Hey there guys and girls, WATCHER89 here with a new chapter.
First and most importantly A VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL OF YOU. (I know it's pretty late and all.) Hope you guys had a blast on the holidays.
And I sincerely apologize for the long wait. The only excuse I have to give is the chapter itself. Like the previous one, I wrote this chapter because an interesting future development struck me. For that, I had to write this chapter down from scratch. So, I started working on it. After about 10k words I was highly unsatisfied and so I redid the entire thing. Again that repeated itself and along came another rewrite. Finally, after my third rewrite. I ended up with a 40k monstrosity. Well, it would have exceeded that if I had gone all out everywhere.
Now, to answer a few reviews.
SomeOneRandom: Thank you. I have some form of alibi planned for Zack.
Avenger: Thank you. You did send me a Pm with your real account and we talked about it there. So, there is nothing more to say. Hope you continue to enjoy it.
billeykeo95: Zack x Ruby is a thing. So, yea I'll make sure to flesh it out.
123GOHANZ: Thanks for reminding me. I actually did forget about it. Ha, Ha.
Roze: Your advice is duly noted. You were right about the problem with Word. I actually realized it sooner, after posting the previous chapter. You can see that difference in this chapter.
Reviewer: It's like Vance martin stated. Nothing more to add from my end. His human form was shown in the manga and in the latest movie.
And you guys should have noticed the change in the cover art. It was the masterful work of johnnyjay84. Massive thanks to you man for letting me use it. Please check out his art on deviant art. Search for Team IZAG by 'johnnyjayt88'.
That's enough ranting from my end. Off we go into the story.
Disclaimer: Dragon Ball Z, Dragon Ball Super, Naruto, Final Fantasy 7, Fairy Tail and RWBY belong to their respective owners. I do not own anything except this fan fiction and my OC's.
Four years into the past,
"This is so boring." Zack Knight, one of the hottest prodigies at Alsius academy, and who was earmarked to attain greatness in the future, kept whining to his team leader.
"They sent us to take out some grimm and I haven't seen even one." He continued with both his hands on the back of his head. "Waaah!
Zack wore his usual combat attire, the one he wore during his days as a Shinra soldier. His hairstyle was different. He had cut it out to be short and spiky.
Gohan wore his regular orange gi with a blue undershirt and orange pants. His hair was cut short with a few strands that projected out here and there.
Acnologia sill wore the same apparel he had worn for the most time in his life. There was nothing different about him except for his younger appearance.
Itachi was the only one who dressed up according to what the weather demanded. He wore a long, dark, blue coloured, woollen T-shirt with an ash grey scarf wrapped around his neck. His trademark ponytail was shorter.
This was one of the warmer months in Atlas and so the cold was not that severe. To add to that, the area they were currently present was also located on the milder parts in the continent of Solitas. These warmer conditions allowed for the growth of forests and vegetation, and availability of cultivable land. Another thing it also accorded for, was the presence of grimm in larger numbers. These areas were better suited for human settlement and that also meant it was much better suited for the black beasts also. Most of the grimm population in the kingdom of Atlas were concentrated on these parts. As a result of this abnormal presence of grimm, such areas were deemed uninhabitable. There were myths about numerous ss class grimm in these parts, although no proof, except for traveller tales to validate their existence.
There was a legend that goes where, a battle was once fought during the Great War on these parts, but both armies were annihilated due to the sudden emergence of a dragon which along with it brought in massive hordes of grimm. Whether it was courtesy of these myths or the discernible ubiquity of the black demons, there was limited human presence in these parts and also minimal government intervention. Still, the availability of cultivable land and forest resources proved a bit of attraction, giving rise to tiny villages and nomadic tribes that tenanted these lands. The villages mostly consisted of former employees of a mine that used to be located in this area. And the majority of the populace were faunus. When the mine collapsed, the only thing, that attracted the interest of the officials disappeared along with it. So, the humans and faunus that currently lived here received no attention or major aid from the Kingdom of Atlas. Anything they received was either in paper only, or done to pacify them. Bandits and large illegal organization roamed free here. Like the grimm, majority of the illegal activities, in Atlas or maybe even in all of Remnant, ranging from human trafficking to drug cartels could be found here. Maybe this also augmented the growth of the black beasts as grimm were attracted to negative emotions. These factors contributed to naming these areas as Forsaken Lands among the ones who were fortunate enough to live by in the cities. With racial tensions escalating day by day, such areas with larger faunus population were left to suffer. The Government turned a blind eye to them. Political interests and connections in illegal coteries, gave these cartels and consortiums, all the protection they needed to exploit the helpless inhabitants of these parts.The people lived here, waging battles against the grimm and against transgressors, on their own.
Itachi Uchiha, the team leader who was walking behind him and, side by side with the demi saiyan, Son Gohan, maintained his composure all through this ordeal. The former soldier had been moaning and complaining like a four year old kid ever since they began the walk towards their destination. Though the sharingan user maintained his calm demeanour, he was almost nearing his breaking point. He kept pinching the bridge of his nose to compose himself.
Three years had already passed and he had learnt how to cope up with his raven haired sword wielding companion. Though the guy was sometimes a headache to deal with, there was no denying his loyalty and love. And Itachi respected his attitude, though he acted like a child most of the time.
"Zacky, do you even know what the mission is?" Son Gohan, questioned the ex-soldier as he shot glances at both the Uchiha and the ex-soldier simultaneously.
It failed to force Zack turn back. "We have to beat sense into a few grimm that's been eating all the corn, isn't it?" The ex-soldier acted totally aloof and uninterested. Still, not looking at the speaker.
Gohan sweat dropped at this. "No that's not it."
Itachi held back from gritting his teeth in irritation. Of course Zack would have no idea about the mission. He was absent during the briefing given by the headmaster and slept halfway through Itachi's planning. Add to that the guy had a short attention span.
"The mission is to investigate the current surge in the grimm attacks in the village Onyx." Gohan sighed before stating it. That sigh of his also showed he was mentally taxed.
Zack pretended to be confused. "But you were discussing about corns on the airship?" He turned to the half saiyan with a puzzled expression.
Itachi felt his brow twitch in annoyance. "Zack" He retorted to the ex-soldier with slight anger laced in his tone.
"Gohan and I were discussing about our semester end tests due next month. It had nothing to do with corns. From where did the corn come up?" Itachi facepalmed. "You have just been watching too much television."
Zack scratched his head and looked at the Uchiha. "You should have told me about that earlier."
"I assumed you were talking about the mission back then." Zack went on, now facing forward again. "When I think about it, you never told me any details about the mission."
"Hmphh. Some team leader you are caps." He added sarcastically trying his best to hide the fact that he was really annoyed.
The tick marks on Itachi's face grew bigger by the second. "Why you…" He clenched his fists in anger and the words that came out were barely audible.
Gohan reacted immediately and tried to calm down Itachi and preclude him from doing anything else. Zack walked ahead unaware of the state of affairs unfolding behind him.
The reality was all his reactions were a farce in order to lighten up the mood. Somehow it always felt like there was this strange tension that prevailed over their group. Gohan was having one of his days and was more gloomy than usual. Even in his normal mood, he rarely had on an honest smile. His past was still brooding over him and whatever Zack did, he could not break through that shell. Itachi was the only person among them who felt like a normal person, but since it was their first mission, he was being too cautious. Acnologia was practically unapproachable. He was not much of a talker and never exposed himself to anyone which made it hard to deduce what he really felt. One thing the ex-soldier had come to understand was that the dragon king considered them as allies now, judging from the way he was before when they first met, and the way he was now. Even then, he still maintained his distance between them and remained grumpy and annoyed all the time. There wasn't a single instant where he would initiate a conversation with them. He only talked when he was asked about something, never voiced his opinion unless in rare circumstances and always had that hateful expression plastered on his face. Zack tried his best to get closer to him, cracking jokes about him and mocking him. These would result in him getting really hurt. However he did not mind that, it slowly helped in bridging the gap between them.
"Calm down Itachi." The demi saiyan pleaded desperately. His arm was around the Uchiha's shoulder. "It was just a joke."
Itachi heaved a heavy sigh to placate himself. To be more precise, he himself was getting irritated at the strange atmosphere. Although he made no effort in rectifying it. In a way, he couldn't deny that Zack's intervention was helpful.
"Whatever." The normal collected tone was back. "Let us just get going."
Gohan exasperated in relief. "That was close."
The saiyan hybrid did not want any sort of argument or fight to break out now. He had one of those nightmares yesterday and was still recuperating from its aftereffects. At present, he was mentally drained but made no trial to convey that. There was little to no interest or excitement in him for this first mission they were assigned to. One reason he decided to tag along was not to be a bother to the others, and the other was in belief that this might help him take his mind off things for some time, while also being able to extend aid to the villagers.
Acnologia who was regarded as the strongest one among the four walked a little distance behind the three. Almost a year was about to pass since they joined the combat school. He was not at all pleased with the turn of events. The dragon slayer had to abide by human laws, listen and tolerate humans barking their orders to him. How many times did he have to hold back from ripping out the heads of many? If it were not for these three comrades of his, surely Remnant would also have faced the terror of the Black Dragon of the Apocalypse.
Many things he never understood, and these thoughts clouded his mind above anything else. Why was he dragged along to some mission to protect a few weakling humans? The weak would perish to pave the way for the growth of the strong. That was the universal law to him. However, he found himself starting to grow deeply attached to these three, who he would label as friends. This was the sole reason he accompanied them. He hated and despised everything and everyone else. But these three he could never bring himself to hurt them physically or emotionally. This was the sole reason he had swallowed his pride to abide by human laws. He regarded them as his friends. Whatever the reason were, he did not want to lose them. The feelings of friendship, love and kindness, it had been so long since he experienced those. He could not even remember what they felt like. Somehow, now it felt like those were coming back to him. But even still, he felt those emotions only towards these three. The rest of the mortals were still putrid insects to him. This was the answer he could not find at all, the answer to why he grew attached to them. Maybe it was because he regarded them as his equals. Still, was there anything more to it?
Zack gently slowed down his pace for Itachi to catch up to him. "Hey caps." The ex-soldier had his hands on his pocket and his intonation was apologetic.
"Are you still mad about earlier?" He questioned with puppy eyes.
Itachi lightly chuckled at his comical expression. He could never stay angry at Zack for long. Sometimes he was a pain to deal with, however without him they would just be a group of boring individuals. He was the optimistic and cheerful personality in the group. Always there to lighten up the mood, and going to great lengths to make sure everyone remains in a good mood, even when he had to make a fool of himself sometimes.
Itachi wrapped his right arm around the former soldier's shoulders. "No Zacky..."
"On second thought, maybe a little." Itachi retorted quickly, his facial expression changing to meet his words.
Zack put his left arm around Itachi's shoulders. "I got a deal that will calm you down."
"How about I give you a lifetime membership to Zack's fan club for free." He whispered in his ear.
"My fan club is twice as big as yours." Itachi shot back with a deadpanned expression, tying down the urge to smirk. "I will let you join mine if you plead enough"
Zack pouted at the response while Gohan mused lightly in the background. "You are no fun caps." He stated taking away his arms off Itachi's shoulders while also forcing the latter's arm off him. "You are supposed to say 'I am honoured to join your fan club.' "
The Uchiha held let out a laugh as he held his sides.
"How about I let the both of you join the Gohan fans club." The demi saiyan joined in on the fun. The light exchange made him ease up for a while.
"You don't have one." The other two shot back in unison.
Gohan sheepishly scratched his head in response. "I will someday."
Acnologia was still not amused with all the happenings. He was just too ticked to actually enjoy anything at the moment. This also added fuel to another thought that had been burning up inside him. Somehow they had settled down amidst everything while he was still reeling in on the fact about why he was in this strange world. Even now, he felt a bit distant from them on this. Some strange form of insecurity crept up inside him. Their pasts and his past were totally different but they had no qualms about accepting him for who he was. They were heroes and he was a villain. Somewhere he felt himself wanting to try and gain their acknowledgement and complete trust. He believed there was still distrust in their minds about him. As if he was sometimes left out. Again it was the same thing, he did not understand why he wanted to gain their trust so desperately?
"I really hope my semblance would just show." Zack's pleas broke through the laughs. Itachi and Gohan slowly ceased their amusement and guided their minds towards Zack's little trouble that had been bothering him for some time.
"You will unlock it in time Zacky." Gohan consoled him. "It's like the professors said, it takes a lot of time to identify your semblance."
Zack bit his cheeks and hummed. "That's not it G man." He placed both his hands on the back of his head as they continued to walk towards the village.
"Like I told you, when I activate my semblance all I get is this chilly feeling and nothing else. It practically does nothing. I tried a lot of things but no, nothing. It's all nada." The ex-soldier hung his head after he said those words in a single breath.
"Work on it Zack." The Uchiha intervened, his arms folded to compliment his sombre expression. "You will unlock it soon."
"Gyaah." The ex-soldier was getting annoyed. He literally pulled out a few strands of hair after that statement. "I keep telling you its UNLOCKED ALREADY. The thing is, I don't know what it does. That's all."
Itachi had no idea how semblances worked or how semblances felt. He simple passed off his illusions as his semblance, when the reality was that it was nothing compared to what he was capable off. So, in this situation he had no idea whether Zack really unlocked his semblance or if it was something else. This clearly was not his area of expertise. And since it was so, he commenting further on the topic would lead to no conclusion.
"Then work hard on finding out what it is then." Itachi forced his lips to a curve. "I believe it might be something grand and spectacular."
"Of course it will. I am telling you it's gonna be really awesome caps." Zack cut in before Itachi could finish. He then proceeded to comically rub his sides and jump up and down. "Come on semblance buddy, just show me what you can do already."
His antics were making Gohan laugh out loud. The Uchiha chuckled to himself and looked at Zack with admiration as they continued to tread through the forest.
"Looks like you have fulfilled your intended purpose Zack." He contemplated to himself. "You have my thanks for that."
"So this is Onyx." The Uchiha voiced to the rest of the team. "It really looks shabby and poor. And its present condition does not fit the description we were given in the slightest." His quick overview of the place was well in agreement with the other three.
They had set out towards the village at about six in the morning. Now at late afternoon they found themselves at their destination. Onyx was not what they had expected it to be. The entire village gave out an aura of depravity and gloominess. Majority of the houses were only big enough to hardly house a single family. Even the bigger ones could be considered tiny compared to the city dwellings. In the centre stood a large grey coloured church and another large building which seemed like a hall for festivities, which were the only highlights in that place. The grimm attacks had left the entire vicinity on its knees. A few of the houses were damaged and most of their fields were destroyed. This was a major issue especially in Atlas where the climate was severely harsh. The small group of the villagers who could be seen outside seemed dull and lifeless. Onyx was completely isolated from an outsider's point of view. Bandits could roam free in it and no one would even know about it. The fact that it was enclosed on all sides by forests, which were a rare sight in this icy continent of Solitas, did not help the cause either. To pile on to that, the majority of the village population comprised of Faunus. In the kingdom of Atlas which was notorious for its racism towards faunus, it wouldn't come out as a major surprise if the woes of a village like this fell on deaf ears.
Itachi Uchiha could compare it to the many war torn smaller villages caught between the wars between the bigger ones, he had seen during his days as a shinobi of the hidden leaf. One thing this dreary sight assured him of was that whatever plagued the village was not limited to grimm attacks. Even if they were, then the intensity of those attacks conveyed to them paled in comparison to the real scenario. The sight that lay before them gave out a different story altogether. Maybe it was the issue of racial prejudice that had resulted in the pleas of help from this faunus dominated village, being overlooked. From what the Uchiha had learned so far, even final year students from the senior academies, unless they were extremely talented, were not sent to secluded grimm infested sites unless accompanied by a concerned faculty. So it was a surprise to see them being assigned such a mission. It was not a question of skill. If it was, in that aspect they outclassed everyone in Remnant. However in the eyes of the rest of the world, they were just first year junior academy students, even though they were deemed to be prodigies.
He trusted their headmaster along with all the faculties at Alsius. So there was no point in doubting them. The individual who was responsible for conveying the problems to the higher ups, purposefully scaled down the threat level such that, it was deemed to be only at the level of a junior academy student. In conclusion, sending them to this village was like telling its populace that they did not give a damn about them. Discrimination on the basis of race had ended in heaping up the agony of this place.
The four walls of the big cities gave a picture of false serenity according to the Uchiha. Only when villages like these enjoyed peace, Remnant could claim to have achieved true peace. Even now, it seemed a farfetched ideal when the citizens of this world were locked in a conflict among themselves. Back in his world, the five chief villages would find themselves in conflict with each other and these often lead to devastating wars. But here, the enmity was between two races. The dominating race abused and condemned the other only because they were born with additional features. Then there was a third party, the grimm who were the natural enemy of both factions. Among all these, the Uchiha could also see sparks of rising tensions among the four kingdoms. In case a war would break out between them, it would leave the entire planet a mere wasteland and nothing else.
Itachi wanted to prevent such an occurrence. He had seen the savage side of war and did not want to see another one in his lifetime again. Whatever the politics of this world was, it allowed him to live freely and with a peace of mind. For that, he owed something to Remnant. Still it was beyond his power to put to rest the battle between the two races. The strife between humans and faunus would cease only when a sense of understanding, mutual trust and a feeling of equality would surface in the minds of both parties. There was no hope of forcing it into them. He knew very well what would happen if anyone tried forcing the concept of peace into the minds of the citizens. Therefore, intervening in that matter was beyond him. Both humans and faunus were to blame in this issue. They were unwilling to unite against a common enemy. Humans racially abused and mistreated the faunus and only regarded them no better than animals. The faunus in return turned violent with the help of organizations like the white fang who had taken more than enough human lives already. The Uchiha never differentiated people on their appearances but only on what was in their hearts. In this battle between the two races he would only remain as a neutral party, who wanted both of them to come in terms with each other. His support would extend to only those who needed it irrespective of their race.
In the beginning however, he leaned towards the faunus a bit. Somehow he equated their plight to that of his own clan who were treated like strangers by the Konohagakure big shots in their own village, though they were among the founding clans of the hidden leaf. But that stance had changed with the recent white fang activities. Initially the fang were just a group of peaceful protestors now turned violent with the change in leadership. The Uchiha had earlier many a times, extended aid to their activities. Howbeit, he despised the white fang now. The attacks of the fang were not only limited to humans alone. It also extended to faunus who stood against their ideals. In many cases, they would commit violence against populations where both races lived in harmony for the purpose of dividing them on racial lines. This took away the nobility of the cause they used to fight for initially. The white fang now wanted the extinction of the humans and the faunus who stood against them. That was no different from the humans wanting to annihilate the entire faunus race. So, in the present situation, the white fang were really just, terrorists. They were in fact no better than savage animals.
Once a bomb planted by the white fang had resulted in the deaths of an entire innocent faunus family who had once sheltered the four of them, along with a lot of other civilians. The husband was a former important fang member, who quit when the organization moved towards radical methods. Their attack held the intention of disposing off a deserter, but they masked it under the pretence of being their declaration of war against the misdeeds conducted upon the faunus. From that day onwards, the white fang became an enemy to him. He never intended to confront them head on, however if they were ever to cross paths, he would annihilate them ruthlessly.
For everything Remnant provided him with, he would protect its citizens. The ones who deserved to be saved and protected. For this, he had decided to become a hunter which would let him fulfil this aim. After he had become a hunter he would travel around the world extending help to everyone who deserved it. Still, he would never intervene in the war between humans and faunus as he felt that neither faction were right in their ideals and beliefs. He would only side with the weak and the innocent who really deserved help, irrespective of their race. But in case war became inevitable, he would decide then with whom to side with.
The four of them were the centre of attention for all the villagers present. It wasn't every day that strangers or visitors came to Onyx. Especially kids who looked like they were ready for combat. Zack who usually enjoyed the attention now found himself feeling a bit awkward. Some of them viewed the group with suspicion and only a handful displayed a welcoming look on their faces. These welcoming looks had the feeling of hope mixed with it.
The ex-soldier walked upto a lean looking, burnt olive- haired man, who, was by all means in his early thirties. "Excuse me, buddy. Could you tell me where can I find Mr. Brown.?" He asked with some authority which was highly unlike him. It was that this atmosphere he found himself in made him a bit defensive.
The recipient of the question eyed him with suspicion for a moment, carefully examining the ex-soldier. He was among the villagers who had that welcoming look still seeing the newcomer up close invoked a bit of suspicion in him.
The villager placed the sack he was carrying over his shoulders, onto the ground beside him. "Can you tell me who you are son?" He responded satisfied with his analysis of the ex-soldier.
"Sorry for that. I haven't properly introduced myself." Zack returned with a smile. "My name is Zack." He extended his hand towards the villager who, shook it after a short while of deliberating.
"Our team were tasked with helping you with the grimm problem." He said it a bit loud and with absolute confidence. That response was enough to make everyone in the vicinity to gather around them.
"Did you say you were sent by Atlas higher ups to help us?" Someone amongst the crowd remarked which signalled the beginning of a noisy commotion, discussing about the four of them. By now a small crowd had formed around Zack and the three others, who themselves stood a few metres behind the former soldier. Everyone present were now carefully analysing the newcomers and giving their own conclusions about them. The expression of their faces exuded elation.
"But they are just children no matter how you look at it." Another voice was heard amongst the gathering.
"Kids these days are stronger than what their age says." Another voice argued in IZAG's favour.
Itachi confirmed from this reaction that for so long the cries of the villagers were left unheard. Their presence here was like beacon of hope to them. They did not care if they were children or not, just the thought that someone came to their aid was enough to brighten them up.
