ANNO DOMINI ~Allium~
Here I am, miles from home, sitting in my hotel room using the free Wi-Fi so I can use the internet on my laptop. I'm essentially taking a mini vacation to focus on writing and reading for a couple days ... but that's not important here.
So thank you for reading, and I hope you enjoy! And if you do enjoy this, then slap that "Like" button into submission -- it's good for your badge ranking. ;) And if you wanna leave a comment, I'll be happy to reply the best I can -- it's also REALLY good for your badge ranking. XD
BOOK 1, CHAPTER 5: A TEST OF STRENGTH
Chris and Robbie took seats on a bench, not knowing what to do or what to say. The boys had just received the news of their lives, just to be turned loose in the wild with Lavi’s monumental words resting on their shoulders. Although it was relieving for Chris to learn why his deepest, most subconscious feelings existed and had guided him in the direction he had followed his entire life, it was completely different for Robbie.
Robbie had no prerequisite, as far as he knew, for his meeting with Lavi. The knowledge of the angel’s existence continued to shake him, occupying his mind to a nearly paranoid caliber. At that very moment, the park bench on which he sat was a sort of sanctuary, an excuse for not getting back to his feet. From Robbie’s perspective, he had been thrown into a situation outside of his control and without his consent.
“Hey, Robbie.” Chris looked around Revere Park as the overcast clouds thickened in the sky, making the area darker and gloomier.
“Everyone sure got out of here quick,” Chris said. “Just a moment ago, weren’t there a bunch of people here?”
Robbie examined the area.
“Yeah, everyone cleared out,” he said. “It looks like that baseball game is over. Everyone must’ve just gone home.”
“True,” Chris said, looking around more, “but there’s nobody here.” An eerie quietness enclosed around the boys … a pronounced solitude. “You’d figure there’d be some stragglers still hanging around, but there’s no one.”
“Huh, maybe,” Robbie replied, not quite understanding what Chris was getting at. “I don’t see what the problem is, though.”
“No problem, really,” Chris said quietly. “I don’t know. Maybe I’m just paranoid, or something.”
“That makes two of us.” Robbie gripped his gym bag on the bench next to him. “I’m gonna get going, man. I need some time to let … stuff soak in, ya know?”
The boys stood up to walk off. However, they didn’t make it very far before they were stopped. Right in front of them, a young boy in a baggy, uniquely-designed gray hoodie appeared from thin air. Al had intercepted them, disengaging his invisibility magic to show himself to the boys.
“Hi there!” Al greeted with a toothy grin while making a peace sign with his hand. Chris and Robbie both jumped, catching their voices before screaming out loud from the shock. “Sorry for the sudden entrance, but I had to get your attention!”
Chris and Robbie stared at Al with their mouths open.
“W-who are you?” Robbie demanded, pointing at Al. “Where the hell did you come from?”
“Sweden,” Al replied, still grinning.
After Chris’s heartrate returned to normal, he asked, “Did you just teleport here? You just appeared out of nowhere!”
“Ha! No, I didn’t teleport,” Al said, rubbing his nose. “I was using invisibility magic. Pretty good, huh? It’s my own spell, not based off an established formula.”
In a desperate act to retain his sanity, Robbie laughed, as if keeping himself from crying. On the other hand, it was an opportunity for Chris to learn about the life he had been catapulted into.
“Are you here because of Lavi?” Chris asked Al. “Maybe we can talk about this situation with you here.”
Al became confused.
“Who’s Lavi? And I don’t know what situation you’re talking about.”
“Uh, Leon Kampton.”
“No idea.” Al shook his head. “But, here’s the thing. I’m here to take care of business, and I’m kinda dealing with a time limit.”
Robbie stopped laughing while Chris looked at Al questioningly.
“What business do you have with us?” Chris asked, his suspicions rising.
With a toothy grin, Al answered, “We’re here to whoop ya both!”
Chris and Robbie exchanged glances.
“‘We’?” Robbie asked. “But there’s only one of you.”
“Robbie,” Chris whispered. He wore a serious look. “It’s possible that his friends could also be invisible.”
That realization struck Robbie, who suddenly became more alert. His body was still conditioned from basketball practice, and although he wasn’t a fighter, he felt as if he had an athletic advantage over an attacker. However, they were surprised by Al’s reaction.
“Huh? What?” Al glanced around in all directions, then scoffed. “Dammit, where’d that nun go?”
