Content Warning: Death, Graphic Violence.
I glare at my father and his guards angrily, he set us up and now he has us cornered. These guards can’t do a thing to us, but I doubt he cares as long as they slow us down and hurt us at least a bit. He’s an intimidating figure, standing just a few inches under seven feet tall and weighing over three-hundred pounds of solid muscle. He wears a black mask over most of his face, with dark red goggles covering his eyes of flame. His lower face is exposed leaving his mouth and beard, a mix of hair, ash, and embers, visible. His chest is covered by black plate armor, as well as his arms and legs. He has spiked boots and gloves. A red aura surrounds his black armor. He resembles some sort of dark knight from a fairy tale or video game.
I don’t waste a second, leaping on a jet of flame towards Heatstroke, flying over the guards. I create a whip of fire in my right hand while launching a knee-height wave of flame out on impact with the ground. The flame sends a few guards back, but Heatstroke makes it disappear as it reaches him. As for the whip, Heatstroke reaches an arm to block it, and the flame slowly turns from red to black. I drop it as the fire disappears, using my enhanced agility to backflip once, just making separation.
“Phoenix, wai- shit. Chimera, can you get the-” Dragon starts.
“On it.” Chimera cuts her off, using her telekinetic energy to throw a few guards around the room like ragdolls.
“You’ve gotten better. Unfortunately for you, so have I.” Heatstroke says, disappearing in a few embers. He’s using his special power, the ability to teleport through flame.
He can teleport through flame, but I can bend it. I grab all the fire from torches and lanterns around the room, forming it into a small ball of red flame. It’s the only place he can come back through, and I’m content with that. I watch Dragon and Chimera, fighting effortlessly against the armed guards, a few of them start to give up and race towards the exit on the left side of the room. I channel the flame in my hand and launch it like a whip towards the door, making sure I can pull it back.
“Phoenix no!” Dragon yells, extending a claw towards me.
My whip of flame strikes the side of the wall, colliding with a viscous black liquid that I hadn’t noticed until the second before I hit it. Chimera and I gasp simultaneously as the room is covered in bright red light and heat.
Chimera was able to act a second before I was, covering herself, Dragon, and I in a shield of blue light. I try to take some of the strain off of her, commanding the fire to flow over the shield like water instead of trying to push through.
Gasoline. God dammit, of course. He coated the floor and walls in a thick layer of gasoline. I took his bait, and now the entire room is covered in hot red flame. The guards and soldiers in the room were turned to ash by the blast, which eliminated one problem and replaced it with a new one. With Heatstroke’s ability to teleport through flame, he could be literally anywhere in this room. I try to lift the fire, to pull it away and make clear spaces, but it can spread faster than I can move it.
“It’s okay, let me ju-” Chimera starts. She is suddenly cut off when a black-clad fist clamps around her throat as a hulking masculine figure lifts her into the air. She puts her hands on the man’s arm, fighting desperately to get out of his grip, but he doesn’t budge.
Heatstroke chuckles as my teammate fights desperately against him. I charge him, but he’s able to see me coming as he easily uses my own momentum against me and throws me into Dragon. My concussed head hits hard against her nearly unbreakable scales as she lets out a low grunt and hisses softly.
“God. I fucking hate telepaths. It’s an obnoxious powerset.” He starts. “I’ve fought with and against other, better Chimeras in the past, you’re nothing special. You’re just a kid, and you’re in way over your head.”
Embers come from Heatstroke’s hand, trying to burn through the neck of Chimera’s costume as her choking sounds get more desperate and panicked. I struggle to stand, but I can’t. She starts coughing, choking, and I can see tears in her eyes.
“Remember this, Spirit pick your next host far, far away from Oru.” He says as he pushes even tighter against her throat. She’s going to die. She’s going to die, and it’s all my fucking fault.
Chimera’s eyes flash deep blue as she lets go of his arms, Heatstroke starts to glow the same blue colors as his head tilts slowly. His hand is blown back with force, dropping her, though she stays floating in place. Chimera throws him into the wall with a wave of her hand, holding him there, trying to push him deeper into the burning wood. He tries to fight, tries to teleport, but his body is immobile and entirely at her mercy.
