ANNO DOMINI ~Allium~ [Beta version]
***THANKS FOR READING!***
This chapter originally was a very long one, and I had trouble deciding to divide it or not, because it would've been a little lopsided with where I wanted to split it. However, I wanted to add a few extra things, so dividing it became the obvious choice. I hope to have the second "half" uploaded fairly soon, but life may or may not get in my way...
BOOK 2, CHAPTER 23: SOUL RIPPER IN THE BEAST'S VOID
Friendship is an illusion able to blind and separate the fools from the worthy, Regal thought as he looked at the beastly quadruped, its black-furred face slick with Sandra’s blood. It’s a bond established by emotions, which are irrational and often work against logical, ideal conditions. Friends come together because of emotions, but true allies come together to strive for a single, unified goal.
Regal understood why the teenage boy with the weird smartphone sword was howling in rage. The boy was tied to his teammates by emotion, and could care less about the greater good.
This kid is upset, as anyone would be at the sight of a slain partner. But it’s obvious, though, that he favored the friendship more than the goal, my purpose.
The enraged boy glared at Regal. In an instant, Regal recognized the similarities between the boy’s expression and Sandra’s: resolute and determined. The boy held his phone sword in preparation to attack, his stance amateur, but not entirely inexperienced. Regal gestured to the black-furred titan, commanding it to stay put—this was Regal’s fight now.
Although Regal had no history with fighting and violent actions, his calm mind paired well with the cursed powers pouring into him from another realm, and it allowed him to easily sidestep and parry the wild phone sword swings, even without the use of a weapon or protective gear.
A small misstep in blocking earned Regal a cut on his right hand, alerting him of the dangers that still persisted from dueling with the angry boy. Closely watching the phone’s leaf-shaped, holographic-like blade, Regal thrust his left hand toward the boy’s right arm, grabbing it and stopping the swing. He lifted the boy into the air by the arm, and delivered a punch to his face.
The teenage boy hit the ground, but surprisingly sprang back to his feet, ready to attack again. His speed increased in spite of his injuries, swinging with a backhanded motion and cutting Regal’s right hand again, deeper this time, slicing his palm all the way across.
How can he swing that thing so fast? Regal wondered in frustration, shaking the blood from his wounded hand.
Grunting, Regal leapt sideways. The boy held his sword pointed straight forward, readying for a thrust, and Regal prompted himself to dodge with another sideways motion.
The boy hadn’t prepared a thrust at all, but instead fired a brilliant beam of energy, striking Regal directly in the chest and pushing him back. Warm, gentle, and caring, yet delivering pain and causing injury.
If it was such a beautiful, delicate energy, why did it hurt and inflict harm?
When the energy beam vanished, Regal gripped his chest with both hands where he’d been struck. His shirt was singed, and the skin hurt as if burned, yet the pain seemed to go deeper, farther than flesh, and into the soul.
Eden’s Lance? Regal wondered as he jumped to avoid the attack, instead receiving a hit on his left leg. What does he mean? Why is he screaming that out?
The pain from Regal’s chest and leg was hardly enough to stop him. Strangely, there was another detrimental effect: The powers that filled Regal, making him the chosen protector of the land, seemed hesitant to flow through the parts of his body that had been struck by the boy’s beam of brilliant light.
“Yeah, kick his ass!” Bret hollered, having gained his strength and balance to stand up, albeit hunched over and wobbly. “Kick his ass, Chris!”
“You can do it, Chris!” Robbie added while he remained on the ground by Al’s side. The girl coughed again, spitting up more blood. Her breaths grew shorter and more labored as time passed.
“Chris?” Regal stared at the boy. “So…you’re Chris.”
“What’s gotten into you?” Chris shouted at Regal. “Don’t you have any idea what you’re doing?”
Ignoring Chris’ ranting, Regal said, “Sandra told me I’d listen to you if I had any sense.” He furrowed his brow and clenched his huge fists. “I have plenty of sense. What can you say to deter me? You’re trying to get in my way.”
“Sensible people don’t kill their own friends for selfish gains,” Chris replied, trembling to keep his composure.
“It isn’t selfish.” The irises of Regal’s eyes sparked red. “I do this for the greater good, for the wellbeing of the earth. Sacrifices are just a toll.”
Chris clutched his phone sword with both hands, taking aim at Regal.
“I don’t know you,” he said sternly, “but Sandra did. She knew you would never think like this, and you’re under some sort of curse caused by the negative energy, just like Erik!” He shook his head, continuing before Regal questioned who Erik was. “I’m absolutely certain Sandra understood you, and she could see that you’re not the person you should be…because you two are friends!”
