Chapter 16: Overlord Forever

Erasmus Kilgore stood in front of the small battalion of warriors that were freshly sworn to him. Most were men, and almost all were heavily armored. The scant handful of women were armored as well, but lightly. The armor rather went with the weaponry to be truthful; most of the men were using large, double-handed weapons like broadswords and battleaxes. The women, almost exclusively, were wielding small blades like rapiers and knives.

He stopped in front of one of the few unarmored men, one with light blond hair and pale red eyes. "You seem to be cut from a different cloth than the rest. What brought you to this, if I may say, fairly wise decision?"

The man shot a glare past him, towards Sophitia. "Ask your blushing bride."

He looked back and forth between the man and his bride, and then crossed the distance between the two of them. "A little bird mentioned that you seem to have, at the very least, developed something of a silver tongue. Now, I really don't need anyone else to tell me of your skills in that category…"

Sophitia's face turned a shade similar to her eyes, and she lowered the volume of her voice. "You, you're really going to compliment me on, well, that, in public?"

He gave Sophitia's chin a nudge to line up their eyes. "Nowhere we can really be overheard. That said, I'm still quite curious as to how you managed to convince that snooty noble to turn his sword elsewhere."

The blush remained, and the blonde pulled a stray bit of hair back over her ear. "Well, to be entirely truthful I think I took a few pages out of your book. I remembered something Taki once told me about Raphael's foster daughter, Amy. I figured, um, that if he really cared about her as a father should then he would put her welfare above his own pride."

He nodded once, responding almost without thinking. "As well he should. A father's first concern should be for his family, blood related or not."

A light smile twitched the corners of Sophitia's mouth upwards. "You know, I'm actually really happy to hear you say that."

With a mind for hidden meaning, something struck a chord with him. "Wait, you aren't about to tell me that you're pregnant, are you?"

A short laugh was the answer. "No, at least not yet. I'd like to say yes though."

He glanced back towards the crowd to make sure the conversation was still private. "You do remember what I told you about Overlords being sterile, or so close as to make no difference?"

The smile became melancholy, "I do, just…" Sophitia shook her head and deftly changed the topic. "Have you heard from Ivy yet?"

He turned to gaze up at the castle. "No, she mentioned that she had something personal she wanted to take care of, but she sounded rather pensive when we spoke. That was about thirty minutes ago." He set a hand on Sophitia's shoulder without really looking, changing the topic again. "You can keep these people in line while I go in and take down Nightmare? Don't answer that, I know you can." He leaned over and planted a light kiss on the blonde's cheek before taking a few steps towards the castle gates. "Give me an hour, and I'll be back out with Soul Edge held before me."

Sophitia called to him as he reached the castle gates, "And if the sword proves too much?"

He responded, "Then I shall exit bearing its broken remains."

Ostrhinesburg Castle: Entrance Hall

The Overlord pulled the large doors closed behind him, noting the symbolism of "no turning back," but that wasn't exactly a big piece of news. On the interior, he was immediately struck by the decidedly Evil décor. The black suits of armor that lined the side walls, spiked metal glistening in the low light like the claws of a feral beast. The red banners, only slightly disturbed by his entrance, fluttering by the tiniest of margins. Each banner bore the image of a single eye, wreathed in azure flames. Furthermore, he could smell the darkness lingering in the air, see it in the flickering torches, hear it in the utter silence. This atmosphere would have terrified most heroes; he on the other hand, found it exhilarating. So much so that he actually, for a moment, entertained the idea of moving his permanent home to this city. Then he remembered the memories his brides had shared with him of Ostrhinesburg, the pain that it had caused them, and he abandoned the idea without a sliver of regret.

He started forward, noting how his boots sank a good inch into the rich carpet covering the center section of the floor, deciding that even if he wasn't going to move in didn't mean he couldn't requisition a few choice pieces for the Dark Tower. On that topic, the rug he was walking on would be one of the first things to be taken. He could really use something to replace the fabric on the stairs back home, which was starting to get a bit mangy. The possibility that Sarah would accidentally incinerate the thing mere moments after installation occurred to him, and forced an exasperated sigh out of his lungs.

A sound in the gloom ahead of him brought reality crashing back to the fore and he had his sword out almost before he could blink. Truly, he was going off of the assumption that Nightmare was going to be a real threat compared to everyone else he had come across. That, and he wanted to think that Soul Edge would be a more powerful blade than what he already had. Anything else would just have been utterly anticlimactic considering all the trouble he'd gone through to get this far.

He knew that there had to be someone there, but he refused to utter the horribly trite "hello," so he fashioned his own query. "You, the one hiding in the dark. I know you're there, so step out before I immolate you on the spot." He was answered with silence. "Have it your way then, burn."

He threw a fireball into the gloom and there was a scant moment when, illuminated by the flames, he caught a glimpse of a face. It was female, almost childish in appearance, and the look in the eyes spoke of nothing but complete insanity. Once the image was gone, he was assaulted by the giggle of a maniac, confirming what his eyes had seen, both the childish and insane aspects of whoever was skulking in the dark.

