Being the Best
Located in a small cove overlooking the ocean in the country of Fiore, a tiny village sat just off the beach barely visible for the trees. Small stone hut's dotted the area and thin dirt paths networked them all together into a tiny secluded community. In the middle of a small field, a boy no more than fifteen stood before an elderly woman, clenching a knife in hand. "Go on, let us see what you can do."
The boy took the knife, making a small cut in his palm and mashing the blood between his fingers. He held out his right arm and drew a line from his shoulder to his elbow, then another two lines crossing over it. "Agrus!" The blood instantly jumped to life, coiling itself into the shape of a sword that jut out of his arm. The boy caught it as it dethatched from his arm, his eye taking on a bright greenish glow not unlike that of fire.
The elder clapped as the youth held up the sword to admire. "Well done Geno. That is a fine blood weapon." An eye located between the hilt and the blade shot opened, rotating in every direction until finally settling on Geno. "Always remember that it is a part of you now. What you know, it will also know."
Geno stared into the weapons bright green eye, trying to get some read on it when a voice echoed in his head. "Hey there meat bag. Who do we kill first?"
5 Years Later
The usually peaceful village was interrupted as the sounds of battle rung out over the cove that day. People gathered around a stone clearing to watch two of the village's young warriors do battle. Geno, now in his twenties and wearing nothing but a pair of pants, prominently displaying his honed muscles, and a headband to keep the hair out of his eyes. He clutched a wooden stick on one hand as if it were a sword and was breathing deeply from the strain of the fight. The other warrior was a young woman around the same age as her opponent, wearing a tank top and shorts and having tied her black hair into a ponytail. She also had a wooden stick in hand, though she appeared to be using it more like a staff than a sword.
With the cheers of the crowd as encouragement, the pair of them charged at each other again. The woman twirled her weapon over her head before bringing it down on Geno's head, who deflected it with his own and through a wide right hook at her stomach. She sprung upwards, landing on his forearm with one foot and kicking at his face with the other. Geno took the hit on his forehead, throwing the woman through the air with the momentum of his recoil. She landed with a hard roll while he stumbled backwards, both stunned from the hit. They both grinned back at one another, and spun towards one another and attacked with their makeshift weapons.
Both of their sticks broke in two on impact, echoing a sharp snapping sound through the village. The two warriors discarded what remained of their weapons, and readied for another clash when a thundering voice echoed out. "Enough!" Everyone turned to see an elderly woman step though the crowd, looking upon the two combatants with a warm smile. "You two have performed excellently. Geno, Xiao-." She looked at the man and then the woman respectively. "The two of you truly are the most skilled blood weapon users in the village."
"Thanks Elder." Xiao said cheerfully, while Geno grinned to himself. "With Xiao around, nobody will have to worry about the dark ones ever again."
"Careful Xiao." The elder warned. "That kind of pride may come back to bite you one day."
"Then we just bite back right?" Geno asked ignorantly, causing some of the spectators to nod in agreement. "If someone wants a fight with us, we'll show 'em exactly how dangerous we are." He seemed to be talking more to the people in the crowd than the elder, who sighed at his comment. "We'll show 'em the power of Blood Seal Magic."
"Wining a fight and being victorious will not always be the same thing Geno." Geno had apparently lost interest however, as had Xiao, as they both gazed out at the ocean beyond the treeline. "But I can tell you two won't understand that until much later in your lives." Chatter from the crowd began to overtake them, until the elder stomped the end of her staff on the ground to regain everyone's attention. "Rejoice everyone, for tonight we celebrate the strength of the two greatest warriors our village has ever seen." Everyone cheered at the announcement, heading out in all different directions to gather food for the festivities.
The sun was just beginning to set over the ocean when the villagers returned, each carrying a bounty of food for the night. The village came under the shadow of the coves edge as a massive bonfire came to life on the beach, illuminating most of the area. While many of the villagers laughed and danced around the beach, Geno remained near the treeline with his arms crossed, snoring the night away. Despite technically being in his honor, nobody seemed to notice him missing from the festivities. Nobody except for Xiao that is, who sat down next to him with a plate of food after a few minutes of aimlessly walking from group to group.
"So you're just going to sit there?" She asked innocently, hugging her knees. "This is supposed to be for the both of us you know? It's not so you can get some sleep." Geno continued to snore and Xiao sighed, waking him was next to impossible. She would know, she'd tried just about everything in the past.
Luckily for her however, Geno stirred a moment later. Stretching his arms and having a long yawn. "Hey Xiao, what'd I miss?"
"You sleep too much Geno." She complained. "Xiao asked why you were just sitting there all alone. Xiao wants to have fun.” She thought for a moment as Geno began to eat some of the food she had brought him. "Xiao want’s to dance."
"I was never really big on parties." He admitted, taking a big bite from a leg of meat. "And I don't dance. It's just a big damn waste of energy to just run around on the beach like that."
