Author Notes: After a few months of rest, I've returned with a new story. I have to admit, my grandmother's death last Tuesday really impacted me in many ways. There was a time when I wanted to stop writing all together due to the grief. But, then I realized how much I have worked so hard and that my granny would want me to continue doing what I love most. So, in honor of her, I will keep moving forward. It's what grandma would have wanted, after all.
The first chapter is quite lengthy. So, you might want to set aside some time to read it through.
Warning: The following chapter contains some language, violence, blood, gore, and a character death. Read at your own risk.
Chapter 1 – The Great Departure
Brown eyes snapped open and the boy found himself falling from the evening sky. There wasn't much time to react as he was about to fall straight into the ocean. He held his breath before his body hit the water. What was happening to him? How was he asleep while falling?
Was he going to drown? Why couldn't he swim to shore? There were so many questions and not enough time to seek answers.
He continued plunging into the water until gravity claimed him. The boy of golden hair began to gently float down on solid ground. He looked around in confusion. What on earth was happening? By the time his yellow and black sneakers landed, a strong light shone around him. He shielded his eyes from the brightness. Birds hovered around the boy, surrounded him as they flew off the ground and into the sky of darkness. Now that he was on solid ground, his brown eyes looked around, trying to get his bearings.
He stood on a stained-glass platform of a soft violet hue. Apart from that, he had not the slightest inkling of where he was, nor did he see a way out. As he dusted off his yellow jacket and black trousers, a voice called out to him.
"Hey you! Can you hear me?"
The voice seemed to come from nowhere, disrupting the boy's thoughts. He spun around anxiously in search of its source, but as expected, he was unable to find much of anything.
"Huh? Who the hell are you?"
"Ah, good," the voice said, "You CAN hear me."
"Yeah, but I can't see you! Where are you?"
"That is not your concern. The path of your fate is waiting for you."
The teenager remained cautious as he stood still. He was torn between ignoring the voice or listening to it.
"Now, step forward," the voice said. "if you dare."
With some reluctance, the golden-haired boy slowly walked towards the center of the stained glass. His brown eyes darted from left to right, wary of the dark surroundings. Not too long ago, he was relaxing at home, and now he was lost in a strange place. Was he the only one here? Where could his family be?
As the voice spoke again, four platforms arose from the glass with weapons resting on each one.
"There is power within all of us. If we nurse that power, we can create it into a proper form. And through a proper form, it will grant us infinite strength. Choose wisely."
The teenager examined the four weapons, each different from the other. The first was a silver sword with a blue hilt. The second was a pair of elbow blades, reflecting a light that nearly blinded him. The third weapon was a large battle axe, powerful enough for use in war. The final weapon was a lance with a gold handle. Out of all the weapons, the lance looked to be something he could manage.
The blond scanned the weapons carefully before he could choose. The sword was tempting, as it reminded him of a movie he seen once during his childhood. He wanted to be that hero someday. A hero of the weak. A proud protector. However, he wasn't adept with wielding a sharp-edged blade. Instead, he took the lance in his hands.
"Good. You've chosen a weapon. Now, you can move on to the next task."
The four pedestals fell into darkness just before the stained glass shattered. The piercing sound of breaking glass echoed in the lad's ears as he fell. He found himself on another platform, a stained glass tinted blood red.
"To survive your journey, you should be ready for anything," the voice said.
The lance reappeared in the boy's hands, and unfortunately, some enemies arrived, too.
The foes were deformed, pitch black monsters with sharp claws and glowing orange eyes. They didn't give teen any time to react as they charged at him full force. The boy could block a few hits with his lance but he nearly fell off the platform again. Once his footing was steady, the blond boy executed a counter attack. He swung his weapon towards one shadow creature, slicing it across the torso. The monster left blood in its wake as it vanished in black smoke.
He noticed another creature menacing towards his left and lunged forward, decapitating it. Then, he dodged a claw attack from another and sliced the beast in half with his lance. Sweat began to coat his forehead as he watched the black smoke disappear.
"Excellent. Wield that weapon to protect yourself and others." The boy looked around, his eyes searching for more enemies.
"Is it over?"
"No," the voice answered. "This is only the beginning."
"What do you mean?"
"There will be times you must fight. Running away or surrendering is not an option." Suddenly, a hidden monster leaped up, ready to attack the unsuspecting boy. "Behind you!" the voice shouted in warning.
The blond turned around and hit the enemy behind him. The lance impaled the monster through the stomach. All that remained was its purple blood, which formed a pool on the ground.
The pool began to reach the boy's feet, sucking him down off the platform.
When he came to, the teenage blonde was back on his island. He was also surrounded by his family. He sighed with relief, glad to see human faces and not more monstrous ones. There was a lingering sense of confusion about the sudden change of scenery, but he paid it no mind for the moment. At least he was with those who were familiar to him.
The father was a stern adult man with short black hair and dark brown eyes. He had on a buttoned, folded sleeved outfit, signifying his status as an experienced cook.
The mother was a gentle adult woman with long brown hair and jade green eyes. She wore a green dress with inched heeled scandals.
Finally, the little sister was a short and scrawny girl with cooper brown hair and green eyes. She wore a white top, a yellow floral skirt, and scandals.
