LOVE'S KNIGHT zero
Prologue: Revertere Ad Nihilum
Everyone's on a journey.
Doesn't matter if you're walking out of the door to go down the street, or you're taking a plane halfway across the world.
Some journeys don't even involve physically going anywhere. Some journeys are simply metaphysical, your mind taking a long walk all its own before reaching the destination: a conclusion, a change.
Everyone takes journeys each day of their lives.
But some journeys can change your life. Some of them have to be made.
It takes one small step, one decision, one instant. It takes courage, resolve and strength, because journeys can be hard. They can cause you lose what you hold dear, even to lose who you once were.
They can also give back what was lost.
This is the story of one such journey. A heart's final journey.
His body reacted to the request from beyond; his eyes jerked open at the real, yet faded statement that had echoed through his sleeping mind. Involuntarily, his arms stretched downwards to push his awakened body from the ground upon which it had lain.
This act caused his back to rub against something; something hard and not man-made; textured and rough, yet comfortable for one to lean against.....even to fall asleep next to. Turning his cobwebby eyes to face the object that had supported him, he came face to face with a tree trunk.
A tree trunk that stood underneath a canopy of floating pink.
The formerly sleeping man finally rose to his feet, brushing a few strands of brown, slightly unkempt hair from his vision while continuing to stare at the sight before him with a look of both awe and recognition on his youthful, yet slightly weathered face.
Before him, the fully blooming tree blew gently in the soft breeze; a gentle wind carried through a perfectly, yet cloud filled blue sky underneath a perfect sun. All around as far as the man's eyes could see were grassy, flowery fields, stretching into the sun kissed horizon. It was perfect; at least, it felt perfect to him, as he drank it all in through eyes that matched the colour of the ceiling of this little world. It was his little world; his place. At the very least, it felt that way to him.
"Cherry blossoms....in full bloom." he mused softly, remembrance in his voice.
His hair joined the pink flowers of the tree in blowing gently in the wind as he turned to stare into the endless sky. His eyes were full of some kind of nostalgia from one who'd seen a few years in life, yet still held a sparkle of youth's dreams within. His features were fairly slim; he was of average height and not very muscular.
His outfit contrasted greatly with the colourful landscape around him; an ensemble of black, partially leathery top and jeans, topped off with a lengthy trenchcoat. Parts of his attire were the opposite; a shining silvery white that gleamed in spots where the sun could reach underneath the dark shroud of coat; these appeared to be accessories of some sort that covered his forearms and shins. These looked of a very unusual design; the craftmanship seemed to be of both a medieval and technological nature, yet they blended well with the dark clothes. Adorning his back was a fairly plain but functional backpack, a very dark shade of brown differentiating it from the other garments.
This was his place, yet he himself was out of place.
Words sounded inside his mind without warning, though the voice that spoke them was not the one that had awakened him only moments ago. It wasn't even a single voice; it sounded more like a chorus of many, each saying the same words.
"Wh-what?" he exclaimed out loud, startled by whatever entity was using his mind as a medium for speech.
Never forget this place. No matter how far you go, keep it always in your mind. Even when you cannot look back.
The words made no sense to the confused young man. He shook his head, holding it for a moment as he processed the statement that had been made. "I....I don't understand...."
There is no time. You must be ready.
His body tensed at those words. He had no idea of their context, but something in the disembodied voice put him on edge. "Ready? Ready for what?"
Draw your weapon.
"My weapon? I-I don't have one...." This was no lie. The man possessed no armament of any description. He was, as far as he could tell, just a traveller.
You have the greatest weapon of all. Your heart. Draw it. Draw your heart for all to see.
The man scowled with puzzlement. "Draw my heart....? What the heck are you talking about? How can I possibly do that?" He sighed with slight annoyance.
Another pause, and then an answer.
Connect with yourself. Connect to your heart.
"Connect....? Wha-?" Despite the seeming impossibility of what he was being asked, the man ceased his questioning of the voice's sanity. "OK then...." Taking a small breath, he decided to try this 'connecting' thing, the only way he could think of. He closed his eyes, cutting every sense off from the outside world. The summery, peaceful vista disappeared; only blackness remained. The only sounds were the breeze that whistled by his ears and his own rhythmic breathing.