Gohan too shared the sentiment and he too had arrived at the same conclusion as the Uchiha. But unlike Itachi, he felt immense rage that innocent people were left to suffer for so long just because many of them were of a different race. The saiyan hybrid clenched his fists to pacify himself. Whenever he saw people with helplessness in their eyes, it invoked horrible memories in him. Still, he bit his tongue to contain the anger and frustration that took over him. The villagers needed him to remain calm and assure them that it was going to be all right. Displaying what he felt inside publicly, would do no good in the present situation.
"But that kid with the black cloak looks really strong. He's got a face scarier than any grimm I have seen." Someone else added from the crowd, deriving an angry scoff from the dragon slayer.
"Come to think of it, he looks like those voodoo people." Another comment broke through the noise.
Zack chuckled at the wrong kind of attention Acno was receiving. He nudged the dragon slayer on the shoulder to divert his attention to the reactions.
Acnologia did not like being surrounded like this nor their insulting remarks. Zack nudging him, coupled with all this, highly ticked him off. But still, he did not react. The dragon king just gulped it all down and bore with it. If he were alone right now, their lives would have escaped them long ago. Again it was that strange desire to earn their trust that helped contain his emotions.
"Please pardon us for the fuss, gentlemen." A grey short, haired man of lean built, pushed his way through the gathering. "I sincerely apologise for it."
"I am the village chief Arlo Brown." He bowed slightly as he greeted the four of them.
Itachi keenly observed Arlo. He would put him around in his late sixties. His face showed how much weight he had been carrying by himself to keep the village safe. The village chief's hair was messy and his features projected that all of these incidents were taking a toll on his health. There was so much relief that seeped through his features in learning that help had arrived. His eyes were of a light green shade and he had two white ears projecting above his head. He was a faunus like most of the village populace.
"Mr. Brown." Itachi began calmly when the fuss had died down. "Considering all that I have seen, I have to assume that the problem you have been facing is quite serious."
"So, I would like to get into the matter as soon as possible without any further delays." His voice displayed a bit of impatience and showed how much serious he was. "Can you tell us in detail, what has been troubling the village?"
"You see..." The village chief was quite taken aback from the sudden request from the Uchiha. He was diving straight into the heart of the matter without any further niceties. Arlo collected himself after a brief while, looked at each of the four teenagers, and began with a shaky tone, only to be suddenly interrupted by Itachi.
"We might be kids. But let me assure you Mr. Arlo Brown, we are among the best Atlas has to offer. There is no threat that we cannot handle. So I request you to be truthful and not hold back any details." The Uchiha said those directly looking old man Brown in the eye. It was said with so much conviction that the chief felt a sense of security and his initial fears slowly dispelled away.
"Then I will spare no details…em…"
"Itachi. Itachi Uchiha." The leader of IZAG cut in. "My friends here are Gohan, Zack and Acnologia." He added pointing towards each of his comrades.
"It is a pleasure to have you here gentlemen." The village chief stated as he looked at each of them with a welcoming smile.
"Now it's time you began Mr. Brown." Itachi folded his arms and took on a serious expression. "Once again I implore you not to hold back any details."
The village chief looked at the faces of each of them once again and heaved a deep sigh before he started. "There used to be a dust mine near this area, and our village was established by the employees of that mine. So, it took many years for us to be recognized by the Atlas administration as a settlement." He barely began but almost choked on his words.
"We have been plagued by grimm attacks for many years now. They suddenly appear out of nowhere and attack those working in the fields or out in the forests surrounding us." The man's tone was that of someone who had given up all hope and his eyes were downcast. This reaction was also seen in the villagers around them. When he began his narrative, the faces of those around him likewise, turned glum. "These attacks used to remain limited to the outskirts till now."
His demeanour turned bleak. "But for the past few days, the attacks have really surged. They now attack the village directly during dusk. We tried our best to hold them back but you see we are not very experienced in combat. We are just plain folks who get by with what we sow in our fields and what the forest provide us." A few tears trickled down his cheek as he spoke.
The village chief halted for a while to clear his throat. "We have lost a lot of our good folk already."
"But that is not the major plight we face now." Brown paused for a bit again to dry his tears. His visage was still woeful. "Many of our children have gone missing during these attacks. We don't know if they were taken by the grimm or not. Whether they are still alive or not." He went on, on the verge of breaking down.
A pregnant pause ensued before Arlo Brown mustered up enough strength to continue. He clenched his fists and continued after a deep breath. "Yesterday, the lifeless body of one of our daughters was found in the forest."
He stopped abruptly and laid both of his hands on the Uchiha's shoulders. "It was not the doing of some grimm." He said those words directly looking him in the eye. "We are just a bunch of weak and helpless people. We have no idea on what to do. All our cries for aid have fallen into deaf ears. Can you really help us Itachi?" These last few sentences really hit the Uchiha. Itachi's usually emotionless face started exhibiting a tinge of sadness and anger.
Itachi unfolded his arms and used them to take off the chief's arms off him. "Dry those tears Arlo Brown." He stated holding the hands of the old man in an act of support.
"I Itachi Uchiha swear on my pride and honour as an Uchiha, that I would put an end to this misery that has been tormenting you." He added placing his right arm on his chest.
His eyes were fixated on the chief's. It was more than enough to calm down the old man and also the villagers around them. Itachi barely let his emotions show except around his comrades. However, here he needed to showcase the compassion he felt in his heart. It was no use to keep it inside. These people needed reassuring words of kindness. There was no use in viewing them with caution like he always did.
Arlo was somehow able to coerce his lips to form a curve. "Thank You.' That was all the village chief could mumble as a reply.
The ex-soldier who listened to all this decided to enter into the fray. "We may be just junior academy students but we are better than anybody. So just rest assure, consider the grimm and the missing children problems history already." Zack directed towards the rest of the villagers with his right fist raised into the sky. He was faking his composure just like Gohan was. When he heard the case of children missing along with the death of a child, So much anger was building inside him. No one had the right to exploit poor helpless civilians and he would show no mercy to anyone who would do something like that to a little girl.
The demi saiyan too felt his blood boiling at the end of the narrative. What struck out to him the most was that the village chief told them everything without missing even a single incident. He told them about the little girl even when he could have skipped it and even when it was so hard on him to say it. Mr. Brown narrated everything without taking a break even when it tore him apart inside. It pointed towards only one thing according to the saiyan hybrid. Utter hopelessness. These people have been neglected and their plight was overlooked many times that they were practically begging to them for help.
Gohan wanted to comfort them with words of assurance. However he himself was going through various emotions inside. The half saiyan wasn't the best when it came to concealing what was in his heart. His daring effort at doing so now barely halted his rage from surfacing on his face. If he opened his mouth in this situation, it would unmask that pent up rage. The citizen of Onyx needed many things but witnessing how much angry and frustrated he was, was not among those things.
The dragon king did not care about the villagers or about the demise of that girl. It meant nothing to him. These people could all die and he wouldn't bother. According to his views, it was always the survival of the fittest. These people were weak, so they had to pave way for the strong. The strong could always do what it pleased to the weak. He found no reason to extend aid to such pathetic humans who would surrender their pride and beg for mercy. A slight smirk appeared on his face showing his displeasure at this. It went unnoticed to everyone except to Itachi Uchiha.
Unknowing to Acnologia, the Uchiha was viewing him from the corner of his eye after the village chief had finished. His thoughts were easily deciphered by the sharingan user. Unlike Gohan and Zack, Itachi never trusted Acnologia completely. Gohan and Zack were too good natured that they would never view Acno with any suspicion. They thought of him as a dear friend, but not him. According to Itachi, Acnologia was dangerous. It did not mean he never cared for him. No, he did. He did regard him as a companion but not as a friend. The Uchiha wasn't someone who would easily invest his complete trust in people. This was particularly true in the case of the dragon slayer. Seeing how in many situations Acnologia was ready to forsake his pride for them, Itachi never doubted his standing with their group. But still that wasn't enough of a reason for him not to view the dragon king as a possible threat. The dragon king only acted when they asked him to. He was someone who would never move an inch or even generate an iota of care even if he saw a little kid stabbed in front of his eyes. This was something that made Itachi wary of him. He would fight for any cause they fought for irrespective of whether he cared or not. As if he only did it for their sake only. His actions still failed to allay Itachi's doubts about him. And as long as they were with him, he was harmless but if left to his own devices, he could turn out to be the greatest threat Remnant had ever faced. This was the quandary that kept on pricking the Sharingan user's brain. Someone, who did not award human life even the value of that of an insect, might one day evolve into a formidable enemy if left unchecked. Maybe this suspicions had something to do the way he was raised as a shinobi or maybe it was due to him not able to forgive Acnologia for the deeds he had done in the past. Whatever the reasons were, Itachi Uchiha did not trust him wholeheartedly. And this situation they found themselves in would be the perfect chance to test whether he was wrong or right for doubting him.
"Mr. Brown, you said these grimm attacks occur during dusk?" Itachi resumed, gaining a nod in the affirmative from the village chief.
The sharingan user laid a finger on his chin. "I suggest you and the rest of the villagers remain indoor for the time being. We will investigate on the matter further. Beginning right now." His tone was one of despotic authority. And his disposition showed he wanted quick results.
"Alright. Thank you again for agreeing to aid us." Arlo Brown bowed slightly. He did not want to pose any more queries at Itachi seeing as how serious he was. He directed the gathered villagers to go back to their houses as the Uchiha had suggested. It was already late afternoon and dusk was not too far off. That must have been the cause of Itachi wanting to have quick results.
The villagers did not question their chief, when he instructed them to return to their homes. They simply followed as he directed them. Itachi construed that the man was highly respected and held in very high regard in the village from this little reaction. Even he himself had a newfound respect for the old man. The chief was someone who cared for everyone as if they were his children. This village was a place where both faunus and humans lived in harmony. The humans had no problems with a faunus being their leader here. This was an example of an ideal society according to him, something the White Fang had lost sight of. The Uchiha's urge to protect the village multiplied tenfold after this. Whatever happens, he would keep these folks safe.
Acnologia paid no heed to anything unfolding around him. What peaked his interest was something else. With his superior olfactory senses, he was able to detect traces of the scents of many people. Most of it were that of the citizens, however what stood out for him was the scent of outsiders. Even in the tiny shred of their scent, these outsiders left behind, the malevolence was clearly evident.
"So humans preying on humans. The usual cycle repeats itself."
The dragon king could also uncover the scent left by the grimm who attacked yesterday. There wasn't any large scale attack. At the most maybe, there were two to three lower class grimm. Considering the fact that, these humans had no skill in combat at all, it wouldn't be a surprise if that itself posed a major hurdle to them. Then there was the scent of human blood, no doubt from those who had perished guarding the village. But a rather unexpected development attracted his attention. The grimm that attacked the village had the scent of these outsiders he sensed earlier, transfused with it.
"That explains the grimm attacks and the kidnappings." He said to himself, inaudible to the others around him.
Acnologia speculated for a while whether this was something that needed to be conveyed or not. After arriving at a conclusion, he proceeded to disclose what he deciphered to Itachi. He barely lifted his feet when suddenly, someone bumped into him from the back. This broke off his attention from what he was about to do. A filthy human colliding with him made his anger spike. He turned towards the transgressor, who was a little girl about 3 years younger to his present age. The impact had made her fall onto the ground and she was fumbling with her hands to get back upon her feet.
"So sorry, sorry, sorry." She apologized rising to her feet and bowing furiously. She then walked straight upto him as if it was a robotic action and took hold of his hand. "Sorry again. I was so happy that I kept running and…" He searched for words to express what she wanted to express. To anyone watching this, it was easy to assume that she was really clumsy in her actions. Her face was severely repentant, so much that it could invoke pity in almost anyone. But currently, this action of hers only conjured concern from the other three academy students.
From Acnologia's viewpoint, she was nothing but a fragile girl who barely reached his shoulder in height. One hit from him was enough to cease her breathing. In any normal situation, that would have been the aftereffect of bumping into him and going as far as to grab his hand. However in this present position, the dragon king found himself, unable to even raise a finger at her. He stood there completely dazed after laying his eyes upon her. It was the expression of an individual, bewildered when they met someone from their past. An expression which showed that this meeting triggered ages old memories.
"No, it can't be. The resemblance is uncanny." His mind echoed.
The girl with her light brown hair and blue eyes was the exact replica of the girl whose life he couldn't save all those years ago. It resulted in being one of the major driving forces in his quest to slay all the dragons. One of the lives he regretted not being able to protect. After whose demise, he made a promise that he would annihilate all the scaled beasts from the world. It wasn't in him to be interested by a lower life form. But this was nothing like he had experienced before.
Although this encounter did not last more than a few moments, to him it felt like a long time had elapsed. Acnologia was not the sentimental type. Maybe he was once such an individual, though he could not remember. He very well knew this frail little girl before him was not the same girl from his past. Still, that understanding did not do any good to hasten the process of reeling him back from the sudden jolt of emotions. It was as if he was laying his eyes on an exact copy of that girl. It broke open the cage that kept his past memories sealed.
As the dragon slayer stood there with his gaze fixed on her, the village chief came near her and began scolding her for her rude behaviour.
"Irina, don't trouble our guests like that, okay." He chastised her, pulling her close to him and breaking her hold on the dragon slayer's hand. His voice was strict but not intimidating. It only felt like a loving parent correcting his beloved child.
"Sorry grandpa. I was so excited when I heard that people had come to save our village. That was why I came running." She explained in a contrite voice, making defensive actions and not bothering to breathe in between.
"Sorry again Mr..." She bowed again in a random direction, while also panting as she tried to regain her breath from all the running and all the breathless apologizing.
Arlo Brown ruffled her hair in a loving manner. "You have to excuse her son. I sincerely beg our pardon for her rudeness." He turned towards the dragon king with a simper.
"No worries old man." Zack was the one who spoke. "We should apologize to the lovely lady for seeing his frightening face." He went near her and gave her a slight bow. "Look, he scared her so much she is terrified to even look at him"
This comment earned him sharp glances from Itachi and the demi saiyan who were near him. Zack had no clue why they did so. He shrugged his shoulder as if to ask 'what' towards them. All he did was try to ease up the mood and nothing else.
Acnologia observed the girl again. He had missed it before. Now her rather strange actions made sense to him. He passed off her earlier fumbling, to being intimidated by his presence. But that was not the reason. There was so no light that emanated from her eyes. She was blind. She couldn't see him or his threatening glance even if she wished to.
Zack noticed this rather late. He had no idea on what to say to her. Simply put, he and his loose mouth had caused an unwanted situation. The ex-soldier did not assume such an outcome judging from how she was able to locate them. But it seemed like she just ran towards the direction from where she heard a commotion o hearing about the arrival of aid. That should explain why she bumped into Acno, as he stood in the direction she came from and also there were no people behind his back.
"She was born this way." Arlo Brown broke the awkward silence. He understood Zack did not say such a thing on purpose. The village chief did not want someone who meant no ill will to be left in such a situation. The grey haired faunus gave the ex-soldier yet another smile. "Do not be concerned over it son. She herself is not affected by it."
Zack smacked himself on the head. "Sorry." His face displayed a goofy grin. "Me and my stupid mouth." That was all the former soldier could muster upto, say at the moment.
"Are you the people who are going to save us?" Irina directed towards Zack's direction, her tone exhibited hope and curiosity. She was still clinging onto the sides of the old village chief indicating that she was a bit scared of outsiders and it was not a surprise considering Onyx rarely had any visitors.
"Yes we are. We are going to beat up all the grimm so bad that they are never gonna come near your village again." The ex-soldier responded with his cheerful tone, much to the delight of her and everyone around her.
"Might I know your name, lovely lady?" Zack continued in his usual optimistic tone as he kneeled down near her.
"Irina." The girl's meek voice came through. But unlike before, she was a little bit more confident.
"That is quite a lovely name." The former soldier retorted earning a smile from her. "I am Zack and there is our captain, Itachi and our powerhouse, Gohan with me. The person you bumped into earlier is Acnologia, our chief." Zack now completely regained the confidence he lost earlier. That previous comment felt unnecessary to him. He did not mean any malice. It was just a normal routine for him to mock the dragon king. Anyway, he was now jubilated seeing that no one judged him for an accidental mistake.
Acnologia was irked at this introduction and scoffed. Itachi and Gohan simpered lightly at the way Zack handled the situation, turning the awkward one into a lighter one.
"Mr. Acnologia" Irina bowed her head again. "I am sorry again for bumping into you earlier. Please don't abandon our village because of that."
"There is no need to apologize again and again Irina." Itachi came forward. "It was just an honest mistake. We are not so cheap as to hold grudges for something like that." The Uchiha's reply in a gentle and caring tone brought the smile back to her face again. She replied with a toothy smile to them to show her gratitude.
Most of the villagers had gone back to their homes as Itachi had instructed earlier. And so during this conversation only a handful remained along with the chief and Irina. The ones who remained ardently listened to this light exchange. It might have been the courtesy of this, that the tensed atmosphere earlier seemed to have been lifted to a certain extend. The faces of the denizens at the area felt more at ease. The same could be said for Itachi and Gohan who were filled with so much rage just a few minutes ago.
"And Irina, don't keep calling him mister. Acnologia is only about two or three years older than you are." The village chief instructed his adopted child who nodded in response.
Zack chuckled to himself at this statement. "Yea, two or three thousand." He mused in the background.
Gohan and Itachi quickly covered their mouths to hold in the laughter. Acnologia gave him a death glare strong enough to scare the wits out of a normal person. Zack did not care and kept giggling to himself to further irk the other. "What? It's the truth." He mouthed back.
"I think it is time the rest of you too head back to your homes." Itachi recommenced shifting the air back into an austere one. "We will take care of it from here."
"I wish you the best of luck gentlemen." Arlo Brown riposted as he walked back towards his home holding the hand of the girl. The few villagers who were around them also followed suit. He could see Itachi meant business when he asked them to go back to their homes. So he did as he was told without posing any further questions. Just the presence of these kids provided him with a lot of strength and hope above everything else. Their encounter with each other did not last even an hour but the village chief of Onyx had complete faith in these four thirteen year olds. After a few minutes all of them were now inside their homes leaving only Itachi, Gohan, Zack and Acnologia as the ones who remained outside.
The dragon king's eye traced the girl as she walked back with the old chief. Her attitude earlier for some reason highly irritated him. Humans ceased to interest him so long ago that he tarried to remember when. The only feeling they evoked in him was disgust. But here he felt irked at her conduct. She was someone who lived all her life bowing down to everyone. Without even an ounce of pride in her, depending on the charity of the others around her for survival. Looking at the frail girl, it was obvious she had never experienced the love of her parents. Under these circumstances, it could be inferred that she was an orphan. The village chief most probably adopted her.
Ridiculous wasn't it? What would the old man gain from tending to a weakling like that?
He did not know why he cared about her background or what she did? Was it because of a sudden influx of forgotten memories? The inability to find a logical answer to this highly vexed him.
"Itachi." Gohan who had been silent throughout the ordeal directed toward his team captain.
"Is this what Ironwood meant by keeping his kingdom safe?" There was so much rage that oozed through the demi saiyan's voice.
"It is obvious, isn't it Gohan?" Itachi turned towards him. "This is just a case of simple racism. But I would not drag the general into this."
He paused momentarily to clear his throat. "Whatever people might say about him, his love towards the kingdom and its people is unmistakable and unbiased. If this had ever come into his notice, he would have surely dispatched a squad to take care of the trouble." Itachi resumed in his usual calm tone. "It seems some racist bastard had a hand in projecting this as a simple problem."
Gohan wasn't at all pleased by this. "So by that you mean, they sent word to Alsius about a minor grimm problem. And that is why they sent us?" The saiyan hybrid responded between deep breaths to calm down his temper. The images of the villager's faces reminded him of the faces of the earthlings back in his world, when they lived in constant fear of the androids.
"G man. Easy there buddy." Zack cut in but to no avail. Gohan was too angry to even heed his words.
"Gohan, I know this is hard but please calm down." The Uchiha laid a hand on his friend's shoulder to abate him. "My conclusion is that the problem here was overlooked as a minor one and well within the capabilities of a junior academy team. That is why Alsius sent us to investigate." Itachi's efforts had a little effect on his friend's temper. "Remember what the headmaster said. It was just a surge in the grimm attacks. He did not mention loss of lives or missing children. And I staunchly believe our headmaster was not aware of the reality of things."
"Caps is right G man." Zack interrupted. "I too think, some military asshole played down the threat to a low level one. Otherwise they wouldn't sent junior academy students to such a scene."
"But." Zack wrapped his arm around the half saiyan's shoulders. "Because of that idiot, these villagers got the help of the four greatest warriors in the world. That is a great thing, isn't it?"
The combined efforts of the Uchiha and the ex-soldier somewhat calmed down Gohan. The demi saiyan sighed to himself in an attempt to ease his temper.
"So Itachi." He directed towards the Uchiha. "What's the plan?"
"I have something to add." Acnologia cut in before Itachi could convey what strategy he wanted to be adopted. This gesture from his side made the others shift all their attention towards him. It rarely happened where the dragon king joined in on the conversation.
"If you had listened to what I have told you about me and the various abilities of mine, you would understand what I am about to say." The dragon slayer folded his arms.
"My sense of smell is far superior to anyone else. And courtesy of this, I was able to pick up the scent of outsiders in this village." Acnologia's lips curved to take the shape of a devilish grin. "To make it more interesting, the scent of the grimm and that of these outsiders felt intermingled together." Acnologia concluded with a haughty expression.
"I understand." Itachi narrowed his brows. He did not need anything further from the dragon slayer to understand what he was referring to. "I have once come across a news, giving details about a gang who use caged grimm to attack small villages."
He diverted his gaze towards each of them. "And under the guise of the ensuing chaos, loot their homes, rape their women and kidnap their children." The Uchiha's face turned into an intimidating one. "This might be the work of the same people."
