Chapter 8: The path to one's identity under the "New Normal"
As overjoyed as Richard and the others were at getting through a near impossible mission alive, as good as the third prince felt to get back to his family and get to the bottom of what was going on with his father, the fact of the matter was that it was far from a flawless victory, as the source of all of his sorrow still eluded his judgment, with his target in tow.
After warping out of the Grand Vault, a few seconds later Ares stepped on solid ground, and observed that he was now in a vaguely circular chamber, one that had just enough light in this chamber to see both the platform and all occupying it, in spite of no obvious light source. Each step made upon the surface, sounding like metal cracking metal, resounded.
Ares smirked as he saw individuals gathered in the chamber already; each was wearing heavy robes and had demonic masks.
They all appeared to have been talking amongst themselves, but that changed quickly: as soon as he made his arrival, all immediately stood at attention and turned to him, falling into deep bows. A pair of words echoed solemnly and powerfully through the chamber: "Deum Belli."
The leader of the Iblis Corps saw how silent those around him were before he smirked." No need for such a solemn tone today my brethren. After all, when we are that much closer to grasping our destiny, I would say jubilant tones are more fitting."
As Ares thrust the Dragon Helix Emerald in the air the other members of the Iblis Corps quickly bowed again. As some of them uttered praises a giggle broke out among the whispers. "Like anyone doubted you would deliver sug! Might have been a time when we would have worried, but that time's done an'gone so I told you all should have had the celebration grub out!"
Ares glanced to the right, and smirked to see that the voice came from a woman who's hair was long, wild, red, and voluminous and her eyes were as green as dark emeralds, flashing with vibrancy and life. Complimenting both shades was a pale orange lipstick.
She had flames casually dancing around her chest and lower region, but otherwise only had two glass's of wine in her hands. As she strutted up to the man in front of her she gave a curt bow." Hey, Sugah, here's the volcanic screw for the celebration! And to think these toadies dared question if you could pull it off! Like those royal pigs even knew what was going on with the show you were putting! Since your grinnin' like a possum eatin' a sweet tater should we mosy on back to Dranova and kick off humanity's last party?"
Ares chuckled darkly as he closed his eyes." Morgana, your devotion is appreciated as always. Alas, it's not time to call the game done just quite yet. The reason the others were a tad on edge is that while you were getting the drinks, there were a few, minor complications to the plan.
I did get the Dragon Helix Emerald, but Nathan Zilos is more of a stubborn fossil then we already figured, because he survived my confrontation. This was mostly because as we guessed, he is indeed a ally of the Crimson Tengu Ravens, for they came to his aide, long enough to expose that Alec Steel and Ares are two sides of the same coin to the military, causing the Magna Centurions to go at me.
To top it off, this divided my attention long enough for Requiem to expose Gargan's façade, leading to the Queen figuring out the truth and freeing Andross, to the bane of the one who was impersonating him. And so…we sadly have lost two Jinn Cadre in less than a month's time."
Morgana's eyes widened in shock as she nearly choked on her drink." For real? Old clayface was a blowhard but he was still our blowhard! Damn it, bad enough to lose Cucuzza but after we sent him the report, he should have been ready for that clown!"
"He was ready for Requiem, even with the Magna Centurions switching sides he was winning, till the genuine Andross Zilos arrived. Well…there was a reason we needed him off the game board eh? In the end, the difference in power became quite clear."
As Morgana frowned a chuckle cut in from the right." Well, looks like Gargan was wrong, in the end my art was superior all along. After all, his sculpting proved to be way to slow in the heat of the moment if those slug heads were able to waste him."
Morgana rolled her eyes as she saw the voice came from a thin man clad in green and red armor, with a wild red hair splay out in spike-like strands. His skin was an odd shade of tan, almost olive in the lights.
As the man walked up the red-haired lady wrinkled her nose." Deacon Cortez you're the last one who can act smug when for all your speed you let those ravens whop your sorry hide twice!"
Deacon merely shrugged as he grasped his left fist, a hand covered in a black colored bandaged glove tightly before he hissed out," Big talk from someone who's been taking the easy jobs Morgana!"
"Hey I'm willing to do anything that Sor, that Master lord Ares demands!"
"Chill, not going to doubt you there. Just saying, even genius's get screwed over when destiny's trolling around."
Ares chuckled darkly as he glanced at the Dragon Helix Emerald again." After today I'm inclined to agree my hasty Voltaic Kazejin. No matter how well you plan things out, destiny decides its feeling like unraveling your very life. Of course, when that happens, you double down and amass so much power that even destiny cannot deny you what you deserve. And, that is the move the Iblis Corps will soon make."
"Hell yah my lord." Deacon retorted." My sincere apologizes you were not able to get all you wanted."
"No worries Deacon, even if it was not a flawless victory, even such a defeat gained something. Something such as the true identity of Requiem. I had many theories, but I did not think it would lead to him being Andross's least impressive son, the assumedly departed Richard Zilos. And yet, that's the hand we have been dealt with."
Ares waved his hand, before one of the monitors in the chamber went on, to a black screen. Ares raised an eyebrow as the screen remained blank before chuckling darkly." Oh my, the army is already trying to purge my contacts eh? Guess they been awaken from there stupor. Still, they still don't realize how deep my roots have taken root."
The man with raven black hair snapped his fingers before another monitor opened, showing one of the Surge-Zeppelins recorded footage of Richard having Greymont attacking Gargan. Morgana saw Richard's grimly determined face before she gasped." No way, that's Requiem!"
Ares eyed his faithful cohort keenly as he licked his lips." You crossed eyes with this man before my dear? Something tells me, it was not when he was assumed to have been living."
Morganna looked down before she grasped her fist tightly." Nah. He was not wearing his mask, or much of anything and his dragon was not with him so I thought he was just another traumatized fella. It, it was right after you guys stormed the Surge Zeppelin and napped the other Helix Emerald when we and the Fireflies were looking around.
He, he just seemed like a soldier who had lost his mind because of what just happened. He was the guy I told you about when you called after roasting those Yack boy eyesores. I did not push too hard because he seemed like he could have joined us. His eyes, they seemed as broken as mine were when yah found me. He, he seemed to have as much anger for the world as we do."
"That may very well be true Morgana." Ares answered curtly." But are adversary is labeling me for all of humanity's sin, refusing to submit to the truth about humanity's hopelessness. With enough time he might have made a good Jinn Cadre, but if even after all this time he still clings to his simple-minded ideas on justice then there is no salvation for him.
He so very desperately wanted his family back to make everything back to normal, but I figure he will have just enough time to realize even more of what he cherished was just a façade. Still, his efforts will rally the Magna Centurion's making the last phase, more stressful then I would have preferred."
Deacon snickered before he tapped his foot." Those clunky slug heads may be getting all fired up, but to bad it's there last game over before they even get there second wind! C"mon my lord, you nabbed the last of the Emeralds so why give them a time out at all?"
Ares sighed as he glanced at the Helix Emerald again." I see the Necro Mizer's tests still have left you a bit, slurred Deacon with you forgetting a key detail. And that's that we still don't have all the Dragon Helix Emeralds, just all the ones with known locations."
Deacon raised an eyebrow as he looked around for the others." Wait…seriously? Then…where is it?"
"How many feathers are in your brain Cortez?" Morgana moaned out." If we don't already have it, it's because we don't know where it is!"
"Quite correct my devoted Blazing Daijin." Ares coolly retorted." At this all our contacts with our roots in all of the three great powers can't find the Dragon Helix Emerald then it simply means no one in all of civilization knows where the last Dragon Helix Emerald is."
"For real?" Deacon moaned out." Then that means after all of this we can't finish this? That Necro Mizer can't figure out an answer? Where is he anyway? He has a ton of time to drag out his hobbies but is a no-show during crunch time?"
"The Necro-Mizer…will not be joining us today. Now that we are close to the end game he will be even more preoccupied with fine tuning the instruments needed to bring about our new world. Its fine, it just means we have to double are efforts to get to the bottom of this."
Ares waved his hand before with a an immense grinding sound, the floor opened before him. Unseen engines and devices elevated the dragon statue from beneath the chamber before it towered over everyone. The leader of the Iblis Corps widened his eyes before having the purple helix Emerald float to the statue and land it its place, before all the Emerald's glowed.
A hologram map of Marvados then materialized before Ares looked determined." It's entirely possible that the last Dragon Helix Emerald fell into the depths of the ocean, or fell into one of the most obscure primitive societies in the entire world.
It does not really matter, I did not come this far to be stopped now. Even if we have to use all of our resources to forge a new replacement Dragon Helix Emerald Xorgoth will be unsealed and at last humanity will get the judgment it deserves!"
Ares saw how the others were looking at him, and after seeing Deacon gulp he snickered and flicked back his hair." But…I digress. Despite this complication, we still have the advantage. Are enemies still won't be finding our lair anytime soon, so we will stick to the shadows as we press hard on every lead that might lead us to the Dragon Helix Emerald. And, when the stage is set, it will be time for all who deny us to get what they deserve."
