Rising Stars #5: Piercing Light

Rising Stars Event

Previously on Rising Stars…

Radiants are under attack by the monstrous creatures known as Abyssals. To stop this, Sorceress Udona begins forming a group of Radiants seemingly to stop them. First was the Radiant Alexander Aile, second was the pre-teen Vigilante Aranea, and third was the Priestess Yuna. Aranea and the Radiant Lao have located the next prospective member, the soldier Alistair Rosewood. In a rage, Aranea threatens Alistair and sparks a battle that has only intensified. Now the pair face not just Alistair, but his Star Core enhanced Mech…

Martial Artist Radiant

Alistair Rosewood

Ace Pilot Radiant

Aranea/Derek Varg

Vigilante Radiant

Today had not turned out how Aranea had expected. A few hours ago he was facing down two crime syndicates and now he floats before Alistair’s giant mech. His Danger Sense going from minor discomfort to continual intense pain. But while Aranea & Lao were both unsure how to tackle their gargantuan opponent. Alistair was calm and unwavering within his cockpit.

“I’d rather not Lancelot, but they’ve forced my hand.” Alistair says as his mech, the Lancelot, gazes down upon Aranea and Lao. “Please, lend me your strength.” Responding to Alistairs request, Lancelot’s eyes brighten. It’s right arm reaching for the massive sword strapped to the left side of its hip.

As the Lancelot began drawing his sword, Aranea noticed something that began to calm him. The Lancelot was a giant mech designed to face other mechs. Even with the power of the Star Core, he would be far too large to accurately target him. On top of that, he’d be faster. Like a mosquito drawing blood from an unwary human, he could slowly pick away at the mech until he’s won. Even if his Danger Sense was telling him to run, there was only one course of action for him. “Gotta hit him before he can make his move!” Aranea thought while soaring towards Lancelot like a golden bullet. His spider legs held forward as he spun like a drill. While moving at max speed, he’d surely be able to pierce the Cosmic Barrier and Lancelot’s metal frame beneath.

In battle; one must always be aware of yourself, your opponent, and your surroundings. Something Aranea was particularly skilled at in part due to his Danger Sense. If anything threatened him he’d be able to react or at the very least prepare for it. He’d do his best to not rely heavily on it and sometimes he’d have to power through it. Unfortunately, this is not one of those times. He willingness to ignore his Danger Sense, and the constant pain he was already enduring from it, made him unaware of the sudden increase in pain. The one and only warning he failed to heed before the Lancelot swings its arm upward and backhands him into the sky. It’s body moving far faster than he or Lao could’ve anticipated.

“I have nothing against you Lao.” Alistair says on the external speakers. Lancelot reaching down and drawing its sword. The silvery white blade shining in the sun. “Don’t interfere…” his gaze focuses on his main monitor as it scans for Aranea. “I know Lancelot.” he grips his controls, making Lancelot grab its shield with its left hand, and hold it forward. Blocking Aranea as he flies back in for a follow-up attack. The shield then glows red hot and superheats.

“AGH!” Aranea screams in pain as he’s pushed off the surface of Lancelot’s shield. The superheated glow piercing his cosmic barrier like nothing he experienced before. “SHI-” Aranea doesn’t even have enough time to curse before Lancelot swings its sword, hitting him with the flat side of it and sending him skipping along the water. Finally stopping after being sent several miles.

“I can see his every move.” Alistair turns and swings his sword to the right. The blade shimmered as a frosty mist formed. The very air around it freezing as it traveled to its target, Lao, who was preparing a sneak attack. The blade itself missed Lao by a wide margin. But the Sub-Zero cold it emitted, when enhanced by the Star Core, was deep enough to freeze the fighters right arm and left leg. “Just as clearly as I can see his.”

“I didn’t even touch the thing and now I’m like this.” Lao thought as he stops himself from flying further backward than he already was. His arm and leg remained unmoving despite his best efforts. “He’s not even trying and we can’t make a dent on him…No wonder Udona wanted him to help us.”

Elsewhere, Aranea finally swims to the surface of the lake. His body barely responding to his commands. “Come on D…you’ve gone through worse.” Aranea tries to bolster his wavering confidence. “Just get up and find a way to beat this guy.” he floats above the surface of the water. Lungs burning like his still singed skin.

“It seems I’ve overestimated the both of you greatly. If you can’t even deal with me the simplest Abyssal will be far too much for both of you.” Alistair belittles the pair of Radiants.

“What did you just say?” Aranea’s rage builds. Any pain or fatigue he felt now a distant memory. “Don’t you look down on me!” he shouts before flying blindly at the Lancelot.

