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Nefaliem (Part I)

Nefaliem

the Codex of Innocence

Book One: Part I

Kelvia-Lee Johnson

 

© Copyright 2015 – 2016 by Kelvia-Lee Johnson

This is a work of fiction.

The names, characters, places and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be constructed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales or organisations is entirely and purely coincidental.

All rights are reserved.

No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without prior written permission from the author. Stunts and scenes and any replication of scenes will result in severe injury or death.

Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the author. Hence, reproducing ideas, characters, storyline or works itself is prohibited.

Prologue

A Nefaliem’s Strife

This is more than just a trial.”

....-

NO ONE EVER TELLS YOU HOW THINGS WILL END.

Instead, they just do. No one ever cared and when they did—they undoubtedly betrayed me. So rampaging throughout Earth was all that was left of me, as I have no memories, no family and from my perspective—no future.

If someone were to scream and beg for their life, I wouldn’t give diddly squat. However, if someone offers something to me of greater value in my eyes, then maybe I’d reconsider . . . maybe. Depending on the person that is.

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to be like those other women without a care in the world for those around you. Instead, I always cared, I don’t know why or the reason—all I know is that something horrible had happened and I’m left to suffer alone.

So I took my vengeance.

I did everything in my power to make others suffer because I could.

With the power to walk through walls and above average super strength and speed. I was invincible. Taking what I wanted, not caring who was hurt but over time as I began to understand the darkness of this retched planet Earth—I knew my time could be better spent elsewhere.

Enemies became my playthings, monsters and demons became practice while those who thought, they could control me, learned the hard way, that I wasn’t someone who could be controlled.

At this point in time, in this exact moment, I watch my target; stalk through a thick crowd of people, broad daylight is when I would strike, not at night—the night-time is when I deal with those of Hell—the demons or monsters that claimed to know of me.

In the end, they ended up like my enemies, shredded away into nothing or stashed in body bags. I prefer the body bags, that way I could look upon those who did me wrong one last time, delving in the satisfaction of my accomplishment.

They were only humans—daunts; I’ve known for a while now that I’m not human—not like the other human women walking this earth. I’d often be a target because I’m female but the scary part is I relish in that, better to have the monsters come to me, than having me, go out of my way to hunt them down.

Miles Walker, is an accountant clerk at Hilton Garden, and my next target. He saunters through the throng of New Yorkers as I keep my distance. He has a schedule of keeping coffee with a newspaper at a small café not too far from Times Square always at exactly eight o’clock.

Yellow taxis honk and holler, as personal hover-cars sit in traffic waiting for the motion of flow. This makes me wonder why anyone bothers to drive to work, in this time period. In my eyes, they’re wasting their fuel, then again, it is the year 3456 and I’m certain their fuel is now eco-friendly. However, given the excessive heat now weighing down on us, I also know that their effort to save the planet had been in vein, as a small percentage recycled and attempted to live waste-less lives while the others didn’t, resulting in thick photochemical smogs and extinct animals.

Miles continues on route for Hilton Garden Inn, which is seven minutes away, a company, that had lasted for a good millennia. Heading south, I dodge everyone and anyone that I consider an obstacle.

Whilst keeping my eyes on Miles.

He easily shifts through the crowd, across the road and over to Hilton Garden hotel, where I follow after him. He moves through the crowd with ease and I watch as he enters the building. I turn my heel and head into the opposite building. It’s the building that would give me a perfect vantage point.

Nothing is going to be easy; I know that, as this is going to cause gossip on the news. As usual, I care but became numb to each ridicule they flung around. I’m the enemy—I’m the monster but unlike some, I’m certain I wasn’t always like that. I knew I hated Humans more than I hated Outlanders and they were a problem.

I discreetly pass the lobby and head for the fire stairs around the corner. Standing in my black mid-thigh length trench coat, I don’t feel like I stand out at all, even as a few people spot me but I act as ordinary as possible. Ultimately, I have no choice but to, if I want my plan to succeed.

Hiking fluidly up the stairs, I make my way to the roof, keeping my leather-gloved hands in my jacket pockets. I make my way to the top of the building pressing open the door, I drop a brick that I had pinched from beside the door on the ground, I shove it between the door and its frame with the sole purpose to keep it from closing. I move over to the edge of the building that displays a clear view and layout of his office, which leaves him wide open to me.

My plan is set and ready to be carried out.

These thoughts of fear continue to tickle at the back of my mind—hindering my movements. I’m afraid of them but also detest them. I know that as long as I keep my guard up, I’d be safe, even though I may need to go on a high dosage of medication to numb my heart and mind. Something, I’m certain would save me in the end.

As I do this I desperately want to know the truth as I don’t want to play games any more, even though I’ve lost sight of the light—I know there is nothing else anyone could do to save me, as I would forever be a gift of the darkness that floods through me. My plan I know is something that would play out very carefully and precisely.

I want to understand what is occurring in the traffics of the Underworld better yet, I need to draw out a certain someone. Someone who’s been trouble from the first day we met—his name is: Altair Keyes.

My target is a small simple man but he’s had dealings within the black-market, something, which is going to get him into trouble, so I know it’s best that I end him before another assassin does. At least I’m going to be merciful and kill him without an interrogation, as there is no real need. My questions have already been answered.

I see through the wide window to floor ceiling glass, Miles moving fluidly to his desk. His movements are quick and precise; almost reminding me of a panther as he boots up his holographic computer.

I dig for my power and feel my hand heat within moments I hold a sterling silver crossbow inscribed in an ancient language. That power I use is the power to summon weapons form my central core, it is something that makes moving through security child’s play. I smile; I know this would be easy as I aim the crossbow, making sure my scope matches up. I smile and fire.

A loud scream pierces the air and I watch as his limbs dangle as he sits clumped over in his transparent office chair. I de-summoned my large silver crossbow and head to the door. I proceed down the stairs and escape out a door on level seven. The emergency exit allows me to enter a hallway.

I notice, no one has realised what has happened.

The police I know will be altered when the body is found. I’m quick to turn my black trench coat inside out, feeling my features heat, I’m aware of my appearance changing. I walk passed reflective glass and watch as my hair turns from black to brown than blond. I pull it out and head to the elevator. I stand between two security guards aware, I look completely different. That is only confirmed by my blond Caucasian appearance in the reflective glass. I quit the elevator and exit the building with my completed objective at the forefront of my mind.

 

 

Part I

RECOLLECTION

The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them.”

– Albert Einstein.

 

1

Formally Hunted

The truth can be as sharp and painful as any knife.”

.....

IN BREAKING NEWS,” the anchorman grimly declares. “Earlier yesterday there was an assassination on the thirty-year-old accountant, Miles Walker. In this tragic incident, detectives are calling for witnesses to come forward as the weapon that punctured his heart is nowhere to be found.”—My mind zones out, as I don’t want to hear any more.

I knew to a degree that I also don’t care.

I glance at my ventilator shaft and watch it silently sit against the white ceiling. Shadows stretch along my grey walls as the sun begins to set in this stagnant room. The shadows tower monstrously along my walls and I know for a fact, they aren’t monsters. Not the kind I’m used to. They’d call upon me in the most unnecessary times. Sometimes I wonder why they even bother—they’re no match. No one is a match and that’s mainly because I’m not human.

It is a fact I both delve in and hate.

I lay in my black underwear on my spring mattress with my mind turning as I briefly glance at the holographic screen that reflects the setting sun. I smile at the news. My task is complete and the next one would be underway soon—I just have to figure out when. I faintly hear a knock emanating from outside my door. “It couldn’t be for me. No one knows I live here.” I smile—well not legally and not the real me. The knocking disappears and I still haven’t moved.

I watch the ceiling fan spin, noticing the setting sun; I eventually sit up in bed, aware I have had plenty hours’ of sleep—not to mention there are somethings that I need to do and that gives me the uneasy sensation to strangle someone. The urge is so strong that I feel I can’t contain it. And I knew it would be Vince—it’ll add to my many reasons as to why I want to strangle him. One being, by our provider we are paid for our jobs, I knew without a doubt he’ll try and take the money I recently earned because he thinks he can and two he’s just a plain asshole.

Plucking my shirt from the bedside table, I pull it over my head and slip it on, feeling sick I stumble across the room to the bathroom. I notice in the mirror; my golden brown skin is dull in colour as my eyes rein bags bigger than my small oval face. My pink and brown lips are cracked and I always hate it when it gets like that—sometimes it’s painful other times it’s a pain. Turning on the tap, I let the water thickly run. The sound of rushing water comforts me as it always does. My high cheekbones seem to make my cheeks hollow. Concluding, I look like a complete mess, I mumble as I drink the water from the tap, “The nightmares. Bloody hate them.” I dry my mouth with my face towel before placing it back on the handrail. I pass a tub, big enough to fit a small person and deep enough to hold a good few litres of water for a long bath, before quitting the small bathroom.

As I wander into my room. My mind floods flashbacks of the dream. The nightmares are always the same, I’m confined with nowhere out and nowhere to go. The water—it’s always a funny green colour. There are these quick bubbles that graze along the surface of the glass. It isn’t the water that scares me it’s watching the white-suited men on the other side; view me as I desperately bang at the glass. As the water begins to pour at my feet, they continue to watch. No matter how hard I hit the glass it wouldn’t crack. No matter how much I screamed they wouldn’t waver—they don’t even move. They just watched as the water suffocates me and it isn’t until I’m submerged do I wake up shaking in fear. My body trembles every time as I dream of that freezing cold water. That reaction to that dream is a common one I’ve noticed over the years.

I quickly dress, in a black leather jacket, black jeans and black leather boots and my favourite blue shirt, which always complements my golden brown skin tone. I tuck my leather gloves in my back pocket along with my credit card, which is lined in an aluminium case. With my thick black hair in a braid, I head out of my apartment in search of Vince.

He is going to be sorry when I find him.

Later that morning, I find myself in the city square. Down several blocks, I walk. I turn down an alleyway and see the stars twinkle overhead. I sense something near—something dangerous and just like that I know finding that man would have to wait. The air feels cool to the touch and it seems to slide passed me as the winds of a storm brews. I glance up at the skies and feel the ground pulse between my feet. “Demons.” I wonder why they aren’t pulling me into Paranella—into the world that borders Hell. From the shadows, on ground, the demons rise.

I stand ready to fight.

There is a woman with black hair along with two men with different shades of silver hair. One man wears a mask that covering his lower features while the other wears a black headband around his forehead. Clad in motorbike leather they look deadly and I see the woman’s eyes burn a colour from brown to crimson. “There you are,” she muses, stalking before the man, almost as if she were their leader.

“You know me?” I ask, aware I’ve never seen her before.

There is a brief pause before she adds, “You have no idea what you’ve got yourself into, do you?”

“No. But it doesn’t matter.” I coolly reply.

“Oh? Is that so?”

“Yes.”

She grumbles a laugh, “Such as shame you ended up in this dump. No matter, without Serenity, you’re outnumbered and alone.” She glares, “You’re an open target.”

“Bring it.” I smartly declare and bring up my fists, glaring at the two other male demons dauntingly on approach. I stare them down and watch as she pulls out summoned silver weapons from behind her back, they were two short broad swords. The men do the same but remain a few feet behind her.

“How about one on three doesn’t seem fair, wouldn’t you agree?” she teases. I feel my lips pull themselves into a small smile. “Get her. We’ll freeze her and hand her over to Al,” the female announces. They pounce on me like a lion to a gazelle. I evade the first one and dodge the next. However, the moment I think I’m free from one—another comes and wraps his thick larger hand around my smaller wrist. I glare and he smiles. I kick him away from me and I’m suddenly surprised by the next one that decides to throw a punch my way. I block and head-butt him before grabbing his wrist, I turn my back towards him and step closer to him before effectively flipping him over me. “Idiots.” the female grumbles before adding, “Since when is she ever easy to take.”

“You continue to speak as though we know each other.” I ponder as the man with the mask stumbles towards me, he’s the same man that I kicked away.

“I don’t know you personally. But I do know of you.” the woman replies as she walks closer, her black silhouettes click, against the ground. “You’re a woman of many tales. And ones I’m quite certain you’ve forgotten.” She curls a small sinister smile making her blood red lips mock my very existence. Something, which causes my blood to boil. The men jump at me once again, this time, I’m quick to string together blocks and evade their quick kicks and sharp punches. Feeling myself backing into a corner, I leap onto the wall and flip in the air—executing a perfect tornado kick. The masked man stumbles away from me, while the one with the headband man evades my series of kicks. The men are soon defeated and I wiped the blood from my lip where I received a solid punch. Blood smears the back of my hand but I recover.

She sneers and snarls, “Morons! She’s just one woman.” I roll over my shoulder, bouncing on my toes I shaped up.

“I may be one woman but I have yet to come across a man who can match me.”

“Don’t be absurd. There’s one out there I’m certain but you haven’t come across him just yet.” She retorts and I scowl. I have to take her out quickly. Two duel weapons moulded in her hands and she sprints towards me at top speed—I leant back and both of her blades are pressed against my chin. “But then again, since when does it have to be a man.” I feel my forearm heat and I see the gleam of my thick single layer of armour. It stretches from my elbow and over the back of my hand. I push away the blades with my armour and spin back striking her a few times with that same armoured arm. I spin each time with my fist curled and I’m surprised when she ensues my wrist. I jump, kneeing her with my right leg before kicking her away with my left hand. She twists away from me and I land on the ground with a hand in front of me. She stumbles back and I watch as she recovers and wipes her lip. “I see you haven’t forgotten how to fight.”

“Why do you continue to speak as though you know me,” I demand. She places her hands on her hips and smiles over at me.

“How can I not? You’re renown as the Silver Knight: Crimson Blade.”

“Crimson Blade?” I question, certain I’ve never heard myself being called something like that. “What kind of a name is that?” She scowls. Closing the distance between us, she presents several quick snapping kicks and I evade them all. I see she’s becoming agitated as she sweeps at me, I tumble to the ground and roll out of the way, avoiding her foot as it shatters the ground where I once lay a few moments ago. She’s a lot stronger than she looks but so are the males, being big, they are a little tough to move. Like the males, I manage and I will with her—even though I could feel my blood racing beneath my skin. She flings kicks towards me and I block a few before continuing to roll away from her. I pick up a bin lid, threading my arm through the handle; I hold it as she kicks the lid. I roll backwards over my shoulder and spin around on my knees, using the lid as a weapon, again and again, she blocks my attacks.

She pulls out a wire; using her curled fists she wraps it around my neck. I’m stunned; she pulls me from executing a backhand spin with the lid. She yanks me to my feet. I feel her breath against my damp neck and I stomp my heel on her foot before whacking the back of my head against her nose. She staggers away from me, clutching her bleeding nose; I pull the cord from around my neck and turn around to face her tossing the cord on the ground. “You really think that’ll work on me.”

“It was worth a shot.” Blood pools over her lips but as quick as it comes, the blood vanishes. Demons and their power to regenerate is a pain, she smiles a knowing smile and I glare. The men pull themselves to their feet and run at me with weapons in hand. Using my forearm that holds my armour, I deflect the weapons as they slide off my armour and bounce back. I could only summon, the power to pull weapons and armour from the central core but they were limited this included. This armour I have is the only armour I could summon—the other parts prove to be difficult. That is enough to define my inhuman nature.

The men move, with co-ordination that reminds me of something, I’m a little slow to evade the next attack and I’m thrown into a nearby alleyway wall. The brick is damp and hard against my features. I ran up the side of a dumpster and the brick wall, coming across the ladder, I leap toward it and it doesn’t budge to my surprise. I climb onto the landing. The others are quick to follow after me. I flip over the next railing and onto the next flight of steel stairs that leads me higher into the air. The men chase after me. The stairs shake under my feet as I continue to run until I’m at the top of the building. I spin around, my feet sliding along the ground as my hand extends forward to keep me from toppling over.

They flip over the roof guards, stonewalls that stopped people from falling off the building. I stand prepared to fight and I carefully eye them, aware they’ll pull some sneaky trick. They watch me as I watch them. No one says a word but I know they are frustrated. They may have been sent to kill me or rather—freeze me but I’m not going to go down so easily. The wind elegantly blows around us, flipping strands of my loose hair in the air as it cools my heated skin. They all summon, dual metal weapons and run at me once again. By the time they reach me my blood is racing beneath my skin. The masked male quickly sends the blade of the weapon towards my head, something I avoid in time. The man with the headband jabs at my stomach and I deflect the attack with my forearm blade and kick him away. The woman jabs both blades at me and I bring up my forearm guard, both blades are pressed against my armour, she pushes me down. I spin around and sweep at her ankles. She jumps in time and easily avoids my attack.

These demons are really causing me problems and that’s what annoys me most. “How much longer are you lot going to waste my time?” I demand.

The woman smiles, “Not much longer. You’ll be dead soon.”

I smile. She’s funny. “Dead huh? Last time I checked, I’m holding my own against your attacks.” Their weapons spin in their hands before they launch at me again. I back-hand-spring away, flipping out of the way, evading their attacks in time. Summoning a blade in hand, I deflect the attack of the headbanded demon. He glares and I smile. Sparks flare from our short knives as he continues to attack. My knife simultaneously deflects each attack. The masked demon attacks me from the left, neither of their attacks threw me off guard but I’m surprised when I fall into his trap. He holds my arm as did the other one and pushes me down to the ground, I groan as I plummet to the ground, the wind stings as it flowed freely from my lungs.

The woman leaps and summons a sword. She falls towards me and I watch in fear as the blade darts for my neck. I struggle under the weight of the men. Suddenly I’m surprised when a dagger flies speedily through the air, stunning her attack as it collides with her sword forcing her off balance a little. Her energy gathers beneath her boots, leaving footprints like mud puddles in midair as she slides along the air. I watch as her gaze glares at the towers in the distance. I follow her gaze. Who in their right mind would help me? I think, better yet why would they even bother? The men are also surprised by the attack; their gazes rest upon the black glassy twin towers in the distance. The attack is too quick and too far to be Human.

Several more daggers gleam in the air, this time, they dart from several directions. The men leap off of me and I roll over my shoulder before crouching with a hand between my legs, keeping me steady. The daggers cease and I cautiously watch the buildings—I don’t sense a presence. Whoever it is, has either cloaked their energy or they are no longer around, something, which I seriously doubted. I turn my attention back to my enemy but I’m not surprised to find that they have vanished. Keeping my anger in check, I glare in the direction I had last felt a little of that energy before turning my heel and heading towards Vince.

One hour later,

“Where is it?” I demand as I glare at the man who causes more trouble than what he’s worth.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Vince manages. He’s a largely built man, as a kick boxer and a frantic weight lifter I’m not surprised by his rigid muscles. His black oily hair never seems too greasy as I watch the women both of whom sit on his lap move, not without missing the opportunity to send daggers towards me. Jealous much, I bitterly thought.

“Don’t play dumb. Where’s my money?” I query. I glance at the women who had moved from Vince’s lap and stand several feet near the door. The moment they heard the word “money” Vince became like poison to them, they back away potentially finding comfort in each other’s company. I gesture to the door with a bob of my head, “Out.” They quickly flee and I watch as they close the door behind them, satisfying my anger.

“Must you come in here like that?” he asks pulling himself from the bed. He strides towards me with a glint in his eyes. “You know you could have asked nicely.” He traces his finger along my collarbone and I hold back a shiver of revolt and the desire to break his hand, “I would have let you.”

Instead, I feel my crossbow summons between my fingers and I point the arrow under his chin, “What do you take me for, a whore?” I glare. He stumbles away and runs his thick fingers through his short spiky hair. He sighs and moves away from me and towards the back of the room. Soon after, he returns with a large bag.

He drops it on the ground as he holds my gaze, “Here.”

“You could have been nicer.” I manage.

“You either want to be treated as an equal or not—you can’t have both.” I glare and de-summoned my weapon. I wander towards him and feel his gaze linger over me. I reached for the bag and unzip it, ignoring his eyes creeping over me.

There it is my money.

Three hundred thousand worth. The blue cards are a grand each. I zip up the bag and glance at Vince, who is standing in the kitchen drinking out of a carton of milk. Couldn’t he have some decency and put a shit on? I lift the bag off the ground and glancing at him one last time before I turn my heel and leave, aware his eyes never leaving my body. I walk out of the apartment block and into the darkness silent street below.

I glance over my shoulder at Vince’s apartment and watch as the curtain closed. He had been watching me. Taking a left I head down the road and out of Vince’s sight. I round a corner and stumble into an alleyway—it’s wide and I hide l behind a metal dumpster—the name of the metal bin in these parts. I pull at the straps on the bag and adjust it enough so it can sit comfortably on my back. Once I’m certain the bag is sturdy on my back. I stand and glance at the walls. Moving from the dumpster; I regard at the shadows of the alleyway, turning my gaze from left to right and left again. Hearing male voices on approach, I knew I had one chance.

So I ran at the wall, gathering my energetic majic, I channelled it to my feet and leap. My feet cling to the wall and I stand with a smile before running up the wall. I flip over the edge of the building before landing on the gable. The voices of the men grew louder and I glance down at the alleyway. They are drunk. Some smash glass bottles while others make provocative jokes. I hope no human woman would run into them or the other way around. I turn away from them and glance at the tall buildings in the distance. I have several kilometres to cover but I knew I could do it.

I run along the top of the building and leap onto another one. I jump and flip over an extension of rooftops. I glance over, at the streets below, as I race moving cars. I flip across billboards and beneath the railing of water tanks. I feel empowered and I feel free—free of what others thought of me—free in my own right. I know I’m dangerous but I also know that there are others even more dangerous and it is that reason alone I spent day in and out training; strengthening my muscles and my body.

As I run, I stop along the neck of a crane. I sense something in the air. The wind picks up and I learn that there is something dangerous on approach. I can feel it. I glance over my shoulder—something is coming and it’s powerful. Is it that same person that helped me or is it an enemy? I knew I couldn’t stand around and waste time. So I motion to run only to freeze at the sound of a male voice, “You know, you aren’t an easy woman to find.” My dark hair picks up in the breeze and I carefully watch the shadows.

This energy is familiar, “That’s because I don’t want to be found.” I hear the voice bubble a laugh and I know it belongs to someone I may have never met before.

“But I found you, doesn’t that contradict what you say.”

I glare, “You wanted to find me?”

“I did.” Out of the shadows he steps and into the light of the full moon, I’m stunned at what I see. With silver hair, bright blue eyes and two blue markings on each side of his face he appears almost angelic yet I get the feeling that he’s just as dangerous as he is beautiful. His body is concealed in a silver cloak and I can’t believe it is a man who spoke to me as his silver hair fans all the way down to back of his knees.

I’m silent for a moment, taking in the detail of this stranger. I want nothing more than to tell him to get lost but there is something about him . . . Something almost au fait about him. I gaze upon this mysterious man and watch as he returns my gaze, I briefly notice his eyes sadly sparkle. His eyes, I notice, glow a beautiful bright blue hue and I wonder if it is because he is beautiful or if it is because of the moon. With a strong jawline and defined lips that seem to be able to easily mould over . . . What am I thinking? I had just met the guy and I’m already fantasising. That never happened to me before—well not that I remembered.

“What do you want?” I ask, feeling my fingers heat as I summoned my weapon from my central core—a place that houses all of my weapons. All my weapons, I believe I had which is fairly limited and because of that it feels both full but at the same time open and spacious.

“I don’t want to fight.” he replies.

“Of course you don’t.”

“I’m trying to help you.” he sadly manages.

“Help me how and by the way I don’t even know you.” He’s silent and remains still as a statue. His mouth thins into a grimace and I watch him, patiently waiting for his plausible reply.

“My name is Dante and I’m not human like you.” I feel my body freeze in fear and anticipation. He couldn’t possibly know. I think as I feel my body tremble. My mouth is dry and I watch as he walks towards me.

“Oh really?” I forcibly tease. “You could be cosplaying for all I know.” I turn back to the crane and run along it until I’m at the bell, “Prove it!” I call and leap over the edge. I fall towards the city allowing gravity to take me, the lights below glitter in orange, yellow and white. I summoned a chain from my central core and fling it towards the edge of a nearby building, watching as it tenses and with that I swung onto a roof below. I de-summoned my chain and roll over my shoulder before pulling myself to my feet. I run along the slates of a church. I feel him draw near; I glance over my shoulder and see he’s running after me. His silver cloak flows behind him and I watch as his body, that was concealed by his cloak, now reveals and outlines his well-defined muscles. I spy a utility belt nestled at his waist, something that I consider snagging but thought better of.

I flip and slide down an angled roof of the church. I come across a gargoyle and leap flipping in mid-air I land on the head of the gargoyle and stand. He slides along the roof as if he’s surfacing. I smile. That’s the best way to distribute your weight, I think recalling I did the same thing. I lean backwards and manage a perfect backwards summersault. “Enough.” I heard him call and to my surprise I’m caught in mid-air. I glance up and watch as Dante holds me in his arms, his hair flows in thin strands around us as the squall of air picks up. His eyes seem indifferent and I watch as he leaned in. He’s going to kiss me right? I leaned in and summoned my claws. I scratch his face and he releases me. I fell towards the ground once more but this time I land on a flat rooftop and watch as it cracks beneath my weight.

I crouch and stand; he drops on the rooftop creating a larger creator beneath himself, where he kneels, before standing tall. I glance at his scratched bleeding face and watch as it heals over burning away all signs of blood. His eyes are hard and I smile, “What’s the matter? Hurt I got the upper hand?”

“There is no upper hand.” he replies. “Now come with me. I’m taking you home.”

“Whoa, slow down big boy. You aren’t taking me anywhere.” I back away and summon a throwing knife; I tossed it at him and run. He appears in front of me and I gasp in surprise. He is really fast—too fast to be Human.

“Surprised?” he taunts. “Like I said. I’m not human.”

