Daxter's cries of terror and Jak's wordless panic echoed throughout the otherwise silent nothingness of the swirling purple vortex of energy around them. Neither one knew what was happening or why, all that they did know was that they would feel much happier and much safer once it stopped.
As soon as they had entered the gate, the two had been spiraling as if they were free falling through the energy that they found themselves surrounded by and were doing their best to fight against the pull towards the edges of their new environment. The boys were now separated and doing their best to grab hold of each other, trying to swim through the empty space between them and only managing to increase the distance between them.
Their dread only grew worse as the distance between them increased, Jak's calm facade finally giving way to a look of fear against something he couldn't win against as Daxter tried to do more and more to rejoin his friend as each effort only made things worse.
"JAAAAAAAAK! DO SOMETHING!" He cried as he neared the edge of the vortex.
With the face of Daxter looking back at him, the human Daxter from the last time he put his friend in danger flashing on top of the Ottsely one for a brief moment, Jak quickly made one last effort to save his friend. He unfastened the steel ring around his chest and tied the leather straps that held it up and spun the makeshift lasso in an attempt to get a feel for its weight, just like the yakow farmer had shown them when discussing a more humane way of herding them aside from beating them senseless. Jak's first attempt to reach his partner was nowhere close to him, the distance between them far too long to make the terribly aimed throw matter, but that didn't stop him from trying again and again as the wall of light on either side of them drew nearer. The growing distance between them only made the boy's attempts to reach his friend more frantic and even less likely to connect to him as dread threatened to overcome him. The vortex surrounding Daxter was almost close enough to swallow him whole, a fact that Daxter was all too aware of.
"JAAAAK! I'M SCARED! DON'T LEAVE ME JAK, DON'T LE-" Daxter's desperate pleas to his friend were cut short as his terrified screaming was cut short once he was drawn into the vortex around them.
"DAX!" Jak cried, not in the same way that he did when his patience had finally run out with his smart mouthed friend, but with the same emotion he had been feeling the first time he thought he lost his friend for good on Misty Island.
"Dax?" He called out once more. The wavering of the boy hero's voice made his call less of a question and more of a plea for help, although from who or what he wasn't certain.
Gone was the hero who had saved the world a few months ago. Now, lost in the void and surrounded by the vortex of swirling energy around him, there was only a boy who felt that he was truly alone for the first time in his life. Jak called out to his friend once more, fighting back the urge to cry in case this was all some sort of sick joke that the world decided to play on him.
Silence was the only answer he was met with. Not knowing why his friend was no longer saying anything hurt worse than anything he had ever felt, a pain made even worse knowing that Daxter tried to avoid going into the portal Jak had convinced him to take. It was impossible for him not to think that it was all his fault for taking a risk that even Daxter knew better than to trust wholeheartedly.
With despair threatening to overwhelm him, Jak never noticed that he was little more than a hair's breadth away from the vortex now too. Even if he did, whatever energy he had left to fight back was left in him had vanished along with his friend as a bright purple light enveloped, then overwhelmed his vision. A violent storm of purple assaulted his eyes, lights and darks flowing with as much vigor as the few pools of dark eco he had seen did which only increased the worries that he had toward his friends fate. The formless grasp of the vortex felt like it held him for hours, even days, although without any way to check how much time had passed it hardly mattered. Compared to losing his friend, being caressed by the swirling unknown was nothing to him. Even the appearance of something other than purple that rushed his way he did nothing to stop him from worrying about his friend.
As suddenly as it had swallowed him, the purple vortex spat him out over land the likes of which he had never seen before. Before him was an enormous city the likes of which he had never seen before, filled with more lights than the Blue Eco Sage's hut after an experiment had gone either horribly wrong or horribly right and with more people strolling the city than he thought could live in one place. The stone city below him sat in front of a watery sunset and forests of pink and green to either side of it left him speechless. Then, as suddenly as he had this sight thrown in front of him, his sense of wonder had been replaced by another. The distinct feeling of going down, coupled with a distinct lack of ground underneath his feet and the land around him looking far larger, no, closer than it had a moment earlier erased any other thoughts than how this could be his last if he was careless.
Jak was falling, that much was obvious to him and anyone else who would have bothered to look up and noticed the speck in the sky was a boy instead of some sort of giant, misshapen bird. As Jak was very much flightless and featherless unlike the avian companion he so desperately wished he had with him right now, he forgot about what had only just happened to him and instead started planning how exactly he would avoid looking like a pancake once he reached the ground.
Not wasting any time screaming or going into descriptive detail beyond the thoughts of pancakes and raspberry jelly that danced idly in his head, Jak stuck out his limbs so as to slow down his fall and right himself as he fell. As skydiving was typically a sport reserved for those with suicidal tendencies or Lurker aviators that hadn't bothered to check their balloons for any tears before lifting off, the boy had few references to guide him towards a safe landing aside from his less extreme personal experiences. He fell under the assumption that the wider something was, the slower it fell. While watching a handful of Lurkers that managed to teach their brethren the importance of pre-flight inspections and his own experiments from throwing snowballs and icicles of varying shapes and sizes on Snowy Mountain wasn't the best way to learn things, let alone misjudging the distance of a few heights himself, Samos' lessons had inconveniently left out any tips on how to survive a freefall like the one he found himself in now. Slower was better to Jak, and he would take anything that would improve his current situation.
