"Come on, June, you have to swallow..."
Not even a minute had passed, but Blake saw no indication in her neck that she'd swallowed anything. He tried pressing a little harder, even though he knew it was likely pointless.
"Protection on one like you cannot simply transfer to another, boy," said Puter from afar. "You waste your time on a pointless endeavor."
Even if that's true, I dont care. The faint glimmer of hope was all he had right now, and he refused to abandon it. He would not doubt his own determination, or her strength, however much she might have left.
The desperation kicked in, and he didn't even expect himself to shout. "Come on, June! You're stronger than anybody in this whole town, even me! You have a spirit that shines brighter than anyone I've ever met, and I know you won't let anything beat you down, especially not this asshole who thinks he can kill off our town just because he wants to!"
No response, as he feared. Blake's heart raced as he fought back tears.
"June, please! You've always been there for me. Let me be here for you this time! You have to wake up! June!"
"Your mewling is quite irritating. I suggest you leave her behind if you wish to stand and attempt another..."
Blake had tuned out everything else, because in that instance he saw something. A tiny flicker, then a twitch. Her body did not budge an inch, but something moved underneath her eyelids. Ever so slowly they opened, revealing two small pupils encased by brown irises. A dull brown really, and not the usual rich chocolate Blake was accustomed to seeing.
But her eyes bore right into his, and with one simple look, he knew she could see him.
"June!" he cried, unable to hide his joy and relief. "June...I need you to trust me. You have to swallow. I know you can."
Her eyes were mere slivers after a couple moments, but Blake saw all he needed to. There was not a single shred of doubt in her eyes, and despite whatever suffering and pain she endured right now, her gaze never once glistened with fear as she looked at him. Within seconds her eyelids fell; Blake almost panicked until he felt some slight movement on his hand, and moments later witnessed her neck jitter in a swallowing motion.
"Please work, please work," he begged with a whisper.
"Your efforts are meaningless, boy."
The unexpectedly loud voice caught Blake off-guard. His neck immediately twisted and craned, his suspicion confirmed as Puter stood directly above and beside him and June. Blake reached for his scythe but he was kicked away a short distance before his fingers could touch it. He'd been separated from June, and was struggling to stand back up and return to her side. Next thing he knew a foot dug into his stomach.
Now grounded with no way to properly move, and a pained sensation driven into his abdomen, alarmed thoughts swirled about in his head.
A slight groan nearby alerted Blake to his surroundings. The scythe, Blake's scythe, was in Puter's hand. And the tip of its blade rested just above June's chest. In a fit of anger, Blake struggled and pushed upward as best he could. His best friend had been threatened for the last time.
"Your strength hardly compares to mine; I can tell by your meek efforts to remove me."
Blake froze a moment. Puter's voice and expressions had changed a few times on this rooftop already, but this change felt more stark than previous ones. He heard no surprise, amusement, or even irritation. His voice, face, and his very presence carried nothing but pure malice, one that stained the very air with a thick and heart-stopping aura. Blake then realized: Puter had showed some restraint thus far...but without a doubt that restraint had all but vanished, especially now that he pushed harder on Blake's stomach.
Just how strong was he?
"You will be dealt with. And in order to break you, her corpse will be necessary."
Just as Puter lifted the scythe and swung downward, Blake outstretched an open hand, desiring nothing other than a ferocity and strength to protect his friend. Soon as he felt the staff slam into his palm, Blake closed his hand and swung. The effort was not a strong one but he did nick one of Puter's legs as the man jumped back towards the middle of the roof. A brief glance told him June was unharmed.
Enough was enough, and Blake was furious now. Using Puter's imbalance to his advantage, he dashed forward with both hands wielding the scythe. He swung once, then twice, before blocking one of Puter's dark-handed slashes.
For the first time, neither was solidly on offense. Blake constantly switched back and forth between attacking and defending, unable to deal more than an occasional nick that hardly did anything in the grand scheme of the fight. He parried another blow, but could not avoid the claws that raked across his right shoulder. Blake refused to stand down however, and continued his back-and-forth onslaught even after slipping a few times on some old tile.
But, something was wrong with his vision. It didn't feel as clear as it had before.
"Your attacks have slowed," Puter jeered. "Give up now lest you suffer a fate worse than if you continue."
Blake would not let this filth demoralize him. Except...it was working. He had so many unhealed injuries that jolts of pain now accompanied every one of his movements. The brief glimpses he gathered revealed patches and dots of blood all over the rooftop. His balance worsened with every swing and dodge. Despite his determination to keep fighting, Blake's body strained just to stand.
After one more parry Blake lifted the scythe for a wide swing. Puter came in faster, and plunged his claws straight into Blake's open side. The initial painful sting morphed into a searing shock that overtook his entire body. Unable to feel anything but the agony radiating from his stomach, Blake let out a shriek, and collided with the ground moments later. He could not stop the coughing that overwhelmed his lungs after he fell; when he opened his eyes again, he noticed splotches of fresh blood on the ground below him.
He screamed inwardly to stand, but the shock and pain was too unbearable. Vertigo set in even faster, and a desire to sink into the ground emerged, if only so the torment in his body would stop. He clenched both his fists and a strange sound emerged from his throat. What was that.
"Foolish child, whimpering and cowering because of your ridiculous stubbornness," said Puter nearby.
With one look Blake realized the man slowly turned away from him. His numb felt numb, but he could figure out that June was his target. Blake reached out with a shaky hand, but even that sent fiery jolts coursing throughout his body. While Puter advanced on the young girl near the railing barrier at the edge of the rooftop, Blake trembled fiercely while he attempted to prop himself on his hands and knees. He coughed again, now feeling the blood drizzling down his lip and chin.
"You've lived long enough, girl." Puter stretched out a hand, and a dark shroud soon enveloped her body.
"No, stop..." Blake wheezed.
Blake took hold of the scythe, and desperately tried to stand. His knees buckled once, and the sharp pulse of it allowed a severe pain to run loose in his body. Feeling a few tears running down his cheeks, Blake fought it as hard as possible so he could stand, and very slowly approach Puter.
He shuffled towards the man, barely able to move inches at a time. Puter stood almost directly over June, the shroud still covering her. Blake pushed himself harder, and took an actual step forward.
He about froze in place when the young teen coughed a few more times. Yet, her chest rose and fell, showing no signs of slowing down. She looked exhausted and pale still...but it did not appear to worsen.
"What in the name of the ancients is this?!"
Blake stood maybe ten or fifteen feet away when Puter blurted out the question with such indignation and shock. The shroud had surrounded June for what felt like an eternity, and yet, June still breathed. She finally let out a nasally groan and continued with faint labored breathing.
"Enough of this." Puter raised his arm and bore his claws, ready to strike. He was about to do what he'd just done to Blake.