Samsara @time_paradox
Birth

Chapter 01 - Birth      Monday 16.05.2011

The lock broke with a loud bang and hit the concrete underneath with a loud clang. I put away the fire axe I found inside one of those emergency cupboards spread throughout the staircase of the big apartment complex, pushed the heavy door open, and stepped outside.

I was blinded by the sporadic sunbeams which were able to penetrate the thick cloud ceiling. It took me a moment to blink away the white dots in my eyes and my tears until my eyes completed their adjustment to this brightness. It wasn’t an overwhelming brightness - on the contrary for a spring morning it was a rather murky day - but compared to an unlit staircase without any windows, it was like the difference between night and day.

I couldn’t just light every lightbulb the whole way up to the roof while breaking and entering as it would have drawn attention and the last thing I need is attention, especially with what I was intending to do.

I stood still for a moment and admired the sight you have from the roof of a 30 story building over the town.

Brockton Bay, my hometown, my birthplace and the home of the Protectorate East North East with all its great heroes - who weren’t able to do shit for the people living here. They weren’t able to put down even one of the various gangs who plague this town and drink its lifeblood like a starving vampire. Nor are those great heroes able to save a single girl, to save me, so Brockton Bay is gonna be the place where I die.

So I have to save myself by condemning myself. Ironic, huh?

I began my slow walk to the railing encircling the roof, to allow myself one last chance to change my mind and to think one last time about what I was intending to do and the repercussions of it.

But with every step I took closer to the edge, instead of wavering from my decision my resolve hardens. Well, it didn’t really surprise me as lesser people would have made this decision a long time ago - there is just only so much punishment you can take before you break and after that only so much until anything is better than continuing to suffer.

Because there was just no other way to end this suffering while being able to face my mother in the afterlife. In such a way that there is still something left of the Taylor she knew. This was my only chance for that and I’m gonna take it.

This wasn’t my first choice by far. I tried, I really tried, but there wasn’t much I didn’t do at one point or another. I exhausted every avenue short of dragging my father into it, to get them to stop tormenting me. But nothing worked.

It all started after I returned from summer camp two years ago and Emma, my sister in all but blood, didn’t want to have to do anything with me any longer.

I first thought it would be just a phase and she would change her mind about it after a few days and that she only pushed me away because this other girl Sophia instigated her to do that.

Well, she probably did, but man was I wrong in the assumption that my good friend Emma wouldn’t just throw away years of friendship for, for...I don’t even know for what she did it for.

The only thing I knew was that the moment school started again, her sole mission, her sole purpose in life, was to make my life miserable. They started small - spread rumors about me, occasionally spilled juice on me, and destroyed my belongings; all things you eventually get used to, but they continued to raise the ante.

Never satisfied with what they did, they were constantly trying to outdo each other in what they did to me. They started to go after mementos of my mother which helped me through my school day. Thinking about it I still can’t believe Emma would do that to me, to my late mother who treated her like her own daughter, but she did.

She stole my mother’s flute out of my locker and did things to it, I don’t even know what you have to do to a flute to be able to so utterly ruin it. Alone, thinking about it even after such a long time, makes it hard to push back the tears.

Back then I even thought that this deed wasn’t surpassable, but time and time again they succeded. Considering that Emma knew every single secret there is to know about me, it shouldn’t have surprised me when she started to weaponize them against me, use them to hurt and shame me.

Like this one time, she teased me with the fact that after the death of my mother I cried myself into sleep for weeks.

Mom, I miss her so much. Even though she has been dead for nearly two years now, a passing mention of her, a stray thought, a single reminder about her, and it aches like the first time I was told she died.

Using a cell phone while driving - such a stupid, wasteful, and unnecessary way to go.

To leave me behind.

Their masterpiece, at least until what they did do me today, was the locker.

They stuffed me into my locker full off used female hygiene products which were left there to rot for the complete duration of the Christmas holidays.

I was in there for hours and thought I would lose my mind. No banging, pleading, or crying did me any good except to provoke the laughter of those who stuffed me in there.

Well, you might think there would be at least one decent person in my school who has a sufficient moral compass to help me out of this predicament, but what can you expect from Winslow? That shithole of school which is in all but in name the breeding ground of every single gang in Brockton Bay.

