Chapter 2 is where things started to feel right. I was able to practice some old writing skills with this chapter because it focused on two characters that I’m very familiar with. They complain and bicker like two old friends that hate one another, and I loved that. However, I’ve decided to beef up their rivalry and pit them against one another a little more. In fact, today, I just discovered the ultimate twist for Yellow Diamond Hunter. Yes, I said the ultimate. This twist has put all of my other twists to shame. No matter how hard you try, this one can’t be predicted. [Insert evil laugh]
2 – BLOOD BOIL
Leonardo and Kode stagger through a long and narrow hallway. There is very little lighting and an odd musk lingers in the air.
Several paintings hang from the walls. The portraits are somehow connected, but all of the bodies are missing faces.
The path and paintings and seemingly endless. Occasionally, ramanga impede their progress, but Leonardo deals with them harshly and swiftly.
Just as Leonardo’s bugs completely eradicate another ramanga, Kode complains, “Can you leave one for me? I need a new body.”
“I’m not helping you, Kode. And you could’ve taken any body back in that room.” Leonardo’s voice is cold and smoky. Somehow, he manages to sound both frail and threatening.
“Baby steps, Seth. They were all too strong. Not to mention, I had to make them think that I was at full strength.”
“My name is Leonardo. Not Seth.”
Kode teases, “I can’t keep up with all of your identity crises.”
Just before they reach the end of the long hallway, Kode skids to a stop. Leonardo notices the action. He freezes as well and turns back to analyze his friend.
“The boy downstairs. He’s a telepath?” Kode asks.
Leonardo replies, “Yes. That and something much worse.”
“I can hear him. He’s giving someone directions to find us.”
“What are you going to say? You need another body to hear him clearly?”
With a smile, Kode confirms, “Yes.”
Though Kode enjoys teasing his friend, he can actually hear Blas speaking directly to Laurent. The assassin was hired for one terrifying purpose, to attack anyone that may oppose Blas. For the first time since he was hired, Laurent has been instructed to kill.
Blas’ voice echoes in the assassin’s mind, “They are traveling through the main hall. Make a left.”
Laurent runs around a corner with fearsome speed. He is met by Leonardo. Deep inside of the alchemist’s eyes, Laurent recognizes something familiar. Even behind all of the kinky hair, Leonardo shares Sol’s intense glare. Yet, Laurent comes from a long line of assassins. His linage of necromancers has taught him to put aside relationships for a contract. And if that means killing his best friend’s father, so be it.
Laurent jumps onto a wall and uses his body as a ramming tool. He crashes into Leonardo, which causes the alchemist to slam into Kode. The three men tumble on the ground.
After sizing up his opponents, Laurent decides to remove the weakest link from the picture. He attempts to snap Leonardo’s neck, but the alchemist reverses the hold and throws Laurent into a decorative wooden bench.
As Leonardo takes a few steps back, Kode cautions, “You’ll want to be gentle. He’s mistaken as one of your boy’s allies.”
“He’s a necromancer. You know how they are.”
Laurent stands casually, as though he suffered no damage from the throw. With Leonardo’s strength in perspective, he confirms, “I’m engaging the targets.”
There is hardly enough room inside of the hallway for all three men to fight. Due to their large sizes, Kode and Leonardo struggle to stand side-by-side. Using this to his advantage, Leonardo seemingly attacks both men at once. He throws a fainted punch at Kode and connects a weak elbow to Leonardo’s chin. When both men react, they stumble over one another, which provides Laurent with a slight advantage in timing.
The assassin springs forward and connects a brutal uppercut to Leonardo’s chin, but Kode tags Laurent’s chin with a hook. The stinging attack surprises the assassin, but he has little time to relish on the pain. Instead, he grabs Leonardo’s beard and smashes his fist into the alchemist’s face three times.
Leonardo collapses without breaking his fall. Eager to end the dispute, Kode steps over his friend’s body and continues to challenge the assassin. The two exchange punches and kicks for nearly half a minute. As the fight persists, Laurent notices his arms and legs shaking. Kode may not be at full strength, but each of his attacks send a chill through Laurent’s body.
As both men begin to run out of steam, they resort to a wrestling match. Kode nearly pins Laurent to a wall, but is distracted when three ramanga enter the narrow hallway. The creatures are different than those that were in the dungeon. They move casually, strolling like humans. Laurent instantly determines that they are Asasabonsam.
Fearing for his life, Laurent reverses Kode’s hold and slams the demon through the wall. Stones fall onto the demon’s head, burying him beneath a heap of rubble. Still, he continues to fight. Blood trickles from his scalp as he throws stones to the side and staggers to his feet.
The demon wheezes loudly and chuckles slightly, until he realizes that he stumbled directly before the largest Asasabonsam. Kode’s green eyes flash with a crazed glow. Then, he threatens, “You boys may want to step back.”
Two of the creatures retreat a few steps, but the largest one advances and grimaces, “Die. You die!” Then, the creature lunges forward and digs his teeth into Kode’s neck.
