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Aria of the Aeons: Part Nine


by kittengriffin

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Arc II: Space and Spirits

Part XVII: Revenge

Sollumin woke to Fideus’s song, and she spread her wings with the first cascading notes, heading to the sky above Central.

     The dawn’s light cast no shadows. Sollumin looked towards the source of the song. Fideus stood alone, eyes closed as he sang. Sollumin spared the Lupe a glance before she focused on finding her opponent. The sky was clear, without even clouds to obstruct the Eyrie’s view, but beneath her, the forest of skyscrapers Vocivus had built stretched up, trapping her in their bright darkness. She hissed. Vocivus would take their battle to the city if he could, and, once there, the buildings would frustrate all her strategies, and she couldn’t do a thing about it, now.

     Fideus’s song stopped. Sollumin looked down at him again and saw Sidereus standing in front of the Lupe. A burst of silver light later, they were gone. Sollumin hissed, turning her eyes back to the sky. Still no sign of the Faerie Ruki. Sollumin rose in the air, looking down at the city. It seemed so quiet, with few people out on the streets, and few robots visible to her eyes. It seemed odd, even to her. Cities were usually more active than this.

     She caught a glimpse of pink-purple darting through the streets. With a shriek, Sollumin dove, wings folded flat against her back. The wind blew through her fur and feathers, and her eyes narrowed, blocking out as much of the dust in the air as possible. As she neared the ground, the pink-purple blur refined into a Faerie Ruki. Despite the wind, Sollumin smiled. This was going to be easier than she expected, unless...

     The Ruki looked up.

     Sollumin began cursing as Vocivus spread his wings for flight. The Ruki took flight just as Sollumin pulled out of her dive. Vocivus darted around a skyscraper, and Sollumin followed him, still at a higher altitude. Windows blurred as she passed them, the edges of the towering buildings nothing but obstacles to be avoided. And Vocivus was better at dodging through them, blast it. Sollumin increased her speed, flying as quickly as she could towards her rival.

     Vocivus’s form blurred, resolving into two identical Ruki. As they solidified, they split off in opposite directions down a street. Sollumin growled, following the one on the right without any hesitation. Two corners later, it dissolved. Roaring, Sollumin turned towards Vocivus’s true body. Gathering her power, she sped forwards, crashing through any buildings in her way. Distantly, she heard the cracks and groans of concrete and steel as the skyscrapers teetered, beginning to fall.

     The crashes began to sound as she reached Vocivus. The Ruki was hovering in midair, shock on his face. As Sollumin neared him, however, Vocivus’s expression changed to fury. His hands began to glow with pure light, and wispy spirits gathered near him, their forms barely visible. “Insulting me is one thing,” Vocivus said. “Destroying my city is something else entirely.” He opened his hands, palms facing straight at Sollumin. The light shot out of his hands, spirits whirling around the lines of light.

     Sollumin spread her wings and halted in midair. Darkness gathered around her, arcing from wing-tip to wing-tip in a shield. The light struck it, refracting into all the colors of the rainbow as it rebounded, scattering into the air. The spirits slipped around the shield, but Sollumin blasted them with dark rays from her own hands. “Destroying your city is the first step to destroying you,” Sollumin said, meeting Vocivus’s starry eyes. “And that’s what I intend to do.”

     Vocivus laughed, tracing patterns of light in the air. “That’s impossible.”

     “Are you sure?” Sollumin dove at her brother. Shadows trailed her, their sources her hands and eyes, drawing into a solid point in front of her.

     Vocivus spoke a word, and the patterns of light he had written flared, forming a barrier around him. Sollumin neared it, and, while her shadows dissipated, she kept going. She struck the shield with her hands, and it flickered momentarily. Sollumin screamed, her hands blistering from the heat of the white light. Vocivus’s face contorted in concentration. Whispers filled the air around them, melding together, all speaking the same thoughts.

     You do not belong here. You are less than nothing. You are pathetic, a weakling. You are a coward. Nobody cares about you. Nobody expects you to do what you say. Everyone thinks you—

     Sollumin lashed out, darkness sweeping over everything. Where it touched Vocivus, the darkness pulled out all the moisture in his body. The Ruki’s mouth opened, but no sound came out. A wave of pure hatred hit Sollumin, silencing the spirit-voices. Light followed the hatred, blasting the darkness away. It did nothing about the dehydration, however, and Sollumin laughed as she flew up, heading towards the skyscrapers she had broken. Their tops were nothing but rubble, and as they’d fallen, they’d destroyed more buildings. She surveyed the destruction, a smile on her face.

