Chapter 10:

Cutting In

To Know You

Maya didn’t hesitate to send a lightning powered punch to Stendle’s face, not wasting time to get the fight started. He twitched, stunned by her attack. Shane quickly followed her example, heart racing in his chest as he sent a blast after Riolet to prevent her from interfering, her axe already ready to come down on both of them.
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Shane had gotten the chance with Garrette to test out the limits of his firepower, and now that he was here, the fire blast he sent into the sky seemed even larger than the one he had produced before. Maybe it was because he wasn’t unconsciously afraid of ruining the environment or some of his reservations concerning his relationship with Maya had been cleared up, leaving little hesitation left. Bookmark here

Whatever the case, he could feel the heat of it on his skin even from here. Sensing the impending doom that the blast spelled out for her life if she was hit by it, Riolet did her best to dodge quickly. She managed, just barely, but the fire was so hot that even from the rough foot of difference between her total annihilation and safety, he had burned her ankle something fierce. She cried out in pain, as if she had been startled by sensation. Bookmark here

This was Shane’s own, “Hello.”Bookmark here

Shane took this brief reprieve in battle to check on Maya. He wasn’t interested in fighting an opponent that was already down for the count. Maya didn’t’ seem to have the same qualms, however, as she engaged in her battle with Stendle. He still looked angry at the interruption to his and Riolet’s fight but he could do little about it except swipe at Maya with his scythe like someone tried to level wheat in the fields.Bookmark here

He sent an energy wave from his scythe toward her, but Maya spun and created a tornado of lightning to repel it, both sources of energy clashing with each other before exploding. Bookmark here

“Stay out of this,” Stendle said after the magic settled, little particles of energy sprinkling down toward the ground as they remained suspended in the air. Bookmark here

“You’ve been ‘talking’ with her for centuries, you know? Centuries! I think it’s time for someone to cut in and offer a fresh perspective,” Maya said, creating a bow of lightning and raining bolts of light upon him.Bookmark here

Shane couldn’t pay them more than a few more moments of attention before Riolet was much more Riolet was bearing down on him, the force of her attack creating shockwaves. He blocked her axe with his armor, the ground underneath him breaking underneath the pressure of her attack. He gritted his teeth and looked up at her. “I’m here to stop this,” he said. “Gariel is worried about you two. “Bookmark here

“She should mind her business! I have a duty to my people, and I will not stop fighting until I see victory for them!”Bookmark here

“What are the names of your people?” he said, tossing her attack to the side with some effort. He launched a punch fueled by his flames right at her face and she went flying.Bookmark here

She spluttered, quickly applying emergency healing magic to the wound on her face, not that Shane would let her get away with it for longer than a second before he was bearing down on her again, their movements a flurry of parries and dodged strikes.Bookmark here

Shane was admittedly able to get in more hits than he expected, but he imagined that the reason for that was her lack of a new opponent for centuries. Bookmark here

“You’ve gotten unused to fighting but anyone but him, that’s why you’re getting hit so much.”Bookmark here

“Shut up,” she growled, landing a hit on him that had his vision blurring for a moment. She thrusted her axe into the side of his armor, and the living armor flared, seeming to cave in the slightest. Seconds later a reverberation was going through Shane’s body, causing him to still and giving her enough time to blast him in the face with an energy beam. Bookmark here

To repel it, without thinking, he opened his mouth and roared, a massive burst of blue flames repelling the beam and dispelling it. She put distance between them, eyes wide in shock. “Are you…a dragon?”Bookmark here

She sounded almost fearful, and Shane wasn’t sure exactly what his response should be. “Do I look like one to you?” Bookmark here

“Well, it would explain the power of your magic, and the strength you possess.”Bookmark here

Shane looked over at Maya, who was currently winning in her fight with Stendle. “I don’t know. Maya isn’t a dragon and she’s stronger than me. I don’t really think it makes much of a difference.”Bookmark here

She snorted, swinging her axe like a baton before readying her battle stance again. “Definitely a dragon, then. Only dragons would say such nonsense. You’re fighting a goddess as a mortal head-to-head, and you think this level of power isn’t anything abnormal? Both you and that girl are extraordinary.”Bookmark here

Extraordinary. There have been a lot of words used to describe Shane’s power, but extraordinary was not one of them. Shane felt a warmth blossom in his chest, and for the first time, it didn’t feel like an insult. Bookmark here

He grabbed her by the arms and smiled. “Thank you.” He spun her around once, twice, thrice, and threw her like he often did when fighting fish and other sea creatures.Bookmark here

