On my plate was a steak. I was watching it. Aku had brought it out, even though I hadn’t requested. It looked tasty.
Hunger is a bygone thought, for them.
They’re so perfect. Does that give them the right?
Bleh. I slid the plate away. There was a big screen plastered all the way around the room, at a certain height, above the doors. It showed the War Games.
The recaps featured me, lying among the bodies and my humorous looking fall. Cameras had been absent, though, whenever Christopher had been around. Not unexpected, really. I was figuring out what he did. He was difficult.
Gozo had rampaged, but one of the Technicists, specializing in using science on fast bindings, had brought in drones which had stopped him. They’d etched out symbols, and built a grid of light, which the demon was vulnerable to.
The battle was wrapping up, with our Shielder having surrendered.
Everyone was in suspense for a moment as the last Anarchist was captured. I could only assume Miller and her people had pulled out. Aku sounded off.
“After a difficult battle and near tie, Utopians win. Anarchists cannot recover.”
There was a long round of applause, which everyone contributed to. Ash raised his middle finger high, and Odessa was stoic. Them aside, everyone clapped. It passed, and people began to stand and file out. We stayed, not wanting to weave through the crowd.
I patted Anna’s shoulder. “Sorry about what happened.”
“It’s okay.” An immediate response. A lie.
“It’s not. I have doubts about this whole thing. It’s not optional for us.”
“We’re nonhumans,” Ash remarked, not bothering to look at us as he did.
“You’re better off than you were,” Kendall said.
“I really beg to differ,” Anna shot back, glowering. “On top of everything else, it looks like we don’t have a future now, what with your failure.”
“Hey! I’m figuring it out,” Kendall replied.
“Porter knew the odds,” I commented. Whoa, where’s my gun?
I realized it was still missing. Aku disarms people. It was obvious, in hindsight.
“He expects us to be as powerful as he is. He’s not going to give any slack,” Kendall said. “He’s not going back on his word either.”
“No, Kendall.” I was sure of what I knew.
“No, Doran,” he threw that back at me. “He’s setting insanely high standards because he wants a worthy disciple. He’s just like all the others. A person is guilty of both the wrong they do, and the good they fail to. That’s the Utopian proverb. Porter needs to pass on his skill to a disciple.”
“No, it’s not that.” He was adamant but still wrong.
“Stop contradicting me. I know what I’m talking about, I understand this system. I’m from here. Porter can’t go back to combat, so he wants a follower. He’ll teach his powers to whoever that is. That’s how it works.”
“You’re simply wrong. Porter is too defiant to go along with the status quo like that. I understand that he’s got something else in mind.”
“That’s moronic! Defiance doesn’t supersede reasoning. There’s no way to circumvent the inevitable, and he wants to remain included in the Eidolons. I’ve studied his info. Quinn Lee Porter is a diehard for the cause. He’ll pass down his knowledge.”
“You’ve grossly misinterpreted his motives. He’s not interested in the cause. He’s a fighter, that’s what he does. He can’t let himself stagnate.”
“I’m telling you to drop it!”
“You can’t go on silencing me to avoid-”
“Shut up, Doran. Stop talking. You’re a summon, a subservient being. A tool. When I want to use you for something, I will. Until then, shut up!”
I furrowed my brow. He was becoming hostile, and I should have known better-
Odessa brought her fists down on the table. As everyone startled, I went still and stared at her. Her unseen eyes, behind her helm, were fixed on Kendall. His expression was pained, his shoulders lowered. Ash smirked and Anna was at a loss for what had happened.
Damn me. I can’t keep doing this.
“Odessa-,” Kendall started. She stood, her chair screeching back, and started walking. He followed, after a moment, as did the rest of us. Odessa lead the way back to the door, which I could only assume was a portal to the Monastery.
We came out onto the main platform, with starry skies above, and a biting wind. People moved fast, once through the gate and in the cold. We were no different. Rushing across, we came to a bridge.
“You can’t do this anymore!” I yelled at Kendall. I was following him as he did to Odessa, across the bridge between mountains. I wanted to help him understand, he needed to look his sins in the eyes.
“I order you to shut the fuck up!” he stopped for only a moment, to put out a hand and drive the power of his words in. I stopped in place, unable to move another inch. I grit my teeth, every muscle going tense.
This is against my nature. But I didn’t fight it. It had to happen.
“Odessa!” Kendall called. “I-… come on.”
She stopped and turned. In her armor, she was eye to eye with him. With a distance between them and twilight on her silver shoulders, she reached for her helmet, and raising it up, dropped it to the ground.
