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Chapter 5: The Crimson Lords

BY THE TIME SEBASTIAN MADE IT BACK TO HIS HOUSE, the Sun had nearly obscured itself from prying eyes. It was probably the first time he came home without feeling like he would die of exhaustion, and he made sure to savor every moment of it. The streets were always void of noise during that time of day until the crack of dawn, and that day was no exception. The lights in his house were all out, which wasn’t a shock, since the project in town square was still in its very first days of construction. His mom and dad, as he had suspected, left the house so silent that a feather could be heard landing on the floor. They would probably be late, so Sebastian thought it best to get comfy for the night. No one would be nagging him about dishes or cleaning some small nook of a room that hadn’t been used for years.

It had been a good day or two since he had taken a proper bath, so he decided to heat up some water to do just that. Each of the residencies had their own little bath house somewhere near the back, and it usually had a nice and open window on the roof to let in as much light as possible.

Baths were calming and therapeutic, and it was the only place Sebastian was positive that he wouldn’t be bothered by any responsibility or chores. The winding halls and strategically placed rooms drowned out all the noise coming from the kitchen before it could reach that room. Inside of the bath house was, obviously, a bath, but it was meticulously decorated with tiles with various colors, which produced a soothing look for anyone who wanted to relax. There were no obnoxious colors or anything, and those that were used perfectly helped complement the moon’s silver light.

Sebastian settled into the bath, and the slightly hot liquid immediately calmed his nerves. He moved his head back to rest on the outer edge of the enclosed area of the tub, and it was perfectly tilted so he could peer out of the window on the roof. There was still a bit of hesitation from the stars to come out, which were hiding from the Sun's rays, no doubt, but a few of the brighter ones came to greet Sebastian, especially one that had always caught his eye, a bright orange star that was sometimes in the night sky and sometimes gone from his vision. It appeared that it could be seen that night.

‘Such a curious star, you are,’ Sebastian grinned, beholding its unique beauty. ‘You always show up early and leave when I least expect it. Just what are you?’

The room was dead silent, except for the occasional splashes or movements in the water as Sebastian readjusted himself. It was a good way to end his vacation day.

Sebastian’s calm nature eventually reverted to a slightly restless mood, and his eyes wandered all over the walls and floor of the bath house. There was a bit of a collection of steam wafting around the room, which was typical of the bath house. It was a bit of a bother, especially when his view of the Moon was obscured, but the satellite wasn’t in full view yet, so that wasn’t his biggest worry.

His mind would constantly return to that written excerpt his grandpa had read to him. Not only did Zuri tell him humankind’s entire history, but he was able to see what the world was like through a human’s eyes right before Eden Village was founded. Some key parts would play through his head, as if he was trying to interpret it like his grandpa had, and the main thing that persisted despite his protests was the idea of some war ending the entirety of humanity. He tried to remember how many humans were alive then, which was ten billion? He had thought he heard those words. Wow, ten billion, Eden Village had about ten thousand inhabitants, but ten billion seemed absurd and impossible to him.

That decrease in population was enough to make anyone pissed off. This was the only home humanity had, and they decided to sink the ship with themselves on it? It just made no sense. There had to be some foul play to it that was probably lost in the five hundred years that followed. Maybe he and Zuri could do some investigating when they left the woods, but based on how the world was described, such a thing would likely prove fruitless.

His eyes continued to run across every beam and tile of the bath house until they landed on Azure’s Edge, which was resting in a far corner in the room. Sebastian’s heart rate doubled in an instant when he remembered about Zuri’s constant surveillance. What if she had accidentally seen him? He was stuck in his tracks, and after about thirty seconds of near hyperventilation later, he realized something else that she had said. She had mentioned that she was decent enough to not barge in on private matters, which calmed his nerves a bit, but it was still unsettling that she could have looked if she wanted.

The rest of the bath left Sebastian uncomfortable, for his only thoughts would bring him back to the sword. He decided it would be best to dry off and get some clothes on so he could get something to eat before bed.

