“It’s unlike Kaito to let someone sneak up on him like that.”
“He must be losing his spark.”
“Was that a fucking pun?”
Reima was slowly drawn back into consciousness by the sound of chattering voices coming from nearby. Her head pounded painfully and as she regained her senses she realized she was locked in some kind of rusted old prison cell. Only a small, barred window towards the front allowed for light and Reima squinted as she peered outside. She couldn’t see much, but it appeared that the cell she was in was somehow disconnected from a larger structure and thrown outside.
From what she could see, the cell was located along what she guessed was once the town’s main street, though years of wear and tear had withered away the pavement and replaced it with mostly sand. The street was lined with rows of old and disheveled buildings with an old western style of architecture that was now falling apart. Aside from the occasional cactus or tumbleweed, there was hardly any vegetation, though Reima thought she saw a few green trees peeking out over the rooftops, which to her seemed rather out of place, but she didn’t pay much mind to. Occasionally, Reima would see someone wandering through the streets, though they kept their distance even as they cast curious stares toward the cell.
“Yeah, that’s right! Keep walking and mind your business, ya nosy fucks! You got some balls to be lookin’ my way like that! Don’t make me tear ‘em off and stuff ‘em down your eye sockets!” the loud harsh voice from before shouted. Though she couldn’t see him, Reima could tell he was close by, most likely guarding the cell.
“Stop yelling, Omen,” a deep yet soft male voice scolded.
“StOp YeLlInG, oMeN… dOn’T kIlL tHe TrEsPaSsEr, OmEn… PuT sOmE cLoThEs On, OmEn!” the first voice said in a mocking tone. “Fuck every single one of you!” he snarled.
“Omen!” The next voice Reima heard sounded farther away and belonged to a woman. “You claim to have abandoned the barbaric ways of your old life, yet your lust for blood is as strong as ever. If you can’t keep it together, get out of the sun before you fry your brain any further! Joven can take over, if he has to!”
Reima felt something slam against the roof of the cell and she realized someone must have been sitting on top of it. As she listened to him stand up to shout an insult back at the woman who had just spoken, there was a loud snap as one of the bars on the window broke off under the weight and the whole cell shook as the person on top of it lost their balance in surprise.
“Dammit, Kyo! I thought you said this thing was sturdy!” the voice Reima assumed was Omen snarled.
“Yeah, sturdy as anything else around this dump,” said a new male voice. “Doesn’t make it any more reliable.”
“You dumbass! Check it again! If this bitch escapes, it’s your fault!”
“Right…” Reima heard the woman speak again. “I’ll just leave you to it then. Remember, we’re not deciding anything until Kaito gets up, so don’t do anything stupid, you three! Joven’s in charge until then.”
“Haha! Sucks to suck!”
“You shut up and keep checking out this damn tetanus box!”
“Alright, alright, damn…”
Just then, a slender young man with reddish brown hair stepped into view and locked eyes with Reima, startling them both.
“Oh…” he said, blinking at Reima with a rather uninterested expression.
“What is it now, Kyo?”
“Nothing,” he said, shrugging his shoulders. “Your prisoner is awake, Omen…”
Suddenly, a shirtless figure twice the size of the first man leaped down from the top of Reima’s cell and knocked the smaller boy to the ground with a yelp. When he turned around, Reima immediately recognized him as the man who had attacked her before.
“You!” he snarled, pressing his face against the bars and baring his teeth at her like a wild animal. “Start talking before I eat your damn face off!” he bellowed.
Though not usually one to back away from confrontation, Reima automatically retreated from the snapping and snarling mess of a human before her. Instinct told her that this was the face of pure insanity, and to get away from it. Even so, she attempted to reason with him.
“I don’t wanna fight, okay? Let’s not do this!” she said as calmly as she could just as someone placed a hand on the madman’s shoulder and gently pushed him to the side.
“Easy, Omen,” said the soft male voice who had scolded Omen earlier. A tall, handsome fellow with dark hair and kind eyes stepped into view, smiling cheerfully. “Falon put me in charge, didn’t she? I think that means I get to talk to the pretty lady.” He smiled mischievously at Reima, his dark blue eyes peering into her silver ones. “Your eyes are quite intriguing. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen eyes of that color before. Just where did you come from, little lady?” he asked curiously.
Reima eyed the man suspiciously, not sure what to make of this oddly friendly stranger. He was definitely suspicious, but she decided if she was going to have a shot at talking her way out of this, it was going to be through this guy.
