“Would you mind explaining things from the beginning?” Kaela asked, as they ran towards the village.
“Before I do I must say I’m truly sorry, about all the things I said and did before…” Visola said.
“It wasn’t your fault…” Kaela began, but Visola shook her head.
“Possession is no excuse. I must apologise to all of you, especially to Mr Valero. I did something quite awful.”
“No one blames you. Especially not Brayden. He was the one who noticed it wasn’t really you in control,” Kaela explained.
“Yes, despite his tough appearance he is quite forgiving,” Dimetrios scoffed. “He forgave me pretty easily, and I nearly killed him. I hate to admit it, but if it weren’t for him, I would be in a position no better than yours. He’s quite an admirable soldier.”
“Quite an odd quality for a Valero…” the small owl called Charlottea muttered.
“By the way, where is Brayden Valero?” Visola asked
“He got trapped by some barrier. He had to find another way around,” Lynx explained.
“This gives us a huge disadvantage,” Visola frowned.
“What do you mean by that?” Dimetrios asked.
“I’ll explain, but I can’t go into much detail,” Visola began.
“We understand, just get us up to speed,” Kaela claimed, becoming more serious.
“From the intel I have gathered, and from what Charlottea has told me not very long ago, I have learnt that Toivoa is a spell that can take magical energy from another source and turn into the magic that the caster can wield,” Visola explained. “When the Light Elementals created the Toivoa Destroyer, they used the original spell to turn the magic of nature or an enemy into a moving automaton with an extremely powerful cannon. One shot can destroy a whole area. It’s not as powerful as Stellatrium, but A.V created it, therefore it still holds a need for concern.”
“And how did you learn about this?” Lynx asked.
“You see, I’m actually a secret agent of a certain organisation,” Visola continued. “A few months ago, I was sent to investigate the sudden movement of Dark Soul. I overheard the one they call Cormac talking to one of his underlings about the Toivoa. I already knew about this weapon and was going to report immediately. However, a man I don’t know suddenly attacked me. I remember nothing else after that.”
“If that’s the case shouldn’t we be contacting the MLC instead of heading into battle ourselves?” Kaela asked. “Surely they would have someone more qualified for this.”
“True, but the only person who comes to mind is the Phoenix Hunter.” Visola sighed with a conflicted expression on her face. “Ideally, she would be perfect, however…”
“Wait? She? How do you know that?” Kaela began.
“I’ve met her on several occasions,” Visola claimed. “She is the perfect weapon the MLC could have asked for. She is cold and can defeat all kinds of enemies. However, she has a nasty habit of sitting back and watching how things progress. Even if she was here, I doubt she’d help us.”
“Then… what can we do?” Kaela asked, frightened of what lay ahead. She bit her lip as she avoided everyone else’s gaze as she kept her focus on the ground in front of her.
“You said that a barrier had blocked Brayden. Dark Soul probably made it so the Phoenix Hunter couldn’t interfere. Which confirmed my hypothesis, Brayden Valero’s power and aura is similar to that of the Phoenix Hunter’s,” Visola said.
“How is that possible?!” Kaela exclaimed.
“I’m not sure…” Visola replied. “However, I believe it is necessary to meet up with him as soon as possible to even have a chance against Dark Souls secret weapon.”
“You mean Toivoa?” Kaela asked.
“No. The weapon that may even be more pressing at this moment,” Visola replied. “The very one that can get information out of anyone without uttering a single word. They say that an Oviri’s weakest point is their mind. Dark Souls secret weapon can control and destroy the minds of his enemies. The one they call the Achilles.”
“I don’t quite understand,” Kaela said, speaking slowly with a hint of confusion in her voice.
“The ability to manipulate and control minds… Isn’t that similar to your abilities?” Lynx asked.
“They do have some similarities, yes. However, my magic is based on illusions,” Visola explained as she stopped running. Kaela turned to face her as she crossed her arms and placed one of her fingers to her mouth as if the be carefully thinking about what she was explaining. “I can’t force a person to do anything against their will unless I trick them into doing so. Compared to Achilles, my power is weak. He can actually control a person and use their own thoughts against them in the most torturous way possible.”
“That ability seems near impossible to beat,” Kaela exclaimed.
“Perhaps, but if we could force him into a normal battle, we may stand a chance,” Visola stated.
“And how do we do that?” Dimetrios asked.
“It got me at first as well. But then I remembered that fight.” Visola claimed, “Brayden Valero had me completely defeated, no one else has ever been able to achieve that. Not only was he able to break out of the Akumu spell, but any type of magic I attempted to use afterwards wouldn’t even work. As the fight dragged on, I couldn’t see into his mind at all; he was immune to all of my attacks.”