After he made it to the kitchen, he grabbed himself a slice of bread and a tomato that was lying in a basket on the table. Any normal person would have sliced the tomato to make a sandwich, but Sebastian was not normal, and this point had further been proven in these last few days. He took a few bites out of the bread and then chomped down on the tomato as if it were an apple. That somewhat sweet but slightly tart flavor always seemed to hit the spot for him, and it was a rare treat for him to enjoy a snack like that without anyone discussing matters that probably had no business being discussed at a dinner table.

Since his parents would likely not be home for a couple of hours, he thought it best to ask if Zuri wanted to just talk for a while. Her temple was nice and serene, but she was probably lonely, being the only one who lived there. “Zuri?” He called.

“Hi, Bash, what can I do for you?” She appeared, standing right next to the sword from which she was summoned. She didn’t seem particularly bored, and she wasn’t necessarily shocked by his call for her, but then again, she seemed to always know when Sebastian was going to do something. She stood there, a smile on her face, waiting for a response from Sebastian. He called her, so it was probably best for him to actually have something to say.

“Uh, yes. I just wanted to check in on you.” His eyes darted from one end of the room to the other, and he was desperate to say what was on his mind. “Hmm, how do I put this? Did——”

“If you’re wondering if I saw you in the bath house, my answer is no. I promise my eyes were squeezed shut.” She closed her eyes until the sides of them wrinkled up.

She was convincing, and she was likely telling the truth, but Sebastian’s superstitions got the best of him when he needed to think critically. He tried to shake the thought off and changed the subject. “What do you make of that journal entry that my grandpa read? What city do you think he was talking about?”

She placed her hand on her chin and looked upwards, “That’s a good question, but I’m not entirely sure. I’ve been to many cities. For example, Boston, Richmond, Seattle, New York, Phoenix, Los Angeles, and Dallas, so he could have been talking about any of them. However some of those are the big port cities, which were hit the hardest during the war. Because of that, I can’t imagine that someone was living a normal civilian life in those, so maybe Phoenix or Dallas? That’s my best guess with the limited information. Sorry.” She seemed a bit disappointed.

“Oh, no, it’s okay. Your guess is probably better than anyone else’s. Speaking of which, what is this big war he mentioned?” Sebastian inquired.

“Oh, did I forget to tell you about World War III? It was a major conflict that resulted in the usage of nuclear weapons and other inhumane methods. It was an awful time to live. Luckily, there were survivors, so hopefully, humanity can grow again so they cannot repeat their past mistakes.” She answered immediately.

That time in history seemed to be something she wasn’t too pleased about. She wasn’t as chatty about it as other moments, but that didn’t bother Sebastian too much. Maybe it was best that such a story wasn’t told yet. But, if humanity didn’t remember that war…

“...then how would they learn from it?” Sebastian was itching to say that. It did seem kind of contradictory to erase history.

“That’s simple. The Garden of Eden is supposed to heal the broken human souls, so after hundreds of years, maybe even a thousand, they could mature, and the magic within them would guide them away from conflict. That’s what the plan was, anyway, but you seemed to be an early riser. You saw through my labyrinth, and you were the one to step forward and decide to cleanse the planet so it could be ready for your fellow humans to dwell on.” Her plan seemed flawless, but there was always an aberrant. Maybe she hoped that those undesirable traits could be weeded out in this small and hard-working community over the years until there was no one left but the good souls.

“I see your point. I guess it is good to have someone go out there and test the waters. I guess that’s why I am here.” Sebastian responded.

“Well, one correction. You’re not just testing the waters, you’re purifying them for everyone else. That’s your destiny.” She smiled and gestured if she could take a seat, which was perfectly fine by Sebastian.

“So, what’s the game plan?” Sebastian looked down at a half finished piece of bread and took another bite out of it.

“Game plan? Well, I think it would be good to get some training in first, so you can use your magic better, and we might need to round up some supplies, since I’m not sure how much food will be available out there. After that, we should be good to go.” Zuri quickly answered, leaving almost no time for Sebastian’s words to settle in the room.