She had a broken expression, unlike any I’d seen her bare. There was hair matted in her face, being pulled by the wind, and tears trailing down her cheeks.
“Come on, Odessa. I can’t… You’re being unreasonable. We can’t face this right now. I told you I was sorry! I’m sorry. Let’s move past this.” Kendall’s will broke as he looked her in the face. She was unyielding, with a murderous stare. The fight went out of him. “Please, Odessa. It’s just… Yes. I will.” He knew now, that there was no other way this could go down. There were no words to make her be what he wanted. “I release-” Kendall barely spoke. “-I release you temporarily. For this.”
Odessa strode forward, and Kendall flinched just before she punched him. Her fist connected and he fell, holding his face. She was free to speak.
“You!” she shrieked, “y-you-… Fuck you! You will be held accountable to your God! You will be judged, even if I may not! You will tell them!”
Kendall sat up onto his legs, his eyes cast on the ground, silent.
“You will say it,” she repeated, more forcefully. “Because you owe God that.”
I was frozen, Ash was bemused, and Anna confused. Kendall took off his breastplate and spread his arms. He was inviting her to attack. He’d prefer it even. She shifted her sword’s position. I was ready to try and stop her.
Couldn’t allow that.
Odessa had all of this in the palm of her hand. I didn’t think anyone could stop her if she wanted Kendall dead. Just like that.
“You have to say it,” she ordered, refusing to attack.
“What’s happening?” Anna asked, quiet.
“I…” Kendall began. He knew the word she wanted, but it conflicted. It conflicted with everything he thought about himself, and every justification he’d created. He couldn’t face it. For all the will he had to continue in every pursuit, he couldn’t be that person. He was breaking. He lurched forward, head almost touching the ground, and he came up to watch her as he spoke.
“I didn’t understand. When they brought you in, you were just a sword. A relic clinging on. It took time to pull a ghost out and make you real. You were so hollow for so long, barely a shadow of a person and I didn’t consider… didn’t think you’d develop. Didn’t think… that you were a person. So I used you… for myself. And it turned into something shameful, Odessa. It was rape.”
“Jesus,” Anna swore.
Fuck everything. I had a notion, but to hear him say it. It changed things.
“She didn’t know she could say no. She couldn’t. I-” he tried to say. Odessa kicked him in the head, harder than before, and he cried in pain.
“You will not silence me again, Kendall.” Odessa crouched and took hold of his jaw, which I believed was broken, and held him to look into his eyes. “Ever.”
He could stop this. But he won’t. He can’t. They’re the same. He’s lost control of himself and the world around him. Lost control of his soul into something he hates.
I didn’t need this. Fuck me.
She threw him away, and wiped the tears from her face, looking up at the stars and taking a deeply relieved breath.
Anna slowly approached. She offered a hug, which Odessa took, uncomfortably. They continued then, down the bridge and out of sight. Ash clapped a hand on my shoulder.
Kendall had been healing himself with a spell and had risen. Ashes, with shiteating grin, passed by and went on down past him.
A demon, I remembered. With a plan of his own.
I was free to move, now. Kendall had released me, and he slumped down, tired. I still couldn’t speak. He looked up, and we watched each other.
His eyes were pained, alert, and unsure. He felt awful.
I raised my eyebrows, questioning.
“Shut up,” he spat. “There’s nothing you need to say.”
Infuriating. But I’ve said enough. I’ve meddled enough.
I passed on, leaving him where he stood. I came to the outside of the Sanctuary, where the other’s, sans Kendall, where waiting.
Anna was speaking, consoling, “We can bring it up with Aku. Kendall needs to-”
But Odessa had dried her eyes. “No. Anything that comes to Kendall comes to us. We need him to carry on. That we’d see someday a better way of existence. This, right now, is all we have… Strung over an abyss. I won’t let go again. God will let fall those that do.” They were sitting back against the rocks, beside the entrance to the Sanctuary. She moved her sword aside, making a spot for me to sit alongside her.
Acceptance. United by Kendall as an antagonist. Ill-fated.
“Things’ll turn out,” Ash said. It was out of character.
We waited, respecting Porter’s wish not to return. We waited for hours. At one point the sun crested, and it was beautiful, but I didn’t feel it the same as I had, on that first day. Things changed, and I knew that I was one of them. Maybe it wasn’t changed. Not in the proper sense. Things built upon themselves.
Didn’t feel like waxing philosophical anymore. I closed my eyes and slept. Slept deeper than I had since I’d manifested, leaning back on the rock.