Arbiter's Tale: Young Blood is a prequel to Arbiter's entire prescence within the Villains Multiverse. This will consist of a few short stories that chronicle the events of Arbiter's childhood. These events will go hand-in-hand with several of the events in the modern Villains Multiverse.
Story 1: Half-Breed
Kagami was wandering through the streets of the Underground, a vast, subterranian section of the Golden City that was directly above it. Her silvery hair shone a tint of gold from the yellow light of the streetlamps that lit the Underground roads.
"Jason told me not to walk through the Underground alone..." she thought to herself. "He says it's dangerous for eight-year olds... but what he doesn't know won't hurt him, right? But I'll bet that he's gonna get mad... I hate it when he gets mad... but I don't have to tell him, right?"
Kagami continued this battle within her mind as she continued walking down the roads. She loved to explore and wander about, never seeming content to be in one place for too long.
"But what if he finds out that I left? I'll... I'll just tell him that I got lost-"
Kagami's thought was interrupted by a small movement she caught from the corner of her eye. She spun around quickly, seeing the dark alleyway that the movement came from.
"That's funny... I could've sworn I saw a... in that alley..."
It only took a moment for Kagami's curiosity to overtake her as she darted into the alleyway. Soon enough, she saw a small figure running into an abandoned warehouse.
"It's a person... a kid, like me..."
Itching to know what another child like her was doing alone in the streets, Kagami entered the warehouse, only to hear a shrill, sobbing voice shout "GO AWAY!"
"It's okay!" Kagami shouted, taken aback by the child's shout. "I won't hurt you!"
"GO AWAY!" cried the voice. "JUST LEAVE ME ALONE!"
Kagami followed the sound of the child's sobs through a doorframe into a room barely lit by the outside light. In a corner covered in shadows, she could she the silhouette of the child, curled up into a ball, face buried in his hands. The child looked up for a moment, and, seeing Kagami, quickly hid his face, holding himself even tighter.
"GET AWAY! GET AWAY FROM ME!" the child shrieked, with terror now present in his voice.
"It's okay!" Kagami repeated. "I just want to help you!"
Ignoring the cries and protests, Kagami approached the child, and placed her arms around it. The child struggled meekly, screaming and shrieking, but Kagami held on. Eventually, the child quit squirming, and buried it's face into Kagami's shoulder, sobbing.
"There, there." Kagami said softly. "I just want to help you. I'm your friend." She gently led the child out into the middle of the room, into the light. "Come out where I can see you."
The child, at first reluctant, slowly walked out, holding onto Kagami's hand tightly as if it's life depended on it. Now out in the light, Kagami could see the face of a boy who appeared to be about six. He was dressed in nothing but rags, and his whole figure appeared emaciated. His gaunt, tear-stricken face was barely visible underneath his long, emerald hair. Kagami brushed the boy's hair out of his face, and saw his golden eyes. Yet the boy's eyes held a sunken, hollow, and defeated look.
"What is your name?" she asked.
The boy began to sob again. "I don't... know... I don't know..." he cried.
"Where are you from?"
"I don't know..." the boy stammered. "A scary place... covered with... with blood..."
"What?" Kagami questioned. "That's impos-"
At this point, Kagami noticed, with horror, that the boy's rags were indeed darkened up to his chest with the crimson hue of dried blood.
"Please... I don't want to go back there... I don't want to go back there ever again!" the boy cried, throwing his arms around Kagami and holding onto her tightly, as if letting go meant he would go back to that nightmarish place.
Kagami, taken aback, embraced the boy again. "Come with me." she said. "I'll take you someplace safe."
In the living room of an abandoned house paced Jason, a fourteen year-old boy with restless eyes and jet black hair.
"Dammit, Kagami..." he fumed.
"Did Kagami run off again?" said a ten year old boy, reading a ragged old book and sitting on a moth-eaten couch.
"Yeah Malovus, she did." Jason responded.
(edit below: basically, the situation is that Jason, an orphan, lives in this abandoned house, taking care of a few other orphaned children all about ten or younger; basically, they have formed their own family and are all living together. To join, create a character between the ages of five and ten, who lives in this "family". Keep in mind that time will pass and these characters will grow older as the story moves along.)
