Night One: Love and Life
"Looking outside, I somehow know that this will be a night that I will remember well. The stars had never seemed so bright, the sky had never seemed to be so filled with radiance. Everything seemed to be right with the world. I felt so happy- and why shouldn't I feel so? I share in the joy that is Seto's... He is about to be a father!
His elation is certainly catching. Though I myself have never aspired to become a parent, Seto's enthusiasm about the whole thing is giving even ME second thoughts about that particular decision. That's rather interesting. I'm young yet. Maybe there's a chance that I might...
But that's neither here nor there. What's important is the event that will probably make tonight one of the most special night of nights in this beloved place.
Dear Kura is experiencing the birth pangs of her kind and that is something indeed, especially for the people in this village- after almost two years of pregnancy, who wouldn't become impatient!?
I chuckle now, but when I look at Seto, at the way he sits on the humble patch of floor near where Kura lies (though I am quite sure that he can barely contain the excitement within himself), seeing to Kura's every little comfort, need or want, patiently waiting for the life within her to finally decide to come out and experience the world, I cannot help but feel at least some of the love this noble creature has for his family. It is enough to bring tears to the eyes. Let it never be said that Seto was not a good husband or father!
Haha... Strong words, but rather misplaced, in a way. Grandpa must be wondering where I am right now- and to think I told him that all I was going to do was get a drink!
Keeping this journal helps me think about things. I can talk to grandpa about everything, but it's nice to have someplace to keep my own private thoughts.
Bah, I shall have to cut this short- I can hear him calling me now. He probably wants me to bring him some more blankets for Kura or something. Well, duty calls. Until tomorrow then.
I almost wish that this blessed day would never end."
-from the personal memoirs of Bal Bugenhagen, date unknown
Only the rythmic hum of heavy breathing was Bugenhagen's answer. Seto's form was hunched onto the matress on which his wife, Kura was also peacefully dozing.
Bugenhagen smiled. He stepped inside the firelit room and gently prodded Seto's sleeping form.
There was a snort and then Seto's characteristic low growl that he had whenever he woke up- it would sound like a snarl to anyone else, but Bugenhagen knew that it was just one of his friend's little quirks.
Seto looked tired more than anything- the delivery had taken a lot out of both him and Kura.
"Friend Bugenhagen," Seto said, his booming bark of a voice now lowered to a barely audible rumbling. A weary smile appeared on his face at the sight of his friend. "What is it?"
Bugenhagen grinned. It was always good to be the bearer of good news.
"It is a son! I have a SON!"
Bugenhagen almost couldn't believe that Seto was, mere minutes ago, almost too tired to move. The Birth Ritual he had undergone to reduce- or rather, share- in Kura's birth pains had subjected him to almost unbearable agony for what, to him, must have felt like eternitites.
Now he was jumping up and around the whole room as if he were but a puppy of three years. He shouldn't even have been able to stand properly yet, much less dart from Kura's room and into the nursery, where he would proceed to perform several gymnastic feats of questionable safety.
"It is a son! I HAVE A SON!" Seto's tawny red form leapt here and there, bouncing all over the walls of the hut as an amazed and amused Bugenhagen looked on.
"Yes, yes, you do, Seto," Toma nodded from the corner where he was sitting, beaming. "Now calm down before you bring the whole hut down on our heads!"
With a final somersault, Seto thudded heavily back onto the ground, making the hut shiver slightly with the impact.
"Kura must see him," Seto was muttering, his tawny body pacing back and forth in the cramped quarters of the room, barely able to keep from leaping around again. "She must see our wonderful son!"
Without another moment's delay, Seto was suddenly placing his forepaws on the bed by the side of the room. Gingerly, he clamped his teeth onto the loose cloth of a small, pitiful bundle sitting there and lifted it, turning around to walk out the door, careful not to go too fast so as not to endanger the treasure he carried, and not going so slow as to deny justice to the happiness that he felt.
"I've never seen Seto so happy," Toma remarked as Seto's flaming tail disappeared from view. "Bugenhagen."
