Ch 13 First Love
“Faster!” yelled Byakko.
Lan grunted in acknowledgement and doubled his efforts.
“Faster!” yelled Byakko once again.
The two of them were currently running along a dirt road, with a large grass plain stretching out towards their left and a sheer cliff with the ocean down below to their right. Lan was struggling to keep up with Byakko, who was going at a fraction of his normal speed to give Lan a chance. Lan’s back ached from carrying the large backpack, it was really a good thing that he was able to cushion the impact the heavy load was having on his bones and joints with aura. The items in his pack clanked and banged with every step he took, he was afraid that something might end up breaking. How Byakko was able to run so fast without damaging the house on his back, Lan had no idea.
“What’s wrong Lan” called Byakko from far ahead “Do you need…a break?”
Byakko emphasized the last words, a malevolent smile evident on his face as he turned back to look at Lan.
“No!” shouted Lan, alarmed. “I am still rearing to go!”
Lan knew what would happen if he needed a break, and he was already in enough pain from the last 5 times.
“Alright” said Byakko, “You have 30 seconds to catch up with me then and if you can’t do it or you stop we’ll take that break!”
Lan gasped in exhaustion and was seriously considering throwing away his pack so he could catch up. Suddenly, Byakko stopped at the top of a small hill. Relieved, Lan quickly caught up with him and then stopped, sweat dribbling down his face.
“So why’d we sto—“
Pain exploded in Lan’s nether regions at that very moment, and he collapsed to the ground gripping his groin and whimpering in pain.
“You stopped” said Byakko “and that mean we take a break, and a break means more Pain Resistance Training! We’ll build up your resistance to the man’s common weakness yet!”
After trying so hard to avoid it, the kick in the groin had still come to pass. Both physical pain (mostly) and frustration filled Lan, but he knew complaining would simply lead to something far more painful.
“Ignis!” called Byakko. “Lan needs a friend right now!”
There was a bang and a crash inside the house on Byakko’s back, and a few seconds later Ignis rocketed out the door, leapt onto the ground, ran over to Lan, and began trying to comfort him.
The three of them had been on the road for a week, and during that time Byakko had discovered that Lan’s physical abilities and aura capabilities were much weaker than they had been previously. This was due to the loss of the spiritual being’s power. Bur believing it to be attributed to the injuries that Lan had received from the battle with the Grimm, Byakko hadn’t thought much about it but instead increased the difficulty of Lan’s training to make up for lost time. Ignis had also joined in, and was doing well (but then again his whimpering never stopped during his training time). Also, since Lan left the village he had begun keeping a journal, as suggested to him in Hiroshi’s will. Over the week he had mostly been filling it with his memories of his previous life in the village (since every day on the road was mostly the same: training, studying, reading, practicing, and traveling). The last few days had been the most difficult for him since during that time he recounted the Grimm’s attack; he had just finished the last entry for it the day before. On a side note, he had also been preparing all the meals (Byakko’s cooking poisons all except himself) and with Byakko’s appetite, that was no easy task.
After a bit, the pain in his nether regions subsided and Lan was lift his head up slightly. The two of them looked down at a village, surrounded by a high stone wall. The edge of a forest was located on its left side and the ocean on its right.
“Oh, Finally” said Lan, slowly getting to his feet and pulling off his backpack for a moment, “a place to stop and rest.”
Lan collapsed again into his previous position. Byakko then retracted his foot and turned to Lan’s curled up form and began to talk to him.
“Now before you go and do anything rash there are a few things I got to tell you. The way things work in different village and society as a whole is a lot different than how things were back in Cunctantem Cinere. We’ll actually be staying there a little while for you to get accustomed to it all. But I’ll give you a little advice right now. For one thing you won’t find old people at every corner and…”
“I know that” yelled Lan, slowly getting up, this time making sure to keep his distance from Byakko’s appendages. “I’ve already read about all of this and…”
“Reading about and experiencing something is two very different things boy.” Said Byakko. “and you have yet to experience that which is said to be the most dangerous thing in existence to the male sex!”
“Uh…what?” asked Lan
“I am talking about women boy” said Byakko “their very presence befuddles the minds of those not used to their company!”
“Hey wait” interrupted Lan “I’ve known plenty of women, and I’ve never had any problems, especially not with Anna.”
“That’s because they were grandmas” said Byakko, with a harrumph “they don’t have the same effect.”
“So you’re saying I should avoid women than?” asked Lan, raising his eyebrow.
