or a feeling of connection to the world itself. Simply put, it was a belief or view of the world held so strongly by the user that it attuned them to the world of Remnant. With it they could sense the presence and even possibly emotions of others.
“Do you sense anything?” she asked. Axel scowled from where he stood.
“I can feel the hordes my mom and aunt are fighting. Its like a big gray mass.” he chuckled. “Though its hard to feel them at all when mom and aunt Glynda are glowing like two suns. If this is what true Hunters are capable of then I got quite a ways to go.”
Axel’s smile was one of sheer awe and amazement. That his two mother figures had such power in them, and chosen to use that power to defend human and faunus alike…He didn’t have words to describe the pride, amazement, dumbstruck, and the thousands of other emotions rushing through his head.
There was an indescribable glory in their heroics. The glory of being creatures who could wreak untold havoc and destruction, yet focused it on the Grimm, away from humans. The glory of being etched into legend and memorialized in songs that would be shared in the pubs and schoolyards and campfires. This was what he wanted, to become a legend! A shining beacon for justice, courage, power! To be something more than a mere man, more than human. He’d be Axel Krieger, legendary Hunter of the Grimm, known for the rest of human history. It was the highest achievement any person could reach.
Glory....It sounded so appealing, to be recognized by everyone as you walked down the street, to have children and women lining up to meet you and get an autograph. Lots of famous Hunters were given monuments. Olaf the Insurmountable and “Whirlwind” Wesley had statues in Beacon’s capital, and his own mom was known in all the four kingdoms for the countless Grimm hordes she had faced down and destroyed, eventually gaining the nickname “Grimm Reaper.” He could be one as well. A legend. An ideal. A hero to human and faunus kind.
More than human….
No longer a man, just an image...
“Huh? What?” Axel was rudely shaken from his stupor. Everything that had been drowned out in his mind came flooding back in an instant. The feel of the cold metal platform on his hands, the quiet yet warm breeze from the explosions, and most of all the giant curious eyes of Bastet staring into Axel’s very soul.
“Right, sorry about that. I got a bit distracted by...Distractions.” Axel shook his head to clear his foggy mind. This was getting really frustrating for him, thinking about what he wanted; what he wanted to be. It was something that still evaded him. Carnage? He didn’t have the taste for wanton brutality and mayhem, so that was out of the question. Exploration? Being alone out in the vast expanse of nature, away from everyone he knew was something that scared him more than Grimm. Glory...Despite the positives that came with it, he didn’t want glory. Or did he?
He refocused his senses to search for that itch in the back of his head, to find what had put him on edge. But the questions kept nipping at his head almost as bad as his episodes did. Carnage, exploration, and glory had all been lacking in his eyes. He didn’t want them, or he at least didn’t want them as anything to cling to, to serve as his foundation for becoming a Hunter.
There was something else missing, an unknown quality he wanted. No, he didn’t want it. He needed it. Without something to fight for, what was the point in fighting at all!? He didn’t want to mow down his enemies like cattle, to explore a howling wasteland on his own, or to transcend his life as a man to rise into legend. If only he…
“Ah!” Axel’s senses were jolted. More than that, it was like someone had hooked up jumper cables to his skull and fired on all pistons. His mind burned, cooked in the sudden sensation. He lost his tight grip on the wall, crumpling to his side in agony as he yelped in pain.
“Axel Krieger!” Bastet shouted. Without a single movement waisted, she zipped to his side. Her arms darted around his chest and pulled him up ever so gently to rest him against the wall. She had a tough time doing it, the boy was twitching and jerking the whole time.
“Krieger, look at me, focus on my voice.” She had to get him to concentrate, it was the only way to even begin alleviating the episodes. But to her surprise, Axel was focused. His eyes were glossy and fluctuating in their coloration like the videos and reports showed. He was looking right at her. His eyes had gone from their shining green to a dull emerald.
“Bastet, we have to move. We have to get clear.” Axel stuttered while only barely maintaining eye contact with her. Bastet’s expression turned confused.
“What are you talking about? Clarify, give further detail!”
Axel grabbed her wrist, clenching on it with all his might to keep himself in the clear. Bastet wasn’t hurt by his grip, for she was far more concerned with what this boy was saying.
“I felt something out there. Away from that fight in the mountains. It’s not the tiny blip of a single Grimm. When a large enough being is in the range of my senses, it leaves an impact, like tossing a rock into a pool.” Axel was shaking now, truly afraid. “Well somebody dropped a damn boulder into the pool, because I felt something humongous.”
“But that shouldn’t be a problem,” Bastet responded. “your mother and Miss Goodwitch are facing the horde right now. Another stronger Grimm shouldn’t be a problem for them.” Her hope was caste away when Axel shook his head, blubbering incomprehensibly as if speech suddenly left him.
“You mean it isn’t coming from the mountains.” Bastet said. Axel responded with a quick nod, still clinging to her wrist as if his life depended on it, and given what was coming, it very well might. They had to move, had to hide. But Bastet had to know more. They needed to alert the city, get people to safety.