He lit another fireball, holding it in his hand for extra illumination rather than throwing it as he stalked forward. "I'm only going to say this…"

There was a whooshing sound behind which he spun to meet with his blade, clashing with a large steel ring held in the hands of the girl he had briefly seen, now fully illuminated by the fireball held in his free hand. She was short, coming up no higher than his elbow, with pasty white skin and armored gloves that held onto the ring.

The girl's lips parted and unleashed the most grating of voices. "Goody, I found a new toy to play with, and he likes to talk back!"

His eyes narrowed, not liking the fact that he was being referred to as a toy, even if the one saying it was a lunatic. "I don't know what you are on, or what mental deficiency you are suffering from, but I do know one very important detail about you that makes all the difference."

The girl's jovial attitude did a complete flip, becoming hate filled and angry near-instantaneously. "What could that possibly be?"

He twisted his sword and stuck it into the middle of the ring blade, "This." With a quick pull he ripped both the ring blade and the girl's fingers away. "Your choice in weapons is absolutely idiotic." He flipped his grip on his sword and drove the point down through the top of her head, erasing the problem at its source. "Well, I guess I seem to be rather good at curing madness. That's two in a few months."

Chuckling, he cleaned the blood off of his blade and advanced still further into the dark, dousing the fireball and letting his burning gaze light the way.

Ostrhinesburg: Castle Courtyard

Sophitia stood in front of the castle gates, arms crossed, foot tapping the ground anxiously. She knew that barely any time had passed, but she still wanted to check in with Erasmus. It was an impulse she was doing her best to resist, but she was fighting her very nature, and not having much success.

She muttered under her breath. "I am not going to constantly worry about this. I am not."

A voice she knew well by now rang out behind her, snide as ever. "A futile proclamation if I ever heard one."

She turned her head and shot a half-hearted glare at the woman strutting across the courtyard flagstones. "Hello to you to Ivy, and for your information I am working on it." She put a hand to her forehead, warding off the feeble beginnings of a headache. "Just to keep me occupied, why don't you fill me in on this personal errand you had to run."

A wry smile pulled the corners of Ivy's mouth up. "Maybe I should just let you think on it for a few days."

An agonized groan escaped her. "Ivy, help me out here. Please?"

Something happened that surprised her; Ivy's smile vanished her eyes seemed to lose their focus. "Oh? And maybe I don't feel like talking about this for once."

She was quiet for a moment as she tried to remember why Ivy had been so set on charging into Ostrhinesburg earlier. "You, you fought your father didn't you? Cervantes?"

A well-worn scowl crossed Ivy's features, and the anger in her voice sounded forced. "Oh, gee, you think? The whole reason I wanted to be one of us that didn't get stuck with guard duty. Why wouldn't I have found him?"

A moment passed before she took the obvious guess. "You killed him, didn't you? I mean, that's what you were trying to do this whole time right?"

Ivy threw her hands up and started towards the edge of the moat. "Yes, you guessed it! All these years of chasing him, trying to avenge myself against him for everything he ever took from me. And I finally did it, I killed him. The stupid thing is that I feel bad about it!" Ivy plopped down on the stone rim right next to the drawbridge. "The man ruined my life, haunted my steps, and stole most of my soul. There is no reason for me to be sick to my stomach every time I think about it!"

She took a seat next to the other woman, folding her legs beneath her. "Well, he was your father. It stands to reason that there must have been at least one point in time where he knew your real mother, and loved her." She couldn't help but add, "Of course, there does exist the possibility that your real mother was just a tavern girl but…"

Ivy let out something halfway between a cough and a snarl. "Oh, and that just makes me feel so much better."

The realization hit her. "You buried him, didn't you?"

Ivy's attitude didn't change in the slightest. "Ha, what was left of him, which wasn't much."

She chose her words carefully, somewhat surprised that this conversation was actually happening. "So, you did right by the man that he might once have been. That and, well now you have a new life that he can't touch."

Ivy looked off into the distance for a long while, an angry look still plastered across her face. "Why exactly do I find myself opening up to you so damned often? First that little chat we had before you booted me into Evernight, which I must remind you that I am not holding against you. Then you get me to speak freely about my adoptive parents while we were waiting for Erasmus to get here, whom I haven't spoken of ever. Now I'm spilling my guts about how I feel over killing my father." Ivy shook her head. "Are you starting to borrow little speech tricks from Erasmus?"

Her left arm looped up and around the other woman's shoulder. "Maybe I am, maybe I am."

Ostrhinesburg Castle: Inner Reaches

The Overlord stalked forward, having long ago become fully accustomed to the darkness. In the near absence of light he could now see the very cracks in the stones beneath his feet. With that same sight he could see that the opulence had faded, but that was a reasonable thing to expect with any functional castle. Of course the downside was that his heavy footfalls echoed off the stone around him, loud enough to wake the dead in a conservative opinion. He took another step and froze, certain that he had heard something else besides the clang of his boots on the floor.

