Chapter 8: What Changes may Come
Cornell and Capulet had left Dante and Lance to head back to the city. They told Dante that they would come clean about what they had done to their father and that they would do everything in their power to protect him, as long as Dante did the right thing after his talk with Lance.
Dante and Lance had walked along the mountain in silence. At least, silence on Lance's part. Dante kept asking questions while Lance seemed to ignore him as they walked. It was frustrating, but every time Dante would seem to get upset, Lance would simply mutter 'look' and point to some animal or tree. All it did was prove to confuse Dante, but in his confusion and curiosity, it just made him follow Lance without pause.
It took them a little while, but they ended up deep inside of the mountain forest. The forest was so thick, one couldn't tell that they were indeed still up in the mountains. After silently walking for another few minutes, Dante was surprised to come across a large lake. Now he really couldn't tell the difference between the forest and the actual mountain. The rocks on the side of lake were the only indication that they were on the mountain. Looking around, he noticed a small cabin on the side of the lake a good distance away from them near the West side of the lake.
"Home sweet home." Lance said as he began walking towards the indicated cabin. Dante rose an eyebrow. He had never spoke to Lance in school, not that he had seen much of the S-ranks anyway. But if he had ever thought of the older teen, he was sure he wouldn't have pictured him living in a cabin up in the mountains inside of a forest on the side of a lake. Solitude at it's best, Dante thought.
When the two made it to the cabin, Dante noticed how clean the outside of it was. It was almost like someone had taken unnatural care of it, or as if it was the only thing the person devoted actual time to. Dante couldn't help but think that it was the truth and exactly what Lance did. Instead of voicing his opinion, he followed Lance a bit longer.
Inside the cabin, everything was quaint. There wasn't much more than what was really needed to live, however, there was still a flat screen T.V and several video games. It was the only thing that let Dante know some old man didn't live there. "Well, what do you think?" Lance asked as he motioned to his home. Dante scratched his head in contemplation.
Lance chuckled at the reply before kicking off his shoes and flopping down onto one of the two sofas in the living room area. It wasn't that big of cabin, the kitchen being connected to the living room area. Besides the small entry way where they had entered from, there were stairs leading upstairs, but Dante didn't believe there was much up there besides a single room. Dante stood still, looking around the lightly furnished place and wondering just what was the point of him being there.
"I would love to say have a seat so we can play some CoD or something, but you don't really have that kind of time do you?" Lance sat up and sighed, putting his hands behind his head.
Dante frowned. Lance seemed really lax, something that Dante really couldn't comprehend. The atmosphere around him was even relaxing. He was a human, and yet, the most powerful person in District 44. Why did he live like this? He could have fame and money in his position, or anything he wanted for that matter. Dante was pretty sure if he wanted to, he could have had the wish for himself unless he knew the truth behind it as well. Or maybe he just didn't care for it at all.
Lance was back on his feet as Dante pondered. He walked over to a small closet and grabbed two poles and a box. Dante rose an eyebrow, questioning the items until Lance spoke again. "You ever been fishing?"
Several minutes later had the two sitting in collapsible chairs on the side of the lake, a rod each as they sat in silence with the lines in the water. Lance sat back with his eyes closed and his hands behind his head. Dante sat with an annoyed expression staring at the water. Though it had only been a few minutes, Lance had already captured three fish.
"The fish are racist. They only like humans." Dante grumbled. Lance chuckled and glanced towards Dante.
"Stop being so restless. Patience is key to fishing." Lance called and suddenly paused. Dante looked at him with a cocked eye brow until Lance yanked the rod and out came a large catfish. Dante face palmed and turned away, grumbling.
"Patience my ass! We haven't been out here for ten minutes and you've already caught four fish!" Dante tugged on his rod and felt nothing at the end before gritting his teeth and contemplating snapping the damned thing in two. His actions only seemed to bring more mirth to Lance.
"Just calm down!" He laughed. "I've been doing this for years. And you've been doing what you're doing now for years." Lance spoke the last part with a more serious tone. Dante looked at him in shock for a second before settling down and leaning back in his chair.
"...Complaining and giving up too quick?" Dante asked. Lance smiled.
"If you know that already, what do you need me for?" Lance placed the catfish into a cooler with water, alongside the three other fish he had captured. After baiting the hook again, he cast back into the water before leaning back as well.
"Okay, life lesson moment, what does fishing have to do with it?"
