“What are you reading Lan?” asked Byakko, leaning over to look at the book the boy was holding.
“Ecology” answered Lan “I’m on the chapter about keystone species…Mmmhmm, grandpa, we’d better make sure not to eat any by accident.”
“Probably already have” said Byakko, biting into a large bovine haunch in his hands. Ignis was running around Byakko, hoping to catch any scraps that might fall.
The three of them had been traveling for 2 weeks since leaving Little Root. During this time they had covered an impossibly long distance despite the massive weight they carried with them, having travelled a little more than 1100 miles on foot. They had made quick stops in many small villages they encountered and helped travelers fight back bandits and Grimm on a few occasions, but they mostly had an uneventful trip. They were currently trekking up a tall mountain range mountain range dotted with pine trees. According to Byakko, they were finally close to reaching their destination.
“It’s a nice little place I found many years ago” continued Byakko, tossing the now clean bone to a delighted Ignis “Its got natural hot springs, beautiful scenery, and ,most important of all, enough replenishing food to feed me without going through…what did you call it again?”
“Ecological collapse as a result of the overusing the natural wildlife.” Responded Lan, turning a page.
“Yeah that.” Said Byakko, who was now picking his left nostril. “It’s going to be a great place to set up home base.”
“Isn’t home where the heart is though?” asked Lan.
“Now boy, I’ve told you a hundred times, a man has got to have one specific place with the same air, sky, and landscape that they can return to and rest their burdens after a long battle. I was originally going with Cunctantem Cinere, but it holds too many painful memories, so our home base must be a different. And luckily for you, my old home was available! It’s where I lived before I settled down in Cunctantem for a while.”
“Will we get there soon?” asked Lan.
“Well,” said Byakko, smiling “Come and see for yourself! The mountain peak is right there!” he pointed to the area, which wasn’t that far away. “Come on! Last one there eats whatever grew the bathtub!”
Lan and Byakko shot forward, zooming towards the top like bullets. Ignis however was more than happy to be left behind; after all, he liked the taste of bath fungus. It only took them a few moments to finally reach the top, and what spread out before them took Lan’s breath away.
Spreading out before him was a valley filled with a lush forest, teeming with life. On the far side of the valley was a massive waterfall, which fell into a giant shimmering lagoon below. Directly in front of the lagoon was a massive tree towering high into the sky that was surrounded by a field of flowers that spread out until the line of trees began. Surrounding the entire valley was a tall mountain range which hid the valley from all except those who knew it was there.
“Welcome” said Byakko, spreading out his arms “to Tiger Valley, discovered and of course named by yours truly.”
“Wow.” Said Lan taking in the vast scene that stretched out before him.
“You’ll be happy to know” said Byakko, “that this place is one of the few natural areas in the world that contains a 0% Grimm population due to the tough animals that live here, originally trained by me of course. They’re also the ones that should have maintained my house over the years.”
“How many years has it been since you came back here?” asked Lan
“Hmmm,” Byakko rubbed his chin “I’d say…around 20?”
“You sure they’re still taking care of everything?” asked Lan
“Oh I’m sure they are” said Byakko, scratching his nose “they know what’ll happen if I come back and the place isn’t in order. But just in case, I’ll summon the master of the forest to give us the status report.”
Byakko knelt down until the house touched the ground and then took his hands out of the metal straps.
“Stand back boy” said Byakko, rising to his feet. “It’s time for my special animal call!”
Lan did just that as Byakko began to inhale very deeply. Air was sucked into his nose with the force of a vacuum cleaner and his belly swelled. Then Byakko quickly turned around, bent over, pointing his rear end in the directions of the valley, and grabbed both of his but cheeks. Then Byakko grunted and tightened his stomach muscles. A unique sound that was louder than but similar to a giant alphorn erupted from his rear end, filling the valley with its deep tone. Birds flew into the sky, startled by the sound and thousands of animals awoke, sending their cries into the air as well. Byakko’s special animal call lasted for a full minute before slowly fading away.
“Ahhhh” sighed Byakko getting to his feet “Good thing I already got a hole in my pants from all my poots.”
Lan uncovered his ears and, once again, gave his grandfather an empty stare.
Ignoring him, Byakko shielded his eyes with his hand and began to search the forest. A few seconds later, he found his mark.
“Look over there boy!” said Byakko, who both head locked Lan, who had tried unsuccessfully to avoid it, and pointed in the direction of something in the middle of the forest at the same time.
Ignoring the horrible smell, Lan stared into a grove of trees and saw them shake. A loud squeal ripped across the tree tops as the shaking grew more violent. The area where the trees shook then began to move in Lan and Byakko’s direction. Whatever it was, it must have been quite large to make the trees shake like that. Lan tried to step back into a more defensible position, but his grandfather’s iron grip prevented him from moving even an inch from his position. It wasn’t long before the creature was upon them.
Bursting out of the tree line was a giant boar the size of a van, its body covered in black fur and war paint. It dashed up the slope to Lan and Byakko’s position, tearing down everything in its path as it neared them. Nearing the peak, it leapt into the air and then came down with a loud crash right in front of them. It stood there staring at the two of them for a few moments, then gave a loud snort and touched its nose to the ground as a gesture of submission. Byakko lifted his hand up and touched the boar on the forehead; there was a small glimmer of light at the point of contact.
“Hmmm, you’re not Calydonis” said Byakko, frowning “are you his little boy?”
The boar lifted its head, and gave a loud snort.
“I see.” Said Byakko, sighing and scratching his chin “Well, since you’re the king of the forest now, I guess your dad died while I was away huh?”
The boar grunted and squealed for a time, apparently it was explaining something because Byakko nodded and muttered “I see” every now and then.
“So a coup huh? Well, I guess survival of the fittest is the always the first thing on you guys’ minds.” said Byakko “Who led them?”
The boar grunted once.
