Sweet sixteen...boy, it’s safe to say we’re on the fast track here. I started writing in March.
By the way, you might want to have some napkins handy. Some of you guys whose jaws might have hit the ground as a result of some of the recent plot twists...well, you’re starting to drool all over your keyboards and I guess you can figure out that drool and electronic equipment don’t really mix.
Anyway, on to chapter sixteen. This is probably my longest chapter to date, but IMHO, it's also one of my best. There are two different storylines to follow, and both have something interesting going on. This chapter maybe best encapsulizes the style that I've been using to write everything I've written in the Revolution series so far: Pokemon Battles, Mano-y-mano can-opening, plot development, a little bit of romance...
Without further ado, here we go!!
Chapter 16: A Collage of Confrontations
June 9, PA 2013 - Hermitage Cavern
Reivyn’s eyes darted from blond-haired Vausin to Kenjiro Kazaki and back again.
“He never told you?” Vausin asked, turning toward Reivyn. Seeing her facial expression, he muttered, “I’ll take that as a ‘no’.”
“Does it matter?” Kenjiro shot back, nonchalantly rubbing his face where Vausin had just slapped him.
“You’re another waste of talent,” Vausin said harshly. “You were a prodigy, destined for greatness. At the rate you were going, you might have even had a shot at being the next Archbishop...and you threw it all away. But, I suppose you were born into the wrong family...the brother of a radical heretic...”
“Shut your mouth!!” Kenjiro roared.
“Touched a nerve?” Vausin spoke silkily.
“Can you guys take your personal beef somewhere else?” a voice from behind Kenjiro groaned. Captain Moriard was standing there with his unit, looking quite impatient. “We’ve got a geezer to find.”
“Oh, really?” Moriard looked slightly to his right. From out of nowhere, a man with long, black hair had appeared, armed with a staff and looking a bit like he was prepared to fight. “Suppose I stop you. What happens then?”
“Simple – we trample you into the ground, step over your corpse, then take the old man,” Moriard answered.
“Over my dead body,” Creon growled.
“I have no problem with that,” Moriard answered. Meanwhile, Vausin was approaching Reivyn again.
“Come away from the fools and infidels,” he directed her. “Return your body and heart to the Divine Dragon.”
“So your monks can have their way with me? No,” Reivyn said suddenly, snatching her hand away from Vausin, who looked shocked for a moment, and then growled.
“You’ll meet an ugly end hanging around with riffraff like this,” Vausin grunted, angling his head at Kenjiro. “That his lies have been passed on even to the least of us...how proud Hayate Kazaki must be...”
“ENOUGH!!” Kenjiro roared, drawing both of his knives and charging Vausin, who stood there with a sick smile on his face. He tilted his neck sideways and avoided one of the knives. Vausin grabbed Kenjiro’s attacking arm, unceremoniously flipping the rogue Temple Knight over his shoulder. Kenjiro sailed through the air, performed a sort of flip, and landed on the ground behind Vausin, facing his back shoulder and skidding to a stop. Unfortunately for him, he had landed right in the middle of four armed monks – and more unfortunately for him, he was so concentrated on Vausin that he didn’t realize this. One of the hooded monks snuck up behind him, knives drawn...
“KENJI!!” Reivyn yelled at the top of her lungs. Kenjiro turned around and ducked under the monk’s attack. The acolyte let out a death gurgle as he dropped his kunai and slumped to the ground.
“Looks like dear Kenjiro wants to do things the hard way,” Vausin sighed, drawing a serrated sword from a sheath on his back that, for some reason, Reivyn had failed to notice before. “His funeral – or should I say, yours?!”
He took seven fast steps toward Reivyn and came down with the sword. To his surprise, he was much too slow as Reivyn managed to jump out of the way a step and a half before he got there. He looked over his shoulder slowly to see Reivyn standing behind him.
“You can’t run forever,” Vausin chuckled. “Sooner or later, you’ll have to fight...and you will lose. All this effort for a few moments of freedom...it hardly seems worth it.”
“I pity you,” Reivyn said. “You will never know what it means to be cared for by somebody.”
“Love,” Vausin scoffed. “The only thing it serves to do is to make it easier and more painful to lose someone.”
“That’s a risk I’m willing to take,” Reivyn said.
“Too bad for you...” Vausin growled, charging. “I’M NOT!!”