Then without a warning, Itachi closed his eyes and smiled to himself as if some form of revelation hit him. "Then again." He began on a chilling tone. "It is not surprising, if the tales about these parts hold some truth."
"Bastards." Zack bellowed, the seething anger evident in his tone. "Scum like these should just be killed off."
"Acnologia." Itachi turned towards the dragon king gaining his attention. "Can you pinpoint the location of these people now?"
"It is not that difficult." Acnologia responded haughtily. "They are somewhere in the forest, North West of here."
"I sense the ki of a lot of people in that direction." Gohan began but stopped abruptly as he locked onto something else. "There are kids with them but their Ki feels different." His face suddenly took a shocked expression. "Something is terribly wrong. I just know it"
"Then we have no time to waste here." Itachi's voice displayed the restlessness that had been fostering in him for some time.
"We will spread out." He stated with an authoritative tone. "Gohan and I will head towards the direction of those… scum." Itachi glanced over to the demi saiyan and Gohan nodded in reply.
"Zack you take the east and Acnologia take the west side. Your mission is to eliminate each and every grimm you can find." He now faced the other two. "And if you sense anything amiss in the village, return back immediately. I leave the protection of the village in your hands until we get back."
"Since we came via the southern route, it is safe to assume that there is not much activity there." The Uchiha's voice was strong and clear.
"And Acnologia." He shifted his complete attention to the dragon slayer. "I leave this village unguarded as I have complete faith in your sensory capabilities. If you do sense anything, return back. I entrust you to safeguard these people."
Acnologia's face was taut after hearing the instructions directed towards him showcasing that he was not at all pleased with it. Still, he made no struggle to counter it. Rather, choosing to nod his head to imply he understood.
Itachi was not that pleased with his response. Still, he had no time to waste lecturing him. "Move out now." He ordered to the rest. "We do not have much time to waste. And destroy any enemy you encounter in your path." With that Itachi darted towards the direction that Acno had pointed towards earlier. Gohan followed him after a swift glance to the other two.
"Take care both of you. Give those guys a sound beating for me." Zack shouted out as Gohan and Itachi vanished into the forest.
He then unsheathed Honour and prepared to head towards the eastern direction. "Break a leg Tribal man." The ex-soldier raised a fist in support towards the dragon slayer.
Acnologia gave him no reply or any other sign of acknowledgement as the ex-soldier dashed away. He scoffed at himself for having to follow around orders like that. It took him a brief moment to digest all of this. By that time the others had already moved a bit further. All the villagers had hearkened Itachi's instructions and were now in their homes. This left him as the only living soul, outside in that area. As he stood there alone, he was developing second thoughts on what he had to do. But, he decided to follow the same process he had followed for over a year. The dragon king swallowed his pride and headed towards the western direction.
Itachi jumped across tree tops as he hastily moved towards his intended targets. Gohan flew beside him, keeping his pace with the Uchiha. Flying was the fastest way to reach their target and Gohan was aware Itachi understood that, but chose not to resort to that method. Since the sharingan user was in such a bustle, it came out as a surprise to him that he chose to take the ground route. The Uchiha could maintain his composure and think clearly no matter the circumstances and so choosing the best alternative to reach their destination at the earliest, would be the most viable choice now. It was unlike Itachi to not come across that alternative.
So Gohan just couldn't wrap his head around it. There was no need of his being concerned about such a needless topic. There were more pressing matters at hand that required his attention. But this self-assumed needless thought kept bugging him to no end. He did not want to believe what he saw when he glanced at the Uchiha's face earlier. No, it must be just his imagination was all he could say to console and assure himself. What he saw in Itachi's face was the same expression of a predator closing in on its prey. Right now he had the face of a killer. And most strikingly there was palpable bloodlust in his demeanour. It was obvious as daylight. Itachi was fully intent on showing no mercy to any of the transgressors.
The Beowulf brought down its claw against the former Shinra Soldier first class. The ex-soldier with little effort blocked it with the flat side of his precious sword. The grimm tried to press down on him but its strength did not compare to that of Zack. The current Alsius student used that advantage in strength to shove away the grimm, and sent it crashing into two of its still alive comrades behind it.
Before the three beowolves could regain their footing, Zack leaped onto them using a nearby tree as a footing. With the initial leap he cut off the head of the nearest Beowulf and then used the decapitated, body of the grimm as leverage to jump onto the other two. With swift cuts, they too had their heads decollated from its place.
"This is strange."
"It's been some time and all I see here are lower class grimm."
As Zack pondered upon these thoughts, a boarbatusk charged at him from the side. It failed to catch the ex-soldier off guard as he effortlessly sidestepped its attempt to impale him. He moved to the side and waited for the grimm to come around again. When it did, he ran his sword through its thick skull effectively killing it.
"Caps was right." Zack reflected to himself as he removed his sword which was impaled in the boarbatusk's skull. "It must be those assholes that brought the grimm to attack the village. There aren't any large number of grimm in this forest."
"You are pretty good kid." A rough voice that came from behind him caught his attention.
Zack regained his stance and quickly turned to the source. "Who the hell are you geezer?"
"Me?" A large, well-built, bistre haired man questioned. "I am just a stranger passing by." He answered with a sarcastic and regal tone.
"Somehow I find it really hard to believe." The ex-soldier shot back with sarcasm laced in his tone as well.
Zack quickly analysed the stranger who appeared in front of him. He wore a high collared, sleeveless brown shirt which was unbuttoned and jet black combat pants. Without a doubt, he could say this guy was a professional. He was maybe in his early twenties, probably at the age of a fresh academy graduate. That would give him a lot of experience as a fighter. Though it might not be advantageous against Zack who had more experience combating against tougher opponents. His weapon seemed to be a large axe with no additional features, and seeing how big he was at about six and a half feet tall, it was obvious he was a front line fighter who mainly relied on his brute strength. Still, his presence wasn't enough to intimidate the former soldier. The only concern that Zack had was his semblance. If it was something tricky, this battle could be difficult. And to add to that concern, he had no idea on what his own semblance was.
The stranger kept laughing as to mock the ex-soldier. "You are pretty brave kid. I don't see even a tiny bit of fear in you."
"By the way." The stranger readjusted his collar. "The name's Dom."
"Like I would fear a senile old man." Zack shot back and then yawned as if to show it was boring.
If he had to guess, this Dom guy was one of the bandits targeting the villagers. There was no need to show any mercy. But contrary to many other's opinions Zack knew how to behave on the battlefield. The only edge this stranger had over him was the semblance and unless he figured out what it was, he had to pretend to be aloof. The fury that was burning inside him had to be kept in chains for the time being. If he let his emotions take over, he might play right into their hands. Above all, he did not want to be a burden to his comrades. If he were to fail right now, it would only add to their woes at the moment. Currently, according to his deductions, the grimm were not a big threat at the moment. They could be dealt with as he pleased later. The real threat were these bandits and so he had to prioritize taking them down first before he turned his attention towards the beasts.
"Looks like I have to beat some sense into you, you thief." Dom glared at him with a hostile face. He was not at all pleased with the other's response. "I will show you how to respect your seniors, you rotten scoundrel."
"Says the original scum." Zack readied his stance when he saw the other had also done the same.
Dom seemed like someone who got easily annoyed. This was apparrent when his face turned completely read with rage when Zack hurled out insults at him. His large axe was bigger than Honour, wielded by the former soldier. He swinged that large weapon with relative ease as an attempt to instil panic into Zack that failed to fulfil its objective.
A complete silence prevailed as the two warriors locked eyes with each other. The tension created now was enough to even make the leaves halt their rustling. Dom took the initiative and charged at the ex-soldier who himself did not wait for further confirmation. Now bringing out the anger he felt inside, Zack charged towards battle.
For Acnologia, a group of lower class grimm were not even worth thinking about. Goliaths, Beringels, Alpha Beowolves at the most felt like rag dolls to him. There wasn't any fight with grimm or any group of grimms that ever faced him, that lasted a single minute. Simply put, he was strong. Too strong for this world. Not a single threat existed which could make him struggle.
It made no sense at all. This second chance at life as Zack would put it. Did someone expect him to atone for his sins? 'Ridiculous', that was all he could make of it. But for the moment, he did not need to invest his time into this matter that much. It will reveal itself someday. There were more pressing matters he had to think about. And above all he had no time to waste over the woes of these pathetic humans. But if he reflected upon it more, what exactly was it that he wanted to do and to be more precise, what were these pressing matters he always had to worry about. Every little thing, he regarded as a wastage of time. But the reality he failed to accept was that he no longer had a purpose. No fire that kept him going. If he could just sit down and think about himself, there was nothing that came to him. Maybe this was why he never invested his time to think about things, rather preferring to keep it aside for another day.
He dedicated his entire life to slay the dragons. Countless Dragons beyond comprehension, had fallen before his might. To destroy those beasts, he became vengeance itself. This gave him the strength to fight the scaled monsters all by himself. Even when, he found himself in hopeless situations, this vengeance and hate acted as the sole drive that saw him through everything. Very few could contemplate the sheer will of his, to go up against all the dragons on his own. But after every last dragon was destroyed, he lost his purpose. He became an existence without meaning. Patiently, he watched eras rise and fall, awaiting the emergence of another dragon or dragon slayer. Even now, it made no sense. The only thing he had ever lived for was to destroy all the dragons. But now, what objective did he serve? For what did he continue to exist? The one thing he despised and loathed ceased to subsist. The impetus, for his hate was no more. Still why did he continue to revile and hate everything? In truth, was he someone who had to be pitied upon? Just a lonely existence that walked a path of nothingness.
"The real dragons are strong, noble and gentle." These words from the pink haired dragon slayer had always rung in his ears far more times than he would have liked. They did nothing but add fuel to his wrath. What did he know about dragons? The dragons he knew were cruel and ruthless. Humans were nothing but food to them. They took away everything that he cherished. Each and every day was a fight for survival. All they could do was run. The one, who took his life did not possess even the slightest erudition about how they were tormented by the scaled beasts. In truth, only the dragons, the pink haired dragon slayer had seen were kind and gentle. He never had the ill fate to live in the same era as Acnologia. Never experienced the agony he had to face all his life. And no one could fathom, even an iota of the magnitude, of the intense hatred he harboured towards the winged beasts.
Acnologia's countenance remained cryptic. It was abstruse to cognize what was in his heart. But somewhere hidden amongst the nooks and corners, it exuded pain. Still, it was impossible to surmise if the provenance of that pain was anger or sadness.
The Dragon King with his superior physical attributes, ripped apart two ursa minors that came into his view. His powerful sense of smell allowed him to sense that there were no more grimm present in his immediate vicinity. Acnologia smirked loftily to himself in satisfaction. Carcasses of countless prowlers of the night surrounded him. The intense hatred and negativity that emanated from him attracted these creatures to him as moths were attracted to a source of light. Maybe, the entire mindless grimm in these forests would be aiming for him.
"Let them come as they pleased." The dragon slayer cogitated. The fates they were about to meet would notchange. Nothing was going to survive an encounter with him.
Further ahead, Acnologia was able to locate sense the presence of a large horde of grimm.
"Another bunch is about to bite the dust." He sneered to himself.
Zack's fight was eating up more time than he wished. The ex-soldier was still treading on cautious grounds. This semblance of his opponent could pose a major hurdle if he did not take care. Currently, he possessed the advantage in this battle. Dom was a fighter that relied on his brute strength, coupled with amazing agility for his size. But Zack's strength and speed far exceeded his opponent. This difference in ability was evident in their present condition. Zack was barely sweating while the other had bruises and cuts, here and there on his figure.
"I gotta give it you punk." Dom spoke between short breaths. "You are pretty strong."
"I don't need compliments of thieves." Zack regained his stance. "Not only am I far stronger than you, but also, there is the fact you are super weak." He shot out in a mocking tone much to the annoyance of the latter.
. "You are a funny one spikey." Dom could not help but laugh at the reply. "But I respect your strength, though you are just a common bandit."
That last comment extremely annoyed Zack. This murderer was standing there and calling him a bandit. Even if it was an attempt to irk him, he did not care. He was going to pummel him into a pulp.
"I will give you a little tip, spikey." Dom began as Zack was about to pounce on him. "My semblance allows me to sense aura. Due to this I can perceive when someone activates their semblance while also gauging their aura capacity."
That statement took Zack by surprise. "What an idiot?" He gleed to himself after contemplating the situation. The former soldier could not fathom for the life of him why this guy revealed to him, the one advantage he held over him. This thief can sense his aura all he wants. His reserves were far greater than anyone else he had seen. As for his semblance, it was still a mystery. His opponent perceiving it or not meant nothing at all.
"I have to admit, your aura capacity is among the highest I have ever seen. Maybe even above them all." Dom continued in a regal tone. "However that means nothing at all." He still went on. "You do understand why I told you this, don't you spikey?"
"No." Zack mouthed to himself. "The only thing I could see in that is you are a big dummy."
"I will tell you that too, since you don't seem to be bright." Dom tilted his head and flexed his muscles that had begun to ache a little. "Even if you try to catch me off guard, it won't work. I can determine your presence from anywhere. And also I can be on guard when you activate your semblance." He stated in a tone laced with contempt and cockiness, earning a sigh that said looser from the ex-soldier.
"You have been pretty quiet for a while spikey." The ranting continued. "I bet you are shaking in your boots right now."
"What did I do to deserve this?" Zack wanted to bang his head against a tree. "I better end this quick."
"Now I have told you what my semblance is and it's your turn to tell me what yours is?" Dom climbed on top of a boulder and pointed his axe at the former soldier.
"That is the million lien question I have been asking myself. What the hell is my semblance?" Zack wanted to finish this guy off there and now but decided to play along. "My semblance allows be to boost my strength and speed." He crossed his fingers behind him, unnoticed by the other.
"Oh…that is quiet a strong semblance to have." Dom put a finger on his chin. "If I had to rate it, I'd give…"
He received no time to finish as Zack charged at him with his sword. Dom barely blocked it with his axe. Zack used the momentum from the initial thrust to leap a bit higher and came down with real force onto his opponent.
Dom felt the full brunt of that strike. He felt as if the entire bones in his body was rattled. The reason for this acute rise in intensity was that Zack did not have to maintain discretion anymore now. The chain that made him gait with caution was now broken off by his opponent itself. So he was going to go all out.
The other mistook it as panic. He totally misjudged the truth of the matter, confusing it to his threat, as he put it, completely ruining the ex-soldier's psyche.
Zack continued his relentless assault. He moved so fast that the other could barely move. The former soldier showed no sign of stopping at all. The barrages of strikes sent sparks flying everywhere. All Dom could do was use the size advantage of his weapon to shield himself. Simply put, all he could do was hide behind his weapon unable to move an inch, on the receiving end of Zack's powerful slashes.
After a short while, Zack retreated a bit backwards to analyse the situation a bit. Dom was on the verge. One more powerful strike and it would be game over. But something else was bugging him at the moment. Out of curiosity, he activated his semblance a while before to see if it would reveal itself in this situation. All it did was give him a slight queasy feeling. This sensation would last for a few minutes and then vanish. Every time he tried to activate it, this phenomenon would repeat itself. At first thought he misconstrued that the bandit was lying about his semblance and the real nature was different which caused this uneasiness. However now he could conclude that was not the case. It was as if something in him wanted to come out. Like a new power or something inside him desperately struggled to break free of the binds that kept it caged.
"This unrest I feel right now." It kept pricking Zack's mind to no end. "Maybe I will try to release it."
Dom had broken fingers on each hand as a result of the brutal assault. He moved a bit back to create some breathing space between the two of them. It would take a little while for his aura to heal him. Even then, his aura level would be depleted in moments, if another round ensued. So, the best possible action for him to undertake was to wait for his aura to charge up.
Zack saw how his opponent was trying to desperately earn a breather. He felt it was the right moment to test out what he experienced earlier, when his opponent was trying to regain his stamina. Taking a deep breath, he released that strange surge of energy he felt inside.
"Strange. I feel nothing has changed." He bit his lip and scratched his head in frustration.
"Wait" Suddenly something struck him making him move back a few inches. "Why am I able to sense that idiot's aura?"
His eyes widened in appellation. "And how can I tell so accurately, his aura level is really low at the moment."
In an instant Zack's lips curved into a wide joyful glee when he recollected a few details from earlier. "Don't tell me! This is my semblance!"
"Awesome, awesome, awesome." He wanted to jump up and down in ecstasy. "I can copy the semblance of others. How friggin cool is that."
Unknowingly, Zack began laughing like a maniac and doing spins much to the bewilderment of his opponent. But Dom was too expended to react and so remained static with a puzzled expression. It was strange to him but he felt no killing from his opponent. He was expecting Zack to take advantage of this moment of weakness and kill him. It was as if the kid in front of him had no intention to cause him harm. Still that did nothing to calm his nerves.
After a short while, the ex-soldier came back to his senses. This sudden revelation had made him forget everything else for a while. He closed his eyes for a brief moment and took in a few deep breaths. "Guess I'll play around for a while."
Dom hurriedly got upon his feet and readied his stance as the former soldier came charging in with his sword in hand.
Different thoughts ran through Zack's mind at the moment he launched his second wave of attack. The dominant one was about his semblance. He had to test out this newfound power and research its limits. From Itachi's earlier explanation. These bandits worked in large groups. That meant this guy was just scouting the area or waiting for his friends to show up before launching an attack.
There was also another thing that kept rattling the ex-soldier. Considering how defenceless the villagers were, it came out as a surprise to him that this bandit group would attack in waves on different days. One good attack was enough to finish off the helpless denizens of Onyx. No matter how he thought, it brought him to only one conclusion. The group of bandits were also weak. Just a bunch of common thieves lead by a powerful leader. This powerful leader, would explain, how they were able to capture and cage the grimm.
And if he gauged the strength of the foe in front of him, he would put him in the range of mid-level pro hunters. This was what kept bugging him. Someone of this guy's strength would either be the leader or one among the top guns of the gang. For being a part of such a group of monsters, this Dom emitted no bloodlust at all. There was a bit of malevolence early on but that could pass off as his sudden spike in anger. It felt as if the stranger in front of him was fighting to protect something.
Zack had no time to ponder over these speculations. He had strayed from his objective a bit too much. There was no more time to waste on this. He had to figure out how his semblance worked out quickly and then end this battle. Maybe after that he could figure out every little doubt that he had.
Honour clashed against Dom's axe with large force. It made a dent in the latter weapon and knocked it off its wielder's hands. Zack gave him no breathing space and followed it up with a powerful kick to the gut. Dom coughed up blood as he held his midsection in extreme pain.
Zack moved to the side and tossed his opponent's weapon back to him. "Pick up your weapon and get ready." He stated in an authoritative tone. "I will always abide by my code of honour whether it is friend or foe."
The bandit smirked at the comment. He got upto his feet with great effort and wiped the blood off his face. The former soldier tightened his muscle fibres and tried to unleash his semblance once again.
"What the hell." The inability to release it completely caught him off guard. "Don't tell me it only lasts for a short while or something?" The ex-soldier hissed under his breath. That bliss he experienced earlier was replaced with bafflement at his inefficacy.
"Hey kid." Dom who had regained a bit of his stamina shouted out to him when he saw the ex-soldier was fumbling. "Don't tell me you are starting to chicken out now."
Zack did not know what to say right now. The exultation he felt on finding out what his semblance was, now began turning into frustration upon learning he was back to level one. This highly irritated him. The ex-soldier grit his teeth in annoyance as the grip on his sword tightened.
"I might as well give it a try." He took a deep breath to calm himself when a sudden idea struck him.
Keeping his semblance activated, he switched onto battle mode once again. His first slash was parried by his opponent who came back with regained vigour. Zack did not put much effort into that attack as he wanted to test out his semblance once again. This time too he felt that same sensation he felt the first time. He quickly followed up with another powerful strike that sent the other flying backwards. Then, putting a little distance between him and his opponent, Zack once again activated it.
"Bulls eye." His mind echoed. "Just as I thought. I need the other to keep his semblance activated when I try to copy him and also there seems to be a minimum distance that needs to be maintained."
He slowly closed his eyes to collect his thoughts. "It seems, there are a lot of hurdles I have to overcome before I can fully master this new power."
The ex-soldier opened his eyes with added tenacity and reassumed his stance. "It might eat up a bit of my time but I need to figure out how to permanently keep this power with me."
Itachi and Gohan finally reached the location where the bandits had set up camp. It was a small clearing in the forest quite a distance away from the village. The area itself gave them an eerie and negative vibe. The bandit camp was a large warehouse like settlement. Considering the size of the structure, Itachi guessed they had been here for quite some time. Since the attacks on the village only began a few days ago, it was plausible they were spending the early days trapping grimm to be used to attack the village. There were a few cages visible nearby that kept the grimm caged inside, proving that point.
Few among the group were guarding the place. Gohan could sense the ki of several others inside. He was able to pinpoint their number at twenty. Added with the twelve others posted for guard duty, their total strength amounted to thirty two. It was a pretty large number but other than the strength in numbers, all of them were weak, except for a single individual, he could say with certainty was the leader. The leader's strength could be compared to their best professors at Alsius. Other than that the rest were way worse than some of their classmates. But what troubled the demi saiyan the most was the energy of the children he could sense inside. From his analysis, it seemed all of the kids were unconscious since the ki radiating from them verified his crux. However above all, many of them had their auras unlocked. Gohan did not know why or how that was possible. From all he had heard kids rarely had their auras unlocked at such a young age and those who had it unlocked were viewed with a different eye. It was certainly not possible for the villagers to have unlocked the auras of their children. That made only one possibility to be true. These filth had unlocked them. And that brought him to only one sure feasibility, biological weapons. He had heard about such things when they travelled around Remnant during the early years but never came across one. In such cases, kidnapped kids were brainwashed into becoming pawns for the rich and affluent. These pawns would work like slaves until they perished. It was a crime that could get one the death penalty. However, only a handful of these cases ever saw the light of day.
