Of Heroes and Royals
With one final devastating blow, it seemed like Naois and Fiera's battle had reached its end. Her scythe had entirely pierced his stomach, and the boy had collapsed onto the rooftop, which was soon to be stained crimson.
But the screaming that Fiera heard as she began walking away told her otherwise.
"NGAAAH! THAT HURTS! THAT REALLY, REALLY HURTS!" the red-haired boy screamed, his voice reverberating throughout the rooftop, alongside some kind of shuffling sound.
As she turned, Fiera was almost surprised by what she saw - the boy was thrashing around on his back, having turned his Flameblade on himself and was using it to sear the wound she'd inflicted shut.
Naois continued to scream, his own voice the only distraction from the agony he was currently experiencing.
Fiera simply stood there and watched. He screamed a number of expletives, and then...
...the boy grew silent, besides from the manic panting of his breath and some quiet muttering.
"How on Earth... did that Hero guy do this without flinching... oh, well... thanks for the... trick..."
He had successfully closed the wound. Now that he had finished, Naois quickly pulled his shirt down, for he had no desire to idly stare at the burn marks his skin now wore.
No, in fact, he only had one desire.
And as for the Reaper, she was somewhat puzzled. "You're really willing to go this far to win? You know this changes nothing, right? The only thing you have going for you is how absurdly resilient you are."
Slowly, the boy began to rise to his feet.
"The truth is, I..." he began, his mind racing. "I know, deep down, I've got plenty of good reasons to keep on fighting. A lot of good reasons why I need to survive... but none of them are working out pretty well for me, are they? I’m still no closer to winning."
The pain he had just endured had filled him with adrenaline, but that was quickly beginning to wear off, and the fatigue he previously felt was starting to return.
Fiera kept watching him struggle to his feet as he continued. "In reality... the only reason I'm still getting back up... is because the thought of dying here really, really pisses me off. So, screw it… that’s what I’m gonna go with. That’s all I… really need."
And with Flameblade in hand, he finally stood tall once again.
"So… it’s not that you don’t recognise you have things worth fighting for… but you’d rather turn your back on them, and rely on anger to win? You think that’s enough to close the gap between us?" Fiera asked, rather unconvinced by Naois' speech.
The boy had stopped caring about anything the woman had to say, and simply let out a chuckle.
"Nah," he said, before throwing his Flameblade at Fiera, the flames just barely grazing the tips of her hair as a look of surprise grew on her face. At once, Naois jumped off the rooftop, down to the street below. “You said… only the strong survive, right? Then that’s what I’ll do! Thanks for changing the win condition, you crazy bitch!”
His face wore a big, cocky grin as he approached the ground. Upon impact, pain surged through his legs, but he pushed through and launched into a sprint. “You’re the type who just can’t bear letting her opponent get away, right? So… I’m gonna keep wasting your time until someone beats the big guy, and you’re forced to retreat! Come and get me, Reaper!!”
Fiera launched into action at once, quickly making her descent to street level. “Agh! Get back here, scum!”
The woman was fast – faster than Naois had expected, but not enough to shake his nerve. He drew his Flameblade once more and cut down a nearby streetlight in an attempt to slow her down, before darting around a corner.
“I can do this…!” Naois thought to himself, as he pushed himself to run faster. “Just can’t stop running… no matter how tired I get… because I’m gonna survive! I might not know what my destiny is… but I just know it isn’t to die here.”
And so, the boy kept running – from Fiera, and everything else.
Meanwhile, there was another man who was having an internal battle. A man who had taken a blow directly from Terra, and had been sent flying across the sky. He had landed in the rubble of a ruined building, resulting in a horrific impact with hard concrete that caused yet more broken and fractured bones throughout the Captain's body, despite already nearly perishing from Terra's attack.
This would've killed any normal man.
But despite how much he vehemently denied it, the Captain was no normal man.
Despite how close to death he was, that voice still echoed loud and clear in his mind as he lay face down on that cold concrete, rubble weighing heavily upon him.
"I said, get up, Everett."
And as he tried to pull the last bits of his strength together, a memory entered his mind. A memory of a conversation he had, years ago.
"How am I supposed to take over, Dad?"
He was talking to an older gentleman - who had green hair, similar to his, though far longer and with a few streaks of white - a man who had been confined to a hospital bed.
"I don't have a powerful Spell like you do. All I have is a little bit of super-strength... how can I possibly lead the resistance, when there are so many people here stronger, more worthy than me?"
The older man sat up in his bed and placed his hands on his son's shoulders.
"Everett, it doesn't matter if you don't have a strong Spell. That isn't what makes a leader."
"Then what does?"
He pointed to his son's chest. "The thing you actually did inherit from me. The kind of strength that really matters."
As he recalled the words his father said next, the Captain began to push harder. His legs began to move, and the rubble that was weighing him down began to shift slightly.