Chimera lands on the ground as a wave of blue light surges from her body and washes over the entire room, extinguishing all of the flames and leaving just scorched wood, without so much as embers. She’s not finished with Heatstroke. She warps the wood of the wall, his body sinking into it, it piles onto him as more of his body starts to vanish beneath the wood. She’s pulling wood from other walls and floors in the building, creating a makeshift prison. Within a few moments, the only thing visible is his head, trapped in place by scorched, blackened wood.
“First, I’m telekinetic, not a telepath. Yeah, you’ve fought with and against other Chimera’s multiple times, which means you’ve fought me multiple times. I remember every second, every fire blast, and every single breath you took. I am Chimera, every single incarnation of them, and I know everything they knew. Underestimate me at your own peril, but I’m much stronger, much smarter, and much more experienced than you. I’m not leaving Oru anytime soon. I’m The Chimera, people treat me like a God for a reason. If you need another reminder, I’ll gladly provide one.” Chimera says, her voice carries an unusual worldliness. She’s speaking as if she is a millennia-old entity who’s fought in countless wars and not a fifteen or sixteen-year-old girl who started this superhero gig four months ago. Her eyes still glow bright blue as she exerts her power on him to hold him as tightly in place as possible.
Dragon and I slowly get to our feet, Dragon supporting me with her superior strength. It’s hard to tell with her reptilian eyes, but Dragon looks afraid. Her eyes dart quickly around the room as she looks Chimera up and down.
“Holy shit.” Dragon mumbles.
“What?” I ask.
“Nothing, we’ll deal with it later. I have questions for Chimera, a lot of them.”
Chimera suddenly drops, her eyes returning to normal and closing gently. Dragon manages to catch her before she impacts the ground too hard. She doesn’t detranscend, but she’s out cold. It’s not a big deal, Dragon and I can take it from here. We walk towards Heatstroke, encased in solid wood. I lean against the wall and glare at him.
“Finally, you’re going to pay.” I spit, my anger boiling over as I spew light flame from my fists.
“If you say so.” He says with a small smirk.
I ignite a bolt of fire in my hand, sending it into his face. He groans slightly as I reach back and grab more flame. I hit him with another strike of flame, then another, then another. I see his face and mask left with scorch marks and embers. He’s going to pay! I’m going to have my revenge! Fuck this monster and everything he did. I’m going to make him feel every bit of pain he’s made me feel.
Dragon grabs me, holding me back. I glare at her, ready to explode on her for trying to stop me. Until I realize why. Around my father is a ring of burning fire in the old wooden wall prison that Chimera trapped him in. I curse under my breath as my father disappears. I’m so fucking stupid.
I fucked up, badly. Heatstroke appears next to me, teleporting through the fire I had created. I catch a swift, hard kick to the jaw, feeling the metal of the boot impact the metal of my mask. I go flying into a wall and impact it hard.
Dragon was ready, she pounces on him without a second thought. She bites into his neck, one of the weaker areas of his armor, hard but can’t break through. She tries a new tactic, throwing him against a wall and pinning him there with her tail. It’s a testament to Dragon’s pure strength that he struggles to break through. My father, especially transcended, is not a weak man.
Heatstroke fights back, sending a jet of flame right between Dragon’s wings. She moves her tail and lets him up. Heatstroke wastes no time, peppering her with more fire. Dragon moves in close, rather than backing off to avoid the flame, and slashes at his face, leaving three bright, red, slash marks across it.
I’m back up as quickly as I can be, sending a strong kick into him and infusing it with flame. Dragon and I double team him, quickly exchanging blasts of heat and cold. My father trained me in Běishàolín and how to work my fire blasts into it. In a straight up, one on one fight with strict Běishàolín, he would probably win. Dragon isn’t a trained fighter but knows how to use her gifts. I use strikes, quick jabs, low sweeps, and very brief holds, all infused with flame. Dragon, on the other hand, utilizes bites, scratches, tail sweeps and ice breath to keep my father from being able to reverse what I’m doing.
