Chapter 1:

The Approach

My Crack At Being An Adventurer In A Modern World: A Ketten Story

Three raincoats made their way across the soggy field. Dark clouds swept over the night sky, the smell of wet dog thick in the air. A four-legged beast emerged from the mist ahead of them. Two members scattered, leaving the only man of the group to deal with the sopping, black-furred creature. Moonlight glinted off a twin set of razor-sharp teeth protruding from under the beast's snout.Bookmark here

The brute lunged as Russell charged, pulling a bladeless hilt from his belt. With a squeeze of the haft, a blade appeared. Galloping through the mud, the thuds of his paws vibrated the man's legs with each step. He lunged at the beast's head, but in retaliation, the animal thrashed, knocking the man against the ground. The beast approached the recovering Russel, its jaw gaping.Bookmark here

It dove its snout down on top of Russell, but as it did, the man drove his blade into the beast's cold black eye. A popping sound echoed out, blood splashing down on the man. Using his submerged metal as a pivot, he swung atop its head. As he loosened his grip on the snakewood handle, the blade retracted, but he squeezed it once more, plunging the steel into his opponent's skull. Crashing to the ground, the man jumped from the lifeless body and rejoined his scurrying companions.Bookmark here

"How's he doin', Abby?"Bookmark here

The woman lifted the canvas cover of the handwoven carrying basket to check within. "He'll be fine Russell, but we need to hurry."Bookmark here

"How 'bout you, Bon?"Bookmark here

"I'll be fine, Dad." Continuing her dash, Bonnie raised her hand, swiping it over the left side of her face. A mechanical whine resonated from her left eye socket. A metal plate disguised as an ordinary human iris rose from her also seemingly normal eyeball. GUIs from different programs installed onto the cybernetically enhanced eye's memory chip popped up, blocking that eye's vision momentarily.Bookmark here

Several windows relating to vitals appeared. With a movement of her pupil, she closed the windows out and activated a different program titled: weather.exe. All visible weather disappeared in her one eye as if it were a neutral day without a cloud in the sky. For an inexperienced user, seeing something completely different in each eye was extremely disorienting. But her frequent practice, even when in impractical situations, helped to negate the nauseating sensation.Bookmark here

"We're here!" Shouted Bonnie, navigating with the swing of her finger in the direction of their destination.Bookmark here

The group advanced towards a large concrete wall emerging from the fog. Sprawls of buildings stretched into the sky behind the twenty-meter-high concrete structure, leading into the horizon as far as the eye could see. Protecting all the buildings within, electrical discharges sprinkled the invisible enclosure. They rushed toward the city as the rain began to subside, continuing towards their goal, the eastern entrance.Bookmark here

As the group approached, they could make out Bradley, a young city security guard clad in black covered by matching metal, pondering the night sky, his armor scraping against a large metallic door. The sound of the steadily approaching splashes pulled his attention back to his duties. He straightened his stance, the embers of his sweet stick lighting his disinterested face. His right hand gripped the cloth-wrapped hilt of the blade that rested in the saya hooked to his belt bands. Smoke lingered in the air as Bonnie approached, her hood now folding back.Bookmark here

"Bradley!" Bonnie said. "Thank God, I never thought I'd see you again."Bookmark here

Bradley embraced Bonnie, her brunette hair radiating the smell of sweat and rainwater, but this didn't affect her loving warmth. "You scared the crap outta me! You know how antsy I get being outside these walls. Guards take beatings every week from what's out here."Bookmark here

Ignoring his concern, she raised her lips whispering in his ear, "You picked up smoking again? You know how that makes me feel."Bookmark here

"I needed something to occupy myself with after you left. My nerves were getting to me about the whole situation." Bradley turned to look at the other hooded figures tailing Bonnie. Uncovering her face was a woman in her forties with shoulder-length brown hair, followed by a middle-aged man with short black stubble on his head and chin.Bookmark here

"Well, if it isn't mama Gail and old man Russ."Bookmark here

"It's good to see you're well, Bradley, but we need to hurry. Is your father ready?" Russell turned, grabbing the woven carrier from his wife.Bookmark here

"Yeah, let me get Donny to open the gate. They're just on the other side."Bookmark here

He gently knocked on the thick metal door at varying rates, loosely resembling morse code. Metal bars dropped into the floor and the doors creaked into the walls revealing two men: Bradley's not much younger brother, Donny, dressed in the same manner, and another, Bradley's father Joseph, a man around Russell's age. After a firm handshake, the carrier was quickly handed over to Donny who stood shaking behind his father.Bookmark here

"Take good care of him, Joseph." Russell stepped back behind the open slits in the floor, allowing the metal bars to retake their position.Bookmark here

"Are you sure you want to do this, Russ?" Joseph looked back at his son who was clearly hesitant to check under the cover.Bookmark here

"We have no choice, Joe. The Marrow is opening."Bookmark here

Despair flashed across Joseph's face. "No, it can't be."Bookmark here

Russel hung his head low, pulling his soaking black hood back up. He reached deep into his wife's pack and pulled out a large envelope, handing it over. "That's for medical, living, and any other expenses he might need. We'll be back as soon as we figure out what to do."Bookmark here

After a quick kiss on Bradley's lips, Bonnie let go and turned to follow her mother and father. "Take care of my little brother, Brad. And you better quit smoking."Bookmark here

"Wait, I'm coming with you-"Bookmark here

"You can't now. You have to make sure Ant grows up to be a good man." She stuck out her tongue and turned away, concealing the tears following the path of scars on her cheeks.Bookmark here

The adventurers disappeared into the fog whilst the men, pulling back that cover, looked down at the baby.Bookmark here

Takahashi  Eien
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