A young girl, around the age of five, was laying on the floor in the corner of the room. With her she held a broken doll, clutching it in her sleep. ('Her name is Amber)'
Jason sighed in irritation. "Malovus, hold the fort down. I'm going to go look for her." he said.
Amber opened one of her eyes. "Where are you going?"
"I'm going to look for Kagami." Jason said. "Be a good girl, ok? Malovus will watch you when I'm gone."
Jason was interrupted by the sound of a door swinging open and Kagami's voice calling "I'm home!"
Jason stormed down the hallway. "Kagami!" he yelled. "How many damn times does it take for me to tell you-" his voice was suddenly silenced for a moment, before he exclaimed "Oh my God..."
Malovus looked up, put his book down, and followed Jason down the hallway. "What's wrong, Jason?" he called out.
Kagami was standing in the doorway, with the timid emerald-haired child clinging onto her arm. At the sight of Jason, the child whimpered quietly in fright and pulled himself closer to her.
"It's okay." Kagami whispered. "That's Jason. He's real nice."
Jason knelt down and held his hand out to the child. "It's okay, kid." he said. "I don't bite."
The child merely shook his head and kept his hold on Kagami's arm.
"Wait a minute..." Malovus said, having just arrived. "His eyes..." Before anyone could stop him, Malovus strode forward, wrested the child's grip from Kagami's arm, ignoring his terrified screams and Kagami's and Jason's protests, and held up his wrist, revealing the image of a black dragon curling up the child's forearm.
"...branded." Malovus said simply, pushing the child away from him in apparent disgust. "He's half-breed."
The child backed away from Malovus, grabbing onto Kagami's arm and looking up at him with terror in his eyes.
Jason rounds on Malovus. "Is that a problem for you?" he asks sternly.
"Yes, I mean..." Malovus stutters, trying to find words. "...I mean, he's half-breed! A lower life-form!"
Amber got up from her perch in the corner and walked up to the others. "Jason... Kagami... What's going on?" She mutters, apparently about to start crying because of all the commotion.
Everyone goes silent at the sound of Amber's soft voice; even the "half-breed" child, who stopped his whimpering for a moment.
Jason knelt down next to Amber. "Everything is okay, little sister." he says. "Kagami brought someone home." Jason looked up. "Does he have any parents? Do you know?" he asked Kagami.
"I don't think so... it sounds like he doesn't even know where he comes from."
Jason sighed. "A castoff. Poor kid. There seems to be a lot of them."
"Well of course." Malovus said darkly. "Nobody wants half-breeds around."
"Malovus!" Jason growled. "That's rude and uncalled for! Apologize!"
Malovus was taken aback by Jason's outburst, apparently not used to seeing him like this.
"...I'm sorry". Malovus muttered through clenched teeth.
"That's better." Jason said with finality.
Amber grabs Jason's hand and looks up to him. "Jason! Jason! Will he stay with us?" she asked with large, innocent eyes.
"Of course." Jason said. "But first, lets at least get him something to eat and some new clothes to wear. The kid looks famished."
A few minutes later, the children were all sitting in the living room. The boy, in a fresh new set of clothes, was devouring an apple ravenously. Malovus was the only one who didn't join them; he sat distanced from the others, his nose buried in a book and a scowl on his face.
Suddenly, Jason facepalmed himself. "Oh, God, I totally forgot!" He exclaimed. "Kid, what's your name?"
The boy stopped eating for a moment. "My... name?"
"Yeah. what do people call you?"
"I don't... know..." the boy stammered, on the verge of tears again.
"Kagami placed her arm around him to comfort him. "That's ok." she said. "Then we will come up with a name for you."
Amber got up and took a seat next to the boy. "Don't worry, we'll think of a really nice name for you!! Right Kagami?" she exclaimed with the innocence of a child.
Kagami chuckled. "Of course." she said, gently. "Let's think... what would a good name for him be?"
Jason tapped his finger on his cheek, deep in thought. "This... is harder than it seems..." he said. "How about Kaito? Or Aeneas? Or Adam?" he suggested.
