Dantega:Volume 4 Chapter 4

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Chapter 35: One Step Behind


(PART 1)


“Did you really have to be so violent?” Aria asked with a dejected look on her face.

This question is directed toward Rage, who is at the helm of a large wooden ship.

And he is driving this ship away from a port as fast as the sails can take it.

Arrows are flying all about and landing on the deck, bullets are ripping through the sails and peppering the side of the ship, they are obviously under attack. Leaving Aria ducking for cover, but Rage stands fearlessly as one flies just over his head and lands on a barrel.

“You should be able to see why I had to do that. These aren't the kind of people who would just agree to give me their ship.”

“Yeah but I'm sure there was something we could have done to make things go smoother. It's like the whole city is attacking us!”

Just a few moments earlier, Rage ran into a group of pirates and commandeered their ship; of course they did not take his demand very seriously so he was forced to steal it from them. As a result the entire port city that is apparently run by pirates has joined together in attacking the ship to put a stop to this.

Once the barrage of arrows halts and they are out the range of gunfire, the group begins to relax. Niera comes out of a barrel she was hiding in and shoddily looks around.

“Is it over?”

“Yeah you can come out now.” Aria answers.

From a few other hiding places comes Sora and Cyrus, Phoenix is sitting down on the bow of the boat reading a bible as if he was there the entire time.

“Where's Xavier?” Aria asks, she scours the entire deck of the ship but he is nowhere to be found.

“Wasn't he with you?” Cyrus asks while pulling one of the arrows out of the deck and looking at its tip.

“He was following me up until we ran onto the ship.”

Sora walks up to her and looks as straight faced as ever, but one can tell that there is worry in her eyes.

“...Captured..?”

Before Aria can contemplate the answer to that, the sound of a cannonball flying is heard overhead, followed by a loud boom from the gunpowder. The ball rips through one of the sails and they all hit the deck.

“They're aiming for the beam holding the sails so we can't move!” Cyrus shouts. He knows that if one of the cannonballs connect with its intended target, everyone is in danger of being crushed by the heavy beam.

Looking toward the direction of the sound they can see a ship moving toward them at a fast speed, Rage is unworried that the pirates are firing to sink them because they would want their stolen property back with the least amount of damage as possible.

Because of this fact, he calmly lets the enemy ship approach; but his calm is shaken by the sight of someone familiar on the other deck.

Xavier is being held by a few men and has obviously been beaten a little.

“Shit.” Rage hisses, he leaves the helm and walks up to the railing, awaiting the ship to get close enough to board.

The opposing pirate ship is only a few dozen yards away and one of the men who looks like some kind of leader takes a step forward and shouts, “You fuckers have a lot of nerve trying to steal a pirate's ship! If you want to get this brat back to you with all of his limbs in tact I recommend that you all surrender.”

“That idiotic kid, how could he have been captured so easily?” Rage mutters to himself.

Aria runs up to the railing and shouts back, “Let him go!”

The pirate smiles and pulls a knife up to Xavier's neck. “You heard the conditions, hurry up and oblige or I'll cut this kid's throat.”

Aria turns to Rage and intently orders, “I need you to distract them.”

“I don't like to be ordered around.”

She slams her new and stolen broadsword into the deck and yells, “I don't care what you like! I made a promise that I'd protect him and in order for me to do that you have to distract them!”

Rage is taken aback by this sudden surge in emotion, so instead of fighting her any further he decides to let her have her way. He raises his scythe and the black cloud comes rushing out and settles itself between the two ships.

Aria says her thanks and quickly jumps over the railing and into the ocean.

Sora sees this and quickly follows, but before she could jump in she is halted by the voice of Rage saying, “Let her handle this, if you try to help her you'd only get in the way.”

“...But...”

“This is her resolve, and because it involves that promise this has become her battle alone. If it wasn't I'd have already destroyed that ship myself.”

Sora turns away and anxiously waits for the cloud to clear so she can get a good look at what will happen.

On the other ship, the pirates are all scattering around in wonder of the mysterious black cloud.

“This has got to be some kind of trick! Everyone get your cannons ready to fire it into the ship!” the pirate holding Xavier captive shouts.

“But if we do that we take the risk of sinking it!” another man responds.

“I don't care, it's better than having them steal it from us. We can always get another one, the pride we'd lose is far more than the value of a ship.”

