Tides of Twilight - Chapter 19#2: Continued...

Tides of Twilight - Chapter 19#2: Continued...

A Chapter by Jobyn

Meanwhile, with Stiff and the Exodus Sergeant...


The Exodus Sergeant crouches down to check on his captive and to make sure that he didn't overdo it with the tranquilizers.

What he didn't know, was that Stiff was very well conscious and only pretending to be out cold. The minute the unsuspecting man got close enough, he took hold of his arm and pulled him into a submission hold over the net. 

Exodus Sergeant: S**t!

Stiff: Big mistake, buddy.

It seems the tranquilizer rounds hadn't fully pierced through Stiff's armor. Of course, a Dragon Knight's armor wasn't designed to be damaged so easily. 

Exodus Sergeant: How the hell are you still awake!?

Stiff: Well, just imagine trying to shoot a puny tranquilizer dart at the dragon king. Now, imagine trying to shoot a puny tranquilizer dart at me!

Exodus Sergeant: What??

Stiff: A dragon knight's armor is crafted straight out of the dragon king's scales! 

Exodus Sergeant: That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. Ugh, let go of me you damn brat! 

Stiff reaches into the Sergeant's belt and takes a small remote from it used to control the power of the energy net. Powering it off, he quickly cuts away from the net with his sword and kicks the sergeant away. 

Stiff: Nice try! Are you going to... put up a... what the?

Exodus Sergeant: Hm? 

The inside of Stiff's chest begins to feel as though it were flaring up, and followed by it an unnatural burning sensation. He quickly begins to feel as if he were suffocating. 

The Exodus sergeant is quick to take this opportunity and charge at him, gun blazing. 

Stiff: Guh...! S**t...

Barely quick enough to deflect the bullets with his sword, Stiff takes a hold of the sergeant's arm as he charged him with a knife and quickly swerved over the man's right side and rotated himself behind him. He had him in another submissive hold, but his vision quickly began to fail him. 

Just then, he began to cough erratically, dropping his hold on the sergeant as he fell to his knees pressing the back of his hand to his mouth. 

Stiff: Wh... what...? 

Looking down at his shaking hand, Stiff saw an alarming amount of blood. 

The sergeant cocked his head in surprise, then snickered. 

Exodus Sergeant: Funny, you went on all high and mighty about your armor... But it sure didn't protect you from that earlier fall. I knew that there was no way in hell you could have survived that without some form of internal damage. 

Stiff narrowed his eyes at him as the blood dripped from his mouth. It had become so hard to breathe, and the whole world appeared to be swaying. It was strange, though. If he truly had suffered internal damage, he couldn't feel it at all.

The Exodus sergeant approached Stiff and kicked him hard in the face, causing him to fall back onto the ground. Stiff was hardly able to react to it what with how dizzy he was feeling. He coughed up some more blood as the man stomped once on his chest. 

Exodus Sergeant: If you ask me, I think you've got yourself some broken ribs maybe punctured something-- a lung, perhaps. Heh, not good. 

Stiff: Agh...! 

Exodus Sergeant: How does it feel, Steffan the Immaculate? To have a human body, that breaks and suffers just like the rest of us...

Grau: What do you think you're doing!? 

The sergeant is suddenly shoved hard into a tree by his incoming leader, who pressed his hands firmly against his shoulders while glaring at him. 

But after a few seconds, Grau eases up and dusts the sergeant's shoulders consolingly, fixing the man's helmet visor for him. 

Grau: Remember, I need Steffan alive, my dear Sarge. He's no good to me dead. 

Exodus Sergeant: Ugh... Yes, sir. 

Grau then turns his attention towards the weakened Stiff and crouches down beside him. 

Grau: I gotta' apologize for good old Sarge, Steffan. You see, he's got this sort of, "deep inner hatred" against you for killing his men and giving him a hell of a time the last three years. Unlike me, he doesn't sense that strong, conflicting bond like the one you and I share. 

Stiff can only grunt weakly, attempting to get back up. Grau puts a firm hand on his shoulder, stopping him from doing so. 

Grau: Take it easy, guy. I really think you should drop this silly charade of yours and come with me. I can get you some hella-quick medical attention, sound good? We can talk business after. 

Stiff: Guh... don't touch me, Grau. Where... where is Okina? 

He ignores Grau and scans the area as Exodus soldiers begin to secure the perimeter, finding no sign of her whatsoever. 

Grau: Ehhhh-- who was that again?