“I guess that makes sense” said Byakko with a sigh, “They always hated me cause I ate so much meat. The only reason they didn’t go after me is because they knew I would have just killed them. It’s no surprise that those monkeys’d go after my representative if they thought I’d never be coming back. Where are they now?”
The boar pawed nervously at the ground and glanced to the side.
“Erymant.” Said Byakko threateningly, “Tell…me…now” Each word was relaxed yet threatening, and the giant boar seemed to cower in fear before them. Then, quietly, it made few snorts.
“What was that?” asked Byakko “Speak up!”
Erymant let out a pent up breath, and then snorted again, this time louder.
“What?” said Byakko slowly, his nose flaring “They’ve taken over my house?!”
The boar kneeled down and began squealing, obviously apologetic and scared.
“Oh cut that out” said Byakko, pulling the boar to its feet. “If Calydonis couldn’t have kept it from those apes, then there’s no way you could’ve.”
The boar buried its face into the mud again, obviously ashamed.
“Well Lan” said Byakko turning back to the boy “It looks like we got some unwanted guests to clear out.”
“Alright” said Lan, dropping his bag.
“Alright!” Yelled Byakko, who leapt onto Erymant’s back. “Come Lan” he reached out his hand “Jump aboard the pig!”
Lan leapt forward, grabbed Byakko’s hand, and was pulled behind the old man.
“Yah” shouted Byakko, kicking Erymant’s sides “To my house!”
Erymant squealed and took off running at a brisk pace. Yelping, Ignis, who had just caught up, leapt forward and clamped down on the hairs of Erymant’s tail. The large boar didn’t even notice the young wolf hanging there and continued on. It dove off the cliff and barreled down the side of the hill until it finally crashed into the forest, sending debris and small animals flying in all directions. Lan stared around as the four of them barreled through the forest. The forest floor was dark thanks to the leaves of the large trees around them blocking most of the sunlight, only allowing small scattered patches of sunlight to leak through. However, life was still bursting from the seams of every corner of the forests. Everywhere you looked you could see thousands of different insects going about their business, dozens of small animals dashing across the moss covered earth, and many different varieties of plants that survived despite the limited sunlight. He heard a crunching sound from directly in front of him, and looked up at his grandpa.
“Want some?” asked Byakko, holding an orange fruit.
Now that his eyes were growing more adjusted to the dimness, Lan finally noticed that there were long strands of vegetation coming from the upper reaches of the canopy, and almost all of them were completely laden with fruit.
“It’s like this year round.” Said Byakko, biting into a fruit that looked like a polka-dotted pumpkin “always plenty to eat.”
Smiling, Lan plucked a small purple fruit from a vine that whizzed by his face and popped it into his mouth. An extremely bitter and sour flavor exploded in his mouth, causing his mouth to pucker and his eyes to water.
“Oh yeah.” Said Byakko looking behind his shoulder as Lan forcefully swallowed the fruit “Some of them may not have ripened yet.”
A few minutes later the group burst through the tree line and found themselves running through the flower field leading up to the enormous tree in front of the waterfall. At that moment Erymant made a loud squeal.
“Lan!” shouted Byakko.
“Yeah?” answered Lan, who had just noticed Ignis and was in the process of helping the little wolf onto the boar’s back.
“We’re in enemy territory now” said Byakko, “Prepare ranged assault.”
Lan nodded, reached into his gi, and pulled out a sling and pouch. “How much damage we need to deal?” asked Lan.
“Just use the small ones for now” said Byakko, who had somehow gathered a large pile of rocks in his hands “after all the enemy is only—“ Byakko’s ears perked up “Incoming!” he cried.
Suddenly, the air was filled with the whistle of flying objects, and flying out of the leaves of the giant tree was a menagerie of dark shapes. All of the projectiles were aimed at them.
“Shoot’em down!” yelled Byakko, who proceeded to throw the rocks in his arms at the dark shapes. Every dark shape that was hit was immediately pulverized and had its momentum neutralized, their remains falling to the ground in a dust storm. Lan reached into his pouch and pulled out one of his small explosives (now new and improved with a smaller size and bigger bang). He placed one of them into his sling, and then began to spin the sling in a circular motion. He picked out a portion of the volley that his grandpa was shooting at the least, and let the explosive fly at the central projectile. The explosive flew through the air as if it were a homerun baseball and collided with its target which caused an explosion that vaporized all others surrounding it.
“Yes!” said Lan as he loaded another explosive into his sling. But his smile faded as a he saw one of the projectiles blast through the dust cloud and speed through the air towards them. Lan didn’t have time to build up the momentum necessary to throw the explosive and Byakko hadn’t, or was pretending not to have, noticed it. Seeing his chance for glory, Ignis leapt onto Lan’s head and growled as the projectile sped towards him. However, as the projectile got close Ignis began sniffing wildly, and his countenance of confrontation quickly turned into one of delight. Bending his legs, Ignis leapt into the air and caught the projectile in his mouth.
“Ignis!” cried Lan, shocked “What the heck?!”
Whatever Ignis had caught, the little wolf was happily chewing on it, his eyes closed in delight. Swallowing, Ignis landed on Lan’s shoulder and let out a belch into Lan’s face. Lan retched as the smell of Ignis’s breath hit him. He knew this smell. It was the smell that he had to deal whenever he had to look after Ignis, clean the bathroom, or take a dump. It was the scent of 100% pure feces, and Lan only knew of one animal that used feces as a projectile weapon.
“Grandpa!” yelled Lan, throwing another bomb at a group of flying poo. “Are we fighting—“
“Monkeys!” finished Byakko, who had just run out of rocks and was ironically using the surrounding flowers as projectiles. “and we’re off to do battle with their boss! Alright boy,” yelled Byakko, pointing at the tree “the projectiles are becoming less frequent. That mean the enemy is running out of ammo!” he shot Lan a humorous glance as he said this. “Now is out time to strike. Switch to non-explosives and prepare unload at the tree!”
