Chapter 1: Blood Makes You Related, Loyalty Makes You Family
The sound of the wild flames burning the wall candles and the ticking clock resonated within the office; large bookcases lined the walls filled to capacity. Open books were scattered amongst the large oak desk, all turned to a specific page; runes and glyphs were organized into sections in languages that were thought to be long since lost in the sands of time. There were even a few books on the two cursed swords; Soul Edge and Soul Calibur mixed in. Zasalamel stood facing one of the few high standing candles in the room, reading the pages that he had recorded so far in his tome. He could hear soft footsteps growing louder as they approached the door of the study; he had a feeling on who it could be. The soft knocks on the door broke the silence.
The door creaked open and he heard them shuffling into the room and closing the door behind them. The chair that was positioned in front of the desk creaked as the person settled into it; making themselves comfortable.
“Immortal or not, it’s not good for you to be holed up in here for days on end.”
Zasalamel didn’t answer at first; giving no indication that he even heard the other. He flipped through a few more pages before deciding to close the tome and discard it back onto the desk. He turned around and leveled the other in the room with a slightly amused stare. “Are you here to lecture me, Excel?” He asked.
In front of him sat a slender young man who looked to be no older than 18 with long pure white hair and molten gold eyes that were clearly far older and wiser than what his physical age portrayed. His skin was a healthy pale color and he wore a traditional long black jacket that bore the same symbol of Zasalamel’s tribe on the back. He didn’t have on any of the elaborate jewels that the older male had but he did have a simple low hanging necklace with a glowing blue jewel in the center; it stood out against his black clothing along with his white hair. “Is it not the child’s job to honor their parents by looking after them in their old age?” Excel said with a cheeky smile on his face. Zasalamel snorted, “I am not old.” The other laughed.
“Whatever helps you sleep at night, father.”
“Cheeky brat.” There was not any heat behind his words as he gazed fondly at his adopted son, one of few things he was grateful to still have in his immortal life. His arrogance and short sightedness towards their tribe had accosted him almost everything and without a second thought, in a moment of sentinel loyalty his son had denounced the tribe and followed his father in his banishment. Excel had casted away his position in the Tribe and exiled himself as well; he had not wanted to lose the only family he had ever known.
The journey across the world to find Soul Edge had severely affected his son more so than it had himself. While he was a trained fighter and traveling long distances were nothing to him, for his son it had been hell. He wasn’t a fighter so he didn’t have the same endurance or discipline as his father. He had a weak body though his powerful magic was second to none, and his mediumship took up most of his strength.
For many years they had traveled from place to place, relearning the world and its ways after being isolated from it for so long. Watching and recording the rise and fall of countless civilizations due to the warring powers of Soul Edge and Soul Calibur; Zasalamel had made a name for himself as a famous Historian eager to record history in its entirety and Excel had masqueraded himself as a Spiritual Healer. He offered closure to families by connecting them with their lost loved ones and even putting protective spells around houses and people to ward off negative energies. Eventually they had decided to settle down temporarily in a small village in India. The people were wary of the newcomers but after proving themselves with their skills and power the reception had become welcoming.
“Have you heard anything about Soul Edge?” He asked his son, settling back down behind the desk. Excel nodded.
“Yes, but I don’t know if what I found out is true or not,” He said with a thoughtful look on his face. “I heard that a female merchant; Lyla, found the sword at a shipboard auction, but I haven’t sensed any negative energy anywhere near here that would have given it away.”
“Where did the rumor come from?” The older Sage doubted that it would have landed in the hands of a simple merchant, and even if it was true; her weak soul would have been devoured instantly the second she grabbed the hilt of the blade. Becoming another faceless soul lost to its depths.
“The people from the seaport were talking about. I even heard that she managed to recruit a pirate crew to protect the sword until it’s time to sell it off.” The Healer paused for a moment, going over what he knew so far. “I highly doubt that it’s the real deal, however.”
Zasalamel grunted in agreement, his gold eye shining brightly in the room’s low light. “If she were smart; she would realize what type of target that paints her.” Excel snorted in derision, “Since when did you start caring about others?” He teased his father.
“I don’t. Having so many people clamoring for a false legend may draw unwanted attention to us.”
“How so?” Excel was curious; it was not as if anyone knew who they were.
“We are two outsiders who have arrived in India merely a few months ago. Now suddenly Soul Edge has been found not far from where we are. People are bound to stick their nose were it does not belong.” His voice was cold and harsh. Years of looking out only for himself and his son had ingrained in him a sense of caution around others. Zasalamel didn’t notice Excel reaching across the desk towards him until he felt a small hand rest on his own much larger one. Looking down, he couldn’t help but marvel at how much they contrasted.
His hand was calloused and scarred from years of wielding his great scythe and working. Excel’s was much smaller and a pale white that stood out sharply against his darker one. His hand was soft; he could feel a hidden strength behind it despite their deceptive appearance.