Morgana was about to say something till the entire room shook, and a loud clanking noise could be heard before a low, cold voice uttered," Then, then at last I can have the duel I been desiring for so long?"
The magician of dark chaos glanced to the right and saw a towering figure clad as a demonic knight stomp forward. Ares saw the man with a demonic skull's face grasping his massive broadsword tightly before his grin widened." Zandoris you think I would lead my most efficient killer down a false path? As I promised for quite some time, you will be able to have the ultimate dule befitting a warrior of your caliber, as long as things go to plan."
"Very well." Zandoris darkly retorted." This worm Requiem, to think he was Andross's spawn all along. He is as stubborn as his father, but his refusal to discard his naïve ideals proves he will never be a true warrior.
If he thinks he still can play his pathetic game then now that he has no more tricks to hide behind he will see that neither he, his comrades, his brothers, or even his father can compare to the true unyielding fury of the darkness!"
"Oh every human will be having that point drilled into them soon enough my Majin Chevalier." Ares coyly retorted." Richard so desperately wants to prove his fantasy is reality, but the more he pushes to find the light at the end of the tunnel, the more he will sink into the depths of the darkness.
Still, he's free to try while we round up the last Emerald's location, it will make his death all the more entertaining. And then, in his final moments, he just might feel the same level of despair we felt. One way or another…he will feel it soon."
Ares flicked back his cape before preparing to use all of his resources to unroot where the last ingredient to his genocidal plan could be completed.
As he did, the one that were trying to stop him were regrouping after such a decisive moment of truth.
While it took a lot of reassurance, Richard was able to get the rest of the Crimson Tengu Ravens to stand down after seeing that the Aurino military was not just waiting for them to let their guard down.
Tension was high for just about everyone, but after the Quantum Raven, the Punisher and the Tempest were all able to safely land in Primus Sanctus without anyone being shot at, Richard's comrades were able to see that they really were for the moment no longer seen as criminals.
In fact the one most in trouble seemed to be Nathan, who instantly got slapped and kicked by Veronica and Miriam for hiding from them the truth about Richard.
While Richard nearly saw his uncle get hit so hard that everyone wondered if he was going to be knocked out, between him and Andross they were able to persuade there family members Nathan was right to do what he did and got them to relent before Nathan bleed out.
After gathering everyone together and insuring all the hostiles were gone from the capital, everyone gather in the Magna Spire, which was still mostly undamaged from the earthquake Gargan unleashed.
Everyone…sans Kristen, who used the excuse of having to catch up with her father to avoid seeing Richard. At last Richard told the rest of the family everything that happened after they thought he was killed, with Nathan, Dan, Voltaire, Roxanne and Yuen all helping filling in the gaps to fully show just all that happened, all that transpired before appearing before his family again on top of a large Techno-Organic dragon. After a while Richard saw most of his family just stay silent as they thought of just how much had happened.
As Richard at last finished, he gulped as he saw how shocked everyone looked. Just as the third prince was about to say something Miriam suddenly giggled as she leaned back." Man Richard, this is just nuts! I mean you dreamed so much about being a star like in the movies and if we make sure the world does not end we could get the rights to a movie that would win all the awards that year!"
Natalie shrugged as she slouched back." Eh, no offense but its way to long to fit in one book or movie or whatever, would have to trim the fat to make it more marketable. Still…if you did not have so many people backing your story I would have had a hard time accepting it brother.
Yet, can't argue with the results. Richard, I admit, I did not think you had it in you to become a Magna Centurion. But, I guess nothing like pressure to push people past there limits."
Raphael still seemed in shock that Richard pulled off everything before his eye twitched." He did not become a Magna Centurion sister; he became some fanatical demon vigilante that caused chaos! He shot me, his own brother!"
As Richard, Dan, and some of the others looked uneasy Miriam just rolled her eyes." I thought you're the one who kept telling me and Richard to stop moaning about simple things Ralph? From how everyone explained things looks like we could have had this all wrapped up at Nilock if you just listened to Richard instead of being a fat head who let that jerk slip away!"
Raphael narrowed his eyes as he stood up." Don't but in when you don't know what you're talking about Miriam. Sister, you're too young to understand the nuance of things but it's not so simple, it was already a battle zone when I arrived, and Richard's reckless actions nearly caused a civil war to break out!"
As Richard, Greymont, Dan, and more all gave the second prince dirty looks Dan was about to blurt out something till Andross cleared his throat." I'm still catching up on things Raphael, but based on what Nathan and Orion told me you were the one who took the civil unrest in Nilock park as a trivial matter, allowing the people there to be so swayed by Ares's agents that Doge Zuckgette seriously thought his Neo Balgeta Federation had a shot.
I'm sure Richard made mistakes son, but the one in charge of that area at the time was you, thus, if you were taking your duties more seriously this might have unfolded in a different, less bloody direction."
Richard saw his older brother wince before he stepped back." Wait, not again, I already got yelled for this!"
"By my imposter? Then you have to remember what my authentic discipline is boy." Andross saw his second son recoil in shock before he just sighed." But your lucky I have a lot to get to for the next few days Raphael. Still, most importantly I'm grateful to be proven wrong when it counts.
Like I said earlier Richard, I'm happy you cared so much about your ideals that instead of just giving up and running away to hide you did whatever you could to fight for what is right. Because of that, there is still a chance to advert devastation."
Richard took a deep breath, and as Dan saw his friend's tension ease up he sighed before he cleared his throat." Happy your taking the news well your majesty. I'm glad the real you is not as stuck up as that mud faced jackass. Still, with all due respect was wondering if you had an answer by now on what's in store for the rest of us."
Andross saw the firmness in the eyes of the former leader of the Hammer Wolves gang before he looked amused." Mister Nicholson is it? It's easy to see how you been trained by Yuen, you have the sharpness of someone who endured his training. Still…that eager to know your fate eh?"
"Sort of." The blond-haired man replied." After all, glad you're happy about what your kin did but not all of us are your kid, and not all of us live hear. Hell, a good chunk of us don't have a home to go back to at the moment. So, just want to know sooner or later if I should be thinking about finding a place or if a cell's already being made for me for all the laws we had to break to survive to this point."
Andross chuckled as he leaned up." Don't beat around the bush I see. As important as manners can be, I can respect people who are honest about what they want. Heh, I suppose this whole mess started partly because of the nature of the law eh? Laws are supposed to be followed or order in society won't be followed…leading to chaos.
Yet at times corrupt laws are passed by corrupt individuals, so what does that mean about the law? Is the law merely the will of the powerful, or something more? I had, more than a little time to think about this and, at the moment I'm feeling strongly about the concept that for a nation to be more than the will of the strongest person enforcing his will over all the land he can hold, is about shared values.
Richard, Nathan, you cared about the values of our nation so much you were willing to risk everything to ensure they were upheld. You have my thanks." Nathan smirked as he stroked his beard." Well, I was hoping if I did what I could my brother would remember what he valued. Just turned out my brother did not have to remember, just be liberated from a shape shifting terrorist mutant. To think I confined myself so many times with an imposter."
Veronica winced as she grasped her cup of tea tightly." Nathan just be grateful that's all you did. Now that it's all settled in I realized all the nights that I, that I…oh Mavos help me."
As Richard saw his mother looked like she was going to throw up Andross grasped her hand warmly." Don't worry Veronica, I promise you Ares and everyone who had a part in this will answer for every last wrong they have done to us, and the entire planet. Still, I'm glad you did not lose your edge brother.
Heh, I confess right when I was getting ill, I was a…tad worried you had become too lax to do your duties properly Nathan, glad that's no the case."
"Oh well, I admit I let myself go in a few ways." Nathan playfully retorted as he patted his belly." But I suppose you were not there to see that when you got sick I realized I had to do my part in case the unthinkable happened.
Still, while I'm glad I held my mind together it hardly came together just because of me. If Richard was not able to endure everything, and recruit so many people to his cause then it would have been all for naught."
Andross chuckled again before standing up." Aye, a king is only as strong as his people. Richard, you came a long way from when your only friends were your retainers. Though, I was surprised to hear you chopped up Giorgio's hands."
Richard winced before he cleared his throat." Yah…sorry about that. I, got a little mad when I heard him, Cecil, and Paulie say they were only my friends to raise in status. Between that and Giorgio bragging how he was going to marry Miriam it…kind of struck a nerve."
Miriam had her jaw drop before she looked like she wanted to vomit before Andross chuckled darkly." He said that did he? My son, I know all about how much anger comes when confronted with betrayal so, I can relate. I do suppose mister Gandolfini having a drastic change in his career will be one of the many changes I make to reclaim what has been done in my name.
Even so, I'm glad you have been able to find true comrades Richard, I assure you they are more priceless then the Dragon Helix Emeralds. All of you showed great courage helping my son get to this point, I promise all of you will be given the respect you deserve. Especially you my morphing friend, I suppose all of this is thanks to you and your, special nature."
Andross was referring to Greymont, who had been eating a cooked turkey after requesting repeatedly for something to eat in the past hour. The Techno-Organic Dragon was too busy eating to even notice he was being talked to, till Richard nudged him.
