TRANSCENDENCE- CHAPTER 2: ARES OF THE TRANSCENDENT KNIGHTS

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Submitted Date 07/07/2020
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He had the dream again. The one where he was a hero fighting for the greater good and bringing peace back into the desolating world. He vanquished so many foes, so many Mageias, and believed he was near to achieving his goal.

 

Only to learn later that it was all for not.

 

Ares awoke from this reoccurring dream and was greeted by the afternoon sun. He was laying under a large shady tree whose leaves were blowing with the cooling summer breeze. He thought back to his dream and wondered if he would ever be given an opportunity to try again at bringing peace…or at least…have the chance to make up for what he did in the past.

Before his thought could continue, Ares heard a moaning noise. He looked down and saw Erin sound asleep next to him. That's right, he began thinking, I've been traveling with Erin for about a couple of weeks now. We've done alright so far. Wonder how long it'll last? Ares looked down and saw how the two of them were positioned: his arm was wrapped around Erin, pulling her into him as her head and hand were resting on his chest. In other words, they were cuddling. He began freaking out, What the-?! This is the fifth time I've woken up to us like this! Why does this keep happening?!? Ares calmed down after he had a good look at his sleeping traveling companion. She does look peaceful though.

Ares thoughts were interrupted when Erin began to wake. She jumped up when she noticed that they were cuddling. "Oh my gosh! I'm so sorry! I don't know how or why this keeps happening!" Her face became bright red in embarrassment.

"Eh, don't worry about it," he told her, acting like he wasn't fazed by their awkward awakening.

"I-If you say so," Erin said like a nervous child, still embarrassed.

To break the awkward silence between them, Ares stood up and said, "We should get going." He grabbed his large bag and threw the strap over his shoulder. "Got your things?" he asked Erin.

She double checked herself to make sure she had all of her belongings; which for the most part was her little blue bag. "Yup!" she answered cheerfully.

"Alright, let's head out," Ares stated as he began walking towards the dirt road with Erin right behind him.

 

The two travelers had walked quite a while and were coming up to another little town.

"So, are you going to tell me?" Erin asked, breaking the silence.

Ares wasn't sure what Erin was talking about. "Tell you what?"

"How you became a Transcendent Knight," she replied. "Remember? You said you would tell me soon. So, how about now?"

Ares had forgotten that Erin confronted him about being a Transcendent Knight after being dropped off by the driver who gave them a lift in his wagon. He admitted to being one of the seven, but told her that he wasn't ready to discuss the matter. He did promise that he would tell her soon enough. "I'm still not ready. Can we just…talk about it later?" He saw the peeved expression on Erin's innocent face. "Look, I promised I would tell you and I will. I just want to get to know you a bit more before I talk about that part of myself," he admitted.

Erin saw how quickly Ares changed his mood. He at first sounded a little hesitant, but then became sad. There was definitely something going on inside of him. A storm of emotions surrounding his past. It was a personal matter of which Erin saw she couldn't pressure him into discussing right away. "I guess I can't be mad about that. Okay, I'll keep waiting."

Ares saw Erin's cheerful disposition return and realized she meant what she said. "Thanks," he said with a little smile. Erin then squinted her eyes and stared at him. "What? What is it??" he asked.

"Hold still," she said. Erin quickly leaned towards Ares. She stood on her tiptoes and brought her face close to his.

"What are you doing??" asked Ares, completely unsure of her intentions.

Erin's feet became leveled with the ground once more as she leaned back. "Yup, I think I'm right," she said.

Ares was still very confused. "You're going have to clarify."

"I was picturing what you would look like with shorter hair," Erin answered. "It's already hard enough to see that handsome face of yours when you wear your hood, but it makes it more difficult with your long hair. I think if you trimmed your bangs and had your hair stop right at your shoulders, I think you'd look pretty good."

Handsome face? Ares was a warrior and always tried to keep the appearance of one, even it was a subtle look. He saw how happy Erin was when she thought about how attractive he would be if he changed his appearance a little. "Do you really think so?" he finally asked her.