“No,no,no.” said Byakko waiving his hand, as if to dispel the notion. “It’s just that you are so inexperienced that you’ll probably do something stupid and end up regretting it, especially if you meet a girl your own age. I suggest you just keep your distance for a little while and observe how things work. After a while you’ll be able to think straight around them and at that time feel free to talk with them as much as you want…and while you do” Byakko quietly mumbled something to the side, and judging by the grin that appeared on his face it couldn’t be anything good.
“Grandpa?” said Lan apprehensively “what are you planni—“
At that moment they heard a loud slamming noise from far below. They both looked down and saw that the village had shut its gates. They soon discovered why. A pack of beowolves had emerged out of the nearby woods and was now heading towards the village. Sentries at the top of the walks began firing their rifles at them.
“Ohhhhh!” said Byakko with a smile “this is our chance to make a good first impression on the villagers. Lan, Ignis!” he shouted “commence operation human bullet and dog bullet.”
Saluting, the two of them leapt inside the house and came back a few seconds later with iron cylinders. With a click, both of them opened and Lan and Ignis each went inside one of them and shut them.
Byakko then grabbed both cylinders in his large hands, turned around, and took aim at the Grimm below. Then, in an instant, he threw both cylinders, which rocketed through the air. A few seconds later each cylinder crashed into the side of a beowolf, pulverizing their way through the beasts’ abdomens and slamming into the ground. Then, before the beowolves or the sentries on the wall could figure out what was going on, there was a click and the two cylinders opened. The nearest beowolf was then struck in the face with Lan’s fist and in the stomach with Ignis’s skull. The beowolf lost its balance and before it could recover from the staggering blows, the boy and the wolf dashed forward and dealt it fatal wounds. Lan, by driving an aura infused for finger into its eye, and Ignis biting down and tearing its throat. The beowolf collapsed onto the ground, spasming before its death. Taking advantage of the cover the dust from the cylinders’ impacts gave them, the two of them repeated this pattern for a few more beowolves. At present neither Lan nor Ignis were strong enough to take on the whole pack head on, so they slowly picked them off one by one. Once they sensed the dust was about the settle, they disengaged; leapt out of the fray; and took their positions with their backs to the wall. The two of them had taken out five of the twenty Beowolves that had originally been there. The rest growled once they finally could identify their silent assailants and quickly formed a circle surrounding the two. Luckily the sentries on the wall began firing again, so the beowolves were forced to scatter. Lan and Ignis then began to dart around the battlefield, attacking Grim here and there and, with the help of the gunfire, herded the beowolves into a tight circular formation, where many were peppered with bullets. It was then the two of them noticed something. Byakko had given the signal.
“Move!” shouted Lan.
He and Ignis leapt away from the group of Beowolves, just in time to avoid the giant boulder that crashed down on top of them. There was a cry of surprise from the sentries on top of the walls, followed a seconds later by a victory cry. Lan looked up smiling, and waved at the sentries who shouted out praises at the boy. But then, there was a large slamming sound behind Lan, effectively shutting up the sentries. Lan looked behind, and stared into Byakko’s smiling face.
“Did you get my backpack grandpa?” asked Lan
“In the house” said Byakko, jabbing his thumb at the house on his back. At that moment Ignis jumped onto the deck and into the house so he could go sleep on the couch, which was one of his favorite past times.
With a creaking noise the front gate of the village opened and the sentries walked out to greet them. The sentries were all wearing full-body leather armor and had large rifles strapped to their back. A grizzled middle-aged man with brown hair, who was obviously a veteran due to the many scars he carried on his face, spoke first.
“That was impressive you two” he said with a smile “you two wouldn’t happen to be hunter and hunter-in-training would you?”
“Ex-Hunter” said Byakko, shoving a piece of jerky he had taken from inside his clothes into his mouth “and the boy isn’t.”
“I see” said the man “my name is Cassio, Cassio Moor and I am the commander of the village militia. My I ask for your names, as well as what you were seeking in our humble town?”
“The name’s Byakko!” said Byakko with a smile, “Byakko Muteki and this is my grandson Lan.”
“Why don’t I have a last name?” asked Lan
“Still thinking about that.” said Byakko.
“Grandson?” said Cassio, eyeing Byakko’s tiger features and Lan’s lack such things. “How would a Faunus such as yourself have a human grandchild?”
“He’s adopted” said Byakko, flatly.
