Episode 22 – Murzim

March 24th, Year P-132.

The Safehouse.

“It’s happening,” Cyria panted, “It’s happening right now, we need to go!”

My father, in his human form, stood in the safehouse kitchen. Pieces of the door he’d blasted through peppered the tiles at his feet, and for once, he wasn’t in some dumb suit: he wore a large white T shirt, matching jeans and nothing else. His feet were bare, but he didn’t seem to mind.

Behind him was Dion James, the bartender, still trying to regain his balance after having been carried at such ridiculously high speeds. The redhead was still wearing a black vest over a white button-up shirt and black pants, so it seemed like my father had pulled him away with little, if any, notice to speak of. His striking blue eyes were covered by a pair of glasses, and widened with nausea and alarm as he tried to come to his bearings.

“How are we going to get there in time?” I asked, “The island’s already-”

“We have an hour.” Cyria interrupted, “And you’re fast. Lane girl, how fast are you?”

“It’s ‘Aiko’.” she scowled, “And decently fast, with the right charge. Why do you ask?”

“Richter,” Cyria said, pointing to my brother, “Chain teleportations with Prometheus and you should get there in seven minutes, give or take.”

“Michael,” My father continued, pointing to me now, “Grab Nalia and run with him as fast as you can. You should get there in five minutes, a lot less if you can match my speed now.”

“Where are we going, exactly?” Aiko asked.

“The Grand Diamond.” Cyria said, “The waters are rising from the lake. Dion here should be able to split them so that you can walk through, and make it to the actual seal. If Michael and Nalia put their energy into it just right, we should be able to reinforce it. I will be running to find the other Great Beasts, in case that fails.”

Aiko nodded. “So who do I take with me?” she asked.

“You take Dion.” Cyria said, patting him on the back and pushing the bartender forward, “You should arrive sometime after Michael but before Richter, ideally. Does everyone understand what they need to do?”

We all nodded affirmatively.

“Then let’s go, now,” Cyria said, beginning to step backward, “We don’t have time to waste.”

My father vanished in a flash of golden Light, leaving nothing but an empty doorway in his wake.

I sighed in exasperation.

Again?


R-132

Season One: Recursion

Episode Twenty-Two: Murzim


The Verge of the Grand Diamond.

In a haze of incredible speed, I almost missed it.

Nalia and I skidded on our heels, coming to a halt at the edge of a grassy hill. Beneath was an absent, sandy beach, and past that was a gargantuan, rising wall of water. The water extended higher than I could see, but I could sense all the power, feel the floating islands descend behind the veil of rushing waters.

“It’s just like my dad to pawn this shit off on us.” I muttered.

Nalia didn’t respond. “We should get onto the beach.” he said.

Nalia and I hopped and slid down the hill, walking across the sands as we watched the looming tides.

“Oh…” Nalia said, turning to me, “This is yours.”

In his outstretched hands was my claymore, Murzim, in its sheath.

“I was worried you were going to keep it for yourself.” I quipped, strapping the blade’s scabbard to my back and feeling its comfortable heft for the first time in weeks, “I’m glad you didn’t.”

“I thought about it.” Nalia replied, “After what you did to my scythe.”

I chuckled. “Sorry about that.”

I stared into the prince’s red eyes. He was in his black robes again, almost the same color as his skin, contrasting with his white, feathery hair. The only thing that was missing was that big, stupid, blue scythe that he had kept on his back.

“Will you be able to fight without it?” I asked.

Nalia nodded. “I can craft a Light-blade or something, depending on who we fight. Weapons are less of a necessity when you’re a Cynd, or a Sage. Speaking of…”

Nalia frowned, then asked, “Why did you try to kill Moreno?”

“I…” I winced, “I wasn’t exactly trying to kill him. But he was definitely trying to kill me and Richter, and he almost did…I didn’t expect Howling Fang to do that much damage. Hell, I’ve never used it before.”

Howling Fang?” Nalia pressed.

“It’s my name for combining Golden Fang and Howl,” I explained, “But especially channeling both into a single object. If we had the time to recover Mom’s spear after I threw it, I would’ve let you borrow it…”

Nalia smiled. Not a sarcastic, taunting smile like the one he had when we met, but…just a soft, happy smile. His canines poked out a little bit.

