Darkness Leaves No Survivors

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Chapter 4

******21 years later*******

With his heart racing, his breathing in an unbalanced rhythm, and his feet slamming against the ground at full speed, Miles knew he could not keep running for long.

He skidded around the tight corner, nearly losing his footing, and continued running down the busy streets of Magna Castellum. He bobbed and weaved through groups upon groups of townsfolk who watched in utter confusion as Miles continued to zoom past them.

I can’t keep- keep going like this. Miles considered. I gotta hide somewhere.

The shops flew by him as he continued moving on full steam. All the men, women, and children were going about their normal day until he suddenly blew past them, nearly knocking a number of people over.

He looked to the left, past the fruit stand on the corner and began moving in that direction. The young lady manning the stand, Jade, saw him running toward her stand and became concerned, but he clearly didn’t seem to have time to stay and chat.

“Hi Jade. Bye Jade!” Miles said frantically.

“Hey Miles where’s the fire?” She asked curiously, as she watched him fly by her stand. “Oh, don’t forget we have that final on— on Monday. . . Ok, see ya later. . .”

Miles continued rushing through town, looking for a place he could stop and catch his breath. He was so busy looking around, that he failed to notice the two overall-clad, gruff looking construction workers carrying long beams of wood across the street. He looked ahead just in time to notice the hazard.

Without thinking, he veered to the right and jumped onto the barrels sitting right beside a wooden stand littered with handmade baskets. He hopped onto the barrels and over the stand as the owner ducked below.

He reached out, swung on the flagpole above the stand, quickly hit the ground, rolled, and tripped his way back to his feet.

As he made his way through the streets, he came up on a wide opening between two buildings.

There! He exclaimed in his mind, a victory fanfare playing through his head. I can hide inside that alleyway.

Miles quickly jerked himself into the alley between the long stretches of houses and slowed to a halt.

He leaned over and supported himself on his legs, trying to catch his breath. He stood upright, closed his eyes, and leaned against the wall; the cold touch of the stones cooling his backside, countless beads of sweat dripping down his face, and his heart beating a mile a minute.

He opened his eyes and looked as the sun was funneling through the uneven crack between the roofs of the houses. He watched as a few, small patches of clouds slowly streaked across the open, blue sky. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath as his heart slowly lowered back to a normal rate.

Suddenly, a dark blur rushed across the gap between the houses, casting a brief shadow over the alley below. The split second of darkness shocked Miles who shot his eyes open. His heart rate began to elevate again.

“Tsk, already?” He sighed with disappointment. “So much for a break, I guess.”

He quickly ran down the alley, hopping and vaulting over the barrels that littered the stone paved path. He quickly made his way out of the narrow street and into the bustling market in the center of town. The overlapping voices were the only thing ringing through his ears, completely derailing his train of thought.

He quickly looked back at the rooftops behind him and saw the shadowed figure running right toward him. He turned back the rooftops above him. He smirked as he visually mapped out a route. “If you can’t beat’em, join them.”

Miles struggled his way through the packed streets and over to the front of a stand that was lined with quilts and blankets of all sizes and colors. He used the shelf that was separating the customers and the stand owner and shot himself up onto the wooden awning above. The wood creaked and slightly bent under his footsteps as he ran down the awning and jumped toward the roof behind the stand. He briefly ran up the wall, gripped the edge of the roof, and pulled himself up. As he attempted to bolt, his foot slipped on a small clump of damp clay, causing him to slide down the roof. Just before he slid off, he caught himself on the edge.

“Ah man, that was too close.” He relieved a sigh of relief. He looked back and saw a young boy speeding right for him. “Oh you gotta be kidding me!”

Miles quickly pulled himself back up and began running opposite of the short male running straight for him. The two hopped from house to house as he tried losing his pursuer. He climbed up and down many homes that had changed drastically over the years.

Around the time Miles was five years old, many families including the Pyros, did not have enough space to accommodate their increasing numbers. Though a select number of homes had expansions, a large number of the men came together and added a second floor to many of the homes though some families have kept their single floor homes.

Because of the numerous renovations, the chase took the two speed demons around the entire town, hopping from heightened house to lowered house as if they were climbing mountains and diving through valleys until suddenly, Miles changed direction and bolted for the Academy.

He saw a large gap between two double-floored homes and ran straight for it. Running out of breath, he quickly dropped down to his side and slid into the gap. Unable to stop himself in time, his body smacked hard against the wall and nearly knocked the potted plants on the ledge of the windowsill off.

