TRANSCENDENCE- CHAPTER 3: ATHENA'S HELMET

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Submitted Date 07/09/2020
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The following day, Erin and Ares arrived at the next town called Mellontikos. It was much larger than the towns they had previously visited and its style appeared as though they were looking towards the future. The many buildings were much grander in scale and closer together; the coloring mostly consisted of whites and grays; the people seemed more invested in moving along than joining in an actual conversation with others who were passing by; and even the atmosphere had a more rushed and busy feel.

This was the first time in quite a while that both Erin and Ares had seen Mageias walking about. Ever since the war ended and the segregation took place, not very many were seen out so casually. A lot assumed this was because they feared for their lives and went into hiding. The two travelers even caught how, although the citizens mostly kept to themselves, many unfriendly stares and glances were thrown back and forth between the two beings.

Since being on her own, Erin learned that Mageias were split into two classes: human-like and creatures. The creatures took on the forms of beings from very old folklore and fairytales. The human-like ones appeared as, well, humans, but they had markings either on a certain area of their body or they were completely covered in them. Some even had an extra attribute like a tail or claws; depending on where they originated from.

Erin honestly couldn't comprehend it all. Why did the two beings hate each other so much? She got along with both sides during her years of wondering. They gave her shelter, food, and even jobs when she needed them most. Erin saw the good and kindness from the two. So why was it that they couldn't see those qualities in each other? This was one of those things that broke Erin's heart and encouraged her to show kindness whenever and to whomever she could. A trait she picked up from her father.

 

Although this kind of town wasn't her cup of tea, Erin still tried to make best of the situation. She halted when she noticed Ares stopped walking and reached for something in his pocket. "Hey, what are you doing?" she asked.

"Here," he said while placing the object in her hand.

Erin held it up and was confused. "Why are you giving me a knife?"

"For your protection," he told her. "If for some reason I'm not there to protect you, use this to defend yourself."

Though not sure what exactly brought this on, Erin still accepted the gift. "Thanks Ares." She tried to lighten the mood by having some fun while also reassuring her companion just how strong she is. "And you don't have to worry, I can take care of myself. Now that I have a weapon, I'm unstoppable! Stab, stab!" With the knife in her hand, she motioned like she was stabbing something.

Ares smiled knowing full well that Erin didn't have a clue on how to truly fight with a weapon in her grasp. "You have no idea how to use that, do you?"

Erin looked at her small weapon then back to Ares. True, she didn't know how to fight, especially with a weapon, but a knife was a knife. How hard could it really be? She motioned a much lighter version of her playful stabbing. "Stab, stab."

Ares began laughing at Erin's reaction. Yeah, she definitely didn't have any idea on how to defend herself. "Okay," he began saying, "when we're alone, with no prying eyes to watch us, I'll show you how to defend and attack with it."

"Sounds good!" Erin replied. After she put her knife into her little blue bag, Erin looked up and saw the name of the building they stopped in front of. "Hey, look here." She pointed up to the sign for Ares to see. "Athena's Helmet. Sounds like your kind of place. Oh, I bet they some food too!" Erin turned around when she didn't hear anything from Ares. She was thrown off when she saw the fear in his widened eyes and the paleness in his face. "Ares? Are you okay??"

"We should get going," he said.

"Why?" Erin asked. "This place looks interesting. We should check it out."

Ares didn't make any kind of eye contact with her or look towards the area of the building. He became fidgety and anxious. "Ye-Yeah…but…we don't know what kind of place this is…and- who knows- it could be just like the tavern where we first met! Lots of cut-throats could be in there!"

Erin was puzzled as to why Ares didn't want to go in. Had he been there before? Did something happen to cause the Great Ares of the Transcendent Knights to become scared out of his wits? "Ares, are you scared?" she asked.

"What?! Me?! Scared?! Pfft! No! I just think we could go someplace better," Ares said ever so hesitantly.

Erin had a feeling he had some sort of bad history with the pub. Whether or not that was true, Erin wanted to see the place for herself. "Okay then. You wait out here, I'll go inside."

Ares shouted, "Hold on! Erin!" It was too late. Erin had already gone into the pub. Ares let out a deep and heavy sigh. "This is not going to end well," he said throwing his hood over his head.

 

Erin was very pleased that she came into the pub. The interior was much different than from what she had experienced outside. Inside, there was more color, music was playing by a live band, and everyone just seemed livelier. She even loved the style of the metal chandeliers that were hanging from the ceiling.

