TRANSCENDENCE- CHAPTER 4: REUNITING THE KNIGHTS (PART 1)

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Submitted Date 07/26/2020
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A couple of days had passed since the incident at Athena's Helmet in the town of Mellontikos occurred. Erin was still recovering from her injuries and slept most of the time. Ares, feeling guilty and responsible, never left her side.

 

Night had just fallen when the small group parked the traveling pub cart within a forest that was on their way to where the remaining four Transcendent Knights were located. Dionysus was an excellent chef and was able to cook meals for everyone with what was available in the cart; fish and vegetables sprinkled with some herbs and spices. He decided to sit by the campfire while Athena went to retrieve their old comrade.

She peeked into the cart and saw Ares still sitting next to Erin, watching her sleep peacefully. Athena eventually opened the door to the cart fully and said, "Hey Ares, food's ready." He didn't respond, but continued to look to Erin with sad eyes. "Ares, you have to eat. You haven't had any food since yesterday morning," Athena pointed out as a mother would to her child.

She knew exactly what Ares was thinking: he blamed himself for what happened to Erin and for losing control of Skotono again. It wasn't his fault though. How could he- how could any of them- have known that a group of Stratioses would show up at the pub and cause all of that mayhem? It didn't matter though, for Ares's heart had already condemned him a guilty man.

Athena thought back to when Dionysus pointed out how special Erin was if she could make Ares do, what they considered, the unthinkable. She really is special to you, isn't she Ares? she thought to herself. How could she not be? She's the only one who's ever been able to open your eyes to new things. Athena decided to speak as tender as possible, "I'm sure Erin would want you to eat something." Still receiving no response from her old friend, she hopped into the cart and made her way over to him. "Don't worry, she'll be okay. I even made her a plate in case she wakes up." She put a motherly hand on his back and said, "Come on."

Ares didn't want to go. He already let Erin and everyone down once, he didn't want to take a chance at doing it again. However, Athena was right. Knowing Erin, she would rather he go eat some food than have him starve because he wanted to make certain she was alright. Without uttering a word, Ares stood up and walked with Athena over to Dionysus who was still eating his food next to the campfire.

"How is she?" Dionysus asked.

Ares didn't answer, but looked to the ground ashamed. Athena had a feeling he was going to be silent for a while and answered for him, "Erin's going to be just fine. Just needs a little more time to rest." She went over and grabbed Ares's plate of food where she then handed it to him.

As Ares sat on the ground holding his dinner, Dionysus continued, "Doesn't surprise me. With what she went through, and the adrenaline rush she had, I'm sure her tiny body needs time to catch up."

Ares thought back to that day. He thought about how, even though he knew it would be a rough reunion, he was happy to see Athena and Dionysus again. His mind then went to Athena's discussion with Erin on the rooftop and how Erin was so certain about staying with him as well as believing he was a good man with a kind heart. She said that with such confidence even after being told of the monster he was and could so easily become again. In that moment, all he thought about was his traveling companion.

What was it about Erin that made him so drawn to her? Was it her goodness that was accompanied by her loving heart? Her stubbornness to help others? Strong will? Bravery in the face of danger? Cheerfulness? Delicacy? Could it have even been her ability to see the good in everyone? Or, perhaps it was all of them.

He tried not to think about what happened later on that day, but it was of no use. Ares remembered once more that because Erin got badly hurt, he lost control and nearly killed everyone there. He was so angry with himself that he couldn't even eat his dinner.

Athena noticed how tight Ares was gripping his plate; it was to the point that his hands started shaking. "Ares? Are you alright?" she asked.

Ares finally spoke, "It may have been five hundred years since my last episode…but still…I should have been more careful. I let you all down again. I'm sorry."

"Well, now you know better. And look on the bright side, Erin didn't see Skotono." Dionysus replied in a failed attempt to cheer Ares up.

Ares put his head down remembering again that Erin was knocked unconscious when she was thrown up against the wall of the pub.

Athena whacked her husband upside the head as punishment for his unthoughtful comment. She then turned to Ares and said, "You know what he meant by that."

Ares remained quiet. He then put his plate of food on the ground and got up.

As he began to turn, Dionysus asked, "Hey, where are you going?!"

"People are always getting hurt because of me," Ares responded as he began to walk away.

Dionysus was in disbelief that Ares would just leave like that. "So you're leaving??"