"Of course!" she happily said.

Ares didn't know what to make of it. Why did he care about what she thought? There were others he knew for years, centuries even, and yet he didn't care much for their opinions. He only knew Erin for a couple of weeks and yet…he cared.

Erin interrupted his current thought, "Alright, enough of my thoughts, let's get go-" Erin stopped when she nearly stumbled. She had a look and saw that her boot tore behind her left heel with some stitches popping out. "Oh no, not again." Erin reached into her little blue bag that had the patch outlining a bird on it and pulled out her little sewing kit. She attempted to sew the tear shut.

Ares was left surprised why what he was witnessing. "Are you seriously trying to fix your boot??"

"Well, yeah," Erin answered, wondering why he thought this was unusual.

As he continued watching her sew away at her boot, Ares said, "Hey, we made pretty decent money from the job we did at the last town. Why not just buy a new pair of boots?"

She knew very well they had the money, but Erin was one not to spend it on things considered for luxury. Apparel was something she thought could be easily mended and didn't to go out of her way to get. Unless she grew out of them, she would find a way to make them work. Erin was the kind of person who would rather spend money on the things that truly mattered, especially for survival.

"I would rather we save that money for when we need to buy food or supplies. Don't worry, it'll be fine," she told Ares without any reluctance.

Everyday Ares saw more and more what kind of person Erin was. Even now, he learned about how careful she was with money, putting their well-being first. He just about had enough and said to her, "Erin, stop trying to fix your boot. We're getting you a new pair in the town up ahead."

"What?!" she said shocked and confused.

"And you're buying new clothes. The one you're wearing now is worn out," he said.

Erin wasn't happy with his remark. "What?! Worn out! You can't just-"

"Yes, I can!" he firmly stated. Erin noticed how serious Ares became. He continued with, "I know you want to play it safe with the money, but we'll be fine. You need new clothes for the kind of traveling we're doing. We can't stop every time for you to fix something of yours that ripped or tore. If it makes you feel any better, if we have to, we'll work another job."

Erin knew where his heart lied, but she didn't want them spend on just her, especially concerning something she could easily fix. "But-"

"No buts!" Ares interrupted. "We're doing this and that's final."

She wasn't going to win this fight. Erin realized that. "Fine," she said in defeat. Even so, she still attempted to get her way. "But I'm getting the cheapest stuff they have!"

You've gotta be kidding me? Ares thought. Even when she agreed, Erin still managed to find a way to be fragile with their money. "How about the most comfortable and decent?!" he asked, frustrated but hopeful.

"Nope! Cheapest and that's final!" Erin began stomping away towards the town.

Ares couldn't believe at how stubborn she was. He chuckled at the thought. What am I going to do with you?

 

A little shop within the town had just what Erin needed. After searching for a while, and the two coming to an agreement on what to get as well as spend, Erin found her new attire. She carried the bundle over towards Ares who was waiting by the shop's back room. The owner gave Erin permission to go change in there.

"I'll wait out here while you go change," Ares said.

"Sounds good. I'll be right back!" Erin hurried in to change into her new outfit.

Ares spotted a mirror on one of the walls of the shop. He approached it and had a look at his reflection. He then took some strands of his bangs and rubbed them in-between a couple of his fingers. Shorter hair, huh? Ares looked over and saw the owner of the little shop by the stand where Erin paid for the new clothes. "Hey buddy," he began calling out, "you got anything that can cut and something to throw stuff away in?"

The owner searched around his area and popped up with an item in each hand. "I have clippers and a bin."

Ares smiled while saying, "Those will work."

 

It took a little longer than expected, but Erin finally finished changing into her new outfit. The owner even let her leave her old clothes behind for him to dispose of later. Erin wanted to surprise Ares with her new style and slightly opened the door of the back room. "Ares??" she called out to him.

"Out here!" she heard him reply.

