Warning: This work has been rated 18+ for language, violence, and mature content.
So, here's chapter two. I've really checked this time for grammatical mistakes, like reeeaaally checked (I even used a proofreading page just to fin any other mistakes I may have miss). So I'm positive there shouldn't be any, but in case even after all of this a couple managed to slip pass me, I'd like to apology in advance.
The chapter explains a bit about what happened to the human race and shows a bit more of how the world either progressed or regressed. It is a flashback chapter, but not as far as decades ago (refering to the cataclysm), but just forty minutes back in time... just enough to presence the attack on the High School.
Anyway, here it is! I hope you all like it. And please do review! :3
40 minutes before
Well, there he was, as close to the window as his seat allowed him to be. His gaze lost into infinitely gray sky, trying his best to ignore the surrounding classroom. What a beautiful day it had been: rainy, relaxing; though many of his dear classmates did not share his thoughts. Most of them simply considered their afternoon a spoiled time; after all, there was not much you could do in this kind of climate without soiling your garments.
"Leonidas, something out the window you'd like to share?" asked his teacher with a little smile as he gathered his stuff; the class had just ended and the students were simply waiting for the bell to ring. You could say he was their appointed educator since his job went from teaching math to ethical behavior, history —after the cataclysm that is—, among others. It was rather entertaining to speak with him after school, but during class, he was as dull as it could get; and it was always the same little routine.
"Nothing in particular, no." he answered, as always, wondering the reason they thought them that amount of maths. In most cases, they simply needed to count up to ten, and that'd allow most of aristocrats to posses a high sit in a political chamber, rule their corresponding territories or aid to the process. Leo, of course, thought this topic to be boring; he had already covered up the remaining years of formal education, and more. He had been, after all, already educated; Gramps D made sure of that, being he himself who taught him every single day —without exception, if needed to add.
Although he didn't care about the particular lesson, he still had to keep up his grades. It was his way of respecting Gramps D's care; he had educated him, to send him afterward to actually get the title he deserved, and that's way more than a "commoner", from an unknown offspring, could even dare to ask.
He, of course, was actually just Isara and Edward's escort. Nevertheless, to have the opportunity of getting a formal degree was quite rare for someone like him. He was not particularly fond of having that kind of debt towards someone, but he knew there was no getting out of it. Leonidas would repay what he owed, as much as he could of it.
Once again, rain's smooth, soothing sound eased his boredom. Times like this even gave him hope, and the only thing he dared to wish for was to not fail his duty. Even so, he was, once again distressed by the dullness of relative peace. He knew he shared his friend's, Chester, opinion from time to time; this one was one of such kind —life was, in a general aspect, way too boring most of the time.
A lighting fell loudly, hitting some unknown area near the forest that surrounded the institute.
"Don't worry, it's just one little lighting, nothing more" said the professor, as he noticed the class' nervousness. It was unbelievable! People afraid of such things, even as safe as they were inside the building. He hated his job; lecturing these kids was no fun, knowledge was given to them but never put in practice nor tested in any way since it was nothing more than a simple formality. He cursed himself every day for his lack of backbone to go against his father's wishes —orders. Nevertheless he did his job as he was told, and handled the slight anger as he could. He even went as far as to attempt conversation with the most recent student; somehow it was soothing to actually be answered in any way by his supposed pupils, and not just be ignored as it often happened— the few times that said students actually showed up for class, of course.
The bell rang, and everyone rushed to the entrance. Leo, of course, waited until the door was clear and went out, realizing that by that time William, the teacher, had not only stepped out, but probably had left the building as well. He probably was in the teacher's lobby.
The hallway was full of teens either goofing around, or simply talking —few were walking, as it was supposed to be. As such, he continued the designed path, avoiding the smallest graze as he walked at an even pace, without slowing down for a second. If he was to do these kind of things, he might as well use it as a bit of training. Such a pain.
Speaking of training, his' had been quite the bore over these last few months. As he was currently living in the High Schools dorm, he wasn't able of doing his habitual training routines. He hadn't trained that much, he remembered, except when he sparred along with Chester; yet, the guy was on his own level already. It wasn't about ability, strength, not even stamina, the guy was simply unpredictable. As he had never been actually trained under a discipline, as Leo had—though his was a mix of arts to best suit his needs and challenges—, he could switch his attack pattern, even change his rhythm— normally it would be fairly difficult to follow! But not for Leo. Even so, in the mere 2 months they had had for practice, he could already handle himself in hand-to-hand combat; although it clearly was not particularly his forte. Chester had more than potential, he had talent.