She took a seat at the bar where a tall dark toned woman was seen filling up a couple of beer mugs. Erin studied the figure who was smiling away at her work. She had very short silver hair, covered in gold jewelry, wore a beautiful red dress that stopped right above her knees, and she had a white shawl wrapped around her. On the shawl, Erin noticed was a golden round pin that had a helmet and an arrow on it. Lastly, she noticed that the woman had golden eyes like Ares.

The woman was then seen putting the drinks on the table and shoved them downward. The two gentlemen at the other end caught their orders and cheered. She eventually approached Erin and cheerfully said, "Hi there! Welcome to my pub! I'm Athena."

Erin reciprocated the cheerfulness, "Hi Athena! I'm Erin. Do you have anything to eat here?"

"Sure do," Athena replied. "I actually just caught a wild boar and was about to make my famous Boar Fillet. Want to try it?"

Erin's eyes widened in excitement at the thought of eating something sounding so delicious. "Ooo! That sounds so good! Yeah, I'll try it!" Ares finally arrived and sat down next to Erin with his back slightly facing her. He held onto his hood to ensure that his face was still covered. Erin continued with, "Oh! And my friend here will-"

"I'll just have a beer," Ares interrupted, speaking in a low and deeper voice.

Both of the women were baffled by what just happened. "What's with the voice?? Are you okay??" Erin asked her companion.

Athena studied Ares as he began speaking again. "Um- uh- yeah! I'm okay, just a little-" Before he could continue, Athena realized who he was. She then grabbed him by the head and threw it onto her bar. Bam!

"Oh my goodness!!" Erin yelled in complete shock.

Ares rubbed his head then faced Athena. "Ow!! What was that for?!" he shouted angrily.

There was no doubt about it. These two knew each other and Athena had a score to settle. "That was for not paying me the last time you were here! Ares!" Athena threw Ares's hood back and was surprised by how he looked. "What…what happened to your hair?!"

Ares knocked her hand away and acted like it was nothing to fuss over, "I cut it. It's not that big of a deal."

"He looks pretty good, don't you think?" Erin added.

Athena's eyes darted back and forth between Ares and Erin. She saw how chirpy Erin was then noticed how Ares was looking away and trying to hide his blushing underneath his scarlet red scarf. Athena put the pieces together. "I'm guessing you had something to do with this," she mischievously said to Erin.

"All I did was suggest it to him," she answered innocently enough.

"She's telling the truth, Athena," Ares reassured.

Athena was getting the feeling more and more that there was something going on between the two people in front of her. She felt it was her duty to find out what that something was and what to do with it next. She turned to her old comrade, "Ares, to pay me back for your last visit, you will be washing all of the dirty dishes currently sitting in my kitchen."

Ares was not happy with that order, "What?! I'm not-"

"You're doing it or else!" Athena said angrily and with such authority.

He knew he wouldn't this fight. Especially since it was a direct order from someone who outranked him in their small group. He threw his large bag onto the bar of which Athena placed on the ground next to her. "Fine, c'mon Erin," Ares said getting up from his seat.

"Uh, no," Athena began saying, "Erin wasn't the one who drank all of my beer and nearly ran me out of business. You will do the dishes while Erin and I get to know each other better."

Ares was upset again, "You've gotta be-"

"Get to it, Ares!" Athena forcefully demanded. Muttering to himself like a stubborn child, Ares marched to the back. Into the kitchen he went to clean stacks of dirty dishes. Athena became cheerful again when it was just her and Erin. "Now then, there's someone else I would like you to meet."

"Really? Who?" Erin asked.

"My husband." Athena whistled loudly. She then yelled with her voice echoing throughout the building, "Dionysus! Come here!"

Appearing from another room was a tall, bearded man with dark skin wearing a burgundy shirt, dark green pants, black boots, and on his black vest was a gold round pin with a leaf crown and grapevine at its core. He, too, had golden eyes and carried a cheery disposition. Dionysus went to his beloved wife and kissed her. "You called Love?"

Athena motioned in Erin's direction, "Dear, I want you to meet Erin. She's a new friend who just came in with Ares."

Dionysus lit up when he heard Ares had arrived. "No way?! Ares is here?! Ha, ha! I haven't seen that kid in ages! Where is he??"

"I made him go wash the dishes," Athena answered.

Dionysus knew exactly what the reason was. "Payback for last time?" Athena nodded. "Yeah, I knew he'd be in for it when he came back. If he'd ever," he finished saying.

Athena then noticed Erin appeared to be studying she and her husband. "Something on your mind Sweetie?" she asked her.

Erin said, "Judging by your names, how well you know Ares, and the fact that you both have golden eyes…you're members of the Transcendent Knights just like Ares!"