I backed away not because I’m afraid he’d hurt me but rather to cross my arms. “I believe you and what makes you think I’m going anywhere with you. You’re a complete stranger.” I glare up at him.

“You will once I show you where you’re from.” I stare at him. He holds out his hand, “Trust me.” I feel my body freeze; he’s asking for a lot there. I never trust anyone but there’s something about him that I can feel I can trust. He genuinely smiles up at me and I gulp, feeling a sense of familiarity within his presence. I step closer to him and place my smaller hand in his bigger one. He pulls me close to him and I gasp at his gentle strength. He smiles and I feel energy wrap around my lower legs before it is released and not before long we are hovering in mid-air. I cling to him. “It’s okay. I won’t drop you.”—I glance up at him—”I promise.” I nod as he flies.

In the air we soar and I’m dumbfounded, realising the concept of physics doesn’t seem to affect him at all. I could sense he used an increase in reactive force as a counter to force gravity and I had a feeling it is due to that energy I feel before we took off. The city below seems to glitter like the stars above, through the clouds we ascend before we stop; I glance over at Dante and see he’s pointing at a small star in the distance. “There.”

“There what?” I enquire.

“There is a place that houses a species similar to the Humans but so different at the same time. They are not mortally weak like the Humans but are stronger, faster and deadlier.” He’s silent and I watch as he gazes at the star. I feel his skin is cold, cold as ice. I can’t help but trace my fingers over his chest, it’s smooth like a snake scales. He smiles down at me and I quickly drop my hand. “They are a species of dragons.”

I glance up at him. “A species of dragons?” I ask, I could really hear the mockery in my tone.

His face is hard as he glares down at me. “Yes.”

“No offence. But isn’t that impossible?”

“To some, yes.” he replies.

“And to others?” I ask.

“Very real,” he replies and I’m silent. Potentially waiting for everything to sink in.

“I think you should put me down now.” I manage. I feel him nod and soon we began to descend, my stomach seems to rise as he slowly returns me back to the roof of a nearby building. It takes forever the descent but I’m fearfully aware, he wants to keep me in his arms a little longer.

“What did I say?” he asks.

“It’s not what you say. It’s what you believe.” I retort. “If there are dragons it’d be on the news and everything.”

He crossed his arms and asks with a risen silver brow, “How much news do you watch.” I’m silent. “Not much huh?” he assumes. It may not have been enough but I’m certain it would be on the news or something especially speaking of these dragons unless . . . they’re spoken in the shadows of the Underworld in fearful tones and wide eyes. “Are the pieces beginning to fix themselves together?”

“I think so.” I glance over at him and ask, “Why haven’t I heard of that place among the stars? Is there really a place like that? Does it really exist?” He smirks and reveals:

“Yes.” I feel my bag on my back and notice the weight of it. I need to get home.

“Look this is great and all, you pointing at a star, to say where I’m from but I need a bit more evidence, thank you. Now if you don’t mind. I’m leaving.” I turn my back on him and head to the edge of a building.

“Wait!” he calls. I peer over my shoulder. “Isn’t me proving to you that I’m not human enough?” I remain silent; aware he’s right but I know at the same time he’s not going to hear that from me anytime soon. I leap over the edge wondering why I even allowed him to take me high into the evening sky.

 

2

Central Citadel

The dangers that befall us are never what we expect until we expect it.”

.....

 

RETIRING TO MY FLAT, I UNLOAD MY GEAR. Relaxing at the knowledge of my high savings stashed away and the fact that I’ll have plenty of funds to add. Tossing the cards on my bag and I peek out the window, I rest beside. As I gaze out at the city, I observe the hover cars freely zooming past. A part of me believes that long ago cars were moulded on wheels and driven on roads but now that’s not the case. I knew that could have been possible long ago as they had to start from somewhere. As I peer at the sparkling city, I can’t get that stranger out of my mind for some strange reason and I only met him once but the way he held me—the way he smiled.

It seemed far too familiar.

I glance up at the star in the distance—it is faint but it is there, surrounded by brighter stars. It’s the most beautiful of them all. I could see his features clearly in my mind, the blue markings on his cheeks—they are like claw marks. They remind me of scaly textured war paint. His silver hair makes his tanned skin paler. It’s alluringly beautiful; he is alluringly beautiful. Even now, I visualise his solid lips and tough jawline through the glass. “Wait a second,” I mutter and pull myself out of my daydream. “No way.”

Dante hovers outside my window. I don’t know whether or not to be frighten, he knew where I lived or to be amazed he is able to find me, again. “So, when are you going to let me in?” he asks crossing his arms, as his cloak flows freely around his physique in the breezing wind.

“Never.” I rebut. I pull myself from my seat and back away from the window. How could he possibly think I would want to go anywhere with him? “You’re a stalker.”

“That may be what you think,” he says and the sound of his voice is closer. I glance over my shoulder and watch as he moves through the glass. “But I have a mission to complete and that is to bring you home.” I notice his voice is no longer muffled by the breezing wind.

“I told you before.” I declare. “I’m not going.”

“You don’t have a choice.” he replies as his heel feet land on my grey well vacuum carpet. I notice his legs are also clad in scales which are barely visible behind his layers of armour.

“Since when?”

“Since now.” he announces and walks over to me.

“Then go ahead.” I say as I summon my weapons from my central core in hand. “You can try.” I spin my two short daggers around in both hands and stand ready to defend. “I won’t go down without a fight.”

He stares at me for a moment, then glances around. There are paintings, vases, televisions in this wide spacious living room. I know I’m struggling to get jobs but I’m always sharp with my money something that bothers several people. “I’m not going to fight you in your home.”

“But you will invade it?” I growl. “Not to mention—you are uninvited.”

He backs away. There is something strange about those words I spoke, as I notice he continues to back away but I couldn’t tell if it is forced or not. I smile. Then frown once he stops. He glares at me. “You will invite me in.” My mind becomes frazzled as I stare into his blue eyes that seem to magically swirl. He repeats again, “You will invite me in.”

“No, I won’t.” I mumble a reply. He steps forward.

“You will invite me in.”

This time I think I saw him smile as I ask, “Will you come in?” I felt myself relax as I de-summon my weapons.

“Most certainly.” My dizzy head ceases to spin as I glance at the ground. I blink a few times wondering what exactly had happened. I glance at Dante.

“What are you doing here?” I ask, my mind still a little fuzzy.

“You invited me.” he replies.

“I did?”

“Yes.” He walks over to me and smiles. “So do I get a beverage of some kind? It is only hospitable.” I nod and wander to the kitchen. Questioning at the same time, why I’m even bothering with him. I knew he isn’t all that bad otherwise he would have kill me the moment we met. At the same time, I couldn’t exactly dismiss the thought of this ploy being a part of some plan of his.

“What would you like?” I ask feeling as though I missed something.

“Water will be fine.” I saunter over to the fridge, then the cupboard and pour a glass of water. “So how long have you been living here?” he asks.

“A while now.” I reply as I walk over to him and hand him his glass of water.

“How long is a while?” he asks as he takes the glass.

“A few years.” I announce wondering yet again why I’m telling him this, even though he seems familiar, I knew that somewhere deep down he is hiding something. “So what brings you here?” I ask as I watch him, critically eye the living room.

“I’m here to see you.” he smoothly says as there seems to be something else hidden in his deep ocean blue eyes. I regard him a moment longer than I would have liked. I hear a faint whispering growl it sounds distant but close at the same time. Dante places the glass on the table and runs over to me. He pulls me after him as we ran out of the living room through the hall, we phase through the door and enter the corridor lining other apartments. I glance over my shoulder at the door, wondering how we manage to move through solid objects. Not even I knew how to do that, sure I’m stronger and faster than average women but I’m not a ghost.

“What do you think you’re doing?” I growl as we ran down the hall.

“Too late.” He stops and I pull my arm from his grasp, I turn my back on him and regard the door once again. That same whispering growl occurs once more this time a little louder. Dante doesn’t seem surprised when I quickly pull my wrist from his grasp, at all especially when I use it countless time on other men and women whom of which are all surprised—leaving themselves open, for any of my attacks, “You’re going to have to prepare to fight.” he warns as he stands ready, the growling becomes louder. “You’ll need to use your energetic majic.”

“Energetic majic?” I ask.

“Majic that can be formed into three divisions.” He glares down the hall. “It’s something you’ve without a doubt have been taught but like the past potentially forgotten.”

“Forgotten. Wait a second, I didn’t forget anything.” I growl. He sighs.

“This isn’t the time for you to get so wound up. And here I thought getting to you sooner would have saved you from them.” I’m surprised by this. The growling grows and I’m left surprised by the sudden power outage that leaves the hall bubbling in darkness. “They’re here.”

I spin around to face him and I peer over my shoulder, astounded to see a wolf-like man, hunched over growling at us. “What on earth?” I ask as I step away from my potential attacker. Dante is quick to spin around and place himself between me and the wolf man.

“That’s a Lican.”

“A what?” I ask.

“A Licanthrope. A werewolf.” I couldn’t believe my ears. Is he serious?

“They’re a race in our solar system. Along with six other worlds – well five that is.” Dante announces.

“So they’re aliens?”

“Yes, to the humans—they’re given the term Outlander.” he says. “It’s a term to separate those inhuman from human.” I cautiously regard the Lican as he hauntingly growls. I glance at Dante then at the Lican again, wondering what that Lican could possibly be after.

“Hand over the woman.” the Lican growls.

“Not a chance.”

“What’s the matter? Afraid I’ll defeat her?” he mocks and I glare.

“I can take care of myself.” I growl. Dante don’t say anything instead; his eyes harden as he gazes upon the Lican.

“You will not take her understand. You can tell that to him.” Dante declares.

“Why do you care. You, stupid knight.” the Lican seethes.

“Simple, I’m given a mission—to return her highness home and I will do so, without fail.” Dante retorts and I feel security for the first time in a long time, in those words.

“We’ll see about that.” the Lican growl and two more literally appear by his side. It’s slow but I notice they at first are skeletons, then their muscles mould, follow by their skin than hair. It is gross.

“Highness?” I ask myself more than anyone else but still no one answers to my annoyance.

As I gaze upon the Lican I know that he means trouble. Dante stands ready to protect me and I wonder what he had meant by the term: Highness. I know I’m not of royal blood, otherwise I wouldn’t be killing people for a living. I feel my body tremble and I glance down I see shock run through me, “What the—?” I wonder as I glance down at my trembling legs. “What’s going on?” I ask myself more than anyone else. The Licans laugh.

“Seems like you’re scar princess.” The second Lican declares, with short black spiky hair and pepper grizzly bear he appears to be the oldest. He laughs at me while the other blond hair Lican remain silent. I could sense energy radiating from them—it is a rarity. I felt other energy waves and when I do feel it—it is never good. It often would mean that other people are out there just like me and on a job that might prove to be difficult.

“Relax,” Dante announces. “I won’t let them touch you. You have my word.” The moment he said that, is the exact moment my legs stop shaking.

I regard Dante with shock. “Why would you even bother?”

“Like you know. I’ve been here to escort you home and it’s my job to see to it you make it home alive.” His eyes remain glued to the trio. “That and it’s my duty to protect you. You don’t know how long I’ve been searching for you, princess.” I gaze upon the man I have briefly been acquainted with, in absolute awe. “Now stand back. This time—I’ll do the fighting.” He summons a short sterling silver blade in hand and runs at super speed at the Lican. He pushes the dark hair Lican back. I watch as that same Lican block the dagger with his extend claws.

“Looks like I caught you.” he grumbles. The red haired Lican and the blond haired Lican leap at Dante.

“Behind you!” I call. Dante vanishes, clouds of green smoke flutter after him and the Lican glance around in shock. Dante reappears overhead and tosses several throwing knives. Inspecting the fight, I realise, I recognise those knives. They are the same knives that deflected the demon’s attack. The knives are plunged into the chest of each Lican and they stumble back clutching their bleeding chests. Dante disappears once again, using some kind of magic, he reappears behind the dark hair Lican—the one who appears to be the eldest and the leader.

Dante throws a punch and the Lican is thrown across the hall and towards me. I leap out of the way in time and watch as he smashes into the elevator doors bending the doors under the impact. The blond hair Lican growls and his eyes glow a deadly green even though I recall his eyes are originally brown. Seeing his eyes glow green reminds me that he isn’t a Human frolicking around in cosplay. The blond man one is sent into the wall by a sidekick. The red hair one, runs at Dante and Dante smiles. I watch in anticipation as Dante vanishes once again, leaving a warning trail of green smoke behind and before reappearing behind the red hair man. The red haired Lican is in shock that much I can tell. He’s quick to pull out a dagger and slash at Dante, the blade makes contact with his armoured chest and breaks.

“No way.” I mumble, astounded by the superman not too far from me.

“Leave.” Dante growls, towering over the remaining Lican.

The red hair werewolf glances at his comrades, before turning his heel and absconding down the hall, breaking out into the fire exit. I gaze upon the man who fought off the Lican. “Dante.” I whisper.

He glances over his shoulder and smiles at me from where he stands fifteen feet from me, “Yeah?”

He has sharp hearing too, “Why would you bother?” I know the answer but somehow I feel I have to ask. He turns entirely to face me before striding towards me. Feeling my heart race in that single moment does strange things to my stomach. “Simple, because I’m taking you home.” He holds out his hand and I take it, this time without question because I know, somehow, without a doubt, I’m safest with him.

“And home is that star, right?” I ask, believing what he had told me earlier about the dragon race.

He smiles, “Yes. It is.”

“How do we get there?” I ask both anxious and excited. I have so many more questions to ask him. Am I like him? Could I do the things he could do? Did I have the powers he possesses? All these questions flood my mind and I learn that he is someone who could show me—like he said before—who I actually am.

“Nerelda.” he muses.

“Nerelda?” I ask. “Who’s that?”

“The woman in charge of the portals—the woman who governs the Nexus. It’s a point in time and space where all portals converge.” he utters as he strings a bright smile and I’m suddenly self-conscious of the beaming grin on his face.

“What?” I ask.

“Nothing, it seems like you believe me.” I pull my hand from him and cross my arms.

“Who said I believe you I’m just keeping an open mind.” I lie and he glances over his shoulder, eyeing the two unconscious Licans.

“Let’s go. They know where you live now.” He motions to leave and I stop him. “What’s the wrong?”

“I have to get my money.” I reply and dart back to my apartment leaving Dante chasing after me.

“Your money, are you serious?” he demands as I open my door with my key I have stashed in my back pocket and forgot to take out to my luck.

I glare, “Pretty serious.” Once I’m inside, I search for my debit card in my room and my identification. Grabbing my bag of my money I place my hand on it and send it to my central core to a place that held all my weapons, items and everything else I may need. I could tell without looking Dante’s silently watching me, potentially questioning why my money is important, before he asks:

“Why does it even matter?”

“Well if I’m not here. People will loot this place and I can’t afford that.” I search the apartment for one last thing and I could sense Dante’s impatience but I make him wait anyway.

I run over to my room and go straight to my top draw. I pull out a black leather gloves, they are lined in silver and can be charge with enough volts of electricity to cause muscle spasms during fights. I had to pay a lot of money for this, something that without a doubt, saved my life countless times. I grasp my leather jacket I wore earlier that evening and pull it on. Heading to the door, I find my boots near the bed and chuck them on. “You ready now?”

I smile, “Ready.”

We head out the door and I take one last look at my apartment before closing the door shut and locking it with my key. I place my key in the back of my jeans and leave. Dante had disappeared a while ago while I had lock my door but I know he’d wait for me. I run down the hall and am surprised when Mrs. Tinkins my elderly neighbour stumbles out in front of me. I’m quick to spin around her before continuing to run to the fire stairs. “No running in the halls young lady!” she wails and I ignore her and the others that arrive to investigate the commotion before disappearing down the stairs.

Arriving at ground level, I came across the lobby and slow my jog to a walk and glance around. Searching for silver hair, only to came up empty. “Has he gone?” I mutter a little frustrated he left me.

“Can we go now?” asks a man. I spin around to spy the source of that voice, and see a golden brown skinned man with black hair and eyes staring straight at me. Dressed in a black leather jacket and black jeans, his toned body could readily be defined.

“Who are you?” I ask.

“You sincerely don’t recognise me?” he asks.

“No.” I honestly state.

“It’s me, Dante.”

As I gaze upon Dante, I’m surprised. He looks different from when I last saw him. “What happen to you?” I inquire.

“I decided to fit in.” I sceptically eye him.

“You decided to fit in?” I ask.

“Yep.” he replies. I glance at him and watch as he turns and walks away. “Coming or what?” he asks and I follow after him. Subsequently, scanning my surroundings—a habit I had harvested over the years. I glare at the back of his head. Aware that this man could be a little too blunt for my liking.

“Why does he have to be like that?” I softly mumble. He shows no sign of hearing my words and soon realis he must be Human right now so I lightly jog after him and out of the building we go. “Where are we going?” I ask.

“To see a woman about a portal, remember?” he questions and I fall back a little and watch as he heads down the street. I feel this sudden strange sensation in the air. My head spins. An image of fangs and blood drifts into my mind and I, squeeze my eyes shut trying to block it out. I feel a hand on my shoulder and I urgently deflect the hand, pointing my fingers at the neck of my attacker. I regard my attacker. Surprised to see Dante staring down at me with an angry expression moulding his handsome features. “What?”

“Don’t stop on me again. It’s night time this is when the demons awaken.” He removes his hand and I glance around once more, we are in the centre of the city and there are scarcely people roaming around.

“Morning is on approach though.” I smartly reply.

“That’s true.” Dante announces. “But until then—you’re a walking target.” I glare at him as he turns his back on me. I felt that same sensation wrap around me once more—something dangerous is on the way. Dante stops and glances to the east at the same time as I do. We both feel it, demonic pressure, on a massive scale. Though the question is who it belongs to. The pressure disappears but I sense it linger in the air a little longer. I glance over at Dante, “Let’s go.” he orders and I nod.

We wander down several blocks before we turn into a park. Once we’re further inside the park, we stop beside a wide three level fountain and Dante glances around, placing his palms forward as if he’s pushing away an invisible object, he sounds, “I demand entrance into the gate of Nephula.”

I feel power surge around us like a twisting tornado. Dante’s light brown skin turns blue before his scales peel over his hands and wrists. I sense another presence and felt Dante’s power silence. The sound of a voice sprung around us, “Well, well, well.” I scan the area above and around us. Attempting to identify the source of that voice. “Look at what I found.”

I glance at a nearby branch and see a man standing on a bough of a tall tree. I can’t even begin to wonder what it is that’s causes a man to climb a tree let alone announce to the world he’s in one. He wears regular clothing and Dante I notice doesn’t relax. “What do you want, Mikaro?”

“Here to deliver a message.” We both remain silent. “Ezla, is wondering when you’ll return.” Ezla, who’s she? I wonder as I painfully eye Dante. I see he seems to internally struggle at answering it’s almost, like there is a war within him, as Mikaro gazes upon Dante.

“Tell her, I’ll return when I’m able.” Dante replies.

I silently watch as the men gaze at each other with hostility in their eyes. Mikaro is the first to speak after a long pause. “You haven’t been home for a long time—as if that is a good enough excuse.” I feel my heart sink. He had someone—special?

Dante is quiet before stating, “No it’s not but it’s all I can offer.”

“I understand,” Mikaro announces, his black bangs fall down to his chest and I could tell he looks Human from where I am, with black hair and eyes—his tanned skin seem paler under the full moon like how Dante’s skin did last night. His eyes hauntingly fall upon me, “What do you intend to do with her?”

“She, is coming with me.” Dante announces. His eyes dart from Dante to me and back again.

“Is she now? A Human?” he mocks. I glare.

“I’m not Human.” I snap.

“Really? Because you smell pretty human to me.”

I smile and tease, “So do you. And what, you’re going to tell me you’re not Human too?” His eyes harden and I watch as he leaps quickly from the tree. He elegantly flips and as he does, I see his clothing transform into blue scales and silver armour, engraved in unidentifiable characters. I regard Mikaro questionably as he lands before me, as his silver cloak summons behind him. His black hair is no more as it transforms into long silver strands. His eyes are blue like Dante’s and like Dante he has four blue claw marks concealing his cheekbones—two on either side of his face. Taking a closer look they look like claw marks—they are jagged and rough but textured with scales like Dante’s.

“No I’m not.” he rebuts and I’m silent. “What. No smart words.” I glare, I had plenty of ‘smart words’ if he wants to hear them.

“That’s enough Mikaro. Show respect to your superior.” Mikaro glances at me confused before regarding Dante with the same expression. He points at me.

“Her? My superior?” Mikaro derides.

“Yes.” Dante motions.

“Dude, you’ve got to be pulling my leg or something because she’s Human.” Mikaro shakes his head with a small smile before glaring down at me.

Dante takes a step towards us and proclaims, “She’s in her idol form.”

Mikaro quietly regards me. His eyes are calculating to say. “Her idol form?”

“Yes.”

I regard Dante and dumbly ask, “What’s an idol form?” He holds Mikaro’s gaze a little longer before they drift to me.

“An idol form is a form that a being of energetic origin can take on. It’s a form of transitional majic—it can copy the biological, chemical and mechanical makeup of every species. This is what allows the Lican to transform into wolves.”

“You’ve got to be fucking with me?” I demand.

“Please refrain from such language.” Dante glowers.

I hold up my hands, “Fine. As long as he”—I point at Mikaro—”backs off.” Dante steps forward once again, purposely towards Mikaro, who to my surprise retreats.

“If she is our superior than what on earth is she doing here?” Mikaro said. “She’s been gone for years and the Council is angry with her—even if she does return. No one will want her. She’ll be what she is now, an . . . outcast.” He deliberately glowers down at me and I return his scowl, I may not be as strong as him but I’ve taken on a couple of demons, big ones too. Surely he couldn’t be that strong.

“And what are you—a loser?” I retort.

He smartly retorts, “Clever.”

I glare. “You’re an arse—”

“Kalverya!” Dante bellows.

I fall silent. His eyes are deadly and I know he’s pissed. “But he—”

“I don’t want to hear it.” he scolds.

His eyes drift to Mikaro, “I’m taking her home. You can inform her majesty I’ve found her daughter.” I earnestly scrutinise Dante.

“Daughter?” I question. “Both of my parents are dead.”

“And she’s an orphan too.” Mikaro butt in.

“Arse.” I mumble.

“Bitch.” he grumbles. Dante glares at the both of us and I watch as Mikaro turns his back on us. “But do I have to?”

“Yes. That’s an order.” Dante declares. Mikaro glance at me one last time before turning his heel and moving towards the centre of the park. Dante moves over to me. “You really don’t remember who you are, do you?”

I shrug and shake my head, “No, should I?”

He is silent. “It would be easier.”

“Sorry, nothing’s easy with me.” I remark.

He is silent and gazes upon where he once holds his hands. I notice the air seems to weave like a heatwave. “Let’s go.” He heads towards the interlacing air and I follow after—wondering where Mikaro disappeared to. Dante I notice vanishes right before me and this leaves me stunned. Before I could race after him I’m pulled in by a stern arm. I see nothing but darkness at first before I wake to a blinding brightness. I feel hands catch mine as they hover above my head—attempting but failing to shield my eyes from the blinding light. “You can open your eyes now.”

Before I open my eyes, I hear the sound of twittering birds and smell strongly damp moss. As I open my eyes—I see two birds flitter through the air and higher into the clear blue sky. Green trees sprinkle rays of sunlight through the canopy. “Where am I?” I ask as I sit up. Dante holds out his hand and I questionably glance at him. He smiles. I stand without his help and look around. I’m in what appears to be a forest. Not too far away from us is a small pond, surrounded by shrubs.

“You’re in Nefelia, in the land of Bronze.”

“Nefelia?” I ask.

Dante smiles over at me and hike the inclining land, he peers over his shoulder and down at me. “Your home.”

“My home is a rainforest?” He remains silent. “What? I’m trying to be funny.” He manages a small smile and climbs the hill. I trail after him. He helps me through the forest, pushing aside large overbearing leaves and thick branches. During the trip, he is silent as he helps me and I fight to find something to talk about.

“So . . .” I began, “Where are we headed?” Before I could find my answer, the streaking zooming sounds overhead catches my attention. I gaze at the skies and I spy black spots speeding passed. “What the—?” I gaze at the sky, waiting for black silver specs to grace my vision.

Dante grumbles a laugh, “That would be the carriers.”

“The carriers?”

“They’re what you would consider transportation.” I stare at him.

“Those things in the sky are transportation?” I ask.

Dante raises a silver brow, “Earth has them too.”

“You mean hovercars.” I ask.

“Yes.”

I sigh, “Why didn’t you just say that?”

“Because I want to be . . . smart.” I glare and he smiles, something which causes a smile of my own to quip my lips. So he could be funny when he wants to be, good to know he has a personality. I humorously thought.

I repeat, “Where are we head?”

“To Citadel City.” I watch as he stops and scan the trees around him. I glance around as well, wondering what it is that he could be searching for.

“To Citadel City?”

He nods, “Yeah.” He holds out his hand and I back away.

“What are you doing?” I ask, not too surprised he’s acting chivalrously, not that I mind.

“I’m wanting to cut our travel time in half.” he announces.

“How are we going to do that?” I dumbly ask.

“We’re going to fly.” Before I could, back away even further. He gently strings his arms around me, I feel his power and watch as his cloak and hair seem to settle elegantly behind him. I gaze upon his alluring features and watch as he smiles down at me. “Hang on.” he said and I strung my arms around his neck before he floats high into the air. The sky envelops us in its arms as the sensation of something solid beneath my feet vanish. I felt the cool air, it tickles my skin, as my hair whips around me. The wind is loud in my ears but it is all too comforting.

