Chapter LVIII: The End Part II
December 3, 1583
Even from the perched headquarters in the summer villa, the crack of gunshots and the boom of cannons rattled the wooden confines of the Far East headquarters. General Grubby did not wait for his manservant’s uneasy hands to finish his armour as he instinctively strapped his steel cuirass without even looking into the mirror in front of him. “Faster, Geraldo, the battle’s already started and I’m only half dressed!”
The silent manservant quickened his pace despite the soft descent of dust coming from the ceiling. “Your horse is ready, General,” a lieutenant quickly informed him from the doorway.
“Good, have Arias’s division meet me on the forward position, we’ll outflank through the river,” the General quickly barked before shooting a glance towards the tall man at the other end of the hall. “Give me some good news, Lex.”
Lexington White held onto the rolled reports in his right hand with a tightened fist. “I’m afraid you’re on your own this time, General. We’ll do our best with the backup reports Nia has provided us, but Jesca’s paperwork is faulty and incomplete.”
As the leather bindings on General Schenkhuizen’s armour stretched to the usual tightness, the lanky general took a pause to examine his counterpart. His usual quickness gave way to a more understanding tenor. “It’s unlike her to make mistakes. Even before she was your Princess,” the General said reaching to put his curved helmet onto his head. “Were these the instructions she left behind for you to carry out?”
“Yes,” Lex said easing the fist’s hold on the paperwork. “She spent the whole night before departure dictating it all to her pers—” Lex’s eyes seized up and presented a steel look towards his colleague.
“Where is she?” Grubby asked stepping away from his manservant similarly arrested by the realization.
Even from the tucked temporary headquarters of the port warehouse, the crack of thunder and the boom of lightning disturbed the wooden enclosure of the unused building. Nonetheless, the entourage had finished their preparations and had spread out accordingly from their base of operation. Renault de Fronsac as the second highest ranking Lion amongst the group headed the main division of Special Forces that now began to surround the old Roman arena at the center of the city.
There was no need for signs or directions since a pyre of white seemed to continually coalesce above the gloomy ruin at the middle of town. Sparks of white cast long shadows like a gigantic ring of dark each time Heaven touched Earth behind the walls of the arena. Antonio, Jakob, Jesca, and Nia took the direct route to the entrance of the unlikely citadel. Their job was simple; to penetrate the defenses and secure the Timepiece. Renault and the barely sufficient detachment of Lions would make sure there was no escape.
Through the main gate and palisade of the arena, there was surprisingly no resistance. Nothing but rubble decorated the ground and steel bars and wooden enclosures seemed to suffice to keep out unwanted visitors. “I can see light coming from this corridor,” Jakob said quickly noticing a descending staircase.
“It probably leads to the gladiator stable. We can make our way into the center through there,” Antonio added before leading the others down the stone steps. His sword was already drawn as were the weapons of the other three. Jakob and Antonio held the torches for their stealthier counterparts.
The flight downward was brisk but the narrow corridor stifled them with loud blasts from the center of the arena. The thunder reverberated uncontrollably through the narrow and smooth hallways throughout the underground complex. Checking in all directions as the corridor opened into an armory, the four dashed forward prepared for whatever dangers awaited. Still, however, nothing.
“Over there,” Nia pointed out to a platform with chains below a wooden ceiling that now sprinkled dust and light through its cracks. “It must be a trap door into the arena for animals. We can get up through it.”
“We’ll stand on it,” Jesca instructed, “and I’ll trip the chain with my dag—”
“My Lady…” a voice crept into the room from one of the corridors like an echo. Jesca could not finish her words and all eyes found the darkened path where the sound entered from. To all present except for Jakob, the voice had a twist of familiarity in its sighing chord.
“Lady Jesca…” was the voice again; a girl’s voice that prickled the hair on the back of Jesca’s neck.
“Impossible… that voice,” Nia let out while retracting a metallic weapon from her belt.
“Lydia…” Jesca called back out to the shadow. Backing away from the hallway and approaching the platform with the rest of the party, Jesca watched carefully for signs of her little secretary.
What greeted her instead brought a hand to her mouth. “You shouldn’t be here…” Lydia’s voice once again called out as a figure disintegrated itself from the shadow. But no; the small girl was not present in front of all of them. The intensity of the shock gripped them as if the lightning showering above had penetrated into their bodies below. Black hair draped over bloodshot eyes; pale skin—dirty and marred—frothed with pus and sweat. On the figure’s neck was a scar deep and vicious revealing a finer shade of skin within which condensed with a powerful liquid.
“W…What … who are you…?” Jesca called out attempting to suppress the smell now wafting towards them with her hand. “…Lydia?” she feebly asked as if a tear was creeping out of her squinting expression.
