ANNO DOMINI ~Allium~ [Beta version]
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BOOK 2, CHAPTER 21: BOUNTIES FOR THE TAKING
Chris ran down the alley to catch up with the others, worried the situation had taken a turn for the worse because they had involved Regal.
“Excalibur!” he hissed into his smartphone. “Why didn’t you tell me about that guy sooner?”
“His negative energy signal may have remained outside of my detection threshold,” the app replied. “According to the trend of his signal, it is possible that his powers were not in use at first, and now they are, resulting in his detection.”
“Chris, come on!” Al called from ahead.
The others hurried forward, but Chris kept his distance behind and paid close attention to Regal.
“I still don’t get how you function,” Chris grunted angrily at his phone. “You could detect Sandra before she used her powers, when she met Lavi, but you can’t detect the guy right in front of me?”
“It is complicated and will take time to explain,” Excalibur said without sympathy and tact. “In summary, negative energy is quite different from positive energy, as they are not merely opposites.”
“That answer’s not acceptable. You will explain this better when we have time. Lavi said you weren’t perfect, though.”
“What’s the holdup, Chris?” Al grunted from farther up the alley. “Hurry!”
Chris squeezed his indestructible smartphone, glaring at the screen displaying Regal’s face still marked as a foe.
Swallowing hard, he faced the others, avoiding Regal’s eyes.
“Excalibur told me something.” His throat was tight.
Bret spit on the ground. “It can wait!”
Bret’s lack of patience carried him forward before Chris could speak, and he ran to the next corner of the alleyway…only to find Sandra entranced by the stare of a ferocious giant; the young woman was caught in the beast’s clutches of esoteric currents.
He skidded to a halt, his breath seizing, his hand chilly on the dented metal baseball bat, but he had already been discovered.
The black-furred jabberwocky averted its attention from Sandra to Bret, and the young woman’s deadened mind was not ready to be released from the hypnotic clutches of wickedness. Her ankles gave out and she collapsed, and she barely had the will to keep her head from hitting the asphalt with her arms. Cold and hard, the alleyway ground was her only contact with the world as the four-legged assailant turned toward Bret. Sandra trembled in place, her wide eyes still unable to banish the sight of the foul staredown with the beast’s bottomless gaze.
Bret struggled to call out to the others, but his jaw clenched and knees knocked together as the mere sight of the beast held him fast. The waves of negativity choked him, almost as if squeezing his heart and lungs.
His words caught in his windpipe, but with much effort, he broke them free to shout to the others.
“Hey! Get over here!”
The others ran to Bret’s side, but only Regal was spared from the shock and terror of the evil titan. He quickly confronted it without fear and hesitation, getting between it and Bret.
Regal snapped his fingers as if commanding an ordinary dog, and the black-furred quadruped immediately complied with the order. Not only did its body language indicate as such, but the sudden cessation of negative energy was the more obvious sign of its submission to Regal.
A cleaner, safer air returned.
“I said not to hurt anybody!” Regal barked. The beast appeared to comprehend, and there seemed to be an unspoken act of discourse between the two. “Oh, you didn’t hurt them, only scared them.” He was relieved, turning to Chris and the others. “Don’t worry, it’s supposed to listen to me.”
Chris’ eyes darted among Regal, Sandra, and the titan. Sandra seemed unharmed, but was on her knees and unable to act on her own.
What do I do? Chris wondered anxiously. I have to tell everyone that Regal’s a target. And this thing! Bret and Robbie must notice it, too…its appearance is way too similar to the white monster Erik had.
A glacier slid into Chris’ gut as he looked at Regal.
Is this guy…just like Erik…?
“You better explain what the hell is going on!” Bret spat, shaking his fist at Regal.
Regal turned his eyes downward and took a deep breath.
“It’s confusing, and a lot to explain,” he said slowly. “We can go somewhere to talk, and I’ll gladly listen—”
“Sandra!” Robbie rushed past Regal and the hulking beast to help Sandra back to her feet. “Hey, you okay?”
“Y-y—” Sandra couldn’t form the word as she gripped Robbie’s shoulders with weakened, shaky hands.
“Sandra looks drained,” Al muttered to Chris. “That’s what happens when a person doesn’t know how to resist evil energy.” She wiped some sweat from her forehead with her hand. “Not that I can blame her…it was a lot to resist.”
Saying nothing, Chris clenched his jaw out of anger and fear.
Regal approached the young woman hanging to Robbie, gasping when he got a clear look at her sweat-soaked face.