He glared down the passage where he was sure the extra sound had come from, hand hovering over the hilt of his sword. It momentarily occurred to him to reach out to Sophitia to see if anyone else had gone in after him, but knowing the blonde she would have been the one to contact him if someone had bulled through the formation out front.

He narrowed his eyes, willing the darkness to part. "Come now, it's a good day to die. I'm a sporting warrior, come on out and we can settle this man to man."

As soon as he uttered the last word a weight landed on his back, high near his neck. A blow glanced off of his shoulder, then further still off of his helmet. After recovering from the stagger he reached up and seized hold of the ambusher, throwing his attacker down the hall. What entered his vision was a grotesque mixture of reptile and man, something that stood on two feet, but was covered in scales from the tip of its long tail to the end of its horned head. Its roar was loud, but closer to the hiss of a serpent than the roar of a rock giant. Also, seemingly just to piss him off, the lizard stuck its tongue out at him.

He eyed the lizard's axe and shield while formulating a plan. "You know, I think Isabella would really like a pair of lizard-skin boots. Dye them the right color and they'd go perfectly with her favorite outfit." He drew his blade and began to edge his way forward. "I'll have to keep that in mind. Try and save as much of your hide as I can."

The lizard-man bound forward, utilizing all four limbs and the walls to make an erratic approach even more so. He placed his free hand on the pommel, ready to twist the blade around after intercepting the axe to disembowel his animalistic enemy; however, before he could do so the lizard stopped outside of sword range, tail lashing forward to loop around his left ankle. He was too heavy in his armor to be completely thrown down, but he did lose his balance. Taking advantage of that, his opponent pounced, toothed maw going for the narrow gap at his throat.

He brought his off hand up and grabbed the beast's incoming neck. "You know, some people might be into bestiality, but I sure as Hell am not."

He used his full strength to kick the lizard in the gizzard. The bone made an audible sound as it snapped, almost like a leg-sized tree breaking. Blood spewed from the thing's mouth, peppering the chest of his armor and his face.

He climbed to his feet, wiping at the blood with the hand not holding his sword; "Half man, half animal, all dead."

Ostrhinesburg: Castle courtyard

Ivy sat by the drawbridge, turned towards the crowd so she could watch the show of Taki and Hildegard bringing all of the troops in, Hildegard in particular. After being put on the spot by Erasmus about a day ago she had, well, for lack of a better word made a move on Sophitia and Taki. To say that it had gone badly was an understatement. Taki had just been dense and Sophitia had brushed her off with eyes the size of gold coins. But Hildegard, if she wanted to test her theory or whatever the hell it was, she couldn't ask for a better guinea pig that she could abuse with impunity. She had it in her head that Erasmus wouldn't mind, after all he hated her. What was the harm? Speaking of harm, and she hated to admit it, but spilling her guts to Sophitia had done the exact opposite of harm. It was slightly funny to her that Sophitia, whom she had often said was somewhat weak-willed, was the one holding her hand.

A fuss over on the other side of the courtyard drew her attention, and she let out a sigh before slowly climbing to her feet. "What sort of trouble could she possibly have gotten into now?"

As she picked her way across the corpse-strewn courtyard she noticed that there was someone else standing with Sophitia and Taki, other than the negligible former queen. The extra person was another woman, and from here it was hard to tell her apart from Sophitia. The realization brought an amused huff out of her when she identified the woman, or girl, as Sophitia's younger sister, Cassandra. Apparently at the same time Sophitia made the same revelation, and the shriek of unbridled joy was surprisingly uplifting.

Sophitia's weepy voice was easily audible, even where she was halfway across the courtyard. "I can't believe it's you! I thought you were dead!"

Cassandra's objection however, was even louder and spoken so fast that it was impossible to say when one sentence ended and another began. "What the hell are you doing? I have no idea who you are!"

Sophitia was pushed away, and her hurt was as palpable as getting shoved against a brick wall. "Wha-but-sis, don't you recognize me?"

Cassandra's face contorted with rage, and she started to reach for the weapons that someone had been stupid enough to leave on her. "You are NOT my sister. My sister was a good person. You are obviously Evil."

She muttered to herself. "I can't watch this anymore." She drew her blade and lashed out with it, snaring the younger Alexandra around the left ankle before giving the line a mighty yank. "Why don't you settle down and listen for a change?"

Sophitia knelt beside her sister, still not taking either sword or shield. "Please sis, our parents had a bakery, and until last year I was married to Rothion the blacksmith."

Cassandra started to shoot back. "Oh yeah, what about-"

Sophitia finished, "My two children, Pyrrah and Patralkos. Please do not make me relive that after I've worked so hard to come to terms with it."

Cassandra looked taken aback, and then absolutely ashamed. "By the gods sis, I am so sorry!"

The following teary-eyed embrace was enough to warm any heart, her own included. But she was already sufficiently bored which, along with a desire to take her mind off of her dead father, caused her to sashay over behind Hildegard and place her hands on the young woman's hips.