Erin opened the door and walked out. She did a little twirl to show Ares her new look. Even though she would have preferred not to have bought new apparel, she decided not to dwell on it and just have some fun. "Well, what do you-" she stopped once she saw Ares.

Due to his advanced abilities, Ares was able to quickly give himself the haircut before Erin finished. He styled his hair to match precisely what Erin envisioned. Her heart began beating fast at the sight of Ares. She knew how handsome he was, but didn't expect a simple haircut to really bring it all out.

Even Ares was speechless when he saw Erin. The attire she had previously made her look more innocent and child-like. This new one made her appear a bit more mature. She still wore fingerless arm gloves, but these were green that matched her strapless top which flowed out at the bottom almost like a dress and had two little capes hanging from the back; a black choker with a small flower on it; black tights; and brown knee-high leather boots. The ribbon she used to hold up her loose bun was now being used to hold in place her low, sideways ponytail that her hair flow down on her left side.

How Erin looked brought out beauty Ares didn't even know she had. He finally found words to say, "Whoa. You look-" He stopped when he saw the look of shock and fascination on Erin's face. "What??"

"Your hair!!" she exclaimed.

"Oh, yeah. I thought about what you said and gave myself that haircut. What do you think?" he genuinely asked.

Erin was so happy when she heard he did it because of what she suggested. "You look pretty good. And now we can all see your handsome face!"

Ares blushed and looked away when she said that. "Th-Thanks." His eyes went back to Erin when he wanted to see how pretty she looked. "You're looking pretty good yourself."

Erin, too, began blushing. "Thank you." Neither could make eye contact with one another. What they were currently feeling was all new to them. Erin finally spoke up, "We should-"

"Right!" Ares interrupted. "Let's uh…let's go." The two then grabbed their things and left the little shop.

 

Ares and Erin decided to have a look around the small town before venturing off. There wasn't much to see, but they seemed to be enjoying themselves. The two were in the town's square when Ares noticed how fidgety Erin was.

He had a feeling he knew exactly what was on her mind. "You're just dying to know about my past, aren't you?"

Erin tried to think of some sort of excuse or an explanation that would veer his thoughts away from the subject. Unable to think of anything clever, she replied, "Just a little bit."

"I thought you said you were going to wait until I was ready," said Ares.

"Yeah, but that doesn't mean one can't get antsy about knowing." Erin walked in front of Ares to stop him in his tracks. "Oh c'mon, I really want to get to know you better!"

He saw how much Erin meant that. Ares thought the stories about him and the other Transcendent Knights would have scared her off. Instead, she wanted to get to know him. "Really?" he asked.

"Yes, I do," Erin replied wholeheartedly.

Ares decided to take advantage of the situation and have some fun. "In that case…"

He pulled Erin into him with their chests meeting and their faces becoming awfully close. Erin's heart began beating fast again as her cheeks turned red and were heating up. Ares's face slowly got closer to Erin's. She didn't know what to do and shut her eyes, waiting in anticipation. When nothing was happening, Erin opened her eyes and saw Ares pulling away.

"Nope, not yet," was all he said.

Erin was embarrassed and upset at the same time. "Hey, not funny!" she yelled as she pushed Ares off of her and Ares laughed away. The moment came to an end when they heard a commotion going on just at the other end of the square. There was a group of people cheering and yelling away at what they were viewing. "What's going on over there?" Erin asked.

"Wait here, I'll check it out," Ares instructed as he began walking towards the crowd.

"No way! I'm coming too!" she stubbornly said.

 

Erin caught up to Ares. The two of them made their way through the crowd until they made it to the front. They saw the group of people were surrounding two shirtless men who were fighting each other. "Oh my goodness!" Erin exclaimed.

"No, it's not what you think," Ares stated. "This is a fight for money. Look around." Erin did just that and saw people passing money around. Ares finished his statement, "You see? They're all gambling, betting on who will win this fight."

Erin continued to watch the men fight each other. Her heart broke when she saw the smallest of the two fighters getting knocked down punch after punch. "That poor man looks pretty bad. Why would anyone agree to do this?"