“Oh my god,” he said, “Sandra, it is you!”
Tilting her head on her weakened neck, Sandra looked up at Regal.
“Hold it!” Chris had Gunnhildr aimed directly at Regal, the sensations of an absolving bullet teeming in his mind. “Step back.”
Regal noticed the bizarre, sleek, chrome-like pistol in the boy’s hand. Although it had a minimalistic design, it was clearly a firearm nonetheless, or possibly a stun gun. His heart pounding, Regal held his hands up in the air and spoke softly.
“I won’t hurt her.” He made sure to annunciate clearly without sounding threatening. “She’s my friend. I know her.”
“I want to believe you,” Chris told Regal, aiming the holy handgun. “Trust me when I say I want to do away with all hatred and opposition.”
“Chris?” Al asked concernedly, eyeing the boy’s sleek pistol. “What are you doing?”
“Excalibur told me this guy is a source of negative energy,” Chris explained to everyone, staring at Regal down the sleek barrel of Gunnhildr. The absolving bullet required contact with living flesh, meaning Regal’s arms, head, and neck were the only available targets.
“What?” Al carved her glare into the tall African American. “Then shoot him with an absolving bullet, Chris! He’s the wicked one Sister Farrah detected!”
“No,” Chris said, “I want to talk first.”
“Can you explain this to me?” Regal asked, his hands still up. “I just want to know what’s going on.”
“You have a cursed power,” Chris told him. “This pistol won’t hurt you, and it’ll remove that evil power from you.”
“Remove it?” Regal murmured. “You’ll get rid of it?”
Chris nodded quickly. “Yes. You’ll be okay after this.”
“I can’t let you.” Regal’s reply was prompt and resolute.
“What do you mean?” Chris asked, not expecting what Regal said. “You want to be cursed?”
“It’s the deal to do what is right, and what is best.” Painfully, Regal thought of Chanel. The disguised individual had made it clear that Regal’s fiancée was collateral for failure. “Without it, my fiancée and loved ones will suffer.”
Chris’ mind raced as he thought of Regal’s answer.
It sounds like he has a good reason to use his cursed powers.
An epiphany suddenly struck him.
Hold on! What did Erik say about making a ‘deal’? It was how he got his powers. But…a deal with what?
“Tell me,” Chris said to Regal, staring the large man down, “did you make a deal to get your powers?”
Regal’s eyes widened.
How did he know? he wondered, feeling his pulse quicken.
“It was the deal of a lifetime,” Regal replied gruffly.
“A deal…?” Bret gripped his metal bat tighter. “Deal of a lifetime. Cursed powers…” He glared at Regal and smacked his bat against the pavement. “Who’d you make it with?”
“That’s none of your business,” Regal told him.
“Chris!” Bret shouted. “Read the signs here, man! Excalibur pegged this guy. He has this monster follow his commands. Think about it! He’s the same as Erik!”
“I know!” Chris shot back. “…I know.”
Al watched and listened, goosebumps erupting on her skin from remembering Erik’s negative energy seeping into her soul. Regal wasn’t exuding any noticeable vileness, but that fact did little to settle her nerves.
“Um, I have a bad feeling here,” she muttered to herself, then turned to Chris. “Chris, we need to finish this right now. Using the absolving bullet first is the best way to avoid problems.”
“You’re right, Al,” Chris replied. He calmed down, his voice becoming relaxed and apologetic as he looked at Regal. “Sorry, sir. I promise we’ll explain this to you after.”
With his finger quivering on Gunnhildr’s trigger, Chris could feel his spiritual wavelength getting closer to matching Regal’s.
Regal remained still, his lips slowly parting to bare his teeth, his hands above him clenching into fists.
No, he thought. This cannot happen. The earth is calling out to me. These heathens are just like the rest of mankind, here to blight the blessings of Mother Nature and bring ruin to the planet. I will not let them stand in my way. They are weeds, and I will burn them to the roots before they choke the bounties of the land!
The connection between Chris and Regal shuddered, an uneasy feeling. Chris panicked when Regal’s energy patterns quickly multiplied and burst, making Chris dizzy with the colossal surge of spiritual data he had been in tune with.
“Oh no!” he cried as his hand failed to steady Gunnhildr. “I lost his wavelength! I can’t fire an effective absolving bullet!”
As Regal’s power soared, Excalibur spoke from Chris’ pants pocket.