“Everything will be fine.” His son had that familiar ‘all knowing’ look in his eyes, gripping the other’s hand in comfort. “If anything happens, we will overcome it together.” Excel said with absolute certainty. They had made it this far together, why stop now?
His son’s unwavering adoration and devotion towards him made him feel more grounded to reality and it gave him a solid sense of purpose and a reason to keep going. Zasalamel could feel his hard exterior beginning to fall away a little as he allowed himself to reminisce the past; having the ability to retain all of his lives had its perks.
Zasalamel could remember that day with startling clarity. He had been venturing out far beyond the parameter of the Tribe’s set up trying to cool down from his recent debate with the elders. He had been teeming with silent fury when he had come across a ravaged camp. Dead bodies were scattered everywhere and by the heavy smell of blood that permeated the air he knew that it was recent. He had heard the quiet cooing of a baby and followed the source to a dark tent.
Excel had been a small infant, no older than 5 months when he found him in the protective grip of a dead woman that he could only assume was his mother. His tuft of white hair was like a beacon that broke through the darkness. He didn’t seem the least bit affect by what was going on around him as he cooed. For the first time in his life, he was at a loss of what to do. He debated on turning around and leaving, pretending that he hadn’t seen anything but would have been cruel even for him. So, with great reluctance he pried the infant from the woman’s arms and the second those gold eyes locked on to his, the baby gave him a bright gummy smile and he knew he was trapped.
And now, locking eyes with his son he saw that same carefree smile that he gave to him as an infant, the one that he silently swore to protect.
“Yes,” He could feel the strength in his own words. “We will.”
He would make sure of it.
Chapter 2: A Confident
A son's worries for their father; sometimes talking to a complete stranger turned friend helps the most.
I wrote this chapter in a day and it's honestly writing itself. I still don't know what I'm going to do with it.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Saying a quick goodbye to his father, Excel decided to head out and visit a friend of his first before investigating the tip on Soul Edge further. He and his father lived a little ways outside of the parameter of the main village and in a secluded area by the woods; close enough towards the people but far away enough to not be bothered. It took him about half an hour to get to the main path as he headed down the dirt road towards the small gathering of houses in the center. Waving to a few people that passed him by, he could see children running around and playing within sight of the adults that were working or simply outside enjoying day. Excel smiled to himself as he grew near enough to hear the bustling of the people more clearly and a group of laughing kids as they ran passed him. He adored the liveliness of the village and the noise they made. He could see a familiar figure standing near a merchant’s vegetable stall.
“Excel!” A short and tanned young woman with long brown hair and warm hazel eyes called to him. Her smile was wide and her face was flushed from being in the sun all day. She wore a simple white and yellow floral dress; carrying a basket on her hip. Excel’s eyes brightened and he gave her a wave, “Alia!” He called.
The second he got in arms length of her Alia pulled Excel close for a big hug. Her small arms were strong and Excel grunted at her enthusiasm but he soaked it up all the same. “How are you?” he asked, pulling away.
“I have been a lot better since you came! The nights aren’t as long and I’ve been able to sleep easier now that I know my husband is fine.” The look of happiness never left her face as she linked arms with him. “I don’t hear his voice anymore.” Her tone turned wistful.
Alia’s husband; Oliver, had been murder while trying to defend his wife and himself from thieves a few years back. They had been ambushed on the way home after visiting his elderly parents for the holidays. He had pushed Alia out of the way from being attacked and had been stabbed in her place. For months, Alia had been plagued by night terrors and she swore she could hear her late husband’s voice at night. It took Excel weeks to convince her to allow him to help her and she finally did with great reluctance. It didn’t bode well with her to have a stranger in her business but she had been at her wits end.
Now after finally getting closure for his death after years of heartache, she was able to move on and live her life without anything holding her back. She had made a name by growing and selling crops and supporting herself.
“That’s wonderful! I’m glad that you’re doing better.” Excel’s voice was sincere as he allowed Alia to guide them towards her home; he listened to her chatter as they walked. It was a bit further away from the merchant’s square and he could see the large open field that stretched across the land that Alia used to grow her vegetables; it was well organized and sectioned into parts. She had inherited the land from her parents and Excel was honestly amazed that one woman could take care of it all by herself; he was more so surprised that she had the motivation to do it all everyday without fail. Just thinking about working in that field made him worn out.
Pushing the door to her house open with her hip, Alia let the Medium walk in first before she set her basket down and kicked the door shut with her foot. She unlinked arms with Excel and motioned him towards her couch as she headed towards the kitchen. “Please make yourself comfortable while I go and get us something to drink.”
He watched her disappear into the kitchen as he sat. He looked around the room noticed that everything nothing had really changed since the last time he had visited although he did notice that Oliver’s possessions weren’t as prominent anymore; a sign that she was gradually moving on.
