The captain looked down at the fallen body of the demi-human. His shot had gone right through the young man’s chest before the creature was able to attack and had caused him to lose his balance on the catwalk and fall below. Smoke still rose lazily from the hole that had torn through the violet demi-human’s clothes. He also knew that the kid wasn’t dead yet.
It was almost unfair how hardy they were, how even a bullet to the heart could be healed should they be given the time. Using their energy, they could accelerate the healing process in their body, a feat that most people could only dream of having. And these bastards took it for granted.
Levelling his pistol at the demi-human again, he was almost about to take the shot when he heard a stifled squeak of terror from behind the crate. Glancing at the violet one suspiciously, he weighed the chances of being jumped from behind while investigating the sound.
Landing heavily on the ramp that led down to the entrance of the warehouse, his boots made a soft tapping as he approached, exchanging his pistol out for his tranquiliser gun. While he had taken a gamble that the violet demi-human’s branch wasn’t related to fire but he didn’t know what colour this one would be, if they were even a demi-human.
Rounding the corner of the crate that the violet bastard had fallen onto, he brought his tranquiliser rifle down on… nothing. There was no-one there, only the demi-human’s amulet that hung over the edge of the crate, softly swaying in the air, the momentum continuing its motion.
He hadn’t paid too much heed to the trinket before, namely because the young man had been distracting them, but now that he could see it properly his eyes widened. His face twisted into a snarl as he began to reach out and grab it, but a sudden voice stopped him.
“Don’t touch him,” a young girl said, her voice high and terrified. There was a brief moment of pause as the gears turned in the man’s head. The captain did a double take as he realised who she was and raised his tranquiliser rifle to keep her at bay. Beneath her heavy clothes, the patterns across her body began to light up, causing a pulsating glow to emanate from her.
“Maybe I won’t if you come quietly,” he growled back, pulling his hand out of her grasp and taking a few steps back to clear the distance between them. Every lesson that he had been taught about combating demi-humans was that he needed to put distance between them. Even though Eran was considered weak by their standards, her punches could still break a rib or two if she tried hard enough.
“I’m not going back,” The young girl told him, stating it as a fact rather than in defiance. She hung close to the corner of the crate that she had been hiding behind, ready to take cover again should he fire. Instead the captain turned to point his rifle at the young man.
“Not even if I paralyse him?” he asked her. Noticing that she wasn’t following his logic, he elaborated on the danger that the violet demi-human was in. “If this tranquiliser hits him, he won’t be able to focus his energy on the wound to heal himself, and eventually he’ll bleed out.”
The young girl’s eyes widened, and she hesitated, turning to glance at the young man. The captain knew what was going through her mind. Was her newfound loyalty to this young man enough to make her risk going back to the laboratories where the Hunters would try doubly hard to break her of her will.
“I-I…,” she bit her lip, trying to decide. After one more glance at the young man, she grabbed his arm and yanked him off the top of the crate, throwing him down behind cover before ducking back around it herself. Unfortunately for the Hunter, the captain’s timing was slightly off, and his dart hit the wooden top of the crate.
Backing off rapidly, he pulled another dart from the bandolier on his chest and flicked open the rifle. His hands shook as he slid the dart in, but an involuntary spasm caused him to drop the dart and scatter it on the ground. Giving a muffled exclamation of surprise, he frantically pulled another and shoved it in the chamber without a hesitation as the tapping of footsteps approached. Snapping the rifle back together, he looked up to see Eran standing over him, her leg already in motion.
Her blow landed directly on his arm that held the rifle, shattering his arm in an instant and causing him to drop the tranquiliser gun on the ground. Holding his arm while his face twisted in agony, the captain looked back up at her in fury, but paled when he saw that his own expression was mild annoyance compared to hers.
For a moment he had thought that she had transcended through to her basic animal instincts. She had been pushed into a corner, her friend threatened, the terror of going back to that place continually hanging over her head. She had snapped and let her emotions consume her. It was the most terrifying sight that he had seen in his life.
