Things were looking bad. The Duke had numerous injures but we had lot the majority of our fighting force. Kirk was still standing but I could see that his quiver was almost empty. Elizabeth was also still capable but without her bow she wouldn’t be as much help. Alfred was staggering to his feet but I could tell that he didn’t have much fight left in him.
The Duke began to turn toward them. He was probably wanting to remove the weakest links so that I got no more assistance.
“WAIT” I commanded. He turned around to look at me. I could tell that he wasn’t obeying and instead he might have just be surprised. I continued, “Everyone else is defeated. It is just you and me now. One final dual.”
“Oh? Is that what you want? I will humor you but know that I will kill all of them in front of your dying body so you will know that you have failed completely.”
I lifted the knife and saw the blood that had coated it. Then I threw it to one side where it clattered to the floor. “I’m going to kill you with my bare hands for threatening them.”
“Big words for a small girl. You are just pretending to have power. I will crush you.”
“Wait no, don’t do this.” I could hear Kirk crying out.
I glared at him, “NO, LEAVE. YOU DO NOT HAVE THE STRENGTH TO INTERFERE.” I yelled at him, pushing my command into every word. His face was shocked then it changed distorting and then became calm. He understood what I wanted. He nodded and turned away running toward the exit of the building.
The Duke spoke, “He will not be able to run far enough. Once I am done here I will hunt him down and kill him.”
“You will not live long enough to do that.” I reached down placing one hand on the ground. I could not transform in the same way that Yaju could but I could still feel the instinctual, the beastial way of fighting. Normal humans may have forgotten it, escaped to reach toward the sky but I could feel it in all my limbs. With this style of fighting a knife would only be a hindrance.
I made the first move running toward the Duke using all four of my legs. I couldn’t managed the full claws that Yaju did but most hunters could make their hand and fingers into deadly weapons. I clawed at him but his movements were too fast. With no other distractions my attacks seemed like nothing more than an irritation for him. He was easily able to dodge my attacks.
“Is this all you have?” He said as he swung one of his arms at me. It hurt like a truck. I had managed to pull back at the last moment reducing the strength of this swing but it was still painful. It slide me back but I used that opportunity to latch onto his arm and rack my fingers into it.
He pulled back and I could see bloody lines on his arm. However he seemed unperturbed. “You are all so weak. You have all these opportunities to harm me but you never manage to be more than a minor annoyance. Even with your strongest attack you would never be able to kill me.”
I only growled at him and lunged again. However this time he didn’t move. I brought my fingers together to pierce his chest. He still didn’t move and my blow connected successfully. Blood spray but instead of being stunned the Duke grasped me with his arms and pulled me to his chest beginning to crush me with his strength.
“I even left you hit me and that was the best that you could do. Pathetic. You plans, your friends, you commands, all pointless. Without true power everything else is just useless attempts to delay the inevitable.”
I coughed and there was blood in my mouth. However I managed to mutter, “Not pointless.”
“What? I can’t hear you.” He Duke took the time to release his grip and toss me across the room. I barely had the strength to cushion the blow so that it wouldn’t kill me.
With what resolve I could muster I began to stand. I staggered a little bit but finally managed to make it to my feet. Once I did that I stared down at the Duke and said again, “Not pointless.”
With large booming steps he lumbered toward me ominously. “What wasn’t pointless?”
“My commands, none of them were pointless.”
He stepped right in front of my and with pulled back his arm. “Then what point was there?” He slammed his fist into me. I had managed to bring up my arms to block but I could hear the cracking in my arms as my bones broke.
It pushed me back into a pillar and I slumped. The pain was incredible but still I stubbled to stay conscious. I smiled, everything was reaching the final stages. Through bloody breaths I rasped, “All the point in the world. I have already beaten you.”
He stepped forward and grabbed my hair in one of his meaty hands. He pulled it back forcing my head up. We stared reach other in the eyes. Finally he spoke. “Beat me. Fool. All you have done is kill yourself.”
“Look behind you.” Was all I could mutter but I managed to keep my smile up.
Still holding my hair he turned around looking backward at the ruined room. There was nothing there. My fingers twitched and I felt the think I had know would be there. I held it with all the remaining strength I had.
“If you are seeing anything then it is the specter of your death.” Said the Duke as he turned back to face me. Then I lifted my arm and slammed the knife directly into the Beast’s eye as hard as I could. He bellowed loud and it felt like the entire structure vibrated. He fell back in pain grasping at his eye.
