Daylen thrust the crook of his staff upwards at Lan, who caught the weapon with the soles of his feet. As Daylen’s arm dropped thanks to the sudden addition of Lan’s weight, Lan leapt forward and struck Daylen in the chest with one of the batons.
Daylen cried out in pain and dropped the seeds that he was holding, still managing to stay conscious thanks to his stronger than normal aura. In response, Daylen slammed the butt of his staff into the ground causing the seeds he had just dropped to sprout and launch themselves at Lan, knocking the boy into the air. Lan grunted as he was blasted upwards, but quickly recovered and pulled a small grappling hook tied to a rope from one of his pockets. Before he began to fall back down he threw the grappling hook at a rock formation in the ceiling. With a loud clang the hook embedded itself into the stone and using his remaining momentum, Lan swung himself around to avoid the vines that Daylen was sending up in his direction.
Lan pulled out the containers of dust again and began sending more icy Dust projectiles at Daylen, however all of them were blocked by a wall of wooden vines that converge in front of him. But in that brief instance where Daylen’s vision was obscured by the vines, Lan pulled the hook out from the ceiling and threw it at one of the vines, used it as a pivot to swing himself in an arc towards Daylen’s unguarded rear and unleashed a drop kick with the full force of the momentum he had just built up in the middle of Daylen’s back.
Daylen was knocked forwards to the ground and Lan used his trained leg muscles leap a few meters back, quickly pulling the hook back and stuffing it into one of his many hidden pockets. Daylen was back on his feet a second later.
In terms of combat experience, Daylen held the advantage thanks to his long history of street brawls growing up and the skirmishes with Grimm that occurred when he traveled from place to place, he also had excellent mastery of his semblance “sprout” which allowed him to control plant growth through the use of his modified staff ‘Grunen Daumen’. Lan however had spent his entire life training under one of the most powerful men in the world, had been thrown headfirst into a multitude of life and death situations (at least from his standpoint), and despite having not discovered his semblance had skillful control of his aura. It was truly anyone’s game; however they were far from having a fair one on one match. The guardsmen were slowly making their way through the group of Faunus, who were now engaging them with a variety of melee weaponry, and Aurelius had just finished some preparations.
“Fire, but make sure the bomb is out of the blast radius!” shouted Aurelius. Three men were kneeling one the ground in front of him, each of them holding a small-size rocket launcher. Complying with their superior’s command, they launched the weapons towards the wall of vines surrounding Daylen.
Noticing this, Daylen shot out a column of vines at the explosives. Two of the rockets were deflected and exploded on the sides of the cavern. The last one, however, slipped through and exploded on the side of Daylen’s wall of vines. The vines managed to withstand the blast, however the shockwave that was transmitted through them caused Daylen to stumble slightly. In that instant Lan slipped through the newly opened hole in the vines and kicked Daylen in the jaw.
His brain spinning from the blow, Daylen collapsed onto one knee, embedding his staff into the ground and using it for support as the world spun before him. Returning to the ground, Lan turned and prepared to go for the knockout, but at that moment the sound of whining filled the cavern.
Megan had finally pried George off her face and subdued the two little guys, holding each of them by their tails. Not wasting a second, Lan leapt out of the now unmoving dome of vines and threw a rock at the bleeding hand that Ignis had bitten. As the stone struck her hand, Megan winced and loosened her group on the little guys. In that brief instant, Lan had dashed over and swept one of Megan’s legs out from under her, snatching George and Ignis out of her hands as she fell. Leaping to her feet, Megan pulled out her whip and turned on Lan, but noticed that the rocket wielding guardsmen had once again trained their weapons on Daylen, who had just barely gotten to his feet again. As the rockets fired, Megan dashed past Lan who had thrown Ignis and George into the surrounding melee after instructing them on what to do.
Vines and whip dancing through the air, the rockets were repelled and were sent spiraling to the walls of the cavern, exploding and causing the area to shake once again.
Turning his attention back to Daylen and Megan, Lan began to continue the fight.
