Chapter 9:

The Thin Line between Bravery and Idiocy!

Cutting Deals with Hannibal the Cannibal?

In this subconscious world, Hiro journeyed deeper into the Eternal Cave at a steady pace; not too fast so that he didn't quickly tire himself out but not too slow either. The cave walls were lit bright blue from the magical glow coming from the still river and aside from the faint sounds of his legs trudging through the knee-deep water, the cave was shrouded in complete silence.

Everything looked exactly the same as when he first ventured to retrieve the holy sword Excalibur but Hiro couldn't shake the feeling that something was... different.

The blonde errand boy couldn't put his finger on it but something about the cave was off. Maybe it was because he has yet to run into any fairies. Or maybe it was because it was taking him longer than he was expecting to reach the Eternal Cave's inner sanctum. Even though he wasn't exactly rushing, he was almost certain that he should have reached his destination by now. Whatever it was, it concerned him but the bothersome feeling tended to vanish as quickly as it appeared. It only distracted him from figuring out the bigger mystery: why was he in the Eternal Cave in the first place.

Hiro tried countless times to come up with a sensible explanation to why he found himself in there but he couldn't. The last thing he could vaguely remember was being in the DWMA—what he was doing there was still fuzzy to him—and the next thing he knew, he was here.

Was he drugged and dropped off here? Was he a sleepwalker? Each theory seemed less possible than the one before it. And without a single clue or sign other than the glowing light at the end of the long watery passage, the situation was even more frustrating!

He groaned as he placed his hand over his forehead to soothe his aching head. "I'm starting to get a migraine from this," Hiro muttered to himself.

Hiro didn't know how long he's been trudging through the cave but from the sweat he was working up on his forehead, he guessed it's been a while. "Let me take a break," Hiro said to no one in particular. The light wasn't fading or going anywhere so he figured that he had plenty of time to take a small break from this expedition. Hiro sat himself upon one of the cylinder shaped stalagmites that littered the cave and began wiping away the slick sweat from his brow as well as enjoying the soothing sensation of having his weight off his weary feet.

After a minute of quiet relaxation, Hiro turned his attention over to his goal again—the bright light.

"It looks like I'm halfway there," Hiro said to himself; his tone was both optimistic and exhausted. The incompetent meister was in fact closer to the light but there was still a long and far walk ahead of him. The pride he felt from making it thus far promptly came to an end when he felt that bothersome feeling again. He still couldn't understand why it was taking him so long to reach the cave's inner sanctum. Last time, it only took him twenty minutes, tops. Now, it felt like he's been in there for ages!

Something was definitely off with this cave.

Hiro turned away from the light and stared at the path that he has already trekked. Looking back, he remembered that he also had the option of turning back. 'Give up and go home' as they say. He mulled over the thought for a minute and he had to admit that the idea of simply ending this ridiculous journey and heading back home did sound pleasant to him. And who knows? If Hiro could find a way out, then maybe he could find a way back to Death City too.

And besides, did he really think that Excalibur, of all people, could give a rational explanation?

But despite how satisfying and logical the plan sounded... Hiro dismissed it completely.

The errand boy was known all around the academy for being a constant failure and a human doormat. But there was one positive aspect of Hiro that most people usually looked over: he was not a quitter.

Despite his record for being rejected by every single Demon Weapon enrolled at the school, not once did Hiro ever give up his search. When Excalibur demanded that he complete all 1000 of his ludicrous provisions, Hiro gladly accepted the challenge and didn't stop until they were all completed. (Sure, he gave up Excalibur at the end but everyone has their limits.) What Hiro lacks in physical strength and social skills, he makes up for in strength of mind and willpower.

So it may be true that Hiro is possible the worst meister in DWMA history but he was not going to be known for giving up on anything he believed in either.

When Hiro felt that he was ready to continue marching, he got up from the flat rock and began trudging again towards the light, more determined than ever to reach it. He still didn't have a clue to why he was there or what made the cave feel different but he knew that once he reaches the end, all his questions will finally be answered.

Hiro chuckled to himself with a confident smirk plastered on his face. He's never felt more determined in his life.

Nor did he ever felt this stupid either.

~Death City~

"...so I said to the bloke, 'I'm just trying to be chivalrous!'" Victor burst into a fit of laughter after he finished telling his hilarious tale to Hiro. It's been more than half an hour since he had his trash can scheme and the duo was still out roaming the streets of Death City, more lost than ever. In that one night, Victor explored every square foot of the city—from the residential districts to the city's outer limits—but he couldn't for the life of him find the address that Stein had given him to find. His body was growing more wary by the hour and his thoughts were a little fuzzy from the fatigue but his chivalrous code forbade him from ever giving up.

However, despite all the major dilemmas, Victor's highest priority was to not succumb into boredom... even if that meant having one-way conversations with an unconscious classmate. It was working well for a while now but it was quickly wearing off now. His thunderous laughter died down and turned into a slow and awkward chuckle.

