“Get up, Get up you worthless servant!”
Kevin coughed. His chest felt like it had been repeatedly beaten with a bat over a dozen times, then run over by a semi-truck for good measure. His blinked several times, but the haziness wouldn’t fade away. Was he knocked unconscious, and for how long? He tried to get his bearings, but the blurry vision and insistent ringing in his ears, he couldn’t tell up from down.
He was able to deduce that he was lying face first against something rough. Concrete, perhaps? He tried to push himself up, but he had no strength in his arms and immediately collapsed, slamming his face against the ground.
“Oh, praise the Father! Don’t make me fret like that again you stupid boy! This is exactly what I warned thee about. One would think that being an entity with a limited lifespan which could be cut short at a moment’s notice, one would value said gift of life and treat it with more reverence!”
Kevin narrowed his eyes. Though the ringing disrupted all other sounds around him, he could still make out Nav’s voice with clear diction. How wonderful.
“Good to know you’re still alive too.” He grumbled. He pushed himself up again, this time twisting himself around, so he pivoted off his elbow. He pushed himself up to a sitting position, taking in deep breaths that strained his chest.
“What happened?” He said, as a spasm of pain forced him to clutch his chest.
“What happened? What happened was an ignorant, self-righteous fool deigned to rush headfirst, without any plan, into a collapsing building in an effort to save two individuals he didn’t even know—
That’s right! He remembered now. The Hero and the Sorcerer’s battle, the noodle shop attack. Him dragging the wounded manager with the aid of that other employee with the beanie cap. Then that Hero came down and attacked, firing an energy blast through one of the sorcerers, which pushed through into the car and… and…
He spun around, searching for the two. His vision was clearing up now, but the ringing still sounded in his ears. He found the car right away. Flames bellowed from its top and all the windows and doors had been blown out, almost nothing remained of it except the skeleton of its base.
Then he saw them. Both the manager and the beanie girl laid sprawled on the ground, neither were moving.
Tell me they’re okay. Please God tell me there okay.
He first attempted to get to his feet, but his legs gave out as his arms had down earlier, so instead he resigned himself to crawling over to the Beanie Girl. She laid motionless, and at first, he feared the worst. But he could see a soft breath escaping her mouth. She was alive, barely.
He then scrambled over to the manager. He tried to put a hand on her shoulder to check on her, but this caused her to roll on her back, exposing a chest filled with blades of broken glass impaled into her chest, blood staining her polo. Her head rolled to the side, eyes staring vacantly up at him.
No… No! Kevin gripped one of the blades with both hands. He tried to pull it out, but with all the strength he could muster all he managed to do was caused the jagged edges to slice open his hand.
“That won’t do any good.” Nav’s thoughts resounded in his ears. “She’s already passed.”
Kevin cursed, and collapsed with his head resting on her arms, tears flooding his face. He failed again! He was so stupid! Why hadn’t he chosen to walk on the side of the street instead! He should have done that, that way he could have protected the from the blast. And then… and then…
Through his panic, a thought occurred. In those quick moments, he swore something had slammed against his chest, impaling him too. And yet, as he tapped on his chest, and he suffered no injuries. His polo, however, had several gashes in with the shredded tears stained in blood, but the skin beneath remained unblemished.
“What the?” He turned back to where he had crawled from. Several blades of glass and metal laid in a head on the ground in front of him where he had landed moments before.
“I shall receive thy praise when thou are ready.”
He paused at her words.
“Nav… did you do this?” He asked, patting his chest.
“Who else? Don’t tell me you believed you survived that attack by your own merit.” He could feel the laugh in her tone. “It’s no small feat, restoring a body on the verge of death. Only an all-powerful goddess could do that. The act of restoring the dead alone is enough to cause anyone to devout their life in my service, though I suppose you did already do that by agreeing to come here. Unadulterated worship of me will suffice I suppose.”
Even as she spoke, Kevin could see her work in action. His vision was returning far faster than it out to, and the ringing in his ear was beginning to lesson. He could even feel his strength return to his body, and he watched as the gash in his hand formed by the blade began to knit itself back whole without even needing a scab.
In a matter of moments, he was whole. Better even, based on how alert he felt, instead of his usual state of tired lethargy.
His eyes narrowed.
“And what, exactly, was the cost of healing me like this?” He asked.
“Cost?” Nav asked, confused.
“You know, what did I lose. What penalties do I suffer for using this power? Has my life span shortened? Will I face the pain of those injuries later tenfold when I go to sleep tonight? Or maybe you can only do it once and I have to wait a day before you can use it again?”
“Goodness no, none of that. What kind of divinity do you take me for? My healing was absolute and perfect. Though admittedly it did take more time considering the scope of the damage. Nay, so long as you have my protection, nothing as mundane as an exploding car would ever fell you.”
Kevin tightened his fist. So, he was never in any real danger. And she didn’t bother to tell him that! And yet, she acted like him running into that building had put him in mortal peril, screaming hysterically as he did it. But the truth was he was never in danger at all!
