The Trails of Moonlight

Chapter 6 Interlude - Arthur: Shadow
The truth creates shadows and doubt

Art entered the door of the inn, an air of tension greeting him as he opened the door. He looked around and saw several patrons stare right back, looking at him and his weapon wrapped in cloth. They looked on edge, as if they expected a hostile to enter the door with guns blazing. Tired after a combination of a long red-eye journey and the fear of loss, Art ignored the stares, and walked right up to the reception.

“Hey, do you know where to find Franz’s room?” he asked the receptionist, handing a piece of paper. “He said he’d be in this room.”

The receptionist took a moment to look at the slip. “Up those stairs, end of the hall.”

Art nodded. “Alright, thanks.” he replies, walking up to the stairs.

He ascended the flight of stairs and proceeded to the end of the hall, as the receptionist indicated. He opened the door and a familiar smell hit him.

This is the place. It sure does smell familiar.

The room was tidy, only showing minor signs of use. There was a Art set his weapon down in a corner, then dropped himself on the bed, a single that had been neatly made. He closed his eyes and tried to go to sleep, but the headache he was having made it nearly impossible to do so.

He sat up on the bed, thinking for a moment.

What can I do…?

After a few moments, an idea hit him. He got up and sat on chair next to the desk in the room. He took out a pen and some pieces of paper and started writing.

I guess this might be the only chance I’m going to get.

Art spent the good part of an hour writing down his thoughts on two separate pieces of paper. After he was done, he folded the paper neatly, and put two separate names on the pair.

To everyone
To myself

He left one on the table, and put another one in his travel bag. He felt a little better after having written, so he cleared the table and went to bed, able to fall asleep mere minutes after laying down.


“Move.”

A voice swirled in the void.

Why?

The voice was soft but stern. “You don’t have the resolve to do everything to save what’s precious to you.”

What do you mean? I want to save my mom!

“And you will fail. I have already seen it. You think that you’re using everything you have, but all you’ve been doing is playing with MY power.”

Playing? Who’s playing?

“I don’t expect you to understand. After all…” the voice trailed off.

What?

“You are a mere shadow. A shadow of things not needed, a shadow of things that should not have existed in the first place.” the voice said in dismissive tone. “And all you’ve been doing is play around with the others, thinking you were like them. And now you’ve led the Scarlet Child right to the enemy.”

No…but that’s…

“But no more. I’ve had enough. All your gallivanting has only led to this moment, and you will fail in your task. But I won’t.”

Wait…what are you doing? The void started coalescing into a swirl, then exploded into thousands of images, enveloping everything.

“I’m taking my life back.”

View
Chapter 5 [Aiden]: Heretic's Cause

November 5, 430AR
6:00am
The Misty Maid Inn, Springshroud, Corseria

Aid sat near the desk, loading .45 Long Cole brass onto the gaps in the steel disc plates.
‘So it was all true. Mirana IS this Scarlet Child they were talking about,’ he thinks to himself as he crimps the sides, securing the bullets.

‘The CLF wanting to get her didn’t make sense at first, and that red-headed extremist with us wasn’t any help either,’ he sets the loaded moon clip down on the desk, alongside other speedloaders loaded with various specialty rounds, ranging from pepper capsule rounds to slim, small bore shotgun shells.

He looked outside the window. Covered in condensation from the fog, just like yesterday
.
“But that makes it all clear, now, doesn’t it?” he mutters to himself.

‘With yesterday’s book reading, as well as The Akashic Order being involved, it all sums up to them intending to use Mirana for whatever their convoluted plans. Another mystic power they wish to place in their own hands."

He stares at his own hand and takes off the gauze wrappings, revealing a deep gash on his palm..
‘I don’t… get it all, really. Why go so far as to play with a higher power? Are they so willing to go so far for what they believe? No bounds, bringing children into this mess?’

‘Is that all she is to them, the daughter of legend; with powers to call the gods, for them to use?’
He clenched his hand into a fist.
‘She doesn’t deserve this. She didn’t ask to be the Scarlet Child. Like I didn’t ask to be this…"

He cast his eyes down.

“…heretic abomination…” he mutters under his breath.


“Mom..? Dad…?”

A black haired child cried out as he stood in the midst of a red inferno.
“What’s happening.. to me?”
He looks at a stagecoach, reduced to a bonfire after being struck by the torrent of flaming red bleeding out of his arm.
Six figures clad in clerical robes lay in front of him; all unconscious, singed from the mysterious flames, save for one.
“Why did you take me away from home, Sir? Please, take me back!”

