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    Monster in the Mirror

    Vandrad Ragnos
    Vandrad Ragnos

    Quality Badge Level 1- Quality Badge Level 2- Quality Badge Level 3- Player 
    Lineage : Traveller of the Multiverse
    Position : None
    Posts : 771
    Guild : Fairy Tail
    Dungeon Tokens : 0
    Experience : 7,808,129

    Character Sheet
    First Skill: Energy Monarch
    Second Skill: Ark of the Dread Masters
    Third Skill:

    Monster in the Mirror Empty Monster in the Mirror

    Post by Vandrad Ragnos 16th June 2023, 2:42 pm

     All was calm on New Rhaegar, as it almost always was. The ever-drumming beat of the seasons had continued its trek forward and winter had all but faded into memory, giving way to spring, at least on the island nation. Being near the equator of the world had its benefits and one of those was warmer springs and outrageously hot summers. All the snow that had fallen during the cold months had long since melted and the greenery of the world had returned. The mixture of Rhaegarian and Xocili children raced about the streets, seamlessly mixed together with barely a difference, save for the natives of the former northern Rhaegar; grayer skin but still just as much energy as the other kids. The port was bustling with activity as well; construction on new buildings echoed across the waterscape as workers built the new trading hubs. With their advancing technology, the need to trade by boat and flying vehicle was becoming a thing of the past; teleportation hubs would allow them to transport their goods to and from the mainland in a matter of minutes rather than days.

    Far up on the top level of the island was the training area that was commonly used by Vandrad, Vriko, Victoria and, of course, Scourge himself. But at the moment, there wasn’t a training session going on. In fact, no one was anywhere within the perimeter of the area. But across from it were roaring waterfalls; manipulated streams of water that acted as the island’s natural reservoir that flowed through the nooks and crannies of the island’s caverns below the civilization. And seated down below, where the rocky outcrops rose out of the natural pool, sat Scourge. He’d picked a semi-flat rock to sit on, right under the thunderous pressure of the falling water. His legs were crossed over one another, his shirt long since discarded, letting the full brunt of the water crash against his bare flesh. It was a seemingly impossible sight; no man or woman should be able to withstand the crushing force of that many gallons being deposited on them.

    Then again, Scourge was not normal. He sat cross-legged, hands pressed against his knees, and his eyes closed and he looked as serene as one might while taking a shower. He looked completely focused, despite the sound that surely had to be bursting his eardrums. In truth, it had been several minutes since he’d even heard the waterfall. He had focused his attention within, withdrawing to such a level that he was quite deeply in a meditative trance.

    Within the confines of his mind, Scourge stood. A vast, endless void of darkness met his eyes as he opened them. He looked down and found that, while the rest of the world was black, he was standing on water, the ripples spreading out from his bare feet as he shifted himself slightly. It reflected the darkness all around, creating a sheen over the floor he had created in his own mind. The dull roar of the water, the thunderous pressure of the world, it was lost to him as he slowly looked about his own world, his crafted mind space. And he let out a sigh.

    Victoria had told him that she could sense he was holding back. Even after the several training sessions they’d had, she made sure to remind him that she understood he wasn’t fighting with all his strength. She was right, of course; there were paths he had that would push him to his very limits, possibly beyond. The combination of his Empowerment plus a few enhancement spells from the Ark and he would be oppressively more threatening. But even that, he knew she wasn’t talking about. One couldn’t fool a being so deeply immersed in combat that easily and, undoubtedly, she could sense the deeper potential. The problem was in using it, he would have to give more power to the person he was before. And unlatch a power he wasn’t sure he could fully keep in check.

    His eyes darted away from center, off to the side. The metaphysical manifestation of his concerns appeared yards away; a steel cage, as shadowed as the realm beyond his mindscape. But smoke and flames rippled out from the lowest points of the cage and he could feel its eyes staring at him. He held the unseen gaze for a moment or two longer than he anticipated.

