Sometimes things that fall apart are actually falling into place
Fiore wasn't a large country, and towns weren't so far apart, so word got around quickly. There was always something that someone did or didn't do, and there was always a problem needing solving. When Leon was living with his family back in Bellum, no matter how estranged his relationship with them were, he had never worked a job in his life. He never needed to. The Hoffman Estate was less a home and more of a facility for producing the finest private soldiers money could buy. Their property was a symbol of subservience, and Leon wanted nothing more than to fulfill the role given to him, but he ended up being cast away to Fiore instead. For every day without word from his family that passed, Leon settled more and more into his 'temporary life' in Fiore. He quit his part-time jobs to work as Percy's assistant, and he was even moving closer to Rose Garden to minimize commute. He was beginning to meet people through unfortunate coincidences, and was becoming familiar with the geography of the state. For the first time since coming here, he felt comfortable. But still, he continued to tell himself that it'd be the next day that his family would reach and welcome him home again, and if not that day, then the next. Sometimes he doubted this, like they had really abandoned him—it's happened to Hoffmans like him before, after all—but that couldn't be the case. After all, that destiny given to him at birth by virtue of being a Hoffman was all that he had. It was all that he was. Without it, he didn't know what he would do.
On the other hand, Leon had an idea of what he wanted to do right now. It was in the middle of the day in Hargeon, and the salty smell of the sea filled the air as he ambled through the town. He had no interest in living anywhere on the shore or in southeast Fiore in general, but he found something he actually wanted. They were tickets to an art gallery opening in a couple of weeks, and they happened to be sold out in almost every other town. It was a middle-aged man who was selling tickets, albeit at a slightly higher price, here in Hargeon. Word gets around easily, and now Leon was here looking for the guy's corner shop as a result of gossip. Small world.
Leon was just walking down the street where his shop was supposed to be, his hands pocketed as he ambled down the path. Job offerings mounted on surfaces wasn't uncommon—this was how a lot of folks made a living. But as Leon kept walking, there was one poster that kept showing up on every other window or streetlight post, and he even overheard some people talking about it. But Leon was only here for one thing, and that one thing was not some sort of plant monster. That had nothing to do with him.
"Those poor men... I heard that one of them got poisoned by that monster and might lose all feeling in his legs..." one young mother sighed, standing near a metal railing separating her, her son, and her friend from the Calm Sea. "Apparently it's still somewhere in town. Honestly! When is someone going to do something about it?"
"I heard that it was humongous! Why is it so difficult to find a giant, monster-plant? Goodness, gracious!" the other woman droned on, shaking her head. Both of their attention seemed divided, as the woman's son leaned over the metal railing to gaze into the waters below. He was staring at something strange—something he couldn't quite explain. There was something large and dark lurking just beneath the surface of the water, strange bubbles and ripples forming at one spot on the shoreline, too unnatural-looking for it to be a product of the sea alone. He gazed and gazed until the two older could no longer ignore his fixation. Concerned, his mother reached out for his shoulder to pull him away.
"Lewis, don't lean too much! You might fall over!" she scolded him, a worried frown on her face. But when Lewis turned around and face his mother, her face suddenly went pale. Like the sun had suddenly been blocked out with clouds, a shadow cast over the railing of a figure large and hunchbacked, looming over the three with water dripping from its body. It rose and rose until everyone on the street was staring at it in horror. Purple Hargeon Orchids sprout all over their green body made up of vines and plants alone. It groaned a haunting, wet gurgle, and there could be no mistake—standing right behind the railing was the plant monster running rampant throughout the town, and young Lewis was going to be his next victim.
Cwush! The plant monster shouted in its groaning-gurgles as it swooped its green, wet hand down to grab the boy, raising him high as his mother shouted and screamed for her child, but her friend held her back. Lewis struggled in its grip, but couldn't break himself free of the monster as he squirmed about, tears running down his face as the beast began to climb up the wall and onto the road where everyone watched. The moment its roots settled onto the pavement, it was chaos. Some people couldn't help but succumb to their fear and stand still, waiting for the monster to run rampant before their eyes. Others broke into a sprinting frenzy and ran as far as their legs could take them. The destruction was imminent.
