A Bridge Between Worlds - Chapter 7

A Bridge Between Worlds - Chapter 7

A Bridge Between Worlds Ch. 07

Slowly opening the large, iron door, Persephone stood face-to-face with two beautiful women, one of which she recognized right away.

“Melody… it seems you’re alive,” she mused.

“I’m not so easy to get rid of.”

“Indeed.”  Turning to the other woman, she asked, “And you are?”

“Selena.  Grand Vizier to King Farzan of the Water Jinn.”

“Ah, I see… the Council is not too happy with me, it seems.  Well, I told Melody, and I’m telling you: leave my Master alone, or else,” Persephone threatened.

Giggling for a moment, Selena replied, “You must realize that, while Melody here is too gracious to pick a fight with you, I will grant no such consolation.”

Before Persephone could reply, an enormous blast of water threw her backwards into Edward’s home, landing her flat on her back.  She flipped herself up onto her feet, ready to face her advancing attacker.

“Persephone, you have declared yourself an enemy of the Council of Four, and have attempted to kill a direct representative of theirs,” Selena stated. “You are no longer worthy of the magic you wield, and as such, I am here to remove your power from you.”

“You may try,” Persephone scoffed.

Igniting a fireball in each of her hands, Persephone retaliated by peppering the ground around Selena with several rapid blasts of flame.  Selena avoided harm with ease, flipping into the air and summoning up her blue armor to increase her defenses.  Landing near Persephone, Selena drew her sword and prepared to counter.

“Selena, hang on!” Melody shouted, rushing into the room.

Seeing that her sword was still sitting on the floor from earlier, Melody sprinted towards it, diving once she was close.  Persephone noticed this and ran to try and get to it first, but was tripped up by Selena, allowing Melody to snatch the weapon up before Persephone could get close.

“Now we’re talkin’!”

Selena said, “Persephone, please stop resisting and come with us.  You could not beat Melody alone earlier, and will have no chance of success against the both of us.”

“I went easy on her,” Persephone shot back.  “Believe me, I am capable of far greater feats than either of you could ever imagine.”

“I don’t know, I can imagine quite a bit,” Melody muttered to herself with a smirk.

Charging their weapons with immense magical power, the two Water Genies fired off simultaneous blasts of energy, which collided together on Persephone.  The force of the blast was so great that both Melody and Selena were flung back against the walls of the chamber, gazing upon the thick cloud of smoke resulting from their attack.  They waited for it to clear, unsure of how successful their efforts had been.

*****

“Jesus, what exactly is this weapon you were talking about?” Mike asked as they walked through the halls of the armory.

“You’ll see,” He replied.  “Our destination is just up ahead.”

As the two men turned a corner, a man in a black suit greeted them.  Tall and slender with a soft, boy-like face, the man did not at first appear to be that imposing.  However, underneath his strawberry blonde hair and delicate-looking skin was the soul of a fierce warrior and protector.

“Michael, good to see you again,” Jesus said with a smile.

“You as well, though verily I wish it were under better circumstances,” Michael replied in a proper, almost Shakespearian style.  Glancing at Mike, he continued, “Very few individuals I have ever known show the combined amount of confidence and humility that I now see in your eyes.  If I am not mistaken, you must be the famous Mike Braxton, are you not?”

“Yes, sir,” Mike replied, a bit stunned by Michael’s gracious complement.

Shaking his hand, Michael said, “I am pleased to know you, my friend.  Are you ready to learn how you can contribute to the battle we must now wage against the one known as Edward Baldwin?”

“I am.”

“Then step this way, please.”

Jesus and Michael led the way down the hall, soon reaching a large security door.  Michael approached a panel on one side of the door, touching it with his hand.  This caused an image of a harp to appear on the panel.  Michael touched the strings in the picture in a specific order, causing a green light to appear above the door once he had finished.  Jesus then approached the panel on the other side of the door.  Placing His hand on it, a pole began to extend out from the panel, piercing straight through His palm in the very hole that a nail had been in over two thousand years previous.  A moment later, a second green light appeared above the security door, causing it to unlatch and slide open.

“Obviously, this is a restricted area,” Jesus said to Mike.  “Only an archangel can use the panel that Michael used, and this panel will only work when used by Myself or Dad.”

Stepping inside the security door, the trio found themselves in what appeared to Mike to be a research laboratory.  Various screens and tables lined the perimeter of the small room, while in the center stood a small platform surrounded by a glowing force field.  Michael approached the platform and began working on the screen next to it.

“How we lookin?” Jesus asked.

“All diagnostics are green, and the weapon appears to be operating at prime capacity.  All it needs is the proper operator,” Michael replied.

“Excellent.”  Turning to Mike, He said, “Mike, you are about to witness something that no human has ever laid eyes on.  The object on the other side of this field is one of immense power, designed to allow humanity to combat Lucifer’s influence over the Antichrist.  I present to you, the Armor of God.”

As he finished speaking, the force field lowered, revealing a set of sleek, silver, full-body armor.  Contoured to mold to the body of the wearer, it looked to be lightweight, yet also incredibly strong and durable.  The boots were made of the same metal as the rest of the armor, aside from the soles, which were rubber and textured like hiking boots.  Mike’s eyes moved upward, tracing the lines of the suit before arriving at the breastplate, which bore the symbol of the cross.  A metal belt, inscribed with an inlay resembling the Crown of Thorns, adjoined the two halves.  The gauntlets were separate pieces, allowing for maximum flexibility, and appeared to have small, circular panels of some kind on the wrists and knuckles, though Mike was unsure what purpose they served.  The helmet was quite fearsome looking, having the appearance of a lion, the wearer’s face resting in the mouth of the beast.  Finally, the armor was completed with a simple yet elegant knight’s sword, sheathed on the wearer’s back.  Though it seemed unassuming at first glance, Mike could tell that the weapon was one of incredible strength, putting even Melody’s scimitar to shame.  On the blade was inscribed these words: “For thou art with me.”

