Authors note: OMGAH IT’S FINALLY OUT. This chapter was on hold for way too long
By the way, the Vallen in this story came before my character in Sins RP (I re-used the name). Also, Team Sashimi is actually a reference to my old guild, SushiRox; Sashimi used to be the JM rank title. o_o
Anyway, onto the story I guess.
It was sunset. Wemy brother Vallen and Iwere on the steps, and I was playing a song for him, when we saw Chief rush down the street, a frantic look on his face. He was yelling, Run! The Shadowlights are here! Hearing this, everyone began running and screaming, bumping into each other.
I grabbed Vallen in my free hand and we hurried out of the town, in the setting suns direction. I tried to make for a place I knew in the west forest, a hidden glade where they wouldnt be able to find us. I tugged him by the arm, both of us running for our lives.
But before we reached the town border, everything flashed white for a moment, and then turned pitch-black. I couldnt see. I held onto Vallens hand, determined not to lose him, and tried to run.
Something hard hit me in the stomach, knocking me over, and made me let go of Vallen. I told him to get away, to run to the glade. Then I felt a boot, or something, pinning me to the ground, and the world just sort of faded out.
Pinpricks of light, immeasurable distances away, twinkled through Helios Towers long windows. Pale shafts of the moon lit silver rectangles upon the toy blocks that formed the forty-fourth floor. Below, on the forty-third, torches suspended from the ceiling illuminated decorative wall hangings and a leafy carpet, on which a smattering of Leaflings milled about, eating and socializing. Team Sashimi, sans Cipha and Lachie, were discussing the specifics of an upcoming mission in one corner of the room.
then, Valeri casts his Myst and joins Lynnelle on the other side. Fell will be some distance away, keeping a lookout.
Val and Lynn. Your part in this is crucial. Concentrate on the target; dont worry about your backs. No Shadow shall interfere with you two. I swear it on my Diamond Dagger and my life.
Yes, Fell will cover you. Meanwhile, Kennan, Ricki, and I will try to subdue them as much as possible, and once the
The conversation faded from Ryns hearing as she made her way to the stairs and the moonlight. Ascending the steps, she spotted the silhouette of the great ranger Lachie Anari at the window. She approached him, looking out upon the silver landscape of Korean Folk Town. Somewhere above her, she heard someone playing a flute. A familiar tune, though she couldnt place it. It reminded her of a night in Henesys, years ago, when Aunt Athena, as an exercise in concentration, once made a bed of fallen leaves for them and they slept beneath the stars, clearing their minds and listening to the whispers of the town being carried on the breeze.
Without turning, the ranger spoke. Good evening, young Pierce.
That last bit sounds straight out of that futuristic sci-fi series that was adapted to the movieswhich havent been invented yetwhat was it called? Star Wars? Except Pierce doesnt even have the same ring to it as Skywalker does. Then again, Ryn Skywalker does sound silly.
As this was going through her head, he continued, Leaftain has assigned me to supervise your training, starting tomorrow.
Ryn called off her mental assault on the fourth wall to take this in and inquire, What training?
Just some verbal instruction on how to properly subdue and purify Shadowlightsso that we dont have a bunch of people killing the same enemies over and over needlessly.
I see. Her eyes wandered once more to his Nisrock, and her thoughts once more to the sword on her back. By the way do you know what Kennan wants the Soul Echo for? He hasnt told me
In an odd, impassive tone he answered, The prophecies have told us to retrieve it, and so we have.
Thats it? That sort of thing only happens in fanfics when authors have writers block and cant think of anything less cliché, she couldnt help thinking.
The flute melody tapered off, as if anticipating what the ranger had to say. Ryn Pierce, you will understand soon enough. See you tomorrow. He walked off.
Ciphomandra Shine lowered her flute and glanced out the forty-fifth floor window at the starry sky. Vallen, wherever you are, that was for you.
She descended the stairs.
I wonder what Ranger Anari will have me do tomorrow.
