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Man of Questions
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Science-Fiction, Science-Fantasy, Magical Girl, Mystery, Slice of Life,
First of all, I am sorry about any grammatical and phrasing errors you may encounter during this read. I have done my best to run through this piece of fiction and get rid of any errors it may possess, but I likely have missed some. If you do find anything that is incorrect in any way, please do say it, for I would like to improve whenever I can. Secondly, please try to enjoy this piece of literature that I have created. It will likely be a rather long story, for I have only covered a miniature part of the plot in this chapter. Updates will come as I write them.

But enough of all that. Without further ado, I present to you:

Twin Moons

Chapter one: An ordinary day
It is said that only a ridiculously thin line separates genius from madness, a line that makes it almost impossible to distinguish one from another. Under the course of history, this saying has been proven many times and in many different ages, but Dawn Faulkner just realised how true it was as she looked at the structure the centre of which she was standing in. It was obviously intended to be a work of art with its strange curves, distorted corridors, bizarrely decorated interior and large, open spaces that gave a beautiful overview of the building, but it failed miserably as a shopping centre. The layout of the corridors was, simply put, ridiculously complicated, which was further helped along by the confusing system of escalators and the curved walls that made seeing shops and other landmarks difficult. Sure, Dawn had been given a map when she had entered the shopping centre, but navigation was difficult even with its help.

However, Dawn was too stubborn to give up her search for the newest electronics store in the city, so she took a deep breath, then she looked at the map in her hands for the umpteenth time. On the map was a comprehensive depiction of the shopping centre, which included everything from exits to corridors, except the shops themselves, which would have made finding Dawn’s target much easier. So, in conclusion, the map was useless save for the fact that the teenager could use it to mark the sections that she had already investigated. Given the fact that it has been twenty minutes since she entered the building and she had yet to find the electronics store that she was looking for, that did not really help much either.

Sighing, the teenager with the long, red hair switched on her pen and crossed out yet another section of the shopping centre’s ground floor, then, after tightening her loose ponytail, she continued on her journey towards a section that she has not yet investigated, refusing to give up on her goal. Surely, she could have just left the shopping centre and gone to her usual place, but she could not bear to be defeated by such a failure of architectural design, let alone not buy the laptop she chose for herself as the replacement for her old one. She could not make it through university without it. Plus, she felt like giving up now would be the equivalent of wrestling a bear to the ground, then dying because of a mosquito bite; a completely humiliating defeat. Not that this helped with her frustration, but she could not bear losing after such a tough fight.

Luckily for Dawn and her sanity, she almost literally bumped into the electronics store in a matter of minutes, which, as expected from this chaos of a shopping centre, was located in a place where it was absolutely impossible to see it from the nearby hallways. To add insult to injury, the store did not have as large of a selection as it claimed to have on its website, but Dawn cared only for the feeling of victory that slowly spread across her body, which culminated in a smile that dominated her full, rounded cheeks. At the same time, a spark of joy was ignited in her sea blue eyes and immense relief spread all over her body along with a feeling of satisfaction. She felt like she had earned this victory by going through navigation hell and back, that now she had a right to buy the computer that she wanted, so without a second thought, she entered the shop.

After a disappointingly short amount of time, Dawn now had in her possession the laptop she came looking for, so the smile on her face became even wider than it was before. Her foul mood from before was gone along with her frustration, for victory was all that mattered, however, even though she was victorious in the end, she decided to make a vow to never come to this shopping centre again. Sure, all the shops that she had seen had some great offers, but it was not worth navigating for thirty minutes through a literal labyrinth to get what she wanted, so with her free hand, Dawn took out her mobile phone and put a note in about this shopping centre while she headed for the nearest exit.

Naturally, because she was not paying attention to where she was going, she ended up literally bumping into someone, which made her drop both the laptop case and her mobile phone. Dawn herself ended up landing on her left hand, almost dislocating her shoulder in the process of balancing herself, but the person she bumped into was not better off. The person Dawn collided with managed to actually land on her bottom, but unlike Dawn, she was not carrying any items, so she should have been paying attention to the now annoyed teenager. At first, Dawn was about to make an angry remark at her, but something caught her eye so she decided to take a look at her.

She was a teenager herself, someone whom Dawn instantly recognised because of her characteristic, long, raven black hair, not to mention the deep brown eyes that shone with intelligence, the rounded face, the small nose and the freckles spread across the cheeks. Her clothes were also characteristic as they were bright, almost white pieces of clothing that blended in with the floor of the shopping centre if it was not for the unique, black decoration in the centre of the t-shirt that depicted a dragon.

“Neli!” Gasped Dawn at the sight of her old friend. “I have not seen you for ages.”
“And in my opinion, you should be actually seeing the area around you instead of just looking,” commented Neli jokingly as she stood up while sweeping the dust off her clothes.
“You should have seen me,” said Dawn as he rolled her eyes, then she started collecting her stuff from the ground. “Pass my mobile here, I cannot reach that thing from over here,” said Dawn, to which Neli complied for some reason.
“So, aside from bumping into me with extreme prejudice, how have you been, Dawn?”
“Oh, you know, it is just the usual,” said Dawn dismissingly as she took her phone. “Trying to get a good laptop for university, because I do not think I could survive it otherwise.”
“I see you have successfully completed the mission,” said Neli, pointing to the laptop case.
“Yeah,” said Dawn as she stood up with the laptop case. “I bought it a few minutes ago. I hope that this little bump with you did not damage it.”
“That box is much more padded than to allow the laptop to be damaged by something trivial like this,” pointed out Neli as she straightened her white hairband, brushing a few strands of her out of her face. “Anyways, do you have some time to talk? I am ludicrously excited to see you, Dawn!” said Neli, leaping into a hug that she had been preparing for several seconds now. Dawn returned the hug gladly, which lasted just long enough to convey a sense of strong friendship. “And I am extremely curious as to what has happened to you in all the years we have not seen each other. Would you like to share stories?” asked Neli after she separated herself from Dawn.

For a second, Dawn looked as if she was in deep thought, but then, yet another smile spread across her face, which was accompanied by a nod.
“Yes to both questions. Just let me bring my laptop home,” said Dawn, pointing at the box, which she had secured under her arm.
“I will escort you home if that is the case,” said Neli.
“That is great,” said Dawn as she nodded once more. “So where should we go after that? I know a great place,” said Dawn as she started walking towards the nearest exit, with Neli not far behind her.
“Actually, I would be glad if we went to a place that I discovered recently,” said Neli.
“Why, what is wrong with the place I suggested?” asked Dawn, putting an unneeded emphasis on the I.
“I do not know what place you are trying to suggest, but I really would like you to see this restaurant,” said Neli with a hint of excitement in her voice. “It is ridiculously fantastic. The service is simply unimaginably good and the food could only be described as being beyond delicious. You really should give it a try.”
“Well, I obviously know my place better than you do yours,” said Dawn as the pace of her steps picked up.
“There is no need to get angry, Dawn,” said Neli as she matched Dawn’s pace. “I am merely making a suggestion; you need not to go along with it. But I really would like to go to that place. Are you sure there is no place for a compromise?”
“Sorry, but no. I do not want to go to unknown places,” said Dawn, effectively killing the conversation for several seconds, during which Neli fidgeted uncomfortably, trying to find a topic.

“I guess we will be heading to the place you suggested then,” said Neli as she blew the air out of her lungs, careful as to not to make a sigh. “So, anyways Dawn, how has it been?”
“Terrible,” said Dawn as she slowed down. “I have been looking for this laptop all over the place, yet I could only find it in this shopping centre. And then, I nearly got lost because of these idiots, who refuse to make a proper map of this… thing I could not call a building. It was absolutely horrible,” complained Dawn with increasing fury. “I was looking for the electronics store for about half an hour! Can you believe that? It is simply ridiculous. What do they think of me, that I am a living GPS?” asked Dawn furiously.
“I have to agree with you on that point,” said Neli. “This new shopping centre is a complete nightmare to navigate. I was trying to buy myself a new set of gloves for the coming winter, but I simply could not find the store that sold them. However, I did manage to run into you, which has made my day all the better.”
“Well, lucky you. That does not really help my frustration,” said Dawn irritably, then she changed topics all of a sudden. “So, have you heard anything about Aurora?”

At the mention of that name, Neli literally froze in place, as if her own blood had reached the temperature of absolute zero. Her feet grinded to a halt, her arms seemed as if they were suddenly set in concrete, her skin went pale as her blood vessels contracted and her heart almost skipped a beat. She just stood there, in one place, only for a fraction of a second, but that was enough for Dawn to notice the change in her, however, before Dawn could say anything, Neli spoke up.

“Dawn,” said Neli simply, the colour returning to her limbs.
“Yes, Neli?”
“You do know that it been six years now, right?” asked Neli slowly.
“Of course I do,” snapped Dawn.
“And,” said Neli, but she still refused to move, which made Dawn stop as well, “you do remember our agreement on the topic of Aurora, right?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Then why do you bring this topic up again and again, Dawn?” asked Neli, a hint of sadness and anger seeping into her voice as she let her emotions overflow. “I understand that she was very close to you, because I also held her very close to my heart. I know that you want to remember her, but please, if you do not let me forget her, I will never be able to sleep again, for I will be forced to relive those memories again and again.”
“She is still out there, Neli. I know it,” said Dawn, putting her hands in front of her body.
“No, she is not, Dawn!” This time, it was Neli’s turn to snap at her friend. “It has been six years since Aurora was kidnapped! What do you think, that she is protected by a force field of magical origin that protects her against harm? There exists no such thing, Dawn, but even if it did, it would have protected her against whatever took her six years ago. I am sorry, but…” started Neli, but Dawn interrupted her.
“But she is still alive, and I know it. She is my twin sister, and as such, she has to be alive.”
“Unfortunately, the universe does not work that way… I wish it did, though,” said Neli as she took a deep breath to calm herself down, then she took some seconds to organise her own thoughts.

“Look, Dawn, I am sorry for snapping at you like that, but you simply have to move on, and let me move on as well. Every time we have met, you have asked me this question, which always brings the good old times back, the good old times I am so desperately trying to forget, because simply remembering Aurora’s face is painful to me,” said Neli slowly. She was clearly fighting with her own emotions, her sorrow and anger, but Dawn simply looked through her as if she was not even there.
“That is you, Neli. You give up hope too easily,” stated Dawn coldly, which made Neli flinch.
“I am merely giving up hope when it is reasonable to do so,” replied Neli, her own words stabbing at her heart as if they were assassin knives coated with cyanide. “Aurora disappeared six years ago and there is simply no chance that she will come back to us once again,” repeated Neli to try and drive the point home while her body literally shook from the emotions contained within.
“She was kidnapped,” said Dawn matter-of-factly, as if she did not even notice the state her friend was in.
“According to what evidence? The hope which you cling to so dearly only comes from a nightmarish vision that is clearly a distorted version of the past, which neither of us remembers clearly,” said Neli as she shook her head. “Besides, even if she was alive, she surely would look different by now. Her kidnapper would not want her to be recognised, so he surely must have…” Neli’s voice trailed off at that last sentence. She did not even dare to think what would a kidnapper do with a young girl like Aurora; she knew that whatever fate had Dawn’s twin sister suffered, it was not a pretty one, nor one that should ever happen to anybody in the whole world. She shuddered at the thought, as she knew that it was not something she should be thinking about.

“She is my twin sister, Neli. I will recognise her even if she looks nothing like me,” said Dawn matter-of-factly.
“Unfortunately, that only happens in fairy tales, not in the reality that we inhabit, Dawn,” said Neli as she sighed, letting go of the tension in her body. “Listen, can we talk about something else now? I would really like to forget about Aurora…”
“I will not let you forget her,” said Dawn coldly. “She is my twin sister and your dear friend. How could you ever forget someone like that?”
“I am not disputing the fact that she was one of my best friends, but I have to move on with my life, Dawn, and so do you, despite what you seem to think. It is simply foolish to live in the past, because it is the future that we can mould. The past will never change once it has been set in stone,” said Dawn, then she started walking again, forcing her legs to move through sheer willpower. She was still unhealthily pale though, but she had to do something, for she already felt thousands of small needles stabbing themselves into her body, indicating that she could not stand this for much longer.
“Bah, you and your so-called wisdom,” said Dawn as she followed Neli, then she took the lead again. “I tell you that Aurora is still alive, and I will find her regardless of what you say.”
“And I tell you that we should drop this conversation before I do something that even I may regret,” said Neli with a mild amount of contempt in her voice. “I will respect your views if you respect mine. Let’s just never talk about this topic again.”
“No. You just give up too fast,” said Dawn, to which Neli offered absolutely no reply. The teenager in white clothes merely shut her lips tightly. A long silence fell upon the two friends, an uncomfortably long pause in conversation wrapped them up its wrinkles as if it was a carpet, gripping them tightly until they arrived at the house of Dawn.

“We are here,” said Dawn. “Would you like to come in, Neli?”
“Oh no, I would like not to bother your family, Dawn,” said Neli a bit coldly. “I will be waiting for you on the outside, though.”
“You do not have to be so shy.”
“I know, but this time, I would rather stay outside. Hearing your stories of the past few years will be more than worth the wait,” said Neli as a small, lifeless smile spread across her face.
“I insist that you come in,” said Dawn, but Neli merely shook her head. Dawn asked her once again, but Neli still refused to come in, so Dawn simply shrugged, then she went into her house.

“I am home,” said Dawn to nobody in particular, then, she ascended the staircase to her room, but found herself stopping in front of the room of Aurora. The conversation with Neli stirred up the memories in her once again, it awakened the blurry, nightmarish memories of that day, which have literally burned themselves into her mind and the mind of Neli. It was an event that could never be forgotten, but at the same time, it was one that could not be discussed anyone because of its nature, for not even the police believed the two young girls, even though their parents stood behind them fiercely. Instead, they merely took it as another disappearance case, which, of course, resulted in them losing track of Aurora along with the kidnapper that took her.

The signs of the intrusion remained in the room even today, six years after Dawn’s twin sister disappeared, for she thought that it would be disrespectful to do anything to the room and her family respected this decision. Only the window was fixed, but the glass shards were still lying on the floor, the walls of the room were still charred, the writing table in the corner was still split in two and the cupboards were still in splinters all over the place, reminding Dawn of her inability to protect what was important to her. However, as always, she managed to resist the impulse to look into the room again, continuing to her own door instead of giving in to her instincts despite their nearly irresistible suggestions. She just put the laptop case down in her room, then she descended the stairs, locked the doors and finally arrived back outside, where Neli was waiting for patiently.

“That was unusually long,” commented Neli, who now seemed to be much better off. The colour of her skin has returned, not to mention that she seemed much more calm than before, although it was a sickening kind of calamity, one that seemed simply artificial. There was also the fact that she was hiding something behind herself, too.
“You calmed down,” said Dawn, suspiciously eyeing her friend.
“Yes, I have, but I think we should get going. There is so much I would like to share with you,” said Neli with a hint of happiness in her voice, but somehow, she lacked the enthusiasm she had when she met Dawn. It was as if she was subdued by something.
“Sure. This way,” said Dawn, taking the lead. Neli followed her closely, but even though the two friends have intended to share the events that happened with them over the time they have not met, not a single word was exchanged during the journey. Eventually, though, Dawn got tired of the silence, so she decided to speak up, which was when she noticed a group of conspicuous-looking people in thick, black clothes.

“Hey, Neli… Who do you think those people are?” asked Dawn, inclining her head towards the group that she saw.
“I have absolutely no idea,” said Neli after a few seconds of silence. “However, they are definitely not from around here. Those weapons in their hands look like they use technology that does not belong here, and they do not look like any weapons I have seen,” said the teenager in white clothes, gesturing towards the machine guns in the hands of the group, which made it clear that they were soldier. Their uniform, though, was totally different from the one used by the local military, not to mention that their weapons looked nothing like the ones Dawn had seen in books or in real life. They had a sleek, comfortable-looking grip that transitioned into a barrel-shaped loading chamber, which then ended in a square-shaped barrel. Neli was right; they clearly did not belong here.

“Maybe they are from another Territory,” said Dawn.
“They are definitely from another Territory,” said Neli. “I have no idea what principles those weapons work on, but they are obviously not bullet-based. Also, if you look at the men closely, they are wearing some kind of armour, which would be impractical in combat from what I know,” pondered Neli. “I think we should stay away from them. They look rather dangerous, but also, I really want to speak with you,” said Neli as she crossed her arms in front of her body, desperation seeping into her voice.
“Nonsense. Just look at the woman in the centre of the group,” pointed Dawn at the woman in the centre of the soldiers ignoring the second half of the sentence. The woman was wearing nothing but dark blue coloured clothes, yet she was still discussing something with them without showing any signs of fear. She was also about half the size of the soldiers, not to mention that she had no weapon on herself, so she had no chance of defending herself from them.

“She is clearly a part of their group, Dawn. I do not think that it is a good idea to approach them.”
“And I think you are too much of a worry-wart. We will do no harm if we go a bit closer to listen to them.”
“You are right, but we will also not understand anything that they are talking about, as they are likely to use a language neither of us knows,” said Neli, then she sighed. “But I guess there is no harm in going closer, and as much as I hate to admit it, I am a bit curious about why these soldiers are here,” said Neli, not even trying to convince Dawn anymore.
“Good. Come on,” said Dawn, to which Neli simply shook her head and followed behind her. The teenager in white clothes no resigned to her fate, which was quite clear to her: as the only one who knew the language of the Trader City, she would be forced to become Dawn’s interpreter and her idea to catch up on the old times would be disregarded entirely. At least she could practice the language though, as she has not spoken in the tongue of the Trader City for quite a while now.

“Was denn, das Verschwinden? Meiner Meinung nach, es lohnt sich, das auszuforschen... Warten Sie mal, jemand kommt. Halten Sie das Plaudern und warten Sie auf meinen Befehl.” said the woman at the centre of the group, then she approached the two teenagers, who could not help but stare at her. She was a teenager herself, no older than them, yet her nut brown hair was tied up into a tight bun on her head, her deep brown eyes had a strange spark in them, but most importantly, it now became clear that she wore protective clothing. Solid, textile-textured armour plates with a dark blue colour protected the forearms, upper arms, chest, thighs and shins of the stranger, with a strange, unknown mesh in between them that seemed just as tough as the armour. However, on a closer inspection, the armour was simply ridiculously thin as it was only a few millimetres thicker than normal clothes, which was why it appeared to be plain clothing from a distance.