And let’s be honest – Nazi and Asian human traffickers or drug addicts sure aren’t exactly upstanding citizens, so it didn’t exactly surprise me. But even if I should have known better I still had a spark of hope – until it was choked to death by this event.

I honestly believed after the locker went down, that they would have finally gone too far. That no matter what excuses they had for it, this assault they would finally go down for.

I mean there were at least 20 students in the hallway when they shoved me inside, so at least one person would squeal to the police about what he or she saw so that they finally would get their due punishment.

But nothing happened. Not one single person would go against those three bitches - Emma, Sophia, and Madison - for the little outcast that is me, Taylor. They were either too frightened, too indifferent, or are having too much fun at my expense.

So once again it happened as it did with every single instance before this one. The authorities, the school, did nothing – as always it was their word against mine and who would believe me, the alleged liar, drug addict, whore, and whatever else the rumor mill spread around about me. Wasn’t it so funny to be the punch line of the proverb “All that is needed for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing.”

Well, I probably would find it funny if I didn’t have had to live through it. I was devasted because even that wasn’t enough for something to change, for them to be punished. I wasn’t allowed to switch schools, to escape from a school I only went to because I couldn’t stand to be separated from Emma...oh, what was I thinking?

Now I would sell a kidney just to be able to never see her again. Of course, that wasn’t the end of it. After I returned to school, Principal Blackwell made it clear in no uncertain terms that my attendance was lacking and that if I didn’t want to repeat the year I had to be present for every single hour of every single day of the semester.

Even though she knew what I went through at this school at their hands.

I showed her my “notebook” in which I had written down every last incident that transpired since September of last year. She took her time, looked through it, and just didn’t care; said it was hearsay and that she couldn’t act on it.

So I did the only thing I could – I soldiered on and just couldn’t let them win.

I couldn’t let even one single insult become real, even if it was the most unimaginative one – calling me stupid.

I just couldn’t let them get away with this, so even though they did everything humanly possible to sabotage my grades I swore to myself that I would get through this year.

So I forced myself to attend school, to push through the day no matter what. Not that I had much of a choice since I wasn’t allowed to skip school any longer.

I didn’t know how they managed to learn about the fact that I had to keep up my attendance. But somehow they did, and every thought I had before that Winslow was hell and that it couldn’t get any worse was overwritten by the reality that it could. They upped their game and it got worse daily, but no matter what they did I was too stubborn to give in. Even though I constantly thought about it, I never did.

Until today.

Until they once again bathed me in juice, something they hadn‘t done in a long while since they found better ways to ruin my day. Having expected a repeat of something like this occurring I was prepared and had a fresh change of clothes in the school. So I went to retrieve it together with a towel and shampoo so that I could hit the shower in the gym and get that sticky liquid out of my hair.

Because it happened at the start of lunch break I figured I had enough time to shower and return to class even if it would mean that I wouldn’t have the time to eat.

At least that was the plan, a plan that did not survive the contact with the enemy.

During my hot and relaxing shower, I first noticed something amiss when I heard the sound of snickering. I turned to see the door to the shower standing open with several girls standing between the door hinges, Emma being the one in the center, and they all had their phones pointed at me.

I suddenly felt my heart rate spike, making my hands shake just thinking about it. I tried my best to focus on something else to not have to relive what they did to me.

Deep breaths, deep breaths, I told myself over and over and after a time forcing myself to calm down it had the desired result. Damn, and this was the result of today‘s prank. 

I entertained for one brief second the idea of coming clean and telling my dad everything. But I knew it would break him – the knowledge that my former best friend, the second daughter of Alan and Zoe Barnes, my parents‘ best friends, was responsible for my suffering.

I just couldn’t do that to him, not after mom died and left him a shell of his former self. It would kill him as I was sure would the fact that there were nude pictures of his barely 16-year-old daughter in circulation.

But what else could I do? That was when I realized that they would never stop. They would continue to do this to me until something finally gave.

And since I didn’t intend to lash out at them, I considered it one last concession to my former best friend, that I could never bring myself to retract - the promise that I would never willfully hurt her. So what else was there for me to do, especially now that they crossed this line?