Both of them hushed her and Erin covered her mouth with her hands, realizing she said all of that too loud. "Sorry," Dionysus began saying, "but you can't say things like that out here. Wait, how do you know about Ares being one of the knights?"

Erin removed her hands from her mouth and answered, "Well, when we first met, I kind of figured it out. He admitted it when I confronted him."

Athena was surprised. No one could get Ares to do anything like that by asking nicely. The only way he would have was if you were of higher authority and gave a direct order. "So not only did you get him to admit to something, but you even convinced him to cut his hair?" said Athena.

Dionysus was not expecting to hear that, "Wait! Ares cut his hair?!"

Erin really wasn't sure what the big deal was about him cutting his hair. "It was just a suggestion," she repeated, now worried.

Dionysus leaned in closer to have a better look at Erin. He said to her, "Well then, you must be something special. That boy loved his long hair. Thought it made him look tougher, more masculine. He did everything he could to keep it that way."

If he loved his long hair, why did he cut it? Erin thought to herself.

Athena noticed Erin trying to process and analyze what she just learned. She then smiled and turned to her husband, "Dionysus, look after the pub. Erin and I are going to the roof to talk."

Dionysus kissed his wife. "You got it Love," he said.

Athena then led Erin to the back where they went up a stairway.

 

When they reached the top, Athena opened the door to the roof and the two women walked through. On the roof was an area where- sitting in front of a little firepit- were a couple of chairs covered by beautifully patterned blankets with matching pillows.

Athena motioned her hand to one of the chairs, "Have a seat, Erin."

Erin was in awe at the sight. She thought it was a perfect little place for relaxing. "Wow! This is amazing!"

Athena was glad to see her new friend content with her special spot, "Glad you think so. It's my little getaway. I like to sneak up here whenever I'm feeling overwhelmed or when my husband drives me crazy." Both women sat down in their own chairs. "Comfortable?" Athena asked to which Erin happily nodded. "Good." Athena clapped her hands together and got right to it. "Now, on to business. So what exactly did Ares tell you about his past?"

"Nothing really," Erin started answering. "He promised he would tell me once he got to know me better."

Got to know you better? Athena remembered that, long ago, Ares wasn't one to make such promises. "Well, looks like Dionysus was right. You are something special," Athena stated.

Erin became embarrassed. She became fidgety and anxious as Ares did about entering the pub, "Wait! Me?! Special?! Oh, no! I think he just wants to build trust before he-"

"Erin," Athena interrupted. She was serious now. Erin was concerned, but she let Athena finish her comment. "Ares is not the most sociable nor is he the most open person. If he told you that he would reveal everything after getting to know you more…you mean something to him."

Erin began blushing. Mean something to him? She knew what he already meant to her…but…what could she possibly mean to him? "I do?" was all she could mutter.

Athena saw how Erin was. She knew Ares would kill her for what she was going to say next, but she felt Erin needed more facts before continuing her infatuation with Ares. "Listen, I'll tell you what I can, but the rest is left to Ares. Understood?" Without even really thinking, Erin nodded. "Good." Athena started to tell the origins of herself, Ares, and the other knights, "Five hundred years ago, the human government called out for volunteers to be experimented on. Claimed it was for a great cause, would help our side win the war against the Mageias. I believed in the cause and signed up. Project Transcendence they called it.

"The chosen few all met up when the results were in. Ares was just a kid when I met him. Full of hope and a dream to slay the bad guys and bring peace to our world. Basically, he wanted to be a hero. Especially to his parents. Oh, he so desperately wanted to make them proud. He thought this was the way to do it.

"Anyway, after the surgeries were completed, we all received our super abilities and the golden eyes trademark. We later learned about each of us receiving an extra power, a side effect of the experiment. That's how they chose our names. Given our personalities and our advanced abilities, they felt it fit to name us after the superior beings of the once known Greek mythology.

"That's how I got my name Athena. I was considered the wisest of the group and then there was my power to see into the future."

Erin became excited when she heard the last part, "No way?! You can see into the future?!"

Athena chuckled at her friend's excitement then continued, "Now, I can choose how far to see, however, it's a coin toss. From what I learned when using this power of mine is that there are parts of the future that can be changed and parts that can't. When I choose how far to see, it's never set in stone, so I have to make estimates on what moves to make. As for the ones that cannot be changed, the visions will come to me on their own. No specific time or place.

"When it came time for us to fight, we were unstoppable. The best team of warriors the world had ever come to know. And Ares, well, he was quite the conqueror. The best warrior out of all of us.

"In fact, it was his idea for us to be called the Transcendent Knights. I like to think he got Transcendent from Project Transcendence. As for the Knights part of the name…well, his mom would tell him stories about knights and their heroism when he was a small child. I suppose the kid in him wanted to carry on the tradition of knights being viewed as heroes." Suddenly, Athena became saddened. She missed that smiling child with eyes of happiness and hope.

