Chapter 16 Illian’s Story

4716 Domoto, or, seventeen thousand lunar years, in Ellas Darwin, Enotopia, I was born. Though not politically correct to say that it was a birth, just because my guardians wanted it to be said this way. Actually, it was more suitably called a creation. And my guardians were no more than masters to we were slaves.

To my masters, our births were more than a creation – it was a scientific breakthrough and had since changed the paradigm of future technology. I and the other prototypes were called “Renders”, being the fact our genes ultimately designed artificially by our creators, perfectly flawless. It was the design of a new race, a race that was bound to supersede other existing races of Generon, and eventually wipe them out through hard-hitting competition. My masters were playing God, and we were their angels of destruction, or so people said.

From embryos we grew up into infants, and into childhood. Our lives were absolutely nurtured in a controlled environment, isolated from the real world, much more vicious, cruel and evil. We were taught skills of survival and the art of war, and were taught to obey people that were superior. From that upbringing, we matured into stone-cold beings, never knowing passion, nor fear, nor emotions. No more than machines we were compared to, with only great artificial intelligence. The only thing registered on our psyche was following and executing orders from our masters, depending on whomever who “owned” us.

The second stage of life began in our adolescent years, when we were subjected to survival examinations. This test was primarily the passageway to our subsistence, determining life or death. It was a game, in which we had to outlast each other, in accordance to the law of the legendary Charles Darwin, that only the best fitted lived. Everyday we fought against each other, sometimes choosing our allies and enemies, forming clans and guilds to protect our own interests. However, in truth, there was never a friend that could be relied upon in times like those, and often so-called allies turned upon each other after defeating a common enemy. By nightfall, we rested, awaiting the next dawn for a new challenge and bloodbath. This continued for a long time, twenty years perhaps, until our numbers dwindled to not more than twenty, and our masters decided that we were all the elites, and ended the examination.

The trial revealed to us much about the harsh reality of life, and the ruthless training moulded us into killer machines. We learnt not to trust anybody, as anytime we could be betrayed, plotted against by our own allies, or even poisoned in our sleep. And to prevail in this grim subsistence was to fight evil with evil. No compassion could be given, for once the enemy was spared, we were as good as dead.

Moulded under such circumstances, drawing of blood had well surpassed our moral conscience. We never held back when it came to killing, never had second thoughts of giving our victims a clean, swift death. But from this also our merit stood, as we never tortured our enemies, not like those evil patricians who torment their slaves or prisoners of war.

Our masters were very happy with the results, and for the remaining renders who survived, they planned to sell us for hire to mercenary camps and warring nations. And among the many Renders, they selected another four from us, including myself, to conduct further experiments and modifications. Again we had our genes spliced and reengineered to incorporate special abilities that made me into what I am today.

There were many rumours about the elite four, which they described as having supernatural powers, and invincible to bodily harm. However, I did not know much about my other brethrens since we were separated after the experimentations. All I knew was that I was given a sword that had my genes intricately spliced into its metal fibres, and hence, the sword naturally became my other limb, neuronally connected with my mind as though it was part of me.

Eventually, I was hired by some mercenary camps to become a soldier of fortune. Due to great abilities I possessed and great demands, I was rising popular with many warlords who wanted a clear victory in their battles, and of course, I had a bad reputation among their enemies.

My first official instalment as a permanent soldier was under General Tobaku, leader of the Xeon fleet, and outlaw nomadic community who travelled and conquered any planets come across. He hired me for a hefty sum of 70 billion Goros, equivalent to the real estate values of galaxies such as Zankoku and Herviousae. Too good a bargain it was, and my master accepted the offer without hesitations.

So I followed Tobaku on his conquest with his multitude of seven-thousand-over men. Together we embarked on a voyage to the outside world so new to us, exploring boundaries, in search of the final frontiers, which might have never been. We conquered civilisations, and with me as his aide, general Tobaku expanded his powers and reign throughout many territories, emerging as a prominent warlord at that time. He never lost a battle, which made him a fearful adversary of even the bravest warlords. While it was his leadership and stratagems that saw through those great achievements, he still believed that it was my powers that bestowed him victory, and thus had high regards for me.

