With Dragon Blood, Forgotten Sands and Final Magic done, the time has come to update Rune Raiders as well :) Somewhat a troublesome chapter (not because of the fight scenes, mind you... the issue runs deeper than that in this one :D), but all in all I actually do like how it turned out in the end.

I don't have much to say it this case, so I'll just thank those of you who reviewed the previous installment and hope you'll like this one also. And to those of you who read my, other stories as well, here's part IV of the Christmas update:

Chapter #8: Blinded

Title Page: Balt is driving a motorcycle with Soria sitting in the back, cheerfully, while besides them Geld is driving a small, electric car

Wint flipped back a few times as Shuda's fist smashed the ground where he stood a moment ago, lifting up a cloud of dust. The bandit however didn't rest and charged again with a roar, this time throwing an uppercut to the masked warrior's chin. Quickly the demon hunter bended to the right and thrust his arm forward, piercing the berserker's side with his katar.

Shuda made nothing of the pain though and simply swung his other arm, delivering a powerful punch to his opponent's face, making the claws on his hand rip the teen's cheek slightly. Wint rolled on the ground a few meters, smashing against the wall of a nearby hut as he came to a stop, his body bruised from a single hit.

He narrowed his eyes as the goon was already charging him once more, with saliva dripping from his mouth. The demon hunter instantly jumped up, making the attack hit the wall, but as he landed on the roof, the house cracked from impact, leaving the boy without footing. The masked warrior slipped, yet never got to reach the ground as Shuda reacted immediately and punched his stomach, sending him on another journey.

This time Wint managed to to flip in mid-air and came to a sliding stop, seeing his adversary following suit. As he beat the distance, the teen strafed right and cut with his left arm, ripping the bandit's chest. This too had no effect and immediately after the berserker spun on his foot and aimed to ram the boy, only for the latter to place his right hand on the ground and relocate himself out of the way in the last moment.

Landing back on his feet, he somersaulted, flying over a straight punch from Shuda, who was already next to him. As he flew, the demon hunter swung his arms, creating a cross cut on his adversary's back. To no avail, for the goon merely spun his torso, smashing his left fist into Wint's side, before the teen could even touch the ground. Again he soared through the air, crashing to the ground hard a few meters away.

Quickly he rolled further as the bandit came once more, bringing both his arms down in the attempt to finish the job. The boy flipped back to a standing position, narrowing his eyes as pain shot through his chest from the broken ribs: Dammit, there's no stopping that guy Wint cursed in his mind, narrowing his eyes. The pain and wounds doesn't even make him twitch. Since that is the case, there's just one way to defeat him; I'll have to kill him he concluded, ready to strike a fatal blow, yet the demon hunter hesitated as a memory suddenly clouded his trail of thoughts...

An nine-year-old boy entered the hut, his body bruised, left,hazel eye darkened, while cuts covered several spots on his skin. His short, violet hair was messy, while his attire was severely ripped. The woman, a figure of twenty eight years, immediately shoot out from her seat and rushed towards the boy, grabbing him by the arms, terrified: "Rain, what happened to you?"

"Bullies again?" asked a man with short, spiky, black hair and eyes as hazel as the boy's, without even taking a look at the youngster. The one called Rain merely nodded sadly, unable to speak. The elder let out a sigh and lowered his head before recomposing himself, and then spoke again: "Go clean yourself up, dinner will be ready soon..."

"Yes, father" the boy responded and slowly headed towards the bathroom. Another boy, at the age of seven, only glanced after his sibling. This one had spiky, silver hair and eyes in the same color as his brother. A worried expression crossed his face as he saw the doors shut behind the other youngster.

The next day both boys were given the task of buying supplies from the market for the coming week. Quite surprisingly, most of Rain's wounds seemed to heal overnight, leaving little trace that anything happened the other day. Still the seven-year-old felt uneasy at the predicament. Neither of the two said a thing throughout their journey, yet as they reached the edge of town, the older one stopped and turned to his brother, his voice as calm as one can only be: "It'll be quicker if we just split us. I can handle the food, you go get the forage for the animals."