Lan placed his pouch of explosives back into his gi and removed a pouch of lead balls. Byakko had already started unloading his floral barrage at the tree, and now that the four of them were getting closer, Lan could see small simian shapes in the trees, many of whom were falling out of the trees as flowers struck their faces.
“What’s wrong!” yelled Byakko, obviously enjoying himself “You all allergic?”
As Byakko’s assault was quickly finishing off their attackers, the incoming brown missiles had become fewer in number and more dispersed, so Lan focused on shooting them all down. The few that managed to get passed were quickly…dealt with by Ignis. Within a few minutes the attack ended. From far in the distance, Lan could see the shapes of all the monkeys retreating. The few that remained in the trees swung down from the vines and the majority that had been knocked to ground level quickly limped away. Within a few minutes, they had all disappeared.
“Victory!” yelled Byakko, raising both hands into the air. “We have seized Victory!”
“Mmmm” grunted Lan, who had gotten off Erymant and was holding Ignis in a headlock, brushing the struggling wolf pup’s teeth (with canine approved toothpaste of course –insert picture of a dog doing a thumb’s up-).
“Now onwards!” shouted Byakko. “Onwards to the enemies’ domain!”
“Alright.” Said Lan, who was sitting on Ignis and flossing the whimpering dog’s teeth. “But can you give me a few minutes to finish damage control here?”
“Sure!” shouted Byakko, still holding his arms in the air.
After applying dog-friendly mouth-wash to Ignis’s mouth, and bathing the pup in the nearby lagoon (which consisted of throwing the Ignis in and doing battle with him with a brush and soap), Lan returned to Byakko with the now clean (and cranky) Ignis under his arms. Byakko was still sitting atop Erymant with his arms in the same position.
“Ready!” said Lan, clambering back onto Erymant.
“Onward!” shouted Byakko once again.
Erymant charged forward into a lagoon and began swimming. His pace in the water was significantly slower than on land, but he eventually transported the three to a large flat stone near the waterfall.
Byakko, Lan, and Ignis hopped off of Erymant and onto the stone.
“Alrighty boy” said Byakko, folding his arms and looking up at the waterfall “we’re here!”
“Really?” asked Lan, he looked to the left, then the right. “Where’s the house?”
“Why the entrance is right in front of you boy?” said Byakko, spreading his arms wide.
“Wait.” Said Lan, who instantly realized what his grandfather meant “you don’t mean…”
“Yep!” shouted Byakko, “It’s behind the waterfall!”
Lan stared at the towering wall of water before him that shimmered with the rainbows formed from its spray, which I might add had already soaked the boy’s clothes.
“How do we get in?” asked Lan.
“Like how I get through every locked door.” Said Byakko, who put his right foot in front, his left foot in the back, bent his knees, pulled his right fist to his waist, and held his left hand out in front of him. “By breaking right through!”
“Wow, your dad must have been strong to have been able to do that Erymant” said Lan to the giant boar.
“Oh, no no” said Byakko, “Only one in this valley strong enough to do this is me.”
“Then how did the animals get inside and maintain your house?” asked Lan.
“There’s a special service entrance at the top of the cliff” said Byakko, motioning up there with his head.
“Why don’t we just use that then?” asked Lan
“Because this is a lot more fun!” shouted Byakko.
Byakko threw his punch forward at that moment. The force of his fist shot forward and expanded, blasting a 20 meter large hole in the middle of the water.
Before he could say anything, Lan, as well as Ignis and Erymant, were grabbed by Byakko and thrown through the hole. Byakko quickly followed by leaping from the stone. Lan, Ignis, and Erymant crashed into the ground with a large thump, and skidded on their bellies until they eventually came to a halt. Byakko landed on his feet right in front of them.
“Wake up boy.” Said Byakko, giving Lan a kick “we’re here.”
Rubbing his bruised nose, Lan slowly pushed himself and got to his feet. He looked forward, about to voice his displeasure about being thrown, but the scene in front of him forced the words back down his throat. The group was standing in a massive cavern filled with giant glowing dust deposits that jutted out of the stone walls at odd angles. But that wasn’t what impressed Lan the most. In the ceiling, there was a massive hole letting in sunlight and beneath that was an enormous Japanese style palace built from white marble, black granite, and bamboo that shone as brightly as polished gold. Surrounding the palace, fed by the sunlight, was a garden with a variety of fruit trees. The landing they were standing on was very wet due to its close proximity to the waterfall, but things quickly dried out further inn thanks to the sunlight’s warming the black stone that the cavern was made of.
“Welcome” said Byakko, spreading out his arms “to your new home.”
“Wow” said Lan, taking in all the sights that surrounded him, entranced by what could have been described as a whole new world. Ignis was also admiring the surrounding scenery, twisting his head this way and that to take in the new area…and then quickly marked new territory on the nearest dust crystal, unluckily for him, the crystal he urinated on was lightning element and I think we all know how that turned out. Ignoring the unconscious, smoking wolf, Erymant got to his feet and pawed the ground.
“You stay here Erymant” said Byakko, holding out his arm to prevent the boar from charging forward. “I know you’re anxious to see some action, but you’d wreck the place.”
Erymant gave a squeal of protest, but was cowed by a single glare from Byakko.
“Lan!” shouted Byakko.
“Yeah?” answered Lan, who had returned Ignis to consciousness by waving a liver treat above the little wolf’s nose.
“Time to rock.”
Lan nodded his head and walked forward to stand beside his grandfather. Ignis did the same, but instead stood beside Lan.
“March.” Commanded Byakko, pointing forward with his pointer and middle finger.
The three of them walked forward and quickly covered the ground leading up to the edge of the garden. Suddenly, leaping from the many fruit trees and pouring out of the front gate, came dozens of monkeys the size of grown men. Each of them held thick tree branches in their hand. They assembled an organized front on the stone path leading up to the castle gate and standing at the front was a monkey wearing a black samurai helmet and holding a spear.
“Ooh Ooh Ahh Ahh” it shouted, pointing its spear at the waterfall. It then let out a loud screech and pointed at the castle.
