Chapter 6:

Untapped Potential

Peters' Crosses Side Story: Legacy of the Round

“Pfff… Hahahaha!!! ...” Raphael, seeing the small child with almost nothing to write home about flail around the knife in his hand like a piss-poor drunkard, can’t help but let out a deafeningly hearty laugh as if he hasn’t gotten a good laugh like that in the millennia he’s been alive. Barely covering his now flustered face from the comedic situation, the angel wipes away his tears and asks:

“So, uh… who are you again?”

“Why should I tell you my name?!” On the other end, Arthur’s face is also beet red from the situation, but even an idiot can tell that the rush of blood in his head right now is anger due to being looked down. And the natural result is him practically screaming the question, which only makes his tantrum more childish.

“Demon, are you sure this child is worth risking your life for?” Turning towards me still with a smile on his face, Raphael pretends to ask for a second before coming up with his own answer anyway. “Oh, what am I saying? Of course, it’s worth the risk. It’s the comedy we haven’t gotten to enjoy in years!”

“You shut your mouth, jerk!” Shouts Arthur, but his scream falls to deaf ears once more. In this situation, there might as well be only two people at the scene. However, it doesn’t mean that the child has given up just yet, as in a sudden turn of events, he charges forward as fast as he can – still only barely faster than a puppy, but it was surprising enough for both Raphael and I to flinch for a brief second.

With a seemingly triumphant battle cry, Arthur attempts to stab the angel’s foot as hard as he can. But he was never in Raphael’s sight in the first place, no matter how hard he may try. Before the knife could even graze the slightest bit of skin, the angel, with only two fingers, flicks the attacking boy on the forehead. A normal person attempting a normal flick would only cause a surprising, but quick, pain on the child’s head, but this is the archangel that is the epitome of strength. The unfortunate boy flies through buildings and buildings, just like how I flew away after a single punch. The only, but lethal, difference was that his body was nowhere near developed enough to take a hit like that.

“ARTHUR!” Kay screams in terror as if he wants to rip his vocal cords in half. Then, without another word, the usually calm and rational boy charges towards the angel as well, akin to a feral beast having lost all of its sanity.

But this time, I’m not making the same mistake. I’m not taken aback by his actions. With a simple earth wall, I can stop Kay from ever reaching his target. But I don’t get the chance to do it, not because the boy’s speed outmatches my own, and not because the angel manages to strike first, either.

Just when I least expect it the most and had forgotten about it already, I can feel a slight vibration on my staff.

I know this vibration. I’ve never experienced it before, yet I know it like the back of my hand.

It was resting on my staff, but no more. One of the seventy-one crosses, one of my former companions, vibrates in joy and excitement. Finally, after thousands of years, one of us has found their sworn partner.

But who is it that has just awakened? And not to mention, right now? The people around here are only… No, it can’t be. This child is really it?

As if to answer for me, the cross in question flies off my staff. The obsidian cross, black as night, floats on the air like bubbles on a windless day. Slow, yet steady, the cross makes its way to its future partner, its vessel for rebirth.

Perfectly wearing itself on Kay’s neck, the cross finally stops. And in his hand, without anyone else noticing, a long scythe has already appeared. Its black blade gleams under the midday sun like a mesmerizing piece of jewelry perfectly contrasts the boy’s reddened, murky eyes blinded by rage, as he, without even noticing the extra weapon that has just appeared out of nowhere, continues his endless pursuit of the bastard that ended his brother’s life.

The angel, meanwhile, also retracts his smile, for he knows the weapon on the boy’s hands too well.

“Belial?” He asks himself, but it’s loud enough for the others to hear him. “Isn’t she dead? Why is her power on a brat?”

“Eh, doesn’t matter anyway,” giving himself a shrug, the angel says. It’s far too dangerous fighting against Belial’s giant scythe, one small mistake and you’re dead. Normally, it’s best to avoid close-range, or even mid-range combat and take her down with bows and arrows, but the opponent this time is one that only uses his fists. In other words, this is Raphael’s worst match-up.

