As the morning sun began to rise, the forest became illuminated with beams of light, making it much easier to navigate. We run together, but I wouldn’t call it a real formation, as we have no coordinated plan. Despite being the last to make a move, I easily catch up to the others and take the lead.
Screech! We hear the sound come from our right, high above the trees. Before we have time to react, the Feral jumps down, directly into our path. It’s red eyes glow brightly in the early dawn. “Well hello ugly.” Nik taunts it, causing it to snarl and fixate on him. It’s body edges forward, it’s going to attack.
“I’m not so sure it was a good idea to provoke it like that Nik, it looks really vicious.” Lili cautions nervously. No sooner than she said it, the Feral pounces, aiming directly for Nik, who blocks its blow.
As he jumps back to give himself some distance, smugly he replies, “That’s what I’m hoping for, won’t be much fun without a challenge.” He grabs his bow from his back and rather than go straight for the arrows as one might think, he turns it horizontally such that it looks more like a crossbow. As the Feral comes for him again, he shoots off a quick succession of bolts, which pierce the Feral, causing it to roar in pain. While it’s reeling in pain, Nik takes the opportunity to load up an arrow and shoot, aiming right for its heart. However, this arrow is no normal arrow, but one imbued with his demonic force, in the form of fire, which surrounds that arrow and sears the Feral after it’s been pierced. It falls to the ground.
“Hey come on Nik, you gotta leave me something to do. This is a paired battle remember?”
Wearing a smug grin, he replies, “I’m leaving the finishing blow to you Guns, you should do it quickly.”
Just as he says this, the Feral, writhing in pain, enters an enraged frenzy and finds the strength to stand. With a growl that shakes the trees, it bounds for Nik, but unlike previously, he doesn’t make an attempt to counter. “Hey, are you just going to stand there and get yourself killed? Do something you idiot!”
Mai shouts at him in anger and maybe a bit of fear and right before the Feral makes contact, she reaches for her Katana, but before she can unsheathe it, something whizzes past and strikes the Feral, leaving it with a gaping hole in its heart. It staggers and makes weak snarls, but doesn’t attempt to attack. It’s done for, but Gunther decides not to leave anything to chance. “I’m not done yet you freak!” He charges at the feral, spinning his Warhammer above his head, as earth pellets are pumped out of the slot in the middle of each hammer head, sending a barrage of the pellets at the Feral and making it fall. With a final effort, he jumps up just before he reaches it and with both hands securely wrapped around the middle of the hammer’s handle, he thrusts one side down with full force, smashing its head like a grape. Savage.
As Gunther catches his breath, Nik pats his shoulder with a smile. “That’s the way Guns, good job.”
Gunther smiles weakly, his eyes full of remorse. “Thanks, but I still hate having to kill, even if they are Ferals.” Gunther definitely has a heart of gold, which we all admire, but as he just proved, despite his passive nature, he’ll do what he has to do to protect his friends, something we also admire about him.
Mai turns to Nik and with a frown shouts, “What’s wrong with you? Do you know how reckless that was? Not only did you put yourself in danger, but possibly us too. Don’t you ever think of others?”
Nik is immediately defensive. “I knew what I was doing! I had him right where I wanted him and if I needed to I could’ve deflected, but I trusted Guns to take care of it, and he did. I actually give my partner moments to shine unlike you who totally takes over all for the sake of “protecting” yours.”
Mai clenches her fists and takes a step forward. “I give my partner plenty of chances thank you, but if things get intense, yes I do take over, but not to have control, but to keep us safe and keep Lili from having to take unnecessary risks. We work just fine together and it always proves successful for us.”
“Yea?” Nik puts on a sinister grin. “Well, looks like it’s your chance to prove it then.” He points up.
“Huh?” Just a Mai turns around, we all see a Second Feral springing from the trees and gunning straight for Lili, who screams out. Frozen in fear, Lili is unable to reach for her scythe, choosing to guard.
I prepare for a takedown, but just as I start to charge and as the Feral’s claws near Lili’s neck, a loud clang sound resonates through the area, resulting from the impact between Mai’s Katana blade and the Feral’s claws, which are as strong as steel. “Ma-, Mai!” Lili is in tears, shocked by Mai’s sudden save.
Mai gives her a reassuring smile. “I’ve got you covered Li Li.” With a burning rage, she focuses her attention back on to the Feral, her eyes seeming to burn more brightly than the Feral’s himself. She thrusts forward, knocking the Feral back a few steps, allowing her to draw out her second Katana blade. “How dare you go after my partner you dirty scum! You will not be forgiven!” Wasting no more time on words, she takes off running, her blades angled at the Feral from her sides. As she runs, the blade develops a gleam and I immediately realize what’s happening. That Feral is done for ten times over.
“Oh boy, you did it now you dumb Feral. You’re about to get wrecked!” Nik laughs, enjoying it all.
Only a few feet away from it, Mai jumps up into a spin swipe attack, leading to multiple ice shards shooting off the blades and into the Feral, impaling it all over. As she begins to descend, she angles herself so that as she lands, her icy blades slice through the Feral, right down the middle, splitting it.
