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Thread: Shift

  1. #91
    The Quiet One Shift Andromeda's Avatar
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    Re: Shift

    “The love struck girl’s correct,” confirmed a very high pitched voice from above. Floating in the air, a fairy lowered herself down in the middle of everyone making her known to them all. Her presence held everyone’s further interruptions as she made it very clear in her tone that she spoke with knowledge. “It was me. Who sent you the letters. And yes, it does involve the matter of Yuki Hayashi…”

    “Love struck?!” objected Yumi, while trying to avoid causing anymore doubt with a red face.

    “So how does this involve Yuki?” the rough boy said stepping forward demandingly staring at the fairy, disregarding the odd case of being summoned by a fairy. “What trouble has he gotten himself into?”

    The fairy spun around in the air to face him not looking too impressed. “Figured you’d be the first one to speak up when it came to the girly boy. But I doubt I need to explain too much to you, wannabe Yakuza Priest.”

    “Yakuza?!” a few of the other whispered becoming concerned about their company.

    “You’ve got quite the noisy mouth on you, a damn midget!”

    “Easily provoked as well. You’re not going to last long against them…” The fairy hovered away from him having become bored. She planted herself towards the far end of the knoll, which managed to direct all of the attention towards her.

    The easily angered boy was not finished and pushed through the crowd to get up in the fairy’s face again. He was not going to let something so small get away with mocking him. “Where you think you’re going? “I’m not letting you off so easily!”

    Yumi rushed forward to stand flanking the teen while still partially getting between them. “Please don’t fight! You want answers right? This fairy seems to know us somehow and it would be good to know why she’s doing all of this. If you can calm your anger for the moment.”

    “Tch!” He reluctantly dragged himself back in line with everyone else, taking more of a back seat.

    Chapter 90 – Decision Time

    Once the situation was adverted Yumi looked around to everyone. She felt that there still existed uncertainly and confusion among the group that would not simply be resolved. However, Yumi could not let it rest knowing that they were called together for a purpose. “Perhaps we should introduce ourselves first and how you know Yuki. It might begin to shed some light on the reason. I’ll start…I’m Yumi Mizuno and I’m a classmate of Yuki.”

    Everyone seemed hesitant to speak up. There was still some awkwardness in the air from the arrival of the fairy and trouble that she brought. Yori saw his sister staring at him after a few seconds getting the impression that she wanted him to pick up her lead. “I’m Yori Mizuno and I don’t really know Yuki, but through Yumi. I’m here because she is.”

    “Fumiko Terauchi,” said the older student at Yori’s left. “I’ve only met Yuki briefly, but he saved my life.”

    The black clothed ninja girl was stared down at by Fumiko with the expectation that she introduce herself next. She grumbled a little still considering it. A small sigh exhaled from her as she gave in. “Chiharu Chinen and I don’t want to know about that weakling.” She turned her head away in a huff having given all that she was going to give.

    “Haruo Yoneda…classmate.” He had kept things brief considering what he felt like saying. The reasons for him coming still remained a little uncertain for him as well. So he did not feel the need to provide a long answer to explain himself.

    After a long pause from Haruo everyone looked behind at the last remaining undeclared boy. The eyes locked on him made him aspirated. “Seiji Tsuji, an old friend.” Seiji looked back at the rest with annoyed eyes, still bothered by the fairy.

    Yumi took in what she had heard, but did not feel that it really answered anything. It had at least given her names. The connections seemed to be as simple has having known Yuki at some time. They all needed more answers. Yumi joined the rest of the group and stared at the fairy in expectation.

    “When then, I guess you’re wanting me to explain in more detail the purpose of this. You all know Yuki through some means and some of you even know the trouble that he is in currently. You may not understand it fully, but you know there’s trouble. Simply put, Yuki is leaving in the morning to confront what he faces. I’m giving you the decision on how you want to use this information, whether it is to give your goodbyes, try to stop him or join him.”

    “Is he going alone?” inquired Fumiko.

    “No, Ayumi Nishimura and Saki Furukawa will be going with him.”

    “What is he confronting? Is it dangerous?” Yumi asked. She began to see the pieces coming together. Parts were missing still, but the way that Yuki had been acting recently could be explained. She had always suspected that the man that attacked their school had something more to do with Yuki. Even if it was dangerous, she was not going to change her mind.

    The fairy lowered herself a little in the air. “Very dangerous. It’s likely that he’ll have many battles where’s going before he can resolve it.”

    Yori took a step forward ignoring the feeling that he was the odd man out for not having been summoned. “If it’s so dangerous why’s he going?”

    “Because it’s something that he’s decided he must do.”

    “So did he send you to ask us to come with him rather than doing it himself?” demanded Seiji, still sounding uncontrollable with his frustration.

    The fairy smiled a little smirking to herself. “No, he doesn’t know I’m doing this. It’s likely that he doesn’t even know that you all have powers as well. I’m doing this on my own.”

    “Why are you doing this?” spoke up Haruo for once.

    “Because I like to screw up what he had planned. Simple as that!” The fairy seemed a little rushed and cornered responding to Haruo. She floated back up a little putting some distance between them. “Well I answered your questions and gave you what you needed to know to make your decision. I’m leaving now!” The next moment the fairy flew up the massive tree disappearing out of the field of the light. The group tried to call out to stop her, but it was far too late. They could only stare around at each other feeling a little lost being given only twelve hours to come to a decision that would affect their lives possibly.

    Yumi searched the sky a little trying to find the fairy before giving up the hope. She looked back around at the others. “I think it’s more than just trying to mess with Yuki’s plans. She must be worried about him if she asking us for help.” She knew nothing about the others, but hoped that she could convince them to seriously think about assisting Yuki.

    Fumiko nodded in agreement with Yumi. “Considering how much of a mouth she had on her and antagonizing others. Showing weakness or caring what happens to others is not something that she would want to expose.”

    “A denial to protect herself,” thought Yori out loud. “Even still, we don’t really know what he’s gotten himself into.” Yori looked over at Seiji recalling what the fairy had quickly thrown out during the brief conversation. He had not made much of it at the moment, but realized there was possibly additional information within the group. “You know something about the trouble is in don’t you?”

    Seiji was still pretty reluctant to actually address anyone after the ordeal with the fairy. He kept looking away from everyone until it became clear that they were not going to take being ignored as a solution. “I don’t know much, just what Yuki told me when I asked him. It didn’t seem like he knew much about it, some girl named…Ayumi told him all of this.” When he caught the knowing looks of a few of them he realized that they actually knew who Ayumi was. “I take it you’ve met her. From what I understand Yuki is the heir to some place that lost their leader. A group that wants control of the country for themselves are sending assassin to remove Yuki from the picture so there’s no one that can take over. So I’m guessing that Yuki’s going to face them and more than likely take the position.”

    Panic struck Yumi upon hearing Seiji’s words. ‘He’s leaving and not coming back!?’ She did not think that he would have made such a decision to leave everyone that he knew behind. He had not given any of them any sort of goodbye or explanation. Yumi took a step forward at Seiji with her eyes lighting up with fire light. “He’s planning on leaving us behind and everyone he knows and not tell anyone? How could he do that?!”

    The demanding stare from Yumi set Seiji off balance a little trying to figure out what she making it seem like he was the cause of it all. “Hey look! I don’t know what’s going through his head! I’m just figuring that if he’s going there he’s probably going to be staying! There’s not a lot of point going there if he’s not planning on staying around.”

    “Not necessarily,” Yori said stepping into the conversation. “If he stayed behind he’d still be attacked by assassins if they saw him as a threat to their power grab. So he could be trying to go to source to stop the attacks and hand off his position to someone else.”

    ‘Could he just be doing it to end the fighting? And he’s planning to come back?’ A hopeful light grew inside Yumi clinging tightly onto Yori’s hypothesis regardless of how possible if could be. She could not think about Yuki leaving them all behind.

    Fumiko joined the group realizing that they still had a problem. “Regardless of what Yuki’s planning on doing we don’t know where he’s going to be leaving from or how he’s getting to wherever he needs to be. The fairy didn’t give us that information.”

    “I know where his house is,” spoke up Seiji. “We can just get him there.”

    “If he’s determined to go this alone without telling anyone then it’ll be too easy him to just lose us at his house.”

    “We can follow him then until it’s too late for him to say no.”

    “With this many people?”

    The debating going on behind Yumi had finally reached her ears and broke through her own worries. She turned around to face them directly to settle their concerns. “I know where he’ll be! We just have to wait for him to arrive and force him to let us come!”

    “How do you know? Did the fairy tell you earlier?” questioned Seiji leaned towards Yumi. He still doubted her after her early claim, despite the fairy having proven her to be correct. It was the fact that it was something so unreliable as a feeling. He could not trust it, even if she did speak with certainty in her voice.

    She shook her head at him. “I’ve known somehow for a while. I can’t explain it, but I know where he’ll be. There’s still some time before morning. We should take care of anything that we need to before then and meet back here at five in the morning. It’ll take some time to walk.” Yumi figured that everyone was going to need to sleep and pack anything that they might for the trip. None of them knew where they were going and there remained much to consider.

    Chiharu shifted forward unnervingly for everyone like a shadow just appearing when a new light is shined. “What makes you think we’re even going? You’re making assumptions that we even care about that weakling.”

    The approach for the young girl made Yumi pulled her spine back a little surprised by how in her face she was being. There happened to be the fact that she was also acting very callous about Yuki as well, that she did not know how to take it. However, despite the confrontation Yumi stuck her ground. “You’re right. I didn’t mean to assume. There’s still time to make your decision on what you’re going to do about what we’ve been told. Anyone coming can meet here at five.”

    A slight begrudged nod was returned by Chiharu before she stepped down. She had not expected Yumi to handle her so smoothly as to fix and avoid the conflict all in one sweeping motion. Chiharu did not like watching the frail girl acting like she was in charge. She hoped to expose the weaknesses that she saw in her as a poor leader, but found that she was forced to retreat to her corner.

    Everything seemed to be settled with the group. No one else objected to what Yumi had set out for them. She nodded to herself mentally checking that all was right before joining at Yori’s side. “We should be going now before our mother finds out that we’ve been out!” Yumi gave a quick wave to the stunned group and disappeared out of the light pulling Yori along with her.

    The rest of the party could not believe that she was worried about being out late considering what she was going to be doing. Once they recovered from their awe and pulled themselves back together they began departing company in their own ways.

    For Seiji, the decision had been made for him. He was the last to leave the mound and the first arrive (he never left). ‘I had my suspicions before I left… This simply just confirmed it for me… Besides it’ll give me time away from the old man and that annoying ghost…’ Seiji pressed into the grass disappearing a little in its height and closed his eyes. The starry sky offered more than enough for him. ‘Yuki, are you going to start fighting again? I can’t see Saki being very pleased about that…’

    “I didn’t think they would ever leave!” a young woman’s voice said cheerfully. Aoi, the ghost woman that had taken a likening to teasing Seiji appeared in the light of the earth. Her previous haunting attire was no more. She wore a pure white evening kimono that would have been worn either for bed or prepared for bed as covering for less modest clothing underneath. The case for Aoi would be whatever it took to get some fun out of Seiji.

    Seiji’s eyes held tightly shut with his eyebrows shaking a little as he tried desperately to appear like he was sleeping and never heard a word from the ghost. The unfortunate matter of his fear kept it from actually being very convincing with the excessive amounts of sweat gathering on his skin.

    Aoi’s lips caught a playful grin seeing the initial response that she got from him. Taking it another step further, she floated in passing through the grass silently to lie next to him. The mere proximity of her had him turning blue and red fighting over shades only to decide on a compromise of purple. She pressed towards his ear whispering delicately to him. “You don’t have to pretend for me!”

    The woman’s voice sent a chill down his spine making him vibrate all around before his eyes shot open. If the tree had been closer to the ground Seiji would have latched onto it like a startled cat as he leapt into the air easily clearing his full height and then some. He managed some cat-like reflexes to land on his feet left staring at the ghost. “H-H-How-how…how…how…”

    She giggled with glee in her entertainment before her. “You never get boring, sweetie!” Aoi gave the frightened teen a little more room, but that did not improve his speech any. All he could form in his mouth was ‘how’ and even then it was hard to understand at best. “How did I find you?” she finished for him, since he was unable to do so for himself. “That’s quite easy! I just followed you! You seemed so focused on your letter that you never even realized it!”


    “There, there… It’s best to stick to one word for now.” She patted him on the shoulder providing mocking comfort to him. Aoi could see the hint of the fear starting to bleed out of him and return him to balance through the sheer annoyance of being so openly mocked. Her tone changed quickly shifting the mood serious having had her fun, for the time being at least. “Are you planning leaving your family behind without a word?”

    “The old man’ll be fine,” Seiji said soberly. He had been glad people were no longer visiting so frequently. If they continued he did not know how long he would have lasted, though a part of it was the cause of the ghosts showing up. Many of them could not trust going back to the shrine fearing it had been corrupted like everything else. “The business has slowed down.”

    “What about Shoji? He depends on you!”

    Seiji strolled across the small mound putting his back to Aoi. “It’s not like he needs a problem child like me around him being a bad influence on him.”

    She could not believe what she was hearing from him. She quickly glided around him to look at him in the face. “You don’t honestly believe that crap that your Grandfather spouts? Do you?!”

    “What the hell do you know?!” shouted Seiji leaned in at the woman. He was not about to listen to her talking like she knew him. “You’re just a stupid ghost that has nothing better to do than screw around with me!”

    “It doesn’t matter if I’m a ghost or not! I can see well enough as I am!”

    “It’s not like I’m going to be gone for that long anyway! I’m coming back and I’ll drag Yuki back with me if I have to! When I get back I can apologize to Shoji…” His voice trailed off as he began to look away from her. He knew what he had decided and could not let himself falter. ‘If I see him I don’t know if I could leave if he asked me not to go…’

    Aoi read Seiji for a minute frustrated by his stubbornness. She wanted him to just say goodbye to his little brother. It seemed like a strange thing to her not to want to say something so simple to his family. She could see in him the determination that he had fortified and another reason behind his eyes. The look was not something that she could figure out, but it gave her enough to give up the fight. “…fine…” She began to float away no longer wanting to be around him.

    “I can’t stop you from telling him anyway once I’m gone…”

    The ghost paused hearing the words and the surprising subtext that was held within them. It made her grin a little feeling reassured. “You’re right… We’ll be waiting for your return!”

    “It’s a promise!”

    To be continued…
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  2. #92
    The Quiet One Shift Andromeda's Avatar
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    Re: Shift

    Midnight seemed far too close, yet it was still hours away from arriving. In the altered Japan the nights came heavier and darker. It left a deep foreboding for anyone that traveled under the unusual sky. This particular night proved to be even more pitch, though despite that the stars poked through as vibrantly as ever, possibly even stronger than before.

    Fumiko returned to her house trying to avoid being detected by her parents. Ever since the monster had attacked her there was no dealing with how oppressively protective they became. She understood why they worried about her, but it started to make it difficult to do anything out of the house. Since she had discover the magical powers that she possessed Fumiko forced herself to learn how to use them. Escaping the house to do so proved a challenging feat, more so than the training. Fumiko was not about to let her parents know that she had gained a strange ability. What little freedom she had left would have been smothered.

    When she was in the hall nearing her room the next room down, her sister’s room called to her. Before she realized what happened her hand turned the knob and pushed the door opened. “Kimiko…” Fumiko slowly dragged herself over to the bed. She put the pillow in her lap and dropped her back into the corner.

    Her mind wandered thinking back to Mieko, who she had rescued with her powers. She looked down at her hand while the other pressed the pillow against her chest. “I don’t know why I have this power, sister… But I was able to save Mieko with it. So I think it is a good thing…” After a little rest to recover from the trouble that Mieko had been Fumiko had escorted her back to her house. Fumiko could still see that day clearly in her mind. She etched it into her heart next to the deep scar that rested unhealed. “But it’s not enough… Sister, I’m sorry but I must go away for a while…”

    Fumiko dug her face into the pillow trying to ignore the pain that ran through her arm. “I think I have this power so I can be of help to him, sister… He saved me even though I had misjudged him… He’s a good person… So I must help him. I don’t know if I can repay my debt to him, but I’ll learn soon enough…”

    Chapter 91 – The Decision

    Minutes turned to an hour before Fumiko could move from her sister’s room. However, she knew that she had to do something else still before going to sleep. “What should I tell our parents, sister? As much as I would like to just go without a word that wouldn’t be fair to them. They aren’t going to be very understanding…” Fumiko pulled herself up out of the corner and returned the pillow carefully back to the bed. She reluctantly shuffled out of the room.

    The war room, as Fumiko had started to call the dining room for all frequent planning sessions by her parents to solve their numerous dilemmas, held a thick wall in the air making her approach tense. She did not like speaking to them while they were worrying over adult matters, but there really was no other time that she had left. The notice she had was so sudden. She was just going to have to make do with her situation. “Excuse me… Mom… Dad…”

    Her father immediately turned his head to Fumiko already on edge. “Is something wrong?”

    “What is it, Fumiko?”

    “Well…you see…” Fumiko shifted her weight back a little as a counter to avoiding fidgeting noticeably. There was no idea in her mind what she was going to say and knowing how they would react to anything that she was going to say. She knew that she just had to say it straight and figure her way out of it as she went along. “I’ve got somewhere I’m going in the morning…”

    Both of her parents stood up from their chairs suddenly. “What are you talking about?!”

    “You can’t go outside! It’s too dangerous to be out there!”

    “Remember how it was last week when you were outside!”

    “I know the danger!” She felt like she had already experience the moment before. It gave her a strange disconnected feeling. “But there’s something important I have to do…”

    Her mother staggered a step towards her with a confusion look on her face. “What’s more important than your life?!”

    “I’ve got to help a friend… I just found out a little bit ago that they need my help!” Fumiko still did not know where she was going, but found that mixing in truth into the lie seemed to make it form easier. It was almost taking on a life of its own. “It’s because it is dangerous that I have to go!”

    “But Fumiko—“ Her father tried to protest further, but was cut off.

    “She my friend and she’s in trouble! I’ve already decided that I was going to help.” The lied continued to grow on its own and filled the answers without Fumiko thinking about it. “School still closed so I won’t be neglecting it. It’s out of town so I’m going to be gone for a little while.”


    “You can’t be serious! That’s completely out of the question! You’re not leaving this house!”

    “I’m going and that’s the end of it! I’m not going to be scared of this world like you two are! I’m leaving by four in morning so if want to say goodbye do it then!” Fumiko turned away from them and marched off to her room. She slammed her door closed and dropped to her bed feeling her legs shaking. Near the end it had felt like she was going to collapse at any moment. The strength in her body had been completely drained away. ‘I can’t believe I spoke to them like that… What sort of person am I?’

    Sharp thuds against a wooden target wormed their way through the grounds of the Chinen estate. The forest covering did a perfect job of trapping and reflecting noise. It made it nearly impossible to approach the main house as every sound seemed to be amplified. It worked well as a protection against intruders, almost as though it was done on purpose.

    Chiharu approached her tree target and retrieved the kunai that she had thrown. The spread of the blades was greater than she had wished. She felt that her timing had been thrown off. She planned to continue until it fit to her satisfaction. “What is it Tamotsu?” called Chiharu having picked up the slightest change in sound from his feet.

    He had remained out of her sight, but pulled himself out of the shadows having been discovered. “Forgive me, Lady Chiharu! I didn’t want to disturb during your training!” Once announced he moved himself to be in her vision.

    “Enough with the formalities!” She threw a kunai at the tree sticking deeply into the trunk. “What’s on your mind?”

    “It’s none of my business, Lady Chiharu, but I was unable to find you on the grounds for twenty minutes. Some of the men started asking questions.”

    “You’re right, Tamotsu. It isn’t your business.” Another kunai stuck into the tree, missing her desired target by a few centimeters. “I’m the head of this clan and what I do is my prerogative. I don’t need to ask anyone’s permission to do something.”

    Tamotsu lowered his head a little trying lessen his position to her. “You’re right, Lady Chiharu. However, the men look to you for guidance and leadership. You can’t be the head of the clan if you’re not here.”

    The third kunai hit shallowly and fell to the ground. A slight twitch from Chiharu was all she allowed even after she had tried to not show any reaction. “What good are men to me if they can’t think and react on their own? I don’t need mindless soldiers that fall apart the moment I’m not around to order them.”

    “You’re right, Lady Chiharu. The men need more training.”

    “…as do I…” she whispered to herself.

    “Lady Chiharu?” Tamotsu questioned in confusion having not completely heard her mumbling.

    “Leave me now!” she snapped having not what him to have heard any of what she said.

    “Right away, Lady Chiharu!”

    Tamotsu promptly disappeared back into the main house. Chiharu remained outside staring down at the remaining two kunai in her hands. The hand that held them was shaking slightly uncontrollably making her sweat a little. She flinched quickly and snapped herself back into a throwing position. Without even thinking she threw the two kunai together at the tree. They both had hit shallowly and dropped to the ground clattering against one another. Chiharu clinched her hand into a fist frustrated by her weakness.

    The walk back to their house remained fairly quiet between the siblings. Neither of them had much to say to the other. Yori remained mute waiting for any moment that his sister needed him rather than trying to press any issue that surfaced in his mind. In the case of Yumi, she held fast to trying to fully grasp everything that she was doing.

    The whole scene happened so fast for her that she was still processing it. She may have been acting consciously around the group, but it was not until after it was settled that it truly began to filter through her. The point that confused her still more than anything else was why the fairy had summoned her. She knew nothing about the others, but figured that if the fairy claimed they had powers it must be true. It was not the case with Yumi. She knew that she did not have any powers. Her presence felt out of place with the rest. Yumi wondered if there was some other motive involved, but all she had been able to do is second guess things.

    Her confusion managed to fill up the travel time nicely so that she felt that a dead end was reached when she saw their house. When they arrived home their mother was already in the house. The hope to avoid suspicions welled up fear in Yumi. She became afraid of how much trouble it would be to convince their mother of what they were going to do. ‘…Brother…’

    Yori saw the expression on Yumi and took the lead. He understood that he had a little more footing to speaking with their mother than Yumi. It was the continued case of him being the model child that was doted on. “Did you find the dinner, mother?” he began as he entered the kitchen.

    “Yori! I was wondering where you were. I didn’t hear anything from you or your sister.” A moment later Yumi meandered into the doorway keeping to the back. “There you are dear! Were you outside?”

    “Yes, the school is nearing completion and so I’ve had to meet with faculty.”

    The middle aged single mother checked through the kitchen still trying to act her part even though she knew that her kids had picked up so many of her household responsibilities. She kept listening to Yori while examining the cupboards. “Oh? You must be so busy with all of that responsibility that they’re giving you.”

    Yori smoothly transitioned to her side helping with the dishes that were from Yumi and his meal earlier. “Not at all.” They had dried already and needed to be put away. It made the conversation flow naturally that he did not have to worry about it seeming out of place. “I did volunteer for this. So I’m only doing what it expected.”

    “I’m glad to hear that. You’ve always been such a hard worker, dear.”

    “The next week or more I’m going to be very busy though.” He handed off a dish to her to set up in the cupboard. “There’s still a lot of people I have to meet with to finish it. Considering how it’s a bunch of high school students doing this work they have their doubts and concerns. So I’m not going to be able to get back home as much.”

    “Are you sure? What about your sister? She’ll be lonely in the house with her brother.”

    “Hmm…” He made a pensive pause as though he was thinking about her. A minute later he came back with an answer for her. “You’re probably right. I can take her with me. It’ll be a good chance for her to get to know some of the faculty members and learn about something new.”

    “You’ll keep her safe and watch out for her?”

    “Of course! I won’t let anything happen to her, mother!”

    “Alright. Please at least call me each night so I know you’re safe.”

    “I will.” Yori stepped out of the kitchen with the choirs completed. Yumi awaited his return in the hall. “It’s done.”

    “I’m sorry you had to lie to mom, Yori,” she said filled with guilt.

    He placed his hand on her shoulder giving her a comfort smile. “It’s fine. I know this is important for you.”

    The hour had become very late and morning threatened to arrive soon. Inside the Furukawa apartment everyone slept peaceful except for one. She tried to be as quiet as possible to not wake anyone up. Despite having decided that she would leave with Yuki, it remained a secret from her family. She felt a little sense of irony knowing that she attempted to do what Yuki had to her. However, she knew that there was no convincing her mother of anything. ‘I’m glad that I packed everything before I slept.’

    Saki opened her door listening to the painful whining of the hinges and praying that it was not too loud. She returned back to her packed bag lifting it to her shoulder. A slow rolling yawn spilled from her mouth despite her trying to force it back. ‘I’m so tired… I hope wherever it is we’re going I’ll have a chance to sleep…’ She had only been able to get a few hours of sleep after making sure that everything she needed was packed. Saki tipped toed out of her room into the hallway eying the living room in sight.

    “…sister?” called a young sleepy voice that was not sure what she was seeing.

    A bolt of fear ran through Saki freezing her in her step. She appeared like a thief in the night that had just been caught in the middle of the act. Saki tilted her head over her shoulder trying to stay mostly in the shadows. “Noriko? What are you doing up so late?”

    “I had a dream that you were taken away from us. That bad men had come for you.” Noriko rolled her hand against her eyelid trying to get sleep free so she could see clearly. “You’re not going anywhere right, sister?”

    Saki hesitated giving her an answer. She hated the thought of having to lie to her sister. The time she had ticked quickly away from her. The longer that she held her reply the heavier her heart felt. ‘I can’t tell her the truth, but what can I say?’

    “There aren’t any bad men are there, sister?” Noriko started to close the distance between them. She tried to reach out for Saki not wanting to be apart from her letting her dream drive her.

    Saki bit her lip staring down at her younger sister from the shadow. The cold hearted approached was not going to work she had decided. She knelt down to meet Noriko. “It’s going to be alright, Noriko. I won’t let them take me away from you. But I have to deal with them, you see?”

    “The bad men?”

    “That’s right. But I’ll beat them up and come back. So don’t you worry.”


    “Of course! I’m stronger and tougher than any bad guy, right?”

    Noriko nodded to Saki having some of the worry start to melt away from her face. The reassurance from her sister had warmed up her expression. “Right!” She gave Saki a little jump of support for her to show that she was with her.

    “What’s going on out here?” echoed a new older voice that made Saki’s mind run cold for a second.


    Not even thinking about it, Noriko ran back to their mother jumping with excitement. “Big sister’s going to beat up the bad guys!”

    “What?!” she exclaimed incredulously. The older slightly graying woman looked down the hall at her eldest daughter with a questioning look. An exchange occurred between them without words and she knew immediately. “Noriko, you should be getting back to sleep.”

    “…but…” Noriko tried to protest more, but could see the stare in her mother’s eyes telling her to stop. She silently agreed to return to her room.

    Saki’s mother stiffly walked a meter down the hall waiting until Noriko was back in her room before starting. “This is about that troublemaker isn’t it?” The silence in Saki’s voice was all that she needed to know that she was right. “How many times do I have to tell you not go near him?! Don’t you remember what he did to you? Have you forgotten?!”

    Saki could not take it anymore feeling something in her mind snap. “How can I forget when you always have to remind me?! You never let me! Yuki’s felt guilty about it for nearly two years even though he hasn’t said a thing to me!”

    “Feeling guilty isn’t enough!”

    “Then what do you want from him? He’s lost his parents, his friends and his place! What more do you want from him?!” She tried to keep her breathing under control, but her emotions were getting the better of her. Her mother seemed a little silent after the last barrage of words. Saki decided not to let the ground go and finish it. “I don’t care what you think. I trust Yuki and he needs my help. I’m going now. I’ll see you when I’m done!” Saki turned away feeling her legs shaking a little as she strode out of the apartment and into the night. She paused for a moment at the end the street to look back at the apartment building before continuing on.

    One stop before meeting with Yuki was on her schedule and it stood before her. The hospital looked even more eerie than normal in the dark light of the night sky. “Takako…” She did not know how long she was going to be away and felt it was important to see her one last time before leaving. The feeling of responsibility for her had never left her for a moment.

    At the nurse’s desk Saki inquired for a brief visit, but was shocked by what the nurse told her. “Miss Yamazaki was transferred out of the hospital a few days ago. I’m sorry!”

    To be continued…
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  3. #93
    The Quiet One Shift Andromeda's Avatar
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    Re: Shift

    At the nurse’s desk Saki inquired for a brief visit, but was shocked by what the nurse told her. “Miss Yamazaki was transferred out of the hospital a few days ago. I’m sorry!”

    It took a minute for Saki to completely take in what the nurse had told her. The same nurse that she had met before was not present adding to the collapsing feeling that she had. ‘I know I’m not family… I guess I just thought I would have been told…’ She did not even know if Takako had recovered or if they figured out what was wrong with her. If Takako still was left trapped within her mind she worried how confused or scared she might be of the change.

    Saki shifted her legs a little feeling like they had become heavy. The air compressed around her feeling warmer than before. Anxiety built within her pressing her forward. Saki leaned into the desk to the nurse. “…um… Does it say why she was transferred?”

    The woman looked through the papers for an answer to Saki’s question. “It seems that there was a change in her condition that required her to be moved to a different facility.”

    “A change in her condition? What does that mean?”

    The nurse read through the papers more thoroughly after seeming to not have a good answer for Saki. When she raised her head up there was not much of a change in her features. “I’m afraid there isn’t anything specific provided here. Miss Yamazaki was required to be moved at the request of Dr. Shiotani.”

    His name alerted Saki immediately and recalled her meeting with him. ‘He was examining Takako for his work as a candidate. Perhaps she passed and he’ll be able to treat her…somehow…’ Saki tried not to latch on to her hope too much when she looked back at the nurse. “Did he say anything?”

    “About what?” the nurse asked a little confused, having not been present when it had happened.

    “About being a candidate?”

    “I’m sorry, Miss, but I wasn’t here when the transfer happened. I only have the report to go on. It’s unusual not to leave more specifics when a patient is transferred, but I’m afraid it does happen if they’re in a hurry.”

    Saki nodded a little to the nurse trying to pull herself back together. Her hope hung around inside her shaking her body, but she drew herself back. “Thank you for very much. I’m sorry for troubling you.” She bowed politely to the nurse and left the floor quietly. Any attempt to keep her thoughts under control proved to be futile. Focus became lost as she froze up in the hospital leaving herself a prisoner of her raging questions about Takako.

    Chapter 92 – Second Meetings

    In the intersection of the streets from Yuki and Saki’s homes, two individuals waited. They had been waiting for while under the expectations that the one that they were waiting for would arrive. The plan, which had only been briefly discussed, marked out a time and place for them to meet. It was not as though being delayed a few minutes meant that they missed their ride, but it was no longer a few minutes.

    “What’s keeping her?” Yuki inquired out loud rhetorically, knowing that Ayumi had no answer for him. “She’s the one that insisted on coming. I didn’t think she’d be late.”

    Ayumi watched Yuki pace for the twentieth time in a circle. She could see the grass that was flattened around where his feet had been. It became too much for her to patiently withstand any longer. She stepped out in front of his path so that he was forced to stop. “Yuki!” He nearly ran her down before she interrupted the spiraling thoughts that consumed him. “Finally…perhaps she changed her mind.”

