Arc 2 – Swing
Ch. 6 – Hans Lockhart
He endlessly swung a worn-out practice axe, parading himself around a chipped wooden pole.
Deep inside a desolate rainforest in the outskirts of his hometown, the teen practiced.
With the snapping of branches and crackling of leaves below his feet, he kept following the flow of his own rhythm. Swinging the shabby wooden stick he called an axe.
The only soul around, his master, observed his every movement with a glare.
“Don’t lift yer axe too much, else you’ll be full of openings!” The old man threw an acorn at the teen’s head. “The next one’ll be the size of yer head!”
The teen winced, but pressed on. “Yes, master!”
That had been their daily schedule since a certain child had begged for training. Oh, how many times the old man had refused the kiddo’s request? He had lost count.
The brat had followed him around everywhere, be it at the tavern he frequently hung around, or even at the door of his own run-down hut. He had to admire such passion, at least.
Finally, he had lost his patience. “Stop following me brat! Yer momma must be worried about you tryin’ to meet an old weirdo like me.”
“I… It doesn’t matter!” The kiddo had made a bitter face he knew very well. “She… They aren’t here to tell me what to do!”
He sighed. “Why are ya following me again?”
“To teach me how to use an axe!” That brat had probably seen him beating the shit out of some goons recently. A couple of cases came to mind, especially one when a bunch of idiots had spilled booze all over him.
“Yeah… That won’t help ya in this beast-filled world,” the old man kept glaring at the kid. “Ya need more than just a piece of metal to survive in this world, kiddo.”
“Then… Then teach me the ‘more’!” The kid gripped the old man’s clothes. “I won’t leave you until you teach me!”
This brat… Haaah… I’m too old for this shit.
“Whatever,” the old man glanced at the stubborn brat. “Tomorrow, when the sun rises, find me at the tavern,” he patted the kid’s head.
“Eh? Really?!” The kid’s eyes lit up.
“Yeah. Now stop begging for a teacher, will ya?” The old man tried not to chuckle a bit at the brat’s quick mood switch.
And since then, every single day was filled with sweat-drenching, muscle-tearing training, building the scrawny brat into a sturdy man.
Recalling these memories, the teen’s master approached his hard-working disciple. “Can ya stop for a moment?”
With a nod, the boy followed his master into the forest, to the path they always used to go back to the village.
Though, no matter how many times he’d go through the same path every day, nothing would take the light sparkling from his eyes when he beheld such natural beauty.
The intense scent of the wild impregnated the air.
Looking around he saw an apple tree, with leaves so green they rivaled the most expensive jade. He swore he could taste the dangling apple, so red it threatened to fall.
But steeling himself, he kept following his master.
Birds chirped the liveliest melody he ever heard; a Rhapsody of nature.
Reaching a worn-out wooden cart, the old man took out a black box the size of the teen’s arm out of wrapped cloth. “We never really talked about ya, right kiddo?”
“Huh?” He tilted his head.
“I just trained ya wit’out askin’ why ya begged me to do so,” the old master slid his hand across the smooth, neat surface of the box. “So answer honestly.”
“Why did ya beg me to teach ya?”
“Just spill the beans, will ya?”
“I wanted… want to protect.” Oh, how many times had the old man heard those exact same words from naïve kids, aspiring to become something greater, and even knights who died without accomplishing a even a shred of what they had dreamed of.
Those words that used to carry a heavy weight back in his day now meant a barren promise: words of empty bravery.
But even then, were those fiery eyes he saw really empty on the inside? Had he not glimpsed at the boy’s grit and pain behind those eyes? And what about that nostalgic emotion he had felt when he looked into the kid’s eyes? It wasn’t bland at all, no, there was a fire of grief in him, a child’s honest wish to protect.
“Who will ya protect? The impoverished? The weak?” No matter how great a person is or how strong a knight is, one person could not have the power to protect everyone.
“I’d like to, but… that’s not it.”
The elder cocked his brow.
“I want to protect my family.”
Selfish and simple-minded, yet he couldn’t bring himself to extinguish such wish. A family is a person’s greatest support, be it a normal family or a group of close friends.
What could have brought such a child to him to learn how to use a weapon? Why had the child sought for someone as boorish as him? Those were questions that surfaced the old man’s mind, but he dared not speak them.
“I see,” The old man hesitated for a moment. “Kid… Hans.”
“Eh?!” For the first time since they began training together, the old man had called the kid for his own name.