Aid pleaded, taking steps towards his surviving abductor.
The man stared at him with horror, crawling backwards.
“Stay away from me, heretic!!!”

“Please… help me get back!”the boy asked again. “I don’t want Mom and Dad getting worried!” he struggled to take another step, dragging the blood weapon behind.

The zealot continued to inch away,chanting prayers of an unknown language as he went, as if asking for Vattos himself to intervene.
A piece of metal clicked as his hand landed. Noticing the gun at a touch, he grabbed it by the grip and pointed it at the child.
“Stay away, you monster!!” he yelled, trigger on the finger.

The boy took a step back, tears continued to stream down his cheeks.
“I didn’t mean to hurt anyone, please..!”
“Murderer! Monster! Stay away!!” The man slowly pulled on the trigger.
“I’m not a monster! Please!” the red flames blazed, pulling his hand back from instinct.
STAY-!!!”
“I didn’t-!”
“-AWAY!!!”
“I don’t want to hurt-”
AWAY WITH YOU-!!!”
“-ANYONE!!!” the child cried as he made a powerful downward swing with the spiral blaze.
“-DIE!!!!”

BANG!
The roar of a gun ripped through the air.

“That’s enough, son,” a firm hand stopped Aiden by the wrist from striking down to take another life. The bloody spiral fizzled out in a puff of flames.
The child collapsed from his weight, pale and weak from the loss of blood. Familiar arms catch him as he fell.
“Dad..?”

“Aiden, dear!” another sweet, familiar voice called out to him.
He turned his head to find his mother running towards them, tossing the Artes rifle she cradled in her arms aside to lock the two in her embrace.
His parents frantically check up on him.

“Am I…” the child croaked weakly.
“…a monster..?”

Garreth and Weiss shook their heads.
“You’re our son, Aiden,” Weiss taps her 8 year old’s forehead with a forefinger and hugs him tight as she can.

“A little difference doesn’t make you one, son. Never let anyone tell you any different,” Garreth replied with a bittersweet smile.
He then stands, turning his attention to the zealot; still reeling in pain from a rifle round that grazed his hand.

“Weiss… Take Aiden and head back to town.” Garreth’s voice gains a more serious tone. He kicks up the pistol on the floor and catches it.
“I’ll go handle this one,” he racks up the slide, discarding the first round and chambering another.

“Garreth! Don’t be stupid! Now’s not the time!” she scolded her husband as she carried Aiden in her arms.

“Oh no, this is DEFINITELY the PERFECT time,” he scoffed, shooting himself in the left arm with the gun. He tossed the pistol back towards the culprit. His right hand hovered over the self-inflicted wound.

“You. Sick. Bastard. Taking my innocent son while I was away on a mission, aren’t we? . And for what? Surely you didn’t stab him in the hand for nothing, yeah?”

He advanced slowly, producing a handle of blood streaming out of his wound.
“You want our blood? Shame you’ll get mine.”
He brandishes a seven branched greatsword from his blood; the bullet embedded on the tip, then melting it in an instant.

Weiss groaned in disagreement.
“I’m not gonna kill him, Weiss. But I’ll make sure he wish I did,” he assured his wife.
“You’re taking it too far-”
“I’ll make sure ALL of them do,” his eyes dart above the trees.

Weiss followed his gaze above the branches. She only now noticed figures barely noticeable in the faint moonlight, hidden behind the foliage.

“Urgh… I hate it when you’re right,” she sighed in defeat, taking Aiden up the horse and picking up the Artes rifle before saddling up herself.
“Don’t take too long, Dear. You hear? HYAH!” she reminds him before she commanded the horse to gallop.

Garreth nods with a smile before turning back to the treeline.

“And as for YOU lot hiding in the shadows,” his eyes glow a more intense red.

“…does your Order want to see what happens when you piss off a Dragon?!” the flames of the greatsword in his hand blaze more furiously. At least twenty faces hidden were lit up by the red-tinted light; all of which retreated with a rustle of leaves.


‘I can’t… let her go through that,’ Aid’s hand tightened into a fist.

’I’m sure whatever bloody reason they have for hunting Mirana down are in those archives. Perhaps the very reason why they tried to get me in the past, as well,’ he starts wrapping a fresh set of bandages around his arm.

‘But whatever those reasons are, I don’t care. If those acolytes of the Order think they can get her the same way they got to me, they have another thing coming. I know Clarisse will hate me for this, but I won’t hesitate anymore like the first few times. If all hell breaks lose, I’ll protect her, no matter what.’ he tightens the gauze, securing it with his Perillous wristband.