"No..." Kagami said. "He doesn't look like any of those names..."
"Really?" said Jason playfully. "I thought they sounded cool..."
Amber grabs Kagami's arm. "You'll think of something right?" She then turns towards the boy. "Don't worry! Kagami is really smart!"
Kagami thought for a moment, then said, "I have a name. How about 'Ryou'?"
Jason looks at Kagami incredulously. "You think he looks like a Ryou?"
The boy looked up with his hollow golden eyes. "...Ryou... sounds nice..." he said quietly.
"Ah, fine then." Jason said. "Ryou it is. Just remember kid, you're stuck with this name your whole life. Your whole life. You can't go back and change it later."
"...Ryou sounds nice." the boy repeated.
"Alright then. Welcome to our family, Ryou."
Amber got up and took a sudden dive at Ryou, in an attempt to give him a hug.
"Amber!" Jason and Kagami call out in unison.
Ryou, not expecting the hug, opened his eyes in shock upon being attacked by Amber. The shock passes away after a moment, before he lifts his arms with uncertainty and hugs Amber back.
"...family?" Ryou asks.
"Family." Jason says.
Malovus, whom none of them seemed to have noticed, slammed his book shut and stormed out of the room.
Story 2: Cult of Pain
Amber 7, Ryou 8, Kagami 10, Malovus 12, Jason 16
Two years later...
"Why the hell did you take it?!" Malovus bellowed.
"I'm sorry..." Ryou said.
"Oh, your sorry. Can't you keep your hands off of my things?!"
"I said I was sorry!"
Malovus responded by aiming a punch at Ryou. His fist collided with Ryou's face, knocking him flat on his back.
"I'm sorry..." Ryou said quietly.
Malovus said nothing as he stormed angrily out of the room, making sure to give Ryou a good kick for extra measure.
Amber walks up to Ryou. "Kagami! Jason! Come quick!! Are you alright Ryou?"
"I'm fine..." Ryou said, trying to choke back the tears that were welling up in his eyes.
"Ryou!" Kagami cried out, kneeling beside him. Jason knelt down next to her. "Malovus did this, didn't he?" he asked.
"Why... does he hate me?" Ryou said queitly. "What did I do to him? Did I do something to hurt him?"
Amber sits down next to Ryou and gives him a quiet hug. "It'll be alright!"
"You've done nothing wrong." Jason said soothingly. "Malovus... he's just... I don't know. He just doesn't understand..."
Malovus stormed alone through the streets of the underground. "Stupid half-breed". He muttered to himself. "Why did Jason take him in? Ever since then... it was as if... as if...
"...as if I didn't even exist." Malovus thought, completing his sentiment in his mind.
The Nucleus was the center of the underground, and it was always constantly buzzing with activity. It had a great glowing tower, the Beacon, which provided light for the entire subterranean city.
The Nucleus wasn't simply the physical center of the city, it was also the social center. There were a number of shops, restaurants, and attractions that proved that the Underground was much more than a dark, dirty city hiding from the sun. It was, in fact, a highly modernized metropolis.
Malovus strode through here until he noticed a congregation of people gathering about a platform, upon which stood a figure in a dark cloak. The cloaked figure was preaching out to the crowd, and Malovus caught several things that he was saying;
"...and people have forgotten what it means to be human." preached the cloaked figure. "There is only one force that unites us all as living beings; not morality, for it dies too quickly. Not love, for it becomes insipid and dies even faster. No... the one force that unites us all as humans is pain. Pain is what we must accept if we are to embrace our humanity; Pain is the one truth in the ocean of lies that we live in!"
There were murmurs within the crowd, and whispers of words such as "lunacy", and "rubbish". Yet a sparse few members of the crowd were listening intently.
"There are no races... no Intrids, no Archics... For even the sciences of the Intrids and the magics of the Archics will inevitably lead back to pain... and in experiencing pain, do we grow. In experiencing pain, we learn. In experiencing pain, do we come to an understanding of our humanity. Without misery, the significance of peace and joy are lost..."
Now Malovus, being the bookwormish scholar that he was, considered himself to be a bit of a philosopher. And those words set off a number of jumbled thoughts in his brain.
