Chapter 21: Chaos, In That Order
“I thought you said that you were going to Edelstien?” Elusa asked, going back to folding a rather large bunch of laundry she had pulled off the line, watching the young girl devour a bit of food she had been provided. Elusa had seen the light from right above where Henesys was, and worried that something terrible would come to her home on the outskirts of Ellinia just south of Perion’s desert mountain range.
“Oh I am, but there is something that I must take care of first.” The girl replied, wiping her mouth and putting the dishes she had used into a tub of water to wash them.
“I’ll take care of those. Are you sure you can’t stick around any longer?” Elusa asked as the girl picked up her cloak, flinching a bit when the dull ache in her side reminded her that she needed to take it easy for a little while.
“No I can’t. Thank you very much for treating my wound and for this delicious meal.” She called, turning and beginning to walk away when Elusa called after her.
“Will you at least tell me your name so that I can find you if I ever go to Edelstien?” Elusa asked. The girl stopped, thoughts running through her head about what answer she would give her that wouldn’t turn this kind woman against her.
“My name’s Orchid.” The girl replied, turning and offering her the best faked smile that she could. Elusa smiled in return, pondering her name for a moment before waving to her as she left into the forests of Ellinia.
“I know I’ve taken out my pig tails and grown some in the past few weeks using spells I found in the fairy’s library, but if anyone knew who I really am then I wouldn’t stand a chance.” She thought, walking through the dense forest when she stopped and saw a Fire Fern reaching out across the path. It brought back memories from so long ago when she had been rescued by Mercedes from a painful death. She reached into her pocket and pulled out a small vial containing a bluish brown gel-like liquid within it, shaking it a bit to make sure she was seeing the right amount.
“The mana given to me by the sylphs is nearly gone since I used most of it on those growth spells. I have enough for maybe one moderately strong spell should I need to use it, but then I’ll be defenseless. I just hope I don’t run into any trouble. Hang on Lotus; I’m coming to get you.”
At first, the return of the Heroes to Edelstien didn’t rouse the surge of people’s spirits as they had hoped.
“I thought that she was safe in the Temple?” a young man asked, obviously trying to cozy up to Rhinne as unobvious as he could.
“She was, but the heroes did manage to defeat Arkarium to get her back, one of the Black Mage’s most powerful generals.” Dumia explained as Aran came over to them and handed her a cool glass of water.
“What happened to him anyway?” Aran asked, taking a sip herself after nudging the man’s shoulder as if to tell him to maintain.
“I don’t know. But if past references serve well, I doubt Arkarium’s life is still intact.” Steadily, Rhinne was introduced to the people that had been protected from the World Cannon in the city, listening to each of their sorrows, frustrations, and angers. Once people began to see that Rhinne was walking among them along with Cygnus, everyone slowly began to brighten. The mood throughout the entire city lightening with just their presence and a new drive filtering into them making whispers and low conversations buzz through the city:
“If the Heroes could do it then and now, why couldn’t we?”
“The Black Wings really can be defeated!”
“What about Clytemnestra? Can she be defeated?”
“If Arkarium was defeated by four people, how hard could she be?” People everywhere began to rally each other up, building their moral with each passing hour and finding more people gathering together to begin formulating an attack plan. The noises from outside began filtering through to the very back of the infirmary where Vita was taking care of the fallen general Hilla.
Seconds passed as though they were hours as she stirred, grunting and grousing as the sounds reaching into her mind gently woke her. Vita ran as quickly as she could to get the leaders of the Edelstein High Guard who all surrounded her bed when Hilla opened her eyes, looking around at all of them through the narrow openings of her eye lids.
“Where am I?” she asked in a whisper.
“I am Claudine of the Edelstein High Guard: you are in the infirmary. Your defeat resulted in some serious injuries that we have been taking care of until you woke up.” Claudine answered, making Hilla open her eyes further to see another young woman she recognized as the Empress and a few strong looking men surrounding her bed.
“How did my defeat end in my injuries?” Hilla asked sharply, trying to sit up with some difficulty because of her weakened state.
“You were injured by one of The New Guardians after making an attempt on Luminous’ life while his back was turned.” One of the young men replied. Hilla scoffed and shook her head.
“Why take pity on one of your enemies? I don’t need your pity. You know that I could simply wipe you all out right here don’t you?” Hilla seethed, looking to Claudine with a rather well faked intimidating look in her eyes.
“We are not the Black Wings. It may prove to be counterproductive, but we must try to save everyone that we can.” Cygnus replied making Hilla turn a sad smile on her face.
“What do you care? I’m a dead woman walking. Once Clytemnestra has figured out that I’ve been captured if she hasn’t already, I’m sure she’ll be coming for me.” Hilla sighed making Cygnus sit down on her cot.
“I said it once, and I’ll say it again; we aren’t the Black Wings. And we won’t let Clytemnestra hurt you more than her already has.” The last comment made Hilla look sharply to Cygnus as she was about to reply when Claudine interrupted her.
“We know your story Hilla. The Black Mage used your broken heart as a weapon against you, turning you against your people, and the very man that you loved.”
“I don’t want your sympathy!” Hilla snapped.
“Too bad, you have it.” Claudine snapped in return making Hilla almost feel defenseless; no one had ever matched her with intimidation while she was a general, but now that she was reduced to a dead woman walking, she wasn’t in the same position of power any longer.
“I’m you prisoner than?” she asked, bowing her head. The Black Wings had a policy against such things, and capture was considered on the same plain as defection, making her push her tongue against a tiny pocket of deadly cyanide laced with a potent form of Black Magic.
“No, you are a guest.” Cygnus answered, putting a gentle hand on her shoulder. Hilla sighed and looked away: she had done so many things that she wasn’t proud of, but fighting these people while the Black Mage was still in power were some of the best days of her life.
“Why would you want to help me when I could so easily wipe you out, and in the heart of your city no less?”
“Because you’re human just like the rest of us: all of us can be hurt, all of us can make mistakes. But when we make mistakes, it doesn’t mean the end of one’s life. Yes, we may become angry when someone makes a mistake, but we also hope that the one who made it will learn from it.” Cygnus answered. Hilla was steadily accepting the help that was being given to her, but there was still something holding her back from completely giving in.
“What is it that you want from me?” Hilla asked, looking first to Claudine, then looking Cygnus squarely in the eyes.
