Ch 8 Old friends
1 day later
Lan was sitting on a cliff overlooking the sea, and was watching the sun as it began to dip under the waves; however its magic was lost on him as it is on all who cannot share the feelings aroused by such a phenomenon with others.
“It’s not as lively here without grandpa and Sammy” Lan said sighing “even a day without him is pretty depressing.”
He had finished that day’s training regime (three times over actually), finished his lessons with everybody, and the library had just been closed. So, now he had nothing to do, especially since everyone had their own plans for that day. Plopping down onto his back, he yawned and began to think about his time here. All of a sudden a cold wet nose touched his arm. He looked up and found Ignis sitting there, his tongue lolling out and his tail wagging.
“I guess you felt I was lonely huh?” said Lan patting the little guy “I’m also a little bored to be honest. Come on” he said patting his leg. “you take a load off too.” Ignis trotted over and placed his head in Lan’s lap. “It really is peaceful here though” said Lan closing his eyes and listening to the sound of the waves, the hustle and bustle in the town, and the explosions that were always coming from Rowan’s workshop (which was always followed by a round of yelling from Gregory).
“But y’know?” said Lan, opening his eyes and staring into the orange sky, “I wonder when my adventure will begin? But when it does” said Lan, smiling “I know everyone in the village will be so proud to see me standing there, a hero.”
Ignis sighed in contentment and nuzzled Lan’s leg. Lan smiled and patted him.
“I hope it starts soon.” Said Lan.
As soon as the words emerged from his mouth, the sound of a violent explosion ripped through the air. Lan looked up and saw smoke rising from one of the corners of town. Lan jumped to feet and Ignis, sensing something was amiss, began looking this way and that, trying to find the cause.
“Come on!” shouted Lan, and the two of them dashed off towards the source of the smoke.
“What is this?” said Hiroshi, his eyes wide.
“From what I can tell” said Rowan “it appears to be a large boulder that has just crashed into our communications center.”
“I can see that” said Hiroshi calmly “What I’m asking is how did this happen”
Rowan shrugged. “Don’t know. It came from the direction of the forest though.”
The first thing that came to Hiroshi’s mind was an enemy attack, as one of the key elements of success in warfare is preventing the enemy from summoning reinforcements, but out here in the middle of nowhere there wasn’t anyone who would attack them, not even bandits because this area was so far away from any major roads.
“What is going on?” thought Hiroshi. Suddenly, he heard shouting coming from the forest side of the village. There was the crack of firearms, cries of pain,…and the roars from a menagerie of bestial throats.
“The force field!” shouted Hiroshi, realizing what was happening “Activate it!”
Rowan nodded and pulled a small remote control out of his pocket. He pressed a button and activates the force field generator in the center of the village, which shot a spire of energy into the air, which spread out and quickly formed a dome of glowing energy over the whole village.
“The dust matrix is stable” said Rowan gazing at a screen on the remote “We’re good.”
“But just in case make sure all combatants are armed” said Hiroshi quietly.
“What?” said Rowan, surprised “but the force field has always held. Nothing’s going too—“
“Just do it Rowan!” said Hiroshi, sharply “something just feels…wrong.”
Rowan stared at him for a few seconds and nodded.
“I know better than to question your instincts” he said with a smile “one battalion, coming right up.”
He then dashed towards the center of town, yelling for people to take arms.
Lan dashed into the center of the town and witnessed the exodus of the town’s citizens either heading in the direction of the woods, these men and women carrying weaponry, or towards the large shelter near the docks. Gregory and Hiroshi were standing in the center of the chaos, Hiroshi directing the armed citizens and Gregory directing the unarmed ones.
“What’s going on!?” Lan yelled, running up to them.
“There are Grimm at the edge of the village” Gregory responded “I’d wager around 100 of them, but don’t you worry, the force-field’s got enough dust in it to last us through weeks of this. So we’ll be fine.”
“But just in case” Hiroshi said, walking over to the boy “I want you to head to the safe house along with all the other noncombatants until the Grimm are dealt with, the rest of us will prepare a perimeter in the off chance they break through.”
“Oh come off it” Gregory said, patting Hiroshi on the back “We all know they’ll never get through.”
With lightning fast reflexes, Hiroshi grabbed Gregory’s hand and then turned to stare him straight in the eye.
“Never underestimate your opponent” Hiroshi said his voice shaking with intensity, “I learned that lesson the hard way. Many many times.”
Gregory, put off by Hiroshi’s words and fierce stare, nodded slowly, and after Hiroshi released his grip, he started heading in the direction of the safe house now that most of the evacuees were there.
“Come on kid” he said in a slightly shaky voice “up and at em.”
Lan, however, stayed where he was and looked Hiroshi in the eyes with a determined stare.
“Is there anything I can do to help?” Lan said his voice steady and calm “I am ready and waiting.”
