I sat on the armchair in the safehouse, sitting in a room separate from the others, who were preparing to go find Ryval. We weren’t going to stop until we had located and stopped her, although I found myself unable to discuss plans with the others. My head was filled with thoughts about what Hailey had told me, and I stared at the corner, the ball of my hand cupping my chin, the tips of my fingers pressed lightly into the skin of my cheeks.
Finally, I sighed, and dropped my hand so that my forearm was resting on the chair’s arm. We had to go to Tutum. There was no question. We had to go there as soon as possible. I didn’t particularly want to go back, especially not to have another battle; the last battles ever held on that world had been violent and bloody, resulting in nothing but pain and death. My fingers curled, my nails digging into my palm, and I began to tremble a little bit.
I sighed a bit as I slowly stood. Ryval needed to be stopped. And since Hailey had said she had returned to Tutum to retrieve something that Tharul had hidden… we would have to prevent her from ever getting to Earth with this object, this rune. And to do that… we would have to kill her. I would have to kill her. It was far too dangerous to let Ryval live. Even if we managed to cripple her, and get her put into the custody of the Archdemon… who was to say that she wouldn’t convince someone who despised Humanity to set her free and allow her to continue the holocaust that she had planned?
And yet… there was something else troubling me. Something far more perplexing.
My Human friend – my best friend – was in too much danger. She was getting further and further entrenched in all of this mess, and I had to stop it. It was too much risk for her to continue knowing about the Nephilim, about the Angels and Demons, about anything that wasn’t strictly able to be classified as Human mythology, tales, and stories. It was too risky for her to continue being my friend and living in my world. And so… I had to do something. After Ryval had been eliminated, I knew that the right thing to do was to strip Tiff of her memories of anything she knew about me, the Nephilim, the Angels, the Demons… everything. I would replace her memories with false ones, although I wasn’t sure how I would deal with our friendship. I couldn’t just remove memories of me; we had spent a lot of the past few years together. It would seem very strange if she just… forgot a large chunk of her life.
I slowly stood. Right now I had to focus on the matter at hand. I would figure out how to deal with Tiff later. So I walked into the room the others were in, blinking as I noticed that they were almost completely ready to go. Lucion and Lilith were talking in hushed voices, although I heard just enough to know they were talking about Ryval. Probably about tracking her, or something.
I noticed Soren approach me, then, and I looked up at him – he was a bit taller than me – to notice he had a slightly sad expression on his face. “Hey,” he greeted as he walked over. “Can I, uh, talk to you for a sec?”
Blinking, I nodded. “Sure.” I made sure to keep my voice down as I followed him a short distance, so we were just standing outside the room. “What’s up?”
“The roof,” he joked half-heartedly. Awkward silence fell between us, and he sighed before saying, “Sorry. Wrong time to crack a joke, I know…”
“It’s fine.” I waved my hand a little, trying to seem at least a little nonchalant about it. I don’t think he bought it, for he hugged himself and rubbed his upper arm.
“Sai, I… I have a really, really bad feeling.”
Immediately, I felt myself stiffen. “About what?” I whispered. My thoughts drifted to Nathan, now, and how I’d had a bad feeling relating to him in the hours before his death.
“About… just… Ryval,” he whispered. “Our last battle with her… it’s going to be insane…”
I had to agree. He knew, as well as I, that this had to be the final time we did battle with her. “Soren, listen to me,” I whispered, abruptly taking his hand. “You have to heed your gut feeling. Trust your instincts. They’re usually correct.” I looked down at the floor. “I learned that too late. Nathan’s dead because I didn’t trust my gut feelings. Then I get told that his demise was inevitable anyway.”
He blinked, seeming surprised that I felt that Nathan’s death was my fault, but he said nothing more on the subject. Instead, he said, “One more thing, by the way.”
“Yes?” I asked, frowning.
“I…” He seemed quite hesitant to say it. “I don’t think that Tiff, after this, should be privy to anything about us, about our race, and about our parent races.”
“I have to agree.”
He hadn’t, obviously, been expecting my agreement, and blinked at me in confusion. “Uh… excuse me?”
“I said, I have to agree.” I couldn’t help the annoyance that laced my voice. I hated repeating myself, sometimes. “Tiff shouldn’t be privy to anything concerning non-Human matters anymore. Not after all this.” I sighed as I looked back at the room the others were in, hearing Tiff questioning Lilith on what we would have to expect when we finally encountered Ryval for – hopefully – the final time.
Soren blinked a bit at me. “Why?” he asked curiously.
I pulled away from him, holding my upper arms and keeping my gaze on the floor. “I… It’s for her own good. She’s in too much danger, knowing about our world. Once Ryval is dead, once this is all over…” My grip tightened on my arms. “I have to protect her. She’s my best friend. And as much as it will hurt me to have to do this to her… she deserves the best in life.” I exhaled as I looked up at Soren. “She deserves to finish high school, go to university, and meet a person who will treat her like a princess. She deserves to get a good job, get married, and have kids… The list goes on and on.”