“Information; you’ve committed a great many atrocities in your life against the people of Azwan, and against Ossyria. There is no punishment that I, the Empress or the High Guard can give you to match your crime. In return for your cooperation, you will be allowed to live out the rest of your natural life in atonement for that you have done. And you can start by telling us anything you can about Clytemnestra and how to defeat her.” Cygnus answered with an edge in her kind voice. Hilla sighed, shaking her head to the eager and massively misplaced amount of trust they gave her. But she also knew that she could never return to the Black Wings alive for her capture, deciding to accept the deal they were offering.
“Very well; the one in control of Clytemnestra’s body is not the girl who should be. The one in control of her body is the Black Mage himself.”
Yoshumari looked around once more, making sure that there were no other creatures surrounding Edelstein and was about to descend when something caught his eye landing on the coast. With a gentle bank he swooped in to get a better look, finding that it was Dureau and Mastema walking… hand in hand?!
“Hey bebe? What’s wrong?” Starling asked as the three of them landed carefully after feeling Yoshumari falter for a moment.
“It’s nothing, I just saw something that I didn’t expect.” He answered as the three of them walked closer to where the entrance of Edeolstien was and where Dureau and Mastema were also waiting.
“…what more evidence do you need? I am Dureau, the Demon Slayer of the high Guard!” Dureau shouted to a guard standing on the inside of the barrier.
“I’m sorry, but my orders are from Cygnus herself. Until someone from the Empress’ Knights of the High Guard can verify your identity, you’ll just have to wait outside the Barrier.” The Battle Mage replied, making Dureau take a calming, but still take agitated breath, slowly reaching for his mace when he was stopped by Mastema who set a hand on his.
“We’ll wait.” She said as the soldiers turned to leave just as the other three were nearing them.
“I see you survived the World Cannon Dureau.” Crow announced with a cocky smile. Dureau looked back to him with an unemotional glare, taking his hand from the mace.
“I survived a direct assault from the Black Mage himself. I doubt that some cannon would kill me so easily.” He answered, turning back to the empty road before him, waiting impatiently for the guards to return so they could let him in.
“Yoshumari, I’ve wanted to ask this for some time, but I never seemed to have found the chance: when Eleanor died and you went all crazy, does that mean you’re more powerful? I’ve always heard it said that Seraphim only use a small portion of their full potential Nalcana power.” Starling asked, playing back the scene in her head when his wings ruptured from his back and the power of his Nalcana was nearly the same level as the Black Mage’s.
“Sadly, no: In all actuality I am less powerful. As I’m sure you know, when a Seraphim loses control, their full power is brought to bear, but in doing so it warps the Nalcana and our body. Much in same the way when steel is stretched; it may still be strong but no matter how you try, it will never be the same strength again.” Yoshumari explained, holding his hand out as a cloud of his Nalcana power hummed to life in his hand, taking on the shape of a small dagger. At first glance it seemed that the power was still the same inky nighttime-like energy, but upon a closer look, Starling could see what appeared to be stress marks rippling across its form, as well as some of the star-like specs being a distorted color.
“Are you Ok?” she asked, reaching out and touching the blade only to pull back her hand when is shocked her.
“I managed to look through the records of the Seraphim not too long ago, finding that not many have survived the battle involving the unfortunate release of their full power. The few that did survive the fight died shortly after because their mana and life force had been drained. Of those, only six, myself included have ever survived fully; though the effects on our bodies as well as our Nalcana have varied.” Deactivating the Nalcana, he followed Dureau and Mastema into the barrier where he was asked to wait while the soldiers confirmed who he was.
“What effects do you mean by having varying effects?”
“Of those six that survived, one Seraphim managed to maintain his high power level. Unfortunately, the immense amount of power coursing through his body drove him insane, and the only thing the ancient Seraphim could do was seal him and place him under the main sanctuary of the Seraphim Temple. Another’s body had its energy strained so much, that it couldn’t even support the Nalcana in its dormant state and had to remove it from its body. Another maintained their body energy, but the energy of the Nalcana was so strained and warped that it couldn’t hold a solid form if it hit anything.” Once it was confirmed who he was Starling and Yoshumari parted ways with Crow as he went off to look around the town, while the other two followed Dureau back to where the High Guard had made their headquarters.
“Were any of those Seraphim wielders of the Dark Nalcana?” Starling asked. She had heard that among his people, the Dark Nalcana was the most powerful and considered a great honor to wield. However his telling her that one of the Seraphim had gone insane troubled her: she had almost lost him once to death 18 years ago; she couldn’t stand the thought of losing him over something she couldn’t fight.
“Yes, infact it was the one who went insane.” Yoshumari replied with a sad, yet knowing smile.
“Don’t worry, I won’t be going insane. Remember, I’m weaker than I was before and there is no way that I’ll ever be able to wield the same level of power again.” He promised, stopping her in the middle of the street for a moment and kissing the very top of her forehead when he heard a livid scream coming from not too far away from them.
“WHY IS IT THAT SHE WAS KEPT ALIVE?!”
Firebolt casually strolled through the streets of Edelstien: The way the people were rallying together in preparation for an assault on Ereve was spirit lifting. But there were dark clouds surrounding and hanging in his own heart, especially concerning the way the human changing spell was being re-applied by Monsoon more and more often. He was down to having to reapply it every three days. This concerned him enough to seek out an answer from Patricia for an answer.
She may not have been as well versed in sacred spells as Helen or a Preist, but she was versed enough that she was able to give him the bad news about the spell that was losing its grip on him. As he looked around, he caught sight of Monsoon talking with some of the archers there, planning out strikes and attack patterns, zeroing in on her alone and just watching her as she talked. Had she been keeping this secret about the spell being tied to his life force for all this time? Chuckling to himself, he turned and began walking towards a back alley where he could be alone with his thoughts until Monsoon’s voice broke his train of thought.
“Hey, there you are. I was wondering where you had gotten off to. How are you feeling?” She asked, putting a hand on his shoulder.
“Tell me something Irena, how long have you known?” Firebolt asked locking eyes with her and letting her see the sadness and disappointment in them. Monsoon swallowed hard and faked the best chuckle and smile that she could.
“Known what? What are you talking…”
“Don’t insult me Irena. How long have you known about my human holding spell being tied to my life force?” he asked, this time sounding more agitated. Monsoon still kept up the farce as best she could, losing her nerve with each passing second.