Footsteps approached. She turned from the window and saw one of the Leaflings from earlier, a girl about her age, coming down from the floor above.
Cipha seemed surprised to see Ryn there. Oh hi Leafling Pierce! I wasnt expecting anyone to be here
Leafling Pierce? Call me Ryn. She noticed that Cipha held a Nathean flute in her hand. So it was you who was playing the music. Seemed to me like it was some angel!
The girl laughed timidly. Im no angel; far from it. And anyway, angels play harps, not flutes.
No one ever made it a rule that an angel couldnt play a flute, she countered. Come, lets go to the others. They made their way down the stairway. So whats this place like?
Actually, Im as new as you. Seeing the surprised look on Ryns face, she went on, I was captured during the Leafre raid. TheyTeam Sashimisaid they fought the Shadowlights on the mountaintop, and recovered five from their ranks. I was the first of the five to wake up.
Ryn gasped. What happened to to everyone you knew?
She shook her head. I dont know. Some of them are here, some in Leafre. My little brother, Vallen, hasnt been seen since the raid. My best guess is that hes still somewhere out there.
Ryn felt a need to reach out to her, to comfort her in some way or other, but as they walked toward the sleeping quarters, she knew she could be of no help.
And as odd as it seemed, something told her Cipha didnt want it.
Dawn had yet to stir the people of Ludus Lake. Inside Helios Tower, every soul slept peacefully, save three, who spoke in whispers to avoid awakening the rest.
Where are we going?
Downstairs. Take your sword.
I cant see
Scuffling noises could be heard, and a small flame appeared, lighting up the forty-third floor. Ryn, Cipha, and Lachie Anari stole across the room to the stairs, each carrying what looked like a long stick.
They emerged on the floor below, and the ranger inspected the room. It was fairly large, about ten sword-lengths on either side, and completely empty. I think this is suitable.
He held his stick aloft, twirled it around a little, and before they realized it, it had transformed into a chair, which he sat down on. He tapped the chair thoughtfully. Wonderful inventions, these folding chairs. Come, sit.
When they were all seated, Lachie began speaking. I think it best that I explain a few things before we begin. I assume you both already know that the world is in conflict, and dark crystal is somehow involved. But there is more to it than that.
About a month ago, a team of scientists over at Omega Sector were working on a way to harness the energy of the five Great Spherespower, luck, wisdom, dexterity, and shadow. As you know, each of these has a physical manifestation in our world as fragments of crystal. The scientists wanted to use the energy dormant in the crystals to power their technological advances. To do that, they had to find a way to awaken the crystals and unlock the energy contained within.
Something specifically happened when they tried to stimulate the dark crystal this way. Our knowledge gets hazy at this point, but we know that they succeeded in releasing the dark energy contained within the crystal. However, when they did so, they were unable to contain the energy, and it was released into the world.
Shadow is not only the most potent of the Great Spheres, it is also the only one that can spread itself by its own accord. As youve both seen, it can possess humans and creatures. It can also bind itself to other objects. Typically, it needs a host in order to perpetuate itself, or itll disappear. However, if theres enough of it in one place, it can exist on its own.
Up until yesterday, that was our understanding. Having been released, the shadow energy found its first victims, and through them, it continued to spread itself through the world, adding people to its army of Shadowlights.
However, it seems that theres something more behind thissomething, or someone, taking advantage of the released dark energy to fulfill their own motives. This is where it starts becoming a guessing game. All we know is that whatever it is seems to like to possess humans, especially our fighters.
He finished, Any questions about anything Ive just said?
They shook their heads. No? Very well then. Im going to tell you about a couple ways of exterminating shadow energy.
Procuring from his pocket a small vial, he handed it to Ryn. Holy water, as you know, is one. If you jolt a possessed monster with a strike, the dark energy is scrambled, in a way, relinquishing its grip for a split second. Then, given a douse of holy water, it is expelled into the air and vanishes. As I am aware, this is how you and Kennan cleared Orbis Tower a couple of days ago?