He fell toward the ground and was barely able to catch himself as his legs seemed to crumble as he hit the ground. He was able to use the momentum of his wobbly legs and push himself against the side of the house.

His breathing shallow, Miles stared up and watched intently. He sat there and watched as he waited for the boy’s shadow to leap across the rooftops.

Finally catching his breath, he slowly stood up, his gaze never shifting from the gap. After a few moments, he chuckled out a long sigh of relief.

“Did I lose him? I wonder where he went.” He said smugly under his short breaths. “I guess that means I wi—“

Before Miles could finish, he was jumped from behind as a young voice cried out in joy.

“Tag! You’re it!” the young boy laughed as he wrapped his arms around Miles’ neck who stumbled forward attempting to stay upright.

“Mirage! Where did you come from?” Pleasantly surprised, Miles laughed as he assisted Mirage off his shoulders and placed him down in front of him. “I thought I lost you, bro.”

“When I saw you slide into the gap, I thought maybe I could jump right on top of ya. Then I thought ‘let’s get him from behind.’ So I hopped down the backside of the building and caught you with a surprise!”

“Don’t you mean ‘by surprise’?”

“Yeah! That too.”

Miles chuckled and shook his head as he and Mirage walked out into the town. They strolled through the town and picked up a few pieces of fruit for the two of them. Along their way to the Academy, the two talked about their chase throughout the city. They laughed at the reactions they received while they were chasing each other down.

They began to shadow box with each other as they reached the entrance of the Academy. Mirage took off toward the practice yards and Miles, caught off guard, chased after him. The two enjoyed each other’s company as they made their way over to the outdoor training ground to the left of the Academy.

They sat down at a bench just outside one of the artificial jungle sparring environments and watched as two students dressed in light, bamboo sparring armor with kendo style practice swords began a match. As Miles finished his last piece of fruit, Mirage stared at the apple core left in his hand.

“So big bro,” Mirage looked up at Miles curiously, “I’ve been meaning to ask you. What exactly is a Hunter?”

Mirage wasn’t Miles’ actual brother by blood, but both of their families were close friends and Miles had been with Mirage since his birth a little over twelve years ago.

Mirage was a very intelligent twelve year old and he certainly looked the part. His black, sharp, semi-rimless glasses resting over his soft, dark blue eyes; his baby face spotted with freckles, his copper brown, shaggy hair resting just above his brow line. Mirage was young, but he was the smartest in his entire age group. He looked up to his big brother and wanted to be just like him, especially when it came to Mile’s unparalleled combat skills. Miles was known throughout the Academy as “The Fallen Dragon”; for he was as wise and skilled in combat as he was ambitious and relentless even to an emotional fault, and Mirage wanted to be no different.

“Well Mirage, you know how everyone goes through the Academy to learn every possible trade and career in life, right?” Miles began explaining what a Hunter was with passion and excitement, like a child on Christmas morning.

“Yeah, my teacher gave us a surprise pop quiz on carpentry, but I aced it. Although I don’t think anyone else did as well.”

“Really? What makes you say that?”

“They kinda told me when they all ganged up on me in combat practice.”

“My mom did that to me too. Heh, those poor suckers . . . Anyway, well once you complete the Academy, you’ll be all done with classes, Mirage.”

“But how long do I have to be in the Academy? I’ve been in since I was five years old and you’re now twenty one and you are still taking classes there.”

“Well here’s what usually happens. My mom and dad said that every citizen is required to join the Academy when they are five years old. They made that rule when the town made them the heads of Magna Castellum. A citizen starts at age five and the program usually ends for them when they turn eighteen years old. Of course, there are other situations where people join after the age of five. Some don’t even need to join at all, but those are very special circumstances.”

“So I only have six more years? Awesome!” Mirage perked up with excitement, “Then I’ll be a grown up just like you, right big bro?”

“Not quite Mirage,” Miles laughed at Mirage’s optimism, “When a student tests to be able to graduate, they are given an extra question at the end of their test. That question usually says something along the lines of ‘Do you wish to join the Hunters?’ Those who say ‘yes’ are taken through three more years of even more difficult training and are trained to specialize in a lot more skills. That’s usually what happens, though, there are some Hunters-in-training that are older, Amora is 22 and she’s graduating with the rest of us so it depends on each person.”