Heatstroke takes it for a while, reversing strikes that would knock him down or hit vital organs, but not striking back with any real force. Dragon pauses for a second to consider it, before pulling on my arm. I hold back when she orders me, but don’t let my father out of my sight.
“Wood.” Dragon says. That’s all I need to hear to get her meaning, I glance around the room and see flames peppering the walls and supports of the building. I thought he had been blocking some of the flame in my strikes and sending them off, but he was sending them into walls. The walls of a wooden building.
I don’t even get a chance to process it before he does it, Heatstroke brings down the ceiling above me, sending a jet of black flame and wood into Dragon and I. I feel planks try to pierce my armor, before getting deflected. Fire washes over me, as I struggle to get back to my feet. Fuck this! I gather the fire around me before it disperses and use it as a jet. I launch into Heatstroke, hitting him with my shoulder. We break through a wall together.
I call on two blades of flame, slashing across his chest once, twice, three times. I growl under my breath as I call the swords off. I strike towards his face, extending my fist upwards, but he blocks, sending his own wave of black flame into my stomach. I lock eyes with him as he stands up.
“Good, good. You’re improving marvelously quickly.” Heatstroke taunts. I snarl under my breath. I call more flame, sending out quick strikes and jabs, my father is on the defensive, block and deflecting.
“Fight me fucker!” I hiss, slightly out of breath.
“Like I fought your brother?”
I unload on him. Jet after jet of searing flame. I throw my hands together and call a torrent on him. He raises his arms to block it, but my flame is stronger, hotter, and pushes him down into the floor. I scream as my flame grows, reaching a peak. I enter The Cinder State, flying behind him and gripping his neck, calling heat to my hands and burning into the armor of his neck.
“Stop!” Dragon yells, following after me.
“What!?” I hiss, not letting go as my father struggles in my grip.
“He’s stalling. He has more power in reserve than you.”
Heatstroke quickly disappears, vanishing into flame. I glare at Dragon, she’s right. I was stupid for not realizing it.
“What do we do then?” I mumble, watching the flames around the room carefully.
“Fight together, he wants to keep us separated, expend our powers.”
“Is Chimera up?”
“Almost, come on, stick together. Anger is your tool, not the other way around.”
I follow Dragon back into the room where Chimera is laying, she’s getting up slowly and breathing heavily. Dragon offers her a hand, and she takes it, leaning against Dragon as she stands gingerly.
“Where?” Chimera mumbles breathlessly.
“He’s in the process of teleporting.” Dragon says. “Come on, you’re hurt, rest.”
“No, let’s end this. Now.” Chimera says, nodding to me. I nod back.
Our quiet conversation is broken by a searing bolt of black fire, aimed right at Chimera’s head. I leap toward it and catch it, turning it red in my hand as I cast it back at my father, standing by a flaming wall in the next room. Dragon, Chimera, and I stand in line, showing a united front. My father looks us up and down, seemingly bored. Then, a bullet deflects off of his shoulder pad. Part of the wall to his right has fallen away, and the same girl in a bike helmet is pointing her scavenged pistol at him, Sarah.
He turns towards Sarah and points his fist, charging a bolt of fire within a few seconds and firing it at her. Chimera and I both move within a fraction of a second. She moves toward Sarah, and I move towards him. Sarah’s a distraction, and she’s putting herself at risk. If she wants to commit suicide by supervillain, fucking let her.
I strike Heatstroke hard in the back with as much force as I can muster. Slamming my fist, infused with as much flame as possible, into him. I pierce his armor, melting a hole in it and hear a sickening snap as my father falls over, writing on the ground. He tries to stand, but his legs won’t cooperate. I see a pulsing, red, bit of spine crumble away to ash in my hands.
I glance out of the corner of my eye, watching the bolt of flame heading towards Sarah. She looks at it like a deer in the headlights. Chimera, ever the superhero, flies in front of it. I watch both of them disappear behind a fireball. When it clears, Chimera is smoking, her costume is scorched from head to toe, her white cape and blonde hair are both on smoldering. Chimera lets out a shuddering breath, her eyes fight to close as she stands there, breathing heavily.
“I… uh… thank you.” Sarah says.
