Zade hoped for something not too grave, something that could eventually heal when he entered the ruins of the city.
But no, it had to be anything but that.
Zade had, on the night before leaving Valhalla, seen the entire holographic design of Venn. It was impressive to say the least. He daresay that it was better designed than Valhalla, whose architectural capability was, without a doubt, top-notch. Of course, considering that there were only three cities and the hidden village of Valdorians, he didn’t think there would be much competition.
The most impressive feature of Venn was its walls. Made of a platinum-based alloy, and consolidated by the Ionic Discharge Barrier, it was capable of withstanding almost any form of impact, and leaves not a single scratch.
The city itself had been amazing. The area was bigger; the streets had been more organized and was more of a residential city than an administrative one. People were much more relaxed and comfortable inside Venn than in Valhalla, probably living in the hope that the barrier would keep them from harm forever.
Most of the buildings had been low lying compared to the ones in Valhalla, with the main attraction being the Central Archive and Library, which had, since 1 PED housed the most important and valuable of Earthly literature, as well as official records dating back to 700 PED. Like the Central Dome in Valhalla stood in contrast to the white surrounds by being splashed in black, the Central Library had stood out amongst the flamboyant houses by being covered in a pale red. It had sloping roofs, big glass windows and stretched about sixty meters from its two ends.
It had been a symbol of power, of knowledge in Venn, and served as the last anchor to Earth, to their ancestral planet.
Zade shuddered as he walked on the street, far ahead of everyone else.
The street was broken, and smoke rose from the houses next to it. The surroundings were grey, as though engulfed in a cloud. Most of the colorful houses were blown apart.
Street after street, building after building, it was the same thing.
Zade spotted several dead people, just lying in the ruins of their houses, while some lay on the street, pieces of debris covering them. Several men of the Venn Defense Corps were moving back and forth through the city, scouring for survivors, while completely ignoring the dead. Along with them, he could see one or two of the Valhallan Elite Corps as well, engaged in discussions with most the likely the highest ranking officer of the Vennians.
As they walked, Zade wondered who could’ve done this.
Who could’ve been so evil, so cruel to have ruined the city?
His thoughts went straight towards Ray, the Valdorian chieftain.
Yes. They were the only group capable of doing this.
Yet, Zade felt uneasy.
He felt something was missing.
He came to a halt, however, as he emerged into the huge circular opening that was the point of intersection of all the major streets of Venn, and housed the Central Archives. Or at least, had housed.
Where it had once stood mightily, now only a colossal wreck remained, with a small group of people near it, huddled together. Zade gathered all his strength and approached the people.
There were nine in total, three men, five women, and one girl. The men wore grim expressions, while the women simply stared at the ruins of the Library in shock. The girl was crying miserably. She refused to look up, instead choosing to keep her head buried between her legs and arms, as she shook. Zade extended his hand, in order to comfort her. The girl looked up, her eyes tinted red as tear drops rolled off of her cheeks behind her spectacles.
“Zade…” A voice came from behind.
It was of Samantha, one of the Venn Corps.
“Leave them alone, at least for now.”
“What happened?” Tyson asked the question that Zade had stuck inside his head.
“We don’t know.” She grimly replied, “It was just a normal day in the city. We were all going around doing our usual duties. Then…it happened. Out of nowhere, a tremendous shockwave hit the outer wall, and somehow it passed through. Before we even got a chance to register what happened, the vibrations tore through the buildings. People who were in vicinity were instantly killed. Those who weren’t were killed by debris of the broken houses. Only a few civilians survived. Almost the entire Venn Defense Corps was wiped out. About forty of us, who were above the city in our Scavengers patrolling the city, were unaffected.”
“But I thought the wall was impervious to any sort of attack,” Cameron spoke, “I read that-”
“You think we would be wandering in such a dazed manner if we knew?” Samantha cut in.
“Speaking of which,” She paused, and snatched Shadow Blade from Zade.
“Hey!” Zade exclaimed.
“We’re sending this for analysis,” She glared at him, “Seeing how conveniently this thing broke the Ionic Discharge Barrier.”
“And what do we do?” Elizabeth asked grumpily.
“You,” Samantha spoke calmly, “Will wait until the analysis is complete. Then, you’ll be transported back to Valhalla.”
