Authors: Julius St. Clair
Bastion and Lily waved bye as they watched Chloe and Kyran disappear over the horizon. A strange sensation came over him as they turned around to head back to town. It was a feeling of finality—of good-bye.
It shouldn’t be. They were going after James and Catherine, and he was sure that they wouldn’t kill each other. There was too much history and love there, bonded together by their adventures and victories. He envied them a little, for he feels that he had to face too much alone. He was thankful that he had Lily though. At least she understood what he had gone through. He didn’t want to take that for granted.
He took her hand and intertwined his fingers with hers. She looked up at him in surprise and he gave her a warm smile. He could see her eyes light up at that.
“What’s got you in such a mood?” she asked.
“I’m just ready for a night on the town with my lady,” he said, bringing her hand up to his lips and giving it a tender kiss. “If you’ll have me.”
“You’re starting to scare me,” she said nervously.
“I think I’m starting to realize just how good I’ve got it,” he said, swinging their held hands back and forth as they walked toward the Delilah center. “I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but I mope too much.”
“I haven’t,” she giggled. “You? A moper?”
“I’ve been thinking a lot about you lately,” he said, glancing at her. “And how you love me, even when you already know everything about me…and yet, I know so little about you. It’s like I’m constantly lost in my thoughts when I’m not thinking about what you want.”
“I’m pretty happy,” she said, casting her gaze to the ground. “I want you to be happy though. I know you’re not most of the time. You’re not sure what to think, but I have noticed a change since we’ve been in Delilah, funny enough.”
“I know,” he laughed. “The one place that I should hate. Who’d have thought?”
“I think it’s because the people aren’t what we thought they were. It’s like you can’t truly what a person’s motivations are until you live with him.”
“I know,” he said, waving to a Delilah woman passing by. She actually smiled his way and he beamed in response. “I’m glad that they don’t hate me for altering their way of life.”
“It’s because they know it’s all about to go in their favor,” Lily said.
“What do you mean?”
“The Delilah are nice people, but they’re most friendly when situations seem to fall in their direction. They know that they can swoop in and pick up the spoils once Cimmerian and Paragon wipe each other out.”
“And you’re okay with that?”
“I guess so,” she said. “I mean, after the war is over, won’t we all be Delilah? And would that be so bad? I don’t care for the way they exert themselves over others, but think about it, we would all be treated equally, and we would start focusing on innovation and improving our ways of life instead of over land and power. If that’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that the Delilah don’t want to be in control because of how it feels. They just want to see the world become a better place.”
“And if the world looks like this,” Bastion said, stretching his hands out toward the Delilah buildings, “that’s not a bad thing.” They were indeed magnificent to behold. Vibrant colors splashed along the walls in meticulous detail. Tapestries and banners that were placed along doorways and windows for decoration and not function or advertisement. The people were always dressed handsomely in their best attire, and though every man and woman could be deemed a warrior in their own right, they still wore suits and dresses that looked like something out of a Victorian novel. Their appearance and display of culture was old-fashioned but their ideas were advanced.
They constantly thought ahead, from how to take a cup of coffee even further, to designing the next level of offensive warfare. From weapons to building foundations, clothing to entertainment, mannerisms to ideologies—no tradition was without scrutiny, no thought without proper analysis. It was as if they had taken the best of all the worlds and melted it down into one single town for all to admire and aspire to from afar.
Bastion supposed that was one reason he was able to fit in so well. He was deemed one of the strongest beings on Terra, after all. But as the years passed, and the worlds slowly merged, he realized that his status as the strongest was falling rapidly, and it’s not like he was training to maintain the status. He wanted the peaceful life, and now he had it.
But if someone should threaten it, would he have the strength to defend it? Now that he had something so dear?
“We have to train,” he said suddenly. The notion caught Lily off guard.
“Where did that come from?”
“I want to preserve this place, and what the Delilah are working towards. That can’t happen if we’re rusty. Now that Chloe and Kyran are gone, it’s up to us.”
“The Delilah have plenty of defensives.”
“But most of the people didn’t see the horrors that we have. They are aware of the kinds of acts they may have to commit in war, but they never had to do them. That’s where we come in. We can make the hard calls because we know what the bad guys out there are capable of.”
“When do you want to start?”
“Now, if you’re okay with that.”
“I don’t know how much good it will do honestly. There’s no real way to prepare for war…those who live and die…it all kind of comes down to chance.”
“How can you say that?” he scowled. “We made it this far, haven’t we?”
“I guess. We did die. I’m not saying we shouldn’t train. It’s just that people like to think that they’re chosen by some higher power just because they lived and the person next to them died, or they’re being showered by good fortune while the other suffers, but I don’t think it’s like that at all. We’re all on a timer, waiting for our moment to come.”
“You can believe that if you like,” Bastion said. “But I want to try. I’ve never really focused on making myself stronger. I’ve relied too much on my innate abilities. Imagine if I apply myself?”
“I imagine you would be very strong,” she smiled at him.
“Then that’s what I want to do,” he said, just as a booming sound rocked them off their feet. Bastion grabbed Lily’s hand once they hit the bricked streets and she nodded at him. Her face was covered in soot and dirt, but she was okay. Her lacy white dress was now a reddish brown.
“What was that?” Bastion shouted, jumping to his feet. He looked to the source of the explosion and saw that the tallest building in Delilah was beginning to crumble at the top. A second later, another boulder the size of a small dining cart slammed into the crumbling roof, sending even more debris down upon the people below. Some were frozen in fear. Others quickly helped those who were paralyzed to safety, ushering them along before the bulk of the destruction fell upon their heads.
