View Full Version : The Existence of Power
Thought I'd try my hand at short flow writing, seeing as not many people here (myself included) have the attention span neccessary to read a wall of text. I'll post this in short parts; have fun reading and feel free to comment.
Review thread here (http://otaku-streamers.com/community/showthread.php?7857-The-Existence-of-Power)
1 - I
‘Get up, you’re late.’ She lightly tapped her hand on the mass of blankets in front of her, turning off the several screaming alarm clocks at the same time. The mass stirred, and a head poked out.
‘What time is it?’
‘Nine. You’re already twenty minutes late.’
‘I see.’ The head returned into the mass of blankets.
‘Don’t go back to sleep!’ she said as she slammed her hand strategically on his head. The mass stirred again, and stopped moving.
‘Five minutes,’ a voice said from inside the blankets. She sighed, and left the room.
Five minutes passed.
Getting out of bed, Vincent slowly proceeded to put his clothes on. Then he went to the bathroom for twenty minutes, and finally came down dressed to the living room where his sister sat waiting for him impatiently.
‘That was far longer than five minutes,’ she said.
‘I know,’ Vincent answered tonelessly, and yawned. Walking to the table, he began munching on a toasted loaf of bread while calmly sipping on coffee. His sister sighed again.
‘You do know that I’m also late because of you?’ She wore a light blue uniform while Vincent wore a dark blue uniform, both of them from the same school. Still focusing on the bread, Vincent nodded.
‘You can always go on without me.’
‘Lauren will scold me again if I do.’
‘I see.’ Finishing the last of bread, Vincent downed the rest of the coffee and slung his bag lightly over his shoulder. ‘Let’s go then.’
Walking out, they proceeded to walk at a steady pace down the long road that lay before them. Lines of houses sat at their sides, all of them possessing the same design as the rest. The sun shined brightly in the sky, its presence unhindered by clouds.
‘Shouldn’t you hurry?’ Vincent said, yawning again. ‘I thought it was bad for the student council president to late five days in a row.’
‘There’s no point, we’re already so late that the only excuse I have left is you. Besides, what sister wouldn’t want to walk to school with their cute little brother on a day like this?’
‘An honours student shouldn’t be using that kind of sarcasm.’
‘Shut up.’ Vincent complied, walking in silence with his sister as they passed the street and moved onto the next one. The houses here had different designs than the other street, but were still all the same. Walking past one such house, Vincent saw a cat. It stared at him with piercing gold eyes, scratched itself, and plodded away. Finally, they reached the school. Standing at the gates, a nosy-looking yet beautiful girl awaited them.
‘You’re way too late!’ she said angrily to them. Her long black hair swirled in the wind, her deep brown eyes looking at Vincent’s sister in extreme annoyance. ‘Clare, you’re with him, so shouldn’t you be able to at least get him here on time?’ Clare brought her hands up in surrender.
‘Shouldn’t you be in class now too?’ Vincent asked in a bored tone. Folding her arms together, Lauren looked at him angrily with a flushed face.
‘I-It’s not like I was waiting here for you, you know!’ Clare struggled in vain to suppress a giggle. ‘What!?’ Lauren demanded angrily.
‘Your tsundere pose is just too perfect,’ Clare said, her voice alive with laughter. Lauren’s face flushed deeper, and she turned around swiftly.
‘Anyway, let’s go,’ she said in an embarrassed voice. Entering the school, they routinely changed their shoes at the locker and began walking to their classroom.
The bell rang.
‘Well, there goes first period,’ Clare said, sighing again. ‘The teacher’s
going to have my head.’
(Note: For those of you who didn't notice, this is still chapter one (as read below). I'm simply posting it in parts so that I can add content regularly and so that those of you in a hurry can get over with it quickly)
1 - II
‘So, does anyone here know of the three foundations of existence?’ The teacher scanned around the classroom, hoping for some enthusiastic student to raise their hand in answer. None did.
‘I thought so,’ he said, sighing deeply. Walking over to the blackboard, he began writing the words in large bold letters.
‘Time, flaw, and conflict. TPC for those of you who can’t remember the entire thing. The passage of time ensures that we can continue living. The flaw of our imperfection makes it possible for us to grow. And the pain of conflict gives us reason to aim for a better tomorrow. Together, these are known as the foundational three; the groundwork that allows to move forward and realize our potential.’ By now half the students were dozing off; the other half openly doing something else. The teacher sighed again and turned to Vincent, who was gazing at the sky from his window seat.
‘You were late again today weren’t you? What happened?’ Vincent didn’t respond. ‘Answer the question,’ the teacher said, now sounding irritated.
‘Overslept,’ Vincent replied.
‘Again!?’ He held his head in disbelief. ‘What the hell is wrong with you?’
‘I have a sleeping disorder,’ Vincent answered, maintaining his bored voice.
‘Don’t lie to me, I have your medical records,’ the teacher replied sternly. He looked at him like he wanted to say more, but decided to let it go. ‘Anyway, there will a test next week on this material, so study hard.’
The students continued with their respective activities, ignoring him completely. ‘Damn these S Class bastards,’ he muttered under his breath, ‘think they’re so good just because they’re geniuses.’
The lunch bell rang, waking up most of the students with its sound. Getting up, Vincent yawned and walked out of the classroom, trotting slowly down the narrow hall. Reaching the cafeteria, he grabbed a sandwich from the large pile on the counter and sat down at an empty desk. There he began munching on it, his expression still bored.
‘As gloomy as ever, aren’t you?’ a voice said from behind him. Turning, he saw a rather handsome blonde boy with deep blue eyes.
‘Chris.’ The boy raised his arm in greeting and sat down on the chair opposite of Vincent. A bowl of ramen plunked down on the table, and he began to eat. They had their meal silently in the loud hall of conversing people; finished, Vincent leaned back in his chair, his face unchanging. Chris quietly watched a pair of extremely attractive girls pass; then returned his eyes to Vincent.
‘How has life been for you?’ he asked him casually.
‘The same,’ Vincent replied.
‘I see.’ Chris looked at him perplexedly for a second; then came closer. ‘Have you heard the rumour?’ Vincent met his eyes, slight interest on his face.
‘Yeah. There are people who are saying that there’s going to be a gray dome coming here tonight.’ Vincent turned his eyes away.
‘Because that’s completely impossible.’ Vincent said, gazing at the roof in boredom. ‘Even if it was, I’m a zero rank; something like that doesn’t concern me.’
‘Just because you can’t fight doesn’t mean you can’t die,’ Chris said, continuing his perplexed glare. ‘Besides, maybe you’ll suddenly realize your hidden potential; you know, like in all those badly written animes.’
‘That doesn’t sound appealing,’ Vincent replied. Chris opened his mouth to say more, but then saw Lauren rapidly approaching them, Clare in tow.
‘Well then, I’ll see you later,’ he quickly said, and left the table. Vincent waved slowly after him. Coming over, Lauren sat down in his place, Clare beside her.
‘What was he talking to you about?’ Lauren asked, looking at Chris suspiciously.
‘Nothing much,’ Vincent answered. Lauren maintained an unconvinced look, but dropped it.
‘Anyway, are you free this Saturday?’ Vincent turned to Clare.
‘What am I, your babysitter?’ Clare said, and sighed. ‘Yeah, he’s free.’
‘Excellent!’ Lauren said, clapping her hands together. ‘In that case, why don’t we go and do some–’
A sudden explosion came from the far side, several students jumping out of the way. As the smoke cleared two people could be seen facing off in the center of the blast. Clare sighed again.
‘Well, I guess it’s time for student president work,’ she said, getting up.
‘Should I come too?’ Lauren asked, looking distastefully at the scene.
‘No need, I’m more than enough for a couple of second ranks.’ Vincent turned his head, looking interestedly at the two boys. One of them held a sleek black handgun in his hand, the other a long knife.
‘What’s the problem here?’ Clare asked, teleporting in front of them.
‘Nothing much, pres,’ the boy with the knife answered. ‘Just teaching this little bastard the rules of society.’
‘The last time I checked, society wasn’t composed of animals and barbarians,’ the other boy shot back, aiming the gun steadily at the knife-wielder’s head.
‘What was that!?’ Staring at each other in hatred, their eyes began to glow.
‘I don’t care what the hell your problem is,’ Clare said, coming between them. ‘But if you want to fight then do it where it’s legal. Our school’s already in enough crap for hospitalizing a hundred people last month.’
‘Don’t get in my way, “president”,’ the boy with the gun said sneeringly, ‘I might just have to teach you a lesson too.’ Clare looked at him with an amused yet dangerous look.
‘Oh really now?’ The boy with the knife suddenly backed off, putting away his weapon. The glow in his eyes disappeared, and he blended as fast as he could into the crowd. The boy with the gun froze.
‘I-I mean,’ he began, stammering. Walking to him, Clare placed her index finger on his forehead. She smiled sweetly at him.
‘Have fun in China.’ The boy disappeared, the gun dropping to the ground with a dull thud. The crowd stood silent, too scared to talk in the presence of the irritated student council president. Clare turned around, addressing them.
‘Next fool I see fighting at lunch will be sent to space. Am I clear?’ As one, the crowd nodded. Losing interest, Vincent yawned again. As it became apparent that Clare wasn’t planning to spirit away anyone else, the others gradually continued their previous conversations. Everyone avoided the pile of broken tables and the boy who has half-responsible for them. Sitting back down, Clare sighed again.
‘Now I have to write another apology letter,’ she said grumpily, ‘great.’
‘What part of China did you send him to?’ Lauren asked curiously. Clare looked up in thought, and shook her shoulders.
‘Who knows? Somewhere around Shanghai, I think.’
‘That’s pretty cruel.’
‘You’re not one to talk. The hundred hospitalizations were because of you, you know. I had a hell of a time explaining that to the principal.’
‘Is that so,’ Lauren said absentmindedly, her attention returning to Vincent. ‘So, about Saturday…’ The bell rang, and the students began to grudgingly return to their classrooms. Getting up, Vincent left for his next lesson before Lauren could finish. Watching him leave, Lauren hung her head in sadness.
‘You want me to ask him for you?’ Clare asked. Lauren shook her head.
‘No, I’ll do it myself.’
‘I see,’ Clare put her hand on Lauren’s shoulder in support. ‘Good luck, you’ll need it.’
1 – III
‘Wake up, now.’ Sitting up in his bed, Vincent looked around him. The darkness of night still hung around the room. He turned to Clare, looking at her in annoyance.
‘Finally lose it?’
‘Shut up,’ Clare said. Her voice held a cold calm, and she looked at Vincent grimly.
‘What happened?’ Vincent asked, recognizing her tone as serious. Clare walked to the window and pulled back the blinds. Looking outside, Vincent saw that the sky was covered in a dark pure gray.
‘A gray dome has come,’ Clare explained, tossing Vincent a deep blue robe. He put it on quickly, the clothes glowing slightly at his touch. ‘The city is in level 4 lockdown. We’re to gather at the school and prepare to attack.’
‘Alright,’ Vincent said, putting on a pair of gray gloves that lay on the desk beside him. A white circle appeared on the left one, a black triangle on the other. He put his hand on Clare’s shoulder. Nodding, they teleported to the school’s main hall. Stepping back in light dizziness, Vincent scanned the scene around him. Students were running around frantically, quickly bringing together the tools needed to fight. The teachers tried to control the chaos, to no avail.
‘Vincent!’ a relieved voice said from behind him. Turning around he saw Lauren, dressed in her normal uniform.
‘What’s the current status?’ Clare asked her. Lauren frowned, shaking her head unknowingly. ‘I was just informed a few minutes ago. There should be…’
The bell sounded across the room three times louder than usual. Everyone stopped, listening intently to the message they knew was to come.
‘Citizens of Shangri La,’ a voice said, resounding from all directions. ‘We are currently under attack by a Class B Gray Dome. All non-combatants are to gather in the Museum of Truths, and all combatants are to report immediately to the main hall of Central Academy. Strategists are to meet immediately in the principal’s office, and all Rank 5s are to meet in the observatory. That is all.’ The voice stopped, and the students resumed their frantic running. Lauren put her hand on Clare’s shoulder.