"Wow, no fun." Xiao poked Geno's cheek as he chewed, before he placed his leg of meat down on a plate and took a long drink from his cup. "Alright then." Thinking quickly, Xiao jumped to her feet and grabbed Geno's food, taking a big bite of meat before he could even finish his first gulp. As Geno choked on his drink, Xiao backed away and playfully called. "You get the point now?" She turned and sprinted for the forest, with Geno stumbling after her a moment later.
As the light from the bonfire faded into the trees, Geno chased Xiao deeper into the forest. Though he was faster than she, her acrobatic skills allowed her to bypass obstacles that Geno could not, causing then to travel at roughly the same speed. "Come on Geno, come catch Xiao!" Xiao yelled back at him as she ran up a partly fallen tree leading to the network of branches above.
"Damn girl." He muttered, vaulting over a moss covered log. "Give me back my dinner dammit!" He stopped at a partly dug out tree stump and tore it out of the ground with one pull. He tossed the mass of rotted wood into the canopy, snapping multiple branches along its path. Xiao turned mid jump and kicked it away like a ball, though now had nothing to land on because the branch she had jumped from had been broken by the flight of the stump.
She fell for a moment, but acted quickly to grab a handful of low hanging vines to save herself. Catching the bone of meat in her teeth, she swung to a lower branch to catch her breath and looked back at the stump as it crashed to the ground. "Wow..." she said with a grin, taking the meat in her hand again. "Sorry Geno, got to do better than that." She patted her butt at him as a taunt, before setting off through the trees again.
The next tree she had aimed to jump to it suddenly fell away, and Xiao glanced down to see Geno had shattered it at the base with a powerful kick. She fall again, this time with nothing to catch herself on, and closed her eyes just as she was about to hit the ground. There was no impact however, and she opened her eyes to see Geno had caught her and was now holding like a bride while grinning down at her. "I'll never let a-." A falling branch broke over his head mid-sentence, causing her to drop Xiao on her butt and stumble forwards a bit.
Xiao laughed historically as Geno kicked the branches away, unable to get up again from the fits of laughter. "What was that?" She stopped a moment to wipe a tear from her eye. "Xiao is sorry; Xiao couldn't hear you." Geno snatched the food she had stolen away, taking a big bite and rubbing the top of his head. "Oh, don't be angry. Xiao was just having fun."
"Maybe it was fun for you." He shot back, brushing wood splinters from his hair. "All I got out of it was a workout and a headache." Despite his words, Xiao noticed he had cracked a smile. Though Geno tried to maintain a stoic expression, Xiao's laughter soon caught on, causing him to laugh too. "Alright, you got me. It was a better time than dancing around in the sand could ever be."
"Well, that's good enough for Xiao." Xiao quipped, finally allowing her laughter to die down. The pair of them lay back in the grass, staring up at the stars with only the sound of Geno's chewing and the distant beat of drums to listen too. Still eating, he heard Xiao ask. "Have you ever thought about what things are like outside of the cove?"
"What?" Geno said, taking a moment to think on what she had asked. "What's there to think about? People live in big groups, use magic to settle problems, and listen to whoever's the oldest." Xiao chuckled a bit at his answer, though he raised an eyebrow and rested his hands behind his head. "Doesn't sound too different than what we do here, does it?"
"Maybe..." Xiao seemed lost in thought, and it showed in her voice. "Hey, have you ever thought of leaving?"
"We leave all the time." Geno stated, confused as to where she was going with this. "Outsiders'll buy pretty much anything. Skins, horns, meat, they love the stuff we bring'em."
"Xiao means leave and not come back." Xiao corrected. "Not for a while at least." Geno rolled over to look at her, though she continued to stair up at the stars while she talked. "Xiao loves it here, but Xiao want to see other places. And Xiao has heard people with magic like us can go on big adventures too." She rolled over to look Geno in the eye, apparently growing fonder of the idea even as she explained it. "Xiao doesn't want to be stuck in this place for the rest of her life Geno."
Geno wasn’t sure how to respond. Xiao was always talking about exploring the world outside of their villages cove, even though they all had a duty to stay and protect it. "You know we have to stay here right?" Geno moved one of his hands from behind his head to over his stomach, seemingly feeling for something. "We were able to use magic, so we got made into protectors for the village."
"Xiao doesn't want to just fight though." Xiao announced in a somewhat annoyed tone while sitting up. "Xiao want to go on adventures. See the world. Fall in love." Geno coughed at her last statement, though she didn't seem too distracted by this. "You know, like all those people in fairy tales get to do."
"I see." Geno rolled up to a sitting position as well, his face growing flush over what he thought Xiao was saying. "Well, you can do that here, can't you?" Xiao looked questioningly at him, though he stayed facing away from her to hide his blushing face. "Fall in love I mean."
It took a moment, but Xiao's face eventually turned bright red when she realised what Geno meant. "W-what are saying?" She said in a shaky voice. Their eyes met, and Xiao became annoyed when she saw his flush face. "Stupid Geno. Xiao is your elder!"
"Yeah, by eight months." He retorted defensively. "People have gotten married with a bigger age gap than that." He soon realised his slip of the tongue as he watched Xiao's face grow an even brighter shade of red.