“Woah…” Mike marveled, taking it all in.  “I thought the Armor of God was just a metaphor?”

“Well… yes and no,” Jesus replied.  “The qualities and attributes described in the ‘Armor of God’ passages in the Bible are required to use the physical armor, so the meaning behind the metaphor is still relevant.”

“Indeed,” Michael said.  “This weapon is the only means for a human to combat Lucifer’s power, and the only method of stopping Edward.  However, it cannot be wielded by just anyone.  Before one is allowed to use the full strength of the armor, it will test the individual, ensuring that they are one with the iron will and unbreakable spirit needed to stand against Lucifer himself.  Mike Braxton, will you submit yourself to the trials the armor may present to you?”

Nodding, Mike said, “I will.  Melody can’t do all this herself; she needs help.  If this gives us a fighting chance, I’ll do whatever it takes.”

“Then step forward, brave human,” Michael replied.

Approaching the armor, Mike ran his fingers along the smooth surface of the arms and legs.  As he did so, the cross in the center began to glow, beckoning him to touch it.  Upon doing so, the armor seemed to spring to life, disassembling itself and beginning to latch its various parts onto Mike.  First was the boots, followed by the leg parts and belt.  Piece by piece, the gauntlets and arm parts attached themselves to him before the breastplate flew forward, latching around Mike’s torso.

“What’s happening?” Mike said, struggling.  “I… I can’t move!”

“Until one has passed the trials, the armor’s power cannot be wielded,” Michael explained, approaching with the helmet in hand.  “Believe in yourself, valiant Mike, and you will find success.  Are you ready?”

Though he was nervous, Mike nodded in the affirmative.

“Then let us begin,” Michael replied.

As soon as the helmet was placed on his head, Mike felt a surge of power coursing through his mind.  His vision blurred, and he felt as if his brain was on fire.  He tried to fight it off for several seconds, but soon blacked out.

*****

Persephone knelt on the ground of the abandoned junction station, her presence obscured by the thick cloud of smoke.  Though she was strong, the Major Genies she now faced in combat were easily as powerful, if not more so.  Reaching out to her master, she asked him for his help.

Master, it is Melody.  She and Selena are attacking, attempting to remove my power from me.

Damn.  They’re persistent, aren’t they?

They are strong, Master.  I need your assistance to beat them back.

Perhaps it is no longer enough for me to simply enhance your innate fire magic with my Lord’s power… perhaps… you need something more.

Melody and Selena stood on opposite sides of the room, eying the cloud of smoke warily.  Until they knew whether or not their combined attack had taken Persephone out, they weren’t letting their guards down for even a moment.  As they watched, the cloud began to spin, being sucked into some sort of vortex in the center of it.  Soon, the cloud faded away, revealing Persephone to be alive and well within it.

“Knew it wouldn’t be that easy,” Melody muttered to herself.

The pair again felt Persephone charging up an enormous amount of magical energy within her.  However, rather than being engulfed in her normal fire, she now began to radiate flames that were black as tar.  A thin, sinister smoke trailed off from her in several directions; she seemed to become the very essence of darkness itself.

“What is this?!” Selena exclaimed, keeping a tight grip on her sword.

“Foolish traitors.  You have only bested an enhanced form of my innate genie magic,” Persephone crowed, her voice booming throughout the chamber.  “This power is the true power of my Master’s god.  It is the power of the almighty Lucifer.  You.  Will.  RESPECT IT!”

In Persephone’s hand appeared a katana, identical to the one Edward had wielded before.  As she flew towards Melody, sword at her side, Melody readied herself in a defensive stance.  She managed to deflect her first strike, causing Persephone to stumble a bit as she landed on her feet, but she soon recovered and attacked Melody again in full force.  As the two women dueled, Selena leapt into the fray, attempting to trip Persephone up with a leg sweep.  She evaded with ease, however, and flung Selena onto her back with a blast of black flame.

“Selena!  You alright?” Melody called out.

“Yes… I think so,” she said, sitting up.

“Be careful,” Melody replied, blocking another of Persephone’s strikes.  “Edward used a similar weapon to wound me earlier.”

Disengaging with a backflip, Melody gave herself some breathing room by freezing the floor around her, forcing Persephone to concentrate on keeping her balance.  In the meantime, Melody turned her sword into the jagged, icy weapon she had learned to use with Selena.  Charging straight for Persephone, Melody attacked her as quickly as she was able, not giving her the chance to use her fire to melt Melody’s sword.  She swiped at her from all directions, but Persephone was too agile, evading each strike while remaining in prime position to counterattack.

Selena, I’ve got an idea.  Get ready to attack, Melody thought.

Persephone charged, attempting to run Melody through as Edward had done before.  But Melody was ready this time and fashioned the tip of her icy sword into a claw, using it to grab onto Persephone’s blade and hold it in place.  Upon seeing her stopped dead in her tracks, Selena leapt high overhead, charging a huge amount of energy into her blade.  She then fell straight down between the two women, swinging her sword with all her might onto Persephone’s weapon.  The resulting attack broke Persephone’s katana clean in two, rendering it useless.

Melody and Persephone then disengaged from one another, the two halves of Persephone’s sword clanging to the ground in the process.  Persephone now began to teleport around the room, constantly changing her location to prevent her attackers from getting a lock on her.  Appearing in the center of the room, Persephone had managed to charge up a significant amount of energy, igniting her black flames around her.  The fire grew so large that it began to engulf the entire room, forcing Melody and Selena to retreat to the perimeter.