“Come on, let’s go, let’s go!” Moriard yelled to the unit behind him. Ten knights and Galvant were running quickly toward the far end of the cave and the path that led back to Hong Liu’s hermitage. After about ten steps of running, Moriard stopped (Galvant ran into him, nearly knocking him over) and looked at the passageway as if he’d seen Death itself.
Creon was standing there, his staff in his hand, and he was all business.
“That’s as far as you go,” he said.
“Come on, don’t be stupid,” Moriard laughed. “There’s one of you and twelve of us –“
A silver jet of light shot forth from the end of Creon’s staff and struck the knight immediately to Moriard’s right, blasting him clear to the other side of the cavern, where he hit a rock wall about ten feet off the ground, plummeting face-first into solid stone soon after.
“Eleven,” Creon said coldly, lowering his rod. Moriard looked like he’d just been clubbed over the head. “Anyone else want to try and walk past me?”
Moriard gathered himself and frowned. He pointed his sword at Creon.
“Since you want to give me an excuse to use force, that’s just what I’ll do,” Moriard said.
Kenjiro and the three remaining monks stared at each other for a half-second, then the fight was on.
“EEEEAAAARRRGH!!” Kenjiro roared as he charged, both kunai in hand. The monks (two of them carrying twin kunai, the third a staff. With a sweep of his arms, he threw both kunai in a roundhouse fashion. As they curved outward and began their trek in toward the acolytes on either side, Kenjiro continued to run at them, his hands now working a series of signs. He locked in on the last of these signs and shouted at the top of his lungs, “LIGHTNING DRAGON SPIRAL!”
The two kunai glowed a bright bluish-white and gathered tails of crackling energy. The elongated heads of dragons were visible where the blades of the kunai should have been. They arced around the staff-wielding acolyte in the middle, going right at the two others flanking him. Sensing danger, they leapt into the air as the lightning dragons circled around the back of the third acolyte, who ducked, letting out a scream of terror. The magical beasts ruffled the acolyte’s robe as they came past him, uttering roars that sounded like claps of thunder as they ascended into the air, where Kenjiro had jumped. Kenjiro, as of now unarmed, met the two acolytes in midair – four weapons to his zero.
The dagger-wielding monks heard crackling behind them and their eyes widened. They each let out screams of agony as they were caught inside the mouths of the two lightning dragons and utterly consumed. With a wild look in his eyes, Kenjiro welcomed the crackling forms into his hands. His fingers gripped the handles of two kunai as the dragons collapsed upon each other, creating a beach ball-sized globe of lightning. The staff-wielding acolyte looked up and gasped loudly as he saw Kenjiro hovering several feet in the air.
“YOUR KIND WILL NEVER RULE ME AGAIN!!” he roared, hurling the two kunai at the monk. “DIE!!!”
The energy focused in his kunai created a huge thunderbolt that descended straight at the acolyte, obliterating him in short order. Kenjiro landed on the ground as the smoke began to clear, catching his two kunai effortlessly in one hand and turning around toward his next target...
Speaking of which, Vausin was trying – and failing -- to cut Reivyn in half. As always, she was just a beat too quick.
“Stop dancing around, damn you!!” Vausin bellowed as he continued to try to slash her. Eventually, he backed her into a corner. She realized that she had nowhere to go and screamed as the Temple Knight charged...
Her heart skipped a beat as a tall form appeared out of thin air right in front of her, grabbing Vausin’s sword arm. The blond-haired man grunted, his teeth bared in a fierce snarl.
“I’ve been waiting five years for this,” Kenjiro whispered in a voice replete with hatred and vengeance. “You’ll be the first, Vausin…”
There was a flash of silver, and Vausin’s eyes rolled. Kenjiro had used his free hand to deal Vausin
a double blow with both kunai at once. Blood began to pour out of Vausin’s stomach, spilling onto and
over Kenjiro’s hand.
“Tell me,” Vausin croaked, his breathing ragged and short, “Is this quest for revenge worth bloodshed? It will never bring him back…and all you’re doing is damning yourself to hell.”
“That’s what you don’t understand about me,” Kenjiro answered. Even Reivyn, who had seen nearly as much death and bloodshed as Kenjiro himself, found herself feeling slightly faint at Kenjiro’s sudden brutality as, with a flip of the arm, he appeared to twist both knives and drive them in further. “Avengers are bound for hell from the very jump. But if I take as many of you with me as possible, it’s worth it.”