Greymont blinked, before he burped, then winced as he realized Andross was looking at him and winced." Oh, sorry about that, this food is really good though. But, thanks mister King! No problem, boss was sad about missing his family since we met so just wanted to help him and all."
Richard's father paused before he stood up and went over to him. He was motionless for a moment before he smirked, raised his hand and pet Greymont fondly." I'm just glad he was able to get the help he needed. I, just did not expect that help would be from the last living dragon.
Well, it's a good thing for all of us dragons don't seem to match the legends. I am glad my son was your first meeting with a human and not Bolton Steiner Greymont. I know you said you have no memories before meeting Richard, but you truly don't remember anything before he woke you up?"
Greymont wagged his tail for a few moments before he rubbed his head." Sorry, all I remember before Richard woken me up is um…a lot of white silence?"
Andross paused before he looked at the tailed creature in front of him and chuckled." That's a state I'm quite familiar with my friend so I believe you. Yes, I can see in your eyes that's the truth.
Well, to think the fabled Droma Catacombs still existed, but I suppose the earth can move quite a lot over the centuries. Nathan, once things have stabilized it might be keen to take another look at Zaylor yes?"
Richard winced before he looked down." What, did happen to Zaylor anyway?"
Orion sighed as he looked up." After we thought you died Richard, we put the town under a rather swift lock-down. Not much happened since then, anyone that could left the village, pushing it to the brink of ruin. While, it's still wrong of them to have tried to attack us, I suppose we are at the point of time when we might be able to start a new line of negotiation with the town. In light of what I learned today, maybe the same could be said for Los Midas."
Andross chuckled as he looked at his blade." In light of how misguided we were, it would seem a great many things have to be looked at for possible, reexamination. My Magna Centurions, I know Gargan mislead you but I am not blameless. Because of what happened with things such as my first wife, I already felt a tad strongly about rooting out chaos.
But, I feel we all became to obsessed with looking strong over doing our jobs properly, and that's a mistake we must make amends to. Still, there is no easy answer, we can't just roll over and let terrorists like the Iblis Corps, or even those like the rebels in Nilock just have their way. It will take time, to find the proper answer."
Raphael glanced at his terminal before he cleared his throat." Father…no mean to rush you but it might be wise if we give some answer sooner or later." As Orion glanced at his brother Raphael shrugged." I know your still regaining your senses father but it's just that hell broke loose during the Aurino Bountiful Acknowledgement festival and well…the rest of the world just knows that Primus Sanctus was attacked, and a giant demon was seen.
The news networks know that none of the royal family died but, everyone from our NES contacts to the Rakthia ambassador has been asking for answers non stop and it just seems that, leaving them in the dark will only seem to complicate things further."
Andross paused just long enough for Raphael to wince before he chuckled." So it's the Aurino Bountiful Acknowledgement festival today eh? Well, I was going to request things be modest tonight to spare the staff but if its already supposed to be festive then well, long as it already was planned for a big day would not want to make their hard work be for naught yes? I see that despite what's changed, the appetite the news media has for high ratings has not.
But, fair point Raphael, it's good to let everyone know we are on top of things. Alright, tell are various correspondents I'll be doing a formal speech about what's unfolded by the sunset. Alas, the usual holiday movies will have to be postponed but I'm sure those vultures are already salivating at getting higher ratings."
Veronica winced before she grasped her husband's hand tightly." Andross…are you sure you want to resume things so soon?"
"I'm grateful for your concern Veronica." The king retorted." But, I think if I can dispatch a massive demonic imposter I can stand my ground against reporters. Still, it has been a while since I played the game, I could use a few pointers to make sure I'm up to speed with things if you don't mind dear."
Richard saw his mother blushed before she smirked." That sounds wonderful Andross."
"Fantastic, then I better prepare."
Richard saw the Magna Centurions nod before he cleared his throat." Father, what about me and the rest of us?"
His father shrugged as he leaned back." A very good question my son, one that does not have an easy answer. I honestly need to think things over a bit more before I have a detailed answer. Still, one thing that's not a question is that you and your group are hero's, and will be treated as such.
Your free to do as you like, within reason. I would prefer no one leaves to far from Primus Sanctus though as your all welcome to tonight's official feast. Still, while I don't know everyone's situation if you have family or friends to reach out to it might be a good time to do so. How does that sound?"
Dan saw Andross seemed sincere before he flashed a half-lobbed smile." Not being throw in a cell again works for me sir. Man now that this weight's been thrown off, I'm freaking starving!"
Voltaire chuckled as he leaned back." Well, to make up for showing me that exotic restaurant back in Los Midas I would not mind showing you one of my fav eateries in the capital. Though, I suppose its high time I let my family know what's going on before my father has a heart attack."
"Heh, you're on rich boy." Dan quipped back as he leaned back on his chair." Fair enough, I'll just nap while everyone does the whole catch up thing."
Yuen raised an eyebrow before he took a drink from his new jug." Boy, don't you have your own old man to catch up on? Don't recall him dying."
"Who knows? But all the real family I have is right in front of me."
"Heh, that so? We will see. Still, better make a few calls myself."
Dan shrugged before glancing at Richard." So then bro now that we know your old man's stance what's yours? Now that you got your family back you're not just going to hang up your sword and call it a day now that you can go back to normal eh?"
Richard paused, and realized the rest of his comrades were curious to before he grasped his metal hand tightly." After all that's happened there is no normal, or if there is, it's a "new normal". Ares is still out there, and this world still needs to change, so not like things are done yet. Still, since we did come out alive and all, maybe, just might be good to rest a bit and think things over before rushing into things eh?"
Dan paused before he chuckled." Works for me bro."
As the two-fist bumped each other Miriam could not help but giggle as she went up to her brother." Glad on top of everything else hanging out with your new friends helped you loosen up Richard. Still, if you want to check out your room I'm happy to show you how I good a state I kept it."
Richard turned pale again before he cleared his throat." Wait, you have my room now?"
His sister winked before she leaned forward." Nah, but I did use it as an extra closest space. Still, mom refused to totally remodel it. She was mostly using it as the place where she cried when she missed you. Guess it's a good thing she did not budge on that eh?"
Richard saw how his mother looked teary eyed again before he smirked." I'm glad she still held on to faith to sis."
Greymont wagged his tail again as he looked at his sister curiously." So I get to see your real room boss? That's awesome!"
"Heh, just be careful Greymont, everything's, a lot more fragile than our room in the Valro Burrow."
As Greymont nodded Miriam giggled before she hugged the Techno-Organic dragon and cuddled him." Aw, I was really scared just thinking of him but he's really cute when he's not blowing stuff up!"
"Just don't act like he's a pillow Miriam. Alright guys, guess I'll see you all later guys."
Claire shrugged as she looked at herself." Well, if we are really able to take it easy guess I'll see where the showers are, I was too close to that psychopath."
As his comrades started to head out Greymont yawned before transforming into the flying cat form he used to hide his true nature before landing on Richard's head." It was close Richard but looks like we pulled it off right? Good thing to, all the excitement got me so tired your real bed sounds really good about now."
Richard saw his parents talking with Nathan and his older siblings and saw he seemed clear to leave before he shrugged." Normally I would want to spend most of the day celebrating the holiday but, today the special stuff is just being able to get back what you thought you could never do again.
Your right Greymont, it was a close call but we managed to pull it off. We even somehow managed to keep everyone alive. I'm glad I could not let down my friends when it c, huh?"
Just as the siblings were about to leave the Magna Spire they saw that Cecil and Paulie were waiting for them as the doors opened. Both of the men Richard thought were his friends looked extremely stressed as Paulie gave a wide smile." Richard buddy, it's really great to see you again!"
Richard and Miriam looked at each other before the third prince coughed." You did see me again, when you tried to shoot me."
Cecil winced before he swept some sweat off his brow." Yes about that you see we just wanted to express just how deeply we regret that misunderstanding sir."
"Yah you got the wrong idea buddy! That stuff we said, it's just because Giorgio's a jackass who likes to ramble when he's drunk! He was the one who said we should act like we were never friends to look good not being linked with a traitor man!"
"So you still think I'm a traitor?"
"What? No way dude! That was just the cover story we had to stick to for months! Giorgio can be mad aggressive you know!? You got to understand that's, that's not how we really thought Prince Richard!"
"Yes, we just wanted to let you know before you made any rash judgments."
"Yah, yah! We still are your friend dude! So, just don't go acting like we were like Steiner ok?"
Richard saw his sister roll his eyes before he face palmed." Yah, I'm not buying it " Pal". I seen what true friendship is by now to not be conned by fakers anymore. For one thing Uncle Nathan said you guys never asked about me once after what happened at Zaylor. At least Chad and some of the other Magna Centurion's expressed legit remorse! If you guys can convince me you're not total hacks maybe you won't be transferred to a place that totally sucks."
"No wait dude please don't make me stationed guarding some glacier! I'm so not a cold person!"
"Think of it this way." Richard answered with a grin." You find yourself when your out of your element, I sure as hell did. Well, not how I wanted to start off being back home but better now than later."
