For the next few weeks, Quorra and Troy brought me along with them to search for Deka's crew.
From what we had gathered, Deka was somewhere in the past Star System.
Somewhere in the dark sector.
And at some point, his coms went out.
Quorra tried to get Yelena, her Ship Dataform, to contact Folock, but there was no luck.
"Don't worry, Shane. We'll find them." Quorra reassured me.
I sat on the bed Quorra had tried to make for me. She had Yelena create a personal quarters for me, claiming she knew exactly what I wanted. In other words, she didn't know jack shit about me.
I stared at the numerous dumbbells and gym equipment that I just didn't need neatly racked all around my room. There was a poster of Reagan Glass, the champion bodybuilder of her time, flexing his guns at me every time I woke up in the morning.
The words "DON'T PULL OUT, PULL UP!" Were plastered at the top of my doorframe. For a 16 year old girl, Quorra had quite a dirty mind. It made me kind of scared.
I sighed and got up, bonking my head on a punching bag that Quorra had installed from the ceiling, and walked up to Ais, inspecting it.
Severen metal and Severen designs. The thing looked demonic, but sported its own grace to some degree. It was weird. I knew the Severens and the Torons were both rivalling factions. But you would think with their eight appendages and alien-like appearance, they would be living in some kind of spaceship like the movie Alien.
Not quite the case.
These past few weeks have been nothing but a rollercoaster of emotions. No matter how much I tried to fight back at fate, it just came back to bite me in the ass. SHADE was right; fate never stops messing with you. I thought I had a new life, fighting alongside Captain Price, in his battle to get his mother back.
My days spending time with Rinne.
Chilling with Umbra and Flippy.
Letting Aurora try out new foods and cuisine like an older brother.
But now, I couldn't have any of that. With the truth being revealed.
I am SHADE's past self. I would eventually grow up to become the Severen's greatest monster. Everything I had with Captain Price would disappear. No. It was already beginning. I could only hope they were safe. But safe from SHADE and the Severens? Was that even possible?
Quorra had my back. But even Quorra herself admitted she stood zero chance against SHADE. And even if I chose not to believe her, I witnessed it myself. When she joined the top ten of the Valian Council to take down SHADE, only three of them survived. And SHADE let them go on purpose to prove a point.
As long as SHADE was with the Severens, we were at a severe disadvantage.
SHADE couldn't be beaten.
I put my hand on Ais. The only Valian that had ever fought toe to toe with SHADE was the legend himself, Zennen Ful. With Zennen on our side, the Valians believed they stood a chance against the Severens. But Zennen had gone missing for years. No one knew what happened to him. At this point, many of the mid tier and low ranking Valians questioned if such a Valian even existed.
"We're here." Yelena notified us.
We got off the Landing Craft and stepped onto a platform on what I presumed to be Europa. Was this Dark Sector? No clue. From what Deka had told me, it was controlled by the Toron Corpo of his time. But as of now, the whole icy place was completely overwhelmed.
And it didn't take a genius to know who was causing all the ruckus.
"That's an Eidolon."
I turned to Quorra. "Like those giant chickens?"
"Isn't that what you guys call those things? Deka always called those chickens."
"I think you're confusing that for the Ropalocyst. We never once called those things chickens."
My face became red with embarrassment.
Troy let loose a laugh. "Ahhh don't worry about it, Shane! We can take that thing out easy peasy."
I stared at the towering Eidolon as it made a large howl, stamping on buildings as it made its way across the icy mountains.
"Can we even put a dent on that thing? I think Quorra should just-"
Quorra began tending to her Landing Craft.
"You two will capture that Eidolon for me so I can extract information from it on Dekani's whereabouts. Use the training I gave you. You two should be able to defeat it without my help."
Troy and I stationed near the front of the Severen. I nodded at Troy, who closed his eyes and began to glow purple just like Quorra did whenever she used her void powers. Then he blasted into the air, void dashing right through the enormous adversary and pinning it to the ground, completely shattering its shields.
I took out my Upgraded Harkanon and took aim with one arm, firing an extremely high velocity shell at the synovia. I then took my other Harkanon and fired, blasting the other synovia into pieces. Simultaneously reloading and firing and repeating until all the synovia's were destroyed.
The Severen screeched and fell to its knees, summoning a bunch of its Severen brethren from within the shadows to assist it, but I leapt in to intercept them.
"Lance Upload Protocol: SLINGER Peacemakers 210%"
Everything slowed down as everything became instinct. Impulse. My body moved on its own, as my senses dialled to eleven.
"Ain't nothing coming out of this without bullet holes." I heard myself say. Damn you, Slinger.
In the span of two seconds, everything was destroyed, and the Severens began to prime themselves to explode, taking me with them, but Troy leapt in front of me, unleashing a massive wave of void energy, disintegrating them.
The Severen screeched and groaned, as Troy turned to me.
I retracted my Regulators back into my forearms, and putting my Harkanon Rifles back into their straps. I walked to the head of the Severen and drew Ais.
"Tell me where your brethren are. Where SHADE is. Tell me where Deka is."
The Severen said nothing, as it glared at my sword.
Quorra approached us, resolved in her own Slinger Lance.
"We can't communicate with Severens. But that sword... maybe it might help."
I inspected Ais. I didn't like using this sword. But objective wise, it was superior to Gram in so many ways. If it meant getting information about Cap from this bastard, I had to do it.
I placed blade against the Severen's head, as it began to screech. My brain became flooded with thoughts.
"Wow I didn't think that would work." Quorra said.
What the hell?!
My knees buckled as I collapsed. I could hear Troy shouting my name, but his cries became distant as reality warped in itself. Until I was somewhere else.
I gasped as I stumbled around, staring at my hands, which were mere projections of nothing. I was like a ghost, as I took in my surroundings.
A large contrast from the Toron architecture was an understatement. Dark grey walls, angular, like a citadel. It felt like I was in a dark medieval society. Almost like a dark reflection of the Toron. I never thought much about the Severens. Because they seemingly looked so alien like. So inhuman. Yet... this place. It was hard to describe in words. But this place proved me wrong.
The Severens had an entire civilization of their own. They sported grace like the Toron, but in their own way.
I took a step forward, when suddenly, I heard a bunch of chattering and clicking. I quickly hid behind a pillar as I watched several Severen drones lead a pack of prisoners down a pathway. I narrowed my eyes and nearly gasped out loud.
What was the Corpo doing here?
I followed quietly, as the prisoners were brought into a citadel. Upon entering inside I was taken aback by the architecture. This place reminded me a lot of the Catholic Churches I used to go to. White and red trim decorated the entire place.
This place almost contrasted with the Toron perfectly. The Toron architecture was always white and gold trim. Blue emissive lights. But the Severens were white and red trim. Yellow emissive lights.
"Adam Virgo." A voice said, from one of the highest pillars of the place.
A voice squeaked from one of the prisoners.
"Yes, my liege?"
A large Severen opened up its appendages, levitating to the ground. I clenched my fists. I knew who this was.
Deka and Quorra's adopted mother.
"Why were the Amalgrams not completed as requested?"
Adam began to sweat.
"A mere miscalculation, my Queen. I have sent my men to investigate-"
"This mere calculation has cost us greatly. The Valians have made their move. Father slumbers."
"I promise it won't happen again."
Adam Virgo. Deka told me Adam was the leader, CEO of the Corpo. To think this money hungry business mogul was scared shitless, it was almost beyond me. But then it all made sense. The owner of the huge business media empire would never have voluntarily joined the Severens unless it was for two things.
"Take him to the confines." Lena ordered, as Adam and the others were pushed and shoved out of the room. I watched them leave, making the decision to stay and hear out Lena.
"My queen." Another voice said, as a large, sickly figure stepped out of the shadows.
"Brother, what progress has been made in our efforts?"
"The father dwells. Our body, together, but shattered by the Void Devils. SHADOW continues to weaken the weaker Valians, and SHADE has destroyed their best.
"Seven of the Ten. Victim of Ais. Three remain, as instructed."
I clenched my fist. SHADE. He killed those kids in cold blood. I thought I had saved Quorra and those two other Council members, but it was all because he had truly done so on purpose.
"The Void Devils. Children of the Toron. Why was such a thing created? Why were these children created... Ballard?"
Ballard? Umbra's creator?
Nero yanked a chain, forcing a sickly man to step forward. His skin was purple, but his lower half... it was...
"I beg for your mercy, my Queen. My body, my soul, my face. It was so perfect." Ballard muttered, his voice full of defeat.
"You were always perfect, dearest Ballard. Your existence is to serve the Severens. From the day you chose to abandon the Toron. You were always perfect for us." Lena said, as she hovered to Ballard.
Nero grabbed Ballard's head and slammed it to the ground as Ballard whimpered.
"You shall address your Queen with gratitude."
"Thank you, my Queen." Ballard said.
So Ballard, the creator of the Toron Lances. The guy who made Umbra and almost all of the Toron warfare, was under the Severen's control. This was bad. That meant they had every trick up their sleeve against the Valians.
"Tell me, Ballard." Lena hovered closer to his face.
"Tell me about the Unarmored Valian. How is a Terran able to wield your technology without a Lance? How is this possible?"
My blood turned cold. The Unarmored Valian? Was that... was that me?
Ballard was silent.
"No. Such a process should not be possible. The art of war. The Infestation. This is what gave the Lances strength. That was what gave our test subjects the power to move, to fight, to serve. To throw a mere boy into the Infestation, and to not only fight alongside his comrades, but retain his humanity? His own control? This is simply not possible."
"Yet Umbra walks among them."
"The Umbra model was different. His sentience was through unparalleled rage. Horror. Pain. These feelings were what drove him to stay true to himself. But a child like Shane Mayen should not have the mental will to resist the Infestation without turning into a mindless monster like the millions before him."
"You say such things, yet the one known as Shane Mayen walks among them. The one known as Shane Mayen fights like them. And not only that...
"His movements. He possessed two styles. The first style, the Way of the Valian, likely taught to him from the Valian Dekani Price. But his second style, perhaps he himself does not realize it, is the very style of Ciel Licita. The Seventh Sense. The General of the Tora."
Ballard's eyes widened. "A Licita lives?"
"Yes, Ballard. Shane Mayen possesses the blood of a Licita. For reasons unknown. But he has not mastered the full potential of it. But should he do, he will pose a threat much greater than any of us can imagine."
Nero walked next to his sister.
"Indeed. Because one of our own, also possesses the blood of a Licita. SHADE. With both Severen and Licita blood in his veins, he has become one of our best. But to have another SHADE on their side, would be disadvantageous."
"No. It will not." The doors opened, revealing a tall man with long white hair and a Severen style trench coat. He walked in, dragging the head of a Lance with one hand. A Saryn's head.
Shardis tossed the head to the feet of Nero.
"The job is done. Kiyoria, the leader of the Odin Alliance, has been eliminated. Her reliance on her pathetic Saryn, and delusion that she was the best, was of no challenge to me."
Ballard stared at the head of one of his creations.
"Very good, SHADE."
I glanced at the severed head of the Lance. He had hunted down another high ranking Valian. Kiyoria Nikion. MR30, Council Rank 19. Apparently she was one of the best Saryn users of all the Valians. This was huge loss on their end.
But what about Deka's crew? SHADE had said he was looking for them. I needed to know where they were. That was the whole point of this.
"The Valians are at war, yet they fight amongst themselves. Their pride keeps them from fighting their enemy with full vigor. An influence from the Toron, perhaps?" SHADE turned to Ballard, who was still staring at Saryn's head in horror.
SHADE knelt down and grabbed Ballard's head. His tone suddenly shifted, whispering with full malice.
"Listen here, Toron trash. My name is Shardis Licita. No matter how powerful you make your Lances, it is useless. Because I will always be stronger. It doesn't matter how many Reactors you stuff into that Saryn bitch. I will cut her head off all the same. The Valians exist for Ais to cut through them."
SHADE got to his feet and bowed to Lena.
"My Queen, I will take my leave."
SHADE got up but paused, staring directly at me. My eyes widened as I instinctively stumbled backwards.
"Ah, I see." The future me muttered, as he smiled.
SHADE turned around.
"My Queen, would you like a status report on your problem child, Dekani Price?"
Lena descended from her throne and approached SHADE.
Shardis smiled and brushed his hair back.
"The Rogue Valian continues to resist the Infestation. As with the girl. The Lance, Umbra, has been dismantled and fed to the Infestation Culture created by Ballard, ready for deployment. As for the rest of the people on the Orbiter, we have them ready for execution on command, but I believe a proper ransom can be put in place for the Dataform. After all, Folock is quite a valuable resource for the Valians. Perhaps a trade set by the Corpo slaves."
"I see. Dismissed."
SHADE left the building, but not before beckoning me. I followed him, my eyes wide, and my fists shaking in rage.
"You... sick fuck." I growled.
Shardis turned around, his eyes empty and face void of emotion.
"Temporary. As all things are."
"Even if they are temporary, why would you tear it away like that! Umbra dismantled?! Are you telling me he's dead?!"
"That Lance was never alive. He was supposed to die when he became that monster and was blown up by Lena."
I reached behind my back to draw out my guns, but my hand went through like mist.
"You are just an astral projection. Do you think you have what it take-"
"RAAAGH!!" I roared, charging forward and slamming into my future self as we spiralled into reality, landing in another region of the Severen base.
I fell to the ground but got to my feet, as Shardis brushed off dust from his jacket. His face showed no signs of concern as he regarded me.
"Show me then, Shardis Licita. The results of your training with Quorra Lavine."
I took out my Harkanon, my hands no longer projections, and fired repeatedly as SHADE deflected them with Ais.
"Lance Upload Protocol: HELOS Flashgrenade 50%"
I tossed a flashbang at SHADE as I went high, readying my sheathe.
"Lance Upload Protocol: ASH Fivefold Bladestorm"
Five of my clones closed in as I readied Ais summoning everything I had and slashed behind me, intercepting SHADE.
"You're beginning to fight smart. That is good." SHADE said.
"Shut up." I snarled, as I summoned Kien's strength and pushed him back.
I landed on the ground and brought my hands up in a cross.
"Licitian Potential: Kien Licita, Ciel Licita, Tricity Licita"
My body exploded with power as I levelled Ais and blasted forward, slashing and cutting to pressure SHADE, but his face remained calm. How was he able to keep up against all three Licita's?!
"Not yet. You're not a proper vessel for fate yet." SHADE muttered, as he dodged another swipe, and leapt into the air.
"GRAARR" I growled, shooting into the air like a comet, the power of the Licitian Potential overflowing from my body, giving me a blinding white glow.
SHADE landed on the top of an arch, his face disgusted.
"I forgot how repulsive I used to be when I fought." He said, as he raised his hand, forming a fist.
I continued approaching him, my body no longer listening to me, as it became berserk from the overflowing power.
"I have revealed enough. All in accordance to fate. All in accordance to the progress of Shardis Licita."
SHADE began to glow white, as his fist swirled with power.
