124 Signs of Filth
Zoey's eyes were glued to the interface as the boy entered into the hidden tunnel. Strangely, all of the beast corpses that had been there last time had disappeared. Zoey wondered if there were scavengers that took care of them, or was it something else entirely.
The boy did not seem to be bothered by this, and kept walking deeper into the tunnel, heading towards where the beasts would come from. Zoey was a little anxious for him when she saw this. She had no idea how long the boy had been doing this, and it seemed a little reckless to her.
But before long, the boy stopped walking. He was now in a wider area of the tunnel, one that seemed like it had seen its fair share of battles if the scars on the floor were anything to go by. The howls of the beasts were close now, on the surface and in the tunnel where the boy was. It would only be a few more minutes until they arrived.
Sure enough, moments later in the canyon, the beast howls were met by the roars of the defenders as the two sides clashed in combat. In the tunnel below, Zoey's drones showed a horde of snarling beasts bearing down on the lone boy who stood unflinching in their way.
In fact, Zoey had yet to see a single expression on the boy's face. Now he was facing down a horde of beasts that would make a grown man quake and he didn't even blink.
Zoey found her breath catching in her throat as the beasts reached the boy, and the one in the lead opened a crocodile-like maw filled with teeth. The tooth-filled mouth of the beast was wide enough to fit the boy's entire torso inside, and it looked like that was what the beast was going for!
Zoey's eyes went wide with shock when she saw the events that followed.
The boy never moved. He stood there and let the huge beast clamp his jaws around him as it reached him. As Zoey looked on in shock, the mutant beast hybrid of crocodile and boar thrashed around in an effort to rip its prey into chunks.
But before Zoey's shock could wear off, the creature's jaws were suddenly wrenched open amidst the sound of ripping flesh and cracking bone to reveal the boy, apparently not even harmed from the thrashing and biting. The beast collapsed and the boy stepped away from the corpse to face the rest of the beasts.
He was immediately rammed by a beast with two heads, one a bull and one a ram, sending him flying into the claws of another beast that bit down on the boy's shoulder and arm with it's shark-like jaws.
Zoey winced involuntarily when she witnessed this. She was no stranger to pain, but the boy was making no effort to avoid it! Zoey witnessed him land a punch on the shark-like creature's head, instantly killing it by crushing the skull, then leaping at the charging twin headed beast before pummeling it to death with a series of vicious punches.
He was strong! Incredibly strong! But he never initiated an attack on his own. The only beasts he killed were the ones that already attacked him. He would actually allow himself to be hit before even fighting back.
As Zoey looked on, the boy was repeatedly attacked by the beasts, after which he would retaliate, and the cycle repeated as the beasts swarmed into the tunnel, snarling and howling in their desperate attempts to reach the boy.
Zoey found herself enthralled by the scene as the boy pummeled and crushed the beasts after being bitten, clawed, slashed, and trampled in every conceivable way. But every time the boy would get back up and keep going.
Zoey knew that there was something here that she did not fully understand. There had to be a reason for why the boy would not strike first, something she was not aware of. But despite the punishment he was taking from the beasts, Zoey could see no visible damage on him. He was taking attacks and hits that would kill an ordinary Rank 3 or 4 warrior, and even Zoey was shocked by the attacks he was taking and still getting up afterwards.
Zoey wanted to go help the boy but something stopped her. Somehow she felt that she had no business interfering, as if this was some ritual between the boy and the beasts. She was not sure where that thought came from, but for now she felt compelled to just watch as the bloody scene unfolded.
So the night dragged on while the beasts threw themselves at the defenders in the Gap and were cut down by the hundreds. The boy in the tunnel killed more and more of the beasts after they tried in vain to rip him to pieces.
As Zoey watched it all take place, she began to realize something. When she had first encountered the boy, she had been struck by the emptiness she sensed in the boy's eyes. However, tonight she was seeing something else. The occasional glimpses she managed to catch through her drones showed her something new in the eyes of the boy, something she was very familiar with.
And that... was pain.
That is what the boy felt. The beasts brough their pain to him, and he took it away, he gave them the release they wished for.
One after the other they came at him, and he met them the only way he knew how... with his fists.
He didn't remember when he had begun to sense the minds of the beasts, but now their pain was like a beacon shining in the darkness for him. He took their pain and it merged with the ocean of pain already inside of him, and gave the beasts release from their torment.
He could feel their joy, their relief when he finally took their pain away. This had become part of his only remaining purpose alongside fulfilling his mother's last wish of protecting Brumau.
Methodically he continued through the night, putting the beasts to sleep one by one until there was only one left.
But this one was different.
He could not sense it's pain.
From this beast he could only sense filth, hatred, corruption.
It came out of the darkness and struck the boy, sending him smashing into the wall of the cavern. Around the beast the corpses of the others started to rot and decay as its aura bled into the surroundings.
The boy felt this corruption, this sickness, and he knew instinctively that it was something that needed to be stopped. If it were allowed to reach the other side of the Bulwark, the chaos it would cause would be unimaginable.
So despite the poison he could feel seeping into his body, the boy got up and charged the beast. He struck with his fist, connecting to the beast with a powerful blow.
But this corrupted creature was nothing like the others. The boy's fist was met by a barrier of energy, then an arm of twisted flesh and bone crashed into him with a force unlike any he had ever encountered.
He was sent flying into the wall of the tunnel with a crash.
The last thing he heard was the sound of the beast's roar as he slipped into darkness.