She whispered in Hildegard's ear. "What say I drag you off into a nice, quiet place and do certain unspeakable things to you?"

The former queen turned only her head. Fear glittering deep in her eyes. "What, but I thought-"

The display of fear made her feel much better, and a grin spread across her face. "I believe your job was not to let anyone else into the city. You failed that task, and that means I get to do with you what I will." She gave Hildegard a mighty shove towards one of the small, grey hamlets that comprised the majority of the city structure. "Just do as I say and you'll probably enjoy this as much as I will."

Ostrhinesburg Castle: Throne Room

The Overlord stopped walking while he examined the large double doors in front of him, noting that they were not in any way barred. It would seem that Nightmare was open to challengers so long as they made the effort of getting to him, or it, or whatever. Considering that Sophitia had told him Nightmare was basically Soul Edge itself given a metal shell for a body he was forced to wonder what it would take to kill such an entity. Would he be forced to resort to magic? Or would he be able to use his blade like he preferred?

He shook his head at the pointless musing. "No turning back now. Just get this over with and get out of here so the countries of the world can start falling like dominoes."

He kicked the door in and started to take a step forward, but pulled back before he plummeted into the wide crevice conveniently placed right behind the double doors. Apparently, Nightmare had a sense of humor. After all, how ignominious would it have been for him to come all this way and die from a simple fall into a pit?

He glanced up and took notice of the azure suit of armor sitting on the throne at the opposite end of the hall. "Absolutely brilliant, I'm stunned into silence by the scope of your comic genius." He vaulted over the crevice into the center of the throne room. "This confrontation has been a long time in the making, so why don't you save the both of us some time and get down here?"

Slowly, the Azure Knight stood from the throne and he noticed that about half of the figure was composed of the giant, glowing red blade that was held in the giant, mutated right hand/claw. He couldn't help but draw comparisons between Nightmare and the suits of armor that again lined the walls. Truly, it looked as though someone had taken one of the simple yet effective suits of armor and gone to town on it in a drunken rage with a sledgehammer, and then let a demon warp the metal still further. He'd dealt with demons before, so he was in a perfect position to make that judgment.

Nightmare stepped down to even footing with him, surprisingly short considering the hype. "You only hasten your own destruction!"

The voice was a raspy, guttural sound that simply conveyed the impression of burning. In fact, he could smell the slight odor of scorched metal on the air now that Nightmare had spoken, which essentially confirmed that Soul Edge was a demonic sword, a good start.

He drew his blade and held it at the ready. "Wouldn't you like to think so?" All Nightmare did was roar, which prompted a further response. "Tsk tsk, no sense of humor at all. If I weren't already going to kill you for the sword I would kill you for being such a burden on my ears."

Nightmare swung first, betraying two things about him, or itself. One, Nightmare was possessed of an almost berserker-level aggression, which could work either for or against him. Two, the gleaming red blade was significantly longer than his own sword, and the difference in length between their arms was negligible. That gave Nightmare the advantage at first glance, but strength hadn't yet been tested, or simple skill. With a deft twist of his blade he deflected Soul Edge off to one side, but Nightmare reacted instantly by rebounding and swinging in from the other side, which he could only avoid with a quick dash backwards.

He was forced to retreat again, and Nightmare started to taunt him. "Yes, that's it, cower in fear before me!"

He blocked a high, vertical strike and flatly responded. "That's my line." He pushed up on his sword and used the momentary lapse in Nightmare's balance to kick the azure armor in the chest. "Don't gloat unless you're winning, and at the moment neither of us are."

Nightmare skipped backwards and to the left, again attacking with the last two feet of Soul Edge, leaving the armor cleanly out of his reach again. "I have consumed thousands of souls, what makes you think you will be any different?"

He pressed the advantage, dashing forward and reaching the cross-guard of the red blade. "Because I don't exactly care what happens here so long as I walk out of Ostrhinesburg the only force of Evil left to consume the world, it is my unique privilege as an Overlord."

He nudged Soul Edge up with his left shoulder, noting with a mixture of approval and alarm that the red blade cleanly sliced off most of the decorative arcanium spines, before stabbing his weapon right through the open section of nightmare's armor. A long moment passed, and absolutely nothing happened.

Nightmare glanced down at the sword piercing the swirling vapor that comprised his midsection, and chuckled. "Ha ha, that tickles."

He silently cursed as Nightmare punched him in the face with the mutated right hand, followed quickly by a punch to the stomach strong enough to push some wind out of his lungs, which was again followed by a full body drop kick that put him on his back. Nightmare then tried to drive Soul Edge down into his stomach and finish him off, but a contortion of his spine and a back handed slap to the incoming blade kept him alive and gave him the time he needed to get back to his feet. Something else came to his attention from that exchange though, how Nightmare desperately stumbled after the red blade when he/it could easily have let go and pressed a good advantage. After a mental review, he realized that Nightmare never completely let go of the sword even once. Whether this was a weakness or not remained to be seen, but it was easily worth pursuing. After all, even if removing Soul Edge from Nightmare's grasp didn't end the duel it would at least make things monumentally easier.