“What are you talking about? Rok only showed me the spell and how to reapply it…”
“IRENA!” Firebolt bellowed, electricity threading over his shoulders scaring Monsoon into silence, looking at him with wide and confused eyes: he had spoken to her with a loud tone before, but this was different, desperate almost. Monsoon sighed and closed her eyes, bowing her head as tears began forming in the corners.
“I’ve known ever since Rok showed me how to do the spell. He told me his mistake was not considering how many years you lived before he killed you or how many years you had been in the service of the Black Mage. That’s why the spell was failing. The reapplication would simply strengthen the spell itself, reinforcing it with what little life force you have left.” She sobbed, grabbing onto his cloak and pressing her forehead against his chest.
“Irena, why didn’t you tell me? Why did you keep this secret from me?” he asked; yes he was furious that such a secret was kept from him, but at the same time he was also sad that she had to carry around such a heavy burden all on her own.
“I had told myself that as long as I had the spell that I could keep you alive, that you weren’t really dying. I just didn’t want your death to be real.” She answered gripping his cloak all the harder until her hands hurt. Firebolt let out a sad breath and put his arms around her, holding her closer to him while he hushed her cries.
“Listen, I appreciate that you were trying to do, but this is my life we’re talking about here. I don’t want you to remember me as some mutant being that was slowly dying.”
“But I don’t have anyone left… I’d be all alone.” She whimpered.
“What about your sister Chalis?” He asked. Monsoon stopped, thinking back to her younger sister and how she had abandoned her family as well, just as she did so many years ago.
“I’ve known you for as long as I can remember Irena, but if something like this is going to happen, it’s going to happen. Just remember that there are other people around you waiting to pick you back up.”
With some carful maneuvering, Orca managed to slip back into the mines, though having to remind herself that she no longer had her small child’s body when she tried to fit in some small spaces to avoid the guards.
“That’s strange: why are there still armored patrols around this area? Besides my brother, what could possibly be down here that requires such a tight guard?” she wondered, slipping past the many patrols when she passed by where her room used to be. With thick hesitation, she pushed open the door and silently walked in looking around at the destruction that now filled this room where she had battled her love Mercedes. The teddy bear that she treasured was still laying on the ground next to her couch, but one of the ears had been torn off and soot covered its face.
She picked it up and brushed off the blackened portion of the fabric and held it close, catching and ever so slight whiff of Mercedes perfume still lingering when her eye caught sight of a massive blood stain on the ground. It was hours before Hilla had come in to find her lying nearly lifeless on the ground bleeding out, but Orca was glad that she had come when she did. Shaking her head she propped the bear up in the corner of the couch, touching her lips with her fingers before touching the snout of the bear.
“Goodbye Mercedes. I wish you well.” she thought, slipping out of her room once again to complete her mission of retrieving her brother. But as she got closer to where his tank was she missed the normal tingle in her mind from Suu’s as she neared. Orca dismissed it as perhaps Suu’s mind being asleep and was still too far out of his range while in that state. But as she neared and the tinge still didn’t hit her, she began to worry. Running through the caves and dodging the many new piles of high end equipment blocking her path.
When she finally had come into the ire glow of the room where Suu still floated in the tank of suspension gel, she was shocked to see Gelimer messing with some sort of mechanism on the control board of his tank.
“Gelimer! What are you doing here?!” she asked reaching into her pocket for the vial of mana: Gelimer was the only other person that scared her as badly as The Mage himself, due only to his utter disregard for life of any kind in pursuit of his experiments. Looking closer at him, she noticed that his right arm appeared to be mechanical having split apart into many different arms holding different screens, plugged into the control computer.
“Orca! Zees eez quit zeh suprice! You look quite zeh ravising young latey.” he said, trying to hide his arm behind him while moving over to hide a screen that seemed to be scrolling information across it.
“What are you doing to my brother?” she asked, wanting to activate an attack spell, but knowing that she only had a limited amount of mana, and her body no longer able to support Black Magic prevented her from doing so.
“Oh zis? I vas jus… puzting zeh final tocheez on a program to avaken him.” he stumbled, as a multitude of clicks and servo whines could be heard behind him until he brought his hands forward, holding them for her to see with a defensive position.
“Awaken him? You mean he can come out of that thing?” Orca asked walking to the tank and pressing her hand to the glass, watching as Suu’s hand twitched for a moment when her skin touched the glass.
“Yes, it vill only be a matta off momentz.” He said. Orca looked almost longingly as he floated amid the gel, when Suu seemed to turn his head up and fix his gaze on her. It almost looked like he was trying to tell her something with that gaze, but in her enthrallment of having her brother back after so many centuries she didn’t notice the dark grin that was playing across the scientist’s face.
“Wait, what’s that thing on the side of his head?” Orca asked when she saw a metallic disk on the side of his head with what appeared to be a blue dome filling the majority of the center.
“Zat eez a cognitive boosta, increasing heez brainz signal to da limbs. He haz been insite zat tank for so long, I feya zat his nerves have been slightly damaged.” Gelimer answered, pressing a part of his wrist behind him, making the light come to life while Suu’s body looked to stiffen.
“Do it.” Orca commanded, stepping back as Gelimer moved in and began the draining sequence, pulling all of the gel out of the tank while gently setting Suu down in the corner of the tank and bottom grate, allowing him to cough up the remaining gel in his lungs. Shortly after the gel’s draining, a lock sounded from below and the glass slid down giving Orca access to him, cradling him in her arms and wiping the gel from his face.
“Suu! Oh Suu, you don’t know how much I’ve missed you all this time!” she cried happily, clearing a spot on his cheek and kissing it firmly, when Suu grabbed hold of her arm hard.
“Suu, what’s wrong?” she asked, watching as what appeared to be binary code zipped across his pupils and the light on the side of his head blinked a few times before turning red.
“Run.” He whispered, when all traces of his former self disappeared as his eyes became red, hauling on Orca’s arm and hurling her across the room. Orca managed to correct, landing on the wall and dropping to the floor where she saw Suu hover into the air, his power emanating from his body in a cloud that first crushed, then shattered the control board of the tank he had just been in before rushing her. Orca managed to duck out of his first blow’s path, but her now larger, older body made it impossible for her to avoid his second attack, slamming her against the wall with enough force that the wall behind her collapsed. Orca’s arms buzzed and her shoulders hurt after having used half the mana she was given to create a small barrier to protect her, but now she had nothing left for any attack spells.