That was pretty much what he had in mind, but he wanted to run that by her. She knew more about the world than he ever would. The whole house was silent, especially when his dad wasn’t there to press him on how many trees he cleared. It was funny. Even though his dad wasn’t there to bother him, he still found a way to bring his mind back to trees. He had to shake the thought because this whole vacation was supposed to be about living in the moment.

Zuri seemed to be a master at it. While she was ready with any plan and answer, she never seemed worried. He had a lot to learn from her example.

“Your parents are hard-working. What was it that they were working on? It seemed like a big project.” Zuri broke the silence.

“It beats me. Yesterday, my dad told me about something he was working on with my mom, but the only clues I got were from a few scattered pieces of paper and that it was in the town square. We need a lot of wood for it. That’s for sure.” Sebastian searched his mind for a good enough answer. He tried not to sound distant and without a proper reason, but it was hard when his dad was so cryptic about it all. He wanted to keep the flow going, so he asked something random, but it probably was good to do so. “How come we haven’t reached the edge of the forest with the amount of trees we have cut down?”

It wasn’t much time after his question before she presented an answer. “Well, the forest's maze works the same way as my temple. It’s kind of its own separate dimension, so you all essentially have infinite space to live. It’s hard to explain, but the trees technically go on forever, but entering the woods will just bring people back to where they started so they can’t get lost. That’s how it was all designed: to protect and provide. However, there are a few rifts in the woods that the magic sensitive people can follow to escape. They are usually drastically different from Eden, and those parts are more dangerous and corrupted. Azure’s Edge lay on the border between the real world and the Garden of Eden.”

It was a bit heavier of an answer than he expected, but it was most certainly worth it. “I see. That’s genius. It seems like humans are safe from any threat in here.”

“In theory, yes, but there are some strong monsters out there that can bypass even my magic. We don’t have to worry about that, though. It is almost impossible for someone to enter from the outside, much less a monster.” Zuri said confidently, but the word, almost, bugged Sebastian. If there was a possibility, it would likely happen, and its likelihood would only increase after five hundred years. Zuri’s body suddenly moved, and a look of worry was strewn across her face.

“What’s that?” She whispered. Sebastian could feel it too.

As if it were on cue, there was a thunderous noise coming from his room, which was followed by the shattering of a window and a pitter patter of what he presumed to be shards of it hitting the wooden floor. With that noise, his whole body jolted, and he instantly switched to his lucid state. There was the familiar trail of blue strings in every direction, but coming from his room was a crimson mass of jagged magic. That’s what Zuri said the color of the Hellhounds’ auras were. Had one made its way into his room? No, it couldn’t have been. They would have been able to feel it from a mile away.

Sebastian shot up from his seat and grabbed his sword. Zuri quickly did the same, and the two of them burst the door open to the stairs. At that point, the red mass seemed to grow stronger, which compelled them to investigate.

Each step creaked loud enough for the neighbors to hear it, but that was the least of their worries. Whatever was upstairs had more of a presence than the Hellhounds did, and it seemed to be more graceful than a normal mindless beast. They were about halfway up the stairs, and Sebastian could see the mass at his bed. He watched intently, waiting for it to make a move, and it seemed to just be inching its way to it. It had to have felt their presence, but it didn’t seem to care about their existence.

They finally tip toed their way to the door. Sebastian’s heart was beating a million times a minute, and his palms had begun to shake and perspire. That was no ordinary Hellhound. No, it made the Hellhounds seem like a joke. His hand reached for the handle, and it just remained there. If he held it for any longer, he was sure that it would begin to rust.

He looked at Zuri, who nodded at him, which he responded with his own. His gaze fixated on the knob, and his wrist quickly turned, pushing the door wide open. Inside was nothing. Well, his stuff was all there, but the mass of crimson was gone. Had he just missed it? How the hell did it just escape without their knowledge. Maybe he turned away his focus when he looked at Zuri for guidance. ‘Dammit, I need to work on that more.’

Still apprehensive, he had his sword drawn in front of him, and he made his way to the bed. It was still made, which was normal, but he saw something else pointing out from under his pillow. He pulled his pillow out of the way to see something that made chills run down his spine. It was the knife he drilled into the Hellhound’s head. How did this end up here? He had thought he lost it in the woods where he found Azure’s Edge, but this was something else.