"Ares, think about what you're doing," Athena said. "What about Erin?"

Ares turned back and yelled to his old friends, "It's because of me that Erin almost got killed!" Athena and Dionysus were a startled by his response. Ares noticed this and calmed himself down. "She wasn't strong enough to take that Master Sergeant on her own. I could have helped her…and instead…I…I froze. I'm strong enough to where I could have easily taken all of those guys out, and yet, I didn't and Erin got hurt."

Athena knew how much he was affected by the incident, but didn't realize until now just how much it hurt him. "So you think leaving is the best option?" she asked. No answer was given. Athena was displeased with Ares's decision. "Boy Ares, when you make a decision, you make the stupidest one."

Ares did not like her comment. "What did you say?!"

"Oh, you heard me!" she shouted back. "We all messed up back there. Remember, Dionysus and I had the power to help too and we just stood there. That was bound to happen since we've all been out of practice for five hundred years." Athena changed tactics believing it would assist in changing his mind from leaving. "Ares, think about what you're about to do then think about Erin. She started getting better because you were there right beside her. Now imagine if you did leave, Erin would feel worse because she'd be blaming herself. I know it and you know it too."

Ares let that sink in because he knew it was true. Knowing Erin, she would be blaming herself for his sudden departure. He pictured her getting worse by the day and didn't want to linger on it anymore.

Like a stubborn child, Ares went back to his spot in front of the campfire and sat abruptly down. "I hate it when you're right," he said.

Athena, sitting next to him, patted his head. "Love you too, kid." She then whacked him upside the head. "Now eat up."

"Ow!" Ares yelled.

Dionysus chuckled at the sight. "Some things never change." Ares began to eat when Dionysus turned to Athena, "Love, can you see where the rest of the knights are?"

Whenever Athena used her power to see into the future, her eyes would turn completely light red. That was what happened as she looked into the future to locate the other knights. However, when the forced visions took over, her eyes turned completely golden. Her eyes changed back after the vision finished. "We're in luck. The last four are all together. Not surprised since they all get along so well. Anyway, my vision showed me that they're just in the village not too far from here. If we leave by dawn, we'll find them by tomorrow afternoon."

Ares stopped eating his food when he realized just how close they were to reaching the others. "Do you really think it's a good idea? They hate my guts for what I did to them. What I did to all of you. I doubt they found a way to forgive me during our five-hundred-year split."

Athena responded, "Ares, that was a long time ago. I'm sure they moved on just like Dionysus and I have." Her husband then choked on his dinner. He tried to cough the stuck piece out as best he could. He eventually hacked it out. Athena was not pleased with her husband's reaction, "Dionysus, show some decorum."

"I just think it's a bad idea," said Ares.

"But we don't have a choice," a faint voice said. All turned and saw Erin attempting to exit the cart. "We need to warn them about that group." Still weak from the fight, Erin lost control and fell out of the cart and landed on the ground.

"Erin!" Without even really thinking, Ares dropped his plate of food then ran over to Erin.

Dionysus was upset that his current masterpiece was ruined by Ares. "Oh, come on! Do you know how long it took me t-" he stopped when Athena held her hand out. He looked over and observed Ares with Erin.

Ares lifted his traveling companion up from the ground. "Erin, are you alright?!" he worriedly asked her.

Erin held on to Ares and tried to smile at him. "I'm okay. I guess my body is still a little tired."

The knight noticed how her legs were shaking and began to say, "You should go back and-"

"No…I've been resting for a long time. I want to get up and move for a while," Erin interrupted.

He wasn't sure of the idea. He thought it would be better if she went back into the cart to rest more. But he was fully aware of Erin's level of stubbornness and knew he would not win that battle. To be of assistance, Ares wrapped his arm around her. "Okay. I've got you." He walked Erin over to Athena and Dionysus.

Ares slowly put her down then sat on the ground next to her.

"Here Sweetie, I put a plate together for you," Athena said while smiling and handing a plate of food to Erin.

"Thank you, Athena," Erin said after taking the plate.

Dionysus asked, "How are you feeling Erin?"

"It's a slow process, but I'm getting there," she replied.

"Glad to hear it," Dionysus said happy.

