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The Kousou Ring – Chapter 2

   Mit stared thoughtfully at the flames. This camp fire was the only light in miles. Above him the stars softly glowed, endlessly, pointlessly. They told him nothing. He was sick of the stars. He was sick of this place but it was his fault he’d ended up like this, he was to blame, and all he could do now was stare at the fire and wait. He couldn’t sleep. He could only sit here and listen to the crackling and hissing of embers dying in the early hours of the morning.
   No sound. Ultimate silence as the last flames lost their vigour. Darkness all around. The stars seemed brighter, but with no moon they gave no light. Mit could no longer see the trees only paces away from him, all around him, although his eyes hadn’t moved all night. There were no creatures around, no wolves or birds or bugs. Nothing was alive. His deep thought had got him no where, but there was nothing else to do now. Thinking would solve nothing, but that didn’t stop him searching for an answer. Hours and hours he’d sat here, motionless, undisturbed.
   Until the snap of a footstep on twigs and leaves met him from half a mile away. Someone was here. He snapped out of his thinking, and looked around.

   The remains of the fire were scattered amongst the leaves. Mit’s bag, empty, lay in a crippled pile on the other side of the clearing. His shoes were ruined, useless, so he had burnt them. His supplies were little enough to keep in his pocket. On his belt were his swords, on his wrist was his broken watch that he refused to toss. His clothes were dark, ragged and ripped, but clean. As he leaned forward to stand, memories of what had happened came back to him… Fire and screaming, confusion; and then they both drowned. He pushed his fingers into his face. He had to remember.
   The footsteps were clearly audible. He turned to face them. He didn’t need to draw his weapons, he could draw faster than most people could pull a trigger. And then he saw a familiar face.

   “Atrius.”

   His throaty voice had broken the silence of the night. It had almost echoed through the trees. Atrius walked closer and Mit could see he was in pain. His left arm was dribbling in blood, and his shirt was soaked in mud. His black hair had grown somewhat, and formed tangles and clumps. He was also without shoes. Over his shoulder and down to his waist was the strap that used to hold his hammer. Mit noticed the handle of which was in Atrius’ right hand, what remained of it was dragging along the floor.
   Mit kicked some dry leaves onto the embers and the fire rekindled. They both sat down around it, and with a sigh, began to talk. It was going to be a long day.

   “Iceman is dead” said Mit, “drowned. They drowned him, I mean. Horrible way to go, but it could have been worse.” Atrius grunted a response. “Cube’s dead too. Arrow through his heart. They took his body – God knows what they’re gonna do to it.” He took a deep breath. “I found Sniper’s remains in the cave at North Peak, looked like he’d had a pretty bad fight and had bled to death. He’d left a note in his hands.” Mit fumbled in his pocket, and passed a chunk of paper to Atrius. On it, written in blood, were the words TURN BACK. Atrius looked at it for a moment, then chucked it into the fire.
   “We can’t.” He spoke as if every word hurt. “He never thought we should go, but he had no idea what we were running from. Besides, a dead man’s words are worth nothing.” There was a long pause. “When me, SolemnGamer and Master K reformed, we were outside the complex on the other side of the mountain. We had planned an assault at sundown, but things didn’t go to plan. They knew we were coming. It was a disaster. The Emizu chased us separate ways, I haven’t seen them since. That was five days ago.” Another deep breath. “The man who ran after me – I’d never seen anything like it. Huge, he was. Must have been eight feet tall. He carried a chainsaw.”
   Atrius chucked the ebony handle over to Mit, where it was clear how the hammer had broken.
   “Where’s the rest of it?”
   “In his skull.”
   “You didn’t think to-?”
   “There’s no point, Mit. There’s no one who could repair it in a thousand miles from here. I’ll find another weapon.”
   There was another long silence. The first rays of dawn crept over the horizon.
   “You wanna get something on that arm of yours?”
   Atrius looked blankly at his arm, pulled his shirt back and poked at the dribbling gash in his shoulder. The chainsaw hadn’t hit bone, but he’d lost a lot of blood.
   “It’ll be fine in a few days.”
   “Suit yourself.”

   In the morning light they set off north again, with little to talk about. While there was no point heading north anymore, there was no point staying here either.

***


   Fire and flames and screaming, franticly fumbling and tumbling.
   The case was lost. The battle was lost.
   Machines and pipes and fuel and steam and sparks and shrieks and fire and flame. Structures of steel and buildings of brick were shaken and shattered and struck. Flashes of rubble, airborne ruins, explosions and dissonance of rock.
   The water was rushing as the dam was collapsing on faces he knew all too well.


   Mit woke up. It was the following morning. They had stopped for camp halfway up the cliff. The remains of their fire was dwindling in the chill wind. Rocks and gravel had been his bed – all the trees were down below. Soon they’d be wading through snow, but the mountain had to be crossed. A layer of dew had fallen, and thick fog stretched out across their view of the forest, up to the plains and blending in with the off white sky. Atrius sat upon the ledge, his legs dangling as he snapped his pocket knife open and closed.
   It began to rain.

   “Atrius,” coughed Mit, “I think I know who it was.”


To be continued. Hopefully you won’t have to wait another two freaking years for part 3.

- mitxela


Author: mitxela
This page was uploaded on 05/06/08

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