Ch.22: Proof of Teamwork

Ch.22: Proof of Teamwork

A Chapter by Brenden Brown

Brenden, Tara, Seth, and Drew were just separated from Anna, Scarlett, Frank, JT, and Lucy by Daku's second assistant, Joshu, The Four-Eyed Henchman. 
Brenden, Tara, Seth, and Drew were still in pain from when Joshu slammed them into the ground, so they waited for a bit. After a while, the four got up. 
"Well, this sucks," Drew sighed. "We were finally ready to do an actual mission as a team, but then we get separated AGAIN." 
"It doesn't matter," Brenden said. "We just need to focus on getting the Sun Relic piece and getting out of here." 
"Are we sure it's even here?" Seth asked. "Tanaka put lots of emphasis on that word 'might' when he said it might be here." 
"I'm sure it is," Brenden responded. "Why else would that Joshu guy be he-" 
Brenden was interrupted by banging on the wall and Scarlett's muffled voice. 
"Does she expect us to be able to understand her?" Drew shook his head. "C'mon, let's hurry up and get through this thing." 
Drew began running forward. Brenden and Seth followed. Brenden noticed that Tara wasn't coming with, so he turned back around, but not before handing Seth his bo staff for a light source. 
"Tara, what's wrong?" Brenden asked, putting his gauntlet hand on her shoulder to not burn himself. 
Tara looked down. 
"I... miss John..." Tara said quietly. She didn't want to show any weakness. Staying strong for her friends, not showing fear or worry, was always what she focused on. "I haven't seen him in so long... Who knows what he'd be like. Maybe he's found someone else in the Underworld and he won't even look at me when we rescue him..." 
"Tara, you know that's not true. I know that's not true." Brenden emphasized the word "I". "Trust me, when he was still here, I could never get him to shut up about you when I was trying to sleep." 
Tara looked up at Brenden. "Really?" 
Brenden nodded once. 
"That's... freakin' awesome," she said, very out of character. "Okay, let's catch up with the other-" 
Tara stopped speaking when she heard Drew shriek. She replaced the rest of her sentence with a sprint. Brenden followed. On their way to where the noise came from, they heard a loud slam and felt a shake. 
Once they both caught up to the other two, they saw on the ground a pile of rocks, the handle of a knife, shards of metal, Brenden's bo staff, and of course there was Seth and Drew. 
Seth seemed okay, he was breathing heavily with his cudgel out in his attack stance. Drew, on the other hand, didn't seem so good. 
He was on his knees and was bleeding profusely from his right hand. The bleeding hand was red and swollen. 
"Does anyone... have a bandage... or something?" Drew grasped his swollen hand by the wrist. It had many small pieces of metal stuck in it all over. 
"What happened here?" Brenden asked. 
Seth explained how two Stoneskins ambushed them and Drew tried stabbing one with his diamond-crested dagger, but it shattered against the hard rock, shooting metal pieces into his hand. 
"Stupid knife..." Drew grunted. "Dumb thing musta just been... for decoration." 
"I don't think stabbing at hard rock is ever a good idea," Tara shook her head. "Continue, Seth." 
Seth nodded, then explained that he dropped Brenden's bo staff and attempted to hit one of the Stoneskins, but his eyepatch made it so he was inaccurate, and he hit the wall instead. 
"I need to work on my depth perception," He laughed, then concluded the play-by-play by explaining how he slammed his cudgel successfully into the two Stoneskins afterward, reducing them both to piles of pebbles. 
"Drew, why didn't you bring those bandages you got from the pirate place?" Brenden asked. 
Drew rummaged around in his pockets with his good hand, and surprisingly pulled out a roll of elastic bandage. 
"I guess I did," Drew shrugged, picking out small pieces of decorative metal from his hand. 
While everyone was waiting for Drew to patch himself up, Tara walked forward. A little later and she called to the others. 
"Hey guys, come take a look at this," she shouted. 
Brenden grabbed his bo staff, and he, Seth, and Drew caught up to Tara. In front of her was three paths that the cave split off to. They were equidistant from each other and were approximately the same size. 
"Looks like we'll have to split up again," Brenden sighed, "into three groups." 
"Three?" Seth scratched his head. "Now, I'm not the smartest guy ever, but I don't think you can split four people into three groups evenly." 
"It'll just have to be UNevenly then," Tara responded. "Me and Brenden will go by ourselves, you two can stick together." 
"What?" Drew groaned. "Why am I always with him?" Drew thought for a second. "Why do we even have to split up anyway? Couldn't we just stick together and go one path at a time? Wouldn't that be safer?" 
"But what if one path is a trap and someone has to be down another path to deactivate the trap or something?" Brenden asked back. Answering questions with questions was a good tactic Brenden used to always seem on top of things. "Me and Tara will be fine by ourselves, and you'll have Seth, so you won't need to worry." 
"I'll try not to be too annoying," Seth smiled. 
Drew chuckled. 
"We'll see about that." 

