The next day, Lan woke up exuberant. He was able to finish preparing the morning meal, which included Byakko’s exorbitant portion, in half the time he usually would and even managed to keep a grin on his face as he finished that day’s training (which was sparring…so yeah he and Ignis got pretty battered.) Then after the swelling went down it was the middle of the day, so he went to see if he could play with Alayna and her friends.
“You sure its love?” shouted Byakko, who had listened to Lan talk about how he felt last night. “I think you might just fall for any little girl who’s nice to ya!”
But Lan ignored him , hoisted his large bag onto his back, and continued out the door. This time Ignis was with him and was awake and was determined not to miss anything fun. The little wolf was also very excited by the new sights and smells that surrounded him, and wasn’t able to go a few feet without marking new territory, which usually ended up in a disgruntled townsperson chasing them. As he walked through the town, Lan surveyed the area (he had been too distracted by Alayna during the tour to have remembered anything). The town was a basic small village with wooden buildings and shingled roofs. There was everything you would expect in a town of that size, with taverns; inns; electronic stores; and a menagerie of other businesses.
After a few minutes of walking around, Lan and Ignis found the rest of the children, who were playing in the middle of an empty lot situated between a bakery and the local bank. Lan looked around for Alayna while Ignis stood beside him, wagging his little tail excitedly.
Lan quickly spotted her standing among a group of other little girls and was about to call out to her when someone shouted:
The entire group of children whipped around and stared in Lan’s and Ignis’s direction, their eyes trained on the small dog.
Ignis cocked his head to one side and made a confused whine.
“Puppy!” the rest of them cried.
All of them dropped whatever it was they were doing and began to stampede towards the little dog who hadn’t yet realized the predicament he was in. But all animals know that a large group stampeding towards you is rarely a good thing, so the little wolf pup yipped in fright and leapt into Lan’s arms. In seconds, the two were surrounded, all of the children chattering and trying to pet little Ignis.
“Is this your dog?” one of them asked.
“He’s so cute!” said another.
Initially, Ignis was very afraid of the people surrounding him. But he soon got used to them and started to enjoy all the attention and petting that he was getting. Lan too was enjoying the many kids surrounding him and complimenting him on his little wolf pup.
“I’m making new friends” thought Lan. There were other little girls in the group surrounding him, but as he talked with them, he found that they didn’t make him feel the same way that Alayna did.
“So, it’s definitely true that its love!” thought Lan.
“Hey!” he heard Alayna call over the crowd. “I want to see it too!”
Lan determined where her voice was coming from using his heightened senses and then leapt into the air. The other children gasped as he soared above them and then came down with a thump right behind Alayna.
“You wanted to meet him right” said Lan, holding out Ignis belly up, who was smiling and panting with his tongue lolling out.
“Ohhhh, he’s adorable” said Alayna as she petted him, Ignis closed his eyes in pleasure as she began scratching his ears.
“Want to hold him?” asked Lan.
“Oh can I?” said Alayna.
Lan nodded and Alayna took hold of Ignis, letting out a slight oomph due to Ignis’s weight, and then cradled him in her arms like a baby. Ignis yawned and then rolled onto his back in her arms. Alayna nuzzled him with her face and he nuzzled back.
“She’s so cute.” Though Lan, at the very same moment that Alayna said “He’s so cute.”
Lan had read many stories about old warriors who had regretted not taking their chance with the woman they loved when they had the chance. So, Lan had decided he wasn’t going to be indecisive about this. He was going establish this relationship as fast as he could.
“Um…Alayna?” asked Lan
“Yes?” said Alayna looking up.
“Well” continued Lan, “I was wondering if you’d like to—“
“Alayna!” yelled someone with a child’s voice, cutting Lan off.
“James!” shouted Alayna, who immediately recognized the voice “over here!”
A few seconds later a boy wearing a smaller version of the militia’s leather armor walked over. He had brown hair which was cut short, brown eyes, and a very pleasant looking face.
“Sorry I couldn’t play yesterday” said the boy Lan believed was James. “After the Grimm attacked my father ordered me to do some intensive combat training, what with my militia entrance exam coming up soon, and didn’t let me go until I finished, so I missed the party you all had.”