She was set on a path to fall to her doom, hurtling headfirst into the ground, before Stendle managed to fend off Maya with a barrier and catch her. The momentum was too strong for him to stop though, and they both crashed into the pit like a fallen star.Bookmark here

Maya and Shane both followed them into the pit, Maya landing lightly on her feet while Shane shook the ground with his weight. “Stendle? Stendle!” Riolet called urgently, quickly righting herself and cradling his head. Bookmark here

He had his eyes closed as he winced at the damage that had been inflicted on him. “I’m fine, Riolet. What about you? Are you hurt?”Bookmark here

Tears filled her eyes. “It’s the first time I hear your voice in over a century, and that’s what you have to say?” She knocked her fist against his chest, as if to scold him. Bookmark here

Stendle didn’t seem to mind it though, his face merely curious as he asked, “Why are you surprised? We’ve been talking through our fight this whole time. You should be able to know what I’ll say even before I do.”Bookmark here

“I have to say, I’m surprised too,” Maya said, causing the both of them to remember where they were, both of them to tensing in response to her words. “You guys seem to get along really well for two gods duking it out over a centuries long conflict.”Bookmark here

Riolet stroked a hand through Stendle’s red hair. “We didn’t at first. Over time, as we talked for longer and longer…our feelings for each other began to change.”Bookmark here

Stendle closed his eyes. “In truth, we’ve been in love with each other for a long time, but we haven’t been able to act on it. We both have a duty to our people.”Bookmark here

“And who exactly are your people?” Shane asked.Bookmark here

“The giants,” Riolet answered.Bookmark here

“The nightdwellers,” Stendle added.Bookmark here

The nightdwellers and the giants. If Shane remembered correctly, they destroyed each other to the point of extinction in the same war that gave them the Cavity Combs. Bookmark here

Maya and Shane both glanced at each other, unsure of what to say.Bookmark here

“What kind of faces our those?” Stendle said. “Did something happen to our people?”Bookmark here

Maya cleared her throat. “Well…”Bookmark here

“The giants and the nightdwellers are both extinct,” Shane answered getting straight to the point.Bookmark here

“That’s impossible!” Riolet said. “I left my servants in charge of the war, and I was here defending them from Stendle! There’s no way that could have happened.”Bookmark here

“I have to agree with Riolet. There’s no way my people were completely eradicated.”Bookmark here

That indecipherable expression was on Maya’s face again, and Shane wondered what she was thinking. “It’s true,” she said, her voice surprisingly level. “We actually live in a giant’s tooth. We live in Freecer, where the war took place, and all of the giants and nightdwellers are gone.”Bookmark here

“It may be difficult to believe, but we have no reason to lie to you. If you go to Freecer, you’ll be able to see for yourself,” Shane said.Bookmark here

“It can’t be…no, no…” Stendle said, sitting up with Riolet’s help. “If that’s really true, then are you telling me that we’ve been warring with each other all these years for nothing?”Bookmark here

“It’s not totally nothing,” Shane said, trying to console them awkwardly. “You fell in love, didn’t you?”Bookmark here

Riolet laughed. “Yes. And spent centuries wasting time fighting each other in the process.”Bookmark here

“All we were trying to do was protect, and in the end, what we did was neglect the people who needed us the most,” Stendle said, clenching his hands into fists and hanging his head in defeat.Bookmark here

“You’ve finally come to your senses,” Gariel said, descending into the pit to join them.Bookmark here

Riolet and Stendle both looked away, ashamed. “Gariel…we’re so sorry.” Bookmark here

Gariel huffed. “So, you finally acknowledge me. It took you long enough. I tried to warn you during the war, but both of you embody your epithet a little too well. Determined and stubborn indeed.”Bookmark here

“Did I meet your expectations?” Maya asked Gariel, a cocky grin on her face.Bookmark here

“Almost too well. Your power is frightening. Shane’s as well. You certainly know how to surround yourself with power, Lady Maya.”Bookmark here

“I’m glad you think so,” she said. “Because I just found myself wondering what I should do with these two. You don’t care, do you?”Bookmark here

Gariel shook her head. “I just couldn’t bear to see my friends fight anymore. Whatever you choose to do now is clearly beyond my power to change anyways. I’m no match for your strength, especially outside of the forest.”Bookmark here

Maya knelt down and looked at them carefully. Shane didn’t really know what she was planning to do with them. This was a crucial moment for her to choose what kind of path she would take in her campaign to overthrow the gods. Would she literally kill them? Make them mortal and send them on their way?Bookmark here

She held out a hand to them. “In that case, become members of Bai Hu and serve me.”Bookmark here

Real Aire
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