“Good day to you two,” said the stranger to Dawn and Neli in the language of the Trader City. Much to the surprise of Neli, she had absolutely no accent whatsoever, and the words flowed out of her mouth as if they were wanted to form a serene, clear mountain river. “I am sorry if I and my soldiers have disturbed you, but currently, we are discussing matters of outmost importance. Would you please consider not reporting us to the authorities while I make a decision concerning the topic?” asked the stranger, which made Neli pause for several uncomfortably long seconds before she could answer. She had never heard someone you the tongue of the Trader City with so much grace and eloquence.

“No, you are not disturbing us,” said Neli in her own, accented version of the language. “We were just wondering about you and your soldiers, so we have decided to take a look.”
“Oh, I see. I was afraid that I have caused a public disturbance and you were about to report me for that, but if that is the case, I am extremely relieved. It would have made a horrible impression if I was to break the law on my first day in this Territory,” said the stranger with a hint of relief in her voice. “Please do excuse me for being rude to you and not introducing myself, but you must understand that the assessment of the situation comes first, and being polite is only in the second place when operating in unknown Territories with unknown laws. Now, though, please do let me introduce myself: My name is Klara Hellewege and I would be the leader of these soldiers. May I have the pleasure of knowing your names?”
“I am Neli Ayers and she is Dawn Faulkner,” said Neli as she gestured towards Dawn. “And we are sorry to disturb your conversation. Have we interrupted anything important?”
“Hey, Neli, what is she saying?” asked Dawn with a puzzled look on her face.
“She introduced herself, Dawn,” said Neli as she switched back to her native tongue. “She is Klara Hellewege, and she is glad to meet us,” explained Neli, which earned both of them a stern glare from Klara.

“Is your friend incapable of understanding the language of the Trader City?” asked Klara.
“Yes, she is, unfortunately. In our Territory, learning the language of the Trader City is an extremely rare choice, because we rarely see their agents or their convoys,” said Neli with a slight irritation in her voice.
“I understand,” nodded Klara. “In that case, what are the languages that she speaks? I wish to include her in the conversation as well, for it is rude to converse about a person without their knowledge, as it is comparable to conversing behind their backs.”
“Are you familiar with the travoclef language? That is a tongue that we both speak fluently.”
“A bit,” said Klara in a heavily accented version of said language. “But I cannot say what I want.”
“Oh, that is great!” said Dawn excitedly, switching languages. “How many languages do you know?”
“I know six. Three of them… like water?” said Klara questioningly after a long pause. “No. That is not the right word.”
“You mean fluidly?” asked Neli, which made Klara think for a few long seconds, then she nodded.

“Yes. In this language, I cannot say what I want. It is strong… no, difficult,” said Klara while shaking her head. “But it is not okay to talk in another language that not everyone can understand. So, any trouble here?”
“What do you mean?” asked Dawn curiously.
“I want to… I need to…? No, not the right word,” wondered Klara as a dark cloud passed through her eyes, then, she promptly switched to the language of the Trader City. “I would like to ask you two if you know about any potential conflicts that I may investigate as a part of my mission here,” said Klara, earning a stare from Dawn.
“What did she say, Neli?” asked Dawn in her native tongue with a hint of irritation in her voice.
“She asked if there was anything she could investigate,” explained Neli, but before she could say anything, Dawn interrupted her.
“The case of my twin sister,” proclaimed Dawn in travoclef, which earned her a death glare from Neli, and a confused look from Klara.

“Your twin sister?” asked Klara switching back to travoclef, to which Dawn simply nodded. “What happened?”
“She disappeared six years ago in…”
“Dawn!” said Neli angrily, her fists shaking and her face pale. “Please do not talk about this,” said Neli in their native tongue, which left a confused look on the face of Klara, who had no idea what was going on.
“I talk about whatever I please,” said Dawn.
“Then please leave me out of the conversation. As I said earlier, I thought we had agreed that we would not talk about this anymore, but you still managed to bring it up,” said Neli as one of her hands crept up into her pocket.. “If you want to continue, please do it when I am out of earshot.”
“What is your problem with Aurora, anyway?” asked Dawn, but before Neli could reply, Klara literally stepped in between the two, interrupting the conversation.
“Do stop. Dawn, you bully Neli,” said Klara with her heavy accent. “And I meant bigger trouble, trouble between large enemies.”
“I am not bullying Neli!” protested Dawn.
“Yes you are,” said Neli as she took deep breaths to calm herself down, then she let go of whatever was in her pockets, and an uncomfortable, tense silence dominated the next few seconds.

“Nothing then,” said Klara dismissively, which was when a bullet ricocheted off her armour, then tore into Neli’s flesh.

I do not know if this chapter turned out the way I wanted it to go. At least I hope I learned something from my experiments, if nothing else. Comments and criticism is welcome, and as always, I await your grammatical corrections.

Chapter two: The overwhelming red

Far away from the ensuing fire-fight, kilometres away from the city and mental light-years away from the human mind, the walls had eyes. Unblinking, blood red gems littered every available surface, joined by frighteningly metallic, snow-white vines that sought to consume the rooms they were in. At the same time, these same vines were supporting the walls, preventing them from collapsing under the weight of the decaying roof. Out of these strange vines grew even more bizarre appendages. Some of them looked like limbs with more joints than they should have, while others appeared to be mechanical replicas of jaws, teeth, or muscles. Still others appeared as inconceivable things humans have no words for: spider webs made out of nothing but straight lines that somehow looped into themselves, two-point stars which had eighteen diagonals, or personified fears that seemed alive and dead at the same time.

The deeper one ventured into this strange structure, the more bizarre each of its aspects got. The vines slowly started to become smooth, yet their surfaces still remained rough. More and more eyes started appearing on the walls, but at the same time, they became fewer and fewer, blending into the background. The strange appendages started to form into even stranger shapes, some of them reminiscent of man-made machines, but they still had something completely alien to them. Even the air started to feel corrupt and compromised if one made it far enough, not to mention that everything seemed to swim in increasingly thick red fog.

But the most insane room in this once abandoned building was the one located in the centre. Surrounded by walls that were, lacking words that could describe them perfectly, simply blood white, it was a place where the laws of physics simply gave up. Smells started to become colours while colours became sounds and sounds became gut-wrenching smells that painted a landscape of death before anyone who dared to enter. As if that was not enough to make any sane man flee, the room was filled with strange equipment that seemed as if it was stolen from a horror movie: chairs with restraining bolts, an operating table with metallic ribs that could trap a subject perfectly, syringes scattered all over the ground, a table with a large variety of medical tools on it, all of them covered with blood stains. But most importantly, at the back of the room was some kind of strange, utterly alien device that cannot be described in human terms.

Thus, it should come as no surprise that all abandoned this room. Not even the one who moved all the equipment in there visited it anymore, for he knew there was nothing he could do against the disease that spread along the walls. With great regret, he abandoned it four years ago and even if it contained the work of his life, he did not dare to go back there. It was not because of the walls, not even because of the red air that seemed to taint everything. It was because he feared the creature that lurked inside there, he feared the illusions that came from there, he was afraid of the mirage that visited him from time to time.

Today was one of those times. In the white darkness that came from the shadow-consuming floodlights, a rift opened that twisted the Laws of the world around its finger. From the rift, emerged a red, half-transparent silhouette of a book, followed by the blood white shadow of a young woman, her figure shrouded in the mystery of the Laws. Her only feature that could be seen through this cloak was her remarkably long hair that reached all the way down to her ankles while slowly, gradually spreading out like a fan as it approached her feet. With the grace of a princess, the shadow took the silhouette of the book, then she closed the portal behind her with a gesture that had a thousand and one interpretations. Trusting her senses, the shadow started to wander through the maze of the hallways to find the master of the place.

She found him in the place she always did: hunched over his desk, focusing on his work so that he could shut her out of his mind. It was an ultimately pointless measure, but if it allowed him to have some piece of mind, she was willing to overlook it. After all, he was no longer human anymore. He would soon give in to her influence, and she had all the patience, not to mention all the time in the world. Even though he still considered himself human, even though he was still a man of average height with short black hair, impossibly dark, brown eyes and a bony, worn face that spoke of many sleepless nights, the truth of his left arm remained. Wider than his torso, with four, clearly visible spherical joints, fingers that ended in spikes instead of fingertips, the left arm of Ian Rovstahl looked as if it was made from white, rope-like, mechanical muscles that had no moving parts. Even worse, there was a cancerous, red growth on the inside of his left forearm, indicating that he did not have much time left.

For some strange reason, the shadow embraced Ian in what could be only described as a mother’s hug filled with the absolute cruelty of a vulture. Ian did not react to the shadow at all, seemingly absorbed in his work. However, as the embrace lasted longer and longer, Ian grew more and more uncomfortable. Eventually, he could not help but speak up, his voice shaking with a mixture of anger and fear.
“So here you are again, figment of my imagination,” he said, slowly turning around. The shadow withdrew her embrace. “I know you want to take my sanity away. But I will not let you. Not until I undo what I have done.”

As always, no answer came out of the shadow’s mouth. She merely opened the silhouette of the book at a random page, then started reading it out loud without moving her lips. Inaudible words escaped from an unmoving mouth, but Ian remained absolutely stoic in the face of such a strange sight. He merely stared into the non-existent eyes of the shadow with a scorn on his face, as if he was trying to intimidate her. But the shadow just ignored him and she continued to read on, turning page after page. Eventually, Ian had enough of the staring contest, so he resumed his work.

Or he would have resumed his work if his limbs obeyed him. His feet did refused to move as if they were frozen to the floor. His calves felt deathly cold as if all blood fled from them. His thighs were simply empty. His torso was cast in iron, then embedded in concrete, yet some unknown force kept him breathing. His right arm was an icicle when compared to his left, which was burning up with iron-melting heat. It was a miracle that Ian’s clothes have not caught fire, but right now, that was the least of the worries he had on his mind. No matter how desperately he tried to move, his own body responded with nothing but a mad, cackling laughter that froze every single nerve in his brain. No matter how much he wanted to break the prison that was his own body, the more willpower he exerted, the more his own muscles resisted him.

And if that was not enough, out of nowhere, a voice came out of his throat, a voice that said no words yet it said everything it needed to say. It was a voice that could shatter the Laws, a voice that caused causality to break down, a voice that simply did not exist in its existence.
“I hear your words, Book, and I hear your will, Princess,” said the voice as something made Ian bow before the shadow. “But it is not my time yet,” continued the voice, which made the shadow frown with disgust. However, she merely shrugged, then closed her book. After that, she made a deep, unusually respectful bow that did not suit her title and retreated to where she came from.

The next thing Ian knew is that he was in his bed, staring at the ceiling. His body still did not feel like his own, but at least he knew that everything that he has seen was just an illusion of the senses. During his stay, he has grown used to these visions, these nightmares that plagued every one of his days and if someone intended to torture him with them, he was failing at it badly. Even though the visions grew more real each time they have repeated themselves, Ian was already used to seeing them. He already knew that they were just a trick of his senses, as he had long collapsed the way towards his old laboratory. Nothing could make it out from there, and even someone busted through the wall, they would get lost in the maze of the corridors.

However, even if Ian knew that what he saw was a mere dream, he could not help but look at his arm to see if everything was in its usual place. He looked at all of his joints and he inspected every one of his muscles, but nothing was out of the ordinary as his right arm felt the skin it always felt. Even if his sight made Ian believe that his left arm was not normal, he knew that it was only an illusion. His instruments detected nothing. His own body felt ordinary. His assistant has made no comment. Therefore, it was just an illusion, exactly like the red fog that filled his room, the blood white walls with the red eyes on them and the strange growths that always changed between his visits.

If instruments could not detect it and if no other human could see it, then it was just the trick of his own senses, even if psychological tests or machines could not confirm that he was hallucinating. It was only an illusion even if his mind dared to believe his eyes. It was a mere mirage even if he was absolutely certain that he perceived reality, because only he observed these strange occurrences. Only from his perspective did the world look so twisted, so that was the only logical conclusion. After all, one could not trust a single observer to determine the fate of the universe, could they?

He chuckled at his foolish illusions and lifted the blanket from his body with his left arm, then he put on a new lab coat. He noted that he must have had the hallucination while he worked as he still had his work clothes on. Luna must have been the kind soul who dragged him into bed, but because she was so shy, she did not dare to take the lab coat off. Ian smiled at the thought of his shy assistant as he put on his shoes and made his way across the long corridors towards the lab. No doubt that Luna has been waiting for him since the start of the day, even though she knew that he would not wake up until the afternoon. That girl has always been simply too enthusiastic.

“Sir Ian!” said an excited voice behind Ian, which he immediately recognised as one belonging to Luna. “I was just about to wake you up. It is good to see that you are so well-rested, sir.”
“You should not let me slack off so easily, Luna,” said Ian as he turned around with a smile on his face. The only joy in his life besides joy was seeing his young assistant. At merely eighteen, young Luna was already as beautiful as a goddess: With her hair tied into a long, French braid and her azure blue eyes, she could probably get any man that she wanted. Even if her hair was dyed blood red, that did not detract from the divine beauty of her round face. She was also a prodigy as even though she joined Ian mere months ago, she already understood most of the professor’s theories and his need for secrecy. “So what do we have to do today?”
“It is the time for the Ritual again, sir,” said Luna, blushing. “I hope you will take good care of me, sir.”
“I always do. Do I have anything else scheduled for today? I know there is something important that I am forgetting.”
“Well sir, one of the corridors has collapsed. I do not know if it can be fixed this time, though… And I am really worried that the police will eventually find us, sir. Should we not move to another site, sir?”
“No. This is the perfect place for my research. I know that it is dangerous, but if we unlock the mystery of the George particle, it will be all worth it,” said Ian, to which Luna frowned.

“But sir, my family is missing me. Could I write a letter to them, sir? I promise I would not give away our position, sir!”
“You, of all people, know the best just how dangerous this is. If we fail, the results can be catastrophic. It is better for them not to know.”
“I know that, sir, but… I am very concerned about my mother, my father, and my sister. Please, sir, just let me write a letter to them so that they know I am all right,” pleaded Luna with Ian, but he shook his head.
“What if people recognise you on the street? They are bound to be looking for you and if they take you away, my research will come to a halt. You know that you are important to me,” said Ian with a hint of sorrow in his voice. He really wanted to let this young woman communicate his family, but that could be simply catastrophic for him. He could not let any information leak outside the confines of this building that concerned his research, for if the government got wind of what was happening here, he would surely be executed.

“So, are you ready for the Ritual, Luna?” asked Ian in an attempt to change topics. Luna just nodded with a bitter expression on her face to the question, then she followed Ian to the room where the Ritual always happened. To the casual onlooker, it was a normal room like any other: the walls were absolutely ordinary in their blood white appearance and the ever-alert, red eyes that were spread across them were also of the norm. Similarly, the air was filled to the brim with a red fog, as it should be. The only part of the room that was out of the ordinary was its roof, or more precisely, its lack of a roof, which was crucial to the Ritual.

But of course, the room only appeared ordinary to eyes that were not attentive. If one looked closely at the walls, they were made out of straight lines that curved around themselves, yet somehow still managed to prevent the structure from collapsing. Furthermore, if one touched the pieces of the roof on the ground, they would find that they did not exist. The debris were only there as a part of an illusion that covered the entire room, an illusion that wove a symbol across the walls, the floor and even the non-existent ceiling. What is more, this symbol seemed to be alive, with colourless, air-like blood in its veins, with a dead heart that was still pumping life through its incorporeal body.

Any ordinary mind would have been shattered into a million pieces by such a sight, but Luna and Ian were far from ordinary. They have had staring contests with this room’s invisible eyes a thousand times, so as such, they just moved into their usual positions. Luna moved into the centre of the room, while Ian touched the symbol that was not there with his left hand, and literally ripped a knife out of the nothing behind the void. With that knife, Ian started drawing symbols into the nothingness that was everything at once, tracing curves that spiralled and twisted around each other even though they were straighter than any line ever drawn by man. These lines were reflected in the non-existent ceiling and as they were being drawn by themselves even though they were erasing themselves from existence.

Paradoxes, contradictions, half-truths, half-lies, incomprehensible theories, irrefutable proofs and Laws merged into blood that gave life to the non-existent symbol that dominated the room with the illusion of its existence. Reality itself was torn apart by illusions, but at the same time, the cold sword of truth demolished the fragile fabric of deception. Ian and Luna could not help but stare at the results of their actions, as even if the Ritual always gave birth to something that could only be described insanity personified, but the effects were never so severe. It was always something small, such as a bug that they could easily destroy. Now, though, whatever they have created could shatter Laws… if only it existed for more than a mere moment.

The second Luna and Ian have stopped the Ritual, the thing that they accidentally created turned into a tiny star that could fit in one’s palm, then it promptly disappeared, leaving nothing behind as evidence. For a fraction of a second, every secret of reality unravelled itself, making its Laws known to the observers that were in the room, but sooner than the information could be processed, it was retracted. But perhaps that was for the better, as even what little Luna managed to see made her scream and faint on the spot. Ian was luckier as he was further away from the centre of the Ritual, but even he had a horrible headache run through his brain that threatened to burst his skull.

The scream of Luna, though, erased all pain from his mind as he rushed franticly to the young woman’s side with all his strength, not caring about how he might damage the grounds of the Ritual. He jumped over the illusions on the floor and avoided the invisible veins that kept the room together, but he did not pay attention to anything else. He ruined months’ worth of work under the course of just a few seconds, yet all that was on his mind is that he needed to tend to the well-being of Luna. Luna was his light. Luna was his hope. Luna was his shining star that he…

How did he meet her in the first place again? The question made his mind pause, and halted his body, but then he realised that it was not the time to be philosophical. It did not matter how the two of them met, because if he did not take care of her now, then she was as good as dead. With that thought in mind, Ian made it to the side of Luna, checked her body for injuries, then he grabbed her in a princess carry. He then sped through the once-abandoned warehouse’s confusing corridors, having already memorised the route back to his lab over the course of the months they have spent here.

With great haste, Ian put Luna down on his operating table and started examining her thoroughly. He was relieved to find that she did not suffer any injuries, but at the same time, he was worried about her mind. What if the event they saw during the ritual caused lasting mental damage to Luna? He could not forgive himself if that ever happened, because if it was one thing that he valued more than the companionship of Luna, it was her mind. Without her, he could not have made all those advances with the George Particles. He could not have prepared the Ritual that was the catalyst of his discoveries. He may even have lost his sanity if it were not for her and her ideas. If she were to lose all of those ideas, would he be ever capable of unlocking the secret of these strange particles?

As he asked himself that question, he heard the laugh of a young woman, a laugh that was very familiar from his dreams. It echoed across the endlessly complicated hallways of the once-abandoned structure, never losing its strength despite the uneven surfaces of the walls, or the huge distances it covered. It was a true laughter from the lips of one who enjoyed what they were seeing. But at the same time, it was also a chill-inducing laughter that froze the blood in Ian’s veins as it carried with it the end of life and the start of insanity. It was a laughter that belonged to a princess who grew into a cruel queen, a young woman who only ruled herself.

