ANNO DOMINI ~Allium~ [Beta version]
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BOOK 1, CHAPTER 21: PRIMARY FEATURE: WEAPON
“I hope you’re convinced now.” Robbie spit on the ground next to where Erik was lying. “This is pointless. Ain’t no point.”
The expression of despair built itself upon Erik’s face. He didn’t cry, but his anguish was very apparent as he choked back his insults.
Something caught Chris’s eye. Glancing, Chris felt his heartrate speed up. The aura of Erik’s diseased nebula was thick, blotting out the sunset as the advent of nighttime enhanced the imposing darkness. Even so, Chris could swear he saw something move ….
“No.” Erik’s voice was practically warbling and liquid at that point. “This … w-will … not be how … it ends.”
“Come and get it, then!” Bret said provokingly. “We’ll beat you down as many times as it takes!”
Robbie pinned Erik’s arm to the ground. “Grab him, Chris! Hold him.”
The yellow-green shine from Erik’s grimy IV pole pierced through the foul haze, pumping the insidious contents of the fastened bag into his body at an alarming rate, causing his connected blood vessels to swell from the gush of fluid.
Chris, Robbie, and Bret were unable to prevent the upheaval of evilness that erupted from Erik. They were knocked off their feet as a concussive blast dug up the earth surrounding the sickly boy. As the diseases penetrated every molecule of his being, the army of non-biological microorganisms fused themselves with his very soul, greatly widening the gate between himself and the unforgiving abyss that contained the source of his unholy powers.
When the final drop from the IV pole was emptied into his bloodstream, Erik severed the connected arteries with his teeth, and they entered back into the wound on his wrist before the opening was sealed with a puss-filled boil that quickly healed and vanished without a scar. He held his now-unrestrained IV pole as a twisted grin writhed across his face.
Chris, Robbie, and Bret regrouped, fearing the tide had turned. Erik sneered at them with a less-than-human visage that barely masked the waning guilt that inconveniently persisted. Yet, the red tint in his pupils was more pronounced now, and not a shred of hospitality could be found in his appearance.
“How?” Erik asked to nobody in particular. “Just h-how? I never w-would have thought … this would f-feel so good ….” He examined his free hand, which was grossly pale and corpse-like at that point, covered in clamminess and lacking any warmth. “Ha … haha … hahaahaaaa! Yes! This is right. A-all as it should b-be. In-d-deed it is ….”
Bret gritted his teeth.
“What is this about?” He swallowed hard, trying to gulp down his fright.
“Chris,” Robbie said shakily, “this is bad. I mean, can’t you feel that?”
Chris knew exactly what Robbie was referring to.
“I can,” Chris replied quietly. “Negative energy.” The terrifying sensations washed over him as Erik’s hazy aura began to blacken and flow around them in currents.
“So, it all makes s-sense to me now,” Erik chuckled. “This power, it’s f-from a place that n-normally can’t be touched by h-humans.”
The stutter in his voice didn’t appear to come from nervousness, as he now behaved very adamantly and confidently, facing his three opponents. Was he unstable due to the sudden power increase? Did he usually stutter? Or was he still nervous, as if some pinprick of humanity still swam inside him somewhere?
“I was already aware of that,” Chris told Erik, holding back his own nervousness, but his sweating was a giveaway. “It’s a shame, Erik.”
“Huh? What’s a sh-shame?”
Sorrow weighed down on Chris as he brought his gaze into Erik’s, saying, “It’s a shame that you’d use these powers as a curse and not as a blessing.”
Erik coughed up an acidic bile that turned the grass beneath him to dust. Wiping his mouth, he gave Chris a dumbfounded look.
“I’m not the cursed one,” he replied wheezily. “I-I am strong. I am powerful!” He held the glowing IV pole close to his chest. “The other side … it’s s-speaking t-to me. Its secrets. Its wisdom. And i-it’s doing this all for me. It’s here to h-help me. But you!” He thrust a clammy finger at the three boys. “You three are against m-me!”