"There is truth to those words... without pain, humanity wouldn't understand it's own limitations." Malovus thought to himself. "Pain is a consequence for those who try to overstep their boundaries..."
As soon as Malovus entered his home, Jason rounded on him.
"You! Care to tell me what happened between you and Ryou earlier?" Jason said angrily.
"He learned his limitations. That's all." Malovus said calmly.
Amber closely watches the confrontation, though acting to be asleep.
"What are you even talking about?!" Jason snapped. "You hurt him pretty badly-"
"Without pain, there is no lesson to be learned." Malovus said, before walking past Jason and back into his room.
Jason watches Malovus walk away for a moment, before he sighs sadly; "Oh, Malovus... what the hell am I going to do with you...?"
Amber gets up suddenly. "Jason. Are you angry with Malovus?"
"I'm just... upset with him." Jason said.
Amber nods. "Can I go play with Ryou?"
"Go ahead, but be gentle with him." Jason said. "He's still a timid and fragile kid..."
Kagami was reading a story to Ryou when Amber found them. Ryou seemed to be engaged with the story, focusing on every last word that Kagami read to him.
Amber silently walks into the room, listening to Kagami. Seeing how much Ryou seemed to enjoy the story, she decided not to interrupt them yet.
"...The End." Kagami said, closing the book gently.
"...I liked it." Ryou said.
Amber walks into the room, deliberately coughing to make her presence clear. "Hey, Ryou, you want to play?"
"...I'd love to." Ryou said.
"There are no gods deserving worship, no greater powers deserving our respect!" preached the cloaked figure at a fountain in the center of the Nucleus Complex. "The only thing deserving of our respect is pain! Pain drives humanity forward! Pain has done more for us than any god ever has or could have done!"
It was the next day, and the same preachings that Malovus had heard the day before were continuing. And this time, there were even a handful of people standing by this cloaked figure- ordinary citizens. Or so Malovus observed when he arrived.
"Observe!" cried the cloaked figure. He held out his hand, and a radiant golden sword appeared in a small but bright flash of light. Before anyone could react, he took the sword and plunged it through his own chest.
There were gasps of horror among the crowd, and Malovus himself was stunned by the figure's action.
Yet despite having a blade plunged straight through his own heart, the figure turned and continued to address the crowd.
"Fear not, brothers and sisters. This pain is nothing for me to bear. For I am the one who truly understands pain. I am Agony Incarnate." The figure grasped the hilt of the blade and ripped it back out of his own chest. Blood stained the glimmering surface of the golden blade, yet it appeared that the figure was unharmed in any way.
"That's no science... nor is it any kind of Archic magic. How is that possible?" Malovus thought to himself.
In another section of the Nucleus was Jason, leading Kagami, Ryou, and Amber past all of the shops and stalls.
"Ok, you three, remember to stick together." Jason said. "The Nucleus is the safest place here in the Underground, but I still don't want you guys getting lost. I've given you each thirty credits to spend on whatever. Don't waste it. In an hour, meet me at the big fountain in the center. Alright?"
Amber nods with a smile on her face. "I want a new doll!"
"We'll stop by at the toy store on our way to the candy store." Kagami said. "Well get you a doll, and then we have to get Ryou some chocolate..."
Over the course of his stay with his new family, Ryou had developed an affinity for dark chocolate, and would buy himself a slab of it on every occasion that Jason took them to the Nucleus. It was one of the few things that would seem to cheer him up.
"Okay!! What are we waiting for.. come on!!" Amber yells while running towards the closest toy store.
"You wonder how he does that, don't you?" a hollow voice asked.
Malovus spun around in suprise at the sudden voice; he saw, standing behind him, a decreppit, shiriveled husk of a man; his skin was wrapped tightly around his bones and he was covered in numerous scars. Most ominous of all were his dark, hollow eyes that seemed to gaze into your mind, prying around and searching out your innermost thoughts and fears.
Malovus recoiled at the sight of the man.
"What's the matter? Am I too hideous for you? That's all right; don't mind me. I'm used to it. So... were you wondering about that cloaked precher?"
