The man with a “#1” engraved on his shoulder exclaimed, “Holy hell, I just remembered! I wasn’t here to kill all these peasants! I actually have somewhere else to be. Damn! I should’ve been in the city by now!”
Number One’s expression changed as if he was reminded of something. He turned back and looked at me.
He was laughing, “Oh! My bad kid! So I was the one who killed all these peasants!”
Injured and in pain, I slowly trudged outside. I made my way to a tree where I dropped down clenching my punctured arm. I noticed that the two men were standing still and staring at each other. There was so much suspense and pressure in the air, and it seemed they were waiting to see who would move first.
The sun began to rise into view as night slowly became day and as slow but continual trickling rain began to fall alongside giant gathering clouds. The field of grass that the two men stood upon, as green as ever, fluttered upon receiving the droplets.
The mysterious man that appeared to confront Number One with killing intent had a peculiar and sharp appearance. When I say sharp appearance, I literally mean a sharp appearance. The man wore what appeared to be hundreds of blades and weapons of different shapes and sizes. He wore them strapped and bound around his entire body with a coat to cover them. Daggers, sickles, swords, spears, hatchets, knives, you name it. He had them all. He was muscular, but not bulky. He was skinny, but not thin. He was a white, tan-skinned man possessing overgrown, uneven, and rough white hair alongside a black stubble beard. He had bright blue eyes and was wearing a long-sleeved white coat almost like what a doctor would wear with a simple plain long-sleeved black undershirt. There were countless strapped blades and edges of many weapons sticking out from the inside of his opened white lab coat and onto his undershirt. He was also dressed in black pants, black boots, and white spotless gloves that held a unique and easily noticeable word on the dorsal side of his left glove. The word read “LOST” in an old English font with a navy blue color. I still wonder what the meaning was behind that word. Nonetheless, he looked like he came prepared and ready.
After about five minutes of silence and staring between the two men, Number One decided to finally say something as he conjured a smile.
“So, I can tell from that silly glove of yours that you're the bounty hunter they call Arsenal. Maybe it’s those weak-ass weapons you got hiding under that lab coat that led people to have you known as that.”
The man called Arsenal simply smiled and responded promptly.
“Weak weapons huh? I guess we’ll see how weak they really are, won’t we? Oh, man! I’m going home with lots of money tonight! Maybe I’ll crack open some cold ones when I get back.”
The man named Arsenal looked at me now with a frown as I resumed holding my arm. The blade’s thick and curved shard was immovable in my skin, and from the pain I was feeling both mentally and physically, my fate was evidently in the hands of the bounty hunter. Looking into his eyes, it was like he was reminiscing on past events.
“Damn kid, you remind me of myself when I was younger. That look you’re making...”
Arsenal continued to stare at me.
“I wish I could say things get better kid, but I think you and I both know that that’s not true. Just sit there and watch. I’ll make this quick.”
The man turned back to Number One who was now frowning as rain gathered onto his blood-soaked shirt. Arsenal spread his left arm out the same way he spread his right arm when he clutched the great-sword. He gripped the air once more in the same fashion, but this time something else appeared out of thin air. It was a white mask with a strap behind it. The man smiled, and using the one arm carrying the mask, he threw on the mask while making sure to fasten it behind his head. The mask was both unique and menacing. It included two openings for the man’s eyes so as to not obstruct his vision and had navy blue diagonal lines resembling a frowning face where the mouth was supposed to be. In addition to the white color and diagonal-lined mouth, the mask had navy blue and grey lines coursing through the top half in a design similar to that of a plaid style. His bright blue eyes glimmered and pierced through the mask.
Number One expressed as if he was annoyed, “What the hell? A mask?”
He then grinned like before and pointed at my newly headless mother in my destroyed home as if he was truly humoring himself.
“If I wanted to put a mask on something, I would’ve thrown it on that ugly thing over there!”
Arsenal responded with only one word.