Then again, she did sound frightened when he first awakened, as if worrying the healing wasn’t taking. So, maybe her healing wasn’t as perfect as she made it out to be. Though he doubted he’d be able to get her to confess to anything of the sort.
Regardless, there was one thing he wasn’t going to let the useless goddess slide on.
“If you’re able heal so well,” he said, looking down on the manager. “Then why didn’t you save her from the explosion as well! Better yet, when didn’t you heal her leg back at the shop. The three of us could have run away together instead of us having to drag her out!”
Nav went silent for a moment.
“What do you mean you can’t? You were just boasting how amazing you were. Surely saving more than just one person isn’t beyond your power!”
They are so long as I lack the authorities of the pillars! I am only able to muster what limited powers I still possess for those connected to the Crystal. All else is beyond my reach.”
Kevin growled. Without hesitating, he slammed the hand embedded with Nav’s Crystal against the Manager’s chest, smothering it into her bloody polo.
“Do it then.” He said, “Merge with her. Detach yourself or whatever and heal her. Do it if you’re all so powerful!”
He could feel Nav give out a resigned, almost pitying pulse into his mind.
Even if I were to do that, which in itself would be foolish as our connection is all that anchors thee to my world, the soul has long since left this body—returning to the cycle of the pillars. Even if I were to rebuild the body, she wouldn’t awaken. Even one possessing authority over all Four Pillars cannot violate this fundamental cycle. Doing so would bring about the unraveling of the entire world itself!
Kevin gritted his teeth. Of course, there wouldn’t be such an easy solution.
An image flashed in his mind. A young woman, staring pitifully down at him, eyelids heavily bagged from stress and exhaustion, forcing a smile down at him before saying goodbye, and stepping out into a cold, rainy night.
He failed. Yet again.
“Damn it!” He screamed.
A loud clang overhead drew Kevin’s attention upward. The Hero and the remaining Sorcerer were still locked in combat. Without his partner, the Sorcerer was forced to go on the defensive, telekinetically hurling any object he could find—traffic lights, street signs, burning car parts—up to intercept the volley of energy blasts the hero threw his way. A broad smile threatened to rip apart the edges of her face as she attacked with malicious glee at her lingering foe.
Kevin clutched his fist tightly, his fingertips digging into Nav’s Crystal.
“You won’t get away with this!” He shouted, stupidly, to the sky. “I’ll make you pay for this! You hear me, I will make you pay!”
“What is the matter with thee? Nav practically screamed in his ear. “Not minutes past from being brought from the brink of death and already thou are beckoning it back again?”
Kevin ignored her. Instead continue to glare up at the Hero, mustering all his hatred at her. But that was all he could do. Glare. And even as he shouted, the Hero continued her relentless assault on the Sorcerer.
His threat hadn’t reached her. His voice carried nothing.
Just like back home, he was powerless.
An ant shouting up at an elephant.
The Sorcerer slammed his back against the shattered jumbotron—finally cornered by the Hero. She didn’t deliver the final blow, however, but instead hung in the air, tossing up a ball of energy like a pitcher readying to make a fast ball.
“You know, I expected more from you gem-heads,” She said with a chuckle, “The border guards must have been really slacking off to let someone as weak of you get this far into the city.”
“Laugh while you can, human.” The Sorcerer spat with disdain. “But death has come to this city. With each infiltration, we learn more. Our sacrifices serve as steppingstones for the Azure Emperor to bring down your walls, so we can finally wipe your filth off the face of Diamound. Glory be to the Azure Emperor. Glory be to the death of humanity!”
The Hero no longer smiled. She hefted the ball of energy in her hand. “There’s no saving your ilk. May your soul be lost in the cycle.” And with that, she readied the pitch.
And then a spear sprouted out of the Sorcerer’s chest.
Kevin jumped. The Superhero did, the ball of energy rolled from her hands and fell to the earth, causing another explosion below her.
The Sorcerer went rigid as his hooded head fell, the face hidden beneath it staring down at the spear.
“My emperor… why?”
Then another spear shot out of nowhere and rammed through the front of his chest. Then another came at his side, ramming through his arm pit and appearing near his pelvis. Then another, and another, and another and another, until his body became a pincushion of highly ornate and decorative spears.
Then, as if in coordination, each spear withdrew itself from the Sorcerer’s body—if you could even call it that. All that remained off the Sorcerers body plummeted to the ground in several pieces, and all the spears began to fade from existences as if they were nothing more than 3D projections.
“What just happened?” Kevin asked.
“This isn’t good. It’s too soon.”
The Hero looked equally mortified. She spun in the air, searching around for the source of the attack. Then her gaze turned to the sky, and her arms dropped lifelessly at her sides.
Kevin looked up as well and understood immediately.