“I am not going back,” she roared as her patterns pulsed a pure white, shining brightly through the dim light. Her voice, layered with the energy that was coursing through her, echoed throughout the warehouse as she slammed the back of her hand into his shoulder, breaking his shoulder plate and fracturing his collar bone. While he had known about the beatings that the militia gave to the desolate on a regular basis, they were nothing compared to the terror that came from a furious demi-human that was ready to beat him literally into a pulp.
As the fist rushed towards him once again, the captain braced, then hesitated as he realised that nothing had occurred from it. Gingerly opening his eyes, he looked up to see the violet demi-human holding her shoulders reassuringly, his own hand having redirected hers into the concrete next to the captain’s head, cracking the ground and leaving a visible mark, small pieces of the concrete still skittering across the floor.
“You’re okay now,” he told her, glancing down at the captain with a look of disgust. “They won’t hurt you anymore, I promise.”
“Protect me? You couldn’t stop him, what can you do without any powers?” Eran asked him, a little of her anger still lingering in her voice. The young man didn’t even react to her statement, leaning down and offering a hand to the captain, wincing as the older man took the gesture suspiciously, his chest still obviously tender from the bullet wound.
“I’ll admit, that was careless on my part,” the violet demi-human said, touching a hand to the wound in question and withdrawing it, apparently satisfied with the lack of blood that came from it. The skin had apparently already healed. “I haven’t tried to dodge a bullet before. They’re quite a lot faster than darts, even my reaction timing had difficult with it.”
The captain looked at the both of them for a moment, his hand slowly edging towards the last weapon that he had in his possession. Ignoring everything he had been taught previously, and his instincts screaming for him to do anything except it, he dashed towards the violet demi-human, he drew his knife from its sheath and brought the blade to bear on him.
The young man nimbly stepped back out of range of the slash, before rushing forwards himself and bringing both of his hands to crack down on the captain’s wrist. At the impact of both of his palms slamming against the man’s forearm, there was the unmistakable crunching of his bones being pulverised by the force of the young man’s strikes.
The violet demi-human followed up with a rapid strike to the captain’s sternum, sending him back onto the floor, holding his hand close to his chest as he gasped for breath. He wasn’t sure if it was broken or fractured, but the unbearable pain in his chest told him that if he didn’t see medical attention soon, there would be dire consequences.
Attempting to struggle to his feet again, he looked the young man in the eye before slumping back down. His expression made it clear that this was a bed he had made by continuing to attack, and the violet demi-human was going to force him to sleep in it.
“The rest of his squad is alive, so I’ll take them outside for the Hunters to take with them when they retreat,” the young man told Eran, who nodded as she continued to stare vehemently at the captain. “Don’t worry about him, both his arms are broken, and if I’m correct, he won’t be breathing easy for the next couple of months.”
“I’m not worried about him,” she muttered, sitting back down against the box. “I’m worried about the rest of them. How do we know that they won’t just keep coming for us?”
“They will,” he replied. “And that’s why we won’t be staying here long. We’ll say our goodbyes and then we’ll head off, I’ve heard that Surantos is good this time of year. The fire pillar can have this warehouse; it should keep the Hunters’ attention away from us for a little while at least.”
“I wish I didn’t have to run again,” Eran sighed, sinking her head into her arms. The captain looked at her, now that they were eye to eye. While he still maintained his complete loyalty to the Hunters, he was lying if he said he didn’t feel any pity for the girl. “I haven’t had a home in so long.”
“It will be alright,” the young man replied, kneeling down next to her and placing a hand on her shoulder. “As my elder once said when we travelled often to console me; the home is where you make it. Our home will travel with us, as well as the memories that we create from them.” Eran smiled slightly at the thought as her patterns steadily cooled to a deep red.
