133 Years Ago.
February 19th, Year B-395.
Five days since the recruitment of Sokudo Lane.
Sokudo Lane and Maximilian Cynd II stood in the middle of a square, obsidian arena, raised about a meter off the ground and about 15 meters long and wide. Both fighters were barefoot and barechested, unarmed, circling each other carefully. As members of Max’s Royal Guard, we were expected to be able to protect him from threats as powerful as the Great Beasts…and as things currently stood, the closest thing we had to that was Max himself.
Laizi (Sokudo’s wife) and I watched from a crudely-erected set of stone bleachers, assembled about 10 meters away.
Sokudo started hopping back and forth on his toes, flashing those pearly white teeth of his and saying, “Are you sure you’re ready for this, your highness? I’ve figured out a new technique since we last fought.”
The brown-haired brunette turned in my direction to wink at me. Sokudo and I grew up together, and while we’d reconnected since his…tenure as a Lightning monster, I didn’t actually know what he had in store. So I smirked back at him and shrugged.
Show me what you got, buddy.
Our prince chuckled, spreading his arms outward at Sokudo. His dark skin was glistening with sweat, his white hair wild as ever, his eyes alit with bravado and joy. “Come at me!” Max called.
“As you wish!” Sokudo shouted.
I was momentarily blinded by a flash of Lightning.
When the flash cleared, Sokudo had covered the considerable distance between himself and Max. His left pointer finger, still crackling with Lightning, was a few centimeters from Max’s chest. Everyone present- myself, Max and Laizi- were in shock.
“I could’ve killed you just now, your highness.” Sokudo boasted, flashing his teeth.
“I wouldn’t be so sure about that.” Max said, grabbing Sokudo’s extended wrist, “But that would’ve hur-”
“Wait!” Laizi suddenly shouted, “Where did my glasses go!?”
I turned to look at her.
“What glasses?” I asked.
“I brought…shades…” She muttered.
“You mean these?” Sokudo called, turning to face us. His sky-blue eyes were now covered by a pair of large, black sunglasses. The look was completed with a wide grin as he explained, “Sorry babe…it’s tough to see when I move that fast.”
Wait…in that single instant…
He ran here…stole her shades…put them on…and ran back to Max.
“That doesn’t make any sense!” I shouted.
“Don’t be jealous, Vincent!” Sokudo called back, “Watch and learn!”
I created visors of Darkness energy for myself and Laizi. “You’re going to want to put these on.” I said sheepishly.
She nodded and put hers on while I did the same for myself. In theory, these visors would be enough to allow us to see through the flashes of Lightning, but as for the part where we’d need to keep up with Sokudo’s speed, well…
“This isn’t going to help much, is it?” Laizi asked.
Lightning surged from Sokudo’s body. I watched him transform into electric blue Lightning again, except this time he seemed to maintain his form. And the shades.
I saw Sokudo wave at us for the briefest instant before blasting away, leaving a trail of Lightning behind him as he dashed in rapid circles around the obsidian arena, causing it to start shaking with the force of his speed.
“No.” I answered Laizi, sighing, “No, it’s not.”
In an instant, Max did a 180 and outstretched his right arm, releasing a pulse of Gravity energy as he did so. I could see Sokudo again, his form of crackling energy beginning to slow before reaching Max.
Sokudo’s Lightning form looked up at Max and spoke in thunderclaps. “Oh, shi-”
Max used his other arm to deal a Darkness-powered punch to Sokudo’s chest, sending the hapless Lightning user crashing into the grass outside of the arena. The Lightning fizzled away to reveal Sokudo beneath.
“You’ll need more than speed to beat me, Sokudo.” Max said, walking to the edge of the arena and looking down at him, “But that was impressive. You can turn into Lightning now. Work on that long enough, and only Cyria will be able to rival your speed.”
I grit my teeth at the mention of him.
Sokudo laughed. “I certainly hope so!”
Max turned to look in my direction and gestured for me to come over.
“Come on, Vincent!” he called, “It’s rude to leave royalty waiting!”
I chuckled and jumped off the stands. “If you say so!” I shouted back.
My name is Vincent Lockheart, but you might have guessed that already.