Bugenhagen blinked. "Yes, grandpa?"
"Let's follow him, shall we?"
Bugenhagen walked over to the aged man's seat and helped him up. As they were nearing the door, Bugenhagen looked back towards the bed from where Seto had picked up his bundle.
The dazed nursemaid, who had been cradling Kura's baby until Seto had recently decided to claim it without any prior warning, could only nod.
"He's beautiful..." Kura said softly as she gazed at her son, whom she had brought into the world not an hour ago. "So beautiful..."
"Of course," Seto puffed with pride. "He's OUR son!"
"Oh, Seto..." Kura sighed and licked her baby's fur fondly in the age- old way her people expressed deep affection. "Seto dear... What shall we name him?"
For a moment, Seto was taken aback. He had never thought about it before, actually... Rather absentminded of him, really, considering that he had nearly two years to try and think of at least a few names.
Seto's mind was working at several angles now, some of which involved inner beration of himself for having been so stupid when it struck him.
"Nanaki," Seto whispered into his mate's ear. "We shall name him... Nanaki, son of Seto and Kura..."
"Nanaki..." Kura repeated, closing her eyes in exhaustion. "Nanaki... our son..."
"He shall live to be a great warrior," Seto declared, suddenly overwhelmed with an emotion so strong that it was almost all he could do not to burst into tears of joy right then and there. "He shall carry our name with pride! He is our son, Nanaki and I vow to be all of a father that I can be to him, no matter the price... This I SWEAR!"
At this, Seto howled with all his strength, declaring to the world that he had a son. When his breath was spent, he howled again, a long, joyful sound full of pride and love.
By the door, Toma and Bugenhagen watched the three silently. The smiles on their faces showed the great joy that they felt for their friend and his new child.
"Truly, this is a day blessed among others," Bugenhagen remarked in a low voice so that only Toma could hear.
Toma nodded. "It shall be remembered," he said, "for years to come as a day of great celebration and joy. May nothing be placed amiss on this very special day."
Outside, below them, on the small flat area that sat at the foot of the ancient face of Cosmo Canyon, the Eternal Flame was burning steadily into the night.
The Flame had protected the village of Cosmo Canyon since time immemorial, since the very first settlers of the jagged cliffs had lain their everlasting protection onto the rocks of their new home. As long as the flame was burning, no harm could ever come near the people of Cosmo Canyon.
Normally, there would always be someone to watch over the Eternal Flame, if only to make sure that it never went out, ridiculous as the notion might have been- the flame was eternal. No rain, no wind, no force had ever proven strong enough to extinguish the ever-burning light of the sacred fire. The fire sentry was but a means to keep a few minds at peace.
Tonight, however, was too special of a night to be staying outdoors watching some old bonfire. At the moment, everyone, without exception, was sharing in Seto's joy and congratulating him in his triumph.
The delivery was but the beginning- the celebration had been prepared weeks ago in anticipation of tonight. The party would go on until the wee hours of the morning.
So it was understandable that nobody noticed when the Eternal Flame below them began to first, flicker, putter, and then die out completely in a wisp of smoke.
Night Two: Uproar
"This is terrible. Never have I even dreamed of the Eternal Flame going out in my own lifetime- not even in my worst nightmares.
Everyone is in a panic now. The Flame refuses to be relit and the people of the village are sure that it is an evil omen, a sure sign that harm would befall the village.
Some rogue even had the gall to suggest that the Flame's disappearance and the birth of Seto's son were no coincidence, that they were somehow connected. I was to have put the lout back in his place, if only to protect Seto's honor- I was infuriated with the remark for reasons that even I cannot explain. Grandfather stopped me, however,before I could properly teach the brute a lesson. Sometimes, Toma can be too lenient to those who don't deserve his protection.
But the fact remains that the Eternal Flame has died at a most inopportune time. Not only has it marred the gaiety from last night's celebration, but it has also raised severe doubts in everyone on whether or not we can withstand yet another attack from some warring tribe- as we're sure is going to happen. It is the perfect opportunity, now that the Flame is out.
