The Trails of Moonlight II

Aid's Journal 01: Dainydune

"* * **, 430 A.R.

Rainy day as we head back to Cosica. I must admit; these past few days have been a real roller coaster of a ride.

Corseria has been an interesting journey so far, and so has been being a temporary member of Halophate. Heh… never thought my research would bring me to join Halophate. At any case, its not like Corseria is far different from Aleria. Great food. Vast wildlife. Aberrants all around. People who are interesting… yet.. mysterious at the same time.

I'm still wondering what's happening behind that R&D Center. Ms. Lucille Alexander, aka "Diesel," seems too brilliant to not know what's going on in her company. Then again… she looks like the shy, studious type that can't even hurt a fly. Its not like the police was any help, either; both DPD and SBPD were too mum about things. I'd rather not go through the pain of being taken to the police station again. I felt like people were staring at me after the ordeal. Not to mention that I'm a foreigner, as well. Its a good thing that officer trusted us, though. I'd rather not point a gun at an enforcer of the law. Still… its odd how they're covering up information, despite our mission as Halophate representatives. And what that "Kapour family" guy said was unsettling. Whatever he's after, and whatever he wants to gain, he's dead serious to even consider murder, large scale theft, and what I believe no sane person would do; playing around with Relics and Aberrants.

Something stinks. And its not the contents of the test tube Alex just got back from Burdock.

I know our team isn't exactly the most well-organized party around. We just a ragtag bunch of misfits around here. A technomanic fellow Artestech engineer from here in Corseria, and a couple of native Yurran students, as well; one a rather reckless young mage with a penchant for explosive artes, the other a supporter with a noblesse disposition and an odd fascination with experimentation of all sorts. The person we met here in Halophate seemed the one most capable, yet he seems the most excited person when it comes to helping out. And then, there's me; a clueless geek of a foreigner millions of miles from home. Nonetheless, I've seen what they can do. And in the few days I've spent with them, I already feel like I belong as much as I did back in Allonce amongst my peers. Even better, maybe. I know that I'm in good company as I continue my research.

Speaking of "company"… I wonder where that woman might be? Sure, Commander Goelle DID advise her to leave us to our own devices, but.. it couldn't hurt to just stay around, would it?

Maybe have a few bottles of beer down the bar while having a friendly chat-


…oh right. I'm neither in Camlann nor Allonce. 21 years old is the legal drinking age here in Corseria(counts for both light drinks like beer and wine AND spirits, apparently), and they're a bit adamant on their drinking laws. 
Ugh. Damn age restrictions. Well, laws are laws. Wouldn't want another police officer pointing her barrel down our way."

  -Aiden Jet G. Carminite

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Chapter I Epilogue: Ashton Side

"…and so that's how Dainydune went, Mac."

It was a cold, clear night at Cosica's B & Bee Tavern. Ashton had just finished reporting to Halophate after his arrival back in Cosica, and went out for a night in B & Bee, while the rest had accommodations in a fancier hotel lodging.

He was partaking of a sizzling meat dinner, with his friend Makarov, sitting on the table's opposite side.

Makarov had dark green hair, and was never seen without a lazy look on his face, and a cigar on hand. Ashton had come to consider him a friend after finding common ground with being regular patrons of B & Bee. Ashton had come to affectionately call him "Mac".

"So yer tellin' me that you've been playing babysitter with a bunch'a juniors from Yurran and Artestech? You've got your work cut out for you.", Makarov stated, puffing a big one from his cigarette as he did.

Ashton started scratching the back of his head, him trying to dismiss his friend's words. "Haha, I wouldn't say I've been babysitting them. They've taken care of their own ass really well even without my help. I actually feel a little superfluous."

"Superfluous? You got a bad habit selling yourself short. You were their strongman, especially when the girlie and the shortstock couldn't exactly muscle a bunch'a cargo with 'em. You also covered their flank from those attacks you talked about."

Makarov then closed in to Ashton, leaning on the table. "Speakin' of 'flank'… how were THEIR flanks, if ya catch my drift?"

"Whose?"

"All of 'em."

Ashton then started pinching his forehead in exasperation, as he gave a sigh. "I couldn't possibly see any of them that way, man! If you wanna inspect them, do it yourself!"

Makarov then tilted his head, as if in bewilderment. "Ya know Ash? Ya gotta appreciate the perks in yer job. If yer to look at an ass all day, you might as well enjoy it. That's yer problem, you got no idea how to appreciate…"

"I'm not that kind of person, Mac.", Ashton interrupted.

"…I was about to say 'yer job's secondary benefits'. Take some joy in yer work, even if you do need to play detective fer a bit these next weeks."

