Realizing that it hadn't cut his throat open somehow, Hyshaji's body still carried on with its motion and brought him to the bandit's side. In the next instant, his foe was abruptly smacked in the face with a thrown object and sent crashing through the wall of a shed with a long scream.
The spinning object then returned to the claws of the Dragonkin responsible for the tiger's misfortune. It was a female White Dragonkin, dressed in a Kevlar armor set bearing the insignia of the town. She was one of the town guards, by the looks of it.
"You all right?" The guard hoisted the weapon over her shoulder.
It was a large boomerang-like weapon, but the size of a short sword. Besides the odd weapon, another thing Hyshaji noticed was she had small antlers on her head rather than just straight horns.
Hyshaji didn't bother answering as he brought his paws up to his throat and felt…the cold metal of the electric-shock collar. Ironically it was the only piece of 'armor' on him at the moment. And the dumb thing had actually saved his life by deflecting the sharp edge of the bandit's dagger.
"You probably shouldn't be out here if you're not well equipped." The guard continued as she turned her head to look around, checking for any immediate danger. She had certainly seen some action, with part of her shoulder armor torn up and one of her paws soaked in blood.
"Keh." Hyshaji growled, trying to appear calm as he shook off his narrow brush with death.
Going for a Dragonkin's throat was an almost assured kill, as it was for most races. But especially because the chemical storage nodes for their breaths were located there. Cutting one open in the wrong way would result in very undesirable, and often fatal, internal chemical reactions.
Damn, I need to get a weapon…and some armor too…and…
"The whelplings!" The Black Dragonkin gasped, remembering the whole reason why he'd rushed out here in the first place.
"Hey, wait! What are you…ugh!" The White Dragonkin grunted as her energy shields flickered. "Kou-Sho!"
Hyshaji had to duck behind her as she chanted a quick spell. That created a larger barrier around them, causing the bullets being fired to bounce harmlessly off. While still holding the barrier spell up, she hurled the boomerang, causing the gun wielding bandits to scatter and dodge.
"Sorry! Take care of those guys, all right?" Hyshaji called as he broke into a sprint.
"Hey! Don't get yourself killed out there!" The guard called after him.
Hyshaji wasn't really even listening, for he'd already begun running for cover behind the side of the inn.
That was before a sudden force threw him off his feet. Hyshaji smashed through the wooden wall of a tool shed, knocking over several shelves in the process.
The source of that was the Red Dragonkin he'd been tangling with earlier. He'd used an Auramancery spell known as a Fireball Throw, summoning a forceful bust of flames. This particular spell was more often used as a takedown rather than to do flame damage.
And the Red still had his shortsword too.
Hyshaji then felt something beneath his claws.
Grabbing the hilt, Hyshaji swung, deflecting his opponent's swing. Leaping up with renewed energy, Hyshaji threw a kick and knocked the bandit out of the shed.
Well that was lucky these were…wait…
The shed had some electrical lighting, allowing him to get a look at his weapon. A silver colored short sword with a Y-shaped hilt…giving the impression of a claw with the blade attached to its palm. Another identical sword lay on the floor nearby.
No way…by Fafnir's grace! These were mine!
Hyshaji took the second sword in his other paw. The weight was still familiar and the weapons looked like they'd been well maintained too.
With these, he'd be able to utilize the style of magic he'd once specialized in.
"Rai-An-Sui." Still gripping the sword, Hyshaji raised his right paw and drew it first to the northeast, then south and finally west. The Aura left a visible yellowish glow on the blades of both swords, charging them up with thunder-elemental energy.
The bandit was on his feet again. This time, Hyshaji charged in with both swords. His foe parried, but received a rude shock as the electrical energy jumped from Hyshaji's enchanted swords and onto this body.
Still with the enchantment on his sword, Hyshaji went on the offensive. The swords meet several times, but Hyshaji was faster than the stunned bandit. One of Hyshaji's blows managed to break his foe's blade in two, before getting in a slash to his neck, sending the bandit down with a gurgled roar and a spray of blood.
Hyshaji stood panting over the corpse for a moment. He felt too the temporary thunder enchantment leaving his weapons.
I'd lost these before the petrification, but somehow….they were brought here…
Hyshaji thanked the Ancient Dragon Gods. But for now, he had a self-imposed mission to carry out.
The young voices drew his attention to another tool shed at the rear of the building. The door was apparently locked, but the whelplings had taken cover beneath an overturned wheelbarrow.
"You two all right?" Hyshaji asked hastily.
"Um…yeah…" Both nodded, visibly shaken up by the ordeal.
