Chapter 43:

Cries of Eris

Code: Zero Defect

"Erianna De Leux," Keira spoke. "Any last words for us?"

Erianna lifted her head and faced the crowd, however, she wore not the eyes of a person who feared their approaching execution. Instead, they were the eyes of the most confident woman even in the face of death.

"There is no excuse I have for you," she began. "You saw it for yourself. I helped the one called 'Strider' escape from the coatsmen. Does that make me a defect? Well... By the laws of this city, I suppose it does, but... what does being a defect mean? I wonder."

She was met with nothing but silence, a testimony to the attentive crowd as they listened to her words. However, one should ask themselves why they would even bother to listen. After all, she admitted herself. She is a defect, those who oppose the High Order and the Queen. Her words should mean nothing to the public, but woe is the many who lent her their ears.

"Perhaps alongside many of you, I, too, have my own beliefs," Erianna chuckled. "Things that I think are right, things that I think are wrong, and ideals... that go against the absolute law enforced by the High Order. Is that so bad? Is my own mind a sin to those who wish to control it? Maybe so, for here I stand, punished for yielding such 'detestable' beliefs."

Defects are those marked by the High Order as indecent revolutionaries hell-bent on disrupting the peaceful order of the city. However, they are not such monsters as popularly depicted. They are simple residents who wish for a better life: a life without strife nor the worry of retribution for expressing themselves the way they wish.

"Should I have kept my silence?" Erianna asked. "Should I have allowed that poor boy to die? Should I have continued to bend my knees? In my opinion, no, and I do not regret saving him. He is but a byproduct of the city's tyrannical rule. The High Order did that to him, and so, I have no right to blame him. Those are my beliefs. If I must die for it... then so be it."

A wave of murmurs washed through the crowd. The audience was visibly swaying, and Ramses Zakaria was becoming wary. Despite that, Keira Van Lachlahn maintained her relaxed exterior. All the while, Theo De Leux kept as still as he possibly could even though his own wife was about to be executed.

Erianna took one step forward and raised her voice. "Hear me, people of New Olympos. Just like me, you are people, too. People who deserve to be heard, and people who are entitled to their own choices."

"Shut her up..." Ramses muttered.

"No," Keira shot down immediately. "Let her speak."

And so, Erianna continued. "My mind and all that is held within are my own, and so, too, are yours. I ask you again, does that make us defective? Are our beliefs nothing but a reverberation of being born with a human mind? Why must our lives be reduced to that of insects for something so simple?"

"Van Lachlein..." Ramses grumbled.

"Hush now, darling," Keira winked at him. "I wanna see where this goes."

"We know what the High Order does. We know what they are after. A great revolutionary from the past revealed that to us. Now, I beg you to ask yourselves; where do we draw the line? How many more of our children must suffer for us to understand? I've already lost one, and I was on the verge of losing another. Is that not enough for me to act? If it were you... would you have kept still?"

"Enough!" Ramses roared. "Executor! Kill her now!"

"So, I implore you... Live your life as you desire!" Erianna declared with a beautiful smile. "You are your own person! Your beliefs and values are your own, and no one can take them from you!"

She then tilted her head to scowl at her husband. "... Not even the High Order. I say this to you not as Erianna De Leux... but as Erianna La Senia!"

Executor loaded his pistol and held it right to her head, but it was too late. A series of gasps and chatter erupted from the crowd. From her own mouth, she spoke the outlawed quote of La Senia, the first defect. To those who lived since the days of old, It was as though La Senia herself returned to preach those words once more.

Furthermore, the revelation of her lineage shaped the iron into an unbreakable blade, one that the mass would not so easily forget she who wields it. Even Solas was surprised to hear it, but he could not concentrate on anything else.

With a massive heave of breath, he screamed at the top of his lungs, "STOP!"

However, Executor did not. It didn't matter, though. Even if she dies now, she has left her impression. The only thing she can do now is to hope for the safety of her children. She dreaded the thought of abandoning them in such a world, but it was bound to happen.

"Solas, my dear... I love you," Erianna whispered to herself.

An ear-splitting boom rendered the entire Arch silent. Breaths were held, eyes were fixed, and clouds above seemingly lost their motion. Not a single person moved. Not even the slightest twitch—still, as if the moment itself was captured perfectly into a marvelous painting that told a dreadful story. A sudden stroke of red dashed across the canvas as the body of Erianna La Senia slowly fell to the ground.

