MVR Round 2 P2
"I'm doing this." I said, as Merrow nodded at me grimly.
"You got this, Thomas."
I nodded at Deacon, who cracked his finger.
"What happens next will forever define who you are. This is the meaning of living your life, Thomas. Take that step and evolve as a warrior."
"And don't fuck it up!" Sammy chimed in, causing me to trip out the door.
"Sammy!" Merrow chastised, as Deacon walloped Remnant 4 over the head.
I looked at myself from the reflection.
I was dressed well. I had my hair combed and everything.
It was time.
For my first date with a girl.
Two hours later
"Whoa. Thomas. You really sped through that date my guy!" Sammy waved me over and put his arm around my neck.
I walked with Sammy dejectedly back to the house, as Sammy laughed.
"So, did you two hit it off? Huh?"
"Sammy." I said, my voice sombre.
"She left halfway through the dinner."
Sammy's face went horrified.
"Oh shi- I mean. Well, you did what you could, Thomas! I'm sure there are plenty of fish in the sea-"
"Sammy, I threw up at the table."
I sighed, as I opened the door. How was I going to face Merrow like this? After everything she had done for me. She had a heart to heart and everything.
"It's okay, Thomas! You're never too old for your first love! I was 16 when I had my first boyfriend."
Yeah, thanks Merrow. Thanks for telling a 25 year old man that as if 16 and 25 were the same age groups. Ugh. She helped prepare my outfit. My hair. Gave me inspirational speeches and everything. Now I had to go back to the house and tell her all her efforts were for nothing.
Sammy and I arrived at the door.
"Sammy... I'll be the one to tell her. Alright?"
Sammy's face paled.
"Y-Yeah. Good luck. Just remember, you still have us. We'll be there for you the next time you fuck up a relationship!"
I turned to Sammy.
"What the hell dude..."
I unlocked the door and brought my hand up to the handle.
I swallowed hard.
Here goes nothing.
"THOMAS! Oh my god!" Merrow ripped the door open and crushed me in a hug.
"Thank goodness. I almost thought I lost you to some random girl!"
"Wh- What are you even saying?" I asked, unable to comprehend the situation.
Merrow suddenly realized what she was doing and pulled away.
"Ah, erm. Yeah. Sorry about your date."
She was totally not sorry at all!
Deacon was at the doorframe.
"What she meant was she was scared to death that she lost her little brother figure to another woman."
Merrow glared at Deacon, as Deacon quickly silenced himself.
"I, uh. Ahem. Well, now that you're back, I guess we could probably discuss some things about our next mission."
After that terrible series of events, we held our meeting first thing in the following morning.
Deacon put his hand on the table.
"You're going with Kanade and Sammy to Arman's high school. And you're going to convince him to come with us."
"Umm..." I slowly raised my hand.
"Yes, Thomas?" Merrow asked.
Stop treating me like a little kid!
"Two questions. How are we supposed to convince Arman to go back? Didn't Sammy try that and nearly get his ass kicked? Also how are we supposed to just go to a high school like this! We're grown adults man! Look at me! I have chest hairs like some old gramps!"
I lifted my shirt, as Skylar yelped.
"Jesus, Thomas! I do NOT want to have to see your disgusting chest first thing in the morning."
"My god. Aren't you supposed to be my older bro. What the hell is wrong with you, no wonder your date dipped. So loud and having a mental breakdown first thing in the morning." John muttered, leaning against the chair backwards.
That damn brat!
"We're going to talk to him. At the very least, get some more intel while we're at it." Deacon said, calmly.
"Also, don't worry about the age thing. When you guys arrive at his universe, the Remnant Normalization should handle the age difference from time displacement. You guys will age back to your teenage forms just fine."
Oh yeah. I forgot about that.
"Well, I guess. I guess that's cool." I muttered, fidgeting with my hands.
"Is something wrong, Thomas?" Merrow asked.
"It's just... I don't like going back to high school. I've had a really bad experience with it in the past. Don't really wanna do it again."
Sammy chuckled. "My guy, I'm going and I spent my high school bullied. Don't worry about it. The three of us will be popular as hell! We've been through it once already, after all."
Kanade frowned. "I'm actually more concerned with the fact that you're affiliating with us..."
I guess you can say this was one of those back to the past, high school do-overs you would see in cliche'd shows or movies. Unfortunately, like I always did, I started the journey off by throwing up all over the floor.
"Thomas! Oh god! The Shadow Travel killed him!" Sammy yelped, as Kanade put his hand on my back, soothing my nausea.
"Are you alright, Thomas?"
I looked up at a younger Kanade, his hair had gotten shorter, reaching his ears, but still very white. His face, the worry lines and permanent scowl all gone, replaced with an angelic tone. He looked... almost pretty like a girl.
"K- Kanade, you-"
Kanade tilted his head. "What's wrong?"
Was it wrong that I found my own brother hot? Would that be considered illegal?
I turned to Sammy, who scratched his head sheepishly. He didn't look much different. I guess since he always had the same childish face. Magenta streaks in his hair and brown eyes. He looked like your average delinquent.
What about me?!
I held out my hand and summoned a rock from the ground, green and teal winds blowing around it like a mini-rasengan until the lump turned into a beautiful piece of quartz. I stared at my face from the reflection.
"Wow." I muttered, unimpressed.
I guess I should have known.
I was never attractive in college. Or high school.
And this stupid piece of quartz reminded me of it once more.
"Thomas, let's go to homeroom." Kanade said, helping me to my feet. We made our way into the building.
Kanade sure was resourceful. He knew exactly what to do and what to say. Even being our "guardian" and helping Merrow with the documents to get us "enrolled" just so we could play our part. I guess that was cool and all, but it definitely felt weird.
I looked at the school kids as they gave me double takes like I was the most hideous thing on Earth.
It didn't help that Sammy kept clinging onto me.
"Oh my god. It's been so long since I've been in this environment. It just goes downhill from here. I can't wait to experience high school all over again. The girls. The failing grades. The drugs."
"Uh, dude I don't think that's an accurate representation of high school at all." I muttered.
"This way." Kanade gestured to us, as we followed him down the hall.
"As long as we follow the signs, we should be oka-"
Kanade was interrupted as he suddenly bumped into somebody.
The girl yelped and dropped her books.
"Sorry!" Kanade said, as he knelt down and helped her pick it all up.
"Th- Thanks." The girl said, as she blushed.
What in the hell? My empath abilities were indicating that the girl was extremely nervous. But this nervousness was something else. Something unbelievable.
It was feelings of attraction.
The girl picked up all her books and bowed to Kanade.
"Thank you!" She said, as she quickly hurried off.
Sammy reached out and closed my mouth which was gaping open.
"Kanade, my guy." Sammy shook his head. "You're way too old for her."
Kanade tilted his head. "I'm sorry?"
That dense womanizer!
I had forgotten how boring homeroom was. It wasn't helping that Kanade ended up getting the spotlight.
"Dude, is that white hair natural? How did you get it to look like that?"
"Dude, have you considered modelling?"
"Can I see your abs?"
Both girls and guys were crowding around Kanade, while Sammy and I sat in the corner of the classroom near the back.
"You know, Thomas..." Sammy said.
"This wasn't how I imagined my high school slice of life shounen real life anime would play out."
I sulked in my seat and buried my face in my arms.
Focus. We weren't here to get all giddy giddy in this place. We needed to find Arman and talk to him, convince him to get out of here. Then we were all set to leave and move forward with the plan to train and get stronger. Most of us got a head start already. I personally underwent massive development of my own over the eight years.
We needed Arman on our side.
No other way around it.
"Did you ever have a girl you liked? In high school?"
Sammy spread his arms out.
I looked at my brother. "Seriously? What was she like?"
Sammy smiled. "She was cute. She had bangs and made my heart go poof every time I saw her. Every time she walked by me..."
Sammy held out his hand, and created a small black bird projection, that took flight from his palm.
"I felt like I could fly farther than I ever could."
I stared at Sammy. He had an expression that I never seen before. Almost like he was dreaming. Nostalgic. But a little sad. It was so out of place, from a guy who always had like, two personalities.
A beast, vicious, and dead inside.
Or a total party animal.
But this version of Sammy...
"Did you guys... ever hit it off?"
Sammy sighed and closed his fist. "Nope. It never happened."
Sammy leaned back in his chair, his black and magenta bangs dancing on his forehead.
"I found out she had a boyfriend. Boyfriends. Plural. A ton of guys who she had dated in the past. Even banged too. That when I was supposed to confess to her, that day... well. I left. Because I was too insecure about myself."
We were silent for a few seconds.
"Sorry. I didn't mean to bring that up."
"I don't need your sympathy, Mister Five Star Vomit."
"Geh! Dammit, just when I was just starting to respect you, man!"
Sammy put his hand on the desk.
"I dunno, man. The thought of seeing her with a bunch of guys. Cuddling. And being lovey dove. Even if it was in the past. It hurt me. I thought I was special to her. I just couldn't bear with that weight. After all, I'm a huge loser. To a guy who never once held hands with a girl, she was the first. But in her point of view, I guess I was just another dude. That was what I thought. I loved her, but I also hated how she could so easily get with some random guy if she wanted to. Dozens of guys wanted to go out with her. If we ever broke up... it would be the end for me. No other girl in sight. But for her, she could have an endless supply of men to fill the void."
We watched as Kanade made eye contact with a girl and smiled. My empath powers were firing like crazy from her.
Power. Strength. Very few people are simply blessed with immense unparalleled power. Most need to work for it. And even so, they always need some kind of trigger.
Those were the words Deacon had taught me what seemed like an eternity ago.
I looked at Sammy again.
"Was that... the reason?"
Sammy smiled. "That I became this? I guess you could say so. It was one of the few. As powerful as this dreamboat is-"
Sammy put his hands to his face like a movie star. Cringe.
"I don't like being hurt. I'm actually really scared of it. That's why I decided to instead focus on becoming stronger and stronger. Finding happiness in power, instead of through love. There's more than one way to enjoy life. I guess for me, I enjoyed it by becoming the best."
"GAH!" I yelped, as I clutched the edge of my seat.
"Yo! Thomas, you good, man? I didn't mean to share my past!"
I glared at the desk. What was this rage? This intense rage?
"No, it's not from you... it's something els- AAAH!"
I clutched my head as the metal in the desk began to warp and bend.
"Yo, Thomas. Take deep breaths. What-"
Sammy and I stared out the window. Numerous monsters. Coming straight from the corner of the school. A portal. No one was noticing it. Except Sammy and I.
The bell had already rung for first period, as Kanade ran up to us.
"Do you see it? Abyssal Creatures. Let's go. If that portal is up, it means Arman must be there."
I nodded at Sammy.
"Hey, Sam? What did you call me here for?"
I looked at Leah. I had to tell her. Come on man. You've been dating her for two months now. Not once have I told her this.
I love you.
I just needed to say those three words.
My mind flashed. To that day. When I had used Shadow Step in the shadows of Leah's house. Her ex had visited her house and tried to get back with her again. He talked about all the things they did together. And each memory that he brought up hurt my heart.
More and more.
I looked at Leah's face. She was so cute. So pretty. Yet...
Those lips were touched by dozens of guys before me.
And I hated that.
"So that's the plan. Got it, Sammy? Sammy?"
I shook my head back into reality. "Whazzzupppp??"
Kanade gave me a look of exasperation. "At least try to listen whenever we come up with a plan. You're still somewhat exhausted from that Shadow Port to the Forbidden Realm, right? Try to avoid going above 10%. We fight off the creatures until the Cleaners arrive. Then we hold our fire. Hopefully Arman is with them. Absolutely no engaging."
"Loud and clear, Cap-nade!"
Thomas gave me an uncomfortable look. No doubt this dude had picked up my shitty past.
But past was the past, right?
Several creatures roared at us, as Thomas flew into the air, holding out his hands and generating two telekinetic spheres in each hand.
Kanade held out his hand as the creatures began to slow down, their energy being sucked away as Thomas threw his two Rasengan looking thingies at the them, each ball creating a powerful vortex which sucked all the enemies in the region in.
I held out my hand as well. Leah. Dammit. Dammit Thomas, why do you gotta make me remember something like that.
Fuck getting my feelings hurt.
Right now, I'm unstoppable as hell, baby.
"5 percent Ignis"
A blast of umbral flames emitted from the palm of my hand, disintegrating the monsters instantly.
"That should be enough." Kanade said, as he landed next to me.
Thomas levitated next to us, as I heard the sound of something familiar.
Green darkness. Yeah.
A streak appeared, as a teenage girl, still in school uniform, zipped in and dispatched the rest of the creatures, her purple hair flying in the wind, followed by another guy who landed next to her.
He looked intimidating.
Black combat boots, military camo pants. Black tank top. Shredded tone.
He was wielding two large swords. One silver and one gold. And along his left forearm, were chains.
I recognized him all right.
The dude who fought with Decen and Icarus' power.
Remnant 1. Kingslayer. Arman Wan.
We regarded our eldest brother, as Rei turned to us. Arman held her hand as he eyed us.
"I thought I told you that I'm not going anywhere. Leave us alone."
Kanade stepped forward.
"We can't do that. This entire multiverse is in danger. Please, listen to reason, Arman-"
"That's not my name." Mace muttered, as he glared at his younger brother.
"You made that very clear. You, the holiest of the Remnants. You made it so painfully obvious that Arman Wan was nothing but a sham. Now I've found a life with Rei, and you're trying to take that away?"
Thomas walked up to Kanade's side.
"That's not true, dude. We're not trying to take her away from you!"
Arman glared at Thomas.
"So you're suggesting I let you rip Rei away from her family to come along with your crazy plan to get everybody killed."
A bead of sweat rolled down Thomas' face.
"N- No! Look. We're your brothers, man. We've come a long way for each other. But right now, we need you. You're the strongest of us and you're spending your life here instead of being on the front lines!"
Rei looked at me, as I quickly yelped and looked away.
Arman took a deep breath.
"I've made my choice. I choose Rei. I choose Tsuyuki-sensei. To live with the Tsuyuki Dorm. That's my life now. I'm sorry."
I clenched my fist.
"Do you not see what you're doing? Mogul is going to tear us apart if we're divided! Once he slaughters us, he'll come for you."
Arman glanced at me.
"He can't find this universe. If anything, this is where I will stay."
"Even if it means letting trillions die at his hand? From the other universes? You're just gonna let Mogul rampage around while you play house?!"
Arman's glance turned into a dangerous glare.
"Choose your next few words wisely, Sammy Le. Lest you wish to have a repeat of the last time we had a similar conversation."
The air became tense, as Rei was quiet.
Kanade put his hands up.
"Nothing we say is going to change your mind. But it's not going to stop us. We're going to stay here. We're not going to leave until you come with us."
"Tch." Mace muttered, as he took Rei's hand and left.
I guess you could say the next few days at school were...
Awkward as hell!!!
First class. Math.
Easy Pre-Calculus and stuff. Whatever. This stuff was pretty straightforward. But I did find it hard to concentrate. When Mace and Rei were literally in my class.
"Uhhh Sammy? How do you do this problem?"
I stared at Thomas.
"Didn't you graduate with a degree in Science."
"Yeah but... dude it's been a while since I did math at this level."
I spent the day helping out my brother, noticing that Arman and Rei were also studying together. They looked... kinda cute.
Rei pointing at a part of the textbook and Arman leaning in, smiling. Rei blushing.
Thomas clutched his head. Probably from all the giddy giddy from those two were getting to him.
"Thomas, let's take a break. Let's get a drink."
We headed outside, as we overheard two people talking.
"There's something I've been wanting to tell you this whole time."
A voice said from the other side of the wall.
"Hide!" I whispered to Thomas and pulled him behind the wall.
"Mmf!!" Thomas said, his voice muffled.
I peeked from the side of the wall. There was a girl and a guy. The guy was about to confess.
"Tch. This dude's boned." I muttered. It was so obvious. The girl looked uncomfortable, her hands in front of her. Her face red from embarrassment. The guy was folded over like a damn right angle triangle.
"Go out with me. I've loved you for the longest time."
Yep. It's over. Once this was cleared up, I could get that new coffee from the vendor.
"I... I love you too!"
"The.... FUCK?!" I screamed.
The girl yelped as the guy squealed in surprise.
"Who the hell are you?! How long have you been there?!"
Thomas had his head low.
"We... were just gonna get something to drink. Um. Don't mind us."
Thomas walked to the vendor, dragging me by the wrist.
"Ehhhh sorry about that! Congrats bro!" I said, sheepishly, at the guy, who's face was bright red. I couldn't tell if it was from rage or embarrassment. Wasn't really in the mood to ask Thomas either.
Thomas and I sat down on a bench outside of the school, watching the guys play sports.
I cracked open my drink and chugged it.
"Damn! That hits the spot. Hahaha!"
"Sup?" I asked, turning to Thomas.
"I felt a sharp twinge. Earlier. I don't know if you noticed that."
"I did. It was from Arman and Rei, right? Like damn. How gooey can they be? Haha."
"It wasn't just from them. I felt some from you too. I didn't mean to, man. But... I shouldn't have asked ya about your past. I'm sorry."
I nearly choked on my drink.
"It's all in the past, Thomas. Like, come on. You'd got to be the pettiest guy in the world to stress over something that happened in high school. Don't worry about it."
Thomas didn't look convinced.
"Look. I've dealt with the emotions of so many people over the years. But I never really was bothered by it, since I got used to it. People being happy. Being being sad. Heartbreak. Joy. Betrayal. Anger. All that stuff I'm used to it. But... with you... it's so off."
Thomas looked at me.
"It's like I'm seeing a side of you that I never knew existed. I get that you want to live your life with a huge smile on your face, but you can't let this eat away at you like that. Burying it in deep inside isn't the best way to deal with it."
I clenched my fist.
"Drop it, Thomas."
"I said drop it." A wave of darkness emanated from me as my voice became ancient. A mini vortex of Umbral Wind blasted from my body and broke a couple of windows from a building not far from us. A couple of shouts and screams from the players scattered around, trying to figure out what happened.
My eyes widened.
"Shit. Well. I guess we better scram. Come on, let's get the hell outta here!"
I booked it, with Thomas in tow.
We rendezvous'ed with Kanade during lunchtime.
"Yo. Kanade." Thomas put up his hand in greeting.
"Eeeeh..." I muttered. It looked like it wasn't just the three of us having lunch today.
"H-Hey." A girl put out her hand as I took it, shaking it.
"I'm Saki. Nice to meet you."
Kanade smiled as he rested his chin on his hand.