    Finally he looked away, scoffing slightly as he did so. But he couldn’t control the feelings that flowed out of him and, worse, the memories that were attached to them. As he started to step away, a familiar voice brought him to a stop, his eyes widening.

    “Please, don’t.”

    He turned around to find his world had shifted to that of a burning farmland. The field burned vibrantly in the wild blaze, lighting up the night sky with the flickering light while simultaneously darkening it with choking smoke. The screams of the farmers somehow managed to pierce the roar of fire, as men and women trying to fight the blaze were swept up into it.

    A teenager, no more than eighteen as the most, was lying on the ground. He was badly injured, lacerations over his chest, face and arms. One of his hands was completely broken, bent at an awkward angle. And standing above him was Scourge, the glow of his scythe illuminating his own hardened gaze and that of the frightened features of the boy.

    “You beg for mercy too late,” Scourge remarked coldly.

    “Please!” the boy cried, throwing up his one good hand in front of him defensively. “Please have mercy!”

    “Mercy?!” Scourge hissed as he swung the scythe down, the point mere inches from the boy’s neck. “You have the gall to beg for mercy after all the men, women and children you’ve murdered? After I found you slicing up that woman…” Scourge bit back his anger as best he could, seething through his nostrils. “You knew what you were doing when you took that demon inside of you. Don’t pretend otherwise; you don’t think I’ve tracking you? Listening to you talk to that cursed thing?”

    “And yet… you just watched.” The boy’s voice had turned hard, his tone sharper. The fear washed from his eyes and a wicked, amused grin tugged at his face. “Big man with a scythe and yet you watched from the shadows, did you? Then you watched as I cut, ripped, twisted, smooshed, and tore my way through all of those people.” The boy began to laugh, the sound getting louder as he spoke. “You know what that means, right?! You LET me kill those people. You probably enjoyed it just as much as I did. Don’t you get it, you fucking idiot?! You’re as bad as me!”

    All it took was one quick jerk and the scythe easily carved the boy’s jaw open. His mouth fell loose as blood splattered the ground. He should have been in terrible pain and he probably was. But that didn’t stop him from continuing to laugh, even as he gargled his own gore. “Just…fucking…kill….me.” he managed to sound out.

    “No,” Scourge replied as he dismissed the scythe. “I’m going to put you through something far, far worse.”

    As the swell of light filled the area, Scourge, the real one, looked away in disgust. The Dread Masters had been tracking the Midian kid since he’d arrived in Fiore, believing he was possessed by a demon. Turns out he had; he was a walking meat suit for a high ranking demon under Illgan, the Prime Sin of Greed. He’d been ordered to observe and wait for confirmation in when to take him and several dozen people had lost their lives because of it. The Dread Masters, who claimed to want to empower humanity, had been willing to sacrifice innocents for their own purposes.

    Had it been then that he’d begun to see the cracks? Was it that moment that he swore to get close to Vandrad and try and persuade him to take control of the shadow organization for better? No, it had been much sooner than that where he’d felt something was off. As if on queue, he felt the heat of the previous scene fade away and yet another familiar, almost forgotten voice speaking. “You may not be Marka but you have all of his potential, my boy.”

    Scourge turned to find the sight of a training room. Standing directly across him was a much younger version of him, most likely six or seven years old. And beside him was a stern, militaristic looking man he recognized. “Gawaso,” the real Scourge spoke at the same time as the younger one. “Is this magic you’re telling me about… is it going to let me help people?”

    Gawaso placed his hand on the young Scourge’s shoulder. “Yes, child. Your magic is going to help humanity. With it, you’ll help us take back control of our world and crush the immortals. Their murderous rule over us will come to an end and you will bless humanity with gifts beyond their wildest dreams, even beyond that of magic!”

    The young Scourge looked up at the elder man with hope, excitement even. All sorts of thoughts and dreams came spiraling into his head; imagining himself as a hero that would save the people. But as the scene shifted, so did the young Scourge, now ten years old, tears running down his cheeks as he stared at the people before him.