     Light struck her in the face, and her smile disappeared. Rage replaced it, and Sollumin waved a hand at the steel buildings. Whole girders ripped out of them, flying up towards Vocivus. An incredulous expression flickered over the Ruki’s face, and he paused in mid-flight, extending his own hands to the girders. Rust seeded the closest ends, and as the metal neared Vocivus, it turned to dust. The guardian’s face was unreadable as he flew closer, pink-purple wings shaped like dragonfly wings. “I didn’t think you remembered that trick.”

     Sollumin laughed, pulling more girders out of the fallen buildings. “And I didn’t think you remembered yours.”

     Vocivus shook his head, rusting the metal without a thought. He kept advancing, starry eyes fixed on Sollumin. He didn’t try any tricks of magic but those that protected him from Sollumin’s assault. With each wingbeat he took, Sollumin’s flight grew more erratic and her shots grew wilder. When Vocivus reached his sister, he reached out with a hand and tapped Sollumin’s forehead. A drop of clear liquid stayed on the white Eyrie’s forehead as Vocivus withdrew his head.

     Sollumin halted in midair, fear dominating her face. Then she grabbed Vocivus’s wrist. “Not the best way to transfer poison, brother,” she said softly. The clear droplet leapt from her head to the Ruki’s. “You forget what I control, simply because I cannot fight with it effectively.”

     Cursing, Vocivus’s body flared gold for a moment. The strong glow faded, but a golden tinge remained. “Stop trying to dehydrate me,” he said. “It won’t work.”

     “Who says that’s what I’m going for?” Sollumin smiled, her free hand tracing a line across the Ruki’s shoulder. A scrap of metal within her hand cut pink skin, and spots of blood soon began to appear.

     Crimson fought with gold for control, patterns playing out on Vocivus’s skin. The guardians, siblings in power, locked their eyes. Neither spoke, spending their entire focus on the powers they wielded. Neither of them noticed when they began to fall, nor that they were falling, until they were almost to the broken buildings beneath them. Then Sollumin cursed, letting go of Vocivus’s wrist and beating her wings against the sky. Vocivus took a second longer to recover, the crimson slit disappearing as he spread his own wings.

     “We’re not getting anywhere,” Vocivus pointed out, but his voice was weak. “Can’t you just admit we’re too evenly matched to get anywhere?”

     Sollumin smiled. Girders slowly rose up beneath her. “Tired?”

     “Not too tired to beat you.” Vocivus glanced down at the girders. “Do you ever get bored of that trick?”

     “If you’re tired, then don’t block them.” Sollumin pulled the girders up, sending them flying at Vocivus. “It’s not like I’d care.”

     Hissing, Vocivus slipped between the girders, not bothering to rust them.

     Sollumin waved, and the girders came flying back.

     Vocivus turned. He threw a hand up in front of his face, and rust disintegrated the metal right in front of him. It did nothing to stop the girders from hitting his wings. The Faerie Ruki fell, golden light playing over his wings. Sollumin hesitated for a moment before tossing the girders aside and diving at her brother. Vocivus stared up at her, starry eyes wide for a second before turning pure white. At the same time, silver light flared beneath the Ruki. It resolved into a winged black Kougra with white hair streaming from his head.

     Sollumin pulled up. The Kougra caught Vocivus gently, white eyes looking straight up at the Eyrie above. A slight smile, and Sidereus spread his wings, flying back up to Sollumin. Silver light threaded through with gold covered Vocivus’s body, and as the Kougra neared Sollumin, it spread to the Eyrie as well. “You didn’t need to force him to drain himself, Sol,” he said softly. “You could have beaten him without that. But this is who you are, I suppose.”

     The Kougra sighed. “Heal, Chaos. Remember when it was the time of peace. Yes, you have proven that when my time as lord is over, you shall take the reins. But do not belittle your opponent: he ruled wisely and well.”

     With that, Sidereus disappeared in another burst of silver light, Vocivus still in his arms.