This year's and the last's battles have taken their toll on the men of this canyon, and I cannot be sure that they have the capacity to fight off yet another group of violent invaders intent on wrenching this land away from us. They are all courageous and strong, yes- but we are also fewer than we were, having not had the time to replenish our number of able-bodied fighters yet.
The absence of the Flame is no help either. And not just because it lowers the men's morale considerably. The Flame has always been known to have magical properties of its own, making it possible for what few warriors the canyon had to stave off literal hordes of adversaries at a time. The power of the flame bolsters every fighter's body and spirit as they fight, and for years, together with the brave soldiers of Cosmo Canyon in the past, it has protected my family's land from almost countless warring tribes.
But now the Flame is gone.
Already, news of this has reached far and wide, apparently. Just this afternoon, when the sky had already turned blood red with the descent of the sun behind the horizon, the tower sentry has spotted smoke in the distance. It is as I, and many others in the canyon have feared- someone approaches.
They are the Gi, a tribe that Cosmo Canyon has known about for years. They are a fierce clan, experienced in warfare and unmindful of who they choose to attack next. Except when it came to Cosmo Canyon.
The Gi have probably also known about the Eternal Flame that protects the canyon. They would linger in the distance, observing from afar the canyon and how the Flame protected it. Perhaps that is why they now approach after years of passivity- they have found a way to extinguish the flame from afar.
I cannot discount the possibilty that they are only passing by, or that they are only coming to trade, to leave later without having done any harm to the canyon. But neither is very possible- the only way the Gi leave any place they visit is by razing it to the ground with no one left alive.
I am beginning to scare myself. I had better stop now."
- from the personal memoirs of Bugenhagen, date unknown.
Night Three: Knock, Knock...
"The sentry has observed the Gi rallying just below the canyon. They haven't answered any of our hails nor have they hailed us. A messenger was sent to the encampment. He barely escaped alive.
It is without a doubt now.
They intend to destroy Cosmo Canyon.
God help us all."
- from the personal memoirs of Bugenhagen, date unknown.
Night Four: And The Battle Ensued
- the personal memoirs of Bal Bugenhagen, date unknown.
Night Five: Another Day, Another War
- the personal memoirs of Bal Bugenhagen, date unknown.
Night Six: When Victory Is Sour
"They say I have been asleep for quite some time now.
And after all my dreams of becoming a hero for Cosmo Canyon, it is a stray rock hurled by some random brigand that downs me and crushes me under. Life can be cruel, certainly.
The battle rages still and, by the heavens, it seems that we are winning. I couldn't believe it myself, at first, but when the village healer finally let me get up and look down at the fighting, I could see that the canyon's fighters were holding up well on their own. Nay- they even seemed to be REPELLING the Gi!
Does this prove that we didn't need the Flame after all to defend ourselves from such a powerful tribe as the Gi? Maybe not, as, if we did need it, the Gi would have smothered us almost without resistance.
But why DIDN'T the Gi punch through the canyon's defenses as if it wasn't there? From the sentry reports, there certainly were enough of them to carry that task out easily enough...
And also, the Gi were reputed for generations to be fierce, savage, unrelenting attackers... But why did they retreat almost as soon as the first wave of our defenders came to meet them? They take on a peculiar strategy of attacking, and then withdrawing, attacking and then withdrawing- the battle has been going on for days now, I heard. What are they waiting for? Why don't they attack full force?
Ack. Can't think much more now. Head beginning to hurt. Hand shaky.
Thoughts will have to wait. For now, must sleep."
- the personal memoirs of Bal Bugenhagen, date unknown.
Night Seven: That There Be No Widows
"AAAGH! It is so obvious! The Gi intend to outflank the fighters of Cosmo Canyon through a hidden tunnel that snakes out from inside the canyon itself to somewhere outside the west face of the cliffs.
But why is Seto taking only twenty men with him!? He has been at my bedside this morning after a short reprieve from battle, and has spoken to me of this suspicion, and I agreed with him on the spot. Knowing the Gi, it would be just like them to try something like that, their being the experts at warfare that they are.