There was a short silence that followed Dante's question. The wind blew around them and Dante found his attention drawing back towards the lake, the bob on his line slowly bouncing on the waves, but giving no sign of a fish being anywhere near it. He thought about how his life had been just like that lure. Uncertain of whether something was real or not and always bouncing on the waves of problems that seemed to surround him. And Dante had let himself be pulled under, not by the fish that would lead to something greater, but only to snare on the rocks at the bottom of the sea, to hold him and drown him in anguish.
"Dante...you don't need me to tell you stop complaining and just deal with life...you don't need me to tell you to not give up so quick...everyone gives up, human or not. We all have our problems and we all deal with them differently." Lance sighed and looked up at the sky, his piercing flame like eyes seeming to actually be ablaze in the sunlight. "I guess the only thing you need to realize is that life moves on with or without you. Regardless of if you have the fighter's soul or not, regardless of if you're human or not. Regardless of if you're alive or not. Wanting to just up and quit is only temporary. What happens tomorrow, or next month, or next year? More problems, more challenges, but also more ways to fix them."
Dante sat silently and listened. It was the vague truth, but even Dante had realized that something so simple like that meant a lot to him. Dante was thinking as if the world and all of its problems revolved around him. What if Soren HAD been born with the fighter's soul. Would their roles be reversed then? And even so, the world moves on. Even after the Battle Festival...life would move on.
"I'm not going to be too cryptic...that's not my style. But there is a deeper meaning to us being out here right now." Lance picked up his rod and stood up, taking a few steps into the lake. He only went deep enough to the point where his knees were just in the water. "The main thing you need to learn is to live your life for you and not anyone else. So what if you have the Fighter's Soul and everyone else wants it. It's yours to do with as you please, even if they see it and not you. So what if you're a little whiny bitch, do it to effect you, not anyone else."
"That's not helping." Dante dead panned. Lance smirked and turned to face Dante.
"Come on out here. Don't be afraid of the water."
Dante just shrugged and stood up, grabbing his fishing rod and walking out into the lake with Lance. He was being a lot more cooperative. Even without Lance telling him these things, Dante was actually feeling more relaxed while fishing. It was letting him think more clearly. Everything Lance was telling him was sinking in quickly.
Lance pointed to the ripples of the water. "This is going to sound like some back water bull shit, but it works for me. Our lives are like the ripples on this lake. We exist, we spread, and then we fade. But at points, we hit deterrents. Your lure, a rock, anything. And from that point, we either change course or make more ripples."
"Sounds dull..." Dante mumbled though he hadn't meant to say it out loud.
"It is. But only if you truly believe you are the ripple and just let the waves carry you wherever they choose. That's how you've been living your life Dante. People don't understand that we aren't the ripples of the lake and only our lives. We're the fisherman that cast our lines into the water to make the ripples. Those ripples push fish away and even draw them sometimes. What you have to do is be patient enough to allow the fish to be drawn, even if they are pushed away in the beginning. It's more like you're controlling the ripples of your life than letting them control you."
Just as Lance finished speaking, Dante felt a tug on his line. He let out in inaudible gasp before gripping the rod quickly reeling the line in. To his surprise, a large bass jumped out of the lake, the water sparkling behind it as it drew near. "Un-freaking-believable. That back water bull shit actually made sense."
Lance coughed at Dante's words but laughed anyway. After taking the catch back to the other fish, Dante and Lance began to pack up.
"Lance..." Dante called as he folded his chair and prepared to help take everything back into the cabin. "I understand now. That I've been stressing over things that really didn't matter. I should've been thinking of what I wanted instead of trying to hold on to others like a security blanket. I put so much faith in them instead of myself that when they made mistakes, I could only blame them. I'll take responsibility for my own fate from now on. I'll make decisions for my own sake and create my own path towards the future." Dante looked up towards the sky as well. It hadn't taken him long to realize everything once it was put into perspective and he had a little time to think. It was all he needed...a moment to breathe. "Thank you."
"What are you thanking me for? I made all of that crap up. Whatever conclusion you just came to, you came to it on your own." Dante's jaw dropped. Before he could say anything Lance smiled and nodded towards the direction they had come. "Like I said, you don't have much time. You're friends are probably worried about you and you've got a lot of apologizing to do I assume. Thanks for helping me catch dinner!"