I had thrust it as hard as I could but with the strength I had left I hadn’t manage to pierce his skull and kill him, a pity. I crawled backward getting out of the way of his flailing. “YOU, YOU, YOU.” The Duke screamed in pain and anger.
He pulled the knife out of his eye and held one of his hands against the wound. He stomped toward me raising his other hand it what would certainly be a fatal blow. I smile again and said, “Behind you.”
“YOU WON’T FOOL ME AGAIN! DIE!” However just as he was able to crush me with his fist blood erupted from his chest. I could see claws and golden fur protruding from the wound.
I managed to continue the smile as I said, “See, I told you. My commands are never pointless.” Then all the strength I had managed to use ran out and I collapsed, falling into unconsciousness.
Yaju - Fallout
I pulled my arm out of the back of the Duke. The creature turned around for only for a moment with a look of shock on his face. Then it collapsed. The building shuddered again as it his the floor blood pooling around it.
Then I stumbled. The fuzziness in my head and body return. Kirk grabbed me and held me preventing me from falling like the beast just did. It had been quite a chore to get here. I had been being care for in an building a ways away by another Hunter who had been only a little less injured than the others. I had been drifting in and out of unconsciousness while trying to fight off the poison.
When Kirk had arrived he had urgently told me that Rika needed my help fighting the Duke. The chance to fight the Duke was all the encouragement I needed. I managed to pull myself off the bed with only a little help from Kirk. Then with little more than a hobble I managed to stumble my way toward the battleground.
Just as I was about to enter the building I felt Kirk’s hand on my shoulder. “Not yet.” He said. “We need to wait for the right moment to attack.”
I growled at him, “I need to fight him.”
“If you fight him now you will lose, you know that. You need to wait for the right moment.”
I was angry but I nodded, “Then tell me when that is.” I knelt down, still fuzzy and exhausted from the poison that continued to ravage my system. I stayed there and waited for when Kirk told me to attack.
Now I stood over the corpse of the Duke. It was not the fight I had wanted, Rika had that fight and I lay on the ground in Kirk’s hands I felt jealous of her and frustrated that I had failed that first battle against the reptile beast.
Eventually I remember being carried out of that building. I remember seeing the sky looking up at it. I was free from that cell that had caged me most of my life but I still felt trapped. I was trapped by my own weakness, I had the power but not the capability to use it. I kept getting blinded by my own instincts. Only at times like this when I was literally helpless was I able to calmly contemplate.
I could still feel the blood on my are and exhilaration I felt when I slammed my arm through the Duke’s chest. For once I was feeling hesitation and uncertainty about what I had done. I had killed beasts before but the two noble beasts I had killed today felt wrong, like I had been killing family.
There was dreams filled with blood and death. In them I was surrounded by the creatures that I had killed. I fought Beast after Beast and each one died to my claws. Then the reptile Beast. I fought him and after that I fought the Duke. As I killed him I wondered if they had names, what did they call each other. I had never bothered to find out.
After the Duke fell in the dream I turned and saw Rika standing there in front of me. It was the same as each of the Beasts that had come before her. Behind her like he was waiting in line was Kirk. I rushed Rika and just as my claws began to pierce her flesh I woke.
I found myself lying in a bed wrapped in bandages. My body was still in pain but there was no longer the burning sensation of the poison filling me. Through the aching I managed to sit up.
“Oh, It looks like you’ve woken up.” Came a familiar voice. I turned to see Rika sitting in a nearby bed. She was holding a book which she had in her lap with a finger saving her place. “How are you feeling?” She asked.
I groaned but finally managed to make intelligible words, “Better then somebody with a cast on one of her arms.”
Rika looked down at the arm which was not holding the book. It had a thick cast on it and was being held up by some straps. Rika forced a smile, “Well my arm is practically the healthiest part of me. Apparently I had to undergo surgery because one of my lungs had been punctured by my fractured ribs. The doctors say that had I not been a Hunter I probably would have died before doctors were even able to reach me. Even then they said I am lucky to have survived.”
“Well then you look great considering.” I said, “I’m surprised you recovered as fast as you did.” I looked around the room. It was a small hospital room with only the two beds that we were in. We were both hooked up to some medical equipment that was probably helpful in some way.