“That sounds like a lot of work; I don’t think I wanna do that.” Mirage said discouraged at the thought of more schooling. “But if you’re just taking more classes, why are you trying to be one?”

“Yeah, it is a lot more classes, but there is so many cool extras that a Hunter will get that an Academy graduate won’t.”

“Like what?” Mirage’s eyes widened and sparkled with excitement.

Miles stayed silent, but had a prideful smirk as he reached behind his left shoulder and unsheathed his longsword. This longsword was one of the typical Academy issued commissions. The blade was pure iron and, though it had endured years of abuse long before Miles got his hands on it, it looked and felt as if it was brand new. The double-edged blade ran down into the rounded cross guard that branched off to each side, creating a modified cross. Black leather was wrapped around the grip and carefully trailed down and was professionally wrapped around the blue pommel. A yellow cross was carefully stitched and filled into the pommel and was the final piece to the Academy’s “black, blue, and yellow” colors. Mirage looked at the blade with a suspicious look.

“Hey, is this a joke, bro?” Mirage laughed teasingly, “One of my classmates has the exact same sword. What’s so special about yours, huh?”

“Look closer smart butt, right here in the center of the cross guard” Miles said with a bit of playful sarcasm in his voice as he pointed to the smooth, blood red sphere embedded into the center of the cross guard.

“Whoa! . . . What is it?”

“It’s something only Hunters are given. They are called Divinely Infused Elemental Stones or D.I.E.S.”

“Dice? You mean like blocks I throw when I’m playing a game with my mom and dad?”

“No, but they share the same name though. When a person enters Hunter training, they are put through a special set of trials underneath the Academy. If they can complete the trials, they will enter into a small room by themselves where they will say their name and their choice of weapon.”

“Who are they telling exactly? You said they were alone, right?”

“You’re very perceptive; very good Mirage.” Miles smiled seeing that Mirage was hooked on every word. “You believe in the Creator, right?”

“Yeah, mom and dad have been helping me by praying to Him every night and I read His book. There are some really cool stories in there.”

“Oh trust me bro, those are more than just stories. Anyway, you are telling those details to the Creator Himself. Through the same way He found King David out of Jesse’s twelve sons, He finds your inner element and grants you the ability to wield it.”

Mirage reached out in wonder as he pressed his small, plump fingers against the smooth, shiny red stone. The stone faintly glowed more and more as he felt the stone pulse with a faint power.

“It feels alive! Kinda like a beating heart.”

“The power you feel is connected to my own heart and is increased by the strength of my heart and mind.” Miles held his sword out and pointed it straight up. “If you can focus your heart and mind into the blade—”

Miles closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Suddenly, the red stone began glowing brightly and three small pillars of flame ignited just above the cross guard. The flames stretched and joined together above the sharpened tip and began circling the blade from tang to tip, yet everything below the cross guard remained untouched and completely unaffected by the searing heat coming off the blade. Miles stood up and swung his blade around in a flaunting fashion. Though he swung as if to cut someone down, not once did the flame flicker or diminish. Mirage’s mouth dropped as he watched and barely stuttered a sentence out.

“That . . . is awesome! I want one!” He gasped in amazement as the fire died down and disappeared. “Can I get one? Please?”

“Well first, you have to get through the Academy years.” Miles laughed heartily as he sheathed the sword, “You can get one if or when you join the Hunters. But even when you do become a Hunter, you may not get fire.”

“Aw, but why not?”

“Well if everyone had the same element, what fun would that be?” Miles continued to describe the different D.I.E.S “So far, there are a total of five elements: fire, water, light, thunder, and wind. But which one you get is up to the Creator.”

“Then I want to get wind.” Mirage stated as he pulled his two Academy issued Mughal daggers out and subtly showed his blades off. “Can you see it, bro? These two bad boys wrapped in a cyclone?! It’ll be so awesome. I’ll even be able to beat you in a match, big bro. I’ll be really fast and really strong, just like you.”

“That sounds like a good idea to me, bro.” Miles smiled confidently as he gently scratched Mirage’s head. Mirage sheathed the two daggers and hugged Miles around his waist. He chuckled and wrapped his arm over his little brother’s shoulders.