“You have a nice smile.” I said, before I could stop myself.

Nalia’s smile quickly faded to a neutral expression. “What?” he asked.

“Forget I said that.” I muttered, looking back toward the water.

After a few more moments of silence, I turned back to Nalia and asked, “What do you want to do after this?”

“What do you mean?” Nalia asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Like…” I said, “After we stop your evil grandpa or whatever. What do you want to do?”

Nalia shrugged. “All I really do is study and train. I don’t know if I can go back to that, though…I’m a criminal now. It’d take a lot for my father to forgive me.”

I rolled my eyes. “Are you kidding, man?” I said, pushing his shoulder, “You’re about to save the world! That’s, like, the epitome of ‘forgive me’ gestures!”

Nalia crossed his arms across his chest. “Maybe it is, Lockheart,” he said, “Maybe it is. Do you mind if I ask you something?”

“Shoot.” I said.

“Do you hate your father?” Nalia asked.

I sighed.

“Completely.” I replied, “Sometimes. I don’t know it’s…he’s a shitty excuse for a dad, but he’s the only one I have.”

Nalia nodded.

“I guess I just…” I muttered, “I guess I just wish he tried harder. I’m still fucking pissed at him, but…I don’t know. He just kind of let me push him away after what happened to Mom. I feel like if he loved us, really loved us, he would’ve been there for us whether we liked it or not.’

Nalia chuckled. “So you never want to see him again, but you wish he were around more? You’re full of contradictions, Lockheart.”

I pointed at my mismatched eyes. “I’m the son of Cyria and a descendant of Vincent Lockheart. I was always going to be this way.” I replied.

“Our genes don’t make us who we are, Lockheart,” Nalia said, “Everything is a choice.”

I rolled my eyes. “Says the crown prince of Trine. Your genes make you immortal, man. If I dealt with something like you in Highway Brawler or something, I’d call fucking hacks.”

Nalia chuckled. “Okay, so…we are a little different. But that’s not what I mean. I mean…”

Nalia went silent for a moment, closing his eyes as he formulated his thoughts before continuing, “They don’t make us who we are, as people. They don’t make us good, or evil, or kind, or cruel. All that is a choice. You don’t have to be the next Cyria or the next Vincent Lockheart. You can just be…you.”

“Is that what you want?” I asked, “To be different? Do you even want to be King?”

“Not…” Nalia replied, “Not really, no. But…it’s my responsibility. One day, I will have to succeed my father, take the throne, and carry the burdens of my people. I could’ve left all this to the Royal Guard, but…I wanted to prove to myself that I could handle it, that I was worthy of the crown.”

Nalia sighed and looked down at his feet. “The fact that it’s come to this…means I’m not.”

“Pick your head up,” I said, patting him on the back, “Shit happens, it’s not your fault. If it weren’t for me throwing myself at you every time we saw each other, this probably would’ve gone way better.”

Nalia raised an eyebrow.

“I meant literally!” I hissed, “Not, like…”

I exhaled and looked back at the water. Nalia was chuckling now.

“Fuck you, Nalia.” I muttered.

“You’re fun, Lockheart.” Nalia said, “I’m glad I met you.”

“Don’t go soft on me now,” I retorted, “I’m still going to punch you in the face once this over.”

“You realize I won both of our fights, right?” Nalia pointed out.

“You won the second one,” I muttered, “The first was a tie.”

“You lost consciousness first.” Nalia replied.

“Yeah, and you let your guard down first.” I retorted, “Took a sword to the chest. If it weren’t for your stupid Cynd hacks, you’d be dead.”

“You’d be dead, too,” Nalia said, “If it weren’t for our blood transfusion after I basically killed you. So they kinda benefited you too, in the end.”

We chuckled together.

“Thanks for saving me.” I said.

“Thanks for giving me someone worth saving.” Nalia replied.


The Verge of the Grand Diamond.

Dusk.

A few minutes later, the sky started to change color. Just as the water started to turn red with the sun, Aiko arrived with a clap of thunder. Dion stumbled a few feet away from her, leaned over with his hands on his knees, and vomited.

I winced.

“Sorry about that!” Aiko called to him.

Dion stumbled backward, regaining his balance. He pulled a flask out of his front vest pocket, popped it open and leaned his head back, drinking the entire thing in one swig. Once done, he sighed, pocketed the flask and turned to face us.