"Come on, I'd better get you two back inside the inn where…"
"Look out!" Keji pointed.
He'd caught sight of the bandit as well, swinging my sword upwards to reflect the blow. A loud clang of metal sounded as the bandit was knocked backwards. However, he was agile enough to regain his balance, keeping his sword held firmly in front of him.
There wasn't much to differentiate him from the other attackers. He too was a large, bulky Lycan with dirty fur and part of his mane tied behind him in a ponytail. His equipment consisted of the similar leather vest, slacks, short sword and shield as the rest…but there was also a very distinctive cross-shaped scar on the right side of his cheek.
Now where have I seen that before?
In a blur, Hyshaji was sword to sword with him, blades gleaming as the weapons clashed. Neither one gained any ground in the initial attacks, but Hyshaji took a chance and ducked beneath one of the strokes, lashing his tail against his opponent's feet.
Hyshaji was startled when he executed a perfect summersault over the attack, bringing his sword downwards. The Black Dragonkin rolled away and scrambled to his feet, just in time to clash again.
"Now, what's a Black like you doing looking after those kids?" The bandit grunted in a very spiteful tone.
"None of your business." Hyshaji growled, throwing his body weight against him and forcing his foe to back off.
The way he speaks, it's familiar. I wonder…could he be…
"Hey you." Hyshaji pointed. "Did you know a Talin?"
"Hmm? Well I might have." The Lycan scratched his head. "That's kind of familiar…"
"Molgar, am I right? You were in jail with Talin once."
The bandit was taken aback at that.
"All right Black! I don't know how you know that, but if you're just stalling, it's not going to work!"
"Who said anything about stalling? I just needed that info before I beat your head in!"
Hyshaji lurched his head forward, spraying an acidic breath in his direction. Molgar ducked low down and raised his shield, but the attack still singed his left shoulder. The Lycan then thrust his shield upwards, catching Hyshaji in the chest as the latter tried to pull back.
The Black Dragonkin hit the ground, and immediately rolled to the side, narrowly avoiding a sword thrust to where his head had been. Hyshaji lashed out with his tail, partially whipping Molgar in the shin as the Lycan jumped.
"Grrr…" Molgar snarled. "You're causing me a lot of trouble!"
CRASH! One of the windows overhead shattered as Yakumo leapt out. The Green Dragonkin crossed the area in the blink of an eye and knocked Molgar off balance.
Yakumo's brown cloak was partially wrapped around his right side, exposing a little of his metallic arm. The Green Dragonkin had both his wrist blades out as he turned to Hyshaji.
"Dammit kid! What do you think you're doing? You're not worth as much to us dead!"
"Hey, when did I have listen to you?" Hyshaji muttered.
A second Green Dragonkin leapt out. Spreading his wings to slow his fall, the Dragonkin landed beside Molgar and rose into a fighting stance. This Dragonkin was clad in the same dull leather outfit as the other bandits, but wore a set of spikes over his knuckles.
"Largo! Nice timing!" Molgar grunted, pulling himself to his feet.
"Would've been here sooner if I hadn't run into him." Largo replied, his eyes narrowing.
"One of those whelplings is the village leader's daughter." Molgar gestured with his sword arm. He then turned to Hyshaji and Yakumo. "So why don't you two step aside and hand them over?"
Hyshaji turned his eyes to cast a quick glance over the two frightened whelplings, and then turned back to Molgar.
"How about NO?"
"I'm inclined to agree. Here." Yakumo had been chanting an Aura during this time and tossed it at Hyshaji.
The Black Dragon felt the tingle as the wind elemental Aura surrounded him.
Agility Aura? That's excellent!
Hyshaji shot a glance over to Yakumo, who simply nodded. He abruptly leapt towards Largo, attacking with a flying kick that the latter was forced to block. The bandit lashed out with his fist weapons, forcing Yakumo to flip away.
That was all Hyshaji really got to see as he too was moving in to engage his foe.
"En-Chi-Rai-Kin." Hyshaji drew on the Aura as he dashed.
What met his opponent's sword was a fire enchanted slash. Red hot sparks flew as he parried Molgar's attack with his right sword. The stunned Lycan drew back, feeling the heat through his gloved hand.
Pressing the attack, Hyshaji thrust his left sword, now glowing with thunder elemental energy, and met his shield. Molgar grunted as he blocked with his shield, but he definitely felt the electrical charge. Hyshaji kept up his assault, smashing his enchanted blades against his weapon. The bandit did attempt to swing back, but the double enchanted blades were wearing him down.
Left, left, right, up, right…now!
