Ch 12 The start
Thought. These eclectic entities were now beginning to awaken within Lan’s mind. It was dark all around him. Lan began to panic because of this but soon realized it was because his eyes were closed. Slowly but surely, feeling began to surface from the dark sea where it had been hiding ever since his consciousness had disappeared. The first thing Lan felt was sharp pain, running through every facet of his body. He groaned as the pain grew stronger as feeling returned to his limbs. The next sense to return to him was smell, and with it came a horrible repugnant odor that smelt of a combination sour sweat, unwashed undergarments, wheezy old man, and ancient sea food. There was only one thing that Lan could think of that smelled this bad, his Grandfather Byakko. Lan sensed that he was currently covered in the material and began to lift up one of his arms to cast them off. But found that he couldn’t move it. His arm felt like it was encased in something, preventing him from making any large movements.
Groaning, Lan slowly opened his eyes. His vision was filled with the visage of the pre-dawn sky, a purplish sky bits of sunlight just beginning to brighten the horizon. He looked down and saw that both of his arms were in makeshift casts made out of ruined garments and scraps of wood. For the first few moments Lan couldn’t remember a thing. What was he doing sleeping outside and why were his arms in casts? The realization struck him a few seconds later. The memories came roaring back like a tidal wave, burying him beneath its soul-crushing surface.
He forced himself to sit up, ignoring the pain that shot through his body like electricity. Looking around, Lan gazed at the devastated village surrounding him. But strangely, all the bodies had disappeared. Confused, Lan slowly rose to his feet.
“Hello!?” he called, “Is anyone there?”
There was no response. Lan looked around once more, searching for some sign of life, but when he found nothing he began to walk towards the center of the village. As he wandered through the town, he found no corpses. Lan wanted to believe what he saw last night was a dream, that the horrors had just been a figment of his imagination. But there was so much evidence quashing that hopeful thought: the destroyed buildings, the battle scarred land, and his severe injuries. As he contemplated this he heard a crunching noise coming from nearby and stopped in his tracks.
“Hello?” Lan said timidly. Lan was in no condition to fight right now, if even a simple beowolf attacked him he might be in trouble.
Turning this way and that Lan tried to pinpoint the source of the sound. Suddenly the crunching noise began to speed up, as if something was now running.
Lan’s heart was beating fast.
“I have to get out of here” he thought, and took off deeper into the village, looking for some good cover.
He passed home after destroyed home, until finally he found one that had all four walls still intact. Dashing inside, Lan found a table, kicked it down, and used it to form a barricade against the front door. Panting, Lan collapsed behind the table. After taking a few moments to catch his breath, he began to listen. The footfalls had disappeared. After waiting a few minutes to make sure nothing was out there, Lan slowly stood up and peeked over the top of the table. The street in front of him was empty. He peeked to the left and the right, listening for any signs that something was there. It seemed that whatever had been running was gone. Sighing in relief, Lan stood up, pushed the table out of the way, and stepped outside.
Lan was tackled from the side by a red blur and crashed into the ground. Screaming, Lan tried to force the creature off of him, but with his arms bound it was impossible. He saw a line of razor sharp teeth making their way towards his face. Closing his eyes, Lan braced himself for the bite.
But instead was greeted by the sensation of a rough, wet tongue covering his face.
Lan struggled and spat as the tasting instrument continued to smother his face. After it was finally removed he opened his eyes and found a happy little wolf pup standing on him.
“Ignis!” Lan cried out in relief “you little rascal, you scared me.”
Getting up, Lan looked down at the little dog.
“What are you doing here?”
Ignis yipped and whimpered as he rubbed against Lan’s legs. He then turned around and headed toward one of the edges of the village. After going a few meters he turned around and barked at Lan to follow. Shrugging his shoulder, Lan ran after the little wolf, not like he had any idea where to look anyways. After running for several minutes, Lan noticed that a thick mist was beginning to rise and obscure his vision. The mist was coming from the ocean that was now beginning to warm up. Yelling at Ignis to slow down, Lan tried to keep track of him as his vision grew more and more obscured. Eventually he found himself running through a world of grey fog. Unable to tell what direction he was going in, he ended up bumping into many objects as he tried to keep up. But after a little while, he lost sight of Ignis.
“Hey little buddy!” Lan called out, “come back here. I need you to guide me.”
But Ignis showed no signs of returning. Lan was now lost in the fog. Sighing, Lan looked around hoping to find some kind of landmark through the mist. But everywhere he looked there was nothing but grey cloud. He then began to walk in the direction he believed Ignis had disappeared in, thinking there was nothing else to lose.
After walking for several minutes, Lan was gasping for air and his limbs were crying out in pain. He was quite surprised, this level of physical exertion had never exhausted him this much before.
“Ugh, I must be more injured than I thought.”
Finally, Lan had had enough and he plopped down onto the ground to rest.
“I guess I just stay here till the fog lifts.”