“Ah” said Cassio.
“Why we came here” said Byakko, scratching his chin. “Is to stock up on supplies, and stay a little while so this little guy” Byakko clapped his hand across Lan’s shoulders, almost making the boy’s legs buckle. “can learn how things work in a real society. After all, he’s only been around old farts his whole life.”
“Uh huh” said Cassio.
“and while we’re here” said Byakko “I guess we’ll work with your militia!”
“Well your skills would be much appreciated” said Cassio, extending his hand “Welcome to Little Root village, feel free to stay as long as you like and…I see you already have your lodgings taken care of.” He said, staring at the house strapped to Byakko’s back.
“Yep!” said Byakko, seizing Cassio’s hand in a firm, so much so that it made the man wince, handshake. “Glad to be here, could you show us around the place?”
“I don’t see why not.” Said Cassio with a smile “Come with me I’ll—“
“Daddy!” cried a little girl, who had slipped her way through the troops behind him. “Are you done with work?”
The little girl was around Lan’s age. She had long brown hair, bright green eyes, and a brilliant smile that lit up her old face. She wore a pair of rectangular-intelligent looking glasses, and had on a dark green dress and sandals. She was quite cute, and would definitely be quite the beauty when she grew older.
Lan’s eyes widened and his jaw dropped. Before he realized it, he was hiding behind Byakko’s leg and staring at her while fidgeting.
“Told you so.” Whispered Byakko, who was concealing a small grin.
The little girl jumped forward and wrapped her arms around her father’s waist.
“Alayna!” said Cassio, a smile on his face. “What are you doing here? Does mama know where you are?”
“Yep!” said Alayna “she said I could come and see you papa!”
The two of them embraced for a few seconds, and then disengaged. Cassio placed Alayna back on the ground and then turned back to Lan and Byakko.
“I’d like to introduce you two to my daughter” said Cassio.
“Hello!” said Alayna, her left hand behind her back and her right hand raised in greeting.
“Nice to meet you little lady” said Byakko, who was obviously containing his laughter (Lan had turned bright red and hidden further behind Byakko’s leg after Alayna greeted them.) “Byakko’s my name and this” he said, grabbing Lan and plopping him down right in front Alayna. “is my grandson Lan!”
“Nice to meet you” said Alayna stepping forward and sticking out her hand, a big smile on her face.
“L-likewise” said Lan, fidgeting, Lan extended his shaking palm and grasped her hand. He was immediately struck by how soft her hand felt, and this only served to make him feel even more nervous.
“Are you okay?” asked Alayna, cocking her head to one side and staring at his face. “You’re getting really red and your hands getting really hot and sweaty.”
“Oh!” said Lan, pulling his hand away “I’m sorry I..um…well…uh”
“Okay that should be enough with the greetings!” shouted Byakko, stepping between the two and preventing Lan from further embarrassing himself. “About that tour Mr.Moor?”
“Of course” said Cassio, who was also chuckling slightly, as was the rest of the guard, “right this way.”
He took his daughter’s hand and then began to walk in the direction of the village center. Lan and Byakko followed.
Now that his proximity to Alayna had decreased, Lan’s heart had started to settle down and his mind began to clear. It was then he noticed that Byakko had brought his head very near his own, and that Byakko had puffed up his cheeks like a puffer fish while staring at Lan intently.
“Handled that like a pro you did.” Said Byakko in squeaky demented voice “Bet you’ll be handling the ladies well in no time!”
Lan blushed, grunted, and turned his head away. He was feeling extremely frustrated and ashamed, but at the same time slightly elated. He had never experienced something like that before, something that made him feel so warm.
“Hey!” he heard someone shout from ahead. He looked up and saw Alayna waving at him to catch up with the rest of the group.
“Alright Lan” thought Lan, “you can do this.”
He then ran to catch up the rest of the group, but when Alayna grabbed his hand to help show him around he found that he really couldn’t handle it and spent the entire tour in what felt like a drunken stupor.
“This will be our home for a little while,” said Byakko, setting down their home on an empty patch of land inside the wall. Lan was standing a little ways away, keeping a giant fire ablaze that was roasting all manner of fowl, fish, and beast.
They had finished the tour a few hours earlier, by which time Byakko had grown quite hungry. Cassio offered to treat them in nice tavern at the edge of town but Lan, knowing that Byakko could eat the man out of house and home, had politely refused and instead had invited them to have dinner with them. Lan and Byakko had gathered ingredients for dinner from the forest and ocean. Lan used his knowledge of animal behavior to catch a large number of different animals and Byakko had caught the seafood. Thankfully no one was around when he did so, because, as always, he did his fishing in his skinnies.
