A bit of an authors note, I have a bunch of notes to really fully flesh out this into a full kinda short novel deal. It’s a bunch of fluff to something that can be summarized, but I hope it’s a fun read at the very least. If you’re intrigued by this concept, please do comment or tweet at me and let me know! I’d love to continue if there’s interest.
Pluto had its five minutes of fame as children across the US learned about its planetary status, and five more when it was declared a dwarf planet. Even despite the fact Pluto had shifted hundreds of thousands of miles from its original position in orbit, the governments of the world would do their damndest the planet would never get a devastating five more minutes. Kayden Copper, a budding new-hire astronomer, was one of few regular folk to notice how Pluto was not where it was supposed to be. Questioning this online on an astronomy forum, he was unpleasantly surprised by men in suits, who quickly arrested him and cuffed him inside a black hummer. His perception and skill didn’t go unnoticed, as his captors did make an offer to them as they sped away from his home: Either he could become a stellar navigator for the Juno project, or spend his days locked up until the governments of the world could go public with this information, if at all.
Taking the more sensible option, what met Kayden was nothing he could have ever expected: His building where he studied was a massive space center, surrounded by several factories and industrial buildings churning out building materials. Several tons of steel, munitions, and missiles all being hauled by rockets up into presumably high orbit. Stellar Navigation was more memorizing the stars, something he had done years ago, and learning how to use new navigational computers. Amongst classes, he still had time to think: Are we militarizing the Mars base? I’ve never heard of ships constructed in-orbit before. What does this all have to do with Pluto?
A year of training later, which included rocket conditioning and zero G training, Kayden was strapped in with a few other personnel and launched into orbit. He must have been the only one who was forced into this position, as what he saw caused him to audibly gasp: Thirty massive spacecraft all sit together, each one varied in size yet larger than all the spacecraft he’d ever read about, docked at a large wireframe space station. Mechanical suits twice the size of a human worked to weld on armor plating to the last few nearly-finished craft. Astronauts were hooked to the sides of the ship’s bridges, doing whatever checks could feasibly be done to such behemoths of starships. And the final crowning jewel to this fleet was what he could only assume to be the flagship to all of this: An even more massive ship doubling the size of most of the smaller ships, receiving its last tune-ups from dozens of the mecha-engineers. He turned to one of the men seated next to him.
“Did the Mars colony revolt or something? Is this all to blow up mars?” “Wrong planet. It’s Pluto we’re gonna blow up.”
I noticed a sudden influx in visitors today and decided to write a quick update post for yall! Welcome, hope you enjoy the stories. As for updates, I’ve been pretty busy with real life. I’m working two part time jobs and attempting to keep up with classes. I’ve been pretty exhausted mentally and only find the energy to write once or twice a week as of late. Hopefully with a bit of luck, I can start writing more in the future!
Authors note: this is mostly just a kinda exercise chapter that I did just to have fun with Joy’s character and get back in a writing kinda groove. So if you want to enjoy it, feel free to enjoy it
Joy sighed as she let a pen roll out of her hands. She had arrived at the recruitment center only around the afternoon, and already the sun had set. Her sprint to and from had barely burnt any energy, and passing Simon’s test only bolstered her excitement. She stood up from her desk, walking into her living room.
She hurried over to her weight bench and loaded up a barbell with the heaviest plates she had, around four hundred pounds. Not even bothering to lie down, she easily lifted the weights with one arm, curling it. To her dismay, she felt nothing, and placed it back on the rack. Looking around, she noticed the bent plate lying on the floor. She smirked.
Maybe I can improvise something.
She hurried back to her office, booting up her computer.
The night air was cool, a nice change of setting for Joy, as she jogged towards a scrapyard not too far off. Despite the time, the streets of Romitum still retained their liveliness. Significantly less people were walking, but several cars still drove fast down the well lit streets, many shops and apartment complexes still lit up to onlookers. The lighting of the shops eventually died out as she entered the outskirts of one of the many industrial districts. Compared to the inner city, it was much more quiet. Trucks were pulling out of lots and heading from where she came, and very few lights were left on. Only the faint sound of heavy machinery could be heard in the distance as she continued her jog.
Eventually, she skidded to a halt, arriving right outside of a chainlink fence. A local Romitum scrapyard. All of it would be melted down and re-processed, so she had a good feeling nobody would mind if some of it went missing. Pulling out a flashlight, she easily climbed over the fence, lighting it up and navigating through the maze of metal. Girders, steel bars, broken down cars, old appliances, and so much more surrounded her as she grinned at the sight. Keeping her blessing in mind, the entire place made her feel like a kid in a candy shop. Finding a small shack near the back of the yard, she hurried over. Trying to open the door, it was lock, so she simply tore the door off, tossing it into one of the piles of scrap. Walking in with flashlight in hand, she found and opened a small breaker box, flicking on several switches. Light flooded the inside of the shack, and she turned outside, smiling as her new playground was well lit. Stepping outside, she did a few stretches, scanning around for her first target. Finishing, she found an old rusted pickup truck, near a pile of scrap. She walked over, and gave it a kick. She accidentally put a large dent in it, feeling it move significantly as she did. She grinned, squatting down and grabbing the front of the truck. She shook a bit as she slowly rose up, taking the truck upward as she began to stand up. With a hefty grunt, she stood up straight, lifting the end of the truck along with her. She smiled at the effort, and slowly moved under the truck, crouching down. Once she was under the center of the truck, she pushed up with all her might, and slowly stood up. With less effort than she expected, she eventually held the entire vehicle overhead! She looked up at her efforts, smiling wildly. With it still in hand, she decided to do a few more squats while she still had the truck in hand. Despite struggling a bit, she still felt as if an entire truck wasn’t enough, and carefully returned the truck to the ground.