The leader of the Crimson Tengu Ravens saw how quickly the two men in front of him started groveling before he tried to figure out how to get the two fakers out of the way.
As he did his real friends enjoyed having time to relax for the first time in a while.
Voltaire kept his word and took Dan to his favorite burger stand in Articos. While Richard's childhood friend wanted to see his family, his father was being briefed by Nathan just what had been going on, giving the younger member of the Joachim family time to prepare his own reunion.
To his and Dan's shock the two could freely go from Primus Sanctus, though Dan swore he saw a few people that kept seemed to look at where he was going. Still they did not bother him so the former leader of the Hammer Wolves let Voltaire lead him to his late lunch, leading him to a hovercraft that also acted as a food stand being run by a man in dreadlocks and circle sun glass's that went by Dyne. To his shock despite the two men's many arguments in taste he enjoyed the burger so much he finished it before Voltaire even after getting his first.
The red-haired male saw his blond-haired teammate was already licking his lips before he smirked." And hear I thought you would not like how the capital cooked things my good man. Then again, I suppose some things transcend roots."
"Hell yah man." Dan cheerfully retorted." There's ideals, and then there is a sense of taste so it's no contest. I have my pride but not going to deny me some good grub. Still, did not expect a guy like you to favor a rather low-key place for a fella of your standing."
Voltaire shrugged as he sipped form his drink." Oh trust me Nicholson, I value efficiency far more then glitzy cosmetics at times. My good man Dyne and his co worker Barret here has helped restock just when I needed to swiftly prepare for another meeting or set up a date. Handy when you want a good meal but are not quite ready to step back into the limelight eh?"
"Heh, glad you got some street smarts dude. I'm sure the folks in Primus Sanctus would not drug are food at this point but, even if it's not going to be spat on, still feels awkward having a meal with people I just beat up a few hours ago. That being said I am surprised to see everyone's back on their feet so fast. Hell, far as most folks knew there was still a hardcore battle going right around the castle."
"Heh, my good man just like in Los Midas businesses thrive on being as available as possible."
"It's more than that thought. Everyone seems rather damn peaceful since there King was under attack, it's like it never happened."
"Well, half of it is a good deal of people are drunk already from the festivities. Still, the other factor is that people just are a lot more trusting of authorities in the capital then in Los Midas. For the most part, the Magna Centurions have not failed them so the trust in them is absolute."
"Even if that's true, I mean, no one's arrested for rioting or panicking? No looters taking advantage of the chaos and all that?"
Voltaire winced before he looked at the city streets and shrugged." I guess you could say that the people in the capital have better manners."
Dan looked around and realized even after everything the streets did not look dirty before he raised an eyebrow." No matter how good someone's manners may be, after some point human nature takes over though. Almost like everyone in the capital is mind controlled or something."
"No, not quite, just, carefully selected and monitored."
"Huh? What the hell do you mean? You need to past a test to live in the capital or something?"
"Rather close honestly. Dan, have you had anyone you know ever try and move in to Articos?"
"Zach's dad tried once but he said the cost was way too high, seemed rigged that the largest city in the planet would not have any spots open for common folk."
"I'm afraid that's by design. Articos is one of the most peaceful cities in the planet Dan, but that low crime rate comes at it being one of the most monitored cities in the planet. Of course there are tourists and hotels but anyone that's spending any more than a visit is carefully screened, homeless are banned from the city for one. Workers like Barret here that don't quite make the cut have homes in the surroundings suburbs."
"Seriously? With how big this city is there is no place the homeless can hide? The poor have rights damn it."
"It's not like homeless are shot on site or anything. They are just transferred to other cities that have already made an agreement. To ensure the capital has the best quality, immigration is completely controlled with only a handful of exceptions. After all, removing those most likely to cause crime increases the odds of stability."
"Depending on who gets to decide what is right." Dan shout out bitterly." Man, just when I thought Richard's dad is cool he turns out to be the most elitist of them all."
"This policy was not made by Andross." Voltaire calmly interjected." It was a policy in place before he even took the crown, and a policy that the people themselves voted for. They never even think of overturning it because they think it helps keep their cities standards up.
In theory it has worked rather well, as long as your able to bask in the city's prosperity. Still, hopefully now you might see why those like Richard who mostly lived up here might have not been able to see reality clearly at times."
Dan spat on the ground, and raised an eyebrow as he saw a small drone at once roll over to clean the ground again before he snickered." The picture is getting a bit clearer dude. I knew Articos and Los Midas were far apart but now they really do seem to be on different worlds. Hell, Articos might as well be built on a plate that's made of everything it's taken from all the other folk!"
"Heh, you do need to travel a bit more Nicholson so you can see those in between the two extremes. Most of the other cities in the Kingdom are not as utopian as Articos but they are not as chaotic as Los Midas.
It's a trade off really between order and chaos, the people of Articos chose one path, and the people of Los Midas have chosen another. What works best, depends on what you want I suppose. If you were able to afford it, you might even find Articos to be a rather fun place to live."
"Heh, and have to hold my tongue the entire time? That's a tax that's to taxing for me man. Just because this cities policy was voted on does not mean it gets a pass Voltaire. It was the common folk that built this place, and most of them are not even allowed to stay? What about all the little guys that keep things running?"
"Drones and magic take care of all the small stuff, so all the roles that required middlemen are no longer required, making it easier to keep the city's residents "pure"."
"Damn it, just throwing away all the people that made the city great once you no longer need them eh? You rich people really don't get it at if you expect social contracts to be one sided! Maybe not you, but with so many of your billionaire buddies really thinking you demand everything and only give crumbs and wonder why people get so crazy they join cults like the Iblis Corps.
Still piss's me off when I remember Steiner gloating how it don't matter if the poor rebel because they are trash but he learned the hard way how wrong he was. Don't get me wrong, not on board with the Iblis Corps game plan but still dude, if those above just keep trying to sweep things under the rug one day that pot's going to burst no matter how tight you guys think you have a grip on things."
"Dan, I agree completely. Even before we met, I found some of my father's partners to have, extremely asinine mindsets and despite what they keep saying, such mindsets are not profitable, in the long term.
Dan, we need people like you to have their voices heard so that society can move down the path that's most prosperous for everyone. Heh, you know if we survived this you could be a very good union boss. Think about it, for once your personality would be what's required for the job."
"Heh, for once your ideas not sounding too bad as long as you're not pulling my leg. After all this, I have some ideas I'm going to fight for that I'm rather damn passionate about that for once would be easier to solve with words instead of fists."
Before Voltaire could respond, an older laugh cut him off." That's rich boy! Far as I can see you still don't see what's in front of yah!"
Dan nearly choked on his food before he swerved around and saw Yuen casually drinking his jug on a bench. The blond man saw how casual his martial arts master was before he grit his teeth." I knew I was being followed! Figured they would never really let us off that easily."
"Stop acting so paranoid boy, I just remember where Voltaire said you guys were going to eat and decided to see how you reacted to the city. Damn it Dan who's mind's slipping now eh? Voltaire's words are true but if you're going to pull something like that you need to be more honest about yourself."
"Seriously Yuen? After all this I think I showed those Magna Centurions where I stand rather clear."
"Yah, you will do what you can to survive no ones doubting that. I'm talking about what happens after that."
"Honestly man not had a lot of time to think about that when if I was distracted daydreaming to long could have gotten blown to hell. Maybe after I don't have to worry about the Iblis Corps blowing up the world, I can think about what's the future after that eh?"
"C'mon Dan, you have to have hope for a world after that and it can't hurt to plan ahead."
"Dude are you seriously trying to pitch me joining your dojo again!? Your worst then rich boy here!"
"Nah, not at the moment. Dan, I just want you to be honest with yourself and your roots."
"Heh, I am honest about where my pack is Yuen. I go where I'm wanted, cause in the end me and my boys howled even when the world told us to shut the hell up and get in line! We had to because no one else would."
"I always wanted what was best for you Dan, you were just impatient, though I admit I should have had more patience myself. There are others to that want what's best for you, even if they were not always the best at expressing it. Still, might be good to try and listen one more time before it's too late."
Dan paused before he spat on the ground." Sometimes no matter how badly you want to think otherwise it is to late old man. All you can do is realize which doors are closed and move on. "
"That's true, but it's also true to make sure to check to see which doors are not slammed as tightly as you thought. Ugh, just look behind you dumbass."
The former leader of the Hammer Wolves grumbled before he swerved around, and had his jaw drop before he saw that in front of him was a man with wiry arms, a beer gut, and had a blue cap over his balding head. Dan blinked at seeing the man in jeans and a green jacket, because he realized it was his father. Dan raised an eyebrow before he looked at his drink." Damn, guess my drink was spiked after all because I'm clearly hallucinating."
"Dan…that you?" Dan's father replied, causing Dan to wince." Alright real cute but cut the con already? My dad never would spend a night in the capital."
"He would if he spent months saving up to see his god damn son jackass." Yuen spat out as he rolled his eyes." You know your dad called me many times because I'm the only one related to you he knew! I let him know you were alive, and to come to the capital today. I left him in the dark just in case things went sour.