Erin became concerned, "Athena?"

Athena took in a breath then went on, "Things became different as time and the war went on. Ares had shed so much blood that one day…it made him go mad. It was like there was no way out for him and he couldn't tell the difference between right and wrong anymore. His mind and heart were fading. The fight for peace was gone and he only wanted to spill more blood.

"We even found out about his special power. However, it's only activated when his rage spikes or when the urge to kill surfaces. He becomes covered in lightning and his golden eyes turn red, indicating that his advanced abilities just became more enhanced. Ares did what he could to control this, but when things were getting worse, that power had control over him. We called it Skotono.

"He did become fully aware at one point of what was happening to him. It was difficult for him to manage it all due to the war. The last straw was drawn right before we disbanded," Athena stopped at that point. She wasn't sure at first if Erin was ready to hear more. She also contemplated if it was even her place to reveal the next part.

Erin was surprised. Ares, a cold-blooded killer? No, there had to be more to it. There was no way that the same man she had been traveling around with for a couple of weeks was a mindless fiend capable of mass genocide. She wanted to know more, especially about what made them break up, and asked, "What happened?"

Athena knew then she had given Erin enough information and the rest was up to her old comrade. "Ah, you'll have to wait for Ares to answer that. I will leave you with this final note though." Athena turned to face Erin who sat in complete anticipation. She said, "That's why he hasn't been around any of us in many years and why he would rather be alone. Doesn't want to be reminded of what he did nor does he want to put anyone else in harm's way. So for him to go against his better judgement when it concerns you…you either have some kind of power over him or that silver-tongue of yours has a knack of getting what it wants."

Erin let everything she was just told sink in. She realized that it was because of her that Ares changed a few things. However, it wasn't because she had control over him. "It's not either of those at all. Whatever decisions he's made, they're of his own free will," she told Athena. Erin faced her new friend and showed just how serious she was. "Your story, even your theory about him, makes Ares sound like he's some sort of monster. But he's not. I've seen the goodness within him and the kindness in his heart. What you said may have been how he was in the past…but…that's not who he is now! He's the best person I've ever met and I'll keep traveling with him! No matter what, I intend to stay by his side for the rest of my life!" Erin became embarrassed again. So many questions were pounding around within her mind. Wait, why did I just say that?! Is that how I truly feel? Do I want to stay by his side for the rest of my life?? He means that much to me?? Strangely enough, I feel at home with him. Why…Why do I feel this way?

Athena smiled when she saw how red Erin became. She knew then that her old comrade was in good hands. "I was hoping for that kind of an answer," she finally said.

Erin threw her head up in confusion. "What now??"

Athena gave her a wink and said, "I had a feeling you were a good person who saw the best in Ares, but I wanted to be certain."

"So, nothing of what you said is true?" she asked, feeling idiotic about her rant.

Athena replied, "Oh, no, it's all true. I just wanted to see for myself why it is Ares is attracted to you."

Erin's face became red once more. "Huh?!? Ares is not-"

Athena interrupted, "I've known that boy for centuries. If he's been infatuated by someone, trust me, I would know. I mean, for goodness sake, you got him to cut his own hair! That is a huge deal!"

Erin felt herself calming down. She smiled and said, "Whether or not Ares has feelings like that for me, I'm glad he let me tag along with him. It's been great getting to know him. And now, it's been wonderful getting to know you and Dionysus."

Athena did not foresee that kind of response from Erin. She assumed of her growing feelings towards Ares, but didn't expect her to also be thrilled at meeting her or her husband. Yes, Ares did pick a good one. Athena genuinely grinned and said, "It's been great getting to know you too, Sweetie."

Unbeknownst to the two of them, Ares was at the door of the roof. He came up to tell Athena that he had completed his assigned task of washing all of the dirty dishes in her kitchen. Instead, he listened in to their conversation.

He didn't know what to think or feel when he heard Erin's remark about him being a good and caring person as well as her plan to stay with him. She was told nearly everything about his time with the knights…and yet…she wanted to stay. Either there's something seriously wrong with you…or…you're just that good of a person.

Not knowing what else to do, Ares went back downstairs.

 

Dionysus was thrilled when he saw his old friend enter the bar, "Well, well, well. If it ain't the troublemaker himself?! How are you doing, kid?"

Ares and his old friend did a hand grasp then they gave each other a quick brotherly hug. "Dionysus. Buddy, great to see you."