He took a step in closer, driving the knives in all the way to their hilts. His hands were shining and the color of Reivyn’s hair.
“Looks like this is where we part ways,” Kenjiro said. A sick smile crossing his face, he added, “I’ll see you there.”
Vausin let out a strangled scream and began to shake limply as his body was covered in lightning.
“ARGH!” Vausin yelled. “What is…”
“Just a little something I invented myself after I left the Temple,” Kenjiro said, as Vausin continued to convulse and writhe in the pain that came from this stun gun from hell. Raising a foot up to the Temple Knight’s chest, he yanked the knives out, kicking Vausin off his feet and causing him to land on his back, smoking and still shaking with an expression of utmost terror on his face. After five seconds, the entire portrait of carnage froze, never to move again. Kenjiro was left alone, breathing hard.
“After a while, you start to learn,” he panted without looking at Reivyn. “When they come after you, someone’s life has got to end, because they won’t stop until one of you is dead. So if you don’t want it to be you, you have to be prepared to kill.”
Reivyn’s silver eyes widened with horror as she looked at Kenjiro’s armed hand, which was covered in blood halfway up the forearm.
“That’s one,” he whispered viciously. “Seven left to go…”
Reivyn didn’t know what to think. She was so confused. On the one hand, he was this cruel, violent, and bloodthirsty avenger…but there was this other side of him – a side that wasn’t quite so cold and uncaring, a side that came out whenever no one mentioned the Temple.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Reivyn asked. “Why didn’t you tell me that you used to be a Temple Knight?”
“That was five years ago, Reivyn,” Kenjiro answered.
“Five years? But that would have made you…” Reivyn said, using the bit of knowledge she had to do the math in her head.
“Thirteen years old,” Kenjiro finished. “Everyone seemed to think I was pretty good at…whatever the hell it was we were doing.”
He gave a bitter laugh.
“No way I’m going out like this,” he grunted. “If I can’t have a peaceful life, at least let me die somewhere quiet…with a little bit of light.”
Reivyn pondered these words carefully. They seemed oddly out of character for Kenjiro.
“Have you given up on living?” she asked. “Is there anything you want other than a peaceful death?”
Kenjiro turned and looked straight at Reivyn for several seconds.
“Nothing,” he said, walking off and leaving Reivyn with the familiar feeling that he just might not have been entirely truthful with her. Her patience was at an end, her heart bursting with the question that she had been longing – and yet so afraid – to ask for weeks. Before she could stop herself, it exploded forth from her as a dam cracking and gushing an unstoppable current.
“Kenji!” Kenjiro felt an arm on his shoulder and realized that the arm was Reivyn’s. He also realized, with a slight twinge of pain, that she had a very firm grip on said arm. “Why are you doing this?”
Her voice was firm and strong and there almost seemed a kind of madness audible within it.
“Doing what?” Kenjiro asked.
“If you hate the Temple so much, why do you spend so much time trying to help me? Is it all part of this scheme you have for revenge? Am I just a tool to you, or am I something…” Reivyn began to yell, all the questions she had about the one standing before her bursting forth almost uncontrollably. “Am I something else?”
“I’ve never met anyone who asks more and stranger questions than you, Reivyn,” Kenjiro sighed. Apparently this was his attempt to calm her down; it didn’t work one bit.
“That’s the only way I know to learn something that I don’t know!!” Reivyn shouted in her frustration. “The way you talk to me is different from everybody else. I feel safe around you, even though you’re one of the most brutal and hateful people I’ve ever met!”
“What is it, then?!” Kenjiro yelled, finally having lost his patience. “What the hell do you want to know from me?!”
“I want to know if the reason you’re doing this…” Reivyn said, tearing her eyes away from Kenjiro for a second and looking for the ground. She took a gulp of the dank, wet underground air, looked up at Kenjiro again, and, almost as if she was sure that she would lose her nerve should she hesitate a second longer, screamed the question. “I WANT TO KNOW IF IT’S LOVE!”
“. . .” Kenjiro was completely taken aback. Any question…
Anything about the Temple…
Anything about Kenjiro himself…
…would have been easier to answer – but she had to ask this one.
“Is that why?” Reivyn’s voice softened when Kenjiro did not answer right away. “Is that why you only treat me like I matter as much as your revenge? Do you love me?”
Kenjiro remained silent. The truth was, she had asked him a question to which he did not know the answer…
…or perhaps a question whose answer he chose not to know.