Arsenal rapidly reached into his white coat with his left hand and immediately pulled out and launched a dagger identical to the one that shattered earlier. Number One quickly crossed and flexed his arms to block. Similar to before, the dagger hit his arms and shattered like glass. As the shards fluttered everywhere, Number One uncrossed his arms and looked forward in confusion. There was now only slight smoke and splashed water where Arsenal once stood. Number One swiftly looked to his right where the practically transported Arsenal now stood ready to swing his massive great-sword. The leaves and grass around quivered. Arsenal swung the blade horizontally aiming for Number One’s neck, but Number One stretched his head and back backward barely dodging the imminent slash. As Arsenal followed through and commenced with his swing, the air erupted sending immense wind and water from the rain flying in all directions. Number One responded by looking up at the great-sword and kicking it upwards with a rotating movement, but Arsenal wouldn’t let go, and the blade barely even shifted from its positioned swing. Now the blade was stretched above Arsenal’s head, and Arsenal immediately winded the blade back and swung again, this time vertically. Number One dodged once more quickly, leaving the blade to crash into the ground. The force caused the grass and mud from the rain hitting the dirt to spill everywhere in every direction. Number One covered his face with one arm to avoid having the dirt strike his face and quickly countered with a furious punch that held a crimson, red-like aura. The punch launched towards the white coat that he barely saw through the spurting mud. He connected but immediately found that he was punching only through clothing as Arsenal seemed to have taken the coat off and thrown it in the air as soon as the great-sword connected with the ground.
Number One shouted out like he knew what was coming.
“AH DAMN IT!”
The great-sword slashed and connected with Number One’s back as he grunted from the pain while gritting his teeth. Arsenal landed a clean blow on Number One which pierced and generated a gigantic cut coursing through Number One’s back muscles and white shirt which was now torn in half. Blood quickly dribbled and gushed from the large cut as Number One angrily turned around and kicked Arsenal who managed to block with his great-sword sending Arsenal sliding back on the muddy floor. Arsenal barely held his footing.
The rain continued to fall.
Number One reaffirmed his anger forcing out, “That was a cheap shot you shit-head! You’re not making this very fun!”
Arsenal didn’t care to respond as he quickly gripped his great-sword with great might and launched it cycling horizontally towards Number One who was now making both a surprised and a desperate-looking face. Number One tried to dodge as fast as he could, but the sword was too wide for him to completely avoid. It managed to slash the left side of Number One’s body leaving another bloody cut as Number One attempted to dodge mid-air. The blade fell, skidding across the grass and dirt behind Number One as he landed down. He now had his eyes widened. He constructed a smile and began to laugh surprisingly.
“Throwing away your weapon? Now that’s not very smar-”
Before Number One could finish his sentence, with the speed of a cheetah, Arsenal charged Number One and punched him with an uppercut-like strike straight to the stomach. Despite this resounding strike, Number One didn’t budge. He smiled and looked down at the shorter Arsenal with his glistening hazel eyes as he hastily struck him at the left side of his body with his fist holding a once more slight but vivid red-like aura. The aura slowly coursed through his body as Arsenal was sent flying in a leftward direction proportional to Number One’s body. Arsenal spiraled onto the floor until he finally landed and regained himself. He was holding the left side of his torso where Number One just struck him.
Number One looked up at Arsenal and boasted while laughing, “Damn! I hit you with practically all my strength and you're still standing? I haven’t faced someone like you in too long!”
Arsenal, for a moment, took off his mask. He was now smiling as well. Still holding his left ribs, he replied.
“You talk too much for a number.”
There were scattered blade fragments placed in the grass directly in front of Number One which began to shimmer a slight and light blue color. Number One looked down surprised and prepared as if he knew what was coming. Arsenal closed his right fist and pulled it up towards himself. The thick and curved blade fragments flew upwards along with wires connected from the ground. They were directly in front of Number One who bobbed his head backward in a desperate attempt to avoid a fatal blow to the head. He managed to completely dodge many fragments, but many landed. One pierced the right side of his chest alongside one slicing his face and another carving the left side of his torso. Number One jumped back, now gritting his teeth in anger. Arsenal strapped the mask back onto his face and had some words to say. Arsenal’s glimmering blue eyes met Number One’s shining hazel eyes face to face.
