Chapter 20: Coming to an End
Avalon waited for the other to leave before he climbed downstairs to get some breakfast. Let's just say that he had a surprisingly healthy appetite. No one dared to sit beside him at the booth and Avalon was content to sit alone. After finishing, he went back upstairs to gather his sword. Kazan was already prepared when Avalon came to him and they quickly moved out.
"You know, if I didn't know any better I'd say Maya and Lang just wanted to spend some time together," Kazan said casually to Avalon.
"At a time like this? Maybe they had something of importance to deal with."
"You really believe that? You ever heard of absence makes the heart grow fonder?"
"Probably not. The fact is, they haven't seen each other in eleven years. Who knows what kind of feelings could have sparked since then? They were rather like brother and sister back then."
"Are you trying to tell me that if two people like each other as friends and separate for a while, when they meet each other they'll love each other? Does that really work?"
"I mean, it doesn't happen all the time and it's not supposed to be intentional."
"But how would you know if that's the case?"
Kazan sighed, "Live long enough and you just know by experience."
"So they…love each other?"
"I wouldn't be surprised."
Avalon thought of all the exchanges between Lang and Maya and couldn't see how one could sense any love with that.
"I must have completely missed something."
"No, no, it's alright. I could just be seeing things."
"Kazan, how can you tell when two people are in love? Do they always start as friends?"
"Well, not always, but it's always a good thing to start with that. Where is all this coming from?"
"I don't know. I was only curious. Would it be strange if someone says that they love everyone?"
"Sure, you could love everyone in a general sense."
"No, like in a sense that you would do anything for them. As in, if given the chance to help everyone at once, that person would gladly do it."
"Few people are able to love others in such a way. It's too much work and too little reward. In fact, I've never met such a person."
"Ah. Isn't that the same kind of love you were talking about before?"
"Not exactly. I don't think it's quite that intimate."
"You wouldn't by any chance be referring to yourself, would you?" Kazan asked.
They hadn't stopped talking since they had moved out of Karavia's sight and Kazan found that he didn't mind such a thing at all. Talking to someone like Avalon felt more like an honor, but Kazan couldn't quite place the reason why. Hadn't he been his arch nemesis once upon a time? The entire time, however, he had been in awe of his power and majesty. His speech had always been deliberate and commanding and his demeanor equally so. Could such a man even be willing to speak to Kazan, a lowly warrior who had done nothing more but fight for the majority of his life?
Now as Avalon paused before Kazan's rather personal question, Kazan wondered the same thing.
"It's alright you don't—
"The truth is, yes, I was referring to myself, but I hardly know anything of the very concept of love and here I am supposing such things of myself."
"Well, that's why you brought up this whole conversation, isn't it? You wanted another opinion. Let me tell you, Avalon, no one knows the exact definition of love because it can come in many forms and can be shown in a plethora of ways."
"And how would you know if you felt love?"
Kazan smiled then, "You'd just know. It's just something your heart tells you."
"Your heart? Well, no wonder there's no definite explanation for it. Love depends on such a wishy-washy thing as that. Couldn't there be something more concrete?"
"More concrete?" Kazan laughed, "Take it or leave it—that's all we have for detection."
"Kazan, you seem to have a sixth sense about this. Can you sense it…about me?"
Kazan was caught a little off guard by this. Even when he gathered his wits, it took him a while to figure out an answer and even then, how he would say it. Avalon noticed the other deep in thought so he did not disturb the other.
"Well, it certainly hasn't been hate I've been sensing from you recently. But love is such a strong word. The problem is, I can't ever read you so I'm just going off of actions. Could you tell me?—what exactly do you think about everyone else?"
"It's rather odd," Avalon said steadily, "Before, I felt nothing at all but now even without speaking to a specific person I feel attached—concerned for their wellbeing. And I feel…" Avalon paused as he searched for the perfect word, but he ended up with a phrase, "I feel as if anyone were to die before me, I'd feel immensely sad."
Just from looking at him, Kazan couldn't tell if the words he spoke were actually true. Could a man who always wore such steely eyes and expressions really at the same time be so soft and caring? Appearances weren't everything.
