- November 5, 2023
The Wolf Pack (Chapter 31)
She hits harder than a freight train, I know this, I’ve been hit by one and the force wasn’t as strong. If I wasn’t in so much pain, I’d be proud of my Espada for punching me through several tanks, shattering all my ribs and bursting my heart in my chest. I don’t think Clay could take a punch like that from inside his suit.
My spine and my legs are intact so I can move, but I can only move because my ribs are already pulling themselves back together. I can’t believe that Emily would have hit the Hood so hard if she knew it would kill him. I refuse to believe after all that bitching about killing that someone could take her free will and make her break her rules so easily…
That actually gives me an idea.
That idea is going to have to wait as I’m jumped by the karate kid. I mean Ken. I’m not ready to fight, let alone defend but this guy doesn’t care.
Let’s think this through, pre-plan, predict, pick apart, and dismantle like I used to, like Clay can. Ken has a metal arm that shoots a laser but asides from that he doesn’t have any abilities outside of being the Tiger Fist’s student. He may have gotten powers, but he would have just gotten his, who’s to say he knows how to use it.
At the end of the day, he should be the easiest, he’s flesh and bone, no external protection, so let’s shoot him and disrupt the control on his mind. I move to reach for my gun, but I realize the problem. While I feel the pain of bones mending, I didn’t feel my own sword that ended up through my arm.
As Ken flips and jumps through the broken glass that Espada sent me through, I pull the katana out of my arm, losing precious time. Blood squirts out for a second before my body closes the wound. Ken has landed and is rushing me as I fumble for my taser-gun.
He capitalizes on my disability and being inexcusably out of practice. Every step that he takes to get closer and I haven’t shot him, is a step that makes me angrier with myself. I line up my sights as he’s pulling back his arm, he never should have gotten this close.
Something miraculous happens as I’m squeezing the trigger – miraculous for Ken that is. He’s dodging as I’m pulling the trigger, moving his head to the side so it’s nowhere near the electric bullet. Just how in the hell would he know where and when I was shooting? I’ve shot enough people to know that even the best of fighters aren’t that good.
Those that are that good, aren’t fast enough to punch me in the face as the bullet is whizzing past them.
Okay, hand-to-hand, hand-to-hand, oh shit! I drop the gun and raise my hands to block an elbow coming for my head, but he predicts that too. His hands are a blur and move at angles I can’t imagine as his palm suddenly finds itself in my gut.
He tries to punch me in the face again, so I try to dodge. Turns out, it’s a feint, and hits me in the arm, then goes to kick my side but switches to my ankle instead. It’s like he knows what I’m going to do before I do it and before his attacks reach the point of no return!
I try to block, I try to swipe away, but he’s that much faster than me, enough so that I can’t defend against him.
To finish me off, he uses all kinds of sweet karate kicks and punches to the arm, shoulder, face, then turns me around, beats my kidneys, my other shoulder, and overall disables me from resisting. He adds insult to injury to punch the back of my head with his metal fist, sending me sliding across the floor, weaponless.
I can’t describe the groan I let out.
I need someone who’s fast enough to counteract Ken’s innate ability to predict me and knock his cheating ass out. It’s too bad that such a person is also here to kick my ass. She’s not the one I have to fight next, because if she was the temperature wouldn’t be rising.
I roll out of the way of the fireball, but when Pyre wants to set things on fire, there’s no escape. I’m on the ground when the heat is at its most intense. My jacket and pants are being turned to ash, and even with everything I’ve experienced, fire still makes me scream.
I’m double-teamed, blasted in the back by what can only be Ken’s arm. I never had the curiosity to learn what that would feel like before today, but I guess the world wanted me to know. It’s like I was stabbed but the knife is too dull to break my skin so it just pushes into my insides.
This isn’t going well, it seems I’ve trained them better than I thought. If only I had my taser-gun, if only… oh this is pathetic. I should be better than this, I used to be as good as Clay is now. Why? Why am I failing now?
Espada is the key to winning, Emily is the key. Without any weapons, she’s the only one who can knock the rest of these guys for a loop, but I can’t knock her for a loop. I need to get her to take back control, or else-
Crackle, crackle, crackle, crackle.
I don’t know what I hate more, the heat or the cold.
My healing factor is the only thing I have going for me until Pyre burns me to ashes or Icicle freezes me and smashes me into a million pieces. I can at least spend my whole day getting my ass kicked.
