“Now come, kill me, Hero.”
I would have liked to follow up with my ‘And I shall do the same’™, but I don’t really intend to kill him, at least not yet.
Conversely, that also means I’ll do everything that does not kill him.
The moment I finished my words, I appeared before him with a kick heading straight for his head. I did ask him to come to me, but I never said that I wouldn’t go to him.
Michael blocked that kick with his arms, but was still blown away to the side. With a spectacular somersault, he corrected his stance while in the air and landed on his feet, and started casting some magic spell, probably to hinder me from coming towards him.
His magic areia was blown away as soon as it appeared, leaving him shocked for a single moment, which I used to close the distance between us. I launched a side kick at his solar plexus, but he managed to recover and ducked at the last moment.
Seeing an opening, he lunged towards me, but I jumped back using the other leg which was still on the ground.
Oh, right. While I’m at it, ‘Godspeed’. There, I’m even faster now. Should I take out my guns and go full John Wick mode on his ass? Nah, let’s not bully him too much.
To demonstrate this, I used my overwhelming agility to appear behind him and tapped on his shoulder. He turned around and swung his sword, but of course, I was no longer there.
I circled around him again and rammed my elbow in his back. He faltered, and I used that time to kick the back of his right knee. He lost his balance and kneeled, and I kicked his flank.
He was sent rolling on the ground, but he used his hands to launch himself up in the air.
“Huh?” He looked around and muttered.
“Yohoo. Looking for something?”
Unfortunately for him, by the time he had jumped, I was already in the air above him with my leg raised overhead. The moment he saw me in that position, he raised his arms to defend himself while I brought down my foot on him. As expected, he shot downwards with great speed and hit the ground.
The resulting clash created a cloud of dust, and following the laws of gravity, I landed in that cloud some moments later.
“What happened, kid?” I asked Michael who was still lying down. “I remember you said something about killing me.”
“Gahgh!” He coughed out some blood. He was really battered up right now, but the vigour was still there in his eyes.
“Do you know why you can’t defeat me, Michael?” I asked as I caught the sword coming from behind me. “Because you are weak.”
I took the sword in a reverse grip and stabbed his right shoulder.
“Aargh!” He winced in pain.
“But don’t get me wrong. I’m not talking about your physical strength.” He stared at me with dubious eyes. “If we talk just about your abilities, then your growth is actually marvellous.”
That’s the truth. He has tremendous potential, perhaps greater than mine when I was the Hero. The strength he is showing right now is no joke either. It’s just that his opponent is me, someone he has absolutely zero chances of defeating.
After all, I have both ‘Aspect of the Hell Guards’ and ‘The Only Lord’. With them, I’m essentially the strongest existence in this universe. With their combined power I can clash head-on with the Hell Guards on equal footing. I won’t be able to kill them though.
As Michael stared at me in stupefaction, I continued.
“Your weakness lies in your mind.”
I guess I was too cryptic.
“I’m talking about your mentality and your personality. You’re simply a child who has got too much power in his hands. The proof is that you lost to the Trial.”
“No, that’s not true-” He exclaimed in a panicked tone.
“It is. Tell me, Michael, why exactly do you want to kill me?”
“Because you will one day betray us!” He shouted.
Gosh, what a fucking idiot.
“Will? Because I will betray you? And what are you basing that on? Purely your emotions. If you had used even a little bit of logic, you would have realised how dumb your actions are.”
“I’ll tell you why you want to kill me.” I peeked straight into his eyes. “Because you see ‘Samuel Hayden’ in me.”
“No! You don’t understand!” His face was becoming pale; was it due to blood loss or…..
“I understand everything. Let me guess, it was during the Trial that you lost faith in Samuel, right?”
That’s the only conclusion that can be drawn from his words. Before the Trial, Michael hadn’t even tried to disrespect me, let alone kill me.
Michael’s eyes widened as my words hit the nail in the head.
“And let me guess, it was your other self that showed you that Samuel had betrayed your trust, right? And after that, you noticed some similarity between me and Samuel, decided that I’ll also betray you and your friends, and then came upon the conclusion that I must be eliminated, right?”
Betray before you can be betrayed; what a muscle-brained tactic.
The paleness of Michael’s face which had deepened even further told me all I needed to know about the validity of my claims.