I started to shake again just thinking about what they would do to me next, just to somehow top this.

Were they going to violate the integrity of my home, the last sanctuary I had left where they didn’t hound me so far? Take away the last place I could feel safe and let my guard down?

At this moment I started to realize I‘d had enough. Enough of this neverending suffering, enough of fear being my constant companion, constantly picturing their next possible escalation in my mind to soften up the actual deed because I was expecting it. I had endured more than enough and it was time to end it.

I was sure that nobody who would learn the truth would blame me. And perhaps after I had gone through with what I was about to do, somebody might end their silence and do what they should have done a long time ago.

So I grabbed my clothes - thankfully they left them behind - dressed myself, and left Winslow, this hellhole they call a school.

A place I would never return to if I could help it, and help it I intended to do. I took a bus up to Captain‘s Hill while making plans on how to end it.

For a short moment, I even entertained the thought of killing myself by staging my own murder and planting evidence suggesting those three bitches as the culprit, but discarded this train of thought almost as fast as it came to me.

Alan, Emma’s father, was a lawyer and I was sure he would find some way to discover it was staged and twist it to further damage my image – perhaps even discrediting or hurting my dad, too.

Dad...he was the one who kept me going for so long. If not for him and what my death would do to him I most likely would have given up months ago, perhaps the locker would have sufficed to push me over the edge when it became clear they would get away with it scot-free.

But I couldn’t go on any longer. Perhaps he could come to understand one day, and if I didn’t leave behind a farewell letter the doubt that it might have been no suicide would give him something to cling to, and prevent him from shattering and following my path.

I could only hope.

That’s one of the reasons I avoided killing myself at home even though, as my research on this subject indicated, one of the less painful ways to go was to slit your wrist (apparently along the veins instead of across them which was a common mistake) inside a tub filled with warm water and wait until you bleed to death.

My musing came to an end as my slow steps finally led me to the railing.

I slipped my legs over the edge and looked down; the ground was a long way below. I wondered how long it would take me to reach the ground and if it was true that you see your whole life in your last moments.

Well, only one way to find out.

I took one last deep breath, closed my eyes and...loud sirens broke me out of my train of thought and halted my intended course of action.

I listened a moment...and yes, I didn’t mistake them. Those are Endbringer sirens.

No, not those that alert parahumans of an imminent attack somewhere around the world, so that they could rally at the PRT Headquarters to help. No, this particular alarm was the one everybody hopes to never have to listen to.

Because this one warns the people of a pending Endbringer attack at the location where it‘s sounded.

An Endbringer was coming to Brockton Bay.

And if I was to judge the fact that it just started raining...it points to Leviathan. The creature who sank dozens of islands and seaports was coming here.

I couldn’t help but smile - with luck Winslow wouldn’t survive the day. Even better, I didn’t have to jump from the roof; I could just wait for Leviathan to kill me.

If I didn’t make it inside an Endbringer shelter, I would almost certainly die.

No need to do the deed myself. And perhaps this wouldn’t be as hard on my dad. He would just think I wasn’t able to reach the safety of a shelter in time.

So I stood there on the roof, looking towards the bay, where the stormfront was building up and announced the approach of Leviathan. Perhaps I would even get to see him make landfall and some of the heroes fighting him; perhaps I would even be able to see Alexandria in action.

The only woman in the Triumvirate. My childhood hero, who I wanted to meet since, like, forever.

In a roundabout way that could count as the fulfillment of a last wish - to meet the world’s greatest heroine moments before my death. I let my sight wander, as below me the streets began to fill with people running, struggling to reach the shelters, hoping that they would be enough withstand the onslaught of the waves Leviathan no doubt would send against the city to drown it and every living being in it.

A small part of me wondered if one of my tormentors would die in the next few hours. I again suppressed this thought almost as fast as it wormed its way in my consciousness.

I’m better than that, I told myself ...or at least I tried my very hardest to be better than that.

Something that wouldn’t matter for much longer.

My view landed on the various people storming out the building I was standing on top of.

How they were running and forgetting even the most basic of courtesies, trampling and pushing their way forward only caring for themselves and their closest family while ignoring everything and everybody else.