“That’s okay!” said Alayna “I’m just glad that you’re here now.”
She placed Ignis on the ground, who made a whining protesting noise, and gave James a hug, which he returned with a smile.
For the first time in his life, Lan felt a certain sickening feeling spread throughout his stomach and felt himself grow slightly angry.
“I guess this is jealousy.” Though Lan moodily, “It really doesn’t feel good.”
“Hello” said Lan, walking forward, quickly suppressing the feeling which had led many a great man to his doom. “Nice to meet you.”
“Hey!” said James, letting go of Alayna and turning to stare in his direction “You’re that warrior boy!”
He ran over and began shaking Lan’s hand vigorously.
“I saw you fighting those Grimm the other day, it was incredible! I never thought someone our age would be able to fight them so well against so many, and single handedly to boot!”
Ignis gave an annoyed grunt, as if saying that he had participated in the battle as well.
“Well” said Lan, slightly taken aback by James’s pleasant demeanor “Thank you. I’m guessing you’re going to become one of the militia in the future?”
“Yes!” said James, releasing his handshake and saluting “I come from a long line of fine guardsmen, and hope to live up to the family name. Thanks to the intensive training regime my father puts me through I am stronger than most of the other boys my age. But I can see from that thing on your back that my strength is a far cry from yours.”
“Thanks” said Lan, forcing a smile “and I guess you and Alayna have been friends a while?”
“Yeah!” said James “We were born the same year so we’ve gone through a lot together. Especially that time we got stuck in that tree in the forest, huh Alayna?”
Alayna giggled, and Lan suddenly found himself suppressing an urge to punch James in the face.
“Hey!” called one of the other children “Come over here, it’s time for the soccer match!”
The three of them turned their faces, and saw that the group of children had already split into two groups, one on each side of the field. Ignis began wagging his tail and running back and forth. He obviously wanted to play as well.
“We’re coming!” shouted Alayna, she then turned back to the Lan, Ignis and James. “I guess two of us go to each side. So, I guess it’s me and James on one side and you and Ignis on the—“
“Actually” interrupted Lan, dropping his bag to the ground. “I think it would be better if me and Ignis were on opposite teams. Both of us are pretty tough, so it’s only fair” James and Alayna nodded “I suggest that Ignis and James goes to one team and Alayna and I to go to the other.” Finished Lan.
James and Alayna both shrugged, “All right.” They both said in unison. Once again, Lan found himself slightly irritated.
The two pairs went to the opposing sides, a whistle was blown, and the game began. Much like Lan predicted, he and Ignis were able to easily outmaneuver all the other children, Ignis whizzing through the field like a red bullet and head-butting the ball and Lan flitting between players as a blue blur and kicking it. All across the field kids were kicking at air where the ball once was, falling flat on their faces as they tripped, and simply sitting down and pouting after they gave up trying to get the ball. Lan found himself unintentionally tripping James far more than any other child. It soon came down to just Lan and Ignis scoring goal after goal while their respective teammates struggled to keep up with them. When the whistle blew for half time, all players except Lan and Ignis collapsed onto the ground.
The score was currently 10:7 in Lan’s team’s favor. Noticing that Alayna was also wheezing on the ground, Lan dashed to his pack; pulled out a bottle of water; and gave it to her.
“Thanks.” Said Alayna, gratefully accepting the liquid and chugging it.
“Hey!” shouted someone else “can we get some to?”
Lan didn’t have enough for everyone, so many people had to share. After a few more minutes everyone got up again to begin the second half.
“Oopsie” shouted Alayna, glancing down at a pink watch on her wrist. “I need to get home soon or mom will get angry.”
“Oh!” said Lan whipping around to face her “Let me walk you home!”
“Okay.” replied Alayna.
Lan offered her his elbow and, after a slight pause, she slipped her arm into the hole between his elbow and his side.
“Ignis!” Lan shouted back “You can continue playing with everyone, just come back before dinner.”
Ignis barked in understanding and watched as the two of them walked away. He then felt a palm on his head, he looked up and saw James looking down at him.