    Yuki shook his head furiously in disagreement. “No! Saki doesn’t change her mind once she’s made a decision! There’s something wrong!”

    It became clear to Ayumi that it was going to be difficult to flatly convince Yuki. She saw that his mind was set. “I doubt that there’s anything wrong with Saki. She’s pretty good at taking care of herself.”

    “But I can’t leave without knowing what happened to Saki! She could be in danger!”

    Ayumi closed her eyes for a moment trying to find a way out of the stalling. The forceful options that she could take would only end up back firing on her later. She knew how Yuki was about Saki. “Are you forgetting that she did take out that gang leader? And she did fight one of the assassins. It’s more likely that something is delaying her.”

    He had to give it a brief consideration when he remembered what she had done. However, Yuki remained at his previous decision. “Then we wait until she does show up!”

    A sigh from Ayumi made her regret hearing those words. ‘This is just going in circles. We need to move…’ She reached into her large packed bag for something. Paper appeared along with a pen that she quickly made use of. “Then how about this?” Ayumi showed him the paper that had simple instructions to where to meet them. “When she shows up this will tell her where to meet us, okay?”

    “But if we leave now how will she catch up to us? We’ll just have to wait there for her.”

    Another sigh, though in disappointment, came from Ayumi. She searched around the area quickly for a safe place for the note before returning back to Yuki. “How can you be so smart and so stupid at the same time?”


    She pushed at his back to get him moving now that she had him more convinced. He held some of his stubbornness still, though mostly on confusion. “Trust me when I say that if she finds it before we get there then she’ll probably be waiting on us.”

    Yuki looked over his shoulder letting his feet get walked by Ayumi. He stared down at her trying to figure out what she was talking about. “But you’re not making any sense, Ayumi!”

    “Just keep moving! I’d like to be on our way before full light!”

    “Hey! Stop pushing, Ayumi!”

    Under the knoll of the great tree Seiji and Fumiko sat waiting for the appointed time. Fumiko left home quite a bit earlier than she planned with her parents still not understanding. She thought they would calm down if she gave them time to think about it. The sour feeling in her stomach had remained through the entire night as she tried to sleep. It combined with her parents repeated yelling making her leave. She had used her window and escaped with the aid of her magic. The ache in her stomach continued to persist as she waited.

    She looked down at the bag that she had packed of clothes and a few other items that would have seemed like she was going camping. ‘I hope I didn’t pack too much or too little… I don’t know where we’re going…’ The closest idea she had of their destination was the assassin woman that had nearly killed her at the school. Unfortunately, the pieces that she remembered barely painted a picture for her. ‘I wonder if I should have brought anything, he didn’t…’

    Fumiko adjusted the bag nervously a little before casting it aside behind her. The rough looking teenager that slept across from her, Seiji, made her hope for some more answers. He seemed to know the situation better. “Are you awake?”

    “…sorta…” whispered Seiji not moving himself to address her.

    Sensing a distant pushing attitude, Fumiko became more self-conscious of what she was doing. “I’m sorry for waking you up. I was just wondering if you might know where it is Yuki is going.”


    “I see.” The sound of shoes scraping over rough terrain pulled Fumiko attention away from Seiji. ‘Someone else has arrived…’ She stood up and approached the slope of the roots to help whoever came out of the darkness. Yori broke first followed by Yumi a meter behind him. “President Mizuno!” She sounded excited and relieved to see someone else, and someone that was more approachable.

    Yori nodded to Fumiko and sat his small bag down. He turned back quickly to Fumiko. “We’re not in school so I’m not carrying my title. You can just call me Yori.” He was a little hesitant about having her calling him by his first name, but he knew that Yumi would have insisted otherwise.

    “And you can call me Yumi as well!” Yumi cheerful declared standing next to her brother.

    Fumiko gave them an uncertain nod of agreement. “If you’re sure… You can call me Fumiko then!”

    “I’m sorry that we’re so late!” Yumi looked around the hill to try to see who else had arrived. The sight of only Seiji saddened her a little. She turned back to Fumiko to check. “Is this all who came?”


    Yori tilted his head over to Yumi. He knew that she hoped for everyone to come, but that ideal was unlikely. It had been clear to him from the meeting. “Considering how the little girl was acting towards Hayashi it’s unlikely that she would be coming. I can’t speak for the other one, but it is their choice to make.”

    She lowered her head a little working out the disappointment. “…I know…” Yumi hefted her bag up and fixed it to a comfort travel spot on her shoulder. The determination and certainty that she had before surfaced in her face as she raised herself up. “Let’s get going then! We don’t want to miss him!”


    “Alright!” piped in Seiji from behind suddenly. His appearance threw them all off balance thinking that he was ignoring them all. Seiji gave them all a confused look for their strange reaction to him being prepared. “What?”

    “Thought you were still trying to sleep…” Fumiko flatly replied to him.

    “I was just conserving my strength. Don’t know when we’ll be fighting so I’m not going to be wasting it.”

    Yori and Fumiko leaned over to each other and whispered quietly. “So he’s not completely simpleminded,” remarked Yori.

    “But it is still about fighting though.”


    Seiji broke in between their conversation sensing that they were talking about him. “What are you two saying about me?!” Fumiko waved him off like it was nothing to be concerned about, but he was not convinced. Even when they began to walk off the hill he chased after them not satisfied with them. “Hey, don’t just leave! You were talking about me! Weren’t you!?”

    Yumi smiled to herself a little feeling like the group that they had was right. However, when she realized that she no longer saw them she panicked and ran down for them. “Wait for me! I know where we need to go!”

    Early morning arrived at the docks in the east side of the city. The eastern part belonged primarily to another suburb, but in the end both were all part of a larger whole anyway. The industrial sector of the city saw just as much change and possibly worse off for it than other parts. Factories and warehouses may have still functioned, but travel and outdoor maintenance became nearly impossible. Until the area could be reclaimed it was effectively shutdown. No one roaming around made it easier for Yuki and Ayumi to navigate without dealing with unnecessary interruptions.

    Yuki wondered why they were going into the docks. He inquired with Ayumi about their destination during the walk, but she remained very cryptic about the whole thing. Their arrival in the docks made the mystery all the more thick. He kept his pace with Ayumi, but shifted his eyes to her. “What are we doing in docks? We going to swim?”

    She ignored him for several more paces considering her response. “You’ll understand soon enough…”

    An annoyed scowl came from Yuki to reply to her vagueness. He dug his hands into his pockets keeping his bag firmly on his shoulder. Even for their trip she kept from him the details when he wanted to know what he should pack. He started to really hate being left in the dark about something that he was helping her. Yuki paused to check how far into the docks they had gone thinking about Saki still missing. “Shouldn’t we stop soon so that Saki can find us?”

    Ayumi came to a stop being interrupted by something ahead of her. She kept her back to Yuki having become tired of listening to his insistent worrying over the safety of Saki. There held no doubt in her mind that Saki was safe, but there was nothing in all the languages of the world that could convince him otherwise. She counted herself fortunate to have convinced him to walk as far as they had.

    She noted quickly to herself the obstruction before addressing Yuki. “She’ll be able to find us. Just like they have…”

    “Huh? Who—“ He turned his head to look at Ayumi confused by her last words. However, she directed him with her finger pointing further ahead of them. In the front of them appearing to be blocking a very wide pathway stood four figures. It took him another moment to clearly see them. His eyes widened in shock and surprise while his mouth managed only confusion. “How?!”

    Before any answers or greetings could be exchanged though, Seiji burst out of the line up and charged Yuki. Taken completely by surprise, he decked Yuki hard nearly dropping him if that had been his intention. “What’s the hell matter with you?!”

    To be continued…
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  4. #94
    The Quiet One Shift Andromeda's Avatar
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    Re: Shift

    Before any answers or greetings could be exchanged though, Seiji burst out of the line up and charged Yuki. Taken completely by surprise, he decked Yuki hard nearly dropping him if that had actually been his intention. “What’s the hell matter with you?!”

    Yori and Fumiko managed to sweat a little surprised and stunned by his solution. “Guess he really does only think with his fists,” commented Yori.

    “Yeah, after all that about saving his energy. He probably only was doing it so that he could punch him…”

    Seiji snapped his head back at the two commenting on him. “Stop with your commentary!”

    “He’s got good hearing…”

    “Yuki!” screamed Yumi coming quickly to his aid. She tore him away from Seiji so that he could not be beat up any further. “What do you think you’re doing!? Punching him isn’t the solution!”

    Seiji looked down at the girl’s pleading face, but held his ground. “I know him better than any of you do! I know what’ll get through to him!”

    Amongst the arguing Yuki pulled himself back to reality. The sore throbbing pain in his cheek told him that something happened. In his confused state he tried to figure out why his face hurt so much. Eventually, he realized that Yumi and Seiji were standing in front of him yelling. The pieces quickly fell into place for him afterwards. Yuki pressed forward pushing at Seiji. “You hit me didn’t you! Why?”

    Yuki’s voice pierced through Yumi’s yelling with Seiji. Seiji immediately turned to face him no longer interested in what Yumi had to say to him. “What do you think you’re doing here? Planning on leaving without telling anyone?”

    Chapter 93 – Departure

    The accuracy of his accusation made Yuki lean away from Seiji in hesitation. ‘This is what I wanted to avoid.’ Yuki remained quiet not giving Seiji a response.

    “You got anything to say?!”

    While Yuki held his lips shut, Yumi uneasily watched them. As the seconds passed for her it became more difficult for her to keep quiet. She understood the reason for why Yuki left without a word. She was certain that Yori and Fumiko knew as well. ‘There’s nothing going to be gained from forcing Yuki to say it. I’ve got to do something!’ Yumi stepped between the two boys locking stares with Seiji. He did not scare her despite the intimidating aura he was amassing around him. “I think it’s pretty clear why Yuki did what he did! Beating him up won’t change that!”

    Seiji started to protest, but Fumiko and Yori appeared at his sides and started to pull him away. “Just give him some room. Pretty sure you’ll figure out once you calm down.”

    “Stop patronizing me!”

    Fumiko looked over to Yori and commented to him, “The little ninja girl’s right. He does know big words.”

    “I have a name you know. I’d suggest you use it in the future,” Chiharu ordered lowly appearing behind Fumiko.

    “You?!” shouted Fumiko stumbling away from Chiharu and Seiji. The sight of the little girl before her had stolen her breath and a year of life, she was quite certain. It took her a while to recover enough for words. “When did you get here?! I thought you decided against coming!”

    Chiharu narrowly glared at the tall girl like she was trying to make it seem like the height made no difference, which considering her entrance managed pretty successfully. She did not even give an acknowledging glance to Yuki as she examined everyone that was present. A slight lowering of her eyebrow was all she gave. Once she finished she looked back at Fumiko. “It’s for me to decide what I do. An explanation to you is unnecessary.”

    Fumiko recovered enough by that point to become offended by the little girl’s arrogant attitude. While she might have been using her height as an advantage, her perception of the ninja being small made her fear her less than before. “Now listen you!”

    “See!” interjected Seiji seeing a moment to find a comrade against his obnoxious foe. “You understand why I can’t stand her!”

    Haruo sighed to himself already starting to regret his decision to follow them. The idea of a group of noisy kids made him want to turn around. ‘Perhaps it would have been better to remain behind after all…’

    Through all of the confusion, Yuki happened to glance around noticing Haruo keeping to himself. “Hey, Haruo!” he yelled out cheerfully, seemingly forgetting the fact that he did not want all of his friends around him. Yuki noticed the wincing Haruo, from being spotted, and he grinned.

    During the greetings, Seiji had a surprising moment awareness and clarity. He threw his hand out pointing over at Haruo appearing to be accusing him. “How did you get here? Were you following us the whole way?”

    A couple of the teens exchanged looks feeling equally curious to know how Haruo had found them. Yumi came out from around Yuki wanting to invite Haruo into the group, seeing out far away he kept himself. “Is that true? You were following us? You could have just walked with us.”

    He hardly wanted to explain himself to them. Providing a reason for others was not one of the things that tried to give. It seemed more the case that they should just accept the outcome and not pry. However, when he glanced at Yuki he received a look from him that tried to encourage him. Haruo got the feeling that Yuki wanted him to take the opportunity. He remained reluctant, but gave into the request. It was in a fact a simple one. “I was following about a kilometer behind.”

    “What?! A kilometer!” Seiji’s incredulous reaction drove him over to Haruo needing more of an answer. He peered down at Haruo with a demanding expectation in his stance. “That’s impossible! You couldn’t even see us in this darkness!” He pressed his position nearly invading the same footing with Haruo to get an explanation that made sense to him.

    Lacking the height against Seiji did not make a difference for him. The rough exterior of Seiji had no effect over him either, considering his past. Standing his ground unaffected made more of an impression than words. “I tracked your smell.”

    “My smell?” Confusion for Seiji dropped in first, but followed by something less expected. Rather than becoming angry for what could have been easily seen as an insult Seiji started to check himself. He wondered if there was something that he was missing and everyone else had kept to themselves. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. Just because I slept outside doesn’t mean I smell! You some sort of dog?”

    “No, I had my blood hounds track you.”

    Seiji looked around Haruo trying to find the dogs that he spoke of, but failed. “I don’t see them. Where are they?”

    “I released them. I don’t need them at this moment.”

    “That’s enough. You shouldn’t keep pressuring,” interrupted Yumi. She saw that the half answers that Haruo was responding with finally starting to get on Seiji’s nerves. They had just begun to get along together and she did not want to jeopardize that so soon.

    The priest-in-training begrudged her the request. However, he stomped back over towards Fumiko. It did not seem that he was finished yet. He had not forgotten about Chiharu. “And what about you? You keep popping in out of nowhere like you’re some sort of shadow! How’d you get here?”

    “I tracked you by your smell,” she mocked. It did not matter to her how much it was pissing him off. She allowed herself a small curl at the end of her lips being certain that she could see his face turning red with anger. “You’re an easy one.”

    “Why you…”

    After one fire was fought off Yumi dragged herself in to prevent yet another one. She forced her body between them separating them. “Don’t fight again!” Yumi fixed them with a long glare each that actually seemed to work in making them back down.

    Yuki managed some awe shocked looks watching Yumi handling everyone with surprising ease. He leaned over to Ayumi while Yumi finished up with them. “What happened to Yumi? I don’t remember her ever being this direct or commanding.”

    “Perhaps she’s showing off for someone.”

    “Showing off for who?”

    She sighed in her own regret for thinking that Yuki would understand without her saying it directly. Her hand brushed through her hair taking a pause for consideration. It did not seem to be worth the effort. “Does it really matter? She’s keeping them under control. You should be glad.”

    The sudden change in attitude from Ayumi took Yuki back a step. He felt like she was attacking him in an ever so slight manner. It made him stop to watch Yumi walking back to him. “Guess you’re right. She actually looks pretty cool out their putting Seiji in his place.” Yuki became drawn in a little by the changing that Yumi was creating before his eyes.

    An interrupting glare from Ayumi broke him free. He worked to shake off the strange feeling. Yuki realized in the next moment that he needed an answer. “I’m glad to see everyone again, but why are you all here?”

    “I think that’s pretty obvious! Same reason as me!” Saki shouted from behind Yuki, arriving late.

    Yuki turned around surprised and glad to see Saki had finally come. A quick second of relief flowed over him before he ran over to meet her. “Saki! You were able to find us!”

    She saw Yuki coming at her looking to give an overly excited hug. Saki took a swift side step, which blurred briefly, dodging Yuki’s tackle. As Yuki began to trip from missing her, she reached out to stop him. “You know I wouldn’t leave you to go off into the unknown without me!” Afterward, she positioned him back into an upright stance.

    “Thanks…” Yuki said slowly hesitating a little after nearly being left to fall over. He looked back at the rest of his friends that Yumi had managed to wrangle in closer. Seeing how many that showed up left him a little surprised. He had not expected that people he had barely met, except under extreme circumstances, to want to help him. It certainly pleased him and worried him. The thing he feared the most if he had told anyone had happened. ‘I can understand Seiji, but everyone else? Why? When it’ll be so dangerous? Do they even know how dangerous it is?’

    Yuki swallowed slowly still taking it all in. He checked back with Saki seeking some support. Unfortunately, Saki seemed to be fine with them coming and silently disagreed with Yuki’s giving into his fears. It felt like they were all backing him into a corner; however he could not let it stand. “You want to come with me? Do you even know what I’m going to be doing?”

    Yumi made an acknowledging nod along with a couple of the others. “We may not know everything, but we do know enough to make a decision. You’re going to confront the people trying to kill you.” She held back on her fear that he would be planning on remaining. It was too early to try to start changing his mind.

    “And those people are very dangerous. Look what one of them did to the school! There’ll be plenty more like that where I’m going. These aren’t the sort of people that you can handle with conventional thinking.”

    “If a weakling like you managed to survive the assassins, then there shouldn’t be any problems.”

    The attitude that Chiharu had did not surprise Yuki much, but he knew that she did not have any clue to what was actually happening. She was never around when he used his powers or any of the assassins. “Don’t underestimate them with a cocky attitude. They are nothing like the ninjas you’ve faced.

    Chiharu attempted to bark back a quick retort, but Yumi cut her off. “We understand the dangers. Some of us have seen firsthand what they can do. We knew before we decided and we still came.”

    Yuki took a step forward digging into his emotions for his counter argument. “Besides Ayumi, Saki and Seiji are the only ones to have fought them and Haruo is the only one with special powers. This isn’t something that you can do on determination alone!”

    “I wouldn’t make quick decisions about us without understanding us,” began Fumiko speaking from the back and still being seen easily. She raised her hand up to the sky suddenly being covered in thin threads. Highly detailed and intricate writing glowed like ribbons in the area wrapping around her arm building to a red light. Small flames cracked through the developing orb until it was completely consumed. Once it reached critical mass the ball of fire exploded away from her palm sent into the sky. “We can look after ourselves and we are not without abilities of our own.”

    It was Yuki that was interrupted then by Saki. “I think you’ve lost, Yuki. I think the only one on your side is Ayumi at this point. We’re all coming! Remember we can look after ourselves!”

    Yuki sighed as he gave into their will. “…fine… Hope there’s enough room Ayumi.” He checked on Ayumi, who had held herself out of the debate. She looked mostly unfazed by the decision.

    “Yeah, there’ll be enough room.”

    Yori declared himself with a step out of the group and address Yuki. “Where will we be going?”

    It took a minute for Yuki to think over it trying to remember before he declared cheerful, “I don’t know!” Everyone fell over to the ground suddenly completely taken off guard by the nearly enthusiastic declaration of ignorance. Yuki gave them all a confused look for why they were overreacting for him answering honestly.

    “How can you not know where you’re going when you’re planning on going?! That’s the first thing you ask!” yelled Chiharu recovering before the others. “You’re not just a weakling, but you’re dumb too!”

    A nod came from Yuki agreeing with her. “I guess I didn’t really think about it too much. Knowing where they are isn’t really going to change my decision on if I’m going or not.”

    “Somehow that makes perfect sense coming from him…” commented Yori, joining Chiharu and soon the others.

    Yuki turned excitedly and expectantly to Ayumi. A bit of a glow surrounded his eyes in eagerness. “So what is your homeland called?”

    Sweat dripped down Ayumi reacting to Yuki’s energy. She held a minute longer increasing the suspense for everyone that waiting in anticipation. “Atlantis.”

    There was a mixed reaction of confusion and awe (mostly from Fumiko and Yuki), while Yori seemed more calculating than anything else. Yuki took the stage fueled by his own excitement. “You mean like the legendary city of Atlantis? From Greek myth?”

    “The city that sank into the ocean thousands of years ago?” added Fumiko.

    “The same, though I assure you we are no myth.”

    Ideas and theories ran rampant through Yuki’s mind. His reading selection provided him with enough material to come up with endless possibilities. The possibilities could not hold him. “So is it like in some other dimension or something? Why are we at a dock? Do we need a submarine to reach the city because you’re still living underwater?”

    Ayumi did not know if she wanted to slap him or provide a legitimate answer to all of his overreaching questions. It required her to take a couple of breaths to settle herself down enough to deal with him. “We’re here for a boat. We’ll be traveling by boat to the homeland.”

    Yori pushed into the conversation physically by stepping almost in front of Yuki. He grew tired of the childish questions and wanted a straight answer. “If we’re traveling by boat. Where is Atlantis located?”


    To be continued…
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  5. #95
    The Quiet One Shift Andromeda's Avatar
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    Re: Shift

    The Pacific Ocean breeze was stiff and cool for the morning. The further away from Japan the cooler it seemed to get until land was no longer in sight. Only a single luxury liner sailed the seas south that morning leaving behind everything. It remained skillfully undetected in its trip. Aboard the deck only a few strolled its polished wood floors.

    Having such a large ship to travel in had left some of the guests a little uneasy for the trip. They stayed cautiously towards the interior, which was vast and grand. Each room proved to be far more than they would ever need for the journey. The grandiose vision suited a happier occasion, which was not weighed down so heavily by the somber aura that lingered underneath false joy.

    Near the center of the over lit and sparkling dance ballroom sat Yuki in a semi-meditative state. The ringing clatter of shoes briskly walking towards him alerted his senses. He opened his eyes in the direction of Ayumi’s approach. “Hey Ayumi!”

    The lowered brow and strictly controlled breathing made it clear that she was not pleased. “Must you always indulge your fantasies in such frivolities?” She came to stop in front of him crossing her arms. Calling her displeased understated Ayumi’s mood.

    Yuki became used to her stricter hand from all of the training he had with her. He slowly rose out from his position unfolding his legs to stand up. “No greeting?” he began, trying to keep things light despite Ayumi glaring at him. A drawn out second hoped for even something. “I guess we have already seen each other today. So you don’t need to greet me.”

    Her words became mingled with emotions that rattled at her control. “You think this is a joke?”

    He leaned back a little from Ayumi’s pressing. It certainly had not been the first time that he saw a crack in Ayumi’s armor, but the frequency that he saw concerned him. “N-No! Of course not! I just made the first thing that came to mind that I thought would be comfortable for everyone.”

    “This isn’t a pleasure cruise, Yuki!”

    “I know that! You don’t have to remind me!”

    “Do you really?! While you’re here there is an entire country of people uncertain living in fear not knowing why their king isn’t there! Not knowing if they’ll be saved in time!” Ayumi voice cracked and weakened with her words as though it was struggle just to talk about it. A slight shaking in her arms showed how much her discipline fought with her emotions.

    Hesitation rose in Yuki as he watched her slowly fall apart in front of him talking about her people. He knew that they were in danger before from Ayumi, but he started to realize that she became like that every time she talked about the subject. ‘She really is worried about them… Even through all of that tough act, it’s eating away at her slowly the longer we take…’ Yuki did not know what he should do feeling almost like Ayumi could cry at any moment. He followed what his instincts told him.

    He stepped forward looking into Ayumi’s shaking eyes feeling the deep pain that sat within them. Only centimeters stood between them as he waited to make sure he was welcome. Yuki slowly closed the remaining distance lifting up his arms wrapping gently around her. The fragile warmth of Ayumi overcame him. She reluctantly accepted his advance putting her shivering arms up against his back. It almost made him freeze in surprising holding her so close in such a defenseless and helpless state. He did not know what more to think just letting the moment hold for as long as it should. “Ayumi…I’m sorry…”

    “…thank you…Yuki,” whispered Ayumi, her head resting on his shoulder not quite burying herself.

    Chapter 94 – A Blue View

    “I really don’t like this at all!” yelled Seiji over the deck as though he needed to be heard by everyone. Yori, Yumi and Fumiko all gave him the look that it was unnecessary to be shouting. Ever since they had left the docks Seiji held clamped tightly to the side of the railing. At first, it seemed as though he was just enjoying the youthful energetic pursuits of a free luxury ride at sea, one which he never would have seen before as a simple priest-in-training.

    Yori reclined in one of the plentiful sun chairs appearing to be very relaxed. “I concur… This quite…unnerving…”

    “Yes, I agree…it is quite unnatural!” added Fumiko resting on the wide banister with her back to the ocean.

    Seiji pulled away from the railing in utter panic-stricken confusion. “How the hell can you say that with the way you’re acting!?” He threw his arms out shaking them a little incredulously at them.

    “No, it really is!”

    A cautious slit in his narrowed eyes looked at the two of them suspiciously. “You’re making fun of me again! Aren’t you?”

    Yori dismissed the notion with a flippant hand jester. “It’s not as though you’re a tough guy or someone that tries to maintain a certain image.”

    Two sharp strikes directly on target slammed into Seiji cutting him down quickly. It made it very difficult for him to fight back after Yori had been so piercing with his words. Bluffing his way through with bravado failed him already by complaining. He still managed to do depressed and dejected quite well though. However, it quickly changed when it thought that he heard them laughing at him. Angered fueled a second wind to stand him upright and glaring down at them. “How the hell can you not be freaked out by this dream crap?!”

    “Yuki’s not dreaming. He’s just meditating,” Yumi boldly inserted.

    “Don’t nitpick me! It’s real, but not real!” Seiji stumbled around his words still unbalanced by ship and further confused by what he was trying to say. He tried to figure it before when Yuki explained it and none of it really made a lot of sense to him. When he got a second explanation prior to the disembarking from Ayumi it made things only further convoluted for him. “None of it makes any sense. Just sounds like a dream to me!”

    “You’re part right and part wrong,” echoed Ayumi’s voice from within the hall. Her undeclared arrival set Seiji on edge hugging the railing and the others looking more attentive than before. She stared at Seiji for a moment regretting the fact of what she was going to do. “As I explained before it is a type of illusionary power. We create what we want with our mind to make it real within the boundaries of our field.” The longer she went on the more it became clear to her that he was not getting it either distraction by irrational fear or too dumb to comprehend an explanation. Ayumi could only sigh.

    “It’s like playing pretend when you were younger,” Fumiko translated, “Except what was pretend is now reality.”

    Ayumi bit her lip a little holding back her frustration with her explanation being dumb downed so much feeling it as an insult. It became even worse though when she saw that Seiji actually seemed to understand what Fumiko reworded for him. She lost a moment of her composure in slack-jawed disbelief. It immediately followed up by the sting at her pride waking her voice. “I can’t believe you actually understand such a simplistic explanation as to insult our great tradition!”

    Seiji shrugged to her a bit feeling a brief respite from his fear. “I can’t help it if your explanations are too complicated.”

    “…too…complicated!? Complicated?!”

    Yumi stepped in between seeing that she was needed to calm them down. “No one intended to insult your tradition Ayumi. You should be glad that Seiji understands now.” She focused on Ayumi seeing her at the one that was more in danger of completely losing her temper, even though she nearly had already. The different side of Ayumi had not been something that she completely adjusted to, since she had been used to seeing shy and happy Ayumi until a week ago.

    The reluctance surpassed any expression she might have tried. They walked on her very core, much like Yuki repeatedly did as she recalled. She backed down though settling on Seiji not being worth it. “…fine…”

    “I’ve got a question,” Seiji said, directed towards Ayumi in bold fashion acting like everything that happened a second before meant nothing.

    “…What?” Ayumi responded curtly grinding the word through her teeth. She bore him a viciously narrow glare that had no room for wasting her time with pointless questions.

    “If you’re so powerful why not just make a plane or some instant teleportation device to get us there faster than a boat?”

    Yori sat up from his chair and leaned over his knees. He made a slight nod before re-enforcing Seiji’s question with one that had been spinning through his mind for a while. “I was actually wondering the same thing as well. It doesn’t seem like the most efficient method given what I’ve seen you do.”

    The question turned Ayumi away from them slightly looking a little cornered and reluctant. Her hesitation only made everyone lean and press in becoming even more curious considering her reaction. When she looked back, prepared to talk, to find them all much closer than before her doubt increased. “It’s because…I’m trying to limit how much fighting we have to do while reaching Atlantis Going in from the air is going to get us spotted.”

    Fumiko checked around with the others to see if it was just her. “That wasn’t a very convincing answer the way she said it,” she whispered.

    “For someone so confident that was pretty weak.”

    “…my boat…” mumbled Ayumi barely even audible to even herself. The sound of their whispers made her twitch. They already knew and were passing judgment. She was not going to let them. It embarrassed her, but she had to have it with her. She could not take their stares and looks of suspicion. “Fine! It’s my boat!”

    “Huh? Isn’t it just a fake?” Seiji questioned leaning in around the others.

    Ayumi shook her head. They did not understand. She was forced to explain it to them. “No!” she snapped looking almost insulted by insinuating that the cruise boat was her’s. “My boat is inside the boat.”


    The blank stare from Seiji made it impossible for Ayumi. She dug further down not wanting to tell them, but there was no other way for them to understand. It was important to her. “I make them, as a hobby. Well it was the only one I finished…” Ayumi turned away bringing herself up to the railing to rest her arms against. “It was the first time that I had been able to leave the palace. I never was able to do anything with it locked up in a secret room.” A look of nostalgia began to surface on Ayumi.

    Yori and Fumiko shared confused looks with each other no longer certain where it was going. Seiji was even worse off than them and Yumi did the only polite thing she could think of by approaching the railing. Even if she said nothing Yumi could provide the sense that someone was listening to her.

    A rare honest smile came over Ayumi taking in the ocean smell. She glanced over at Yumi noticing her and brought her into her world. “I always thought of the ocean when I worked on it. The feel of the breeze at your skin and salty taste through your nose and tongue. Open seas and boundless possibilities. I’d create little pools with my power dreaming of it, but no matter real it seemed I always knew…”

    By that point in the reminiscing the others had joined in around hoping for a straight answer about the boat. No answer seemed in sight and Seiji planned the innocent victim. “Huh? What’s that got to do with no making a plane?”

    Ayumi’s bubble broke and she turned back around to face Seiji. She tried to hold back her aspirated expression staring at him. “Fine, I’ll do the only that will get through to that thick skull of yours!” She marched off the decked leaving the others behind.

    After she did not return they quickly voted on following her. In route a broadcast requesting all of them in the ballroom gave them their directions. They found her speaking to Yuki still confused about what was supposed to happen.

    She spun around to confirm that everyone arrived in the room. “I wasn’t planning on doing this for several more hours, but we’ll be doing it a few times on the trip. So follow my instructions if you don’t want to drift out to sea.” Ayumi motioned Yuki back a little and placed herself at the point that seemed to be the center. A white oval appeared suddenly around covering almost four meters in length and a meter wide. “Stand anywhere within this white line I marked.” All she received was questioning and uncertain stares back. “Just do it. You’ll understand once we’re done.”

    It took a minute for them to shuffle around in reluctance and feeling a little awkward. Once they finished though Ayumi looked over at Yuki. The white line disappeared and a strange weightlessness feeling over came all of them. “Do it. Remain as still as you can and don’t panic.” Suddenly, the cruise boat disappeared exposing all of them to the ocean below them with about ten meters to go before getting wet. Beneath them a small boat about the size and shape of a lifeboat fell into the water in anticipation like it was going to catch them.

    As expected, no one held still starting to flail about helplessly suspended in the air. Yumi and Yori latched on to each other while Seiji and Fumiko wrestled for control of Ayumi as their life preserver. Ayumi coughed and choked on their struggling trying to hold her concentration. “I said…don’t panic!” Nothing was going to calm them down. “Fine! Just stop trying to use me as an anchor!”

