Episode 06: Marz The Mightiest
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While idle banter filled the majority of the fifth day of the journey, Jack, Zedaki, and I were still making rapid progress, as Zedaki’s car swiftly carried us across the vast landscapes before us, even as she erred on the side of caution. In total, we likely traveled 250 kilometers in a single day, only ever stopping for an afternoon lunch break and pit stop when we happened across a series of bushes. At this rate, and considering the lack of readily available transportation in these modern times, I figured it would only be a matter of days before I located my next child. However, I knew our traveling would need to be paused come evening.

It was not until around 15:53, as signified by the car’s clock, when we finally chose to begin looking for a place to spend the night, or as Zedaki put it, possibly the next few nights. While we were absurdly fortunate to have access to a solar-powered vehicle with the Blazing Beelzebub, it would take many hours for it to gain the energy necessary for another full day of travel, even if the clear skies remained. Thankfully, Zedaki managed to find a dilapidated small town that would serve as a decent resting place and potentially held goods we could salvage.

The sights of buildings in disrepair, reduced to rubble, or reduced to a blank and empty lot were a sight I had grown accustomed to and glossed over as I walked out of the car to stretch my legs. Leaving the car parked in as inconspicuous of a location as we could manage, the three of us stuck together while exploring in case we uncovered anything dangerous, where it be another human or a wild animal. Keeping together, we rummaged through various abandoned buildings, passing by a tattered residential area, and searched through some dilapidated shops, failing to find much that had not already been pillaged or soiled. It felt like yet another run through yet another abandoned town, with the only difference being how this one seemed slightly more desert-themed, and had less plentiful vegetation that could serve as food.

Unfortunately, the land had been stripped bare of valuables based on our initial search of the town center, and by the time we began to redirect our efforts elsewhere, I felt something. I could sense that one of my children was drawing near. I quickly informed Zedaki and Jack, both of whom readied their weapons. Jack tightened her grip to her crowbar while Zedaki pulled her rifle off of her back. Having given my gun to Jack during the long car ride, the only weapons I had at my disposal were my knife and my fingers. A well-timed and well-positioned snap would be enough to incapacitate most targets, and I was confident that I could kill whatever child I encountered within a matter of seconds with this ability. Unless they inherited my immortality, that is.

In preparation for their arrival, we positioned ourselves near a half-destroyed building. I told Zedaki and Jack to hide behind standing chunks of wall while I stood in the open, hoping to draw the attention of whatever child would approach me. With my Snap Burst ability restored, I should be able to tackle anything thrown my way, and while part of me wanted to negotiate and talk to my children, I recognized that this process would be easier if I recognized my children as enemies. Once in position, I began to scan my eyes along the nearby street, waiting for my child to enter my field of vision so I could land the first hit with a snap of my fingers. However, they did not come from the streets. They came dashing through the building right in front of me.

Through the cloud of dust that came with the destruction of the brick wall before me, I could make out the details of this child of mine. Despite having been born less than 7 years ago, they already appeared to have fully matured into an adult and were a massive one at that. 2.3 meters tall and coated in muscles. Their body was thick and refined to an extreme that was rarely, if ever, seen throughout my centuries on this Earth.

Their face was hardened and locked in a vicious looking scowl, one that signaled hostility to all, while a mane of black hair ran down their meaty shoulders and to the center of their dark tan back. They were clothed only in what looked to be a makeshift pair of underwear that I could barely observe, meaning that a pair of breasts remained uncovered on their chest, though their size and the honed nature of their torso made them look like part of their pectoral muscles.

The stern features of their more masculine face seemed all the more intimidating as they gazed at me with their vibrant red eyes, as if they were marking me as prey. However, I was above simple intimidation and focused on stopping this massive being as they dashed towards me. Wanting to cease their dash before all else, I shifted my vision to the child’s knees and let out a succession of snaps with both of my hands. The explosions were small, but more than enough to tear away the skin of the knees and shatter the bone that laid beneath it. Normally, this would have stopped a person dead in their tracks as the pain began scorching through their body, their brain begging them to cease movement, lest the injuries worsen. But that did not happen.

Instead, my oversized child continued his dash and tackled me. They carried my body through a small slab of wall that was behind me and continued carrying me until I hit another, far stronger, wall. The collision of my body against the brick exterior of the building shattered my ribs and broke my back. The pain both immobilized me and assaulted my senses. Yet I was able to retain consciousness as my child looked down at me, pressing their giant hand against my torso to prop me against the wall.

“I am Marz… the mightiest,” they said in a deep and boorish voice. “I know you have power. I want power. You will give me power.”

For a brief instance, I questioned how Marz assumed that he could receive my power if he were to murder me, let alone that I had powers, but I quickly pushed such inquiries aside. Instead, I had to retain my focus on killing this brute before their assault continued. With only my Snap Burst ability to rely on, I aimed for the arteries in their neck, hoping that they would at least bleed out before their assault could truly murder me.