The blonde walked over to the patriarch of the family and greeted,
"Hey, dad, I had this strange dream—"
"What is your life's goal?" The father asked in a monotone-like voice.
The teen was taken aback by the question. For someone as stern and protective as his father, the boy never expected him to ask something personal. The middle-aged man continued to stare at him blankly as he answered the question,
"To keep an active lifestyle, I guess."
The older man turned around, confusing the blond even more. Such odd behavior, he thought. He simply shrugged it off and walked over to his mother.
She looked at her son with a blank expression and asked in a monotone voice,
"What is the most important thing you hold dear?" The boy's apprehension grew as he backed away slightly.
"Not you too!" The mother didn't skip a beat and repeated her question.
"What's the most important thing you hold dear?"
After a moment, the golden-haired teenager decided on his answer.
"Friendship? How predictable."
"What's that supposed to mean?" The adult woman turned around, not saying another word.
The teen sighed and continued his way to his younger sister. She soon had another probing question.
"What is your biggest fear?"
"Not being needed," he answered.
"Your choices matter the most during your journey."
The boy growled with frustration. He thought his dreaming was over. Why was the voice still there?
"You again? What did you do to my family?"
"Look around you. None of this is real. Don't worry though. Your time in here is almost over."
Suddenly, the islands vanished, and the boy found himself on a blue platform.
The stairs lead to another stained-glass platform. Only this time, there was nobody inside it. The blond approached the center of the platform as a small ray of light cascaded out from above.
"This is your final challenge."
The lad stepped into the ray of light and felt a sense of hope. The hope to complete the last test and return home.
"Sometimes the most unlikely enemies…are hidden among shadows."
He turned around at what the voice said. The small hint of light enlarged his shadow. Perhaps it meant he was close to the end of the journey. The shadow rose from the ground just seconds later. First it reached its hand out to the teenage boy, startling him thoroughly. It wasn't long before it grew even larger, now a large demonic creature. The giant shadow had sharp teeth and long horns.
The golden-haired teenager tried retreating to the stair case. But, much to his horror, it was gone, all that remained was a large black chasm.
He had no choice. A battle was inevitable. He turned to face the large giant, producing his spear.
The shadow demon closed his fist and tried to squash the boy where he stood. However, he dodged of the way and lunged his spear at the large hand, slicing at its flesh. His enemy shook its hand, ignoring the damage. Instead, the demon summoned fire balls through its glowing red eyes.
The teenager tried to flee the flying balls of fire. But the projectiles kept following him. The boy used his spear as a shield but with little success, and his yellow jacket was burnt to a near crisp. The young islander threw the garment to the side and continued fighting.
The giant demon knelt for a magic attack but the boy spotted a weakness. He noticed a small scar on the creature's back. With determination to end the battle, the gold haired teen ran around the demon. Like a frisbee, he swung his spear into the air, and it pierced through the scar, severing the torso from its body. After a few moments, the giant demon collapsed on the platform, its hand twitching before it fell numb.
Just then, the spear disappeared, much to the boy's confusion. And as soon as it did, a giant hand grabbed at him. The demon was still alive! The human tried to break free from the strong grip but with no luck. He now stood face-to-face with the angry beast. It began to open its mouth, revealing rows of teeth sharper than kitchen knives. Just then, the voice had a nerve to come back to offer advice.
"Well…this is it. The end of your trials."
Desperation kicking in, the boy thrashed around the closed hand to escape.
"But do not despair."
The boy could not contain his panic and fear. The voice wasn't the one about to become demon food.
"Your real journey begins soon enough."
The hungry face inched closer and closer, its foul breath disorienting the boy.
"And when it does…"
Suddenly, the ravenous monster disappeared. And so did the platform, forcing the boy to descend back into the freefall of darkness.
"There will be no turning back…"
Brown eyes snapped open and sat up from the sand. His eyes were greeted with the gentle waves of the ocean touching his feet. He was back on his home island.
The teenage boy had a tanned complexion and unkempt, messy golden hair hanging in his face like a veil. He wore a loose yellow shirt and black shorts. The islander let out a sigh of relief, glad to be in a familiar place. But there was a tinge of disappointment as well. He yawned as he fell back on the sand for another nap. However, his eyes weren't looking up at the blue, cloudy sky, but a pair of green eyes.
The boy shrieked in surprise and sat up completely. Turning himself around, he seen the culprit who had startled him witless. A short and scrawny girl with cooper brown hair and green eyes. She wore a white top, a yellow floral skirt, and scandals.
"Sol, you lazy brother of mine! Today is your birthday and here you are, snoozing away!"
The boy waved his hands in protest.
"N-no!" Sol lied, embarrassed. "There was some large monster trying to eat me. I was fighting it and- "
Lani used a small mallet to hit Sol in the back of the head.
"You can stop dreaming now."
"I wasn't dreaming! Or was I? Oh, forget it."
Brushing aside the strange reverie for now, Sol sighed as he got up from his sitting place.
"Anyway," Lani said. "dad wanted to know when you were fishing. You've been sitting here for ages."
The brother turned to Lani as he brushed sand off his backside.
"You forgot all about it, didn't you?"
Sol scratched the back of his head, laughing in a sheepish fashion.
"I guess I was snoozing after all. Oops."
The little sister rolled her eyes.
"Geez, you are useless without me! Dad needs these fish for dinner, remember?"