“I think your damn brain is rotting!” Bret retorted. “I ain’t no genius, but I know a dumbass blabbering on when I hear one.”
Ignoring Bret, Erik continued. His eyes moved to each of his opponents, the red glint in his pupils very visible through the gloomy aura.
“I h-have the ability now to make everyone suffer as I did. At first, I didn’t th-think I wanted that. But n-now I know that this desire was deep inside me. It’s m-my truest wish. And these p-powers … they’re the manifestation of my wish.”
“That’s a really twisted view, man,” Robbie said. “Do you even know what you’re saying?”
“I know exactly w-what I’m saying,” Erik replied curtly. “You’re the ones who don’t understand.” He squeezed the empty, gritty bag fastened to the top of his IV pole. “The diseases in this pouch were the second stage of my powers, a k-kind of mutated and evolved version of the original d-disease I was spreading across Ch-Chicago. I think the diseases g-give me s-strength, and the more I’m i-infected, the stronger I become!”
“You think that’s how it works?” Robbie laughed mockingly and shook his head. “And you said all these secrets are being shared with you, huh?”
“Erik, you’re out of your mind!” Chris shouted angrily. “Hurting people is not a blessing! It’s not a good thing! What you’re doing is wrong, Erik!”
“Ha, whatever,” Erik muttered with a grin. “This is how it sh-should be. Always sick, and now it m-makes me stronger instead of weaker. And now everyone can know what it’s l-like to s-suffer.” The red glint in his eyes flashed toward the three boys. “It’s … superb.”
Something caught Chris’s attention again, but not because he saw anything. Glancing behind him, it was as if he felt something watching them through the haze. He opened his mouth to mention it to the others, but was interrupted.
“I’ve had it!” Bret growled, pounding his fist into his other hand. “I’ve heard and seen and done some pretty sick shit in my days, but you’re crossing a line. I can’t have that, not in my city. Kiss your ass goodbye, Erik!”
Erik’s IV pole began to glow brighter as he charged his energy. The black aura churned and blew around, signifying Erik’s growing influence over the area. As his energy levels persistently climbed, a fever began to comfort his lifeless coldness. It was truly the most vitality he had ever possessed, and his body began to tremble with joy.
The atmosphere was virulent. The nasty energy was encircling the area, riding on winds of no definite origin. The defensive thresholds protecting Chris, Robbie, and Bret from infection were about to be reached. It was now or never, Chris knew, to use his trump card.
Holding out his hand, Gunnhildr appeared in Chris’s grasp. The sights were set on Erik as the trigger was gripped. An absolving bullet was the final line of defense, and there was just one shot.
Suddenly, Erik unleashed an omnidirectional blast of energy. As the environment was damaged, the three boys were thrown away. Gunnhildr flew out of Chris’s hand, landing out of his reach as he fell to the ground. At that moment, Chris realized he couldn’t summon nor dismiss the holy handgun while it was already out and not in his hand. He scrambled across the upturned lawn to grab it, but another blast from Erik caused him to tumble, disorienting him with pain and dizziness.
Hurrying to his feet, Chris looked up in time to see Erik soaring down at him, holding his IV pole over his head and ready to strike. Acting quickly, Chris held his phone out and blocked the attack. The force nearly pushed him back down, and Erik’s surprisingly fast recovery earned Chris a solid blow to the chest from Erik’s lance-like thrust, knocking him to the ground.
Robbie and Bret charged at Erik, but they were swatted away with a single swipe of Erik’s weapon. Not only had his strength increased, but his mobility had improved due to his disconnection from the pole.
Chris staggered as he stood, and Erik immediately attacked, avoiding the indestructible phone and striking Chris on the arm. Thinking his arm had been broken, Chris’s phone slipped from his hand as he grunted in pain.
