100 Theme Challenge
Character(s): Credo, Sanctus, Nero
Credo grunted in recognition every time he flipped over a file that he remembered distinctly. Thumbing through the stack of papers on his desk, the knight was making an effort to finish some of the paperwork he had let collect throughout the week. None of it was terribly significant. Mostly, there were just permissive documents to be signed. A convent on the mainland had asked if they could send a group of missionaries to assist the hospital. Fortuna boasted a lot of things, but they were humbled when it came to their medical facility. It was functional but very outdated and in need of many renovations. Credo hummed in confirmation, grabbing his quill from the bottle nearby to scratch his name onto the paper in his always elegant script. However, it would be at that exact moment that a messenger boy, a low-ranking knight in training, would burst into his office without so much as a single knock.
Credo rolled his eyes in irritation when the boy was finally revealed, standing stiff in the doorway. Normally, the captain was a very patient man, but foolish, naïve children tended to make him rather irascible. When the ink was close to dripping and blotting the pristine white of the unsigned document, Credo quickly dropped it back into the ink bottle before clasping his gloved hands atop his desk.
"Captain Credo, sir," the boy barked in an unnecessarily loud voice that reminded Credo of a young Nero, "His Holiness requests your presence at the table."
Credo quirked a brow. "I don't remember a meeting being scheduled for today."
"There isn't a meeting scheduled, sir," replied the boy, looking as if he was about to start marching in place. Credo would have laughed if he wasn't wishing so adamantly that the boy would leave. "His Holiness wishes to hold a private council with you."
Credo found that incredibly strange. Sanctus rarely ever met with him in private. Normally, everything was discussed among a group of elites to which Credo was included. However, being the captain of The Order, his rank was just below Sanctus'. He was the second most important official in Fortuna, and if Sanctus needed a private meeting with anyone, it would definitely be with Credo.
"Report to His Holiness that I will be there momentarily," Credo commanded. The boy nodded jerkily before saluting the captain.
"Yes, sir," he chirped before whirling around to trot off. Before he could go anywhere, however, Credo stopped him.
"Jacob," Credo said gently. The boy froze, seeming nervous that the captain had called him by his name.
"Yes, Captain Credo, sir?" he asked as he craned his neck to peek through the doorway, nearly tying his tongue in knots trying to ask such a simple question.
"Remember to knock next time."
"Oh! Uh, sorry, sir. Ye'sir… I won't forget next time, sir."
Credo nodded, not saying another word, and the messenger took that as his cue to leave. The captain sighed once the door swung closed, wondering what Sanctus could possibly want to discuss. He plucked the quill from the bottle to finish signing all the lines on the document he had examined prior to being interrupted, muttering all the while about his unfulfilled desire to simply be left alone for one day.
"You sent for me, Your Holiness?" Credo said as he stopped behind his seat at Sanctus' right hand, bowing slightly and placing a hand over his heart.
"Ah… Credo," Sanctus rasped. "Thank you for honoring my request. Please… sit." The old priest gestured to Credo's chair with a bony hand, and the captain nodded, taking his usual seat. Brown eyes darted around the table, noting how odd it felt to be the only other knight sitting at the round table.
"How are you faring today, my son?" asked His Holiness in a gentle breath. Credo forced himself to forget how the priest's voice always reminded him of a snake.
"Fine," Credo replied, inexplicably unsettled by Sanctus' unusual friendliness. The priest was never unkind, but to say he was friendly would be a stretch.
"Ah, excellent," he replied, his voice croaking as it rose in pitch. He patted Credo on the hand, and the captain was so startled he nearly jerked his hand away. It wasn't as if Sanctus had never done so before, but Credo had a nervous inkling that the man was trying to butter him up for something.
"You are probably wondering why I've asked you here today…"
"Well, it was a bit unexpected, Your Holiness," Credo stated frankly.
"I apologize for not warning you ahead of time," Sanctus replied glibly. "I had been… considering meeting with you for a while, but I didn't quite decide on it until today."
Credo nodded, replying simply, "It's not an issue I'm overly concerned with." He wanted to hurry Sanctus along. The old priest always took far too long to get straight to the point.
"Well, we shall get this meeting underway then," said His Holiness, and Credo was actually unnerved by the smile that followed those words. Sanctus was acting strange—there was no doubt about that. But Credo wanted to know exactly why. He sincerely hoped Sanctus wasn't about to initiate another unwinnable argument with him, but it was certainly looking that way. Credo never understood why Sanctus called him to council if he refused to accept the captain's advice, anyway. Perhaps, it was to test Credo's loyalty. If so, he knew his score was rather poor.
