Balthazar is stood on one of the paved areas within the massive gardens that the mansion is surrounded by. He’s clad in an open silk robe, sky blue in colour, as well as a pair of green shorts. He pulls the slate shaped black phone away from his ear and ends the call. He knows he isn’t alone in the garden, surrounded by flowerbeds stuffed full of colourful flowers such as roses, lilies, orchids and pansies. The short cut grass swaying back and forth in the slight summer breeze.
He makes no attempt to move, even though he knows he’s not alone. Instead, he simply stays rooted to the spot. Inhaling deeply the sweet scents of the flowers around him as the breeze gently pulls at the edges of his open robe, cooling his exposed skin. His eyes are closed while his back faces toward the mansion he calls his home. The one he shares with Rachel. He expects whoever it is that is creeping up on him, or at least attempting to poorly, is alone. It’s doubtful there will be any interruptions. After all, Rachel is down in her little play den, with her toys, almost certainly inflicting pain and humiliation on her pets with gleeful delight. Such is her whim.
Finally, when he sees no further reason to delay the inevitable he announces, “I know you’re there. I can feel your presence.”
His voice is calm and he waits to see if a reply will be forthcoming. It is not. Instead, only the breeze can be heard. Balthazar isn’t surprised. It’s what he expected. Anything else would have been a disappointment to him. He’s faced aggressors before and many of them babble and chat too much when they come to enact some sort of misguided attempt at punishment upon him. Often for reasons only they themselves care about. Usually, it’s the result of some business deal that didn’t go their way. He never can recall the details. Especially as all mortals look the same to him. They are cattle, meat for the market. He protected them once. That is how he accumulated his initial wealth, through his fame, while known as Balthazar The Illustrious. A name he continues to go by to this day.
But those days are gone. The heroes of yester decade are now the demons of this one. Like all beings they gave into their baser needs, which even with great abilities showed them to be nothing more than greedy humans. They’d been given power and once the need for acceptance and a demand of a greater purpose had worn thin, they’d indulged like any other power obsessed entity would. They lied, cheated, stole and killed to get what they wanted. Power corrupts absolutely and the Gods are absolute corruption. They didn’t need to be in the spotlight anymore. They could achieve more behind it then they ever could in front of it, and Balthazar more than most knew that. Still, first he knows he will have to dispatch whatever nuisance has dared to cross into his domain. It’s why he turns, only to find a woman stood before him. In his eyes she is unremarkable in every way with her black robes and the green tints in her otherwise black hair. Even the differing colours of her eyes elicit no interest in him. She is like every other human he has ever set eyes on. And like them he’ll forget her face and name, once she bothers to give them, within minutes of the conclusion of this pointless stand-off.
Though, as he scans this woman from head to toe he notes that there is something in her hand. Whatever it is, is hidden from view, held behind her back, thus making it impossible for him to appropriately discern. That alone piques his curiosity, if only marginally.
Still, he feels he should be a good host and play along with this little game, of whatever it is, if only for a short while. It’s why he queries, “Who might you be little one?”
His tone is condescending, while his eyes ooze unnecessary superiority. The kind only held by those that have once achieved respect and so forever more, irrespective of their actions, deem themselves applicable to continue receiving it.
“Yelena.” Yelena answers succinctly as she stares, eyes ablaze with a fierce fiery hatred, at Balthazar.
He shrugs his shoulders offering a look that indicates that the name means nothing to him.
Yelena didn’t expect it would, which is why she quickly adds, “I’m here to end tyranny…”
At this point Balthazar interjects with a laugh while declaring, “Are you now. How…adorable. But tell me, how do you expect on achieving such a lofty goal like that?”
His tone is mocking, a smirk on his lips as he keeps his eyes firmly on the black haired woman in front of him. His body language makes it clear that he in no way considers the diminutive, compared to his own nearly two metre height, woman a threat in any way. And why would he. She reeks of mortality. He can smell it, and the stench offends his nasal passages with its presence.
“…by putting a stop to people like you.” Yelena answers by finishing her original statement. The one that Balthazar so rudely interrupted hoping to make a point that had be not spoken he would have realised was moot from the start.
Balthazar laughs heartily. He thinks this woman mad. No not mad he realises. She is beyond mad. Looking at madness in the rear view mirror would be more applicable. After all, madness is simply the belief that doing the same thing over and over will yield differing results. That is not what this Yelena is hoping to achieve. No, she hopes to achieve the impossible. So for that alone he believes the only applicable words to define her are foolish, juvenile and misguided. Such things are expected of youth.
