Book Three: Redemption, Chapter Seven-
It was her last stop before she reached her final destination. From the shadowy outskirts, Rei glared into the metropolis of lights and busy people, as pivoting around a single, mammoth structure of pure architectural beauty, the city's coliseum. Like the stadiums of a lost past, the arena stood taller than any of the buildings surrounding it, supported by countless hand-carved pillars, entirely chiseled from blocks of the finest marble. Enormous torches were stationed to each corner of the world to illuminate the battlefield located stories below. The pride of decades of labor, spanning generations, she only saw it as testament to the tyranny that ruled the land, a tyranny that would soon fall, crushed beneath her heel. Heaving her axe back onto her shoulder, she waited until an opportune time dawned for her to sneak in, casual entrance being restricted by heightened security since word spread of her sighting.
"This is it, isn't it?" a stifled voice called from the darkness. Heeding no consideration, Rei swung the battle-ax with all her might till she heard the impact of its blade. Standing in its vicinity, his figure perfectly composed less the bent angle at his waist to evade being cleaved, was Shade. His eyes slowly traced a path from the axe, stuck in a tree, to Rei's face, returning the same blank stare to one another. "Why, hello to you, too," he put bluntly. "What is this? The third time you've tried to bisect me?"
"I don't know who might be out here looking for me," she claimed in her defense. "Besides, you always get out of the way in time. Anyone out to get me, on the other hand..."
"Well, would it kill you to look before you go all chop-happy?" he begged. "I came close to losing my arm," he complained, examining the recently split threads on his sleeve.
"It might," she flatly responded. "Besides, I kinda knew it was you, anyways," she said with a impish smile.
"Say what?" As he cast his gaze back level, he found himself alone. Rei made it through the perimeter and was already well into the streets before he exactly realized what had just happened. Despite being dressed for the occasion, stealth is always complicated when everyone is expecting an intruder, and carrying around a giant instrument of beheading does not add to the ease any. However, she still managed to pull it off. Neither crouching nor running, but at normal pace, her body shifted between the shadows, weaving through alleys and dodging lampposts. Many people even saw her, or thought they did. She moved by so fast, it seemed like nothing more than shadows playing tricks with their eyes, and, with all the heightened panic, it was expected of the people. Before long, she was at the gates of the coliseum. Entirely bathed in light and crawling with centurions, it was not long before she thought of how to enter. As soon as the tip of her boot emerged from the blackness, all of the stationed guards responded to her presence.
Inside the arena, a champion sat upon her throne, awaiting the challenger. Immaculate white robing contrasted her dark skin as artifacts and amulets of bone adorned her form, passed down from her long perished ancestors. She was one of the few left of her race, destroyed in the cataclysm that took one third of the world with it. Record of events before that time, or of it, for that matter, were all lost or forgotten. She was one of the sole carriers of this lost lore, of the people who connected to the planet and its spirits, taught the legends by her parents as well as the rituals that accompanied them. She, too, was now a spirit speaker and would probably be the last. The entire stadium was abandoned except for her. The sentries disapproved of her choice, demanding that at least one of them protect her. She declined.
"I have consulted my ancestors, the great spirits, and the stars," she recalled telling them. "It must be this way. I shall face her alone when she comes. Do not interfere."
"You mean," the guard corrected her, "if she comes, madam?" A grim stare was her only reply. "Madam, no one will harm you, we swear our lives on it," he tried to assure.
"Promises mean nothing if it is not how fate has written it," she repeated. Taking a lot of bones, she prayed to those above and lost, casting them in ritualistic fashion. "O, great mother, I ask of you," she chanted in forgotten tongue, "show me what destiny has proclaimed." As they clattered on the stone floor before her, she could hear commotion outside among the supposed top security entrusted with protecting her life. Taking her gnarled wooden staff in hand, marked with carvings legible to only those long lost and hung with relics, she stood to read her divination. The iron gate, set on the opposing end of the amphitheater, burst forth trailed by a path of flame. The too halves were now melted as one, and a tangle of charred bones were halfway fused into it as well. Bounding out from the shadows of the corridor, the crimson beast perched atop the smoldering pile, howling into the night sky to announce his masters arrival. At steady pace, Rei come forth. Travelling straight over the heap singed bodies, her heavy boots smashing whatever of the remains laid in her path. She never slowed or changed her course, but simply continued onward to the last champion that stood in her way. Staring down at the pattern revealed to her, she whispered to herself, "From above, you shall be slain..."