‘We’ll see you then, Vincent,’ she said, looking at him regretfully. ‘Next Saturday–’
‘The usual place, right?’ Vincent said, yawning deeply. ‘I’ll be there.’ Lauren’s face lit up in joy, and she smiled happily.
‘Ok, then.’ Clare looked at her amusedly, winked at Vincent, and disappeared with Lauren. Looking almost bored amongst the chaos, Vincent walked casually to the principal’s office. There he was greeted by 13 people, 12 in blue robes similar to his and the last in a crimson cloak which glowed with the deepness of blood. The cloak of the principal.
‘You’re late,’ one of the students said, looking at him in annoyance.
‘He always is,’ joked another.
‘Enough,’ the principal said, and walked through the wall opposite to the entrance. The others followed, coming to a large meeting room that thirteen chairs neatly placed around a large square table. The principal sat down on one side, Vincent on the other.
‘At this point, we have only a 50% chance of gaining victory over the NPC’s,’ the principal said, sitting easily in his comfortable armchair. He was extremely young; a dark haired man of about thirty. His eyes glowed with a crimson light, matching his cloak.
‘Has the core been found?’ one of the students asked, the same one that had chided Vincent earlier. The principal shook his head.
‘No. Our scanners are not picking up any major energy signals; we’ll simply have to fight them off until we find it.’ Screens appeared in front of everyone, floating still in place. Vincent scanned it casually.
‘Our rank 5s will spearhead the main assault, with the lower ranks supporting the rear and defending our outposts,’ the principal said, pressing buttons absentmindedly on the screen. ‘The White Angel and Flash Shifter as well as squads 1 to 4 will be under the command of Vincent Azure, who will maintain General’s authority. All other strategists are to remain on standby with your assigned units. That is all.’ The cloak enveloped the principal, and he disappeared. The other students left quickly, going to their positions. Vincent stayed in the room, looking with a bored look at the multitudes of screens that appeared before him. Typing on invisible keyboards, he brought up an image of Lauren and Clare, accompanied by one hundred students.
‘Yo,’ Clare said as Lauren waved enthusiastically at him. ‘So you’re commanding again today.’
‘Of course,’ Vincent replied in a bored monotone. ‘I’m the only Class S who can’t fight, after all.’ He brought up twelve more screens, all of them containing one of the students that were in the room.
1 – IV
‘Status report,’ Vincent said to the screens in front of him. He sat easily in the spacious room, the lone person on the fourteen seat table.
‘Main gate is holding,’ said a deep voice. ‘Confirmed one hundred and eighty-five kills, no casualties.’
‘South gate is holding, ninety-nine kills and two casualties.’
‘West gate is holding, seventy-six kills and one casualty.’
‘East gate is holding, thirty kills and no casualties.’
‘Redirect four squads to the east gate and prepare for heavy combat,’ Vincent said in his usual bored voice. The people on the
screens gave confused looks.
‘But the east gate has the weakest opposition,’ a female voice said, gaining nods of agreement from the others.
‘And that’s exactly why they are preparing for a surprise attack there. A stupid tactic that usually works because of those that
can’t see through it.’ The others shut up and turned off their screens. Typing quickly, Vincent brought up a new one, where Lauren and Clare were waiting.
‘How is the defence?’ Clare asked. She stood with the others on the roof, looking down at the fighting below.
‘Holding on all fronts,’ Vincent replied. ‘The immediate danger has subsided. You are clear to begin the sweep.’
‘Roger that,’ Clare said, and signalled to the hundred behind her. They jumped from the roof to the ground beside the main gate, landing just in front of the mass of students who were engaged in combat. Streams of elements and energy shot through the air, and cries of pain could be heard all around. Clare glanced backward at the scene, nodding briefly to a massive man wearing black gauntlets. She turned, looking at the new swarm of NPCs approaching them. They had the form of normal humans, only distinguishable the gray hue of their eyes. Carrying an assortment of weapons, they charged tirelessly on them.
‘I’ll handle this,’ Lauren said, moving to the front of the group. A pair of white wings grew out of her back, spreading out to her sides. A white glow emitted from her eyes, and as she flapped her wings small shards of light shot out of them, coming down upon the charging NPCs. The shards obliterated them, and as they fell their bodies turned to dust. Her eyes stopped glowing, and the wings retracted inside of her.
‘Alright,’ Clare said, waving forward. ‘Let’s go.’ Watching the scene on his screen, Vincent let out another loud yawn. Suddenly, another one popped up, showing a red-haired girl wearing a baseball cap. One of the strategists.
‘A scanner wants to talk to you,’ she said in a ruff yet melodic voice. ‘Says that it’s important.’ Vincent considered the thought for a second, and nodded.
‘Bring them up.’ The girls face disappeared, replaced by Chris’.
‘I told you so,’ he said immediately, his face unsmiling.
‘What is it?’ Vincent asked. Chris frowned, moving his screen to show him the gray sky above them.
‘I’ve been getting a weird feeling ever since we started fighting them.’
‘Yes. How do I describe it…’ Chris paused, struggling for the right words. ‘It’s like the feeling you get when you know someone is holding back on you.’ Vincent didn’t respond, staring darkly at the sky. It maintained its pure smoothness, looking more like a ceiling than the sky. Tapping on the table, Vincent brought up Clare’s screen again.
‘We’re kind of in the middle of something right now,’ Clare said as the sounds of fighting raged around her. ‘What is it?’
‘Retreat immediately.’ She looked at him like he was crazy.
‘Get back to the school now. There’s a possibility that–’
‘Vincent, look!’ Chris exclaimed, pointing at the sky. Shifting his gaze, a frown appeared on Vincent’s face as he saw what seemed like shooting stars falling from the sky. He brought up a dozen screens, causing the people inside them to look at him in surprise at the unexpected call.
‘Everyone is to retreat to secondary defences immediately,’ Vincent said, typing rapidly on the invisible keyboard. ‘Initiate lockdown level 5 and activate the ARS in thirty seconds.’
‘Are you out of your mind?’ one of the strategists exclaimed. ‘There’s no reason to go that far for a class B. If you do that, we–’
‘LAUREN!’ Shifting his gaze back to Clare’s screen, he saw Lauren fall dead to the ground, a sword thrust through her heart. Pulling it out of her blood-soaked body, a cloaked figure slowly stepped over it. The glint of armour could be seen where the cloak did not cover, the gray light radiating from its body. Around it the other shooting stars hit the ground, similar figures appearing from the dust. With methodical efficiency they began to cut down the students in their path. Most didn’t have time to cry before they were butchered, and all attacks simply bounced off their armour like pebbles. A sea of blood formed in the small street where they stood, and Clare stood frozen as she saw her peers die.
‘Clare,’ Vincent said calmly, ‘get back, now.’ Clare blinked rapidly as if awakening from a bad dream; looking at the screen, she nodded and teleported beside him. Both watched grimly as the last of the students were killed.
‘What just happened?’ the same strategist asked, his voice now suddenly frightened. His face expressionless, Vincent turned back to them.
‘There are Sentinels attacking us. I am changing this dome’s classification to S, effective immediately. Follow my orders, now.’
‘Ye-yes,’ the strategist said, turning off his screen. The others did the same, their faces ash white with the realization of their imminent death. Clare put her hand on Vincent’s shoulder, looking him in the eye.
‘Let’s run away,’ she said, her voice slightly wobbly. ‘There’s nothing we can do here now.’ Vincent returned the stare coldly.
‘Go yourself,’ he said in an almost uncaring voice. ‘I will stay here until the end.’ Clare looked at him in sudden anger, but stopped herself as she realized her words.
‘No,’ she answered after a short pause, ‘I’ll stay with you until the end.’ Vincent nodded, turning back to the multitude of screens. A new one appeared, the principal’s face showing in it. He stood on the highest roof of the school, his cloak flapping in the wind.
‘Do you know the situation?’ Vincent asked, his tone suggesting that he already knew the answer.
‘Yes,’ the principal answered, his crimson gaze staring emotionlessly on the scene. Around him the stars fell into and around the school, Sentinels appearing out and decimating the students.
‘Can you save us?’ Vincent asked, now waiting for an answer.
‘No,’ the principal replied, his gaze turning to the sky above him. A giant swirl of wind began to form right above the school, large blasts of lighting falling from it onto the city below. ‘There is a guardian here as well; I’ll be too busy fighting him to help you. Your only hope is the ARS; protect it at all costs.’
‘Understood,’ Vincent said, turning off the screen. For a moment he sat back in his chair, closing his eyes to the disaster around him. Clare watched him worriedly, her hand still on his shoulder. Taking a deep breath, Vincent opened his eyes.
‘Activate the ARS.’ The bell rang throughout the school, and the voice came back on.
‘Level 5 Absolute Repulsion Shield emergency operation order received,’ the voice said in a feminine tone. ‘Beginning limiter countdown.’ The voice changed to a deep monotone.
‘Death hangs on Heaven’s door,’ Vincent said calmly.
‘Level 5 limiter released,’ the voice said. ‘Level 4 on standby.’
‘Revolving around the foundation.’
‘Level 4 limiter released. Level 3 on standby.’
‘Burning in the ashes of nothingness.’
‘Level 3 limiter released. Level 2 on standby.’
‘Falling through the illusion of truth.’
‘Level 2 limiter released. Level 1 on standby.’
‘Living in the reality of lies.’
‘Level 1 limiter released. Level zero on standby.’
‘Denying the god and embracing the devil.’
‘Level zero limiter released. Initiating full A.R.S. mode. May your sacrifice be in vain.’ The walls of the school disappeared, melting
into the air as if they never existed. A deep silence fell upon them, and no one moved. Looking around him, Vincent saw many students struggling for their lives; many Sentinels and NPCs standing emotionlessly; many bodies of the dead littering the ground. Soaked in blood, the hard earth itself had almost changed colour. Then, a giant orb of light formed in the centre of the now non-existent school; for a moment it floated there silently, then exploded in a wave of power. A surge of energy poured out of it, shooting out of all sides like a tidal wave. Flowing through Vincent and the other students harmlessly, it proceeded to obliterate everything else in its path. As the wave subsided, only an empty patch of bare earth remained, populated by the dead and alive students on it. The living students looked about in total confusion, unbelieving of the fact that they were still alive. Then as one they let out a single, loud cheer. It echoed through the air, filling the ears of all in its path.
‘Is it over?’ Clare asked, her voice relieved and yet extremely saddened. Vincent gazed up at the sky. Though it was small, flashes of battle could be seen high up in the air. Suddenly, the flashes stopped.
‘Now it’s over,’ Vincent said, letting out his own deep breath of relief. An object appeared on the sky, falling down without resistance. Vincent turned his head in surprise, which turned to shock as the body of the principal landed heavily on the ground in front of him, forming a crater which was soaked in blood. Vincent looked up immediately, noticing that the sky was still a pure gray.
‘Return to battle positions!’ he yelled as loud as he could, no longer able to communicate with the screens. ‘The gray dome is still in effect!’ Chris came into his sight, limping forward him slowly.
‘What are you talking about?’ he said, looking at him perplexedly. ‘We just–’ a burst of blood came from his neck, and his fell to ground will a dull thump, his decapitated body following it. A Sentinel stood before him, its face hidden in its gray cloak. Portals appeared around them, releasing new Sentinels to the fray. With no walls to protect them, the students were massacred in seconds. Vincent watched the scene blankly, his head out of ideas.
‘Watch out!’ Clare screamed as one of the Sentinels neared him. Teleporting between him and it, Clare took out a pair of handguns and shot furiously at the Sentinel, to no effect. Dashing forward, it slashed at her, but missed as she teleported behind it. The Sentinel turned its head slightly, then dashed straight at Vincent.
‘NOOOO!’ Clare teleported in front of Vincent, and the Sentinel slashed her in half. Blood splashed on Vincent’s face, and he watched expressionlessly as she fell to the ground. He turned to the Sentinel, who raised its sword again in preparation to kill him. He stared at it unblinkingly, his body tense with the realization that he was going to die. Suddenly the Sentinel froze, its arm hanging without motion in the air. His face surprised, Vincent looked around him in confusion. It was as if time had stopped, the horrified faces of the last few students as still as the blades that were inches from their faces. Turning his head again, Vincent caught a flash of black. Focusing onto the object, he saw a cat, staring at him with its piercing gold eyes.