"You mean you...?" She seemed to get more worked up the more she thought about it, and soon began beating on Geno’s head with her fists. "Why would you even say something like that?"
"Hey, hey. Don't be mad at me." He stuttered, trying to brush off her blows and escape at the same time. "You brought it up first. I was just adding to what you said."
"Xiao said she wanted to explore outside the cove." She let up on Geno once he got a few feet away, though was still fuming over Geno's suggestion. "She said that she didn’t want to be stuck here forever."
"Yeah, then you said... Uh, forget it." Geno turned away, also growing annoyed over Xiao's reaction. He sat facing away from her again, taking the last bite of meat and breaking the remaining bone between his fingers. "Forget I said anything."
Xiao seemed shocked, immediately losing any annoyed feelings she harbored. "Geno..." She couldn't think of anything to say as Geno began to pick at his teeth with one of the broken ends of bone. She sat with her back to Geno and leaned against him, only to feel him pull away a second later. She shuffled against him and heard Geno sigh, but he remained in place as and a small smile crept its way across Xiao's face. She curled into a ball against his back, hugging her knees and resting her forehead on her arms. "You know. Xiao wouldn't mind staying here. With everyone..." She was silent for a moment, and Geno flicked away the broken bone from his meal. "With... You..."
Geno didn't respond at first, but a small smile grew on his face. He slowly leaned against Xiao, thinking about what life would be like sharing his life with her. Before he could respond however, he heard an explosion in the distance. "Guess the fireworks have started." He quipped, thankful for the change in subject.
"Xiao didn't know we had fireworks." She slowly rose to her feet, looking around the sky for the bright colored lights that generally followed. "Elder doesn't like them very much. She told Xiao they're dangerous."
Geno was about to argue, but realised that sounded exactly like something the elder would say. He too got up, and caught a whiff of smoke a second later. "Hey uh, Xiao?" They both looked around as a dull haze filled the forest. "Do you smell something burning?"
Xiao didn't say anything, sniffing the air herself to determine the source. She didn't have any more luck than Geno had, but they both soon noticed the distant light of the bonfire on the beach had grown in size; looking more like an inferno than a fire. "The village!" They both called in unison, running towards their home a second later.
The sounds of a battle grew as Geno and Xiao got closer, eventually braking through the brush and coming into the village. Many of the huts had been set ablaze, and a trio of large boats had been beached at the shore. Strange people in masks ran in all different directions and a number of the villagers ley fallen in the sand. "Dark ones!" Xiao called. One of the strangers, a much larger figure, took note of them and closed in for battle.
They both dodged their attackers' initial punch, Geno sweeping inside to deliver a strong right hook to his stomach and Xiao running up their arm and kneeing them in the face. More strangers took note of them as their companion fell, and began to circle Xiao and Geno.
'You want to pick a fight with us?" Geno challenged, clenching his hands into tight fists. He bit into his thumb, drawing blood, drew a line down his bicep, then another two crossing over it. "Agrus!" The blood smeared on Geno's arm seamed to ripple, before unravelling out in slender scarlet ribbons and weaving themselves together and solidifying itself into the shape of a blade, forming a hilt and hand guard a second later. "Hope you bastards have a plan for the afterlife." Geno's eye began to glow a bright green as he grasped the hilt of his sword. "Don't wait Geno, just kill them." A voice echoed in his head as the eye on the blades hilt shot wide open, though Geno ignored them both as the invaders continued to scramble around him.
Xiao stood beside him, also ready for a fight, when one of the invaders screamed out "Blood Seal Magic! It's them, pull back men." With that one command, the masked men turned and ran back to their ships, leaving Geno and Xiao in the dust. Stunned for a moment, both of them gave chase only to be stopped by an explosion at their feet.
They were thrown backwards into the sand, stunned long enough for the boats to pull away from the shore and out to upend water. Geno looked up at one of the ships to see a large magic cannon sitting atop the deck, and a man in a robe standing next to it. "Be warned you cavemen! This land is ours now! We will kill any who resist us and enslave the rest." A large bolder flew through the air, crashing through the deck just feet from the man. He glared at the shore to find Geno baring his teeth at him, daring him to set foot on their home again.
Geno and Xiao watched the ships disappear into the sunset, as villagers began to immerge from their various hiding places. "Where is the elder?" Xiao demanded, tearing her vision away from the ships. "Tell Xiao where the elder is."
One of the villagers stepped forwards, clutching half of a broken walking stick in each hand. "The elder... She didn't make it." There was a collective gasp from all who remained, except for Geno.
"It's up to us then." He remained standing ankle deep in water on the shore, shaking from anger and watching as the ships disappeared behind the rocks of the cove. "They're going to pay for this." He said, slamming the tip of his sword into the ground and finally turning away from the ocean. "If they come back, we're going to kill every one of'em." Xiao nodded in agreement, while some of the villagers cheered. "We'll make'em regret the day they picked a fight with us!" He roared, holding his sword high into the air.