"Let me tell you this, then. He is neither Intrid, Archic, nor even half-blood, for that matter. His kind is one that is superior to the mortal plane. He is among a race of dieties that call themselves the Secrets."
"Ok..." Malovus said, doubtful of the man's words. "Why would you tell me this?"
"I am a mere servant of that figure, who calls himself Temeres. I am a priest for his order, the Order of Pain. I can read the deepest fears and agonies of other people. I can see that deep down, you hurt."
"What are you talking about?" Malovus said incredulously.
"You have a family. A family consisting of other orphans such as yourself. There was a newcomer into your family, of a race that you despise. To add injury to insult, they seem to care for him more, and they are beginning to shun you. That is what you feel, is it not?"
Malovus was stunned that this priest was able to understand this about him; it was as if the priest took apart his soul, read aloud his greatest fear and emotional agony, then put his soul back together in a slightly different way.
"How... did you know...?" Malovus asked, lost for words.
"I am a bit of a Seer. I can see the pain of others. It was a gift from Temeres himself."
There was a momentary silence between them, as Malovus was still to stunned for words.
"Listen to me. The pain you feel, it makes you stronger. One day, you will be strong enough to surpass your family and all that you meet, if you just relish in that agony in your soul. Pain is merely weakness leaving the body. Delve deeper into your pain, and soon you shall make greater strides than all else around you."
Malovus glanced back at Temeres for a moment, who was still preaching, and then turned to look at the wretched priest- only to find that he had mysteriously vanished.
"Ah, Ryou, Kagami, Amber." said the large, burly man running the candy store. "How are my favorite customers?"
After Amber had picked out her doll, she, Ryou, and Kagami headed over to the candy store to buy chocolate for Ryou. They had been there several times before, enough for the man running the store to remember their names.
"We're doing fine, thank you." Kagami said.
"I suppose you'll be wantin' the usual?" he asked.
"Yeah." Kagami responded.
The man reached behind the counter and pulled out a slab of dark chocolate.
After Ryou had paid, the three children sat down at a table. Ryou began to ravenously devour his chocolate.
Amber was playing with her new doll, looking at Ryou's chocolate every now and then.
Once Ryou finished, Kagami noticed that it was several minutes past the hour that Jason allowed them, so the three children left and began to head towards the fountain. When they arrived, they caught sight of the cloaked preacher and Malovus sitting a distance away.
Amber looks at the preacher. "Kagami... Who is that? I don't like him!"
"I don't know..." Kagami said.
"I don't like him either..." Ryou said. "Something about him scares me..."
"He IS scary," Kagami said quietly. "But Jason told us to wait here. I just hope he gets here soon."
"I'm here." Jason said, who was a short distance away, walking toward the children.
Amber turns towards Jason, her face clearing up immediately. "Jason! Can we leave now. There's a scary guy!" she says with a small voice.
Quite suddenly, Temeres himself appeared in front of the children, startling them; his scabbed hand reached out and snatched Ryou by the throat.
"Ryou!" Kagami cried out.
Ryou kicked and struggled. "Let... me... go..." he pleaded.
"What the hell..." Jason drew back his fist as if to punch Temeres; "...do you think you are doing?!"
Out of nowhere, a large weapon appeared in Temeres' hand; a five-bladed scythe that resembled a hand, which he used to swat Jason aside, leaving five long cuts across his arm, chest, and stomach.
"No!" Amber cries as she dashes forward, launching herself at Temeres with child-like innocence and stupidity.
"Amber, stay back!" Kagami cries, pulling the young girl away from Temeres.
"You, child..." Temeres said, addressing Ryou, "Are just full of potential! How delightful."
"Leave me alone!" Ryou cried, trying to pull himself out of Temeres' grasp.
Jason sprung at Temeres again; Temeres swung his scythe but Jason was ready for it; Jason managed to place both of his hands on the pole of Temeres' weapon, and was using all of his strength to wrest it from his grasp. Snarling, Temeres dropped Ryou, unveiled the golden sword that he used in his public demonstration earlier, and stabbed it at Jason, who lept to the side and was barely nicked by the blade. Yet despite the scratch, the new cut in Jason's side seemed to explode with blinding agony and he collapsed onto his knees.