“That lucky bastard,” Lynx said with a jealous growl. “But I don’t see how this relates to Achilles.”
“I realised that no kind of manipulation magic would work on him. Mind control, mind reading and torture, not even manipulation of his Ikiru energy would work against him. Which means, Achilles can’t use any magic against him. If Brayden can distract him long enough then, Kaela will be able to have a fair fight against him. If we can beat him, we could beat the rest of Dark Soul!”
“I hate to admit it, but having Brayden on our side is a blessing,” Lynx smiled. “Things are definitely in our favour.”
“I wouldn’t be so sure about that…” Dimetrios stated.
They had let their guard down while speaking and forgot to keep an eye on their surroundings. A large group of people stood in front of them, blocking their path. Kaela knew immediately that it was the members of Dark Soul, preparing to attack them.
“Lord Achilles has sent us to destroy you!” one of the men bellowed. “Do you have any last words?”
Kaela bit down on her lip. She looked around, taking note of all the people who surrounded them. Things were worse than she had expected. She was even more concerned when more people began to sneak up behind them. Each person wore black masks that covered most of their faces, hiding their identities. They were all different sizes and had different power levels, but Kaela could tell they were all males by their builds.
“Crap a dead end!” Lynx growled.
“How many do you think are there?” Kaela asked.
“Eighty-Nine,” Visola answered. “According to the intel I gathered, there are eighty-nine Dark Soul members on this mission and now they all stand in front of us.”
The man that called himself Achilles stood in front of Ray. He could see out of the corner of his eyes that his friends were still screaming in pain.
“What did you do to them?!” he shouted.
“Oh…I’m only torturing them in their minds,” Achilles replied, his deep, rumbling voice echoing in Ray’s head. “I’m also extracting all the information they have. With their knowledge, I’ll bring you all to your deaths.”
Ray scowled, taking a step back to keep his distance from the deluded man, “You’re sick. How could you do something so horrible? What do you have to gain?!” Ray yelled.
“An empty world. If the world is empty, then it will be perfect. There will be no humans to destroy the environment, no people to instigate wars, there would be nothing left to cause trouble,” Achilles explained. “We of Dark Soul will destroy everything, that way nothing bad will ever happen again.”
“How will destroying the world do that. If there was nothing left in the world, then it’s pointless. Sure, there are bad things in this world, but there are good things that should be protected,” Ray yelled preparing his stance to prepare for Achilles attack.
“What did you just say?” Ray growled.
“Now is that a way to talk to someone who came out all this way just to talk to you? All I said was your way of thinking is naïve, nothing worth getting upset over,” Achilles replied. “Sure, it’s a flaw that would cause a little trouble if we get our way, though that will be easy to change.”
Ray went to question the deranged man until he heard a thud from behind him. He turned to see Pennie, Cianna and Mr Kaden unconscious on the ground.
“Pennie!” he shouted.
“There’s no need to worry… They’re not dead. Not yet anyway but that all depends on you. Brayden Valero,” Achilles claimed.
Ray shut his eyes and tightly closed his fists. He took a deep breath to calm himself before speaking.
“What… What is it that you want from me?” he growled through his clenched teeth.
“We want you to join us,” Achilles’ voice echoed.
“What…?” Ray muttered, completely lost for words.
“If you want your little friends to live. Join us,” Achilles repeated. “You would be a powerful asset to Dark Soul. If you join us, we’ll be able to give you anything you desire.”
“I would never join evil scum like you!” Ray yelled, furious about the man’s request. “All you ever do is hurt people. I would never do anything like that to get ahead. I would never be a monster like you.”
“Naïve…” Achilles said again with a slight chuckle. “You are too naïve, it’s almost quite humorous. You brag on about your ideals and never take into consideration the consequences. Save everyone? Don’t make me laugh. That is impossible! People like you will always die without achieving anything.”
“What was that…?” Ray growled. His temper was reaching boiling point.
“I also see you are searching. Searching for something. No, someone. Someone you know is dead and gone.”
“That’s a lie!”
“No, you’re just too naïve to see it. And it is clear to everyone around you that you’re suffering because of it. Shall I end that for you? You grew up in a town with a girl named Azaliea. Correct?”
“How did you…?” he asked with shock.
“I already told you I could read and torture the minds of others,” Achilles continued. “And it’s right there in that Pennie girl’s thoughts. Let me give you the answer you refuse to hear. That town you are so desperately searching for was called Aurora and it was destroyed by shadow beasts seven years ago. Nearly everyone in that town perished. You may have been the only survivor.”
