Sitting against a blown-out hole on the corner of the first floor, I look out onto the street. There’s shooting everywhere, those titans are still going at it, and I’m about to head into that mess. It’s exhausting and terrifying, I just want to go home, but at least I’m still alive. For now, I mean.
I press myself against the ground and crawl over broken glass, shrapnel, and rubble. I only move one limb at a time, nobody should be paying that much attention to this random spot on the ground. Just thirty feet away, the nearest window or door, that’s all I need to travel. There’s so many broken and destroyed cars out here that I can use as cover, I think I can do it.
As I crawl, the monsters continue their game.
The gurant uses some advanced technology to suspend cars in mid air and launch them at the sayran, but Hizan unleashes a red wind that pushes the car up into the air, letting it fly until it crashes somewhere further down the road. The gurant throws a trashcan, Hizan flips over it, dives into a cartwheel, then, as his hand is on the ground, grabs a manhole cover. With just one arm, he launches the cover like a discus right at the gurant’s helmet! The armor protects him, of course, but the loud clang disoriented for long enough that Hizan can charge in and unleash a flurry of hefty blows against the gurant’s chest plate. It doesn’t do anything more than chip off a few engravings.
Hizan is sweating and his breathing is a bit labored. With all the electricity that’s been shot around, his powers are no doubt getting weaker and weaker as the cosmic energy in the city gets disrupted.
I crawl under a bus that had run off the road and smashed into a lamppost on the sidewalk. Nobody can see me under here, so I give myself a moment to breathe. The nearest door is maybe ten feet away, but there is a broken window just next to me. Should I take my time and crawl into the door, or should I be quick and throw myself inside the window? I don’t know if there’s any soldiers inside, so maybe I shouldn’t draw attention to myself.
To my left, I see the gurant grab Hizan by the throat and hoist him up. The blades on his other forearm extend, but the Sayran raises his legs and plants his feet on the gurant’s shoulder and elbow, preventing the gurant from stabbing him. Hizan’s face is red from the exertion, but he still wears a smug smile, as if proud of preventing a mortal wound.
The gurant decides to try and crush his throat though, as his hand easily fits around Hizan’s neck. Hizan’s smile is wiped away, and the pressure causes his eyes to bulge out of their sockets. Rather than trying to pry the gurant’s hand off, the Sayran grabs his sword in a reverse grip and desperately stabs at the gurant’s face. Each blow harmlessly slides off, until a lucky nick breaks the small bit of glass protecting the gurant’s left eye.
The gurant stumbles, and Hizan gives a pained smile as he reels back for one more stab through the eyehole. Before he can, the gurant throws him with all his might, launching him into the side of the bus I’m hiding under with a mighty crunch! The metal of the bus dents as if it was struck with a cannonball, what few shards of glass remains shatter even further, and Hizan falls to the ground to my left as the bus teeters on just two wheels.
From behind me, I hear a ferocious, echoing roar from the gurant’s troops, while I assume the Protectorate soldiers are feeling the same horror I am. How can a sayran be beaten?
“Gugh…” Hizan’s voice, strained and exhausted, easily passes through my makeshift earmuffs. “Master was right, I can’t fight one of these things yet…” The bus begins to fall back into place, but as Hizan starts to get up, he looks at me, his eyes rounding. “A civilian?”
The bus falling might actually crush me to death and I don’t have time to crawl out, so I press myself flat against the sidewalk and brace for a lot of pain. The shadow passes over me, and I hear a loud clang, followed by the sound of creaking metal… but I’m alive! I open my eyes to see the sayran, laying on the ground, with one muscular arm fully flexed as he holds up the bus. The bus and his arm glow a faint, almost undetectable red. The aura sparkles delicately, and I’m taken aback by its gentle beauty.
“Get out of here!”
Without a second thought, I scramble out from under the bus as fast as I can, escaping just before the gurant grabs Hizan’s leg and hoists him up. The bus crashes against the concrete with enough force that I would have died for sure. I keep my head down and run to the window, while the gurant grabs Hizan’s left bicep and twists hard enough to break the bone. Hizan grunts through clenched teeth, and sucks down air to ignore the pain. I take one last look back as Hizan, in exchange, slices a wire that connects to that lightning thrower on the gurant’s back. Sparks fly from the severed wire and the gurant’s armor quakes and spasm for just a moment. Hizan seizes the opportunity and kicks hard against the gurant’s faceplate, breaking free of the monster’s grip. The gurant quickly recovers from the shock, but his best tool against a sayran is gone. On the other hand, Hizan has only one usable arm.
I leap through the broken window and land on the glass-covered ground with a thud. It’s dark compared to the outside, I need to give my eyes a moment to adjust.
Pushing myself up from the floor, my muscles are burning. Being so close to death so many times has destroyed my stamina. But the Protectorate line shouldn’t be too far now.
The building I’m in has been destroyed with gunfire, it looks like the two sides were fighting in here not long ago, until the Protectorate was driven back. There are great big chunks missing from the walls and the countertops, it looks like this place was a bar, I see an alcohol cabinet with most of the bottles shattered. On the northern walls I can partly see into the next building, and there are a few large holes on the ceiling where I can peek into the next floor.