‘Do you want power?’ Though the voice came from inside his head, Vincent’s gaze remained on the cat. He met its eyes unflinchingly, staring at its golden eyes with his azure ones. He turned his head, looking at the innumerable dead bodies on the ground, blood seeping endlessly out of them. He turned to the form of the unmoving principal, blood still flowing from his body. He turned to the few still living who were about to die. He turned again, looking at the mass of cut flesh and blood that was his sister, and up to the Sentinel that had killed her. Finally, he turned back to the cat, meeting its gaze once more. A smile appeared on the edge of his mouth.
‘Get up, you’re late.’ Clare lightly tapped her hand on the mass of blankets in front of her, turning off the several screaming alarm clocks at the same time. The mass stirred, and a head poked out. Vincent looked confusedly around the room, then at his hands. They were perfectly clean.
‘What time is it?’ he said without thinking.
‘Nine. You’re already twenty minutes late.’ He turned to Clare, who was looking at him with an extremely annoyed look on her face. The look turned to confusion as he continued to stare at her.
‘What?’ she asked almost embarrassedly. Vincent looked outside the open window, seeing the cloudy blue sky from beyond its hinges. Birds flew in the distance, crying their morning song to the world. Vincent smiled again, his eyes emitting a faint azure light.
END OF CHAPTER 1
- RESET -
2 – I
‘So, does anyone here know Newton’s three laws of motion?’ The teacher scanned around the classroom, hoping for some enthusiastic student to raise their hand in answer. None did.
‘I thought so,’ he said, sighing deeply. Walking over to the blackboard, he began writing the words in large bold letters, but changed his mind and erased them.
‘Anyway, I severely doubt any of you would learn the material if I just talked about it, so I’ll trust you to learn it by yourself in preparation for the test next class.’ A giant “Ehhhhhhhhhhhhhh” resounded across the classroom, followed by most of the students grudgingly opening their books and beginning to read. Nodding in satisfaction, the teacher turned to Vincent, who was gazing at the sky from his window seat.
‘You were late again today weren’t you? What happened?’ Vincent didn’t respond. ‘Answer the question please,’ the teacher said, his voice stern but sill polite.
‘Overslept,’ Vincent replied.
‘Again?’ He looked at him in concern. ‘Are you staying up too late?’
‘I have a sleeping disorder,’ Vincent answered, maintaining his bored voice.
‘Oh, that’s too bad. Be sure to visit the nurse’s office to get a check-up now and then, you never know what can happen when you’re not looking.’
The lunch bell rang, gone unheeded by most of those still reading their textbooks. Getting up, Vincent yawned and walked out of the classroom, nodding at the teacher as he waved goodbye. He walked down the long hallway, trotting at a slow pace. Reaching the cafeteria, he went to a vending machine and bought a sandwich. Finding an empty table, he began munching on it, his expression still bored.
‘As gloomy as ever, aren’t you?’ a voice said from behind him. Turning, he saw a rather handsome blonde boy with deep blue eyes.
‘Chris.’ The boy raised his arm in greeting and sat down on the chair opposite of Vincent. A bowl of ramen plunked down on the table, and he began to eat. They had their meal silently in the loud hall of conversing people; finished, Vincent leaned back in his chair, his face unchanging. Chris quietly watched a pair of extremely attractive girls pass; then returned his eyes to Vincent.
‘How has life been for you?’ he asked him casually.
‘The same,’ Vincent replied.
‘I see.’ Chris continued gazing at passerby’s, uninterested in Vincent’s answer. ‘Have you heard the rumour?’ Vincent met his eyes, his face expressionless.
‘Yeah. I heard that a new transfer student just came in, and she’s hot to boot.’ Vincent continued to stare at Chris.
‘What kind?’ Chris looked at him in surprise.
‘Wow, you actually care?’
‘We usually never get transfer students,’ Vincent said, retaining his bored face. ‘I’m interested in why there’s an exception.’
‘What are you talking about? We get transfer students all the time here.’ Vincent didn’t respond for a moment, continuing his gaze.
‘Right,’ he finally said. ‘My bad.’
‘You’ve really got a screw loose, man,’ Chris said, shaking his head. ‘You’ve been acting weird the past few days too.’
‘Yeah. Like you’re turning into another person.’ Chris frowned. ‘But now that I think about it you’ve always been weird. Anyway, about the transfer student, she–’
‘Vincent!’ a voice called from behind him. Turning his head, he saw Lauren and Clare approaching them, Lauren waving enthusiastically. Catching sight of Chris, she glared at him in suspicion.
‘Well then, I’ll see you later,’ he quickly said, and left the table. Vincent watched as he left, his eyes stuck on the back of his uniform. Coming over, Lauren sat down in his place, Clare beside her.
‘What was he talking to you about?’ Lauren asked, her gaze locked on Vincent.
‘Nothing much,’ Vincent answered. Lauren maintained an unconvinced look, but dropped it.
‘Anyway, are you free this Saturday?’ Vincent opened his mouth but paused; then turned to Clare.
‘What am I, your babysitter?’ Clare said, and sighed. ‘Yeah, he’s free.’
‘Excellent!’ Lauren said, clapping her hands together. ‘In that case, why don’t we go and do some shopping at the usual place? There are some things that I’d like you to pick out for me.’
‘Sure,’ Vincent said absentmindedly, looking over to the table where a group of boys were talking animatedly. He blinked once; then yawned again.
‘You know, you should try treating Lauren better,’ Clare said, glancing disapprovingly at him. Lauren looked at her embarrassedly.
‘But you try so hard, and yet he–’ she stopped talking, her mouth still open. The entire room fell silent, causing to Vincent to look around in confusion. As if time froze, everything had stopped. Vincent turned his gaze to the giant clock at the far wall of the cafeteria. It didn’t tick. Getting up, he slowly walked away from them.
2 – II
Vincent stood on the roof of the school, gazing at the sky before him. It was a pure gray. Suddenly, he felt the cold touch of a gun at the back of his head. Slowly, he held up his hands.
‘Who the hell are you?’ a female voice asked.
‘I’d like to ask you the same,’ Vincent responded calmly. After a short silence the gun was taken off his head. He still felt it pointed at him, however.
‘Turn.’ Obliging, Vincent turned to face a beautiful girl with long red hair and deep brown eyes. She also wore the uniform of Vincent’s school. The girl stared at his eyes carefully, Vincent returning the look calmly. Finally, she lowered the gun.
‘You’re not an NPC.’
‘So this is a gray dome?’ The girl nodded.
‘You seem to know about this, so I trust you realize what we have to do?’
‘Why are the others frozen?’ The girl looked at him confusedly.
‘Don’t you know? It’s the RS field.’
‘Repel and suppress. A common function of gray dome’s in order to stop those without power from getting in the way.’ Vincent frowned.
‘Anyway, my name is Sana,’ Sana said, reaching out her hand. ‘You?’
‘Vincent,’ he answered, shaking the hand calmly. ‘My knowledge of gray domes is a bit inaccurate in places; could you explain it to
‘Where did you learn it in the first place?’ Sana said, tilting her head perplexedly. ‘Anyway, explaining the whole thing at once would be too much of a pain, so I’ll just tell you as we go.’ She pointed at the sky. ‘You know what that is?’
‘A direct environment closure function that isolates the given area from the outside world. Within it, a currently unidentifiable group sends soldiers whose sole purpose is to wipe out all humans in the area at any cost.’
‘The later part is pretty inaccurate, and I didn’t even understand the first one,’ Sana said, shaking her head. ‘The “soldiers” only aim for those who are not affected by the RS field, and ignore everyone else. I came here as a transfer student so that I could guard the area and make sure anyone who got out for any reason wouldn’t be butchered in an instant.’
‘Does that mean you’re the only one here who can fight them?’ Sana shrugged.
‘Who knows? There may be others in the area who are just good at hiding their presence. All I know is that this area hasn’t been assigned a protector yet, so I had to come and fill the gap.’ She looked at him curiously. ‘Are you also a part of ARS?’
‘ARS?’ Vincent looked at her in surprise.
‘Yeah. Alternate reality syndicate. It’s the group that–’ In a flash of movement, Sana turned around and shot down two NPCs that had jumped to the roof. Several more followed, and eventually they were surrounded by a group of them. They wore the same uniforms as Vincent and Sana, carrying a variety of weapons.
‘I know it’s a bit late to ask this, but can you fight?’ Sana asked, aiming her guns forward. They stood back to back in the circle of expressionless soldiers, carefully watching them. One of the NPC’s stepped forward, causing Sana to shoot him between the eyes. He fell to the ground and turned into dust. The others held their ground, some of them aiming handguns at Vincent. He frowned and looked at his hand.
‘Maybe.’ His eyes began to glow, an azure light emitting from the orbs. Holding his hand out to the ground in front him, a portal of gray appeared. The sentinel that had killed Clare emerged, looking exactly the same except that its cloak had turned a deep blue. It towered over the other NPCs, raising its sword at them. Sana looked at it in total shock.
‘Isn’t that a Sentinel!? How the hell did you summon that thing?’ Vincent shrugged.
‘We’ll talk after they’re taken care of.’ A gray glove appeared on his right hand, a black circle inscribed onto it. A screen appeared in front of Vincent. Smiling, he began typing with his right hand.
‘What are you doing?’ Sana asked, looking at him like he was crazy as he moved his fingers in midair.
‘Controlling it,’ Vincent replied; then pointed behind him. ‘Take care of that side.’ Giving him one last annoyed look, Sana turned to face the ten in front of her. Her eyes began glowing, and three copies of herself appeared beside her. Dashing forward, they shot down the four NPCs with guns immediately. The other six charged at them, all of them carrying swords. The guns of two of Sana’s clones changed form, turning into short swords. In a dance of blades and bullets, Sana killed the remaining NPCs. Taking a deep breath, the clones and blades disappeared. She turned around to see Vincent clapping slowly, the sentinel at his side. None of the NPCs remained.
‘Exactly what are you?’ she asked, eyeing the cloaked sentinel nervously. ‘How do you have control over one of those?’ At that instant several objects fell to the ground from the sky, bringing up a mountain of dust up them. As it cleared, the forms of four sentinels appeared. Sana looked around in panic. Vincent frowned. Resuming his typing with his right hand, his sentinel immediately charged at them. Quickly parrying a strike from one of the gray-cloaked sentinels, it proceeded to pierce its chest with the sword. Sana looked on in disbelief as she saw a sentinel die for the first time. Rather than turning to dust, it simply disappeared as if it was never there. Vincent’s sentinel then began fighting with the other two, exchanging slashes and parries. Their cloaks flapped around as they moved at lightning fast speeds, the dance of blades almost impossible to follow.
‘Watch out!’ Vincent yelled at her, typing furiously. Coming to her senses, Sana saw the fourth sentinel charging straight for her. Immediately she summoned her three clones, dodging to all four sides. The sentinel immediately cut through one of them, and it disappeared as if it was an illusion. A trickle of blood began flowing through Sana’s mouth. A machinegun appeared in each of their hands, and they began firing a hailstorm of bullets at the sentinel. The shells bounced harmlessly off of its cloak, and it continued to advance.
‘Don’t underestimate me,’ Sana muttered under her breath, her machineguns turning into rocket launchers. Taking aim, all three of them shot a missile at it, and the sentinel was enveloped in the explosion. As the dust cleared, however, it emerged unharmed. ‘So conventional weapons don’t work after all,’ Sana said, her rocket launchers glowing. ‘In that case…’ A large gun appeared in each of their hands, a nuclear warning label pasted on all of them. Taking aim again, they each fired a single ray of black energy at it, which expanded into a small sphere on impact. The sphere grew, eventually engulfing the sentinel entirely. The sphere then retracted, turning back into a tiny orb and disappearing with the sentinel. Breathing a huge sigh of relief, Sana rushed to begin assisting Vincent who was still fighting. As she passed the spot where the sentinel disappeared, a crack appeared in midair, and the sentinel broke back into the world. Standing right behind Sana, she did not have any time to react. The sentinel raised its sword, ready to cut her down. Sana closed her eyes in preparation for her death; when it didn’t come, she opened them slowly. Vincent stood in front of her, holding the sentinel’s sword with his left hand. He had an almost bored face, his right hand continuing to type furiously.