"How long have you guys been in New Kona?" Saki asked.
"Not too long." Kanade responded, as he regarded Saki with a curious expression. Thomas' eye twitched. No doubt from another sense of attraction she had for Kanade's pretty boy face.
"Is it true that all three of you are brothers?" Saki said.
"Yeah." I responded, getting up from my seat and flexing my sticks for arms.
"I'm clearly the more handsome of the bunch though."
Saki giggled, putting her hand over her mouth.
I momentarily hesitated.
It was the same one Leah did whenever she laughed.
I cleared my throat. "Well. Uhh, how long have you been staying in New Kona?"
"A couple of years now. My old ex wanted to transfer here and I followed. Then we broke up."
How terrible. Must have been the end of the world.
Kanade put his hand on the desk.
"Saki, do you know anything about a guy called Samuel Mace?"
Saki raised her eyebrows. "Oh, Mace? Yeah, he's the super popular guy dating Tsuyuki, right? He's one of the best athletes in the school. It would make sense for the best male athlete to date the best and prettiest female athlete."
Saki put her hands on her face. "How adorable!"
I smiled, cheerfully. "Yeah!"
That night, the three of us bugged out in an apartment for rent. Thomas and Kanade were sound asleep as I lay on my mattress. Thinking about the past.
I guess I never really moved on, did I?
I shadow stepped into Leah's room. That one night. Yeah. That day I bailed on her, she cried. And cried and cried.
Then, just like I had expected, guys came to her and confessed their love.
She was always so popular.
Everybody fell in love with her.
Why was I feeling this way? She wasn't even my girlfriend anymore, yet...
"Leah. I love you."
Those four words. How ironic. That I was Remnant 4. 4 should have been my lucky number. Yet, the most painful words ever, had to consist of four words.
And to know, that one night, the words that came out of the mouth of one of the guys who loved her...
Was her own adopted brother.
"Stop." I muttered, banging my head against the wall.
I watched as Felix pinned Leah on the bed, both of their eyes teary.
"I can't watch this."
I clenched my fists, as darkness rolled off of my body.
I can't watch this.
No one is allowed to have Leah.
Give me your power. Tsukuyomi. Everything I have.
Felix undid Leah's buttons, as Leah let it happen.
The love of my life.
Doing it with another guy.
I don't want to be human anymore. I hate this. I hated this so much. If it meant leaving my feelings away. Then I would gladly throw away my humanity and become the very embodiment of evil. Of a monster.
Of a demon.
SEVENTY FIVE PERCENT.
That night, I sneaked out and created a shadow portal to the Abyssal Realm.
I walked down the plains of the messed up realm as numerous monsters were scavenging around. Arman had spent his days here looking for enemies to fight and get stronger. But I came here for an entirely different reason.
Knock two birds with one stone, ya know.
End the Cleaners vs. Abyssal war, and get these stupid silly thoughts off my chest.
I continued walking, hands in my pockets as I had time to think.
"I really am petty, aren't I." I muttered.
Nobody is here to see me like this.
Just let it go.
Why did I still not move on from something that happened so many years ago?
Why was I so fixated on some silly high school love.
Why did I do it?
I looked at my reflection from a purple pond.
This is why people always say that responsibility is just as important as power.
Power to the wrong hands, especially unstoppable power, is a curse.
I am an example of someone who was given too much power. You simply don't hand that much power to some kid who couldn't even think straight, who decided to let his childish, stupid, immaturity, get the best of him. Anybody could throw a silly temper tantrum over the things they didn't want. But when that person is given the power of the world. Their tantrums lead to destructive, irreversible consequences.
I've seen celebrities who were only 20 something years old, and they let money and fame get to them.
I wasn't any different.
I was in fact, much worse.
Because I didn't just use my power in irresponsible ways. I used it in ways that could never be undone.
My mind flashed back to that day. I unleashed 75% of Tsukuyomi without thinking in Leah's bedroom. The step brother fell back as Leah stared at me in terror. She stared at what little remained of her ex-boyfriend.
But really, I didn't care about that. Because what was going through my mind was I wanted that man dead. I didn't want nobody touching Leah.
Because it hurt.
And I wanted to stop hurting.
"Y- You're Sam, the boyfriend..." Felix muttered, as he stumbled back.
"You can't have her." I said, as my body rolled with darkness.
Felix fell to his knees, heaving. "Wh What the hell... What are you?! What is he?! Leah??"
Leah was still speechless, her eyes, paralyzed in terror at what I was.
Some dumb kid who decided to use the ultimate power he was blessed with just to fulfill his selfish desires. That was what I was.
I snapped back to reality, as I noticed a massive horde of monsters coming my way.
You just gotta move on.
Move on in your own ways.
I have to move on.
Through my own ways.
I held out the palm of my hand. These monsters, were like my past. I needed to get them... I needed to take them all out. Anything that hurts me. Everything that hurts me.
"I need to kill everything."
Umbral Pyrokinesis - Ignis
My hand exploded in a massive blast of fire as all the monsters were engulfed. But I wasn't satisfied. 400% of Tsukuyomi could not possibly be satisfied with small fry numbers. The flames continued rushing forward, as thousands of monsters disintegrated.
Thousands became tens of thousands.
Became tens of millions.
I laughed hysterically as I continued to torch the entire realm with my flames. My body crumbling away from the massive heat as hardened, black scales took its place. Something inside me, the rage and resentment growing in size and power as my body transformed into a massive black dragon. I roared at the entire landscape, flames spewing out of my mouth and engulfing the entire realm with unstoppable, unavoidable black fire.
This was why I couldn't go above 100% in my fight against Mace. I just couldn't. Because any more would destroy not just the school, but possibly the entire continent.
But in here, where every being in the realm was a bad guy to be exterminated.
"It's okay!" I screamed. If I could describe my emotion at this moment, it was joy. But despair and sadness. I guess maybe that's what happens when you let all your emotions out, when you've been bottling it up for so long.
After all, I was always the goofy guy. Among the Remnants.
Even back then too.
I was the goofy guy. Nobody cared about what they said or done to me because I always laughed it off.
But Leah saw right through that.
So kind and accepting.
I guess that was to be expected. From a girl that everybody wanted to ask out.
"Kill everything..." I grumbled.
Destroy it all.
That's all I can do now.
That's the only thing that makes me happy now. Because when I'm watching everybody turn on me, that's the only time I can't think about Leah.
Just like the old days. How I killed everything in my path. Because I loved being hated. I loved to see people look at me helplessly.
Suddenly, I collapsed, my dragon form dissipating as I reverted back to my human form falling to my knees.
"Dammit." I muttered.
Must have used up all the power I was stockpiling.
I looked up at the numerous black flames in the landscape I had pretty much decimated. I tried to get to my feet but fell on my back.
My body was beginning to dissipate.
"No. Not good. This isn't good." I said, frantically.
If I was dissipating, it meant my real body in my home world was going to wake up. It would be another eternity searching for this place again. Searching for the Remnants again.
I needed to stay here.
I don't want to wake up.
I sat up and tried to move, but fell on my face.
What was I doing here again?
Why was I here?
I'm starting to forget.
I clawed my way through the ground.
"Portal..." I muttered, holding out my hand, but nothing came out.
"Shit... I used up all my power." I began to laugh.
I guess I deserved it. Look at me. Brooding over the past like some kid who never got over his breakup. I'm a 25 year old guy. Still acting so immature.
I didn't deserve...
"But you're still alive, though, right?"
I remembered. The face of a guy who had his hand outstretched to me. I remembered. I used 400% of my power before. In a city, actually.
After I killed Felix, I went on a rampage. Killing and destroying. Then moving onto the next universe, and killing and destroying.
By the time I reached that one city, I accidentally used up all of my power, and was about to fall to my death, but not before a man saved me.
He had long black hair that reached his shoulders, but his face looked just like mine. On his back was a sword.
"I'm saying you still got a life to live. Are you really going to give it up?"
I stared at Lucius. My eyes empty.
"What life is there to live. I've spent years killing and slaughtering. To suppress the pain. But nothing I do will make it stop. I've only now realized that. Let me fall. Please."
"Do you think killing is the answer, Sam?"
"It's all I have. I would rather be hated than be loved by someone I hate. Because it's hard to find a reason to justify that hate."
The man lifted me into the air and hurled me onto the platform.
"So what you're saying is, the answer to dealing with an ex-girlfriend is to go on a genocide."
I shot to my feet but immediately crumpled to the ground afterwards.
"What the hell do you know?! Huh?! I have no way out. I'm not like other guys. I can't just lock myself in my room and cry like normal people. I have these powers. These CURSES. I USED them to kill my ex's brother! What kind of monster does that?!"
The man regarded me with sympathy as I began to sob, slamming my fists against the platform. The entire structure creaking and moaning from collapse.
"It's because you have these powers, that you need to be stronger than other guys out there, Le. You made a mistake. But the biggest mistake you can ever make is to end your own life. That is the biggest mistake in the world, and the ultimate greatest regret you will ever have. Because it can't possibly be undone."
Lucius slammed his sword on the ground and knelt in front of me.
"You can't atone from suicide, Sam. But you can atone for the things you've done. You're a Remnant of Decen. There's nobody else out there who can wield this incredible power but you. It's up to you to keep moving forward and learn from this."
I closed my eyes.
"Leah. I can't... no matter what I do I keep seeing her."
Lucius sat down on the platform, overlooking the massive destruction I had caused.
"Quite the place you wrecked, man."
"I'm not in the mood to be messed with."
"I know. But if I told you there were a bunch of people out there who loved you, would you believe it?"
"I don't have a family."
"You don't, huh. Well. Neither did I, actually. I was picked up in an Underground Fighting Ring when I was born. Every step in my life was another fight. I never experienced anything like love before. Or anything in the real world. And you would think ignorance was bliss. But every time I saw the television in the lounge, when everybody would leave the ring, I was given the chance to watch anything I wanted. That was when I discovered all about the life that I was denied access to."
Lucius ran his hand through his hair.
"A social life. Friends. Love. Never able to experience that. Until I met my brothers. Our brothers."
My eyes widened.
"Yeah. I am your brother. My name is Lucius Cassidy. The Ninth Remnant of Decen. I want you to come with me. I know many of the things you've done in the past is almost impossible to move on from. But it's okay. Because from now on you're not alone. You have me, and our brothers."
A tear ran down my cheek.
"I don't know. I don't know what to do. Please. If you're really my family. Please guide me."
Lucius smiled and patted me on the back.
"How about we fix up that mop of a hairstyle you have?"
"What? Yours is a mop too!"
"Yeah, but mine is stylish. Yours is... like straight out of an anime. Like one of those otaku MC's."
I managed a slight smirk.
Lucius laughed and got to his feet.
"I would say there's one way to move on. Start over. With a clean slate."
"What do you mean?"
Lucius held out his hand, as his sword entered it. He swiped up and cut a piece of debris that was about to crush us in half, causing an explosion that illuminated his figure.
"Starting now. Do you want to become someone better? Then it starts with looking at your life a new way. Start with a smile. One smile every day. One blessing to think of every day."
I stared at Lucius.
"Yeah. It could be the shittiest blessing in the world. Like, you know. Went a day without diarrhea or something. As long as it's something good. Count your blessings. And smile."
I got to my feet.
"A smile, huh."
"Nobody is born a bad person, Sam. You're not a bad guy. Give us a chance, and we'll show you."
I reached for Lucius' hand, as I snapped awake.
I remember everything. I remember why I was here.
I wanted to move on and become someone better.
Someone who always had a smile on his face, no matter what. To always see the bright side of things.
Samuel Le. That was the name I started off with, but that was not the person that defined me now.
I was Sammy Le.
The guy who was always happy. Always cheerful. For my brothers and loved ones.
I was the ray of sunshine. As ironic as that sounded given my powers.
I got to my feet, my dissipation stopping.
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath.
Count your blessings.
I'm blessed to have a loving family. Loving brothers.
I'm blessed to be able to go on adventures with my friends.
I'm blessed to have people who care about me and want to help me out.
I'm blessed that I'm so damn good looking.
And above all else.
I'm blessed that Lucius saved me that day.
I opened my eyes.
A large portal formed in front of me, as I stepped through.
I looked back at the endless carnage I had left behind.
"This is goodbye. Samuel Le. And this is goodbye."
"Dude, you look like shit. Did you even sleep at all last night?" I asked, Sammy, who was practically falling asleep at his desk.
"Uh. Did some character development." Sammy muttered.
Kanade tried to beckon to us, but was swamped by a bunch of normies who were inviting him out.
"It's ok, I know what you're trying to tell us." I said, as I elbowed Sammy awake.
"Five more minutes, Merrow, please."
"Arman is coming."
Sammy snapped awake, as Arman approached our desks.
"Ummm." I stammered, looking at my eldest brother.
"Can I help you?"
Arman's eye twitched as he slammed his hand on my desk. Causing everybody to go silent.
"What the hell did you three buffoons do last night?"
"Uhh I played Uno with Kanade and Sammy had the shits."
"Not that!" Arman leaned closer to me. "Something's off with the Abyssal Realm. The balance is completely messed up."
Sammy held up his hand.
"Sorry. That might've been me. My bad."
Arman glared at Sammy.
"What did you do? The Abyssal Creatures that invaded and were under detainment have gotten from S class to SSS."
"I might have... went to the Abyssal Realm and killed them."
"You what? How many?"
"Like... all of them."
Arman grabbed Sammy by the collar.
A little chant from the boys started to develop.
"Fight, fight, fight!"
Sammy scratched his head.
"But I solved the problem, didn't I? No more creatures!"
"You stupid bag of bricks! You made the ones that are currently in this realm grow stronger! When the Abyssal Creatures die off, they transfer their strength to the ones that are still alive! Why do you think I never went beyond Phoenix I to defeat them?!"
Sammy smiled sheepishly.
"I'm gonna kill you."
"Wait! Don't! Thomas, help me."
I quickly got up from my seat and left the classroom.
Every Remnant for themselves.
I continued walking, when suddenly I noticed a girl with purple hair standing in the hallway. She was rubbing her eyes.
"Sam, is that you?"
I better get out of here. The last thing I needed was-
Rei pinned me against the lockers. Her breath smelled like grapes, as she rested her head against my chest.
"Have you been dieting? I was only kidding when I said I wasn't a fan of big muscly guys. You're enough for me."
"I... um..." I stammered. What the hell was I supposed to do?! Rei had me confused for Arman!
"About the other day..." Rei muttered, as she wrapped her arms around my midsection. My heart was beating like crazy. Oh my god. This was going well beyond holding hands.
Actual physical contact with a girl! Holy shit! And it wasn't even Merrow this time!!!
"I think you're being too hard on your brothers."
"Wh- Why do you say that?"
"You don't need to worry about what I think. I'm okay with it. You need to do your part in this battle. I know. I want you to stop feeling like you're obligated to protect me. Just because of what happened with Mom and Colin."
I didn't know what to say. Was she okay with Arman leaving? Yet...
"But... you're crying." The words escaped my mouth.
Rei tightened her grip on me.
"Why wouldn't I? I... My life has changed because of you. That grudge I've had. The hatred for the Abyssals, then for Mom. You walked me through it and was by my side. You chose me. Even if it felt wrong, it made me happy."
I felt like the biggest scumbag ever. This was a conversation that she should have been having with Arman, not with me. I didn't feel like telling her that she had just confessed her feelings to some dead end worker loser who never kissed a girl before.
I gently pulled away.
I needed to get out of here.
Shit. Think. Think.
I glanced at the fire alarm.
I flipped the switch with my telekinesis as the alarm went off. Rei quickly spun around.
Five-O. Time to go.
I sprinted the other direction as fast as I could before Rei could notice I was gone.
"Whoa. Thomas. You look like you just ran a marathon. You good, buddy?" Sammy asked.
I was breathing hard as Kanade tried to get to us, but was swamped by girls left and right. Poor guy. Struggling from success.
"I uh... may have..."
"Thomas, you look like you're about to throw up again."
"I may have had Rei two time Arman with me."
Sammy's smile melted. "Say what now."
"Oh. Two timing means when you have-"
"I know what two timing means! I'm not that much of a loser! So it was you who pulled the fire alarm."
Arman approached us, along with Rei.
"Tell Rei what you told me."
Sammy gulped, as Rei crossed her arms and eyed him critically.
"Uh, there is a possibility that I committed mass genocide on the entire Abyssal Realm. So now every creature that is locked up here has gotten super OP."
"So you mean to tell me that you caused another mess, Sammy?"
Ah yes. The classic switcheroo. Never fails to disappoint.
Rei grabbed Sammy by the wrist and judo flipped him onto the ground as Arman and I stared at our brother in surprise.
"We need to stop them. I'll let Nomi know and we'll assemble the Cleaners."
Arman grabbed her arm. "I'm going too-"
"Go with your brothers. You know the way, Sam. Go and hold off the Abyssals as long as you can while we assemble everybody. They've most likely gotten there already."
We watched Arman and Rei argue like a tennis match, until Arman held his head low in defeat.
"Alright." He said, as he turned to us.
"Come with me. I hope you can keep up."
Arman led us to the main gate, which was busted. Inside was a raging minotaur like beast, who was flinging Cleaners left and right like rag dolls.
Arman's eye twitched in annoyance. "Tch. Let me-"
"No." Sammy said, as he glared at the monster. "This is my fault. I'll kill it."
Arman looked at Sammy.
"Non negotiable. I gotta own up to my mistakes. Please. Let me do this. Let me be the one to kill it."
Sammy turned to Arman. "I've been responsible for so many things all this time. I want to do the right thing for once. Please. Let me."
Arman closed his eyes. "Sammy, it's not that. You're not supposed to kill them. You need to send them back."
Sammy's face turned red in embarrassment.
Well, that was a waste of an epic dialogue.
"We just need to restrain him then, right?" I asked.
"Yeah. Until the Cleaners arrive with the rune to send them back into the realm."
I stepped forward and held out my hand as the Minotaur paused, glaring at me and roaring.
I tried to keep my composure, ignoring the spit that the Minotaur had sent flying at my face.
The whole minotaur began to glow green as I lifted him into the air, then I closed my fist, the air swirling around the monster and glowing teal.
"Spiralling Sphere Technique: Containment" I said, as more and more air began to be redirected, spinning at a supersonic speed, illuminating the entire place green until the ball stabilized.
Twenty minutes had passed since the containment ball was up.
Arman glared at me.
"Mace. Mace, are they coming or not?"
Arman stared at his phone.
