Arc 2: Chapter 32: Before The Battle 2

At the highest point of the entire city of Kesley, at the summit of the tower that is vermilion’s headquarters, a single person casually stands with a faraway look in his eyes. 

His gaze seems to be piercing the structures of bricks and marbles that flood the city, but at the same time, they seem to be looking at something completely different. It’s like he can see beyond the buildings, beyond the supernaturals, beyond the present, into a picture that has been forgotten.

This man has more secrets than anyone alive in the world and he has more emotions than anyone ever realizes. 

He is a man with a combination of power and influence that put him on a bigger pedestal than anyone else in the entire world can even hope to have.

However, he sees no value in them.

He questions if there is any meaning at all in all his power, in all his actions, in his very life.

He has an identity, a very imposing one in fact. However, he has lost meaning in that identity far too long ago.

His story had begun aeons ago. It had been a colourful story too, with countless ups and downs and bonds deeper than blood. But, that was all in the past. Because, not only did his story begin aeons ago, it ended back then too.

All this, all the years he has lived after that, all the breaths and lives he has taken, all the connections and schemes he has made, all the influence and authority he has gained, it’s all just an epilogue to his story that has already ended. 

This epilogue may or may not add a ‘happily ever after’ to his end but it wouldn’t matter either way because it’s nothing but a supplement. 

Nothing matters anymore. 

Nothing at all.

It has been said that whenever a Phoenix dies, it turns to ashes. And from the ashes of that legend, a new legend is born.

It’s a continuous cycle of reincarnation. It symbolises both life and death. And all who read about it are fascinated by this legend to some degree at least.

However, what very few have realized is that this continuous cycle of reincarnation doesn’t just symbolize life and death, it also symbolizes singularity.

Regardless of whether the Phoenix is able to remember the events of its past life, it still remains just one creature. 

It is reborn whenever it dies and so, only it remains.

There never is a second Phoenix, there always is just one. 

It will forever be a singular entity. It will forever be alone.

The story of a Phoenix is never meant to be a tale to be spoken of in a legend by itself. It is always meant to be spoken of as a part of a legend of someone else.

The Phoenix is never the protagonist of a story. Because, well, if it will never truly die, if the story will never truly end, what would be the point of having that story told? 

It is a legend with so much meaning and so much power and so much influence but even with all of it, the Phoenix is nothing but a side character in someone else’s story. And, if that story has ended, if the story of those who were meant to be the main characters has ended, it doesn’t even matter anymore what happens to the side character, the Phoenix.

And so, once more, the conclusion is reached – nothing matters. 

Nothing matters anymore. 

Nothing at all.

In fact, everything is becoming redundant. And simultaneously, everything is becoming a blur.

Reid Vezalius Rosevelt’s story spanned a good 30 or so years and then the epilogue that continues forever started.

But, after so much time, it is becoming a blur.

The actual story, the actual life, the part of his past that has meaning is fading away with time and only the meaningless epilogue is being left behind.

While he has long ago lost a purpose to live, he is now losing his purpose to breathe as well.

Is this how things are going to end?

Is oblivion what awaits him after all this time?

Will he forget the value of the only thing in his life that had any value?

If this is the end that is to come, then maybe the reason why the Phoenix is not the main character of any legends is not because of its lack of an ending but because of the tragedy of it.

The tragedy of the bird who lives forever, constantly forgetting all the bonds and memories it had considered precious in a past life. That fate awaits Rosevelt as well. And maybe that is what this unending epilogue was all about in the first place.

Rosevelt: “Ha!”

The despair in this possibility is eminent to anyone who thinks of it. But, beneath the despair that these thoughts put him in, there is a silver lining. It’s a very thin line, but it is undeniably there.

Maybe, it wouldn’t be such a tragic ending. Maybe, someone will come along who will be capable of not just ending his life, but ending his continuous cycle of reincarnation as well.

Maybe, there will be an enemy worthy of ending the Phoenix’s story in a way that doesn’t scream of despair.

Maybe, there will be a hero who can be his enemy.

Rosevelt: “Abgere, huh?”

That name comes to his mind.

Abgere, the man who is trying to extinguish the flames on his wings, his Hellfires.

He has already dimmed the flames a bit. 

Maybe, just maybe, he could be the one who douses them completely. And then, finally, the vermilion hue of the Phoenix will be able to rest, after having burned bright for so long.