"Ugh, yeah, yeah."
And so, the sibling pair set off on a small boat made for two. They took their fishing rods, placed worms on their hooks and hoisted them in the ocean. This was their daily lives as islanders. They hunt for fish, look for fruit, bring them home, and eat it. Most of the time it's being contributed to the Golden prawn bar and grille. It was something the family had long adjusted to. And at the same time, it was something that Sol Nakos was growing bored of as he became older.
"Yikes!" Lani exclaimed, feeling her fishing rob being yanked. "I got a big one!"
And she was right. The shadow of the large fish was visible underneath their boat. Sol aided his sister as he held up the fishing rod. From the second he touched the object, he knew for a fact this was serious business.
"Lani, hand it to me!"
The prey tried to escape as it frantically swam around the ocean, unwittingly offering the small boat a free ride. Lani screamed in fear, not wanting to fall off the boat.
"Oh, no you don't!" Sol shouted. "Take this!"
After a few suspenseful moments, the teenage boy subdued the large fish. With all his strength, he flung the fish rod in the air, revealing a grouper fish dangling on the string. The fish was a humongous as a ship.
"It's a grouper!" Lani shouted jubilantly.
"This is perfect for tonight's dinner."
After netting their prey, the kids returned home in the village.
The island village was traditional and moderately large. The houses consisted of huts with palm leaves for roofs and dried earth for walls. The most popular attraction of all was the Nakos Family's restaurant of 13 years, the Golden Prawn Grille. It was located from across a bridge and it stood out more than most of the huts. The restaurant was a complex of two floors. The bottom floor was the restaurant, the space was more open with people allowed to sit on the beach. The top floor has the house for the whole family.
"Mom, dad, we're home!" Lani yelled out across the house.
The parents were cooking and washing dishes respectively. The mother, Melika, was a gentle adult woman with long brown hair and apple green eyes. She wore a green and brown dress and scandals. The father, Loto, was a stern adult man with short black hair and dark brown eyes. He had on a buttoned, folded sleeved outfit, signifying his status as an experienced cook.
"Welcome back, kids," Melika greeted her children. "Did you catch some good fish today?"
"Yup! I caught a grouper!" Sol boasted with a big grin.
"Hey, I helped too you know," Lani reminded her sibling.
"How? By nearly falling off the boat?"
The 12-year-old girl stuck her tongue out at him.
The parents laughed as they watched their children bicker, like any sibling pair would.
"Alright you two, that's enough," Loto chuckled. "Let's focus on cleaning the fish and cooking it."
While his sister went to the living room, Sol walked to the kitchen, placing the huge fish into the sink to rinse it. After examining it, he gave it to his father, who proceed to measure its body and chop it down carefully.
"So, pops," Sol began. "now that I'm getting older, maybe we can do something different."
Loto raised an eyebrow and smiled wryly.
"Such as, traveling around Benham. There are so many places I want to visit."
At that suggestion, Loto's expression changed and his face looked pale as a bedsheet. It took a little longer than necessary for him to respond again. The cook averted his eyes, chopping the fish more forcefully.
"No. That's not happening."
"Why not?" Sol frowned.
"Because, our place is here, in Venus island."
"And that's another thing: we've always been on this island! Dad, don't you ever dream about what you're missing out on? Don't you want to see what's out there?"
"We have no reason to leave here. The island has always been peaceful."
"Ugh, which is why it's so boring!" Sol groaned with irritation.
"Not another word," Loto scolded. "You had best count your blessings, young man. And thank the stars that we don't have to deal with violent hooligans or any other nonsense."
Not wanting to argue on his birthday, Sol kept quiet as he stomped towards the living room, where Lani was watching some cartoons on a medium sized television. What a stubborn old man, the boy thought, he never understands anything! Just then, a motherly voice addressed him, calming his negative thoughts.
"Sol?" The boy looked behind the couch to see Melika holding a gift-wrapped box.
"Happy birthday, honey. It's not much but I wanted to give you a little something."
The teenager took the box and started unraveling it. Inside was a new outfit made just for him. It was a black shirt over a yellow long-sleeve opened jacket with a short hem. Completing the outfit was a pair black cropped trousers and yellow sneakers.
"You like it?" Melika asked.
"Of course," Sol replied with a smile. "Thanks, mom."
"Good to hear."
Sol glanced at Loto and back at his mother. Ever since he was a baby, his mother was his confidant and supporter. He could always count on her to offer good advice whenever he uncertain or confused.
"Mom, have you ever wondered what it was like outside of our island?"
Melika placed a finger on her chin as she gave the question some thought.
"I have. Many times. Although, I never followed through with traveling."
"Because dad didn't want you to?" Melika shook her head.
"No. It was something I decided for myself."
"But," Sol insisted, "if you have the power to go out there, what's stopping you?"
The mother sighed softly, knowing her boy had a point. If only it was that simple…
"The world we live in is much bigger and complicated than you think, Sol. It's also dangerous if you are not careful. Unlike Venus island, the folks won't always be honest and kind to you. They might even try to corrupt you."
"I won't let them."
"You won't know that for sure."
Melika placed a hand on Sol's shoulder to assure and encourage him. She couldn't tell him about what was out there. He would have to figure it out for himself.
"All I can say is this; you'll know when you're ready when the time comes."