“You’re emotional.” Lancelot holds up his shield to block Aranea’s flight path. But the boy was prepared, diverting his trajectory suddenly to attack Lancelot from behind. The Lancelot is one step ahead and activates the massive twin thrusters beneath its cape. The force of their ignition sending Aranea flying as the Lancelot took to the skies. “You’re reckless.” The Lancelot stops its flight, turns to face the Aranea, and sheaths its sword inside his shield. Together they glow green and summon a spherical energy field that stops Aranea in his tracks. “And above all else you’re predictable. I could see these attacks coming without trying.”

“What? You want a medal?” Aranea remained undeterred. Flying into the energy field several more times wildly. His speed increasing with each failed attempt to break through. “I don’t care how many times I fail or how long it takes. I’m gonna break through this and kick your ass!”

Alistair had no words for Aranea. Being able to clearly see his determination there was only one appropriate response. “Lancelot, lend me your strength once more.” On the battlefield, it didn’t matter your age or gender. When you fought, you gave it all that you had. Anything less would be insulting to your opponent. The Lancelot draws its blade once more and lowers its energy field. While he preferred a peaceful alternative, he was a warrior at heart and would defeat his fellow Radiant with no restraints.

What came next was akin to a knight trying to slay a fly. Aranea soared around the mechanical colossus with no forethought behind his path. Firing webs all the while to try and ensnare the Lancelot. Using the cold generated by Lancelot’s sword to try and bind it in frozen webbing. Though it was not hard for Alistair to undo the webs with the simplest movement. But Aranea continued without slowing. From a distance, this plan seemed futile and destined for failure. But as Lao watched on from afar he could see the real intentions behind it. Aranea wasn’t actually trying to trap the Lancelot. He was trying to distract him and give Lao an opening. Even without using words or knowing each other for more than a few hours. Aranea was placing all his hopes in Lao.

“Thank you, I’ll make the most of this opportunity.” Lao inhaled and exhaled slowly. Originally a native of the World of Warriors, Lao was born the fourth son of the Flame River clan. One of several clans that were respected and feared for their mastery over Ki, an energy source that the planet and all living things possessed. By channeling his Ki he was able to break free of the ice that bound two of his limbs. His clan specialized in using Ki to manipulate water vapor while simultaneously heating it up. Allowing them to spontaneously create and use scalding water as a weapon. It was a particularly gruesome and cruel style that Lao avoided using. Instead, he created his own techniques that were far less sadistic. “I only get one try at this. I have to make it count.” Ki began gathering into Lao, mixing with his Cosmic Aura and giving it a pale gold coloration. The energies of both then swirl above both of his hands as two orbs of energy no larger than a basketball form.

“Hmm? What did you say?” Alistair asks the Lancelot as they notice Lao gathering Ki. “What does he think he’s doing?”

“Eyes down here!” Aranea flies up to Lancelot’s face and begins cocoon it in webs.

“NOW!” The moment of truth had come. Their survival came down to this one attack. “Flame Emperor’s Wave!” he exclaims. Pulling his right arm back and throwing the orb forward. Moments later, he lets fly the other. The orbs fly and strike the Lancelot on the right side of its abdomen. The Cosmic Barrier protecting it from the first phase of Lao’s attack and allowing Aranea a second to get out of range. The orbs then begin darting around and striking the Lancelot at every possible angle. Never for a second giving the Lancelot a chance to recover. With each hit, their speed and strength increased. Becoming fast enough that they create a golden sphere of flames. Growing hotter and hotter before explode into a flaming golden pillar that pierced the sky. “Did I do it?” Lao wondered. The flames subsiding as the Lancelot remained hovering in place. It’s armor now burnt and dripping with a red fluid. “Um…Udona…” Seeing the Lancelot still functioning, Lao finally calls for assistance. “Please tell me you can send us some backup.”

“Lancelot, are you okay?” Alistair asks to no audible response. After a few moments, he lets out a sigh of relief. “Good, I was worried…What?” he glances at his monitors as the X.S.F Frigates from earlier had yet to leave the airspace. In the heat of battle, he failed to notice that they not only remained. But that they seemed to be approaching rather than retreating like the other frigates. “No, we came here for peace not to make things worse.” Unfortunately, the sentiment wasn’t shared with the X.S.F remained to witness the battle unfold. Seeing how damaged the Lancelot was, this was their best chance to be rid of it and Alistair in one fell swoop. Thus, they began their carpet bombing of onboard missiles and beam cannons. Combined, they had enough force to level a city. “Stay strong Lancelot. We…what?” The controls of the Lancelot lock and no longer respond to Alistairs inputs. “No! Don’t do this Lancelot!”