As the minutes ticked by waiting for Alia to come back, his thoughts began drifting back to his father. ‘I hope he isn’t trying to gain possession of Soul Edge again,’ He thought. ‘I don’t want him to be involved with something that he can’t handle. All the knowledge in the world isn’t enough to prepare someone in facing the greatest evil.’ He closed his eyes and sighed softly, fiddling with his necklace out of habit. Excel, personally, didn’t care about the malevolent sword. It brought more ruin to humanity than anything else in history. The only reason he went looking for information was because his father had asked him to. He was honestly starting to regret saying anything at all.
‘I just want to protect you and what little humanity you have left.’ His father’s immortality was different than his own. While Excel never grew older and couldn’t be killed by normal means; Zasalamel was forced to retain his memories after every life he lived, his gold eye was a testament to that. He grew older just like any other human and then died, only to be reincarnated soon after. It was heart wrenching to watch his own father be reborn over and over again while he stayed young. Watching it was just as damaging as living it, but he held on.
“I made some fruit juice! I hope you like, it took me a minute to remember how to make it since I haven’t made any ever since Ollie died.” Seeing Alia rounding the corner with two cups in her hands made Excel’s depressive thoughts to stop for a second. He smiled gratefully and murmured a small ‘Thank you’ as he was handed a drink and Alia sat down next to him. The pair sat there in silence enjoying their drinks for a moment; his thoughts still racing a mile a minute.
“You have that look on your face.”
He looked up from his cup and turned towards her in question. She watched him with an understanding expression on her face. “It’s the same look I used to have when I worried about Oliver.” He didn’t say anything. “It’s the look that says, ‘I’m scared’.” Alia paused, before finally asking:
“What are you so afraid of?”
The Medium locked eyes with her. While his facial expression didn’t change much she could see the shock in his gold eyes. His lips opened slightly before closing again; caught on what to say. He looked from her to down into his cup, not knowing how to answer. My father, Soul Edge, the future…The answers were endless.
“I am,” Excel took a small breath “afraid for my father.” Zasalamel came before anything else.
“Why?” She asks; concern heavy in her voice. He tried to think of how to properly voice his concerns without giving too much away. “My father is a scholar, and for the longest time he has been obsessed about learning the truth. But, I believe that if he finds out the truth; he will be disappointed.” Replaying the words he just said in his head Excel realized what he said was kind of confusing. “He’s dedicated his life to it for so long that, I don’t think he realizes that it may not be what he thinks it is.”
“Do you think he’s lost himself to this, ‘truth’?” Alia asks, shifting herself closer towards him. Excel shakes his head, “Not this time, but he has before I came along.” His father’s pursuit of Soul Edge had made him act irrationally before, who’s to say that it wouldn’t happen again?
“Then what are you so afraid of?”
Excel was confused now. He looked at her with narrowed eyes, what did she mean by that? She just gave him an innocent grin. “What do you mean by that?”
“Your father has you in his life now and since he hasn’t done anything nearly as bad since they day you were born, why would he start now?” Alia felt pretty confident in what she was saying. She giggled at Excel’s stumped looked. He was so serious all the time; it was adorable. “If you weren’t such a big influence in his life don’t you think that he would have gone back to his ways? Think about it.”
While he had never thought about it like that before, Excel had to admit that her words had merit. Zasalamel could have easily continued to hunt down Soul Edge and yet, he just stayed in the confines of their home and kept to himself all day. He had all the time in the world to do whatever he wanted. These thoughts assuaged some of his fears but the doubt was still rather prominent. “I don’t think it’s really that easy, but maybe you’re right.” He admitted, Alia patted his shoulder reassuringly. “If you feel so strongly about this them maybe you should ask him directly.”
That was easier said than done and even though he has almost just as old as his father, compared to him, he still felt like a little kid and no amount of time would change that. He may be wiser than most but he still felt that had nothing on his father; similarly to any child towards their parents. “I will.”
The hazel eyed woman smiled and hugged him as best as she could with one arm because they still had their drinks in hand. She laid a gentle kiss on his head and he chuckled. “Everything will be fine. You used to tell me that all the time.” He did, when he first came around to help her that was one of the first things he ever said to her. “I know.” He didn’t know if he was saying it for her or for himself. He thought, ‘I just remembered something…’
“I will be leaving for a while in a few days. It should not take me anymore than a few weeks or less to make it back here.” He did come out to see her to let her know that he wouldn’t be around for a bit. Alia pulled back a little.
“A small business venture, it’s nothing too serious.” At least, he hoped not.
“Will you be okay by yourself?” Alia’s concern was touching. It made him feel good that someone else other than his father worried over him. He nodded. “I’ll be fine. It’s not too far away.” She didn’t look convinced but she didn’t press him for anything more which he was grateful for.
“As long as you promise me that you will come and see me as soon as you get back.” The demand was clear in her voice leaving no room for him to argue, not that he would have tried.
“I promise.” He said and Alia smiled.
He was adamant on keeping at least this promise, if nothing else.
This chapter may be tweaked and edited just like the first one if I see typos and funky wordplay!