“Wait, what?” Cameron burst out, “Hey listen, lady, we didn’t come here for sightseeing. The five of us are going to teleport to the middle of-”
“Are you really that stupid?” Samantha snapped. “The teleportation vortex, the thing through which your telekinetic friend here was supposed to take you, is blasted apart. How do you think you’re going to go down there? And even if you do, the core is covered in several layers of ice. You think that you five can break it?”
“We will!” Cameron shot back. “How? What, you’ll smash it with that big rock of a head of yours. Oh wait, that might actually work, seeing how dense it is.”
“STOP IT!” Cameron and Samantha, who were on the verge of strangling each other, stopped and turned to face Gia.
“You’re supposed to work together, not kill each other. I have the utmost confidence that Tyson can teleport us. He’s strong enough,” She paused, and turned to face Tyson, “Aren’t you?”
Tyson blinked for a few seconds, as everyone’s eyes turned towards him. He opened and closed his mouth a few times. He was not used to being thrust into the spotlight, even in Valhalla, where he would shrink away if someone ever complimented him or forced him in front of a crowd.
“Yeah” He muttered, but he didn’t sound so sure.
“As for the ice, I have already thought of something.” She walked, and took Shadow Blade right out of Samantha’s hands.
“If this thing can pierce through the Ionic Discharge Barrier, what’s to say that it can’t break the ice layers?” Everyone started thinking about it.
Zade imagined himself slashing away the ice to glory, non-stop for several hours. Not exactly convenient.
“Or,” He spoke up, “Elizabeth can blast it.”
Said person glared at him.
“Yeah, okay. I’ll do it.” Zade muttered.
“Alright,” Samantha said uncertainly, “You have one chance. If it doesn’t break, teleport right back up, and get back to Valhalla. Is that understood?”
“Okay. You guys find some place to rest.” She then left the five of them, and the rest of the defense corps left.
Then, another man approached them. “I’m Captain Sven Millers of the Valhalla Elite Corps.” He put his hand out to shake, and Zade obliged to do so. “I hope you remember me from the training sessions.”
Zade remembered him. He was the one who was in-charge of training the Valhalla Defense Corps, but he had never directly spoken to him since he was always training with the Gia and the others.
“Yes, I remember.”
“Good, because we want to accompany you to the core.”
“I’m sorry, what now?”
Sven laughed, which Zade found sort of weird given the situation and surroundings.
“Siauhus are live in large packs down there. Surely you won’t be able to defeat all of them. And I’m pretty sure that dark icicles won’t come to your rescue.”
Zade tried his best not to show his shock at that remark, because at first, he thought that Sven knew of his cryokinetic abilities. Then, he understood that Sven was referring to his first encounter with a Siauhu, where, at the last moment, dark pillars of ice emerged from the ground and skewered the great beast. Now that Zade thought of it, the icicles had probably been created by him unknowingly.
“Yeah, but I’ve got my sword, plus four of Valhalla’s finest warriors.” Zade avoided calling them soldiers, because he knew that they hated it from back when they were thrashed around in the Valdorian Army.
“Still, just let us accompany you to the outer layer. We’ll be ready to defend you if there are any unfortunate encounters."
Zade turned to his friends.
“What do you guys think?”
“Shouldn’t be a problem.”
Only Tyson remained silent. The rest spoke up.
“Tyson?” Zade prompted him.
“Alright then.” Zade turned to Sven and his companion, who Zade remembered to be Amanda Millers, Sven’s sister.
“Very well, when do you plan to leave?” Amanda asked.
“I was thinking that we should leave tomorrow.” Cameron replied, “I don’t want to waste time.”
“No.” Zade replied. Everyone turned towards him.
“Why, what’s wrong Zade?” Cameron asked.
“I want to look around the city.” Zade replied.
“We don’t have time for-”
“A day isn’t going to make much of a difference, Elizabeth.”
“Alright, boss. Whatever you say.” Cameron said, while Elizabeth walked away, cursing under her breath.
“What is it that you want to investigate?” Gia asked worriedly.
“Just something. I need to do it alone.”
“Alright. Tyson and I will gather some supplies, some extra weapons and find a place to crash.”
“Here,” Sven pulled a couple of communicators from the bag. He handed one to Zade, one to Gia and one to Elizabeth.
Zade then grabbed his sword, and walked away from the rest, leaving the central intersection, and headed down one of the streets.
As soon as he left, Elizabeth grabbed Gia and walked off in another direction.