“Holy shit!” Melody exclaimed.  “Any thoughts?”

“Ah!” Selena cried, feeling the heat singe her skin.  “Well if we don’t think of something, the whole damn room will go up in smoke!”

“Shit, shit, shit…” Melody mumbled.  “Wait, remember how I got out of your death-grip in our training?”

“Well, yes but… oh!  Perfect!”

The pair focused their energies, altering their bodies’ molecular composition to match that of pure water.  Now in their liquid forms, they resumed their offensive, charging straight for the center of the room.  As they approached the source of the scorching heat, their bodies began to steam and boil, forcing them to maintain enormous concentration to maintain their liquid forms.

“Not so fast!” Persephone bellowed.  She now started rotating her flame, forming a black, fiery tornado.

“Hang on!” Melody warned.

“Doing the best I can!” Selena replied.

The pair soon were swept up by the fiery vortex, but managed to plant their feet back on the ground after a few moments, landing on either side of Persephone.

“Ok, let’s douse this bitch!” said Melody.

Releasing the magical energy stored in their bodies, Melody and Selena launched a pair of waves, which hit Persephone from both sides at once.  This disrupted her concentration and halted her attack, knocking her to the floor as she panted and heaved to catch her breath.

“Have you had enough?” Selena asked, approaching the Persephone.

“Not… even… close!” Persephone shouted in rage.  Summoning up a small, black dagger in her hand, she impaled it into Selena’s foot.

“Aaaah!” Selena gasped, staggering to the ground in pain.

“Selena!” Melody cried, rushing to her friend.

Pulling the dagger out of her foot, Selena saw the wound was black, almost like it had cauterized, yet still burned her skin intensely.

“What is this?” she asked, her fear growing in her voice.

With a sinister laugh, Persephone taunted her, saying, “You weak, pathetic fools.  This is the power of the almighty Lucifer.  No matter how strong your magic may be, you cannot stand against it.  You have defied his will in attacking me, and for this you will pay… with your lives.”

As Persephone summoned another katana and raised it overhead to strike, Selena attempted to grab her own weapon to defend, but was too weak; the wound was sapping every ounce of strength she had.  She closed her eyes, bracing for the impact of Persephone’s killing blow, but only heard a loud clang inches from her face.  Opening her eyes, she saw Melody, her blade locked tightly with Persephone’s weapon.  The two rivals eyed each other for several long moments before one finally spoke.

“You will not hurt my friend,” Melody seethed.

“And what do you plan to do to stop me?” Persephone challenged her.

“Anything I can.”

Blasting Persephone back with a wave of water, Melody placed herself between her opponent and Selena, assuming a defensive stance.  Persephone, now enraged, began to once again summon up her black fire, launching blast after blast at the two women.  Melody defended as best she could, slicing several of the fireballs with her sword before generating a domed shield of energy to protect them.

“King Farzan!” Melody cried out.  “Anyone!  If someone can hear me, please help us!  She’s too powerful!”

“Sorry, girls.” Persephone said with an evil smirk.  “Nobody’s going to save you now!”  Launching an intense beam of black fire, Persephone began to degrade the integrity of Melody’s energy shield.

“No… no, I won’t let you do this!” Melody said as she struggled.

“You’re out of your depth!  You cannot hope to stand against the fires of Hell itself!” Persephone jeered.

As she was about to break through the shield and obliterate her adversaries, an unfamiliar voice echoed throughout the chamber.

“ENOUGH!”

A gaping hole was ripped in the stone ceiling, from which fell four men.  One of them bore a large, round shield made of stone, which he used to block Persephone’s stream of fire, protecting Melody and Selena.  Before Persephone could retaliate, she was forced to disengage by another of the men hurling a flaming spear at her, which she evaded with a backflip.  As she spun through the air, a third man caught her momentum and tripped her up with a staff, throwing her around in a vortex of wind before landing her square on her back.  Finally, she looked up to find the fourth man, pinning her underneath his foot with a scimitar at her throat.

“King Farzan… what an honor for me,” Persephone retorted.

“You will do no more harm to my people,” he said.

Persephone only laughed.  “You… are a fool.  You all are.  Nothing… can prepare you for what my master has in store.”

“We are well aware of what Edward Baldwin is up to,” Salim said with defiance, collecting his spear.  “Rest assured, we will stop at nothing to oppose him, and yourself.”

Twirling his staff, King Nadir continued, “What your master plans to bring on this world is nothing short of suffering and ruin.  We have sought to prevent such pain throughout our entire existence, and none of your threats will deter us.”

Melody and Selena looked around the room in amazement.  The Four Kings of the Jinn had assembled, each armed with their tribe’s signature weapons and ready to face-off with Persephone.  The man with the shield turned his head and smiled at the two of them.

“Do not be afraid, my friends,” King Ardashir said.  “We will handle this.”

“Melody, get Selena out of here.  Take her to the Water Palace’s healing pools, at once,” Farzan commanded.

Helping Selena up, Melody replied, “You got it.  Please, be careful.”  Wrapping Selena’s arm around her shoulders, Melody held her tight and leaped up through the new hole in the ceiling, heading for home.

“Such worthless sentiment,” Persephone remarked.  “You have only delayed the inevitable.”

“Persephone!  By the authority of the Council of Four, you are under arrest!” Farzan said to her.

“We’ll see about that,” replied Persephone.

Powering up once more, the four men were flung back by an intense surge of dark energy.  As they assumed fighting stances, they noticed that Persephone’s appearance was beginning to change.  The more dark magic she summoned up, the more it seemed to envelope her, already taking form around her lower legs.

“Ardashir, how do we combat this power?” Farzan asked.

“Do not forget, gentlemen: she is drawing on magic foreign to her, but she is still a genie.  That is the weak point we shall strike at!” Ardashir replied.

