Puppeteer Chapter 7

The Toxin

The going was rough for the three travelers as most of the tunnels they’ve been in were always jagged and uphill from the dump site. Now the end was in sight. Fresh air came from just up ahead and the radiance of light offered wonderful freedom to them all. They climbed the incline, a full fifty feet, to a dead end.

A hole, small enough for gold coin, enveloped the small cubby with light and air from the surface. Terra gently placed Edgar on a rock and stared up at the hole in the ceiling. They were at least a hundred or so feet below the ground, she couldn’t tell, but it didn’t matter. Looking back to her other companion, Sabin, she was hoping for some input.

“Okay, we’ll break here for a moment. Going downhill must be better than going up,” Edgar chirped in with a smile.

So they rested for a moment, a moment that didn’t last long. Edgar and Sabin were starving and they needed to get out of these caves for food. Moving on, Edgar’s stomach growled, telling all in his party that the travel was wearing on him. Flushing a bright red from that sound, he kindly begged for forgiveness from the lady that was carrying him.

“Don’t worry about it, Edgar. Let’s get your mind off it. How about you tell me why you came here without help?” Terra said with a smile.

“Alright. Actually, it was my plan to assemble some of the Returners together, but…” the king paused, taking some time to glare at his brother.

“You didn’t have to chase after me,” Sabin stated without looking back.

“You know I would have followed, but if you weren’t so hardheaded…”

“Shut up, Edgar. I follow my heart, which is a much better organ to listen to than the one you follow.”

“SABIN! There is a lady present!”

“You make it sound as if I was being rude, but you haven’t kept your eyes off her chest for one full minute! Now that’s rude.”


“Stop it, both of you!” Terra screamed, in more rage than either of them have ever seen in her. “I already doubt coming here for you two.”

“T-Terra,” Edgar gasped in shock.

“Don’t get me wrong. I love adventure… but only in the safety of my friends. This mission was riskier than I thought,” she whimpered as her tears rolled off her cheeks and onto Edgar’s shoulder. “I have a family to think about. I’m sorry.”

“Hey,” Sabin softly said, placing a strong, yet gentle hand on her shoulder.

“No… we’re sorry, Terra. The risk was great in coming here and we are very grateful that you and the others came, even though it was a trap,” Edgar continued with a delicate embrace with his arm that was draped over her shoulders.

“We’re also sorry you have to put up with us,” Sabin finished with a grin. Terra returned the comforting smile and embrace.

“Okay, how about I start again, at the beginning. A week or more, hard to tell in our prison, we received a letter addressed to us. The person that called himself ‘Puppeteer’ use to work for the Imperial Army of Gestahl. I believe he may have been a great tactician and brilliant alchemist. In fact, I believe that same knowledge of alchemy created that force field outside, since the only true magic that remains in this world is the weapons that are imbued with magicite and even those are losing their magic,” the king flinched, remembering his own blade that was stripped from him.

“Anyways, the only two kingdoms that stood in the Empire’s way, was the Kingdom of Doma and the Kingdom of Figaro. Puppeteer came to the emperor with a plan to throw Figaro into anarchy by killing the royalists. With the princes not even coming of age, the ascent to the throne would be difficult. While Figaro was in chaos, could the kingdom fight a war?” Sabin continued where his brother left off.

“Somehow, he got a spy in the kingdom and had the spy use some deadly toxin. I have a feeling that ninja was the one who managed to slip in or become a guard with the strength she had. Either way, the poisoning worked and the succession was difficult, but I still took the throne and brought my kingdom to order. Still…” the king lowered his head in defeat. “I-I couldn’t fight a war. I was a lover, not a fighter. I gave into the Empire and signed an alliance. I hoped one day that my patience would be rewarded.”

“Realizing it was part of their plan to separate the twins, I grew angrier and angrier. He even said in the letter that he could’ve killed Edgar if he wanted to and that in leaving the kingdom gave him much more opportunities to do so,” Sabin growled then punched a hole in the stone wall to finish his point. “At the end of the letter, he told us he would fight us in combat. It was a chance I couldn’t pass up.”

“And I followed. It was a family matter,” Edgar added in.

“But the fight I was expecting was more difficult than I thought. A huge man with incredible strength managed to beat me, though I pummeled a nice scar across his chest,” the marital artist finished with a wink.

“I was taken out of the fight early. Something hit me from behind…” the sentence ended abruptly as the backend of a throwing axe crashed into his skull.

Edgar dropped into a heap before Terra could respond. A fist plunged down upon the unexpected victim. Defenseless, all she could do was turn in time to see the punch coming towards her face. The jab was intercepted.

The ever aware martial artist pivoted his body and lined his shoulder up to throw the attacker. Seven foot high and three hundred pounds was nothing Sabin couldn’t handle, especially using his opponent’s lack of balance against them. With all the strength in him, Sabin threw the figure across the tunnel.

“Qaletaqa, how dare you! Attacking a weak and defenseless opponent and then going after a woman blind-sided. I thought you had some form of honor,” accused Sabin.

“There is no such thing as a ‘fair fight’ just a fight,” the native stated, dusting himself off.

“I see my mark hasn’t healed completely,” Sabin smirked as he squatted into a defensive stance. “Terra, protect Edgar!”

A grin came to the marital artist. He was caught off guard, in foreign terrain, fighting against the native he completely underestimated. This time, hopefully, they were on equal ground. Still, the native held a huge advantage. He was rested and healthy, while Sabin hadn’t rested in days. Qaletaqa didn’t return the grin for the encounter.