“But to answer your question,” Miles resumed as he watched the sun hit the peak of the blue sky spotted with white fluffy clouds. “A Hunter is a specialized agent of the High Council that helps keep the peace in this world. They are put together in groups of five and are given special missions that take them to far away towns and villages. They fight big and scary monsters, they take very special people from one place to another, whatever the head elders and the Commander need us to do. I want to be a Hunter so I can become the strongest fighter in the world!”

“But big bro, you already are the strongest.”

“Here; I am the strongest around here. But I want to become the strongest in the entire world.”

“Oh, I getcha.” Mirage said, though he didn’t really understand, but he shrugged it off. “So you said you had a team? Who is on your squad? And who’s in charge?”

“Well I am the leader. There is my girlfriend, Amora, she wields a stone of light. There is Verum and she controls water. They are my best friends. Then there is Kaimera or Kai for short. He is the hothead who uses lightning. And then there’s his sister Karona, she’s the girly tomboy who controls . . . well she kind of has all of the elements in a sense, but her primary is wind.”

Mirage smiled widely as he listened as Miles told stories from other squad reports, the greatest Hunters of the past, and the missions he had to, and hoped to take part in. One story that stood out among the others was the story of Miles’ almost fatal “practice” mission a few years back. His voice began to shake and quiver as he could hear the terrified screams and cries for help from his teammates.

“But you beat the behemoth though, right?” Mirage asked concerned as his big brother’s mood slowly lowered to a somber state. “None of your teammates died, right? Amora and Verum and the other two, they all made it, right?”

“What? Oh, yeah we beat him,” Miles quickly snapped back into reality and chuckled hesitantly to himself, the cries slowly fading away from within his head. We barely made it out of that battle alive. Honestly, I don’t really remember how it ended. I blacked out, next thing I knew, I woke up and saw the beast dead. ‘Problem was solved and no one was hurt.’ That’s what they said. That was three years ago . . . so why does it still it bother me?”

The words of the High Council echoed through his mind when suddenly, the bells hidden in the highest tower of the Academy began ringing out throughout the town.

“GONG! GONG! GONG!” The bells continued until the twelfth sound. As the sound died down, Miles blurted out.

“Ah crap! Its noon, I’m late. I gotta head home. See ya Mirage!” Miles shot up off the bench and took off opposite of the practice yard. Mirage stayed seated on the bench and looked back as he turned the corner and out of view. He smiled with a darkened smirk and chuckled sadistically.

“Mission accomplished. I hope you’re ready for your ‘surprise’ big bro.” Mirage stood from the bench. “Oh, that’s right. I need to meet up with the others for the main event. I hope your day is exciting, Miles. I know I’ll enjoy it.”

**************

Miles continued running through streets as he made his way back home as fast as he could. He cut back through the market, but there wasn’t soul in sight. Patches of green leaves whirled around in a dizzying dance across the stone ground. The sun’s rays being hid and revealed alternatively as he passed through the different leveled houses. The stands were left all in order, yet showed signs of long-term abandonment.

He slowed down and did a full 360 as he looked at each of the shops. Completely baffled, he picked up the pace and kept booking it.

What the heck? He thought as he ran past the empty homes. There were no obvious signs of life, yet everything was cleaned up and tidy showing obvious signs of thorough effort. We were only there for a little over an hour. Why is the whole place deserted?

He continued rushing through town, his breath shifting from shallow to deep and back in rhythm, his black leather sheath bouncing softly against his back with every stride. He continued to ponder as there was no sign of anyone or anything around Magna Castellum. He skidded around the corner at the south most part of town and could see his house in the distance.

“All right, I’m almost– almost there.”

Miles slowed himself to a halt in front of his house. His family’s wooden, red front door still stood with a brand new coat of paint and shine. The doorframe was now rounded off, but was still crowned with the lightning bolt hitting the fire; however, there was a newest addition. Standing tall behind the smaller sigil was an elegant, yet plain white cross.

Miles leaned over and supported himself against his home, “I- I made it, but I’m still late. My dad is so gonna kill me. Like he always said; ‘if you’re not 15 minutes early, you’re 10 minutes late.’. . . Yeah I am so screwed.”

He stood up and reached for the smooth bronze doorknob that shined with a brand new coat of polish. He paused just before he grabbed the knob and slowly turned around.

“Why is everything so quiet around here?” Miles leaned his ear against the door. I don’t even hear anything inside. I’ve got a bad feeling about this.

He slowly turned the knob and entered the home. The interior was coated in a thin veil of darkness. The now faded maroon curtains covered the windows and lightly flicked in the gentle breeze. The brown couch was stitched in few areas across the cushions and seats. It sat fully rested and showed no sign of recent usage.