Well, against normal Belial, that is. He knows it. And I do too. An enraged opponent is also an unguarded one. Kay right now is littered with defensive holes, and not to mention he’s only swinging that scythe purely by instinct. Failure is already inevitable the moment he jumps in to attack.

Raphael ducks forward and readies his body for a sprint. The boy, meanwhile, is still clueless about his opponent’s intentions as if he’s possessed by a ghost. But the angel is not one to show sympathy before a moment of weakness. In a split second, a dust storm kicks off, blinding everyone else at the scene, while the originator tears through the air and ground, ready to end the miserable life before him with a single punch. Before his fist could touch the boy, however, a giant stone slab rises from the ground, cutting off the path between them for just a brief moment. I know that kind of defense is nowhere close to stopping Raphael, but I never planned to block him in the first place. Instead, the sudden rise serves as a way to knock Kay over, both saving him from the inevitable fist and snapping him back to reality.

True to my predictions, the sudden seismic shock knocks away the scythe in Kay’s hand, and in turn, returns him to his normal self. Now back to normal, the boy asks with a clueless tone:

“What… just happened?”

However, that doesn’t mean that the danger is over. After breaking the stone slab as if it was a piece of paper, Raphael wastes no time to relocate his target. Now aiming straight on the ground, his fist descends like a meteor about to crush all life in its path.

I raise my staff, intending to push him away with another earth formation. However, to my greatest surprise, someone else was faster than me. To be precise, saying that she was “faster” isn’t true, but rather, her clumsily-prepared spell from a while ago, when they all arrived at the scene, is finally done.

A long, durable vine slithers on the ground, swiftly entangling Kay’s ankle before dragging him away at top speed like a fishing line reeling in its prey. From afar, Morgan, with her hands raised forward and her face reddened by the accumulating stress of the situation, painfully, yet resiliently gasps for air. In a brief moment, Kay has already been taken out of the fight and dragged to her side, safe and sound aside from the few grazes all over his back, face and limbs due to the friction with the ground. “Good, the kids are safe,” I think to myself, breathing a sigh of relief. I can finally focus my all on getting rid of this stupidly strong and annoying angel.

“Hey! That hurt, you know!” A sudden voice sounds right in the middle of our ring, sending both me and Raphael to complete disarray, for the owner of the voice can’t possibly be alive at this point.

And yet, there he stands. His forehead still has a big red mark from the flick earlier, and his clothes are all torn and tattered, but the child is completely fine. In fact, I dare say that his endurance is even better than my own. But that’s still not enough to explain his miraculous escape from the jaws of demise since there’s no way a child’s body could survive being flung across the town like that.

With a bewildered look, I turn to his back, and it’s at this moment that all of my doubts are cleared. Layers and layers of mud, earth, and rock are practically clinging onto Arthur’s back like some sort of unremovable parasite. However, it is thanks to those layers of armor, of his natural, nay, prodigious abilities that have saved his life.

What an unbelievable turn of events. I know that magical affinity can be hereditary, and cases of siblings showing the same signs of magic aren’t rare, but to think that this boy shows much greater potential than his sister is almost ridiculous on its own. Is this the potential that humans can get when their lives are on the line? Is this the power in humans that my master decided to put his faith in?

“Beautiful…” I utter, losing control over my own voice.

“Well, well, well, looks like you do have some backbone after all, kid,” Raphael’s smirk brings me back to the situation at hand. “Or should I say 'backstone'?”

To my surprise, however, the archangel bearing the title of “strongest” raises his hands and backs away with a jump up in the air:

“Alright, I’ll leave you guys alone for now. Three mages… no, two mages and two Demons are a bit too much work for a guy on holiday like yours truly.”

“Hey, Demon,” throwing me an expecting look, the angel continues. “Make sure to raise these fledglings well, you hear? I’ll wait for the day I can slaughter them on the battlefield!”

With a crazed laugh, Raphael leaves the premise as fast as he appears. And now, in front of me are three pairs of pleading eyes, silently waiting for an explanation.