The Minotaur charge at me with a fist the size of my torso ready behind him, while I dash toward him with my hatchet ready. When we meet in the middle, I drop and slide on my knee. The beast punches the ground, cracking the earth and dispersing a thin cloud of dust away from his fist. As I slide under him between his legs, I plant the blade into his leg. However, I let go of the shaft as the edge is stuck into his leg.
I rotate my body and dig my feet into the dirt stopping myself from sliding. The Minotaur turn around without showing any pain in his expression. Another fist fly toward me, I roll to the left, avoiding the attack, and the same result happens to the ground beside me.
"James said, I could call it back. Come on, do it, focus." I whisper to myself while extending my hand forward at the hatchet.
Without giving me a chance, the Minotaur tries to punch me into oblivion, but I flip backward, avoiding another fist. However, before I avoid the third attack, I manage to call on the hatchet, it escapes the meaty leg, and it takes off like a bullet toward me.
"Damn it! James!" Instead of the hatchet land in my hand, it sinks itself into the rocky cliff behind me.
After I'm busy avoiding my hatchet that's trying to chop my head off, I didn't realize an attack is coming closer. The beast fist hit my side and tossing my whole body to the rocky cliff. My left arm and shoulder crash into the stone wall, and I can feel something break inside of me as I cough out a little bit of blood.
"Shit!" Before I could gather myself, the beast charge and impact his horned-head against my stomach.
The air inside my lungs escapes through my mouth, as the unmeasurable pain causes me to grunt loudly. The beast continues punching me deeper into the wall after crashing into me, bits of broken rock fall out from the crack cliff behind me.
"Andre!!" Agnes scream my name in worry.
"Stay back!" I scream at him as I keep getting hit again and again by the beast seemly limitless strength.
A fire begins to brew inside of me.
A fire that's familiar to me, a flame that I'm afraid of, but I don't know why.
I'm scared, but the fire overwhelms everything, doubt, concern, and every bit of emotions are replace with—Rage!
My sight begins to obscure, every common sense I have is throw out of the window. The beast moves his hand away from me, preparing for another punch, but when he tries to hit me with his fist, I pull back my elbow using what little space I have and strike his clench hand with my own. Two unstoppable force meets with each other causing a shock wave between our fists.
The skin on my knuckle tears itself as it meets the beast's fist. While I feel the unbearable strain that I'm putting in my arm, and I could tell that a few more second, the bones and muscle in my arm or the beast are going to shatter and burst. It is my lucky day as the bone inside the beast's hand break first causing him to let out a roar while backing away.
My back drag against the rough crack wall before finally landing on my knee, but I didn't take a rest as my rage guide me. I call upon my hatchet once more, while I dash and climb up the beast. Grabbing his arm, I lift myself until I meet with his face, I extend my left hand, the hatchet fly into my hand and snug tightly between my fingers and palm.
I raise the hatchet and bring it down on its left horn. The blade digs inside the thick horn, but it's not enough to cut through it. So, I climb up again until I stand on its head, the beast tries to grab me but fail. I stomp on the back of hatchet, pushing the blade through, and breaking the horn off while causing a small amount of blood to squirt out from its stump.
A roar escape from my mouth, "AAAAAAHHHHH!"
The beast falls onto his knee, as the force from my stomp pushes him downward, I drop off in front of him and take out my boomer. I aim at the beast head and about to pull the trigger when Agnes scream out.
"No! Don't kill him! He is like me!"
Agnes's voice pulls me back to reality, and my eyes went to the multicolor-braided necklace around the Minotaur neck. I quickly move my aim away and pull the trigger. A loud explosion escapes from the barrel's mouth along with a bullet that travels faster than a speed of sound. With a blink of an eye, the cliff far behind the beast explodes into smithereens, as fire consume and melt the rock.
However the show doesn't end there, an implosion follows the explosion, gathering the energy and fire back into a small ball and explode again.
James wasn't lying about the firepower if I shoot the beast in front of me with my gun, the explosion would kill me along with him. I shake my thought away and focus on the creature.
"Concede or die!" I yell at him.
A burst of air escapes his nostrils before he says, "I concede," in a deep voice.
After the blind rage dissipates, a tear slides down my cheek while heavy grief fills my heart for an unknown reason. This feeling that I'm currently having, it isn't my own, it someone else. Maybe the past me, but what terrible things happen to me before I wake up and becoming the candidate? All of these thoughts are making my heart hurt, I shake everything away and look at the Minotaur that's on his knee in front of me while I aim the gun at his head.
The beast is in pain but at the same time, feel relieve as I move the gun barrel away from his head. Agnes land close to me, "Are you okay?"
"Yep, I'm alright, just a little bruise and cut."
Agnes turn his gaze at The Minotaur, "What now?"
"Do you have a name?" I ask The Minotaur.
"Kraus Rockhide." He answers.
"Do you have some clean cloth and food?" The question sounds like a joke, maybe it is, but to tell you the truth, after the fight, I didn't know what to do next.
The Minotaur stare at me for a quite amount of time before glancing between Agnes and me. "I do have some in my cave, will you excuse me?"
There in my mind, but somehow I trust him. "Sure, go ahead. I'll be waiting here."
Kraus stand up and walk with one of his broken arms lie still by his side, and another keeping that arm from moving. When he's far enough from me, I holster my boomer and pick up my hatchet off the ground then sheath it. I spit the blood out from my mouth, that's been dulling my taste buds with the flavor of iron. I press my palm on the area under my ribcage and feel a sharp pain. Then I walk to a large rock and take a seat on it while grunting.