"No response from the Cleaners. Something is wrong. How long can you hold that sphere, Thomas?"
"Well, my arm is getting kinda sore."
Arman stood up.
"We don't have a choice now. If we let that thing loose, it'll rampage everything. I'll kill it."
Sammy shot to his feet too, his elbow hitting me.
"What? You just said not to kill it!"
"We don't have a choice. It'll give the other Abyssals a boost in power, but they're still no match for me. I'll just have to kill this one and hope the others get sent back to retain the balance."
Arman nodded at me, as I released the field. The Minotaur landed on the ground and roared at us again, as Arman calmly walked up to the monster.
"You. SSS Class. You have evolved to understand speech. It's a shame your life ends now, though."
The monster tilted its head.
I raised an eyebrow.
The minotaur lowered its head and took out an axe from one of the dead Cleaners.
"You are the Aurum Saviour."
Arman regarded the Minotaur, expressionless.
Kanade ran up to me.
"No good. They're all dead. Mace, should I debuff this one-"
"No." Arman said, as he calmly walked forward, drawing one of his swords. It was the golden one that looked straight out of the game Diablo.
"This one is mine."
Arman sprinted forward as the Minotaur roared, swinging the axe, but suddenly, Arman disappeared in a flash.
"Ummm. What just happened?" I asked.
Sammy gritted his teeth. "Damn. It's that move again."
Sammy looked at me. "Slice n dice."
I turned back to the Minotaur. Arman was already standing on its head, as bright blue lines appeared all over its body.
"How..." The Minotaur muttered.
Arman put his sword back into its sheathe, as he leapt off the head of the monster. The lines began to get bigger as the monster's body broke down into hundreds of segments. These segments turning into shards of ice as the entire Minotaur dissipated into dust.
Arman had killed an SSS Grade Abyssal in a fraction of a second.
"You- How- I-" I stammered in disbelief as Arman walked past me and headed to the direction of the other containment facilities.
"We need to find Rei and the others. Something is definitely off. I think they've been attacked. Let's go." Arman said.
We were too late.
Bodies strewn everywhere, as numerous Abyssal creatures roamed the streets. Cleaners dead or injured left and right. Only one was left standing.
A girl with purple hair, glowing green with black darkness rolling off of her brass knuckles.
Rei Tsuyuki was breathing hard as she faced the overwhelming numbers of SSS Rank Abyssals.
Standing in the centre of the Abyssals was a person in a robe.
My heart stopped as I looked at Sammy and Kanade.
"H- Hey... guys isn't that..."
Kanade clenched his fists.
"Don't say anything more. I'll restore whoever is still alive. You collect the Cleaners."
My eyes flashed green, as I lifted all of the Cleaners and moved them out of the way while Kanade got to work.
Arman instantly drew his swords and leapt in, slashing at the Abyssals left and right.
"Rei! I'm here!" Arman shouted, as he landed in front of her, putting distance between his girlfriend and the Acolyte.
The Acolyte laughed.
"Isn't it fate, that we have one again reunited? Daughter of Ksenia?"
Rei gritted her teeth.
"I'll kill you!"
Arman took out Loz-Q and created a wave of ice, as he turned to Rei.
"Where are the others. Where's Nomi and Colin!"
Rei's eyes pooled with tears. "They took them, Sam. They took my sister!"
Arman's eyes widened.
"Bastard." He muttered, as he turned around, his face full of murderous rage.
"Tell me where Nozomi Tsuyuki and Colin Lee are. Or I will scar your face even more than Mogul did."
The Acolyte smiled from within his hood.
"Oh dear. Have I angered you, Kingslayer? What connection do you have with this Cleaner girl? On what grounds can you say this is any of your business?"
"All of this is my business!"
"No. It is not. I tell you this. This girl, Rei Tsuyuki, and her sister, Nozomi Tsuyuki, are the daughters of Ksenia. One of Mogul's higher ranked Acolytes. My colleague. We own her. You are just a mere mortal who she gave her body to. Nothing more."
I watched the conversation from afar.
"Gave her body...?"
Did they really go all the way?
Rei shoved Arman aside.
"Give my sister back!"
The Acolyte held out his hands.
"You will see your sister soon enough. The only thing keeping this from happening is your loving boyfriend. Tell him to stand down. You will come with me. Or shall your fate be sealed by the Fourthborn's mess."
I looked at Sammy, who clenched his fists, his face silent in the shadows.
"Sammy? Aren't you gonna do something-"
"Wha- Why? Surely you can beat an Acolyte. Even with 10%. You can beat-"
"Not this Acolyte."
Sammy turned to me, his face sullen.
"I can't beat Odin, Thomas."
Blood drained from my face as I felt a chill down my spine.
"You mean to tell me the God of Wisdom is on Mogul's side?"
Arman put his hand around Rei as Rei shook uncontrollably.
"Rei, you can't go to Mogul. He'll corrupt you, just like what he did with-"
"With Colin? Sam? With Alex? With James? I can't... I can't let anybody else die. I can't lose any more people that I love..." Rei's voice broke.
Arman held her tightly.
"Rei, Alex chose to give his life. So did James. None of that was your fault-"
"Oh, but it was. Firstborn. It was all her fault. All because Rei wanted vengeance so badly. After all, a hero who builds her power from vengeance and darkness is after all, no hero at all. And Rei knew that. Recklessness. Pain. Heartache. That is how you got so strong, to the point where you were one of the strongest Cleaners. The Superstar Heroine Rei Tsuyuki! The prodigy who killed an S Class Abyssal with her bare hands."
Arman held out Loz-Q, aiming it at Odin.
"Don't try to twist this narrative, Acolyte. Nothing you say is going to change the fact that I'm going to kill you."
"I will not sully my hands with mere combat, Remnant 1. That is not why Mogul chose me as the perfect counter against the strongest Remnants. The Fourthborn knows. He knows firsthand why I was shaped and modelled to deal with him, and you. The strongest of the Remnants."
Odin held out his hand and made a fist.
"There is no need to fight."
Everything this guy said sent shivers down my body. I glanced at Sammy again. He was completely emotionless.
The Strongest Remnant. Sammy Le. The guy who had defeated entire armies. Who changed the very orbit of a moon and pulled it out of the sky. The guy who could freeze an entire star. The guy who was able to wipe out entire continents with a wave of his hand.
This Sammy Le.
Was terrified of Odin.
And I knew why.
I suddenly realized why Odin was the perfect counter for both Remnant 1 and Remnant 4. Two of the seemingly strongest Remnants of our kind.
Because there was no one else who could do the job. No one who could stand against those two in a fight.
But Odin didn't need to fight.
He was the God of Wisdom.
His very words and reason, his very intelligence was his weapon.
Odin walked up to the ice barrier that Arman had created and flicked his hand, causing it to shatter.
"Rei!" Arman shouted, as he instantly disappeared, zipping behind Odin with Loz-Q, but Odin flicked his hand again, as a hammer came out of nowhere and flew to Arman's direction. Arman deflected it just in time, but his eyes widened as he found himself unable to push it back. The hammer sent the Remnant flying into a building, as it returned to its owner, hovering next to Odin.
"Foolish Remnant. Is war all you know? Why would you try to stop the momentum of Mjolnir?"
"ENOUGH!" Arman shouted, as the building he was in instantly exploded. Arman emerged from the ruins, his body glowing with a golden aura as his hair turned gold-white, spiky from his Phoenix Form. The chains of Icarus had unwound, floating around him wildly.
"I'm going to send you back to Valhalla, you old man-"
"You will do no such thing." Odin smiled, as he turned to Rei.
"Mogul watches, child. He watches this battle, with Nozomi and Colin in his hands. He does not discriminate. He does not favour those over others. Sin corrupts all. Should Remnant 1 continue, Mogul will establish the Corruption."
Rei gasped, her eyes full of horror.
Arman paused, his Phoenix Form dissipating.
Kanade got to his feet.
"What do you want, Odin. Are you here for Rei? Are you going to use her as a hostage? Just like how he took Corey? He already knows we're preparing for our final showdown. Why is he going to all these lengths to capture hostages?"
Odin turned to Kanade.
"Follower of Faith. I do not like you."
Kanade narrowed his eyes. "Why? Because I'm not a true follower of faith? Is that what you are going to say? This is all pointless. Capturing Rei and Mace's colleagues just to lure Rei in. To lure us into fighting Mogul. He already knows we're going to fight him. Why are you wasting your time?"
I looked at Kanade.
Kanade must be trying to reason with him. But not just Odin. But also Mogul. If Odin was right, Mogul was watching. Kanade's words might give him incentive to let the hostages go.
But unfortunately, Odin smiled.
"No. I do not like you. Because you've chosen to follow an imaginary faith."
Kanade's eyes widened.
"What did you-"
"Follower of faith? To believe in a god that is not I? You have witnessed many deities, Sixthborn. Your very powers stem from the Goddess of Health. The Fourthborn's powers stem from the God of Night. Yet you still choose to adamantly believe in the metaphysical. How unsightly."
"Hey, knock it off-" I said, but Odin turned to me. His very face was one that had seen it all. There was no out talking him. My heart felt like crawling into my throat. Cutting away my voice.
I stared at Kanade's hands, which began to turn into fists.
"Take that back." Kanade muttered.
Odin let loose a bellow of a laugh. "Are you offended, Sixthborn? Am I wrong? That you are surrounded by these deities? Yet you choose to believe some made up nonsense?"
"It's not made up!"
"Oh but it is. That cross around your neck. It just shows how stupid you are. Along with others who believe."
"NO! I believe. You are all real, but you are not gods. Not divine. You are all-"
"It seems to me..." Odin moved his hand as Mjolnir slammed into Kanade before any of us could react. Sammy could only stand and watch, as Kanade flew into a building.
"You are trying to convince yourself."
Kanade got to his feet, blood leaking from his mouth.
"Shut up. Shut up...."
The hammer flew in again, but suddenly, Arman appeared in front of Kanade, catching it with his bare hands.
"Leave my brother alone..." He growled.
Odin lowered his head.
"Remnant 1. You are the most foolish of them all. To think that you could start a life with the Daughter of Ksenia, in a world that you think cannot be accessed by Mogul. You made the foolish and selfish decision to sacrifice the entire multiverse for a girl."
"Shut up!" Arman roared, as his transformed into his Phoenix Form II, his hair becoming spikier than normal.
"You! Thomas! Get everybody out of here!"
I nodded quickly as I lifted everybody into the air with my telekinesis, flying away from the fight as Arman yelled, his body evolving even further as his hair grew out, reaching his shoulders until his body transformed into Phoenix Form III.
"Kanade! Are you good?" I shouted.
Kanade breathed hard. "Yes. I... lost my composure."
"Sammy? Wait. Sammy?!"
I looked around, and realized Sammy had not moved from his spot. His face, blank.
"What the hell is he doing?!" I shouted as I laid everybody on the top of a building. I levitated into the air.
"Kanade! I'm leaving the wounded to you. Can you heal them?"
Kanade nodded, as I flew off to Arman and Sammy's location.
By the time I got there, Arman was already fully sparking in his Phoenix Form III. I landed next to Sammy and grabbed his arm.
"Dude! Now's not the time to be spacing out-"
"Phoenix III..." Sammy muttered.
"Arman's Phoenix III Form. He went that far..."
"What are you talking about?!"
Arman yelled as he tried to move Mjolnir, as Odin sighed and returned the weapon to his hand. Arman fell to one knee.
"What a transformation. Yet I can see that you are vulnerable."
"The Phoenix Form III isn't vulnerable to something like that, old man..." Arman muttered.
"Not in that regard."
Odin descended in front of Arman, taking a step forward. To my surprise, Arman stepped back.
"You are vulnerable. Because I have seen right through you. You realize the selfishness of your actions."
A bead of sweat rolled down Arman's face.
Odin held out his hand, as black electricity left his body and entered Arman. No.
"Sammy! Do something, he's gonna corrupt him! Odin is gonna corrupt Arman!"
Sammy stared at me.
"I... I can't..."
"God dammit, Sammy! Why the hell are you chickening out now?!"
I held out my hand summoning my telekinesis to form a Spiralling Sphere of Pure Momentum as I launched it at Odin, but Mjolnir intercepted it, flying in my direction.
"Damn!" I held out my other hand as I tried to stop its momentum. But Mjolnir continued to inch towards me.
"Come on! Come on!!!!" I growled as I summoned my Spartan telekinetic avatar, condensed telekinetic energy arms grabbing the hammer from both ends.
Odin grinned as Arman clutched his head.
"I... I'm... I am selfish."
"Yes. You are already one step towards Corruption, Firstborn."
"For leaving my brothers..."
"Yes. For choosing who?"
"For choosing Rei Tsuyuki. For choosing a happy ending."
"But it wasn't the betterment of your brothers, was it?"
"No. It was for myself."
"SAMMY!" I shouted, but it was too late, as Arman stumbled backwards. His body sparking with black electricity.
"No..." I muttered.
Odin turned to Sammy and I, retrieving Mjolnir.
"Now. The Fourthborn."
Sammy gasped, as Odin pointed his finger.
"There isn't any need to corrupt you. You've been corrupt from the start. Of course, you never told your brothers did you?"
"Sammy? What... what is Odin talking about?"
Sammy began to sweat even more, his face pale.
"No... please. Don't bring up the past. I was just getting over it. I was just-"
"That kind of past is impossible to move on from, and you know it... don't you?
"Demon Lord of Iaia..."
Sammy's body began to ripple with darkness as his body began to transform. Something like scales forming on his skin as his skin darkened.
"No! Sammy! Wait! Don't do it!"
Sammy turned to me. "I'm... irredeemable."
Odin laughed in joy, as Arman leapt onto the roof, his feet creating a shockwave as he landed, his body sparking with the blue electricity of his Phoenix III form and the black electricity of the Corruption.
"Yes. You are irredeemable. Your past. Show them all your past, Samuel Le. Show your brother, the Fifthborn, just how much of a terrible man you were, and still are!"
I flew into the air as I made distance, Sammy's body sparking with electricity, wind howling as his Stormcaller power created a windstorm all around him.
"SAMMY!" I screamed, as Sammy stared at the ground, his eyes wide.
"Come out and play." Odin shouted, as he flew into the air.
"Show them all your power. Show them the power of the monster who rampaged over the realms. Show them the power of Samael, The Black Dragon."
Sammy disintegrated as his body transformed into a massive dragon, towering over the entire city, the size of a mountain, roaring into the sky. The very sound of the roar shattering the windows as I felt myself being blown back from the sheer power of Sammy's dragon form.
"No... way..." I said, as I watched Arman yell, charging Sammy, as the two Titans clashed in the heart of New Kona.
There was no time to be dawdling. I had to do something and protect this city. Thankfully, Kanade was already one step ahead of me.
"Thomas, I've put the entire city's inhabitants into a slumber. You'll need to do something to control those two and move the fight somewhere isolated."
"But Sammy's in his Black Dragon Form, and Arman's in his Phoenix Mode, it doesn't matter how far away they are, it'll still be a planetary threat!"
"What do we do. Think, Kanade. Think."
I glared at Odin.
"That old man!"
I flew into the air and held out my hands.
If it was true that Kanade had sent this place to a slumber, all I had to do was get all of the innocent people out of here.
I concentrated, listening in on the emotions of every citizen in New Kona. Then willed them to lift into the air, out of their buildings and into the sky.
"Kanade, I'm putting them on those boats near the harbour. Is that okay?"
Kanade nodded, as he stood up.
"Yeah. Don't worry about me."
I turned to Kanade. "Heh? What are you gonna do-"
Kanade took out a pair of fingerless gloves. Since when did he get those?!
"This man insulted my faith. Forgive me. But I'm going to give that geezer a piece of my mind. You handle the citizens, Thomas. Odin is mine."
Kanade spread his hands as well, as the very wildlife, trees, animals. And citizens. White energy pooling into him as Kanade began to glow. But the energy wasn't just coming from all around the city.
"Whoa. Wait, Kanade you're not actually gonna-"
Kanade gritted his teeth, smiling.
"Odin is going to be a tough Acolyte to fight. Just because he's a God of Wisdom doesn't mean he cannot fend for himself. He wields Mjolnir, and is the father of Thor. If I wish to fight him..."
Kanade burst into white flames, his body sparking with blue electricity, and his irises glowing white and blue.
"I have to go all out. Take the energy and power from everybody and every living creature on this planet. Do not worry, Thomas. It is only at a fraction, but it will be enough. For me to enter that state.
"World Siphon Mode."
Just like all those years ago.
All I can see was pink and black.
Leah's hair was pink too.
Yeah. That was all I saw. When I had tried to protect her. I purposely chose not to use my powers that day.
I tried to protect her with my own strength.
Even though I had caught her two timing me that one time.
I protected her anyway from the guy who had his way with her lips.
Sucks, doesn't it.
"Who's there?" I asked, in the darkness.
The source of all your strength. Without it, you're just a shrivelling snot of a kid. Who breaks down upon seeing his girlfriend with someone else.
"Tsukuyomi." I said, as my surroundings began to swirl. The pink and black forming the shape of a girl. No. Two people. The girl was kissing the other guy. Passionately.
Jealous, much? Jelly? Samael? That your precious Leah had kissed dozens of boys before you? Jealous that even when you were holding her hand, she was kissing other guys?
"Shut... UP!" I roared and swung my hand, using Ignis to destroy the hallucination, but more couples began to form from the remains. More and more, until I was surrounded by couples. Each couple, had Leah.
You never moved on.
"Yes I did!"
Yet when you saw all that pink. The first thing that came to mind, was Leah's hair. That day.
Umbralkinesis - SEEKING SERPENT I held out my hand, as hundreds of black orbs appeared before me, drawing and leaving behind a shadow trail as it zig zagged, slicing and dicing the guys that were sucking face with Leah. All of them. All of them shattered apart.
Leah's hair. That was I all I could feel on my skin when she had kneeled down beside me and kissed me. Because I was flat on my back after getting my ass beat by the guy she was two timing with.
"I moved on. I did. Lucius showed me a better life. I stopped dissolving. I-"
All you did, was pretend to be something else. You didn't progress at all. As we speak, have you ever wondered what happened to Leah? When you rampaged with my power all over her city that day?
My eyes widened in horror. Terror coursed through me.
"She... she was horrified. She was horrified at what I was and what I did."
Samael. I am a god. I know. I know it all. If you truly have moved passed this, then you wouldn't mind me sharing what happened to your precious Leah.
I fell to my knees.
As Tsukuyomi created more and more guys in front of me. Pushing Leah against the wall and kissing her. Leah enjoyed every single moment of it.