Niselt sagged against a burnt out building, using the wrecked wall as a support. His breath was ragged, his eyes unfocused. No casualties, that was what he kept telling himself. They had experienced no fatal casualties. The fire pillars that were taken down by the darts would likely throw up quite a few times after waking up and have the worst headache they’d likely felt in their life, but Igrein was already staggering back to his feet, his eyes furiously searching for any Hunters that were left.
“Sorry buddy, we got them all,” Niselt grinned, reluctant to even try walking with his exhausted body. The energy that he had spent in order to fend off the attacks was unimaginable. He hadn’t experienced such a skirmish with the Hunters before, and wasn’t sure whether he would welcome another one any time soon.
“Cowards, attacking from behind and using drugs to keep me down,” Igrein spat, his voice rumbling with fury. He fell back into a crouch as his world started to spin, still unsteady from the chemicals that were steadily clearing from his system. “How are the others?”
“Solus is fine, he fought the majority of them with me,” Niselt informed him. Igrein nodded, that was to be expected. The three of them were the most powerful of the fire pillar in Danarog, and although Niselt wasn’t as experienced due to his age, the other two had often been the first in during their battles and the last to retreat. “There are quite a few others that were hit as well, but a small amount of the remaining were able to fight alongside us, which is quite relieving. They show some promise in becoming good warriors.”
“Good, we shall commend them once we have returned back to our nest, until then we should care for those who fell,” Igrein smiled weakly, also glad that there were some who were strong enough to be of note within their group. He visibly tensed, however, when Auron descended from the rooftop he had been firing from.
“Relax, I’m on your side, ask Niselt,” Auron told the man dryly as the younger fire pillar nodded eagerly, remembering the devastating arrows that had fired from above to cripple the bodies of the Hunters firing from afar. “Who, if I remember correctly, owes Harken, Elgen and I an apology for accusing him of trafficking.”
“Oh? So that man actually told the truth for once, I’m honestly a little shocked and disappointed in him,” Niselt grinned, though one look at Auron’s aggravated stance caused him to sigh in annoyance. “Fine, whatever, I was wrong, and I misjudged him, I still don’t like the guy though.”
“You don’t have to, as long as you realise that you were in the wrong,” Auron replied. He turned immediately and began to make his way to the warehouse, from which he could already see Harken and Eran emerging. He froze stock still when he saw them carrying the bodies of several Hunters out.
“What-?” Igrein began to ask, but he was silenced by a look from Niselt, who turned to look back at Harken, slightly wary.
“Hi there, you look as if you’ve made a couple friends, I’m hurt that you didn’t tell me,” the younger fire pillar joked, but both Auron and Igrein could tell that there was an edge of caution in it, as if he was gauging whether Harken was actually safe to interact with or not.
“They were looking for something in the warehouse, an artefact that seemed to have some power within it,” Harken informed them. “Though I’m sure if that was the case Elgen would have moved it straight away.”
“Don’t say his name with them around,” Auron hissed, glancing down at the Hunters that Harken carried warily. He knew that the Hunters were already suspecting him of committing treason, he didn’t want any damning evidence being heard by the Hunters.
“They’re completely out cold, they won’t be waking up any time soon,” Harken replied to him, dumping the fallen Hunters unceremoniously onto the ground in front of him. Igrein stepped forward, appearing to want to take at least a small part of revenge against them, to which Harken immediately stepped in between them. “Don’t even think about it, these ones live.”
“Are you taking mercy on those that forced us out of our homes?” the larger man demanded, his eyes flashing red as he looked down at their prone forms furiously. Harken looked up at him evenly, and Niselt couldn’t help but feel a slight shiver as he looked at the rich violet colour that seemed to flicker within the young man’s irises.
“As far as they know, you guys are taking up residence in the warehouse, and me and Eran are disappearing off to god knows where,” Harken told him. “I’d like to keep it that way so that hopefully they’ll think twice before sending some people over to investigate the place.”
