Carpathia III: Episode 100: Reclaiming Jaze

Yseri, Desert Trail

Still perplexed, Adell looked back and forth between Kaoru and Jaze before speaking.

Adell: That won't take long. Everyone is already awake from your arguing.

Kaoru kept his focus on Jaze, gradually growing smaller in the distance.

Kaoru: Something is wrong with Jaze and I'm not letting him go until I find out what it is. Go get everyone. I'll slow him down.

Adell: Gotcha.

Adell turned and sprinted back toward the camp. Kaoru squeezed his fists twice, steeling himself for a confrontation. Kaoru's frustration only increased as Jaze continued walking away, giving no indication that he heard Kaoru's footsteps. Finally, Kaoru jumped in front of Jaze's path, blocking his way.

Kaoru: You are not going anywhere!

Jaze clenched his fists and Kaoru braced himself for a fight. It would be a last resort, but he was willing to do whatever it took to bring Jaze back to his senses. Instead, Jaze continued their previous argument.

Jaze: You have no idea what you're getting into!

Even if Jaze didn't start a fight, Kaoru was considering it, as he was growing weary of the same meaningless argument over and over without explanation.

Kaoru: Of course I don't, because you won't tell me!

Jaze: Just let me go!

With talking not getting anywhere, Kaoru spread his arms wide. He knew it was an entirely symbolic gesture, but if words could not show that he wasn't letting Jaze leave, then perhaps this would. Cooly and calmly, Kaoru restated his position.

Kaoru: Not until you tell me where you're going and why.

Before Jaze had a chance to reply, the others from the group arrived and took positions in a wide circle, surrounding him. Quilyon and Zet took positions on either side of Kaoru, in front of Jaze, while the others were to his sides and back. Reuli, Wolfram, and the androids were not present. Jaze's head darted around at each of them. Adell tossed his backpack behind him.

Adell: We're here for you, Jaze. Just tell us what's going on.

Jaze said nothing, but slowly turned around, gazing longingly at each of them. Something different was going through Jaze's mind at that moment and Kaoru desperately wondered what it was. Could it be, he thought, that they were finally getting through to Jaze?

Kaoru's hope was short lived. Suddenly, and without explanation, Jaze clasped his hands over his ears and closed his eyes, as though he were hearing something the rest of them couldn't.

Jaze: No!

This time, Kaoru had no idea what to say and looked to Quilyon for help, though she didn't seem to know what was happening either. The others also turned to each other, seemingly just as confused as Kaoru was. Jaze shook his head violently from side to side as he clasped his hands even tighter to his ears.

Jaze: I won't!

Kaoru held his sweaty palm to his mouth, desperately trying to make sense of what he was seeing. If nothing else, he felt he had to at least call out to Jaze.

Kaoru: Jaze!

Jaze's eyes sprang open, and Kaoru hoped that he was making some progress. That hope was fleeting, however, as Jaze thrust his hands out towards them. It was just then that Kaoru noticed that they were becoming twisted and grotesque. It appeared that his fingers had grown long and spindly, as did his claws.

Jaze: Stay back!

Kaoru jumped backward, as did everyone else. It was now that Kaoru understood that Jaze had, at least, been partially telling the truth. Whatever he was going through was going to be very difficult to comprehend. Jaze clasped his hands around his ears again as Kaoru continued attempting to get through to him.

Kaoru: Jaze!

Again, Jaze showed his claws and everyone took a step backward. Jaze fell to his knees, still with covering his ears and shaking his head. With all his focus on Jaze, Kaoru jumped when he unexpectedly heard Quilyon whisper into his ear.

Quilyon: Kaoru, I know he's your friend, but you have to know that, if it comes down to it, I will do whatever it takes to protect Reuli and Wolfram.

Kaoru slowly turned his head and he could see Quilyon had a serious expression as she held her gun ready. Glancing back and forth between her and Jaze, Kaoru tried to think of an argument against what she was saying, but could not come up with anything. As Kaoru watched Jaze slowly reach for his gun in his waistband, Kaoru had to tearfully admit that Quilyon was right. With his shaky voice, Kaoru acknowledged her.

Kaoru: I know you will.

Now, Kaoru thought, he knew Jaze had to be stopped as much for his own sake.

Kaoru: Jaze, what are you doing?

At the same time, another conversation was happening elsewhere in the circle between Azrael and Adell. Azrael now had his sword drawn and held a defensive position.

Adell: Azrael, whatever happens, incapacitate him if you have to, but please don't kill him.

While Adell was speaking, Artemis noticed something far more frightening than the gun that Jaze was now pulling out of his waistband.

Artemis: Azrael, are you shaking?

Azrael: I would suggest you all run, but I know you won't. However, the foe before us has power beyond anything I could possibly imagine.

Everyone watched tensely as Jaze held his gun, though he didn't seem to do anything with it other than hold it limply by his side as tears poured down his face. Suddenly, Jaze let out a cry of despair and tossed the gun away from him. Landing near Kaoru's feet, he took it and hastily shoved it into his pocket while Jaze shut his eyes tight and held his ears again.

Jaze: Just stop talking and leave me alone!

Kaoru: Jaze!

Kaoru and the others continued to call out to Jaze, but he did not appear to hear them anymore.

Adell: Jaze!

Kagurain: Jaze!

Jaze ducked his head even lower.

Jaze: No... don't show me...

Jaze remained where he was, shaking. Suddenly, he began to twist and writhe on the ground as though he were hallucinating something terrifying. The others watched in horror as this behavior persisted for several minutes. Then, just as suddenly as it started, Jaze stopped. Relieved, but still cautious, they watched as Jaze's breathing slowed and his shaking subsided.

Jaze: I'll... I'll do it.

Nobody was comforted by this. Do what, everyone wondered.

Jaze: Just shut up! You know what it is!

There was nothing left for any of them to do but continue to call out to Jaze, hoping that they could reach him.

Kaoru: Jaze!

Adell: Jaze!

Artemis: Jaze!

Ryuu: Jaze!

Slowly, Jaze rose to his feet, though what they saw did not appear to be Jaze anymore. As before, his fingers and claws were long and spindly. Now, his eyes glowed an evil red and his teeth were now as sharp as needles.

Everyone around him stepped back from the visage that appeared before them.

Jaze: Let... me... go!

Commissioned art in this episode from:
Atomic Clover

All city pictures from SimCity 4

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