"Licitian Potential: Kien Licita - 600%"
SHADE brought his foot back and smashed me in the face with overwhelming force, the punch rippling through my body as everything shut down. My muscles burst as all the strength left my body. I smashed into the ground as I slowly began to lose consciousness. Everything turning dark as I watched SHADE approach me, his face, empty. His eyes, lifeless.
"Go to sleep, Shane Mayen."
"Why... what happened to you. Why did you become this... How did I turn into this..." I croaked.
SHADE stopped walking, slowly turning around.
"In time you will understand. At some point, you will truly see that the only way through all the obstacles that life puts in front of you is to barge straight through. No one can understand what it's like. Not Deka. Not Rinne. Not Troy. And all they will do is try to help. But because it is the very fact that they don't know what it's like, that their help turns into obstacles."
SHADE closed his fist.
"And the only way to get through obstacles is to barge straight through."
"We can't go after them like this." Quorra shut me down.
"What?! Are you serious? We have an idea of where they are and you're telling me we can't go?"
Troy held me down as Quorra inspected the interface Yelena had made for her.
"That place you just described is a Severen drone ship in the outer proximity of Mars. It's completely swarmed with their battle units. My Vessel is going to be blown up to bits. We need a Railjack to clear them out."
"The Clan Railjack..." I muttered.
Quorra raised an eyebrow. "Come again?"
"The Clan Railjack. The one Deka stole from you guys. You don't have it anymore, right?"
"Shane, did SHADE knock you in the head a little too hard?"
"What are you saying?"
Quorra got up and pointed outside. I followed her and couldn't believe my eyes. Before me was a massive ship with starboard cannons, floating next to her Orbiter.
"Every Valian has their own Railjack. There is no Clan Railjack, Shane."
"But... Deka told me..." I muttered. This didn't make sense. Was Deka lying to me this whole time?
How he had told me, was he had infiltrated one of the Gladiator Clan dojos and stole the Clan Railjack, which happened to the be the Clan that Quorra was leading herself. When he had gone and left in it, he was pursued by numerous Valians in their Archwing, but they weren't enough to take him down because of the Railjack's importance. Then Deka had integrated the Railjack into his own Orbiter to form a Superorbiter, the Lotuscraft. That was how the story went.
Then Quorra had somehow found out, then raced to find Deka herself. Despite having the Lotuscraft and all of his Lances on his side, Quorra still defeated him, destroying almost all of his Lances, until Deka had revealed to her his intentions of saving their mother. She let him go, and he went back in time, in turn, saving me from Lena's invasion forces that day.
That was how the story went.
That was... until now.
Quorra leaned in closer to me.
"Shane? You look like you're about to be sick. Don't worry, I didn't find your naughty magazine collection."
"No!" I yelped. "What are you talking about, I'm fine."
"About the Railjack or-"
Troy tried to hold back a laugh. "But Quorra, you said you needed a Railjack. We have one here. Why don't we use it?"
Quorra shook her head. "If it was a normal Proxima mission, I would clear it out in seconds."
"Glad to know the elitism in you never went away over the past few months." I grumbled.
Quorra continued. "But, this isn't a normal Proxima mission. There are way too many guards that can adapt to my firepower. I can't go out and fire void beams. The best way is to use multiple Railjacks to take them down with different damage types so we can cycle and take down the fighters guarding it."
Troy put his hand on his chin.
"And our mission going back to the past is strictly confidential, right? From the rest of the Valians?"
"Correct. Meaning there is only one person I can ask."
Quorra pointed at me.
"Shane's adopted brother! Arsanios!"
My face paled. Remembering the last time we met. I never had myself beat up so bad in my life.
"Oh. Great. Fantastic." I muttered.
By the time we returned to Quorra's time period, the Licita mansion was no longer the same place as it was. Rubble and debris littered the whole place. The gates were smashed in. The house was nearly demolished. My boots crunched on the ground as I entered the first two gates, knocking on the door.
"Hello? I need to have a word with the lord of the household." I said.
"The lord is unavailable to speak to you at this time. Please go away." A voice responded.
I clenched my fists. There was no time for this. I looked at Quorra, who nodded at me.
"There is little time. I need to speak with my brother." I replied.
The voice was silent for a few seconds, until resurfacing with a new tone. One that almost sounded borderline heartbroken.
"Shardis, is that you?"
The maid who tended to me, Lexa Pixus, inspected my birthmark on my stomach.
"It is true. You are indeed a Licita. How could this be? How have you returned after what Kirin had done?"
I stared at Lexa. "What are you talking about? I don't even remember anything from my past life. All I remember was growing up with my adopted parents and being-"
A pod. That was what Mom had told me before she died in my arms.
"The pod..." My eyes widened.
Lexa took a shaky breath. "What could this mean. This is... too much." She gasped, clutching her chest.
"Hey, take it easy." I got up, kneeling next to her.
"Please, let me see Arsanios. I can only imagine what has happened to this place, after recent events."
Lexa wiped her eyes, hyperventilating, as another maid ran forward and tended to her.
"Breathe Miss Pixus. We must always retain our composure in the face of those with the honour of Licita in their names."
I glanced at the smashed photos that lined the walls. The Licitas. My ancestors. And on the far right, the most recent one, was a proud man with long black hair. And a face that looked almost like mine.
The maid got up and bowed to me.
"My name is Yelene Reinhart. To say the long lost son of the Licita household has returned is a mere understatement. I too, am in shock at what has transpired, Lord Shardis."
I took a deep breath. This place, the first time I was here, was blooming with luxury. With class. Clean polished Toron architecture decorated the entire mansion. But now all I saw, was destruction and havoc. Of remains. This place was almost unrecognizable. And for some reason, seeing this home in this state, made me angry.
"Tell me what happened here. Please, Yelene."
Yelene closed her eyes.
"To the war room, Lord Shardis. I will explain everything there. Your guests, I apologize for not tending to them. This household has taken very substantial losses. Our workforce is almost depleted."
"They're with me. Quorra Lavine and Troy Lucien serve the Valians."
Yelene glanced at the Hannibal Lance.
"The legend herself? The Quorra Lavine, leader of the Valian Gladiator Alliance?"
"I am happy to be here."
Yelene smiled at me. "As expected, from a Licita. A noble chooses his companions wisely. Always."
My heart wrenched. Did I though? What was Deka to me now, knowing he had lied to me about the Railjack all this time? What else was he hiding? My trust in him had wavered when Quorra told me that every Valian owned their own Railjack. Why did Deka lie to me? Why keep these things secret from his First Mate, his most loyal companion?
"Your seat, my lord." Yelene held out her hands for me, gesturing me to sit. I sat down in the fancy chair in front of a large round table.
Yelene smiled. "You are just like your father."
"Not so much the appearance, but your mannerisms. Your habits and the intricate details."
I paused. "Wha... What was my father like?"
Yelene pursed her lips.
"Let us not discuss Master Kirin, for Lord Arsanios listens. I will update you on our situation."
Yelene showed me a big complicated holographic interface, as she filled us in on the current state of the Licita household.
"Our household is in ruins. Lord Arsanios came to visit that day, critically injured. His Orbiter, destroyed, his Ash Lance, barely functional. We, as loyal servants to the Licita, ran to our Master's aid, but against the might of the Valians, we knew such a fight would never be a fight to win."
I watched as everybody in the household stepped in front of Arsanios in the hologram. The butlers. The maids. The cooks and gardeners. Ordinary people who could not fight, grabbing whatever they had. Be it spades, broomsticks, kitchen utensils, rakes.
These were ordinary people. They didn't belong in the battlefield. Women, and even children who looked up to Arsani, putting distance between their Master and the Valians. No one backing down, despite many fearing for their lives.
"No..." I muttered.
"Members of the Licita household, step away from the Price." A Valian said, who was resolved in a Faerar Lance, as roots began to sprout from the ground, wrapping around the servants' legs.
"We shall not yield!" One of the servants cried out. His face was filled with terror.
Another Valian readied their guns. "Mere fodder trying to protect their phony master. He isn't even a Licita. Must you all need to be re-educated on what Dekani Price had done?"
The servants were terrified, but stood their ground.
"Shane." Troy said, as he put his hand on my shoulder. I realized my hands were trembling. My eyes completely immersed in the hologram.
"Licita or not, Arsanios treated us as people. He cared for us, fed us, and gave us the earnings we need to support our families. Even from a young age, when his parents were killed and even after returning from the first Valian-Severen war, he still remained steadfast in caring for us. Tell me, what kind of Valian would do something so kind? This can only be done through love. And just as he defended us, we shall defend him."
The Faerar Lance Valian sighed. "A shame." He said, as he pulled out his Orcus Shotgun Pistol and shot the maid who gave the speech in cold blood, killing her. Screams of horror erupted from the masses, as I stared at the maid's lifeless eyes. Blood pooling from her wound, and turning the white flowers in the garden red.
"White roses, stained with red." The Valian said, as he and the other four Valians took aim and began shooting the servants left and right, as the servants screamed, their eyes wide in terror, charging with their instruments of war. The very instruments that were used to maintain the mansion, which represented their love for their master, turned into instruments of bloodshed, as servants were shot and killed left and right.
"Stop. Run for your lives. Please run." Arsanios begged, his voice hoarse as he watched his servants be gunned down before his very eyes.
"No turning back. We lived as servants to the house of Licita. We will die as servants to the house of Licita! Even if you yourself do not believe yourself to be one, we still love you all the same!" A cook shouted, as he rushed in with a big frying pan, but a Slinger Lance simply smirked and shot him straight through the chest.
The cook's corpse crumpled to the ground in front of Arsanios.
Arsanios' lips moved at the same time as mine. As we both shouted the same thing. Like brothers.
Arsanios got up and resolved into his Ash Lance, which was so damaged that it was unable to move properly. But Arsanios took a step, and another, as his limp turned into a brisk, into a run, and into a sprint as he launched himself into the air and charged the Slinger.
"Disgraceful. To know you were once a part of us through Quorra's Clan. You've stained both her reputation and ours for your Price blood."
The Slinger reeled back and entered Peacemaker mode, bombarding Arsanios with hundreds to thousands of bullets as Arsanios fell backwards, resolving out of Ash which broke into pieces.
The other two Valians, a Abaddon and Ran, approached Arsanios, drawing their blades.
"Pin him to the ground, Ran."
The Ran Lance Valian held out her hand, and Arsanios was pinned down by dozens of aquatic projections, forcing him to face the Valians.
"Master!!!" The servants screamed, trying to run to Arsanios, but the Faerar stepped in, intercepting them with hundreds of vine growth and bullets.
The Abaddon knelt down and began to carve Arsanios' face, disfiguring it as the Valians chuckled in amusement.
"A Price living as a Licita, must have been luxurious for you. Let's fix that. Playing noble for so long has given you such nice skin, you don't deserve any of it." The Abaddon Valian snarled, as Arsanios yelled and screamed in agony, blood gushing from his cheeks as the blade continued cutting into his face.
I continued watching as Arsanios' face kept getting cut, it was too gruesome, but my eyes didn't peel away. My hands went from trembling out of shock, to trembling with rage. Yelene noticed and quickly turned off the feed.
"My lord, I deeply apologize. I have shown too much-"
"No." I said, as I got up, turning to Quorra.
"That vision I had of Lena and Nero. The Severens have been making their move. Taking in Ballard. SHADE killed our top seven Valians, and assassinated one of the greatest Saryn users. SHADOW continues to haunt the lower ranking Valians during their missions, as powerful as ever. And what the hell have the Valians been doing? Killing unarmed women, children, working class people? Defenseless ones?!"
Quorra couldn't meet my eyes, as she stared at the ground.
"This ends." I said, cutting her off. I turned to Yelene.
"How much people are left?"
Yelene sighed. "Seventy five percent of our workforce is dead. Another twelve percent are in critical condition. Six percent are wounded. In terms of performing workers in the mansion, we are only at seven percent."
"What about Arsanios? Is he..."
"Lord Arsanios is in critical condition as well. But during his last moments, he gave me a request. He gave us all a request.
"Find his brother. Shardis Licita, for he roams this world. He must continue on where he left off. Because right now, he is the only one that is fit to lead. Take him in, just as we took him in."
Yelene took my hand as gazed at me.
"Shardis Licita, command us."
I walked with Yelene to the main hall, where workers were stationed, trying to rebuild the house to no avail. One of the workers noticed me and beckoned the others, who all stopped working to stare.
"Is he... that face. That hair."
"He has returned."
Yelene brought her hand up.
"Members of the House of Licita. The brother of Master Arsanios has returned. I know we have suffered losses. Myriam and Lancius, died peacefully last night, but even so, for the longest time we thought it had been in vain. But no longer. Master Shardis has come home."
One of the workers got up, as she stared at me, inching forward hesitantly. She held out her hand reluctantly.
I sighed as I stepped forward and took it. Why did I choose to step into this role? Wasn't the whole point of fighting against fate rejecting who I was? Wasn't I just stepping into the void fate had made for me? By becoming Shardis Licita, and accepting that past, that self, I was taking another step to become SHADE. The Severen monster.
But looking at this servant girl's eyes. My own reflection from her tears. I realized. Someone needed to be there for these people. Because if it wasn't me, there was no one else. There was absolutely no one else.
No one can lead them.
But Shardis Licita.
I want to become a hero.
I took off my coat and placed it on the servant's shoulders as she began to sob.
One who saves everybody.
More and more servants got up and huddled around me, wrapping their arms around my body.
One who descends from the skies.
I looked at the sky, through the hole in the roof, as the sun began to shine from underneath, illuminating the small group of servants who were crying and burying their faces into me.
To protect everybody. And to tell everyone that...
"It's okay." I said, gently, as Yelene, Troy, and Quorra smiled at me from the corner of the room.
"I'm here now."
"You want me to what?!" Quorra yelped.
I rested my chin on the palm of my hand as I fiddled with the office decorations.
"You're gonna teach my people how to fight. You taught Troy and I, didn't you? I want them all to learn the teachings of Lena. I don't want another bloodbath to happen again."
"Shane, you know, teaching Troy was just a one time thing. To pass on Lena's teachings is taboo."
"Yet you didn't hesitate to train me."
"Because it was very clear Dekani didn't know what he was doing!"
I leaned back in my chair.
"Well, I don't either. Do you want me to teach them?"
"Gods, no." Quorra muttered.
"Then get to it." I said.
"But what about my admin tasks? I'm still a leader of a massive alliance, and I have my own clan to run. I'm a busy woman."
"You're 16. Besides..."
I beckoned Yelene over.
"Yelene's done admin stuff in the past. She says she is more than happy to take the load off of your shoulders."
"It is a pleasure to be of assistance, Lady Lavine."
Quorra blushed. "Ah, well. I don't mind being called that now..."
I got up and turned to the pictures lining the wall.
"I'm doing this different. All of it different. Because I'm not like my brother. I am going to train these gardeners, cooks, maids, attendants, workers in the art of war. This is no longer the peaceful sanctuary we once thought it was, because of these bastard Valians doing whatever the hell they please, instead of devoting their time to fighting this battle. If they want to bully us, we're fighting back with full force."