Dante to my surprise felt cool but warm if that’s possible. I smile up at him, amazed that flying is even possible. He touches his forehead to mine and I feel something flood through me. The pull gravity had on me, lightens and I feel like I’m floating and to my surprise, I am. “How did you do that?” I ask, as he hovers beside me, tugging me here and there, almost as if he’s guiding me.

“It’s a little magic trick.” He winks and I giggle. He hovers behind me and holds both of my arms. I feel his warm yet cool breath against my neck. “Now, relax.” I do what he says and feel as we move, slowly. I glance at the peaking mountains in the distance and green lush forest beneath us. We soar through the air. Once I’m confident, I could manoeuvre in the air, Dante pulls me away from him. Holding me away at arm’s length. I began to glide through the air.

We transgress over valleys, small mountains and large glistening lakes that gleam under the bright sunrays. The air is warm and fresh. I knew I could breathe in this air all day. I glance on either side of me and saw flocks of strange blue long tail birds flying high into the air. I glance at Dante and he leans away, taking me with him as he swirls through the air. The world spins but I don’t realise it until I understand that I’m wooing in complete excitement.

Soon we venture between snow flake mountaintops and passed jagged cliffs. I notice we had pass a village high in the mountains, the citizens wave at us as we pass by—some I perceive are hovering in mid-air. Several fly with us before returning back to their home and loved ones. Once we break free of the mountainside. I gaze upon a silver sterling city in the distance surround by tall sky scraping buildings. I’m aware Dante banks to the right and I grasp his arm, fearing he’d drop me but he never did. It doesn’t take long until we made it to the city and what I see leaves me gobsmacked. There are people like Dante, in blue scales and silver cloaks, hovering in the air while others us hovercarts to fly. “Welcome to the Citadel City.”

We cease to move for a moment as I gaze upon the traffic lights that hold everyone at bay. The lights flash green and we continue on. “Where are we going?” I ask.

“To see Nerelda.”

“Why we’re here aren’t we?” I ask.

“Yes we are but she didn’t meet us in the Nexus. She instead transported us to Nefelia, our home.” As those words flitter from his lips, I feel my arms prickle in gooseflesh. Whoever this woman is, she isn’t messing around that is for sure. The thought of her knowing where we or where Dante wanted to go, caused my body to tremble in fear.

 

3

Discovering Varden

“Sometimes our enemies are just around the corner when we least expect it.”

......-

 

SOARING THROUGH THE AIR, I regard the Central Citadel in reverence. We move over to a landing bay and Dante fluidly descends. “We’ll get off here.”

“Where’s here?” I ask.

“The eastern gate of Citadel Tower, it’s the largest tower in the Central Citadel.” I contemplate what he had said and glance at the glassy tall striking sterling silver windows. I notice they have a form of elegance to them and I wonder if the city itself is design for more than just looks. Dante releases me and I turn to face him. “Let’s go.” I nod taking one last look at the busy city centre I file after him.

“So where can we find this Nerelda lady?” I curiously ask. There are two security guards on standby dressed in grey armour which conceals their bodies from head to toe, it shimmies finely under this alien sun as they move, I notice it’s similar to how Dante’s armour reacts.

“She’s most likely with the empress,” Dante concludes; as I observe the external guards observing the guards quickly step forward to delay our entrance. Dante holds out a transparent holographic pass written in yellow inscriptions one of the men takes the pass in hand and scans it on their armour, soon after a light beep occurs. The men nod in approval before glancing at me. Dante announces, “She’s with me.”

“Okay, sir. But you’d need to get her, her own pass in the Compliance Sector.” one says.

“I’m aware of that.” Dante declares. The guards step aside as Dante struts past them and I follow after, feeling a little strange as I notice these men, including Dante are all very tall. They are without a doubt pushing seven feet. We enter a waiting room. There are rows and rows of plastic transparent chairs that line up in rows, all of which were empty. That only makes the waiting room all the more eerie. “This way.” Dante motions and I nod, trailing behind him.

We waltz through the double sliding doors, which leads us down sterling silver halls, where a deep blue carpet lines the silver floor that lays stretch before us. The hallway is spotless. “Stick close,” he orders, peering at me from over his shoulder. With a bob of my head, I continue to follow after him as he steers his way through the winding corridors of Citadel Tower.

Not before long, the ground shakes, as do the walls. My footing becomes uneven and within an instant, Dante presses me against the wall. “Get down,” he commands, hovering over me as the ground and everything around us resumes to shake while the lights overhead flicker. Dante lingers as a shield and I silently thank him, as I’m unsure if the ceiling would come down on us. Once the quake ceases, Dante pulls away and stands. As expected, he holds out his hand and helps me to my feet. “We need to move quickly,” he reminds and I can tell something is seriously wrong as he pulls me after him.

“Wait, hang on.” I manage and pull my hand from his grasp, to run beside him. “What’s wrong?”

Dante stares on ahead, as worry moulds his features. “I don’t know. But I fear it’s something , as that is no ordinary earthquake.” I remain silent. I glance up ahead and see we are head to an escalator. Dante leaps into the air and lands on the railing. He easily runs along it and I stop, the escalator belt see it is transparent—I could see blue lines and beneath it a long drop. I fearfully step forward; to my surprise the ground becomes visible and stable so I sprint along it, after Dante.

By the time I reach the bottom of the escalator, he had already disappeared. “Great,” I mumble as I continue to run further down the corridor. Moving through a pair of consistent double sliding doors, I’m met with the blaring sound of alarms. “What on earth?” The alarms shriek and I flatten the palms of my hands against my ears, attempting to shut out the sound.

The alarms quiet and I hear the sound of tattering feet on approach. Glancing over my shoulder, I see two arm men in silver armour; they hold sterling silver battle rifles, which they point straight at me. Silver helmets conceal their faces and I raise my hands. “I surrender,” I announce. They speak in another language and slowly walk towards me while I remain still. “You don’t understand what I’m saying do you?” I ask.

No response.

One man taps the side of his helmet and his voice as clear as before breaks through but this time, it is distinguishable—as he speaks fluent English. “Identify yourself.”

“Uh, Kalverya.” I manage. They relax a little.

“Division and rank,” he articulates. I glance at them and know that something is bound to go wrong. I don’t have what they want and I know that is going to cause problems.

“I’m not a part of a division nor do I have a rank.” Both of their rifles are aim at me once again and I watch as their fingers move from the side of the gun to the trigger. I gulp. They are intending to kill. I know this for a fact. You never put your finger on a trigger without the intent to kill. I eye them as they cautiously move closer to me with firearms in hand. “You’re coming with us.” that same man speaks. I nod and know there is nothing else I could do.

One man moves behind me and nudges me forward with the barrel of his rifle. I glare. Where is Dante? “Let’s go.” I allow them to shuffle me down the hall.

*

“Inside,” a guard growls and I glare at a transparent wall boxing me inside my four-by-four prison. My hostile gaze rests on the male that had me in the watch-house. I don’t need to be a genius to figure that out—I knew the next step will be the prisons. Given that this is a different planet; I figure the prison systems may be a little different.

Hopefully not too different.

Sitting in my cell, time quickly flies by. I don’t know how much time has passed but I knew I potentially could have been sitting in the same position for a while now as I note, I begin to fall into a deep slumber and dream a different dream—one where Dante comes to save me.

The sound of approaching footfalls catches my attention, as do the familiar voices. “Open it up!” howls a female voice. Feet quickly shuffle and I wake to my cell-door opening. There stands Dante and beside him a woman. With silver hair and blue eyes, her pale features contrast nicely against her blue scales. She wears a fleecy gown—it conceals her but provide an outline of her physique. The sleeves are long than her waist while her gown falls to the ground.

The men stand beside her ready to defend. She must be someone important. I thought as I glare at them. I don’t know what is going on but I knew I’m not going to let them anywhere near me. I pull myself to one knee. The woman says something in a different language to the guard before she enters the cell. She glances at Dante one last time who, gracefully nods, this causes me to wonder at what it is they had planned.

I glare up at the woman as she approaches. She seems scar and shock at the same time. If I weren’t in such a piss mood I would have laugh. “Lady Kal . . . Lady Kalverya. Is that you?” she barely mus.

I am silent a moment longer, wondering what she could possibly want with me. “How do you know my name?” I snarl. She seems to freeze in fear before her youthful features relax and she gently smiles down at me.

“I’ve known you for a long time.” she announces.

“I’m sure I’d remember you, if that were true.” She is silent, her eyes drift to the ground and she stop, playing with her long mildly transparent gown. I could tell she didn’t ne to completely cover up like the Humans did, she had scales which cover everything. As I recall from how Dante remain conceal—I could tell that the armour and scales they wore serve two major purposes one being: dignity the other: protection. She stops and drops her gown, she seems to gather the courage to move closer to me. I glare. She freezes before continuing on once again.

———-

She knelt before me and pull out a green transparent card. I regard her carefully and watch as she grapples the shackles around my forearms. The shackles were wrap around over my hands to my knuckles and over to the point of my elbow. It is like they were crushing my forearms. She slid the card along the silver bridge that connect the shackles together, the restraints flicker a green light before they were released from me. I had the perfect opportunity with the shackles released to strangle her but given she look similar to Dante—I figure she’d have her own powers—so I play it safe. “Why did you help me?”

She seems surprise by this, “I couldn’t stand how they treat you, milady.” I did notice something is different about her. Unlike Dante, she didn’t have claw marks concealing her cheekbones instead they were no markings. Her silver hair fell down her back in straight blinds as her tan soft features complement nicely her r lips and bright blue ocean colour eyes. She held out a hand and offer, “Let me help you stand.”

Unsure if I could trust this woman, I allow her. Her grip is gentle yet sturdy at the same time. I could tell she is a skill fighter in that single moment by the control in her moments and the elegance behind them. I notice Dante relax—a little but his eyes land me before shifting back to her and back again. The woman gently smiles at Dante and I regard the armour men, they stood with large metal staffs.

I didn’t say anything because I knew people talk and when they did they often found it is easy to stretch the truth. There were liars and I is sad to say I am one of them but proud to say I wasn’t a thief. That is something in my eyes. At least, I can be trust, more than others. In one way more than the others.

This woman beside me is someone I knew I had to quickly learn about. There is no time to waste. “You lot ought to be ashamed of yourselves,” she growls the sentries her English had a hint of her odd accent and I is l out of the cell.

“Kal. Are you okay?” Dante ask.

I sarcastically said, “Oh yeah, just peachy had the best dream ever.” Dante scowl.

“You don’t have to be like that,” he remarks and I could tell he is more concern about what he did than what is happening now. I didn’t know how I notice—I just always notice these things and it could be a little difficult half of the time.

I smile, “Like what?”

Dante continue to scowl. “You know what I mean. Don’t play coy.” I regard the guards and watch as they step aside while the woman guides me out of the cell and into the area outside the cell. The hall.

“Forgive me Lady Shika,” one of the guards announces. “We didn’t know.”

Another tan guard announces, “She didn’t have a pass to be in the building. We couldn’t let her wonder around the comp—” Shika glares at the guard who spoke and I feel the chill of her glare. The man falls quiet. We vacate the area while Shika holds onto my elbow—guiding me out. Once we had left the area, I felt my heart relax, a little.

“You need to get her, her pass Dante,” Shika announces once we were in the elevator. “If this happens again. You’re done.”

Dante sighs, “I know. The reason why I had left her is because—” Shika, I notice suddenly becomes depressed and I fight to ask why and don’t aware I’ll find my answers soon enough. It isn’t because I care about who she was; it is rather why she even cared. I could see she is genuinely gentle and kind—something which could be easily neglected in this universe. Once we quit the elevator, the halls we wander down are desert. Dante wanders on the other side of me and I glance down the end of the hall.

“Let’s not talk about that,” Shika whispers. Dante is silent and the air seals itself with a thick silence. Once we enter into another area. I watch as it stretches out into a tunnelled room. It is a shorter hall. We stumble into a larger round room, with tall ceiling to floor glass that stretches along the opposite side of the room. “The Compliance Sector can be a bit of a pain but it needs to be done.”

“I understand,” Dante reveals.

“Good,” Shika chirps. There is a large chair in the centre of the room, high above a set of stairs. There are drapes of fine golden silk falling from the ceiling. From out behind the chair is a woman, her eyes are heavy and she look wither and drawn but strong at the same time.

“About time you two show up.” the woman declares. The woman’s gaze rests upon me and I notice a little change in her. She stares at me intently and begins to move around the chair before descending down the stairs. She wears a gown similar to Shika but it is lined in silver armour with gold here and there. “You.” the woman points at me, her gown falls to the ground behind her as she walks towards me. “What is your name?”

“Kalverya.”

Her eyes land on Dante and I follow her gaze, to notice Dante nod. “You’re really Kalverya Kothanilye Nindo?”

“I don’t know my full name,” I say. “My memory is a little foggy.”

The woman holds out her hand once she is in front of us. “Give me your wrist.” I’m hesitant. “It’s okay. I won’t hurt you.” I nod and hand her my wrist. Her hand begins to glow a shimmer of green and I gasp in surprise as she makes energy visible. A marking appears on my arm that was never there to begin with. It had a similar texture of Dante’s markings on his features—they were scales wrap around my arm into an image of a dragon. Beside it is an imprint of a swirl. I envision when that got there but at the same time I know that this isn’t my eyes, playing tricks on me.

“It really is you,” she announces, with a crack in her voice. “Princess.”

I glance up at her and ask, “Who are you?”

“I’m Nerelda, my lady.”

Sometimes the needs of others can be difficult. Sometimes the desire to know more can be difficult. That is how I felt in this moment. The world I thought I knew shatters as the daunting realisation of my heritage drifts upon me. “You’re Nerelda?”

“Yes.”

“Then who am I?” I ask afraid to know the truth.

“You’re our princess,” Nerelda announces. I stand staring in shock at how anyone could possibly think that I would be . . . a princess. Guess Dante saying “her highness” wasn’t for show. I surprisingly thought.

“Come now,” Nerelda graces. “We have a lot of preparations to consider and more so—” She’s cut off by a shrieking male voice. I glance over my shoulder wondering who in their right mind would even bother screaming like that. Talk about annoying. There’s a man dressed in a white and gold tunic. His chinos are black but his boots gold. The tunic covers his groin and falls down to his knees.

“Is it really true?” he asks and I watch as Shika moves over to him. His pale blue eyes land on me and I regard him intently. There is something familiar about him, he reminds me of Zach, Vince’s younger brother. I turn my attention from him and glance at Nerelda.

“Don’t be bothered by him too much my lady. That would be the young King of Planet Zylaria.”

“Who are you calling young Nerelda? I’m an adult now!” he roars. I hear Dante sigh while Shika tries to usher him out of the room. “No. I’m not leaving,” he growls, glaring her down.

“Leave him be Shika.” Dante announces, “He’s come to see her. So let him. It’s been years.”

“But Dante is that a good idea especially when she can’t remem—” Dante’s eyes are hard and Shika instantly seals her lips. She knew something that I didn’t but I knew given time I’d figure it out for sure.

“What are you talking about?” Varden asks.

“Varden.” a female voice sounds. “That’s enough.” The room hinders in a thick daunting silence.

I regard the source of that voice and see a woman donned in armour, a silver cloak flows behind her as she saunters towards us with her silver hair fanning down to her heels, she is astonishingly beautiful. Armour conceals her forearms, shins, feet, outer thighs, waist, chest and shoulders. There are three layers of armour with elegant inscriptions all of which seem to whisper to me.

“But—” Varden manages.

The intimidating woman glares at Varden who falls silent and watches the sight of this scene unfold humorously. Her eyes rest upon me and mirror that of gentleness. “So you have returned, my dear.” I don’t say anything—the shock of everything that has happen recently doesn’t match the shock I feel when I found out who I am or rather what I am. “It’s okay you don’t have to say anything—no doubt you’re in shock,” the woman swiftly announces. “Shika, take her to her room. She’ll need to rest.”

“My lady?” Shika asks. I forcefully glance at her and learnt that she is speaking to me. Everyone is silent, no doubt, waiting for my next thread of words.

“Okay,” I announce. I saunter past everyone aware that I’ll see them again in the near future. Shika guides me to my room; once I reach my room, I bath in my own personal hot tub before climbing into bed and sleeping.

In the early hours of the morning, I wake. I sit up in my bed, staring absently at my blue silky sheets. I can’t move, even though I want to. “What am I exactly?” I mutter to myself and figure there is only one way to find out. So into my bathroom I disappear to bathe. Afterwards, I pull on my clothes I came to Nefelia in before wandering the building. Marquith told me yesterday not to go wandering around to avoid being thrown into the cells again but I want to get out of this building. I want to explore. I want to learn more—couldn’t they be happy I even gave a damn about who, I am and what I am.

I manage to slip out of the building undetected and as I do. I stop in the centre of the open area outside of the tall building where many other citizens that don’t fly are walking. There is traffic on ground level where hover cars that float a few metres above ground but not any higher and I wonder if it is because they don’t want to or if they couldn’t. Along with men, women and children that decide to walk. I do what I want today and meander through the city, exploring every inch of it. Bit-by-bit parts of the city become familiar to me and bit-by-bit, I feel more and more familiar with it. My legs are soar and I notice that I’m the only one in my idol form. I wish to change into whatever other form I had but I sadly don’t know how to. There are times when my stomach growled and I wanted food but the money I have on me would not be the correct currency.

So by the end of the day, with the sun beginning to set, I wander to the outskirts of the city and into the forest. There are several more buildings here and there, several more people but the more and more I venture into the forest, the fewer signs of civilisation there is. I glance up at the sky, I notice two planets one, is different and the other look like earth but I somehow knew it isn’t my earth.

The winter summer is never easy on my senses. It’s like pins and needles entering my nose—small but sharp. I didn’t comprehend the changes that cloud the atmosphere. The lovely magenta sky is now smashed in a deep hot pink a colour that only ever occurs at the brink of dawn or at the call of the sunset. Scanning the tree line in the distance. I notice it’s still and silent but as I look at the rich green fir trees. I know something is wrong. Glancing at a single star that shines brighter than any other I part ways with Citadel City.

I know what is expected of me. I know what they—my superiors expect of me. They expect results by the most honourable way possible. Isn’t that a joke—I’m an assassin for a living—it can’t get any worse than that. So into the darkness of the forest I walk. Disregarding the potential gossip, they’d face me when I return, as no one enters the forest. Those who do stick to pathways, which has, has been carved out and flattened by excessive use. Picking the shrubs and greenery ahead of me, I enter. Noting immutably the heat and the strong scent of moss in the air. I want to find that which compels me. This energy is so familiar—so recognisable that I don’t identify the crumpled body that lies in the heap before me until I see blond hair that sits concealing partly a strong jawline.

I race to the collapsed man, wondering if he is dead or not. I could tell he isn’t like Dante. He is apart of a species that has zero energetic majic but low energetic levels. Though in complete desperation, to survive these beings with non-energetic majic—collectively call Daunts, can expel one percent energetic majic that cand briefly be felt, in that single outburst. This allow humans to have inhuman strength for a short period of time—it is the mixture of the adrenaline pulsing through their veins and their suppressed energetic majic that causes these Daunts to have power they wouldn’t have in their everyday life.

By the time I ran over to the man. I notice he hasn’t moved. I kneel down beside him and shock settles through me. This man is the same man that I saw in the throne room. What is his name? I think, “Varden?” I push at his shoulder and watch as he rolls over. He is breathing but barely. “Varden.” I whisper as I attempt to wake him. I need to know what happen better yet, I need to know who it is that is wandering Central Citadel as Varden. “Varden.”

“Varden. Varden. Varden.” A deep brusque amus voice bound. I glance at the source and watch from the shadow of the trees, out stumbles a large green-skinned ogre. “Can’t you tell dear? He’s not moving.” I back away from Varden and stand. This ogre is ugly that’s for sure but he had technologized armour padded all over his body. He smiles over at me; his sharp incisors, bared, resembles that of wolf teeth. The ogre towers over me by a good four feet, I can see he’s pushing ten feet and I back away. “What’s the matter? Weren’t you going to help your friend? Don’t mind me. I’ll let you both go.”

I regard the ogre and his large broadsword on his back. “What happens if I don’t believe you?” I muse.

The ogre smiles, “Then you’re smarter than you look, Daunt.” Even though I know my abilities, I also know that going up against him is going to be a challenge. His feet thunders beneath him, as he dauntingly approaches. I glance down at Varden; I’d have to get away from him, if I were to ever fight without restraint. The ogre saunters towards me and I turn my heel and run, as I do I hear his footfalls quicken, as he chases after me. Into the forest I head, aware of the ogre pursuing me as I dart down an inclining land, something that is proving to be a little more difficult as I sense his presence more closely.

Pain rips through me and over my left shoulder; aware he slugged me with his large fist, through two thick tree branches. My back burns and I suffer pain down my back something which could be grazes and cuts far too devastating, it causes pain so great I felt as though I’m going to tear apart. The ground that I land on is a little disorientating and it isn’t until I slowly roll on my belly, do I know which way is up and which way that monster is approaching from. He grumbles a laugh, “Amazing. You Daunts are so weak it’s pathetic.” As I move my limbs, they ache but feel heavy at the same time as the ogre wanders towards me and stops, I felt his gaze on me.

I peek up at him through my lashes and through the dust, dirt and strands of hair that flitter across my features. I watch as he stands towering over me. I could distinguish the look of confusion moulding his sickly green skin. “You should be dead by now.” He’s right. I should be dead. I had been flung a good hundred metres that attack should have killed me. When the dust clears, I notice my body feels heavy like something is sitting on my back. I notice his eyes seem to smile, “No matter. I’ll just kill you were you lay.” he confirms as he unsheathes his large sterling broadsword. I have to get to my feet. I have to get away but my body aches with each movement and with each movement, his blade draws closer and closer to me. I’m soon made aware of his sword hovering above my neck. Face down; he had the perfect opportunity to sever my head from my body. I turn myself over and roll on my back. It burns. It feels like tiny shards were embd in my back. I wouldn’t be surprised if it is the stones that are scattered all along the ground. “Still alive huh.” He lifts his sword and brings it down. I cover my face with my hands and clang!

Stunned at the sight, I see my forearms are cladded in thick armour braces. “What the—?” he asks. I can hear the confusion in his voice as evident as the day. His sword is locked in between my wrists and he pushes his weight into his sword. I feel the weight of him on me and I don’t know how much longer I can keep this up. My arms shake as I strain to keep the sword from slicing me in two. I have to keep him away. I notice he moves to pull away and using my wrists, I lock the sword in place as my armour conceals my handeds. A green emerald is plac on the back of each hand. I smile as his blade locked into place. He moves to take it and it won’t budge. I’m happy I thought of this—I don’t need much of my strength in this position. “Release my sword, wench.”

“No.” I smile. “Not right now.” I glance up and watch as a shadow flutters through the rays of sunlight making physique a black shadow. It leaps high into the air—its cloak fans behind it and I see prominently the large broadsword. “I’ve got him, Dante!” I call and watch as Dante falls towards us and within one move he sever the head of the ogre. I survey the head bounce along the ground before rolling to face me—his eyes were frozen in shock.

I watch as Dante easily lands on the ground. He wanders over to me. “What are you doing down there?” he teases.

“Must you be a pain?” I irately demand. “Help me up. It hurts!” He pulls me into a sitting position and I feel like my back is on fire. I can tell by the corner of my eye, he’s critically eyeing my back and remains silent. “What is it?” I ask. He didn’t say anything other than:

“We need to get you to a medic and fast.”

I had almost forgotten, “What about Varden?” I ask.

“What about him?”

“He’s lying on the ground over there.” I nod my head in the general direction I had run beforehand. Dante doesn’t say anything instead he pulls me into his arms and cradles me towards Varden while I direct us. It isn’t too long before we stumble upon him still unconscious.

“I don’t believe my eyes.” Dante declares.

“Yeah, neither do I.” I retort as he sets me gently on the ground, “What are you—?”

“I need to see if he’s the real deal or not.”

“And how are you going to do that?” I ask as I watch him kneel beside him. He checks his pulse and places his hand in front of his nose.

“Simple. The Fanaldi crest.” he declares and I watch as his hand turns over Varden’s wrist and beneath it is a tattoo mark in blue of a shield with two swords. “That’s him.” I can’t help but gasp in shock. It isn’t too long before we return to Central Citadel to find that Varden is being hospitalised in one of the guest rooms. The empress is quick to remind us of who he is—she doesn’t want the media to catch wind of this, especially if it risks Varden’s identity being high jacked. I’m later patched up. My bruised and beaten muscles are healing and the pain is disappearing. I’m amazed by the advancements in medicine they have on this planet.

 

4

Bound

“There are are more dangers on inside your own home than there is in the entire world.”

.....

 

OUTSIDE OF VARDEN’S ROOM, I notice Dante approach, from the corner of my eye. “It’s going to be hard.”

“What is?” I ask even though I have a strong feeling I knew what he meant.

“You getting back into everything.” he announces. I nod, I knew it was going to be hard but I can’t just give up because of that—otherwise what type of person am I? But I also knew without a doubt that I’m not the type of person to give up so easily, even if it’s difficult.

“There you are.” A woman’s voice angelically sounds. I glance down the hall and spy a woman in full three-layer body armour strutting towards us with her head held high, a fierce frown moulds her attractive features as she approaches, bit by bit, I began to recognise her. She was the woman from the throne room. The one that stopped Varden and his inappropriate behaviour. I watch as she stops not too far from us. She nods at Dante and turns back to face me.

“And you are?” I evenly ask.

“I’m Zeanna. The daughter of the house of Ezra.” she proclaims and I regard the woman closely. She seems like an honest woman but I knew looks could be deceiving so like my obsession with fear I knew I’d be on my toes with her and everyone else.

“Relax. She means no harm.” Dante insists on butting in.

“Aren’t you that woman from the throne room?” I ask.

“Yes I am.” Zeanna announces.

“When we were there did you know he was not the real Varden?” I ask, wondering how they could not notice that Varden wasn’t Varden.