“Sucks to be him huh?” Aranea chuckled to himself.

As the Frigates barrage stopped and the air cleared, the Lancelot remained hovering in the water. It’s eagle-like head gazing upon the frigates. The red liquid continuing to drip out from the damaged portions of its armor. The Lancelot’s beak opens revealing a functioning mouth it uses to roar. “SKRRAAAA!” Its tattered cape detaches and reveals a pair of wings folded up next to its thrusters. They open wide and propel it towards the frigate with the greatest of ease. “Stop Lancelot!” Alistair pleads unsuccessfully. The Lancelot had begun its frenzy and nothing would stop it. With wings outstretched, its smooth armor plating retracts and reveals a much rougher and animalistic design. It’s hands turning into razor-sharp talons. Talons it uses to tear the first X.S.F Frigate apart. The Cosmic Barrier it generated now even stronger than before. It had no need to dodge the incoming fire from the second Frigate. Thrusting it’s claw through the bridge and pulling open its hull with both hands. But it’s frenzy did not cease. There were still several other Frigates present. The Lancelot takes a deep breath and roars while releasing a beam of cosmic energy skyward. Decimating the innocent frigates and transports unfortunate enough to remain. Even turning to raze the island they were meeting on in the first place. “This…this isn’t what I wanted…” Alistair despaired. While on the outside the Lancelot appeared to be a simple mech, it was a special model called a Siege Perilous. A living breathing mech that would remain dormant until it found its ideal pilot. But even then, it was still a monster with a will of its own. One that when pushed far enough would go into an uncontrollable frenzy. The pilot within becoming a prisoner unable to stop anything that unfolded before them.

“Shit…this is all my fault.” Aranea lamented as the frigates crashed into the lake. Leaving only the burning wreckage and the monstrous silhouette of the Lancelot hidden within it. Its roar echoing for miles. Had Aranea remained calm and simply talked as planned, those people would still be alive. He couldn’t undo his failure but he could make sure it didn’t get any worse. “You’re going down Rosewood!” Aranea flies as fast as he can into Lancelot’s head. Hitting it squarely on the forehead.

“GRAH!” The Lancelot bellows before breathing out a cosmic beam wildly to try and hit Aranea. The once pristine landscape now a burning hellscape. Water evaporating before their eyes from the heat. Trees burning without stopping and countless animals lost to the flames.

Flame Kings Binding!” Lao flies from above and delivers a double straight punch to the back of Lancelot’s neck. If the Lancelot truly was alive, then his technique would be able to paralyze it. Though the thought was sound, the technique was meant for a normal sized creature. But using on this the towering behemoth? It didn’t even slow for a second. “Aranea! We need to get out of here!” Until their support arrived, Lao & Aranea were severely outmatched. Leaving fleeing as the only option. An option that was quickly shown to be pointless. Before Lao could even get a mile away the Lancelot had caught him in its right talon. While Alistair was in control, it was being held back…But now there was nothing to stop it from easily murdering the two Radiants.

“Let him go!” Aranea grabs onto Lancelot’s talon and tries to pry it open. Lancelot just watches the pair struggle. A deep mechanical chuckle reverberating from its metallic throat. “Damnit! This thing is just toying with us.” Aranea racked his mind for a possible way to save themselves but nothing came to mind. Suddenly, ambient electronic music begins to play across the Star Cores of everyone present. “Huh?” Even the Lancelot was confused by the musical interruption.

“Coming in hot!” An overly confident voice says across the Star Core moments before a flash of gold pierces through the sky and Lancelot’s arm. Blood shooting high in the sky as it screamed in pain and releases Lao. The beam of light stopping just above the water with their left arm pulled across their chest. The right arm extended backward as their body leaned forward. Both hands held flat like blades. The light enshrouding their body fades and reveals them to be a humanoid Cardinal with vibrant crimson feathers. Black feathers covered his eyes, surrounded his beak, and extended down to his collarbone. The feathers on their head swept skyward and his wings doubling as large hands. He wore a sleeveless black jumpsuit with padding built into the chest and legs. The star core embedded on his left shoulder. “Jeez, you guys must really suck if Udona asked me to help you out.” The figure responsible stands and runs his feather fingers through the plumage atop his head stylishly. A smug smirk plastered on his beak as he turns slightly to glance at Aranea & Lao.

“Is that a giant bird?” Aranea blurts out without thinking.