“…even if I have to spill every last drop of my blood.”

View
Chapter 5 Interlude, Arthur - Bonds
Finding that which one needs

Political intrigue.
Stolen identities and revenge.
Family tension.
Alex and Bastion’s relationship damaged, party morale in tatters.
Mysterious legends coming to life.
Limiters, Blood Swords, and revelations abound.

All of this was too much for Art’s mind to comprehend. Up until a few months ago, all he cared about were his inventions, adventures and misadventures, mainly himself.

As he lay on the soft, comfortable bed at the Misty Maiden, he took stock of the events so far.

He had not needed anything up until he joined Artestech, and took the junior engineer position to acquire a license to legally scavenge ruins for technology. One thing lead to another, and soon he found himself needing to take the escort job to ensure the safety of two Yurran students on field study. There simply was something about that particular job that inexplicably drew himself to it.

The chain of events leading up to today saw his group discovering a plot to destabilize the country, and finding a mysterious girl who turns out to be possibly the daughter of a ages-old gods – the Scarlet Child.

He felt his heart pound strongly for a moment.

Mirana…who are you? he thought.

Her image resonated in his mind. Art heard faint whispers the longer he thought about it. He pushed the thoughts away, fearing what would happen if he let the whispers persist.

He directed his rumination towards Aid. He was outgoing, a smart and fun sort of guy, though fiercely secretive about the bandage wrapped around his arm. It turns out he had good reason – and the reason is deadly.

I wonder if he’s like me and Mr. Arsel… he wondered, restless.

He thought about the Magnus family. He had read and heard about them since he was younger – a noble family of knights hailing from Aleria, adhering to strict ideals and codes. Having heard how far they had fallen, and that they were still trying to uphold a code that may very well be dying.

Art never understood the need for such stuffy things – he had always loved the freedom to pursue whatever one wanted, as long as it didn’t caused malicious harm to others. And yet, here are two opposing sides within the same family.

Bastion, who says he lost everything. He wants to make those responsible for his loss pay, Art mused. He ignores the only one I think is supportive to him.

Alex, who wants to uphold the family name and code, despite the hardship. he thought about the other Magnus. Why go through so much trouble? She could always be the best Yurran student even without a family name.

He felt his heart pound strongly once more, one that resounded all over.

Art could no longer sleep, so got off the bed and quietly set up his Arcus for tinkering on the larger table in the room. Tinkering had always helped to keep his mind off anything troublesome.


I inspected my Arcus for any damage or issues. I picked this up months before I met the others…left in front of my workshop. I kept it inside the ‘shop and didn’t tell my mom or Sonny about it, seeing as they might tell me to give it back. Not like that would be possible anyway, since the package did not have any return address or identification.

I had seen Arcus before, but I have definitely never seen anything like it. It didn’t have any of the control mechanisms typical to contemporary designs – just a magnetic docking mechanism used to mount the shields. It came with three of them, so they were attached as such: two on my arms and one on my back to accommodate maximum protection. Wearing it gave me the ability to move things with just thought, though at great effort. Shortly after meeting the others, the shields gained the ability to move and float on their own…sometimes, I feel like they may actually be moving on their own accord. No idea how that happened, but it’s beneficial, so I’m not complaining.

And now, this gal tells me that I had a broken limiter? What the heck is a limiter? There has never been such a thing in any Arcus designs. And why would there be, since mana no longer flowed freely?

I took a close look at the mounting points, where she placed this ‘limiter’. I noticed that the central portion had broken off…when did that happen? I popped the device off, and immediately a headache and the whispers followed. I immediately returned the device into its slot. What the heck does this thing do?

Great, now I can’t even maintain my gear without getting into trouble.

Everything’s just messed up. All this because people refuse to understand each other.

Alex has her obligations, whatever that means. I guess she feels strongly about it, so I didn’t mind, though I don’t understand it personally. She cares about her cousin (which is normal, sure), but I don’t think she understands what he’s going through.

Heck, I kinda feel for Bass; I mean, if someone stole my stuff like that, I’d get pretty angry too…but he’s not seeing clearly, and is pushing Alex away, even though we’re all in deep shit now anyway.

Me, agreeing with Bass? Yep, everything’s definitely messed up.

But I do want to help them…but how? How do I help them understand each other?

Wait…what if I…?


Art stretched out his thoughts, trying to unblock the things he brushed aside before.