Lance grabbed everything and began to head back into his cabin. Dante chuckled at his retreating form. His chuckles soon turned to laughter as he realized why Lance lived out here in the mountains. "It's...because he can." With a deep breath, Dante felt his entire being relax. He closed his eyes and felt the wind circling around his body, feeling his ki and chi in perfect harmony within him. His werewolf blood was calm. He knew what he wanted to do now. With his head held high, he began to walk back towards the inner city. He was going back to Reaping Shadows. Then he would confront Soren...
Lance stood in front of his door after having put everything away and watched Dante walking away. Once he was completely out of sight he closed his eyes and sighed, his lingering smirk not fading a bit.
"You've watched the show, now it's time for you to become a part of it." Lance said into the wind. Another person stepped from the opposite side of the cabin, away from the lake. The person looked after Dante as well. Lance looked at the person, his eyes narrowed lazily. "It's time for you to stop blaming Dante for things he didn't have control over...Soren."
The elder Seberul looked down at Lance's words. He had stopped blaming Dante a long time ago. Only now did he truly realize that his hatred and animosity was misplaced. Instead of aiming his resentment at his brother and parents, he could've done what he had to do anyway. Something that he would show Dante, even if he never forgave him again. Soren understood that he had made mistakes, some unforgivable. But he wasn't naïve enough to look for forgiveness at this point either. Just like Lance had said, life moves on, with or without you. It was time for Soren to make an impact in this life for himself. "It's almost time for the end anyway." Soren smirked at his friend. "I guess being a bit cliché wouldn't hurt."
"What, you going to be the big brother you always were supposed to be?" Lance asked. Soren scratched his head, akin to his little brother. Lance noticed but said nothing.
"Hell no. I'm just going to go show off." Soren waved to Lance as he prepared to walk away. "Thanks for doing nothing. Somehow it always works."
"Thanks for cleaning my bathroom!" Lance waved back. Once Soren was gone Lance turned to enter his home. A note was on the door. Lance rose an eyebrow and took the note down. "I didn't clean the bathroom...that bastard!"
Capulet and Cornell stood in front of their home after having come talked to their father and telling him the truth. The downtrodden looks on their faces were testament to the tongue lashing they had just received. But this one was worse than any before. The principal had practically disowned his children. Almost in hysterics, the man tore apart his study before kicking the two of them out. But even after his rant, neither of the siblings cared. Things had escalated farther than their father could handle, and if they had to, they would take matters into their own hands for the remainder of the Festival. However, they would wait to see Dante's decision.
"Silent Whirlwind is dead huh?" Capulet stated offhandedly. Cornell looked at her and saw a smile tugging at the corner of her lips. It made him smile as well.
"It was a giant catastrophe in the first place. Oh well, I suppose we'll just have to make our own group now." Cornell replied standing up straight with his hands in his pockets. "Let's let Cervantes pick the name though."
Capulet and Cornell looked to the gates where their little brother was standing. Cervantes expression was unreadable, just like always. They smirked at their little brother but received no kind gesture in return. Instead Cervantes walked towards them and stood at his full height, showing that he was just as tall as them both, not only in height, but in confidence as well. The two older Highwind siblings felt the air about Cervantes and relaxed. He had grown while they weren't watching...or maybe they hadn't paid enough attention all this time.
"Where is father?" Cervantes asked. The two nodded their heads to the house.
"We've been out here for an hour now." Capulet said. "He's livid still."
Cornell chuckled. "That's putting it lightly."
Cervantes looked between the two, at how they seemed to be relaxed in such a situation. "I know...about everything. About Dante, the wish, Silent Whirlwind, and even about mom. I've always known about mom." The calm expressions turned to shock as Capulet and Cornell took in silent gasp. Now it was his turn to smirk at them. He folded his arms and looked them both in the eyes. "I understand everything you both have been doing and I know what you just did. Thank you for helping Dante, but I'm not going to stand in the background and watch this happen anymore. You two have done enough. Let me and Amanita handle this from now on."
The shocked expressions still adorned his older brother and sisters faces. They didn't know what to say at first, not having realized just how mature Cervantes had truly become. Capulet was the first to start laughing. Cornell followed shortly after until they both had tears in their eyes. Cervantes stood with a neutral gaze again, wondering what was so funny. Capulet took a quick step forward and hugged her brother. "You're such a smart ass, you know that?"