The next few days saw massive changes to how the Licita mansion handled things. Quorra began to teach my servants the art of combat. The Way of the Valian. Of course, this gave her a lot of bonding time with Troy, by using him as a training dummy and knocking him to the ground. Apparently seeing Troy get beat up was super funny to the children. And I certainly didn't mind the entertainment.
As for Arsanios, he was still in critical condition.
"Master Arsanios is currently comatose." Edda said, as she inspected his pulse.
"What can we do for him at this time?"
"Right now, we need more capable doctors. But because of the Arsani Price scandal, we have lost a lot of support from our clients."
"Which clients are we talking?"
"Numerous ones." Yelene said, as she walked into the room. She had a clipboard.
"The House of Licita holds powerful political status, and by that right, had access to many shares to many corporations. While discrete, many of these corporations earnings go to us, while retaining their respective names. By far, one of our biggest shares goes to one that you may familiar with.
"Corpo, eh." I grumbled. Those bastards were serving the Severens. There was no way we could get them on our side. But I guess that's just how it was. That was what they believed when Arsanios was still in charge. But now we got new management.
If the Corpo wasn't going to give us financial aid because Adam Virgo was being a bitch to the Severens, I'll have to do it myself.
By taking over their entire corporation.
"What is the status on the Railjack?" I asked.
"Unoperatable." Yelene responded, showing me the clipboard. I leaned in closer and narrowed my eyes.
"Ship intrinsics are linked to Master Arsanios. If your sole objective is to obtain his Railjack, you must awaken him. But such a thing will be a miracle at this rate." Yelene glanced at her former master, her eyes full of worry.
"We'll get Arsanios back." I reassured her.
Even if we couldn't get him back, there was still the Corpo. To save Deka and Rinne. If all Quorra needed was more than one Railjack, if I gained total control of the Toron Corpo empire by killing Adam Virgo, I could get the entire corporation to funnel development costs into building Railjacks. Under the curtains of course. And to pull off such a curtain trick, I had Yelene.
I put my hand on the window and clenched my fist. Deka. Rinne. Please just hang in there. Until my plan goes through. I promise. I promise I'll get you two back, along with Aurora, Flippy, and Folock.
And I will avenge Umbra. If it means tearing these Severens with my bare hands. One Severen at a time.
That night, Yelene gave me a progress report.
"Training has gone well. Forty two percent improvement in physical assessment tests, and Lady Lavine reports that their technique has seen drastic improvement. Clientele continues to diminish. I hope your plan with the Corpo sees fruition. Despite our income still sustaining us, we will soon need to rely on our emergency response funds to support this household. No improvement on Master Arsanios, and my connections have revealed enough information to begin drafting a plan for our heist."
"Thanks Yelene. You're the best." I said, as I turned to her.
Yelene smiled, but the worry in her eyes was so obvious.
"I live to serve, as the advisor and attendant to the head Licita."
"You don't need to keep saying that. You're a highly trusted ally." I responded.
I sat on my chair as I stared at my weapons strewn across the desk. Ais. Gram. Harkanons. Hellfires. All of which were modded with new Supra Mods supplied by Quorra to deal upgraded damage. All weapons that were becoming more and more like the ones SHADE used in my visions. I was becoming more and more like him every day.
"Tch." I muttered.
"My lord?" Yelene asked, as she stepped closer to me. "You look stressed."
"We all are."
"But the worry in your eyes, I cannot ignore it."
I turned to Yelene and noticed she was extremely close, as she began to stroke my face. Her breath smelled of wine.
"Please, relax with me, my lord. We can relax together, tonight."
My heart began to race and before I knew it, my instincts took over as I pinned my attendant onto the bed. Yelene grabbed my face until I suddenly stopped.
No. This was wrong. This was very wrong.
"Stop." I said, as I got off Yelene and stood up.
"My lord? Is this your first time?" Yelene asked coyly.
"Enough of this, Yelene. You're drunk. Take the time to sober up. We can't have this." I said, as I dismissed her and kicked her out of my room. I sat on my bed and buried my face in my hands.
What the hell am I doing? How did everything go so downhill so fast? Ever since I discovered my true destiny, everything just became a shitshow. I became forced to look after these people as their master. The family and friends that I had with Captain Price were now in jeopardy. Umbra was dead. Deka and Rinne were being tortured while I was about to have intercourse with my own damn attendant?
I glanced at the wine glass that Yelene was drinking out of. I totally didn't even know she was drinking. Drinking her sorrows and pain away.
I glared at Ais.
I didn't want to become a monster. But the more I let my morals take hold, the more people got hurt. Why even was I defending and fighting for these Valians? Were the Severens all that bad in comparison? I had no part in this war, and I only joined because I felt it was the only place to go. The only place to find a purpose.
But here I was, with all the purpose in the world. And I wanted none of it.
Fate was funny and cruel.
The next morning didn't get any better.
I woke up to hear arguing in the main hall.
"Yelene?" I asked.
"Yes, Master Shardis."
"What's going on down there?"
Yelene clasped her hands. "Tension. Some of us are against your decision to train women and children in the art of combat. They say it is defiling the ways of the Licita."
I followed Yelene to the main hall, as I overheard the arguing.
"He isn't Master Arsanios. Why must we stain our hands in blood to survive? We shouldn't learn such disgusting ways. Reason is the only way forward." One maid exclaimed.
"Do not speak ill of Master Shardis' decisions." Another responded.
I made my way down the stairs as more of the servants noticed me and bowed, quieting down.
I regarded the people who were causing the ruckus. Several very fashionably dressed individuals who were oozing with privilege. Something I was very familiar with. Something that I hated a lot. Because it reminded me of a select group of people who thought the same way. A group of cocky teenagers.
"What is happening here. Who are you." I said.
The group eyed me. "We are the bourgeoisie. Those of upper class in the Licita household. We have returned from our ventures, hearing of Lord Arsanios' condition. To know a filthy peasant has taken his place and is training our people in combat. How repulsive. Who are you to-"
A vein popped up on the side of my head as I quickly drew my Hellfire Machine Pistol and aimed it at the "noble". My expression cold. Several members of the household gasped.
"Did you just call a Licita a filthy peasant?" I asked, my voice dangerous, almost unrecognizable. I had no idea what was going on in me, but whatever happened, was like watching myself go into autopilot. Certain decisions seemed right. Even if they were questionable. Maybe it was the stress from last night with Yelene. Maybe it was the thought that I wasn't enough to save Umbra, and that Deka and Rinne's lives were at jeopardy. Aurora was about to be auctioned off. All that stress, all that pent up emotions inside me was slowly changing me.
"No, my lord." The nobleman replied.
"Kneel." I said.
The nobleman got to one knee, reluctantly, as I aimed my gun at the rest of the ruffians.
"Starting now, I am in charge of this household. My name is Shardis Licita. Unlike Arsanios, I am a legitimate child of Kirin and Caterena Licita. You will do as I say because that is the law. And if you refuse, then I'll have to let you in on a little secret. I'm not as nice as Arsanios. I've got shit on my plate too."
I gestured and beckoned Yelene over.
"Starting today, move these men to the janitorial position. If they're delusional enough to believe reason can get through the Valians, then they will have all the time scrubbing floors to lament this stupid way of thinking."
"Yes, Master Shardis."
The nobleman's eyes widened. "What did you just say? How dare you! Master Arsanios would never treat his subordinates in this way. You are inhuman. Disgraceful. You are-"
"What this household needs to survive this war." I responded, as I turned around, facing my servants. I clenched my fist. I couldn't believe what was happening. What I was turning into. Because the next thing I said was so unlike me, that I was slowly seeing how Shane Mayen would slowly devolve into something much worse. How SHADE had turned into who he was. At first, I thought it was impossible. Our ways of thinking was just too different. SHADE was crazy.
But as more and more things piled up on top of me, I slowly began to see.
Shane Mayen is worthless in this world. A fighter can't win every battle unless it's a fight. This world needed someone better. This was no longer a question of what would Shane Mayen do. It was a matter of what would a Licita do. What would Shardis Licita do.
"You are all going to follow me. By force if necessary. The Severens are our enemy. It doesn't matter if you choose to be neutral. You will be eliminated by the enemy. The only way is to become tougher and stronger. This is how cruel the world is. And if any of you disagree with my plans, then I will ask you to leave. If any of you try to interfere with my plans, then I will end your life. You might be wondering what my plan is. That plan is simple.
"I will use everything I have as a Licita, from physical power to political power, to destroy my enemies"
I brought my gun up as I stood at the top pedestal, towering over my people.
"And I won't stop until they have all been exterminated."
I thought about how wretched this world was. Why did class matter? Why attack those of lower class? Why kill untrained men, women, and children?
Who were my enemies? Anyone who posed a threat on my loved ones or myself.
And eventually, the Valians themselves.
The Shardinian Revolutionist Movement
The following few weeks, my people saw drastic improvement in their combat skill. Several of our more avid followers, who began to dub themselves the Shardis Legionnaires, requested they undergo the same Infestation operation that had given me my cybernetics.
Quorra was against this, obviously, and instead decided to teach them the way to channel the powers of the void. Unfortunately, this meant sharing her power to these people.
"You're the last batch." Quorra said, attempting to conceal her fatigue. She began to lean on Troy as she held out her hand, almost like a blessing to the remaining dozen of the Legionnaires.
Quorra's knees buckled and Troy caught her.
"Hey, don't push yourself too hard."
"No, you're not. Shane, we need to find other ways to-"
I got up from my seat, my Toron cloak, now embroidered with Licita markings, indicating my status as the new lord of the household. I walked down my steps and regarded Quorra from above.
"Yelene, call Eros over."
"Yes, my lord."
Yelene beckoned Eros, the household science officer, as she made her way and bowed to me.
"What may I do for you, Master Shardis?"
"Run a calculation. A net combat prowess of the forces of our Legion after Quorra has expended her void energy, and compare it to what we have now. Determine if Quorra should continue lending our people her power."
Troy's eyes widened. "The hell are you saying, Shane? Don't you care what happens to Quorra?"
I glanced at Troy, expressionless.
"Numbers don't lie. If we're gonna win this war, we have to do it ourselves. The Valians, as you knew, are useless. Fruitless egotistical children with no goals in mind. Thinking they are so high and mighty. Whatever happens in this calculation, will be pure numerical fact. And this fact will lead us to victory."
Troy stepped forward and attempted to grab my collar, but I did nothing as several of the maids in the room rushed forward with their pole-arms aimed at Troy's throat. Each one of them strong enough to defeat and match Troy's combat skill alone.
"You say all this about the Valians being all high and mighty. Yet here you are doing the exact thing. Power's ruined you, Shane. Who you were before, that's the man who will win this war. Not whatever the hell you are now."
Quorra stared at the ground.
Troy turned around. "Quorra?"
Quorra's fist shook. "He's right. Look at us. I lead a Clan of forty thousand. An alliance in the hundreds of thousands. I'm a member of the Valian Council. Yet we've done nothing to aid in the war against the Severens. All we've done is use our class and power for ourselves. If it wasn't for the whole idea that we are distinguished warriors, the people in this mansion wouldn't have suffered so much."
Quorra looked at her boyfriend, her face pale and defeated.
"Tell me, Troy. What have we done? What have I done? The only times I have aided in the war's efforts, have been with Shane. At the end of the day, it's Shane that's the only one fighting, and he's only half Valian with his Lance cybernetics. I won't stand for this. If it means helping Shane, then so be it."
The room went silent, as I went back to my chair, resting my chin on my hand, while Yelene continued updating me on the progress, and Eros continued her calculations.
Troy glared at me, as he shouldered his girlfriend.
"Where's Quorra gonna stay for the time being."
I looked up from the bangs of my hair.
"Take her to the Med-bay. Cera, lead the way." A maid took and led Quorra by the hand as Troy glared at me one last time.
"We'll be waiting on the results... Shardis."
I watched as the two left the master room while Yelene continued updating me on our progress. But everything she said seemed to come in one ear and go out the other. Because I just wasn't having it. I knew something was happening to me ever since I watched those Valians slaughter those women and children. In cold blood.
The face of that poor maid, with a hole in her forehead, her eyes, still pleading for the Valian to leave her beloved master alone. It wasn't just gory. It broke something inside of me, psychologically.
Little children playing with guns should never be a thing. Yet here we had the Valians, teenagers running around with power too much for them to handle. Acting like they owned the place and terrorizing the people with this stupid social hierarchy.
That night I went up to Ais and took the sword.
"Alright. Let's see how they're doing." I muttered, as I plunged the blade into a piece of the Eidolon Troy and I captured, my vision flooding with a new scene.
I was back in the Severen home system. Severen civilization all around me, as a familiar voice called out to me. I knew that voice, because it was my own.
"You have taken yet another leap in your developments. That is good."
I turned around.
"Update me on Deka and Rinne." I ordered.
SHADE smiled. "A lord cannot order another lord to do his bidding. We are after all, one and the same."
I clenched my fist.
"If I'm going to play along with your fate BS, at least tell me, tell me what I'm doing is right."
"Cap and Rinne are still alive, they still fight. After all, they're Valians through and through."
"You have two months, Shardis Licita. Two months to get them back. But you will get them back. At a price."
"I don't care what the price is. I'll get my friends back." I growled.
SHADE threw his head back and stared at the sky.
"Indeed you will. You will get them back. But only them."
"What the hell is that supposed to mean?"
SHADE turned around and gazed at the horizon, as multiple giant Severen dropships emerged from the sky.
"I want to become a hero."
"One that saves everybody. One who descends from the skies."
"Why are you reciting that?"
SHADE held out his hands, as more and more dropships came from the sky, the entire sky flooded with white and red Severen flesh. A horrific sight, knowing full well, that our enemy was so overwhelmingly vast.
I stumbled back, instinctively, as SHADE turned around, his Severen cloak fluttering in the wind as he was backed up by thousands upon thousands of enormous Severen ships, an entire army seemingly at his command, ready to destroy and exterminate all of his enemies.
"To protect everybody. To tell everybody that I am here now."
I took another step back and realized that SHADE wasn't the only one who knew I was here.
Shardis Licita, do you truly understand, what you are facing now? SHADOW hissed behind me, as I spun around, Ais in hand, but the sword suddenly dissipated.
SHADOW readjusted his own great sword, War, along his shoulder as he joined SHADE.
You may see us. You may see all of our secrets, but that is the true nature of overwhelming power. It doesn't need to be concealed. No amount of knowledge can prepare you for what happens next. All in the glory of Lord Gargantua. To avenge our queen. For it was the Valians who betrayed the Toron that day, and killed my people. It was the Valians who continue to brandish their power among the weak. If you choose to fight against us, then you will see defeat. But eventually, you will realize...
SHADOW brought up his sword, holding out his hand as I stared at my Toron Arm Sheathe, which sparked.
Your Valian powers are useless. Because you don't belong with them. Shane Mayen fights for justice, to avenge those who were wronged. The more you walk your path to becoming SHADE, the more you will see, that the true way of justice, is to join us. To join the Severens.
"Master Shardis, we are approaching the rendezvous." Yelene notified me. I nodded at her, as I turned to my squad.