"Great to see you too!" Dionysus gave Ares a playful head nuggie. After he broke out of the hold, Dionysus continued, "And your hair. Athena really wasn't kidding."

"Yeah, thought it was about time," Ares said.

Dionysus gave a smug look, "And by time, you mean Erin."

Ares was surprised. How did he know about Erin? "What?!" he exclaimed.

"Don't even try to deny it," Dionysus told him. "I've already met her. She's a lovely girl. A little quirky, but sweet."

"She's pretty brave too." Ares got quiet. He was thinking about his time with Erin so far. It was true, Erin had shown her bravery time and time again. Especially in her stubbornness which made Ares smile.

Dionysus caught the genuine grin, "Well, you just confirmed it."

"Confirmed what?" Ares truly didn't know what he meant. However, after looking at Dionysus's roguish for a minute, he finally caught on. "Oh, no! I know that look. That's the look you gave when you saw something happening between Hephaestus and Aphrodite. No! There's nothing going on between me and Erin!" Dionysus didn't say a word, but continued giving Ares the look. He enjoyed watching his friend squirm. Ares went on, "C'mon, I've only known her for two weeks. I'm telling you, there's nothing there." Still no word, but that very look. Ares blushed in embarrassment and childishly yelled, "Shut up!"

Dionysus laughed away. Suddenly, a group of travelers entered the pub. Judging from the markings on their faces, they were Mageias. "Hey there! Welcome to Athena's Helmet! Can I get you guys anything?" Dionysus happily greeted.

The leader of the group stepped forward, "Please, just waters and whatever food you can quickly serve. We're in a bit of a hurry."

"You got it." Dionysus went to the part of the bar where the mugs were kept so he could fill them with water for the group.

Ares looked down and noticed a couple of children hiding behind who he assumed were their parents. Their big eyes were looking up at him. He saw how scared they were.

 

Ares then remembered what he heard Erin say:

 

I've seen the goodness within him and the kindness in his heart. What you said may have been how he was in the past…but…that's not who he is now! He's the best person I've ever met and I'll keep traveling with him! No matter what, I intend to stay by his side for the rest of my life!

 

Am I really a good person? Can I be that kind? he thought. One thing was for certain, the children were scared and he wanted to change that. To make the children feel at ease, Ares gave a little smile and waved at them. The little ones grinned and waved happily back at him. He felt good about lifting their spirits, even if it was with just a subtle act.

The happy moment ended when a man yelled, "Hey! What are filth like them doing here?!" All eyes turned to a blonde man with his beer and sitting at a table with his allies.

Dionysus addressed the situation, "There's no need to be rude. They're my customers just like you are. Treat them with respect or get out of here."

"Oh, I'll treat them with the kind of respect they deserve!" The man stood from his seat and pulled out a hunting knife, startling the group of Mageias.

Ares gave a frustrating sigh then said, "Why does this sort of stuff keep happening when I'm around?"

"Should I be concerned about that??" Dionysus asked concerned.

"No," Ares replied, still frustrated. He grabbed his large bag that had been placed behind the bar, and from it, Ares pulled out his old sword from his days as a Transcendent Knight.

"Haven't seen that thing in a while," Dionysus commented.

"It's just a precaution," Ares assured. He hopped over the bar and stood in front of the group. He held his sword out, pointing it to the ruffian. "Back off. They did nothing to you."

Unfortunately, that wasn't enough to scare the man away. "They didn't, but their kind did! I lost everything because of them!"

Ares observed the hatred in his eyes. This man meant what he said and was going to take his revenge. "Look, you're drunk and upset," Ares started saying. "Just get back to your seat and calm down."

"Don't tell me what to do!" The man went in for the attack. However, the knight intercepted and knocked the knife out of the man's hand with his sword. Ares then punched him so hard that he went flying across the room and crashed into the wall.

 

Both Athena and Erin could hear the crash from the rooftop.

"What was that?!" Erin asked.

"I think a brawl just broke out!" Athena answered. "Erin, stay up here! This could get messy."

Erin wanted to come to see if she could help. "But-"

"No buts, just stay here!!" Athena ordered as she continued rushing downstairs.

 

The fighting amongst the men within the pub continued when Athena arrived. "Dionysus! What happened?!" she asked her husband.

He answered, "Long story short, another drunk spoke his prejudiced mind!"

Athena looked out and noticed it was just Ares fighting the group of men. "And now Ares is taking on the fight."

Dionysus nodded, "Pretty much."

Ares continued to knock down the man as well as his companions. When the blonde man tried to get up, Ares held his sword at him. "Give up?" he asked him.

The man gave a crooked smile and sinisterly said, "Not even close."