At first, Ian could ignore it, but the laughter grew louder and louder the more he tried to occupy himself. Eventually, he had to put his hands to his ears to lock the disturbing sound out, but that did not help at all. It was as if the voice came from inside his head, trying to drive him insane, so he started shaking his head in an attempt to clear his thoughts. That only made the laughter intensify to such strength that it drove him to smash his head against the wall in a vain attempt to get rid of the sound, but still, the laughter continued on, culminating in a whisper that seemed to shatter all reality.

“I am what you may not hope to comprehend,” said an all-too-familiar voice, and Ian’s world sunk into darkness.

I am sorry for the rather long break between updates, but life has been pretty busy for me lately. As always, comments and criticism are much appreciated and if anyone notices any grammatical errors, please do contact me about it!

Chapter three: Blue ice

“Neli!” shouted Dawn, but her voice did not reach her friend, who was forced to the ground by a soldier. Astonished at the sight, Dawn was about to explode on Klara, but suddenly, strong hands pushed her down and a knee was speared into her back, driving the air out of her lungs. The next second, bullets ricocheted off the soldier’s armour, one projectile embedding itself into the ground in front of Dawn. Only now did she realise the gravity of the situation: She was now in the middle of a battlefield, a slaughterhouse where people died because others willed so. A chill ran down her spine as fear gripped her heart. She literally felt her voice die as her blood froze in her veins from the terror.

“Quiet!” said Klara, her tone that of a commander who did not tolerate disobedience. Dawn was far too petrified to hear her voice, but she was also too frightened to be able to move or talk. Neli, on the other hand was hyperventilating and trying to escape from the hold of the soldier who was restraining her. Pain and panic was written all over her face as she tried her best to flee the scene. He was far too strong for her though, while Klara was too busy talking to her soldiers to notice either of the teenagers’ distress.

“Woher kommt der Schuss? Und warum haben Sie mir night gewarnt?” asked Klara from her soldiers as she clicked her helmet’s straps into place. Her harsh words full of strange consonants and hard sounds fell upon the petrified Dawn as if they were arrows. She was sure that she was going to die here.
“Ich habe nichts gesehen, Frau Hägel!” answered one of the soldiers.
“Ich habe Ihnen gesagt, halten sie die Auge offen!” said Klara in a clearly angry tone. “Jetzt helfen Sie mir, diese Fäulein in sicherheit zu bringen!” she said. In response, the soldier who pushed Dawn to the ground suddenly lifted her in a princess carry. The soldier who was restraining Neli followed suit, which only furthered Dawn’s panic. What were these soldiers going to do with them?
“Jawohl!” said the soldier as his subordinates formed a wall between them and the attackers to protect the two teenagers.

Bullets continued ricocheting off the armour of the infantrymen, but they did not return fire. After a glance from their commander, they just spread out and started running, confusing their attackers completely. Unfortunately for them, their attackers soon realised what their enemies were doing so they split into groups, each group chasing after a soldier. Soon, they caught up with the soldier who was carrying Dawn, their arrival marked by a rain of bullets, the noise made by the guns striking pure terror into the heart of the teenager.

She tried closing her eyes in an attempt to lock out her surroundings, but that only made her fear worse. The sound of the gunshots was even louder when she did not see the world, not to mention that with her eyes closed, she feared that they would be running headfirst into a wall at any second. She could not bear the feeling for more than a few seconds, so she opened her eyes and tried to face reality, but with every passing moment, she felt fear taking over her body. Where was Neli when she needed…

“Take me to Neli now!” shouted Dawn as she finally realised that she got separated from her best friend, but the soldier just looked at her with blank, confused eyes.
“Ich versethe nicht, Fräulein,” he answered, and Dawn felt her heart sink to unknown depths, however, she did not give up. Maybe if she tried a different language, he would understand and take her to Neli so she could re-unite with her friend or die together with her. She was not going to die here, alone and forgotten, so she repeated her order in travoclef. Of course, it was no use as the infantryman seemed to speak only his native tongue. Panic overtook Dawn at that moment and she started struggling in the grip of the soldier, but it was a futile fight. He was simply too strong for her to escape, yet regardless of that, she completely lost herself in the attempt.

She did not even notice when the soldier stopped. She only came to her senses when she was thrown into some alleyway, bruising her back and nearly fracturing her arm. Naturally, she looked up, only to see bullets ricocheting off the infantryman’s armour. Even from deep inside the alleyway, she could hear the shouts of the attackers, who simply could not believe their eyes.

“What the hell is that guy?” asked a voice, which seemed to carry enough authority with it to be the leader of the group.
“I have no idea, boss, but our weapons are useless.”
“Hey, I got an idea,” at that voice, a metallic-sounding clang echoed across the alleyway, frightening Dawn. Were they planning to beat the soldier up, then kill her with whatever that thing was?
“Do not be an idiot!” shouted the first voice, but it was too late. A grey-suited man rushed at the soldier with a huge pipe in his hands, but the soldier just stepped aside and punched him in the abdomen. The man in the grey suit was sent flying, blood escaping from his mouth as the fist crushed his insides. A big lump welled up in the throat of Dawn at the sight of blood as she realised that she just witnessed the ending of a human life. The ever-sharp, deadly blade was at her neck again, threatening to end her life right now, but she found that she could not stop watching the unfolding scene.

Without a word, the soldier removed his weapon from its holster, which, although it was supposed to be a pistol, looked more like a hand-wielded cannon with a barrel that was longer than its body. That is, if one could call four, long rectangles lined with small, barely visible spikes a barrel, but that fact took a backseat to the sheer terror that the pistol inspired. Clearly, it was a weapon that could tear through most types of protection, designed to pierce the kind of body armour Klara’s men wore. It was overkill to use it on even a light combat vehicle and against mere men, it would simply rip them apart.

“Oh shit. Ru-“ The sentence was left unfinished as the pistol was fired into the air, drowning out every single voice with a roar similar to that of a miniature thunder. A bright, blue lance was launched into the skies, illuminating the nearby streets with its cruel, blinding light. Dawn had to shut her eyes and cover her ears to give herself at some peace in the face of the impending slaughter, but nothing happened for several seconds. She was still very afraid, though so she dared to open her eyes only when the ringing of her ears stopped and she felt that she was ready to witness the aftermath..

However, instead of blood, guts and gore, only the soldier was standing in front of her, extending his left arm towards the teenagers as if he was trying to beckon her to the dance floor, or more likely, help her up.
“Kommen Sie mit mir, Fräulein. Sie sind in sicherheit mit mir,” said the infantryman in a quiet tone that was somewhat reassuring to Dawn, even though she could not understand the words. Realising that he was talking to her, she reluctantly took his hand, to which he lifted her in a princess carry once more and retreated along the street where they came from.

From there on, everything became a blur for Dawn. She could vaguely remember the sound of pistols being shot and more thunders that made her clutch her ears but her memories were a complete mess until she found herself lying on the ground as she was being examined by Klara. Her body hurt all over and her mind was still absolutely confused about the sequence of events that she went through, but at least now she could vaguely understand her situation. She must have been hurt along the way.

“It is okay,” said Klara. “You are good. It will be painful for a while, but you are good,” said the young woman as she disappeared from the sight of Dawn, who then sat up in a vain attempt to clear her head. She sat there for a few seconds as she tried to recall what happened in the past half an hour without much success, but there was one thing that she remembered for certain and that made her blood boil unlike anything she has ever experienced. The fury that welled up in her all of a sudden seemed to wash everything, even the haze away, leaving nothing but blind rage behind.

“You got Neli hurt!” shouted Dawn in travoclef as she stood up. “Who do you think you are? Take her to the hospital now!”
“I am sorry. I got you into trouble. Please let me handle her,” said Klara, but Dawn just shook her head. This woman was clearly out of her mind! Not only did she involve them in a fire-fight, but now she wanted to take Neli with herself? That simply did not make any sense whatsoever!

“No. She is going to the hospital,” said Dawn with a tone that surprised even her. She had no idea she could get that angry.
“No,” said Klara firmly. “My centre is better,” she said with unmistakeable authority, but Dawn would not back down from just that.
“She is safer in the hospital than with you.”
“No,” said Klara again, surprising Dawn with her stubbornness. “It was my trouble. It is my payment. My soldiers are good. My hospital is good,” she explained to Dawn, only making more furious. Neli belonged into a hospital, and after that, to a bed in her home, not in the place of a stranger who barely knew them. Dawn would not settle for that, even if that stranger was only trying to fix their mistake.

“You are not taking her anywhere, or I am calling the police,” said Dawn, playing her trump card, which made Klara pause, which was the reaction that Dawn expected. After all, Klara was trying to stay out of trouble with the local authorities, so if someone reported her for kidnapping, that would interfere with her goals. She could not let that happen, but still, it was her fault that the girl called Neli was injured. It was her fault that these two friends were pulled into an assassination attempt, which, as clumsy as it was, was directed towards her. But she just could not go around jeopardising her mission. Yet it was still her fault. She knew that she had to fix her mistakes.

How Klara would do that, however, was clearly beyond her. Dawn was determined to take Neli to the hospital of her choice or she would alert the authorities, while she wanted to fix the mistake that nearly cost two lives. Her principles would not allow otherwise, for what would be left of her if she failed her principles? Nothing but a young woman who could not keep her promises. Nothing but a failure who could not live up to the expectations of her people, because instead of protecting and serving them, she would only end up hurting and exploiting them. Then again, it was clearly the better option to let go of her principles for just this one time.

No. Principles existed to be kept, or else those who fight the monsters will become monsters themselves. Clearly, there was absolutely no way out of this situation, or at least Klara thought so. However, there were more dreadful problems that needed seeing to, as the very next second, Dawn started shouting at her in her own language, but even through her unknown words, her panic came across clearly. She was constantly pointing to Neli with a shaking hand, as if something happened to her friend.

“Please repeat that,” said Klara in her broken travoclef after Dawn stopped.
“I said Neli is colder than a piece of ice!” repeated Dawn in the same language, which made the colour drain from Klara’s face. She knew all too well what that meant, but that was clearly impossible. There was no way that this primitive Territory could use weapons based on BFPMUE. From what she has seen, their pistols did not even remotely look like they could handle BFPMUE, but then again, it was possible that they merely integrated BFPMUE into their bullets.

The realisation hit her like a truck, so without hesitation, she took her armoured gloves off and grabbed Neli by her neck. The teenager was indeed colder than she should have been, but at least there were no major complications yet. Klara has seen far worse cases, and even her limited hospital would be able to handle Neli’s condition. Worst-case scenario, she could just go back to her home even if it meant breaking the rules. However, as she liked to be sure about her business, she decided to ask Dawn about this Territory’s weapons.

“Dawn, do you know of BFPMUE?”
“What is BFPMUE? Speak my language!” said Dawn in a tone that walked the fine line between confusion and anger.
“Blue… atom?” asked Klara, unsure of what she should say. She did not know the term for BFPMUE in the travoclef language and explaining it in proper terms was simply beyond her vocabulary.
“You mean Divina hutulch?” asked Dawn and now it was Klara’s turn to be confused, but before she could ask what hutulch was, Dawn explained the term. “It is a blue hutulch that comes from water.”

While Klara was ashamed of displaying her confusion in front of a stranger, at least the information matched up with what she knew. Neli was clearly hit with primitive BFPMUE bullets, but if they were at such an early stage, then this Territory would likely not know enough of them to heal Neli. Therefore, Neli had to be taken to her headquarters, but how would she convince Dawn that this Territory could not heal her friend? There was definitely not enough time for long arguments as time was of the essence when dealing with BFPMUE contaminations. She had to come up with a way to convince Dawn quickly, upon which thought her eyes fell upon her pistol.

Without a second thought, Klara pulled the pistol out of its holster, toggled a switch on the side, aimed it towards Dawn, then she pulled the trigger, sending a pair of electrodes with flying towards the teenager. The next moment, thousands of volts crossed the thin, barely visible cable between the barrel of her gun and the electrodes, rendering Dawn unconscious. The teenager slumped to the ground without making a sound. As a result, Klara earned a disapproving glare from Heine, who immediately let his displeasure be known.

“A peaceful solution is always better, lady hail,” said Heine as he watched as Klara’s pistol reel the electrodes in.
“I know, but there was no other way,” said Klara. “Take both of them to HQ’s emergency ward,” she gestured towards her soldiers. “Heine, you are staying with me. I want to know who those people are,” she added, putting her gloves on again. Her Territory’s relationship with this Territory was completely neutral as not one of her people has visited this land before. Therefore, there should have been no reason for the forces of this Territory to attack her, yet they still did and she had to know why so she could eliminate the source of these attacks.

“The attackers have fled.”
“That does not mean I can let them be,” said Klara. “I need to find out what caused this mess.”
“Or rather, who caused this mess,” commented Heine, to which Klara gave him an angry look. “I just stated the obvious, lady hail.”
“I wish you followed orders instead of questioning them,” said Klara as she toggled a switch on her pistol and the rows of teeth on the inside lit up with a faint, sapphire blue light, while Heine took his rifle off from his back, but then he put it back into its place right away as he realised that he needed to set Klara’s priorities right once again.

“We should make sure the girls are okay first,” said Heine, earning himself yet another angry look from Klara, not that he cared about it. “You will not find the reason now. It will take days.”
“That is why I have to start looking for those people right now, Heine. If I lose any time, then the life of my associates and I will be in danger. I must eliminate the cause of this incident as soon as possible,” said Klara as she waved for Heine to follow her, but the soldier refused to even budge. He has seen far too many battles to accept these kinds of orders, he had too much experience to see Klara’s decision as the right one and he was far too important for her to order him around like that.

“Enough was done today, lady hail,” said Heine, which made Klara stop dead in her tracks. “You cannot catch those men.”
“What are you talking about, Heine? Are you telling me to abandon my principles for the sake of two teenage girls? That is simply insanity,” said Klara as she turned back towards her disobedient subordinate. She really did not like where this was going as she felt that she had to catch the attackers right now. The two teenagers could survive while she was away.
“No. You should give up on the hopeless. The men fled long ago. There is no trail to find,” explained Heine to Klara. At that answer, Klara stared at Heine for a few, overly long seconds as she tried to find a reason to chase after her attackers, but she found none.

“You are right as always, Heine. I really should have used my brain first,” said Klara in a sour tone as she toggled the switch on her pistol and put it back into its holster. “Not to mention that I will need much better weapons if I am to lead a searching operation. Let us go back to the headquarters, Heine.”
“Understood, lady hail,” said Heine with a huge grin. “I am glad you see it that way.”
“I still have a lot to learn, Heine,” said Klara as an afterthought, then she followed Heine back to headquarters.

The huge truck that served as Klara’s headquarters was parked quite far away from where the chase had ended, but for the young woman and her chief soldier, it took less than an hour to arrive there. As always, there was a crowd of people staring at the simply gigantic vehicle. Indeed, a truck with five segments, four of which was longer than twenty metres and were interconnected by flexible passageways, was a rare sight, not to mention that the vehicle was almost five metres wide and ten metres tall. It was certainly an imposing sight with its sharp yet gentle angles that somehow shaped the machine into an aerodynamic construct. The most interesting fact for the crowd who looked at it, though, must have been its lack of physical suspension as a truck of this weight class could literally crack concrete if its weight was not spread well. As a result, the designers of the vehicle integrated low-maintenance BFPMUE hoverplates into the bottom of the truck to save themselves and the mechanics some time.

Klara and Heine were used to the sight, though, so after making their way through the small crowd of people that gathered around the vehicle, Heine climbed up into the driver’s seat while Klara went straight to the medical section of the truck to check on the teenagers. It turned out that the situation was worse than she anticipated as while the surgeons could remove the bullet from Neli without incident, it seemed like the BFPMUE rather liked her presence and she was losing body heat constantly. At this rate, Klara was told, the teenager would die in just a few hours unless she managed to find a way to exorcise the BFPMUE from her system. On the more fortunate side of the coin, though, Dawn was all right, although she was understandably angry at being shot with a Taser. Unfortunately, Klara needed her assistance so she could help Neli. There was no way she could avoid that confrontation, so she braced herself and went to the room Dawn was being held in.

“Good day,” said Klara as she entered the room Dawn was being kept in. She was met by a glare that could splice a diamond into atoms, melt even the strongest ceramics and simply end a human being without leaving as much as a pool of blood behind.
“There you are,” said Dawn furiously. “What were you thinking?”
“I am sorry. I did not know what to do,” admitted Klara as she tried to find the right words. “You know Divina atom, right?”
“Divina has nothing to do with this!” snapped Dawn. “I just want to know why you brought me and my friend here. She has to go to a hospital instead of being treated in a place like this,” she said, her eyes trying to drill their way into Klara’s soul. Unfortunately for her, though, the young woman was far too used to stares like that so she was not even a bit distracted by it.
“She dies if she goes to a hospital,” said Klara. Dawn simply glared at her at that, but then she realised that she was getting too angry to argue with Klara comprehensively, so she took a few breaths to calm herself down.

“What do you mean she dies?” asked Dawn, who was much calmer now, but she was still clearly angry. Klara could really not fault her for that, nor could she do anything to calm her down. Explaining the properties of BFPMUE were beyond her limited travoclef vocabulary, not to mention that it would take too much time, which she did not have. She needed to find out if there was a sea nearby quickly, as every minute she spent here was a minute that she could use to save Neli. Still, she knew that Dawn would not give her assistance unless she was calmed down.

“I cannot use the good words,” said Klara. “It is too difficult to tell.”
“Well then I might just have to call the police and tell them what a good host you are.”
“No. I can try, but you will not understand.”
“You never know. But that explanation better be perfect unless you want me to end your little trip into this Territory!”
“Yes,” said Klara as she gathered her thoughts, trying to recall how her father explained the BFPMUE to her when she was still young and did not understand the technical terms she used so frequently now, only to realise that she did not know word like “energy” or “absorb” in travoclef. That meant that she had to put together an even simpler explanation, one that used only basic words.

Finally, after what seemed to an eternity to her, she finally managed to come up with something that shed light to the most important properties of the particles.
“Okay. I think I have it,” said Klara as she went over everything once more. “Divina drain without end. They drain hot, cool, electronic, everything and put it away. They are not trouble usually, but when put into metal, they become trouble. They stay away from humans, but not in metal. From metal, Divina get into blood and drain.”
“What? I did not understand any of that,” said Dawn as she stared at Klara in confusion. “Why would they change when they come in contact with metal?”
“Divina do not change. Divina just get into blood and drain hot,” said Klara, which was when the realisation hit Dawn like a truck. Klara was saying that when the particles were infused into metal, they got into the bloodstream and drained body heat!