“Come on number, you didn’t think I’d blindly rush you like that without something up my sleeve did you? You really are as dumb as you look. It seems the mud saved you. It stopped the fragments from moving at the speed they should have.”
Number One recalled the uppercut-like strike that Arsenal performed on him and acknowledged Arsenal’s deception, responding through the rain.
“You bastard. You planted those fragments when you rushed to punch me didn’t you? You knew you wouldn’t do any damage punching me. You used the punch as a distraction and left some of your little gadgets for me. The mud saved me? Are you trying to piss me off!”
Number One ripped the pierced shard out of his chest and out of clear frustration rushed Arsenal in an attempt to tackle him to the ground with his two monstrous arms spreading out at each side. Arsenal swiftly drew out a hatchet that he was hiding under his long-sleeved black undershirt and slashed at the rushing monster who was closing in. Number One flared his red aura causing the ground to tremble as Arsenal’s hatchet made contact and shattered upon impact. Despite the fragments of the hatchet spurting everywhere, Number One continued his attack through the shards attempting to snatch Arsenal in a hugging motion, but Arsenal effortlessly and purposely fell back-first on the muddy grass floor to avoid the arms. Number One didn’t stop there as he immediately clenched his right fist screaming and swinging downwards with incredible pressure and power in an attempt to strike the now laying down Arsenal. Arsenal, however, to avoid absorbing what he knew would be a critical blow, redirected the smash with his foot which he stretched out towards the impending fist and kicked making Number One’s attack hit another area in the muddy ground. The ground erupted upon the impact of this punch, and as Number One’s fist was still connected to the ground, Arsenal fired three fast throwing knives from his boots in a twirling fashion towards Number One’s blindside. Number One flexed his body with the crimson aura which once more led to the shattering of the tools. The shattering fragments flickered onto the muddy floor along with the several other fragments and pieces that resided there from Number One’s previous tanking.
I stopped watching and tried to move again. I got up and began walking which turned into running until I froze in fear. Number One leered at me in malice. I sat back down. There was no way I was going to run away. Not from this man. Not from the numbers. Arsenal pulled himself up and backed away from Number One.
It just so happened that the area where Arsenal ended up after avoiding Number One’s smash was the area where his white coat was thrown as well as his great-sword that was dodged. While the coat now had a hole through it, Arsenal picked up the muddy thing and threw it back onto himself fast while making sure to pick up the great-sword once more.
Number One expressed, “That slow weapon again? It may be powerful enough to slash my skin, but there’s no way I’m letting that crap connect again.”
Number One rushed Arsenal once more with a barrage of furious punches and kicks desperately trying to connect them, but Arsenal perfectly dodged and blocked every blow like an acrobat briskly while attempting to preserve his great-sword. Both Arsenal and Number One began to notice the great-sword crack upon one of Number One’s mighty blows. The blade jolted back, and Number One smiled while sweeping Arsenal’s feet with his legs. It made contact and sent Arsenal crashing into the muddy ground once more. Arsenal couldn’t dodge, and Number One ended up right on top of him. Number One went for another strike filled with his aura similar to the one he performed earlier, and this time, Arsenal used the great-sword as a shield with both his hands to block the devastating attack. It was all he could do. Number One aimed for the previous crack in the blade, and the blade fulminated and shattered all around as fragments flew in every direction on the rainy battlefield. The raindrops were cut as the fragments reached the air, and one fragment from the great blade ruptured and damaged Arsenal’s mask from the force of the blade’s destruction. The mask was now cracked. Number One’s eyes widened, and he smiled cockily as if he won.
Number One shouted, “It’s over!”
Number One winded his arm back now ready for a final devastating blow when, all of a sudden, Arsenal snapped his fingers leading to his mask naturally breaking into several pieces. Number One was caught off guard. He quickly attempted to adapt to the situation anticipating another trick but couldn’t in time. Arsenal raised his left pinkie attached to a wire, and the five fragments from the weaponized mask that broke soared at Number One point-blank. Maskless on the floor, Arsenal revealed a menacing smile. As the fragments connected onto Number One’s torso and chest, Number One instantly flexed his muscles and shattered the impending fragments. New shavings erupted from the fragments that hit Number One’s body, and Arsenal jumped back up and backed away. Arsenal’s bright blue eyes dazzled in the rain.
