Chapter 8: Black Gate's Stone Edge

The liquor store counter was almost completely occupied by bottles. The balding older man on the clerk's side of the counter was impatiently tapping his finger on the wooden counter top, visibly frustrated with his current customer. It was reasonable to be upset—the priest on the other side of the counter spent the last twenty minutes requesting bottles, just to decide at the last minute each time that he wanted to change his mind. And from the looks of it, that wasn't going to change any time soon.

"Alright, alright, let's see here…" mumbled the priest to himself. He massaged the stubble on his chin while his eyes scanned the assortment of bottles that were on wooden shelving behind the clerk. He took a few silent moments to keep looking while humming, before snapping his fingers, pointing at yet again, another bottle.

"Ok! Let me see that, uh, handle of Lagann please?"

The clerk sighed, reluctantly walking a few feet over to the wall of bottles and plucking one of the bottles on a lower shelf. It was an all red bottle with fancy white lettering designed below the neck of it that wrapped around its circumference. He returned to the counter and slammed it in front of the gathering of bottles.

"So, will this be your purchase?" inquired the clerk, clearly annoyed.

The priest, however, wasn't fazed by the man's agitated demeanor. He reached inside his suit's inside breast pocket, pulling out a handful of coin. He glanced at the bottle once more, mumbled something to himself and then nodded. He went to put the coin on the counter, and right before he did, his finger pointed once again in the direction of the others bottles behind the counter.

"You know what? On second thought, I won't buy this one. I haven't had this one before, so I'm kind of unsure about."

The clerk took a moment to bang his head against the counter a couple of times, before glaring at the priest. I… freaking… hate this guy!

"Sir, do you even plan on purchasing anything?" asked the clerk, angrily.

"Yes, yes of course! There are just so many choices, you know? Picking out the right drink is vital, if you know what I mean."

The clerk's eyes narrowed as he folded his arms over his chest

No… I don't know what you mean… freaking jerk off…

The priest began to hum a happy tune, which only made the clerk's blood pressure rise even more. After a few more seconds of humming and searching, the clerk spoke up.

"Alright buddy, you've been here forever it feels like. Hows about somethin' you've already had?"

The priest seemingly ignored the man, looking passed him to gaze at other bottles, but replied nonetheless.

"Ah, well, that's not a bad idea. No, not at all. But you know… I want to try something new, you know? So many choices here too, there's gotta be something good here!"

The priest chuckled while the clerk slapped his hand against his face.

I… I can't win with this guy…

"Oh!" chimed up the priest. "See that one over there? Lemme get a look at that baby. Oh, no wait! I see the handle right there on the shelf below, can I see that one please?"

0

"Who the hell are you?!" snarled the extraordinarily muscular giant.

Dante couldn't fight back a grin, rubbing his chin in thought. This ogre of a man was more than amusing to the mage.

"Ya know, I'm tryin' to figure out if you're as dumb as you are big," he said mockingly.

The man wasn't at all amused and lunged at the mage, cocking back his large fist to strike. When he was within striking range, he threw a punch down at the mage. Dante swiftly hopped out the way of the blow, which went crashing into the table, breaking it in two. He landed on the table to the left. He was cackling, his fists resting at his waist as he shook his head.

"Goodness gracious man, you sure do love wrecking public property, eh? I can't tell if you're just clumsy as hell or an idiot. I think it's safe to assume the latter."

The man had enough of Dante's taunting, kicking the two halves of the crumbled table away from him in rage. He growled, pointing a finger in Dante's direction.

"You puny sack of bug shit! Do you know who you're talking to like that?! I am Gungorr, the Stone Edge of the Black Gate Knights! I won't let some punk with a smart ass mouth mock me! I'm going to enjoy tearing you apart. I'll be chopping you up, limb from limb, until I separate just your head. And then comes the crushing of your skull!"

Well… I done it now… thought Dante.

"Sadistic much?"

Gungorr let out a fearsome roar and charged Dante once more, throwing another haymaker at the mage. Dante timed his jump, which was right before the large man's fist was going to connect with his stomach. He leapt high and fast into the air, placing his hand on the shoulder of Gungorr's thrown fist, using his momentum from the jump to flip over the giant and land behind him. With Gungorr's ribs clearly exposed, Dante spun his body around, swiftly spreading out his legs and cocking a fist back in one motion. He then launched his fist right into the man's ribs. Upon the connection of his knuckles to the giant's ribs, a sharp pain shot up his entire arm, forcing him to retract his fist immediately.