Then, suddenly, bursting through the windows and doors were dozens of men dressed in black and blue uniforms. They surrounded the room and held up their guns towards the three knights. The suspicions were true; the human government had hidden weapons and technology from the time of the war. If they were now being resurfaced…then something big was coming.

Ares was indeed surprised to see something from the past come back. "What the-"

A couple of the privates went over to the blonde man on the ground and assisted him up.

"Master Sergeant Michaels, are you alright?" one of them asked.

"Yes," he answered. "Well done, my comrades." Michaels went over and picked up his hunting knife that Ares knocked out of his hand earlier. He then turned to face the knights who were being detained by the Stratioses; a group of soldiers who worked for a branch of the human government that was responsible for Project Transcendence. "We've been looking for you. In fact, we've been looking for all of you. The time has come for the members of Project Transcendence to return home. You're all needed for a very special project."

"Not gonna happen!" Ares exclaimed.

"You don't have a choice." Master Sergeant Michaels snapped his fingers and in came a couple of soldiers with the little group of Mageias who came in earlier; their hands were tied behind their backs. Ares was angry that he was using them as leverage. Michaels turned to the soldiers, "Put them in the kitchen and one of you stand guard." He assumed only one was needed since the group wouldn't be much trouble. He turned back to Ares and said, "I saw how you were with these beasts. Imagine what will happen if none of you do as I say."

"You coward!" shouted Dionysus.

"I like to think of it as being…creative." The way Michaels said that sent a chill and angered the knights even further.

The group of Mageias were put in the kitchen as ordered and only one of the soldiers stood by the door. The Mageias in the kitchen feared for their lives and wondered what was going to happen to the people who showed them goodwill. One of the children got scared when they felt someone grab their bounded hands.

They turned to see that it was Erin. She held a finger up to her mouth, indicating them to be quiet. "Please don't say anything," she told them. As fast as she could, Erin used the knife Ares gave her to cut the rope that tied the Mageias's hands. Once all were free, Erin pointed towards the back and whispered, "Hurry. Get out the backway."

The group ran off to their freedom and it was left to Erin to think of a way to save her friends. She slid up against the door and saw through the little window the one guard who was completely oblivious to what just occurred. She then looked out and saw what was going on and figured out who was the one in charge of the raid. Erin quickly slid down and sat on the floor, trying to come up with a plan. Come on Erin, think of something! An idea finally popped into her head. Oh, I hope this works.

The guard heard a knock on the door and turned to open it. With all of her might, Erin pushed the door open, hitting the guard on the head and knocking him out. She then grabbed his gun and ran out. Judging from where she came from, everyone assumed she released the hostages and they escaped. All were then surprised to see Erin standing near the Master Sergeant and holding a gun towards him.

"Let my friends go!" she demanded.

"Erin?!?" Ares knew how brave she was, but he didn't think she was this brazen.

Athena shouted, "Erin, Sweetie, get out of here!"

"Not without any of you!" Erin responded.

That girl. She looks like the one he's been looking for. The Master Sergeant didn't dwell on the thought for very long as he was peeved that someone came to foil his plan. However, he caught Erin's hand shaking. He then saw how she was holding the gun; her finger wasn't on the trigger. He realized she had no idea how to use the weapon. "You don't have what it takes to pull that trigger. Do you?" he smirked.

Erin knew she was caught. She looked around trying to find some kind of sign or anything that would help her in the situation. By doing so, she was able to see how the Stratioses were holding their weapons; including their fingers on the triggers. Erin was able to quickly piece everything together in her head and now had to find a way out without getting her friends hurt. The chandelier above the Master Sergeant caught her eye; giving her an idea.

With a smile of confidence on her face Erin boldly said, "Actually, I do."

She pointed the gun upward and pulled the trigger a couple of times. The bullets cut the rope of the chandelier and it fell quickly down. Master Sergeant Michaels jumped out of the way when he saw what was coming for him. He landed hard on the ground.

Ares saw the opportunity and began fighting the men who were keeping him detained. Athena and Dionysus also fought the soldiers that were holding them down. Erin then noticed how one of the men positioned his gun to shoot Ares. Acting on instinct, she threw her gun and hit the attempted shooter in the head. The knight came in and finished the task of hitting him unconscious. Erin was glad she was able to help, but now she didn't have the gun to ward off the scoundrels who were on the attack.

After gathering his bearings, Michaels looked out and spotted Erin still standing where he last saw her. "You pest!" He began charging at her like a wild animal.

"Erin, run!!" Ares yelled as he continued fighting his way through the soldiers.

