A man must face an ally turned foe, and his worst fear may become realized
| The annual day is upon us once more in the great realm known as Pax Aeternam. The warm sea air has picked up; making my golden hair blow in the breeze. The strong smell of fish fills my nostrils as I walk down the damp wooden pier. I can sense the perplexed stares as I stroll down. It is to be expected, as what I have strung over my shoulder isn’t a feat that an ordinary mortal can accomplish.
“Lione, do you have to go fishing for whales like this?” a fisherman points to the creature dangling down off my shoulder.
I shrug and give him a smirk. “You guys should be used to this by now. Just be glad it isn’t another Kraken." The fishermen’s laughter fills the air along with the sounds of waves hitting the docks.
“Oh boy Lione is a hoot. What mortal do you know of jumps into the ocean and fishes for whales with their bare hands?” another fisherman chimes in.
This was just a small attempt to quench my endless thirst for danger. Catching whales one day, sparring with the gods another. I walk side by side with danger every day, and send it packing each time. The fishermen wave me off as I begin to channel my essence throughout my body. Godly powers in the hands of mortals, what were those deities thinking? Reckless guys like me exist, yet they still fully trust us with their divinity. I have no complaints, as long as I can continue endlessly growing stronger.
I close my nostrils quickly realizing the source of stink. Normally my outfit looks a crisp white, but for now it is dampened with sea water. Maybe whaling with my bare hands isn’t a good idea after all. I brace myself, and release the essence potential energy into my legs. Fwoosh! With a single bound I am skyward; my star-studded scarf fluttering with the ludicrous speed. I land down right in front of my destination, and I quickly dust myself off. It appears I have caused another dent in the ground. I will definitely catch an earful from Minerva later on. No time to worry about that now though. I began taking the marble staircase upwards to the Hall of Adjudication, a place I am all too familiar with.
The hall is about as grand as you would expect. Large statues of the Roman gods stand tall and proud. Red and gold banners hang down, featuring the crest of Pax Aeternam. Upon entering, an indigo haired mage begins shaking her head in disappointment. “Lione, I thought I told you to stop bringing things like that into this sacred hall.” she scolds.
I drop the whale and clasp my hands together. “I’ll apologize a million times later Indigo; I was running a bit late. This one put up more of a fight than I expected.”
I turn and see the rest of the Adjudicators sitting at the grand table. Yzire and Kamui are sitting there, mocking me with their smirks. I’ll make sure to pay them back in sparring matches later. Kio and Dragso are at the other end, holding conversation regarding the Olympics.
“I’m sorry but I don’t think I am ready for this." I overhear Kio. She is our newest Adjudicator, so I completely understand her worries.
“Kio, I have seen you in action. You embody the very soul of what it means to be an Adjudicator. You will do just fine out there.”
She begins fanning the air. “Thanks for the words but could you kindly leave, you stink so much!” The others including Indigo begin to laugh.
“Fine I'll drop off this whale meat and change clothes. Meet you guys at the stadium.”
Indigo sighs deeply, “Fine but make sure you are on time for the opening ceremony.”
As I walk outside, I give her a thumbs up. “Don’t worry, I'll be there.”
I knew that would make her feel more at ease. We go way back me and her, and she always knows I keep my word. Stepping outwards towards the sunlight, I take a single bound into the sky.
“If you see Daze tell him where to meet us." I managed to hear Indigo calling out to me.
A strange realization has come to me. Nobody has seen or heard from Daze all day, which is highly abnormal. Maybe he has gotten mixed up in a complicated situation elsewhere. He is a natural born competitive athlete; I know he wouldn’t miss the Olympics for the world. As the thoughts of Daze fill my head, I manage to land down in front of the butcher shop. Dandy’s butchery, the shadiest looking place you’ll ever see but trust me he is a good guy. Opening the door, a strong smell hits me. Dandy really needs to let this place air out. As I step forward, the bloodstained planks creak from years of service. Hunks of meat are suspended by chains from the ceiling. They create a maze for you to walk through, to avoid walking smack into cold dead meat. I spot Dandy behind the counter, and hand him the whale.
