Vanguard Act I: Das Immortales

Chapter 3: All Hail the King

Cedric took a bite of his hotdog, getting mustard on his shirt. Three hours of slumming around the streets of River City with his guitar had earned him enough money to get a hotdog from the slobby vendor. On a usual day, he'd just hang out in the woods and eat fruit or hunt for his own food. The thing was, in the two weeks he'd been back on Terra had proven one thing. Globalization had gotten insane.

When he left, Starland was at war with Celtia. Now Celtia had expanded into Barabados. Barabados, which once had a dozen countries, was now one sovereign nation. And both nations were allied with Starland. There were still tensions between Starland and the territories of eastern Gypta but that was mostly tribal terrorists and disenfranchised mercenaries.

Of course, Oblivion was still a nuisance. There was a reason Cedric was so strong. At one point, he had made a living as a monster hunter. He used his thief talent to absorb the creatures of Oblivion. He still did it from time to time, he just didn't like fighting unless it was necessary…or he was provoked.

"Cedric Vanheim…" An overly articulate voice rang out. A middle-aged man with neatly combed black hair stood behind him. He wore a white lab coat over a black shirt and khaki pants. "You are Cedric Vanheim are you not?"

"Whose asking?"

"Well…" The man said. Cedric took note of his apparent lackey. He was a large man in a biker jacket emblazoned with an old Nord symbol. He also had a long white beard. "Come with us to somewhere a bit more private."

"Why should I?" Cedric said petulantly.

"Because what I'm about to tell you is not for a public forum." The man said. "We shan't be long." He extended his hand. "Just take my hand and we'll be away." Cedric cautiously extended his hand. His curiosity had been spiked by the pair. As soon as he made contact the three of them were warped to a mountain top.

"Woah, where are we?" Cedric said.

"I teleported us to a secluded location. Hard to find in this day and age."

"Who are you and what do you want?" Cedric said as he clenched his fist.

"I am your brother's employer. I am the one who first requested for you to take your little sun dip. I am the one true king of Das Immortales. I am Chronos."

"Chronos? I thought you'd be taller."

"And I thought you'd put up more of a fight after what you did to Metalloid." Chronos said.

"Who?"

"Ironwood…pardon my use for aliases. Sometimes it's important to keep true identities secret."

"I understand that." Cedric looked to the sky. "Back in the day, I went by the name Seed."

"Wouldn't want to betray the noble Vanheim bloodline." Chronos said.

"What's this all about?"

"As I said, your brother works for me. I commissioned your operation and I'm here to reap the benefits of what I have sewn."

"Well then…come back here with my brother and I'll see what I'm willing to do."

"Oh, you coming with me is unnecessary, as is his coming here." Chronos said. "I'm here for what's rightfully mine."

"I'm not one to jump to conclusions…but that sounded like a threat."

"You were a melting pot Cedric Vanheim…nothing more." Chronos put a hand on Cedric's shoulder. Cedric felt a crushing weight bare down on him. He felt his life force draining from him. In that moment, he remembered Chronos' main talent. He was a paradox. He could take immortality away.

Cedric grabbed Chronos' hand and used his own talent. The black tendrils wrapped around the king and began taking that life force back and then some. Chronos struck his face causing him to flinch. Cedric moved to punch him but the fist flew through him as if he were air.

"What the…?" Cedric said.

"I have many talents." Chronos replied.

"Cheap son of a…" Cedric was interrupted by a palm strike to his chest. He felt his core rattle from the impact. Cedric unleashed a flurry of punches to Chronos but all of them failed to hit something solid. "If you are my brother's master, what would he say about you trying to kill me?" Chronos grabbed him by the throat.

"Your brother is loyal like a dog. You had a chance to come quietly and you refused. Men like you do not bow so easily so my hand is forced." Cedric latched onto Chronos' body with his tendrils.

"Keep talking asshole." Cedric taunted as he landed a solid hit to Chronos' chin. He felt his own power increasing. The metal infused in his bones radiated with green energy. Like a device plugged into a charger, his muscles beamed with the energy.

"Do you think you'll win this tug of war?" Chronos said. For a second, all Cedric could see was darkness and clouds. The next second, he felt the connection sever. And the third second, he felt an axe grind against his head.

"Ok, I guess we're doing this now!" Cedric said. The big guy in the biker jacket wielded an axe. Chronos seemed to be staggering.

"His core is in his chest." Chronos said. "Norm, you know what to do."

"With pleasure." Norm said. A shield materialized in his hand. Cedric acted in kind by summoning his sword.

"En garde, asshole." Cedric blocked the next axe strike and parried the one after that. He swung his sword but it was blocked by the shield. Cedric rolled out of the way of a strike and slashed Norm across the back.

Norm bashed him with his shield. He lunged and slammed his axe down on Cedric's shoulder. Cedric saw an opening and punched Norm's stomach with his left hand. With a flare of energy his rifle appeared and shot Norm in the face.

"What the…" Norm staggered back as Cedric bashed him on the head.

"All the immortality in the world can't save you from the pain." Cedric said. He hit Norm with an ascending strike, sending him skyward. Cedric then flew up and slammed him back down. As Norm hit the mountain side with a force great enough to split stone, Cedric wound his hands. "Diamond blast!" He shouted.

The green beam of energy engulfed Norm for several seconds. Cedric then dashed to the ground and punched Norm in the back of the head. Norm's shield split and shattered. Cedric wailed on him, the power he stole earlier fueled his every move. At the end of the combination, he pivoted around and threw the larger man into the ground with a small explosion.

Norm was knocked out and Cedric was satisfied with the battle. He didn't have time to think as Chronos dug his hand into Cedric's chest. Cedric tried fighting back to no avail. He had used up too much energy on Norm. Even if he hadn't…Chronos was simply too powerful. Even at full strength, Cedric could only last so long.

"You have power and strength the likes of which I have not seen in a very long time." Chronos said. "You could have been a powerful ally or even a worthy rival had you only learned control. None of that matters now, this is your final resting place."

Cedric couldn't use his talent. Every attempt slipped through his fingers. Chronos was like a ghost and a knife cutting into his very soul. He was peeling Cedric's spirit like a potato, prying it from his body.

At a moment of desperation, something happened. Cedric was crushed by a flying boulder to his side. His body and soul were ripped away from Chronos' grip. Cedric was trapped in a stone dome and sunk into the ground at breakneck speed. He had no idea what's going on. He questioned the events up until he passed out.

"Mr. Vanheim." A familiar feminine voice said. "Cedric!"

Cedric awoke in a monastery. Those two people from before, Feng and Kong, were at his side. He recognized the style to be from the far east kingdom of Zhang. Décor of dragons and demons decorated the drafty halls.

"Where am I?" Cedric said.

"You're safe." Feng said. "This is the ancient city of Eastwick."

"What happened?"

"You got in a fight with Paradox." Kong said. "You're lucky that our master had his eyes on you."

"I take it he's the one who chucked that rock at me."

"That sounds like him." Feng said.

"Where is this master of yours?"

"Well, for his own safety…he refuses to appear in a city." Feng explained. "He's been at war with Chronos for two-hundred years. He told us enough. Tell me, do you want to get even with Chronos for nearly killing you?"

"I could care less about vengeance. He has my brother and something smells fishy about that."

"He has kept your brother in Transcendence."

"I thought that was just a myth." Cedric said.

"Only those close to Chronos are supposed to know that realm exists. Simply put…so long as Chronos lives, your brother is a prisoner there." Feng explained.

"Well then." Cedric clenched his fist. "How do we get him out?"