Number One was beginning to breathe heavily with blood still running from the various cuts around his body.
“Enough of your damn tricks!”
Number One gasped for air through the rain as one of his knees hit the grass.
“Eventually you’ll run out of weapons and this fight will be mine.”
Arsenal smiled brilliantly and responded confidently.
“Run out of weapons?”
He then stuck out his two palms in front of himself with newly noticeable wires connected to every single one of his fingers. He connected the wire to his fingers one by one every single time shards trickled on the floor. Arsenal kept his smile.
“How can I run out of weapons… when there are weapons all around us?”
Number One knew what that meant right away. He felt fear for the first time in his life. Never has he ever felt like he was actually going to lose. He looked around him, and he realized what was happening. Arsenal had his palms open as Number One stood still making sure not to move.
Number One expressed angrily, looking around him cautiously and concerned.
“There’s no way this is happening.”
Number One scavenged his eyes around the field frantically. The rain came down harder.
“How could this happen? You bastard! I underestimated you, you scumbag!”
Arsenal replied, “So you’re not as dumb as you look after all. You noticed.”
All of the fragments that Number One broke while fighting Arsenal were dispersed on the battlefield. Little by little, the broken fragments and shards trembled. The broken hatchet, the broken great-sword, the shattered throwing knives, the shattered daggers, and even the shattered mask. Every single tool that Number One destroyed was now surrounding him. They were all attached… and about to fly via wire… by Arsenal.
Arsenal exclaimed, “I’ve noticed that you break a lot of things in this world. Human beings. Women. Families. Children. That kid over there.”
Arsenal pointed at me and then back to him as his face grew grim.
“Well, let’s see how you feel… when I break you with my broken things.”
Number One desperately cried out and began screaming in anger, confusion, and disbelief.
“WAIT! NO NO NO NO! IMPOSSIBLE! YOU CAN’T BEAT ME! HOW CAN A MERE BOUNTY HUNTER CORNER ME LIKE THIS! I AM THE WINNER… I SHALL NOT LOSE! I REFUSE... I AM… I AM… I AM NUMBER ON-”
Arsenal shouted and without warning clenched both of his fists.
The wires pulled every single fragment that Number One broke in the battle. All of the fragments which were connected to the wires held at Arsenal’s fingertips propelled vigorously at Number One at an insane and inhumane speed. It was impossible for Number One to dodge. Number One desperately tried to flex the muscles all around his body alongside his aura engulfing him, but the fragments and shards all still pierced Number One from every direction. Piercing and stabbing almost every single body part in his body, Number One shouted in failure and agony. His aura instantly dispersed. He didn’t have time to flex, he didn’t have time to dodge, and he didn’t have time to use the aura that he gained. He wailed as every fragment connected. There must’ve been hundreds of fragments stabbing him and piercing his huge body. He looked like a porcupine from the sheer amount of blades sticking out of his body, and his face was filled with cuts. The rain settled down, and soon it came to an end. Arsenal looked up at the sky striving to enjoy the last few drops.
Number One collapsed, but about twenty of the blades sticking out of him stabbed the ground as he fell keeping him up. He wasn’t dead yet. He was truly tough. There was blood exuding out of every single crevice in Number One’s body including his mouth as he ground his teeth and looked at Arsenal who was now approaching him.
Arsenal rid himself of the countless wires on his fingers and hands as he walked towards Number One.
“All in a day’s work. Can’t say that I had fun, but I really did hit the jackpot this time.”
He reached into his pants and pulled out a short sickle that he instantly twirled in his hand.
“Damn man, you made me use more than half of my weapons in this fight, but I guess it was worth it if I’m going to gain a cool one from killing you.”
Number One was gurgling blood from his mouth and onto the blades sticking out of his body. He was barely able to get any words out or get up.