“Hey, Liz, stop! I need to go with Tyson!” Gia complained, but Elizabeth wasn’t loosening her grip.
Soon, the both of them were out of sight.
“What’s up with them?” Cameron asked.
“Not a freaking clue.” Tyson replied, and then sat down on one of the steps.
“What happened when we were separated?”
“For the last time, I can’t tell. I promised him that much.” Gia looked irritated.
She kept fidgeting with her fingers, and twirled her staff around aimlessly, while Elizabeth stood in front of her, trying to get somewhere with her interrogation, but Gia could be quite stubborn when she wanted to. Elizabeth hated that side of hers, and Gia knew it.
“He seems more…distant. In the twenty minutes since we regrouped, he didn’t speak unless spoken to, nor did he seem to be in any mood to exchange pleasantries of convey any concern to what happened to us."
"I...don't know." Gia lied, and Elizabeth saw right through it.
“Please, I promise not to reveal anything.” Elizabeth said in a last-ditch effort to know what happened.
“Alright,” Gia gave in, “While Zade and I were out there, we got captured by Ray and….dad.” Elizabeth immediately dropped all feelings of anger, which were replaced with concern. She knew how cruel Gia’s father was. He used to beat both her as well as Tyson. He was one of the main reasons that the siblings agreed to flee Valdore with Cameron and Elizabeth.
“Then?” “Zade, he….he destroyed them. All of them.”
“With his sword?” Elizabeth knew how skilled Zade was with his blade, but she didn’t imagine that he was capable of killing so many people, all of them being skilled warriors. “No…”
“Then what…….” Suddenly, she remembered something.
Some time before everyone regrouped, Elizabeth had been on guard duty as Cameron and Tyson rested up. She remembered seeing black clouds on the horizon, and something that seemed like a tornado. She had passed it off as a freakish weather, but now that Gia spoke to her, Elizabeth remembered that Gia had been about the same distance from her as the tornado, which meant-
“That tornado….Zade?” Gia nodded her head.
“So his abilities are atmokinetic manipulation?”
Elizabeth cocked an eyebrow. “Well, then what? How else do you explain that?”
“It’s not weather manipulation. The tornado….was a vortex of shadows and ice. Dark ice. The kind surrounding the core of the planet.”
Zade cursed under his breath as he tripped and fell on the broken road.
The debris seemed to have some sort of vendetta against him, as he kept falling down.
In fact, in the past two hours, he seemed to have walked less and tripped more.
There was, in fact, nothing that he needed to investigate. He just wanted to be alone for some time. He figured he would just say that he didn’t find anything, and pass it off as nothing. The reason why he wanted to be alone was because of his abilities.
The knowledge of it was driving him mad.
Ever since he had received Shadow Blade, he always suspected that his abilities were related, one way or another, to ice. Heck, he even considered its offensive applications, and how cool it would be to have cryokinesis.
But when it actually happened, he was left dumbfounded. The amount of raw power that surged through his body…it made him feel psychotic. It made him think that he was powerful enough to do anything, survive anything. But with that, it awoke a certain bloodlust inside him that was barely controllable.
The moment Zade and Gia regrouped with the rest, for a split second, Zade wanted nothing more than to chop their heads off, and drain all the blood out of their bodies.
That was then that Zade realized that the thoughts inside his head had been corrupted. He felt exposed, insecure, and bloodthirsty.
So, he wanted to put as much distance between himself and the rest. Another reason was that he feared that Gia might tell someone what his abilities were.
Even though he completely trusted her, he felt scared.
Zade yet again tripped, and banged his head on a rock.
“Son of a-”
He got up, wiped the blood off of his forehead and continued walking.
Soon, he reached the wall of the city. The other end of the wall, that is. He walked closer, and hesitantly put his hand on the wall, as he feared that some part of the IDB might still be on.
The wall was cold, and Zade realized how much he liked it. The coolness only provided him comfort, no numbing sensations. The centre of the wall, as Zade observed, had certain engravings etched into it, which were, as he progressed to the left, disturbed by long cracks.
“Must’ve been from when the shockwave hit,” He muttered. “Well, no point in staying here. Might as well return.”
As Zade turned, for a second, he got the unmistakable feeling that he was being watched. He quickly turned, and of course, saw nothing. He shook his head, and walked on, shrugging it off as nerves.
There was something watching him, though.