There was a violent shake. Canis, Keena, and Rei stood on the bridge with Glenn.
"What was that?!" Glenn cried.
A deckhand ran up, almost as if to answer him. "Sir! We just got rammed by a personal vessel!"
"Nothing showed on radar. How, and more importantly, why would someone ran into us?"
Screams could be heard from outside. Rei gasped in surprise.
"That sounded like Mom! Let's go!"
Everyone bolted toward the noise. Sure enough, they found Ray standing in front of Ashe in a protective stance. Jace had a single TII-3 Eternity in hand. They were on the port side of the deck, and was rather small. Only a few deckhands could come through without overcrowding. A figure was approaching Ray when he looked up and noticed the others joining. He was clad in an all too-familiar blue armor.
"There you are! I knew I couldn't keep you hiding for long!"
Jace held his aim steady. "Who are you? What is your purpose here?"
"I come on my own accord. I'm here to put and end to these two imps before they bring ruin to this world again!" He said, pointing toward Ray and Rei.
"Hunter!" Rei shouted. "Leave us alone! Ladon's finished. It's all over!"
"Be quiet! This…is not over…until I decide that it is!"
Glenn drew both of his blades. "I'm going to ask you to leave only once. I've lost a few good men in a battle a while ago, but I still have plenty of men on board. You're far outnumbered."
"Am I? Want to check your autopilot, Captain?"
"Huh?" Glenn looked around. Sailors were at stations trying to keep the large ship flying straight. With most of the workforce busy, an army of sailors wasn't going to happen.
Ray shouted at his daughter. "Get back to the bridge, Rei. Let us handle this!"
Rei wanted to protest and stay outside. But she also knew how much of a threat Hunter was to her. "O-okay!"
Hunter immediately pulled his R-700 and pointed it in her direction. "You'll have to get through me first!"
Keena sped toward Hunter, delivering a kick to the rifle, sending it overboard. She knew trying to kick him would only make him laugh.
"So, we're doing this he old fashioned way? Very well." He drew a PWC-I BloodSeeker from his Tri-o-Avatar, which he immediately swung at Keena. She dodged with a back-handspring. Canis armed himself with his bō. Rei engaged her Phoenix armor and drew her bow. Jace and Glenn activated theirs as well. Ray swapped places with Ashe, and began pounding her in the back with his palm.
"Ray! What the hell are you doing?!"
"Quick, Ashe! Use your karate chop action!"
The only action he got was an elbow to the ribs.
"Now is not the time to be stupid, dumbass!"
"At least he tried…" said Jace.
Glenn was snickering. "Karate chop action…haha."
"And you're just an ass."
I'm surrounded by asses… Rei thought. "Dad! Get up!"
She tossed Collision to him. Being reunited with his trusty blade once again, he gripped it with both hands and held it in front of him. "Stay back, I'll handle this."
Ashe ignored him and took a martial stance. "I have all I need. I'm fighting whether you like it or not."
Ray knew he wouldn't change her stubborn mind. "Rei…"
"I already know what you're going to say. But he's going to do everything in his power to force me to face him. I can't run and hide any more. I've learned that problems aren't resolved until you stand up to them."
"Rei, I don't like this."
"I know you don't. I want you to leave this to us. He's our problem, we will deal with it."
"Rei, I'm not going to lose you again."
He felt a hand rest on his shoulder. "Let her go, Ray."
"Ashe…? This is out of character. You do understand the circumstances, don't you?"
"It wouldn't be the first time I watched someone I loved walk into a deathtrap. When you went to confront Shadus those years ago, I fell asleep to the thought that I would wake up to never seeing you again. I don't like it any more than you do, but if she feels this is her fight, I won't stop her."
Ray let out a heavy sigh. Hunter flipped his blade around. "I haven't got all day. Either agree on a kill order, or I will."
Ray handed his sword back to Rei before standing off to the side. "Then hold onto Collision a little longer. Please be careful."
She nodded in understanding. "I will."
Everyone backed up far enough to give them plenty of room. Rei, along with Canis and Keena, readied herself. She wasn't going to make a move until he did. But it didn't seem like Hunter was budging any time soon either. He held his sword in front of him, resembling that of a patient samurai. After a moment, Keena made the first move. She ran right at him, and swung her dagger in a backhanded grip. Hunter intercepted with his BloodSeeker. Keena immediately tried to counter with a forward kick, but Hunter had a counter of his own. He spun around her as her leg extended, and delivered a hilt to the back of her head. She hit the deck with a heavy thud.
"Ow…" She said weakly. "That…that actually hurt."
Canis's staff lit up with blue flames. At the same time, Hunter had picked up Keena, using her as a body shield. Even as strong as she was, Keena couldn't break his grip.
"You wouldn't risk hurting her, would you?" Hunter spoke in a taunting manner. "I dare you to try something."