“Answer me,” she said with the desperation of an abject plea, and yet the authority of an order. As she often still did, she let out a gasp and tensed as she felt two hands gently caressing her shoulders…
With a jolting movement, she felt her neck whip sideways and she was swung and then violently thrown to the ground. She hit the stone floor, looked up and let out a scream.
Kenjiro looked down at his chest, which was pierced all the way through with a long sword. Creon, who had just dispatched the last of the grunt Knights on the other side of the cavern, jabbed his rod into Galvant’s stomach, spewing forth a jet of flame that engulfed the sub-captain, who let out a scream of agony as he died a fiery death. He turned around, looking for Moriard, and found, with a groaned oath and a gasp of horror, the last of the Imperial unit with his sword cleanly piercing the heart of Kenjiro Kazaki.
“Shouldn’t have gotten in my way,” Moriard grunted, yanking the sword out and kicking Kenjiro in the ribs.
She watched him fall back in slow motion…
At the last second, she caught his head mere inches from the ground and supported him. His eyes were wild. He seemed to be struggling to speak and, even though Reivyn was looking right into his eyes, he did not see her.
“R-Reiyvn…” he muttered, his eyes darting around inside their sockets. Finally, as he gave a sigh, they centered, unseeing, upon hers and became perfectly still. She felt his body become heavy and lowered it down into the ground, sobbing uncontrollably as Creon began to approach. Her knees buckled under her with the weight of loss – a weight somehow made physical, tangible…
…and the cavern echoed with a scream – a soul-rending shriek that reverberated with all of her grief, all of her pain, and all of her sorrow.
The afternoon sun shone golden and hot upon the sands of Dewford. A multitude of youths, from all ages and all walks of life, gathered upon these sands, oblivious to the tragedy that was taking place mere miles away. Their concentration was on the match…the final match. Sixteen had entered this competition; two remained…
…and, out of these two, only one could emerge victorious.
A crowd can feel the tension of a true and personal rivalry, even if they don’t know the Trainers…they can still feel it. They can sense when this is more than a match – they can sense when this is a fight, a one-on-one battle of wills.
He felt the winged charm, cold between his shirt and his bare, tanned chest. The scattered applause and cheering to which he took this stage of sand was all but silence to him. His emerald-colored eyes sought only the foil of him…
And yet his greatest rival.
The spur behind him…
And the obstacle in front of him.
The one he wished to be…
…and the one he wished to surpass.
He stared across the sand at this reflection of a past self. After so long, he understood why things were the way they were. He saw so much of himself in him. Trying to overcome the pain of his past and forge a future for himself and someone that he loved...he knew the concept much too well. The hard fringe of his cobalt hair tickled his forehead as the sea breeze kicked it into life. A look of determination was painted onto his face – no longer gentle and innocent as the boy he was two years ago. A boy, yes, but a boy that had seen the troubles and the scars of many hard years – that was who he was now.
His mind wandered back to the year he had spent trying to piece together his life after the war. In a lot of ways, the story of the boy across from him was the same as his own. They both knew all about overcoming pain – both past and present.
He couldn’t have asked for a better rival.
“Are you ready for this?” he heard the brown-haired boy shout.
“Just say the word,” Travis replied, selecting his first Pokemon at random at pulling the ball off his belt.
“Are both trainers ready?!” the referee shouted, shooting a look at each of the two boys.
“Let’s go,” Matt said calmly, a quiet determination in his voice.
Travis responded with a silent nod, his eyes locked upon Matthew’s.
“BEGIN!” the referee yelled, raising both flags in the customary fashion. Instantly, there seemed to be a stir among the crowd – relative quiet was replaced by a murmur of excitement…people in less-than-convenient positions stood or craned their necks to get a better look.
“First off…” Matthew shouted, throwing his first Pokéball. “Mightyena!!”
Travis had heard of this creature before, but he had never seen one. He wasn’t going to lie to himself – it looked pretty fearsome. At three feet tall and with a coat of gray and a coal-like black, along with its sharp teeth, prominent ears, and piercing, red eyes, it looked like some kind of attack dog sent to (forcefully) escort his soul to the underworld. It let out a deep growl that reverberated in the pit of Travis’ stomach afterward.