The bulky man stared at Mac, with wide eyes open, and with inquisitive thoughts on the tip of his mind. "I don't know how to start…"

Puff, puff. Mac stuck his cigarette butt into a nearby ashtray. He then lit a second stick, after quickly grabbing it from his chest pocket. With a light breath, he faced Ashton. "Make friends with 'em - it's the least you can do. They all sound like cool lads to me. Them group is also packing that library hottie, aren't they? She's got that 'Foomi' vibe going for her. If you can't find joy in that, then I'd take yer post over anytime."

The young Halophate then clenched his teeth lightly, his face colored a subtle red. "Can you not compare her to Foomi? It's embarrassing when you put them side-by-side like that. But I get it though. If I'm gonna spend a lot of time with the group, might as well get to know them."

Ashton drank from the glass of juice beside him, gulping it down and finishing with a refreshing sigh. "Yeaah, but seriously, don't do that Foomi thing again.", he says with his face even redder than before.

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Art - Denial and Truth
When the heart refuses to understand, truth is obscured

Art stormed out of the inn, bags in tow, angry and confused.

There's no way I did any of that. Why would I? he thought.

He had never been one to care about relationships, yet this incident had troubled him deeply.

Why? What's wrong with me?

The very thought that he would put those those under his charge into grave danger was unthinkable. He walked towards the train station, bumping into several people that he failed to notice due to his introspection. The bystanders scoffed at him.

"What a rude kid. Thinks he owns the street?" some mocked. "That guy will end up in arrested the way he's going!"

While Art didn't hear any of it, his thoughts were interrupted by whispers – unintelligible concerted whispering that seemed to be coming from nowhere yet echoed as though it were in a cave.

Who…who is it? He rapidly shook his head, trying to clear his head. It was no use, the voices, while not loud, were persistent and disorienting. What is this? Why is this happening?

"I'm sick of playing babysitter…" a faint voice echoed.

That voice sounds familiar… Art thought. I can't make out who it is. Where?

"If he gets in trouble, the whole team's in trouble anyway…" That's a girls voice. It's familiar, but I can't quite place it.

"No, you're not going anywhere…" Alex…that's her voice. Isn't she back at the inn?

Art's mind could not take it. He began to stagger, barely able to stand due to disorientation. He struggled to stay up, maneuvered himself into a nearby alley, and collapsing onto some trash cans. The voices became stronger as he struggled to maintain consciousness.

…who am I?

His thoughts faded, and lost consciousness.


"Arthur doesn't deserve this, he's only a child!"

Mom…? Art could see only darkness.

"What we're doing is important, it changes everything once this completes. You have to understand."

Who is that? He felt a sharp pain, then nothingness.


Arthur roused from his stupor. He got up from the mess his spill created and dusted himself off.

Where am I? How do I get here? he thought, scanning his surroundings. I have no memory of this place.

He picked up his Arcus, which had a faint but visible red glow despite being covered with cloth. He holstered the weapon behind his back. His confusion had taken a different shape – Arthur had no idea what had been doing there.

After a few moments, only one thought came to his mind: Secure the package. The thought kept repeating itself over and over, like a hypnotic suggestion. It drowned out the faint voices.

He dashed out of the alley, and ran off towards the Mariabelle Ruins.

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Glossary - Corserian Government (Section I)

Section I – People

<u>Croix Family</u>
The Croix Family is a dynastic political family that has a considerable number of males in the Corserian government. Reception to them ranges from lukewarm to somewhat negative as of recent, as their over-acceptance of Alerian "colonization" has been frowned upon by the populace, mostly to Western Corseria.

The big names of the Croix family are as follows:

Oswald Croix – the former Prime Minister of Corseria. After two terms reaching from 420-428AR, he died the succeeding year, on the February of 429AR. While his rule saw great advancement and acceptance of the Alerian people, this did not come without its own resistance. In his vye for cultural and technological advancement, many citizens lost and had to shift livelihood because of his movements. This spawned numerous rallies and protests, including a small-scale uprising in 426AR near Polla.

Thomas Croix – the current mayor of Mattoi city, and son to Oswald Croix. Not much is known about him, except that his own city is wracked with corruption.

Vincent Croix – an ambassador that handles current relations between Aleria, Corseria, and New Iesland. He is the son of Thomas Croix. Due to the shaky nature of Alerian relations with both these countries, he works hard to maintain peaceful ties with these three nations. Vincent is known to be religiously follow his grandfather's policies, and pushes other officials to assert these rules.

<u>Imperial Family</u>
Despite Corseria being a Parliament, there exists the Royal Family that is comprised mostly of just the Emperor and his children. 300 years prior to the present time, the nation was under the rule of the Imperial family. However, with the ever-growing times and the eventual shift of New Iesland from an autocracy to democracy, Corseria followed suit – which turned out for the better. This led to the Imperial family becoming figureheads with minimal power, and the rise of the Parliament.

<u>Head of State</u>
The current head of state and prime minister is Jerid Bardiche, a staunch supporter of Oswald Croix. Because of this, he is often accused of being his puppet from beyond the grave.

 

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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.

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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?"

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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….

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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. 

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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.

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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!!!"

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