The Nakos family sat together around the dinner table. On their plates were baked chicken, fish stew, and kale. Each member clasped their hands together as Loto began a brief prayer.
Suddenly, there was a knock at the door. The family exchanged confused looks before Sol got up to answer it. When the teenage boy opened the door, he was face to face with a vaguely familiar person. The guest at the door step was a middle-aged man with a rugged face. He had strong blue eyes and wild black hair tied in a ponytail. He wore a black samurai like top, long pants, and buckled boots. The guest grinned in a friendly manner.
The ponytail grabbed his shoulders and gave him a near bone crushing hug.
"Sol, my little monkey of a nephew!" the man boasted. "It's been too damn long!"
The islander teen was quickly remembering who the man was. That boisterous voice, the confident smile. It was none other than….!
"Uncle…Rangi?!" Sol asked in shock, lifting his head up.
"In the flesh! You've grown quite a lot, haven't you?"
Sol hugged his relative back, tightly. It had far too long since he had last seen him. Rangi laughed as he ruffled his nephew's golden hair.
"Geez, took you long enough to recognize me!"
The boy allowed Rangi inside his house, excitedly pulling his sleeves.
"Guys!" Sol shouted optimistically, "Uncle is here! He came to visit me on my birthday!"
Both of Sol's parents had completely different reactions towards the surprise guest. Melika was quite shocked yet glad to see her brother in law doing well. Loto on the other hand, was quite furious, as evident with his face turning red. Fully aware of her beloved's emotions, the wife spoke first, wanting to defuse the tension.
"Rangi? Um, it's been so long! How have you been?"
"Howdy, Melika," Rangi winked. "you're looking quite lovely, as usual. The men in the village ought to be jealous-."
The cook stood up from the table, glaring at the unexpected guest.
"What do you want?!" Loto exclaimed. "Why are you here, now of all times?"
Rangi placed a hand to his heart in mock offence.
"Well, I never! That's a hurtful question you asked, little brother. Can't a man visit his own brother and family?"
"You were stripped of that privilege ages ago." Loto growled.
"Sheesh, Loto," Rangi sighed. "You're still a hard ass, as usual. Don't worry, I won't stay forever. I just wanted to see your son. It is his birthday, after all."
The golden-haired boy looked towards his father, frowning at him.
"Dad, come on. I want him to stay."
"Yeah, papa," Lani chimed in. "let uncle stay with us. I want to know what he's been up to. Please?"
The girl made a puffed up pouty face at her father. He tried to resist at first but eventually…
The overprotective father sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose.
"Ugh, fine. He can stay for just today. But, tomorrow morning, uncle Rangi is out of here."
Lani and Sol cheered as they high fived each other triumphantly. They wasted no time in making their estranged relative feel welcomed. Sol pulled out a chair for Rangi to sit on. Lani offered him a plate of food.
"Here, uncle, make yourself at home."
"Well, then, don't mind if I do," Rangi chuckled lightly.
"So, uncle," Lani asked, returning to her own seat. "We have so many questions to ask you. Like, what have you been up to lately?"
"Yeah," Sol agreed. "You haven't visited us in, what, 4 years? What happened?"
"I've been traveling around the world, making a name for myself and all. I wasn't satisfied with the boring jobs I had."
"You mean, working as a delivery man?" Melika asked.
"Yeah, that one. I just felt restricted, you know? So, I moved to Big Fork city for some soul-searching. I took up another profession and I got to say, it's a hell of a lot better than passing out packages 24/7. I'm a defender of mankind. A keeper of the peace, sort of speak."
"What's that mean?" Lani asked eagerly. "Give us the details!"
Rangi's blue eyes grew to the size of dinner plates. Did these kids not know what he was talking about? How long have they been kept away from the outside world? He looked at his younger brother with disapproval and bewilderment.
"Geez, your father really is living under a rock. I've been a slayer for 13 years now!"
Sol's ears wiggled with interest. Loto's eyes widened with horror. He knew that boy's expression of curiosity from a mile away. At this rate…!
"Oh? What's that?" Sol asked, eyes beaming with intense interest.
"Ha! Well, I'm glad you asked, kiddo. A slayer is— "
"No such thing!" Loto interrupted frantically. "They certainly don't exist!"
The young siblings looked at their father, annoyed and exasperated by his outburst.
Melika, also unamused by her husband's behavior, reached for his ear and pulled him back in his chair. She understood his protectiveness towards their children, but this was becoming quite intolerable.
"Honey. Let your brother speak."
"Y-yes, dear," Loto submitted, albeit reluctantly. Rangi snickered at his younger sibling's submissiveness.
"As I was saying," Rangi continued, "A slayer is an elite warrior who hands the forces of evil their ass to save the world. And, there also happens to be a militia group for youngsters who want to join our cause."
Loto's eyebrows twitched as he seen his brother give Sol a pamphlet. It had information regarding the city and the militia.
"You mean…you get to be a superhero, for real? That sounds cool!" Lani grinned.
"And it is. I could even offer you a grand tour, if you're interested."
"Of course!" Sol responded eagerly.
Desperate to end the conversation, Loto protested again.
"No. My children are staying here."
The patriarch cleared his throat, ignoring his son to focus on Rangi.