The pirate puts the knife closer to the young Prince's neck and says, “It looks like your comrades are attempting to flee, you're being abandoned. I guess I have no use for you if you aren't that important to them.”

The pirate readies to slit his throat but he feels a sharp pressure up against his back, through his peripheral vision he sees an apple color haired girl holding a large sword.

“If you move an inch I'll lop off your head. Let him go.” Aria demands.

The pirate stays calm and nonchalantly lets Xavier go, the prince backs away in fear but since his hands are tied and his mouth his gagged he just prostates on the floor and watches.

“You have a lot of guts to come here girl... You do realize that you're surrounded right?”

With her eyes, Aria scours the ship deck and sees over thirty men with their swords and guns ready, glaring at her just waiting for a chance to strike.

She arrogantly laughs and says, “This ship will sink long before any one of you could touch me.”

“How's that?”

“Turn and look at me.” she orders.

The pirate shrugs his shoulders and turns to her, only to be hit in the face by a swift left hook. The pirate falls on his back and the rest of the crew quickly rush at her with killing intent. Some fire pop shots at the two but none of them hit, their haste swaying their accuracy.

Aria dashes to Xavier and grabs him.

“Hold your breath Xavier!”

With him in tow she jumps off the ship into the black cloud and takes the twenty foot drop to the water just before the swords of the pirates reach them.

On her way down she points her hand toward the ship and snaps her finger, the immediate aftermath is an intense heat felt against their skin accompanied by a loud

BOOOOOOOOM!!!

The two fall into the sea and the light from the explosion can even be seen from under the water. Flaming debris continuously land in the ocean so the two cannot surface until the danger level drops, and Aria desperately tries to keep them from away from the threatening onslaught landing just feet above their heads.

If that wasn't enough already, looking into Xavier's eyes it becomes obvious that he didn't take a deep enough breath so after a minute he is struggling and is in serious need of air.

Aria has no choice but to bring him to the surface despite the danger overhead; the two break into water and take big breaths.

Aria removes the gag cloth from his mouth so he can breath better, while huffing and puffing herself she asks, “You okay!?”

Xavier doesn't respond but instead looks at her with a blue face full of shock, she ignores this look and shifts her gaze upwards to see if anything is coming their way. Much to her expectations a large and inflamed wooden plank is hurling towards their heads, moving in the water is too time consuming so avoiding this plank is seemingly impossible.

Aria moves fast on her feet and grabs Xavier's shoulders, she pulls herself up on him and with her two feet pushes off his chest and sends him away from her and her away from him. The fiery plank lands heavily in the vacant water in between them with a violent splash. They had both narrowly avoided death in that instant and Aria takes a sigh in relief.

Xavier's hands are still tied and he is fruitlessly trying to stay afloat, there is panic on his face until Aria swims to him and grabs him once more. Toting his full weight in the water she swims for the hijacked ship where her comrades are, by now the black cloud is gone and the only smoke is the dark gray plume coming from the fire on the sinking ship.

The pirates who are still able to move are jumping into the water to escape being dragged down with it, but the pirate that was punched by Aria is still on the deck and is holding onto a rope to keep his footing on the tilted boat.

He has pure anger in his eyes as he looks to the few men still on board, “FIRE THE CANNONS! IF WE GO DOWN THEY GO DOWN!!”

The men barely cling onto the starboard cannons as the ship is getting swallowed by the ocean rapidly, there are only four cannons but with these all firing at the same time at such a close range, the hijacked ship has no chance to stay afloat.

“FIRE!!”

The four men all ready to pull the rope that fires the cannon, but in that very instant the gunpowder reserve at bottom of the boat ignites and the resulting explosion causes the entire right side of the ship to tilt downwards. The starboard flank of the ship holding the cannons are tilted in a way to where they are pointing directly at the floating Xavier and Aria.

The men were in the middle of firing when this happened so they didn't really have time to react, so four cannonballs are sent zooming at the two defenseless teenagers.

This moment in time is moving incredibly slow as Aria awaits the worst possible outcome.

'What can I do?' she thinks to herself. 'What can I do!?'

Without even flinching, she throws her sword up, but it would seem this does nothing because the cannonballs hit and a thunderous explosion rips through the ocean water, sending a massive splash into the air.

“ARIA!!”

The rest of the group stares on in angst as the pirate ship sinks quickly in the background, every second that passes adds to the tension.