Drew and Seth took the leftmost path of the three. Follow the heart, Seth thought, and he took it literally. Also the fact that the left path was the only one that was lit up. The beginning of their section of the ice cave seemed just like the parts before it, but smaller. Seth and Drew ran forward, trying to cover as much ground in as short amount of time as possible. Maybe Frank and the others are already at Joshu and they were in danger, Drew thought. Maybe there was treasure at the end; treasure that wouldn't leave his hand looking like a royal pincushion. 
After a while of running, Seth and Drew slowed down to a walk to catch their breath. 
"So... how's you and Anna?" Drew asked, trying to make any kind of conversation. 
"We're good," Seth smiled. "We've only been dating for like... four days? But I think it's going good. 
"What about you?" he continued after a short pause. "Got your eyes on anyone?" 
"I... guess you could say that," Drew responded after a while. 
"Ooh! Who's the lucky lady?" 
Drew hesitated. 
"I'd... rather not say," he finally said. "I don't even know if they..." 
"Hm?" Seth had an eyebrow raised. 
"Forget about it," Drew chuckled to try and ease some of the awkward moment. "Let's keep mov-" 
Drew was cut off by a hidden Akuma slamming into his side. He fell to the ground, the wind knocked out of him. 
Seth responded by hitting it with his cudgel with max power, but he didn't realize that the Akuma had a thick layer of metal scales covering it, and his cudgel only dented it. The surge of reverse energy from the metal resisting Seth's hit caused his whole body to shake violently, and he fell. 
"D-Drew!" Seth said with chattered teeth, trying to scramble back up to his feet. "I c-can't hurt this g-guy! S-stick an a-arrow in h-him!" 
Drew, laying on his back and gasping for air, clawed around at the ground for his bow, which fell when he did. Once he got ahold of it, he grabbed an arrow from his quiver. Normal arrow, please, he thought. He shot it into the metal Akuma's chest, staggering it, but not killing it. 
Drew got back up, his lungs back to normal use, and pulled back another arrow. 
"How about something new?" Drew thought aloud, releasing the arrow from between his fingers. 
When the arrow sunk into the Akuma's thick metal exoskeleton, the arrow melted into scalding water, melting down into the Akuma's abdomen. It fell to the ground, dead. The scalding water spread across the ground, mixing with Akuma blood. Some of it touched one of Seth's gauntlets, burning him through his armor. 
"Ow, dude!" Seth backed up from the water. 
"Sorry. That was pretty cool though, right?" Drew smirked. 
Seth got up from the ground, blowing on his hand. 
"What kind of Akuma was that?" he asked. He looked down at the dead Akuma. It had intricately layered scales covering its entire body, and it had yellow eyes that were glowing when it was still alive. 
Drew shrugged. "Dunno. I've never seen anything like it, though." 
Seth grabbed his cudgel from the ground, and him and Drew continued forward. 
"Hey, I gotta question," Seth spoke after a bit of silence. 
"Alright, ask away," Drew responded. 
"Why didn't you stab the Stoneskin earlier with an arrow instead of your dagger?" 
"Seth, that's not how arrows work." Drew rolled his eyes and took out an arrow from his quiver. "Y'see how thin the stick of it is? The only reason they don't snap on impact is because they're shot at a hundred feet per second. If they weren't, then�"" Drew snapped the arrow in half with ease, "�"that would happen. I stabbed the Akuma with the dagger because I didn't think the dagger was made in China." 
"Hm," Seth thought. "So I guess if an enemy is close up then you're screwed?" 
"Basically. It doesn't help that I can hardly move because of this heavy armor." 
"Why don't you ask Tanaka if you can switch to light armor? He'd probably be fine with that." 
Drew thought for a while. 
"Maybe I should," Drew finally spoke, "but that wouldn't really help my close-quarters combat at all." 
"Maybe your alternate weapon will be something close-ranged. And if not, I'm pretty good at close-corners combat, so I'll be there." 
"Quarters," Drew corrected, "but thanks. I guess if you're in need of long ranged help, I'll be there. Y'know, since your weapon is about as long as your forearm." 
Seth laughed and nodded. Even though he and Drew butted heads a lot, he was glad to have him as a friend. 
"Hey, what's that up there?" Seth pointed forward. "Looks like a grey room." 
"It might be a trap," Drew responded. "Keep your eyes out for any surprise Akuma." 
Seth nodded and ran forward. Since he had the higher defense and closer range of the two, he led. Once they stepped in the stone-half of the cave, a wall formed behind them. 
"Well, not going back that way," Drew shrugged, then looked ahead. "Looks like this isn't just a room. It's another part of the cave." 
"We must be close to Joshu," Seth stated. 
"Closer than you might think, heeheehee!" 
Drew and Seth quickly turned around, but nothing was there, just the wall that had formed moments ago. 
"You heard that too, right?" Seth asked. 
"Yeah..." Drew grabbed an arrow. "Keep your eyes peeled. If we're lucky, maybe we can kill him right here and now." 
Seth stomped the ground, creating an Obsidian Shield. He and Drew advanced forward, looking behind and around them periodically. After doing this for a bit, they encountered a fork-in-the-road of two paths. 
"Again?" Drew griped. "He must be trying to dwindle our numbers even further. Let's take the left path fi-" 
Before Drew could finish, a stone wall suddenly appeared between him and Seth! Drew was stuck before the left path, and Seth, the right. 
"Not fair!" Seth kicked the wall. "Drew, be careful!" 
"I will, don't worry." Drew responded. 