“So, you’re alone, after all,” Chris said with a smirk. His body began to feel different, as if faster and stronger, but he was unsure if it was the powers Lavi had mentioned or just adrenaline.
This could be tricky, Chris thought. I don’t know what I’m up against here. To make it worse, I don’t know anything about my powers, and I don’t know much about Gunnhildr … other than it isn’t really a weapon. Whatever happens, I’ll have to be ready for it, even if it means running away. Good thing there aren’t any people around.
Al spit on the ground and shrugged.
“Oh well. I can handle this on my own. I’ll prove how worthy I am.”
“You’re pretty confident,” Robbie called out.
“I don’t know what you’re up to,” Chris said, flexing his fingers, ready to wield Gunnhildr at any moment, “but don’t think we don’t have ways of defending ourselves.”
“Don’t worry,” Al said, doing warmup stretches, “this isn’t a fight to the death. I’m supposed to see how strong you guys are, that’s all. Orders from my superiors, and stuff.”
“Who sent you, then?” Chris asked. He was actually rather curious.
“You wouldn’t understand,” Al told him, doing more stretches, “and I’m not really allowed to say too much.”
“Hey, Chris,” Robbie said impatiently. “Let’s just knock this punk out and get it over with.”
Chris was opposed to violence, but Al was beginning to annoy him to the point of getting physical.
“I’m cool with that,” Chris said in agreement.
The two advanced toward Al, ready to subdue him through force.
“Whoa! I’m not ready,” Al said. “I’m not done stretching yet.” When Chris and Robbie didn’t stop, the young boy smirked and stood up straight. “Alright, I see. If that’s how it’s gonna be, then let’s get this started!”
Al reached into his hoodie pocket and removed an ornate yo-yo. The butterfly-style body was ruby red and had the same symbol that made the pendant on his cheap, plastic necklace. With a confident smile, Al played with it, throwing it down and catching it on its way back up while staring at Chris and Robbie. As the body spun, it glowed a deep ruby color.
Without warning, Al lunged forward with a single wide swing of the yo-yo, smacking Robbie on the side of the face with it.
“Gah!” Robbie exclaimed in pain, holding his cheek. “He hit me with a frickin’ yo-yo!”
Seeing how Al was poised for another strike, Chris quickly summoned Gunnhildr. Gripping the holy handgun, he decided it was time to use the weapon against his first attacker. Wishing with all his might to fire an absolving bullet, he wrapped his finger around the trigger while aiming it directly at Al. If Lavi was correct, then the absolving bullet would be nonlethal and wouldn’t harm the target.
Seeing the gun, Al panicked, his yo-yo string slacking and losing tension.
“You have a gun!” he shouted. “No way!”
Hesitantly, Chris pulled the trigger. Rather than a bang, there was a soft puff sound accompanied by a silvery flash coming out of Gunnhildr’s barrel as a quick laser-like beam. The absolving bullet struck Al in the abdomen, who flinched.
There was a stillness as everyone watched. However, nothing happened. Clutching his stomach, Al slowly understood there hadn’t been any effect.
“I-I’m okay,” he said, rubbing his abdomen. He looked at Chris angrily. “What did you do to me?”
Chris didn’t want to admit he had no clue as to what had just happened. He was disappointed the absolving bullet had been a failure, so he aimed the gun again and pulled the trigger, but there was no response from the gun.
In fact, Gunnhildr suddenly felt different. The holy handgun looked the same as it always had, but the difference didn’t seem to be a physical trait, such as weight or texture, but more instinctive. Had he used it up already? Or was Al not an evil or impure person, meaning the absolving bullets would have no effect?
Robbie stared at Chris wide-eyed. He had just witnessed somebody get shot, but the result was the most startling aspect. Al appeared unfazed, albeit confused.
“Looks like whatever you tried to do failed,” Al said cockily. “I can see it on your face.”
He threw his yo-yo down, sleeping it by making it spin continually at the bottom of the string inches above the ground. With his other hand, he aimed his open palm at the spinning yo-yo with a look of concentration on his face. Just then, Chris and Robbie’s feet began to feel hot. In horror, they noticed the grass beneath them shriveled up, started to smoke, and then caught on fire. They scrambled out of the flames before their shoes ignited.