“We need to know from where, can you feel it Axel? Where is it coming from?”
With his teeth clenched, Axel cast out his senses again to find where this massive thing was coming from. He had to make sure he got the position perfect, otherwise the people in the city would get slaughtered. This wasn’t a single horde. When a large group of Grimm were together, they registered as individual specks that blurred together, a great big smear on the landscape. Large, but not producing that much of an effect. But what he felt wasn’t a horde. It was just one single Grimm. Something so big and so powerful that it made the hundreds attacking look minuscule, and it was coming straight here. If he could at least find it, they could defend against it, prevent any casualties. They had to keep the citizens safe, and it started with him finding the damn horror coming right now.
Unfortunately, Axel didn’t need his aura sense to find it.
“It’s...It’s already here.” His shaking hand rose, pointing past Bastet, at the night, cloudy sky. There was a massive shape.
Moving incredibly fast or slow, he couldn’t tell which. The shape was so dark that it would stand out against the pitch black of night. With his mind being knocked in several directions at once, he could only see the wings. Massive wings that reached across the sky. Even when it was miles away, every flap of those terrible wings could be felt in the air around them. It was large, it was hungry, and this massive creature was coming straight at them.
Bastet saw it too, but far more clearly with her greater faunus senses. If Axel was feeling the greatest fear since his accident, it was nothing compared to the unrivaled dread, the horror of seeing a monster that terrified and knowing exactly what it could do. For the first time since he’d met her, Axel saw pure terror on Bastet’s face. He didn’t need to warn her of the danger of this threat, she already knew from the slightest glance.
“Can you run Axel?” she asked. Axel shook his head, but rose to his feet anyway.
“Run. We have to run. No time to stop.”
He still couldn’t control his speech, but that didn’t matter. What did matter was getting the hell down the wall before that thing reached them. In his current state he could barely stand upright, so she pulled his arm over her shoulders, supporting him with her own strength that helped Axel steady himself. The elevator was some distance away, and from there they could get to a bunker away from whatever terrifying creature was coming at them. It was a slim chance, but it was the only one they had.
They moved with all the speed they could muster with Axel in his rattled state. His body still jerked even as they ran for their lives. The metal pathway thumped under their footsteps, an unsteady beat. Bastet could only guess that Axel was being hit with an episode the very second he had sensed the massive Grimm headed their way. If the episodes were a fear response, it was entirely appropriate in this situation.
“Can’t tell where it is. Getting close. Don’t know where.”
“It is right behind us Axel, moving straight at us. Focus on running, moving, fleeing.”
“Coming too fast. Can't escape, can't flee before it swallows us whole!”
“Don’t worry, if we can just reach the elevator-” Bastet’s words died in the air. She hadn't stopped speaking, but the sound of her voice was crushed.
They couldn't be heard when a terrible shriek thundered from all directions.
It was the sound of the sky itself being ripped to shreds. The anger and hunger of a monster echoed in the air with a disorienting screech that made the skin crawl on every person in Lantern’s Gale, and that sensation was swiftly followed by the countless screams. As if in response to a bird call, the populace let loose their own horrified wails. The Grimm was here, it wanted to feed, and everyone knew. Axel could hear the voices, he could hear the cries of children. Every man, woman, and child in Lantern’s Gale screaming in terror. The sound of it hurt more than his episodes by a thousand fold. Their fear was his own.
Then his senses registered a shadow overhead. For a split second he, Bastet, and a large section of the wall were covered in the shadow of death itself, as if the wrath of the heavens were focused on them and them alone. Fleeting yet instantly terrifying was the shade they ran under. But it only lasted a second, and for a brief moment Axel thought they were safe.
But just as quickly as the air went silent, the peace was shattered. Shattered as a large section of the wall was smashed into pieces. The enormous structure was hit with an unseen object that tore through it all in a second flat. The section containing the elevator wasn’t just demolished, it was completely gone. It was reduced into a jagged divide in the barrier that stretched from the very top all the way to the ground, leaving only a pile of marble-coated metal wreckage.
“Why haven’t those turrets gotten a lock on the Grimm?” Bastet cursed under here breath. “It got close enough to smash the wall, but they don’t have a lock!?” Indeed, for while they had been running for their lives, Axel and Bastet failed to notice that the turrets had been following the movements of the creature overhead, but not a single shot had been fired.
“They can’t.” Axel muttered. “Moves too fast, turrets are too slow to follow.” The one line of escape they had, reduced to rubble on the ground. Bastet could even see the glass and metal box that was their route of escape, now crushed to bits. The Grimm was gone just as suddenly as it appeared. Bastet looked all over the sky for it. The cloud-covered dark sky, washed in gray and inky black was the perfect cover for an airborne Grimm. The monster was using hit-and-run tactics, and its first hit had destroyed their one route to safety.
The air itself shook when another scream came from on high. High above the clouds no doubt. Even from so far, the screech rattled the earth itself, and hurt Bastet’s sensitive cat-ears that were only protected by the thin fabric in her hat. For a split second she flinched, a single moment where she let the fear of the massive Grimm overhead affect her. But in that small moment of hesitation, the screech from high above suddenly changed directions. It wasn’t coming from up in the sky, it was right behind them.