He waited until Nightmare was about to throw a low, horizontal swing, and timed a short hop that put both of his feet on the wide blade, driving Nightmare to the ground as the Azure Knight again refused to let go of Soul Edge. He dove on the hand holding the red blade, brining his face mere inches from the eye set into the hilt. In that position, wrestling for the blade, he found himself projecting his will towards Soul Edge, pushing with his mind for the blade to submit. What happened made him unsure if he had been successful or not, because just when he felt he had enough torque to wrest the blade fully away from Nightmare he simply came away, Soul Edge grasped in both hands.

He held Soul Edge up in front of him in his right hand, staring into the eye of the sword. "Now, what-"

An explosion of orange light cut him off and he felt tendrils of Evil wrapping towards his mind with the speed and force of a hammer crashing down on an anvil.

Ostrhinesburg: Castle Courtyard

Sophitia held a hand across her heart, trying and failing over and over to calm herself down after the bona fide miracle that had just happened to her. Her sister was still alive, she didn't think there was any possible way she could have been luckier. She wanted to contact Erasmus and crow about her good fortune, but she retained the good sense to not interrupt him when he might be involved in a pitched duel with Nightmare. So she filled the time by, and there was no other way to say it, interrogating Cassandra as to her whereabouts over this last year. Even as she heard though, she really didn't care about the little details. She was just happy that Cassandra was here, even if their reunion had been a bit rocky.

Cassandra was finishing the story, even though she hadn't been listening for most of it. "… and when I heard that rumor about you, I just had to see for myself." Cassandra hesitated for a moment, an out of character event. "Sis, I'm sorry about how I reacted when-"

She waved off the apology. "I know it was a hard thing to swallow all at once. Worse than the idea I had to deal with maybe when I first met Erasmus."

At the mention of her husband, Cassandra immediately became uncomfortable. "Right, sis, about this guy, are you, sure that you can trust him?"

She smiled and shook her head. "Cassandra, he's saved my life multiple times already, going far out of his way to do so. I trust him more than I've ever trusted anyone." She turned her gaze towards the castle gates. "No offence sis, but I find it hard to regret anything so far, no matter how much it hurt, because my life brought me here."

Before Cassandra could form an answer the gates of the castle cracked open, and she shot up without a thought to be the first one waiting for her husband as he exited with his prize. She ran to the end of the drawbridge, and froze, horror chilling her to the bone. There could be no doubt that the figure exiting the castle was Erasmus, his height, build, and armor were unmistakable. But there was a black haze in the air around him, more intense than ever, visible until it tapered off about a foot away from him. His eyes glowed red, a far deeper red than blood, a red so deep it felt like staring would drag you down into the Infernal Abyss. Completing the terrifying image, Soul Edge gleamed in Erasmus's right hand. To her, the eye looked astonishingly smug, mocking her with the culmination of a nightmarish reality.

She just fell to her knees, letting her sword fall from her grip, knowing that there was no point in trying to fight even if she had been able to bring her weapon to bear on the man she loved. Soul Edge, with The Overlord as it's puppet, would be completely unstoppable. An unmistakable shadow fell upon her, and she looked up into the blazing eyes hope long abandoning her. She closed her eyes, waiting to feel the bite of the crimson blade, almost inviting it.

A long moment of darkness passed, and a voice interjected itself. "Sophitia? Sorry if the new look is a bit disconcerting, but some things just can't be avoided."

Her eyes snapped open so fast that it almost hurt. "What, but I thought-"

As oftentimes happened, The Overlord's free hand darted forward and planted an index finger across her lips. "Darling, for once I understand your concerns. Soul Edge attempted to invade my mind when I pried it from Nightmare's grasp, but as should be obvious from my not attempting to murder all of you, he failed."

She started to respond, "I couldn't care less about the sword I'm just happy you're…" She stopped as the last few words spoken registered. "Wait, did you just call Soul Edge a 'he?"

Erasmus brought the object of discussion up into view. "Well, given the voice he uses to speak with me I'd be quite hard pressed to think of him as a female."

As if in response, a voice floated into the air that seemed to be made of sheer malice. "Not to mention that I would despise being referred to as feminine in any way."

She deigned to ignore the Evil sword and focus on happier news. To that end she took hold of the hand not clasped around Soul Edge. "Well, never mind that. I have someone you simply must meet."

Erasmus followed, and she could tell that he was essentially allowing himself to be led by the amused lilt in his voice. "So darling, what might be the nature of this social call? Business or pleasure?"

Having had her fears, or rather nightmares averted a peal of laughter burst out of her mouth. "A bit of both now that you mention it." She spotted Cassandra and eagerly waved her younger sister over. "Cassandra, this is my husband, Overlord Erasmus Kilgore. Erasmus, this is my sister, Cassandra."

Erasmus extended a hand, which took Cassandra a moment to accept. Considering her sister, that moment was an eternity. But from the "handshake" she could tell that Cassandra was being her usual aggressive self and trying to force some show of weakness from Erasmus. She loved her sister, but from what she already knew Cassandra was wasting her time. Still, it was rather funny to watch.