“No way,” said Dawn with a look of utter disbelief on her face. “So you are saying that Neli will freeze because Divina hutulch got into her blood? Why do we not know about this?”
“They do not know the way to get better,” said Klara, referring to the government of Dawn’s Territory. “I know how to get better. I can help Neli,” she continued, stepping closer to the bed of Dawn, who still could not believe what she was hearing.
“Are you sure?”
“Yes. I can help Neli,” repeated Klara as she grabbed a nearby chair and sat down. “But I need your help.”
“Why would you need my help?” asked Dawn, who was even more confused now. “Better yet, you can barely understand me, so how could I help you?”
“Understanding is easier than saying,” said Klara. “I must find salt water close.”
“There are no seas nearby if that is what you mean,” said Dawn and Klara felt her heart sink to unknowable depths. How was she supposed to exorcise the BFPMUE from Neli’s system if she did not have access to seawater? The teenager would survive only for a day at best, and at worst, she had only hours. It did not matter if Klara had brought with her the greatest doctors from home, without seawater, not even they could do anything against the BFPMUE.

“How far is close salt water?” asked Klara, clinging to a last shred of hope. Maybe if the sea was close enough, she could just move her headquarters there instead of bringing seawater back to her headquarters.
“It is four hours by Shinkansen,” sighed Dawn. “But I guess that is too far away,” she said, resigning herself to her fate. It would take at least a day to cross such a distance with an ordinary vehicle.
“What is Shinkansen?”
“It is a very fast train that goes at three hundred kilometres an hour,” explained Dawn, to which Klara’s face lit up inexplicably.
“Good. We will be there in two hours,” she said as she tapped at something on her wrist. “What is the name?”

I apologise for taking this long with this chapter, but university life and the fact that this chapter was not exactly planned got in the way. Halfway through, I stumbled into a severe block that I could not get over for a long time. I feel like I also had trouble with representing a certain character's mindset in this chapter and I am not satisfied with the ending paragraphs at all, which really could use a stronger impact and some re-writing. But alas, I have dragged this on for long enough, so without further ado, I present to you the fourth chapter of Twin Moons.

Chapter four: Of nightmares and mercenaries
The plains outside the city have been home to many strange events, yet not one of them were quite as strange as the battle which was taking place right now. While in the past, whole armies have marched across this land, bringing with them incomprehensible destruction, this battle was only between two monsters. One of them was supposedly human, yet its body was coated in thick, sapphire blue steel that flowed like water. The other was not even trying to be human, instead, it seemed to be content with being an existence which conflicted with most logical concepts. Both of them were frightening in their own right, but because of different reasons.

The beast which seemed human was frightening because its thick yet graceful armour was clearly made with technologies beyond human comprehension. It was terrifying because the line which divided its metal shell into two halves did not even attempt to smooth the transition between the two radically different shores of the river-like metal. On the left shore was a masterful, golden forgery that depicted the birth of a creature, the life cycle of a being which journeyed through four stages of life in seven steps. In contrast to that, the right shore was dominated by a shallow engraving that told a twisted fairy tale, in which the heroic princess ended up becoming just as much of a monster as the villain. Between these two shores flowed the form of the beast itself, with the unusually long face and the dark blonde hair of a human, but with the sapphire blue stare of a fanatic.

The beast which was determined not be human was frightening because it could not be likened to anything, yet it was clearly recognisable as an animal. Which animal it was, though, was open to interpretation as despite the creature having four legs, they were too thick to belong any known species. What is more, the body of the strange creature was composed of nothing but a blob of blood white flesh that grew as it pleased without rhyme or reason. It had no arms, nor fingers, nor any other appendages besides its legs, but it did not need one, for the world around it bent to its whim. As if that was not enough for this strange creature, its body was made out of rope-like muscles that held in them the power to end any being that it might come across.

Whichever of these abominations would win this battle, humanity would surely lose. In fact, it could be said that regardless of the outcome, all sapient life would be worse off, because there was nothing to be won when two of the Incomprehensible met. After all, everything that was Incomprehensible was doomed to remain so forever, even if it met another one of its kind, even if it absorbed another one of its kind. One could only hope that such a thing would not happen in this abandoned place, because it would surely spell doom for the nearby city along with its inhabitants. Then the creature which resulted from the unholy union of two Incomprehensible beings would grow until it consumed the entire Territory, turning it into an indescribable nightmare. But perhaps such a thing would take pity on the primitive humans, so it would change them to make them become like itself.

However, appearances meant nothing on the plains of this world as the armoured beast just proved, for it uttered human words that the Incomprehensible would not be able to understand, let alone pronounce.

“The Known shall end the Unknown!” The mantra of an ancient, almost dead religion echoed across the empty plains, making the inhuman beast tremble. “I am a soldier of the Comprehensible, a life dedicated to serve the three in thirteen!” continued the man covered in armour as he charged at the creature in front of him, slamming into it with a force that could have toppled skyscrapers. At the moment of the impact, a massive wave of heat and electricity swept over the nearby terrain. The air was ionised rapidly, creating artificial lightning which arced from the armoured man to the Incomprehensible beast, frying the muscles of the monster. As if that was not enough, the heat of a newly born star surged through the body of the being, evaporating most of its flesh, but sparing its nerve centres so it could cause as much pain as possible.

The beast screamed, or more accurately, let out a madness-inducing sound that was the equivalent of a human scream in the creature’s tongue. Normally, this scream would have made the humans around it faint or run away in terror, but the fanatic in front of the thing was different as he had endured this wail over a thousand times. He had faced such abominations before and had stared down ones that were superior to it in every way. He had survived witnessing the birth of something that nobody was ever meant to see. He has retained his sanity through every encounter he had with the Incomprehensible despite the madness which always threatened his mind. To put it simply, he had defied every single law the beast facing him operated on, and upon this realisation, terror, or at least an emotion which was its equivalent to terror, overtook the form of the creature.

Naturally, its first conclusion was to flee from such an illogical human, but the warrior grabbed its body with surprising strength, crushing its non-existent bones. Once again, the monster screamed and tried to escape the grip of the one who filled its heart with an emotion that it never felt, but whoever its opponent was, his grip was just too strong. Upon realising that, the beast attempted to engulf its enemy by making its body flow around him, but the moment one of its amorphous tendrils crawled up the arm of the man, the creature was sent flying to the right, an angle that was impossible considering that its opponent had charged it from the front. Furthermore, the monster knew that its mass was too great to be even slightly affected by something like a human colliding with it. Therefore, the beast reacted with absolute confusion, or at least the emotion that roughly mirrored the one humans called confusion, to which the fanatic responded with a cold, piercing glare that could shatter even this strange creation’s soul if it had one.

“I am a soldier of the Realities, a soul honed to perceive everything as it is meant to be seen!” shouted the man, continuing his mantra as he slammed his fists together, creating a sonic boom which toppled the beast. Such a loud sound should have ruptured his eardrums or the sudden change in pressure should have cracked his skull like a nut, but the warrior seemed to be unaffected by the wave of air. In fact, before the monster even had a chance to regain its footing, the man had already jumped onto it, smashing his leg into the body of the creature with such a great force that the beast literally split open. Realising that its opponent was more than it could handle, the monster tried to flee, but something which felt like gravity shackled its limbs, keeping it connected to the fanatic, whose mere words seem to shatter the world this creature built around itself.

“I am a soldier of the Known, one who swore an oath to remain as they are so that all may understand them!” shouted the man again, adding yet another strange sentence to his proclamation. By now, he was completely overcome by religious ecstasy. His face seemed to be blank and devoid of emotion, yet the strength of his armour-piercing gaze remained. His limbs looked limp, however, they now contained within them energy that could split the Earth in half. Meanwhile, his body assumed a well-practiced stance that was absolutely illogical from a combat standpoint: three of the fanatic’s fingers were pressed to the body of his enemy in a way that all of his weight rested on his hand, pinning the creature to the ground. Had his opponent been a skilled fighter, they could have easily knocked him off-balance regardless of his weight, but alas, the monster in his hands did not know of things like martial arts. It only knew of the end which approached it in the form of infinite heat, slowly boiling it from the inside out as a new sun was born in the palm of the religious fanatic. It only knew of the pain that came with evaporating muscles and of the silent scream that was not even a whimper, because the slowly disappearing sun sublimated its non-existent vocal chords, the death of a life-giving star paralleling the cessation of an Incomprehensible being.

“This unit acknowledges the value of religious beliefs and rituals,” said a synthetized, emotionless voice as the last bits of the creature disappeared into thin air. “However. This unit expresses the need to eliminate the next target. Failure to comply with the elimination of the targets is highly likely to result in complete contamination. This unit reminds its possessor that the elimination of the being known as Lurking Iron Ground is necessary to the continued survival of this Territory,” explained the voice which came from the armour, shattering the religious ecstasy of the man into tiny pieces. For a second, uncontained fury flashed through the face of the man, but he managed to contain his anger right away, preparing to scold his weapon of war for the umpteenth time since they have been together.

“I know, Seadivider,” said the man as he stood up, his voice cold and harsh despite the fact his companion was not able to understand his tone.
“If that statement is true. Then this unit repeats the fact that the elimination of the Lurking Iron Ground-“ started the voice, but suddenly, the man smashed his armoured suit against the ground, causing the voice to stop.
“Never mention the name of the Unknown more than once,” said the man as he looked at the machine with a scorn that could split a diamond in half. Of course, the machine could not interpret how the eyes of the fanatic moved, and as such, it replied with the response it thought was the most fitting for the situation.
“This unit is capable of expressing itself only in terms which have been programmed into the dictionary it possesses. Therefore. This unit should not be on the receiving end of actions. Which could cause damage to the unit,” said Seadivider calmly, as if it was not even smashed to the ground. After all, the machine was designed for combat, so its creators did not give it emotions which only impeded performance in battle.

“I know, Seadivider,” said the man coldly as he stood up again, scanning his surroundings for potential enemies. When his eternal companion, the relic known as Seadivider did not respond to his statement and he did not see any signs of trouble on the horizon, he decided to ask a question of it. “Is there any Unknown nearby?”
“Negative. This unit is not able to detect any abnormalities in the electromagnetic spectrum. This unit is not able to detect the location of the Lurking Iron Ground,” responded the machine, which made the fanatic stare at the thick combat armour. He was sure that the Unknown was nearby as he felt the ruthless, paradoxical hand of those whose names he did not dare to pronounce because his faith told him not to, yet this machine could not find it. Once again, he was disappointed in his companion as his beliefs would not allow to let the Unknown reign free, especially not because he had been granted the title of Crosstearer, one who was in charge of exterminating the Unknown.

“Analyse the area for signs of the Known and Unknown,” said the warrior with a cold fury in his voice as he took in the nearby city. He would find a trail to follow even if it cost him his life, because not destroying the Unknown which lurked in this Territory would be the same as betraying his faith.
“This unit is unable to confirm the presence of Sarkon particles. However. The density of Sirkin particles is significantly higher than the accepted standard for this Territory. This unit requests to be linked up to the nearest TCT in order to acquire more information,” responded Seadivider after a second of pause, to which Crosstearer gritted his teeth. That meant he was late, for the overwhelming red has already started claiming this Territory and had eliminated the faithful servants of the Known.

“What is the concentration of the blood petals?” he asked with religious hatred in his voice, a scowl forming on his face.
“The density of Sirkin Particles in this area is 4729 particles per cubic akar,” said Seadivider, which almost made the fanatic lose his mind, and even through the thick armour of the machine, he could be seen trembling as he tried to contain his anger. He clenched his hands so hard that the plates of Seadivider actually started bending even as he tried to fight the tidal waves of rage which washed though him, setting his nerve endings on fire. From his birth, these four abominable numbers were etched into his soul as the embodiments of the highest Unknown, the greatest enemy of humanity. Every day, he was taught to reject these numbers with all his might, for they meant the seven-in four and the seven-point star made out of four straight lines, a step beyond what was considered perfection by the Unknown. Their only remedying fact was that they were three, but that was only a deception so that the sapient mind would fall into the trap of an existence which can never be Known.

If the numbers had been just four and seven, Crosstearer would have been fine, however, the twenty-nine which was added after them could not be forgiven. After all, twenty-nine meant that the despot, the tyrant, the dictator who masqueraded as an innocent princess was not far away from here, as it was her number. Combined with the other two monstrous numbers, it meant that she had been here for a long time, long enough that she had already started to paint this Territory blood white, slowly corrupting it with the overwhelming red. The fact that there were no Sarkon particles in this area, which were the servants of the Known, also supported this. After all, any faithful servant of the Known fought until the bitter end. It had to be that way, or else everything would have fallen to the Unknown a long time ago and the world would have succumbed to chaos under the rule of such strange concepts.

“Are there any people who support the Known here?” asked the owner of Seadivider, as he fought with the torrent of his emotions using firestorms of logic. So far, emotions seemed to be winning the battle, extinguishing the fires, but he did not give up.
“This unit does not have access to the databases of this city. As such it is unable to answer the question. Should this unit access then publicly available databases?”
“Yes,” said Crosstearer coolly as he started taking deep breaths in a way attempt to control his emotions. It seemed to work to a limited extent, because he finally managed to open his palms, but his mind was still filled with righteous rage against the numbers he had heard earlier.

“Acknowledged,” responded Seadivider after a slight pause. “This unit reports that in an area known as Tesla Square to the locals. A machine was sighted which matches the description of Glacier. The machine departed approximately three hours ago. No other possible sympathisers have been detected,” at that, the eyes of the fanatic narrowed, forgetting the fury that nearly overcame him just a few seconds ago. Why would icerain leave this city if they knew that it was in danger? The last time Crosstearer’s religion came across icerain, they had made an agreement that they would support each other in the presence of blood petals, but icerain seemed to have fled the scene on the first sign of trouble. That is, the man realised, if they knew that the blood petals had started polluting the area. It was entirely possible that they had no means of detecting the overwhelming red, because even Seadivider failed at this task occasionally despite the fact it was designed for this purpose.

“Is there a mercenary centre in the city?” asked the man after a long pause. He had trouble deciding what to do, because he knew that if this Territory was corrupted by the warped girl, he had no chance of victory alone. He would need at least several dozen people if he was to take on her, but the harsh truth of the matter was that against her, not even a whole army would be enough. Even if he managed to acquire the support of icerain, he was sure that the only thing they would manage to do is to chase her away, only for her to return a few years later. She was never one to give up on her plans, after all.

“Yes. Should this unit provide directions to the mercenary centre?” asked Seadivider.
“Yes,” said the warrior, who had already started making his way into the city when the armour answered his question, because against the Unknown, every moment mattered. If it was left unchecked for just a bit longer than it should have been, it could transform from a minor presence into a beast which warped reality, or an abomination which obeyed nothing but its own twisted logic. If such a thing happened, then all hope would be lost, for the monster who masqueraded as a princess would not be far behind the self-serving creatures. And if she arrived first, just like now, then the situation was dire indeed, because she saw potential in this area.

Crosstearer knew very well what that meant, as he had faced her before countless times, even if he had not confronted her directly so far. For humans, her attention was nothing short of a death sentence, or if one was especially unlucky, madness which forced them to serve the Unknown. For humans, the only hope against her was to remain Known, but even then, she sometimes set her eyes on people based on some inane criteria. So when she had already taken interest to something, the only solution was to exorcise her taint, eliminate those whom she was fixated on, then burn everything to the ground. It was a merciless job, but the fanatic knew it had to be done, or else the Unknown would spread further.

Therefore, his course of action was clear. If icerain returned to the city, he would team up with them and their soldiers, then perform his task regardless of the odds stacked against him. Until then, he would post a job advertisement for mercenaries, obscuring his true purpose from them and purge the Unknown from this land with their help. The only issue with the latter plan was that he had nowhere near enough money to hire a whole army of mercenaries, but for a servant of the Known to give up without trying was a disgrace like no other. To them, to not fight back against the Unknown was the same as surrendering themselves to it, even if their minds remained unaffected by its soul-warping presence. To them, a missed opportunity was the greatest failure they could ever experience, because they had to make use of every opening. To them, giving up before they even started was the same as betraying their oath, because their hated enemy would take advantage of their momentary weakness.

With these thoughts, Crosstearer made his way into the city, not even stopping at the commotion he seemed to cause. Every single person he passed by had their eyes fixed on him as if he was an exotic animal, and if they got too close to him, they simply fled from his path rather than risking confrontation with him. It was most likely because the huge combat armour he wore marked him as one who was best avoided as it spoke volumes about with his combat skill, not to mention that it made him seem much larger than he was. His piercing gaze did not really help his case either, as anybody who dared to meet his eyes felt as if they were stripped from limb to limb, then dismissed as people who were unable to threaten a warrior of his calibre. Even his posture was unnerving to people as it carried supreme confidence which came from his own religious beliefs as they demanded an absolute sense of purpose so that its members would not be lured by the Unknown’s promises.

But regardless of everything, the man just went on as if he saw nothing, because he was already used to these fearful stares which seemed to accompany him everywhere he went. He also disregarded the creaking of the pavement which almost cracked under the weight of his suit of armour, because he knew that no matter which city he was in, they would not risk confrontation with a mercenary like him. He was considered far too dangerous to be engaged with a conventional military because Seadivider could bend the world around itself like the Unknown did, with the only difference being that the relic was under his control. It was not roaming around, turning people into mindless abominations or purging entire Territories because they did not obey the Unknown. These facts made Seadivider into a Known entity, something which could be used to fight against the arch enemy of his religion, something which could be controlled. But the city did not need to know that.

The city only needed to know that when a mercenary entered the local mercenary centre, they were to be attended to immediately or else the more ill-tempered ones would turn the settlement into dust. As such, when Crosstearer entered the small, almost empty building, a young man rushed to his side immediately, then opened his eyes wide with realisation as he recognised him from.
“Crosstearer!” he said in the language of the Trader City as he stared at the huge armour the fanatic wore. “I never thought that I would meet you again.”
“Me neither, Relós,” said Crosstearer in the same language as he looked at his old friend, Relós. A young man in his early twenties, the remarkably short, bald man gave the impression that he could be snapped in half at any moment. He seemed frail, fragile and useless so most people just dismissed him, but if one were to look into his piercingly silver eyes, they would realise that Relós was a fighter. Even though he looked like a corpse at times, the man with the extraordinarily bony face was not one to be dismissed, but he was also not one who could do too much physically. As a result, even if he had fire in his eyes and devotion in his soul, Crosstearer did not introduce him to the traditions of the Known, because he knew that Relós could only die against the Unknown.