It is a plain enough ruse; the battle at the front was a decoy- the real invading force would be coming from behind and underground all along.
But WHY is Seto taking only twenty men with him!? Even the village elders can't seem to understand that a trick has been played on the canyon. They believe that it is only worth investigating but not worth the canyon warriors' full attentions. They are too drunk with the concept that they are efficiently defending the canyon even without the Eternal Flame.
The FOOLS! And Seto is doubly the fool by believing that he is prudent in taking as few men as possible from the front lines, just in case he was wrong and that the Gi DID actually intend to attack full force from the front. RIDICULOUS! LUDICROUS! The idiot! He was right! He saw right through the Gi's plan! Even *I* knew it to be so! If only he would stop doubting his own judgement and take most, if not ALL of the men down there with him!
The only reason I am not with him now is because the village healer won't let me leave, and I find that I am also too weak to resist or attempt to escape, much less be chasing after Seto down some deep hole.
Curse the infernal luck!!! Look at me, lying in bed all day, without anything that I can do to help, like... like... like NANAKI!- well... that's not entirely accurate. I can do two other things- I can write here and fume.
The village elders won't even talk to me anymore, even when I asked grandpa to convince them otherwise. They really think that they've made the right decision! Hah! If Cosmo Canyon weren't my home as well, I would be laughing at them. Laughing at their folly. Laughing at the fool, Seto for going off to meet an army of probable hundreds with but twenty men.
I would be laughing now.
If it weren't for Kura and Nanaki waiting for him to come back, I'd be laughing now.
Dear God, Seto, please come back alive."
- the personal memoirs of Bal Bugenhagen, date unknown.
Night Seven, Part Two: Living A Dream
"The fighting has intensified outside. The Gi have called on their reserves- the defenses are strained to the limit.
Now I don't know what to think or do. Seto was right in not taking more than twenty men- those outside are barely enough to contain the Gi, who have now been fighting with a sudden intensity that we haven't seen before.
But he was also wrong (WRONG, oh, so wrong...) to have taken just twenty men with him down the Hidden Tunnel. It is suicide.
If there was only some way I could help, I...
I must... I must go. Despite my many injuries, I must go and try to save my dear friend. I must.
This could very well be my last entry. It it is only sad that I end on such an inconclusive note. Perhaps if someone were to pick this up, read it and look into history then...
Bah. Time runs short. I am off."
- the personal memoirs of Bal Bugenhagen, date unknown.
The entrance to the cave was dank and humid with the heavy air of long closed up space. The torchlights lining the cavern walls were few, but they were barely needed- the rocks of the walls themselves seemed to be emitting an eerie green light of their own.
Bugen had no trouble seeing which way Seto and his party had gone- the cave was almost linear near the entrance- the trouble would come in the later forks in the tunnel.
With some difficulty, Bugen leaned his weight on the crutch he had stolen from the healer's hut and began to shuffle into the bowels of Cosmo Canyon with its assistance. The crutch had proven to be quite useful to him so far- he had used it to knock the otherwise immobile cave door open, and even earlier, had used it to knock the healer unconscious.
"Forgive me, Hjianhia," Bugenhagen muttered under his breath as he struggled to go as fast as he could, wincing with every misstep, pretending not to feel the pain everytime he accidentally knocked into a rock or two.
He came upon a hollowing in the rock that revealed no less than five possible directions to take. Bugenhagen stopped for a moment to catch his breath and regain his bearings- which way to go?
Suddenly, something decided to answer that for him- the echoing sounds of several battlecries and clashing weapons floated out to the injured man standing at the mouth of the cavern junction.
For a moment, Bugenhagen feared that he was too late.
Increasing his pace, Bugenhagen almost couldn't navigate the rough, pebbly ground of the cave he was forcing himself to transverse, barely being able to avoid falling flat on his face. And then, just as he reached the entrance to where he thought the sounds had been coming from, he finally lost his footing.