“The place looks deserted, just like the rest of the town.” Miles began cycling through possible reasons behind the disappearance of his family. Did someone break in? They may still be here. . . Better be careful.

Miles inched forward slowly, being cautious not to make a sound on the boards beneath his feet, and lit the two lanterns resting on small wooden tables at the opposite ends of the couch. The small embers slowly grew and gave a soft, yet visible glow to the living room.

Miles investigated with painstaking attention to detail, putting his Hunter training to work. He moved across the room, over to the tall, three shelved, Mahogany bookshelf that sat next to the master bedroom door.

“No finger prints,” Miles whispered to himself as he examined the different size, leather bound books across all three shelves. “And most of the books are still covered in dust.”

Miles looked at the master bedroom door to his left and slowly inched toward it. The iron lion head handle was still mounted above the center of the door with a polished, golden sheen. The smooth Red Oak wood was now covered in a flat black paint.

Miles leaned his right ear against the door. “I know this is probably a bad idea, but—” He closed his eyes and focused on his hearing. He could hear the curtains softly flicker back and forth, his mother’s wind chime lightly play a few notes, the bathroom door gently knocking against the frame of the inner door.

He held his breath for only a moment. “Huh, I kinda figured that dad would be snoring up a storm, but no. But that leads to the next question: where the heck is he?”

Miles stood up and walked to the other side of the bookshelves and up the stairs. The sides of the staircase as it ascended were freshly painted, pristine clean, and were completely barren of framed paintings, pictures, or the like. The stairs were made of a beautiful, smoothed out Tigerwood and led up into his room, though you couldn’t see past the red, Red Oak door outlined with the sunlight funneling in from the small wooden framed window on the left hanging like a picture frame.

The door’s still closed, window is still open.” Miles smirked as he thought to himself, “No one’s been up there either . . . that’s good.

Miles looked into the dining area and slowly made his way over to the kitchen area. He stepped through the Bloodwood arch that still separated the living room and the dining room. The dining table looked and felt cleaned with a new shine of polish, same as the now five chairs that surrounded it.

He looked toward the kitchen on his left. The long, parallel, wooden counters opposing each other sparkled in the sunlight that was leaking through the curtains covering the window, as well as the sunlight peeking through the crossed sword and cross design that was carved out completely from the wooden door.

He walked over to the counter closest to the water cooler in the far west corner of the kitchen and noticed a small, silver butter knife that was left out on the counter.

He picked the knife up, a cold chill instantly hitting his bare fingertips; the blade had a small, red stain that ran along the cutting edge. Fingerprints had been left along the handle, but showed no sign of recent usage. He gently fingered the stain, and attempted to scratch it off.

Miles heart rate slowly began to elevate. “Mom is a huge clean freak.” Thoughts and theories quickly developed into worries all of which began racing through his mind. “The entire place is guest clean, but there wasn’t anything planned today. Not to mention, she happened to miss a knife like this? Sure, maybe dad did it, but the fingerprints don’t match up to his tree stump sized fingers. But if it wasn’t either one of them, then . . . Oh crap.”

Miles quickly stepped over to the back door and swung it open. The sunlight quickly overtook the doorway and blinded him for an eternity of a second. He shielded his eyes and slowly gained his sight back.

He looked out over the three acres of fresh green grass that seemed to lay still. The backyard surrounded by a brick wall as tall as Lance with one tall, rounded, wooden door in the far right corner of the yard. Snow white clouds slowly rolled through the sky. The silence was broken by the birds as they flew in a scattered “V” formation over Miles home and southward.

“Tsk, nothing.” Miles growled in confused frustration, “Where in the heck is everyone!? Everyone in town . . . my family—”

His heart slowly sank as the thought that everyone he loved went missing overtook his heart and mind. His hands began to shake slightly, his eyes slowly tearing up. He looked up and stepped back out of the doorway and motioned to close the door.

Just as he grabbed the doorknob, a loud rustling quickly came from the pantry closet. Miles simultaneously turned to face the door and reached around and tightly gripped his sword. He slowly inched toward the closet, beads of sweat on his brow. With a burning glare, he slowed to a halt inches from the door.

“Come on out!” Miles yelled out with a commanding tone, his heart racing and anger slowly building within. “Either come out, or I’ll gut you through the door.”