A child’s cry rang out through the cavern. With that the sounds of fighting from both sides came to halt, turning in the direction of the sound. A young fox Faunus boy of about 4 or 5 years of age had wandered into the cavern and had been grazed by a stray gunshot. The boy was kneeling on the ground in front of a tunnel and clutching his arm in pain, tears streaming down his face.
“What the?” said one of the guards.
“He must have gotten separated from one of the groups that was headed towards one of the designated safe areas.” Said one of the Black Claw.
The two opposing sides looked at each other awkwardly for a few moments before someone finally spoke up.
“W-we’d better bandage that kid’s wound” said someone.
“Y-yeah, and then send him off.” Said another.
Nobody moved to do so, since both sides were both afraid to turn their backs on their former enemies and felt awkward to the sudden change in atmosphere.
“I have a suggestion.” Said Lan, “why don’t we send two from each side to help him get to safe face, then we can get back to kicking each other’s butts.”
A cracking noise suddenly interrupted the conversation, louder than both the awkward negotiation and the child’s continuing wails. It was then that many realized that the boy was kneeling near one of the walls that had been hit by the rockets that had been deflected earlier. Unbeknownst to the two combating forces due to the sound of their own melee, cracks had slowly been spreading from the epicenter of the first blast and had spread to the ceiling encompassing a wide area, which was right above the tunnel the boy was kneeling in front of. The newest deflected rockets had accelerated the process.
With a final loud crunch a huge chunk of stone around the size of a tank broke free and began to fall.
“””“Crap”””” cried many people in unison. Seeing that young child about to be crushed, the combatants abandoned all thoughts about the battle and rushed to help. The thoughts of battle had all but left their minds, after all, what self-respecting person would just leave a young child to their demise?
Daylen threw 3 large seeds at the area surrounding the boy and slammed the butt of his staff into the ground while the rest of the people present dashed forward. A moment before the boy was about to turn into a smear on the ground, the seeds hit the ground, met the energy from Daylen’s staff, and sprouted into three vines as thick as tree trunk, sprouting upwards into the giant stone above. The stone, however, was just too heavy and with the sound of breaking wood, the vines shattered to pieces, only managing to delay the stone a few seconds. However in that time, Lan and the fastest of the guardsmen and Black Claw had already arrived at the boy’s side. Unable to move the boy out of the way in time those few brave men and woman, were caught under the stone’s falling mass. With a grunt, they lifted their arms and tried to stop the stone, but as the enormous mass made contact with their hands, all of them fell to their knees, all except one in the center who became the core of support.
Lan, the little iron boy, had brought his hands upwards the moment the stone had dropped down far enough. Thanks to the inhuman training his grandfather had put him through, he was able to stop the stone…is what I’d like to say but being only eight years old he was only able to slow it for a brief moment.
As he began to feel his bones break and his blood vessels rupture under the weight, he saw that many other people had arrived and had begun assisting in pushing up the stone; Daylen was also running forwards, reaching into his pouch for seeds.
If he just stopped the stone for a few seconds, then everyone else would be able to help in time.
“Come…on” thought Lan, who was weakening at a rapid pace, feeling the stone drop farther and farther each second. “Just a few…more…seconds!!”
At that moment, Lan’s body was covered in a brilliant blue aura and the stone’s descent stopped.
“Why must you always place thyself on the brink of death?” thought the existence which had inhabited Lan’s soul.
It was a small burst of energy, the energy that the existence had been building up for the past six months. With that Lan was able to push the boulder up slightly, but soon felt it coming back down. By then, however, dozens of hands had appeared around the stones edges and dozens vines had sprouted from in the gaps between people.
“Up!” shouted Aurelius, whose face was red from effort “lift it up!”
The small number of people on both sides who were capable of emitting aura began to glow in unison; Daylen’s vines were also growing with a pale green light as they pushed upwards. Finally, after dozens and dozens of people and vines had taken up different positions, the stone began to rise upwards as people slowly straightened their legs and pushed it upwards. It tilted to one side as it rose until finally ‘Crash’ the stone fell to the side of the group of people, craterizing the ground.