"Sometimes, people feel there's no other option," Ares answered, understanding completely where Erin's heart was.

They saw the smaller man being constantly beaten to the ground until it looked as though he wouldn't be able to take another punch. "Someone should-" Erin stopped when Ares handed her his large bag. "What are you doing??" she asked him as he started to remove his scarf and jacket.

"Hold these," Ares told her as he gave her the scarf and jacket. He then took off the shirt and revealed his muscular body.

Erin assumed that there was some type of strong physique the knights had to be in for battle, but she never really thought much of how they would actually appear. "Oh my…" She was so near to swooning that she couldn't even finish her sentence.

"Be right back!" Ares told her as he darted off.

Erin returned from the trance. "Ares, wait!" He continued his run over. Before the strongest of the two fighters could throw the final blow, Ares appeared and punched the man, knocking him down. Erin noticed that Ares was still wearing his gloves when he approached the man still lying on the ground. Why didn't he take his gloves off? If he's going to fight like this, it would make more sense to fight with his bare hands.

Ares helped the fighter up and directed him in the direction of his allies who were motioning for him to come over to them. "Hey, you fought good. Now I'm taking over." He patted him on the back and the man took off to his group.

The stronger fighter finally got up and he fought Ares. Throwing punches and kicks at the knight who dodged every move. When he finally had enough, Ares punched his opponent in the stomach and his face. The man fell to the ground unconscious. Some of the crowd cheered at seeing their investment succeed while the others were furious that they lost some money.

Ares addressed to the crowd, "Alright, one more round for me!" He pointed to Erin. "Hand my winnings to the girl holding my things."

Erin wasn't expecting that. "Wait, what?!" She thought Ares was just going to help the smaller fighter, not join in on the gambling.

Ares figured since there was an opportunity for them to make some money, why not take it? He then yelled out, "Alright, who's next?!" Stomping his way to the center of the small area was a very large fellow. One could say he was like the size of a mountain he was so huge. He removed his shirt and cracked his knuckles while hovering over Ares. "You're a big guy, aren't you? I've fought bigger," Ares said cocky.

"We'll see just how tough you really are!" The beastly man began his attack.

"Ares!" Erin shrieked in fear of Ares's life.

The knight dodged the attack in time. Since no one was to know about him being a Transcendent Knight, causing him to forfeit the match, Ares tried to think of a way to beat his monstrous-sized opponent without exposing himself. He remembered the time he and the other knights had to take down a group of Mageias that were not much larger than the man he was currently fighting. After much fighting, the wisest and strategist of the group, Athena, pointed out how weak the bottom half of the bodies of the giant Mageias were. The others understood what that meant and struck at the legs, causing all of them to come tumbling down. Ares assumed that this fight was no different then that time and even thought it would be easier seeing as how this opponent was human.

To not make it not look so obvious, Ares decided to have the fight linger on for a little longer. He only dodged the attacks and not striking at all. He did miscalculate at one point and the other fighter knocked him down.

Erin was so worried she felt her heart sink to the floor. She was still holding onto Ares's things and began hugging them tightly to the point she was shaking. As the large man was about to deliver blow, Erin shouted, "Ares, look out!"

Ares saw his opponent about to strike and he jumped out of the way just in time. Okay, now it's time to finish this, he thought to himself. And just like before, Ares kicked the legs of the large fighter and he fell hard to the ground. He then approached his opponent and punched him unconscious.

The crowd and Erin were left speechless. Ares looked around and saw the stunned faces. When he saw Erin, he smiled and said, "Looks like I win."

The people roared with amazement. They had never witnessed such a fight as exhilarating as the one they just watched. As told to earlier, Ares's winnings were being given to Erin who was trying to manage accepting the money as well as holding onto her companion's things.

The crowd finally dispersed as Ares made his way over to Erin, not realizing her head was down. "Well, what did you think?" he asked all happy with himself and the situation.