“I have enough for a speed boosting spell; that should be enough for me to get out of here at least.” she thought initiating the spell and rocketing for the door, only to find herself face to face with Suu once again, disappearing to another part of the room when he tried to attack her again.
“Suu! What’s wrong with you! It’s me!” she shouted, dodging another blast of power he had launched with no emotion or even hint that he knew who she was. As Orca flitted from place to place to avoid being hit, she couldn’t help but notice that Gelimer seemed to be typing something in on his arm as if he were controlling him.
“Suu, my dear brother Suu. What has this horrible man done to you?” she thought. But her thoughts distracted her from noticing her speed boosting spell had worn off and she no longer had any mana to use it again, leaving her wide open for an attack. Suu appeared to be charging a powerful spell, causing Orca to try and flit away where she noticed too late that her spell had worn off and was hit full force with the dark spell, coursing through her body like molten steel. Her screams echoed through the hollow caves in a shrill note that for a brief moment disrupted the hold Gelimer had over the boy, making him stop his assault. Ocra’s body was bruised, burnt and bloody, falling to the ground writhing in pain as she forced herself to uncurl and look up into Suu’s empty digital eyes.
“W-w-why...” she whispered, before passing out with her hand outstretched to him where he only stared down at her from where he floated.
“Heh, zat wass such a vaist of time: come my creation. Zees ees zeh time for a new era!” Gelimer chortled, pulling on a joystick and walking out of the cave, when he noticed that Suu wasn’t following his commands, rather he appeared to be fighting them as his body shook.
“Vie do you rezeest? Come!” Gelimer commanded, pressing a few buttons on his arm to boost the signal and pulling harder on the joystick, but still Suu refused to do as he commanded.
“N-n…no…” Suu stuttered, sounding almost robotic.
“VAT! VIE DO YOU SPEAK?! OBEY ME!” Gelimer howled, pressing another set of buttons, again increasing the signal strength when he saw Suu grab his arm.
“No… I-I-I will not… f-f-f-follow you. My s-s-s-s-sister in hurt… she will d-d-d-die if she doesn’t r-r-r-r-receive… medical attention.” Suu struggled to say, turning back to Orca where she lay on the ground, slowly bleeding out.
“Vat concern eez she to you? She hass become part of zeh past…” Suu clenched down hard on the scientist’s arm, pulling it behind him at a sharp angle.
“If you do not t-t-t-t-treat her, I will fight your control with every last ounce of my b-b-b-b-b-being until I am dead. However…” Suu released his arm and looked over to her, floating down to the ground and kneeling beside her, brushing a lock of hair out of her face.
“I-i-i-i-i-if you allow me to t-t-t-t-t-take her into Edelstein where she will be found by the High Guard for treatment, I will go with you without quarrel.” Gelimer raised an eyebrow behind his thick glasses, scratching his head in some tufts of hair that remained on his head.
“Vie voodjue need to do somsing like zees? You have no neet of her any longer.” Gelimer asked.
“She is my sister, not that you would understand.” Suu hissed, his eyes snowing as if he were fighting to regain his own control once more. Gelimer thought about what he had said, thinking through his options and how hard it was to bring Suu under his control in the first place without him fighting. If he were to refuse, it could mean the loss to years of research to create the perfect indestructible body.
“Very vell, but be quick about it.” Gelimer agreed, turning off the signal of his controller and watching every single move and step that Suu made in taking his sister’s limp body back into the city, bending the barrier around him as he made his way to a back alley near the road and set her down, propped against a wall. With almost reluctant care, he brushed aside a few locks of her hair before kissing her forehead.
“Suu, vat ees taking you so long?” Gelimer’s impatient voice said though the link on the side of his head.
“I’m coming you old goat.” He grumbled, standing and walking back the way he came, unaware that Orca had regained enough of her consciousness to see her brother walking away from her down a dark alley. Once outside, Suu and Gelimer began a trip towards The Black Mage’s castle still standing on the plains north of Edelstein.
“I’m surprised no one has come to tear this place down yet.” Suu commented, but was met with only silence as he and Gelimer walked to the back of the castle where an intricate and highly sophisticated locked door stood, clanking and whining as Gelimer neared then opening as an iris allowed both of them in. Inside were dozens of what appeared to be mechanical skeletons, some in varying stages of being fitted with various human organs or mechanical parts.
“What is this place?” Suu asked, suddenly not so sure that he wanted to keep the promise he made.
“Zees ees my personal lab where I have been gratually making progress in creating not only a body for myself, but is also creating zeh ultimate vepon!” Gelimer shouted, pulling aside a cutain to reveal schematics and plans of a cybernetic humanoid soldier.
“Zeh tests haven’t been going so vell now zat I don’t have a vast supply of volunteers zeh Black Vings providet, but I have made quite a lot of progress even wissout zere help. Beryl! Are you zere?” Gelimer called. Somewhere in the dark of the lab, a set of blue eyes opened and a young woman walked into the light wearing a black a white battle suit and armor. Her hair was cut short, offset by the ponytail hair hanging at the back, thick blue circuits on her cheeks rose to below her eyes with a modern angled scythe strapped to her back.
“Yes, I am here.” She answered in a monotone, slightly metallic sounding voice.
“Oh teer, zees vill not do: your voice madulator ees out of alignment again and your personality program ees not booting up. I vill attend to it once you haf escorted zees newest recruit to his bay.” Gelimer announced, grabbing his own forearm and twisting it off before plugging it in to a dock of sorts where data began streaming across screens.
“Yes commander Gelimer.” She said, taking Suu’s arm with a surprisingly hard grip and leading him down a dark hallway.
“What are you?” Suu asked, looking around them and seeing a few suspension tanks glowing a discomforting blood red color.
“I am serial number 29573, model name Beryl, a cyborg created by commander Gelimer, Leader of the Black Wings.” She said, roughly pushing him into what appeared to be a cell and closing the door hard before walking away.
“Wait! Why am I here?” Suu asked, his only response being that of hearing her footsteps fade into the distance.