Hyshaji feinted an attack and allowed his foe to swing his sword. In a flash, he'd pulled away from it and slammed both enchanted swords on the ground. The result was a small blast of thunder and fire magic that left Molgar screaming in pain as he tumbled backwards.
The attack had drained the swords of the magic imbued in them, and now reverted back to their normal silver colors.
"Ow…damn…" The bandit panted.
Just then, a long horn blast sounded over the din of the battle.
"That's the sign." Molgar called. "Let's retreat."
"But we haven't gotten the child yet." Largo leapt away from Yakumo.
"Nevermind that, the sign means they've completed the other objective!" Molgar backed off several more steps, then turned and ran.
"I'll remember this!" Largo took off as well, clutching his bleeding left shoulder and arm.
Yakumo had apparently done some damage, but the stoic green dragon didn't pursue and chose to stand there watching until the bandits were out of sight.
"Wow! That was awesome!" Keji and Ron were suddenly by Hyshaji's sides. "Thank you!"
"Whoa, whoa, hey, easy there." The Black Dragonkin panted. "I'm still aching from the fight."
"Looks like you definitely know how to use those." Yakumo remarked, retracting his wrist blades and dusting himself off. "Enchanted blades eh? That's a Sword Mage's ability."
There were a few rips in his cloak, but his metallic arm and the rest of his body seemed fine, hardly bruised at all. If he could even feel pain, he certainly wasn't showing it and keeping a straight face.
"Keji!" The innkeeper came running over and embraced her son in a long hug. "I was so worried!"
"I'm fine mother, thanks to mister Hyshaji!" Keji waved.
"I…urr…" Hyshaji blushed a bit. This was a kind of treatment he wasn't used to.
"Hey, you guys all right?" Ferryl strode over.
"You weren't supposed to let the kid out of your sight!" Yakumo lowered his voice. "That could potentially mess up this whole mission!"
"Well excuse me for losing sight of him when the whole bandit brigade was using me as a dart board!"
"Nobody asked you to have such a big ass anyway!"
"Grrr…so why don't you help me pull those arrows out of my arse then?"
Yakumo muttered something under his breath as he set about his task, while Ferryl raised her front right claw off the ground and waved the center of her three 'fingers' offensively at her partner.
"There's another problem too." Ferryl turned to the innkeeper and the whelplings. "The bandits took someone they knew as the village leader."
"My father?" Ron's eyes widened. The female immediately took off, heading for the town square.
"So, that's the other thing they were talking about." Yakumo realized.
"It was my fault…" Ferryl said softly. "He was right next to me. They went after him while I was distracted…"
Hyshaji watched from his seated position at the fountain as groups of villagers and guards moved briskly about in a blur of activity. It was maybe 20 minutes or so since the attack, and the guards were organizing matters in the town square.
Mainly, that was accounting for the wounded, and several casualties. He'd overheard that some militia reinforcements had arrived from the neighboring villages and were planning their next course of action. Yakumo and Ferryl were over to the side, conversing with what appeared to be one of the guard captains.
He turned his attention back to the twin swords in his claws.
A large armored Black Dragonkin passed by was many years ago… The innkeeper had mentioned. Hmm, could he really be?
Speaking of the innkeeper, Hyshaji spotted her with Keji and approached the pair.
"Hey." Hyshaji waved. "How are you two doing?"
"We're fine, thanks." The innkeeper nodded. "It seems that the guards have everyone accounted for. Other than Elder Yano."
"Yeah, Ron was really upset." Keji sighed.
"She's a good friend of yours, I assume?" Hyshaji knelt down by the Whelping's side. "Have you tried talking to her?"
"I don't know what I can say…"
"You may not need to say anything. Sometimes, others just need a claw to hold. If you get my meaning." Hyshaji looked up. "And if your mother allows."
"Go on." The innkeeper nodded. "It's safe now and she could use the comfort."
"Thanks! I'll try!" Keji darted off.
"You've had experience." The innkeeper remarked.
"I went through the war too. So I guess you could say that." Hyshaji straightened up. "By the way, these swords…"
"Oh! Remember that huge Black Dragonkin I told you about earlier? He used these to pay off his bills when he passed through here."
"Keji was going on about how you used them like they were yours. I've been maintaining them while trying to sell them off. But perhaps you'd like to take them instead? Consider it my way of thanks for your help tonight."
"I'd really appreciate that. Thank you." Hyshaji nodded. Much, much more than you know.
"Come on, this is a contract we have to take up!" Ferryl insisted.