Taking his shield in one hand, Ardashir charged her position, blocking several smaller fireballs as he approached.  He then leapt high into the air, landing his shield on the floor beneath him as he descended, which shook the ground around Persephone, creating fractures and faults all around her.  As the ground collapsed, her feet began to become stuck in the rubble now forming around her.

“Gah!” she screamed in frustration.  “A pathetic attempt, old man!”  Extending a black, flaming whip from her hand, Persephone lashed out at Ardashir.  He managed to block the direct hit with his shield, but still took the full force of the blow, flying back against the wall of the chamber.

“We are just getting started!” King Salim shouted.

As Persephone tried to dig her feet out of the ground, he leapt into the fray and fired an intense blast of flame at her feet, beginning to melt the ground around her.  Kings Farzan and Nadir then joined in, firing cooling blasts of water and wind that began to harden the molten rock, holding her in place.  Seeing what they were doing, Persephone spun her body around like a tornado, managing to free herself before the four men could attack her.

Even after freeing herself, Persephone knew the four kings now surrounded her.  Attempting to drive them back, she summoned four tentacle-like shadows around her, each of which began to attack one of her assailants.  Farzan hacked away with his scimitar, attempting to freeze his tentacle.  Nadir used the wind to his advantage, deftly jumping all around to avoid the shadowy object while countering with his staff at every opportunity.  Salim showed off his amazing fighting prowess with a furious assault from his flaming spear, forcing Persephone to concentrate her efforts on defending against him.  Ardashir, despite his old age, managed to keep his tentacle at bay, using his shield to form a perfect defense against any attempted assault.

Soon, Persephone found holes in their defenses.  Farzan found his wrist caught by the tentacle, causing his sword to clatter to the ground.  Nadir was snagged in midair by his ankles, and no amount of bashing on the shadowy arm with his staff loosened its grip.  Though Salim’s offensive was almost impossible to defend against, Persephone snuck the tentacle attacking Ardashir over to Salim, grabbing him by the waist from behind.  Seeing his comrades captured, Ardashir took advantage of her distraction and charged for Persephone.  The final tentacle attempted to grab him, but the wily old man evaded it’s grasp and managed to slam his shield onto the root of the appendage, causing it to disappear in a puff of black smoke.  Before Persephone could summon up another tentacle, Ardashir pulled out his trump card: a glowing chain and shackle.  Throwing it at her arm, the clasp wrapped itself around Persephone’s wrist.

“Ah!” she cried out in surprise and pain.  “What… sorcery… is this?”

In her lapse of concentration, King Nadir managed to break free.  He produced another chain and shackle, attaching it to Persephone’s other wrist.  After another yelp of pain, Farzan was free to shackle her by the feet.  Finally, Salim broke loose and bound Persephone to the final chain, the shackle latched around her neck.

“These chains were crafted to quell rebellious genies,” Ardashir explained as Persephone struggled.  “Though you are drawing on magic foreign to yourself, you are still a genie at heart.  Nothing you are capable of will be able to remove these chains from you.  They now bind your power, rendering you incapable of channeling magic of any kind.”

“Sadistic… bastards!” she seethed, trying in vain to break free.

Salim stepped forward, staring Persephone straight in the eyes.  “Persephone, as King Jinn of the Fire Tribe, I hereby find you guilty of treason against your tribe, the Council of Four, and all Jinn and Genies the world over.  You are unworthy of the magic you have been blessed with.  I now take from you your power, your title, your rights, and your freedom!”

Placing his hand in front of her forehead, a trail red of energy seeped from Persephone and into Salim’s hand.  Persephone watched in horror, feeling her powers being sapped from her, becoming weaker by the second.  In desperation, she cried out for Edward.

Master… please… help me…

Sorry, love.  Looks like they won this round… for now.

Please… don’t leave me.

Can’t do it.  I’m in a precarious position.  If I leave now, the entire plan could fall apart.  You understand.

Very well… Master…

As the last of her power was drained from her, Persephone slumped down to her knees on the floor, exhausted of all energy.  The four King Jinn surrounded her, securing her in the chains before teleporting her back to the Palace of the Water Jinn.

*****

“Easy, easy there, Selena,” Melody said, helping her friend sit at the edge of the pool.  Lowering her foot into the cool water, she asked, “How’s that feel?”

“Not… awful,” Selena managed to say.  She had been in constant pain since Persephone’s attack on her.  “I’m such a fool… should never have let my guard down.”

“The important thing is that you’re alive,” Melody reassured her.

As Melody cleaned Selena’s foot, she could see that it was not healing very fast, as would normally happen in these waters.  The black hole still appeared to sear with heat, even while underwater.  Still, Selena’s pain seemed to be receding; Melody took comfort in that, at least.

“So… when is Mike coming back?” Selena asked.

“Don’t know.  All I know is he’s part of the ultimate contingency plan to stop Edward before he reaches full power.  Beyond that, I have no clue what he and Jesus are up to,” Melody replied.

As the two women conversed, they felt a surge of enormous power in the center of the courtyard.  The wind began to swirl, kicking up a small cloud of dust with it.  Soon, a brilliant light flashed within the cloud, bringing with it five figures, obscured by the dust.  As all grew calm once more, Melody and Selena were amazed to see the four King Jinn alive and well, bringing Persephone along by several chains.

“Holy shit… they did it,” Melody marveled.

“You sound surprised,” Selena said with a giggle.  “They are not called King Jinn for nothing, after all.”

“Lock her in the east tower.  We will deal with her in the morning,” Farzan said to a guard, handing Persephone over to him.  As she was taken away, he made his way over to the pool where the two women sat.  “Selena, are you alright?”

