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Home > God Rising: Battle of Atela

11 Part III

 A cold moonless night had fallen fast upon the land. The coastal breeze crawled under Artemis' dress and spread over her uncovered skin like a tide making her shudder in her sleep.

Orion stared at the girl still questioning himself about why it had to be a human child that inherited Melissa's powers. There were a lot of capable humans to pick from. Why a weakling?

In his perspective, she was just as useless as her Olth. Certainly, it was without a doubt that she'd fail to save Earth again. Orion didn't even see how that was possible. For a human to vanquish his kind? That was ridiculous and at the same time unachievable.

Even if she has those powers, her body probably won't have the option to utilize it to its full capacity. If she manages to contest again, and she by chance gets too carried away, she'd be the cause of her own death.

It wasn't too long before the chills of the climate forced a couple of dull earthy colored eyes to open.

She quickly crawled to a crackling fire at the corner of the campground. She held out her numb hands as she stared at the orange flames that danced in the cold breeze.

Orion sat close to a mossy log, his face glowed red with a faint orange, his eyes mirrored the gleaming blazes and the pit fire before them.

"There's the fish you caught" he pointed his finger at the fish he'd managed to broil making his cooking skill increase by a point.

"Eat it so you won't die" Artemis nodded as she grabbed the crunchy fish that had gone cold before putting it all in her mouth.

"Obviously, one isn't going to sustain you forever. So you might as well go catch more as soon as you wake up tomorrow. Make sure you're properly fed because your training starts soon. There will be no breaks, There will be no petting but there will be lots and lots of pain."

Orion was eager to see if she'd be able to handle a goblin's training routine. If she can't, she might as well give up on her goal.

***

The twilight melted away and a grey morning with dull rays faded in. Artemis consciously breathed in deeply to inhale the air of the new day.

She was accompanied to a familiar river by Ryu who was still blinded by sleep. After one step, she was knee-deep in the clear river, her back arched to noodle as many fishes as she can get.

She assigned Ryu to finding berries they could both eat because they'd need it for a whole day packed with training.

It successfully scouted a safe spot full of brambles with the blackest berries after minutes of search.

As it pulled the berries away, some of them disintegrate leaving Ryu covered in juice. It gathered them up and went to inform Artemis about them.

When they both went to pick it up, they found them all gone and a white furred fox comfortably lying down in the crime scene. Leftover stains from the berries made it obvious that Orion was behind it all after Ryu's hard work.

The fox didn't show remorse for what he'd done.

They had no other option but to stick only to fishes for the meantime until they come across other wild fruits again.

***

The cold water moved around Artemis limbs in swirls creating a soothing sense of freedom just like the joy a bird feels to fly so high.

"Swimming Free is the best!!!" Ryu said plunging into the river to join its owner.

Orion made the child have a bath and train at the same time. She was in her thirteenth lap out of the eighty she had to do to improve her swimming skill. He didn't think she'd know how to swim. He thought she might end up drowning, but she didn't. In fact, she was enjoying herself. Exactly what Orion didn't want.

After her Eightieth lap, she waded out of the river along with Ryu. Orion dropped off a clean and dry duplicate of a dress he'd formed with his crafting skills.

Ryu didn't wear clothes and it would just dry off naturally.

"Are you ready for the main training?"

Artemis nodded prepared for anything Orion would throw at her.

He smirked at her amusing confidence then covered half his face with a red folding fan.

"Punch down twenty oak trees with your fists. If you can do that, you can take on five orcs."

Twenty oak trees were equivalent to five orcs in a hand-to-hand combat. She'd never punched a tree before, and she was sure it was nothing like punching a fluffy cushion. Her fingers might break from the impact. She was sure Orion's routine was just to get her hurt.

In the end, she had to do it to prove herself capable of doing what everyone thinks is impossible.

She proceeded to the first tree, an ancient oak. It stood erect from the grass lifting its branches that was a home to papery leaves that strived to touch the sky.

She closed her eyes and threw the first punch. She expected the super cool demigod powers she inherited would make the tree fall but it backfired, her knuckles reddened from the impact which left her squealing.

"Don't give up Artemis! You can do it!!!" Ryo spurred the girl, waving blossoms it plucked around, flaunting the new cheer routine it came up with.

Before her knuckles hit the tree again, she was mindful of the pain which wasn't supposed to be.