Stiff: ...

Grau: Oh! You mean the monkey girl you took sky diving with you earlier! Haha, that was a joke you retard... Get with the program, Stiffy bo' Biffy! You like that nickname? Nah, I'll just call you Steffan. 

Stiff: You tricked me... D****t! But at least she's safe... thank goodness. 

Grau: Yeah, no idea where she is-- don't really care. So, you ready to go? 

Stiff: I'm not going anywhere with you! 

Grau: Guys? 

He stands up and holds up his hand. Snapping his fingers, he points down at Stiff and walks away from him. Taking that as an order, Grau's soldiers quickly move in to retrieve the target. 

However, just as Stiff had relinquished his concern for Okina's safety, he heard her voice call out on cue... 

Okina: I'm not letting you get anywhere near Stiffy! 

She jumps down from the trees and lands in front of Stiff, readying herself in a combat stance. 

Grau: Ohh, speak of the devil! You must be Oh-Kee-Na. Charmed... My name is Grau. 

He smirks and takes a courtly bow. 

Okina c***s her head and raises a brow. 

Okina: Eh? 

Grau: Look at that, Steffan. She's okay! For now. 

Exodus Sergeant: Your orders, sir? 

Grau shrugs. 

Grau: Catch one, get one free I guess. 

On that note, the soldiers engage Okina and Stiff; who had since gotten up on his feet and wiped the blood away from his mouth. 

He shouts at Okina over his shoulder as the two fight on, hiding his weakened status from her through sheer will and over the soldiers' distractions. 

Stiff: Hey, crazy! What are you doing here?? 

Okina: Saving you, silly! 

Stiff sighed helplessly after kicking a soldier away. He should have realized she wouldn't stay put, but he felt even more silly for thinking she was too hurt to hold her own when he was the one in obvious need of help after absorbing such a fall. 

She leaps up into the air and lands on an enemy's shoulders, shifting her wait quickly and with enough force to front flip with the soldier entirely and using his legs to kick another over the head with. Afterwards, she quickly jumps back up and sprints towards the one in front of her who began to open fire. 

She gracefully avoids the bullets by rolling from left to right while moving forward, using the cover of the trees each time. When she got close enough, she jumped up and took hold of a branch, swinging herself forward like a gymnast and coiling her tail around the soldier's neck. This brought the soldier to be pulled up along with her as she spun over the branch and then released him as she swung back down, sending him flying towards yet another soldier. 

She gave a cocky smile afterwards, waving her fingers at Stiff. 

Okina: Don't look so surprised! I've got these soldiers covered, you go on after Grau, Stiffy! 

He had been watching the spectacle in disbelief. She was always so agile, but he had never seen her use combat maneuvers like those before. The poor b******s didn't even see it coming... and she was completely unarmed! 

Stiff: Right... Thanks!

Grau had been eyeing the fight atop a high tree branch, sitting there casually while shaking his head at his men. 

Grau: Sigh. I guess I underestimated the situation. I should have left these soldiers back on guard duty and brought in the big boys and girls. Oh, well! 

He stands up and dusts himself off as Stiff makes his way to a high branch opposite to his, breathing more heavily than he should be and constantly wiping his mouth. 

Grau: Steffan, Steffan... You're not really going to take me on like this, are you? You're having some serious complications there. Why don't you make it easier on everyone and come with me, without putting up a meaningless fight? 

Stiff detaches his sword into its two smaller blades, pointing one at him. 

Stiff: That ain't gon--uoogh... that ain't gonna happen, Grau. Come on, quit being a wise a*s and fight me!

Grau frowns as he allows his blackened arms to shift unnaturally again, forming those obscure blades. 

Grau: You're a real pain in my a*s sometimes, you know that?

With that, the two engage each other with their respective blades. It begins as clashing directly across from one another on the long, thick branch that Grau had been standing on, but then it picks up and escalates to mobile combat throughout the trees via spread out branches and vines. 

It was impossible to see what was going on from the ground level, safe for a few sparks lighting up here and there. 

Not long into the confrontation however, Stiff has another convulsion that nearly renders him unconscious as he falls a few feet but manages to land on a lower branch. He clutches to it for balance while attempting to catch his bearings, coughing out some more blood that falls below. 

Okina catches a glimpse of the blood landing as she fights the soldiers on the ground, feeling a bit of concern due to the fact that she didn't know who's blood it was. 

