In his hurry and panic the boy stumbled on a rock, shooting forward as his foot was hooked, landing on his hands and quickly springing back up.
“Alright.. calm down..” he muttered to himself through laboured breaths, slowing his pace.
The boy had decided to cut through the overgrowth in order to get to the source of the fire. He realised far too late his mistake, his decision having lost him many previous minutes.
He found his way back to the path, picking his pace back up as he got closer and closer to the massive tower of smoke rising into the sky, the warm orange ‘warning’ light pushing him onwards.
With every heavy step he took onto the hard packed gravel, twigs and stones lodged in and under his clothing dug into his skin, opening small wounds.
One particular twig struck him under the knee and dug itself in as he groaned in pain, causing his knees to buckle as he stumbled, correcting himself.
He winced, forcefully pulling the stick out of his knee and throwing it to the side, continuing on the path.
The path gave way and opened outwards as the forest came to an end, opening up to the hills which gave him a much better view of the landscape.
“No..” the boy stepped forward, looking at the base of the hill.
A billowing cloud of smoke covered his village, rapidly expanding outwards as a swirling inferno crawled through ruined buildings, growing stronger and stronger with each of the ruined buildings it devoured.
“No, no, no!” He started running down the hill, summoning every ounce of strength remaining in his body.
As he reached the base of the hill, he was enveloped by a billowing cloud of smoke, which crawled around him slowly and irritatingly.
A dim orange glow was in front of him as well as the silhouette of rows of buildings, slowly being devoured by the ever-expanding, hungry glow.
The smoke expanded outwards above him, forming a ceiling over him which enveloped the moon and cut off the outside world.
He burst through the smoke and out into the open fields, his village coming into full view.
There grass of the plains, which was once a lush green was now charred black with markings running through, leading to the village. A billowing fire enveloped the small town, growing more and more every minute as it travelled through the village, sending a pillar of smoke into the air which flattened out and spiralled above, like a magician’s trick.
He collapsed onto his knees, the fires blaring even brighter as if triggered by him hitting the grounds. Even the hellish fires couldn’t stop the tears flowing from his eyes.
He closed his eyes and inhaled deeply, shaking his head and slowly standing up, pounding the ground with his fist.
The boy vaulted over an unlit log and through the a small burning scaffold, rolling the log into the fires and feeding them.
He sighed shakily, his whole frame shaky as he walked through the burning village, kicking up clouds of sand, the flames travelling with him, as if following his pace.
He kicked his foot forward and expected to bring up dust, but instead it hit something flaky, yet soft which fell apart at the touch of his foot.
His eyes widened in shock, then horror as he looked down, finding himself stepping on a corpse of a barely recognisable mamono, a child.
He gasped, stepping back and carefully moving around the corpse, only looking back up when he was sure he was a safe distance away.
He kept walking at a careful pace, making sure not to bump into any more of the corpses littered throughout the ground, spreading their putrid stench throughout the heavy air.
As the boy reached the bottom of the hill, the flames burned their brightest, setting light to the last building with the brightest flare yet, sending out a wave of heat, forcing the boy to turn to the side and shield his face.
He watched as his house went up in flames, the glow blindingly bright, the wooden structures burst and collapsed in front of him, taunting him as they bounced.
He stepped forward, slowly, legs shaking and tears flowing down from his lifeless eyes and dropping onto the sand below him.
He collapsed onto the sand, using his arms to hold himself from falling, as he dug his knees into the ground from frustration, the pain of the sharp rocks cutting him taking his mind off everything else that was happening.
His trance was cut short by a peculiar sound, barely audible alerting him.
There was someone under the piles of rubble.
He scrambled to a stand, frantically digging through the burning remains of his home, the sudden burst of adrenaline blocking out the scorching pain coursing through his body just enough to allow him to continue.
He grinned widely, eyes wide and tears flowing down even faster down his face as he moved burning debris out the way and dug to the source of the sound.
As he removed the layers of rubble, the sound of coughing got louder and louder, indicating and encouraging him.
He stuck his hand through a small gap in the collapsed wooden boards and waved it around, hoping to find something buried underneath. After what seemed like an eternity of his hand burning and searching for something he had given up and began to pull his scorched hand out, until something kept it from doing so.