“Or you could just follow me!” someone yelled.
Lan leaped to his feet, his heart beating like a jackhammer, and turned around. Standing there was Byakko with a slight grin on his face.
“Scared you didn’t I?”
“Grandpa” Lan said, running over and embracing the smelly muscular man “You’re back!”
Byakko patted Lan’s head and then hugged the boy back.
“Hey” said Lan, disengaging from the hug “Did you find any survivors form the attack?”
Lan’s exuberance from seeing his grandfather had died away and was now replaced with concern.
“I…know a lot of people died…but there had to have been some people right?”
The grin disappeared from Byakko’s face and was replaced by a calm and solemn expression. Lan looked up, concerned.
“Is something wrong?”
“I…think it would be better if you saw for yourself.” Byakko replied. “Follow me.”
Turning around, Byakko headed off into the mist. Feeling slightly perturbed, Lan slowly shuffled after him. After walking for another few minutes Lan’s breath was once again ragged.
“Grandpa” he wheezed, his hands on his knees “I…need to rest.”
“Hmmm” Byakko said, turning around “I guess I was right about your aura.”
“What is it?” Lan inquired
“You’re aura’s all messed up for some reason, there’s not as much as there was before, so you’re getting tired more easily.” Said Byakko
“In other words?” Lan said, an eyebrow raised.
“Well, think of the amount of aura you can have at one time as a container” responded Byakko “and when that container isn’t full you can’t function at your best. Now imagine recovering aura as a tube plugged into the container that slowly fills it up again. Right now your “tube” is much smaller than it used to be even though your container is the same size. Right now it’s like trying to fill a city water reserve with a garden hose. Gonna be a while before your back at full strength. Well just rest for now, you’ll need your strength.”
Nodding, Lan sat down gratefully on the ground and slowly began to catch his breath. Sitting down next to him, Byakko reached inside his gi and pulled out a piece of deer jerky.
“Here, you better eat something if you want to recover faster.”
Gratefully accepting it, Lan devoured the jerky and after a few more minutes he was ready to go again.
“Come on” Byakko said, “We’re almost there.”
The morning mist was beginning to clear now as the sun began to rise higher. Lan was beginning to make out faint shapes in the distance. There were many of them, arranged in dozens of rows and columns. They were all rectangular in shape and had mantles draped across their tops, in fact they look very much like…
Lan stopped in his tracks as realization struck him. Spreading out before him was a sea of coffins, each draped with a cloth that had its dweller’s name written on it. Earlier that morning, before Lan had woken up, Byakko had went around and collected all of the corpses of the villagers. Being in their later years, each of the villagers had made post mortem preparations, so all of them already had their coffins prepared. Byakko had matched the face, and sometimes scent when the face was unrecognizable, to the respective coffin for each of the villagers and had just finished a few minutes before meeting Lan.
Lan tried to say something, but all that came out of his mouth was a jumbled gargling sound. He dropped to his knees, his eyes as large as plates and just stayed there, unable to comprehend what was before him. He had seen all this last night, understood what had happened, but at the time some parts of his brain had been numbed so that he could survive through that desperate situation, but now the horrors crashed into his childish thought patterns, which tried desperately to fight against the reality.
Byakko sighed and sat down next to him.
“There’s 65 coffins there boy, same as the village population, not counting us of course. I’m sorry; there weren’t any other survivors besides us. But this is reality Lan, the sooner you accept it the sooner you’ll be able to move on.”
Byakko’s words fell on empty ears. Lan slowly rose to his feet and walked towards the rows of coffins. He passed each coffin one by one, and on each he read a familiar name. Every single one was someone he had spent many days living with and learning from, someone that he had shared happy times with. He walked through the coffins for half an hour, and finally came to stop in front of three that had been set apart from the rest. On them read: Hiroshi Nakagami, Anna Waters, and Rowan Highwind.
“Out of everyone in the village they were my best friends” Byakko said sighing, “ended up separating them out of habit.”
“Hey Grandpa” Lan said, starting to chuckle “Don’t you think this is too far for a joke?”
He then began to laugh even harder and collapsed onto all fours. Tears of hilarity, confusion, and sorrow were dripping down his face. He had seen all the corpses just last night, even closed the eyes of Hiroshi and Anna. But his young mind had refused to believe it, treating everything that he had seen as just a dream.
“In denial” Byakko whispered to himself, sighing “guess we got to do this the hard way.”
Getting up he walked over to Lan and grabbed the cloth at the back of his neck. Yanking him up, Byakko brought him to eye level.
“THEIR DEAD YOU LITTLE IDIOT!” Byakko screamed at the top of his lungs “IS IT THAT HARD TO UNDERSTAND!?”
Lan blithered and shivered and then stared down at his grandfather.