“Leave.” Chimera mutters, her voice is weak and low. She’s barely breathing, and I can’t imagine how badly burned she is. Chimera has struggled with things like fire, water, or electricity in the past, but she had to be able to deflect some of it. She would have been entirely turned to ash otherwise.
“Fuck…” Chimera mutters as her knees give out and she collapses.
My attention goes back to my father. He’s laying on the ground in agony. I feel my fist, still searing hot and glowing red.
“Dragon, fires.” I order her. Dragon spreads ice cold air around the rooms and extinguishes all the fires in the immediate area. Dragon grabs my shoulder, I shrug it off.
“Let’s go. We can restrai-” She starts.
“No. He dies.” I respond in a monotone voice. “Now you pay. You pay for everything you did.” I turn my focus to Heatstroke.
I start to gather fire around me, clinging to my costume and body. I glare at my father with hatred.
“You ruined my life, you ruined this whole fucking world.” I scream at him, if my eyes weren’t made of my fire, I’d be holding back tears. “You killed my brother, my mom, my whole fucking family. You took my father away from me, you took my best friend away for me. I hate you!”
“Phoenix…” Dragon says softly.
“I hope you suffer. I hope you feel every inch of you being burned to ash. I’m going to enjoy and relish this moment for the rest of my life. Leaving me alive was your biggest mistake, I was always going to come back, I was always going to get revenge. You’re going to die at my hands, alone. No guards, no Archduke, no family. I hope you’re happy with your choice.”
A small black fluid leaks out of my father’s spine, Dragon goes to examine it, careful not to actually touch it.
“What the… Phoenix! Sto-!” Dragon says.
“Ra- Rach-” Heatstroke starts, I make the fire around me hiss, crackle, and scream, cutting him off.
“Phoenix! The building is going t-” Dragon starts. I use the fire around my body and hands to make a giant ball of fire, I twist it, forming into an avian shape. I throw the full blazing force down on his prone body, engulfing it and turning him to ash in a matter of seconds. Flame washes over the floor and walls of the building. I did it! I got my fucking revenge! I don’t feel better exactly, not yet, it barely feels real. I feel free, I feel like a burden of grief has been lifted. Killing Heatstroke won’t bring my family back, but avenging them is about as good as I could hope for. I look at the ashes that were his body and shoot one more jet of flame at them.
I hear a loud screech and creak as I feel the ground beneath my feet start to fall. Almost instinctively I ignite my wings, and Dragon’s wings hold her up without the slightest effort. Unconscious Chimera and Sarah, on the other hand, don’t stand as much of a chance. I swoop down quickly, grabbing Chimera in my arms. I don’t have an angle to catch both of them, and I owe, and sort of like Chimera, neither of those things are true of Sarah.
As I hold Chimera against my chest, Dragon dives past me, pursuing Sarah. She’s getting close, but not quite close enough. Sarah is falling faster than Dragon’s bulky body can fly with all this debris. Everytime Dragon gains on her, she seems to be struck by an errant plank or old machinery.
I look down, as much as I don’t like Sarah, and as dumb as I think she is, I don’t honestly want her to die this way. I float there, slack-jawed, as a bright, green, light surrounds Sarah. She freezes in mid-air and Dragon has to cover her eyes with her claws as she dives past the light. Suddenly, where Sarah was floating, is now a wispy, ghost-like figure surrounded by a faint green aura. She doesn’t have wings but seems to float almost like its second nature. Her face is cherubic, but wispy and almost-gaseous, like the rest of her. She has no mask, but her face changes so constantly, she doesn’t need it. Dragon shoots me a confused look, one I give right back beneath my mask.
“Sarah?” Dragon asks.
“Um… I… yes.” she says, her voice echoes slightly and seems to carry on the wind.
“Come on. We can talk somewhere else. We really don’t want other people showing up. You seem to have a basic handle on flying. Follow us.” Dragon orders, I roll my eyes and grumble to myself. We had long talked about adding a fourth teammate, but this is far from the person I had in mind.
Within two or three minutes, we’re over an old rooftop in a slightly run-down part of Oru. I land first, setting Chimera down gently. Dragon isn’t far behind, landing next to me in a huff. Sarah finds us a few minutes after.