Hiroshi smiled as he looked down at the young boy who reminded him so much of his younger self in the military, and then reached out and patted his head.
“The best thing you can do for us is to head to the safe house; we wouldn’t want anything to happen to you.” Hiroshi replied.
“But I can be of assistance!” Lan complained “We all know that I’m strong.”
“Yes we do” Hiroshi said, removing his hand “But you’ve got to leave this to us old people, If we just rely on you kids all the time we’ll become useless old farts in no time flat. Besides, it is our duty to protect the younger generation, and if we fail to do that, well…there wouldn’t have been any point in us doing anything. So promise me you’ll follow instructions, and won’t do anything reckless. Besides” he added on an off note “it is very unlikely that the Grimm will get through. We’re just getting ready on the miniscule chance they do.”
Lan stood there, holding Hiroshi’s gaze for a few minutes, then nodded and ran off in the direction of the safe house, stealing a few glances behind here and there.
Hiroshi watched as the boy ran away, and then turned his attention to the edge of the village where the Grimm were attacking. He felt a mound of uneasiness building up in his stomach. Something was different today, and he knew that things wouldn’t be going as planned. He had said those assuring words to Lan only because he believed that it was the best method to get that now fiery-hearted boy to listen to his instructions.
He called out to the combat-able villagers to begin arming themselves, and then he walked back to his home to retrieve his twin katana. It had been many years since he felt like he need Falcon’s Claw and Swallow Tail, but today he felt that they were needed.
Lan was watching from afar as the other villagers began to form up at the end of the town where the Grimm were attacking. His hands were clenched, and his body trembling with excitement. He wanted to get over there and help everybody defend the village. But he had promised Hiroshi that he would head to the safe house and, as the many stories he had read had advised him, it was never a good idea to break your word. Lan sighed and turned in the direction of the safe house once again, but something outside the barrier near him caught his eye.
Standing there at the edge of the forest was an old man with a bald head and a long white beard. He was wearing what appeared to be a monastery monk’s robes. Lan didn’t recognize the man, but he felt strangely familiar.
“Hey!” Lan yelled “come inside the force-field, it doesn’t stop humans or Faunus from going in or out!”
When the man refused to move, Lan gave a nervous glance in the direction of the Grimm and shouted out once again.
“There are Grimm nearby, it’s dangerous out there!”
The old man stared at Lan for a solid minute, and then he lifted up his arm and began beckoning for Lan to follow him.
“What!?” Lan said, confused “Why should I go out—”
Before Lan had finished speaking, the old man turned around and walked into the forest. Dumbstruck, Lan began calling out to the old man, but to no avail. He turned around and stared in both the directions of the safe house and the location where the Grimm were attacking.
“I promised Hiroshi that I would head to the safe house” Lan thought, starting to grow desperate “But I can’t just leave an old man outside.”
Torn between the two decisions, Lan tried to think of the best way to handle the situation and after a few moments of debate, made up his mind.
“Promises are important” he thought to himself “…but protecting other’s lives takes first priority!”
His resolve now firm, Lan dashed out of the barrier and headed in the direction the old man had disappeared in, determined to bring him into the barrier either peacefully or with force.
Hiroshi stared at the pulsating barrier, where the Grim were slashing, striking, and ramming it. The barrier stood firm against all of the blows, giving no sign of weakening.
“Maybe my instincts are dulling” Hiroshi thought, sighing “it really is obvious that they won’t get through.”
The barrier hadn’t even shuddered after the Grimms’ relentless assaults, they would eventually lose interest and leave. He turned around and started to give the command for the group to disperse and return to their homes.
A loud, harsh, new cry ripped through the air, coming from the direction of the Grimm. Shocked out of his composure, Hiroshi whipped round, and was struck dumb by what he saw. Standing at the barrier was a humanoid Grimm with 5 reddish crystals sticking out of its back.
“What in the world?” Hiroshi said, quickly recovering senses.
All of a sudden, reddish-black energy began coursing around the creature and began to gather at one of its clawed hands. The energy wrapped itself tightly around the tips and coalesced into a bright, yet at the same time dark, light. The beast then raised its arm and brought it down on the force field where the two energies collided. A blinding light erupted from the point of impact, sparks of energy flying off in all directions. Hiroshi quickly shielded his eyes from the radiance, than as his eyes grew more accustomed to it, moved his hand slightly out of the way so he could see what was happening.
Cracks were beginning to form in the force-field, branching out from the epicenter of the impact. Reddish black tendrils of energy were also spreading out.
“Hiroshi” someone called from behind him “there’s something wrong with the generator!”
Hiroshi whipped around and saw that energy was shooting off from the center of the village where the generator was located. Quickly analyzing the situation, Hiroshi realized what was about to happen. Whatever energy the creature was releasing was begging to block out the energy of the dust field, and that energy was at that very moment building up in the generator.