Erin did make an attempt to run away. She even pulled out the knife Ares gave her previously to defend herself. Master Sergeant Michaels eventually caught up to her and grabbed her arm. Erin did try to wound him so she could have another chance to escape, however, after much struggling, Michaels was able to remove the weapon from her. He then took the knife and held it right at her neck as he held her tightly.

The fighting paused when they heard Michaels yell, "That's enough!" All eyes were now on the Master Sergeant and his victim. Ares, Athena, and Dionysus feared for Erin's life. Michaels addressed the knights, "Now, all three of you, do as I say or I cut her pretty little throat!"

"No, don't!" Erin shouted.

It was a sight he never wanted to see. Ares watched as the ruthless man held the blade to Erin's neck. One move and her throat would be slit. He stood there unsure what to do. What could he do that wouldn't cause the Major Sergeant to hurt Erin? Ares began lowering his sword.

Ares, don't, Erin thought to herself. She felt so helpless. She came to help, but instead made everything so much worse. Why couldn't she have been born bigger, stronger, or even have powers so she can be of better help? In that moment she wished, prayed even, for a miracle.

Master Sergeant Michaels looked over to Erin to watch her as she stood there helpless. However, when Erin turned her head and opened her eyes, her eyes turned completely white and flashed him. Michaels became blinded by the light and let Erin go. He began rubbing his eyes in pain, leaving everyone dumbfounded. It happened so fast that no one was able to catch the light from Erin's eyes blinding the man. Not even Erin knew what just occurred.

"What was-" Michaels was interrupted when Erin swung her leg around and knocked him to the floor. She remembered how Ares was able to win the gambling fight by taking out the legs of the large man. Erin tried to get her knife back, but it was in vain. Michaels got up and grabbed her. "You brat!" he yelled. The Master Sergeant then threw her and she hit her head on the wall.

Erin lied on the floor unconscious with her head bleeding.

"Erin!!" Athena shouted, worried about her friend.

Ares's heart had stopped. He couldn't believe what he just witnessed. Erin was the nicest, sweetest, most brave person he had ever met and this monster dared to hurt her. A powerful rage began consuming him. What made him completely lose it was when the Master Sergeant stood up and began his approach towards Erin with the knife in hand; he was going to finish her off.

 

Then…lightning formed around Ares.

 

The Stratioses didn't know what was happening. How and why was lightning suddenly covering the Transcendent Knight? Fear took over the men when they saw Ares's expression take on a villainous look as his golden eyes turned red as blood.

Skotono had returned.

Athena and Dionysus knew exactly what was going to happen next. They feared for all of the souls in the pub as well as everyone who was nearby. Given their history, anyone within a close range of Ares when he was in this state did not make it out safely.

"Not that we're on your side or anything," Dionysus began saying to the soldiers detaining he and his wife, "but you guys might want to go help your friends over there. Trust me, their going to need it."

The soldiers, though scared out of their minds, did release the two knights and head over. All of men were still watching Ares who appeared as though he was about ready to kill everyone there. Not one dared approach the infuriated knight.

Michaels was scared himself, but he knew a job needed to get done. "Don't just stand there you fools! Get him!!" he commanded his troops.

The men closest to Ares did as they were ordered and began charging at him. The knight then lifted his sword and swung it out, releasing a great amount of lightning that struck the men. The rest stood there in complete fear, unable to move.

Ares saw how much closer Michaels had gotten to Erin and threw his sword at him. Due to how much power Ares had put into it, the weapon not only stabbed Michaels in his shoulder, close enough to his chest, but it pinned him to the wall. The blonde man screamed from the tremendous pain he received.

The ground became dented with every forceful step the knight took towards the coward that hurt the person he cared deeply for. When he got close enough, he looked over and saw Erin who was still lying unconscious on the floor with her head bleeding. His rage became even greater. Ares then finished making his way to the Master Sergeant, but didn't say anything. Fear filled his victim's eyes.

Ares took the grip of the sword and began twisting it; inflicting more pain. The man screamed as the knight continued to twist the sword around. He then pushed the sword in deeper. Michaels would not stop screaming.

After complete silence, Ares spoke with his voice sounding deeper and more menacing, "Touch her again…and I'll kill you."

Michaels could see the fire blazing within Ares's eyes and believed every word.

 

One of the soldiers decided to be brave enough to help his Master Sergeant. He held his gun to Ares. "Alright you! S-St-Stand d-down," he stuttered.

Ares didn't say a word, but instead removed his sword from Michaels and swung it around to slice the gun in half. The soldier was in so much shock at how fast he moved that he didn't see Ares turning around. The knight punched him with so much force that he flew back and crashed into a pillar; bones could be heard cracking.

Ares went on attacking the other soldiers.