Now, the half saiyan was at a fix on what to do. The anger he felt was kept aside because of another reason, the nauseating bloodlust he sensed from Itachi. Still, he felt the Uchiha needed to know what he had sensed.
"Itachi" Gohan turned to his friend with a sour visage, who along with him was hiding on top of a tree among the leaves.
"I sense that the kids are inside there." He continued in a bleak tone when he had got Itachi's attention. "Many of them have their auras unlocked and…" The demi saiyan paused for a moment to ponder whether he should continue.
"Biological weapons" Itachi finished the sentence for him. "I had suspected such a possibility earlier."
"I think we should proceed with caution Itachi." Gohan's facial expression turned wary. He redirected his concentration towards the group. "Our topmost priority must be the safety of those kids."
The demi saiyan kept looking at the Uchiha's whose usual expressionless face began to display intense rage. He was awaiting some sort of reply but Itachi still kept his gaze fixed at the encampment. Gohan did not know what to say at the moment. They had no time to waste at all.
"Gohan." Itachi finally began putting an end to the long period of silence. "Do you remember what happened two weeks before we joined Alsius?" He tried his best to mask his emotions behind a peering mien.
"How can I ever forget?" Gohan nodded in the affirmative. That day was etched in his memory. He could never expunge them from his mind even if he tried.
A group of travelling performers had requested their aid when the happened to chance upon them during their travels. The owner of a large plantation had forcefully taken away one of their performers who was little girl, nine years of age. They had agreed to help them and infiltrated the mansion on the dead of night. Itachi and Gohan sneaked into the place while Zack and Acno waited outside as backup. The site that the two of them saw inside was horrendous. Little kids of both genders brutally tortured to satisfy the sick fetishes of the lord of the mansion. Luckily they were able to save the girl for whom they had come in the first place but the other children were all dead. There was nothing they could do to bring them back. The owner who lived with a few of his helpers in the mansion kidnapped kids or brought them from the black market to quench this satanic desire of his. Still, there was another memory that he wished to erase. The memory of Itachi's expression that night. He had the expression of a killer out for blood. Gohan knew Itachi's past and all the hard choices he had to make. What he was also aware of was that his friend had another side to him. A side other than the kind, caring, peace loving friend who cherished his comrades. A ruthless and merciless side that he rarely exhibited unless the life of those he revered was threatened or when there was serious transgression.
Gohan did not know whether he should label it as a stroke of luck that extricated him from having to see that brutal side of the Uchiha. Someone had insinuated the mansion before them and slaughtered its inhabitants beforehand. The kids were kept locked inside a hidden chamber underground, and it seemed the group that executed the miscreants were unable to find them. The demi saiyan was relieved in a way inwardly, as he was spared from witnessing the sight of his fiend turn into a killer. However, that fear he held for so long might actually come to be true.
"But" Gohan quickly cut in. "Why bring that up now?" He did not want to know the answer to that question if it was what, he was thinking about.
"Nothing." Itachi's face did not change one bit. "I just wanted to remind you of what happened that night."
"So how do we proceed Itachi?" Gohan faked caution trying to shift the topic.
"We charge head on. Dispatch off these guards quickly and then confront the ones inside." The Uchiha's tone seemed similar to that of Acnologia when he said that. It displayed decadence and arrogance. Along with profound animosity, the Uchiha was also indirectly mentioning that his foes stood no chance against him. In a way, he communicated that they could try all they want but could never even scratch him. Therefore maintaining caution and strategy was unneeded. This was completely unlike the normal Itachi who planned ahead on everything, be it a simple one or a complex one.
"We move in now Gohan.' Itachi did not wait for any reply from Gohan as he rushed into the clearing with his unsheathed weapon in his hands.
Gohan immediately followed suit. The guards were taken by surprise as the sudden appearance of two strangers. The demi saiyan knocked the senses of the first one that he encountered. Three others in his immediate vicinity barely had time to react or to raise an alarm as he knocked them out cold without a moment's hesitation. Then he turned to his left to engage another.
But, what he saw made him stop in his tracks. He witnessed Itachi slaughtering the bandits mercilessly. There was no remorse or reluctance in his actions. All of his first strikes was at the throat to prevent them from making any sort of noise. With the second strike, he slit their major arteries to make them bleed to their deaths. It was all done in the matter of seconds. The foes before Itachi barely had time to rally their thoughts or envisage what the situation was. The Uchiha was cutting them down like he would cut down the grimm. This was the cold and ruthless side of the Sharingan user the demi saiyan never wished to be a bystander of.
What lasted just a few moments felt like hours to the half saiyan who did not want to believe what he had just seen? After he had finished, Itachi went upto the ones Gohan had knocked out and ran his blade through their hearts. His eyes remained unchanged. They remained cold and emotionless through the entire ordeal.
Gohan just couldn't fathom what had happened around him. He feared such an outcome would unravel, still that did not ease his sudden shock. He himself had so much rage pent up inside against these scum, who exploited the villagers and committed such violent atrocities against the children. However he wasn't a killer and no matter what happened he could never bring himself to kill a living thing. His heart would not permit him to do so. Even during a fit of rage he would hold back from having to take a life. When he fought the heartless androids, he fought with the intention to kill. But they were androids and not humans. Human lives were precious. Gohan had never taken one and could never bring himself to take one.
The Uchiha, leader of IZAG retrieved his blade from the body of the last bandit whose heart he pierced. Without even glancing over to his friend he proceeded to break open the door of the warehouse that housed the kidnapped children. The saiyan hybrid, somehow calmed himself and followed Itachi inside. There was no more the cool and collected Itachi now. This Itachi before him felt like a different person altogether. This was his dark side.
The Uchiha kicked open the door which created a lot of noise inviting the attention of the ones present inside. The bandits did not have the time to digest what had just occurred before they felt their lives escaping their bodies as Itachi's blades cut through them. Itachi overpowered them with sheer strength and speed. Barely moments after, only had the leader remaining standing.
The leader of the bandits was a well-built man in his early forties with jet black hair. The most striking feature of his was his cold dead eyes that reeked of evil. Those yes reminded Gohan of the androids. Unlike the rest, he was pretty strong at the level of an experienced hunter. The merciless murdering of his followers did not evoke even the slightest pity in that heartless monster. And he had enough experience to judge that in such situations, even a moment's hesitation meant death. He drew out his hammer and went in for the Uchiha's head.
Itachi had no difficulty in overpowering him. The Uchiha's first slash dismembered the wrist on which his nemesis held his weapon. He followed it up with a powerful kick to his midsection and in the next second pinned him to the ground. Then in a flash slit his Achilles tendon rendering him completely immobile. All this happened at such a pace that to the eye of a normal individual, only shadows were visible.
"Tell me everything you know and I will reward you with a painless death." His voice was frighteningly calm and bleak, so much as to send shivers down the spine of anyone present.
The bandit leader who was rendered incapable was cruel and heartless as they came. He remained unshaken by the threat and spit at Itachi on the face. "Your threats do not mean anything to me brat." He seethed at him biting down the pain that coursed through his entire body. "You are no better than us. Cold blooded and ruthless."
"I see." Itachi retorted as he closed his eyes, the attempts to abet him not fruitful in the slightest. He opened it after a while revealing the mangekyo sharingan. "I will just have to force it out of you."
Gohan remained frozen at the spot. Itachi in front of him behaved like a true shinobi would against his foes. He had heard Itachi mention many times about how they used to work but never had he been so unlucky as to be its witness. The children were kept in a cage like structure. These people treated little kids no better than animals. Maybe they deserved the punishment of death. No, still he could never bring himself to do the deed.
The interrogation took only a brief while. The Uchiha tossed the leader of the group, who remained shaking in fear, onto the side, treating him no better than common thrash.
"Gohan" Itachi directed his gaze towards the half saiyan, his eyes still retaining the coldness. 'I want you to take these children and wait outside."
"It will be better if you awaken them only once you leave this room." He added unfazed by the pallid, wild eyed Gohan.
"Wait Itachi." Gohan hesitated for a while before speaking up. "Please stop. It is not like you."
"Stop?" Itachi's emotionless voice rose above the noise. "Gohan, I do not want you to witness anymore killing. So I request you to leave now."
"Killing is wrong Itachi. Everyone deserves a chance to live. Be it anyone, they deserve a chance to atone for their sins." The demi saiyan's voice was now much louder. He couldn't bear to take this anymore.
Itachi gently closed his eyes for a moment. "Do you want to say that someone like him deserves mercy?" The sharingan user's eyes revealed the pent up fury in his heart.
"Yes, he does. Not just him, everyone does." The saiyan hybrid was becoming more confident as he had begun to reel back from the initial jolt, the colour now returning to his face.
"Gohan you are my dear friend and I would do anything for you." Itachi's voice became much calmer. "I made a promise to myself that I would never use my visual techniques against any of you no matter what the circumstances. That is how much the three of you mean to me."
Suddenly Itachi's expression took a complete 180. "But if you insist on such blind ideals, I can show you everything this scum had done all his life." He barked at him with his sharingan blaring.
The demi saiyan was at a loss of words on what to say. There was never a single instance, Itachi exhibited anger against him or raised his voice against him.
"Listen to me" The tone of the Uchiha's voice remained unchanged. "There are people who deserve mercy like you implied. People who never had a choice in their life or those who were never taught any better. Only they deserve mercy after such deeds."
By this time, Itachi had moved up near to the bandit leader. "Those who do not deserve it are filth like him who sell off helpless kids into the flesh market and as mindless weapons." He roared sending his foot crashing onto the transgressor's knee, effectively crushing it and making the receiver cry out in pain.
"This scum hear does not deserve mercy." He clenched in jaw. "He was well aware of what he was doing. There was not a tinge of remorse or empathy in him. If I spare him now, he will only repeat what he had done and might one day come for revenge."
Son Gohan was not convinced. There were many who had been enemies but turned into allies. They were deemed as heartless villains and had the blood of many on their hands. Still, an act of kindness changed them. His beloved mentor Piccolo and Vegeta were among them. Piccolo changed so much after his influence. He even gave up his life to protect him. His own father had taught him to never fight to kill. An enemy, even the fiercest of them deserved forgiveness. He had lived by this principle his whole life. There was no way he could go against it. Taking a life was not something he could bring himself to do.
Itachi Uchiha understood the multitudes of thoughts that ran through his friend's mind. However, he needed to harden his heart this time.
"Think about your past Gohan." Itachi took a deep breath to calm himself down and shot a piercing glance to the demi saiyan's eyes. "You had mentioned to me countless times about how the androids were created by Dr. Gero, who your father had spared a long time ago." He clenched his fist before continuing, very well aware of the effects it might have on the other. "If at that moment, your father had hardened his heart and ended his life there itself… think about the changes it would have made."
"You could have lived in peace away from the agony you endured all your life. You could have chased after your dreams and not lay down your life shouldering the hopes of millions." He had countless other things to say but immediately held back from pressing further. Gohan was already highly traumatized. This encounter was a necessary evil. His friend had to learn to embrace the harsher reality.
The sharingan user heaved a deep sigh to pacify himself. "What I meant to say was that it is necessary to distinguish between enemies. Sometimes, you have to kill your foes or they end up harming you and everyone you treasure."
"I…" The saiyan hybrid tried to mutter out something but anything that came out was barely audible to even himself.
"I do not want you to see this any longer. So I ask you to take the children and leave." Itachi paused to turn his gaze toward the bandit leader. "A painful and agonizing death is what he deserves."
Itachi's words hit him really hard. The son of Goku was on the verge of breaking down. He couldn't think clearly. His mind seemed hazy and clouded. His body began to move on its own. He walked upto the cage that held the kidnapped children who still remained unconscious. Lifting the structure up, he moved outside leaving the Uchiha and the bandit leader as the only alive ones inside the warehouse.
Itachi's eyes traced Gohan's movements as he left. Then he turned to his target with the mangekyo sharingan activated. The bandit leader quickly felt the world around him changing like the first time he had experienced it, but this time it felt more painful. Unknowing to Gohan, Itachi had injured the vocal chords of his foe to render him incapable to even scream to relieve the pain he was about to experience.
In moments, he found himself tied to a wooden cross. Countless iron stakes slowly impaled his body as if to make him experience maximum pain.
"This is my world." Itachi appeared before him in a murder of crows. "I control everything in this world. Even time, space and mass."
"For the next 72 hours, I will continue to impale you with these iron rods. I will make sure you experience all the pain and sufferings you have inflicted upon helpless and innocent children."
The ebony haired leader of the bandits screamed out in agony, but not a nuance of sound was heard.
"Now I get it." Zack spoke in a hushed tone. "So finally I was able to solve this mystery about my semblance."
What are you mumbling about spikey?" Dom gasped for breath. But that did not hinder the arrogant drift of his tone.
"Sorry I didn't mean for you to hear that." The ex-soldier returned with a glee. "But rest assure, I will end it right now."
"End what." The other roared back. "Don't get all cocky just because you managed to scratch me, you little swine."
The former soldier was at a loss of words. He had seen people like this guy a lot. Who had the rare ability to put up a brave face in almost any situations? However Dom right in front of him, had to take the top cake. He was bleeding from almost everywhere and had a lot of broken bones in a lot of places, God only knew where. Any little kid with a speck of intelligence could figure out that he was in a hell lot of pain at the moment. Still, he kept running his mouth like he was as fresh as new.
Zack had to admit, he had a newfound respect for the older opponent. Add to that, there was no more of that killing intent prevalent. In the beginning, he wanted to end the bandit for all that he had done. But after this battle against his foe, he wanted to believe this guy was actually not that bad. He wanted to beat him and just that and nothing more. Maybe, Dom was tricked into this business. Who knew?
"Guess I'll tie him up and take him to caps for further questioning." Zack deliberated upon his musings. It seemed the only plausible solution to decipher this situation he found himself in.
The ex-soldier did not hesitate for another moment as he charged towards his foe and delivered a sharp kick to the jaw. Dom was completely unprepared and got no space to react. The intensity of the kick was strong enough to send the receiver pummelling to the ground. Zack tossed aside Dom's weapon and pointed the end of Honour towards the other.
"Any last words old man." He remarked with a sanguine expression.
Dom looked up at the ex-soldier for a while an also around himself. Slowly, his lips curved into a devilish grin. That gesture sent shivers down Zack's spine. In the present scenario, the other had no chance of a comeback. Still he exuded a strange confidence. This was the vindication for the former soldier's eerier feeling.
"On second thought." Zack consoled himself. "I think I hit you so hard that you lost any sense you had."
"Better tie this guy up now." He prepared to find anything he could use around his vicinity. But in a spur of a moment, he started to feel his head swim. Everything around him started to speed up, it seemed. Zack quickly took his stance and tried to look around him. Everything he laid eyes upon began to move at faster speeds. Even the rustling of the leaves were faster. Voices became blurred.
Dom who was on the ground slowly tried to get back upon his feet. Zack tried to stop him but again he felt the differences in speed of movement. He tried opening and closing his eyes to calm down but there was no change in the outcome.
"What the hell." He had no clue what was happening. All he could do was clench his jaw in frustration. "Is this some new trick."
"Wait" Suddenly it came to him. "I'll just activate the new semblance."
Zack quickly switched on his newly acquired power. With it he was able to sense the auras of anyone near him upto certain distance.
"Bingo" he turned towards the source of a second aura he sensed. "I see, its backup."
Thee ex-soldier moved cautiously towards the location with his guard on high. Before he could reach there, the culprit of this strange phenomenon sprung up from hiding. The new enemy swung his weapon which was, a large flail at him.
This new enemy had light blonde hair and a sharp facial features. His height was about a few inches taller than Dom. There was as slit over his right eye brow and a deep scar than ran through the right side of his face. He wore a military tank top with matching rugged pants.
Zack lifted Honour to parry the attack, only merely managing to do so. The opponent's attack lacked power, but it had speed. Speed as in too much speed. Zack could block it only because he was using the maximum speed at his disposal.
The new enemy riposted with another strike. The ex-soldier tried to dodge it but was unable to do so. The blow struck him on his right shoulder. Another quick attack followed that pushed him back a few metres.
The best choice, the former soldier had now was to retreat a little and put some distance between him and the new enemy. Without waiting for his opponent to attack, he tried to slice him with his blade at the midsection. This attack was easily blocked by the latter. He then, used his weapon to lift Zack's weapon higher up and delivered a kick to the ex-soldier's left leg. It was followed by a roundhouse kick to the jaw. That impact sent him crashing to the side. Zack's aura had just begun to heal his right shoulder and so it still stung. Without a moment's delay he quickly got upon his feet and reassumed his stance. This opponent was totally different. His strength was only equal to Dom's but the threat was his superior speed. This speed could rival Zack's.
Before Zack could gauge the situation properly, he started to experience that strange sick sensation again. The opponent began another assault. It completely caught him off guard. The spiked end of the flail rammed into his abdomen making him cough out blood. The next followed soon after, barely giving him the time to dodge. Still, it did not cease. Another heavy blow succeeded and he could do only enough to prevent it from crushing his skull.
The tables had turned now. Zack was on the receiving end. Only one conclusion occupied his mind. He had been careless and took his opponent for granted. It was like Itachi had told him once, a fight involving semblances can be tricky. Especially to him who had no idea about his own semblance. Most prominently, it was this strange feeling of sickness that limited him and made him wanting to throw up. One thing he could be sure of was that it was the work of the other's semblance. This made his head spin, his sense weak and above all boosted the speed of his opponent. Somehow, his own aura could not match up with the other's speed. His own attacks were blocked with ease as if the other could predict his movements. The only power he was aware of that could predict and copy movements like this was the Sharingan. But that was not the case here. If Itachi's stories held the truth, he would have died already if his opponent possessed the Sharingan.
Zack hoisted up honour and went in for another strike. This too was blocked with ease. The ex-soldier put in more force overpowering the other and caused him to lose ground. This bigger pressure resulted in a slight crack that began to develop on his foe's flail. This made the new enemy, drop his guard a little, which Zack used to full advantage. Gripping his sword tightly with both hands, he began a frenzy of powerful strikes. But to his frustration, the other successfully blocked every one of those. This sudden outburst of strength and speed came with a downside that is it made Zack susceptible for a counter attack and that was what transpired. Before he could put up his guard, he felt the full brunt of the flail slammed at his right side and before he could counter, a powerful jab followed.
The former soldier had only one option now. That was to create a bit of space between him and his nemesis and then formulate a proper strategy. If this continued, he was surely going to die. Keeping that in mind, he charged again at the enemy, leaped a bit into the air and brought down a heavy strike. As he had expected, this attack was also blocked. At that moment, he used the other's weapon as support and along with the force generated due to the clash, leaped a few distance backwards. Still he did not stop after the initial retreat. He followed it up with short leaps backwards increasing the distance between them. After an ample distance was created, he began to assemble his thoughts.
This made one thing clear, there was a limited distance for the effect of his opponent's semblance. If he stood outside this range, that feeling of sickness was gone and his sense were back to normal. But the other problem was the boost in speed and even more of a headache was that his enemy could somehow predict his movements. He had no idea how a single semblance could produce all these effects. Zack was a close range fighter who heavily relied on his weapon for combat and for such a close range fighter like him maintaining a distance was not plausible. There was practically no long rage techniques at his disposal. Even that would not be enough. His opponent's speed was deadly allowing him to block even his fastest attacks.
As the former soldier first class, tried to formulate a strategy, his new opponent went up to where Dom was resting. He extended his hand to him and helped him off the ground, onto his feet. The ex-soldier noticed it only now. The both of them bore some resemblances with each other. Both of them had a similar jaw line with well protruded cheekbones. Their eyes were also similar in both being heavy lidded. And this pointed out that they were siblings or they had to be siblings. Another supporter of that cause was that the new enemy was more interested in the well-being of his injured comrade than going after a vulnerable Zack. He kept scolding Dom for something, most probably for losing to a kid like him. His angry outbursts at the latter felt more like an elder sibling scolding the younger one.
This was good news as far as the former soldier first class was concerned. It gifted him enough time, albeit it being just a few minutes, to arrange his thoughts in order. At this moment, he had to put aside thinking whether they were really enemies or not. It had been weighing upon him for some time but currently he had to defeat them or most probably he would be dead meat. Then there was the case of the new semblance. It felt different from the time against Dom.
When he kept counterfeit activated during his first match up, there was that strange sensation he felt when he came within a certain distance of its source. This sensation would result in him feeling an urge to release a power being built up in him. But now he no longer felt that. It was driving him nuts now. It took a lot of trial and error to finally figure out a way to successfully copy another semblance. He had to endure a lot of blows to crack that set of rules. However, now it brought forth different results. He had no clue what if there were any other condition he had to meet to utilize the properties of Counterfeit. Maybe he can copy only a single semblance or had to lose one to copy another. Conversely, there might be another difference he overlooked. If that was the case, he had to experiment a bit again. For that to happen there was only a single thing going on in his favour and that was the lack of killing intent from the enemy. It was odd considering they were both members of a group that sell off children.
Time was running out. The new enemy's short lived exchange between Dom was over, and now, Zack resumed to be his primary source of attention.
The ex-soldier put up his guard and activated the sensory semblance. Measuring the other, he could see that his opponent's aura reserves were well below his own. His own aura had healed up almost all his injuries and it still far exceeded his enemy. This advantage in aura reserves, Zack possessed opened up another option to him which was to tire out the enemy but that came with a huge risk, which he was not willing to take. He gripped honour tightly. Dom who stood next to his sibling, mouthed something to him which Zack guessed was him warning the other about Zack's semblance being activated. It was not an issue for the former soldier considering they had no idea on his real semblance.