Friendship is a hindrance, a result of emotions. Emotions are a disease, and that disease is a blight to the planet.
Regal tensed his muscles, tightening his entire body with anger. His thoughts were guiding him toward his destiny, and Chris was preventing that fulfillment.
And yet, there had been Sandra. He looked at the destroyed wall where she lay mangled beneath the towering black-furred monstrosity.
He ignored Chris and walked toward Sandra, not knowing his reason for doing so.
Forget her, he thought as he approached. She’s done for. Just another distraction keeping me from doing what’s best.
Several feet away, he stared down at what was undoubtedly Sandra. To his surprise, she was still alive. She choked pathetically, gasping out something he could barely hear.
As it turned out, her diaphragm and ribcage were still intact enough for her to push out breath, although the amount of spilled blood indicated her short time left.
Regal’s eyes went dark as their red tint vanished, replaced by a glaze of doubt. Something was wrong. Indeed, something was extremely wrong.
Save the world, he thought. Only I am allowed to follow my heart, because what I desire is righteous…it’s for the best…
“No…” Regal gripped his head, realizing how much he was sweating and shaking.
I took her bounties, because only I am worthy. I took her life, because only my life is not a threat to the land. This is my destiny, my wish.
“What…a-am I…?” Regal mumbled.
“Look at what’s in front of you!” Chris yelled at Regal. Although he couldn’t bear to look at it himself, he wanted Regal to look…to confront the reality of his actions. “Do you see?”
His words strangled him, so he swallowed the lump in his throat and rallied his declaration, making Regal hear everything he had to say.
“This is what you envision? Your loved ones beaten and killed? I know it’s not what you feel! I know,”—Gunnhildr appeared in his left hand, out of ammo for nearly twelve more hours, and he stared at it— “I know because I got a glimpse of your heart. It was brief, but I saw it. I felt it through this special gun. And I know, because of that, you got a glimpse of mine, too.”
Regal, his ears filled with Chris’ message, turned away from Sandra. The image of her body stained his mind, and it was…it was what?
This is fucking sick.
Chris approached Regal. The boy was still alert and ready for the fight, but he possessed a gentleness now as he attempted to reach out to the big black man.
His eyes met Regal’s, which no longer contained a red glimmer.
“After our hearts had touched,” Chris said quietly, holding out Gunnhildr for Regal to see, “ask yourself: Does what I say not resonate with you?”
He’s a blight, Regal thought. He’s an enemy of the land and an enemy of your true self. Take him down.
“S-stop…” Regal shook his head. “Stop thinking that…”
The voice in Regal’s mind began to separate. There was the voice that spoke to him, and there was Regal’s own voice. The voice of the earth, although speaking directly to his heart, was not his own voice.
Regal stumbled back, holding his sweaty head. Chris couldn’t hear exactly what was happening inside Regal’s thoughts, but he had a good idea.
Kill them, my child.
“What the…?” Regal muttered. “But…but what? Mother… No, you’re not Mama.”
How could you doubt me? Why do you do this to me, Regal?
He stopped. The labored, gasping sounds coming from Sandra were still audible over the whispers in his heart. They were the sounds of his friend forcing out her last breaths. They were the words she was forming with the final ounce of her life.
Regal shuddered at the grotesque noise. Fear gripped him, and despite knowing he’d regret the image forever, he turned toward the young woman as she pushed the last bit of air out of her bleeding lungs.
Glowing green light of convalescence covered Sandra, plunging her into a bath of painless bliss. Torn between the thoughts in his mind, Regal was startled when the quadruped roared, rumbling the surrounding buildings. It leapt forward, intercepting Bret and Robbie as they rushed forward with reserved power.
Bret swung his metal bat with full strength, striking the beast in the face, feeling as if he had hit a boulder. Hardly fazed, the monster swung its front pillar of a leg in an awkward kick at Bret. Robbie attempted to deploy his Ball Protection, but the spiritual fatigue would not allow for it. Luckily, Bret dodged the attack, seeing the enormous foot tear a hole in the asphalt as easily as scooping soft clay. Robbie and Bret quickly backed away, keeping their distance, knowing they were outmatched by the monstrosity.
While the beast fended off Robbie and Bret, Regal heard footsteps charging closer, and turned to see Chris hurrying toward him, phone sword held high. A faint, iridescent glow radiated from the boy’s body and surrounded him. Regal stepped forward, his hands up in a makeshift boxing position.