Two months ago, these people were Maids. Butlers. Chefs. Gardeners. Cleaners. Workers and servants.
Now they were warriors.
I couldn't help stare at Yelene, who was dressed in full battle gear. Bulletproof skin tight leather. Instinctively, my head flashed back to that night when I had pinned her down on the-
No. What am I thinking. This is not appropriate.
"My lord?" Yelene asked.
"Nothing." I responded a little too quickly. "You know the plan. Infiltrate and destroy the vision. Cut them down all at once so no one suspects anything. Yelene, and Travis' squad are with me to capture Virgo."
"Affirmative." My squad said, along with the rest of the other squads from the other mini-landing crafts.
I peered down at the building from above from within the concealment of our cloaked dropship. I had Quorra help research pieces from her Artemis Lance to incorporate her powers into our tech. Each person was able to go into stealth mode if needed.
"It's time, Master Shardis." Travis said to me, as we all jumped out, and landed into the building. As expected, no alarms were tripped, because our other squads had already infiltrated their security systems.
We made our way to the main hall, in a pincer move. There were two exits for Adam Virgo, and each exit was blocked. If he attempted to escape by blowing a hole through the wall, he will be gunned down by the Legionnaires outside.
There was no running from me.
"Hey!" A Corpo crewman shouted at me. "You shouldn't be he-"
One of my servants shot him right between his eyes with a Supra Tessera. The assault rifle smoking at the barrel.
None of us batted an eye as we continued walking, slaughtering crewmen left and right as we made our way to the main office. To Virgo's lair.
"Master Shardis." My coms buzzed in.
"We have located the subject. He is fleeing on foot and sent his guards to distract us."
"Good." I responded. "Fight off the guards and let him come to us."
We located the sounds of Adam's running as the CEO of the Toron Corpo ran into us. His eyes wide in terror as he stumbled back.
"Who are you people. Do you know who I am? Do you know who you are messing with?"
I took out my Harkanon Supra, which underwent yet another upgrade, taking aim.
Adam yelped as he ran the other direction for dear life. But there was nothing he could do. He was completely trapped. His security, torn to shreds by my forces.
Adam got himself backed in the corner, as my squad closed in on him.
"Now now. Let's not have this. I can offer you quite the reward for sparing me. Perhaps a-"
Adam was cut short, as one of the maids hit him in the legs with her staff. The CEO fell on his face as my squad tied him up, bringing him with us to the main dropship.
Yelene spoke into her coms.
"Subject secured. Return to rendezvous."
We made our way back to rendezvous, and loaded the CEO of the Toron Corpo into the back of our ship, near the cargo load. Yelene ripped the blindfold off of Adam's face as I entered the room, gesturing the servants to leave. I calmly locked the door and sat on a chair in front of him as Yelene held out her pistol, aimed right at Adam's forehead.
"What do you people want from me?" Virgo gasped.
I brushed the hair out of my eyes, tucking it behind my ear.
"On the eighth hour last night, I made a purchase." I said, as the cargo hold shook, intimidating Virgo. Yelene remained emotionless, as her aim with the gun remained steadfast. Acquired only through diligent training with Quorra.
"Yes. The Toron Corpo have been a major client for the Licita Family for the longest time. But today, things are different. From now on, the Corpo isn't just my client. It is mine."
Virgo's eyes widened. "What are you talking about?"
"For the longest time, you possessed the majority shares to the company and empire. Now those shares belong to me."
I held out an electronic document hologram, showing the forged signature of Adam handing over his company to me.
Adam struggled in his restraints. "What is the meaning of this? This is my company. You have no right to take-"
"I have every right to take back a company that was mine in the first place." I said, cutting him off.
Virgo's face paled. "I don't know what you are talking about."
I scrolled through the hologram, through numerous articles, until I found the one that I needed. A police report, legal document, that outlined how Adam had become the CEO of the Toron Corpo in the first place.
"When the Toron Empire fell to the Severens, the empire was split into two subdivisions. Toron Corpo, and Toron Scrava. But for the longest time, when my ancestor, Lilith Licita, began advocating pacifism in our bloodline, she turned to political and business power. Due to her close relationship to His Majesty at the time, she was given total control of the Toron Corpo. Do you know what this means?"
Virgo was silent, beads of sweat going down his neck.
"The Toron Corpo was initially entirely under the control of the Licitas. Until one day, a certain CEO had her hands muddled. Ruined. By one who created fake alibis and allegations. Her reputation in shambles. Daria Licita, the wife of Adam Virgo."
"This isn't true! This is bullshit. How dare you accuse me of-"
"Daria had a compelling argument during the court, but unfortunately, an anonymous tip bribed the judge that day. And Adam Virgo was handed the reigns of the Toron Corpo. And from then on, became the CEO. As for Daria Licita, due to her status as a Licita, her punishment did not influence the rest of our family. The Licita reputation remained unstained, but at the cost of her life. It's rather cruel isn't it? For a husband to betray his wife like that."
"You are playing a very dangerous game, sir." Adam snarled, but I leaned forward, propping my elbows on my knees.
"It would seem that no matter how you do it, this world will forever favour certain individuals. You're a very lucky man, Adam, that this world favours you. Which is why if you're going to play things dirty, so will I. Because I'm not like my ancestors. I will do things in the name of justice my own way."
I got up from my seat and peered at the window, glancing at the landscape of Pluto. Nearly inhospitable, to the point where no one, not even Valian Lances could set foot on.
I turned around, my eyes cold yet brimming with murderous intent.
"Starting now, your company is mine. Of course, I know you aren't the type to want something like this. So I guess I'll have to take matters into my own hands."
Adam began struggling even harder, and Yelene reattached the gag in his mouth.
"MMF! MMMMMF!" Adam yelled, as he began to convulse, his eyes filled with tears.
"If you chose to live your life as scum, then you should have known you would die as scum." I said, as I grabbed the former CEO of the Toron Corpo, and brought him to the edge of the dropship, the sheer temperatures, causing his tears to instantly freeze on his face.
Adam turned to me, his eyes pleading. But there was no more chances for him.
"You were a lucky man, Adam. To win the affection of Daria Licita. But the moment you chose to betray her, you made an enemy to the Licita bloodline. And today, a Licita will take away everything from you, just as you had taken away everything from a Licita."
Yelene handed me the gun and I aimed it to the side of his head.
"This is goodbye."
I fired, and let go of the body, as Adam Virgo's corpse plummeted into the depths of the icy tundras of Pluto, the blood from his head instantly turning into ice.
The following few days, I took the initiative to change the resource allocation of the Corpo to Railjack implementation. Yelene assisted in covering this up by appearing that we were expediting the deployment of the Amalgram units. As for the public image of the Licita household, I took it upon myself to give everyone an introduction to who was running the household now.
"My name is Shardis Licita." I said, through the communications beacon, to all the media in the Star System. Our forces at the moment were strong, but not strong enough. We needed more people.
"I am the true heir to Kirin and Caterena Licita. But unlike my ancestors, I was denied my title as a Licita, and lived my life in the working class family of the Mayen. I lived my life as Shane Mayen, an ordinary man who had no particular skills. I was spit on by the world, disrespected, watching those who were blessed become successful, favoured by the world, while I myself, faced repeated failure. My entire life, I strove to step up and become better, despite the unfairness of this world. And now that I have reclaimed my title and position of power, I will make it a mission to rid this world of its unfairness. Starting with the Severens."
I reached over and grabbed the Corpo medallion that signified ownership of the entire empire, a family item that once belonged to Daria, which was then stolen by Adam, then stolen back by me.
"As you can see, I now control the entire Toron Corpo, along with the Licita household. I will continue rising in power, not because I am a Licita. But because I lived my life at the bottom, just like all of you. I possess the hunger for power, unlike my adopted brother, who continued to watch as the working class suffered in his posh little living arrangements. I will only become more powerful, until my enemy is exterminated. Who is my enemy, you may ask?"
I stood up and pulled my hair back, revealing my numerous cybernetics, my eye, my infested flesh from the multiple operations with Yggdrasil.
"All those who forced me to become this monstrosity to become one that could survive in this world. Those who were unfairly given power and authority, just because they were born this way. Just because they were special. The Severens with their power. The Corpo with their industrialization. The Scrava with their numbers. And...
"The Valian, for their class. I won't stop, until every last one is exterminated."
"Congratulations, Master Shardis. You now have total control of the Toron Corpo Empire. Combined with your status as a Licita, our status has now stabilized." Yelene said, as she entered my room, standing at the door.
"Thanks." I replied.
"You've created quite the movement, do you know? The movement has become known as the Shardinian Anarchist Revolution against the Valians and upper classmen."
"I didn't force to make this revolution. They did it themselves. All I did was be myself."
"Is that so?"
Yelene showed me a news article, as the projection pulsed a live feed of massive protests all across the cities. Rights and freedom for the working class. Valians being stoned and jeered at.
One Valian aimed his Amprex at a group of protesters.
"You have some nerve, speaking to me like tha-"
"You kill us, we'll keep coming. Who decided it was fair for you guys to have everything? Why do some of us, who work just as hard in our jobs, remain in poverty, while you children get to be at the top? Bullying the lower class?"
I watched as the Valians were jeered off, by the thousands of protesters all over the cities.
"A large number of these protesters request that they gain the power to aid in your efforts. Many more have conducted theft to obtain weapons in aiding with your movement."
Yelene looked down, as I glanced at her.
"You're uneasy, huh."
"Master Arsanios was always so pacifist and kind to us. He fought for his Valian brethren, but still took the time to be caring and nurturing, using his class and his mannerisms in a positive way. This is all... just so much. The change and transition. I never imagined myself to have my hands stained in blood."
"You saw how pacifism did for the people who lost their lives that day."
"I know. It's just... part of me wishes that things were the same as back then. Children playing in the backyard with the toys Master Arsanios bought for them. Not playing target practice with their sniper rifles. I'm sorry, my lord. I am out of line."
I got off from my desk. She was right. No one wanted this. But this is just how it is. That's just how it was all gonna play out in the end.
One event leads to another.
To follow the threads of fate.
Until I end up becoming the very monster that I feared.
And there wasn't a single damn thing I could do about it.
"Master Shardis, I cannot take this any longer."
"Huh?" I turned to Yelene, her face was red, as her eyes became watery.
"I am requesting you find another to replace me. I am no longer qualified to be your advisor."
"What are you talking about?" I asked, in disbelief.
Yelene walked forward and put a hand on her chest.
"Master Shardis, I cannot get drunk."
"What are you talking abou-"
Then it hit me. That night. I thought she tried to seduce me because she was drunk, since I smelled wine in her breath. But... if she couldn't get drunk... that meant...
"You knew exactly what you were doing." I deduced.
Yelene looked away.
"When Arsanios was left brutally battered and comatose, I came to the realization. That we had no more pureblood Licita remaining. With Arsanios being all we had, despite being an adopted one, I knew. A Licita cannot be fabricated from words. Or actions. A Licita is a biological trait. I ran out of hope, being someone who served the Licita, my parents, serving the Licita before them. I was just a little girl when I served your father.
"Without the Licita, my life has no meaning. So could you imagine the hope and joy I felt, when I discovered the true son of Kirin and Caterena Licita was alive? And well?"
"I-" This was coming at me too fast. Yelene's family served the Licitas for generations. I guess it must have hit hard to know that with them gone, generations of service would be put to an end. But I wasn't understanding what she was getting at.
"Preservation. That is all I wanted. To know that the new lord of the household is a warrior like Master Arsanios, but one who was willing to step foot in the battlefield and get his hands muddled. This was too much. I know I cannot convince you to stay away from the battlefield. My only wish was to ensure that a Licita remains safe."
Yelene put a hand on her midsection.
"One person must stand up and take that role. If it means giving birth to as many Licita heirs as I can, that would mean the chances of preservation of the bloodline would be increased manifold. Shardis Licita, that day I seduced you on the bed, was completely intentional."
I was speechless, as I watched Yelene turn around and leave the door.
"I await my punishment, Master Shardis." Yelene muttered, as she excused herself, leaving me dumbfounded and unable to respond.
Troy Lucien vs. Shane Mayen
I entered the med bay, to be greeted with Troy assaulting me.
Troy glared at me as I slammed against the wall, sliding onto the ground as he began kicking my face over and over again. Sharp twinges of pain arced across my body, but my cybernetics quickly responded, delivering nanotechnology and endorphins to cease the pain and repair my body.
I said nothing as Troy continued punching me over and over again.
"You bastard. Look at you. The Shane Mayen I knew would never sacrifice his friends like that. You've become the very scum you hated."
Several of my attendants rushed to my aid, but Yelene held them back.
"No." She said.
I regarded Troy from the ground with cold dead eyes.
"Say something, you shitstain." Troy growled, grabbing my collar.
"Eros has run the calculations." I replied, as Troy loosened his grip.
"And?" He asked nervously.
"Quorra doesn't have enough power to fuel our ranks. With more and more people joining the Shardinian Movement, she will dry up like a grape."
Quorra sat up on the bed.
"What are you going to do now, then?"
I calmly got to my feet.
"Is every Valian able to share their Void power?"
Quorra shifted on her feet.
"Yeah, I guess. But not every Valian has the skill to do so. Such a technique is extremely advanced."
I turned to one of my attendants.
"Call Seraph right away. I have a project in mind."
"Yes, Master Shardis."
"Right now, we have two options. Either these Shardinians become infested cyborgs like me, or they become warriors like the people here. If every Valian has the ability to share their void power, then I'll force that potential out."
Quorra regarded me.
"What are you saying?" She asked.
"I'm saying, I'm going to have Seraph conduct an engineering project to design a device that can extract the void energy from Valians. We have the resources of the entire Corpo Empire on our side. I'm going to make good use of it."
Troy's eyes widened.
"Are you saying you're gonna harvest these Valian like livestock?!"
Troy's hands shook in rage.
"Every time I see you. I recognize Shane Mayen less and less. Do you even know what you're suggesting? This is cruel beyond limits. I know the Valians have done some questionable things, but they're kids."
"Yet you're dating one of these 'kids'."
"Well that's different. I'm around the same age as them."
"So now you're going to use your 'college prodigy' card? Have you not forgotten the things they've done. The shit they did is beyond questionable, Troy."
"Just because they've done these things, doesn't give you a right to do so either! Look at all the shit you've done so far ever since you embraced your Licita side. Using Quorra like a resource. Killing Adam Virgo. Killing all those Toron Corpo crewmen who had families. Objectifying. Murdering. Destroying. No amount of justification in the world can give you a reason to fall this low!"
"And do you think the Severens will care? Do you think just because we have morals this means the Severens will just get up and forget about the whole invasion? If you saw half of the shit I saw, the sheer size of their fleet of soldiers, you wouldn't be saying these things."
I took out Ais and planted the sword on the ground.
"We're at war, Troy. War is never a beautiful thing. This is what you've been dragged into. You're conflicted because for the first time in your life, shit isn't going your way. Well imagine how I feel. This is what I've been going through ever since I was born. You have no right to reprimand me on anything. I'm going to do what it takes to get Cap and Rinne back. And I'm going to destroy the Severens. At whatever cost necessary."