Zuri could easily see that this was troubling him; she suggested that he sit on the bed to take it all in. In one hand, he held his sword, and in the other, his knife. Zuri was slightly confused, but that made sense; she wasn’t there to see him stick the knife into the Hellhound’s skull.

“Zuri, you didn’t see it, but this was the knife I used to defend myself before it ended up in a Hellhound’s skull. When I didn’t have that anymore, that was when I drew the sword. I guess the thing got away because this thing somehow ended up here, but I don’t know what could have happened after that or before this,” Sebastian relayed, and then his gaze moved to the glass shards on the ground. He followed the trail to the window from which they originated, and there were still a few jagged pieces hanging out, enough to cause a hazard.

Zuri seemed a bit worried when he said that, which slowed down her response time a couple of minutes. “Bash, this isn’t good.”

Sebastian looked back at her in a confused manner, and something in his peripheral vision caught his attention.

“That knife, since it didn’t kill the thing, could have been taken out of the woods, which could have been retrieved by a higher up monster. You see, magical essence is left on something after it’s touched, especially when it is from a large magic source,” Zuri worriedly informed Sebastian.

He heard what she had said, but whatever was in the distance from his window caught his attention. What was it?

“Bash, we’re being followed.” She stood up, pupils narrowed.

Suddenly, a bright red flash was headed towards his window, and screams could be heard outside his door. The red flash made contact with the room, and the frame immediately began to collapse. The noise was comparable to that which came out of his sword when he drew it.

Before he knew it, he and Zuri were on the ground. He had instinctively dived towards her, which he didn’t expect from himself. His ears were filled with an overwhelming ringing, and he could feel a heat originating from above him. He turned his head to see that the roof had been blown off, and stray beams and plaster had been thrown everywhere. The sky had finally shown all of the stars, but the black of the night was mixed with a red hue, which was bright enough to simulate a faux Sunset. As his hearing came back, some screams could be heard in the distance, which immediately woke him up. Whatever it was, he had to act fast.

Zuri was unscathed, but Sebastian had a bruise on the elbow that he landed on. He closed his eyes to check his surroundings, and what he saw rattled his body: there were hundreds of red masses all over the village, and the one that he and Zuri felt earlier was not so far away from his house, slowly making its way towards them.

What was that thing’s deal? Did his knife really lead it to his village? If so, he had a lot of explaining to do.

“Zuri, you ready to check this thing out?” Sebastian stared at her intently.

“Yes. By the looks of things, we’ve got quite the issue at hand, but it’s nothing we can’t handle.” Zuri piped up, and she got to her feet.

He hoped she meant what she had said and wasn’t just trying to brighten the mood, but he took her for her word and prepared for battle. Luckily, he had been storing some magic within him when he landed on the ground, which would give him a better chance against whatever was down there.

The two of them, instead of heading out the door, just jumped out of the newly made sunroof and landed on the grass outside of the house. The mass was right in front of him, so he didn’t need his lucid state anymore to see it. When his eyes opened, he saw a middle aged man, whose strained eyes remained fixated on the duo. His hair was blacker than anything he had ever seen, and its movements followed the wind as it picked up the flames. His clothing matched his hair, which hid him pretty well in the dark. What was the most unsettling was that his face, despite conveying anger with his eyes, showed a shit eating grin on the other half. The man must have been insane, and he seemed to want to see the world burn, wasting no time to see to it himself.

Sebastian’s hands gripped harder on the handle of his sword, and he continued to assess the man in front of him. “Who the hell are you?” He shouted, trying to speak over the distant screams and crashes of buildings.

The man just continued to smile and lick his lips. The embers of the buildings closest to them began to rain down on the two of them, and as the first ember touched the ground, he spoke up, “I am Rouge, bringer of fire and Crimson Lord. Your little dagger helped us find your puny village, so we decided to pay you a visit.”

There were humans outside of the Garden of Eden? How was that possible? Sebastian wanted answers, but something told him that this man wouldn’t tell him anything. “We don’t want visitors. We just want peace.” Sebastian muttered, further increasing his grip on his sword.