"You know what I want from this world," Sanctus declared, his voice not at all questioning. Why would it be? The priest had spoon-fed Credo his beliefs since the captain was just a young knight.
"Of course, Your Holiness. You seek a perfect world—A… utopia." Credo watched Sanctus' face, awaiting his approval. When it didn't come, the captain continued. "You seek to cleanse this world of its sin."
"Absolutely," Sanctus replied. "That is what I have dreamt of since I was just a boy… And I believe I've finally discovered how I might accomplish it."
The two locked eyes for a long and tense moment, the silence weighing oppressively on Credo's shoulders. He could already smell another one of Sanctus' crackpot plans, but he had to listen because he was the captain.
"I'm listening," Credo clarified, and Sanctus sighed, already sensing the captain's disapproval.
"Credo, why is it that you always refuse to support my plans?" Sanctus asked, voice curious but exhausted.
"You call me here to advise you, Your Holiness," Credo replied matter-of-factly. "I feel I am only being honest by openly disagreeing. I don't think it would be fair to you if I gave false support."
Clasping his hands beneath his chin, Sanctus nodded, scrutinizing Credo with squinted eyes. "I suppose that is true…"
"So what is His Holiness' plan? If I may ask, of course."
"Agnus has been working from dawn 'til dusk over the entire month," Sanctus began sagely, staring blankly at the far wall. "You would be amazed at the progress he has made."
Credo wanted to sneer at the mention of Agnus' name. Without a doubt, Credo was the scientist's arch nemesis. The only reason Agnus was not his own was that Credo didn't consider the man even a minor threat. He thought himself influential and invincible, but he had no victories to hold over the captain's head. He wanted so desperately to be Sanctus' little pet that he agreed to every plan the priest proposed, no matter how convoluted or depraved. He didn't care to sacrifice his individuality or his dignity if it meant he could become Sanctus' right hand. His efforts were laughable to the captain because Sanctus still considered him a mere scientist, a cog, and nothing more.
"What innovations has his research yielded, Your Holiness?" Credo asked, pretending to be curious. Actually, he was, but the captain was more eager to hear what insane schemes the two had cooked up beneath his nose than eager to join them.
"He has discovered how to create angels," Sanctus sounded utterly blissful when the final word rolled off his tongue. Credo wasn't sure how to feel about the declaration, but he was certainly shocked into silence for a brief moment.
"'Angels'?" parroted the captain. "But how is that even possible?"
"Ah… I knew you would be interested," Sanctus declared cockily. Credo furrowed his brow.
"Don't mistake my curiosity for condonance." Sanctus' face fell, becoming exasperated as if he was dealing with a petulant child.
"Of course, you refuse to open your mind to the amazing possibilities Agnus' experiments will yield. I'm ashamed to admit I expected more of you."
There was a bitter taste in Credo's mouth. He was offended by Sanctus implications that he was pigheaded, and he knew the priest meant to offend him. He was always so passive aggressive, and that was something about him that never ceased to annoy the captain.
"Your Holiness, you must understand that I have to hear any proposal with skepticism. Please, continue."
The priest's face relaxed again and he continued. "Throughout the course of his experiments, Agnus has discovered an amazing power." Sanctus eyed Credo for a long moment as if considering how much longer he should draw their discussion out. He finally decided to get straight to the point. "I want to use it to resurrect the Savior."
"What?" Credo blurted, dumbfounded. "But, Your Holiness… you know the Savior it… i-it's meant for a time of grave emergency… The end of the world, even."
"Ah, yes, Credo, but you know how I feel about the world's current state. With all the sin in the cities and their… bars and clubs and what-not, the end is nearing rapidly. It will be upon us before we know it, and if we don't act now, it may catch us by surprise."
"Well…" Credo said, pausing to consider Sanctus' words. He supposed there was a degree of truth to what the priest was saying, but he couldn't ignore the feeling in his gut that whatever His Holiness was planning would be nothing good or pleasant for the world. "What do you plan to do?"
"I am going to use the power of the Savior to rid this world of sin," he declared peremptorily. Credo felt his stomach sink through the floor. He knew the horrid truth behind that vague statement.
"Are you sure that's the best way to go about this?"
"Credo," His Holiness sighed, "my perfect world… Do you want to live in it or do you want to be left behind?"
Credo's mouth opened but only syllables crackled out of his throat. He had to take a moment to think about what he would be agreeing to if he said "yes".
"I do," he said finally, though he tried to ignore the shame he felt. "I want to live in it."
"Then, I expect to see you in the laboratory by tomorrow evening," Sanctus announced as he rose from his chair.