Dionysus turned to his wife and said, "Love, looks like we're going to have to close earlier than planned."

"I agree," said Athena. "Get the traveling cart ready. I'll take care of the rest from here."

As Dionysus left, Athena went over to her bar's wall of alcoholic beverages and moved bottles around. She eventually found the little box she was looking for. She opened it and saw the bomb timer inside. This wasn't the first time she had to resort to this. In the event that it was necessary, Athena and Dionysus set up explosives within their pub; just enough to bury the building and not cause any casualties. Athena felt this was that time. After setting the timer to two minutes, all she had to do was push the red button.

Before doing so, she looked over to see Ares who was still beating the soldiers senseless. She knew there would be a point when Skotono began the true killing spree. She had to snap Ares out of it before it got to that point. "Ares!" she called. He continued fighting. "Ares!!" Still no response. Just when he held one of the soldiers by the throat and was about to kill him, Athena cried out, "Ares, think about Erin!!"

Ares stopped when he heard her name. Erin? That's right…Erin. She wouldn't want this. She wouldn't approve of any of this. Finally coming back to his senses, Ares released the man from his tight grip.

Athena let out a sigh of relief when she saw the lightning fade and Ares's eyes turned gold again. "Good you're back!" She held up the little box with her thumb on the button. "Now grab Erin! We gotta go!" She pushed the button and put down the box.

Ares knew exactly what that meant. With his super speed, he rushed over to Erin and held her tightly in his arms. Erin, I'm sorry, he thought as he followed Athena around the back.

They eventually found Dionysus who was ready with the traveling pub cart. Athena directed Ares inside so she could see what she could do for Erin. When he got the all clear, Dionysus whipped the reigns and the horses took off.

The timer continued to tick.

Then three…

Two….

One…

Zero.

Boom! The pub exploded, creating a high mushroom cloud.

 

By then, the group made it far enough away from the town of Mellontikos.

Dionysus tugged on the reigns enough to alert the horses to slow down. He then called to the back, "How is she Love?!"

Athena finished inspecting Erin and patched the cut on her head. "Just a cut on the head and still unconscious, but she'll be alright!" she answered from within the cart. She looked up to Ares and said, "Keep an eye on her." Athena saw the sadness on Ares's face. She knew what he was thinking: he felt responsible for what happened. He should have been able to help her. Instead, he stood there like an idiot and watched. He even let his rage get the better of him and allowed Skotono to run wild. Athena put a comforting hand on his shoulder and spoke as she usually did when she offered her words of wisdom, "She's going to be fine. Just be there for her. That's what she really needs." She then left the cart to sit with her husband and give Ares time alone with Erin.

He watched Erin as she slept peacefully with her head resting in his lap. I failed everyone today, especially you. I'm so sorry. I don't care whether or not I'm forgiven, I just…I just want you to wake up and show me you're going to be okay. Please Erin, please. Ares pulled her in for a tender hug.

Suddenly, a familiar voice sounding soft and raspy voice called him, "Ares?"

Ares lowered Erin down enough to see her eyes slightly opened. He was overjoyed in seeing that she was going to make it. "Hey, I'm here." Ares thought about what Athena said, that all he needed to do was be there for her. And she was right. He then pressed his head against hers and said in almost a whisper, "I'm here."

Athena watched from the front seat of the cart what happened. She was glad to see that things were alright as she thought they would be. Another sigh of relief was released from her.

Although he was happy that Erin was going to come out alright, Dionysus knew there was an important matter to discuss. "So…what do we do now?" he asked Athena.

"Now…" She didn't want to say it. She didn't even want to think it…but there was no way around it. The vision she had received in the past was now coming true. Athena eventually finished her sentence, "Now we find the other knights and warn them." Dionysus turned to his wife in realizing what that meant. Athena looked seriously to her husband and said, "It looks like the war is returning as I once foretold."

 

 

Meanwhile, hiding within the shadows of an alleyway with blood dripping from his wound, was the Master Sergeant who led the attack at the pub and managed to escape the blast. He pulled out of his jacket pocket a metallic device. He punched a number then held it up to his ear. A voice belonging to an older man answered on the other side and asked who was calling.

"It's me, Sir. I located three of the knights. Unfortunately, my men and I were no match for them, just as you thought. They managed to get away. However, I do have some good news…A girl was with them. She fits the description of the one you've been searching for. What are your orders?"

There was no reply at first. Michaels assumed his superior was contemplating what to do now that the target had been located. The deep voice on the other end finally said without any hesitation, "Bring her to me. Alive…or dead."

 

 

NEXT TIME: TRANSCENDENCE- CHAPTER 4: REUNITING THE KNIGHTS

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