Might not have been safe for him to be here if things got bad but hell, not really was going to be a safe place anywhere so he might as well have had a good last meal right? Ah well thankfully it did not come to that."
Dan saw his father blink in shock before the older man rubbed his head." Damn boy, you really were fighting to save the King himself? I, never thought you had it in yah."
"Well, clearly did not think I could do a hell of a lot I could have eh old timer?" Despite the clear bitterness in Dan's voice, his father just sighed." Son, I'm sorry. I just, never thought you really were aiming for something so, so big."
Dan smirked before he looked down." Well, honestly was the others dream, I was just along for the ride because I had nothing else to do. In the end, he gave us a shot for something no one ever offered us before. Might not be all the way there yet but, still made some waves alright. Cost us, but so far, I'd say it's at least been worth it."
"Dan, all your friends, they are still with you? Like, like Troy?"
Dan sighed before he swerved around." Troy, Troy's dead."
"Seriously? Damn. Was it today?"
"Hell, you have missed a lot. Nah, had to put Troy down like the mad dog he was after he betrayed us. He, he killed Jessica and a bunch of others because he got full of himself. Happy you were right all along old man?"
Dan's father saw the raw bitterness in his eyes before he sighed." B, Dan, do I look happy? Son, I know we were not a happy family for a long while. I, just could not get it together after losing your mother. It's because of that, that I admit I did a horrible job expressing what I wanted, but I wanted a better future for you Dan, so you would be in a better spot then I am now at this age.
Thought you would come crawling back when you bailed, but then I got worried when no one heard a word out of you or any of your buds, and each time I heard of a shootout I was worried that's where you died. Still, guess I should have had faith in yah, that you could pull off something good."
Dan saw his father was looking sincere before he shrugged." Yah you should of, but hell took a while till I had faith I could do anything past surviving so, we will call it even. Guess, a hell of a lot's changed since we last met, been one wild ride."
"That so boy? Well, I'm sure as hell interested in hearing it."
Dan paused for a moment before he flashed a half-lobbed smile." Eh, guess if you came all the way from Los Midas for it then not going to deny anyone who came that far to hear it. Your buying though."
"Heh, sounds fair."
Voltaire saw Dan go up to his father before he smirked." Well, guess I'll be passing off the family moment role today. Ah well."
Before Voltaire could say more a younger male voice cut in with," Like hell you are Voltaire!"
The red-haired man paused before blurting out," Wait, that can't be, GUH!"
The marksmen of the Crimson Ravens was tackled before he could finish, but as he toppled over he felt a warm squeeze as the same voice threw out," No fair, you were going to have your dinner at our special spot and you thought you could leave me out?"
Voltaire paused as he realized he knew quite well what the voice was, and glanced up to see the person now firmly on him was none other than his brother Colin. The younger member of the Joachim family was teary eyed before he squeezed Voltaire tightly." Bro, you're ok! You're really alive! That old man was telling the truth!"
"Hey there Colin." Voltaire threw out with bewilderment." I'm, glad to see you to. Things got a little hairy back at the estate eh? I, hope Roxanne's teammates treated you right."
"They were a little grouchy, but they made sure we were safe till dad picked me up. Still, we have all been freaking out that you were dead after we got that message! But not only did you help take down that crooked hack of a chief of detectives, but then you helped stop the terrorists in the freaking castle! You're like some superhero!"
Voltaire saw how relived Colin looked before he pat his younger brother on the head." Hardly little brother, just, living up to the Joachim name. It was the riskiest gamble I ever waged, but it saved your life so it was worth the hassle."
"Well done my boy, despite nearly giving me a heart attack thanks to what you did, the Joachim name just might have reached a higher state of celebrity then any of us thought possible."
Voltaire gasped as he looked to the right and saw his father Isaac Joachim slowly walk up. As Voltaire's father stroked his reddish beard the man with the title of "Jade Hawk" snickered." And here I thought Colin went out all on his own to find me."
"Oh, after all that's happened his independence will be granted after he can drive, and drink, and a few other things till your mother can see him leave without having a panic attack.
Voltaire…for a while my response to seeing you alive again was thinking which reform center in the planet would do best, but then Master Yuen hear alongside Nathan told me just what was going on, and just what was at stake."
Voltaire saw Yuen was still drinking before he snickered and threw out a dry," You know if I did not know better I would start to think you're a master counselor but my hat's off to your juggling skills."
Yuen chuckled before he leaned back." Eh, just have mastered the art of getting parents to calm down so they don't withdrawal their students I suppose. Besides, I know from firsthand experience it is to try and repair family bonds before it's too late so I try and do what I can to spare others the pain."
Voltaire just saw the martial arts master keep drinking before he shrugged." Well, my sincere thanks for that. I was just about wondering if I was going to start conjuring a new identity. Heh, I hoped doing this would mean I could make a real difference, and guess I helped kept the nation from collapsing so that's something."
Isaac walked up to his sons before he crossed his arms." Voltaire, I was getting the feeling you were bored from the duties you had and wanted to do more for some time now.
Well, more like people directly told me you were bored and unfulfilled but, did not think it would drive you to such lengths. Tell me, is it because of a girl? I was driven to keep an entire ecosystem from going extinct to get a date out of your mother."
"Heh, no, this bet was not placed out of love, but out of duty and friendship. Might have had second thoughts if I knew how intense things would get but, that's how life works right? I, had spent so much time with suck ups that I did not want to let a true friend down, and wanted to see if I could do more to help then give more funding to museums."
Isaac saw how serious his son looked before he smirked and patted Voltaire on the back." Well, still wish you could have done a safer nobler venture but, I understand now why you did it."
"Thanks father. Heh, who knows, if things go as planned there might even be a few bonus pay offs."
"Ah, so there is a woman involved eh?"
"Er, it's not that simple. Still, it's a venture that if work out, would work out very smoothly. But, won't have a chance in hell if humanity's wiped out so, got to keep the priorities in order."
"Spoken like a true businessman Voltaire. Well, now that you no longer have to keep things confidential mind telling me just how the hell you managed to pull off this crazy investment."
"Gladly. Would be good to recap just so I remember I did all these things."
Voltaire proceeded to go with his family members to at last spill what only he, Nathan, and Richard had known for a long time. As he and Dan were at last catching up with their family, some of their comrades who did not have as positive family bonds were recovering in their own way.
Since Roxanne did not know where her former teammates were and Claire did not know anyone, the two took the offer to get guest rooms in Primus Sanctus.
After making sure the rooms were safe the two lady members of the Crimson Tengu Ravens both took a shower in the barrack shower normally for the soldiers.
As Claire was about to finish cleaning herself she looked at the lights and took a deep breath." Hey, Roxanne? You been through this a lot so I was just wondering, are we really about to be cleared? Am, I really about to be free?"
Roxanne paused before she shrugged." What you mean? It seems the King is serious about seeing what we did for him as enough to outweigh any laws we broke to get to this point. Still, this kind of situation was not really my specialty in Los Midas."
Claire looked troubled as she looked down." It's just, I been seen as a criminal for over a decade, almost forgot what it's like to be free."
"Don't worry Claire." Roxanne threw out as she smirked." You're a smart girl, I'm sure you will figure it out. Just, don't devote all your freedom to sweets yah hear?"
"Please, no matter how fascinating some of the desserts in Articos seem, not going to let that distract me from my prime directive, no matter what Fraction has to answer for what he did.
Roxanne, you know how this stuff works right? You, you think the King will seriously make Fraction answer for his crimes even after how many toys he's given the entire nation?"
The red-haired woman sighed as she lowered the heat in her shower and turned around." Can't say for sure. I seen more than a few criminals get away with things because of their connections. Still, like with Alec Steel, that only goes so far till you get on the bad side of those with even more power.
If its proven Fraction was working against the Aurino Kingdom, it might mean he would lose the immunity he's been enjoying for so long.
Though, at the same time the Rakthia Empire or the Jiodisan Union would love to have an exclusive contract with him."
Claire grasped her soap so tightly she crushed it as she looked down." Then I'll expose Fraction, and make sure he gets taken down so fast he does not have time to run away! The fact that we were able to expose Steel proves even people on the top can't escape justice forever!"
Roxanne nodded before she smirked." The Magna Centurion's may have gotten full of themselves and focused too much on looking like they were doing their job over really doing there job's, but, seems like at the very least they care somewhat about justice. At the very least, for the moment we can trust at least some people. C'mon, lets catch up with the others before we end up as prunes eh?"
"Heh, sound good. Got to make sure they don't try and upload some spy program into Alphonse or something. Alright, which button turns these things off? Damn fancy convoluted controls. Alright this is how we turned it on right? Let's, AHH!"
Claire's shift in behavior was caused by the ground beneath her and Roxanne opened, and the two women fell down. Claire found they were sliding down rather than falling down, but could not even see as the two women slid down too fast for them to get their bearings.
Just as Claire was about to throw up her and Roxanne rolled to the ground. Roxanne dashed to her feet as she looked around to see a wide room before she grit her teeth." God damn it, they were getting us lax before locking us up after all?"