“Don’t worry, soon all of the people here will rest in peace, after we burn them to the ground,” Rouge licked his lips again. This guy was extremely unsettling, and a massive collection of crimson strings were swarming around him, which was more than he had ever seen even in his own body of magic, regardless of color.

“Not if I kill those Hellhounds of yours first,” Sebastian responded and turned around to look for the closest ones, but, before he could even take a step, Rouge bolted to catch up with him.

“I’m not done with you. You’re quite the problem for me. While I offer you my thanks for leading me here, you have got to go.” Rouge drew a long red blade, which seemed to glow with a haze surrounding it, and it reminded Sebastian of hot July afternoons with the Sun baking everything in its path. Sebastian only answered with his sword being drawn as well. He would have to get through his guy to save the village then, huh?

Sebastian nodded, accepting Rouge’s challenge, and the two of them dashed towards each other, clashing swords. That man had a hot sword. The heat radiating from it was almost unbearable, but he had to handle it for the sake of his friends and family. Rouge pulled his blade away in an attempt to strike near Sebastian’s head, but he quickly answered with a parry to ward off the Crimson Lord’s attack.

Next, Sebastian jumped back a bit to try to get a tactical advantage, but Rouge was too quick, and he followed suit. Sebastian moved his sword for a swing, and his torso was quick to execute his attack, which brought it near Rouge’s abdomen, but a quick block from him was the only reaction Sebastian could get.

Nothing seemed to phase this man——he was able to execute continuous attacks, which were all luckily narrowly blocked by Sebastian. The man clearly had better skills, but Sebastian’s endurance and strength seemed to protect him.

Sebastian decided to spice up the fight a bit and activate a bit of magic in his system, which sharpened his senses. Even though it was limited, the extra boost seemed to be just enough for him to keep Rouge on the defensive.

“You seem to know how to use that thing pretty well,” Rouge yelled without even remotely appearing out of breath. When it came to endurance, those two were pretty evenly matched, but Sebastian had no idea how many years the guy had on him, which was a problem.

Sebastian, in an attempt to get more magic to fuel his barrage of attacks, had to fall back a bit to concentrate, but Rouge didn’t leave him any room to do so, so his reserve was slowly dwindling down. How the hell was he going to defeat him? He knew something like this would happen: he would be in the middle of a high speed battle that required every ounce of his strength and attention, and his powers would be slowly drained by his superior opponent.

“You aren’t too bad yourself,” Sebastian grunted, suddenly on the defensive. The man was strong, and his magic seemed to be endless, especially compared to that of Sebastian.

The only magic radiating from Sebastian was coming from his sword, which, itself, had been depleted as a result of the fight. Sebastian closed his eyes to get a feel for things, trying to understand his opponent’s abilities. As his eyes closed, the blue strings of life began to appear, but he was more focused on what was around him, so the forest and anything not in his general vicinity was not of importance. Rouge’s crimson aura had now begun to shine much brighter than before, and, just as Sebastian saw with Zuri, his aura had formed a visible and discernible body.

Even though everything was dark, their swords were visible to Sebastian’s aura sensing, and he saw it all: a crimson and azure clash of magic, forming purple with every time they made contact. It was quite beautiful, but Sebastian’s own aura was waning, while Rouge’s was still as bright as ever; thus, the purple became more of a magenta and then a slightly diluted red.

Sebastian began to see Zuri’s Lifeline, which he hadn’t noticed for a while, but he knew it was always there. It was facing somewhere else, not where they had parted ways. What was she doing?

Then, maybe it was by accident, or maybe Azure's Edge had a mind of its own, Sebastian was sure that he saw Zuri’s Lifeline passing through Rouge’s shin. What was it trying to tell him? Why his shin? Upon further realization, Sebastian focused on Rouge’s aura to find that his shin was a weak point. The man had focused most of his aura on his upper body and critical points, which led Sebastian to think that his magical well wasn’t as deep as he had originally thought! It turned out that Rouge was not unbeatable! He could do this, and he had just the plan.