“Hoh?” said Byakko, raising an eyebrow.
“What did it say?” asked Lan.
“It said to leave immediately and that my house is theirs now” replied Byakko.
How Byakko was able to understand them, Lan didn’t know. Lan was able to communicate effectively with Ignis thanks to Ignis’s aura and being with the little wolf for so long, but he had no idea how to interpret the screeches of the monkeys.
“Plan 6!” shouted Byakko.
“Got it!” shouted Lan.
Lan reached into his gi pulled out the pouch and threw it full force at the monkeys. Believing it to be an explosive, the monkeys in its path scattered, running to take cover behind the various foliage in the gardens. However instead of detonating the bag just landed with a soft plop. Taking advantage of the gap created in the monkey’s defense, the three dashed through and headed towards the castle.
Enraged, the monkeys streamed back onto the path. Lan watched them from the corner of his eye until he was sure that every one of them had stepped back onto the stone path.
“Halt!” shouted Lan, whipping around and holding out his hand.
Confused, the monkeys did just that.
“Thank you.” Said Lan.
A small black cylinder with a red button on the top slipped out of his sleeve and into his hand.
“And sorry” said Lan, pressing the button.
With a two loud bangs, the pouch that Lan had threw, which was now in the center of the monkey’s formation, exploded and dispersed a cloud of red dust. The monkeys screamed as the dust washed over them.
“I hope I didn’t add too many chili peppers” said Lan, who watched as the monkey’s formation fell into chaos.
“Aww, poor monkeys.” Said Byakko, walking forward “I heard the pain goes away if you wash it off though.” Byakko knelt down and stabbed his fingers into the stone path. “Here, let me help you!”
With a loud cracking noise, Byakko ripped the stone slab that all the monkeys were standing on out of the ground. Realizing they were in danger, the monkeys on the slab that were still able to sense their surroundings tried to leap off the slab. However they found they couldn’t move their feet. Looking down, they found their feet trapped in sticky orange goo.
“Sorry!” shouted Lan, “I added some custom rubber cement as insurance, but don’t worry, it dissolves in water.”
Giving a tremendous yell, Byakko threw the slab in the direction of the waterfall. The monkeys screamed as they flew through the air, fearing for their very lives. The sounds echoed through the cavern until the stone slab smashed through the waterfall and the monkeys disappeared from sight.
“Nice mixture you had there Lan” said Byakko, patting the boy on the back. “Made sure we could get rid of them without harming my precious fruit trees.”
“I am always improving my skills” said Lan, his voice filled with pride.
“Well, let’s go in before the little guy pees all over my yard.” said Byakko, grabbing Ignis who had been sniffing a tree.
The front gates of the palace were still open so the three of them simply walked through, and when they entered Byakko gave sigh. The monkeys had seriously done a number on Byakko’s old home. Giant pelts were scattered all over the floor and were stained with food as well as a number of other substances, many stone statues lay in pieces on the ground, rotting organic refuse was scattered as far as the eye could see, and numerous previously valuable objects lay broken. Still, even with the mess lying in front of him, Lan could see that the hall was impressive with its smooth stone walls lined with carved table (which were of course scratched), beautifully decorated ceiling paintings, and brightly colored carpet.
“Darn monkeys.” Said Byakko, kicking aside a rotting melon peel, “I’m supposed to be the only one that messes this place up.”
Ignoring Lan’s quizzical expression, Byakko strode forward and headed for a door at the end of the hall. The sounds of hundreds of screeching monkeys could be heard from right behind it. Arriving at the door Byakko, with Lan and Ignis hot on his heels, raised his foot and gave them a good kick. The door flew open.
Inside was an enormous room with a tall ceiling supported by numerous stone pillars. The room was lit up by sunlight that poured in from a circular opening at the top of the room. On each of the four walls were multiple doors leading further into the building and many mounted pieces of weaponry.
Scattered throughout the room were hundreds upon hundreds of monkeys that were running around, swinging from the ceiling decorations, eating food, and doing what monkeys do. Lan was surprised however to see that many of them were drinking from large jars of wine, decorated with white tiger drawings.
“Awww” said Byakko, chuckling “Their drinking my liquor. Well, at least they didn’t manage to get into the best stuff yet. I locked those up in my cellar.”
Sitting at the end of the room on what appeared to be a bamboo throne was a giant black monkey that was as large as two men. It was currently chugging from a giant black jar. Then, with a loud belch, set it the jar onto the ground.
“That must be the current king of the forest” said Byakko, pointing at it. “He looks pretty tough, can see why Calydonis lost. Well, time to end his fun.”
Byakko walked forward towards the thrown, scattering the monkeys that were in his path.
“Alright.” Shouting Byakko, clapping his hands “Party’s over, the true king’s back and I’m going to need my house back.”
The black monkey looked at him and growled, it then leapt off the thrown and charged towards Byakko, stopping right in front of him.
It stared into Byakko’s smiling face and growled. It then began to ‘Ooh’ and “Aah”.
“Ohhh, a tough guy huh?” said Byakko, smiling.
“Grandpa” whined Lan, “This has been bugging me for a while, but I can’t understand what any of the animals are saying, it makes it really hard to follow the conversation.”
“Okay, Okay” said Byakko, turning his back on the now offended monkey “I’ll help.”
Byakko touched Lan on the forehead with his finger and there was a flash of white light. Lan stumbled backward and rubbed his forehead.
“Ouch!” said Lan, “What was that for.”
“I would like to know as well.” growled a deep voice.
Lan felt a something like a voice talk into his head, the words were spoken in his language, but at the same time it didn’t feel human. He then realized that the one that had spoken was the black monkey in front of him.
“What did you do?” asked Lan
“I gave you an aura infusion that lets you use my aura speak ability” said Byakko “It’s a secret special aura technique only known by a few masters that allows you to communicate directly with a creature’s soul, so you won’t be able to understand exactly what they’re saying but you can get the meaning behind it. So, no matter what language it uses, as long as it’s got a soul, you can communicate with it. I learned it from an old friend of mine.”