He glanced at the clock that hanged from one of the walls, he still had about half an hour to amuse himself with another little chat with Mr. William -obviously not about math. He was actually a kind professor, and one that new a little about almost anything; like that, it was quite amusing to speak with him. He wondered which topic they'd discuss this time since the possible topics were vast and it was a chance to find out about the outside of the school's happenings, since teachers were privileged with far more information than one would let a regular student know. At school, that is.
Yes, it had been a while. But, it wasn't like they had chosen to move up to this particular High School. The most recent attack over their last institute had rushed them towards other one.-as it was the actual name these attempts of universities avoided to use; in fact, they simply educated the soon to rule nobility, only that, but this one in particular had insisted in using 'High School' as a reference, so he used it, just to avoid further trouble.
That was the second time they had been forced to run way that year, and it was getting trickier and trickier every single time.
It was a shame; actually, the sight hurt. Humankind, once so powerful, so mighty, had been overcome in a matter of years -or so he'd been informed. Gramps D. got seriously deep in his stories, and Leo happened to enjoy every single one of them.
Damn Faes, he cursed. Humankind acting all high and mighty probably did not consider them a threat, at the time. Quickly they overcame the previous 'owners' of the planet, the so foolish rulers. Evolving rapidly in each and every way of life existing already -mammals, sea creatures, even birds and insects-, shape-shifting and improving; until most of them 'picked' up a particular form, its structure with slight variations, and settled. What a shame, right? In a matter of decades, humanity had fallen from so high; from more than a couple billion, now, barely reaching a single one. With barely 76 colonies left, some are major cities, others simply groups of people that, by one way or the other came together-but this attempts of nomad tribes did not count. Like he pointed out: a shame.
'Anyway', he pushed the word, stopping his thoughts. Right now he should be worrying about the topic to discuss, nothing more. Perhaps they'd pick up some of the Faes species known to man. Since many still lurked in the shadows of those few years that followed the end of the world as humanity knew it, every year some form of these was either discovered for the first time or thought to be a new branch of some other, with different shape and new abilities; one more danger to add to the list, right? But the wide array of these was astonishing, and rather interesting. It's funny how many people predicted that humans would destroy themselves by waging war against each other, but never seemed to predict that maybe there was something far more dangerous than a little fire power, simply waiting to show up and ruin reality.
Ironically enough, said creatures happened to be a rather nice topic to chat about so they'd probably continue along those lines; maybe finish up the Faes that roamed in the sea, as that was the last bit of juicy information that he had managed to get from Mr. William.
Sadly, the moment he began to look forward to the meeting, the noise pierced through his ears; it was an alarm like no other, constantly interrupting the little silence that managed to brake through that annoying noise. He recognized it right away: Faes warning; they had probably broken through the school security, meaning they had destroyed the outer, and first gate. Gosh, 3 months, that was a record.
It was not the time for his amazingly comical anecdotes, he remembered.
Right now, he needed to find Is and Edward; and for that he'd need some help, someone to watch his back on the mean time. Sadly, he had to admit, he had learned to work and move as a group—a pair at the very least. Although against his own will, it was a fact that, by now, as used to behaving like that as he was, it would prove very inefficient to do it alone. He could not look at every direction, nor keep watch of every corner; it didn't matter how good he was, it just wouldn't cut it.
Scanning the hallway he found a bunch of kids fighting over 'who crashed at whom' while walking through the hallway, some girls speaking about the shoes they were going to get and a gloomy looking guy who seemed to be extremely deep in his, probably not really interesting, thoughts; not one of them alarmed in the slightest, perhaps annoyed by the strikingly irritating sound, but not a single one of them seemed to care beyond that. It was very likely that they didn't recognize the alert, probably had not even heard it before; like that they continued, as usual —ignoring casually the damned warning that seemed to pierce through everyone with the minimal hearing capabilities that the average teenager should have..
That was when he saw him. Chester! Somehow the sight of his brown hair and his plain look seemed rather reassuring at the moment. They got along. They trusted each others hide. Yes, he was his best possible option.
As was expected, he, like his friend, was searching for some cannon fodder; but at the sight of Leo, he thought better. Yes! Chester thought. If he knew him, as he thought he did, his friend would have a plan, an escape route and, more importantly, knew how to go through it. Was 'bingo' appropriate around these circumstances, or should he simply enjoy of his apparent good luck in silence?
Without much more than a simple mutual glance, Leo sprinted, covering quickly what was left of that hallway, knowing he'd have to travel through the simple ground route if he was to meet Edward.
