The World After (Ather City 2) [The End] page 222 (locked)

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Arya

It was the middle of the night, and I had somewhere to be. The excitement in me was steadily increasing as I left the room and headed downstairs, careful with my steps as to not awake the brothers. Cain and Abel… still couldn’t figure them out, and that’s why I’d decided it was best to do this on my own, without their help.

When the palace came into sight, I marveled at the lights that illuminated the surrounding city, such a view holding me in a trance-like state before I quickly snapped out of it and moved forward. In a place like this, one couldn’t afford to be hesitant, not even for a second.

The first guard I encountered for whatever reason had his back turned to me, and I took advantage of the fact. Very stealthily, I walked behind him and sliced his neck, making sure to muffle his screams as he went down, his energy seeping into me making up for the fact that I had had very little sleep up to this point. “Good night little one,” I whispered in the dead man’s ear, “Thanks for the clothes.”

The uniform I put on was rather large for my size, something that would surely be troublesome later on. For now though, the fact that I had walked into the city unnoticed greatly outweighed the consequences, and that was something I couldn’t afford to pass up. I walked up the steps of the main entrance to the castle with my head down, keeping on the alert for any guards who might find me suspicious. Who knew Lady Luck would turn against me so early in the game.

“And where exactly are you going?” a deep voice asked from behind, and in an instant I felt their tight grip on my arms.

“You shouldn’t have done that…” I replied with a smirk on my face. “Now your very own life is being sucked out of you, and there’s nothing you can do but stand there in disbelief, seconds away from
your—“ They dropped dead, and I wasted no time hurrying up the castle steps.

 
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[Combined post coming in….]

“I strongly suggest that you reconsider your decision, Mr. President! We mustn’t underestimate this threat!”

“Are you seriously telling me that three mutants with a grudge are going to do anything more than crash against my walls like water on rock,” Vladimir asks of his security officer. The man flinches in preparation, but knows he must speak.

“We have received reports of those other two mutants, the brothers Cain and Abel. They are monstrous beings and we are not staffed to defend against a full assault from the likes of them.”

“And what would you have me do to protect my subjects? My entire army is out exterminating the human filth scurrying around my country! There is no one to send for, and I will not accept this level of threat you so mindlessly apply to them just from a few reports! Have you forgotten my power, my indomitable will? Let them come, let them all seek my life! I will drink of their life’s blood while they cower on their knees, and the light will leave their eyes as I scoop out their HEARTS!” The security officer, all courage exhausted, bids a hasty salute and retreats, only for the door to the throne room to burst open in the wake of another lieutenant.

“Mr. President, a woman matching the scout’s description has attacked the Palace perimeter! She lays waste to our mages as we speak!” The officer, knowing better than to crow with satisfaction, merely turns to await instruction. Despite his misgivings he can’t help but feel relief at the confident smirk on Minkowski’s face.

“Well then, if she wishes so desperately to bask in my presence I will not deny her. Order the security forces to guide her to this room. I will dispatch her myself,” he orders and the room is soon emptied. Vladimir leans against his throne with the slightly-rumpled picture in his hand. “So you came alone, Lady Crane? How deliciously tragic of you… the daughter will finally join her parents.”


After her ruse was discovered, Arya wasted little time blazing a path into the palace, killing any opposition with barely a break in her stride. It also didn’t take more than a moment to realize that she was being led somewhere, that hallways and rooms were being given a heavy presence to force her to change course. ‘It can’t be helped. I didn’t come here to kill a bunch of grunts anyway. My prize is bigger than that,’ she thinks while stepping off a wall and turning a corner at full speed. Higher and higher she climbed until she finally reached a large hallway with an ornate door at the end. Filled with anticipation, she ignored the troops falling back and burst through the door. The sudden darkness causes her to pause and look around, just barely making out the spacious room from the moonlight streaming in from ten floor-to-ceiling windows, five on the left and five on the right. A throne sat on a lonely pedestal in the center of the hall, the solid gold feebly trying to catch the equally feeble light of the crescent moon. The silence is filling the room when Arya hears the unmistakable sound of clapping from the area behind the throne.

“How impressive you are, vulgar little Crane,” says a male voice with a condescending tone as Vladimir Minkowski slides smoothly out of the darkness in a ravishing black-with-white-pinstripe suit, his blood-red vest and tie perfectly matching the feral look in his crimson eyes. A knife handle juts from the sheaths on each hip, the black twine surrounding them acutely fitting of their wielder, whom now leans against the ornate seat. Arya masters her roiling emotions, standing straight and defiant in the face of her enemy.