“But I did hear him speak though.” Said Lan.
“If the one you’re talking to has strong enough aura and is smart enough, like this monkey here, then it sounds like they’re speaking” said Byakko, “buts it’s really all in your head.”
“Then how did you understand what all the other monkeys said?” asked Lan. “They didn’t have any strong aura.”
“I know the language.” Said Byakko, flatly.
“Oh.” Said Lan, “well, I guess it’s still pretty cool that I’ll be able to understand all animals from now on.”
“Yeah, for now” said Byakko, “but the infusion will wear off in a little while so you’ll stop understanding after a bit. You’ll have to learn the technique yourself if you want the effect to be permanent.”
“Oh” said Lan “But this is still pretty cool!”
“I know right?” said Byakko.
“You know any other cool aura techniques like this?” asked Lan.
“A few, but not many” replied Byakko “The vast majority of mine are physical combat ba—“
“Hey!” shouted the giant black money “Stop ignoring me!”
Lan and Byakko turned back to the now seething monkey.
“I, Kong, king of this forest will not be insulted like this!”
“Well kingey, I’m afraid you’ve got to clear out now” said Byakko “I’m taking my house back.”
“Oh?” said the monkey, chuckling “and what makes you think you can?”
Byakko raised an eyebrow and smirked.
“Do you know who I am boy?”
“Yes” said Kong “the ancient ruler of this land that disappeared twenty years ago.”
“Then why are you still here?” said Byakko.
“Because I will no longer stand for having my life ruled by your memory.” Shouted Kong “I remember when you still lived here, back when I was a child. You devoured hundreds of animals to satiate your vast appetite.”
“That’s horrible.” Said Lan.
“Quiet boy” yelled Kong “I’m not saying it as a bad thing. Our lives are a constant eat or be eaten existence where we must either eat and live or be eaten and die. Survival of the fittest is the iron clad rule here. What angered me is that the leaders of my tribe never fought back, they bragged about being strong every day but were as frightened babes whenever you were mentioned, even years after you had departed. They never even dared to take the land and resources that were so ripe for the picking. So, ten years ago I killed them all, became the leader of the monkeys, and conquered your empty halls for my own.” Kong finished this phrase with a simian screech.
“So what you’re saying is?” said Byakko, cleaning his right ear.
“If you want your home back. Then take it!” Kong roared into Byakko’s face as he said this, sending spittle flying into the old man’s face.
“Alright.” Said Byakko, shrugging his shoulders “Sounds fair. But y’know, it’s not going to be fair if I fight you. I’d crush you like a wet sponge.” Kong growled. “Tell you what, if you can beat my young ward over there, then we’ll graciously leave.”
“Huh?” said Lan, a blank expression on his face.
“What kind of insult is this?” growled Kong, “Me against this little weakling?”
“Hey!” shouted Lan.
“Do you take me for a fool?” Continued Kong
“What’s wrong monkey breath?” said Byakko, with a brilliant smile on his face “You scared?”
“Me? SCARED?” shouted Kong, he screeched and began pounding the ground. After he finished his little outburst, he turned back to Byakko, who was still smiling.
“Very well you worm” he said growled “I’ll rip apart your brood if that’s what you want. But you won’t be leaving here after that. Oh no, after I’m finished with him I will show you my strength by tearing you to pieces!”
Once again Kong roared at the top of his lungs in Byakko’s face. Byakko wiped a drop of spittle off his cheek with his thumb and frowned.
“Not forgiving, the second time” said Byakko.
Byakko pulled back his head, took a deep breath, then let out a thunderous roar. It was at least a hundred times louder than Kong’s was and set the whole room shaking. Hundreds of monkeys ran out of the room in fright. Overwhelmed by the sound Lan covered his ears to try and block some of it out, kneeling down and closing his eyes from the pain. Ignis had dropped onto his belly and was covering his ears with his paws.
The roar ended as suddenly as it started. His ears still ringing, Lan slowly opened his eyes and found that the room was almost empty. The only ones who remained were his group and Kong, who had retreated several meters.
“Don’t make a mistake you shit-throwing scumbag.” Said Byakko, his voice dangerously mellow “What I’m offering you is a better chance for survival. Had I been alone, I wouldn’t have made this offer and would have already beaten you to a bloody pulp and chucked you down the waterfall.”
Kong didn’t make a sound, but just stayed there, rooted in place and staring into Byakko’s powerful eyes. There’s two things that an animal must have above all else in order to survive, more important that strength, speed, or any natural defenses. They are instinct and sensitivity. Without these, a creature would never be able to sense impending danger before it is too late. For even the greatest of beasts cannot stand against a natural disaster or starvation. Kong, having survived many years in the harsh surroundings of nature, had extremely good instincts, and as a result was able to sense the dangerous aura that Byakko now gave off. What Kong felt as he stood before Byakko, was that he was being stared down by an immense predator that he could not hope to defeat.
“So are you going to accept the challenge?” asked Byakko calmly.
Kong stared at him intently and then slowly answered:
“Do I have your word that you will leave peacefully, no matter what injuries I inflict on the boy?”
“You have it.” Said Byakko
“Then I accept.” Said Kong nodding his head.
“Wa-Wait, grandpa.” Said Lan, pulling his grandpa aside. “Are you sure I can handle this?”
“Not really” said Byakko, picking his nose and staring into space. “But it’ll give you experience.”
“But grandpa” said Lan, grabbing Byakko’s other hand “I’m not sure I can handle—“
“GO!” shouted Byakko, interrupting Lan. He then tightened his grip around Lan’s hand;, with Lan trying desperately to get free as always,; lifted Lan above his head; and threw the boy straight at Kong.
Taken completely off guard, Kong was head butted in the face by the flying Lan and stumbled backwards from the impact as Lan crashed to the ground.
