Smoke bellowed from a large, shattered window three stories above the Noodle Shop. All the lights of the building went out, and the cartoon sign of the Diam had been thrown free, crashing atop a nearby car.
Screams filled the air. The crowds turned and ran from the burning building—knocking each other over in a panicked frenzy. Many drivers abandoned their vehicles in the streets, choosing instead to take off on foot to escape the scene.
Kevin climbed on the hood of a car as the throngs of people rushed by. He tried to get a better view of the Noodle Shop’s Entryway, but the entire restaurant had gone dark.
“What’s happening!” Kevin called out, “Nav, what’s happening?”
How should I know?
“You are literally God!”
My spirit resides within the Crystal! I cannot simply flit about like a phantom at my leisure. And besides, all my omniscience and foresight are tied to the Pillars of Dimensions and Time respectively, neither of which do I hold the authorities over any longer.
“Great, you’re useless.”
I told thee not to call me—where do thee think thine are going?
Kevin leapt off the hood and tried to push his way through the crowd, though all he accomplished with that was being nearly trampled. He slipped his way aside and pressed himself against the window of the gaming shop, letting the crowds die down before he tried again.
“Someone may be trapped in there,” Kevin said, “Gotta make sure everyone is safe.”
Have thou lost thine mind? Thine life is too important to risk in the pursuit of saving the common folk.
“Common—” Kevin began. “They’re your people!”
Spare me the diatribe of a boy who has barely aged past two decades of mortal time. Tragedies such as these are common in the era of the Four Heroes. Several billion souls—many far younger and older than thy self—have been lost in their maddening games. To risk thine life in the pursuit of saving one of these and tempt the Heroes to discover thine presence before the appointed time, then all thy shalt accomplish is the condemnation of every other single life form on this planet!
Kevin didn’t want to give her the point, but she was right. Besides, why should he care. The manager humiliated him, dragged him out the front door like a petty thief, and everyone else stood by and watched as he endured some good old-fashioned racism.
Frankly, the whole lot of them deserved to be crushed by the debris.
He was called to do a far more important task. Why should he risk his life to save such rotten people?
Because it’s the right thing to do.
And then, almost as if responding in a debate at the dinner table, his sister’s words flooded into his mind.
If you have the power to help someone, and don’t, then you are just as bad as the people who put them there in the first place.
“Damn it!” Kevin yelled and took off running for the Noodle Shop.
The crowd had thinned with only a few stragglers left behind. One gave Kevin a passing look, almost as if saying, “are you stupid, you’re going the wrong way!” Kevin weaved his way through the abandoned cars, sparing a quick glance to make sure nobody was trapped in one of them.
Oh brilliant! Nav’s thoughts rebounded in his mind. Really brilliant. Tell me, does foolhardiness run in the blood of every human from thine world? Do any of thee have any semblance of reason floating around in that fleshy organ thy call a brain?
“Give me grief about it later.” Kevin yelled as he ran.
Honestly, thou are the most—
But what he was, Kevin didn’t process. Another loud bang alerted his gaze upward, and he watched as a body of a young girl was thrown from shattered window, hurtling headfirst toward the LED jumbotron across the street.
“Oh crap!” Kevin yelled.
He ignored Nav and rushed to get underneath her. Though, despite rushing forward, he realized her trajectory pointed her directly at the screen. Even if he somehow managed to get underneath her, she’d hit the other side first, likely crack her neck on the impact, and die before she even reached his arms.
Damn it, He thought, Kevin, think, think!
But then, she flipped. Her head drooped back. Her legs kicked up upward in a somersault. She was back upright, feet pointed toward the ground, inches before colliding with the jumbotron. She hung in the air, arms outstretched to each side, her body mere inches from the massive screen. Where her hands hung over it, a web of cracks began to run across it, reaching to each of its four edges.
She was alive.
And she was flying.
Now that Kevin got a better look at her, he realized she wore the same garish outfit as the superheroes that had flown overhead earlier before. She was petite, bout the size of a middle-schooler, with two long, pink pigtails bobbing in the wind. Her costume was a strange mix of western superhero and Japanese magical girl, with a red cape, mask, shin high boots, and a short skirt; complemented by black leggings, a white sailor shirt, and a bright pink ribbon tied in a bow at her collar.