“Well, I’m certainly not as pathetic as you or your useless guards, that’s for sure.” With deliberate leisure she steps forward, fingering the knife she had pulled from the back of an unfortunate guard only minutes before. Vladimir laughs at the jab, and at the obvious display of hostility.

“Oh dear, who said anything about pathetic, sparrow? I have yet to sample enough of you to make that judgment. Perhaps you are not worth my attention after all,” he asks, his voice deepening as he licks his lips suggestively, revealing his elongated fangs for a moment.

“Don’t flatter yourself, bloodsucker. I bet you don’t even fight your own battles.” Her shield moves invisibly into place, ready to defend her as she continues to advance.

“You are only partially correct. For you see, when I step in your path, it is not a battle, but the Hand of Death reaching for your soul,” he says and raises his arm to grasp hold of her blood to demonstrate. Instead of the usual warmth, however, Vladimir feels a burst of static that causes his arm to involuntarily flinch back. Stunned for only a moment, he reaches out again and is knocked back by the same energy, a sound like static reverberating in his mind. Arya can only smirk.

“How poetic of you, dear Vladimir. I’m afraid however, that you’re just all show and no talent. What’s the matter, my blood not good enough for you?” Confusion quickly gives way to an idea, and the President sneers at the steadily advancing mutant. With a flash of movement he slices the palm of his right hand open and fires a burst of blood that impacts against Arya’s shield.

“So that’s it… the sparrow has her own gilded cage.” The blood hangs seemingly suspended, only to fall to the ground, but now Vladimir can see the miniscule burst of power before it vanishes. “So I’ll just have to break her out of it,” he says and charges forward with a burst of speed that lends power to his backhanded swing. The blow impacts against the new shield, sending it and Arya flying into a wall. “Fly free, little Crane. Fly out and come to me.” Swallowing her shock and the flare of pain in her head from the blow, Arya stands back up and locks eyes with her opponent again.

“But unlike you, I don’t need to hide behind walls to shield me from the real world.” With that said, she dusts herself off and charges forward, knife at the ready, her free hand lunging for his neck. A laugh escapes his lips at the display, throwing his knives from their sheaths and watching them complete two revolutions before catching their handles in a reverse grip and blocking the blade with one and resting his own deadly edge against her exposed throat. Rather than freeze up, as Vladimir predicted, Arya instead smirked again and wrapped her fingers around the exposed skin of his wrist staring up into those blood-red eyes to watch his reaction. The sensation is instant, like a vacuum cleaner pulling at his energy and he fights the urge to crumble as the world twists out of control, leaving nothing but the smirk and her blue eyes in focus. Out of sheer reflex he lashes out with his foot, planting it in her stomach and kicking her away, shaking his head to reassume control of his senses. His amusement is gone, but his confidence is unbroken.

“Full of tricks, aren’t you? Perhaps you may prove entertaining after all,” he says and saunters over to Arya as she flips to her feet, feeling the power in her hand spread through the rest of her body and dissipate.

“What’s the matter freak? Can’t handle a simple touch from your potential victim? My my, how my expectations of you have dropped.” While getting up, Arya pushes her shield out to stop Vladimir dead in his tracks, then advanced forward. “Don’t hurt yourself in the process, yeah? I know your type is sensitive to any form of attack.” The mutant stops obediently even as the smile on his face widens, becomes wild.

“I will bury your misconceptions along with your hollowed-out bones,” he declares and leaps backwards into the air, landing gracefully next to the throne. Grabbing it with both hands Vladimir tears the 500lb solid gold chair from the floor and toss it towards the shield the way a child launches a pebble into the sky. With a blast of pain like a gunshot in her head she feels her shield shatter under the impact. Vladimir leaps into the air, blades poised to strike. Even groggy Arya sees the attack and sluggishly sidesteps. The President lands on his haunches and pivots to leap again, only to feel a hand grab the nape of his neck, followed by a stabbing sensation in his back. Lacking her precision control as she’s still reeling from the loss of her shield, her absorption kicks into overdrive, ripping half of the power contained within Minkowski and spreading throughout her entire body. She’s bound in place by the exquisite feeling, and it isn’t until the flare of pain in her foot from a knife impaling it that she remembers the battle she’s fighting. With a raging cry she kicks Vladimir away. He stands up languidly, aware of the power loss but unfazed. He chuckles instead.

“That wasn’t very nice. Yet it seems there are more and more surprises from the sparrow,” he says, rolling his hand across the distance achieved by the kick. The smirk is replaced with a leer, his eyes roaming the curves of her body. “What other talents does she have, I wonder?” She stifles the tremble of revulsion at his tone, gripping the knives tighter.

“My other talents would break you in half.”