He didn't even need to turn around to check Chess' presence, he knew he was there, following him; he could sense him—it was a nice feeling.
Normally, they'd head towards the girl's building, but, this time, Edward was the issue. He sucked at reading maps, his sense of orientation was almost worse than Leo's; although the last one had prepared himself and had researched in person every possible route, familiarized himself with the huge High School and did it over and over again until he no longer got lost — it did take quite a while for him to do that. Ed had not followed him, stubborn as always; he'd simply declare 'I know you'll come get me', or something along those lines and left him to his own devices. Isara could take care of herself -plus she didn't get lost as easily as her brother or friend; but Ed could get into serious trouble if left alone. Right now, he was the priority; Isara would have to understand.
They had to leave as quickly as they could, before everything got worse. He knew it'll get like that, it always did; but, so far, they had always barely escaped. Who'd know what fate had in store for them at the fifth escape they'd attempt over an institute in middle of an attack?
They arrived at ground level quickly enough; they had rushed as they went down all the three floors. Carefully they came out of the building, pushing slowly the thick wooden door, trying not to alarm any possible threats. Then, he heard them, the series of growls and unmistakable snorts that remained imprinted in his subconscious since an early age; pairs of hollow eyes glowed from behind the fall of water. The very red eyes that he knew so dearly and had fought against enough times to recognize easily enough.
Hounds, damn. By the amount of glaring eyes, the group was quite numerous; dozens of those creatures stood side by side in a terrifying sight
As usual the normal hounds came first, the damn beast were about his own height - with almost 7 feet, they were big. An alpha was near, it had to be; otherwise there wouldn't be that amount of Hounds together—probably some herds had merged by an encounter between alphas. They couldn't coexist with their so-very-ugly kin—meaning, an alpha plus another alpha was a sure way to make a mess, for they'd fight till the last man standing.... the last beast standing?
Being the bizarre mutations between wild dogs and wolfs that they were, it somehow made them look rather stunning and out of a fantasy text; now, if they added those long snouts and the dots -of few centimeters, gross, and irregular shapes- of falling flesh, one could guess the reason for which they had been named Hellhounds. As one of the first “steady” successful assimilation Faes took form, they were not complete; basically, this kind of unstable forms were actually their main weakness: eating flesh to process it and turn it into their own - if they didn't, they simply died. Their nervous system was not able of bearing the amount of pain the sore-wounds could cause. On the opposite side of common thought, such "failures" were actually one of the major threats if hunting in groups -as they usually did; the bastards reproduced like bunnies; big and badass looking bunnies, thing that seriously did not help the current situation.
If that group had been able of activating the alarm, they had to have wrecked the outer gate. It was only a matter of time before they had completely trespassed the Institute's security and came into the actual place to feast upon everything they laid their eyes upon. He attempted to imagine the possible state in which the city was. It was probably awful. The city was about a couple of miles away from the school, down an small dusty path, surrounded by the dense forest of the mountain and a cliff to one side; that was the reason the Faes had taken so long.
Not only did it allow the view from the limits of the institute to be that amazing, but it proved to be a natural obstacle for these kind of events. The issue was, if the Faes were right there, it meant the whole city was in ruins, for the main gate lead to the main rode to the city, the biggest one. Now, it's couple of thousands were most likely dead or running for their lives as the Hounds attention seemed to have drifted in another direction
Moving as quickly as they could between the shadows, slowly turning by the building's frame, Leonidas, along with his friend, managed to avoid the Hellhounds that had just showed up in front of the inner gate, making a quite impressive entrance by loudly destroying it—on another occasion, they may have complimented such feat, but it was not the time. Everything was in silence, the only noise you could hear was of the one insistingly coming from the growling beasts and their, not very careful, steps.
Yes, they could do it without having to run into those things; they could move quietly and get out of their sight before it was no longer possible and head towards the gym.
That was when the three guards came rushing in, heading at full speed towards the hungry creatures. Angry glares disguised their greedy reasons to fight. If they managed to remove the threat, they'd be able to reclaim a large reward. It was as simple and crude as that; it was the only reason they'd go out of their way to save all of those noble brats...sure a substantial raise was due. Who knew, they could even get promoted.
Damn them! What a way to spoil ones plan. Stupidity was often confused with courage, but this was beyond the most stupid of recklessness; they literally did not know they were running to their imminent dead. It was unbelievable. There were dozens of those things over there! Not even Leo would dare to do such a thing. There was no purpose in throwing his life away. But, oh well, at least they'd be able to rush to their target.