“Yes… it’s me,” the apparition said once again in Lydia’s voice. Below the pale face was black armour stretching from shoulder to foot. Draped in a cape of red and that dark colour, it was a man’s body—a dead man’s body.
“No…” Jesca called out holding her position in between the party and this strange being in front of her. “What… what happened to you?!”
There were teeth that were Lydia’s suddenly emanating from underneath wretched rotting lips. “Don’t you see?” that girl’s voice said, “Sio-Pan has given me what I’ve always wanted… I can finally live with strength and power… as his avatar of vengeance! MMnn,” she suddenly moaned out with a gurgling viciousness, “don’t you want it too? Don’t you feel it as well? Deep down inside, we all lust for flesh… And here I am… living proof that I can finally be who I really am! I have a new name now… you can call me… Zio!”
The thunder crashed against the ears of all those present once more, and already these sounds were accompanied by Jakob’s pistol hammer being pulled backward. Nia had crouched down low in anticipation, but Jesca could only stand there with a stunned countenance. “How could you do this… I thought…”
“I’m sorry, Jesca…” the girl’s voice said with a taunting giggle yet grating a hint of regret as if the very words of vitriol that now spewed forth was interlaced by a single thread of sadness. “I’m not like you; righteous and sacrificing even if you did lose your memories you still kept the work of… Isabella going.” The name widened Jesca’s eyes as the girl spoke. “Even though you were given a new life, a new identity you still help these oppressors!”
Those reddened eyes seared against the fading blues of the stunned Jesca. “You were given a chance to be who you want to be and you threw it away for the sake of…” it was as if the next word was too repugnant for that avatar of vengeance to speak. “You represent everything that I hate, Jesca,” she continued, “No one, not the world, not even the one who created me can dictate who I am. I will create myself! And Sio-Pan has showed me how. Through his chemicals… through his wondrous alchemy he has made me whole again… and for that I love him and will serve him. This is how the new world he is attempting to create shall be! A new world where we will have freedom! This will be the world of the Lord of Acid; the world of my poisonous love; the world of my chemical romance and I will join where this body’s previous owner wished to be—to be a part of his new revolution—to be a part of the black parade!”
“Still with the black this and black that!” a voice boomed from the opposite corridor even above the din of thunder. “And people wonder why I killed you the first time!”
Jakob’s head was the first to turn; the tinge of recognition breaking the paralysis. His vision was not disappointed as the smashing noise of armour against armour created a percussion to rival the heavenly tirade above. “Uncle!” Jakob called out as the rest turned their heads.
Cardinal-Duke James DeWitt; Lord Chancellor of the Kingdom of Spain, Cardinal Protector of Germany, and Duke of Saxony. He had to inch through the corridor sideways just to fit into the main chamber. Once inside, a smaller grinning figure appeared from the rear. Sweet was handily carrying the Cardinal’s chained spear for him.
The four were not the only ones who gave their attention to the imposing prince of the Church. Lydia grit her teeth and seethed in poisonous hatred. “Not even your precious Church can stop us now!” she called out before raising a gauntleted hand. Hooded figures immediately responded to the signal and stepped out of the corridor’s shadowy interior on her end of the room and began amassing on the armoury grounds.
Cardinal Dewitt took hold of his spear from Sweet’s burdened grasp and faced the incoming adversaries. “There may be a day,” he said to all of them in his stentorian voice, “when even Holy Mother Church cannot stop you. But by the grace of God, on this day, at this time, so long as I draw breath, it will not be so!”
With that, the Cardinal looked towards his smaller companion and instructed him quietly with his age old eyes. “Make sure that Jakob receives what you hold, my friend,” the Cardinal said quietly to Sweet. Sweet patted the bundle of papers attached to his belt, but he was not the only one who noticed. Jakob stepped forward with an inquisitive look.
Before he could even ask a single word, Jakob felt the rush of air as Sweet pulled Isabella onto the platform and the Cardinal sliced through the iron chain counterweights with his spear. The room filling with acolytes and the apparition of his uncle in red armour disappeared into the floor. There was no time for questions; the trap door which was above them now swung ajar and the intermix of humid and dry air warmed the five who rose into the arena.
The sandy bottom of the floor led up to the far end of the inner circle where a towering figure preceded before a spire of blackness and white lightning. “Welcome to my arena,” the tall one at the far end announced. “I am Raypard Le Cheik, second counci—”
“I don’t care who you are,” Antonio angrily called out, “You must hand over the Timepiece immediately! Using it like this is dangerous!”