“You… son of a-”
“Yea, yea, just shut the hell up for once. You're done. You’ve lost. Number One huh? What a joke.”
Arsenal made his way all the way to Number One’s body twirling the sickle around over and over before winding it back.
“You should know that I don’t like killing people even though I make a living off of it. I’m not like you. But killing you… I think I’ll be happy with taking you from this world, and I think the station will be happy when they see your disgusting head. The amount of money I’ll receive from this kill… I can finally return and help them properly. Any last words, loser?”
Number One was about to speak, but Arsenal wasn’t going to let him. He swung his sickle behind his shoulder extending his arm and aimed at Number One’s neck about to follow through.
Blood suddenly spurted everywhere. It was like a thunderbolt struck. I remember. That’s how fast everything changed. That’s how fast… they came.
Two men suddenly, within the blink of an eye. Yes, within the blink of an eye they had their hands through Arsenal. One man on the left side of Arsenal behind him who zipped in unbelievable speed, and one on the right in front of him and in front of Number One. Both with their hands through the poor warrior’s body. Arsenal’s sickle was wrapped around Number One’s head as his hand twitched. He clenched his teeth still trying to finish off Number One who was now smiling menacingly and cockily with blood coming out of his mouth. The man to the right of Arsenal placed his hand on the sickle's edge right before the sickle could touch Number One's throat. I remember. I remember their numbers. The man behind and to the left of Arsenal had a “#7” engraved on the front-right side of his neck. His arm was now piercing straight through Arsenal. The man in front and to the right was simply holding the sickle slowly pushing it away from Number One’s throat carrying “#20” engraved behind and to the center of his neck. That’s when Number Twenty spoke.
“Sorry buddy, but Number One can’t die yet. That was a pretty good show though. I can’t lie, you really had us entertained.”
Arsenal wrinkled his nose in anger as he attempted to say something, but he couldn’t get a word out. Number Seven also had something to say.
“Damn. I was hoping you’d kill One before we can save him.”
Number Twenty peered at Number Seven with suspicion.
Number Seven bantered, “Come on buddy relax, I’m just kidding.”
They let go of Arsenal who collapsed onto the floor chest-first. Arsenal mumbled through blood.
“What…? How…? Numbers… working together…?”
He then looked up at the tree where I was residing, but I was already running. As soon as I saw Number One on his knees, and as soon as I saw the other two numbers appear, I decided not to wait and ran away instantly in fear. I was already a couple of miles away holding my arm in desperation, but I looked back and saw a slight brown light coming from the fighting site. I knew without a doubt that… it was Number One’s eyes gazing at me. He couldn’t move and couldn’t speak, but I knew in the back of my mind that if he was able to, he wouldn’t have let me get away. Eventually, two miles became four, and four became eight, and I just kept moving and moving. I kept running. And I didn’t look back again. I just kept going until I made it to the city.
Upon arriving at the first street I saw, I collapsed losing blood and consciousness. One of the cars stopped, and I learned later on when I woke up in a hospital that the people in it helped me. As I grew up, I learned later that Arsenal’s body was recovered from the field of blades that was found void of the rumored Number Seven, Number Twenty, and Number One. I was told that fellow bounty hunters from his association that respected him gave him a proper burial. A burial for a real man. A burial for a true bounty hunter. Looking back at the conclusion of the battle, I don’t even remember how those two numbers actually looked. I just remember that one was dark-skinned and the other was tan-skinned. That doesn’t matter though. All that matters is that they wore numbers.
We’re all just numbers. My brother, my sister, my headless mother, my crushed father, and even you. I thought on that day that maybe one of us, us numbers would be able to take down one of the ones that wore them for the first time. He went by the name Arsenal, but it doesn’t really matter. In the end, he was just another number.
There are those that wear numbers. There will always be those that wear them. Yes, the ones that wear numbers.
But not for long.
My name is Coal Jenie. Number One killed my family when I was only thirteen years old. That was in the past. Now I’m twenty-one years old, and my journey to rid this world of the ones wearing numbers has just begun.
Now is the time. Now... I’m ready.