While their swords clashed, Sebastian kicked Rouge in the shin, which gave him an opening to jump out the way. “You son of a bitch!” Rouge embraced his knee, which let Sebastian collect a bit of magic.

His eyes were still closed, and he called for the energy of the forest, the grass, and the wind. The familiar hands that reached out for the magic he needed to cut down those trees had returned, and they maneuvered through the crimson strands that emanated from Rouge’s body. Since this was a bit more dire than before, Sebastian had them frantically grasping for any amount of energy they could get, and after that small amount of time, he had enough magic for what he had planned on doing.

In order for this next move to work, he had to constantly be dodging Rouge’s advances, which wouldn’t be too hard if he did this right. Half of the built up magic he had was focused on his legs and torso, so he could make a break for it if the Crimson Lord got too close, and the other half was focused within his sword, with which he would be attempting his new move.

Rouge made haste to approach him, but Sebastian quickly dodged. The man was quick, but this boost in power that Sebastian obtained allowed him to just stay out of reach. Realizing that Rouge had recovered from his kick in the shin, Sebastian knew it was time. He had to do it now or never, so he focused almost all of the magic within his body into the sword and yelled at the top of his lungs, “Holy Beam!” He had to come up with that name quickly, so it was the best he had. With that, a straight beam of light shot out of Azure’s Edge and made contact with the flaming blade that Rouge was holding. Rouge’s grasp was immediately broken, and his sword flew out of his hand.

His plan had worked, and he was well on his way to defeating him. This next part was critical, since the Crimson Lord was too dangerous with his blade. Before Rouge could retrieve his weapon, Sebastian jumped towards him and began his barrage of attacks.

Left, right, diagonal, up, down, stab, slash——none of those attacks were landing on Rouge. He was still able evade the attacks, but his sword was no longer there to pose a threat to Sebastian, which was exactly what he had wanted. Seeing his own predicament, Rouge jumped about ten feet backwards and got into a position to fight hand and hand.

“You think those tricks you’ve got will put an end to me, but you will need much more than that to even scratch me.” Rouge prepared to launch an attack.

He was right, Holy Beam didn’t affect him, and even with the remaining magic within him, which was still barely left over, Sebastian wouldn't be able to harm Rouge.

He decided to focus on the energy, hopeful to pluck a few strands of magic from the air, but instead of doing what he planned to do, Sebastian noticed Zuri’s Lifeline again, which was this time facing right behind him. The massive collection of that blue light was shining brighter than any of the magic Rouge contained within himself, and Sebastian knew exactly who was there to help him finish the job.

“How about this?” Zuri finally spoke for the first time in minutes, and she yelled at Sebastian for his attention, “For the last few minutes, I have been saving some magic up for you, Bash, so let’s finish this guy off!”

She disappeared and entered the sword, which, this time, glowed blue——no, azure. Sebastian immediately understood and shook his head with a smile. His head returned to Rouge’s location, and he prepared for his ultimate move. With the collected power that Sebastian was saving during his fight and Zuri’s considerable contribution, which at least quadrupled his fortune, Sebastian was now ready to fight for real. A battle of attrition wasn’t going to cut it, so a final, decisive blow would have to suffice. With that decision being made, Sebastian donated his magical reserve to the blade that housed Zuri: Azure’s Edge.

“Yeah, let’s do it,” Sebastian’s whole body tensed up, ready for his most powerful attack. “Divine Light!” Sebastian bellowed as he made a clean slice in the air. Instead of the usual wave of power that would cleave in an arc, all of the magic was focused on a focal point, and the immediate rush of blue light made its way to Rouge’s position.

Rouge’s eyes had widened so much that it looked like they wouldn’t ever close again, and the light finally reached Sebastian’s target. His red aura had begun to be torn to shreds by the sharp blade of blue light, and their remaining strands that connected to Rouge began to go up in flames. Sebastian could hear a loud yell for mercy, which was immediately cut off by the explosion produced by the blue Divine Light.