"Lewis!!" screamed the mother, refusing to move as the plant monster advanced forward. Everyone else seemed to have scattered except for her, but that maternal dread was about to get her killed. As the plant monster climbed onto the road, it began to walk forward, each step heavy and crushing, and she was directly underneath its next step. It seemed like at that moment, she too had succumbed to that instinctive drive to freeze when in danger, and suddenly the thought of being trampled by the monster became all too real. But before that possibility could become a reality, one man approached the beast head-on—Leon. It wasn't his problem, he had nothing to do with it, and he could've run away and let the Rune Knights or some other sorcerer deal with it, but he couldn't. He couldn't ignore that these people were in danger and that he could do something to help them. And even if he didn't have the power to help them, he must.
All it took was the click of a well-hidden button for Leon's cybersuit to cover him in its mechanical and powerful design. Ever since he was given access to Percy's wide selection of these suits, Leon didn't have to worry about incidents like the one in the Hunting Village, where he nearly got his arm bitten and blasted off because of his lack of equipment. With this, he could take on the plant monster without immediate self-sacrifice.
Leon thrust his hand forward palm-side up, shooting a bundle of three steel cables from a small compartment opening from his wrist—one of many gadgets at his disposal. They shot forward and coiled around the plant monster's lifted foot, and once they had it within their grasp, Leon yanked it back. The monster lost its balance as its leg was yanked, sending it crashing down on its backside, saving the trembling mother from being crushed under its heel.
"Get away from here!" Leon barked at the lady as he began running towards the downed monster. Arm-blades quickly formed along both of his forearms, as close-quarter combat is what he did best at the moment.
"But my son! You have to help my son!" the mother cried, her other friend already making a run for it when Leon yelled at them. Of course he was going to help her son! There was no doubt about it!
With a running start, Leon leaped onto the creature's body and went straight for the arm that ensnared the boy, slicing through the vegetative-limb like a hot knife through butter as it fell to the ground with its weak and limp grasp. Immediately, with his wet, tear-soiled face, Lewis ran into the relieved embrace of his mother, and with one grateful look, they ran away. Leon glanced at them as they disappeared into an alleyway, leaving him alone with the beast. Although it was easy enough to break through that green body it had, the real problem was greater than that. No sooner had he sliced through its arm did it begin to manifest and grow another. The moment its arm had finished regenerating, it swung at Leon and sent him flying off its downed body, skidding across the pavement without falling. It was only him and the monster now, and there wasn't another person in sight to interfere with their encounter. For a beast composed mostly of flowers and plants, it hit hard. But so could Leon.
. . . . . . . . .
By the end of their battle, the plant monster was so torn up that there was nothing but a torso underneath Leon's heavy-booted foot. He was panting a little as he held his glowing palm to it, threatening to blast it to pieces should it move again. The buildings lining the road had holes in them, and the metal railing that kept people from falling off the risen wall had been torn apart. Clumps of plants and puddles of water littered the street, but it finally looked like their scuffle had found a conclusion.
"It's for the cause...! The cause! No one could ever understand! They deserved this... they all made fun of me... they should be afraid... they should..."
Entangled with vines in the center of the torso Leon loomed over was a man who looked nothing short of homeless. He was young but had a scratchy peach-fuzz beard, baggy eyes, and thin, messy hair. His eyes were bloodshot and full of hate, and even as he lies there defeated, he couldn't stop mumbling about the people who wronged him and why he had to do what he did. It was hard to make sense of his rambling, but Leon couldn't have cared less. He could hear the distant Rune Knight sirens across town as they made their way to the scene, glaring down at the man with an intense ferocity in his eyes.