As the five stood in a star like formation stepping off the platform in the direction of the strange construction ahead, Le Cheik did not waste any more time. “Open a gate!” he called out. The bustling around the inner rim of the arena, shades of hooded men now became visible. A heavy splitting of metal was heard and on to the left side of the five, a gate opened.
Jakob was able to shoot the first lion as it lunged towards them, opting to defend his friends with his first shot before attempting to snipe their main adversary. Nia managed to slice another one of the beasts’ throats as it pounced for her. As if on cue, several acolytes had followed the exiting animals and attempted to take advantage of the surprise. Perhaps it was the reflection of lightning against curved blade, but the two front men were initially blinded before their bodies fell to the ground with oblique cuts delved by Sweet’s stoic superluminal blade. The third man fell to a reloaded shot.
“Another Gate! Another Gate!” Le Cheik yelled out curling his fingers into a fist. Gates sprang open along the rim of the arena. Jesca danced with rapier in hand along the edge of the rim picking off the most vulnerable of the incoming foes while Jakob stood in the center finding beasts and man alike to take out at range. Antonio looked to his companions before rushing forward closer to Le Cheik hoping to end the encounter before the surrounding forces became overwhelming. That’s when the bull almost rammed into his side.
Though hoping to stop, the grainy floor made Antonio slip and slide into the bull’s path. With a trampling charge, Antonio barely escaped the incoming beast by rolling in the perpendicular direction. The animal seemed to seethe in the error and turned around for a second attack. Antonio could feel the incoming monster in the depths of his spine as it rocked the floor.
Taking hold of the dirty surface, he threw a small cloud of dust into the animal’s face forcing it to turn to one side. Racing to his feet, Antonio mercilessly stabbed with his blade into its neck. Although in its death throes, the beast twisted in the opposite direction and pulled the rapier right out of Antonio’s grip.
“Enough of this!” Le Cheik growled angrily watching his minions and beasts blunder one after the other. His whole figure turned and those gloved hands made contact with the contraption. Opening the machine briefly, he fearlessly took hold of the glowing rod placed within. Like water adhering to a parting surface, lightning followed the moving object as Le Cheik brought it around to face the arena. There was a slicing explosion as lightning conducted from the tip of the rod and made contact with the earth below.
Antonio jumped back. The lightning continued to arc in random directions directly in front of Le Cheik creating a virtual shield of electricity. Antonio’s sword within the bull’s carcass now caught the attention of Le Cheik’s weapon causing the whole object to explode sending scorched pieces of the animal into the rest of the arena.
Seeing the new tactic their enemy was employing, Jesca threw a fan of knives in Le Cheik’s direction. The metal, immediately attracting the energies of the charged particles made contact with a bolt of lightning. The superheated air crashed a terrible noise in different directions before sending the objects back towards the arena with a menacing speed. “Jakob, shoot him!” Jesca said in desperation before being forced to begin fighting with an oncoming acolyte.
Jakob pivoted on his right foot and aimed his pistol at the illuminated foe. The first shot was dead on Jakob’s sights, but for some reason not a scratch appeared on Le Cheik who merely laughed at the attempt. “What’s wrong?” Antonio yelled out in the terrible loudness of the thunder.
“Something’s deflecting my shots!” Jakob yelled, “His rod must be magnetized somehow!” he said before quickly drawing his own sword to defend himself. The massive amount of cultists was beginning to take its toll on the five even though the bodies began to clutter the floor.
“Hold them off!” Antonio suddenly called out, “I have an idea!” It only took a second for Jakob to be by his side taking the man approaching Antonio. Antonio could not help but smile at the loyalty of his friend before pulling off his leather boot.
“You’re going to throw your shoe at him?” Jakob asked being as serious as he usually was despite the hilarity of his question.
“Much better than that,” Antonio said as he turned away from Jakob. Jakob did not have the luxury to question Antonio’s strange actions before having to engage two men simultaneously.
What had happened next took everyone by surprise; perhaps because it had been so effective yet so simple. Antonio would have later said that it was thanks to Renault’s tips that he had come up with the idea. The boot had made a courageous journey with Antonio’s powerful thrust forward. Flying through the air, it garnered almost everyone’s attention and especially Le Cheik’s. There was a large chuckle as the object reached the tall Councilman; at least, Le Cheik thought, he was impressed by Antonio’s strength to lob such an object in his direction. Using one hand to hold his Thunder Halberd steady, he slapped the boot with his other. That was when the contents of the boot flooded out. Liquid splashed out of the inside of the leather and made contact with Le Cheik’s shoulders and spread all the way to his hand. Sparks flew in all directions as the lightning conducted past the gloves via the liquid and seized the tall Councilman until he died on the spot.