As Claire moaned a new woman's voice giggled." You ladies really thought you could feel safe? I thought you were smart enough to know woman can never really let your guard's down!"
The two swerved around to see Fiona strut up, as naked as them. Claire saw Fiona was looking as smug as before despite the new bruises on her body before she grimaced." Oh come on! Seriously not giving up after everything that happened?"
"Some things may have changed." Fiona retorted as she flicked her hair back." But one thing remains the same, and it's that you two are too soft!"
Fiona suddenly dashed at the two with her fist primed for a punch. Roxanne got ready to intercept, only for Fiona to reveal it was a feint and swerved around to get in front of Claire. The multi haired woman swore before hastily throwing out a kick.
The Magna Centurion easily grasped the foot and flipped Claire on her back while giving Roxanne a back kick to her gut. As both of Richard's comrades fell down Fiona pounced on Claire to get right in front of her to raise her left leg before her sharp nail was in Claire's face.
As the former Rycroft inmate squirmed Fiona's eyes narrowed." Still don't grasp how easy it is for things to slip away? One step and it's over."
"No, no matter what, I'm not going back again no matter what I have to do!"
Claire tried to bite the Magna Centurion's toe before Fiona jumped back and raised an eyebrow." You were seriously going to bite me?"
"I had to do worst to get some guys to back off in Rycroft, I did not survive this long by backing off because I had to do something gross."
Fiona eyed the two women in front of her before she paused, then leaned down." So, you really survived Rycroft eh?"
"What did we hit you so hard your forgetting things? I had to, because I was not going to let Salinger and Fraction have the final say on me! They all thought there was nothing I could do, but don't matter if you, your King, and the whole world tries to lock me away I will get back on them!"
Fiona snickered before she suddenly patted Claire on the head." If my squadron had as much steel as you Da Lune…well maybe I would have less paperwork to deal with.
You know, when I was backed into a corner I bit back to, I bit so hard I ripped it right off. For a while I thought you were just silly girls won over by another cult leader's charisma but it's clear that both of you are no one's tool."
Roxanne snickered as she leaned back." Well, you got that right. We were not sold because of his sex appeal to say the least. We both had to make tough choices, and realized the Crimson Tengu Ravens was the best path to seeing things through, because even if the world was against us we had to keep trying.
No matter what happens I'm not going to let Ares, and the bastard who killed my father get away with their crimes."
Fiona chuckled darkly as she looked upward." I suppose I did not give much for the law when it was leaving me out to dry, till I became the law. I thought I could make the difference, but I guess not as much as I hoped. Da Lune, Fraction indeed killed your father yes?"
Claire looked down before she sighed." If you mean he pulled the trigger himself then no, for one his hands are too damn small. Still, he gave the order while Salinger and, and all his other staff just watched on. All, all they cared about was there damn experiments."
"Boys and their toys, if you're not part of their toys they lash out like the spoiled brats they are. Still, even if I went out Fraction's so little of a man it would not have work. Still, there are other ways of seducing a man who has such a bloody ego. If you can reign in that temper, you might be able to get your justice yet girl."
Claire had her jaw drop before she cleared her throat." Wait, that means, you're going to work with us? The King's just going to let things slide?"
"I can't speak for the King, especially after it seems he's been a no show for years. But…the true King Andross I remember is not going to let an valuable asset slip away if the pros outweigh the negatives. Still, long as you don't try and shoot me any more I might be willing to look out for you. After all, gals like us have to stick together eh?"
"Really? That, that sounds great! Thanks! So, wait does that mean, AH!"
To Claire's shock Fiona casually grasped the woman by her arms and threw her over her shoulder like she was carrying cargo before the Magna Centurion smirked." Wonderful, you can thank me by drinking with me in the jacuzzi."
Roxanne saw Claire flaying around in Fiona's grip before she gulped." Er, thanks a lot but after all we been through, I think we just want to, hey!"
Fiona grasped Roxanne by her leg before tugging her along." I was not asking detective. This is what I do to all the woman who pass my test and welcome!"
"No, I thought I got away from " welcoming receptions" like this when I got out of Rycroft!"
"Oh don't be silly, I don't treat my gals like I treat my captives. After all... this entire chamber is how I surprise the girls who pass my test before we bond. It will be fun, you girls need a few things eased out before you can be your best anyway."
Claire realized Fiona's grip was like a vice before she grimaced." Well…I guess it can't be worst then the welcome Rycroft had."
As Richard's comrades were bracing themselves for how wild a reception Fiona was giving them, there leader was enjoying being able to let down his guard for the first time in a very long time.
Despite his fears he found that more of his stuff was still around in one part of the castle or another, and he nearly fell asleep instantly after feeling his bed for the first time in a while. His family let him sleep, but when he awoke his sister was still hanging out with Greymont outside and was all too eager to get him to talk more.
The two siblings exited there living quarters and went for the elevator that would take Richard to the dining hall, but after getting out of the elevator and entering the entrance to the castle he froze.
For a moment Miriam wondered if Ares had returned till she saw Richard was looking at Kristen, who was talking with a few of the staff she worked with in the castle. Miriam saw Richard look mortified before she raised an eyebrow." What's wrong bro? Thought one of the demons came back."
Richard looked down somberly as he cleared his throat." The way I left things with Kristen, it felt like it. Miriam, how has Kristen been since well…since her mother died?"
The younger princess winced before she got sad herself." I mean…sad…angry…not very much like Kristen either. I know her mom died but she's been sulking so much it's hard to talk to her."
"Well, after how angry she was at me and the boss maybe it's better she was not talking to you sis." Greymont threw out. Miriam saw how scared Greymont looked before she sighed." She, she really blamed you for her mom dying Richard? She was working with Nathan to help you secretly all this time and she thought you wanted her mom dead?"
"It does not matter what I wanted; our body did kill her mother. Even if was the essence from the Dragon Helix Emerald that transformed us and went on a killing spree, I still allowed it to happen. If I thought things through, then, then."
"Then maybe her and her mom could have died." Miriam interjected as she tugged Richard's arm." I know it's bad but you two have been friend's way too long to just let it end like that! Now that she's had time to cool down you got to man up and see how she's feeling!"
"I mean, she made sure to avoid seeing me when we,"
"That's because she wants you to make the move first! Trust me Richard! God, have you only had Voltaire to give you girl advice in forever?"
"Heh, well him and Uncle Nathan."
"Oh god. Well take it from someone who knows what girls think like and not just people who think they know how girls act."
"Your right. Thanks Miriam, I did miss you."
"And I really missed seeing you squirm bro, so go on and make up for lost time eh? C'mon Greymont, this is something they have to do alone so I'll show you Richard's room while he and Kristen make up."
"Awesome! Good luck boss! I'd back you up but this sounds like something a guy has to do alone."
Richard chuckled before he pet his friend and let him fly on to his sister's shoulder before she went off. Richard nearly felt as anxious as he was when he was about to fight Orion before he steeled himself and went up to Kristen.
The blond-haired woman noticed the others she was talking to pause before she swerved around, and had a detached look as Richard looked at her. The others quickly left, leaving the two to stare at each other before Kristen broke the silence by clearing her throat." How does it feel Richard?"
The leader of the Crimson Tengu Ravens flinched at the blond woman's cold tone before he cleared his throat." What, what are you talking about? The weather?"
Kristen sighed as she looked at some of the flowers hanging by the windows." No, I meant how does this moment feel? Is this what you hoped it would feel like? Is this how you dreamed it would feel like ever since you wanted to get back home?"
"I mean, I guess it could have gone worst but, I'm glad things were able to work out without the cost being too great." Kristen winced as she turned around." I heard you saw your old friends Paulie, Giorgio and Cecil, and that it ended with Giorgio losing his hands.
You told me that sprit in that emerald was the reason you went nuts Richard, but it still seems like you're on a berserk warpath to me if that's how you treat your friends."
Richard winced again as he looked at his hands." You heard about that eh? I, I hope that did not upset you more. Kristen, I did not mean to, but it was in the middle of a battle. During the fight, they did not realize who I really was, and outright admitted they were just friends with me to rise up in the world.
Between that and hearing how he saw my sister, I kind of lost it. I thought they were my friends, but they were just using me. Kristen, you were one of the few besides Voltaire who saw me as a person, and I know I repaid that friendship horribly, I don't know how to express how sorry I am that things turned out this way."
Kristen stiffened as she saw Richard's reaction to Giorgio and how he saw her, before she sighed and swerved around." Well, I do know how, and it's not by just acting like you're afraid every time I'll speak."
Richard paused as he realized how sharp a retort Kristen let out before the blond-haired woman responded with a blank space." Before I did not really understand what you were fighting Richard. But, everyone saw that giant, demon. You, you been fighting freaks like him since the start?"
"Well, mostly. Their leader looks human but, he's the most sadistic of them all. Did, you see the footage Claire recorded?"
"I did. Alec Steel, to think I was near that murderer so many times, It makes me sick, that the person behind my mother's death was right in front of me!"