"It does sound a lot like love, but at the same time, it could be pity, sympathy or even empathy. Just remember, no one can tell you what's really in your heart besides yourself."
Avalon considered what the other said and then nodded, "I understand."
Kazan might have said something else, but suddenly he became aware of a nearby danger.
"Avalon, prepare yourself," Kazan said quickly.
Avalon already had his blade out even as Kazan spoke and held it in the only attack stance that he had retained from Kazan's teachings.
"Kazan, look in the distance, there's Lang and Maya."
It was a testament to how far Avalon could see. Kazan could make out nothing at all.
"I think I'll just trust your judgment. Maybe they'll come to our aid."
"Lang appears to be injured and Maya is trying to heal him."
"Injured?" Kazan asked worried, "What could possibly do that sort of thing to him?"
The Gold Rock Golem despite its size seemed to come out of nowhere. A great wind had built up around them and the Golem seemed nearly on top of them as the dust picked up from the wind died down enough for better visibility.
A mere look from Avalon would not stave off the rock golem if he had decided to use such things against it. Its large arm slammed into the ground and the two of them scattered.
"All we can do is keep hitting him until he decides to die!" Kazan shouted to Avalon who looked fairly shaken.
Glancing down at his puny sword, Avalon wondered if it would even leave a scratch. He rushed forward nonetheless and struck out at the Golem's leg. To his surprise, the Golem stumbled back a little, but now its attention was on him. Kazan from the other side used one of his Super Arts to further daze the creature. Avalon was hacking away in an up, down, left, right, fashion until he saw its large arm rising up. He moved away a good amount of distance, but not before Kazan came out of nowhere with his Hyper Art at mid-drop of the Golem's arm and the Golem was finally defeated.
Avalon fumbled his sword back into its sheath with relief. Kazan looked back at the other with a half-smile.
"Looks like you're turning into a regular swordsman."
"If you weren't here, I would have been forced to retreat. I am no swordsman."
"You have to start somewhere and certainly you're not supposed to be perfect. The fact that you were able to attack is enough."
"I suppose. We better get to Maya and Lang."
The two of them quickened their pace to a run and made short time with the distance they needed to cover. They saw a rather dazed Lang and a very concerned looking Maya.
"What great timing," Maya said to the two, "We were forced to retreat from that Golem once Lang couldn't attack any longer."
"What happened exactly?" Kazan asked.
"Well, I'm not entirely sure," Maya answered, "The Golem got the better of us."
Lang was strangely quiet with his head bowed and his hands covering his face.
"There was no excuse," Lang said shakily, "It was my fault really. I could easily take care of a Golem so I had decided to finish him quickly with a simply Super Art, but something distracted me right before I unleashed it and I was at the mercy of that creature. I couldn't attack because…because I didn't know what would happen if I did."
Slowly, Lang took his hand from his face and looked up at them and suddenly everything made sense. Both Maya and Kazan were caught off guard by his demon-like eyes that seemed to glare at them.
"Lang, your eyes," Maya said cautiously.
But just as suddenly as they had appeared, they were changed back to its previous state.
"What are you talking about?" Lang asked with a hint of nervousness.
Maya was utterly speechless and that did little to calm Lang's mood.
"Lang, remember what I warned you about before at Yuno," Avalon asked.
"That?" Lang asked surprised, "It can't be true—
"Even you must've sensed the sudden increase in power or else you would not have stopped yourself," Avalon interrupted.
"I have no idea why I did that. It was stupid. I felt no increase. It's just I had this feeling that something was wrong."
"Hold on to that," Avalon said, "Just then, you experienced an exponential increase in power. Had you not stopped yourself, you might have taken out the nearby village. Swords enhance one's power which is why I never used it. A good unfocused swipe from your sword would wipe one-fourth of the entire world. Do you understand now the sheer magnitude of this kind of strength?"
Lang nodded slowly with an astonished expression, "I understand."
Lang enjoyed using his sword, but he feared even to handle it if such a thing was true. How would he even be able to fight?
"Did you guys make it to Tanza?" Kazan asked.
"Yeah, we did. Maybe later you should visit—they've really rebuilt over there," Lang answered.
"Perhaps I will later if all goes well. Any signs of Igohl and Dein?"