There were only embers of this Crimson power that remained, which slowly rained down. Their contact with the ground had initiated the battle with Rouge and Sebastian, but their return had signified an end to the conflict. Along with Rouge’s weakened aura, every hotspot in the village was completely gone. Had Sebastian not noticed this before?

“What the——”

“It’s okay, Bash, I took care of the rest of them while you were fighting alongside some others who decided to help out. I had just enough magic for you left over.” She innocently smiled, but a bit of terror entered his body, since she was able to do all that without his knowing. How powerful was she truly?

The embers began to swarm around a central point, which Sebastian paid no mind to. He assumed it had resulted from the wind.

“You are ama——”

“Bash!” Zuri screamed.

A massive bang of explosive crimson energy filled his ears and eyes, and before Sebastian could get out the way, a revived Rouge had dashed towards him and tore through him with a powerful blow from his sword. If it weren’t for Azure’s Edge, he would have been dead, but a second blow would surely do him in. His vision was hazy, and his ringing ears, coupled with a numb buzzing feeling, indicated that he had forcefully hit the ground.

As quickly as they went away, though, his senses finally came back, and the sword he was holding a second ago was now many feet away from him. It was at this moment when a burning sensation was creeping up on his throat, and his recently cleared vision finally saw what it was coming from; Rouge was holding his scalding blade to Sebastian’s throat.

“You know why they call my sword the Blood Curdler?” He licked his lips. “Because you can hear a blood curdling scream from my victims when I slit their throats with it. Now it’s time to hear yours.” He lifted his sword, and a manic look filled his previously wrathful eyes. What was this guy’s deal?

Sebastian could feel himself shaking, unsure of how he could get out of this situation, but he could definitely tell that Rouge was much weaker than he was before he was hit by Divine Light, which would be helpful if Sebastian could find a way out of that situation.

As if it were a gift from the heavens, Sebastian was saved. Before Rouge could fully come down with a crushing blow, another blade was pushed through his back and out his chest.

In that moment, Rouge was temporarily incapacitated, and his look of lustful wrath was replaced with that of pure shock. He was no longer holding Sebastian down, so Sebastian saw that as a chance and bolted up, grabbing his own sword right after his hasty escape. Just as he had gotten ready to lay down his final judgement, his eyes then caught a glimpse of the most unusual sight to behold. It was none other than his own grandpa.

“What are you doing here?” Sebastian’s eyes were widened.

His grandpa smirked and forcefully yanked the blade from Rouge’s back, “Looks like you needed help. Besides, despite my age, I can kick some ass too.”

As he said that, Rouge began to move and swing his sword. It looked like he wasn’t dead, even though his own heart had been pierced. Was it his own insanity that kept him animated? Sebastian was too scared to figure out. Before Sebastian could yell for his grandpa to dodge, the old man swung his own sword at the Crimson Lord’s hand, which removed it from the rest of his body. How had he done that so effortlessly, and with that much conviction, no less?

The desperate Rouge, eyes now filled with fearful anger, attempted to reach for the sword with his other hand, but the old man, without warning, stabbed through the other to keep it in place. Rouge tried to pull his hand up, but it only split more down the middle, and a roar of agony ripped through the air. Sebastian’s grandpa reached down and picked up the hot blade, which didn’t seem to phase the old man, and he inspected its every square inch.

“Beautiful. Too bad scum like you wield this. If you ask me, you are undeserving of such grace.” His grandpa continued to look it over. Its red continued to sizzle, completely destroying any moisture that might have been in the air.

“Who-who are you?” Rouge’s voice cracked.

His grandpa pulled the other sword out of the man’s hand and spoke, which caused Rouge to produce another roar of terror and absolute pain. Despite that, Sebastian’s grandpa spoke calmly, “The name’s Sebastian H. Lindloff. Commit it to memory before my grandson and I kick your ass for attacking our village.” As he said that, he threw his old sword to the side and got into position with the new one. His whole body flexed, and it was like Sebastian was seeing a completely different man. He looked to be at least twenty years younger.

“Hey, Sebastian,” his grandpa said, “Let’s finish this guy off.”