Cornell put a hand on his younger brother's shoulder. "If we didn't have you, we would be just like father. Cervantes, we'll leave everything up to you. But we'll support you from here on out. Show us how to redeem the Highwind name."
"That's a little more than I expected..." Cervantes called. After being released from his sister, he nodded to his siblings and entered their home, going straight to their father's study. Without knocking, he entered.
Just as his brother and sister had said, the principal had been livid. Books were strewn off the shelves, his desk was overturned, paper and glass was everywhere. The principal himself stood with his back to Cervantes, a glass of wine in his hand as he peered out the window. There was only silence, no tick of a clock or anything else. Cervantes didn't care for the state of the room. His father had gone too far. He needed to stop this madness.
"Father. Give this up already. You're fears are misguided." Cervantes awaited any response from his father but got none. "Silent Whirlwind is finished. All you can do now is have faith in Dante, like the rest of us. It's over."
"Yes...it is over." Cornelius said, his voice like the shattered glass about the floor. He was tired, obviously so. "I lost faith the day Celia left. I'll never have it again. You children are naïve...naive enough to put all of your hope into another child's hands. I can't let you gamble the future away like that."
"Father, there is nothing else you can do." Cervantes didn't raise his voice. "Please, calm down and take a look at what has happened because of you. People are dead, and you are trying to kill more people. This family is falling apart because of your twisted morals. Why do you think mother left in the first place?"
Cornelius dropped the cup of wine in his hand, the red liquid splashing like blood onto the carpet. He put his hand onto the window in front of him and held his head low, his teeth grit and anguish on his face. "You're all just too young...too trusting...you won't understand. You need protection, guidance!"
"We need to forge our own future father!" Cervantes finally yelled. "Who are you to decide whether or not Dante should live or die? Whether or not we can protect ourselves! Yes,we are young, and we are meant to make mistakes. But we are also meant to learn from them and grow, making our own decisions until it's time for the next generation to take our place. We aren't as naïve as you want us to be."
The silence that fell between father and son was like an ocean draining away. Cervantes could only wonder if Cornelius was actually listening to him, or if he was already too far gone to save. Cervantes didn't want to see his father like this, nor did he want his family to tear apart more than it already had. His parents were already showing that the next generation needed to step up. Capulet and Cornell had shown that they were willing to step away from their fathers foot steps to keep their family together as well. Cervantes knew he could no longer hide in the background from anything.
"I'm sorry Cervantes..." Cornelius began. "I'm sorry to everyone. Especially Celia. I know she's not coming back, I'm not blind. I pushed her away just like I pushed you all away. But it's too late. Like you said, it's over. I've already sent my last resort out. The only person who will not fail to end not only Dante, but Reaping Shadows as well."
"What are you saying...father?" Cervantes was becoming worried.
Cornelius stood up straight, his gaze falling on the distant mountains from his window. "James Prowl..."
Cervantes' eyes widened. Without waiting to hear more, he turned and rushed from the room.
Dante reached the warehouse district with a calm air at first, however, a shiver went down his spine. Any other day, he would push the thought away. However, this feeling just didn't go away. He knew something was wrong. For a moment, he wondered if it was another ability of his werewolf side, but for the most part he was hoping that his intuition was wrong. Rushing through the warehouses straight to the hideout of Reaping Shadows, Dante's fears were confirmed. The large gate was destroyed, completely torn off its hinges. Dante's heart beat heavily in his chest as he walked inside.
"No..." His eyes dilated.
Stone, glass, and blood was the scene he walked into. On the ground in front of him, the group of Reaping Shadows lay beaten bloody, the hideout itself destroyed beyond recognition. Dante swallowed hard. He analyzed them all while trying to hold back his anger. Charles was on the ground to Dante's left, one of his arms laying off to the side and a huge pool of blood beneath him. He was still breathing but barely. Candy was laying on the destroyed gate of the warehouse, blood still dripping from the gash on her head and cuts all over her body. Dante felt his stomach drop when he saw Mark.
"Why..." Mark was embedded into the wall, blood surrounding him and pooled on the ground beneath him. His chest was ripped open showing his shattered rib cage...he was dead. A cough tore Dante's gaze away from the scene. The last person there, Dillon, lay with his back to the wall, a stab wound in his side and his face bruised. Dante instantly ran to him. "Dillon! What happened here! Hold on, I'll get you to the hospital!"
"Stop...Dante." Dillon said before coughing up a bit of blood. "Cops...are already on there way...but..."