Gungorr felt the blow and proceeded to counter Dante's punch with an elbow. Dante took a big step back, and realized immediately he had to swerve out of the way. A jagged stone blade was protruding from Gungorr's elbow, grazing the mage's cheek as he narrowly dodged the attack. Dante was shaking his numb feeling hand violently while he kept his eyes on Gungorr, who was turning to face him. Thoughts were racing through his mind, assessing the situation at hand.

Holy hell! I almost broke my hand punching that guy in the ribs. Not only that, he was able to create some sort of rocky blade from his elbow… If I had to guess, he's a mage with Earth and Body type abilities. If that's the case…

Gungorr didn't waste any more time. He rushed toward Dante at a speed that didn't match his size. Dante's eyes shot wide open, barely sidestepping another ferocious punch from the massive mage. Gungorr turned to his right to face Dante once again, this time throwing a punch with his left. Dante ducked as the giant's fist sailed over his head. The smaller mage drove his knee into Gungorr's gut, and once more, it felt like he was hitting a brick wall. Dante grimaced post impact, pulling his leg back.

Gungorr took the opportunity to snap his left leg up for a shot at Dante's midsection. Dante hopped up and landed on Gungorr's extended leg. He quickly ran up his body and slammed his other knee into the bridge of the larger man's nose. Gungorr let out a howl of pain and reached for his face in the middle of Dante flipping over him again, landing behind him. He jumped back a couple of times, hopping on a couple of the scattered tables in the process, to create space between him and the giant. Upon landing on the floor, he took time to alternate rubbing both his knees, which were now visible and reddened. Kneeing Gungorr even ripped off parts of his clothing.

This guy's body is solid! Not only does my hand still hurt… both my knees are killing me right now…

Gungorr was still grasping his face, cursing aloud. Dante decided to turn his attention back to the task at hand.

I need to use an attack that's going to actually penetrate that rock hard skin of his. I can't use most of my best skills with my other arm still outta commission. I guess I'm going to have to improvise…

Gungorr removed his hands from his face, revealing only a minor nose bleed. Other than that, he looked entirely fine. He wiped the small stream of blood coming out his nose with his thumb and growled.

"I'm going to punish you for that. I can't remember the last time a guy has pissed me off so damn much!"

Dante balled his right hand into a fist and only seconds later, electricity began pulsating around it. As the seconds continued to tick forward, his fist started to glow a light bluish hue and the lighting static around it was also increasing in volume. Gungorr bellowed out a war cry and dashed in Dante's direction again, knocking a couple of tables out of his way along with the stools.

Once he was close enough, he launched a flurry of heavy punches at the smaller mage. Dante grumbled, having a hard time focusing on the mana he needed to build enough power for his next move while simultaneously evading every one of Gungorr's punches. The giant man's frustration was increasing steadily, realizing that no matter how fast he threw punches, Dante was getting even faster. He halted his assault of fists and tossed another kick at the mage. Dante knelt down to evade the blow and rolled out of the way. Gungorr anticipated this and moved along with Dante enough to cut off his movement when he finished his roll.

Immediately, he shot his fist down at the mage. Dante's eyes perked wide, but he was able to narrowly dodge the fist that crashed into the ground. Gungorr was in a state of disbelief, which got even worse when he went to pull his fist out of the bar's floor and realized his fist was stuck. It took him a couple of seconds before he yanked his fist from the ground. However, by then it was too late.

"Let's see how you handle this, Stone Edge! Lightning Fist!"

Gungorr looked up to only see a flash of light connected with the right side of his face. He hollered as his body was launched from the ground and sent flying from the force of the explosion upon the impact of Dante's lightning fist. The brute was sent crashing through the door of the tavern, completely destroying the entrance as his body slid several feet across the ground on the outside. His body was still for a moment, sprawled out on the ground.

Dante emerged from the rubble at the entrance of the tavern, his right hand still steaming. He noticed that there was now a small crowd of people who were scattered outside the bar. He walked all the way out to where Gungorr's body ended up, the side of his face that was hit still steaming.