Zeanna falls quiet for a moment potentially contemplating how to carefully string her words together, “I did but I wasn’t sure at the same time.”

“How?” I ask.

“He would do and say things that were not normal things for him to say then he’d say other things that were exactly what he would say. He was act accordingly but he would also act differently at times. I thought he was just preparing for the festival.” Zeanna glances over at Dante and his eyes rest on me.

“Do you remember what I told you about the festival?” he asks.

“Yeah I remember. It explains why he’s here doesn’t it?” I inquire.

“Yeah and the other royals.”

“How come I haven’t seen them?” I ask.

Dante glances over at Zeanna and says, “There in a different part of the palace. A more secure part. Varden was supposed to be there too but because the empress is a little more familiar with him than the others so she allowed Varden to stay in the main palace.”

“When does the festival start?”

“In three weeks.” Zeanna declares.

“And that would give you time to meet with all the royals?” I ask, aware I knew where this conversation was heading. We had to ensure Varden was the only who was the only one to have been high jacked.

“Yes. But given that Varden was impersonated I fear the others might be as well. So we’ll have to scan the rest of them.” Dante says as he glances down at his armoured forearm. He presses something and I notice a blue holographic screen appears above his forearm. He continues to play around with it and I turn my attention to Zeanna. Her lips, I notice, are purged into a thin line mimicking the concern lines basking her forehead. I glare at Dante once more.

“You can’t scan them like some object.” I growl.

“My lady. Dante means well.” Zeanna defends.

I sigh and say, “I know.”

Several days later, I ind myself sparring with Juvias—who is a well-known warrior. With his long silver hair and piercing blue eyes his pale skin seemed to gleam like marble under the sun. Left hook, right jab, round house. I block all three, just barely. He’s fast and that’s the problem, when he tries to slow down he was still too quick for me. This is proving to be difficult as he has no choice but to seal away his true strength out of fear of harming me. “You’re letting your guard drop.” he easily proclaims.

“I know.” I say. The palace’s external grounds were detained by a filtering breeze that drifts in from the ocean just over the cliff-side where the palace sat. My muscles burn a comforting burn as we had been training like this for hours. I wouldn’t deny I feel as though I were being driven mad but I press on aware this training will pay off.

“Let’s take a break.” Juvias announces. I nod before taking a seat on the grass beside him. He tosses a bottle towards me and I catch it, regarding it curiously. “What’s the matter, don’t you know what a bottle is?”

“I know what a bottle is?” I annoyingly reply. Unsealing the lid, I gulp down its contents. It slides along the back of my throat in a cool soothing routine. After a couple of sips, I soon hear the sound of wailing horses in the distance. I glance over at the sound, to confirm they were headed straight for us. I immediately stand and assess the situation. There were numerous horses, stretching twenty feet across blocking any chance of jumping out of the way. I turn my heel and run, calling over my shoulder, “Run Juvias!”

“No need to tell me twice.” he announces and uses his warp majic to escape intimidate danger. Instantly, I feel jealous. He’s able to vanish from the line of danger while I have to manoeuvre around it. I run through the palace grounds with raging horses at my heels. I pass many people who also avoid the stampede of horses. I push myself harder and stumble upon a stone arching cliff. I leap off and crawl underneath. I could feel the trembling of the ground beneath me and hear the sound of their hooves echoing against the ground. I watch as they leap over me and continue to run on ahead, further into the distant forest. Once the commotion dies down, I climb out of my hiding spot and regard Juvias who stands on top of the stones that branched over my head for several minutes. “There you are.”

“Juvias?” I ask. He smiles, the two markings on each side of his cheeks seemed to move as he grinned.

“Yes?” He holds out his hand and helps me out of the pit. I sit down on the grass and gazed at the horses that settled in the distance. They were majestic and beautiful as if they were on earth. A planet that had a habit of destroying its wildlife in more ways than one.

“Where did they come from, the horses I mean?” I ask.

“Most likely the stables. Though how they got out is another story all together.” Zeanna appears before us and I still have yet to understand how and why she was here to begin with. She glances over at the horses and smiles, “I see you were playing chase.”

“I was not playing a game.” I growl and she continues to handle a smile that never seems to waver. “I was almost killed.”

“Really now? You know, you wouldn’t have died otherwise Juvias would be sorry.” she confidentiality informs and I feel Juvias stiffen before he places his hand behind his head and sheepishly smiles. The smile he draws made me draw a small smile of my own. “The empress would like to see you.” Zeanna proclaims. This is new to me usually the old lady was too busy to see me and when she did it was to ask me how my back was going—not that I mind. At least she cared, to some degree.

“About what?” I ask.

“She didn’t tell me. She just wanted me to summon you is all.” She cackles a delicate laugh, “Summon, get it. You know like weapons.” I glare, there must be something seriously wrong with her, I wonder as I regard the armoured woman laugh like a maniac. She sighs, “Phew, man that was a good one.”

“Yeah, yeah.” I grumble. “Where is the empress? Is she in the throne room or . . . ?”

Zeanna shakes her head, “No, she’s in the lunar garden.” I figuratively scratch my brain for where I had heard those terms ‘lunar garden’ before and realise it was at the eastern part of the palace. I thank Zeanna and Juvias and head to the lunar garden. Waltzing through the palace always made me feel a little weird but comforted in a way. I’m certain if this was true, what the empress told me about her being my grandmother but then again, it isn’t like she’s going to lie or anything.

I stand at a junction, glancing left than right I couldn’t quite figure out which way to go. Something told me to go left but I felt oddly compelled to go right. There was that same power fluttering through the air—it was the power exactly the same to what I felt on earth. It made my skin prickle in fear and rise in gooseflesh. Taking a quick glimpse over my shoulder, fearing someone’s behind me, I spy nothing and no one in sight. Realising I may have been feeling things that weren’t there, I figure to head right and saunter down several more corridors until I come into an open balcony. Out onto the terrace, I see below, the empress strolling through the garden.

There are times when I feared that this woman would become different. So different, in fact, that she’d change. As I regard her I couldn’t help but smile, she was kin—she was my kin. I move to the stairs and head towards them, aware of the sensation of a different yet dangerous presence in the air.

As I inch closer towards Dante and the empress I carefully regarded them, they were close I could tell and I wondered though, how close and how old Dante was. I recalled him telling me when I was in hospital that the empress was well over a few hundred thousand years. Even though she looks like she was in her early thirties, it makes me wonder how long I’d be able to live for. That was if I could transition into my Nefaliem form. I want that form, I want for that to happen but I also wonder if I really was human and if this was all a big misunderstanding.

Reality. There was always something going on behind the scenes. That was how I felt right now. Cornered and unsure of what I wanted. I knew the empress was welcoming but I also knew that there were times when I feared something dangerous was going to happen and what it was . . . I don’t know. When I approach, she brightly smiles and holds open her arms before warmly embracing me. “There you are my dear, I was wondering when you’d arrive.”

“Sorry, I had to find a way to get here. You know the palace is a bit of a maze.” I reply and she smiles and links arms with me, guiding me inside:

“Well it is a bit big.”

I smile and quirk a brow, “A bit?”

She rolls her eyes and smiles, “Okay, a lot.” We giggle and I glance over my shoulder to regard Dante sauntering after us, his eyes vigilant for danger as ever. This is something I couldn’t quite understand; there were levels of power within the Emerald Hierarchy. Within each level there are families situated in that level which in turn defines their energetic level and pressure. These levels are situated in a way that forms a pyramid; the common weaker energy levels are at the bottom while further up the pyramid there were stronger energy levels, this also depends on the family and where they sit on the social hierarchy. Every Nefaliem had powers no one didn’t and those who didn’t were rare but those are a select few.

As we wander towards the blue diamond in the middle, I notice there were names engraved on it with dates of when they were born to when they died. All of the names were bordered in red and I became curious as to what was going on when we stopped. The empress’s eyes rest on a small plaque in the middle there were two nestled beside each other and I notice one was a woman and the other was a man. The silence is thick and I wait for the empress to start. “We live in a time where war is imminent. But before that war there is a pre-war if you will, one that continues to sever the boarders between heaven and hell and the galaxies. I for one want to end it before it can start but that is the same reason why we train my dear. To stop the chance of this war from ever occurring.”

I allow the words to sink in before I ask, “So to stop this pre-war from occurring you train everyone you can?”

“Yes.” The empress announces with a sad smile.

“But with every warrior there is a high risk of death. And it with these plaques, you see, are those that have died an honourable death.” I stare at her wide eyed. There were so many headstones and they were on the palace grounds they stretched over the hills in the distance and faded away into the moutains. “We are Nefaliem, we are warriors and that is our custom that is our nature.” I remain silent, sensing she’s going to continue, “Just like all Nefaliem we will one day perish by the hands of our enemies, everyone you know, everyone closest to you will die. That is the unspoken truth. As that was what had happened to your parents.” I feel my muscles glaze over in shock.

“My . . . parents?” I ask.

“Yes, you may not remember but your parents were Silver Knights. They were strong, powerful and everything we Nefaliem strive to be. But one faithful day your father tried to ensure your safety and hid you away on earth were you grew. Later when the time was right, you learnt of your heritage and later became one of us once again—you travelled from worlds to worlds in search of adventure.”

“Did I find it?” I wonder.

She smiles a small smile, “You did and you enjoyed it. Hopefully, all of this one day will come back.” Bit by bit things were returning like this city—I remember it well. When I sauntered through the city once again, I learnt that later it was my memory guiding me through the city on that day when I stumbled upon Varden. I never realised it until several days later, when I questioned how I found him. It was a scent I was subconsciously following. So I knew I was remembering a few things. I know it’s only a matter of time before all my supressed memories flutter through.

Once Dante and the empress vanished from the mourning grounds as it is known where the headstones lay. I’m left alone with my thoughts. There’s a stinging pain in my chest as I try to remember who it was they were. Surely there were some memories? The closet recollection to a memory I have of my parents, was of two people—two adults dressed in clothes similar to the empress’s. One was male and the other was female. Their faces were blurred and their voices silent even though I knew they were talking to me. I remember, their lips moving, especially the woman’s as she reaches out to me.

I don’t know how long I stood there for but I knew that there was moreto their death than the empress was letting on. I saunter from the diamondshaped pillar and back track to the palace. Once inside, the empress andDante were discussing me in hushed tones, “We have to tell her.” he says.

“I know but not right now. Give her time to settle in.” the empress whispers.

“And when will that be . . . no disrespect of course but she needs to know what happened. Her highness was alive when the princess arrived.” Dante announces and I feel my blood run cold. I remember all those moments when I was in the central citadel. There was one time when an earthquake swam throughout the building. The central citadel I recalled or rather now realised was on ‘shut down’, how that happened made me question: what would have caused that? Then there was Varden and his impostor. There were so many things that I wanted to know and yet there were some things like now . . . I really didn’t want to know.

“I know but let’s get her memories back first. I know she remembers but we have to remind her who she is and where she came from.” the empress announces. She spoke so casually to Dante that it made me forget for a moment that she was the empress—a woman of high class. I realise then it was time for me to reveal myself and so I do. Out of the shadows of the corner I walk and I notice those two turn to face me.

I thought I knew what I wanted but I knew it wasn’t this. As I gaze upon the empress I knew she meant well. I carefully saunter towards. “Hey guys.” I greet and became stunned when they both brightly forced a smile.

“Hey,” the empress cooes, “How are you feeling?” If I didn’t over hear her conversation just now I would have considered her question a little confusing but given the recent information. I figured it wasn’t that difficult to comprehend.

“I’m fine.” I declare.

She warily regards me and nods, “Okay.” We link arms once again and head through the palace. We wind our way down several silver gleaming corridors and I began to reflect on the things that I learned and what had happened. I wondered if they were all connected and I wondered if I was the only one who had considered that. And if I were, I wanted to know what it was I was going to do about it. I was only in my idol form after all, my human form, given recent events I realised that I could not be much of a match for whoever it was behind all of these strange unravelling incidents but I fear it has something to do with that energy I had sensed back on earth.

Even now, I freeze as I feel it linger in the air. I feel the sensation of heavy breaths brushing against the back of my neck. It’s as if someone’s standing behind me, breathing on me. I freeze on the spot for a moment before glancing over my shoulder. “What’s wrong?” the empress asks.

I blink and realised that I’m standing in the hall staring at a confused Dante. I straighten and remark, “Nothing.” The empress and Dante were silent and I turn back around. “Where are we headed again?” I ask.

“To see your physio.” Dante announces.

“Okay.” I declare, too shaken to care.

Once we stumble upon Tazaris, my physio, in the southern section of the palace. I realise within the first moments of our encounter, I want nothing more than to turn around and walk away. There’s nothing that I found more annoying than his attitude. It’s absolutely overbearing. “Once I’m done with you princess. You’ll be as good as new!” he flamboyantly announces and I can’t help but sigh, why am I always the one stuck with wakos?

“Great.” I force, trying to sound enthusiastic but I don’t think itcame out right, the empress shot me a warning glare. To my surprise, Tazaris is too pre-occupied with setting up the session, to hear what I had said.Dante however, doesn’t miss a beat.

“You could try and enjoy it.” he whispers once Tazaris’s back is turned.

“Yes.” the empress whispers opposite me filing slid glances towards Tazaris, afraid he’d be offended by her action, “He’s just doing his job.” I internally groan, that isn’t something I want to hear.

“I know.” I announce.

“Well then try and do what he asks,” Dante offers and I’m inclined to retort a snarky comment but manage to hold my tongue.

“Fine.” I huff.

Once the session is over, I’m quick to backtrack and head towards my room. Inside, I collapse on my bed and stare at the ceiling. Silver, streaked the walls around me and the ceiling delivered a reflection of me, I couldn’t help but think about everything that had happened as I lay staring at myself. The sight of it is a little nerving but unnerving at the same time. Though, what catches my attention is not the sight of me but the dangerous sensation that leaks through the air.

It’s the same sensation I had felt back on earth and that same sensation, I felt not too long ago. The problem with this was that—it was closer and as I stared out my window, I feel something closing in I couldn’t quite place it but I knew it was there. I stand and wander towards my ceiling to floor window and gaze out. Something I could sense is pulling me east. I regard the distant valley and the city buildings that gleam and shine under the afternoon sun. I want to get closer but the glass seems to keep me away. My hand flattens against the window and I stare.

Smash! My windows shatter and I duck wrapping my arms around my head. It isn’t long until I realised I’m screaming in shock and fright. I don’t understand, why am I scared, I’ve never been scared of anything in my life. Loud winds whisper around me and I gaze upon the sight of two men, floating in mid-air. Dressed in red, silver and black. Their armour presents engravings of a language I’m not familiar with but yet somewhat familiar with. “There she is.” One points behind a mask that muffles his voice.

“Grab her and let’s go.” I turn my heel and run for the doors but it’s too late. I feel arms wrap around my waist and hold vastly one of my wrists. I’m pulled from the ground and yanked from my room. I squirm but it doesn’t seem to do much at all. Instead, to the stranger, if anything, seems to find it amusing.

“You’re wasting your energy.” my captive announces.

“So what.” I rebut.

“Doesn’t matter to me anyway. No matter what you do. I won’t let you go. Or do you really want to become a pancake?” I glance down at the land so far below and realise that at this height. I’d die when I hit the ground, not when I fell. The scary part is he has every opportunity to drop me and could do it at any given moment. Subconsciously, I latch onto him, fearfully aware this stranger is my evil lifesaver.

It must have been a while because the sun was beginning to set when we descend in the middle of nowhere. Once we were on land, I’m quick to send a kick to my captor’s head only to feel pain radiate at the back of my neck. My body collapses on its own and I feel hands lift me off the ground before tossing me over a shoulder. The next thing I hear, was the last thing I heard, before blacking out, “We’ve delivered, time to pay up.”

I wake to the sound of grinding chains. It’s defined by the overbearing heat that graces my skin. As my vision begins to clear I take note I’m face down on a pavement that holds the vast number of men and women chained to each other sauntering away from me. They were dressed in minimum clothing. I’m stunned by the manacles around their wrists, ankles and necks. “By heaven.” I mutter.

“Good you’re awake.” A male voice booms. I glance up to find a man towering over me. He yanks at the chain connected to the shackle around my neck and I’m forced to my feet. Looking down, I noticed I’m not wearing the clothing I had worn when I was back at the palace. Instead, I wore sickly brown cloths that cover my chest and waist. “Time to get in line Daunt.” I glared at the thick hairy man. He smiles a toothless smile and want to cringe at the sight.

He ushers me along as my feet met the warm stone ground. Magma pools on the far side of the land and I regard the dark skies above. The metal cuff around my neck is uncomfortable as is the heat that riddles my body in sweat. I notice my wrists and ankles are chained. The sight of what I face sends fear flooding through my veins.

The man pulls me over to the line and I notice I’m the only one that was beginning to wake, to consciousness. Several other men and women, wake and I can tell immediately they’re scared. Some scream while the women kick at the men who tried to grab them. I notice they were fighting. The man that holds my chains regards me with eyes that expect me to react the same way. And to my surprise I do, my head collides against the middle of his face and I watch as he clenches his bleeding broken nose. Considering that I’m in my idol form I never realised the type of strength I had gained from the sessions with Tazaris. He reaches for me and I dodge before elbowing him square in the face.

He falls to his knees and I take the opportunity to continue my assault. I grasp his head and kneed him in the face. Later, I watch smugly as he falls to the ground unconscious. I smiled at my small victory and notice we had made commotion. This causes the other guards to saunter over to us with metal rods. Several, spiked electricity at one end while others didn’t and I glared as I feel the other men and women back away. My hands are in a bind and I’m restrained, with those rods looking like they could cause some problems I knew without a doubt that they were going to be exactly that—problems.

Even though, I fight against the tyranny of slavery. I knew that we were—like the others—going to be suppressed. It’s an undeniable truth that we face. As I regard the ash covered ground, I see several men approach. They are intent on restraining me and because of that I knew I have to fight them off, better yet, I knew I have to get out of here. I glance over my shoulder and see below distant mountains. I search the man for keys to my shackles. It doesn’t take long before I find them, I unshackle my wrist and ankle restraints before removing the one around my neck. I run over to the other men and women on the ground and tossed them the keys.

There were several men who continued to try and drag them back in line but they refused to go back so I run up to the large bronze skinned man who I can tell is a Daunt like the rest of us and elbow him square in the face. His nose shatters under my frontal assault, he stumbles back in shock and I fling a kick to the head and watched as he falls to the ground unconscious. Two other men run at me, I dodge and block their attacks. Taking the opportunity, I leap and smash my knee against the head of one of my opponents. I take on the other one and before I know it all of them are down and everyone stands and watches in horror. I glances over at my captor and see he’s still unconscious. I kneel and help a woman to her feet, “We have to go now!” I beckon.

“Okay.” she accepts, vigorously nodding.

I observe the others with anger, “Hurray. Leave now!” I release the woman and run pass the others. We wouldn’t have time to save the others not yet. But I knew one day, I’d come back for them and when I did. I’d make sure I’d stop their supplier. As I run along the warm cracked ground, my feet burns but I push on. There were several other largely built men and I wonder if all the guards were thickly built. To an experienced eye it would make sense. Then again, even a child would easily be able to distinguish the difference between power and intimidation and what it stood for.

As I ran, I feel my heart pound in my chest. Fear is eminent and death is on the horizon. I force my way through a crowd of workers aware the other minders were after me, I glance to the right of me and see that those I’ve saved make it to the caves in the distance.

I continue to run and for several meters there’s nothing but ash caking the ground. We were in what appeared to be a wall but I notice it fade north. So that was where I head though not-to-my-surprise there were guards sprinting towards me with weapons in hands, with the single purpose to stop me. I slip between the legs of one of the men before rolling to my feet again and sprinting passed them.

Spying a cave entrance nearby I dart to it and head inside. It’s dark and dry. I could smell the scent of dust in the air. It tickles my nose. I fight to keep myself from sneezing as I turn around the lava tubing corners where I aim to lose myself in. To my surprise, I find that I’m not afraid of dying. Then again, I couldn’t remember when I was afraid of dying but that fear I felt before was genuine fear for my safety and I wonder if it was because of the dark energy that surrounded them. I stopped after a while realising I lost them. I sigh and glance around in the darkness now there was one problem I faced—survival. It’s something that would be my number one priority.

Realising I have to find a way out of here, I began to wonder the large chasms. I didn’t know how long I walk but by the time I stop my feet ache. I find a spot in the centre of the cave, it was pitch black but my eyes had adjusted long ago. I’m starting to feel tired and hungry. Aware, I wouldn’t find any food any time soon. I curled up in a ball on the floor and begin to nod off before eventually falling into a deep sleep. My sleep though isn’t something I want. It’s riddled with nightmares of slaves, war and death. Screams of men, women and children ricochet around my mind. Before Varden’s bruised and beaten face moulds behind my closed eyes before vanishing. The sight of him surprised me, he’s the last person I want to dream of but even as I tried to shift the dream my subconscious wouldn’t respond.

It’s strange the dream. I was on an abandoned battlefield stained in blood. Sitting tall on my armoured steed. I felt the presence of someone riding behind me. I glanced over my shoulder to perceive Varden with the same bruises and cuts on his strong prominent features. His blue eyes were hard and I watched as his eyes locked onto something in the distance. I motioned my horse forward. Noticing the dead bodies of enemy soldiers scattered along the uneven ground. Their flags, tanks and vehicles were as silent as the dead bodies.

I notice the sky was dark and overcast. Thunder rumbled in the distance lighting up the clouds with a splash of lightening here and there painting a luminous show. A storm was coming. I could smell the fresh salt in the air and cool water soon to fall. In the distance I saw the impending danger of an army on approach. “Let’s see if we can go around.” Varden whispered.

Then the scene changes. I was in a humid jungle in broad daylight. Before me were knights in silver armour and battle rifles. A woman, held up her hand signalling for us to stop. Her armour shone under the flittering rays that seeped through the canopy above. It seemed to glitter like the stars in the night sky. Something I would enjoy watching when I was able to get away from the city. I felt the stillness in the air and listened to the alerting sound of silence. I noticed no one moved. Then not before long a rocket was launched. It soared speedily through the air leaving a spark of fire behind it. I heard it whistle before exploding at our feet. I felt the wave of its power as I was flung from where I stood and through the trunk of a nearby thousand-year-old tree.

I heard bullets siege my unit. Even with the buzzing in my ears I understood that the bullets fired, were deflected off a Nefaliem shield. My unit was alive and fighting to survive. Combatting the enemy was never easy but it was something I was conditioned to do. Hidden under the steams of leafy plants I rolled onto my side and stood. There was five of us in this unit and three were already dead. There was a man in black armour from head to toe. He held a knife drenched in blood and the woman who was the head of our unit collapsed to the ground. His eyes locked onto mine and that was when I wake with a start.

 

5

Territory

“Kindness can be found in more ways than one.”

.....

 

GLANCING AROUND, I FEEL THE WARM HEAT OF A NEARBY FIRE. It’s too warm for my body heat. My features are drenched in sweat and I glance over at the figure opposite me. He is dressed in black armour and I watch as he picks up several sticks and begins snapping them in half before tossing them into the fire. I regard this stranger in fear. He notices, my awakened state, as his dark cat-like-eyes land on mine. I clench the blanket that covers my body and curiously regard the fabric. It’s smooth and soft as silk but strong as steel. “Who are you?” I breathe.

“You need to calm down,” he orders in a deep brusque voice. “I’m not here to harm you.” Once he’s done with the sticks, he moves over to me and kneels. I pull away from him and close my eyes. When nothing happens, I open them again and watch as he silently walks over to a log and sits down. He clasps in hand a sack and dumps it, beside himself.

“Who are you?” I try again.

He’s silent briefly pausing before declaring, “Asashin, Princess.”

“How do you know who I am?” I ask, sitting up as I glance around, only to realise I’m in a different setting. There is a small stream nearby beside a clearing, it gently bubbles. There are thick tall trees to the right of me and to the left of the stream which giggles softly in the background.

“Everybody knows who you are,” he announces. I regard him for a moment longer before eyeing my surroundings once again.

“Where are we?”

“In Regul.” My stomach growls making the atmosphere between us a little awkward. I feel embarrassed but see he picks up a loaf of bread and tosses it over to me. “Eat. You’ll need your strength.” I don’t entirely trust this man but given he had weapons position not too far from him, something I notice instantly, he doesn’t move to use them nor did he even glance at them. It appears as though they are far from his mind. He could kill me anytime he pleases and yet he hasn’t. I knew what that meant—he wants something.

“How did you find me?” I ask as I regard the man before me.

“I followed your scent.”

“Why?” I ask, “Did someone make you?”

“Kind of,” he says, I couldn’t tell if he is smiling or not. With that mask concealing the lower section of his features he could be frowning for all I knew.

“Why won’t you give me a straight answer?” I ask, aware if I continue to question this man he’d retaliate. Given he has already announced he wasn’t human, the odds of out-running him is not in my favour and the chances of surviving once he caught me is slim. If I want to live to see the others again in this world, I knew I’d have to be smart, careful and three steps ahead.

“Because I can see you don’t trust me.” he sounds amused by this and I begin tearing at the bread. To my surprise, this world continues to have food that resembles food on Earth. In a way, that is a good thing at least I knew what I would be eating and what I wouldn’t be eating. Surprisingly, I may not be afraid to die but I am planning on having a long solid life somewhere in solitude. Some place where no one could find me. If that day is to ever come, I’d be happy and willing to die at peace.

“How can I not? I don’t know you.” I manage between mouthfuls of stale bread. It’s rough against my throat and dry in my mouth but I devour it because I knew I am human. I need food. I need rest. Above all, I need to survive. A biological program encrypted into our genes to ensure the survival of our race. It’s both annoying and dominant. I wonder as I gaze upon this mysterious man if he is like Dante; strong, fast and skilled.