“Get away from the generator!” he cried “It’s going to blow!”
The militia members who were most near it began to run away, forcing all their strength into their legs to ferry them to safety. But it was to no avail. In a flash of multi-colored light, the generator blasted apart, releasing devastating energy around it and sending many flying. Those closest to it weren’t so lucky, however. The energy caught them in its embrace and sucked them into the light, and once the light faded all that was left of them were blackened corpses. The blast had also set fire to many buildings and destroyed much of the central area, leaving it looking like a warzone.
Hiroshi stared at the chaos, his eyes filled with grief. So many of the men and women he had lived with and loved had their lives snuffed out in the blink of an eye. He dropped his head down, shocked by this turn of events. It had been many years since he had seen people close to him die, not since he was still a general. But the experience one gains from the battlefield never truly disappears, so he has quickly able to steady himself and assess the situation. He was then filled with dread, realizing the dire situation they were all in. He turned around and saw the small army of Grimm standing only a few dozen yards away from them, all their eyes hungry for blood.
Quickly gathering his wits, Hiroshi called out to the other members of the village militia to get into battle positions. He pulled out his two katana, and shifted himself into a combat stance. The other more quick witted citizens of the village followed suit. Rowan jumped into the cock pit of a large combat mech and activated it, Anna pulled out two clubs from inside her dress and struck a martial arts pose, Edgar pulled out a conductor’s baton that hummed to life with dust energy, Greb lifted up his pitchfork which was crackling with electrical energy, and the others quickly pulled out their weapons and entered into their respective combat stances.
The two forces stood silently, staring each other down. Then, screaming at the top of their lungs, the two groups ran at each other and the battle began.
“Wait up” Lan yelled, “you need to get back to the village!”
He was running through the forest, trying to catch up to the old man that he saw. Every once in a while he caught sight of the old man again, but never got close enough to grab him.
“What is he even doing out here?” he thought “I never saw him before so I don’t think he’s a member of this village.”
After running for little while longer, he burst into a clearing. The old man was sitting on a log in the middle of it and as soon as Lan entered he lifted up his head and looked at the boy.
“Ahah” Lan cried in triumph “I got ya now. Now let’s get back to the village old man, it’s not safe out here.”
When the old man still didn’t move, Lan grew annoyed and began to walk towards him.
“Now we can do this the easy way or the hard way. Either you can calmly follow me or I’ll drag you to safety!”
Suddenly the old man began laughing; it was a manic and uncontrolled laughter that made Lan’s hair stand up on end. The old man then got off the stump and began walking towards Lan.
“Ah, finally” Lan said with relief, believing the laughter to simply be a moment of insanity “hurry up we don’t know what may be lurking—”
He stopped talking as he noticed a reddish-black glow appear on the man’s chest. Then with a ripping sound, a reddish-black crystal burst forth form the man’s robes. Darkness began seeping from the crystal, winding around the man and spreading out to cover him in its umbral embrace. The darkness folded and hardened old man, taking on armored bestial appearance. A few seconds later the man was gone, and standing there was a humanoid Grimm that appeared to smile at Lan, its eyes filled with a sadistic gleam.
Hiroshi dodged to the left as an ursa brought its paw down where he had formerly been standing. He then leapt off the ground towards the ursa and brought his left and right blade up and down respectively on its neck, decapitating the creature. He turned around to survey the rest of the battle and saw that they were pushing the Grimm back. Anna was sending any small sized Grimm flying with a whack of her clubs (her arms trained from hitting unruly customers). Rowan was currently going head to head with a deathstalker, his robot’s four arms trapping the deathstalker’s claws and stinger and his artillery blasting away at the creature’s head. Edgar was writing musical scores in the air with his conductor’s baton which either resulted in a magic based attack, a beneficial buff to a group of allies, or a detrimental effect on a group of Grimm. Greb, used to dealing with unruly animals, was routing a small group of Quadra-pedal Grimm. The other members of the militia were also engaging in successful skirmishes with the Grimm’s forces.
His morale raised, Hiroshi dove into a group of beowolves and began slicing them apart using his fluid sword style, the thrill of battle filling him and the taste of victory sweet in his mouth. But after he had cut them all down he noticed something odd. The humanoid Grimm that had destroyed the barrier hadn’t joined the battle and instead was just watching as the melee unfolded before it. Hiroshi had been certain that the creature would join its constituents in battle. It was definitely the most dangerous though; an army of Grimm couldn’t have done what it did to the barrier.
“Perhaps the attack has left it weak” Hiroshi thought “If that’s the case then this is our chance to kill it.”
There weren’t many other Grimm now; they had destroyed almost all of them at this point through the efforts of the battle-ready militia and Hiroshi’s superior tactics. Hiroshi turned around and yelled at the other warriors to gain their attention; he then pointed in the direction of the Grimm and ordered an assault. The militia responded with a passionate war cry and the nearest group ran at the creature, their weapons raised.