As the Feral collapses to the ground, Mai stands in a fierce pose, with her blades at her sides. I finally understand why Lili always calls her a prince, she sure as hell fights like one, making all the boys and girls swoon. I’m not ashamed to admit it, she’s easily the strongest fighter of us all and I’m the demon.
As Mai sheathes her blades, Lili shakily walks over to her and falls into her chest, wrapping her arms around her back as she cries like a child. “Mai, I’m, I’m sorry. I was…I was useless once again. You always have to protect me. I, I-.” She tries to talk through the sniffles but fails, continuing to cry.
Mai immediately loses her angry face and smiles tenderly at Lili as she holds her against her chest. “Don’t be silly Lili, you’re very strong and capable, we all know that from seeing you battle in our normal training exercise. However, fighting these things out here are not the same and it’s only natural you’d get scared, we all do, even me. However, it's because you’re here that I can overcome my fear and fight my hardest so that you don’t have to. I don’t want you to be in danger if you don’t have to be.”
“I’m tired of always needing to be protected! I want to fight these things just like everyone else. I want to be strong like you Mai. Will you teach me how to do that? How to not be afraid?” She looks up.
“Of course I can, but it’s not the skills you need Lili, it’s the confidence. Either way, I will help you.”
Lili smiles and snuggles into Mai’s chest. Mai smiles and a faint blush can be seen on her cheek. However, their sweet moment is quickly cut off when the third Feral jumps out from the trees directly above them and is falling down so quickly, even Mai has no time to react. I, however, seeing it before anyone else, had plenty of time to eject my hidden Sai knife blades from my gantlets and stab them right into the Feral’s back as I hoist myself up to meet him, ending with a body slam onto the ground.
It cries out in agony, but that blow was nothing more than a scratch to it and it quickly bucks me and my Sai blades off of it and hops back. I easily land on my feet and position myself to charge at him again.
“Holy shit! I didn’t even see that one. This looks like a real vicious one and bigger too. How unfair.”
I know this isn’t the best time for jokes, but when Nik makes perfect comments like those, I can’t help but take advantage. “Sorry Nik, but it’s for the best. Even you wouldn’t be able to handle one this big.”
Gunther snickers and even Mai lets a little smile slip though the joke seems to be lost on Lili. Nik just nods his head, acknowledging my quality jab. “Alright, I’ll give you that one, it’s my fault for leaving it wide open for you. Though I don’t think you have time to be making jokes when that is about to literally be up your ass in a minute if you don’t start fighting it. Let’s see how big you can handle it.” He smirks and I just grin, satisfied by his quality comeback. I finally give the Feral my undivided attention.
It charges me and ready for it, I easily dodge it slash and give it one of my own, swiping at its face and leaving a nasty claw gash, making it roar in pain and anger. “Guess that didn’t feel so good did it?” It charges again, but this time at twice the speed and unlike the other two, it’s logical enough to utilize its powers, it’s claws holding a flame brighter than the sun. I narrowly dodge as it slashes at my neck.
“Bringing out the big guns now, I see. I was wondering if any of you pea brains would be sensible enough to use your powers, but even with all of that, it won’t be enough to save you. Not with my powers.” I light up my Sais to match its flames, but I add my personal touch to make more of an impact. I stab it right through its chest with my right hand and slash through its flesh with my left, shocking it with bolts of electricity as I do. You see, I have the ability to control the higher order elements that utilize the basic elements as their base. In this case, fire leads to lightening and so I’m burning and shocking it at the same time. It feels the impact from that one and roars, falling to its knees.
“Yea! You got this Noah. Now finish him and show him who’s boss so we can go back and eat.”
“Only a fat ass like you would think of eating at a time like this Nik. You seriously shoul-.”
“Noah watch out!” I’m interrupted by Lili’s sudden warning. I was looking at them to my right, but then I quickly look forward thinking that my Feral has somehow found a way to attack me again, but I see it’s still reeling from the pain of my Sais in its chest. However, the actual danger was coming from behind me, but I realized it too late. I feel a sharp pain surge through my shoulder, down my arm.
“Ahhhhhh!” I turn my head around to see a Feral sinking its teeth into the meat of my shoulder. Is it another one? Tahno only told us there were three! But then I notice the jagged line down its center and realize that it’s not a different one, it’s the Feral that Mai had spit. However, it would appear she didn’t manage to slice through his heart, which is required to kill them. If you don’t they just heal themselves.
I continue to cry out in pain, as the Feral behind me latches on even tighter, making it impossible for me to get him off while I still have my hands in the other one’s chest. Knowing this, it grins and then impales me right through my back and claws down through it. As I arch back in pain, the other Feral takes the opportunity to use its claws to impale me from the front, making me completely trapped.
Everyone is silent, effectively stunned at everything that just happened within seconds, but then Mai snaps out of it and gets into her crisis mode. “Stop standing around, we have to get them off of him!”
Her call shakes everyone out of their stupor and into action. They all withdraw their weapons and attack the Ferals with a vengeance, setting off what was probably an awesome light show of elements.