"I've heard quite enough, Ran! Please be on your way now. You've already disturbed the peace with your very presence alone. I will not have my son take part in the same dangerous crusades that you are involved in. Furthermore— "
"Knock it off already!" Sol shouted, slamming his hands on the dinner table.
"Son, listen to me…" Loto tried to explain. The boy wanted none of it, though. He was sick and tired of this constant pigheadedness from his old man.
"No, you listen! Quit being so uptight for a change. I want to learn everything."
"I know you do. But, you are still young. You don't know the true dangers that are plaguing Benham."
"So?" Sol raised an eyebrow. "I'm not afraid."
The matriarch pleased a firm hand on her husband's shoulder.
"Dear," Melika reasoned with her husband in a stern voice. "Let Sol make his own choices. He's growing up, you know."
"Yeah, bro, let your kids grow up already," Rangi said, crossing his arms.
Before Loto could reply, chaos unfolded outside of the Nakos residence. An earthquake occurred and the family struggled to keep their feet steady.
"What was that?!" Sol asked no one. He noticed his distant uncle's change of expression. Rangi's laidback smile changed into a face of worry.
"It couldn't be," Rangi growled. "They aren't supposed to be here!"
"They?" Lani said in confusion.
Rangi hastily left the Nakos residence, cursing under his breathe.
"Loto…you don't think…?" Melika managed.
The restaurant owner looked away from his wife and daughter, unsure of what to do. Sol, on the other hand, couldn't abide just standing around doing nothing.
Without hesitation, the 16-year-old boy followed Ran, ignoring his family's protests. As he left the house, the evening sky had drastically changed to a pitch blackness. Giant thick clouds gathered in the sky and the sound of thunder was loud and clear.
It was just as Rangi Nakos had feared. Venus village was under attack. Dozens of villagers were panicking amongst themselves as they fled from demonic creatures. The beasts stood on their hooves and were twice the size of any average human being. They resembled a lion with ram horns. Their skin was snow white and the eyes were crimson red. They had sharp teeth with claws to match.
Ran dashed over to the monstrous group and counted 6 in total. The situation was serious the moment the seasoned Slayer arrived. And from the gruesome scenery laid out in front of him, the monsters wasted no time in their deadly work. Blood was splattered everywhere in sight. Severed limbs were scattered about. Women and children were grieving over the corpses of their relatives.
However, a few men were brave enough to challenge the miscreants. They held up hunting spears and lunged at the demons. Of course, that wasn't enough to hold them off. The men were either swatted away or torn apart by the sharp mouths and claws. Their innards spilled to the ground until none was left.
"Bull lions?! Shit…I got to get rid of these freaks before they tear up this entire village!"
Not wanting to see any more casualties taking place, Rangi took a stand. He commanded the islanders to flee and hide to their homes and shelters. He was going to defend the island village from any more brutal attacks.
"Everyone, get the hell out of here! Hurry!"
Without thinking twice, the villagers did as they were told. They left the area and scrambled to wherever their houses or the shelter was. With the town empty (minus the countless corpses), Rangi could find let loose and do what needed to be done.
"Hey, assholes! I hope you're hungry for this!"
The middle aged brandished a large weapon from its sheath. The weapon was a large spear-lance with a small decorative cloth attached. The demons were on high alert more than ever as they snarled and growled in contempt. Ran smirked with confidence.
"Good. I got your attention."
Sol was a distance away and saw the gruesomeness take place. The village was in near shambles and people have lost limbs and loved ones. The boy had to bite back some bile that was threatening to raise up from his throat. He could only watch in wonder and dread as he watched his estranged uncle approach the beasts without fear.
"Uncle, what are you-?!"
"Sol, watch and learn. This is what a slayer does for a living!"
Two of the demonic lions dashed towards Sol's uncle, performing a jumping attack. But, Eddy disappeared in a flash, causing the creatures to crash on the ground. Sol looked up and saw his uncle in midair.
The uncle gripped his spear-lance in slow-motion and quickly lunges down. He pierces through a bull lion's chest, killing it instantly. Black blood spilled through the hole and created a pool around the now dead monster.
The other that joined in the jump attack seen Rangi landing on his feet and proceed to attack in rage. But, the seasoned slayer dodged and connected his weapon to the demon's feet, severing them. He completed the attack with a slice to its head, more black blood bursting out from the fatal wound.
Four bull lions remained. And they were not very pleased.
One of the braver bull lions charged forward, but Rangi merely spins into the air. He swung his spear with enough force to cut the demon down in half. The next one didn't have time to react as the man swiftly kicked him against a tree and sliced off his torso.
Sol simply stood back and watched his uncle do battle with the beasts. His jaw nearly dropped down in surprise. Rangi was almost like a blur to Sol. His stance, assertive expressions, and fluidly in battle. It was as clear as day that Rangi was unafraid of the dangers surrounding.
Suddenly, a cry of distress snapped the teenager out of his spectating. A traumatized little girl, no more than 8, was bloodied from head to toe. She was crying hysterically over the bodies of her now deceased parents. The screams and sobbing attracted the attention of two more snow colored demons. Licking their lips in hunger, they slowly approached the child. However, Sol jumped in between them. He glared at the freakish miscreants, ready to challenge them.
"Go!" Sol insisted, gently pushing the little girl back. "Run to safety."
With the girl fleeing the scene, the teenager was now alone with the monsters.