They either moved, got shoved out of the way, or were simply trampled over. Funny how little was necessary to reveal the ugliness beneath the mask we wear every day. Ugliness I knew existed below everybody’s paraded demeanor; especially those you least suspect to have it were gonna surprise you.

I saw how some heavyset boy carrying a toddler in his arm was shoved down the stairs leading up to the main entrance of this building. I witnessed how he was suppressing his instinct to catch himself with his hands, knowing that if he did the toddler in his arm would be dropped and hurt in the process.

So instead of allowing that to happen he managed to turn himself while flying through the air as much as possible and shielded the toddler from any damage his fall might have inflicted upon it. He landed hard on the ground eliciting a scream from his lips that I could hear even 30 stories above him.

A few minutes and dozens of people running out of the building later, the boy and the toddler were the only ones not already nearly to the shelter, still sitting on the steps of the building. And from what I could glean from my position they were no longer in any condition to continue.

One of the boy‘s legs was bent in an odd angle - definitely broken. Nonetheless, he tried his very best to stand up, not something possible with how wrong his leg looked, but it didn’t stop him from trying.

He was determined, I had to give him that.

Well since I wasn’t so far gone as to not care about some innocent toddler‘s survival (and to be honest, I had nothing better to do anyway), I decided to help. Dying could wait just a few minutes. I could at least try to give my last few minutes of life some meaning, and helping someone or dying while trying might just be the way to do it. A more fitting way to go.

I swung my legs back over the railing and made my way down the staircase as fast as possible. It wasn’t nearly as exhausting as climbing them, but still by the time I exited the building I was out of breath and sweating.

If there was a tomorrow for me I would need to improve my fitness; there‘s retirees around who are in better shape than I am.

It took me another 20 meters to reach the boy still struggling to limp in the direction of the shelter, hissing every time his broken leg so much as touched the ground. He practically got nowhere the whole time I ran down the stairs.

I approached him from behind and wordlessly grabbed his left arm, then put it across my shoulders to act as his crutch. He didn’t hear me approaching, so my sudden touch startled him. He examined my face for a few moments in which neither of us said anything.

Then he managed an anguished “thank you“ between his lips and we started limping as fast as possible in the direction of the shelter. He was heavy, so it took everything out of me and him to keep going, to not stop.

All the while we were fighting our way through a raging storm with raindrops splashing so hard in our faces that it would be a miracle if they weren’t already black and blue with bruises. And with a wind so strong we had to turn our heads just to be able to breathe.

We dragged ourselves along the water-filled street towards the shelter, with literal rivers flowing along the sidewalks overburdening the storm drains, all the while knowing that we couldn’t stop, not even to catch our breaths, because to stop meant to die.

Something I myself wouldn’t have minded, but every time I considered stopping to concede to my aching muscles I glanced at the face of the toddler in the boy’s arms.

Protected only by a blanket from the forces of nature, I remembered that I couldn’t just abandon this innocent child who had its whole life ahead of it. A toddler - female if the pink blanket is any indication of its gender - who seemed to immensely enjoy the ride, giggling to herself. So I clenched my teeth and pushed on, as did the boy.

After what seemed like an eternity in which the storm got stronger and stronger, we finally reached the big metal doors marking the entrance of the shelter.

It didn’t take long for the officials at the shelter to notice us. Two men in some kind uniform, with a reflective west worn over it, came running out and helped us the rest of the way in. As they brought us through the shelter doors, over the loud raging storm I could hear one of the guys in uniform scream that Leviathan had made landfall and that the capes had started fighting him.

I could see the fear in the faces of everyone around me, the uncertainty. I passed the boy over to them and one of the officials continued to support him in my stead. I started to turn away towards the open city when a hand closed around my upper arm and I was dragged inside the shelter by one of those uniformed guys before I could protest and shout against the deafening sound the storm was generating to express my displeasure.

My window of opportunity, to get out, despite my struggles was already missed, as the huge metal doors were already closing. At this point, even I had realized it would be a hopeless endeavor to get them to open the doors so I could leave. Especially since I couldn’t think of a single excuse that was even remotely believable for them to justify opening the shelter doors for a 16-year girl during an ongoing Endbringer attack.