“Calm down, will ya?” The old man hand-chopped Hans’ head. “So Hans, don’t stray from yer motives, else you’ll become a boneless man, an old fart like me.”
“Al… Alright!” He rubbed his head where it was hit.
“And…” His master handed him the box. “Take it. It’s yours.”
Hans picked up the box. In contrast with everything he’d seen the old man have, it was well-maintained. No scratches, rips, chips—nothing. “For me?”
“Yeah. Take a look.”
He opened the dark box, only to find a one-handed axe. The double-edged blade was black like no other axe he’d seen in or around the village. Moreover, the handle was a dark-mahogany and smooth, yet he could keep a strong grip on it.
“I know, amazing right?” The old man chuckled. “Now, use it to protect who ya can.”
“Th… Thank you!” He took the axe out of the box, swinging it a few times to get a feel for it. It was heavier than the custom wood stick he used.
“Now,” his master called. “What are we waitin’ for? That wooden pole needs a beatin’, doesn’t it?”
Hans kicked the ground with gusto, brandishing his axe with a firm grip. Navi wasn’t there with him, or anyone that could help him win this battle against the Golibra.
The beast, distracted by the hypnotizing scent of flesh, kept mauling the guide’s corpse, eating whatever remained from her mutilated body. It didn’t, however, notice the knight’s approach.
In one strong swing, his obsidian axe cut smoothly across the beast’s back. Blood began to waterfall out of the slash as the now lifeless corpse of the beast crashed down on the ground—
“GrwaAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!” Or that’s what should’ve happened.
In one violent swoop, the beast grabbed the guide’s remains and threw it at Hans, who swiftly dodged the corpse while analyzing a way to fight that beast.
He didn’t know her that much, and he was used to this kind of brutal scenario, but his stomach was twisted nonetheless.
As the sounds of flesh and bone splattering on the ground reached his ears, he clutched his axe and swung it across the floor, hurling a heap of white metal at the beast.
His axe was strong. He had faith in it and everything it entailed.
The lumps of debris hit the beast, but the livid Golibra stomped towards the knight, using its bloodied hands as boosts.
Hans side-stepped with every fiber of his being, trying to escape the lightning-quick grasp of that Golibra.
The beast yanked one of the knight’s greaves to the other side of the room, leaving a shallow slice across the knight’s shin.
“Grhoof!” Hans slammed the beast, creating distance between them.
Argh, it hurts!
The cut, albeit shallow, was right across his shin. He could still run, but his stance was damaged.
Thick liquid dripped down to the floor, staining his clothes and armor with crimson. He had no time to stop the bleeding.
If he didn’t attack before the beast, he wouldn’t be able to defend himself. It was his best and only chance.
With one decisive stride, he ran towards the Golibra, ignoring the cries of pain his leg sent him.
In one determined strike, the unprepared beast’s chest was stabbed. However, the axe refused to leave its target’s body, stuck in between thick muscles.
“AARGHH!!” The knight’s arm was ripped apart from his body effortlessly and thrown to the side. Blood burst from the new hole in his body.
If he didn’t fight back fast, he would soon join the guide and become that monster’s next meal.
But even while withstanding such agony, even while wanting to die with the sheer intensity of his own body’s torment, he didn’t give in.
If he lost against this monstrosity, what would become of the children he had to protect? While looking at them all, he couldn’t help but picture his siblings, happily learning more about this world filled with beasts.
And just imagining one of them mangled on the ground, limbs sprawled across the floor—he couldn’t even begin to describe the twisting agony he would go through, they would go through.
Losing an arm was nothing compared to losing his own siblings or losing his family. He swore to protect them. To himself, and to his dead mentor.
Luckily, his severed arm wasn’t his dominant one.
With one last struggle, with every single ounce of strength his bloodied-self had, he clenched his axe again. Veins popped out with the pure amount of strength he mustered.
“DIE, MONSTER!!” Filled with rage, he brought his axe down once more, ripping through every fiber of muscle of that fiend.
His weapon fell to the floor as warm blood cascaded out of the lifeless body of the monster. Its purple veins stopped pulsating, and their eerie glow subsided.
However, every bit of strength that the knight had dissipated.
With the last bit of conscience he had, he thought of his own family and how many times he had been able to save them.
He hoped the group of children would be able to escape.
Thank you so much for reading, and thank you Xaga for editing!
Sorry for the huge delay. I was extremely occupied this year’s end (travelling, being with family), and wasn’t able to write.
>Updates on Saturday’s<