The creature moved with terrifying speed, having dived with such velocity that it reached the wall before Axel could even shout when he saw it coming right at them. Even with wide-eyes and a mind filled to the brim with adrenaline, he could only make out the gigantic wings. They were stretched to their greatest length, creating a low growl in the air as the Grimm flew low. The creature came closer and closer even as he and Bastet ran with all the speed they could muster. He couldn’t even scream as the sensation of hot needles spread across his entire body with every movement he made.
The deep rumble from the wings in the air suddenly changed in pitch, becoming more piercing in a painful instant, and the section of wall they had been stood on minutes before shattered. The crashing sound didn’t stop like it had before though. The metal and marble of the wall was being continually smashed as Axel and Bastet ran for their lives. Foot after foot of the wall was destroyed, and it was moving far faster than the two could run.
“What the hell is happening?” Axel struggled to shout over the shrieks and whines of metal being shredded.
“The Grimm is using its wing is cutting through the walls and turrets! We need to get down into the city before it reaches us!”
Axel looked behind them, and saw a tidal wave of metal and stone, an upturning of the wall that grew larger and larger, behind it was the horrible plow of the wing strong enough to ram the construction without even losing speed. In fact, it was gaining on them! Any second the wing or debris would crush them both!
“Bastet, look out!”
The wing rushed at them with a sudden burst of speed. The rubble wave tripled in size without warning, and cracks formed along the wall. The cracks rapidly overtook Axel and Bastet, racing underfoot. The metal beneath them exploded. Marble flew into the air in large chunks and clouds of dust. Both of them were launched into the air madly flailing. The massive upheaval had caused the wall to shatter in two and burst in all directions.
Axel could barely comprehend what was happening. First he was running, now he was being thrown through the air as the wall both collapsed and burst like a geyser of debris. He was spinning in all sorts of directions, and his body continued to course with the terrible pain. The black wing was a great sword that sliced the barrier. He was flying away from it, barely keeping himself focused to see the Grimm’s wing carve a path with frightening speed. Just as quickly as it caused terrifying destruction, its wing changed it’s angle again, curving up and slicing through more of the wall. The creature disappeared back into the night, and another deafening shriek filled the air.
Time seemed to fall to a slow pace around Axel.
His rapid ascent was a slow drift in the cold wind to him now.
However involuntarily, he could see the full extent of the damage. It was cataclysmic. The wall that had been so proudly constructed now had a massive divide. It was still falling to pieces before his eyes. The slabs of marble and metal tumbled to the ground, shattering more and more as they collided with each other, before crumbling into mere rubble as they hit the earth. The section he was one moments before was...Bastet. Where was Bastet?
As if by reflex, Axel’s eyes activated their zoom function, focusing on the most recently demolished portion of the wall. In the midst of the debris was still flying through the air, Axel saw her. She was scratched and bleeding, but she was alive. For a second Axel was overjoyed that his faunus friend was alright. But her face...
Her eyes were clenched tight in the midst of her launch, and in the chaos and upheaval, her hat slipped off her head. It flew off, releasing a mane of jet-black hair and revealing her tiny black cat ears beneath. Axel screamed her name as loud as he could even though he couldn’t hear the words himself. But she did hear him, and her eyes opened to see her charge falling to his death. Her bright yellow eyes opened wide, her mouth stretched as she screamed his name, a sound he couldn’t hear, and her arm reached out to someone she could never possibly reach. The sight of her, it was as if he was back in the alley.
When he’d lost Katze.
The only difference was that he hadn’t been able to save Bastet. The Grimm was already on its way back. He knew it even if he couldn’t see the monster coming at her like a bullet. It cast a shadow that grew larger as it came closer to Bastet. For whatever reason, the monster was targeting the two of them. The creature was going to reach Bastet at any second, and there was nothing he could do to stop it.
Axel quickly reached into his jacket and whipped out one of his Tod Gluhen pistols. A single flick of his finger activated the flare rounds, and he fired the shots as fast as his trigger finger would allow. He couldn’t see the damn Grimm, but it would certainly see him.
The flares soared through the air and left small smoke trails behind them in their flight path. Every squeeze of the trigger filled Axel’s arm with agonizing pain, but he didn’t care anymore. If he was to die like this, then so be it. At the very least he could buy Bastet and the city some time, even if it was just by being a snack for the Grimm.
The monster seemed to agree and changed its flight path changed, Axel could see so in its shadow and the heavy gust of another wing-beat. The air echoed with its all-encompassing shriek, this time so loud that it shocked all of Axel’s senses. He lost control, and fell into the pain that clung to him and refused to let go.
His vision was becoming blurry. His eyelids felt heavy, and slowly fell. Everything was drowned out as his senses could only register his pain. He couldn’t scream or grab anything to focus, just exist in the empty air while his death loomed overhead. Then, with the sudden wrenching sensation of his body being snatched from the air, everything went dark, and a horrible painful sleep overtook him.