"Just stop talking Dillon, you need to save your strength!" Dante was about to find something to help stop the bleeding but Dillon grabbed his wrist.
"Dante! They...took Sonya."
Dante's heart skipped a bit, his body feeling an ice cold chill. "...Where?"
Dillon took several heavy breaths. "...To the place...where you lost it all." He coughed again. "They want you...or they'll kill her."
"...The S-ranked...James Prowl."
The world that sat beneath her seemed much smaller than it did when she walked among it. From the height she sat, she could see into the other districts. Even still, she could see the smoke rising from districts 10, 11, and 12. That's how Amanita felt at the moment. Like she was at war. But she wouldn't sit and cry about it. She had never been one to let her emotions show very often, but maybe that's what had gotten her into this situation in the first place.
She was in her battle garb, sitting on a rail on a hill that overlooked all of Rock City. Her legs were folded and her back was straight, a contemplative look on her face. She was far past being sad about the things that had been happening. Crying never solved any of her problems and it wouldn't now. But even if she knew that, she couldn't help but feel pissed at herself. "Dante..." She sighed out. It was painfully obvious now. That she was in love with Dante. The more time she had away from him to think about it, the more she realized she didn't want to be away from him at all. She chuckled dryly a tired smirk on her face. Her mind drifted to scene in the hospital again and to the words she had always told herself before that. It was her fault Dante was finding comfort in the arms of someone else. She had constantly told herself that he was only a friend, a little brother at best. In that context, she didn't deserve to get in Sonya and Dante's way.
But Amanita's race of witches were also very possessive. It wasn't very strong in the newer generations, but now that she had finally set her sights on Dante, she didn't want to lose him. Her smile became devious, seductive even. She licked her lips as she thought about how she could win him over. Amanita wasn't weak, and she would definitely show Sonya that the next time they met. Having solidified what she wanted to do, Amanita closed her eyes and spoke to the person trying to hide themselves from her.
"What in the world would Risa Hikari want with a C-rank like me?" Amanita called without turning back. From the shadow of a nearby tree, a figure rose. A shorter girl, also one of the people whom had been on the stage with the principal stepped forward.
"Amazing! You could sense me even from that distance?" Risa Hikari asked as she walked forward. Her hair was straight and trimmed neatly to the bottom of her neck. She wore glasses and the uniform to Highwind Academy. Her skin was very pale, as if she didn't come out into the sunlight very often. Amanita knew that to be true since Risa was a vampire and also the last of the three S-ranks of Highwind Academy.
"I'm a Lunar Witch. The closer it gets to night, the stronger my chi gets." Amanita explained. Risa leaned against the rail next to her.
"You're a bad liar too. You're not a C-rank anymore. You became a B-rank yesterday didn't you?"
"Are you stalking me?"
Risa giggled but didn't answer right away. "You interested me. I can sense how you feel about Dante and I know that you'll rather fight for your affection rather than cry about it. If there's anything I agree with, it's that you'll be an A-rank before you know it, not just because of your strength. Amanita...I want to train you to become the next S-rank in Highwind Academy."
Amanita's eyes widened and she looked at Risa in disbelief. The smirk on Risa's face let her know that she wasn't kidding. Amanita let out a half laugh. "Wow...just when I thought I finally had a grasp on what was going on you hit me with that." She spun on the rail and landed right next to Risa. "Don't get me wrong, I'm happy about that. Part of me doesn't care that I may not deserve it. I just can't see that happening without Dante and Cervantes though."
Risa cocked her head to the side. "What do you mean? They're candidates too. Unlike Lance and James, I actually pay attention to what's going on. I know Cervantes has been hiding his true power all this time and that Dante's abilities are rising at a substantial rate. All three of you have the potential to become S-ranks. I thought that was obvious."
Amanita's expression was of exasperation. "Maybe I'm still thinking too hard. I need a fight to clear my head."
"I think you may just get one..."Risa called as a third presence made itself known. From the only path that lead to their area, Cervantes came running. The urgency in his step was not missed by either woman.
"Cervantes, what's wrong?" Amanita asked seriously. Cervantes looked Risa in the eye for a moment, their gazes lingering as if they had just spoken silently to each other. Looking away Cervantes sighed deeply.
"Dante's in trouble. He's going to fight James Prowl."
Risa's eyes narrowed. "Then the final stage of the Battle Festival has already begun. Amanita...your training starts now."