Chapter 48:

Book 2, Ch. 23: Soul Ripper in the Beast's Void

ANNO DOMINI ~Allium~ [Beta version]

***THANKS FOR READING!***Bookmark here

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...Bookmark here

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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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

How can he swing that thing so fast? Regal wondered in frustration, shaking the blood from his wounded hand.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

Eden’s Lance!”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

If it was such a beautiful, delicate energy, why did it hurt and inflict harm?Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

Eden’s Lance!”Bookmark here

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?Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“Yeah, kick his ass!” Bret hollered, having gained his strength and balance to stand up, albeit hunched over and wobbly. “Kick his ass, Chris!”Bookmark here

“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.Bookmark here

“Chris?” Regal stared at the boy. “So…you’re Chris.”Bookmark here

“What’s gotten into you?” Chris shouted at Regal. “Don’t you have any idea what you’re doing?”Bookmark here

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.”Bookmark here

“Sensible people don’t kill their own friends for selfish gains,” Chris replied, trembling to keep his composure.Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

Chris clutched his phone sword with both hands, taking aim at Regal.Bookmark here

“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!”Bookmark here

Friends.Bookmark here

Friends?Bookmark here

Friendship is a hindrance, a result of emotions. Emotions are a disease, and that disease is a blight to the planet.Bookmark here

Regal tensed his muscles, tightening his entire body with anger. His thoughts were guiding him toward his destiny, and Chris was preventing that fulfillment.Bookmark here

And yet, there had been Sandra. He looked at the destroyed wall where she lay mangled beneath the towering black-furred monstrosity.Bookmark here

He ignored Chris and walked toward Sandra, not knowing his reason for doing so.Bookmark here

Forget her, he thought as he approached. She’s done for. Just another distraction keeping me from doing what’s best.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“Hhh…hhee…”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

Friend…Bookmark here

Regal’s eyes went dark as their red tint vanished, replaced by a glaze of doubt. Something was wrong. Indeed, something was extremely wrong.Bookmark here

Save the world, he thought. Only I am allowed to follow my heart, because what I desire is righteous…it’s for the best…Bookmark here

“No…” Regal gripped his head, realizing how much he was sweating and shaking.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“What…a-am I…?” Regal mumbled.Bookmark here

“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?”Bookmark here

His words strangled him, so he swallowed the lump in his throat and rallied his declaration, making Regal hear everything he had to say.Bookmark here

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.”Bookmark here

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?Bookmark here

This is fucking sick.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

His eyes met Regal’s, which no longer contained a red glimmer.Bookmark here

“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?”Bookmark here

He’s a blight, Regal thought. He’s an enemy of the land and an enemy of your true self. Take him down.Bookmark here

“S-stop…” Regal shook his head. “Stop thinking that…”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

Kill them, my child.Bookmark here

“What the…?” Regal muttered. “But…but what? Mother… No, you’re not Mama.”Bookmark here

How could you doubt me? Why do you do this to me, Regal?Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“H…he-hheh…”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“…H-he…Hh-Heal…”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“Dammit!” Bret shouted. He stared at the vulgar quadruped, feeling anger rise into his head. “Robbie…I got a shitty idea.”Bookmark here

The black boy gave Bret a sideways glance.Bookmark here

“W-what?”Bookmark here

Bret held up his empty hand. “I’m gonna rip the life right outta that monster.”Bookmark here

Baring large fangs, the titan seemed to accept Bret’s challenge, and rumbled with a guttural growl. The delinquent handed his bat to Robbie.Bookmark here

“With your bare hands?” Robbie asked in disbelief, taking the bat.Bookmark here

“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!”Bookmark here

With a running start, Bret leapt at the titan with his arms outstretched ahead.Bookmark here

Soul Ripper!”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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…Bookmark here

“What is this?” Regal muttered, watching Bret’s actions.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“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!”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“Not today!” he jeered. “No frozen hands today!”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“There you are,” Bret said deviously. However, his cockiness quickly faded. “Wait…what the hell? It’s huge! I-I can’t…grip it…”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“Dammit, dammit, dammit!”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

With a dark snicker, Bret told Regal, “I wonder if you’ll go down easy enough.”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

Bolts of sorrow and regret surged through Regal, and he shuffled backward, gathering his understanding of the reality around him.Bookmark here

They are the curse! You are the protector! Destroy them, my blessed child!Bookmark here

“I need to condemn these thoughts!” Regal growled to himself.Bookmark here

He was now split, divided into himself and the darkness that continued to sink its hungry teeth into his soul.Bookmark here

Without words, without thinking twice, Regal turned on his heel and ran. His inhuman speed carried him down the alleyway without a destination.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

Chris and Robbie glanced around, not convinced they were safe, and on full alert.Bookmark here

Robbie swallowed. “Are they gone?”Bookmark here

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!”Bookmark here

“Excalibur, are they gone?” Chris asked his phone, the long blade still extended.Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

“Not even the big monster?” Chris asked Excalibur.Bookmark here

“Not even the ‘big monster,’” the app answered.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

Heal.”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

Relieved and grateful, Al sat up and gave Sandra a wide grin.Bookmark here

“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!”Bookmark here

Sandra didn’t move. She didn’t say a word, only continued staring down. Al slipped away, joining up with Chris, Robbie, and Bret.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

Regaaaalll!”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“Getting through challenges on her own is what she strives for,” Chris added. “I have faith she’ll overcome this, too.”Bookmark here

Suddenly, two arms from behind Chris wrapped around him. Sandra squeezed him tightly, pressing herself into his back.Bookmark here

“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…”Bookmark here

Chris turned around to hug Sandra face-to-face.Bookmark here

“Okay,” he said gently, “we won’t leave you. Your friends are right here.”Bookmark here

“Thank you so much…”Bookmark here

Removing his tattered, bloody Callout 89 hoodie, Chris handed it to Sandra to wear in place of her shredded jacket and shirt.Bookmark here

Two formidable enemies were on the loose somewhere in the city. However, the five friends in that wrecked alleyway put those troubles aside for a while, remaining together as the cold sounds of distant traffic gradually returned and filled the environment. Daily life resumed for the population.
Jio Kurenai
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