“I will be,” she replied.  “The pain is mostly gone.”

“She’s trying to be tough,” Melody said.  “I think the wound is worse than she wants to admit.”

Inspecting her foot, Farzan said, “I agree.  Come with me, Selena.  The water in my personal chambers is far more concentrated.  It is the source of all the water in this palace, after all.”

“Your Highness, that is kind of you, but quite unnecessa-”

“I insist,” Farzan said, interrupting Selena.  “You showed incredible courage today.  This is the least I can do for you.”

Helping Selena up, Melody said, “Rest up, girlfriend.  You’ve earned it.”

“Thank you, Melody.”

Melody watched as Selena took Farzan’s arm and made their way to the central tower.  After they had left, she walked over to the remaining three King Jinn, conversing near a fountain.

“My dear, you never cease to amaze me,” Salim said with a grin to Melody.

“Thank you,” she replied with a giggle.  “I’ve got to know how you managed to subdue Persephone.”

Ardashir began to explain, “Millennia ago, during our war with the sorcerers, we were forced to develop a means to combat those genies who had gone along with the sorcerers, assisting them in their efforts against us.  Thus, we crafted the chains that Persephone now wears.  They are tuned to the magical resonance that all Jinn and Genies give off, suppressing their magic and strength when worn.  It was… not an easy decision to craft such a tool, but it was necessary for the protection of our people.  We try to avoid using them except in the direst of circumstances.  Persephone is one such circumstance.”

“I don’t understand,” Melody said.  “How could those chains have any impact on the magic she was drawing from Edward?”

Nadir replied, “The reason she is able to draw such power from Edward is due to the nature of their relationship, one of master and servant.  However, no matter what foreign magic she draws upon, her soul is still that of a genie, just as yours, Melody, is that of a human.  Nothing can change that.  When we bound her with the chains, her genie powers were suppressed, taking away her ability to draw power from her master.”

“Impressive,” Melody mused, watching the guards escort Persephone to her prison cell.

“Do you think Edward would come after her?” Salim asked.

Thinking for a few moments, Melody replied, “I suppose it’s possible, but if he saw her as that vital to whatever he’s planning, Edward would have shown up during your fight with her.  If Persephone being captured were an unacceptable outcome to that battle, he would have prevented it from happening.  This leads me to believe that Edward has bigger fish to fry at this point.  Still, I’d recommend everyone remaining on high alert at all times.”

Seeing that the night was beginning to grow dark, the group went their separate ways, deciding to retire for the night.

*****

“Very good, Selena, you’re walking much better,” Farzan said.

“Well, I’ve had worse,” she replied smugly.

“Haha!  That you have!”  Leading her into the bathing area of his quarters, Farzan took her hand and helped her to sit at the water’s edge, dangling her feet into the pool.  “How does this feel?”

“Mmm… very nice.  Thank you, your Highness.”

“Selena, as I’ve told you before, you may call me Farzan.  Especially since it is just the two of us.”

“Of course,” she said.

As she relaxed, Selena began to remove her armor, which was still strapped to her body after her battle with Persephone.  Melody had already removed the lower half, allowing them to start treating her wound, but the remaining pieces were feeling quite constraining in that moment.  Selena knew well that she could make it disappear in an instant, but for some reason unknown to her, she felt the need to remove it by hand.  After peeling off the gauntlets one at a time, she reached behind her and untied the laces to her chest plate, tossing the pieces in a pile in the corner.

Meanwhile, Farzan turned his attention to her wounded foot.  Though he certainly took notice of her toned body as she removed her armor, his primary concern at this point was for her health.  Running his finger on the wound, it seemed to be healing well, as it no longer gave off the searing heat Melody had described.  The black cauterization was also receding, giving way to her natural flesh once more.

“It seems the water is doing its job,” he said.

“Indeed.  Thank you for allowing me to use your reservoir.  You are… exceedingly kind,” Selena replied.

Sighing, Farzan sat up and looked her in the eyes.  “Selena, this has shown me the true meaning behind the events of today.  I… I feel a fool.  I could have been sending you to your death today, yet I had neither the instinct or forethought to realize as such before now.”

“I am fine, Farzan.  Besides, even if I weren’t, the stakes are high enough that Melody and I had to intervene.”

“You are correct,” he replied, nodding.  “However… when I felt Melody’s cry for help, there was a wave of pure dread that washed over me.  I began to fear that you would not make it out alive, that the worst was about to happen to you.  Such fear causes me, or any man for that matter, to ponder the things he has not said, yet wishes he might have said.”

Studying his serious face for a few moments, Selena asked, “What you have not said?  Farzan, what are you talking about?”

His mind raced, his palms became sweaty.  Farzan knew there was no going back if he said what he was about to say.  But despite every logical excuse not to move forward, his genuine reaction to Selena being in danger told him everything he needed to know.  This was something that had to be done.

“Selena… I love you.”

She only sat in silence, her mouth open in silent disbelief.

“I have loved you… for so long,” Farzan continued.  “Yet, I feared telling you would harm the relationship we have always shared as confidants.  I want you to know, Selena, that I do not say this as your King, but as your friend, and someone who cares for you and your wellbeing.”

Working to process what he was saying, Selena swallowed hard, barely managing to ask, “How long?”

“Since the night Melody’s mother died,” he answered.  “That night, something changed in you.  You had been depressed for so long following the death of Ahmad, but helping Maya that night rekindled the fire in your soul.  Seeing your determination to fulfill her wish and your new outlook on life… I saw you as I see you now: as the most beautiful and amazing woman I have ever known.”

“Farzan…” she whispered.

“You needn’t say anything,” he said.  “I realize that I am giving you much information to comprehend.  I will allow you your privacy to contemplate these matters.”