Now with a bit of a pump, and the truck providing only an adequate workout, she glanced around for something to work out her arms with instead. She wandered around the scrapyard, finding that nothing really provided much of a challenge to her strength. Dismembered cars, she could easily yank them from their scrappy graves without much effort. Refrigerators and old heavy wooden furniture barely provided any challenge. Finding a heavy wooden dresser, she decided to have a bit of fun at the very least. Hoisting it up, she wrapped her arms around it as much as she could, and began hugging tightly into it. The wood barely gave any resistance and immediately began splintering. The dresser exploded into two pieces, wooden chunks flying everywhere and the two halves tumbling to the ground. She giggled at her handywork, happy that she didn’t have a single splinter or scratch to show as well. Smashing the dresser changed her perspective on her visit.
I’m here to burn off energy, not just work out!
She remembered a feat she heard about online, and decided with her blessing, she’d take it to a new level. Finding another junk car, she grabbed the wheel rim, ripping it out. She sat down in the dirt, placing the wheel rim between her thighs. She squeezed them, grunting as she slowly felt the rim give away to her muscular thighs. It deformed as she slowly clamped her thighs closed, her continuing to crush it until she could no more. Gasping for breath after the effort, she picked up the rim. It was deformed into a goofy looking squashed oval. She laughed at the sight.
“Maybe I should start a new trend online or something.”
She hurried back to the old pickup truck, a wild grin on her face as a new idea bubbled in her mind. She jumped at the truck, smashing her fists into the front of it. The hood completely caved in from the blow, the rest of the truck rocking forward. Ripping away the hood, she grabbed onto the engine tightly, feeling her grip slowly bending away the metal. With a few good tugs, she managed to rip the engine right out, stumbling back with the machine in her hands. She tossed it up and down as if it were a ball in her hands, and then hugged it. Every muscle in her arms went into overtime as she clamped down tighter and tighter onto it. Soon she felt her arms sink into it, and felt the entire engine deform as she squeezed tighter and tighter. Metal shrieked as she strained harder and harder, trying to crumple the engine as if it were an oversized soda can. She closed her eyes and clenched her teeth, straining her arms as much as possible, until she felt her arms close to her chest. She released the engine as it dropped to the ground, finding it bent awkwardly inwards with a large, arm-sized dent in the center. Sweating a bit, she smiled at her handiwork. Turning to the frame of the truck, another idea entered her mind. She grabbed the front of it again, towing it over to a large pile of scrap. Without the engine, it was surprisingly easier for her to flip it over, the top of it leaning against the scrap pile. With it propped up facing her, she took a deep breath, clenched her fists, and threw a punch at the center of the framework. It dented inward horribly, and she took a step back. She envisioned the flipped truck as an downed demon, just waiting to be finished off. She continued her barrage of several more punches, eventually punching a hole straight through it. She began tearing at the hole, making it larger and ripping out every part she could find. The shrieking of metal filled the air as she continued her assault of punches, kicks, and tearing parts out. After horribly abusing the machine, making it look like it had gone through multiple minefields, a new idea infiltrated her mind. She jumped on the truck, grabbing onto the front bumper. Feeling her fingers dig in, she pulled hard at it, feeling the already abused machine deform even more. The front of the car bent inwards more and more shrieking horidly. With a sudden snap, the front of the car ripped free, Joy tumbling backwards with it. She lost her grip, and the destroyed half tumbled away, crashing into another pile of scrap. Covered in dirt and dust, she got back to her feet, staring at her accomplishment wide-mouthed. She jumped happily, flexing her arms in victory.
“See that demons? That’s gonna be you! You just wait till I get my hands on you all!”
To further prove her point to her invisible demonic audience, she grabbed a nearby metal pole. She grunted and slowly bent the thing around, eventually bending it into the shape of a pretzel. She giggled at the work, and then tossed the thing aside.
“Maybe the Crusaders can let me play with their broken military equipment… I wonder if I can smash a tank with my bare hands!”
She froze when she heard the jingling of chains.
Shit, I did make a lot of noise, didn’t I?
She sprinted over to the shack, quickly flicking every breaker, and almost literally leaping over the back fence. She sprinted away, looking back as she saw a few flashlights light up, shining around the yard. She grinned.