Since his words on the beach that day, the ships of dark mages had haunted the cove like vultures circling over a carcass. Without a leader to guide them, the village suffered loss after loss under the repeated attacks; as Geno and Xiao had neither the experience nor the tactics to successfully repel the invaders superior numbers. Every attack cost them.
Each time the invaders attacked a small handful of villagers where either killed in the fighting or captured in the aftermath. Some had even fled the village out of fear, losing hope that they would ever be safe in their home again. After over a month of fighting, the only ones who remained where Geno and Xiao; the only one's strong enough to avoid capture. In a desperate attempt to rescue their kin, the pair had tracked the dark mages to a small beach that they had been using as a mooring spot for their ships.
As they scaled over the rocks towards the beach, Xiao spotted a forth ship resting on the beach, much larger than the other three and possessing less of an armament. "Geno, look." A row of villagers lined up on the beach in front of the ship soon came into view, in the process of being loaded for transport through a ramp on the bow. "That must be what the dark one meant." Xiao whispered. "They plan to make us into slaves."
"The hell they will." Geno spat in disgust. "Come on, these bastards have had their way with us for long enough." They descended along the rock face as the sun set on the water, being careful to not alert the dark mages to their presence. They reached the ground near the back of the encampment just as the mages began to light torches for the night, keeping to the shadows as a pair of dark mages patrolled the area.
They slowly made their way to one of the tents that had been set up close by, slipping inside without a noise. "Xiao saw a lot of enemies." She whispered to Geno. "How will we win against them?"
"One man at a time." Geno said determined. They both silently waited, watching the patrol outside passed by once again through a small gap in the cloth door. Geno nicked his thumb on his teeth as the mages drew closer, using the blood to draw a pair of lines across his right bicep, then placed his thumb on his shoulder to complete the seal at a moments notice.
He knocked a glass cup off of a nearby shelf, which shattered on the rock below. The mages went rigid for a moment, until one gestured towards the hut with his staff. Just as the dark mage was about to brush the cloth door aside, Geno nodded to Xiao and swiped his thumb down his arm, leapt at the entrance and called "Agrus!"
The mage jumped back a bit in surprise, but was caught completely off guard when the blade of Geno's weapon pierced through the cloth and buried itself deep in his stomach. The cloth tore away from the hut as Geno lifted the mage into the air on his weapon, still sprouting from his arm, before taking hold of its hilt and tossing the now dead mage aside with a swing of the sword.
His partner was about to call for help when Xiao emerged from the hut as well and screamed "Barbas!" Causing a spear like weapon to erupt from her wrist, impaling the mage. She used momentum of her charge to vault over the mage and land next to Geno. Her eye emitted a brilliant purple flame, while Geno matched it with a green one, both seemingly burning with the rage they felt. "You think you can just attack Xiao's home?" She challenged.
Momentarily, there was no reaction from the other dark mages, until one shouted a single word that set the entire camp alive. "Intruders!" Mages poured out the ships they had been camping on, surrounding the two warriors in an instant.
Looking over the crowd, Geno smiled and rested his sword on his shoulder. "Ready to rock Agrus?" The eye on his sword opened wide, its narrow pupil shifting in every direction to look at their opponents. "Get them Geno. Kill them all!" The voice echoed from inside his head again, though it did nothing to dampen Geno's spirits. "How about you Xiao?"
"Xiao is ready." She said in an emotionless tone as the mages all jeered at them. She twirled her spear above her head as some of the mages charged, before bringing its bladed end down and pointing it at them. "Dark Storm!" A bolt of black colored lightning tore through the dark mages ranks, causing them all to charge.
Geno flicked Agrus off his shoulder and caught it backhand, driving the blade deep into the ground. "Ice Wave!" Spears of ice shot out around both he and Xiao, impaling several dark mages while scaring off many others. "Come on, this isn't all you lot can do is it?" He roared at them, disgusted by their level of strength.
Sword in hand, another mage charged at him with a fierce battle cry. Geno grunted at the assault, swinging Agrus upwards to intercept. Both the dark mages hands sailed over his head, while Geno grabbed his neck with his other hand and used him as a projectile to knock over several mages who were in the proses of boarding one of their smaller remaining ships to make an escape.
"Think I'll let you run from me?" He roared at them, leaping high into the air and building up ice over Agrus's blade. This served to extend the swords reach with a massive blade of ice, which he stabbed down through the deck. Ice began to cover the ship, causing the mages to abandon it to Geno's assault.
Geno jumped away as the ship listed to one side under the increasing weight of the ice, causing any still on the deck to tumble over the side and into the waves below. He landed with a roll in the sand and came up to head-butt another mage unconscious in a single blow. "Come on, quit standing around and fight!" He heard Agrus order while he looked at the others still fighting around him.
Xiao dealt with another group on her own farther down the beach, shooting black lightning in every direction, and Geno made a small cut in his thumb with Agrus's blade. This time he drew a long ling across his back from shoulder to shoulder, and a second one down the base of his skull to between his shoulder blades. A bone like structure shot up from where the lines intersected and Geno's other eye burned with a deep blue flame as mages closed in on him again. "Mammon!" Taking hold of the bones, Geno swung at the mages as a massive saw like weapon formed out of his blood, sending bodies in every direction with the incredible force of the attack.