“Then you’ll have a long journey. Get some sleep.” He stands and disappears into the darkness of the forest that surrounds the campsite. I glance down at my food, turning it over in my hands before eating it. I don’t know why but I feel like I have to make sure it is safe to eat. It doesn’t seem long before I wake to Asashin packing up. The fire had burnt out long ago and there is nothing left but ash. Once everything is pack and shrunk down to size, are pack into little black boxes line in silver and tuck away into a utility belt nestle around his waist. He turns his heel and leaves. I am quick to stand and call:

“Wait! You can’t leave me here!” Asashin continues to walk on ahead, I’m quick to bundle my blankets together and pull myself to my feet. As I pack the blanket, I realise it’s the one I used to cover myself during the night, it’s black and silky. The texture of it at my fingertips is a familiar feeling—I recall playing with this last night. I notice Asashin stop at the edge of the clearing and waits. His skin is pale under the light but I also notice half of his features is concealed like a ninja. “A ninja, huh?” I mutter under my breath and move to catch up to him. The moment I catch up with the stranger, he mutely holds out his hands and gathers the blankets. He shrinks one thick blanket down which is brown and covered in blotches to the size of his palm. He tucks it away into his belt and grasp the black one and wrap it around his neck before locking it together like a cloak.

The trees shimmy in the faint morning breeze. Their lush green leaves glow a healthy warm green and I began to follow after Asashin. For several miles, we walk and not once did he speak. I couldn’t help but gaze at the man from behind with a little suspicion. As we saunter through the lively forest the air is filled with an uncomfortable silence that stretches for miles. It isn’t long before we stumble upon the large town of Arachnida. Asashin is quick to pull me up, “I’ll be back.” I grudgingly watch as he disappears into a shuffling crowd. I glance at the finely dress men and women surrounding me, in blue fleecy gowns and robes of all of which had different designs. Some wore clothing of different colours but etch on the back of those robes, are family shields.

I feel something bounce against my leg. I glance down and see a little girl with silver hair and piercing blue eyes but with no markings. As I am told those that doesn’t have facial markings are not of the upper class. She smiles up at me and bows with a hand over her heart. “Sorry, miss.”

I can’t help but smile in return, “It’s okay.” Her smile stretches across her face before she bounds after a young boy who appears to be her elder brother by three or four years. They both dart over the bridge that stretches over the canal I stand beside. It is rowdy but the day is peaceful—that peace doesn’t last as my mind conjure up images of the men who abduct me and the horror of slaves. My mind whirls as I reflect on Varden and his condition. I wonder at the same time what’s going on. There are too many things occurring to be coincidental.

I hear a scream not too far from me. I quickly peer over my shoulder and see a large ten-foot-tall man with dark black hair shove a man out of his way who tumbles into the canal. With a splash of the man who fell into the canal, I notice the taller man is overly muscular. As I gas at the man in the canal I see several other men move to help him out as the ten-foot-tall man saunters towards me. I glare. “How rude,” I mumble under my breath. The large one wears black leather pants and no shirt. The man beside him is dress in what appear to be an overcoat that drops to his cap of his knees. By the sight of them, they look like they weren’t from Nefelia.

It is strange, they are only a hundred meters in front of me and I could hear their conversation as I see their lips move. “Are you sure she’s here?” the smaller man asks.

“Positive. I’d never forget that scent.” The larger one grunts.

They both glance over at me at the same time. Through the parted crowd, our eyes meet and I realise what I had done. “There!” the smaller man growls as he points to me. I turn my heel and force my way through the mass. Sneering at them to move out of my way.

“Move!” It must have taken a good few seconds which feel like hours to have exit the swarming throng. When I am in the clear, I see another bridge that arches freely over the canal, I run along it and make it to the other side without problem. There are more people and another large crowd on the opposite side of the bridge I alighted. I push through this thicker crowd, as my muscles burn. There is no denying I ran a good few fifteen hundred meters. Even as I turn over my shoulder, I check behind me and around me. Fearing they’d catch me. This world isn’t like Earth. This place isn’t where I excel and that is the problem I knew I’d have to one day conquer. I dart to my right and flatten my back against the stone wall. Several moments later, the men appear and they glance around. “Is this where she went?” the smaller one asks.

I hear the larger man sniff the air. “Yeah. She went this way alright.” My blood races through my veins as my heart rate quickens. They’re closing in. There is nothing more I could really do, that much I knew. So I turn and ran only to hear their voice calling from behind. “There!” I peer over my shoulder in shock before; halting than running from them once again. I don’t understand why I am surprised as I knew they are bound to see me.

The alleyway is wide and clean and I am too scared to bother with the details. I feel heat graze my shoulder and I numbly trip on the pavement. I watch in shock as a fireball flew through the alleyway before extinguishing against the far end of the alleyway where another building stood scorched. I gasp realising it accidentally miss me and I push myself to my feet. “It’s hard to believe she’s the legendary Crimson Blade. Are you sure it’s her Yogic?” The smaller man mocks as he stood with his hand shouldering in flames.

“I’m certain,” Yogic announces, the larger bronze skin man announces as he crosses his arms. “I never forget a scent, Karim.”

“Your nose is as sharp as a dogs’ it’s quite fascinating, I might add,” Karim announces, his eyes narrow on me as his lips curl into a dangerous smile. “We’ll be rewarded greatly if we deliver her head to Al.”

“I thought he wants her alive,” Yogic recalls.

Karim frowns a little his eyes seem a little distant, “Oh that’s right. I kind of forgot about that.” Soon he returns and I, note the flame he held never seem to diminish. Instead, it seems to grow. I wonder if he is going to burn me before he hands me over to this Al person. At the same time, I knew that I wouldn’t scream. It would hurt a lot but I’d rather die than have them enjoying my pain. I sneer my best glare and watch as those two fell silent. It must have been a few moments later before someone drops in front of me. I recognise the black cloak and the silver armour. I recognise the mask that conceals his features and those dark eyes that hold disdain.

“Asashin.” I breathe and wonder if he is like Dante. is he going to protect me or is he going to hand me over to them? I fearfully hold my breath and watch the scene unfold before me in a skirmish of distinctive hostility.

“And who are you?” Karim growls, pointing at Asashin with his free hand. Asashin doesn’t say anything. Instead, Asashin stands at his full height and critically eye them. “Don’t make me repeat myself.” Karim scorns. “I hate repeating myself.”

“Then don’t.” Asashin smoothly utters. His voice is evenly deep and deadly. I could tell his tone is a little more hostile than from when I heard it earlier on in the day. “I’m not the one you’ll have to worry about.” Karim and Yogic glance at each other, confusion riddle their features and I heard the sound of an unsheathing sword. I peer behind the men and saw familiar silver hair, strong jawline and piercing blue eyes.

“Dante?” I wonder.

“Kalverya. Are you alright?” Dante asks, his eyes on Karim. I note another blade at the throat of Yogic. It is held vastly by Zenana who winks at me with a smile.

“The Calvary has arrived. Princess.” I couldn’t help but smile in return.

“I’d watch that blade, your stupid woman,” Yogic growls.

“I’d watch your tongue or perhaps you wish to lose it?” Zenana retorts and glares up at Yogic. He may have been three times her size but she looks like she is more than prepare to take him on. At last, I notice Karim’s flame extinguish. He holds up his hands and I watch as Yogic mimic the gesture. “So you surrender?”

“What does it look like lady? I’m not miming.” Karim seethes. Zenana peels a smile upon her crimson lips and I could see the evident humour in her eyes.

“That you aren’t.” Zenana put her fingers to her lips and release an ear-piercing whistle. All through that, I notice Dante never took his eyes off of Karim. And I chillingly notice, Karim never took his eyes off of me. Even as he smiled, his eyes held a form of darkness that fills my mind with memories of those men and women I had left behind when I escaped. An armoured guard appears with a group of twenty or so men. They are dress in silver, blue and golden uniform. They, I concluded, must have been this world’s police. Two of the armour guards handcuff Yogic and Karim before me with ease and I wonder how the police manage to make it here in time. Normally, they are late. I watch as they usher him away. A transport ship drops out of the sky and land before them. The last thing I see as I get to my knees is the sight of Karim mouthing: ‘You’re dead.’

Zeanna saunters towards me and queered, “Are you alright?”

I nod, “Yeah. I’m fine.” I watch as Dante, heads towards us, his eyes are hard and I couldn’t quite comprehend the expression in his eyes.

“Dante? What are you doing here?” I ask.

He glances over at Asashin and nods, “You went missing for a couple of weeks. To exchange information between boarders, we had to rendezvous a few blocks over.”

“I made it there in time but knew something was wrong,” Asashin announces. “The way the tavern held a profound silence and the way the bartender acted. It is like they were expecting something to occur then I remembered you and I knew what. I shouldn’t have left you alone.” Even as he spoke those words, I feel the need to question them but at the same time knew that this man had sharp senses. Potentially, sharper than mine.

“That’s right you shouldn’t have.” Dante glares. Asashin holds his glare and Zeanna remains silent. The tension that shifts between the two men is tremendous and I fear they’d attack each other. I’ve seen what Dante could do so I fear for Asashin. “Do you not realise who she is? The empress could have your head on a stick for everyone to see as an example of your incompetence.” Dante steps closer and Asashin holds his ground until they are mere inches apart their noses almost touching.

“The fact that you underestimate her bloodline goes to show your incompetence.” Asashin sneers. “There is a reason, an evolutionary reason, why the royals of our world are more powerful than those under command. It’s to ensure their power to lead. It’s to ensure the survival of our race. There are some who can’t fight and can’t protect themselves. The royals have the power to do just that and set an example for everyone to follow. There is no doubt in my mind she’d be fine should, ‘push comes to shove’. I had faith in her.”

“You cannot know that for certain. She doesn’t even have access to her heritage and you left her to fend for herself! She is as defenceless as a human!” Zeanna is between the two in an instant. She shoves them apart and harbours a deadly glare.

“Will you two knock it off!” she growls. “Sure she may not be able to access her powers anymore but it doesn’t mean she’s helpless, she’s managed to do just fine without us for years—on her own. I believe Asashin is right to have his faith place in her power but that doesn’t mean he is wrong to leave her there. It doesn’t mean it is right either. Asashin, you should also be aware that because of the Princess’s power enemies will find that threatening and will try and wipe her out especially in her time of weakness. Leaving her alone is careless. And Dante, I can understand your need to protect the Princess but I doubt Asashin would have let anything happen to her. He is here before we show up anyway. There is a reason why he’s her Knight.”

Dante glares and pulls away. Asashin remains rooted in place and regards Zeanna with a nod. Zeanna sighs, “Try and refrain from killing each other.” She regards Asashin with a taunting smile, “Our population has declined because of the war as it is. We don’t need two more unnecessary deaths.”

I turn from the two to find Dante before me. “Are you alright?” he asks.

“I’m fine. No need to worry.” I reassure.

The furrow of his brows narrow in concern. “I know but you are gone for weeks. We searched everywhere. The whole nation was out searching for you. You had us worry sick.” Images of the men dragging me out of my room plummets my mind, as does the sight of being hand over. Even the memory of the slaves and being one chilled me to the bone. I wonder if they knew. I wonder if they knew there are innocent people being harboured as slaves.

“How long exactly?” I ask, I had to know.

“Three and a half weeks.” The knowledge of this shocks me. There is no way in this world I could have been gone for three and a half weeks and not know it. And even if I am . . . what had happened in that time? Why couldn’t I remember? Is it because I was drugged or is it because I was unconscious? Or both. Though the last part doesn’t seem possible so my best educate guess would be, I may have been drugged. That horrifies me to know end. Dante I sense is a little concerned, “What’s wrong?”

I takes me all the courage I have to answer him. I knew that what I said next would not just define my fear but the underlining truth that may be true. “I can’t remember being out for that long. Better yet, it doesn’t even feel like I am gone for that long.” I notice Zeanna and Asashin’s expressions mirror that of Dante’s complete and utter shock. They no doubt consider the same conclusion I did. It is only to be expected, nothing else could possibly make sense.

No one said anything instead, we are all deep in thought for a while. No doubt figuring out what to do with this new information. Instead, I regard the group carefully and watch as Dante turn his heel, “Let’s go. It’s getting late. The others will be worried.”

“Others?” I question as I fell in line with them as we stride out of the alleyway.

“Varden and the SS team,” Zeanna announce as she mounts her horse. I notice it wasn’t an actual animal but a mechanical horse. It is steeling silver with bright glowing blue eyes. Dante mounts his and I notice Asashin doesn’t have one.

“SS team?” I ask wondering what exactly that was. I move over to Zeanna and she holds out her hand. “Sensory Scout team. They’re a branch of the Silver Order.” I took Zeanna’s hand and climb behind her. Dante pulls up beside us and offers a hand to Asashin. Asashin, glances at Dante’s hand before striding pass the gesture and mounting the horse without any aid. I internally smile as I realise there is a lot I could learn about these three. As we rode through the town, Zeanna and Dante are careful to guide the horses at a jog and we only venture down streets that had minimal to no people.

The Silver Order, a regiment within PASA a military organisation create specifically to unify this planet’s nations of Knights. The Knights here are like the soldiers on earth—the difference is these soldiers us swords and crossbows. Rarely did they use rifles and when they did. It is never a good sign or so I am told. I glance over Dante and recall all those times he informs me of this world’s military, technology, economy and politics. It is very different to earth but similar in the sense of security that is required. While earth had the supernatural hidden in the shadows, Nefelia had them crawling in the light some causing problems and others living in peace. PASA is created by the Unit Council, to protect and safeguard that peaceful existence for as long as possible.

It doesn’t take long before we stumble upon an inn. It is an inn that sits at the edge of the town. I don’t understand why it is so far from the centre of town. Given that, I is in the company of a squadron captain and its lieutenant I wasn’t going to question their strategy. Perhaps, Dante knew something I didn’t. As our horses race across the open fields, the afternoon wind picks up, breezing around us under the bright blue clear sky. Our horses soon pull up beside the stable outside the small inn. As I dismount the horse, I notice the sign of the inn which read ‘Traveller’s Adventure’ had beneath it a seven-point star with two markings angle under the star like guides, with one on the left and one on the right etch into the wood.

I wait for everyone to guide the horses into the stables, before directing us inside. The inn is large and spacious. It wasn’t a two story inn. It is an inn stretch across acres of land. Once inside, we head to the reception desk and I notice a blond hair man talking to a man behind the desk. As we entered, I not the familiar man turns around and smiles. “Hey guys, welcome back.” he greets before his eyes rest on me. “Kal-very-a?”

“Long time no see Varden.” I greet and realise that just may not have been the right thing to say. It wasn’t Varden that I had met back at the palace and he wasn’t conscious when we found him. So there is a high chance this is the first time—the real Varden has seen me. He stumbles towards me like he had seen a ghost. I notice his tan features pales at the sight of me as he got closer. All I could think of doing is smiling, even though I had no recollection of him. He took my hand in his. I notice he tremble a little as he did but smiles down at me.

“It has been a long time.” I could tell that smile of his is forced. For some strange reason, it bothers me. Dante and Zeanna shift around us. Dante passes the reception desk and head inside calling for Zeanna to deal with some paperwork. She growls a matter of obscenities before turning back to a cheerful receptionist. “How . . . how are you?” he asks. I could tell he want to ask something else but consider otherwise. I wasn’t too sure if that is a smart move or not but given he is nervous I decide to ease his discomfort.

“I’m fine,” I said, with a smile. I don’t understand why I smile. It is strange but oddly familiar. I wonder at this moment, is this man apart of the life that I couldn’t remember and if so—were we together or are we not or rather did we even have a history like that. My mind bound through all possibilities but I consider to not think too much about it in case I am wrong but I kind of hope not, he is attractive. Though, there is a high chance I would make him feel even more uneasy. So I knew I’d have to tread carefully if I want my memories back. The empress said it would be best to try and recall things on my own and to do that—I’d have to take every opportunity I could get. “How are you?” I ask and held out my hand, “My memory’s a little fuzzy at the moment. Nice to meet you.” He is stun for a moment and regards my hand curiously before nodding and accepting the greeting.

“Fuzzy memory, right.” He mutters with a smile. “Hungry?”

“Starving.” I don’t realise it until I said it that it is more often than not true. We meander our way pass Zeanna who notably said we’d meet up later. As we enter the dining room, I saw there is a man—the Chef to be exact handing out dishes and dishes of foods. The room is filled with people and I wonder where we’d be able to sit.

“Over there’s a good spot.” Varden point and I file after him, careful to not accidently brush up against the strangers I pass. To my surprise, they are all men.

“That’s strange.” I utter as we sit down.

“What is?” Varden inquires.

I glance around and notice that what I conclude earlier is the correct, there is no woman in sight. “Why aren’t there any women here?” I ask. “This isn’t like a gentlemen’s bar is it?”

“Not that I know of,” Varden announces but a little unsure of himself, as he glances around only to stop as a man with a digital notepad in hand saunter up to our table.

“What would you like?” he asked. His dark hair and eyes made his thick features seem smaller.

“Bread and soup,” Varden orders. The man did a once over and asked:

“And you?”

“The same please.” I smile. He enters it into his pad before turning his heel and fleeing. “Strange.”

“Try not to worry about it.” Varden offers and I nod. The same man came back with our orders and we began to eat. It wasn’t long after that Dante, Zeanna and the others arrived. There are five others I had yet to meet. I notice they wore armour similar to Dante’s and Zeanna’s. They sit at our table and I watch as those five strangers carefully eye me. Their expressions are blank but I believe they are contemplating what to do with me. After all, I would be considering nothing more than a civilian to them—regardless of what I knew I could do.

“So you’re the princess?” a man asks. His blue eyes like the rest remain plant on me. His skin is a darker shade than bronze, it made his eyes stand out. With a thick jawline and strong mouth, he reminds me of a tribal warrior. I not he had an accent too and wonder if he is from another part of Nefelia.

The female lean over the table and eyed me closely. The way she regards me would be the same way a scientist would examine a lab rat. It made me slightly uncomfortable. “She smells like a Nindo but she doesn’t look it with that dark hair and those dark eyes.”

“Enough,” Dante groans. “She takes after her mother.”

“Really?” they all turn in union and glance at a shock Dante. He sighs a breath later and nods.

“Her mother is from the islands in the Temorian sea. Her people would often have dark hair and eyes and darker skin tone. No offence of course.” Dante is quick to add in the last part. I shrug.

“No problem. I know you’re not being racist.” I evenly announce. And to my surprise, everyone relaxes. Including the man, who I identify is a few shades darker than me. I conclude he is a little concern he would offend me more than anything else.

 

6

Eye of the Storm

“Sometimes danger is when you least expect it.”

.....

 

I HEAR COMMOTION REIGNING FROM THE OPPOSITE END OF THE ROOM. I glance over to realise that everyone had stumbled upon the scene—their annoyance is evident as their frustration. “Say that to my face again!” a man barked, he is a head taller than the other and slightly stockier.

My eyes drift between the two, assessing the danger they possess. However, I am the only one in the room who consider those two men, a threat. Everyone else whistles and cheered, encouraging this brawl to begin. I notice the chef and the waiter evacuate. I am quick to regard Dante who sighs and continues to eat the food, the waiter had to deliver after the rest of the knights arrive. The remaining knights were unaffected by this sudden change in atmosphere. It wasn’t long before the man challenge warned, “I said, ‘be careful where you stand or you’ll get hurt’.”

Immediately, I recognise those dark eyes. “Asashin?” I question, gazing attentively at the man without the mask. With his pale skin and sharp cheekbones, he is attractive but didn’t think much of it as the next thing that happened, is something that would have caused me to cringe if I wasn’t use to fights.

“Are you threatening me?” the taller man demands as he steps towards Asashin who remains unbothered by his intimidation.

“No.” Asashin pauses, “I am warning you.” I feel the air chill a few degrees and glance over at Dante who sighs at the response while the others shake their heads.

“Oh dear,” Varden mumbles after he devours his dinner.

“What’s wrong?” I stupidly ask. I realise a moment later what he had meant. It is in that moment that Varden realises my error. That look Asashin wore is a familiar one I would wear at times. It is one of pure anger and I notice that the man, who measures up against Asashin, look as though he wants to walk away but is too proud to turn his tail and run. “Ooh.”

“And who are you to warn me?” I hear the stranger yell. The next thing that occurs, I don’t notice as my attention is pulled elsewhere. I feel my arm burn. Gazing down, I notice a black tattoo appear crawling along my skin but as I watch in horror I knew it wasn’t just a tattoo. It glows a deadly sunset red as it moves along my arm. It continues to burn and as I feel this scorching pain riddle through me. I notice everyone at our table stops what they were doing and regards me with concern. Even Asashin, I knew to watches me. The pain is searing throughout my arm in pulsing waves. Then in that heighten agony I heard it, ‘That man will die.’ As soon as it occurs the voice vanish as did the pain and I’m left panting.

“Kalverya?” Dante questions, the worry is evidently etching into his features. I continue to pant, glancing down at my wrist. I notice the tattoo had vanished.

“What on earth?” I mutter.

“Hey, are you alright?” Varden inquires. I couldn’t quite help but feel a little uncomfortable.

“I’m fine.” I declare. I sense everyone’s fear around me. It wasn’t something that bothers me that much, what did though is that man picking a fight with Asashin. I sneer over at the stranger and realise he didn’t notice. Instead, he is too focus on Asashin if anything else.

“Look at me when I’m talking to you!” the man bellows. I glance over at Asashin and see he is quick to move out of the way of the oncoming fist. I regard his next move in awe as he catches the stranger’s arm. The man is stunned and I see Asashin’s eyes and knew without a doubt he aspics. “What the—?” The man tenses to move his arm, only to be held firmly by Asashin and his taught grip. “What are you . . . a demon?” he asks.

“Maybe.” Asashin declares and twists. The man’s arm I hear a snap and he drops to the ground cradling it in pain. “Be careful of whom you pick a fight with, it just may be your last,” he mutters darkly over his shoulder and I hear Dante sigh once more.

“Well, at least he’s in a good mood.” Dante mutters.

“And what gave you that idea?” Zeanna replies with a coy smile.

“Oh you know . . . he didn’t kill him.” Dante mocks. I would have laughed if it is a different situation but given I knew without a doubt that I heard the sound of a monster in my mind pull the idea of humor far from my thoughts.

“Ha ha ha.” Zeanna exaggerates. “Very funny.”

“What?” Dante innocently queers. “It’s true. We’re lucky he didn’t decide to bring down this whole inn.” My mind is pulled from Dante’s conversation.

His emotions switched, I couldn’t understand what it is that causes his reactions but at the same time, I also knew that as Asashin gazed upon me that anger and frustration he felt, I can tell vanished. That fire was doused in concern. “Are you alright?” he asks.

I nod. “Yes.” I clear my throat and continue to devour my soup making use of the stale hard bread attempting to ignore all the eyes that stab at me. It wasn’t until later that evening after everyone had retired to their rooms that I sense something dangerous permeating the air. My curiosity peeks because for some silly reason—I feel as though it is calling to me. So out of my bed I climb and into the hall I enter. Sneaking past several knights who slumber. I open the door and leave it agape. I head down the hall and into the shadows of the courtyard.

The silence is deafening but the calling is all I could hear. As I stride through the open courtyard, I wander through the garden that lays in the center of this quad. Passing the various thick plants, shrubs, I saunter towards a small open white summerhouse. To my surprise, sitting in the shadows of the circular open summerhouse is a man. His face is shroud in darkness and I heard him grumble a laugh. “There you are. I was wondering when you’d come.” I am silent and begin to back away. “I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” I sense the presence of something behind me, peering over my shoulder I saw two largely built men. On Earth I’m used to having to dealing with such sizes, here, however, I knew there is more to the eye. They potentially had the super strength I didn’t quite accept until a few days ago when I saw Dante smash a stone under his fist.

“Who are you?” I ask.

I heard him gruffly laugh. “That’s not something you need to know yet. I just want to make sure my prize possession is well taken care of. You have no idea how much I miss you—princess.” I felt my blood run cold. My body involuntarily quiver and I felt my stomach drop. What is this sensation I am feeling?

“I’ll scream,” I warn. I knew without a doubt Dante and Asashin would come running.

He tsks. “There’s no need for that. I won’t harm you. You do enough of that on your own.”

“What do you mean?” I ask my curiosity peaking.

“I mean . . . ever wonder what had happened during that week and two days you were out?” he muses. “You were out of it for quite some time, for a human, it’s considered to be dangerous.” I hear him shift in the shadows and knew he crossed his legs. “But I know that wasn’t the case. You were never unconscious or drugged . . .” He holds a pregnant pause and I gasp in horror. “You, my dear endure something far worse and because of that—you’ll always be mine.”

“What . . . what do you mean?” I quiz.

“I don’t think you want to know but bear in mind—the life that is recently taken by my knight will impact your life for all eternity.” The temperature drops a few degrees and as the shifting evening breeze drifts through the courtyard it took with it the monsters that I knew would plague my mind. “Remember,” his voice whisper in the wind, “What has happened will without a doubt affect the future.”

It wasn’t long before I felt the presence of figures behind me. Peering over my shoulder I notice Dante and Asashin standing tensed behind me. In their Nefaliem form, they are concealed with gleaming scales and ready to fight. They hold unsheathed swords in hand as their eyes penetrate the darkness behind me. “What is that?” Asashin ask.

“It felt like a pawn.” Dante muses; his blue eyes gleam under the moon while Asashin’s black eyes pierce the darkness.

“I wouldn’t be surprised.” Asashin announces, “But why is it so powerful?”