Slowly, the light blonde haired foe lifted his weapon and charged at the ex-soldier, after motioning towards his comrade to rest up. Zack sensed that the other's semblance was activated. He held back from charging in. Quickly disabling the sensory semblance, he reactivated Counterfeit.
Again his senses began to get distorted and that feeling of sickness resumed as he entered the enemy's semblance range. But this time, Zack was able to assess the area of effect which he put around 10 metres at the most. A heavy blow came crashing upon him. The ex-soldier held his ground and blocked it with some effort.
He faked putting in a lot of strength and pretended to push his opponent back. The other unaware of this countered in kind, using up more of his own strength to pin Zack down. That made him drop his guard a bit. Zack use this to his advantage to deliver a heavy kick to the latter and knock him off his feet. This created a much needed opening for him. He followed it up with a sharp blow to the enemy's back effectively knocking him to the ground. And before he could regain his footing, the former soldier came down with a powerful stomp, but the enemy was able to roll over in time to seize his foot. Zack failed to be intimidated and used his sword to slash the other. Again the enemy dodged and the slash only made a light cut on his right chest. That made him hold the injured side as in a sudden reflex and the ex-soldier responded with a strong kick to the jaw. Without any delay, Zack swung Honour at him making a deep cut on the other's left shoulder. With that momentum, he rammed the flat side of his blade against the enemy's skull pummelling him to the ground. Instead of utilizing this opportunity any further, he retreated a bit back.
"Brady." The voice of Dom called out to the other as he hurriedly moved in the latter's direction.
"You okay there bro." His tone expressed genuine concern for the latter and gave enough proof for Zack to lay his quandaries whether they were siblings to rest.
"I get it now." The ex-soldier lightly loosened his muscles and contemplated between heavy breaths. "He puts a lot of faith in his own semblance and that makes him drop his guard when it is activated. That explains how he took so much damage from that simple combo." Zack's mind voiced as he saw his opponent struggling to get back upon his feet after the exchange of blows. His attacks were heavy but not enough to cause any serious damage. "And his aura fails to guard his body when his semblance is activated. So that explains why he switched off his semblance after the cut to the chest. He was waiting for his aura to heal the wound."
"But think Zack. What might be the cause of your semblance failing to do anything now? There must be another catch to it." Suddenly it struck him. "Of course. It might just be a wild guess, still it's better than nothing. In the case of Dom, I knew what his semblance did and actually saw it in action. That might be why my body reacted that way."
He rested the end of honour against the ground and narrowed his eyes. "If I think about it more, I never experienced that sensation before, against anyone else that I fought. The reason might be just this. I never knew what their semblances did. And I knew what Dom's did. So… that could be the primary condition needed. I need to know what a semblance does and see it in action if I want to copy it."
"But what does this guy's semblance do exactly." The frustration he had experienced resurfaced again. He wiped off the sweat drops from his foreheads and tried to come up with a logical inference. "Everything I thought about it must be wrong. Otherwise I could have experienced that sensation again. So that means it produces some different type of effect than what I'd deduced."
The ex-soldier was at his wits end trying to find a solution to this. No matter how hard he tried he could arrive at no coherent conclusion.
"This is basically cap's area of expertise." He sighed to himself. "I miss you already caps. When you were here, things like this were way too easy."
Brady swung his weapon a few times and flexed his muscles as he regained his battle posture. The brief window that Zack had was now finished. The next round was about to begin. Luckily, Dom was in no condition to fight, so that avoided a possibility of ganging up. The ex-soldier wasted no time and charged straight into battle. That feeling of sickness came back again but Zack help up strong and clashed his sword against the flail. Immediately, he leaped backwards till he was outside the range of his foe's semblance.
"That puts sensory distortion out of the list." He murmured to himself. Zack had hatched up a small plan to identify the other's semblance. He would charge at him with counterfeit activated and then retreat after the initial blow. For each turn, he would assume a different effect for his enemy's semblance. His objective was to continue this until he could figure out what was the real effect of Brady's semblance
In accordance with this new plan, he charged in a second time and retreated highly disappointed. Then a third time, a fourth time and after the fifth time, the frustration on his face began to show. "Tchh. This is getting nowhere."
As he was about to lose hope, he noticed something else. Dom was at a distance away from Brady but well within the range of his semblance. Still, he did not show any signs of feeling sick. Most strikingly, his movements appeared to be sluggish. As in awkwardly slow.
"If I had to guess, somehow everything inside that area moves slower. It makes sense now. That explains how everything outside feels like it is moving really fast."
"I don't know how accurate this might be but I have this gut feeling that his semblance alters one's perception of time. So that should have caused my senses to be distorted and also that sickness feeling."
He exasperated to calm himself down. "I will give it a try."
Activating counterfeit, he headed charged a sixth consecutive time. He slammed his blade into Brady's flail and retreated as soon as the blow connected.
"Bingo" Zack's asseveration only complimented the victorious grin that creeped into his face. "Gotcha now, big guy."
Acnologia ran his fist through a creep which was foolish enough to engage him. The dragon king lost count of how many grimm he had killed till now. It was as he suspected, all of these mindless beasts were being attracted towards that aura of negativity he emitted. But no matter, how many came he crushed them like weeds.
The forest emitted a strange ambience. Acnologia was not aware if the others had noticed it. The surge in grimm attacks might have something to do with this abnormal ambience. It felt odd to him that he was also able to sense ethernano at times. The density was minute but the nature of the magical energy was dark. The sort of magic used in demon summoning rituals. He tried many time to locate its source however the presence of this energy would vanish before he could lock on onto it. Only three times, he was able to detect it and currently there was not a trace of it to be found. This energy must be the reason for this strange ambience and the primary source of the enhanced grimm infestation. The black dragon found it unnecessary to invest any more of his time into the matter. Unless anything threatened him, there was no need of his intrusion. And he wasn't a hero to do something for the good of humanity. He was among the strongest in this world. For him nothing stood out as a threat.
The dragon slayer transversed further inside the forest where he sensed the presence of more grimm, stepping over the corpses of countless others around him. These grimm were nothing compared to the myriads of dragons he had slain. They couldn't even compare in threat. Yet the inhabitants of this world were unable to annihilate them. They continued to be tormented by such mindless and weak beasts. All this made his revulsion towards the humans of this new world to grow exponentially.
As he continued to move towards the new target, the sudden screech of a stronger enemy diverted his attention towards it. Somewhere deep in these lands, he did identify the existence of a powerful enemy. And this enemy was moving towards him at a high velocity. That screech was similar to the howl of the one thing he hated with all his might. Coming at him from afar... was a dragon.
On closer analysis by a neutral spectator, it only resembled a wyvern of Earth Land. And it was a creature of grimm. But all this did not do anything to quench the hatred and rage boiling up inside him. To him, it was a dragon, a beast he had thrown away his life to destroy. And after all these years, one finally appeared in front of him.
The dragon moved towards him at a high speed with the intention to kill the human in its sight who had destroyed countless of its race. For over a century the beast had laid dormant deep within the icy mountains that encased the forest awaiting its chance to encounter a strong enemy. Now, that enemy had surfaced. An enemy that had laid to waste countless grimm and dragons alike. An enemy that radiated so much hatred such that it overshadowed that of everyone else. The blue haired dragon slayer in front of it was a nemesis worthy of it. He had awaken it from its slumber of over a century.
It came from the direction of Onyx and from that it was undeniably laid bare that it had been in torpor in the southern side of the village. And it went completely unnoticed by the others. From its body, percolated a tar like liquid which spawned lesser creatures of the grimm. In a short while, the area in its path was teeming with creeps, beowolves and ursai.
Whenever Acnologia, saw a dragon, his ears would echo with the screams of pain and destruction when his city was razed to the ground. This agony was the catalyst that helped him get stronger and this was the reason he could never forgive a dragon. This time too, it was no different. The hatred in him only amplified itself.
The winged grimm lunged towards the dragon slayer who bared his teeth at the beast.
"Iron fist of the dragon king." Acnologia's powerful blow sent the dragon crashing through the trees. The powerful impact uprooted atleast a dozen trees and traced a path in the direction it was propelled. The dragon immediately regained itself and took into the air. Again infesting the area with multitudes of grimm.
The dragon slayer was now like a mad man. There was not a tinge of sanity in him. All he wanted now was to destroy the dragon in front of him. He leaped into the air amidst the grimm that surrounded him.
Wasting no time, he began to inhale, gathering magical energy in his mouth. "Dragon King's Roar."
The entire area surrounding him was reduced to a wasteland in an instant. Every grimm vaporised along with the trees and the rocks. But even in that attack, he barely used a fraction of his strength. It was evident in only the area around him being destroyed. If he had used even half of his full potential, the entire forest would have been reduced to dust.
Using wind element magic, the dragon king shot himself into the air. The dragon remained in the air at a low altitude well within his range. Acnologia used wind dragon slayer magic to stabilize himself mid-air.
The winged beast clawed at him trying to cleave him in half. But this was not a foe that could be killed so easily. Acnologia dodged the attack in mid-air and used the same wind magic to charge at it.
"Frozen fist of the dragon king." His fist slammed into its skull causing severe damage to the beast.
Acnologia was toying with it. He did not want to end its like in a single strike though, he was well capable of doing so. What he desired was to make the dragon suffer the same pain and torment he had to experience centuries at the hands of the scaled beasts that terrorized his dreams. Only then, did he experience true pleasure.
The dragon slayer landed on the ground again. The grimm was losing its balance and its movements appeared groggy. But still it was not ready to back out. Gaining a bit of its momentum back, it swooped down towards Acnologia. The dragon king remained unfazed and side stepped the initial charge. He followed it with a lightning infused slash at its left side. The dragon collapsed to the ground. But before Acnologia could deliver the killing blow, it somehow propelled itself into the air again. Its left side was severely damaged and it took great effort for it to remain afloat in the air. One more attack and the dragon would perish.
It seemed the beast was also aware of the present scenario as it slowly began to retreat toward the northern side of the forest. Unlike normal grimm, it possessed a certain level of intelligence and due to this, it could conceive that this was an enemy far beyond its capabilities. Retreating was the most viable alternative at its disposal.
The dragon slayer laughed like a madman seeing its helpless plight. The sight of a dragon exhibiting fear and helplessness never ceased to amuse him. He waited for a brief while to take in that beautiful sight, still laughing hysterically.
After some time had elapsed he ceased his laughter. The winged grimm used this moment of respite and had already forged ahead creating a large gap between them. It did not bother Acnologia. His speed was more than enough to catch up to the dragon with little effort. Wielding an evil grin, he prepared to execute his prey.
Suddenly, as if unexpectedly, someone bumped into him from behind. His anger spiked as he turned to see the same blind human girl from the village. Somehow, this girl was able to locate him among the vast expanses of the forests. He did not make any effort to answer how she was able to find him as he ignored her and prepared to slaughter his prey.
After making contact with him, she quickly clung onto him, crying and begging for help. The dragon king failed to hear what her pleas were. That action made his blood boil and his pupils dilated. The hatred had already overcome him. He had no time to waste over an apathetic human. With one whip of his hand, he tossed the girl aside and turned towards the direction of his prey. She fell down to the ground near him, suffering bruises on her figure.
"Please you have to help us Acnologia." The girl got back upon her feet hastily tried to reach him again. But this time, she tripped over and only reached his feet. With every ounce of energy she had, the girl desperately clutched his feet. "We are being attacked by the grimm" She pleaded again. The tears that streamed down her made her voice choke.
Acnologia could hear because of his superior hearing, the cries that came from the village which was now a large distance behind him. But he did not emit even an ounce of care or did he feel any sense of mercy at this.. He roughly lifted the girl by her arm and threw her into the ground. That action twisted her angle rendering her unable to stand up again. Even then, she kept on pleading for help, trying perilously to get back upon her feet.
The dragon king remained oblivious to all this. For him what took the most priority was the dragon. With every moment he wasted here, it managed to create more distance between them and also made the anger and restlessness inside him swell up exponentially.
His ears still caught the screams that echoed from the village. Still, his heart nor his mind wavered. He prepared to hunt down the dragon once again.
As he prepared to rush ahead, a single and an abrupt thought made him halt abruptly. Unknowingly, a strange feeling crept up inside him.
It was not the cries of the village. It was the thought of, what would they say? Itachi had entrusted him to guard the village in case it was attacked. The three of them believed in him. And if he turned his back on Onyx now, any bonds they had between them would be severed. He would be betraying the faith they placed in him. He would become a heartless monster in their eyes. Such a moniker, if it came from anyone else, would fail to entice him, but, they were different. He… loved them. They were the only friends and family he had.
Acnologia's emotions were now in conflict with each other. One half of him wanted to destroy the dragon while the other half still remained confused, unable to muster up any rational thoughts. Coupled with that, the constant pleas of the girl on the ground continued to annoy him. He was going crazy due to the combination of all this. His rage and frustration threatened to boil over. The mere sight of the girl made his blood flare up now. He dashed towards her, with fury brimming in his eyes and his baring his teeth. His countenance resembled that of a mad man driven by anger and hatred, beyond the edge of insanity. He lifted her up antipathetically with full intent on killing her. His hand held her by the throat as he looked straight into her typhlotic eyes. She was unaware of his intentions and held his arm, still begging for help.
She was just a frail, blind girl who could offer no resistance at all. All he had to do was put in a little pressure and her throat would be crushed between his fingers. If he thought more about it, the only evidence that was against him was her. If he ended her now, no one could ever blame him for the destruction of the village. He could just pretend he was oblivious of the fact. Acnologia clenched his jaw in vexation, when the realization as to why he thought about such strange things suddenly hit upon him. Why did he want to destroy an evidence?
The girl, Irina kept pleading to him without a break. It kept on spiking his rage against her. And also reeled him back from the bantam of hesitation he experienced earlier. He began to tighten his grip on her throat, his face still mirroring that of a mad man. A little bit more and she would cease breathing.
Still…, somehow, how much he tried, he could not bring himself to do it. He just couldn't prompt his hand to end her life. No matter how much he told himself that he hated her and wanted to kill her, his body just wouldn't move. It froze on that moment.
This rage he felt against her, appeared like it did not stem from her cries for help. It seemed as if he hated her for surrendering her pride and stooping so low for help. Seeing her this close, the similarity she bore to the girl who perished centuries ago, was remarkable. It was as if bearing witness to the cries for help from the same person.
Acnologia could not fathom what had come over him. The multitudes of emotions that contradicted themselves within him, did not aid in calming his heart. Seeing her invoked some sort of strange sensation within him. This was the same sensation he experienced earlier in the village when he laid eyes on her the first time. That time, he had done the same process he had always followed in this second birth of his. He shoved those feelings aside and pretended he had no time to ponder over that. In short, he ran away from that sensation, afraid of the consequences it wold have on him. But now, he couldn't hide anymore. Her presence, invoked centuries old memories within him. Memories he thought he had long since forgotten but were in reality, hidden deep beneath his being. These memories took him to that time when he was Acnologia, not the Black Dragon of the Apocalypse, Acnologia but when he was just the Dragon Slayer, Acnologia. Back to when he was considered a saviour of humanity. Back to when he was… human.
Ever since, he found his inability to transform into a dragon, he had always questioned himself. To the others he expressed that it enabled him to relish the taste of normal food. But what he hid from them was that he had begun to develop human emotions. Those strange feelings he had forgotten since time immemorial. Feelings of friendship, comradeship, care and love.
He did not want to believe it. But has he really become… human again? No, it can't be. He still despised and loathed mortals and everyone besides his comrades. He had borne witness to bigger atrocities and looked away. Then what was it with this blind girl in front of him that created this strange phenomenon in him?
Yes, that was it. For some reason, she wielded the same power the other three had. A rare ability he had thought only his friends possessed. Like them ,she was able to ignite the stray sparks of humanity that lie dormant within him. Whether it was due to the resemblance she bore with the girl whose life he was unable to save, or because she reminded him of his own helplessness he felt during the reign of the scaled beasts. He couldn't fathom what it was. The only thing he could say with conviction was about that strange sensation in his heart. It was something that had become a stranger to him centuries ago. It was… kindness. This emotion was what prevented him from taking her life. And this emotion, stirred up a desire in him, to… save her.
Acnologia loosened his grip on her and moved her aside gently, no longer bearing any intention to hurt her. The dragon slayer's visage transposed to something that was unintimidating, as the hatred and anger within him began to subside. He gently closed his eyes to compose himself and tried to sense the scent of his friends but was unable to pinpoint their location. All he could sense was their faint scent. It meant they had to be far away from his location and since he was the one who was the closest to the village, it meant they would be at a greater distance from Onyx. Zack and Itachi had nothing at their disposal that allowed them to sense the presence of grimm. Gohan could sense life energy but grimm had no life energy. So it was unlikely, he would be aware of the ordeal. So, it fell upon his shoulders to defend the inhabitants. He had decided now on what he had to do. He was going to protect the villagers of Onyx. For this, he was again, going to keep aside his hatred and swallow his pride.
"I will prove to you that you can trust me, Itachi Uchiha." He smirked to himself as he closed his eyes for a second time. "The mighty Dragon of the Apocalypse, Acnologia, moved by a little blind girl." Acnologia opened his eyes again that for some reason emitted a strange ambience. "Ridiculous."
"You human." He shouted out to Irina. "Can you walk?"
He inched in closer to her. The expression on his face was unlike the same visage he bore all the time. It failed to display annoyance, arrogance or anger. What, it did display was care. "If you cannot, you will perish."
"Will you save us Acnologia?" She was still crying, trying desperately but unable to get back up. Her angle was twisted and his earlier action had resulted in bruises and cuts in her body. She was experiencing great pain but even then, only the thought of her village occupied her mind. "Please, you promised to protect us."
"Get up and follow me." He barked at her, not moving from where he stood just at an arm's length from her. "If you cannot keep up, I will leave you behind." The dragon king's voice was still bitter, still it helped calm her down.
"Yes I can walk." Irina replied, hurriedly drying her tears. "Please hurry." She added and tried desperately to stand back up. And like before, it ended up as a failure.
Acnologia did not know what he had to do. There was no way, a blind girl with an injured angle could keep up with him. It was a huge surprise to him, she even managed to find him in this grimm infested forest. And more shockingly, managed to survive long enough, to find him. Most probably, she ran to the forest, hoping to find any one of them for help. If he had to guess, it might have been the impact and noise from his breath attack, that lead her to his location, or it might have been just sheer luck or maybe even the hands of fate. Now, he did not want to abandon her in this forest. She wouldn't even last a single minute, when it was teeming with grimm after the arrival of the dragon. If he left her to her own, she would just turn into food for the grimm. He felt his body move on its own, or maybe, that was what he liked to think. He bent down next to her and lifted her up on his back.
"Hold on tight or you will fall off." His voice was gruff and his facial expressions remained undecipherable. "If you fall off, you will die." He barked at her again as he prepared to dart off in the direction of Onyx.
Gohan gently laid down each of the children on the ground. There were eight kids in total. He felt the pulses of each and sensed the condition of their life energy. They were still unconscious, but their lives were not in danger. None of them were no older than 10 years and yet over half of them had their auras unlocked and it seemed it was done by forceful means. It made him clench his fist in anger thinking about how people could do something like this to kids. Then again did he actually had the right to be angry? When he could not do anything against the transgressors, remaining as a mere spectator as Itachi delivered judgement upon them.
He sat near the ground where he laid down the children. At such a young age, they had to be subjected to such atrocities. Could he blame Itachi's actions? No, he could never do that. Itachi was right in what he did but also wrong. To the demi saiyan, arriving at a rational conclusion seemed implausible at the moment.
Maybe Itachi was right, it was his father's soft nature that had become his downfall. Even still, if he were in his father's stead, he would have still spared Gero. It was the same with Frieza. His father was able to show mercy to such an evil tyrant who had driven their race to extinction and had slaughtered countless innocent, helpless people. And it resulted in him coming to Earth to exact his vengeance. In that moment, if it father hadn't returned in time, they would have all perished. Thinking on that, Gohan had to agree with Itachi. Not everyone who were shown mercy changed. They did come back for revenge and one of these acts of mercy was the sole reason his entire life was turned to ruin.
The thirst for battle never existed within him. After spending all his previous life waging a never ending battle against a stronger foe, he had developed an even stronger deep rooted aversion to fighting. Still, he trained his mind and body everyday knowing that if a stronger enemy surfaced, he had to protect this new home of his. Amidst all this he could never bring himself to hurt another. His mentor, Piccolo was the one who taught him the basics of combat. He was a strict teacher, but regarded him as his own son. Piccolo taught him to never drop his guard, never trust an enemy but even after all this Gohan still did. After a while the namekian himself came to the realization that the son of Goku was at odds with his father in this regard. Still, that did not cease to halt the love and affection he felt towards the young boy. His father had passed away when he was so young. He was never lucky enough to train with his father. After the battle against Frieza, he had to abandon combat as his mother was against it. She wanted him to go to school and grow up like a normal kid. In reality, that outcome was what he too really preferred. Not only that, unlike pure blooded saiyans, he did not inherited that innate lust for battle. He wanted to study, grow up to be a scholar. However fate had a different story weaved for him. The son of Goku did not wish to think more about the matter.
"Gohan" As the demi saiyan reflected upon himself, Itachi had come near him. The demi saiyan turned to his friend who extended his hand towards him. He took the Uchiha's hand got back on his feet.
"We have to take them back to the village now." The saiyan hybrid's tone was impassive and his gaze avoided that of the Uchiha.
"I understand." Itachi bit his lip. He let the moment get to him and said many things he wished he hadn't. Gohan was his best friend and hurting him, stung him even more.
"I sincerely apologize for my actions earlier." The Uchiha's tone was sombre and his face was wistful. "The heat of the moment got to my head and I should not have said such words."