“He got you too huh?” a voice asked making Suu look around until he saw what appeared to be a teenager’s body suspended in a tank of red goo with both mechanical and organic body parts floating around him, and his chest opened so that Suu could see his lungs and a partially mechanical heart.
“What happened to you?” Suu asked, wanting to look away from the sight before him, but too enthralled to do so.
“I don’t know. There is very little of me left, I don’t even remember my own name. What I do know is that I’m a test tube, supposed to become his ultimate weapon, a commander to an army of cyborg soldiers and a base for him to create his own indestructible body.” the boy replied, lifting his head and making eye contact.
“Then why was I brought here?” Suu asked, becoming desperate as the information became more and more sinister.
“That thing on the side of your head is so that Gelimer can break you. He wants to find out how to gain full control over a cyborg so that it will do what he wants, when he wants, how he wants. The poor bastard can’t learn magic of any kind to gain the same level of command as The Black Mage, so he’ll do it by force. Hundreds have died while he experimented and you are just one of them. Once he finds out how to gain full control, he’ll then use that research on me and create the perfect soldier.” Suu let out defeated breath and hung his head. He knew now that he would never be able to see his sister again, even if being an elf allowed her to live for centuries, he himself would never see her again.
“Orchid, Forgive me.”
“WHAT?!” Claudine shouted, uncrossing her arms and taking a more aggressive stance in response to Hilla saying The Black Mage was the one in control of Clytemnestra.
“That can’t be: The Black Mage himself was defeated 18 years ago.” Cygnus stated, her demeanor becoming worried as the reality that something like this could really have happened.
“What was destroyed all those years ago was what remained of his body. His spirit however is much harder to kill. When Project End Game was still in its infancy, The Black Mage instructed me to create a Spirit Anchor, a place where once could gather their life force, memories, and a bit of power for later on a giant underground door. Once this anchor was created, he then told me that if he were ever defeated to go there one year after his defeat.” Hilla held up her hand, summoning a black flame to dance within her palm, remembering when she had actually set up that anchor.
“After that year was over, Arkarium, Magnus and I returned to that underground door and opened it to find Clytemnestra and her knights. Apparently it took an entire year for The Black Mage to gather all of himself to that one spot, and once we opened the door, it allowed him in to take control of her body.” Claudine pinched the bridge of her nose while the soldiers that had gathered around all of them hung their heads.
“You mean to tell me that so many lives were lost for nothing?” Claudine asked, flinching a bit when a still fresh wound ached.
“That you’ll have to find out for yourselves; however, this body that he is using has a major flaw within it. The apparatus that hangs behind her is the source of her power. The Black Mage created Clytemnestra’s Apparatus, putting some of his power in it every day until it housed quite a bit of power, but still far less than the Black Mage commanded. If that apparatus is destroyed, every bit of Black Magic she currently controls will be lost and there would be nothing to keep The Black Mage within her body.” Hilla explained.
“Then, the only things standing in our way are the Chaos beasts.” Cygnus said excitedly when she was abruptly brought down from her high by Hilla’s chuckle.
“That isn’t your only problem. There are still the shadow knights and they are just as powerful as The Empress’s true knights, having all the battle potential as they do, but with the addition of Black Magic at their disposal and their lack of sympathy. You must defeat them first, and then you may have a shot at Clytemnestra herself.” Hilla scolded, trying to tell them that their fight was futile at best. It would only be a matter of time until the World Cannon was working again and then would eradicate them all, having to stop and think: was she actually trying to protect these people? Was she worried over them, when they were the very ones trying to kill her? Her thoughts were interrupted when someone else walked up to her, having heard the last part of her little speech and set a foot on the side of her bed, rocking it slightly as the strong looking man pointed his thumb to himself.
“You have no idea how strong we really are. Back then, we were just trying to use whatever strength we could find. We’ve had 18 years to refine and build that strength, and there’s nothing, and I mean nothing will stand in our way!”
“You don’t get it: They will destroy you if the Choas beasts don’t do that first!” Hilla scolded. The man was about to reply when a loud voice cut them all off to see Dureau standing in the doorway, face bright red and Agies smoldering on his shoulders into the air.
“WHY IS IT THAT SHE WAS KEPT ALIVE?!” he shrieked, grabbing his mace and preparing to attack when Mastema ran in front of him, holding him back with all her strength which still wasn’t enough.
“NO! SHE AND THE OTHERS ARE ALL RESPONSIBLE FOR…” The air was split by a loud, high pitched crack as Mastema slapped Dureau as hard as she could leaving everyone in stunned silence for a long while as Dureau simply stayed looking away from her.
“You don’t need to avenge them anymore! I thought you’d have moved past this by now.” Mastema reasoned, but was quickly sorry she had laid a hand on him when he turned his livid eyes to her, part of his face having transformed to his full demon state. Grabbing her by the neck, Dureau picked her up and moved her to the side as he walked towards Hilla once more.
“You are just as guilty as Arkarium you painted wench!” Dureau drew back his arm, Agies flaring to life around it as a giant scythe came swinging down, whistling as he swung but stopping when Cygnus stepped into his path, power swelling from her body and calming Dureau’s rage somewhat. Hold up her hand, she then enveloped him with a glow.
“You will not harm Hilla in any way. Doing so would mean your own death. She has surrendered herself to a life of repentance and atonement, and for you to take this into your own hands would be unforgivable.” Cygnus said with a stern tone, matching Dureau’s own intense stare.
“You’re protecting her?!” he seethed, dispelling his scythe.
“I am.” Cygnus replied flatly. Dureau’s rage and confusion only boiled as he was caught between wanting revenge for his family and preserving his own life. Finally, Dureau lowered his head, looking back at Hilla over Cygnus’s shoulder and agreed to the terms provided him, leaving with the others from the room.
“How many of the High Guard remain Claudine?” Cygnus asked.
“There are 600 of my soldiers left, all classes.”
“Rally all of them and meet me at the east end of town. I will go and get the Heroes, The Guardians, and whatever adventurers we have left to mount an attack on Ereve now that we have this new information. Dureau, we could use your strength.” Dureau looked back to Cygnus, still simmering in rage.
“Fine, at least I’ll be able to direct my rage somewhere.” He huffed. Hilla sighed in slight relief when she looked up to see Mastema standing beside her bed, clenching her hand and rubbing her throat.