"Challenger," she called out from her high seat at the head of the arena, "I am Divinity, appointed champion of this city.
"Divinity," Rei replied, "I am the challenger. I seek a bout. Do you accept?"
"Why, I am required by law to accept," the shaman answered with a bow.
The girl laughed and added with menacing grin, "Since when are you subject to the law?"
"I would not question me on legal ethics, young one," the diviner tartly retorted, "for I can sense the impurities of ones soul, the conflicts within you, and they weigh heavy on your soul. I can sense more, too, you know. The blood on other people shed unto them by the innocent slain at their hands, but I do not need that with you. No, I can merely smell it on you, and you reek of it." Rei slide the axe from her shoulder to the ground, landing with a loud thud, to lean upon whilst she conversed.
"You done?" she blandly questioned. "Inasmuch as I'd really like to get this over with."
"I know your suffering, lost one," Divinity continued, "for I can commune with the spirits, and the spirits have been in turmoil, wailing in pain. Pain," she paused to lift an accusatory finger, "caused by you alone."
"Whatever," Rei yawned. "Sure, crazy shaman lady thinks she has magical powers. Right," she bantered on in disbelief. Thunder clashed as the priestess brandished her aged staff. With unstirred demeanor, she mildly replied, "That was just good timing." Pounding the end of her staff into the stone floor thrice, each strike was precisely accompanied by a thunderclap. "Okay," she admitted, "that was impressive timing."
"They are weeping," the witch doctor went on, "the planet itself is weeping. You have ended countless souls before their time had expired. And for what? Do you even know anymore?"
"For justice," Rei divulged. "It's all for justice."
"That may be true," the diviner agreed, tilting her eyes, "but who's justice may that be? In who's eyes are you truly just?" she cried out violently. "The spirits, those long lost, have pulled themselves back into our world from their own to confront you, to try and get you to reconnect with your initial goal!" Her rages ceased as she was lulled into a calm. "But they did not know. They did not know that this, all of what you have done, was what you planned to achieve from the start. They thought they were avenged, they thought you were helping them rest," she said, raising tempo and voice as she continued. "They thought wrong! You never had any intention of accomplishing anything saving satisfy your own blood lust!" Rei not only was being bored by what was said but also insulted. Frustrated, she finally broke the evangelistic rambling.
"So, what? Are you trying to get me to change my ways? Be a better person?" Laughing, the shaman lowered her head and shook it.
"Why, wandering one," she clarified, "there is no salvation for the path you have chosen. You cannot change your destiny now. You can only suffer, and I intend to learn you."
"Enough of this!" Rei burst in. "I have other things to do. Cinder," she called the beast to her side, "sick her." Growling, the Flareon darted off, aimed straight at the priestess. Calmly, she held her staff level and began a chant. As the savage animal barreled down upon her, she maintained her spell as wisps began materializing before her, taking form. The thread gracefully wove together, constructing a creature of stunning beauty with flowing green hair, sweeping body, and gentle face. The enemy neared, yet the recently shaped being stretch out its limbs apathetically. The flame beast bound at his new target, his lips pulled back to show his sinister fangs, heading true to the Gardevoir's throat but only headed towards. He was frozen in midair. Lowering her raised hand, his opponent's peaceful eyes were filled with violent intent as anguish sweep through his mind. Tired of Cinder, the being cast him aside, rocketing him to the side of the stadium, cracking heard as he hit the stone wall. The anger swelled up in Rei as she released what remained of her battalion. "Oh," she warned, "it's on now."
"My thoughts exactly," the witch doctor returned with a malicious smile as a swarm of monstrous creations appeared around her. "Shall we?"
The opposing ranks met head on as the leaders of both sides clashed, rod to axe. Sculpting flame from air, a pointy topped ghost hurtled glowing balls at Rei's line, sapping them. Goopy, liquefied, sneaked beneath the distracted phantom and, tapping into other worldly forces, drove a blackened fist through the spirits body. In retaliation, Witchcraft bore the torment and placed its palm onto the Muk's forehead, linking their minds and sharing the agony. Shojobo, a flowing white mane dressed over a wiry frame of wood with a fan of leaves, selected to duel Poppy. Leaping back, it whipped its fan to and fro, summoning a large, whirling wind that tore across the arena's sandy floor. As the nauseous flower was slowly shred by the violent gales, the goblin sprung into the air, aiming at the enemy in the center of the vortex. The Vileplume, anticipating, released a spore from his petals into the funnel cloud that was upward with the winds. The Shiftry was blasted with a full dose of the pollen and plummeted, helplessly, to the earth. With sights set, the weed launched a wad of venom that erupted on contact with the dryad, tearing the twister apart.
