Chapter 3 – Prelude To The Last Battle II
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Camilla and I walked around the encampment hand in hand. The atmosphere between us was always harmonious. We were never truly at odds on a decision, we never argued outside of small bickering.

The sex grew more intense, sensual, and fulfilling every single day. Every day you would fuck like it was your last. Every day you would love like it was your last. And every day … might just be your last day.

I guess if you want a perfect relationship, you just have to wait until the 10th year of an Apocalypse. By that time, spouses had lost all interest in worrying about anything outside your survival.

The only criteria necessary for a successful relationship was to return to your family alive. Many strong men were rejected by females because their survivability ratings were not promising enough.

Weak men were given no rights, strong men would remain lonely, but middlemen indulged in women almost every day.

The women grew smarter during the apocalypse, they sought men strong enough to defend them but not so strong that he would be sent into big battles.

Expectations had changed, and adaptation was necessary. You could come back with one arm-less, one foot less, severely injured on the verge of death, but the women would still welcome you back happily.

There was no noblesse oblige, your only job was to return alive.

And I would return alive each and every single time. I crawled under the dead bodies of comrades, I dug holes into the ground until my fingers were only bone, I used friends as shields as I cried tears of blood.

You don't know who you are until you are forced to choose between yourself and someone else. Whatever I had to do… I did to survive.

Perhaps sensing my thoughts, or just reading the expression on my face, Camilla bumped my shoulder. Focus returned to my eyes, it was stupid to become so depressed before a battle.

Anything could upset your mental barriers before a battle. Heading into a battle with the thought of 'I have done so many wrong things' was a good way to die in the first five seconds.

Camilla seemed unbothered after bumping my shoulder. She seemed to enter a morbid state herself. She looked around the encampment, grimacing sometimes, smiling gently at other times.

Everyone was preparing for the battle to come. It wasn't particularly hard to find our way around the camp, most people slept on the cold roots. Still, The Great Tree's roots were better than nothing. Some people still slept in dugouts, they were already too used to the feeling of insecurity above ground.

Everyone was cleaning either swords, guns, or other weapons. There were no useless weapons, only those suited to your specific ability. Contrary to popular belief, guns, grenades, and missiles were still the preferred weapons.

The social hierarchy was pretty apparent at a mere glance, tents meant status, no tents meant cannon fodder. Well, no one was truly cannon fodder, just more likely to die before everyone else.

"Camilla, Five… we need you guys over here,"

I immediately grew irritated at the sound of Stephen's voice. Stephen and I were once mortal enemies, and in some ways, we still were. The Apocalypse was chaotic, sometimes you could not kill the people you wanted to.

Camilla just laughed at my irritated face.

"You sure you don't want to kill him before the battle?" She asked smiling slyly.

I rolled my eyes "At what cost? Half the people present here?"

Even I had to acknowledge that Stephen was an extremely strong guy. Much like Camilla and I, Stephen had an ability of his own – harden/soften. It was simply the ability to soften or harden anything he touched.

As basic as the ability sounds, it was complicated to deal with. I once underestimated a guy whose ability was to create bubbles and paid an enormous price. It was never about the ability, but how you used it.

Abilities were considered unique; no two abilities would ever be exactly the same. Not everyone had them, only about one person in every one hundred. Still, with enough hard work and experimentation, anyone could get an ability.

The abilities were weak at first, but eventually, they would grow with intense training. I started off with only being able to have my fingers flicker with blue sparks. It was a party trick for kids basically.

Now, I can manipulate lightning to the very limits of what science can understand about the phenomena. Camilla started off by making things shine with specs of light. Ever seen someone sprinkle glitters on a drawing? Then you have an idea of what I mean.

Now, Camilla could warp any nonorganic material into light particles and re-construct it with no issue. The stupidest ability I ever saw in the Apocalypse was a guy who grew a tail that could talk.

And he turned into one of the deadliest assassins the Corporations had ever seen. At this point, if I saw someone turning into a lizard, I would not ignore them.

Camilla and I walked behind Stephen silently.

"Five… I know we had our differences in the past, but I hope you live," Stephen said as we walked to the largest tent.

I grew angry "You stole my fucking waffles. I had been starving for days. I still want to kill you for that!"

Yes, the irreconcilable difference between Stephen and I was the Legendary Waffle Mix. Many men in the Apocalypse had died for less, so I was justified wanting to kill him for one of the last Waffle Mixes on Earth.

"I was starving too!" Stephen yelled back.

"Enough!"

A shout was heard from a couple of feet ahead of us. We had already arrived at the large tent. It was a command center of sorts for The Final Battle. I didn't attach much importance to 'commands'.

This was not my first rodeo with the 'commander'. His commands ranged from 'Survive' to 'Come back alive'. Two of the most obvious things in the Apocalypse. Though, I did have my hopes up that he would say something different this time around.

The moment the Commander, Simon, exited his tent, everyone gathered around our location. I stared at Camilla as she frowned deeply, but I just sighed in defeat.

"How much?" I asked feeling a tinge of pain in my heart.

'All this hard work for nothing huh?' I thought internally.

The two girls beside Simon looked at everyone gathered around as if counting, then Simon gave a response.

"About 4,000 people are here!" Simon replied a bit reluctantly. He didn't enjoy using his ability as much as I didn't enjoy giving away my chances of survival.

Still, nobody complained as everyone wearing full-armors walked and laid a hand on Simon's body. Full-Armor meant you had a useful ability that was powerful enough to damage a couple of hectares of land.

Camilla was the last to place her hand on Simon's body, but I removed it and placed both my hands instead. Camilla seemed reluctant to not participate but I gave her a stern glance in response.

Simon raised a brow at my actions but only smiled self-deprecatingly.

"They may call you 'five' for the number of Great Battles you ran from, but I only see a survivor who saved many lives by running away," Simon whispered.

I felt an overwhelming feeling of shame and gratification overcome me. I had run so many times from battle, it felt great knowing that my action hadn't gone unrecognized. Silent tears threatened to leak from my eyes, but luckily, the feeling of pain stifled that emotion.

"AAArrrrrrrggggggggg"

"Awwwwwrrrrrrrggggghhhhhhhhh ,"

"BBBBwwwwwrrrrrggggghhhh,"

I felt a sickening feeling rising up from the depths of my stomach, my body ached as my heart throbbed faster and faster. I felt as if something sharp had pierced my brain.

An overwhelming anguish enveloped my body, tempting me to let go of all the years of trauma and misery, but I held on. Letting go was the equivalent of losing everything that made you who you are.

Soon the feeling faded and I knelt on the ground panting heavily. Camilla sobbed clinging to my shoulder as she directed a look filled with killing intent to Simon.

"It's not his fault," I reasoned with Camilla, but she knew that all too well. I was not the only one suffering from the aftereffects of Simon's ability. Everyone in full-armor was panting heavily on the ground, at least I had someone to comfort me.

"Woah!" Stephen yelled standing up with gusto "That felt great right Five?"

I smiled bitterly "Yeah,"

It did feel great after all, in a totally twisted, masochistic way. You didn't survive this long into the Apocalypse without feeling guilty… and the guilty loved self-punishment.

I never allowed Camilla to touch Simon for that exact reason. There was a time she would carve the names of all those she killed into her very skin – there was not a lot of space remaining when I met her.

A couple of years ago, I managed to owe enough favors to remove the scars, but I didn't want a relapse to occur – even if this was The Last Battle.

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