‘You should be more careful,’ Vincent said, turning his head to the side. His arm wobbled, blood flowing freely down his hand. Sana looked at it momentarily in shock; coming to her senses once again, she dodged out of the way quickly. The moment she had moved, the blade cut through his wrist, and Vincent’s hand fell to the ground. He dodged the second slash quickly, moving to the side. ‘The pact of blood is sealed,’ Vincent said calmly, blood pouring from the hole where his hand once was. ‘An arm for an arm. A leg for a leg. The general’s hand for the knight’s life.’ The blood that flowed onto the ground began creeping up onto the sentinel, turning its entire body crimson. The sentinel stopped moving; then disappeared permanently. To the side Vincent’s sentinel had slain the others, and returned back into a portal that appeared below it.
‘Your hand…’ Sana said, looking at it worriedly.
‘It seems that word magic works in this world,’ Vincent said quietly to himself. ‘I’ll need to test the full extent later.’
‘I’m sorry,’ Sana blurted out. Vincent turned to her confusedly.
‘For your hand. It’s my fault.’ Vincent looked at the stump of flesh on his arm as if he had just noticed it. Walking over to his hand on the ground, he picked it up and brought it to his arm. He muttered something under his breath, and Sana’s jaw dropped as she saw the hand rejoin his arm, the wound completely disappearing. Vincent flexed his hand, testing its strength.
‘What the hell…’ The gray sky receded, returning to its normal clear blue. The roof completely returned repaired itself, even the blood disappearing as if it had never been there. Vincent dashed back into the school before Sana could continue, leaving her staring at the door in disbelief. ‘What the hell just happened?’
2 – III
Vincent sat on a round oval desk, surrounded by nothing but a gray mist. He faced the principal, his azure eyes meeting the others crimson ones.
‘You are the General,’ the principal said calmly. Both of them maintained their bored gaze.
‘For what reason?’ Vincent replied, his voice equally calm.
‘Because the general doesn’t fight; only watches. The general sees all but does nothing. Experiencing a world that he can never
touch, the general simply lives. So long as you live, a future is possible. A future that you can never reach.’
‘That seems rather boring,’ Vincent said, leaning his head easily on his hand.
‘It always is,’ the principal replied, his eyes glowing dimly in the gray mist, ‘but you’ll get used to it eventually. In the end, nothing will change.’
‘But what if it does?’ Vincent asked, his eyes similarly glowing. ‘What if I gain power?’ The principal frowned.
‘The existence of power; the foundation of conflict. Gain it, and you will become stronger than anyone else. Gain it, and you will eventually lose the boredom that binds you. Gain it, and the general’s title will be lost.’
‘It doesn’t seem like a bad trade off to me.’
‘That is up to you to decide.’ The gray mist thickened, blocking the principal from view. Only two crimson lights pierced the fog. Vincent frowned, swirling his hand around it.
‘Were you given the same choice?’ he asked to the man who he could no longer see but knew was in front of him. A short silence fell at his words.
‘We all are.’ The fog engulfed Vincent, who accepted it with a bored calm. Opening his eyes, Vincent brought his hand down on the ringing alarm clock beside him. Getting up, he stretched.
‘Wow, you woke up by yourself this time,’ Clare said, entering his room.
‘It’s Saturday after all,’ he replied yawningly. A smirk appeared on Clare’s face.
‘Excited for your date?’
‘What kind of date is it if you’re coming along?’ Vincent said casually.
‘I’m there to make sure that you don’t run off somewhere again,’ Clare responded, looking at him suspiciously. ‘You’re rather fond
of doing that.’ Shrugging, Vincent went down with Clare to prepare for the day ahead. Finished breakfast, they headed out and began walking across the long streets, going in the direction opposite to the school. The houses around them looked normal, differentiating slightly in colours and shape. Proceeding down a narrow alleyway, Vincent turned to face a cat that was staring at him with piercing silver eyes. He walked past it, ignoring its gaze. Finally, they reached a small but lavish café which distinctly stood out from the several more lined across it. The words “OS Café” were pasted above the entrance in large bold letters, exhuming a welcoming yet unusual feel. Entering, they immediately saw Lauren who was waving at them from the far table. Several other interesting looking people sat in the other tables, including a man in a red cloak who sat with a bespectacled woman on the far end opposite of Lauren. The man took a brief glance at them and nodded. The woman continued writing in a notebook.
‘Why do we always come here?’ Clare asked, taking a seat with Vincent.
‘Because this place is always interesting,’ Lauren replied cheerfully. Calling the waiter over, she ordered another two cups of tea which were delivered almost instantly.
‘Can’t complain about the service at least,’ Clare remarked.
‘So where are we going today?’ Vincent asked, quietly drinking his tea.
‘A new clothing store opened up down the street today, I wanted to get your opinion on some new outfits,’ Lauren answered, a radiant smile on her face. ‘There’s also a few other places that I wanted to check out.’
‘What a perfect chance for you two lovers to–’ Clare’s face twisted in pain, causing her to stop before she finished the sentence. She rubbed her knee lightly while Lauren maintained her smile. Finished his tea, Vincent called for the check, taking out his wallet and placing a ten dollar bill on the tray.
‘Shall we go, then?’ he asked them.
‘Sure!’ Lauren replied cheerfully, getting up. Clare followed, wobbling a bit as she put weight on her legs. Walking out of the café, they began their journey to the new clothing store.
‘Vincent,’ a voice came from behind them. Turning around, Vincent came face to face with Sana, who looked at him in absolute surprise. She wore a light blue dress, carrying a small bag around her arm. Turning as well, Lauren’s cheerfulness vanished instantly. Clare gave Vincent another suspicious look which burned with a new intensity.
‘I’m glad I found you,’ Sana said, walking up to him. ‘There’s a lot that we still need to talk about. You left so suddenly after we were done, so I didn’t get a chance to–’ She suddenly glanced at Clare and Lauren as if she had just noticed their presence. Uncomfortable under their piercing glare, she looked at Vincent nervously. ‘Unless you have other business?’
‘No, he’s free,’ Lauren said coldly, turning around and walking away. Sighing, Clare gave Vincent one last look and followed her. Sana’s nervousness increased.
‘Did I get in the way of something?’ Watching as Lauren left, Vincent turned his gaze back to Sana.
‘Don’t worry about it,’ he said with a slightly bored tone. ‘What do you need?’
2 - IV
‘So you want my help?’ Vincent said, drinking another cup of tea. They were once again in the café, sitting on the exact same table as when Vincent was with Clare and Lauren.
‘Yes,’ Sana answered, sipping her own cup of black coffee. ‘You never answered me before, so I’ll ask again. Are you a member of ARS?’
‘No,’ Vincent replied, gazing lazily out the window. ‘I’ve never heard of them.’ Sana nodded in satisfaction.
‘Good. There’s a problem that it’s involved in right now.’
‘Someone is trying to start a coup d’état.’ Vincent remained uninterested.
‘So!?’ Sana raised her voice in disbelief; catching an angry look from the woman who was writing on the other side, she blushed and lowered her tone. ‘If the internal problem gets any bigger, then who knows when we’ll be wiped out by a gray dome while we’re busy fighting amongst ourselves? We need to resolve this as quickly as we can.’
‘And exactly what can I do?’ Vincent asked, gazing at his empty cup. The waiter walked over and refilled it, receiving a nod from him.
‘Your ability is beyond powerful. You may even be able to match a level 7,’ Sana said, waiting until the waiter was out of earshot. ‘If you were to join then the ones trying to take over would definitely approach you. We can take that chance to find out who all of them are and eliminate them.’
‘Are you one of this group’s leaders?’ Vincent asked, calmly downing his third cup of tea. ‘You must be very important if you’re in charge of a matter this large.’ Sana blushed again.
‘Well, actually…’ Vincent raised his eyebrow.
‘I’m keeping this plan a secret from the higher-ups,’ Sana admitted, nervously playing with her hair. ‘I’m a level 5, but a junior member. Most of the seniors are level 6, with the top three being level 7.’
‘So you’re looking for a promotion?’
‘Not at all!’ Sana said furiously; then quickly lowered her voice again. ‘Well, I’m not opposed to it, but the main reason for this is so that we can all survive to take on the real enemy.’
‘Won’t the ones above you handle this?’ Vincent said, nodding as the waiter refilled his cup again.
‘I’m certain that some of them are joining the conspiracy, so I can’t trust any of them,’ Sana said, a bitter tone in her voice. ‘There’s also a high chance that one of the three leaders is the one planning the entire thing.’ Vincent paused, meeting Sana’s eyes
with his own.
‘Have you not considered the possibility that a guardian is responsible?’ Sana stared at him in shock.
‘What? That’s impossible; nothing from the gray dome has ever been able to exist outside of it.’
‘I wonder about that,’ Vincent said under his breath. Taking out a twenty from his wallet, he placed it on the tray that the waiter brought without prompting. Bowing deeply, he retreated back behind his counter. Vincent got up, letting out a loud yawn.
‘I’ll do it.’
2 – V
‘Vincent Azure,’ a voice said, resounding across the hall. ‘We will now begin your aptitude test.’ The hall changed form, turning into a broad wooden dojo. Vincent looked around curiously as the change transpired.
‘Are you sure he’s strong?’ a girl asked Sana. They watched him behind a one way glass window, joined by several other interested members. The girl had short curly hair, wearing a small shirt and a pair of mini-shorts. ‘He looks like a weakling to me.’
‘Don’t worry about it,’ Sana said, a smile coming to her face. ‘You’ll soon see what he’s made of.’
‘Right now you are in a special chamber designed to train and test personnel in live combat,’ the voice said, ‘you won’t die, but
you might be permanently injured. Are you still willing to go through with this?’ Vincent nodded. ‘Very well. Initiating level 1.’ A single person appeared, carrying a long steel blade.
‘Die,’ Vincent said. The person immediately turned into dust, to the absolute shock of the onlookers.
‘What the hell was that?’ a person asked behind them.
‘Word magic,’ the girl beside Sana answered. ‘It’s a special form of reality manipulation that can be used by anyone with the means. One word commands take up a lot of energy, though; he was foolish to use it so early.’ Sana smiled again.
‘I wonder about that.’
‘Level 1 complete. Initiating level 2.’ This time a group of people appeared around Vincent, all carrying the same sword.
‘Die,’ Vincent said again. They all turned to dust, causing the girl beside Sana to drop her mouth in disbelief.
‘What the…not even level 6’s can do that without breaking a sweat. Where the hell does he get that energy?’ Sana shrugged.
‘No idea, I just met him a few days ago.’
‘Level 2 complete,’ the voice said, its tone unchanging. ‘Initiating level–’
‘Die,’ Vincent said with a yawn. More dust appeared around the dojo, the bodies gone before they were even created. At this point the onlookers were speechless.
‘Level 3 complete,’ the voice said, now stammering a little. ‘Initiating level 4.’ The scene changed, the dojo dissolving into hard earth. Vincent now stood in the open air, a vast sky appearing above him. A mass of people appeared, all of them carrying guns. Taking aim, they began firing nonstop at him. The sound of bullets filled the air, accompanied by the sharp clinks as the empty casings fell to the ground. A gradual stream of dust built up around Vincent, covering him from view as they fired. Finally, they lowered their guns, waiting for it to settle. As the dust disappeared Sana saw that Vincent was completely unharmed, the mass of bullets still in midair around him. Raising his hand to shoulder-height, he began to lazily swirl his index finger around in short circles.
‘What goes around comes around.’ The bullets turned. ‘Returning to its owner.’ The bullets fired back at the people, killing them instantly. Dropping to the ground, they disappeared.
‘Level 4 complete,’ the voice said, regaining its calm. ‘Initiating level 5.’ Explosions suddenly appeared around Vincent, causing him to dodge quickly. He began dashing back and forth aimlessly around the area, his eyes darting rapidly around him.
‘He’s on to it already,’ the girl beside Sana remarked. ‘Totally unlike you who barely survived through it.’