“The target ‘Regal’ has been lost. The upward trend of his energy complexity has removed him from my detection range.”
“He’s a fiend, you guys!” Al thrust her finger at Regal. “His power is the same as Erik’s! I’ll never forget this sensation, so let’s eradicate him!”
Regal turned to the black-furred titan.
“This is it!” he bellowed at the grim quadruped. “You know what to do! The will of the earth speaks to us both! It knows these people are gluttons, and they will suck nature dry!”
In an instant, all noise in the alleyway seemed to wither as a vacuum of emptiness overtook everybody. The bulky beast sprang into action and plunged the area into a trench of negative energy, and then immediately laid its red eyes on the largest perceived threat to the wellbeing of the land: Christopher Findale.
With a blurry mind from the onslaught of atmospheric evil, Chris struggled to react as the titan lunged over Regal, ready to crush the boy in a single blow. Gunnhildr disappeared as Chris brandished the impressive leaf-shaped phone sword, his mind racing to determine how and where to strike the attacker, which was essentially an oncoming meteor of manifested horror.
Robbie threw out his arms, forcing Sandra to stand up for herself now. Her ankles, knees, and hips protested, but she regained her balance.
A mighty barrier of Robbie’s orange energy blocked the quadruped’s tackle. It snarled and gnawed viciously against the barrier, trying to get to Chris. The boy aimed the tip of the phone sword at the beast, then rushed around Robbie’s energy shield.
“Eden’s Lance!” he shouted when there was a clear opening.
The titan was pushed off its feet when the divine blast struck its body head-on between the front legs, forcing it into a backflip before landing upside down on the ground, cracking the asphalt. Although the jabberwocky’s size suggested tremendous weight, it possessed an unexplainable density that made it phenomenally heavier, having an impossible physical anatomy by biological standards. As such, this showed that Eden’s Lance was a feat not to be ridiculed.
Bret sprang at Regal with his metal baseball bat at the ready, moving faster than Regal had predicted. He slammed the bat against Regal’s chest, who winced in pain and staggered backward. The sight and sound of the metal bat striking Regal made Sandra cringe, and she covered her mouth in grief.
Bret cocked the bat back to swing again, but a strong punch to the face from Regal instantly knocked him down, the metal bat clinking as it tumbled from his hands to the ground.
With the black-furred beast still squirming on its side, Chris delivered to it another blast of Eden’s Lance, singeing some of its black fur and tearing a bloodless wound into its massive torso.
Robbie recognized an opportunity, seeing the cretin was injured. He pulled the Ball Protection shield toward Regal from afar, toppling it over to bring it straight down on Regal. Realizing what was happening, Regal held both hands up, catching the enormous, orange energy shield, but failing to stop it completely, albeit slowing its descent considerably.
“Rarghh…what is this?” Regal grunted, pushing upward against the ceiling of energy.
Although Robbie had nothing physical to push, the act of bringing the Ball Protection barrier down against Regal’s resistance was strenuous. His arms and legs shook, as if he were on the other side of his massive shield and pushing directly against Regal. The spiritual fatigue was making his mind go numb, and he had to force himself to concentrate and not forget his actions.
The ground cracked beneath Regal’s feet as he growled under pressure. Chris kept his phone sword aimed at the disabled, four-legged cretin, and gulped squeamishly as he watched Regal be gradually crushed.
Is there an underground space under the alley? Robbie wondered, pushing his energy shield downward. If not, could I trap Regal in the ground under the energy barrier? …But for how long?
Bret clambered back to his feet, wiping the blood from his face before retrieving his bat. He and Chris looked at each other.
“Chris! Bret!” Al yelled. “Strike that man while he’s under Robbie’s shield! That should break his resistance.”
Bret hurled his bat through the air at great speed, striking Regal in his ribs and making him howl with pain before falling, his knees chipping away at the asphalt as he landed. However, his upper body remained upright against the energy shield, and the increased weight distribution from kneeling helped fortify his stance. Despite this, Regal felt himself weakening, and his knees throbbed as his hips and lower back began to compress due to his current position.
Wanting the violence to end, Chris switched his phone sword to his left hand to grip Gunnhildr with his right. He took aim at Regal, opening his heart and mind to the ebb and flow of the energies around him. In the midst of everything he perceived, the wavelengths of Regal’s vile powers presented themselves again, overwhelmingly complex at first, but Chris’ instincts gradually untied the knots, melding his own spirit with Regal’s.
