Arc 2 – Swing
Ch. 5 – Head
I could only see a dark emptiness, devoid of colors and sounds.
“Where am I?” I couldn’t hear my own voice.
I drifted across this void, searching for something, anything.
“Am I dead?” My tart and cold words didn’t reach me, but the looming fear did.
I’ll bring you to safety, I promise!—
A sudden spark expanded from the depths of the shadows. A burst of light enveloped the dark, twirling around me in a lukewarm hug. The cold gloom burnt under the light, turning pristine.
Warmth engulfed me as the world began to form.
Shapes built themselves from the ground up, sounds composing from the base notes. Warm and cold colors filled the empty palette of form.
Yet the impending fear of death never left.
My feet were thrown onto the ground. I almost fell. “Where am I?”
“I’m not… sure,” the knight gaped for air. “While casting Nevi’s teleportation, something… hit me on the stomach.”
I looked around. Only a few gems illuminated the gloomy room, giving the cages huge shadows, covering whatever was inside them.
“Does it matter where we are?” Rick said. “We need to get out of here, and quick!”
The guide shook her head. “It does matter. Since the Bestiary has a circular structure, it was devised that the most dangerous beasts would reside near the center, in order to have more protection against a possible breakout,” she grimaced. “We could be anywhere!”
“So the best option is waiting?” I said.
“I think so—”
“Tch,” Rick grunted.
“Well,” the knight’s erratic breathing dimmed down; in his eyes, a resolute glimmer. ”In this situation, we can’t do anything but wait for reinforcements. It’s too risky to get out of here, and we barely have light,” he sighed. “Something influenced the gems. They shouldn’t stop shining so abruptly.”
“Do you think it was one of the mythical-typed beasts?” The guide said.
“Probably, but I’m not sure,” the knight looked at the 19 jittery students, including me. “I know it’s hard, but calm down. Losing control over your own fears is the downfall of men.”
I will take those words to heart, I swore to myself.
The image of that underground cave was engraved in me. Countless times I’d shoved the words “I’m not scared” down my throat, hoping that fear wouldn’t overtake me.
But in the end, I didn’t do anything—I couldn’t.
A child couldn’t fight against a Leo King, or against a Minotaur. Such thought was ridiculous!
Even if I knew these things, this little irrational voice kept stabbing me with needles, telling me that I was crestless junk.
Oh, how great it would be to have a Crest!
This dream was a poison that painted my life in green. I couldn’t stop this acid envy from growing inside me, no matter how much I tried.
If I’d gave in to panic back inside the cave, I wouldn’t be able to live with myself. Pity, this sick euphemism, was something I didn’t want to feel. There’s a limit to how low you can sink.
My mourning came to an abrupt end. A small noise reached our ears before silence fell upon us once more.
“Shh…” The knight gripped his ax tightly, motioning us to keep silent.
It was closer to us, whatever it was.
“AHHGH—!!” A blood-curdling scream assaulted our ears, ending in a loud crackle.
Thick crimson liquid spurted across the floor, oozing toward us and staining our shoes. I slowly turned my head around and peered into the gloom. A continuous gnawing echoed throughout the room.
“Don’t separate from each other, I’ll get you out of here!” The knight’s palms began to emit a puff of dark smoke.
But out of the shadows, a bulky hand emerged, covered in blood-stained silver fur. In its grip dangled a round figure.
“A-AHHHHHHHH!!!!” One of my classmates screamed.
I stopped thinking. The putrid dread I’ve felt years ago came back to haunt me. Sickening memories began to play inside my head as I fell on my butt.
“N-no… No!” I don’t want to be reminded! “Stop it!”
“If you find a place to hide, do it! Do not engage with any beasts you find, and wait until Nevi arrives with reinforcement!” the knight said desperately as the pitch-smoke began to shroud us.
However, what I saw next etched itself into my mind.
Countless violet veins began to shine outside of its body, allowing us to identify the monstrosity hidden in the shadows.
A gigantic ape double my size leered at us with its amethyst eyes. Its mouth was smeared red, and he let go of the round figure—the guide’s beheaded skull, plastered with blood.
Before I could puke, the knight’s mist finally whisked us away from that room.
The knight staggered. He couldn’t conjure any more magic, but he’d managed to save the children, at least for now.
If only Nevi could come back in time would he be able to fix this whole situation quickly. But his order was clear, “search for reinforcements”.
His ax was the only weapon he could wield, the only thing in his hands that could ensure his survival.
This dire situation wasn’t natural by any means. Golibras are omnivorous, but they generally prefer being herbivorous. Killing and eating a human was an extremely rare occurrence.
Being a chimera of two normal animals, a gorilla and a lizard, they tend to have a very prideful nature, but that didn’t mean they were aggressive. They were just hot-headed.
The knight observed that beast, analyzing any patterns he could use in order to win this battle. The golibra was still munching on the guide, eating any and everything he could find on the carcass.
Another thing struck him oddly, though.
Purple veins kept pulsating along Golibra’s body, from head to toe. Its eyes, usually onyx, shone in amethyst.
He remembered that a couple of weeks ago, a village nearing the border had the same issue. A Leo King with the same purple veins chased a child around the forest, eventually disappearing for one entire day.
Crimson managed to defeat it, bringing its charred remains to the governor’s office. The child survived, thankfully.
Something was definitely not right. That was plain as day.
If he didn’t fight, the Golibra would run amok, killing whatever person it might find in the way.
And if he fought carefully, he could kill the beast. However, one little mistake, one miscalculated action would cost him his life.
He clutched his ax, aiming it at the Golibra.
For the children…
With an unwavering fire in his eyes, he strode forward.
I will not let him past me!
Thank you for reading, and thank you for editing, Xaga!
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