The Centurion Cycle: Book Three ~ Angels Ascending

Chapter Nine: Angels Ascending ~ The Corruption of Addiction

As soon as word reached him of the fall of Aquanos, Xavier took Alex back with him to the capital. When he arrived, he ordered half the Home Guard to surround Aquanos to prevent the Jadoorians from expanding north, deeper into Domus. He even recalled the support troops he had sent to help Field Marshal Lukas in his losing battle with the Federation. Once he had given his orders, Xavier moved on to more important things…mainly Alex.

To get rid of the young man's shame and sadness over killing his sword master, Xavier gorged Alex with anima. Xavier did not know if Alex was a Demon, but he was surely a fiend when it came to consuming the life energy of his fellow Centurions. If Alex was not in a state of out-of-control physical lust, he was exercising and, when he was not exercising, he was practicing with his blades. When he became tired or hungry, Xavier would just give him more anima, starting the cycle all over again. Within a matter of weeks Alex had consumed an entire legion's worth of anima, more than the Field Marshal had taken in his entire life, and it was showing.

Besides the massive musculature and extraordinary height, Alex's eyes and skin were changing. His irises were still gray, but the whites had picked up a blue tint. The skin around Alex's abdomen had also taken on a bluish color, as the anima core inside him had grown in order to accommodate to the anima he was consuming.

Xavier did not feel any love for his creation, even though they had exchanged bonds and did make love several times a day. He was molding Alex into a combination of killing machine and lust-driven creature. Instead of being a lover, Alex was the closest thing he would ever have to a son…a son Xavier was sure would lay down his life to protect his father when he was done with his training. Tonight was part of all those plans for Alex. Tonight he was going to show the young man something that would remove the last taboo Alex still held close…the act of killing a Legatio.

He led Alex to an alley that led to the grand plaza, near the entrance to the Tomb of Warriors where the Centurion skulls were kept. Xavier did not tell Alex what was going to happen…wanting the young Centurion to find out on his own. He did not have to wait long for his protégé to find out.

A wagon came rolling to the entrance of the tomb. As soon as it stopped, five or six Legatio came out, carrying sacks that they loaded onto the cart.

Having shown Alex this, Xavier took him to the warehouse district, on top of one of the roofs looking down at one of the many buildings Perils owned there. They made it almost ten minutes before the wagon, as it had to take the larger but longer main streets to reach the warehouse. As soon as the wagon arrived, several people came out and began unloading the wagon while two other men talked. One of these two men wore the red robes of a Legatio senator and the other wore the black robes of a Famulus.

"Only six bags!" the voice of senator Perils cursed.

"I am sure it will be enough, sir," the high-pitched voice of Horace, master of the baths, insisted fawningly.

"I told the caretakers that I needed twenty bags. I need to buy the governorship of Qul Tos. I will not stay here when the empire falls to the Federation.

"I would like to remind you, master, that it was you who started this war." Horace giggled like a girl.

"Say that again, Horace, and I will make sure you will drown in one of your own pools."

"Forgive me, master."

"The war was to kill off the other Field Marshals, leaving the Senate the only remaining power. I never thought that our armies would fare so badly, or be taken so off guard like this. The Eastern Army is still strong, though. From Qul Tos I can build a new empire where Legatio will be supreme. But to do that I need to be able to bribe the other senators, and money no longer holds the power it once had. Centurion bones, on the other hand, are commanding a princely price. All the Legatio think they will need a small stockpile to survive this war," Perils said as he took out one of the skulls from a sack.

"But the skulls, sir…what will the Centurions do if they find out you have been replacing their skulls with fakes?" Horace asked nervously.

"How will they find out? And why should it matter? The fakes are exact copies, with their precious marks. So what if it is not the original bone? If they were not so selfish in giving their anima to their Field Marshals, I would not have to resort to robbing their graves. With a few hundred vials of anima I can buy the loyalty of a thousand senators," Perils grumbled as he tossed the skull to Horace.

Horace examined the skull under the torchlight and was amazed by the marking. "A sword master!"

"Yes…a recently killed one in fact."

"Where? Aquanos or on the western border?"

"Neither…this skull belonged to a teacher at the Academy…killed by one of his own students, believe it or not."

"A student killed his teacher!"

"Yes… one of Xavier's little pets. The student was, of course, expelled. I believe our dear Field Marshal has him locked up in one of his bedrooms…nothing more than a sex slave now."

Alex, his face red with anger did not hear that last remark…not after he realized whose skull the Senator had stolen, the skull of sword master Lorin. As his face turned red with anger, he felt Xavier hand him a double-bladed sword, one that the Field Marshal had hidden on the roof just for this moment.

With the instrument of revenge in his hands, Alex jumped off the roof and attacked the surprised senator and Famulus, both of whom were decapitated within seconds of each other. Alex did not stop there. He ran inside the warehouse where he chased down and killed every single one of the Famulus workers who had been powdering the skulls and storing them in barrels. Only when all were dead did Alex come out of the warehouse, his once white robe now red with blood. Waiting for him, as proud as a father could be, was Xavier, holding up a warm vial of red anima, freshly taken from Peril's body. Xavier lifted up the vial in a toast and drank half of it down, a purple glow growing around his body. He then handed the remaining half to Alex.

"Drink."

"But…" Alex said, still held back by the law banning the taking of a Legatio's anima.

"You will need it… trust me.

Nodding his head, Alex agreed, drinking the fluid down.

After Xavier took the empty vial away from Alex, he took a deep breath before speaking. "Alex…you are under arrest for the killing of a Legatio Senator."

"But…" Alex tried to protest as a dozen white armored Centurions ran towards him.

"Don't worry. I will make sure the truth will come out and the courts will be lenient with you. You might have to be imprisoned for a long while, Alex, but I promise I will not abandon you. We will have our revenge."

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