“Ready!” shouted Byakko, who had somehow pulled out a chair and a 3 gallon bucket of popcorn. “Fight!”
Leaping to his feet, and knowing full well that there was no way out of this, Lan charged forward at Kong, determined to give his best regardless of the situation. Kong pulled back his right arm and threw a palm at Lan. Anticipating this, Lan leapt onto his backside and skidded, right leg forward, underneath Kong’s palm and between his legs. Lan looked up, saw his target, and sprang upward with his right hand balled into a fist.
What felt like a pole smacked him straight in the face, and sent him 3 meters back. Quickly recovering midair, Lan landed on his feet and turned back to his opponent, a little bit of blood dribbling from his nose.
“Careful of the tail” said Byakko through a mouthful of popcorn “It’s really fast.”
Lan nodded, his eyes fixed on his new foe. Judging from the rippling muscular frame that the large monkey possessed, attacking it normally would achieve limited results. His best bet would be attacking the areas that were surrounded by only a soft, thin layer of tissue. So the main targets he decided on were the head, neck, and groin. Lan charged forward once again, this time keeping his eyes on the tail as well. Kong however, was not just going to let the boy just charge him again. With a roar, he charged forward, much faster than Lan believed him capable of. Taken by surprise, Lan barely had enough time to put his guard up before being tackled by the Large monkey. Lan was sent flying and slammed into a pillar. Luckily Lan had accidently relaxed his whole body right before the impact, dispersing most of the shockwave. Lan had still taken damage however and struggled to his feet.
Kong charged forward once again, both of his fists raised above his head. Lan quickly darted to the side, avoiding the blow which smashed the ground where he had been standing. He then leapt forward onto Kong’s arms, jumped upwards, and threw a kick which connected with Kong’s jaw. It was a good target which when hit spins the brain. However, Kong’s powerful neck muscles were more than capable of absorbing all the force from Lan’s blow. Lan’s strike pushed Kong’s jaw a centimeter or two, but it quickly snapped back into position, repelling the blow and forcing Lan to quickly leap away and create more distance between the two before Kong could launch a counterattack.
The moment his feet touched the ground, Lan rocketed forward towards Kong, who was now turning to face the boy. Lan was in his guard before he had time to react, and the boy quickly leapt upwards and landed a strong kick on Kong’s temple. This shock caused Kong to stagger a bit, shocking his brain slightly, but the monkey quickly counterattacked by swinging his arm horizontally. Lan however had already ducked and had quickly entered between Kong’s legs. Twisting his whole body to give extra power, Lan threw an uppercut up at Kong’s groin. As the heavy blow struck, Kong’s face contorted in pain, but the monkey still stood firm and quickly struck Lan in the face with his tail.
“The guy’s got defensive aura!” shouted Byakko “Attacks that would normally bring down an animal his size won’t work!”
Temporarily blinded, Lan staggered back, clutching his face. When he removed his hands, he discovered that Kong was gone. He quickly looked to his sides and behind himself, but was unable to locate Kong. Quickly realizing where the monkey had gone, Lan looked upwards at the pillars, but it was too late. Swinging down from one of the pillars, Kong slammed Lan with both of his large feet. Taking the massive blow head on depleted most of Lan’s defensive aura and sent him flying across the room and crashing into one of the walls, knocking down the nearby weapon on display.
Kong let out a simian shriek of triumph as Lan fell to the floor. Groaning, Lan slowly pushed himself back up. It was obvious that Kong was a superior to Lan in terms of raw physical ability. Lan knew there was no way he could win if things continued as is. As Lan stared down at his hands, which were pressed against the ground, he noticed something out of the corner of his eye. It was the weapon that had been knocked down. It was a pair of tonfa, made out of polished black wood. Lan had no experience using that weapon, in fact using it may have ended up hindering him instead due to the time it would take to figure out how to use it properly. But at present time he believed that he had nothing to lose, after all none of his normal tactics were working. Reaching out with a trembling hand, Lan grabbed one of the handles.
Suddenly, something within him stirred. The remnant of the spirit within him knew what Lan currently held within his hands, had used it before in a time long forgotten, and as the sensation of Lan touching the wood pulsed through the boy’s soul, the spirit released its own in response to that familiar feeling, releasing some of its memories from long ago.
Lan felt a sudden familiarity fill him as he tightened his grip on the handle and grabbed the other. Visions flashed through his head of a man with a bandana and gakuran that was wielding the tonfa with expert skill, striking down all the enemies that came near him with precision and grace.
Once the vision passed, Lan suddenly realized that he knew what to do with the weapon that he had in his hands. He was no master, far from it his ability was that of an initiate at best, the vision had only given him a few inklings on how to best use the weapon. However, he knew that there were significant advantages in using weaponry. The weapons would not only increase his reach and attack options, but also the amount of strength he could put into a blow without hurting or overexerting himself.
Slowly rising to his feet, Lan grasped both tonfa tightly in his hands and lifted his gaze to stare at Kong who was now eyeing the boy suspiciously. Slamming his foot into the ground, Lan blasted forward at a tremendous speed, completely taking Kong by surprise. Lan felt that he was faster and stronger now, he didn’t know why, but it felt as though at that very moment that something within him was resonating with his very soul, boosting his power tremendously.
As he saw Lan quickly nearing him, Kong raised both his fists and brought them down onto where Lan would be. With a lightning fast movement, Lan brought up both his tonfa and struck Kong in the wrists with their tips. The attack struck right in the joint separating hand and lower arm and with the combined force of Lan’s strikes and Kong’s attack, the monkey’s wrist was nearly dislocated. Kong pulled back his arms in pain, and in that moment Lan entered into his guard, pulled back both of his arms, enhanced them with aura, and slammed the tips of the tonfa into Kong’s iron-like abs. The force of the blow made Kong’s body hunch over and caused him to expel a spray of bile from his mouth. However, the collision with Kong’s powerful muscles also caused the tonfa to completely shatter.
“Those things were old anyway.” Said Byakko, taking a sip from what appeared to be a giant soda cup.