As he started to stand up, Selena gently held his wrist.  “Don’t go.  Please, stay with me.  Your presence is soothing.”

Nodding, he sat back on the floor of the poolside, facing Selena.

“Farzan, I honestly do not know what I feel at this moment,” Selena began.  “You know, just as well as I do, that Ahmad was, and will always be, my only truly beloved.  Still, I would be lying to us both if I said that I have never found you attractive.”

This last comment helped break the tension as they laughed.

“In those moments that I have been attracted to you, however, it is not your looks or your strength that I have admired, but your heart, your courage, and your wisdom,” she continued.  “You are the greatest leader our people could ever want.”

“I do the best that I can, but still, I am not perfect,” Farzan admitted.

“No one is.  But you learn from every decision you make, becoming a better leader for our people.”

“Still, I feel that our people deserve more.”

“What do you mean?” Selena asked.

Taking a deep breath, he explained, “The world we live in is changing, and perhaps more so than we could have ever anticipated with what we’ve learned and experienced today.  With so many changes happening around us, our people must know that the future of the Water Jinn will be a bright one.  They must see the unwavering, courageous leadership that they so deserve.  Selena, if I had one wish… I would wish for you to be my queen, to help lead our people as my partner.  Not only because I love you, but also because of your incredible dedication and determination.  The way you devoted yourself to fulfilling Maya’s dying wish, scouring the globe and never settling for any master that was not perfect for her daughter, it was a true inspiration.  Such a person would make a wonderful ruler, I believe.”

Selena couldn’t believe any of this.  The most powerful and desirable Jinn in the land had professed his love for her, but moreover, he wanted to entrust her with the future of their people.  Still, her mind was torn.  She trusted Farzan and his judgment, so she was not afraid of being a leader.  Her inner conflict came from her still burning love for Ahmad.  He was her soul mate; she could never love anyone more than she had him.  If that was true, how could she enter into a relationship with Farzan?  It wouldn’t be fair to him.  She might grow to love him, but she would always compare him to Ahmad, whether she intended to or not.  He did not deserve that.

At that moment, her mind remembered a conversation she had had with Emir, Ahmad’s most trusted lieutenant.  He had delivered the news of his demise to her personally, and was the first to console her as she broke down crying.  When she had had asked him if Ahmad had said anything before they parted, Emir replied that Ahmad had instructed him to find Selena and deliver a message to her: Ahmad wanted her to find love again in the arms of a man worthy of her affections.  She deserved to be happy, even in Ahmad’s passing.  As she pondered all of this, she began to see what Ahmad was saying.  He did not want her to compare every other man to Ahmad, as he knew that nobody could ever rise to his level in Selena’s mind.  But that did not mean that they could not be worthy of her love and affections.  If any individual was worthy, surely Farzan was such a man.

“Farzan… I know that I have been rather distant at times in our relationship.  Yet, you never gave up on me.  I thank you for that.  As much as I still love my dear Ahmad, I know this is what he would want.  I am so sorry that it has taken me thousands of years to realize this.  I have been foolish at times in my life, but I would be the greatest fool the world has ever known if I could not see what is plainly in front of my face.”  Taking his hand, Selena continued, “If you would wish it, I am happy to grant your wish.  If you will have me, I will be your queen.”

A smile slowly spreading across his face, Farzan managed to ask, “You… you mean it?”

“With all my heart.”

Seemingly to prove her words to be true, Selena gently cupped Farzan’s face in her hands and tilted her head to one side, moving closer to him.  Almost breathless, she at last met his lips with her own, kissing him with every fiber of her being.  Farzan returned her affections in kind, stroking her black, curly hair as he began to explore her supple lips.  They were more wonderful than he had ever imagined, soft and moist with a hint of strawberry flavor.  Soon, he began to slip his tongue between her lips, which parted to allow him entry.  For no less than half an hour, the pair explored each other, their tongues dancing together the entire time.  Finally parting, they worked to catch their breath.

“Wow…” Selena marveled.

“Indeed,” Farzan agreed.  Looking down into the pool of water, he raised her foot out.  “It seems your wound has fully healed.”

“That is a relief,” she sighed.  “It took longer than I thought it would.”

Drying her with a towel, he commented, “I think that is a testament to the level of power we are dealing with in all of this.  It is not something to be underestimated.”

“You’re right.  But, enough talk of work.  There is time enough for that after a restful night’s sleep,” Selena said.

“Agreed.”

With a mischievous look in his eye, Farzan scooped Selena into his arms, feeling her squirm and giggle all the while.  When she slapped his shoulder in mock indignation, he simply threw her over one shoulder, causing the sound of her belly laughs to fill the room.  Carrying her through a curtain, they arrived in his bedchambers.  The room was lavishly decorated with dark blue couches and cushions, all made with the softest of velvet imaginable.  Small tables sat at the ends of these sofas, holding lamps and candles that flickered with just the perfect amount of light for intimacy.  In the center of the room stood Farzan’s bed, an enormous circular structure at least fifteen feet in diameter.

“And down you go,” he said as he effortlessly tossed Selena onto the bed.

Giggling, she lay there on her back, saying, “Why your Highness, I fear that you may be too strong for me.”

Farzan crawled over to straddle her at the waist and replied, “Only one way to find out.”

Shifting lower, Farzan began to peel off Selena’s flowing, silky pants, revealing more of her gorgeous mocha skin.  As he pulled the garment around her ankles and off of her body, discarding it on the floor, Selena decided to help him out, pulling her silk tank top over her head.  Farzan knelt up tall on the bed, gazing for the first time at Selena’s incredible beauty.  Her beautiful face, framed by the silky black hair now fanned out around her head and shoulders, gave a look of desire and extreme happiness.  She cupped her firm, perky C-cup breasts in both hands, though she avoided her dime-sized nipples for the moment, as she loved the anticipation of wondering when Farzan would play with them.