Gasping in exasperation, Byakko grabbed the lid of Rowan’s coffin and whipped off the lid. He then raised Lan into the air and slammed the young boy onto the bloody corpse. Lan squealed in fright and tried to push away, but Byakko’s grip was too strong. The force of Byakko’s thrust squirted out some cold blood which splashed onto Lan’s face. Feeling the cold liquid hit him, Lan looked up and stared at the empty stump that was Rowan’s neck. On top of it was a jar that contained what was left of the head.
“JUST LOOK YOU LITTLE SHIT! THIS IS REALITY, EVERYONE’S DEAD. YOU SHOULD HAVE SEEN IT LAST NIGHT!”
Memories came roaring back to Lan, he remembered how he had found Rowan last night and the fear and sorrow that had coursed through them back them. As reality finally set in, Lan stopped struggling and his body stiffened. Noticing an effect, Byakko pulled Lan out of the coffin.
Lan’s eyes had glazed over and he had gone limp. Lifting him up and looking his in the eyes, Byakko grunted and then set the boy down.
“I’ll be back in a little while.” said Byakko while sliding the lids back onto the coffins “Get your head straight before I get back.”
With that Byakko turned around and headed back to the village, leaving Lan sitting on the ground and leaning against the coffin, blood on his face and his head cocked to one side.
A whirlwind of thoughts and emotions were now fighting in his mind for control, but none of them could gain a good foothold in his consciousness. But slowly and surely, he began to piece things together. After half an hour his mind finally stabilized and as the light returned to his eyes, he felt that he was looking at a brand new world, a world that wasn’t as wonderful as he had previously thought; it was a world of fading light and broken dreams.
Curling up into a ball, Lan began to cry again and would continue to do so for another hour, until all of his tears finally dried up.
Two hours later Byakko, his arms filled with food he had pilfered from the village, returned to find Lan asleep next to Hiroshi’s coffin. It was late morning now.
“Hey” Byakko barked, giving Lan a quick kick and rousing the boy from his troubled sleep. “It’s time to eat.”
Lan sat up and then looked up at Byakko with blank eyes.
“You thinking straight now?” Byakko asked
“Almost everyone I know is dead, I might have been the cause of this and my life has lost all meaning” Lan replied flatly.
“That’s a start.” Byakko said, shrugging his shoulders and sitting down.
He then pulled out a meat pie out of the sustenance in his arms and handed it to Lan. Lan stared at it for a few moments and then accepted it, balancing with his elbows. Smiling, Byakko then began to shove the vast majority of the rest of the food into his gaping maw, his cheeks swelling up like a chipmunk as he chewed. After he had finished every bite he turned his head and noticed that Lan still hadn’t eaten anything.
“Alright” Byakko said, flinging his arm across Lan’s shoulder, “I know when I guy has got something to spill. Let er rip, I’m all ears.”
Lan turned his gaze towards his grandfather and stared at him for a few moments. He then took a deep breath.
“Can’t hide anything from you can I?”
Lan set the pie on the ground and turned to Byakko. He then told him about what had transpired last night, about the old man from the order, how he had been born, and that the Grimm had come to this village seeking him.
“So basically” Lan said, finishing his story “All of this is my fault…Anna, Hiroshi, Rowan, Everybody. They all died because of me.”
Byakko stared at him, a frown evident on his scarred face. He then lifted his arm and gave Lan a light (at least by his standards) whack on the head.
“That’s bullshit and you know it” Byakko said “If anything, I’m the one to blame for leaving when you all needed me. The Grimm are targeting all of mankind, and you’re upset because one of them decided to specifically target your ass? The Grimm are 100% pure evil, they would probably have come here eventually even if you didn’t exist.”
“That’s not true it was probably drawn here by--” Lan retorted
“Who cares if you drew it here? It’s good I killed it when I did actually, there’s no way regular hunters could have taken it.” Byakko said, folding his arms “You think it would be fine if it killed off people you never met? If it wasn’t drawn here it would have gone off and killed hundreds, maybe even thousands of people somewhere else and left all of their friends and relatives suffering. It’s like a natural disaster, sucks when it happened to you, but you got to stop whining as soon as you can and do damage control before things get worse!”
Lan was growing angry now, the hot seething emotions welling up inside of him. But all of a sudden it died down. It just wasn’t in Lan’s nature to get angry. Besides, as rough as Byakko’s argument was, it was actually pretty sound.
All of a sudden he found the meat pie inches away from his face.
“Hurry up and eat already, you’ll feel better afterwards.” Byakko said. “Or” he said twisting his face into a demented smile “do you need your old grandpa to help pre-chew it for you?”
This comment brought a slight smile to Lan’s face.
“He always tries to slip in a joke no matter what huh?” Lan thought to himself.
He then turned his attention downwards at the flaky confection in his lap, bent his head towards it, and began to eat.
“That’s it” said Byakko, grinning “no more gloom and doom. You finished all your crying this morning, now’s the time to pick yourself up! Now’s the time to rise from the ashes! Now’s the time to—”
“I’m trying to eat here grandpa” Lan said through a mouthful of steak, potatoes, and carrots “could you quiet down?”