“What if they just send a platoon to wipe us out?” Niselt asked, an eyebrow raised. Harken shrugged.
“Then it’s my bad luck, but it would be the same result if they just sent a squad to investigate why this place is so messed up,” he replied, gesturing around at the scorched land and the rubble that had resulted from the intense fight. Niselt couldn’t help but feel slightly guilty at the fact that he had taken no small part in the destruction.
Deep grooves in the ground had been marked where his whips and burned through the stone and had torn walls to pieces. The glow of the heat still remained even after the battle had been fought, scars that would not heal. But they were not the only scars that were born that night, and it was these which Niselt felt infinitesimally more so.
Many young fire pillars that had fought the battle to the end were wandering around aimlessly, looking around at the carnage that had been caused. For many of them, this had been the first battle that they had participated in, and many more had taken their first lives. Niselt was no stranger to the violence, having fought fights even more savage than this in the past. But these warriors were no more than children with their experience, and such savagery had never been experienced firsthand.
He noticed Harken looking over at the crowd, his eyes unreadable as he stared at the ragtag group of survivors. Niselt couldn’t shake the feeling that he was surveying them, but then, he always was himself, along with Igrein and Solus. They were constantly grooming their warriors, training them to be able to take back their home.
Harken turned back to Niselt, an indescribable look in his eyes as he walked towards the young fire pillar. There was a danger in his step, the tensing of muscles that Niselt knew all too well of someone who was ready to throw a punch. Harken stopped short of him, merely inches between the two as he looked up at Niselt, the look growing into one of anger and disgust, enough to crease his eyes into the faint expression of the emotion.
“This is your army that you boasted of?” Harken asked him quietly, the soft tones of his voice sending shivers down the spines of all those present. “This is the beginning of your glorious crusade? I’d bet that most of them here haven’t even seen blood before with the protected life you give them in your community, and you expect to be able to wage war with them?”
“No,” Niselt replied, his response creating no small amount of surprise to Harken. It was unexpected to say the least, after all that the fire pillar had been gearing towards, “This is the beginning of your crusade. You have watched your people being pushed down your whole life, and I know that there is a part of you which burns bright with your thirst for revenge, although you may not show it now. You have no idea how long I have been waiting for the Hunters to descend for you to take your place at the forefront of the revolution.”
“What are you talking about?” Harken demanded, a slow colour turning to his cheeks as patterns began to surface even faintly. “You speak as if this was all planned.”
“Not all of it,” Niselt replied, a grin taking his face as he looked down at Harken, the patterns emerging on the young man’s face urging him on in his way. “But despite what the others might think, ever since I saw the potential you displayed, it was always my intention for you to take the reins and show the world your power.”
“It is not my power to show!” Harken snapped, drawing the attention of all those around him. The shock and awe of them at the rising colour caused him to take stock of what was happening, and glance down at his own arms in surprise. The lights dimmed straight away to a smouldering pulse as he looked up at Niselt, restraining an anger that could have caused him to shine. “This… this is not the way I wanted it to happen. I don’t want this to be the first emotion I show.”
Niselt couldn’t stop a small amount of remorse from flowing through him at that comment, because no matter what Harken might trick himself into believing, his first light was one of anger at the fire pillar, because of what he had pushed what he had called his friend into. The negative emotion that Harken had so resolutely stood against had been what had showed his magnificence to the world.
“Tonight, you will rest, but tomorrow, that will be the dawn of our reckoning,” Niselt grinned forcing his way through the guilt that nipped at his heart. He looked up at the floating city above them, his hatred of it overtaking the triumphant grin. “And together, we will bring that disgusting sight down to the ground.”
Harken’s eyes flashed a rich violet for a moment, and he looked over at Niselt, his hands curling into a fist. He was of half a mind to take a swing just to purely vent and get rid of the welling feeling inside of him, but pushed the feelings away. Instead another one took over, one that felt much worse.
“This is going to be interesting.”