The air rippled around her hands and feet, like the intense heat wave of a fighter jet. Kevin guessed she was applying a kind of pressure from these points, which allowed her to remain airborne. He could only imagine the amount of control she’d have to have in exerting that power to keep herself stable and upright.
A loud crackle like snapping metal turned his attention away from the superhero and towards the shattered window. Two robed figures emerged from the smoke, hanging from the air like dangled marionettes. Several layers of heavy cloth wrapped around their forms, perfectly concealing their hands, feet, and faces.
Though they too levitated, they weren’t exactly flying, least not like the superhero. They appeared to be floating along in their own weightless void, much like you’d imagine those out in space would. Where the superhero looked intent on her concentration on the various points of air pressure, the two appeared to have no qualms with their efforts in bending the laws of gravity around them.
Kevin took cover behind a nearby car, hoping neither the superhero nor the robed men noticed him.
“Are these guys the Heroes?” Kevin asked.
Nay, they are but their underlings. The child there serves under the Hero of Power as part of a league of heroes subservient to her. The sorcerers have sworn themselves to the Hero of Dimensions, acting in his stead.
“Superheroes and Sorcerers…” Kevin said. It sounded like the bad mash up you might see at a dramatic reenactment at comic con. Except the nerds actually had superpowers and magic… and knew how to shower.
One of the Sorcerers raised his arm. The crackling intensified until several spiraling objects shot out of the smoke, spinning like boomerangs in the direction of the Superhero. It took Kevin a moment to realize that they were steel support beams.
The Superhero smiled. She released the air pressure around her hands and took off from the building. Each of her hands began to emit the same golden light as Nav’s, except with an intense heat that radiated around it. The Light condensed, forming a sphere the size of a baseball, which the superhero grabbed hold of with one hand each.
She pitched one of the energy balls at the first beam, causing it to explode on impact. She avoided the second and third, allow them to collide with each other and drop to the ground—crushing a car a few feet away from Kevin—and threw the second ball at the sorcerer which raised his arm.
The second materialized in front of him, teleporting before their eyes. He backhanded the air in front of the ball and, though he didn’t make contact with it, redirected it around both himself and the first sorcerer, and sending it colliding into the Jumbotron, causing it to erupt in sparks.
The Superhero didn’t appear deterred by this. She formed two more balls in her hands and rushed forward. The first sorcerer raised his arm, and the bits of shattered glass from the Jumbotron stopped midair, pointed their sharp edges toward the Superhero, and shot themselves out toward her like a barrage of arrows.
With the elegance of the bird, the Superhero dove and fluttered between the gaps of the shards, she didn’t throw either ball, but instead pushed them together to create a energy ball the size of a basketball. She got up close and, with a motion as if passing the ball to another team member, fired the energy ball point blank.
The Sorcerers dematerialized on the spot. The blast of energy shot forward and collided with the Noodle Shop’s fifth floor. When the dust settled, Kevin watched as a massive chasm was made against the side, incinerating several upper floors.
“I thought you said the Hero of Power runs this city!” Kevin asked.
She does, Nav replied.
“Then why is her minion destroying it!”
Curious how servants mirror the actions of the ones they worship. If their leader is reckless, so too shall they. Thou would do well to follow that example, mirroring your actions to my own and heeding my guidance and commands.
“If I did that, then I wouldn’t be able to save your precious world, useless goddess.”
I told thee not to call me that!
Kevin ignored the angry impressions she sent his way and focused on the building. He wasn’t sure if it was from the heat waves or simply his imagination, but the skyscraper looked as if it was swaying. He wasn’t sure how much longer the building would last.
Sure enough, the two sorcerers rematerialized several blocks away—neither one appearing to be damaged by the Superhero’s attack. The telekinetic one raised an arm, his cover began to lurch, and Kevin leapt back just before it was hoisted into the air, along with a dozen other abandoned vehicles—including one shaped like a UPS truck. Each was then catapulted upward, thrown one at a time at the superhero.
She formed and blasted each car and avoided them in kind. She continued to press attack on the sorcerers, knowing well any long-range attack from them would be deflected so instead continued to try to get in close. The battle continued down main street, the Sorcerers continuing to keep the Superhero at a distance as they pressed their advantage.