Nothing came.

Dammit, it’s not working… he thought. He tried to focus, but nothing extremely faint murmurs.

Oh, right. He slapped his forehead hard.

He removed the device from the docking mechanism. The lines in the shield started glowing red.

The whispers poured in, quickly and enveloping his mind. It gave him a massive headache, but he shrugged it off and tried to focus; he as trying to sift through the voices, and find what he was looking for.

After almost an hour of focusing, failing, and trying again, he was able to quiet his mind, and the whispers stopped, though his severe headache persisted, though he was exerting all his effort in maintaining this state of mind. The color in the shield changed to green.

“Well done.” said a voice in his head. “You’ve been able to get this far.”

Who is it? Art wondered, confused at being addressed directly by his mind.

“That’s not important right now. I know what it is you seek, and I can help you.” the voice answered in a reassuring tone. “Your time here is short, but I hope you will learn.”

It’s him.

“I can hear you, you know.” the voice replied.

Oh.

“All you need to know right now is that the world is bigger what you have known, that your bonds with others is a two-way connection, and that you have the ability to bring that together, even just for a few moments.” the voice explained. “It will take too much time to explain in detail, and doing so may endanger you.”

Bring bonds together…a two-way connection.

“You will understand soon. Now, go, help them. Help her.” the voice echoed, eventually fading.

Art’s mind started filling with whispers again. He immediately puts the limiter back in its place, silencing the whispers and removing his headache.

Whoa, what a trip. he thought. A bond is a two-way connection, huh…

He suddenly felt dizzy and sleepy, so he returned to bed and dropped hard and fell asleep.

View
ARTICLE - Brindt-Garrian Conflict

The Brindt-Garrian Conflict is a full-scale armed conflict that erupted in Aleria around late October 430 AR. Brindt-Garrian-Conflict.jpg

The two belligerents participating in the war, Brindtsong and Gaur, are both influential Alerian nations towards Corseria, resulting in some Corserian citizens being drafted onto either side.

Background

During the early summer of 430 AR, multiple incidents of sabotage and theft were reported to be occurring in multiple locations in Gaur. In addition, mysterious forest fires became prevalent throughout forests in Gaur territory.

Similarly, in Brindtsong territory, strange occurences similar to the Gaur Demon Crater incident began occurring in some towns and a few major cities.

Unified Soldat-Gaur treaty

A year prior, Chancellor Ilmarya of Gaur decided to have joint military exercises with the Soldat miltary force. He then attempted to pitch an idea of a unified Soldat-Gaur military force as a way of making amends with Soldat after their clashes during the Kislev Invasion.

Over half the continent was happy with this treaty, but a few nations, such as Brindtsong, were against this idea. Popular rumor has it that the Brindtsong government views this as “cornering” them, as the threat of Gaul being inducted into the Dominican Federation would surely corner Brindtsong strategically, in both geographic and economic senses.

Bank of Brindtsong Incident

Several strange incidents in both these nations seemed to carry evidence that both sides were conducting sabotage on each other. This rose tensions in mid-summer of 430 AR.

Due to several cases of theft and supposed espionage, the Bank of Brindtsong decided to freeze assets of Gaurian citizens and denied them access to a fraction of funds. Despite there being multiple talks trying to lift the freeze, none of them bore fruit.

In the middle of the autumn of 430 AR, Gaur attacked ships off the east coast of Brindtsong with military boats. Brindtsong military decided to retaliate, taking it as an act of war, thus setting off the beginning of the Brindt-Garrian conflict.

Current State

While the war has been relatively bloodless, the damages and costs are something to be behold. Over 500,000sil worth of military technology has been burned for both sides, though rumors say that Gaur carries the upper hand in the war with more minimal damages to themselves.

As of the end of October 430AR, the war is only estimated to worsen, with over 800 military casualties from both sides after 3 weeks of battle, not counting civilian collateral.

View
Chapter IV: Perillous
"In the face of great peril, we stand."

426 AR

The day started like any other; 

Another scheduled relic hunting expedition, further down Dragon's Descent. Throughout the week under the command of our youngest squad member, "Clarent", we've made further progress down the Aberrant-infested labyrinth. And while the first twenty floors did not pose much of a threat, we've decided to open only twelve of these floors to the daring public, as it was fairly easier to reach them in case an emergency arises.