Seeing his opponents’ reactions, Al swung his yo-yo into the air and spun it around his head. The flames swirled around and spread rapidly, and Chris shielded his eyes from the heat. Even though the flames only lasted a few seconds, the heat was painful and singed his clothes.
Sleeping his yo-yo again, Al charged up another fire attack. Chris noticed, swiftly charged at Al with surprising speed, and pistol-whipped the young boy on the head with Gunnhildr. That immediately stopped Al’s attack.
“O-ho, nice one!” Al rubbed his head while giving Chris a patronizing smirk.
Robbie jumped at Al with a tight fist, but Al swung his yo-yo and wrapped the string around Robbie’s arm. With a quick tug, he yanked Robbie to the ground, cutting his arm with the sharper-than-expected string, which had the consistency of a fishing line.
With Gunnhildr dismissed, Chris swung at Al with a punch, but Al used his free hand to create an energy barrier to push the attack back. Robbie was already on his feet, freed himself from the yo-yo string, moving faster than he imagined he could, and used a flying kick on the young boy. A surge of energy pulsed through Robbie’s legs and exited his feet on contact, sending Al flying back and tumbling across the grass.
Al smirked with satisfaction while lying on the ground.
“Yup,” he said, “that wasn’t a normal kick, alright.”
As the young boy picked himself up, more feelings of empowerment filled Chris’s chest, eventually pushing itself upward into his head. With a deep breath, his vision seemed to focus and lock onto Al.
Gunnhildr might have been useless, but a swelling intuition began to speak to Chris from beyond the human world, telling him a weapon was not necessary for victory. Astral and ethereal whispers were sharing secrets, bypassing the concept of language and implanting themselves directly into his cognitive operations.
Without reasoning, without understanding, without the shackles of physical restraints and the walls and ceilings of time, Chris moved. He moved with unprecedented quickness, arriving at the spot directly in front of Al before anybody could perceive the action. Before the uprooted grass upended from Chris’s speed could begin falling back to the earth, he was already driving his fist into Al’s abdomen.
The young boy, who had eaten less than an hour before the encounter, didn’t have time to feel the half-digested macaroni and cheese with bacon bits and dinosaur-shaped noodles threaten to expel itself from his mouth, for he was already soaring through the air. The disorientation of spiraling horizontally over the ground had rendered him helpless, and as he rolled and bounced upon impact with the grass, he pondered the insane speed at which Chris had moved and the force of his barehanded strike.
Perhaps it was mercy, although there was fear and doubt mixed in as well, but Chris held back. He watched Al stumble against gravity to get back to his feet. The last thing he wanted to do was kill or maim unnecessarily. After his last attack, his fist was humming with energy and strength, which actually worried him. According to Lavi, Chris was not a destroyer, and that was something Chris wished for deeply.
Flustered and determined to continue, Al brandished his yo-yo. He performed a series of complex tricks, tossing the butterfly-style body and catching it with the string. While doing so, the air began to blow with blustery ambition.
Robbie could follow the movements of the yo-yo, something he had become familiar with a couple years prior when he attempted yo-yo competitions for fun. He quickly understood Al’s actions with the glowing, ruby toy had an influence on the nearby environment. When correlating the yo-yo tricks with the environmental effects, Robbie could partially predict what Al was doing.
While Chris remained inactive and hesitant, Robbie took the chance to counter Al’s next attack. Al swung the yo-yo, creating a powerful blast of air that pushed Robbie back. Anchoring himself to the ground with a stable stance, Robbie persisted through the wind and approached Al. When the distance was closed, Al swung his yo-yo to directly strike Robbie. However, Robbie had predicted it and dodged the attack, then threw a punch. Another surge of energy came from his fist this time and hit Al before his knuckles had a chance to collide.
Not falling over, Al attacked with his yo-yo again, but Robbie dodged and delivered an identical energy-blast punch, which Al managed to avoid. The two engaged in close-quarters combat. Both opponents took some damage, but Chris quickly intervened and turned the tables in his and Robbie’s favor. Not wanting to receive another one of Chris’s powerful punches, Al fell back and took the defensive.
This is unexpected, Al thought, wiping the sweat from his forehead and the blood from his busted lip. These two really are something else. I may be just a scout, but they’re actually holding their own. That nun wasn’t wrong about them, and that could spell trouble for me. I just have to keep pushing, though. I need to see what they’re capable of.
“You clowns aren’t half bad!” Al shouted with a smirk. “Keep it up!”