"AAARGGHH!" I roared, clutching my head.
"Leah..." I clutched the ground.
This was stupid.
She kissed other guys before me. She was cheating with me. Wasn't she?
She never two timed me.
That day I found her kissing the other guy, it was before she declared her love to me.
It should have worked out? Right?
Yet... the very fact that she had done these things, and immediately confessed her love, like what she had done with the other guys ten minutes prior never happened.
It was just so sudden.
I began panting, sweat pouring from my face.
An irresponsible boy still in puberty. Who was given all the power in the world. Yet still had the mindset of a child.
"You don't have to tell me that." I gritted my teeth, my hand stained from my leaky eyes.
"I know that much."
Why? Why couldn't I just move on? Any normal guy would have moved on from this shit. It was some stupid pointless high school love. That wasn't enough to warrant all this.
"Why does it hurt so much?" I sobbed.
Isn't it obvious? Samael?
The black and pink swirled in front of me, creating another Leah as she knelt in front of me, putting her hand on my face.
"It's because you're not like any normal guy. You carry my power. The stronger and more power you have, the greater of a weight your mistakes become."
I made a fist with my hands.
"Power is the ultimate trigger to Corruption, Samael. This is why when an unarmed boy is hurting, he hurts. But when an armed boy is hurting, he contemplates using his weapon. When you were hurting, you were in an even more powerful position than the armed child. You were given the second option, at an even more tempting intensity. You fell into temptation."
Leah spread her hand to the cities, as a massive black dragon, even bigger than the skyscrapers, roared, shattering the windows. He brandished his wings, creating a gargantuan windstorm that lifted entire buildings from their foundations. Screams and lightning filled the skies as the dragon let loose a massive overwhelming wave of fire breath, the black and purple flames engulfing everything in its way. Military jets. Helicopters.
"What can I do... please, Lord Tsukuyomi. Please tell me what to do? I beg of you."
I prostrated myself in front of Leah, who sighed.
"Getting me to do everything again, aren't cha, Remnant?"
"What?" I looked up.
"Do you want to move on so badly?"
"Yes! Yes I do. Please. I can't do this on my own. I'm-"
"Useless? Hopeless? Childish? Immature? Yeah. I know that already. I've been with you ever since you were born, mortal boy. I know all these things about you."
Leah looked at me. That pink hair that tumbled to her shoulders. That critical yet cute face. Those eyes.
"What?!" I gasped, as I nearly fell backwards.
"What are you talking about?!"
"Leah is alive. She survived your onslaught. If you have something to say, something to get off your chest. Then tell it to her. Stop beating yourself up like this. It's starting to get annoying."
Leah was alive.
This whole time.
How was I supposed to comprehend this?
"Where can I find her? Where is she?"
Tsukuyomi's body began to flicker in and out.
"The town of Folia. Once a part of Iaia."
"Iaia?!" My heart nearly stopped. "What the hell is she doing there?!?!"
Tsukuyomi dissolved into darkness.
"Hard to say. But knowing her, she has witnessed our dragon form. Iaia, obviously witnessed it. To the point where their sages and prophets have labelled us a Titan of Calamity. A Demon Lord. She had become one of the strongest adventurers there. Among the greatest, in the Legion of Poseidon."
"Poseidon Legion..." I muttered.
"Then let's go now!" I shouted, but Tsukuyomi slapped me in the face with a wave of force.
"You idiot! What the hell do you mean let's go now. We're trapped in your berserk state. We're trapped in your Black Dragon form."
"My dragon form... oh no!" I said, as I ran forward.
"What going on out there? Am I winning?" I asked, as my surroundings began to glow clearer. Chaos all around.
I regained my vision, as all I saw was the sky. I looked downwards and all around me, the charred and destroyed body of a dragon.
Samael. We have lost to Arman Wan.
I got to my feet, as I stood face to face with a Corrupted Arman.
"Is this what you want? To destroy everything?" I asked.
Arman tilted his head, Loz-Q and Pariah shimmering with the Phoenix Glow in the rain.
"Dammit! Answer me!" I shouted.
There was nothing I could do. If I battled him here, we would end up destroying the whole place.
But there was one guy who could prevent that.
"THOMAS!" I yelled.
Thomas looked at me from afar.
Thomas knew right away, as he summoned a massive green hologram around us. Attaboy.
I cracked my fingers as I approached Arman.
"Okay, asshole. You beat me once. Then you beat me again. I'm not letting this slide. I've spent my whole life winning. So having myself lose to you twice has put quite a chip on my shoulder."
Arman gripped his swords, glaring at me with those pupil less eyes.
"Time to even out the score. I'm going to start taking you seriously." I said, as I sprouted two wings behind my back and shot into the air.
Umbral Aerokinesis - Stormcaller, Umbral Cryokinesis - Frostbringer
Two black orbs formed in my hand, circling each other as the entire place filled with a vicious, violent windstorm. Arman stumbled on the building and landed on the ground, stabilizing himself as the entire place began to frost over. Arman inspected his arm movements.
Stormcaller to block his vision and movements.
Frostbringer to slow him down.
Arman roared, as his Phoenix Form blew me back. But I held out my hand.
Hundreds of black energy bolts appeared in thin air, zig zagging and chasing Arman as Arman zipped around. Pursued by the serpents and the occasional bolt of black lightning.
Arman closed in, as I summoned Stormcaller inside myself, black electricity boosting my speed as I flew out of the way. Thank god that Thomas had created this dome to encapsulate the two of us in such a large radius. I had at least a whole city's worth of space to fight Arman.
Three orbs of energy manifested next to me, as brought my arms together.
Umbral Geokinesis - Worldshifter
The entire landform began to vibrate, ripping out of the ground and circulating the three black orbs. Black veins began to surround the chunks of concrete and land as their strength and hardness increased manifold.
I clenched my fist as I sent thousands of chunks of Earth at Arman, who began cutting at them with blinding speed.
This unbelievable guy.
I held out my hand, shifting the Frostbringer spell closer in a smaller radius as it pooled into a black and blue energy orb. I flew backwards as I broke it apart into twelve pieces, each piece releasing a powerful beam of frost that closed in on Arman.
Arman held out his swords just in time, and blocked the beams.
"Tch." I muttered. This guy's reflexes and speed was on a whole other level.
Brought my hand up, as I concentrated.
I blasted a wave of frost from my palm, even bigger than the beams from the orbs all around me as Arman slid backwards. Even though Thomas had isolated us from the rest of the planet, I noticed the clouds all around me began to shift and change in climate. The very temperatures of this Dome Arena was well at Absolute Zero at this point.
Everything was completely frozen.
Yet despite these insanely low temperatures, Arman was still barely affected by it.
Suddenly, everything disappeared.
Arman seethed, as Pariah was glowing with an even brighter intensity than before.
"What were the chances that Pariah didn't absorb all that magical energy just now?" I asked sheepishly.
Ask Arman once he cuts your head off. Tsukuyomi replied.
Arman swung Pariah, as the sheer power of Frostbringer sent me flying back.
I stared at my arm, which had been completely obliterated by Arman's attack, as Arman closed the distance again. His emotionless, threatening demeanour, as he knocked me into a building, then wrapped me up in Icarus' chains.
"Dissolve." I said, as my body went into a black mist, reforming in the other side of the arena.
I launched a strike with my left palm, as a massive bolt of black lightning, the size of an entire football stadium, exited my hand and blasted Arman before he could react. Arman's smoking body fell from the skies, slamming into a faraway building.
So that's it.
Arman's speed. His reflexes. It would always keep me from hitting him. But with Stormcaller, the very speed of a lightning bolt. If I kept using Stormcaller, I would manage to keep getting hits on him.
That's the meta to beat this guy!
I flapped my wings as I flew inwards, opening my hands as two black orbs formed in each one. Massive bolts of purple and black electricity jolting from each one, each bolt decimating a nearby building.
I stopped and held them out, Arman flying from the ruins but pinned down by lightning strike after lightning strike, sinking into the ground. The entire city shaking from the force of each electrical blast I sent his way.
Arman's voice emanated deep in the massive chasm I had formed.
"I will slay the dragon. To protect Rei. To protect my beloved. I will kill the monster. I will kill the dragon."
A bright light began to shine from the darkness as I instinctively flew backwards.
"What the hell-"
Arman shouted as the chasm exploded with a beam of energy that scalded my skin. The black coat that I had on began to burn until I put off the fire.
From within the bright white light, was a being. He looked majestic. Powerful. Absolute.
His white hair shone and was blinding. It was shorter than Phoenix III, but looked spikier, more primal. The bangs at his front became reduced to a single strand, which fell below his chin. And his face.
His face looked chiselled. Hardened.
The chains of Icarus surrounded him as Arman's new transformation ascended above me, shining like the sun.
"I will kill the dragon."
Arman whispered in my ear, as before I knew it, Arman had instantly closed the distance between us. I looked down, at Loz-Q which had completely cut through me.
I tried to regenerate, but I could feel my body crumble away from its sheer low temperatures.
Before I could react, Arman had already left my field of vision, and the next moment, a huge chain came flying my way, smacking me in the face as everything went Mach speed. I slammed int o a building and crashed through all seventy floors.
The force of my body slamming into the ground caused a shockwave that shattered the nearby windows. It was times like these where I was happy I was an Astral Projection. Pain wasn't a thing for me. Or bones. Or internal organs.
Arman glared at me from above, swinging his chains as it latched onto entire buildings, ripping them out at a blinding speed.
This guy's strength and speed were increased.
Even more than before.
If he could rip entire freaking buildings from their roots, but not just that, but throw them into the air at such a speed.
Suddenly, Arman roared, sending the giant planets of death my way.
"Crap!" I yelped as I held out my hand.
Stormcaller: TOTAL IMMOBILIZATION
The winds around me began to howl as the buildings that were flying in my direction stopped, trapped in mid air.
"What are you- crazy?!" I screamed at Arman.
"You're gonna tear this whole city apart for your girlfriend? That's your problem, dude. Are you seriously gonna throw away the lives of innocent people just for a girl?! Think about other people for once-"
"You are absolutely correct."
Arman descended from the skies.
"I will go to these lengths to protect Rei. Because I love her. Didn't you go to these lengths, far beyond this in fact, over yours?"
I stumbled back.
"Wh- What are you... how did you know this."
"The Corruption has opened my eyes. It has shown me. You and I are the same. But also completely different. While you chose to destroy the world, you did it to protect yourself. I did it to protect another. Can you really say that you are in a place to defeat me?"
"Alright. Screw this. I'm taking you down." I said, as I brought my hand into the air, summoning another black orb.
Umbral Pyrokinesis - IGNIS
A massive flaming black storm formed around the orb, as the nearby surroundings melted. The firestorm grew and grew, until it surpassed the size of a football stadium. Then turned into a mini purple burning sun.
I hurled the mini-star at Arman, who brought his foot back, and slashed it with Pariah.
"I will slay the dragon. I will destroy Samael. For Rei." Arman snarled at me, instantly closing the distance, and glaring at me face to face as before I knew it, my body was cut up into hundreds and thousands of pieces.
I couldn't even tell where I was anymore, because I didn't even have a material body to focus from. I quickly dissipated into black mist and materialized far from Arman, across the city, but before I knew it, Arman appeared in front of me again, slicing and dicing.
I had no choice. I had to use it.
Arman zipped in again, as I caught his blade. My body humming with power.
"Say, Arman. What transformation should you call this? It definitely isn't the Phoenix III. With the way you're pressuring me right now, I'd say you're probably the only person who has pushed me this far, aside from Mogul."
Arman continued glaring at me.
"Hm." I smirked. "Guess I'll call it the True Phoenix then. After all, you truly are a pain in the ass."
Arman tried to rip my arm away from him, but I held still.
"And now I will show you just how strong I am. Because we are different. But not because I wanted to protect myself. After this battle is over, I have some unfinished business to do. I still have to talk to Leah. So there's no way..."
I growled, as my body began to smoke, withering away, revealing black scales, glowing white and purple as my teeth elongated into fangs.
I roared as my body exploded, transforming into my True Dragon form and knocking Arman away.
"There is no way I'm going to fall here. I'm taking you down!"
Arman hesitated, as he leapt back, narrowly dodging me as I snapped at him with my jaws.
"Unsightly creature. You finally bare your fangs." Arman said, as he put Loz-Q away, running his finger against the side of Pariah and swung a bunch of energy arcs in my direction.
Let it all go.
Now's not the time to hold back.
Ignis: BREATH OF IFRIT
I opened my mouth and let loose a massive blast of fire breath, consuming Arman's slashes in an overwhelming wave of purple flames. The sheer heat of the blast melting all nearby buildings along with it.
Lava and molten metal surrounded my dragon hide as I bounded, turning after Arman who zipped around. My massive body smashing the buildings apart.
I roared, as Arman swooped in.
Frostbringer: Chilling Darkness
My dragon hide became super enforced by a layer of umbral frost, as Arman swung and sliced, his blade bouncing off.
"Slay me?!" I said, as I flapped my wings, unleashing my Stormcaller and blowing Arman back. At 170+ percent, Arman was able to resist Stormcaller and Frostbringer. But now, I was at another level.
I was at the level of the True Dragon.
I reeled my dragon head back and roared into the sky, as hundreds of black orbs exited my jaw, each orb generating a massive storm that uplifted nearby buildings. Arman began to lose his stabilization as a volley of black lightning chased him across the battlefield.
Arman flew back and tried to absorb my magic with Pariah.
There was no chance of me avoiding him from absorbing my magic in this towering form. I just had to overwhelm him at this point.
I opened my jaws and grumbled, as several black cracks erupted from my feet.
I slammed the ground, causing a crevice to open.
Each stomp generated a black and purple magic circle, and from the circle, a massive serpent emerged.
400 Percent Seeking Serpents
The serpents roared as they snaked to Arman's location.
"Tch." Arman said, as he lowered Pariah and drew Loz-Q, his True Phoenix form sparking with electricity as he blasted to their location with undetectable speed. The serpents had Arman distracted as I unhinged my jaw, preparing for another blast of Ignis.
Hold him down. I ordered the projections.
The serpents continued chasing Arman until they finally managed to coil onto his limbs, then transformed into chains as I unleashed my Ignis, a massive purple star that flew to Arman's location and engulfed him.
I needed to put an end to this fight.
Because as stupid as I look, I'm not a total moron.
I may have looked like I had the upper hand in this fight as a True Dragon, but I knew for a fact.
That Arman hadn't taken any serious damage.
400 percent power wasn't enough after all.
I had just enough stamina left in the tank to gamble it all.
My True Dragon body began to crumble away, shattering into millions of pieces as I emerged from the black hide. My body smoking from the transformation.
I never thought I would have to use this much power.
In practice, I never went beyond this level, even though I technically had the capacity to do so.
But the truth was, the more power I used, the more I risked waking up my real body in my home world.
And should I ever wake up, I would have absolutely no recollection of what happened.
I would forget everything about the Remnants.
And even my own power.
I would forget everything.
"I can't lose to Arman, and I can't lose my chance to confront Leah and apologize. So I will use everything I have..."
I slowly lifted up my arm, as my body began to glow a bright purple and black.
I looked at the purple star that Arman was inside, the umbral chains beginning to crack from the sheer temperatures. The buildings we were in were basically all fried. All that was left was the green energy of Thomas' dome. Made sense. I basically created another Sun.
But I needed it to be hotter.
"I want to talk things over with Leah. I need to make things right. So I can't waste time dickin around with you right now. I'm ending this with everything I got."
Everything I have.
The highest I've ever been.
I grimaced as I felt my body slip away. But it's fine. Everything's fine.
Tsukuyomi, let's shatter our limits.
953 PERCENT IGNIS
The star became even more bright, as it collapsed in on itself. As it began to shrink in size, its heat became hotter and hotter, swirling with the shattered limits of Tsukuyomi's power.
The chains vaporized, as a hole began to form at the top of Thomas' dome.
"Thomas..." I muttered, as I felt all the strength in me disappear from my body.
"Gotta... hold out... longer..." I said, as I felt myself lose consciousness. Arman yelling from within the collapsed star as the Ignis slowly dissipated.
The last thing I saw was Arman's body. Completely tattered. Bloodied. Broken. But still alive, and regenerating.
His True Phoenix was gone, but he was still alive. Breathing hard as he glared at me.
"I... did my best..." I began to fall, but not before being caught by a familiar face.
"Leah?" I asked, reaching out to touch it.
"The hell? Gross! You did good, Sammy." Thomas said, as he lowered me onto the ground.
"You finally stopped wimping out and fought. Made me proud, big bro. But now, it's my turn."
"Thomas... you can't fight Arman. Even I couldn't beat him and I'm-"
"Shut up, Sammy. Just hurry up and go unconscious. Jeez. You're so annoying." Thomas said, as he put me down, glowing green and hovering in to the air as he faced Arman.
"I'll fight Arman. I have a plan. You still need to make amends with Leah, right? Don't worry. Once this is over, The Floating Man will be your ultimate wingman."
"I'll be fine, Sammy."
"How can you be so sure?" I muttered, everything turning blurry.
Thomas smiled at me.
"Cuz I'm a hero."
Probably the stupidest decision I ever made in my entire life. Maybe seconded to trying out shrooms.
"Fly. Fly away. If the enemy is too strong, don't fight him head on. There's no secret formula to it." Meena had once told me.
I zipped and flew as Arman leapt from building after building, chasing me. The few times he closed in on me, I retaliated with a wave of force that pushed him back.
"Hoy! If you don't stop me now, I'll steal your Rei again like I did this morning!"
"You did WHAT?!"
Hell yeah, I made him mad.
Arman blasted forward and materialized in front of me, his face downright murderous.
Oh shit, I made him mad.
"Wait!" I yelped as I flew backwards, shooting to the ground with blinding speed as Arman roared, slashing at me wildly.
I brought my arms back and slammed my hands together, throwing two entire mountains in his way, but Arman stopped them, spinning around and wildly cutting them into hundreds of pieces.
"I won't forgive you!" Arman roared, as I flew into the air. Flying so fast that I left behind a Mach cone. Out of New Kona. Out of the entire country. Away from the entire continent. I flew so fast that I zoomed over the ocean, splitting it apart from my sheer speed.
Arman leapt to the ground and began to power up, glowing silver, then running at me at top speed, transforming into his Phoenix Form.
I turned around and held out my hand, ripping chunks of land from the seafloor and hurling it at Arman, who drew Loz-Q and slashed them apart like some kind of samurai warrior.