His eyes traced her up and down, admiring the luscious curves of Selena’s body.  Though her breasts were not as large as some others, they were firm and round, and accentuated her hourglass figure well.  Beginning to gaze southward, his eyes moved across her flat belly and down to her curvy hips, each flawless in every way.  Her long, toned legs were a vision of both strength and beauty, all rolled into one package.  At last, he saw her womanhood, complete with a thin strip of black hair above it.  Though it was partially obscured by her legs, Farzan could tell that she was already glistening with moisture.

“Am… am I?” Selena asked.

He planted a long, tender kiss on her lips, his fingers stroking her cheek as he did so.  “You are everything I have ever desired,” Farzan whispered as they parted.

Smiling as she kissed him once more, Selena began to allow her hands to wander lower, tracing the muscles of Farzan’s bare chest.  Arriving at his pants, she slipped her hands into the waistband, tickling his hardening member.

“Are you attempting to hide something from me?” she asked with a giggle.

Before he could reply, Selena pushed him onto his back and began to lower his pants.  As she revealed his cock, Selena gasped a bit; she had heard rumors of Farzan’s size, but figured that many of them were exaggerated.  She now saw that this was not the case, as he was at least nine or ten inches long and two inches in width.  Now grinning with anticipation in taking his manhood into her, she began to gently stroke his length.  As she stroked, she began to lick him from base to tip like a lollipop.  Farzan’s eyes began to roll back into his head, allowing him to savor every sensation Selena gave to him.

Arriving at his tip, Selena kissed his head for several seconds before gradually parting her lips, taking his cock into her mouth.  Her full lips provided a stunning visual for Farzan, which was only intensified by her constant eye contact with him.  As she sucked him, Selena put her hands to good use, stroking the base of his cock with her right and cupping his balls with her left.  She paused to begin swirling her tongue around his tip before resuming her sucking, pausing every so often for additional tongue swirls, all aiming to keep him primed and experiencing different sensations.

Knowing he was near orgasm, Farzan tapped her forehead, and motioned for her to lie on her back.  After a couple of final licks to his tip for good measure, she grinned and flipped over.  Farzan followed after her, pouncing on top of Selena with a passionate kiss that took her breath away.  After withdrawing, he began his explorations of her sublime form, starting by kissing his way across her neck and shoulders.  In spite of the arid desert that they inhabited, her skin remained smooth and soft.  Continuing southward, he paused at the valley between her breasts, tickling each of her globes with his hot breath.  She squirmed in lust and anticipation, her every action begging him to touch her.  Farzan continued on, knowing that he would be returning to explore her breasts more thoroughly later.  Now beginning to kiss her taut, flat belly, he moved his hands to grasp her slim waist.  He soon felt the pleasant sensation of Selena’s hands resting on top of his, brushing his skin gently.  Farzan decided to respond in kind, moving to kiss the tops of her hands while tickling her palms with his knuckles from beneath them.

“Well, well, it seems as if I have found a weak point,” he mused as she squirmed and giggled underneath him.

“Farzan, I never realized… that you were such… a sinister man,” she replied between her laughs.

“You have no idea…”

Resuming his explorations, he soon arrived at her long, toned legs.  These legs had long been the physical feature that Farzan had admired most in Selena, and were the envy of almost every female she had ever come into contact with.  He bent one leg at the knee with his hand, kissing down its length to her knee, before moving to the other knee and working his way back up.  He repeated the process once more in the opposite direction, listening to Selena’s moans of pleasure all the while.  Finally, he arrived at her pussy, sopping wet from all of his teasing.  Taking in her delicious aroma, he kissed her outer lips before tracing their outline with his tongue.

“F-Farzan, please, that is unnecessary!” Selena protested.

“Perhaps,” he replied.  “But it is also damn fun…”

Selena gasped as he began to flick her clit with his tongue, sending shivers up her spine.  She could feel his hot breath on her womanhood and his strong hands on her thighs as his masterful tongue began to penetrate her.  All she could manage in reply was to grip the sheets of the bed, holding on for the ride.  Her breasts jiggled and heaved with the rise and fall of her chest, her breathing only intensifying with each passing moment.  As Farzan continued his feast, he moved his hands over her stomach until he had reached her incredible breasts.  Gripping them firmly, his fingers explored every inch of them, beginning with their outer edges and working towards the center.  At last reaching her tiny, erect nipples, he began to roll and tweak them between his fingers, eliciting a surprised and aroused mew from Selena.

“Oh… oh yes… oh Farzan…” she moaned.

Knowing she was near climax, Farzan redoubled his efforts, squeezing her nipples as he played with them.  At the same time, his tongue began focusing on her clit, licking her with as much ferocity as he could.  These combined sensations were too much for Selena to resist; she knew she did not have long left.  As her hips began to buck, she rested her feet on Farzan’s back and gripped his arms, bracing herself for her impending orgasm.  At long last, she finally tipped over the edge, descending into a moaning puddle of sexual energy.

“Oh god, oh god, ohgodohgodohgod, OH YESSSSSS!  YEEEEEEEESSSSSS!”

Farzan knelt up tall, admiring his handiwork.  Her thrashing and moaning were a perfect victory for both of them, and exactly the outcome he had hoped for.  Now fully erect and hard as a rock, he leaned over her as she came down from her climax.

“I hope you enjoyed that, because I am far from done with you,” he whispered.