With a cry, Bugenhagen pitched forward, holding his arms outward to break his fall. His body became a mass of pain, and his bandages flowered red in several spots where old wounds reopened.
Whimpering, Bugenhagen looked up... and then he gasped.
The next cavern's floor was almost covered with scores of bodies of Gi warriors, all of them lying down, all of them very dead. The ground ran red with their mingled blood.
On instinct, Bugenhagen covered his mouth and nose with his hand. The horror was clear in his eyes and on his face to whomever might have seen him at that moment.
"T-These are... elite Gi warriors," Bugenhagen choked out to himself, reclaiming his crutch and struggling back to his feet. "Oh no... Seto!"
Without pausing to see whether any of the bodies had been that of any of his other comrades, Bugenhagen stepped over one, and then two, and then three lifeless shapes to get to the dark cavern mouth at the other end of the room.
When he got there, there was nothing- only more Gi bodies. Bugenhagen's unease grew at the sight of every new corpse on the cavern floor. There were even a few that belonged to the twenty Seto had taken with him- some Bugen even recognized.
Bugen went on past more caverns, each filled with the bodies of the Gi, and occasionally, a defender of Cosmo canyon. The caverns had also been scarred all over, a result of the intensive fighting it had witnessed.
"It seems that they've been fighting them off well on their own," Bugen murmured as he hopped over the bodies once more to advance further down the cavern. "But how long can they last until they-"
The question was never finished. The cave wall beside him suddenly burst outwards in a spray of luminous green rock and heavy grey granite. Bugenhagen shielded himself as best as he could with his hands but the debris battered and bruised him mercilessly while the sharp rubble cut him in many different places- the crutch in his hands shattered into one long wooden shard and several thousand smaller ones.
After enduring what seemed like an endless wave of rocks, Bugenhagen opened his eyes.
Bugenhagen could only think about how terrible his friend looked- Seto's magnificent pelt was riddled with wounds from what looked like five different types of weapons, he was bleeding from many places, and his once glorious mane was now matted with blood- both his and his enemies'.
"He must feel worse than I do," Bugenhagen gritted his teeth, forcing himself to get up on all fours. "SETO! YOU'RE ALIVE!"
Seto had been thrown through the rock wall at a crushing velocity and had been sent rolling on the floor, but he had gotten up, shaken himself as if nothing more harmful than a backhand had been done to him, and then snarled menacingly, ready to return to the fray. He spared Bugenhagen a look.
"BUGENHAGEN! YOU FOOL! GET OUT WHILE YOU CAN! WARN THE OTHERS!!!"
There was a loud roar that filled the entire cave, making Bugenhagen cringe, and then the mighty red creature was flinging himself back at his opponent.
The opponent in question was none other than the Gi leader himself, large, muscular, heavily armored and, in many regions where his dark skin showed, scarred from the participation in what might have been an inconcievable number of battles. Behind him, in the next chamber, the sounds of several Gi feet could be heard rushing towards their present location to assist their commander.
The Gi leader was stepping over the broken rock of the wall into the adjoining room to pursue Seto when Seto himself launched into him.
With a grunt of surprise, the Gi leader stumbled backwards, losing his balance. Before he could fall, however, Seto bounced off his chestplate and onto the cave ceiling.
"LEAVE COSMO CANYON AT ONCE OR BE DESTROYED!" Seto roared and pushed himself off the roof towards the Gi leader, somersaulting once and then ramming his forepaws and claws with all his strength into the leader's armored body.
Bugenhagen shielded himself from the spray of gravel that burst out from under the Gi leader's feet from the force of Seto's blow- it was supernatural, even for Seto's kind.
Screaming out in pain, the leader tumbled backwards with a crash, but not before flailing madly with a gigantic bladed weapon of one kind or another in an attempt to decapitate his much smaller attacker.
Seto dodged easily, leaping aside and then gearing up for yet another offensive.
Bugenhagen wasn't as lucky. He had barely gotten time to get away from where he had been when the cave came crashing down all over him as the leader's mad swinging landed a blow near him.