"Frightened of breaking your fingers?" Orion shaped from an abrupt fog that thickened around her.

"If the beastman that killed your father was standing right in front of you was this tree, what would be your excuse for halting? Scared? I thought you wanted to have revenge? Don't tell me everything is a joke to you?"

"It's not!!!" She objected.

To fight a beastman again? After what befell her the previous summer? What was she thinking?

She stepped back almost losing her balance on the ground. A lump formed in her throat as her eyes misted over "I can't..."

"Giving up?" Orion raised a brow, baffled but not too astounded.

"Why aren't my powers working?!"

"It's funny how you claim it but can't even use it" Orion scoffed as he waved his fan.

"You're scared aren't you?"

Artemis nodded a yes, and Orion quickly grabbed her by the neckline of her dress.

"And you think it's a good thing?! You're letting fear get to you now that you have a chance? Where is the contestant 99 that surprised everyone by stepping into the frontlines wielding weapons that couldn't cause the slightest harm? Where is she huh?"

Artemis' thoughts were blank. She didn't have the foggiest idea where that piece of herself had gone as well. She didn't want to think at all. It would leave her feeling choked with the murmurs of the past. She just wanted to dispose of them, if she does that, the tormenting dread leaves too.

"Your fear is your new challenge child, rout it and you can punch down this tree."

'Defeat her fear?'

She'd never thought of that because she didn't think it would be possible. Each time she shuts her eyes, scenes of the competition replays. It's like she could feel everything again, hear everything, smell the air as well.

It's like, her mind travels to the past when she doesn't want it to.

Why wouldn't she be scared after what she'd done. She admits she managed to go to Sol because she wasn't thinking. She didn't want to know what would happen if she didn't win. All she kept in her mind was what would happen if she wins.

Now, she's experiencing what it's like to lose. What it's like to live in dread of the past and the future as well.

Her hands trembled and her tears continued to pour. What's holding her back now is fear.

Now she's thinking - what if she fails again? Imagine a scenario in which she winds up causing double the harm, would there be another chance to fix it? Would she keep competing until her muscles are finally out of power and her bones no longer have strength?

This was the path to redemption, but was it for her?

"Its now you recognize what it is to think." Orion let go of her then turned around "I knew this was a waste of my time. You're useless and you proved it." He looked back at her one more time "In the end, your father died for nothing and the moronic contestant 99 is all to blame."

That was the last nail on the head. His words were the seeds of misery, spreading its roots to gag her faint heart.

Ryu floated towards his face, but he slapped it away "Don't come close to me you miserable maggot!" He warned as he walked away leaving Ryu stuck in a thorny bramble bush and Artemis glued to her feet with tears trickling down to her jaw.

Ryu tried its best to escape from the bush without cutting it's skin. Nevertheless, it still came out looking whipped.

It drifted to Artemis' side to reassure her "Don't be too hard on yourself Artemis. You're attempting your best so don't give up so soon okay!!!"

Her lower lip quivered as words slowly made way out of her mouth "Leave me alone. I just want to be alone."

"Artemis..." The Olth's main job was to stick by her in difficult times. Refusing to leave was an option.

"I'm begging you...just go" it nodded then flew back to the campsite where Orion had gone.

Artemis was left with the tree she couldn't punch down.

"My father didn't die for nothing...what I did was to save everyone and not do the opposite. But no one understands me! No one wants to know how I feel! If I could see the future... Maybe if I thought about it more my father would still be alive by now. That means it's my fault right? Yeah?"

She was feeding her mind with too many negative thoughts and it caused her body to heat up.

"I should've died instead!" She punched the tree, once, twice, ten times, not minding the pain in her knuckles and the red marks on it.

"It's your fault Artemis! It's your fault!!!" She imagined she was punching herself the whole time and not the tree that was standing there some seconds ago.

The last punch slammed into her replica's face and the pain was similar to that of a thousand venomous blades puncturing through her knuckles and spreading to her arm.

The brief tumult in the ground signified she took down one out of the twenty that was tasked.

The Olth and Orion went back to check on her and by the looks of it, she'd used more than half of the power that was needed for just one tree.

"I think I have to put this aside for the meantime. Her emotions need to be worked on as well" He whispered to himself as he slowly approached the girl. He struck the back of her head once he had a chance and she fell like a feather into his arms.

She was heating up intensely, and the only way to solve that was to throw her into a river as soon as possible.