I force my body to run to the next door, but each limb is sluggish. Still, Hizan is out there, fighting, and the peldaks are doing their best too. I try to stop and open the door gently, but the thing falls off its hinges and clatters against the ground.
The room is full of imperial troopers, supporting the battle by shooting at targets across the road, and the nearby Protectorate barricade. There’s trashbags full of ammo, I see soldiers being pulled in through holes in the wall to get medical treatment, there are knocked over bookcases and tables that some soldiers are hiding behind, and there’s men running up and down the staircase as well.
The falling door wasn’t that loud compared to the battlefield, but a man turns his head. He’s in plain clothes, but with a bulletproof vest and pads. He screams something in his alien tongue and raises his gun, prompting a few others to turn their heads as well. I dive behind the wall before they begin to shoot, even their bullets should go through it like paper.
I grit my teeth and prepare for pain, and when I hear the gunshots my body jolts in fear… but there’s nothing. I pry my eyes open to see what’s happened, and in the doorway I see Hizan. His uniform bloody, his left arm hanging limp, his sword hovering an inch from his hand and spinning fast enough that it blocked each bullet fired.
“Kyah…” He breathes out and looks to me with a smile, his otherwise pearly white teeth marked with blood. “Don’t worry, pal. You’ll make it out of here…” He takes a moment to steady his breath. “Run that way and I’ll take care of everything else. Just don’t stop!”
I don’t hesitate, I just run.
My gaze doesn’t drift from the floor between my feet, I make absolutely sure I don’t trip or stumble. A red haze appears around me and the Sayran runs forward to start slicing imperial troops with his blade. Despite his wounds and exhaustion, he leaps across the room with impossibly deft acrobatics. He throws broken tables, he pushes and pulls soldiers with his powers, he’s still a monster on the battlefield. All their attention is focused on him, and the occasional stray bullet that comes my way is redirected outwards, nothing hit me.
Despite what he said, I take my pistol and wildly shoot in the direction of the enemy troopers, forcing them to keep their heads down as I bash my shoulder through the door and run into the final building. It’s a large, destroyed room with rubble everywhere. On the south side of the room are imperial soldiers, hunkered down and taking pot shots.
But on the north side? I see them. Peldak soldiers. I’m so close, I want to cry! Their dirty blue and grey armor might as well be shining gold to me!
I shoot close to the imperial troopers and catch them completely off guard, they couldn’t have expected a random civilian after all, and I run through their lines! One monsoorai police officer aims his pistol at me, and my life flashes before my eyes, but a peldak is quick to smack his gun away.
From the street to my left, that gurant commander barrels through the wall like a drunken forklift. Light bathes the room from the outside, and chunks of the wall fall behind him, a storm of dust and wood chips following his wake. There’s new gashes and cuts across his armor, and it looks like the ammo feed on his rotary cannons were severed as well. Seems Hizan gave as good as he got. But the gurant is still moving, and he’s reeled back his arm in an attempt to run me through with his twin blades.
I try to dive out of the way, but it takes the sayran leaping in and clashing blades with the beast to keep me alive. I land on the ground and roll to my back to see what’s happening. Hizan’s body has an intense red aura, but he’s being pushed back even still. His right hand is gripped around the handle, a prominent vein bulging on the back of his hand, and his teeth are biting into the dull, backside of his blade.
“You’re..! Not..! Running..!” He struggles to force out through a mouth full of sword.
It takes me a moment to register what he said, but when I do, I jump to my feet and run around them to the Protectorate lines. Hizan jumps back from the gurant, then sends a bright wave of red energy into the gurant, launching him and all the rubble on the floor into the gurant’s line. I hope his heavy armor crushes a few soldiers.
There’s a peldak waiting for me in a gap of the Protectorate cover, “hurry! Get over here!”. The soldiers start shooting to cover us, and Hizan makes it to the lines just as I do. I collapse on the far side of a salvaged car door.
But the gurant’s not done yet. He picks himself up, which takes a bit of effort in that bulky armor of his, then snarls something in his deep, alien voice. A tube rises from his back and he launches a flurry of rockets at us.
“Get out!” Hizan screams as he dives out of cover and spins quick enough to create a brilliant red tornado. The wind rises up all seven stories, ripping apart the wood floors and support beams, and the missiles harmlessly explode against the red wall of iron! The building begins to crumble in on itself, and my collar is grabbed by a monsoorai soldier who pulls me through the door to safety. The gurant looks up and raises his arms to brace against the many tons of steel frames and wood, while Hizan escapes as everything collapses behind him! Just a second after Hizan jumps through the doorway, the entrance is blocked by tons of jagged wood pieces. Dust wafts into the room behind him, and a few of us begin to cough.
It takes a while for the wood and steel to settle, I hear cracking and twisting beyond the wall. There’s a dozen soldiers here, a mixture of peldaks and monsoorai, all with some type of injury, and all drenched with sweat. I’m on the ground with most of the collapsed soldiers, my arms a little bloody from crawling over glass, but Hizan had it the worst. So many wounds all over his body, and his left arm was clearly shattered.
Despite it all, Hizan smiles through his pained gasps and blood tinted teeth. “See? I told you you’d make it.” He leans his back against the wall and gives a thumbs up before sliding down into a sit.