"Wow, this is so pathetic," Victor suddenly blurted out. He looked over his shoulder and glared at Hiro with an annoyed expression. "I can't believe that I'm so bored that I'm talking to you. I might as well be talking to myself. And I swear if I don't find this bloody apartment soon, I'm gonna go insane!" He paused. "And not the fun kind of insane either!"

Fuufuufuu...

The young knight snapped out of his thoughts and stopped dead in his tracks as soon as he heard... whatever that was. It was short and a bit muffled but unlike any nighttime noise he's ever heard before. He could only think to describe it as giggling—deranged giggling.

Victor spun around, examining his surroundings to find where the eerie laughter came from but to his displeasure, there were no signs of anything on that barren road.

Did I just imagine that? Victor inquired. He turned back to Hiro, wondering if it was the unconscious blonde who made that sound, but the vacant look on his face clearly proved that it wasn't him. This led to Victor's next assumption.

"Oh crap, it's already started! I'm so bored that I'm going crazy and hearing things!" Victor concluded. He wasn't terrified by the assumption, just irritated that he reached this "new level of boredom". The young knight then processed to groan as one would if they were in physical pain. It may seem like he was an over exaggeration but to someone like Victor, boredom and pain are practically synonyms. "Oh Death, just kill me now!"

Fuufuufuufuufuufuufuu...

The giggling started once again and it was absolutely nerve-wrecking. It was like the sadistic, childlike giggling was surrounding him. Whoever was doing it must have gotten into a much cheery mood because it was louder and longer than before.

Okay, this definitely isn't coming from inside my head, Victor rationalized.

As the giggling echoed through the air like a haunting melody, Victor tried his best to pinpoint where it was coming from but he couldn't.

Suddenly, as if someone hit the pause button, the giggling stopped and the streets of Death City were once again silent. Victor raised an eyebrow in confusion, trying to come into grips with what was going on. There was definitely someone out there that was having the time of their life at the cost of his sanity.

The cobbled streets remained quiet for a while before a voice spoke out and shattered the abnormal silence; a high-pitched voice that didn't from either Victor or Hiro.

"Your souls are MINE!"

Victor didn't waste a single moment; he instantly spun to where he heard the voice to face whoever the mysterious joker. The aligned buildings created a shadow that darkened the street so when Victor completed a 180 turn, all he could make out was a dark figure rushing at him with no intentions on stopping.

With his arms occupied with the task of holding Hiro on his back, Victor had no other choice but to transform his left leg, causing it to glow brightly and change shape. The shadowy figure didn't seem to notice—or care about—the transformation because it didn't hesitate from its mad dash for even a second; it just kept charging at Victor like a wild beast going for the kill.

It was too close of a call for Victor. The young knight made a mental note to improve the speed of his transformation because it was right when the shadowy figure was only a few feet away from him that the glowing light faded and his armored leg finally appeared.

"Loyal Pendulum!" The young knight swung his left leg around, creating momentum, and smashed his metallic foot into the charging creature of the night. The impact of the kick was strong enough that it sent the shadow flying into a closed convenient store.

Victor brought his left leg down as he let out a breath that he didn't know he was holding. A second too late and who knows what would have happened. Getting a little curious, Victor began cautiously making his way over to the demolished area to get a better look at whoever attacked him. Thankfully, there was a small patch of moonlight that was enough to illuminate the scene.

It was a frail, bald man lying lifelessly under the pile of rubble. His skin was dreadfully pale and his lips were the strangest shade of crimson that Victor has ever seen on a man. His attire consisted of an orange jumpsuit, worn out shoes and, oddly, a large bib that covered most of his torso; all of which were stained with what looked like dried up blood. Lying next to the motionless assailant's hand was his weapon, a dagger.

Victor wasn't sure of what to do. His only concern was that he didn't want to be responsible for two unconscious bodies; it would only double his boredom.

"Um...are you alright?" he asked carefully. It was a stupid question to ask but it was the only thing he could think to say.

"You...you said..." the man stuttered; his voice had an eerie high pitch to it. Victor watched as he began picking himself up from the debris. He opened his eyes as he looked up at the slightly armored teen, revealing the most bloodshot eyes that Victor had ever seen. "You said you wanted to die! If you fight back, you'll only make it harder for me to kill you!"

Victor remembered his exaggerated statement and shook his head vigorously. "Hey, hey, hey, that was an expression, not an invitation!" he swiftly retorted. "I'm sorry if you took me literally but you can't just go around killing people!"

The killer finally got back up on his feet and stood on his own without any trouble—which concerned Victor. This toothpick of a man just got kicked with enough force to send him flying through a wall and now he's standing? And not only was he standing but he didn't seem to be in any sort of pain; he looked mildly annoyed but perfectly fine. Victor watched in awe as he effortlessly bent down to pick up his dagger from the rubble.

After dusting his jumpsuit, the assailant then turned to Victor and gave him a small, menacing smirk. "Fuufuufuu...I've been following you two for a while now," he said in a bubbly yet sinister tone. "That last joke you told really had me cracking up. Fuufuufuu..."