That was when he saw it.
The moment that he allowed himself to go free from his physical world, he saw what lay within. It started softly, a gentle, slightly white, slightly pinkish light that emanated from in front of him. In mere moments, it erupted in a grandiose display of bursting light, like a flower opening into full bloom.
"Wha-what is this?!" he exclaimed within, even as he marvelled at the sight.
The light resonated, sending a soft, yet high pitched sound reverberating towards him as it pulsed with some kind of energy. He could see some kind of core, slightly tangible yet at the same time partially obscured by the trails of white-pink. It shone and pulsed continuously, and he couldn't turn his eyes away from it. His own heartbeat matched the rhythm of its pulses; it was somehow one with him.
This is your heart. Now draw it. You already know how. It's always been within you.
At this point, the man didn't even question things anymore. Almost on instinct, he reached a hand out towards the magnificent sight. His own heart. Tendrils of energy suddenly rushed out to meet his outstretched fingers. As they met, particles of the same energy surged in, fusing together to cause an even more brilliant light to burst forth from his hand's palm.
He gasped overtly and blinked. In seconds, the 'connection' was complete. The dark realm of his mind evaporated; reality came pouring back in immediately. Sound, sight, touch, smell, taste. All senses returned. The cherry blossom tree still stood. The summer breeze still blew. The sky was still full of white woolly clouds, yet now a new sight had joined them.
The man's exclamation came a second after he felt the weight of something in his hand, the same hand that moments before had been touching what in essence had appeared to be his own heart. What it touched now was decidedly different. Gleaming and gripped tightly by the man now was something that could only be described as some sort of energy weapon. It was a tangible thing, glowing faintly with the same white-pinkish hue that his heart had shone with. The unnatural object was unmistakeably a sword, made up of both the hilt which he held as well as the blade; this shape was formed by several streams of energy shooting off in multiple directions, yet their collective form was that of a sword's blade. It wasn't real, yet to him it felt as if he were holding a true weapon.
"What is this?! This is...my heart?!" The man was shocked, yet at the same time curious. He gently gave the sword a swing, getting a feel for the weight and balance. It swung with no resistance whatsoever, cutting through the air like a scythe. It felt completely natural to him, almost an extension of him.....which, if the voice's definition held true, it actually was.
It will be the light within the darkness. Never let go of it.
"Darkness...?" He forgot everything just then, focusing on just that one word. Again, he felt an instant air of trepidation.
His query was interrupted in dramatic fashion, for suddenly, everything went dark. The gentle wind died, the blue sky evaporated into an empty black. The sun's light went out, leaving only shadow around the peaceful scene. The cherry blossoms had vanished from the tree, which now stood as dead as the chilling air around it; an empty shell of a trunk was all that remained, its branches stretching out almost in a vain attempt to reclaim its former glory. The inviting warmth was replaced by coldness, not a freezing cold, but the cold one feels when they feel empty. Devoid of light, devoid of happiness, devoid of hope. The atmosphere of the once tranquil place had completely reversed.
The young man felt a shiver crawl up his spine as his eyes darted everywhere, shocked at the almost instant change of his surroundings. "Wh-what's happening...?"
An answer. One that chilled the man to the bone.
A sound forced the concerned man to look directly ahead of him, only a few metres away. Some kind of energy was forming, hardening into some kind of crystalline form. It reminded him partially of when he'd seen the core of his own heart only a short while ago, but it was different. Firstly, it was much smaller in scale. Second, this mass of energy gave off a very different colour; it was as black as the darkened void that now surrounded everywhere. No gentle feeling swept across from this gathering of matter; it was in fact the very opposite. The sight invoked more negative emotions; danger, dread....fear.
The process only took a few moments. When it was complete, the man could see more clearly what it was. It seemed to be an entity of some description, it's body a pure jet black, completely made out of whatever crystal-like substance that had formed it. Its figure was jagged, created of multiple such crystals, each jutting outwards in different directions. It stood at least half the height of the man that observed it, yet it seemed much more intimidating that its stature suggested. Staring back towards the other occupant of the now darkened field were two crimson red eyes, mere shards of red light that glowed from two recesses in the crystalline body. The sight of the creature did nothing to calm the young man's growing anxiety; in fact, it intensified it to a great degree.