It was over in an instant. The creature seemed to vanish for a split second, and then reappeared behind the group. Confused, the warriors turned round to face it…and fell to pieces, cut apart and dead before they even knew what happened to them.
Hiroshi was struck dumb. All of those warriors had combat experience and adept control of their aura. What was that creature? The creature turned around to face him…and smiled. Hiroshi felt a chill travel down his spine. Through his many years of military experience there was one key skill that had allowed him to survive many battles, one that allowed him to lead his troops to safety time and time again. It was the ability to sense an enemy far beyond his capabilities. He began to give the cry to retreat, but then Rowan began barreling towards the creature in his mech, his artillery blazing.
The creature got into a crouching position, unperturbed by the shots hitting its body, and, with an explosive burst of power, it launched itself towards Rowan, twisted its body into a strange angle, and then smashed through the robots legs. The machine crashed to the ground, sparks flying from its severed limbs. Rowan lay in the cockpit groaning, a line of blood flowing down from his temple. He slowly crawled out of it, pulled out a pistol, and then got to his feet.
“I won’t die like this” Rowan gasped “not after all I’ve been through!”
“Rowan, look out!” someone yelled from far away
He heard a loud thump behind him, turned to look in the direction of the sound. What he saw was a black, clawed foot shooting at his face. It was the last thing he ever saw. The creature rammed its foot into his face and then slammed his head into the ground with a loud crunching noise. Rowan’s body twitched for a few seconds and then lay still.
“Rowan!” Hiroshi yelled
Rowan and Hiroshi had been quite close; they had been friends for over twenty-five years and had spent so much time together: Drinking, arguing, debating, they had done everything that old friends do. And now Rowan was gone, crushed underneath the foot of the Grimm like an insect. But another dark feeling rested in Hiroshi’s breast. With Byakko gone, Rowan and his combat mech had been the village’s greatest military asset, and they had been defeated in less than a minute.
“Retreat!” Hiroshi cried at the top of his lungs “Retreat!”
The militia began running back towards the village center in order to form a defensive front where they would make their final stand. Meanwhile they could send a group to load all the noncombatants in the safe house onto the boats in the harbor. At least that way some of the villagers would survive. With that thought steeling his resolve, he turned around and began to run after the rest of the warriors.
All of a sudden a sizzling crackling sound filled the air around him. He turned around and saw the creature’s crystals were glowing and transferring energy towards a black ball of energy that was forming at the creature’s mouth. With a bang, a large dark sphere flew past Rowan, missing his head by only inches. The orb flew far off into the distance, towards the ocean and disappeared from sight. A few seconds later there was an earth-shattering explosion and the horizon was filled with dark energy. A few seconds later, it was gone and Hiroshi knew from the now falling wooden debris that the boats had been destroyed.
“How?” he thought to himself “How did it know?”
He turned round and stared their executor in the eyes. Not only was this Grimm powerful, it was intelligent! How did such an abomination come into existence? Hiroshi felt his calm waning, but he as a commander he had to make sure the chances of everyone’s survival improved if by only a little. The other members of the militia were still running towards the center of town, planning to use the scattered debris to quickly muster a defensive position. He would try his best to muster them, to try and stop this thing. But at present time not even retreat was looking promising to him. Hiroshi, now convinced of the humanoid Grimm’s intelligence, thought it likely that the humanoid had other Grimm waiting in the forest to slowly hunt down any who tried to escape. Had he known that the vast majority of its forces were in a valley in one of the nearby mountains he would have sent out the order for evacuation.
To struggle to the end. In the face of this foe that was all they could hope to do…No, there was one thing that could save them, one person who had left only recently.
“Byakko” Hiroshi whispered, eyeing the creature that seemed to be smiling at you. “Where are you?”
As Hiroshi turned and ran towards the fortifications the wind suddenly began to blow, as if whisking his prayer away to a place far far away.
“Achoooo!” Byakko sneezed, “Hmmm is someone talking about me?”
Byakko was currently sitting alone in a forest clearing far away from the village. He was sitting on a log and was currently roasting a deer over a roaring fire. Juices were beginning to flow out of it at that moment.
“Now time for a little spice!” he said, and whipped out the bottle of spices Anna had prepared for him.
He turned it upside down to sprinkle the delicious mix onto the mix, but all of a sudden the bottle shattered and its contents were scattered into the wind. He stared down at the broken shards in his hands and narrowed his eyes. Over the course of his long life, he had grown adept at noticing and interpreting different signs, also his instincts were beginning to scream at him that something was wrong. He stood up and stared in the direction of the village. Suddenly he heard a faint voice whisper into his ear as a gentle wind passed through the clearing.
“That settles” he thought “something’s up at the village!”
He had left just a few days before, but since he had been walking the whole time, he hadn’t travelled too far.
