Part 2 - 10
The sun had risen hours ago. Yet the burning smell did not die out, nor did the odor of blood. Still, the gunfire was not as aggressive and occasional explosions from heavy guns boomed in the battlefield. Exhaustion roamed in the air. Silence continued for a long time.
“None, sir. We’re all out. And…” the man looked around looking at the corpses of his comrades. “We’re pretty much dead.”
He was just behind a concrete barricade. He had no idea what was happening with the others side but he was sure their conditions were better than his people. They wielded swords. His men used rifles. The ammunitions ran out hours ago.
“Get everyone –“
Before he could finish his words, a blade pierced through the heart of the solider next to him. His eyes went wide and quickly moved sideways. He looked up to see a Raven had sneaked up to the barricade and penetrated the soldier’s heart along with the concrete. The Raven grabbed his clothes and dragged into the open. He threw him on the ground with blade pointing at his neck.
He didn’t know why but he suddenly felt unbearable rage against Vincent Greg despite him being dead.
“Get up, president sir,” the Raven told him. Jerrod got up, wiping the dust off his jacket. He saw Rick walking over to him. The rest of the Ravens revealed themselves from coverings.
“Surrender your weapons. None of us wants to continue,” said Rick to his men hiding behind walls and barricades. Jerrod glanced at his back to see the remaining soldiers cautiously crawl out. Rick was in front of him. He did not look very happy. “Congratulations, Jerrod.”
“You have successfully helped out the Crusaders off this city. And you’ve managed to kill precious Ravens,” he looked at the injured and dead soldiers. “The only capable fighters against Hunters the Dominion have.”
“You’re the one who started this, Rick. Why the sad face?” Jerrod smiled cynically. He was victorious. For once, he thought, I can be proud of what I’ve done. “Now what? I’m sure you’re not as stupid to kill me where everyone can see.”
"Curse you, Jerrod,” he spat in his low voice. He looked around. “Take the president away to his room. Make sure he stays there.”
Jerrod laughed. He laughed so loud and triumphantly that he couldn’t have felt more refreshed and gleeful. He hasn’t felt so good in many years. Rick glared at him but did not say anything.
“You’ve lost, Rick. You failed to protect the city. You failed to defend the people. You failed to become a good leader of Ravens. You failed to prevent the Crusaders from leaving. And you even failed your father by ruing his master plan that I almost did not recognize,” the president said aloud. Few of the citizens were peeping out from their windows and doors. Before the Ravens took him off for good, he said one last comment so that everyone looking at the scene could hear them. “Rick! You thought you had power, but you don’t have shit! Your power died with Vincent Greg and there is nothing to stop you from plummeting to the ground. I am the president, Rick! And you're just a puppet of Vincent fuxxing Greg."
Rick’s eyes burned in rage. He pulled out his sword and slashed his blade at the president. The blade slashed through the president’s chest. It wasn’t a fatal blow – not even close. Blood trickled down and soaked the president’s jacket in red. Jerrod groaned in pain but his smile only grew. He glanced at the houses around the airfield. Many were looking out from their windows. Some even came out to see a general of an army, slash sword to the president of the Earth Dominion.
“Rick Anglo, you’ve really crossed the line you cannot turn back,” Jerrod said wincing in pain. The Ravens took him off and disappeared into the streets.
Rick looked around. He saw countless eyes watching him and his bloody sword. He wished he could call for his father for advice but… he knew Han would be the one taking the phone by now. Even the Ravens stared at him in shock, let alone the citizens who witness the horror.
The blade dropped from Rick’s hands. He collapsed to the ground and buried his face to the ground. He admitted it. He admitted it in his head.
The Hunter glared fiercely.
Its eyes glittered and beamed in rage as if seeking vengeance for what happened to its lair. It slowly circled around us, its arm moving the weapon left and right. It looked like it was provoking us. The Hunter was taunting us to attack.
“What now?” Numen whispered – like whispering really mattered.
“It is taunting us.”
“Yes I know that –“
“Give it what it wants,” I said and instantly burst into a leap forward toward the Hunter.
My sword clashed into the Hunter’s devilish weapon. The weapon started to ‘eat’ my blade but it wasn’t as fast as with the other sword. I quickly replaced the sword and struck from the side. A sliver surge of energy swiped the air as the Hunter leaped backwards. Before I could notice, the other Hunters that had retreated were already engaging the others. The others were trying to make a one-on-one for as long as possible.