“I understand.” The bartender said, rolling his eyes, “But I’m taking a car back home after this.”

Aiko came to join Nalia and me while Dion walked to the edge of the beach and outstretched his arms toward the water.

“It might be a minute!” Dion shouted back to us, “I’ve never had to move this much water before!”

“We still have time!” Nalia called back, “Just do your best!”

As Dion started working on parting the water for us, Aiko’s electric blue eyes danced back and forth between me and Nalia. “Are you two cool now?” she asked.

I nodded. “Yeah,” I said, “He’s not so bad once you get to know him.”

“I could say the same about you.” Nalia retorted.

“So, not to be a downer…” Aiko said, “But what do we do if we’re too late?”

“What do you mean?” Nalia asked.

“If we aren’t able to stop the seal from breaking. What do we do?” Aiko repeated.

I bit my lower lip. “Fight until the Great Beasts arrive, I guess,” I said, “And hope we don’t die in the process. Only other option I see is letting them run free, and that…doesn’t seem like a smart idea, if what my dad has told me is any indication.”

“My grandfather getting out is already a worst-case scenario,” Nalia said, placing his hand under his chin, “I don’t think any of us are capable of fighting him. Even together, there’s only so much we can do against that level of power…”

“Not to mention the rest of the Ancestors.” Aiko pointed out.

I sighed and crossed my arms. “Look, it doesn’t matter if it’s possible or not. We have to do the best we can to save people. Overthinking it isn’t going to make it any easier. Best we can do is work together and shoot to kill.”

Nalia shook his head. “That approach isn’t going to work, Lockheart,” he said, “These people are too powerful for us to-”

“So what?” I interrupted, “I don’t care if they’re stronger than me, smarter than me…”

“They are.” Aiko whispered.

“I’m still gonna do my best, and my best is a swing of Murzim at Lightspeed.” I declared, then clarified, “Well, as close to Lightspeed as I can get. Which…isn’t actually very close.”

“Isn’t Cyria, like, five times your speed?” Aiko asked.

“More than that, and shut your mouth.” I replied.

Aiko smirked and I rolled my eyes.

Nalia just shook his head. “I wish I had your confidence.” he said.

I shrugged. “Things always work out. Let’s face it: there’s been thousands, if not millions of times where people have been sure that this is it. That this is the end. But we’re all still here living and breathing today, so it must have turned out okay.”

“You mean aside from the parts where they were right? Like everyone that’s ever died, ever?” Aiko pointed out.

I grimaced. “You know what I meant. In general, things turn out fine.”

“I hope you’re right.” Nalia said, “I’m going to go see if Dion needs any help.”

Nalia walked away, leaving Aiko and I alone for the first time since our breakup. I mean, I guess the prison visit counted, but it didn’t really count.

She was wearing an electric blue hoodie, unzipped to reveal a white T shirt beneath, the ensemble finished by a pair of blue jeans. It was simple- so simple- but when combined with her dark skin, her afro and those electrifying eyes of hers, she still looked stunning. Taking in my ex like I hadn’t in a while, I gasped a little, trying to find out what to say.

“It’s okay.” Aiko said.

“I- what?”

“It’s okay.” Aiko repeated, “I forgive you. I know what you’re thinking, Michael. I’ve always known you.”

I nodded. “I just…I wish I handled it better. You’re…you’re such an amazing person, Aiko, and I love you, but…I’ve never been the right-”

“It’s. Okay.” Aiko emphasized, placing her left hand on my right shoulder and squeezing it, “I forgive you, asshole. We can figure all of this out later. Right now, we need to focus on what’s ahead.”

Aiko paused, then looked in the direction of the rising barrier of water. “Literally.” she finished.

I nodded.

“No matter what happens,” Aiko said, staring directly into my eyes, “We’ll always be friends. I’ll always be here for you, Michael.”

“I’ll be here for you, too.” I replied.

Aiko smirked. “Course you will, idiot. You’re…attracted to me.”

I frowned. “Was that…was that a magnetism joke?”

She nodded. “Isn’t it just electrifying?”

“Please stop.” I groaned.

Aiko laughed at my expense and let go of me.

We shared a smile.


The Verge of the Grand Diamond.

Dusk.