“I shall ask for you two to surrender. Sabin, you are in no condition to fight me,” he calmly expressed the situation.

Like a hunting cat springing upon its prey, Sabin leapt with a kick for the wounded chest that his claws pummeled on earlier. The attack was expected, yet Qaletaqa took the full hit to measure his opponent’s strength. Kicking with all the strength he could muster, Sabin’s foot crashed into the scabbed scar, pushing the seven foot giant back a step. The scab reopened, allowing the native’s essences to ooze out as if he was just pummeled. Qaletaqa never even noticed.

A fist came down on the martial artist. If there was one thing Sabin learned from their previous fight, was that the native was very powerful but also very slow. Ducking under the swing, he rolled ahead and between the native’s legs. Snapping out both his elbows behind Qaletaqa’s knees, the giant buckled and fell to his knees. Sabin wasn’t finished.

Faster than any in the tunnel could register, Sabin began to circle the native. His speed was unnatural, as he circled the native; Sabin left multiple afterimages of himself. From Qaletaqa’s side, he was struck with a heavy jab to the face, followed by a kick to his ribs. The other side, he was chopped in the neck and elbowed in the temple. Behind him, he received an elbow to his skull and a knee to his spine.

The Bum Rush struck Qaletaqa again and again. Sabin came in front of the native to double punch him in the face, but he was caught by both of his wrists. His afterimages echoed him until they caught up to the original source. The native stood tall, ignoring all the bruises Sabin left behind.

“Y-you can’t stop the B-Bum Rush,” Sabin stuttered in disbelief.

An explosion of pain came to Sabin a split second later, as the native pulled back his head and smashed his forehead between Sabin’s eyes. He collapsed and the native released the great warrior. Qaletaqa pitied the honorable man. If he was at his full potential, it would most definitely have been the native on the floor. It didn’t matter. All that was left was the woman.

“Surrender,” Qaletaqa commanded, drawing his double-sided battle axe from his belt.

Terra already knew she was out muscled and outclassed. Still, the idea of being a prisoner to Puppeteer was a far worse fate. Drawing Atma from her sheath, the half-Esper mentally called forth the magic of the blade. In an instant, the blade came to life, and began to glow an angry bright red.

Noticing the danger from the weapon, the native began to disarm her as fast and as powerful arms would allow. Before the swing made it halfway to the woman, Atma came down low to parry the axe, blade side out, onto the handle where it began slicing into the flesh of the large warrior.

A clink to the floor came shortly after. Miraculously, the native’s fingers were intact. Bloodied and wounded, but still intact. With a growl, Qaletaqa pulled out a jar of paint and used his wounded fingers to paint blue streaks on his cheeks.

Terra remained firm, keeping a defensive position over her fallen allies. There she stood in awe as the warrior appeared to grow in height and in bulk. His eyes seemed to slip from a controlled warrior into a deranged beast. Then, he charged.

Atma intercepted the crazed warrior, cutting deeply into his chest. Qaletaqa didn’t even wince; he didn’t even slow his charge. Grabbing the half-Esper by the throat with both of his huge, powerful hands, he lifted her up and continued his charge down the hall, strangling her all the while.

Keeping her wits, even though her windpipe was being crushed, she swung Atma at an angle, trying to severe his arm by the elbow. The slice was minor, barely scratching his skin. Then she noticed that the magic in Atma was too taxed do to her single injury from the choke hold. The fiery red glow vanished, the instant Terra slammed into the wall.

All of her air left her at once. Dazed, she felt no strength left in her arm. Atma fell to the floor with a clank. In the wall she stood, unable to drop herself like her blade. Not until a fist slammed into her stomach, knocking her from the wall. She crawled and reached for Atma, but it was just out of reach by inches, which might as well have been a mile away.

“That last attack hurt,” a burly voice said from above her. It had to be Qaletaqa, but the voice sounded winded but in control.

“I will carry this scar proudly in your honor. However, it is time to finish what I started,” he whispered as he lifted his huge axe above his victim.

Down it came and again, a rough hand intercepted the blow by the handle. A confused look came to the native’s face, which gave Sabin enough of an opening to slam his fist into the native’s exposed ribs. The punch wasn’t hard but it was precise with the opened wound Terra left on his side, giving Sabin a clear shot at actually hitting the white bone. One punch struck the native, one broken rib.

Qaletaqa fell to one knee, gritting his teeth, but tried to suppress his rage. He dared not berserk again. He wouldn’t survive and that wouldn’t be of any benefit to his tribe. Before he could contemplate a counter attack, a burning red glow came into his view, with a sharp tip pointing under his chin.

“Hitting a lady, there is no excuse,” snapped Edgar.

“You three won this battle it seems,” the proud native replied exposing his neck to the king.

He didn’t want to die, but falling in battle was the best way for a warrior to fall. He wouldn’t beg for mercy, for doing so would be a coward’s way out. With a sneer, Edgar thrust the blade closer.

“No! Edgar s-stop,” pleaded Terra weakly.

“He came to kill us, Terra!”

“H-he asked Sabin… and me to… surrender. Sh-shouldn’t… w-we sh-show that same m-mercy,” she breathed.

Edgar nodded at his kindhearted friend. He couldn’t believe her gentle nature, even with the scum before him. Tying up the native with some spare rope Terra had, the three Returners plus one prisoner moved on. It didn’t take much persuasion, since a sword pointed to one’s back intended to persuade anyone, for Qaletaqa to help them leave the dark catacombs.

Chapter 8

All That Glitters Is Cold 3 Fanfic Competition

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