The voice of The Overlord in her head commanded her attention. "Just between you and me for now, that title you addressed me by might have to be amended some time in the future. I hesitate to use the term earth-shattering, but it fits with the piece of knowledge I had pop into my head moments ago." There was a pause during which Erasmus said something aloud that she didn't quite hear before he started speaking to her mind again. "I'm sure you recall that giant crown mounted on the wall above my bed, you've gazed up at it often enough. That is the crown of The Forgotten God, the god that was cursed so that no mortal could remember his name. The Evil god that I killed." Erasmus looked skyward for quite some time, before speaking aloud again. "And I remember his name, it was _."

Instead of a word, a harsh buzz filled her ears right after Erasmus spoke the word "was" and dissipated immediately. "Wait, what, what was the last thing you said?"

The Overlord nodded knowingly. "Just didn't hear, right? A bit of selective deafness? I know the feeling. Every time the Forgotten God tried to scream his name at me."

Cassandra screeched, "What in the name of Hera are you talking about?"

Erasmus turned towards her sister. "Ah, right, sorry about that. Sophitia and I have a rather special connection. If she is willing she can hear my thoughts, and vice versa." He paused and an amused ring entered his voice. "That doesn't disturb you, I hope? That your sister and two other women are-"

The Overlord's head snapped up and Soul Edge whipped forward, swatting Cassandra with the broadside of the blade before clashing with a crystalline blue sword.

Ostrhinesburg: Castle Courtyard

The Overlord glared daggers at the young man with blonde hair that had attempted a sneak attack on him, using Cassandra's body as a brief human shield. He regretted that he had struck Sophitia's sister, but it was either that or watch the girl get impaled upon the glowing blade he was fighting against. His fresh opponent was covered from toe to neck in what looked like ice, but smelled strongly of holy energy. Yet the smell had an undertone of darkness to it, not altogether different from Soul Edge in point of fact. A scar marred the face of the young man, crossing over one eye. He doubted that the mark hindered vision at all so it was a negligible concern.

Soul Edge spoke in his head, answering questions before he could ask them. "Soul Calibur, the blade created by Algol time immemorial from a piece of myself to be my undoing. As you have no doubt noticed though, she is possessed of the Hero King's ambition just as I am. The boy is Siegfried, my former host. A pathetic example of the already weak human race."

He threw a heavy vertical slash, adapting his own style to accommodate the larger weapon, before responding in kind. "So you could technically call Soul Calibur your daughter? Ironic isn't it, that your own family is trying to kill you?"

He parried an incoming thrust and answered with one of his own, connecting with Siegfried's left shoulder and cracking the crystal. After a few more exchanges he boiled the confrontation down in his head, as always taking inventory of which fighter held the advantages. Soul Edge and Soul Calibur were roughly the same length, so the reach edge was moot. Although he did note that Siegfried had a penchant for attempting to elongate his reach momentarily with exceptionally long stabs that left the young man open. The strength edge was a no contest victory for him, as usual, but his opponent seemed to dislike real close confrontations, something he could exploit. When it came to speed, he was again the winner, as it was clear Soul Calibur's weight was slowing Siegfried's swings down. In contrast, Soul Edge felt as light as a feather duster, even though the demonic blade probably weighed as much as Sophitia's whole body. Of course, he was guessing on that because his First Mistress had never actually told him what she weighed.

He held Soul Edge flat against his back, intercepting another slash before bringing his free elbow up and smashing it against Siegfried's nose, "Bada bing."

Most people would have staggered backwards, which Siegfried did, but the young man did so without dropping Soul Calibur to clutch at his nose. That was assuming though that he could let go of the "holy" sword even if he wanted to. Considering that Soul Edge had tried to control him, and Soul Calibur was simply born of a splinter, he found himself wondering which opponent was the actual wielder.

He took advantage of the lull to try and talk the boy down. "Come now Siegfried, certainly you can tell by now that you are grossly out of your league? Why don't you just drop that sword and walk out of here with your life intact?"

Even though his voice was slightly distorted by the broken nose, which was mending itself at a snail's pace, Siegfried's words were still clear. "I can't do that. My redemption lies in destroying that infernal sword you hold."

He held the so called Infernal blade before him in the ready position. "Redemption is it? What a terribly trite reason for getting yourself killed." At the same time, he mentally shot an aside to Taki. "If you know what he's talking about, I'd appreciate you filling me in. The shock value just might be enough to get him to drop his guard."