"I am not angry at you Itachi. You only spoke the truth." The demi saiyan coerced a grin on his lips.
"You were right." Gohan responded still unwilling to look Itachi in the eye. "It was my father's soft nature that resulted in all those tragedies in my life."
Gohan's voice was dismal and it really hurt Itachi. He began to utter out a proper reply but the demi saiyan interrupted him. "But I would never hold a grudge against him for that. Until his death my father never changed who he was. To me, he was the greatest hero the world had ever seen"
"What I meant was..." Itachi began but stifled on his words and was again interrupted.
"It is the same for me Itachi. No matter what happens I cannot change who I am. Even if it is against my fiercest enemy, I could never bring myself to take the life of a living thing, or remain deaf to pleas of mercy." Gohan's voice was strong and its tone showed how much he meant it.
"I am sorry if I disappointed you." He turned to his friend and this time looked him straight in the eye. "I can never be a killer."
Itachi smirked as he closed his eyes. "Then do not change who you are."
"You are too kind Gohan. You have a heart that is too good to be true. And you have the ability to find kindness within you in any situation."
The sharingan user wasn't lying at all when he said those words. Unlike him, Gohan was not trained to be a fighter. As a shinobi and a former member of the Anbu, he could shed his humanity whenever he needed to. The demi saiyan was an exception, he did not possess the heart of a warrior, what he did possess what the heart of a selfless hero.
"Your strength Gohan." Itachi laid a hand on Gohan's shoulder. "It originates not from your desire to defeat your enemies, rather it stems from your desire to protect everyone you hold dear."
A sideways glee took shape on the Uchiha's face. "That strength is one that protects and not one that destroys."
Gohan closed his eyes and smiled in reply. "Thank You Itachi."
"Still." Itachi resumed. "There are some enemies that have to be executed and some situations where you have to put aside mercy."
"I know it is impossible for you and so in such situations I will always be there to have your back."
"Remember, that I will always have your back too." The Uchiha had put it in a light way so as to conceal what he really implied. Gohan understood it all too well. Itachi meant that he would be there to do the dirty work for him. And Gohan meant he would be there to stop the Uchiha from traversing down such a path. He never wanted to see Itachi make the same face ever again.
This exchange had helped drastically tone down the tension between them. Gohan had learnt to accept Itachi's actions and Itachi had learnt to accept the half saiyan's. This exchange was abruptly halted at the sight of an enemy they had never seen before.
"Is that… a Dragon?" Itachi was startled. He never anticipated in his wildest imagination that they would encounter a dragon here. He was aware of the stories about numerous ss class grimm in the area but a dragon was amongst the strongest grimm in existence.
Gohan immediately took up a protective position in front of the kids. "It is dangerous Itachi." His eyes turned serious. "Be careful."
The Uchiha barely opened his mouth when a sight he couldn't fathom took him by surprise. "You see that Gohan." His eyes widened. "It is giving rise to numerous grimm."
That strange phenomenon also dismayed the demi saiyan but he quickly calmed himself down and took his fighting stance. "We have to protect these kids at any cost." His voice ceased to be bleak. This was no time to waste upon his own emotions.
"You take off into the sky and confront it." Itachi's orders came out loud and clear. "I will take out the ones on the ground."
Gohan nodded in acknowledgement and flew in to the air, towards the dragon which was now only barely metres away from them.
"I have to end this quick." He voiced to himself. The grimm were just mindless beasts to him. They were a threat to all living things and needed to be annihilated. For the half saiyan, the grimm took the place of the heartless androids in his world and so he had no qualms about destroying them.
Itachi Uchiha prepared himself for a tricky battle. At all costs, he had to keep the kids safe.
"Shadow Clone jutsu" He shouted as he weaved the hand sign, producing six different clones of himself. The real Itachi wielded his weapon, Shine and Shadow while the clones wielded kunai knives. They spread out forming a circle around the children who were still unconscious.
The Uchiha and his clones did not move too far away from their location, taking out only the grimm that came within a certain range. The dragon kept spawning numerous grimm and if he spread out now, it might endanger the kids he had to safeguard. The best option at his disposal was to hold his ground till Gohan took out the dragon and put an end to the emergence of new grimm.
The demi saiyan readied his stance and charged straight at the winged beast. His powerful fist crashed into its jaw severing a part of it along with the impact. He was able perceive that the foe in front of him had suffered serious damages to its side which limited its movements. That procreated only one conclusion in his mind, however, he had no time to ponder over it.
He followed it with another jab underneath its jaw propelling it backwards.
Gohan cupped his hands "KA…"
He drew his hands towards him as a sphere of energy began to form between his hands. "ME…"
"HAA…" With that he unleashed his signature move at the dragon, vaporising it.
The saiyan hybrid then looked down, and saw Itachi engaging with the grimm which were numerous in numbers. All of them were lower class ones but their numbers were no laughing matter.
Gohan retreated both his hands a bit backwards, then converged them forward, cupping them together, and creating a large sphere of yellow energy between his palms.
"Itachi" He bellowed towards the Uchiha. "Get back"
Itachi responded quickly and immediately pulled back.
"Scatter Kamehameha." Gohan released the energy sphere which split into several tiny balls of KI. He controlled each of them perfectly and directed each towards the grimm that were present below him. A rain of energy descended upon the beasts, destroying each and every one of them.
"Gohan" Itachi began as soon as the demi saiyan had descended. "That beast came from the direction of the village if my intuition is right." He spoke in a hurried tone. "Quickly locate the energy of the villagers."
The half saiyan did not wait another moment as he got to the task. "This is bad." His face turned brood. "It seems they are being attacked. I can tell that they are panicked."
"We have no more time to waste then." Itachi turned arduous. "I will…"
"But there is no need to worry." The saiyan hybrid cut in mildly. "The energy of the villagers are concentrated at a single location. I assume they have gathered together in the church." He smirked gently before he continued. "They have Acnologia protecting them."
Itachi's countenance displayed he was more confounded now than worried. He did not want to believe it but Acnologia, actually going back to defend the village appeared absurd to him. "Gohan, are you sure?" he questioned, after a brief pause.
"Yes I am." The demi saiyan replied.
He then heaved a deep sigh and composed himself. "Itachi I understand, you do not completely trust him and I don't blamed blame you for that."
"But…" Gohan's tone turned austere. "I believe in him. Although he has a problem with humanity, he holds us in high regard and values us as his dear friends."
"So, what I want to say is that he would never betray your trust. He must have surely gone back because you instructed him to."
Itachi was still not convinced and began to grow restless. He wanted to head back to the village as fast as he could.
"That dragon." The demi saiyan was not ready to give up. "It had already suffered heavy damage. And guessing from its direction only one person is capable of such a feat and that is him."
His efforts had begun to somewhat pacify the sharingan user. "We know how much hatred he has towards Dragons and he was ready to overlook that Itachi." Gohan placed a hand on Itachi's shoulder. "I'll agree, he would never do that for the villagers."
"He did that for us. To uphold the faith we placed in him."
The Uchiha's face showcased defeat. "So you knew that all along, huh?" H sheathed his weapon. "Still that does not mean we should leave him all alone. Let us head back too."
"I will use my shadow clones to carry the children and…"
"There is no need for that." Gohan shot back earning an exclamation of shock from the other. "Let us leave it to Acno. He is more than capable of handling this."
Gohan scratched his head. "Honestly, he is even stronger than you."
"Oh! I see" Itachi understood what Gohan was trying to convey. He himself had misunderstood the fact that, Gohan knew the trust issue between him and Acnologia. The saiyan hybrid was asking Itachi to give Acnologia a chance to earn his trust. Unlike him, Gohan had full faith in Acnologia. Full faith that he would never betray them.
"I will stay here with the children until they wake up." Gohan added. "These kids have had their auras unlocked. There is no telling what might happen when they wake up. If worst comes to fear, I don't want the villagers to suffer anymore." The demi saiyan stopped abruptly with his explanation when he realized the gravity of the thing she was describing. "You better find Zack."
"Where is he now?" Itachi retorted not wanting to question his friend further. He understood very well what Gohan meant by that. Kids who have their auras forcefully unlocked at such a young age might showcase strange reactions. Having auras unlocked so young was sometimes viewed as a taboo by many.
"Just head towards our west and you'll find him."
"Ok." The sharingan user prepared to head towards Zack's direction. "Take care." The Uchiha added as he began to move.
The son of Goku waved back and sat on the ground near the children.
Itachi could descry that Gohan was mentally tired. This day had been too much for him and what he wanted the most at this moment was some time alone. There were many things the Uchiha had wanted to say to him. About Acnologia. About his friend still doubted himself and about his actions on the day he lost his life against the androids. But now was not the time or place. The best thing to do right now was to leave him alone to his thoughts. Itachi had come to believe that when Gohan was having such episodes, nothing mollified him more than just sitting and reflecting upon things.
He deeply regretted his actions and his words. And that regret got bigger with each passing moment. In truth he only wanted Gohan to see the other side of things. To convince him that mercy is something not to be shown to everyone. Still, Gohan would never change and he had to accept that. He had to love him for who he was. This also held truth in case of Acnologia.
"Ok kid. You win" Dom suddenly cut in amidst the battle between Zack and Brady. Zack was successfully able to copy Brady's semblance and with that, the tides of battle shifted in his favour. Their semblances cancelled out each other, leaving it to a test of speed and strength, giving the ex-soldier the clear advantage. This advantage was evident in their current physical conditions. Brady was highly injured while Zack had only minor bruises in his form with his aura having healed all other damages.
"Listen. Leave my brother alone." The bistre haired man resumed. His tone was desperate and echoed sadness along with defeat. "You can kill me but leave him alone, you hear."
That statement made Zack lower his sword. There was about fifteen metres between him and his opponent, who barely stood on his two legs.
"What do you think you're doing, you idiot?" Brady, who was the elder brother of Dom barked at his sibling. He used his weapon to lift himself off the ground. "I'll hold him back. You escape in that time."
"I can't do it Bro." Dom riposted, his face showing how serious he was. "You are stronger than me brother. You have to survive to fulfil the promise we made when we were kids."
"I can't abandon you like this. Just run away as I said. I'll hold him back long enough for you to escape."
Zack had a multitude of emotions going on inside him now. Above all, he was confused and annoyed. "*Ahem*."
"Can you explain what's going on here?" He stated after gaining their attention, letting honour fall freely towards the ground, as he held it with his right hand..
The both of them looked at him but did not utter a word. They still had that aggressive expression on their faces. Zack sheathed Honour and went up to the duo. Dom and Brady, quickly took up an attacking stance as he approached them.
"Hey, hey." Zack put up his hands defensively. "Calm down guys." He tried his best to ease the situation but to no avail.
Seeing his efforts were unfruitful, he assumed a more serious outlook. "How about this. You tell me what the hell is going on and I'll spare the both of you." He had on an authoritative tone as he laid his hand on his hips.
Zack had a gut feeling the two men in front of him were far from killers. True warriors can understand almost everything about their opponent during a battle. And that is exactly what had happened. From the time he engaged Dom in battle, he knew he might have been mistaken. But there was only a little evidence to substantiate that. And both his opponents did nothing to add to that either. So he passed off his gut feeling as nonsense and continued. When Brady entered the fray, he was so intent on hurting Zack that the ex-soldier began to refute his initial claims. When he thought about it now, they did not seem like bad guys at all and definitely not the type that would prey on hapless villagers. Brady's actions must have been influenced by the damage he inflicted upon Dom.
"Listen guys." He sighed to himself. "I believe there has been a misunderstanding."
The ex-soldier resumed in a repined tone. "I don't think you guys are part of that bandit group and it seems you have mistook me for a killer of sorts."
This sort of calmed down the two brothers, still they did not lower their guards. "What are you trying to pull kid?" The elder of the two questioned.
"We'll save that for later." Zack shot back. "First you tell me about yourselves."
The two brothers looked at each other's faces and then turned to the ex-soldier. Deep inside, a part of them wanted to believe the teenager in front of them. Like he had guessed, both of the hunter siblings too had more or less came to a similar sequitur that there was a misunderstanding.
"We are professional hunters who have graduated from the Atlas academy." The younger one stated with slight doubt lingering in his voice.
"Atlas? Really?" Zack made no effort to hide his jubilation as he cut in. "I'm from Alsius."
As soon as he finished, the two brother's eyes widened in shock as they again looked at each other in disbelief.
"Wait" Dom turned to Zack after regaining his composure. "We got done in by a kid. I mean just a kid."
"Hey, that's rude." Zack raised his fist. "Might I add, I'm part of the invincible IZAG? We are pretty famous, you know."
"Sorry, never heard of you." The both of them replied in unison much to the disappointment of Zack who puffed his cheeks in annoyance.
The former soldier sighed to himself in defeat. "Well whatever."
"Tell me why you are here?" Zack questioned them, tapping his feet to show how edgy he was now. Still, it seemed they were not ready to believe him completely. It was noticeable that they did not regard him as a killer anymore but still had major doubts about his presence there.
"Alright I'll start." The former soldier first class moved closer to them, illating either he himself had to take the initiative or things would remain at a standstill.
"My name is Zack ... Knight. Zack Knight. I am a student of Alsius academy and our team were assigned with a mission to help out the villagers here at Onyx." He concluded.
The ex-soldier folded his arms. "There you guys happy." With that explanation, the looks on the sibling's faces expressed they were ready to trust him much more.
Brady looked at his brother's face who nodded in reply. "Alright, we'll tell you. It looks like we have no other choice here." The older sibling began as both of them sheathed their weapons. "We heard about an organization operating here from one of its lackeys we had a tussle with a few days ago. And since we don't see kids alone in these parts, we assumed you might be one of them. And when you were able to hold you own against us, it just fuelled that suspicion."
"Understandable." Zack began to give himself airs after that. He lifted his chin and put up a regal countenance "Continue please."
Dom and Brady inwardly sweat dropped at his sudden change in attitude. "But we came here mainly for another purpose." The elder one continued. "And we thought of eliminating those scum along the way."
"You should have told me that earlier, seniors" Zack went near them and put is arms around their shoulders, pulling them into a group hug.
"Seniors." Both siblings sweat dropped in unison.
"Kid, you were also to blame. You came at us like you wanted to kill us." Brady cut in.
"No." Zack interrupted. "It was you little brother who started it by calling me a thief." He began to shake the younger hunter sibling violently as to justify his cause. "In any way you look at it, I am innocent."
Both sibling s sighed in defeat. "Since it's all cleared up, just let us go kid." Dom added reassuming his sublime tone as in the beginning.
"Not yet." Zack nodded in the negative. "You didn't tell me the reason you came here."
"Kid. You came here to aid the villagers at Onyx, am I right?" The eldest of the siblings questioned, which earned him a nod in the affirmative from Zack. "That means your real enemy is that organization. You need to take them out."
"First of all don't call them an organization. Just use bandit or scum. We use bandits." The ex-soldier rolled his shoulders. "Secondly, caps and G man are already on it. They are like many times stronger than me. So if you ask me, that problem would be history by now."
Dom and Brady looked at him in disbelief. They did not want to believe it but the confidence that was prevalent in his words made them think otherwise. Another major shock was knowing that this kid's teammates were stronger than him. Even this kid was too strong for his age who took down two pro hunters and still remained standing.
"So" Zack declared to the bewildered duo. "Tell me what the reason you came here for was. If it's something good, I'll maybe lend you a hand."
He then scratched his head and added in a hushed tone. "I feel like… I sort of like, owe you guys for something."
"Listen, we don't…'Dom began but stopped abruptly when he felt his elder brother's hand upon his shoulder. He turned to his brother and nodded at him.
"I'll tell you kid." Brady came up. "I sort of like you now." He smirked at the ex-soldier, while also gaining one from the latter.
"There was once a village here, deep in the forest known as Hage. It is where our parents were born." He began with a bitter tone. "Our parents were the only kids who attended a huntsman academy from the village." He halted to take a short lived breather before proceeding further.
"Kid" He directed at Zack. "You can most probably guess how these villages out here are treated, can't you? And especially when it has more number of faunus population. You could guess that, from them sending a junior academy team for aid."
The ex-soldier shook his head to show he understood. But did not utter any words. Zack knew he was bad at these kinds of situation and so preferred to maintain his silence.
"Our village was more isolated than even Onyx. So, one day it was overrun by grimm, killing most people and displacing the rest." Brady's voice showed how much that still hurt him. "Our parents were away at that time, so they could not do anything to help. But when they heard about what happened, they came back to avenge the villagers."
"There is…" Dom abruptly interrupted the narration. He looked at his elder brother as if asking the other to let him take over. It was not an easy memory for them and Dom did not want his elder brother swallowing the entire thing on his own.
"There is an ss class grimm that lives in this forest the locals call Zoroax." Dom started with a shaky tone. "Well, to be more precise he is regarded as a myth because no one's actually seen him before."
The axe wielding huntsman appeared to be despondent. "The survivors told our parents, it was Zoroax that destroyed the village."
"Look at it Zacky, we were told that the grimm attacks surge up when he comes out of his dwelling. Don't you think it is possible?" He had slowly started to become more confident.
Zack made no effort to reply. Once again he nodded his head to show he was in agreement.
"Our parents tried to hunt him down and left one day." The voice of the younger of the two, turned wistful. "That was the last time we ever saw them."
"I am extremely sorry." Zack blurted out. He was horrible in consoling people. The only thing he knew was to listen to everything people had to say and lending a supporting shoulder. Words of consolation was never his strong suit.
"So, that was the promise we made as kids long ago. That we will destroy that grimm which plagues these forests." He concluded. "You are free to believe us or not. But that was the honest truth"
"I believe you." The ex-soldier retorted. "I don't feel you are lying at all." He flashed them a grin. His reply brought a little smile to the faces of the hunter siblings.
"I may not have cap's inhuman abilities of deduction but I can see if someone's lying or not most of the time." The last three words were spoken in a barely audible tone.
"That aside, let's go hunt that thing down." Zack his fist against his palm. "Our mission was to take out the grimm attacking the village and this seems to be one major issue here."
He put a hand on each of their shoulders. "So, it means I get to complete my mission as well as help you guys keep your promise. It is a win-win situation isn't it?"
"But…" Dom began only to be impeded quickly by Zack. "Besides you guys are in no shape to even fight an ursa. Let's work together on this."
The ex-soldier was telling the truth when he told about it being a good outcome to them both. His mission was to clear out the grimm and he had heard in class about how stronger grimm tend to attract minor ones towards it. So, taking out the ss class would be a solution to the surge in grimm attacks.
Then there were other reasons for extending his aid. For one, he regretted attacking them like that based on a simple misunderstanding. He was also to blame for that though he kept denying that. In midst of his battle with Dom, he had a feeling that he was not a threat like he thought him to be, still he continued with the fight because of the sudden revelation of how his semblance worked. This overcame his doubts and he did not try to clarify what he felt or have a proper talk to sort things out. Secondly, he was indeed moved by their narration and their motivation. It was only fair he helped them after all the damage he did to them. Thirdly, he felt obliged to them for helping him with his semblance problem.
"Well, thanks. I guess." Dom spouted.
"I agree you are stronger than us kid. But this is an ss class we are talking about." Brady was not pleased how lightly the ex-soldier was taking the threat to be. "Are you sure with your decision?" The older of the sibling inwardly made little effort to dissuade him. He wanted to avenge his parents and that motivation had helped him grow stronger through the years. He understood how dangerous it was to confront an ss class like that. But he did want to pass up this opportunity. It was a hint on how desperately he wanted to destroy Zoroax.
"Believe me when I tell you I've beaten stronger monsters." The ex-soldier's demeanour changed into a serious one. "It won't be a problem at all."
"And there is another thing." He cut off the siblings as they prepared to say something. "My… semblance. Ahem."
Zack paused briefly to take a deep breath. "I had no idea on what my semblance did or how it worked at all. After I fought you guys I realized what my semblance did." He went on not bothering to pay any heed to the surprised looks on the faces of the duo.
"It allows me to copy the semblance of others and make it my own. I can, like pull it out any time I want. And also you helped me figure out the hefty procedure I need to follow to do that." He ended that sentence he spoke under a single breath with a grin. "I have to repay you guys for that, don't I?"
It was safe to say the jaws of the listeners were literally on the floor. A long period of silence followed before the eldest of the siblings composed himself to break the silence. "I don't want to say anything else. But that must be the reason my semblance failed to produce any effect on you after a while. It might have been cancelled off."
"I guess so." Zack scratched his chin. "But wait, there's more." He added with a smile a toddler would make when he found out where his parents hid all the chocolates. "I've decided to give them cool names."
"I'll call yours, Aura sensor." He pointed towards Dom. "And" He shifted the position of his finger towards Brady. "I'll call it vector."
"That's all well kid." Brady cleared his throat. "But we are shifting away from the topic at hand."
"Wait." Dom intercepted him. "Vector is way too cool for a name."
"Why is mine called aura sensor. That's so lame." He kept whining and received a smack on his head from his elder brother for that. This reminded Zack of the fact that Dom was a bit weak in the mental department. A fact he had forgotten after a while before.
"Zack. Who are they and why are you goofing around?" Itachi sneaked behind Zack startling all three present. No one even noticed the Uchiha's presence as he approached them. Itachi observed them for a short while before he came into the scene. He noticed that the two others present before Zack had suffered numerous injuries and Zack himself displayed some cuts and bruises. From it he deduced that a battled has been fought between them. Even from that afar, the Uchiha gauged that the siblings were not a threat or people with malicious intent. It wouldn't be a surprise to him if the fighting was all due a misunderstanding.
"Caps." Zack was overjoyed. He caught Itachi off guard and sidled in a hug. "How did it go caps?" He went on as Itachi pushed him away with light embarrassment surfacing on his face.