If he can overcome the Phoenix’s trial, if he can douse the flames the Phoenix has thrown at him, if he can douse them all out, then he might be capable of doing so.

If no Hellfires are able to stop him, then maybe the Phoenix won’t be able to either.

Rosevelt: “…”

Is it too much to hope for something like this?

Is it too unrealistic?

Is there no way this dream can be achieved?

The Phoenix can only ask these questions to phantoms who don’t answer back, and wait for the man who has sworn to kill him to finally come.

And so, he asks those questions to the phantoms who don’t answer back, and waits for the man who has sworn to kill him to finally come.

He waits with a smile, at the peak of the world that his eye can capture.

This man has more secrets than anyone alive in the world and he has more emotions than anyone ever realizes. And, as they all are dying out, he wishes for death.

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Sixteen years ago, when the tragedy caused by Barry that shook the world was yet to happen and Kais was just an ignorant child who had never been touched by the world’s darkness, when Ethan Kales was still living as a hollow shell of a human being in an orphanage and when Reid Vezalius Rosevelt was considered the strongest man in the world, an incident happened that changed everything.

A 15-year-old boy who was wandering around an unknown forest looking for something, found something.

However, he was not sure if what he had found was what he was looking for.

That was so because he didn’t know what he was looking for.

That 15-year-old boy with lifeless eyes looked at what he had found, a man with his throat deeply wounded and minutes away from dying.

The dying man, as he noticed the boy, tried to reach him with his hand, a gesture that made it look like he was asking for the boy to come to him.

But,

Boy: “Vermilion!”

The boy said with a burning hatred.

Boy: “You are from Vermilion, aren’t you?”

The dying man’s uniform gave him away. He was a Volcano in Vermilion. And just knowing that was enough for the boy to do what needed to be done, what his soul begged him to do.

Boy: “Die!!!”

He shouted as a gust of wind came thrashing towards him from behind the boy and severed him limb-from-limb. The ease with which the Volcano died made it look like a cartoon character being slaughtered.

And yet,

Boy: “W-why!?”

The boy who had so easily killed a Volcano could only still be hurt by that.

He had so much power that no Volcano could stand in front of him. Forget a Volcano, it was highly likely that even Hellfires would lose to him. He was just that powerful.

And yet, the one time that he needed this power, where was it?

Boy: “Where are you?!”

Tears would drip from his eyes without him even knowing. The sadness and loss was just that big.

Five years before that day, he had a friend. He had a friend who was almost like a brother to him.

They had promised to be with each other for the rest of their lives, to hold each other’s hands whenever needed, to give a push on the back whenever needed, to give a pull into the light whenever needed.

They really believed they could be like that forever.

He was blessed with an amazing talent for Psychic abilities and his friend was capable of coming up with cunning ways to make use of them. As such, when teamed up with each other, there was no one who could defeat the two of them.

But, what use was any of that in the end?

When Vermilion came and attacked, he wasn’t there to help. And without him, his friend couldn’t defeat them.

As such, the place they lived in, it looked less like a place to live in and more like a butcher house.

As such, the people they knew and smiled along with, they looked less like people and more like sandbags lying on the floor covered in the filth of their hide.

As such, the world they had known for forever, it looked less like a familiar and comfortable world and more like a graveyard.

When he came back and saw that sight, he realized how little his power meant. 

Aas he stared at the bloody remains of the Volcano he had just slaughtered, it did nothing but remind him of how different things would have been if he had come back sooner.

He realized then – nothing mattered anymore.

Nothing at all.

For all the power he had, he couldn’t go back in time. And so, despite all his power, nothing mattered to him, not anymore.

He had lost everything.

For five years, that boy had been wandering around, looking for those he had lost, those he had seen lying on the floor as lifeless husks. And also, those he had not seen lying there.

Not only had Vermilion slaughtered them all for some reason he had no idea about, but they had done it with so much disregard for them that many of their bodies were only recovered in parts. Many were never even found.

The boy had realized that those of Vermilion were a bunch of monsters, and they were beyond redemption.

And so, he had decided that he would lessen the number of these monsters whenever he would come across them. Their personal crimes did not matter, just the fact that they were a part of Vermilion was enough of a reason to label them as monsters and kill them.

And just as he had decided to, he had removed one of them from the world.

