O’ tempting screaming abyss, bide thy time well
For rapturous joy does await thine bottomless pit,
And empty not will it remain.
He could feel the heat placating, not actually reducing but not increasing either. To maintain an even state of fury took triple the effort than vying for a calm. The easiest method is to burn and burn until the empty, drained feeling exhausts him to his max. To let everything out in a blazing moment of rage. It happened once but never again would he allow himself to go completely berserk. The feeling was exultant, there was no denying his conscience that, but following that feeling was the worst low of his life, the most spine-curving slump to ever grip the young man’s eighteen years.
It wasn’t the killing that disturbed him so deeply, that part tasted like fine nectar, rather Yillo placed his feelings of apprehension, remorse, even depression on the basis that he couldn’t lose control of himself again. The prospect terrified him. Yillo considered himself a man of principle, of class and manner. Seeing himself reduced to a ravaging beast went against all he tried to be, all he failed to be. His Aspect, Paroxysm, was like a punch to the gut.
Yillo struggled with his temper daily. Upon awakening a power based solely on rage and bloodlust humbled and humiliated the young man. No one saw him as anything but an angry, friendless kid. Just thinking about Jonatan made his blood boil. The arrogant bastard had it coming, yet it wasn’t Yillo’s place to perform the deed. They trained and would fight in wars on the same side, differences aside.
Not any more thought Yillo grimly.
Nothing the fiery eyed boy ever said came out right. The constant mocking and jeering never helped his mood. Raised on principles of honor, so when one challenged that sense of honor it had to be addressed fist to fist. The nicknames he could deal with, the isolation he could get over, it was the looks of utter contempt that grated against his temper. The scornful condescension of others who thought themselves superior that made his vision blur with a crimson vignette.
Yillo exhaled slowly, struggling for a serenity he didn’t want, couldn’t find. Yillo came to learn that he had a unique style of meditation, as interpreted by Master Klyle months ago on the mountain camp.
“That immutable noesis, the state of enlightenment, of total oneness and peace. The unity of self and nature, boy, is translated by anger in you. You can only activate your Aspect with hatred and you only awakened it in the first place by a passion of resentment and a need for violence rarely seen.” Klyle spoke with Yillo on a precipice, feet dangling over the edge of a thousand meter drop. Yillo sat beside Klyle, his own feet crossed legged, though he was no less distant from the edge.
“I don’t want this,” Yillo complained. Klyle saw the desperation in Yillo’s eyes. Eyes that Yillo himself rejected because they burned with a pain born of ceaseless chagrin.
“It is your nature lad. There is a beast inside each man, like a storm waiting to be unleashed at the slightest lapse in judgement. You must have a resolve as sturdy as this mountain range,” Klyle spread his hybrid paw-hands, “in order to keep the beast in check.” Klyle paused, either for emphasis or contemplation. “You, however, were born with it raging.”
Yillo stayed silent for a minute, letting the words sink. The greater the pain, the greater the strength.
The pain was wrought from self-hate and the self-hate came from hate of everyone else. It is all in my head, Yillo told himself. But what if it is justified…
“I just want a quiet life.” Yillo voiced his despair.
“Chose the wrong line of work for that one.” Klyle joked with a light chuckle. Yillo gave a rue smile. Chose was a strong word. The need for violence pushed him to join the school, his natural instinct and single-minded drive allowed him to pass the admission test, but only barely.
Perhaps the bloodlust will be satisfied during war, either that or death will extinguish the fire.
“I know what you are thinking.” Klyle cutting into Yillo’s reverie. “Your plan is to dull your conscience until guilt overwhelms you or it no longer begs to be satisfied.” Yillo scoffed in response but had no words to deny as Klyle easily dissected him. The man was uncanny.
“You have an old soul with a warrior’s heart.” Klyle watched the man carefully as Yillo’s gaze drifted downward, his eyes no longer seeing anything but a drop that spelled the release of his torment.
“I don’t know if I can conquer the beast.” Yillo breathed the words. I would rather end it now than see myself a crazed murderer with blood-stained hands.