Aria and Xavier still have yet to surface and the chances of that ever happening seems slim after such a blast.

When all hope seems lost, the apple red hair of Aria breaks and they all take a collective sigh of relief.

Soon after Xavier comes up grasping for air and Cyrus throws down a lifesaver and pulls them in.

Once aboard, Rage sets sail and they all exit the scene, leaving the few remaining pirates behind in the water.

Xavier is leaning up against a crate and is breathing rather hard, they all leave him be because of how distraught he looks so the attention is placed on Aria.

“How did you survive that!?” Niera asks.

“Honestly... I don't really know.” replies the rattled Aria. She recollects the images of the event and says, “As a last ditch effort I threw my sword and turned it into a bomb to deflect the cannonballs, but I've never been able to control the intensity of my explosions before... We should have been caught in the blast.”

“Well I'm glad it didn't, I was so worried.”

“Hehehe I'm sorry about that.”

Sora comes up and stares at her uncomfortably, after a few moments she bows and says, “...Thank you...”

Aria awkwardly laughs and scratches her head.

“It was nothing..”

“...No...”

Sora then hugs her tightly, though she can't express her feelings through speech or even facial movements, she still thinks just like a regular person would and the emotion of gratitude and relief are best represented through physical contact. Aria can feel it, Sora is grateful that she had saved Xavier's life and she is also relieved and happy that Aria survived through such a scary ordeal.

Rage walks by and breaks the atmosphere of this touching moment between friends, just his presence is enough to do so. But much to Aria's surprise he looks at her and says, “Good work.”

Before she can reply he continues, “But if you really want to accomplish Luke's wish, you need to talk to the brat and make him understand why people needed to die to ensure his survival.”

“Um.. I don't think I know how to do that.”

“Just put things into perspective, it's as simple as that.”

Aria smiles and nudges at his shoulder, “Oh? Is the ever so cold Rage giving me advice?”

Rage scoffs at her and turns away.

“Take it as you wish.” he says, and then walks off annoyed.

Aria reveals a face full of determination and confidently says, “Alright, I know what I need to do."




Beelzebub walks along a river in Hell. Of course there is water in such a rotten place, much to the contrary of modern belief, Hell is not a world of just fire and brimstone. But the one thing that separates Hell from any other decent world is that just about everywhere you look there is death. In that slow moving river he is looking at, numerous bloodied severed heads bobble like apples in a barrel.

The whereabouts of their bodies is unknown, it is likely that they were eaten by a demon and the bits and pieces that remained were casually tossed aside. These people aren't dead though, they will soon wake up in a designated spot where slaughtered humans are to be reborn only to have to go through the same tortures day after day.

“It looks like Cerberus is enjoying itself today.” says a younger looking man who is accompanying Beelzebub on this leisurely walk.

“Well that's what happens when we let it run free in Hell, it has an insatiable appetite.”

The man with red hair and shining emerald eyes scratches his head and says, “Yeah, at least it's only once every few hundred years we take it away from guarding the gates of Hell. I wouldn't be able to deal with the mess it makes every day.”

Beelzebub puts his hand on his chin. “Now that you mention it... It is rare to have Cerberus away from the gates, it would be convenient if we put it to good use.”

“...?”

“That thing can smell out anything from any kind of distance.”

The red haired man puts his hand in the blood stained water and asks, “What are you getting at?”

“I'm saying that we should use Cerberus to take out Rage and those humans.”

“Hmmm, I don't think Cerberus would be enough, it'd just lose control and go on a rampage. With its mindset like that Rage would easily be able to kill it.”

“That would be the case if it were to be sent there alone.”

The man pulls a mangled head out of the water and tosses it away like it was a piece of trash.

“Sounds like you are implying something.”

“I am, I'd doubt that Rage could handle both Cerberus, and the one Demon who can control it.”

“Oh? Now you're talking in a language I understand, but is that kind of thing really alright?”

“I don't see why not, Leviathan has been in and out of Purgatory the past few days, and it looks like even Abaddon was sent there.”

The red haired man clicks his tongue and makes a face like he had just eaten something too sour. “Abaddon that shit bag, I can't believe he took out Belphegor. Now it looks like he intends to ride that wave all the way to the top.”

Beelzebub leans up against a tree and folds his arms. “That's beside the point, so... Will you do it?”