I ripped the air from above. This time, the Hunter deflected it sideway and immediately committed a vicious stab. The weapon nearly penetrated my chest but I rolled off just in time. It didn’t give me a second to catch my breath. The second strike came instantly. Even with slightly off balance, I managed to quickly defend myself but was pushed off backwards.
The ex-Controller roared like fierce predator. It brandished its weapon in every direction. I quickly found a small window and dashed forward. Before it could react, I slammed its abdomen with a powerful kick. It stumbled back. Without giving any change I gave my blade a strong thrust forward. The Hunter, however, had become more faster than I recalled. The stab only managed to damage its shoulder’s armor. It swirled left and its weapon followed with a perfect semicircle. It scratched off my armor of my left shoulder. The hideous substance in black sizzled as it ate through the suit. I quickly scraped off whatever that was damaging my armor and eyed on the Hunter once again.
A fool I was.
Nearly three years since I had engaged in a large fight, let alone battle a Commanding unit. My instincts weren’t sharp enough; not now. I took a deep breath as the Hunter slowly circled around. Everything seemed to blur except the Hunter and the background around it. The fierce engagement was all around me, shouting and screaming filled the air but none of that entered my ears – only the beastly low growl of the Commanding unit in front. Focus.
I swung my blade and clashed with the spear-like weapon. I was adaptive enough to remove my blade from it quickly and assaulted the Hunter with consecutive blows. It was pushed backwards as it defended my strikes. Then it countered. The Hunter suddenly pushed off my blade with its shoulder armor. I damaged it; even injured it in the shoulder with green ooze squeezing out. But the Hunter seemed to ignore it – like it was an inevitable damage. It slammed my body with its hard, tough armor and flew backwards, crashing down onto the already-bloody grass. It raised its weapon high in the air and struck down while I was on the ground, vulnerable.
I focused my ability to reinforce my entire body. I felt a sudden surge of energy and I burst into action as if a rocket thrust had just forced me back on my feet. I tackled it and its lunge weakened. I caught my chance and slashed my sword below where the Hunter couldn’t fully defend. It roared ferociously and stumbled down. I readied myself for the final blow and drew my ability onto my blade. Just when I was about to strike him down –
“Leon! Look out!” it was Scarlet’s voice. My reaction sprang up like lightning but it was too late. Some kind of blade nearly ripped my face apart if I hadn’t move back as soon as I heard her. Still, it scraped my left cheek and I felt the slash and blood trickling down. It stung – stung as if it was the largest wound I’ve ever had. I looked around to see the owner of the blade.
“… What?” I saw another purple Hunter. I looked around. The Hunters fighting the others, although they were many in the first place, looked more populated. The blood tickled my bare skin but my eyes were fixed on the two Commanding units, their glittering eyes also locked onto me.
“Leon… do you –“
“No…” I said so softly that I was concerned Numen didn’t hear me. “Just keep the others away from me.”
I charged at the two monsters staring down at me. The second Commanding unit tried to intercept but I hurled myself to evade its blade. The first one started swinging its weapons wildly but I soon caught a small window. I leaped and swiped my blade sideways with a powerful stream of silver pulse following. The Hunter roared as it was injured in the chest. The second one jumped right onto me. Its huge arm-blades targeted my back.
“I was saving this for later but…”
I unsheathed a short sword from my back and covered my back with it. Then immediately, I exploded myself with a silvery force as I whirlwind my blade, shredding the two Hunters.
I landed on the ground. The two stumbled for a moment and collapsed to the ground spilling Hunter blood. I tried to stand up, using my sword to help me.
But I couldn’t. It seemed like the weight of the world crushed me onto the ground.
“… Leon…!” the words sounded so distant. “Numen! …!”
Then explosions followed… big red, orange flames covered the surrounding in seconds.
Something seemed wrong – I needed to get up. I tried to pull myself together one more time. STAND UP! But no. My body refused. I stayed on the ground, head down on the disgustingly wet grass.
“… Leon…!” Scarlet’s voice? Mia’s? It was a woman’s voice… “Get…! Help…!”