However, more blood was soon shed as she was caught completely off-guard while staring, and felt a bullet nab her right on the shoulder. It pierced it rather deeply. She yelped and clutched the wound with her hand. 

Okina: Eyah! That hurt! Why, you...

She growled furiously and grabbed a nearby soldier who was trying to flank her from the right behind a tree. Twisting his arm behind his back and moving him forward in front of her, she placed her other hand over the one he was using to hold his gun, and began to open fire rapidly and accurately at the others. 

She was using the soldier as a shield the entire time, and made short work of those ahead of her. 

Okina: How's it feel getting shot, hm!?

Meanwhile, Grau landed before Stiff on the same branch. He grinned as he used the end of his arm blade to raise Stiff's head by the chin, whistling as he saw the blood. 

Grau: Damn, did that fall do a number on you. But, hey, this is what you wanted right? Come on, get up. This isn't fun for me if you're going to fall to your knees every few minutes. Be serious, Steffan

Stiff furrowed his brows and gritted his teeth, fighting through the pain as he swung one of his swords with full force at Grau's blade, causing him to leap a few feet to safety. 

Grau: That's right, up and at em', dragon boy. Man, I love when you pull that never-give-up s**t, I simply adore it. 

Stiff: ...

Stiff reattaches his swords into one, and holds it out in a combat stance. He closes his eyes eyes, shutting away the nauseating swaying of his vision. As he concentrates heavily, the deep pain in his chest and the tightness in his throat feel as though they are decreasing significantly. 

It wasn't that these complications were stopping, it was simply that he was forcing himself to work past them through heavy meditation. Were it not for the true nature of what he was, however, he'd be long dead. 

Finally, he reopens his eyes to the smirking and excited face of Grau, who remained some feet away on the same large branch. 

Without another word, the two leave the branches altogether and begin an intense clash of blades that elevates higher and higher up the trees. They achieve this by using the trees themselves to leap up, engaging each other directly in midair each time they pass one another. 

They quickly reach the tree tops and begin to fight throughout the surface of the forest. 

Okina continues her barrage of bullets below with the soldier's gun whom she had in a tight hold. But as she stops to reload it, one other soldier manages to sneak up on her from behind and whacks her over the head with the butt of his gun just as she turns to face him. 

Thus she's knocked unconscious...

As Stiff continues to fight Grau from above, he hears one of the soldiers call out to his comrades, "We've got her!" 

This causes him to lose his attention on Grau for a second, which was enough for the Exodus leader to nab him by surprise on the backside of the neck with a simple karate chop. While this didn't actually render Stiff unconscious, it managed to cause his body to tense up completely for a few seconds, in which he plummeted to the ground floor below. 

Being quick, Grau dives down after him and catches him before he could actually hit the ground. After all, he needed his target alive. 

Just as Stiff begins to regain feeling in his arms, Grau takes out some strap and fastens its firmly around Stiff's wrists. This special kind of wire worked in the same way that those energy nets of theirs did. He fastens another strap around his legs as well. 

Stiff: ...Ugh...

Stiff shakes his head and looks around frantically, spotting an unconscious Okina already tied up with those straps. 

Stiff: Don't you touch her...!! 

Grau slaps Stiff lightly on the cheek and points at him, like an absolutely irritated parent would to a child throwing a massive tantrum.

Grau: Steffan, shut up. You've caused enough trouble for today, okay? You're coming with me.

Suddenly, before Grau and his soldiers could make off with their captives, the Brigade cavalry arrives. Both Claire and Vero's groups are now present, and they quickly engage the soldiers on Claire's command. 

Grau growls in irritation. 

Grau: Graaaah...! I don't have time for this! These idiots can't do anything right...

Claire: All of my ranged fighters, keep suppressive fire on those soldiers! Magic and close-quarters fighters, go after General Grau! 

As this happens, Claire makes a sudden charge towards Stiff, knocking away any in her path with the use of her shield. 

Grau quickly attempts to interject her, but is soon met with full on resistance by the others. Claire reaches Stiff in no time due to the soldiers having fanned out from him after being fired upon. She begins to remove the mid-section of his upper armor. 

Stiff: Claire... Don't do it...

Claire: I am sorry, Stiff. But there is no other way. In your current condition, you won't last the trip back to headquarters. 

Stiff: ...

He already knew what she was up to, and while he was completely against it, he truly did not see another way besides death. 