I tried moving my fingers in order to snap, but the most I could do was meekly wiggle them around, unable to so much as form them into a fist. In fact, I could barely move my body beneath my neck. With a single strike, Marz must have damaged my nervous system and rendered me mostly immobile from the neck down. Despite having already slain two of my children, I was still so weak, and so easy to incapacitate. I offered my child a scowl as I realized this, and in response, he moved his hands away from my torso and clenched them into fists.

He assaulted me with punch after punch, shouting onomatopoeia while he rapidly laid incredibly devastating strikes against my torso and face, pinning me to the wall with the force exuded from his limbs. I could not move, could not defend myself, and could barely even think as my entire body ached in agony, more and more with each successive hit.

I lost track of how many times I had been hit around forty. But eventually, the onslaught stopped. My entire body had grown numb, and I was left to fall into a pile of dirt that had absorbed copious amounts of my own blood. I laid on the ground in horror while my senses failed me. I was unable to see the world around me, hear anything beyond a loud ringing sound, and my body was left numbed to the point where I was not even sure if I still had legs or an intact face.

I cannot say how long I was in this pitiful state for, but when I returned I was greeted to a blurry image of a figure in red, standing in the distance, shouting at Marz as they continued to loom over my body.

“Oi! Fuckhead! Ya think you’re the big shit just ‘cos ya caught someone off guard like that. Come fight me if ya think you’re worth half a shit. ‘Cos I doubt you could last even a bloody fuckin’ minute.”

That taunt proved effective, as Marz began walking up to Zedaki.

“Zedaki! Don’t! They’re too strong!” I shouted, blood pouring from my broken mouth

Yet Zedaki neither heeded my words nor fell with the same ease I did. As my vision cleared, I could see that she adopted a combative stance, and had both her sword and rifle ready. Before Marz even made it within punching distance, Zedaki already shot them squarely in the shoulder. However, I had doubts that it would do much beyond annoy the being, doubts that were soon proven right as Marz quickly shook it off. Yet immediately after impact, Zedaki took the initiative and stabbed Marz’s arm, piercing through muscle and down to their bone.

I tried standing up as I observed the escalation of their fight, but my arms were still numbed, and I was unable to do much beyond wiggle them slightly. I could feel sensations returning to my body, and feel the skin and muscles mending between the shattered portions of my torso, but it was slow, gradual, and it would take thirty more seconds to heal. An insignificant amount of time in most circumstances, but in battle, a single second marks the difference between life and death, and I did not want to have Zedaki risk her life any more than she needed to. I was indebted to her, and would not allow her blood to be spilled on my behalf.

While enraptured by feelings of inferiority and pain, I was approached by Jack, whose face paled when she looked at my body, with my organs shuffling around and skin mending itself. She whispered my name and looked at me, clearly at a loss for what to do. I told her to hide away, yet she remained standing, gazing at me before glancing at the battle with Zedaki and Marz, and then returning to look at me. I wanted to comfort her in some way, but could not find the words through all the hurt and pain.

I had not expected to find one of my children in this state. In the form of a fully grown adult, and having access to a level of power as immense as this. Even before the Cataclysm, my strength was far from this level, and my durability was as well. I tried to ponder how it was even possible that one of my children could access such power.

I then briefly recalled a vague instance where I tried to maximize my strength and speed through rigorous training. A pursuit I gave up on in order to devote more time to the pursuit of academic fields. If this child had been devoting its entire life to getting stronger, they would naturally be stronger than I normally was, if not stronger than I have ever been. As for why this child of mine had the form of an adult, that was a question for another time and place.

Eventually, I felt the strength and feeling return to my entire body, and I began to slowly stand up, wobbling as I did so. Jack let out a gasp as she looked at me, but upon seeing my bitter gaze turn to her, she scampered off while I took a few uneven steps closer to the battlefield. Zedaki swerved around Marz’s fast and impactful strikes, relying on cheap shots and underhanded tricks to try and topple this behemoth by slashing away at his now bloodied arms.

However, I could tell that this was a form of exertion that she was not used to. She was only narrowly dodging the strikes and even lost her distinctive red hat with a punch that could have snapped her neck in two. As I observed from a distance, I aimed at the back of Marz’s skull, hoping that my concussive bursts could penetrate their brain. While a strong body could push through most forms of pain, the body would always cease to function without the brain. And if shattering Marz’s knees did so little to deter them, this was my only reliable way to take them down.

I took a deep breath before I began snapping as intensely and quickly as I could, causing a pitter-patter of miniature explosions to occupy the back of Marz’s head while they were facing Zedaki. This grabbed Marz’s attention and they, after brushing off another stab from Zedaki, redirected their attention at me, yet again. My rapid snapping continued as they dashed at me once more, prompting me to dive to the side, thrusting my unclothed body into stony rubble.

My dodge proved effective, but Marz was able to turn around far quicker than their large form would have suggested. In my assault, I had given Marz a bloody neck and caused their long jet black hair to come off in clumps, but they were now three meters away from me. I tried to dodge once again, but Marz predicted my movement and kicked me onto the ground. Before I could even attempt to get up, Marz stomped his feet against mine. With their muscle mass and height, they must have weighed at least 200 kilograms, and all of it was concentrated on an area of my body where a cluster of nerves is centered and containing many small and easy to break bones. Needless to say, I was throbbing in pain yet again.