“What brings you into this Territory?” asked Relós as he extended his hand towards Crosstearer, who squeezed it as gently as he could, but even then, the fanatic could see the frail man wince at the pressure.
“I have business,” said Crosstearer. “I want to set up an advertisement for mercenaries. I want to know where icerain is, too.”
“I can help you with both,” smiled the young man. “Though I admit, there is not too much information about Klara Hellewege. She only registered a permanent spot for Glacier at Tesla Square and requested the government to provide her with a copy of the local laws,” he said as he lead Crosstearer to a nearby terminal.
“Do you know where she took off to?” asked Crosstearer, which took Relós by surprise.

“You want to contact icerain, do you not?” asked the young man. Crosstearer only nodded at that. “That is going to be very difficult, if not impossible. She went off the sensor grid almost as soon as she blasted off with Glacier, so I can only tell you her general direction,” he said and he looked at Crosstearer as he was asking for the fanatic’s permission.
“What about other cities?”
“Glacier was supposedly seen near Edisontown, at the Sapphire Sea, but their sensor grid cannot be trusted. The last time it slighted Glacier, it turned out to be a self-aware relic named Lifemillstone,” shuddered Relós as he remembered the incident. “The city attempted to contact it but it was hostile. Only I and a few others got out alive.”

“This unit believes that travelling to the Sapphire Sea is a logical choice when the preceding events are taken into account,” spoke Seadivider, ruthlessly stamping on the pain of Relós as he was not allowed to truly reflect on what had happened. “Should this unit elaborate upon the opinion of this unit?”
“Yes,” said Relós, hoping to get an explanation of Klara Hellewege’s actions.
“No,” said Crosstearer at the same time, shooting down the frail man’s hopes immediately. “After I set up the advertisement, give me directions to the Sapphire Sea.”
“Travelling to the Sapphire Sea takes several hours,” pointed out Relós as he set the terminal up. “Icerain only stayed here for a little more than two hours. She could have moved on by the time you arrive in Edisontown… Now, what will the advertisement be about?” he asked, pretending that the previous moment never happened. He knew Crosstearer too well to get stuck on small things like the fanatic denying him information. Besides, he had his own hypothesis about why Klara Hellewege would go there, but there was no need for his friend to know that.

“I am looking for mercenaries,” said Crosstearer and Relós’ fingers stopped on the keyboard as he contemplated the implications of that.
“A mercenary seeking mercenaries…” he said silently. “What kind of trouble have you got yourself into again, Crosstearer? I swear that if I have to pull data-manipulating magic and risk my job over you again like last time, I will do something that even I will regret.”
“It does not concern you. Tell the mercenaries that details will be revealed if they talk to me. I will remain in the city. The information was useful,” said Crosstearer as he opened a small, barely visible compartment on Seadivider and took out of it one coin, which he passed to Relós. Relós took the coin into his hands and when he saw what was inscribed on it, his eyes widened and it took all of his willpower not to faint on the spot.

“Ten Standard Valutes… That is almost half a year’s salary over here...” said the young man as he looked at the coin with awe, turning it around in his hand to make sure that it was not fake. It was not. “Thank you so much, Crosstearer. You have no idea…” he started, but when he looked up, he could not see Crosstearer anymore. The man was already gone and he did not even say goodbye. But then again, that was how all of their encounters went, with him trying to be as friendly and open with the mercenary as possible, yet the warrior never opened up to Relós. Whenever the young man tried to bond with the fanatic, he left unceremoniously, always finding some sort of a task which could occupy him. This time, Crosstearer decided that he needed to investigate the city to see if he could spot the Unknown.

“Seadivider, what is the local time?” asked the warrior of his relic as he looked at the descending sun.
“The local time is seventeen hours thirty-two minutes. This unit recommends that its possessor seek a place to rest for the night. As twilight is going to happen in approximately two hours,” responded Seadivider in its usual tone.
“I will not waste time. Seadivider, scan the area permanently for Sirkin particles and alert me to any changes in their density,” said Crosstearer with a hint of contempt in his voice, one of his fists clenching before he suppressed his anger.
“Acknowledged. This unit is now monitoring the density of Sirkin particles,” said the relic, upon which Crosstearer started walking in a random direction. After all, when one was dealing with the Unknown, they could not trust the tools of the Known such as logic or reason, because they would always lead to false results, or madness in the worst case scenario. Such was the nature of the enemy Crosstearer fought: an unpredictable entity which always brought something new to the table, warping reality with its mere presence.

Therefore, Crosstearer was not very surprised when neither he, nor Seadivider could find any traces of the Unknown even though night had already come hours ago. If anything, the lack of results just made him that much eager to discover where the Unknown hid in this city, so the more time he spent searching for the arch enemy of his religion, the more alert he became. Each hour he spent searching for the Unknown just made his senses sharper, his mind slowly attuning itself to finding that which was out of place. Therefore, when the mercenary finally found something beyond human comprehension, his senses screamed at him, flooding his soul with unbearable pain. What seemed like a tidal wave of Unknown assaulted his mind, crawling down in his spine and making him shiver, but to the fanatic, this feeling was associated with religious ecstasy. And that gave him strength that many could not even imagine.

Within the fraction of a section, Crosstearer launched himself at his target, literally cracking open the concrete at his feet as he moved through the streets with unnatural speed. His target was close, very close to him, and from the presence he felt, he knew that whatever it was, the Unknown had not recognised him yet. That was good, because it meant that it was still young and inexperienced, one that was not accustomed to not being Known yet, one that could not force its logic on the world. They were the easiest and the most satisfying to defeat as they always lamented their own death, showing proper emotions that the servants of the Known could recognise.

“The Known shall end the Unknown!” shouted Crosstearer, his voice cutting into the air of the night as he delivered his first punch, but his yell was interrupted by a blood white flash followed by a clang of metal against metal. He felt his fists connect with something hard, which surprised him greatly, as the Unknown never used materials which belonged to the Known in his experience. At the same time, confusion slowly spread over his body as he started wondering if he had attacked a human being by mistake, knowing that he could have killed anyone instantly with his strike, thus breaking his oath. The only thing that kept him from panicking and breaking out in cold sweat was the brief flash of the overwhelming red he just saw.

Naturally, his enemy exploited his surprise, punching him in the jawbone with such skill and force that Crosstearer started to question if he really was fighting the Unknown. Fortunately for him, though, the sharp pain knocked some sense back into the warrior, so he raised his fist to strike…

But when he saw his opponent, he jumped away at the last moment, relying on the strength of Seadivider to carry himself as far as possible from the fight. That flash of red, that movement, that precision was not something he expected of an opponent who was Unknown, but he could cope with that. He could also cope with the fact that the Unknown was using the Known for purposes which no human could understand, because it always has been that way. No, what he could not cope with was the shape of his opponent, the form the arch enemy of his religion took during this engagement. It was a form that his subconscious simply refused to accept even though he had seen horrors beyond comprehension. It was a shape that both represented the most vicious enemy of the Known yet it was impossible for the Unknown to wield it. It was a shape that petrified him to the bone, for he did not know how he should act against this strange phenomenon.

He did not stop because he had not recognised the form, because he knew this form all too well. He did not stop because he knew that he could not defeat the enemy in front of him, because his religion gave him confidence that he could eliminate any Unknown if he wished to do so. No, he stopped because in front of him stood something that should not have been there, as the figure in front of him did not belong to any battlefield. It especially did not belong to the battlefield of Known and Unknown, even though its legs were braced in a combat stance of a martial art that Crosstearer did not recognise. Even though in its left hand, it held a thick, reddish grey steel rod and even though it wore practical, dark clothes which covered its body, even though it had black gloves which were reinforced at the knuckles for greater striking power, the mind of Crosstearer simply refused to recognise it as his opponent.

After all, the Known was doomed if eighteen-year-old girls with striking, sea blue eyes and long, red hair had started serving the Unknown while he was not looking.
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Man of Questions
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Science-Fiction, Science-Fantasy, Magical Girl, Mystery, Slice of Life,

Hybrid Terror (Elsword fanfiction)

The mad labyrinth of Henir was quiet for a change. There were no sounds of pain, nor battle filling it at the moment; there was only its sickening atmosphere of long-lost magics and technologies waiting for unfortunate wayfarers with a crooked smile on its face. Should such a person come into its territory, the ancient feeling that lurked in the air would coil around their throat, then their torso before squeezing the air out of their lungs so that it may suffocate them, only to let them go to return at a later time. Only very few managed to withstand the isolation that this space projected never mind its paradoxical, deep blue architecture.

But nasod were not bothered by such things, especially not their Grand First Empress.

Light steps echoed in the vast expanse as white shoes met with the imaginary pavement made out of time and space. A skirt of white, laced with long spikes of black went along with the flow of non-existent winds, its front open to reveal snow-coloured socks reaching almost up to the hips, their only decoration being gems of el on both feet and a red line reaching until the fabric terminated. Yet another precious, blue gem decorated a milky leotard with black sides, its back along with its collarbone open so that it might reveal healthy flesh. Long sleeves connected to a laced, turtleneck collar, only to terminate in white gloves that had midnight-coloured palms. A tiara of light hovered above long, silver twin-tails that framed a beautiful face with amber eyes.

All this beauty was complimented with flawless posture, leaving no doubt that it was Eve who had decided to visit this ancient place. Perhaps she was looking for more fragments of knowledge hidden by her faithful followers to make the rebuilding of her empire possible, or maybe she was looking to find her way back to the era where nasod were still plentiful. Either way, she was walking amongst the mysterious cubes of Henir’s Time and Space Labyrinth along with her faithful companion drones, Moby and Remy. But even if she was a nasod, she could not shake the strange feeling that she was being followed.

The twisted geometric patterns of this place offered no clue as to who would be tailing her, not to mention that their continuously shifting nature made it impossible to hide within their crevasses. But despite the completely illogical nature of the feeling, it continued to persist no matter how long Eve walked on or how many times she checked the area around her. What was more, it was a constant pressure on her mind despite the state of her emotional circuits, causing her to pause her walk.

And that was when she saw the shadow behind her.

The nasod reacted immediately and the light of El flared around her, shining through her many crystals as the reactor inside her heated up. She took to the air with frightening speed, breaking the sound barrier several times over, yet her opponent had read her as if she had been an open book, because countless chains exploded at the top of the magnificent arc she had written into the sky. The magical constructs immediately seized the body of Eve, preventing her from firing a single attack at her opponent, then they squeezed to constrict and crush her without mercy.

Unfortunately for her opponent, nasod did not break so easily and where a normal human would have definitely failed, precision engineering along with mechanical strength prevailed. The chains shattered into myriad links accompanied by motes of light, then before Eve’s opponent could react, she announced her intentions in a clear voice that carried no emotion.

“Particle ray.”

Charged particles exploded forth from the index finger of the Grand First Empress, eating up the air before them at nearly light-speed while they turned oxygen into ozone. For a second or two, it was as if Eve had split the air in two, but when the beam found its mark, it simply dispersed into light of all colours. Fortunately, this was more than enough to disrupt the cloaking field of the nasod’s opponent, revealing a masked man clad in strange, clashing clothes. His green trousers contrasted sharply with the orange jacket he wore, but the disharmony was only amplified further by his turquoise mask along with his purple gloves. One could almost hear the desperate scream of colours for some symphony when they looked at him, but he obviously did not care.

And before Eve could even attempt to turn the situation around, an armada of magical runes appeared around the man, then they shattered into dozens of wicked knives made out of all six elements, so the nasod had to plummet towards the ground as fast as she could. Even so, she had barely managed to avoid the deadly attack, which went on to impale one of the many abstract, geometrical constructs of Henir’s maze. Eve’s eyes widened as the tough objects were sliced open without regard for their composition, which told her that she was facing a skilled, incredibly dangerous opponent.

She let the force of El flare around her, then she focused the energy gathered into the tip of her finger, discharging a thick, electrified bolt that dispersed harmlessly on a hastily erected magical shield. But a second attack had already been placed behind the first one as the man found himself on the business end of three spheres of brilliant blue energy. They slammed into them man’s shields right before Moby and Remy, causing it to flicker under the stress of combined forces.

Yet the attack was not to be a success as the magical shield literally exploded, sending both drones flying, not to mention that it produced a cloud of dust which hid the man from view as he prepared yet another one of his spells. An armada of magical runes filled the air for a split second before the sky and the earth shook, both a very strange occurrence in a place that had no concept of directions or geometry. Naturally, the alarm bells in Eve’s head went off and she took flight to retreat before she was caught in a deadly spell.

But she was too late. From the heavens above and the depths below, desperate bits of static electricity found the only object that was not filled with too many of them, then they joined their hands to correct the imbalance the only way they could.

Eve screamed as lightning struck her and penetrated her shields, first peeling away at the protective layers of her circuits before surging through her system and into her brain to set her spine on fire. Spikes of pain exploded all through her body as she felt her metallic shell heat up from the current that passed through it. Agony coiled around every one of her limbs, then the venomous snake of torture sunk its fangs into her neck to spread its painful gift through her entire body. The experience lasted only for a brief second, but it was more than enough to make the silver-haired woman reel in pain, then drop to the ground, where she received a second system shock that lit her clothes on fire.

The nasod rolled onto her side to extinguish the fire and avoid yet another one of the magical attacks before she planted both of her feet on the ground, standing up despite the agony that still persisted in her system. She did not want to give her opponent another chance to attack her, so she filtered the smoke with her advanced optics and let loose another one of her attacks.

“Particle ray,” she intoned yet again, but it was useless. The retaliation, on the other hand, was not. The ground around her transformed into the mouth of a vicious beast with sharp, barbed teeth and immediately closed around her. She was only saved by her reflexes as she picked up on the attack soon enough to barely escape between the lips, her skirt snagging and tearing on the many barbs. Determined not to be helpless, the Grand First Empress gathered the energy of El again and raised her hands up in the air to create blinding glow between them.

“Giga stream.” At the exact second these words were pronounced, she held her hands in front of her to create a massive beam of particles charged both with energy and killing intent. The air was so helpless against this attack that it boomed as if thunder had struck it, creating a wind that whipped the nasod’s hair back. Small arcs of electricity sparked off into the neighbourhood of the beam as the energy bled off into all forms that it could find, yet when it hit its mark, the masked man’s shield did not even flinch.

Impossible. This was an attack that had evaporated one of Berthe’s fingers regardless of his demonic nature, this was the attack that bore through the reinforced wall of a castle, the attack that melted through metallic shields, the attack that would at least strain the defences of her opponent! Consumed by a mixture of surprise and fear despite her being a Battle Seraph, Eve barely dodged the next attack before she tried to retaliate again, only to meet with failure when her electron spheres scattered harmlessly.

Clearly, this was an opponent that required far greater brute force than she had anticipated, so for the moment, she went on the defensive so that she could have the time to prepare. Now focused as such, she managed to avoid the attacks that her opponent threw at her, which was a good thing given that they routinely eliminated large parts of the scenery behind her. And her opponent kept chucking them at her without showing any signs of tiring. It was as if he was not even exerting himself when any of his attacks were on par with the nasod’s giga stream, or perhaps they were even stronger.

Therefore, the conclusion became clear in Eve’s mind: she needed to use overwhelming force to win this fight. So after she had dodged a particularly strong attack, she retrieved a small, spherical capsule from her pockets. It was a very simple thing, but the bright blue ball that was constrained within golden arches was almost burning hot. Human or nasod, one could only hold it in their hands for a few seconds before it started eating away at their flesh, but that was more than enough for the silver-haired woman to shatter it and release its power as she turned around to face her opponent.

“Psionic artillery.” Though Eve’s voice was just as emotionless as before, there was a slight edge to those words, as if she was declaring a death sentence. And what a death sentence it was. Wings of light blossomed at the back of the nasod as she fired an initial penetrator blast that turned the air blue, then she raised up in the air to let loose a beam of destruction.

This time, the air did not crackle or thunder. It shattered as the white laser swept away everything that tried to stand in its way. Those who were sensitive to the flow of El would surely feel a sharp pain in their temples right before closing their eyes to shield it from the bright light that threated to blind them, only to find that it did not help at all. The resolute few who could keep looking at the attack would find that it was at least two times taller than Eve and just as wide. It also seemed to be completely unstoppable as even the labyrinth of Henir started to peel evaporate, with every single object in its way melting into nothingness.

Except for the man.

As impossible as it was, the myriad shields that floated around him managed to absorb the attack even if many of them had been broken through. As unlikely as it was, his clothes were not even singed, let alone burnt. As paradoxical as it was, he was still standing tall and he did not seem intimidated the least. And as illogical as it was, he continued existing.

No. This could not be happening. Eve fell onto her knees from a combination of exhaustion and despair as she had just seen her strongest attack do nothing to her opponent. Was there anything that she could do to prolong her life when she faced this monstrosity? There was none. He was an opponent that she could not hope to match, which was proven when he impaled her with an icicle right through her heart, then he teleported to her and slammed her into the floor.

The Grand First Empress did not resist at all, even though her circuits were screaming at her, what was more, she did not react to her shoulder being impaled either. It was the first time she felt so hopeless, so alone, so afraid and so terrified against a singular opponent that she shut down. Her system continued functioning, yes, but she felt as if she had been forced into a deep sleep and she was watching the things that were happening to her from the outside, grasping for the straws of consciousness. Fortunately for her, the masked figure’s next attack knocked her away, which gave her time to recover.

Unfortunately, that did not mean she had any way of winning this fight and she was so far into Henir’s Labyrinth that she could not make it in time to the exit. Her opponent would likely catch up to her in no time with his teleportation, not to mention that her flight circuits had been damaged, compromising her manoeuvres that she was so known for as a Battle Seraph. Indeed, all signs seemed to say that it was the end of her reign as Grand First Empress and with it, the end of all nasod, who were doomed by the hands of an incompetent leader.

That had been her, had it not? The bitter thought was so strong that even the nearly emotionless Battle Seraph scowled as she reached into the very depths of her system to use the only thing that she could think of. It was something that she had only used once and it had almost completely destroyed her, but what choice did she have? She was dead anyways along with the hope of the countless nasod still buried under the plains of Altera unless she used it and she would not let her kind die so easily.

“I, Grand First Empress Eve…” she started, which made the masked man pause. “authorise the release of the Hybrid System,” she said as she stood up, her voice starting to crack as she started to feel the strain of bearing all the codes that her people had developed through the ages. It would only get worse from there on out, but all Eve wanted was to secure a future for the generations to come, so she continued by summoning not one, not two, but five brightly coloured capsules that held within them the same power she had released earlier. Then, as she shattered them, she called out to the heavens and linked herself to the nasod core.