With the ground now staring back at him from below and the sound of the wind ripping around him becoming steady as he fell, Jak started leaning towards a few canopied streets that he spotted earlier. He was quite familiar with how a good sheet of cloth could act as a springboard or safety cushion under less dire circumstances and, while unsure as to whether or not they would be able to do much for him at his current speed, the thought of landing on something visibly soft triumphed over the idea of landing on a stone roof instead. Sure, a smart man could tell that the sheets likely wouldn't support his fall, but Jak was not a smart man. Nobody who found themselves in as much trouble as he did could ever be called such a thing.
Jak was now able to make out the shapes of people on the streets as he now kept his landing zone firmly below him when something else caught his eye. Near the outskirts of his designated landing pad was a sturdy looking flag pole hanging off the side of a building, one that looked about the right size for him to grab hold on and swing from like he had done so many times before under less dangerous circumstances. Now while Jak did not have a strong grasp of physics like more studious people, he had flung himself onto and off of enough poles when climbing tall objects to understand exactly how good they were at killing momentum and how much of a pain it was to keep moving after spinning around one a few times . Yes, he was very, very familiar with that burning sensation that made him wish his arms would fall off after climbing a few Lurker contraptions that had no other way up than a couple of conveniently placed poles...
With a plan that seemed far better than doing nothing and landing face first from a height that made the dark eco silo of the Citadel seem short in comparison, Jak readied the makeshift lasso that had failed to pull Daxter towards him and held it taut beside him as the ground came closer… closer… closer…
With a motion practiced from more than a few towel fights with his best friend, Jak lashed out with his improvised rope and slung it down over top of the flagpole. The steel ring on the end came back and nearly caught him in the face before he caught it with his free hand and felt a stomach turning lurch as he stopped falling down and began the first of many spins around the flagpole as he held onto the only thing stopping him from being flung off as best he could.
His grip strength proved to be stronger than the leather straps that usually held the sturdy metal ring against his chest. It snapped, causing Jak to be launched towards the cloth canopy he had originally been planning to use before a better, safer option presented itself. The boy was flung with enough force to roll across the canopy before coming to a stop giving him the first moment to catch his breath since leaving the vortex.
Before he could recover and find a safe way down to the streets below, his weight proved to be too much for his makeshift landing pad. Jak fell through it and onto an assortment of ledges and roof decorations that did not feel pleasant but then again, not nearly as bad as the ground would have been. Various flower pots, window sills, and gutters fell victim to the boy as he bounced off of each one of them on his way down to the streets below. Through either acquired talent or his usual dumb luck, Jak managed to stick the landing as debris from his other failed landings rained around him and droves of people carried on their way to either side of him, only taking care to avoid being hit rather than giving the boy that fell from above any notice.
Jak slowly made his way over to a wall that he could lean against and plopped down against it with a sigh now that he was no longer in immediate danger. All of a sudden, Daxter's fear of heights seemed incredibly reasonable to Jak as he promised to never tease his friend after surviving the highest fall he had ever experienced. After giving himself a moment to recollect himself, he checked his surroundings for any immediate dangers now that he realized he had no idea where he was at. The world could be a dangerous place and he had several experiences that had taught him that valuable lesson. Jak wasn't worried though, for as dangerous as this place might be he was confident that he was tougher than anything it could throw at him.
The first and most obvious thing that he noticed was that nobody nearby bothered to pay any attention to him, as if the people of this strange new village were accustomed to ridiculous sights such as a young man falling from the sky without any warning. Since their general uninterest in him meant he wouldn't need to explain what happened just now, he decided to take the only good thing to come out of this in stride and walked away before someone who would be interested did start asking questions. Jak didn't know anything about precursor technology other than "it just works", so even if he did intend to travel here that wouldn't have helped in any case. Even he knew that people just don't fall out of the sky after using a precursor gate and felt trying to explain that on top of his current predicament would only lead to something more troublesome. The absurdity of everything else he had done to reach this point wouldn't help his explanation either, as even he and Daxter wouldn't be able to…
Remembering how his friend had only just been separated a few moments before his freefall, Jak frantically looked around through the crowds of people for his best friend with no luck. Deciding that he would hear or even smell the mouthy orange Ottsel before he would see him, as most people tended to do, Jak started to run through through the streets in search of his best friend. He didn't set out in any clear direction, instead rushing as fast as he could to increase his chances of running across his best friend.
The fear of losing his friend, either through separation or more unspeakable means, slowly worked its way into his mind with every minute he spent searching for some sign of Daxter. Daylight gave way to moonlight, the droves of people moving through the streets became easier to manage, and the whole city took on a more sinister look to the boy as he continued his aimless search. Dusk soon gave into night with Jak coming no closer to finding his friend despite spending hours searching for him, a thought that tore away at his very spirit. Daxter had warned him about going through that portal, he told him that it was his fault for… for whatever… for Daxter. Whatever problems Daxter was running into, whatever mischief he was creating now that Jak would not be able to drag him out of this time was all Jak's fault. It was all his fault for what had happened, he thought, much like despair that he was feeling for his friend was well deserved.