“Ready to kick butt?” he said, smiling.
Ignis barked, and with his help, his team turned the points around and completely dominated the other.
Over the next few weeks Lan grew accustomed to living in town. He learned many societal norms, such as you cannot go to the bathroom in the bushes and that giving massages to random people was rude (the senior citizens back in Cunctantem Cinere had always enjoyed them), and had begun picking up knowledge about certain items, brands, and items that he had never heard of before (Anime, Manga, and video games being his favorite). He had also learned more about influential organizations and businesses such as the White Fang, the peaceful Faunus rights group that Sammy was currently a part of, and the Schnee Dust Company, one of the world’s most powerful Dust energy companies, and as a result he had bought many books on business and politics with the money he and his grandfather had earned from working in the militia. Lan and Byakko’s efforts had made defending the village substantially easier, and as a result the militia had needed to purchase much less ammunition over that time period, much to the ire of the local weapon manufacturers and the branch of the Schnee dust company that was located in the village. Lan had also been trying his best to get closer with Alayna over this time period and had achieved measurable success. They had chatted more frequently, played more often, and had been spending much more time together. However, Alayna still seemed to have a closer relationship with James, always dropping whatever she was doing, many of the time with Lan, to go and talk to James whenever he came near. This had always angered Lan to a certain extent and afterwards he was always ashamed that envy was able to take hold within him, but Lan had always been able to hold in his negative emotions and kept trying to be friendly with James, that is until today.
It was approaching evening, at that time the Grimm in the area usually became more active. Lan, Byakko and the rest of the next shift’s guard were in the tavern, enjoying a nice meal before their shift. Byakko’s meal of course, was composed of food that Lan had gathered from the surrounding area, and a variety of drinks provided by the barkeep. Since coming to Little Root, Byakko had…overindulged in the alcoholic beverages offered at the local inn, spending all of his income on them (thankfully he let Lan’s lien, the currency used in the world of Remnant, well alone.) He had just been paid that morning by the militia, so as always he was asleep in the corner of the room with empty kegs and bottles surrounding him. Lan and the rest of the guard usually chose to leave him well alone, after all he wasn’t needed most nights since most of the attacks by Grimm were repelled rather easily and waking him up was often met with disastrous consequences. Lan had just leapt down from his chair when he felt a hand on his shoulder. He looked up and found himself staring into the face of Rodrick, James’s father.
“Lan, have I got a surprise for you tonight!” he said with a smile.
“What?” asked Lan.
“Your good friend James has finally completed his basic combat training and will be joining us on the walls for patrols tonight!” said Rodrick, punching the air “aren’t you glad a friend will be joining you from now on?!”
Lan simply gave him a blank stare but when he saw a perturbed expression start to form on Roderick’s face, Lan, through sheer force of will, managed to put out a slight smile.
Roderick smiled back, taking Lan’s gesture as a sign of approval.
“James is getting ready” he said, “you two will probably have tons of fun tonight!”
He then ran out the door, obviously in high spirits. After he left, Lan suddenly felt ashamed again for letting jealousy seize him up like that. He then took a deep breath and headed for the door.
“Got to get along” he thought, exiting the tavern “got to be friendly, James is a good guy and if I just give him the chance I…know we can be good—“
“Wow!” someone shouted.
Lan whipped around and saw James and Alayna at the end of the street. James was looking quite embarrassed because Alayna had moved her face quite close to his in her excitement. Alayna was wearing a bright green sweater and an earth brown skirt.
“You’re really going up on the walls tonight?” asked Alayna
“Y-yeah” said James, scratching his head.
“Oh Wow, can I come along?” responded Alayna.
“I don’t know” answered James “It’s going to be really dangerous.”
At that moment crashing and banging sounds emerged from within the tavern. A few moments later Byakko, still quite red in the face, burst out the door and startled them all. He then belched and dashed over to where James and Alayna stood, coming to a complete halt in front of the two. This occurred so quickly that the two of them jumped in surprise.