Defeated, the boy and I were escorted through the shelter to the top level, him still holding onto the toddler, where they told us there were some cots we could use to lie down and rest, and perhaps a doctor could be found to take a look at his leg.

I started cursing in my head. A perfect chance to die at the hands of a monster, which could only be described as a natural disaster, and therefore the perfect chance to commit suicide without it being obvious. What could I do? I had warmed to the idea Leviathan presented in order to soften the blow my death at his hands would have on my Dad in comparison to outright committing suicide. But now that that chance was gone...Argh!

Why couldn’t anything go the way I wanted it to?

When we reached the cots I practically crashed into one, completely exhausted both mentally and physically. I was barely able to hold myself together, not even able to think clearly. I closed my eyes and exhaustion was about to take a hold of me, slowly sinking into the embrace of a well-deserved sleep when I was brought back to awareness, startled awake by towel thrown my way.

“Kid, you’re soaked to the bone. Dry yourself off before you catch a cold and I’ll see if I can find some clothes for you and your friend.” Some guy said to us before he turned around and left us alone.

Only then did I start to look around and take in my surroundings. The top layer of the shelter consisted of some kind of reinforced structure around 5m high with heavy pillars placed roughly every 5m and roughly 100 cots were lined next to the walls, most of them without someone occupying them.

A good two dozen people were scattered around the floor, some small families and other groups. I also made out one official standing next to the staircase we used to come up here.

Faint conversations, essentially whispers, permeated the silence as if the owners of those voices feared that Leviathan would hear them if they spoke up.

I sat up, took the towel, and started rubbing my sopping hair dry, then proceeded to take off my glasses and wiped them clean. This way I would at least be able to see more than vague forms around me.

After I had my now clean glasses back on again, I noticed the boy was staring directly at me.

I looked back at him, returning his stare with my own. I was about to turn away, relenting when I got angry at myself for backing away. So I ended up asked him a lot sharper than I intended “What are you looking at?” The moment the words left my mouth I was already regretting them. But the boy didn’t care.

He looked down at the toddler still in his arms to verify that she was unharmed and said, “Sorry.” He stumbled over his words. “I...just wanted to thank you again, for saving me and Aster. My name is Theo by the way, what’s yours?”

Before I could answer him, we were interrupted by two people who had made their way up the stairs and were heading right for us. The one on the left was a guy in uniform, probably one of those who escorted us up here, and the other was an older man, probably his in mid-40s in jeans and some kind of rainjacket.

He knelt right next to the cot the boy was sitting on and gave both of us a once over. “My goodness, you weren’t kidding, they look like hell,” he said to the guy that brought him here. He probably saw a grimace on my face because he continued, “Sorry, but you look like you went through a lot.”

Tell me about it, genius.

“Oh, where are my manners. I‘m Dr. Hendrikson and I was asked to have a look at your leg. May I?” He asked Theo. Theo‘s response consisted of a short nod and the doctor took this as permission and started to slowly unwrap his leg.

More than once I saw Theo take a sharp breath when the pain hit him. It took a while, even requiring the help of a sharp knife, but they were finally able to expose his leg and the definitely broken bones.

“Well seems like a classic shin and calf bone fracture,” the doctor said. “May I ask what happened?”

“I was leaving the apartment with Aster around the same time everyone else did so we were in the middle of the crowd when I got shoved from behind. I fell and was barely able to save Aster from being buried under me when I felt a sharp pain in my leg,” he explained. “I think someone stepped on me. By the time the pain was down to a bearable degree Aster and I were alone, and we would still be out there if not for her.”

When he said those last words he pointed right at me and muttered, “thank you” for the third time since I meet him.

At his genuine words of gratitude, I started to feel warm inside. It must have been forever since somebody thanked me, that somebody acknowledged my existence without ill intent.

Dr. Hendrikson looked at me for a moment. “Very good, young lady,” he praised before he continued in the direction of Theo. “I’m sorry I can’t do much for you. We don’t have a lot of medical supplies here. Perhaps I‘ll be able to put your leg in some makeshift splints, but everything else has to wait until we‘re cleared to leave the shelter.”

