Chapter Fifteen

It's in our nature to destroy ourselves
It's in our nature to kill ourselves
It's in our nature to kill each other
It's in our nature to kill, kill, kill

–Papa Roach, Blood Brothers

Phoenix stood battered and bruised, axe in both hands as hordes of Nekoshins surrounded him. Jell-O Man had helped him hide, but now there was nowhere else to run. He was on the third moon of Clark: home to the Arthurians.

The advanced civilization was the envy of the three solar systems. He'd come off guard duty minutes ago when he encountered the cadre of fur balls. The past three months he was lucky to stay in one place longer than a week. He kept to himself, did his job and tried to stay out of trouble. But it found him anyways. Most days he never knew where he was or when.

Each planet had its own cycle and weather patterns, but those like Clark had technology that controlled both and made it impossible to tell how much time had passed. However those were few and the constant moving gave him a massive case of jet lag. His body was up to eighty percent but the fur balls' ambushes never let his old wounds heal.

Jell-O Man hired mercenaries, but most turned tail upon learning they were going up against the Nekoshin Empire. Those that stayed charged double. Soon Phoenix had depleted his savings and was forced to take odd jobs when he wasn't running for his life. His reputation for taking any job, for the right pay, earned him as many enemies as allies. But Phoenix didn't care as long as he had enough for some Mido.

What he wouldn't give for a cup of that liquid strength right about now. His body ached in placed he didn't know he had. Holding the axe took all his energy, but he was tired of running. If today was his day to die than so be it. His eye lids began to close, but from the back of his mind he sensed the presence of another. The yellow meadow lit up and when the flash died down he saw Travis tear one leopard-man apart after another.

His movements came fast but calculated. The blades of his weapon slashed through them as he dodged and twisted his blood spattered body in a graceful arc. Phoenix was awed and terrified as he watched the fight continues. As Travis tore into the warriors Phoenix saw him for what he was. A demon who'd come to take them him to hell.

"You're welcome," Travis said then cracked his knuckles.

"Never asked for your help, but looks to me you got it handled. And what's up with that funky armor and mask of yours?"

Travis crossed his arms, spread them out, and a massive wave of energy incinerated all the Nekoshins.

"That was easy. What gives?"

"That was only the first wave numb nuts. Thirty more will be on the way any minute now."

"Nice of you to tell me. I used up a third of my power in that attack."

"How the fuck was I supposed to tell you when you just started slashing away." Phoenix shoved him and Travis socked him in the jaw. He exhaled and banished the S-blade. A quick check of his arm revealed the bracelet had burned his flesh. The crack widened another centimeter.

"Just a bit longer." He reached his hand into the ether and pulled out several dolls, and a ball of yawn.

"What are you gonna do, invite them to play house and cat's cradle?"

Travis ignored him, took the string and bound different parts of the totems. There was a scorpion, spider, skeletal dragon, and an orc. When he was done he placed them in a circle and then withdrew an athame from his belt and began drawing shapes in the air. When he was done the glyphs shone like stars and then Travis exhaled a cloud of white smoke. The dolls came to life and merged into three chimeras ready to defend them.

A second later the next wave of Nekoshins arrived. The chimeras managed to take down half of the leopard-men before the spell broke and left Travis a bloody mess. He knew the price, but expected more to be taken out. He turned to Phoenix. They locked eyes then nodded.

As one they brought the fight to them, and took out as many fur balls as they could before their second wind left them. Travis knew if they didn't think of something quick it was game over. Phoenix could barely stand without holding on to him. And he fared not much better.

"Come on, our only hope is to fuse and use our combined power."

"I'd rather die than be stuck with you again." Travis pulled the bracelet off, winching as charred flesh came with it.

He rounded on Phoenix.

"If you don't want to die, stand still and make sure this gets put back on me." He tossed Phoenix the bracelet then raised a barrier around him. Like a fire the hunger shot through his veins. The fur balls had no idea what to make of the situation and retreated.