“What do you need all of this meat for anyways Dandy?”
The small old man begins to examine the whale. “Yes good, you have brought a prime specimen! This one’s meat should be extra tender.” He completely ignored my question. It appears he has gone into another one of his trances again.
I slam down on the countertop, causing some of his tools to fall. “Is this what you are making for the Olympic banquet?”
It appears he has snapped back to reality. “ Why yes, this is the mains course I planned on preparing. As usual I will pay you for your troubles--”
“You already know I can’t accept that Dandy. I do this for the thrill, and because it is my duty.”
I talk a bit longer to dandy and head outside to see the bright sunlight of Pax Aeternam has turned into a dark purple sky. There is no more wind or the roar of the city. Only dead silence resides here now. The air has grown deathly cold and still. Something isn’t right here, and I begin running to try and find the other Adjudicators. Citizens are running around in panic, pushing each other aside like ragdolls. Whatever may be causing this disturbance, why haven’t the gods taken care of it yet? I manage to make it to the town square, and see the Olympic stadium off in the distance. I pick up the speed to hurry and get there, as a giant cloud of black hangs directly above it.
On my way I pass through newly created ruins. Buildings near the stadium have been destroyed. Part of the stadium itself have been strewn across what used to be an open field. I manage to make it into the stadium, and find the others surrounding the gods as they lay defeated on the ground. Jupiter, Minerva, Mars, Aquilo and Vulcan all have been beaten. The perpetrator is standing near a destroyed pillar, with his arms crossed.
“Daze you--!” I begin to shout, but Indigo over takes me.
“Daze, what has happened to you?” her voice sounds rattled.
Daze steps forward, with the same ghastly purple aura as the sky surrounding him. A look of malicious intent spreads across his face. This is no longer the Daze we knew, but someone else entirely.
“Those years...those forsaken years of being shackled. No more. The chains have been cast aside.” he begins to speak. “Now every realm shall know the name of Daze Coolidge, no more going unnoticed.”
Yzire steps forward. “Snap out of it Daze, this isn’t you. You are a warrior of light; an Adjudicator. Not this evilness.”
Daze waves his hand and a wave of wind comes forward, knocking us back. “Silence! I had struggled with my identity as a weak-minded follower. But now I found a new god to serve, Khaos, a deity that allows for endless potential.”
Jupiter manages to speak. “Of course, only Khaos’s power could have weakened divinity to this extent--” his words end there as he begins coughing up blood.
The others have stood up and look ready to fight. Daze has fell into the temptation that is the ancient deity Khaos, and now we must fight to save him. I brandish my golden ring blades as I prepare to save an ally turned foe. Instantly, Daze leaps to Yzire, a loud CLANG is let out as swords meet each other. The clash of the metal has sent sparks flying. Daze’s essence begins to form a blue aura, completely different from the red we were used to seeing.
“Mars’s essence...you have allowed it to grow cold with hatred. It once burned red with passion.” Yzire states, as he kicks Daze away.
At this time, Kio has conjured up a wave of icicles all of which are block immediately by Daze’s Aegis shield. It is a shame to see the legendary shield of Mars used against us, normally that shield blocks evil. In the eyes of Daze, we have become that very thing. The essence of Mars himself has become blind with corruption.
“Enough talk, your words are as meaningless as the title you hold. Heroes in the eyes of the people, but in reality, nothing more than janitors cleaning up messes.” As the coldness siphons out, a gleaming light of blue appears blinding everyone with its entrance. Daze steps forward from the light, dawning onyx and silver armor. Mars’s crest sits in the middle of his breastplate glowing, but it to is the color of cold blue. He hurls a spear made from his essence at Jupiter, whom is still on the ground. I dash in the blink of an eye and grab him to safety, placing him behind a destroyed column.
“DAZE!” the anger in my voice echoes over the sound of Daze cackling. “Now you have gone too far!”
He turns and stares me down. “Oh really? I believe I have just started."