The closet door busted open as a tall figure flew out and rushed him. Miles drew his sword only inches up the sheath when the figure front kicked him square in the torso, knocking the air out of him and throwing him through the open doorway, and all the way across the backyard.

Though he was thrown with great force, he quickly caught himself onto his feet. Gliding across the grass as if it were a lake of pure ice, he slid himself to a smooth stop, the heels of his boots lightly tapping the southern wall. He unsheathed his sword as he rested unevenly on one knee.

“Grr, that’s gonna leave a mark.” Miles said as he slowly recovered his breath from the brutal shock. “So someone did break into the house . . . that’ll be the last mistake they’ll ever make.”

He stood up as the shadow stepped out of the doorway and into the light. Miles heart stopped as Lance stepped onto the white marble porch and stood poised in his full commander uniform.

His neck and shoulders dressed in a black, collared cloak that stopped parallel to his ankles. The cloak was made from satin and lined with red denim that branched into a design of a kunai near the bottom corner of each corner. It wrapped around his shoulder line and was held in place with another fierce, golden lion head with its mouth open wide as if the lion was cursed to roar in silence for an eternity. Underneath, he wore chain mail armor layered on top of his red denim under shirt and pants. Equipped with golden gauntlets and shin high boots, Lance was ready to strike at a moment’s notice.

With his left hand, Lance slowly reached for his right hip and unsheathed a Bastard sword unlike anything crafted before. The sharp, double-edged, weapon had a darkened purple, vein-like crack that rested dead center of night-black blade. The entire sword was handcrafted by Michael, who clearly showed professional blacksmithing to an ungodly degree through the serpent scale handle that held a fading shade of purple that emanated through each individual layer of scales. The cross guard was the true center piece of it all as it was designed to be head of a fierce dragon breathing out fire, or in this case, the blade. This masterpiece was Michael’s gift to Lance’s when he was made Commander of Magna Castellum.

“Oh, this ain’t good.” Miles said, knowing that his dad only used his sword for a special occasion . . . or if he wanted a job done right.

“I hope you’re ready to meet your end, boy.” Lance raised his voice, death clearly in his eyes and venom clearly in his tone. “I’ve wasted half of my life training you and you’ve failed me!”

“What? But I haven’t done anything all day!”

“Exactly my point.”

I gotta beat him to the punch. Miles realized that his father was aimed to end him where he stood. He closed his eyes and readied himself. A moment after taking a deep breath, his eyes shot opened and he dashed with killing intent, right for his father.

“You’re going to have to try harder than that, boy.” Lance said with dark tone. He stood motionless as he watched his son rush at him. A smirk crept across Lance’s face just as Miles came within striking distance.

Full of aggression and adrenaline, Miles swung the sword horizontally aiming for his father’s right side. But just before the blade made contact, a figure quickly rushed in from over the left wall and connected a wild haymaker across his face. The blow knocked him away from Lance and into the east wall.

The armored soldier stood upright and shook the yellow lightning off his hands as the bright glow from the yellow stone embedded into his black leather gauntlet slowly died off.

Lance turned and faced his son who was still lying at the foot of wall, twitching from the literally shocking blow.

“As I said,” He scoffed with a sinister tone, “You better try harder than that, or just kill yourself now, boy.”

Miles struggled to all fours as the lightning coursing through his body slowly wore off. He stuck his sword into the ground and balanced on it till he was back on his feet.

He looked at the armored soldier standing almost as tall as Lance. The soldier was fully equipped with the Academy’s Hunter armor. His neck was protected by a wide, iron collar that stood a fourth of an inch off of the armor plate as it wrapped from one shoulder back and around to the other. The golden yellow shoulder pads were sleek and ran from the edge of the collarbone down to the middle of the forearm. The arms were usually protected by black and blue iron gauntlets, but this soldier wore black, half leather, half iron gauntlets, one of which was carrying a shiny, yellow, triangle shaped stone on the dorsal surface. The breastplate was pure onyx, but the sides had extra yellow iron plates wrapped from underneath the arms and down to the waist. His legs were covered with blue iron plates across his thighs and shins, while the shin guards ran right down into his jet-black boots.