Richard saw Kristen's raw hate and could not help but gasp." Wait…that means, you believe me Kristen?"
The blond-haired woman paused before she sighed." I believe that all of my suffering, ultimately is because of this Ares and his Iblis Corps."
"Oh Kristen, I knew that."
Richard reached out for her on instinct, only for Kristen to quickly recoil in horror. Kristen looked at her own hand with a detached look before grasping it tightly." Even so…don't expect things can just be like they were Richard. If you were stronger, I would have not had to see my mother die in front of my eyes.
That's why, you better not think now that your father's back you can just leave it all to him and your brothers."
The leader of the Crimson Tengu Ravens saw how serious Kristen looked before he grasped his metal hand tightly." No, of course not. As long as Ares and the rest of the Iblis Corps is out there this won't be over till they are stopped once and for all! Even with how powerful dad is there are things only Greymont and I can do. For the sake of all those that died like your mother, I got to see this through."
"I was hoping you would say that, but you said a lot of things Richard, so the only way I can feel safe again, the only way things can go back to normal between us, is if you keep your word and take down the Iblis Corps. So, no matter what, you can't die, you can't stop till you finish what you started. Am I clear Richard?"
The third prince winced before he hardened his eyes and nodded somberly." I understand Kristen. After how much I let you down, it's the least I can do. I will try my, no, not try, I will stop Ares no matter how desperate he gets!"
Kristen saw how revved up the man in front of her looked before she let out a small smirk." Just don't be as rash as you got in Nilock. Well, since you lived to this point, does seem like Voltaire and the others are able to do a feasible job at keeping you alive."
"Heh, took a while but we have managed to cover each of our faults rather well. It's not as organized as say, the Magna Centurions but, having that kind of chaos managed to help us break through eh?"
"Well, at the very least it does make things as vibrant as, some of my shows. Tell me Richard, you think your team will stick together now that they have their freedom?"
Richard paused before he smirked." Those who wanted out left before we pulled this off, everyone's committed to seeing this through."
"Still, no matter what you know things are not going to be how they were before this right? You think they will be willing to let anyone beside you command them?"
"Well, I guess it depends on how things go from here. A lot's still uncertain, not even sure how dad's going to take everything in and what he's going to say."
Kristen paused for a few moments, before she saw something above her and widened her eyes." Well Richard, something tells me your about to have your answer."
Richard paused before he saw those in the room gasp, as the monitor showing news coverage suddenly changed, and showed Andross, back in his full kingly attire in the chamber of the castle where lesser staff would have news conferences.
The leader of the Crimson Tengu Ravens's confusion was instantly dealt with as Eddie Costello again flashed across the screen." Good evening world! Its been the craziest Aurino Bountiful Acknowledgement but at last we are getting some answers people! Despite not being able to get zilch even when a giant monster could be seen, at last the King has his official statement ready!"
Andross saw Eddy and all the other reporters looking on edge before he chuckled." Still in the game Eddie eh? I see your another who refuses to let the times move on with out you."
"What? Are you ok your majesty? We, just talked earlier in the day."
"Heh, is that how it appears to you? Well, that's just one thing among many that is not as it seems. And, now to address that. My subjects, this holiday marks much more then you might think. You may all be quite confused so to make up for you having to wait let me clear that confusion as much as possible.
Yes, our capital was attacked, but that does not mean it's entirely a moment of sorrow, in fact there is much to celebrate. The most urgent matter is to quell the rumors. First, the rumors are true, my son Richard Zilos, is very much alive."
Nearly all the reporters looked at the king in shock before a blond woman reporter of the Coyote network cleared her throat." With all due respect King Andross, if this is the truth then why was he assumed dead at Zaylor?"
"I understand your confusion but to explain this properly will take a while. Richard was involved in the attack on Primus Sanctus, but he did it to save my life.
I did think my youngest son was dead, but his resolve was more than anyone realized. His bravery may have prevented this entire world from falling into ruin, for he saved us, by felling the terrorist, the one you all know as Requiem."
As the reporters nearly went crazed Richard blinked a few times as he cleared his throat." Hey…Kristen…I'm not sure if I'm in as good a shape as I thought because, I thought my dad just said I killed Requiem."
"Your hearing right Richard, your dad just said, you killed yourself."
Richard saw how bluntly the blond-haired woman answered before he looked at his father again was he grit his teeth." Dad, are you more messed up then we thought? What, what the hell is going on?"
The two saw the reporters at last calm down before Eddie got in front of the others." So wait King Andross, your saying that your son killed the leader of the Crimson Tengu Ravens! Some are saying that the dragon that was spotted before was seen fighting alongside Aurino forces!"
"Your correct, and there is an answer for that. You see, the demon you all saw, was the final form of Requiem, the last desperate act of a mad man. However, the dragon that once was his tool for evil, was won over by my son to help take down the madman.
You see, the reason my son survived, was that he was found by Requiem after Zaylor, and was recruited into the Crimson Tengu Ravens because he thought it would help save the world.
For a while now people had the impression that the Crimson Tengu Ravens were allies to good till things turned horribly wrong in Nilock Park. The reason for the confusion was that this was not an act, it was merely a change of stances, as one terrorist group combated another.
You see, while we have assumed Requiem was the face of are woe's, I regret to announce to the world that its more complex than that. Even as Requiem has fallen, the world is still threatened by the terrorists known as Ares. Ares is not quite a deity of shadows, most would know him by his public face, Alec Steel, a man that just earlier in the day was one of my advisers.
I regret to confess that I was put under, a spell by this terrorist that went back all the way to when I nearly died from my illness. The roots of this terrorist organization have been deep, even having such high-ranking members as Bolton Warrick Steiner were recruited into their ranks.
Yes, these are things Requiem has already explained, but I admit my stance was, compromised because of the grip Ares had on me, a grip only broken by my youngest son's efforts.
The danger the Iblis Corps poses to the entire world is as extreme as it gets, we must fully commit everything to ensuring their mad plans are not realized. That being said, I know there are those across the world that sympathize with these terrorists, and they sympathize because they feel that no one else would listen to them. I want to make it clear that I will forgive most who once supporter the Crimson Tengu Ravens.
After all, my son was once a member of them. You see, Requiem did recruit people in Los Midas for a crusade to make a better world. He did have people on his side who thought they were fighting the good fight.
But his stance, changed. Requiem and Ares were once part of the same order but Requiem wanted to use less extreme methods. However he to became disgusted with humanity, and his hatred erupted in Nilock Park.
But my son, and those that sided with him were able to break away from this cult and even won over this transforming dragon, leading to the very public execution I gave him.
Alec Steel, was also involved in the attack, and alas when I felled Requiem, Alec Steel, or, his true identity Ares escaped with the Dragon Helix Emerald to accomplish his insane plot.
That's why, while today is a day of joy, it's not one where we can declare victory. We must adapt to this" New" normal of dread for a while longer, till are enemies are truly defeated.
That is why, I must beseech the entire world to provide us any lead to the last Dragon Helix Emerald that they can, before it falls into the hands of the enemy. I know this won't resolve everything, both the Iblis Corps and the Crimson Tengu Ravens were able to take root because of the despair people had for the world.
I strived to do my best, but I know I failed at least some of my people for things to have reached this point. I, the Magna Centurion's, and so many others have long been complicit.
Even if he was my enemy, I'll grant Requiem that not all his words were false. It IS easy to get lax when things seem secure on the surface. It is easy just to keep things from coming out of the shadows, to a point.
But in the end, nothing worth having is supposed to be easy, and I hope most of the rest of the people of the Aurino Kingdom share such views. While I will never allow my enemies to endanger my people, what's unfolded has made me realize that clenching one's fist to tightly causes more problems than solutions.
Criminals cannot be tolerated, but neither should it be tolerated to make people feel like that crime and terrorism is there only path to salvation. Not everyone can be a winner in life, but the social contract of any civilization worth a damn should do its best to make sure people have the best odds possible to have the lives they want.
My eyes have been clouded because of, many factors, but my eyes are now truly open, and I will do all in my power to ensure that my nation, if not the world's future is still a bright one."
Eddie saw Andross seemed to finish talking before he gulped." Your majesty, what, what does that mean? How do you plan to make those ideas become reality?"
Andross closed his eyes, before he smirked." All in good time…to go any further would take even more time to explain and I would hate to delay people any more from their holiday feasts. There is no easy answer to the problems we face, but I'll face them with the help of all of my family."
"Speaking of that, what about Prince Richard? And what is the deal with the dragon?"
"I assure you, the dragon is now our ally, I trust it as I trust any Magna Centurion. I know how eager you are to hear the dramatic details but I would highly appreciate if you let my son rest a little bit after such a stressful time. There will be plenty of time for stories later, once the crises is over. With that, that will be all for today."
Andross flicked his cape back before leaving the podium as reporters futilely threw out question after question. Richard saw his mother, Nathan, and Orion all walk out with grim faces before he pinched himself to make sure he was not still asleep in his bed.
As he felt pain he grasped his hand tightly." What, what the hell is going on? Why, why did dad lie about, everything I did?"