At the exact moment these words left his mouth, the shelter shook. In the periphery of my vision, I could make out how everybody around us cringed. Worry crept its way in the countenance of the people around me.

They slowly started to relax, after a little time went by and nothing else happened, only for there to be another louder and definitely closer quake that shook the shelter. I slowly started to rise from my cot for some reason, fixating my view to the center of this floor.

I didn’t know what I expected to find there but certainly not what the third quake revealed.

Then, with a loud crash, the center part of the ceiling came down followed by water. So much water that it flooded the whole floor, and within seconds we were all up to our ankles in the torrent. Well, those of us who were at least able to remain standing, which wasn‘t many. Most, surprised from the sudden gush of water, were swept right off their feet.

But what shocked me and most likely everyone else the most was the fact that, in the midst of those boulders strewn about which at one time made up the ceiling, was a creature at least 4m tall, with three eyes, scaly skin and a lizard tail that was just standing up from a kneeling position; to its full height, which nearly allowed it to butt its head against the ceiling.

Through that hole, the creature had smashed its way through dozens of meters of concrete to penetrate the shelter. It seemed to gaze at us, as more water continued to fall on top of it and flowed down its body.

Leviathan...

I, like most people still alive, had only ever seen pictures of him. That’s mostly credited to the fact that few people ever survived an encounter with him. Even among the most powerful capes, there were comparatively few who ever faced him and lived to tell the tale.

And I must say, those pictures weren’t even close to conveying the terror of seeing him up close and personal. His body was for human standards disproportionate, with his arms much longer than they should be. His upper arms and shoulders appeared to be heavily muscled and stood in stark contrast to the much thinner forearms, and his calves were topped off with massive webbed claws. 

He had hunched shoulders and large cords of muscles standing out on his neck and upper torso. 

Behind him, he dragged along a tail about 15m in length that looked more like a whip with its rather thin diameter. But the most disturbing thing was not the scaly green color of his whole body, but his face, or rather lack thereof. He didn’t have a nose, mouth, or ears, and the only thing embedded in his featureless head, that reminded me of a green featureless hockey mask, were four asymmetrically placed eyes - three on the left side of his face and one on the right.

Leviathan seemed to be content to scrutinize his surroundings as he stood there. His presence alone was enough that fear took hold over the people - no one dared to move, desperately trying not to attract his attention. If he had been human with features that allowed for feelings to be displayed, I could vividly imagine him doing just that. Just standing there, savoring the effect he had on us. The fear he could instill with his mere existence.

But he wasn’t human, therefore whatever it was that halted him didn’t last and he slowly commenced stomping in my - our - direction.

Suddenly I heard a deafening sound - a gunshot, glancing off the creature’s skin, or rather his scales, without inflicting so much as a scratch. He continued his walk to us unhindered but swiped his tail once in the direction where the gunshot came from - a group of five young men; judging by their shaved heads, probably some Empire 88 thugs.

They didn’t even have time to regret their actions when the highly compressed water that was released from the tip of Leviathan‘s tail bisected the whole group together with the 2m diameter steel-concrete pillar, which offered the same nonexistent resistance to this attack as the five bodies that now littered the floor, coloring the water red and leaving a deep trench in the wall behind.

I reoriented myself and started cursing. Even though I wanted to die I wouldn’t allow Theo and this baby girl Aster to do the same, not after I went to such lengths to get them to safety. But it seemed that was exactly what was gonna happen since there was a bonafide Endbringer with us in the room.

A creature that not even the strongest capes could even hope to match, to survive even, and it had set its sights on us. The guys next to me stopped moving. I could see the panic on their faces holding them in its grip.

Fear strong enough to paralyze them while Leviathan came ever closer with sure steps. My mind started working in overdrive trying to come up with what to do to save those people. But what could I hope to accomplish? I wasn’t a hero, I had no powers - I was just a scrawny, unfit teenager.

All things which didn’t prevent me from acting. I intended to die anyway so let’s make this count were my thoughts before I shouted “Run!” and started running myself. Not away from that creature but right at it. Hopefully, my desperate scream would free at least a few of them from their paralysis. 

I knew that I wouldn’t be able to do shit against him. If the world’s strongest capes are only able to hurt him while giving it their all, I would be nothing not worth noticing - a little fly waiting to be squashed.