"If you don't mind me asking," Erin began asking, hoping that she wasn't about to open an old wound, "why would it be a bad idea for you all to meet up again? What exactly happened?" She gazed upon the shocked faces of her friends. There was a painful reason behind that story. It was one of which she realized involved Ares when he looked away, unable to make eye contact with her. "If I am crossing some sort of line…you don't have to tell me," Erin quickly stated.

Ares knew deep down that, sooner or later, more of his story would be revealed. It was inevitable after all. However, he wished it didn't have to involve one of the biggest mistakes he ever made. "I went against an order." He finally looked to Erin and saw how concerned she was. Still, he kept going, "Something happened…and…I wouldn't do what they asked of me. So I went against it then left. And because of that, the group was to take the fall."

Athena intervened; not wanting Erin to believe that the entire reason for the group breaking up was entirely because of Ares, "However, we decided as a group to disband. We all felt it was the best thing to do. They would have punished us greatly if we returned with the full report of the failed mission as well as the news that Ares went AWOL." Silence fell upon the little group. Normally, Erin would have a list of questions to follow after that. However, she remembered her promise to Ares and did her best to keep quiet. "I'm surprised you're not asking what the order was," Athena said to Erin.

She answered with, "I promised Ares I wouldn't pressure him into revealing more about his past to me. I would wait patiently until he was ready." Erin turned to her friend, feeling sad and ashamed, "I'm sorry if I broke that promise by asking what made you all disband."

He knew she truly meant that. Erin was doing the best she could to keep her curiosity towards his history quiet and she was doing a good job about it. Ares simply smiled at her and said, "You didn't."

From her peripheral view, Erin noticed a plate and food soiled within the grass. She put the pieces together and figured out it was Ares's dinner that he dropped to go help her when she fell. "Oh no, you dropped your food!" Erin held her plate in-between her and Ares. "Here, we can split mine."

Ares was not expecting that. She was the one who needed the energy, not him. "No, Erin," he said, "you need to get your strength back."

"You need to build up your strength too. It's okay, really. Besides, I'm not that hungry," Erin said, now smiling like she always did.

Looks like she's back, Ares thought to himself. "Thanks Erin." He and Erin began eating the food.

"The food is delicious!" Erin exclaimed cheerfully.

Dionysus replied, "Thank you, Erin." He then turned to his wife and Ares where he sarcastically said, "At least someone appreciates my cooking."

They all then laughed and enjoyed the rest of their dinner together.

 

 

When all was said and done for the evening, the group fell asleep by the campfire. Athena, Dionysus, and Erin were all having pleasant dreams. As for Ares, his dream transformed into a nightmare from his past.

Though blackened at first, the memory began with a gunshot. Bang!

"How could you do that?! She wasn't even armed!" he heard a familiar woman's voice yell.

"She was attempting to curse us! What else was I supposed to do?!?" said a recognizable angered male's voice.

"You don't know that's what she was doing! You had no right to make that call!" shouted Athena.

 

He was then transported into the full vision of the old memory: the day the Transcendent Knights disbanded.

Within a mountainside, the seven knights were standing next to a gentleman dressed in a general's uniform. The general, out of anger and madness, had just shot a woman with his gun. The woman who was identified as the Princess of the Mageias.

Suddenly overcome with compassion, Ares ran over to assist the wounded woman. He held her in his arms and saw that she was shot in her abdomen. There was nothing he could do to save her from the approaching clutches of death.

The general saw the princess wheezing away. "It looks like you still have some life in you, so answer this. Where are your husband and the future Queen of the Mageias?!" She didn't answer which made him even more furious, "I demand you tell us!!"

Ares noticed the princess attempting to say something. However, he had a feeling it wasn't about her husband and daughter's current location. "What is it?" he asked.

 

Using as much strength as she could gather, the princess stated with her eyes now glowing white:

 

A child was born from the purest of love

This is what will make her power grow

To find the future Queen of the Mageias

A sun on her arm will show

 

The Transcendent Knights will lead her

Down the path she is destined for

Together they will unite the world

And there will be peace once more

 

With this final breath of mine

May those who listen heed my call

The one who obtains the Queen's heart

Will be the most powerful of all

 

She then grabbed the top part of the chest plate that was part of Ares's uniform and pulled him closer to her. The princess leaned in as much as she could, placing her head next to his ear. She then whispered, "You…It's you…And she will give back what you lost…Even what will help in making you whole again…Peace and love."

Ares, now in complete shock, pulled back and saw that the princess had now passed away in his arms.