“Chess,” he whispered to his friend, following the guard's movements. When these last were sure to be seen by the Faes at the entrance, he continued. “run.”
Both of them ran like there was no tomorrow. They had about 15 seconds, tops, before the guard's screams stopped masking their own noise as they ran at full speed towards the gym.
Why did it have to be so freaking far away? More importantly, why did trouble always seemed to find them? That last question come up every time he was in such a situation. More accurately, why did trouble always seemed to find not the three of them, but Isara, and consequently him? He had never truly been able to understand it. Leonidas was a natural troublemaker, it somehow followed him; it was the same with Isara. Still, that was nothing, at least compared to the flow of events that followed every time they happened to be together; the unthinkable tended to happen sooner or later. Without intending to, he recalled a couple of such cases; the foolish past events obliged a smile to his features. Once, they had to spend a whole night in a cave, in dirty garments soiled by blood – although not their own- simply 'cause Is had not wanted to head home before dawn; the path had become so dark that they couldn't see a thing, and with Leo's sense of orientation...they were lost.
Lost, but not forgotten; it may not have been her father, nor her way too noisy brother, but someone else was looking for her. One of his father's retainers -he called them lieutenants- knew he was suspected of being a spy belonging to any member of the quite big royal family, and decided to completely blow his cover, kidnap at least one of Gramps D.'s sons— that would be either Is or Edward— and use them to trade enough money to retire in safety. He'd heard of Isara's little expedition to a close mountain, just one more of her little escapes from the camp, her family and pretty much anything else around her. Leonidas, of course, had to follow; it was his job, although at the time he didn't particularly enjoy it. To make things short, they were intercepted by a small mercenary group, lead by the lieutenant that 'did' happen to be a traitor to poor Gramps.D and ambushed them.
Lucky for them, the path that Leonidas had advised them to follow was the usual hunting route that he was used to covering when supplies were needed fast. Having gone through it quite enough times, Leonidas was confident he could guide them.
As Isara always pointed out, he was quite an extremist with directions; either getting lost no matter what he did, or he knowing it truly by heart— and as such he was able to recognize the differences that were obvious on the field.
Out of a precaution he began heading towards the far west side of the valley where a series of caves, known to have a series of natural corridors, ran along a long way of the mountain's base. What did it mean? No escape routes, but the perfect strategic point for him to make a stand. Especially since they all converged at a stretch corridor that lead to the last and biggest of the caverns. A single way in or out.
Leonidas lead them as quickly as he could without raising any alarm; and when they did notice, it was too late, for their prey were already inside the natural maze it was too late.
Quickly he led Isara to the cavern remembering the path as he walked through it, and took a defensive position in front of the passage he knew every other route eventually arrived at and stood there, waiting, preparing himself. That was the best possible move, the hallway stretched enough for a single guy, forcing the mercenaries to go more or less one by one as they reached the maze's goal. Leonidas took advantage of the age and size of a 12 year old; and with a short sword of his own and Isara's dagger — all of the equipment they both seemed to have brought— he managed to efficiently parry or dodge each and every attack the sole mercenary in front of him released, one by one. Failure meant death for both him and Isara. Keeping her safe was his job, and he wasn't about to fail even if he had been appointed to her shadow only a couple of weeks ago.
He forced himself to be as creative as his training and knowledge seemed to allow him. The carotid artery was the easiest to come up with, of course, but these were experienced soldiers, ones who at least knew to jump away from a blow to the neck even if it was a mere kid the one that attempted it. Against them he lacked actual combat experience, but even like that, he was able to ward off just another sure kill stab to his heart and managed to slip by so close to his opponent that blood bathed him when he pushed the dagger as hard as he could towards the man's jaw and dragged towards his neck's connection with the base of the head and then brought it lower, wracking havoc on his wind pipe as the dagger sliced it.
He stood there for a second. That was his first kill; a life had just ended, by his hand and he felt...nothing. No regret, no pain, not even the urge to puke that he'd expect to appear. Simply nothing. The man was a threat, and he had eliminated him as such; that was the only thing he seemed to come up with as a reason, an excuse.
A second he pondered on that, but no longer than that as he was brought back to reality by a suddenly a swing coming so close to him that even though he reacted by instinct, the sword managed to leave a light strike on his cheek. Of course. The battle. The fight with his life at stake. He didn't have time to stand there.