But I didn’t intend to win, to hurt him. I intended to distract him just long enough for those people to clear the room. To live long enough for the heroes to arrive and save the day.

This way, I could at least give some meaning to my death. So I ran at him and the closer I got the less I thought this was a good idea. But what was the worst thing that could happened to me, right? And I started smiling.

As soon I was about two meters away from him his tail moved. I was barely able to see it twitch before I ducked low and not a second too late; I could feel the supplanted air on my face from the water slash as hard as concrete that missed me by by an inch. Suprised, I stumbled forward and while trying to catch my fall my hands found leverage on a steel bar sticking out of some little piece of concrete.

With a strong pull, it came loose and I came up with it held in my hand. Two long strides forward and I hit Leviathan who now stood directly above me with everything I had.

I heard a loud clang when the steel bar hit him and my hands holding onto it went numb and bloody. I didn’t hesitate, releasing my grip on the steel bar and immediately jumped sideways just in time to avoid his lazy claw swing.

I didn’t know what clued me in, certainly not the plain indifferent face of Leviathan, but cold shivers ran down my spine and I was certain that after I‘d escaped certain death twice, I now had his undivided attention.

Whereas mine was split since I saw that the guys who were with me and Theo followed my suggestion and were running away as fast as they could. The fact that the water slash he attacked me with went just over their heads and barely missed them was most likely a strong motivator to keep doing just that. What I didn’t think possible was that they did that without taking Theo with them.

I started wondering what kind of scumbags would leave a toddler behind when Leviathan‘s claws shot forward and closed around my midsection.

My eyes weren’t even able to follow his movement before I felt them. I knew exactly what would follow, I just hoped it would be fast with no suffering and all things considered, this was not the worst way to go. The only thing I regretted was that my actions weren’t enough to save Theo and little Aster.

But instead of me feeling the agony of my torso being crushed, and my intestines spilling out between Leviathan‘s claws, I heard and felt something shatter. My vision wavered for a moment and the next thing I knew I had landed hard on the flooded floor and something else slammed down right next to me, splintering into thousands of pieces.

It took me some time to stand up, and more to process what I saw.

Leviathan was speared through with some kind of long, sharp-pointed cones. At the base of those cones a few meters back I saw Theo with one hand extended.

A closer look revealed that those cones were generated out of the matter, the concrete around Theo, and seemed to have killed Leviathan.

The green skin he had moments ago was now a pale white, and Leviathan stopped moving as if he had turned to stone after the claw in which he held me was severed from the rest of his body.

But what made me think he was really dead was the gaping hole in his chest where, if he were human, his heart would be, right above some of the cones which speared his midsection.

But there was no clue as far as I could see what was responsible for it. Because none of the cones had stabbed him anywhere near the hole in his chest.

I stood there looking at the now-dead form of Leviathan as my musings were interrupted by loud cheers echoing through the hall.

A fast glance at Theo and I saw pure panic. He reached for one of the towels and wrapped it around his head, frantically trying to hide his identity. Quick thinking, I had to give him that. I wasn’t exactly a cape geek but even I could see where it could get problematic if you were outed as a cape and that was even before the fact that he just killed one of three thought-to-be-completely-invincible Endbringers. A feat that many tried to accomplish, but nobody had managed to make a reality.

It took only a few moments and Theo was surrounded by people - good for him.

What little I could glean from him in our interactions with each other didn’t exactly give me the impression that he had a lot of friends; some of his mannerisms were oddly familiar to my own. Somebody who was used to burying his head in the sand so as to not draw any attention at any cost.

Hopefully, this will change things for him now. I made my way to the staircase as I‘d already wasted enough time.

The moment I reached them and took stock of my body I nearly toppled over.

I no longer felt exhausted. When not just a few moments ago every fiber in my body practically screamed at me, I now felt better than ever did.  

My skin should be covered in goosebumps and I should be shivering because the water was freezing cold and I was still wet to the skin. But on the contrary - soaked as I was, I felt safe and secure as if I was sitting in front of a chimney wrapped in a warm and soft blanket.

It didn’t take a genius or a mental leap to recognize that something was really wrong.

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