Travis was there in the blink of an eye and their suffering was legendary.

Phoenix vomited as he watched Travis descend into depravity. He ate one's heart, disemboweled another, and then used the entrails to strangle a final one. Travis continued slicing them with his tendrils until he let out a roar and the barrier around Phoenix fell.

"Bracelet," he managed to croak out. Phoenix looked down at it then back at Travis. Why should he help that thing? Even the fur balls didn't deserve that. Phoenix steeled himself. He summoned his axe then approached Travis.

"Bracelet...please." The forlorn look in his eyes gave way to a glassy stare as Travis lost grip on his humanity.

Oblivion's voice roared in his head.

"Give in."

"Not today."

Travis stretched out his hand and the bracelet flew into it. An arc of red energy sparked when it made contact, charring the flesh in the process. Travis bit the tip of his thumb then wiped the blood on the metal. His fangs and claws retracted and after he collected himself, Travis laid into Phoenix.

"I asked one thing of you and you failed me."

Phoenix spat at him.

"You disgust me."

"Shut up."

"You're a monster."

Phoenix raised his axe.

"You don't know what it's like. To always fight a part of yourself. I never asked for this."

"Just calling it like I see it."

"Don't you fucking judge me!" Travis advanced on him, flame swords in each hand

"You're pathetic."

Phoenix's axe hammered down, but Travis blocked and parried it to the right.

"Fool, what do know of my struggle? You're just a boy playing soldier."

"You think I'm playing around?"

Phoenix charged forward and swung the axe in a wild arc.

"I've been running for my life, one crap sack planet after another. And now I gonna kick your ass," he said bring the axe downing again.

Travis dodged, but the axe clipped his right ear. Blood streamed down his neck.

He popped behind Phoenix and launched him into the air with a kick to the back of the neck. Before the axe hit the ground Travis caught it and gave chase.

Phoenix dodged him and pushed Travis back with a gust of air. With space to think he summoned the axe but only half of it came. They stared down at each other as they caught their breath.

"You're the pathetic one. You never earned your powers. And until you do you're a cheap imitation."

"Take that back you freak."

They clashed blade on blade, separated and clashed again. The force of their blows sent shock waves that split the ground below them.

Phoenix caught Travis in the gut with the butt of his axe. Before he could follow up, Travis brought his axe down on Phoenix's right shoulder and sent him to the ground with a thrust from the back of the axe.

Phoenix staggered out of the crater in the ground than fell to one knee.

"Look upon me and know the face of your destroyer."

Travis removed his mask and prepared to delivery his coupe de grace.

"Fight me mono y mono, if you still have the balls," he said in between taking shallow breaths.

Travis tossed the axe to the ground and they traded blows until their knuckles were bloody nubs. Their foreheads rested against the crook of the other's neck. Sweat and blood trickled down onto their backs. Phoenix's cape was stained pink, while Travis's armor sucked up any blood that touched it and fuel power to him. He spat in Phoenix's face then kneed him in the groin.

They broke apart and resumed the fight. A sonic boom tore through the air as their fists connected and made a three foot deep crater around them. Phoenix glared at Travis from across the crevice.

"I have in me the blood of kings and won't lose to a meaningless freak of nature," he said and unleashed a wall of flames. Travis countered with his own blast and the ball of flames swung back and forth.

Phoenix poured everything he had left into his blast and the ball soared forward. Travis dug in his heels and pushed back. The ball stopped, inches from engulfing him.

"Spend most of your life chained to a hospital bed. Watch everything you knew revealed to be lie. Become the plaything for forces beyond your control. And then tell me what has more meaning? Your arrogance or my honor?"

With one final surge Travis released the last of his energy and the flame ball exploded. The pair was flung in opposite directions and fell to the ground, unconscious. In that moment their destinies were forever intertwined.

 

A/N: For those of you who've keeping up with this story thanks. I'm almost finished with book one. From here on out I plan to break each chapter into shorter ones and post those every other day or so. Also be sure to donate to nifty if you can, later.