“I better head back as fast as I can” he thought “I can probably cut the travel time in half if I travel over the mountains.”
Byakko quickly packed up his belongings, slung them over his shoulders, and then after devouring the deer faster than humanely possible, dashed out of the clearing full speed. To describe Byakko’s speed would be like to describe the wind. Flowing unseen through the trees faster than any would be able to perceive, albeit he did destroy a branch here and there. After a little while he began to near the mountains. Slamming down hard with his feet, he leapt off the ground and into the trees ahead and began using them as footholds to increase his elevation. Higher and higher did he climb until he cleared the treetops and came face to face with the mountain side.
Angling his body slightly, he planted both of his feet on the face of the mountain and then began to run up the incline, speeding forwards towards the peak. It took him only a few minutes to reach it. Then, with an enormous burst of strength, he launched himself from this peak to another one further away, flying hundreds of meters in one leap. He kept this up for quite some time, flowing through the air like a god riding on the wind, and after a while the village came into view.
“Alright” Byakko thought, “Almost there.”
Once he landed on the mountain top closest to the village he began to survey the area, wanting to do a quick reconnaissance before heading back. But something quickly caught his attention before he had gotten a good look at the village. Far below him in a valley were thousands upon thousands of Grimm, a seething black ocean of malignant beasts that were milling around in the dark.
“Ohoh!” Byakko said, grinning and cracking his knuckles “I guess this was the unsettling feeling I was getting. I guess they would have a lot of trouble if this many Grimm attacked the village.” Byakko moved his neck from side to side, which also brought out a cracking sound. “I guess I’ll clear them out.”
Despite the dire situation, Byakko planned to take his time with the Grimm below. It had, after all, been a long time since he had a decent fight and if he went all out from the beginning he believed he wouldn’t be able to enjoy the battle as much. After all, “get the most out of everything!” was one of his personal mottos.
With an earth-shattering yell Byakko leapt off the top of the mountain and descended upon the Grimm below. The beasts began roaring and shrieking when they saw him and swarmed around his landing point, wanting to tear him apart as soon as possible. But with a burst of aura, Byakko crashed into the group with the force of a meteorite, crushing the Grimm directly below him and sending the rest near the point of impact flying off in all directions. Byakko rose to his feet, surveyed the situation around him and smiled.
“Let the games begin!” he cried, raising his arms into the air.
He then charged into the nearest group of Grimm and began tearing them apart, yelling out bad jokes all the while. If only he had realized where the real threat laid, but as the euphoria of battle enveloped him he never stopped to question what could have brought so many Grimm to one place.
Lan was standing in the center of the glade with the Grimm. He didn’t know what was going on, but he did know that that thing was dangerous. He quickly switched into a martial arts stance and began to channel aura throughout his body.
“Note to self” Lan thought “Never EVER break a promise.”
The two stood there staring at each other for a solid minute, and then the creature smiled, appearing to laugh at the young boy who dared challenge it. This confused Lan, who had remembered reading that Grimm had no souls, and as a result no emotions. But he quickly regained his mental composure and strengthened his stance.
“The one who moves first strikes last” he remembered his grandpa saying. “If you outmatch your opponent in the test of willpower at the beginning, then the flow of the battle will be in your favor.”
Remembering these words, Lan also remembered another piece of advice his grandpa had given him. If you can taunt your opponent without leaving any openings, then go ahead and do it.
Making sure to keep his composure, Lan twisted his face into a comical form and blew a raspberry at the Grimm.
With a roar the Grimm charged at Lan, its fist raised. Dodging out of the way with a graceful movement, Lan moved behind the Grimm and threw an aura infused punch at the back of its head. The attack barely made a dent in the creatures hardened armor; in fact the one most hurt by the attack was Lan, whose knuckles were now stinging from punching something far harder than itself even after it had been reinforced with aura. Crying out in pain, Lan pulled back his now reddened fist.
Swinging around with frightening speed, the Grimm threw a kick at Lan’s face. Lan quickly responded by blocking the attack with his shoulder, but the force of the blow sent Lan flying to the other side of the clearing. Lan landed with a thud onto the grass, clutching his bruised shoulder. He rose shakily to his feet at then looked at the Grimm.
“This thing is strong, tough, and fast” he thought “this isn’t going to be easy.”
Lan began flowing most of his aura to the area of the wound in order to heal it, but until it recovered he wouldn’t be able to attack properly. The creature roared and charged at Lan once again. Once it got close enough it began throwing a variety of different strikes, each of them a killing blow. The creature’s movements resembled a form of martial arts. It wasn’t nearly as refined as Byakko’s or Lan’s but was able to make up for the lack of skill with its heightened physical abilities. But, Lan’s skill, instincts, and training allowed him to dodge every blow, albeit a few were only by a hair’s breadth. The whole time he had to keep his breathing calm and his mind focused, just one good shot was all it needed. But Lan’s perseverance paid off. The exchange continued for a half minute, and by then Lan’s arm had fully recovered. To create some distance, after he dodged the monsters next attack, Lan performed 5 consecutive back flips and then landed on the ground, his legs spread apart and his right hand touching the earth.
