Carpathia III: Episode 102: Questioning Loyalty

Yseri, Desert Trail

Everyone instinctively backed away from Jaze in disbelief that the thing that now stood before them was their friend. In disbelief, Kaoru, along with the others, backed away slowly. Jaze slowly glanced around at each of them, surveying them one by one.

Kaoru: Jaze... What's going on?

For a moment, Jaze said nothing, just standing where he was, breathing heavily. During this time, Quilyon readied her gun while the others also adopted defensive postures, expecting an attack at any moment.

Jaze: Please... Just let me go.

Kaoru took a deep breath and, without thinking, held his hand over the ground to draw water from beneath the surface. This time, he was able to draw far more water than ever before and a large, basketball-size glob was quickly forming under his hand.

Kaoru: Can't do that, Jaze.

Now a stalemate, with neither side having any desire to harm the other, everyone glared at Jaze while he glared right back. Until now, Kaoru had only vaguely been aware of the waterball under his hand and he considered it more carefully. Better than Quilyon's gun, Adell's rocks, or Azrael's sword, water, he thought, had the best chance of distracting Jaze without harming him.

It was clear that Jaze must have noticed the waterball. He couldn't miss it. Kaoru noticed the others casting furtive glances his way as well, perhaps either wondering what he intended to do or hoping that he would do something with it. Kaoru tried to think of a way to send a signal to the others to be ready to subdue Jaze once he was distracted, but he had little time to think.

Ultimately, Kaoru simply decided that his best option was to hose Jaze and hope the others were quick-thinking enough to take advantage of the situation. Both nervous and shaking, Kaoru kept telling himself "Now! Now!" but his body refused to comply. He was sure that Jaze could somehow sense what he was about to do.

Finally, Kaoru's arm obeyed. Quickly, he raised his hand and fired the waterball at Jaze. Right away, Jaze raised his arms to block and, as Kaoru had hoped, Adell was waiting for this moment. He rapidly thrust his hands toward the ground and drew a large, flat rock. Thrusting his hands forward, he launched it at Jaze's chest.

Jaze, however, wasn't so easily distracted after all. Even while recovering from the water blast, he seemed to sense that the rock was coming and rounded upon it, punching it with incredible force. The rock shattered into dust in front of his dumbfounded friends.

For a moment, nothing happened as everyone incredulously watched the dust from the rock settle.

Jaze: Don't make me do this!

The pause did not last long. Azrael charged toward Jaze, followed by Kagurain and with Ryuu shooting fireballs in Jaze's direction. After dodging Ryuu's fireballs, Jaze spun to Kagurain first and swatted him aside with almost no effort, sending him tumbling across the dirt outside the circle. Next, Jaze turned his attention to Azrael, who was now almost upon him, preparing for a low swing with his sword, aiming for his legs. Jaze responded with a powerful uppercut punch to Azrael's chest.

Azrael only had enough time to cough a bit of blood on Jaze and drop his sword before he went hurtling away. With nobody else on the attack, Jaze charged upon Quilyon. She and Kaoru only had time to make a shocked expression before Jaze grabbed her gun and pushed her to the ground. With Quilyon's gun in hand, Jaze held it up and then broke it in half over his thigh.

While Jaze was disposing of Quilyon's gun, Adell fired another rock at Jaze's back. This time, Jaze did not counter, but the rock harmlessly bounced off of Jaze's back. Now, it was chaos. Everyone who wasn't already knocked out piled in. Kaoru, being closest, tried to put Jaze in a headlock as soon as he turned around to look for the origin of the rock that hit his back. Artemis, Zet, Ryuu and Adell all followed suit, though none had any success. One by one, he tossed each of them away like they were teddy bears.

It was finally done. The battle was over, with Jaze the last standing, his friends lying all around him in various states of damage. Jaze looked around him in sorrow at what he had become, when that detestable voice again appeared in his head.

Wishmaster: You've done well to dispatch your friends without killing them.

Jaze: This protection is bullshit!

Wishmaster: Nevertheless, you have protected them. Now you are free to complete your mission and I will not have to lay a claw on them.

Panting heavily, Jaze did not move, and instead contemplated his next move.

Is this really worth it?
Will he use my friends against me in this way forever?
What kind of life will this be for me and them?

Wishmaster: What are you waiting for? Go and complete your mission!

At that moment, Jaze heard a voice that momentarily purged all thoughts of Wishmaster from his mind.

Kaoru: Jaze!

Jaze faced a very wobbly, bloodied Kaoru, who seemed to be standing with great difficulty. The others were also beginning to stir around him. The time was now. He had to leave now before any more fighting could happen.

Kaoru would be easy. As he staggered closer, all Jaze would have to do was push him away and he would be free to go. Jaze lowered his head so that he wouldn't have to see the look on Kaoru's face as he placed his hands on Kaoru's chest and shoved. Kaoru didn't fall right away, but staggered quickly backward until he finally fell, with his full weight, on Adell's backpack.

The backpack burst open, sending its contents tumbling out. Just before Jaze turned to leave, he caught sight of a brilliant flash of blue amongst the contents. Transfixed, he watched a baseball-sized, cloth-covered object roll away from the backpack. As it rolled, the cloth unfurled, revealing more and more of the object hiding within. It was a crystal. A brilliant, blue crystal.

Jaze's mind went blank. There were no more thoughts of his friends or Wishmaster in his head. His entire mind was given over to one single thought.

I must have that crystal!

With lightning speed, Jaze darted toward the crystal, running on both his feet and hands. In mere moments, was upon it and Jaze pounced on the crystal like a cheetah on its prey. The moment Jaze touched it, the crystal suddenly became bright red. The others, were also coming to, just in time to witness this new drama unfolding before them.

Everyone watched woozily as Jaze pounced on the crystal and as it turned bright red. As soon as Jaze had the crystal within his grasp, he collapsed on the ground, writhing in agony. Almost immediately thereafter, Jaze let forth an ear-splitting scream that felt like it could be heard all the way back to New Carpathia. Everyone clasped their hands over their ears, though they still could not block the impossible, inhuman wail coming from Jaze.

And then, just as quickly as his shriek began, all became silent, and Jaze froze as stiff as a block of concrete.

Commissioned art in this episode from:

All city pictures from SimCity 4

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