Yelena doesn’t care what Balthazar thinks. His opinion isn’t worth considering in her eyes. And she will stop his bellowing laughter. It’ll be easy because she has just the thing for it, she thinks as she pulls the object in her hand out from behind her back. As she does so she raises the object up, until her arm is fully outstretched, so that it is plain to see that the item is in fact, Rachel’s severed head. Blood drips from the remains of the veins, flesh, bones and other gore that had once formed her neck, while her eyes stare blankly into the middle-distance.
In response, Balthazar falls quiet. His eyes wide as they bulge from his skull, while his mind whirls and spins. The process lasts a while but at the end of it his shock finally turns to a boiling rage. His face twisting and contorting to mirror perfectly the emotions he has barely contained millimetres below the surface. Emotions that he will keep in check just long enough for an opening to present itself. When it does, and it will he knows, he will unleash all of it upon this Yelena and devastate her. Of that she can be assured, which is why he makes certain to promise, “You will pay for this, Yelena.”
Balthazar makes certain to use her name and put emphasis behind it. The black haired woman has to realise that he will not rest until her own head is detached from her body, like she has managed with his now former lover.
Yelena isn’t bothered by the threat however as she ignores it and queries, “Do you not want to know why?”
Her expression is calm much like her voice.
Balthazar would be lying if he didn’t admit, if only to himself for the moment, that he does indeed want to know why. However, such questions can wait. Wait until Yelena is on the floor, bleeding out, mere seconds away from an agonising and gruesome death. It’s why he stays silent and instead continues to build his power. As he does his body becomes engulfed in flames. Those same flames dance yellows, oranges and reds that darken and intensify until…
Yelena hurls Rachel’s severed head at him. The action is so unexpected that Balthazar is left to watch as the pained expression on his dead lovers face slams into his own.
His response is immediate and comes in the form of an angry roar and all while he watches as the severed limb drops to the paved yellow rectangular slabs beneath his feet, emitting a wet, sickening sound where it finally comes to rest.
His focus broken, and as a result the gathering energy of what would have been his soon to be unleashed powers along with it. All by the barbarity of what Yelena has just done. It’s why he’s left staggering backward as a result, expletives rumbling from between his lips.
By the time Balthazar rights himself and believes he can be sure that his balance is secured, he looks up only to see Yelena mid-air hurtling right toward him. Instinctively he gathers all the power he believes he can muster, before she has hope of reaching him, and then he unleashes it into a funnel of superheated matter that is smaller than he would prefer. The funnel, emanating from the centre of his chest, rapidly tears toward and then utterly engulfs Yelena.
A smile crawls across his face just after. He has won. He is victorious. There is no way that a mere mortal can survive the kind of ferocity that he has just bathed her entire body in. And to make matters worse it was barely worth the effort. It doesn’t surprise Balthazar, though it does disappoint him. He would, for once, have liked an adversary capable of putting up some form of a fight.
Then, as if on cue, Yelena breaks through the flames that were created by the superheated matter funnel. Her skin is viciously burnt black and in many places missing entirely, yet there is no doubt that she is alive. Her face is twisted in a snarl. Though, whether it’s the result of the savagery her body has sustained or not cannot be confirmed.
What can be confirmed however is that Balthazar is stunned. He hasn’t a clue how this woman is alive. She should, without a doubt, be dead. No one and nothing has ever survived the devastation of his powers, at any magnitude, once unleashed. And that isn’t about to change now, he thinks as he frantically fires off another blast of superheated matter, the swirling funnel again originating from his centre mass. His body meanwhile is engulfed in dark coloured flames that burn with the kind of intensity that can only be seen in one other place, stars.
For the second time Yelena is swallowed up in the searing matter, only for her a second time later to break through, revealing that she is still very much alive. Except this time her flesh is far more charred, blackened and scorched than it had been the first time. Until that is no longer the case.
In that moment Balthazar, having glimpsed the sight, realises that this woman, Yelena, is no mortal at all. The skin on her face almost having entirely re-grown to cover the gore every living being has contained beneath the visible epidermis that envelops them.
He makes a mental note that she is like him, a God. It explains a great many questions without a single word having needed to be spoken. They include, how Rachel met her fate, as well as whom, he feels it possible to conclude, killed Hayden and Aaron.
He should commend this Yelena but all he wants right now is to tear her apart until all that remains of her are tiny, bloody shreds. He’ll see if she can recover from that. He doubts she, or any other being, can. Every God, no matter what the media claims, has a weakness. Except for himself, that is. He is a true God. The pinnacle of what humanity could be. But the rest of them aren’t. They are vile beings content on inhabiting this pathetic rock. Each one of them is worth less than the dirt beneath his feet.
