CHAPTER 41 - Fury By Another Name (3)
The world came rushing in as Alex’s senses returned to him. Enough pain to nearly knock him unconscious sang out from his body. Blood covered his torn knuckles and flowed from several injuries on his limbs. A harsh burning sensation came from his back. The smell of smoke and blood filled his nostrils, and the female mage from before occupied most of his vision.
‘Don’t do this, Alex! Let her go!’
‘Let her go? What do you me-’
His sense of touch returned, and he felt something in his grasp. The woman was clawing at his arm, leaving long, angry gashes from her nails. The feeble attacks were gradually getting weaker as his hand remained tight around her throat.
He let her go, and she fell, her feet hitting the ground but unable to support her. She collapsed into the ash, coughing and gasping for air. Alex looked around, trying to remember what he was doing. Why he was here.
The fires had fallen to embers, the smoke nearly dissipated. Countless bodies lay strewn about the area, including the two guards he had seen rushing at him before he blacked out. Their bodies were contorted into grotesque shapes as if something had broken every single bone in their body and left them in a heap.
Over his shoulder, he saw Encis lying dead on the grass. Beyond him, his party members were looking at Alex, their faces clearly horrified.
He looked down at himself, seeing the cuts and burns and blood.
‘Oh, thank goodness. Alex, I thought I lost you! Quick, leave her and get back to Aundell so she can heal you up!’
[Simple. You learned the true strength of your own Wrath. It’s been millennia since I’ve seen a mortal with as beautiful a flame as yours, boy! And to think, you broke yourself from my clutches with your own power!]
The memories hit him like a tidal wave. Everything that lead up to him blacking out. Then the darkness. He remembered it so vividly. Pitch black flames that seemed to suck in the light like a black hole, rather than emitting it. But the heat… The heat was so powerful, it sapped his breath. He struggled against those flames as they licked at his body.
‘Is this hell? Did I die?’
The flames began to shift, a face appearing in them. It stared at him and smiled.
‘It must be. Surely this is the devil himself.’
But rather than be scared, Alex was calm. He lifted his arms as though he was about to fight this floating face.
[Do not overestimate yourself, boy.]
Alex recognized Wrath’s voice immediately, and he dropped his guard slightly.
[Good. Seems even you can tell when you are outmatched.]
‘What have you done with everyone?’
[My, my. No concern for your own safety, only for that of your comrades? For someone with such a gorgeous flame, you are relatively pure, aren’t you, boy?]
Alex looked around, his body becoming more used to the flames. He felt like he could breathe again as it dawned on him where he was.
[There you go. You’re not as dumb as you look, mortal. Just relax and let the flames consume you.]
He understood why ALICE had sounded so afraid earlier.
[Give yourself over to your inner demons.]
‘Deal with a devil’ was an understatement.
[Become my incarnation, boy.]
He was inside his own mind, and these flames were his anger. His “wrath.” He looked at them, shivering despite the heat. They were so… disgusting.
Beyond the conflagration, in the far distance, like a star forever out of reach in the night sky, was a small white flame. It flickered like it was calling him, and he instinctively knew what it was. He took a step into the black fire towards the small hope.
[What are you doing? You genuinely think you can overcome your own sin?]
Alex took another step, and the flames slowly began to shift. The white ember, seemingly so far away, called out to him and grew, pushing back the heat trying to swallow him whole.
‘No. Such a thing is impossible.’
He continued to walk towards that light, which began devouring the other flames, lighting up even the darkest corners of his mind.
‘Something like you wouldn’t understand. You’re really THE Wrath, aren’t you? Some kind of manifestation of the deadly sin itself?’
The heat began to fade, replaced by a warm light, like the heavens shining down on him. The last of the black flames that made up the face started to vanish.
[Such a thing… Just what ARE you, boy?]
Alex reached for the small white flame that had started the whole transformation. As his hand wrapped around the faint light, looking as though it would flicker out of existence at any second, he smiled.
‘I’m a soldier. And my wrath is not for you to abuse.’
The world of his own mind began fading away.
‘It is here only for me to save everyone that I can.’