They then sat in silence for a few more minutes until Lan finished his pie. Byakko then stood up and picked Lan up off the ground and into his arms.
“Let’s continue this chat somewhere a little more comfortable.”
The two of them then went back into the village, heading towards the center. Amazingly, Byakko’s home had been able to withstand all the chaos that had occurred last night. Byakko had built it from tough, fireproof materials, so even though it looked rickety, it was as strong as a fortified military base. The previous night many of the villagers had tried to use it as a defense base, but some Grimm had managed to get in through the windows, so they had to abandon the position.
Byakko pushed the bent up front door open, and then carried Lan up the stairs to his room. He then set Lan down on the bed, after he had cleaned up the room of course, and took a seat nearby. Lan turned his head to look at Byakko, and then in a quiet voice said.
“What are we going to do now?”
“Whelp” said Byakko, scratching his chin “We’ve got to take care of matters in the village first, but after that it’s up to you. What do you want to do?”
“I…don’t know” responded Lan, hesitantly. “I only just started thinking straight.”
“Well take your time, we ain’t going anywhere until we bury everyone and else. Oh! And you also need to recover, especially that jigsaw puzzle of an arm I managed to fit back together.”
Getting up, Byakko headed for the door.
“I’m going to go find some ice dust crystals. We need something to prevent everyone from decomposing before we finish the funeral arrangements. While I’m gone, think about what you want to do.”
After Byakko left, Lan sat in silence for a few minutes before beginning to think. But no matter what he tried, his mind kept returning to guilt over what had happened. Despite what Byakko had told him he still believed that all this had been because of him. He kept asking himself:
“What if I had been faster? What if I had been stronger? What if I had never came here in the first place? Then at least they all would have been able to live their lives in peace.”
As these thoughts filled his mind, tears of frustration rolled down his young face. Also, a deep hatred for the Grimm began to boil up from within him.
“Those stupid Grimm. They just take away everyone’s precious people. The order of dawn was right in wanting to exterminate them.”
These thoughts of anger and frustration eventually boiled within him for a time, but broke as he began to remember all the good times he had had in the village. He remembered cooking with Anna, making contraptions with Rowan, writing calligraphy with Hiroshi, planting with Greb, playing the piano with Edgar, and a bunch of other things he had learned from people. He also began to regret dropping all of the classes that he thought wouldn’t be useful.
“At least it would have made them happy if I had learned it” Thought Lan.
His energy was slowly being depleted by the emotional storm raging within him and his body’s meager condition until finally, without him realizing it, he once again fell asleep.
Lan felt a tickling sensation on his face as his consciousness began to rouse. He groaned, and this was accompanied by a whooshing sound. He opened his eyes, and sitting next to him was Byakko, holding a marker and a pad of paper.
“It’s good you got some sleep” Byakko said smiling “Sleep is the key to good health and efficiency!”
Lan stared at the marker and then at the notepad.
“You drew on my face didn’t you?”
“I’ve never seen you write.”
Shrugging, Byakko handed Lan a towel and a mirror. Lan ignored the mirror and proceeded to wipe his whole face. After he was finished he looked out the window and saw that the sun was beginning to start its decent.
“So have you decided on what you want to do yet?” Byakko said, leaning forward.
Lan opened his mouth, closed it, and then sighed.
“I don’t know grandpa, I really don’t know. I know all of this isn’t my fault but I still led the Grimm here!” Lan was beginning to talk with increasing speed, hyperventilating as he continued “The villagers could have lived a peaceful happy life if I hadn’t been here. They’ve lived here fine for years before I came. I know the Grimm would have just attacked somewhere else and it’s sad that those people would have died, but still everyone here would still be alive if I just didn’t—”
Byakko lashed out with his hand, grabbed Lan, lifted him up to his face, and let loose a monstrous belch. The force and stink released from the confines of his grandfather’s stomach stunned Lan.
“Calmed down?” Byakko asked.
Lan just hung limply, his right eye twitching. Taking that as a “yes” Byakko set him back down.
“Now listen here, there isn’t anyone in the village who would have wished you never came. Even if you did kill them” Byakko paused at this, noticing Lan’s downcast expression “Scratch that” he said waving his hand. “What I meant to say is that before you came here their lives weren’t worth anything to them. They were just whiling away the days and waiting for their lives to come to an end. I saw it every day, the empty void that was in the back of their eyes. But when you came, all of a sudden the fire came back to their eyes.”
Lan shook his head to clear it and then looked up again at Byakko with renewed interest.
“You know the thing with old farts is, not that I’m saying I’m one, is that they feel the most fulfilled when they’re nurturing the next generation. They’ve had their adventures, made their friends, and achieved their goals. At that point in time they don’t give a damn about what’s going to happen in their lives. ” he said, shaking his head “No, they begin to dream about the next generation being able to do what they were never able to, and that’s you boy, the one who will make all their dreams come true!”