Tobaku was not only brought to fame, alongside there were respect, worship, emulation; on the other side, vengeance, hatred, and envy. While none of Tobaku’s enemies seemed threats to his force, the affliction arose from his envious subordinates, who all wished to overthrow him and claim power for their own. Tobaku knew this would happen someday, but shocked to find that even his most trusted henchman, Lokan, tried to slaughter him in his sleep.

Immediately, Tobaku split the fleet, taking with him only his loyal subjects. I, of course, remained by his side. Subsequently, Xeon had been divided into six factions, the remnants all equally strong, especially the helm of Lokan. A civil war broke out, lasting two long years. However, with my presence, Tobaku’s forces were impregnable, unshaken and undefeated. We fought a gruelling battle with our own enemies until the last men fell, wiped out by Tobaku’s imperial army. By then, Xeon’s population greatly shrunk to no more than a tenth of its size.

Though victorious, Tobaku had been deeply saddened by this revolt, when all his beloved men once loyal to him died in his own hands; in addition, the might of his fleet severed considerably, and the population of his fleet so little that it was not a fleet anymore. Later that year, he disbanded the crew, and retired himself to his private domain, a cluster of scenic planets, which he once captured in his conquest. As for me, he gave me a great portion from his coffers, and hence, dismissed me from service.

It was bizarre once, that I was given such freedom. I was on my own then, and I never got adapted to it. Since young I had been brought up to obey others, follow instructions. A person of higher authority always tells me what to do; but now it seemed that I must tell myself what to do. It took me a few months before I could master over myself, and it dawned on me that bearing ownership over me was never easy, for I wield great powers, and great powers had to be handled with care, and it takes a great person to chain me from running wild, which I myself is not that person still.

Ownership over myself failed, as the vileness in my soul ran berserk. Soon, I was back to the ways of my dark days, submitting to the urge to kill. I crossed many civilisations, galaxies, wandering around without a purpose, extirpating whomever, or whatever that obstructed me, hindered me, or else intimidated me. My infamy, as expected, spread throughout regions, and most communities shunned my presence; while some intending to hunt my head for bounty, some even considered to making alliance with me to rein power. But none of them concerned me much, because nobody was able to touch me so far, at least up to the heart.

But amidst all those senseless killings, I was searching for something – something that I had lost a long, long time ago – my soul. The complexity of human emotions perplexed me most, that human beings possessed strange instincts that often deviate from the true nature of existence. Existence, to me it was always the struggle for survival, anomalous for human behaviour. No longer was the survival of the fittest entirely, when the strong lived and the weak perish. Instead, I saw some in which the strong cared for the weak, protected them; while the weak able to stand against the strong. No longer they killed indiscriminately, but settled for mutual peace and compromise. And whenever I witnessed those situations, the coldness of my heart started warming, the icy barrier beginning to melt away, layer by layer – I yearned to know why, and discovered it, in a most unlikely incident.

It was my usual day of setting foot on land while travelling galaxies, and resting myself in a nearby cantina for a drink or so, after weary journeys. As usual, wherever I went, people kept following around, probably for the price of my head, else those blood-rushing urchins seeking a thrill. A gang stepped in, brandishing their crude blades that sordidly resembled mine, and shouting obscenities at me. Apparently, seeking a brawl was their intention, not realising their impending doom, but I kept my cool nonetheless. It was naïve of them to challenge me, after so many died horrifying deaths, and still unaware that they would not be able to step out again, for I planned to draw blood when they either tried to leave, or make their first strike upon me.

Unwittingly, though, there were people even more foolish than them, like the man who stupidly trying to shove me off harm’s way. Being over-sensitive to skin contact, especially when my killer-senses were brewing before a blood bath, I just lifted him up and hurled him towards the wall, sounds of breaking-bones following a harrowing shrill. Then, everything happened in a flash – fifteen bodies sprawled on the blood-soaked floor, not one less. Then I turned back to that poor fellow, who was quite alone then after everyone fled, and intended to finish him.