With the spring quarter starting up, my time to work has kinda drastically decreased. Some days I’ll be at both my job and school, resulting in me spending almost 12+ hours away from home for around half the week, with the other half dedicated to catching up on homework. I’ve been rather exhausted as of late from all the work, and hitting some serious motivational humps regarding my writing and hope for readers and such
The long story short is, I can’t really guarantee a proper schedule anymore given all these factors. I can only really upload stuff when I can. Just wanted to update all my followers here, and I hope you all won’t mind
Thanks to the wonderful Joebito for commissioning this! If you’re interested in commissioning, see my pricing/guidelines HERE
The sun blazed over Youkai Mountain. Fairies flew over the sky, pestering the crow tengu that flew to and fro. High up the mountain lied a small clearing in the forest, connected only by an ancient stone staircase. In this clearing sat a small wooden building, and in front a large stone circle, encircled by a short wooden fence. At the end of this arena was Momiji Inubashiri, sitting atop a small rock. As she watched the staircase, a new figure slowly climbed it. Hong Meiling approached, a determined expression on her face and clothes stained with sweat. Momiji smiled, and stood up as Hong approached.
“There’s no need for you to handicap yourself before the match Hong!” The tengu barked.
“Please.” Hong grinned, wiping sweat from her forehead. “You know what they say about not warming up before a match?”
Momiji smiled back, her opponent hopping the small fence and walking to the center of the arena. As Momiji headed towards the center, she noticed something over Hong’s shoulders. A few fairy maids flew up, settling themselves far from the barrier. Momiji sneered. “Those your cheerleaders?”
“A little support doesn’t hurt now?” She pointed behind her, Momiji turning around to notice a few other wolf tengu had appeared, observing over the barrier.
“Well it’s not like I invited them. They’re just here to watch a good old-fashioned danmakuless fight.”
“Same here. The mansion does get pretty boring with Sakuya doing all the work.” Hong cracked her knuckles. “I’m all set. Fighting until knockout?”
Momiji punched her fist into her palm. “Is there any other proper way?”
The two walked to opposite ends of the arena. They turned around, locking eyes. Momiji pulled a small baton from her pocket.
“Once this hits the ground, we begin.”
Hong silently nodded as she tossed it high into the air. From the moment she tossed it, Momiji kept her eyes locked on the baton, whie Hong kept her eyes locked on Momiji. She braced herself, keeping her fists up.
The exact moment the baton touched the ground, Momiji bolted forward, closing the distance between her and Hong in mere seconds. Hong was quick to raise her guard as the wolf clawed and battered her with a flurry of blows. She flinched and winced from the onslaught and took a few steps back, still enduring rapid-fire swipes and jabs from the wolf. Hong took notice of a small break in the attacks, and quickly dropped her guard to throw a few jabs towards her chest and head. Momiji attempted to dodge each one, but still took a few to the chest without even reacting. She wasted no time in returning to the offensive, Hong reacting likewise to return to holding her guard. It wasn’t long until she was pushed back to the very edge of the arena’s fence.
“You do realize you’re actually supposed to hit back, right?” Taunted the tengu.
Hong held fast, feeling her arms sting from the unrelenting scratches and hits, but willed herself to hold on. Her patience soon came to fruition, as she felt the intensity of the blows wane. Hong quickly shifted from blocking, taking some scratches to the face to counter with a hard, well-placed jab to Momiji’s stomach. She slid back from the blow, coughing. Hong seized the initiative, sprinting forward and kicking her in the chest, sending her sliding backwards even further. She ran forward rearing back her fist and throwing a punch, but Momiji quickly ducked beneath the blow, swiping at her stomach. She winced, trying to retaliate by elbowing the tengu in the back, but she quickly slipped away, lurching forward quickly to slash again. Hong brought her guard back once more, blocking her strikes, and retaliated with a few more well placed jabs to the chest and stomach. Momiji coughed a few times and leapt back, locking eyes with the gatekeeper. She growled as she observed how Hong only bore multiple scratches on her arm, and her uniform was barely torn near the chest. Hong smiled, practically reading the tengu’s thoughts. She took a defensive stance.
“You wanted me to hit back, didn’t you?” She beckoned the tengu with her hand tauntingly. Momiji sneered and lurched forward, her hand sprawled ready to swipe. Hong dropped her guard, preparing to evade and counterattack. As she dodged, however, instead of swiping, Momiji clenched her fist and launched a powerful jab to Hong’s stomach. She wheezed, stepping back and clutching her stomach. Momiji lurched forward, swiping and scratching at the guard. Hong tried to back away while dodging, but took a few slashes, leaving her face marked by the tengu’s claws. Hong leapt back and Momiji lurched forward, her fist balled up and reared back. Hong quickly reacted with a roundhouse kick, slamming into the side of the wolf. She flew away to the side but landed right back on her feet, skidding to a halt. Hong sprinted forward, leaping into the air attempting to land another kick. Momiji quickly rolled out of the way as Hong slammed into the ground, and the wolf swiped at her back as she recovered from the miss. Hong spun around, throwing a few jabs and striking the wolf tengu, but she quickly retreated. The two stared each other down, waiting and carefully observing each other. Hong returned to her defensive stance as Momiji slowly circled her.