They will never succeed. Be capable of walking in his footsteps. Or be able to call themselves equals in his presence. Of that he is sure.
At that moment, Yelena reaches Balthazar. He was unaware of her proximity to him. If he hadn’t been so consumed by the meanderings of his mind then he wouldn’t now be forced to leap backward to avoid her impending swipes. But he is forced to and, to his relief, succeeds in narrowly avoiding what would have been a shredding of his flesh by her talons. Instead, those same talons go sailing past him harmlessly and that opening affords him the opportunity of a counterattack.
First, he has to build a small level of energy. It takes seconds. Precious seconds, but he achieves it. Though, as he goes to unleash the blast, Yelena disappears. The jet of matter fires from his chest anyway, while he is left to look around confused.
The jet ends not long after having met only empty air. He spins about on the spot, searching desperately for his target while unable to understand what is going on as it seems Yelena has disappeared. She is nowhere to be seen, until suddenly she appears at his side. He realises too late her presence and proximity to him, which is how she manages to get a quick swipe in.
In response to the swipe, Balthazar at first feels nothing. The feeling lasts so long that he is able to consider the likelihood of her having missed. That is before the wave of pain, agonising and searing, finally hits him. He looks down and stares, wide eyed, at the where his right forearm used to be. Except the limb is not where it should be. Instead, it is lying on the slabs at his feet. He blinks twice, his mind still playing catch-up for several seconds. Then he roars and attempts to back away.
It’s as if the man believes that if he retreats far enough then his arm will magically return to being a part of him. It won’t. But he does it nonetheless crying profanities directed toward Yelena who simply watches nonplussed by the sight and the names she is being called.
She doesn’t care what he thinks. He is simply a violent beast who once used to be a man long ago, or so it is claimed. Yelena can’t say if that is true. It could be a lie. But lie or not it changes nothing. She came here for a reason and is not leaving until the end is written and sealed, in blood.
Unlike Balthazar, Yelena does not believe that just because you look and sound powerful it means that you are. You can say all you like that you are the pinnacle, but it means nothing if you can’t back it up with proof. That is what she is making these ‘Gods’ do. They either prove they are stronger than her, or they don’t. But she doesn’t want power. She wants peace and their deaths, if she succeeds, will allow for that dream to be one step closer to becoming a reality.
“You killed them all, didn’t you?” Balthazar growls through a tightly locked jaw.
The response he gets is a simple nod. It’s what he expects and though he would adore nothing more than vaporising this woman before him, he decides to wait.
He needs her to believe that she has won and that he is defeated. That is when he’ll strike. She’ll never see it coming. And then, when she is down for the count, he’ll make her wish she’d never set foot on his estate.
“Why? There has to be a reason for all this.” Balthazar asks hoping she’ll indulge him with a reply that in turn will serve as a distraction to benefit his own ends.
“Shepard Head Farm, remember it?” Yelena queries bluntly. The tone of her voice is flat and even as she speaks. Her eyes staring intently at Balthazar, as if she hopes her gaze alone will burrow holes through his chest to finish what her talons have started.
“No.” Balthazar claims without hesitation.
If it were not for his powers then his body would already be have betrayed him due to blood loss. Thankfully, the flames swirling around his mass have cauterised the wound.
“It’s a little farm outside the boundaries of the city. I’m not surprised you don’t recall its name. What you might recall however is the family that lived there.” Yelena continues.
“Doubtful.” Balthazar replies with a smug look on his face.
For anyone else, looking smug after you’ve lost your arm because of your own arrogance would be difficult. For Balthazar however, it appears effortless.
“You should. You and your friends decided to drop in there one afternoon some twenty years ago. So you could torture and murder a humble farmer, the love of his life and their two sons.” Yelena continues without a change in her expression or tone.
“And what has that got to do with anything?” Balthazar questions without a hint of concern or remorse for the actions he’s being accused of having taken part in.
“Do you remember that night?” Yelena asks.
“I assure you I do not. Mortals mean nothing to me. So I have no reason to recall such details, true or not.” Balthazar remarks before his expression breaks into an ever so slight smirk.
Yelena ignores it. She knows he hopes to get a rise out of her. She won’t take the bait. It’s why she instead advises, “True, they were mortals, but not by choice.”