With a large gasp, many people collapsed to their knees, sweat running down their foreheads and, in some cases, blood coming out of their mouths. After placing his hands on his knees and panting for a few minutes, Lan straightened up and raised both his arms into the air.
“We did it! ‘coughs blood’ Whooooo!!!!”
A few weak cheers rose up from the many other people who were now lying on the ground, exhausted.
“You okay, ‘blargh’ kid?” said Lan, turning to the kid with a smile.
Had this been Lan’s usual smile, the child would probably have begun to feel at ease, however the trickle of blood that was coming down the side of Lan’s mouth and his face warped by exhaustion shocked the boy into silence.
“Come on, cat got your tongue” said Lan, coughing once more.
“A-are you okay mister?” said the young child.
“I’m good” said Lan raising both his hands, “it’s just a few light internal injuries, I’ll be fine after a little food and rest…Those guys probably need some of that too.”
Lan motioned to the many exhausted guardsmen and Black Claw.
“I think it’s time for a snack break.”
Lan’s mind was obviously destabilized by the extreme physical burden he had just been under. After dragging the child and the exhausted guardsmen and Black claw away from the fault zone, Lan walked over to the tunnel where he had hidden his bag, and came back carrying several large packages. He tossed them here and there towards random groups of people and then took out his own pack of rice balls. He then grabbed Aurelius by the scruff of his neck, and dragged him over to Daylen, who was leaning on his staff and breathing heavily. After making Aurelius sit down, Lan used a flurry of quick movements to force Daylen into a sitting position. He then shouted:
“Snack break, eat your food, then we can go back to killing each other.”
Many people exchanged skeptical glances with each other, but as no one was currently in any condition or mentality to fight, they opened Lan’s packages and began to eat what was inside, which varied from rice balls to sandwiches.
Lan plopped down to the ground and coughed again, the amount of blood was less than it was previously.
He opened his packaged which revealed nine large rice balls. He took one and handed it to Aurelius who, after a moment of hesitation, grabbed and bit into it, his complexion brightening after the first bite. Lan handed the other one to Daylen, who simply stared at it with empty eyes. After a few seconds of silence, Lan said.
“As a wise, yet violent man once said ‘take it before I force the whole thing down your throat’, besides it has delicious filling~~.”
Daylen stared at it for a moment longer, then slowly reached out and took it. Satisfied, Lan grabbed another rice ball and shoved the whole thing into his mouth.
The sound of eating was the only thing that filled that cavern for a little while, until finally some people began to speak.
“So, why did you run out and help that kid?” said a Black Claw member.
“I don’t really know” said a guardsman “My body just sort of moved without me realizing it.”
Murmurs of agreement spread throughout many of the different groups that congregated around Lan’s packages, which quickly devolved into light mealtime conversation.
After looking around for a few moments, Daylen finally spoke “How easily did it all stop, with just a child’s cry the battle of principles that was being fought ended just like that.”
“It just means that in our hearts the kid’s safety was more important than that” said Lan, biting into his second rice ball and looking at the little boy who was trying to keep his sandwich away from Ignis and George.
“Mmmm” grunted Daylen who ,after looking at it one more time, slowly bit into the large rice ball.
“So” said Lan, after polishing off his third rice ball “what do you plan on doing after you finish up in this area.”
Daylen was silent for a moment, and then said “I don’t really know, I’d continue to follow Jirall and I guess we’d use this incident to pull some more manpower into our ranks, build up a force, and fight for our rights.”
“Do you think you’ll be successful?” said Lan, taking a drink from a canteen.
Daylen was silent for a moment, and then dropped his gaze, but as he was about to open his mouth another voice rang out.
“No he doesn’t”
Lan turned his head and saw Megan walking towards them, holding the boy they’d just rescued in her arms.
“He knows that they’ll never be able to win against the military power established by the kingdoms of Remnant. He’s just following his big brother, just like he has been his entire life.”