“What’s the matter?” Spoke Hong between breaths. “Your bite isn’t matching your bark at all! And you wolves really call yourselves the guards of Youkai Mountain?”
She growled in response, still continuing to circle. Hong observed carefully, taking utmost care not to show her fatigue and pain from all the tengu’s assaults. Without any indication, Momiji leapt forward, her fist reared back. Hong quickly blocked, but still winced at the intensity of the blow. She raised her leg to quickly kick in retaliation, but before she could even hit the wolf, she had already retreated to a safe distance. Hong smirked and scoffed.
“Again, you really call yourself a guardian of the mountain?”
“Most troublemakers of the mountain don’t have time to complain about my tactics.” Growled Momiji. She lurched forward again, Hong this time dodging her powerful blow. She landed a few jabs on the tengu, but Momiji was quick to respond with a few more powerful punches of her own. Hong winced with each hit from the tengu, trying to retaliate, but Momiji had retreated to a safe distance once more. Hong was covered in sweat, clothes badly scratched, and deeply panting. She was aware of this herself, if Momiji’s expression didn’t already completely give it away. She lurched forward for what she hoped would be the final time, but Hong suddenly dropped her guard, leaping forward and kicking in retaliation. While the tengu still managed to land a powerful hit on Hong’s shoulder, she took an even more brutal kick to the stomach, sending her flying away and crashing into the opposite end of the arena. Hong gripped tightly onto her shoulder, wincing. Psyching herself up, she did her best to purge her mind of the pain, and focus on winning the fight. Momiji groaned as she stumbled up from the ground, but caught the slight moment of Hong’s weakness. She took a deep breath and charged forward at full speed. Before Hong could react, she took another strong blow to her already weak arm. She audibly yelped and leapt back, but Momiji dashed forward, prepared to deliver another blow. Hong ducked and dodged, but Momiji continued to attack. She intermixed punching and swiping faster than she had before, knowing she was too exhausted to dodge them all. Hong kept backing away, retaliating whenever she could with her good arm, but the tengu simply tanked each and every blow. She kept approaching, giving Hong no respite from her assault. For the first time in the fight, Hong was growing concerned. The tengu barely looked like she had been phased by any of her previous blows, and certainly had stamina to spare. Hong poured every ounce of willpower she could to trying to dodge and block the endless flurry of blows from her. Amidst the flurry, Hong still hatched a final plan to counter the onslaught. As much as she tired out, she could see the tengu was slowing down her assault as well. Taking advantage of how out of breath the tengu likely was, took a step forward amidst the assault and used her good arm to throw a devastating punch to her chest. Momiji completely froze from the blow, unable to take another breath. She glared at Hong with the slightest speck of fear as the gatekeeper smiled. She took another step forward, kneeing Momiji in the stomach. She keeled over, staring as hong took a step back and delivered a powerful kick right under her jaw. The tengu flew away from the blow, literally howling in pain, and eventually crashed into the ground. Hong gasped and panted, staring at the body of the tengu carefully. No movement. She hobbled over, holding tight to her injured arm, looking closer. Suddenly, Momiji coughed and groaned. She opened her eyes, and she only saw a blurry sight of Hong.
“I think that counts as a knockout.” Hong smiled, offering a hand to her opponent. Momiji grabbed hold of it as Hong tugged her to her feet. The tengu stumbled, and the gatekeeper offered her shoulder as support.
“If my head weren’t spinning right now, you’d be finished Hong…”
She burst out laughing. “Yeah, and I’m assuming you could beat me with only one arm as well?” She groaned, knowing she had used that to taunt Hong into the duel with her.
“Let’s just get our injuries treated, all right? You did do a number to the shoulder you’re leaning on you know.”
The two had taken rest inside the small wooden building, which was in actuality a small barracks for the tengu guards. Momiji had bandaged her chest, lying down in bed. Meanwhile, Hong had her uniform tossed to the side, as she was busy still treating and wrapping her wounds. Hands, arms, chest, stomach, back; Had she bandadged herself any more, she would look close to a mummy. Momiji looked over, slightly amused by the sight.
“Sheesh. I had you on the ropes, right?”
The guard chuckled. “If you believe so, yes.”
Momiji grumbled. “It certainly isn’t a belief, it was downright a fact! Still…” She rolled over, staring at the ceiling. “To think you even got me at my fiercist…”
“There’s an old reading from where I come from. ‘If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.’”
She turned her head to Hong. “So what, you were able to mind-read me and know when to strike?”
Hong smiled. “You were a bit too haughty, and you made that very clear with your challenge in the first place. Maybe instead of trying to overwhelm me, you could have thought of a better approach than being too easy to read.”
The tengu huffed. “Probably…”
“I still admire your sheer self-discipline. To hide your exhaust all the way throughout that entire match? Outright amazing.”
Momiji smiled, closing her eyes. “I told you, we gotta be the best of the best to guard the mountain.”
