Chapter 26:

Dawn of the Spear

Burned Out Heroes


01 did not pursue Erde as she fled. He stayed on the completely deserted stadium floor, standing tall as the time drew closer.Bookmark here


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He knew an attack was imminent. Erde’s full power was too much for even 01 to withstand. If his daughter’s safety was all that mattered, he should have grabbed her and put as much distance between them and the rampaging arbiter as possible.Bookmark here


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“-’Spose I can’t harp on her too much fer bein’ wet behind the ears.”Bookmark here


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01 mused as he watched Erde ascend the tower at full speed.Bookmark here

Indeed, she was prepared to face death. She had the mind of a soldier, carrying out her duty without fear.Bookmark here


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Which was exactly why 01 had gauded her into action.Bookmark here


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He would have been at an immense disadvantage had their encounter continued as it was, not Erde. No amount of speed would break through her barrier. His mind games could only do so much and a stalemate would ensue if Erde was able to keep a cool head. Wounded and with no viable options, 01 may not have been defeated but had no chance of emerging victorious.Bookmark here


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“...Karen. Everythin’ set?”Bookmark here


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“Yes. Ready when you are.”Bookmark here


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As 01 connected with his daughter, now at a safe distance, he quietly let the irony of exposing the one he swore to protect to danger sink in. Their plan was risky, but it was their only chance. The first step was forcing Erde into a corner to make her think blasting the whole island off the face of the earth was her only option.Bookmark here


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“...I have control of the island’s defense system. Beginning deactivation and subsequent reactivation of the barrier.”Bookmark here


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01 heard the love in the voice of the girl under his protection and felt it wash over him like a comforting hug.Bookmark here


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Before his eyes: a false star rising to the top of the Soul Settler’s tower. Had this been someone else’s problem, the sheer beauty of it would be awe-inspiring.Bookmark here


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“Distortion axis confirmed. Successfully isolated from the surrounding area. Battlefield formation complete. Now you can really let loose, Dad.”Bookmark here


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This was the first role Karen had been given. As the island had once been a military installation, it came equipped with a “battlefield” partitioning function that would provide bystanders, including Karen herself, with as much protection as possible.Bookmark here


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Without it, 01 would sink along with the island even if he defeated Erde in the end.Bookmark here


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“-‘Second Limiter: off. Photonic Circuit: accelerate.’”Bookmark here


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“Commencing alignment.”Bookmark here


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Just as with arbiters, words spurred anamnesis into action for demon cyborgs as well. It would all be over if 01 lost concentration for a single moment.Bookmark here


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Assisting the injured 01 with his preparations for the final blow was Karen's other responsibility. Despite knowing their brainwave connection could kill her if the sequence went awry, she had jumped at the opportunity to carry it out.Bookmark here


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“Adjustments complete... Anamnesis merger successful, maintaining homeostasis...”Bookmark here


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“‘Overdrive engaged. Materialize: ready.”Bookmark here


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What started as a breeze grew stronger with each subsequent stage. A whirlwind appeared like magic, engulfing 01 in an instantaneous storm.Bookmark here


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Wind produced by this anamnesis returned all forms of matter to a state of nothingness. Harnessing that power with thoughts and wielding it as a weapon was the equivalent of unleashing a torrent of the mind.Bookmark here


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“...!”Bookmark here


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01 stood within that raging hellscape. His own power carving away at his body every second, only iron-clad determination kept him from disappearing altogether.Bookmark here


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Conducting what was normally a one-man sequence with two did little to lighten the physical burden. 01’s systems deteriorated by the second as his damaged metallic frame held itself together by mere threads.Bookmark here


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It was 01’s pride as a father that kept him from yelling out in pain. He refused to let his daughter see something so pathetic.Bookmark here


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“Ener-... load compl-... The res-... to you, Dad.”Bookmark here


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“-Yeah, I got this.”Bookmark here


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Their delicately aligned brainwaves could no longer withstand the anamnesis interference. Her voice may not have reached him, but 01’s connection with what was now in his hands was as strong as ever.Bookmark here


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“‘I wield the spear, destroyer of illusions.’”Bookmark here


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The raging storm took shape once the final activation phrase left his lips. It all came to a single point that made the laws of physics cry out in pain.Bookmark here


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From there, a spear tore its way into existence at a snail's pace at first before manifesting in a quick burst.Bookmark here


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“-We’ve got work to do, Longinus. Our first big one in a long time.”Bookmark here

A crimson blade sat atop a pitch-black shaft. The spear, nearly as long as 01 was tall, shone with a bone-chilling radiance.Bookmark here


