I think I sense a boss battle coming….
Episode 11: A Tiger in an Iron Cage
Joe and Lily kept moving about Skillet. Joe had decided to buy a hat for Lily to wear so she could hide her ears. Her tail was wrapped around her waist, making it look like she had a tiger-skin belt on. He didn't want anyone bothering her, or questioning him, or anything honestly. He was merely looking for a place for the gang to sleep.
The two of them had managed to reach a part of the city that was less congested. It was a bit quieter, too, at least enough that you could hear the person next to you.
"Hey Joe…" Lily said.
"Do….do you know why people hate the Beastkin?"
Joe looked at Lily for a long moment. In that moment, he was reminded that she was just a kid, an orphan with no family but Edge. She didn't deserve to be ostracized. But, even so, Joe knew why the Beastkin were so reviled.
"The War," he said. "The Beast War."
Lily looked at him in confusion.
"Long ago, about a century ago, there was a terrible war between humans and Beastkin," Joe explained. "For the longest time, the humans were winning…but, towards the end of the war, twelve Beastkin stepped up and their efforts led to the Beastkin winning."
Lily was in awe. She was learning about her own people. Joe never thought too much of the information. It was something everyone learned in school. "A war was won by twelve people?" Lily asked.
Joe nodded. "Yes. We call them the Zodiac Generals. There's a museum in Macro City that talks about them. With their victory, the Man-Beast Accords were written, giving Beastkin civil rights. The Beastkin never wanted dominance…they merely wanted equality."
"So…why? Why do people still hate us?"
"Because they can't accept they lost," Joe said grimly. "It's such a human trait," he admitted. "Our pride makes us do stupid things."
The two of them were so wrapped up in their conversation they had failed to realize they were entering a plaza of sorts. Shops lined the district, dresses and tuxedos, summer wear and trendy outfits calling out to prospective buyers. A marble fountain, chiseled to resemble a mermaid, sat in the center.
Lily's eyes went towards the trendy shop. A mannequin posed in tight shorts and an even tighter shirt. "I…I don't get it," Lily admitted.
"I don't either," Joe said honestly. He patted Lily on the head. "Despising a race of people for something so long ago…." As he said this, a cloud of red steam swirled around Joe's hand. Lily let out a yelp of surprise and moved from under Joe's hand. He looked at the mist as it dissipated. "Sorry…"
"Aww…..Having a little heart to heart with the kitty?"
Without even thinking Joe leapt back, his chainsaw materializing in his hand. Lily's response was just as flawless, landing beside Joe, poised to fight.
Standing before them was a man they had never met. A tall, lanky man with tanned skin and dark hair. He was in a stylish jet-black pinstripe suit, a pair of sunglasses hiding his eyes. Noticeably, there was a crimson liquid staining his left leg up to the knee. Blood, no doubt, but whose?
"Who are you?" Joe demanded.
"That how you say hi to the last man you'll ever meet?" The man chuckled. "You're the one who killed Vlad, right? Pfft...have a soft spot for kitty-cats, huh?"
Lily growled, but Joe kept her at bay.
"What's the real deal?" the man asked, feigning friendliness. "You're just chatting her up to plow her later, right? That's all these beasts are good for. A quick fuck and then right into the garbage can….or perhaps the morgue."
"I'm not going to ask you again," Joe said, low and even. "Who are you?" Not like he didn't already know, of course.
The man tapped the side of his sunglasses. There, on the arms, in tiny gold font, were the letters FBC. Just as Joe expected.
"Name's Dimitri," he said casually. "You see, you've run amok with my boss…he doesn't like when profits are cut. So…I've been sent to kill you. No hard feelings, right? Right." Then, his gaze turned to Lily. "Buuuut….I'd be willing to let you go in exchange for the girl."
Lily looked shocked. Joe's free hand tightened into a fist. Mist began to swirl once more.
"Come on, whattya say? Come with Daddy Dimitri. I'll pound you so hard you'll be begging for more!" Dimitri began walking forward, completely unconcerned with Joe's saw. "And when we're finally done, and you can't satisfy my desires anymore, I'll kill you quick and easy. Maybe I'll play with your corpse a bit too. It'll still be warm…."
Joe roared swinging his chainsaw at Dimitri. The FBC admin immediately threw himself back, dodging the crushing blow.
"Hahaha!" he chuckled. "You call that a swing? That was admirable." He shoved his hands into the pockets of his stylish jacket.
Lily reached into her own pockets, looping a pair of scissors around the middle and index fingers of both hands. There was absolutely no way they were getting out of here without a fight, and she wanted to be prepared. She looked to Joe. A vivid red mist was swirling around his arm, the one gripping tightly onto his chainsaw.
Joe could admit that, while he hadn't known Lily and Edge for long, he considered them precious. He knew the pain of having someone taken from him, and he vowed he would never let anyone feel that if he could. It was arrogant, smug asses like this Dimitri man that made Joe feel a bit more contempt for humanity.
We are demons, Joe…
"No…" Joe told himself. As bad as humanity was, Joe would not forfeit it to become the monster Vlad had become. He would not lose hope.
He would merely destroy those who attempted to ruin the peace.
Lily watched on as Joe's entire arm was enveloped in the swirling mist. As it wisped around his flesh, it appeared to take the form of a skeletal arm.
Joe struck out at Dimitri again. The shades wearing admin twirled to the side, avoiding the attack. He lifted his leg with almost impossible speed, driving his knee into Joe's stomach and sending him flying back into the fountain.
