Black Alchemy Hunter – Obstacles

Here, I united all parties and made an uncomfortable situation for Sol. I decided to avoid this altogether in the remake. For Cullinan Diamond Hunter, I’ve decided to keep the stories separate. Julius does his thing while Sol independently meets with Greer. This produces a more organic relationship.

Also, I really didn’t like how I remade Absolute. I actually love how it was remade, but Greer is really attached to Absolute, so to have him pack up and rebuild was a bit out of character. I’m presently working on keeping him in the original Absolute and I hope to give him a bit more grit in the next story.

7 – OBSTACLES

Blas’ blue Pontiac GTO speeds through a long road ten miles outside of the new Absolute. He look his watch every few minutes and he presses harder on the gas after each check.

His passenger is undisturbed by his tense driving. Valerie simply leans her head on the window and watches as the demolished buildings pass by.

“How long is this going to take?” Valerie asks.

“Shouldn’t be long. Seven minutes tops.”

“I’m not worried about you rushing to catch that silly girl.” She lifts her head from the glass and stresses, “You should be much further along in this pursuit.”

Blas downshifts to turn a sharp corner. When the car is back up to speed, he says, “Something like this takes time, mother. Rushing in to attack Leonardo will hurt us in the long run.”

“He is weak, Blas. Find him and apply pressure until he cracks.”

“He’s also with Kode, as you cautioned me.” The telepath glances at his mother from the corner of his eyes. “Why are you suddenly so impatient?”

“Don’t get smart with me,” she hisses.

“I’m asking a genuine question. One that I could easily find the answer to.”

Valerie folds her arms across her chest and turns slowly to face her son. “Are you threatening to read my mind? Do you recall what happened last time?”

With a gentle smile, Blas asserts, “I was a child, then.”

“You are always a child in a god’s eyes.” Valerie coughs into her hand. This time, she is relieved to see that there is no blood. The doctors and nurses were able to improve her health drastically. They recommended that she avoids stress, but she finds her impatience and anger increasing consistently. “Your arrogance may impress your followers, but I see through it. I see your fears and foolish goals, as much as I see Kode living well in an afterlife as we suffer on this wretched Earth.”

Blas checks his watch again. “The hunters will be successful, if that’s your concern.”

“My concern is your lack of action.”

Though Blas hates to be corrected by his mother, he partially agrees with her. He may have had more success by sending several maidens to hunt Kode and Leonardo. He did not assume that it would take Laurent a full three days to gather the entire team. There are still no hints to Leonardo’s whereabouts. With their present situation, they might as well be a full week behind, but Blas is unwilling to admit this to Valerie.

The telepath grips the wheel and snarls, “I still have twenty-seven days, don’t I? Was your estimate correct or should I assume that the world will fall tomorrow?”

“It has already fallen,” she replies sharply. “Thousands of people die per month and more ramanga arise. I spent decades trying to save humans until I realized that their extinction was imminent. Now, I know that my purpose is to civilize the ramanga through your neuromancy, but this world’s population can be wiped clean in the blink of an eye, since Kode has returned. So you may have time, but if you fail, I will place the weight of the world on your shoulders and crush you myself.”

Again, Blas casually checks the time on his watch. Yet, this time he doesn’t speed up. The car continues to approach distant lights. Absolute is within sight.

+++

Laurent sends a few text messages to Blas while Kami and Sol continue to look out of the windows, doing the best to master the finest middle school techniques of avoiding eye contact.

Kami has only stepped a few feet away from the steering wheel and Sol remains at the far end of the unit. Their immaturity forces a few sighs from Laurent’s lips.

The assassin completes his last text and says, “We’re meeting inside of the club in twenty minutes. I’ll leave time for everyone to…catch up.”

Kami shouts, “Laurent!” She steps towards the assassin, but accidentally looks at Sol. The two return to gazing out of the window.

Laurent snaps, “Oh, grow up! You killed his mom and he killed your dad. In my book, you’re even.” When the two finally turn to Laurent, he says, “Now that I have your attention, we’ll need to find Leonardo to save Celeste, so apologize and get over it.”

An engineer bangs on the door to the command center and shouts, “Laurent! We need your help.”

The assassin opens the door and repeats, “Twenty minutes,” before following the engineer.

Kami listens to the door to the command center slam shut. She expected Laurent to hold her hand through the process, though she had every word mapped in her mind. She repeats her opening phrase several times beneath her breath. Then, she finally lifts her head. To her surprise, Sol is staring at her. Through her.