"What....is....that...?" Trembling a little with a fear he couldn't shake off, he gripped the sword tightly, every instinct screaming at him that he would need to use it soon. Very soon. He had no idea what this 'thing' was, but it struck something deep inside him. Whatever it was, he knew it wasn't good.
The dark creature lunged, without warning.
Barely a split second before its arm impaled him, the man managed to bring up his weapon, saving him from an almost certain death. The hardened limb met the glowing blade, and a resonating hum echoed from the sword as it connected, complete with an accompanying crash. Yet, the creature did not back down, pressing against the sword with all its strength. The man grimaced, struggling to break free from the lock.
Release your heart. Fight it.
Again, the ethereal voice advised him, no hint of tension in its urging, as if it knew that he would be alright. Despite the situation, the embattled man didn't question it. He simply followed the words, acting on some deep rooted instinct, like he'd done it before. Something erupted inside him, a feeling. An emotion. A resolve. A flash of light burst from him, breaking the deadly embrace between himself and creature. The crystalline being was flung back, dazed for a moment by the event.
Let the light drive back the darkness.
He didn't need those words. Not allowing the being to get a second chance, the man dashed forward, thrusting the shining blade forward. It pierced the black shell of whatever the enemy was, cutting through it like a hot knife through a slab of butter. The blade went right through from front to back.
For only an instant, the creature stood, as if whatever intelligence laid inside it was processing what had just occurred. It then exploded, it's body disintegrating into a thousand different wisps of black, each of which faded away into thin air just as quickly.
The man man, breathing heavily with tension, stood in shock for just a moment longer, still holding his outstretched sword. The weapon itself was untouched, still gleaming as brightly as before. There was no blood, no stain of any kind upon the blade that had just torn through a substance that seemed harder than diamond.
"I....I won...." He could hardly believe it, that he was still standing, that the entity had not simply killed him. He'd acted purely on instinct, fighting back with strength and skill that he didn't know he had. Yet, he'd never wielded a weapon before. How was that possible?
It will not stop.
The man's moment of victory, as well as his elation, vanished as quickly as the creature had done when he saw what was happening around him.
More sounds of unnatural origin. More voids forming around him.
"There's more of them?!"
Three of the entities now appeared in the field, arrayed as to surround him. Each was identical to the one he'd just defeated, and like their forebear, they were moving towards him, coming for him.
It will not stop until it takes you.
The man kept turning to face each one, feeling hopelessly backed into a corner. Any moment now, all of them would attack. He'd barely fought off a single one; how would he deal with three at once?
But you mustn't give up. You must fight with everything you have.
He closed his eyes, shutting everything out. He disappeared into that inside realm, that place within that only oneself could go to. From inside that place he could feel them. Three beings of malevolence, three desires of death coming to him.
His heart rang out again, showing him the way.....and his eyes shot open.
A flash of light blazed from his hand, brilliant but brief. The feeling of the object he held changed; it felt different, weighed lighter than before. Guided by the unknown once more, he thrust his hand towards one of the creatures, pointing his weapon directly towards it, instantly pulling the trigger as he did so.
There was no longer a sword held firmly in his right hand. In its place was a gun. A vastly different tool, but of the same existence as its melee counterpart had been. It was long barrelled; the body made of the same shiny, glowing material as the sword had been, though with less crystallization. It was slightly more ornate, more solid, perhaps due to its difference in purpose.
It was, however, no less deadly than its predecessor. As the trigger clicked, a highly charged particle of unknown light launched down the barrel, discharging a grand flash of light as it did so. The projectile slammed into its target dead centre, exploding it into emptiness much like the sword had done with its earlier brother.
Reacting with incredible speed, the man brought the gun to bear on the other two creatures in turn, repeating what he'd done to the first of the trio in just seconds. Two shots of energy blasted forth; two enemies were destroyed.