I may be a monster in a hundred or so years, but I wasn’t always that way. Before I was sealed away with my King and my best friends, I only wanted what was best for humanity. I wanted us to leave the valley, to get the freedom that Cyria and other Great Beasts were wrongfully holding out of our grasp. Why do the Great Beasts deserve to rule the world while my entire species is forced to live at the bottom of a valley?
With Sokudo Lane’s recruitment and the approval of Max’s father, Maximilian, the Royal Guard was finally established. I was its Commanding Officer, with Sokudo as my right hand. Together, we went everywhere that Max went and tried to help establish order in Blusk.
Eventually, the Royal Guard would expand significantly. It’d be more than just Max’s personal guard: it’d be a law enforcement agency, a military, spanning the entirety of Trine’s Mainland. But before that could happen, humanity would need to leave the valley.
After furious negotiation with the other Great Beasts, Max’s parents informed us that we’d be making our first Human Colony. Just outside of the Western edge of the valley, we’d build our first human settlement outside of Blusk. Colony 1 would one day be known as the home of the Royal Guard HQ and the metropolis of Sunder, but back then it was little more than piles of bricks and skeletons of wood, peppered with the occasional tent by the people working there.
I was overjoyed that humanity would finally be able to expand.
But come March 10th, Year 395 on the Royal Calendar, we met resistance from exactly who you’d expect.
Season One: Recursion
Episode Twelve: Cyria (Back To The Past Mix)
March 10th, Year B-395.
“We can’t continue work on Colony 1.” Max sighed, slouching in his throne, “I tried to talk it out with Dad, but…”
“But what?” I sputtered, “We’ve been working on it for weeks! We’re almost ready to start actually sending people to live there!”
“Cyria.” Max groaned, “Cyria is what. You knew this would happen, Vincent. He considers the land just outside of the valley his territory…the deserts, Skell’s territory…the mountains, Meiro’s territory, the skie-”
“I get it.” I interrupted, “And that’s bullshit. We have just as much right to live there as he does.”
“How many times are we going to have this conversation, Vincent?”
“As many times as it takes for you to understand that you need to stand by your people!” I shouted, “We can’t live in a valley forever! We’re getting overpopulated! People are living longer, happier lives, having more children! I have kids!”
“You have kids?” Max questioned.
“Yeah! I do!” I paused, “Don’t you?”
Max shrugged. “I…I guess. Hector and I don’t talk much. Cecil spends much more time with him than I do.”
“When-” I took a moment to collect my thoughts, “When it’s his turn to take the throne, do you want him to still be languishing down here? Don’t you want something better, something more for your son? For your people?”
“This coming from the man who swore to fight Cyria.” Max pointed out.
“That was before I joined up with you!”
“Yes,” Max continued, “And unless I’m recalling incorrectly, that was conditional on you getting a chance to fight him. What better time than now?”
“I don’t think I’m strong enough to-”
“You could be.” Max interrupted, “But before you ask, no. I can’t. I’m not allowed to fight him or any other Great Beasts. If you’re fighting for humanity, he’ll only accept a challenge from a human. Like you.”
I grit my teeth and sighed. “Fine, then. How much time do I have?”
Max bit his lower lip. “I can buy you time until the afternoon of the 12th, I think. Will that be enough time for you to prepare for your fight with Cyria?”
“Guess it’s going to have to be.” I replied.
March 11th, Year B-395.
The following day, I returned to my sizeable home in Blusk. I sent out my wife and son to do…whatever it is they do together when I’m not around, so I’d have the house to myself.
And, most importantly, my Sword Wall.
I didn’t actually coin the term “Sword Wall”, despite its brilliance and simplicity. That was my son, Amadeus, who walked in on me adding a new blade to my collection once and asked why I had a sword wall. Ten year olds can be pretty observant when you give them the chance to be.
As it stands, my Sword Wall is composed of two parts. The bulk of it is swords that I won off of other people- I like to challenge people in Blusk who fancy themselves swordsmen, under the condition that if I win, I get to take their blades. I take these blades, I add them to my Sword Wall (normally hidden behind a rotating, false wall in the master bedroom), and at least twice a month I sharpen, polish and oil each and every one of the blades, ensuring they’re all kept in tip-top shape. I don’t actually use most of them, I just think they deserve special treatment.