Thinking of a way to catch Regal by surprise, Chris swung his sword from afar, emitting a wide arc of glorious energy. The sunny blast splashed against Regal, burning him with temperature-less heat, catching some of his clothes on fire and sapping some of his vile powers. However, it was a meager attack. Regal patted out the tiny fires on his shirt, lunged forward with surprising speed, then buried his huge fist into Chris’ abdomen, bringing the boy off his feet and sending him packing.
“Dammit!” Bret shouted. He stared at the vulgar quadruped, feeling anger rise into his head. “Robbie…I got a shitty idea.”
The black boy gave Bret a sideways glance.
Bret held up his empty hand. “I’m gonna rip the life right outta that monster.”
Baring large fangs, the titan seemed to accept Bret’s challenge, and rumbled with a guttural growl. The delinquent handed his bat to Robbie.
“With your bare hands?” Robbie asked in disbelief, taking the bat.
“Yeah,” Bret sneered, tightening his fists. “If I name that move, it’ll get a lot stronger, right? And I think I got a good name for it!”
With a running start, Bret leapt at the titan with his arms outstretched ahead.
Bret’s hands instantly transformed. His skin turned pale green and scaly, his fingers grew longer, and his nails became black claws. Furthermore, they were again granted minds of their own, smarter and more astute than ever, and they led Bret to his target, actually altering his airborne trajectory, before they plunged into an invisible entrance on the black-furred cretin’s side.
The beast reared onto its hind legs, but Bret had his arms firmly stuck inside the portal to the vital core as he dangled from the rampaging fiend. Inside, Bret felt his hands plummet through crevasses of nothingness, like ravage scavengers searching for a meal, going down, down, down…
“What is this?” Regal muttered, watching Bret’s actions.
On the ground, Chris rolled over to face the commotion. His Desphelmer powers were now drained and his soothing aura was gone, but he smiled weakly at Bret’s reckless valiance.
“Yeah!” Bret called out. The beast slammed against a building in an attempt to knock Bret off, cracking the wall. “This strength…this speed! I feel like I can grab the goddamn sun in my hands! Hahaaa!”
An icy blast of below-absolute zero evilness erupted from within the cretin’s inner void, but Bret’s new hands punched through it with ease, feeling the intense pain, but not submitting to it.
“Not today!” he jeered. “No frozen hands today!”
The titan continued to lash about, but the boy did not slip from his place. At last, Bret’s demonic fingers scratched what he’d been searching for, and he instinctively knew what it was.
“There you are,” Bret said deviously. However, his cockiness quickly faded. “Wait…what the hell? It’s huge! I-I can’t…grip it…”
His hands bombarded the vital core. Every rabid finger assaulted the water balloon texture with maximum hostility, but to no avail; it would not budge, and was so large that it did not seem to have any definite curvature, being like the side of a cliff.
“Dammit, dammit, dammit!”
In a fit of rage, Bret lunged backward out of the vacuous zenith. The moment his feet touched the ground, he zeroed in on his alternative target.
With a dark snicker, Bret told Regal, “I wonder if you’ll go down easy enough.”
The delinquent soared toward Regal, narrowly missing a brutal stomp from the black-furred quadruped. His scaly hands pinpointed the source of Regal’s vitality, and his claw-tipped fingers writhed in anticipation of ripping that vitality away.
Regal reached out, his reflexes fast enough to surprise himself, and grabbed Bret by both his arms. Still holding the delinquent, he leapt straight up over seven feet into the air, and slammed the delinquent’s back into the alley ground, driving his knee into Bret’s gut. Bret’s hands returned to normal as he lay down in place, holding his stomach and coughing in pain.
Once again, Regal and his grizzly companion stood side-by-side and stared at their weak opponents. However, there was hesitation in Regal’s stance as his eyes darted among the three boys.
A shadow from behind caught his attention. Turning around, he found a young woman climbing to her feet, bathed in a green glow. Seconds later, the green healing light vanished, revealing the person who had made a full trip back from the brink of her demise. Her clothes were ripped and ruined, exposing much of her regenerated body, but her fury paid no mind. Blood still painted the environment along with other bleeding chunks that Regal didn’t want to think about; things that had been copied and restored as if they’d never been ripped away.
Sandra was silent. Her face was covered with voluminous, disheveled hair, allowing for only her piercing blue eyes to show through, shining with revenge. Chris was back on his feet as well, watching the event.
Bolts of sorrow and regret surged through Regal, and he shuffled backward, gathering his understanding of the reality around him.
They are the curse! You are the protector! Destroy them, my blessed child!
“I need to condemn these thoughts!” Regal growled to himself.
He was now split, divided into himself and the darkness that continued to sink its hungry teeth into his soul.
