Eric let out a grunt, landing on his back. Jack lay beside Eric with bruises covering his face. Jack tried to rise to his feet, failing to as Vaunt kicked him back down. The hunter smirked, pointing his cutlass at Eric.

"I am the strongest hunter in the VHA. You scoundrels are nothing in comparison. Lie down and accept your deaths like the vermin you are!"

"Shut the hell up!" Jack growled, looking into Vaunt's eyes.

Vaunt gasped, suddenly feeling his entire body become paralyzed. Eric quickly jumped to his feet, and transformed his fists into granite. Eric ran toward Vaunt, punching the hunter repeatedly. Eric only stopped when Vaunt's face was so covered in blood that he couldn't even see Vaunt's eyes. Eric stepped back, watching as Vaunt collapsed to the ground.

"Our powers make a good team, Jack. Your paralysis mixed with my fists of granite. We're unstoppable together!"

Jack snorted at Eric's boast, glancing toward Vaunt. "Don't get overconfident. I'm doubting that this buffoon is dead quite yet."

Eric looked Vaunt over, noting that the hunter was still gripping his cutlass. "All I see is that he's still gripping his cutlass. That doesn't mean much, Jack. A warrior will always hold onto their weapon, even in death."

"You're right lad," Vaunt said, as he suddenly sat up. Blood still covered his face, but a sickening grin was visible through the crimson blood. "I was holding onto my cutlass for a much more important reason, though. It heals me. You could say that it's my own personal healing potion. Thanks to you two blabbering instead of finishing me off, I'm back to full power. Thanks for being imbeciles!"

"Shit," Eric cursed, as he got into a fighting stance.

"Impressive," Jack said in a calmer voice than his ally. "We were foolish to not expect such tricks from a hunter of your caliber. I won't make such a mistake next time. I'm pretty sure that cutlass can't fix a disembodied head."

"You're right there. However, you two won't get such a chance ever again. I know your power now, Jack Klavier. The ability to paralyze any foe that dares to make eye contact is truly a dangerous ability. As for you Eric Dearborne, your power to turn any part of your body into granite is quite useful. But that means nothing to someone who can cut granite."

"You're bluffing," Eric growled toward Vaunt.

Eric had wanted to sound confident that Vaunt was bullshitting, but he couldn't hide the tint of doubt in his words. He really wasn't sure what Vaunt was capable of.

"I don't think he is, Eric," Jack said, watching as Vaunt got to his feet. "You've seen our abilities, but we've also seen yours. The fight is even now. I won't even try and act like I think either of us can beat you alone. That would be foolish. We obviously can't. Together, though, we can defeat you Lord Vaunt de Romania."

Vaunt chuckled, swishing his cutlass through the air. "It's been a long time since I've encountered such arrogance. You two think that you've seen all my abilities? You two think that you can beat the hunter who has never been defeated - not even by your own leader? I welcome you to try! Come at me with everything you two have! It will only make me savor your deaths that much more."

The two vampires charged at Vaunt, as the hunter stood utterly still. Vaunt smirked, watching as Eric turned his entire body into granite. Vaunt easily evaded a punch from Eric, and then quickly kicked a rushing Jack away. Vaunt spun around gracefully, stabbing his cutlass through Eric's granite chest.

Eric's eyes went wide, as Vaunt's smirk grew wider. The hunter ripped his weapon from Eric's chest, proceeding to slash the vampire along his granite chest. Eric coughed up blood, sinking to his knees. The vampire turned back to normal before hitting the ground face first.

"As I said, granite is nothing to someone like me," Vaunt said, glancing toward a shocked Jack. "Now…will you try something too? Or can I simply slice you down like the dog you are?"

"I most likely have no chance against you," Jack admitted, grimacing. "But I refuse to just stand here and allow you to kill me. I have someone that I'm willing to die to protect!"

"Ahhh, you speak of Alundra Blazer? So you're willing to die for her? I might have underestimated just how much of a main character she has become. I'm starting to wonder if I made a mistake by coming here."