    Their landing in the boat was less than what Ayumi hoped for with most of them nearly being strung up by the edge of the boat. In the moments that they tried to recover themselves Ayumi closed her eyes and they were all suddenly rising again. The boat disappeared and wood planks appeared under their feet molding into a large room distinctly different from the one before, simple and unassuming.

    Ayumi checked on everyone around her to see that they were all right, though quite shaken by the experience. She waited a bit before ending her explanation. “We’re traveling this way because when we have to switch would you want to be only ten meters over the ocean or ten thousand if a mistake is made? And we can use the real boat as a temporary platform between field changes. You understand now?”

    Yori finally caught his breathe to look up at Ayumi. “You know you could have just said that without having to explain about your boat hobby.”

    “Uh?! I-I…” Ayumi eyes widened when she realized everything that happened. Her mind played through all of the events quickly through her mind as it sank in. A depressed look shadowed over her as she collapsed to the floor. “I-I said all of that…why!? Have I become infected by his idiocy now!? What’s wrong with me…”

    No one else said anything more feeling at a lack of words. They watched her quickly break herself down falling into a deep hole to try to run away from her embarrassment. They decided to do the polite thing and leave to let her be alone until she recovered from the shock.

    Hours later Ayumi still mumbled words to herself left barely able to function enough to keep her field up. Everyone had found places to spend their remaining time until Yuki took back over. The boat was not nearly as fancy or over the top as Yuki, but it still functioned as needed.

    At the rear of the boat Yuki leaned against the railing staring out into ocean. Saki arrived back having changed into a more summer wear, as the equator started arrive for them. She stuck to something comfort and certainly less feminine than the other girls were wearing for their summer. It was a simple long white shorts and pale blue tank top with an off white jacket. “Hey Yuki you going to get some sleep? Your shift starts in six hours.”

    “Uh?” Yuki coughed absentminded. He turned back to look at Saki for a moment, but returned to the view. “Yeah, I’ll sleep soon…”

    Saki stepped up next to him placing her hands out in the air playing casually with the breeze between her fingers. She tilted her head over towards him. “Thinking about it?”

    “A little…” He shifted his weight on his legs suddenly feeling the awkward stiffness crawling up his knee. “…a lot… I feel like I’m just running away from all of the hell I brought down on them.”

    “I’m not so certain it is hell to them. It might have seemed like that at first, but people are adjusting. I think it actually brought all of us together. We wouldn’t all be here now if it hadn’t happened. They have a way to be able to achieve what they want now because of what you did.”

    Yuki thought about it having not considering Saki’s perspective. “So you think it’s a good thing that happened?” He saw her giving him an encouraging nod to keep going. “I guess it does depend on how you look at it…and things did seem to be settling down when we left. Yeah! By the time we get back life will be back to normal again and they’ll be living happily and normally!”

    “Exactly! So don’t let it worry and weigh you down! They’ll be fine while we take care of this!”

    To be continued…
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  6. #96
    The Quiet One Shift Andromeda's Avatar
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    Re: Shift

    Late evening arrived on the ship. Yuki had already replaced Ayumi, who was sleeping mostly peacefully. The switch left everyone very much on edge and unable to sleep immediately. It was partly the reminder that they were not something real that could be easily lost with a single careless thought. The other half proved less plain and more racking on their bodies. None of them had ever been away from Japan before and some never even out of the town. They watched as they sailed away from their home and found foreign skies above them that gave less comfort to a sore soul.

    Like the rest, Yumi wandered the halls of Yuki’s cruise ship unable to sleep. Her restlessness came less from the uncertainty of falling into the ocean like the rest. She trusted Yuki and that gave her strength against such fears. However, a different matter troubled her far more deeply. It kept her from being able to concentrate on anything. She tossed and turned before when she attempted to rest. Her mind stuck on one matter, Ayumi.

    She could not escape the thoughts in her mind and the squeezing pain that wrapped around her heart. It tormented her steps as she strolled through another random hallway. ‘What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I stop thinking about it?’ Each time it rose within her images of Yuki and Ayumi flashed through her mind.

    In the next hallway Yumi found that she approached the ballroom where Yuki focused on keeping the boat together. She did not know what had brought her to his door. Even if she left she knew that the thoughts would not stop coming. She needed a few moments of peace that perhaps Yuki could grant her. ‘Maybe talking to him would settle everything down enough to sleep…but what about?’

    Yumi hesitated before the door not certain if she could make it into the room. Even her recently discovered strength was not enough to keep her heart from faltering upon the threshold. She had thought that she had changed to be able to not become nervous at the single thought of speaking to him. Yet it seemed that nothing had become different. It saddened her, frustrated even. She forced herself to look up into the room to find him, even if she might not enter. ‘I-I just need to see…Yuki…I—‘

    A deep penetrating weight fell upon her heart dragging all of the air out of her. She had not been able to react. Yumi simply stood in the threshold frozen in a paralysis of her own emotions. There were no thoughts just the pounding in her chest that she heard making her go deaf from listening. Soon her arms began to shaking along with her legs. She felt ready to collapse at any moment. All Yumi managed then forced her to flee the scene until she made it to her room. In her room she fell to the floor still feeling every part of her shaking violently. A hot boiling sensation started to grow within that converted the shaking into spontaneous anger.

    No thoughts controlled Yumi. Only simple emotions fueled her as she threw things across the room that decorated the space. Value or preciousness did not matter to her. She demanded a vent to release the consuming emotions inside. Yumi froze in the middle of throwing a glass statuette at the wall. ‘What am I doing?!’ She jerked back as she looked around the room to see the shattered pieces of what she had destroyed strewn everywhere. ‘What did I…’

    As her mind traced backwards through the hazy it became clearer to Yumi. “Ayumi!” It had been far worse in implication than in the actual scene she saw. The image became etched into her mind left to fuel the aching that chipped away at her. “Ayumi was…she was sleeping next to him! Yuki was just letting her!” He meditated on his powers, but rolled up peacefully and defenseless was Ayumi on her side. She looked exhausted from holding together for half a day.

    Yumi looked around the room again. It made her drop to the side of the bed hanging her head down. A tear streamed down her cheek prepared for the sorrow that welled up. “I’m losing…it… I-I…”

    Chapter 95 – The Looming Fog

    Near the front of the cruise ship the restless had gathered. Yori held off his uneasiness by focusing on problems that spun in his mind over the day. He had not asked for anyone to join him, but realized the continued company that he had throughout the day. Fumiko and Seiji frequently stayed nearby. Seiji reason became fairly apparently and he suspected that being alone was not something that Fumiko wanted. The others seemed to be satisfied with keeping to themselves, a poor quality for a group. He wondered how well they would do once they reached land where an entire boat was not available for them to distance themselves from the others.

    Yori noted to himself how far that they had come. ‘The speed that we must be going to have already passed the equator in a single day… It’s very clear that this isn’t a normal vessel even if it does have the appearance of one. The flexibility that they have is staggering. Will they really need us to do anything with such overwhelming abilities?’ He looked back at the others that stuck nearby dwelling on the thought.

    The fairy said that they all had powers, but Yori wondered what it was talking about when it had said that to them. He knew that Fumiko had at least the ability to create fire, but he had not seen anything else from the rest of the group. A little of deduction made him conclude that even without powers that Saki and Seiji could hold themselves in a fight if needed. The strangeness of the little girl claiming to be a ninja left him uncertain, but the mysteriousness of her made him feel like she might stand a chance. Haruo remained even more mysterious than the girl and he did not know if that would hurt them. The ones that he felt concerned about was his sister and himself. The ability to talk to each other was hardly anything useful. It was the most worthless ability to have when having to deal with someone that wanted to kill them. Yori knew that he would have to protect Yumi, but he knew that sounding brave to himself was not going to give him any more confidence to succeed.

    Seiji shifted his weight against the wall of the deck. He looked frustrated and exhausted. No one said anything in the last few hours. He was left with only his thoughts and that could only sustain him for so long before he became bored. “Damn it all to hell! I can’t take all of this silence! Are you all just asleep or something!?” The moment after he yelled the other two stared at him with an annoyed expression that made him regret running off his mouth.

    “Didn’t realize you were just a chatty individual,” remarked Yori.

    “Thought tough guys were all silent types except when in a fight.”

    Their critiques on him made him jerked back a little as though pushed. “How can you all be so quiet?! Don’t you have anything to say or talk about?!”

    “This isn’t an afterschool hang out.”

    “I know that, but—“ Seiji paused in the middle of his sentence. The words they had said before suddenly fully sat in his mind. He turned blue when he realized what was happening. ‘What am I doing?! I have an image to maintain! I can’t let this get to me!’ Seiji straightened himself back up appearing like he had shaken off his problems, but it only became more obvious to the others.

    “Is the big tough guy getting scared?” whispered Chiharu into his Seiji as she appeared mysteriously hanging from the deck above. She gave him a wicked grin when he stumbled backwards startled by her entrance.

    He wiped his ear trying to get her out of him as his feet danced about. “What do you think you’re doing? When did you get there?!”

    “Only a moment ago. But I could hear your whining across the ship. It penetrates everything obnoxiously.”

    “You really are looking for a fight!” Seiji charged for where Chiharu hung only to find his fist in pain for slamming into the wall. Anger washed over any pain that he might have felt. He started to search the deck trying to figure out where she disappeared to. “You too afraid to fight me head on? You’re just a coward!”

    Chiharu stepped out of the shadows a few meters away from Seiji responding to his taunting. “I guess it would be boring to defeat you so easily.” She answered his fierce glare with a simple offensive stance that left too many openings.

    He read her stance and smirked to himself pleased to see that it worked. The fact that she was younger than him like a child or even a girl did not matter to him. It became a matter of pride that she mocked him so often. Seiji charged for her ready a strike with his fists, but before he could even prepare his arm he found himself flying through the air. A moment later his back slammed against the deck. He blinked trying to figure what had happened and heard a muffled laugh from the kid. This fueled his anger even more setting him on his feet to hunt down Chiharu once again.

    It did not take long for him to locate her as she stood in sight taunting him. The charge he made ended in the same results. Repeating the process started to become embarrassing and painful to watch as Seiji did not show any signs of achieving ground against her. It made him tired.

    Chiharu shrugged her shoulders looking bored. “You can’t even give me a good exercise. Guess you’re as disappointing as the weakling.” The stance she had suddenly changed appearing to have had a new mood turned over with her decision.

    “All you can do is talk!” Seiji charged the same as he had before for Chiharu. He went for a wide swing at her seeing leap away, but was prepared for it having seen her do it enough times while he was getting thrown. ‘Got her figured out!’ His hand grabbed her ankle and spun her around to her surprise. When he finished he left her denting the wall and shattering the glass of the porthole window. Chiharu fell down to floor having trouble moving. “Not so tough without your speed huh?!”

    Seiji grinned in triumph down at Chiharu. She glared up at him with defiance. It took her a while to get the feeling back in her body after being thrown so hard. ‘He read my moves… After all of that he can keep going… Damn!’ Chiharu refused to bow to him and forced herself back to her feet. However, before she could do anything a person’s back filled her entire vision.

    “That’s enough Seiji! How can you pick on a little girl like that?! I thought you were a better man than that!” Fumiko turned around to check on how Chiharu was doing. “It’s okay. I’ll protect you!”

    Chiharu felt Fumiko hand on her shoulder and turned away from the tall teen. “Tch! I don’t need you…” After those words she disappeared out of sight.

    “Chiharu!?” Fumiko search around the deck quickly and then ran off to hunt her down.

    Seiji was left confused and puzzled trying to figure out why he had become the villain. “But…but…” The blow to his manliness took it the hardest.

    Yori leaned at the railing knowing that there had only been two ways for it to have turned out. “That is why you don’t do that. You lose and you look like a weakling, but win and you’re a bully.” He pushed himself off and walked over to Seiji patting him on the shoulder. “It’ll be okay, eventually.” However, Yori stepped back in surprise seeing that Seiji was completely lost. It had been too much for him to handle. He sighed to himself. ‘How are we going to be able to survive like this?’

    Travel to the south continued mostly uninterrupted. Ayumi swapped with Yuki in the morning and then again when evening came. It had already become very cold when the evening came and there were not enough winter clothes to go around. Ayumi had only planned on three and the others did not pick for everyone weather condition. It kept them inside where it was still warm, but it soon became more of a concern navigating the ice field that surrounded the continent.

    The cruise ship pressed through cracking the ice along the surface proving again that it was not to be taken for appearance alone. Yori and Yumi stood on the bridge with a view of their destination ahead of them and giving directions to the voice activated ship controls. “If what I’m seeing on the monitor is correct actual land is only a few miles away,” reported Yori.

    Yumi looked out the window into the thick void of the night where no civilization existed. Only the moon and stars provided light to see by. “Are there any lights we can turn on? Running into ice is one thing, but actual land is going to be too dangerous!”

    “Would you like the search lights to be turned on?” replied a soft male voice, the computer that took their inputs.

    “Yes! Turn the lights on!”

    “Understood. Activating search lights.” Across the front of the ship thick beams of light snapped on casting out pools of light over passing icebergs and floating ice debris. A faint glow of reflecting ice in the distance signaled the land that Yori spoke about.

    “If there’s someone out there they’re going to see the lights. I think it’s too dangerous to be alerting them.”

    Yumi thought about it for a moment staring down at the flashing displays of information that she mostly did not understand. “If Ayumi’s Atlantis is out there then we’ve missed them. The coastline looks completely empty.”

    “Ayumi’s people aren’t the only ones that I’m thinking about it. Antarctica is regularly used by scientists as well. We don’t want them to accidentally see us and then have to explain ourselves to them.”

    She nodded agreeing with her brother. “You’re right, but we also need to be able to see. Can we turn down the brightness enough to see ahead while not being as easily seen?”

    “The lights are adjustable. Reduce strength by 80%?” answered the computer.

    “Yes!” The repeated questions in response to her queries started get on her nerves. She wished it would just act on her questions rather than second guessing everything. ‘I guess I should be grateful that it’s some science fiction computer that’s smart enough to interpret questions…still very annoying all the same…’

    The door to the hall opened up letting in Ayumi. She took a moment to examine the horizon before speaking up. “How long before landfall is possible?”

    “A few minutes would be my guess. So long as there isn’t any really thick ice to break through.” Yori flipped through the displays on the screen starting to become accustomed to the computer. He pulled up their targeted land to show to Ayumi. “You do realize that is over a kilometer high. There are other places we can go that are closer to sea level.”

    “Height doesn’t mean anything. Keep us on course.” Ayumi walked out of the bridge returning to the hallway.

    The siblings stared between each other a little surprised by how uncaring she was about the conditions. “She’s got ice in her veins…” remarked Yori trying to ignore the bad pun that he had just made. He saw out of the corner of his eye Yumi giggling to herself. It forced him back towards the monitor. “We’ve got two minutes before we run into the cliff!”

    “I’ll let everyone know!”

    Yumi sent out a message over the broadcast system informing them that they had nearly reached their destination. The plan had them gathering in the center where Yuki continued to focus on the ship. Revealed to them late, Ayumi retrieved arctic clothing that she had requested Yuki include in his ship. Once everyone was dressed for the weather they went out on the deck, Yuki included. His addition made everyone a little nervous, but Ayumi assured them very bluntly that Yuki had range (if nothing else).

    “We’re going to hit the cliff soon!” yelled Yori looking around at everyone on the main deck in front of the ship.

    Ayumi nodded in acknowledgement and nothing more. It had not been until the ship shook violent and nothing happened to them that they started to realize what happened. Unfortunately, their realization led to panic as they floated in the air. “We’ve got a long way to go. I’d suggest remaining calm.” Ayumi stared up at the faintly outlined cliff ignoring anything that might have been said to her or looks received. Minutes passed in almost complete darkness before anything could be seen. Then there suddenly was a glowing light that spread out in front of them from the moonlight dancing upon the snow and ice that stretched out for endless kilometers.

    They found careful footing on the ice with their spiked boots digging giving them balance. Fumiko still managed to slip and fall, but there was enough padding that it was not as bad as she thought. She sat up not feeling certain about standing at that moment. “What about your boat?” she thought looking over the cliff.

    Her answer came quickly as the previous field had already been dropped and a new one that made them feel very warm. After Ayumi prepared the field Yuki released his own field forcing their arctic wear to disappear, but then doubled up with Ayumi. Once Yuki carried her current task she released her field and focused on retrieving the boat from the ice down below. The whole process took nearly half an hour, but completed Ayumi had her boat and they were safe for the time being.

    “Antarctica…” Yuki whispered to himself, scanning the foreign continent. He had always imagined that leaving the country would have taken him to somewhere a little more alive and warm. It left him feeling a little odd thinking about it. However, he knew that he had to focus on the problem ahead of us. “So where’s Atlantis? I sort of pictured it being along the coast…”

    “We’ve got further to go inland.”

    To be continued…
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  7. #97
    The Quiet One Shift Andromeda's Avatar
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    Re: Shift

    “We’ve got further to go inland,” Ayumi replied flatly. A completely brief and short statement left almost hanging with the expectation that there would be more added in a moment. However, the moment did not come.

    Always the vocal one to bring up complaints, Seiji stepped forward working through the crowd to face down Ayumi. He looked to be in more control than usual when annoyed, but most of that was from having tasted the biting cold of the arctic. “I don’t see anything here. It’s just a bunch of ice. There’s nothing here!”

    Ayumi refused to answer him. Her silence fueled the concerns everyone else had. Doubts grew among the group to question if it might all have been a lie. Yori took the time to speak up giving voice to the rest of the group in a calmer manner. “He does raise a valid point. Most of us have said nothing, but we’re here and there are no answers. Scientists regularly visit Antarctica and have reported nothing of civilization. Do you have a reason for this Ayumi?”

    “Isn’t it a little late to be bringing up flaws in her information?” retorted Chiharu, being a surprising counterpoint. “If you have doubts perhaps you should have mentioned them while we were still in Japan and not half a world away.”

    The slow breakdown began between everyone. Those that sided with their doubt held a stronger voice than the others that in their silence left themselves undecided. Fumiko straightened herself up wanting to give an explanation to their concerns. “You haven’t said too much to us about Atlantis or Antarctica. So all we’ve had to go on is our imagination. It seemed like we’d understand once we got here, but it is still just as mysterious. You don’t have to explain everything right now, but something for us to understand.”

    “They’re right, Ayumi!” Yuki agreed. He had had enough of being left in the dark. The last month he left things go as they had been. He never planned on agreeing to go back with her so he did not think it matter that much. However, he was on another continent in the middle of nowhere. There had to be answers. Yuki leaned in with a step of his foot hoping that his time with her would open her up more than the others. “I’m tired of being in the dark. If I’m going to be helping you I need to know what’s going on here.”

    Chapter 96 – Seeking Atlantis

    The proximity of Yuki to Ayumi made her suddenly uneasy and pulled away. She tried to keep the red from filling her cheeks. “…a brief explanation…” she compromised. Ayumi stepped away and forced a stricter stance upon herself. She only blinked, but when she finished preparing her mind the entire scene had changed. Everyone gathered around her eagerly waiting to hear (except for Haruo and Chiharu of course). Ayumi pulled back even more rising to one leg as she leaned away taken off guard. “Out of my face!” yelled Ayumi, once she found her composure again.

    Everyone fanned out further away from her while still keeping close to the center of the field. A definite difference in temperature could be felt the further away making it clear that the powers weakened in face of the strength of Antarctica’s frozen might. Ayumi cleared her throat forced to prepare herself all over. “My, our, homeland lies towards the very center of the continent. The borders of the kingdom are about eight hundred kilometers in, maybe more. We don’t exactly keep track since we normally stay inside our kingdom.” She thought on how much she could tell them. The previous problems with explaining complicated matters to Seiji proved to her that she had to pick her words far more carefully than she wished. She knew that the rest to be difficult to comprehend, even by those that lived in Atlantis. “The rest you’ll have to just trust me on. Atlantis is there, but is not visible to normal people. The world doesn’t know about what it can’t see. If I tell you anymore now it won’t make any sense. It is just something you have to experience to understand fully.”

    Yuki held his hand to his chin appearing more thoughtful than was actually the case. “I think that is the most straightforward you’ve ever been with me. I didn’t think it was possible, even though it still manages to have your usual vagueness.”

    “Are you making fun of me?!” Ayumi rumbled, raising her fist up in anger. “After I gave you an answer you’re going to be ungrateful about it now!”

    “H-Hey, Ayumi! I’m sorry,” flailed Yuki, praying that he could calm Ayumi down. “I shouldn’t have said anything! I’m sorry!”

    Before Ayumi grappled Yuki to the ground Saki stepped in to split them. “Alright! We don’t have time for this. Unless that boat of yours can transform into a snow truck or something useful. We’re going to have to start walking.”

    Ayumi snatched herself back away from Saki. She calmed down her emotions and evened out her voice, surprisingly quick. “No it doesn’t transform, but we can make vehicles for travel. It’ll still be half a day or more to get the border, but it’s faster than walking.”

    Once Ayumi told them the plan on how they were going to reach the border a small meal was laid out from the bits of rations and food that everyone brought. It seemed only natural that Ayumi carried the most, knowing better than the rest the length of the trip. However, her supplies did not have enough to support everyone. The others supplemented their food, but after two days it started looking very meager. They all knew if food was not found soon that fighting would be the least of their worries.

    While the rest of the group laughed and joked around Yuki sat at the edge of the cliff with his legs tapping against the cliff’s sheer surface. The lateness of the hour did not matter much to him. Any exhaustion he might have had became drowned out by his thoughts. His eyes locked on to the distant horizon where he pretended Japan to be. ‘I wish I had said something… I just left without a word…’

    Staring at the night sky made him think back of that night he left. It had a same feeling of darkness and cold like the one that filled him. He had fought with Momoko the night before he left. Even after he spoke with Saki he was left unable to finish his conversation with his sister. The weight of what he said and not knowing where to go with it cut off all of his thoughts. They both stumbled around words whenever they crossed paths in the house in the last day.

    As he stood out in front of his house in the early morning uncertainty kept him company. It weighed his feet and tightened his legs. Yuki closed his eyes having heard the hundreds of questions in his mind already. ‘…Momoko… I will be back… Keep them safe until then…’ He thought that something more would have come to him. He hoped that Momoko knew and tried to confront him. There was no hope for him. Yuki turned away, hearing Ayumi calling to him.

    Yuki tossed a piece of ice that broke off during their arrival. ‘I shouldn’t have left with us still fighting… What could I have done differently?’ He heard in his mind the fight replay through his mind. It remained as vivid to him as it had when it took place. ‘I can’t believe I said that out loud. I couldn’t even admit that to myself…’ Yuki choked up a laugh as he thought about it. ‘Saying it doesn’t make me feel any better though. It only feels worse knowing how much I buried it. Pretty pathetic that it’s such a barrier for me…’ A sigh escaped his lips.

    From behind him, a sharp smack came to Yuki’s head. “Still moping around, Yuki?” grumbled Saki, leaning over the top of him a little with her hands on her hips. She bore down her piercing light brown eyes upon his head waiting for him to look up at her. However, he refused to meet her or even respond to the hit. Saki became annoyed quickly. “Enough with the emo act. What happened to keeping up your façade?” She waited until it become too aspirating to watch.

    Saki ripped his hair back with enough force to lay him out flat. She stepped around him ignoring the fact that a cliff was only centimeters away from her feet. She dropped down straddling him around his waist getting a lock on his eyes. “You can’t ignore me now!” Yuki turned his head away from Saki frustrating her further. “What is it? I thought we agreed on the ship about leaving Japan?!” The lack of a response or even reaction made Saki lean and take hold of his shirt. “If it’s not that then what? Is it your family?”

    A flinch in Yuki’s face gave him away. “I thought you were going to settle things with them before you left? What happened?”

    “…I couldn’t…”

    “Couldn’t what?”

    “I couldn’t…”

    “Repeating yourself isn’t helping me!” Saki saw that she was not going to get anymore from him. It forced it upon Sako to figure it out. She played through her memories trying to piece things together and remembered it. “Your fight with Momoko?! I can’t believe you, Yuki! You knew you were leaving and you didn’t make up with her before you left?! Now you’re acting mopey because you’re regretting it now!” She had had it with Yuki’s endless self pity. Saki hauled him up after getting off of him.

    After Yuki returned to his feet she pressed her finger against his chest not shoving him with force. She pressed her position not giving him quarter. “You wait all this time to start worrying about it! When you need your head in the game! You made the decision and now you’ve got to live with it! Stop wallowing and man up!” Saki paused to catch her breath and became further annoyed by the stunned, confused look that she received from him. “Damn it Yuki! You’re worse than an irrational girl sometimes!”

    Yuki did not know what to say until he heard the last line from Saki. Not too surprising, her comment that compared to an irrational girl struck the hardest and provoked a response. “I’m not being irrational!”

    “He didn’t deny the girl part,” Yori commented from the background quietly amongst the others.

    “I’m not sure what that says for him,” Fumiko replied back.

    Chiharu stood in front of them and added her opinion, “Just goes to prove that he’s a weakling not being able to suppress his emotions.”

    “You know arrogance is an emotion as well.” Fumiko did not receive a retort back from Chiharu, preferring to remain quiet.

    “So prove it!” yelled Saki keeping in Yuki’s face.

    Yuki made sure to lean in a little as well having become challenged by Saki. “I will then!” he replied not really considering his answer. It just came out of his lips as instinct.

    “You’re going to do that simply? Saying it doesn’t make it happen!”

    “I’m not just saying it. I’ll prove it to you!”

    “Then stand on your own feet and keep moving forward!” Saki slapped him on the back jerking him forward into their gallery of friends. She knew partly that she drew an audience, but it still unnerved her a bit. She forced herself not to show that it affected her pushing through them now that Yuki returned.

    Everyone saw that the show ended and tried to make themselves appear like they had something better to be doing. Yumi approached Saki from behind keeping in her shadow, but made her presence known. “Violence doesn’t solve everything. There’s a heavy weight on his shoulders—“

    “I know!” Saki interrupted and on the edge of snapping. The pain within his heart was something all too clear to her. She watched him for years knowing. “But we don’t have the luxury of spending the time letting emotions and regret run their course. We need his head in the game and a good fist to the face is sometimes what guys need to wake up.”

    Yumi tightened her hands out of worry. The fear of rushing him choked her and the repercussion it may have. “But we’re only delaying and it pushing it back. This isn’t resolving the problem. He’s got to have the time to sort them out.”

    “When he collapses it’ll be up to his trusted partner to give him a shoulder to bare his feelings and support him. Until then I’ll make sure to keep driving forward to where he wants to go. That is my job as his friend…” Saki walked off having kept her back to her the whole time.

    Yumi stared at her tall proud back and felt like she saw something deeper unnoticed by Saki. ‘Saki? Aren’t you the one he trusts the most?’

    Yuki had found his focus and everyone finished their preparations. Since Ayumi appeared to have a plan, she took the lead. A large vehicle materialized in front of her looking like a snow plow. It had enough seating for five as arranged. The girls partnered with Ayumi while the boys stuck with Yuki. A ride on the trucks, through the snow and ice across a wasteland, hung over everyone’s mind. Trust in what Ayumi claimed became the continued point of concern for some. They barely knew her and her continued mysterious nature did not endear herself to them.

    Everyone gathered up in their truck. In the distance on the horizon, dark shining mountains stood surrounding them with vast stretches of snow covered ice. Ayumi took the lead knowing where they needed to go and Yuki followed behind. He did not have worry too much about controls letting it do most of the work. The hours passed in solitude with only the rumbling of the engine and treads bleeding dully into the cabin. Most of everyone slept having not had the chance since arriving so late and unable to sleep prior. Some comfort in land beneath them gave them peace of mind, that and heavy fatigue.

    The endless scenery continued to pass them by with no sign of anything. Plentiful rest consumed their time, but it reached a point where even sleeping was impossible. Seiji unsurprisingly awoke the last from a slight stirring in the truck in a patch of rough terrain. He yawned deeply before working on his surroundings. The windows held a little fog to lighten up the darkness. “Hey, it is morning or afternoon, right? Did I sleep through the whole day? I thought it was only supposed to take us half a day to get to her home!”

    Yori leaned back from the front seat to address him. “It’s only been about half a day since we started.”

    “Then why the hell is it night still?!”

    “Because when you’re this far south during this time of the year it is almost always dark.”

    Seiji looked a little ruffled, but crossed his arms leaning back. “This continent is annoying and weird.”

    “Yuki! Make your field smaller!” ordered Ayumi through the radio.

    Yuki glowered through the windshield at the back of Ayumi’s truck. “I’m trying to, but it’s not very easy as I said before!”

    “Just do it unless you want to walk the rest of the way there!”

    ‘I didn’t miss the old Ayumi this much…I like the new her better…’ The last few hours had Ayumi frequently telling him to work on his field. The closer they came to Atlantis the more often that Ayumi yelled at him. Yuki grew tired of hearing her reminding him to something that was not possible for him.

    Another hour passed with Ayumi berated his failures. However, on the last message Ayumi’s truck came to a stop. Yuki feared that her threats about walking turned serious. He stopped next to her vehicle and looked across towards the girl’s truck for answers. The doors to their truck opened giving them the signal that they did the same.

    “I guess we’re walking the rest of the way,” Yuki tried to say cheerfully to the guys. He got a couple of uncertain looks back considering their situation. “Well let’s just find out what it is. We should be pretty close anyway.” Yuki hurried out of the truck not really wanting to face the looks further.

    Ayumi stood out in front of the group of nine staring deeply at the endless abyss of Antarctica. She knew of their suspicions. Their answers would come soon enough. She turned back around finished confirming what she needed.

    “So where is it?” demanded Seiji still holding his arm crossed. “I’m not seeing anything but ice cubes.”

    “As I said before it’s not something that can be seen. But this is the land the Atlantis before you. Follow me and you’ll understand.”

    To be continued…
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  8. #98
    The Quiet One Shift Andromeda's Avatar
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    Re: Shift

    A barren wasteland of ice laid out for their view in every direction. The field of Ayumi protected them from most of the elements. Even still, the wind dug through like claws and fangs to grope at the teens. It managed a cool chill that left everyone feeling as though they had been splashed with cold water.

    The words from Ayumi failed to provide any reassurance to the group. Seiji and the others that had strong doubts about the entire thing saw the lack of any proof to be suspicious. They went along with her vague explanations, but it seemed that every time that she came to a point that was expected to give them answers it failed. The emptiness they saw furthered their doubt.

    Seiji spoke first, naturally, “You keep saying to go further and further, but each time there’s nothing! I’m thinking you’re just stringing us along.”

    “But Ayumi says—“ tried Yuki before getting cutting off.

    “She says a lot, Yuki! And we’ve yet to have any proof anything she’s saying is true!”

    Yori kept to his spot still examining the situation. He found his own concerns about their progress. He wanted more information from Ayumi. The number of pieces missed prevented him from understanding. ‘It’s almost like she’s purposely keeping us limited and in the dark.’ He knew that left alone Seiji would not get them any progress. “I think we all have our doubts, but only a few more steps is not much too to ask considering the distance that we have traveled. I assume there’s a reason we can’t see your homeland from here?”