Yes. He made the task seem like part of swordsmanship training, she mused.
And I am sure the holy water served you well there. However, this is a cumbersome method, and proves ineffective against larger creatures and humans.
Lachie took out another object, shining brilliantly in the light of the torch, and passed it to Cipha. When her eyes adjusted to its glare, she could see that it was a luster crystalthe same ones that adorned the wands of Orbis pixies.
While not a crystal in the conventional sense, luster pieces act like crystals in a number of wayswhich I wont get into, seeing as how this isnt a geology lesson. However, whats important to know is that these carry a substantial amount of holy energy, as you might expect. Realizing this, our good friend Leaftain Varr devised a simple anti-shadow spell: the Pixies Release. It requires virtually no mana from the user, but instead depends on a luster crystal for its energy. Basically, you hold the crystal to the victims chest, or at least somewhere near its center; invoke the name of the spell, Pixies Release; and the negative energy will be forced out. Here, let me demonstrate.
He stood, took the crystal from Ciphas hand, pressed it to her heart, and called out, Pixies Release! Ryn screamed, and then realized nothing had happened to her. She glanced up at the ceiling, probably wondering whether she had accidentally awoken anyone who mightve been still sleeping on the floor above.
This is most likely the spell that freed you, Cipha. He went on, Everyone under the Leaf is instructed to perform a Release, as its simple and effective. Its not a very difficult technique, and Ive never heard of anyone fail to execute it correctly past their second attempt, but Id like you both to try it on me in a moment.
There are, of course, other ways. Powerful holy spellsGenesis and Heavens Hammer, to name a coupleare capable of destroying shadow energy outright. A Dispel by a priest can dissipate dark particles that sometimes accumulate in the air during a large battle. Certain light-infused weapons have a similar effect to holy water. But these arent very relevant to us; I just want to enlighten you, for general knowledges sake.
However, there is one thing of importance. Possessed entities still sustain injuries, though the aura that fuels them doesnt care. If, say, I am captured, and you take out my eye while fighting me, I wont magically regenerate that eye if you manage to Release me. Also, as long as theyre possessed, they wont die permanently. Sever my head off, and I would continue fighting according to the auras influence. But if you Released me afterward, Id die instantly without my head. What I mean to say is, avoid excessively battering a Shadowlight where possible. I dont mean to say not to use your weapons, because its inevitable to have to defend yourself. And dont be afraid to kill if it means you or thema free person and a dead former Shadow is better than a dead person and a free Shadow. However, once you have them subdued, try to Release as soon as you get an opportunity rather than unnecessarily damaging them.
Finally, as he concluded his speech, he handed each of the girls a luster crystal and instructed them to perform a Release on him in turn.
Leafling training had begun.
Meanwhile, Kennan and Anka had returned to Leafre through the Leafs portal network, and had just arrived at Leaftain Arzunas hut.
The chief was at home. Kennan, a little short of breath, huffed, You wanted to see me, Leaftain?
Arzuna looked up from his work; he had been whittling again. Ah, its you, Kennan. Sit down, we have something important to discuss.
The swordsman took a seat. Anka remained standing, having apparently been overlooked. Arzuna gave no sign that he had noticed him there.
To Kennan, he said, I understand you were undertaking your white knight advancement test when this mess came about.
Yes. He had nearly forgotten.
The Leaftain nodded. However, I dont think it is very plausible for you to return to the Stone with another dark crystal, given the current state of the world.
The swordsmans quick responses amused Arzuna, but he continued. But the sages and I have a proposition for you. As you may have realized, time is critical; and third-level techniques take a while to master. You cannot afford to lose time trying to learn them while the Shadow continues to augment its power. Thus The Leaftain got up, walked to the bookshelf, and picked out a rolled-up piece of parchment, tied with golden ribbon. Ive already spoken to the sages about this, and they agree. He handed Kennan the scroll.