The helmet was a black and blue, three-piece iron masterpiece designed by Miles himself. The top piece was two halves of a clean, buffed iron helmet that stretched smoothly from behind the skull to the front on the forehead, which separated into two prongs on each side that dropped down and stopped parallel to his chin. The forehead piece held the Academy symbol of three intertwined golden rings indented into it. An inner piece was attached underneath the forehead part of the prongs on each side that slid down into an arrow over the eyes and nose, but the slide held four small, rectangle shape holes for him to see out of. The bottom piece were also two halves that created a sharp shield like shape that were connected to the bottom half of each prong and covered the lower half of his face. Each halve had two pointed arrows angles that allowed the soldier to breath comfortably. Every Hunter, in training or not, was use to wearing this lightweight, yet incredibly durable coat of armor as if it was another outfit hanging in their own closet. This armor was created to display the Academy colors and insignia, as well as give off an intimidating presence.

Another one . . . well that’s just great. Miles thought as he could feel the eyes of the soldier piercing through his heart. His slow, sadistic chuckle slowly grew to an almost hysterical laughter, barely able to control his excitement.

“Ah come on now, this just isn’t fair. You’ll need to get the rest of the Academy nursery if you wanna make it even for you.”

This soldier was trained in the arts of Satsujinken, a lost style of martial arts, and assumed an aggressive, yet balanced battle stance and waited to strike. Miles took a more defensive stance, and waited for his opponent’s next move.

Just as Miles shifted his foot forward, the soldier dashed toward him, and began his hand-to-hand assault on Miles who was caught off guard by the fighter’s speed and was barely able to keep up.

Being completely off-balance and barely dodging his opponent’s relentless flurry of fists, Miles was only able to maneuver away from the wall and dance around the strikes gracelessly. He was quickly able to gain his footing and began effectively blocking the strikes, fluidly sheathing his sword one second, and countering the next.

The solider threw a one-two-cross combination, but Miles weaved around the first two and deflected the third. Using the momentum of the parry, he turned and landed a low hook to the soldier’s side. The soldier slightly stumbled back from the blow, quickly hopped, and threw a roundhouse that slammed into Miles’s upper arm and quickly moved in for another rush of attacks. Fists, elbows, kicks, every strike imaginable was being thrown and countered with increasing speed and ferocity.

The solider struck a jab into Miles’ face and nudged him back a bit. Without missing a beat, he turned sideways, shuffled a quick step forward and landed a clean side kick dead center into Miles’ torso, surging a lightning bolt through his body simultaneously, and hurled him back, slamming his back into the wall once again. Miles stood there dazed until his body gave out, and he fell onto his seat.

He sat there almost lifeless, coughing from the lack of air in his system. Wow that one actually hurt. He could only think to himself as breathing was difficult to do at the moment. I can’t move . . . this isn’t good. I better think of something quick.

The soldier said nothing, but slowly walked up and chuckled with a sinister, yet victorious laugh. He leaned down, tightly gripped his hand around Miles’ throat, and raised him in the air; his feet hanging an inch or two from the ground. The yellow stone began glowing brightly as Miles heard his foe chuckle with a malevolent tone in his voice.

Suddenly, lightning sparked all around the soldier’s hand as well as around Miles’ throat, sending currents of electricity all throughout his body. He cried out in pain as the soldier continued filling his body with electricity. It felt like an eternity until finally the soldier let go of Miles, who merely stood there dazed, almost ready to fall over.

“Soldier!” Lance yelled out, feeling impatient as he still watched as the fight unfolded, “Finish him already! I could have eaten a steak dinner and we’d STILL be here waiting on you.”

The soldier growled and took a step back and pressed each fingertip together as if he was holding a ball between the palms of his hands. The stone lit up once again and suddenly a ball of golden lightning ignited between his palms and sparked violently.

Miles still stood silent and dazed, as if he was in a comatose, and was completely oblivious to the glowing ball of death standing in front of him.

The solider released his grip over the energy and held the cackling orb of lightning in one hand. He pulled back and readied to strike in one fluid motion, and without a moment’s notice, threw his surging palm straight for Miles head.

“Psyche!” Miles yelled out as he weaved to his right and pushed his opponent’s hand to his left. The orb slammed into the wall and partially destroyed the bricks.

Miles moved behind the solider, grabbed the back of his armor and tossed him directly over his shoulder. He wiped the blood away from the side of his mouth. ”Now it’s my turn, you prick.”