"Not this again." Another voice said inside his head, though Geno ignored it and leapt at another group of dark mages just as they immerged from one of the other ships. "Great Divide!" With a mighty swing of his newest weapon, Geno split the bow of the ship wide open, allowing sand and seawater to wash into the hull.
He heard Xiao cry from across the camp when he landed, and spun around to see she had been swarmed by mage and was being overwhelmed. "Let Xiao go!" She cried as a magic chain coiled itself around her wrists. Geno watched as the mages began leading her towards the larger slave ship, before he was again surrounded by enemies.
"Out'a my way!" He roared, running the closest mage through with a spear of ice, bringing Mammon down on another mage to cut him on two. "Geno, behind you!" He heard the second voice call. Geno spun around to find three mages lined up in a row behind him, each launching a torrent of fire at him from the end of a staff. He swung Mammon upwards, cutting through the flames, and stabbed Agrus into the ground again. "Ice Spear!" Shards of ice shot from the ground, ripping through all three of the mages and piercing into the ship with the split bow.
Geno looked back to where Xiao had been, only to find her missing and the gangway of the slave ship had closed. He roared in anger and raised both his weapons high into the air, readying for another attack when a similar chain wrapped around his neck. He felt himself being dragged into the only remaining smaller ship, fighting to get back to his feet.
He felt his back hit the metal of the ship’s boarding plank, watching as the last of the mages crowded onto the ship after him. "Come on you weakling, get up!" He heard Agrus order mockingly, not that he really needed to be told. Swinging his weapons in every direction, Geno grabbed hold of the chain dragging him along and roll back to his feet with the reduced tension on his neck. He dropped Mammon, wrapped his arm around the chain, and then pulled against whatever had summoned it. A dark mage flew at him from farther back in the ship, who Geno disposed of with a jump kick to the head. He suddenly felt the boat shift violently, and the gangway to the beach closed behind him; the boat was leaving shore.
He looked around franticly at the innards of the ship, now empty of people save for himself, before gritting his teeth and picking up Mammon again. "Great-!" he swung the massive saw over his shoulder while looking up at the deck above. "-Divide!"
His single swing cut had enough force to blast a hole in the deck above him, despite it being more than twenty feet away. Mammon melted into a mass of blood again, and flowed from Geno's hand into the back of his neck. As the blue flame faded from his eye, he took Agrus in both hands and stabbed the blade through the hull. Any water that flowed inside was immediately frozen, and Geno road the rising column of ice all the way up to the gash in the deck.
Geno arrived to find many of the dark mages scrambling to get away from him, and that they and the larger ship were already a good distance from the shore. "Fire the mini Jupiter cannon!" He felt a strange magic fill the air, and rolled out of the way just in time for a blast of magic to tare through the deck and into the water. Looking back as seawater rained down on the deck, Geno saw that the remaining mages had resorted to turning the ship’s gun on him in a desperate final gambit.
"Be careful you idiot, you hit the main ship with that shot." One of the mages cried to the cannon operator. Geno spun around to see the larger ship now had a large hole in its hull just above the water line.
"I don't care." He yelled back in total panic. "This guy's going to kill every one of us if we don't get rid of him." The cannon rotated on its base, pointing at Geno and the slave ship he had his back to.
"Xiao." Geno muttered under the hum of the cannon charging again. Without even forming a plan, Geno turned back and charged at the cannon's operators, burying Agrus's blade deep into the gun’s barrel. "Wait Geno. Don’t..." Geno drown out Agrus's words with an ear splitting roar, using Agrus as a handle to change the direction of the magic canon.
The deck of the ship began to creek from the strain as the magic from the cannon’s Lacrima began to radiate through the air. "Come on, move dammit!" Ice began to form over the cannon's barrel, reflecting the light that now built up at its mouth. "Get out of the way dumbass!" He heard Agrus urge again, just as he felt the cannon budge slightly. He took another step, and the massive gun ripped free from the deck and rotated the slightest amount away from the other ship.
There was a flash, and the magic that had been gathering in the gun barrel erupted into a massive blast that shot high into the sky. Geno could hear Agrus screaming in his head, though he couldn't make out any words for the roar of the cannon. Still pushing to change the cannon’s trajectory, Geno re-gripped Agrus's handle and took a step towards the lacrima powering it. "Shut-" Agrus's screaming drowned out any other noise. "-Up!" With a powerful swing, Geno sent out a shockwave that cut down the side of the cannon, nearly cutting it in half. Geno instantly felt something was wrong as magic power began to serge from the lacrima, only just catching himself from falling over.
The outside world went numb to him as he felt his entire body grow heavy. It felt as if he had just received a grievous wound, except he didn't feel any pain or blood running anywhere on his body. He shifted his vision down to Agrus and was horrified to see that most of its blade had broken away. He clasped a hand over his possessed eye as it filled with an intense burning sensation, while Agrus's voice echoed in his head once more. "You idiot..."