“You underestimate my stamina, little lady. Your mother was the same.” A fierce lunge quickly closes the distance, forcing him dodge at the last second, surprised by the increased speed. Arya wraps his hair around her fist and pulls, whispering:

“Don’t you dare talk about my mother that way.” A flick of his wrist breaks her grip, leaving her with a clump of hair dangling from her fist, and Vladimir laughs at the clear rage on her face.

“But I have such great stories. She was so wonderfully broken by the end.” A sudden lunge that Arya doesn’t see in time, knocked back by the palm to her chest, and the President continues forward with a barrage of kicks and slashes with his sole knife. “Nothing but a drooling mass of whore and semen, begging for any kind of release… and I granted it… because I… am… MERCIFUL!” A blistering combination of two spinning kicks, a downward chop, and an uppercut knocks her off her feet. Flipping back to the center of the hall, he beckons the woman with a single finger, “Now stand up and accept your deliverance, child!”

“Smile my love, Mama loves you!” The sight of her smiling face warped into the pale husk that was left behind, all the signs of her suffering etched permanently onto her skin as she lay on the cold table. The sorrow morphs into that same rage, the hatred that sustained her to this point, and with a bestial snarl she seemingly blends into the darkness. The only sound aside from the clash of metal upon metal is the screams. Vladimir finds his amusement quickly evaporating as each successive slash and strike pushes him further back. ‘Such strength… and all of it stolen from me, the little bitch!’ Renewed with rage of his own he tries to fight back, but Arya has already spotted the sword rack near the wall only feet away. With the sudden clarity she crouches down and sweeps her leg out. Vladimir is helpless to stop the disruption of his equilibrium, or the knives entering his chest and abdomen. With the same fluid movement and speed Arya picks up two swords and slams one down right below his heart, pinning him in place like a fly. He thrashes around to escape, his eyes glowing with hatred. Anticipation steadies her arm as the remaining sword catches enough moonlight to gleam.

“Dyla materi i ottsa,” and with one stroke Minkowski dies.

 
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[Gambi is okay with this.]

Somewhere else, some other time

The brown-haired man with eyes of gold, clad in armor of golden energy, does not flinch when the doors of his abode are blasted open. In comes another man, this one wearing a black leather duster, with pitch black hair and light violet eyes. Eyes burning in cold anger, his leather coat morphs, into a spike of black liquid metal surrounded by purple energy that rapidly extends forward to stab the first man in the heart. The first man does not flinch, nor does he attempt to defend himself. Red flames, blue ice, yellow lightning, black energy that disintegrates things on touch, all manners of attacks erupt from the leather-coated man to assault the armored man in a brutal, relentless barrage. Not satisfied, the second man launches a massive white beam from his palms that engulfs the first man whole, before conjuring thousands of tiny golden suns that smash together against him in a star-shattering galactic explosion. Finally, a miniature black hole appears in the dark-haired man’s hands and is thrown, crushing its target in a powerful gravitational singularity.

The armored man promptly blinks back into existence, with not a single strand of hair out of place. “I assume you have found out, Jonathan Newton?” He asks impassively.

“I damn well did,” Jonathan snarls as he teleports in front of the other man to grasp him by the throat. “My universe is going to end. Do something about it!”

The armored man’s golden eyes flash with anguish for the briefest instant before resuming calmness. “You already know what I am going to say,” he speaks, voice not impeded at all by Jonathan’s choke hold, in the tone a stern parent may use against a child throwing a tantrum.

“Not gonna do anything, huh?” Jonathan growls. “Fine, I’ll do it myself!” With titanic strength he sends the golden-eyed man crashing into a wall, and turns his back to him, leather duster fluttering in a dramatic manner.

But before Jonathan Newton can teleport away to his destination, he suddenly finds his entire body from the neck down utterly paralyzed by a burst of invisible power. Then the fabric of spacetime itself simply twists and turns until Jonathan is face to face with the armored man once more. The wall has already been repaired.

And what can you do, Jonathan Newton?” The man speaks, voice devoid of condescension but sounding infinitely worse in Jonathan’s ears. “You may have grown stronger since your departure from your home universe, but you are unable to inflict the smallest iota of damage to my base form. And yet, you think you can face and defeat the True King of Hell?

Even with his thoughts a raging maelstrom, Jonathan does not lose reason. “I can kill him, so that he’ll never have a chance to-”

The release of power is so unimaginably vast that it forces Jonathan to his knees. “What makes you think you have the right, Jonathan Newton?” His voice is icy cold. “You are an outsider. Who are you to pass judgment on the fate of another universe?!