“Aye, none of us know that. Only in the moment of the test can we rise to the occasion or base ourselves further than the worst scum.” Klyle risked a move, placing a hand on the boy’s shoulder. Yillo stilled like water freezing, ready to explode in fury. He held back and Klyle continued without a pause. “When you walked on the log, between the cliffs, what did you see?” Klyle removed his hand, accomplishing all he needed. Yillo turned this time to answer, the immediate threat of him jumping lessening as the physical contact removed him from his spacing-out.
“All I saw was the other cliffside.” Yillo said shaking his head, as if dismissing any point Klyle would try to make.
“Holding back the storm is a lot like that walk over the edge. Even a glance down in the pit of filth, the beast’s den, is enough for most men to slip and lose themselves in their violent instincts. Though rarely have I seen an animal act in the way that some men do. It is really beneath even animals. You walked over that drop perfectly. You have it in you to conquer that beast, lad.”
The words reached Yillo, in some way, or perhaps he decided something on his own. Either way he stood up and gave one more thunderous look into the ground far below, as if angry that the mountain dared to entice him with the thought.
“Thank you,” was all Yillo said to Master Klyle. The boy turned and began walking. Klyle called after him.
“Yillo, follow the trail near that old cypress, you know the one, follow it until it’s no longer a trail, keep going for a day and there is a test for you. Take the test and you will have your answer.”
Yillo nodded once and changed course toward the trail…
“Hey, man,” the voice broke Yillo’s meditation and the memory of the mountain was replaced by irritation, “want to partner up for this exercise? There’s one tennis court left.” Yillo opened his eyes to see Xander, confident and tall, fair hair and sharp features with glowing blue eyes lighting up for the challenge.
“Alright.” Yillo stood up, ignoring Xander’s outstretched hand and his own legs which had fallen asleep during his meditation. Today was Aspect Chemistry, a class for learning the physics and chemical reactions of different powers. A sort of testing lab, where Savants who used elements like fire or ice could learn and experiment what every reaction and interaction did. The more scientific side of powers, assuming science could apply to one’s particular ability.
Yillo grabbed a green racket and tested the wiring; stiff with no give. Probably a new racket. He selected an orange racket that had visible wear and scuff marks along the rim. This would do. A new racket would be placed under too much stress and the ball would break right through it with how he planned on playing.
Yillo observed his classmates as they all started their own games of various sports. They had a thirty minute meditation period before the day’s lesson. Today was different from the regular routine of labs and equations. Today was a practical application of diversifying Aspect usage. The rules are simple. Play sports while using powers, only no equipment can be damaged and no direct attacks to other players while keeping the standard rules of the given sport. It was an interesting end of semester exercise and one meant to turn the day into a less stressful free day allowing for students to create their own competitions.
Yillo saw a majority of the class playing soccer in a five versus five. Boys against girls. The girls team was made up of Hales, Bria, Veron, Hido and Talayia. The boys team had Emilo, Dartan, Magun, Genjam and Jid. Hido played goalie for the girls and Emilo for the boys. The choices made sense. Both used defensive Aspects, Hido’s Guardian allowed her to block any obnoxiously high-powered shot while transferring fatigue from her teammates to herself, keeping them fresh. Emilo’s Steelskin made him an immovable force yet the kid’s recent control of his power meant he could go in and out of his steel-form in an instant. Both teams had solid defense.
The soccer game was already a few minutes in with a quick score by the girls. Veron discovered she could draw special Jinx’s for inanimate objects. She gave the soccer ball the ability of flight, allowing it to stay aerial. It fit into Hales’ Aspect, by attaching planets to the soccer ball she influenced its flight giving it a general direction to gravitate towards. Talayia used blunt knives to hit the ball for added speed and change of pace. Meanwhile, Bria danced around the field throwing up ribbons to block line of sight and add to the chaos. The whole scene was a little comical, a flying soccer ball with planets orbiting it and ribbons shooting out in every direction.
Yillo could have guessed that would be the girls team’s strategy. They used their Aspects the way they always did, never finding different uses, only getting better at what they settled for…
“You ready?” Xander asked from the other side of the tennis court. Yillo nodded, all thoughts of his classmate’s soccer game vanishing.