Geno felt his head grow heavy, and the world through his currently possessed eye began to blur. First he saw all color faded away, then a bright light, and finally nothing. "Agrus..." He stumbled towards the railing of the ship, watching the eye on his swords hilt grow pail; staying only half open like the eyes of a corps. Agrus, or what was left of it, liquefied into blood slowly ran up Geno's arm to the place he had summoned it from.
The world came crashing back to full speed and Geno fell back over the guardrail of the ship a second later. He heard the hum of the damaged lacrima grow louder and louder until he broke through the waves below. Geno watched from under the water as a bright flash divide the ship in two, sending debris off in every direction before he was washed away by the shockwave that radiated through the water a moment later.
The next thing he knew, Geno ley face down in the sand half submerged in water. He sat up immediately, spiting the sand from his mouth, before grasping at his eye. Though it had remembered it going blind in his fight on the ship, he could now see perfectly fine, even after closing his other eye to compare.
"Agrus..." He blurted, remembering his last moments on the slaver’s ship. Access to his own blood wasn't hard, as he was covered in small cuts and scrapes that had yet to close thanks to the salt water. He quickly drew Agrus's mark on his bicep, hoping that what had happened was just a bad dream.
Just as his blood began to jump to life, his eye was obscured by a grey hue, before going black completely. Geno grabbed Agrus from his arm and again looked at it to find its blade had all but been destroyed. All that was left of its cutting edge was a small jagged point and the once bright green eye was now dull and glazed over. "Agrus, say something." He pleaded, finding it strange that he missed his weapons constant mockery. "This isn't funny damn it." Still no response. "Stupid weapon, say something already!"
Deathly silence remained, and Geno quickly thought of his other weapon, Mammon. Agrus turned liquid again and ran back into the mark on Geno's arm, his eyesight returning the moment it did, and he quickly drew his other mark on the back of his neck. He began to feel light headed as he drew Mammon, but shook it off and placed the blade end in the sand. "Mammon?" He asked, seeing his reflection on the surface of its eye. "Are you there?"
Silence followed, and Geno began looking the massive saw over to check for damage when he heard a familiar voice in his head. "What?"
Geno felt both surprised and relived. "I thought something happened." He felt his head grow light again, a side effect of using so much magic in the fight. "Something happened to Agrus, it's not responding to anything I say."
"Agrus is dead." Mammon said bluntly. "Killed when you tried to battle that cannon."
Geno seemed to be in shock, but was soon overcome by a feeling of light-headedness. He swayed from side to side, unable to keep his balance properly. "What do you mean by killed?" Geno clutched his forehead, leaning on Mammon to keep himself upright. "How do you know?"
"I am a part of you Geno." He said in a somewhat irritated tone. "I see everything you see, feel everything you feel." The saw’s massive eye narrowed at him as his vision began to blur again. "And you felt it instantly. Didn’t you?" Geno tried to respond, but finally lost balance and fell back into the sand again with Mammon landing right next to him. Its eye swivelled over to look at him before it turned back into blood and flowed around to the back of his neck. "We die just like everything else, stupid boy." Geno passed out a moment later, lying on the beach with the waves gently rolling over him.
The next time Geno awoke, he ley on a mat inside one of the few remaining huts in the village. He rose up to a sitting position and found that his wounds had been dressed. He got up to his feet, steadying himself on a nearby post, and brushed through the hut's cloth door.
The sunlight burned his eyes for a moment, forcing him to squint, but he soon looked up to see the beach of his village stretching out before him, splintered wood and other debris washing ashore. "You’re up." Geno spun quickly, anticipating an enemy, but was surprised to find Xiao crouching next to a campfire a few feet away. She seemed to be staring onto a small campfire, but looked up at Geno and smiled weakly. "Xiao is glad. You sleep way too much."
Geno sat down next to her, aching from his numerous wounds, looking out over the ocean. "What happened to you Xiao?" He asked, rubbing a wound on his chest. "Last time I saw you, you were being dragged onto that big slave ship."
"Xiao was captured, but there was an explosion and she was able to escape." She blushed a little from embarrassment, and shifted uncomfortably in the sand. "What happened to you? Xiao found you laying in the sand farther down the beach."
"Well..." Geno began, trying to think back. Everything happened so fast that he had trouble remembering details, but he decided to start with the biggest part. "Agrus broke." Xiao looked at him quizzically. He didn’t really understand it himself, but that was all he knew. "Or died. Mammon said that I killed it in the fighting."
Xiao was quiet for a moment, thinking back on one of her earlier lessons. "Elder said that our blood weapons are alive, that's how they can talk to us when we use them." Geno remembered that lesson too, though he also remembered that it didn’t make much sense to him at the time. "Xiao guesses they can die too."
"Guess so... It sure looked dead." Geno mumbled, looking back out at the ocean again. "Come on. We got to start looking for the others." He got back up to his feet, brushing a small pile of debris away with his foot. "How many others got out with you?"
Xiao was quiet for a moment, looking down at the ground between her legs. "Nobody." Geno stopped briefly. "Xiao escaped on her own."
