Flames of Bedlam

Ch2.3 .. Kerfuffle

Conversation between us was more sparse than ever after that. I wasn’t brooding — I was just trying process what I’d learned, and all the events that led up to it. I mean, if I wasn’t actually who I told you I am, you’d probably be questioning the authenticity of this whole thing, too, right?

The angry part of me, still the more prevalent response, said I should boot Levi over the first cliff I found, then dupe some wandering no-one to free me from the cuffs… and then, eat them, too… just for good measure. No one needed to be witness to this humiliation.

The more pragmatic part of me… yes, I have one of those sides… told me I had this coming. What did I expect when I did things like forcefully turn people into Dragons and sic them on living cities, razing civilizations to the ground? In fact, the Elders had the right of it. I was a beast and a murderer. I willfully cultivated, spread and carried the Chaos. I deserved nothing more than death.

But, yeah. Who’s going to listen to pragmatism when it says things like that?

Anyhow, Levi wasn’t talking much. He wasn’t trying to avoid me, per say, so I don’t really know what it was all about. Maybe he was thinking about things, too. He was taking a pretty big risk in going against his Elder’s commands.

That still didn’t get him off the hook for almost killing me, though.

It wasn’t quite evening when we stopped to rest for the night. Levi tossed me a part of the hunt to skin, and we went about preparing the meal in silence. I was still stewing about things, but it was that point when I decided this awkwardness was more annoying than trying to make conversation.

“So…” I said, hoping it sounded welcoming.

Levi just made a sound in the back of his throat. It was enough to indicate he was listening.

“The rest the trip going to be like this?”

He glanced up at me, then squatted next to the brook that ran by our camp to wash his hands. I’m not sure if the brook had a name, but I wish I’d known. I’d gone nameless that whole day since Levi wasn’t sharing information with me… maybe that’s what was bothering me more than anything.

Finally, when I didn’t say anything else, he answered, “I guess that’s up to you.”

“Yes, well, see… not a lot is up to me right now,” I pointed out.

“Welcome to my life.”

I furrowed my brows. Welcome to his life? What about mine? Levi seemed to have everything going for him. He was in control, even from the moment he walked in that Glade the first time. People liked him and looked up to him. People trusted him.

How could he say he felt like nothing was in his control? I certainly was at that moment. And I hated that fact.

Levi must have read my look because he just shrugged it off. “Nevermind.”

I half expected him to follow up with: You wouldn’t understand anyway. 

He was probably right about that.

We were in the middle of cooking when I saw it. A tiny pin-prick of almost invisible light — I always deduced it was on a color frequency we were never supposed to be able to see. It was a lot easier to make out with Dragon eyes than it was with the people-eyes of my past life.

I knew what it meant.

The tiny light traced over the ground, the trees, the campfire, then paused, hovering right on Levi. He didn’t notice it, even though hair on the back of my neck was bristling. He’d never known this kind of danger before.

I had a choice to make in that moment.

Either I stopped what was about to happen, or I let it happen and tried to twist the aftermath to my advantage. But, seeing how my luck had been going… and technically I still owed Levi one for not letting me die (I’m not going to say he saved my life, the jerk)… so…

With a guttural shout, I threw myself on Levi. I saw a momentary look of shock, and found it a little amusing that in all this time, it never crossed his mind that I might just outright attack him.

Of course, that wasn’t the case, but he didn’t know that. My own moment of triumph was coming. It would be delicious.

I shoved Levi with all my strength and weight. I was a good deal more built than he was — though he certainly wasn’t a pushover himself — so this act was pleasing in and of itself. He was too flustered and shocked to fight back, which was good news for him.

Just as we rolled out of the way, the blast came. A laser-light pulse of energy disintegrated everything for countless yards in one direction, leaving everything on the fringes in ash and flame.

“W-wha..?” Levi gaped as he started to process the situation, realizing I wasn’t the one attacking him.

“Invaders!” I hissed sharply. “Keep your head down!”

Of course, this wouldn’t help against the pulse-flame lasers the mechanical beasts commanded. I knew from my own experiences that kind of weaponry took a long time to recharge, and that for fear of overheating, it couldn’t be used often.

I wondered why they hadn’t targeted me first.