The red haired man smiles confidently as he turns to his demon counterpart.

“Of course I will, let's show Rage what the true meaning of what he named himself after.”




“Get your head out of your ass Xavier!” shouts Aria with a hint of anger in her voice.

Xavier is leaning up against a rock with a blank look on his face, he hasn't said anything since the beginning of the day where he was captured and held hostage by pirates.

The group has sailed for hours and finally reached a large island, Rage decided to spend the night here because they needed to restock on water. The pirates who formally owned this ship have plenty of food but not much water, most of the barrels on the boat are filled with rum.

Niera is sitting next to the two around the campfire and innocently cringes at Aria's tone. “D-Don't be so harsh on him, he's in shock.”

“Pshhh shock, what a load of garbage.” she grabs Xavier's collar and forces him to look at her in the eye when she asks, “What are you so shocked about? What part of that whole incident possibly could have such an affect on you?”

Niera is a little uneasy about how she is handling this but she knows she has no right to judge. However, she still tries to defend him by saying, “He was afraid.”

Aria frowns and her eyes are filled with even more intensity.

“Everyone gets afraid, but what is fear really? It's a selfish reaction to situations that can do that person harm. When someone is afraid the only thing they care about are themselves, I know this because I used to be the same way. But now when I fear, it's for my friends, and it's even for this spoiled brat.”

“Aria...”

“Listen to me Xavier, it's time for you to change, if you can't do it for yourself then do it for your brother. He believed in you and asked me to help you become the person that he always knew you could be.”

A little light appears in Xavier's eyes and he finally speaks, “Luke did?”

“That's right, that was his final wish, to see you grow up. I'm not your mother so I won't always protect you like earlier today, but I'm your friend and I'm here to help you.”

Xavier slightly blushes and looks away, he thinks about her words for a few moments and mutters something he most likely has never said.

“Thank you...”

She smacks him on the back really hard and smiles when she says, “No problem!”

Now that Xavier has a little more energy, he joins the rest of the group in conversations of leisure around the campfire; they begin to drink the pirate's rum and share laughs and talk as if nothing life threatening had happened earlier.

As the night drags on like this and they become fairly drunk, Xavier stands to his feet and interrupts, “Hey guys.”

It grabs the attention of the rest, even Rage who is sitting by himself beside a tree gives the young Prince a moment of his time.

Xavier takes a deep breath and reveals a look of determination, he then bows to all of them and says, “I'm sorry! All of you have done so much for me since this whole thing happened, and I have always felt entitled to it. But now that my brother is gone I have come to realize how much danger we actually are facing here, and how much help is needed in order for us to survive this mess.”

Xavier is talking in a completely different manner than his usual crude tone. It's as though his usual spoiled self is completely gone as he continues, “Please continue to help me, and I promise I will become stronger so I can help all of you... Thank you very much!”

Rage huffs air out of his nose and says, “About damn time.”

Cyrus smiles, “Glad to have you aboard Prince Xavier.”

Phoenix shuts his bible and says proudly, “Good job.”

Niera chuckles because she never thought in her wildest dreams she'd see Xavier bow like that, and even give a touching speech nonetheless. “I wish everyone else was here to see this, I'm sure Tsubiri would be floored.”

Sora glares at him blankly but puts all her heart into these two words, “...Thank you...”

She is truly happy that Xavier is in the process of growing up, it is most likely a result of her failing to protect Luke. She feels an extreme guilt about it but she knows one way to make up for it is ensuring that they all get back home, that is what Luke wanted.

Aria stands to her feet and walks over to him, she lifts his bowing head and looks at him tenderly, this causes him to blush and he gets an odd feeling in his chest. But that feeling is quickly dissolved when Aria wraps her arm around his neck in a choke hold and begins to squeeze.

“Hahaha congrats Xavier! I was wondering when you'd come around!”

“Aaaaggghhhh I can't breathe!!”

“Real men don't need to breath!”

“Whaaa!? That makes no sense!!”

This is her way of showing her happiness, she keeps teasing him as if they have been friends forever and by the looks of it, it would seem that that is now the case from this point forward.




Damien is in a massive white room with a checkered white and black floor, and puddled on this floor is the distinct color of a red liquid.

He walks in the blood and takes a look around at the carnage, in the middle of this large blood puddle lies the demon who goes by the name of Belphegor.