In desperation, Sol grabbed a nearby pole and used it against his foes. Right in the nick of time, the brown eyed boy dodged a claw attack. He swung his weapon at a bull lion's face, piercing its eye socket. Just then, the second demon used its teeth to take a bite at the teenage islander. Sol stumbled a few steps but could stab through the monster's stomach with accurate precision.
However, his quick step timing wasn't fast enough as a third bull lion executed a surprise attack. It made a fist and swung a punch at Sol. Sol blocked it with the pole, only for his only weapon of defense to break in two. The punch slammed on his shoulder, causing the boy to fly back into a wall, hard. Aching all over from the fall, Sol tried to get back on his feet. The bull lion had cornered him and was drooling with starvation.
Suddenly, the head of the beast was decapitated by a lance. Rangi saved Sol from death.
The middle-aged man ran to his nephew's side.
"Sol, you hurt anywhere?" Rangi asked, with a worried look. "Shake it off."
The blonde boy nodded as the pain was starting to fade away, albeit slowly.
"Y-yeah. I'll be alright."
"Stand up, then."
The brown eyed islander got up on his own feet, much to Rangi's relief.
"I got rid of the freak show. And it's going to take one hell of a weekend to clean up this mess."
Sol averted his eyes from the numerous dead bodies littering the village soil.
"I can't believe something like this happened."
"Neither can I. I need to investigate this later. But, for now, let's-!"
Just then, another surprise had come crashing down on them. A large clawed hand was aiming for Sol. The veteran pushed him aside to take the blow himself. The claws violently slashed his back, torso, and shoulder. The man shouted in pain before falling on the ground.
"Uncle!" Sol exclaimed in horror.
"Damn it," Rangi coughed. "Where the shit did he come from?"
The monster that scratched Rangi was a snow colored gorilla with larger horns on its head. It was just as big as the bull lions Rangi fought. Its teeth were long and sharp and its eyes were glowing red with a sickening enjoyment.
"What is that…?" Sol asked in fear.
The expert slayer used his spear-lance to get up from the ground. The wounds were deep and he was losing blood. That wasn't going to stop him, though. It didn't matter because he was furious.
"You dare attack my nephew?! I'll rip you a new one!"
The black-haired adult rushed towards the demonic gorilla. He jumped up and lunged his spear-lance towards his foe. However, the demon dodged it and kicked Randown into the ground. The uncle landed on his feet on time and teleported. He went behind the monster and climbed on its back. He pierced the spear into its head but nothing happened. The devil Kong grabbed his body, slammed him against the tree, and roared at Ran's face.
Suddenly, several gunshots flew in and went clean through the devil Kong's stomach. The beast bellowed in pain, dropping Rangi instantly.
Sol turned his head to see his father, Loto, with a shotgun, with smoke coming out of the barrel.
"Brother, don't just stand there!" Loto ordered. "Finish it off!"
"Tch! Don't got to tell me twice!"
Devil Kong began to pound his fists on the ground, trying to knock Rangi off balance. The hardened slayer jumped out of the way and stabbed his lance at the monster's arm, severing it. Then, he proceeded to cut off the other arm clean off, much to the beast's fear.
The blue-eyed man looked up and seen thunder strikes ravaging the sky. Rangi noticed them and thought of an idea. He decided the killing blow. The only way to kill this beast was through magic like means. Lifting his weapon in the air, he waited for the lighting to strike. The strike connected into the spear, electrifying the weapon and creating a gold glow around it.
"Time is now!" Ran shouted, calling out his attack. "Lighting pierce assault!"
He charged towards the gorilla demon at breakneck speed and went through his chest, creating a large hole in its wake. The monster yelled out one final cry before collapsing on the ground. Black blood spilled, creating a pool around the carcass.
"Is it over?" Sol asked no one.
"Yes, son, it's over," Loto assured his son.
Rangi, with a relieved groan, succumbed to his injuries. He fell on the ground, alarming his nephew and brother.
The two men frantically ran to aid the wounded Slayer as rain began to fall.
Inside a small hospital in Venus village, doctors and nurses were hard at work. Since so many were attacked during the demon outbreak, they had to triaged injured patients based on the severity alone. Rangi Nakos was the highest priority out of everyone. The family sat down in the waiting area, anxious of what the outcome would be. Sol soothed his young sister by taking her hand and rubbing her back. Lani never liked being in hospitals.
After a few daunting moments, the doctor finally re-emerged from the operating room.
"Doctor! How is he? Was there something you could do for him? I know the injuries were bad but, surely…"
The surgeon removed his bloodied gloves and his surgery mask. His face was pale as a sheet, as he looked at Loto with a sad expression. That alone conveyed his grievances regarding Loto's brother's fate.
"I must be frank with you all. His shoulder, back, and torso were cut deeply by the demon's attack. He has lost too much blood and his spine gave out. There is a slim chance that he will make it much longer."
"It can't be…!" Melika blurted, eyes tearing up.
"Seriously...?" Sol managed, barely finding his voice.
"I've done everything I could to help him, but...sorry."
The Nakos family were overwhelmed with sorrow. They couldn't believe what they heard. Rangi had returned in their lives only to be snuffed like a candle in the breeze. It was akin to a hard punch in the gut. Lani sobbed, covering her face in sorrow. Sol pulled her closer to him, hugging her small body.