Hong stood up, putting back on her damaged uniform. She turned to Momiji.
“Once we’re both better, I want a round two. Especially since now we both know what we’re capable of.”
The tengu sat up, smiling and giving a thumbs up. “Till next time Hong!”
It had only been a few hours after Joy had finished her training. Simon had guided her to her proper sleeping quarters in the barracks, and she had crashed in bed. Still geared up in her outfit, all the caffeine of the previous night had faded from her system. Her scratches and cuts had all been disinfected and bandaged. Only the sound of a ticking wall clock could be heard as she snoozed softly. Unfortunately, Simon kicked open the door, cranking his microphone up.
“Joy, get up, it’s time to eat!”
She lurched up, tweaking her wound. She quickly placed her hand on the bandage.
“Gods Simon…” She let out a yawn, glancing at the clock. “Can’t you give me a few more hours? Ugh…” She stared down at her bandaged wound.
He shook his head. “First, you were the one who chose to take the test so late. Second, there could be numerous situations where you need to be up and active, regardless of sleep.”
She rolled her eyes. “Well, hope that means I won’t need to bother changing.” She hopped out of bed onto her feet. “Hopefully ‘combat situations’ won’t mean there’s no painkillers or anything like that.”
Simon walked to the doorframe, turning back to her. “Just follow me and you can get something at the mess hall.”
She followed him down the silent halls of the fortress, all still as well lit as they were the previous night. There were no windows anywhere she could see, just a hall lined with doors to other sleeping quarters. Opening up a door at the end, she stepped outside to a small yard. Massive steel walls surrounded the area, and she could still hear the sound of bombs going off in the distance. To her left was a small door connected right into the wall, and a same one to her right. Across the dusty ground, Simon pointed to a smaller looking building in the center of the yard.
“Over there, just head on over and eat whatever you can, and socialize with the others. Now if you excuse me, I got business to attend to. I’ll be back in around thirty to begin your training.” He walked off, to the left, entering the door. She marched forward, brazenly pushing open the doors to the mess hall. She froze as she saw the sight: There were quite a few other soldiers in here, way more than she expected to be in special operations. They all glared out of her, her showy outfit clearly feeling incredibly out of place to all these uniform geared soldiers. She slinked towards the food. So much for a small handful of oddjobs… Last time I’ll trust the internet for facts. The only other thing that broke her expectations was the quality of food: They weren’t MREs, but actual food. Eggs, bacon, sausages, assorted grain cereals, milk, and so on. She stacked a hefty plate for herself and turned around, the reality of her standing out hitting her once more. Most of the tables were full, and she was thinking of just muscling herself into one of them until somebody waved to her. The man was outfitted significantly different from the other soldiers, wearing what looked like equipment a pilot would wear. She shuffled on over as the tall man offered her a seat. She sat, placed her tray down, and the man sat across from her. A few others moved over to the table as well: A woman wearing a camo jacket similar to Simon’s, A woman wearing more simple looking kevlar but with a bizarre visor above her eyes, and a terrifying man who was wearing an equally terrifying exoskeleton. The man who invited her spoke up.
“Joy, yes?” He held his hand towards her. She shook it. “Good to see another oddjob here, my name is Paul.”
She sighed. “You’re all the oddjobs? Still doesn’t make me feel any more out of place.”
“Maybe a bit of proper armor would help?” Spoke the woman with the headset. “By the way, my name is Maria. Pleased to meet you.” Joy nodded. “Yeah yeah, Simon already gave me that talk.”
The jacketed woman spoke. “First, my name is Annie. Second, take what little advice he gives to serious heart. Unless you got in here for having indestructible skin.” She chuckled to herself.
She moaned. “Little? He won’t stop yapping to me about everything I need to do.”
Paul chuckled. “I had a feeling you’d be a special case. By the way, him?” He motioned towards the man with the exoskeleton. “His name is Rex. He’s the most experienced of the bunch here, but he’s mute. Years of service taking its toll, you know.”
Rex observed her from across the table.
“Anyways…” Paul said, “How’d you get scouted out?” She smiled. “Oh, you’re talking to somebody who’s pure of heart here!” She pointed to the insignia on her abdomen. “Worked hard and pledged to the God of Righteous Fury, beat that dumb test of Simon’s, and now I’m his partner!”
The table froze, staring wide-eyed at her. “Impressive, I know?”
“He what.” Was all that could come out of Paul’s mouth.
“How did you guys get past his test anyways. I mean, maybe Rex over there could probably force it-”
“Joy” spoke Maria. “That test is a farce to weed out lunatics who think they can just brute-force their way into the crusaders. We’re normally scouted out and hand-picked by him. And no, Rex can’t force it open with strength alone.”
Her smile melted away. “Wait, what?”
“Honestly, the more shocking part is that Simon actually stayed true to keep you as his partner.” Said Paul. “He’s been operating alone for as long as I’ve served here. Hell, we rarely even see him.”
Joy’s smile returned in full force and she began laughing uncontrollably. “HOO! So you just mean I was the only one worthy for him too? Figures!”