“I heeeaaard everything” he said, swaying slightly “and don’t lieet the boy fool ya girly. The walls pretty much safe. ‘belch’” Alayna stepped back, covering her nose with her sleeves. “We only getcsh beowolves and ‘caisionaly ursa round here, nutin that gets ober dem walls. The dangerous part on the ground where me and Lan kick ass! Guards on the walls safe and shoot at things” Byakko then paused for a sec, a stupid smile on his face. “yep” he said drunkenly after a few moments.
He then let off a thunderous intestinal bomb, filling the air with stink and (due to its amazing force) sent Lan, who was unfortunately standing right behind him, flying through the air and into a wall. He then tilted forward and fell on top of James and Alayna, who both failed to get away in time, and began snoring.
Lan dislodged himself from the wall that he was stuck in and then ran over to his grandfather and pulled Alayna and James’s gasping forms out from under the man who was an embodiment of poor hygiene.
“Thanks.” Both of them said. After a few moments of gasping, Alayna straightened up and turned to James.
“It looks like I’m okay for the wall James” she said.
“But what about your dad?” responded James “He’ll never agree to this.”
“Aw I can talk that big softy into anything” said Alayna with a mischievous smile on her face. “See you on the wall tonight; I’ll go change into something fitting.”
She then ran off in the direction of her home.
Lan and James stood there, Byakko’s snoring form evident in the background.
“What just happened?” asked James, shaking his head.
“Something” said Lan sighing “Well we’d better get to the walls now.”
With that, Lan gave a whistle and Ignis came bounding from wherever he had been hiding. The three of them then headed in the direction of the walls to get ready for the night, as well as get away from the odors that were constantly being emitted from the old man.
Lan was sitting down and leaning against one of the battlements on the top of the wall, wrapped in a blanket and with Ignis on his side. He peered out of the corner of his eye at the hubbub happening not too far away. James was showing Alayna one of the standard issue rifles that was given to every militiaman on the walls. Alayna was currently wearing a green travel cloak on top of an earth brown dress. Lan had tried to help show her around as well but James, having had received training in the usage of the weapons; tools; and protocols that came with being a militiaman, outshone Lan in explaining the workings of the defensive perimeter to Alayna. After all, whenever it came time to defend the walls, Lan and Byakko had always leapt from the top down to the bottom of the wall to confront the Grimm and seldom used any of the firearms (Lan had used them very rarely and Byakko never touched them. Serendipitously, their combat on the ground had also reduced the amount of repairs that had to be made on the wall, except for that one occasion where Byakko had gone into battle drunk and ended up punching a 6 meter hole in the wall which took Lan a full day to repair.), so after a few awkward attempts of explaining Lan felt that he was unneeded and slowly walked away from them and took a seat under a battlement.
Lan sipped a cup of hot cocoa a militia man had given him, and grumbled as James began showing Alayna the locations of the emergency arms which were only to be used on the occasion that more powerful Grimm arrived. He was feeling quite gloomy as the night grew longer. Ignis sensed this and placed his head in Lan’s lap in an attempt to comfort him, but Lan never noticed.
After a little while he felt a hand on his shoulder.
“You feeling okay kid?”
Lan looked up and stared into Cassio’s scarred face.
“I’m…” Lan glanced in the direction of James and Alayna, who were currently eating some standard issue militia rations together, “Fine” Lan almost spat the word out, but managed to restrain himself at the last second. Cassio however caught the meaning.
“Don’t feel down kid” he said, plopping down next to Lan and Ignis “Those two have been friends since they were pooping their pants” this elicited a chuckle out of some of the nearby soldiers “You’re not going to make as much progress over a couple weeks.”
“Am I that obvious?” said Lan, sighing and glancing down
“From what I can tell, this is your first love” responded Cassio “You haven’t had much experience hiding these kinds of feelings have you?”
“No, but…Cassio, um…do…you think I have a chance with her?” said Lan turning to look Cassio.
“Honestly…no” said Cassio “from what I can tell from talking with your grandfather, the two of you are only going to be here for another two weeks at the most. Not nearly enough time, unless something major happens, and also I’m afraid I couldn’t allow it even if it did work out. You and your grandfather wouldn’t be coming around too much, what with your journeys and all, and that would just make it hard for my little girl, and before you ask, no she cannot come with you.”