As we lay still with our backs in the dirt and the leaves, I motioned with one hand in the direction that blast had come. We didn’t know how many of there were, and we needed to find out. That would determine if we tried to run (a pretty hopeless path to take) or we tried to fight (also a pretty hopeless path to take). Any Invader armed with pulse-flames were built to be fighters.

Over there, I mouthed to Levi, hoping he got the idea.

He nodded. Though I don’t know exactly what we’d do with that information.

Levi did, though. I saw his brows lower with a serious expression that looked out of place on his face. His nostrils curled up — yeah, I know, that’s a really weird observation to focus on when something like this is happening — and before I could stop him, he rolled to his feet.

The wave came out of nowhere.

Well, not exactly. I knew it came from Levi, and he had probably tapped into the little gurgle of brook behind us to make it. Still, how he took that and just materialized a whole ocean on top of those Invaders, I couldn’t fathom.

It rushed through the forest like a tsunami. Or, well, it probably really was a mini tsunami. You heard the sound of waves crashing and the cracking of ripping trees as their root were pulled up. Everything just folded flat before Levi, like the forest itself was bowing to him.

So much for me getting my moment of glory.

The Invaders didn’t fare so well. There were three of them — two of the ground-type machines and one of the air-types. They’d been hiding under vision-cloaks, which meant they were scouts of some sort. We really didn’t need these scouts bringing back an alert to the rest.

The ground-type machines were spitting up sparks. They probably weren’t built with the concept of being completely pounded by a magic-born tidal wave. It’d knocked them out of their shields and seemed to make them unresponsive for the moment. Chances are, these machines could weather some water, but this was something foreign to them.

Heck, it was foreign to me.

The air-type machine lasted better. Though it’s vision-cloak was shattered, it must have seen the incoming attack, and rose above most of the wave. It responded to Levi’s glorious display with pulse-blasts. Smaller and not as terrible as the full laser, these still could do a lot of damage if they hit.

“Watch it!” I shouted.

Levi got the idea real fast. He spread his hands in front of him, fashioning a dome-like shield of water. It crackled and solidified into a massive wall of ice.

This was impressive, but the shots were still breaking through. Levi struggled to patch holes and weak points as we remained under fire. I knew this wasn’t going to last long.

Then, the familiar sound of metal-on-metal alerted me. At least one of the ground-types were back in action and moving towards us. The ground rumbled under the massive shifting of machine weight. This thing was coming full force.

I left Levi to deal with the air-type. The ice shield wouldn’t hold indefinitely, but it was enough to cover me as I did what I needed to do. My eyes shot around the camp, looking for whatever I could find to intercept the ground-type. My gaze fell on Levi’s sword, which was still in its sheathe, propped against a tree.

I ran for it, grappled with it, and finally drew it, taking a moment to admire the way the pulse-blasts reflected from the blade. It was only a matter of time before I got what I wanted. Levi just needed to learn that.

With a snarl, I raced towards the sound of the incoming ground-type.

Yeah. I’m that guy. I bring a sword to a laser fight.

What can I say? I like the challenge.

This would be a challenge, too. I’d slain some Invaders in my past life, but those had only been medics in their little medic machines. Not full-blown warriors or scouts like these.

I also didn’t know the integrity of Levi’s blade. I just hoped it was as special as it looked.

I was no Dragon, but I still had a lot more strength than the average person, even with the cuffs on. Physical ability was one thing they didn’t take away from me. I was fast. I was strong. I dodged between the shots the ground-type fired at me with ease.

I knew something now that I didn’t know before. That the Invaders were people. They rode in the machines. They relied on them for battle. Maybe even survival.

I was ready to crack this one’s shell.

First, I tested the blade on the machine’s legs. I struck at the pivots and joints, metal sparking on metal, and reveled as the blade sliced through clean and without trouble. The ground-type shuddered and tipped, losing balance as one leg became two segments.

Oh. I really wanted that sword!

I leapt on top of the falling machine, drunk with delight, hoping my extra weight would carry it down faster. I began stabbing everything wildly — the side of the machine’s plating, the wires, the dome vision area.

I couldn’t see inside because the dome was made in such a way to reflect my own face back at me. In it, I could see my own, twisted visage. And it was one to strike terror into an enemy.

I heard the second ground-type approach. The first still struggled to right itself, smoking and sparking. Some of it was already on fire.

See, I can light things up even without being a Dragon. That takes real talent!