"Are you sure you wanna...?" the youngster began, yet his sibling instantly interrupted him:

"Wint, cut that out. I don't wanna spent in this dump more then is necessary" and with that he walked away, leaving the seven-year-old alone. After a short moment, the latter also went on his way, ready to do his part and soon gathered everything his family needed.

Heading towards the road leading out of the village, he heard a sudden ruckus coming from the back alley. He froze for a moment and then carefully neared the source of the noise. As he picked over the corner, he noticed a group of his peers, surrounding Rain, who had his back pressed against a wall. Already the nine-year-old had bruises and cuts; most likely the damage done with sticks and stones held by the mob.

"Freaking demon, get out of our town!" yelled the first boy, tossing a rock straight at Rain. The projectile hit the latter's face, making a cut just above the right eyebrow, releasing a small steam of blood.

"That's right, no-one wants you here!" added another, shaking his stick as a threat.

"Go back to Lower Spheres!" accompanied a girl with hatred in her eyes.

At this point another boy attempted to throw a stone, yet Wint acted faster and sprinting from behind his corner, he rammed the assailant's back before he could complete his work. Everyone turned towards the seven-year-old surprised, Rain most of all.

"What the hell are you doing?" demanded the leader of the group with anger beaming from his voice. "Get away from here, this doesn't concern you!" he yelled, tightening his fist, yet the future hunter didn't respond. In stead he just punched the other boy in the face, knocking him to the ground.

"Doesn't concern me?" he repeated grimly. "You're attacking my, older brother! I say this concerns me a lot!"

"Fine" came another voice as the boy with the stick struck his legs from behind, making Wint collapse to his knees. "You wanna protect a monster, then we'll mess you up just the same" he announced, smacking his victim's back this time.

"Leave him alone!" Rain yelled, yet the boy didn't stop, delivering another hit to his brother's back. "I said leave him alone!" he repeated, anger building up inside. He spotted the mob's leader aimed another rock at his face, yet when the projectile came, he deflected it with his hand, suddenly having bones surfaced from it, covering the skin.

"Wha...?" the bully began surprised, dropping to his butt, however the Child ignored him, in stead settling his glare on the one with the stick. In a flash he lunged forward and punch the latter in the shoulder, instantly cutting the skin. The boy let out a yell of pain as he too dropped to the ground, grabbing the wound. Immediately the mob scattered in all directions, leaving their fallen 'comrade' behind.

Frightened to no end, the youngster stared at Rain, petrified. The Child huffed, glaring at him intensively until, finally, he tilted his head, letting out a simple 'get lost'. The bully didn't waste a second and ran off, leaving the two brothers alone in the alley.

"Are you okay?" Rain asked concerned, calming down a bit.

Wint managed a weak nod before shifting his attention back to his sibling's arm: "Rain..." he began, fear apparent in his voice and only now did the older boy glance at his own hand, realizing what transpired. "We need to do something!" the future hunter announced worried.

"No, wait" the Child stopped him, narrowing his eyes as he observed the arm carefully. "I... I think I can control this" he stated and then concentrated. Fatigue could be seen on his face as the bones slowly retreated, once more leaving his hand in tact, no wounds visible. The two stared at each other, dumb-fooled, until Rain spoke again, uncertainty beaming from his voice: "This must be that... Balthazar piece I'm carrying the paladin mentioned. He said it was a dark, unpredictable force..."

"Yeah, but... but this? What the hell was that?"

"Dunno... lets just head home" Rain purposed and a moment later the duo did just that.

However once their reached the house and entered, they were greeted by their father's stern voice: "What did you do?" he asked, settling his glare on the Child, making Rain instinctually back away a few steps: "I just got word from the village! What did you do, dammit?" he demanded again.

"I..." Rain began, his voice breaking. "There... there was this... mob... that attacked me... Wint came to save me, but... in stead... they attacked him. I... I felt angry and... I charged in blindly... I didn't know, until... I didn't mean to go that far" he finally announced, lowering his head. Quickly he raised it though, gazing straight into his father's eyes: "But, with this... those bullies will probably leave me a..." yet he didn't get to finish as the man slapped him on the face hard.

"Sprin, what are you doing?" the woman yelled at her husband, terrified.