Annie laughed in turn. “Simon’s the one I’m more amused at, that he’d stay true to his word even for that farce of a test! How’d you do on the first exam anyways?”
Joy leaned back. “Yeah easy stuff, those demons were pretty easy to deal with.”
“How’d you do against the vanguard spawn though?” Annie asked. Joy paused for a few moments. “Oh easy as well-”
The rest of the table burst into laughter, Joy’s smug smile slowly melting away. Even Rex bore a great smile. “What’s the deal?”
Paul snorted. “Vanguard spawn aren’t used in training. You’re full of shit Joy!”
Joy banged the table. “What’s the big deal, what are they? There was nothing about them in my guide!” Marie sniffled before calming down. “Joy, just pray in your career as a crusader you NEVER have to see them. If they ever do show up, the spawn are the least of your worries.”
“If you all think I’m not qualified for this, hey I still managed to pass Simon’s challenge! That’s something I got above you all!”
Rex suddenly pushed everyone’s trays out of the way and put his mechanized arm on the table. He stared at her directly, setting up in an arm-wrestling position. She smirked.
“Tell you what, use both of those arms of yours. You’ll need em.” She smacked her elbow onto the table, grasping onto his. She heard gears whirring hard as he strained himself and his exoskeleton to try and budge her arm to no avail. The other oddjobs stared in amusement as Rex’s face turned red with effort. Joy used her free arm to smugly scoop a portion of her breakfast into her mouth. He suddenly stood up, taking his second arm and began pushing against Joy’s. She felt her arm budge somewhat, and she strained to fight against the force of Rex’s. Several seconds passed until Rex finally let go. He took a step back and nodded.
“I think you’ve somewhat impressed him Joy” Paul laughed.
She began wharfing down the rest of her meal as the others sat around the table once more.
“I’m also curious,” Asked Annie, “who’s your assigned trainer?“
“Assigned?” She swallowed a mouthful of food. “Didn’t you all train with Simon?”
“I guess it’s to be expected for his partner.” Responded Marie. “Didn’t you remember what we said about him barely interacting with us?”
Annie leaned over the table. “Just take my advice Joy. You’re getting a once-in-an-eternity deal to work with him one-on-one. Simon didn’t become the head of the special division for no reason.”
It’s because he founded it!” Interjected Maria. “He isn’t even pledged to the God of Crusades from what I understand. Not to any god either. He’s that good.”
Joy swallowed a mouthful of food. “If training is gonna be like that demon fighting stuff, it’s gonna be a cinch! A few scratches won’t kill me. Besides, what can you guys do that I can’t?”
Paul chucked. “You can stop overpraising yourself. Just take care, all right?”
“KEEP ON PUSHING, YOU STILL HAVE HALF A MILE TO GO!” Every single muscle in Joy’s body throbbed and burned. Throughout the day Simon’s “training” almost classified as abuse, ranging from pushups with one-ton blocks of steel on her back, swimming with large weights strapped to her, to now working to push an APC uphill. For the entire push up-hill, Simon constantly barked at her over and over, having her blood boil along with the rest of her body. Half a mile later and she gave the APC one final shove, panting and soaked in sweat. She flexed her arm and smiled at it, at the very least something could provide her with good exercise. Her smile faded as Simon began walking over towards her. If only this exercise didn’t nearly kill her. She sat down onto the ground.
“Why are you taking a break? That thing has no fuel and it needs to get back to base, stat!”
“Hey, give me a break! Seriously, I’m already overqualified as it is! Send me after some of those demon-selling bastards or something already!” “And what gave you that impression?” “I already met the other oddjobs! I’m way out of their league!”
He paused for a few moments. “If you really feel that way, would you like me to move you to advanced combat training?”
Her eyes lit up. “YES! Yes please, just anything that can end with this mundane workout crap!”
Simon began marching away. “That APC still needs to get back to the base. Get pushing!”
Her body still burning from the earlier training, Joy could still barely contain herself as Simon lead her to a training arena. It was a large city-block sized room filled with small city buildings, roads, and even broken down cars scattered across them. Simon lead her through a door entering into the end of the arena.
“So this one is simple enough for even you to understand. Paint rounds will be used for this, and if you’re hit, you’re dead.” He pointed to a tall building off at the other end. “Over there in that building is your target. There’s civilians trapped in the basement guarded by a few cartel members. You need to get in there, kill every last cartel member and demon, and get the civilians out of there. You got it?”
“You got it. It’ll be a cinch, trust me!” “I haven’t gotten that far with you yet Joy. Show me what you’ve got.”
The moment he left the arena, he yelled over the intercom: “START”.
She immediately bolted forward towards the building, bounding over the rubble and scrap that blocked the streets. She felt something peck at her forehead and a loud buzzer went off.
“You’re dead Joy.”
She skidded to a halt. She felt her head, and felt paint on it. “What? Where was he? How did he-”
She glanced around and looked up, and saw an all too familiar figure. Rex was standing atop one of the buildings with a rifle in hand. The intercom spoke up.