‘Shut up,’ Sana mumbled. ‘Like you did any better.’
‘Actually, I–’ she stopped talking, watching in confusion as Vincent halted his movements. He stood still on the bare ground, looking straight ahead of him. A small piece of rubble shifted to his left. In a flash of movement he shot out his hand in the direction of the sound, grabbing a head that appeared as he made contact. Another sound appeared to his right and he grabbed another person, his knife inches from Vincent’s throat. A worried look came on Sana’s face.
‘He’s done for,’ the girl beside her said smugly. Blood spewed from Vincent’s mouth as a sword was thrust through his chest. A third person appeared, his face emotionless as he dug the blade in deeper.
‘Level 5 failed,’ the voice said calmly. ‘Your rank is now–’ Another Vincent suddenly appeared in a flash of light, a few meters away from the other one. A smile came to his lips.
‘Explode.’ A gigantic explosion erupted from the first Vincent, engulfing the three people in it. An even more shocked look appeared on the onlookers faces.
‘When the hell did he make a clone!?’ the girl beside Sana asked unbelievably.
‘Probably during the initial explosion,’ Sana said, her face also surprised. ‘Even so though, that kind of quality might surpass even mine.’
Just what the hell is he?
‘Correction, level 5 complete,’ a new voice said. It was feminine and had a strong sense of command to it. ‘After this point there is
no guarantee that you will live. Do you still wish to continue?’
‘Sure,’ Vincent answered.
‘Very well. Initiating level 6.’ A shooting star appeared in the sky, falling down to the ground before him. Appearing out of the dust, a sentinel loomed over Vincent, its gray cloak still in the windless air. Sana looked around nervously, expecting Vincent to summon his own sentinel. Instead, he held out his hand. A long Japanese sword appeared in it, its blade lined with an intricate design of unreadable runes. The blade glowed softly, emitting an aura of emptiness and power.
‘The general’s blade…’
‘What is it?’ Sana asked the girl beside her. She shook her head.
‘Nothing. It’s just that that sword looked familiar to me for a second.’ Her voice quieted, changing into a soft murmur. ‘I’ll have to
check this out later.’ Charging forward, the sentinel’s blade met Vincent’s in a shower of sparks. It relentlessly slashed at him, forcing Vincent to parry the strikes continuously. He held the blade with one hand, letting the other hang freely at his side. Several minutes passed as they continued their duel.
‘He’s dragging this out too long,’ Sana muttered, biting her thumb instinctively. ‘Why won’t he summon his sentinel?’
‘What did you say?’ the girl beside her asked, looking at her curiously.
‘Oh, nothing Sarah,’ she said, smiling nervously at her. Sarah gave her a suspicious look; but decided to drop it. Vincent suddenly caught the sentinel’s blade with his other hand, and blood began to slowly pour down it.
‘He’s insane,’ someone muttered from behind them. No one refuted his claim. Raising his sword, Vincent stuck it through his arm to their renewed shock.
‘Wait,’ Sarah said, narrowing her eyes. ‘That’s…’ Turning into light, the sword melted into Vincent’s arm. The blade’s inscriptions
appeared on it, glowing a light blue.
‘Recreation of dismissal. Code Trinity.’ Blood flowed through the marks, and the blue light turned crimson on his arm. ‘Negate personal reality. Mirror mirage.’ Large scratches appeared on the sentinel’s chest as if a blade was slashing at it relentlessly. Vincent stood still, his eyes glowing as he stared calmly at the unmoving sentinel. After a minute he let go, jumping a few meters away. The sentinel fell to its knees, burying its sword into the ground. Its armour was now riddled with cracks. Sarah frowned, watching on with the dazed crowd.
‘I’ve never heard of that spell before.’ Holding his marked arm out, the sword came out of his hand. He held onto it easily, his wound closed. Walking to the downed sentinel, he thrust the blade through its head.
‘Die.’ The sentinel turned to dust, scattering in a swirl of wind. A brief silence fell upon them.
‘Level 6 complete,’ the voice finally said. ‘Initiating level…’
‘Wait,’ Vincent said, interrupting the voice.
‘What is it?’ the voice asked.
‘I’ll stop here. I don’t believe I have the power to attempt level 7 yet.’ The onlookers stared at him in disbelief, Sana included.
‘Very well,’ the voice replied. ‘Your rank is now level 6. Though you are new to ARS, you will be immediately appointed a senior of the group, and will receive all benefits and responsibilities that come with it. Do you accept?’
‘Good. This test is over.’ The ground around Vincent melted back into a hall, and he proceeded to the door.
‘I don’t know about you, but I don’t believe for a second that he doesn’t have the power,’ Sarah said. ‘You think he’s–’ she looked at the empty space beside her, realizing that Sana had disappeared. Shaking her head, she left the room.
2 – VI
‘Why the hell did you stop?’ Sana asked furiously at Vincent. They sat alone in the small lounge, Sana staring at him piercingly while he enjoyed a hot cup of tea. ‘You didn’t even summon that thing! If you did, level 6 would have been–’
‘Think about it,’ Vincent said in a bored voice. ‘It won’t be easy to get invited to join a conspiracy when you’re at the same level as the top. Besides,’ he flexed his fingers slowly, ‘it would be best if they didn’t find out that I can control a sentinel. A lot of misunderstandings could arise from that.’
‘But–’ The sound of footsteps came from outside the room, causing Sana to stop talking. A tall woman with long golden hair came into the room, nodding to her calmly. Sitting down, she shifted her gaze to Vincent.
‘That was impressive,’ she said, her voice the same as the one that had spoken in the simulator. Reaching over, Vincent shook her outstretched hand, his eyes unmoving from hers.
‘It’s extremely rare that a newcomer is immediately appointed a senior,’ she said, lighting a cigarette with a flame that appeared on her finger. She took a deep pull, breathing the smoke slowly to her side. Vincent glanced distastefully at the tobacco.
‘Sorry,’ the woman said, noticing his look. ‘Should I put it out?’
‘No, don’t worry about it,’ Vincent replied, taking another sip of tea. ‘Anyway, I suppose I have you to thank for my early promotion?’
‘Not at all,’ the woman replied, laughing softly. ‘Anyone with an eye and a brain can tell that you’re more than qualified for the job. I simply encouraged the process.’ She leaned over, staring at him with piercing emerald eyes. ‘Besides, the fact that you held back means that you have power enough to match ours, doesn’t it?’
‘Ours?’ A confused look came onto the woman’s face, which quickly turned into understanding.
‘Oh, I forgot to introduce myself. My name is Karen Flame, one of the three founders and the second head of ARS. I’m rather interested in exactly what kind of power you’re hiding, Vincent, and exactly how you got it.’
‘I don’t know what you’re talking about,’ Vincent replied calmly. ‘I used everything I had in that test. Isn’t that natural?’ A smile came to Karen’s lips.
‘Yes, I suppose it is.’ She got up, reducing the cigarette to ash. ‘There will soon be people assigned to show you your duties; once you get comfortable with the position then come talk to me and we’ll discuss your future potential.’ Turning with a nod, she left the room. Sana stayed silent for a moment, waiting until Karen was out of earshot.
‘She’s my primary suspect. It’s probably either her or the third head.’
‘What about the first head?’ Vincent asked, playing with his empty teacup. Sana looked at him like he was crazy.
‘Why the hell would he want to overthrow his own organization?’ Vincent didn’t respond, a bored look on his face as he gazed on the chalk white ceiling. ‘Anyway,’ Sana continued, dropping the subject, ‘we’ll just wait until they contact you. For now we need to focus on the gray domes. This Saturday let’s–’
‘I’m busy this Saturday,’ Vincent said with a yawn. Getting up, he tossed the cup into the garbage can beside the door.
‘Busy?’ Sana said, looking at him curiously. ‘With what?’
END OF CHAPTER TWO
– JOIN –
3 – I
‘So,’ Lauren said, refusing to look at Vincent. ‘What did you call me for?’ They sat once again in the café; a steaming cup of tea in front of each of them. The exact same people were here as before, sitting in their exact same spots. The man in the red jacket gazed on them amusedly, occasionally turning to take a glance at the bespectacled woman’s notebook.
‘Various things,’ Vincent replied. He looked at her calmly, his expression unreadable. A silence fell upon them, under which Lauren began to feel extremely uncomfortable. She looked up at him angrily, meeting his eyes.
‘Has anything happened lately?’ She looked at him in confusion.
‘Anything at all,’ Vincent said, his tone serious. ‘Anything weird.’
‘Besides you, no,’ Lauren replied, still staring at him in confusion. ‘Why are you asking me this?’ A slight frown came to Vincent’s lips, and he looked away.
‘Huh???’ For a moment Lauren stared at him intensely, trying to figure out his motive. Giving up, she let out an exasperated laugh. Vincent turned back to her, surprised at the outburst.
‘Did you remember something?’
‘Yeah. That you’re hopeless,’ Lauren replied, a new cheerfulness to her voice. Finishing her tea, she stood up. ‘Are you finally going to come with me?’ Vincent glanced at his watch; then threw a bill on the table and got up as well.
‘Sure,’ he answered. Leaving the café, they proceeded down the street to a frivolously decorated clothing store that was even more outrageous as they went inside. After trying on a multitude of clothes that Lauren forced Vincent to pick out for her, they finally came out of the store an hour later, a large bag of purchases in Vincent’s hand.
‘Now I feel refreshed,’ Lauren said, stretching herself comfortably.
‘Anywhere else you want to go?’ Vincent asked, taking a deep yawn. Lauren peered at him suspiciously.
‘Are you bored?’
‘No, just sleepy.’ Sighing, Lauren shrugged her shoulders.
‘Well, I guess we shouldn’t stay out too long then. There’s only one more place that I want to go to.’
‘The usual,’ Lauren answered, a deep calm coming to her voice. Gazing at her with a slight frown, Vincent turned to the normal looking flower shop beside them.
‘Let’s get something for them.’ Buying a single bouquet of roses, they began to walk in the opposite direction that they’d come, passing by the OS café and eventually leaving the shopping district altogether. Walking down narrow streets, they passed through several brick houses and cement walls. A couple people waved at Lauren as they continued, prompting her to wave back with a smile every time. Several minutes later, the mass of houses disappeared in the horizon behind them. They walked through a vast field of grass, its green texture shining faintly in the dawning afternoon light. Walking steadily, they finally reached a pair of large black gates, open for all to enter. Coming in, Vincent looked around calmly at the mass of gravestones that neatly lined the endless rows. Turning left, Lauren waved at him.
‘Come on.’ They continued to an aisle of larger gravestones, walking slowly to a single white one that lay before four mounds of
dirt. Bending down, Vincent placed the flowers down on the middle of them. He remained in that position for a while, staring emotionlessly at the four graves.
‘Do you remember the promise that we made here?’ Lauren asked suddenly. Vincent nodded.
‘That you would marry me.’
‘I don’t remember a promise like that,’ Vincent said, his voice unchanging.
‘Tch.’ Getting back up, Vincent moved his gaze to the gravestone. It was plain, without any decorations of any kind along its edges. It stood as a single block of stone, with only four words engraved into it.
‘Everything begins with nothing,’ Vincent said, reading the stone. He stared intently at the words, as if trying to decrypt them.
‘Our parents were way too loose,’ Lauren said, smiling at the graves. ‘They didn’t even bother asking for their names to be put on it.’ She turned her eyes to the sky, watching as the clouds slowly drifted in the distance. The sun shone brightly on them, and the distant sound of birds could be heard as they continued their song. ‘It would have been great if you had met them.’
‘I have,’ Vincent replied, recalling a memory from his distant past, ‘in my dreams.’
‘That’s not really meeting them,’ Lauren said, giggling slightly. ‘Well, I guess that it’s better than nothing.’ Her expression suddenly turned grim, and she looked at the graves in what almost seemed like regret. ‘Hey.’
‘Do you think it could have been any different?’ Vincent looked at her calmly, meeting her gaze.
‘I see,’ Lauren answered, turning back to the words. They said nothing for a while, standing in quiet silence as the noises of the environment continued around them.
‘But,’ Vincent said, causing Lauren to look at him in surprise.