I’m on my feet and swinging my fist towards the cold, but Icicle catches it, the skilled bastard. I go to punch with my other hand and she catches that too.
“Marie,” I growl as she chills my hands and forces me backwards, “of all of them you probably like me the most.” I feel the cracking of my bones. Icicle is giving me this slow, painful death, and I realize something with how I’ve manipulated her through finance, orders, and a poor attitude, “You probably like me the least.”
She probably thinks I’m the other Hood, and thinking about it, what would he do in this situation. Icicle reels her head back, and I realize she’s gonna headbutt the shit out of me.
I should have done this earlier. I fall backwards and bring my legs to her stomach and kick her over me to her back. She recovers almost as fast as I do, the minimal weight of her armor giving me a slight edge.
Before she can charge or blast me, as the mist in her hands is signaling, I punch that ice armor across the face, feeling several of the bones in my knuckles crack under pressure. Instead of sacrificing my other hand for a few seconds, I palm strike her face instead, and she recoils.
I pull my hand back as it heals. As crazy as it sounds broken bones in my hand don’t bother me much, I’ve been breaking those bones for thousands of years. Took a few hundred to get used to it though.
Icicle recoils, holding her hurt nose. She felt the pain I inflicted upon her. This would be the moment to lay into her, to beat the crap out of her, but I see her and I want her to get up and punch the enemy in the face. The problem is the enemy is me.
The problem is that the enemy is them, these kids, my kids that I’ve trained and grown to like, no matter how annoying they get. I’m pulling my punches, I’m aiming to bruise and disable.
The Hood doesn’t bruise, I torture, I ravage, I kill. Even when I’m not killing, I’m breaking bones so they break the surface, but I can’t do that to these kids. If only they didn’t want to hurt me.
Marie, not Icicle, she punches straight for the head, good form, what I practiced with her, and she misses. It’s nice for a punch to not be from someone who can predict me.
“Ack!” Nevermind, Marie has gotten a lot faster at making ice swords, and even better at stabbing. She cuts me over my shoulder, causing me to trip backwards. I roll and push up with my hands to leap away. I’m upright in the air, about to land on my feet until suddenly I’m not.
Instead, I’m shot by Ken’s arm laser in the ankle, turning me in the air, making me spend more time off the ground. It’s just in time too, because Tommy’s sends a goddamn fireball at the ground below me as he flies my way.
I’m essentially being juggled as the explosion both knocks the wind out of my lungs, and knocks me high into the air!
Chink, chink, chink.
I don’t know what that loud sound is until it’s ensnaring me at first. Then I see these chains with burning runes come from the darkness that’s consuming the space above me. These chains wrap around my wrists and ankles to hold me above the rest.
Above the rest as they shoot me…
And ice to boot…
The author of this trap is the one fighter I don’t know in any personal capacity. The Indian girl who wore a cloak around her tunic, is now just a face and a cloak that outstretches and flows past what it had before.
It’s ethereal how it flows with an absent wind, how it wraps around her and gives her the top-heavy form of a ghost. If the cloak were to open now, I don’t believe I’d see a girl but the ungodly shape of a body deformed, squeezed at the waist to force all the mass to the top.
The chains come from the darkness, but the darkness is the large mass that is her cloak.
I hear her whispering a language I don’t understand, speaking one phrase that I recognize, “Rakaas.” I recognize it as the language of daemons, and with that language comes a new, deadlier, and more powerful form of magic. Why hasn’t she ripped me apart yet?
I feel the chains tighten around me, and at first, I think I’ve jinxed my own fate, that now she’s going to tear me into pieces until the chains merely straighten me out.
The scream, my scream, it’s involuntary, I can’t help but scream as I felt something snap my spine in half! It only takes me a second to guess who it is, and it’s the one person I need, the one person I need to snap out of this daze.
Emily… she floats beside me, and the sorceress or demoness or whatever, she releases the chains just as Emily slams her fist down into my chest, sending me straight to the ground with a loud…
I can’t fight Emily. Ken can be sliced and shot if put into a bad enough position. Tommy is a glass cannon, the taser-gun should bring him down. Marie, I just have to find it in me to beat her into submission, deflect and disable her with fire. I don’t know about the magical girl, but for Emily I know there’s nothing I can do anymore. She’s too powerful for anything I have.