Despite us being against the involvement of other people in our own- dare I say it, perillous explorations; conditions beyond the thirteenth floor made us rethink our options. I personally know that everyone in our little squad of seven can handle our ground, but with the number of these abominations increasing exponentially, we'd rather not take any chances. And with a large concentration of energy detected in an area further down, the promise of acquiring another relic for Kingsfall's museum is just too hard to miss. And so, we've enlisted a mercenary to our advantage two days prior to the day; an adventurer with a decent amount of combat experience, or so he said..

Little did we know that this was our very mistake.

Reaching the 30th level of the labyrinth was made far easier through his help. And there, we found the relic we've sought after. A black, ornate heater shield- mere inches longer than one's arm, floared above a large, shallow well, sparkling from the mysterious frozen crystals embedded within the labyrinth's walls.
We were so occupied with securing the area from the Aberrants that we never noticed until we heard light sloshing of water. The mercenary waded through the knee-high pool, heading for the relic in the middle. Raising our arms were futile. Our bullets and bolts, seemingly deflected with a mere wave from his hand. It was only a matter of seconds before he reached the relic.

A ripple of purple energy blasted all seven of us away from him.

The relic's transformation has revealed to us its true nature. The shield broke into five lateral pieces; originally obsidian stones adorning the equally black metal ow  glowed a harsh, bright indigo as they floated in mid-air, held together by an aura of blue-violet flames. In his hand, what seemed to be an old torch now blazed with an indigo helix serving as its lance.

They all said it was a mere story. But there it was. 

Perhaps it was fear of imminent death… Dread of a future with such a relic in his hands… or simply an effect of the pulse that blasted all away. We were all rooted in one place; unable to stand, save for one man.

The squad leader took all of his resolve, rising against the shield bearer that walked toward us in a mockingly slow gait. In response, Clarent took his bayonet mounted shotgun and murmured something under his breath. He bit the loose bit of gauze resting on his index finger and tore the bandage off of his arm as he jumped into the fray.

I wanted to stop him from making such a reckless charge… but my voice betrays me as it drowned all words except his name.

 

"Aiden!!!"

View
Chapter III Epilogue: Arthur - Awakening
An awakening brings more questions than answers

Art could not believe what he was hearing from the rest of the team. Despite having accepted that there was something that lurked beneath the surface, he never expected that it would have a mind of its own.

I did that?

Midnight had already fallen upon the sleepy town of Yuval, yet the young man could not sleep; too many thoughts ran through his mind. He shook his head, trying to focus and digest what had learned.

Who am I?

Up until that point, Art never thought to question anything about his life; growing up in this town, knowing the people, adventuring, and aspiring to be a successful machinist with a creation he could call uniquely his own. The existence of an 'other' him casts a shadow of doubt on everything he knew about himself. He tries to recall the oldest memories he could muster.

 I remember growing up as a kid in…I was born in…I got this particular scar…when again?

None of it registered, as if his mind collided with a brick wall every single time he tries to summon the thoughts. The very act of attempting induces a strong headache. His ears started ringing, a stinging sensation drowning his efforts.

As he tried to fight off the feeling, the ringing was replaced with faint whispers.

"…how could I let this happen?" a distinctly female voice resonated. A feeling of regret. I know this person…

"…haven't heard that in a while…" This time a male voice, warm yet somewhat uneasy.

Oh, no no no, not again… Art thought. It's happening again.

"…Arthur, I'm sorry…" Another female voice. Mom, is that you?

"…I promise I'll keep him safe." A man, somber in tone, as if solemnly swearing an oath. Is it you…?

I don't know what to think anymore. Why is this happening?

Art stumbled into the study, trying to shrug off the persistent echoes. It was no use, however; he could not clear his head. I have to take my mind off this somehow… he thought, severely distressed.

He approached the baby grand piano at the center of the room, and sat on the player's seat. He gave one more strained effort to push out the thoughts, as he recalled one of the only few compositions he knew by heart. Once he had gathered enough of his wits, he placed his fingers on the keys, and started playing. He could feel his mind slowly regain composure, the notes filling his mind, the rhythm establishing, and the soft music pouring out of the piano.

After a few minutes of playing, Art lifted his fingers from the keyboard - the whispers were gone.

Sonny always taught me playing sooths the mind… Art mused, recalling that Sanford had often played during his spare afternoons, and his pieces certainly had a calming effect even then.

As he got up from the piano chair, he noticed a sheet of cloth on the wall, covering a painting.

Oh, Sonny must've covered it up since nobody would be here. He gently pulled the cloth, revealing the picture underneath.

Mom, did you know about any of this? he wondered, looking at the painting intently.