These words shatter Jonathan’s cool like a bullet through glass. “I’M ONLY AN OUTSIDER BECAUSE YOU MADE ME!” He screams.

And would you prefer if I had left you there, so that your soul will perish along with the rest of your universe?

For a long moment Jonathan’s mouth opens and closes, failing to find the appropriate response. “The Phases; you’re no better than them,” he finally replies.

And I never claimed otherwise,” the man says, the briefest instant of pain once again flashing in his eyes.

A brief period of silence.

One hour; that is all I will allow you,” the armored man finally says. “Make your presence known to any sapient being, and your actions will be immediately undone.

Nepycros’s and Sara’s blood clones truly are convenient. Having obtained these powers long ago, Jonathan Newton and Jennifer Lorenz are making the best use of their allowed one hour by visiting all desired destinations simultaneously. Who needs teleportation when he or she can do this?

“It doesn’t even look like a town anymore…” Jonathan gazes at the ruins of his birthplace, nostalgia and sorrow in his eyes. “Was it those NUO troops, or was it me…” He once again shudders at the memory of the traumatic event that gave birth to his hateful persona called Nathan. At least that part of him is gone for good now…

“Mine is no better…” Jenny murmurs. A single teardrop falls from her green eyes, and she leans against her lover for support. Her mother, body and soul forever fused with the tree that is now taller than the house, will now finally find release… But with the destruction of reality itself, even her soul will be no more…

Jonathan moves his fingers slowly through Jenny’s long black hair. Then his lips curl in disgust. “Skip this one. This is where I first met that piece of filth Phaeus. I don’t want to set foot near anywhere tainted by his grime.”

“What about here?” Jenny says as they survey their next location.

“The City of the Dying…” A flash of pain, as Jonathan once again remembers the greatest regret of his life. “Solaris Embarta… I wonder if she ever got better…” He grinds his teeth at the unimaginably foul atrocity Phaeus inflicted on Solaris’s mind. Rendering another completely incapable of feeling romantic love, for that Phaeus “Shade” Eclipsion fully deserves the eternal torment currently being inflicted onto his soul. Jonathan only wish he could personally deliver punishment to that monster.

“And here…” Jenny laments at the great regret of her own. “Frost probably still blames himself, after all those years…” After all, it is not easy to forgive yourself for decimating an entire village when failing to resurrect your father. Perhaps it wouldn’t have happened if only Jenny had enough power to heal Wu Zheng Tian’s wounds…

Endlessly mourning after one’s mistakes accomplishes nothing, and they both know that. The sadness that hangs between them are uplifted somewhat at the sight of their next destination. “Here is where we first met…” It’s good that the lush forest is still intact.

“And here, first kiss…” Jenny smiles at the heart-racing memory.

Step by step they retrace their lives. Finally, they arrive at the place where they were taken away, where it all ended, where they no longer had any chances of coming back… They take in the world around them, the trees, the ground, the sky, everything… And it’s all going to end…

Words are simply not sufficient.

Suddenly a phantom image materializes before them, an image of a woman clad in a purple dress, with mismatched angelic and demonic wings. “Sorry guys, but time is up,” she says with urgency. “We really need you two back here. HIS troops are coming.” Then she disappears as though never there to begin with.

“So this is it, huh…”

They both begin to fade away, Jonathan into purple psions and Jenny into green life energy. Before they disappear from this universe forever, they give it one last longing glance.

Goodbye…

 
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The Field of Black Glass

He could feel the power from his Soul Orb spiking with every step closer to his goal. Just moments before he had felt the marked increase caused by the absorption of a certain President’s power and soul into it. That along with his beloved Evangeline(such a waste), and all of the other pieces of his great spirit reunited was all the assurance he needed to know that the time had come.

“To think they would all die so close to each other,” he says aloud, a dark chuckle hanging from his lips. “Now I can finally assume the mantle that could only belong to me.” The next step brought him onto the liquified brimstone and an explosion of energy scorched the trees for miles and caused great cracks all over the expanse. The Orb flies over to the center of the Field and crashes into the ground, merging flawlessly with the trembling cracks. Tendrils of brimstone and attach themselves to Lucius’ outstretched hands, and with the newfound connection he felt all its power flow into him. Caught between moaning and laughing uproariously, the mad prophet executed his final plan. In the infinite darkness of the Abyss, a sleeping menace stirs.


Dominic watched Nicholas vanish with a bittersweet smile. Even the cry of magic resonating inside his mind couldn’t break his attention. Such a idealistic man, standing strong for his beliefs even after centuries.