Together they easily amassed enough to feed the village twice over. Cassio and the rest of the guard were amazed.
“Who are you people?”Cassio had asked. But they knew a good feast when they saw one, and were about to call of the rest of the village to join when Lan intervened.
“Grandpa eats…a lot” he said, awkwardly “Invite everyone in the village and there won’t be enough to eat, even with this amount. You can bring your families though!”
The guards looked incredulous, but after seeing Byakko’s strength, they were willing to believe it. So, they went home and gathered their families and then went to the tavern and bought back a couple barrels of ale and some apple cider for the children.
Lan prepared all the food carefully, except for Byakko’s which he simply mass roasted (you have to cook a lot of food really fast in order to feed that guy). While Lan was cooking everything, Alayna and some other children were playing tag.
“Hey, why isn’t the new guy playing?” asked a slightly portly boy, pointing at Lan.
“He’s cooking the food!” Alayna with a smile, she then turned towards Lan, who was placing the prepared meats next to the blaze to be roasted, and yelled “Everything fine Lan?”
The moment Lan heard her voice he began to vibrate nervously once again.
“Y-yeah” he called back, placing sliced meat onto searing hot rocks. “Everything’s going gre—“
It was then that, in his nervousness, that he dropped a fish which landed under his foot and caused him to slip. The meat and fish in his arms flew into the air and amazingly all of them landed on an empty place on the hot cooking rocks and began roasting, sadly so did both of his palms when he tried to balance himself.
Lan cried out in pain at began flailing his arms and blowing on his palms. “Hot, hot!” he cried.
The other children began laughing, but Alayna ran to a nearby bucket of water that Lan had set aside in case the fire got out of control and brought it over to him. Lan gratefully stuck his hands into the cold solution and sighed in relief.
“Better?” said Alayna, her face lit up with brilliant smile.
“Yeah” said Lan, entranced “I am.”
From the other side of the area, Byakko smiled as he saw this.
“Somebody’s in looove” he said quietly with a chuckle.
“Um…Lan?” said Alayna, looking nervous.
“Yes?” said Lan in a dreamy voice.
“Isn’t something burning?”
Lan’s eyes shot open, and he whipped his head in the direction of the cooking where some of it was beginning to burn.
Gasping in alarm dashed forward and with a flurry of speed and skill, Lan whipped the meat that was starting to burn into the air. Each piece landed with a plop on one of several giant empty plates in the center of the groups that had. Many of the guardsmen clapped and cheered as they watched Lan dash here and there, faster than any normal boy his age would be capable of. Within a few minutes, all the food had been pulled out and had been piled onto several giant plates, each of which had a stack of food a 3 meters high. Laughing the guardsman and their families clapped once again and began to pull bits of meat and fish to munch on.
“Wow!” said Alayna, “That was fast!”
“T-thank you.” Said Lan.
At that moment there was a dinging sound from inside Lan’s home.
“Oh” said Lan turning towards it “wait just one moment.”
He dashed inside, and later emerged with oven mitts on and bearing several trays of deserts. He had baked them earlier using ingredients that he and Byakko had brought from their village, he hadn’t wanted the eggs, as well as a number of other ingredients, to spoil. He set one tray down near each giant plate, which was accompanied by gratitude from those surrounding them; he then removed the best brownie from one of them and timidly gave it to Alayna.
“Wow!” said Alayna, after taking a bite “It’s delicious! This is the best brownie I’ve ever had!”
“Why thank—“ Lan was cut off as Alayna embraced him in gratitude.
His heart shot into his throat, his body went rigid, and his face turned bright red. He remained like this even after she let go and ran to eat with her father Cassio, and her mother Bianca who had just arrived.
It took him a few minutes to begin to think clearly again, and by think clearly I mean actually be able to form a thought. The first thing that popped into his head was Alayna’s warm smile. Yes my friends, you all guessed it. Lan had fallen in love for the first time, and with the first girl he ever met at that.
“I’ll be her knight in shining army” thought Lan dreamily and shakily, a smile splattered on his features, he then began to walk back towards his grandfather who was stupefying everyone around him with feats of gastronomy and alcohol tolerance. As for Ignis, he slept his way through dinner and was quite cross when he found out what he had missed.