Not thirty seconds later, a white blade cut through the air, opening a portal through which my siblings leaped onto the sand.

Richter had re-adopted his black Royal Guard longcoat, with the Royal Guard insignia on its chest and the Lockheart Family Crest on its back. Michelle was wearing her usual outfit- a black leather jacket, open, with a purple T-shirt beneath. Her daggers, Tsukimono, were sheathed on her outer thighs, and her outfit was completed with a pair of jeans.

I walked over to my siblings.

“Michelle.” I said.

“Michael?” she asked.

Moving past Richter, I wrapped my older sister in a tight hug.

I didn’t know what to say, but I hoped that would say it for me.

Michelle placed her hand in my hair and chuckled. “You missed me that much, Mikey?”

I groaned. “Stop calling me that.”

“It’s still better than little brother.” Richter muttered.

We parted, then I turned to look at Richter. We’d more or less already had our reunion, but I decided to give him a tight hug, too, since we hadn’t really done that in a while. The blonde returned it in full.

“I’m glad to have you two back.” I said.

“It’s been a while, yeah.” Richter said, “I’m sorry it took the end of the world to make it happen.”

“It’s not the end of the world.” Michelle said, “We’re here to stop it. It’ll be fine.”

“See?” I said, “Michelle has the right idea.”

Richter rolled his eyes at us.

“Always the optimists.”

“We’re almost through!” Nalia shouted, from the edge of the beach, “Come on, you guys!”

“Looks like the reunion’s cut short.” I said, “Let’s do this.”


The Grand Diamond Lake.

We descended to the bed of the lake, a dry path created for us by Dion’s water manipulation. In the waters around us, I could see countless fish and other aquatic animals, usually in some state of distress due to what was happening to their Lake. A large chunk of a certain cobblestone arena passed through the water on our right as we progressed deeper within.

With Dion on the outside holding the entrance open for us, it was just me, my siblings, Aiko, and Nalia. Feeling paranoid about being attacked by, like, a shark or something, I unsheathed Murzim and held it at my right side as we progressed further and further under the Grand Diamond Lake. Eventually, we passed through the barrier of water, our feet stepping onto the very solid, surprisingly not-slippery ice at the bottom of the lake.

“Whoa…” Richter muttered.

Looking down, we saw Blusk.

Extending beneath us as far as we could see was humanity’s first city, at the bottom of the valley, trapped in a shell of unbreakable ice. It was perfectly intact, preserved by the Grand Diamond, more empty and more beautiful than it had ever been when it was populated.

We continued walking across the Grand Diamond. Looking up, I saw the islands still gradually descending toward us, a ring of inverted waterfalls surrounding the Grand Diamond, clearing the way for the Site of Sealing to meet the seal proper and break it.

Moving as quickly as we could, we rushed for the center of the Grand Diamond.

And there it was. The seal, proper.

A gemstone, rather like the one in the Site of Sealing, except visibly charged with all Nine Elements, each extending in spires outward from the gem and stabbing into the Grand Diamond. It was a truly incredible amount of power, more than I had ever felt in person, and I struggled not to fall to my knees in the presence of it.

“Okay,” I said to Nalia, “So how do we do this?”

“I have no idea.” the Prince admitted, “But I think we need to renew balance in the seal. My best guess is…we use Howl and White Darkness, simultaneously, and hope that when they combine they can effectively refuel the seal.”

“Sounds like a solid plan to me.” I gasped, “If I could get anywhere near the thing. I feel like it’s going to crush me from here.”

“We can do it from a distance.” Nalia said, “Opposite sides. I’ll use my Darkness senses to confirm that we’re equidistant from the seal.”

I walked across the ice and stopped at Nalia’s command. We both turned toward the gemstone making up the seal.

I reached deep into myself and created a surge of scarlet lightning, which I then compressed into a sphere of Howl in my right hand. I repeated this process three times, just as Nalia did the same with White Darkness on his side of the seal.

“Are you ready?” Nalia called.

“Yeah!” I called back.

“A second after I throw mine,” Nalia said, “Throw yours!”

“Got it!” I replied.

Leaning back, Nalia threw a sphere of White Darkness energy for the seal. Counting ten deciseconds in my head, I hurled by Howl-sphere for the seal as well.