    “I certainly don’t like being strung around,” Chiharu added, “So there better be something to good explaining things in these next few steps.”

    “Seiji, if Ayumi says you’ll understand soon then she means it,” Yuki persuaded. “One thing I know to be true is that she tells the truth even to the point of being tactless.” The last word from Yuki gave him a chilling sensation down his back as though someone had just stepped on his grave. He refused to turn afraid to see the look that Ayumi gave him.

    Saki stepped up slapping Seiji in the shoulder blade hard. “All you’ve been doing is whining all this time. Thought you were a tough guy, not some pansy.” She gave him a mean smirk taunting him with her last words.

    He took the bait without thinking. Seiji leaned over to face Saki and got close enough to accidentally spit on her while he spoke. “Oh yeah?! I’m not letting some tomboy get away with that! I’ll show you who’s actually a pansy!” He shoved Saki aside into Fumiko and charged in the direction that Ayumi intended to take them.

    Ayumi tried to speak up to stop Seiji, but she did not have enough time. She groaned to herself about dealing with children before throwing up a barrier. He smashed into it and nearly shattered it to her surprise. The barrier gave her the time to catch up to him and stand in front casting a heavy imposing shadow. “I’ll be going first. Follow behind me in any order that you wish. If you won’t want to trust me than you can leave your trust to Antarctica.” After her words she stepped forward and disappeared from everyone’s sight.

    Chapter 97 – Strangers in a Strange Land

    The disappearance of Ayumi left the party stunned. It took them a while to react and approach the area where she stepped through. A few of them waved their hands through trying to see if part of them disappeared, but nothing happened. After the failed attempts they turned to exchanged stares.

    Chiharu made the bold move to stand where Ayumi had been. She paused only long enough to check her surroundings one last time before diving into the void that Ayumi must have gone. Her body disappeared like Ayumi had before giving some certainty to the others.

    Seiji kept quiet after seeing two of them vanish before his eyes. He had no room left to complain and the procession of the rest gave him a slight indignant look. The next few in the group went leaving only Seiji, Haruo and Yuki behind. He decided to take his turn to prove that he had no fear, though the muffled scream did not help his case.

    “See you on the other side,” Yuki exclaimed with cheer to Haruo before going next. The moment that Antarctica became a black void he knew that he had entered the space everyone else had before him. His connection to his body seemed to stretch out until it no longer felt as though he moved. A great and gentle hand reached out pulling him forward as though the void itself beckoned him. The call summoned him as though to greet him home from a long journey grateful in his return for his absence was greatly missed.

    ‘I feel so warm and invited…’ It felt as though all of his worries and fatigue melted away in the warm embrace of his homeland. He had never felt something that made him feel so welcome. It forced out any thoughts in his mind. Only a blank sense of bliss stirred within the gaps. He knew of only one time before that made him feel as he did at that moment.

    Yuki soon bathed in a bright light signaling the path. ‘Atlantis is beyond here…’ He reached out to take hold of the doorway. A yearning grew inside the closer that he came to the light. It felt so familiar. ‘Why do I feel like I’ve come home?’ The void shattered like glass as he broke through smiling wide. Excitement pounded in his heart. Atlantis stood before him. “Atlantis!”

    However, all of the preparation and thrill seeking fell short of the magnificent vista that lay out upon everyone’s eyes. Even those ahead of him that had been there longer still stood in awe. A nearly cloudless sky of pristine blue hung veiled over boundless fields of grass and farmland. Warm soothing breezes comforted everyone. No sign of ice or the Antarctica everyone knew existed. It seemed impossible.

    “Is this Atlantis?!”

    “Impossible!” Seiji declared having appeared behind everyone.

    “How is it possible for this to exist?!” Fumiko asked looking over at Ayumi.

    Ayumi stepped forward and tilted her head over her shoulder to look back at them. “I’ll answer your questions later. Right now we have to move quickly.”

    “Huh?” broke Seiji.

    Yuki stepped forward to place himself in front of her looking for an answer. They had just arrived and already told to rush. He did not understand how a place that looked so peaceful presented a threat to them. The urgency to reach Atlantis for him still persisted, but a few minutes to gaze hardly seemed to be a problem. “What’s wrong, Ayumi? Why do we have to leave so fast?”

    “I’ll explain later! We can’t stay here!” The sense of urgency in her voice mixed with danger. It made things clear that something was wrong.

    “Why can’t we stay here? What’s going to happen?”

    “We’ve entered the South Gate’s territory and they’ll know that we’ve entered.”

    The rest of the group started gathering around them sensing the seriousness of Ayumi’s words. Ayumi led them away from where they had entered. Their view back held a strange mirage of ice that looked more like water that had been poured around the world. The water pressed back by only the mere strength of the world’s integrity. Further up away from the horizon filled the perfect sky becoming like a world trapped within a dome.

    Yuki tried to keep himself focused on leaving, but the world held him in constant awe. Saki dragged at his arm to force him to keep walking. ‘We’re here…the place where I face my so called destiny!’

    “I’m…really…sleepy…” Seiji managed before he collapsed to the ground in a peaceful dream state.

    Yori looked back along with the others confused by what happened so suddenly to him. “He’s been sleeping for the entire ride and he’s still sleepy?!” He rushed over with Yuki to get a back look at Seiji. A few shoves and hits did nothing to change him, but redden his skin. The fact that he did not react to anything worried them. He fell too deeply into sleep to be normal.

    Yuki shouted ahead to Ayumi needing an answer. “What’s wrong with him?! Is there something special in the air that makes it poisonous to outsiders or something?!” He worked with Yori to turn him over on his back for a better view.

    “Nothing so hazardous or dramatic as that,” commented Ayumi. She stopped from her place and only faced them. The glare from Yuki demanded an answer and Ayumi sighed before relenting to his request. “Pick him up and carry him with us. I’ll explain as we walk. Time’s still of the essence.”

    “…fine…” Yuki looked back to his friend relieved, but still worried. The attitude from Ayumi bothered him more at the moment. ‘It’s like she’s back to the way she was when I first met her. Why’d she change so much when we entered Atlantis?’ He cooperated with Yori to lift Seiji up to his back. Once Seiji’s sleeping body full weight pressed against his muscles he started to regret doing it alone. “Man, he’s heavy…”

    Fumiko and Yumi approached Yuki seeing the state that he was in after trying to lift Seiji. “It’s too much for you to carry alone, Yuki,” pleaded Yumi to share the burden. She glanced over to Yori with the expectation for him to help.

    “Yeah, Yumi’s right Yuki. You should let us help you carry him,” Fumiko added already trying to get Seiji off Yuki’s back.

    Yuki raised his hand up to stop them. “No, I’m fine.” He tried to get to his feet again and failed. His knee jerked out stabbing his leg. “I could use some help getting to my feet though…”

    Through stubbornness and reluctance they brought Yuki to his feet. He still appeared unbalanced and staggered to the side even on his feet. They hesitated to let him walk on his own, but he insisted. After a minute, Yuki seemed to improve finding his stride. A pace for everyone settled in pushing them away from the sky.

    Once they marched enough to be considered brief stares began to pop up. Each of the pairs of eyes focused on Ayumi. She needed to give an answer that they would accept. Ayumi shifted her sights around to take it all in while she filtered through what she had. “I guess I’ll start at the beginning. Around Atlantis is a barrier in the shape a large dome covering the land completely.”

    “Is that why we were unable to see it from the outside,” inquired Yori.

    “Correct. The barrier has a number of purposes all meant to protect Atlantis from the outside world. The first is making it completely invisible and creating an illusion.”

    “But that doesn’t prevent people from just walking in. There are bound to be scientists and explorers that have stumbled into here. And aren’t there bases within here as well?”

    “That is the second part and is a little more complicated. It also creates a false sense of space. So people are further to the coastline than they realize.”

    “Are you telling me that everything that science has done here is inaccurate?!”

    Ayumi did not seem to care about the larger implications of Yori’s question. She answered him plainly as though it held no bearing for her. “Only when speaking of distance.”

    Yori did not believe what heard from Ayumi. It made him sweat a little when she looked back at him confused to why he took it so seriously. The surprise he felt slowed down words. “So casual…”

    “I don’t see the big deal. No one’s hurt and this is our land.”

    “But you stay hidden from the world,” Fumiko commented. “Don’t you think it’s time that you show yourselves? This won’t last forever. Something’s going to happen.”

    “Third,” continued Ayumi, ignoring what Fumiko said, “The barrier creates a sense of confusion when someone’s enters and followed by deep uncontrollable sleep. Which is the reason for his condition.” She pointed over her shoulder to Seiji peacefully sleeping on Yuki’s back.

    “Why was Seiji the only one that was affected though? We all passed through the barrier.”

    “That’s because my field protected you from the effects. The only way to enter is with someone that can negate the effects. He strayed too long inside the barrier realm before leaving. So he was affected while you weren’t.”

    “What happens to the people that wander in here?” questioned Yumi.

    “The last part of the barrier and the reason why we must leave. The barrier is connected to four gates set across the perimeter. Any entry is registered with the closest gate. Unscheduled entries are declared to be intruders until established otherwise.”

    “What happens then?”

    “A border patrol locates the intruder, wipes their memories and sends them back out.”

    “But Yuki and you are Atlanteans. Shouldn’t you be able to get past the patrols with that?”

    “No, Yuki is being hunted and as am I for trying to find him. All that would happen is getting captured.” A small forest and a brush ahead gave Ayumi hope for cover. She knew that the longer they remained in the open the more dangerous it became. She directed them into the bushes granting them rest for the moment. While they spread out, in such a disorganized manner as to throw away any sibilance of stealth, she peered out through cover to check their flank. ‘Their response time is ten minutes at best. But I don’t know how long we can evade them.’

    “Is he awake yet,” Saki asked not watching her voice.

    Yuki shook his head concerned for how long he slept. They had entered the lion’s den and he knew the dangers increased the longer they stayed. He knew Seiji would blame himself if he caused their capture even though it was not his fault. ‘I didn’t think we’d have this sort of trouble just trying to get to Atlantis.’

    “What are we going to do if he doesn’t wake up?” worried Fumiko. She might have found him to be a little simple minded, but Seiji was part of the team.

    “We just leave the deadweight behind,” replied Chiharu softly, “If they find someone they’ll probably not try to pursue the rest of us further. They probably aren’t expecting a group.”

    “We can’t do that!”

    “Quiet!” Ayumi snapped back trying to keep her voice from rising too much. Her fears proved to be stronger than her hopes. In the distance, the shadowed figures of the South Gate border patrol appeared. Time was running out for them. “The patrol is in the area. Keep down and silent!”

    To be continued…
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  9. #99
    The Quiet One Shift Andromeda's Avatar
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    Re: Shift

    The waiting grew left to draw out while the hunters sought a hidden prey. Minutes fell to hours as the hunters scoured everything within sight unwilling to give up. The longer they remained the more that arrived to aid in the searching. Afternoon light held strong over the lands of Atlantis for the hunters making it appear like only a matter of time before they found their targets.

    Ayumi struggled to keep everyone under control. She explained to them all before that they needed to wait it out. Her plan waited for nightfall and then an escape while they had cover. The rest of the group became tired of the waiting as well as nervous about being surrounded. Ayumi monitored everyone keeping them all within her sight. ‘There’s enough hot headedness in several of the people here that I can’t let my guard down for a moment. We just need a few more hours. This would have been easier if it was just Yuki and me. We’re too big…’

    Chapter 98 – The New Road

    Yuki strained in his staring at Seiji. Both of them had their veined nearly popping out of their heads from the stress. They ignored any of it focused intently on their task. ‘Can’t blink… Almost there…’ It felt like sounds should have been coming out of them, but they remained in silence. Not even a groan of struggle left their lips. Yuki felt at his limit. Everything he worked for stood on the edge of collapse. He forced himself on not acknowledging it.

    Just as his hope seemed lost a small light popped up displaying ‘Level up!’ over his head. Yuki raised his fist up at Seiji taunting his success in his face. He took a moment to breathe and accept the sweat bleeding down his face. ‘Look at that Seiji! You can’t beat me! My knowledge of manga is too vast for you to comprehend!’

    Seiji rammed his fist into the dirt out of frustration. ‘Damn it! I can’t believe in just a few hours you managed grind up to level ten already.’

    ‘Would you two stop with your childish games,’ spoke Saki telepathically. ‘It’s really unnecessary to be so high for just talking.’

    ‘You’re just saying that because you’re already fifteen,’ teased Yuki, ‘You’re trying even harder than us!’

    Saki glared back at them not about to let them get away with their insinuation that she had let herself get dragged into their game just to show them up (even though it was totally what she did since she could not let them beat her). ‘Why don’t you look at Yori and Yumi, they’re in the fifties.’

    Yuki waved it off nonchalantly not taking her misdirection. ‘They’re just weird. They began in the forties anyway.’

    ‘But everyone knows it takes more experience to level up at higher levels!’

    ‘Looks like someone’s taking this game a little too seriously,’ mocked Seiji, smirking silently at Saki. Saki rose up from her crossed meditative state looking to be barely holding herself back from charging straight for Seiji to deck him.

    Yori narrowed his expression a little disappointed that he had been dragged partly into their antics. ‘They’re all taking it too seriously…’

    ‘That may not be a bad thing, Brother…’ Yumi smiled up at Yori when he looked back at her. She knew that despite their arguing that the waiting had them all on edge. They needed a vent to release. ‘Besides I think it’s the way they play. They won’t hurt each other.’ Unfortunately, Yumi’s timing proved poor when Saki flattened Seiji into the ground for his continued badgering. She forced his face through the dirt making a deep impression with him. Yumi sweated a little regretting speaking too soon. ‘…too much…’

    After watching all of them fooling around Ayumi reached her limit of what she could stand. ‘Would all of you shut up! This isn’t a game!’ She punched the three of them in the head leaving steaming sores from her impacts. For a moment, Ayumi looked like a mother dealing with misbehaving children. However, the time passed as she checked on the movements of the border patrol once again.

    Only few moments were spared for it, but in that time Yuki, Seiji and Saki gathered around her. Yuki’s attention focused on Ayumi while the other two looked ahead into the fields. ‘Wow, that’s amazing Ayumi! You can do telepathy too!’ He saw a moment later examining her information the reason for it. ‘You’re level ninety-nine?! I didn’t know you were such a hardcore RPG fan, Ayumi!’

    Ayumi rammed her elbow, not even looking, into Yuki’s head. ‘Enough with the jokes already and get serious. They’re getting closer.’

    “You’re still talking telepathically, Ayumi. The joke’s ended,” whispered Yuki reminding her to go back to the way they had been before. He grinned back at her as she blushed embarrassed that she fell into their game. Their moment shattered in the face of their approaching danger.

    The mood completely reverted back to the tense atmosphere as a few of the men from the border patrol made their approach for their cover. It had gone previous passes with the lack of a Meso Prosecho user, since Ayumi turned them invisible. However, Yuki and the others could see clearing that the reinforcements that arrived held one.

    The difference between them as explained by Ayumi had them wearing the white clothed uniform that Yuki was used to seeing in Japan. All members of the military that had the power wore white, while the standard military used black. The style was identical otherwise. They all wore the same cloths that Yuki found to be unusual for any sort of uniform. The style was nothing like he had seen or read. All research and explanation from Ayumi revealed that it had ancient Greek influence. The lack of any real war also gave no need to change or improve the design, left stagnant in tradition.

    The man’s white draped clothes stood out emblazed brightly in the sun. He marched with an assured sense of confidence. The confidence came from repeatedly being successful without fail against almost childish odds. A normal unsuspecting human stood no chance against him, but he ignored that fact.

    Yuki did not like the feeling that he had from watching the man approaching them. He wanted to do something, but knew that Ayumi insisted on keeping to her plan. “We need to move.”

    “They’re too many of us to move. We’ll wait it out.”

    “I’m getting tired of waiting,” Saki impatiently declared raising her voice a little. She leaned up from being crouched. Her fists pressed together looking ready from action. “These guys are pretty weak. We should all be able to handle them without breaking a sweat.”

    “Yeah! I’m with Saki on this!” Seiji agreed.

    Ayumi glared at Seiji narrowly hardly surprised by Seiji response. “Of course you are…” she spoke flatly. When Seiji made a move to stand up to join Saki Ayumi grabbed his wrist tightly. “We’re staying right here. You’re not ruining all of my planning with your hotheaded ideas.”

    Yuki tapped Ayumi on the shoulder to break her out of her reprimanding of Seiji. “I’m afraid Saki’s already doing that.” He pointed to where Saki used to be a moment before. She disappeared from their sight only for a blur streaking across the field where she barely could be seen.

    An uncontrollable squeal came out of Ayumi as she had no other reaction left frozen. The rest of the group gathered around hearing the noise. Before a minute had passed Saki returned standing in the light away from the shade of the forest. She seemed very pleased with herself. “It’s done! I cleared out everyone I could find in about a kilometer around us!” No one knew what to say surprised to know that she had just defeated the entire search party in the area.

    “How did you do that?!” Yuki asked puzzled standing out from the brush. “I couldn’t even see you!”

    “That’s my ability. Speed and strength!”

    “Huh?! Since when did you have that?”

    “You should know that, Yuki. This isn’t the first time I’ve used it in front of you, you know.”

    “Huh?!” Yuki’s mind flashed back trying to figure out when he might have seen Saki’s speed. She always had speed from being on the track team so he never thought too deeply about it. Then his memories came back to him to reveal what she said to be truthful. “That day with the street gang’s leader!?”

    “Yeah, but even before then.” She saw that he looked confused. Even that day it had confused her. The awakening she had was sudden and not until later did it fully make any sense to her. In the moment of when it happened she had no thoughts just instinct. “It was a rough day on you. I’m not surprised you didn’t realize it.”

    The way Saki talked to him went around the truth while leading him forward stirred up something familiar. The reluctant memories surfaced for him making him understand. He eyes widened in shock when he knew. “The first day?! At the school!”

    “Yeah.” Saki looked down at her hand held loosely together. “That was how I was able to break Ayumi’s barrier and send him flying. The speed and power of my fist shattered him forcing him to retreat. That’s why he left. He was gravely wounded by me even though I saw him trying to deflect me. I think it ended up being just enough to save his life…sorry I never told you Yuki.” She hesitated to see how Yuki looked. ‘I stopped the fight and stole it away from him… But I couldn’t watch him die… I’ve been afraid of what he might think if I ever told…’

    No words came from Yuki. He stood still as though frozen unable to think. Everyone around him did not know how he would react. The truth seemed to have a deeper impact on him than they thought. They waited to see what he would say rather than forcing him.

    Yuki pulled his head up and focused his vision back on Saki. “I thought it was just a comedic gag being played. I didn’t know it was for real!” He laughed at himself looking sheepish and embarrassed.

    “Huh?!” shouted everyone before they fell over in surprise. He smiled appearing like it did not mean anything more to him. He seemed more embarrassed to be clueless up until then.

    Saki dug herself back up from the deep pit she made from her shocked reaction of him doing the opposite of what she planned. The sight of him looking like he did before all of the trouble began made her feel a little better. She missed seeing the carefree attitude that he used to have, even if that was a cover. Saki gave him a wide smile pleased to see Yuki. “Yuki…”

    Against the collapsed friends Ayumi leapt up with most of her face darkened out, but two glowing circles for eyes pierce through the mist. She staggered over to the two carefree souls. The air from her breath had an opaque quality almost like it could surround and choke the life out of someone. “How can you two…just stand there…laughing?!”

    “Oh hi Ayumi!” Yuki replied with a mere wave of his hand. The fact that Ayumi’s face was the scariest he had ever seen it went completely ignored by him. “Now that Saki’s taken care of the patrol we don’t have to worry anymore!”

    “…Yuki,” questioned Saki drawing out her words slowly, “How blind are you right now?”

    “Huh?” He looked around confused by Saki’s question. The riding heavy pressure from behind him threatened to completely enclose him.

    “He’s so afraid he’s blown completely past terror and passed into denial,” commented Yori. Along with the rest of the group, he had recovered and maintained a safe distance away from the volatile situation.

    Everyone else nodded in agree and a little surprised. They all chimed in together, “Impressive.”

    The last few restrains on Ayumi’s valves snapped the longer she watched Yuki. She reached up behind Yuki making long shards of ice appear around her floating. The intent from Ayumi became so overwhelming that even ignorance held no chance against her. “Yuki!” Ayumi throttled Yuki’s chest and neck all in one move pinning him to the ground. “You can’t even bother to follow the plan!”

    While Yuki got choked and stretched out by Ayumi Yumi rushed over to try to put a stop them. The anger and frustration that Ayumi had could not be calmed by words. Yumi’s efforts fell to deaf ears. However, Yori came up from behind calmly. “If the enemy’s gone we should probably start moving again, right?”

    His words somehow snapped in Ayumi bringing her back to reality. She discarded Yuki and stood up making like nothing happened. “Yes, we have to keep moving. All that this has done is confirming to them that there’s a threat they must hunt down. Your efforts were wasted.” Ayumi stared over at Saki hammering down with the weight of her criticism.

    For a moment Saki knew that what she did caused them all problems. However, she did not let it crush her down like Ayumi wanted. “It’s not like they didn’t already know that. I’m not the type to go about hiding. We face them head on and crush their will to follow us!”

    Seiji came up around Saki and slung a heavy arm around on her shoulders grinning with pride. “I knew there was something about you that I liked Saki! You’ve got the right idea!”

    “Yeah overwhelming power will make them turn away in fear!” cheered Yuki, fixed back up from his near death encounter already.

    “It’s a simple tactic, but it can be the most effective,” added Chiharu. She appeared serious for once, a bit of surprise to the other. “From what I’ve seen our goal is much further in. Running and hiding will only cause us to be slowed down and have numerous small battles along the way. Strike hard and fast so they can follow seems like the best course of action for us.”

    Ayumi saw the winds changing against her. She knew none of them agreed to her plans, but they followed because they lacked one of their own. ‘If they have their one plan I’ll lose any control I have left. We can’t delay.’ The system that laid out over them was something that only she understood. It had to be her. They do not have all of the information. “We don’t have the time!” She made her voice rise over everyone and to a volume none of them had every hard from her.

    “Huh?!” said everyone pausing from Ayumi thunderous declaration.

    She calmed down with a deep breath. She had their attention. “We are on a deadline. With all of the time spent we only have eleven days left before Yuki is unable to claim himself the rightful heir to the throne of Atlantis. I know those greedy politicians have already found someone to take that seat. They just have to wait out the time and then everything will have been in vain! Everything will crumble!”

    To be continued…
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  10. #100
    The Quiet One Shift Andromeda's Avatar
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    Re: Shift

    “Eleven days?!” Yori exclaimed, confused with this sudden new piece of information. It had everyone a little off balance having never heard anything about being on a deadline. Yori saw the pieces lining up from the actions that Ayumi took throughout the previous days. It all made sense, but oddly lacking until now. “This is the first any of us heard about being on a deadline. You couldn’t have mentioned this to us sooner? It would have saved us a lot of questioning.”

    Yuki raised his hand absentmindedly. “I knew!”

    “Then you’re just as guilty as her,” snipped Yori not even bothering to look at him. He focused his efforts on Ayumi. ‘I can understand a certain degree of privacy for personal reasons, but this seems like she’s deliberately withholding important information only giving us more when we force her into a corner.’ Not many times did Yori feel really angry with anyone, but Ayumi pushed him. “Now I want some actual answers out of you about what’s going on here and what we should be expecting. No more keeping us in the dark for your own convenience. That’s how people get hurt.”

    Ayumi lowered her eyes contemplating her options. The longer that Yori had been around them the more that she did not like his presence. He more than made up for Yuki’s obliviousness. She pressed on able to slowly feed Yuki pieces since he never asked probing questions after a while. Yuki gave up trying for anything too deep. The feeling she got from Yori told her otherwise about him. Too many things were left unexplained and she did not have the time to address them all.

    She focused her sight back on Yori. Her course left her with no other action. “I’ll give you the information you need when you need it.” Ayumi refused to back down and submit to Yori’s demands.

    “Because you know what’s best for us?”

    “Yes, I do. This is my home and only I understand it. You forced your way to come with us. I didn’t ask you. So I’m not obligated to give you anything!”

    “Still sitting on that high and mighty attitude of yours, I see!”

    Yumi came up behind Yori touching his forearm. She knew that Yori needed to say what he did, but the limit came to arguing. “Yori…”

    “No, Yumi! This needs to be dealt with now. I can’t trust someone that thinks of us as baggage.”

    “He’s right!” chimed Seiji. He stood up behind Yumi to enforce his opinion that Yori was correct.

    “Tch! Until I see a reason to think otherwise you’re just trouble.” Ayumi tried to turn away, but caught a glimpse of Yuki over their shoulders. He gave her a piercing stare locking her down. It made her sigh to herself. “You treat this like some school trip. Yet you fail to realize the seriousness of the situation. The moment they know Yuki is here this won’t be about capture and throwing us back out. They’ll kill all of us without a second thought. I can’t allow them to twist everything My King has worked for and oppress My People! You just don’t understand!”

    Yumi shifted around her brother to get in front to address Ayumi clearly. ‘I can sense how passionate she is about this. It’s like a struggle between discipline and emotions.’ She did not know if she had the right words for the task. Yet to stop before she tried would leave them frozen. “It’s challenge for you, isn’t?”

    Ayumi staggered back a step a little confused and shaken by the look that she got from Yumi. It felt piercing even though the words did not seem to have a meaning to her. She did not understand what happened. “I don’t know what you’re talking about!”

    She smiled with warmth knowing the correct path had been found. “It’s the endless struggle between your training as a soldier and what you feel as a human. You’re over compensating to cover up one with the other. You’re in conflict, right?”

    “How dare you speak like you know me!?” The closer that Yumi got her the more that backed away. It grew further unsettling for her. She suddenly felt the urge to run away, cornered.

    Taking the momentum to add his piece, Yuki came out of the sidelines to take upsides opposite of Yumi. “She right, Ayumi. I’ve seen it as well. You bury your passion.”

    Teamed up against, Yuki dug Ayumi back further. The face that he made at her made it difficult for her to resist. She ground her teeth frustrated and trapped. “Damn it, you’re so troublesome…” She had resigned.

    Chapter 99 – The Façade

    “Let’s get moving. I’ll talk as we walk.” She looked around at the group knowing that she had to start making good on be more forthcoming. Her arm stretched out to the horizon ahead of them. “There’s a small border village a few hours by foot from here. It’ll be where we can rest for the night and resupply since we’re lacking enough food to make it to the capital.”

    Seiji and Yori stared between each other a little confused by the whole emotional exchange that happened. It puzzled Seiji more making him scratch his head. “What just happened? I thought we were arguing?”

    “I’m not quite sure.”

    Fumiko joined them from behind looking a little amused by them. “Women are complex creatures.” She looked forward at Ayumi already directing everyone and working to return back to her center. “Especially ones that are soldiers.” The tall teen stepped on through them to join those that began to move on.

    Both of them still felt lost. Chiharu from behind them with her arms folded up at the back of her head pressed through. “She’s saying you’re idiots,” mocked the ninja casually continuing without missing a beat.

    Haruo had no words for them and passed on keeping his usual distance at the back. Yori and Seiji gave up after a few more seconds of trying to figure it out. They rushed out to catch up with the party that had already put some distance between them.

    Once Ayumi saw that everyone had caught up to them she began her explanation. “My real name is Eudokia Ismene, as you probably figured out Ayumi Nishimura and everything about her is a false identity.”

    “Eudokia?” Yuki questioned to himself. “Why does that name sound so familiar?” He forced himself to go through his memories trying to recall where he had heard it. Each time he flipped a page it felt like he got further away. He knew it hid within him. It frustrated him that he failed to remember.

    Eudokia gave him a slightly lowered flattened expression. “Because it’s my name.”

    “N-no…I heard it before. I know it!”

    She sighed to herself tilting her head away from him. “It’s because you heard Dareia say it.”

    “Dareia? Who’s that?”

    “The assassin that pretended to be a child. We have a history I’d prefer not to get into at this moment.” She headed off the inquiries that had already started to form from their eyes. Some things needed to stay buried for her. “My full title is Captain of the Royal Guard. I’m…was…the King’s personal guard and it was my duty to protect his life.”

    “You knew my biological father?”

    “Yes, very well. He was the strongest man I’d ever seen and the most gentle as well. He could be strict and fair, but then loving and caring the next moment.” She began to drift in her thoughts away from what she planned. A distant longing appeared on her face as she traveled through her memories. While fond memories came to the surface an awkward pause developed making Eudokia self conscious. She cleared her throat trying to track back to where she had gone on a tangent. “The King holds a very important position for us besides governing. The King maintains Atlantis and allows for the continued survival of his people.”

    Yori saw that she finally to reach a point that explained the impossible reality that they faced. Atlantis defied all logic in existing in an almost tropical environment while being at the South Pole on a frozen continent. He had to know more about Atlantis. “What do you mean when you say ‘The King maintains Atlantis’?”

    “Atlantis is something that’s impossible. You should have all realized that by now. Even terraforming the land would still leave it a block of ice.” She motioned out to the scene around them to make her point. At the end she pointed to the ground. “We’re walking on a permanent Apati Agros, an illusion field.”

    The news came as a bit of a surprise to everyone, but more awe. Fumiko admired the rolling green hills in the distance. She looked back over at Eudokia. “You mean to say that this is all an illusion?”

    “It works on the similar principle as our powers, but on a completely different level from what is possible.”

    “You mean it’s like Japan?” Yori inserted.

    “Yes. The creation of Atlantis here is nothing more than legend and myth to most of us. Even those that believe someone was able to do all this could not explain how it was achieved. It is honestly beyond all of our understanding. I was never quite sure myself about how much of it could be true. I figured that stories embellished the facts to make them seem grander than reality.” She stared over at Yuki for a moment. The moments when Yuki awakened and unknowingly changed the country floated through her mind. Even when she saw it before it still felt impossible. The longer that it continued the more she knew better.

    Eudokia blinked and focused back ahead. “When I realized what Yuki had done I knew that everything in our history was possible and real. What Yuki did and our ancestor did were vastly different, but the results are the same. Both created permanent change without maintaining a constant field. However, the range is significantly different from what Yuki achieved. The ancestor that must have created it had to be several times more powerful than Yuki. Even more so, it’s said that it was a deliberate and controlled effort. Not an accident like with Yuki. Their knowledge of the Meso Prosecho powers far exceeds anything we have in the millennia of evolution.”

    All of the history lesson took a heavy weight on Yuki as he tried to absorb it all. He had not thought that someone else had done what he had and done so intentionally. It seemed like something impossible with the little understanding that he had of his powers. The thought that far more mysteries remained to be solved presented him with a long stairwell to climb. ‘To be able to convert an entire continent almost with their field… How far above me was my ancestor? Will there be a day that I reach their level? Can I undo what I have done once I learn all of the secrets? What more is possible with this power that I haven’t considered?’

    “Does that mean all of the Atlanteans are special as well like in Japan?” asked Saki, after panning around the group.