Lily instinctively moved toward the crowd and began helping out but Bastion was busy looking for the cause of their anxiety. The catapults never revealed themselves but they kept on sending boulders through the air into the city structures, while a few men appeared from the clouds of dust with barely any armor covering their body. Wearing nothing more than tank tops, armored pants and huge, gemmed gauntlets, they searched the streets with cocky attitudes, waving to the screaming townspeople and extending pleasantries their way.
Bastion sucked his teeth and jogged toward them. The biggest of them, easily a foot taller than the other two, locked his eyes onto the young Sage and beamed brightly. The other two halted in their tracks and waited for their greeter to arrive.
“Hey, there,” one of them said, giving Bastion a wave. “How’re you doing?”
“You’re wearing Cimmerian armor,” Bastion said, not dropping his guard.
“Barely,” he said, glancing down at his attire. “But yeah, that’s who I side with.”
“And you’re responsible for the attack?”
“My friends are,” he said, giving Bastion a wink. “So technically, no, I’m not responsible.”
“Funny,” Bastion replied, surveying the city and seeing the carnage beginning to ensue. The moment he saw one of the citizens being hacked into two with a seven foot tall man with a large axe, he didn’t waste any more time with words. He sped forward and snatched the axe from out of the man’s hands and then returned the favor, splitting the giant into two halves.
The men that addressed him earlier were already upon him.
Bastion’s black robe descended upon him like a blanket and he willed his Gladius shaped eidolon to appear in his right hand. With a determined look of steel in his mind, he waited for the first attacker to punch him with one of his gemmed gauntlets. Bastion ducked at the last second and jammed the tip of his blade into and through the man’s chin and head. He took his sword away and let the man fall as Bastion turned his attention to the other two.
He swiped his sword at the neck of the second man with blinding speed, but to his shock, the man caught his blade with his bare hand and then jumped up into the air to deliver a roundhouse kick to the young Sage’s chin. Bastion felt his eyes roll in the back of his head, but he fought to stay awake.
He grit his teeth and poured more energy into his legs, determined to appear unfazed by what had just happened. But they were upon so fast. He felt his arms being grabbed and held behind his back. He strained against his captor’s grip, but it was useless. The second man began punching him in the stomach and Bastion tried to kick at his chin, but he missed. He received another hit to the face.
He was in awe over how strong they were, and how easily he was being subdued. Weren’t they ordinary Cimmerian forces? What was happening?
His swollen right eye opened and he saw Lily behind the man punching him, rushing him from the back, and he couldn’t bear to think about her getting involved. He screamed at her to stay back and defend the city. He would handle the two men…somehow.
Lily hesitated, but she obeyed and Bastion felt relieved that she was out of harm’s way. Not from his attackers, but from himself. Bastion felt his chest swell as his heart began beating faster. He allowed himself to lose control.
* * *
“Is it the right thing to do?” James asked as he and Catherine walked along the open fields. The sun was hidden by grey clouds and there was a light drizzle tickling their skin, but it was nothing that they hadn’t experienced before.
“What is?” she asked, closing her eyes and enjoying the air.
“Us going for the machine,” he said. “Say we manage to take control…what then? Do we use it?”
“I would like to think we would destroy it.”
“I’m sure we’re not the only ones thinking about that.”
“What are you saying?” Catherine asked, opening her eyes and raising an eyebrow. “You’re trying to lead up to something.”
“I was thinking about Atianna, and how easily she was able to provoke me into absorbing her. I feel okay now, but I can’t guarantee I wouldn’t do it again if you were threatened by someone that powerful. Our enemies are on a level that we can’t compete with, and you’re thinking about us going right smack in the middle of their war. The Ancient Knights, Paragon, Cimmerian, Terra, the Delilah, and the Sorcerers. There are too many factions vying for the same thing. Even if one group is unaware of the machine, once they find out, all bets are off. They will slaughter each other to gain that kind of power because they can justify it. They know that once they use the machine, they’ll be able to bring back those that they killed and alter history to their liking.”
“And if we do nothing?” Catherine asked in concern. “What happens to us?”
“If the time machine gets used, then we won’t even remember making the decision to stay back.”
“But what would we do in the mean time?”
“Enjoy life,” he said, throwing up his hands. “To continue on this path, we’ll have to become something that we’re not, and I would much rather spend time with you. Paragon hasn’t been affected by the atmosphere that much in some areas. We could live in the countryside.”
“I don’t know,” she sighed. “We would be at the mercy of whoever gains control.”
“But are you willing to kill to get it in the right hands? And I don’t mean defensively either. Are you ready to kill someone outright because they’re closer to it than we are? Can we live with ourselves?”
“Kyran does it.”
“He did it out of necessity,” James retorted. “And not because he wanted to. Now, he’s stuck. He continues to kill for others because he’s used to the burden. But are we? Can we become that person?”
“I would like to think I’d be okay, but I’m not sure.”
“Then why don’t we give the simple life a try? Just for a couple of days?”
Catherine sighed and looked at him. It was his smile that convinced her. It was warm, hopeful, and most of all—familiar. She smiled back and then reached over to give him a peck on the lips. His smile got wider and so did hers.
“Sure,” she said. “Let’s give it a try.”
“You’ll see,” James said. “We’ll be happy. You’ll be so happy that you won’t think about the world around you at all.”
“Until the world comes calling to us,” she said under her breath.
He didn’t hear a thing.