“I’m a soldier in Gederah’s Vanguard,” she answered truthfully. “My name is Reima.”
The tall man seemed intrigued by this, while Omen and the younger looking male called Kyo appeared less than thrilled by her answer.
“You stupid or something?” Kyo asked scrunching his face up like he’d just tasted something bitter.
“All the more reason for me to rip her insides out!” Omen declared.
“Out of the way, Joven! That girl’s nothing but trouble!” Kyo agreed.
“Both of you, back off!” the man identified as Joven ordered, the friendly smile disappearing from his face as he turned around to face the two aggressors. “Falon said to wait for Kaito, so that’s what we’re going to do!” he said.
“Sucking up to Falon ain’t gonna get you laid, jackass!” Kyo spat.
“Oh, hush!” Joven shot back before turning back to Reima. “You said earlier that you weren’t here to fight, correct? Yet you claim to be a soldier. Fighting is what you’re paid to do, is it not?” he asked.
“My only enemies are the ghouls,” Reima said firmly. “We soldiers fight for all of humanity, not just Gederah. Attacking another person, regardless of their affiliation, goes against everything the Vanguard stands for.”
There was a long pause as Joven considered her words. Even Kyo seemed to calm down slightly as he thought about what she was saying. Omen, however, was obviously furious.
“What a load of bullshit!” he roared, shoving past the other two and ramming himself into the box prison, knocking it to the ground with a loud crash as the rusted door snapped off the hinges. Reima was quick to take advantage of the situation and scrambled out of the opening before Omen’s unnaturally pointed teeth snapped down on the air where her arm had just been.
“Yo, Omen!” Kyo barked, stepping forward to restrain his friend. To his surprise, Joven raised his arm to stop him from interfering. “The hell are you doing?” he asked.
“Let them fight,” Joven told him.
“What? But you just said-…”
“I’m interested in how this will turn out,” Joven interrupted, all traces of his friendly exterior now gone. Now he just looked conniving as the men watched Reima manage to slip out from under Omen and regain her footing on the hot desert sand.
“Hey! Get your damn dog on a leash!” Reima shouted at Joven, but he merely smirked in response.
“Reima, was it? You must have a very naïve manner of thinking. Do you really believe that the Vanguard has humanity’s best interest at heart?” he asked.
“What are you-…?” Reima didn’t have time to finish before Omen launched himself at her again. This time, he reached out and wrapped a large hand around Reima’s throat, knocking her onto her back as he towered over her with his torso between her legs and all his weight resting on the hand around her throat.
“I spent fourteen years as a roamer, you know…” Joven continued, seeming completely unbothered by the quickly escalating situation before him. “Growing up, I heard all kinds of stories about the legendary safe haven you call home… I wanted that.” His voice was almost bitter as he spoke. “Like so many others, I left my family and friends behind to cast my chances at finding a life of security in this hellhole of a world. I thought I’d finally found it when I eventually ran into one of your little squads, but…”
His words barely registered with Reima as she struggled to breathe, but her training as a soldier allowed her to remain calm despite the situation. Reaching across her chest, she hooked Omen’s wrist with her hand and reached up to chop at the side of his neck with her other hand. Using her foot to push off his pelvis, she swung her free leg into the side of his ribs and pivoted perpendicularly. She quickly brought her leg around his head and managed to pin him beneath the backs of her knees while retaining the grip on the arm still attached to her throat. With Omen’s arm now trapped against her body, Reima summoned as much strength as she could and thrust her hips upward, effectively snapping his elbow and forcing him to loosen his hold on her neck just as Joven shouted out the furious conclusion to his story: “I was rejected!”
Reima rolled away from Omen and watched him closely as he stood up and glared at her while his arm dangled awkwardly at his side, and to her shock, he smiled.
“Ha! Neat trick!” he laughed crazily. “Was that supposed to hurt or something?”
Reima was shocked when Omen immediately flew at her throat again. She had heard the bone in his arm snap, yet he’d hardly even reacted!
Did… Did he not even feel that?!
Reima was at a loss for what to do as Omen came at her with his teeth again. She was already conflicted about fighting another person, but to have her opponent be someone who didn’t feel pain only confused her even more. She continued to dodge, using her small size to her advantage in order to avoid his attacks.
“Joven, this is getting out of hand…” Kyo said uneasily.