“Cygnus may have prevented Dureau from doing anything to you, but if you do anything to him, a swear with every last bit of breath that remains in my body that I will kill you.” she hissed, laying her ears back and baring her teeth to her.
“I wouldn’t expect you to do any less Mastema; you are in love with him after all.” Hilla smiled, making Mastema’s cheeks flare bright red before she turned and left the room. Closing her eyes, she breathed a sigh of relief, when a quiet whisper began to surround her, fading in and out of audible range until it startled her with one loud push.
“Hilla!” Her eyes remained wide as she looked around, not seeing anyone there but hearing the whisper surrounding her from all sides.
“Who’s there? Show yourself!” She called, summoning a black flame to her hand, but knowing that it probably would do little good since most of her power was gone after her defeat in Azwan.
“Do you not recognize the voice of your own master?” the whisper asked making her dispel the flame and swallow hard.
“I’ve done as you commanded: I’ve gotten them to attack Ereve.” Hilla answered to the air, though it held a sense of foreboding.
“Yes, but in doing so you revealed my secrets.” The voice hissed as Hilla’s eye became wide a fearful.
“Master, I did what I thought was needed in order to get them to attack all the sooner!”
“And a valiant attempt it was. I told you that I would overlook your being captured if you gently pushed them to attack. And you already know the punishment for capture. But you have gone beyond that.”
“Master Please! I did what…”
“You revealed sensitive information to them! The price for Capture and betrayal are the same, and I have no more use for you.?”
“Master!” Hilla called, trying to conjure some kind of barrier to protect herself when something surrounded her in bright sacred light, making the whisper yelp in pain and fade away while what appeared to be shards of black glass fell to the ground and dissipated all around Hilla’s bed.
“Art though injured Hilla?” Helen called, lowering her hand as the barrier winked out around her.
“You… how did you…”
“Didst thou believe thine ears are the only ones to hear his whispers?” She asked, coming into the room with Olsen right behind her, already holding his dagger with a reverse hold.
“You can hear him?” Hilla asked with surprise.
“I hath been tainted by Black Magic, or hast thou forgotten?” Helen asked, an edge in her voice. Hilla nodded as she thought back to the days when Helen was walking amongst the Black Wings as an annoyingly over confident addition.
“Why haven’t you rid yourself of it yet?”
“I cannot. And for that, 'tis a constant war to ensure I doth not lay-to it, yea at its bidding. Some days 'tis easy, others it is likened unto fighting Hades itself.” Helen replied, looking back to Olsen who put a hand on her shoulder.
“I can remove it for you.” Hilla offered, throwing the covers aside and beginning to stand.
“Thou art still considered a threat against us Hilla, and thou cannot change thy path so easily.” Helen reproached, taking a step back as Olsen moved in front, ready to attack.
“I know you don’t trust me, and I would be lying if I said that I don’t believe you: I have not only been given a second chance by the new goddess Cygnus, but I have also had my life saved by you. My life is forfeit if I don’t live one of atonement, so let me start with you.” Hilla said, almost seeming to beg for a chance to prove she was willing to atone for what she had done in the past.
“Just bare to thy mind, Olsen’s blade is much swifter than thou can imagine.” Helen warned.
“I know.” Hilla said, holding her hand forward as she began the ceremony.
“…And once we have neutralized the Chaos beasts, I want part of the adventurers led by phantom to surround the Shadow Knights from the west. Mercedes and Luminous will close off their escape to the north with my Knights, and the High Guard pushing through the middle in hopes that we can get to Clytemnestra herself. Are there any other questions?” Cygnus asked, standing atop a large platform while showing a battle plan in mid air while using Phantom’s holographic projectors. When everyone seemed to be shaking their heads and understanding what the plan was, Cygnus held her hands wide as a strange power felt to be sweeping over them.
“I send you off with a blessing of my own. Now, ONWARD TO VOCTORY!” she shouted, the crowd shouting to her in response as each of the mech pilots ran to their mechs and started them up, the battle mages clipping potions to their belts and the Hunters checking their supply of bolts and Arrow Turrets. The Heroes and Guardians checked their weapons and armor, then took the front of the army that had gathered, moving onto a massive transport ship Checky and Abi had built through the 18 peaceful years.
Mercedes was just setting foot onto the loading ramp when she thought she heard something off to the side. She stopped and turned her head to listen closer, but didn’t hear anything at first. As she turned to leave again, she heard the same noise only this time, it sounded weaker.
“Mercedes, are you coming?” Phantom asked
“Hush, don’t you hear that?” She stated, walking towards one of the alleys leading to the back of the town where she had heard the noise coming from. As she got closer, it sounded more like someone whimpering, silently crying in pain.
“Help, someone, anyone… help…” the voice said. Mercedes drew her bowguns, readying for whatever was around the corner. Standing with her back against the wall, taking a breath and holding her guns up before spinning out and taking aim down the alley when she saw what appeared to be a teen sitting against a wall. Her was skin badly burned and some cuts across her face and arms had dried blood all around them. The girl struggled to pick her head up, looking directly at Mercedes with a look of someone near death. For a moment, Mercedes didn’t do anything, studying the features of the girl, looking past her more mature body and recognizing her long lost friends and enemy.
“Orchid! What happened to you?!” She shouted, dropping her guns and rushing to her side, immediately applying a simple healing spell to a wound that looked to be the worst.
“Never mind Orchid don’t talk, we’ll get you some help. Someone! Anyone! I need some help over here!” Mercedes called. Orchid felt herself lowered onto a stretcher, the pain coursing through her body making her numb to any new pain that was put on her body. She was only vaguely aware of what was happening to her as she felt herself moved to another soft platform when a dull sting was being spread across her skin.
“Will she be alright?” Mercedes asked, watching as a high level priest began healing some of her major wounds, checking through her body for any internal injuries.
“There’s no way to tell. She’s already so near death that she might not survive the healing.” A nurse said. Mercedes forwarded a message to the others that she would join them as soon as she was sure that Orchid was stable and would survive.
Monsoon, now calling herself Irena once more boarded the ship, looking around at everyone that had gathered: some of them look nervous while others looked excited at the chance to be included in this decisive battle. As her eyes scanned the crowd, she spotted Hawkeye and pushed her way through the people as fast as she could before clubbing him as hard as she could.