Lan sighed again and pulled the blanket over his face.
“Well” said Cassio, getting up “This will probably be good experience for ya. As they say: “It is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all.””
He then walked away to check on the other troops.
Lan sat there a while longer, his glum mood deepening with each passing minute.
“This isn’t how it was supposed to go” he thought “Why didn’t anything happen that would get us closer, like with the highwayman in The Royal Bride story?”
Lan knew deep in his heart that you shouldn’t rely on fairy tale logic for real life romance, but the child in him kept overpowering that voice of reason. He turned, got up, and turned his head in Alayna’s direction, determined to go and talk to her. Alayna and James were both sitting down, fast asleep with their heads nestled against each other. Lan sat back down and let out a rumbling sigh. All of a sudden he heard Ignis start growling.
“The Grimm are here huh?” said Lan, groaning and getting up. “Let’s get this over with.”
He waived down the nearest guard and had the man go and alert the other soldiers. He then turned around placed one of his feet on the battlements and leapt off the wall, Ignis following close behind. The two of them landed on the ground below with a large thump, their landing cushioned by their aura which created a blue flash and a red flash. The two of them then stood very still their eyes scanning the darkness and their ears straining for the smallest sound. They heard the sound of snapping twigs, the growl of bestial throats, and the plodding of clawed feet. Very soon they saw many sets of glowing red eyes looming out of the darkness. The first shapes they were able to make out were the bipedal wolfish forms of beowolves, and behind them were the looming figures of the large bear-like ursa. Lan assumed a fighting stance and Ignis bared his fangs and growled. The two of them waited as the creatures began to creep towards them.
“Fire!” Lan yelled.
There was the simultaneous click of multiple firing mechanisms, immediately followed by the bangs of multiple rifles going off in succession. The Grimm were peppered with ammunition and many of them fell right there. But others bobbed and weaved and avoided the shots, quickly closing in on Lan and Ignis. The first to make it through the gunfire was a large beowolf, an alpha by the look of it. It leapt into the air, diving straight for Lan and Ignis, raising its claw and twisting through the air.
Like a red fire bolt, Ignis shot forward and head butted the Beowolf in the stomach. Bile squirted out of the creatures open mouth and its eyes opened in surprise, which made perfect targets for Lan’s aura covered pointer fingers. After leaping up and causing the previously stated damage, Lan swung both his feet forward and caught the beowolf in the chin. The force separated the two of them before the beowolf’s flails of pain could strike the boy. Blinded and senseless from pain, the beowolf was made quick work of by the stream of fire from on top of the wall.
Seeing that more of the Grimm had made it through the laser fire, Lan seized the corpse of the alpha beowolf by the heel and began to spin it around. Once it had gained enough momentum, Lan let it fly in the direction of the Grimm, where it slammed into three beowolves and left them vulnerable to the militia’s firearms.
“Same as the other nights” thought Lan, as he and Ignis returned to their defensive position.
Lan and Ignis continued to take care of any Grimm that managed to get past the militia’s firearms. Lan however was more aggressive this time than he had been on previous occasions. Instead of striking only at the softest tissues on the Grimm, he was throwing blow after blow at any exposed area that he could reach. He was irritated, very irritated, and the bloodlust of the battlefield was only adding to his burning emotions. The image of Alayna and James happily sitting together kept popping into his heads along with Cassio’s words. He kept punching every black shape that came near him, beginning to lose any thoughts about tactics and form. He found himself heading deeper and deeper into the line of Grimm, ignoring the claws that raked him and the gunfire that grazed him. He knew he was getting into a difficult situation, but he didn’t care. Luckily for him, the support from the militia prevented the Grimm from overwhelming him. Many guards shouted at him to come back, but he could hear them no longer he simply fought and fought and fought, and it wasn’t until he felt a tug on his leg from Ignis that he noticed something strange. The gunfire had completely stopped. There were considerably few Grimm now compared to when they had begun, but that was by no means a good reason for all the weapons to have stopped firing. It was then that he noticed the yelling from on top of the wall. Lan and Ignis leapt back, creating some good distance between them and the Grimm and turned to look up at the wall. What they saw, silhouetted against the moon, was the giant raven-like form of a Nevermore descending on the wall.