Daze clenches his fist and a flash of blue fills the colosseum. My vision suddenly becomes blurry and white. A constant ringing starts, like an emergency siren being sounded. A burning sensation is felt throughout my body. I can’t move, and I drop down to my knees.
“Lione! Daze what have you done?”, I manage to hear Indigo call out.
I look downwards to see the spear head sticking clean through my stomach. The silver tipped spear is drenched with my own blood. In a brief flash of blue my defeat was met. The Adjudicator Lione, scion of House Klavius was just beaten in the most humiliating way possible. I try to stand but my body won't listen. I punch the ground, cracking it slightly. The feelings of anger and adrenaline aren’t enough to keep me going any longer. The last thing is see is my comrades rushing towards me before my vision becomes fully black.
A light of yellow suddenly appears in the seemingly endless black. She appears before me, angelic as ever. She caresses my face with her hand, her white toga fluttering as she is cloaked with divine energy. It appears I have been transported to my inner sanctuary, a place that exist in between dreams and reality. Oh boy, now I have gone and done it.
“I know not of a single mortal so driven, so stubborn that he refuses to die in such a way,” Victoria speaks.
“Worthy of being the essence of the Goddess of Victory, don’t you think?” my tone seems to have annoyed Victoria a bit.
“Lione now is not the time for your bravado, you might have not died but you still were defeated, the polar opposite of victory. I am ashamed of you right now, however you have yet to utilized my powers fully. Why is this Lione? Perhaps the reasoning being so that you may limit yourself for a challenge?”
You cannot keep anything hidden away from a god, especially when you are connected to them body and mind. I decide to come clean, as there is no longer a reason to continue hiding from her.
“You got me. Having your essence means every foe I fight, I win. Every trial I face, I beat it. No matter what comes my way, I easily triumph over it.” my words seeming to strike her attention.
Flashbacks of that dreadful day appear. The day where I needed a Goddess to come and assist me. Beaten and bruised I sat on the ground. A pitiful sight, such weakness showing openly. I vowed to never feel that way again.
“When I use your essence, I do not feel powerful. I do not feel accomplished. I feel like I am relying solely on you, not myself. I have not learned true strength, only how to rely on my powers. I must be strong without you, strong in my own right. Maybe then I will no longer fear the feeling of powerless.”
Victoria stares at me, her yellow eyes still full of disappointment. “Lione, I never knew you to be such as foolish human. We are now one, so we must use each other. You fight alongside of your fellow Adjudicators every day, yet this does not make you weak. Reliance of others does not show weakness, but true understanding of one's limitations. That in itself, is true power. To acknowledge what is needed to achieve victory no matter the situation.”
She disappears, leaving me alone in the darkness once more. Victoria is right, I haven’t been weak. I have never been weak and never will be. Right now, the people I care the most about are fighting for my sake, for the sake of Pax Aeternam. They are displaying true strength, while I have not been using my own. The darkness clears, and my vision slowly returns. I open my eyes to a sight which I never wished to witness.
Indigo is laying on top of me, with her eyes shut. Her long cape has been torn, and it appears she was hit with a force she couldn’t handle. She was protecting me while I was down. I push her over, and look at her. The anguish in her face is unsettling; I will avenge her. Nobody is allowed to do this to her, to anyone on my watch. I survey the colosseum and see the others are also down, as it seems their battle with Daze came to a conclusion. The gods are still trying to regain strength, but cannot due to Khaos’s influence over Daze.
“I always knew that when it came down to it, you’d be the last one standing,” Daze breaks the silence as I stand and face him. He has walked over to confront me face to face. My outfit is completely bloodstained, but it appears my wound has healed fully.
I spit out blood and it lands near his feet. “You know Victoria prevents defeat. The only way to stop me is by completely killing me,” I tell him. “You would have made it out of here if you did.”
“Oh, but where’s the fun in that?” he cackles. “I want to see the look of true defeat on your face as my spears rip you apart. A feeling which I know all too well,” he continues.
The essence courses through my body, feeling as natural as breathing. I summon my great sword, its shining yellow blade illuminates the dread filled colosseum.