Through the hole, he could just barely make out something rough and flaky, but definitely human. The rough, presumably burnt hand latched onto his for dear life, squeezing with gargantuan strength and even more.
The boy placed his other hand on his wrist and tensed, pulling back as hard as he could. He slid on his feet, the rubble covering whoever was grabbing him shifted slightly as it engaged him in a dangerous game of tug-of-war.
He groaned and strained, pulling with all his strength and then some, the fires advancing closer and closer to him, licking and nipping at him with massive bursts of light and heat.
Suddenly, the pile of rubble holding the survivor down burst outwards, releasing all the built up pressure the boy had built up through pulling as he fell backwards, tumbling out of the fires and onto the sand.
His hand was swollen, bloody and burnt and blinding hot pain was coursing through every single inch of his body, he did his best to take his mind off the pain even as the adrenaline wore off, a bittersweet joy overflowing in him. His village may have been gone, but at least there was someone.
He crawled over to the survivor to get a closer look at whoever it was, and how badly they were damaged. As he emerged through a pile of burning debris, he saw the last person he expected to see.
There was his mentor, Jonathan, lying on the ground face-first covered in blood and burns, wearing barely anything and with a shattered, blood covered rapier at his side.
Spent his last moment of consciousness fighting.
The boy looked cleared some space around Jonathan and moved the rapier aside as he pried his arms under his mentor’s heavy, limp body, picking him up with a groan, his fingers numb with pain, every nerve extremely sensitive from the fires.
He stood Jonathan up and put an arm around his shoulder as support, holding the shattered rapier in the other hand in case anything attacked them, or he had to use it to cut something.
He began to limp his way out of the fiery remains of his village, his mentor on one side and the rapier on the other as he climbed up the hills with great strain, emerging out from the massive cloud of smoke which enveloped the village and out towards safety.
The boy looked back towards his village once he was a distance away, as the smoke began to clear and the fires went out with nothing to burn anymore, he sighed, turned and kept walking.
He couldn’t return now, there was only one way to go.
Forwards, to get revenge for his village.
He sat besides a dying campfire, the sun had just began to rise, spreading it’s encouraging warmth and embracing light through the damp woods. The sound of the animal kingdom coming to life echoing through the woods.
The boy had gotten no sleep since the eventful night before, he just couldn’t. Every time he laid his head on the floor to sleep, visions of his village burning and dried corpses filled his mind and awoke him almost instantly, urging him to scream in the middle of the night.
He looked towards the only survivor, Jonathan, his mentor, lying peacefully on a shabby makeshift bed of leaves and vine, his injuries from the night before treated as well as the boy could have done with nothing but scraps of cloth and natural resources.
Not able to get a blink of sleep, the boy occupied his time by attempting to hunt game, and was so infuriatingly horrible at it then instead of catching game the only thing he’d manage to cut was himself, grazing his already horribly burnt fingers a few times with a makeshift spear as he attempted to catch a single rabbit.
He closed his eyes and let out a long sigh. So much for heightened senses and superhuman qualities.
His thoughts were cut short by a soft groan coming from just a few feet across him. He opened his eyes to see Jonathan doing the same, slowly coming to, and just in time as well, as the fire had gone out and the sun had risen.
His mentor stared blankly at the sky through the canvas of trees above them, shivering slightly as a cool breeze ran through the trees and brushed against them.
“So.. you’re awake.” He muttered, awkwardly tapping his fingers together. All Jonathan could reply with was an “Mmf.”
“Y-yeah.. but..” Jonathan slowly looked around, as if looking for something.
Suddenly his eyes widened and his face flashed with shock as he jolted up.
“T-the village! Where-” he frantically exclaimed, only to be cut short.
“It’s gone. Everything is gone!” The boy sighed, covering his face with his hands.
“Ah..” Jonathan sighed, his facial expression grim, devoid of emotion. “Well, there’s no time to grovel, we’ve got a long way to go.” He hoisted himself up with a stick, groaning.
“Long way to go? Where? We—we have nowhere to go, no leads to look off of!”
“Well, when it’s like that, first thing you need to do is find information? And what better place to do it than the biggest city in the world?” Jonathan looked off at the towering capital in the distance. “Also..”
“Hm?” The boy looked towards his mentor.
“What’s your name again…?” Jonathan scratched his head with a sheepish grin.
He chuckled. “Leno.”