“Alright buddy” Lan said “My turn.”
He then ran at the Grimm, dodging its attacks as they came. He then began throwing blows at specific parts of the monsters body, this time careful enough not to add too much strength and hurt himself. His plan this time round was to pierce through the monster’s armor by repeatedly striking the same area over and over again. However, dodging the monster’s blows while throwing an attack or two of his own proved to be a bit more difficult than he had anticipated. Every once in a while the Grimm’s claws would cut him, or Lan would fail to hit the right place. So after a little while Lan was covered in gashes and his gi was ripped in quite a few places. But the fruits of his pain were beginning to show. In the middle of the creature’s abdominal region, cracks were beginning to form and judging from the look of them, one good strike would break through. Leaping back a few yards Lan pulled back his fist and infused it with a good deal of aura. He then leapt forward, his fist aimed at the crack. At that moment energy began to flow out of the crystal on the Grimm’s chest. The energy flowed down to the cracks in the monster’s abs and in less than a second, completely repaired them up. Unable to stop himself in time, Lan threw his punch and his fist collided with the Grimm’s repaired armor. Pain shot up Lan’s arms as he felt some of his knuckles fracture. Taking advantage of this, the Grimm threw an uppercut which hit Lan square in the jaw and sent him high into the air. Lan then plummeted down to the ground, ensnared in gravity’s merciless embrace. He lay there, his brain spinning and his breath hoarse, not even able to comprehend the danger he was now in.
The creature began walking towards the boy now itching to finish him off. But at that moment a torrent of barking fell upon the glade. It seemed that their noisy battle hadn’t gone unnoticed by the forest’s denizens. Emerging from the trees was the pack of rage wolves, Ernest (now slightly bigger) was leading them. Once they saw Lan lying on his back, they dashed over and formed a line between him and the Grimm. Ernest began barking out orders and the pack quickly encircled the Grimm. The glade was now filled with the sound of their growling.
“Guys” Lan cried out in joy, his voice weak “How did you find us?”
Ernest turned round to look at Lan, gave him a toothy grin, and barked out a reply. Having lived with them for many years, Lan had learned how to understand what they meant even though he didn’t understand what they said.
“I guess we really were noisy!” Lan said chuckling.
He could rest easy now that the local wolves were here. Although he could outclass each of them individually, if he fought them as a pack he wouldn’t stand a chance (which is the method that wolves use to hunt successfully), but as his grandpa told him, he had to be ready at all times, so he began channeling his aura to his wounds to heal them as fast as possible. The Grimm stared at the creatures that were now surrounding it. It looked amused at the circle around it, but as its gaze fell on Lan its glowing eyes hardened and became serious. It didn’t want to waste any more time, not with its quarry standing right there. It roared and charged at the nearest wolf. At that moment it was struck from behind by a different wolf that had dashed forward as soon as it had seen the creature’s back. Turning around the creature roared and began to charge but once again was struck from behind. This continued for half a minute, the wolves teamwork being executed at frightening speed. Angered now, the Grimm began charging energy from the crystal in its chest, and then with a shriek, released the energy around it blasting all of the wolves around it. The wolves yipped in pain as the blast hit them, but as soon as the energy dissipated they began growling and started to glow a red color.
“Bad choice” Lan said, “You don’t want to get these guys mad.”
The wolves were now shrouded in coats of aura, which enhanced all of their physical abilities. Ernest gave a loud bark and the pack sprang into action. They shot forward faster than bullets and began striking the Grimm from all angles, each blow exploding with red energy. The fight currently looked like fireworks begin shot at a black target. Cracks were beginning to form in the creature’s armor as it was struck again and again from all sides. Noticing this, Ernest detached from the group, started to harness his aura around him, and began to watch for the correct opening. The rest of the pack, noticing his intentions, then began aiming more of their attacks at the Grimm’s legs, aiming to throw it off balance. The Grimm’s crystal was spitting out energy to repair the damage, but it wasn’t fast enough to handle all the damage the pack gave it.
Two wolves shot forward at lightning speed and rammed the Grimm in the back of the legs, knocking it off balance. Seeing this, Ernest shot forward, his aura surrounding him like a meteorite, and blasted through the left side of the Grimm’s abdomen, leaving a gaping hole in his wake. The Grimm cried out in pain and clutched at its side, and then collapsed to the ground.
The wolves howled in victory and dispersed their formation. A few of them went to check on the Grimm’s corpse, while Ernest and the rest went to check on Lan.