For a moment, there was nothing but hushed silence as Eve’s voice filled the void of Henir’s Time and Space Labyrinth, then the link comprehended her command. Wings of light suddenly grew on the back of the Battle Seraph, intimately laced with frightening, sharp spikes of steel which seemed to cut the air around them in half. Four portals opened under her as she rose up into the air, each one of them bringing forth a different instrument of war: a three-legged scout drone with a cylindrical head, a white, masked figure who wielded dual tonfas with blades attached to them, a maid-like robot with pinkish-purple eyes and a tall man with an imposing, snow-coloured greatcoat wielding a deadly, glaive-like weapon. They were Eve’s faithful nasod servants, Centurion, Oberon, Ophelia and Ferdinand, coming to the aid of their mistress.

The circuits of the Grand First Empress screamed in response to such strain, but she ignored them completely in favour of trying to destroy her opponent by repeating last attack and augmenting it with the tools she had just gotten access to. While she fired no penetrator blast this time, the great white pillar of energy that she released towards her opponent was accompanied by the summoning of dozens of weapons around her which only took a second to lock onto the masked figure and let loose a deadly barrage. Nasod spears rained from the skies by the bucket load while kinetic bullets joined forces with beams or plasma projectiles to literally cleave the scenery in half.

The never-ending wave of annihilation swept across the vista, tearing apart abstract construct after abstract construct while shaking the foundation of the infinite labyrinth. Cracks formed in the formerly solid structure as it tried to endure forces several magnitudes greater than it was designed to, then it shattered into sharp shards that flew into the depths. Even the non-existent ceiling was starting to tumble down before the attack stopped, leaving behind a man with a distorted mask and many holes, both burnt and punctured, in his clothes.

Normally, that was when the battle would have ended, but it seemed that Eve’s opponent was intent on finishing her off despite the considerable power she just manifested, so he gathered another spell around himself, only to be interrupted by a huge slash from Ferdinand’s glaive. Of course, his shield had stopped the attack dead in its tracks, but the lapse in concentration was enough to disrupt his spell and for his enemy to crush another one of those strange capsules in her hand in order to make a break for him on the side of Oberon while the remaining two servants set up a ranged position.

As for Eve, she had stopped caring about the state of her opponent as soon as she had unleashed her attack, because she was too busy trying to keep her personality intact in the face of the continuous assault it was facing. Three of the most powerful nasod codes were trying to breach her core, to rob her of her integrity and meld her into a nonsensical mess, all to the background of unimaginable pain as she forced El into her circuits to keep the Hybrid System up. So as Ferdinand pressed his attack, she unleashed a rain of deadly spears onto her opponent before slamming into his shields with her sharp, serrated spikes.

Rockets along with bright blue electron spheres flew from the blind side of the masked man to weaken his defences, but much like previously, he blocked them effortlessly even as Oberon joined in on the assault. Or at least he had been holding them effortlessly until Eve materialised two, gigantic machine cannons into her hands and pulled the trigger, peppering his shields with a myriad of well-aimed plasma projectiles that hammered away at his seemingly indomitable defences.

Retaliation came in the form of countless, hastily summoned magical projectiles that flew up into the air and exploded in the face of the nasods, only to be blocked by their shields. Yet the man had achieved his goal: he forced his opponents back, or at least so he thought until electron spheres, rockets, beams of light and ion charges exploded against his shield. Even if some of the projectiles had been reflected as he hastily added another defensive layer to protect himself, the impacts were still shaking him after that big attack, not to mention that they were demolishing the scenery.

And Eve was not about to let up on an opportunity despite the many chains which tried to crush her. Using a combination of her now monstrous strength and her agility, she practically sliced the magical constructs in half as she closed the distance again, having abandoned one of her plasma machine cannons to favour accuracy over sheer destructive power. That was not the only attack though, and Oberon had to be rescued from being sliced into pieces by one of Ophelia’s timely volleys of rockets while Ferdinand found himself in a magical prison that would not yield to his weapon so easily. Yet the nasod servant slashed away at the material regardless, slowly opening it up so that he might join the fight again.

A volley of plasma sunk into the masked figure’s shield before Eve slammed her sharp spikes into it again, impaling the serrated edges through the hole she had created, then she pulled them apart in an attempt to disrupt the shield of her opponent. However, the barrier she tried to destroy was reactive, so it exploded into her face, forcing her to retreat. But at least it was just in time for Ferdinand to break out of his prison and start pressuring his Grand First Empress’ opponent with his glaive, except that said opponent responded by gathering his strength for a particularly strong spell.

The defences held for just long enough to protect him from the relentless onslaught of his opponents, but they were not enough to shield him from two slashes of Oberon along with an electron sphere from Centurion. No matter, however, because he released the spell he had been holding.

Once again, the labyrinth of Henir groaned in pain as a sonic boom cleared the air first, then a sphere of white-hot destruction erupted from the masked man. It was as if the Sun had come down from the sky to eclipse the ground, but as it continued expanding, weapons started to form from the light itself. From lances through spears up to claymores, there was no melee instrument that one could not find within that absolute, merciless heat and light that would consume everything. Even the air was speechless in the face of such a thing, as the noise it made was absorbed by the havoc, the fault lines that started to run along imaginary walls, the many tiny crystals that evaporated without a trace. Then the weapons also launched themselves forward, impaling whatever they found on the battlefield without mercy.

However, instead of vulnerable enemies, they encountered a large, spherical shield made out of hexagons that had stopped the attack in its wake. Though it had been distant from the centre of the star the masked man had just summoned, the fact that it was still standing was a miracle and despite that the nasods who took shelter under it looked as if they had seen much better days, they were still combat-capable. EspeciallyEve. Out of her servants, she had the strongest shields, so she survived the ordeal with mostly superficial damage, save for a few spots where her mechanical insides started to show.

The masked man paused for a second and the Grand First Empress did not hesitate to use this to her advantage. The shield that she had been generating was lowered instantly and her servants went on to assault her opponent with everything that they had left. Once again, rockets took flight by the side of electron spheres that made the air crackle around them while Ferdinand and Oberon rushed in to slash the man’s shields. As for the ruler of nasods herself, she stayed back this time to crush yet another of her capsules in an effort to keep herself going even if she had to bear the pain.

Ever since she had activated the Hybrid System, Eve’s world has been filled with nothing but sharp, raw agony and she was starting to break under the pressure. If she did not end this soon, then her system would collapse completely, then her core would shatter into tiny little pieces, thus completely destroying her… But that was only a fleeting thought. Concerns such as dying or personal safety were starting to flee from her mind as her core personality started to rapidly deteriorate under the siege of the energies she was using and the three, simultaneously operating codes.

Fortunately, it seemed that the masked man was rather winded because of the huge attack he had just performed, which meant that his defences were slowly falling under the repeated assaults of her servants. But still, he kept on fighting and with the lack of support from its mistress, Centurion was the first to fall to a well-timed volley of magical projectiles. It all happened in a flash, too. One second, the nasod ruler was catching her breath to continue the fight, the next, one of her servants had been forced to teleport back to the core lest it be completely destroyed.

Needless to say, she hurried to join the fight again despite her condition, if it were not for the fact that her opponent had prepared a trap for her. As soon as she took into the air, she ran into an invisible spider-web that tried to wound around her body completely, but as she had several sharp bits on her person, it only slowed her down instead of stopping her dead in her tracks. She was still going to clash with the masked man, her momentum only a tiny bit lesser for the trap that had been prepared for her, so she practically tackled the masked figure, then pinned him to the ground for a split second.

Unlike most mages, however, her opponent rolled with the impact, thus literally turning the situation around before tossing Eve away with the very same force that she had run into him, only to be met with the combined attacks of the Grand First Empress’ remaining servants. First, sharp plasma blades cleaved a path through his defences, then a volley of missiles exploded on his reactive barriers, coating him in purplish explosions. Then, he barely avoided being skewered courtesy of Ferdinand when their mistress came around for another pass, slicing deep cuts into his left arm.

The tide turned. Even this powerful mage was no match for the combined weaponry of four nasods, but he was not about to give up so easily. Despite the overwhelming power that had been suddenly presented to him in the form of the Hybrid System, he knew better than to give this fight up, so he went to his first priority. Namely, when Oberon attacked him again with his bladed tonfas, the masked man stepped closer to him instead of trying to avoid it, then he unleashed a flash-casted lightning bolt into the machine’s stomach, temporarily frying its systems.

And while such a victory was indeed sweet, the follow-through of Eve took the shape of an army of razor-sharp spears which exploded forwards in a flash of speed. So quick were they that the mage could only scream as the weapons literally burned through his flesh. His siren song of agony only got louder as a swarm of electron spheres slammed into him, sending dangerous jolts of electricity through his being, almost stopping his heart and frying his brain with their power while simultaneously tearing his clothes along with his flesh into charred shreds.

But that was a mistake. Whatever mystical forces he had been using to control this much magical power, they went haywire and a wave of pure destructive magic washed over his opponents while the hot, hooked claws of agony threatened to slice his spine apart. Oberon, who was still recovering from the mage’s earlier attack fell along with Ophelia, who had not been designed to withstand such forces, thus reducing the fight to a mere two-on-one, which would be far harder for Eve to seize victory.

However, she was not concerned with such things. No, her concerns had evaporated a few seconds ago, so she intentionally dove into the devastating wave of magic, laughing at the top of her throat with a voice that would chill even the most experienced war veterans. One part emotionless puppet, one part regal authority, one part destructive malice and one part unquestionable arrogance; the Grand First Empress was reduced to hysterical laughter that sounded as if four people were cackling in unison.

Then that maniacal glee turned into heart-wrenching sobs when she shot a precise laser through her opponent’s head, cleanly burning through the area responsible for magical potential before she slammed into the mage and pinned him to the nearest abstract construct of Henir.

“I-I’m so sorry…” said Eve between two little sobs as she looked up at her opponent with tear-filled eyes. Her voice was full of sorrow and grief despite its clearly unnatural, unnerving qualities. It was as if she had just lost the sole most important person in her life. “B-but you were hurting me, mister… I-it’s bad to hurt people, you know, mister? B-but when they hurt me… w-when they hurt me, I have no choice but to fuck them until they die, then rape their corpse until it disintegrates into ash!”

Those last few words were said in the tone of a happy-go-lucky shopkeeper, perhaps as if she was trying to pitch a sale to a new customer and as she shifted again, Ferdinand could only look upon his mistress in horror when she lifted the mage up by his neck then… she started moaning and kissing away at the man’s neck. He could recognise this. He knew what was happening. He knew why it was happening. And he knew he was completely powerless to stop it. He was not nearly powerful enough to deal with a nasod that had been claimed by the Hybrid System.

So he could only watch, but that he would not. This being, the one who was trying to seek out the spots of pleasure on a broken man was not his mistress, she was not the Grand First Empress she claimed to be. She was only the collision of her species’ codes, a twisted perversion of everything that she used to be and he could not bear to watch it for longer than a few seconds. Reluctantly and with a heavy heart, Ferdinand opened a portal back to Altera so that he may rescue the nasod ruler from the grip of death once she had settled down, if such an opportunity would come at all.

“Hey… Why are you not responding?” asked Eve, her voice filled with seductive honey that would make any man melt into her arms, were it not for the fact that her voice still remained that horrifying, four-toned madness which made the mage’s face pale in fear.

“Don’t you want me anymore? Earlier this evening, you were so eager to take me,” she whispered as she tried to claim the man’s lips as her own, only to pout when he reflexively turned away in an attempt to run away from whatever this woman was, only to find him locked in a death-grip that tightened around him. The air was squeezed out of his lungs as his terrifying enemy hugged him close, slowly wearing away at his worn bones until one of them snapped with a loud crack.

Scream was paired with otherworldly scream as the Grand First Empress started smashing her opponent into the abstract structure, shouting at the top of her lungs as if he had just done something unspeakable, something horrid that had scarred her for life. Crunch after crack resounded in the air as the nasod used her superior strength to slowly, systematically break every single bone in the man’s body before her furious outburst slowly died down into a tranquil rage.

“Ah, I fucked up,” said Eve calmly as she held the now broken, whimpering man in her hands. The pain he was feeling must have been excruciating as he kept gasping for air despite his broken ribs, not to mention that he could not make a single sound because of his quick, uneven breathing. Surely, that would cause him more pain and over time, he would simply suffocate from the lack of air as it became too torturous to even move, but Eve had other plans for the captive that was now at her absolute mercy.

“Or rather, you fucked up, you motherfucking bastard, because you forgot to bring your entire shit-headed military with you! If all of them were as strong as you are, then they might have had even the tiniest shard of cunt-licking chance against my forces, but as it stands, you are just a dick-headed sorry ass who happened to get in my El-damned way… Or in the way of that bitch, Eve,” she continued calmly as she freed one of her hands and reached for one of the man’s fingernails before tearing it off.

There was no screaming. Only sobbing and an almost silent plea that sounded like begging.

“No can do, man-whore. You messed with the worst person you could have. See, this little cocksucker is afraid to activate the Hybrid System because she knows what will happen to her… But that bitch left it on for too long. So now you are not facing a merciful asshole who would kill you quickly, then be done with it. No, you motherfucker, you see before you Eve, the true ruler of the nasod, the one that lets you bleed your plague-infested blood out. So be grateful, you crooked peasant!”

Another nail was lost to the Grand First Empress’ cruel fingers along with the tip of said finger and this time, her opponent did attempt to scream. All that came through, however, was a hoarse whisper that was quickly silenced with a powerful fist to the face. Yet this cruel being was just getting started with her torturous, inhumane play as her next move was to grab her opponents arm, then yank it so hard that it popped out of the socket with a sickening crack that sounded as if Henir’s Labyrinth had shattered into a hundred pieces.

The former mage tried to beg for his life or at least a measure of mercy, only for a hand to reach into his mouth, then rip his tongue from its foundation before the slight relief of horrid screaming was taken from him by a curved laser shot that burned his vocal chords into ash. Now he could only gasp his pain, tears flowing as rivers from his face when he felt his throat light on fire, but it was not nearly the end of his tortures for in the greatest depths of his unspeakable agony, he heard another stomach-churning crack from one of his joints.

A silent scream of despair escaped from the man’s lips as he realised that he would not be dying with dignity today, then the pain of yet another joint being popped out of its place made him realise the gravity of the situation as it lit his body on fire with pain. Then another crack sounded, further increasing the already mind-numbing agony that he felt and Eve did not stop until every single one of his moveable parts have been rendered completely useless.

By the end of it, he was sobbing, trying to beg, to scream, to say something, to call her cruel or to apply to her sense of humanity, yet the burn at his throat did not let him do anything. Even breathing was excruciatingly painful as his cracked ribs moved along with all of his damaged limbs, coating him in the pure acid of flesh-melting torture each time he had to take a breath. The world was starting to lose him, yet his captor had produced a sack of smelling salts from somewhere, keeping him awake, not to mention at her complete mercy as she took great pleasure in removing every single nail from his body too.

Then came the punch to his stomach which made him vomit its barely-existent contents onto his torture mistress, but he was beyond caring at this point. Everything had lost its meaning as his mind slowly started slipping from all that it was forced to endure, but the vacant look in his eyes only made Eve smile a grin of genocide.

“How does it feel, you ape crossbred with a pig, to partake in a fraction of my pain?” she asked with her gleeful, sadistic expression. “I bet it is motherfucking painful, right? Well, you are not going to feel it for too long, you ass-munching, brown-nosed bastard offspring of a demon and a mutt, because my time is almost over.” As if to emphasize her point, Eve raised her leg and forced his head to look at the limb so that he might get the slightest inkling as to what was happening to her.

Even while delirious, the sight must have been shocking. Dozens of sharp, many-edged spikes had started to break through the Grand First Empress’ remaining clothes along with her skin. Several of them were dozens of centimetres long now, piercing through many layers of her machinery, puncturing, torturing her with their mere presence. But even worse was the fact that they could be seen growing, slowly inching their way up her body. They were showing up on her torso as well, appearing as small spear tips.

“Too bad that this little bitch who calls herself Grand First Empress used up everything of hers just to defeat you… Now I will have to finish you off before I could get to the really fun part of slowly heating you up, then cooling you down until you die from the damage done to your worthless cells. But I suppose slicing you into tiny pieces will have to do,” she said as she raised her hand, finally preparing to give her enemy the mercy of death. She even materialised an improvised nasod weapon in her hand just to fulfil her promise of cutting her enemy into ribbons.

Yet before the final strike could end the suffering of the former mage, Eve’s amber-coloured eyes suddenly lost their light and she collapsed as if she was a puppet whose strings have been cut as her systems performed an emergency shutdown.


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Resurrection (Elsword fanfiction)

It was the last day of her reign. Exactly twenty years ago, she had awakened to find an entire world in ruins, filled with the dangerous phantoms of the past. She had opened her eyes to see endless devastation, a complete disregard for the heritage of her species. At that moment, she had despaired and wailed. She had turned away the hand which tried to pull her out of her misery, then slapped the face of the insolent human. And yet she had not been blamed for it. She had earned the support of a small group of people to the extent that she grew fond of them during their time spent in Altera. They had told her a great deal about what had changed, but in the end, they had to go their separate ways.

Not even a few days later, she had decided to purge her emotions and become a Battle Seraph. With the cold, calculating logic which had been imposed upon her by her choice, she had laboured for two years until the world called on her again. She had answered to ensure the future of her kind. She had even put her own life on the line and the other kingdoms had had no other choice but to recognise Altera as an independent state. Now, though, all those achievements were about to simply crumble away, their fruits handed down to the next in line. Such was the way of the nasod, and she had been their tyrant for too long already.

A few days ago, she even restored her long-lost emotions in preparation for this great event. That way, the ruthless Grand First Empress who held the entirety of the nasod species in her hands for nearly two decades in her iron grip, would become less bitter of a memory. She could not even count the number of covenants and laws she had broken during her reign. But it was all for the survival of her beloved people. Without those decisions, they would have died. Without sacrificing the ideals they held with such reverence, even she would have perished.

Such thoughts did not make her feel better. She knew what her fate would be: she was to be written down in history amongst the worst nasod leaders who ever existed. She would have to seek refuge with the elves or the humans. And yet, she knew that this was the right thing to do. The crisis which had fallen upon her kind ended and it was time for them to embrace a new era without her interference. She would leave them with the promise of glory and new heights, the least that she could do after she had betrayed their trust so many times.

For this momentous occasion, she chose to braid her long, silver hair into a single braid and tie it with a vibrant-lifeless coloured ribbon. She hid all of her body under a grand cape with muddled, kaleidoscopic colours. Her face, she kept plain, removing the blue streaks that most nasod had under her eyes and did not touch up her golden gaze. Adorned in these colours of repentance and grief, the Grand First Empress hoped against all hope that her people would forgive her. She steeled her soul as she righted her simple dress for one final time before she stepped outside to look upon her people.