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Spear of the Morning Star, Longinus. Created from the raw form of anamnesis used to produce the collars that blocked an arbiter’s abilities, the blood-stained spearhead of destiny and anamnesis nullifier was the ace in the hole entrusted to 01.Bookmark here


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“-Haurgh!”Bookmark here


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01 gave the weapon a mighty swing as he took a powerful step forward. Debris erupted in all directions as raw power flowed through it.Bookmark here


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The blade had but one target: the life of Number 10, the girl brandishing fury.Bookmark here


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Afternoon twilight was opening up before her eyes.Bookmark here


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Erde continued to pump even more heat into the ball of light she set upon her target even as it closed in. Buildings in the vicinity had already begun to disintegrate as the massive sphere inundated the sky. All that remained was Erde and the Soul Settler’s tower behind her. Bookmark here


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The falling star’s heat swallowed everything in its path. It was only a matter of time before it made landfall.Bookmark here


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Once that happened, the entire island would be reduced to mere atoms. A pyre of smoke visible the world over would surely rise in the aftermath.Bookmark here


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“Now, finally...”Bookmark here


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Erde guided the miniature sun to its final destination with her right hand, her ability granting her precise control over heat waves. Letting the mass of energy simply fall would have sufficed, but she wanted to make certain to obliterate Memorial Park and 01 along with it.Bookmark here


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Her view was awash with pure light. Flames enveloped what little land she could see.Bookmark here


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The island would disappear in a fiery blaze. Beholding the sight she had longed for satisfied the dark flames within her beyond measure.Bookmark here


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“-That’s...”Bookmark here


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However, something odd caught her eye within the sunset. A dark spot had appeared inside the descending orb. Erde had spotted what should not be there.Bookmark here


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“-!!!”Bookmark here


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A single spear was headed her way. Racing through a mass of energy hot enough to instantaneously vaporize matter, living or otherwise, it was on course right for her.Bookmark here


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A hole large enough to glimpse the ground blow appeared in her massive star. For some reason, energy around the spear itself was disappearing into nothingness.Bookmark here


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Impossible. That sphere of light had come from anamnesis. Vanishing could only mean-Bookmark here


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“*Gasp?!*”Bookmark here


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 Twilight returned to midday as the spear closed in. The barrier that repelled 01’s attacks stood no chance.Bookmark here


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Arbiters and demon cyborgs each drew their power from the same source: anamnesis. Simple contact with the spear was enough to wipe it out. Nothing could protect the anamnesis and reversing time was meaningless because the newly created reality was missing its foundation. Bookmark here


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Turning modern combat theory on its head was the ace up 01’s sleeve.Bookmark here


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“Agh! Ahhhhhhh!!”Bookmark here


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It was a scream of raw, unbridled fear. This was not the hallucination Erde had endured during 01’s onslaught, but genuinely seeing death right before her eyes.Bookmark here


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“-!”Bookmark here


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Just before the spear penetrated the last layer of her barrier, Erde used both hands to concentrate every ounce of heat she could muster to form a scarlet shield. While only one hundredth the size of her original barrier, it was thousands of times as dense.Bookmark here


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Unlike her logical senses, which had long since given up, the instincts in her heart were still hell-bent on victory.Bookmark here


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Gritting her teeth, Erde willed her legs to stand their ground and dug in. Such extreme concentration caused the temperature within her brain to skyrocket and dyed her vision blood red.Bookmark here

The blade was right in front of her eyes, but her shield was holding it at bay.Bookmark here


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“Rrraaaagggghhhh!!”Bookmark here


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Harnessing her full power with both hands, Erde forced the last traces of fear from her heart.Bookmark here


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If the spear advanced by consuming anamnesis, all she had to do to protect herself was overload it.Bookmark here


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It did not matter if it took seconds or minutes to stop the weapon cold, Erde was bound and determined to do so. Every ounce of the substance in the area was under her control.Bookmark here


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Hold out now, and victory was hers.Bookmark here


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“Huh-?”Bookmark here


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That conviction shattered the moment it felt real.Bookmark here


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The power holding the spear back suddenly vanished from her fingertips. Energy that coursed through her whole body was gone without a trace.Bookmark here


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The stable anamnesis that had always circulated within her veins, power that should never disappear, had been completely consumed by 01’s spear.Bookmark here


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The blood-stained cutting edge closed in. Erde reflexively closed her eyes and braced for impact. There was nothing left she could do.Bookmark here


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“Th-This can’t be-”Bookmark here


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Right before plunging into darkness, the last image that came to Erde’s mind was the smile she yearned to see once again.Bookmark here

Gatchan
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