I reached an island and flew between two mountains, as Arman leapt into the air, landing on the mesa and chasing after me with ridiculous speed. How was he keeping up with me by running on foot?! Was he some kind of speedster? Suddenly, Arman began to power up even more, and leapt from the landform, levitating and shooting at me.
Since when could he fly?!
I had to go faster. Faster.
Go faster, Thomas!
I remembered how Lady Liberty had chased me down those many years ago. The look on her face. She wanted me dead. For everything she thought I did. For taking the life of Captain Metro.
I reached the end of the valley first then spun around, clapping my hands, and forcing the two halves in the valley to close up on Arman.
I breathed heavily, as I began to hear explosions from within the landform.
"What am I supposed to do..." I muttered.
Arman yelled as he blasted the landform away, his body glowing with the Phoenix Form.
If he could still get into that transformation after fighting Sammy, that meant he had ridiculous stamina. But at the same time, he wasn't going at Phoenix Form II. Meaning there was a chance to wear him down.
I held out my hand and created a claw gesture, summoning a spiralling motion as I formed my spiralling sphere, aiming it at Arman as I launched a massive explosion of kinetic energy, but Arman brought up Pariah, absorbing the kinetic energy as he breathed out, murderously.
There was no beating this guy. No matter how much chunks of land I threw at him, I wouldn't be able to take him down. Not even the spiralling sphere Rasengan thingy I spent months to learn had an effect.
I knew when I watched him fight Sammy, that even storms and blizzards had no effect on this guy.
Arman returned the kinetic energy and nearly caught me as I zipped out of the way.
I held out my hands to try to restrain him, but Arman walked right through my telekinesis. I flew away again, narrowly dodging his sword.
The point was to wear him down. He had already fought Sammy. He should have been drained. But even then, he was still near impossible to beat.
"Damn!" I gasped as I shot to the ground, and hid behind a bunch of land masses.
"Come out, you bastard!" Arman shouted.
I never should have brought Rei into this conversation! What the hell was I thinking?!
This wasn't very heroic of me.
But then again, I never was much of a hero to begin with.
I got my powers from hating myself.
Then I learned to use my powers for good.
I learned to love myself and be kind to myself.
Yet despite everything I did, the people didn't accept me. Because I kept screwing up. Every little thing I did was picked up in the masses, in society, that turned their opinion on me.
When my brothers came along, I thought we could start a superhero group. But they all ended up refusing, telling me that if I wanted to live up to my title of hero, I needed to do it on my own. They would be there to help me and support me, but in the end, it was up to me to play my part.
At first, I was mad.
I hated my brothers for just leaving me on my own. To handle all the hate and disdain from the people I swore to protect.
But I swallowed it all down, and kept my head low. Doing one good deed after another. Regardless of what people thought about me.
Those eight years were enough for me to be on good terms with the government, but even so, I still remained controversial.
With the rise of Lady Liberty and her Metro Gang, society praised them over me. People only saw me as a small time vigilante. My name had faded into non-existence ever since the government helped make a backstory that Captain Metro OD'd on some weird shit.
But in exchange, the deal was that I remained a nobody. In the masses. On social media. Everywhere.
My feelings for this were impartial. As long as I myself knew I was being a hero, that was all that mattered.
But the problem was...
I didn't feel like one.
Every disaster I had thrwarted, every creep that I stopped. Every criminal I arrested. This was nothing.
Nothing compared to that day a real villain showed up and kicked my ass. First it was Saul, which Deacon saved me from. Then it was another Acolyte that Lucius saved me from. A S threat super villain that Merrow saved me from.
Even now, despite how much I have grown, I've always had someone come down and save me when things got real bad.
"Aww, is my little Thomas feeling down?" Merrow asked me, one night when I was huddled on the sofa next to her while she was reading a book.
"No." I responded.
"Then why the long face?"
"I just don't feel like I'm living up to my title. I keep failing and having someone bail me out. I'm no superhero."
"That's not true. You've done so much for this city."
Merrow scooted closer to me and patted me on the head as I squirmed away, annoyed. Merrow smiled.
"Whenever I felt inadequate, I would count my blessings. That's what I taught Lucius. And tried to teach your father, Decen. You should try it out sometime."
My field of view got swamped with light.
Arman appeared in front of me.
"How did you find me in this huge forest?!" I yelped.
Arman grabbed my collar.
"I destroyed the whole forest."
I looked to his side, and realized every single tree had been cleanly cut down. By a single slash.
Arman had cleared an entire forest in one swing of his sword.
"Never mess with a guy's girlfriend." Deacon had once told me.
"Really? Haha. I didn't think it would be a huge deal." I said. I remembered this. It was the day I accidentally commented on Meena's weight. She got super mad and Deacon nearly cut off my head.
"It is a huge deal. I'm letting you off the hook since you're my brother. But even so. It's easy to get provoked and laugh it off. It's completely different when the person you love gets provoked."
Arman glared at me, Pariah in hand.
What have I done.
Maybe if Arman wasn't corrupted, would he listen to reason?
Samuel Mace would have kicked my ass. A corrupted Samuel Mace would... would...
"EeeeeeAAAAUGHHH!" I screamed as I pushed Arman away. Arman flew into the air at a hypersonic speed.
"What the-" I stammered, and looked at my hands.
Was that... me?
The spot in the sky where Arman had disappeared began to glow gold as he came charging at me with full speed.
How did I do that?
I blasted into air, moments before Arman could strike the ground.
"I'm going to kill you."
I held out my hand in panic.
"Stop!" I said, as Arman began to struggle.
"This is nothing." He said, as he took another step forward.
"He's too heavy!" I muttered.
Was this the limit to my telekinesis? But what the hell was that force I generated earlier?!
Why am I going this far?
Why am I risking my life?
This was so not like me. I was the type of guy to run away from the action. Fight from a distance. Even so, I would have someone do it for me. For the longest time.
Even back then in high school. Coming back here in Arman's world brought back the worst memories.
Watching my best friend that day, the only best friend I had at the time, get his ass beat by our bullies. I made the selfish decision to run away on my own.
The next day he didn't show up.
The following day, he didn't show up either.
It turned out while I was busy running away, he had been taking the hits for me. He took all the harassment off of my shoulders and put it on himself to take it all. And at some point, he cracked.
"This is your final fight, Thomas King." Arman said as he raised Pariah and swung down.
I tried to stop his strike, but Arman's strength surpassed my telekinesis as I felt the blade dig deep into my shoulder.
"AAAARGH!" I yelled in pain, as my entire side exploded in pain. Like someone lit my side on fire, like I was burning from the inside.
Arman grabbed me by the collar and lifted me into the air.
"A coward. To the end. Backed into a corner, your true colours have shown, Thomas King. How disgraceful."
I closed my eyes.
I'm really gonna die.
Everything I had done so far, protecting the city, helping the people. Training with Meena and Deacon. All of it was gonna go down the drain because I wasn't strong enough.
What did I even accomplish during those eight years? All I did was gain the trust of the government. That was it. There was no development of myself. At the end of the day, the Thomas King now, was very much the same as the Thomas King from back then.
Deacon unlocked his True Demonfire, and learned to be a leader.
Kanade unlocked World Siphon Mode, and had an explosive growth in his own powers.
Lucius became strong enough to withstand Sammy at 400 percent power.
Yet... I've stayed the same.
I wanna be stronger.
Because I don't want to end up dragging my brothers down.
Sammy. Sammy still had to talk to Leah. To make up with her. There was still so much to do.
"Are you finished already?" Arman asked, as he dropped me on the ground like a sack of potatoes.
"I don't even know if I want to finish you off, Thomas. Seeing you so pathetic like this, I find it difficult to even imagine the two of us are related. Of the same blood."
I stared at the ground.
Move! Body! Move!
I have to do something, but I didn't even know what I could do.
Arman turned his back to me as he walked away.
"Sammy Le. I will finish him off. You have already lost your will to fight. After I destroy Sammy, I will destroy Kanade. And with those two gone, no one can harm Rei."
Don't hurt Sammy.
STOP. I said, as Arman suddenly froze in his tracks.
"What are you-"
I got to my feet. I was no match for Arman. But I didn't want him to hurt my family. If it meant doing the impossible...
I would gladly do just that.
Arman hesitantly turned around, as he faced me.
"What is this? How did you-"
I glared at Arman as I walked forward. Everything in my vision was tinted green and teal.
YOU WILL NOT LAY A HAND ON SAMMY.
I held out my hand and threw a punch at Arman's face as Arman's eyes widened, flying backwards and smashing into a nearby mountain.
This was the same power I had demonstrated before. I had no idea where it was coming from, but I didn't care. I needed to defeat Arman.
I needed to do the impossible and defeat our eldest brother.
Arman roared as he exploded from the mountain in his Phoenix Form.
"You have sealed your fate, Thomas King." He said, as he materialized in front of me and swung Pariah, but I caught the blade with my hand.
"How are you-" Arman said, in disbelief.
I grabbed Arman's throat and threw him into another mountain and chased after him.
Arman regained his posture and drew Loz-Q, swinging wildly at me as I felt everything around me slow down.
"This is impossible, you're... you're..."
I easily dodged another one of Arman's swings, which looked like he was moving in syrup.
"No." I said, finally realizing what was going on.
"I'm not getting faster... you're just getting slower." I said, as held out my palm, hundreds of nearby boulders flying to Arman and smashing him from the side, back and front, as Arman found himself unable to deflect the projectiles.
"I'm removing all of your kinetic energy, all of your speed and momentum... it's all gone." I said, as I stepped forward and reeled back another punch, catching Arman in the stomach, using my telekinesis to push him back and enhance my punch as Arman flew into the air.
I finally got it.
How I was able to pull this off.
This whole time, I had thought my power was telekinesis. The power to control and manipulate matter. After the eight years, I learned to manipulate energy.
But if I could do that, why the hell was I throwing landforms around like some amateur?
Manipulate the energy of an opponent, manipulate the power of my surroundings.
And manipulate the matter of my own body.
Arman growled as he slashed at me, as I stepped forward and took the blade head on. Loz-Q deflected off of my skin as Arman stared at me in disbelief.
I lifted my hand and struck Arman in the chest with a single hand shove, as Arman skidded back.
I said, my voice tripled.
Arman brandished his swords and charged again, but I held up two fingers.
Arman froze in mid air, as he glared at me.
A hero. Just like Captain Metro. The superhero I used to look up to. A mighty figure who soared the skies, punching the bad guy across the continent and reigning victorious. He was the guy I admired when I was still a freshmen.
Arman roared as he began to break through my restraints and swung his sword, but I caught his wrist.
This whole time, I've been imagining myself move Arman himself. When he was in his Phoenix Form, I imagined myself moving the entire weight of the Phoenix. But if I simply just imagined Arman being light and weightless, I basically took away all of his strength and power.
This was the power of Restraint.
"I will not be defeated!" Arman yelled, as he swung his other sword, but Pariah bounced off my skin.
What comprises a solid? The intermolecular forces between the atoms. What dictates its durability? Its strength. How much energy it takes to initiate structural failure. Meaning the energy required to break the bonds of the solid. So if I increased the strength of the bonds in my body, I could take any damage.
This was the power of Reinforce.
I began to tighten my grip, as I began to crack Arman's wrist.
"GRRAARR!" Arman roared in pain, as he fell to one knee.
What is a force? It was the byproduct of transforming a potential energy into a kinetic energy. To allow movement. If a force generates movement, then by willing a movement to take place, I was essentially generating a force.
To will movement.
This was the power... of...
I stepped forward closer to Arman as I swung my fist into his midsection. Go. Go through the target. My fist will break his body. It will send him flying. If he is durable, then I will his body to take the hit. I will his body to collapse in on itself. I will make him take damage.
Arman coughed up blood as I willed the atoms in his body to move, every single one to move at the speed and manner in which it would move upon suffering a serious blow.
Arman flew backwards and slid on his back as he created a valley with his own body.
I stomped on the ground.
Energy. Matter. No.
This wasn't enough for someone like Arman. He would just heal himself up. I still had no idea how to stop his healing. But I knew how to slow it.
If I could manipulate energy... could I...
I closed my eyes.
Arman stopped moving. I looked around. To my shock, I saw a couple of birds above us. They were hovered in midair.
They weren't moving.
I willed myself behind Arman. Who was frozen in time.
I clenched my fists.
"I'm going to defeat the bad guy." I said, as I brought my fists up and began landing blow after blow on Arman's body, which was frozen in time. Over and over again until my body felt like it was on fire.
Time flowed back to normal, as Arman vomited blood, falling to the ground.
"You... Thomas... to think that you're capable of... manipulating time..."
Arman tried to swing at me, but I blinked out of the space and time, materializing on the other side as I brought up my hands, delivered another volley of punches in an infinitesimal fraction of a second. Arman spat blood as he fell face first on the ground.
"Don't call me Thomas. I have hero name, you know." I said, as I lifted my hand, a spiralling sphere forming in it.
Imagine. Imagine the world around you. The higher the detail, the stronger it becomes.
Rotate the kinetic energy around you. All matter, the very fabric of space and time. Rotate it in as many directions as you need to rotate. Rotate the world in the palm of your hand.
Space Time Spiralling Sphere.
I pressed the ball against Arman's face and unleashed an explosion that levelled the entire island instantly, as the very ocean ripped apart, spinning around the residue kinetic energy that had formed a teal dome around the two of us.
Arman fell face first on the ocean floor.
I fell on my ass, exhausted, as I watched Arman regain his balance, his body regenerating.
"You bastard. Now you've done it." Arman seethed, as I stared at him in disbelief.
What the hell.
What the hell.
Arman glared at me murderously.
"You made me use Combat Intuition. You made me use that accursed power."
What was this.
This terrifying aura that he was emitting? This... this...
No. This was the aura of a killer. A monster.
Arman ripped his shirt away, as a trailing fire emitted from his left forearm, his body glowing gold and silver at the same time.
Everything stopped. Silence filled the air. It was almost like time itself stopped moving, as Arman flinched, and sliced something in two.
It was a bullet.
Arman's eyes widened, as the two halves of the bullet opened up internal compartments, exploding as Arman tried to block, but the explosion pushed him back.
Two more bullets came out of nowhere and Arman tried to slice them again, but the explosions caught him off guard.
"What is this-"
Level 121. A voice rung in my ears, judging from the way Arman had grasped his head, he was hearing it too.
"WHO ARE YOU." Arman yelled, as a flurry of bullets came from afar, shooting and cutting into Arman, each bullet hitting its mark as Arman's legs buckled. His limbs collapsing as the Remnant fell to the ground.
That is how powerful you currently are. Phoenix Form I.
Arman's shoulder exploded in blood as he dropped Pariah.
Pollux's Blessing adds another 5 levels.
Arman's other shoulder exploded in blood as he dropped Loz-Q.
Fires of War adds another 8, placing you at Level 134.
Two more bullets landed into Arman as his chest exploded. Arman fell backwards and landed on the ground, as I narrowed my eyes to see where the gunshots were coming from.
Disbelief was written all over my face.
"No damn way." I muttered.
The man was standing on the rooftop. He wore a black trench coat. Black futuristic shoulder guards, boots, elbow and knee pads. Under his trench coat, was dark grey kevlar like armour pads lining his chest and his abs.
On his face, was a black metallic mask with a targeting reticule glowing teal on his right eye.
The man holstered a long barrelled anti-aircraft gun with one hand, and a heavily modified assault rifle in the other.
I didn't need to see his face.
I didn't need an introduction.
That marksmanship. To be able to fire such a heavy weapon at such a long distance with that accuracy. With only one arm.
"You're..." I said, as Remnant 2 regarded Remnant 1 from above.
The bullets that are embedded in your body contain Siphoning Particulates. Anti-Samuel Mace bullets. This is the end of the line.
Arman tried to regenerate, but his body wasn't responding to him as he tried to prop himself up.
"I will protect Rei-"
Ben aimed his assault rifle and fired a barrage of bullets at Arman, peppering his body as Arman reeled back, unable to block the barrage as his limbs were disabled.
This fight is over.
Ben leapt from the roof of the building and landed in front of Arman, walking calmly to our eldest brother and placed the barrel of his anti-aircraft rifle to his forehead.
Take a nap.
Ben looked at me from within his mask. This guy. He didn't exhibit the same ridiculous firepower as Arman or Sammy. But the way he carried himself. The way he fought at a distance and how he knew what to do at the right time.
He was dangerous. Not someone I would want to mess with.
Ben's firearms began to dissipate into cyan hexagons as they reduced into two modular rod looking things. Ben put them into his coat as he put his hands in his pockets. Around him floating two orbs that were hovering with some kind of cyan energy. The orbs were carrying Sammy, who was fast asleep and drooling from the corner of his mouth.
Sammy is with me. You fought well. Good work, Thomas.
A bead of sweat ran down my neck. I was completely taken aback by this dude's sincerity.
"Uh. Thanks? Wait. Kanade. Where's Kanade?! He's fighting Odin right now! He should be-"
I was interrupted by the body of an old geezer as he slammed into the ground. Standing on top of him was Kanade, who was still sparking with his World Siphon Mode.
"Without Mjolnir, you're pretty useless, aren't you, old man." Kanade, said, coldly, as he threw Mjolnir to the ground.
"What the- what did you just do?!" I screamed.
After all that shit with Odin before.
Kanade regarded the hammer.
"I absorbed Mjolnir's very energy. The more magical power around me, the stronger I became. The weaker Mjolnir's effect was, the stronger I got, until I finally levelled it out and was able to stop its momentum. As for Odin."
Kanade put his foot on the old man's head.
"The old fool is useless without his words." Kanade pointed to his ears, which were leaking blood.
"Dude! That's not okay!"
Kanade flicked his hand, as white sparkles exited his ears and the blood dissipated.
I sighed in relief.
Everything worked out in the end. Ben saved our hide. Kanade was victorious. And Arman is horribly messed up!
"Oh my god! Did you kill Arman?! Please tell me you didn't!"
Ben tilted his head, as Sammy snorted.
"Shower me with praise... lovely elves... hhhhh" He muttered.
"You... imbeciles!!!" Rei screamed as she marched up to us, dragging Arman along.
"You nearly killed Sam. You destroyed my whole city! You destroyed my school! What the hell are you even going to do about-"
"Relax..." I said, as I gently put my hands on her shoulders. Be nice. Be nice. She's a girl. Girls like this kind of thing, at least that's what my years worth of otaku training taught me.
"Your brother in law will fix everything!"