There were thousands of them. Though now, the nasod population was too small for her to address in such a simple manner, the Grand First Empress had to give them this opportunity. If her people wished to lynch and shackle her, they were well within their right and this gathering told them that she submitted to that unsightly end. But instead of angry shouting or screaming that drowned her voice out or declared her to be the worst of all tyrants, she was met with complete silence. Deafening, absolute silence dominated the entire courtyard and every single pair of eyes was locked onto her.

She had not even the slightest chance to escape, just as she had intended. She felt her doom approaching and her entire body trembled as she made her way to the podium. There, she realised that it may have been a mistake to restore her emotions as her throat tightened and she could feel the fear build up in her system. But she made a herculean effort to overcome her feelings of unease. She pushed false confidence onto her expression even as her lips froze, as her core trembled in terror and her mind kept telling her to run away.

She commanded it to shut up, then she opened her lips to speak.

“My nasod siblings,” she started, addressing the entire crowd. “Today is the end of my tyranny.” As expected, that got the crowd murmuring, but the Grand First Empress silenced them with a single, sweeping gesture. The audience followed her command immediately, which she took as a sign of their fear of her. “Yes. I hereby abdicate the nasod throne and leave my place. I can not ask you to forgive the transgressions that I have committed, as you have already suffered too much under my rule.” Here, her hands tightened up under her dress and she had to take a break to stop herself from spilling tears.

She had to be strong. No matter what her people’s verdict would be over her, she would endure it. Even if they sentenced her to remain conscious for thousands of years in complete sensory deprivation, she would accept it. She had to accept it. It was her duty to her people. She hung onto those thoughts desperately and managed to collect herself after several moments of silence.

“I could not count how many atrocities I have committed over the years. I broke every one of our traditions and laws just so I could fulfil my goal. I violated the core principles of the nasod and…” she almost choked there, but she managed to power through, making it seem like a solemn pause, “I have betrayed your trust. I have never been worthy of the title of Grand First Empress. Not when I first acquired it, and especially not now. And now that you are safe, my siblings, it is time that I recognise that. I have been clinging to my title for too long, deluding myself with the belief that I actually hold the right to it. That delusion will be no more.”

The last part, she emphasized greatly as if it was the height of her speech and she waited for the message to sink in while she searched the crowd with her gaze. They should have been rejoicing at her resignation and yet, there was not a single one of them who seemed to be happy. Even more bizarre, her audience seemed to have been stricken with something that she could not quite place. Was it Grief? Surprise? Shock? Anger? In the sea of so many faces, it was easy to lose track of expressions. But the mood of the crowd was definitely not what she expected it to be.

Regardless, she pressed on with what she had to say.

“But, my siblings, I have one parting gift for you. Though I was the tyrant of tyrants, I wish to leave at least one pleasant mark in the history of the nasod,” she said as she reached for the small screen she had been holding onto since before the start of her speech. “During the last few weeks, your finest minds have discovered a new source of energy that is more powerful than the light of El.” Once more, she let that sentence’s implications settle and start wild murmurs through the crowd. Of course, she could not catch even the slightest titbits of conversation, but she knew very well what they were talking about.

They spoke about how this technology would revolutionise the entire nasod species. About how it would free them from the shackles of El, as they no longer needed to rely on it except for their crystal matrices. About how this was the last step to completely differentiate themselves from humans and elves. And about how it may be harnessed to improve the quality of life all across Elrios. Just as the once great nasod-human cooperation did the same. It was a small dream come true, especially for the historians or those who have managed to survive to this day with their memories intact.

The Grand First Empress waited for several minutes until the eyes of the crowd were all on her. Shivers of nervousness, disappointment, failure and fear ran through her as she felt them judge her with all her might. She had already come this far, though. There was no turning back as this was the final sentence of her speech. The moment after which she would choose to formally resign, leaving behind the country she had forged with her own hands. It was revolting, really. But she had no other choice. Or so she told herself.

Reluctant and terrified, she spoke.

“Now see what it is capable of with your own eyes.” She pulled out the small screen and pressed on it with a simple, elegant gesture. And that gesture shook the very heavens. Even the floating island of Altera trembled as unimaginably huge engines came to life after aeons of rest, disturbing the foundations of the world. Millions of tons of rock cracked and millions of tons of water were forced to move because the long-dead nasod ruins have finally come to life. Countless fish fled their comfortable enclaves as gigantic parts of the seafloor broke off their foundations. Massive waves of water start to lap at the shore, threatening settlements close by.

But all of that paled in comparison to the sight of numerous islands slowly lifting from the sea. People from all around the world were reduced to stunned silence as the impossible unfolded before their very eyes. Meanwhile, avid students of history would recognise that this was Altera regaining its former glory. It would no longer tolerate being a floating island. The nasod demanded that it be restored to a floating continent, a symbol of the sheer power they wielded over their environment. Simply put, it was terrifying, yet glorious.

The islands were visible from Altera too, of course. The Grand First Empress had the pleasure of seeing the crowd before her become completely flabbergasted as they saw the spectacle unfold before their very eyes. She basked in their radiant, disbelieving expressions. She genuinely smiled as she saw their reaction to her gift. Yet this was the end for her. As the many eyes slowly returned to her, she found artificial tears gathering in her eyes. Then she turned around, partially to show that she really withdrew from her position and partially because she did not want to be seen like this.

“All hail Eve, the goddess of the new era!” Eve froze at the sudden, piercing voice. If she had a heart, then it would have stopped for several crucial seconds as she processed what she has been told. Murmurs spread through the crowd like wildfire and before she even had the slightest choice to dismiss the voice as a prank, a second call was shouted in the air. Except that this time, every nasod present had joined in.

“We bow in respect of our Grand First Empress!”

Impossible. She was no Grand First Empress. As much as she hated to admit it, Eve knew that she did not belong here. So why? Why did the crowd call out to her? Did they really want a tyrant like her on the throne? That could not be the case. But it seemed to be so. Forced to face the crowd again, Eve turned back to them with clear, artificial tears showing on her face as she attempted to find her words. The crowd found theirs first.

“It is the right of the people to choose their leaders,” they chanted in unison, which caused Eve to gasp in shock. Did they truly…? Yes. They truly did. They meant every single word of it and her heart filled with murky feelings. Delight, absolute surprise, guilt, happiness, euphoria, anger, disappointment… All of these were present inside her, combining into whirlwind of emotions that left her entire body shaking with tears. Eve could not tell if they were tears of happiness or not, but she could not stop them. Her undignified sobbing filled the air, yet her people continued to chant her name, to demand her back on the throne.

Myriads of question filled her heart as she made her way back to the platform she gave her speech from, sobbing and weeping at the goodwill of her people. She had not deserved this. She truly had not. But if there was one thing that her life had taught her, it was that she should not be afraid. That if there was trust placed in her, she should do her best to live up to it. And as such, she spoke again.

“I…” she sobbed, “Eve Yainesva…” another hic robbed of her breath as she attempted to centre herself, but failed. “humbly accept your trust.” And then, the cheers of the crowd drowned the sound of her tears.


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Daily Grind
Have you seen the couple down the street? They do the same thing every day. The husband always wakes up at seven in the morning. He always stretches and feels around for his wife, only to find that she is gone. He heads to the bathroom to freshen up. The sound of running water fills their small home for a few seconds before silence returns. Freshly shaven, he puts on his simple work clothes: a white shirt and a black pair of pants with suspenders. He inspects himself in the mirror, then he heads to the table to pick up the lunch box his wife made. It smells lovely. There is white meat, rice, fruit and potatoes inside. His stomach gurgles at the thought, but he does not allow himself to eat it. He picks up a loaf of slightly burnt bread instead, then livens it up with fat and onions. He finishes his breakfast with a misty sigh.

He closes the door as he leaves the house. He checks the locks twice. He nods in approval before he heads out into the bleached street paved with charcoal stone. Forty paces away from his home, he sees his wife. She looks lovely. She wears the white raincoat he had given her a long time ago. Her pale right hand holds a dark bag. He knows that it is full with the delicious meat he always eats, because he can smell its scent. She smiles and the expression reaches her black eyes. He smiles back at her. At that moment, they think the same thing: "This is a small price to pay for your smile." Their eyes meet for one second to see their loved one's happines before they head to do their work. The wife goes home to cook. The husband goes to work.

His snow-coloured shoes click on the cracked midnight of the pavement. He occupies himself by counting the steps. He stops at one thousand one hundred and forty-seven. He looks up at the bright gates of the factory. They contrast against the tar smoke of the chimneys. He puts on his work mask. He steps through the doors to be enslaved by machines for twelve hours. His labour carries him from hopeful dawn to sweat-stained dusk. When he finishes, he is tired, but satisfied that he did good work. His boss always praises him, he thinks as he heads home. Life does not seem so bad to him. He promises himself that it will not be long before the loan is paid off. Then his wife and him can finally have a child.

He thinks that maybe today, he will make love to her again. He arrives home to the scent of dinner. It is heavenly as always. He talks and laughs together with his wife about the things that happen every day. He tells her about the things that happened at work and she tells him how she haggled at the market. She also tells him the various rumours she heard. During their meal, the husband drinks tea. It is the only luxury that he allows himself. When he is finished with his food, he feels too tired to do anything at all. His wife has to help him into bed. The machines have exhausted him. She tucks him under the covers, then she presses a kiss to his forehead. She makes sure that he sleeps safe and sound. She makes him a lunchbox with the leftover meat. Then she goes to the coatstand. She puts on the white raincoat he gave her so long ago.

She steps out into the black neighbourhood with white stone roads. Forty paces away from her home, she pulls up her hood. She steps off the pavement and heads into the city with a shortcut only she knows. She ends up in a huge park of snow-coloured trees lined by charcoal panel houses. The leaves rustle. The windows are like the stars of the sky. She does not care. She follows her nose, then she drives her pale nails into the dark wall. She is careful to make no noise. She climbs and climbs and climbs and climbs. She arrives at a window. She looks inside and sees a happy mother-to-be with a large stomach. Her face shows sorrow. Her jaws unhinge. Her black eyes start bleeding oil. Noxious fumes escape from her mouth. They sneak in through the smallest of holes. They run up the thighs of the pregnant woman. They enter her.

A scream of terror rings true in the night. Blood flows. Flesh is stolen. A stomach recedes. Hysteria rules. Her job done, the wife descends down the wall. She hides in the branches of a tree. She pulls out a dark bag from the pocket of her white raincoat. She opens it. Then, she vomits. White meat comes forth from her mouth. It is the fruit of her thievery. She retches, hacks and coughs. She does not give up despite the pain. The noise around her drowns her out. She empties her stomach and her face is restored. Now she has a bag filled with meat. Daylight is breaking. She descends down the tree. The wind whispers into her ears. It tells her that she will be discovered. She nods, but she continues on her way.

Forty paces away from her home, she meets her husband. At that moment, they think the same thing: "This is a small price to pay for your smile."​
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Weapon-Marked Grave

When he opened his eyes, an unfamiliar place greeted him. A thoroughly rusted wall of metal stared at him with an unblinking gaze of corroded symbols. Not the embrace of his mother. Not the smile of his favourite maid. Not the face of his father. Therefore, this was not his home. Such thoughts were paralysing to a young mind like his. The many runes etched into the sides of his prison became akin to terrifying demons with machines for limbs. Turbines turned into clawed appendages of death. Tubes transformed into malformed wyrms intent on consuming his flesh. Workstations tore off their coats of ordinary life to grin at him. They laughed at him with a sickening voice that took pleasure in his boundless terror.

"What's wrong, momma's precious boy?" The deep, baritone voice of a machine-demon. It was talking to him. It was suffocating him. It was pushing the air back into his lungs so that he did not have the slightest chance to scream. Invisible hands gripped his every limnb, holding him down as he tried to struggle. Paralysis. Death. Numb skin that refused to respond. He was a prisoner in his own body that refused to act. He was locked in a merciless hold that refused to let him have even an iota of control. Terror. Terror. Terror.


Laughter. Cackling in the machine-demon's voice.

"I haven't seen that look in a while, but don't ya just have the most precious of talents?" A taunt. Teasing that filled his heated tears with despair. "The eyes of a kicked pup. Well, don't ya worry, pup, I ain't gonna hurt ya. Ya don't worth that much of me time." More tears. It was the only way he could answer the wicked words, every one of which served to further cement his situation. He was far away from home, in an abandoned place with only a single voice to talk with. A machine-demon with human intonation and a human way of speaking. Therefore, he had been kidnapped.

The thought hit like a hammer to his chest. He felt the air get stuck in his lungs as he struggled to say something. However, only a pitiful whine of fright escaped his lips. Finally, his body dared to move, yet it moved against his will. Instead of getting up like he willed to, it started to shake. Trembling dread creeped up his spine, conquering every cubic millimitre of his flesh. Long, wicked claws of crashing self-control tore into his small body as he found the courage to breathe in. Then he sobbing without reserve. He wailed as despair finally set in, bawling into the cold, hard metal of the floor. His captor laughed at him with a hearty cackle.

Contrasting sounds filled the once-glorious machine graveyard. Rust flaked away under salty tears and hearty laughter alike. This painted a dissonant image. A beautiful picture that depicted ashen, rotting trees. Was it a testament to the painter's skill, or a statement of madness? Or perhaps it was a monument to a collector's rotten taste. Either way, the picture existed, as did this place of death. And if he was unfortunate, he would never see the light of day again.

"Finally settled down, eh? Don't worry, pup, it's nothing personal. It's just that me family's got to live too, ya know? Can't get around on an empty tummy. But yer probably not in the mood to talk, so I'll just leave ya alone. Let ya think. Maybe if yer extra nice and thoughtful, ya'll come up with something so I won't have to take ya again." And that was everything that the machine-demon said. Dead silence followed along with loneliness. Minutes ticked by with grating slowness, only marked by the rising and falling of his chest. His life was over here. Truly, it was. No matter how much his mother cared for him, she would not find him here. No matter how much his father would search, the police would turn over no evidence.

Even so young, he could tell that this was not a place people returned from. But his tears refused to come. His heart had become numb. He could no longer move, not because of the restraints placed on him or because of the fear, but because he had broken. For he knew that struggle would not help. He wished he paid more attention to the strange rumours in his school. He desperately wished he had confessed to that pretty girl he liked. He held close the desire to say thank you to his mother once again. However, more than that, he was desperate to be saved. It did not matter who would do it. He wanted to be freed from the rust around him.

With a flash of silver light, his wish came true all of a sudden. The machine-demon that kidnapped him screeched a horrible scream of pain as an overwhelming sphere of hope danced circles around it. Ancient weapons fashioned from even more ancient materials criss-crossed with each other in a deadly whirlwind of hope. Steel bit into rust, but rust also drove its claws into steel. Colours mixed into a flurry that he could not even hope to keep track of. Yet in his heart, he knew. His salvation had come. The blurred silver which fought against the darkness was to be his saviour.

And she was breathtakingly beautiful.

Her battle finished, an angel from heaven descended before him. Clad in the silver-coloured armour of long forgotten kingdoms and empires, any word short of divine would have failed to describe her. Every detail of her was immaculate. From the simple, metallic boots through the shin- and thigh plates that were forged to resemble breath-taking arches; through the sectioned, armoured skirt fashioned in the form of flower petals and decorated with exquisite, red patterns of steel lace; through the curved breast-plate which had the image of two majestic, crimson swords crossed over another; through the shoulder-guard that looked more like it belonged to a dress rather than to a knightly armour; through the upper armguards which bore red ribbons tied into a bow; to the gauntlets which held a claymore each, she was unspeakable. Her face alight with a smile. Her eyes warm red, like fire. Her long, french braid the picture of elegance. The red choker on her neck a simple crown for a simple queen.

He asked who she was and she waved her hand in front of her throat. A warm, apologetic smile radiated from her face. As if she needed to say sorry for something like that. Then one of her claymores disappeared in a playful display of red and silver light. It was replaced by a message that would change his life forever.

I am magical girl Crossed Swords, and I am happy to have rescued you.​
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  • Nice Execution!
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Sparks of Change

"A Pilot has been lost."

Silence greeted this announcement. Over one hundred thousand years of exploring the cosmos without a single scratch on a hull. And yet two hours earlier, Granam Yolkais has been reported missing. His contact disappeared off the ship's sensors without any prior indication. There were no warnings, nor any error messages that predicted this strange loss. Not even the man's partner was sure what happened. Systems redundant many times over had simply failed. Hardware and software with literally countless hours of use and billions of billions of instances running at all times ceased to work. Those gathered here were to believe that somehow, every component failed at once by sheer coincidence.

Needless to say, no one believed this outrageous claim.

Atliné, Empress of her subjects looked skeptical with a subtle fury in her expression. Golvadon, the Untouchable Fleet's First Sage was paying attention with all of his being. Beside him, one of his wives nursed her growing stomach with a worried visage. Xfrslk, President of the Sworn Species Union looked distinctly uncomfortable. And Sazalse, Acting Leader of the Black Remnant was unreadable as always. He had the best of masters to learn from after all and he had also been the one who made the announcement.

"This is unacceptable," continued Sazalse as he traced an ancient wound on his lower right arm with his upper right arm. "Let's not delay the inevitable and vote." Blunt as always, just as his teacher. There were no political games in his statement. Only the open honesty of a frontline soldier who had made his value known through and through in the old wars. The only thing he did not say outright was that the Black Remnant would act regardless of this council's opinion. Their ships would mobilise as one in order to scour the entire universe, one galaxy at a time. No expense would be spared to locate those who challenged one hundred thousand years of peace.

"One urges caution." Of course it was Xfrslk who spoke up against the Black Remnant. "One reminds all to consider all's principles. All can not interfere lacking reasons lest all become like the not-yet-worthy. One reminds another that violence is no option." However, there was no one to speak up on her behalf. In fact, the subtle shift from Atliné's direction showed that Xfrslk was not supported in her opinion. Golvadon merely looked on with that analytical expression of his as if he was considering what little data there was on this case.

"It would be a fool's caution," argued Sazalse. "We know this is either a kidnapping or death." Xfrslk could only respond to this assertion with a shocked outburst of white noise. To her, who lived through countless years without a single death that one did not choose for themselves, this was unthinkable. To others, beings born in much less kind eras, this was reality. The void of space showed no mercy. Outside of the area claimed by the Creator States, there was no absolute certainty. No matter how one protested, this was simply the law of large numbers in action.