Soren nodded in understanding, seeming sorrowful, now. “I felt the same way towards Iris, you know.” He sighed sadly. “But she never got that chance…” He looked back in the direction Tiff was. “You can do that for her… and that’s what matters.”
I nodded, and sighed softly, scratching my head a bit. “Let’s keep this hush-hush,” I said after a bit of silence, looking at him. “Until we finally finish Ryval off.”
He nodded in agreement, before stepping back into the room we had exited from. I followed him, and sat down as I heard Tiff say, “This is kind of giving me the jitters. I didn’t like Tutum the first time I went there; it was utterly lifeless…” She shuddered, and I pursed my lips, a thought springing to mine. It’ll be lifeless for a long time to come, I thought to myself. Just as it’s been uninhabitable for millennia.
“Unfortunately, that’s where I can sense Ryval,” Lilith said, looking over at me as she spoke. “Firstborn.”
“Lilith,” I replied, blinking. “You can sense where Ryval is?”
“Not just I,” she replied. “Lucion can, as well.” She looked at her brother, briefly, before turning to Lydia. “Are you prepared to travel?” A gentleness affected her tone, and I noticed the heartbreak on Lydia’s face; Nathan’s death had definitely hit her harder than it had hit anyone else.
The distressed woman nodded a little. “I should be alright. As long as this is the final time we see that damned Demon’s face.” She looked at me, her eyes slightly emotionless now. “I’m sorry, Sai, but—”
“You don’t need to apologise,” I interrupted. “She’s genetically my mother, but I don’t think of her as such. I know her life needs to end in order for Humanity to be saved.” I grimaced as I rose from my chair and put my hands on my hips. “Now, are we ready to go?” I cast my eyes upon them all. “Keep in mind that this… this could be the end. None of us have any idea whether we’re going to return here, to this place, to Earth, to our families and friends. Are you all still prepared to walk forward, knowing this could be your final experience in the Universe?”
Everyone nodded, slowly, after many moments of hesitation. And at that, I exhaled, closing my eyes and recalling a powerful spell that would warp us straight to Tutum. As I remembered the spell and incanted it, determination coursed throughout me, and I grimaced as my group and I were slowly pulled through the spatial dimensions. And, one by one, we appeared on the burned, dry, cracked ground of Tutum.
It was ablaze with black flames, and I stiffened as an image of fire – orange, though, not black – flashed in my mind. My eyes widened, before I squeezed them shut, remembering the screams and cries of my people as they were burned and slaughtered mercilessly. My hands clenched, and I opened my eyes, turning to the twins. “Can you direct us in the right direction?”
Lucion nodded. “I can sense her direction. Lilith will take over when we are closer, as she will be able to directly pinpoint Ryval once in proximity.” He began to walk, strides long and quick, and I almost had to run to keep up with him. Lilith seemed to easily be able to match her brother’s pace, while Soren, Tiff, Hailey, and Lydia all struggled like I did.
The scenery didn’t change as we walked. Tutum was being burned by black fire, despite there being nothing to burn. It kept reminding me of the Massacre, of the very event that it seemed had sparked this twisted revenge from my mother. And it all hurt. To see my former home being razed by Demon fire… it reminded me too much of the Massacre. Sure, that hadn’t been black fire, but… it was still fire.
“Sai!” I heard Tiff hiss in my ear, and I blinked, tuning back into reality to find that I had been right about to walk into Lucion, who had stopped walking and was focused on a chasm in the ground. Large and gaping, the tear in the earth was tremendous, and someone… She’s here. And she found Tharul’s secret.
“Damn it,” I cursed, my eyes widening in horror as a massive burst of black flames burst forth from the chasm, and I stumbled back, almost tripping and falling on my behind. I heard a hiss from Soren, a startled shriek from Hailey, a gasp from Tiff, and a grunt from Lydia. Lucion and Lilith were silent as they stepped back in unison, which was a little creepy.
From within the fire, we heard laughter, and then it dispelled to reveal Ryval. She was floating in mid-air, palm facing the sky. Hovering just above her skin was a brilliantly coloured orb, flashing in all the colours of the visible light spectrum. Yet, cutting through that brilliance was a dark rune, right in the centre, and shock coursed through me as I recognised the symbol all too well. The symbol of the Firstborn. Tharul… why…? I asked myself, horrified that he would turn a symbol so closely linked with my people into a weapon of destruction. I could feel the sheer power radiating off it, and it chilled me to the core, yet… I found myself struggling to look away from it, as if it had captured me.