Before I could even get over the peak of this second session of suffering, Marz stomped their feet forward to my legs, continuing past my knees and up to my torso. There was no course of action I could reasonably take to escape from this fate, as I was unable to focus my effort into snapping my fingers, much less properly control them as my body was being assaulted by stimuli. I truly was powerless to defend myself at this moment, and recognizing this fact instilled me with an immense breed of disgust.

I had once been the most powerful being in all of the known world, and now I was near death for the third time in a week. Even if I did survive this strike, how long would Zedaki be able to preoccupy them for? Would I really be able to kill them with my Snap Burst? These thoughts occupied my mind as Marz took time in stomping my body, clearly taking pleasure in the screams I involuntarily exclaimed with each strike.

As Marz made their way to my upper torso, about to shatter my shoulders, I worried that it was indeed all over. Then, the stomping ceased. Marz stood still for a moment, a strange expression was adopted on their rough face, and finally, their body tumbled over, crushing my left arm as they fell down to the ground.

I paused for a full second after observing this, dumbfounded and surprised at the sudden death of this mighty threat, lacking the thud or bombast that one would expect from a gunshot or a truly lethal blow. I tilted my head to them as best I could to observe my fallen child more carefully, and I determined their cause of death immediately. A tattered blue crowbar piercing the back of their head. The tool’s long claw was shoved deep into Marz’s head, and based on the exact location, it appeared to have penetrated their medulla oblongata, thus causing an immediate failure of the heart and lungs. I then looked up from this sight and saw Jack looking over Marz’s body, standing completely still with a look of exasperation on her sweat riddled face.

A pool of blood had gathered around Marz’s head, and they were no longer moving. Going against my body’s wishes, I reached my right arm over my demolished torso and to Mar’s body, which began to dissolve into ash as I touched it. Their physical form gradually faded away into the familiar substance that floated over to me, where it seeped and became one with my tattered but healing body.

I smiled as I finally realized the battle had ended, and that we had emerged victorious. I let out a small chuckle after it occurred to me that I would truly be dead if not for my two companions, and would need to repay them back far more generously than I had originally intended. I lifted myself off the ground once I regained the strength, and moved with surprising ease. Even as I lifted myself off the ground, I could tell that I regained the strength and agility that I once had and lost to Marz. And while I might not be as proficient or powerful as they were, I was elated as I lifted an arm and clenched my fist, power reverberating throughout every facet of my being.

With a smile adorning my face, I turned to Jack. As our eyes crossed, the worry and dread that painted her visage gave way to a smile that reflected my own, her relief so palpable that she was practically glowing.

“Thank you, Jack. You saved my life yet again” I calmly said as I approached my young ally and gave her a pat on the head.

Jack then burst into a loud squeal of affection and pressed her body against mine, giving me a hug. I began rubbing her head and hugging her with one arm in response, allowing her to embrace my naked form and shoving her face into my exposed breasts. After nary three seconds of this, Jack pulled herself away from me, her face flushed with embarrassment as she averted her glance away.

I then turned to Zedaki, whose face was strained by the worry and stress of combat. Yet she was still holding onto her rifle, almost instinctively reloading it as she looked at me with a snide grin.

“Thank you Zedaki,” I said, my voice light and soft. “If not for you, I would not have made it. I do not know how I will make this up to you.”

“Eh, just saving the world will be enough… but I’ll keep that in mind if I ever want a castle or something,” Zedaki said with exhaustion before giving me a wink.

After I looked at Zedaki, noticing her ruffled platinum blonde hair, I began to look for where her red hat had ended up. It was located further along the street, crushed by Marz’ large feet and reduced to a flattened object. Zedaki slowly made her way to the headwear and fluttered it in one hand before flinging it aside.

“The longer you draw breath, the more things get taken from you. An absolute that sure is bloody true nowadays. But at least the bastard didn’t cleave my head off.” Zedaki mused as she began examining her surroundings.

After letting out an exasperated sigh, Zedaki turned to me and inquired if I obtained Marz’s abilities. Curious myself, I looked down the street and set a destination for myself, a streetlight roughly a hundred meters away that miraculously remained standing, and dashed towards it. With speeds reaching up to 50 kilometers per hour, I was able to go there and back in a matter of a few seconds, surprising Zedaki as I returned to her side, and leaving Jack stunned as she looked on from the distance.

Wishing to further express my powers, I ran towards some rubble and picked up a particularly large piece, weighing approximately 70 kilograms. With a target set, I effortlessly lifted the rock above my head and tossed it before me, throwing it over 50 meters. It was a spontaneous decision that proved to me that I had truly regained my powers and caused a wave of contempt to flow across my being. After only a few days of this, I was already starting to feel like the person I once was. As I made this revelation, I looked up at the setting sun before me and smiled. For as awful as the world was and for all the pain I had been subjected to, things were looking up.