For One Last Embrace by carlsojos

Chapter 7

In the scorching desert sun, Rika finally sits down after several hours of marching to tend to her son. As she prepares to feed him, she pulls out the mission order the Hunter's Guild issued to her and proceeds to skim through it one more time. According to the paper, she is following a decoy caravan, complete with hunter guards and empty crates labeled as weapons and drink. While most of the hunters present are to try to defend the caravan, she is to stay hidden just outside of the group, and follow the bandits to determine their exact hideout.

While her orders are to chart the location on a map and leave, the Numan is more interested in Chaz's enchanted sword, so that she may see her dead husband one more time.

As she begins to put Rui back into a harness to carry him, the sounds of people yelling catch her attention. The bandits have swarmed the caravan! She realizes that there are too many people for the other hunters to drive them away, but she was ordered not to engage the bandits under any circumstances. Unsure of what to do, she watches from her sand dune, praying that Rui won't start crying and drawing attention to their position.

Rika thinks back to when she was younger, still living under the care of an ancient computer. Once, she was ordered to help destroy a monster, but only after all the security drones she was to work with arrived. She remembers that the monster arrived before her backup, so she hid in the shadows when it went past. What neither she nor Seed realized, was that a group of researchers were in the process of entering the ruins. Because she hesitated in defying orders when the men entered, most of them died.

One of the volunteers who was driving the caravan manages to break free, and the pink-haired woman watches as he runs into the desert, bandits nipping at his heels. He trips in the soft sand and falls. No! Rika gets up and sprints to his aid, unsure of how she will deal with so many bandits, but unwavering in her resolve.

Rika awakes to find herself bruised and bloody on the dirt floor of a place she doesn't recognize. As her mind begins to clear away the fog of being knocked out, her first coherent thought is that of sheer terror. Where's Rui?

The wounded woman forces herself up off the floor, and her terror turns to anger as she finds a wild-looking giant holding the scared infant in his arms. She extends her claws, and over a dozen swords point back at her. What are you doing with my son?!

The massive bandit looks up at the Numan and snickers. Hey, I'm good with kids! Did you know that the ones this young literally have a soft skull? I bet if I pressed my fingers down right here... He grabs Rui's head with his free hand...

Please, stop! Rika realizes she's completely helpless, and tears begin to run down her dirty face.

Tell me, what is your standing in the Hunter's Guild? I'd hope your sorry ass is worth the trouble it was to haul it back here.

I've just joined; this is my first job as a Hunter.

So much for getting a ransom. Guess I should just kill your kid right now. He pulls a knife from his belt and presses the tip against the infant's chest.

No! Please, he's all I have, mister....

They call me Nusumu; it's a word from some old language that means 'Bandit'. I guess you can figure out why.

Nusumu, please, my son is the only person I have left in this world!

Don't he have a daddy to- The man pauses mid-insult to think for a minute. I get the feeling you didn't become a hunter for the money... Why the hell did you come here?

Rika takes a step towards the bandit king, and a sword snaps in front of her to halt her progress. Nusumu, my husband died at your hand. I've come seeking his sword, so that I can have something to remember him by. She then proceeds to give a description of Chaz and Elsydeon, to which the man nods.

I remember that prick. He tried to take me out when my back was turned. Shame he died- I was aiming for permanently crippled. Now, how's this, I take your son, and you get to see that fancy sword one more time before you join him.

Rika realizes that there's no way she can win this time. Another tear runs down her face as she mutters, I'm sorry, Chaz....

Next chapter

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