I knew the first wasn’t going anywhere, so I rounded on the second. Then, strange Invader language broke the air, over a communication device. It sounded like a warning. The first ground-type was letting them know how mighty I was, probably.

The second ground-type paused its advance. Maybe out of fear? Maybe because of the warning?

I didn’t know. I didn’t care. I leapt on it, slamming the blade as deeply into the area where I though the driver would sit. The dome itself fought me. It didn’t want to break. But finally, under pressure, it shattered.

Two gem-like eyes of the scout driver stared up at me in horror. I couldn’t get a good look at it because its head and half the face were covered in a mask and hood. But what it looked like didn’t matter.

I grabbed the Invader by the front of its suit and ripped it out of the machine. It was a long and slender creature. Weighed almost nothing. I thought that should I try, I could snap its body in two without much effort.

Instead, I hurled the creature at the vision-dome of the other machine. Its blood was just as red as mine as it made impact, then toppled off with an unceremonious thud in the dirt.

The message the first ground-type sent suddenly turned shrill. That really shook the other scout up. I just beamed a wicked smile as I dropped down from the unmoving machine.

In the meantime, the air-type took the warning and fled. I’m not sure what all Levi had done during his battle with it, but I could see it had taken damage. It hadn’t been enough to bring it down, and now we were running out of time as it took the alert back to the other Invaders.

I tried to gather my breath as the last of the ice shield rained down over the camp in slush. Levi’s face was pinched and pale — it had taken a lot out of him to do what he did. I suppose everyone has a limit, even him.

“We gotta go,” he breathed at me first.

“Yeah,” I agreed, shaking out the blade in my hand. Miraculously, there was no blood on it.

Levi took note of this as he stood up. Then he reached for the sword, silently requesting it back.

I really didn’t want to give it to him. But, that was a fight for another time.

The vision dome of the first ground-type machine popped open with a hiss. I’d forgotten about the other scout, preoccupied with the air-type taking flight as it had. The scout hadn’t forgotten us.

Either it had new orders, or it figured it had nothing to lose. I leapt out of the machine with a sound that could curl your hair, distorted by the mask it wore. It might have been comical to see the strange stick-features of the creature rushing us, if it wasn’t for the weapon it its hand.

This thing could shoot out flame-bolts, I knew. That’s exactly what this one did.

Levi dropped to his belly on the ground instantly. Not the best move. It kept his head on his shoulders, but it also allowed the scout to jump him. For such a wirey thing, it sure moved fast.

The scout made a chittering, demanding sound, pressing the end of its weapon against Levi’s cheek. Then, it looked at me with narrow eyes.

I think it thought I’d care. My facial expressions clearly spoke that I didn’t. Levi noticed this, too, and grew even more pale.

When the scout saw it was getting nothing from me by threatening Levi, it turned the weapon on me, instead. It got full-bown disdain for that. And a little bit of drama.

“I am Bahamut,” I growled at it. “I bow to no Invader!”

Then, before the creature realized what was coming, I swung the blade. It gave a static cry as my strike separated its weapon hand from the rest of its body. A ripple of shock and pain rushed through it. Invaders were not invincible by any means.

Levi also stared at me in horror. He watched as I lifted the blade again, and knew what that meant.

“No!” He tried to shout, but it came out as a hoarse, rasping cough. Levi struggled against the scout’s grip, wresting himself free. Then, the idiot tried to put himself between me and the enemy. “Don’t… you don’t have to do this!”

This was not just frustrating but embarrassing. Levi would chose this moment to become a big softy.

“Get out of my way,” I snarled. I leveled the blade’s tip at him instead.

This didn’t fool him.

“Bahamut,” Levi commanded. “Get yourself under control. Don’t you dare feed the Flames with murder. You’ve already caused enough destruction.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

“Destruction? Me? You saw what they are… what they can do!” I protested. “What I had to live with!”

“Yes,” he spoke slowly. “What they did is not right. But we must not fall to their level.”

“You expect me to just let them go?” I complained. I sensed I wasn’t going to win this.

“No.” Levi mulled that over. “I expect you to let me tie them up while you pack up this camp and we get our tails out of here.”

I knew he was right. We didn’t have time to argue. The next group of Invaders that came wouldn’t just be a couple of scouts.

I grumbled.

“Now give me my sword.” He reached for it.

It took every ounce of restraint in me to give into that command. I didn’t like it.