Like a tornado, Julius parts the wind and stirs dirt and debris up the dimming afternoon sky as he rushes toward the square with little regard of my striding footsteps and heavy breathing – the jerk just goes off and leaves me lagging in the dust.
Unwilling as I am to comply to his additional training regimen of running, I run my best to catch up with him, enduring exhaustion as I drag along with me an additional burden, the killer bat junior. I curse his name, his ancestors, and the saints, and the gods, all under my miserable heavy breathing just to keep up. Just after the sun has set, I eventually reach the square, dragging my feet in the dirt – I think my soles are bruised!
I thrust the bat in the soil and hold onto it, resting my weight as I catch my breath. I look left and right, surprised by all the festivity – the square is populated with men of all different shapes and sizes, all armed with sticks, pitchforks, spears, and torches. In fact, there’s so many of them that every corner of the place is lit well with their hand lanterns – I never knew that the quiet town of Solus had much people.
The dancing shadows of figures obscure my vision, making it difficult for me to see far ahead. Only the disturbance, the stiffened silence of the crowd a few paces ahead reveals the obvious. Shouldering his massive spiked bat, the VIP parts the crowd, walking impressionably in the midst surrounded by armor clad men of great stature. As he walks past the stiffened crowd, he casually chats with his imposing guests. Unfair, there is no way I can approach him like that!
“Linus, here!” Lina gestures with the finger, ‘come here’.
“Wait a second!” Looking at a suspicious individual, I give her the palm, gesturing ‘wait.’
Running, the man pulls on his blackened hood to keep it from being blown away by the wind – the piece of cloth as well as the darkness of the night hides his face well. He reaches to Julius’ ear, whispering something that transforms his usual calm expression into a serious one – dad knits his eyebrows, narrows his eyes, and pets the wrinkles on his forehead. Raising his knees higher and higher with each step, he hurries his pace towards the center of the square, the platform.
“OUCH!” The madam pinches and pulls on my stinging ear, dragging me away from the crowd.
“Mommy, let go!” She lets go of the ear.
“Guardians of the Blue Lagoon, that’s who they are. They are your father’s most trusted men. He won the River Kingdom’s Championships with them.” Not waiting to be asked, she answers my question. An intuition, perhaps?
Smiling, she looks at my face and pats my head, slowly and softly caressing my hair. Her pale skin glows radiantly to the soft ambient light of the hand lanterns, and her palm, so smooth and warm – they calm me down. I hold to her, tightly embracing her, not wanting to waste the precious moment, the comfort.
“It’s hot. Babe, will you let go now?” She lays her hands down my shoulder and gently pushes me away.
“Sorry!” I reflexively jump back. My face pales and a red skinned devil pops out in a cloud, sniggering at my actions. Bad thoughts go away!
At once, all the mumbling, chattering, and merry talk cease. It’s so quiet that even the faintest drop of a needle can be heard.
In the middle of the square, Julius, together with his burly armor clad fellows, walks on the platform, bringing a serious atmosphere. In the middle of the platform, he halts and drops the spike bat perpendicularly to the ground, resting his hands on it. He then silently scans the tense crowd with his eyes, getting their attention.
“I hope you all don’t mind I call a gathering this late, Guardians of the Blue Lagoon! Our enemies and their evil never sleep, and so must we endure.
“This late afternoon, a scout of mine reported pirate activity close by. My scouts identified the intruders to be Papa Smith’s or the Pirate King’s men.
“It’s estimated they’ll strike if not tonight, tomorrow morning. This puts our village of Solus, families, and lives at risk. So I call on everyone to be vigilant.
“Men, on this platform, I have your commanders. They have the necessary information. I planned with them the capture of these belligerent fellows. Follow their commands. Dismissed!”
After stepping down the platform, Julius immediately busies himself, leading the troops in a march. With him walled in by numerous men, my chance of closing in to him is close to nil.
“Let’s go!” Lina smiles and envelops my small hand in the warmth of hers.
