Men of L33t, Part XXXV
For All The Good It Will Do
The air screamed and black lightning rained down from the heavens. Dom darted forwards so fast that all anyone could see was a black line flashing from place to place like a broken piece of lightning in itself. Thunder rolled and boomed across the plains, yet not so loud that you could not hear the screams in the air. For in every place that Dom's hand touched bloomed a gigantic rose, black as night and twisted sick. Men and women alike cried in agony as their roots dug in deep, searching for bigger and thicker blood vessels, keening for more blood.
But... the Church Guard was not made of nothing. Say what you like of the brass, but the Guard was iron to the core. They flew on, strengthening shields and muttering prayers, straight into the thickest of the darkest for the pit of the seventh tower. The Scots, rallied by their enemy's strength, rushed them. It would have been a horrible thing not to fight at such a challenge. The two armies collided and rolled into each other, with Dom blooming destruction upon them in the middle.
- - -
Miho stirred her tea. "Oh, don't worry, my dear, that would only be the entree. All of Europe is at our feet."
"Are you mad?"
"You don't know...?" Miho shook her head. "You are a very unique individual, Piro. Did you know, for instance, that nobody's seen your magic in over seven hundred years?"
"Seven hundred and seventy-seven, actually." A girl quietly picked her way out of the shadows. She stopped just opposite of Miho, and turned her head to Piro. "Forty-one days since the night of the Emperor's betrayal and murder." For a moment her eye seemed to glisten, but she blinked and the moment was gone.
"Miss... Ping?" Piro hesitated.
"Who are you, girl?" Miho said, setting aside her teacup. Then she frowned and leaned forwards. "No, more like, what are you?"
Ping turned to look at Miho. "I am Ping. It was given and chosen and given, and since you've always liked riddles that's all you need know. I am the Empire's Ward." She glanced back at Piro. "And this woman was about to persuade you that you are the Emperor's heir."
Ping sighed. "Not what you should be. She is mistaken."
"Truly?" Miho said dryly. "Then I suppose you deny his ability? His face? Whether or not he's the direct descendant, it does not matter- he is the only descendant."
"That, too, is in error." Ping said slowly. "And while he is the Lion's son- no sidelines or by-blows- the fact remains that Europea was broken when the Four Kingdoms betrayed their Lord. Piro is heir to no Empire- his responsibility is to that of Angland, and his claim to that of Britonia."
"Pfah. You always were too narrow- " Her mind shattered as Miho realized. She hadn't- but she was- but- it was her!
Miho stared at Ping. "You always were too narrow-minded..." She said hoarsely.
"Heh..." Ping smiled bitterly. "So you remember. I had wondered if you could."
"You were dead!"
"I am golem. There is no place that stores my mind or my heart."
"But you have them!"
Piro stared. The leader of the Church, the most powerful woman in the land, had tears streaming openly down her face.
Ping turned away, hiding her own face. "Yes. I do. And they both wonder what you will ever learn. After all that happened back then, so long ago, you're still here, playing your little games. Not caring who it will hurt or what it will do."
"Not true!" Miho jumped up. "Not true!" Her voice cracked. "I do what I do for the good! I always have! We must do what we can with whatever we are given!"
"And the end justifies the means? Is that all you see?" Ping couldn't keep the quiver out of her voice.
"It must!" Miho swallowed. "Or all I have done is gone in vain."
"And where will this one end?" Ping looked back. "I have seen this land, Miho, and it is wretched. Where is the good? Where is the beauty that will justify this pain? Where was it?" her voice whispered.
Piro stared wide-eyed from woman to woman.
Miho wiped her eyes. "With this Emperor I needed power. I need the nobility to support me. The balance is precarious. But with him-" She pointed at Piro. "With him, I can take it all. I can make this work! He is the True Emperor, and he has absolute power. I can end all the injustice. I can remake the system, make it feed everyone, clothe everyone! I can start the medical sciences again, you remember them, Ping? The things we could work, the wonders we discovered! All these people know is war, now. They have to- there's enemies on every side, jackals waiting to dive in. But with him I can end it! I can unite them, I can bring back that Golden Age that you knew!"
Ping shook her head with tears in her eyes. "You can't." she whispered. "You can't. It is in the past. This is a different time, and these are a different people. And even if you could-" she swallowed. "Even if you could, it wasn't what everyone believed it was. The Emperor's death was proof enough of that. The Emperor, Mihoshi! And he was the most-" She choked. "He was- he was the greatest man the Empire had ever the fortune to have." She wiped her eyes and looked back at Miho. "It will not happen again."
"It can!" Miho took a step forward. "I can make it happen, you'll see!"
"It cannot." Ping shifted her foot to the right. "And I will not allow it. I am the Empire's Ward, Miho. I protect the Empire's people." A tear rolled down her cheek. "And I will do what it takes to stop you." she whispered.
Miho's face was full of painful confusion. She stood there for a moment, thunderstruck, as if she couldn't understand. But then her visage darkened.
"So be it." She drew forwards a circle of mist.
Ping paused for a moment, and then nodded, swallowing her tears. She drew forth a pattern of lightning. It crackled like a brilliant star. Then she paused, and drew on all six of the castle towers. Lightning cracked into place around the castle, vaporing stone and melting flesh. The entire castle hummed and crackled, glowing in a luminescent six-sided star. She looked at Miho. "I'm sorry..."
Ping collapsed to the ground.
"My, my, my, what were we doing?" Ed stood behind her. He prodded Ping roughly with his foot. "Attacking a Saint of the Church, working magic forbidden by the same, wanton destruction of castle property... and Dom said you were harmless!"
"You-!" Piro cried at the time Miho screamed, "YOU!"
"Oh, my..." said Ed. He flashed them a beautiful smile. "Did I do something wrong?"
He vanished before the streak of violet snapped.
- - -
Ed appeared in the air beside Dom with Ping slung over his shoulder. "Dom, boy, it's time to go! I've got the girl, let's get the money!"
Dom dodged a blast and turned in midair. "What did you do to her?!"
Ed's smile was uncertain. "She was... about to kill that silly Church's beloved saint, Dom what is wrong with you? You're not acting yourself."
Dom dodged another blast and splayed black lightning across the castle courtyard. "You hurt her. You hurt her. I swear to God, Ed, if she-"
"You're definitely not yourself." said Ed. He deflected a bolt off his shoulder. "This thing has to have cast some sort of spell on you. Dammit, Dom, we don't have the time!. The castle is overrun and they're not here for her at all. Let's go!" He tugged on Dom's shoulder. "Dammit, Dom, let's go!" Still, Dom fought on.
Ed sighed. "Dom, I'm sorry that I have to do this, but-" crack. Dom collapsed into Ed's arms. "Uf! You two are heavy! At any rate-"
The world blinked, and Ed was gone.