"This brat has been nothing but trouble" the man responded in a cold voice, glancing over at Wint. "Leave and wait outside" he commanded and as the seven-year-old tried to oppose, Sprin raised his voice: "Now!" and so the future hunter complied.

He settled on the bench next to the hut and gazed at the ground, rocking back and forth. He has never seen his father this angry and while Wint realized that Rain's behavior wasn't as good as it could have been, he did not perceived it as 'wrong' either. He waited patiently, yet no sound came from the house, which surprised him. Finally curiosity took over and the youngster slowly moved towards the door to take a peek from the keyhole.

Before his eye reached the space however, a loud shriek sounded from inside, making him back away as if burnt. Afterwords it all went silent again, yet the boy found it impossible to move. He knew that voice; it was his mother. Swallowing his saliva, he reached for the knob and carefully opened the door, taking a glance inside. What he saw made him shiver, while his head started spinning.

The wall were covered in crimson, sprayed all over the room. The furniture was no better, while the stench of blood hit his nostrils hard. But that was not the worst of it. No, true horror stood in the middle of the house in the form of Rain, huffing heavily again, as he towered over the fallen bodies of their parents. The boy's hands were covered in the red fluid as well, while each of the figures that laid on the floor possessed a gaping wound in their chest.

"What... what happened?" was all Wint could say at the sight, his face frozen in shock and terror.

"I never did anything" Rain announced almost as if he didn't hear him. "I never even fought back... the one time I actually decide to strike back, not even for my own sake, and this happens? I get scold and hit for fighting back against bullies? It only shows fa... no, Sprin, was just like all the others... he feared me. He never took me for what I am!"

"What happened?" the seven-year-old demanded, his shock turning into anger.

"He tried to... punish me, as he called it. So I didn't let him."

"And what about our mother?" Wint questioned, tightening his fists.

"She was the same..."

"No, she wasn't! She was always worried about you! She always tried to protect you, even as the paladins that came here aimed to take you away! And now you killed her, just like that! Just because you felt like it!"

"She protected me, eh?" Rain shoot back with a stoic face. "Then how come she was willing to let Sprin just beat me up for nothing? She was the same, just like everyone! All the see in me is a demon. And so I'll give them preciously what they want! I have power! Power beyond your imagination, Wint! Nothing compares!" he announced with a tone of satisfaction in his voice. "But you... you are different. You alone always stood beside me. Join me and together we can rule this dump. Maybe even more..."

"Join you? After what you did?" the youngster replied, lowering his head. "I always thought that you, above everyone else, were strong. But not because of that demon element inside of you, but because of what you endured. I always knew you could've chased those bullies away on your own. I also knew that you didn't preciously because of the consequences to them. They called you a demon and yet, every time they did so, you proved them wrong by restraining yourself. And now... now... you killed your own parents, Rain!" he yelled, charging at his brother. "You just shown that a demon's a demon!"

He lunged forward with his fists ready, yet his sibling simply threw his fist up, hitting his face. Wint felt his skin being cut as he dropped on his back, the left side of his face burning from pain. He noted Rain's arm once more got covered in sharp bones. These retracted a moment later as the Child walked forward: "I will not kill you... for the fact that you actually did try to protect me at some point. But, make no mistake, this is a no-time deal. Face me again and I shall erase you, bro... Wint."

"You won't kill me?" the future hunter asked surprised, covering his left eye. "I advice you otherwise. Coz if you let me live... I'll surely kill you someday" he proclaimed to his siblings back, making the older boy freeze in his tracks. This made Rain glance over his shoulder, settling his gaze on his brother, while both his face and voice remained calm:

"I see... I'll wish you luck then, coz as is, there's no way you can achieve this. What I just said, was true; since you aim to kill me, it matters not whether we are brothers or not. I will murder you without mercy, should we face off again" he announced and resumed his march, disappeared outside the door.

Wint remained still a while longer, before finally dropping to his knees as a loud cry escaped his lungs. Tears began flowing down his cheeks, the left one burning intensively, yet that didn't matter. All that mattered, was around him and the force that did it...

Wint snapped out of the memory just in time to flip to the right as another clawed punch went for his face. Still propping his body on his right hand, the demon hunter came to a sudden stop and driven his leg down, delivering a kick to the back of Shuda's neck, yet even that seemed to make little impression on the berserker.