Art placed the cloth aside, also trying to push aside thoughts of the past for now.

Jeez, things are getting more complicated now. Cousins keeping secrets, raging mad bombers, our real ward being some sort of terrorist, so much intrigue, and now this mysterious power? How can things get any worse?

He left the study and returned to his weapon, still covered in its protective wrap, and regarded the clothed surface with care. 

They may have deliberately withheld information, but even so…I want to trust them. And if I can control this power, then maybe I can protect them.

The idea seemed absurd to him at first, having never committed to a cause other than his own. A feeling of renewed purpose filled his thoughts. He headed for the workshop, with future in mind, closing the door behind him.

View
Chapter III Epilogue: Alex's Thoughts

How could he act so senselessly foolish? I may not be one to reprimand him but I cannot believe he would…

The party just finished their third day of training in Yuval. Alexandra tended to her heavily injured cousin. He hasn't woken up since coming back, she couldn't help but sigh ever so heavily. Worry and frustration circulated her.

How could I let this happen?

Chapter_3_Epilogue.png

The disheartened cousin blamed her incompetence to stop his reckless action that threw away their only lead to the organization that they're facing. She heaved an even heavier sigh as she thought of  how to report this casualty. Much to her dismay. She was always one to give full and proper detail of each record. 

Bringing out her tablet, she placed it down on the night stand beside Bastion's bed. blowing up the holographic screen and turning the tablet screen to a keyboard, she started to type away.

Hours passed, the silent room gave her a familiar heavy feeling that she hasn't felt in a long time. Maybe she was feeling nostalgic when she treated Bastion or its seeing Burdock again, though not as an ally. 

 

There are a lot of things I would still like to find out… Why did Burdock allow Bastion to take his place? Was Bastion really able to just get such documents or did Burdock let him? I do not question my cousin's sticky fingers yet it seems … eerie, coincidence or not. Why did he not report it to our professor? Did he find this an excuse to pursue his family's plans? It is a perfect cover. I did find it odd that no one has called me about him reporting his stolen documents. 


 And Bastion… what really happened that day? It's something he must explain… not even to me, but to everyone else. I rather not pry on his agenda too much. He is no child anymore, even if he tended to act so.


 Ah… There's also Arthur—- I mean, Art's sudden personality change. A junior Yurran student? Maybe I can check the school records as soon as I get permission.


So many hidden agendas… in just this small party…

Can we really work with full trust like this?

 


Alexandra stopped typing to glance at the sleeping menace that almost got them killed by a cave in. She laughed. Not like she or Art have not caused the group much danger.

"Just like when we were children, you would destroyed the pavilion of the manor."

 

No matter how imprudent he can be, he is still my cousin and I am determined to help him clear his name. I trust him more than anyone. I hope my help will be enough… though… I should really not forget the others. If they question me why I kept a tight lip, I will tell them it is not my truth to tell. 

I can only hope that our teamwork won't falter because of this.

 

She stopped her serious thoughts when she realized the date. 

"Right, the Polla festival is happening soon." She opens the calendar. 
"I do miss the streets of Pavillion. The road aligned and decorated with flowers, some fireflies at night. Such a relaxing sight."

She begins reminiscing, looking out the window to the horizon. So close yet so far. She hasn't been home since she enrolled in Yurran, it wasn't far off for her to recollect such memories.


 "I can probably celebrate it again after I graduate." Alex stares at her pinky finger with a smile.
"Well, I must not dally." She turned her attention back to the screen and started typing again. 

View
Chapter III Aid's Epilogue: Differences
Oct 20, 430 AR. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Oct 20, 430 AR. 7:00pm

It was a clear, breezy night. Perfect for an evening walk, to clear his head from all the confusion. Strangers hidden within friend, in a different land. It was different. TOO different. For once, he wanted something …familiar.
After half an hour, he decided to stop by the bank near the Starlit River. He makes a long distance call to a friend.

Back at Kingsfall, Brindtsong, someone picks up a phone from a stack of papers. 

"Oh hey, Aid! Haven't heard from you in a while! What's up?"

-———————————————————————————————————

"…so that's what happened," the researcher discussed the events that happened for the last three days.

"Pffft.." the cheery female voice struggled to hold her laughter. 
"Oi. What are you laughing at, Nemesie?" Aid leered at his phone as his senior gave in.

At the other end of the line, a young master researcher with green hair and hazel eyes laughed in her seat. "Sorry, sorry!" she apologized as she stood up and took a kettle from the old coffee maker. "Just like old times, huh, Aid? You always had a knack for attracting all sorts of trouble, eh?" she teased as she poured a cup.