Him? He would be the one who would get the future queen's heart and become the most powerful being? But how was that possible? He was loyal to his side. What was to happen that would have him betray everyone and everything he swore to protect? No, it had to be a lie. There was no way that it would happen…However…the fact that the princess whispered that reveal to him, made Ares believe that this would be so.

He then gently set her down on the cold ground of the mountainside and stood up. The others were confused as to what happened. Here the princess used her power to see into the future to expose what will occur, whispered what appeared to be another shocking reveal, then Ares acting distant and cold after the princess passed away.

Still seeing him stand there, the general asked him, "What did she say?" Ares didn't say anything and instead gripped his sword within its scabbard. The general continued to yell at him to capture his attention, "Ares…Ares?!"

Then, the voice changed to someone else he knew. Someone he quickly grew to care for. "Ares! Ares!!"

 

The knight forcefully awoke in a cold sweat. Now inside the traveling pub cart that was taking the group to their destination, Ares saw that the voice he now heard calling him was none other than Erin. She began dapping his face with a cloth she found within the cart, "Are you alright?! You were sweating like crazy in your sleep. Did you have a bad dream?"

It took him a while, but he was able to gather his bearings. Ares saw the concern that filled Erin's large seafoam green eyes. He continued to watch her as she finished wiping the rest of the sweat off his face.

 

The final words the Princess of the Mageias said came to him once more:

You…It's you…And she will give back what you lost…Even what will help in making you whole again…Peace and love.

 

In the past, that statement haunted him. Ares saw it as a judge convicting him a traitor. A criminal for a crime he had yet to commit. However, as of late, he believed more and more that the princess's premonition was false. For there was someone else, not of royal or Mageia descent, who was beginning to bring him back and also give him what he never thought possible.

Ares gave Erin a little grin and told her, "Yeah, just a bad dream." There was a pause, but within that time, the knight and his companion smiled at one another. "How are you feeling?" he asked.

"A lot better. Thanks," she tenderly replied.

Ares finally noticed that it was just the two of them currently within the traveling pub cart. This caused a question to come to his mind, "How did I get in the cart?"

Erin answered, "For starters, you're a pretty heavy sleeper. We actually tried to wake you up when we were beginning to leave. Dionysus ended up carrying you in here. I decided to stay put to keep an eye on you, make sure you were okay."

Ares didn't say anything, but continued to look to Erin. You're curious, free-spirited, generous, stubborn as they come, and let's now add caring to that heart of yours. Just who exactly are you, Erin?

"What?" she asked when she noticed how her friend was staring at her.

"Nothing," was his response.

Erin decided to change the subject and brought up a matter she felt they needed to discuss, "Listen, Athena told me that you were going to leave because you blamed yourself that I got hurt."

Ares was not happy Athena did that. "She did what?! I'm gonna-"

"I'm glad she did!" Erin interrupted. "Ares, I made that decision to intervene so I could help all of you. You have to respect that. And honestly, I don't regret it, not one bit. I chose this path and I'm never looking back."

Ares saw that; it was written all over her face. He let out an annoyed chuckle and said to her, "You're as stubborn as they come. You know that?"

Erin shrugged her shoulders and replied with, "Yeah, but same thing could be said about you."

As the two laughed, Ares realized how long it had been since he genuinely laughed this much and he could even feel himself opening up more.

They felt the cart stop abruptly and Athena yelling that they had arrived.

"Looks like we're here," Erin said. "Are you ready to face the others?"

Ares let out a heavy sigh and responded, "I don't have much of a choice."

He got up and walked over to the little door of the cart. He stopped when he began to think about what could happen when they reached the four remaining Transcendent Knights. By how bad things turned out, he knew it wasn't going to go his way. In fact, Erin might get caught in the crossfire. He didn't even want to think of what could possibly happen to her should it come to that.

Erin was both confused and worried when Ares just stood by the door quietly; frozen like a statue.

"Erin," Ares eventually began saying with his voice deep and serious, "if things look like they're about to get out of hand…I want you to stay close to Athena and Dionysus. Don't leave their side no matter what."

She didn't know what to make of it. What? Where did that come from? Why would he say such a thing? Erin was made aware of that Ares disobeyed a direct order then ran away, but it couldn't have been so bad that things would get out of hand. Right?

Without saying another word, Ares opened the door and jumped out of the cart.

 

END OF PART 1

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