Rocks splintered, earth shattered and gravel exploded outwards, sending Bugen flying through the air and landing in a heap as though he were but a rag doll.
The pain coursing through his body was unbelievable- it was all he could do not to cry out. The Gi leader noticed him and then stepped over in Bugen's direction to put him out of his misery.
Seto didn't waste any time. Before the Gi leader could reorient himself, the canyon warrior was already upon him, tearing at him with his claws, beating at him with his massive forepaws, and delivering punishment with the steel clip by his ear.
The Gi leader was quick, though. With a yell, the giant of a man swung upwards from below, ramming Seto in the abdomen with the hilt of his blade. Pulling his hand out from under Seto, the Gi leader brought both hands up in a clenched ball and slammed down on Seto's back as he was still in mid-air. Seto's form crashed into the cave ground with a dreadful crash of breaking rocks and a fine cloud of liberated dust.
"SETOOO!!!" Bugen cried out, witnessing his friend's apparent doom. The blow looked as if it had to have broken Seto's spine, at the very least.
The Gi leader panted in his place, arms limp by his side. He had been battling this resilient creature for a while now and he was very tired.
Just then, a portion of the dust cloud shot upwards in two columns. These two columns of dust cloud suddenly withdrew to reveal two forepaws shooting up towards the Gi leader, the rest of Seto's body right behind it, roaring a fearful battle cry all the way.
The sound was almost deafening. Bugen had never seen his friend so enraged before. Despite Seto's haggard appearance, he radiated a rage and a ferocity that was almost tangible in its fury. Every muscle in Seto's body seemed to ripple with energy, every fiber of his being seemed ready to burst outwards and destroy everything in its path. Seto's flaming tail had never glowed so bright; the rows of Seto's teeth gleamed in its yellow light.
In Seto's eyes, Bugen could see hatred.
He saw something else as well. Bugen moved his head just in time to dodge a blow aimed at his head by a stray Gi warrior who had arrived before the rest and had braved the two battling in the middle. The blade missed Bugen's skull and grazed the side of his cheek, leaving a small gash, hitting the rock underneath full force instead with a dull *clang!*- Bugen had barely escaped with his life.
With a frustrated curse, the Gi warrior lifted his blade again to make an easy kill.
The blow landed short again- Bugen had summoned up his reserve and flung himself away from the Gi, rolling himself down the slightly steep slope he found himself on, mindless of the burning pain searing into his injuries as they were buffeted about, sending sharp spears of agony everywhere on his person.
Meanwhile, the Gi leader had Seto by the throat. Seto struggled with all his might to free himself, but the effort seemed futile- the grip was strong and he was running out of air. However, the grip relaxed a little- the Gi faltered in holding him and Seto took the opening. With an almost spasmic reaction, Seto curved his body to plant both his hind legs in the middle of the Gi leader's chestplate in a solid, full-bodied kick.
The Gi leader coughed up blood, which smeared onto the sides of his helmet. The two were separated from the impact and Seto fell heavily onto the ground, while the Gi leader slammed into the rock wall behind him. Both breathed raggedly with exhaustion.
Bugen was beginning to think he had the devil's own luck- he had been missed a third time, and the Gi warrior was busy trying to pull his blade out of the rock it had wedged itself in after the last blow.
Quickly, Bugen searched for a way to fight back, and then he found that he was still holding part of the crutch that had broken. It was wooden, but it had a wicked looking point and if Bugen could only find an unprotected spot in the Gi's armor, even just a small one, he could...
With a grunt, and with all his willpower, Bugen drove the wooden stake home into the Gi's sternum, where the chest armor and abdominal guard met, impaling him. Opening his mouth in a silent scream, the Gi twitched once, still above Bugen, holding his blade, and then dropped onto his killer, dead.
Eking a small sound of disgust, Bugen shoved the body off him and lay down on his back, just resting and not thinking about anything for now.
Nearby, the Gi leader had gotten up- but so had Seto. With loud cries, the two went at each other again, both with no less than the intent to kill each other in their minds.