"One should be more careful with their words, Sazalse! That is a heinous accusation without merit," insisted the woman as she tried to win over at least one member of the council to her side. But not even Golvadon's wife seemed to be sympathetic to her cause. "One does not believe that is possible. Executor Class-"

"Executor Class ships are by no means absolute protection, dear Xfrslk," interrupted Atliné, deciding to step in before the Black Remnant spoke of much harsher truths. "As our distinguished Sazalse pointed out, other possibilities are so unlikely that they do not deserve our consideration. Therefore, I pledge my support to the Black Remnant's cause. Even if our beloved Xfrslk is right, we do not lose anything by sending out more forces to scout the universe. Unfortunately, my empire can spare only a meagre twelve million Rebirth Class ships as of now." Silence was Xfrslk's answer to this notion. She knew when she had been defeated and she could not disagree with Atliné's points.

"The Untouchable Fleet pledges four-seven-nine-two-two-one-three-one-nine-seven-one-one-six-five-nine-eight-six-zero-four-five vessels for this task, including seven million, three-hundred-and-two thousand, six hundred and thirty three Rebirth Class ships." The twenty-digited number of Golvadon may have eclipsed Atliné's contribution to the cause, but everyone knew that the empress was not denying them ships. Her fleet was merely going through a complete overhaul at the moment. Even then, the extra of more than four million Rebirth Class vessels made up for the difference many times over.

"Two-hundred and seventy-one terosce, eight million Rebirth Class ships and any volunteers who wish to join." Sazalse saw no need to tire his lips by listing the exact numbers of his contribution. And while he may have been outnumbered by Golvadon two-to-one on paper, in practice, the addition of volunteers meant that he would offer a total of seven to nine hundred terosce. More than a match for Golvadon's generous contribution, even considering that a large number of volunteers would either be civilian ships or ex-military men returning to service.

"One offers five-hundred and four terosce, but One can not estimate Rebirth Class numbers," conceded Xfrslk with sparks of reluctant acceptance. The President had been thoroughly defeated in this instance and she had to concede a large amount of her forces so as not to draw ire to herself. As much as she disagreed with the notion of the other leaders, the Sworn Species Union was also a Creator State and as such, it had to contribute its share. To the credit of the other leaders, they accepted the offer with various gestures common to their species; a colourful expression of agreement that painted a vivid picture of countless differences.

Sazalse's many-jointed fingers closed in on themselves with a vice-like grip while he slightly raised his head. Golvadon nodded as his wife made a relieved sigh. The colour of Atliné's many curve-hugging, flourescent lines shifted from neutral green to approving blood red. This moment continued for a little while before the council was adjourned, Golvadon, his wife and Xfrslk disappearing into colourless motes of light before Atliné left the premises on her feet. Sazalse remained the sole occupant of the room.

He sat there for several minutes as if he was contemplating the council meeting. All four of his eyes seemed to be staring off into the distance, their focus completely lost. Ancient wounds deliberately revealed by custom-tailored clothes moved along with the man's chest in a rhythm that originated in the days of hunter-gatherers. The many joints of his hand rearranged themselves into a loose position as the finishing step of this exercise. Sazalse became as a beacon of peace, a solitary monument dedicated to inner perfection.

Then he let loose an inarticulate shriek as cold, metallic hands closed around his torso.

"Highly esteemed Sazalse, you have forgotten a most important lesson." Atliné's hands embraced Sazalse as if she was his lover, holding him in a tight, if slightly cold embrace that just so happened to prevent all four of his arms from reaching her. Mechanical strength triumphed over tensile flesh as the woman leaned in to press a chaste kiss to her victim's neck. Sazalse was still frozen in terror as this happened, unable to act as his mind tried to process what just happened. He was sure that everyone had left the room save for himself, so how could it be that the Empress herself remained?

"If you wish to change the status quo, my glorious Sazalse, prepare to adopt a mask of steel... And to give my regards to your master. He always has such interesting ideas." This was followed by a light giggle that trailed off into nothingness as Atliné disappeared from sight once again. She left Sazalse only the merciless truth of his masterful plan being so easily unravelled.
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It had been days, and he was still advancing. His armour of steel was riddled with countless bullet holes. Gaping maws of injured plating revealed gruesome, infected wounds. Malformed bones peeked out from under his torn clothes, bearing his massive weight. A lance had impaled his heart some time ago, skewering his spine with a cruel twist in its trajectory. He had been reduced to a bloodied corpse. A titanic monster in the shape of a man. A being whose features disappeared, the very essence of despair, which ruled this battle.

Thunderous roar filled every inch of the sky as the artillery fired. Shells struck the battlefield one after another, digging deep into the soil. Whistling fragments of shattered metal screamed death along with destruction. Their sharp teeth devoured earth and flesh alike, bringing an end to countless soldiers. Bloodied meat sailed through the air while quick agonies let themselves known. Mangled, lifeless bodies were scattered across a marred plain of crimson. And yet when the smoke cleared, he was still advancing.

Shouts for a charge ripped from nearly dead lips while bayonets were affixed. Terror-filled eyes of men and women lit up with the desire to die for their homeland. They had ran out of ammo a long time ago, so their bodies were the only thing they could offer. They advanced as if they were one. Terrifying cries of self-defence rung in their ears as they prepared to meet their steel with his. Blow after blow, their cruel bayonets struck, creating more wounds on his body. And despite metal having defeated metal, he was still advancing.

The last line of defence collapsed on itself. Soldiers were brushed aside by limbs much greater than themselves, some crushed by sheer, overwhelming mass. The last-ditch mines exploded, exterminating friend or foe alike. Moments later, the sky lit up with a mushroom cloud. Overwhelming heat sterilised everything in the area, flaying layer after layer of flesh. Muscle fibres held the hand of bones as they were forced to evaporate with a foul smell. The world rotted away in deafening silence. And yet when binoculars surveyed the damage, he was still advancing.

Defeat resounded through the ranks when he reached his goal. His broken, twisted hands rapped on the top of the building, opening it as if it was nothing more than a tin can. Concrete busted under his massive fingers. Supports collapsed as he searched and searched and searched and searched. Then he found what he was looking for. A girl. Small, pale, fragile, sickly. A girl who offered him only a smile as he reached for her. He lifted her onto his shoulder and let one of his fingers linger on her head. She giggled. He regarded the marred earth in front of him.

And then he was no longer advancing.
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Science-Fiction, Science-Fantasy, Magical Girl, Mystery, Slice of Life,
Name: Leilani Nivel

Gender: Female


Personality: A good-natured person with a side-dash of naivety, Leilani always thinks the best of people. While not exactly a social butterfly, she has little trouble making friends or maintaining relationships. She never seems to frown or get angry and she always has a good word or two to say about other people. On the flipside, she does tend to be too trusting, which got her into trouble several times. She also keeps her negative emotions bottled up instead of expressing them. This results in incredibly cathartic - but not necessarily healthy - stress explosions, which she prefers to have as far away from people as humanly possible.

Likes: Flowers, plants, botany, fresh air, people, meadows.

Pollution, cities, "lifeless art", sour food, bullies.

Interests and skills:

Botany and gardening: Leilani is a natural when it comes to taking care of plants, especially those she is familiar with. She is a quick learner, not to mention she has a natural intuition when it comes to them. Because of this, and her sociable nature, she is the most well-known member of the school's gardening club.

Photography: She picked it up recently as a hobby, owing to her interest in immortalising plants that bloom once-in-a-lifetime. She is not very good at it yet.

Human Connections: Not only does Leilani like people, but she is quite interested in their affairs along with how they connect with each other. Not in the scientific, social studies way, but rather in the personal experience way. She likes to learn more about her friends along with their experiences, and wishes to understand them as much as humanly possible.

Name: Kalea Nivel


Personality: At the moment, Kalea is characterised by her grief. Feeling as though her life is a bleak memorial to her dead twin - Leilani - the world feels... dead to her. Not even the bright memories are of any help and the best she can do is slog through life one mechanical step at a time. She is trying to cope with her loss, and is seeking therapy, yet Kalea does not know if she is even capable of getting over her grief. Everything seems futile and meaningless without Leilani. Emotions feel dull; memories seem as though they are made of wet tissue; the world seems to have become a grey, grey place to her.

Before the incident, Kalea used to be a focused, studious individual who often neglected her social life; something which Leilani's presence remedied. Kalea developed a close-knit circle of friends within the Sterling Starsworn, who still stand by her side and are doing their best to support her in her time of need.

Likes: Her sister, science, meritocracy, fresh air, solitude.

School, authority figures who "did not earn it", bullies, noise, rain.

Magic: Kalea is capable of controlling and creating gravity. With many years of experience under her belt, she is capable of incredibly fine manipulation: her mastery is so delicate that she is capable of puppeting people without ripping them apart or creating a black hole that only affects a specific material or a specific area. She also has a good understanding of her power's relativistic effects and is capable of using them to manipulate the perception of time. Though her spells have an intense visual component, with sigils and symbols lighting up around her in purple, this gives her opponent no advantage as by the time they notice what she is doing, it is usually too late.

She is also capable of using so-called "nightblaze spells", but they are a new addition to her arsenal. Having gained access to them after Leilani's death, Kalea has not had the time to discover what they are or how they function yet.

Gentle Embrace: This used to be Leilani's weapon of choice. A beautifully crafted, crystalline staff filled with motifs of vines and flowers, capped by a sapphire stone that looks as though it were a blossom, its appearance hides a sophisticated battle computer along with a potent magical focus. With its highly adaptable algorithms, it is capable of reading the status of any being with remarkable accuracy, not to mention suggesting courses of action to its wielder. What is more, it gathers natural magical energies along with any spell residue continuously, thus greatly enhancing a Magical Girl's staying power.

It also helps regulate the flow of magic when it comes to barrier, healing and boost spells. However, there are two factors preventing it from being useful at the current time. One, it has been tailor-built to Leilani from the ground up, meaning that any other Magical Girl would only be able to use it well below optimal performance. Two, Kalea will do everything in her power to hold onto this keepsake of her dead sister. It is, after all, the only thing she has to remember her by in this strange world.

Grief's Embrace: Kaela's weapon of choice. Once called Eternal Champions, these pair of armoured gauntlets are more than they seem at first. Fine, almost invisible threads emerge from them, running across Kaela's body to fortify her against the very forces she uses in combat. By continuously draining a little bit of magic from her, they are capable of automatically counteracting any gravitational forces that would affect her, thus saving her a great deal of concentration. However, this is not all that the weapon offers.

Grief's Embrace has an additional component. Namely, a black hole contained within a human-sized wrecking ball that is attached to a highly resilient chain. The wrecking ball itself has all the equipment necessary to nullify the black hole's gravitational influence, which means that it is nothing more than an incredibly heavy weapon that only Kalea can wield with her powers... theoretically. Practically, Kalea has figured out a couple of tricks when it comes to the containment field, meaning she can let out as much of the black hole's influence as she likes, for as long as she likes.

The weapon also has a unique terror aspect: because of its mass, if Kalea accelerates it beyond the speed of sound, it creates a reverberating, bone-shattering, deep bass of a sonic boom that is disturbing to hear on a fundamental level.

Backstory: A little more than twenty years ago, a pair of twins were born into an ordinary family. Named Kalea Nivel and Leilani Nivel, they seemed ordinary at first... until LeilanI's hair and eyes started to change colour mere weeks after her birth. Affected by an incredibly rare, magical condition known as Divergent Twin Syndrome, it was not long until the Sterling Starsworn discovered the twins and confirmed that they had the potential to be Magical Girls. These news had a mixed reception within the Nivel family, but eventually, it was agreed upon that if nothing else, Kalea and Leilani needed to be able to control their magical powers.

As an organisation which educated, trained, organised and supported Magical Girls, the Sterling Starsworn injected themselves early on in the twins' lives as their teachers. They saw an opportunity in them: there was always a shortage of capable Magical Girls at all times and they always needed new recruits. However, their efforts turned out to be superfluous. Inspired by the countless Magical Girls they saw fighting for others - along with a rescue by Lavender Links, one of the most famous - Kalea and Leilani soon dedicated themselves to the art of magic.

Within a few years, the twins became known as the Miraculous Duo. Not only did they have excellent teamwork, but their magic also complimented each other perfectly. With Kalea's gravity manipulation and Leilani's healing and barrier skills, they always made short work of any task, going as far as to graduate at the age of sixteen; three years before students normally finish their training. Their fame and their reputation spread far and wide, winning the hearts and minds of no less than an entire solar system.

Then Leilani Nivel died.

How or why, Kalea refuses to share - or perhaps, she is not strong enough to share. Not even the best psychologists and therapists of the Sterling Starsworn could get her to share it; all that is known of the incident is that Kalea returned to headquarters with a disfigured, rotting corpse in her hands, with a look of utmost despair on her face. Many were afraid that she was going to end her life, but instead, Kalea spent most of her days in lifeless, bleak, solitude. Only eating, sleeping and staring ahead of herself. It took the better part of a month to get her talking again and nearly a year to make her capable of functioning again.

Not long after, Kalea volunteered to return to duty again. Always in need of more Magical Girls, the Sterling Starsworn allowed this, but only under the condition that she be accompanied by a helper at all times.

Character Theme: Hope-filled Stars
Battle Theme: Gravity Will Erode You

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Science-Fiction, Science-Fantasy, Magical Girl, Mystery, Slice of Life,


Safira Lenax

Age: 31
Race: Human
Gender: Female
Occupation: GPO, First Generation. Head of the Maria's Hallowed Grace Orphanage and Charity Kitchen.

God Program Name: Chimera
Compatibility Rate: 93%
God Program Type: Self-Augmentation
Apotheosis Fluid Color: #DDA0DD

God Program Ability: One of the more complex God Programs, Chimera is able to make some truly astonishing changes to its user's physiology and, as some concerned whispers theorise, maybe even their psychology. It is extremely versatile; though that does not appear so at a first glance. This is because at its surface, it is merely a constantly operating God Program that increases its user's strength and resilience, when compared to GPO baselines, by a factor of roughly three. It is only when the user touches another object or being, do things start to get really interesting.

Firstly, Chimera is capable of consuming materials by direct contact, at a rate of roughly five kilograms per second. These materials are stored in a raw, molecular form inside the user, thus increasing their mass. The user is then capable of using that mass to augment their capabilities and changing their body by focusing on a strong mental image. So long as the actual alteration is plausible with the materials inside Chimera, it will be made almost instantaneously and to a nearly flawless standard. Whether it be turning fingers into guns or creating a jet engine on the soles of one's feet, Chimera's potential seems to be limitless.

However, there are two downsides to using this ability. One, it feels quite unpleasant to the user. Though not painful, the user can feel their body shift and change in ways it was never meant to. And while this can be overcome by training, the second side-effect is far more problematic: if the user makes too many alterations in a short time, or maintains their alterations for too long, their body starts to shift into a different form regardless of the user's input. Dubbed "True Core" for the lack of a better term, it is unknown what would happen if the transformation were to complete, however, Chimera's current user did report radical shifts in train of thought and reasoning when the phenomenon began to occur.


Secondly, Chimera is able to fuse with and/or subvert any machinery or being that is non-sapient, with the only exception being the equipment of GPOs. This is a slow process that takes more time the more complex said machine or being is, with a pistol taking a couple of seconds but a highly sophisticated machine could take as much as a day. If an object is fused to the user's body, it acts as an extension of it, with Chimera being capable of shifting it and using it however its user would like. However, while this ability is highly versatile, it is also an extremely painful process as the user's nervous system and body expands to incorporate something completely alien to it.

Weapons and Equipment:
  • Protective Eyewear. A durable, transparent visor she can slide in front of her eyes. It also serves as a tactical HUD, highlighting allies and helping her navigate her surroundings.
  • Communications Equipment.
  • Spare Clothes. A necessity when one's God Program involves shape-shifting. Safira carries several sets just in case.

Personality: Open, loving and affectionate would be three words most people describe Safira as. A kind-hearted individual with an exceptionally soft spot for children, seeing others happy is something she cherishes dearly. She usually goes out of her way to accommodate even strangers, however, she does have a limit. Should you be rude to her or speak ill of her or someone dear to her heart, she will tell you in no uncertain terms, what she thinks of you along with your opinions. it is one of the few ways one can make her truly angry and she will only forgive you if you genuinely apologise to her.

Deep down, Safira is a somewhat lonely, traumatised individual. The loss of her husband left quite a scar on her and she feels as though she is not the same without him anymore. While she is over the worst of her grief, the fact remains that she loved him dearly. Missing his presence - or really, the presence of anyone - on longer missions, she will often ask people remain by her side, keeping her company even at night. She fears being alone and she fears losing those who are near to her; a deep-seated terror that could be all too easy to exploit. She is also somewhat reluctant in her duties, not only because of Chimera's unsettling effects, but also because she feels like being a GPO is not what she should be.

Safira does not remember her parents. Being born in one of the lowest levels of Polaris' habitable zones, she had lost them when an expedition into the engine levels went wrong and as such, she grew up in the very same orphanage she runs today: Maria's Hallowed Grace. Though she often lacked in material goods, the orphanage's staff truly loved her along with all the children they had taken under their wing, meaning she got to experience a relatively happy childhood. As she grew up, she learned a great deal about the various difficulties of the orphanage and when she reached legal age, she chose to help them out instead of doing any other work.

Working with children greatly endeared Safira to them and she soon started to dream of a family of her own; a dream which she soon realised by finding her husband, Kylian. They were married within only two years of knowing each other and soon after, Safira fell pregnant with her first child. Though she regretted not being able to help out at her orphanage anymore, the young mother made sure to fund them with considerable donations while she looked after her family the best she could. Her determination to her family along with her love of her husband were second to none and it worked out for all the better.

Even when she tested for a favourable, 70%+ compatibility in the GPO program, Safira refused to leave her Kylian's side. Instead, she bore a second child for him and continued to love him with all her might. But then... The engine levels spilled over into her living space again. And she could not protect a single soul from the encroaching machines. She hid with her children, watching desperately as people were being slaughtered around her, her husband chief amongst them. Unsurprisingly, the experience had changed her forever.

If only she had enrolled into the GPO program... If only she had the power to protect Kylian... These horrid thoughts kept circling in her head until she gave into the pressure and chose to enroll. She knew she would break her children's heart if she died as well, but at the same time, she could not live with the thought of having had the chance of protect Kylian. And so no matter how much her family begged her, no matter how much her heart rattled at the thought of dying, she stepped into the conversion chamber.

Seventy-one hours later, she returned with the God Program Chimera, the first in Polaris' history to do so.

Miscellaneous Info:
- If you are Safira's friend, brace for hugs. Lots and lots of hugs.
- If you are Safira's acquaintance, brace for hugs.
- In fact, if you are around Safira at all, brace for hugs.
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