His third wife did so while Siegfried stalked around him, crystal blade held straight out. "You're even worse than Nightmare, you know that? Nightmare was dangerous but he was really a mindless, extremely violent brute. You make plans, you organize the forces of Evil to rape their way across the land-"

His eyes narrowed and he held up a hand. "Stop right there before you dig your own grave, boy. You seem to have a penchant for extremely poor choice in words, and I will tell you why. First, I have never, nor will I ever rape anyone or anything. Conquest is not the same thing, not even remotely. Second, you speak of the organization as if it were a bad thing. Take Wolfkrone, the only kingdom I have conquered thus far, it has never been more prosperous. Granted I killed quite a few people to make it that way, but as the saying goes, you can't make an omelette without breaking a few eggs. I will further admit that I do enjoy the killing quite a bit, but I know how to switch that bloodlust off." He smiled, ready to use the "shock factor" that he had mentioned to Taki. "Really, boy, why don't you abandon this pointless quest and do something your father would actually be proud of?"

Shock was written into every muscle on Siegfried's face. "What, how do you know about-"

He ignored the verbal fumbling and drove his point home. "I don't know about you, but if I had a son I wouldn't want him to throw his life away in a futile quest for revenge." He waited until just after Siegfried had drawn in the breath to object before sharply cutting the boy off. "And yes, what you are seeking is revenge, not redemption. And I'll tell you the difference; redemption involves the wronged party forgiving the one doing the wrong. Obviously, in your case, the ones you have wronged are beyond caring."

For a moment, he saw the resolve in Siegfried's eyes waver, but a new voice entered the conversation, a female one with a harsh, crystalline edge to it. "No! I will not allow you to corrupt him as you have done to so many."

Moderately intrigued, he posed a question. "And, how exactly do you propose to stop me? It's quite clear that your puppet is incapable of doing the deed without copious amounts of assistance. Do you really think you can muster such strength?"

He did not receive a verbal answer. Instead, the dull sheen covering the length of Soul Calibur's blade brightened to a painful intensity, so bright that he almost staggered backwards from surprise. During that moment, from out of the newly created orb of brilliance, flashed the blade of Soul Calibur which he was barely able to intercept due to an increase in speed and his near blindness. What happened was quite obvious, Soul Calibur had assumed complete control over Siegfried and was therefore able to utilize its maximum potential.

In response to that thought Soul Edge whispered in his mind. "I could, you know, even the playing field if you so choose."

He answered out loud as he frantically parried, trying to find a way to take back the initiative. "At the cost of my will and self-control? You must think me an idiot."

A flicker of movement within the orb drew his eye, and he threw all his weight behind a stab at the bit of movement. After a moment, time seemed to slow as he felt something pressing up against his chest. He looked down, and it slowly dawned upon him that he had been impaled though his belly, missing his spine by scant inches. It wasn't so much pain as it was disbelief, that after all of this… He felt Soul Calibur slide out, dimly aware that another blow had taken Soul Edge from his grasp, and fell backwards.

Against the backdrop of Sophitia's mortified screams he heard Soul Calibur's voice speaking with Siegfried's mouth. "First you, then that corrupted Greek, then everyone else you have twisted. Once you are finished I will finally be able to purify the world." And just as an insult, a tiny smirk played across Siegfried's glowing visage.

Faced with imminent defeat, not to mention death, his gaze fell to stare at the wound in his abdomen. His ears heard nothing, but his mind was bombarded by both the pleas and commands of his wives. Isabella and Setsuka commanded him to rise, although the latter did so rather timidly. Sophitia and Taki begged him to do the same, and in the back of his mind he was touched that Taki would willingly drop her emotional barrier without any prodding. He looked up and saw the body of Siegfried lift Soul Calibur high, point first, to drive the glittering sword through his heart.

The thought though, the thought of failure, as it flitted mockingly through his mind it sparked something contrary, his pride, his anger, and in response to the direct threat, his love for his brides. The pain was already faint, but as his fury spiked it was blocked out altogether. A rumbling growl built in his lungs, till it felt as though the stone beneath him was vibrating.

His gaze lifted, and his eyes locked on to the point of the crystal sword. He muttered to himself, "Class, is now in session."

With an almost feral cry Siegfried's possessed body drove Soul Calibur down with a force comparable to Rock Adams, but his hands darted forward and clapped together, stopping the holy sword cold. The look of shock on the possessed boy's face was priceless, and far more than was needed to keep him going.

His eyes narrowed to slits as they bore into Siegfried's. "Lesson number one, don't fuck with an Overlord!" He gathered his feet beneath him, pushing against the stone, all the while holding his gaze. "Lesson number two, do not, ever, fuck with an Overlord!" He slowly stood, mostly for dramatic effect even though it caused his wound to scream at him even through the haze of his rage. "Lesson number three, remember lessons one and two!" He gave a mighty heave, and tore Soul Calibur from Siegfried's grasp, drawing his arcanium sword in the same motion, "Class dismissed!"

Applying so much force that the word overkill was an understatement he rammed his sword into the young man so hard that his fist went clean through Siegfried's torso. Of course that didn't stop him from pulling back just enough to allow him to rip the young man apart seven different ways in a bloody frenzy. When he was done, he planted his blade in Siegfried's severed skull, considering it the end of an era in his life, and full knowing that the blade would never move again unless he or someone else possessed of utterly inhuman strength decided to claim it.

