• Francis Liu

Merlin vs. Aiko


Part 1: The Hunters

Dragons were a wonderful discovery, but they are declining around the world! No one knows what is the cause of this. Global warming? Lack of food? It’s--” Merlin turned the TV off. Does Vincent know about this? he wondered.

Vincent was Merlin’s younger cousin, and he had a big fondness for birds and dragons, just like him.

Merlin stood up, and, as he stepped out of the front door, he thought, What is my little brother Aiko up to again? Is he still plotting to take over Earth?

Aiko was Merlin’s little brother, with a heart full of evil. He was 10, just one year younger than his older brother. Merlin usually wasn’t scared of most things, but he had a miniscule amount of fear that he would one day be killed by his brother.

For example, when they were very young and still shared a room, Aiko wanted attention from Merlin, so he shouted at him, “SPEAK TO ME OR I WILL THROW YOU OFF THE BED AT MIDNIGHT!” And that made Merlin give his brother attention, since being thrown off the bed at midnight would be very uncomfortable for both of them.

Merlin started to walk into the woods to enjoy nature, and after wandering for a while, he decided to go visit his cousins and friends. But just as he turned away, he heard a hoot. Not just a regular owl’s hoot, but something like a call for help.

He followed the sound, and when he reached the area, he found a pre-adult great horned owl who had a broken beak.

I wonder how this owl can still make calls, he thought. The owl was small, so Merlin could tell it was a male.

He brought it back to the house, and he was lucky, because he lived by himself. If he didn’t, his mom and dad would’ve scolded him and have the owl thrown out of the house. Merlin also had a legal pet-raptor bird license, at least a junior one, but he had never actually put it to good use. (He lived by himself not just because of Aiko’s evilness, but also because his parents weren’t approving of him having the bird license).

He quickly got onto his computer and 3D printed his owl beak that he had prepared for any rescue owls. He attached it to the bird and once he released the owl’s beak, he ran back to his computer to learn about great horned owls.

After a few hours of researching, he finally knew how to take care of great horned owls, but he had other plans in mind. He wanted a name for the owl, and, recalling back to his research, named the owl Hoot (because great horned owls are sometimes called hoot owls). Then he took Hoot outside, and caught a small rodent for him, as he didn’t want to hurt the birds that Hoot’s species ate. They then thought of coming to the neighbourhood to call them, and not to meet at one of their houses, but in his house.

When they arrived at the neighbourhood in which Vincent and his friends resided, Merlin called each of them on his phone, and told them to meet in his house. Then Hoot and Merlin quickly hurried back to their neighbourhood. But…

When they came back, they saw a crowd, screaming so loud Merlin’s eardrums almost exploded, and a large, aquamarine sea dragon flying above their heads, which made him remember about the declining dragon population situation. Then he recognised the dragon. It was Tidallius, from a news article about the dragon and Gabriel, a boy who could speak to dragons.

Gabriel was another one of Merlin’s friends, and he had more interest in dragons than in birds. He was from Thailand, and he liked explaining his stories with Tidallius and other dragons he had met. One of those stories, though, was explained from the big blue dragon to him, and was about the history of thai dragons. All dragons came from a common ancestor, and the story behind it is still unknown.

Then, out of the corner of his eye, Merlin saw a net about the size of a blue whale. It was zooming across the sky, just a bit faster than a Peregrine Falcon, reaching for Tidallius.

But just then, another one of those dragons appeared, causing the crowd to make way as it sprayed boiling hot water on the net. The hot water unwinded the strings, and caused the net to fall on the street, boiled like pasta.

Unexpectedly, Merlin saw Vincent and his friends on the same side of the road as he was on, and let them in his house.

Once they were in, Merlin showed Hoot to his friends, and they were shocked like crazy. Even though the Great Horned Owl is the only known owl to fatally attack humans, Vincent, Gabriel and a girl named Ellie patted the owl on the head.

By the way, Ellie was a girl with almost the same personality as Vincent (who had a crush on her), only a bit more interested in mythical birds than real birds.

After talking in the house, they decided to watch TV. The same thing came up on TV, and that was the declining dragon situation.

They watched it for a while, and finally, for once, decided to take action on the problem, and they knew that someone (or a few someones) was trying to hunt down all the dragons in the world. But they needed to find out where the hunters’ base was located, how they would get there, and what weapons that the dragon hunters would use. All this was extremely hard. They tried to ask their neighbours, but all of them could not answer the gang.

All except one.

His name was Jarus, and he was a dragon hunter, At least until he found out what the others did to the dragons. He was one of the new catchers, so he never knew what happened until he took a peek. Then he rebelled against the rest, which led to him being fired. Merlin asked Jarus the questions, and the former dragon hunter shared all the details.

After talking to him, Merlin and the others told him that they had to go and stop the hunters, so they left him. They headed north, as Jarus had told them, and after a few hours on their jet-bikes, they saw a large shadow in the distance, looming above their heads. It was very easy to mistake the shadow as one of California’s factories, but it was actually the dragon hunter headquarters, and it was so tall, It was just a few meters shorter than Godzilla 2019 from the film. Hmm, Merlin thought. I wonder if they can actually contain dragons here.

Merlin gave Hoot an invisibility jacket and sent him to spy on the hunters. The owl took off, leaving Merlin, Vincent, Gabriel and Ellie behind.

“Uh… how is Hoot going to go past the hunters without becoming lunch?” asked Vincent.

“Good question,” Merlin answered. “I gave him a camouflage jacket.” But even after that, Vincent kept asking questions.