Pulling me along, Lina walks me home. Complete blackness and silence shrouds the surroundings as thick heavy clouds render the sky moonless. I can’t even see where my foot is.
This world is in serious need of electric lighting!
She turns to me and smiles. Complaints? Never mind!
Without minding the darkness, Lina keeps the pace and chases the shadows away with her lantern as she merrily walks the craggy and unpaved road. Not missing a single step, she shows how she obviously belongs to this age of darkness, while my soles and knees bruise as I trip a number of times even when I have the heavy bat as a walking stick. The trip is obviously enjoyable, says the sniggering devil at the back of my head.
The wind blows the leaves rustling and a black cat jumps from the shrubs by the side of the path, making my heart jump. Gnarly, that gives me a scare!
Lina pulls me back and whispers to my ear… “Shh… we have company.”
Fireflies from a distance seemingly transform into fireballs as they draw close – torches they emerge from the trees, held by men wearing ragged and tattered clothing and bandanas, all smiling with blackened teeth glimmering to the burning flames, all holding tightly to their rusty, chipped, and crude blades, and all their eyes, bloodshot and without conscience.
They spot us. All my bodily hairs stand up, on alert, and my feet, stuck in the mud and won’t listen to my commands. Panic compounds and a thousand pins and needles prickle the entirety of my skin.
“Who are you? Did Julius send you here?” Lina covers me, and with a hand at the back, she gestures me to leave. How could I?
“Well, look who we have here. Julius’ womyn? Ha, ha, ha, ha!” The baldie in the middle jests and swings his rusty sword down with the slightest hesitation, cutting down twigs. The air smells foul to the bad news these fellows bring.
“You haven’t answered my question!”
“Cheeky lady! YOU!” The man’s fist crackles as he clenches it. He then rushes forward and swings the hardened fist flying at Lina, who advances a step to the side, causing the man to miss. She lifts her hind foot and sends her knee flying to his groin.
Clang! The sword falls. On his knees, the man bends over in pain, cursing my mom, her ancestors, and all the devils in hell as he pets his precious family jewels. For it to pain him as much, they must have forcibly cracked and hatched!
“NOO! ARRGGHHH!” Lina retrieves the sword and stabs the man dead, undaunted. Blood splatters across her pale face and stains her white clothes. The wavering light of the men’s torches cast a dancing red hue on her eyes, an expression that gives even the devils a fright – the men keep their distance.
She steps back and pushes me away with her bum, gesturing to me with her lantern hand, ‘go away.’
I step back a little.
With fiery eyes, she leers at the men, pointing at them the bloodstained sword, asserting her space in a psychological game, pushing them back. As her pressure prevails, a little they back away, cautiously drawing their rusty chipped edged blades. And a little still, Lina cautiously backs away as well. She throws the sword away at the men, grabs my hand with the free hand, and yells, “RUN!”
“Arrgghh! Bitch! My HAND!” Lina manages to score a hit, disabling a man with the lucky throw.
Questions, no. We blitz to the opposite direction. Lina’s wavy hair flutters in the air, and her hand squeezes mine tightly, providing a sense of warmth, comfort, and security. The act is all but a brave bluff, her maternal instinct. She throws the lantern away and picks up speed, running faster than I thought she could. Faster I can probably do so, but with my unsteady legs, I probably couldn’t.
Diving deep in the shrubs, the leaves rustle as we slip through them. A twig grazes Lina by the cheek, scratching it and making it bleed a little. She looks at me with a smile despite it. And under the thicker and thicker cover of leaves, her outline blurs, and the shades disappear, engulfing us in complete darkness. The warmth of her hand guides me, still.
“Mommy!” I lose her warm grip.
“RUN!” Her scream echoes in the dark. To her command, I cower against the unknown and hid myself under the protection of the thick shrubs. My heart races and pounds loudly inside of my tiny chest, wanting to get out.
What on earth is going on?
Looking around, I assess the situation.
The noise, the movements, they all come from a large amorphous silhouette. A tree or a boulder, I can’t really judge correctly what it is. Whatever it is, Lina could have gotten caught to it, I presume.