"It went fine." He replied in his usual expressionless tone. "We have successfully rescued all the children. Gohan is with them at the moment."
"I knew you guys could do it." The ex-soldier patted his team leader on the back.
"So" Zack began again. "What happened to those…?"
"Tell me what is going on here Zack?" Itachi broke him off with a rough tone.
He did not want to delve further into details at the moment. Zack was different from Gohan in that aspect. He could never be ruthless as Itachi but could draw a clear line between those who deserved mercy and those who didn't. Telling Zack, he slaughtered the entire group won't incite ill feelings in him. Still, the Uchiha did not feel like telling him that.
"I have to add that we are here on a highly important mission and this is clearly not the time for you to fool around." The Uchiha's voice was sharp and clear. It also served the purpose to shift the topic of the conversation.
"The things is caps." The ex-soldier gave out a toothy grin. "It's a long story."
A LITTLE WHILE LATER
"I see." Itachi cupped his chin with his left arm. "If we dispatch off the ss class grimm, it might put an end to the constant grimm attacks in the village."
Those words from his caps brought a lot of colour to Zack's face. "So, caps. We are gonna hunt it down, aren't we?" He responded rather excited.
"It seems the beast plausible method to purge the grimm attacks, atleast for a short duration." Itachi replied brightening the moods of the two hunter siblings present.
"Now tell me.' The Uchiha turned to the hunter siblings. "How strong is this Zoroax and what is it officially called?"
"It's an ss class grimm." Brady came up to him. "I don't know about official names. It was like a, sort of a myth among our villagers that it inhabits the old ruins deeper into these icy forest. Only a few have ever laid eyes on it."
"Oh! I see. It is not that difficult to perceive why that threat remained just a myth." Itachi concluded after analysing various aspects of things ever since he came to this place. He had done a study of the location and had read somewhere that this place contained a lot of rumoured ss classes.
"So caps." Zack's voice came through. "What's the plan?"
"I presume, these ruins must be laden with grimm." The Uchiha directed towards the eldest of the hunter siblings while he motioned Zack to wait, making the latter stick out his tongue in displeasure.
"You are right." Brady affirmed Itachi's doubts. "Well, it is not that difficult to figure out, but that is the main reason everyone has stayed away from it."
Itachi was far from convinced. He knew about the time constraints and did not want to misuse it for just a hunch. Narrowing his brows, he questioned again, this time his voice a bit louder and sharper. "Have you ever laid eyes upon this grimm?"
"Honestly, no." Dom was the one who spoke. He sighed slightly to resent his lack of information. "But from all we heard, it resembles a giant reptile."
Itachi was not entirely satisfied, however, the case proved to arouse his interest in it. And like Zak's reasoning, he too had come to the conclusion that taking out an ss class could reduce the constant grimm attacks in the village.
"In that case." He turned again to Zack. "Zack and I will dispatch of it."
"And the both of you." He shifted his attention towards the hunter siblings. "You will act as our backup and guides. Do not do anything foolish. You are in no condition to fight let alone against an ss class." Itachi had such a commanding presence about him that the other three made no effort to question his plan of action.
"I am aware of how strong you are from what your friend here told us." The blonde haired sibling voiced. "But, this is an ss class. It takes more…"
"Caps." Zack cut off the elder hunter sibling from speaking any further. "I forgot to ask you this. But why did you take so much time taking out those thugs?"
The ex-soldier began cracking is knuckles. "Were they that tough?"
"No. Zack." Itachi allayed his doubts. "They were weak except for their leader."
"However." His visage changed to meet the gravity of the encounter he had to experience before. "We had to deal with a dragon that came up." The Uchiha told it with such a calm and collected tone as if it was just an everyday affair for him.
"Damn!" Zack expressed his disappointment. "I also wanted to beat a dragon so bad."
The other two on the scene had their eyes literally popping out of their heads. It was not every day you hear people talk about killing dragons like child's play. Whichever way they looked at it, Itachi was not lying. Any dubious thoughts they harboured about the two Alsius academy students, were almost laid to rest after hearing those words.
"Yo guys." The ex-soldier brought the hunter siblings back to reality. "Let's go"
Brady and Dom snapped out of the sudden mind-out they experienced, and nodded in consent.
The Uchiha who was in front motioned to the two of them to lead the way. By this time, their auras had successfully healed most of their injuries. Still, they were in no condition to fight against a strong opposition, but, it was enough to prevent any constraints in their movements. The two of them began to move towards the direction of the ruins they had heard about. Zack followed them as soon as they began to move.
Itachi hesitated for a moment to think whether he was right in the decision he made. Taking a deep breath he assured himself, it was all going to be okay. And proceeded to follow the others towards the ruins.
He hard to make a hard decision of leaving the protection of the village to Acnologia. After he left Gohan, he had no intention to get back to Zack. He really wanted to head back to the village. But somewhere in between he changed his mind. It was more like half of him told him to leave it to Acno and the other half told him, not to trust him. This was the reason, he arrived so late at Zack's location. Many times, he had to stop in between, contradicting his own decisions. One time he would decide to head towards Onyx and in the next, he would decide against it. This kind of scenario rarely took place within Itachi, who was always sure of the decisions he had to make. Still, it made him think a lot about the dark blue haired comrade of his. There was no denying his loyalty towards them and there was definitely no question about his strength. He was well capable of taking out any grimm regardless of their numbers. But it was his purpose Itachi doubted. The Uchiha had seen and interacted with multiple individuals during his lifetime and he could whole heartedly say that Acnologia would never fight to protect the villagers. Even then, the dragon king had decided to go back. It projected an infinite number of thoughts into his mind. And he came to one conclusion after a long while. He decided to trust his comrade, no… his friend. He himself had instructed Acno to head back to the village if something was amiss and he did exactly that. Thinking back, Acnologia had always followed Itachi's instruction without much questioning. For someone as arrogant and prideful like him to do that, it was broad as daylight, how much of his pride he had to swallow and how much arrogance he had to put aside. He did it all for the sake of the bond he developed with them.
Itachi could not preach morals to him. He himself had taken the lives of the transgressors, while Acnologia had never taken a life since he came to this world. They were able to hold him back from venting out the rage he felt when humans and faunus crossed him. On deeper thought, Itachi realized he had been contravening himself. He always assured himself that he never doubted Acno's loyalty, but, that was exactly what he had been doing all this time. He himself was repudiating his thoughts and his actions. He kept telling himself he trusted Acnologia but his own actions and words showcased the opposite. In this situation, he himself was to be blamed. This cognizance compelled his other half, which kept doubting the dragon slayer, to have full faith in his dark skinned friend. Gohan was right, Acnologia may have no sympathy towards mortals but he would never betray his comrades.
"Go get them Acno." Itachi maundered as he continued to head towards the ruins.
The Dark Blue haired Dragon Slayer's fist passed through the skull of the last remaining Beowulf rendering it lifeless. All around him laid the corpses of the grimm which had spawned from the dragon. It did not take very long for the dragon king to destroy each and every beast that prowled through the village. He dispatched them off with ease. When he had come back to Onyx, the entire vicinity was flooded with the black beasts, but now it was filled with their carcasses.
From the corner of his eye, he saw the village folks assigned to be watchers who stood atop the church bearing witness to his fight, signalling to the ones present inside that it was safe outside.
When he had arrived, a few of the able bodied villagers were fighting the grimm while the rest were huddled inside the church. Acnologia did not wait for any niceties. The dragon king put down the girl he carried on his back near the closest house he saw and went on a rampage against the grimm. At first, the villagers tried to lend him a helping hand. But after a while, they themselves realized how powerless they were, and the only thing they accomplished was dragging him down. Only three type of grimm were present, the same three types that spawned from the Dragon. Beowolves, ursai and creeps.
After the extermination, Acnologia stood at the spot, brushing off the dirt that had gathered on his cloak. Then he looked around the entire landscape to assess the current scenario. He could see the populace leave the church and many celebrate in joy. Due to all the grimm being of lower classes, there were no casualties. Still, there were a few injured, but none of those injuries were fatal.
After a little while, Acnologia found himself surrounded by the entire denizens of Onyx. There was always this aberrant aura about him. This restricted others from approaching him so casually. Everyone who came within its range never failed to experience this intimidation and malaise. Acnologia made no effort to deny that he was highly arrogant and a big narcissist. This entwined with the immense strength that he possessed, must be the source of that aura which made people contemplate twice before approaching him. This also held truth in the case of the gathered civilians. Initially, they had planned to lift him up and celebrate the victory. But as they got near him, this aforementioned aura that he gave out, made them think otherwise.
"Thank you for everything son." The old village chief was the one who finally came up. He had his adopted daughter along with him, whom he carried on his back. His face showed massive joy and his spirits appeared uplifted than when they saw him the first time. "If you hadn't come, God only knows what would have happened."
"Hmphh." The dragon king scoffed in reply. He shot a glance towards the girl and then looked away from the scene.
"Irina, say something." Arlo Brown directed at his daughter, while also having a loving smile on his lips. "You were the one who found him, weren't you?"
The girl's facial expression remained the same. It showed fear and sadness. "Thank you for everything." She mumbled out a few words of gratitude.
"You have to excuse her." The village chief resumed in an apologetic tone. "She twisted her angle when she was running and so…"
Acnologia failed to listen to it any further as he was lost in his own thoughts. It was evident she had lied about her injuries not to showcase him in a bad light. It also explained why she was hesitant to speak with him. He had tried to kill her back then. To her, he would always be a hostile someone, no matter what he accomplished after coming back. The dragon slayer smirked to himself, hiding the turbulent thoughts that originated within him. In that moment back then, he let his human emotions take control over him. He showed weakness, something he had no plans to show again. Again, now in this moment, he did what he always did when such complex thoughts crept up inside him. He just pushed it aside never bothering to contemplate any more on the matter. But still, he wouldn't deny one truth. Somehow, his heart felt much calmer mow.
The tension that the denizens of Onyx felt around him started to dissipate slowly. Many voices could be heard from the gathering praising him for his strength and thanking him for saving their lives. Even a small discussion was started based on his exploits, with people taking sides. But the person who was the subject of all this remained deaf to everything. He did not care for praises or words of gratitude. This day had given him a lot to think about.
"Pay heed villager." Acnologia spoke with authority, his sight locked on to the village chief. This made the entire round of discussions come to an immediate halt. The attention of everyone present shifted towards the dragon king who remained unfazed by everything that happened.
"Until they arrive, I will stay here at this place." His voice was laced with decadence and there was a tinge of a threatening tone seeped in it. "Ingrain this into your minds. I am not to be spoken to, or approached, no matter what, unless it involves something of extreme relevance."
The people around him nodded in acknowledgement which he made no effort to look upon. Wrapping his long cloak around his figure, Acnologia walked towards the church in the centre and took his seat on the stairs leading upto the entrance.
No one made any endeavour to question him on his announcement. Their eyes simply traced his figure as he moved towards the church. This eerie silence prevailed for a short while before it was broken by the bustle of noises as before, discussing about everything they had witnessed earlier. After some more time had passed, the entire atmosphere retook the same joyful nature it had after, Acnologia had killed every last grimm. Many still shot glances to the dragon slayer who sat away from all the happenings. But all of them had come to the conclusion that he was indeed a strange personality and it was in the best interest to heed what instructions were put forth by him. Any fears they had also dispelled after they had witnessed his strength. They put full faith in him that, if another attack ensued he would surely protect them.
"Are these the ruins you mentioned earlier?" Itachi turned towards the hunter siblings who both nodded in the affirmative. He then moved from where he was standing and went upto the front, standing side by side with Zack.
The four of them stood about two hundred metres from the, so called lair of the ss class. Along the way, they had to dispatch off countless grimm whose number increased as they approached the dwelling of the ss class. The ruins resembled a decimated place of worship. The central altar was still intact but the pillars around it had already began to crumble. A large gaping hole which stood out at the right side, gave away the location of Zoroax.
"Zack." The Uchiha motioned towards the ex-soldier to get ready for a big fight. "I need you at your finest to beat it. Judging from how old it is, it is surely bound to be powerful and maybe the strongest enemy we are yet to face."
"I got your back caps." Zack retorted in is usual cheery tone, unsheathing Honour off his back. "Let's get this over with already."
"Do not get overconfident now." Itachi laid a hand on his shoulders requesting him to calm down. The Uchiha then unsheathed his own weapons and shifted his attention towards Dom and Brady who were behind him.
"Lower class grimm from the area seems to be attracted towards its presence." He instructed in a calm and collected tone. "I want the both of you to take care of that problem."
He then turned his glance towards the ruins. "Zack and I will take care of the ss class."
"This is an ss…' Dom began but was immediately halted by his brother who motioned him to heed by Itachi's instructions. He had seen enough to rightfully judge that these two kids were leagues beyond them in skill and experience.
"The both of you have not yet recovered from your needless battle with Zack." The leader of IZAG's voice came through. "To be honest, in your present condition, you will only be a hindrance against the ss class."
The both of the recipients made no effort to reply. They knew what the Uchiha spoke was the truth and there was no denying that fact. In their present condition, they could outclass lower class grimm maybe upto an Ursa major level. Anything beyond that might prove to be fatal.
Itachi and Zack moved closer towards the ruins, leaving Dom and Brady behind to take care of the lower beasts.
"Zack. There is something I want to tell you." The Sharingan user stated as they continued to traverse towards the den of the ss class. "You will be our main offence if it proves to be a really strong enemy." This made Zack stop dead in his tracks and turn towards his captain.
"You okay caps?" The ex-soldier cut in, his voice exuding concern. He had never seen Itachi to be daunted by an enemy. "It's unlike you to say such things." He rested his sword upon his shoulder and put a hand on his hip.
"I had to use the Mangekyo Sharingan earlier in our tussle with the bandits." Itachi raised his guard, his eyes still fixed upon the lair of the ss class, from where slight roars began to originate indicating that the grimm was now aware of their presence and was preparing to attack. "I have already made you aware of the aftereffects of over using it, have I not?"
Zack's face indicated he understood, though he did not voice out his thoughts. If Itachi had to use the mangekyo, he knew what must have happened over there. That put aside his quandaries as to why his caps looked a bit disturbed after returning from the fight. For now, he had no time to mull over it.
"No probs caps. You can count on me." The former soldier assumed his stance and turned towards the ruins, as the roars that had slowly begun to surface, grew much louder.
"Here it comes." The crisp voice of Itachi was heard. "Get ready Zack."
With an ear shattering bellow, the ss class emerged from its den. The entire appearance of the grimm did justice to its label. It resembled a large reptile that stood on its hind legs and was about fifteen feet tall. Its entire body was covered in numerous tiny spikes about a centimetre in length. Along its back, the upper part of its head and throughout its tail, these spikes extended upto about thirty centimetres. Contrary to the other grimm, its eyes glowed a bright red. So bright that it could be mistaken for red flames. The two hands had long claws that extended over a few centimetres in length. The legs were also adorned with claws of equal length. Another striking feature was the strange scent it emitted. This scent was the reason as to why lower class grimm were attracted towards it.
"Really miss G man and Acno in these situations, huh, caps?" A light chuckle escaped the ex-soldier.
Itachi turned towards him and curved his lips on one side, as a reply. "Aim for its soft spots like the neck or the abdomen. And attack only after I give you the signal."
He then proceeded to sheath Shine and Shadow. "It looks like my weapon might prove to be of not much use."
The ss class approached them with surprising pace. Itachi motioned towards Zack to move away from the spot. He himself then charged towards his nemesis. Taking out two shurikens from his pouch, he hurled it at the grimm. It failed to even scratch the monster which continued with its charge. Itachi then continued to lodge kunai knives at it as he closed the gap between them.
When he realized the ss class was fully concentrated on him now, he changed directions and darted towards his right, bringing the ss class along with him. He then leaped onto the branch of a tree and took another set of shurikens and aimed them at its eye.
"Even its eyes are as tough as its scales."
Now, after gauging a bit of his opponent, he leaped towards his right again. The grimm too followed suit. Zack who had moved to the side initially, now found himself on the left of the grimm's current position. Patiently, he waited for Itachi to give him the signal.
The leader of IZAG began running ahead of the grimm taunting it to follow him. Zack ran side by side with the ss class, maintaining a distance between it and him. After Itachi was satisfied by the stride he had managed to create between himself and the beast, he abruptly halted and turned towards the ss class.
The Uchiha flipped through several hand signs and took in a deep breath. "Great Fireball Jutsu."
A massive orb of fire shot out from the mouth of the Uchiha towards the reptilian grimm. It impacted right on its forehead but surprisingly did very little damage. But it did succeed in creating an opening as the grimm took a bit of time to regain itself.
"This might get interesting." Itachi mused to himself as he retreated a bit backwards. Ever since he came to this world, there hasn't been any fight that had got his blood pumping. He was aversed to needless fighting but, he could never deny that he got a bit excited when pitted against strong opponents.
Using the opening Itachi had gifted him, Zack slashed at the grimm from behind, only to immediately pull away after noticing his attack failed to pierce its tough scales.
"Its skin is hard as diamond, caps." The ex-soldier yelled out, to which Itachi nodded in acknowledgement. He then leaped through a tree and moved in near Itachi and prepared for the next wave.
Before the two of them could formulate their next attack, the ss class lunged at them with its claws. What took them both by surprise was its speed. Unlike before, its pace had now doubled. For such a large grimm, it carried incredible pace and agility.
The two dodged the attack and leaped towards the hind side of the grimm. Zoroax quickly turned towards its prey and began to hurl numerous spikes at them. This also came as another jolt. None of them expected the beast to have something like this up its arsenal. It felt as if the ss class had begun to get serious.
The spikes came flying at ridiculous speeds. Itachi kept dodging them and blocked a few using his now unsheathed shine and shadow. Zack used Honour to block each and every one of them as they came towards him.
The sharingan user now had a proper idea of how strong is foe was. If he retorted to the Mangekyo, this match would be over in an instant. He could simply burn it to a crisp with the Ameterasu. But he did not want to risk it. He had made a promise to only use the MS in case they had to face an extremely powerful enemy. If he used it for each and every strong enemy, there came the aftereffect of going blind. In this world, there existed no other Uchiha, as far as he was aware of, so the option of a permanent Mangekyo was non-existent.
Itachi released a volley of shurikens using his left hand and then immediately weaved through another set of hand signs. "Fire Release: Phoenix sage Flower nail Crimson."
He exhaled fire infused chakra into them coating hem with flames. The flame shurikens collided with the ss class creating a cover of smoke.
Zack went in for another strike which the grimm dodged with little effect. He grit his teeth in frustration at his failure to damage the monster. It waded through the smoke towards the ex-soldier, who dodged in at the last moment by leaping into the air. He then came back on its back with his blade only to experience the same disappointment as earlier.
The beast immediately clawed at him, and Zack almost lost his balance as he dodged it mid-air. Before he regained his footing, another volley of spikes were hurled at him while he was still air bound.
Zack tried to deflect it all but it was to no avail. A few grazed his arms, legs and shoulders. Another barely missed his vitals, as he found only enough time to force it to ricochet from the edge of his blade, preventing it from piercing his gut.
"Wind Release: Gale Palm." Itachi clasped his hands together to release a powerful gale with collided with the spikes directed at Zack and voided out their force. It gave Zack a moment of respite which he used to dart over to the side.
Itachi rushed at it and skewered at the beast with his weapon. This was done only for the sole purpose of diverting its attention at which he was successful.
The former soldier moved onto the sides creating more space between himself and the battlefield as he saw Itachi preparing to unleash another massive attack. "Fire Release: Great Fire Annihilation." A massive sea of flames was directed at the ss class, Zoroax. The force generated from the impact forced it a bit backwards and made it loose its balance. Remarkably, this technique which was among the strongest fire techniques in existence failed to cause any major damage to the ss class. It only resulted in generating another opening. Zack utilised this to move towards his captain.
"Caps." He shot out at him. "Stop it with the fire techniques." The tone was of a commanding nature which was highly unlike the ex-soldier.
"Earlier when I attacked it something came to my notice." He resumed in a hurried tone, keeping his guard up. "Its body is hard as a diamond and also generates so much heat as if there is a magma inside. But you have to get close enough to feel it."
He then quickly made an attempt to collect himself. "What I am trying to say is that fire won't have much effect. Try using some water attacks if you have any." A bit of frustration seeped through his voice.
Zack knew Itachi enough, to guess with his eyes closed that the Uchiha would have inferred that fact without him telling so. The reason he did not realize it yet, pointed out to what he deduced early on. Combined with as to why he used the Mangekyo against weak bandits. Surely, he had a little falling out with Gohan and this was weighing on Itachi's mind, rendering him agitated and restless at the moment. This was why the Uchiha experienced trouble in this battle which would have otherwise be settled already. This was putting a limit on the sharingan user's ability to think clearly.
Dom and Brady was watching the matchup with interest as they continued to kill off smaller grimm that were attracted towards Zoroax. Saying, that they were surprised at the happenings would be a massive understatement. It took them all that they had to maintain their sanity and continue warding off the black beasts, after bearing witness to what was transpiring about a few distance further. The influx of grimm towards the area was surprisingly low considering that this area was notorious for its grimm presence. So, it meant that a majority of the hordes were destroyed already, massively scaling down their presence in the area.
Itachi shook his head to show he understood. Somehow, that unforeseen change in tone from Zack stabilized his fortitude. He motioned towards his sword wielding comrade to create some distance between them.
"Alright caps. You're up." Zack moved away from his captain and onto one side as he saw his caps prepare to execute another attack.
The ss class rushed at them with incredible speed. This mixed with its huge weight send light shockwaves through the ground.