“Great job guys” Lan said, pushing back the cold noses poking at him “you really got hi—”
A yipping sound came in the direction of the wolves were checking on the Grimm, as well as a loud slashing noise. Lan and the rest of the wolves shot round and looked in the direction of the noise. The Grimm was back on its feet, and the wolves around it were on the ground, injured and whimpering in pain.
“But the wound!” Lan thought “How can it move with that kind of—”
The crystal on the Grimm body began to glow, and in an instant energy shot forth from the crystal and gathered around the hole in the creature’s abdomen and began healing the creature, new black matter emerging from where the energy touched. In seconds the light faded and the wound had vanished, as though it had never occurred.
Lan was stunned by this turn of events, amazed by the creature’s regenerative powers. But a piece of advice his grandpa had told him came to mind.
“Always focus on the enemy’s weaknesses. Sure, you have to watch out for their strengths if you don’t want to get your ass handed to ya. But in a fight it’s a bit more important to know how to make your enemy lose.”
“The crystal,” Lan shouted to the rest of the wolves, correctly assuming that it was the source of the creature’s strength “go for the crystal!”
Understanding their objective, the wolves quickly got into position again, their anger burning due to their injured comrades. But with a few of the wolves down the formation wasn’t as efficient as it was before. They quickly launched into their attack pattern once again, but this time the Grimm was able to land a blow or two here and there, slowly weakening the pack. However, they were still able to keep the Grimm off balance. Ernest was standing behind the group again and charging up his aura attack, this time he knew where to strike. With a howl, Ernest charged forward once again and once he was near enough he dove off the ground, targeting the crystal. Seeing the attack coming, the Grimm knocked aside some of the wolves attacking it and brought its arms forward to meet the attack. If its arms were destroyed, it could just regrow them. The crystal was its lifeline, and it had to protect it.
Two wolves dove at the Grimm from its blind spot and chomped down on its hands and then with a burst of force, they wrenched his arms down to expose the crystal. In that instant, Ernest used his aura to put on an extra burst of speed, and barreled into a field of energy that surrounded the gem. The two energies collided together, aura vs. the crystal’s power. Sparks began to fly in all directions from the point of impact. Cracks were beginning to form in the barrier, but Ernest was growing more exhausted by the second as he pumped his aura into this one attack. The point of contact began to grow brighter, and in a flash of brilliant light, the winner was decided.
Ernest was blasted backwards by the pent up energy in the field, and hit the ground with a loud thump, collapsed in a heap a dozen yards away. The Grimm roared in triumph and then, noticing the wolves still latched onto his arms, slammed the two wolves together and threw them aside. The rest of the wolves were now in disarray, but they wouldn’t go down without a fight, so each of them began attacking the Grimm individually now. But the Grimm was able to handle these desperate attacks relatively easily, dealing severe blows to every wolf that came near him.
Lan stood watching the whole event from a few yards away; he was fully recovered at this point. Most young boys would have despaired at this point and would have tried to run away. But Lan stood there analyzing the situation and trying to find the path to victory. He had to be quick though, the wolves were losing strength by the second, and once they were defeated it would be all over.
“Ernest’s method was correct” Lan thought “to win, we must destroy that crystal, but the attack must be strong enough to break through the barrier in one blow!”
Lan knew what he had to do now, he wasn’t sure if he could muster up more aura than Ernest was able to, but he was the only one in top condition. Lan then turned to Ernest.
“Get up already” Lan shouted “are you really going to be brought down just like that you little pup?”
Responding to Lan’s scathing comment, Ernest forced himself back onto his feet and turned to stare at the boy. Lan pointed to himself, pointed to the Grimm, pointed to Ernest and each of the wolves and then made a circling motion with his arms. Lan and the wolf pack understood each other. So Ernest understood that Lan needed him to distract the Grimm. Ernest eyed him for a few seconds and then barked in understanding; Ernest then turned and howled at the pack to get them organized again, and then ran into the fray.
Planting his feet firmly into the ground, Lan began channeling the aura in his body into his right arm. Byakko had warned Lan about overusing his aura, but now wasn’t the time for reservation. It was do or die. The wolves were organized once again, and even though there were fewer of them, they made up for it with their increased ferocity and desperation.
Lan had saturated his right arm with as much aura as he could muster and found that he still had aura left in him.
“Can’t waste my one attack” Lan thought “If I can’t fit the aura into my right arm I’ll send it to other places.”
Lan filled his left arm with aura as well, and placed the little bit left into his legs to give himself an explosive dash. He was ready now and began watching for an opening.
The wolves were visibly exhausted now and were barely able to keep the Grimm off balance, many of them succumbing to their wounds and falling to the ground. Noticing that Lan was ready, Ernest barked out a command to the remaining wolves. The wolves then leapt away from the Grimm and began glowing red, putting in the last motes of their aura. Before the Grimm could react, the wolves began using the multi-directional aura tackle again. The attacks were so fast that the Grimm couldn’t even react; it was being hit from every direction and was struggling just to keep its balance. Seeing this, Ernest and 3 other wolves went for the coup de grace, and launched a synchronized attack, which struck all four of the Grimm’s limbs and finally threw it off balance.