Rei's eyes narrowed as she put her hands on mine, then flipped me upside down.
"Ow! My liver! My liver!"
Rei continued pressing until she suddenly paused.
"Th- thanks. All of you." She muttered, as she let go.
I regained my posture and held out my hand.
From afar, the city of New Kona, which was originally in complete ruins, was surrounded by a green halo, as things began to lift into the air, reforming from dust, from foundations to structures to entire buildings. Even the people who had evacuated, depleted by Kanade, began to be lifted off the ground and return to their city. In a matter of minutes, the people had returned to their usual routine as Rei stared at me.
"How did you-"
"I can manipulate time." I explained.
Arman shifted on the ground as he tried to say something.
"Sam? Sam!" Rei said as she ran up to her boyfriend, but Ben intercepted her.
"What are you doing-"
Ben reached into his coat and took out a submachine gun as he aimed it at Arman. Firing several shots at him as Arman convulsed from the impact.
"What the hell?!" Rei screamed, as she tried to hit Ben, but Ben caught her wrist.
Kanade put his hand on Rei's shoulder.
"Arman still has the Corruption inside him. But the Corruption isn't being fuelled by his feelings for you anymore, so his Remnant abilities are combating it. The only way to keep him at bay is to keep him restrained. I'm sorry."
"What happens now." Rei glared at the ground, her hands trembling.
"We're taking Arman with us. Back to his kind. We need his power to stop Mogul. Together we can save the hostages."
"Then take me with you!"
"No." Kanade held up his hand. "You'll just get in the way. As long as Arman is away from here, no Acolytes will find his power signature and evade your world. We will find Tsuyuki Nozomi and Colin."
Rei began to glow green, black flames emanating from her hands.
"That's not up to you to decide!" She screamed, as she jolted forward faster than we could react. Kanade was taken aback in surprise, but suddenly, Ben materialized in front of her, aiming his handgun directly at her head.
"Ben!" I stammered.
Ben pulled out a device from within his cloak. It was some kind of strange module with some wires sticking out from the side. Along the side, was the words:
By Coraline Jensen
Ben placed the device against his throat, as it began to buzz.
It was a voice encoder!
"Darkness Amplification for Physical Abilities." Ben's voice emanated from the device. It sounded like mine, but much colder. Emotionless. Pragmatic.
"What are you-"
Ben's helmet began to glow, at the detent where his eye would be, an advanced crosshair reticule began focusing in and out, like a camera lens.
Rei clenched her fists, but within the blink of an eye, Ben had fired twice. His hand, moving so fast that it was a blur.
My eyes widened as red starbursts emerged from both of Rei's shoulders. The whole event happened so quickly that Rei didn't even have time to shout in pain before stumbling back and falling to her knees.
Ben used his gun hand and pressed against his mask at the base, as the mask began to unfold, retracting into some kind of tech around his neck, revealing his face.
I gasped, and so did Kanade.
We as Remnants all came from Decen. So it would make sense for us to look like him. But even so, we all had some kind of trait that was somewhat different from our progenitor. Not all of us looked the same, and that was how we were able to differentiate ourselves from each other.
But Ben's face...
Looked exactly like the Decen I had seen in my visions.
The same bony face.
The same aggressive, wild, yet calculating facial expressions.
The same glare.
And the same hairstyle.
The only difference? Was everything that would otherwise have been magenta on Decen, was replaced with cyan. Cyan eyes. And cyan streaks in his hair.
"The town of Folia uses an adventurer dungeoneering metric to assess power levels. Your skills place you at Level 3."
Rei gritted her teeth as she tried to get to her feet, but Ben aimed at her kneecaps.
"A high ranked adventurer averages at Level 5 to 6. The Poseidon Legion, the strongest Legion in Folia, averages at Level 8, with Uxas standing at the top as a Level 10, and the Queen of Knives Calypso Rosewald as a Level 9."
Ben looked at me and Kanade.
"However, we as Remnants are in a class all on our own. Kanade's World Siphon Mode places him at Level 24. And Thomas's Absolute Telekinesis places him at Level 28."
Ben walked up to Rei, who began shaking uncontrollably, tears streaming down from her face. Ben regarded her with a look of zero sympathy. Borderline condescending. It hurt even to watch, even if I wasn't the one Ben was talking to.
"In the face of an exceptional threat, you don't even rank amongst Folia's combat standard. So tell me, Rei Tsuyuki...
"What use do you have if you joined us?"
Rei sobbed as she crumpled in on herself on the ground. Ben put his gun and voice device back into his coat and walked away.
"B- Ben..." I muttered.
I do things differently. I am not like your brothers. If I see someone is of no use to me, I do not let feelings and emotions interfere with my contract. Up until now, I have heard that Rei Tsuyuki was one of the strongest of the Cleaners. But the Cleaners were never strong to begin with. Rei Tsuyuki serves nothing but dead weight.
"Even so! How can you say that to a girl?! You made her cry!"
I was interrupted by Ben's glare. I barely knew the guy. But for some reason, his expression. The way he presented himself. Those eyes.
Everything about him made me not want to get on his bad side.
Thomas King. Heroism and naivety should never be confused for one another.
"I don't... I don't..." I stammered. My knees began trembling.
This guy was Remnant 2.
The second eldest.
I clenched my fists as I began to sweat.
A hero needed to stand up for others.
That was what a hero meant!
If Ben was going to take Rei's boyfriend away from her, against her will, to make her cry, to make her sad. I couldn't let that happen!
A wave of force blasted from my body.
I didn't care if this was Ben. If it had been Arman. Or Mogul. It all would have been the same.
To protect those in pain. That was what it meant to be a hero!
I slowly raised my head.
My heart stopped.
Black combat boots.
Black trench coat.
The futuristic armour of Benjamin Fong.
Ben's critical glare from above, as I stared at Ben's threatening cyan eyes.
I gasped, as Ben flicked his hand, and a black orb, lined with cyan lights, hovered in front of me. Before I knew it, I slammed face first into the ground.
"What the hell?!" I yelped, as I tried to get up, but it felt like my body weighed a million pounds. I tried to move any inch of my body, but I was stuck. Pinned to the floor. As if... as if...
The gravity had locally exponentiated.
Will you fight me, Thomas?
I needed to break free. I needed to. For everybody.
I slowly lifted my head, gritting my teeth and growling from the effort, as I got to one knee.
"If it means... if it means..."
Ben's face remained unchanged. Suddenly, his hand moved in a blur, and before I knew it, the barrel of his revolver was pressed against my forehead. My eyes widened, as Kanade stared at me in shock.
"No. Ben! Don't do this!" He said.
Ben cocked the gun. Kanade closed his eyes and began to concentrate, but before I knew it, the same quickdraw movement happened again, and before I could even process what was happening, the sounds of two gunshots filled the air.
Kanade's face was pale in shock, as he spat out blood. The white fabric of our high school uniform turning red from the two bullet wounds that Ben had just put on Kanade.
How was this guy this fast? Even Meena couldn't draw her revolvers that fast, much less fire them at that speed.
This level of reflexes.
This level of dexterity.
It wasn't human.
I took a shaky breath, as the cold metal pressed against my head.
Ben's merciless expression.
This guy was no ordinary gunman. No ordinary fighter.
"There's usually special cases, but in general, the older the Remnant, the more powerful they are." Merrow had told me.
"Remnant 2, huh. That would make him just as dangerous as Arman if you think about it." Deacon said, as he pondered the potential of the second eldest.
Ben was not a special case. Not in the slightest.
Ben was dangerous, but not in a way like Sammy, who was a berserker. Or Arman, who had sheer power.
It took encountering Odin to realize, pure strength was just one of the factors in what made someone a threat.
Will you oppose me, Remnant 5? Ben's voice rung in my head. The cold emotionless voice of a killer.
Ben, a gun wielder. Who fought with technology.
The greatest and most cunning. The smartest of the Remnants.
"I... I..." My mouth went dry. Nothing was coming out. No coherent speech. There was no fighting a battle that was completely on the enemy's terms.
And when it came to this guy, everything was always on his terms.
It was almost like he was born to battle.
Bred for war.
A child of war.
I was going to die by the Warchild.
I turned my head to the sounds of the weeping. Rei had buried her face in her hands. It broke my heart to see her like this. She was usually strong, composed, and was always charging in the front lines.
And it was all our fault.
"Even so." I said, as I mustered the strength to stand.
"Even so, it's not right. To speak to her that way!" I shouted at the top of my lungs.
I stepped forward, and grabbed the barrel to Ben's gun, pushing it deeper into my forehead.
"I don't care if this is some kind of logical deduction your stupid computer brain came up with. If Rei doesn't want to be separated with her boyfriend, then she comes along. That's that."
Ben regarded me with those cold dead eyes.
What in the hell was I doing?!
Ben reached into his coat and took out his voice box, pressing it against his throat.
"Are you willing to shoulder the risk? If Rei Tsuyuki dies because she wasn't strong enough to keep up with us, what do you think Samuel Mace will do? What will happen if one of us dies trying to protect Rei Tsuyuki when her life is in peril because she wasn't strong enough to fight alongside us? Will you have it in you to take responsibility for the decision you made today?"
A gasp escaped my mouth.
There was no beating Ben in a fight, or an argument.
I looked at Rei again, who had stopped crying and was staring at me in disbelief.
I gritted my teeth so hard that my jaw began to hurt.
I didn't need logic for this.
There's no reason to do something that is right.
No reason at all.
"I will shoulder the risk." I snarled, as I subconsciously used my telekinesis to strengthen my grip, twisting and bending the barrel of the gun. Ben made no reaction at all as I continued jamming the barrel against my head until blood leaked down my face.
Then the words escaped my mouth. Words that I never thought I would be saying. Words that seemed so out of character for me, yet at the same time, words that seemed exactly like what someone like me would say.
"By the Paladin Code of Acadia. I will protect Rei Tsuyuki with my life. I swear by the Paladin Pact. Rei Tsuyuki will LIVE!" I yelled, as a three pointed magenta star appeared at our feet.
Ben stumbled back, retracting his gun, the orb falling to the ground and the gravity depleted as Kanade shot to his feet.
"Thomas... you..." Kanade muttered.
Ben lowered the gun, as Kanade ran to Rei's side, helping her up and healing her.
"You would go so far as to create a Paladin Pact for a girl you barely even know." Ben said, as he put the gun into his coat.
I stood my ground.
"If Rei is Arman's girlfriend, that means she's gonna be our sister in law. She's family, just like you and I." I retaliated. I was shitting my pants, but I found myself with newfound courage to stand up to my older brother.
"I don't need a logical reason for it. I'll protect her, because that's the right thing to do. And if your logical calculations say that's the foolish thing to do, then...
I raised my hand, and stuck out my middle finger.
"Fuck you, Ben."
Silence filled the tense air, as a breeze parted Ben's hair.
Ben put the voice box back into his pocket.
You are right. That was a foolish and naive thing to do.
I exhaled tensely, as Ben turned around and walked away.
But it was something I would have done as well. Good work, Thomas.
"Heh?!" I stammered, as Kanade walked up to me.
"You're insane, Thomas." Kanade said, as Rei stood in front of me, her eyes bloodshot. Blood drained from my face.
"Uh, Rei. S- Sorry about-"
Rei cut me off as she ran up to me and crushed me in a hug.
"No. I should be the one apologizing, Thomas. You went this far for someone like me. Ben is right. I am weak. But I will change that. I'll make sure I become strong enough so you won't have to worry about me and I won't be a burden on you. You went this far just because I was Sam... no. Just because I was Arman's girlfriend. I won't make you regret this."
Rei buried her face in my chest.
"I'll prove myself. To you and to Ben. That is my Paladin Pact."
Arman shifted, his wounds beginning to regenerate as the bullets inside him began to dissipate.
"Rei..." He muttered, before Ben cut him off by shooting him in the chest with his SMG a couple more times.
"Dude!" I said.
Ben put his P90 away.
We are leaving. Merrow Rivenlight tasked me to retrieve you all. Your energy signatures were at an all time high due to your battle.
"But Sammy is still drained from his fight." Kanade said.
We don't need Sammy.
Ben took out a device and threw it, creating a portal.
We head back for now.
The rest of the crew stared at us with gaping mouths as Ben threw Arman's body onto the ground.
"Firstborn retrieved. Contract complete." He said, as he put away his voice box and went up the stairs.
"Wait! Ben!" John called out to him, as he chased after Ben.
Merrow tended to an unconscious Arman, inspecting his neck and running her hand over the black veins that were now snaking all across his body.
"Corruption..." She muttered.
"Jesus. That guy's a monster." Meena said as she inspected the bullet wounds across his chest.
"Yeah." I replied.
"He beat Arman's Phoenix Form with little to no difficulty."
"That's not what I meant." Meena said as she lifted Arman's shirt, revealing the bullet wounds in more detail.
"He strategically shot the critical points on his chest that would disable his movements the most. What weapon did he use?"
"Umm, I think he used an SMG."
"An SMG? Sub machine gun?" Meena asked, her eyebrows raised.
Meena lowered the shirt and got up.
"Whatever happened to Ben when Skylar repaired him, it's changed who he is. This kind of accuracy can only be achieved by some automated process. I've never seen someone control the accuracy of each individual bullet from a SMG before. This guy is dangerous."
Merrow sighed as she sat down.
"We need to do something about Arman's Corruption. I can't think of a way, but I might bring him to the mages in Corinth. Maybe they might have something to alleviate this. In the meantime, we'll keep him restrained."
"Merrow." Kanade said, as he descended from the stairs.
"Arman's comrades, Nozomi Tsuyuki and Colin Lee were captured by Mogul and brought to some place called Folia. Also, Ben's girlfriend, Corey Jensen was captured and brought there too. I think we have an idea of where to go."
Deacon knelt down in front of Merrow, as Skylar and Rei picked Arman up gently, moving him to another room to transport to another place to deal with the Corruption. Probably Corinth.
"Folia. I think I recall Sammy talking about it once when he was asleep. It's an old fashioned magical land, right? Similar to Corinth?"
"I think so. Ben mentioned about it too, something about dungeoneering adventurer level?"
"It's like an isekai!" I said, a little to excitedly. Everybody turned to me with a look of disapproval.
"Why am I not surprised Thomas knows exactly what this is." Deacon frowned.
"Hey! This is probably like one of those things you see where you need to go into a dungeon as an adventurer, become stronger, and increase your level with new skills and stuff. I've seen like a trillion anime that are like that. This will be so sick!" I squealed.
"Yeah. No. You're not going." Deacon stood up.
Deacon buried his face in his hand.
"Can you imagine someone in our party fanboying over anime and isekai every twenty seconds when we're fighting in a dungeon? We're going to stand out like a sore thumb. The last thing we need is attention. We can't give off a suspicious vibe. We're only there to retrieve the hostages. Now we're regrouped, we can choose who's appropriate to do a rescue op."
"Like, obviously, me. Ughhh" A flirtatious voice appeared behind me.
We all turned around to see a half naked female behind us. She was wearing a sports bra and the shortest shorts I had ever seen. Her long black hair, streaked with magenta paired with magenta eyes. She had the cutest and most attractive face ever.
And her rack.
My nose spurted blood.
Merrow calmly got up, emitting a dangerous aura as she walked up to the girl and walloped her over the head.
"Ow! What the hell?!" A disguised Sammy yelped.
"How many times do I have to tell you to not use that transformation?!" Merrow yelled.
Sammy rubbed the top of her (?) head.
"But Merrooooow. It has to be me! Look. It's important. I need to do this. Please. I'm dead serious this time."
It was kind of hard to believe Sammy was taking this serious when he was walking around in this form.
"I'm going." Ben's computer distorted voice appeared in the corner.
Ben had changed into a white t-shirt, but his black plated armoured pants remained. He looked like one of this cyberpunk main characters from practically any cyberpunk video game in existence. His cyan irises were practically glowing in the dark, illuminating his cyan streaked hair that reached the bottom of his chin.
He was leaning against the wall, casually pressing that voice box device against his throat.
"Ben, have you rested enough?" Merrow asked.
Ben pointed at Merrow.
"You're coming with me."
"Whoa whoa whoa." Sammy said, as he reverted back into his normal form.
"Who put you in charge? You literally just woke up, dude."
Ben narrowed his eyes.
"I am the most likely fit to lead this expedition."
"Hell no! Dude you're like 50 percent robot! What the hell are the locals who are running around with fantasy swords and staffs gonna think when they see the god damn T800 walking among them?!"
"As long as we conserve our power, we can conceal ourselves and retrieve the hostages. Then we leave. We're not staying for the whole trip."
"Well let's say that's fair. You still can't just put yourself as a leader. You haven't even been here long enough and now you're throwing orders around? Who the hell do you think you are, man?"
Merrow put herself between Ben and Sammy.
"Now that's enough, you two. We won't get anywhere by fighting."
Deacon also stood up.
"I agree with Sammy. You haven't been here long enough to know how we do things in this household. This isn't a matter of who's qualified or not."
Remnant 2 leaned away from the wall and walked up to Remnant 3.
"Qualifications are paramount in a mission. Nobody here can fight stealthily. Only I know how to kill without being caught."
Kanade's face twisted in shock.
"Mission? Qualifications? Killing without being caught? Do you really not trust us that much? How can you even be thinking like this? I've been watching you ever since you showed up in that portal and shot down Arman. Then shot down me and Rei. You literally did not hesitate to aim a gun at your own family. If anything, you're the least qualified person to do anything in this household. We're Remnants of Decen. Not Remnants of Cold Blooded Murder. Isn't this whole mission to get back the hostages that Mogul took? That includes Corey, right? Are you really gonna tell her you killed a bunch of people for her sake?"
Ben slowly turned to Kanade, his cyan eyes cold as a blizzard.
"Corey is nothing but an objective for me now."
We all stared at Ben in horror.
"D- Did you just... call your own girlfriend an objective?" I stammered quietly.
"Love. Relationships. It's all meaningless in the end. I have encountered Mogul before. It was Mogul who ripped out my larynx and my voice box. Nobody here stands a chance against the Prime Aspect of War. Even united, it is said that the Remnants would approach their Progenitor in power. Why hasn't anybody figured it out yet? If Decen couldn't defeat Mogul at 100% strength. Why would all of the Remnants together be able to?"
We were silent, as Ben continued. Merrow's face turned pale as she stared at the ground.
"During stasis, my consciousness merged with my AI, ASTRO. A portion of my consciousness has fragmented into a computerized module known as ATLAS, who as continuously been calculating our chances of survival. Our chances are 6.7%. If we are going to die in our battle against the Prime Aspect, on what grounds do we have the right to steal a woman's heart, then break her once we die? What rights do we have to love?