"You could've killed somebody, you son of a bitch! What the hell is wrong with you?!" Leon's helmet suddenly folded downward, revealing his glowering face as he looked down at a man who lost his mind. Anger surged through his body, his face curling into a more and more ferocious glare the longer he looked at him. He couldn't stand people like him. People who caused such senseless violence. He stood there until the Rune Knights finally arrived, walking over to the pair with their cuffs out and sorcerers ready, but they had already missed the battle. Leon looked over at them and began walking away with a frown on his face. The suit began to fold back into itself until it was neatly compact and hidden away with the clothes he was wearing before. There wasn't a scratch on his body, even after all the slugging he received from that guy and his mutated host. He didn't know what drove him to do it and what sort of sorcery it was, but it was over now.
Leon paused when he heard the shout of a young boy, and when he turned around, it was that kid Lewis and his mother behind the ring of Rune Knight cruisers, waving at him with his toothy grin. It wasn't just them, though, it was a large portion of the crowd who was there when the plant attacked, waving at him with smiles stretching from ear to ear—even the older man from who he was supposed to buy those tickets. Even from down the street, Leon could see Lewis taking a deep breath before unleashing a force of gratitude.
At first, Leon didn't know how to react to that sort of display, let alone from a crowd of people. He couldn't say anything for the first few moments, staring back at them with a wide-eyed expression of mild and solid disbelief, although it looked like he was still frowning. It wasn't until the crowd could break away from the Rune Knights arresting the sorcerer did they approach Leon even more, Lewis being the first to come in with a running hug. He wrapped his thin arms around Leon's legs, his head pressed into his waist. Leon's cheeks suddenly flashed a peachy-pink as he looked down at him.
"Yeah, uh... no problem..." he looked down at him, still a little surprised.
"Thank you for saving my life as well. If you weren't here, neither me or my Lewis would be here right now!" the mother smiled, tears swelling in her eyes as she walked over to Leon, taking his hand in her own. "We owe you, Mister...?"
"It's Leon... but you don't have to—"
"Leon? As in, Leon Hoffman?" the older merchant interrupted, shocked, "Are you the one who was supposed to meet me for those art gallery tickets?"
"Yeah!" Leon perked up, the peachy-pink tinge on his face much brighter than before at the mention of the tickets. He wasn't used to all this attention, let alone positive attention, so he almost had difficulty controlling what sort of face he was making. He was sure it still looked quite fierce, but as he recalled the mild destruction to the shops on the street as a result of their battle, the eagerness in his marigolds had suddenly dimmed as a pan of guilt washed over them. "I... sorry about your shop."
"Don't be. If not for you, this entire road would've been destroyed! Here," the older merchant stepped forward, took something out of his pocket, and handed it over to Leon. They were two tickets to the art gallery he came here for. "These are the last two, and you can have them without charge. It's the least I can do."
Although Leon attempted to hand it back to him, the older merchant pushed the tickets into his chest. It was clear that he wasn't going to take no for an answer, and Leon had no choice but to silently accept the offer of gratitude. On the other hand, others in the crowd offered him jewels seeing as some of them were the ones who requested the plant monster (or in this case, the plant sorcerer) to be slain, while other shopkeepers had given him coupons and free offers to their services and goods for the next time he came to Hargeon. It was just a whole... thing, and Leon wasn't sure how to react to it, so he ended up starting thoughts but never completing them until the crowd had finally let him go. Lewis and the mother were the last to leave but certainly left the greatest impression on him.
His face didn't look as malicious as before, but he didn't have the friendliest face to begin with. But there was no mistake—his face burned with that faint blush, and his gaze was fixated on the tickets he received. He didn't need all of this stuff. This was something he just... had to do. He would've done it even if there wasn't a promise of gratitude, or even if he was told not to. How couldn't he? Still...
What am I supposed to do with this other ticket, though...
|| Word Count: 2632 || Thread WC: 2632 || WC Needed 2500 || Job Approval ||
Enemies: Plant Monster
Enemies: Plant Monster