Our attacks connected at the same time, wrapping around the gemstone and beginning to synchronize all Nine Elements.

The gemstone surged with renewed power.

“We did it!” Nalia shouted.

The gemstone cracked.

“We…” Nalia trailed off.

Run!” Richter screamed.

In an instant, I had an arm around Nalia’s back, pulling him at my speed away from the gemstone. Even as Richter, Aiko, and Michelle started running backward, I quickly came to one simple realization:

It’s not going to be enough.

The gemstone shattered.

The islands plummeted from the sky at terminal velocity.

The Grand Diamond, beneath our feet, fractured with one surge of unfathomable strength.

I tried to pull my loved ones away as fast as I could.

The islands crashed into the Grand Diamond, shattering it one single blow, releasing the unspeakable amount of power sealed within.

Everything faded to pure white.


When I came to, I was laying on a massive shard of the Grand Diamond, surrounded by the unconscious bodies of my friends and family. Nalia and Aiko came to next, followed by my siblings.

We took a moment to observe the scene before us.

Columns of water were falling from the sky. Shattered, frozen ruins of Blusk were everywhere, some embedded and impaled through the ground, others floating in the rapidly rising water at the bottom of the valley.

Standing on top of the largest piece of the shattered Grand Diamond- the same one we were on, across from us- were ten people, all in the white-and-gold robes of the Cynd Royal Family. All except one were hooded, facing us silently. As I made eye contact with the non-hooded member, my blood ran cold.

Overgrown, feathery white hair. Red eyes. Skin the color of darkest ebony. The spitting image of Nalia Cynd, almost, if Nalia were about twice as ripped, had about three times the hair, and had about a hundred times the power I could feel crushing me through his gaze alone.

Maximilian Cynd II, Trine’s second King, raised his arms outward, his palms facing the sky as he breathed in and smiled.

“Don’t be afraid,” Max boomed, “Your true King has returned.”

“Oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck…” Nalia whispered, on the verge of hyperventilating.

Max began to step toward us. The shard of the Grand Diamond beneath his feet fractured as he did so. He inhaled, and I could feel his body surging and building with power, unspeakable amounts of it, enough that I was sure it would erase us in one fell swoop-

He exhaled calmly.

“On your feet, subjects.” Max said, “Come on. You look undignified on the ground like that.”

Following his command, I pushed myself to my feet and stared up at him, every synapse in my body telling me to run

“Why are you afraid?” Max asked.

“I…”

“You think I’ll kill you because you’re Cyria’s son?” Max asked, “Because your father killed my father?”

I didn’t respond.

Max’s gaze hardened, and he outstretched his right hand.

You’re absolutely right.” Max snarled.

I slashed Murzim through the air, before becoming completely paralyzed. Crushing Gravity energy froze me in place from all directions, like a statue, and I was unable to move, unable to breathe. I couldn’t even look away from Max or blink as he walked toward me.

“Wait!” called a voice from behind Max, “He’s my descendant, Your Majesty. Allow me?”

All at once, Max’s grip on me loosened and I collapsed to the ice, gasping as I tried to get oxygen back into my lungs.

“He’s yours, Vincent.” Max said, turning his back to me, “Have your fun.”

Vincent removed his hood as he came closer. His eyes were pearly and white, just like one of mine, his long black hair tied back in a ponytail. In his left hand, he grasped a long, white, claymore I’d never seen before. It was completely massive, and a bit past the base of the blade was two hook-like protrusions.

As I pushed myself to my feet, I grasped Murzim with both hands and locked eyes with my Ancestor, glaring at him.

Vincent Lockheart smiled back at me.

“You have spirit.” he said, resting his blade on his shoulder, “I’m sure you want to ask. Go ahead.”

“Why did you possess Michelle?” I demanded.

“To make this happen.” Vincent responded, simply.

“So you don’t care!?” I spat, “You don’t care about what you did to her, to us? Nalia could have killed her!”

“He didn’t, did he?” Vincent said, “And anyway, you should be grateful that he arrived first. If it had been you who came, well…”

Vincent allowed the implication to hang in the air.

I snarled and pointed at the weapon in his left hand. “What is that?” I asked.

He held the weapon out in front of his chest. “This weapon,” Vincent said, “Is Pandora. My final weapon, the counterpart to Prometheus.”