“What are you doing here?! I thought I told you to stay behind for this fight!” Irena shouted, almost sounding as if her voice were cracking. Hawkeye stood once again, wiping his lip before putting an arm around her and pulling her close.
“Listen Irena, I know that you think that you are preventing the inevitable, but my death is getting closer and closer and there is nothing that you can do about it. I want to at least be able to do something worthwhile before my end.” Irena closed her eyes and gripped his shirt as hard as she could,
“But you just might die for sure that way!” she shouted, making the others around her look back to her and realize their own fate that may lie ahead.
“Irena, I told you once; it’s my life, and I want to do one last thing for people to remember me by before my life gives out completely.”
Clytemnestra stepped out onto one of the many balconies on the Ereve Castle, looking to the west with proud anticipation: the World Cannon was almost back online and every last survivor that hadn’t been eradicated was stashed away in that one city. However as she stared off into the distance, the winds that blew her long platinum hair smelled of hot metal and sweat. Narrowing her eyes she activated an Eye of Arrows, amplifying her distance vision allowing her to see the force that was almost to the coast of Ossyria.
“I see: The clouds of war are gathering to the west.” She muttered to herself, grinning and holding her arms wide.
“Then let it rain.”
“Red unit in position.” Abi called over her com, looking back to the other behind her who nodded their ready.
“Blue unit, in position.”
“Black Unit, 5 seconds out.”
“White unit, in position.”
“Green unit, ready.”
“Yellow Unit in place.”
“Sniper Platoon, ready.”
“Blue leader, were you able to get the second heavy ready?” Abi asked, making one final systems check before attempting to go out from her hiding place.
“I was, but because of its size it’ll be another five minutes before it gets here. The SG-88’s are above us right now though, one for each mech here.” Checky answered, no doubt doing a final systems check himself.
“All units, this is Goddess; make what preparations you need, we begin in 30 seconds.”
“This is sniper unit, I have a clear shot on Clytemnestra, do we proceed?”
“This is Goddess; negative. She requires a different approach. Concentrate your fire on the Shadow Knights and the Chaos beasts.” A swirl of winds and bursts of mana flared around every single person as spells, abilities and weapons were readied standing ready in anticipation for the word.
“3… 2… 1… GO!” Almost before the word had left Cygnus’ mouth, all the foot soldiers began to move through the courtyard of Ereve, silently creeping through the grass to hear anything that would come at them when a great shadow passed over head.
“What was that?” a ninja asked to Jack, looking around for whatever could have made the shadow.
“Trouble.” Jack replied, clenching his fist when he turned and grabbed the ninja, diving away from where Zakeros came crashing down on them, laughing in a chorus of voices.
“What made you think that you could so easily come here??” he asked, fire already brewing in the throats of four heads.
“YOU KNOW THE ANSWER TO THAT!” a battle mage shouted, quickly being detoured when Baroq, Skeleth, and Pink Bean renamed Archen all landed in the courtyard. A dense air began filling the walls, breaking down the soldiers will to fight when Dureau shot through the ranks, slamming into Skeleth hard enough that part of his chest caved under the weight of the hit. That hit alone broke the hold the other three had over the soldiers. Zakeros turned from seeing Skeleth injured, spewing a wall of flames in return, obliterating the few soldiers that were too far forward for Vondra to protect from the flames.
With a sweep of her hand, she, Olsen and the remaining ninja cracked a vial of poison over their weapons, charging the beasts in blurs of color, focusing their attacks on Archen. Matthew and Jack along with Dumia, Patricia, the Battle Mages and Mecha pilots focused their attention on Zekeros. Dureau drew the attention of Phantom leading the archers, and a few elemental mages against Skeleth. Baroq stood with an almost disappointed look on his face that no one was coming after him when a searing pain grazed his head.
“Don’t worry demon, we haven’t forgotten about you.” Luminous said with a dark grin, he and the Empress Knights charging for him. Both Mihile and Luminous unleashed a bright attack, slamming Baroq back when he crossed his arms to block it. Hawkeye and Oz both charged after him, first Oz lighting his fur ablaze, followed by Hawkeye hitting him hard in the chest, thunder rolling through the hills for a long time after.
Luminous teleported to the ground running, light blazing on his staff while Mihile and the other knights followed after him. Plumes of flames thundered over their heads from the Blaze Wizards which was caught by Irena and the Wind Archers, using their winds to engulf Baroq in a funnel of flames. Luminous right eye became dark as he reached for his shadow magic, hurling his great sphere of energy into the swirling inferno making Baroq howl in pain. Luminous was about to charge forward when Eckhart appeared before him, stopping him.
“WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THIS?!” He shouted, when Zakeros could be seen flying through the air, colliding with Baroq and igniting both of their skins.
“That is what I wanted you to wait for.” Luminous huffed his thanks as Zakeros kicked off Baroq, clawing and digging his way back to the ones he had been battling. All of his heads slung forward and a wall of flames burst from them, tuning the ground before him into glass. Jack reached back for his pistols, arms glowing bright red as he pulled the triggers making an icy hurricane force wind erupt from them. The two forces met with a loud blast of thunder and steam, dissipating the flames.
Zakeros, hauled his heads back into the air, readying to breathe another wall of fire when large shadows passed over him, making him swallow the fire in his throat, hearing loud metallic crashes behind the wall of steam. Clanks and clicks echoed from the other side making Zakeros turn his heads in wonder, trying to figure out what could be coming. Then, all sound ceased from the other side of the cloud for a brief time until a bank of missiles punched through the cloud and slammed into Zakeros body, hurling him back again. All the Mecha Pilots rolled through the cloud strapped to the SG-88 armor, taking aim as Zakeros once more and firing their cannons as he charged.
Just as Zakeros charged, a sheet of ice raced across the ground followed by Skeleth being thrown through spears of ice that had grown from the ground. Dureau shot into the air high above the Hydra before beating his wings hard and driving the top of his mace into his gut. Black power shot through his decomposing body into the ground where black spires shot up, ripping even more flesh from Skeleth’s body.
Something made the hairs on the back of Dueau’s neck stand on end, leaping out of the way as Genesis Light beams pummeled Skeleth hard, pushing him into the soft earth below. As soon as the light ceased, enormous pillars or violet colored ice charged from the ground, wrapping around Skeleth’s body and holding him down. Dureau looked back to see Helen standing at the entrance of the castle with Hilla crouched beside her.