‘The choices that you make are yours alone. Whether it’s A, B, or C, there is no trying to return from the action of deciding once you truly do. Even if you were to reset the world, those choices will still always be yours.’
‘Wow,’ Lauren said, giggling again. Her good mood had returned. ‘You’re talking like the principal.’ A smile came to Vincent’s lips.
‘Maybe.’ A surprised look came to Lauren face, as if she had just remembered something. Placing her hands on her hips, she looked at him in renewed suspicion.
‘By the way.’
‘What?’ Vincent asked, looking at her in confusion.
‘Who was that girl who interrupted us earlier?’
‘Oh,’ Vincent said, scratching his head. ‘That was a…co-worker.’
‘Co-worker?’ Lauren said, her voice unconvinced. ‘I didn’t know that you had a job.’
‘I just got one. Part-time.’
‘A –’ Lauren suddenly became still, causing Vincent to stop speaking. Her suspicious look remained suspended, the playful fire in her eyes frozen as if in stone. Looking up, Vincent watched grimly as the sky turned gray. A phone ring sounded from his pocket; taking it out, Vincent flipped it open and brought it to his ear.
‘Don’t hello me,’ Sana replied, speaking through the cell. Her voice was very irritated, and the sound of running water could be heard from the background.
‘Where are you?’ Vincent asked.
‘Home. I was taking a damn bath when I looked out the window and saw the dome appear. Talk about great timing. Where are you?’
‘What!? What the hell are you doing there?’
‘Classified,’ Vincent replied calmly. ‘Anyway, I see the source a few miles away from here, in the shopping district. Are you coming, or shall I go alone?’
‘I’m coming,’ Sana grumbled, turning the water off. ‘I’ll be there in ten minutes. Wait for me before you attack them, we may be
able to collect some data.’
‘Okay,’ Vincent said, and turned the phone off. Taking one last glance at Lauren’s frozen face, he turned and began the walk back to the café. Another smile appeared on his face.
‘Time for work.’
I've been a bit busy lately and haven't been able to get a part done this week (I know that I usually do three or four, but I can't maintain that crazy writing speed forever). However, I do have a story that I made for my English class' short story assignment. It was inspired by Steins;Gate so you'll see familiarities with its first episode, but the core is entirely different. Anyway, since I don't want to make an entire thread just for that, I'll post it here as a special chapter. I could weave it into this story, but that would be a bit half-assed so I'd rather not. Anyway, enjoy, and remember that this post has no direct connection to The Existence of Power (indirect, maybe? o_0)
‘The structure is complete.’ The man pressed a button on the small recorder in his hand. A red light appeared. ‘Stage 1. Soul. Stage 2. Spirit.’ The man pressed the button again. The light turned off. ‘Stage 0. Chaos.’ Pocketing the recorder, the man left the empty field. He had spiky black hair, the stubs of a beard beginning to grow on his face. He wore a long white lab coat, its edges flowing in the wind. His eyes were a deep crimson. ‘Infinite non-existence. Finite existence. Once the end is reached, the beginning will–’
‘There you are!’ a voice called from behind him. Turning around, he faced a chubby round-faced man in a bulging striped shirt and black pants. Giant beads of sweat poured down his face.
‘What is it?’ the man in the lab coat asked. Though deep, his voice had a casual feel to it.
‘Have you seen Emma?’ the fat man asked, trying to wipe his sweat unsuccessfully with a handkerchief. ‘I’ve been looking for her all day. You’ve been with her before; I figured that you’d know where she is.’ The man in the lab coat stroked his chin, pondering the question.
‘Maybe,’ he finally answered. The fat man looked at him with an exasperated look.
‘Oh!’ the man turned, the edges of his coat swirling around him. Stretching his arms out to his sides, he stared as if mesmerized at the brightening morning sky. The sun had begun its ascent among the clouds, the chirpings of early birds coming to his ears. ‘Another nice day.’
‘So have you seen her or not!?’ the fat man asked again, his voice becoming agitated. The man in the lab coat turned again, meeting the fat man’s brown eyes with his crimson ones.
‘Why do you want to see her?’ he asked in a suddenly calm voice. The fat man averted his gaze.
‘Ok, STOP!’ the man said in an exaggerated tone, holding his hand up for silence. Taking a small cell-phone from his coat pocket with his other hand, he flipped it open and brought it to his ear. ‘I see your trick,’ he said, talking to both the phone and the fat man. ‘There is no catching me.’ Snapping the phone shut, he turned and ran away as fast as he could. Ignoring the fat man’s yell, he ran to the near empty streets, passing an old couple that looked at him like he was crazy as he flew past them. Turning into a narrow alleyway, he leaned his back against a wall, struggling to catch his breath. ‘Safe,’ he breathed, speaking like a catcher in a baseball game. Flipping the phone open, he brought it back to his ear. ‘The name’s Doe. John Doe. Remember that.’ He closed the phone, returning it to his pocket. Taking a moment to smooth out the wrinkles on his coat, he walked back into the streets. His hands dug comfortably into his pockets, he proceeded at a steady pace through the dawning day.
‘John.’ The girl wore a light blue dress, a large sunhat hung on her back. She looked at him curiously, her short blonde hair strewn in strands across her face. ‘John.’ John’s right eye half-opened.
‘Good morning.’ Raising his left arm, he glanced at a large watch on his wrist.
‘It’s already noon, you know,’ he said tiredly. The girl smiled. Sighing, John got up with a yawn. Turning to the giant window behind him, he pulled back the dark blinds. Sunlight flooded the room, the bright illumination causing him to cover his eyes in pain. Recovering, he got up from the couch and walked to the small kitchen meters away, the girl following him. Opening the fridge, he tossed a bag of sliced bread to her. Placing it on the wooden table beside her, the girl took out two pieces and dropped them onto a single silver plate. Taking the plate from her, John then placed it onto a small counter and picked up the slices. Thrusting them into an upside-down toaster glued to the wall, he pulled down on its trigger. The bread began to toast.
‘What if it falls off?’ the girl asked, looking at the surreally hung toaster with undisguised curiosity.
‘It won’t,’ John answered, taking two eggs from the fridge and closing it. Yawning again, he began to fry them.
‘Are you sure?’ the girl asked, watching as the eggs began to solidify in the pan.
‘Ninety-nine point nine nine nine percent sure,’ John answered, flipping the eggs up in the air. They landed with a sizzle, exhuming a rich aroma. He stopped for a moment, looking at the toaster in sudden interest. ‘Maybe it will fall.’ A ding sounded, and the two pieces of bread plopped onto the plate below. Dumping the two fried eggs on them, he handed the plate to the girl who set it on the table and began eating vigorously. Making himself a cup of steaming coffee, John sat down tiredly across from her. He downed it in one gulp, his eyes fully opened from the stimulation.
‘Where are we going today?’ the girl asked, finishing her meal. Moving his hand into his pocket, John took out the recorder. He pressed the button, the red light appearing on it. After a moment, he pressed it again and put the recorder away.
‘The usual place.’ Leaving the apartment, they began a steady walk down the crowded streets. Both stores and houses lined the lane, their combination of advertisements and green lawns providing an interesting scenery below the cloudless sky. Suddenly, the girl veered off from John, staring with fascination at a gumball machine standing off to the side of a convenience store. Turning, John walked up to her. He took a glance at the colourful construction, the bright hues of the oval spheres sparkling in the afternoon light.
‘Do you want one?’ John asked her. Contemplating the thought, the girl nodded. Reaching into his jean pocket, John took out a small leather wallet. Taking a look inside, he placed it back and began rummaging on the other side of his coat. Retrieving a gold dollar, he flipped it to the girl who caught it awkwardly and entered the coin into the machine. The sound of gears turning came to their ears, and a dark red gumball fell to her outstretched hand. The girl frowned.
‘I wanted a blue one.’
‘Oh well,’ John said, shrugging his shoulders and laughing in a sudden maniacal voice. ‘The world is not so sweet, my dear.’ Continuing his laugh, he began walking away, his crimson eyes shining in the daylight. Plopping the gumball into her mouth, the girl followed him.
‘How much longer are you going to take?’ the man in the white coat asked. He had greying black hair, a round pair of eyeglasses hanging from his nose. He looked at John with a tired expression, scratching his head slowly.
‘I’m almost there,’ John replied, leaning easily on the desk behind him. They were in a neat chalk-coloured room which contained only a desk and a chair. ‘No need to fret, professor.’ The professor sighed.
‘I’ve already given you more than a year to come up with a hypothesis. We don’t have much time left.’ He looked around John surprisingly, as if he had just realized something. ‘Where’s the girl?’
‘Off on an errand,’ John replied, yawning deeply. Taking out his recorder, he pressed the switch. The red light came on. Eyeing the object, the professor took out another recorder from his pocket. It had the exact same shape as the one in John’s palm.
‘This is the eighth one I’ve given you this month,’ he said, handing the recorder over to him. ‘Be more careful with it.’
‘Roger that.’ John pressed the switch, a red light appearing on the recorders gray shell. He held each in one hand, the two beacons of light glowing dimly in the dark room. ‘Testing.’ Turning both of them off, he pocketed the recorders. The sound of a phone ringing suddenly came to his ears, the high-pitched tune causing him to plug them annoyingly. Taking out a cell phone from his pocket, the professor brought it to his ear.
‘Hello?’ He stood in silence, listening to the voice that John could not hear. ‘Alright. I’ll be there in a moment.’ Putting away the phone, the professor sat down behind the desk. Taking his glasses off, he momentarily pinched the bridge of his nose; sighing once more, he put his glasses back on, John watching him expressionlessly. ‘You can go,’ the professor finally said, meeting John’s crimson eyes with his own. ‘Give me a proposal by next week.’
‘Roger that,’ John replied, giving him a casual salute. Turning, he walked out of the room. Continuing down the narrow white corridors of the building, he reached a large red lounge. Giving the receptionist a brief nod, he left the building. The sun shined warily above him, just beginning its descent down the sky. The crowds of people remained, a sea of bodies moving to their next destination.
‘John!’ His coat swerving around him, John turned to face a tall woman wearing a dark white shirt and jeans. She had long black hair which cascaded down her back and looked at him with clear emerald eyes. Walking up to him, she adjusted the small leather bag hanging over her shoulder.
‘Emma Green,’ John replied, taking out his cell phone. Flipping it open, he brought it to his ear. ‘You may have won the battle, but I will win the war.’
‘What?’ Emma said, looking at him confusedly. John shrugged.
‘Nothing.’ He closed the phone, looking at her curiously as he stroked his chin. ‘Someone was looking for you.’
‘Really?’ Emma said, an unsurprised look on her face. ‘Who?’ Looking up at the cloudless sky, John pondered the question.
‘Hmm. Someone…fat.’ Emma groaned.
‘Make sure not to say anything to him, okay?’
‘Roger that.’ Bringing the phone to his ear again, John frowned. ‘Too much static.’
‘Really?’ Taking out her phone, Emma pressed a button on it and pressed it to her ear. ‘Mine’s fine.’
‘ANYWAY,’ John said, putting the phone away. Turning, he raised a hand to her. ‘Farewell.’ With that he ran away, plunging into the crowd.
‘The last truth has come.’ John stood on the edge of the bridge, gazing with fascination at the calm water below. The starless night sky hung above him, his shadow alone appearing in the faint lamplight. He held the recorder in his hand, the red light shining brightly through the gray metal cover. His lab coat flapped in the wind, his crimson eyes dim as it stared into the bottomless abyss. ‘The spirit preludes the soul. The soul preludes chaos. The circle is created, and spins eternally. It has no end; only a beginning.’ He pressed the switch, and the light turned off. After a moment he pressed it again, and the light returned. ‘What lies beyond the circle?’ Holding it out in front of him, he opened his hand. The recorder fell, making a small ripple in the water as it landed. The red light dimmed; then disappeared, the recorder lost in the endless sea. ‘The beginning cannot be found without the end,’ he continued, his deep voice resounding softly in the cold air. ‘The foundation cannot change. The finite cannot become infinite.’ He stretched his arms out to his sides, glancing at the moon as it hung in the empty night sky. ‘The time has come.’ He fell over the edge. A rush of air swept through his face, exhilaration pounding in his chest. His body became light as if flying, the weight of his world fading into nothingness. Closing his eyes, he prepared for freedom. His head slammed into the wall, his body hanging from the bridge’s edge. Pain shot through his skull, and as he cringed two small objects fell from his eyes, landing into the water below. Recovering, he looked up in confusion. The girl was holding his ankles, a large shadow cast over the sunhat resting on her head. She held him easily, her small body somehow supporting his weight. Her blue eyes twinkling, she smiled at him.