"What? The laboratory?" Credo asked, confused. "Why?"
"You, Credo," Sanctus replied, placing a hand on the captain's shoulder, "are going to be my first successful angel."
Credo paled at the use of "successful" in the priest's statement. Exactly how many failed attempts at creating angels had he already made? And he planned to perform such a dangerous procedure on the captain?
By the time Credo's mind returned to reality, Sanctus had left the room. "Dear God," Credo breathed, falling back into his own chair. The soft, scarlet cushions hugged his body, but they failed to comfort him as they usually did. His and Sanctus' discussion had watered down the gravity of the situation. Sanctus spoke of his plans as if he was going to do something great for the world while ignoring how painful and horrid that process was. Credo knew what he meant when he said he wanted to "rid the world of its sin". He would eliminate it at its source, and the source of sin, Credo knew, was man. Sanctus was going to murder those he deemed unworthy to cleanse the world, but wouldn't that be a greater sin than what he sought to eliminate? Credo was torn asunder. On one hand, there was no way to sugarcoat the genocide Sanctus planned to unleash on the world. However, on the other hand, a perfect world was something everyone desired. Was such death and destruction that the Savior could wrought the price to be paid to live in that wonderful, peaceful utopia? Credo tried to ignore the shame he felt in agreeing to Sanctus' plan because he knew that if the priest had no qualms with killing sinners, he probably wouldn't be so merciful to the captain when it all boiled down.
knock knock knock-knock knock
"Hey, you…" Credo's head whirled around to a familiar voice, and he perked up a little at seeing Nero smiling in the doorway. "How did I know I'd find you sulking in here?"
"Why are you here?" asked Credo, concealing a small smile behind the hand cradling his head. "You know you aren't supposed to come in here without request." Nero snorted.
"Like fuck if I care," he chuckled, apologizing when he saw the disapproval toward his language that marred Credo's jovial expression. "I was just wondering if you'd like to go kick some demon ass with me."
Credo sniffed and shook his head, though the gesture was fond. Apologize and then do it again… He never learns. At that thought, Credo suddenly remembered Sanctus' disapproval toward Nero. In all honesty, His Holiness didn't like Nero. He was a free thinker and disagreed with nearly every principle the church tried to instill in him. Did he view Nero as a sinner? A heretic? When he started to cleanse the world, would he try to eliminate Nero along with all the other sinners? Credo felt many things at that realization—fear, rage, solemnness—but above all, he felt resolution, determination. If Sanctus so much as dared to lay a finger on his younger brother, all those years of following in the priest's footsteps, admiring him, desiring to be like him would be gone like smoke in open air. The captain didn't give a damn what Sanctus was to him—father figure, guide, mentor—because Nero meant so much more. And unfortunately, Credo's gut was warning him that that was exactly what Sanctus' plot was going to come to.
So be it, thought the captain. If he dares to threaten my family, he'll become my greatest rival. Credo's mind reminded him, however, that, perhaps, Nero was another price to pay for that perfect utopia. And Credo had to ask himself what was more important to the world: his beloved brother or peace and an end to suffering? When the answer came to him, Credo felt tears sting his eyes.
"Hey… Yoo-hoo," Nero called. Credo's train of thought crashed and his attention returned to Nero. It was only then that he realized he had been boring holes into the table before him. "Don't zone out on me, man. Are you coming or not?"
"You know my duty is to stay here and finish my work," Credo deadpanned, seeing how Nero's expression sobered a bit at his words. "But I suppose I can make an exception for you… just this once."
Nero grinned widely. "Ah-hah, yeah! I knew you would," Nero admitted, cocksure as ever, as Credo walked toward him. He was taken by utter surprise, however, when the captain locked him into a tight hug. Nero stared, dumbfounded, over his brother's shoulder at the floor.
"I love you, Nero," Credo whispered, his voice utterly grave.
"I, uh… I love you, too, Credo." Nero slowly wrapped his arms around his brother, wondering if Credo was drunk. Or even worse, if Credo was upset about something. Somehow, Nero doubted both of those possibilities. He was probably just in a weird mood or something. Nero idly rubbed Credo's back until his brother finally patted him on the back and released him. When they were at arm's length, Nero stared a tad solicitously at the captain.
"Well, what are we waiting for?" Credo teased. "Let's go kick some demon ass."
Nero burst into cacophonous laughter, tears welling in his eyes. He couldn't breathe enough to tell Credo how ridiculous he sounded speaking such colloquial language. Instead, he let his older brother drag his wheezing body toward the door, muttering all the while about "kids these days".