“Your enemy isn’t going to face you head on. You have to think and be resourceful Joy!’
“Fine, now I know! Give me a re-match!”
All day, Joy tried over and over to best Rex to no avail. Every single time she tried to get close to that building, he was always one step ahead of her. She tried taking cover, weaving through buildings, everything she could to get closer and closer. Each and every time, the moment she made it close to the building, she always got struck from where she least expected it. She was gasping for breath by the last attempt, and Simon spoke over the loudspeaker once more. “That’s enough training for today Joy. You need to get something to eat before you crash and burn.” She slogged her way back to the entrance of the arena, met by Simon. She glared daggers at him as he crossed his arms.
“So do you still think you’re overqualified Joy?”
She angrily shook her head.
“I will at least admit, your persistence is definitely a positive quality. Not sure if it’s because of stupidity or will, but it’s admirable. After dinner, meet me back here, I think I have a better way of training you with this.
Joy took her time eating dinner, taking time to rest her arm every time she ate a forkful of food. Her limbs felt totally deflated from the days’ activities, and she groaned to herself thinking of what else Simon still had in store. She stretched out her legs, and noticed Paul had sat across from her, still with a smile on your face.
“So what do you want? Care to rub in Rex’s victory over me a bit more?”
“Actually, I’m more asking how training went today.” She poked at her food. “Being used as an overglorified tow truck for a few miles wasn’t fun at all, nor was being humiliated by Rex. I swear someday I’m going to get close enough to knock every tooth out of his head.”
“Quite the competitive spirit I see you have. A bit different from me when I first came.” He kicked his legs up on the table. “Joy, do you know where I came from before I was scouted for special operations?”
She glanced up from her food. “Dunno, why does it matter?” “I used to work for search and rescue, a pretty big name in it too as well. That’s how I got these.” Suddenly two massive wings sprouted from his back. Joy jolted back, nearly falling out of her seat.
“What kind of rescue agency were you working for?”
The wings retracted into his back. “Several, actually. The wings are from the God of Guardian Angels. You do civil service, you get those wings in turn. Only downside is you have to commit your life to civil service. I’m still doing it here, to an extent.” He chuckled.
“So you got big fancy wings, what does that have to do with advice?” “I managed to get scouted and selected to join the crusaders special ops because I was one of the best in my field, and my wings prove it. Being the best in my field wasn’t enough for special operations however, and and it ruined me for my first month here. Going from top of the class to utter garbage isn’t a fun feeling, but it was a necessary one.”
She huffed. “No shit it ain’t fun. So what?”
“What I’m saying is that it helped changed my perspective a bit. I’d be doing greater work, but I needed to understand that I wasn’t the best in order to adapt. Hell, how I go about my work hasn’t changed much, it’s just I learned how to better cope with gunfire, and became remarkably better at breaching locked rooms.” He laughed.
“Aaand?” She stared at him quizically.
“Sheesh you are dense… What I mean is that how you go about well… Brutally beating the crap out of whatever you find?”
“Yeah, uh… That. You can still keep what you know to best do that, but you need to be adaptive and resourceful to the new situations you’ll encounter.”
“Hold on… Simon said something like that once before now that you mention it.”
“Well, take it to Simon directly then. He IS your trainer, as brutal as he’s going to be.”
She stood up, stretching out.
“I think I should be good enough as long as he doesn’t force me to do heavy lifting. I’ll try giving your advice a shot.”
He waved goodbye. “There’s a lot of stuff only your trainer knows. Ask if you’re confused about anything!”
Joy returned to the arena, where he had a selection of submachine-guns and pistols out on a table. He turned to face her.
“Well, you’re here a bit sooner than I expected.”
She flinched. “Excuse me?”
“That’s not important anymore. Now as for a better way for training you we’re obviously going to return to basic combat scenarios, all while still working on your stubborness and endurance. For the time being, it’ll just be you and me, and I’m going to hammer in those points you need to know-”
“Sorry to interrupt, but I actually have a question.”
He paused, crossing his arms. “Go ahead then.”
“It’s my resourcefulness you want me to work on, right?”
He nodded. “Glad to see you’re becoming a bit more observant. It’s one of many issues, but one of the most important regarding your blessing. Your strength allows you to carry likely any weapon short of a tank’s cannon, and we could fit a hell of a lot of armor on you to little to no issue. Using-” “Sheesh, slow down. And cut it with turning me into a walking tank thing, I don’t want to look like some kind of killer android. You saw against demons how well I can fare at the test, right?”
Simon grabbed one of the pistols from the table. “So how much faith do you have in your God then? To protect you from one of these?” He aimed it at her shoulder.
“Go ahead, try me!”
A crack echoed through the arena as he fired the pistol. The bullet crashed into her shoulder and she let out a yelp, flinching. The projectile, however, had flattened as it hit her shoulder, bouncing to the floor below. She stared down at it and grinned, rubbing her shoulder.
“See, armor be damned!”