‘Not yet.’ Looking at her, his brown eyes met hers. A slight smile came to John’s face, and he dug his hand into his pocket. Retrieving the other recorder, he pressed the switch. The red light appeared, illuminating him as he continued to gaze up at her. The edges of his coat hanging over his head, he brought the recorder to his mouth.
3 – II
As he neared the center, he felt an increasing sense of power radiating from it. The aura made his throat go dry, and Vincent frowned, standing at its edge. Jumping up onto one of the buildings, he gazed at the scene before him. No one was there. The once crowded streets were completely empty, devoid of all life.
‘Yo.’ Sana appeared beside him, guns held at her sides. She looked at him in confusion. ‘What’s going on?’
‘A different type of gray dome,’ Vincent replied. ‘Class S.’ Meteors fell from the sky, landing right outside of the café. As the dust cleared, dozens of sentinels came in their sights.
‘We’re screwed,’ Sana breathed, her voice choked in dread. Hastily bringing out her phone, she began to press buttons rapidly. ‘Just wait, I’ll ask for reinforce–oi!’ Ignoring her, Vincent jumped. Landing in front of the sentinels, he summoned his own. It’s blue cloak flapping in the wind, Vincent’s sentinel charged at them.
‘Shadow. Smoke. Darkness.’ A field of black sprang up from the ground, engulfing the sentinels. Sounds of swords clashing emerged from within.
‘What the hell are you doing!’ Sana exclaimed, landing lightly beside him. ‘Are you crazy taking them all on yourself?’ A sentinel plunged out of the field, charging straight at them. His face calm, Vincent raised his palm.
‘Stop.’ The sentinel froze. Walking up to it, Vincent pressed a finger to its armoured head. ‘Die.’ The sentinel turned to dust. Standing still, Sana watched him with a combination of amazement and frustration.
‘Are you crazy wasting that much energy?’ Turning to her, Vincent azure eyes pierced hers, causing Sana to blush uncontrollably.
‘They’re just peons,’ he said, putting on his gloves. ‘In a class S dome there’s only one real enemy.’ She looked at her in confusion.
‘Who?’ Vincent pointed upwards. Following his finger, Sana gasped at what she saw. A large whirlwind was beginning to form in the gray sky, blasts of lightning strewing across it.
‘A guardian,’ Vincent said. Screens appeared in front of him, and he began typing rapidly. ‘One of the strongest sentinels. In our terms, a level 8.’ He turned to Sana. ‘Have you contacted them?’
‘Yeah,’ she answered, staring in disbelief at the turbulent sky. ‘The leaders should be here soon.’
‘Good. I can’t defeat the guardian alone.’ Vincent returned his gaze to the black field, where sounds of fighting continued. Walking
to it, he clapped his hands together. Placing them on the field’s edge, a circle appeared. Words that Sana couldn’t read appeared on it, and began to glow brightly. ‘Clasp. Revolve. Return.’ Similar circles appeared around the field. ‘Control code assimilate.’ The field turned white; then disappeared. Sana looked on in shock as all of the sentinel’s cloaks turned blue.
‘Did you just?’
‘We need all the help we can get,’ Vincent said, small beads of sweat pouring down his face. He raised his arms. ‘Prepare yourself, its coming.’ Looking up, Sana saw the whirlwind begin to drop down onto them. Before she could react, it hit into an invisible barrier just meters from their heads. Turning back to Vincent, she saw his face contorted in concentration.
‘Jump!’ he yelled. As one, the blue-cloaked sentinels plunged into the whirlwind. A long moment passed, and the wind burst in a violent explosion. The sentinels flew to the sides, dissipating into clouds of dust. As it cleared, Sana saw a single cloaked figure standing in the air. It was smaller than the sentinels, looking more like a human. It landed lightly in front of Vincent, its face hidden beneath the brown cowl. Sana stared at it blankly, feeling nothing. As if it didn’t even exist. His expression grim, Vincent raised his arm.
‘Change. Regret. Resta–’ the words was lost as blood poured from his mouth. Blinking rapidly, Sana tried to understand what just happened. The guardian was suddenly inches away from Vincent, moving in an invisible flash. Its hand was stuck in Vincent’s chest. Struggling to maintain consciousness, he began to move his hand.
‘Sacrifice. Mutu–’ A burst of energy shot out of Vincent’s back, causing him to scream in pain. His arm fell. Watching him, sudden rage came into Sana’s chest. She raised her guns and began shooting rapidly at the guardian. It ignored her. Cursing, she brought out a long silver sword. The guardian turned to her the instant it saw the blade, dropping Vincent. Unmoving, a pool of blood began to form around him. Suddenly, Sana couldn’t move. Her body stopped as if frozen, her joints refusing to budge. She stood helplessly as the guardian slowly walked to her. Lifting its arm, it raised a white finger at her head.
‘Blood oath.’ The guardian turned, looking at Vincent’s laying form. Slowly, he moved his finger around in his blood, writing unreadable words.
‘Vincent,’ Sana breathed, forcing the name out of her mouth. Her body remained frozen.
‘Death to the general,’ Vincent said, struggling to speak the words. ‘Intertwined with the demon’s fate.’ He pointed the blood-soaked finger at the guardian. Suddenly, a crimson flash swept through Sana’s eyes, knocking the guardian several meters back. Standing calmly, the man in the red jacket took a glance at Sana. His eyes were a deep crimson. Turning to Vincent, he frowned.
‘It’s not time to die yet.’
3 – III
‘Who are you?’ Sana asked, her body still frozen in fear.
‘Pri-principal.’ Forcing the words from his mouth, Vincent struggled to get up. ‘So you still had your power.’
‘Always have,’ the principal replied, walking over to him. Bending down, he placed his hand on Vincent’s back. A soft glow spread through his body, and Vincent breathed a sigh of relief. He rose, his strength returned.
‘Later,’ the principal replied, nudging his head at the guardian. It stood silently before them, unmoving.
‘Can we defeat it?’ Vincent asked, his eyes turning azure. The principal shrugged.
‘We’ll need to use a limiter release.’ Vincent turned to him in surprise.
‘The ARS system works here?’
‘No, this city doesn’t have that ability.’
‘Then what–’ Suddenly, the guardian charged at them. Meeting it, the principal parried its blow. A burst of air shot past Sana, destroying the building behind her. In a flash of movement, Vincent flanked it and attacked. Blocking his punch, the guardian disappeared in a burst of light.
‘Quickly,’ the principal said, putting on a pair of gloves. A white triangle appeared on one hand, a black circle on the other. Staring at the gloves, Vincent nodded in understanding.
‘The key is complete. Beginning limiter countdown.’ The marks on both of their gloves began to glow fiercely.
‘Level 5 release,’ the principal said. Their eyes brightened.
‘Confirmed,’ Vincent replied.
‘Level 4 release.’ Light flooded their bodies, the mix of red and blue forcing Sana to cover her eyes.
‘Level 3 release.’ The principal’s jacket expanded, turning into a shining red cloak. Vincent’s clothes turned into a blue one.
‘Close key.’ Vincent looked at him in surprise.
‘We’re stopping at 3?’ Their bodies continued to glow. Smiling, the principal shrugged again.
‘It’s enough.’ Nodding, they both disappeared. Sana stood alone in the street, still wondering what just happened. She looked down at her blade, its silver edge glinting in the dim light.
‘No need to use this, I guess.’ A burst of light shined above her, causing Sana to hide her eyes again. Three rays of light clashed in the air, red and blue orbs slamming into a gray one. They continued fighting for minutes, charging at each other endlessly below the gray sky. Witnessing the scene, Sana watched them as if they were beautiful fireworks. Finally, the brown light fell to the ground, creating a crater as it hit the pavement. Following it, Vincent and the principal landed lightly.
‘See?’ the principal said, looking at Vincent’s exhausted face in amusement. ‘More than enough.’ A beam of light shot from the crater, piercing through the gray sky. The dome dissipated, and the blue expanse returned.
‘Is it over?’ Sana asked, looking at them in amazement. The glow disappeared from their bodies, and their clothes returned to normal. Stretching his legs, Vincent nodded.
‘Well then,’ the principal said, walking back to the café, ‘I still have some business to take care of, so I’ll talk to you two later at school.’ With that he walked in, the door swinging shut behind him.
‘I need to go back too,’ Vincent said, and ran past Sana in the direction of the cemetery. Standing dumbfounded, she put away her sword. She took a look at the café, and then at the direction where Vincent had gone. Then, she looked at the destroyed building and the giant crater on the ground. People had already begun to walk outside, and were looking at the destruction in absolute disbelief.
‘What the hell am I supposed to do about this?’
3 – IV
Vincent ran as fast as he could, hurrying back to the cemetery where Lauren waited. Reaching its iron doors, however, he immediately felt that something was off. A strange aura hung in the air, one that surpassed that of even death. His guard raised, Vincent entered. A fog immediately descended upon him, blocking everything from view.
‘Disperse,’ he said calmly. The fog disappeared.
‘Wow, you’re as strong as the rumours,’ a voice said. Turning, he came face to face with Chris. ‘Yo.’
‘What are you doing here?’ Vincent asked, looking at the giant white gravestone where the mounds lay. ‘Where’s Lauren?’
‘The white angel is in our hands,’ Chris replied, a dark smile coming to his lips. Vincent stared at him in shock.
‘Save the questions for later.’ Chris looked at him curiously, his hand on his head. ‘But man, I never would have guessed that you were an illusionist.’
‘Illusionist?’ Vincent looked at him in utter confusion. Recognizing the situation, however, he composed himself. ‘What do you want?’ Chris’ smile widened.
‘Kill Sana Cross.’ Vincent’s eyes narrowed, his bored look returning.
‘Are you with the rebels?’
‘Who or what I’m with is not important here,’ Chris answered mockingly, ‘what is important is that you decapitate her before next Saturday, or else Lauren will die.’ The fog reappeared behind him, and he turned to walk into it. ‘Remember, we’re always watching you. If you tell anyone or try to betray us, we will kill her without hesitation.’ The fog disappeared as he plunged into it, leaving Vincent alone among the graves. He stood there silently for a long moment, his face expressionless.
‘How long are you going to stand there for?’ another voice said from behind him. Turning, Vincent now faced a slim girl with short curly hair.
‘Who are you?’ The girl smiled.
‘You can call me Sarah. I’m an old acquaintance of Sana and was watching you during your aptitude test.’
‘Did you see that?’ Vincent asked calmly, knowledge of what he was referring to evident in both of their eyes. Sarah nodded.
‘Yeah. I’m good at hiding my presence.’
‘Do you plan to tell her?’ She shrugged.
‘If I said yes then you’d probably kill me here and now. But no, I won’t; I’m not on such good terms with her that I’d sacrifice my life for hers. However, seeing as this is a good opportunity, I’d like you to answer something.’ Frowning slightly, Vincent raised his gaze to the cloudless sky.
‘Where did you get the general’s blade?’ Another look of surprise came to his face.
‘Why do you know about it?’
‘Just answer the question.’ Gazing at her with renewed curiosity, Vincent held out his hand. The long Japanese sword with
intricate runes appeared in it, and Sarah’s eyes became glued to the blade.
‘It’s mine, that is all there is to say,’ he answered calmly.
‘Don’t lie. The general’s sword belongs only to the general.’
‘I am the general.’ Sarah turned to him in bewilderment. After a short pause, she laughed.
‘You, the general!? That’s hilarious.’
‘You seem to know a lot,’ Vincent said, staring at her coldly. ‘Why don’t you tell me what the general is.’ Sarah met his eyes, her joking look turning completely serious.