“So it has the abilities of Prometheus?” I asked.

Vincent nodded. “Prometheus and every other weapon I’ve crafted.” he confirmed, “The dimension-cutting of Prometheus, the guaranteed penetration of Diarmuid, the teleportation of Tsukimono…and quite a lot more. It’s a box full of tricks.”

I rolled my eyes.

“I have a trick for you.” I taunted, “It’s called ‘Getting Skewered By Your Youngest Descendant’. Want to try it?”

Vincent outstretched his arms.

“By all means.” he said, “All three of you with my blood can come at me. It makes no difference”.

Richter and Michelle joined me at my left and right sides, respectively.

“If we can win this, or hold him off,” Richter said, “The Great Beasts will arrive and they’ll be forced to disperse. I doubt they’re at full power yet.”

“So we can actually win this?” I asked.

“Yes.” Michelle said, “Together, we can. The others shouldn’t interfere.”

“What’re you waiting for?” Vincent called, “Come at me!

I sheathed Murzim and grabbed my siblings by the back of their coats as I channeled Golden Fang through my body and blasted in Vincent’s direction.

Letting go of my siblings and leaping over Vincent’s head, I unsheathed Murzim in midair and pointed the weapon at his back, shouting “Howling Fang!” at the top of my lungs and blasting toward my Ancestor.

Pandora duplicated, and suddenly Vincent was dual wielding. He blocked the strikes of both of my siblings, on opposite sides, at once. He then remained perfectly still, becoming intangible the moment I would have blasted through him, causing me to crash into the ice and destroy the shard of the Grand Diamond at our feet.

We all leaped away from the point of the explosion. In this motion, Michelle hurled one of her daggers for Vincent’s chest, only for him to slash it away. In the same motion, Vincent slashed at the air behind him and cut open a portal that he fell through, just in time to avoid Richter’s Dark Step-slash combo.

I looked upward.

Vincent was falling toward me, raising his blades above his head, and all I could hope to do was raise Murzim to block it-

The clash happened with such force that it shook me to the core.

Pressing my left palm against the flat side of my blade, grasping the handle so tightly that my knuckles turned white, my hands trembled and I fell to one knee as I tried to hold back the force of Vincent’s dual blades.

With an upward pulling motion, the hooks in his blades grabbed Murzim by its edge and he forced the weapon out of my hand, flinging it backward and over his head.

Unarmed and defenseless, all I could do was watch as Vincent raised his right-hand blade and sneered down at me.

“You’re a lot weaker than your father.” Vincent noted, “He’d be very disappointed in you.”

As he swung, a white blade carved through the air to meet his. Richter joined his sword on the other side of the rift, holding it against Vincent’s with a grimace.

“Not as disappointed as we are!” Richter spat back.

Vincent’s gaze darkened as he leaped backward.

Richter leaped after him as a dagger flew through the air, stabbing into the ice beside my head. Michelle appeared, her left hand on the dagger she’d thrown, her right dagger sheathed and her right hand holding Murzim.

“Here you go, Mikey.” she panted.

I accepted my weapon from her and nodded gratefully.

I pushed myself to my feet and caught my breath, forming a strategy as my heartbeat calmed.

“Keep him still.” I said, staring at my brother fighting Vincent, “Find a way to keep him still, but not still enough to go intangible. That should be enough for me to get a Howling Fang on him.”

Michelle nodded at me and hurled her dagger toward Vincent, teleporting to it before she reached him and joining Richter in their swordfight.

My siblings nodded at each other as they tried to fulfill their half of my plan, and I grasped Murzim with both hands, holding the weapon in front of my chest and taking a deep breath before I started charging my energy.

Murzim’s white blade turned golden and started crackling with scarlet lightning as I charged my body, my blade, my everything with the energy of Howling Fang, the strongest attack I could possibly muster. It was more than enough to kill any ordinary human, but I had no idea how much help it could be against someone like Vincent.

In one swift motion, my sister stabbed her twin daggers through either of Vincent’s shoulders, from behind, just as Richter impaled Vincent through the stomach with Prometheus.

Vincent dropped his weapons to the ice at his feet as both of my siblings shouted, “Now!

“This is it, you son of a bitch,” I snarled, “Howling Fang!

Vincent grinned widely as my technique activated.