What is happening…?
I felt my mind closing; eyelid shutting down; consciousness turning off…
Then everything faded away like a black out.
It was what I saw when I opened my eyes.
Heaven? Then I felt cynical at such thought. Only real humans go to afterlife.
Headache; no, in fact, my entire body ached.
I need to stand up…
“Ugh…” I managed to speak out.
Then a person entered my space.
“Leon!” she… Scarlet exclaimed. I saw her. She looked happy. “You’re finally awake!”
“I…” I looked around. I needed a moment to understand what was happening… “Where am I?”
“You’re in a medical tent,” a male’s voice. I looked up at the place Scarlet came in. The man was very familiar.
“Han?” I frowned. “How did you…! Then where am I?”
“You are sitting exactly where you blacked out, kid,” he said. “Two days, if you want to know.”
Then I remembered. How I battled two Commanding units, surrounded by hundreds of Hunters… and then explosions…?
“Han came just in time when all of us were burnt out,” said Scarlet, trying to explain. “With two Commanding units down, the Crusaders were able to clean up the remainders. We’ve set up a defense camp to rest and remobilize.”
“There were several assaults from the main lair, but we managed to fend them off”
I listened carefully but had a hard time processing. And the headache… I was still slightly disoriented. I blacked out… How?
“Scarlet,” said Han. He was speaking very gently. “Would you give us a moment? It’s something… delicate.”
She glanced at me and I saw the glimpse of reluctance in her expressions. But she kissed me in the cheek and left the tent. Without giving a chance to say anything, Han pulled a chair and sat down and began talking.
“You’re going to die, Leon,” said Han.
“You’re over-using your ability. Apparently, you literally smashed through the maximum capacity of managing that silver power of yours when you fought the two Commanding units,” he said. “You do that several – no, even one more time, you are probably going to die.”
“What? This power is –“
“Not human. During the process when Vincent was ‘designing’ you, he noticed something strange; an odd form of energy inside you. It was nothing intended. Michelle and I tried to persuade Vincent to re-examine, but he went on…” he paused, giving me a long stare. “And now you’re here. Thanks to – whatever it is – you became the strongest fighter. Vincent tried to duplicate the process on another subject but… well you know how that ended.”
“Get to the point Han,” I said impatiently.
“The point is your body, however man-made it might seem, is very humanly. It means the ability you have is never meant to be endowed to such fragile body as the mankind’s’,” said Han. “Honestly, I have no idea how you were capable of holding yourself together the entire time but I already sensed the break down while you were back in the city.”
“You didn’t warn me anything about this,” I said recalling the day Han was mentioning. I only remembered that he knew something I didn’t. I had no idea it was something related to my life.
“It was even before you knew about yourself.”
“That is not a good excuse.”
Han sighed. His expression grew less tense and stern.
“Leon, I know there are numerous things I should beg for forgiveness. Even Jerrod wanted you to live as an ordinary being – as some… normal fighter for the cause to reclaim Earth. But things were just different, too rapid to respond. I just hope you’ll one day… understand,” said Han. His tone was calm, even soothing. There was certainly sincerity inside his words. And I…
“You… are wasting my time.”
“…” he stared at me blankly. His eyes seemed unfocused even as it looked at me. “Yes... there’ll be a better time for this.”
“So, all I need to remember is not to over-use my ability. Then we need to be –“
“You know your enemy. We know your enemy. You’ll have to face her,” said Han.
“It’s why I came here, risking my life and those I trust,” I said standing up. Strangely, the aching stopped and my mind became clearer. I found my gears under the bed and strapped it onto my hips. “And… ‘Her’ isn’t an appropriate word, Han. ‘It’ is.”
“Michelle Nathans died, Han. I watched when she was nearly dying. I watched the funeral and I visited her grave when I was back in the city,” I said. “The only thing that brought me here is to clean up the mess that godforsaken Vincent Greg did. And whatever I will face is only the hollow appearance of her. The real Michelle I know – the only one that I’ve known – is dead.”
“So, I’m going to end this for good. For her. For me. For everyone.”
I exited the tent armed to the teeth. Numen, Mia, Kale and Scarlet was there waiting. They were always there for me.
“We’re going out today. One way or the other; with or without the help of Crusaders, I will see the end of this.”