I managed to peel my eyes from the orb’s brilliance – and its awfulness – and instantly regretted it. The gleam of my mother’s eyes internally killed me. She was clearly intent on this. Far too intent. Her eyes glittered with murderous glee, and her smile was one of merciless evil. Yet…
“Ryval!” I shouted, just as the wind began to pick up. The fire around us began to get fiercer. “You have to stop this! This foolish revenge idea of yours…” I shook my head, wincing as the wind strengthened rapidly, whipping around me and beginning to very lightly chap my skin. That was how intense it was already becoming. “This stupid idea will only end up with you dead!”
“That no longer matters to me!” came her reply. Her voice was feral in sound, saturated with twisted, malevolent desire. “The only thing that matters is that the Angels suffer for their transgressions!” The black fire’s heat worsened, and I heard a whimper behind me. On the hallowed grounds of Tutum, there was only us to burn, and that was certainly beginning to happen. I could feel my skin beginning to cook. “And what better way to make them pay,” Ryval roared, landing in front of us as the others clustered around Tiff and Hailey, “Than to destroy the Human race, which they swore to protect in our Creator’s damned name?!”
The wind’s howls grew louder, and I couldn’t help but wince. Looking back, I saw Tiff and Hailey hugging each other, the four Nephilim protecting them by circling around them. “They don’t deserve this!” I shouted at Ryval, looking back at her. “They’re young! They’re powerless against us, that’s why they need to be protected! I know that the Nephilim race was young when we were massacred, but we fought back, even if it was futile! Humanity can’t do that!” I grimaced at her and summoned my rapier to my hand. “So… that’s why… As the last Firstborn Nephilim, I vow to protect Humanity from the likes of you, and from the likes of anyone remotely like you!” I raised the blade and pointed the tip of that. “And that means… that this plan of yours ends right here, right now!”
Ryval snarled at me, in response to that. “You have let the Humans weaken you, infect you with their pettiness, Sai of the Firstborn.”
“No!” I yelled as I prepared to leap forward. “They have not weakened me!” I leapt forward, slashing my blade at her, and she barely managed to parry my blow with a black sword of her own. The orb floated above her shoulder, but I ignored it as I began to push against her sword with all of my strength. “Humanity has not made me weak. They have made me strong,” I hissed, my eyes darkening. The black flames licked and seared my bare skin, yet I ignored the pain. “In fact, my best friend gave something to me, something that I lost.” I pushed more, and saw my mother’s eyes widen. “Humanity… showed me something that was lost to my people when Tutum was burned to the ground.” Cracks began to appear in her sword, prompting me to push even more. “Now, I’m going to use that against you! I’m going to show why your plan was doomed to fail from the very beginning!”
“Wh-What the—?!” Ryval cried in alarm as I roared, a burst of strength coming to me. I pushed harder on her blade, and shattered it, sending shards of black steel and Dark Magic into her flesh. Tiny, paper-thin cuts split open on her bare arms, and dribbled black blood. She stumbled back, alarmed and stunned, before gaping at me. “What in the world…?”
I stepped forward, keeping my sword raised. “It’s called tenacity. They’re persistent, when they want to be, and they taught me how to be tenacious again. I will stop you from slaughtering their race. I will be what my people needed, back when the Angels massacred us.” I stopped right in front of her. “Your vendetta got out of hand very quickly, and threatening to kill my best friend…” I shook my head slowly. “As much as you’re my flesh and blood… I feel no ties towards you. Your wrongdoings have made sure of that. You have relentlessly tried to kill my best friend, and you killed three of my other friends, stripped from them the lives they deserved. You are not my mother, not in the emotional sense of the word. And you never will be.” She shot me a look of utter betrayal as I spoke, yet I only returned to her a cold, hard glare. “Putting this simply: you fucked up. Big time. You may have believed that you were doing this for my sake… but all you succeeded in doing was losing me.”
And, with those last words put forth to the world, I plunged the steel of my blade right into Ryval’s heart. Her scream rang through the air, piercing my ears, and I heard the others cry out as the sound ripped into their eardrums. But I barely heard it as black blood spurted from my mother’s chest, and her scream cut off into a choked gurgle. I narrowed my eyes as I pulled my blade from her chest, and sent it back into the nothingness I had pulled it from, watching as blood splattered all over me.
Ryval clutched at her chest, choking and gasping, her heartbeats getting feeble and desperate. She looked up at me, a desperate plea on her face. But there was no regret for what she had done, and I narrowed my eyes before whispering, “It had to be this way.” I stepped closer, but only to take the rainbow orb from where it hovered, and once I had it I turned my back and walked over to my companions. The black fire around us was slowly extinguishing, and Tiff suddenly hugged me, not caring that I was burned and bloodied. I returned the hug, not caring myself, and exhaled as it truly hit me.
Finally… finally… It was all over. Ryval was gone.
Humanity was finally safe.