The clouds part and the moon reveals herself, gently casting her frosty and majestic silvery light on the scene, painting shades and outlines back to my vision.
The object in question is not a tree nor a boulder but a man as big as an aspiring athlete would want to be. Bare topped, he boasts muscles that would make wrestlers shrink in envy and shame. And unhygienic like the rest of the gang, he needs much grooming – his hair, a natural bird’s nest, and his facial hair, long, frizzy, and greasy – smudges of soot cover his skin and face. The gargantuan holds mom trapped by the arm.
“OUUUUCHH!” In pain, she tears up. To her back, the man binds and twists her arm locked. He runs his gaze on her skin and her face. He holds her by the chin and to her smooth cheek he runs his course gigantic fingers, stopping only at the bleeding injury. Lina squints and grits her teeth, showing discomfort.
‘Bastard! I’ll get you if I…’ I cussed in mind, wanting to get back, but I can’t. Certainly, he looks fearsome, and strong, and I’m unsure how to deal with it, and I’m still thinking…
“Pretty. I haven’t seen such face. Men, lock her up!” Leaves rustle and crunch. The rest of the goons emerge from the shadows.
‘MOMMY!’ Drowning under uncertainty, my inner voice is smothered in the clutches of the fear of the unknown – my voice won’t come out. I grit my teeth in frustration as I watch them take my mom away.
“The womyn, I heard her yell a name. Is she with someone?” he asks a goon.
“Yeah, it was just some kid.” The goon snorts.
“I see.” The giant nods and strokes his beard.
A hole opens in my heart, causing a distinct heaviness and numbness that compounds further as I justify the situation. I don’t know how to explain it to my dad, nor do I even understand it myself. Just like the men in the square, I pound my chest with my arm to borrow a little encouragement to think of a way out of the situation.
I turn to my smarts in my time of need, analyzing things. Even if the situation is beyond the scope of my verbal intelligence, I still try to think things through, hoping for good results, in theory.
Here are the options I come up with.
Plan A, play safe. I’ll run back and call Julius for help. The caveat, it will take time – I don’t know where he is. And who will keep an eye on the goons? The plan risks losing track of them, and failure means Daddy Jules will beat me to death.
Plan B, I’ll risk it. I’ll tail them and wait for an opportunity. Obviously, this means I’ll have to put Lina’s and my life on the line. If I die, I’m dead of course. If I fail and managed to live somewhat, Daddy Jules might kill me?
Plan C, duck, cower, run, and never return… Ack! Not a real plan. Just thinking about it chokes me to death.
Darn it, do or die, all the options suck. Even death’s green goopy gremlins are rolling over, laughing at my fortune. I might as well risk it and stick to Plan B, the best solution I can come up with. As a little encouragement, I brush the gremlins away with a back fist, and then I pound my chest like what my dad’s men did a little earlier.
As quietly as I could, I crawl the grass on fours like a cat would, trailing my mom and her captors. Under the cover of darkness, I hide behind the shrubs, tall grass, pile of dead leaves, and even trees. Thanks to my size, I go unnoticed.
The unwary gang enters a cave, dragging Lina with them. Immediately, I spring out of the shrubs, sneak into the cave, and hid myself behind the rocks, following the men. Inside, I expect bats and all the creepers and jeepers, but a surprise, the spooky exterior is just a façade as the cave houses a dwelling, a perfect hiding place to store food, other supplies, and commodities? Living human beings? That’s human trafficking, ain’t?
They lock Lina in a wooden cage along with some other villagers – all women, all tied, gagged, and blindfolded, not one can see nor speak. And outside, a lone watchman stands guard, watching the women.
“Ohh… more pretty womyn!” He pokes them with a stick. “You can be a maid. And you… soft! My personal, hee, hee, hee. And you, Mad! A beauty! Bunny, give me a kiss? A kiss please? Hee, hee, hee.” Casting his sight on Lina, he enters the cage and holds her by the chin. He then sticks his goopy tongue out and licks the wound on her cheek, making me very, very sick.