I can’t beat her.
“Aah,” I gasp, the air escaping my lungs again, the prized oxygen leaving to never return. Emily, feet first, flies up and down down into my stomach, crushing my insides. I thought there wasn’t anything that could kill me, but she can definitely rip me apart to find-
“Aaah! Aaah! AAAAHHH!”
She keeps stomping on me, the air forcing out gasps as she beats it free from my body… To add insult to injury, she makes it seem so easy, liking stomping on a bug. That’s what I am to her, a bug that she can crush without any effort. It’s so demeaning, depressing, and heartbreaking to know that I’m nothing.
The one doing this, making Emily and the rest of them brutalize me, he told her to kill me but it feels like she’s taking her awfully sweet time. Enough time for the rest to gather around. Enough time for them to form a circle, summon their powers, and attack.
When Emily stops stomping, kicking me closer to oblivion, she floats higher, and I know it’s the beginning of the end.
Marie blasts her stream of ice, freezing my left arm.
Tommy sets my right side ablaze.
Ken blasts my leg to pieces until the bones shatter.
The sorceress, she takes out her chains, and she whips me.
Pain, is nothing now. I’m enduring so much at once, I don’t feel anything. I feel a haze over my eyes as I think it’s finally been done. There’s something that will erase me from existence, end my suffering, end my long life, obliterate a stain from the surface of the earth.
At least until it all stops.
One arm frozen, one wrong move and it shatters, the other covered in third-degree burns, and the bones in my legs have turned to dust. All of that and my body has been flayed. I wonder why they don’t finish me off, don’t put me out of my misery of failure, humiliation, and let’s never forget to mention pain. When Emily floats back down, her feet land on either side of me, but when her hand reaches down towards my throat, I understand.
Espada was the one ordered to kill the Hood, so she must kill me.
The one I need to save me, the one I need to save us all, the one who’s refused to kill. Emily despises the idea even only when filled with fear can she even allow the Hood to do it in her presence.
She doesn’t know how to kill me, she shouldn’t even know that I’m not Clay, not the Hood she knows. She doesn’t know that I’m not her friend.
She lifts me by my throat, and I dangle limp off the ground. For all intents and purposes, I should look dead, I feel dead. At least I think I do.
She raises her fist… a fist that’s been strong enough to punch a hole in a person from day one. She’s pulling her arm back, taking her time, but she doesn’t need to charge…
She hesitates all the same, she doesn’t punch me straight away. It takes a moment for me to be able to notice, notice the one thing that gives me hope.
Her hand is shaking, she doesn’t want to kill me, hopefully regardless of who I am. That’s not who Emily is and she’s fighting it, she’s fighting the order to kill me. This is our only chance.
“Please, Emily,” I beg, using the static voice she knows so well, “don’t kill me.”
I see the flinch in her face. That’s my Espada, she’s fighting it, her face isn’t that terminator look, instead her expression is clenched together. If anyone here can fight it, it would be –
She sticks her hand right through the center of my chest, blood guts and all. That’s going to take much longer to heal from, even more so than my bones. Give or take, several minutes instead of seconds. Sure, that’s faster than literally everyone else but right now the seconds count, especially as Emily drops my body and she’s snapped.
Emily stands frozen, and her face slowly forms an expression of horror, the life coming back to her eyes as she stands over the dead body of her friend that she’s now murdered. She thinks she killed me…
Maybe this is the only way to get her to snap, to break free. Emily needed to kill me to remember who she is.
Her hands dangle at her sides, and her eyes lose and regain their full color as she regains control over her body. They shake and the others only watch as her hands rise to her face. Her jaw unclenching forms an expression I know well.
There’s a silent scream in the back of her throat, and her eyes come full circle. She thinks I’m her Hood, her best friend for the last few months. Someone she knows wouldn’t survive her hand going through their chest.
Espada’s hands form fists and her hand hangs low as her whole body shakes. She’s trying to hold it all in, the unbriddled rage at what she’s been forced to do…
… and with her power, her strength…
She makes the whole building shake.
She flips her head up and she screams, but it’s no normal scream of a teenage girl, it’s a roar- no, a fucking siren.
It shakes the building and pierces our ears like the creatures from myth. It makes my ears bleed and the others cover their ears even through their control. It seems Espada has a new power, and it packs fucking punch.