“Shut up, kid!” Robbie yelled. “If you keep attacking, then so will we.”
Chris didn’t want to admit Robbie was right. He was upset it had to come to violence, but he was also confused by what Al had told them earlier. It wasn’t supposed to be a fight to the death, so what was it, then?
“Let’s just stop,” Chris said. “There’s no point to this.”
“Ah, that’s where you’re wrong,” Al said. “There is, in fact, a huge point to this.”
“Then tell me what it is.” Chris was irritated by Al’s lack of explanation.
“Um, I can’t just do that,” Al said with a shrug. “Not yet, at least. Show me what you’ve got, and maybe I’ll talk.”
Robbie groaned and looked at Chris for an answer. Chris had nothing else to say.
Al attacked with a quick swing of his ruby red yo-yo, but Robbie managed to dodge and throw a punch again, which Al avoided. Robbie used his arm to block a downward swing from the toy, which wasn’t as painful as he had expected. The two of them continued with more melee attacks, but Robbie was proving to be a worthy contender, although he was beginning to ache from blocking the swings he couldn’t dodge.
“There’s no point, kid,” Robbie said after he dodged yet another attack. “I know your attacks, and I know your weapon.”
“And that’s where you’re wrong again,” Al replied smugly. He threw his yo-yo down and let it sleep while it spun at the end of its string, and its ruby red body glowed ominously. “Tell me, what is happening with my bandalore right now?”
“Your what?” Robbie asked. “It’s a yo-yo.”
“Same thing!” Al barked. “I call it a bandalore.”
Robbie sneered. “You’re using a toy as a weapon. How bunk are you, kid?”
“I’m not a kid! And here’s a fun fact, dumbass: the bandalore was used in the Philippines as a weapon for over four hundred years!”
“He’s right, you know,” Chris added.
“Whatever,” Robbie muttered, irritated. “Anyway, you’re just sleeping it, keeping it spinning at the end of the string like that.”
Al laughed, amused by Robbie’s answer.
“Close, but not quite right,” he said mischievously. “It’s true that I’m sleeping it, but look closer.”
“What is it?” Chris asked firmly. “Spit it out.”
“Most modern yo-yos, as you call them, are fitted with ball bearings to reduce friction and to keep them spinning longer,” Al explained with a smug grin. “However, the higher end ones have special ball bearings designed for keeping them spinning longer by reducing friction even more.”
“And your point?” Robbie grunted.
“Mine is fitted with super special ball bearings,” Al said. “They have magical energy embedded within, providing extra energy to completely counteract any friction and lost momentum from the kinetic and centrifugal forces.” His grin gnarled into a sinister expression. “Not only is my weapon imbued with the coveted mechanics of pure perpetual energy, but it can actually generate its own energy and accelerate itself without any outside input.”
The ruby body of the spinning toy began to glow very brightly, shining with crimson, bloody radiance as it whistled from the increasing speed and gyrations. Without any apparent influence, Al’s yo-yo was spinning faster and faster, its sleeping position being filled with power.
“This could be bad,” Chris told Robbie quietly.
Robbie nodded nervously.
“Here goes my next move!” Al announced confidently. He twirled the whistling weapon over his head, and the energy output created a visible aura around him, a red and orange glow that appeared to be a thin, misty light as his body was filled with power. “This is one of my strongest attacks! Terra Geyser!”
Al slammed the yo-yo into the ground. Instantly, Chris and Robbie could feel the subsonic wail that was emitted, and the unnatural way the grass fluttered was a giveaway that something was coming. In less than a second, the very earth beneath Chris and Robbie erupted skyward with tremendous force, launching the two boys into the air in a flurry of dirt and gravel that appeared as a geyser of soil.
Chris’s mouth was tainted with the taste of dirt and his eyes were blotted. The pain from the blast was the least of his concern as the ground became farther away.
The young boy remained on the ground, watching his opponents get pushed ever higher by the rapid surge of earth. He took great pride in his Terra Geyser ability, a specialty that had allowed him into the ranks of his organization. It was an impressive ability that he had created himself from scratch at such a young age.
“Oh, boy,” he said proudly. “This should decide the fight right here. I even held way back. Guess I overdid it!” He laughed to himself as clods of dirt and rocks fell around him.
When Chris grasped the situation, he was already freefalling from high in the air. A nearby tree was underneath him, and he managed to cling to the upper branches, getting covered in scratches while he did so. Robbie had followed a similar path, tumbling through the same tree before getting his shirt caught on a branch close to the bottom.