“Do we need to have a conversation?” Dragon asks me, her voice has no hint of humor or levity to it.
“What about?” I ask.
“Goddammit Phoenix. You know I respect and care for you, but… fuck. Sometimes you make it really hard to excuse your actions.”
I roll my eyes hard. Seriously? This? Now? After what we just did? After our greatest victory we’ve ever had as a team?
“Look. We got out okay, sure. But it could have been much worse. We had Heatstroke, you let him free.” She scolds me.
“I made up for it.” I insist.
“You used fire, recklessly in a wooden building. You burned him and the building to ash when he was defenseless. Not to mention the-”
“He was defenseless? Are you fucking serious? Like he wouldn’t have done the exact same thing if we were in his position? He was a monster, and he deserved to die. I won’t feel bad about it.”
“I’m not saying you should, but you could have hurt people. Sarah would have died if spirits didn’t work in such weird fucking ways. You could have hurt bystanders if we didn’t get them out. You’re reckless.”
“Would you ask a wildfire to burn a little colder? Would you ask a house fire to spare your bedroom? I am what I am. I am rage, I am fire. You get what you get. You need to accept that.”
“You aren’t your rage Phoenix. You control it. You can be so much more if you just-”
“For fuck’s sake!” Chimera chokes out, coughing heavily as she sits up. Dragon and I both stare at her. “Are you fucking kidding me? Right now, after everything that just happened, you two are still arguing?”
“Chimera, we need to talk about this. Actions have cons-” Dragon starts.
“Yeah! Actions have consequences, fine! Whatever! This conversation needs to happen behind closed doors! I think we have more pressing issues to discuss.” She says, we all look at Sarah, who has been trying her best to make it seem like she isn’t here.
“Fuck this noise. Do what you want with her. I don’t even know if I want to be a part of this team anymore.” I spit, walking towards the edge.
“You don’t mean that.” Dragon says, a bit of disbelief in her voice.
“Fucking try me. I’ll see you around. I could care less what you do with the soon-to-be-corpse. You want me on your side, accept me for what the fuck I am.”
I ignite my wings and fly off. I don’t know if they’ll recruit Sarah or not, ultimately, it doesn’t matter. I’m not sure why I’m still here. My six-year long mission is over. I could retire, I could manage in a comfortable, if not fun, life. I want to stop the Archduke, sure, but this has been all I’ve wanted for so long. Now I have it, and I almost feel like I don’t know what to do. Something is keeping me here. Maybe it’s my nature, being a Flamewake means I have to be a “hero,” whatever that means. Maybe I just want to spend more time with them… with her. Fuck, I don’t know.
Within five minutes, I’m detranscended and back into my bed in my dorm. I’ll catch hell for missing all the school did, but it’s beyond worth it. Walking the few blocks to get here was a chore. I wasn’t feeling great at the start of the day and participating in a fight didn’t help my injuries at all. I grab the small bottle of Vicodin that Dragon gave me and pop a pill into my mouth. I can afford to relax here, at least for a few hours.
Before I try to rest, there’s one thing I have to do. I go to my desk drawer and retrieve a small photograph from it. A nine-year-old girl stands with a hulking, bearded man. They’re at an amusement park. It’s crowded, the girl holds cotton candy in one of her hands while the man makes rabbit ears above her head.
My father and I, this was one of my best days and best memories with him. There was a lot of anger in our house, emotions ran high. We never hurt each other, but with all of us having the tempers that we did, we needed ways to cool off and unwind. The amusement park was one of the ways my dad and I would do that. I can hardly believe that this is the same man I had to kill today.
I had gotten rid of most pictures of my dad, destroyed them. This one I hung onto, maybe out of hope, or of nostalgia, maybe as a trophy for when I finally won, but it’s time to let it go.
I pull a small red lighter from my desk and place the edge of it against the photo. I pause for only a second before I strike my thumb against the lighter and slowly start to burn the photo. I look one last time into the eyes of my father, the smiling man who loved his daughter, and myself, the happy little nine-year-old who wanted nothing more than to spend the day with her dad.
But I guess both of those people are dead now.