Byakko then seized Lan by the shoulders and raised him into the air.
“You’ll see sights they’ve never seen, meet tons of amazing people, and have experiences they only dreamed of! And once your time is over and you cross the great divide, you’ll be able to sit across the table from them and tell them your stories with pride. That’s what you got to focus on now! So get a hold of yourself before I launch a breath of life at you from the other end!”
Lan felt his despair and sorrow were slowly being burned away by excitement, it was as if warm hands were pressing on his back and removing the guilt that was chaining him down. Warmth began to spread throughout his heart now and he began to smile.
“It seems you get it now” said Byakko, a huge smile spreading across his face “And I guess you also feel their presence!”
“Whose?” Lan asked
“Do you really need to ask boy? Just close your eyes and feel it, you’ll understand immediately.”
Following his grandpa’s instructions, Lan closed his eyes. He sensed nothing at first but then he began to feel a few things. He smelled spices, engine oil, tea leaves, freshly tilled dirt, the smell of old sheet music, as well as a number of other things. He felt warm hands on his back, filling his heart with peace and calm. He could hear innumerable voices, all telling him the same thing: “Don’t give up.”
When he opened his eyes again these feelings disappeared, but their effect remained. Tears began to trickle down his face as he realized who they were.
“The spirits of those you care about will always be with you, even if they exist in a different plane” said Byakko, setting the boy back down on the bed. “Now I want you to think about what you want to do next. Sure we got a few things to take care of here, but after that we gotta move on. Hmmm… I know! Let’s go on a trip, see the world just like the heroes in your story books and” he then paused, realizing his mistake “Oops. You’re supposed to decide your next step. Well don’t let me bother ya.”
Byakko got up and turned towards the door.
“Think about what you want to do next and get some more sleep” he said “Sleep is the best medicine after all. I’ll be digging up a grave for everybody, come check it out when you feel better.”
He then walked out the door and left Lan alone with his thoughts.
Lan dug into his blankets a little more and pulled up the blanket with his teeth.
“So, I guess I think of what to do now” he thought “I liked grandpa’s travel ideas. I think that could be fun. But we also got to honor everyone in the village properly.”
Thoughts swirled through his mind and slowly coalesced into a uniform plan. He then began to iron out some of the details little by little. Soon he had pieced everything together; he then crawled out of bed and headed outside towards the library.
Byakko was bent over digging in an enormous hole. The hole was located on the forest side of the village. It was square shaped, measuring 50 feet by 50 feet and was 20 feet deep. Byakko planned to place all the coffins in the hole in a mass grave style, he didn’t know any better way. With his immense strength digging up this deep had only taken him less than 10 minutes, and he was almost done.
With a heave, he launched a torrent of dirt into the air, which landed like a waterfall on a massive pile near the hole. Byakko then sniffed the air, stopped and smiled.
“Up so soon my little friend?”
“Yeah” Lan said, looking down at him from the edge of the hole“Is this where you’re going to be burying everyone?”
“Yep” said Byakko, wiping his hands on his dirty shirt.
Lan harrumphed, and then kicked a cylindrical tube that was at his feet at Byakko. Byakko caught it in midair, examined it and popped it open. Inside were some blueprints. Byakko unrolled it and glanced at it.
“What’s this?” he asked
“It was in the library.” Responded Lan, “Its blueprints for a mausoleum, Hiroshi, Edgar, and some other people drew it up a few years ago, but scrapped the idea when they realized how much effort it would take to make it. But I think everyone deserves to be buried somewhere nice.”
“Uh huh” said Byakko glancing at it. “You sure we’ll be able to make this?”
“I’m not very confident in my abilities to draw up blueprints but I can sure as heck read them!” responded Lan. “There’s a lot of delicate work involved, and that’s gonna have to be reserved until my arms heal up.”
Byakko smiled as he gazed up at Lan’s now brighter expressions “Good to see you back in high spirits!”
“Yeah” said Lan, smiling back “as a wise man once said, ‘Even though those you cared for are gone from this plane of existence, their spirits will always be with you, so you better not show them a depressed face all the time’”
“That’s my boy.” said Byakko.
He then jumped out of the pit and landed beside Lan.
“So what’s our first order of business?”
“Well” said Lan, taking the blueprints from Byakko and rolling them open. “We first need to collect the materials starting with huge pieces of Granite; I saw in a map of this area that there’s a granite deposit nearby you can probably get that there; Marble; also can be found at a deposit nearby; and lots of timber to help build the support structures. Think you can get all that grandpa?”
Lan turned his head to check with the old man, but instead what he found was a sign hammered into the ground that said “Whent to go get Materialz”.
Lan shook his head a smiled at Byakko’s poor writing. He then looked into the sky. It would take some time to recover and then finish building the mausoleum. He would have plenty of time to think about what he wanted to do from now on. He then turned towards the village and went to see if he could find any of the villager’s wills, they had to be buried the way they wanted to after all.