That meant, for Kevin, they were moving away from the Noodle Shop. Now was his chance to get anyone left behind out of there.
“You’re going to need to break down how they’re doing all that later.” Kevin said, as he weaved through the cars and sprinted for the Noodle Shop.
The child is endowed with two authorities of the Pillar of Power. The first allows form pure energy into heat and matter, which she then utilizes as projectile blasts. The second allows her to instead convert that energy into pressurized air and—
“I said later for a reason, Nav.”
Fine, fine! But do not wail to me further down the line for failing to articulate the matter to thy liking!
Never in a million years could he believe anyone, especially a god, could prove to be more irritable than his mother.
The glass windows had shattered outward by the time he arrived. Heavy clouds of dust filled the dining room with the overhead lights swaying and sparking. A foul stench of blood filled the air, which Kevin assumed came from the several bodies—both Diam and human—crushed beneath the falling rubble. None of them moved.
Kevin felt bile rush to his mouth. He proceeded to vomit to the side.
Oh come now, Nav said, Truly, this is unbecoming of a Hero.
“Easy for you to say.” Kevin said, “You don’t have to smell it.”
As a matter of fact I do, seeing as I am attached to thy nervous system.
“That’s not…” He shook his head. Never mind. Not the time to contradict her. He stepped into the window, trying his best not to inhale the smell, then called out.
“Is anyone alive in there!” He called out, “Can anyone hear me!”
“Nav,” Kevin asked, “Is there any way you can… I don’t know, sense life forms or something?”
What rubbish, does thou expect me to… wait, yay, that is an authority I still possess in my current state. Alas to say, all life has been bereft of this place—either by flight or death. Not a soul remains, I’m sad to say.
Well, that was clearly a lie. He turned back toward the building.
“Is anyone alive in there! Can anyone hear me!”
I told thee, there’s not a soul left to be had. Come, let us flee before—
“We’re here!” A voice called out from the back. “Someone’s pinned down. Please help!”
Kevin ignored the aggressive inflaming of his fear from Nav and rushed in. He pulled his shirt over his face to avoid breathing in the dust and pushed into the kitchen, where he swore the voice came from.
When he got inside, he found the cashier with the Beanie from before, knelt down beside a massive mound of concrete and shattered desks piled atop a large, tipped over refrigerator. Underneath the mess was the manager, he red hair thick with black dust, her expression pained, but still conscious.
The Beanie Girl turned her gaze up at him, a look of recognition on her face.
“You’re that boy… from before.”
“Don’t worry,” He said, trying to sound confident given the situation. “I’m here to help.”
He leapt over a small patch of rubble and knelt beside her. Fortunately for them, the refrigerator had landed atop another pile of rubble—meaning the full weight wasn’t pressing against the manager. If he could find something to help him lift it up, even by an inch, he should be able to get her free.
“You’re… that High Form,” The manager said, turning her head enough to see him. “What are you doing here.”
“Can the racism until after we get you out of here.” He said, “Now, I think we can get you out. But we need to know make sure it’s safe to move you. Do you feel numb anywhere, or feel intense pain? No where that we need to be worried if we free you that you might bleed out?”
The manager didn’t answer but continued to glare at him.
“Look,” Kevin said more sternly, “This building could come down any minute—faster if that idiot hero of yours keeps blasting the whole thing. Much as you might like the idea of getting crush as a fantastic own to the highies or whatever, I’m not too keen on the idea for any of us.”
The manager flinched, and grimaced before answering.
“My leg… think the edge of the refrigerator landed on it. It’s hurting—ouch—a ton. “
“Okay… okay we can work with that.” Kevin looked over to the Beanie Girl. “Listen, we need something we can use to clean up the wound, a wash cloth or a rag, anything not covered in dust. I’m going to see if I can find a table leg back in the dining room to use as a fulcrum. Can you do that.”
The Beanie Girl continued to stare at him like a deer in headlights.
“Do I need to reiterate that this building is coming down around us?”
“R-right…” She said, eying him, then the manager, before running to the back.
Kevin then returned to the dining room, searching beneath the rubble as the building continued to shake and dust continued to rain down on him. After pushing aside a few chunks of rubble and finding only bent bars, he managed to fine one good, sturdy metal rod that wasn’t too beat up from the fall.