High above the top of the tallest building was a boy. He looked… like a normal kid. Full head of wavy brown hair, round horned-rimmed glasses with shaded lenses, and wearing a long black trench coat with a blue-knitted scarf that flapped in the wind like a flag on a pole. Underneath the coat, he wore a plain cyan T-shirt and jeans and a pair of sneakers, which Kevin the impression of a fifteen-year-old trying to dress edgy to look cool, but only going halfway.
But it wasn’t the boy himself that caused Kevin and the hero’s jaws to drop.
Rather, it was the tops of the three skyscrapers which revolved around him like tiny moons.
That, Nav said, Is one of the Four Heroes. The Hero of Dimensions, known as the Azure Emperor.
The Azure Emperor smiled down on the Hero. He wasn’t flying like the Hero, applying wind pressure beneath him to keep himself aloft, nor was he using telekinesis to cause himself to hang there. He simply stood on the air as comfortably as a dad in his backyard, the sky itself rewriting its own natural laws in order to accommodate his desire to stand upon it.
Without speaking a word, he withdrew a gloved hand from the pocket of his trench coat and flicked two fingers in a downward motion. One of the skyscraper tops broke from its orbit and began to descend like a meteor down towards her.
She swore, and shot away, soaring through the air to try to get as far away as possible.
But she froze before she was able to make a block. She too went rigid, as if a massive hand had wrapped around her entire body. It then dragged her back with little sign of resistance and hold her in the spot she had been moments before, when she was gloating to the Sorcerer in front of the jumbotron.
No force held him in place, but Kevin felt equally rooted to his spot.
“I don’t suppose your Healing Factor is able to save me from instantaneous incineration?”
“I am not eager to put to the test.”
The Hero regained enough mobility to begin hurling energy blasts up at the falling skyscraper. But those blasts only managed to make a few dents and blow up a few unfortunate gargoyles who had managed to cling on until now. But beyond that, no considerable damage to the building’s structure. The Azure Emperor made no motion to accelerate their demise but continued to are with a wicked smile as gravity did his work for him.
That smile brought Kevin back to his senses. If he was going to die anyways, he wasn’t going to give that bastard the satisfaction of looking weak and terrified.
He ran forward and knelt by the Beanie Girls side, carefully cradling her between his arms. Somehow, not a single blade of glass or metal had made its way into her. One stroke of fortune in this day of disasters he supposed.
“Seriously?” Nav said, “Even now?”
“I’m not leaving her to die too.” Kevin said.
“Leave her and run! Lest thou think thee can outrun the impact while burdened with the weight of an unconscious adolescent?”
Kevin doubted he could outrun it even if he wasn’t carrying her. Regardless, he wasn’t going to abandon her. If he was going to die anyways, he was going to do it while trying to do save someone. Who knows, maybe Nav could heal him back up after that explosion and maybe he could use his body as a shield to keep the Beanie Girl safe.
The physics probably didn’t line up with that, but damn it he wasn’t about to give up just yet.
A golden flash shot overhead. His first thought was a missile, but maybe an arrow would be more accurate? Whatever it was, it drove itself deep into the falling building, and at first it appeared to have even less effect than the Hero’s energy blasts.
Then it erupted into a massive fire ball which consumed the building in its entirety. The flames spiraled and churned in the air and didn’t expand any further than the parameter of the structure. Then after ten seconds, the flames burned away and nothing of the skyscraper remained, not even metal shavings to drizzle down.
The Azure Emperor withdrew both hands from his pockets. He was no longer smiling.
Then one of the two buildings orbiting him became enveloped in flames as the first one had, and Kevin watched as the golden arrow shot from it into the third building, causing it to explode as well. The flames looked to threaten to collide with the Azure Emperor as well, but he remained rooted in his spot in the air. The flames appearing repelled by an invisible wall around his person.
“Okay, I’m really getting sick of asking this.” Kevin said, still clutching the Beanie Girl in his arms. “But, what?”
His answer came in the form of a blinding light.
At first, he thought the sun had fallen from the sky—which after today wouldn’t have surprised him. Instead, he was staring up into the form of a lone women who radiated light. She flew as the Hero had down, but with far more grace. The light around her obscured her face, but he could still make out the long flowing red hair that flowed behind her.
Her attire was eccentric like the heroes had been. What Kevin could make out, she wore a single gold breastplate along with a knee length crimson skirt—which reminded Kevin of a Roman soldier. She had bracers running up both forearms and her boots shielded with gold plating up her shins. A crimson cape fluttered behind her, which when mixed with her hair, gave an odd impression of flapping wings behind her back.
The gold arrow which had destroyed the three skyscrapers flew back to her, and she caught it with a single hand. Now, seeing it up close, even with the Light, Kevin realized it hadn’t been an arrow at all, but a sword. A gleaming gold sword with a ruby embedded in the guard.
He recognized that sword. It had been wielded by the hero on the cover of that video game he saw at the store not even an hour ago.
That, Nav said, Is the ruler of this city and the Hero bestowed with authority over the Pillar of Power. The Scarlet Angel.
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 4