The acolytes dispersed as soon as the lightning ceased and Antonio ran up towards the edge of the arena with only one boot on his feet. The rest followed suit and easily scaled the small partition with a leap. Le Cheik’s body was a charred mess on the floor and the black contraption before them was now silent.
“Ingenious idea using water like that,” Nia commented after reaching the stands and grinning at the now deceased opponent.
“That wasn’t water,” Antonio said still half panting with a silly grin on his face. He leaned down to choose a dry glove from Le Cheik’s deathly grip and approached the metal casing. “After we get the Timepiece we’ll double back to help the Card—”
As he spoke, Antonio opened the previously illuminated black cone only to find its interior completely hollow. As the confusion set in, a light issued from the east, but it was still three hours before morning. Turning to their right at the direction of the illumination, the five ran to the topmost bastion of the arena. At the far end of the city, a golden emanation dominated their view.
“We’re too late…” Antonio stuttered before repeating himself, “We’re too late…”
Already, a rumble could be heard as the ground moaned as if pressed by a gigantic pressure. The wind’s roaring became so violent that it seemed to screech towards a monotone pitch. And, in a flash, all became darkness.
“I don’t get it, so you’re saying only the universes where a black hole doesn’t exist would matter?”
“Well, given enough time, Herschel, weren’t you paying attention?”
“I don’t know, Chiam, I guess this Stephen fellow’s important, but first he reverses his thirty year stance on information being lost in a black hole and now he adds this?”
“I know, I know, but like he said, you have to sum over all the alternative histories with and without a black hole and you’ll see that the information paradox can be solved. Information is lost in the black hole histories but information is preserved in the histories without a black hole. They would cancel each other out so that information would be preserved in the long term.”
“That sounds too sterile even for me, Herschel. Plus, the whole idea of alternate universes is troublesome. You know the Church would never approve of it either.”
“Well, you never know. We used to think evolution was a purely atheistic thing but at least for the Catholics truth will never contradict truth. I’m no theologian but even if multiple universes were possible, it would be easy to see how it would merely be a way for God to allow man to make different choices. In the end, for those who believe, God’s plan is fulfilled in any world. I mean, look at ours! Do you think God intended for this world of ours to be the way it is? It’s a hard question, but both yes and no. We won’t know until the fullness of time is played out whether or not even the worst things that could happen, the worst apostasy, the worst persecution was not for the greater good, eh? Don’t you think?”
“I’m just an amateur, Herschel, and even worse at theology than I am at physics. I own a deli, I say my prayers, and now you go and talk to me about this Stephen Hawking fellow and black holes. Just take your salami and go home already.”
“Eh, come on, Chiam. This is exciting stuff!”
“Are you kidding? It’s already depressing me! What happens to all those histories’ people who are in the black hole universes, huh? What if we’re in a black hole universe? It’s like we don’t mean anything then!”
“Well… it’s not really like that. Calm down.”
“Aren’t you a bit sad about it? You’ll never know how they were like. What kind of people they were. And in the end, their universe went kaput. It’s like watching Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead all over again. Entertaining, but depressing.”
“Well it’s not like I’m saying they all disappear or something. This isn’t some nihilistic approach or anything. I’m sure God takes care of them too. It’s not like their souls are fake or get sucked into black holes too haha.”
“That’s not funny, Herschel.”
“Oh quit being a spoilsport, Chiam.”
“You—you’re calling me a spoilsport? Get outa here!”
“Fifteen years, Chiam. That’s how long we’ve known each other and still you’re as stubborn as a cow.”
“Stubborn maybe, but at least I won’t lose sleep over whether a universe out there exists where I win the lottery or not. Good night, Herschel, and glad to have you back.”
“Good to be back. There’s nothing like the good ole USA.”
What happened with the Timepiece in the past ? Is everyone gone ? Is everything changed ? Will the Timepiece exist to put it all back to what it should be ? Is this the wrong universe ? Was everything for nothing ? Is this Tom's essay ? Is this a dream ? Is this what happens when the Timepiece is used ? Does this universe matter ? Do black holes exist ? Do black holes exist in this universe ? How can Sio-Pan be stopped ? Will his use of the Timepiece be successful ? What happened to Tom ? What happened to Duke Jimenes, Father Xavier, Nia, and Marcus? Will Rodrigo , Captain DeWitt, Hayato , and Lara make it to Tom before the Lord of Acid does ? Does any of that still exist ? What happens to Spain ? Want to see how the Timepiece works ? Want to see how the future is still preserved ? Want to see who lives and who dies ? Tune in next season !
SEASON 2 COMING SOON