Megan placed the boy in Lan’s lap, then took a seat between the two of them.
“That was all well and good when they were little kids, but now as grown-ups…it just doesn’t seem right.” She said. “A man who doesn’t live by his principles would never be able to give his best.”
Daylen was silent for a moment, and then let out a sigh.
“Maybe” he said “My brother’s always made all the big decisions ever since mother died. True, some of them didn’t really sit right with me…but thanks to those choices I was able to survive.”
“Okay” said Lan, “but you’re grown up now, and from I can see you’re a very smart guy. You should be able to see what the end of the road is if you continue on this way, you should have enough experiences to tell what results your actions will bring. So, what do you see will happen if you continue down the path you’re going on now?”
“What I can see” said Daylen, who began to stare into space “I can see a lot of red…probably blood. I can see a lot of hate, self-perpetuating itself over and over again…but I don’t see things getting any better for either side. We would never be able to win, and would only be causing more harm both to humans as well as to ourselves.”
“…You want to try something else then?” said Lan.
“Maybe” said Daylen after short pause, he turned and looked at the bomb behind him. “Don’t know what it is I want to do next though.”
“Might I suggest disarming that large and threatening bomb?” said Aurelius, “I’m sure we could think of something after that, I’ll even help you my boy.”
“But my men—“ started Daylen
“Never really supported this in the first place” said Megan calmly “It’s Jirall and his men that wanted all this, our guys were just following orders. You tell the guys sitting around that you want to stop this and you won’t be getting any complaints from them.”
“…Whatever.” Said Daylen, waiving his hand, “just leave me to think for a moment.”
The three of them nodded, and Megan turned her head and shouted.
“Krantz! Disarm the bomb!”
The man who had originally programmed the bomb nodded, and then stood up and walked over to it.
“Whew” said Lan “Glad that’s over with, now I just need to send the kid back to his mommy and kick Jirall’s a—“
Everyone whipped their heads in the direction of the sound and saw Krantz sitting in front of an open panel in the side of the bomb. A large hole had appeared in his stomach. The muzzle of some kind of gun was behind the panel that had just moved. And as the man crumpled to the ground, a recording began to play.
“You’ve really disappointed me Daylen, backing out now even though we’re so close. Luckily I predicted your little case of cold feet and prepared accordingly. Now that Krantz is dead, the only ones who can stop the bomb are me and the technician that I brought with me. The two bombs will go off as scheduled Daylen, but I’m afraid you’ll be in the list of casualties now.” The voice paused and a deep sigh could be hears “I really didn’t want to have you as an enemy brother, but I have to make sacrifices if I am to do what’s right for our people.”
With a beep, the recording ended and the cavern went silent.
“Not good” said Aurelius after a few moment, “not good, this is really not good.”
“But the objective is still the same” said Lan, “if we want to end this once and for all, we’ve got to get up there and stop Jirall. “
Lan then turned to Daylen. “Will you be helping us?”
“I-“ stuttered Daylen,
“Alright alright” said Lan waiving his hands “you stay here until you have your emotional epiphany and Megan helps you back to your feet, just keep the resulting making out to a minimum.”
“Eh!?” exclaimed Megan.
“Aurelius” shouted Lan, “you guys evacuate the Faunus workers that are the tunnels somewhere.”
“Fine.” Said Aurelius, “but after that I’m sending my men up to stop that madman. What will you be doing?”
“I’m gonna get up there and stop Jirall!” said Lan striking a heroic pose.
“You already said that” said Aurelius.
“Oh, yeah.” Said Lan, “Well, anyway, come on little buddies the final battle awaits.”
Lan dashed out the nearest tunnel with Ignis and George hot on his heels, heading towards the elevators leading to the dust purification center.
Whew, am I glad the ‘fight with Daylen’ is over. You know out of everything in this arc, it’s the hardest thing I had picturing. Well, Lan’s heading over to the dust reactor next to take out Jirall, I’d say this arc will be over after 4 chapters max. I’m really anticipating writing the next ones.