Arc II: Space and Spirits

Part XVIII: Revolution

     “Wake up. It’s time.”

     Sayang woke with her laser pointed straight at the speaker’s heart. The Kougra raised his hands, grinning. “Relax, Sayang. I’m only here because I wanted to let you have something of an advantage against Central. It’s my time to rule the world, but I can’t do that unless you win.”

     “What happens if we don’t?” Sayang rose, strapping on her belt and pulling on her coat. She glanced at Sidereus. He seemed dumbstruck. “Come on. It’s not that hard of a question, is it?”

     “I don’t know,” he said slowly. He shrugged uncomfortably and glanced up. “I think that Fate would win, in that case.”

     “And if that happened?”

     Sidereus shook his head and turned away.

     Sayang placed a hand on his shoulder. “Do you know?”

     “He would kill you,” Sidereus said coldly. Any expression on his face was hidden by a waterfall of silver hair. “Fate... Fate isn’t like Fideus. Fideus may not be the most reasonable person around, but he has honor. Fate doesn’t care about anything except what he has foreseen.”

     “There’s something else, isn’t there?” Sayang could feel the tension in his muscles. “What aren’t you saying?”

     Sidereus remained silent.

     “Come on, Az,” Sayang said, frustrated. “Why not speak?”

     Laughter burst from his throat. “Why don’t people use my name?” he asked, glancing back at her. “Fideus calls me Val, you call me Az. You I’m not surprised about, at least. You really did like him.”

     Sayang nodded. “And your name’s a mouthful.”

     “I don’t care. Just rouse your army, Sayang.” Light began gathering around him, and he stepped away from Sayang. “Tell them that you must attack now, before the robots’ controllers are roused.”

     “What didn’t you say?”

     Sidereus smiled, light flaring around him for a moment before he disappeared.

     Sayang growled, stalking out of her tent. The sun wasn’t quite over the horizon yet. “Leo!” she shouted. The Pteri was always awake, it seemed. And always around.

     “What, boss?” Leo fluttered closer, yawning. “And why’re you up this early?”

     “Rouse the army.” She ignored the second question, crossing her arms. “We’re attacking as soon as they’re even vaguely organized. Going to get a jump on the flesh-and-blood part of Central’s army.”

     Leo stared at her for a moment, beak slightly open. “Are you crazy?”

     Sayang regarded him levelly.

     “Okay, okay.” Leo spread his wings, green feathered ruffled. “You need to help, though.”

     Not a bad trade, in Sayang’s opinion. She began to run towards the nearest barrack-tents, letting Leo fly towards the opposite end of camp. With all luck, they’d finish their halves at about the same time. She reached the tents, stopped outside the squad commander’s, and told him to rouse his squad. She didn’t bother giving a reason, even though she was asked for one. She was too busy moving to the next set of tents. And the next. And the next. By the time she was done, she was utterly sick of telling people to get up.

     Leo met her in the middle of camp, near the transports that had brought them to the outskirts of Central. As he saw her expression, he smirked. “Had fun?”

     Sayang gave him her vilest glare.

     He laughed. “Keben’s coming with us, by the way.”

     “No.”

     “Too late.” Leo looked smug. “I figure that you should probably avoid the fighting yourself, and having Keben following you will give you the motivation you need.”

     Sayang shook her head, beginning to pace around the cleared area. “You could’ve just asked.”

     “You wouldn’t have done anything differently.”

     Sayang sighed. Leo was right. Of course he was. She glanced around. The first squads were coming in now, dressed for combat. They all looked out of sorts, and most of them looked like they were still asleep. She scowled, but didn’t say anything. She couldn’t change anything, and adrenaline would wake them up soon enough as it was. Instead, she turned around, ignoring Leo’s amused look as she passed him.

     Two Unis landed behind her. A few seconds later, she heard the soft thump of feet on the ground as a rider dismounted. Sayang ignored the sounds, studying the squads. They were ready. None of them looked afraid. The flying squads, the ones that would reach Central first, seemed to be the most alert. Sayang grinned. She liked them. The land squads seemed to be the most exhausted, though Sayang really didn’t think they had any reason to be.

     “Sayang.”

     She ignored Keben’s voice, turning and walking right past him without a word. As she passed Cole and Connor, the brown Unis nudged her. She ignored them too, continuing to examine the squads. The squads weren’t hiding their amusement. She scowled at them, but that only made them smile more. Shaking her head, Sayang turned to look at Keben.