"How....did I do that...?" Still keeping his mysterious weapon ready, the man breathed the words through tension, adrenaline. He'd never used a sword before; he'd never fired a gun at all, either. Yet he'd used both as if he was a master of the arts of battle. Was this something to do with his heart?
Stay true to yourself. Trust in your heart. No matter what happens.
The voice spoke immediately as if to answer him. Before he could try to question it, the low hums of more approaching creatures caused him to tense up once again. Across the field, a great deal more of the entities had appeared, numbering at least ten. Their resolve had not changed in the slightest; each of them was coming for him with the same intent. Their actions were as soulless as their blood red eyes.
"Why? Why do they keep coming? How am I supposed to beat them?!"
Once again, he opened fire, taking out the nearest creatures to him. Half of them fell to the swift and concentrated gun-play, but the others were able to close in to melee range. As they made to attack, he adapted in anticipation. Once again channelling whatever power lay within him, he was able to change the gun back into the sword. The weapon hadn't changed a bit from when he held it before; it still sliced through the oncoming beings with no effort. The remaining five were all slain, annihilated in a dance of death that the man led with the blade of light.
The wielder of the heart stood, breathing heavily after the last group of entities were defeated, feeling the fatigue of battle. His body had acted almost of its own will, using techniques that only his heart seemed to truly know.
"How....how did I do any of that? Why is this happening? What are those things? Please answer me!"
Questions ricocheted through his confused, slightly panicked mind.
Where, what, why, how?
Only you know why you are here....
He heard the sound of arriving darkness once more, but this one was different. The black void that preceded its entrance was larger and deeper, a portent of something much more dangerous than what he'd already faced. This creation of darkness arrived almost as if it was ripping reality in two, literally walking into the world....and its appearance was not what the swordsman expected.
"What the-? It's...it's human?"
This was no twisted mass of dark energy that now stood before him; the dark figure was clearly that of a female, the familiar soft curvature of her form covered by a deep black dress along with various armoured pieces that looked similar, but more man-made and fashioned than the crystalline bodies of the creatures that had come before. He couldn't discern her face; it was covered a helm of similar construction; two small ornate wings protruded from either side. What he noticed the most, however, were the much larger and very real pair of onyx shaded wings that sprouted from her back, both a majestic and frightening sight to behold. They were completely black, but for a faint aura of purple that seemed to glow from the outline of the beautiful appendages.
...where you must walk....
"Is she...an angel?"
His musing came as the angelic figure stared at him for a few moments. They seemed to last an eternity; he was almost mesmerized by the sight of this woman. It wasn't everyday that one came face to face with angels. She regarded him for those moments, before pointing a gauntleted finger towards him. In that same moment, the man's admiration was broken.
He saw the blazing blade in her left hand, glowing with that same black/purple. The colours brought him no peace. The intent of this 'angel' was crystal clear.
....and what you must do.
In the next instant, she was upon him, sword pointed directly towards his chest. Her speed was incredible, beyond that of a normal human being. To him, she seemed to move faster than the blink of an eye. The surprised man's own blade barely met hers in time; a second later and he would have been dead.
His attacker didn't stop for a moment's pause. Almost immediately, she began to strike hard at his defence, landing swift blow after swift blow upon his blocking weapon. He felt the force of each hit, each one trying to break through. His blade of energy shuddered with each impact. Her skill with the blade was definitely far superior to his; he had no doubt that if she landed one good hit, he'd be done for.
Ugh! This is....relentless! What the hell is she?! I-I have to break free!
Through a grimace, the defending swordsman, almost automatically, began to cause yet more energy to flow upon his weapon. The instinct that had so far kept him alive was helping him once more, and he wasn't about to deny it. He didn't know where it was coming from, but for now he was glad for its presence. Barely seconds after this action, the collected energy suddenly burst forth from the sword, pushing both the angel and its summoner back with some kind of strong kinetic force. The resulting 'boom' that was released from the reaction echoed across the darkened plains, entering the eardrums like a thunderclap.
The effect of his 'counter' left him dazed for a moment, but the swordsman had gained the one thing he needed from his opponent; distance. "Right! Now it's my turn!" he declared, seizing the moment to counter-attack. He dashed straight towards the winged being, hoping to take her by surprise.