Victor shot the assailant a shocked and slightly disgusted look but the killer didn't pay it any mind. The man merely giggled more before continuing. "I've also been listening to you complain about that blonde kid and how you would do anything to get rid of him." The man proceeded to take a step closer to Victor, inadvertently causing Victor to step back. "Now you seem like an understanding young man. Maybe we can...work out some sort of deal."

First he stalked him, then he tried to kill him, and now he wanted to work out a compromise? If his bangs weren't in the way, the stalker would have seen Victor's eyebrow rise higher than ever before.

"What kind of deal?" Victor asked curiously, as if he was considering it.

The man's grin grew terrifyingly wider as a line of drool escaped him but he quickly wiped it away with his arm. "Fuufuufuu... Nothing big. Just give me the boy who's been making your night a living hell and I'll leave you on your merry way. It's a win-win situation. You get to go free and I..." He couldn't finish his sentence; his mouth was too busy salivating.

"Interesting proposal," Victor responded with a nod. "Just who are you exactly?"

"The name's Hannibal!" the assailant answered. He brought out his free hand to shake hands but Victor didn't take it. "So...whaduya say? Do we gotta deal?"

Victor took a good, hard look at Hiro before turning back to Hannibal with his answer. "Well... as much as I hate this bloke, and I really hate this bloke, I'm gonna decline your offer," Victor said in the nicest way possible. "And besides, it wouldn't be chivalrous of me if I handed him into the clutches of a killer. No offense."

Hannibal pulled his hand back and feigned disappointment. "I completely understand." He sighed as he twirled his dagger in his hand. "Well that's just too bad. I was trying to make it easier for the both of us and you seem like a good kid but I guess this was inevitable...I'll just have to make both of your souls my midnight snacks!"

As soon as those last words escaped his crimson lips, Hannibal launched himself at the knight with his dagger aimed for his vitals. Victor thought fast and swiftly brought his armor-clad leg up, deflecting the blade from reaching the rest of his unguarded body. He then jumped back so that he could swing his leg around for another roundhouse kick. But this time, the Evil Human was ready for it.

"Loyal Pendulum!" Victor's swung his metallic foot around but Hannibal effortlessly avoided it. The cannibalistic killer then hastily dashed behind the young knight for a counterattack.

"I guess I'll just have to settle for this soul!" Hannibal half-laughed, half-shouted; his dagger positioned to slash the unconscious Hiro open.

Victor saw what Hannibal was about to do from the corner of his eye and gasped. He had to protect Hiro! Knights always protected the innocent!

In a split second decision, Victor spun around on his left leg so that Hiro would escape the path of the dagger. Unfortunately, there wasn't enough time for Victor to create a breastplate so he suffered the painful consequences of his selfless act.

Victor cried out in agony as the felt knife gashed his chest. Victor was lucky, however, that the dagger didn't cut into him too deeply but the pain was still excruciating. Blood seeped from the torn hole in his shirt down to the ground, forming a small puddle of the crimson liquid between his feet. And with his hands still unavailable to him, he couldn't cover the wound to stop the blood flow.

"Do you still want to make this difficult for yourself?" Hannibal asked in an amusement tone, watching his prey bleed as he licked the blood from his dagger.

Victor clenched his teeth together, choking down his screams of pain, as he slowly looked down at the wound. What was he supposed to do? Running away was immediately taken off the table as turning one's back to a foe was against the knightly codes. So that only left him fighting. But that option only created more problems than it did solutions.

First of all, he was badly injured. His legs were already buckling from the sheer pain, barely keeping him from falling to his knees. Secondly, he couldn't put Hiro down for even a second or Hannibal would put all his energy in getting his hands on the "easier meal". And thirdly, if Victor decides to fight while holding Hiro on his back the entire time, he wouldn't be able to use his hands or arms, tremendously impairing his fighting capabilities. The young knight didn't even want to think about how Hannibal already took one of his strongest kicks and didn't have as so much as a scratch on him.

This fight was absolutely suicidal!

But then again...there was always something about fighting that made Victor discard logic and most common sense.

"Diff-difficult?" Victor stammered, staring directly at the Evil Human with a confident but pain-filled grin on his face. "This has been... one of the most boring days... of my life! I would rather face difficulties like you... than go through another... boring minute... in this bloody city!"

Victor shifted Hiro's body so that he could have a better and more secure hold on him. He then took the best fighting stance he could muster while in such pain. Not once did his grin falter. "You better... hold on tightly, Hiro! This night is about to get chaotic!"


Oh no! They're in both in some serious s#&t! Hahaha...I shouldn't be laughing at that. Anyways, I just wanted to make this chapter show how there is a thin line between stupid and brave. I had a discussion about this a while back and it intrigued me how the two are so close to each other that its hard to tell him apart.

So hit me up with a review: do you think Hiro/Victor are idiots or brave? Thanks again for reading!