184 An Asurai With Purpose
Max awoke with a jolt and a gasp, sitting bolt upright with a sudden burst of movement. For a moment, he had no idea what was going on, but he soon remembered Cornelius Rellen punching him, and subsequently losing consciousness. His arms still throbbed from the impact, which was strange.
Max was sure that his arms had been broken from that strike, but now they were fine aside from the dull ache he still felt. Had someone healed him? Had it been his clothing? It was a gift from Zoey after all...
Then he remembered. Zoey! That man was after Zoey! Max had to get back to her! But where was he again?
Max looked around in confusion, only to find himself surrounded by empty void as far as he could see. Correction, not empty; there was another person sitting on the ground not too far away. But this place, it felt like a prison. Max had to get out of here.
He got up and walked to the other person he had seen, carefully on guard as he approached. As he neared, Max started to hear the man mumbling to himself.
"No way out. No way out. No way out."
The man was rocking back and forth, muttering the same line over and over. His appearance was unkempt and ragged, but Max recognized him as one of the noble's men. The uniform was still recognizable.
Max decided that there was no use trying to ask the man. He would be better off looking around himself. So he started walking while he surveyed where he was. While he did that, he checked his Eve, but the bracelet was strangely unresponsive, not reacting to his touch or his voice.
The place he was in was strange. The ground was ash, the sky an empty void, and as far as Max could see there was nothing of note in sight. As he walked, the only thing he found was the occasional figures in various positions, frozen in place.
They were statues made of ash, some on their knees as if in prayer, some were clutching their heads, and some had their mouths open as if screaming. All of them depicted helplessness and despair in its various forms, a clear indication of this place's purpose and intent.
Max however remained stoic and unaffected. He looked at the ash statues of the people and continued on, looking for something that pointed to the way out. His mind was only set on one thing; getting back to Zoey.
He was not sure how long he walked before he started to notice a pattern in the ash statues. They were all facing the same direction. With no other indicator, Max started to walk in the direction the statues were facing, trudging through the endless ash beneath his feet.
His eyes that normally were a calm grey had changed. They had turned into hard steel, cold and uncompromising, a reflection of his stubborn will and purpose.
Time passed. Max walked and walked, using the ash statues as a guide as he made his way. It was impossible to tell the time in this place, and Max noticed that he had trouble focusing on the concept of time. It was as if his perception of time passing had been altered or skewed somehow. He didn't like the feeling, but he had no other choice but to keep going.
At one point, Max noticed that the statues were becoming more frequent. More statues meant something had changed, and that was a good thing for Max. It was getting harder for him to maintain his focus, and often his mind started to drift, almost like something wanted him to loose his way in this place.
But every time his focus wandered, thoughts of his mother, Naomi or Zoey would snap it back into place like a lodestone. They were the anchor for his mind, his lighthouse to sail by. It was thanks to their memories that he was able to maintain his focus and keep walking step by step.
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More time passed. Max did not know how long he had walked, but suddenly he found himself standing before a wall. It was a wall that stretched from horizon to horizon, from the bottom of the earth to the sky.
The wall was made of glass, and it was where the ash statues came to a stop. It was as if they had all been looking for the way out as well, but at the end of their journey they had been confronted by an impenetrable obstacle and had succumbed to despair.
How many had been trapped in here to make a floor of ash Max wondered as he gazed at the wall of glass. Many of the ash figures were rested against it as it they had been trying to break through, but the wall was unmarred, pristine as the day it was created.
One thing Max knew was that the way out was on the other side of the glass. There was no light that proved that to him, but he could sense it in his bones that it was true. All he had to do was break the wall.
He stepped forward, fists clenched, steel-grey eyes hard and cold. In his mind he heard his grandfather's voice repeating an old Asurai parable that happened to be rather appropriate for the situation;
"Woe be unto them that stand in the way of an Asurai with a purpose."
Max's fist smashed into the glass wall, thudding into it with a sound that echoed through the surroundings, stirring the ash on the ground. The wall was the hardest thing that he had ever hit, but Max didn't even flinch. He just drew back his fist and punched again.
The rhythmic sound of his fist impacting the wall continued. If someone was there to witness the scene, the sound of flesh hitting an immovable object in such a manner would make them flinch every time.
But Max did not stop. Zoey needed him. His grandfather and his clan needed him. This was not his grave, it was only an obstacle. So he kept punching. He would keep punching until the wall in his way shattered.
That was his determination, his stubbornness, his purpose.