The centerpiece of my Sword Wall are the blades of my own creation. Ten years ago, chunks of Moonshard fell from the sky and into the valley. To my delight, I learned that Moonshard’s properties made it perfect for weapons, and out of it I crafted my first three weapons: Prometheus, my katana; Diarmuid, my spear; and Tsukimono, my daggers. I planned to enchant them all with special abilities eventually, but for now, only Prometheus had an enchantment: the ability to cut through dimensional fabrics.
With my mastery of Prometheus as it is now, I can walk around with the handle and pull the full weapon out of thin air. In the future, I may eventually be able to use it to cut larger rifts in space…and if I can do that, I’ll essentially be able to teleport.
As I wiped down Prometheus’ perfect white blade that day, I sighed.
If I can figure this out tomorrow…I might just have a chance.
March 12th, Year B-395.
For our duel, Cyria insisted that we fight in an arena at the top of the tallest of the White Mountains. I’d never been to the White Mountains before (or even a mile outside of the valley, for that matter), so Max saw fit to escort me to my duel. We left Blusk early that morning, and arrived atop the White Mountains later that afternoon. The sun was beginning to glow red across the peaks of the Mountains, and atop the tallest of the White Mountains was a large stone circle, with four sets of stairs on opposite sides leading up to it.
Once we reached the summit though the snow and stone, there wasn’t any more steep climbing to be done. A glowing mass of golden Light energy awaited us in the center of the arena, scarlet Lightning pouring from its eyes and mouth as it looked in our direction and waited for us to enter.
“Are you sure about this?” Max whispered, “Last chance to turn back.”
I tapped a pair of shades on my face. “I’ve been training with Sokudo for a while,” I said, “I can almost track his speed now. And where I can’t, I can predict it. I know Cyria will be faster, but…”
Max grimaced and pat my back. “Good luck, buddy.”
I steeled myself and walked up the steps into the arena. Cyria watched me as I did, remaining silent and still for the time being. The piercing winds howled, rushing past us and easily penetrating my black leather jacket.
Fortunately for Darkness users like me, cold isn’t a problem at all. We’re actually quite comfortable in it.
“This is a colder place than I’d expect you to choose for a fight like this.” I called to Cyria, marking the first words of our first meeting, “Doesn’t that put you at a disadvantage?”
“Not really.” Cyria responded, his voice booming, “I don’t feel the cold at all. The sun is shining on me, as well. I thought an arena like this, at a time like this, would be somewhat balanced for our needs.”
“How considerate of you.” I growled, “Does this extend to allowing my people to leave the valley?”
“If you can beat me.” Cyria responded, then laughed, “But I know you can’t, Lockheart. You’re neither fast nor strong enough.”
Grabbing Prometheus’ handle in my left jacket pocket, I unsheathed the blade in full, extending my white katana in Cyria’s direction. “I can cut through space with this blade!” I shouted, “I’m sure I can cut through you!”
The wolf tilted his head as he considered me. “I could use my full speed, rip your body apart in an instant, in this form. But that is a much nicer weapon than I expected any human to be able to create. It’d be a shame to see it go to waste.”
Cyria began to glow as he changed shape. “In that case…” he said, “I’ll bring myself down…”
A teenager appeared, walking through the light. He looked no older than sixteen, his skin tanned, a wild, spiky mane of blonde hair running down his back and face, his amber eyes crackling with scarlet Lightning. He wore a golden button-up shirt, unbuttoned, his lower half covered by loosely-fitting jeans and his feet bare against the arena.
“To your level.” Cyria finished, having assumed a human form.
“You look like a child.” I taunted.
Cyria observed his right forearm as a large scythe composed of Howl energy materialized in his right hand. “Were I a human like you,” he chuckled, “This is what I imagine I’d be.”
He held the scythe in my direction. I grimaced.
“Too grandiose?” he asked, “Fine, fine…” The scythe reformed into a short sword as he continued, “I’ll kill you with this instead.”
I brandished my katana in his direction. “Try.” I snarled.
Cyria covered the distance between us in fractions of a second.
I remained still, activating my intangibility ability, causing him to harmlessly phase through me.