She fell, and fell, and fell—until she plopped onto the ground with an echoing thud. All the while, her son watched in a daze. His mind went blank. A trail of blood whisked through the air, diverging from his mother's head before it spilled onto the ground next to her.

A chilling heartbeat petrified him, which was followed by another one. Then, a third. Each beat felt as though his heart was desperately trying to force its way out of his chest. His breaths felt heavy and left him unfulfilled.

"MOTHER!" he cried out, pushing past the guards that were holding him back.

He sprinted across the open space with tears forming in his eyes. Many soldiers began taking aim, but that did not deter him. The entire area around him disappeared, and all he could see was his mother lying in a pool of blood.

Keira reached for her earpiece and spoke. "Whoever shoots him will die by my hands."

And that was all it took for the soldiers to lower their weapons. Upon reaching his mother, Solas fell on his knees as he looked upon her lifeless eyes.

"Mo... Mother...?" he mumbled incoherently, but she did not reply.

His subtle gasps and short breaths quickly turned into restrained cries, and those cries became the most agonizing wails.

The only thing the spectators could do was watch. In any case, what more could they do? Defects are those who oppose the city. Defects are those who disrupt public order and safety. Defects... deserve nothing but the cruelest fate.

All who were sent to execution may have as well had tomatoes thrown at them. All who were sent to execution walked a false path. All who were sent to execution deserve no mercy.

However, this time was different. Their emotions were conflicting with each other. As they watched the young man cry next to his deceased mother, there was no opportunity for ceremony. Instead, they couldn't help but feel pity.

Is this right? Is this truly the only path to perfection? No. In a perfect world, the concept of suffering doesn't exist, so why is it that a young man is crying out in agony right in front of them? To what end does such a path lead?

Finally, Solas lifted his head. His eyes lifted, his brows crossed, and he gritted his teeth to the point where it began to hurt. However, his scornful gaze was not directed towards the one who killed his mother. Instead, he looked upon the one who stood at the forefront on the highlands.

"How could you let this happen?!" he exploded with rage. "What the fuck is wrong with you?! You... You're her husband! You were supposed to protect her! So why the fuck is she dead?! Huh?!"

General De Leux stumbled back. His eyes shook, and his mouth trembled. He wanted to speak. He wanted to say that he didn't want this, but he couldn't. He knew full well the role he had in this. He knew that if he really wanted to, he could've stopped it, but he didn't. And now that everything was said and done, he didn't know what to feel.

"Why aren't you saying anything...?" Solas growled. "Look! Mother... Mother's dead... and you're just standing there?! Answer me!"

No matter how loud his voice was, he was met with nothing but silence. Suddenly, his raging eyes faded away, replaced by a cold and lifeless look... as if his soul had been sucked right out.

He felt a plethora of emotions: shock, sadness, intense mournfulness, and hatred that burned much brighter than the rest.

"Hah... Haha..." Solas chuckled, though his pain was leaking through. "I should've known. You left us. You abandoned us for eight years, and the moment you show up, you get Mother killed... I don't even know what I was expecting. That's... just the kind of man you are."

Ramses stood from his chair and breathed a sigh of annoyance. "Take him away."

The executioner, who was standing by and awaiting commands, approached Solas. He then rested his hand on his shoulder.

"Get up, kid," he spoke in a low tone. "It's time to go."

"Don't... touch me..." Solas muttered bitterly.

"Look, kid. If you don't move right now, you're gonna end up just like-"

Right before he could finish, a line of silver flashed for a split second. A splatter of blood raced to the ground as Executor's head went flying through the air and landed with a plop.

Ramses Zakaria furrowed his brows with a glare of disdain.

Keira Van Lachlein's malicious smile grew even wider than before.

Theo De Leux's eyes flung wide open, and his jaws dropped.

There stood Solas, the left side of his face covered with blood as he looked up at the generals with a murderous scowl. In his hand was a titanium dagger, curved to the point where it resembled the devil's horn—a unique design for a weapon that was only ever seen alongside one person. One defect.

"Son...?" Theo gasped.

"Do not ever... call me that again," Solas said with extreme animosity. "Today, you killed your son along with his mother. I..."

Solas raised his dagger and pointed it at the generals. Even though he stood in the middle of so many Queen's Guards, his eyes were nothing short of the strongest determination.

"I... am Strider."