"Never forget, Everett. What makes you worthy of being the Captain... is the strength of your soul. Always remember... you have the mightiest will of all."
He grit his teeth and pushed as hard as he could.
And as he would many times more, well into their twisted future, the soldier pulled himself back from the brink of death.
"Rise... Captain of the Resistance!"
As he pushed the remaining pieces of rubble off himself and walked away, his body throbbing with pain, it occurred to him just how bad things had gotten. The God of Earth still stood, had demolished much of the town, and there now seemed to be a lot less fighting in the streets.
He thought about what he should do next. Strategy, planning, operations... these things were second nature to him, and his mind seemed to slip into thinking about them naturally.
But before he had a chance to come up with an answer, things only seemed to get worse.
"Hey! I think he landed over here!"
The sound of clamouring footsteps filled the man's ears as a squad of Imperial Soldiers came running toward him, weapons drawn. The firearms of at least thirty different people were now all aimed at the Captain of the Resistance.
"Green hair... a military-style brown leather jacket... no doubt about it, that's gotta be the Captain of the Resistance! No one else who looks like that could take a hit from that thing and get back up!" one of the soldiers at the front remarked.
"If we kill this guy, we'll all get huge rewards!"
And at once, the group erupted into laughter.
Somehow, despite all of the death and destruction that had occurred... they were laughing and talking about getting rewarded. Like this was all just a regular job, a natural occurrence.
The Captain clenched his fists tightly. The man was usually quite laidback, never really raised his voice. But this... angered him to no end. It was an insult to all he believed in - and not just that, but all his comrades had fought and given their lives for.
"What the hell... are you all DOING?!" he screamed at them, their laughter suddenly growing silent. "Don't you even realise... a soldier's duty is to PROTECT the people! Not to kill indiscriminately, and tear families apart! All of you... don't even deserve to be called Lumèrians anymore!"
His words were filled with resolve, a true glimmer of hope amidst all of the day's destruction. For a moment, the crowd of soldiers went silent - before suddenly breaking out into an uproar.
"Shut it, terrorist! You don't know what you're talking about!"
"We have families to support too, you know?!"
"If we don't do it, maybe it'll be us next!"
The Captain stayed quiet, staring at the ground as every one of the soldiers before him hurled rebuttals or insults at the man. "You know, maybe you're all right. But... I have a family too, you know. And now, you're all trying to tear that family apart. Sorry, but... right or wrong, I just can't forgive that!"
The green-haired man eyed his surroundings. His utility belt had come off as he was flying in the air, and he had lost his weapon too. On the ground, he spied a small rock. That's all there was. That's all he had left to defend himself with, one against an entire squad of soldiers.
"So, it's come down to this again... I'm trying to punch my way out of another impossible situation."
He bent down and picked up the rock, weapons still aimed at him, insults still being hurled.
Suddenly, the Captain let out a tremendous battle cry - one which managed to make each of the soldiers flinch, his voice so loud it made their ears ring. He threw the rock, with such strength behind it that it shattered the helmet of one of his opponents and knocked them out in one blow.
And then, he charged. The man tackled a few of the soldiers at the front of the crowd, just as they were beginning to regain their composure.
"I'm okay with dying."
The men he tackled fell to the ground, just as another soldier tried to aim their weapon at the Captain. He was too slow, though - the green-haired man grabbed a knife that was attached to the soldier's own belt, and stabbed him through the chest with it. The soldier went limp, and the Captain grabbed hold of him and threw him into others in the crowd, knocking them down.
"I made my peace with that, long ago. But... not like this."
He kept hold of the knife, using it to continue cutting down the soldiers' number. The Captain remained on the move, trying to keep his opponents scrambled and too close together to line up a shot that wouldn't put one of their own in danger. He couldn't pull that off forever though, and one of the soldiers finally managed to fire off a few bullets into the green-haired man's arm.
"If I'm going to die, then I'm going to use my life to secure them a future."
With a pained look on his face, the Captain grabbed ahold of the soldier directly in front of him and used them as a shield - using the opportunity to charge at the one who had managed to shoot him. When he got in close, he threw the human shield to the wayside and grabbed hold of his target's rifle, before using it to end his life.
"I saw it." as he continued his fight, that image remained in the man's mind. "Right before Terra punched me... I saw a crack in his arm, right where I threw that grenade."
With a rifle once again back in his hands, he continued charging at the soldiers. When he wasn't able to quickly line up a shot, he'd take the knife in his hands to end it instead.
"I know what to do now... I need something bigger."
And to his surprise, it wasn't long...
Before the corpses of every single one of the soldiers that had attacked him lay at his feet, struck down by the ultimate soldier, who himself was beaten and bloody - who only remained standing through his sheer force of will.
He took one final look around, disgusted by his work, before burying that feeling and heading off, intending to make his way back to the resistance base - even as every step caused him further pain.
"I'm going to destroy Terra, even if it costs my life."