Burned Out Heroes
Hatred was the only fuel her heart knew.
Ever since that day three years ago, the day she saw her parents nailed down and burned alive, all semblances of happiness had disappeared from her life.
There was only hatred. Whether it was toward the people who took everything from her, the “humans” who betrayed her kind, or the world that was trying to forget they existed, she hated them all.
Revenge would be wrought. The world would know exactly what it had done to them. That was the only reason she still drew breath.
Her adoptive father had tried to change that. He attempted to show her the good sides of this world, to teach her that those parts were worth keeping.
But, it was in vain. Her hatred was not so fickle as to be extinguished with sympathy and kindness.
Even so, Erde was grateful to her adoptive father. He created the Resistance from square one to support refugees and his former brothers in arms, but also out of a sense of duty to his daughter who lived for revenge. They would have never reached this point without his financial backing.
Now, she sought retribution for him as well. She had the right to take from them what they had taken from her. That alone was the one piece of logic she ascribed to in this world.
Moving to this island had not changed her. This body, this heart, this power, all yearned for revenge. Even the “justice” she spoke so highly of was merely another tool beneath the mask.
Anything and everything could be used as a means to that end, no exceptions.
Because if they weren’t-
“-Erde, it’s almost time.”
“Yes, I know.”
Erde’s eyelids flipped open in response to the voice. She had slept for less than an hour, hardly enough to be considered restful, but far better than none at all.
The squadron’s eldest member, second in command and right-hand man to the much younger Erde, had come to update her on the situation.
This barracks, purchased from the Ryusei-kai and located in a security blindspot created by several bribes, served as their final staging area.
Erde looked out over the soldiers, taking in their last moments with their comrades in silence. It seemed as though even the moonlight had forsaken this gloomy sight, but lone wolves felt right at home.
“Is everyone prepared?”
“Affirmative. Anamnesis levels have been fully replenished and aligned perfectly with your provisions.”
It was Erde’s arbitral ability that transformed Resistance soldiers into walking explosives. The internal heat posed no threat to its host, igniting only when their wills united as one.
Each and everyone of them had no qualms about offering up their lives. In fact, most were here in hopes of doing just that.
“...Any changes in security?”
“None. They are not anticipating an attack in the slightest... Are you not going to wear your mask?”
“It’s served its purpose. Nothing will stop us once this is over.”
The mask had only been a means of hiding her identity from the Ryusei-kai before they put their plan into action. Now, there was no need. All that remained was to take, crush, and kill, do to them exactly what they had once done unto her.
There was no going back.
“...What would the commander say if he saw you now?”
“Who knows? Probably chew me out for half a day for not securing 01.”
“Also a strong possibility, yes. However, I believe he would be proud of you. Though it was only once, you outwitted the 01.”
“...That I did.”
The elder soldier briefly put his hand on Erde’s soldier before taking his leave. It may have been a show of solidarity or encouragement, but she needed neither.
No amount of acknowledgement or support from anyone would ever be enough for her. Erde had long since forgotten the warmth of happiness.
“-Are you really doing this?”
“Yes, obviously. That’s all that’s left for us, and you.”
Erde answered Karen, the young girl standing in her path, an arbiter like herself and 01’s daughter.
Though her hands were bound by cuffs, Karen had not been restrained in any other fashion. Erde was not treating her as a prisoner.
“...Maybe so, but...”
“There’s no changing your position anymore. You’re the one who disabled their security system, after all. You’re officially an accomplice.”
“...Only because you forced me...”
The first thing Erde did after seizing Karen’s mind was use her ability. With the power of “Electron Artemis” at her disposal, the Federation’s security system was like putty in Erde’s grasp.
The painstakingly installed web of automated weapons now nothing more than decorations, Memorial Park was as good as naked.
“...Was I your target from the start?”
“You were part of the plan, yes. Losing 01 really hurts, but we can proceed all the same.”
Erde frankly answered Karen’s query.
Karen was, in fact, a more important factor in their attack strategy than 01. Kidnapping her had served two purposes: nullifying the defense system and persuading 01 to join the Resistance. Once Erde knew Karen’s capabilities, she came to see her as the key to everything.
While she did not anticipate having to take control of her consciousness, there was no issue because it worked flawlessly. There would be time to persuade her to cooperate once their operation was complete.
“This defiance isn’t going to help anything, you know? And, you being here would make things so much easier with 01.”
“...He won’t join you, ever.”
Karen’s strong words were betrayed by the listlessness in her eyes. Their usual spark and focus were nowhere to be found.
As was to be expected, Karen was unable to use her arbital power at the moment. No matter how she yearned to resist, the harsh reality was that she lacked any means to do so.
Having one’s consciousness taken over was mentally exhausting as the essence of another was woven into their very being. Not only did the victim lose their sense of self in the process, but it could be especially bad for arbiters who rely on emotions to keep their abilities under control.
Karen had yet to recover from the shock. Harnessing her power while her mind was in such disarray was impossible.
“...All this would get so much easier if you just nodded.”
Erde was painfully aware of the young girl’s inner turmoil.
Every decision she made was to avoid getting in her father’s way, and yet that was exactly what she had done. Karen was furious with herself for it. The anxiety of wondering if she had made a wrong choice could not be wiped away. A piece of her heart would be very tempted to take up the offer so long as this anguish disappeared.
Triggering it would be simple. Karen was a powerful arbiter, but her mental fortitude was still immature. Resonating anamnesis on her wavelength would easily break down any barriers she had. Having to share fractions of her own memories with the girl was a drawback, but it was too late for that to matter anymore.
Therefore, it was not Karen that used her power, but Erde acting as “her.” Even if the young arbiter would not cooperate by her own volition, forcing her was a simple matter.
“...Okay, be like that. You’ll be very useful to us from here on out either way.”
Simple, but Erde could not bring herself to do so. Perhaps it was the memories she picked up from Karen’s consciousness or a separate emotional trigger, but right now, she could not make a call either way.
The humanity she had long since abandoned would not allow it.
“For now, just stay out of our way.”
However, Erde had to leave that weakness behind.
These interactions with the young girl were the first steps of her next plan. Win Karen over, and 01 may yet follow suit. She was protecting that possibility, nothing more.
There was no other reason for it. Everything had turned to ash along with her parents that day.