Then again, maybe that was the fact that the last bite he’d had to eat had been well over eight hours ago. He and Katrina were just about to eat lunch when Matthew approached them with news of the tournament. On top of that, they’d had a seven-o’clock breakfast that morning with no snack in between. Travis then remembered with a twinge of annoyance that this tournament had prevented him from finishing his date with Katrina in the first place. He’d have to make it up to her somehow.
Travis mentally smacked himself – focus!
“Meru, let’s go!” Travis yelled, throwing the Pokéball containing his Kitide into the air. As the ball sprang from the ground back into his palm, a white glow dimmed to reveal a smaller, aquamarine Pokémon that was similar in appearance to a fox cub. She looked up at her bigger counterpart. As the Bite Pokémon growled again, Meru allowed a grimace of sorts to cross her face. It was almost as if she thought that she could win this battle, but knew from the onset that it wouldn’t be so easy.
“Mightyena, Shadow Ball!” Matthew shouted. The canine creature opened his mouth, revealing his razor-like fangs, and a large, black globe of energy about a size bigger than a regulation softball appeared, crackling and sparking with its dark power as it gathered strength.
“<Uh-oh,>” Angel had been hit with a Shadow Ball or two in her lifetime and knew how much they hurt. Then again, that could have been partly because of the fact that she was a Psychic-type, but still…
“Dodge that and use Water Gun!” Travis ordered. Meru moved to her left quickly, easily avoiding the fast-moving ball of ghastly energy. As the Shadow Ball exploded into a cloud of dust behind her, Meru took aim and fired with her Water Gun. The high-pressure jet caught the Dark-type full-on in the face, causing him to bark angrily as he skidded backward.
“<Take that!>” Meru shouted enthusiastically.
“Go after him!” Travis yelled immediately, gesturing at the Mightyena. “Use Bite!”
“Bite, Mightyena!” Matt responded.
The two Pokémon approached each other, the Bite Pokémon living up to his name as he was the one to connect, grabbing Meru with his fangs and tossing her to the ground as they collided in midair. Travis swore as Meru hit the ground, resiliently rolling to her feet soon afterward.
“Shadow Ball!” Matt shouted.
“Water Gun!” Travis responded loudly.
A black ball of energy and a high-pressure jet of water met each other in the center of the arena, exploding in a shower of black and white as the spectators surround the arena let out a collective gasp of astonishment and erupted into cheers.
“Good show,” Matt laughed.
“You’re holding back a little bit,” Travis replied with a smirk. “Why don’t you make this interesting?”
“Stick my neck out and get decapitated? No, thanks,” Matt replied wittily.
“Suit yourself, but I’m going all out!” Travis shouted. “Meru, use Water Gun!”
“Double Team!” Matt yelled. Mightyena howled and appeared to split into five copies of himself. The Water Gun hit the Mightyena on the near right, and it dissipated, leaving four copies.
“Not bad,” Travis chuckled with a smile.
“I’m just getting warmed up,” Matt answered. “Use Double Team again!!”
The four Mightyena became eight and surrounded Meru, who looked around herself to find an octet of growling dog figures poised to attack. Travis knew, of course, that only one of the eight was real – and he already knew a good way of finding out. The question was…would Matt be smart enough to see it coming?
“Shadow Ball!” Matt yelled. “Take her down!”
Travis waited for a half-second as eight Mightyena began to produce eight Shadow Balls, aiming at Meru from eight different directions. Of course, Travis knew that there was only one real Mightyena. The trick about the physics of Double Team was that this one Mightyena could at any given moment be any one of these eight clones. The real one was moving in short bursts. Of course, this amount of speed would probably do something interesting when combined with…
“Supersonic!” Travis yelled. “NOW!!”
Meru opened her mouth wide and produced a high-pitched scream. There was a loud ringing sound, almost as if the supersonic waves were being filtered through a long tube – like a bullet through a gun with a thirty-foot barrel. Almost instantly, Matt’s knees buckled a bit. Mightyena let out a loud howl and fell to the ground in front of Meru as the former’s seven clones disappeared.
“Bite!” Travis ordered. Meru jumped straight at Mightyena, her sharp, short fangs closing on the Bite Pokémon’s neck as she tackled Mightyena to the ground. Mightyena, snarling loudly, aimed his head up at the Kitide…
This time Shadow Ball hit its mark – point-blank, in fact. Meru screamed loudly as she was blasted up into the air. She went into a somersault and landed hard on her face in the sand, skidding backward.
“Damn!” Travis cursed.
“Did you really think I’d go down that easily?!” Matt shouted. “Tackle, Mightyena!!”