She pauses for a moment to let her words sink in and then continues. “They had tried, years before having children, to become like you, but it failed. The procedure didn’t take. They weren’t a suitable match for whatever process you all had to undergo.”
“I remember them now. They were weak, feeble, fragile mortal shells unable to reach beyond their limits to become more. They got what they deserved. But I still don’t see what that has to do with anything. Is it because you yourself don’t have a sad enough tale to weave and offer up as an excuse for your actions, so you’ve appropriated some other souls?”
“No. I’m telling you this because that night, you and your ‘God’ friends didn’t wipe out an entire family. I know because I was the six year old little girl hiding. And I heard and saw everything you did to my parents and older brothers.”
Balthazar is impressed by Yelena’s story, though it doesn’t change his reaction, which is to roar with laughter. The bellowing sounds escaping from his wide open mouth and scrunched up face.
His enraptured rumblings last a long while and only finally abate when he questions, “So this is simple revenge?”
Following his query there is a brief pause during which nothing is said. Following it he continues.“You became one of us. The things you hate most. And for no reason other than so you could have a chance at killing us. To make us feel what you felt that night when you watched as we did to your mortal scum of a family what they deserved most. It’s ironic, and pathetic.”
Balthazar’s words drip with judgement and criticism as they leak from between his cruelly smiling lips.
To his surprise, Yelena simply shakes her head. Part of him insists he should take her refusal as nothing more than her inability to accept the truth. Yet, at the same time something tells him that to do so would be an underestimation of her on his part. He cannot say why and so confusion soon replaces his previous look of smug superiority.
“I never joined the project. It’s why I don’t know what was done to my parents, you, Rupture, Headshot, Emperor or any of the others that call themselves ‘Gods.’ Cause unlike the rest of you, I was born this way.”
“Impossible. No one is born like this. Gods are made, from the best of us. Like me.” Balthazar resists the overwhelming urge he feels to say: And I’ll prove it. Instead, he just smiles having spied his opportunity.
The woman with long black hair truly seems to be distracted by his refusal to accept her words. Yet, his refusal is not faked. He really does not believe the words from her lips, even if she herself does believe them. And he is convinced that she does.
It’s why he lunges a moment later, his body still engulfed in flame with his right forearm missing, toward Yelena. She’ll never see it coming. Except she does, and because of her own gifts she is able to move much quicker than he can. It’s why she covers the distance that had been between them in less than a blink of an eye, evading his final blast of fiery matter in the moments before she strikes.
At first Balthazar is only just about capable to acknowledging that Yelena has anticipated and circumvented his attack. Then as the seconds pass and tick toward a minute it dawns on him that she has not only evaded his attack but delivered one of her own.
Her talons having been plunged deep into Balthazar’s chest cavity; his eyes wide while he coughs up blood. Thick copious amounts of it trickle down from his mouth as his jaw trembles and he tries, in vain, to speak. But Balthazar The Illustrious, the God, will never get to speak again as Yelena wastes no time as she tears open his chest, revealing his bony rib cage.
Terror fills every fibre of his being as he is forced to watch Yelena pull back her arm and then it rocket forward. Her right hand obliterating a section of his gore covered and skinless ribs.
He feels her hand inside him, moving, seeking until it stops without warning. It’s a strange sensation he doesn’t like.
Her hand lingers for a while before ultimately clamping down on something. Balthazar cannot say what, though he isn’t left waiting too long to find out as she rips her arm back out of the hole she caved in his chest. Her fingers are wrapped around something, her hand bathed in dark crimson.
She wastes no time revealing what she has in her hand. There is no need to taunt him. That is why Balthazar soon learns, as she finishes furling her fingers, that sat in her palm of her hand is his heart. It continues to throb and beat as Balthazar stares at it. His jaw continuing to tremble uncontrollably, while he is left to wonder just how it is that he is still alive and able to stare at his still beating heart that this woman holds in her hand. He doesn’t know. His mind cannot comprehend it. Though, as he inhales for what will be the last time, Yelena crushes the organ. Blood and chunks of flesh are cast out in every direction as she makes sure to stare deep into his eyes. They quickly glaze over to confirm to Yelena that the deed is done. It’s why she releases her one-handed grip on a section of flesh that had once covered his ribcage and then watches as his body topples silently through the air only to land on the wet grass surrounding the paved area they had both been stood upon this entire time.
And while Balthazar will believe that her motivation was revenge, he will never know the truth, for he could not comprehend the idea that there are things greater than oneself. Yelena can and that is why her reasoning for doing this was not vengeance but to ensure that it could never happen to anyone else ever again, like it did her.