He returned to the kitchen around the same time as the Beanie Girl. She somehow managed to find both a washcloth without dust or dirt in it, and a bucket full of clean water. Lucky them.
He then pressed the table leg near the base of the refrigerator and lodged it in tight.
“Okay,” He said to the Beanie Girl, “When I lift, you’re going to pull her out. Ms. Manager, please let us know if it becomes too painful. If it does, we’ll find another way to get you out.”
The two nodded, the Manager’s more pained but determined.
He pressed down on his lever. His muscles strained beneath the weight as the refrigerator appeared to not budge at all. He tried pulling on it, leaning on it, everything, but it wouldn’t move at all. He groaned beneath the weight. He thought he saw a bright flash in the corner of his eye. His gaze darted, worried that another explosion had happened to bring down the building. But nothing.
He returned to his pulling, and must have found the point of leverage or something, because as he pressed down the entire fridge began to lift up. Enough at least for the Beanie Girl to pull the manager free.
Once she was clear, Kevin let it land with a thud, knocking off dust and chips of concrete all around them.
The Manager’s leg was a mess. So much blood and… pus? Kevin fought the urge to vomit again. Fortunately for him, Beanie girl was quick to take the wash cloth and wipe away the blood. Once wound was cleaned to the best of their abilities, the Beanie Girl pulled her polo up, revealing her sweat stained undershirt which Kevin did his best not to stare at, and wrapped the polo around the manager’s leg.
There was no telling if she’d ever walk on it again, but at least she was alive.
“She needs proper medical aid.” Kevin said, “Is there anywhere we can take her?”
“The Shelters,” The Beanie Girl said, panting. “It’s where everyone is supposed to go when Hyalotha attacks. It’s five blocks south from here. They’ll have proper healers ready there.”
“Okay, you take one side of her, I got the other.”
Together, they heaved her up, Kevin taking her left, Beanie Girl her right, and together they carried her out of the Noodle Shop.
The battle had made its way back their way. To Kevin’s astonishment, the Sorcerers were still on the defensive. They no longer looked relaxed in the air, rather tired and heavy laden. The Superhero though looked alight with energy, avoiding everything they threw at her—car, road sign, bus—and continued to swerve and dash around them like an annoying fly. She pounded them with energy balls, and though the Sorcerers managed to deflect them each time, a few Kevin noticed manage to graze the folds of their robes.
Kevin and Beanie Girl continued to hurry. Each step invited a scream of pain from the manager, but they couldn’t afford to give her a moment of reprieve. She often times would slump, forcing the two to lift her back to her feet again in order to keep going.
“How much farther is it?” He asked.
“Not far,” The Beanie Girl answered, “Two blocks ahead, then turn the corner and—”
A loud clang, followed by a car’s alarm wail, broke her off. One of the sorcerers had crashed down on the car to their right, his body causing a large dent through the roof. He groaned as he pushed off, glass slicing the folds of his robe, as he stumbled off and got to his feet.
Not a moment after he did though, did the Superhero land in front of him, both hands alight with energy.
“Let’s see you push this aside, you gem-headed monster!”
Kevin’s mind worked overtime to process the scene. The Superhero brought both balls together to make that overkill blast at point blank at the Sorcerer. The Sorcerer was in front of the car, which was in front of the Beanie Girl, who stood in front of the manager and Kevin.
The Sorcerer made a wild lunge forward, trying to reach the energy ball.
The Superhero dove underneath it, his hand stretched uselessly over her shoulder. She stepped inward, and slammed the energy blast directly into his stomach.
Kevin tried to pull the two away, desperate to put himself between them and the car.
But it was too late. The blast ran through the sorcerer, rending him in half, and continuing on to plunge itself into the car—causing it to explode.
The Impact slammed against Kevin and broke his grip on the two. He felt his body thrown like a rag doll through the air, the world around him spinning at over a hundred miles per hour, until he came to an abrupt stop as his head slammed against steel.
He was out cold before his body hit the ground.
Thanks for reading this Chapter of “The Fifth Hero”
If you’re new to the series and want to start from the beginning, follow this link to read Chapter 1.
If you wish to go back and read the previous chapter, follow this link to Chapter 3