His stomach still has a massive hole that was inflicted by Rage's scythe and now he is missing an arm and a huge chunk of his leg. His skin tints the same color as the white room due to the massive amount of blood loss.

“So you actually lost... That is disappointing to some extent.” Damien says without a shred of care in his voice.

Belphegor lays limp but is somehow still alive, he slowly turns his head to him and replies, “Did you honestly expect anything different? You tossed me into a one sided battle because you knew exactly how it'd end up.”

Damien faintly smiles and says, “Well that is somewhat true.”

“So why did you want to get rid of me?”

“Demons like you tend to cling to my father, I am in the process of starting something. And I need people who will look forward and progress along with me, demons of the old age such as yourself would only get in the way of my plans.”

Belphegor stares at him through his blank blue eyes and attempts to laugh, “Hehaha... I think I see where this is going, I can guarantee it isn't going to work.”

“You are in denial of certain facts at your last moments of life. I pity you Belphegor.”

“Hmmm, pity from the brat of the old man eh? Don't make me laugh, you are nothing but a mutt of a human.”

Damien actually frowns at his words, it would seem that Belphegor has hit him with a low blow.

Belphegor knows that he has gotten under the skin of the son of Satan and continues to insult him.

“Is that why you are doing all this? Is it because you were shunned by your father? Or is it because the only person that loved you was that human mother of yours? Hahahahaha are you holding a grudge because your father made you kill her?? What is it Damien!?”

Damien grits his teeth and the frown on his face becomes steeper, and Belphegor doesn't stop his attack.

“No... That isn't it, the truth behind your actions lies within the hate of one man, it is Ubica isn't it! You're jealous of him because he is the perfect creation of evil, and you are the defected prototype! You are worthless compared to him, so you de------------”

Belphegor's speech is interrupted by his head literally exploding.

Damien's eyes shine bright red and the light seemingly consumes his body as he shows a bitter face full of anger.

This was definitely overkill but Damien feels that it wasn't enough to suppress his rage, he takes a deep breath and turns around.

He slowly regains his composure and clicks his tongue, “Tch...”




The red haired man is walking on an island, it is dark outside but the light from the moons and the stars shine brightly over the man.

But something is odd about this, his shadow is entirely too large for the man's figure, it is more or less freakishly disfigured to be exact. His shadow has three massive heads and the body of some kind of large dog, what is even stranger is that the shadow begins to speak,

“Amon... They're not on this island.”

The red haired man who was addressed as Amon replies, “I know, you told me already.”

The shadow's voice changes from that of the deep tone of a man to one of a woman.

“Then why do you insist on walking when there is nothing here?”

“We don't get too many chances to venture onto the same path as living humans, so I want to take advantage of this situation. Relax Cerberus, you already have a fixed scent on Rage stored in your memory banks from long ago. That scent will never leave you so we don't have to worry about losing track of them.”

The shadow's voice again changes to a the lighter tone of a child, its voice is so high pitched that one could not tell if it belongs to a girl or a young boy.

“That's not the point, I'm becoming impatient and hungry. I need to eat!”

Amon laughs and stops walking, “You should show a little more trust in me, there is a reason why I'm here.”

He points out in the distance towards the lights of a fairly large city and says, “Thousands of people probably live in this town, you said you were hungry right?”

The three voices of the shadow all speak simultaneously,

“YES!!”

“Well then...”

Amon turns towards his shadow and bites his thumb, causing it to bleed. He sticks it into the ground and his hand disappears into the dark of the shadow. Six red lights shine from the darkness and Amon pulls his arm out as if he has used his thumb as bait for fishing.

Out of the ground comes a massive beast three times the size of an elephant; it has black hair, three heads and has the body of a dog. Its six red eyes shine menacingly as its sharp stained teeth chatter.

This is the beast called Cerberus, for thousands of years it has been the guardian to the gates of Hell and has devoured countless souls.

Amon smiles as he turns back to the city, with his back turned to the beast he speaks as if he is giving an order.

“Let's show them what 'Wrath' is...”

The two rush towards the city and in an instant, the ear shattering sound of horror reverberates through the night as the two go on a killing spree. The destinies for every person in the city has been decided by one of the 7 Demons of Hell and his beast. In Amon's mind, this is only a precursor to what will happen to Rage and the rest of the group accompanying Rage.

This evil, and an immanent bloody battle, is only one step behind.






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