"We're already in the middle of something here, it's probably not the best idea." Yakumo snarled in reply.
"Look, I know I could've done more to protect the Elder. I'm not about to just leave here without trying to fix that!"
"Problems?" Hyshaji strode over.
"Kid, I don't have time for…" Yakumo began.
"Our guild offers contracts for these sorts of missions." Ferryl interrupted. "We're registered in the guild database, and the guard captain here wants to offer us one to have us help go after the bandits and the Elder."
"Also, you're a new recruit being considered for the guild." Yakumo shoved his companion's head aside as he lowered his voice. "So do us a favor and play the part."
"Hey, I never agreed to…rargh!"
Yakumo grabbed Hyshaji by his collar, abruptly cutting him off.
"By the way, that's still staying on."
"Keh. I'm starting to think of it as a good luck charm." Hyshaji muttered.
"Guild recruit eager to prove himself?" A voice sounded from behind them. "He's lucky he didn't get himself killed."
One of the guards had approached their party. This one, Hyshaji recognized as the White Dragonkin with the huge boomerang weapon, which was now strapped to her back.
"Hey, it wasn't exactly like that!" Hyshaji shook Yakumo's claws off him.
"Fine, nobody ever appreciates the medic's advice until they almost die." The White Dragonkin huffed, folding her arms. "Oh, and I 'took care of those guys' like you asked. You're welcome, by the way."
"She's got you there kid." Yakumo chuckled.
"Great, more critics." Hyshaji moaned. "But thanks, erm…"
"Yuuka." The White Dragonkin introduced. "Anyway, Captain Jarrid wants to know if you'll be accepting the contract. I'm instructed to accompany you if you are. He figured you could use some healing and protection spells thrown your way."
"We certainly will take the contract!" Ferryl cut in.
"Hey, that's not entirely your choice." Yakumo protested.
"Well, I'm up for it too." Hyshaji raised a claw, smirking. "You'll want to trial your guild recruit, right? I'm pretty sure this is a good way to do it."
And I've got a personal stake in this too. He thought, recalling Keji and Ron.
They say a dragon can't change the color of his scales, but Yakumo was on the verge of going from green to red at that moment.
"Fine, let's get this done quick." Yakumo growled. "Ferryl, go with Yuuka here and talk to Captain Jarrid. Get up to speed on his plans."
"Will do." Ferryl lumbered off together with Yuuka. Before she did, she turned to Hyshaji and gave him what would probably have been a wink if she didn't have the visor on. It was instead more of a slight tilt of her head.
"As for you kid, I admit, you handled yourself pretty well out there." Yakumo continued. "I'll assume you didn't steal those swords or anything. Here, catch."
"Whoa!" Hyshaji scrambled to catch the bag, while still keeping a grip on his newly reacquired swords.
Inside was a light armor set, which Hyshaji slipped on.
A dark crimson sleeveless jerkin, designed to be put on from the front and strapped on at the rear. That gave his wings very good maneuverability. Along with it was a matching set of brown breeches for the lower body, crimson gloves and ankle guards. The most important part, a shielding device, was attacked to a brown leather belt with pouches. There were even straps available for him to attach the twin swords to the belt.
Hyshaji felt a satisfying flow of energy as the shielding device activated.
There were a few extra items inside too. The Black Dragonkin slipped a crimson red padded armband around his right upper arm and a couple of brown leather straps around his left upper arm. Following that was a gray colored band around each of his longer horns.
"Hmm, not bad kid. Seems I picked out a good fit for you." Yakumo rubbed his chin.
"Wait, you actually bought a set of armor for me? Before the attack?"
"Don't misunderstand." The Green Dragonkin gabbed a mechanical finger at his shoulder. "You having armor and shielding means less chances of you getting killed and screwing up my job. Ferryl is already distracting us from it, you'd better not add any more to that!"
"Keh. So you're not all machine under there?" Hyshaji responded. "Didn't know you cared."
"Nice choice on the horn bands, by the way." Yakumo abruptly changed the subject. "Hard as it might be to believe, this 'old man' was young like you once."
"This 'old man' is lecturing me on cosmetic choices too now?"
"Get prepped kid, we're leaving in fifteen." Yakumo strode off without properly responding.
Hyshaji was left by himself, straightening out his new armor and reflecting on his situation.
What he could be sure of was that his old squad was attacked by an unknown group as they were disbanding after the war's completion. That had left him stuck as a statue on a bridge for years. Now, he was essentially kidnapped to join a guild, which just might help him find some answers.
And there were those visions of what probably were his former squad members too.
Well, at least things just got a lot more interesting!