"Master! Master!"

Dante's ears perked up, urging him to turn to his right. Bradleh ran up from where he was standing, which couldn't have been too far, with an excited expression implanted on his face.

"That looked awesome! I don't know what you did, but man! You sent him flying out the tavern! I knew you were strong, but that surprised even me!"

Dante sheepishly laughed, caressing the back of his neck.

"Now, now Brad. I already have overconfidence issues, I don't need them getting worse now, do I?"

"You're such a punk. I can't wait to kill you…"

The sound of an angry voice alerted the two as they turned their attention back to Gungorr, who was already on one knee getting ready to stand up. There was a blackened spot on his skin near his temple, but other than that and some dirt on his clothing, he looked almost as good as new. Bradleh watched him stand in horror.

What's it going to take to kill this guy?!

"You just don't like to stay down do you? You really are an idiot," said Dante, who couldn't help but smirk.

"It is what it is. I guess it wouldn't be any fun if it was that easy. You care to entertain me a little more? You stupid ogre."

Gungorr laughed aloud, almost maniacally. It looked like he was beginning to enjoy his encounter with Dante more than he even realized he would.

"I thought you would be some weak little punk, but it's better than I thought. The more I look at you, the more familiar you look to me. I don't know where I've seen your face, guy, but I'm actually enjoying this a little. It's been a long time since someone could challenge me. That will only make the kill much, much sweeter!"

The giant stomped his right foot into the ground so hard that it sank into it. Dante's eyes widened when he realized what was going to happen. He held his hand against Bradleh's chest for a moment. A second later, the teenager was sent flying with a gust of wind several feet away. Dante immediately proceeded to jump straight up into the air, just as an enormous spike rose from the ground. Dante jumped high enough to evade spike, however, on his way down, another spike rose from right where he was falling. When it looked like he was going to fall on it, he stopped cold in the air.

He slowly rose up in the air, hovering higher than any building in the town of Thronscape.

"Whoa! That guy! He's air-walking!" exclaimed one of the spectators on the ground.

Gungorr groaned, glaring up at the mage who was grinning arrogantly above.

"So, you can air-walk huh," he muttered to himself. "That's no fun…"

"That was a neat little trick you had up your sleeve there, Stone Edge. If I didn't know any better, you really thought you had me dead, didn't ya?"

"I didn't think you'd stoop to such a low to avoid your inevitable death. Come down here and face me!"

Dante crossed his legs up in the air, almost as if he was sitting on the air. He went on to stroke his chin while thinking up a strategy.

Well, I might be screwed if any guards catch me chilling up in the air like this. But fighting that guy on the ground down there is dangerous. I can surmise two things at the moment. He doesn't know how to air-walk and even if he did, I'm sure most of his skills would be of no use. Secondly, he has two types of skills. He can create weapons from his limbs and maybe other parts of his body. He can also use skills to manipulate the ground beneath him, so long as he is in contact with it. In that case…

Without a moment's notice, Dante shot down at the ground at a rapid speed toward Gungorr. The giant of a man smirked as he held up his arms, both turning into blades while Dante closed in on him. When Dante managed to get close enough, he came to an abrupt stop and dropped on the ground in front of Gungorr, who still had his armblades held up. The larger man's eyes widened upon seeing Dante below his arms, and the smaller mage shot his leg up, deliving a kick to Gungorr's chin that snapped the giant's head up.

Dante followed up the blow by placing his hand on the ground. Seconds later, a wild gust of wind formed in their area, strong enough to lift Gungorr off of his feet. Dante looked up at the giant as he looked panicked while being suspended in the air.

"Wind Tower!" shouted Dante.

The gust of wind's force increased and shot Gungorr's body straight up into the air. The larger mage screamed as his body twirled up the air, so high that he was now above even the highest buildings in Thronscape. The burst of wind began to subside, and at that moment, Gungorr's body commenced its descent.

Dante cupped his right hand in front of him. Wind was swirling above his hand and began to form a transparent ball in the center of his palm. As Gungorr's body continued to decline, electricity was surrounding the ball of wind in Dante's hand. Bradleh watched the scene in awe when he realized what he was witnessing.

He's combining two of his elements! He's using both lightning and wind! Master Dante truly is a Storm magick user!