Drew carefully yet quickly proceeded down his path with his bow drawn and his eyes peeled. He wasn't going to let himself die here. Not to that four-eyed creep. 
"So why am I so scared?" Drew thought to himself. "I killed Kobun, so this scrawny excuse for an Akuma should be no problem." 
"That's simple really." 
Drew jolted up with fright, then turned around while knocking his arrow and pointing his bow to headshot level. As soon as he turned around, he shot the arrow, which he saw for a split second pass easily through the head of the entity standing next to him. 
"What...?" Drew knocked another arrow. "A hologram?" 
As soon as Drew finished that thought, he was surrounded by purple magic and suspended in the air by Joshu�"the REAL Joshu. 
"As I was saying, it's obvious why you're terrified of me," Joshu laughed. "You're intimidated!" 
"As if, four-eyes!" Drew squirmed around in the magic. 
"Look who's talking!" Joshu laughed, then ripped Drew's glasses off of his face with magic and threw them at a wall, shattering them. "You ARE intimidated, water boy! Of my sheer intelligence!" 
Drew became worried. Not only did Joshu just destroy his designer glasses, the Akuma was probably RIGHT. Drew relied on his wits and his cunning. They were what made him unique from everyone else. And this lanky demon seemed to be smarter than him ten-fold. 
"Th-that may be true, but..." Drew cleared his head, "but there's something I have that you don't!" 
Joshu snorted. "Oh yeah? And what's that?" 
Drew said nothing. 
"Well, if you're not gonna tell me, I might as well see for myself what you have!" 
Joshu transformed into purple mist and crept towards Drew. Before Joshu reached him, Drew transformed his body into water, causing Joshu to pass right through him. Because Joshu did not expect this, he released Drew from his magic grasp. Drew returned to his normal state of matter and ran towards the wall that separated him from Seth while trying not to trip on anything. 
"W-what!?" Joshu slowly formed back to his normal state. "Nobody tricks the great wizard Joshu and gets away with it!" 
"Seth!" Drew yelled, hoping Seth could hear him. "Joshu's over here, and I can't see jack! A little help!?" 

Over on the right side of the fork that he and Drew encountered, Seth was busy fighting a trio of Shredders when he heard Drew's cry for help. 
"Drew!" Seth thought to himself. 
Seth pushed back the Shredders with his Obsidian Shield, then slammed his cudgel into the head of one of them, killing it. The second one dashed at him, but Seth spun and kicked it to the other side of the cave. The final one lunged forward and managed to tackle Seth. 
"My friend is in danger!" Seth yelled. "Get... off!" 
Suddenly, Seth's armor protruded huge stone spikes in every direction. The spikes sunk into the Akuma, and it fell off of Seth, dead. Seth got up off the ground, and the spikes retracted back into his armor. 
"Well that was new," Seth felt around his armor, then realized that Drew was still in danger, and started to run back to the wall that separated the two. Once he got to it, he instinctively stomped the ground, causing a rock to jut out of the Earth under the wall, which pushed the wall partway up into the cave's ceiling. 
"Why did I not think of that earlier?" Seth thought to himself just as he saw Drew slide through the opening under the moved wall. 
"Run, dude!" Drew continued running down Seth's path. 
"But we could totally take J-" 
"No we couldn't!" Drew yelled behind him. "He's way stronger than Kobun, trust me! We'll need more than just the two of us to kill him!" 
Seth thought that whatever happened on Drew's side of the cave scared him, which scared Seth, because he had never seen Drew afraid. Not even when he was interrogated by the government. That thought sent Seth running along with Drew. After running for who knows how long, Seth and Drew made it to a huge square room with a tall stone in the center. 
"This looks familiar," Seth gulped. "Well I guess you can't see all that well, but it looks almost exactly the same as the room we fought Kobun in." 
"Then this must be where we'll all fight Joshu," Drew guessed. 
"What do you mean 'all?'" Seth and Drew heard a voice say. "The left group will be dead in moments!" 
They looked around, but saw nobody. 
"What are you talking about?" Seth said aloud. 
"Well that's simple! The light boy and the loud girl are going to be crushed in a trap I made, and the two useless ones are going to be ripped apart by Steelscales!" 
"W-what?" Drew thought aloud. "That's impossible!" 
"This'll be too easy! All I have to do is wipe the floor with just four of you!" 
As soon as the voice was done speaking, Brenden and Tara ran into the large room. 
"Well lookie there!" Joshu appeared on top of the large stone. "It's showtime!" 


© 2019 Brenden Brown


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Added on December 27, 2018
Last Updated on February 5, 2019


Author

Brenden Brown
Brenden Brown

Buffalo, MO



About
I like to write and make music. Currently focusing on school and TSR. more..

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