"How long?" Loto asked, fighting back the tears that threatened to show.
"Two hours. I suggest you speak with him now and say your farewells."
"We will, doctor. Thank you."
And with that, the doctor showed them the room where Ran was inside. Inside the small hospital bed, the black-haired slayer laid down, breathing slowly. The walls were pristine white, with floral-patterned curtains covering the window to the outside world. The family of islanders spoke individually with the gravelly wounded man. Loto and Rangi reminisced about old times as young kids. The seasoned slayer shamelessly flirting with Melika, much to Loto's subtle exasperation. The mortally wounded man encouraging Lani to help her family however way she could and telling her how pretty she has become. And finally, it was Sol's turn to talk with his uncle one last time.
The despondent boy, looked down at his uncle's form. Like anyone his age, he had never been acquainted with death, and to see this middle-aged man, so close and special to him, slip away into that darkness, was far too bitter to even contemplate. Yet the blue-eyed man comforted him, provided him with hope during despair. His words were gravelly and accompanied by strong coughs. Somehow, he appeared strong while sick, almost accepting of what was about to befall him.
"Uncle..." the boy whispered, afraid.
"Gods, what a way to go, huh?" Rangi jested through his coughing. Even with the grim reaper lingering to greet him, the man still has strength in him to crack a joke. Sol swallowed a lump in his throat. All of this happened on his birthday! This all could've been prevented somehow!
"I'm sorry…it's all my fault," Sol said, voice shaking. "If I haven't been so weak, I could've helped you better. I was getting in the way and I got you killed. I'm the worst…!"
"Stop." Ran said, firmly. "None of that."
The older man smiled gently at the distraught boy.
"Kid, you think I blame you for what happened? Hell, no I don't. I'm the one who should be apologizing. I was…arrogant and reckless. I wasn't strong enough to keep it together."
"Don't say that! You were awesome out there, Uncle. You have no idea..."
"Sol, my little nephew," the fatally wounded man started, "you need to know..."
Rangi coughed, and the blonde boy held his calloused hand tightly, fearing he may pass from this earth at any moment. He smiled as he placed his other hand on top of Sol's.
"You need to know...what's out there in the world. You should…broaden your horizons. Go see…what's out there…"
"Broaden my horizons?"
"You…can make…your own choices. You have…the potential to be something greater."
The brown eyed teen didn't know what else to say. All he could do was nod in compliance. Sol listened intently, fearing what may very well be his uncle's final words to him.
"Sol...no matter what," the older man encouraged the boy, placing his bandaged hand on his, "don't let tradition hold you down. Never give up on… what you want… in life."
And just like that, the seasoned slayer closed his eyes for what seemed like the last time. Everything slowly began to fade in white.
A week had passed since the tragedy. Venus Village was still shaken up by the losses since then. Up until now, there were some mishaps here and there. The island villagers dealt with wild animals and sometimes a few no-good thieves. But, that was nothing compared to a group of grotesque monsters ravaging stores, homes, and people. Burials were planned and made the next morning after the attack. And even then, the grief of the islanders remained.
During the new week, Sol spent some time on shore, alone. He sat on the cool sand as he watched the waves roll by in the ocean. The boy always had a better time thinking at the beach. It calmed and comforted him like a baby's lullaby. He never knew the outside world until the middle-aged man showed up. He achieved many things throughout his life while Sol was doing the same things every day.
He looked at the pamphlet the laid-back uncle gave him on his birthday. It read 'Slayer Union – Located in Big Fork City. Join in the fight now to save the world from evil!'
This could be his chance, Sol thought. Maybe…there was more to it than fishing and working at the golden prawn grille. Maybe he was also capable of doing bigger and better things. Maybe he could follow in his uncle's footsteps.
Sol and Loto were not seeing eye to eye once again. Sol, being fed up with his father's uptight behavior, wanted to know more about the outside world. Loto was evasive as ever and coldly told his son to ignore what his uncle told him. Lani and Melika had just come back from fruit shopping when they heard the bickering between father and son.
"I am going to ask you one more time, young man," Loto demanded. "Have you taken a leave of your senses? Will you not mourn your uncle's death?"
"Not this crap again!" Sol exclaimed, throwing his hands up in the air. "Of course, I'm sad. I can't believe I even have to say it! But, all I ever hear from you is tradition this and tradition that. I'm talking about avenging uncle's death here!"
Sol's father looked at him like he was an exotic animal.
Growing frustrated, Loto got up and slammed his fists on the table. He glared furiously at his stubborn boy.
"Enough! You are still a child! You are too young to make decisions on your own. The moment you set foot on the outside world, it will eat you alive. Do you think that's what your uncle wants? You will stay here, inherit the Golden Prawn grille, and continue the business. It is our family's way!"
Sol's brown eyes flared, a fire stoked inside of him.
"Our family's way? Who cares about something like that?! I don't expect you to believe me but uncle Ran spoke to me before he died. He told me to go out and see what's out there. So, that's why I've made up my mind. I'm going to honor uncle's memory by becoming a slayer!"
"You heard me, dad. I'm going to fight those big monsters in the frontlines. If they could attack our island, who knows when they will come back? So many innocent people were killed that day. Little kids have lost their families! I don't want something like that to happen ever again. So, I'm going to Big Fork City and become a slayer for my island."