“How could you find the will to betray us, the ones who loved you like a brother?”. I slam the blade on the ground, causing a small quake. “How dammit? Tell me how!"
Daze’s stare is completely stone cold. “Easier to betray allies than to sever ties with yourself.”
“Then you are beyond redemption. Time for round two. Just me and you.” I slash a wave of yellow energy through the air, but he dodges to the side.
Daze begins focusing his essence, his body becomes absorbed fully in blue. The silver armor gleams with the overwhelming power resonating off of it. Now is the time, to go all out. For the first time I call out to Victoria.
“I am empty without you. You are full with me. As I call forth the divine, I give unto my burdens. These are yours to take. Lean onto me as I will unto you. The evocation of unity triumphs. We are now one.” The oath of essence has been spoken.
Unimaginable power begins flowing, feeling like it will burst out of my body. I am engulfed in Victoria’s divine energy; all I see around me now is a bright light. The energy wraps around my body, encasing it in glory. Piece by piece white and gold armor is formed. A helmet forms over my blonde hair, tunneling my vision onto Daze. Transparent light blue angel wings sprout from the back; a dual sided spear appears in hand with glowing light blue blades. Clad in Victoria’s angelic essence, I have completed the fabled Herald’s birthright transformation. A feat in which my ancestors of House Klavius could only have dreamt of. Daze will pay for this betrayal; it is time to deliver retribution.
“HUAAAAAAA!”, I let out a victory cry.
Waves of yellow essence bombard Daze, and he stumbles. Seeing this opportunity, I rush at the speed of light slash with my spear. CLANG! The legendary Aegis shield repels the attack instantly. Dual blades of silver and blue appear in Daze’s hand. He slashes rapidly, leaving behind blue after images of his swords. Daze has gotten much stronger, and faster but still not enough to beat me. I parry each sword slashes with the spear and send back a devastating attack. Mars’s crest has been slashed open, cracking the armor and weakening it greatly. Lione victory will be yours, you can do this! Daze looks downwards at his armor, and back to me with a cold stare. Suddenly he looks up to the sky and sees a bright gleam. It is heading straight towards us. It appears our leader has arrived to help us. There is no way we will lose now.
“So, this is Victoria’s divine essence. You truly are worthy of wielding this power Lione. I’ll get you that. But now I must end this fight.” Daze says as the evil purple essence replaces the blue.
His eyes turn fully purple, and the darkness oozes outward. Immediately I begin to feel weaker, and drop to my knees. This is the same power that drained the gods out of their divine energy. My ultimate fear is about to come into fruition, I can’t lose here. Losing is just not my style, there is no way I'm weak enough to be defeated twice. I use the last bit of my essence to power up the Herald armor, but it is of no use. I look to see Daze, who is fully cloaked in a purple aura, and instantly he appears before me.
“No--”, My words are cut short.
Daze picks me up with one hand, and delivers a blow to my chest plate using the other. The heralds armor shatters on impact, disappearing along with my chances of victory. I try to muster up the strength but I can’t do it. I try to channel my essence, but nothing happens. I try to fight back, but my body will not listen. I feel helpless, I feel defeated, and worst of all, I feel weak. All of those hours of training alongside of Indigo, those times fishing for whales with my bare hands, defeating evil with just a single flick of the wrist have gone in vain. As these thoughts run through my mind, the sweat drips into my eyes alerting me to the situation still at hand. Daze throws me to the ground before quickly gathering himself, bracing for the impact of our leader.
A shining white light has bombarded Daze. As I lay on the ground, I manage to make out the two hazy figures going at it. One donning pure white, the other cloaked in true evil. My eyes feel heavy, my body unresponsive. It is up to our leader to finish this; I am down for the count. I turn over on my back and stare upwards toward the purple sky.
“I have now experienced true defeat. Not once but now twice. My goddess, I have failed you greatly.”
My words seem to get lost in the ongoing battle between good and what is now evil. The clashing begins to fade out, and I can no longer make out the two figures. My vision narrows until it is completely black; there is no longer a need for me to stay awake any longer.