3 months later
Lan stood in front of the recently finished mausoleum.
It had been difficult completing it. Byakko did well in gathering the materials and cutting them to about the right sizes, but often he would get too hyperactive and begin breaking things. There was also the problem with the delicate work. Lan didn’t trust Byakko to do that kind of thing (and frankly Byakko didn’t trust himself with it either). So they had to wait till Lan’s arms healed, thankfully Byakko was able to speed up the process by pumping restorative aura into Lan. As a result it only took Lan 1 month to completely heal, after which he began the long and grueling process of carving the stones into the correct shapes and with the right decorations, luckily he had learned a little bit of stone masoning from Rowan, so he wasn’t too bad. He screwed up many times though, which led to a longer process.
After they had made all the separate pieces and made sure they fit together, Byakko put the whole place together (albeit he did break many in the process, after which the two needed to reconstruct them all over again).
“Thank god for Rowan’s Engineering lessons” Lan thought as he thought of the events of the past 3 months.
The completed mausoleum wasn’t anything amazing, but given that there were only two people working on it, the craftsmanship was marvelous. It was a large stone structure that towered before him and had decent carvings all around it. The front doors were composed of giant granite slabs with water-resistant copper handles sticking out of them. They led down into a crypt lined with the coffins of the villagers. They had also designed the resting places the way the each villager wanted it to be and laid them to rest with the items designated in their wills.
A few hours ago they had moved all the coffins in and they had just recently finished the funeral ceremonies and gone through all the wills. Lan had wanted to invite Sammy, but he had no idea where he could have been, so they had to hold the ceremonies without him. Some of the members of the White Fang were a bit elusive after all. Lan had instead carved a note into one of the outer walls of the mausoleum, making sure to sure shield that area from wind and rain with other protective structures. If Sammy ever did come back, he would know what happened here.
The villagers had left Lan almost everything that they had. From cash and furniture to words of wisdom and paraphernalia, they had given him everything.
“If only we could have finished our lessons” Lan thought as he gazed at the building.
All of a sudden there was a loud slamming noise. The mausoleum shook all the way to hits foundations. Looking up, Lan saw Byakko standing at the top of the mausoleum.
“Seems pretty sturdy” Byakko said, leaping off the roof and onto the ground beside Lan.
“Grandpa!” Lan said, appalled “you could have collapsed the whole building!”
“If it couldn’t handle that, no way it could handle the elements!” he responded
“Elements? Wha—YOU ARE EASILY A WEAPON OF MASS DESTRUCTION, THERE’S NOW WAY THE MAUSOLEUM WILL EVER HAVE TO GO THROUGH SOMETHING LIKE THAT!” shouted Lan.
“You never know.” said Byakko, playfully.
He then wrapped his thick arm around Lan’s neck and pulled him close.
“But we’re finally done boy” he said, releasing him at the same time.
Lan’s anger simmered down as the jovial atmosphere disappeared and was replaced by one of solemn silence and accomplishment, and then he once again looked at the mausoleum.
“Yes” he said, a tear trickling down the right said of his face “We are.”
The two of them stood there for a while, side by side. They both realized that they now had to move on with their lives now. They had done all they could to honor the memories of their friends: built them a tomb with their own hands, carried out the last wishes written in their wills (there weren’t many), and sent them off with eulogies.
It was now time for Lan and Byakko to move on. Byakko was a battle-hardened veteran, he was used to situations like these, after all he’d already seen off hundreds of his closest friends. Lan however, was not ready. For these past three months he had just went with the flow, keeping himself busy to avoid thinking about the bad times anymore. But now that the work was done he felt an emptiness spreading inside of him. Byakko sensed it too, and responded to it with a
Byakko slapped Lan across the back of the head and then seized the boy and put him into the deadly “Pits of death” headlock.
“Stop moping, we’re supposed to be done with that already!”
Lan gurgled in response as he was already overwhelmed by the stench of his grandfather’s unwashed armpits, and it may disgust you to know that Byakko hadn’t bathed once in the past 3 months.
Byakko released his grip and Lan fell to the ground. Lan wheezed for breath and then ran towards the nearest waste bin where he deposited the contents of his stomach.
“Have you decided what you want to do yet boy?”
“Huh?” said Lan as he pulled his head out of the now steaming refuse bin.
“I asked what you want to do with your life!”
Lan wiped the bile on the side of his mouth, took a deep breath and walked back over to Byakko, his composure reestablished, and stared him straight in the eyes. Byakko could see determination and conviction rising up within the boy.
“I want to kill Grimm.” He said calmly “I want to make sure nothing like this happens to anyone else. Not if I can help it.”
The two stared at each other, and then Byakko nodded.
“Good answer boy, but that means from now on we got to up the difficulty of our training. In fact I’ll be upping it to a level that everyone else said in I quote was “too inhumane and sadist to even be called training anymore”.”