“It’s fine,” Joven replied. “She figured out she can’t hurt him and Omen can’t keep up with her movements.”
After chasing Reima around the immediate area for a few more minutes, Omen eventually began showing signs of fatigue and was huffing audibly. Reima also was on the verge of collapsing due to being exhausted from the start.
I can’t believe this little flea managed to break my damn arm! Omen thought.
His durability is insane but it looks like he lacks lungpower, Reima realized. Still, after everything that’s happened I’m not much better. I can’t just keep dodging him like this or he’ll run me into the ground! I need to think of something. What would Elias… No… What would Mel do?
As Reima was thinking this, she once again noticed the tall green trees that seemed weirdly out of place in their environment. She realized he’d probably be more interested in the fact that something so luscious was blooming without water, and that’s when it hit her. That wasn’t possible. Trees like that could only grow if there was a significant source of water nearby.
Reima was jolted out of her thoughts when she heard Omen’s ragged breathing rushing towards her again, and she leaped out of his way just in time to see him bite down onto a metal bar that had broken off her prison cell. She watched in pure horror as the bar was crushed between Omen’s teeth with a sickening crunch. Realizing that could have been her own limbs in place of the bar, she shuddered. If she took a bite like that, her bones would be crushed. She knew she had to end this, and quick.
Omen spit out the distorted scrap of metal and made for another bite attack at Reima when she suddenly picked up some sand off the ground and threw it in his face, blinding him. Caught off guard, Omen stopped in his tracks to wipe the sand from his eyes, giving Reima a chance to sprint in the direction of the trees.
“You little shit! I’ll fucking end you!” Omen roared as he barreled after Reima in a crazed frenzy.
“Great. Now look what you did,” Kyo said as he and Joven stood back and watched. “Unleashed hell upon the whole damn town, that’s what.”
“Have you ever noticed the way he runs?” Joven asked.
“He does not run like a normal person. He tramples. Like a boar.”
“You’re insane. You’re an absolute lunatic. I don’t know why I keep hanging out with you two.”
“Joven! Kyo!” It was the voice of Falon, the woman who had been with them before. She stood on the balcony of an old sheriff’s office nearby looking down at the mess of a scene before her. “What the hell happened out here? Where’s Omen?” she asked.
“He chased the trespasser out toward the oasis,” Joven explained.
“After them!” Falon ordered, flying down the stairs and running in the direction Omen and Reima had disappeared with Kyo and Joven close behind. None of them noticed the lone figure peering out from behind the sheriff’s office… a silent spectator who had witnessed the entire thing from the shadows.
Meanwhile, Omen had chased Reima through the town to an area where a small grove contained a pool of fresh water hidden amongst the surrounding flora. He stood wheezing and scanning the area.
“That damn flea…” he growled. “Where’d she run off to?” He walked along the water’s edge and chuckled softly to himself. “Some soldier… Just goes to show how weak the Vanguard really is,” he muttered.
“Think again, you genetic freak!”
Omen looked up just in time to see Reima leap down from one of the trees and barrel into him with enough force to send the both of them into the water. Omen resurfaced a moment later, coughing and sputtering, and Reima used the chance do dive down and grab hold of his ankles. Hooking his leg over her shoulder, she dragged him back below the surface just as Falon and the others emerged from the trees. With his arm broken and legs locked in Reima’s grip, Omen was doomed. Water shot up his nose as Reima swam as hard as she could deeper and deeper into the pool.
Above the surface, Falon emerged into the clearing with Joven and Kyo. They looked around the area frantically, trying to locate their friend’s whereabouts.
“Dammit… Where are they?” Falon asked.
“If that girl took one of Omen’s bites, she’s done for,” Kyo said.
“Guys!” Joven called out and pointed to the water where a steady stream of bubbles was emerging from the depths. The trio watched in anticipation for another agonizing minute before the bubbles finally ceased.
“What the hell?”
Just then, Reima broke through the surface with a gasp. Omen’s soaked and limp form was draped over her shoulders, his once spiked hair now plastered to his face.
“Omen!” Kyo exclaimed.
“Pull them out of there!” Falon ordered.
Joven assisted Kyo in hauling the two of them out of the water before crowding around Omen’s motionless form lying on the ground. He let out small, struggling gasps and his body trembled as he struggled to breathe.
“Omen! Hey! Stay with me man!” Joven said anxiously.
“Are you okay? Say something!” Kyo added.