Xander served first but hit the net, a failed spike. An obvious cause of his Karma Aspect. Ever since their senior year of school started, six months ago, Xander had been using Bad Karma, indicated by his blue eyes. The whole year so far he has dealt with sickness, tripping down stairs, spilling food and drink, tardiness, losing various books and papers, but despite his grades tanking and his health declining, Xander struggled hard to overcome all his bad luck. During training he constantly sprained muscles and suffered injuries and failed in most tasks. The school obviously tolerated his poor credit on account of his ability, only with the condition that he improve.
And improve he did. Xander inexorably became better. Despite everything bad that life could throw at the bonny kid he found a way to push pass it, to succeed where his very own power tried to fail him.
Yillo knew the reason that Xander could even begin to grow. The same conclusion he reached for himself…
“Paroxysm.” Yillo glowed a yellow-orange, and there his color equalized. No further change. Yillo backhanded the tennis ball and his color drained, adding a powerful force to the swing. The racket didn’t break and neither did the ball. He was able to use little enough of his Aspect. It flashed through the air too fast for Xander to counter.
The two went back and forth, Yillo with a handle on his Aspect was unstoppable to the clumsy Xander. But each volley saw Xander return more and more hits even to the point of scoring because of well enough placed hits. Yillo stayed in control of his anger, only allowing enough rage to be useful.
Everything within. That was the answer. The day Yillo faced the test he changed from a boy to a man. In one day his world changed, saw through new lenses. I am strong enough, Yillo thought, no beast nor storm will conquer me.
After walking away from Master Klyle, he spent hours wandering aimlessly around the mountain, far from camp. Unsure as to the nature of the test or what it entailed. Yillo stayed ready, exploding with anger and anticipation, leaping far and allowing his Aspect to brace his collisions with trees and boulders. He vented for hours. Nightfall finally came and he huddled in a cave and lit a small fire. The wind easily snuffed the flames and he spent the slow dark hours cold and shivering. When morning arrived he found fresh berries and drank from a small stream. Hunger didn’t affect him the way it did at the beginning of the camp, now his body was conditioned to not rely on fast burning sugars and carbs. The couple of hours he did sleep refreshed him enough to walk for another half day.
But he hadn’t realized how sleepy he was until it came into sight. He gasped fully aware, the sight so much more intense and paralyzing than he ever thought possible. The eeriest part was it’s silence. The size only added to the disbelief that such a thing could move so wraith-like. The terrible eyes sent a shiver that vibrated all the bones in Yillo’s body. Fight or flight. Those were Yillo’s choices.
Instinct for flight was savagely quelled when Yillo growled the word “Paroxysm,” and smashed his fists together, forcing his body to stay and fight…
A regal, enormous, amber colored mountain lion three meters long with fur that shone gold in the sun, crouched like the goddess of hunters, proud with claws poised and haunches flexed and expression like granite and weighing more than a man and threatening purr escaping its barred teeth that were more like ivory blades and Yillo standing shy only meters from it, frozen in wonderment and inescapable fear.
The color from his Aspect drained as it deactivated. Yillo ignored the flashing of memories in his mind’s eye and took two steps forward and leaned into a swinging hook placed at the head of the beast. The punch landed but failed to even stun the lion, it snarled and reacted to Yillo’s attack. A swiping paw tore across his chest and even as he tried jumping back the strike sent him reeling and he fell hard on his back, blood gushing profusely.
The lion pounced on the fallen man but his Aspect finally stuck this time.
“Paroxysm!” Yillo shouted and instantly lit up in a bright red, burning hue. He threw an uppercut at the cat as it jumped on him and the color fed into his punch. He timed it as the cat was over him and sent it flying on overhead. Yillo got up as the cat rolled to its feet, growling.
Yillo let the anger engulf him, his color getting brighter and deeper. His chest wound cauterized over and his clothes began to singe. The conflagrant man and the amber lion charged each other.
Yillo threw his right hand at the cat, which swerved in time to catch the blow on its shoulder. The redness exploded on the lion and threatened to obliterate the limb, only the thick fur and abnormally large size saved the cat from losing after the hit. That and the way it rolled with the punch. Yillo realized the brutal intelligence of the animal as it took the blow in stride, sacrificing its leg to get an opening. With all of his color drained, it had the perfect opportunity.