"This mission to avenge our progenitor, from the very start."
Ben held out his hand, and clenched his fist so hard that the skin began to bleed, revealing a black robotic endoskeleton.
"Was doomed to fail."
We were stuck. All of us. In disbelief at what Ben had just said.
We all knew.
We didn't have much of a chance against Mogul. But we still had to. Yet Ben wasn't the type to look at the bright side of things. He was that type of guy.
To look at the cold hard facts.
I wanted to do or say something, but there wasn't much to say. Ben had pointed out all of the things that needed to be said, it was almost like a verbal checkmate.
If only Skylar was here. She would have been able to put Ben under control, but something told me even if she was a technomancer, it wasn't enough to stop Ben. Ben would find a way to disable her powers somehow. But sadly, Skylar was away, at Corinth with Arman and Rei to figure out how to keep him under control.
We had Deacon, Sammy, me, Thomas, Merrow, Meena, and John. That was seven against one. But even so, something told me this fight was still to Ben's advantage.
I looked at Merrow again. She had been through so much emotional pain when she lost Decen. Now she was being told all of her hard work, collecting the Remnants, unifying us and working her hardest to get us together. Was all for nothing.
And to have that said, by a guy who looked exactly like Decen. An uncanny resemblance too.
"Merrow..." I muttered.
I had to say something. Or even do something.
"Hey-" I said, but not before Merrow took a step forward and slapped Ben in the face.
The sound resonated across the room as we all stood there, mouths gaping open.
"How can you say this. How can you say any of that? Do you really think life is all numbers and facts? Logic and reasoning? You're not the smartest of us. You're far from that. By thinking this way, you're just living as a machine. A computer. There's a difference between living beings and computers. If you can't even grasp that, you don't deserve to even leave this house." Merrow snarled, as she clutched her trident. Waves of energy emitting from her body and keeping us from moving.
Ben breathed out slowly, and before any of us could react, the barrel of his revolver was pointed directly at Merrow's forehead.
The rest of us powered up instinctively, but Ben didn't flinch.
"Are you my enemy, Merrow Rivenlight?" Ben asked calmly.
Merrow glared at Ben.
"A Guardian's job is to watch over her Paladin. Even if the Paladin is physically stronger than the Guardian, it is by Acadian law that the Guardian holds the right to defeat the Paladin if he or she acts out of their bounds."
Ben cocked the gun.
"So that is a yes."
The air became even more tense, when suddenly, the click of another gun filled the room, as the barrel of another revolver was pointed at the side of Ben's head.
"John." I said, in disbelief, as the youngest Remnant held Remnant 2 at gunpoint.
"When a person aims their gun at you or the ones you care about, they are automatically an enemy." John said.
Ben continued eyeing Merrow.
"Do you have what it takes to pull the trigger, Jonathan Ko."
"Yeah. I do. Because someone raised me the right way. Someone taught me to overcome my fear of pulling the trigger and taking the life of my enemy. SPART205 taught me all of that."
John grimaced, as his body began to glow black and orange.
"Soul Link Paladin Decen - Rot"
Ben's revolver began to decay as Ben calmly pulled the gun away, letting go of it as it disintegrated into cyan hexagonal shapes.
"Are you my enemy, Jonathan Ko?" Ben asked.
John's finger tightened on the trigger.
"I am the brother of SPART205. I loved him, even when I didn't want to admit it. He taught me to be tough. He taught me everything. I am no enemy of SPART205. But I am an enemy of you. Because you're not the Benjamin Fong I knew. The Ben I knew would be happy I killed this emotionless husk of a cyborg. Once I blow your brains out, I'm bringing the real Ben back."
Ben let go of his voice box as it clattered to the ground.
Remnant 2 smiled, as he turned to John.
Very good, Jonathan Ko. You have what it takes to be one of the best. But you lack the other half. Ben's voice resonated across all of us, as John stumbled, but kept his aim.
"The hell is that?" John asked.
Ben reached out and grabbed the barrel of the gun, but before any of us could do anything, John pulled the trigger.
Ben flew backwards violently, falling to the ground as the sound of the gunshot rung in all of our ears.
John glared at R2 and shot again. And again. And again, as Ben's body convulsed.
"Stop! John!" Thomas shouted, but paused, as Ben's body began to dissipate, breaking down into a black powder. It was a copy of the real Ben.
Jonathan Ko. You have the mindset of a soldier. But you lack execution. You need to be the best to stand at the top. And I will show you all why I am at the top.
Something terrible filled my senses, as my body went on full alert. My eyes widened, sensing something. Everything part of me wanted to duck.
"EVERYBODY GET DOWN!" I shouted, as everybody hit the ground, narrowly evading the sounds of gunfire as bullets filled the air.
I looked at where the gunfire was coming from, and noticed that the whole place was lined with black orbs, at the centre, was a barrel to a mini-gun.
"When the hell did he set those up?!" Thomas shrieked.
"Go down!" John shouted, as we made our way down the steps.
In a ranged fight, everything is to my advantage. This house, this closed space, prevents you all from using your powers to their fullest.
Ben said, as I heard the footsteps of his armoured boots from behind the covers of the furniture.
Then I heard the sound of a gun cocking as gunshots filled the air.
BANG. BANG. BANG. BANG.
With each gunshot, the place seemed darker. And darker. And darker.
"He's shooting down the lights." I said, as the last gunshot was fired, filling the place with blackness.
Deacon stood up.
"If he's a ranged soldier, I have the advantage of close range."
"Wait!" I called after Deacon, as he got up and faced Ben, his body sprouting three tendrils. Merrow also followed. We were all scattered, as Thomas and Sammy had escaped somewhere else. Meena was nowhere to be found as well.
I watched as Deacon and Merrow charged Ben, Ben pulling out a different handgun, a Desert Eagle, and fired consecutive shots at the two. Each bullet was deflected, as Ben dove out of the way, narrowly dodging Deacon and Merrow's swings.
Merrow swung again, and Ben ducked, but not before he popped out a black orb.
Deacon charged, but Ben had already anticipated this, and flung the orb into the air as it expanded, glowing cyan as Merrow and Deacon crashed into the ground, unable to get up.
"What is this?!" Deacon struggled to move, as did Merrow.
I held out my hand to sap Ben's strength, but before I knew it, Ben quickly pinpointed my location and fired. My hand exploded in pain as I flew backwards.
Thomas appeared from the corner and tried to send a wave of force at Ben, who reached in and grabbed an orb, which generated a conical black funnel which seemingly absorbed all of the kinetic energy.
"How?!" Thomas yelped, as Ben pulled out a SMG and began firing a volley of bullets at Thomas, who stopped them with his telekinesis. But Ben continued firing, and firing, as Thomas began to strain harder. Ben pressed a button on his Desert Eagle looking weapon as a magazine slid out, then he loaded his gun with a different magazine as his SMG ran out of bullets, then switched to firing Thomas with the other gun as he began reloading his SMG with the same magazine type. He continued this cycle as Thomas began to falter, his stamina taking a nosedive.
I narrowed my eyes, trying to keep myself from blacking out from the pain.
The bullets were silver. Just like... Lucius and Arman's Pariah.
I looked at the bullet that was lodged in the broken bones of my hand.
This was different.
The one that Ben had fired into me, was sapping my strength and my healing factor.
Did this guy use different bullet types?
"Kaiju Boost, x30" John growled, as his body sparked with black and orange electricity.
"Don't destroy the house." I panted, as John nodded at me.
"I'll just take this guy ou-"
Suddenly, the black orbs from the upper floor descended, laying out suppressing fire and forcing John to retreat.
"What the hell?! That's dirty!"
The orbs returned to Ben, and began orbiting him like planets.
Ben stopped firing and lowered his SMG, which was smoking at the barrel, as Thomas fell to his knees, then his face in exhaustion.
Whenever John tried to take aim, the circulating orbs around Ben began shooting their mini-guns at him, forcing John to hide back in cover.
Deacon and Merrow were pinned down, and I wasn't able to heal, my hand throbbing in pain as I was losing consciousness by the second.
How did Ben turn the tables of a seven on one so easily?!
In the span of one minute, I have defeated four of the seven of you.
"Damn it all..." I muttered.
"Not yet." Merrow said, as she began to glow green, forcing herself up.
"What?" John gasped, as Merrow propped herself up on her spear.
"She's able to withstand Ben's Gravity Bomb?"
"Gravity Bomb?" I asked, as John stared at Merrow.
"Yeah. That's how Ben was able to pin down Deacon and Merrow, and deflect Thomas's attack. The Gravity Bomb was something Ben had talked about making but never really managed to pull off before he was put into stasis in my future. It amplifies local gravity thousands of times over. In Black Hole Mode, it emits a strong enough gravitational field similar to a black hole. The fact that Merrow could even resist that gravity..."
"I'm not giving up on you yet, Ben!" Merrow shouted, as she shot forward, swinging her trident at Ben, who leaned backwards, his eyes wide in surprise.
Ben spun his SMG and fired at Merrow, who spun her trident with lightning speed as she disappeared, jolting behind Ben and thrusting downwards.
Ben leapt out of the way, but before he could even land on the ground, Merrow closed the distance, and slashed, cutting through Ben's stomach and leaving a line splatter of red on his white shirt.
Ben aimed his SMG and fired again, but Merrow deflected the bullets. Ben continued firing as he reached out with his other hand, swapping his Desert Eagle with his Revolver, loading a special bullet magazine into the chamber, then swapped, firing a new bullet type at Merrow.
Merrow sliced downwards, but suddenly, the two halves of the bullet began to glow, igniting an explosion that blew Merrow back as she crashed into a nearby wall.
Ben lowered his guns as the SMG dissipated, replaced with a black orb. It was also lined with a cyan pattern, but it looked different from the sentry orbs and gravity bomb.
Ben flung the grenade at where Merrow had been buried, as Merrow dodged.
"Don't look!" John shouted, as he covered my eyes, keeping me from witnessing the flash-bang.
My vision cleared, as Merrow had already recovered from the flash early, swinging at Ben. But Ben was able to keep up this time.
"How is Ben holding his own against Merrow? Isn't Ben's specialty in long range combat?"
"Yeah." John said. "But like Ben said before. He likes to fight when everything is on his own terms. That grenade he just deployed was a Vertigo Grenade. Merrow's slowed and disoriented."
Merrow continued slashing as Ben leapt into the upper floors up the edge of a railing, pulling out his Desert Eagle and dual wielding it with his Revolver, firing alternately as Merrow darted across the room, dodging the gunshots, then flew into the air.
Ben lowered his Revolver and began firing with his Desert Eagle, but the bullets were deflected by Merrow.
I could hear Ben's "tch", as he swapped weapons.
Before I could even call out a warning to Merrow, it was too late, as a new gun appeared in Ben's hand, the barrel growing longer and longer as I suddenly realized what it was.
Ben lowered his Desert Eagle and took aim with his right hand, holding his shotgun and firing a massive explosive spread that Merrow instinctively deflected, but the explosion blasting her out of the house.
"This place is getting wrecked anyway." John said, as he got to his feet.
"Soul Link Paladin Decen - Quasi-Organic Shield"
John's arm transformed into Spike Clad as it formed a shield, which began to block all of Ben's sentry gunfire. John leapt in and brought his own revolver out.
"Kaiju Boost x30 - Towerbreaker Blast Full Gatling"
John raised his gun and began firing a swarm of Demonfire blasts as it chased after Ben, but Ben brought up his forearm, and generated a cyan shield which blocked the blasts.
Ben aimed his shotgun and fired at John, who blocked it with his shield.
"That's not gonna work on me, Ben." John said, as he put his revolver away, opening his hand as it transformed into a demonic claw.
John leapt into the air and slashed downward, but Ben disappeared into smoke as John instantly stumbled, coughing and yelling in pain.
From within the ruins, Sammy emerged, his body emanating darkness.
"Screw it. This place is bust anyway. I'm taking you out, Terminator."
Sammy generated a swarm of black beams that zig zagged to Ben. Ben held out his hand to try to redirect the Gravity Bomb, but hesitated. Deacon was still being held down.
Ben dodged one pass from one of the serpents, but another grazed his side.
The serpents continued their assault on Ben, as Deacon roared, getting to his feet, his face turning into a skull.
Deacon brought his arms back, as hundreds of slashes appeared on Ben, cutting into him and shredding his shirt, revealing parts of his endoskeleton along his ribs and chest.
Ben fell to one knee as he brought his gun out, pressing a switch as a module opened on the side. Ben loaded it with a shell.
Break your limits, Kanade.
I yelled as I forced my hand to heal, shattering the siphoning bullet as I began to sap at Ben's strength, adding onto my own as I charged forward and rammed into Ben, sending the cyborg flying.
"He's down. Unload everything you got." Deacon said, as he, Sammy, and I flew in, but suddenly we were all immobilized.
Ben got to his feet, as Sammy dissolved into mist, reappearing, but again, was unable to move. Frost caked his body.
"What the hell is it now?!" Sammy yelped, as dozens of orbs surrounded Ben, emitting pulses of white energy that covered the entire house with a layer of ice.
Ben aimed his shotgun, with the shell installed in it, then fired it, as beams of cyan light wrapped us all up, pinning us to the ground.
"Some kind of... immobilization..." Deacon muttered, before falling asleep. So did Sammy.
I looked at Ben, who walked up to me.
The others listen to you. You are the source of reason for this group. So I will show you the extent of my ability, so you can reason with our brothers, so they understand the extent of my abilities.
Ben walked out of the room, as two sentry orbs picked me up with some kind of tractor beam, dragging me along with them, leaving Deacon and Sammy restrained.
Ben continued walking down the main hall, as I played along.
"Why are you doing this?" I asked.
Ben walked past the couch and picked up his coat, putting it on as he reached into the pocket, putting the shotgun away.
Pocket Armory. Ben responded.
It uses technology capable of harnessing spacetime as a storage unit for my weapons and my gear.
Ben reached into his pockets and pulled out a fresh Desert Eagle and a Revolver.
"Why are you telling me all this?" I asked.
You are intelligent in that you've picked up that I didn't announce my attacks, or my weapons when I fought the other Remnants. This is my Lesion C5BR, and this is my SBP 96X Spartan Battle Pistol. John owns a similar model, the SBP 90X. The reason why I am telling you this, is because I trust you won't use this information against me.
We continued walking down the hallway.
"Ben, we need to work together. Even if we're going to lose this fight. It's our purpose. At least we can do some kind of damage to Mogul. It'll carry on to the next generation. We need to play our role!"
The shotgun you just witnessed is called the Tiber. The second model, nicknamed Dreadnought, which uses Dreadnought bullets. They are comprised of the same material as Pariah.
Ben made a turn, as if he knew exactly where he was going in this house. He had already figured out the entire layout in the short time he was staying here.
The bullet I fired at you is the ASMB. Anti-Samuel Mace bullets, capable of siphoning healing abilities.
Have you figured it out yet, Kanade?
"Are you trying to say that we have no chance against you? We get it. We can't win. You're the second eldest and you were strong enough to beat Arman. We know. There's no need to shatter our morale any more."
No. The reason why I am telling you this, is because I am showcasing you the extent of my abilities. You still do not understand.
Ben leapt to the side, the sentry drones flinging me against the wall as I stared in disbelief at the woman at the end of the corridor. She had just fired two shots with her revolvers.
Ben ran his hand and wiped a streak of blood that had grazed his face.
"Not bad, Sparty 205. You're pretty fast if that only nicked you." Meena said, as she spun her revolvers in her hand, assuming her gunman stance.
Ben lifted his SBP and dropped it on the ground. The gun clattered as R2 eyed Meena.
See for yourself, Kanade. The full extent of my marksmanship.
Ben lowered his Lesion, as Meena smiled.
"It's been a while since I encountered another who could keep up with me in terms of shooting. Are you not going to use your grenades? Not going to shoot out the lights and use your AI or tech to keep up?"
Ben tilted his head and took out a voice box, pressing it against his throat.
"No gadgets. No tactics. No grenades. I accept your terms, Meena Kennedy. I will defeat you with sheer dexterity."
Meena's smile turned maniacal.
"You sure know how to excite a lady."
The two faced off, as I gulped.
Meena's hand twitched, but Ben didn't move.
"Impressive." Meena said, raising an eyebrow.
"You can tell a feint from the real thing. Most gunman in The Organization hone their reflexes down to the very last detail. The saying was, better off shooting a stray bug, than having something shoot you back."
Ben narrowed his eyes, and before I knew it, his gun had already fired.
Meena leapt to one side, smiling crazily as she brought up her revolvers and fired in return.
Ben leaned side to side, his footing sliding across the ground as Meena's bullets whizzed by his head.
Meena leapt into the air, and began running along the wall, firing at Ben, who remained stationary, calmly aiming his Lesion and firing.
But not at Meena.
You see it, don't you, Kanade.
"Y- Yes." I said, nervously.
Every shot Meena fired was being intercepted.
By Ben's own bullets.
"Deflecting bullets now, are we? Showing off?" Meena asked as she leapt from the wall and spun around, firing shots at Ben from different angles and directions.
Ben gritted his teeth as he leapt forward, dodging the bullets as Meena's shots landed on the ground. Ben spun around and took aim, but Meena was already gone.
"I've read your file. You served a military organization in the future, and underwent cybernetic surgery, fighting Iron Council soldiers for ages. But if that's all on your resume, then that's not enough for your marksmanship skills to be on the level of a specialist."
Meena leapt from one wall to another. Bouncing around and darting around the room like a rubber ball.
"I've killed many. And each time my contracts have been different. A different race. A different monster. A different fighter. A different warrior."
Meena continued firing crazily, as Ben stepped back, another step, another step, until finally, one bullet managed to graze his forehead.
"You've got lots to learn, Be-"
Meena paused, her eyes wide, as Ben had already taken aim with his Lesion. Voice box against his throat.
"I've figured out your movements." Ben said, as he fired, the bullet off from the target, but Meena's momentum carrying her into the trajectory of the projectile.
The bullet penetrated Meena's gun hand, releasing a shower of blood as Meena dropped her revolver. Meena aimed with her other revolver, but Ben had already anticipated this.
There are two choices, Kanade. From how Meena has oriented herself mid-leap. I can choose to shoot right away. That bullet will penetrate her thigh. Or I can make the decision to wager an extra fraction of a second and move my aim to disable her other hand. But in my eyes, this is no wager. I have already calculated the appropriate strategy.