She only nodded in reply, smiling in anticipation of the introduction of his stiff rod.  Her pussy was completely soaked from her orgasm, allowing his cock to slip into her with no resistance.  Selena bit her lip in pleasure as he eased himself into her tunnel, savoring every moment of Farzan filling her up.  He proceeded with care, knowing that she had not made love in quite a long time, and only engulfed himself further when her pussy allowed him to do so.  After a few minutes of slowly rocking back and forth, he was buried to the hilt within her.

“Selena…” he whispered in pleasure, lowering himself to lie on top of her.

She smiled, kissing his lips in wordless reply.  He returned in kind, stroking her soft hair as their tongues began to dance.  Without parting, he began to thrust himself within her, withdrawing about two thirds of his length; he did not want to experience not being engulfed within her for even a moment.  She in turn wrapped her arms around his back, holding on for dear life as he continued to love her.  As his pace began to increase, both could her the distinctive squishing of her pussy juices against his stiff cock.

“Oh my, someone has gotten me all wet,” Selena whispered.

“I would say I’m sorry, but I’m not,” Farzan replied with a wink.

As they made love, Farzan glanced over to a small box on his nightstand.  Eying it for a moment, he used his magic to open the lid, causing a pale blue mist to begin to fill the room.  Selena looked around in wonder, beginning to feel suddenly more aroused than ever.

“A special surprise I created.  You like?” Farzan asked.

“What is it?”

With a chuckle, he said, “The mist is one that, when released, causes all within its vicinity to smell whatever makes them most aroused.  For example, I smell lavender in a field.”

“An all-in-one aphrodisiac?  Impressive,” Selena replied.

“Why, thank you,” he said, proud of himself.  “What do you smell?”

Taking in a deep breath through her nose, Selena answered, “I smell… cool spring water and crisp mountain air.  Very nice, I must say.”

Continuing his steady thrusts, Farzan shifted to be more on top of her, thrusting downward to rub against her clit.  The widening in Selena’s eyes confirmed that he was indeed hitting the correct spot.  He steadied himself on his elbows and forearms for more vigorous movements, increasing his pace to drive both of them wild.  The more they made love, the more he realized how lucky he was.  After all, he had risked everything tonight, their friendship, their trust, and their professional chemistry, all for the chance that she might feel the same way about him as he did her.  Moreover, it had paid off.  She seemed at peace with Ahmad’s sacrifice, which alone gave him more joy than he could have ever imagined.

Normally, Farzan was known for his incredible sexual endurance, being able to control his stamina at will.  Tonight, however, he felt no urge or desire to impress with how long he could last, but rather wanted to feel Selena’s delectable pussy contract around him in orgasm as he exploded into her.  Focusing his efforts on her clit and G-spot, Farzan began pounding her at rapid pace, bringing her up to the brink of orgasm.  As she moaned in approval, throwing her head back with abandon, he slowed once more to a moderate pace, seeking to prolong her climax for as long as possible.  Selena’s back was now arched, shoving her breasts into Farzan’s face.  He could not resist giving each nipple a playful lick, which further intensified Selena’s pleasure.  As tears began to form in the corners of her eyes, Selena knew she could not handle much more before exploding.  Sensing this, Farzan focused his pinpoint thrusts one final time, pushing Selena over the edge.  As her tunnel latched onto his cock, it’s milking finally sent him past the brink as well, and he flooded her with his hot cum.

“Farzan… Farzan… yes, yes, yesyesyes OH MY GOD!  I’M CUMMING!!!” Selena screamed as she climaxed.

“Oh wow… yes… oh yes!  SELENAAAAAAAAA!!!”

The pair relaxed in silence for quite some time as they came down from their dual climaxes.  They could focus on nothing but breathing, along with the involuntary twitching that crept through their bodies.  Soon, Selena rolled over, laying her head on Farzan’s strong chest and pulling the covers over them.  She sighed in contentment, placing a soft kiss on his chest.

“I love you, Selena,” Farzan whispered.

After a moment’s pause, she replied, “I love you too, Farzan.”

*****

Riding up the elevator of his office building that morning, Hiro couldn’t help but feel distracted.  After all, it was his anniversary with Kimiko, as they had now known each other for fifty-one years.  His mouth already began to water at the thought of the incredible feast she would be preparing that evening, but he soon snapped back to reality.  Work still beckoned, and there were several important meetings on his schedule for the day.  Refocusing his mind, he stepped out of the elevator as it reached the top floor.

After punching in the security code, he entered his workroom, dropping his backpack off at a table.  He made his way over to a small closet in the wall, finding several clean and pressed suits hanging for him.  Hiro disliked wearing suits, and only wore them when it was necessary to impress investors or other important clients.  Most other times, he much preferred his standard jeans and t-shirt combo, the latter of which usually depicted an anime or movie character of some sort.  As he reached for one of the suits, he paused, getting the strangest feeling that he was being watched.

Spinning around, he looked around the dark workroom for anything out of the ordinary.  Seeing nothing, he crept towards his large computer in the rear of the room.  Though he tried to make his footsteps as quiet as possible, it was impossible to remain truly silent in such a room.  As he went, he attempted to reach out to Kimiko.

Kimiko, do you sense anything unusual in my laboratory?

No response came, which worried Hiro.

Kimiko?  Kimiko, can you hear me?

Still, he heard nothing.  Hiro was now disturbed, unsure of what might have happened to her.  Arriving at his computer, he was surprised to find that it had already been powered up for the day, with a person sitting with their back turned to him in his large chair in front of it.

“Who are you?  How did you get in here?” he demanded.

The individual in the chair chuckled, turning around to face Hiro.  He could see that it was a man of about thirty-five with elegant blonde hair and a strong, yet sinister-looking face.

“Hiro Watanabe.  What an honor it is to meet you,” he said in a British accent.

“Who the hell are you?” he asked again.

“My name is Edward Baldwin,” he replied with a grin.  “I’m your biggest fan.”

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