Bit by bit, the bridge between Chris and Regal was constructed. This connectedness with another human soul presented a profound tranquility, as if the concept of loneliness was foolish and ignorant, even impossible. It was this abstract peace of mind that distracted Chris, however, from the warning shouts of his allies.
Chris snapped back to the material world. A muscular mass was barreling directly at him, eyes burning red with four giant feet pounding into the ground with each step.
In desperation, Chris pointed the holy handgun at the charging titan, pulled the trigger, and wasted the premature absolving bullet against the beast’s body. Clumsily with his left hand, he aimed the tip of the phone sword and cried out the name of Eden’s Lance.
This time, the divine energy beam struck the beast in the face, dazing it, but not stopping its momentum. The quadruped stumbled to the ground and collided with Chris, knocking him back. Stars exploded in his vision as his hearing dulled for a moment, and he soon found himself lying on the alley ground.
Something pulled him up by the hand, then pushed him to stand; Al’s face came into view as she helped him move away from the giant cretin that remained down, unmoving, its head through the wall of the building it had crashed into.
“Thanks,” Chris croaked, finding his balance. His head hurt. He placed his hand on it. There was blood.
“Look.” Al nodded toward Regal losing his strength beneath Robbie’s Ball Protection shield. “We have that big guy trapped, but Robbie’s getting tired.” She looked up at Chris. “Think you have it in you to hit him with Eden’s Lance?”
“I do.” With the tip of the holographic-looking sword pointed at Regal, Chris wavered. “I wasted the absolving bullet, so this is all I have now.”
“Then do it! Strike him down!”
“I might kill him, though…”
Al sucked in an aggravated breath, then slapped Chris across the face. His cheek stung as he glared at Al, exasperated.
“You can’t afford to show mercy to your enemy!” she told Chris sharply. “Look at him. Feel his aura. It’s the same as Erik. Murderous, vile, evil.” She stood on her toes to get closer to Chris’ face. “You got lucky with Erik. We all did. Do you want to risk that again? I won’t let you gamble with our lives and safety for your idiotic, pacifist—”
Al was practically insulted by the peaceful smile Chris gave her.
“Then stop wasting—”
A piercing, burning pain inflicted Regal’s side as a glamorous light shrouded him. The blast of marvelous energy and the heaviness of Robbie’s shield pushed him flat onto his back. Everything appeared tinted orange as the mighty force field pressed his entire body against the ground. The sounds and sensations of cracks came mostly from the asphalt beneath, but some of them could very well have been his bones.
“Yes! You have him!” Bret shouted at Robbie, who remained in deep concentration. He retrieved his metal bat and waved it above his head.
“All right, Chris!” Al cheered. “Great shot!”
Chris didn’t respond. He looked over at Sandra, who stood frozen with revulsion, hands over her mouth as she watched her friend getting squeezed closer to his death every second. The black-furred quadruped rolled weakly in place, unable to stand, half conscious with a bloodless gash across its face.
“Regal!” Sandra yelled. She grabbed Robbie’s arm and shook him violently. “Stop! You’re killing him!”
Robbie tried to shake Sandra off.
“I can’t help it!” he barked.
“Yes you can! Just stop! Please…”
“And let him kill us?” Robbie shoved Sandra back, noticing his massive shield flicker. He quickly focused back on it, relieved that the quick hiccup didn’t aid Regal’s escape.
“No…” Sandra grabbed clumps of her black hair in both hands as emotions choked her. “He wouldn’t do that…he’s too kindhearted…he wouldn’t…”
Sounds of shouting surrounded Regal, although he couldn’t make out what was being said. Trapped beneath his orange energy prison, inside his own soul, only one voice mattered. It was a voice that sounded just like his own, but he knew it was a voice much wiser and important: the earth.
If you die here, everything you’ve wished for will be for nothing.
“I…hear you…” Regal responded weakly. Speaking was difficult as the massive energy barrier pressed against his ribs. “The earth…”
Take it from them. Take it and make it your own.
“But…it’s supposed to be for everyone… Without their bounties, people will starve, and I can’t just take it for myself…”
You can. This is what you wanted. Do not forget that humans blight the earth. That which stands against you will serve in favor of that blight, and they will take the bounty of nature for themselves. Take it for yourself, and use it to protect the earth. Protect me, Regal.
“Yes…I understand now. If I use the bounties of nature to protect the earth, the giver of these bounties…then all natural resources will remain eternal…”
Now you see the simplicity of the cycle. You know you are the keeper of this cycle, and the protector of the earth’s everlasting life.