A few minutes earlier
Cassio surveyed his surrounding soldiers as he reloaded his rifle. All of them were reloading and firing with military precision, their usual stress gone thanks to Lan and Ignis’s efforts down below. He then turned and looked in the direction of his daughter who was watching James with dreamy eyes as he fired at the Grimm below. Everything was going quite smoothly. He had been quite worried when Alayna had asked to come onto the wall earlier, but nothing even remotely dangerous was occurring.
“Maybe I was overthinking things” thought Cassio, leveling his rifle at a group of beowolves that had been knocked over by a corpse thrown by Lan. “We’ll finish with these guys soon and then I can send the kids back to…”
His thought trailed away as a loud screech split the sky above him. The men around him stopped firing and stared straight up. Silhouetted against the moon, a Nevermore descended down towards them. It had been years since one of these powerful Grimm had last been sighted in this area, so the guard was completely stunned by this sight. Cassio was the first to recover and quickly shouted at his men to begin firing. The boom of multiple firearms filled the air, but each shot was useless against its durable hide. Cassio shouted at his men to unlock the emergency weapons cache, but too late.
The Nevermore crashed onto the wall and scattered the guards that were unlucky enough to be in that area. Men and women were knocked off the wall as it thrashed about, and debris was sent flying in both directions. Cassio ran over to one of the emergency weapons caches, knocked aside the man who was fumbling with a key, and smashed the lock open with the butt of his rifle. He then removed a rocket launcher which had an explosive missile made from a refined red dust crystal. He then whipped around, aimed at the Nevermore and fired. The explosive whizzed through the air and exploded as it smashed into the Nevermore’s side, sending a shower of feathers into the air. Screeching in pain, the Nevermore flapped its wings and flew into the sky once again.
“Open those things up already!” shouted Cassio, throwing down the used rocket launcher. “We need to blast that thing to kingdom come before it—“
He paused as he noticed something in the area where the Nevermore had crashed down. James lay groaning near the site of the impact, blood trickling down the side of his head.
“Alayna.” Whispered Cassio, his blood running cold. He ran to the crash site and looked around desperately for his little girl.
“Alayna!” he yelled, hoping that she would pop out from behind some of the debris.
He looked all around the area but was unable to find her. With a sinking feeling in his stomach he looked over the edges of the walls, expecting to see her down at the bottom on one of the sides along with the guardsmen that were knocked down but she wasn’t there either. Cassio turned his head left and right, checking and rechecking the wall and the sides of the walls over and over again.
Then above his head the Nevermore screeched once again, Cassio looked up and saw the Nevermore circling far above, it was a terrifying sight to see such a dangerous creature so near yet so far from their village. But what Cassio noticed, clutched in the Nevermore’s left talon, chilled his blood more than 100 Nevermores would have.
“I got it!” yelled a burly militiaman, who had another rocket leveled at the Nevermore.
“No!” Cassio ran forward and knocked the rocket launcher out of the man’s hand. The weapon went off and the rocket flew off and crashed into a small group of Grimm on the ground, blowing them to pieces.
“That thing’s got Alayna!”
True enough, clutched in the nevermore’s talon and knocked out, was Alayna, who was incredibly lucky just to be alive.
“Get Byakko!” yelled Cassio, “Wake that idiot up!”
One of the militiamen saluted and ran off to do the deed. A minute later there was an impact and a large dust cloud rose up from the center of the village. Another minute later Byakko arrived at the top of the wall, carrying the militiaman’s limp form over his right shoulder.
“What’s up?” he said, scratching his ass.
“That Nevermore has got Alayna!” shouted Cassio
“I can bring it down” replied Byakko.
“Excellent!” sighed Cassio “Now—“
“But!” interrupted Byakko “if I do, she’ll fall to her death.”
Cassio groaned and put his face into his hands. The nevermore screeched again.
“Captain!” yelled one of the militiamen. “The Nevermore is beginning to fly away!”