The surprise was his own. As his sword came within an inch of tearing through her armoured chest, it instead was clashed back. The sudden impact caused his arm to recoil awkwardly and he lost his balance.
Held now in the dark angel's right hand was a small shield of the same matter as her weapon. It had materialised right as the man's sword would have hit home. She hadn't put all her cards on the table; she'd kept the shield from play until it was absolutely needed. She spoke not a word, her faceless gaze upon him as his attack failed, but it felt to him like she had spoken with her quick action. The words would have been, "Nice try."
The next action was to the effect of, "You're not good enough!"
Taking full advantage of his misstep, the angel didn't do what he expected, which was to slam into him with her sword once again. This time, she thrust her left hand out at him, having momentarily de-materialized her weapon as she'd brought her shield into the fight. She'd already channeled a fair amount of her own, darker energy into her palm, much the same way he'd been using his own unexplained power. He had simply no time to react as she unleashed it, hurling a powerful mass of dark matter directly into him. It wasn't a huge mass by any means, but its power was far greater than its size; the resulting impact blasted him several feet backwards, throwing him onto his back as he landed near to the faded cherry blossom tree.
Heavily dazed from the dark blast, it took the swordsman a moment to clear his eyes of the dizzying sensation...just in time to witness the spectacular and deadly sight of the angel floating above him, wings outstretched in splendour. Yet they were wings of death, for she was bringing death from above. Her sword, shining with concentrated energy, was pointing straight down at him as she held it in a downward stance. Time seemed to pause briefly as the fallen man's eyes took in the sight.
She dropped like a bird of prey, a sudden dive, plunging her blade deep into his body, dead centre into his shocked heart.
It took a moment for the man to register what had just happened; the sensation of the blade sliding through his flesh, piercing his insides. The angel above him, staring down with a look that spoke silent words of finality. The lack of blood, of fading life. The fact that he was still alive, still breathing.
Questions unending threatened to burst from his mind, filling his brain with empty answers. Nothing was making sense. What was all this? Why was this happening? Who was the voice that spoke to him? Who or what was this angel? Why wasn't he dead?
Don't fear the darkness.
The victorious angel removed her sword from the man's defeated body, sliding it free as easily and as quickly as she'd forced it in. The action caused his body to shudder visibly, and a sound like glass shattering was heard, echoing all around him. He felt something from deep within his chest, something akin to loss, emptiness.....then an intense wave of pain, bleeding out from where the wound had been carved. The winged girl simply watched silently, unmoving and devoid of any emotion.
Through the white hot sensation that was engulfing his heart, the man saw what was beginning to happen around him. Everything; the tree, the plains, the sky.....all of it began to be sucked into his chest. Time and space seemed to stop and fold in on itself as it was dragged into the black hole that had been opened inside him.
"What...what's happening to me?!"
He cried out inside, searching for an answer from anyone. Anything.
There will be great pain before the end...
Everything disappeared within. Nothing remained now, every last scrap of reality having been torn away by whatever the angel had done to him. Only she remained, unaffected, hovering on gently undulating wings while watching ever silently as the event took place. She continued to watch as from the inky blackness that had replaced the physical world stretched out dozens of tendrils towards the helpless man, holding him in cold embrace.
"It....it hurts....so much....."
As the darkness took a hold of him, the man drifted into unconsciousness, feeling all of his energy drain away. The light from his heart's weapon faded out, swallowed by the trails of ethereal shadows. He ceased to resist, a heavy sleep causing his eyes to gently close. The last thing he saw was the wraith-like angel, shining in the darkness and staring back at him upon wings of judgement.
...but stay true to your path. Stay true to your heart.
When finally, all was nothingness, he felt like he was falling. Falling into an endless expanse of nothing.
"Am I....dying...? Is this how it ends...?"
He continued to fall, lost and broken, falling into the void, a void as deep as the open wound within his fading heart.
The finally, before everything turned to black, final words from the gentle yet legion voice that he didn't know; that he couldn't know, and yet he did. Somewhere in that one single multitude of speech, there was solace. He didn't understand why. He just knew it was there, and as his mind shut down, he held onto that one precious thought.
...for this is only the beginning of your journey.