What a hero he was. The living legend of Sandover Village, Slayer of Lurkers, Savior of the Continent, Hero of All Time, now powerless and afraid at being lost in a strange place after his best friend was separated from him. For the first time in a long while Jak broke down and started to cry at the thought of something terrible happening to his closest friend as the emotions he had been holding back finally overwhelmed him. Sinking down to knees and letting all of his worries come pouring out his eyes, Jak wept for his friend, wherever he was and whatever was happening to him.
With his head buried between his legs and the sound of his sobs drowning out the noise of the world around him, it was little surprise that he never noticed the red haired girl that came to see what was wrong.
"Hey." She said, placing a small hand on Jak's shoulder.
The boy managed to hold back his tears, manly tears he told himself, to see who had approached him. She was cute, in all meaning of the words if Jak were in any position to judge her. Short black and red hair topped her head and did little to hide the big silvery eyes that stared back at him from atop a similarly colored outfit. She was about his height and small, not unlike Keira and much more so in *ahem* some areas and seemed to have a more childish appearance to her. She seemed very kind too, checking on him to see if he was okay, someone who had left their friend to an uncertain fate once again because of his own recklessness.
"Hey, are you okay?" She asked with a worried smile, the girl trying her best to comfort him despite not knowing what happened but willing to do what she believed any huntress (in training) would do in her place. Not that Jak knew what that was, of course.
"Uhh… so let me get this straight. You're a rat th-"
"Ottsel, buddy! And don't you forget it! I am NOT some stupid rat that's lost his owner and I am TWICE the man that you ever will be."
"Right, right. You're an 'Ottsel'... whatever that is… that was once a human, fell into some sort of 'eco' stuff, went on an adventure to save the world, managed to fall out of the sky, and fell onto the beach were you ran up to me and thought I was your own…uhh, friend. Did I get it right this time?"
"Yeah, you finally did. Yeesh, and here I thought those big hairy apes were supposed to be slow…"
"Uhm… that still doesn't explain why you are riding on my shoulder though."
"Oh yeah, that. I figured I could find my sidekick better if I was standing on top of something tall instead of checking people's feet for the right pair of pants to climb up. I do not want a repeat of the Mayor's re-election party two months ago. His daughters still won't let me get close enough to apologize to them."
"Okay, I can see why that would be helpful but…"
"But what, blondie?"
"Why am I helping you again?"
"Because before I got turned into a fun sized package, I was drowning in women at one point and I can definitely help you get a few for yourself like I did with the friend we are searching for."
"But didn't you say that the Mayor's daughters…"
"Like I said, drowning in women before I was only two feet tall and fuzzy."
"I don't know about this..."
"Ughh, fine. Let me put in words that you can understand, blondie. Women love small, fluffy animals that can do tricks. In case you are so much of a lost cause that even a few pointers from me can't find you somebody to love, I'll pretend to be a dopey little animal to get the girls to swarm all over me, and you by association, so long as you stay close to me. So before you ask any more questions, let me simplify this for you; you help me find my friend and I'll help you find a date, blondie. Happy?"
"I'm ready to start looking when you are, and my name's not 'blondie' by the way, it's…"
"So… can you not talk, or are you shy, or...?" Ruby asked the boy who had remained completely silent from when she found him until they both walked into the Dust store he was crying outside of. The owner had never seen the boy before or knew who he was, but thankfully had let them go inside so they could at least get off of the street for now. She barely even knew his name despite trying to talk to him for a half hour now. Thankfully his shoulder pad had the name, or at least she hoped it was his name, 'Jak' according to the name etched onto his shoulder pad so at least she had something to work with.
The only thing she had been able to learn that wasn't his name was that he didn't talk much… or maybe at all, she couldn't tell. The noncommittal shrugs and questioning glances he had answered her tirade of questions with hadn't accomplished much of anything, aside from increasing the mystery surrounding him. There was something there that she just couldn't help but be drawn towards inside of him, like a moth to a light or herself to a plate of freshly baked cookies.
Her sister would tease her relentlessly if she ever admitted to it, but even if the boy hadn't been crying like when she found him she still would have found herself wanting to talk to him. From the muscles that showed from underneath his blue tunic to the rustic looking clothes he wore and the cute look of his face, she would have found it hard to not find a reason to speak to the boy that looked to be around her age. The way he carried himself after calming down was more like a huntsman than a lost child or even herself which only made him seem even stranger. Her curiosity about his potential weapons, ones that someone as odd as him would use, would have convinced her to speak up instantly as no self respecting weapons aficionado like herself could resist the urge to look at someone else's guns.
Thoughts as to what weapons he used, and even the chance that he used none at all like some of the heroes in her favorite comic books danced in her mind until she shooed them off to focus the task at hand. Said task was staring at her dumbfoundedly after she wiped her fantasies away with her hands… hands which were now covering Jak's mouth. She quickly squeaked out an apology once she realized that she might have been a little mean since it looked like she was trying to shush the quiet boy in front of her.
"Sorry." Was the only thing she could say after realizing how hands on she had been with a complete stranger.
*No worries.* Is what she thought he was saying, that small motion of dismissal and warm smile being one of his many wordless ways of communicating as she had recently found out.
"So… what brings you to Vale then? Come to see someone off to Beacon before school starts next week?" She asked, leaping at the first thing she could think of to distract herself from what just happened.