Ben moved his hand a minuscule amount, and fired, the bullet penetrating Meena's thigh as she crumpled to the ground, the pain in her leg causing her aim to go haywire. Meena fired her revolver, as the bullet whizzed past Ben's head.
Ben walked up to Meena and fired, disabling her other revolver, then pointed the barrel at her head.
"Not bad." Meena muttered, as the others finally arrived.
"Meena!" Deacon shouted, as she ran to her side.
I began healing her with my powers as Ben turned to the rest of us.
"What the hell is your problem?!" Sammy shouted at Ben, as he got up, but Deacon held him back.
"Sammy. Don't." Deacon warned, as Ben inspected his gun. Then dropped it.
I am Benjamin Fong. The second Remnant of Decen. But all I have done, was use technology. Barely using my own powers, and I've defeated you all. Do you see now why I had to do what I did?
"Wha-" Thomas said, but stopped himself. Finally realizing why.
Deacon took a breath.
"You're trying to show us that our technique and tactics are lacking. Aren't you, Ben."
Ben turned to me.
Our chances of survival is only 6.7 percent. But I will do my best to increase those odds for all of you. After all, we are Remnants of Decen. One and the same. We all came from the same conscious. What I can do, how I think. How I plan. I will offer you this, in exchange...
Ben opened his hand, forming a small cyan flame.
You will help me become more powerful. So when our battle against Mogul happens, we can do our best to weaken the Prime Aspect.
That night, I climbed to the roof of Skylar's house and gazed at the night sky.
"Night gazing, huh." A woman's voice appeared behind me. I turned around and greeted Merrow, who sat next to me.
"6.7 percent. I can't believe our chances were that low." I said, as Merrow sighed.
"Are you having second thoughts, Kanade?"
"I'm already far too invested in this. I've grown so much for me to back down now." I inspected my hand, as I generated a small white sparkle which lit up the roof. Merrow smiled.
"I know I've told you this many times, but I really appreciate you. For being here with us. Along with your brothers."
The night sky.
"I was born in the Silver City." I said, as Merrow listened.
"You would think constantly serving the church would make me happy. But even I have at times wondered why I was created. Then I started to walk alongside the other Remnants, and I've realized..."
I pulled my hair back and tied it, the moonlight causing my white hair to shimmer.
"There's still a lot of life that I haven't even experienced. Even if I did fall from grace. Even if I became sexually immoral. Even if I committed all this sin and learned to repent and move forward. This was something I never would have experienced back in the church. Thinking back on my life, I've come to realize that I was bound by chains I didn't know existed."
Merrow brought her knees to her chin.
"Does it bother you, Kanade?"
The stars glinted in the sky as I brought out my hand to try to catch them.
My face felt wet. This was something I hadn't felt in a long time. Ever since I had sworn to my brothers to be tough. To never cry in front of them. I felt myself breaking down. Truly breaking down for the first time in eight years.
"It's only now I'm realizing... that I don't want to die." My voice broke.
"I want to keep exploring. I want to keep experiencing new things. I want to be more than some tool that father created just for the sole purpose of revenge. If I was created just to die like this... why even bother giving me life? Why bother giving me a soul? Why let me experience life like this. Knowing full well I will die a gruesome death to that monster? Do I really only have two years left to live?"
I sobbed as I pressed the back of my hand against my eyes.
"I'm conflicted, Merrow. Of who really is the bad person in this story. Is it really Mogul? Or is it Decen, who created me to have such a gruesome fate? I had to shoot a teenage girl in the head in front of John. A girl who would have been in high school, just like John. Those two could have been friends, if it wasn't for the lives we were forced to live. And above all of that... you."
I turned to Merrow, who's face was sympathetic.
"Why would Decen put you through this. Why would he create us, our very presence reminding you of your deceased master, only to have us slaughtered in front of you again? We never should have been born."
I wiped my eyes.
"I'm scared, Merrow. I'm really scared. When a warrior is backed into a corner, their true colours show. And here I am, showing you my true colours. As much as I have developed, as strong as I have become, in the end, the Kanade Asaoka from the Silver City is still the same Kanade Asaoka you see before you. Is it wrong to want to grow up? To fall in love and to start a family? To have children to tell stories to? To watch them grow up as I become old? Is it wrong to want to want to live a full life? Instead of one that is fated to end prematurely?"
Merrow gently scooted closer to me and pressed my head against her neck as I felt warmth spread through my body.
"I don't want to die like this. I wish I never knew I was going to die so brutally. At least I would have had dreams of a future, that ignorance keeping me going until my death happens. The worst thing... is being told that I will die so soon and how violently I will die."
"Do you want to know why Decen created you?" Merrow's voice resonated across my head as all I could smell was her scent, like the ocean on a sunny day.
Merrow stroked my head.
"Decen never created you for revenge."
"But... isn't that why we were created? The Power of the Paladins would have killed Mogul. We were supposed to get vengeance."
Merrow laughed gently.
"Maybe if it was the old Decen. The old Decen would definitely have wanted to master The Power of the Paladins for the purpose of killing. But when Decen lost his powers to Mogul, he proposed to use that power not for revenge. Far from it, actually. That was when I knew. For sure. That the Paladin of War I knew had changed."
Merrow pulled me away and put her hand on my head as my vision flashed of Decen standing over a large pile of bodies.
"For many years that I knew Paladin Decen, he made it a mission to let everybody know he was a man of war. Someone who was always fighting, and only knew war. Every battle he would be in, he would always come out on top. No one stood in his way. No warrior. No master. No monster. And no god. That was what he believed he stood for, as a Paladin of War. As a warrior to Acadia."
The vision changed, to Decen charging Mogul, his body sparking with red electricity and spike cladding just like Lucius. Black and red fire trailing from his eyes and feet just like Deacon. His body glowing just like me. His eyes glowing just like Ben. Air being circulated around his claws just like Thomas. And that same explosive, unpredictable, maniacal grin that Sammy always had. His hand slowly began to morph into a blade, similar to Arman.
"Decen had it all. No Paladin had that many powers at once. He became known as the Acadian Chimera because of all the people he killed and consumed, taking their abilities for his own and manifesting them at the same time in battle. You would think someone who stood nearly at the top of the world would be happy, but he never was. He always tried to find ways to invalidate himself and search for someone stronger, and whenever he did, it would eat away at him, and that would be the only thing on his mind."
I watched as Decen flanked Mogul, moving at blinding speed. Red electricity and flames trailing his body, as his back sprouted numerous bladed tendrils, cutting into Mogul and leaving behind thousands upon thousands red slashes. But Mogul simply took it, and slammed the ground with his fist, grazing Decen as he slid back.
Across his black and grey coat and baggy black jeans, was a huge red gash, but Decen was unfazed. His face was wild. I could see his lips move, and was able to make out what he was saying.
He was speaking pure Acadi.
Not dead yet, Prime Aspect of Sin.
"Can you imagine that this Decen you see, could have ever wielded the Power of the Paladins? A power that was thought to be impossible to unleash due to there not existing a single Paladin with a pure heart?"
My vision exited as it was replaced with Merrow's warm and kind face.
"A pure... heart?"
"Yes." Merrow stood up and gazed at the night sky.
"The Power of the Paladins can only be unleashed by a Paladin with a pure heart. The only Paladin who was said to have been able to wield this was Grand Elder Paladin Rolah. The Paladin of Hope. Because what he stood for, was the very definition of purity."
Merrow smiled at me.
"Yet despite all that, I always wondered. How a Paladin of War could possess a pure heart?"
Merrow reached out and stroked my face with her fingers.
"Surely you've put the pieces together, Kanade Asaoka. How someone like you managed to exist. Despite Decen's terrible crimes as a killer and murderer. You stand for Decen's light and redemption.
"Decen didn't create you Remnants out of the need for revenge. He created you because he didn't want to leave me all alone, to be hunted by Prime Aspect Mogul for eternity."
My heart began to well up in pain, as my body finally broke down. I couldn't help it. Merrow embraced me as I let all my emotions out. White energy streaming from my body and spiralling outwards. All around me, plants and wildlife began to grow faster, and in greater numbers.
"That's right, Kanade. You are not a tool. You were Decen's last gift to me. And I will always love you and your brothers like how I loved your father. The bond I have with Paladin Decen extends beyond a simple master servant. Paladin Guardian. When Decen realized how important I was to him, that was what caused his heart to be lifted from its sins, even for a short time. Just enough time for him to unleash that unknown power."
When I was little, I watched a show on television. It was a cartoon about how a high school girl ran away from her life, and was on the run. She had to resort to throwing her body away to survive. Freeloading off of indecent men to survive.
And as terrible as that was, it wasn't the horrors and wrongness of such an act that made me uncomfortable. Acts of pedophelia that the girl had to endure.
It was the very sight of knowing that she had been through something like this.
She was suffering more than me.
Almost like she had a valid reason to suffer, yet despite that, every time she was on screen, she was smiling.
But once I lift that remote and turn off the television, I could see my own reflection in the mirror. An unsmiling, depressed boy. With no reason to be depressed.
Even before I had been whisked into the future by Mogul, I lived my life off of acts of merit. If I had not suffered enough, I did not deserve to be depressed. And whenever I felt depressed, I would hate myself.
After all, this world worked on a basis of exchange.
You needed to work and achieve something to be happy.
You needed something terrible to happen to you to be sad.
Which was why whenever I looked at my depression, I would be extremely upset.
Because there was no logical reason for me to be depressed.
When I was whisked into the future, the first thing that I saw was a disemboweled corpse. The face of that man in shrivelling agony, his eyes rolled to the back of his head was engrained in my mind. It was that day where I threw away all of my social values.
The sounds of the bullets raining down from heaven was what made me immediately throw it all away. I had changed to survival mode. Pure survival instinct overrode my depression.
I found myself covering my body in mud. Crawling in the trenches, as mud, blood, and dirty sewage water seeped into my clothes and socks. It was then did I truly understand the very definition of suffering. I was cold. I was wet. I was so hungry that I resorted to eating leaves on the ground. I could only cook meat of whatever animal corpse I could find for a certain interval of time before the fire would attract the Iron Council. Cramps everywhere. I was sick with a fever and parasites. But there was no time to lay down on a bed and recover. I needed to keep moving and survive. There was no time to even cry.
What was ironic, was that it never occurred to me.
The same me who spent 18 years searching for a reason, any possible way that I could be suffering in that blessed household of mine, to justify my depression.
That I was truly, painfully, suffering.
Then came the three months of ASCENSION Corps boot camp. Where ASCENSION would pick up survivors and force them into training. They would take in anyone. And if a recruit could not survive, then so be it. There was only so many resources for what remained of humanity. There was no place for freeloaders.
The very notion of prioritizing women and children was not out of ethics anymore.
Prioritizing women and children became the primary reason of survival and reproduction.
I thought my many months of hiding, and eating half cooked meat from any animal I could find, throwing up parasitic worms were terrible. But ASCENSION Boot Camp was the worst thing I ever had to endure. Three months of physical strenuous, psychological torture to break down recruits and rebuild them into soldiers.
I never experienced tear gas before. Until boot camp. I learned about CS gas. And I, along with a batch of recruits, had to endure inhaling the gas. I never knew my body could generate so much mucus before.
I miraculously survived boot camp after the three months. My body had gotten muscular. I had learned to mentally inhibit pain. A body must feel pain. Pain is the first responder to danger, along with fear. That was what we were taught, and during those three months of physical and psychological torture, I learned to harness those two instincts.
But I knew more than anyone, that "survived" was not a word to describe newly minted ASCENSION soldiers. Because when you've endured such a regimen, a part of you always dies.
And that pathetic side of me, the side of me that got depressed for no reason at all. The part of me that got jealous, the part of me who wanted to self validate, seek attention and approval from others.
Then came the ASCENSION Cybernetics Surgery. Where my skeleton was grafted with a cybernetic endoskeleton. But because there was only so much resources, that meant anesthetic was limited.
And that was where I finally realized what all those tear gas sessions were for. All that pain I had to endure from being electrified every week.
"Find an anchor to the world. Use that anchor and imagine yourself grasping onto it for dear life. It can be a wife. A husband. A spouse. A girlfriend. A boyfriend. Family. Your children. Your best friend. Anyone. Because once your bones get drilled, you will wish to die. Your body will do everything in its power to squirm. You will instinctively do anything you can to end the pain. Even if it means killing itself."
But when it was my turn on the bloody operating table, no one came to mind.
And when the blade came in and opened me up, the only thing that kept me anchored, was the selfish desire to survive.
The fear of death.
All I thought about was myself.
Then when I became a ASCENSION soldier, I was assigned the SPARTAN class. But there was no awards ceremony. No one to call back home. Because the only person I looked out for, was myself. Even when I was picked up by my mentors, a part of me was still selfish. A part of me only cared about myself. When I watched my entire squad be killed off, I was hurt and scarred.
But I wasn't broken.
Everything that has happened so far, has been to help me endure and develop. This was the conclusion I had come up with, when ASTRO flashed my life back before my very eyes when I entered stasis. Because the only thought going through my mind, was that I wanted John and Corey to be alive and well.
But the pain was too much. My body was nearing death from that explosion Turbo had unleashed against my face.
After all, this world worked on a basis of exchange.
I traded in my social values and my depression, for survival back in the future.
And now, I traded in Benjamin Fong, for survival to protect and serve my purpose.
WARNING: Commencing merger between ASTRO AI and consciousness of ASCENSION Soldier SPARTAN205. Proceed?
"Are you sure this stuff is gonna help restrain my power?" Sammy asked, inspecting the necklace that Skylar and I worked on.
"Yes." I replied.
"The gem magically restricts the user to utilize a fixed amount of power. But due to its immense drawbacks, Skylar and I designed a mechanism to offset this and to stabilize the crystal. This works even for you."
"Sweet." Sammy said, as he transformed into his female form.
"What'cha think, boys? Level 1 Hooters Form Samantha Le. Single and ready to mingle." Sammy asked, coyly, causing Thomas to discharge blood from his nostrils, and Merrow to strike the Remnant on the head.
Deacon looked at me.
"So this necklace restricts power through four stages?"
"Each stage increases the intensity of the gem's power. At Stage Four you will be fighting at a Folia Adventuring Level of 1. At Stage Three, you will be able to access 20 percent of your power. In Sammy's case, 5 percent. At Stage Two, 45 percent, Sammy, 10 percent. Stage One, 80 percent, 20 percent. Stage Zero nullifies all effects of the gem, allowing you to fight at full power."
"But it wouldn't do us much good if we're Level 1 though, right?" Thomas asked.
"Stage Four will force you to fight as if you were a beginner adventurer. You will become stronger as you progress in Level, similar to how an adventurer would." I replied.
"My god. It's like that anime dudes!" Thomas said, giddily.
Kanade watched me from across the room.
"Are you sure you don't need me along?" He asked.
"No. You need your rest."
"Look at you, Ben. Being all nice. I thought you were like, a Windows XP computer or something." John joked, elbowing me.
I turned around and climbed the steps.
"Prepare your belongings. We will leave at 0400 tomorrow."
"4am?!" Sammy yelped. "What are we, Marines?!"
I went into my quarters as I stared at my own reflection.
Sammy Le. The Fourth Demon Lord of Iaia. The strongest entity to ever step into that land, according to the scribes. His Black Dragon Form was thought to be Level 690 according to the scribes. Due to this ridiculous power, the first seer who estimated his power level died from shock. Under normal circumstances, I would not have brought him along. But he had unfinished business with one of the adventurers there.
His true power in his Black Dragon form is estimated to be Level 710.
But since then, Sammy had grown and evolved, as he had spent years conquering entire universes. During this time, he had unlocked another evolution of his dragon form, the True Dragon. Its power, far eclipsing the one he demonstrated in Iaia.
Thomas King. He had the power to manipulate space and time. The stronger his imagination and the higher his precision in detail, the more powerful his influence is to his surroundings. He believed his power was telekinesis, but ATLAS concluded that this was not the case. Because of Thomas' seeming absolute control over the world, it was as if his power was more like a Divine Word. This was enough to propel Arman.
Deacon Chow. The Fury. His cells were partially composed of the Demon Lord Diablos. However, due to being a Remnant of Decen, he also possessed the ability to transform his body to some degree, and manifest constructs of Demonfire using Diablos' powers. In clever ways, he was able to replicate our progenitor's ability to fight with tendrils through these flaming projections. Deacon's flames surpass that of a star in heat. In his full vessel transformation, wielding True Demonfire, he was able to fight back Heracles, who was chosen to specifically counter Deacon's fighting toolkit.
Merrow Rivenlight. The Guardian of Decen. As a mermaid, she possessed the power to manipulate Hydropower to a mass destructive scale similar to Deacon's Demonfire. She could even generate it. Many years of mastering the spear and trident and fighting along Decen's side allowed her to acquire formidable melee combat skills. She would serve as the main melee in our party. As a Paladin's Guardian, her power was far beyond what most warriors were capable of.
As a tactical ranged fighter, I possessed the military firepower to assist my brothers and to even fight singlehandedly. ATLAS estimated my Folian Adventurer Level to be 65.
As a party, we were very likely the strongest beings in all of Folia. A single divine deity, if called upon by the mortals to handle SSS tier threats, would assume a combat form of Level 23. By their standards, a high ranking adventurer was around Level 6-8. The strongest Adventurer being General Oxar Uxas at Level 10. The strongest blade fighter being the Queen of Knives Calypso Rosewald at Level 9.
In other words, each one of us possessed the power to take down a god.
Without the gems Skylar and I constructed, we would have instantly alerted the gods and would never be able to retrieve Mogul's hostages.
I inspected my hand.
Look at you, Ben. Being all nice. I thought you were like, a Windows XP computer or something
Did I truly still possess my humanity? Or was every choice I make a logical one based off of subconscious computations? Was I even considered alive anymore?
I had chosen to throw away yet another portion of myself to regain my consciousness. Yet part of me wished there was an alternative.
Because now I have lost the core components of what made Benjamin Fong, Benjamin Fong.
I wasn't lying when I said Coraline Jensen was an objective. I would have wanted to save her either way.
But for some reason, my heart felt nothing.
I tried to come up with scenarios where Mogul would torture the woman I loved.
Yet I felt nothing.
I didn't even have the emotional capacity to even be afraid. Of what would happen to Corey.
Of what is happening to me.
Maybe I truly have died. This entity I am now, could just be a mass of ones and zeros. Neural networks rerouted by an artificial intelligence. A computer processing unit.
And I can't even bring myself up to hate myself for it.