Mightyena charged – a shadow the color of blackest night.
“Tackle, Meru!” Travis responded quickly.
Meru charged – a blur the color of virgin, tropical water.
They collided at the center, inches above the ground, kicking up a ring of dust and bouncing off each other. Mightyena, growling fiercely, skidded to a halt, while Meru, groaning a bit, dug her own sharp claws into the grit below her to slow her own backward momentum. Another cheer of excitement rose from the crowd, but Travis could see that the battle was starting to take its toll on Meru, who had all the heart a Trainer could ask for, but was nonetheless substantially smaller than the three-foot-three, eighty-one-pound Mightyena (this according to Travis’ Pokédex).
Travis would have to change his strategy.
“Water Gun!” he cried out immediately.
“Shadow Ball!” Matthew responded.
The two attacks hit each other and canceled out. Through the hollow center of the resulting ring of intermingled darkness and water, the green eyes met the blue, each pair with a steely glint.
Meru and Mightyena began to mirror each other’s moves, their footprints creating a circle inside this square of sand. One was shooting Water Guns, the other, Shadow Balls. Explosions of water and shadow and sand flared all over the arena as the crowd sat on tenterhooks, watching and waiting to see what would happen next. By the time the volley was over (Travis had to dodge a couple of rogue Shadow Balls and Water Guns, as did Matthew), each Pokémon was facing its trainer.
“Tackle!” both Trainers shouted simultaneously.
Meru and Mightyena charged, bouncing off each other in the center of the arena and switching sides, both skidding to a stop in front of their respective Trainers and turning around, breathing loudly. Now that he got a good look at Meru, he was a tiny bit worried. Her aquamarine fur was disheveled and she was covered with indigo-colored bruises. She staggered a bit.
“<I can’t lose…>” Meru groaned.
“Meru…hang in there…” Travis muttered.
“C’mon, Mightyena – just one more push…” Matt muttered.
Meru and Mightyena locked eyes for a moment, and dropped to the ground, one right after the other.
“Oh, my –“ Mariah gasped, her hand to her mouth. Katrina grimaced.
“…FIVE! Double knockout!! Both Pokémon are unable to continue! This match is a draw!!” the referee shouted, crossing his flags in his hands.
Both Trainers returned their respective Pokémon, gazing at each other with slight intrigue.
“Geez…” Travis panted, a bit impressed and a bit worried.
“Damn it,” Matthew said drily, a slight smile on his face.
She held his body in his arms, shaking him, refusing to believe it. He had been so steadfast, so tough…a part of her dared to think that he was nigh invincible.
“Kenjiro…Kenji…please wake up…”
“You *******,” Creon said, standing between Kenjiro’s dead body and the one who had made it so – Captain Moriard of the Imperial Knights, who took one look at Creon’s eyes. “I’ll make you pay for that!!”
“Will you?” Moriard mocked him, raising his sword, which was covered down to the hilt with the blood of Kenjiro Kazaki – a sight that took Reivyn’s grief, shattered it, and handed it back to her as rage…rage that she had never before felt in her entire life.
“No,” Creon heard a growl behind him and stopped dead in his tracks. He whirled around to find Reivyn on her feet. Her weapons were drawn, her fists were clenched and shaking uncontrollably, and there could not be found an emotion but total fury on her dirty, tear-streaked face. “Don’t touch him.”
“Heheh…this is amusing,” Moriard laughed. “You, of all people? Maybe, if you’d stayed out of our way like we asked you, the both of you would be alive.”
“Shut up,” she growled harshly, shaking even more powerfully now. “I’m going to kill you.”
“Right,” Moriard scoffed. “Little miss crybaby, kill me? Try it.”
With a snarl that sounded like it had been belched from the bowels of hell itself, she charged. Moriard was taken aback at her speed and leapt backward, narrowly avoiding losing his head to one of Reivyn’s knives and then the other. Forcefully, Moriard raised the hilt of his sword and struck Reivyn in the back of the head. She hit the ground face-first and rolled several times, springing off the ground and ending up on her feet after several midair barrel rolls.
