Author's note: Awakener's ranks will now follow the standard letter progression rather than numbered stages. "Raiders" will be changed to "Hunters" from now on
Previously on The Incomparable:
Images began to flash through my mind. As each of my dead family members looked me in the eyes, I knew they could see everything I was seeing. Every memory. Every regret. Every moment I'd thought back on the things that had gone wrong... Every choice I hadn't made that might have saved them. If only I'd chosen to go somewhere else for my birthday. If only I hadn't left the house that day. If only I'd gotten back sooner. If only, if only, if only—
"You're the reason we're dead!"
My mother's yell echoed in my ears. I looked up to see my parents' faces, filled with disgust. My sister's accusing face, covered in tears.
And then they faded into darkness. Suddenly, I could move again. I ran towards them, hand outstretched, but I touched nothing. All around me was dark emptiness. A nothingness that exceeded time and space, that seemed to consume my very existence. It felt like I was there forever, or perhaps it was only an instant.
"Is this what you want?" Was the voice that spoke in my mind, or was it coming from the darkness? Was it my own voice, or someone else's? I couldn't tell.
"Is that the family which you hold so dear within your heart?"
"No! That's not who they are...!"
"Is that how you want your family to see you?"
"They hate you."
"They despise you."
"So it's those men's fault, then?"
"They're not— This isn't about them."
"If it weren't for those men who killed your parents, your family would still be together. Your sister wouldn't have died, either."
"You would still be in America. Probably in a park somewhere, having a picnic, happy and carefree."
"You're silent. Because I'm correct, aren't I."
"Of course I am. And do you know what those men who killed your parents are doing right now?"
"They're living it up as some of the best A-Rank Hunters in the world."
"I said look up."
"See them, there? Look at them, enjoying their cocktails while clubbing."
"Look at them. Do you think it's fair?"
"I said, do you think it's fair?"
"Do they deserve to live such carefree lives after what they did?"
"Do you want revenge?"
"I said, do you want revenge?"
"Do you want to make them suffer?"
"Then you'll have to become strong."
"Do you know how?"
"My power can help you. Do you want it?"
"I need you to say it."
"I want your power!"
"So be it. My name is Death Star. I am the scion of calamity, the doom-bringer, and I shall share my power with you. It will only be temporary for now, but perhaps when you are stronger..."
"I will become stronger!" I barely knew where I was. Who I was. I only knew that there was power rushing through me. A pinprick of light appeared in the distance. I surged towards it, and I felt the power surge with me.
"I will be the strongest!"
The thousands of examinees craned their heads up to stare at the sphere of darkness that hovered in the air above the stadium. The flying figures of teachers circled at a middle distance, but none made any move yet to interfere. A few voices issued up from the crowd.
"Is he hiding?"
"He's probably scared. Get out here, you loser!" A few stray energy blasts and sparks of flame and electricity were fired upwards from various locations, but all of them fizzled out long before they reached their target.
"This battle is between myself and John Lee. There is no need for anyone else to interfere." Yulia's calm voice carried out above the sea of people.
"We're just trying to help, Princess!"
"Thank you, but that is unnecessary." There were no more attacks from the crowd.
The girl's placid expression belied the emotions churning within her. (I do not need your help, you idiots. Do any of you truly believe you could help me? Look at me. Aside from the teachers, I am the most powerful one here! Even that bastard, with his higher level, could not even scratch me. But still, again and again, every single time...)
"I do not require your assistance."
(I do not need your help!)
The silence didn't last long. Restlessness began to spread once more, until finally a voice spoke up again. "Look at him. Is he just planning to hide up there forever? What a coward."
A cold voice rippled through the air. "Interesting. And what does that make you, then, for saying that behind a coward's back?"
-End of Chapter 16-