Disgusting… That’s it. I had had enough. Reservations I have… but come what may!
Once more, I pound my chest with my fist for a little encouragement. I pick a rock from the ground and send it catapulting towards the man’s balding head, hitting him square on the skull, making a cracking sound. Knees bent, he drops to the side.
“Mmmphh! Mmmphh!” the captives panic like a pack of excited molecules colliding with each other inside the cage.
I immediately close in, whispering to them “Shhh! Quiet. It’s rescue.”
My shoe bumps against something on the floor, the watchman – his cracked skull leaks blood and fleshy substances, soaking the soil dark and contaminating the air with the foul smell of rust. A cold breeze blows against my sweaty skin, and chills – shivers like a hundred volts creeps me to the bone from the toes to the head.
I reassure myself by giving the fellow a little kick in the shoulder, but he responds not, so I follow up with a few more, but not a feedback returns. All my bodily hairs stand stiff and an icy wind brushes around my neck, my shoulder, and my skin, making me shiver as the devil licks my ear wet, condemning the deed. He’s dead, isn’t he? I killed… It can’t be helped. It can be rationalized based on non-aggression principle – he did it first, not me! He has nothing to blame but himself, so good on him now he’s dead! I have to move on.
I give myself a slap on the cheeks and distracted myself away from thinking bad thoughts by setting the captives free, starting by untying the restraints on Lina, of course.
“Mommy!” I give her a tight embrace.
“I’m saved! Thank you, babe!” She kisses my forehead and returns the favor by burying my face deep in her soft cushiony breasts, suffocating me in warmth, while the red skinned devil grins. But cold wind blows from the cave while the gravel and dirt crunch to the footsteps, cutting my warm and cozy reunion with my mom short.
“Hurry, RUN! RUN!” I whisper to the loudest extent I can while I wave my killer bat at the women, leading them to a hiding spot behind the rocks. “STOP!” I give them the palm to halt, seeing a pair of goons by the exit. I grab a pair of rocks and hail it at them in the same manner I did with the watchman. A hit! Blood spurts from the cracked skull of the victim and splatters to his companion, whom by luck the rock misses by the hair as he leans forward to look at something on his shoe. The survivor catches his falling comrade and sounds an alert.
We run double-time, never looking back, following our instinct to save our skin as there’s not enough time to think. Unfortunately, one of the women trips for which my conscience dictates I save her. Lina yells, “Just RUN!” but I cannot help but go back to help the limping woman run. Before I realize, the goons are all upon us.
All armed and dangerous like rabid dogs, they charge towards us. And one of them exceptionally fast jumps and rushes forward, swinging a rusty axe to my face. There is no time to evade, and for sure it would have hit me if not saved by Lina. By the strength of her kick, she launches her shoe flying and strikes with it the creep in the head, making him fall off balance. As reliable as ever, mommy has my back covered.
“Hurry! Let me!” She gives the woman a piggyback ride and runs ahead. But too slow, the pirates are quickly catching up to our pace. So I stand my ground and draw my massive and rather cumbersome birthday gift, the killer bat junior with deadly spikes that gleam to the fluttering flames of the torches our pursuers carry.
One of them comes rushing to me, smiling, taunting a mere kid with his crude, blackened, and rusty dagger. He jumps in and goes for a stab from the above, which I easily avoid by taking a mere sidestep, true to my martial training with Daddy Jules. Then, I meet his falling body with a bash of the bat to the abdomen, which sharp steel spikes tear through the gut, spilling blood and fleshy innards.
Once more, chills creep down my nape, as if fear itself clutches it with its icy hands. But as the situation calls, I am left with no other choice but to stand my ground. Again, I pound my fist against my chest and harden my resolve with a battle stance, clutching tightly to my weapon, prepared to take more of them in. To myself I say, ‘There’s no time and there’s no going back’.
Seeing the gore that a single swing of my weapon makes, the goons become more cautious. They draw their swords as they walk around me, forming an encirclement. Having me cornered, they jump from all corners and swing their swords without hesitation. And iron cuts air as I dodge their slow and clumsy movements left and right. I dance to the wind, thanks to the training Daddy Jules gave me every day since I’m five.