Blow by blow, the fighting was fierce as it was greatly damaging to each contender. Bugen could almost feel every blow delivered, every blow recieved. Both fought like demons in that small cave under Cosmo.
Blood flowed freely from Seto's right eye; the Gi leader's armor and, on some areas, flesh dangled in strips about him.
Separating for the final time, Seto bounced about to rush the Gi leader in a finishing blow. The Gi leaeder seemed to have the same idea, as he twisted his midsection to begin the motions for a mighty swing with his weapon.
The sound of the impact jarred Bugen's head, making him scream with pain. The vibration the impact produced loosened rocks from above, coating Seto, Bugen and everything else inside the cave with a thin layer of dust.
At the far end of the chamber, the Gi leader was lodged in the center of a circular crater on the wall, debris and crushed rock tumbling down all over and around him.
The Gi leader lifted his head slowly. The helmet was covered in grime, and dented and broken on almost every surface. Blood shone on his chest, shoulders, arms, legs, torso and the rocks nearby.
In a weak voice, he said something Bugen couldn't understand and then hung his head limply. He had expired.
Seto walked over to where Bugen was lying, sat down, and then said something in return, equally unintelligible.
Bugen looked up, not minding the pain of moving his head. Seto was still facing the Gi leader.
There was no answer.
"You... You're the only one left aren't you?"
"They're all dead, aren't they?"
There was no sound... only the labored breathing of a spent warrior full of hatred and anger.
The first of the Gi to arrive wailed miserably at the sight before them. Piles of their dead left in the cave- their leader embedded in the rocks from a fatal blow that ended his life.
With shrieks, the Gi descended upon the hapless two who they had found there, intent on avenging their leader's death and destroying those who had killed their comrades.
Seto was right there waiting for them.
Their screams were terrible to hear as Seto leapt upon the running Gi one by one and almost literally tore them apart.
Bugenhagen trailed behind Seto, dragging himself with the force of sheer will alone. Every part of his body begged him to stop, begged him to cease subjecting himself to even more pain. But Bugen HAD to go on.
He wouldn't be able to live with himself if he didn't.
"Seto! What are you doing!? STOP! SETOOO!"
"GGHROOOAAAARRRRGH!" Seto screamed as he fell upon his next victim. The Gi had but a moment to look up at the vicious eyes of the monster that befell him and then he saw no more for all eternity, not even able to utter out a final cry of terror.
"SETO! Stop it! They're retreating! What's happening to you!? SETO!"
The Gi were running in earnest now, fleeing for their very lives. A number of them had turned around to shoot several arrows into Seto's back to impede him, but to no avail; this even seemed to anger him even more, serving to further terrify the already frightened Gi.
Bugen felt the night air on his face- they were nearing the exit. The cold wind bit cruelly into his open wounds and made his bones ache, but he was determined to chase after Seto.
Seto showed no signs of slowing down. It was as if he was bent on killing every single Gi there was.
"SETO, I SAID *STOP*!!!"
With that cry and a final surge of strength, Bugen hurled himself at Seto before his friend could jump off the cliff at the end of the cave after the fleeing Gi, some of whom had flung themselves off the mountain face to escape Seto's wrath.
"Seto, STOP, I beg you! Are you listening to m-"
Seto growled and turned his head to face Bugen.
Bugen was shocked. Seto's eyes were different. They weren't the eyes of a father, of a husband, of a friend. Seto almost looked like... some kind of animal.
Seto returned his attention to the Gi running away below and attempted to pull himself from Bugen's grasp. Low, rumbling sounds that were terrible to hear vibrated across Seto's body.
Bugen, injured as he was, showed surprising strength and didn't let go.
"Seto! Don't do this! Your wife Kura is waiting for you back at the canyon! Your wife, Seto, Kura, she-"
"AAAAAWWWRRROOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" Seto howled, a manic, bestial sound that froze Bugen's soul to the core.