"Water Release: Water dragon Bullet Technique." Itachi weaved through a large array of hand signs to create a large amount of water that was shaped into the form of a dragon. It rammed into the grimm with considerable force. Since he used it without a source of water, the impact was not as much as he would have liked. Still, it generated enough to push the ss class quite some metres back and knock it down into the ground.
Proving Zack's inference to be true, a massive quantity of steam was generated after the attack hit its target. Unlike the fire techniques, this attack was successful in inflicting ample damage to the ss class.
The ex-soldier was observing that with full attention. "Caps, find anything?" He called out to the Uchiha.
"Aim for its neck." Itachi retorted hastily, immediately shifting away from his position, taking Zack by surprise.
"What?" Zack blurted out unable to comprehend what Itachi was instructing him to do.
Itachi darted towards Zack's location after he confirmed that the grimm won't be re-launching its attack any time soon. Since its body generated a massive amount of heat, the water based technique must have surely caused major internal damage which they were unable to perceive. It was sustained by the inability of the reptilian ss class to regain its footing, like it had successfully accomplished, instantaneously earlier.
"Its neck Zack." The Uchiha pointed towards the ss class. "There is a portion in its neck not protected by any armour. It is only exposed when it elongates its neck after it suffers damage."
"I understand." The ex-soldier took up his stance. The serious Itachi was back. It looked like the gravity of the situation knocked back the Uchiha to his senses. So, Zack made no effort to question him further. All he had to do was follow his instructions by the word.
"I will hit it one more time with the same technique. When I give you the signal, strike at the lowest portion of its neck with all you got."
Zack nodded in reply and again moved a bit further away onto the side. The ex-soldier began to keenly observe the grimm to locate the exact spot his caps had mentioned. He had to move in for the kill at the right moment.
Itachi jumped onto the branch of a tree. Taking out shurikens from his pouch he hurled them at the grimm to get its attention. The ss class recovered from the impact and let out a deafening bellow that send vibrations through the air.
Spotting the one who had managed to injure it, Zoroax rampaged through the ground aiming for the Uchiha. After he realized he was successful in getting the beast's attention, Itachi got back down and began to weave through large amount of hand signs required for his technique.
"Water Release: Water Dragon Bullet Technique." Another dragon comprised of water crashed against the ss class producing another massive horde of steam as before.
"Zack now." Itachi bellowed out to his teammate.
"Got it caps." Zack used a nearby tree as footing to position himself for the strike. He had gauged where exactly he was tasked to strike at beforehand, knowing that the steam would act as a deterrent to his visibility. Leaping into the air he dived in amidst the steam and slashed with full force at his intended target.
A deafening roar was heard as the decapitated head of the legendary ss class fell onto the floor. Its lifeless body zig sagged for a brief moment before it collapsed onto the front. The ex-soldier pierced through the cut off portion of the head to confirm the elimination of his target. Zack heaved a deep sigh after the conclusion of that ordeal. "We did it caps." He darted towards the Uchiha and demanded a fist bump, which he received after a short while.
"That was an interesting battle." Itachi stated as he brushed off the sweat from his forehead exasperating in relief.
The hunter siblings quickly dispatched off the two beowolves, and moved towards the duo, where Zack was still going on about the fight.
"I can't believe Zoroax is dead." A few tears unknowingly trickled down the cheeks of the elder sibling while his movements appeared to slow down. "After dedicating our entire life for killing the bastard, you kids did it with ease."
His joy knew no bounds and this surface in his voice and his countenance. "I honestly can't believe it. I wanted to kill the bastard myself but somehow this also feels good."
"Thanks a bunch Zack and Itachi. We couldn't have done it without you." Dom embraced the duo in a tight hug much to the annoyance of them both.
"Well, not being a spoilsport here." Zack retuned the gesture. "But you guys practically did nothing." He shot back in a mocking tone earning a chuckle from Itachi and a goofy grin from the culprit.
"I want the both of you to do something for us as a sign of gratitude." Itachi began in a collected tone before any of the others could add anything further into the conversation. "I want the both of you to keep this between us. I am fine with it, if you want to take the credit for slaying the ss class. But do not mention you ever encountered us."
Both siblings assented that they understood. "We are not taking credit for anything. Words can't describe how overjoyed we are now that this bastard is dead." Brady extended his hand towards the Uchiha who accepted the gesture and shook it. "We have a deal Itachi. We won't spill anything to anyone. And also we won't pester you about anything."
The both of them had done something, he and his little brother had dreamt of as kids. Brady was being totally honest when he mentioned words could never express his gratitude. There was so much more he wanted to convey but seeing as how secretive Itachi was and also how disinterested he was at the moment, he decided to keep his mouth shut, while also motioning towards his younger sibling to do the same. Any queries he wanted to clear had to wait until it was the right time. At the moment the best expression of gratitude he could muster up was to maintain his silence until spoken to.
"Maybe we could meet up sometimes and have a little drink… em I mean have some dinner or something." This earned an approving smile from all the three others present. Zack too put out his hands and shook the hands of the siblings.
"And kid." Dom remarked as he put an arm across his shoulder. "I said earlier that I have never heard of you and your team."
He paused for a brief moment to scratch his cheek before resuming with conviction. "I am damn sure we are going to hear a lot more about you guys in the future. You lot are gonna turn up to be legendary hunters. That I am sure off."
The ex-soldier gave an approving grin as he scratched the back of his head, blushing slightly. "You bet we are. Maybe I'll give you my autograph then."
Dom laughed out loud. "I like you kid. I really do."
"Caps, I almost forgot." The ex-soldier turned to the Uchiha with stars in his eyes. "I have something galactically, uber, super cool to tell you."
Itachi's face emblazoned how much detached he was at the moment. He hummed in reply but truth be told he barely heard anything beyond the last line Brady had spoken.
"Both of you." He turned to the hunter siblings with a sharp tone interrupting Zack before he revealed what this uber cool thing was. "I want you to follow us. There were a few kids whom the bandits had kidnapped. They were unconscious when we encountered them and so I have left one of my friends to watch over them. I need you aid in getting them to safety." Itachi was back to being serious again. He had no time to squander celebrating the victory against the ss class. There were more pressing matters at hand that required his attention. Motioning the rest to follow him, he prepared to move towards where Gohan was currently present, leaving the rest gaping at this sudden change in the atmosphere. After a very brief while, they too began to convoy him.
"Yo G man." Zack called out to Gohan as he ran towards him. "Tell me you missed me. Tell me now." He leaped onto him almost strangling Gohan in a hug.
"Yes I missed you Zacky." The demi saiyan forced the ex-soldier's arms off of him with a gentle smile spread across his face.
But, Zack had no intention of ceasing his pestering of the half saiyan. He continued to shake him violently and kept repeating his question. The children who were witnesses to this could only laugh at the antics of the ex-soldier. "Tell me how much you missed me? Tell me."
Itachi and the others came up towards the duo. "We will carry the children back to the village." He started on his instructions occasionally glancing towards the saiyan hybrid and also scanning the area. It seemed Gohan had buried the bodies of all the people he had killed. "Most of the grim in the area have been cleared out. So, that puts aside the need for engaging in combat midway."
The former soldier could smell blood when he entered the vicinity. It came as no surprise to him as he had more or less deduced what might have transpired over here. Still, what Itachi did was uncalled for. He knew Gohan's mind-set and that the demi saiyan could never turn into a killer. Exposing him to the other side of Itachi would really put a dent in their relation. The Uchiha should have brought him along instead of Gohan. He himself was no saint. He would kill if the situation demanded it and if he encountered the bandits, he too would have shown them no mercy. He hated seeing Gohan all depressed like this. Itachi had a habit of telling what he felt directly to people's faces. So, he must have surely said something to make the demi saiyan all depressed like this. Whatever he said might have been the truth, as Itachi was not someone who would lie to a close friend. Still, Zack felt he could have held back. At the moment, his top priority was getting the demi saiyan, all cheerful again.
Zack let go off the saiyan hybrid and walked towards the kids who were present. "Don't worry." He ruffled the hair of some of the kids. "We will take you home soon."
"Thank You big brother." Some answered back while all of them had an omnipresent beam on their faces.
"Itachi. Are you still mad about earlier?" Gohan went upto the Uchiha after hesitating for a moment.
"Not at all." Itachi cut him before he continued further. "It was all my fault Gohan. I sincerely apologize for it." His tone was apologetic and he said those with so much fervour. It was weighing upon his mind since then and he himself was a bit doubtful on whether he should approach Gohan or not. This gesture from the sharingan user took the demi saiyan by surprise while also making him glad inwardly. "I do not wish for it to come in between our friendship."
"He, he. I don't remember ever seeing you like this before." The demi saiyan replied with a sheepish grin and put an arm around his raven haired comrade's shoulder. "Let's put it behind us Itachi. You can buy me dinner and it's all good."
"Are you trying to make me go bankrupt?" The Uchiha shot back gaining a laugh from the other.
Zack was still engaged in small talks with the children, along with the hunter siblings. Though he pretended to remain oblivious, his lips unknowingly curved into a wide grin during the exchange between his two friends.
"Glad they worked things out." He ex-soldier mused happily to himself, though he understood it would take some time before the scars completely healed up.
Acnologia rested his back against the pillar with his both eyes closed. The wait for their return had been too long for his liking and so he decided to keep himself entertained by trying to locate any Ethernano in the area. He had been at it for some time but not a trace was to be found after that last time. It never bothered him for centuries but now, this solitude away from his comrades slightly unsettled him.
"Is this also a part of being human?" He couldn't help snicker at himself. "Ridiculous."
The dragon slayer abruptly opened his eyes when he sensed the village chief approach him with his adopted daughter. He shot at them with a death glare but it failed to intimidate the two of them. Chagrined from the failure of his attempt, he leaned back again and ceased to allude them.
"Sorry to bother you, son." The village chief, Arlo Brown began in a shaky tone. A bit of hesitation seeped through in his voice. Acnologia had missed it, but Arlo was indeed a bit dispirited from the earlier glare though he had put up a brave face.
"But this girl here was adamant in wanting to talk to you." He scratched his head pointing towards his daughter who now stood on the ground holding onto his hand for support. Arlo added nothing more and simply guided Irina and helped her get seated near Acnologia.
"I'll just let her off here." He said meekly to the dragon king. Deep inside, he believed Acnologia would not harm the girls as he was willing to help her when she approached him, though he was unaware of the reality of what had transpired between them earlier.
"And Irina." The village chief patted her head lovingly. "After you have finished telling him, this important matter you wanted to say, just stay here till I come back." He gave her another caring smile and began to move towards the gathering a little further ahead, leaving the two of them alone.
The main character of whom this what about failed to give any sort of response. He continued to glare at them showing how lethargic he was towards them. At the moment, an assemblage of distressing thoughts blurred his mind. So, it was safe to say, he ceased to care.
"I am sorry for behaving like that earlier, Acnologia." The blind girl caught Acnologia's hand by surprise. "Thinking back, I realized you must have been really frustrated fighting all the grimm by yourself and that is why you did those things."
The dragon king forcibly shoved off her hand off of him. He hated being touched like that, still like before, he could not bring himself to harm her.
"I know you must be mad. But I haven't told anyone anything." She continued shaking her head, in a compunctious tone. "It was all my fault. So please forgive me. Sorry…"
"How can you surrender your pride like this?" The dragon slayer cut her with his cold tone. His face turned sardonic as he tilted his head to gaze upon her. "You make me sick human."
"I…' Her eyes were downcast and the words wouldn't escape her.
"The day you bow down to others is the day you really die. It makes you no better than a walking corpse." His voice was arrogant and harsh. It made the listener flinch slightly and look up at the direction of its origin. "Now, leave. I do not need your apologies or your gratitudes. The reasons that I fight for, have not changed in the slightest."
A pregnant pause ensued. Acnologia returned back to his earlier position, leaving the girl dazed and extremely disappointed.
"I understand." Irina broke the silence that prevailed for some time. Tears that escaped her, began to stream down her pale cheeks. "But, what can a weak, blind girl like me do? I will always be a burden to others."
That statement attracted the attention of the dragon king. He smirked at it before breaking out in a fit of audacious laughter.
"So, you realize how weak and pathetic you are." He began when the laughter had died down.
"I will give you a piece of advice human." Acnologia's grimace was scornful and his voice was laden with contempt. This made it harder to guess whether his words were meant to be encouraging or uttered to disparage the listener. "As long as you are weak, you will always be a burden to everyone. So, learn to stand on your own two legs. No matter what, never bow down your head. And your condition is no defence to prevent you from growing stronger."
His words, queerly had an exhilarating effect on the girl nearby him who continued to maintain her silence. Her countenance disported that truth. Acnologia readjusted the long cloak he wore before continuing, his gaze turned away from her and was fixated onto his front. "Strength is not limited to just the body alone. The strength of the mind is what really determines how strong you really are and how strong you can grow up to be."
The black dragon closed his eyes and leaned back onto the pillar, as a familiar feeling hit him. "If you possess the sheer will to face against your enemies, no matter how strong they are, you can attain the power you require to destroy them." He concluded in a nonchalant tone.
The dragon king floundered to detect, that the words that came out last, really moved the human girl besides him. It set her into a process of deep thought. Oblivious to him, she developed a new sense of respect towards the same person who tried to kill her some time ago. She had forgiven him for that was earlier. It was not in her nature to hold a grudge against someone, especially towards the individual who had helped them in their time of need. She had limited experience with people and absolutely no experience with outsiders and all of this was new to her. Still, no one had spoken to her about her weakness with such conviction. Everyone she knew pitied her and tried to help her but never tried to make her feel saddened about her shortcomings. But, this person had said it straight to her face. He had told her about the reality that, she had to learn to stand up on her own two feet, if she wanted to get by in this world. He had told her never to be hindered by her weakness or to use it as an apology to surrender her pride and get stronger. Irina wiped off the tears from her cheeks and looked up at the direction of dragon slayer with awe and admiration. His words were harsh but they were true. It had aided in instilling immense confidence in her. The wide beam that developed on her face was in accordance with this.
"It looks like they are here." Acnologia rose up from where he was seated, paying no heed to the human girl beside him. He failed to notice the transformation his words had adjured on her mind.
"Took them long enough." He moved away from that place, before glancing at the girl for a very brief while.
"It's almost night time. Atleast you could stay the night here." Arlo Brown echoed the sentiments of all the villagers, towards the members of team IZAG plus the hunter siblings. "Please, this is a request. We have already made preparations for dinner." He continued to plead.
'Hey old man. We got no problem staying." Dom remarked as he pressed his shoulders, glancing over to the Alsius prodigies. "Come on Zacky. Ask your friends to stay."
"I agree with them caps. Let's stay the night. We'll leave tomorrow." Zack kick-started his hundredth attempt to force the Uchiha into staying. "Please. Pretty please. Real pretty please."
Itachi rubbed his temples unable to come to a proper decision. Half of him wanted to stay while the other half wanted to leave. He did not want to cause any more trouble to the villagers by forcing them to spend lavishly on hosting them. Other reason was that he was still a bit put off from everything that happened since they came here.
"Please big brother." A few of the children joined in with Zack's effort against the Sharingan user.
"We have nothing else to give you after everything you have done for us." Arlo Brown was adamant not to give in. "Atleast let us treat you to dinner."
"Come on kid." It was now Brady's turn to join in. "It'll be fun. It's a long walk back to the airbase. We'll go back together tomorrow."
"Pretty, pretty, pretty please, caps." Zack's effort at a puppy face invited giggles from a few present. "You're the best captain in the whole world aren't you?"
"Let's stay Itachi." The demi saiyan stated, a small grin making its way across his face. "All of them are looking forward to it." He continued referring to all the villagers plus Zack and the hunter siblings.
"We could stay if you say so." Itachi finally conceded. "I am a bit hungry." He added with a small chuckle.
"Hey." Zack was not pleased. His voice was a bit louder than usual and this got the attention of everyone nearby.
He puffed up his cheeks and pointed his finger at Itachi. "I spent countless hours begging you to stay and you say no."
He turned the direction of his finger towards Gohan. "G-man, tells you a few words and you are like alright let's stay." He laid his hands on his hips. "That's partiality caps. Compete partiality."
"Zack. I never meant it that way." Itachi scratched his cheek, faking an embarrassed grin "You have to und…"
"Tell me what I mean to you Itachi Uchiha." The ex-soldier began to fake crying. "Itachi you cheater. You used me."
The people around them burst out into laughs at seeing his antics. A slight red tinge formed on the Uchiha's face and he started to get annoyed. He began to counter in a bitten down tone. "Zack, you idiot. Atleast think about what nonsense you are spouting out."
"Boo hoo." Zack stuck out his tongue, before he put his hand around Gohan and began to drag him to where dinner was supposed to be served. The hunter siblings followed suit.
A serene feeling overcame the Uchiha as he joined in the people around him laughing at the ex-soldier's antics. In the end it all turned out okay. They were able to extend much needed aid to these people while also were able to strengthen the bonds between them. He informed the villagers about the kids having their auras unlocked, and instructed them to keep the matter hushed for the children's safety.
But, this feeling of blissfulness quickly transmuted into one of slight concern, as a sudden realization occurred to him. "These poor people. They have no idea what they are getting into." He remarked to himself, contemplating about Gohan's infinite eating capacity.
Looking over his shoulder, he noticed Acnologia remained expressionless. "Hey Acno. Let us go join them."
The dragon slayer gave him a stolid look, and began to move towards where the others were present. Itachi waited for Acno to reach up to him, after they had moved a little bit further.
"You did well." The Uchiha gave him an approving glance and wrapped his arms around the dragon slayer's shoulders. "You have my thanks and I apologise if my actions earlier had upset you." His face evinced what he felt inside, which was remorse at doubting him.
"I haven't stooped so low as to have your pity Uchiha." Acnologia shot back in an aggressive tone as he shrugged off Itachi's arms off him. Picking up his pace, he moved on ahead leaving Itachi behind. It helped him mask the blissfulness that had slowly materialized on his visage.
Three days later, on the forests near Onyx.
"Looks like someone beat us to it." A heavily built teenager about 13 years old stated in a tone which was both sarcastic and penitent.
"I assume you must be seriously pissed." He directed towards a long, blonde haired male about his same age.
"Come on. They got what they deserved, didn't they?" He resumed with the tone of his voice changed completely. Now it was an effort to calm down his long haired friend who appeared terrifyingly angry.
"Shut the hell up." The long blonde haired teenager flinged back, as he crashed his fist into the sidewalls of the warehouse where the bandits had kept the children captive. The force generated was enough to rip a large hole through it, vaporizing all the debris that had formed.
"Come on buddy. We..." He began but was immediately interrupted by a grumpy voice that came from one of the other two of his group.
"Give up. It's completely futile." The speaker paused for a brief moment. "You know how he is when children are involved."
"I ain't speaking to you." The long haired teenager shot him down. "I am still angry about the flowers I was growing" He retorted much to the annoyance of the listener, who crossed his arms and stood with his back rested against the wall.
"It was an accident." He began but muted it down knowing how pointless it was going to be.
"I will never forgive someone who hurts children." The blonde haired teenager slashed across the sidewalls with his bare hands, making a clean cut through it. "Every children in the world deserves to be loved and cherished. No one has the right to destroy their childhood." The anger that was swelling up inside him echoed through the place.
"It's not like they escaped or anything buddy." The fourth teenager who had short, unkempt, black coloured hair, who had maintained his silence till now decided to interfere. "If I were to guess. This seems to be the work of professionals. And on that note, a few professional hunters must had done it." A wide smile spread across his face highlighting the well-defined eyebrows and broad nose that adorned his facial features. Still, it did nothing to calm down the blonde teenager.
"How many times do I have to tell you that it is fruitless?" The same grumpy voice came from behind. "I thought you were more intelligent than that, Uchiha."
The Uchiha scratched his head and turned to the speaker. "It doesn't hurt trying, does it?" He knew how pointless it was to calm down his friend when atrocities against children were involved. The guy had some kind of oath that he would make sure that every child was loved. And a personal vendetta against all who committed transgressions against children.
"I made a promise to that little child in Vacuo that I would find whoever snatched away his younger brother." The blonde haired teenager appeared to have pacified a little. "It took us weeks to locate their base and this happens."
"Hey, come on Buddy." The heavily built teenager put his arm around his shoulder. "It looks like these guys died a slow and painful death like they deserved. Let's just move on. We have a lot of world saving to do, don't we?"
His efforts were having a little effect on the other who took deep breaths to ease his temper. "Do you remember that time we attacked that mansion?" Darting his eyes across the room and eyeing each of his comrades, he continued. "We overlooked the fact that the children might be held captive there itself. So, we killed the scum and left trying to search for the kids." He grit his teeth and hissed. "Only one girl was saved while the rest died. If we had been more careful, we could have saved everybody."
"Don't beat yourself over it." The tall teenager continued with his efforts. "We did all we could."
"Listen up guys." The Uchiha interrupted this exchange. He had enough of this squabble and desperately wanted to put an end to it. "We'll head towards Mistral from here and try to dig more into the illegal drug cartel, which operates in pretence of being a sympathizer for faunus rights."
"So soon. How about our initial plan to stay the night at Onyx."
"We'll just have to cancel that." The Uchiha answered. "Let us just kill all the grimm we encounter in this forest and leave for Mistral at the earliest. I don't want Blondie over here getting anymore restless."
"I comply with Shisui's plan." The same grumpy voice was heard. "This is no reason to digress from our objective." He added indirectly referring towards the present situation.
"And Angeal." He turned towards the raven haired, heavily built teenager. "Knock that blonde out and drag him with you."
And that's all from me. Also, I wold be going back and re-updating previous chapters. There won't be much changes just correcting out a few typos and spelling errors.
That said, I hope you enjoyed reading this chapter, as much as I enjoyed writing it.
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We part now only to meet again the next chapter.
Have a great day all you lovely people out there.