Kong staggered backwards, clutching his stomach. Lan quickly increased the distance between the two of them to avoid the risk of taking one more of Kong’s attacks, he didn’t have the aura to take one more. Lan suddenly found that he had become more exhausted. The moment the tonfa shattered the strange resonance that he had felt within his being had disappeared and the toll of his exertions had rushed back to him. But he knew one thing now. He didn’t know why, but using weapons increased his physical and combat ability immensely. Looking around, Lan spotted the nearest weapon mounted on the wall and rushed towards it. Jumping upwards, Lan seized the weapon from where it was laid and turned again to face Kong, who had already gathered his composure. This time Lan was holding a pair of long nunchaku made of grainy white wood with metal caps on the end, and once again the strange feeling of familiarity and power washed over him. This time he saw the brief vision of a karate-ka wielding the weapon against multiple foes.
Roaring, Kong leaped upwards and began swinging from the pillars, flitting through the air with increasing speed until he was but a blur that was heading closer and closer to Lan. Lan grabbed the top stick of the nunchaku with his right hand, the bottom with his left hand, and braced the chain across his back. With a screech, Kong descended on Lan, moving so fast that there seemed to be multiple monkeys descending on the boy. Remembering the movements of the karate-ka that he had just saw in his mind, Lan whipped out the nunchaku and began swinging it through the air in a sphere around him. The blurs vanished as soon as they hit the wall formed by Lan’s nunchaku and Kong’s solid form appeared. Some of his fingers broke from when he had stuck out his hand to try to grab the boy and there were multiple bruises forming all over his body as Lan’s nunchaku struck him again and again. Then with a loud crack, the nunchaku shattered as well.
Kong leapt away and as his feet touched the floor he collapsed onto his knees. He let his body go slack to try to recover if only a little from the fierce blows he had just taken. Lan also collapsed onto his knees, but not from damage. The high speed nunchaku move that he had just used was far too advanced for someone of his skill level to have used, and as a result he had immensely drained his stamina. He desperately wanted to rest, but he knew the fight was far from over. If he gave Kong enough time to recover, he would without a doubt lose. But with the amount of stamina using each of these weapons cost him, he would only be able to use one more. He noticed one more weapon decoration out of the corner of his eye and slowly lurched towards it. Seeing this, Kong picked up a nearby stone and threw it at Lan. However, due to his broken fingers, his aim was off and the stone ironically ended up knocking the weapon off the rack and into Lan’s outstretched hands. This was the final weapon and would determine Lan’s victory or defeat in this struggle. It was an iron Bo staff with the painting of a white tiger on the side.
“Oh, that’s one of my favorites” said Byakko, “Try not to break it boy.”
Ignoring him, Lan turned around to face Kong who was standing his ground, a defiant look on his face. This time the vision of a bald monk flashed through Lan’s mind as he felt the resonant strength return to him with a vengeance, flooding him with greater intensity than it had before. Spinning the staff in the air, Lan let out a war-cry and then charged forward, holding the tip of the staff in front of him and cracking the ground every time his feet touched the ground. Sensing the magnitude of the coming attack, Kong attempted to leap out of the way but found his legs unresponsive. Seeing that the only option he had left was left was to block, Kong put up both of his arms parallel to his face, hunkered down, and hardened his aura into a defensive barrier in front of him. With a thundering crash, the tip of Lan’s bo staff collided against Kong’s barrier. The two opposing energies clashed, creating a shower of blue and black sparks where the two energies collided. Despite his newfound strength, Lan found himself slowly being pushed back. Although using the staff had given him an advantage in terms of reach and versatility, his basic physical strength was still inferior to Kong’s, even with the boost he was receiving from the resonance, and the current battle was a sheer contest of power. Yet, even as he was now staring defeat in the face, Lan’s eyes never lost their fire. He kept pushing and pushing, forcing out more and more of his aura and strength from places he didn’t even know that he had. These feelings which flooded Lan’s soul magnified the synergy he had with the remnant of the spirit. The spirit recalled memories from times long past of the many people it once inhabited exhibiting the same emotions as they desperately fought for what they believed in. Out of all the thousands of joys and experiences it had it felt, it was this glowing beacon of emotion that it believed to be one of the most beautiful. Albeit, the boy was still young and his reason for fighting in this battle not as meaningful as others. But although it was weak, it was still the same powerful determination that had led many heroes to shake the world.
The spirit began to vibrate, releasing pulse after pulse of energy in response to the boy’s determination, each pulse deepening the resonance that the two had formed. In the physical plane, this was viewed as Lan’s body and staff gaining a glowing blue hue that slowly increased in intensity. The blue light from where his staff made contact began to grow brighter, slowly outshining the glow of Kong’s black barrier. Cracks began to form in the wall as Lan began to gain more ground. This time, it was Kong’s turn to slide along the floor as Lan became the superior force of the two. Kong gasped and grunted as his aura was slowly depleted. Then with a loud crash, Lan’s staff smashed right through Kong’s barrier and crashed into Kong’s guard. Lan then twisted his body and thrust the staff forward, blowing Kong’s arms away and burying the tip into Kong’s solar plexus. The combined power of the forward thrust, the spiral motion, and the remaining energy left from the moment of spiritual resonance smashed through the last remnants of the aura that was protecting Kong and pulverized the muscle that attempted to mitigate damage from the blow. The energy traveled inside Kong’s body and caused damage to many of his internal organs before blasting him in a straight line straight backwards through several columns and into the wall where he formed a large crater. Then, with his eyeballs rolled back into his skull, Kong collapsed into a heap on the ground.
Lan was leaning on the staff and breathing heavily, blood was dripping from his body where some of his muscles had torn. The strength he had used had been too much for his young body to use, and he was now being hit by the recoil and exhaustion. But despite the pain that wracked his body, he smiled. He had pushed himself to the limit in the battle against this powerful foe and come out victorious. He felt proud, joyful, and full of accomplishment.