He dashed forward as his opponent wobbly stood to his feet. Miles hopped up onto his plate of armor and flipped back and away, connecting the tip of his iron toed boot to the chin of the soldier’s helmet. The soldier was thrown back and rolled uncontrollably while Miles landed, his right arm and leg fully extended. Unsheathing his sword, he looked at his father and, with a tear in his eye, he cried out.

“Why? Why are you doing this? Did I do something wrong?”

“You’ve done nothing wrong.” Lance said sternly.

“Then why? Why are you trying to kill me?”

“Your fault lies not in what you did do . . . it’s what you did not do. You have done nothing, and that is the problem that needs to be rectified.”

Miles rushed, hopped up, and swung down for his father’s head. Lance smirked maliciously and in the blink of an eye, he quickly brought his bastard sword up in a horizontal manner and stopped the swing dead in its tracks.

Lance glanced above the blade and looked into his son’s eyes, his glare almost demonic and full of determined malevolence. Miles knew his father had a darker side about him and knew full well that he was to never get on the business end of it. Unfortunately, Lance was at that point and every ounce of it was directed straight for him.

“It’s good to see you . . . boy.” Lance spoke sadistically as he forced his son up away from him. He leaned in and landed a screaming uppercut straight into his son’s stomach and caused him to cough up a little blood. Miles was sent flying as he just barely blocked Lance’s aggressive spin attack, which pushed him all the way to the middle of the field.

Suddenly, the soldier rushed in and threw a wild right hook, but missed as Miles stood his ground and leaned back, throwing his arms out to balance himself. The soldier threw a left hook, but was stopped in his tracks as Miles blocked and quickly gripped his wrist. The soldier tried unleashing a right cross, but Miles quickly repeated his actions and won control over both the soldier’s arms.

“Fool me once, shame on you.” He mocked the soldier as he gripped tighter, almost as if to crush his foe’s wrist. “Don’t worry; you die before you fool me twice.” He spoke as he jerked the soldier down and fiercely threw his knee into the upper portion of his opponent’s breastplate.

The soldier fell to the ground and held his throat as he tried regaining his breath, but before he could, Miles stepped back, tensed up and exploded with a strong punt, sending the soldier careening across the ground. But just a few feet before the marble landing on which Lance stood; the armored ball of flesh was violently stopped by another soldier standing in the way.

This soldier wore the exact same armor as the other, only this one was clearly female. She stood a half a foot shorter than Miles, but was equally as intimidating. She looked down at her winded companion who was still lying down and groaning in pain. But instead of helping her teammate up, she kicked him to the side almost with sense of disgust.

Wow. . . Miles thought to himself with pride. A squad with no unity . . . perfect.

The female soldier readied herself as she unsheathed the Kusanagi blade from behind her right hip.

“Now this is much more my speed.” Miles said as he drew his sword once again. But just as he went to move, His concentration was broken by Lance’s booming voice echoing across the planet.

“Soldier,” Lance yelled as he addressed the new arrival. “Where are the others?”

Miles heart stopped in utter shock. “Wait . . . there are more?”

Three soldiers jumped off the edge of the roof, landed, and formed up next to the other two with the Commander standing behind the team. All five soldiers were poised to kill. One male and the rest female, all stood at uneven height in identical Academy armor.

The male in the center tightened his muscles and surged lightning through his fists and stood ready to fight. Two of the females carried an Academy issued Sabre that was razor sharp to the touch. The second soldier that showed up carried a Japanese Kusanagi while another one had a recurve bow holstered against her body as well as a dark brown leather quiver full of Short Bodkin arrows. The soldier equipped with a Kusanagi also had some strange wooden contraption strapped to her arm, with a nap sack that was slightly glowing different colors beneath the same arm.

“Well . . . aren’t I the popular one?” Miles chuckled with dark intention. “I guess it’s time to wake the dragon.” He thought about the challenge, and his heart began racing with adrenaline. Beads of sweat began rolling down his face; an evil grin came in the wake of his almost bloodlust-like anticipation.

“Squad, listen up! I have one last requirement for you all.” Lance barked out with an imposing and commanding tone. “I want the boy erased from existence. Cast his soul into oblivion.”

The soldiers each readied themselves and pierced Miles’s heart with icy glares. Miles closed his eyes, tightly gripped his sword, and readied himself for battle again.

No fear . . . no weakness . . . Miles focused himself. Simultaneously, His reflective silver eyes shot open, his D.I.E.S. lit brightly, and his entire blade burst into a sharper and hotter blaze than before. No mercy.

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