Troy said nothing, as everybody stood in silence. The tension in the air almost overwhelming.
"Fuse." Troy muttered.
"I refuse." Troy replied.
I raised an eyebrow. "Well, your compliance isn't a factor."
"I know. But I'm telling you now. I refuse. If you want to use Quorra like this, and these kids like this, then you're going to have to get through me. Shane Mayen, I challenge you for ownership of this entire revolution."
I narrowed my eyes.
"Then we fight in the arena. For all to see."
Yelene put her hand on my arm.
"Master Shardis, is this wise?"
I turned to my advisor.
"They need to see the person who is leading them is strong. They all need to see. And there is one way for this to happen."
I looked at Troy, who was clutching his own sword. A Pangolin Supra. Quorra trying to reason with him not to fight his friend.
"We fight in Rathuum. To the death."
We were transported to the Rathuum arenas. A large underground fighting ring organized by the Toron Scrava. While such a thing was considered illegal in many states, the Rathuum arena was used by many Valian who wanted a means to obtain resources and quick cash.
Or those desperate enough to make a living, when no other option exists.
Every fighter in the arena had something to fight for. But usually that something boiled down to one thing. Survival. At whatever cost, for the entertainment of the Scrava.
I walked down the filthy halls, taking off my cloak, and tying my hair back. Small tufts of hair on my side scraped my shoulders and my black tank top, as I ran my hand across my Hellfire Supra machine pistols strapped to my belt. The Harkanon Supra dual purpose rifle strapped to my back. Gram and Ais, also strapped to my back in parallel.
Plastered all over the media and media tabloids across the Scravan outlets, was the fight advertised.
SHARDIS LICITA VS. TROY LUCIEN - TORON CYBERNETICS VS. VOID SORCERY
"Master Shardis, if you win this fight, you will gain even more support and morale from your followers than before." Yelene informed me.
"I wish you to stay alive. For not just us. But for me."
I turned to Yelene, and noticed that in the dim light, she was slightly blushing.
"I will return to you, for the betterment of this future." I replied.
Yelene grabbed my face and pulled me into a kiss, as I wrapped my arms around her midsection in impulse.
"I am the type of woman who gets attached to the man she affiliates with. Come back to me, Shardis Licita."
I suddenly paused. No. This was wrong. Yet... it felt right. It was almost like my feelings for Rinne dissipated.
I pulled away. "My battle awaits."
I stepped into the arena, as the entire crowd cheered fiercely. I stood face to face with Troy, who was dressed in full battle gear as well. Purple arcane lines decorated his arms in an elegant manner, signifying his immense connection to the void after rigorous training with Quorra.
"I wished it didn't come to this. It's funny. It seems almost like yesterday when the two of us looked forward to moving into the same sublet, living together. Now we're trying to kill each other." Troy said.
I glanced at the commentator, who shouted into the microphone.
"Shardis Licita, as you may have guessed, is the brother of one of our most famous executioners. Arsanios Licita. Who racked up a tally of two thousand executioner kills since his affiliation with us. Earning him his nickname, the Demon of Rathuum. Will Shardis live up to his brother's title? Will he become the NEXT DEMON OF RATHUUM?!"
The crowd roared in approval, as I glared at Troy, taking my place. The arena was raining, but the raindrops were acidic, giving the entire arena a corrosive stench.
I watched as the counter ticked. Each second feeling like an eternity. Yet for some reason, I wasn't nervous. I felt calm and focused. Everything that happens, like SHADE said, is for the betterment of fate. I finally began to understand what made SHADE so powerful. Why every time I tried to deny who I was, things would happen to force me to walk a certain path.
I was destined to align myself with fate.
As long as I follow its threads.
I cannot be defeated.
No matter how stacked the odds are against me.
As long as I follow its threads.
I put out my hand, as the last two seconds ticked down.
I will fight.
"FIGHT" The commentator shouted, as the crowd roared.
I instantly pulled out my Hellfire pistol and fired, and Troy held out his hand, creating a void shield.
I reached behind me and pulled out my Harkanon with my other hand, taking aim, and fired an anti-aircraft shell at my former friend, the explosion rocking the arena as the crowd cheered.
I spun around, and intercepted Troy, who I predicted was going to attack me from behind.
Troy gritted his teeth, as he pushed back, propelling himself into the air and creating multiple void clones of himself.
I put my Harkanon away and drew my other Hellfire pistol, dual aiming the automatic weapons as I peppered the clones that attempted to rush me.
I took a step back, and jumped into the air, using a nearby rock to leverage myself as I shot towards Troy, wielding Ais, who blocked my swing with his Pangolin.
I gritted my teeth as I reached deep inside.
"Licitian Potential: Kien Licita - 140%"
I pushed Troy back as I sent him hurtling across the arena, to the crowd's approval.
"Lance Upload Protocol: TESLA Discharge 300%"
I held out my hand and projected a massive arc of blue electricity that paralyzed Troy.
I landed on the ground, and brought my foot back.
"Licitian Potential: Tricity Licita - 40%"
I blasted forward, bringing Ais back.
I closed in on Troy as time seemingly slowed down as I accessed more and more of Tricity's speed. The Queen of Altra. The mentor of Mach. The fastest Licita in existence. The fastest Tora in existence. Everything was meaningless when everything was in slow motion.
I always hated you, Troy.
Because you had everything.
I lifted Ais into the air and swung down at his neck, picturing myself decapitating his head.
I tried to escape you by going with Deka.
I tried to escape.
But instead, you followed along.
I thought I could be special being Deka's First Mate.
Then you decided to do the same thing, being Quorra's First Mate.
"Why can't you... leave me alone..." I growled, as the blade continued to lower, getting closer and closer to Troy's neck.
Get out of my life, Troy.
I hate you.
I hate how you're so kind to me.
I hate how you're so kind to everybody.
"No. Stop." Troy's voice boomed across the arena, as my blade stopped, frozen, millimetres away from Troy's neck, as he held out his hand. My whole body was frozen. Troy got to his feet. The crowd went silent.
"Why are we fighting, Shane? We were friends. Do you remember? All the time we had together. That day I told you that I never really had any long term friends. You told me you would be the first. We went through thick and thin together. I don't get it. Why are we trying to kill each other? Why?"
I seethed, trying to escape the void bind.
"Licitian Potential: Kien Licita - 350%"
My body exploded in power, trying to escape, but it was no use. It was like Troy had created a conduit straight to the Void, locking me in place.
Troy levelled his Pangolin, aiming it at me.
"If I wanted, I could kill you easily. This fight was never meant for you to win. This fight was never meant for Shardis Licita to win. Maybe if you were still Shane Mayen, but right now, you're consumed by rage and bloodlust."
Do NOT lecture me.
"GrrrrRARRRR" I growled, trying to escape the binds with as much of Kien's strength as I could, but it was no use. Not even Kien could escape these confines. It was seemingly vast and limitless.
"I'm not gonna kill you, Shane. I refuse. I win." Troy put his sword on the ground, and faced the crowd.
"I have defeated Shardis Licita. I am the winner."
No you are not.
Do you think I was just sitting in my chair doing nothing while you were out training?
What kind of leader am I if I'm not strong myself?
Troy turned around, giving me a disappointed look.
"Stop, Shane. You've lost. You can't end the Void Bind. This is one of Quorra's most powerful abilities. The ability that cemented her position to be on the Valian Council. You can't-"
"Neumani Licita - 100%"
Instantly, the Void bind was broken, as I stumbled, regaining my balance. Troy's eyes went wide.
I glared at Troy, as I rushed forward with Tricity's speed, and launched a devastating punch to his gut. Troy smashed into the other side of the arena.
The crowd roared in approval, as I turned towards my subordinates. Yelene looking at me proudly, while Quorra's face was pale.
I brought my forearm up.
"I'm going to end this. With a little irony." I said, as I concentrated.
"Lance Upload Protocol: QUORA Strangledome - 150%"
Instantly, dozens of chains erupted from my sheathe as Troy's body was retrieved from the wreckage, completely tied down by the binds.
I walked forward, my eyes threatening, as I brought my hand out. As much as I hated the Valians. I still observed them. Always watching. Always analyzing. I knew all about their meta builds. I knew all about it.
"Lance Upload Protocol: QUORA Whiplash - 350%"
My hand instantly materialized a glowing red whip as I brought my foot back, and swung the whip, as it lashed Troy. Blood erupted from his side as Troy yelled in agony. I brought my hand back and lashed him again. And again. And again.
"Die. Disappear. Disappear from my life, Troy." I growled.
By the eighth lash, my sheathe popped and smoked, indicating that it was on cooldown. The Strangledome undid itself as Troy crumpled to the ground.
I took out Ais and approached him.
"Don't do this... Shane..." Troy croaked.
I lifted my sword, when suddenly, Quorra screamed from the balcony.
"STOP! Shane! Please!"
My eyes widened as I hesitated, and at that moment, Troy took advantage of that moment of opportunity. That moment where I was exposed. Troy swept his leg and I hit the ground, banging my head against the cold rocky surface of Rathuum.
A purple bind appeared around my body as Troy hurled me into the ceiling. Smashing into the rocks, as I pulled out my Hellfire and fired in response. But Troy began void dashing around the arena, and closed in, slashing with his Pangolin Supra and cutting a deep gash into my chest.
"I'm sorry it has to be this way." Troy muttered, as he held out his hand, and blasted me with a powerful blast of void energy. I smashed into the ground.
Troy landed in front of me, his body purely ablaze with purple fire. He was going all out.
"Why did it end up like this, Shane? How did something so good end up into something so bad?"
I got to my feet. If he was going to go all out, so will I.
I clenched my fists as I assumed my stance.
Ciel Licita's Skill.
Tricity Licita's Speed.
Kien Licita's Strength.
Neumani Licita's Negation.
Gunthel Licita's Constitution.
My cybernetic eye reticules focused on Troy, analyzing and determining the appropriate approach.
I readied Ais and drew Gram with my other hand.
"That's the thing, Troy." I replied.
"What we had never was good. It never was. Because for the longest time, since day one..."
I lowered my blades as I took a deep breath, Ciel's style fully engrained in my subconsciousness.
"I've always hated you."
A tear ran down Troy's cheek as he brought his hands back, generating an explosive burst of void power as he shot towards me. I readied myself and leapt forward, my foot leaving behind a shockwave as I met his charge.
Neither one of us was brought up in this future timeline.
Yet both of us were the stars of tonight. Because at the end of the day, the very pinnacle of all the unfairness in my life, was Troy. At the end of the day, this was the battle most important to me. A battle I could not possibly lose.
Troy Lucien vs. Shane Mayen.
"I got screwed over." Troy said, as we checked our midterm exam results.
"You did?!" I asked, laughing, as I propped my feet on the table.
"Well, it's okay. Grades don't matter at the end of the day. Don't worry about it."
I was happy. I got above average in this exam, finally. Now I got to act cool about it, because I finally beat Troy-
"It was because half of my exam was marked. The instructor forgot to grade the last half of the exam. Ugh."
Troy turned to me.
"Could have gotten 100%. Ah, oh well."
I charged and slashed at Troy, cutting at all the Void constructs he created, as we zoomed and zipped across the entire arena. Leaving behind purple and white trails of energy due to our sheer unmatched speed.
"RAAAR!!!" I roared, as I charged up another arc of power, this time using Amber Licita's pyrokinesis and launching blasts of flame from Ais at Troy, who effortlessly dodged and retaliated with hundreds of Void Beams.
I dodged them all with Tricity Licita's speed and shot in with a downward thrust with Gram, but Troy opened his hand and blew me back as I smashed into the ceiling of Rathuum, coughing up blood.
I won't fall.
For the first time in my life, I felt like I had power.
I had the power of all my Licita ancestors, the best of the best of the Tora, at the palm of my hand.
I can't lose.
I held out my Harkanon and fired repeated rounds at Troy, utilizing my Cybernetic Eye to guide the bullets and trace him down, but Troy unleashed a powerful void wave which interfered with the signal, causing the bullets to ricochet.
"Yield, Shane!" Troy shouted, as he zipped in to slash at me. I kicked off of the ceiling and fired more anti-aircraft rounds at Troy, but Troy brought his foot back, and launched a slash that cut the barrel to my rifle in half. The gun exploded in my hand as I fell backwards.
"Hey, Shane?" Lily said. That night. I was with Lily that night on the rooftop. She told me she wanted to talk to me. This was it. The great confession that I had yearned for so long. If I could have only one thing in this unfair world, it had to be Lily. Please. If there was a god in this world, please, let me have Lily. Please.
"What's up?" I asked, trying to keep my mouth from quivering in nervousness.
"I wanted to tell you... for the longest time..."
"Tell me what?" I asked, my heart beating faster and faster.
"I like Troy. I'm sorry, Shane. You're a good guy, it's just-"
"I'm not good enough." I cut her off, as the disbelief shattered me from inside. Something inside me hurt.
It hurt a lot.
Lily glanced at me.
"I love Troy. I loved him ever since we met. Anyway... I guess I'm headed back to the plaza."
Lily left me alone as I stared at my reflection from the water of the campus fountain. If it was deep enough, I would have jumped in and never went back up. So I could save myself the pain by drowning to death.
I had to win.
To not let this world play with me till the very end. Please fate. Please let this be my destiny.
I threw the busted Harkanon on the ground and took out my Hellfire.
"Licitian Potential: Serena Licita - 120%"
My sheathe began to glow as Serena's power imbued the device with extra energy.
"Lance Upload Protocol: MIRAGE Eclipse - 850%"
My Hellfire began to glow with a blinding white light as I yelled, firing significantly enhanced blasts of power at Troy. The bullets moving so fast that there was no way he could evade them.
Troy held out his hands as he tried to block the bullets, but the sheer force of the rounds shattered his void shield and cut into his body as he crumpled to the ground.
This was it. My opening.
I took a step forward as my sheathe disintegrated into pieces. I took out Ais and ran forward, the blade back as I swung as hard as I could.
"Want to know a fact about me, Shane?"
"Of all my years in school, I've made a lot of friends. But they all came and go. I never had anyone to talk to long term. What I'm trying to say, is I don't have any real friends."
"I could be, if you want."
"Really?" Troy said, his eyes twinkled.
"I can be your first real friend. As long as we stick together." I said, smiling.
"It's a deal, man!" Troy held out his hand as I took it, shaking. This was the first time we had a heart to heart.
"Shane, no matter how bad it gets, no matter how shitty life gets, I'll always be there for you! I'll always help you out."
"Yeah? Same with you too, bud." I replied, as we walked back to the campus.
I reeled back, each beat of my heart becoming like a war drum, Ais inches away from decapitating Troy's head.
"Die. Disappear." I snarled, when suddenly, time seemed to stop.
I looked down, to see a Pangolin Supra blade sticking out of my midsection.
Troy gave me a look of sympathy as his hand was outstretched, the blade piercing me right through my stomach as my body began to ramp up in pain. I stumbled back, choking out blood as Yelene cried out my name. The crowd went wild, as my subordinates were in shock, just like me.