Since that was the same reason why she was here now, it made sense that someone who looked more lost than she was when first arriving in Vale a few days ago would be here to do the same thing. He looked like he might have an older sibling going to Beacon, and being the right age to be in another combat school like herself it made sense that he too would be saying his final farewells to an attendee there or inspecting the school in case he decided to enroll there later.
The raised eyebrow she received said that not only was her guess wrong, but he also had no idea what she was talking about. Whether it was what Beacon, Vale, or maybe even a school was judging by his raggedy look was something she dared not to ask in order to spare both of them some embarrassment.
"You don't know, huh? Well… where did you come from?" She asked, abandoning one line of questioning for another with some difficulties.
The boy gave her a guilty look as he ran one hand through his mostly yellow hair before pointing up towards the roof. Ruby knew that she had not been doing a good job at hiding her confusion as Jak quickly shrugged after appraising the look she gave him afterwards.
'Well, this is just getting stranger by the moment.' She thought if the boy was generally trying to say he had fallen from the sky. There was no way that could have happened, not without someone else noticing it long before her. Still it was amazing how a simple comic book run had turned into a chance to be a real huntress (in training) and further devolved into a one-sided game of charades that had been surprisingly easy until, given what she was working with, she didn't think tonight could have gotten any stranger.
Okay… maybe it could have if her uncle was around and his semblance decided to be extra nasty, but aside from that things could only get better from here.
The ringing of the bell that announced another customer's arrival pierced through Ruby's thoughts, bringing her back to the world around her. Now, she could finally focus on the fact that the boy had suddenly pulled her out of the aisle they were in and behind a shelf so that they were no longer facing the entrance. She was about to ask what he was doing before he raised a finger in front of his mouth and shushed her before peering back towards the door as Ruby's huntress instincts screamed that something was happening. Not wanting to be left out of the action or willing to let the unarmed boy endanger himself for her sake when she should be the one protecting him, she too leaned out from behind the shelves to look at what was going on. Jak quickly forced her back so that only their heads were sticking out to observe what had grabbed his attention, an annoying gesture but one clearly made out of concern for her.
At the other end of the store, out where anyone could see in through the windows from outside, were at least a dozen goons that looked like they walked straight out of yet another one of the comic books Ruby loved to read back home. Black suits and bowler hats with red ties, sunglasses, and gloves being the only splashes of color they wore covered up anything that could be used to identify them from one another. The very sight of them just screamed "villain" and that was before she noticed the various clubs, knives, and other stereotypical weapons thugs used were in their hands.
These fancy looking men all stood behind a lone figure who Ruby could only assume to be their boss, a man with a white suit and similar black bowler hat covering the worst haircut she had ever seen on top of enough makeup and eyeliner to be better than any mask that money could buy making his way to the front of the pack. The leader held up the owner at the point of his cane as he reached the counter, the weapon clearly being more than just a fancy stick facing in the old man's direction if she knew her weapons, which she most certainly did.
"P-p-please, just take my Lien and leave!" The old man pleaded as the thugs behind their leader moved to the other side of the shelves with tubes and sacks towards where the Dust was being held.
She tried to lean out further to see exactly what they were taking but was pulled back by Jak once again, being met by a stern look and a simple shake of his head that said exactly how bad of an idea exposing herself would be. If she was an ordinary person that looked like him, she wouldn't have blamed him for it. She did still play along with the 'girl being protected by the big strong man' thing that Jak seemed to be going for, if only to find out what the robbers were up to.
"Relax, we're not after the money." The white suited robber said, his smooth voice whimsical tone suggesting that this was indeed the case.
The store owner seemed to think so too, and slowly began to relax before realizing that there was still a weapon pointed at him that was far too close for comfort.
"Really?" He asked, his fear still present but the hope of making it out unharmed managing to keep him from doing anything he wouldn't live long enough to regret.
"Indeed, the Dust we're after is far more valuable than anything you have in your register, gramps." The suave robber said, snapping his fingers at which his remaining henchmen began to move towards the dust with enough cases and vacuums to take away everything the old man had in stock.
"Hey Jak, that's a lot of dust these guys are stealing. I think I can stop them if I-" Ruby had only started to quietly reveal the first part of her ten step master plan that she definitely wasn't going to make up as she went through with it when she found herself falling towards the ground in front of her after trying to lean out once again. A firm pair of hands on her shoulder stopped her from falling right in front of a few of the robbers and ruining the element of surprise that she was planning to take advantage of. Unfortunately, this did nothing to stop the entire row of shelves he pulled her into from toppling over in a symphony of bangs, crashes, and tinkling of shattered glass and other odds and ends.
"Oh, it sounds like we have an audience." The white suited robber said, letting the words hang in the air as no one dared to make a move. The leader's once calm demeanor faded soon after as he yelled, "What do you think I am paying you people for? DEAL WITH THEM!" at the complete lack of initiative, or perhaps general competence, of his henchmen.
Ruby retracted herself from Jak's grip and readied herself to start using her precious Crescent Rose to its full potential before realizing how tight of an area she would be fighting in. The boy also prepared for a fight, having taken a stance that resembled less of a stance an experienced fighter would take and something more theatrical like the main character in the kung fu movies Yang usually watched would do, complete with bouncing up and down as he stepped in place. As much as she would have liked to tell him to leave this to her, she decided it would be better to try and keep the boy from hurting himself rather than going on the offensive with her weapon in a compact format. She had hopes that he would be a good fighter, but the way he seemed to be treating this like a game and the smile that matched the relaxed look on his face did not inspire her with confidence.