Even as Joe rose from the water, his clothes soaked, his arm was still covered in steam.
Dimitri began to swagger forward. "Pfft…" he chuckled. "I don't even know why I bothered to ask. I can just kill you, and take the girl. It's a win-win. Nobody will care what happens to some animal trash."
Lily growled. I am not some trash! Without even thinking, she attacked, scissors in hand. Dimitri barely acknowledged her, avoiding her attacks with an almost bored expression. The stabbed forward. He easily grabbed her wrist in mid-attack.
"Little ladies should listen to older men," he said. She tried to attack him with her free hand, but he grabbed that as well. She struggled, vainly. His grip was like iron.
Joe came forward, his saw leading the way. In response, Dimitri pulled Lily in front of him, placing her struggling body between him and Joe. Joe stopped midway.
"Aww….can't kill the kitty?" Dimitri chuckled. Lily grunted and struggled more, but nothing she did could get her away from him. "Ya know, that's the problem with you chainsaw users. You're always so gung-ho, but when someone throws a body before you, you freeze." He made a small giggle, one tinged with a bit of madness. "You…the traitor…Vladimir. It's all the same. You're all the same!"
Joe's grip tightened. "I…I am nothing like him!" He roared.
"Then prove it…."
Lily screamed out in pain, a sharp cry that tugged at Joe's heart. Her left hand fell limp as Dimitri's fingers dug into her flesh. Tears started running down her cheeks.
"J-Joe…" she whimpered.
The red mist started creeping higher and higher, enveloping the entire right side of Joe's body. "Let her go. She has nothing to do with this."
Dimitri smirked. With absolutely no remorse, he tossed Lily to the side. "That's true, I suppose," he said. That arrogant grin was plastered onto his face. He was a man with no concern for anything but himself, a beast of the highest caliber. "Once I'm through here, she'll be my toy anyways. And I do so love playing with my toys….until they break!" With that last word, Dimitri fired off the ground, coming onto Joe with a powerful axe kick.
Joe raised his chainsaw just in time. As Dimitri's boot made contact with the teeth of the saw, the earth beneath them cracked in a shower of tile and pavement. Using his position, the FBC admin swung his other foot around, aiming for Joe's head. Joe was able to move out of the way, causing Dimitri to fall to the ground. However, his movements were seamless—as he touched the ground, Dimitri got onto his hands, spun a tight circle and thrust his leg out to Joe.
Joe managed to block at the last second, but the force sent him sliding back a few feet. Dimitri did not let up. He was back on his feet, lashing out with several rapid kicks at Joe, who attempted to block them, but found himself overwhelmed. He felt Dimitri's boot drive itself into his stomach, blasting him back. He crashed into the fountain, shattering the mermaid statue, and kept going, hitting the ground hard and sliding back a few more feet.
Joe got to his feet, but was quickly assaulted once more. Dimitri's foot found purchase with the side of Joe's head, throwing him to the ground. The red steam began to dissipate. "See?" Dimitri mocked. "You thought you were all big and bad because you killed Vlad." He raised a leg. His foot came crashing down hard on Joe's head. "But all you are is a failure." He began grinding his boot into Joe's skull, pushing down with enough force to crack the ground. "A worthless little failure…"
Joe struggled. Just like Ogre, this man was strong. The FBC truly weren't just talk; their bite was as strong as their bark. But he couldn't let himself fall. He couldn't let himself fail. Even as blood trickled down his face, as Dimitri repeatedly stomped his head into the earth, only one thought ran through Joe's mind:
But that wasn't him! He would kill, obviously, but he did not do it for no purpose. He did not exist to just destroy, like Vlad.
But, Joe thought to himself. He could feel himself losing consciousness. If I don't relent….Lily…Edge….
If he didn't do something, who knew what this Dimitri man would do?
So he couldn't fail.
The mist swirled up. No…it flared up. Like a cloak of flames the violent red steam poured from Joe's body with so much force Dimitri was thrown back. He landed on his feet, but the shock of being pushed away was evident.
Joe got up, his head aching. Under the red veil, he looked like some sort of beast. For a moment, a brief moment, the mist around him took the visage of a bull-headed man, before becoming the trailing steam that it was most recognizable as.
Dimitri grinned, that cocky grin. "Still wanna go? Good. It'd be no fun if I killed you immediately."
Joe didn't want to do this…typically, he'd kill with his own power. But this man, this Dimitri, he wasn't a normal fighter. He wasn't just cannon fodder. Joe outstretched his left hand.
"I'm going to tear you to fucking pieces!" he screamed as a vibrant blue mist crept itself up his left arm. A solid form, a shadow in the vapor. A silver flash, a bright, gleaming blade.
Dimitri's face actually seemed shocked as he realized just what Joe had called forth.
A chainsaw, a near identical one to Joe's own. But, where Joe's was gold, this one was silver. It shined in the setting sun, an unnatural metallic sheen.
The blue and red mist united into a beautiful purple aura that covered Joe's body like a suit of armor. His eyes filled with rage, his hands tightening on his weapons, Joe readied himself once more. He gave a glance to Lily's unconscious body.
"Vladimir…" Dimitri hissed. "Even in death you're fucking me over!"
Joe pointed Vlad's silver saw at Dimitri.
Vlad's spirit lives on, as the silver saw has returned once more. This Dimitri guy might take some effort to kill, but if anyone can do it, it's Joe!