“You’re better than me, kid. Here’s hoping you have a better go-around in the aftermath.” A second wave, more powerful than the first, is met with closed eyes as the immortal tracks the source and teleports. The barrier around his body sizzles from contact and he beholds the harbinger. “There was a time, Ferre, when I thought you could be reasoned with. Clearly,” he says while gesturing to the broiling sea of brimstone and the tendrils attached to the NOS leader, “that time is now past.”

“How poetic! The ‘god’ senses his impending doom and has decided to meet it like a coward!”

“Oh my doom is definitely impending, but I’m happy to say that you have no claim to it. You really don’t know what you’ve done, do you?”

“I have brought forth the power to rule this universe! I will finally take the destiny I’ve held since I was born!”

“And you never stopped to wonder where that power comes from? No, of course you did. You just don’t care,” he says with an incredulous smile on your face.

“Enough of you pointless rambling! Your death awaits, Nabokov!” A spike rises in a split second that Dominic easily side-steps. Another spike, another dodge. “You truly are a coward!” His voice shifts and deepens even as the sky twists into a startling red and black, reality rippling like waves in a pond.

“I have no desire to spend my last moments bantering with you, Lucius. And even though I can’t do anything more, I CAN deny you the victory you seek,” he says and brandishes the shining brimstone sword, suffusing with a powerful orange glow and sliding it smoothy through Ferre’s chest. As expected, the NOS leader doesn’t even flinch.

“A sword thrust? All that power and you lead with that? How about I show you what a REAL…,” he starts saying while grasping the hilt, only to stop when it doesn’t move an inch from its position. “What, what is this?” Both hands start to pull, but the sword remains in place. “WHAT IS THIS?!”

“I’ve bound you in your current form. After all, you have a front row seat to the end of existence! How could you meet it as anything other than yourself? Besides,” the smile fleeing his face in an instant, “there won’t be a Hell to punish your sins.” A snarl is the only reply Lucius can manage before Dominic is gone. The next minute the cracks in the Glass widen and tempestous winds rise from the unsealed hellhole.

“It doesn’t matter. My kingdom comes!”

Indeed it does. Let the feast begin.

Lucius can only scream as the same eye that froze Dominic in place more than two centuries ago focuses on him now.


Only one last thing left to do. Gathering the magic energies around me into my fingers I unleash solid projections of myself across the world.


Somewhere in London

The tattered remains of Andrus’ group of misfits are shocked by the sudden appearance of the immortal in their mists. The sight releases the same anger within the tentacled girl as always, but it sits tempered in her heart with the knowledge that she can do nothing to vent that anger, and where had it gotten her, anyway? And there’s the promise with her mother to consider… Solaris sees no other option and swallows her pride.

“Look, Dominic… I know we don’t exactly like each other, for a large variety of reasons, but… I’d like to apologise for anything I did that may have offended you. Also, I….” Another swallow, as much for her pride as her own bravery, “I’m going to forgive you for killing my grandfather, too. And I hope we can be… well, not enemies, anyway. Acquaintances, I guess. Is that fine?” The immortal, despite his amusement, knows better than to show it at this point.
“Your timing is astounding, young lady, but I cannot fault your words. I accept your apology. Now….”


The voice of every projection

“Events have been set into motion that cannot be fixed, cannot be altered, and cannot be stopped. I can, therefore, only offer a single piece of advice: when it comes for you, do not struggle. Make whatever peace you can and accept the light. There is no other way.” All over the world his copies echo the words, doing what he can to prepare the people for the end. When even Arya Crane, fresh from her victory, hears the words, he breaks the connection and floats into the air, left with nothing more to do than watch the destruction of the universe. Lightning splits the sky as black twisters ten miles long carve out their lines on the planet, and yet through it all he can still see, hear, and feel his presence acutely.

Wait… why not?

Why couldn’t he do what Nick did? Open portals and save them?

Could he? With the new idea coalescing in his mind Dominic spread his arms out wide, marshalling all the magic in the Realm, focusing into a last-ditch effort. He reached into the unknown, the great Void, and forced wormholes into being. The expenditure of power is like falling onto hot coals, and he screams even as they unleashed their suction onto the Mortal Realm. The scream fades into nothingness as the tears in space-time seal up once more, transporting their cargo to universes unknown.

In the end, just as the first mighty tentacle broke from the hellhole and tore the planet known as Earth to chunks of super-hot rock, only five individuals were saved from the massacre by his actions: Wu Shuang, Cheryl Smith, Solaris Embarta, Abel, and Arya Crane. The residents of the Floating Islands watch Existence torn asunder by Phase spear and Abyssal roar.

And it all ends, returning it to the Void, so that it may be born again. The endless cycle, the eternal destruction, ushered in by a single misguided mortal.