“I expect it” said Lan, punching the palm of his hand.
Byakko smiled and then folded his arms.
“That being said, we haven’t trained at all these past three months have we.” He said with a smile “But, training while traveling is always a good…Well then, I guess we’d better get ready to leave!”
“What?” said Lan confused “I don’t—”
“Now listen here!” Byakko said, in a forceful voice “After many weeks of careful and meticulous deliberation. I have decided that you need to see the rest of the world!”
“We’ve got to leave this place behind boy. All it is now is a memorial. A place for us to come back to every once in a while and pay respects to everyone! You got to get out there and see how everything rolls. It won’t do you any good to stay in this backwater place.”
“But—”, said Lan
“Unless that butt came from an animal and was roasted over a fire I don’t want to hear about it.” interrupted Byakko.“We’ll be leaving in a couple days. I’m going to leave you to take care of your own belongings. I’m going to be going around the village, gathering up anything we might uh” Byakko placed his chin between his thumb and forefinger “Need during the trip.”
The way that Byakko said this made Lan feel slightly uncomfortable, but before he could ask any questions Byakko dashed into the town, leaving a faint afterimages behind.
Lan stood there feeling baffled, much like he did after most conversations with his grandpa. He then sighed. He knew there would be no way to change his grandpa’s mind.
He didn’t feel like packing, not right now. He would plan that out later tonight. He decided instead to take a walk through the village, taking in every scene and imprinting them in a special place in his heart. So he walked, wandering through the town shrouded in pre-dawn mist where memories of the past danced through the air and visions of those long gone floated through the air like falling snow.
3 days later
It was now the morning of their departure, Byakko stood in front of their house in the cool and foggy morning air, tapping his feet in annoyance. It had been four hours since their designated meeting time.
“If that boy makes me wait any longer, I swear I will tan his hide” Byakko thought.
After a few more minutes he caught Lan’s scent on the air. The boy was finally coming, and he could see his shape through the mist.
“About time” Byakko yelled “I was waiting for—”
He then noticed a giant shape loom out of the mist behind the boy. Fearing it was a hostile; Byakko ran forward and leapt at the shadow. He slammed into it and heard Lan yelp. Then, with a crash, he and the shape landed on the ground. It was then that Byakko realized that what he tackled was not a flesh and blood creature, but a back made out of tough canvass, and carrying that bag was Lan who was now groaning on the ground.
“Whoops” said Byakko, helping Lan back to his feet “sorry about that. But what’s with that big ass backpack?”
Lan brushed himself off and then hoisted the enormous pack, which was around 10 times larger than he was, back onto his back.
“It’s to carry everything I need.” responded Lan
Byakko raised an eyebrow and then patted the pack.
“Books, tools, instruments, and bunches of other stuff.” He said with a harrumph.
“Yes” said Lan, “The wills recommended them.”
“Wills?” said Byakko, confused.
“Didn’t you read them? Everyone told me in their wills to keep on learning what I was being taught and I plan to do so. You yourself said that they entrusted me with their hopes and dreams. So, I’m going to be carrying the knowledge I need to do so with me all the time!”
Lan then puffed up his cheeks in defiance to any objections Byakko may bring up. But instead the old man just smiled.
“Good boy” Byakko said smiling. He then turned back towards the house. “Well, I won’t be outdone by my own brat!”
Byakko brushed aside some bushes which revealed to metal harnesses attached to the side of the house. Byakko grabbed one and then pulled on it hard.
With an earth-shattering crack, the house was ripped out of its foundation. Pieces of rock and blasted into the air, following the house. Lan watched, his agape, as Byakko stuck his arms into the harnesses and began carrying the home as if it were a backpack.
“How the—whuh?” Stammered Lan.
“Surprised you huh?” said Byakko smiling “I didn’t really plan on brining this, but you forced my hand.”
Lan stood there for a few moments and then sighed and scratched his head.
“I guess you’ve always been breaking the molds of common sense” said Lan, smiling. “and these will help train our back strength!”
“Yeah!” shouted Byakko “Now let’s go.”
“I hope everything will be okay while we’re gone” Lan said, staring at the structures around him.
“Don’t worry” said Byakko “I’ve already gotten that taken care of!”
He then brought his fingers to his lips and let out a loud whistle. A few moments later, dozens of howls responded. Within seconds, they were completely surrounded by the wolf pack.
“These guys will take care of this place.” Said Byakko, waving his arm at them “Won’t you?”
The wolves barked in response. They then spread out and opened a path that led to the village’s exit. They stood at attention, as if they were soldiers seeing their heroes off. All of them felt sad that their friends were leaving and a whimper could be heard here and there. But they knew that making a fuss about it would only make it harder.
“Thanks guys” said Lan, a tear in his left eye.
Shouldering his pack Lan set his eyes on the distant horizon and marched forward.