“URRRRYAAA!” Hitting nothing but air, the goons start to slow down, catching their breath as they go on. The perfect time to strike presents itself. With a swing to the right, the spikes on my bat catches one of them by the neck and tears through his jugular. Blood ruptures from it and to the face of another fellow to his right, who distractedly wipes his eyes, leaving a raised elbow, an opening wherein I land another swing that crushes and punctures his ribs, depressing it inward – blood leaks out of its newly created holes. Killing three, blood stains my weapon red, and a thick rusty smell now fills the air.
With a sickened expression in their faces, some of them back away and run, while a remaining few stand to face me. I can easily see through their faces and their trembling weapons that they have lost their confidence. If there’s anything left in them, it’s fear – they are too scared to run themselves.
I’m no serial killer nor do I like the kind of scenario I end up with, so down to the ground I thrust the bat perpendicularly and let my hands rest on it as I stand still in their midst. My blood still pumps with adrenaline, so any time I can make another fast move on them. With an air of invincibility, I call out to them, “I don’t like killing people. Drop your weapons, go, and leave them women alone!”
“ARRRGGHHH!” With bloodshot eyes, a few of them charge in, while some drop their weapons and choose the alternative. Back to business, I swing my bat to meet my aggressors, crushing their bones, sending some of them flying, ripping their flesh, and letting more blood rupture. One at a time, their lifeless bodies fall and litter the ground, but relentless, there are a few more remaining. And crazy, I’m no immortal either. My breathing becomes heavier as the fight progresses, and the rusty scent in the air as well, it becomes a lot denser.
God, I don’t wanna do this forever, when will this end?
I hold my bat still, aimed at them, unwavering, whilst their weapons tremble and their knees shake. A devil strokes an idea to my head.
“WRONG, I LIE AS MUCH AS MY FEET STINK! I KINDA LIKE KILLING AND I’MMA KILL YOU ALL, RIP YOUR GUTS APART, AND FEED IT TO DOGS AND BIRDS, HAHAHAHA!”
“MONSTER, RUN!” After throwing the bravado like an evil villain, they drop their weapons and run away with their tails tucked between their legs. They needed only a little encouragement, ei? Should have done that earlier!
“ARRGGHHH! Sorry!” The poor man bumps into their boss, the gigantic man seen earlier, and he falls down to his rear, trembling - tears collect in the corner of his eyes.
“Coward!” Each footstep the giant takes heavily pounds against the ground, making it shake. Casting his darkened eyes upon the poor fellow, he shoulders an ominous weapon of titanic proportions, a black axe, one that absorbs what little light the moon casts; I feel that one swing from the thing could probably cut a small hut in two. With his free hand, he grips up the fellow in the head like he would a ball, dragging him along the dirt without resistance as he walks closer to me. One handedly, he throws the fellow flying against a boulder, crushing him to death – the sound of breaking bones and splattering of bodily fluids resound in the dark.
“Idiots! Stay where you are or be like that.” With a sinister look in his eyes, he points his massive war axe at the man’s gruesome remains. Shaking in their boots, the rest of the crew are prevented from leaving, they freeze on the spot, nodding to their captain’s order.
“And you, you don’t look much like a fighter, kid. But spare me the trouble, will yah. Join me.” For his size, he isn’t a dummy either. Even with his intimidating posture, he chooses to negotiate with the foe for better results. What is he, a Yakuza? Oh yes he is!
“No, you spare yourself the trouble. Back off! Just leave us alone.”
“Look, kid. You killed many of my men, and now we’re running out of time. I don’t think I’ll make the quota, and I’m afraid Papa Smith wouldn’t be too happy about that. If not you, that pretty woman will do to compensate.” Pointing at Lina, he successfully stokes the fire in my heart – there’s no way I can forgive that insult.
“Over my dead body, fool! Back away, I’m warning you. There’s no way I’ll give you my mother!”