"That can't be." Geno said bluntly, restarting his work. "Somebody must have got out with you." Xiao stayed quiet, and Geno slowly realised what she was saying. "There had to be somebody." Xiao got to her feet as Geno turned to look at her. "Anybody?" Xiao shook her head, but Geno still didn't believe her and went back to clearing the beach. "No way. Somebody must have got out."
"You weren't their Geno. Nobody's coming." Xiao urged. Geno stayed silent, looking out over the ocean for some sign that the others would escape as Xiao had. "We are the only ones left." Geno continued to work, and Xiao began to become annoyed. "Hey, are you ignoring Xiao?"
"I'm not ignoring you dammit." He responded rather shortly. "Why is it so impossible for you to believe that someone else got away? You escaped, so why don't you want to wait to see if anyone else did?"
Xiao backed away a bit, a little hurt by Geno’s words. "It's not that Xiao doesn't want to..." Geno turned his head, hearing Xiao's voice shake as she spoke, only to receive a strong punch to the jaw that shot him back into the surf. He rolled over in the water, rubbing his jaw and looked up to see Xiao on the verge of tears. "Look at this place Geno!" She cried, gesturing to their village. With is back to the ocean, Geno took in his surroundings for the first time since waking up.
Many of the huts that stood on the beach where now smoldering ruins, and the forest behind them where scorched black. "We can't live here anymore. There's nothing left." Xiao broke down for a moment, letting a few tears run down her face. "Our home is gone."
Geno sat still for a moment, looking back at the ocean behind him, then back at the ruins of their village. "There still might be-."
"Xiao is leaving." She declared, wiping the water from her eyes and off her cheeks. "There is nothing left for us here." Geno was stunned by her decision, though more so that Xiao had been crying. "Xiao is going to travel outside the cove..." She stopped for a moment, blushing slightly over what she was about to say next. "And she wants you to come with her."
Geno stopped for a moment, thinking about what Xiao was offering. "We can rebuild the village, track down everyone who left and start again." He heard Xiao sigh, knowing what he meant by that. "We're supposed to protect this place Xiao. That's our job." He turned away from her and began lifting a massive fallen tree off of one of the huts, though his injuries made it somewhat more difficult than usual. "Come on; give me a hand with this." He waited for a second, but Xiao did nothing. "Xiao, come on." He waited for a moment longer, and dropped the tree when she didn't come to help. "Xiao, this isn't..." He turned around to face her, only to find that she had gone. Geno scanned left and right down the beach, but Xiao was already out of sight by then. "Xiao..." Geno leaned back on the tree he had been trying to move, only now realising what he had given up. He thought about chasing after her, ether to change his mind or to change hers, but he couldn't risk leaving the village for even a moment in case someone else came back and needed help. He sat back down in the sand next to Xiao's campfire; waiting for someone, anyone, to come back.
Geno waited on the beach for a little under a week, though for him it felt like an eternity. Nobody came back, just as Xiao had said, food had become very hard to come by and Geno hadn't slept since before the fight. Whatever provisions the village had accumulated where ether burned or stolen in the attacks, and any animals had long since abandoned the now charred forest. Growing hungrier and hungrier by the day, Geno was forced to abandon his home so that he wouldn’t starve to death.
Distrustful of strangers, Geno was apprehensive about integrating with the rest of society. Not only that, but Geno had nothing to trade from his village, making acquiring just about anything next to impossible for him. Another week went by, and Geno found himself wandering down a path towards a small town on the ocean late one day. Thoughts of food weighed heavy on his mind, and he wasn't in the mood to be picky. A building came into view around the curve of the forest, and Geno detected the smell of food radiating from within.
Survival instinct took over, and Geno leapt over the outer wall in a single bound, finding himself in a small courtyard of sorts. The door to one of the bigger buildings hung ajar, allowing Geno access into the building without having to break in.
"Where is it? Where is it?" He thought aloud, scanning over the area. Several tables littered the room, each with a number of chairs resting underneath, and a long bar top stretched along the guilds back and side wall. The other side wall was adorned with several framed pictures and a large cork board with a number of papers hung on it. What caught his attention most however was another door at the end of the bar on the side wall, also hanging ajar, allowing the smell of cooked meat to fill the large area.
Geno rushed through the door in an instant, feeling he was drawing closer to sustenance, and found himself standing in a restraint sized kitchen. It didn't take long to find food, a small plate of potatoes and meat, and he greedily began feeding. Feeling food in his mouth made him realise just how hungry he was, forgetting everything else around him as he filled his stomach for the first time in what felt like forever.
"Hello there." With food still in his hand, Geno grabbed a kitchen knife and spun around to point it at whoever was behind him. He was surprised however to find a short elderly man standing a few meters away, having emerged from a walk in fridge after Geno entered the kitchen. Despite his face being obscured by a thick mustache and glasses, Geno felt no fear from the man, even though Geno had a knife. "It's quite alright, I mean you no harm." He assured.
"Just stay there." Geno said, stuffing another handful of food in his mouth. "Stay where you are."