Without words, without thinking twice, Regal turned on his heel and ran. His inhuman speed carried him down the alleyway without a destination.
The black-furred cretin, with its bottomless eyes, watched its master escape until he was out of visual sight, and it continued to watch even while Regal was too far for the bottomless eyes to be of any use during the observation. It understood that Regal no longer wanted to be part of the situation, and it was time to pull out.
Not looking at anyone else, the docile quadruped glowed a shadowy blackness and disappeared without a trace. Instantly, the treacherous atmosphere vanished along with it, offering a breeze of relaxation as the malice-free air returned.
Chris and Robbie glanced around, not convinced they were safe, and on full alert.
Robbie swallowed. “Are they gone?”
Standing up and clutching his gut in one hand, Bret stumbled over to Robbie and took his bat back. After a good, long look around, he murmured, “The hell should I know?” He angrily gripped his dented baseball bat and shouted down the alley, “Where’d you go? Coward!”
“Excalibur, are they gone?” Chris asked his phone, the long blade still extended.
“I have been unable to detect any negative energy aside from Bret Taurus in the facility since Regal had disappeared from my detection abilities thirty-five minutes and eighteen seconds ago. If anything emitting negative energy other than Bret Taurus has left the vicinity, it has done so outside of my knowledge.”
“Not even the big monster?” Chris asked Excalibur.
“Not even the ‘big monster,’” the app answered.
Chris glanced at Bret, and Bret ignored Excalibur’s reminder that he possessed negative energy. Chris then looked over at Sandra, who trudged heavily away from the spot where she’d recovered, her shoes dragging on the ground.
The three boys wanted to say something to her, ask her if she was all right, but they refrained. Sandra made her way to Al lying on the cold ground. The blonde girl directed her glossy, green eyes up at the young woman kneeling down over her. Sandra’s face was completely hidden behind the mass of black hair as she placed one hand on Al’s head and the other on her belly.
Her voice was solid and blunt, but the green glow was nonetheless as soothing as always. Moments later, when the light faded, Al felt no pain and had all of her strength. Although still covered in blood, her wounds were no more.
Relieved and grateful, Al sat up and gave Sandra a wide grin.
“Wow, thanks a million!” Al told her, giving a thumbs up. “I owe you big, Sandra. And although Chris called you a ‘magic knight’ or whatever, what you did still isn’t magic…but still remarkable progress for you!”
Sandra didn’t move. She didn’t say a word, only continued staring down. Al slipped away, joining up with Chris, Robbie, and Bret.
After some silence, Sandra pushed her hands through the hair hiding her expression and buried her face into her palms. The others could see her tremble, and could hear her breathing get louder and faster. High-pitched whines emerged from her voice between sniffles.
She suddenly let out a raspy, unrelenting scream aimed at the sky, standing tall at first, only to bend herself backward to fully face the overcast clouds and orange city-lit glow she was shouting at.
Her right arm ignited with her fire-like gauntlet. Gripping both fists so tightly that even her knees shivered, Sandra fell forward and slammed her fists simultaneously into the ground with devastating force. A violent shockwave resulted, pulverizing and caving the asphalt into a crater.
While on her knees, Sandra rocked herself back and forth, wailing and sobbing without restraint. Robbie stepped toward her, but Chris held out his arm to stop him, shaking his head.
“Just let her be,” Chris told Robbie softly. “I think out of everyone here, Sandra’s been through the most. She needs some time to be alone, and to figure things out by herself.”
Robbie looked away as Sandra’s lamentations quieted down, but her rocking and trembling worsened. Bret ducked down, his back turned as he bit his normal fingernails until they bled. Al sighed, pulling her hood over her head, then looked at the alley and destruction.
“Getting through challenges on her own is what she strives for,” Chris added. “I have faith she’ll overcome this, too.”
Suddenly, two arms from behind Chris wrapped around him. Sandra squeezed him tightly, pressing herself into his back.
“No,” she sobbed with her face in his shoulder, soaking his dirty hoodie with tears. “Please don’t leave me! I don’t want to be alone anymore… I can’t do it, I can’t do it…I can’t…” She held him tighter while she whined, making Chris bite his lip to hold back his own tears. “Don’t leave me alone, guys… I need you guys… I can’t do this on my own…”
Chris turned around to hug Sandra face-to-face.
“Okay,” he said gently, “we won’t leave you. Your friends are right here.”
“Thank you so much…”
Removing his tattered, bloody Callout 89 hoodie, Chris handed it to Sandra to wear in place of her shredded jacket and shirt.