Kentaro looked up at the Peaks of Fujimiya as they soared above him, and turned to regard his companions. “We’re nearly there! Soon, we will be that much closer to finding the first of the Five Treasures!”
Aidan flashed him a grin. “And from there, that much closer to saving the world from Lochiel’s dominion.” He turned to give Aya a respectful inclination of his head. “Thanks to your vision, milady, we’ll be able to keep that bastard from grinding the world under his heel!” **And, the gods willing, wipe his evil from the face of this world forever!**
Suddenly, the sky above them darkened; frightened, the horses began to whinny and shy. Only the riders’ utmost efforts kept them from bolting altogether. As it was, Aidan’s bay reared and it was only with difficulty that he remained on the animal’s back. “Easy, boy...what’s the matter?”
Saki gestured to the sky. “Look!”
Following the direction her finger pointed, the companions spied a winged humanoid shape taller than the tallest man any of them had ever seen - the creature had to be half again the size of the tallest man Aidan had ever seen. A pair of enormous bat wings spread out from its shoulders, and a snake-like tail whipped back and forth, droplets of caustic liquid burning whatever they struck.
Kentaro drew his sword and urged his mount around to face the monster. “Form ranks!” he barked out. “Stay together!”
The others responded to his orders, drawing in close to one another. Aidan knocked an arrow, taking careful aim. The shaft flew straight and true, tearing a hole in the creature’s wing. Shrieking with mingled rage and pain, the thing lost several feet of altitude, but managed to regain some of it as it beat its wings more strongly. Its tail lashed out, the barbed end slashing at Aidan’s arm. Acid fire ran along his nerves, and he dropped the arrow he was knocking, gritting his teeth against a scream.
Saki lashed out with her naginata, her dark eyes flashing fire. “Take that, you monster!” Her weapon opened a gaping slash on the creature’s chest. Dark ichor splattered her and the ground, and the monster’s scream pierced the air.
“Shun! Ikki! To me!” Kentaro called out. As the brothers drew their mounts close to his, all three drew their blades. Shun’s slash turned the monster’s intact wing to tattered flesh, while a mighty blow from Ikki’s sword severed one of its arms at the elbow, spraying him with ichor. As the creature fell toward the ground, Kentaro’s blade sliced deep into its throat. Dark ichor gushed over him, setting his horse to rearing. The ichor made the reins slippery, and for a sickening moment he thought he might be thrown, but then Ikki managed to steady the gelding. As Kentaro watched, the monster fell to earth, its now-tattered wings flailing helplessly as its lifeblood poured out of its wounds. As he looked on, the ichor became more and more tenuous, until it and the beast thinned away to a dark, acrid smoke, and then to nothingness.