“And then, what? You decided to be the white knight that saves the damsel in distress? Do you really think that your friends are that helpless? Do you take them to be absolute buffoons, that they would not be able to recognise me for who I am?”
“That’s….” His words trailed off in the end. “That’s not what I-”
“Oh, shut up.” I kicked him in the face and sent him flying. I started approaching him while letting out enormous amounts of mana from my hands. “Don’t you dare talk about your classmates. You think you are doing this for them?”
I jumped from my place with my fist drawn back, and then dug my heel straight into his knee, thus crushing it.
“Aarrhghh!” He howled in pain and clutched his knee.
“You probably haven’t noticed it yet with your head so far up your ass, but you’re nothing more than a narcissist. You are only doing this for yourself.” I lifted my foot and blasted his other knee, and he shrieked again. “You could not protect Arthur and Susan, and were burdened with a guilt too heavy for you to carry. So, you decided to protect your classmates to atone for your sins.”
I now moved towards his hands, and stomped on his hand. I carefully and meticulously dug my heel to break all the bones of his hand.
“Gughh! No! You are wrong! I care about them!”
Huh, he still has some fight left in him.
“Oh, really? If you’re that worried about them, then why didn’t you check on them before coming here? Someone could be fighting for his or her life as we are chatting here. Why did you not think of that?”
His eyes widened again as I thrust the truth into his face. His eyes swam around and his lips trembled, as if he had forgotten all about the pain of his broken bones.
Of course, I wouldn’t allow that. So I moved my foot and crushed his forearm, and he wailed in agony again.
“Because you couldn’t care any less about them. Your care for them was born out of the necessity to atone for your so-called sins, so the moment you got the chance to wipe out your mistakes by killing me, you forgot all about the friends you talk about.”
I made sure to say this in a really low tone to let the words sink into him. When it seemed that he was really thinking about them, I crushed the bone of his upper arm.
Not yet, I can’t allow him to think straight yet.
“And yet you have the audacity to blame Samuel for your failures? Well, reality check, dipshit. The very fact you are standing here is because of him. No matter his reasons, he gave up his future to secure yours. And, what did you say? That he abandoned you? Wake up, shithead. You were the one who misunderstood him.”
Damn, defending myself so passionately feels so weird, especially when I couldn’t give a fuck about what he thinks of me.
“NO! You don’t know anything about that fucker!” He shouted with such strength that it seemed he would rip his own throat out.
“I don’t need to know anything about him.” I moved on to his other hand and crushed it. “After all, I know everything about you. I know that you are just a child throwing a tantrum because the one you saw as your best friend didn’t think of you in the same way.”
Well, that’s the oversimplification of his feelings. I made sure to crush his forearm to ensure that he wouldn’t stop feeling the pain. Due to that, his thoughts would remain muddled, and his mind would become a complete mess between the pain, his own emotions, and the meaning behind my words.
My plan was simple; to destroy him and create him anew.
“No, this is not possible! Ugh!” He groaned in pain. “Samuel betrayed me, he betrayed us!”
“Yeah, right. Do you know why you’re so adamant about this?” I paused for an added effect. “Before that, tell me, Michael. How does it feel to finally be free of the responsibility of Arthur and Susan’s deaths? Really good, right?” Michael bit his lower lip. “That’s it. That’s the true reason you are dead set on casting Samuel as the villain- because it gives you someone to blame. By blaming him, you can wash your hands of the responsibility of their deaths. By blaming him, you can stop hating yourself.”
Michael, is in the end, a human. It is true that he took the responsibility of their deaths. But that was because blaming his own self was the easiest. It is not easy to shoulder the guilt of the life of someone very close to you; I reckon he was close to the breaking point before coming here.
And after coming here, lo and behold, he finds out that his own friend, ‘Samuel Hayden’, had betrayed him. The rest of it was easy then. Once he shifted the blame on Samuel, he could not get enough of the sense of liberation he finally felt after constantly hating himself for such a long time. And so, he decided to hold Samuel responsible for everything that went wrong in his life.
Of course, I could be wrong about this. Maybe to Michael, Samuel really was a betrayer.
But the accuracy of my statements is of no concern here; what matters is how much Michael believes them. And that was why I was continuously inflicting pain on him to stop him from thinking straight. With so much going inside his head, he would be more prone to believe my words.
“What the hell are you doing?!”