“Good job boy.” Said Byakko, who was now standing behind Lan.
Lan looked up at his grandpa, his right eye half closed and a weak smile plastered on his battered face.
“Weapons…good.” He said, smiling.
“Yep, guess they complement your fighting style, we’ll have to get you some won’t we?” said Byakko.
Lan nodded, smiling, then his eyes rolled upwards and he collapsed onto the ground.
Byakko smiled at the boy’s supine form, then walked passed him and towards Kong. Stopping in front of him, Byakko gave the monkey a light kick.
“I know you’re still awake big guy” said Byakko. “Come on. Say something.”
Kong grunted and slowly raised his head.
“It seems your grandchild is the victor” said Kong, spitting out blood. “and I guess you’ll be making a meal of me now, as is proper.”
Byakko sighed and knelt down.
“I don’t really feel like it” at these words Kong growled.
“Stop making a fool out of me and just end it!” he spat “You are the winner, and as per the laws of nature you shall be the one to eat while I will be the one to die.”
“Kong” said Byakko, “You are strong and intelligent enough to separate yourself from the laws of that cruel world, just as we humans and Faunus have. Yet you continue to follow to follow that path even though you know that just one little slip up could lead to you losing everything. Instead of coming here to take the empty halls of my home, you could have led your people to a better place. You could have learned and taught your people how to farm, could have built a stable civilization for yourselves that could have lasted for generations far from those who would do you harm. But you chose this path, following the strong-eat the weak principles that were hammered into you by those elders you hated so much. Why?”
“True, I could have done those things. Led my people to a golden age, just as the ancient leaders your people did…but along the way, your kind has lost something that can longer be recovered…It is hard to explain, the sense of oneness and piece one gains from living by the laws of nature, the sense of pride one gains from surviving, and the innocence of simply trying to live your lives.” Kong coughed once more, sending out a splatter of blood. “Since humans and Faunus established their civilizations and separated themselves from nature, they have lost these things and though they have gained the power to advance and erect massive monuments of their success, they have also gained a blackness of heart that we who follow the way of nature could never hope to fathom. They gained greed, envy, and a lack of concern for their own kind. You call the world I live in cruel, yet many of your kind kill each other not to improve their chances of survival, but simply for amusement and minor boons. True, we animals kill each other from time to time, but we do so for the sake of survival, not for the trivial reasons that many of your kind do…I have pride in the way that I live now, a pride that I would never throw away no matter what. The same pride that I’m sure that many of your kind possesses in the way they live their lives. Do you believe your way to be so superior to mine that you would take away that which I value more than my life?”
“I see your point” said Byakko nodding, “Just as I saw the point of many other enlightened animals that I encountered, but still Kong, although we have gained unimaginable darkness, we have also gained unimaginable light. Sure, we have separated ourselves from nature, but at the same time we have become a part of another greater thing, achieved a sense of oneness comparable to that of your oneness with nature. Sure there are tons of bad eggs in our lot who tend to blacken the souls of those around them, but there are also many of us who put ourselves in harm’s way so that others can live their lives just a little better. I’m not saying that my way of life is better than yours. What I’m saying is that you’ve never experienced my way of life, and I think it’s a little too soon to make a decision without getting a little taste of both first.”
“What do you mean?” asked Kong.
“What I’m saying is that you may want to give the whole civilization thing a try.” Said Byakko “After all, I’ve tried out the whole survival of the fittest nature thing for about 10 years of my life and its only after reaching a complete understanding of it did I decide on which way of life I wanted to follow. I found I liked a bit of both, so that’s how I live my life.” Byakko took a deep breath and let out a satisfied sigh “Everyone has a way of life that is most suited to them, and only after experiencing many different ones can beings truly say that one way of life is better for them. There were many people I knew who forsake our civilized lives for that oneness with nature, but only after they had experienced many other ways of life. So I think you might want to do what they did.”
“So what are you suggesting?” asked Kong.
“What do you say that we divide the valley into two parts for now.” Said Byakko “One half will be left in control of Lan and myself, and the other will be left to you and your supporters. The boy and I will work on getting a nice civilization established on our half and you can keep your side in the whole survival of the fittest thing. Once we finish up, come over and live one our half of the valley for a little while. After that if you still prefer your way of life, you and the boy can have another duel, and we can go from there.”
Kong considered this for a moment, and then looked up at Byakko.
“And you will be leading the developments?” he asked.
“Oh no no no,” said Byakko, waiving off the notion. “You leave the organization to me, and everything’s going to go to hell.” Byakko pointed at Lan’s unconscious form “I’m leaving it to the little guy. He’s much better at this kind thing then I am. Besides, this kind of ending is exactly what he would want.”
“You planned this for his sake didn’t you?” said Kong
“Mostly” answered Byakko.
“And I will most likely grow stronger during that time. The boy may lose our next confrontation, is that all right with you?”
“You know it” said Byakko.
“Hmph, very well” said Kong “I’ll agree to this for now.”
“Yeah, find out which life you like more” said Byakko. “and just to be honest between the two of us. Lan’s the guy who thought this plan up, it was that time he was reading all those philosophy books along with stuff on animal intelligence. It was just in case he met any smart animals like Ernest and Ignis. You know we had a wolf pack like that back at our village, they decided to live the survival of the fittest kind of life, but we all still get along and—“
“White beast” interrupted Kong.
“Yes~~” said Byakko.
“Please cease your rambling. I already get the full picture and I am in need of rest.”
“All right” said Byakko, walking away “sweet dreams. Do you need any treatment?”
“I will be fine” answered Kong. “I have received even graver injuries in the past and was easily able to cope with them.”
Byakko nodded then walked to Lan, picked him up, and brought him out of the room, leaving Kong snoring on the ground in the entrance chamber. The two of them headed upstairs towards one of the undefiled bedchambers where Byakko tucked Lan in bed, treated the boy’s injuries, and took a seat by the window to watch the setting sun signal the end of the day.