***


When Hoot had returned, He couldn’t say exactly what he saw, because he was just an owl. But Merlin knew what Hoot had said, with the help of Vincent, who could speak and understand the Avian language. Hoot explained that he saw a group of about forty men, all dressed in suits made of iron, and equipped with either dart guns or net guns. The men were crowding around a young Boiler dragon about the size of a spinosaurus, and Hoot had presumed that they were about to send it to the boss of the hunters.

“Guys,” he started, before realizing that the others were being distracted this whole time. Ellie was on YouTube, looking at videos of birds, while Gabriel was dragon-watching. Merlin couldn’t believe his friends. The gang was on a big mission, and there was no time to get distracted. He easily got Gabriel’s attention by making sure he remembered about the mission, and telling him that he could go dragon-watching after it, but Ellie was too engrossed in the YouTube video. After many other failed attempts, he screamed at her, and that caught her attention.

“Guys, I must tell you something,” Merlin said, restarting his sentence. “The dragon hunters are on duty right now, but I think we should sneak in. It would save loads of time, and remember, our mission was about saving dragons, right?”

The group nodded. They, too, didn’t want to stop until they defeated the hunter crew. So they continued their journey, heading north.

They had been riding for a long time, and so they brought along their sleeping bags for the journey. It was heavy, though. And that night, they were almost attacked by a gyrfalcon, the largest falcon in the world, about twice the length of a crow. But luckily, Hoot spotted it and scared it away with his expert mimicry.

The next morning, They rode their JetBikes until they found the building. It was already the next day, and they were tired. But there was no time to be slouching around being distracted.

The building looked like a giant tin can without its rings. But a familiar smell wafted into Merlin’s nose, a smell that he remembered from the dragon chase.

Dragons. Hundreds of dragons.

Merlin could smell their different scents, from small Spider dragons to giant Boiler sea dragons, from easy-to-catch Fire Drakes to powerful Celestial Wyrms.

Suddenly, they heard, “STOP RIGHT THERE, YOU PESKY CHILDREN! NOBODY TRESPASSES INTO AIKO’S PLOT!” They turned around to see ten hunters, exactly the way Hoot had described them, charging at the group.

Aiko. Merlin’s brother, of all other people who could be but were not. The owner of this plot of land.

Merlin’s thoughts were interrupted by the gang being pushed out of the gates, and the hunters locking them out. “If you ever come back,” said the leader, “You, your friends, and your owl will be thrown in the Hydrocoatl pit.”

The guards walked away, muttering curses under their breath as they did so. Merlin was confused. Wouldn’t they want to throw us in immediately? He thought suspiciously. He looked back at the others, and decided to talk about the plan to rescue the dragons.

The plan was to get Hoot to distract the guards in his invisibility jacket, while one of the rest of them stole the keys to unlock the cages.

“Might as well be a good plan,” Gabriel said. “What about the rest?”

Merlin looked around and saw Vincent and Ellie listening intently. He could tell from their looks that they agreed with him.

When it was dusk, they rode back to the sleeping area, ate a few bread rolls, and then went to bed in their sleeping bags. Luckily, there were no dangers, just creepy sounds of mice that Hoot caught for his dinner (Speaking of dinner, Merlin found out that Hoot could withstand the day just as much as the night a few days ago. That was, when Hoot didn’t fall asleep when they were right in the middle of the day. Plus, he treated the night as his time to rest).

The next morning, they woke up and prepared their plan. Hoot took off with his invisibility jacket and a camouflaged Go-Pro that was attached to his back, with the rest following behind. Excitement was spreading throughout all of them as they all went to the building. They snuck past the front door to hide behind the walls, and watched how Hoot attacked.

Suddenly, Hoot made a series of hoot sounds, and the next moment, multiple Horned-Owls dive-bombed the hunters, each of them with a tag that had the head of a Celestial Wyrm. The hunters were easily distracted, so Merlin and the rest of the gang had time to talk to the dragons in the building for a while. They snuck in and let Gabriel do the talking, as he could talk to dragons. Merlin could hear the words sky, sea, jungle, volcano, and some other words, but the rest was unintelligible to him.

When they returned outdoors, almost all of the hunters were knocked out, except for the lead hunter. Drowsily, the rest of the hunters woke up slightly unconscious, but the leader screamed some inappropriate phrases, and the other hunters completely woke up after that.

While the leader was still shouting at the hunters, Ellie pickpocketed the key from him. She stole the hunters’ weapons and gave them all to Merlin, who ushered the gang back to the dragon cages.

They unlocked the Boiler and the Celestial Wyrm cages first, because then the hunters would have no chance against the dragons without their weapons. They unlocked the cages in order, from strongest to weakest.

Just so you know, there were also some aquatic dragons in there, and they definitely didn’t want to be left out. So Merlin and Gabriel also included them, just still in their tanks.

The Arachno-dragons were DEFINITELY not the weakest, as they had a reputation to eat weapons and convert them to silk. Whatever method the weapons used to damage the target, the silk of the dragons would contain that effect. For example, if the dragon ate a flamethrower, its silk would become red hot, but at the same time, it would not hurt the dragon's insides. So Merlin put some weapons in front of a few of the Arachno-dragons, and they ate the machiner.

He ushered the dragons outside, and as soon as those dragons were free, they spat silk of different variations at the hunters.

The gang watched as the hunters were trampled, spat at, burned and boiled until they fled for the mountains and all the dragons were free. Then they released the aquatic dragons into the ocean, and some semi-aquatic dragons had to be transported in the tanks. Luckily, they were small, so claustrophobia didn’t occur. Merlin was pleased about what he and his friends had accomplished, and thanks to Jarus, they knew what to do.

When the battle was over, Merlin and the rest of the gang discussed if they should defeat Aiko next, and they all said yes.

“Aiko,” Merlin whispered. “We’re coming for you.”


To be continued...

A note from the author: Remember to treat other people the way you want to be treated.

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