“Not sure,” Dante announces. I feel it, the lingering pressure in the air and it is something that worries me more than what had happened. After my encounter with this person, I am aware that this person is meant to cause serious problems. “Why don’t we head back inside?” Dante offers. I nod only to freeze at the sight of a monster sitting on the roof above our room. It howls, towering like a giant wolf. Varden, Zeanna and the other knights race out of our share rent room. As they do, the building roof shatters under the wolf’s paw. I hear a siren ring out and like that many other travelers sprawl out of their rooms to glimpse the sight that would cause the piercing ring of the siren. “Zeanna, Theron, Limit, flank it.” Dante orders, “Asashin, Zero, Maria and I will distract it.” Dante peers over his shoulder and looks at Varden. “You. Stay with the princess.”

Varden nods and runs to my side. I notice, his right arm iPad in black armour, only his forearm while his right arm swap in black armour that looks as though it were crawling along his arms. “Stay back.” Varden offer. I nod.

“I can take care of myself.” I rebut. For some reason, I prefer Dante to stay with me but then again, I knew I couldn’t be all too picky.

Varden glares and retort. “I’m sure you can.” I’m a little taken back by that, as I didn’t expect to see this side of Varden. “Just deal with it. Dante’s orders.”

I rise a brow, “You take orders from Dante?”

“When it comes to my safety . . . and the safety of others I will.” Varden manages but for some strange reason I notice that his words were a little different than from how uncertainty he handles himself. I couldn’t help but question what is running through his mind but I knew now wasn’t the time to question what it is he is thinking. There were many things that wander through my mind but at the same time, I also learned that there is something more dangerous than the unknown and it is what is known. As my gaze return back to Zeanna and the other knights battling the wolf, I notice they were quick to kill. I’m shocked—this is not because of my lack of sight to death but rather it is the death of the wolf that bothers me. It is beautiful against the backdrop of the full moon.

I notice the wolf’s remains began to shy and wash away like sand against the breeze. It is a beautiful sight but as I gaze upon the sight I began to wonder and have wonder about this for quite some time but knew without a doubt that I am a target. “Varden?” I asked even though I didn’t trust him I knew I had to satisfy my curiosity. He silently regards me with an indifferent expression. “I’m not certain but things just may be worse from here on out.”

Varden’s debate to answer, “What makes you say that?” I glance up at the moon aware that the wolf has now vanished.

“It’s nothing I can stay right now,” I mutter.

“Then don’t bring it up!” Varden barks.

I notice Varden appear annoyed. I nod. “Sorry.”

Varden sighs. “There’s no real reason to apologize.” Dante and Zeanna are quick to descend the slightly ruin buildings. They hop over to us and I regard them with curiosity. Zeanna has something curl in her smaller fist which catches my attention.

“What’s that?” I ask. Zeanna opens her hand and reveals a green jewel. “Is that a jade?”

“No. It appears to be an Arthurian stone.” Zeanna announces. Dante and Varden, I notice gather around Zeanna’s hand they were both silent but I could tell by their expressions they are deep in thought.

“Really?” I ask. “What does that have something to do with that King Arthur myth from England?”

“Yes.” Zeanna holds up the stone at eye height and begins to scrutinise its existence. “The legend goes . . . there is a legendary king of England. Who wouldn’t be recognised as the rightful king of this kingdom unless he proves his birthright and pulls out the sword embed in the stone? The stone that this sword assembled in is supposedly created from dragon power—crystallize into stone. It is the reason why the stone couldn’t pull out by anyone else but the rightful heir because a dragon’s power even vestige from its remains can determine the biological makeup of any being. My guess is it must have been one of Merlin’s dragons.”

“So wait . . .” Varden begins, “You’re telling us that this stone is a legendary stone?”

Zeanna smiles over at him, “Kind of.”

“But that’s a legend. I’m quite familiar with Earthling stories as much as my world.” Varden proclaims.

“Really?” I ask curiosity gaining the better of me. Varden looks at me, than around, before looking at Zeanna. Zeanna places the stone in her utility belt and sighs.

“That’s enough for today.” she said, “I’m going back to b.” I notice Zeanna is quick to turn her heel and head inside our share accommodation without having to break through the collapsed ceiling or two. Leaving all three of us staring at her with stun expressions.

“Should we let her go in there?” I ask.

“I don’t really think it matters what we do. She’d go against it anyway.” Dante proclaims with a tired sigh.

“That’s true.” Varden mumbles. Everyone speedily follows after Zeanna while I stand staring at the garden house that once held that puppet man. Horrifyingly, I’m aware of the familiarity of that man.

The next day flew by rather quickly. We were on our way to Citadel City. We ride on horseback even though I knew there is technology in this world that would make the travel quicker, everyone declares it would be more economically friendly if they continue on the mechanical horses which I ascertain had some sort of engine which no doubt emits emissions. It took several days before we return to the Central Citadel, not long after, we head to the palace. I recall on the road Asashin and Zeanna decide it is time to continue the training that Juvias would do. In his absence, they step in where they saw fitting. Dante had mentioned at the time I would have to start from the bottom again if I want to be a part of P.A.S.A. “What if I don’t want to be a knight?”

His only response was, “You don’t have a choice.” When I return to the palace, I notice the empress is very formal. I notice she continues to wear the emerald of three worlds on her mid-cleavage. It sit sturdily as she took lead and glide down the halls and into an open meeting room.

“I see . . .” the empress declares as Dante reports the appearance of the wolf-like-beast several days back at ‘Traveler’s Adventures’. “It must have been a decoy of some kind.”

“That may have been the case. Its master, however, is nowhere to be seen.” Dante declares.

“I’ll have Smith send out an A.S.S squad, to find the master—hopefully, he hasn’t gone far. There’s a slight chance he may be connected to the recent attacks on the palace and the princess.” The empress declares as she climbs the stairs and comfortably sits on the throne, her eyes lingers over the lot of us before landing on me. “In the meantime, Kalverya will continue her training. She’ll need to pass the recruitment process to enter P.A.S.A.”

“Empress, I mean no disrespect but what if I don’t want to be a knight.” I formally declare.

Her eyes were sharp and in that moment I fear she could see through me to my very soul. “It’s not your choice to decide. Unfortunately, you were born from two powerful bloodlines and as an heir to a throne of advanced military capability and power. If you had regained your memories—you’d have known that.” The silence shifting through the room is heavy before she finally announced, “You’ll also be under twenty-four-hour guard.” With a wave of her hand, we were removed from the room. Her attitude annoys me and I can’t help but punch a wall the moment the guards had disappear.

“My lady?” Zeanna questions, I could hear the worry in her voice as clear as day.

“She doesn’t have to be like that,” I grumble. Soon, the pressure of a hand on my shoulder pull my mind back to reality. I glance over my shoulder at up at Asashin, he had his mask conceal and has had it on for several days now unless he ate or slept.

“Perhaps some sparring may ease your frustrations,” Asashin announces. I nod and soon after find myself on the outskirts of the palace grounds; Dante and Zeanna weren’t too far away according to Asashin they want to see my failings. Asashin stands a few feet from me, dressed in black slick scales. He’s removed his armour, his weapons, cloak and utility belt. “Ready?” I hold up my fists and nod. Asashin runs at me. With open hands as he begins to strike. I block a few but I’m surprised by how many strikes I do receive. Asashin is very fast, faster than Juvias and I knew without a doubt he is holding back—a lot.

However, every time I threw a punch my mind bounce back to the recent occurrences. That energy that I felt on earth is that same energy I felt a few days ago. The palace being attacked and apparently someone is murder. My kidnapping and the attack on the empress. The slaves and the dreams of wars. It is too much, and so much so that I felt Asashin’s open palm inches from my nose. I felt the wind of his force drift around me. “You’re not concentrating.” he identifies.

I relaxed, “No I’m not. A lot has happened.”

“Want to talk about it?” he offers.

I stand with my hands on my hips and shift my weight, “You want to talk?”

He shrugged, “If it makes you feel any better.”

I stare at the green grass as my mind began to turn. I felt the cool breeze in the air and felt the heat of the sun against my skin. I could hear the ocean in the distance smashing against the cliffs below and I could hear the sound of seagulls squawking overhead even though I knew they weren’t like the seagulls on earth. In this moment, I felt at peace. “On earth, I couldn’t remember who I am and where I came from but I could do things that no one else could do—so I use it.”—I clench my fist before me and relax as I stare at my hand—”I had to live. I had to survive so I end up doing things people would consider monstrous. Then I met Dante and he brought me here. I wasn’t too sure of his intentions so I am on guard. Then I learn new things and is a part of several bad things, not that really bother me—I’m us to it. Being in the type of job I am in—you’d have to be. You’d be surprised at the things other people would do to each other to get what they want. And because of that, I am a bit of a rebel.

“But now I’m on a planet I never knew exist with the same atmospheric pressure and composition that has made life possible. The only way I can tell I’m not on earth is by looking at the sky—there I’d always see two moons.”—I glance over at Asashin—”And by looking at the people around me. You have scales for skin but armour for protection. With advanced technology, you were able to minimize my injury to something that is non-existent. People are after me; I don’t know why but I have a feeling it’s connected to what I am rather than who I am. And that scares me. There are people on your world who are abducted, forced into slavery and wipe from existence. I want to do something to help them but I’m also afraid I can’t do anything. People here are stronger, more powerful and dangerous. Half of the time I don’t know what to do. Better yet, I don’t know what I should do but I don’t want to be kept in the dark either. I want to know more. I want to remember who I am better yet I want to remember who I was. And if, being a knight will bring back some of that which I’ve lost—then okay. I’ll try to become a knight.” Then I recall something very important, “I want to become stronger.”

Asashin is silent a little by the time I am done and only said one thing, “That is quick.”

“What do you mean?” I ask but I knew what he meant, it didn’t take me long to understand that the power of a Nefaliem Knight is something that could aid me in the most dangerous and impossible situations.

“Before you told the empress and Dante that you didn’t want to be a knight.” Asashin declares. “Why the sudden change?”

I had to think about that a little longer before answering, “When I am abducted, I am unconscious or drug. When I came to, I am surrounded by slaves and their handlers. I escape but I dream . . . or maybe they were memories but I am a part of a unit in a Jungle and we were shot by the enemy all of them di expect for me.”

“That is the Zeta mission,” Dante announce. “You were on the planet Sparta.”

I glance over at Dante and watch as he strode towards us. “What else do you know?” I ask.

“It’s classified.” he replies.

“Really?” I demanded, a little annoy.

“Why don’t we take her to Nerelda?” Zeanna announce. I glance over at her, she smiles at me and continued, “If the princess really wants to regain her memories than she’ll need to be shown who she is. Even though she hasn’t fully regained her memories.” I regard Zeanna and cross my arms, she should be careful. I thought.

“You think Nerelda will be able to bring back my memories?” I asked, not able to contain the hope in my voice.

“There’s a chance she might not be able to.” Zeanna declare. “The only reason I suggest her is because there is no one else I could think of that would be able to manipulate the memories of the past.” My blood froze.

“She can do that?” I asked, horrify.

“Nerelda is known to be able to do many things.” Asashin announced, “There is even a time when she is able to bring a person back from the dead.” It is those last words Asashin voiced, before Zeanna, Dante and Asashin drag me back to the palace in search of Nerelda. There is a chance according to Asashin she might not be in the palace. Then there is an even more likely chance she wasn’t going to be available at all to us. To my relief, we found her in the palace library on one of the higher levels. She threw herself over the balcony and slowly descend towards us, her blue gown flutter around her as she descends. Her blue eyes were locked onto my features as she smiles.

“What brings you here, my dear?” she gently asks.

I fear my expression read ‘apprehension’ so I force it into a blank mask. I notice Nerelda is quick to adapt accordingly. “I’d like you to return my memories to me.”

Nerelda is quiet for a long breath before she announced, “You know that I might not be able to do that.” Her eyes stand out against her dark skin as did her hair and crimson lips. Her sharp cheekbones complement her almond eyes batter in long thick lashes.

“I’m aware. But I figure I should at least try.” I announce.

Nerelda smile and nod. “Very well, this way.” It didn’t take long before Nerelda open portal in the middle of the large library. I peer over my shoulder at the others and saw they stands back. I glance at the portal than at Nerelda than back at them, wondering what it is I should do. “After you.”

I caught onto her humor and force a sarcastic smile and step into the portal. I steel myself for the unpredictable only to stumble into an open marble room; in the center is a square black sparkly box. As I inch closer I realise that wasn’t a box it is a hologram of some kind. “What’s that?” I ask.

“The universe.” I jump at the sound of her voice behind me. As I peer over my shoulder with a risen brow she curls a small smile.

“Are you serious?” I ask.

“Very,” she announces as she gilds over to the sight of the hologram. “Isn’t it remark? I can see everything, at any time and when I want to.”

“Isn’t that a breach of privacy?” I inquire. Nerelda raises her brows at my sudden question. This caught me off guard a little and I wonder if I should take back what I had said.

“My job is to make sure that ‘Serenity’ is situating where they are the most suit,” Nerelda announce. “And that means if I have to spy on many lives to save them—I will have to . . . but to a degree of course. Privacy is important.” she supplements and I smiled, aware she had added her opinion on privacy in my favor.

“My memories?”

“You do realise they don’t come back just like that, right?” she asks.

“I know.” I declare. She smiles a little and claps her hands. The sound of her clap reverberate around the room and the universe before we vanish. I regard her curiously and learnt that she is a woman of undeniable talent. The room around us changed, it is black. The only source of light that flutter through the room beam down from high above. Nerelda stands on the ground which glistens under the soft grey hue of the light. To my surprise but aim to not show it is the sight of her standing on black water.

“Don’t be afraid. I won’t hurt you.” With those words, I found my legs had moved on their own towards her until I stop her. She walks around me and I felt my legs lift off the ground, my first instinct is to use my arms to stop myself from falling only to realise I wasn’t falling but floating. As I glance up I notice the light overhead is from the sun in the distance. Around it were planets with rings, and colour gaseous planets, stars in the distance with light taking too long to reach us. It is a glorious sight. I saw Nerelda stand beside me, “I need to you relax. This is a difficult process. So whatever you see, whatever you feel. Try not react physically too much to it. You think you can do that?”

“I can try,” I confess.

“Good.” she walks around me until she stands at my head. “Let’s begin.” I felt her fingers brush against my temple before she adds a little pressure as she places her thumbs on my forehead and wrap her fingers around the back of my skull. “Close your eyes,” she orders and without any question, without any fear, I close them.

And wait for the darkness to engulf me.

 

7

The Doppleganger

“Don’t try and fight your demons, sometimes it’s what opens your eyes to much greater danger reality can face.”

.....

 

MY EYES SNAP OPEN, I find myself lying on the ground. I faintly hear a voice whisper, fluttering like a light echo. “Get up little princess,” I hear it say, “time to get up.” As my mind catches up to this reality I face. I realise that smooth deep velvet voice is from the blurry figure that stands towering over me. He drops down on one knee beside me and I notice his features become crystal clear. The first thing I notice is his pale skin and bright blue eyes like mine, next to his silver hair and silver scales.

“Who are you?” I ask as he pulls me to my feet, once my head stops moving.

“I’m known by many names.” he announces, “But you can call me Neragarden.”

I regard him a little more closely, examining his features with great detail. “Why do I know that name?” I ask.

“In due time, all will be revealed.” Now that didn’t sound cynical at all. “But for that to happen, you’ll be needing your memories back.”

“How did you know that?”

“It wasn’t hard. I could tell the moment you were tele-ported here, that you needed something and by the way your aura has changed I know you aren’t the way you’re supposed to be.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“Simple. There are beings in this world who are meant to be something. For example, Humans. They’re supposed to be Daunts of their galaxy for a reason. So they can expand and continue to grow and learn to accept difference and change before they are given their revealed their heritage. However, I see with you that’s stopped.” he easily announces, daring to shake a finger at me.

I regard it and ask, “What are you talking about?”

He sighs and my eyes drift to his face, “How about I show you . . . who you really are.” The white room around me fades away. I squeeze my eyes shut and bring up my arms to shield them from the blinding light. Immediately soon after, I hear the shrilling sound of war cries and agonising screams around me. I open my eyes and see several men and women, are burnt by the lava or run through by a blade. In the distance, I surprisingly hear the sound of firing bullets and peer over my shoulder to find Persians advancing on the Necromers—a species of shape shifters.

The Persians recently traded with Earth and managed to create their own firearms as well as gaining new forms of weapons. This worries me, if Earth is now trading with other races even though the government itself had no idea of alien existence than that must mean that there are secretive organisations of some kind calling the shots. I knew that was a bit of a stretch but I couldn’t exactly deny it. There is a strong possibility of it occurring and given the world that I’m now walking on—anything is possible. “This my dear is the Katana Plans.” Neragarden announces over the roaring war cries.

“It’s a war.” I call over the thrashing skirmishes.

Neragarden bubbles a laugh holding his cane in the air as he gestures at the sight before him, “Of course it is.” I regard Neragarden with confusion and watch as his gaze drifts from the battle to the volcano. The ground shook and the volcano began to erupt. I noticed, the battle began to stop bit by bit as everyone’s eyes turned to the sight of the volcano exploding. Everyone glanced at each other and sprinted down the mountainside. Several men and women were shoved aside while some where stampeded on. The heating wind whipped my hair around my features. I could feel my strands of hair, brushing against my face as I placed a hand over the bright burning light of lava that shot into the sky. I noticed that there was something within it. “This is going to be good.” Neragarden announces with a little too much enthusiasm.

In front of us, silver armoured individuals landed on the ground with a large crack, sending the ground beneath them into a dipped depression. The ground beneath all three of the figures was a crater. I glanced over my shoulder at the sight of the soldiers who didn’t manage to run away in time. Their faces were filled with shock and fear. They knew what happened. They knew just like I did, that the Nefaliem Knights shot out of the volcano. I wouldn’t surprise me; Dante did tell me there was nothing our Nefaliem form couldn’t handle our idol forms however was a different matter.

The Knights, pulled out their silver sterling swords from upon their shoulders. I regarded their silver flowing cloaks and regarded their black faceplates that concealed their features within a silver helmet. With their swords drawn and ready, they leaped several hundred feet over the distance that stretched between them and the last fallen soldier who was quick to pull himself to his feet and dodge the dead bodies at his feet. He glanced over his shoulder but I noticed it was all too late, the Knights surrounded him. One placed a sword at his throat. “Surrender. You cannot win this fight.” a female voice announced through a simulated voice synthesiser. It was something Asashin said he used when we first met—it was to conceal his identity.

The Necromer soldier spat at the female Knight. “Go to hell.”

“Then you leave me no choice.”

“Oh no—too late.” Neragarden announced with a hand covering his lips as if he did something wrong. Within the short amount of time I’ve come to know him. I was strangely aware of his odd personality. I regard Neragarden with obvious confusion. He isn’t a man that seems to enjoy death and destruction. Yet here he is, boasting about what’s going to happen before it even happens, almost as if it were a comedy show.

The Nefaliem woman jabs her fist into the Necromer and he stumbles back surprised. Blood pools over the brim of his lips, before he falls to his knees clutching his bleeding abdomen. I regard the blade that gleams under the sprays of magma shooting across the sky. It was smeared in blood but in an instant she retracted the blade from where it sat above her forearm armour. Her eyes I remember clearly landed on me.

I freeze, fearing she could see me. I knew she couldn’t because I know I’m not really here. It’s all in my head. It’s all a dream. “Is it?” Neragarden questions and I evenly eye him. A small smile smooths across his broad tanned features. Almost daring me to counter. I remain silent, aware of his intentions to play with my mind. I know I have enough problems on my own as it is so I knew that this wouldn’t do. “Aren’t you even curious as to what I had said?” he pushes.

“No.” I reply and turn my gaze back at the Nefaliem woman who continues to stare at me. Her gaze is heavy and I wonder what exactly she’s thinking. It couldn’t possibly be something about me—or so I’d like to believe. She eventually pulls away her gaze and I notice that they begin to leave. Several moments later, once they had disappeared from my sight I hear clearly the sound of shuffling feet beside me. There a man stands concealed in a torn cloak. I recall this man for some reason. I know without a doubt that if I were to gaze at the concealed face of this man I would see what I fear I would see. Missed matched eyes and a jagged scar. “Who is that?” I ask Neragarden.

To my surprise he answers, “That is an assassin. You’ve had several encounters with assassins both of which are good and bad.” As the assassin moves forward. I see Neragarden move his hand as if he’s waxing a car and like that, the assassin freezes in mid-walk. His body appears to frazzle a little almost like a connection was temporarily lost. “Why is he here? Can you remember?”

I nod, “I can.” I move from the where I stand and walk around the frozen assassin. His missed matched eyes stare on ahead and I notice that his face isn’t completely concealed. It’s his head which is . . . his features are exposed, giving me a perfect view of the scar that covered his lips. “Yes. He’s the man that shot down a Knight.” I gasp at the realisation that dawns in on me like a drifting sunrise.

“A Knight?” Neragarden questions.

“Yes. It was a Knight. He shot down a Knight.” I repeat, shocked at the conclusion I had drawn.

“Which Knight?” Neragarden asks.

I glance at the after the Knight that disappeared down the mountain side. I know I could never forget her after all, her features were burnt into my mind. She saw me than she left, so I wonder… “Can anyone see us?” I ask.

“No.” Neragarden confirms. Good to know. I think as I begin to walk after the Knight. “Where are you going?” he asks.

“To warn her.” I announce. Neragarden doesn’t argue and follows after me. It took a good half-an-hour of walking before we stumbled upon another skirmish between Necromers, Persians and the Nefaliem. There were only three Nefaliem and they are holding up their own and so much more. There is nothing else that could question my doubt in the power of my people. The Nefaliem I notice were fighting the opposing soldiers but not killing them. Instead, they shackled their arms and legs with these green energy braces that wrapped around their wrists and ankles. There’s an energy chain that connects the wrist braces to the ankles. So those who tried to run couldn’t but others began to wiggle away and the Nefaliem woman who rounded them up noticed a woman commando crawling along the ground. The Nefaliem woman moves over to the Persian woman and stabs the blade of her sword into the ground beside the neck of the Persian woman who freezes as the steel nicks at her neck, drawing blood.

“And where do you think you’re going?” the Nefaliem woman asks with a smile gracing her blood red lips. The two other Knights I note were male and began to pick several men and woman up before hauling them over their shoulders. A portal conjures in the centre of the group of alive but restrained soldiers. “You’re under arrest for treachery against the United Council.”

“There was no treachery.” the Persian woman announces. Her black hair unravels from beneath her blue and gold helmet which I noticed was shattered at the front. Her tanned features were foreign but beautiful. “We were only doing what you wouldn’t. Eliminating those shifters for their crimes.”

“You don’t make that decision.” the Nefaliem woman informs. I note at the corner of my eye that the assassin stands at the opposite end of the battleground for a stagnant moment. He saunters passed the shackled men and women; and towards the female Knight who I notice is alone. With the portal closed she can’t leave. I have a feeling I recall this so I turn over my shoulder and in the distance I see myself stationed on a horse in the distance. My silver hair blows in the wind behind me as my blue eyes narrow at the sight. My forehead had a seven-point star and two claw marks on each of my cheekbones. I look fierce in the distance but I also knew that I was trying to reason this situation. I recall that I wondered what part of PASA she worked under and if that man was a threat.

“Neragarden.” I say and look at him. “We have to do something.” Neragarden is quiet and I recognise the blank expression masking his features.

Within moments, the sky cracks and I look up to see that the assassin isn’t what I expected. He wore black armour and fiercely battles the Knight in the air. He can fly? How? Is he of energetic origins? I think as I gaze at the sight.

He continues to battle the knight and I fearfully stare at the sight. I glance over my shoulder and see in the distance me. Sitting high on a white horse. My eyes drift at the sight and I remember this scene—I remember this fight. I knew what was going to happen. I was going to dismount the horse and I watch as I do exactly that. I dismount the horse and I remember I whispered in the ear of my horse telling her it’ll be okay that I’d protect her. I see she whispers into the horse’s ear and moves over to the battlefield, moving over the incline in land and towards the troops tied up. I remember, I knew that these soldiers were in trouble—I remember the debrief I had before I departed on my journey to transport the relic I carried.

I stand not too far from the other me. The wind picks up and I find it surreal that I’m staring at myself. My light grown golden skin, seems paler under this sun as my blue markings on my face seem to glimmer. It’s the scales that make up the markings on my face, which makes them gleam as they do. It happens with all Nefaliem. I glance at the battle raging on overhead. I notice that the other me doesn’t do anything, instead she just stands there watching the fight. The female Knight’s silver hair flows down her back, gleaming under the sunlight. I notice that the Knight fighting the assassin is sent down to the ground with a kick and collides against the earth sending debris of stone flaring up. She slides along the ground cracking it and creating a small dent in the ground from where she skids along.

I notice at my feet of the other me, she’s unconscious. The other me was angry with the at her feet the knight at rest. I glance up at the assassin and see that I draw out my sword. The assassin remains air bone, his cloak flows effortlessly around him and I glare at the sight. I remember what I’m going to do; I’m going to battle him.

I see that the other me gathers energy. The dirt around my feet begins to rise and I notice the hair of the other men and women rising as does mine. I feel the pressure and the power of my heritage flowing through my veins. It makes the hairs on my idol arms rise and my back rudder a shiver as I watch my power unleash. As I glance at the sight, I knew without a doubt, I merely grazed the reality of my true power. The assassin, I notice backs away but it’s too late. I’m already behind him. He’s quick to draw his dagger but shock moulds his features as I block his attack with my hand. “Too slow.” I remember I say.

I twist his arm and bring my leg up where my foot connects with his head, too quickly for him to block. The pain I’m certain may would have gotten the better of him but he still attempted to block to my surprise however the other me doesn’t seem phased. That and I’m certain the pain may have gotten the better of him. He is knocked to the side, his head moves to the right as I delivered my blow and was surprised when that man opened up his ribs. Big mistake and I know what I’m going to do next. Bringing down my leg, I reposition it and slam my armoured shin against his ribs and I swear I heard several bones crack. He screams out in pain and begins to gasp for air. I stare at what is happening. He’s dying and I’m letting him. “Don’t interfere.” Neragarden warns.