"Shane, this was one of Quorra's first lessons. To always keep a clear head and not let your emotions get the better of you. Otherwise you let your guard down."
Troy stood up as I was forced to adjust myself to avoid the blade from sliding against my wound.
I struggled to speak or even breathe, as my vision began to turn blurry.
"I... lost...?" I muttered, in utter disbelief.
I lost my balance as the blade slipped through me. I fell on my back as my head hit the rock.
Troy turned to the crowds of Rathuum.
"I, Troy Lucien, have bested Shardis Licita in combat. And by the rules of the bout, I now have total control of the Revolutionist Movement."
This shouldn't be happening.
This wasn't how it was supposed to go down.
I was supposed to win.
"Kien... Ciel... Trinity..." I croaked.
"I need... your power..."
You cannot handle our power. As we speak, your soul is entering the Licitian Convergence. This is your last few moments of life, Shardis. Tricity's voice boomed in my head.
"No... please..." I begged, as my eyes began to water.
"Not like this..."
You restored honour to the Licita bloodline by retaking the Toron Corpo, albeit with questionable methods. That in itself, deserves praise.
"I want to live just a little longer."
That, unfortunately, cannot be granted.
"I can't... I can't lose... I can't." I gasped, trying to cling onto life, as Troy was about to deal a finishing blow, when suddenly, an explosion rocked the entire arena.
Troy stumbled, as I ripped the blade out of my body. Frantically recruiting as many drones in my body to heal my wound as possible before I passed out.
"What?" The announcer yelped, narrowly dodging a flying chunk of rock.
I couldn't believe my eyes, as the entire Rathuum arena was swarmed with explosions. The spectators running for dear life, as the roof of the arena was ripped off.
Troy tried to readjust himself, when suddenly, a dark ominous figure materialized in front of him, his white hair flowing with the winds of his movements.
"Ah. Troy. You can't kill him, unfortunately. That's not how it's supposed to go." SHADE said, as he turned to me.
"Fate dictates the full transformation of Shane Mayen to Shardis Licita."
Troy tried to swing his blade, but SHADE swiped his version of Ais and disarmed him quickly before side stepping, and knocking him in the head. I watched as Troy was easily defeated and crumpled to the ground.
Severens began to swarm the place from above, as both Scrava and other spectators were picked off. My people ran to my side.
"Master Shardis, await orders!"
I clenched my fist.
Were we enough to fight against these guys? Were we?
SHADE turned to the Legionnaires, who all brandished and aimed their weapons and fought off the Severens.
"Not bad. Each one of you is at least as powerful as Troy before he received his void upgrade."
"Why are you here." I growled.
SHADE regarded me.
"Not for you. Not for them. But for the devils."
Suddenly, the arena was flooded with a new batch of warriors. Numerous Valians entered the fray, shooting Scrava and Severens alike.
SHADE pointed at a vessel, containing a young teenager inside. He was banging against the walls, trying to use his void powers to escape.
"Freud Timmins. MR24. I'm sure you know of the one Valian who tried to advocate class neutrality through his clan."
I knew. This guy tried to start a movement just like mine, according to Yelene. But in the end, it was just because he wanted something to gain on his end, and apparently, he himself was hypocritical to the ideology. From a Valian who was removed from the Clan, his testimony was this.
Lies and contradiction.
To say he didn't care about class and that everybody deserved to be treated the same.
Yet he put himself in an ultimate position, favouring those he liked, and abusing those he didn't.
Safe to say, the Clan never picked up momentum.
I watched as the Valians attempted to fight off the Severens with their weapons, brute forcing, but the Severens had upgraded their adaptation. The Shardinian Legionnaires were able to fight and kill due to possessing Quorra's void connection.
But one thing didn't make sense.
"Why are you telling me all this? Why help your enemy?" I asked SHADE.
SHADE turned around.
"Because of fate."
My hands began to shake.
"Enough of this fate BS. I want to know why. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I don't even know if I should trust you or not."
"As impossible as it is, everything that I do is in accordance to fate. Showing you our secrets. Showing you our plan to lure out the Valians. It is all in accordance to fate. You believe by walking the path of fate you can be indestructible, but you are only scratching the surface. The thread of fate is convoluted."
I watched as my Legionnaires continued taking down the Severens left and right in a crossfire extermination. Several of the Legionnaires tried to fight the Valians, but Yelene called them off. She knew as they were now, getting vengeance was not possible.
SHADE held out his hands, and I felt myself get shackled to the ground.
"Do not interfere, Licita." SHADE said, as he jumped into the fray, killing Valians left and right. Making his way to one Valian in particular. One in a Helos Lance.
"Huh? You want some too big guy?!" Rinzler shouted, as he took out his Sawgun, firing repeatedly at SHADE but having the blades bounce off harmlessly.
"No. Don't." I muttered, as SHADE grabbed Rinzler's Helos and zipped into the ceiling, smashing the Lance into the rock.
For some reason, maybe it was because SHADE was my future self, I could hear everything coming out of his mouth. It didn't make things any less uncomfortable.
"Rinzler Thresh. For the longest time, I always wanted this. It seems fate was unkind to you today. But one's misfortune is another's victory."
"The hell are you even saying?" Rinzler grunted, struggling against SHADE's grip.
"How dare you rape my beloved Rinne. How dare you abuse her from the first day she became your adopted sister. I will enjoy getting my vengeance, for I have been waiting many years to do this."
"Wh- Wha?" Rinzler whimpered, as SHADE brought his hair back, and ripped Rinzler out of his Lance. I watched the Helos crumple to the ground.
Rinzler's eyes went wide with terror.
"You... Mayen! How?! Why?!"
"I loved her. I always loved her. But I could never have her because I was destined to be this. The pain of watching someone you love have her heart broken because of things you can't control, is the hardest pain in the world. You, Rinzler Thresh, have been a source of her pain. And now, I have the chance to do something about it."
"Wait. We can organize something. I can offer you the world, Mayen. I can give you my house. My Orbiter. My-"
"Don't you already know? I already have the world. I am a Licita. But the one thing I wanted the most, escaped through my hands. So I will settle things with the next best thing."
SHADE plunged Ais through Rinzler's midsection, as Rinzler squeaked in pain, his eyes brimming with tears and terror.
I watched as a future Shane Mayen dropped Rinzler's corpse from above, as it sailed and fell into the abyss of Rathuum.
I realized my shackles were undone, as SHADE landed in front of me, strapping Ais back on his back.
"What?" I asked, still in shock at what I just witnessed.
"Our Rinne. She is in that Murex." SHADE pointed at a ship that was from the air.
"Bring her home, and cherish her. Before it is too late."
"But what about Cap-"
"I cannot reveal this. Fate only wants one."
I turned to the chaos and fighting, as the Valians battled the Severens to get Timmins back, killing and slaughtering as my Legionnaires followed suit.
I stepped toward the light, the ship in full view.
I was going to rescue Rinne. That was one of the three. Yet... why wasn't I excited? Why did I feel so down?
Then it hit me.
I glanced at Yelene, who rallied our allies and ran to our side, as SHADE concealed himself from their view.
"Second thoughts, Shane?" Shardis asked.
"I- It's just... with Yelene..."
For once, SHADE's face looked pained. This might have been the first time I saw the guy with any other emotion other than bloodlust.
"Between you and me, fate aside, I. No. We always wanted to be with Rinne. But fate had us with Yelene. We loved Rinne, but it was Yelene who had our baby."
"Wha... what happened to our kid?"
SHADE looked at me, with dead eyes.
"You will find out, in time. I cannot stay longer." SHADE turned around and entered a shadow, and disappeared.
I ran forward, intercepting a Valian who had just killed off a Severen.
"You... you're the Unarmored Valian, Shane Mayen!" The Valian said, but I clutched Ais, walloping the kid over the head and knocking him unconscious. I took his K-drive and flew into the air to the direction of the Murex.
"Rinne... Rinne, where are you!" I cried out, desperately, as my cybernetic eye focused towards anything that could have been her energy signature. If only Folock was here. But ever since I was taken into Quorra's vessel, my coms unit with the Lotuscraft had gone out. I was completely in the dark.
"Unrecognized proxy detected. Commencing defensive pro-"
I lowered my Harkanon, the barrel still smoking as I rammed into the side of the ship.
"Give her back..." I growled, as I took aim again, firing over and over as the explosions rocked the hull.
"GIVE RINNE BACK!" I screamed, as I slammed my fist through the shell and ripped it open with Kien's strength. The vacuum pulled me in as I fell into a deep Severen room. The alien flesh of the Murex began to seal itself back again, as I found myself inside the ship.
I breathed heavily, panting and catching my breath as I assessed my inventory. My gear was completely trashed. Only one Harkanon and one Hellfire left. My sheathe was gone. Gram and Ais were still on my back, but Gram wasn't looking too great. From my fight against Troy, I could make out a crack forming on the edge of the blade.
But even so, I had to get Rinne back.
No matter what.
I aimed my Hellfire as I sneaked across the Murex, my cybernetic eye lighting the way and assessing the ship directory to show me any possible routes to Rinne.
As I continued walking, memories flooded my mind. Memories that warmed me up and what seemed like ages ago.
"How could you say these things?!" I asked Rinne, as Rinne put away the dinner plates.
"Because he is my brother, Shane. It doesn't matter what happens. I will always love him. No matter what."
"He hurt you. Molested you. Verbally abused you and called you an embarrassment. That isn't family. That's not even human."
Rinne sighed as she stacked a plate then turned to me, smiling.
"I like to believe everybody has a reason to act a certain way. The truth is, of all the Valians to be able to control the Void, I am said to have the most potential."
"Well, yeah. You're the healer of the Lotuscraft after all."
Rinne ran her hand through her hair. "Aw, that's really sweet of you. But of all the people who knew about that, Rinzler knew it the most. After all, he knew me the longest. He knew just how capable I was with the Void. And it was when I was taken in by the Thresh family, did he truly understand why. Why I was chosen to be a Thresh."
My memories shunted back into reality as I reached a door. I kicked it open, to see a girl floating in a tank. Wires connected to her body. Her face was pale, as if almost all of the life was sucked out of her.
"Rinne!" I cried, as I rushed forward, fumbling with the controls and releasing her. I put my arms around her body and tried to shake her awake. Rinne's head bounced aimlessly off my chest as I got to my feet and made my way to the exit as fast as I could.
"Mmmm.... Sha...ne?" Rinne muttered, as her eyes fluttered open.
"Rinne! Oh my god. I- I thought I lost you." I sobbed, wrapping her in a hug.
"I'm sorry... for worrying you." Rinne replied, as she ran her hand across the back of my head. I hadn't felt this warmth in such a long time.
"We need to get you out of here." I said, as I swerved the corner.
"Shane... put me down."
"No. We need to get you out of here-"
"Listen to me. This is an order. Your safety and wellbeing is my number one priority-"
"I'm not wearing any clothes."
I glanced at Rinne, her face was beet red, and the realization hit me. I was carrying her around while she was naked.
"R- Rinne... I... oh shit. Holy shit." I stammered, all cognition left my mind as I put her down, fumbling with my words.
Rinne looked away as she tried to cover herself. I took off my Licitian Toron Robes and handed it to her as she wrapped it around herself like a towel.
"Don't look at me like that." Rinne muttered.
"I'm not." I said.
"Yes, you are."
It took me a couple of moments to realize I really was staring at her. Like a complete pervert.
But I would trade in being called a pervert for the rest of my life to see Rinne again. After all those months. All that bloodshed. All that pain and suffering and stress thinking I wouldn't see anyone from the Lotuscraft Crew ever again.
"S- Sorry. Let's go." I led the way out of the Murex to the sounds of fighting.
"The K-drive is here. Take it and let's-"
Leaving? So soon, Shardis Licita?
Rinne and I froze at the exit, as we slowly turned around to see a menacing black Excalibur wielding a large great sword. War.
"SHADOW." I said. I turned to Rinne.
"Get out of here. Take the K-drive and run!"
Rinne stared at me.
"Did he call you... a Licita?"
"Shane, I don't understand. Why is SHADOW calling you a Licita-"
"RINNE!" I snapped, causing her to jump. "Leave. I'm not gonna ask you again."
Rinne gripped the cloak as the sounds of fighting and winds caused it to flutter.
"Do you really want to keep doing this alone, Shane? After everything we have been through together. Are you going to leave me alone again?"
"No! I... I just... I lost you once. I can't afford to lose you again."
Rinne gazed at the battlefield dejectedly as she stepped onto the K-drive, driving off without looking back.
I could hear SHADOW laugh.
It's ironic. That the Valian girl left her abusive brother, for an abusive boyfriend. Isn't that what you would call, fate?
I took out my Hellfire and aimed, shooting SHADOW, who deflected the bullets with War.
"I'm gonna take you out, SHADOW. This time, I'm not letting you get away."
SHADOW charged, and closed the distance, but my eye had already increased by agility enough to deflect his strike with Gram just in time.
You have improved, Mayen.
I gritted my teeth, switching my Hellfire to shotgun mode and firing at SHADOW's midsection, as he weaved out of the way. I spun around fluidly and fired another round that caught him in the face.
I went low, putting Gram back and took out my Harkanon with my other hand, setting it to Anti-Aircraft, and fired a shell which caught SHADOW in the stomach. The explosion rocked the Severen as he crashed into the arch of the Murex.
"You're not that hard to figure out." I said, as SHADOW fired a laser ball at me. I switched my Hellfire back to Machine Pistol mode, my cybernetic eye focusing on the projectile as I fired, blowing it up mid air.
I aimed at SHADOW's kneecaps and sprayed, as SHADOW darted to the other side. I swapped my Harkanon with Gram, and slammed the blade into the ground, the shockwave tossing the Severen into the air. Then I took out Ais, leaping in.
"For a decent Valian, you're light work. And I've become stronger than an average Valian now."
Ais connected, as SHADOW crashed into the ground of the Murex. I stood above the Severen.
"How did it feel, messing with a Terran who barely knew what he was doing, then getting your ass kicked by that same Terran who trained his ass off to become stronger?"
SHADOW said nothing, as he got to his feet and readied War.
"Licitian Potential: Ciel Licita - Way of the Seventh Sense."
I brandished both Gram and Ais, as SHADOW and I clashed. I began to overpower SHADOW with Ciel's technique.
I slashed, and cut, severely damaging SHADOW's armour more and more with every slice.
"I'm gonna crush you Severens one by one. Starting with you." I sneered, as I kneed SHADOW in the chin.
SHADOW fell back, as I aimed Gram to his throat.
"Die." I said, coldly, as I brought the sword back.
"Wha-" I said, as I stumbled backwards. I stared at Gram, which had been cut in half. With speed even greater than before.
What just happened?
SHADOW got to his feet.
Did you think I was going to let a Licita kill me? After what the Valians did by forsaking the Toron, here stands before me, a Toron nobleman doing the same thing. Did you really think I would let that happen?
SHADOW's voice became more and more sinister as he got to his feet. War began to glow a brighter cyan.