She took off that thin layer of dragon plate on his chest to reveal his bear skin marked with some draconic seal. As he closes his eye, Claire begins to do as Shoryu instructed her and Okina after their meeting about how the seal prevented Stiff's catalyst powers from being released. As well, the meeting spoke of the adverse effects it would have on Stiff, upon each single unlocking of the seal out of three. 

Cutting the palm of her hand ever so slightly, she pressed her hand against the seal and uttered a phrase in the language of the dragons. 

Claire soon found that the palm of her hand began to burn rather fiercely, causing her to pull her hand away. She witnessed in shock as the cut in her palm had seemingly been burned shut, and the seal began to change a bit. 

What was the circular perimeter of the seal itself; a serpentine creature, now opened its eyes and claws while the center of the seal itself appeared to have some of its draconic characters changed. 

Soon after, Stiff began to convulse violently, tearing those energized straps around his wrists and feet apart. 

He began to bellow loudly in an inhumane manner, rising up off the ground as his uncovered eye shot open. Glancing once at Claire; eyes now blackened with a reddened center, he jumped away onto a tree and clawed himself up and around it like some animal.  

His body had begun to smoke out a pitch black fog, which left remnants on whatever he made contact with. While on the tree, his eyes began to dart everywhere, looking at all in the area. 

The soldiers quickly reacted by pointing their guns at him and opening fire, despite Grau not having given any orders. 

Exodus Soldier: S**t, he's doing this again! Shoot, d****t, shoot! 

Many of the shots fired at him landed, but didn't seem to pierce anything. They were seemingly absorbed into the darkness he was emitting, like throwing a bunch of pebbles in water. Still, it appeared to catch him by surprise, as he jumped from tree to tree as he was fired upon. 

Stiff pounced his first target-- a nearby soldier who tried to run away as he leaped onto another tree. The soldier could only see a flash of sharp teeth before being snatched up into the tree, screaming. It was only seconds later when the soldier came crashing down the tree branches, lifeless and tainted by the darkness. 

That was when the catalyst mode Stiff dropped down from the tree, gliding quite slowly just before landing-- almost floating. He was fully transformed now. His once brown hair had become pitch black in color, and a wide grin that cut across his face from ear to ear showed off the jagged set of teeth nestled inside his mouth. 

Also, the gauntlet that once covered his hand was gone, and the amount of scales that were covering his hand and forearm had significantly increased. They were up to his shoulder now. Huffing smoke out of his nose in a sinister manner, he truly did look like some creature. 

The Exodus soldiers had long since began running, well aware of the evil this malevolent being was capable of from their experiences in the sky world. However, Grau himself, stood and watched with an almost reminiscent look on his face. It began to speak in a tone not at all similar to Stiff's. 

Catalyst Stiff: My accursed seal has shattered... I feast on the hopes and dreams of humanity, once more! 

You and the other Brigadiers had completely stopped in shock and terror at the sight of the Catalyst that now zipped past the area, hunting down any and all soldiers it could get its hands on. However, it was a strange sort of terror-- rather induced than natural. 

You: What is this...? 

Taly: I feel it as well... It's as if I'm being weighed down by a fear that is not my own. 

Lion: It's the darkness. It has this kind of effect on... well, any living thing. 

Flint: Man... That darkness seriously warped him out... He looks nothing like he did three years ago with the same effect. 

Salnar: Aye, I remember that. Back then, only his eyes and behavior had changed. That basterd attacked me, too.

Annie: Don't you guys remember? Shoryu said that the dragon scales they used to give him a new hand had some serious affects on his body's darkness, which is why they had to give him that seal. 

Vero: Looks like the more times that seal is unlocked, the more drastic his changes become. I figured that damn lizard was over-exaggerating before... but this is pretty bad. 

Claire remained surprisingly calm, watching the Catalyst closely through narrow eyes. It was an unfortunate end for those Exodus soldiers that fell into its deathly grasp, but it seems this was the only option to keeping Stiff alive. 

Amid the massacre, Nael-- who had secretly followed the group at a distance made a quick bolt for Okina, who remained on the ground unconscious. Everyone had been so shocked by the Catalyst's transformation and power that they still hadn't retrieved her. 

Vero: What's that damn journalist doing now!? 

You: Nael! You'll get hurt...!

Picking her up in his arms, Nael begins to hustle back towards the cover of the trees, but stops short as the Catalyst zips towards him at an alarming speed. 

Nael: S**t...!

He shuts his eyes tight, turning his back to the incoming Catalyst in order to shield Okina. He braces himself. However, Claire quickly throws her hand up and shouts...