Seeing this, he bounced of the ground and somersaulting, tried to extend the distance between himself and the bandit. Landing on his feet safely, he gave his opponent a quick glance before taking off his katar while jumping back, to avoid another swing. Narrowing his eyes, he reached for his katana and instant cut from below, making the blade scar Shuda's chin as the latter kept on charging forward blindly.

The wound didn't even made him slow down though, as he immediately threw an uppercut to the masked boy's chest, the claws on his arms ripping the teen's torso. Again Wint gasped for air, strafing left as his adversary pushed further, increasing his own speed.

I need to keep him away for a moment the demon hunter thought to himself, reaching to his porch. In a blink of an eye he tossed his left arm forward, releasing small, spiky stars to the ground, hoping to forcing the berserker to flank them. No such luck, for Shuda went straight through the spiky field, ignoring the makibishi that dug into his feet, allowing him to reach the masked teen in an instant.

Before the boy could react, the bandit placed him in a bear hug, the pressure crushing his ribs. Wint clenched his teeth at the pain, feeling his breath escaping the lungs: Dammit... don't tell me he really doesn't feel anything he cursed, eye twitching.

Instinctually, he wrapped his legs around the man's waist and delivered a headbutt to the latter's forehead. But that turned out to be a bad idea as Shuda didn't flinch, like usual, while the masked warrior now faced a massive headache... which he quickly forgotten as another squeeze was followed by a cracking sound and a new wave of pain.

In a desperate attempt, he twisted the wrist of the hand that held his sword and placing the blade sideways, he cut, scourging the berserker's left elbow. While the attack still seemed to have no effect on Shuda's pain receptors, the sudden damage of the muscles made his arm limb, allowing the teen to free himself from the grip.

The bandit merely glanced at his arm, slightly confused, apparently unsure what just happened, yet immediately he recovered and charged again, his roar even wilder then earlier, once more forcing Wint to escape: Regardless to his resistance to pain, that is still a human body the demon hunter analyzed, dodging the swings of Shuda's left arm. If you damage the nerves or muscles properly, he simply won't manage to operate normally; laws of anatomy still apply he concluded, bending to the left as another fist came at his face.

With his opponent's arm beside him, the masked warrior cut the elbow again, making the goon's second hand immobile. Calmly, he retreated his katana, yet Shuda merely let out a loud cry, ramming his stomach with the head, much to the boy's shock.

"You've gotta be kidding me!" Wint snapped as he rose back to his feet after rolling on the ground a few meters. "Can this rage really take away your common sense even? You don't even have a way to fight anymore!" he yelled, strafing right as the bandit launched a kick to his gut.

Annoyed, the demon hunter reached to his vest and pulled out a long chain, which links were filled with tiny spikes, while the end was shaped like a spear's blade. The instant Shuda charged again, the teen ducked under his kick and set the weapon in motion, making it wrap around the bandit's other leg. The goon was not about to surrender and quickly aimed to bring his foot down in the attempt to smash the boy from above.

To this, Wint rolled to the side and as the stomp came, he used another part of his chain to wrap it as well, with a pull pushing his adversary's legs together. Before the man could attack again, the masked warrior rose back to a standing position and with a whip of his hand, made the rest of his weapon flew up, forming several rings.

In a blink of an eye the chain dropped all around Shuda and with another pull, pressed against every inch of his body. The bandit roared wildly once more, yet Win didn't listen; in stead he pulled the weapon back, making the tiny spikes scourge the bandit's body as they followed the force, nearly ripping the man to shreds.

With another yell, the goon attempted to charged once more, yet the first step he made, was his last as his knees gave in, forcing his body to the ground. Meanwhile, Wint calmly folded his chain, gazing at his handiwork: "If laws of anatomy apply, then a way to defeat you is quite obvious; one has to immobilize you physically by damaging the muscles or bones to the point they won't manage to take the strain of moving. Willpower is certainly a great strength, but as humans, we have certain limits that we cannot surpass. I've just cut nearly every, single muscle in your legs, skipping hundred others throughout the rest of the body. It's not possible for your legs to keep going without recovery. And so, you're at my mercy" he announced, putting the chain away, while his eyes narrowed, the previous memory flashing in his mind again.