Lang shook his head, "There's no evidence that they were even there, someone would've noticed and we asked around. Avalon?"
Avalon was already gazing off in a different direction than Tanza. "They may not have planned on going to Tanza. Perhaps they sought a more quiet location where Igohl could finally train Dein."
"The Thunder Stone Mine?" Lang asked.
"If it is in that direction," Avalon pointed.
"That sounds like the perfect place if Igohl wanted privacy," Kazan said thoughtfully.
Much to Maya's relief, Avalon's condition had improved. He didn't seem nearly as fragile and weak. It was all for the best. He had to be strong if he wanted to take on Igohl. If anything, it seemed as if Igohl only responded to authority. The stronger Avalon seemed the more likely Igohl would listen.
The party traveled with added fervor now. With Avalon's direction, they felt as if they were finally reaching the end of their travels. As night cast down, they set up camp to rest and they were off again at the crack of dawn.
Kazan wasn't quite sure where this renewed energy came from, but it was infectious. They reached their destination in record time, but their mood seemed to change a little.
Now being completely quiet was the rule at they hoped to sneak up on their quarry. They needn't go too far. In the first clearing they saw, Igohl and Dein could be discerned. The group hid behind a corner and talked in extremely quiet tones.
"I should go forth first," Avalon said, "It wouldn't be too much of a stretch that I traveled alone to get here. If the situation begins to look impossible, Lang, you know what to do."
Lang nodded, "Perfectly."
Maya looked from Lang to Avalon in confusion, "What are you guys talking about? What are you going to do? Kazan?"
"I have no idea," Kazan admitted, "But I'm sure it's something that can better the situation."
"Kazan is right," Lang said, "You and Kazan will be back up. If you see that even I cannot handle things, support me."
The two nodded affirmatively.
"Alright," Avalon said taking a deep breath
Before anymore comments, Avalon stood up and stepped around the corner quite noisily so his presence would be made obvious.
"Ah, it's Avalon come to crash our training party. Dein, stand back for a moment, this shouldn't take long."
Dein seemed not only pale and shrunken, but quite exhausted beyond belief. He was glad for the interruption.
"Come to try to convince me again? Where are your so-called friends?"
"Igohl, I'm through with this game of cat and mouse. I'm tired of having to chase you. This ends here."
"Oh does it? And who says I ever want to rejoin you? What if I never do, will you continue to seek me out?"
"There will be no continuation. I said that this was the end."
"Ah, so direct. Will you force me?"
"No, you have to come of your own freewill. Really, it isn't a hard choice. Return to the place where you belong."
"With you?" Igohl laughed, "Any fool spirit could take my place—
"No, it must be you no matter what. You are the only one."
"You make it sound so exclusive."
"Igohl, aren't you aware? There are some places that belong to those for whom they have been prepared. This is one of them. I do not seek you out simply for my own desperation or need—it is for this reason. I will show you a world which you have never seen before."
Igohl seemed entranced as he approached the other. "What does that mean when you say that?"
"You will see once you join with me."
Igohl noticed Avalon's determined gaze—the one that drew him forth. Dein was nothing like this, Igohl realized. Dein's gaze never sent shivers through him or demanded anything from him. The thought of Dein's weakening conditions pushed Igohl further away. Here was a strong individual before him demanding his audience—it was oddly alluring.
To Avalon surprise, he felt their ties strengthening once again, but he still felt Dein's connection.
"Avalon, you've made a compelling argument, but there's still something I don't trust. You have your 'friends' and they seem to have taken mercy on you. Who do you owe your allegiance to?"
Still Avalon felt their bond growing once again and he felt the power from before. He began to feel more like himself.
"I think the answer is obvious," Avalon responded.
Even Igohl began to feel more like himself. Igohl couldn't dispute the fact that they were meant for each other, but something was still off.
"Avalon, you've changed. I can feel it."
"Then feel the full extent of it."
"What has happened?"
"Weren't you there with me as well when I was resurrected?"
"That feeling!" Igohl spat, "You've given into it."
"Experience it for yourself. I want to give you access."