“Heh, so she’s your mom, kid… Then I have to force reason to your head. You’ll be so sorry you ignore my offer. Have at you!”
DUG! DUG! DUG! The shaking of the ground intensifies as he pounds the earth rapidly with each successive footstep. He rushes towards me, jumps, and swings his axe to the gravity from above. With a quick sidestep, I evade the attack, which could have hacked me in half if I didn’t – the axe head buries itself in the mud. Cold ticklish sweat runs down from my temple to the chin.
With a full bodily rotation, I hold onto the killer bat, lifting it off the ground by virtue of centrifugal action. Full Swing, the technique I learn from the little training I receive from Julius – he pulverizes boulders with ease using the killer move.
“FULL SWING!” CLANG! Streaking amber sparks fly and the sound of clashing metals echo in the dead of night. He blocks the blow with his axe head, knocking him a few yards away – his boots plow the dirt, smoking from the friction.
“Dangerous! You’re no kid, must be one of those dwarves. Malevolent creature, take this! HEEEYYAAHHH!”
CLANG! Blocking the blow, I catch his axe by the spikes of my weapon while my feet sink in the soil under its crushing weight and pressure. I’m surprised it doesn’t cut through, and I’m surprised that I’m not dead yet.
BOOM! Lightning flashes brightly as it illuminates the face of my foe, leaving only but his eyes darkened. Streaking sparks scatter to the blowing wind and the clashing of metals continues. My breathing becomes heavier and my vision blurs too. Continuing this trend is impossible. I need a little break.
I kick the air with my mud sunken hind leg, splattering the moistened dirt in his face and in his eyes, making them close. “You cheap little bastard!” BOOM! Before I can even flee, he strikes the ground with the weight of his massive axe, stirring up dirt in my face. I use a free hand to wipe the dirt off my face.
“URRRYYAAAHH!” He immediately follows with a swing as I jump back. I block it with my weapon; pushing against it, I use the momentum to fly farther back. Unfortunately, my back slams heavily against a boulder, limiting my retreat.
Like a mad bull, the titan charges at me, raising his blackened axe far back for the finisher. BOOM! As I duck, his axe hits and sinks down impressively in the boulder, cutting only half way, stuck, missing my scalp by the hair – a few loose strands gets blown in the air. Pulling the weapon out, he squints and grits his teeth, expressing frustration.
Shivers shoot from my spine up, terrified of my own luck. I narrowly avoid quick death.
With the aid of the distraction, I follow with a kick to his abdomen, knocking him a step back. I roll to the side, picking up a few stones in the rubble, hailing them at him. Hit, blood runs down from his right brow. Breathing heavily, he stops the chase and wipes the blood away, but the stubborn wound refuses to stop.
To the ground I thrust my weapon down, resting my arms on it, pausing, and observing the stupefied expressions in the faces of the pirate boss and his gang.
“Why stop. You had me there, kid.” His eyes, focuses their dark gaze at me, much like the weapon, they drown what little moon shine hits it.
“There’s no need to go further. You know the verdict.” Should our fight continue, I’m almost certain to win with him being unarmed and injured – the obstruction of sight from his bleeding brow should provide a substantial advantage. The rest of the goons know of the situation too; they steadily and sneakily back away.
“Cowards! Don’t you leave me here alone. You know! You know what’ll happen!”
The goons halt and tremble at their boss’ intimidating voice.
“Kill me! I better be dead than be a captive.” Resolved to die, his eyes turn gray and barren as if his soul has already left his body.
“Why? What worse can possibly happen to you if I turned you to authorities?”
Smiling, blood runs down the corner of his mouth. “Torture… execution… dishonor… possibly things worse than death as tales of our comrades tell… better kill me.”
“I’ll release you. Just don’t bother with us again.”
“Then I’ll meet the same fate should I go back to Papa Smith’s bare handed. Honor, better end it, here… better swing your cursed club at me here.” With eyes void of life, he smiles still, running his soot blackened fingers across his neck. Even so, I can give him much credit for being more resolved than I am in this kind of situation. This man wins my respect as much as his goons do. Perfect, I can use such a man to put my plans into motion. An experiment would be fun.