“But—” I begin.

“There is a reason why some are allowed to kill by law. They are often the ones who can determine a person’s threat level the moment they see them. You’re one of them.” He announces and I stare at him shocked by what I had heard.

“I am? Really, why is that?” I ask, “It’s not because I’m a part of the royal family is it?”

Neragarden shakes his head, “No it’s not because of that.” The scene changes once again and I stand in a meadow. The long grass graces my scales and I feel the cool warm air of the bright sunny day. I glance around Neragarden is nowhere to be seen. There on a horse in the distance I see a man and he’s heading for the tree line and on the edge of a cliff, I see someone standing there. I don’t have the first clue as to what to do so instead, I improvise and follow after the man on the horse.

After some time, I find myself at the edge of a tree line. There the man dismounts his horse and I watch as he ties the horse to a post outside of a small cottage near the edge of the cliff. Below the cliff is a stretch of land covered in trees and more trees. Standing at the end of the cliff is me. I notice the man saunters over to me. The other me turns around and wraps her arms around his neck and delivers a lengthy kiss. She transitions into her idol form, her human form and whispers something to the man. He nods and she leaps, into his arms. He’s sturdy and turns around to carry her back to the cottage. I freeze at the features of the man. “Varden?” I whisper in shock.

He kicks open the cottage door and in we go. The door closes and I have a very good idea of what is going on behind those doors. I turn to leave than, bang! The cottage explodes and I drop to the ground. Fearing the shrapnel would hit me.

 

Nerelda,

Kalverya has been in the memory retrieval state for a few hours now. I feel the presence of another person and I know, without glimpsing a look, who it is that’s behind me, “Neragarden.”

“Shouldn’t you be calling me Lord Neragarden?” he muses as he moves beside me.

I couldn’t help but smile at that unjustly truth. I turn over my shoulder and glimpse the king of the angels. “What brings you here?” I ask and return my attention back to Kalverya. I knew without a doubt, if I harness my energy around her mind in high dosages I could kill her and if under, I could ruin her mental wellbeing.

“Kalverya’s memories are a little disjointed,” he announces.

“I know.” I remark. “Hopefully, it won’t affect her too much. After all, we still need her to regain her power. It’ll make it easier to deal with the oncoming Grattican invasion.”

“She and her grandmother are the only ones who can protect this world and everyone on it.” Neragarden announces. “It’s a shame Prador had only one child and that bloodline remains pure through the Nindos. Then again, this kind of power shouldn’t be tossed around,” he declares.

“As usual, you are right. All havoc would break loose if everyone had the power she possessed and yet she doesn’t even know it.” I say.

“It’s the reason why Dante’s mission was so important.”

“Yes, the survival of our species, rests on her shoulders.” I grimly announce, aware that the truth stings my tongue but I don’t care, instead I focus on Kalverya and the task I need to accomplish in order for her to do what she’s expected to do.

 

Kalverya,

The explosion flings me against the bark of a nearby tree. I feel my lungs agonisingly burn. The cottage blisters in flames and I stare at the crackling popping sound that graces my ears. I see through the smoke and the flames. I notice through the smoke and the flames is a shield. It’s transparent but the fire brushes against the shield before jumping over it. I see that Varden and I are safe. Then, not too far away there’s the sound of a released rocket. I turn my attention to the sound. The rocket launches towards where Varden and I stand. Varden covers his face and I hold the barrier firm. I notice the rocket explodes, smoke and dust cloud my vision and I see that Varden and I are safe.

Glance at where I see the presence of another person. I regard the sight in fear. This person is dressed in black. I notice his hair is all black and falls down to his waist. The sight of this worries me but I can’t help but be aware of the truth that faces me. I’ve been attacked and the chances are high—he’s after the prince. How I knew that was something I’m not certain about but I also knew that this couldn’t be good.

The scene shifts and changes right before my eyes. I’m in a room where I see myself talking to the man in black armour. He removes his helmet, and I notice that I lock my arms around his neck and kiss him. The question is when did this happen? The man’s face is concealed but I get the feeling I knew him from somewhere. The scene changes and I’m standing in front of what appears to be a castle—under siege.

I regard the war cries if fear. What’s going on? When did this happen? I question as I stare at the sight of yellow, orange and blood red. The colours of pain and suffering. I smell the scorching scent of burnt flesh and smell the coagulated blood around my feet. I gasp at the sight and stare in horror at the sight of the castle under attack. I’m on a different planet I can tell but I’m unsure which one. A volley of arrows reins high above and I turn over my shoulder to see a battalion of horses racing towards me. I turn my heel and run; what I’ve learnt from being in this ‘recollection state’ is that things in here can hurt me. I bound my way over the dead corpses, dead horses, pot-holes and spears or weapons sticking out of the ground. I hear the sound cling, cling, clang! I look up and I see I’m flying in mid-air, deflecting the arrows with my forearm guards. I regard the sight in wonder and fear and watch as I drop down against the ground with my outstretched heel.

The ground beneath my feet shatters and the earth is cracked, it zip-lines along the ground and along the wall of the castle. One side of the castle collapses and the other remains sturdy. I whip out my broadsword and I watch myself use my super-speed and move towards the top of the wall. I continue to run as fast as humanly possible feeling the rush of the horses gaining on me but soon after; I feel myself being pulled, I gasp and find myself at the top of the castle walls. From high above, I can see an army with an insignia that is familiar I can’t remember where I’ve seen it before but I can tell it’s something buried within my memory.

“Stand down.” I hear myself say. I follow the sound of the voice and see several feet from me, is me. I’m staring up at a man who stands on the tumbled yet stacked remains of the wall. He’s dressed in black and red armour, with a red cloak flying about him. I see that, he’s intimidating but elegant and proud. In the setting sun, I can tell by the contrast of our colours that we were enemies. “You cannot win this fight.”

“Really? And who are you to declare otherwise?” he prompts and I notice I’m quick to whoosh across the distance that separates me and the man, I soon realise that the battle is over as my sword slices through him, severing his head which rolls before my feet. I stare the sight—sure I’ve killed on earth and sure I’ve taken heads but to see that I’ve done it before I lost all my memories shocked me into the daunting realisation that I’ve been doing this a very long time. So the sight of this; shouldn’t be so surprising yet at the same horrifying time—it is. “You’re no queen. Not yet.”

“You’re right, I won’t be crowned empress not until I’m the last heir standing.” I declare and unsheathe my sword I notice didn’t summon on my back but rather sat there. That blade I realise looks different—it’s not like the blades I’m used to dealing with.

“Than how is the empress, the empress?” the man questions.

 

“You know exactly how, Lux.” I proclaim and watch as the man regards me for a moment longer, he unsheathes his sword and I notice, I can’t help but scowl at the sight of him.

The scene shifts once more and I find myself standing at the edge of a ledge. I glimpse to the left and I see myself again, this time I’m patting a large blue dragon streaked in silver and silver blue wings. I see it’s hair is also silver and it’s cladded in armour. “Is that a dragon?” I mutter, wondering if I’m imaging things.

I saunter over to the dragon and I hear myself mutter, “It’s about time we met.” She declares turning over her shoulder to stare me dead in the eyes. I jump at the sudden attention and I can’t help but regard her with wonder. “You look shocked. Don’t be. This is a normal process for a Nefaliem who has lost his or her memory.”

I continue to pat the dragon who purrs under my touch, the other me however, stands staring at the beautiful sight in wonder, “What’s its name?”

“It’s not an it, it’s a he and his name is Marquith.” I look into the eyes of the dragon and I see better yet feel as though he’s talking to me. I can’t quite place it but it’s there and it’s faint. I regard the sight of the dragon once more before I feel something warm wrap around me. I notice now my hand is in—my hand—the other me. “Don’t forget who you are.” I say and disappear. They fade away with smiles on their faces. I turn back to the light and I wake with surprise as my eyes open to find Nerelda and Neragarden.

“Welcome back.” Nerelda welcomes, “Do you remember anything?” she asks, her eyes glancing over at Neragarden.

“You can tell us if you can’t.” Neragarden asks.

“I remember.”

 

8

Recollection

“This is nothing compared to what will await for us on the other side.”

.....

 

STARING AT THE LIGHT OVER HEAD, I could faintly see a woman staring down at me—with two blue claw markings and a seven point star on her forehead, beside the star are small swirls—a reminder of her imprisonment and the sealing curse of her power. I regard the sight with wonder. “Nerelda, do you see her?” I ask, aware I’m seeing someone I thought I’d never see . . . her. Her silver hair fans out around her as her blood red lips smile down at me and her bright blue eyes regard me with wonder and humour.

“See what child?” Nerelda questions as she glances up at the ceiling. Neragarden however, smiles at my reaction. I knew he knew. It was confirmed by the way his eyes landed on me. He knows. I think as I smile at him. He brings up his finger and calls for a ‘shh’ I smile and turn to Nerelda.

“I remember.” She smiles at me.

“It’s about time—it’s been three millennia since you’ve been home.” she declares with a smile and I feel my body hover. I tell my mind to move my fingers and at first they feel heavy. I don’t know how but every part of my body is frozen while my head is able to move.

“What’s going on?” I question beginning to panic.

“Relax, you’ll tangle your energy if you keep that up!” Nerelda growls as I thrash around before her words could register in my mind I feel a sharp pain rip through my entire body. I shriek at the pain before faintly crashing to the ground.

Nerelda,
“Goodness that child,” I mutter, placing a hand against my face I slowly yet remorsefully … shaking my head. After a moment or two of that repetitive motion; I regard Neragarden who quickly dashes to her side and places a hand on her head. He transfers his energy to her and she begins to wake. I regard her for a moment and can tell she’s not entirely conscious. She closes her eyes and drifts off into a deep catatonic sleep.

“This isn’t good.” Neragarden announces. I take heed in his words, he’s right it’s not good. It’s one thing to have your memories suppressed but when she wakes up she may not be the same as she once was before and I take note of the fear masking his features. He’s worried about the young princess as am I but I also know that there is no time whatsoever—as the invasion is almost upon us.

Kalverya,
I run down a dark hallway, I can hear my breath heave as I continue to sprint at top speed in my idol form. I hear them, they’re closing in behind me. I slip around a corner and plant my back against the wall, feeling it’s cold contours. I’m silent for a moment before I begin to panic. I glance down at my wrist and see ‘Courten metal’ is trapped around my wrist, it’s the type of metal that allows Nefaliem to not be able to use their energetic majic, strength or speed, it’s flattened against my skin. I attempt to pry it off but my fingers can’t pull it off. I feel my nails graze at the metal and my skin and I frustratingly growl, “Shit.”

I peer around the corner and notice the coast is clear—so I make a break for it. I dash down the hall and turn left, the opposite direction my pursuers ran. I anxiously take a peek over my shoulder every now and again as I wind my way around corners and down old corridors. I come out into a forest, it’s night-time and I see the full moon through the canopy above. The air is cool against my heated cheeks. I feel myself pant, “They’re not going to catch me.” I hope as I enter the forest.

It’s been a few hours now and no one has notice my escape. As I venture through the forest, I feel fallen dead leaves at my feet, the crunch and the forest twigs crack under my feet. Feeling a depression in land I begin to stumble down it before I run right into a tree and lean against it. I’ve been running for almost an hour now and in my idol form—that’s a very long time. I have no choice, there’s no other option, I have to keep going.

No matter how much pain I feel, no matter how much anger I feel, no matter how much sadness. I will take my vengeance on these men. I will find out who they are and where they’re from—I’ll even make sure their superiors don’t get away with what they’ve done. I have no choice but to. I glance over my shoulder and disappear into the darkness of the forest.

Several hours later, I find myself sitting at the base of a tree, nodding off. The darkness, is silent but I can see the morning on approach before me. Through the trees, I see long grass that sways in the wind, it’s tall enough so that it’ll brush against my chest when I saunter through it. Though through the grass I see a man in white staring at me. He’s found me, he’s known I’ve been here for quite some time now there really was no more reason for me to run. Using his energy, he transports himself in front of me and I remain like a coward on my knees. I know what he’s going to do to me—it’s a renown punishment for escapees.

By the time I’m dragged back to the prison, I’m dumped in a metal container also lined in ‘Courten metal’. I hear clicking then crackling and soon enough, the container begins to heat up and electricity runs through it and I scream in anguishing pain. The electricity isn’t high enough to cause death but it is high enough to cause excruciating pain. By the end of it, my throat is raw and my body is weak. They drag me back to my cell and dump me while I lay on the ground staring up at the dirt on the ground. Several moments later another man in white suit comes and stops at my cell.

With little no energy I force my eyes to rest on his blurry figure. I make a note of his voice and hear him grumble a laugh, “To think that her majesty lady Kalverya of Nefelia is my prisoner. Is at my mercy. No matter how strong you think you are you’re just another weakling woman.” He enters my cell with a sword in hand and I know what species he is: he’s a ‘Sonica’—a species with above speed and strength of Spartans but they’re not stronger than the Nefaliem. So to have me like this is disturbingly disgusting.

He stabs the sword into the ground milimetres from my cheek. I don’t flinch there’s nothing that this man has done that could cause me to run in fear. I’m a war prisoner and because of that my punishments are ten times worse than the average prisoner who has committed the felony of murder. “I’m going to make you suffer to the point that I’ll break you.” he whispers with a rotten smile.

“Go ahead do it.” I mock, “No matter what you do or what you say. I’ll remember you and I’ll hunt you down—no matter how long it takes no matter where you run. I’ll prove to you that there are just some women you can’t fuck with.” I warn as I stare at him towering over me through my dirty knotty hair. His boot makes contact with my side and I groan at the pain. As he continues to strike I begin to block out the pain subsiding all around.

I notice the pain stops and I come to. I see his sword is tracing along my body before it moves to the hem of my dirty mid-thigh dress. I’ve seen how he eyes me and it disgusts me but I wait and watch. “I know how I can make you scream.” He whistles and another two men come in. I know what’s going to happen and I can’t let it happen. This is what I recall Dante saying when my aristocrat guardians aren’t around I’ll be on my own.

I notice both men hold my arms and the other man goes to climb on top of me but in one move, I kick him square in the groin and bring up both my legs to smack quickly both men in the head. They release me and I roll to my side before standing on my aching tired feet. I watch as they pull themselves to their feet and rush at me. I’m exhausted but I begin to battle for my life where each punch, each kick has all my energy all my power put into it. I don’t know how I did it—I don’t even remember doing it but all I know is these monsters are at my feet. I take the keys and exit my cell, tossing the keys into the next cell of a man who is another war prisoner, quickly scurries for them and manages to unlock his cell before unlocking the rest of the cells.

I didn’t think that man would be selfless enough to do that after what he and I endured, it’s amazing. I guess in a sense we still haven’t lost our compassion for the world even though it may have for us. I make my way passed the cells and I hear footsteps on approach, I feel my small amount of energy giving me the strength I need, it’s the adrenaline coursing through my veins that has awakened that small amount of energy that I need to be able to walk out of here alive. I see the guards run at me with rifles in hand and I run at them and leap, I spring into the air and lock my fingers into the stone ground and lift.

The ground becomes uneven and I realise that I need more energy as it is extinguishing and fast. I regard the sight in utter concern but I leap over the wave in the cement I had created and run pass the soldiers, I feel one grasp my leg, I fall face first onto the ground not expecting for all of them to still be conscious.

“She’s only in her idol form how is this possible?” a man calls and I lift my hand. He’s sent several hundred feet into the air and I smile. I let him drop and he doesn’t move.

Three days later,
Kalverya,
I wake with a blistering headache. Forcing my eyes open, I gratefully see that the world around me is shrouded in darkness. I glance to the right of me and eye the room, with a glass panel. I move my legs and see in the transparent reflection, they’re my leg also moves. I groan at the pain throbbing through it and before I know it, something flashes behind my eyes for an instant and it was of a man with black hair and blue eyes.

He’s name was: “Altair.” I whisper.

I groan under the pain and force myself to sit up. Each and every muscle in my body screams at me to stop but to my annoyance I don’t. I continue to push myself until my back sits nestled against the backboard of my large bed. I hear doors open and in the distance I see a short silver haired woman. Her scales are concealed in traditional Nefaliem clothing of wraps and shawls while her waist is revealed. I wonder at that than I remember the bands wrapped around her arms. She’s a maid. “You’re awake my lady.” She smiles and saunters over to me with a warm bowl of water in hand. “I was afraid you weren’t going to wake up.”

“Really?” I ask.

“Yes.” she replies and smiles. She pulls back the bedspread and asks, “How are you feeling?”

“A bit sore.” I confess.

“That tends to happen when your energetic channels have been knotted and stunned.” she explains and I nod, recalling the excruciating pain and then nothing; soon I realise that I blacked out from the pain. How pathetic.

“What’s your name?” I ask.

“Eva.” she states. “Would you like to stand?” I nod and Eva helps me out of bed and I awkwardly use her as a post to lean against. For her small frame she’s very sturdy. I take note of my golden brown skin and watch as I see transparently blue scales. I glance at Eva and wonder if she’s seeing the same thing I am. “That’s called ‘fixation’ it’s when a Nefaliem body restores its energetic majic but it’s also formally known as: Torpor.”

“Really?” I ponder.

“Yes,” she says. “It allows a Nefaliem to be protected from the external environment for however long it takes until their energy levels are restored.”

“Wow, that’s cool.” I grin and she smiles at my comment. We do exactly that for a couple of hours talk while I walk through the pain. My body aches and screams at me to stop but I couldn’t I knew that the more I tried the better I’ll be. Once my muscles begin to strengthen, I’m sent outside where I meet my grandmother, I see she’s not dressed in a gown but instead, her blue scales and combat armour. I curiously regard her, “What are you doing?”

“Doing what needs to be done,” she replies and summons a sword in hand. I see the energy gather from the environment and can tell her summoning technique is a little different to mine. She creates weapons from around her while I on the other hand, create them in my central core from years and years of training.

“And . . . what exactly is that?” I question as I glance at the woman I remember as my grandmother. I have this belief that she’s going to attack me and if she does I don’t think I can defend myself. I have a strong habit of not fighting back when my loved ones insist on sparring with me which is a problem because one day—the person I cared for most and knew everything about—betrayed me.

She leaps at me with a sword in hand and calls, “You’ve neglected your training!” Instantly, I summon a sword of my own known as ‘Prevail’. It’s a sword marked in an ancient Nephulian language that has accompanied me in many wars, battles and hellish skirmishes. I deflect the attack my grandmother delves out. “You’ve neglected your duties! You’ve neglected your title and what it means!” she growls and I begin to realise that she’s angry at something else but I can’t quite place at the time as I’m trying not to be killed by a woman who seemed several days ago, so gentle. “You’ve even neglected your men and women who’ve served under you!”

“I’m sorry!” I apologise as I manage to dodge the large sterling silver sword which is also engraved with an ancient language. She continues to leap at me with the intent to kill and I dodge as much as possible.

“If you’re truly sorry than you’ll fight me like the warrior you were born and bred to be.” she enunciates as she charges at me this time I feel something snap within me. She had no idea what I went through. I bring up my braces and I block her sword with both of my wrists, a loud clang rings around us and I notice that everyone observing us can sense the change in me as does my grandmother but she merely scowls at me.

“How dare you.” I growl. “You have no idea what I’ve been through.”

She pulls away from me and relaxes her arm, leaving her sword pointing to the dirt ground beneath us. “You are a warrior. You are a woman better yet you are a child of the Nindo clan. There is nothing that will not or attempt to will not happen to you. Many fear us and as a result we are always threatened. Our people,”—she gestures to the people surrounding the ring—”Have been through hardship too but that’s why we’re here that’s why we can’t disappear. I don’t care what you’ve done while you were gone but as long as remember who you are. You will not sink to that pit again. Your teachings are not to be abused.” I notice she holds her ground. Her tone is firm and her shoulders are locked. “Am I understood child?”

She knows. I think. I glance down at the ground than to the clear blue sky. I realise she isn’t speaking to me as her granddaughter but instead as a ruler—as the Empress she is. “I understand, your majesty.” I bow and turn my heel and leave the sparring ring. Several hours later I find myself, laying on my bed and staring at the ceiling. There isn’t much that I can do—I could always practice but I’ve been given strict orders to allow my body to recuperate after the shock it received as my energy channels could be blocked.

I hear knocking at my door, I pull myself from my bed and saunter over to it. When I pull open the door it’s not a maid I see but rather Dante. “What are you doing here?” I ask.

He holds up a bag, “Here.” I cautiously regard it, “I promise it’s not poisonous.” he jokes but he also knows it’s the actual reason why I’m cautious. Someone in the past has tried to poison me. So there’s no surprise there—I guess. I don’t even remember doing anything wrong to deserve such a deathly sentence. Even so, that was years ago, I take the bag in hand and peer inside, I haven’t seen a bag like this since 2016 Earth. I pull out what makes my mouth water:

“No way.” I whisper in utter disbelief, brimmed in beaming happiness.

“Yes way.” he states. His eyes are dark and I can tell there’s something different about him something different there that causes my stomach to somersault. I tuck a hair behind my ear and offer for him to enter, “Are you sure?” he questions with a risen brow.

“We’re only going to talk.” I say. He freezes on the spot with a risen brow.

“You’re in your Secondary Form there’s no way we could . . .” I trail off not wishing to finish that sentence. Dante laughs and enters the room.

“Little princess I had no idea your mind entered the gutter.” he teases. I glare as I pull out two raw brownies. I smile at the sight, ignoring Dante’s comment but internally I smile.

“My mind hardly wonders to the gutter dear sir. I’m a lady after all.” I tease in a posh tone before bursting out laughing. Dante doesn’t hesitate to sit down on the small sitting area, that I have in my majestic room.

“Of course madam.” he bows before sitting down. I laugh and join him on the adjacent couch.

“Why is it that I feel better when your around?” I ask out loud. Dante’s silent for a moment, I glance down at my wrist realising it’s bare. I regard Dante’s and note he’s not wearing his armour—after all there’s no need for it in the palace but sometimes it can be worn depending on what dress code we’re required to wear. Since he’s not at any formal setting there’s no need for him to wear his armour.

“Maybe because I’m awesome,” he says with a cute smile. I can’t help but giggle at the look on his face. It’s literally too cute—not that I’ll voice it out loud. I’ll try and keep that to myself if I can. “And you know it.” He winks at me and I’m stunned I’ve never seen Dante like this before it’s kind of refreshing but at the same time a little scary.

I can’t help but laugh and that’s how we continued that evening. We laughed, talked and laughed some more until it was time for him to leave. Something I instantly regretted. He smiles at me and it isn’t until I find my lips against his do I realise what’s happening. I pull away, “Don’t you dare say you’re sorry.” he grumbles.

I smile, “Okay.” His nose brushes against mine and I feel the undeniable urge to pull him closer but I feel his arms loosen around me before they completely detach from me.

“Goodnight, princess.” He declares with a kiss upon my hand.

“Goodnight.” I close the door behind me after I watch him disappear down the hall. I turn my attention to the balcony left open. I regard the sight and there in the shadows of my room is a man. It appears to be that same man I saw earlier. I feel my body tense and my energy levels rise to transform.

“There’ll be no need for that. I haven’t come to harm you—just yet.”

“Who are you?” I glare beginning to realise that this isn’t the first time that I’ve seen him.

“The fact that you don’t remember me hurts me. Surely you can tell who I am by the sound of my voice.”—He’s right his voice does sound familiar, the question is where do I know it from—

“Who are you?”

“I’m someone you already know.”

“How so?” I interrogate, I know the routine for this and I know that I need to keep him talking—pull as much information from him as possible. Though the look in his eyes, says that he already knows what I’m up to.

“You’re as clever as always,” he declares and I notice he holds a sheathed katana though the design is a little different it’s not like the katanas on earth but rather Nefelia. It’s almost like this person is . . .

“You’re a Nefaliem.” I gasp at the shock.

“And what gave you that idea,” he says as he stands from my chair in the corner hidden behind a thick curtain that hides an alluring pale full moon, that filters through the window. I regard the man cautiously and wonder what it is he wants. “Don’t fret, princess. Like I said I’m not here to harm you—not just yet anyway. I’ll wait for that later—” He’s cut off when my door bursts open and I regard the sight of Dante in full armour and a rifle. He’s pointing the weapon at the intruder and I back way from the intruder and towards Dante.

“Are you okay?” he asks as he closes the distance between us.

The man laughs, “Isn’t this sweet. You’ve actually moved in on her. Or rather planning to.” The man manages between laughs, the room is filled with his hysteria and I fear for Dante’s safety if he’s going to take on this mad man. “Don’t forget she’s mine!” He points the tip of his blade at Dante and Dante charges, locking the side of his rifle against the katana as a shield. The man presses against the weapon and the katana cuts through Dante’s weapon. Dante spins around and summons another weapon this time a sword that clashes with the enemy’s katana.

“She’s not your property.”

“That’s what you all think but from birth she’s mine.” He growls and as I take in this stranger I can’t help but wonder about the familiarity that surrounds him. If he knows something he should tell me, if he doesn’t than it doesn’t necessarily matter however, what this stranger said has caused confusion to ripple through me, “What are you talking about?” I question, feeling and hearing my voice tremble at the sound of it.

“What do you mean: what am I talking about? You should know, or wait . . . don’t tell me it actually worked.” Now I’m more confused than ever before.

“What worked?” I question, now a little afraid.

“Tallisis.” he replies with humour in his brusque voice.

I don’t think I want to know the answer to that. I regard the sight of this man. He’s a stranger, yes but why does he speak to me as though he knows me. That quip in his eyes tells me something I really don’t want to believe. “You’re lying.” I mutter.

