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.
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.
“-’Spose I can’t harp on her too much fer bein’ wet behind the ears.”
01 mused as he watched Erde ascend the tower at full speed.
Indeed, she was prepared to face death. She had the mind of a soldier, carrying out her duty without fear.
Which was exactly why 01 had gauded her into action.
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.
“...Karen. Everythin’ set?”
“Yes. Ready when you are.”
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.
“...I have control of the island’s defense system. Beginning deactivation and subsequent reactivation of the barrier.”
01 heard the love in the voice of the girl under his protection and felt it wash over him like a comforting hug.
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.
“Distortion axis confirmed. Successfully isolated from the surrounding area. Battlefield formation complete. Now you can really let loose, Dad.”
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.
Without it, 01 would sink along with the island even if he defeated Erde in the end.
“-‘Second Limiter: off. Photonic Circuit: accelerate.’”
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.
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.
“Adjustments complete... Anamnesis merger successful, maintaining homeostasis...”
“‘Overdrive engaged. Materialize: ready.”
What started as a breeze grew stronger with each subsequent stage. A whirlwind appeared like magic, engulfing 01 in an instantaneous storm.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“Ener-... load compl-... The res-... to you, Dad.”
“-Yeah, I got this.”
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.
“‘I wield the spear, destroyer of illusions.’”
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.
From there, a spear tore its way into existence at a snail's pace at first before manifesting in a quick burst.
“-We’ve got work to do, Longinus. Our first big one in a long time.”
A crimson blade sat atop a pitch-black shaft. The spear, nearly as long as 01 was tall, shone with a bone-chilling radiance.
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.
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.
The blade had but one target: the life of Number 10, the girl brandishing fury.
Afternoon twilight was opening up before her eyes.
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.
The falling star’s heat swallowed everything in its path. It was only a matter of time before it made landfall.
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.
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.
Her view was awash with pure light. Flames enveloped what little land she could see.
The island would disappear in a fiery blaze. Beholding the sight she had longed for satisfied the dark flames within her beyond measure.
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.
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.
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.
Impossible. That sphere of light had come from anamnesis. Vanishing could only mean-
Twilight returned to midday as the spear closed in. The barrier that repelled 01’s attacks stood no chance.
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.
Turning modern combat theory on its head was the ace up 01’s sleeve.
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.
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.
Unlike her logical senses, which had long since given up, the instincts in her heart were still hell-bent on victory.
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.
The blade was right in front of her eyes, but her shield was holding it at bay.
Harnessing her full power with both hands, Erde forced the last traces of fear from her heart.
If the spear advanced by consuming anamnesis, all she had to do to protect herself was overload it.
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.
Hold out now, and victory was hers.
That conviction shattered the moment it felt real.
The power holding the spear back suddenly vanished from her fingertips. Energy that coursed through her whole body was gone without a trace.
The stable anamnesis that had always circulated within her veins, power that should never disappear, had been completely consumed by 01’s spear.
The blood-stained cutting edge closed in. Erde reflexively closed her eyes and braced for impact. There was nothing left she could do.
“Th-This can’t be-”
Right before plunging into darkness, the last image that came to Erde’s mind was the smile she yearned to see once again.