"Well, well, well. What do we have here? Sorry, but date night's over for you two. Get out of here before we have to do something we all regret." Called one of the two thugs that had strolled up so that they were brandishing their weapons only a few feet away from them. Ruby was about to deny any claims of the two being on a date, but thought better of it now that she had thought of a new plan of attack.
The two thugs looked tough enough but seemed far too relaxed to be expecting a fight from her, Jak, or even the store owner. In other words, this the perfect opportunity to take them both down without a fight. All she needed to do was to walk up to them looking innocent, take out her earbuds and pretend to have not known what was going on to distract them long enough to draw her weapon, watch the boy dart out in front of her, and finally…
Wait, that last thing wasn't part of the plan. That was happening right in front of her!
Ruby tried to say something as the thugs raised the machetes they held in front of them and prepared for the boy to run onto them but she found the words dying in her throat the moment the first one thrust out his weapon to stab him. Instead of seeing the boy getting hurt or his aura taking the worst of the hit for him, she instead found herself looking almost as amazed as the thug who's outstretched arm had been grabbed and spun around like he weighed nothing at all. The look on the other thug's face was one of complete disbelief as his friend was thrown into him and the two of them sailed past the rest of their companions and rolled to a stop right next to their boss.
'I knew it! I knew he was another huntsman like me!' Ruby thought to herself as relief washed over her now that she had no reason to worry about Jak's safety if he could do something like that effortlessly.
Their leader cradled his head in his hands and seemed to mutter something to himself like a parent who had been thoroughly disappointed by their children for the hundredth time today before motioning for a few of the other thugs to deal with the nuisances threatening their heist. Rather than backing down from the prospect of fighting five men on his own, Jak cracked his knuckles and laughed while continuing to step in place as if he was having fun right now. It was something that Ruby found herself agreeing with as she ran to join him.
"Hey, save some for me!" She shouted at him as she sped past him, earning a smirk from Jak who charged in after her.
Their unofficial competition had started with Jak firmly in the lead with the two earlier takedowns. Not to be outdone by the boy, Ruby came out towards the group of thugs swinging her beloved weapon in its compact form. No one had been expecting the weapon she swung like a toy to have so much weight behind it, with the lone thug who found himself getting slapped out through the window behind him being the most surprised. Whatever reservations these criminals held towards these children disappeared after seeing their cohorts being thrown around like ragdolls.
"Alright, just put down your weapons and… hands? Yeah, put down your hands and we'll go easy on you kids." Growled the more diplomatic thug. His attempt at diplomacy went as well as one could expect to a kid who could take two grown men down with his bare hands, much like his confidence had after seeing there was another kid that was armed beside him.
Ruby and Jak looked to each other, the shock of the remaining half of the thugs attempting to negotiate clear on their faces. Despite not knowing each other for more than a few minutes, a single look was all it took to communicate what they had planned next.
Jak took to the left while Ruby rushed to the right in a flurry of rose petals, the three thugs in between them raised their weapons in preparation for whatever they were planning while the ones on the outside prepared to put a stop to them. Ruby struck first, appearing out of the mass of petals and slamming Crescent Rose into the face of the unfortunate thug she had chosen as her target. He was knocked over into the empty Dust canisters nearby and shattered them on impact and lay still as his aura flickered off once the falling glass settled around him.
Jak had to put a little more effort into his next takedown as his opponent wielded a pair of nunchucks that he somehow managed to not hit himself with despite his wild attempts to hit anything with them. Jak narrowly dodged each attempt on purpose, encouraging the thug to put more effort into his swings. The windup of one attack left a jolt going through his entire arm as he felt his weapon hit something hard and fly out of his hands as the pained grunt and curses of one of his cohorts told him exactly how bad the next few seconds of his life would be even if he won the fight. Not wasting time to allow his opponent to recover from his immediate regret, Jak wrapped his arm around the thug's which had been raised in a desperate attempt to avoid a crippling blow before delivering a firm knee to his crotch that dropped the man instantly. The teary eyed thug dropped to his knees only to be finished off an elbow to the side of his head before Jak let go of the unconscious man and almost felt bad at having to use such a dirty tactic despite the priceless look on the man's face once his knee landed. Almost, because the ever present smirk on his face only grew now that there were only three thugs standing between them and their leader.
Whatever confidence the remaining thugs had was shattered after seeing two of them defeated so easily. The three men weren't unnerved enough to turn tail and run but it was enough to make the slight trembling of their weapons noticeable as they eyed the kids on either side of them. Ruby took advantage of their uncertainty and once again rose warped close enough to strike out at the first one in front of her who went down with a single overhead strike directly to the face. The man crumpled down on the floor like a doll that had its strings cut as the other two prepared to strike her. A thug that had enough presence of mind to extend his club into a sword tried to slash at her while she adjusted her grip on her weapon. His swing went right over the little red reaper who quickly dodged underneath it and swept out the man's legs from underneath him with her own. The other thug who was already wincing in preparation for the pain that was soon to follow his partner was about to raise his knife to stab her before he felt someone quickly turn him around. Jak smiled as he looked at the confused look on the thug in front of him before quickly dropping down into a crouch and springing back up into an uppercut that sent the man flying through the window behind him. This left Ruby enough time to hold Crescent Rose like a baseball bat and knock her own target right behind Jak's.