“What the –” Moriard gasped, crying out as Reivyn’s knife slashed his face moments later. A trail of blood flew from Moriard’s cheek, splashing onto Reivyn’s grimy and tear-stained face. Moriard raised his blade, growled, and attempted to slash Reivyn, who grabbed Moriard’s arm and threw him to the ground. She jumped away to put some distance between herself and her opponent. She looked up and saw Moriard charging with his long sword. A flash of silver through the air…
A scream of pain…
Reivyn went flying. Sticking one hand down, she vaulted on the ground, flipping herself back to her feet. Moriard came at her again. She grabbed his arm and, with a quick pull, guided him rather forcefully into a rock face behind her. Moriard choked in pain as his back slammed against the stone wall. Reivyn reared back and laid a kunai into Moriard’s torso. The red-haired captain groaned as Reivyn bodily tossed him sideways with a terrible groan of rage. She took two steps, a back flip, and rose high into the air, directly above Moriard’s heart, rotating very quickly with her kunai in front of her.
With a loud yell, she released the two knives, which continued to spiral downward, tails of flame streaking behind them like small comets. Moriard jumped backward just as the knives hit the ground…
There was a blast like a bomb going off, and the ground around the knives erupted into violent flames. The force of the blast was more than sufficient to put Captain Moriard onto his back, as he skidded on that area of his body, his body armor the only thing saving his flesh from being ripped to shreds on the rough ground. When he finally regained some control of his person, he used it to roll to his feet. In doing so, his eyes focused again on the place where the explosion had happened – a place that was now shrouded in a cloud of thick dust and smoke.
“Damn you!” Moriard yelled. He saw the dust shift a bit….
And Reivyn emerged, armed with her knives and charging toward him. Raising his long sword, he ran to meet her. ‘
He was the first to move, attempting to decapitate Reivyn with a single stroke. Reivyn blocked it and landed a vicious right hook on Moriard’s body with the knife in her hand. Now, Reivyn, her beautiful, silver eyes glinting madly behind her dirty and matted hair, went on the offensive. Moriard looked slightly over his head and realized just in time that the dagger that Reivyn was swinging at him was crackling with lightning. He dodged and looked at the one in her left hand, which was wreathed in flame. She hit Moriard twice more, badly denting the armor he was wearing. She then leapt up and brought a hard knee into Moriard’s nose, breaking it instantly and causing it to spurt blood. Using that same leg to step on the reeling captain’s shoulder, she brought the other foot across Moriard’s temple, clouting him sideways and to the ground. He hit the dirt flat on his back. Reivyn didn’t hesitate. She took two or three steps, leapt, and drove her knees directly into Moriard’s body. Lots of things broke at this point...armor, along with several ribs…
Moriard coughed a huge fleck of blood into Reivyn’s face, which was already cut and dirty with everything imaginable. She pointed the blades of her knives at two opposite points on Moriard’s neck and stabbed.
Moriard wasn’t dead instantly. Instead, she continued to push through skin and muscle. As he shook and gurgled, Moriard’s face became redder and redder, eventually taking on the appearance of a large beet, until –
The pressure became too much. Moriard’s eyes rolled, having been the victim of an aneurysm. Moreover, blood began to pour from every remaining orifice on his head. His body went limp and his head rolled to the side. Just for good measure, Reivyn grabbed him by his hair and slammed his head against the ground five solid times.
She stood in the silence of the dank cavern. Corpses were everywhere around her as she hit her knees and looked around. Her eyes blurred again with tears and fatigue. There was one corpse that she did not see.
The only one that mattered to her in this bloody place…
She opened her eyes. She was in a small bed, barely big enough for her. As her eyes adjusted to the light, she found that the room in which she lay contained shelves full of books. She sat up on the bed and heard the door open. An auburn-haired, relatively young woman (although she was older than Reivyn) walked in at that moment and gave a slight gasp.
“Oh!” she exclaimed. “You’re awake!”
Reivyn remembered that face – Agnes…who was married to Creon, who was fighting alongside herself and Kenjiro when…
At that moment, the weight of what had happened hit her. She buried her head in her knees (it registered for a brief, fleeting second that sometime between when she had fallen in the cavern and when she had awoken in here, both she and her clothes had been separated, cleaned, and reunited) and began to cry.
“Oh-oh…what’s wrong?” Agnes asked, attempting to put a comforting arm around Reivyn. “Why are you so sad? We’re all alive, aren’t we?”
Agnes couldn’t have asked a worse question. Reivyn reacted by shrieking “NO!” and sobbing even harder.