     The white Zafara wasn’t dressed like he usually was. Instead of his flashy cape and brightly colored clothing, he wore silver-gray, with black gloves covering his hands. A nobleman’s sword hung at his side, and he carried himself like a true warrior, not the laughing dreamer she was used to.

     Sayang could only shake her head. “You do know how to use that blade, right?”

     Keben laughed. “I took lessons on and off throughout my life, but after I joined the Republic, I got serious about it. It’s just that most of the time I practiced, you weren’t around, and everyone figured you already knew, so they didn’t say anything. Now, would you like to order your troops off? I believe they’re all here.”

     Taking a deep breath and putting off wondering how she had never before learned of Keben’s skill with a blade, Sayang turned to the army. A thousand or more faces looked back at her. “I’m not a speaker,” Sayang said. “I don’t have any particular gift for words. But I know what we’re doing. We’re going to attack, we’re going to fight, and we’re going to win. You all know your places. You all know how to do this. Go, and may—” she hesitated a second “—may the Faeries guide you all.”

     A rumble, almost a cheer, sounded through the army, and the squads began moving out. Leo flew above them, shouting last-minute orders and reminders to the troops. Sayang glanced at Keben. He hadn’t moved. Cole and Connor stood beside him now, the brown Unis sober for once. A smile spread over Sayang’s face. “Let’s go,” she said, running forward to meet Connor. The lighter of the Unis turned as she ran, and she leapt onto his back easily.

     “Show-off,” Keben said, pulling himself onto Cole’s back. “Go. And try not to freak me too much, please.”

     Cole laughed and leapt into the air. Connor followed his brother a split second later. Sayang smiled, holding tight to Connor’s neck. The Uni rose higher, flying forward with the advance force of the army. Sayang saw them arrayed in front of her: all the colors of the rainbow soaring in the sky, their patterns as familiar to her as the stains on her coat. The motion below her, the steady rise and fall of Connor’s body opposite his wings, was soothing, and she glanced at the city they were assaulting.

     There were towers falling. Sayang frowned. Why were towers falling? They didn’t have any demolition squads in there. Their group in Central considered of spies and non-combatants who liked Central’s lifestyle. Then she caught sight of magic and caught her breath. “Connor. Who’s fighting in the sky over there?” The Uni had better long-distance eyesight than she did.

     “I don’t know.” The Uni shifted his course, trying to get a better look. “Not faeries. Looks like... white and purple. I can’t tell you anyone else.”

     Sayang caught her breath. Sollumin. And Vocivus, most likely. She didn’t know what that one looked like, but since Sidereus was black and silver, and Keben had said Fideus’s colors were similar, Vocivus was the only option left. She tried to watch the combatants, but all she could see were the flashes of magic that erupted from them, which told her nothing at all.

     They were almost at Central, though. Connor dove, heading for the ground with the rest of the mounted troops. The flyers stayed in the air, heading straight for the swarm of approaching robots. A smile spread across Sayang’s face, and she pulled out a laser. Shooting she could do, even from this distance. She tracked the robot for a moment, and then shot once. A second later, it fell. She ignored it, already finding her next target. As the rest of the sharpshooters joined her, robots began falling from the sky like flies.

     Then they landed, and Sayang dismounted in a breath, pulling out her other laser and beginning to run. Connor followed her, sticking right at her side. He didn’t tell her that they should stay with Cole and Keben. Kind of him, Sayang thought, in the few seconds she had before she joined the front line. In front of her, robots of all shapes, but mostly of one size – big – waited.

     Sayang laughed. “Let’s go!” she shouted, not halting her pace. With a roar, the front line joined her charge, lasers blazing and swords emerging from sheaths.

     An instant later, what had been a nicely defined battle line became nothing more than a chaotic mess. Such was the way of war.

To be continued...

 
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Other Episodes


» Aria of the Aeons: Part One
» Aria of the Aeons: Part Two
» Aria of the Aeons: Part Three
» Aria of the Aeons: Part Four
» Aria of the Aeons: Part Five
» Aria of the Aeons: Part Six
» Aria of the Aeons: Part Seven
» Aria of the Aeons: Part Eight
» Aria of the Aeons



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