Skidding to a halt at the edge of the arena and twirling around, Cyria growled. “What kind of cheap tric-”
I broke my intangibility to slash through the air, my blade materializing in front of Cyria as I swung diagonally downward, opening his chest.
He snarled in response and dashed for me again.
Unfortunately, the momentum of my swing hadn’t left me yet, so I wasn’t still enough to go intangible.
This is gonna hurt.
The teenager crashed into me at a great speed. I felt- I heard– my ribs crack from the force of our impact as I was sent careening backward through the air.
Only for Cyria to disappear in a flash of light, crashing into my back and sending me careening forward.
“You think you’re smart!?” he snarled.
He slammed his left fist into my face, breaking my nose and ending the back-and-forth. I crashed to the ground and he stomped on my chest, looking down at me with a look of feral rage. “You are not my equal,” Cyria snarled, “You are to me what an ant is to you. There are hundreds, thousands of you all around me, but I don’t care. Nothing you say, nothing you do, will change your fate.”
I laughed through the pain. “For something so insignificant,” I spat back, “I sure pissed you off.”
Cyria raised his blade into the air. “You are like an ant. Annoying. But ants are strong, intelligent, civilized, rather unlike you humans.”
Cyria lunged his blade downward and I grabbed his wrist as he did so, stopping the blade of scarlet Lightning a precarious few inches from my right eye. Moving quickly, I kicked him off of me and pushed myself to my feet, wincing at the pain in my ribs and back from his strikes but fighting through the pain.
Cyria dismissed his Howl-blade as he stood to his full height, glaring at me. “I will give you this chance to surrender, Lockheart,” he hissed, “But if you don’t, I’ll come at you at my full speed.”
“Bring it on!” I shouted.
Cyria vanished in a flash of Light and I slashed Prometheus at the air in front of me, opening a portal that he blasted through.
Leaping to my left and turning to my right, toward the exit portal, I slashed my blade again, this time hoping to behead him as he came through.
For a brief instant, I saw him- sliding on his knees, leaning backward to dodge my blade, sneering at me.
I tried to slash downward in response, but he was just too fast.
His fist slammed into my stomach.
I coughed up blood but fought onward, casting a Darkness barrier to block Cyria’s next strike. His fist shattered it in one blow, but I used the brief moment he couldn’t see me to slash into his chest, forming a bloody X. We made eye contact as I did this, and I knew as he disappeared in a flash of golden light that I’d made a mistake.
His fist slammed into my spine.
I heard it snap.
I dropped my blade to the ground, but before I could follow it down, Cyria reappeared in front of me, grabbing me by the roots of my hair and holding my limp, broken body aloft.
“How should I do it?” he sneered, “Should I rip the heart of your chest, Lockheart, or should I throw you off this mountain?”
I grasped his arm.
Cyria looked down at me with feral, murderous glee, raising his left hand as it started to crackle with Howl energy-
“Enough!” Max shouted.
Cyria sighed, his eyes looking up and behind me. “He wanted this duel.” He hissed, “He had the nerve to challenge me-”
“And you won!” Max said, exasperated, “You won! He doesn’t need to die!”
Cyria looked down at me coldly.
“You’re right,” Cyria muttered, “No need to stomp out every ant.”
Cyria dropped me, allowing me to fall on my knees and then my face as Max rushed to my side.
“My terms still stand, Cynd.” Cyria said, looking down on us, “Your champion lost. Humanity will cease its expansion outside of the valley.”
“I’m sorry.” I whispered.
“And if this man challenges me again,” Cyria snarled, pointing down at me, “I will not be merciful. I will kill him, and you if you interfere. Do you understand?”
Max sighed and bowed his head, “Yes, Cyria,” he acknowledged, “I do.”
I couldn’t feel my legs. I could feel my ribs stabbing into my lungs, the horrific pain in my back, the warmth of the blood on my face and the throbbing pain of my broken nose. In impotent rage and defeat, I started to weep as Cyria vanished in a flash of golden light.
“It’s okay.” Max said, patting my back, “I’ll give you some of my blood. You can heal from this. You’ll be oka-”
“I was too weak.” I whimpered.
“One day,” Max assured, rubbing my back again, “One day.”