Chapter 5:

Super Strength

Peters' Crosses Side Story: Legacy of the Round

Of all the guys I could run into, of course it’s him. I’ve always hated that stupidly simple Gift of him; it’s the bane of any magic in existence. I’m not even sure if I could match him if I was by myself, let alone having these kids by my side.

“What’s the matter? Cat got your tongue?” The angel in question, seeing my unusual silence, sticks out his tongue in an attempt to make a mockery out of me. “I thought mages have more of a spine than this?”

“Shut up, Zealot,” I answer. My choice of words here is a double-edged sword, and I know he’s not the type to back down on a strong opponent, but if there’s a chance that I can avoid direct conflict here, I have to take it, no matter how small it is.

True to my expectations, the smile disappears completely from the angel’s face as soon as he hears my reply. “Zealot? Not my title, but my actual name? … You’re not one of those small-fry mages.”

However, my gamble seems to have failed immediately. No one at the scene could see the angel move. In a flash, he has appeared right in front of my face, and throws a straight punch right on my stomach, knocking me through a couple of walls before finally stopping at the edge of the market. Blood splurges out of my mouth, making a small but steady stream. Damn bastard. That punch was enough to rupture some of my organs, I can’t even imagine what would have happened had he gone straight for the heart of a normal human being.

“Still standing?” As I struggle to stand up again, the angel has already traveled the entire market and appears before me yet again. “Are you even human?”

“What if I’m not?” Wiping the blood off my mouth, I let out a grin to hide my anxiety.

“Then I guess I should kick it up a notch.” Answers the angel. And he’s not just saying it for fun. This time, with even less than a second to spare, he has already appeared on my left side, ready to throw another one of those destructive punches. However, the difference between a surprise attack and an anticipated strike is enough for me to not get caught in the same trick twice.

“Not on my watch!” I tap the end of my staff towards the left as fast as I can. Just as his fist is about to land on my chest, a giant slab of rock larger than even the tallest building in the town arises from the ground, blocking his path towards me. It’s only a band-aid fix, however, as the angel’s fist still bursts through the stone slab like ripping through a piece of paper. What I’m aiming for, though, is only the temporary blockade of vision between my adversary and me, and the instant it happens, I can both evade the attack and form a counter at once.

Using my staff to push his attacking arm aside, I focus my magical energy on my other hand. Following my command, roots start to grow from the ground, but not the giant kind that pierced the bandits. For this guy, using force would certainly result in defeat. Instead, the roots I conjure are small, but full of prickly thorns, and all of those thorns are highly toxic. The roots quickly entangle his hand, grazing his skin enough to bleed. For a human, just that much would be lethal, but I know my opponent is resilient enough to withstand such toxins with relative ease.

As I predicted, the angel doesn’t seem to be affected too much by my attacks, but his movements are getting ever so slightly more sluggish by the second. Now, I can somewhat see where his strikes are coming from, and where exactly he would move next.

“You... I remember now!” My opponent, meanwhile, seems to be relishing this fight of ours – a typical reaction for a muscle head of his caliber. “That hobo-like look… The bear hide and staff… And that annoying rock-and-plant counter! You’re Balam of the 72 Demons!”

“In the flesh, Raphael of the 12 Archangels. Now, do you have enough strength to continue our dance?”

“Master! Are you okay?” A sudden voice sounds from afar, interrupting our bout. Shit, I got too heated and forgot about the kids. This is bad; of course, they didn’t run away like I told them to. I have to think of something to get them out fast.

Raphael, meanwhile, seems to have also noticed the sudden appearance of my young companions. With no wasted movement, the angel charges towards the unsuspecting children with the fastest speed he can currently muster, kicking up what can only be described as a man-made sandstorm.

“You’re mine!” Shouts the angel. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that it’s obviously a trap meant for me. But knowing his tendencies, the risk is too great for me to not act.

I follow suit at the fastest speed I can as well, concentrating my entire reserve of energy on my arms and legs. However, even with the multitude of body enchantments and lightning-based movement spells put on me, my speed is still only barely matching a toxin-weakened Raphael, so much that when his fist is already out in the air and about to strike an unsuspecting Kay, I only have enough time to stretch out my staff-holding arm in an attempt to deflect the punch.

The attempt is just enough to stop Raphael’s attack, but the shock of the impact is still sent directly to my arm and runs through my entire body, almost numbing my left side in the process. The staff, meanwhile, still manages to bounce back and hit Kay on the head; not lethal, of course, but would still leave a mark.

“What’s the matter? The great Demon Balam caring for a bunch of snot-nose brats?” Raphael, seeing my reaction, lets out a mocking laugh.

“And what about you? The Archangel Raphael hurting innocent people?”

“Hehe… We’ll see about that,” as if waiting for my response, the angel stops attacking and turns towards the children behind me. “Hey, kids, do you know what this guy actually is?”

To my expectations, on Kay’s face right now is a sign of clear panic and distraught. They’re not deaf, after all. Of course, they would have heard our conversation just now without missing a word. But this could just be my chance. I need to get them out of this situation, and with this truth out, doing it is easier than ever.

“Master… is that… true?” Asks the young boy in disbelief. Looking at his eyes twitch and his hands shiver… he needs something to help calm himself down, and it seems like he’s willing to believe what he wants to believe, no matter if it’s the truth or not. But I’m not giving him this chance. It pains me to drop a budding talent, but it’s the best way both for me and for them right now.

“Yeah, it’s true. Merlin is a fake name I made up on the spot. My real name is Balam, one of the 72 Demons waging war against God.”

“Ah, you mean waged war against God,” Raphael snickers at the answer. “As far as I remember, all of your other comrades have already perished. What did you seal them in, again? A bunch of crosses? What a joke, right?”

“Stay out of this, Zealot,” I throw the insolent angel an icy glare. “I’ll get to your later.”

Turning to the children, I continue. “Now you know the truth. So, run along. You have no business with me anymore.”

Approaching me, surprisingly, is the one that I wouldn’t expect to approach the most. The small figure musters all the strength he could, and, with a jump, hit me straight on the head like a mother would smack a disobedient child.

Then, without a word, that same small child dares to raise the tiny knife in his hand towards the angel standing in front of him, shouting out at the top of his lungs in the most idiotic but heart-warming way I can see:

“Hey, you, jerk! How dare you call him a demon! Only I get to do that!”