Squishy was left with the remaining. In quick reaction, he called a tide to sweep them away, but one was not itself. As the surf pulled the triad away, he saw one crumble in the water like a flimsy doll, realizing to late that was exactly what had happened. Its replica broken, a dire beast of black and white rematerialized at the point of its exchange and charged with the scythe on its head raised, but a red bolt intercepted its path, knocking it off its feet. The Absol, regaining its sense and footing, found the assailant to be Cinder, battered and apparently rabid. With lowered, a sickening mixture of saliva and blood poured from his mouth, now missing many teeth. He stood despite at least too of his legs being broken, one uncertainty and the other twisted backwards. One eye would not open while the other, burning with hellish rage, twitched uncontrollably. He vaulted his body at the bladed stalker, who swung its sickle at its attack. Catching the curved edge on the soles of his hind feet, which were cut slightly less than his body would have been, flipped back and slide under the beast, slashing its underside hectically. Rearing, before it could come down upon the Flareon, its whole was enveloped by tendrils. Unable to move, the Tentacruel gradually drained the fiend's vital fluids.
The Dusclops drew out a phantasmal blade. In piercing its own body, the blade extended to piece the Muk's as well. With the hex in place, the sludge pile slowly felt itself growing weaker. Before it blacked out, Goopy practiced some voodoo of its own. Reaching out its slimy hand, it marked Witchcraft with its own curse before collapsing into a shapeless puddle. Upon its defeat, the handprint burned through the ghost's soul. It meddled into the specter's mind and robbed it of all its power. Left a hollow shell, one of the ooze heap's avenging comrades finished off the withered shadow of a foe.
Weapons locked, the two woman were equally matched. Releasing a hand from her staff, a charm strung to the enchantress's hand began to glow. As she touched Rei's axe, its weight increased enormously, causing it to drop like a rock. She struggled to lift it as Divinity patiently watched and talked.
"Why do it?" she questioned. "What do you have to gain?"
"It's not about what I have to gain," Rei harshly answered. "It's about what I have already lost." Saddened, the shaman turned her back.
"Then you leave me no other choice," she informed her. Snapping her fingers, she cried out, "Euthania, finish it." Behind Rei, the elegant empathic suddenly appeared. Fluently moving her arm, she drove it directly into Rei's head to lay waste to her mind, but the psychic bond backfired. As the being ventured into the nether regions of the soul, what she found was too much for her to manage. The pain and hatred overwhelmed her. Wailing in torment, she eventually collapsed onto the floor, staring blanking into nothingness.
"I've come too far to be stopped now," Rei mocked the priestess, resuming her endeavors to lift the axe, "and, what you said is true. I can't change my fate." Surprised that she was still alive, the shaman turned about. "I can only suffer." Pulling up on her blade, she thrust it into the air in spite of the enchantment. In a vertical rise, it split the rune staff asunder and left a long gash travelling up the priestess's body end to end. The spell broken, the weapon flew from Rei's hands from excessive force. Jabbing the witch doctor in the gut, right on her new wound, she took a piece of the shattered rod and began flailing her foe with it, bringing the champion to the ground. Holding the woman down, she struck the cane against the stone floor, splintering the end to a sharpened point. The broken piece raised, her hands shook. Staring down at the battered woman below her, knowing all that she had said, knowing it all to be true. She could not bring herself to end her. Her hands faltering, she cast the staff aside and, utterly spent, collapsed, falling to her flank.
On her journey to the ground, a rip through the air, ending in a grunt of pain, nicked her arm. A droplet of blood trickled down her arm and was soon to join the stream that flowed from Divinity's chest. An arrow, fired from a sentinel from far atop the arena, was let loose when he saw his master's life was in danger, and, during its trek, the target had moved from out the way. Peering down at the shaft protruding from her heart, Divinity, with her last ounce of strength, lifted a clutched hand skyward and whispered to herself, "From above, you shall be slain..." As the last of life escaped her body, her arm fell over, opening to reveal an insignia of heaven's grace. Forcing herself into movement before the next arrow was let into flight, Rei gathered the badge and her axe, readying for departure. As she was about to sneaking off into the night, she stopped and pulled herself back to the body of Divinity. Pausing for a moment, Rei closed its eyes, and continued to her final goal.