“What?!” yelled Cassio “What about Alayna?”
“Probably going to get eaten.” Said Byakko flatly.
Cassio growled and rounded on Byakko.
“We’re all thinking it.” Said Byakko, shrugging his shoulders.
There was a crunching sound from what sounded like halfway up the outer wall, Byakko looked down and smiled.
“Solution is here.” he said.
A moment later, Lan leapt onto the wall, throwing down the limp forms of some of the militia who had been knocked off the wall, a moment later Ignis appeared and did the same.
“Alayna--” began Cassio.
“I know!” shouted Lan “Grandpa, operation human bullet!”
“Alright!” shouted Byakko, raising his arm palm up and with the elbow bent.
Lan jumped up onto Byakko’s palm and fixed his sights on the Nevermore.
“Can you make the shot?” asked Lan.
“Hmmm, Can I?” said Byakko
Lan looked down.
Before he finished the sentence Byakko, threw him. Lan blasted through the air, wreathed in a layer of his Grandpa’s white aura. The Nevermore had its back to him and didn’t notice the projectile until it was too late. Angling himself with bursts of his aura so that he wouldn’t crash into the Nevermore anywhere near Alayna, Lan crashed into the Nevermore’s back, his grandpa’s aura discharging around him in a thundering burst.
The Nevermore screeched in pain and was nearly knocked out of the sky, normally if Byakko threw something at a Nevermore it would have a large whole where the projectile passed through, but this time around he had reduced the strength of the throw to account for Lan’s…safety and Alayna’s close proximity.
As he collided, Lan grabbed onto the Nevermore’s feathers and began to climb his way down to its talons. When Lan was halfway to his destination the Nevermore recovered its balance and, sensing there was something clinging to it, began to fly in a violent and random pattern in attempt to throw Lan off. However, Lan’s grip didn’t loosen, his fingers tempered from his grandpa’s finger training, and he continued down unperturbed. He soon reached the talon that held Alayna. Lan channeled all the aura he could on short notice into his right hand, raised it, and smashed it into the joint joining the nevermore’s leg and talons. It was like driving a nail into a crack in the wall. With a loud crunch the cartilage broke and the bones disconnected. The Nevermore’s screeched in pain and released its grip, causing Alayna to begin to plummet towards the ground.
Lan leapt forward, kicking off the Nevermore with all his strength and flew towards Alayna, catching her limp form in his arms. He then angled himself in the air so that his feet pointed at the ground, and prepared for their inevitable crash landing. All of a sudden, a feather from above whipped by Lan’s face. Lan looked upwards and saw that the Nevermore was flying in his direction and quickly gaining on them, but Lan also noticed something else and smiled.
“Hey bird-brain” yelled a gruff voice from above.
The nevermore turned its head to look behind itself, and found itself inches away from Byakko’s smiling face.
“Raggle Saggle” said Byakko, emphasizing both words. Both of his hands were raised. I am not going to explicitly explain what happened to the nevermore next. But you should know that he brought it to ground level with a single blow, afterwards he landed near it and made…quite the mess out of it to put it lightly.
Lan landed on the ground with a large ‘wham’, kicking up a cloud of dust. Luckily, he and Alayna had landed on the edge of the forest. If they had actually landed in the forest they could have been quickly ambushed by large numbers of Grimm.
Boosting his speed and agility with aura enhancement, Lan dashed back towards the town, avoiding any other Grimm that came near them and quickly arrived at the wall. A cry of joy came from the top. Lan looked up to see Cassio, James, and the rest of the guard, looks of absolute joy on their faces. With a last burst of strength, Lan placed a foot on the wall and dashed up its length, coming to a halt at the very top and then slumped over and began wheezing.
“Alayna!” cried Cassio, grabbing her out of Lan’s arms. “Thank goodness!”
“She’s fine right now” said Lan, breathing hard. “She’ll ‘gasp’ probably wake up in a few minutes. Take ‘inhale’ care of her for now.”
“I promise I will this time!” shouted James, tears streaming down his face.
At that moment there was a large screech from the woods. Lan whipped around and saw the massive scorpion-like form of a deathstalker exit the trees.