What is it? The object looked nondescript on the outside, as most scrolls did. He flipped it over, examining it. His finger hovered over the ribbon, but the Leaftain stayed his hand.
Dont open it yet. Theres nothing to see anyway, unless you can read ancient Aoha. Take it to the statue on the eighth floor of Orbis Tower. Leafling Anka, accompany him there, he said, acknowledging the priest for the first time. Once there, youll know what to do. Good luck.
The swordsman stood, uncertainly. Is that all you wanted to say?
Yes, that is all.
Old men and their riddles
The sun had properly risen by the time the two members of Team Sashimi stepped off the ship onto Orbis Station, Platform L. A cloudless expanse of purest azure stretched above their heads as they made their way through the crowd of morning commuters. The Shadow hadnt yet struck Orbis, or the platform wouldve been deserted.
Lovely day for a walk, the priest commented, as they walked through the city of clouds. Kennan didnt respond.
When they reached the tower, Kennan stopped at the threshold. Got anything to make this easier?
Other than a lesser protection spell, no. Anka gave a little chuckle as Kennan groaned in response. Dont like climbing?
As a matter of fact, I dont. Never did, and never will. He gingerly descended the spiral steps, Anka following in his wake.
In Orbis Tower, the phrase stone dead was an oxymoron. The stones were very much alive, animated by the fairies residual magic. Although the tower itself didnt often change shape, pieces of stone broke off now and again to defend the tower against intruders. These were known as stone Sentinels, and true to name, they had a quite hostile demeanor toward strangers, even if they werent particularly powerful.
Knowing this, Anka cast the aforementioned protection spell. Invincible. Though not the most potent defense, it was enough to ward off the Sentinels beams. Even without this interference, however, climbing down twelve floors by foot was still rather tiring, as was made apparent by Kennans groans and complaints that permeated the otherwise monotonous sound of their footsteps on the stone.
After what seemed like an eternity, the swordsman asked, What floor is this?
Eleventh, I think.
Kennan gave the priest a venomous look. Anka, not intending to become flame bait, offered, Look, if you really cant handle this, we can switch shoes if you want. I know how warrior greaves are
My shoes are fine! he burst out.
The priest seemed unconvinced, but yielded. They pressed on, Anka staying several steps behind Kennan. Ive never seen him like this.
Several floors above the pair, a man with long black hair was crouched on the ground with his eyes closed. He remained there, unmoving, except for his lips; he was chanting something.
Satisfied, he stood up and walked back in the direction of the cloud city.
And here we are.
The swordsman continued walking, past the statue of the angel, apparently not having noticed theyd arrived.
Uh, Broa to Kennan ?
If not for the protection spell that still lasted from before, that would have been the last thing the priest said in his life. Kennan turned around, bloodlust in his eyes, and lunged with his sword, the blade deflecting off the weak guard and nicking Ankas hand instead. A drop of crimson stained the stone floor.
With a sweep of his Dark Ritual staff, Anka vanished and reappeared behind Kennans back. The swordsman whirled around and prepared to strike once more, only to have a ray of light energy hit him in the face. Taking advantage of the daze, Anka teleported out of reach and immersed his hand in a green healing glow.
Kennan charged once again, this time darting to the side to skirt Ankas arrow. Seeing an opening, he lashed out with his sword, only to meet the priests staff mid-swing. He attempted to overpower Anka, but then the priest suddenly teleported out of their weapons embrace and he lost his balance. Before he could try to re-steady himself, another bolt of light hit him, tipping him over, and he fell backward onto the ground. Anka winced.
Sorry, Kennan. It had to be done.
He walked to the swordsmans side and planted the base of his staffwhich happened to have a sliver of luster crystal embedded in itfirmly on his chest, like a flagpole. Pixies Rel
Before he could finish, Kennan rolled away, grabbed the staff, and wrenched it out of the priests hand. He whacked him solidly in the stomach, winding him, and then threw himself out the window, staff and all.
Anka ran to the window and looked downward. A flash of light, and the warrior was gone.