 “It’s time to wake up, Epsilon.” Vincent said, staring at me.

I ignored him, choosing instead to blast at him at my full speed.

“Or should I say…Murzim?

Before I reached Vincent, Darkness energy burst from my claymore and covered my body, instantly absorbing my energy and momentum as what felt like bone spawned in the Darkness, covering my body in a shell of it.

Wait…

Before I could process what was happening, my body lunged at my siblings, slicing open Michelle’s stomach and impaling Richter through the stomach as Vincent turned intangible, allowing their weapons to fall out of him before he picked up Pandora from the ground, re-merging it into a single blade in his left hand as he approached me.

…no…

A mask of bone obscured my sight as I struggled against everything constricting me, but I couldn’t move. All I could do was breathe and panic as I watched the blood of my siblings spread at Vincent’s feet.

He stared through the mask, into my eyes, and smiled.

“It’s been a long time, Murzim.” he said, “I was worried you wouldn’t respond to my call.”

I’ve always been waiting, said a voice I didn’t recognize from all around me, I know my purpose.

Vincent held out his arm and grabbed the handle of Murzim, the shell of Darkness energy and bone disappearing as he did so. Sucked dry of my energy and my resolve, I collapsed to my knees as Murzim returned to its rightful owner.

“Richter…Michelle…” I wheezed.

“Will be fine.” Vincent said, dismissively, “You’ve all healed from worse, I’m sure. But you…”

Vincent kicked me in the chest, sending me crashing to my back on the ice.

“You…” Vincent muttered, “Need something a little more permanent.”

I tried to move, but Murzim’s Darkness surged outward, constricting my limbs and holding me down as Vincent pressed his foot against my chest and looked down at me coldly.

“Please…” I whimpered.

“I’m not going to kill you.” Vincent said, “If I wanted you dead, I would’ve let His Majesty do it. But I can’t have you coming back for revenge, either. I need to do something…irreversible.”

In Vincent’s eyes, I saw the same cold ruthlessness that I’d once seen in my grandfather’s, and I knew what he was going to do. I struggled against the Darkness as Vincent lifted his right-hand weapon, Murzim, into the air.

No no no no no…

I heard Aiko and Nalia scream “Michael!” from behind me, but a white blur passed by me with a crackle of thunder- Sokudo Lane- and with a sickening thunk, they both fell silent.

Please no…

I charged my body with Howl, but it did nothing except exhaust me more, Murzim’s Darkness seemingly absorbing it.

“This is mercy.” Vincent Lockheart lectured, “Because the alternative was killing you. You should be thanking me.”

“You don’t have to do this.” I wheezed.

Vincent sighed. “Yes, I do. Now stay still. It’ll be worse if you struggle.”

He slashed Murzim downward, and in a single, horrible motion, I felt the blade rip through my left arm before removing it entirely.

It hurt so much I couldn’t see. I screamed at the top of my lungs, only for Vincent to press his foot down on my chest harder as I sobbed hysterically.

Please…” I cried.

Vincent stepped backward, looking down at my left leg. He raised his blade again and smirked, ready to take even more from me-

Before I felt a surge of extremely familiar Light energy in the distance.

Vincent’s eyes widened in alarm.

“Saved by the bell, kid.” Vincent remarked, looking upward and past me.

My severed left arm disappeared into Murzim’s Darkness, which retreated into the blade as Vincent looked down on me.

“Time to go.” Vincent said, turning his back on me, “I feel Cyria and the others coming.”

With surges of Light and Lightning, Maximilian Cynd II and his Royal Guard disappeared.

As the water continued falling from the sky on the site of our battle, I pushed myself up with my remaining arm to look over at Aiko and Nalia.

Unconscious…but okay…they’re okay…

I started dragging myself across the ice, to my siblings. I could tell I was losing far, far too much blood, but I didn’t care, I had to reach them-

Please…I have to do something…

My senses dulled. I was pulling myself with my right arm, dragging myself in a puddle of my own blood. I could barely see.

I…

I can’t…

I could feel my father’s energy, growing stronger, closer.

“Dad…” I gasped,  “Please…h-”

I fell on my face and into oblivion.

Bleeding out and mortally wounded, the Lockheart Family had finally been reunited.

Michael and Nalia’s story will continue in Season 2 of R-132.