    Eudokia shook her head. “No, the majority of the people living here are normal. Only a fifth of the population is believed to have the Meso Prosecho powers.” A few thoughts ran through her mind about Yuki. She knew his approach differed greatly from what they achieved in Atlantis. Before, there had been glimpses of his unconventional thinking. She regretted never realizing the foreshadowing until it came too late. “No, as I said before what Yuki did and our ancestor here were very different.”

    She focused back on the grass to begin her explanation. “The ground was converted from ice to fertile and rich land and that was the only change made. We were given all of the resources to build a new civilization, but had to do it with our own hands. Protecting our land is the barrier I spoke of before created at the same time. It also maintains the atmosphere and weather. And to protect us, there are the four gates, North, East, South and West Gates.”

    Acting unusually serious, Seiji lifted his hand up like a part of a classroom. He managed to catch her eye long enough to know that she was listening. “I heard you mention it before. That we came through the South Gate, but aren’t we already as south as it gets? You can’t really go that much more south can you? So shouldn’t it be north?”

    Everyone stared back at Seiji stunned by him saying something actually intelligent and purposeful (that and he actually seemed to understand everything that Eudokia told him). Yori took up the cue to explain. “You’re correct, but I’d imagine having four North Gates would be quite confusing. It also probably provides a certain sense of familiarity and comfort in a location that only as one direction.”

    “But how do you decide which is north then?”

    The Atlantean sighed to herself seeing how it had become thrown off track again. The details that they debated over meant little in the grand scheme. However, they seemed set on figuring out an answer. “North is the direction that we arrived from when we first settled on this land.”

    “Oh…that makes sense.”

    She tilted her head away from them. ‘I don’t really know either… I’m just glad that accepted the answer…’

    Behind them, now an hour past, arrived a new squad of men to the remains of the ruined search party. Most of the men still laid unconscious from the assault that they took. Those few that managed to come around had a fog that settled over them. They seemed confused more than anything and not even the arrival of the Captain of the South Gate improved their attitude.

    The Captain stood tall in a black uniform with gold embroidering along the seam to highlight his rank. The uniform covered up much of his muscular figure, but left well built arms and legs exposed. He was a man of action that did not hesitate to take a personal hand in matters. “Report, Commander!” he commanded of his second in command.

    His second had led the search party personally. The failure to capture the intruders weighed on his shoulders making it difficult for him to face his superior. “I’m uncertain of what happened, sir. The best answer I have is that we were ambushed and instantly wiped out.”

    “Any loses?”

    “None, but most of the men are still out.”

    The Captain looked over the horizon to where the invaders must have gone. He calculated tactics in his mind quickly to form his strategy. Once he finished he turned back to his Commander. “I shall go ahead to continue the search. Form squads out of those able to stand and spread out in flanking positions to my team. Stay behind until all of the men are back on their feet and out. After all are awake and resume the search as well.”

    “Yes, sir!”

    “The honor of the South Gate Division is at stake. Never in the history of our people have we let intruders past the border villages and that will not change today! We’ll crush these foreigners!”

    To be continued…
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  11. #101
    The Quiet One Shift Andromeda's Avatar
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    Re: Shift

    (Author’s Notes: This is a special chapter to celebrate reaching the Chapter 100 milestone for Shift. The current story will resume on Chapter 101. This chapter is part of the story overall, but takes place in the past. Thank you to everyone that has kept reading and reviewing me! Let’s make the next hundred chapters just a great!)

    Back in time before all of the chaos that had engulfed Japan, as cliché as it sounds, things were happier. The clock placed the time before Yuki had lost his parents and before he knew anything of his destiny. Before he met Ayumi and lost a friend. Life was simpler for him, though the world remained as complicated as ever.

    At the end of another day in elementary school, Yuki (age seven) exited the building alone. He smiled to himself with a single thought on his mind. Today was his birthday, his seventh in fact. His parents made sure to get off work early for him promising a large party for him. The thought of presents and cake made him excited to get home. ‘I can’t wait! I wonder how big the cake is?’ His daydreams drifted him off from reality for a moment before being rudely popped.

    A scream of a girl reached him from around the school. Yuki’s eye widened recognizing the voice immediately. “Saki! She’s in trouble!” He ran off in the direction without a second thought.

    In the back of the building by the trash dumpsters he saw the backs of three older boys. Yuki charged from his position and rammed his head into the first kid. A little dazed, Yuki staggered around to get in between them and Saki. “What are you doing picking on a girl?”

    The chaos Yuki caused threw them all off balance. The boy Yuki plowed into tried to recover from being on top of the second boy he collapsed into. Only the third boy stayed out of harm. He reached out for Yuki, but missed when Yuki ducked down. The older boy glared down at Yuki frustrated that a little kid gave him trouble. “Get lost kid! This doesn’t have anything to do with you!”

    “Yeah, it does! You’re trying to hurt my friend! I won’t let you do that!”

    The other two boys finally made it back to their feet and snickered feeling that they had the advantage. “Whatcha going to do about it?”

    “I’ve got no problem beating up a little kid first!” The two boys grabbed a hold of Yuki before he escaped and pinned him to the ground. The third boy grinned with pleasure as he raised his foot.

    Chapter 100 – Rewind

    “Why’d you do that Yuki?” asked Saki helping him off the ground. She waited until the boys left to come to his assistance. They gave up trying to go after Saki through the efforts of Yuki’s determination. All she got in response was his grin like nothing was wrong. “Why did you let them beat you up so much? They were bigger, but I know you could have stood your ground!”

    Yuki kept smiling to her not letting her see the pain. “I didn’t want to embarrass them with my awesome martial arts skills!” he boasted striking a quick pose for her. He hoped that she might smile back.

    Saki sniffed back some tears feeling sorry for herself getting Yuki into trouble. “It’s my fault again! You’re always rescuing me and getting hurt!” She tried to hold back her tears, but it seemed fruitless.

    “Hey, it’s not your fault! It’s my choice and you shouldn’t feel bad about what I do, Saki! You’re my best friend, right?” He reached out for Saki trying to focus her on him.


    “And best friends stick together no matter what, right?!”


    “So you don’t have anything to worry about then!” He managed to get her to take his hand. Yuki gave her another smile encouraging her to smile as well. It took a little bit, but he saw his happiness start to break through her tears. “Ready to go home?!”


    They ran out of the school laughing to themselves until they tired out. The walk back to the neighborhood gave them plenty of time to talk. They made their routine pass quickly with never ending chatter. The neighbors kept things pretty active so they never lack something interesting to see.

    The path they took brought them to Saki’s apartment building first. “Hey, Yuki! Let’s go up and get my mom to clean you up!”

    “Oh ok!” He followed behind her up the rickety stairs and groaning floor boards. They jumped around as they ascended creating a playful chorus from the differently tuned wood. At the top they both came down hard to accent their arrival bellowing out a deep base note. A few flakes of dust from overhead settled on their noses making Yuki sneeze. “Made it!”

    Saki giggled and raced to her door. Already unlocked, she opened it slowly inviting Yuki in with her. “I’m home, Mom! I brought Yuki with me!”

    They managed to get their shoes off before Saki’s mother appearance carrying Saki’s baby sister in her arms. “Welcome home, dear!” She kneeled down carefully to look at Saki at eye level. The sight of Yuki’s bruising and dirt marks alerted her. “Oh my, Yuki! What’s happened to you?”

    “I tripped playing with Saki on the way here!” he replied sheepishly. He did not want to worry her about Saki getting bullied again. It happened often because her father was a teacher and it made her a target of those that got upset. They found it easier to take it out on her knowing that Saki just accepted the abuse without running to her parents. Yuki took it upon himself to make sure it stopped.

    “You should be more careful, Yuki. You’ve only got one life.”

    “I’m sorry, Mrs. Furukawa! I’ll be more careful.”

    “Well let’s see about cleaning you up so your parents don’t worry about you!” She walked them into the main room that barely managed to be called a living room. “Wait here and I’ll be back in a minute. Saki can you watch your little sister for me?”

    “Sure!” Saki accepted Noriko from her mother and carefully set her next to her. Yuki and Saki played with Noriko until their mother returned. Most of the injuries he took from the bullies only looked worse than they actually turned out. He got away with only a couple of band-aids and the rest just cleaned up scraps.

    Down the block and around the intersection at Yuki’s house a visitor came knocking in middle of birthday preparations. The Hayashi house fluttered about with Momoko running around eagerly following their very pregnant mother with decorations for each room. Their father dropped the presents he carried at an end table to answer the door.

    He opened the door not checking who stood on the stoop. “Hello? Oh!” When he finally looked at their visitor it took him back a step. “It’s been a while! Please come in!”

    “Thank you, but I shouldn’t,” an elderly man’s voice protested, “I came to deliver a present. I don’t want to take up your time.”

    “Nonsense! You’re a friend. It’d be rude not to invite you inside. Tomiko’ll be pleased to see you as well.” He insisted lightly holding onto the old man’s arm to invite him inside. A little more protesting gave up the struggle and Yuki’s father closed the door behind them. “Tomiko! You won’t believe who showed up!”

    Tomiko handed off the decorations to Momoko and rushed over to the hall curious what had her husband so excited. When she reached the hallway a surprised gasp escaped her lip. “Mr. Alexander! I’m so glad to see you again!”

    The old man bowed politely to Tomiko and let himself be guided into the house. “It’s good to see you again as well. But you can call me Demosthenes, Mrs. Hayashi.”

    “If that’s the case then you have to call me Tomiko!” she teased him.

    As they came into the living Ken came wobbling in followed by Momoko. They both looked up at the adults with curiosity at the foreigner. Momoko looked over at her mother. “Who’s is he?”

    “An old friend from work, dear! Why don’t you take Ken back to his bed?” Momoko gave her a little confused look for a moment before agreeing. She picked up Ken and exited the living room. Tomiko looked over to her husband making sure everything was safe. “This is quite the surprise. Right, Isamu?”

    Isamu motioned over to the couch. “Why don’t we sit down? I’d imagine you’re quite tired from your trip.”

    “Thank you.” Demosthenes took a sat alone in the end chair while the parents joined together on the couch. He kept a calm and controlled expression on his face, while still maintaining a sense of friendliness. His hand dug into his trench coat retrieving a small box out, the present he promised. “His Majesty sends his best wishes and a gift.”

    Tomiko accepted the present from him and rested it in her lap. “Thank you! I’m sure Yuki’ll be very happy with it!”

    “How’s he doing?” Isamu inquired. “He left so suddenly.”

    “Sadly, his health continues to fail.”

    “Isn’t there something you can do with all that you have?” Tomiko asked.

    “There’s no medicine, no matter how advanced, that can save him. It’s a matter of life force.”

    She lowered her eyes down at the present. It was wrapped carefully and lovingly. She felt bad knowing that such distance sat between them. “I’m sorry, Demosthenes.”

    The Atlantean lifted his hand palm flat out to Tomiko. “There’s no need. He understood the risks. This was important for him. He only asks that you keep your promise.”

    The thought of the promise that they made shook Tomiko a little. It seemed so wrong to her despite that it was his wish. She nodded along with Isamu to him. They agreed to the arrangement even though they had their doubts. “If that’s what he wants. But it just seems so cruel.”

    “He has many enemies. This is best solution.”

    “I know, but…” She leaned into Isamu a little having trouble with the memories that stirred. They all knew too well the situation. It only made it more difficult for them. She hoped that things could have been different.

    “We understand,” consoled Isamu, taking Tomiko into his arms.

    Demosthenes stood up from the chair and bowed to them again. He started to make his way out of the living room, but stopped. “Sorry, it has not been my intention to cause you more trouble.”

    Isamu searched out for him while holding on his wife. “Sure you can’t stay longer? Yuki’ll be back soon.”

    “It’s best not to confuse him. Thank you for your kindness and hospitality.” The old man gave half of a warm smile to them and stepped out into the hall. While he retrieved his shoes Isamu and Tomiko joined him in the hall watching him. He tilted his fedora back on to his head and let himself out.

    They stared between each other considering what they wanted to do. Since they agreed to adopt Yuki the whole matter made an oddly dark secret. Much remained unknown to them. They understood a little of the political climate that Atlantis was under, but it always felt too painful to know they never met even once. It was part of the agreement.

    Tomiko hesitated in looking up at Isamu. She thought about it frequently, but managed to normally quiet the voice that made her consider the idea. “Perhaps we should tell Yuki, dear…”

    “…we can’t… Besides at his age he wouldn’t be able to understand the full implications.”

    “We’ll have to eventually…”

    “I know…and when that day comes he’ll have to make a choice. One I don’t want to force upon him.”

    “I’m sorry…”

    A knock on their door separated them and sobered them up. Isamu insisted that Tomiko rest herself from the excitement and answered the door himself. When he opened it Yuki and Saki stood jumping up and down eager to greet them. “Hey! Welcome home, Yuki!”

    “Dad!” shouted Yuki reaching up for his father to be picked up. He got hoisted up on his shoulders hugging on to his neck. Saki quietly stared up at the two of them trying not to look like she wanted to join. He indulged her and lifted her up joining Yuki on his shoulder grinning back at each other.

    “Good afternoon, Kiku!” greeted Isamu to Saki’s mother. He invited her in along with the children.

    “Good afternoon, Isamu! I hope Saki isn’t being too much trouble for you.”

    “Not at all! Right, Yuki?”

    “Yeah!” he cheered, holding up Saki’s hand with glee.

    They all entered into the living room with Momoko rejoining hearing the noise. Saki and Yuki got down and went over to look at his gifts that rested on the counter by the kitchen. Momoko hung around them leaving the adults together.

    “How are you feeling, Tomiko? Must be getting close!”

    Tomiko rested a calm hand on her stomach. “He kicks hard!” she laughed. She kept in good spirits for one of her best friends. Isamu kept nearby for support while they talked. Soon Saki’s father arrived along with Noriko, having finished a few things at home before heading over. With the last guest, Yuki’s birthday party could finally begin. Laughter and cheer continued through the evening celebrating Yuki’s seventh year and wishing for another wonderful year.

    To be continued…
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  12. #102
    The Quiet One Shift Andromeda's Avatar
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    Re: Shift

    The brisk march over the grasslands of Atlantis continued on with a slow history lesson. Eudokia explained the details about the barrier and Atlantis. Most of it probably unnecessary, but once she got started it seemed difficult to stop her from going on. They all saw the pride that she had for her country from the way she spoke. A glow in her face and eyes sparked when talking about old traditions.

    After more than an hour of constant walking those required to be the pack mules of the group got tired. Seiji was the most vocal physically halting forcing the rest helping to stop as well. “Why the hell am I still carrying this damn boat of yours?!” Along with Seiji, Yuki, Haruo and Saki spaced out along the length of the boat carrying it over their heads. Most of the fatigue came from holding their arms above their heads rather than weight. Saki managed most of the weight effortlessly, the rest ended up being around most for balance (though Seiji was a matter of a male pride and not wanting to be shown up by a girl).

    She tilted back over her shoulder to meet with Seiji. “I have a place to leave it. It’s further ahead.”

    “How much further?”

    Eudokia searched around the area acting pensive for a while. She stayed silent seeking out landmarks. Eventually, she knew their position exactly. “About fifteen minutes.” After those words she continued her lead not giving them further chance for pause.

    Chapter 101 – Uneasy Greetings

    The arrival of a plain location unremarkable left everyone confused. Seiji gladly got rid of the boat, but still have his questions. “You just going to leave it out here in the open?”

    “No, I’m going to be burying it.”

    “We’ll be here for hours! I thought you said we didn’t have time to waste!”

    “I’m not. Just watch.” Eudokia closed her eyes and focused drawing out rings of light from her feet. As her field came alive her clothes floated in the air uninhibited by gravity. However, their surprise came when the ground under her began to crater. The boat rose up followed by her command and lowered with her as a clean invisible sphere cut into the earth making it all disappear. Before she left their sight a couple of them leaned over curious.

    In the bottom of the crater dug out revealed a metal case. The sphere carved through the case letting the empty space inside breath out. The boat they carried became positioned over and then in the opening. Once allowed to rest, she rose back up with the grass returning in her ascent. Eudokia exhaled shortly when she finished. “It’s stored now.” She received several blank stares in response to her method.

    Yuki watched the whole event carefully trying to understand how she managed it. He still felt confused by what she achieved. “Hey, Ayumi… I thought our powers couldn’t go into the ground like that. I would have fallen through the Earth probably!”

    “Or suffocated. It takes a certain level of concentration and focus to be able to achieve that. By default the surface of the Earth is where we stop.” She did not have a good answer for him. The point that those with the powers had reached simply accepted it as a given fact. No one questioned why.

    The rough remark from Eudokia made Yuki swallow a little rough. He tried to ignore the thought and pass on casually. “That’s all pretty convenient to work out that way for us, huh?”

    “…yes…” Eudokia focused back on the horizon barely catching the light of a village. ‘Almost there… It’s a huge risk, but we don’t have a choice. The capital’s still more than a week away on foot…’ The dangers became worse the longer that they stayed. It may have been her homeland, but she knew that she had a great disadvantage with the entire military hunting for her. The fact became worse when they eventually learned of her return.

    Bordering on the evening hours, the sun remained holding out for just a bit longer as to give them the time they needed to reach rest. No more than a few minutes away from a small village Eudokia stopped them. She looked more serious than previously, a difficult feat for her. “Listen carefully, this is very important. When we enter the village speak to no one and look at no one. Don’t linger. Just follow me to the inn.”

    “Is something wrong?” Yuki asked searching around at the others. “Why can’t we talk to anyone? Shouldn’t we be friendly?”

    “Do you speak Atlantean Greek?”

    “Of course not!”

    “Then don’t speak to anyone.”

    “But my powers—“

    “Don’t speak to anyone! Stay in the inn and let me do all of the talking.”

    The rest of the group started to become uneasy and restless hearing her talk to them as she did. Yori leaned forward a little to get her attention. “Is there something we should know that you haven’t explained to us?”

    She sighed not waiting to have to explain the obvious. “You’re all Japanese. It’s very clear you don’t belong here. Between not speaking the language and your appearance, you’re only going to cause trouble in the village. We need to stay in a low profile.”

    “If we’re going in I assume you have a plan for them not to be scared of foreigners entering their home?”

    “I was getting to explain the plan. I’m going to be using my power to change everyone’s appearance. So long as it is up you’ll look like an Atlantean. We’re just going to be a vacationing group of friends from a nearby town.” She motioned to the entrance of the village, a modest gate lacking any walls. A simple road ran through it under the column and archway that made the gate. Further inside, the inn waited for them. “I’ll only leave it going until we get a room. After that you stay in the room and out of sight. I’ll take care of the work of getting supplies.”

    Yumi took a step forward out of the group. “That’s a lot of supplies for our group. You’ll need someone to go with you.”

    “It’s simpler if I go alone. There’ll be fewer problems.”

    “Won’t it look stranger that only one person from a visiting group is going out? I’ll go with you.” She caught the look from Yori wanting to protest her going alone with Eudokia. “There won’t be any danger in the village, Brother. I’ll be fine.”

    Eudokia wanted to refuse, but knew that a further debate would delay them. She gave in to the request. It took her a while to focus on the mental imaging of changing so many people. The effort did not have to be powerful, but it had to be perfect to get them in without any suspicions. For her, the exercise strained her concentration. “Stay close to me. I won’t be able to make it last for long.”

    The South Gate Captain paused in the middle of the field viewing the terrain. He knew the region well. All of the hiding places and shortcuts were no secret to him. Yet he remained cautious and concerned about his new prey. The enemy left the entire search party relatively unharmed and yet executed action quickly. ‘They eluded my men for hours before making a move. An odd decision considering their success. What changed their tactics? Were they discovered?’

    While on their march he tried to get inside the mind of his prey to know the next move. Unfortunately, he found contradictions within his information. He lacked the whole picture of what happened, that he knew. However, he expected each action to follow a similar flow. ‘We know it was a group of individuals. None of the researchers from the bases ever stumble into here in such large groups. The actions make it seem like there isn’t a leader or perhaps they don’t have unity. That could be our advantage.’ He rubbed his chin keeping to his statuesque figure.

    His team searched the area for clues to the path of their intruders. Only a few clues remained making it difficult to track and uncertain due to the high traffic from the patrols. A more important clue deduced from them worried him more than anything else. ‘Most intruders fall asleep upon entering. Yet they did not. Even being lucky or careful wouldn’t account for that. They must have had a countermeasure to it. If so they had to be aware of the barrier and its effects. This could be a deliberate invasion. But how? And who?’ A deliberate intrusion worried him. It meant the secret no longer held, for at least one group. The implications would be grave for them.

    He only had speculation and supposition to rely on. Nothing could be proven yet, but the unease he felt persisted. When such a feel lingered he knew to trust it. The Captain motioned out to his team to bring them back. “We’re moving out! Send out the signal to Delta Team!”

    The young soldier nodded and stiffly pressed his fist against his chest in salute. “Yes, Captain! Where should I tell Delta Team to search?”

    A map of the region came out in his mind to plan his next move. ‘They couldn’t have gotten too far on foot. There’s only two villages within the time that they’ve had.’ The border village of Skoupa and Kapni rested within range of the break in point. Both received much traffic from the soldiers on the border. They were used to their presence, but like the rest of the land knew nothing of the outside world. Intruders never made it so far before. The panic from foreigners in their village could give rise to new problems. He had to be swift. “Send Delta to Kapni. I want to investigate Skoupa personally.”

    “Captain? Wouldn’t it be more likely they’d go to Kapni? Kapni is closer to the border.”

    “You’d expect that of someone panicked and scared trying to find a new hiding place as quickly as possible. But not this foe. This foe is unlike the others. My gut is telling me they went to Skoupa. They know they’re being hunted and expect us to search Kapni first. They have intelligence and calm in their actions.”

    Seiji and Saki sneezed roughly in their room. The rest of the group looked back at them a little surprised by how loud they were. It took them a few moments to recover from the full body reaction. Saki and Seiji glanced up at each other feeling a little odd that them both responding as the same time. “That was strange.”

    “I’m glad we got in without any troubles,” sighed Yuki, dropping himself on the edge of the bed. Their room only had two beds, but enough room on the floor as Eudokia said. They had no plans on staying past the morning. Where their powers did not strain and force them to remain awake. He welcomed the break.

    As planned, Yumi and Eudokia shopped for the group to resupply their nearly spent food. In all of the traveling and excitement they had nothing to eat for the majority of the day. While no one said anything about hunger everyone knew that it lingered on their thoughts. So they wasted no time going out while the rest waited. The waiting made it more difficult not to focus on the lack of food.

    Fumiko hung by the window though keeping out of sight. She saw a few villagers passing by carrying farming tools back from a long day of work. “For being so legendary, the people seem pretty normal and average. …it’s a little disappointing…”

    Yuki nodded remembering their uneasy walk into the village. Everything that he saw up before the village gave a fantastic appearance. A barrier protected an entire people and kept them secret. The legendary city of Atlantis turned real. He expected to find something more akin to a fantasy setting. Yet the citizens looked no different than any other foreigner. Their homes shared nothing with an unreal setting, very practical in fact. They had a rustic and ancient appearance like from history books, but nothing out of place. “Yeah I know… I know Ayumi said most of the people were normal, but being Atlantis I just thought they would be really advanced in technology or magical something…”

    “Considering the powers that some do possess it is strange,” comment Yori. He sat on the floor with his back propped against the hand carved wooden dresser. “I would have expected they would have made use of that, but I’d dare say they are stuck in the past. It’s like time stopped for them.”

    Chiharu spun a kunai around her finger leaning against the wall. “I wouldn’t underestimate them,” she warned. “It’s exactly because they appear this way that we should remain cautious. Unlike Ancient Greece they are surrounded by the modern age. The citizens might not have much knowledge of the world, but I doubt the leaders keep a blind eye to the outside.”

    “Caution is best for now,” he agreed. “I doubt that we’ve heard anywhere near everything about Atlantis yet.”

    From near the door, Seiji pounded his fist into his hand. He seemed to be psyching himself up. “Well it doesn’t matter all that much if they have sticks or guns. We’ll deal with them the same way. We just have to stop whoever is sending out assassins!”

    “Simplistic as always…” murmured Chiharu. Her voice managed to be picked up by Seiji unusually good hearing. She gave him a cold stare not caring that he felt insulted. The look only enraged him and triggered him to charge for her. Unfortunately, it proved impossible for him to catch her.

    The words that Seiji mentioned got to Yuki. ‘…the assassins…’ He had not given it too much thought since he decided to confront the problem. The focus required of him during the boat and snow plow made it slip away from him. However, whenever he saw Eudokia lately hesitation began to build into uncertainty. ‘She takes this all very seriously… Can I tell her that I can’t be the person she wants me to be?’

    Solitude wrapped around him burrowing him further into his mind. ‘I came for my own reasons, but I don’t even know how I’m supposed to fix it…’ His reasons floated by him trying to provide strength. However, errant thoughts from the village came to him. He saw them hurrying around and most seemed to be acting normal, but he noticed a couple looking strange. When he saw them it got burned in to his mind. ‘I couldn’t understand them, but they seemed unsettled and nervous… The more that I saw them the more it felt like the whole village had an air of unease…like they feared something…’

    He tilted over toward the closed window. The villagers faded through his vision adding weight to his worries. ‘She said the King maintains them… What happens if there’s no King? How much do they need a King?’ Yuki tightened his hands balling up the blanket of the bed into his hands.

    Across the room he founded Saki silently waiting. She did not meet his gaze, but it still felt like she looked disappointed with him. ‘Saki…can I abandon them? Leave them alone? Do I have a choice? Is this my fate? I’m sorry, I can’t keep my promise…’

    To be continued…
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  13. #103
    The Quiet One Shift Andromeda's Avatar
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    Re: Shift

    Only precious moments of light remained in the sky over the land of Atlantis. The village grew busier with the returning men and women from gathering, husbandry or hunting. They built a low stir of the atmosphere through the few streets of the village. Outside of the inn where her new friends rested, Yumi and Eudokia searched around for food and supplies for their journey.

    Their request gave them a few strange looks from the villagers. While those that returned from the village at the time they wanted to buy things most did their purchases earlier in the day. Evening arriving signaled the closing of businesses. Anything found during the day took time to prepare. Family members that came back got welcomed and meals set out. Only the tavern or odd stall stayed open.

    Yumi kept mostly to herself just taking in everything she saw. ‘I guess I never really thought too much about night time being a time to stay home. There’s always places open and people enjoying the night time in Japan. But here every day is work and it starts in the morning…’ The small booth they found still open seemed to be taking advantage of providing those that returned with a small snack before their dinner. A young woman that probably bordered on thirty managed the stall. Most of her table filled with fruits and small baked goods that could be eaten by hand.

    In front Yumi, Eudokia bartered with woman over the food. She locked in focused on the task not letting anything distract her. The debate seemed to have drawn her in like she enjoyed herself. After the sale went through she turned around with her leather bag filled up. Eudokia motioned to Yumi to start moving away.

    When they had enough distance between them and the stall Eukodia snapped her hand down at Yumi’s hands lightly together in front. “Careful with your mannerisms. You’re showing as a foreigner.”

    Her hands jerked apart to slide uncomfortably at her sides. “Sorry… It’s habit. It feels a little strange to just stand with them at my sides when I’m not walking.”

    “Just be mindful. I gave you an appearance that won’t make them suspect, but your actions will still show through.”

    “I’ll try!”

    Chapter 102 – Looming Uncertainties

    Another stall lined up for their shopping. Yumi continued to keep to herself while trying to mind her actions. She had no clue to what she should and should not do while around the villagers. ‘Should I just do what the villagers do?’ Each action she took became over thought and self conscious. Nervousness ruled her movements and made for stiff posture.

    ‘What should I do? Ayumi’s so calm right now even knowing the risks…’ She stared at Eudokia trying to find an answer to her questions. All her back spoke of seemed to be confidence. A self-assured sense of what she was doing was correct. ‘She’s acts so cold…and yet I sense something deeper…something powerful and driven…’ Yumi felt a little shaken suddenly receiving a confusing sensation in her mind. ‘What is this feeling?’

    Inside of the inn room, Seiji and Chiharu came to a bit of a lopsided stalemate. Only Chiharu called it a stalemate. It placed Seiji in the uncomfortable position of being exhausted and sat upon like a throw pillow. Chiharu rested atop her rough-around-the-edges teenager cushion. She had a satisfied look on her face though she tried to hide it, as though the score balanced out.

    Yori and Fumiko left the two to act like troubled siblings not having the energy to deal with them. All of the forced marching from Eudokia left them feeling fatigued. Long walks or any great amount of exercise did not come naturally to them. Unlike the others in the room, they were not built for such work.

    The pensive Yuki drew the attention of Yori. ‘Something’s on his mind…he seems to be a lot more withdrawn than I expected…not like what I’ve heard…’ His image of Yuki did not seem to fit with what he saw. Trouble always managed to find Yuki and that fact alone still had his concern. He wondered if he might have to reconsider his view. Distrust still existed and he only helped because of his sister’s insistence, but he would keep observing. ‘I’ll watch you until I understand…’

    His last thoughts to himself spurred a separate thought in his mind, another concern that he had about their trek. ‘We’ve only heard her side of things and not the whole story at that. I want to see what these people have to say on the matter. Invading and attacking an entire nation is a bad idea even being informed. And we’re doing this completely blind…’ Yori stood up coming to a decision.

    He approached Yuki waiting for a sign of recognition, which never came. “Hayashi.” Yori saw that Yuki existed deep in thought making it difficult to reach him. He tapped him on the shoulder and that seemed to be enough to grab his attention. “Hayashi, that power of yours can make anything right?”

    “More or less…” Yuki hesitated, getting the sense that a request was about to be made of him. “Why?”

    “I want you to make me a translator for the Atlantean language.”

    Yori’s request made had the room’s attention. Everyone perked up and focused over on the two of them. He figured that the others would end up taking an interest. However, Yori held his attention on Yuki wanting an answer.

    “Why? Ayumi said to stay in the room.”

    “I need to know more about what’s going on.”

    “But you can just ask Ayumi.”

    “She’s holding back too much. I can’t trust someone’s words when they’re being that secretive.”

    The debate started to press Yuki into a corner. He trusted what Ayumi told him, but he knew how restrictive she was about information. She had a plan he knew and seemed set on seeing it through. Yuki saw that she believed what she did to be the best and only way to handle the situation. The knowledge and experience laid with her about Atlantis so he left it up to her. Yet the argument that Yori made left him also curious to know what she still held back. “But you can’t talk to anyone. They’ll know you’re not one of them. That’s something Ayumi wants to avoid and I don’t think she’s wrong. We don’t want to start a panic.”

    A grim expression drew across Yori’s lips seeing that he got more trouble from Yuki than he expected. ‘He so focused on her that he can’t see anything else. There’s still so much we don’t understand here!’ Yori took a step back to make his presence seem less demanding and oppressive. A new approach needed to be taken. “I don’t plan on exposing myself to the locals. I can learn from just hearing what they talk about. Considering the importance of the King and his death, there must be talk even out here.”

    “I’ll keep an eye on him, Yuki,” spoke Fumiko, joining the conversation. She understood Yori’s interest and had some questions of her own. “We won’t do anything reckless.”