Don't underestimate me, Shardis. Don't you dare undervalue everything that I had been through. Betrayal. Pain. Watching everything go so well, just to have it fall. That day, everybody was happy. It was the happiest day of our lives in the Toron. Then the bloodshed. It all went to hell because of the Valians. Only monsters can become strong in this world, and to become a monster, they must have the entire world taken from them.
SHADOW closed in with ridiculous speed, faster than before, and knocked Ais out of my hands, then slashed at my chest, my leg, and my arm as I skidded back. SHADOW then spun and kicked me into a column as I coughed out blood.
I crumpled to the ground as everything became blurry.
Did you truly think I was fodder? Second to your future counterpart? The SHADOW of the Severens will not stop until all the Valians are dead. For they took everything from me. You should be on my side. An heir to the house of Licita. You are a nobleman to the Toron empire. Just like me. To know you not only joined them, but you trivialized my reasons, my conquest. That. I. Will. Not. FORGIVE.
SHADOW grabbed my by the collar and launched me out of the Murex as I smashed onto the roof of Rathuum. Lightning boomed as SHADOW appeared over me.
The truth is, I am just a monster SHADE is. My power, shackled, by order of Lord Gargantua. But just this once. I will show you my true power. Because you have done what very few have managed to do. You have become something that I hate even more than the Valians. Release restraints. Level Zero.
SHADOW began to glow a demonic red as he lifted War, and blasted away from my field of view. Before I knew it, my body had sustained brutal damage, blood exploding from me as I was lifted into the air.
"Ack!" I coughed, my eyes wide from pain, as SHADOW appeared before me, materializing, and slammed me across the polluted city of Sedna. I smashed into a Toron Scrava cargo hold, denting the wall and slamming into the ground.
SHADOW approached me and grabbed my face.
"Ciel Licita 120%" I muttered, as I grabbed SHADOW's hand and twisted, throwing him off my back and launching him away, but SHADOW leveraged himself, and shot forward before I could react, flying into the air as we smashed through the walls of the Murex and tumbled into a large grand chamber, decorated with numerous Severen architecture and decorations.
I struggled to my feet, as my body began to leak blood, peppering the ground.
SHADOW brought War down, and slashed again, Gram shattering into pieces as I fell backwards.
The Seventh Sense's power can only sustain you for so long. Even SHADE cannot use the Licitian Potential forever. You most certainly cannot. From here on out, I will execute you. In the grand theatre of this Murex. The execution of a Toron noble, a sacrifice worthy of entertainment to Lord Gargantua and all the Severens.
I breathed hard, taking out my Harkanon, and my Hellfire. Ais was still somewhere in Rathuum from when SHADOW disarmed me. All I had were my guns.
I aimed and fired, my guns set to full automatic, the bullets being deflected by SHADOW's War as he rushed forward. I darted around, attempting to summon Tricity's speed. But I was fatigued. I couldn't summon any more than 15%. And SHADOW was only getting faster.
I continued darting around, evading and dodging. I knew I couldn't keep this up. I was hoping a lucky bullet would manage to catch him in a weak spot in his armour.
I wasn't so lucky, as SHADOW managed to get the first hit in. A side cut into my ribs as I growled in pain, collapsing.
SHADOW approached me and swung War, disarming my Harkanon, then smacked me in the side of my face as I flew the other direction, skidding across the chamber. The sounds of War scratching the ground echoing in the large room.
I tried to get to my feet.
I couldn't die now.
There were people waiting for me.
And above all else. Everybody in the Lotuscraft crew. They needed me.
I shakily aimed my Hellfire at SHADOW, as he laughed.
Pathetic. You claim to destroy the Severens with your so called movement. Your so called Shardinians. Yet you struggle in a single duel. This is the end for you, Shardis Licita.
SHADOW brought War down, as I closed my eyes.
"Dammit!" I yelled, when suddenly, the blade stopped mid air.
I looked to my right to see what had interfered SHADOW, as a Helos Lance stepped forward, kicking SHADOW back.
My eyes widened in disbelief.
"You... you're supposed to be... but how? How are you still alive, Rinzler?"
The Lance turned to me, and to my shock, Rinne's voice resonated from within the armour.
"Because I'm not Rinzler, Shane. And I'm not leaving you alone. Never again."
Rinne resolved out of Helos in an operator uniform and hugged me, her warmth spreading across my body as my wounds began to heal.
"No more fighting alone Shane. Let's take SHADOW, together. Okay?" Rinne pulled away and stroked my hair.
"Y-Yeah." I said, as I got to my feet.
Rinne resolved into Helos once more, as the two of us faced SHADOW.
Having a Valian on your side will not turn the tables, Mayen. This will only add more to the sacrifice. A Licita and a Valian, dead at my feet.
Rinne drew her axe and took her stance.
I cocked my Hellfire pistol and took aim.
"We'll see about that." I said, as Rinne and I charged the Severen.
"Do you have any dark thoughts?" The voice in my head asked me.
"Yeah." I responded, honestly.
"Hatred. Anger. Malice. Vengeance. It seems our mood has only ever been these four. Why?"
"You know why."
"But I want you to say it, Shane. Why do you have these thoughts?"
I could feel my body sinking. SHADOW must have knocked me out. But none of that mattered. Even if I was in the middle of a battlefield, it seemed like nothing mattered.
Just me alone with my dark thoughts, and my voices.
"I want to leave. But I need money. I need to find work and a place to live. Yet he's pushing me for a timeline."
"Yes. A timeline."
"A date. A fixed date."
"Why is that?"
"Because I told him. I told him I wanted to leave. I didn't like living there. Because he always attacked me."
"But he said he never did, did he?"
Of course he would say that. He had a way of words. A deceptive, cunning, yet vile way with words. To manipulate it against me, even if he himself was the one who hurts others.
"Fundamentally, the bad guy should lose, right?"
"Not this time." I muttered.
Physical abuse is easy.
You can always call the cops and find a way to make it out financially.
It's when the abuse is verbal.
There is no grounds for me to report this to anybody.
"Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt-"
"I hate that saying." I interrupted the voice.
Give me a date. I want a date when you leave. Also a date when you pay me back all the money I wasted on you. You say you want to move out? You say you hate me? Want vengeance? Do you even have a right to say any of that? How about this. I won't pay for any of your things anymore. No tuition. No food. You'll be doing all of the labor every single day.
"I never wanted to even be here." I told the voice.
"I never asked to be born."
I shook my head. The voices. The deep sense of fatigue and depression that was washing over me. It was so intense that I felt nothing about my battle with SHADOW.
The voice continued.
"But it's wrong. To say these things. You live under his roof. You need to do as he says."
"So abuse is okay?"
"Is it? It's all words after all. As long as you do what you're told."
"But even when I did, he still attacked me."
"Yet no one else complains. I'm sure everybody else has been through this before. Do you really think you're in the right to snap back at your fath-"
"He is not my father."
I could feel something inside me want to erupt. A tingling sensation that started to turn painful.
"But he was the one who paid for everything. Your school. Your food. The internet. Everything."
"Yet he also verbally abused me. Yelled at me for the smallest things. Made everything a living nightmare of exchange and trade. What kind of father demands compensation for food they bought for their infant son?"
"I'm happy he died."
My back burst in pain, as something red began to rip out of my skin, turning into alien flesh.
"I hate him."
More pain, this time along my other arm. The one arm that wasn't replaced by cybernetics, was turning red and black, just like the texture of Ais.
"I wanted to kill him."
My leg began to transform, as the voice laughed.
"I wanted to make him pay."
"Why do you want to make him pay, Shardis Licita?"
I closed my eyes, as wave after wave of fatigue and defeat washed me over, dousing me. Almost like it was cleansing the rage away, but leaving behind something barren.
"I will never forgive him. He disowned me once when I defended my mom, forgiving everybody in the family but me. Then he selectively abused me again. It's just me. And if he wants to single me out like that, then I'll single him back the same way."
The side of my face began to transform, mutating into Severen metal. Transforming me into a monster.
"I'm glad he died. But I wish I had the power to bring him back to life, so I can kill him myself."
My hair began to turn white, the roots turning white as I watched my black hair starting to disappear, assimilating before my very eyes. It was all over.
Why was I so scared about this? This wasn't so bad. I'm free. Free from Shane Mayen. Free from all the burdens of living my life. I can embrace my life as Shardis Licita. The head of the Licita noble household. The leader of the Revolutionist Movement.
Then becoming SHADE.
The most feared entity in the cosmos. I wouldn't be bound anymore.
"But there is one thing I want to ask you, Shane."
I stopped, as the voice got in real close. Like it was whispering in my ear, but I couldn't feel its breath.
"Why were you crying when he died?"
"What... are you talking about?"
The voice continued.
"When he was ripped apart. You shed tears. If such a man is as terrible as you say, to the point where you thought about killing him, why would he risk his life to protect you from that Severen that day?"
"That..." My voice trailed off.
Why did he protect me? There was a reason behind it. I knew it. I should know why.
My transformation began to slow down, as my hair's whitening process began to stall to a halt, leaving behind half whitened strands.
"Was it all bad, Shane?" The voice began to change. Almost like it was being overridden by something. The voice, started off like my own, began to sound feminine. Like a woman's. Soothing. Calming.
"I-" I stammered.
"In the end, he was your father. Don't you remember? All those times he gave you love. Affection. When you were a little boy."
My vision went back in time, to an image of a man, who was a little bit older than me. Probably around 26. He was holding a little kid in his arms. His face was full of joy and happiness. My mom was exhausted from doing chores, but she also had a smile on her face. But that man.
His smile was the biggest in the room.
He lifted a kid version of me up high.
"Dana. We finally did it. I know he isn't ours. But... he's my son. Our son. Can you believe it? I have a kid. I'm... I'm..." Tears leaked down his face.
"I'm a father, Dana. I'm a dad."
The voice returned.
"He loves you. From the bottom of his heart, he always did. Maybe it was a little twisted. Maybe it was a little malformed. Maybe it was a little toxic."
My Toron implants began glowing, fighting back the Severen infection in my body as everything came into balance. Both Severen and Toron in my body, balancing each other out. Cancelling each other out, as everything began to turn bright.
It was then did I realize who that voice belonged to. It wasn't the voice in my head anymore. It was someone else.
The voice was Rinne's.
"That's why he chose to protect you that day. Because he loved his son. And because you loved your father, you cried when he died. You got angry because he died. You wanted to kill the Severens because he took your father from you."
My vision returned, as I made out the surroundings of the Murex theatre. SHADOW had backed off, as I realized my body was emitting pulses of red energy. Rinne's Lance was completely shredded, but her hands were glowing gold, as I felt her embrace through the Toron engineering of her late brother's Lance.
"Come back to me Shane. We still have to win this fight." Rinne said, as I regained my composure.
Severen flesh. This is unexpected. Lord Gargantua never...
Rinne cut him off as she sliced down with her axe, but SHADOW dodged.
Shardis Licita. I can see why you were sent back.
I was motionless.
"What are you talking about..."
Rinne turned to me.
"Now isn't the time, Shane! We need to finish him off while he's disoriented!"
SHADOW holstered War.
A Licita denied of his heritage. Forced to live a life in another timeline. His identity, shattered. His goals, shattered. His dreams, shattered.
Rinne tried to charge forward, but I stopped her.
"No." I ordered, as I pointed a finger at SHADOW.
"What are you talking about. Why was I sent back? What do you mean my goals and dreams being shattered."
From within his twisted Excalibur mask, it was almost as if SHADOW was laughing. Like he was enjoying every second of it as he brought down the heavy truth.
Shardis Licita. As you may have guessed, you are destined to become SHADE, the Great Valian Killer.
Rinne clenched her fists. Her Helos Lance was in critical condition, as the sounds of combat filled the air outside of the Murex.
"Shane..." Rinne muttered, as SHADOW continued.
But no Licita has proven to be such a powerful force on their own. We Severen have been at war with the Toron for eons. And in our many millennia of existence, we had conquered many civilizations. But not once have the Severens encountered a being like SHADE. His power. His skill. His abilities. They are all crucial to our forces.
SHADOW pointed at me.
Many Licita have served the Toron Empire. From Ciel Licita, the General of the Tora, to Neumani Licita, the Great Tinkerer. The Streak of Altra, Tricity Licita. All of which suffered a similar fate. They simply were not strong enough. But SHADE was different. SHADE was special. Even amongst the Licita. And for the longest time, our people could not understand why. How could a Licita be so strong? But now, I understand why.
"That's enough." Rinne said.
"Shane, he's playing with your mind. We need to get out of here. We need to find Deka and Aurora. We need to-"
"No." I said, my eyes glued on SHADOW.
"I need to hear this. Why was I sent back in time. Why is SHADE so strong. Why. There's so many questions I have about my life. Why was I denied my heritage."
SHADOW put War back onto his back as he paced the Murex. He knew full well that we were not going to attack him.
Severen flesh. SHADE. Licita. SHADE was never transformed into a Severen, like Ballard was. I'm sure now you know why.
I stared at SHADOW as the realization dawned on me. I dropped both of my weapons as they clattered to the ground.
"Shane...?" Rinne's voice trailed away.
"No... this doesn't... this can't be..."
SHADE never was transformed into a Severen.
Meaning SHADE was always a Severen.
Shardis Licita is half Severen. SHADOW laughed, his voice echoing throughout the Severen theatre.
Half a Licita. Half a Severen. For the people of such a noble household, to have a Severen as their heir. Simply was not an option. It has all come together, little Licita. Why you were denied of your birthright. Because it was never yours to begin with.
I looked at Rinne, as she had resolved out of Helos, her face was pale in shock.
"I'm..." I muttered.
Rejoice, Halfling. For you have been blessed with the glorious power of the Severens. A naturally born halfbreed. Unlike one such as I, who's Severen flesh was grafted onto me by the great Father, Gargantua. You are a natural born. The first of your kind. As you fully embrace who you are, you will become the most powerful being in this universe. You will become the Great Valian Killer.
"You're going to adopt Arsani?" I asked, incredulous, at the faces of the Licita nobles.
"Don't, Price." Ikes held me back before I could strike with my Lance.
I couldn't let these people take my little brother away from me.
Over my dead body.
Arsani was all I had left.
They became mad from the Void incident. They tried to kill us. Whoever those two adults were, they were no longer our parents. I remembered that day, when Mom held out a knife.
A knife that was bestowed upon the Price bloodline. Of Toron origin. Handed down generation after generation, from the first day our ancestors had defended each other from when they had to fend for themselves in the forests of Sanguine, to the days the Price family would use the blade to protect their own from robbers and muggers due to our low class.
That knife stood for hope.
And Mom was using that knife to kill Dad. Then she turned to Arsani.
That twisted smile.
Ikes stopped me from attacking Kirin and Caterena Licita.
"Don't, Dekani. If you attack, we'll have to fight their guards. We can't declare war against a Toron Noble."
"We're not loyal to the Toron. After what they did to Freya. What's one more enemy, Ikes?" I muttered.
Ikes shook his head.