‘The general is the god who holds no power. The one who watches the world with eyes that never waver but holds no will to change its course. Someone who can both save and destroy, but does neither.’ She gazed at him with empty eyes, her hands hung freely at her sides. ‘You are strong, but not as strong as god. Furthermore, you have fought. You have saved lives, and destroyed them. There is no way you can hold the general’s seal.’
‘But what the general decided to change?’ Vincent asked tonelessly, ‘what if the general gained power?’ Sarah smiled again.
‘In the books there are three great revolutions that were attempted in order to recreate the foundations: Eternity Works, The Existence of Power, and Circle Return. All of these attempts failed. Though the world may change, its core couldn’t be touched. There are those that have reached it, however. One of them is known as the general.’ Her smile disappeared. ‘Do you realize what I am saying?’
‘That if the general changes, the core may be altered?’ She nodded.
‘No one truly knows what will happen if such a thing takes place. The world may be recreated into a parallel reality, or it may simply be destroyed. Maybe it won’t change at all, and things will remain as they were. Its uncertainty is just one of the reasons why so many are drawn to it.’ As if waking up from a dream, she suddenly blinked rapidly.
‘Anyway!’ she said, turning around to leave. ‘That’s enough for today. You seem to have your act together, so I won’t take that sword away. Remember, however, that I will always be watching you.’ She began walking away. ‘Shift.’ A circle appeared around her and she disappeared. Raising the blade to his waist, Vincent stared at it for a long moment. The sunlight hit its smooth surface, emphasizing the unreadable runes that adorned its edge. His brown eyes dim, Vincent frowned.
‘I’m not bored.’
Pictures won't work here so I'll just post links.
3 – V
‘Vincent Azure and Sana Cross, please report to the principal’s office.’ Getting up, Vincent went to join the flow of people leaving the classroom. Clare joined him, gazing at him in curiosity.
‘I wonder why you were called.’ He shrugged.
‘Who knows.’ They proceeded down the long hallway, dodging through small groups of people conversing in the after-school environment.
‘Lauren’s away today too,’ she continued, holding her hands behind her head, ‘it’s been three days already.’
‘She’s probably just sick,’ he replied tonelessly. Reaching into her schoolbag, Clare took out her phone.
‘Maybe, but she didn’t even call. She won’t respond to my texts either; just what the hell is she doing?’
‘Maybe you pissed her off.’
‘I’m pretty sure that you would be the one to,’ she retorted. They reached a large door, a panel that read “Principal” posted onto it. Giving Vincent a short pat on the head, Clare continued walking. Waiting until she left his sight, he grabbed hold of the knob and entered.
‘You really enjoy being late, don’t you?’ Sana asked, leaning on the wall to the left. She wore her uniform, her long hair cascading freely down her back. Her arms crossed, she gazed at him irritably.
‘Sorry.’ Walking forward, he approached the large desk in front of him. The principal sat behind it, wearing a loose white shirt that showed his medium build. He gazed at them expressionlessly, his red jacket hung to the side.
‘Who are you?’ Sana immediately burst out. She looked at him with a lurking suspicion. ‘Are you a member of ARS?’ Taking out a card from his pocket, the principal tossed it to her. Scanning it, Sana’s jaw dropped.
‘What the hell!?’
‘As you can see, I am the supreme commander of ARS. The three heads are members under my authority.’
‘I thought that the supreme commander was just a rumour!’ A wry smile came to the principal’s face.
‘Well, it’s not.’ He turned to Vincent, his face growing serious. Meeting his eyes, Vincent spoke.
‘What happened to the last world?’ Sana looked at him in utter confusion. Sighing slightly, the principal leaned back into his giant leather chair.
‘There’s a chance that it’s recoverable, though that chance is slim.’
‘Wait, what the hell are you talking about?’ Sana demanded, angry that she was being kept out of the loop. ‘What other world?’ The principal sighed again.
‘The explanation for how worlds are created is a long one so I’ll only say what’s necessary. Basically, what happens is that the one who created the reality is killed and someone else gains the power to create a new one. It’s the process known as a reset. A new control structure is implemented, and everything is rewritten.’
‘But this world has many similarities to that one,’ he responded. The principal shrugged.
‘That simply means that the new creator wanted a reality similar to the previous. There are many major changes though, as you are well aware of.’ Sana stared at them with a dumbfound expression, not knowing what to say.
‘Why are our memories still intact?’ Vincent asked, taking out his white glove and slamming it onto the table. His face was suddenly full of undisguised anger. ‘What are we!?’ His lack of calm shocked Sana, making her momentarily forget what they were even talking about. Eyeing the glove, the principal answered.
‘That is something that I can’t tell you. Not because I don’t want to, but because I was asked not to.’ Vincent glared at him.
‘You.’ His eyes widened. After a moment of dull silence, he turned to leave. Sana scrambled to follow him. Walking to the door’s threshold, he stopped.
‘One more thing.’
‘What?’ He turned his head sideways, staring at the red jacket on the coat hanger.
‘Is it possible to restore the last world to what it was before they died?’ The principle gazed at him calmly. His eyes turned red, and an instant later Vincent’s turned blue.
‘You can, but it won’t be real. Time itself is linear, and exists only in one line. I say that the old world can be restored, but not in the sense that we will return to the period when it still existed. Rather, we would simply destroy this world and recreate the new one to be exactly identical to the one you desire.’ Another long moment of silence passed.
‘I see,’ Vincent said again, and left the room. Following him, Sana closed the door as they stepped into the hallway. She gazed at him with a mixture of confusion and fear, unsure of how to react to this new side of him.
‘Follow me,’ he said, and began walking again. Obeying, they proceeded through the hallway and down the stairs, leaving the school. The evening sun shone warily above them, unhindered by the cloudless sky.
‘Umm…I guess this calls for a change of plans,’ Sana said as they passed into a small alleyway. No one else was in sight. Not responding, Vincent continued to walk. Smothered by the heavy atmosphere, Sana forced herself to continue talking.
‘So…if it’s okay with you, why don’t you tell me what that was about?’ Vincent stopped, causing her to accidently walk into him. She grabbed at the fabric of his shirt for support; realizing their closeness, she backed off immediately and turned crimson.
‘Sana.’ Turning around, he gazed coldly down at her, his eyes retaining their blue light. Feeling nervous under his stare, she looked away.
‘What is it?’ she asked hesitantly.
‘What–’ the rest of her sentence was lost as he suddenly pressed a finger to her forehead. A terrible and irrational fear swelled up inside her.
END OF CHAPTER THREE
– REALIZE –
For those interested please check out my new fanfic Existing Reality (http://otaku-streamers.com/community/showthread.php?8714-Existing-Reality-(Kara-no-Kyoukai-Fan-Fiction)&p=233939#post233939)
4 – I
‘So it’s come to this.’ Vincent met Karen’s gaze unflinchingly, his face unreadable.
‘What do you want?’ They stood on the roof of the school, the cloudless sky blowing above them. The sounds of afterschool sports clubs came from below. Taking out a cigarette, Karen lit it with her finger.
‘I know what you did.’ Vincent didn’t respond.
‘You killed Sana,’ she continued, ‘one of our best members.’
‘A level 5?’ Vincent asked, his voice calm. Karen crushed the cigarette, the smoke dying in her hand.
‘Her future was limitless. Had she gone on, she would have undoubtedly become one of the greatest of her generation. But you ruined that. ’ Anger burned in her eyes, a brightness like fire which glared at him in hatred.
‘You will not be forgiven.’
Suddenly, five cloaked forms appeared on the roof, surrounding Vincent. Their faces were hidden under the dark hoods that they wore.
‘Do you have any proof?’ he asked. Tossing away the bent cigarette, Karen put on a pair of dark orange gloves.
‘Don’t underestimate our information network. We have several sources that point to you as the reason that her aura disappeared three days ago. I didn’t believe it at first, which was why it took so long in the first place.’
‘Very well, then. What do you intend to do with me?’ She returned the smile with her own, her hands bursting into flames.
‘Kill you, of course.’
As if on cue, the cloaked forms charged at him.
‘Stop,’ he commanded, and they froze in place. Jumping past them, Karen’s hand smashed into his. A crater formed where he stood.
‘Burn,’ Karen said.
The fire leapt from her hand, engulfing Vincent’s body in the bright orange flames. Wincing in pain, he jumped back and the flames disappeared.
‘You have a rather resilient body,’ Karen called. She glanced at the cloaked forms in irritation. They remained frozen in place, many of them suspended in mid-air.
‘Do you still plan to fight?’ he asked, putting on his own gloves. Her smile widened.
‘I do. However, it doesn’t seem like a good idea to take you on alone. Sorry, but this won’t be very fair.’ Two other people appeared around him. One was a tall man dressed in a black tuxedo, the other a small boy wearing an oversized lab coat. Power radiated from both of them.
‘May I introduce the first and third heads, Jack Turner and Myron Eastwood.’
‘I didn’t think that I was so dangerous as to warrant the top three attacking me together,’ he replied dryly. He studied each of their faces carefully, memorizing their images.
‘You are a danger to the entire organization,’ the boy said. Out of the three, Vincent felt the most danger from him. ‘You must be put down before this coup gets out of hand.’ Vincent’s eyes narrowed.
‘We’ve already caught several others admitting to you as the ringleader,’ the man in the tuxedo said, ‘there’s no denying it now.’ His slight smile returned.
‘So that’s how it is.’ A circle of light appeared on the ground before him, and Vincent’s sentinel rose. The others looked on in shock.
Except the boy.
‘We might need to capture him alive,’ the man in the tuxedo said in fascination, ‘it’s the first time I’ve seen a human with a connection to a sentinel.’
‘Don’t hold back,’ the boy said calmly, ‘you’ll die if you do.’
The man took out a sleek pair of handguns. Karen’s body lighted up in fire. A dark light radiated from the boy. His eyes turning blue, Vincent held out his hand. The general’s blade appeared in it.
4 – II
It was over in a flash.
The sentinel disappeared, reappearing a second later behind the man in the tuxedo. Before he could react, the sword was driven through his chest.
Karen charged at him again, using the fire around her body to boost her speed. She drove her fist into Vincent, a wild grin on her face as she heard the sound of bones cracking. Suddenly, he exploded in a flash of light, blinding her momentarily. Before she could regain her senses, Vincent drove his blade through her chest.
The boy watched calmly, not moving a muscle. The dark aura was cloaked around him, seeming as if an invisible barrier around his small frame.
‘I appreciate that you didn’t kill them,’ he said. Vincent frowned, the sentinel reappearing again at his side. Pools of blood formed around Karen and the man as they lay unmoving on the ground.
‘They’re pretty weak.’ The boy shrugged.
‘They couldn’t show their full strength because you defeated them too quickly. Also, none of us want to destroy this city with our battle.’
‘So what do you plan to do now?’ Vincent asked, carefully watching him, ‘are you going to fight me?’ It was the boy’s turn to frown.
‘I don’t believe that that’s necessary.’ He raised an eyebrow.
‘A real fight without a gray dome around us would be catastrophic in various ways,’ the boy continued, ‘I’d like to settle this with words rather than violence.’ Vincent looked at him curiously, not sure how to take his new proposal.
‘What do you suggest?’
‘First, tell me why you killed Sana.’ Vincent smiled.
‘Because she’s annoying.’ The boy’s eyes narrowed.
‘Very well. Who told you to kill her?’ His smile disappeared.
‘Who else besides myself?’ The boy stared at him for a while; then sighed.
‘I see that this is going nowhere.’ Black circles appeared around the Karen and the man and they melted into the ground. The cloaked figures turned into dust. A similar circle appeared below the boy
‘Remember, we’re always watching you,’ he continued as he sunk into the hole, ‘don’t do anything too crazy.’
He disappeared, leaving him alone on the damaged roof. The crater that was proof of their battle still remained.
Vincent stood still for a moment, turning his eyes up to the cloudless sky.
The sentinel disappeared. He held up his sword, once again studying the intricate and unreadable runes. In the bright sunlight, he could see his reflection.
He was smiling. Lowering the blade, the general’s sword disappeared back into his hand. A dim azure glow came from his eyes. No matter how much he tried, he could no longer become bored.
The eyes lost their glow.
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