    “Think of this way. You’re going to be King right? So this will just help you understand what life is like out here.”

    Yuki’s eyes widened the moment that Fumiko mentioned being King. Shaking in his hand developed quickly that he tried to hide away from sight. Hesitation built up in his voice with uncertainty. “King…well I—“

    “He’s not going to be staying here!” snapped Seiji from underneath Chiharu. The words spurred his strength and he effortlessly cast aside the ninja. He rushed into the group holding out his determined assured fist to anyone that disagreed with him.

    Fumiko backed away from Seiji not wanting to get him anymore excited. She remembered how got when he heard about Yuki. “It still remains that knowing the situation better would help us against the enemy.”

    Watching his friends eased some of the wavering in his heart and mind. He just hoped that Ayumi forgave him for using his powers for such a purpose. “Alright, I’ll do it.” Agreeing to do Yori’s request settle down the tension in the air a little, but heightened it for Yuki. The thought of Ayumi’s reaction etched into his mind. ‘I really don’t want to keep up a field for the entire time…if I could just do it…another way!’ Several waves of light pulsed from his feet over the wood flooring disappearing after a few meters.

    Out of the ground appeared a simple appearing box with a couple of antenna. When it finished materializing a beam of light shot out between the antenna focusing in the center. The light gathered together and focused on the wood flooring. Sparkling dust like particles began to float up from the wood as it disappeared creating a perfect circle buried into the board. It grew deeper the longer the beam of light lasted. Another beam of light grew out from the centered mass on the opposite side of the box creating something on the floor. A pair of items soon took shape as the light continued its meticulous work.

    The light faded away along with the box leaving only two identical objects behind as proof. Yuki leaned down to pick them up handing them over to Fumiko and Yori. In his hand, a matching set of simple stunned earrings with a green gem set on the metal. “Here you go one for each of you.”

    Yori hesitated feeling like part of some joke on Yuki’s behalf to get back at him for making him do something he did not want to do. “That’s an earring.”

    “Yes, it is! Pretty clever hiding it in an earring huh? You can wear it and it’ll translate sounds going in your ear and no one will ever think anything of it!”

    It seemed that Yuki failed to grasp his problem. Yori’s eyelids lowered a little not impressed the way Yuki appeared about the accomplishment. “I’m guy! We don’t wear earrings!”

    “Some do!” Yuki cheerfully replied.

    Fumiko stepped in taking the two earrings from Yuki hoping to cut off further arguments. She examined them trying to find the back clasp, but saw they came with none. “Uh, Yuki… I think you made a mistake. You can’t put these on. There’s no place to put them through a piercing.”

    “They’re special like that! I didn’t really know if you had piercings and figuring for Yori I thought it’d be easier if they were made without. You just touch the back to your ear and it’ll stick until you take it back off.”

    “That’s pretty forward thinking…” She checked the earring out once again before pulling back her hair to place it on her left ear. Once she put it in place she cautiously backed away and checked to make sure it remained. “You’re right!” Fumiko handed the other one over to Yori insisting he take it. “It’s only for a little while. None of us will say anything!”

    A begrudged groan of disapproval came from Yori before he took the earring and quickly attached it. He tried not to think much about the fact of its presence, but part of his mind did not let him forget. Yori caught a smirk from Seiji who found the situation very amusing. Rather than giving him further time to revel Yori marched off to the door checking on the hallway before exiting. Fumiko swiftly followed behind him to stick together.

    Dusk had set in fully with it waning into evening quickly. The last couple of stops they made filled up most of their bags that Eudokia carried as well as some of the ones Yumi carried. They brought nearly all of packs from the group with them. Everyone would be carrying some of the food. The only concern ended being out far it may last with the size of their group.

    Yumi calmed down settling into a mindful awareness of her body and surroundings. It eased her stress making the time pass by smoothly. She continued to watch Eudokia to answer the main reason she went along with her shopping. Part of it certainly had her interests in keeping the group dynamics smoothed out, a taxing job she never intended to pick up. The other half of her motives lied in a deeper personal nature.

    Ever since the ship the actions that Yumi found herself take worried her. She began to piece things together and knew that she always got a tightening feeling in her chest whenever she saw Eudokia with Yuki. She kept her feelings within, but the sight of them made that swell. Yumi did not want to admit it she realized. ‘It’s jealousy isn’t it? What I’m feeling towards Ayumi…Eudokia…’

    Just the thought of it made her hands shake uncontrollably for Yumi. She tried to keep it from showing by tightening at her sides for support. ‘She can be open around him and let her guard down. She’s so protected of herself, yet with Yuki…’ The more Yumi thought about them the larger the problem grew in her head. It feed on her own fears quickly blowing up out of her control. ‘…why…she’s so rude and cold to everyone, but the way he looks at her…’

    Yumi shook her head a little trying to focus back on reality. She had let her mind go wild. The way she became absorbed and consumed by it scared her. The weight felt too much to bear. Each emotion seemed easy making it difficult to resist. Yet Eudokia’s back jerked the uncertainties back into her. ‘Is it because they are the same and I’m not like them…powerless? It’s not fair!’

    Yuki fell further out of reach of her with each moment. She saw Eudokia opposite of her looking as arrogantly confident in her position. Yuki stood between them drifting slowly towards Eudokia. She did not want to see another moment of it. ‘Yuki!’ The breaking point came for Yumi as she struggled to keep herself in control. ‘I…’ It felt like Yumi could see Eudokia almost laughing at her helplessness. She was going to steal Yuki away. She mocked Yumi knowing how insignificant of a challenge she gave. It made Yumi burn again with the same feeling she had before, but it felt stronger.

    Yumi raised her head back up to face down with Eudokia, concentrating on haggling with the shop keeper. Determination and resolved surfaced her Yumi’s eyes drawing down focused. ‘I’m not going to lose to you! I’m not helpless! I’ll show you and everyone my strength! I’ll show Yuki!’

    Time ran low for Yori and Fumiko in their efforts to gain useful information (useful being the important factor). All that they managed to discovered ended up being everyday conversation and secrets that made them wish they had not heard them to begin with. The hiding around the inn presented them with a start and they thought they did not need to venture further, but nothing came to them.

    Their failure in the inn brought them outside, a bigger risk for them. For Yori, it just meant he had to come back with something that made the risk worthwhile. He did not know what he looked for, but knew that he would know when it happened. The insistence on playing safe from Fumiko kept him from doing anything too reckless, however he continued to push his limits. He needed to know.

    Fumiko tapped Yori on his shoulder from their hiding place in the shadows of the inn and neighboring home. “Come on, Yori. We should be going back. If we get back after Eudokia and your sister they’ll know something happened.”

    “In a moment, I know I’m close! I can feel it.” He honestly did not understand it himself, but his gut told him to stay. An inner voice seemed to speak softly to him encouraging his actions knowing that it meant a pay off. Yori gave it no concentrated thought. He just followed it as instincts.


    He noticed another two men passing by the street. “Quiet!” A hopeful lean pressed his hearing as much as possible to eavesdrop on the conversation.

    “The crops don’t seem to be growing so well this season.”

    “You noticed too, huh?”

    “I’m getting concerned that the yield might not be good enough if this continues.”

    “The yield’ll be the least of our concerns. Besides, I doubt it’s a coincidence that the crops are poor this year.”

    “When are they going to announce the new King? We’re running out of time!”

    “It’s been centuries since a new King went this long unannounced.”

    “We’re going to be the first to suffer!”

    “It’ll be like after King Theseus died! So many people died and so much land was lost!”

    “Our homes will be destroyed!”

    The two men passed out of hearing range for Yori, but it had him spinning questions in his head. ‘What was all of that about?! People died and land…just because the King died? What significance does the King of Atlantis play with the people? Is this…what’s got Eudokia upset? What’s going to happen?!’

    To be continued…
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  14. #104
    The Quiet One Shift Andromeda's Avatar
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    Re: Shift

    The two men passed out of hearing range for Yori, but it had him spinning questions in his head. ‘What was all of that about?! People died and land…just because the King died? What significance does the King of Atlantis play with the people? Is this…what’s got Eudokia upset? What’s going to happen?!’ Yori leaned back against the building in the shadow suddenly feeling even more confused about their situation than before. It made him wish that he had not heard it just so that more questions did not get asked. The new questions drove his mind to seek answers.

    Eudokia’s words whispered to Yori in his mind. ‘The King holds a very important position for us besides governing. The King maintains Atlantis and allows for the continued survival of his people.’

    ‘Yes, I do. This is my home and only I understand it. You forced your way to come with us. I didn’t ask you. So I’m not obligated to give you anything!’

    ‘Only she understands,’ thought Yori over her words. His mind continued to press for meaning in everything. The understanding that became lost in the unknown and strange world of Atlantis. They traveled out to a foreign land not knowing anything. Trouble followed Yuki everywhere with Atlantis at the center. Yori never lied to himself that solving the matter would be simple. He suspected that Yuki sat on some naïve heroic sense of duty built up from an odd combination of confidence and loss. Yet things never truly ended up simple or easily resolved.

    A history laid deep within Atlantis with its layers of tradition. Something guided all of the actions. Yori saw it driving Eudokia forward out of desperation. ‘She understands better than the rest… She knows the meaning of what I heard!’

    ‘When are they going to announce the new King? We’re running out of time!’

    ‘It’s been centuries since a new King went this long unannounced.’

    ‘We’re going to be the first to suffer!’

    ‘It’ll be like after King Theseus died! So many people died and so much land was lost!’

    ‘Our homes will be destroyed!’

    Yori slammed his hand to his face struggling with questions that tormented him. The circles sent him around seeking out answers that never came. ‘What is it? What isn’t she telling us yet? Is it something she fears? Is she afraid like these villagers are of being destroyed? Is it because of those wanting control or is it because there is no King?’

    Fumiko felt only more confused by the words of the villagers. She thought with the answers from Eudokia she started to understand Atlantis better, yet the way it sounded they thought their world stood on the edge of destruction. More mysteries and uncertainties filled her heart. However, Fumiko focused herself realizing that they drifted too long. “We’re out of time, Yori. We should be heading back now.” Nothing reached his deep thought appearing almost soulless. She grabbed a hold of his shoulder shaking back to reality. “Yori, it’s time to leave!”

    “…r-right!” Yori turned his face back up to follow Fumiko through the back keeping out of sight. ‘I’ll find the answers. I’ll figure out what she hasn’t told us yet!’

    Chapter 103 – The Darkness of Innocence

    The inn stood only a building away from them, but it seemed to become even further away. Out in front on the main street Eudokia and Yumi hauled in everything they purchased. A significant haul for them considering how loaded down both appeared. It cut them off from the entrance of the inn. Yori and Fumiko stared at each other calculating their situation and risks of anything they attempted.

    Yori looked back down the inn seeing their only option to preventing being caught. He grabbed Fumiko hand guiding her along not thinking about a response. Behind the inn he came to stop under a raised window. “Hey! Someone by the window?”

    Fumiko tilted her head up realizing that they stood next to their room in the small inn. They had no glass for any of the windows or shutters, just simple wooden frames. In such warm weather it hardly seemed important. “Yuki? Saki? Are you there?”

    Moments passed for them in tension with no words. The height the window made it impossible for them to know if anyone stood around it. However to their surprise, Haruo leaned out of the window looking down at the two of them. He realized what they needed and offered a hand out to them. Fumiko went first at Yori’s insistence and then him afterward.

    Inside the room, Yuki and Saki joined them at the wall a little taken back by their entrance. Saki checked on Fumiko to see that she was not hurt. “What happened? Did you learn anything?”

    Fumiko and Yori glanced over at each other in silence pondering their response. Neither had the chance for an answer as Eudokia opened the door. She searched around the room with her eyes to check on everyone. The gathering by the window and uneasy almost guilty looking expressions on Yuki and Saki made her suspicious.

    Eudokia placed a couple of the packs casually on the table near the door and the rest on the bed as she approached the wall. She fixed Yuki with a thick stare not wanting any excuses. “Is there something wrong?”

    Yuki shifted an uncertain glance at Yori before working up a pleasant expression. “Nothing at all! They’re just really tired from all of the walking today.” He knew how she would react if she learned of what they did. He hoped that she believed him and did not press further. The pierce gaze of her eyes unnerved him breaking down his mask.

    A calculating moment from Eudokia lengthened the tensions between them. Not a single word made the air thick around everyone. The others in the room watched keeping to themselves with uninterested faces. “Then you better help with the unpacking,” she declared pointing to Yumi flailing about with the weight of half of their load.

    Saki and Yuki wasted no time rushing over to help relieve Yumi, bravely struggling to keep together. The moment they effortlessly pulled the packs from her arms Yumi collapsed to the ground as though they had been the only thing holding her together. “I thought my arms were going to fall off!” Yumi cradled her arms against her stomach working on getting feeling back in them.

    Everyone’s packs laid about the room with some of the supplies overflowing from the tops. Yuki looked over at Ayumi a little concerned that she bought too much. “You sure you didn’t go overboard? Do we have the money for all of this?”

    “Of course,” she replied sharply, “All of this is necessary to limit the number of stops we make.”

    “And this?” he asked, pulling out a tunic from a pack on the bed. Underneath there were several more of varying muted colors. “Shopping for clothes?”

    She did not like the accusatory expression that Yuki gave her. “Your cloths stand out here! It’ll be easier to fit without my powers if you wear Atlantean clothes.”

    “I guess so…they’re kind of bland though…”

    “They don’t need to stand out! Do you want to be caught?!”

    “…no…” Yuki pulled himself away from Ayumi not wanting to be in her line of fire any longer. He caught the sight of food and remembered his own hunger. “Hey food! Who’s hungry?” The mention of food gave everyone energy throwing the room into chaos.

    They argued and fought over which to eat and to save, even Eudokia managed little against them. Once food finally settled in them they calmed down and scattered. Hunger had been the only thing to keep most of them awoke. So they started falling asleep around the room without much thought to location. Haruo laid out against the wall turned away from the group. Seiji took his place at the door seated up with his arms crossed and head hanging a little low. Chiharu disappeared unable to be found by anyone, though no one tried to find her. Saki sprawled out in the middle of the floor with little thought in mind to any surroundings. Yori and Yumi reclined in the corner next to each other. While, Fumiko rested at the foot of the bed, still managing to make it seem small stretched out fully. Left to the packs, Yuki leaned against the wall partly supported by the table.

    Eudokia turned about the room still not completely clear what had happened. “They were so full of energy a moment ago… Hmm…” She eyed the bed taking it into consideration before turning away. Her back pressed against the backing of the bed presenting her with a view of the door. ‘I guess we’ll resolve the rest of the matters in the morning before we leave…’

    On the outskirts of the village of Skoupa, a small band of soldiers gathered with the Captain of the South Gate in front. The search drove them into the late hours of the night. The rest of the land slept while they worked tirelessly to keep them safe. A dark unknown fog cast over them in the face of the strange intruders. Each man stood on edge and resolute behind their Captain. Their honor rested upon their success.

    Two shadowed figures approached from the village, their black uniforms working well in the night. They came up to the Captain halting together in routine unison. “Captain Simonides, initial perimeter search completed!”

    “Report, Kalliope and Philon!”

    Kalliope, a twenty-five year old woman, nodded strictly to her Captain. “No signs of strange activity around the village surrounding land.” She had a long service with the border patrol distinguished by several captures. “If the foreigners are here they aren’t hiding outside of the village.”

    Simonides gave pause to plan his next move. Skoupa laid behind the soldiers sleeping with a great unknown. A village made searching difficult with the number of places to hid. The further lack of signs from them around the land had him questioning his previous decision. ‘In the end, this will rule out a place if nothing else. We must be thorough.’ The Captain focused back on his men dividing up tasks in his mind. “We search the village! Leave nothing unturned!”

    The new orders brought all of them to attention with the expectation of commands. “Kalliope and Philon take the south entrance and work towards the village square. Telamon you’re with me on the north entrance. Eusebios take the rest of the men and set up a perimeter around the village. No one escapes, understand?”

    “Of course, Captain!” snapped Eusebios and saluting him. The Meso Prosecho of the group, his powers came in to importance once the enemies were captured. He directed the attention of the men motioning them into positions in the field to set up.

    Reaching the north entrance for Simonides meant circling around the village to the opposite side. His men waited on a delay under his plan. He calculated the time it took to make the entrance and scheduled the search to begin when Telamon and he made their position. The north entrance of Skoupa sat in front of them in anticipation. A few moments remained as predicted by him. ‘It’s been a while since I’ve had to personally do a search like this…’ His position meant that he often stayed behind at the South Gate while he issues commands to his men. This situation drew him out and found him personally leading his men in the field. The squad might have been thrown together with what he had available, but they were all his men.

    He gave the signal to Telamon to head into the village. Simonides followed behind him carefully watching everything in his field of vision. No intruders would escape him. Ahead the sounds of splintering wood and shouts told him that the south entrance team began their move. The first house, a small hovel, stood darkened before the two of them. He examined the exterior slowly checking for any unusual signs.

    Once the Captain felt satisfied he motioned to Telamon to make for the door. The twenty-three year old man from the northern region tightened up as he prepared. His black uniform went well with his dark brown hair cut cleanly around his neck. A toned and honed arm reached out to knock on the door. They were still citizens of Atlantis, so breaking down the door came as a second option. Telamon gave the door another firm knock that nearly turned into a pound.

    A man’s voice came out of an adjacent room crawling through the window. The pounding came to an end hearing it received acknowledgement. Moments later the door opened revealing a half awake man in his thirties wearing a light tunic. “What’s wrong?” the man asked not seeing clearly who stood in his entry.

    “Stand aside, sir! I must search your house by order of the Captain of the South Gate!”

    The title tossed out sobered up the man quickly. “What’s the meaning of this?!” He refused to get out of the way of the soldier without a good reason.

    Telamon pressed his stance closing the distance and using stature to fill imposing effect. “Intruders from the outer world have been seen in this direction. We have to confirm that you’re not hiding them knowingly or not!” He raised his hand up for the man’s shoulder to cast him aside.

    “Intruders?! Around here?” Panic struck the villager as he thought about the possibilities of a stranger in his village. While the soldier already let himself into the house the man gave way dropping to the side leaning against the wall. Sounds of valuables breaking and shattering did not matter to him. A soldier ripping apart everything in his house no longer meant anything.

    Outside Simonides coldly watched the home and neighboring homes for any stirring. A hidden enemy worried over their safety tended to flee when it came into jeopardy. He saw it play out often with the few that managed to survive past the barrier long enough. The only wish he had desired a larger team to make the search more efficient. Unfortunately, he had cast a wide net with his men for maximum coverage. Preventing the further invasion of the enemy deeper into their territory came at a higher priority.

    Telamon came out of the house to report back to the Captain. “Nothing to be found, Captain!”

    “Very well, move on!” He watched the soldier rush over to the opposite side of the street to the next home. The polite knocking did not receive a greeting and Telamon forced his way in with a well placed kick. A couple of screams from the back came before yelling for the intrusion into their home. Disregarding any complaints Telamon continued with practiced precision. ‘They all act differently. This is for their own good though.’

    Towards the center of the village the inn rested untouched. However, the commotion from outside awoke the lighter sleepers, Eudokia and Chiharu (Seiji remained sound asleep). The two girls looked around the room before Chiharu silently sprinted to the window. The window faced away from all of the noise, but her features narrowed. She disappeared out the window before Eudokia had a chance to stop her.

    Eudokia picked up the screams and shouts of the villagers building in chorus. ‘Damn, Simonides is cleverer than I thought. We’ll have to escape now while we still have the advantage.’ She turned back and rushed over to Yuki stirring him awake. His sleepy eyes barely acknowledged her. “Start waking everyone up! We’ve got to leave now!”


    “There’s soldiers in the village searching for us!”

    Yuki leaped up to his feet completely awake. “What?! They found us!”

    “Not yet, but we’ve got to leave now!”

    “Alright…I’ll help you wake everyone up!”

    Getting most of them awake did not take much effort, apart from Seiji. The greater problem came to dealing with the mess they had. They had to scramble around to put all of the food back into their bags. Eudokia insisted on them putting the new clothes on as well. It meant less to carry and easier to blend in with the rest of the villagers.

    Chiharu returned back into the room after her long disappearance. “I count four in the village and another five around the village blocking routes for escape. It should be pretty easy to escape.”

    “Only nine for the search party...” remarked Eudokia. “That’s a lot fewer than I thought. They must be spreading their forces thin.” She became pensive for a few moments. Her plans factored for a larger force knowing how they preferred to operate. The new developments pleased her. “This’ll make things a lot easier for our escape then. Finding a hole to escape through will be easy. The Meso Prosecho is outside the city?”

    “Yes, I saw the white uniform to the north.”

    Eudokia scanned the room checking on the condition of everyone. A strange feeling came over her that concerned her. They seemed ready. The unsettling sensation grew stronger as well as the feeling she forgot something. She tried to focus on the immediate problem of getting out of the inn and village. “Yuki, it’s time to go!” Eudokia looked around for Yuki no longer seeing him among his friends. “Yuki?” She turned to the window finding him staring out with a lost expression in his eyes. “Yuki?”

    “I can hear them…” He glanced back in the room, his eyes carrying guilt. “They’re destroying the village looking for me.”

    “Yuki, no!” She saw where his words guided him. Eudokia rushed over to him grabbing him by the arm. “No! You can’t!”

    “They didn’t do anything wrong, Ayumi! It’s my fault! I can’t let them suffer for something that isn’t their fault!”

    To be continued…
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  15. #105
    The Quiet One Shift Andromeda's Avatar
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    Re: Shift

    Screams from innocent villagers burned into the night air. A stifling atmosphere hovered around Skoupa one that mirrored similar events in other border villages on the search for the whereabouts of the intruders. Nothing got spared in the search, especially if resisted. The barbarity of the border patrol was known and not uncommon during such times, but it still did not mean those that suffered became used to it.

    Anything short of burning down the home to ensure no hiding place remained undiscovered occurred. The lateness of the hour made the search all the more difficult. Some villagers already ran off towards the center of the village seeking the mayor. Others stood out of their homes huddling together helpless at the sounds of their homes being ransacked by an uncaring soul. A few even helped in the search falling into paranoia about the scary foreigners that might wander their village.

    All of these reached Yuki as cries and pleas that painted terrible pictures in his mind. It made his hands shake with the guilt and helplessness. Each cry floated in his ears filling him with echoes ghostly and horrific amplified by his fears. ‘It’s all my fault, isn’t it?! Because I’m here!’ His heart pounded in his chest loud enough for him to feel it through him.

    Eudokia fixed Yuki with a commanding stare. She knew the look that he had and needed to stop him from making a mistake. “Don’t think for a second that this is your problem!” The distance between them closed and she latched on to his arm making sure he did not escape from her. A moment later ripples came from her feel announcing her activated field. “You’re not going!” Little visible shown from the barrier that she erected inside the inn room, but she made it clear that she did not plan on letting them do something stupid again like at the barrier.

    Chapter 104 – Struggle by Threads

    Only a slight reflective sheen bounced back for everyone to realize what just happened. When she trapped them it set the room on edge no longer letting Yuki and Eudokia argue. Seiji and Saki appeared on either side of Eudokia ready to protest. However, before they did anything a trap set in the field sprung. From the wooden floor boards long tendrils of fluid light burst up to take hold of Saki and Seiji.

    Saki’s speed gave her the ability to dodge seeing it coming. She vanished from the center of the tendrils appearing suddenly on the floor sliding away into the wall as a second set of tendrils appeared significantly faster than the last completely tying her up. It took her a moment to realize what happened to her and that her escape failed. “What do you think you’re doing, Ayumi!?” Saki tried to make use of her strength to break free, but it only made it tighter for her.

    At Eudokia’s side Seiji stood tied up and enraged by the act. She looked back at Saki in a flat expressionless face. “You didn’t think I wouldn’t make plans to deal with the two of you, did you? I know how reactive you two are. No one is going. We are leaving nothing more.”

    “Damn you!” shouted Seiji struggling with his bonds. “You can’t hold me down with this!”

    “You won’t be able to break them. I made it specifically to deal with your strength. It converts all of your efforts to break into strengthen and tightening the hold. So you’re only making it hold you easier.”

    “Ayumi!? How can you do this to our friends?!” Yuki leapt forward grabbing a hold of Eudokia. “Let them go now!” He could not believe what he saw from her. He knew that she how upset she got with any of them going her against her plans, but he never thought she would go so far.

    Eudokia snapped her arms out of Yuki’s grasp. After freeing herself from Yuki, she slugged him hard in the face with her fist knowing how irrational he was at the moment. She had to keep control of him or he would ruin everything. An unknown Meso Prosecho user running around Atlantis would force the military’s involvement. But Yuki never saw the big picture. “No. I’m doing what must be done to ensure you get to the capitol without trouble.”

    Yuki lifted himself off the floor a little. His eyes held surprise that Eudokia struck. “But we’ve already caused trouble! The village is being sacked because of us!” He did not understand what she was thinking. They were supposed to be her people. He thought she carried about their safety.

    “They don’t know you’re here yet. They are only searching. This isn’t the only village that’s going to be searched. Don’t think you can be everywhere and stop everything from happening. This isn’t your fault.”

    “But it’s happening right in front of you! How can you not care about it?!”

    “So just because it’s in front of you have to do something? You can’t protect a country with that weak thinking. You have to see everything even what’s not in front of you. Else you can’t protect anything.”

    Hesitation cut into Yuki for a moment as he heard Eudokia’s words. He turned his gaze towards the window hearing the voices of the screaming villagers getting closer. Each second to listen racked him completely. It felt as though it poured into him. They filled him until it burned like molten metal ran through his veins. He just wanted to close his ears, but his hands refused to move. ‘Is she right? But I could help them…right?’

    Yuki’s hand tightened up again fighting with own instincts. A part of what Eudokia said reached him. As much as he hated the thought of what she said actually being true, denying it only made it more painful. He did not know what to do anymore. For him to ignore them went against everything he knew. Yet his actions had more significance than before. He only had himself to think about. An entire people made the scales change. It no longer was just himself anymore. ‘What can I do? Is fleeing the only option I have?’ Yuki sought answers around the room feeling lost.

    No one in the room had an answer for him. They kept to themselves left in disinterest with the situation or uncertainty. However, one of his friends could not deal with it any longer. A light suddenly broke from within the room. It took a few moments to realize what happened and find the source giving plenty of time to finish.

    The shattering of something like glass echoed through the room. Seiji gave a relieved sigh as he stood glaring at Eudokia, completely surprised that he managed to break through.

    She took a cautious step back to prepare herself seeing the way that Seiji looked at her. ‘Impossible! I thought I accounted for his strength! Is he even stronger than Saki? And what was that light?’ Eudokia readied herself for whatever Seiji might have planned as shallow as it undoubtedly would be.

    Seiji ground his teeth as he bled out seconds in mounting tension. Everyone in the room felt like he would punch Eudokia knowing how he acted. They waited to see what he did with uncertain anticipation. And he did not disappoint their expectations finally lifting up his arm already with his hand tightened up. In the next moment a painful crunch let out as he hit his target by surprise.

    Yuki laid back on the floor, which he became unwillingly accustomed to it. “What was that for?!” He rubbed the other side of his face where Seiji walloped him.

    “I had to knock some sense into you!”


    “Why the hell are you hesitating?!”


    “It’s a simple decision! You don’t need to think about it!”

    Nothing could be simple anymore. Yuki started to understand that from Eudokia. He did not like the feeling it brought him, but it made painful sense. “No, it’s not so simple!” Another punch to his face came in, again not expecting a second from Seiji. Yuki staggered, but it brought him to his feet to face down Seiji. “What the hell’s matter with everyone punching me?! What happened to just talking?!”

    “Words don’t get through to you as well as a punch!” shoved Seiji getting into his face. It made him sick to see Yuki being weak willed about taking action. The Yuki he knew did not hesitate. Certainty filled every movement and action that he made, not the fear that poured over him as he saw from him at that moment. “Do those people outside need help?”

    “Yes!” Yuki replied without question.

    “Then there you have your answer!”


    Seiji brushed back Yuki going to the window. The barrier that Eudokia erected remained sternly still as the last act of defiance. He spared no moment for it or Eudokia slamming his fist through the transparent wall. Around his arm the field cracked out falling apart in pieces leaving a small hole. Seiji threw in his other arm tearing down the barrier until he made enough room for the window. “Let’s go! Whoever feels that it is the right thing to do to help someone suffering follow me!” He jumped out of the window disappearing in the night.

    Only a few moments passed to reveal Yuki at the window. Eudokia reached out to him for appeal. However, his eyes fixed her with a determined stare. The resolve inside him had shifted becoming strong and rigid. She lost her chance.

    Yuki hopped up on the ledge of the window staring out at the ground. His mind looked back at Eudokia with the look like she had given up cracking through her features. He tilted his head back into the room. “I’m sorry, but he’s right. This is just my nature.”

    “…I know…”

    A second later Yuki leapt out to follow Seiji. Taking up behind him, Yumi went to the window looking down at the distance that she had to go to make it. It felt further than it actually was, but before she made her attempt Yori grabbed her. She stared up at him. “You coming with me, brother?”

    No pleading or doubt from his little sister made Yori step back. He did not expect her to appear so focused. The ground that he had given up to her made the little more seemed nearly pointless. However, the life of his sister and danger made him hold on tighter. It was not pointless. “It’s too dangerous for us to go out there, Yumi! We aren’t like those two.”

    “There’s more than just fighting that we can do!”

    “If they see us we’ll be targets!”

    Yumi narrowed her eyes more tired of her brother making up excuses for them. Taking a page from Seiji and Yuki, she did something without thinking of the consequences. She already had the window in her back from Yori pressing. A little more effort pushed her out of the window using her back as an awkward fulcrum. Yori remained holding on to her getting dragged out the window roughly sending the two of them to the dirt ground below on their back.

    She let out a low groan feeling the dagger of pain cut through her. A bit of regret surfaced realizing how much it hurt. Yumi rose to her feet working on getting her bearings back. Screams in the distance still lingered and grew in volume. Homes invaded and broken softly played in the background. “Where’d Yuki go?” she asked herself trying to find signs of him.

    Still reeling from the fall and surprise that his sister acted so suddenly, Yori staggered to get to his feet. Once he managed to get some support from the building he focused on Yumi, distracted by her search. “What do you think you’re doing, Yumi!? Do you know how reckless and dangerous that was!? You could’ve been seriously hurt if you fell wrong!”

    His sister gave him a half sheepish knock on her head knowing how right he was. “We didn’t get hurt though! So everything worked out!”

    Yori sighed to himself seeing that he had little left to reason with against her. ‘Is Hayashi’s thoughtless heroics starting to rub off on her? I need to keep them further apart…’

    Across the village already running towards the source of the ruckus, Yuki and Seiji saw someone in the military uniform standing out in the street. Around them villagers ran about in panic and fear yelling in a language that neither could understand. The few villagers that paid attention in their blind running realized that Yuki and Seiji stood out from the rest screaming even louder.

    The closer that they came to the figure the more everything seemed to divide before them. It was as though the man’s presence made it so that the frightened souls unconsciously moved for his will. He slowly slid his eyes to them picking up their arrival.