“If I’m lying then why are you trembling?” he inquires with a tease in his voice. I feel Dante’s eyes on me I couldn’t look at him—I couldn’t look at them. What they did to me was so much worse than rape.

I regard his face and stand tall. “That may be true,” I whisper feeling tears fall down my face, “But at the same time, you’ve committed a crime.” I declare and feel my energy rush to my fingers not before long. I feel my hand grasps onto something over my shoulder, it’s positioned on my back and I smile. This is going to be smooth.

“What are you—?” the intruder begins and I point my Prevail at him. A sword passed down through my family for generations—it’s power is what it’s name represents. The power to prevail. The power to conquer.

“You’ve violated a council member, a soldier and knight of the Silver Order and my title Crimson Blade. Your punishment is death by sword.” I state and feel him tense. The room shifts into a dangerous aura and I feel Dante slowly but sure back up behind me.

“Do you know what you’ve just done?” he questions, a whisper to his voice. It made my arms prickle in desire but I had to suppress that and I did.

“Yes. I’ve formally declared this man…” I say pointing my blade at the man who stands a few feet from me, “…A traitor to the United Council. His death will be slow. I assure you.”

This stranger has the nerve to burst into a fit of laughter. His black hair and blue eyes shine under the full moon. I notice can tell by his energy levels that he’s in his idol form. A form that was created by our race for the survival of our species, it’s a skill we had to develop as many who lived on earth were being hunted by their primitive ancestors at the time. “You want me to fight you?”

“It won’t be a fight.” I reply.

His eyes darken and I feel the danger in his glare. “I won’t hold back just because you’re a woman.”

I smile, “Don’t bother. I can hold my own against a man of my species. It’s the reason why I’m champion.”

“Was.” the stranger declares.

I turn to Dante, “What does he speak of?”

“You’ve been gone a long time and things have changed.” he declares.

“So in other words …” I declare and take my battle stance. “You’re saying I’m going to have to fight for my title again? Correct?” I question.

“Affirmative.” Dante declares.

“Hmm. That’ll be interesting,” I smile and launch myself at the stranger who I recognise as Altair. He dodges my attack and I quickly spin around with my sword in hand, I swing and find my sword cuts through the curtain and locks into the wall. The wall cracks as does my glass window; my energy is slowly seeping from my pores—demanding for his blood. I can feel my scales pulsing beneath my idol skin. I regard Dante and see he’s battling Altair. I notice my head feels heavy and I begin to pant. Lifting a sword becomes troublesome and I find myself collapsing to the ground on until I’m on my rear staring through a blackening out gaze.

Pain seizes my limbs and I feel my body become numb all over ever so slowly. I regard the sight of their battle with anger and horror. Altair had Dante by the locks of his gorgeous silver hair and held a sword at his throat. He whispers something in his ear, which I can’t hear in my idol form. I watch as his blade turns the colour of blood, my heart leaps in my chest, I know what that is…Fortix. It’s in a solidified form. I watch in horror as the sword rips into his chest.

I don’t comprehend what happens next but my hands come together and energy gathers before it is released in a beam of light. The next thing I see is Dante by himself crumpled on the ground. “Dante!” I scream. I sense something drop and realise it’s an energy barrier. I hobble over to him crying. “Wake up please, please wake up.”

 

9

The Starlight Festival

“Perseverance and dedication to a belief is the cause of motivation to survive.”

.....

 

GENTLY, I place his head in my lap and hear hurried footfalls on approach. I glance over my shoulder and see Eva she’s shocked at the sight but quickly recovers. She kneels down beside us and begins tending to him; I’m too shocked to say anything—too afraid for Dante. I feel myself rock back and forth as her hands began to glow a green—the colour of our energy. I regard the sight of with much fear and uncertainty that I become to understand in a blinding blur that Dante is being taken away from me and hauled on a transparent man-less stretcher.

There’s something strange about this world that I currently know. I’m uncertain once again, I’m unsure of what to do. It’s like a saw has run over my heart and there was nothing I could do to ever mend it again. I steadily pull myself to my feet and saunter towards the door following after the medics. In my daze, I didn’t notice the hand that had wrapped around my slender wrist, only when it tugged did I return. I glance over my shoulder and see, Eva. “You need to rest.” she declares.

I shake my head, “I can’t how can I when—”

“You can and you will,” she sternly informs, her features are hard before they transform into a softer version, I notice she smiles at me, “Dante will be fine. He’s had worse injuries than that and survived—he is our champion after all.” I glance down the hall and watch as the medics take him away. The one thing that recoiled in my mind wasn’t the injuries that Dante possessed but the title he had now acquired.

“Champion. Dante’s the Nefaliem Champion.” I mutter and realise, it’ll be him I’ll have to fight if I want my title back. By tradition, Nefaliem enter a championship tournament to determine the next champion—this involved fighters from all divisions and backgrounds. I couldn’t begin to understand how many men and women Dante had to fight in order to gain his title. I’m aware that to some men hitting a woman is unspeakable which would have made the tournament more difficult for him. He’s a kind, gentle soul like me. It’s the reason why we get along so well.

“Yes.” Eva says before guiding me back to my room, “Time for you to rest.”

“But Altair—” I begin and Eva hushes me like a mother would to a child.

“Will be taken care of.” Eva utters with a gentle voice, I’m stunned by how calm and relaxed she can be about a man who can destroy worlds with his bare fists. Then again, a lot of Nefaliem can do that, it’s the matter of whether or not, we are willing to break the law or not.

After I’ve taken a long bath, I crawl into bed and doze off. The next morning doesn’t feel like the morning. Instead, it feels like the evening. I pull myself from my bed and saunter over to my window, drawing back the curtain, I find that it is the evening, stars twinkle in the sky and I internally sigh at the beautiful sight. I hear the door open and in steps Eva with a tray of food. “I thought you might be up by now.” As I stare at her I can’t help but be reminded of what had happened last night.

“Where’s Dante is he alright?” I panic. Eva places the tray down on the table at the end of my bed and meanders over to me, she grasps my hand with teary eyes. I feel my heart sink. No way. I think, it can’t be . . .

“He’s okay, the doctors were able to save him in time. The healers are working on his energetic channels now and the nurses are taking such good care of him.” she declares, “We were worried about him for some time he kept falling in and out of a death-like-state it was very scary to watch.”

“You were there?” I ask. She nods.

“Your grandmother requested my presence, in case something happens, so I can tell you myself.” She pulls from me and heads over to the tray, “Would you like some tea and ‘mognia’?” Mognia is similar to scones on Earth but it is different in a sense where there’s jam and cream layered in the middle of the cooked dough before it is dipped in honey and set to cook—the jam and cream come after. It’s often a small course of serving that’s eaten during tea breaks which is often between training sessions here on Nefelia.

“But why in the evening?” I question as I move over to the tray where Eva pours the tea in a white delicate cup painted in Neruden—the language of the Nefaliem around the mouth saying: thou who drink their fill will flourish in isometrics. I smile at the thought, it’s true there are papers from what I remember they might have changed, where having a cup of tea with water between training benefited the mind and body.

“You’re still recovering remember, I believe it’s good to have the herbal remedies of ‘Japhma’ as much as possible.” Japhma is the tea grinded from herbs in the mountains of ‘Lucatha’ in the Prozion region. It’s proven to relax the body and mind enough so that concentration is at its peak but it also has been proven to have health benefits enough so that it’s able to clear energetic channels which in turn nourishes our energetic majic and allows it to replenish.

“That’s true.” I say and I notice that Eva is quick to bounce over to my wardrobe and pull out a ‘Cathlia’ a traditional Nefaliem dress. It’s a fleecy gown with long sleeves that sway as you move, you’re shoulders for women are revealed but the rest of the female body is concealed. There’s a silver or gold metal bar that runs along the waist and breast of the dress. There are often different designs but at the moment that’s what this design is all about. “What’s this for?” I question.

“Don’t you remember?” she enquires, “The starlight festival. It’s in one week.”

I feel my jaw drop. “One week? Really?” Eva eagerly nods.

“Yes.” I can’t help but regard Eva in surprise. I hear a knock at the on my door and I peer over to see my grandmother leaning against its frame with her arms and legs casually crossed. My grandmother glances over at us with a smile on her face. I can’t help but smile in return. All I want to is run to her and give her a hug. Instead, she stands up straight and holds out her arms offering me comfort. I run over to her and wrap my arms around her—I didn’t want to cry but I ended up balling my eyes out. We I remember stayed like that a little longer than necessary but my grandmother didn’t seem to mind I was crying like a baby. All she did was hush me.

Later that evening, I find myself sedentary at the dining room board with my grandmother at the opposite end of this long stretching table. I remember that every dinner I’ve had here so far was with the all three of us; grandma, Dante and me. Dante would often sit beside me. I glance at the seat beside me and can’t help but imagine Dante, telling a silly joke before sitting down. “You should eat.” Grandmother announces pulling me out of my imagination.

I nod and take a fork, our forks are pretty much like sporks. Our food is often cut up into little cubes before we eat it. By tradition, we eat our foods in small cubes but when we’re in our true form—our dragon form, we tear our food apart before devouring it like a vicious animal. I begin to eat and like that my morning practice session swung by. “Keep your guard up!” I hear Asashin growl.

“I am.” I retort than within moments, the staff is pointed at the tip of my skull.

“Really than how come I’ve just delivered a lethal blow.” he mocks. “And right about now, you’ll be dead.”

I relax from my stance and push the staff away with the back of my hand, “Hahaha very funny.” I sarcastically grumble.

“No what’s funny is that you were once Champion and you’re still losing to me.” Asashin inquires. I glare.

“You think you’re funny don’t you…” I trail off and find that I feel Dante’s energy levels, they must be high enough to be detected. I notice that Asashin feels them as well.

“Well give him a little bit longer and he’ll be on his feet in no time.”

Taking an opportunity to deliver a sneak surprise attack, I drop and sweep with both my legs and watch as Asashin loses balance, the moment he uses his energy to propel his body forward is the moment, I find the perfect opportunity to push off my hands and flip backwards, pressing out my heel enough so that it nips Asashin in the chin. I flip over and crouch. By the time I’m in a crouched position, Asashin is sprinting at me and I’m surprised. He thrusts two arms forwards and I sense energy radiate from his limbs, I cartwheel out of the way and run at him. I can tell that we’re being a little aggressive with each other but I can’t help it—he’s winning too much and I need to make sure that I can ascertain my title.

Asashin, spins around, with his arm hooked out and I duck backwards and slide under. Asashin spins before facing me, his movements are quick, elegant and lethal. I find myself panting, it’s been a while since I’ve used my full strength against an opponent the scary part is or maybe the most frustrating part is…Asashin isn’t even sweating. “What does it take to make this man lose?” I mutter under my breath.

“A lot more than you can dish out Princess.” he replies.

“You heard me?” I question.

“Seriously?” he questions with a risen brow.

“Never mind.” I reply and run at him again and kick, I leap into the air and spin, delivering another perfect kick. My foot, locks onto Asashin’s arms and I push, I propel my body backwards and watch as Asashin slides along the ground.

“Good.” he complements.

I stand tall and smile, “I know right—” I didn’t get a chance to finish my sentence because of the fist I feel lodged against my jaw. Asashin doesn’t move for a moment, his eyes carefully watching my reaction. I step away from Asashin and rub my sore face. “Ow. Didn’t your mother ever tell you not to hit women.” I grumble and Asashin laughs.

“You’re a warrior not a child. Grow a backbone.” He’s hardcore.

“Seriously?” I question as I continue to rub my face. “In Australia it’s illegal to hit a woman. And you just did it.” I grumble.

“Do you want to keep training or not?” he asks, “Or are you just a sore loser?”

“Kalverya, that’s not entirely fair,” Dante proclaims.

I nod in realisation and bow to Asashin with a hand over my heart, declaring, “Please forgive me…” I peek up at him and see he’s arms are folded over his thickly toned chest that I can see lined through his black scales. “It was a bad joke.” I continue.

Asashin is immobile for a brief moment before declaring, “You’re forgiven.” I can’t help but muster a small but bright smile, then suddenly, I feel a cool chill brittle against my skin, running goose bumps along my arms. In my idol form, I’m reminded of my vulnerability to the weather. “What’s the matter?”

“I was just wondering about the slaves.” I grimly inform. It feels like only yesterday I was there, with the others, in my idol form—in fear of my life. I know that if it weren’t for my training, I wouldn’t be here now. Unless, Asashin was going to destroy every last keeper. I can’t help but wonder at the thought of how powerful Asashin was or rather if he had any power. By the looks of things, this scales are black and from what I remember about black scales—they’re a mutation. A genetic condition. I’m uncertain if they affect energetic levels and majic levels or not.

“I didn’t tell you this because I didn’t think it was the right time.” Asashin declares. “But there were no slaves.”

“What are you talking about?” I demand, I gesture to the area behind me, “I saw them in the mountains!” I point at the mountain tops in the distance—I know it’s not those mountains but ones further away.

Asashin glances over his shoulder at Dante, “Maybe she’ll believe you?”

“Are you serious?” I question, in fear. “If there weren’t any slaves, then where was I?” I question.

“You were in what’s known as an animation chamber. It’s lost energetic majic used by those of the Dark Cartel to sift through memories, patterns and waves in the brain.” Asashin declares.

“How can that be?” I interrogate, wondering if what I remembered was a memory, or was it real. To an extent I didn’t know all I know is that I remember many things, not just the wars, battles and torment I endured but also the pain and suffering of love and loss. I can feel myself changing, with each passing day and I believe the others are beginning to pick up on these so called: changes.

“You were unconscious through it all—you wouldn’t have felt a thing.” Dante proclaims. “The only way we know this is that Asashin had to break into their underground bunker just to get you out. Apparently, they were trying to finish what they started all so long ago.” I feel my blood freeze, I know what they’re after, they’re after my family’s ancient secret energetic majic technique, ‘Mediocre Paradigm’ as this has the power to unleash my full power and with power like that—I could eradicate an entire world just by a flick of my fingers.

“Time to get going,” Shika declares with a smile.

“What do you mean?” I ask, a little lost.

“You know the starlight festival we have to help prepare.” Shika presses.

I nod, “I remember now.” A gesture I slowly carry out. We finished up what we were doing and left the training grounds and headed inside. Even though I still had to come to terms with what had been said, I still try to find ways to deal with this sudden unexpected information. Shika had the right idea though, maybe it was time to have a little bit of fun while I still could.

Several days flew by and the starlight festival began, many men and women, joined the festivities. Many men and women joined in the festivities that lasted a good two weeks. There are many joyful events, such as: dancing, singing, fire performances and many more my favourite was the tournament. Around this time, several men and women compete in a tournament for the title ‘Champion’ of Nefelia. I gaze upon the sight in awe and wonder if Dante had to go through this to. There’s no doubt in my mind he had to. I push passed the bustling crowd and plant myself at the edge of the arena. The area is large, there’s I notice as I place my hand on it, is a large transparent barrier. I don’t understand the need for such extremes but as I stare at the man entering the arena, I recognise him as the headman – the arena’s main coordinator. “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the starlight festival, I hope you enjoy the festivities and the fun it brings. Now for today’s match we have a new competitor from Planet Sparta hailing from the Nurgardi region in Provencia. Introducing, her Ladyship Terra. And in the far right corner we have a Persian Knight, hailing from the Zucania Province in Dubadia. Introducing, Merda.” Two women, appear standing on two podiums at the opposite end of the arena, it ricocheted out of the ground and into the air, standing at least twelve feet in the air.

I hear the crowd “oo” and “ah” while some whisper about them falling off the podium and hurting themselves. I wonder that as well, I mean I remember seeing someone fall off of a roof that tall and they ended up dislocating their shoulder and fracturing their ribs. It was a Daunt mind you but still the thought of it does worry me—a little. “Behind me,” the headman announces, “Is the leader board and match boards these will keep you informed, who has won a battle, who has lost and how much points they’ve received. To be a …” I don’t hear anymore as Zeanna shouts in my ear through the roaring crowd:

Everyone wants to see them fight.

“There you are.” I peer over my shoulder and find her.

“What are you doing here?” I question.

“Looking for you.” She grasps my hand and yanks me from my spot and leads me through the crowd, that rubs and brushes against me in places I don’t want touched. When we finally exit the crowd she begins to take off as I desperately try and keep up with her, she’s slowed down a lot that much I know but I can’t help but wonder what we’re running for. We enter a tunnel and the raging crowd dies down. “In here.” Zeanna announces and the doors slide open. There in the room is Dante and Asashin. I regard those two questionably.

“What’s going on?” I wonder out loud.

“That’s easy.”

“That’s easy.” Zeanna announces. “It’s your turn.” She passes me a silver battle helmet. I eye the design, it’s beautiful but also deadly with sharp edges around the jawline mimicking the markings of the nobles and royal families.

“My turn for what?” I ask.

“To fight.” Asashin buts in and Zeanna glares at Asashin who steps back a little. I get the strangest impression she wanted to say that.

“Fight where?”

“In the arena silly.” Zeanna easily declares.

“The Arena?” I question, in shock.

“Yep.” Zeanna nods, “We think you’re ready.”

“But I’ll be going up against, superhumans.” I mention and everyone looks at each other in confusion. “What? It’s true.”

“Kal.” Dante reassures, “Outlanders aren’t allowed to use their powers in the Arena. It’s a testament to years of training and skill not how far you can throw a ship or tear one up with your bare hands.”

“Are you sure?” I question, “What happens if they cheat?”

“Then they’ll be disqualified and they’ll have to deal with the Champion.” Zeanna reassures, “Not just that don’t you want to see if you remember everything. I know you remember but the fighting is what I’m fearful you may have forgotten.” With a decision made, I take the helmet in hand and regard Zeanna.

“I’ll do it.”

Later, “Remember to keep your guard up,” Juvias announces, he recently popped into the preparation room before I had to enter the arena. He wasn’t happy to know that I’ll be fighting warriors who have been to war. Dante’s response was, ”She’s been on the battlefield too and survived what does that tell you.” I groan at the memory. “Why doesn’t Dante keep his trap closed?” I mutter in annoyance.

“Huh?” Juvias questions, confused as that’s not what I recall saying to him. I shake my head.

“Never mind.” I hear the roar of the trumpets and the horns. It’s time for me to enter the Arena. I regard Juvias aware that this will be a painful encounter. I step out into the arena, feeling my blood freeze in place. The cheer of the crowd causes goosebumps to ring along my skin. I could see on the dirt, at my feet, as I stumble into the dirt arena, there was blood of all different colour; there was blue, red, green and purple.

I glance up and I see that woman. The same woman who threatens to tear me apart. I perceive the area behind me and see the doors close. The ring of the blaring alarm, reminds me that the fight is going to start. I feel my insides turn and my skin tremble at the idea of facing an opponent who has had more fights than I’ve potentially had. I regard the woman and watches as she glances at the main coordinator of this event. He comes close to us and says silencing the mic at his lips, “You two are to bow to each other before the battle begins as a sign of respect for the championship and this planet. Do you understand?”

We both nod, a silent agreement.

“Excellent, there’ll be no death in this arena, once you call ‘yield’ or the other person is unconscious, victory will be defined. Until then, the sky’s the limit.” he informs. He un-silences the microphone by his lip which I can barely see as it’s transparent. He begins boasting to the crowd, “And let the match begin!” That same blaring alarm sounds but this time as if it’s counting down and I can see the numbers count down in mid air just above us. It reaches zero and I see the woman race towards me. She throws several punches, I block most of her punches and dodge the rest. She’s quick I realise. I can feel the eyes of the mainman on me, I can see him at the corner of my eye and realise he’s watching me, with an indifferent expression. Does he know who I am? I wonder.

“Hold still!” the woman growls. Iglare.

“If you have energy to speak. You mustn’t be trying.” I tease and realise it’s a mistake as her fist slams against my nose shattering my bones. I feel the pain radiate through me and I’m quick to clutch my nose and feel the warm blood pooling over my hand. I grunt in disgust and she smiles.

“You spoke too soon, wench.” I feel my nose heat, before cooling not before long the rush of blood stops and I stand, feeling my nose repair itself. The woman stares at me and regards the MC. He appears to have a smile on his face. She glances at me and is stunned, eyes wide with shock. “You’re not a Daunt.”

“I smile. No I’m not, I’m a different kind breed.” I remark and race at her. I start throwing punches, they’re nothing much just strong punches. I feel my muscles heat and I realise that I’m speeding up with my punches, she’s finding it a bit more difficult to block my attacks—let alone dodge them.

I feel my muscles heat and I realise that I’m speeding up with my punches; she’s finding it a bit more difficult to block my attacks—let alone dodge them and within moments, smack! I knock her back with an uppercut and she flies away from me before falling on the ground in a knockout. The bell rings twice and the main man pulls one of my arms up and calls, “Winner!”

The crowd bursts into an uproar.

I’m given five minutes to prepare for my other fight back in the preparation room. “You did well.” Zeanna says.

“You saw?” I question.

“Yeah, everyone has.” Dante, Asashin and Juvias all nod in agreement. This information is new to me, everyone saw my fight doe that mean that it was broadcast live. If so, by who and where did it go. They were questions I assume will later be answered. The bell rings again and this time, I’m on my way to the next match. The day goes by like this: match after match, after match. Eventually, I grow weary but also confident as I’ve learnt more about myself. I remember quite a lot of things but not all the techniques or combinations but they would come out when I needed them to. Like now, I sweep and watch as she falls hard towards the ground, in a single move I grab a hold of her arm and throw her to the ground. Immediately, she’s unconscious and as a familiar action, the main man comes over and lifts my arm proclaiming:

“Winner!” Sound effects and lights, flash. His voice booms over the microphone at his lips, “Now ladies and gentlemen, as a tradition, we do something very dangerous yet exciting for you my fellow viewers.” I see a Sibyl move towards him—it’s recording. I regard the sight in fear, the Sibyls were recording the event and broadcasting it to everyone on the planet. I don’t blame them the area match known, as ‘the seven point dragon’ is a huge event where many come from different parts of the universe to gaze upon the winner and champion of ‘the seven point trial’ where the United Council will declare the winner ‘champion’ of their own world and a knight of the United Council.

I receive a nod, from the headman and to return to the back room. Once I do, I see that the room is empty, “Where did everyone go?” I wonder out loud and glance at the black scaly suit in front of me, lined in sterling silver armour. So far I fought in the clothes I had come to Nefelia in. I glance down at my torn and battered jacket and dirty blue shirt. I regard the suit and begin to change.

Nerelda
I stand gazing upon the sight of the arena, from the top balcony, so high up from where Kalverya can see. “She’s doing well wouldn’t you agree?” I realise as I gaze at the head man in the middle of the arena who continues to talk about the princess.

“She should, she’s my grand daughter.” the empress announces as she sits on a mock throne in the centre of the balcony, overlooking the arena. “There’s no way she’s going to lose. She may have lost her heritage but in a fight where she’s fighting for her life—she’ll never lose. That’s the way we trained her from when she was seven earth years old.” Those words the empress spoke were true to a degree but I feel the need to inform her that Kalverya is only in her idol form—her Daunt form. If there was any way to change that—I would but I know that only she has the power to change that herself.

I sense a presence behind us and I realise without looking who it is, “Dante.” I say.

“Tell us what is it you need.” the empress proclaims keeping her eyes locked ahead.

“Kalverya has gotten quite far into the battle, it’s only a matter of time before she realises who she has to fight.”

Kalverya
I step into the Arena for the hundredth time that day and feel the sun stinging my face. It must be mid-day by now and everyone is still here better yet there’s even more people here than I had originally thought.

I stand staring at myself in the reflection of the mirror. I eye the uniform I wear and wonder what it was for. The armour isn’t too heavy for me and neither is it to clunky, it’s thick enough to stop a knife from piercing my skin but not a bullet but than again that’s how it looks when I recall that this metal is from the mines of the Zarkonia region where many mine the metal we wear as armour. It’s strong and dangerous as well as it also has the power to deflect bullets if the need be. I regard my armour more closely and see there is an engraving of our ancient language Neruden on it, covering the edges of the metal. With this it has the power to fend off demons. A Nefaliem man enters the room and says, “The second stage is starting.”

I nod, “Thanks.”

I regard the utility belt near where my uniform had lain and like that I lift it, it’s heavy but not too heavy. It’s thick, bulky and black but lined in silver, it I notice isn’t so bulky to the point where it would annoy me as I move. I clip the belt around my waist and head to the door feeling like I’m missing something. I enter the hall and stare at the blinding light and enter the roar of an excited crowd.

Part II

AN ABIDING CURSE

The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.”

*
p={color:#000;}. Albert Einstein

 

 

 

Coming Soon


Nefaliem (Part I)

In the year 3456, planet Earth. Kalverya Nindo, lives a life of a struggling assassin, dealing with jobs that no ordinary woman would dare take on. But that's the catch. Kalverya is no ordinary woman. With above average reflexes, stamina, strength and speed. She's the most inhuman human there is in this world. When Kalverya Nindo heads to another planet with alluringly sexy Dante. She hardly expected to be of royal linage, let alone one that ruled over those under the Emerald Hierarchy. With scaly armoured knights of energetic majic her world is turned upside down. Kalverya knows that there is a limit to her human form - her idol form but breaking from it may prove to be more than just another challenge. Stunned by the truth of her heritage. She learns the ways of the Nefaliem - hybrids of angels and demons encased in dragon souls. During this she discovers the body of a young prince of another world, almost being killed by an Ogre proves of the dangers she faces on a regular basis. Like being an assassin wasn't bad enough. With all these new changes to Kalverya's life there is one thing that ponders at the forefront of her mind: why can't she remember who she really is?

  • ISBN: 9781311304780
  • Author: Kelvia-Lee Johnson
  • Published: 2016-09-27 06:20:14
  • Words: 47128
Nefaliem (Part I) Nefaliem (Part I)