“Giant bird, eh? Hey Alistair! They’re all yours” the Bird Radiant crosses his wings defiantly.

“What?!” Aranea couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “Aren’t you here to help us?”

“I was but I don’t feel much like doing anything.”

“Oh you little-” As Aranea prepared to face down his new enemy, his old one made its move. Lancelot’s remaining massive talon swings down from above. Sending Aranea hurtling into what remained of the lake below. Only stopping when he hits the lake floor far below.

“Heh, maybe that’ll teach you to watch what you say.” The Bird Radiant smirks once more. But this quickly fades as the Lancelot opens its beak and begins to collect energy. Aiming it at the Bird Radiant. “Oh? So you still want to fight me huh? Okay, you asked for this.”

Time stood still as the Bird Radiant turned into light itself. Racing towards the Lancelot and surrounding it. Moving fast enough to create 5 copies of himself. Each flying towards one of the others and creating a light trail in the shape of a star. No matter how strong the Lancelot was, nothing could stop him when he moved as fast as light. But just to be safe, he summons a massive rocket launcher from nano-machines housed within his body. Flying rapidly and wildly as he fires, the speed of his movement being too fast for the energy blasts to keep up. Simply freezing in place shortly after leaving the barrel. As he slows down to a stop, time begins to flow normally as well. The damage done by the afterimages left a star-shaped scar across Lancelot’s chest. The energy blasts he fired all moving as fast as light and striking their target. Exploding in flashes of gold and blue energy. The sudden bombardment startles the mechanical beast long enough for Alistair to regain control from within. The Star Cores power returning to just him. Allowing the pilot to shut down the Lancelot. Its armor receding and becoming smooth once more. Light fading from its eyes before falling into the wreckage filled lake below. Disappearing beneath the waves. Several minutes pass as the three Radiants await Lancelot’s return that never comes. The danger seemingly passed, Aranea & Lao greet their begrudging savior who landed outside the ruins of the lakeside mansion.

“No need to thank me.” The Bird Radiant runs his feather fingers through his head. “It was a nice warm-up.”

“You couldn’t have helped us sooner you dumb bird?!” Aranea does his best to restrain from punching the Bird Radiant. “Who the hell are you anyway?” Restraining his words, on the other hand, was a lost cause.

“Bird…” His eye twitches slightly. “The names Zarum…and I’m NOT a bird!” Zarum pecks Aranea in the forehead. “Hasn’t your mouth gotten you in enough trouble?”

“You little…” Aranea rubs his forehead.

“Seemingly not.” Alistair approaches the group without his Star Core active.

“Looks like the troublemaker is back.” Zarum scoffs and points his right arm towards Alistair. “We gonna have a problem?”

Alistair looks around at the ruins. His heart sunk to a low like never before. “No…no I don’t think so.”

“I know now’s not the best time, but can you please listen to reason now?” Lao reaches out to Alistair once more.

“I have outed my people in the name of peace and only have a graveyard to show for it. I suppose I could cover up what happened today…but the damage is done. All those lives can’t be brought back and the damage to this place will leave a scar that won’t heal.” Alistair reaches into the dirt at his feet. The garden that once sat here reduced to ash. “The battles will only intensify from here on…Hoping for peace truly was folly.” The group had no words for Alistair as he stood and continued to search the ruins. “Leave, I have no business with any of you.”

Having no reason to remain, the trio left the World of Endless War for the Starpulse. The flight was a silent one as the events that transpired weighed heavily on them. Especially the young Aranea who was largely responsible for this. Had he controlled his emotions it was likely none of this would have ever come to pass. Even with his mask on, Lao could easily see how devastated the boy was.

“Mistakes happen you know. You couldn’t have known what would happen.” Lao tries to comfort Aranea.

“Please, he just ruined a World in less than an hour!” Zarum interjects coldly.

“Seriously?” Lao was disgusted by Zarum’s callousness.

“What? Coddling him isn’t gonna keep him from doing it again. He broke a World and the guy Udona wanted to join your little team of drones. He should know he’s responsible for that so he can learn from it. Otherwise, he’ll just repeat it again with another World.” It was a hard truth but one that had to be learned. While Lao had the best intentions and was true to an extent. If Aranea didn’t grow reality might be ruined because of it. In his own way, Zarum was trying to instill this lesson into him. “Or do I have to do everything by myself again just to be safe?” Though it was hard to tell when he wasn’t simply being abrasive for the sake of it…

Next Issue

Rising Stars #6: Tale of Two Brothers

Previous Issue

Rising Stars #4: Possibility or Curse?

First Issue

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