However, mysteriously, not really he was alone, not as just before I could step close to him somebody else appeared and blocked my path. She was a Terran girl, and later learnt that the man I flung was her brother, and she was the bartender’s daughter. Though she unflinchingly stopped my advances, being so close, I sensed the fire and fear emanating voluminously, and gazed at her adamant eyes burning with passion and despair. Then my heart wrenched, for no reason. Further on, she shouted words of mercy, begging for forgiveness, and my fist soften its grip of my sword, and dropped it with a loud thunderous clang. Everything was so quiet then. Then I realised whatever had happened – I found love, and love found me.

Rage inside me had ceased, and without even thinking, my hands held out to grab hers tightly. Astonishing still, she was not afraid, pulled me closer. It was as thought she could feel the same sorrow and emptiness buried deep in the bottom of my murderous heart, and sympathised me. Or perhaps, like me, it was love at first sight. Or perhaps, it was destined that we be together. Love conquered all that was impossible.

I did atone for the grievous hurt I caused her brother, and healed his broken bones with the power of my sword. He was grateful despite my show of aggravation, and so was his sister. As repayment, both agreed to let stay with them for a time being. At first, their parents resented the proposal of my lodge, but consented eventually, perhaps out of fear of my reputation.

And so, in the shelter of Leara’s family I sought refuge, which I called home, for the first time of my life, and maybe the last. Yes, her name was Leara, so beautiful it sounded like the name of Generon itself, which rang through the skies of the celestials. And her face – never in life I saw one with such perfection; and her gait of elegance; and her heart as pure as gold, reached out for me to cure my rotten soul. It was her beauty that reminded me of what a beast I was, and her innocence, to purify my sins of yore, turning into dusts that covered the door and had blown away revealing it, and letting me open my heart once more to the world that I had shut out from my life since birth, and the golden rays of hope shone into the depths of my soul.

She was whom I, for the first time, called a friend, and more then any ordinary friends still. Leara, through her ways, tried to change me into a better person. Though could not be compared the knowledge of mine to hers, still I learnt a lot, mostly, learning how to become human again. Some say human emotions and passions are borne with and could not be simply taught, but she taught me all the same, by nurturing me with love, care and kindness.

Our relationship remained well for many years, and her family learnt to accept me as part of their lives. Parentage begun when we gave birth to an offspring, a healthy and robust boy, kind and gentle, taking on both traits of his mother and me. This special child bonded us even closer, mother, father, and child, and I had such a wonderful family.

I was a different person altogether then, a wolf changed into a lamb; a snake crawling the ground changed into a hawk soaring sky; a demon of lust changed into an angel of compassion; and a massive black hole, which sucked everything into chasm of doom that even the brightest light could not escape from, changed into a fiery star that radiated its life force and granted everything their existence in the universe.

Many years later only did I discover the truth Leara had been hiding from me – she had a mysterious illness, with no known cure. An illness that would take away her life at any instant without a warning. And finally I understood the fact that she was braver than any man to stand up against me in the first place: she had not the slightest fear of death. Knowingly that in one way or another she had to die, she evidently took her life for granted, risking it whenever possible so to challenge the Death lord to cheat death as many times as she wished; to pledge it to her family and close ones she loved; to hope to end her forlorn days living in dread quicker.

However, after that day, everything changed when she found me. She changed, as well. She began to appreciate life more than she had previously, though it might not be put this way, but I thought she loved me. As her intuition of death lingered near, she became more and more desperate, trying to cling onto the last remnants of her time to accompany me and our child longer. And I felt sad to see her having to go through all those, sadder still that my powers could not cure her. That was the first time the sword I treasured and relied upon most failed me. In any ways, we tried to feel happy during times together, but in heart we knew that those days would be over soon, and things would never be the same again.

Eventually, lovely Leara departed, and for the first time, I shed tears. I cried the loudest tears that could be heard by the echoing darkness of a dying flame. Tears of mourning, for the first time, I knew sorrow. It ached me so bitterly to see Leara died, and suddenly, the pain too reflected on the deaths of the uncountable numbers of people I had killed. Death – it was such a horrible quintessence, and now with the knowledge of sorrow, my heart burnt itself a hole, eaten by depression. Should I have known, would I lay my sword on so many?