    Yuki felt an odd sense of unease from seeing the man. There was coldness in his eyes that he never felt from the assassins that sought for his life. ‘What’s this strange feeling? Like I’ve seen it before…’ The only time he remembered seeing such eyes was when Eudokia killed. An expression lacked any sense of remorse or regret only driven by purpose. ‘So cold… Why does he seem so commanding?’

    When they came within a house of the man Seiji and Yuki stopped. The Atlantean spoke to them in a foreign tongue that left both of them confused. Seiji searched over at Yuki for a clue to what the man said to them. “There’s something familiar about his words, but I can’t understand him!”

    A nod from Yuki agreed with Seiji, though he had a little better luck. “It’s familiar because I think he’s speaking in English.”

    “Huh? But I thought the girl said it was Greek!”

    “Maybe he thinks we’re American or something.”

    Seiji threw up his fist at the man in frustration. “We’re Japanese! Jap-a-nese!” All he got in return was confusion. The same look of peculiarity that they gave the Atlantean a moment ago did not make him any happier. “Damn language! How we going to tell him to stop?”

    “I don’t know,” shrugged Yuki. “I think fists will be the only answer at this point…”

    “I like the way you talk, Yuki!” Seiji grinned eagerly pounding his fists together to psych himself up. The arrival of a second man out of the nearby house made the numbers even. His sights turned to the younger man that just appeared. “You can get the old man, Yuki! This new one’s mine!”

    A bit of a sweat dripped down Yuki. “I don’t think the man’s even in his thirties, Seiji!”

    “What do I care? He’s older than me!”

    Yuki sighed having forgotten how straightforward Seiji used to be from their old days. “True enough, I guess…” The thought of standing side by side with Seiji in a fight made Yuki a little excited. A normal fight that came down to only strength of muscles and reflex felt right. He missed the feeling that it gave him. Yuki let out a gentle smirk marking down his target.

    “Don’t run too far, Yumi!” shouted Yori trying to keep up with Yumi. Once they oriented themselves something triggered in her. She claimed that she knew where Yuki was in the village, but had no explanation other than a feeling. The same feeling from before when they met everyone for the first time. Yori did not understand it too well, but the accuracy that she had then made it difficult for him to doubt her intuition. “Yumi!”

    Yumi blew around a corner of a home with certain in each step. All of the sounds of the village faded into the background for her. She let her sight from within guide her. ‘I can feel him! He’s close! Yuki!’ The next corner disappeared and a few villagers crashed past her knocking her down. Her foot worked to get under her to rise back up.

    ‘Look out!’ shouted a voice from inside her.

    By reflex she jumped back roughly still not balanced on her feet. A wooden and stone shelf collapsed where she used to stand. Among the wreckage laid broken pottery and crates. She lifted her head up to see a young man in the black military uniform she saw before at the barrier. Her eyes widened in surprise to find herself standing so close to the enemy.

    Yori finally caught up to his sister finding the soldier staring down at her. “Yumi! Run away!”

    The soldier gave the two teenagers a perplexed look not understanding them. He turned back toward his comrade that joined him. Yori’s translator gave a clear view into their conversation. “Hey Kalliope, I think we’ve found the intruders! But they’re just kids. You recognize their language? It’s not English and European like most of those we find!”

    The woman stepped out around him looking down at the siblings trying to pick out their words and features. Her hand rested on the hilt of her sword as though always prepared for trouble. She looked over at Philon. “They sort of look like those from the Asia countries, don’t they?”

    Philon leaned over staring down at them trying to confirm the guess. He remained unsure, but pulled back to address Kalliope. “I don’t know. I’ve never seen one before. Aren’t most of their people by the north gate?”

    “This’ll make communication impossible unless you know the language.”

    “You kidding? I have enough trouble with English. Such a pain learning foreigner’s words just to use them so infrequently.”

    “Well either way children or not we need to take them back to the Captain.”

    He nodded back to her and started to reach for something behind him. Yori looked over at his sister realizing that she knew nothing of what happened. ‘I’ve got to get her out of here. She’s not ready for this!’ He pulled on his sister to get her to move. “Come on, Yumi! They’re going to capture us if we don’t move!”

    Yumi’s eyes appeared empty with her voice just repeating the fragmented thoughts from her mind. “I-I…thought…Yuki…” She did not know what to do anymore. Her mind ran blank in the face of real danger.

    The two soldiers started to make their approach for the scared teens. Yori tried to put himself between them and his sister, but they surrounded them quickly. It seemed that they had no choice, but capture. ‘…sister…I need to do something!’ Suddenly from behind him a burning ball flew past Yori and scattered the soldiers leaping out of the way.

    When the flame hit the ground it blew out in a shockwave dirt and debris from the ruined houses. Out of the shadows stepped Fumiko lowering her hand back down. “That was just a warning shot. If you don’t want any more of this I’d suggest you retreat!”

    To be continued…
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  16. #106
    The Quiet One Shift Andromeda's Avatar
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    Re: Shift

    When the flame hit the ground it blew out in a shockwave of dirt and debris from the ruined houses. Out of the shadows stepped Fumiko lowering her hand back down. “That was just a warning shot. If you don’t want any more of this I’d suggest you retreat!” Fumiko rushed over to Yori and Yumi with the distance that she gave them. “Can you two stand?”

    The blast of fire from Fumiko set the two soldiers on edge. Both drew their swords ready to defend themselves from the attacker with strange powers. Philon glanced over at Kalliope hoping to find an answer from her. Unfortunately, she seemed as confused by what they just experienced. “Another intruder, just how many of them are there!?”

    “Looks like the Captain was right about there being more to these intruders. But I never expected a MP user to be amongst them.” Kalliope tightened her grip on the hilt of her sword thinking about the trouble they got into with their foe. “Explains how they got in though. We have an unmarked traitor!”

    Skepticism still weighed on Philon. “A Meso Prosecho…” The tall girl made even them as adults appear short, making him a little uneasy. However, height played little towards his uncertainty about the foreigner. “She looks like the rest of them. MP users can only be Atlantean.”

    “But they can use their powers to change their appearance. She’s probably got some pretty big crimes on her shoulders if she needs to hide her identity.”

    “We aren’t equipped to deal with a MP user though! It’s normally the duty of the Ministry of Military Crimes Omega Branch to deal with these matters!”

    “Stop complaining about our situation, Philon. Our honor as soldiers of the South Gate is on the line here!”

    Chapter 105 – Reception for the Uninitiated

    The mood became unbalanced for Fumiko. Like Yori, she kept the translator earring from Yuki with her (more out of forgetfulness than intention). She heard everything the two soldiers said between them and knew that she might have rattled them a little briefly it only seemed to make them more determined to capture. ‘They think I’m like Yuki?! I can use that against them, but if they have ways for dealing with people like Yuki what sort of affect will it have on me?’

    Fumiko looked over at Yori and Yumi still working on standing. ‘I’ve got to get them out of here. They won’t be any match for trained soldiers, even with ancient world weaponry.’ She knew what she had to do. She stood up and stepped forward putting herself closer to the two soldiers. “Can you get your sister out of here?”

    Distracted with Yumi, Yori did not immediately notice what Fumiko had done for them. Some coaxing and force by him managed to finally get Yumi moving to her feet. He saw Fumiko in front of them finally taking in his surroundings. The flanking soldiers closing in with Fumiko alerted him to the situation. “What are you doing?!”

    “Can you get her out of here?” she asked again barely turning her head.

    “But what about you? I can’t just leave you alone with them!”

    Fumiko smiled a little to herself for unknown reasons to even her. “Could you fight without knowing she was safe?”

    Her question silenced Yori sharply with a wall before him. He glanced at his sister thinking about what she said. The thought that she probably was right pained him. Abandoning someone for personal feelings seemed wrong. ‘But I can’t leave Yumi here… There were only four in the village and if Hayashi is keeping the others busy…’ Weighed uncertainty calculated through his mind staring at Yumi. Yori suddenly took a firm grasp on her as a decision came to him. “I’ll be back soon!”

    The distant footsteps faded away in a hurried panic. A sign to her, they had finally left them alone, her and the soldiers. While the balance in numbers had changed Fumiko did not feel anymore cornered than she had before. ‘This is the first time I’ve actively used my magic against someone. Can I do this?’ Fumiko weighed out the tension in her body trying to loosen up. Pressured to act made her feel uncertain about her powers.

    Kalliope restrained herself from reacting to two of their prey escaping out from their grasp. Neither of the kids seemed to be of much threat to them before the tall foreigner that they faced. A power of fire meant that the entire village stood threatened by the girl. She had to protect the village from harm. The Xiphos, short sword, in her hand sang in the air focusing her determination into the blade. Her eyes stared down with Fumiko taking cautious steps.

    Opposite to her, Philon had other ideas. He shifted his legs and weight trying to be careful about tipping off Fumiko. A quick glance of his eyes to Kalliope checked on her positioning. “Think you can handle her while I go after the two others?”

    “They can wait. We need to deal with the MP user first.”

    “We’ll have to start our search all over again if we lose sight of those two. Plus our net around the village leaves too much to be broken through.”

    He had a point in what he said that Kalliope did not want to openly admit. Her own insecurities about dealing with Fumiko held her back. However, she saw him making more overt motions to giving chase. ‘He’s right that we have too few for a proper search. We’re spread too thin. They’ve thrown everything into chaos…’

    Keeping outwardly clueless, Fumiko waited for them to make a move. She held an advantage over them of knowing what they said and did not realize it. It just meant she had to play her hand carefully to not tip them off. ‘I can’t let him leave for Yori and Yumi. I’ve got to do everything I can to hold them both back…’ Concentrating on her magic, time painfully lingered for them with both sides holding cautious of the other.

    No further discussion between Philon and Kalliope occurred when he sprinted for the opening left by Fumiko. Ready with a spell already, ribbons of magic and lines of drawn energy rapidly gathered out from Fumiko’s shoulder into her right hand. Everything happened so fast it appeared that her entire arm ignited in fire before the blast of flames exploded in front of Philon’s feet knocking him backwards.

    Fumiko stepped back ensuring that she stayed between the two of them and the rest of the street behind her. The night wind blew back the blast cloud over the street in front of the two soldiers creating a dramatic line in the sand. ‘I can do this!’

    Philon coughed from the dirt road still holding on to shock. Through the breaking smoke he saw the girl staring them down insistent on not letting them leave. He caught sight of the seared ground where he might have been if he misstep. Once he regained his composure, Philon stood up locking tightly on to his short sword. “Not going to let me go, huh?”

    The woman tightened in on Fumiko trying to keep an eye on her hand for signs of fire. “You hurt?”

    “No, she missed me. I don’t know if it was intentional or not.”

    “Still the speed of her reaction is high. You’re not going to be able to escape very easily.”

    “You’ve got a plan for dealing with her? She hasn’t used any field techniques yet, but we have to be careful.”

    “I know…” She actually had let that fact slip past her. As Philon had pointed out to her earlier, their job did not cover dealing with rogue MPs. They had no field experience applying it. The delaying made her impatience. ‘We won’t know the full extent of her powers without testing her. I’ll just have to make a move myself!’ Kalliope shifted her left foot around as she stood near a villagers house filled with their hobbies and life smashed out on the ground. Her foot locked around small pot lifting it up enough to cast it at Fumiko.

    Fumiko back stepped to avoid the pottery losing her focus for just a moment. In the wake of the shattering clay Kalliope swooped in taking a testing swing at Fumiko to judge her physical reflexes. Often MPs relied too much on their powers leaving their physical strength and body severely lacking. Good ones became highly refined masters of both physical and mental arts. Their greatest weakness lied in the fact that they held a normal human body despite all of the fantastical powers they possessed. She had to know where Fumiko stood.

    Mentally Fumiko had prepared herself from such a trick, but mentally prepared meant nothing in actual combat. The sword’s blade sliced through her blouse and vest only nicking the skin, despite it feeling much worse to Fumiko. She stumbled back a few more steps trying to recover herself. The two soldiers closed in pressing their advantage on her causing her to hastily attempt another spell. Lines of magic barely made it down her shoulder before it evaporated on her. ‘What?! It’s not working?!’ Fumiko had no time to worry about her magic as the woman swung more focused at her. Only her already back stepping saved Fumiko from the blade. A follow-up to the swing came in as the woman’s extended leg spun around to crashing into her waist. She fell off her feet directed with the woman’s leg into the nearby home breaking through the wooden door.

    A cough came up from Fumiko’s lips as she laid on her back staring blurry eyed up at the plaster ceiling of the home she invaded. Fights had only ever been something that she read about in her fantasy books. She pictured them vividly in her mind to play out dramatically with the hero eventually win in spite challenges. Even though she lived in them, the real thing turned out to be nowhere as romanticized as her dreams.

    Still dazed by the impact, Fumiko heard a loud ringing in her head. ‘So loud…did I get hit that hard? I’m really not a fighter…’ Soon the cloud in her mind began to clear turning the ringing into screaming. Sluggishly tilting her head, she saw a villager petrified beyond control by her sudden arrival. ‘Am I so frightening?’ Fumiko began to push herself back up and caught a flash of Philon running off, no doubt in search of Yumi and Yori. Seeing that she had let one of them through she tried to rise sharply, but found herself dropping down to one knee. ‘Damn… I’m so useless…’

    “The weakness of people like you is that without your powers you’re just a normal human,” commented the woman from the doorway. Her figure took on a more sinister appearance with glow of the awakened village behind her. She had Fumiko trapped.

    Heavy panting came as the first thing that Yumi heard finally breaking out of her mute stupor. She only began to realize as she came around that her body moved on its own. Yumi turned her head stubbornly to find her brother next to her with a panicked expression. ‘What’s going on? Why does Yori look so desperate?’ The automated motions that had kept her going fell apart as she started to question things. She stopped in the middle of the alley breaking from the support she had. Losing the support from Yori nearly made her collapse not knowing how much she relied on him. ‘What am I doing? The village… everyone… Yuki…’

    Yori ran back to his sister when she suddenly pulled away from him. He did not notice the life that had returned to her and trying to coax her back along. Unfortunately, he found her more resistant to him than before. “Yumi? We need to keep moving!”

    “Brother?” she mumbled out of her lips nearly tripping over the words.

    A word from her alerted Yori that she might be coming back around. “Yumi! Can you hear me? Do you know what’s going on?”

    Yumi tilted her head up to him appearing almost curious in her confusion questioning. “How’d I get here? What happened?”

    “I need to get you somewhere safe! Follow me!”

    “What?!” She did not fully understand the situation. All of the pieces still dragged behind to come together for her. ‘Where’s Yuki? I was trying to find him…and then…’ Parts of the scene with the soldiers flashed through to her finally putting everything in place for her. Remembering brought back the emotions for her as well. The shaking in her arms returned as strong as her remembered. ‘I froze… I froze! When it came down to act…I failed…’

    “Yumi, we need to go!”

    Only a nod came from Yumi before she started to run with Yori. ‘I was just all talk in the end. I couldn’t change anything.’ It frustrated her that all of her effort turned out to be empty. She thought that her resolved was stronger. ‘All I did was cause trouble for everyone… I made Yori worry about me…’

    The back of village homes gave way into the grass fields surrounding Skoupa. Their options ran out for Yori as he searched around for somewhere that could be safe. He wanted to return to the inn, but the chaos in the village made it too difficult for him. ‘There has to be somewhere!’ A flash of metal cut off Yori’s thoughts. Yori pressed back trying to figure out what happened. Checking his shirt, a horizontal gap rested in the middle as well as thin trickle of blood. He searched in front of him to find the soldier from before standing in his way.

    Philon shifted his foot forward pleased that he caught up to them. He did not want to have search the entire village over again because he made the mistake of letting the enemy through. A couple of kids did not mean much to him, but intruders had to be treated the same regardless. His free left hand pulled out thick metal chained cuffs. He showed them to Yori knowing the language barrier preventing any sort of civilized conversation. “Come on,” he spoke trying in a softer voice not to intimidate them. He preferred not to have to resort to his sword to convince them to give themselves up. “You’ve got nowhere to run.”

    Yori kept Yumi behind him knowing that he had to protect her. He could not let her be taken by the military. If what Eudokia told them held true she would be returned to the researchers in the Antarctica bases. The questions that he inevitably would happen then would only make things even more complicated, something that did not seem possible. “Stay behind me, Yumi. I won’t let anything happen to you!”


    The soldier caught the serious glare from Yori sensing the unwillingness to cooperate. He dropped the cuffs to the ground focusing back on his sword reaching it out towards Yori pointing it threateningly at him. The blade spoke to Yori making Philon’s will clear as well.

    Tension built in the air between the two men pitting their resolve against the other in a contest of presence. Yumi watched feeling as though she turned into the background. She felt removed from the scene and no longer part of the flow. Yori protected her. He kept her safe. ‘He’s always watching out for me… I wanted to stand on my own… but I couldn’t…’ Shifting air pulled her back out to see her brother motioning to her to move back. The locked battle between them grew into pacing. Yumi held her hands together praying that nothing happened to Yori.

    Action began with the Atlantean soldier lunging out with his sword to draw more blood and bring down Yori to submission swiftly. Even without a weapon Yori maintained his focused driven purely by his need to protect. Yori dodged carefully away from the swing remaining cautious. ‘I don’t know the first thing about a real fight… I have to watch him and learn from him…’ Pausing for the next strike proved to be dangerous for Yori. The second swing came sooner than he expected and caught the tip of his shirt as he stumbled away.

    Yumi regretfully watched Yori forced into a fight that he did not want because of her. ‘It’s my fault… If I hadn’t insisted on following Yuki…’ A pained gasp from Yori catching a bit of the blade on his arm sent waves of fear through Yumi. ‘Yori’s going to be killed by that man! He’s going to die because of me!’ She stepped forward by a foot feeling drawn in by the fight. Yori kept trying to dodge, but the soldier had him cornered. ‘It’s me! I wanted to do something… Why can’t I protect my brother when he needs me the most?! Why?!’ Yumi felt at the end of her reason with only emotions pouring through her and driving her.

    The one sided fight turned poorly for Yori quickly. He fell backwards to the ground with Philon standing over him still seeing the Yori resistance. Philon raised his sword up for the final attack he needed to put the kid into submission.

    Everything blew away from Yumi when she saw Yori on the ground. Only the three of them existed for them. The village, the screaming, Yuki or Fumiko, none of it mattered to her anymore. She only saw them. ‘No! I can’t let this happen!’ Yumi ran into the middle the fight streaming tears behind her. “I’ll protect you, brother!”

    Yori’s eyes widened seeing Yumi putting her back to the soldier as he came down to swing. “No! Yumi! Get out of the way!” He tried to get up from the ground, but everything moved so slowly for him.

    The swing continued through unable to be changed. Yumi only thought of protecting when she heard the sword clang loudly. She felt it echo through her back. Her eyes widened for a moment thinking that she had been cut down. However, the sword spun away from her ripped out Philon’s hand embedded into the grass several meters behind him. Yumi turned slowly confused by what happened.

    Confusion sat deeply on Yori and Philon’s faces as well. ‘What was that light I just saw?’ questioned Yori as he stared Yumi. ‘What did Yumi just do?!’

    To be continued…
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  17. #107
    The Quiet One Shift Andromeda's Avatar
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    Re: Shift

    Everything blew away from Yumi when she saw Yori on the ground. Only the three of them existed for her. The village, the screaming, Yuki or Fumiko, none of it mattered to her anymore. She only saw them. ‘No! I can’t let this happen!’ Yumi ran into the middle the fight streaming tears behind her. “I’ll protect you, brother!”

    Yori’s eyes widened seeing Yumi putting her back to the soldier as he came down to swing. “No! Yumi! Get out of the way!” He tried to get up from the ground, but everything moved too slowly for him.

    The swing continued through unable to be changed. Yumi only thought of protecting when she heard the sword clang loudly. Behind her a half spherical light briefly appeared at the moment the blade struck. Sparks erupted from the blade fighting with the invisible surface before a force responded back ripping the sword free from Philon’s hand. His sword spun rapidly through the air from the force until it embedded itself into the ground out of reach.

    Confusion sat deeply on Yori and Philon’s faces as well. ‘What was that light I just saw?’ questioned Yori as he stared Yumi. ‘What did Yumi just do?!’ Yori hesitated to believe what he saw just happen. He did not even know what he saw. ‘Was the fairy right when it said she had powers like the others?! But what…’

    Yumi slowly turned in confusion trying to understand what happened as well. A vibrating feeling lingered in her back as phantom memories where she had thought the blade cut into her. ‘What happened? Was it something I did?’ She stared at her hands and body seeking answers from herself and finding nothing. Nothing visible remained of what happened and with her back turned away she saw nothing. Her only clue came from the awe struck look in her brother’s eyes. Unfortunately, his eyes did little to comfort her panicked feeling growing in her chest. She had done something, but did not know how to do again.

    Philon stared at his sword hand seeing the red scrap marks from where his sword ripped forcibly from his grasp. ‘I thought they were supposed to just be children! What is she…’ He leaned back to see where his sword landed calculating his risk in going for it against the unknown powers of the girl. Images of what happened played through his mind trying to piece what he knew together. In the end only one conclusion seemed the most reasonable. One conclusion he hated. “You’re a MP user too… What’s the chances of two rogue MPs together. Is this a revolt?”

    Chapter 106 – Disciple of War

    The young soldier that Seiji picked out to fight laid in the dirt after one punch. Seiji appeared very disappointed with the results. He looked back at Yuki, who had not even managed to get into his fight with the Captain yet. “That was a big let down! And what’s with my fight being completely off-screen! That’s not fair at all!”

    Yuki sighed a little lowering his eyelids. “It’s not exactly a fair fight considering your strength.”

    Seiji lifted up the unconscious soldier by his uniform staring at him. “I know, but I held back most of my strength! He should have been able to take at least two hits!”

    “You jumped the guy as he came out of the house! He didn’t even see you coming!” shouted Yuki taking his attention off the man.

    Still not satisfied and continuing to get upset he marched over to Yuki. His anger over an empty fight feed into his words. “If he’s soldier then he should always be prepared! He should have had expected me!”

    Yuki raised his hand to his face not sure why he had this argument with Seiji. “Are you listening to yourself? These guys aren’t expecting someone to fight back! They’re looking for frightened and confused scientists that stumbled in! You really think they’re expecting them to fight back!”

    “But what soldier doesn’t take pride in being trained and always ready!”

    “Didn’t you hear Ayumi talking on the walk?! They haven’t fought for real in millennia!”

    Seiji chucked the soldier casually up against the house getting in Yuki’s face. “That’s no excuse! You can’t let yourself weaken in a time of peace!”

    “What are you a General now?”

    “It’s common sense!”

    “Only to you!”

    Amongst the bickering between Yuki and Seiji, Simonides held back for a while being cautious about the breakdown. However, the longer that they continued the more he decided that it might be his only opportunity. The way that his subordinate fell in a single almost blinding strike worried him. ‘At least one of them isn’t a normal researcher. Something is definitely a foul.’ Keeping his sword ready, the Captain stalked forward to get the jump on Seiji. However, when he came into range to act everything rang loudly around him.

    A fist held straight out from Seiji remained as the response. He looked down at the Captain he knocked to the street. “Don’t interrupt me while I’m talking!”

    “Hey, what you do that for?” Yuki darted over to the older man managing to somehow remain conscious after receiving a powerful hit from Seiji. A quick investigate of his condition made Yuki turn his head back up at Seiji. “He was mine! How could you take my opponent like that?! How am I supposed to fight him fairly after this?!”

    “If he went down in a single punch then he isn’t worth either of our time!”

    “You’re just upset that your fight didn’t last long and you’re taking it out on mine!”

    “Why you…”

    Simonides pushed himself away from them seeing them getting distracted with arguments again. He wished a little that he knew what they were arguing about. However, none of it mattered he knew. He had his pride as a soldier of the Atlantean army, but his duty to protect came first. ‘Eusebios is the only one that’ll be able to deal with him…’ From his pouch at his side he retrieved a small item hidden well in his hand. His arm shook still from the damage that he took making it difficult for him to get it placed. Lightheadedness began to take him over as he knew time ran out. As his last act his finger pushed a button on the device shooting a bright light out of the top shooting into the sky. Simonides passed out a moment later dropping a small cylinder from his hand.

    Once the light reached high enough into the air, it exploded created a ball of light seen across the field and in neighboring villages. Both of the arguing teens stopped their yelling long enough to look up at the light in the sky. A moment later they stared at each other.

    “How’d the hell they get a flare if they’re ancient Greeks?!” Seiji demanded of Yuki, as though he had all of the answers.

    Yuki pushed Seiji off of him with the pause giving him back control of his emotions. He knelt down looking at the Captain. The cylinder he held rested in the dirt. Upon examination, Yuki found it to be far above the technological level that he had seen in the village. ‘Seiji’s right…this doesn’t make any sense…’

    A remark from Chiharu echoed in his mind as he started in a new line of thought. ‘I wouldn’t underestimate them. It’s exactly because they appear this way that we should remain cautious. Unlike Ancient Greece they are surrounded by the modern age. The citizens might not have much knowledge of the world, but I doubt the leaders keep a blind eye to the outside.’ Her words came back to him feeling like foreshadowing.

    ‘She might be right about that.’ The more he considered the thought the more questions came to him. Unfortunately, time did not grant him what he needed. Seiji wanted answers and began staring at him very closely. “Hey! Step back a little!”

    “You’ve been quiet for too long!”

    “It’s been ten seconds!”

    “More like a minute!”

    “What you timing me now?” Yuki rolled the spent flare casing in his hand trying to figure some of it out. The strange thing he noted was that it lacked anything familiar to him in what he had seen in movies that used modern technology. It may have been a poor comparison, but he did not believe they stole the flare. ‘If anything it looks to be more advanced…did they make it themselves?’ Not having an answer for Seiji did not seem an option. All Yuki managed for him was a shrug. “I don’t have any more of an idea than you. They do have all of the Kasou-ryoku users here. So maybe they made it through their powers or something.”

    “But isn’t it all fake?”

    “That’s not—“ A spear thrown between the two of them cut him off before he finished. In the next second the spear disappeared leaving Seiji confused. However, a familiar feeling settled in Yuki. ‘Demosthenes! He’s here!’ Anticipating his enemy a ring of light burst out from Yuki’s feet. Replacing his clothes his battle gi appeared in response as grass filled the surface of the ground, but left the homes untouched.

    Seiji hesitated for a moment not sure what happened to Yuki. “Nice threads! Got some for me?” He reached out for Yuki holding a joking smile. A deathly serious flash came from Yuki’s eyes when he looked at him that made Seiji step back. It brought back chills for Seiji. “Hey, what’s wrong man?”

    Nothing stopped Yuki as he strode forward focused on the darkness out of the village where he spear came from. “This one’s mine. Don’t get in my way.” Yuki did not even bother meeting Seiji with a gaze disappearing down the street to the end of the village.

    ‘I haven’t seen him like that since middle school… What’s that all about?’ Following him became impossible as four soldiers came out of alleyways already drawn with swords. Seiji smirked a little to himself looking pleased with the situation. “Four on one is getting better! But you’ll need more than that for me!” He charged towards them disregarding their weapons with his fist raised in the air to strike.

    Across the village the uneasy stalemate between Yumi and Philon dragged out. Neither of them tried to make any overt moves to attract attention. The doubt in Yumi made her hesitate. While Philon feared dealing with another MP user with powers he did not understand. Yori pulled himself up from the ground, but did not know his next move.

    Yori came to the conclusion that escape remained their best option. He grabbed on to Yumi’s shoulder to get her attention. “We need to leave while we have the chance.”

    ‘Escape?’ Her focus diverted for only a moment away from the soldier and to her brother.

    The mistake gave Philon the time to reach his sword and charged for the two of them. ‘If I’m faster than their reaction I can get around their powers! A rogue MP user is too dangerous to have alive!’ All of his fears bleed out of him as he sprinted for the siblings. Duty to protect drove his sword’s blade no longer with the intention to capture. Rebellion meant death for one such as her.

    Yumi caught the movements of the man out of the corner of her eye. Time slowed down for her as she thought of her brother and the man that tried to kill him charging once more with an even more deadly expression. She pushed Yori back knocking him out of the way as she turned to face the enemy. ‘I will protect you this time, brother!’ Doubt crumbling and poured molded into resolve and confidence. Yumi knew what she had to do.

    A half star suddenly glowed brightly burning out from under her shirt. It enveloped her even as the young soldier charged blindly on with a sure thrust in his sword. They disappeared from Yori’s sight only hearing a frightening clash like ripped flesh. “Yumi!?” He struggled to get back to his feet. However, as he rose a shockwave from the light sent him back as well as another figure out of the light. Coughing and biting through the pain he fought with himself to stand. He had to know who he just saw.

    Another flash of light blew out before it faded away. Yori managed to make a few steps before he looked over to find Yumi hovering off the ground. Her eyes remained closed and a strange wind whipped around her playing violently with her clothes and hair. Faint echoes of light shimmered around her as remnants. Checking on the fallen figure, he saw Philon lying on the ground his hand bloodied and sword missing.

    Yumi slowly opened her eyes carrying with her unusually serious narrowed features on her face. She lifted up her right palm showing a small chunk of metal that suddenly shrank as though under pressure from external forces. The metal compressed until it became a small ball no more the size of an average child’s marble. “Your sword shall no longer hurt my brother,” she declared. Her iron marble floated up higher from her palm as her arm stretched out towards Philon. The ball disappeared from her possession flashing through the air spraying blood up from the impact.

    Philon screamed from the pain of his shoulder being broken by his own sword. He ground his teeth together as he pressed his hand against his wound. ‘She’s too strong for me…but if I don’t do something…’ His still good arm reached behind him pulling out a small dagger. Determination burned in his eyes knowing what he had to do.

    A glance from Yumi at his dagger ripped it from his hand floating away from him. Like his other weapon she crushed it into a ball and returned it back through his other shoulder. She glared at him looking for him to back down. “…stubborn…” Yumi remarked before waving her arm at him. Philon flew across the alley crashing into one of the houses. A nearby rock ripped itself free from the earth and came to rest hovering in her hand. The rock filled out her palm completely. “Flee. This is your last chance,” commanded Yumi with all of the lethal presence she had to break through the language barrier.

    It did not take much for Philon to understand the chance that Yumi gave him. A bitter taste built in his mouth with the thought of retreat. Both of his arms had no use and the bleeding made him feel lightheaded. He ran out of options. “You’ll regret sparing me!” Philon turned and sprinted away into the field to the planned rendezvous point.

    Yumi exhaled with relief and dropped to the ground. All of the wind around her disappeared at the same time. She closed her eyes to catch herself and when she opened them the serious girl disappeared. “Yori! How hurt are you?” She rushed over to his side trying to look at his wounds.

    No words came from his lips stuck in shock. ‘What happened to Yumi? Was that really her?’

    “Come out Demosthenes! I know you’re here!” shouted Yuki still marching out of the village. When he reached the gate of Skoupa he scanned the area searching for a field. The further he went the less that he saw. However, the moonlight gave him enough to see by still. Meters away from him a dirt cracked arid land cut away into his grass field. His eyes narrowed as he prepared recognizing it as a field. “Not using a grass field this time?”