Sebastian nodded and got into his own position. On the count of three, the two dashed towards the Crimson Lord and decapitated him, causing the rest of the red essence to dissipate into the air. With that, his body began to crumble into the earth, and the flames in the village had finally died down.

Sebastian let out a sigh of relief, and his grandpa’s age seemed to come back. He had no idea what that was, but he had to ask him some time. Right then, he thought it best to check on the village to make sure no one was harmed. His head was turning frantically, side to side, looking for any other fires that might have been harassing the landscape, but most of them seemed to be quelled.

“Sebastian,” his grandpa grabbed his arm, “Don’t worry, your parents are alright.”

The pressure in his lungs was able to escape his mouth, and he plopped down onto the ground. Suddenly, another thought came to his mind. “What about——”

“Tommy Dean, too. He’s alright. No one was killed, luckily, but a few of the buildings need some repairs,” His grandpa informed him and then looked at Sebastian’s room, “Some more than others.”

He helped Sebastian to his feet, and the grim look on his face washed away when Zuri reappeared.

“Oh, thank goodness. You two are alright, and you handled that guy very well.” She embraced the old man and his grandson, which was with a bit more force than what they would have thought.

“Zuri, I’m glad you’re alright, too,” Sebastian laughed, but something was seriously bothering him. “Can you tell me what you know about that Crimson Lord guy? What was his deal?”

Her smile disappeared and she shook her head negatively, “Unfortunately, I don’t remember anyone like him or anything like his title from five hundred years ago. They must be a new group, which is concerning, since I thought no one was out there. He seemed skilled enough to mask his presence and enter your room without our knowing, so they are probably able to hide all over the world. Scary.”

The three of them stood there in silence, and then Sebastian’s grandpa spoke up, “Do you think any more of those people will be coming?”

Zuri had an unsure look on her face, but she tried her best to give an answer, “Unlikely. He didn’t necessarily mention colleagues, and he appeared to be the one in charge, so this attack of his was probably all of what he had. The people of Eden can rest peacefully knowing that there won’t be another invasion. Trust me.”

Well, she said it. Sebastian had every reason to trust what she said. She was right about everything else, so what reason would she be wrong after she said that? Regardless of that, they were probably going to face quite a few of them once they left the Garden of Eden, and it would probably be best to gather as much information as possible on them. Maybe they should have spared the guy to question him. Damn, Sebastian didn’t think of that.

“There still arises the issue of our excursion.” Sebastian piped up.

“Yeah, it seems like we’ll have to leave earlier than we had initially planned,” Zuri nervously said.

“That’s fine by me,” his grandpa grinned. “I’ve got everything packed.”

Sebastian shot him a gaze and mumbled, “You packed for a trip that was originally going to kick off a month later? Just how eager are you to get killed?”

His grandpa chuckled, “I think I can handle myself out there.” Staring off to the embers that finally dissipated, the youth in his body momentarily returned as a grin formed on his face.

Sebastian took a step back, realizing that his grandpa wasn’t who he originally thought he was. The fact was that he was strong——stronger than he had originally thought, so maybe he was to be taken seriously. However, at what point would his power be drowned out by the others out in the real world? What if an enemy were twice as strong? Three times as strong? Stronger than that? Even the power of Zuri might not be able to match something of that magnitude, much less that of Sebastian’s grandpa.

One of the main things that went to Sebastian’s mind was the terror he felt in the battle. For a moment, he felt enthralled by his ability to contend with this insane…creature, and for another, he wondered if his life was at its end. Seventeen years washed away so quickly, and for what——finding a sword in the woods? Being stupid enough to expose this village to the horrors of the universe? Of course, he felt guilt about it, but he had to set things right——he had to save humanity.

Zuri’s demeanor was, again, as jovial as ever. Her eyes flashed a reassuring gaze to Sebastian, and she appeared to see the conflict that was being displayed by him. However, despite the fact that he was thinking those thoughts, her confidence in him remained, and with a warm smile, Zuri continued, “Well then, why don’t we get ready for our grand excursion? We have a bit to learn before we go out into the world, and this new information will prove to be quite interesting and beneficial. Let’s be off!”

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