"Igohl, don't be so rash—
The separation was quick and jarring for both of them and an old wound opened once again in Avalon's soul. This time the pain was far worse. He could no longer stand as he fell down completely. All he could do was let things take its course. His body cringed involuntarily and his hand grabbed his chest without a second thought.
"Just as I thought, a weak man."
Avalon couldn't speak as his teeth were gritted together in an excruciating pain. It was then when Lang finally decided to make his appearance.
"I really didn't want to do this, but I guess I have to."
Igohl looked towards the new voice with little surprise. "Do what, you weakling?"
"L-Lang, wh-why is he still alive!" Dein cried out.
"Quiet you fool, I'll soon take care of him again if need be!"
"I will kill you," Lang said plainly.
"No!" Maya shouted in the distance.
Already, Lang could hear her running towards him.
"No! You can't! You just can't!"
"Maya, stay out of this," Lang declared looking at her approaching figure.
Maya stood a few inches away from him, but could do nothing to stop Lang's assault on Igohl. It seemed foolhardy at first, but Lang was truly holding his own against the spirit. Maya at once ran over to the writhing Avalon. With her origin, she healed him to the best of her ability and soon his pain subsided. He lay in a pitiful sprawl as he labored to breathe in the life-giving air around him.
"Igohl…" Avalon moaned quietly, "You mustn't….deny me…You'll die…"
"Avalon," Maya spoke up, "It's okay, I'm here."
His eyes began to search for her. When he turned on his back, he finally got view of her.
"Maya," he said steadily.
"There was nothing you could do. I told Lang to do this for me if all else failed. You understand. This is the only way."
"You should've told me I would have—
Avalon flinched a little as Lang's sword threw a damaging blow at Igohl. He could feel Lang's attack and he knew Igohl couldn't handle much more.
"Let's stop this," Maya tried to persuade him, "All this does is bring more pain. Nobody wants you to die. Nobody wants you to sacrifice yourself."
"But I have to."
He flinched once again.
"Tell Ms. Henry that she is beautiful and perfect in every way—do not change anything. Tell her that life is precious and it should never be thrown away not even for my sake. And lastly tell her that if there was a place she always wanted to visit to know that there is nothing stopping her from going there."
"Alright, Avalon, I'll tell her that."
"I'm grateful to have been your friend."
There was a sudden explosion of white light as Lang dealt the finishing blow and everyone had to cover their eyes. When Maya was able to see again, she immediately checked Avalon's pulse. To her great amazement, it still existed only his eyes were closed and it seemed like he was asleep.
"Avalon," Maya said cautiously as she began to nudge him. "Avalon, please wake up, it's over. Please."
She was shaking him frantically then and quickly checked his pulse again. It was still there pumping at a good rate.
"Maya that's enough," Kazan said.
Startled, Maya looked up at Lang and Kazan who had soon reached her location.
"What's done is done," Lang said, "He should die soon."
"Easy for you to say," Maya accused Lang, "You hardly cared about him in the first place."
"That…may be true, but Avalon obviously wanted it this way."
Maya checked his pulse again and she still yet felt it. "Why won't you wake up?"
"His origin no longer exists, Maya—
"He still has a pulse," Maya interrupted Lang, "So he can't be dead."
"What," Lang said surprised, "You mean…"
A heavy silence seemed to fall on the group.
"We can't leave him here if he's still breathing," Kazan said finally.
"He must be…in a coma," Maya said quietly.
Dein had all but been forgotten as they discussed Avalon's condition. It was Lang who came over to the other to assist him. He was quite resistant to Lang and utterly out of his mind especially since he simply couldn't believe he was alive. Lang was forced to knock him out and drag him away. In the end, he had done what he had set out to do. Even as Avalon lay unconscious and completely ignorant to the world, Dein was finally made safe.
Life with its obvious and less than obvious twists may seem to the average person as completely random. Some might even believe that life moves on in an eternal, pointless direction where only chaos is the true determinant of how things should be. What if that reasoning is wrong?
Seemingly random lives and events affect one another. As one man dies another man lives. Invisible strings weave our interconnected lives in a beautiful tapestry even as our freewill prevails. As a soul is born into the world, he too has a purpose.
A life was saved on this day and another held exclusively in suspension. Time continues as it always has. What shall the Weaver weave?