"We have to go back. I shouldn't bring you here. Look at you, this all my fault. I'm going to get my friend kill."
"Look, Agnes. Nobody is dying, I'm hurt yes, but I'm fine, it's nothing that I can't handle. Besides, I need to do these."
"You won't let me fight. You won't let me stop you. Then, what am I suppose to do when you get hurt?"
I gaze at the dark sky above, seeing a bit of ray of sun pierce through, and I let out a smile. "Pray and have faith in me. That's all I need."
Kraus come back with a beautifully knitted sack, he takes a seat in front of me, opening it, and placing it down on the ground. Inside of it is a ton of fruits that I have never seen before.
Agnes's face is brimming with excitement when he sees the fruits, "Is that?"
"Kebukaidesu Demon." Kraus finish Agnes's sentence.
I examine the fruits, it's small enough to fit in my hand, and has a red hairy shell. Reaching into the bag, I grab one of the fruit and feel the tingle of the hair grazing against my palm. It looks appealing enough, but I don't know if I should eat it.
"What is it?" I pass the fruit onto Agnes.
"It's the sweetest fruit in the world. It only grows outside of the underworld. Please, give it a try."
"Later maybe. Kraus, do you have any clean cloth that I can use?"
"Unfortunately, no, but I do have some water."
Agnes let out a moan as he pops the inner fruit into his mouth after peeling the hairy shell. A smile crept in the corner of my lips as I look at him savoring the delicious fruit. I take off my Hawaiian shirt, then use my hatchet to cut the bottom part and turn into a long strip of cloth.
"Can you pass me the clean water?"
Kraus take out a waterskin from the sack and give it to me. I use the water to clean my bloody knuckle and wrap the strip of cloth around my hand. The knitted container caught my curiosity, I look at the Minotaur, and he seems less intimidating than earlier.
"Did you knit it yourself?"
"No, my daughter did."
"Oh, is she...?"
"Yes, she is alive and well."
"How about your wife?"
"She passed away a long time ago."
"I'm sorry to hear that," I look at the braided necklace, "Did your daughter make that?"
After I finish wrapping my hand with the strip of cloth, I look at him again, "Can I ask, why did you attack me?"
"You didn't know?"
"Entry to the underworld is forbidden, only certain gods are allowed to go down here. I am tasked by Hades to guard the entrance along with Cerberus, and when I see you, I had to do my job. Besides, Gods don't use the entrance, they have their way, so I had to assume you are an intruder that's why I attack."
I remember the scene where James was trying to say to me before I leave, "That makes sense... sorry for my rude behavior, as you can see, I'm new at all of this."
Looking at the makeshift Hawaiian crop top, I sigh and put it on. There is an awkward silence between us, follow with a strange sound moaning and chewing by the harpy right next to me. "Do you hate the candidates like me? Like the others do?"
"I don't hate the candidates. I used to be angry at the gods but never hated them. My wife used to hate them so much that she died fighting them."
"I heard about the war, but I don't know the detail...and you sound like you been there."
"I once take part in the war." He let out a small confine laugh.
"Let me correct that, I once take part in two wars."
"If it isn't too much to ask, can you tell what happens?"
"It's a simple story, gods create us, to fight the titans alongside them. We win, the gods take over. Afterward, my kind expects a reward of some sort for us, but we didn't get anything. The gods ignore us, and that plant a seed of distrust between my kind and the gods."
"It only gets worse from there. The gods create humans. They give them worlds to live, plentiful food, shelter, and even grant their wish. There was anger igniting in our hearts when we witness that, but it's not enough to cause a war."
"At first, we try to ask the gods about the need of our kind, but what we get is a warning, we cannot hurt the humans. Those who hurt the human will be either hunt by a candidate or strike down by the gods."
"We try to follow the rule, run or hide when we see humans, and it works momentarily, we live alongside human. At the time, never I thought that a war could erupt because it was so peaceful back then." Kraus let out a sigh.
"Who caused the war?"
"What caused the war was humans. They started hunting us, as sort of challenge, cut our head to hang on their wall, pluck every feather to make pillows, and grind every bone for medicine. With all those terrible things happened around us, we had no way of fighting back. If we fought, we die."
"The humans don't consider our feelings because they can't understand our language. They treat us like beasts."
"When someone treats you like a monster for a long time. That's what you eventually become—and just like that, a war erupts. The gods send their candidates to fight us."
"To no one surprise, my kind lost the war and lost so many good people until they are only a few of us left. We are exiled out of every other world until we had to come here, we pleaded to Hades for a place to stay, and he grants us this place. A burned world, not fit for the living, but we accepted, and we make do. I work for him so that my people could have something to eat."
"How many Minotaurs are left?"
"Fifteen, including my daughter."
"How many were before?"
"Thousands, almost all of the beasts population number were thousands, and harpies was almost half of millions. Now, the harpies are only..."
"Twenty-one, last time I was there." Agnes answer, there a painful look on his face.
"The few survivors taught their younglings to hate the gods, and the younglings taught their younglings to do the same. So much time has passed after the war. Nowadays, only so few of us know what truly happened."
"That's means you are very old then?"
"Yes, I am." A small chuckle escapes his lips, "My daughter is the same height as me now, and she also has a daughter of her own."
"Does she hate candidates?"
Kraus let out another chuckle, "I taught her to live without anger or hate—and I did a good job of it."
A grateful smile somewhat forms on my lips. "I'm sorry for bringing up the war, after what happened to you."
"It's in the past now. There’s no use looking back now, but we can learn from it and move on."