"Just don't. This is for the betterment. For our war against the Severens we don't have a choice. Once the war is over, we will all strike. But now, we need to be patient. That is the way of the Valian."
I turned back to the noble family, still resolved in my Lance. The Volt Lance armour concealing the rage in my eyes.
"If my little brother goes to you, I don't want him to know. If you are going to take care of Arsani, please. Treat him like your own. Treat him like an heir. I don't want him to walk the path of a Price."
"I understand. I know it must be painful to part with Arsani. From this day forth he will walk his life as a Licita."
Caterena ran her hand on Arsani's sleeping face.
"Nios. Toron for anew. From this day forth, Arsani will be reborn. He will live a life as a noble. Free from the bloodshed of the Valian. Free from the discrimination of the Price family. He will be known as Arsanios Licita."
We were about to leave, but Kirin stopped me.
"I must have a word with you. Regarding... my son."
I gritted my teeth, turning to Ikes.
Ikes bowed before the Licitas and took his leave.
"We have a scheduled raid in a few hours, Price. Don't be late."
Kirin led me to his room, an office, and sat down.
"Will you stay in that Lance during this meeting, Valian?" He asked.
I hesitated, which caused Kirin to raise an eyebrow.
"You do not trust me. That is good. Despite the controversial upbringing of the Valian, brought up from the Void incident, to the rumoured experimentation by the Toron and Lord Ballard, I hold respect to warriors."
"Yet the Licita bloodline have renounced their rights to hold a blade in battle."
Kirin ran his finger against the desk.
"We are nobles. Our strength lies in politics and conflict resolution. Our time as warriors have passed. But your time, Valian, has yet to come. I have predicted that much."
Kirin tapped his temple.
"Every Licita possesses a unique power. The Grand Licitian Convergence allows the House of Licita to uphold excellence in all fields of combat, even if we are pacifist now. My power, is the ability to read the time stream."
"And I suppose you predicted the future?"
Kirin nodded gravely.
"My son. Shardis Licita. The reason why Arsani has been adopted to our family, is because Shardis Licita cannot possibly be the next heir. And it is my fault."
"I don't... understand..." My voice trailed away, as Kirin gazed out the window into the streets of Luam.
"You may be a powerful warrior. Valians who outclass even the mighty Tora themselves. But in the end, you still a child. And children will never understand such things."
"Give it to me straight, Kirin."
Kirin looked at me.
"Caterena is not Shardis' mother. From the day I met her, I had an affair with another. I brought her to my bed. She was enticing, and we made love. And from her, came Shardis."
Kirin's hands clenched into fists.
My heart stopped.
"You..." I tried to prevent myself from taking out my Braton Supra and shooting him point blank.
"You laid with a Severen?!"
Kirin analyzed me.
"Does that anger you, Valian?"
"Yes it does. Do you truly think me foolish enough to hand Arsani over to a traitor to the Toron?!"
"Yet... you. Dekani Price. Are you not doing the same thing? Are the Valians not plotting their revenge against the Toron for killing Freya?"
My mouth went dry.
"We are aware of this. Of the inevitable. I am aware of this. It is my ability to see the future to a certain extent. I know what becomes of the Toron Empire. And because of this, I know what becomes of my son. To take in Arsani Price and convert him into Arsanios Licita. It is all part of the time stream. It is all fated to end this way. I cannot have a Severen become an heir to the Licita bloodline. Shardis, no matter how much love I give him, is fated to be overwhelmed with darkness. And he will weaponize our family name."
"And you would make the assumption that your own son would turn into a tyrant? You said it yourself. Your ability to see the time stream is limited. How do you know for sure that Shardis will become a tyrant?"
Kirin shook his head.
"He will be. Because I have seen his fate. I have seen what he becomes. He will embrace his Licita side. But then he will recognize that the Severen side is superior. And he will use that, and eventually he will accept it. I want... what's best for both him and our family. Should he be overwhelmed by the darkness, I cannot possibly give him more power to feed into it."
Kirin clenched his teeth, as a tear ran down his face.
"You will never understand, because you are a child. But I love Shardis. I don't want him to suffer. If it means denying him his heritage to protect him. I... I will do everything in my power to change his fate. I will do everything in my power to change his future. Because I love my son. I love him to the point where I would gladly hurt him to save him. And you, Dekani Price, I am sure you feel the same way about Arsani. You want him away from the war with the Severens. That is why you let us take him."
I slowly got up from my seat, and left the mansion.
"Dekani Price. Know this. My ability may be limited, but I am certain of one thing. The Valian. The mightiest of the Toron. Even the Valian will not stand to Shardis' might. In the end, Shardis will kill your people too."
I watched as Caterena put on a memory loss drug into Arsani's drink before giving it to him.
I turned around to see my little brother for the last time.
I headed to my Landing Craft, overlooking the city of Luam, and there, I noticed. A young boy playing in the garden. He had black hair just like Kirin's and a face that looks so innocent. This boy.
This boy was going to be the one to end the Valians.
Several months later, the Severens attacked. They fought off the Tora, killed many. Then moved forward to slaughter the people of the Toron. But the Valian, the Toron's prized jewels, the epitome of experimental success, in our Lances, fought back the Severens. Our might was too much for them, and we drove them away.
It was during this time, did I learn of the deaths of Kirin and Caterena Licita. Two Severens had infiltrated the Licita household. One male, and the other female. The male assassinated Kirin and Caterena. Then proceeded to slaughter another noble named Lilac, who was Arsanios' girlfriend at the time. The female, she claimed to be Shardis' mother.
But it didn't matter. Because in the end, my prerogative was to annihilate the Severen.
Because I was a Valian.
The Severen had Shardis in arms reach, but she could never reach her son, because I had already shot her in the head. I hated what I did. I shot this boy's mother in cold blood right before him. It was only irony that he did not know of her identity.
As the war progressed, I continued fighting with my brothers and sisters of the Valian. Until one day, I recognized one Valian recruit.
"Dekani Price, Ikes Dronol. For this mission, you will be paired with these Valian recruits. Please look after them."
The recruit went up to me and shook my hand.
"I am Arsanios Licita. I look forward to fighting by your side."
My face was pale. The blood had already left it the moment I saw his face.
I shook my brother's hand like a stranger.
During that raid, a Severen had managed to kill two of ours. One was a recruit. And the other was Ikes. Impaled by one of the Severen's limbs.
I watched as Ikes bled to death. His Lance shredded and in pieces.
Yet Arsani simply looked at the corpses with no emotion.
"Death is part of war. I will avenge our brothers." Arsanios said, coldly.
After the war ended, the Toron bestowed upon us gifts and honours as heroes to the empire. But we did not accept them. They still owed us for what they did to Freya.
For what Ballard did to Freya.
And so we brought our weapons down. The blades against their necks. The sounds of gunfire tearing apart the Toron.
The Toron Empire collapsed.
For months on end, we were without anyone. Freya was all we had to a mother. And she was killed. Until we met Lena.
Queen Lena, who looked after us. We did not know of her origins. But she was like a source of warmth. Something we never felt in a long time. It was Lena who filled the hole in our hearts. And it would be Lena to send us into stasis.
To allow us to escape our sins as killers.
At some point, we awoke from our slumber. Lena had woken us from our hibernation, nursing us back to health and, we became mercenaries to the Star System. But by the time we had awoken, everything was different.
The Toron Empire was no longer. For it had split into multiple factions.
The Toron Scrava, a faction of genetically engineered and mutated humans.
The Toron Corpo, a faction of industrialization, business, and profit.
The Infested, a monstrous faction of mutated humans with no sense of intelligence or basic human function.
As we continued to return to our place as the Valian, we had formed alliances. Clans and Legions to cooperate. At this time, I decided to revisit the Licita household.
"Dekani, fancy seeing you here again." Arsanios opened the door himself, against his maid's wishes.
"Lord Arsanios, you must let us tend to the door next time!"
"Come now, Yelene. We are all family here." Arsanios smiled. His time as a Valian had made him a cold hearted killer. But his time away from the Licita household made him long for them, and he treated them like his own.
It was painful, but it made me happy to know Arsanios was loved. Even if the family he was with was not by blood.
Arsanios himself led me through the mansion like a tour guide. All around me, the maids bowed before us.
"This is... father's office." Arsanios' face went grim.
"I'm sorry." I said.
Arsanios took a breath.
"It is alright. He was a great man. Feel free to take a look."
I stepped in, resolved out of my Lance, and read the files.
And that was when I discovered it.
I flipped through the pages, making sure Arsanios wasn't around. Because of the nature of the noble household, surveillance was not a thing, and Arsanios trusted me, being a Valian himself.
My heart stopped.
"What is this..."
I stared at the blueprints to some sort of time warp device.
This was the technology that must have displaced Shardis away. And was the same technology that the Severens had developed to destroy us once and for all. We had no means to replicate it. And I never understood how the Severens could obtain it. And now I knew. They got it from the Licita.
If news got out about how the Severens could eradicate us from existence, it would lead to widespread panic amongst our people.
I had a means to stop the Severens. And if that was possible... if I could go back in time...
I took the papers with me before bidding Arsanios farewell.
"Integrate this into our Orbiter."
"Is this... timewarp technology?"
Folock began making weird incomprehensible noises.
"But Operator, this technology is wildly unstable. The statistical probability of us landing into a war zone may be high. Not to mention the durability of this craft! Oh dear! I don't feel like this is a good idea."
I clenched my fist.
This kid was forced to live a life away from his family. He didn't deserve this. But I knew for a fact that if I brought him back here and revealed everything, it would make it worse. I would instantly kickstart his future as a monster.
I remembered that Severen that invaded the Licita household. I recognized him. Because over time, I began to detect his presence. His aura. It made him frightening. It made him infamous. His accomplishments began piling up until he did the impossible.
He managed to infiltrate the Valian Gladiator Alliance. The strongest Alliance in Valian history.
But this kid was being forced to live a life against his will.
And if the rumour was true that the Severens were going back in time to erase us from existence, it meant they might go back in time to destroy the past.
Shardis would die to those monsters. Alone. Without any family.
I had already killed his mother. I had already done so much. I needed to make it up to him.
I needed to go back in time to save Shardis.
"Please! Take me with you! I have no one else. I... I'll scrub your floors man. I'll call you king. You like that right? Alien shit?"
My eye twitched in annoyance.
Was this really Shardis Licita?
The heir to the Licita bloodline?
I looked him once over. He looked poorly groomed. His hair was so long it reached his shoulders. He had grown muscles all over his body like a repulsive bodybuilder. But his face, it was desperate.
He must have went through a lot.
Kirin... how could you do this to your son?
"What is your name?" I asked.
"Sh- Shane. Shane Mayen." Shardis responded.
So his name was changed too. I shook his hand.
"From this day forth you will be my first mate. I will be your captain. Welcome aboard the Lotuscraft."
Shane cried out and immediately fell to his knees, grovelling.
"Th- Thank you man. I- I don't know how to thank you enough. Thank you. Thank you."
My heart hurt to see a noble reduce himself like this. To see a Licita reduce himself and castrate himself before me. From the day he was such a high class boy playing in the mansion. Now here he was, his face covered in grime and soot. Dragging his face on the ground hysterically, covered in tears as the two foster parents he had were killed right before his very eyes.
"Yeah. Deka. I mean, Dekani. Deka for short. Sounds good don't you think?"
"I... um... suppose so."
"This ship is frickin amazing man. I can't believe you stole your own Clan's rail jack to make it!"
"Yeah." I said, as I couldn't look him in the eye.
I was feeding him so many lies.
So many false stories.
There were many things that I told him. Some were true. Some were not.
I remembered what Quorra had told me after SHADE had infiltrated her Alliance.
"Our Railjacks. Our Necrons. Our heavy hitting equipment. We were lucky that SHADE didn't get access to these things. If he did, it would be a huge disadvantage to us in this war. They could quite literally turn the tide. These are our trump cards."
If Shardis gave in to his transformation into SHADE, I could not let him access those pieces of equipment.
And so, I fed him the lie that each Valian did not have access to a Railjack. I fed him the lie that I never met him before. I fed him lie after lie after lie.
And from these lies, Shane saw me as a brother. He looked out for me and I looked out for him. Guided him and reprimanded him whenever he acted out of hand. I taught him the way of the Toron. Not the way of the Severen.
Every day I felt like telling him the truth. But I would always stop myself. Because I knew if the truth came out, his spiral to becoming the monster Kirin predicted would catalyze.
The end of Shardis Licita.
And the beginning of someone worse.
The beginning of The Great Valian Killer.
The beginning of SHADE.
"What the hell?! That's unfair!" Shane shouted at me.
I had reprimanded Shane due to attacking Rinzler and his two Valian lackeys. There was a lot of political tension arising in Luam. Class and social status overrode everything. In terms of power, the Valian had both political and physical superiority.
But that wasn't the only reason why I had him reprimanded.
"Unless you learn to hold back, I'm not letting you out on the field. Besides, this mission is a spy mission. The last thing we need is some gun slinging lunatic alerting the enemy!" I told Shane sternly.
Shane backed down, but he still looked upset.
I regarded my first mate.
His primary precept was to walk the life of a hero. But his idea of being a hero was twisted. And it took me so long to realize that.
Being a hero sometimes meant to kill.
But to kill did not make you a hero.
That was what Shane never understood. This was something I had tried to drill in his head ever since he became my first mate. But the more I watched him grow as a warrior, the more I began to realize that if I kept letting him do what he wanted he would eventually wind up in the same situation Kirin didn't want.
I resolved into my Loki Lance and joined Rinne as we headed into the Landing Craft. From the field of my vision I could still see Shane sulking.
"Quorra." I spoke into the coms.
"Deka!!! How are you." Quorra responded.
"I need you to do something for me."
"What is it?"
"I want you to watch over Shane. Just for a little bit. I'm going to the Veil."
"The Veil? Deka, are you sure? You know you won't be able to survive it at your mastery rank. At least let me send some of my subordinates to-"
"No." I cut her off.
"They will never support me. I have to do this without Shane. It's just way too much risk if I bring him with me. It's bad enough I'm dragging Rinne with me."
Quorra was silent for a few seconds.
"Okay, Deka. You better come back in one piece. We need you, even if everybody thinks you're a traitor."
"That's fine by me. I want what everybody wants, and that's to have Lena back. If we send everybody to the Veil, there will be a chance we all get wiped out in the Severen home system. But at least if I die, it's not a big loss."
"I really hate that about you, Deka. That mentality of yours is no different than the Toron Scrava."
"I'll do what I need to do." I answered her, as I shut off my coms.
I'll do what I need to do.
I owe Shardis that much for killing his mother.
I owe Arsani that much for abandoning him.
Even if it was for the purpose of a better tomorrow, I can never forgive myself.
To save by deceiving.
An old Toron word that was what Lord Ballard had lived by. He thought he could save the Toron Empire by deceiving Freya, allowing her to look after us when in reality what she was doing was nurturing a new species of killers.
I hated Ballard for that. So much that I joined my brothers and sisters of the Valian to slay the old man's trusted officials during the honours ceremony.
Yet here I was doing the same thing.