The cigar in the white robber's mouth dropped down onto the floor, unsurprising given how far his jaw dropped after watching five of the best thugs that money could buy go down in under ten seconds.
"You were worth every sent, truly, you were." He said as he looked down at the unconscious thugs around him before returning his attention to the meddling kids who had foiled his plans for tonight. "Well, I would love to stay and chat, but I am afraid that this is where we part ways."
With a quick flick of his wrist, he brought the cane held in his right hand up so the tip was pointed towards the ground halfway between him and the kids. The end of the cane flipped open to reveal that there was more to that weapon than what they could see at first as both Ruby and Jak's instincts told them to move out of the way. Both of them dived behind the counter, finding themselves landing on top of the elderly store owner who had taken cover as soon as the fighting had started. A deafening boom followed not long after their landing from an explosion strong enough to tear apart the ground between where the shot landed and where they had been standing moments earlier. A quick glance showed that two of the thugs had been caught in the blast, their auras flickering faintly before disappearing from the shelves that they had been blown into.
Neither one of them paid them any mind however, as they were focused on the man who endangered his own subordinates to make his escape instead. Despite looking unprepared to run like his life depended on it, he held one hand to his hat in a desperate attempt to keep it atop his questionable haircut and the other keeping his cane close to his chest so it didn't catch on anything he ran surprisingly fast. The foiled thief made every step count as he made a mad dash for the ladder on the other side of the street that was visible through the broken window.
The two kids shared a look of determination as they nodded and leapt over the counter and followed behind him. Ruby hesitated for a moment and looked to see if the shopkeeper needed any help, but as he looked unharmed despite clearly being distressed at the state of his shop she decided that maybe it wasn't a good idea to give him something else to worry about. Besides, she had just gotten even with Jak and she was not about to lose their little competition now that they were tied. Ruby sprinted up to Jak as he was busy dodging a wild slash from another thug's sword out in the open, the two fighting in a wide open space that she could finally use her baby to its fullest potential.
The clattering of metal and whirring of gears as Crescent Rose extended into its scythe configuration seemed to catch Jak's attention, as he twitched his ears at the unusual noise behind him and turned around to see what had made it. The boy looked absolutely shocked to see her holding a weapon bigger and heavier than her, but without the same doubt that others typically had when they thought she couldn't use it properly if his panicked backroll was any indication. Using the extra room that Jak gave her, she put all of the energy she could gather behind a single swing of her scythe, connecting the blunt end of the weapon to the oblivious thug's back. She didn't need to see his aura shatter as his cry of pain was more than enough to tell her that he would not be getting back up from that hit any time soon.
The last few thugs all decided to fight together rather than being disposed of one by one like the others before them. A barrage of gunfire was sent her way and Ruby made no attempt to deflect the Dust infused rounds, instead choosing to point her weapon behind her and fire it. The force of the shot flung her towards the trio that were firing at her and the last thing they saw was the little red reaper bringing Crescent Rose around for yet another wild swing.
Her airborne assault was stopped when she planted the head of her scythe into the ground. Instead of being greeted by the two remaining thugs as she readied her weapon, she instead saw Jak tapping the last thug with his foot as he tried to pull his head free from the road while the other was sprawled out on ground beside him unconscious. He seemed to have heard the unspoken question that her confused look gave him and answered it with one of his usual noncommittal shrugs before kicking the man right between the legs. Even Ruby found herself wincing at the sound of the thug's muffled screams as he collapsed cradling his family jewels making noises that sounded worse than some of the wails Grimm could make. Jak on the other hand was struggling to keep himself from laughing and doing a terrible job as even she could hear his surprisingly boyish laughter from a few feet away.
"Are you kidding me? Junior told me that you were the best muscle that money could buy!" Came an exasperated voice from the man that had just watched the curbstomp battle from a top a nearby roof.
'Oh right… I almost forgot about him.' Ruby thought as the white suited robber made his presence known once again. Jak was making his way up the ladder when she went to check on him, blissfully unaware of how close their little match was now that there was someone new to fight. A brief bit of doubt surfaced about pursuing this criminal flashed across Ruby's mind until the huntress inside of her threw them aside and she hopped on top of Crescent Rose with the head of her scythe pointed down as she fired off a volley of shots that propelled her into the air. It only took her a second to scale the building and land in front of the criminal who had just sabotaged his own escape. He looked quite calm despite having his only escape route cut off by the girl that took down more than half of his men, more thugs than Jak, she added. Even so he did not look concerned at all, quite the opposite in fact as he lowered his hat as if he had planned out his own failure until this very moment.
"Persistent little brat, aren't you? I thought kids like you and the country bumpkin took dates in candy stores and coffee shops with your friends, not in the middle of a robbery against THE one and only criminal mastermind of Vale, Roman Torchwick." The thief said, his once friendly and aloof personality from earlier slowly turning into a villainous monologue.
"Roman who? I've never heard of- wait, WHAT!? We are NOT dating! I just found him crying on the side of the road and was trying to help him when you showed up!" Ruby shouted, focusing on the accusation of her and Jak dating more than anything else to the surprise of the thief in front of her.