“That’s right. I am the one.”
Take the bounties from these heathens—these diseases of the land, and starve them of nature’s love.
“Take them for myself… I remember now. This was my contract…the path to follow my heart…
Follow your heart. These are your desires. These are your deals with nature.
“Of course. Thank you…for opening my eyes…for letting me see my heart without distractions and lies…”
All for you, my blessed child.
“Thank you, Mother…”
Regal was alerted of a cavity within himself, between his heart and lungs, behind his spirit, in the midst of his mind—a voracious maw whose upper mandible was Regal’s body, and the space between existences as its widening lower jaw.
There was a hunger of the soul, thirsting for the bounties within those unworthy bags of flesh who defiled the protection of the land.
With an inhale from the starving void, Regal brought in nature’s bounties for himself, taking them from Chris, Al, Robbie, Bret, and even Sandra.
The others noticed a darkness that their eyes could not perceive. A sensation of emptiness, of theft, lodged itself inside each of them.
“What?” Al rubbed her torso, unable to pinpoint what she was feeling. “Something’s happening…”
“Yeah,” Chris said nervously, putting his hand over his stomach. “I don’t know what it is…but it doesn’t feel good.”
Slowly, an ardent satiation overcame Regal, a sort of wholesome experience caused by the mandibles in his soul biting into a most succulent morsel. Saliva pushed from his mouth as his muscles swelled gleefully. Utter satisfaction of unrelenting nourishment calmed his worries, quelled his sadness, and fueled his destiny’s course toward unavoidable inevitability.
Regal’s thoughts and those of the earth were merging into one, their thoughts and desires blending into a delicious singularity.
How your whispers are sweeter than lullabies in my ears! I hear it better than ever, getting softer and gentler as your will becomes clearer to me…
“Yes!” Regal shouted, lifting the mighty orange energy shield off his body. The irises in his eyes flashed red and spittle bubbled from his lips. “I’ve never had more certainty about anything in my life! This is for the earth…for everlasting life!”
Robbie felt the disarray of his own powers inside of him, unable to command his Ball Protection functions as desired; Regal had overpowered his shield.
“I…can’t…hold it!” Robbie growled, his veins bulging as he put every ounce of physical energy behind his failing spiritual powers. “Arrgh!”
Regal heaved the orange force field into the air, cuing to Robbie that it was time to give up. He released the flow of energy, and the large shield flickered into nothingness.
“Shit!” Bret hissed, holding his baseball bat ready.
Leaping onto his feet, Regal’s red pupils glistened in Chris’ direction. There was no room for stalling.
The phone sword’s energy missed as Regal dodged, being too nimble for a man his size. In a second, he was at the black-furred titan’s side.
“Receive your bounties!” Regal declared. He plummeted both hands into the jabberwocky’s mouth and funneled pure nurturing energy from his fingers down its throat.
The beautiful beam of energy struck Regal with his hands down the throat of the deplorable cretin, but he barely flinched.
“It’s not working!” Chris cried. “He’s too strong!”
When the beast’s eyes popped open, it flipped back onto its four pillars for legs, quaking the alley as it landed with impossible weight. With a spirit-belly full of the earth’s vitality, its bloodless wounds healed and its enormous muscles trembled and swelled as Regal’s muscles had, making its hulking body even larger and sturdier.
Side-by-side, Regal and his quadrupedal gift surveyed their enemies, their eyes sharing the uniform red glow while tremendous levels of negative energy pumped through their bodies.
Above the alleyway, just out of sight, but well within the hearing range for a divine being, Lavi spun a rusty ornamental weathervane with his finger and sighed.
“Nature’s bounties, eh?” he mused. “Protect the planet by cutting out the dangerous components. Sacrifice enemies and brethren alike to appease the gods so that the crops may grow. Recycle this, boycott that. Hmm…humans always resort to the same ideas generation after generation. Only the words used and motivational technicalities are different.”
He chuckled, gazing outward beyond the city block. Traffic had been redirected to clear the zone, and every citizen within the space had been given specific motivation to leave…with or without neurological rearrangements to create the necessary incentive to clear the area.
“There sure is a lot of negative energy in these parts,” Lavi said with a half-smile. “I’d better expand the evacuation area to avoid pesky witnesses. I could even play traffic cop again! Yes, that sounds delightful!”He gave the rusty weathervane a playful smack to spin it around, then he was gone.