"Its not as if I invited a co-worker with a split personality or an identity thief with avenger's complex on board, did I?" he complained, then started drinking the bottle of sweet cider he had bought in town.
"Mhm… But I bet trouble isn't the only thing you keep attracting, Aid. So remind me, how many damsels in distress have you tried saving already?"
"Hk-!"
He spat out the contents of his mouth. He heard his senior giggling over the phone.
"What the heck are you trying to bring up?" he sneered at his phone as he wiped his mouth.
"I know I told you that 'girls like strong men who can protect them,'  but I didn't know you'd be so active like this. And not just any girls, too! You sure aim high, silly Dreadchase boy~"
Aid rolled his eyes as he listened to her mock him. "I'm not a kid anymore, lady. Sheesh… Its already bad enough I had to hear it from you back then, but now I hear it constantly from Clarisse, too. And will you please quit painting my good nature in a depreciating light?"

He took off his boots and decided to sit on the sandy riverbank, letting the cool, glowing water touch his feet.

"But enough about me, Nemesie. Heard you got your Mastery License for the idea of Recycling Ethermass as an Energy Resource. Congrats. I guess the time I spent helping you paid off, after all."
"It wasn't fancy enough to be worthy of a Blanchemete Prize without a working technological application at the time, but it'll do, I guess. Well worth that ticket to The Dreamers: Photon Fantasy concert, eh" the Master Arcbiologist took a sip from her cup. "I'm leaving that part of the research to YOU, Aid. So, how's the tech?"

The young man took out his gunslash. He smiled at the sight of the reactor's glow and began to eagerly report his findings. "Its doing pretty well, actually. I haven't tested out the plasma blade function quite yet, but the Ethermass ARC reactor provided more than enough power for the rails. Using resolute steel alloy was a good call, too. It didn't bend when I used it as a mace, and the magnetic-"

"And the other?" her tone had more concern as she interrupted him.

It took him a moment to gather his wits and take a deep breath.

"I haven't had a need to rely on it for now. Nor do I intend to," he declared with a steely voice. A sigh came from over the line.

"You're not still beating yourself up over 'that,' are you? " she asked, resting her chin on her palm.

"Look… Aid," she took a sip of coffee before continuing. "That mistake was not yours alone to bear. Perillous bit off more than we can chew, 'tis all… Besides… I'm sure the rest of the team was simply as shocked as I am with what you did. Or what you can do, that is." 

"No matter what I do from now on won't erase the look of terror in your eyes that day in my memory. I turned into a freak… in some of their eyes, a monster… And if I keep down that path… I'd only lose myself as I chase the shadow of another's legacy," his grip on the gun handle tightened… and relaxed within seconds. "Speaking of which, Nemesie… have they found any leads regarding that incident?"

"Nuh-uh.. Besides… with tensions rising here in Aleria, I know Commander is putting Kingsfall's security as top priority. I doubt that the Castlewatch can provide anyone for investigations," she reclined in her seat.

"Rising tensions in Aleria? Of all times… just when I had to be away…"
"For once, I would've said it was better that you were away, but then judging from all that you've told me, it seems like its not much different there in Corseria, isn't it?" she lamented as she took off her glasses. Covered in fog from the steam rising off the mug, she proceeded to wipe the lenses clean. " A group of insurgents has been causing unrest among the nations of Aleria. They haven't named themselves yet, but be prepared just in case they are actually connected to these 'CLF' shenanigans you were talking about."

He nodded to his senior's advice. "Understood. But are you sure you don't need one more hand keeping Kingsfall secure? Or at least help you with your research at Dragon's Descent?"
She smirked. "Don't you have a bunch of kids you should worry about more, you leyline monkey?"

"Erm…" he couldn't reply.

She giggled. "We'll be fine. The Castlewatch can handle it. And Perillous is still in active duty even though we were disbanned. We'll be fine, so you take care of yourself, Clarent," she assured him.

He sighed. "As weird as those callsigns may be, they do bring back memories, don't they… Curtana?"

Clarent… haven't heard that in a while….

View
Chapter I: Fate or Serendipity? (Aiden's Prologue)

"Legends tell of the strength of the will of mankind.
It was strong enough to fill the void.. to shatter a miasma that caged humanity's freedom.
Some say it was true… while some dismiss it as some fairytale.
Yet none could have imagined how mankind will show their will to survive as a disaster horrifying as it was surreal fell before their very eyes.