"I'll spare your life" he announced as Shuda laid motionless, his consciousness already gone. "Treat that as thanks... if it wasn't for our fight just now... I'd have become just like you" he finished as a sudden burst was heard from another part of the village: "Geez, those two... are they planning to destroy everything?"

Balt flipped back a few times as small projectiles came at him and, coming to a sudden stop, he used his sword to deflect the rest, making the calcium bullets drop to the ground harmlessly. He had no time to celebrate though, for Rain was already behind him, swinging his spike-filled arm at the back of the teen's head.

Instantly the swordsman ducked under the assault and putting his body into a spin, he aimed a horizontal swing at his opponent's chest. The latter dodged the attack however by jumping back and still in mid-air, the tip of his fingers shot out again, releasing a new barrage of calcium bullets. With a distance much lesser then before, Balt managed to block only three with his weapon, using the metal protector on his left arm to deflect the other two.

Rain was not about to let him rest as he charged forward, sharp spikes growing from his palms. Reaching his adversary's face, he tried to stab him through the chest, forcing the boy to strafe left. At this the bandit put his other, right, hand into motion in an attempt to chop of the teen's head, swinging from the right. With no way to dodge, Balt blocked with his blade, making a loud 'ching' echo through the town.

His eyes widen though as thinner spikes suddenly shot out from the tips of Rain's fingers, the very hand he just block., The blades went for his face, making the swordsman react on instinct; in a flash he jumped back, yet not fast enough as the bones grazed his cheeks and forehead, leaving shallow cuts, while the boy smashed the wall of a hut with his back.

Cornered, he had no choice but to block the incoming punch, launched with an arm covered in a calcium armor, filled with thick spikes. The force of the blow push Balt's sword back, allowing the attack to smash his chest, ramming the teen through the wooden wall, right into someone's house, causing lots of rumble.

Rain waited patiently and, sure enough, a moment later, his opponent jumped out the window on the right, swinging his weapon at the bandit's head as he flew. Immediately the gang leader stopped the assault with his armored hand, while pointing his, other palm at the boy, extending the spike that grew from it.

Unable to dodge nor block in mid-air, Balt only managed to flip as his right shoulder got ripped by the sharp bone, the momentum making him hit the ground faster then expected, resulting in his landing on the back, sliding a few meters. Helping himself with the sword, the teen rose back to his feet, huffing slightly, while the bandit remained untouched.

Meanwhile, a small tornado burst on top of a nearby roof, bringing Geld and Soria to the scene, the older mage still showing a worried expression on his face: "See what I mean? Your friend isn't doing so well. I fear, should this keep up, he'll go berserk, just like last time. It's hard to determine what triggers the awakening, however considering Balthazar is a Demon Lord, it's a safe bet negative emotions can bring that power forward. And when one stares into the eyes of defeat, often despair emerges. We cannot..." but before he could finish, the girl interrupted him:

"Being a know-it-all is what really bugs me in you, ya know. However, this time around, you're incorrect. One thing you haven't learned about Balt is... he has power of his own..." she announced with a smirk, making her companion gaze at her confused.

"This is really troublesome" the swordsman stated as he raised his blade once more. "I'll admit that at this point, you are stronger. But, regardless to that, I do not plan on reaching for the same power as you. Even if I knew how to draw it out, at the very least, I'm different then you. But, you should also know something else; aside from that Balthazar piece inside that all of you people keep referring to, I have one, other trump card" he added as black runes suddenly began drawing themselves on the blade of his weapon. "Allow me to show you... what I can really do!"

-Balt unleashes his real power!-

-volume #02 ends-

And this concludes chapter 8, as well as the second volume :D And yes, you're not imagining things; Balt does have a special ability besides going berzerk in Balthazar mode. I actually planned on giving him one from the beginning (Rune Raiders became the title for this tale not just to sound cool, but because both, main characters have abilities connected to runes; Soria is the scroll of Belios, while Balt... well, you'll see ;P). But that's for 2012 :D

Thanks for reading, hope you'll leave me a review and just before I finish up, I'd like to wish you all MERRY CHRISTMAS and a HAPPY NEW YEAR! See ya in 2012!