"As you wish." He responded, again to Genos surprise. He didn't take his eyes off the elderly man, keeping the knife held up to ward off any attack, but continued to eat until the plate was empty. "It's not good you know." The elderly man said, catching Geno's attention. "Eating that fast after not eating for so long can make you sick."
Geno was confused as to how the elderly man knew of his situation, but the kitchen door creaked opened before he could question him. A black haired man around the same age as Geno strolled in, not noticing Geno at first. "Hey Jon, I took out the garbage. All that's-" He stopped dead when he saw the situation, and Geno felt a spark of magic fill the room. "Who are you?" He asked with a glair.
Geno didn't say anything, tightening his hold on the knife when the new arrival took a step forward. The elderly man, who Geno guessed was Jon, stepped between them. "Calm down Axel, calm down." He pushed against Axel's stomach, apparently calming him for the moment. "He's not a threat. No need for alarm."
Axel stopped advancing, but continued to glair at Geno. "He's a thief."
"He's hungry." Jon corrected. "A thief wouldn't walk past everything in the main hall and go for the kitchen first." Axel backed down, and Jon turned to face Geno once again. "What's your name son?"
Geno thought for a moment, but realised that if they meant him harm they wouldn't have let him eat first. "Geno." He started, wiping food from his chin. "Geno Azteck."
"Pleasure to meet you Geno. My name is Jon Harben." He gestured up to Axel next, who was still distrusting of him. "This is my foster son Axel Dawngrave. For better or worse, we act as the guilds resident cooks."
"Guild?" Geno repeated. "What's a guild?"
Geno grunted at Axel's jab, but Jon stepped up quickly to avoid a fight breaking out. "I think we should deal with your condition first Mr. Azteck." He turned back to Axel, half pushing him away towards the door. "Axel, fetch the good doctor would you? And the Master after that?" Axel seemed apprehensive about leaving, and Jon looked back at Geno. "He means no harm; he's just trying to survive. Are you not?" Geno didn't respond, but placed the knife back on the countertop. "There, you see? Now run along."
A few minutes later, Geno sat in the guilds main hall, joined by Jon, Axel, and two others. The first was an older looking muscular man with tattoos on both arms, who had introduced himself as Davin Vamiro. The second was a woman with a missing arm, leg, and an eye; who was in the proses of looking him over. "Just looks like malnutrition." She said after finishing her work. "Really, really bad malnutrition, but nothing I can't deal with."
"Thanks Jaina." The Davin said. "You ok to stick around a little longer? It's getting late."
"Don't treat me like an old woman." She barked at him. "I'm younger than you are dammit."
Jon stepped up again to change the subject before another fight broke out, holding his hands behind his back while he talked. "So Mr. Azteck. Now that we know you are... Relatively well. Why not tell us where you come from?"
The others waited for him to continue, though Geno thought for a bit longer than before, remembering everything that had happened over the past month. "A cove." He said simply. "My village was in a cove near the ocean. We were attacked by dark mages, and most of us got wiped out."
"A cove?" Axel repeated. "That doesn't help. There are hundreds of-."
"Any family or friends?" Davin inquired, cutting Axel off mid-sentence.
"No family... Not anymore." Geno felt his hart growing heavy in his chest when he thought of Xiao, remembering how the two of them parted. "One friend... But I have no idea where she's gone now." Davin and Jon silently waited for an explanation, and Geno sighed. "I tried to rebuild my village after the dark mages left, but she wanted to move on. She left a little after that." He glanced down at the floor, reflecting on his choice. "She wanted me to go with her too, but I was too damn stubborn to listen.
They all heard a pop, and looked over to find Jaina sipping from a wine bottle at the bar. "Sounds like you need a place to stay then. She looked over at Davin from the corner of her remaining eye, apparently trying to hint at something. "Can't have that, can we Davin?"
"What?" Davin tilted his head to the side, though caught on a moment later. Oh, right. Well, why don't you stay here?" Geno snorted at the prospect, though this didn't seem to deter Davin at all. "We're always open to new members, and you obviously like the food." Jon chuckled a little, though Axel remained glaring at him. "What do ya' say? At least stay until you can get back on your feet."
Geno looked around the room again; from Jaina drinking, to Axel glairing, to Jon and Davin waiting for his response. "Sure, why not. The food's free right?" Jon and Davin laughed, and Davin was about to say something when they heard Geno snoring, falling into a deep sleep right in the middle of the conversation. After everything he had gone though, he finally felt safe for the first time in what felt like an eternity.
Davin looked to Jaina, who rushed to Geno's side. She began looking him over again as Axel piped up. "What was that?" Forgetting how annoyed he was with their guest, he stepped up next to Jaina. "Whats wrong with him?"
Jaina stood up; ignoring Axel's pestering, and glanced back to Davin. "Just exhaustion. Typically goes hand in hand with malnutrition." She spun back to face Axel, cupping his mouth to silence him. "So quit panicking already. He'll be fine."
"Well that's great." Axel complained, backing away from Jaina. "But what do we do with him now?