Loto was at a loss for words. He thought he kept a tight leash on the cub but now the cub had had enough. The father looked down at the table, registering the boy's words.
"Very well. You look serious about this, so, I won't argue any further."
Sol sighed with relief. Finally, he managed to get through to the stubborn old man.
The teenager tensed slightly. Of course, there was a catch. And considering the angry expression from his father, the discussion wasn't going to end on a high note.
"As far as I am concerned, I no longer have a son. I want you out of my house this instant!"
Melika and Lani, who were watching the whole argument from a distance, gasped at the middle-aged man's response. They knew Sol and Loto's relationship would be dented but they didn't think it would escalate to a disownment and an exile.
"Honey!" Melika protested.
"Dad?!" Lani exclaimed with fear.
The young man was not surprised at all. He knew he would step out of line when it came to not meet his father's expectations and high standards. But, at the same time, he was glad to finally be free of the old man's strict attitude and conservative ways.
"Fine, then! I was planning on leaving until you came to your senses anyway."
Sol turned away from his father and stomped his way to his room, which was blocked by Melika and Lani.
"Mom, Lani, let me through! I'm packing my things."
With the two moving out of the way, Sol entered his room, slamming the door in the process.
An hour later...
Sol had left his house with some of his belongings. His mother and young sister accompanied him to Salt Port, where the ship to Big Fork City would leave soon. The boy now wore his new outfit his mother gave to him on his birthday. It was a black shirt over a yellow long-sleeve opened jacket with a short hem. He also wore black cropped trousers and yellow sneakers.
A giant ship, at least 60 meters high from the water level, loomed over him. Painted in pristine white, the ship boasted at least 10 decks and spanned over 300 meters from bow to stern. One funnel for exhaust sat at the back, and the stern itself was almost squared off, indistinguishable from the decks. Atop the gangplanks, crewmembers dressed in white welcomed boarding passengers with a smile, and deckhands took their luggage for storage in their compartments. A veritable hotel on water.
At the meantime, Melika checked to make sure her son didn't leave the island unprepared.
"Did you pack well, honey?" Melika asked. "Where's your hairbrush and toothbrush?"
"A-all of it is there..."
"What about your clothes? Underwear?"
"Mom," Sol groaned. "this is the 9th time you peeked into my bag!"
"I'm a mother. I can never be too careful."
Melika nodded as she straightened up the boy's unkempt hair.
"Now, don't forget to ask for directions if you get lost. And try not to talk to any shady folks. You don't know what might happen. Oh, which reminds me…"
Melika produced a small black bottle with a spray cap. The label read 'pepper spray'.
"Ma, I have uncle's spear, remember?."
"Well, you don't know what's out there in the big city, young man. There could be a treacherous forest for all we know. Remember that incident with the tiger?"
"When I was 13. I was hunting for meat and I got a little carried away. It won't happen again."
Melika nodded and closed her son's bag.
"Okay. I'll leave you be."
"Thank goodness…" Sol sighed with relief.
"Lani, keep your brother company while I get the ticket."
Once the mother left, the atmosphere changed. The shorter girl brushed some hair out of her face as the breeze became stronger.
"Do you really have to leave, bro?"
"Yeah, I do," Sol nodded.
"Take me with you," Lani suggested. "I can help."
The oldest brother shook his head.
"No. This is something I should do for myself.
"Lani," Sol reasoned. "you have dreams for the future. But, me? I don't even know what I want out of life. I want to see what's out there. Maybe there is more to life than inheriting the bar and grill. I need to know what the world is like and figure out if I have a place in it."
"But, this is the first time you ventured outside of the island! Aren't you the least bit scared?"
The 16-year-old boy sighed deeply. Of course, he was feeling apprehensive. But, he knew that this is what he wanted to do.
"Honestly, I'm a little nervous. But, isn't that normal? Besides, that shouldn't keep me cooped up in an island for the rest of my life."
Lani hung her head down, looking at her sandals blankly.
"But, I'll definitely be back on your 13th birthday."
The brown-haired girl blushed lightly.
"R-really?" Sol winked playfully.
"Of course, big brothers never tell lies."
Lani couldn't hold back any longer, and embraced her brother tightly. The tears she had fought back finally flowed down her cheeks.
"Just promise me you'll be careful out there. Don't do anything stupid, please?"
"I promise, sis. I promise."
"No!" Lani asserted, "That's not good enough. We must do the pinky swear!"
"I thought you said you outgrew that ritual."
"Heh, alright, alright."
The sibling pair locked their pinky fingers together and sang,
"Pinky swear, so if I lie, stick an army of blades in my eye. And seal it with a kiss!"
The captain of the ship rang the bell, signaling everyone to get on board now. Melika purchased the tickets, and gave them to Sol, along with a tight hug of her own. A part of her didn't want her young son to go out in the world so soon. But, at the same time, she was happy for him. He was finally going to find his own path.
"No matter what your father says, Venus island will always be your home. Don't ever forget that."
"Thanks, mom. I won't."
And with that, Sol dashed up the gangplank and entered the ship. Everything was secured and closed off. With one final ring of the big bell, the ship began drifting off. Lani ran to down the port as she waved goodbye to her older brother. The boat became smaller and smaller as it set sail into the great ocean.