“Ah!” I cry out again as the Ferals withdraw their claws and teeth from me, turning on the others as they attack. I hear the clang of their weapons, the impact of rocks and ice against their bodies and the singe of fire accompanied by strong gusts of wind against their skin. Everyone is going in, probably for the first time as a group. However, I’m face down on the ground unable to move a muscle and in so much pain, I don’t think I can register it anymore. I can feel the wetness of my blood pooling under me. Am I going to die? Is this really how I’m going to go? I almost feel relieved, feeling the desire to just let go. Then I could be with my mom and Caleb, my big brother again. I can’t help but laugh to myself at the irony. I’m going to die bleeding out after a Feral ravaged me, just like they did. Maybe I deserve this after all.
The battle seems to have come to an end, as the final shriek of the last Feral is heard. Immediately after I hear Nik’s voice. “I think they’re actually dead this time, good riddance. But Noah…is he….”
“He’s, he’s not moving! There’s a lot of blood too! I think he’s really hurt!” Lili cries out.
“He should be ok right? I mean, he’s a demon? He should be able to just heal right?” Gunther is worried.
“He should, but he got so much damage at once, it’s possible that it may have been too much…Anyway, we have to get Tahno immediately. I’m sure he’d know a way to help him. I’ll go-.”
“Ah!” I let out a cry of pain as my body seems to jerk. I suddenly feel really weird, as though my body is shifting around inside. I feel myself starting to get really hot and I start to feel myself morphing. I finally realize what’s happening, I’m transforming into my demon form. Not the half-baked version like I had this morning with my nightmare, but into my full-fledged demon form, something I haven’t done in a really long time. I don’t remember the specifics well, but I know it wasn’t a good thing at all.
“Noah?” Lili’s voice sounds closer, as though she’s moving towards me. “Are you ok?”
“Ah!” My body starts to jerk more rapidly and I hear my bones as they start to break and reform. “No! Stay back! Don’t, Ah! Don’t come any closer. Ah! Get away from me! Ah! All of you! Ahhhhhh!”
“Noah, what’s happening to you? Here, let me try healing you. I’ve been getting a lesson on it. I-.”
“No! Stay away!” My body shifts and convulses and reaches the peak of the transformation and I finally feel my face change and all I can see from my eyes is red. “Rarrr!” I growl and snarl as I get on my feet.
“Noah?” I can hear Lili’s sweet voice call out to me, but all I think of is her neck pulsing with blood.
“Lili, get back!” Mai runs to her and pulls her out of the way just as my claws swipe for her. I know these are my friends and I don’t want to hurt them, but I can’t control myself. I’ve never felt hungrier.
“Woah Noah chill! That’s Lili you’re attacking there. Don’t lose yourself to a demon like that, even if it is your own. You’re stronger than that.” He tries to sound encouraging, but I can see the fear in his eyes.
I know somewhere deep down that I shouldn’t, but the pull is just so strong and suddenly, I’m no longer myself. I’m taken over by something else, a side of myself I’ve never really known before now. It’s terrifying, but it also feels extremely exhilarating and I’m ashamed to admit that I like it. I feel as though I’ve finally lifted the restraint off myself and am truly free. Free to do whatever I want and right now, my mind is telling me I want meat and so I fixate on the four meat sticks I see right in front of me.
“Run!” Mai shouts and then grabs Lili’s hand, making her way for the woods.
“Mai wait, we should try and help him. He won’t hurt us; he’s still Noah isn’t he?”
“I don’t think he’s Noah right now Lili, he’s like a totally different being at the moment.”
“Even if that’s true Nik, shouldn’t we still try to help him? I hear Gunther’s voice as I watch my prey run off into the woods. They can run, but they can’t get away. I chase after them and catch up in no time.
“Shit! He’s already on our tails. We might have to split up. Where the hell is Tahno?” Nik throws a fireball my way, hoping to deter me no doubt, but that won’t work on me. “Dammit Noah, I don’t want to hurt you, but if you keep chasing us like this I may have to. Come back to your senses already!
“Reasoning with him isn’t going to help us right now Nik, that’s not Noah at the moment, so reasoning won’t work. We need to counterattack him, it’s the only way we’re going to get out alive.”
“But Mai, if we attack him, it’ll hurt. Even if he’s out of it, can we really attack Noah? He’s our friend and our leader. I don’t think it’d be right. I don’t want to!”
“But what else can we do Lili, if we don’t then we’ll die!”
“Mai, I agree with you, but also Lili too. There’s gotta be a way to stop him without attacking right?”
“There certainly is Gunther, but I’m afraid it’s still gonna hurt him.” Tahno jumps out from the trees and lands in front of me, making me stop. The others stop as well, to observe what Tahno has planned. I snarl at him and he grins at me with a smug look. This seems somehow familiar, perhaps we were face to face like this before way back when. I lunge at him, unable to control my urge, but he doesn’t attack. Instead, he holds up some sort of controller device and clicks the button. I suddenly feel electricity coursing through my veins and into my brain which feels like it’s being fried. Slowly my vision gets hazy, causing me to fall to my knees in pain and after a while, everything goes black and there is calm.