Rei held her Trinity firmly and drew back. "What do we do, Canis?"
"Just keep your shot ready. Don't worry," he smiled, "I'll get your opening for you."
Canis twirled his bō around and swung forward, flames flying off in a big blue fireball. It hit Keena square in the chest, and the flames rolled around and flared up on Hunter, seeming to turn his armor into an oven for a moment. Hunter was surprisingly startled. He let go of Keena, who was unaffected by the flames, other than the light redness that appeared on her skin. She took advantage of his surprise and struck him with a scissor kick. Hunter held his ground, but took several steps back from the force of the blow. Canis rushed Hunter and swung his staff at his hand in an attempt to disarm the sword he'd managed to hold on to. This failed, as a green aura suddenly surrounded him, negating any damage or pain. Rei had seen this before, as he was practically invincible.
5. She thought to herself.
4. She kept her aim on him as he was recovering from the earlier hits.
3. Hunter swung at Canis, who sidestepped, and immediately at Keena, who rolled behind him.
2. Rei pulled back a bit further, as far as she could. Hunter had swept his blade with surprising elegance in front and behind him to keep Canis and Keena from completely flanking him.
1. Hunter feinted to Keena's right side, and he followed up with a shoulder charge, putting her straight on the deck. Canis tried to lure his attention away from her. Hunter seemed to have seen him coming, and swung around. Canis was late to avoid it and was left with a nasty gash across his right arm. The cut seemed to have absorbed the energy from his arm, causing him to drop his weapon and leave him almost defenseless.
Now! Rei thought. She released her draw, and three arrows sped toward Hunter. He blocked all three, causing them to explode on impact with his blade. He didn't seem to care. How he reacted as quick and precise as he did baffled everyone. With Canis and Keena incapacitated, Hunter rushed at Rei. She fumbled trying to get her cutter back out. Right before Hunter got to her, a purple vortex appeared suddenly beside him, with Ray flying through. He wrapped his arms around Hunter's neck in a chokehold.
"I'm tagging in, Rei!" He said, attempting to restrain Hunter. Hunter was a bit stunned at the sudden maneuver, but reached over his head and threw Ray over him after getting a hold of his shirt collar. He collided with a bulkhead and fell to the deck.
"Geez…that's gonna leave quite a bruise…" He wheezed.
In a fit of rage, Rei dropped her cutter and threw herself at Hunter. One of her hands latched onto his sword-bearing wrist, and the other around his neck. Even through his armor, Rei could feel energy entering her body. It was only for a brief second or two, as Hunter kicked her forward and prepared to strike while she was on the ground. He hadn't noticed Canis speeding behind him, swinging his bō overhead with his uninjured arm. He brought down the staff with all his might, colliding with the back of his head. His blue helmet began to crack. The sheer force of the blow caused him to drop his blade and reach for the top of his head. Rei recovered quickly and shoved him backward a bit. She picked up Collision and held it ready. Hunter staggered further backward as the crack in his helmet began to grow and widen. Keena joined beside Rei and Canis.
"Ugh…" Was all he could utter. He took a few more steps backward, collapsing to his knees as his helmet fell off, split down the middle in two pieces. His hair was much whiter than Canis's. Ears also alike those of Canis extended from his head. When he looked up, the skin on one side of his face was marred, as if it had been severely burned. The other side had a long scar running across his cheek. His mouth and some of the bottom of his face was covered by a black mask. His yellow eyes held a piercing, menacing stare.
"C-Canis…why?" He croaked.
Keena was shocked. Canis was no less. "Arcan? You're…alive!?" He said.
Arcan began to stand to his feet. "I…barely survived that demon's attack." He said, pointed in Ray's direction, where he lay on the ground while Ashe tended to him. "It was so sudden, I had no time to react. I awoke with sever burns and wounds. I employed my abilities to recover and recuperate quickly. Within days I was back up and I began to train myself further in secrecy. When I felt ready for a rematch, I donned an armor so I could walk among humans undetected, and withstand attacks better. But I soon got word that my foe was gone and the war was over. I was content for those many years that passed, working as a bounty hunter to pass the time and rid this world from other wrongful hearts. Eventually I had learned that this man", he again pointed toward Ray, "was that old demon and was living amongst other humans. To make matters worse, he had already began populating this planet with his mutated spawn." He then pointed to Rei. "I cared nothing for the gold Ladon was prepared to pay me. I simply wanted them both dead, as he should have been those years ago. I had several opportunities, but you interfered every time. Why, do you fight alongside our transgressors?"
Canis's shocked expression wore away. "Transgressors? I assure you, the Demon Commander has been long dead. Who you're referring to is an honest man by the name of Ray Hadron. He no longer carries the Demon's sins, and neither does his daughter. Believe it or not, he is your equal as my greatest teacher. Observing his lifestyle and philosophies, I've learned from him that past actions don't always make you who you are. If he could choose to move on, then likewise I no longer wished to live in the past. I also learned from you the dangers of a vengeful heart."