“Idiot! You can’t die just yet. Your labor will be of great use to me. Repent for your sins by working under me. I swear, I won’t turn you over to authorities nor would I forsake you to die in the cruel hands of your barbaric overlord.”
Life returns to his eyes, brightly reflecting the moon’s gracious light. He then kneels to the ground, letting his forehead touch the dirt, uttering the words “I serve only the strong.” All the goons follow suit. To me, they all kneel down like full ears of corn, ready for harvest.
My cheeks and ears burns with warmth. Geez, I’m flattered. I don’t know what to say. From this power I also earn a new problem called responsibility. I’ll make sure to put their labor to good use.
So I look at the good man, thinking of a good new name to mark the new start. Considering his stature, bulky solid muscles, and good nature, I may have thought of a good name for him.
“Rocky. Yeah, let’s call you that.” The entire gang looks at me with amazement, eyes popping out.
“Yes, boss.” He nods, accepting the new name.
Immediately after his christening, Rocky escorts me to the cave and orders his goons to gather the rest of the gang. I expect the rest of the belligerent fellows to be dirty, greasy, rough, tough, and mean looking, but to my surprise, the congregation that have gathered in front of me consists mostly of working men and women. Seeing the crowd, I reminisce in the memories of the olden days – the days I used to run lectures in the great halls of my university campus, only disillusioned by the artifacts that hang down from the ceiling – I don’t remember having stalactites and bats there when I taught. These innocent looking people, as Rocky explains, have served to support his little expedition in Solus. I almost immediately smacked my palm with my forehead.
“Where are the others?”
“Boss, displaying your magnificent strength, you struck a number of them in the fierce battle earlier.” Rocky bows and my skin crawls and tickles being called ‘boss’. Ugh! The situation may be worse than I thought.
“Don’t call me boss, and cut the crap. Just tell me I killed them. I don’t like formalities.”
“Yes, boss. Don’t ask me where they are. You slaughtered them, you know.” My stomach churns, and starting from the nape, an icy sensation sweeps my skin again as the dim fellow reminds me of the incident.
Rocky brings me a sturdy wooden table to use as a platform. I stand on it, slap my cheeks to calm myself down, and cast my sight upon the congregation.
“Listen, you’re no longer pirates. From now on, you will serve under me. Those who don’t like it may as well get out. I won’t chase after you.”
The congregation chatters loudly, they excitedly whisper at one another what they have just heard, until one of their men, the one who stands outside as a guard, flies slamming against the cave wall, crushed and disfigured – the snapping sound of his breaking bones spreads panic. The congregation Rocky and his crew worked so hard on gathering, evaporates as they hide themselves behind the rocks and inside every crack they can find inside the cave.
Julius makes his entrance, busting into the scene shouldering his mega-sized killer bat. Against the few men who remain standing around me he points his killer bat. “Devils! Get away from my family! As Julius of Solus, I swear to chase you to the ends of the earth should you lay down a single finger on them!”
The mere mention of the hero’s name makes my companions sweat buckets and tremble. The horrified expressions on their faces spell only but one word, fear.
Lina interrupts the show, appealing “But honey, there’s no need to be upset, we’re fine.”
“Silence! Devils! What tricks did you play on my family? Woe is to you. Death shall have you! Men, charge!”
To block the men’s way I jump in, slamming the ground with the killer bat, interrupting their charge with a BANG! Dirt splatters in their faces, stopping them in their tracks.
“Wait, Dad! Really, they mean no harm. We aren’t captives, they are!” Upon hearing, the men drop their weapons, astonished. Strangely, Julius remains unmoved.
“You sure aren’t deceived by these devils.”
“Well then, good job my boy! Let’s round these goons for the gallows!” In the cracks, the congregation panics, digging themselves deeper in the cave.
“But wait, I have an agreement with these men. They now serve under me.”