Ignis watched as Lan and Byakko began to walk away. He gave a low whimper as he saw his best friend leaving.
“Why do you have to go Lan?” he whimpered, this was of course in wolf language and as a result, Lan was not able to understand it.
“He must” said someone behind him.
Ignis turned back and saw Ernest looking down at him.
“Staying here would only cause the boy’s capabilities to stagnate. I will not stand for the one who defeated me becoming a sniveling worm.”
“I know” said Ignis “I just wish we could have stayed together.”
Ernest was silent for a moment but quickly gave response.
“Then why don’t you go with them young pup.”
Ignis turned to face his leader, completely surprised.
“But what about loyalty to the pack?”
“Those two are members of the pack young one. Journeying with them will not sully your honor.”
“But what about defending everyone else?” blurted Ignis, “Also, there’s hunting, scouting, and a whole bunch of other ta—”
“You really think a pup of your ability would be able to do any of those things well? No, in fact you could gain valuable experience while journeying with them.”
Ignis looked at the pack around him and then at Lan’s shrinking form. He shuffled nervously, unable to make up his mind.
“Unable to even make a choice of this caliber you stupid pup? Fine then I will decide for you.”
He then raised his head and yowled to the rest of the pack.
“Ignis is now banished from our tribe. He will travel with our two-legged companions and will only be allowed to return after he has proven himself to be a true warrior!”
Ignis whipped around, alarmed. All the other wolves had begun to growl at him now. He backed away nervously and then turned to look at Ernest.
“Go” Ernest said, his imposing figure frightening the young wolf “There is no place for you here until you gain the strength to take it.”
Ignis stared at the growling mass surrounding him. He then whimpered and ran off in the direction of Lan.
“Why are they growling back there?” asked Lan
“I don’t know” responded Byakko “Maybe one of the members broke a rule or something.
The two of them were now just passed the village gateway. Lan turned around and stared up at the sign. “Welcome to Cunctantem Cinere”.
“I won’t be seeing this place for a long time.” Lan thought
He sighed, and began to turn around, but then out of the corner of his eye, he saw a red shape darting towards him. Realizing who it was, Lan gave a small smile and leaned down. Within a few seconds Ignis had reached their position and dove into Lan’s arms. The little wolf smothered Lan’s face in saliva and then buried his head between Lan’s thighs.
“Coming to see us off again” Lan said, patting the small canine form “Thanks”
Ignis then pulled himself out of Lan’s lap and ran ahead, right past Byakko.
Confused, Lan got up and stared at the little red form darting away.
“Aww,” said Byakko “I think he wants to come with us.”
“Really?” said Lan, whipping his head to stare in his grandpa’s direction. His eyes were sparkling with joy.
“Well let’s ask him.” Said Byakko.
The old man then dashed over, picked up the little wolf, and brought him up to his face. The little wolf yipped and licked Byakko’s face. Byakko then made some barking and growling sounds, and Ignis responded in turn. After a few minutes of this exchange Byakko turned back to look at Lan.
“Yep, he wants to come.”
“Oh” Lan cried, feeling deeply touched. “And you’ll let him come?”
“Yep. But!” Said Byakko, turning to stare Ignis in the eyes“That means I’ll be training you as well.”
The mischievous spark in Byakko’s eyes unnerved the little wolf who whimpered.
“Sorry no take backs”
Byakko then set Ignis back on the ground and turned to Lan.
“I guess this means the gang’s all here!” Shouted Byakko. “Now come on we got a long way to go, the day ain’t getting any longer!”
“So we’ll also be doing training on the road right?” asked Lan.
“Yep” said Byakko, “Tomorrow I’ll asses your physical and spiritual status, been a while since I’ve done that haven’t I. But for today We walk! Come on boys, Onward.”
Finally the three of them set off. And what a most peculiar sight they were. A small wolf pup, A young boy carrying a pack 10 times his size, and an old man with a house on his back.
The powerful white being had finally left. It had waited three months, and now it was finally time. The broken crystals in the ground vibrated and released a black miasma. This black mist rose from the ground where the crystals had been crushed. There were two clouds, one from where Byakko had dropped the crystals and one in the forest where Lan had felled the lesser Grimm.
The two clouds flew into the air and then coalesced into one cumulous form. It then began to drift away, carried away by a strange force. For days it traveled over the sea and many different lands, until finally it reached its destination. Far Far away in some godforsaken land, the black mist arrived at what appeared to be a giant black puzzle box, wrapped with giant chains that were bolted to the ground around it, surrounding it were ancient runes. Down at the very bottom of the box was a small hole. The gas floated there and was sucked in, after which the air began to fill with the slow but loud sound of “clicks”. Whatever mechanism was binding this structure was finally beginning to loosen after all the thousands of years it had functioned. At the speed it was going at, it would take many years before the shackles were released. But what lived inside sensed that its time was coming. Two red eyes opened in the darkness, waiting for the day it would be free.