"Are you seriously telling me that the robbery I have been planning for weeks was thwarted by a couple of random kids?" He shouted at her, before the disgusted sounds and faces that she was making from his earlier assumption took all the life out of his voice. "Oh brothers, you are. She is going to kill me for this… but not before she kills you first little red."
Suddenly, a bullhead popped into existence behind Torchwick as if it had been hiding in plain sight the whole time. In her surprise at seeing such a large vehicle appear, and somewhat because of her still being disgusted at the thought of dating someone she had only just met, she found herself frozen in place as Torchwick leapt into the vehicle behind him and into the shadows the vehicle provided. While the sudden appearance of the large and surprisingly stealthy flying tank was quite the unexpected enemy, it was not nearly enough to stop her from firing on it as it made its getaway. A practiced hand swapped the gravity Dust she had loaded earlier out with custom made explosive Dust rounds that rocked the ship with every shot that connected.
Now, Ruby did have some reservations about doing this as these particular Dust rounds had cost her a hefty part of her allowance from the past month and were supposed to never be used in public, but her dad always told her that exceptions had to be made sometimes and stopping a dangerous criminal seemed like a perfect exception to her. After emptying the only magazine of this particular Dust type that she had, the bullhead looked to be no worse for wear beyond a few sections of chipped pain and some exposed wiring underneath the bay door. Jak had used this time to climb the ladder and finally caught up to her and watched the bullhead fly away with an odd look on his face that Ruby ignored in favor of searching through her bandolier for which type of Dust to use next.
It was because of this that she never noticed the large, red uncut Dust crystal that had been thrown onto the roof until it rolled right underneath her feet.
"So long little red! It's a shame we couldn't have been on the same side." Torchwick called out from the now opened loading bay door as he pointed his cane towards her once again and pulled the trigger.
Ruby could only stop and watch as the small orange projectile arced through the air towards her. A brief moment of terror overcame her as she realized that a Dust crystal of that size and an the explosion being sent her way would be enough to end any dreams that she had of being a huntress of in the future, if not having a future in general if she didn't find a way to get rid of them both fast. Much to her horror, she didn't have to. Jak had pushed her out of the way before she could think of what to do, like as if he was trying to be the hero until the very end. Just like her mom was.
"NOOO!" She yelled, but it was too late for him to move after having taken her place with the crystal at his… wait.
Where there had once been a crystal, there was only Jak who was covered in a thick red aura that seemed to radiate power itself. Not heat, not strength, not anything like that. Just raw, unrefined, and unrestrained POWER was what appeared to be dancing all across his body as a red aura danced around him.
Lacking the concern that she was now feeling, Jak punched the ground causing a large section of the concrete roof to poke upwards with a single strike. This jagged chunk of concrete was at least a few inches thick and looked like it might be the perfect shield for when the explosive that Torchwick fired hit the roof. Jak seemed to think so too, as he wasted no time in tucking his head between his legs and wrapping his arms on top of his neck to the point that Ruby found herself wondering if he had done this before. Before she could continue that thought, a deafening boom pierced through the night and a plume of smoke and rocky shrapnel from the explosion blocked Ruby's vision and she shielded herself from as much of the rubble as she could. Silence followed the sudden explosion before Torchwick's devilish laughter pierced through the night after assuming he had come out victorious with his pursuers no longer in sight.
His victory was cut short when Ruby saw a faint red glow appear from the center of the cloud of debris and a section of the roof was launched towards the self appointed criminal mastermind. A yelp of pain and crumbling of rock soon followed as Jak walked out of the wake of the explosion, the red aura around him still glowing a deep red hue but looked far thinner than it had before. She had so many questions that she wanted to ask, almost all of them focused on either the boy's apparent semblance and why he didn't tell her that he was a huntsman earlier but before she said any of that there was one thing she had to say.
"You're okay!" She shouted. While she did mean for this to be one of her original questions, seeing the boy look more than ready for a fight left her words as more of a statement of fact than a question.
The only response she earned from him was a quick smile and a wink that made her heart jump for a moment before they both focused on more important matters. The bullhead had continued to keep its bay door open and Torchwick was nowhere in sight. The rock that he had been hit with was somewhat visible in the shadows, but that hardly stood out compared to the pale woman in black as a glowing orange pattern that leered out at them from her revealing dress seemed to challenge them. Even if her attire and confident stance hadn't, the balls of fire that floated in both of her hands removed any doubt about what she planned to do next.
With a magazine of Ice Dust rounds freshly loaded into Crescent Rose and Jak eyeing large pieces of rubble that had been scattered across the roof, the duo had come to yet another unspoken agreement as to what they would do next. The first few fireballs thrown at them were intercepted by Ruby who shot down the few that would have put Jak and herself in danger while also taking time to aim at the bullhead's propeller's whenever she had a moment to do so. When she found herself out of ammo, Jak began hurling a barrage of debris from the explosion from earlier which put the woman attacking them on the defensive as she was forced to focus on defending herself and the getaway vehicle from being knocked down from a lucky hit from the rubble that was thrown all while Ruby reloaded and allowed Jak to resupply in turn.
Their fight continued like this with the two kids taking turns pressuring the thieves getaway vehicle as the shattered moon watched them from above. Unfortunately, despite how it looked like the fight was going in their favor fate decided otherwise. Ruby heard her beloved Crescent Rose jam right after firing the first shot of her fourth volley while Jak did not even bother looking for more things to throw as both the rubble and the aura around him had faded out of sight. The woman that had been at that point defending from their attacks looked smug for a moment before raising her hands as her whole body glowed a fiery orange and… nothing happened.