The Moonfall Incident…

20 years ago, one of two celestial bodies revolving around the planet crashed into the Earth, bursting in a pillar of light. The two celestial bodies colliding released a pulse around the world, affecting the natural flow of mana within a once magically-dependent world.

People remained strong. In times of crisis, even the worst of enemies once worked together. And with ingenuity, they overcame this crisis; thriving within adversities brought about by the disaster as well as the aberrant creatures from their lands.

Yet… so many mysteries to be discovered within this arcane world.

I set out to this land far from home searching for answers… not only in pursuit of science, but also for questions that echo through my head and will not rest. How does it work? What is it? HOW did it happen? WHY did it happen? WHAT purpose might it have?
Is it a blessing or a curse; a mere coincidence… or was it by design?
Is it fate… or serendipity?"

View
Chapter II Epilogue: Kia Side

It was a cool Saturday night at the B & Bee. The rest of the party's eating Ashton's food and generally just being noisy.

Too noisy.

I take a step outside, onto the quieter Cosica road. It's better to be quiet. After everything that's happened in Mattoi, I can't believe how chipper they are.

I take a seat on a nearby bench a good distance away from the inn. I look around, see if anyone's around. No one. Good.

I reach into my pockets for my phone. Bringing up my contacts list, I decide to call "her". Please pick up.

Ring, ring. And then, she picks up. That was fast.

"My, oh my! If it isn't little Kia!", an energetic woman's voice says on the other line.

"Hi sis.", I answer briefly.

"How've you been all this time? I haven't a peep from you since your Dainydune assignment! How's my favorite cutie doing?", she asks with a sly and happy voice.

"Eh, I've been busy. Look, can I… dump myself on you again?"

"Hehe. That again, huh?"

-———————————————————————————————-

I told her everything that had happened since then. While I thought Dainydune was a mess, Mattoi was even more so.

We found a girl being sold for auction. She was a lot younger than I am, and that's something given how young I am too. I told her about Marconii, and how he had illegally imprisoned Katalina Ford in his private cell. But most of all… I told her about how it ended. Art had gone berserk with his powers. It took both Locheman and Viseid to subjugate him, and even then… we caused a stir back in the auction house.

For all intents and purposes, the sting was successful. But I told my sis I messed it up.

I couldn't care less about Marconii. He wasn't my mission. I told her… that I was scared that the kid might've been like me. And maybe Art too. There's too many of "me" back there in Mattoi. And I felt like shit, knowing I couldn't know anything about any of it.

But most of all, it wasn't my job. That was what I wanted to tell myself.

-———————————————————————————————-

"I think this is the most troubled I've seen you so far."

"Nope. This still doesn't beat my SBPD induction ceremony, heh.", I said with a little chuckle.

"Haha, guess so! Buut anyway. I think you're missing something from your story."

"What is it?". I'm wondering what I had missed that she somehow knows.

"I know you have lots of friends around you right now. Why didn't you put them into the picture?"

That's right… I didn't mention them. But right now, they're irrelevant in the big picture, right? After the job is done, so is our time anyway.

"Uhm…". I'm at a loss for words. I couldn't just say 'I don't care' as an excuse. I think I'm being myopic about the others.

"Kia. You've got this bad habit of pretending like you're strong enough to carry all of this on your own. I mean, I know you called me to tell me but… right now, I'm tied up, and can't physically be with you. But you've gotta learn how to rely on others too. Plus, I think the folks you've got around are a fun bunch! Why not try to make friends with them? Even the old guys back in SBPD are buddies, aren't they?"

It's not that I can't rely on them. They're all sorts of reliable but I guess… I'm just not grown up enough? No no, I can't… tell her that. Or maybe…

"Sorry, sis. I guess I've got some growing up to do."

"We all do. But don't rush it, and take it at your own pace, yeah?"

I decide to talk to her for a few more minutes. Knowing she's there for me puts me at ease, even if she's an ocean away right now. After a while, I hear Ashton call me in. I think I left my soup running cold. Ugh, cold soup sucks. Guess I'd better wrap this up.

"…so 'till next time, sis."

"Yup, yup! And hey, Kia? Just remember you'll always be family to me, even if you aren't an Illburns by name."

I know, sis… but just the difference in our names makes all the difference. I somehow wish you knew what that meant.

View

I'm sorry, but we no longer support this web browser. Please upgrade your browser or install Chrome or Firefox to enjoy the full functionality of this site.