“Let’s go, Rayne,” the hunter utters. He holds the door open for the butcher. She also avoids looking directly at him. “Are you coming?”

Kami makes a quiet yelping sound. She quickly scrambles to grab her bags and rushes out of the door. Once she’s outside, she holds her bag close to her chest and stares at Sol again.

“I don’t know where the club is, Kami,” he says to break the silence.

“Oh! It’s the only fully constructed building.” Kami points towards neon lights that is just one block away. “I’ve searched diligently for you.” The words fall from her lips like stone. She even considers slapping herself. Kami never meant to say diligent. That was one of the first apologies that she rehearsed and it always sounded too professional or uncaring.

The hunter notices that Rayne has already begun walking towards the club. The butcher is moving like a lifeless zombie. And though she is technically a lifeless zombie, Rayne generally moves more sporadically.

“Sol?” Kami stammers, “I wanted to…I wanted to know how you’re doing.” She squeezes her eyes shut from embarrassment.

“I’m fine.” The hunter’s tone is cold and dismissive.

Kami walks briskly to keep up with the hunter. “I’m really glad to hear that.” She tries speaking from her heart, but only finds her words twisting in her mind as much as her lips. In an attempt to change the conversation, Kami asks, “Is she your girlfriend now? I’ve heard that you too are traveling together and kissing a lot.”

“Wait. No. What?” The hunter nearly trips over his own feet when formulating a reply. “We’re not together, together. We’re just friends. And how’d you hear that we were together? Who would say that?”

“The kissing part, Sol. Is that true?”

“It’s not what you think!” The hunter remembers their most recent kiss, which seemed a lot unlike the others for some reason. “It’s nice, but it’s not what you think.”

Kami digs her nails into her palm, almost enough to draw blood. “He’s kissing her. I searched through four provinces and he’s kissing her,” she mutters to herself.

Sol’s brisk walk turns into a light jog when Rayne enters the club. He holds the door open for Kami and follows behind her.

Sol passes a spiraling staircase that is illuminated with gold and lavender lights. He blankly waves at a woman in a swimsuit that is cleaning the inside of a very lengthy fish tank. Then, to himself, he asks, “Is that a runway?”

“Greetings, guests,” a voice calls from behind a rather unique stone bar with fire pits that make it appear somewhat hellish.

Gritting his teeth, Sol fumes, “What the hell are you doing here?”

Greer displays a grimacing smile and asks, “Didn’t they warn you about my role in your present expedition?”

The hunter releases a depressing sigh. “Laurent chose people that I hate.”

“Don’t worry too much. I will only make this awkward when presented with the opportunity. Otherwise, I’m fairly calm in nature.”

Shaking his head, Sol admits, “It’s fine. Nothing can be worse than working with Kami.”

The comment sends a sharp sensation down Kami’s spine, causing her to release an audible gasp. She says, “I resent that and I swear there’s something worse.”

The hunter motions for her to explain what could possibly be worse. Kami searches for anything that could be more awkward for Sol, but eventually relents and decides to take a seat at an empty booth.

Sol watches as Greer continues to clean glasses at the bar. He wonders what ulterior motive Greer could have, and eventually asks, “Why are you moving your club here?”

“Because your work with Godwin melted my previous establishment.” The sorcerer stops cleaning the glass and walks towards the runway, where a large curtain hides something massive. “There’s also the location. It’s close to humans, so there’s an excellent opportunity for blood and trade. And best of all, there’s an incredible view.” Greer pulls on the long golden strings, which moves the curtains. Behind the linen is a very beautiful tree that makes the construction vehicles look like ants. “Have you ever seen a tree like that?”

“Yes,” Sol replies quickly. “I helped create it.”

The sorcerer chuckles initially, assuming that Sol is joking. Yet, he notices a pain in Sol’s eyes. That tree represents a piece of Sol’s past that he would love to forget. But the memory stands out more than this tree.

Greer nods his head and says, “Beautiful work. It’s an excellent source of magic. Not to mention, I can sense the anger and hatred surging through its core. Much like you.”

The hunter holds his right arm, which Kode recently cursed. Anger and hatred certainly run through Sol’s body, and it all collects inside of his arm. He fears what would happen if he ever released that anger, so he tries to avoid using magic altogether. However, he can always feel the emotions fighting to escape, clawing at his flesh.

Sol looks up at the tree again. “I hope he’s wrong. I hope you’re not suffering like me.”

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