Bret charged at Erik again and threw a punch, hitting Erik in the side. However, his body felt more rigid and heavier. Instead of being lifted off the ground by Bret’s fist, Erik flinched and attempted to attack, but Bret landed another solid punch directly to Erik’s nose. Regaining his composure from the strike, Erik nimbly swung his weapon and hit Bret’s right shoulder before another punch could be thrown.
Given both Bret’s position and Erik’s unguarded right side, Bret seized the opportunity to perform his favorite secret move that often got him through any back alley brawl.
Bret hopped no more than an inch off the ground, very quickly repositioning his right foot forward and left foot backward. As soon as both feet touched the ground, he swung his left foot into an upward kick that struck Erik’s right abdomen. The beauty of his follow-through and natural affinity to the attack paired amazingly with his powers, as Erik took the full force of the devastating strike. It looked as if Bret had kicked a ragdoll as Erik was punted across the ground.
“The one damn Muay Thai move I know, and it always works!” Bret rubbed his right shoulder that ached from Erik’s attack. “Grr, that hurt.”
Robbie attacked Erik with a series of punches, trading blows before Bret intervened. Together, they still had trouble against Erik as they landed multiple hits. Although the sickly boy lacked fighting techniques, his powers and strength were great enough to reduce any damage received, all while increasing the damage of what few attacks he was able to land. Even so, the advantage was still in Erik’s favor.
From afar, Chris massaged his sore arm, confirming it wasn’t broken, but the pain suggested a possible fracture as the discoloration of a bruise formed on the skin. Wanting to get back into the fight, he snatched up Gunnhildr and dismissed it, deciding to seek another opening to fire an absolving bullet.
“Christopher? Can you hear me, Christopher?”
The voice calling out was unmistakable.
“Excalibur!” Chris rushed over to his phone resting in the grass. “Excalibur, that’s you, right?” He picked up his phone and saw a screen he was unfamiliar with, which looked like a home screen for an app, supposedly part of the update for the Excalibur A.I. app.
“Yes, it is I,” Excalibur said, speaking as formally and unemotionally as usual. “I have installed a new update, which contains many new features. However, your current situation is urgent, so I will present to you my primary feature to use.”
“It’s the main purpose of my existence,” Excalibur explained. “Your weapon.”
With those words, a sudden instinct barged into Chris’s mind. Like a familiar activity or long lost intuition, Chris held his phone out in front of him. From the top of the phone, a large, holographic, leaf-shaped sword blade emerged. It was white and had a very slight static, white noise appearance. However, Chris touched the blade and felt it was physical and not an illusion or projection.
The smartphone, being sleek in its design, did not make the best handle for such a sword. However, the activation of the app’s sword function seemed to glue the sword to Chris’s hand, and he somehow understood he could not drop it unless desired.
Erik smacked Bret across the face with his grimy weapon before spearing Robbie in the stomach, then noticed the new weapon Chris was holding. Confused, he didn’t know what to make of the sight. From the ground, both Robbie and Bret looked at Chris.
Everyone saw the steadfast expression on Chris’s face, and they saw the formidable Excalibur blade being wielded with determination. On top of that, they all could feel a swell of power, warm and comforting, which emanated from Chris himself.
With the blade in his right hand, Chris moved his right arm across his chest so the blade pointed behind him by his left shoulder. He swung it horizontally, taking note of how fast the motion was. A horizontal wave of energy was expelled from the swing, cutting through the ill aura, pushing it back and temporarily negating it.
This was the cure to Erik’s cursed disease.
“The blade is equipped with directional assistance,” Excalibur explained to Chris, “and will accelerate its movement, which will increase your attack speed and attack momentum. The blade possesses no weight of its own, making the sword the same weight as your smartphone. Also, the blade comes in a full spectrum of colors for your customization pleasures.”
“Excellent,” Chris replied with a smirk. He stared at Erik and boldly pointed the leaf-shaped sword at him. “So, this is why your name is ‘Excalibur’.”