He glanced towards where Soul Edge had flown when struck from his grasp and simply held out his hand. Soul Edge flew through the air to him like it belonged, but considering who he was it probably did. Then he glanced around at the shocked faces of the people around him, drinking in their surprise, their admiration, and their fear. Of course, there were three faces present that he actually wanted to see, four if he counted Cassandra. He didn't have to wait long, because almost as if the crowd sensed his intentions it parted. To his considerable surprise, Taki was the first one to reach him, and though her eyes were all black, he could now see subtle differences, shades of black, such as the ebony black of her irises compared to the coal black of her pupils.

His third wife glared up at him, glancing down at the closed wound in his stomach only once. "Don't you ever scare me like that again, understand?"

A wolfish grin pulled the corners of his mouth up. "Oh I seriously will endeavor to achieve that. After all, near-death experiences are not something I relish in any way."

His glibness threw Taki off. "Ah, I know that but…" She trailed off without intervention.

He whispered in her ear. "What say we continue this conversation away from prying ears eh?"

Taki nodded once before looking off to the right. "One last thing, what are we going to do about that?"

He followed Taki's gaze to where Soul Calibur was now speared into a wall, wailing at the top of her non-existent lungs, exhorting the soldiers nearby to fight the Evil power. Luckily for them, none of his soldiers were taking the offer of sacrificing their wills to have the privilege of dying on the end of Soul Edge.

He chuckled, low and long. "Oh don't you worry about that. I've got something special in mind for our latest war prize." He crossed the distance in three strides and pulled Soul Calibur from the wall, mentally beating the sword into submission the moment his hand touched the hilt. "I'm sure that if the Tower Heart felt emotion it would enjoy the act of corrupting this fragile construction." He turned to address the assembled soldiers. "Men, return to Wolfkrone keep. Once you arrive you will have three days to do what you will, but once those three days are up we march on the world."

There was a cry of "All hail the Overlord" but he was too busy ushering his brides through a portal home to really care. Before he followed though, he cast one long glance towards the horizon, smiling to himself. "Say what you will of my methods, but The Forgotten God himself, Ubelithon, wouldn't even be a threat to me anymore. Look out world, the God of Evil has arisen again."

Dark Tower: Throne Room

Erasmus topped the last step up from the Spawning Pits, gleefully replaying the memory of watching Soul Calibur get struck by that first bolt of raw Evil. He had battered down the sword's psychic barriers himself, so he knew that that first bolt had made it all the way to the holy weapon's core. It didn't matter now if Soul Calibur rallied her mind and fought back, the corruption would spread like the bleeding from a pinprick, slowly.

Sophitia was waiting for him by the stairs, and had traded her usual attire for a white nightdress that stopped just above her knees. "No problems I hope."

He let his eyes wander, tracing the lines of Sophitia's body from rote memory. "Of course not, Soul Calibur is in as much psychic agony as possible. It may take several years to finish, but the corruption is started."

His First Mistress gestured to the red hilt sticking up over his right shoulder. "And him? No more possession attempts?"

His left hand snaked down to the small of Sophitia's back, and then he proceeded to lead the Greek upstairs. "No, I think he's gotten used to the idea that he's my personal murder machine from now on."

The blonde turned her head to look at him. "Which should be quite a long time, right?"

At the top of the stairs, which wasn't far, he answered. "Well, it should be. Unless the whole God thing goes to my head and makes me stupid." He made a rather grandiose gesture towards Sophitia's room, "Shall we, my most darling of damsels?"

A tiny glint appeared in the blonde's eyes. "Actually, why don't we use your room this time?"

The look she gave him set his blood to boil, in a very good way. "Hmm, I like where this is going. Lead on."

Sophitia slowly sashayed towards his door, before flashing him a winning smile and vanishing inside.

He made to follow, but as his hand fell upon the door Soul Edge spoke in his mind. "Are you truly going to force me to bear witness to this perversion?"

He responded in kind, "You have an eye, close it. But if it makes you feel better I could leave you in the hallway. Fair warning though, Sarah is on cleaning duty right now and she's not exactly the most dexterous individual with that mop. You're liable to get knocked over and covered in scummy water."

Soul Edge chose quickly. "Then it seems I have no choice but to suffer through your vices of the flesh."

The minor argument won, he again set a hand on the door to push it inwards, and when he did the sight to greet his eyes made him instantly mutter to himself. "Dear diary, jackpot."

Isabella was seated on the edge of his bed, top half fully on display. "About time, I thought we were going to be old and grey by the time you finished tormenting that holy weapon."

A devious grin spread across his lips as he removed his helmet and set it on the dresser. "Now, to what do I owe this, exquisite, pleasure?"

Sophitia leaned back against the headboard, teasing him with the bed sheet. "Oh, you know, just a small celebration. You are going to be the king of the world after all."

He slowly turned his gaze from Sophitia, to Isabella, to Taki, and finally to Setsuka, before speaking. "Well, in that case I suppose I have only one thing to say." He removed Soul Edge from his back and leaned it up against the dresser, eye facing away from the bed. "Hail to the King, baby!"