Kode wails while reaching down and tearing the creature’s arm, clean from his shoulder. The ramanga falls as the other two rush forward. Kode smashes the arm against one of the ramanga’s cheek, causing the creature to crumble. Yet, the other ramanga manages to bite Kode’s arm. As the demon fights to wiggle free, the largest ramanga returns to his feet and continues feasting on Kode’s neck.
The demon proceeds to scream.
Laurent watches with wide eyes. He reports back to Blas, “Both targets have been–” Yet, before he can complete his statement, he hears Kode’s cry evolve into laughter. The ramanga begin screaming as boils form over their bodies. Their veins turn black, as though they were infected by their own disease. Then, they are sucked into the very wounds that they created on Kode’s body.
Again, the demon’s eyes flash. “How long are you going to stay down there, Leo?”
Leonardo stands slowly while stretching his neck. “It’s been a long time since I fought. I was hoping you would end it.”
“Lazy as always.” Kode grins while winking at Laurent. “Don’t worry, we won’t kill you. Yet.”
The skies outside of the castle are much more peaceful. The rain has slowed to a trickle. Even the sun shines more brightly through the dense clouds, but in this darkness, it is still weaker than a streetlight.
With the rain making the roads more accessible, more ramanga have been able to scale their way to the top of the mountain. Thousands of the creatures have surrounded the castle. Even the most intelligent creatures struggle finding an entrance to the building because of the sheer number of ramanga that are blocking their view.
The maidens have rejected Blas’ original wishes because of the witch that originally argued against his idea, Karma. She convinced everyone to place the entire castle on lockdown. All windows and doors have been boarded by powerful spells. However, even this idea has backfired.
Because Kode and Laurent are struggling to find an exit, they have left a trail of bodies in the castle. Karma estimates that over thirty percent of the maidens inside of the castle have been killed. Bodies and blood are scattered all throughout the hallways.
In the chaos, Blas finds himself in increasing danger. He and the others are still trapped inside of the dungeon, fighting for their survival.
“Laurent,” Blas calls while shooting more creatures that enter the dungeon. He holds a long barrel, nine millimeter revolver in his right hand. Fortunately, he prefers classic weapons, or Leonardo would have taken this with him too. “Laurent. Report in.”
Blas fires another shot as he continues waiting. Though his telepathy requires a great deal of magic, he has kept the line of communication open.
The assassin finally responds. He crawls from a pile of stones inside of the once narrow hallway. Kode and Leonardo went a little overboard and tore the walls that enclose the space. Now, many of the rooms are open to the hallway.
“I’m down,” Laurent reports while holding his bruised ribs.
Blas admits, “Kode has done something to make the ramanga turn against Mother. I thought they would help, but they’re trying to attack her.”
“I watched two of them bite him, but something happened to the creatures. It wasn’t pleasant.”
“Fortunately, it seems that one of the maidens has locked them inside. You all will need to make your way to Mother. I have her locked inside of Leonardo’s room with Celeste.”
Intruding on their conversation, Karma and twenty other maidens rush into the dungeon, killing the ramanga. Then, she turns to Blas and says, “That maiden’s name is Karma. These are the only remaining maiden in the castle, so our defenses are weak.”
Still speaking rudely to the maiden, Blas growls, “Are you all controlling who gets in and out of the castle?”
“Yes,” Karma confirms.
“I need you to let me out?”
“Why?” she asks while frowning. “Shouldn’t we find the intruders first?”
Blas runs out of the room, back through the room of fallen Medusa statues, and out into the main corridor. When he reaches the entrance, Karma orders the other maidens to release the energy guarding the castle.
Blas pushes the large door open, showing no concern for the ramanga outside. His eyes stretch widely at the sight before him.
Thousands of ramanga decorate the mud, which continues to move towards the edge of the cliff. The rain has begun to pick up again, but Blas shows no concern. He steps over the creatures bodies until he reaches his car, or what remains of it.
After Blas lifts the hood, he notices that everything is missing. The engine was consumed along with anything else that helped the car move.
As he makes his way back to the castle, Blas is met by Karma and Laurent. Karma helps Laurent move about, though each step causes his body to ache.
“I won’t let them get away with this.” Forming a tight fist, Blas asserts, “I’m going to hunt Leonardo.”
Laurent groans, “These guys are on a different level.”
“My mother won’t be able to kill Kode unless she can draw the source of the Black Alchemists’ true power.”
Karma watches Blas as he continues walking back to the castle, “How will you find him?”
Shaking his head, Blas admits, “I don’t know.”
As Laurent wipes blood from his mouth, he feels regret knowing that he is the first of his family to ever fail a mission. Hoping to redeem himself, he suggests, “You’ll need his son, Sol Ruby.”
“Do you know him? Will he work for us?”
“Probably not.” Laurent pushes Karma away and limps back towards the castle where he notices Celeste roaming about. She leaps from ramanga to ramanga, picking at their limbs and eating their flesh.
The others are shocked to see the action. Unlike most Asasabonsam, Celeste feeds only on ramanga. For some reason, their blood provides her with far more energy than human blood.
Again, Laurent repeats, “Probably not, but Celeste is his sister, and Sol is searching high and low to find her. We may be able to use her as leverage.”
“Good,” Blas says while entering the castle. “But we’ll need more than his son to recapture the Black Alchemist.”
“I know some people.”