“You would think that someone with such a high level sacred abilities would be a little more carful where she aims her beams!” one of the elemental mages shouted and she and few other were readying a powerful, multi mage fire spell.
“You would think that someone who just saved your sorry butt would be…”
“Calm thy spirit Hilla, for we are still within the heat of battle.” Helen answered, putting and arm under her to help her to her feet, teleporting away to another location. Phantom took the opportunity given to them by Helen, drawing a card and hurling it forward as a giant knight brought his sword down hard on Skeleth, splitting him in half. Dureau felt something begin to emanate from the body. He began streaking around where all the mages and Phantom were, pulling them to a safe distance when beams of black shot into the air like a mushroom cloud.
“What was that?!” Phantom asked, watching as the cloud grew over the skies and darkened the area to twilight.
“It was evil, that’s all I know what to call it.” Dureau replied. Across the way he could see Luminous battling against Baroq, pummeling him with bolts of light, followed by blades of light, fire, shadows, lightning and winds. Baroq swung his arm through the ground, sweeping a dozen of the Empress’ Knight’s students away. He was bringing his arm down again, when Mihile streaked through the air, bringing his sword down hard and cutting through his thick forearm. Baroq howled, sweeping his remaining good arm at him only to have that one blow off in a blaze of flames by Oz and her students.
Black ooze dropped to the ground in rivers as he stood for a moment to regain his composure when Hawkeye bolted through the front line. His body partially changed into the creature that he was, slamming his fist hard enough into the giant that it sounded like thunder. Baroq tried to correct his fall by beating his wings as hard as he could, but that was soon met by him seeing Luminous falling onto him with a giant black and white sword. It drove through his head and was pushed down to his neck before lopping off his head. Dureau felt the same great evil begin to emanate from Baroq as had Skeleth as soon as he had finished with the move.
“LUMINOUS! GET EVERYONE AWAY FROM…” But by the time Luminous heard him calling, it was too late: Baroq’s body began seeping black something into the air. Luminous slammed the end of his staff down, creating a bubble shield around Baroq’s body, but the evil that was coming from it was more than he could handle. He struggled to keep it within his barrier when it suddenly became easier.
“What… are you… doing?! Get going!” a straining voice said. Without further question, he and those around him ran as fast as they could away. When Luminous turned around to see who it was that had told him to get going, he could see Hilla and Helen both trying to contain the evil that was leaking from his body. In the distance, he could hear the sounds of hard battle going on, seeing the giant SG-88 Mecha fighting against Zekeros. Their giant fists slammed into each head that came to them, batting them away giving the battle mages and Jack the room needed to pummel his body. Then with a hard roll of thunder, two of the Mecha slammed their fists into Zekeros body and sent him flying through the air towards where Helen and Hilla who were still trying to contain and diffuse the power.
Luminous leaned into his run teleporting to where they stood, then teleporting them away just and Zekeros body came crashing down onto Baroq and the power within him erupted forth. Zekeros could be heard howling as beams of black shot through his body, melting his very bones as they shot into the sky. The cloud then doubled as Zekeros own body erupted into a black cloud, darkening the skies to near nighttime.
Archen doubled over for a moment when Olsen and Vondra both crossed his path and split his rotting skin. Olsen’s students hurled huge shuriken at him, slamming into his body with enough force to drive him back. With a look of hatred, his eyes he spread his tiny fat arms wide as most of the wounds on his body quickly healed. A student rushed forward, drawing his kunai as he flashed by only to tumble to a stop, finding that his side was cut open and bleeding badly.
“What happened?!” another student asked when Archen held up his hand towards another one, instantly making him stand to a stiff attention then awkwardly draw his dagger and rush towards the first student.
“INCOMING!” the student yelled, giving the first student enough time to roll out of the way just in time.
“Skeleth, Zekeros and Baroq may have been fools enough to let themselves be defeated for a third time, but I will not be so foolish!” Archen squeaked, throwing his hand towards another group, instantly putting them into a stiff attention position.
“I will survive! I will be the one to ensure that…” in flash of red light, something darted past Archen, splitting his side and spewing his soupy and rotting innards to the ground. Archen looked to his side in surprise, releasing his hold on the students. Flashes of green light speared through his body and exploded on contact with the ground sending him flipping through the sky. A streak of red light flashed over him, forcing him back to the ground with a roll of thunder, when a huge beam of hot violet energy pummeled him from the skies.
Finally, a streak of hot pink shot past his sizzling body and cut him completely through until Lillianne could be seen jumping through the air and bringing her axe down hard. Ice erupted all around, encasing his body just as the energy within him began to erupt, caught in the ice as it expanded.
“That’s just what I would expect from The Guardians.” Vondra said, tending to the wounds of the student who had his attack reflected back at him. Checky walked forward, opening the canopy to his mech as he spun down the SG-88 it was attached to.
“Alright, listen up. We can’t stop here; those of you that are injured or don’t have enough mana to continue, stay just outside the courtyard of the castle. Those of you that aren’t wounded but are low on or have no mana left, please help those that are wounded, rest and replenish your mana. We may need you later. Those of you that are still fine with going on in battle, assemble on me and prepare to move forward.” He called. Their force of soldiers was reduced by a quarter, most of them with minor injuries or out of mana. Cygnus walked through the crowd, touching some of those that refused to have their minor injuries treated and healed them.
“What’s the status Checky?”
“Those of us that you see here are ready to move forward.” Checky announced as Cygnus turned to the group and nodded.
“Regroup and be ready to move out in 1 minute.” She called, as the bustle of preparation surrounded her calmed her nerves, relieved that there were no deaths as of yet. Though that could very well change as they moved on.
Clytemnestra passed her hand over her mirror and dismissed the image of the battle she had watched going on in the courtyard.
“Master, what shall we do now that the Chaos Beasts have been destroyed?” Irena asked, turning back to the other knights as they came into the room.
“You shall be the next line of defense. Keep them away from the world cannon at all costs. It is almost ready to fire once more.” She commanded as the knights bowed and turned to leave the room. She turned back to the mirror once again, feeling a waiver of her grip on the real Clytemnestra within her mind.
“No, you can’t come out yet.” she thought, smiling to herself as she walked to the balcony and watched the soldiers slowly moving forward.