"You believe this to be about revenge? This has nothing to do with vengeance. While I would love more than nothing else than for our fallen brethren to rest peacefully, my motives for slaying these two was not for vengeance. You may believe them to have changed, but they can also change back at a moment's notice. They are an endangerment to the human population, and to our kind's recovery. Surely this crossed your mind?"
"It has. Numerous times. I even had my own chance to kill him just as many times. The first time, I found him unconscious. But I could sense strong feelings for someone else, a woman. I was hesitant, but decided against trying. There was another when we met face to face. He stood his ground against me after threatening his friends, but I could see through him. It wasn't to defend himself. He cared nothing about his own life. He was prepared to give his life to defend his friends, most importantly, the same woman I had sensed earlier. While at the time he didn't have my sympathy, he had my respect. From then I kept a close eye on him. You are right about the possibility of him changing back over. He almost did. But he fought with himself, and was determined not to lose control and hurt those he loved. He later fought to save mankind. There is no longer a risk of him living among us. Let go of this."
"You've let them earn your trust too easily. Without them, there is no risk to worry about, whether you believe it to be there or not. I had high hopes that you would make the right decisions and become a true pack leader one day, better than I could have ever been. But perhaps I put too much faith in you. It seems I made a mistake trusting you to represent our race's salvation." Arcan backed up all the way to the railing. "Is this the way you want it, Canis? For the next of your generation to live in fear of inhabiting a planet where the cause of their near-extinction continues to roam?"
"No. They will live in a world without hate or a need to fear. I'll continue to support Ray, his family, and his friends, as well as the future of all humankind and our species."
"I see. If that is what you wish, then I want no part of it. You are a disgrace to our kind, and I will not continue to live on and witness you ruin the future I had entrusted to you. This is farewell…pup."
Arcan leaned back, letting himself fall over the railing. Canis sprinted forward.
"Arcan!" He cried. He stopped before he got to the railing. He knew he was gone. A voice sounded from right behind him.
He turned to see Rei. Sympathy clouded her eyes. She wrapped her arms around his waist.
"I'm sorry, Canis. I'm sorry."
He returned her embrace. "It isn't your fault, kiddo. I had forgotten about his abilities to recover at an alarming rate. Arcan's body may have survived, but his mind was long gone. Done worry, I won't be moping over it. Not long, at least."
"It sounded like it hurt…"
"It did a bit, coming from a former teacher and role model. But he's changed since I'd last seen him. He used to be serious about discipline and honor, but the masked crusader we've been encountering has neglected much of that. It was clear he was deranged whether he meant what he said or not. Do not worry, this doesn't change anything."
Rei smiled. "You've been a great friend, Canis. I'm glad you chose to come along."
"It's been an honor to be in your company, Rei."
"One thing is still bothering me…after our fight, why did you decide to come back for me?"
"Observing your cutter raised questions. I was suspicious as to where you had gotten it. I couldn't remember clearly but I knew it was somehow familiar. By the time I closed in to your location I heard you screaming at…someone or something, as well as your motive to find me. You collapsed before I got to you. My cabin was only a mile away, so I returned there. When you awoke, you asked about the vision you'd had. After that it never crossed my mind to ask about the sword. When the Demon Commander showed up and began to talk, it answered that question for me."
"You came back just because of my Dad's sword?"
"Sort of. You're still a minor, I couldn't just leave you out there, especially when the occasional alien wonders about. Having to strike you already made me feel bad enough."
Rei opened her mouth to respond, but not before Keena pinched one of Canis's ears and began to tug.
"Ow, ow, ow, Keena! You know I'm sensitive about my ears!"
"And I'm kind of sensitive about getting fireballs thrown at me! That idea was pretty stupid."
"I did it knowing you would barely be harmed. Can you release me, please?"
Keena let go with a grunt and crossed her arms angrily. "How was I to know you'd remember that? What was going through my mind was 'We'll just try something and see what happens'! Again: pretty stupid."
"Of course I remembered. I wouldn't have been so quick to resort to that method otherwise."
Rei was puzzled. "I'm rather confused as to how she took a direct hit and came out with nothing more than a sun tan…"
Canis was rubbing his ear. "Most human beings have small abilities of their own. Our kind has had such abilities for longer, and are more pronounced. Keena lacks such abilities that you're used to seeing. Rather, she is highly resistant to their effects. This is why your draining power only slowed her down, rather than rob her of energy. In conclusion: my idea wasn't that stupid."
"Hehe…" Ray chuckled, walking up. "If it's stupid and it works, it's not stupid."