“I got this” said Lan, taking a deep breath. “Just got to keep it busy till grandpa gets to it.”
Lan turned and leapt off the wall, closely followed by Ignis’s lupine form, and dashed towards the deathstalker. A white glimmer could be seen from within the forest showing Byakko was quickly returning.
The soldiers on the wall executed standard medical procedure with Alayna, checking her physical status and apply the necessary treatment. It was mainly carried out by James who was crying and saying how sorry he was for bringing her to the wall as he knelt over her and carried out treatment.
“It’s not your fault James” said Cassio as a white explosion lit up the field below, showing that Byakko had arrived “It’s mine. I should never have let her sweet talk me into letting her come up here.”
“Hey!” yelled one of the guards “Lan and Byakko have suppressed the rest of the Grimm and are heading back here.”
A cheer went up from the rest of the militia.
“Excellent” shouted Cassio. “We would have been badly prepared to handle those powerful Grimm without them. Make sure they are—“
At that moment a groan escaped Alayna’s throat. All eyes whipped around and stared at her. Slowly but surely her eyes opened and slowly focused on James whose face was right above hers.
“Wha-What happened” said Alayna groggily,
“Alayna!” shouted James, his eyes filled with joy “You’re awake!”
“I remember being attacked by a big bird” said Alayna “and after that I—“
Her eyes then widened as she made sense of the situation.
“I was almost killed” she cried, sitting up “I got snatched up in that nevermore’s talon. I thought for sure I was going to die. I remember the ground getting gurther and further away, and and--”
“It’s okay Alayna” said James, petting her on the head. “You’re safe now.”
Alayna then turned her gaze towards James, and a brilliant smile slowly spread across her face. “Oh James!” she cried “It was you wasn’t it? You saved me!”
She then wrapped her arms around his startled form, pulled him close, and kissed him right on the lips. The kiss was held for three long seconds, during which all the guards, especially Cassio whose jaw had dropped, were speechless. After disengaging, James swooned slightly and then quickly shook his head, clearing away the mist.
“N-No. Alayna!” he said, his face beat red “the one who saved you was—“
He was cut off by a scraping noise that came from the outside battlement. Everyone turned to stare in that direction. Standing there, a shocked expression on his face was Lan. The whole group stood in silence for a few moments. Then Lan’s head tilted downward and his whole body began shaking. A single tear-trickled down the side of his face and his breathing began to grow violent.
“Lan.” Said Cassio, approaching the boy and reaching his hand out in an attempt to comfort him “It’s not—“
Lan violently knocked Cassio’s hand away with a swipe of his arm and ran past him and the rest of the guards. He reached the other side of the wall and leapt off the wall into the town. Blind with grief, his coordination skills were severely impaired. He messed up his footwork as he stepped onto a rooftop, slipped, and crashed into many wooden walls before he landed face down on the ground. Slowly, he picked himself up and ran towards his home, tears flowing down his face like rain.
The guards stared after him, their faces sorrowful. A few seconds later there was a second crunch on the outside battlement. Byakko stood there holding Ignis in one of his large hands.
“What the heck just happened here?” he said, setting Ignis’s shivering form onto the ground.
Cassio turned towards Byakko slowly and looked the large man in the eyes.
“Love’s cruel sting.” He replied
Byakko looked at him, and then at James and Alayna who were both giving blank stares.
“Well, I guess it’s okay.” He said, picking his right nostril. “Was probably going to happen anyway…Whelp, just leave him alone for a while. He’ll get over it eventually, and if he doesn’t I’ll give him the needed kick in the pants.” Byakko scratched his chin and then brought up his face suddenly. “Well night everyone, see you in the morning. Come on Ignis.”
Byakko seized the young pup, who whimpered again, and then leapt off the wall. Far did he soar into the sky, and as he passed in front of the moon he thrust his front leg forward and bent his back leg, and raised both arms above his head in a circle, forming the silhouette of a muscular man performing ballet. As he descended he spun through the air and landed on his feet with a thump right in front of his home, just as a black shape ran in and slammed the door.