Haunting memories chased me to the realms of melancholy. I could not forgive myself for all past killings, and for not being able to save Leara. There was no other choice, but to leave this place to be alone. Little baby was still in good shape, and I entrusted his uncle’s guardianship, while I left to wander again, hoping that time and distance would heal my wounds.

Away from civilisation I travelled, the further the better. After all those episodes, I decided not to involve myself with human beings again. So I lived my life of solitude, towards the far edge of Generon that nobody ever thought of going, becoming quite a hermit. There was nothing else to do, so I just sat in a cave, recollecting the journals of my entire life, what had I done and had I not. From reflections of past, it seemed that I had already done many things more than anyone could accomplish, yet there was still an emptiness waiting for me to fill. Leara filled it for me, but now that she was gone, it was empty again.

I was a recluse for so long that I lost count of the years and millennia. Anyhow, eventually came the day when I longed for human presence again. So after leaving the society for long, I finally decided to join back, leaving those sour memories behind, and start anew.

But not all things were new, because soon I landed myself in mercenary camps again, if that was the best I could do to earn a living. And it seemed that over the hundred years my fame never lapsed from the world. A Terran Dominion Admiral from the Gorreous colony recruited me into the fleet after knowing about my capabilities in massive annihilation. Then, from what I had learnt that it was a very massive-scaled war spanning up to two conjoining galaxies, Gorreous and Kinhara. The Arzankans who came into the Kinhara planetary region has threatened to invade into the Terran coalition territory, and at the same time, the Gorreon fleet wanted to drive the Arzankans out and claim Kinhara for their own.

It was no ordinary skirmish, and the aftermath was too hard for me to grapple. The Arzankans were very unpredictable, and a whole lot tougher than I presumed. The Admiral launched a reconnaissance in force, and the outcome was disconcerting: the troop I led into combat managed only to scratch five battalions, while other squadrons faired badly, taking three to confront one, suffering heavy losses. I began to suspect that my powers had waned throughout time, and I was getting weaker for every battle that exacerbated my fatigue.

The Admiral was very displeased as soon as the tides changed from bad to worse. The Arzankans swarmed into our forces like ants and bees, and like a ravaging disease engulfing the soldiers into their merciless fangs and claws. We were fighting a losing battle. But the adamant Admiral declared that we would not retreat at even the final moments, and that we must not yield to the enemy. And the next thing I realised he was demented – he ordered me to use my powers and send the whole galaxies into oblivion! It was only sensible to withdraw, but the Admiral would rather die than admitting defeat.

I was caught in a dilemma – from what Leara enlightened me, I was able to differentiate between right and wrong. However, there was a principle I still needed to adhere to, that was to obey.

It was insanity! Thinking of the lives of millions of innocent soldiers, whom families were waiting for them to return, should I dispel even their slightest hopes? Mulling over the family that I once owned, and lost it, my tender feelings, reached out for them. No, I felt this pain before, and it took me aeons to recover; now, millions would share the same pain I suffered, and would take forever to quell their anguish and hurt. And Generon would mourn in silence, seeing her children burn in flames of endless agony.

But there was the weakness that overwhelmed me – I thought that after Tobaku set me free, I was emancipated from control – but I was wrong. Behind those raving days, subconsciously I had been searching for an owner, someone to govern me. And I found Leara, my master of affection, who administered me with love. Now with her gone, the Admiral was my new master, and that his orders I had to obey, adhering to my principles, which was the fundamental of my creation, to follow instructions.

With a heavy heart, I unleashed the full powers that I had restrained for so long, the powers never my former masters ever imagined. An energy that had no limits to any dimensions or space and time. An energy that manifested no life upon its release. It was energy from the anima, mixed with complicated emotions, passions and hatred that made it even more devastating, radiating through galaxies, wasting them. Only then I finally knew where my full potential laid – the strength of the soul, fortified by emotions, a gift from my beloved Leara.

The stout fire in my heart burnt out completely, and I fell. Somehow I survived, but not my soul. Caught in the threshold of life and death, I wished I were better-off dead, than to endure yet another aeon of unrelenting grief….

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