Ashe rolled her eyes, as she approached Canis. Her hand glowed blue, and the gash on his arm began to close. She stopped the bleeding, and then operated slowly, as to not wear herself out again. "That's practically his motto. When he's out in his shop fixing something I sometimes hear loud bangs of metal. Apparently it's because he forces or hammers something with more than he really needs to. He looks at me and says 'If violence isn't the answer, then you're not using enough'! That might as well be another."
Ray laughed. "That doesn't apply to people, of course. But you'd be surprised at what frustration and a hammer can fix."
A devious smile stretched across Ashe's face. "That's not a bad idea. I'll try fixing your head one day."
"I said it doesn't apply to people!"
"But it might work."
Canis chuckled. "Call me over when you do it. I'm sure it'll be worth the trip."
Ashe seemed to get angry. "You know what else would have been worth it? You showing up at our wedding. That would have been nice!"
"I WAS at the wedding…well the reception anyway. But the actual ceremony was still going, and the after party hadn't stated yet. So I got bored and left."
"You were there? When?"
Ray looked surprised. "THAT explains the missing corner piece off the cake!"
"It was quite well-made. Not a fan of sweets, but it was delicious."
Ashe buried her face in the palm of her hand. "Well at least it makes me feel more relieved to know you there, even if just for a slice of cake."
Keena frowned. "That just seems disrespectful…"
Canis shrugged. "I could have just not gone at all. Although I did watch from afar unseen while you two were outside of the building. The dress was gorgeous, if that makes you feel any better. The real show seller was seeing Ray shoot the garter in Jace's face like a rubber band. Seemed like it took him a bit longer than I would have thought it would to take it off."
Jace's face grew red. Glenn and Ray laughed. Ashe actually blushed. "It took him a while to take the garter off because he was 'enjoying the view' as he said…and thanks, I've still got the dress. Looking forward to seeing Rei wear it one day."
Rei's own face grew rosy. "Stop it, Mom…"
Ray was still laughing. "The dress was amazing. But since we've been married, one of my favorite moments was a Christmas Eve morning. Rei was about eight at the time and she was still asleep. We had a fire going in the hearth. Ashe was sitting on the couch with a cup of hot chocolate. Sun was shining through the window right on her. She was wearing nothing but a turtle neck and a pair of black capris. Not sure why, but probably the most adorable I've ever seen her."
Ashe rolled her eyes and smirked. "That's enough, Ray."
"In the meantime, I'm going to work on accessing the damage and getting us back home." Glenn said with a tip of his hat, armor now off.
Ray frowned. "I'm suddenly reminded…what was this 'deal' you and Epsilon were talking about, Rei?"
"This is unacceptable! I won't stand for it!"
"It's okay, Dad. It could have been worse."
"Worse?! It shouldn't be this bad!"
"It's only six months, Dad."
"Of solitary confinement? I wanted so bad to get up and deck that judge on the spot. Does that seriously not bother you?"
Rei shrugged to the best of her ability, with energy cuffs binding her wrists. "I killed a high ranking general, Dad. Had Captain -- er, General Epsilon not helped out my case, I would be either dead or imprisoned for life. I'll serve what time I need to."
"You're sixteen, you shouldn't have to serve time in prison!"
"Ray, don't forget you served a two-hundred year sentence once. Six months is nothing, dear."
Ray turned to Ashe to say something, but couldn't find the words to speak. She looked at Rei and continued.
"It may be hard to stay sane in solitary, but I know you're strong. We'll try our best to visit often, if not everyday. I love you, sweetie."
Ashe embraced her daughter. Ray then took his turn.
"Above all things, I'm just glad you're safe now. I'll see you soon, sweetheart. I love you."
"I love you too, Dad."
"We'll visit soon."
"Thanks, Mom. Thanks, Dad."
"…As will we."
Canis approached the family. He was wearing a white, button down shirt that had the top couple of buttons undone. An outback-style hat rested on his head to hide his ears. A chain hung around his neck with a small feather that was normally hanging from the neck of his lute. A trench coat kept his lower body covered, presumably to keep his tail from attracting attention. Keena was with him, wearing a long, dark blue dress and a sunhat. Canis continued to speak.
"I apologize if we were late. We got into a small feud about how we needed to dress. Keena insisted I wear something 'nice'. According to her, a 'cloaked, lute-wielding samurai' wasn't going to cut it."
"I'm not a fan of wearing a dress either, but I didn't want to look like a thief. Remember that this is for Rei, not your comfort."
Rei smiled. "It honestly wouldn't have bothered me either way. I'm just glad you made it."
Canis nodded. "I'll do my best to visit sometime when I'm in the area."
Keena frowned. "And I'll make sure he does so fairly often."
Rei smiled as an armor-clad soldier began to tug on her arm. "Thanks guys. I'll see you all soon."