From the high point of perspective, Chris could see the extent of Terra Geyser’s damage. A large crater was in the ground, and fresh dirt was strewn over the grass. It was rather frightening to behold, and Chris found it hard to believe what he was looking at.
“What just happened?” Robbie groaned from the branches below. He gazed out and saw the aftermath of Al’s attack. “Did that kid do all that?”
“He did,” Chris replied, still in awe.
“Ah, dammit.” Robbie freed himself and landed on his feet at the base of the tree.
Chris quickly made his way down and approached Robbie.
“We gotta stop this,” he said sternly. “If we keep this up, more destruction will happen.”
“Yeah, I don’t think that punk’ll listen,” Robbie said flatly, brushing the dirt and leaves from his clothes and hair.
“He made it sound like this isn’t a real fight,” Chris explained. “If we can figure out his motives, we can end this.”
“Not a real fight?” Robbie laughed at the absurd thought. “Just look at what he did! If that’s not due to a real fight, then what the hell are we getting into if a real fight does come along?” He grabbed Chris’s shoulder, leaning in. “I’m willing to bet that there are plenty more people out there like him. Chances are, some real bad stuff is bound to follow this ‘fake fight’ we’re having.”
Chris knew Robbie had a good point. Thinking about it briefly, he said, “I know, but I want to avoid as much of it as possible.”
Al couldn’t hear the conversation between Chris and Robbie, but they seemed to be plotting something.
What are they doing? Al thought. Still, I’m surprised that they didn’t have their legs broken from Terra Geyser. These two definitely aren’t normal people.
He walked over to Chris and Robbie, twirling his de-energized yo-yo while wearing a toothy grin.
“Good news, fellas,” he said, “you passed the first stage of the test!”
Chris shot Al a dirty look.
“What are you saying? I don’t care about some stupid test that you won’t explain to us.”
“Ooh, that’s cold,” Al replied. He seemed to be faking the fact he was offended.
“I don’t want to keep this up,” Chris said. “We’ve already caused enough damage.” He pointed toward the crater in the middle of the park. “Just tell us what you’re doing and who you are. It looks to me like your main goal isn’t to beat us in a fight.”
Al scratched his head.
“Well, yeah, you’re right,” he said. “Thing is, my orders are my orders. I need to test you two first, and if you pass, I’ll let you go.”
“And what if we don’t pass?” Robbie narrowed his eyes.
“Uh, then I’ll still let you go,” Al replied with a shrug and a grin.
Robbie sighed loudly.
“Fine, whatever. We’ll just knock you out. Will we pass if we do that?”
“Yup! That counts as a win for you.”
“What else counts as a win for us?” Chris asked.
“Come at me,” Al sneered, “and find out for yourself!”
He attacked with his yo-yo, but Robbie quickly deflected it with a well-timed slap.
“It’s useless, kid,” Robbie said. “I know your attack patterns.”
“Yeah, yeah, I know. But since you two passed stage one, it’s time to crank it up a notch!”
Nimbly and effortlessly, Al disassembled his ruby red yo-yo and swapped the body with an emerald green one. It still had the same emblem as Al’s necklace, and the shape of the body was rounder and more traditional, although similarly as ornate as the first body. How quickly he exchanged the parts was impressive, yet unsettling.
“Tell me,” he said mischievously, looking at Robbie and clutching his emerald green weapon, “what’s different about my bandalore?”
Robbie stared at the new weapon for a few seconds.
“You got rid of the butterfly shape, which was useful for string tricks because of the wider catch zone,” Robbie told him. “This new body is more traditional, which is ideal for looping … and keeping it in motion.”
“Very good!” Al was impressed by Robbie’s answer. “You’re familiar with these things, although I doubt you ever trained with them for combative purposes as I have.” He twirled the yo-yo in an extravagant display of skill and precision, his movements appearing more erratic at first, but in reality were very refined and calculated. As he caught the emerald body on the string and performed complicated tricks, he grinned sinisterly. “Also, this style of body is also decent for string tricks, so you can say that I just upped my game quite a bit without sacrificing all of the previous body’s capabilities. Pretty good, right?”
Chris and Robbie exchanged glances. They could see the confidence draining from each other’s faces as the whistling from Al’s green, glowing yo-yo grew louder.