    “What are you waiting for, Scourge?” Gawaso screamed at him. “Kill them now!”

    “But…” Scourge started, trying to hold back sobs. “They’re… just people.”

    “They are enemies of the Dread Masters! They are hiding information about our target! Teach them what it means to cross the Dread Masters!” Gawaso roared and with a jerk of his hand, he lashed the young boy with his cane. Scourge stumbled to the ground and Gawaso smashed his cane into his back several more times before finally reaching down and pulling him to his feet. “You will do what I order! You will obey!” he screamed into Scourge’s face before forcefully turning him to face the family.

    Scourge whimpered, tears still pouring down his face. But his hand slowly began to rise up, magical energy funneling into his palm. The horrified screams of the family filled the room as the young boy unleashed a beam of magic, vaporizing them in an instant. He would have fallen to his knees once more, his sobs becoming more erratic but a hand gruffly whirled him around once more and pulled him up, lifting him straight off his feet. Terrified silver eyes stared up at his trainer, whose veins were bulging out of his forehead. “You are a weapon, do you understand me, boy? You are nothing more than a tool for our means. We will wield you as we see fit until you grant us the power that we need. Don’t you dare get any ideas that you are anything more than that.” He twisted Scourge around again, holding his cheeks roughly and directed his gaze towards the pile of ash that had once been a family. “These people were weak, pitiful. They clung to their ideals of hope and love like it was a shield and you reduced it to nothing. Power is all that matters in this world and yours will elevate the Dread Masters to their rightful place. Then, once we have attained our godhood, you will remain our sword, our divine justice. Yours will be the hand…”

    “…the hand that smites the weak. Isn’t that what you said?” Another memory had popped up to his other side and Scourge turned to find himself, now just under eighteen. He stood before a kneeling and injured Gawaso, bleeding from several wounds.

    “P-Please… Scourge…” the man said between pained gasps. “You don’t need to follow their rules. You can free yourself.” Gawaso coughed, blood spilling out from his mouth. “Don’t you… have any love for your old master?”

    “Love?” Scourge spat back before laughing. “You were the one that taught me that love was for the weak. You were the one that beat me relentlessly when I would cry, telling me that I was pathetic and feeble for having feelings. Forcing a mere child to murder anyone you pointed him at for the glory of the Dread Masters, like I was some firearm that you could pull the trigger whenever you felt. Now here I am, the instrument you’ve so perfectly crafted and you dare, you dare insinuate that I can be anything more?!” The teenage Scourge didn’t even realize that he was crying once more, rivulets of tears running down his face despite his angry façade and furious tone. His brought his hand up, a magic blade formed over the limb as he pointed it at Gawaso’s chest. “The Dread Masters declared you weak and sentenced you to death. Take pride in knowing that you’ve forged the perfect sword for their mission.”

    And in one swift motion, he embedded the glowing blade through Gawaso’s chest, splitting his beating heart in two as the point of the humming weapon emerged from his back. The old man gasped, his eyes widening as the life in his eyes faded away, his entire body sagging and going limp. It crumpled to the floor as Scourge pulled out the blade and dismissed it from his hand, staring down at the body of the man.

    The real Scourge watched the memory for a moment longer before it faded out of existence. Suddenly from just beyond his peripheral, another memory began to emerge from the darkness, one composed of light. As he turned to face it, he found a more recent memory playing before him. There he was, months ago, sitting on a rock and staring up at the sky. Beside him stood Vandrad, arms crossed over his chest. Both of them were scuffed and dirtied, having finished a training spar only a few minutes prior.

    "I have a question if you’ll humor me,” Vandrad spoke up, continuing to stare out ahead rather than look at the former Dread Master.

    “Well I’ve been humoring you all morning. No reason to stop now,” Scourge quipped back, flashing a grin at the Fairy Tail Ace.