“What do you mean?” Agnes asked. “Master Hong, Creon and I, you, and Kenjiro…at least I think that was his name…”
“He’s…d-dead!!” Reivyn sobbed. “I s-saw it…”
“He’s quite alive, actually,” Agnes said calmly. “I just went in to check on him and he asked me if you were okay.” With a good-natured whisper, she added into Reivyn’s ear, “I think he likes you.”
“B-but…I saw him…” Reivyn stammered, shaking her head.
“Well, he was pretty much a moment or two away from being a corpse when Creon brought him back. It must have been while you were fighting that Imperial Knight,” Agnes explained. “But Master Hong fixed him up in a flash, and now he’s good as new! Well – almost…”
“Where is he?” Reivyn asked, standing and then staggering. Agnes came over to support her.
“Whoa, easy,” Agnes replied, steadying the girl. “That fight you were in was pretty brutal.”
Nevertheless, she stood and walked toward and opened the door. She walked nervously across the lobby of the hermitage. Creon and Hong Liu seemed to be poring over the map on the sage’s wall. Registering her presence, both stopped to look at her. She returned their stares for a moment as she turned and walked past them and the map, almost as if an unseen voice had called her in that direction.
“Kenji…” she whispered as she exited the door. Hanging over this underground lake was this balcony that seemed to be supported by two huge posts that went down, down, down into the water. She looked around in the distance and saw two holes in the distant rock walls, from which water spilled in beautiful, gushing falls. Her eyes came down to the end of the balcony, where a youth was leaning over it, lost in thought. He heard that he was called, and turned around slowly. There seemed to be something different about his facial expression, but her eyes were so blurry with tears, she failed to see what that difference was. She ran straight into him, wailing loudly into his chest. Not touching her for a moment, he just stood there, a bit surprised that anyone would cry over him like this. He just stood there. And…
He received her.
Feeling his arms on her back, her screaming quieted to silent sobs. She looked up and placed her hand, almost instinctively, on the left side of Kenjiro’s chest, where the scar from the sword…
And, no doubt, the scar from a brand of another kind…
The burn of a life past…rested.
Kenjiro looked down at her silently, not protesting, not saying a word. She let out a sob and finally spoke:
“You never answered me…”
She looked at the ground. Soon after, she felt a gentle finger under her chin and looked up.
Almost as businesslike as he always was, he walked past her toward the back door of the cottage, stopping only to turn around and say this:
“We’re probably leaving soon. We can’t stay here anymore.”
She sighed and put her hand to her chin for a moment.
She finally had her answer – a curt answer, unspoken…but an answer nonetheless.
From inside, Kenjiro stole a glance over his shoulder outside and then quickly turned toward Creon and Hong Liu, both of whom stopped looking at the map on the wall and turned to him.
Creon sighed. Her timing perfect, Agnes entered the room right before Creon began to speak.
“Master Hong has come to a decision,” he said curtly, his body language betraying the fact that whatever decision Hong Liu had come to, Creon must not have agreed with it.
“I do not wish to run away,” Hong Liu said simply. “I wish to do something…more.”
“More?” Kenjiro repeated, looking askance at the old sage.
“He means…” Creon sighed, trailing off as if he could not bear to finish the sentence. “He means that he wants to help Prince Elrik fight.”
This was more than Kenjiro could have hoped for – imagine Roald’s face when the old wizard and his two protégés turned up at his front door! Nevertheless, Kenjiro had to keep his cool and not look like he needed or wanted these three people that much.
“Are you sure about that?” he asked. “I hope you understand that if this thing gets ugly, we’re talking about a civil war at best.”
Suddenly, it was as if Creon’s patience could take no more. “I tried to tell him that,” he piped in with the air of a younger sibling ratting out his older counterpart, “but he wouldn’t lis…”
“I understand you very well, Creon,” Hong Liu said sternly. “We can only hide from the world so long. It’s time for me to handle Gorba the way I should have years ago. Perhaps, part of the fault for this situation lies with me. If I had put up a better fight when Gorba took my position from me…”
He trailed off and looked up at Kenjiro.
“Tell us where the Prince is,” Hong Liu said.
“Rustboro City,” Kenjiro replied, sounding confused. “But, how…”
“There are means,” Hong Liu said, raising one of his crooked, bony fingers and hiding a smile under his long mustache and beard. “Where there is a desire to do something, the means can always be found.”
“Sounds an awful lot like ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way’,” Kenjiro commented. Hong Liu chuckled, his white facial hair quivering a bit.
“If you say so…”