Claire: Stop!

Directly on her order, the Catalyst stops just inches from Nael. It growls in irritation and turns towards Claire. 

Catalyst Stiff: ... ... ...

Nael opens his eyes and turns back around, catching his breath. 

Nael: That... was close? Dah! whaaat2 onion head

He backs up nervously as the Catalyst eyes him once more, quickly returning to the safety of the Brigadiers. 

You: He... He listened to her? 

Vero: Claire, what the hell did you just do? 

The Catalyst examines the palm of Claire's hand from a distance and snorts out another bit of smoke from its nostrils. 

Catalyst Stiff: I see, so you're the one who has shattered my seal... And so my allegiance lies in your favor, for the time being. What will you have me do, my liege? 

The Catalyst lowers itself onto the floor in a feral manner, facing Claire. She shifts her hand in Grau's direction and furrows her brows. 

Claire: I want you to kill General Grau of the Exodus Army. 

Catalyst Stiff: I will not do so. 

Claire: What? Catalyst, I've given you the order to neutralize the enemy! 

Catalyst Stiff: I will not heed your order to kill General Grau. 

Claire: Why the bloody hell not? 

Catalyst Stiff: The desire to do so no longer remains mine... It belongs to my puppet, who remains my insignificant half at this time. 

Grau snickers and salutes the group with two fingers. He did not seem  at all concerned with what was going on. If anything, he seemed rather content with these results. 

Grau: Well, there you have it, folks. Straight out of the big cheese's mouth. And with that, I bid you a-freaking-dieu!

He leaps up into the trees in that unnaturally speedy manner of his and quickly goes out of sight. 

Grau: See you soon...

Salnar: Oi! He's gettin' away! 

Vero: After him.

Claire stops them before they can go any further. 

Claire: No, we don't have the time. We got what we came here for, now let's get back to headquarters and give these two some much needed medical attention. 

Annie: Umm... you mean we're taking Creepy Stiff with us like this? 

Claire: Yes. 

You: If he'll even follow you.

Lion: He will. He's practically Claire's pet now until the darkness decides to shelter itself back inside Stiff's body. 

You: You talk like he's a completely different person...

Claire: No, it's not a person. The darkness has taken control of Stiff's body. What you see now is merely a puppet in use... I would imagine the ability to speak came with the dragon's seal and DNA, as he was empty of such an ability with this form in the past. 

You: I see... 

Claire turns and starts walking away, giving the Catalyst the order to follow. 

Claire: Catalyst, you will follow me and my comrades back to our headquarters. Remain idle until further orders are given, is that clear? 

Catalyst Stiff: Yes, my liege... 

Flint: You know, despite how creepy he is, I think this Catalyst makes a pretty damn good ally!

Lion: Don't be foolish. The darkness wants us to rely on its power. The more it consumes Stiff, the closer it gets to taking over once again. And if that happens, he won't be turning back... then the real trouble begins. 

Flint: R-Right... I forgot about that. sweating onion head

Annie: This mission has dragged on and on... I can't wait to get back home. Sigh. 

You take your eyes off of the Catalyst and make your way over to Nael as everyone begins walking back towards the direction that the airships were in. Going up beside him, you examine the unconscious Okina. 

You: How's she holding up? 

Nael: Well, she looks like she took quite a beating, and her shoulder needs to be looked at asap, but... Okina's a strong girl. She'll be on her feet before we even get back. What I'm really concerned about, is her seeing that boyfriend of hers like this... Sigh, boy oh boy, she's not going to like that.

You: I'm glad to hear that she'll be fine. Hey, Nael... Why did you follow us, anyway? You could have been killed, you know. And you can't say it was for that journal of yours, because you're not even carrying it with you at the moment. 

Nael: Well... I, uh... 

You: Be honest, you were worried about her weren't you!

Nael: I was not! 

You: Yeah, okay. I believe you. What a bad liar. 

After getting everything together and contacting headquarters, you and everybody else board the airships to fly home. 

Settling in with the fact that home was a two hour flight away, you decide to mingle with your comrades yet again. 

What will you do?

All of the interaction here is optional. Choosing to nap will continue the story.

© 2013 Jobyn

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Added on January 2, 2013
Last Updated on January 2, 2013
Tags: Adventure, Excitement, Interactive, Anime, Manga, Fantasy, Romance, War, Comedy, Humor, Mature, Brotherly, Friendship, Love, Book

Tides of Twilight



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