"-she's waiting for you Seto... Please, come back to us... Seto! She-"
"-she NEEDS you! NANAKI needs you! Seto!!! THEY LOVE YOU, SETO!"
The howls from the creature Bugen was holding tightly around the midsection died down. Bugen looked up and saw that Seto's head was down and his eyes were closed. Tears were streaming down from them in a small river of sorrow.
"Bugen... thank you," Seto said, sitting near the edge of the cliff.
Bugen wept with gladness and then buried his face into Seto's short fur.
"Seto... let's go home... Let's just go back and-"
"I can't, Friend Bugen."
Bugen looked up at his friend's face with a horrified expression on his face. Seto met this with a quietly sad look.
"The arrows the Gi shot at me... They are poisoned."
Bugen was speechless. His mouth moved aimlessly, with no sound coming out.
"My rage allowed me to resist the chemicals they put in their arrows," Seto mused, holding up a bloodied forepaw to look at. "And now that it is spent, I can already feel myself being destroyed by the venom they shot in me."
Bugen's face crumpled in a mask of grief and loss. He flung himself at Seto's massive frame, sobbing, clutching at his friend's torn pelt.
"But Seto... What about Kura? A-and your son? I-I..." Bugen managed through a throat that felt thick with bitterness. His tears were hot against his cheeks, tracing burning trails of saltwater down his face.
Seto regarded Bugen's eyes seriously.
"Tell my son that I ran away. Ran away from the battle with the Gi."
At first, Bugen thought that he wasn't hearing correctly. And then, when he finally understood, he shook his head in flat out refusal.
"No, I won't," he said, almost savagely. Strength returned to his arms. He didn't feel so pained anymore. "How can you even consider-"
"ENOUGH!" Seto barked, also angry, but in an exasperated way. "Nanaki.. Nanaki must not follow the path of violence that has led me here to my final resting place. He is too precious to me."
"But Seto," Bugen pleaded with him, eyes almost crazed with emotion. "The people of Cosmo Canyon need to know what you did for them, they need to know what happened here, they-"
"Tell only my wife," Seto ordered, his voice carrying a finality that simply was not meant to be refused. "Only my wife- that is my final request of you, Friend Bugenhagen."
Bugen blinked. In that instant, he understood what Seto was going through and then he nodded to acknowledge that yes, he was going to do as he was told- but he wouldn't like it, though. Not one bit. Not if he were to live to be over a hundred.
"Farewell, Friend Bugen," Seto whispered. "Take care of Kura and Nanaki for me."
"I will," Bugen promised, turning away, unable to look Seto in the eyes any longer.
With an effort that brought new tears to his eyes, Bugen lifted himself to his feet and limped away from where Seto was sitting, facing out onto the wild expanse of wilderness below them.
As Bugen was leaving, Seto stood up on all fours and raised his head in a final act of defiance towards where the Gi had fled.
"AAAAHHRROOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!" The sound filled the night air.
Bugen couldn't stop the tears from flowing. He didn't look back as he reentered the cave, ignoring the pain for now, thinking only to get back to the canyon.
And behind him, the howling, a sound full of mingled victory, sorrow and anger stopped. The light from behind Bugen faded little by little.. and then vanished. The Gi's poison had done its work.
Seto had turned into solid stone.
Bugen fell to his knees, his entire being racked with sobs, his soul drowning in a sea of grief. Tears fell continously from his eyes and onto the unsympathetic ground below him.
"Farewell... Friend Seto..."
Wiping away his tears with a hand, Bugen picked himself up once more and plodded away, away from this place so full of death and loss, away from the tormented souls of the slain, both Gi and defender, away from the eternal resting place of Seto, the warrior.
Back at Cosmo Canyon, the rest of the Gi had retreated for good; the Eternal Flame had burst back to life.
But it didn't matter. Cosmo Canyon had a new protector now.
Standing at the mouth of a cave at the canyon's west face, unmindful of the cold wind, or the burning heat, alone and ever watchful...
Seto stands in his eternal vigil.
Vigil Completed 01/20/2k1,
Composing Time: 4 hours.