Ruby couldn't believe it, for how closely these thieves had stuck to the classical script of "a first encounter" with the heroes; things had been surprisingly simple until this point. From the villains accidentally stumbling upon them after meeting each other for the first time, and they definitely were not dating, to defeating all of their mooks with ease, and even one of them 'sacrificing' themselves as the villains carried out their last plan to get rid of them before escaping, tonight had played out far too similarly to a comic book for any of it to feel real. These thieves were either incredibly dumb or planning something far greater than a Dust heist if they could get this badly beaten by a coupl-pair, definitely a pair and not a couple, of wandering trainees who just happened to be in the right place at the wrong time. Something about this was way too easy to be real life, and life seemed to agree with Ruby as all the floor underneath her and Jak started to glow the same color as the woman's aura and began to get warmer.
"Oh no." She said as she desperately tried to remember if aura did or didn't stop people from being burned alive as Jak seemed wore a more solemn expression that looked like he knew the answer wasn't the good one.
The two began running to the other end of the roof without a second thought. They didn't know exactly what was happening underneath them, but the woman's fireballs from earlier and the steadily rising light and heat coming from beneath them left little to the imagination. They were prepared for the worst to happen when both the light and the heat seemed to reach their peak and… nothing happened.
Or rather, they were doing nothing as things happened around them. With the same care than Ruby had shown the thugs from earlier, she and Jak were covered in purple aura and flung to an adjacent roof where they rolled to a halt just in time to see a torrent of fire erupt from the rooftop they had been standing on moments earlier. After learning their lesson from moments earlier when they believed their surprise attack worked, the thieves made their bullhead vanish as quickly as it had appeared leaving no trace of the fight that had only ended a few seconds ago. The giant vehicle appeared to shatter into glass with hardly any traces left behind of the two criminals that escaped inside of it. Of course, there was still the smoldering roof in front of them and various thugs sprawled out in the streets below but those hardly compared to the massive bullhead that disappeared with the most noticeable two members of the attempted robbery.
Neither Ruby nor Jak had time to feel thankful for the sudden rescue, as a woman wearing a white blouse, black skirt, stockings, and boots as well as a glare that seemed to have Jak frozen in fear. Standing before them was one of the most famous huntresses in Vale and the personal assistant to the headmaster of Beacon Academy, Glynda Goodwitch. Ruby could hardly contain her excitement and was about to shower her with as many questions she could about what it was being a professional huntress, what life at Beacon was like, how many things Ruby could have autographed, and much more before Jak brought her back to reality. With a simple hand on her shoulder and a grim look on his face he shook his head in an attempt to silence her, she humphed away from him and looked towards the genuine huntress in front of her instead. The first of many questions that she had for the experienced huntress were cut off by the stern words the woman spoke to them.
"You kids have A LOT of explaining to do tonight." Glynda said as the sound of police sirens began to fill the air and Ruby suddenly realized why Jak wasn't looking as joyful as he had been earlier and adopted the same uneasy grin that Jak and all teenagers did when they knew they needed a better explanation for what happened than what actually happened.
Tonight was going to be a long, long night for the both of them.
As always, thank you all for making it this far.
This one took a bit longer than I expected, twice as long than what I was originally planning since I didn't want to do things halfway. I'd say that was a fitting punishment for failing to have any concrete plan to build up the cast and future plot events beyond "winging it". Still, in the end it got done alongside other things I plan to release.
I'd like to say more here… but I honestly can't think of anything. Should anyone ever want to ask a question of me in the comments if you have them or if there is any design choice/ future plans for this series I would like to discuss then expect it to be found in these author's bits here in the future at the end of each chapter. I would love to be able to ask any questions around a few areas that I might not have made clear and remedy them should my editing process not catch them and also be able to talk to you all in general. I won't be answering any plot relevant questions however or things that I have left intentionally vague. "Show, don't tell" is the story telling method that I am trying to adhere to, so if I am failing horribly at it or doing a half decent job any feedback you have for me would be appreciated to know how it is working for you all.
What I will say about my plans at the moment is that I will not be replicating scenes from the show perfectly with a few lines inserted here and there for certain characters as some other stories that I enjoy on this site tend to do. Certain… 'events' have unfolded in Remnant that have changed certain details already and will continue to do so. That… and just regurgitating the same few lines everyone else does feels cheap on my part and I would rather not do that, so instead using a bulk quantity of lines drawn from the show I will be using a quality of my own now that things have already changed. This is one reason why I will be only updating this twice a week, as I would like to put in the effort I feel is would add a certain flare and life to the story.
I'm also going to add this here now instead of later since I was editing chapters at the time I saw this question, but to answer your question razmire... the elements I do include from the later games will be sparse. While including weapons from Jak II and III would be a nice touch... aside from a few standouts like the beam reflexor from Jak III almost any weapon from either game looks like it could be either be done better by Dust or a semblance if not outright replicated. Jak will eventually have a weapon, but I am still finalizing one that would both fit Jak and reasonably exist in Remnant. I'm keeping anything more under wraps until later.
That's all I have to say for now. Hope you all stay for the long journey ahead!