"You're still going on with that main character crap?" Jack asked, groaning. "It really makes me wonder just how sane you are."

"My sanity is of no concern to you," Vaunt said, shrugging. "If you insist on this futile last stand then so be it. I'll send you to deaths door."

Jack couldn't even react before Vaunt was suddenly in his face. In one swift motion, Vaunt shoved his cutlass straight through Jack's chest. Jack moaned in pain, swinging at Vaunt. The hunter dodged easily, ripping his cutlass from Jack's chest. The vampire stumbled forward, and right into Vaunt slashing him down like a bug. Vaunt turned his back to Jack, as the vampire hit the ground like a log.

"Your arrogance was unfounded, vampires. You two might be close to the main character, but not even that could save you against me. I probably expected too much from scum like you."

"You did expect quite a lot from these two idiots," Desmond said as he walked into the room.

Vaunt grinned with glee, staring at Desmond like a vulture. "I'm guessing that fool Sid failed. It's just as I expected."

"You expected me to win and yet you still let Sid go to his death. What a bad teammate you are, Vaunt."

Vaunt shrugged. "It was of no concern to me. I don't have any camaraderie with my fellow hunters. Stuff like that is for chumps. Chumps like you to be exact."

"You can call me whatever you want. I'm not the same person you fought ten years ago. I won't fail this time, Vaunt. I will not allow you to kill Alundra Blazer."

Vaunt narrowed his eyes at that statement. He began to ponder if he might have underestimated just how powerful Alundra's plot protection was. Having all these vampires willing to die for her suggested that it was quite strong. Could that protection possibly extend to someone like Desmond? The way he easily defeated Eric and Jack seemed to suggest the opposite. It seemed that he was still in the clear – for now anyway.

"It seems that I might have miscalculated a bit by taking this mission. I don't think I'll stick around for Raymond's meeting with Alundra. I'm going to kill you and Luxeria and book it. And I'm going to do it quick."

Desmond raised an eyebrow. "This is one of your quirks, isn't it? You think of this world in terms of a story. And, right now, you can sense it. You feel that Alundra is the main character of this story."

"Precisely. That is why I'll strike you down now. I don't wish to mess around with the main character. So, are you ready to die, Desmond?"

"Don't think you'll be taking him on alone," Luxeria growled as she appeared next to Desmond. "I won't take any chances against a hunter like you, Vaunt."

Vaunt began to laugh; unable to hide the excitement he was feeling. "It seems that I was correct once again. I knew that neither Sid nor Enid could stop you two. It seems that Enid did quite a number on you, though, Luxeria. Your beautiful face isn't looking so great."

"Whether I'm beautiful or not doesn't matter," Luxeria snarled in response. "I can still kick your ass, Vaunt!"

"Are you sure about this?" Desmond asked Luxeria in concern. He could tell that Luxeria had been heavily wounded in her previous fight.

"Don't worry about me, Desmond." Luxeria replied with a half-hearted smile.

"This makes it far easier for me. I thank you for arriving quickly, Luxeria. Now I can finish you both off and quickly leave the scene. Lord Bartholomew should be pleased enough knowing that I killed four of you on my own. I should be able to take a longer vacation than ever after this."

Desmond looked at Vaunt, as he bit his lip. He couldn't lie to himself. He was scared. Was he truly ready to take Vaunt on? The result could end up the same as last time: with Desmond experiencing a crushing defeat.

"Don't be worried," Luxeria assured Desmond. "We can take him on. Don't forget how much we trained for this day. We knew that another meeting with Vaunt was unavoidable. This is the day we've been waiting for!"

Desmond silently nodded his head. Luxeria was right. This wasn't the time to be consumed by fear. This was the time to finally make the stand that they should have made ten years ago.

"Oh, you'll be getting a vacation after this," Desmond began with a smirk. "A vacation to hell, that is."

Desmond could only hope this newfound confidence wasn't false bravado.