“Not exactly. That was merely a 9mm, but it’s probably the most most grunts can afford. Now what would you do if a sniper had a scope trained on your head?”
“That’s what this training is for, is it not?”
He nodded. “Getting better Joy, getting better. It’s your decision on how you want to fight, but if you can make it work, I’ll accept it. As for the last of training tonight, you just need to disarm and capture me. And since you proved your durability, I’ll be using live ammunition, nothing lethal.”
She cracked her knuckles. “You shitting me? Piece of cake!”
He held up his hand to her. “You want to learn how to be resourceful, this is how you’re going to learn. When I sound the buzzer, you can begin.”
He grabbed a few pistols and a sub-machine gun from the table, tucking them in his coat. He strolled away into a building several meters away from where Joy stood. The buzzer sounded, and she dashed forward, crashing through the doors of the building. She paused and glanced around, before feeling a few cracks and stinging shots on her bandadged wound. She screamed.
“Never charge through a building like that Joy!” Yelled Simon from the opposite side of the building. She turned towards him as he disapperead around a doorway and she charged forward. She headed into the doorway and noticed it was a stairway. She began running up floor after floor. Coming around a corner, she saw him aiming the sub-machine gun down the stairwell, and he opened fire. Several bullets stung across her body, feeling like several pins crashed into her. She fell backwards, tumbling down the stairs.
“Charging head-first isn’t being resourceful Joy! Using your strength you could have just scaled the wall of the building you know!”
He disappeared further up and she heard a door open furher up. She dusted herself off and hurried up, now on top of the roof of the building. She noticed Simon aiming the sub-machine gun at her, and she quickly hid back in the doorway.
“Good, now think Joy! How are you going to approach me?”
She glanced around, and noticed something: The door. She appeared from the doorway, ripping the thing off the hinge, and tossed it towards him. He rolled out of the way, but noticed she had closed most of the distance between the two of them. She didn’t realize it, but from behind his mask he smiled. She ran forward to grab him, but he kicked backwards, unleashing another hail of bullets upon her. She stumbled backwards guarding her face with her arms.
“The nice thing about your strength is that you can use almost anything around you to your advantage Joy. Remember that!”
He ran to the edge of the roof and pulled out a grappling hook from his coat. Quickly hooking it to the edge of the roof, he repelled himself down, kicking throw a window to a lower floor of the building. She glanced over, almost ready to claw her way down, but paused, and smiled as a new idea hatched. She instead reared her fist back and slammed it into the ground, smashing a hole through the roof. She fell down a floor, and continued to do this until she landed in the same room, staring face to face with Simon. She smiled and charged forward.
“Smart, had I been anyone else that would have seriously thrown me off guard!”
He fired another spray of bullets until his magazine clicked empty. She was still charging forward, guarding her face.
“You’re getting used to this feeling fast, hm?”
He drew a pistol and fired several times at her legs. She stumbled at the pain and tripped as he slid out of the way. She crashed into the wall, dazed and stinging all over from the bullets. From the dust, she still stood back up, trying to ignore the constant stinging. Her body was red in multiple spots all over, and she was visibly grimacing.
“That’s quite the will you have Joy. But it’s a ballance of will, strategy, and technique that guarantees you a spot in special operations. Show me!”
This time, he charged forward towards her, drawing his boot knife. Before she could react, he swept her feet, knocking her to the ground, and sliced the knife accross her bandages. She screamed.
“What the fuck? That’s no fair at all!” “There’s nothing unfair about exploiting obvious weakness Joy!”
Her body now burning all over from the bullets and holding a hand to her gash, she felt absolutely enraged. Simon had leapt out of a window, taking cover behind a car to reload his sub-machine gun. He stared back out the window, waiting for her.
“Shit…” He muttered to himself. “Joy, do you need medical attention? Joy?”
He waited, and still nothing. Pulled another grapple from his coat and threw it at the window. He quickly climbed up, finding her limp body.
“Gods…” He ran over and kneeled near her. “I need a medical-” All of a sudden she rose to life, grabbing ahold of him in a bearhug. She sneered.
“I didn’t expect you to be the caring type, but you’re caught!” She heard a slight chuckle. “Clever, but I wouldn’t recommend using that on any opponent Joy. They don’t have concern for your well being. Plus, they could still have an ace up their sleeve.”
She felt a prick in her arms, and looked over, she noticed he had lifted his arms and placed them near her’s. In just a few moments, they went completely numb, Simon effortlessly stepped out of her grip.
“Now it’d only be fair if I could use a trick only I could know, yes? I doubt any old grunt would know anesthetic would work on you. By the way, you’ll start feeling them within the hour, by the way.”
She groaned. “Dammit… And I was so close.”
“On the contrary Joy. With all the years of experience under my belt, I’m prepared for every situation the world can throw at me.”
“Well, looks like this method of training works well. You can return to your quarters. We’ll start off mornings with heavy endurance training, and finish afternoons with live fire combat training. Understood?”
“More of that APC pushing crap? At least I can get a bit of a kick out of this stuff. Why can’t we do more of this?”