"It seemed your father used his privilege to rewrite reality to something more ideal." Kristen answered darkly as she let out a detached giggle and looked at the prince right in her eye." Richard, the privilege of royalty really is astonishing yes?"
Richard was about to say something till he paused and looked down. He took a deep breath before he gave his childhood friend a somber look." Kristen, I'm sorry but, I really should go talk to my dad right now."
"Yes…that might be a good idea. Have fun discussing reality Richard."
Richard grimaced at the sight of how detached Kristen still looked before running off.
As Richard left Kristen saw Richard leave and giggled darkly." The power to mold the truth itself to your whim...it really must be...such a wonderful feeling."
While his father was in an entirely different section of Primus Sanctus, with how revved up Richard was it felt like a blink of an eye to get to where his father was.
Nathan, Orion, and Veronica were all taking questions to reporters still trying to get questions, leaving Andross on one of the balconies.
Richard saw Andross was reading a book before his father saw him and smirked." Ah there you are Richard. Are you well rested? I'm just checked my study. I'm grateful that at the very least Gargan was so focused on keeping up appearances he did not throw out my books, some of those were quite rare collectors' items."
Richard saw how casual his father was about things before he took a deep breath and braced himself." Yah…about that. Dad, I saw the speech you just made."
"Ah, is that right? Was not sure if you were going to be up yet. Heh, guards can you give us a moment? Still a lot of quality family time to catch up on."
The two guards quickly left before Andross sat down." I take it you have…feedback?"
Richard saw his father was being friendly before he slowly walked forward." Dad, you, you lied to the entire world about what happened. You, you said Gargan was Requiem, and that you killed, me?"
"What's wrong? I absolved you and your comrades of all charges did I not?"
"Yah but, but dad you lied to the entire world what happened?"
Andross just chuckled before he looked down." Richard, tell me something. Why did you pretend Requiem was a demon of hell at first instead of being honest to the others?"
Richard paused before he looked down, pondered for a few moments and sighed." I, I did it because if I told them the truth, I was afraid they would not follow me and that it would be too late to do anything."
"That was sound logic son. Yes...so I hope you can see I did what I did. I wanted to make things easier for you all so I created the reality that would make things less difficult to proceed in. After all, only Orion and a handful of the others saw you being unmasked so few really can saw who Requiem really was.
By taking this path, we won't be bogged down with things that will prevent us from stopping Ares in time and it will also keep the Rakthia Empire and the Jiodisan Union guessing, giving us yet another advantage and not having to divert so much time from them making petty demands. You did so much for me son, so I wanted to repay the favor."
Richard saw his father's eyes did look kind before he grasped his head." I mean, I am grateful for that dad, really. It's just, is it not like, really betraying the people's trust misleading them like this?"
Andross just laughed before he patted Richard on the shoulder." My son, I know they say the truth sets you free, but you seen enough to know that's not always the case right?
If humans lived up to their ideal, then that would be true. But as we seen, humans have failed to live up to their potential for quite some time now. History as shown that the most honest leaders, frequently are the first to fail.
That's because to many people can't handle the truth. And so, to keep them in line, a narrative is needed to keep them happy.
If you look to deeply into the history of humanity Richard, it's based not on truths, but on an endless barrage of falsehoods that humanity keep together to think they are better than they are.
You said your order nearly collapsed because that wild dog of a man Troy McGuire betrayed you for power yes?"
"Yah…he was in ways even more brutal then Steiner, and only cared about himself."
"That is rather impressive, impressively horrifying. You meant well Richard, but alas we both had too much faith in humanity. We both want to weed out corruption, but the problem is you must understand just how corrupt the average people is are at their core.
The problem with trying to build an honest, kind society is realizing just how rare and unique, and how fragile it is to have an honest and prosperous democratic government last.
Imaging developing nations evolving into liberal democracies as there natural end point is a failure to understand the nature of among other things, customary property rights and their embeddedness in kinship groups lies in some measure at the root of many nations dysfunctions.
The great nations, ours included mostly just force nations to adapt to our methods by force, like say, Zaylor and countless others. We do things to make things more orderly for the" true citizens", while making those we assimilate adapt or suffer.
The dirty secret that is the bane of democracies is that they claim they want equality, but when the minority groups start to demand more than just more rights, but the same equality as the majority, nine times out of ten those majority groups panic, and when the minority groups start rioting and demanding true justice, the majority drops all pretenses, till there is only one group with the power remaining.
This is primarily how the Aurino Republic fell, along with most major democracies across history. Now, you may ask, why not just make a society is truly equal for all? The answer is precisely why that Troy fellow betrayed you."
Richard gasped before he looked down." Because, to many people who have power don't want to share unless they are forced to. "
"That's my boy. And so, if it's against most people's nature to give away power, to get things done you must persuade others to think what they don't want to do, is something you want them to do. It may be a sin to lie for selfish gains Richard, but that's not true if the lie leads to a greater good. A truly good leader does not just lament about how the world is, but sees it for what it really is and knows how to move around those pieces, to bring about the best result for society.
Take it from someone who's nearly been all over the world son, all around the world, people live seemly peaceful lives, or at least give off that impression so that everyone thinks they are good.
Yet, while they believe themselves to be moral and virtuous, for most of them its just a facade. If anyone bothers to look past the surface, it would be quite clear, that darkness lurks in the pit of man's soul, ready to burst.
That's because those who are weak, and desire power, and simply strip the strong of their power, and convince themselves they earned it. The weak, so often they feel the need to rationalize there actions to verify there sense of self. They are sheep pretending to be wolves, all so they don't have to face the reality of what they really amount to in life.
Alas...sometimes to keep order, sometimes you have to let the sheep think they are sheep, or there riots will make order impossible, and everything will be consumed in chaos. And so you play along with there lie as long as it the act causes more order then chaos.
To keep order you pretend that one person's jokes are funny, you pretend you care what they have to say, you pretend there thoughts are worthwhile so that they keep doing want you want them to do, and keep things running in order. Collective deception, along with enough perks to forget they are lying in the first place is how societies have remain stable.
You lied and created your own reality Richard, and because you did you freed me from Steel's confinement and saved this nation. In the end, it was you, not Orion noir Raphael who inherited my acting skills and for that I'm so very proud.
I'm sorry it took such a crises for me to see how talented you truly were but I'm glad it happened before it was too late."
Richard felt a barrage of emotions run through him before he bit his lip." Thanks dad. I, I always wanted to prove I, I was worthwhile, that I was not a mistake."
"Of course you're not a mistake son, you just needed more of a push then others. Now we just have to make sure it was not all for naught eh?"
"Of course. But, does that mean you know where Ares is, where the Iblis Corps's HQ is? Gargan did not leave a key or anything did he?"
"Heh, alas it's a bit wishful thinking to think our enemies would leave us say, a sword that just magically pointed to wherever their lair was.
But even if such a thing that solely exists to reveal themselves does not exist my son, but it does not mean we are at a dead end. Still, it will take some effort and for it to work I will need your help."
"What, what do you mean?"
Andross paused before he looked at the moon and grasped his fist tightly." Richard, I saw that Gargan was set to have a meeting next week with Czar Dmitri Grizdosky in Glaridge. Officially its about a Electroball match between the two nations to celebrate are shared passions, but the reality is its really about the usual song and dance over who can out play who and the usual diplomatic relations.
I'm sure that boorish bear of a man will be quite eager to see if I'm different then Gargan, and I'm more then eager to have a chat with one of the people who tried to have me poisoned.
I don't know if Dmitri directly knows where the last Dragon Helix Emerald is, but if anyone knows where it could be, it is him and the oligarchs that will be attempting to make deals."
"You think he would tell you?"
"Oh no, he would die before ever conceding to me. But, while he's so fixated on me, he won't be paying attention to you."
"What, what do you mean?"
Andross extended his hand before his eyes narrowed." Son, the Crimson Tengu Ravens may have ended today, but you and your comrades work does not. You proven how well your group is at getting to the truth, so I ask if you can keep going on, as my soon to be created Crimson Dragoon unit."
Richard saw his dad's steady eyes before his jaw nearly dropped." You, you want everyone to work under you, as part of the army?"
"Heh, in the end little will change, you still will be answering mostly to Nathan, though I would hope you would keep me and the key staff in the loop as well.
This might be moving faster than the usual protocol but well, we saw you have already did your own trail by brutal fire eh? Help me save this world son, and become a true Magna Centurion that truly lives up to the values they are supposed to be!"
Richard started at his father before he cleared his throat." I mean, I can't speak for everyone, they came with me this far because I did not act for them."
Andross just let his smile widened before he crossed his arms." Fair enough. Still, I take it your, more than a little interested in the offer?"
"Of course, I can't just sit back and wait, I have to do what I can to shut down Ares once and for all! I'm, I'm just glad we can at last really work together as a family dad."
"I am to Richard. Well then, we will smooth out the details, but for now, to a new era son."
Richard saw Andross take out his hand before he gladly shook it, glad that his father's pride in him was no longer a fantasy.