However, not thinking about why that Volcano was already bleeding when he saw him was a stupid thing.

He had not realized that the man he had killed just then was not an actual Volcano, but a prisoner of Vermilion dressed as a Volcano and set there as bait for him. He had taken the bait without thinking about it, and so the Hellfires, on the command of Vaika Smith, were able to easily subdue him right then and there.

With correct timing and skillful teamwork, they had rendered the 15-year-old boy helpless by pinning him down to the ground.

Boy: “Ha!”

At least, that’s how it looked at first.

Boy: “Haha!”

But, the combined might of 10 Hellfires was, for the boy,

Boy: “Hahahahaha!!!”

Still a laughing matter.

The Hellfires were frozen in place as the boy stood himself up, and looked back on them with a disgusted expression.

With a mere twist of his fingers, he was able to send two of the Hellfires flying. The others either attacked him straight on or back away as fast as they could. Those who mindlessly attacked got their bones shattered and left without enough willpower to use Psychic for the time being. Those who tried to run away were all chased down and beaten to a pulp.

The following one hour was a brutal celebration of loss.

Maybe it was because the boy had actively destroyed a lot of Vermilion’s property or maybe because he had killed important members of the organization but, after five years, at long last, the boy had gained the opportunity to meet all the Hellfires at once.

And so, at that moment, the anger and frustration building up for five long years had all burst out into flames that engulfed the entire forest in its rage.

The ten most powerful Psychics right after the Phoenix, the ten people given the glorious title of Hellfire, were all annihilated by one 15-year-old boy.

Six of them were killed. Four of them survived but needed immediate healing. But, none of them could put a scratch on the boy.

And that was when the Phoenix showed himself.

Phoenix: “…”

Staring at the Hellfires lying there defeated and the forest torn apart, the Phoenix said nothing but turn to the boy and show him a smile.

For that man, seeing that boy was like a revitalization of a belief, the belief that he was not standing at the top of the world alone, that there was someone else better than him.

But, for that boy, seeing that man was nothing but a revitalization of the hatred that was burned out because of the rage-filled past hour.

Boy: “You … are the reason … for everything!”

He said, and without waiting for anything, attacked the Phoenix. The Phoenix had no intention of backing down either.

And so, the 15-year-old Psychic and Reid Vezalius Rosevelt went head-to-head.

For the boy who had spent the past five years without any purpose but that of taking revenge on Vermilion, that battle should have been the last. Whether he won and finished his revenge or lost and died, that battle should have been the last.

But, it wasn’t.

Boy: “Why!?”

One hour had passed.

Two hours had passed.

Five hours had passed.

But, the battle just didn’t seem to be coming to an end. 

By no means was it a close battle. Just like was the case with the Hellfires, the boy was overpowering the Phoenix without a problem. But, no matter how many times he killed the Phoenix, the man just wouldn’t die.

And so,

Boy: “WHY!?”

He asked with a rage-filled cry.

In response though, the Phoenix laughed a little and said without any pride,

Rosevelt: “I am the Phoenix, an eternal bird shining vermilion. You cannot kill me, Walter Schmidt.”

It continued.

And so, another hour passed.

Another two hours passed.

Another five hours passed.

But, Rosevelt never died. Or rather, he never stayed dead.

After coming all this way, after easily defeating all his opponents, Walter Schmidt had found the last man he had to take revenge from, but he just couldn’t finish the job. No matter how hard he tried, he just couldn’t kill the Phoenix, he just couldn’t dim the sun.

The fruitless battle continued. 

Somewhere along the line, Walter had realized that the fruitlessness of that battle was the only thing giving him a reason to breathe.

Somewhere along the line, Rosevelt had realized that the boy would make a great Hellfire and offered him to join Vermilion.

Somewhere along the line, Walter had considered his offer.

Somewhere along the line, Walter had agreed to his offer.

There was no other reason to agree to it than to find a reason to live, or rather, a reason to not die.

Sixteen years have passed. Walter Schmidt has been a Hellfire for sixteen years.

And now, the war the Phoenix had told him about all those years ago is finally happening.

All the pieces of the puzzle are fitting in and a giant game of chess is reaching its unravelling stage.

However, for him who isn’t a piece in this puzzle, what should he even do?

He is still asking himself.

He is still lost in the forest of his mind, a dark place where anyone can be lost, just like he is.

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