"That was pretty stupid of you," Erin said in a low and disappointing tone.

Ares couldn't believe what he just heard her say. "What?? Stupid?! What are you-" Sniffling? He stopped when he heard sniffling. He lifted his companion's head and saw her face covered in tears. "Erin?"

She did what she could to stay strong and not cry, but she couldn't help herself. Erin knew how powerful Ares was…but still...if there was anything she learned in life, it was that not everything is set in stone, so things can change. She was so scared that the man was going to kill him and it would have been for nothing. It was no longer a valiant act; he would have died for sport and that sickened her.

"Do you have any idea how worried I was about you?!" she cried.

Ares was truly confused. "But you knew I could easily take that guy."

"Doesn't matter!" she firmly stated. "Anything can happen…and…I don't want anything bad to happen to you."

Ares didn't mean to hurt Erin, he just thought it was a great opportunity for them to make some more money. However, not once did he think about what he would put her through emotionally. He came to realize that, as well as just how much she cared about him.

Erin dropped all of Ares's things and the money the won. She threw herself onto Ares's and hugged him tightly, not caring one bit how sweaty he was from the fighting. "Just promise me, you'll only fight when it matters most. Please."

Ares could feel Erin letting out the last of her tears. Throughout his entire life, since he became a Transcendent Knight, no one was ever concerned about him in battle because they knew of the advancement in his abilities. All knew he would be just fine. He didn't know at first what to make of the current moment. Someone was actually worried about him even though they knew his chances of surviving the fight were great? Although she was small and not mighty in physical strength, Ares could feel how tight she tried to hug him. More and more, he was seeing just how strong and just how caring Erin really was.

Ares smiled at Erin. "Okay, I promise." He put a comforting hand on her head. "I'm sorry."

"Thank you," she said softly.

 

 

When the sun was setting, a large wagon meant to take people from that town to the next came by. Erin and Ares joined a couple of others in the vehicle and sat in the back. The wagon took off when it appeared no one else was coming on or departing.

After sometime had gone by, Ares noticed how Erin continued to look at his hands. "You keep staring at my hands," he pointed out to her. Erin didn't say anything, but kept looking. Ares got an idea on what it was about. "You're wondering why I didn't take these off during the fight, right?" Erin nodded, still not making eye contact with him. He still wasn't ready to reveal everything about himself, but he wanted to at least give Erin something. So he answered, "It ties in to my past." Erin finally looked up. She saw Ares looking out into the distance. Even though he was ready to expose a part of himself, he wasn't sure how to feel about it. Still, he continued with, "You know the stories about the knights and how they took down many Mageias. I won't go into specifics, but just know that I was the one out of the seven who killed most of them. That's why I started wearing gloves and don't take them off. I didn't want to see all of the blood on my hands anymore." Ares gazed upon his gloved hand, remembering vividly the battles he fought and the blood of which he shed.

Erin wanted to be happy that Ares was finally opening up to her, but she couldn't. Not after seeing how sad he looked when he talked about it. She wanted to cheer him up. She wanted him to know that it was okay. Not knowing what exact words would do the trick, Erin tried anyway. "I can't imagine what you've been through nor will I ever understand. But I want you to know something…" She then tenderly took the hand Ares was looking at and held it in hers. "If you ever want to talk about what you've done so you can finally get it off of your chest, I'm right here, ready to listen. I won't push you to talk more about your past anymore. As much as I want to know, I can see now how much it hurts to bring it up. I'm so sorry. And I promise, I will wait until you're completely ready!"

A sense of relief and peacefulness came over Ares. His heart even began beating a little faster than usual when he looked at Erin again. He wasn't sure if it was because of how her beauty radiated in the sunset's warm glow or if her words truly touched him along with her caring hand accepting his. Maybe…it was a bit of both. Smiling away, Ares hugged her and said, "Thank you, Erin."

 

 

NEXT TIME: TRANSCENDENCE- CHAPTER 3: ATHENA'S HELMET

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