With a wrinkled brow, he looks at me all stern and skeptical even, saying “My boy, you better not. I’ve known pirates my entire life. They can’t be trusted. You know well of the Pirate Prince Saarin’s story, right? You’ve read it and you should know you are being deceived!”
“No, this and that are different. I know very well for a fact that these women and children wouldn’t do us any harm as well as the men. They did only as they were commanded only because they had no choice. Allow me and I’ll show you how we could put their labor to good use.”
“No truce, no quarter. Boy, as much as I’d like to listen to your reasons, what you want to happen will put us in danger. It’s illegal for citizens of this kingdom to help pirates. We, too, shall be branded pirates if someone discovers.” He raises his weapon once more.
Firmly I stand my ground, blocking the man’s way. I have at my back the congregation, hidden in the cracks, fearful for their lives. “Listen, you brute. The fact that you soldiers and men of the kingdom don’t listen to other people are the very reason we still have a war with the southerners. And look at you, aren’t you ashamed to point your very weapon at your own son. I know very…”
“Stop! Know your place, boy. I’m warning you.” Blood pumps his eyes red, like those of a madman’s. He tightens his grip on the weapon.
Cold sweat breaks from my forehead, but even though afraid and uncertain about this man’s commitment to care for his own child, I stand my ground. Once more, I pound my chest with my fist, borrowing a little courage from it. I look him in the eye and in a blink he disappears, and a fist lands on my face, shaking my skull as if a hundred flying tomes hit it, reverberating, knocking my backwards, flying; my back slams against the cold earthen wall of the cave. Fallen, blood moistens my lips and contaminates my sense of smell once more. With shaky knees, I stand up, coughing, clearing my throat and wiping blood off my face.
Supporting myself up with a knee, I utter a few words with difficulty, looking at the man in the eyes, “see how you yourself prove my argument right… you don’t even listen… to people… not even to your own son! Hahahaha… cursed gods! why have you… why this callous brute? I hate… I hate YOU lots!” Though I don’t really mean the spiteful words, the pain has made me say it all in hopes that it’ll reach him. The god of death has his icy fingers clutching my neck, laughing, mocking my antics.
“Disrespectful child, I’ll beat you until you have recovered your senses!” My eyes close shut, anticipating the punishment to come.
“Brute, don’t you dare lay a finger on my son!” A sharp slapping sound echoes in the cave. My eyes open to Lina’s back.
A sharp impression of her fingers marks Julius’ left cheek red. Wide eyed, Julius caresses the injury. “But…”
“No buts. You heard him. And I know. I spoke with these people. I can attest. They’d do us no harm.” She firmly holds her ground.
BANG! Furiously, Julius throws his killer bat away, yelling “B*TCH! SINCE I HAD YOU… YOU ALWAYS… YOU ALWAYS STAND IN MY!” Abruptly he stops, looking at Lina's teary face. His fist loosens and his tough facial expression melts away.
Lina sobs, hugging me tight, “Waaahhh! Linus, Linus… Your father hates me… Waaaahhhh!” She cries a fountain, soaking my upper garment in salty tears.
“God, I did nothing wrong!” The man turns away and walks out of the cave, swinging his knees and elbows higher with every step. Way to chase him out, mother!
Following the drama, Lina and I continue to give Julius the cold shoulder. Initially, he opposes my plan strongly, but has not laid a finger on my new companions since the incident. Chasing us mother and son around the house and town, he eventually gives in, allowing the pirates to stay, conditionally.
Waving an index finger, he says “Remember, you owe me, so listen to what I’ll ask of you next time. Also, you absolutely have to become a champion.”
Give and take, that’s what relationships are, so I agree to the conditions.
After the talk, the old man suddenly swings one-eighty and completely supports my experimental plan of making a village for my pirate companions. He even provides us with a place to settle, handing me a map of the location. He is awarded by the king the piece of land for repelling pirates for the past ten years. The irony is he’s giving the land to pirates – the king will surely throw a tantrum should he finds out.
Together with the pirate crew, we head to the location marked on Julius’ map, the pirate village to be.