The ball of both swirling wind and violent electricity increased into a giant ball. Afterward, the ball stretched itself out vertically, thinning until it formed into what looked like a transparent blade that was surrounding by electricity. By this time Gungorr was a few meters above Dante on his way down. Dante grabbed the bottom of the makeshift blade, looking up at his enemy who he was preparing to skewer.

This is it… I'm going to end this right here and now!

"It's over for ya, big ugly! This is the final move. Storm Sword!"

Dante thrusted the blade upward as Gungorr's body collided with it. For a moment, Dante harbored a victorious smile on his face, but it was soon changed when he realized that his blade didn't cut through Gungorr at all. The massive man's body managed to absorb the blow, something that forced a smirk from the giant. He quickly transformed his right hand into a blade and shot it forth at Dante. Despite dealing with the struggle of Gungorr's weight atop the sword, the smaller mage managed to barely move out the way of the attack. However, the blade extended until it touched the ground.

Shit! This bastard… He…

Before Dante could finish his thoughts, a spike shot forth from the ground. He instinctively moved out of the way, however, the spike managed to slice up the side of his leg. Dante's loss of concentration also allowed Gungorr to fall down in front of him, as his Storm Sword dissipated. Gungorr turned his fist into a hammer and slammed it into Dante's midsection, sending the mage drifting into the air with a hard landing that saw him rolling over on the ground several times before skidding to a stop. Dante struggled to get on all fours, his body shaking with pain.

"I thought about killing you, ya know," taunted Gungorr, walking toward Dante as his hammer transformed into a blade.

"But I wanted this to last just a little longer. After all, you deserve it!"

Gungorr delivered another kick to Dante in his stomach, knocking his body away even further. Watching from a safe distance, Bradleh started feeling a strange sensation overwhelm his senses. His rage was building, watching his Master in such a helpless state against the massive brute. He clenched his teeth and made a tight fist, not before he realized he started dashing toward Gungorr.

"You bastard! Get away…"

Dante looked up to see Bradleh charging Gungorr, who crossed his arms over his chest in the middle of laughing

"Bradleh! No!" cried out Dante, reaching his arm out.

Gungorr continued to laugh, amused at the young boy rushing presumably to his death.

"Hahaha! Well, it looks like you'll get to watch your little pupil die, right before your eyes."

Bradleh cocked his fist back, and for a brief moment in time, it was as if everything slowed down to a crawl. Dante found himself suspended in disbelief when he saw a strange air surrounding Bradleh's fist.

No… No way. He's… He's awakened his magick abilities!

Bradleh let out a cry and landed a punch right in Gungorr's jaw. The giant's eyes nearly popped out of his head as he went tumbling to the ground. He managed to stand up right away, but his knees were buckling and his balance was off. Dante couldn't believe what he witnessed.

"No way… The kid actually managed to daze that freak. I can't say I'm not impressed…"

Bradleh was breathing heavy, astonished at what he was able to do in his temporary state of anger. Despite being deathly afraid of the bulky mage before, watching his Master in pain turned that fear into pure rage. However, as he watched Gungorr regain his composure with a growl, the reality of the situation began to sink in. He gulped and started sweating heavily, turning his focus to his Master, who was finally on his feet.

Gungorr bellowed out in anger, both of his arms transforming into rocky saw-edged blades.

"I'm going to kill you, you brat! You and your punk ass 'Master' are long overdue!"

He charged Bradleh, swinging his right arm blade down at the teen. Dante managed to jump and grab the young boy, tackling him away from the giant. The two both crashed on the ground and went sliding. Gungorr's eyes followed and with a burst of speed, he rushed over to them in order to land the final blow.

"It's over for you now!"

Dante and Bradleh could only watch in horror as Gungorr slung both his blades down at them. When his blades hit the ground, the mage raised his right brow. He looked quickly to his left and right, not seeing them anywhere near.

Both Bradleh and Dante had their eyes closed, although their ears perked up at the sound of a familiar voice.

"Sorry I was late to the party fellas," said the voice.

They both opened their eyes and looked up to see the Priest was standing over them. They were somehow several meters away from where they just were, which they realized upon seeing that Gungorr was no longer near them. He tipped his hat to them with a smile.

"Looks like I came just in time for the best part! So… Anybody up for a drink after this?"