Without raising his hand to the first actual wound he ever got, he dashed towards his next opponent, parried his next attack and cut the vulnerable side of his wrist, as his improvised armor seemed to be a recompilation of others- probably due to scavenge of corpses after a slaughters.
Like that he continued blocking, dodging, slashing and killing. He played it safe and went to the kill without hesitating. The single thought that remained all the while on his mind, glowing as if flames scorched it was, of course, the need to survive. He forgot about everything else and simply kept severing fingers, cutting tendons and ligaments, blinding eyes and shutting cries of pain that called for vengeance; one that none of their comrade’s were ever able of achieving.
It took him about almost three hours to take out all of the 27 mercenaries in the tight space that he seemed to have grown used to battle in. At the end, he remained an angry beast, ready to fight even through all that exhaustion. He almost attacked Isara when she went to check up on him. Impressively, besides the several blade wounds that his torn clothes indicated, most were only scratches on the skin, in comparison to what he'd thought them to be.
Afraid to leave the cave and maze that had proved to be their salvation, they chose a corner and decided to sleep there. Like that they wrapped against each other, trying to warm themselves up and perhaps accomplish some quality sleep. By the time they woke up, Leonidas had no trace of a wound on his flesh. Of course, that's normal, but he was sure there should be some kind of prove, but not a single scar was left.
A guttural growl woke him up from his trance. Not even the rain was able to dim it enough.
Finally! They seemed to have arrived at the huge excuse of a gym, it seemed more like an old dojo, except for the solid concrete that made up the outside of the building and the thick iron bars that surrounded the entrance in a tight vertical pattern, barely allowing him look pass them. What he feared seemed to be truth: the stupid safety protocol.
It declared that in 'danger exposure' situations all external buildings—such as the major storage rooms and the gym— were supposed to be sealed immediately by the automatic main doors. That worked fine with natural risks or catastrophes to protect food supplies or the people inside those less sturdy edifications, but it just didn't fit with Faes attacks. Didn't they worry? Being them supposedly the future of humankind or something? They probably did not think it would happen.
He found himself calling Edward's name as loud as he could without risking to alert any nuisances.
“Leo?” the answer had come way too soon. His friend approached to the bars as quickly as he could; a smile was drawn all over his features. Had he been waiting at the door or something? “See, I told you,” he continued after checking it was indeed his friend “you always find me.”
You'd die otherwise, he thought, smiling.
“I assume you're working your way out” Edward nodded
“Already messed up with the water heater so it would explode; the wall behind it will collapse and we'll escape. But,” he allowed the word hang as if it would change the actual fact “ it leads towards the forest, outside that stupidly thick, plus tall, fence.” damn, that'd be too long, his friend thought “ Hours will pass before we are able of arriving the girl's building, from the other side of the High School. It's stupid to even think about arriving at our little meeting point.” see? Too long.
Ed seemed down; that was new for Leo, he'd never seen that awfully optimistic guy like that. He had to reconsiderate the plan. Edward, of course would have to make do on his own; normally he wouldn't even think of such thing, but the current series of events seemed to force him to..
“ Fine, I'll go pick Is. I'll bring her in one piece, just focus on getting to the escape route in the forest. We'll meet there, then we'll escape as we planned” At least he'll escape; it was safe to assume the Faes hordes would follow the roads and would not turn to the forest until they had finished their supper —nice thing to have a forest practically enclosing the school.
The sound of an explosion interrupted their conversation. He turned at it, and frowned, realizing the time had come, and he had to leave; the sooner the better.
“One piece” he remarked as he forced himself to follow the few members of his club that were left in the room “It's a promise!” he exclaimed already leaving the room, disappearing beyond the, now spoiled, bathroom.
“Yes, a promise” mumbled Leonidas under his breath. A promise indeed.
He turned, checking his remaining friend was still there; Chester's eyes fixed upon bored into the girls building in an attempt to ignore the somewhat emotional side Leo was showing. He smiled at him, seeing him like that somehow made him think that everything would be just fine, that he'll save Is and flee unharmed as always.
Such irresponsible thoughts, he remembered. He had no time for such fiction, not there; not then. He probably wouldn't have it for a while.
“So?” asked his friend, relieved he could stop staring the damn structure “what are our orders?”
“We'll simply have to jump up to phase two.” he remembered, saving Is' arse had always been his job; that would never change “Now, let's go. Otherwise we'll be as good as leg-provided sandwiches, I'm afraid”
“I like sandwiches” his friend answered without too much interest as he started heading to the building he knew they were aiming for.
“I believe they do as well” was the answer spoken before he followed Chester's lead.