Ray’s eyes went wide. Normally he would shout out that the man was lying, but he actually believed he was telling the truth. It all made sense. It explained why he hadn’t come across the small town before, explained his loss of memory and Azaliea’s disappearance. He stood there in silence, not moving a muscle. He didn’t know what to think or how to respond.
“There is nothing for you to fight for,” Achilles claimed. “Join us, and we’ll ease that suffering. In fact, maybe we’ll even bring that girl back. All you have to do is help us destroy this world.”
“No…” Ray replied.
Ray released his fists and looked up at Achilles. Regardless of whether she was alive or not, he had a promise that he had to keep. He would never betray Twilight Heart or Azaliea’s trust in him.
“I said no,” Ray explained. “It doesn’t matter how much I suffer. I will bring the world a brighter tomorrow. I will always keep fighting because that is who I am! I will never give in to evil scum like you!”
“Don’t lie to yourself! Surely you are in pain! Surely you want it to end! You can’t bluff your way out of this!” Achilles shouted.
“No, I will never give up. I will stay true to myself and my beliefs no matter what! That is what makes me strong!” Ray shouted.
“Why… Why is it that I can’t hear your thoughts…? Why can’t I get in your head…” Achilles muttered.
Noticing the malicious intent, Ray summoned his flames and returned his stance into a fighting position.
“Why can’t I control you like everyone else!” Achilles screamed, pulling out a sword and running towards Ray.
Ray was able to dodge and attempted to attack. Ever since he battled Dimetrios his ability to analyse and counter his opponents’ movements became easier. At most he only had to shift his balance slightly to avoid getting hit by Achilles. However, Ray had yet to land a hit on him as well. The deranged man was obviously well trained and was exceptionally good at blocking all of his attacks.
“Why can’t I read your attacks. Why can’t I hear your inner voice giving up!” Achilles continued to mutter maniacally, “Why can’t I manipulate you like I can everyone else?!”
Finding an opening, Ray knocked the sword out of Achilles hands.
“Because Manipulation magic will never work on me!” he shouted as he went in for the punch.
Achilles stepped back at the right moment so that Ray’s attack only brushed past him. The force of the attack sent the man’s mask flying off. It revealed his injured mouth. Ray shivered at the sight. He couldn’t believe the cruelty the man in front of him had faced. To have his face sewn shut like that, must have meant he had suffered a lot, which also explained his mental instability.
“Why… why must I be so weak against you…” he muttered.
“Because I am the one who will stop you and all of Dark Soul!” Ray claimed.
Achilles began to laugh. It was a horrid laugh that echoed through his head. “Too late…You are all too late! I hear it! We finally have it!”
A huge explosion erupted from deep in the cavern. Ray watched in horror as raw power filled the air and clouded the night sky.
“We finally have it!” Achilles continued to laugh. “The Toivoa Destroyer is ours!”
Dorjan laughed horrifically as the giant metal warrior arose from the pillar of light.
“At last, it’s finally mine!” he bellowed.
Cormac watched from behind, leaning against a stone wall. He said nothing as he kept his focus on the large weapon. It was at least fifty feet tall. Created from a metal substance that had corroded and rusted over time. It took the shape of a man covered in heavy armour and large cannons for hands. As the power intensified, the black caverns began to collapse around them. Dust filled the air which made Cormac nose twitch and itch.
A smile spread across his face. Everything had gone according to plan. It had been his plan from the beginning. He knew that by mentioning A.V.’s name, Dorjan would immediately want to search for the so-called Hope Destroyer. Cormac wanted to use the weapon against Dorjan and take his place as the next ruler of the world. However, he did not have the power to awaken the weapon, let alone face the masses who would try to stop him. So, he hid, pretending that he was only following orders.
“I am completely in control! I can bend everything to my will,” Dorjan claimed. “There’s nobody who could possibly stop me now!”
The Toivoa Destroyer’s red eyes turned on. Its gaze met Cormac’s. He had made preparations beforehand, using his blood as a sign of a contract. He had learnt that the weapon only responds to the ones who blood sinks into its metal body. Of course, Cormac left that part out. Dorjan had no idea that it was actually him who controlled the weapon of mass destruction.
“He’s such a fool…” he said quietly, so his voice was drowned by the sound of Dorjan’s psychotic laugh. A wicked smile spread across his face. “Oh well, I’ll continue this façade for a little longer. I’ll keep quiet until my plans can truly come into motion.”