Biting and clawing it ripped and tore into Yillo. Blood flowed and flesh hung in strips all over his arms, chest and legs.
Yillo shouted in agony and kept delivering hit after hit, none of them possessing enough Paroxysm to deal significant enough damage to the cat. He needed more time to build up his color, his rage.
Yillo relaxed and went limp. The lion took advantage and gripped his leg in its teeth and shook him ruthlessly, dragging him ragdoll over rocks, roots and stumps. Yillo finally turned so red, so crimson that the cat had to release its hold on the man to save from burning.
With a shout of pain and anger Yillo staggered to his feet and crudely swung his arm over his shoulder into the side of the lion, destroying its ribs and collapsing its lungs. The skin around the wound boiled.
Yillo had trouble standing so he dropped to the ground, dizziness clouding his vision. The magnificent lion lay broken, whimpering as it slowly died. Yillo pet it softly and tried soothing the animal until it let out a shuddering final breath.
He stood on unsteady feet, checking his wounds and testing his leg. Everything worked and the blood didn’t drip as the rest of his wounds were burnt closed. The exultation that followed a near death experience that one had to battle out of coursed through his pulsing veins, overwhelming him. He had to shout in his triumph. He overcame the test! Conquered the beast, just as Klyle had said.
Yillo laughed and shouted and felt his hands shake. A deep breath gave the scents of the forest and burning flesh and the dead lion more vividness than ever before. All his neurosis slipping off him, the shackles at last breaking apart. He reached inside the open hole in the lion, digging for the heart, and pulled out a bloody finger then proceeded to lick the blood of the heart of the beast. He whispered words of goodbye and praise, after all he owed this great cat something more valuable than his life. His spirit. He would carry the heart of the lion with him forever.
In his high, one that felt even stronger than when he first awakened his Aspect, he ignored his aching wounds and washed off the blood in a stream. Afterwards he made his way back to the camp and rejoined his class for their final exam…
Timed with a grunt, Yillo spiked another volley into Xander’s side of the court. Another win. Yillo won eight straight games. They played for hours more, neither refusing to surrender and admit defeat, though Yillo never lost, ending the series without Xander giving up would feel like losing.
Xander for his part started to evolve his game, adding in curve balls and low hits that prevented Yillo from spiking. Finally the two students could play no longer, both pushing far beyond exhaustion. Yillo could no longer keep his power active and Xander could barely lift either of his arms, having switched to his left hand, his off-hand, late in their series of games to train his other side.
Neither gave up and the finale was mutual. Xander wanted to discuss the games but Yillo wandered away, three bottles of water already emptied within minutes. His Aspect burned more than his anger, it burned his sweat too, dehydrating him to unhealthy levels after extended use.
Yillo spent the rest of the period watching his classmates silently on a patch of green grass. The students playing soccer were on their third game, though the teams were mixed from what he saw originally. He didn’t know who won the first game and he never asked.
Uana and Jillian were the other pair playing tennis, though their games were not quite as intense as his and Xander’s were. Uana used her Gale Aspect to add icy winds that she changed the direction of to add curve and spin to the ball. Jillian never tired as her Alacrity gave her endless supplies of adrenaline.
The remaining five students played an odd game of free-for-all basketball. It was odd because Abajem was merged with a giant praying mantis and Hijo was a horned wolf-stag. Benhan, Jid and Meanu seemed out of place in comparison to their monstrous classmates. Yillo relaxed a minute before deciding to join their game of basketball, curious as to how a game with their powers would go.
They turned the game to a three versus three when Yillo arrived to even the teams. The days were already beginning to shorten as autumn claimed the season but they played through the afternoon because that was what they were told to do. Train constantly in some form, practically the school’s motto. So train they did and as the sun declined the day ended like all do.
…But Yillo, Klyle thought that day so many months ago when the boy executed his test, you were never supposed to fight the beast. Stand your ground unwavering, unblinking as a testimony of your courage and humanity. The beast was never going to attack, it was to reflect your nature back to you. You killed it, the beast inside, brutally, like no beast would ever do. No Yillo, you have no beast in you, it was always a demon.