    Vandrad opted to ignore the comment. "You worked against the Dread Masters to save me, Mercury and my family. Yet you still cling to that name; Scourge. Why?”

    The former Dread Master chuckled. “Has Saffron been talking to you? She despises it; think it makes me sound like a cartoon villain. I suppose she isn’t far off,” Scourge let out an additional snorting laugh. “I’ll tell you the same thing I told her; it’s all I’ve known. From the moment that I could understand the world around me, I was deemed Scourge; the source of the Dread Master’s future rule, the weapon to cut away the insidious immortals and raise humanity to its very peak. It was meant to strike fear into enemies, despite the fact that the Masters did their best to keep their, and by extension my, existence a secret.” He turned to look at Vandrad. “Why do you care?”

    Vandrad scoffed. "I don’t,” he stated quite plainly, even glancing further away from Scourge’s direction. But after a moment of silence… "It just seems asinine to hang onto a name that you must despise as much as the Dread Masters themselves. It’s a symbol of what you once were; a man that was content being a weapon rather than a person. But you put your life on the line to push me to get stronger and saved my people, my family. You’ve put yourselves in the crosshairs for Saffron as well. Why not shake the last chains of the Dread Masters off of you and give yourself true freedom?”

    Scourge interrupted Vandrad’s outward thoughts with a laugh. “Is that what you think?” Scourge asked, even as he leapt down from the rock to face the future king. “Vandrad, I do not have freedom… none of us do. We’ve destroyed the Dread Master’s foundation but there are still members out there. And they will return, stronger and angrier than ever. But more to the point, I am not some hero you’re making me sound out to be. I have always done what best benefitted me; you’ve even said that much yourself. I told you before; I could have ended our fight in an instant but I needed to push you to your limits so you could break through them. There was no gamble; I planned that out accordingly and knew you would not kill me. I worked with Saffron against an impossible opponent because he was an enemy. There was no chivalrous moment of throwing myself in the way to protect her.” He stopped for a moment to cock his head slightly. “I am not the man that puts himself in harm’s way for others; I’m the one that figures out the way to avoid such needless self-sacrifice. There is nothing and no one that can change that fact about me. I am Scourge, Vandrad. And it would truly be asinine to try and hide that fact under a different moniker just to humor other people.”

    Vandrad had turned his gaze back to Scourge’s, looking up at him with the same, steely gaze that he was known for. He comprehended and processed the former Dread Master’s words in silence for a moment or two before he finally scoffed again. "Then perhaps I misjudged you,” he said simply before turning away and heading back towards their sparring grounds. "Break’s over. Let’s get back to it.”

    Two versions of Scourge watched Vandrad walk away, both feeling the exact same way. But the memory disappeared, leaving the real Scourge once more in the darkness of his mindspace. So adamant against growing and moving forward, clinging to the chains of his past and his pain like they were the only thing that grounded him. There were people in his life that sought to break through the mold; a handful of them had. And yet when they got too close, he pushed them back – quipped away his vulnerability so that no one could see behind the gates he’d erected. It was easier that way, to believe he was just a cold, calculated killer with nothing else to offer. Sure, he had moments of leisure but they were fleeting, passing swiftly without pausing.

    The truth of it was, he wasn’t like anyone else. He’d been created as a clone of a maniacal man, hell-bent on ascending to godhood himself. He’d sat dormant in a gestating tube for centuries before gaining life and from that moment on, he’d been trained to kill. He was among allies, not friends. He stood with them for his own benefit and safety, nothing more. A beneficial partnership with the good natured people of Fiore and beyond. Nothing else.

    It was an easy lie to believe. One that he could find comfort in. Because the truly terrifying knowledge – that he was growing to care – well, he just couldn’t comprehend that.


       
    Word Count: 3201 | Tag: xxx | Notes: xxx

       "Vile hellbeast... You are the manifestation of sin, every misdeed of the gods..."
       


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