With that attack finished, all the wolves collapsed to the ground, exhausted.
“Thanks guys” Lan thought, pulling back his arm,
He then launched himself forward, exploding off the ground with a blue glow and flew through the air towards the Grimm. The Grimm saw the attack coming and tried to bring up his arms in time to block the blow, but was unable too due to the previous attack.
Lan threw his punch and connected with the barrier surrounding the crystal. The two energies collided with each, forming a storm of blue and reddish-black light where they met. Lan’s arm screamed in pain as the energy from the barrier tried to force it away, put Lan pushed forward, ignoring the pain and focusing only on crushing his enemy. Cracks were beginning to appear in the energy field now, but the aura in Lan’s right arm was beginning to dissipate as well. Lan could tell that his energy was giving out first, desperation filled him at that moment. Was he going to die here? Would his journey end after this battle?
“NO!!” shouted Lan from the depths of his soul “I’ll kick this thing’s ass and get out alive!”
Yelling out a war cry, Lan pushed his arm forward. The barrier exploded in a flash of blue and red light, sending the surrounding wolves flying in all directions and staggering the Grimm. Lan cried out in pain as he felt every bone in his right arm shatter, but he gritted his teeth and fixed his eyes on his opponent. Running forward with a yell, Lan raised his left arm and threw a second blow. This time his fist connected firmly with the crystal and discharged all of offensive aura he had stored in it, along with the augmentation granted by the blue crystal. The Grimm was blasted backwards and slammed into a tree in the edge of the glade.
Lan’s body couldn’t take the force to the blast either, and as a result the bones in his left arm were also shattered.
Lan stood there, his breath ragged and his arms hanging uselessly at his sides. He looked up towards the Grimm, smiling, but his smile fell once he saw the Grimm start to rise. The crystal on its chest was now cracked in many places and was leaking reddish-black light, but it was still intact and the Grimm was still alive.
Lan began panicking, both of his arms were broken, and he couldn’t risk damaging his legs in case he needed to run away.
“I’ve got to finish this!” Lan thought “While I still got this weird strength! But what can I use to—!”
It was then that he remembered something doctor Krueger told him.
“The hardest bone on your body is your forehead; a fist would break if it came in contact with it.”
“Alright” Lan thought straightening up “This is it.”
Redirecting his last motes of aura to his skull, Lan began to charge forwards towards the Grimm, who was still struggling to get up. Yelling, Lan slammed his left foot into the ground and blasted himself towards the Grimm head first. At that moment the Grimm brought its head up to see the situation…and saw a blue meteorite heading straight at it.
The Grimm struggled to get up, trying to get out of the way or at least block the blow, but it was still too exhausted from the previous attacks and could barely move.
Lan’s head collided with the crystal in Grimm’s chest, light shooting out in every direction as the cracks in the crystal widened. The Grimm struggled against the attack and began pushing back.
“There’s something you should always remember monster!” Lan yelled as he pushed forward, blood trickling down his face “The heroes always win!”
Lan suddenly felt energy swelling up inside of him, flowing throughout his body and then heading towards his skull, filling it with power he never knew he had. All of a sudden Lan felt a burning sensation in his chest, but at the same time a burst of energy. A blue crystal shaped like a four pointed star had suddenly appeared in the middle of his chest and was supplying him with tremendous power. This new influx of power completely overwhelmed what little energy the crystal in the Grimm’s chest still possessed.
With a yell, Lan thrust his neck forward and shot all the energy out at once. The energy burst forward, shattering the crystal in the Grimm chest, shooting right through it. The energy then widened and blasted through a vast area of forest behind the Grimm. The Grimm stood there twitching; a fist sized hole in its chest, behind it was a path of destruction, the forest torn apart.
Exhausted, Lan dropped back to the ground and collapsed onto his back, staring at the Grimm with a grin on his face and the sweet taste of victory (and blood) in his mouth.
The Grimm gave one agonized cry and collapsed onto its back, its armor falling off it in different sized chunks and disintegrating on the grass. In a few minutes all the armor had fallen off and a man sized piece of blackness was all that remained there.
Lan yelled out in triumph, and the wolves that could move ran over and began covering him with congratulations and saliva (mostly saliva).
“Ah, guys” Lan said, brushing away the many tongues “I couldn’t have done it without out yo—”
He then noticed that the blackness was peeling away from the man-shaped form, revealing flesh and blood beneath. In a few seconds the shadows were gone and lying there was an injured old man with a long white beard.
The wolves growled and began to make their way towards the figure, but Lan sat up and called them back. He didn’t feel anything dangerous from the old man and had felt the Grimm’s presence disappear. This man wasn’t dangerous, in fact he felt familiar, very very familiar.