    A shadowed figure stepped out of the night haze closing in to Yuki. The man wore a simple black shirt and loose pants with leather boots. However, he had a different air about him from the man that Yuki knew. “It would seem that you’ve mistaken me for someone else.”

    “Who are you?”

    “I’m Eusebios assigned to the South Gate Border Patrol for dealing with intruders such as yourself. However, for an enemy we seem to have something in common that we share.”

    Yuki glared at the man not pleased by the casual tone that he took with him. “What’s that?”

    “Demosthenes Alexander. I don’t know how you know him, but he was my teacher!” Eusebios materialized a spear to his hand dropping into an attack stance. “I won’t let you tarnish his noble name with your tongue!”

    To be continued…
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  18. #108
    The Quiet One Shift Andromeda's Avatar
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    “Demosthenes Alexander. I don’t know how you know him, but he was my teacher!” Eusebios materialized a spear to his hand dropping into an attack stance. “I won’t let you tarnish his noble name with your tongue!”

    The declaration from Eusebios fueled the anger in Yuki. While the emotions from his battle with Demosthenes subsided with time they remained just below the surface for him. He could never allow himself to forget, at least until he repaid the debt. Feeling as Yuki did in the moment, he held no open mindedness for anyone else’s opinion on Demosthenes. “I’ll be the judge of what is noble!” Yuki charged forward at Eusebios not planning on giving him any chance to drag out the fight with words.

    His spear lowered to receive Yuki waiting for him to reach thrusting distance. The venomous eyes bore within Yuki’s face made Eusebios a little uneasy in confusion. He saw how deeply Yuki felt about his strike. Hesitation and fear lacked any presence. All he saw within his fist was self-assured confidence and righteousness. He wondered if he could match such passion.

    The fighters broken into range with the spear thrust out for Yuki’s shoulder. A small blast from Yuki’s foot pounded into the ground as he raised his open right hand against the spear. His palm slammed into the spear tip warping from his hand forcing it back into the wood of the spear’s shaft. Half of the shaft splintered and exploded as Yuki rammed his hand through before finally gripping the spear’s head. As a last accented moment of strength he effortlessly crushed the metal head with his bare hand. A percussive blast from his hand knocked Eusebios back sending him to the ground.

    Chapter 107 – Righteous Flames

    “The weakness of people like you is that without your powers you’re just a normal human,” commented Kalliope from the doorway. Her figure took on a more sinister appearance with glow of the awakened village behind her. She had Fumiko trapped.

    Fumiko gritted her teeth cornered so quickly. She had hoped that her magic gave her an advantage against a normal human, even a soldier. Staring down the point of a sword made her understand how much of a difference her lack of fighting experience meant. ‘I can’t let it end here…if only my magic worked…’

    “I don’t know what you’re reasons are for helping outsiders into the homeland, but you know you only have two choices. You face your crimes before Ministry of Military Crimes or I kill you right here as a traitor to Atlantis.” Kalliope moved a step closer to put her sword blade only a hair’s width away from Fumiko’s neck. Her words rang deadly serious. “As an Atlantean I know you understand me. Disguises won’t get you out of this.”

    The threat of death hanging before her made Fumiko sweat profusely. She saw no doubt or hesitation in the woman’s eyes. Fumiko wished that she had more than just a translator to explain how wrong the woman was about her. However, explaining how she had magic seemed equally difficult considering the possibility normally was impossible. The thought of buying time through capture crossed her. ‘If only I had a staff or something to defend myself.’ Her eyes darted around the small room wanting anything that she could defend herself.

    Kalliope gave Fumiko the time to decide, but did not keep her eyes off of her for any moment. She preferred to bring her in rather than dealing out judgment. A lot of questions needed to be answered still for the invasion, but if she forced her hand she would do what had to be to silence a threat to the country. ‘Let’s see how much resolve you have for your cause…’ Delaying her further brought Kalliope’s sword closer poking Fumiko’s skin on her neck. She demanded a response.

    Her options ran out. Yet Fumiko knew that giving up was not the answer. She had to fight. The people might have been afraid of her, but they needed help. Fumiko gave her answer to the woman with a fierce stare unwilling to back down.

    “I see. Then you shall die here!” The sword blade pulled away from Fumiko’s neck. No relief came from its retraction. Raised above Kalliope’s head the sword clicked in her hand with the metal singing an ominous requiem.

    Fumiko narrowed her brow trying to think in her last seconds for anything. ‘I need something…anything! With my magic…’ Her right hand knocked against a wooden pole. A broom cast aside during the search laid out of place on the floor. ‘Wooden…I need something more, but if I can survive the first swing…’ Fumiko left questions behind in her doubt taking up desperation with the broom quickly trying to get in the way of the sword slashing down at her. Fear for what happened next made her eyes close.

    A loud clash vibrated through Fumiko’s arm accompanied by a familiar warmth in her arm. Even through her closed eyes the bright light from in front of her shone through. Curiosity and her still beating heart made her peal back her eyelids to know the outcome. She missed the start, but at the end threads of her magic trailed from her hand penetrating the broom she held. Calling it a broom anymore failed to describe it properly. Silver cast around sections of the wooden pole providing elegance and grace that it lacked. The bottom wrapped completely in silver balling up before finishing off in a sharp pyramid shape added at the end with the point out to contact the ground when vertical. At the opposite end of the broom the head no longer existed. In place of the broom head a silver circular headpiece form. Ornate leafing and stems twisted out from the bottom of the circle building into a complex woven sphere hollowed inside.

    Even while admiring the craftsmanship of the ex-broom the threat of the sword rattled against the wood. The common household item stubbornly refused to give ground to the sharp blade not so much as chipping. Struggling, the tools came down to strength, something that Fumiko lacked both in position and natural physical attributes. She saw only one option tilting her hold to angle the sword down to the head of the pole. Kalliope staggered forward losing balance breaking the clash.

    Fumiko threw herself back to get some distance between them. The corner of an end table stabbed her back. It jerked her over to the entrance of the door she fell through minutes before. Slammed against the wall Fumiko coughed to herself groaning at the stress. She caught a quick glance of Kalliope recovering and then the street outside. Her hands tightened up against the pole and rolled around the doorframe escaping into the street.

    The night air gave her a welcomed cool breeze bleeding off some of the tension in her body. Narrowly escaping death left sweat covering her body sticking her clothes to her. Discomfort from it pushed aside hearing the woman from the house knocking things out of her way to get out of the hovel. Fumiko tightened her grip on the pole that she held. A few seconds passed before she took in what she held. ‘A staff…did I make this? Is that even possible?’ She had to admit her own confusion with the situation. Much of her powers remained unknown and explored to her as she realized more of what seemed possible with the magic her possessed. The possibilities had her pondering, but shook it off remembering her dilemma.

    A flash of moonlight from the sword crept through open doorway of the home announcing itself. Kalliope strode down ignoring the screaming and panicked villagers behind her. Her face wore a stern look almost as though disappointed in her failure. It did not seem to shake her decision to take Fumiko down. Killing Fumiko remained the same focus as before. A traitor to Atlantis had only one recourse with refusal to accept judgment. “You didn’t run. So you plan to fight me still.” She raised her sword hand up hefting the Xiphos horizontally at Fumiko, the blade flat. “Let’s learn which will is stronger!”

    Fumiko clinched her staff between both of her hands seeing that she had to face the woman once more. She hoped for her to give up, but knew such a hope to be futile. ‘I can defend myself at least…’ Once an attempt for a defensive position by Fumiko began Kalliope charged forward as though signaled. The wait seemed difficult to read into if it was because of some warrior’s honor or hesitation in fear of the unknown. Fumiko did not have the time to consider either option with Kalliope closing on her. The woman’s speed felt inhuman, but she believed it to be training against her inexperience.

    All Fumiko managed before their weapons clashed was to raise the staff away from her. The sword felt heavy from the weight that Kalliope rammed through it into her staff’s pole. Sparks chipped away where metal scrapped and collided. The blade dug in against the metal grip of the staff trying to bite through it. Fumiko fought against her arms wanting to collapse from the strain. Each vibration built into a larger wave of pressure slamming into her hands back with all of Kalliope’s strength. Her body began to feel unbalanced making her remember to slide a foot back for bracing restoring her balance. The exchange that went through Fumiko broke a slight enough of a window of opportunity for Kalliope to finish the arc of her weapon.

    Enough of the ending force jerked back Fumiko crumbling her defenses. The sword swung in again quickly. Sparks flew up barely blocked. A weak parry from Fumiko stopped the third. She stepped back from the flurry of attacks coming at her. Her eyes darted down at her feet trying to watch what she did distracting her. Kalliope capitalized on Fumiko mistake and spun around with her feet planting it deep inside her stomach unprepared. Fumiko slid back coughing using the pointed edge of her staff’s bottom to dig into the ground for support. ‘All I can do is block…’ She stared up panting from the exertions. Her body felt weak and shaking from just only a few moments of the fight. ‘Can I really do this? I’m not built for this… If only my magic worked…’

    Her reprieve lasted barely longer than the attack before Kalliope’s assault resumed in fierce strikes. Fumiko did not even make it to her feet. Each sword strike sent her recoiling backwards struggling to keep any ground her might have had left. While the attacks came her mind fell blank with no thoughts. She forgot everything from the moment before. Single-mindedness claimed her. An offensive strategy or even a defensive one failed to develop even a thought.

    The next break for Fumiko came for her leaving her body racked with pain in her muscles. She never felt such pain even from her PE class. ‘I can’t…’ Fumiko panted heavily gasping for a breath. Her mind’s focus crumbled away. ‘…magic…’ Pieces of words or thoughts ran through her. Fragments failed to piece together. ‘…Kimiko…’ Her sister flashed suddenly in her eyes. A thread of light appeared in her mind taking over her actions.

    Kalliope saw her last charge brought the fight to a close. She had only needed to finish the traitor off with a final blow. ‘I would have thought she’d put up more of a fight for being a MP user. How did someone as weak as her survive?’ Questions had to end. Only one course remained. Kalliope closed bringing her sword back to thrust.

    Light suddenly broke from Fumiko’s arm as violent threads and ribbons of energy. Kalliope had only seen the girl’s powers briefly, but she saw it was nothing like the power she displayed before. Any control seemed to have been forfeit. The light appeared to be ripping at her own skin as it jumped along funneling into the staff still held in her hands. When the energy touched the wood it exploded in flames racing up the staff into the globe at the head. Kalliope stood meters away from the scene, but the heat that burned off of the display made her skin sweat and blister. She pulled away a little no longer certain what to do. ‘I can’t get close! Is this a defensive act?’

    Seconds passed quickly as the flame grew inside the sphere until consuming the entire form. The metal work seemed unable to restrain the power that expanded out. Breaking free from the cage tendrils of flame whipped out from the gaps of the bars. Despite the fire appearing to be completed energy continued to drag out of Fumiko’s shoulder tearing at her cloths and skin. If she felt any pain from the torture she caused none of it reflected in her soulless eyes.

    Watching longer Kalliope began to develop a sick feeling in her stomach. The sight gave her an empty desperation. She came to a quick conclusion. “She’s building up power to kill us both! Is she mad?!” Kalliope felt her determination crack as her feet pushed back telling her to flee. She did not know how much time she had before it went off. ‘I should run…’ Her head turned back down at the village seeing everyone around. ‘How many would die? She could wipe out the entire village!’ Kalliope looked over at the inferno blazing out of control.

    Where the flame whips lashed out at the street char marks remained scorched by the intense heat. Nearby straw looked ready to ignite from the sheer heat. The thatched roofs smoked closer to the flames. Anyone witnessing the ball of fury renewed their screams fleeing in opposite directions knocking over anyone in their way to escape. Mass panic spread quickly as the light from the flames lit up half of the village.

    Kalliope gripped her sword tightly and charged forward into the field of heat that surrounded the spell. She thought she ran to the surface of the sun the burning heat that sucked out every last drop of water from her body. Blisters and burns appeared on her hands from her sword heating up and exposed arms. Each step felt like misery dragged out over a year slowly penetrating so as to ensure every moment of every second felt equal and building in suffering. ‘How can she have such power and be so weak?! It doesn’t make sense!’ She staggered in her charge filling her muscles crying out through her aching skin.

    Her next step caught a flame tendril shoot out at her wildly. The flame gave her no time to dodge, especially as she struggled forward. It ripped up through her uniform burning skin deeply. Even fighting the pain a stifled scream broke into gasping yelp. As the tendril retracted back Kalliope broke her fall with her failing leg. ‘I can’t stop!’ Her pain from her injury drew all of what she felt over her body in making it feel almost like she had escaped the heat. Yet on cue to dash her hopes a new wave of heat blasted through her burning with increased vigor. ‘It’s getting worse! I can’t get closer!’

    She stared at her sword burning into her palm and melting flesh. Desperation remained her only weapon. Kalliope raised the sword up and flung it from her hand at Fumiko tearing burnt skin with it. In spite of her hand bleeding out none of it seemed to hurt. Hope kept her legs from collapsing in the heat having to know if she reached her target. The sword sped closer drawing in a straight line for Fumiko’s chest. It looked as though it would reach. She knew it would. An errant whip blew out in front of Fumiko knocking the sword away. Cast aside, the sword spun rapidly through the air far beyond Kalliope reach. ‘I failed…’ Her leg gave up dropping her to the ground. ‘She’ll kill everyone…nothing can stop her…’ Kalliope passed out.

    To be continued…
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  19. #109
    The Quiet One Shift Andromeda's Avatar
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    She stared at her sword burning into her palm and melting flesh. Desperation remained her only weapon. Kalliope raised the sword up and flung it from her hand at Fumiko tearing burnt skin with it. In spite of her hand bleeding out none of it seemed to hurt. Hope kept her legs from collapsing in the heat having to know if she reached her target. The sword sped closer drawing in a straight line for Fumiko’s chest. It looked as though it would reach. She knew it would. An errant whip blew out in front of Fumiko knocking the sword away. Cast aside, the sword spun rapidly through the air far beyond Kalliope reach. ‘I failed…’ Her leg gave up dropping her to the ground. ‘She’ll kill everyone…nothing can stop her…’ Kalliope passed out.

    The flames continued to grow larger consuming still from Fumiko’s essence. Lashing out more tendrils birthed from the core as a mass of angry whips. Kalliope’s uniform began to smoke and seer her skin completely. Homes cracked and snapped from the heat burning ever closer.

    Out of the darken shadows cast from the brilliant sun carried in the staff a large figured leapt forth dropping near Kalliope’s fallen body. In a quick glance, the figure leaned down and picked her up disappearing for a moment before reappearing. A hand rose to their forehead acting as though it shielded them from the light. “The hell’s going on?” barked Seiji. After his brief fight the light signaled him to his curiosity. ‘Damn fights getting dealt with off screen!’

    He pounded his fists together and stepped forward trying to get a clear view of the center. However, the massive fireball consumed all shapes around it in a blinding light. Only a faint blurred form seemed to be visible to him. All of the heat and fire blasted at him, but he barely felt it. “It’s a little warm here…” He looked around at the village seeing it on the cusp of burning. “Who the hell’s stupid idea is this? If they keep going they’ll burn down the village!”

    Seiji took a few steps closer noting the tendrils wailing about like angry watchdogs. “Is this another one of those Atlantean powers like Yuki?” He cracked his neck making himself excited. “Maybe this one will actually be a challenge for me!” A grin slipped from his lips charging forward not paying attention to the increasing temperature around him.

    Chapter 108 – Side of the Just

    Almost feeling insulted by Seiji’s lack of concern, the flames split doubling their numbers to increase their vicious attacks. Glowing slightly into the inferno, Seiji charged on destroying any tendril that dared to touch him. His fist raised back to charge his strength nearing the target. More flames lined up in front of him in desperation. Nothing stopped him. Seiji rammed through all shattering fire to dust. Contact rang out as his hand met something solid. Out of the furnace flew Fumiko crashing through the home at the end of the street. In an instant the fire disappeared as though put out with the staff collapsing to a rattle on the ground.

    Seiji came to a stop on the other side of the event. Smoke rose off of his clothes and skin, but remained unharmed for the most part. Even he took some burns. Once the threat disappeared he looked around for his opponent (he didn’t pay attention to where he was aiming). Disturbed mortar and crumbling wood alerted him to the fairly sizeable hole made in a home. He sprinted off to learn of the person’s condition. He hoped for the fight to still be on, however when he looked inside an uneasy feeling overcame him. “Huh?! What’s she doing there?”

    While Seiji pointed himself back at the spot and the house trying to put the pieces together, Fumiko stirred from her debris bed. Another loud ringing filled her ears and a heavy overwhelm numb disjointed feeling in her head. She slowly pulled herself up, but did not realize that she had no feeling through body. “Seiji?” questioned Fumiko with a raspy voice. “Why are you here?”

    The sound of Fumiko talking snapped Seiji’s confusion and focused him back on the house. “I was just about to ask you the same thing! What’s going on?”

    “Huh?” Fumiko stumbled forward finding it difficult to move her feet. Simple rubble made her trip. She caught herself against the wall near the hole she had flown through. Treated as though always a window she searched around Seiji for answers. “I was…” A flash of the soldiers came to her as memories started back up. “…the soldiers… a woman?”

    Already forgotten by Seiji, he responded with a puzzled expression. “A woman? One of the villagers? Were you protecting someone?”

    Haze filled Fumiko memories the closer she tried to reach the present. “Protecting someone? I was protecting…who?” She shook her head not certain. “No…it was…”

    Seiji scratched his head becoming frustrated with Fumiko’s bout of amnesia. “Where’s the hell is that guy with the fire I saw? I know I connected with him! He’s got to be around here somewhere!”

    “Guy with fire?” While confused by Seiji statement it triggered new images in Fumiko’s mind. More of the battle pieced together for her. She recalled the woman soldier that tried to kill her. The broom staff appeared in her hands. Fire consumed everything around her memories suddenly. ‘…fire…fire…’ The first instance of pain ripped through her right arm suddenly as though reacting to the memories. She bit through it grinding her teeth together until it passed. Clarity came to her after the pain that revealed the conclusion. “I was the one. I think.”

    A tilt from Seiji’s head accompanied his voice. “Huh? The one what?”

    “The one in the fire. The guy with the fire you’re looking for was me.” The more she said it the more certain she became about her words. “I was the one creating the fire!”

    “What?!” exclaimed Seiji with a long gasp from his mouth. It took him a while to recover as his mind processed what he had done. Despite his mind actually working, the severed connection to his lips continued. “You mean the person I hit was you!?” His finger and hand stretched out through the large hole he made calling to it as well as Fumiko.

    The jester almost seemed to be accusing Fumiko. However, it took only moments for her to realize that Seiji had hit her and respond. “What!? Why did you hit me?! I know we teased you but that’s uncalled for!”

    “Hey-hey-hey! You were the one going all high school bonfire festival on the village! I was just trying to protect the village from burning down!”

    “From burning down?” The words knocked Fumiko back a step as though slammed by a sledgehammer in her chest. ‘I was burning the village? But I just wanted to protect them!’ Fear shook into her arms and through her legs. In moments she lost her footing dropping to her knees. ‘What was I doing?! What happened to me?!’

    Insensitive Seiji realized finally what he did and jumped through the hole. “Hey! It’s ok! You didn’t do anything!” He received no recognition from his comfort. Seiji tried to shake her a little to snap her out, but her eyes spoke nothing to him.

    Weights fell on Fumiko’s heart crushing her being. She struggled to breathe feeling her chest tighten up. ‘What have I done?’ Each shallow breath came harder than the last. Compounding her pain, the numbness over her body had started to lift. All of the burns and cuts that she took roared anew over her body. Assault from all sides a curdling scream escaped her lips before passing out in Seiji’s arms.

    Being so close to the scream had shaken him and the tone unnerved his usually stoic heart. “What’s the matter?! Speak to me! Damn it!”

    Surprise overtook Eusebios witnessing Yuki’s act. In the darkness of the night he failed to totally grasp the situation. As he backed away to regain his composure he understood what he had ignored before. ‘I’m not fighting an intruder. I’m fighting an Atlantean like myself…an exile perhaps.’ The thoughts spun in his mind as he came up with explanations that made more sense to why Yuki knew his master. Yet one fact stared him straight in the face. He could not underestimate his opponent.

    Eusebios looked down at his hand materializing his spear back whole once more. ‘He shattered my spear at this close of range with merely his hand. What sort of powers did he create for himself?’ Yuki’s field blended in with the surroundings as grass that he only knew it existed because of its encroachment on him. A grass field revealed little to his powers. Each person was different in using their powers, but they divided into two types when it came to fields.

    Fields by nature reflected the inner mind of the user. However, a field still could change to suit the user’s style. It created two types. One type relied on field manipulation as part of their array techniques. The other type focused more on created powers leaving field manipulation alone. The field manipulation types generally used unusual fields or elemental fields that worked to their strengths. As a grass field he knew that the chances of Yuki being a field manipulator type to be low. ‘…still I can’t completely exclude the possibility. The chances are just lower. The frontal attack makes me think he’s more of the brute force type. And he uses no weapon… How does Master know him?’

    Yuki gave the man all the time he allowed to recover. He closed his hands preparing for another round seeing the man armed. Ignoring words, Yuki resumed his assault on the man. He swung at Eusebios lightly grabbing his attention before taking a true strike for him. The second punch failed to connect when the soldier dodged. Returning a strike with the spear, Yuki brushed it aside. He fought against the range of the weapon to his arm’s reach.

    When Yuki finally broke through the defense of the spear a new defense burst up. An array of spears thrust up in front of Eusebios meant to take the punch Yuki sent for him. His fist breached the wall with little effort. Wood splintered into a shower blasted outward at Eusebios. Yuki pushed on through reaching for Eusebios. The spears disappeared and another set surface in line as Eusebios tried to leave his range. It proved even less useful with Yuki’s fist crushing them before him with even more dramatic effect. Adding to the damage the spear tips that began to fall from being cut suddenly stopped. A slight glow of particles wrapped around the remaining wood of the shaft directing four spear heads at Eusebios. They launched from their position quickly, but disappeared before given the chance to strike.

    Eusebios cleared enough room leaping back to leave him room away from Yuki’s furious strikes. He caught his breath trying to analyze Yuki’s power. It still left him uncertain with only pieces coming to him. ‘He breaks my weapon with no effort. And even tries to make use of them against me. His fighting is so unorthodox. Who trained him?’ He wanted to know more about the short tempered boy that challenged him. “Why are you here? What’s your purpose in Atlantis?”

    Yuki narrowed his eyes bothered by the interruption. “My reasons aren’t something you need to be concerned with. You should be more focused on the fight!” Charging onward, Yuki sought to keep the words to a minimum.

    Not taking a misstep, the Atlantean kept on his feet seeing how much Yuki resisted the conversation. The lack of answer only made him more curious. He kept his distanced measured to stay out of reach. “Purpose is important. You’re here for a reason. I must know why I’m fighting a countryman.”

    Set off by the word, Yuki broke into a burst of speed closing their distance rapidly. “This isn’t my country! And I’m not your countryman!” His fist came out for Eusebios’ face, but crushed the spear that got in his way. He barely missed his target. Eusebios recovered from a safe distance.

    A flicker of Eusebios’ eye gave away his deepening interest in Yuki. He saw that he struck a nerve with his last comment. The reaction was strong, but nothing like the venom in his words when speaking of his Master. ‘What was that about? He just got faster for a moment…’ Eusebios questioned the wisdom of furthering his conversation. Further unknown triggers could be fatal for him. “You have the Meso Presecho. What else could you be?”

    Yuki ground his teeth against each other. He broke out from his idle spot running for the soldier. Spears began to materialize again out of the ground attempting to divert him from his target. Yuki burst through without a thought to the danger. Accompany the ground attacks, Eusebios flung spears through the air at him that simply gazed off his body unable to harm him. In the last stretch, Yuki mounted one of the spears breaking through the earth to run up it using it as a ramp. He leapt into the air sailing through to Eusebios, surprised by the move. Yuki rammed his fist into Eusebios’ chest.

    Eusebios staggered back from the attack coughing feeling blood erupting from his throat. He collapsed to one knee in shock. ‘A single punch!? He’s still just a boy! How could he injury me so deeply?’ The pained and ragged breathing exercised the striking pain he felt. Each movement felt as though crushing his ribs. Blood dripped down his mouth tracing around his jaw.

    Still defiant, Yuki stood over Eusebios. “I’m Japanese!” he shouted as though trying to convince someone other than just Eusebios.

    A cough spat out more blood from Eusebios’ mouth. He managed to form a spear in his hand. Resolve to fight until his last breath was the only thing keeping him focused. Eusebios took the perfect opportunity to thrust his spear in at Yuki’s unguarded stomach. The spear broke off against Yuki shattering. Even through everything he saw Eusebios managed a look of disbelief.

    “This in ends now!” Yuki released his armor from around fist and rammed it through the man’s face knocking him out. Eusebios laid unconscious on the ground in silence. The dirt field disappeared and soon Yuki’s grass field. He stared down at the man long pensive.

    The night over Atlantis wore on with all of the sounds of battle coming to a close. All that remained in the air were panicked cries from the villagers. Yuki returned back to the village solemn, but pleased that they saved the village. The damage had already been done he knew. He just hoped that they saved enough.

    As Yuki entered the village familiar shouts pulled his head up towards the village center. “Yuki! We’ve got trouble!” yelled Seiji.

    More trouble spurred his feet into a sprint to meet Seiji to learn of the new problem they faced. “What’s wrong, Seiji?”

    “It’s the villagers.”

    “What about them?”

    “They’ve captured those brother and sister couple!”

    ‘Yumi?!’ Every muscle came to a halt in his body. He glared at Seiji for more of an explanation. “Why?!”

    “They’re saying that we’ve brought destruction on them or something! They’re planning on handing them over to those military guys!”

    To be continued…
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  20. #110
    The Quiet One Shift Andromeda's Avatar
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    Seiji threw his arm back towards the center of the village while he spoke. “They’re saying that we’ve brought destruction on them or something! They’re planning on handing them over to those military guys!” The confusion and frustration in his voice came through clearly. He looked like he wanted to do something, but forced himself otherwise. Even Seiji understood.

    Questions piled up for Yuki trying to figure out what happened in the short time that he left. Once the fighting ended he thought that everything would end. He did not expect anything from the villagers. Protecting them was all he wished for then. After he finished he planned on leaving so they did not befall any more trouble because of his presence. He hoped the patrol would follow him away.

    Yet the villagers captured Yumi and her brother. He no longer understood what they wanted. Ending the sacking of their village seemed to be their plea. ‘What are they thinking? We helped them!’ Yuki stared at the ground feeling the heavy weight of confusion pressing down on him. It seemed so simple.

    Further questions had to wait he knew. Yuki looked forward and ran down the street. He could not let them turn Yumi over to the soldiers. He caused them all too much trouble. ‘Don’t worry Yumi…I’ll protect you!’

    Chapter 109 – Right of Wrong

    Ever since the fighting the village changed into chaos from the ordered one that existed before. That chaos started to settle down with the ending of the fighting. However, the villagers all remained on edge. Yuki got a few stares as he sprinted past, but most of the noise came from the center of the village. ‘I won’t let anything happen to you, Yumi!’

    Out of the corner of his eye Yuki caught the ruin amongst the village. They might have stopped what happened, but for many the damage was already done. Those focused on putting the pieces of their lives back together began the clean up even at the late hour. Sleep seemed like something of a luxury for everyone.

    Nearing the town center, Yuki came to a stop. For Seiji, he took the break a little surprisingly expecting Yuki to go charging into the mass. Seiji managed to halt himself before being seen by the locals. Using the corner of a home for cover, Yuki leaned around to give a view of the situation. Much as Seiji had told him, a large gathering of villagers amassed in the square lead by an aged man, likely the elder or mayor. From his position it proved difficult to know if the old man was working the crowd or against it. He needed someone on his side in the village. ‘Wish Ayumi was here. She’d know what to do. But I can’t risk losing anymore time. I’ll just have to solve this on my own.’

    Yuki looked over at Seiji. “I can’t see Yori and Yumi from here. Have you seen anyone else?” He wanted to know where all of his friends safe or located at least.

    “Just the giant. But I left her with the rest back at the inn. It should just be us.”

    “So they haven’t been found in the inn?”

    “Doesn’t seem like it.”

    “That’s good. I can’t imagine how they’d react knowing that there were more than two foreigners in their village.” Unfortunately, Yuki had a pretty good idea on their reaction just based off of finding two. The picture he had acted like acid in his stomach. He swallowed poorly trying to put the thought further out of his mind.

    Yuki leaned out from the home. He started to make his way out towards the crowd. However, Seiji grabbed him at the shoulder before he got too far. “What’s the plan?” Seiji gave him a deep stare expecting orders.

    Suddenly being relied upon made Yuki take a step back, but more out of the response that Yuki gave Seiji. “I don’t know. I’m just making this up as I go along.”

    “What?! You’re going to get those two killed!” Seiji threw out his hand pointing into the crowd to whenever the siblings rested.

    Shaking his head, Yuki glanced towards the elderly man. “They may be afraid of us, but they’re also wanting to stay hidden from the world. Considering their policy of dropping intruders back outside. While we’re only kids, they don’t know that we aren’t from the research bases. So they can’t risk that. They just want to turn us over. I doubt they’ll kill them intentionally. My concern is what their fear will make them do. There’s too many chances for mistakes to wait.”

    A narrowed skeptical look stared back at Yuki from Seiji. “How can you be so certain?”

    “If you were listen to Ayumi half of the time and not sleeping or tuning her out you’d understand.”

    Seiji leaned in closer to Yuki turning his stare into a scowl. “If this wasn’t more important I’d deck you right now!”

    “Regardless, I’m going out there. I can’t wait until I figure out something smart to do.” Yuki broke free from Seiji’s hold and started marching out towards the square. In front of him the dozens of villagers mobbed together too distracted in fear to notice him. Lacking a plan left him a little uncertain, but he fortified himself. Strength and conviction had to stand firm for him, if he had any chance in making the villagers convinced of their intentions.

    Yuki strode out amongst the crowd already working his field in so that the language barrier came down. Anyone in the area of effect sounded like a native speaker to the person listening. He knew that to be the first wall that had to crumble. Fear came next, but he still did not understand them fully. Answers had to come first, reasons for their reaction. Capturing Yumi and Yori went against their past reactions, which filled with panic and fleeing. Pushing through the angry mob Yuki managed to still be ignored. Everyone became transfixed by their emotions. Pieces of the blanks filled in as he listened to the yelling around him.

    “We have to turn them over!”

    “They’ll be back again!”

    “They think we’re hiding Northers!”

    “They tried to burn down the village!”

    “They attacked the soldiers!”

    “We’ll get attacked by them next!”

    “Get them out of here!”

    Similar shouts repeated as Yuki pressed on. It gave him enough to get an idea of what had the villagers so upset. He still only had fragments of the truth, but he had a start. Only a few meters remained before he breached the space between the mob and the elderly man. ‘I wonder how they’ll react to me…’ Glancing around the gather, he tried to find Yumi among them. He had searched repeatedly as he forced his way in, but he made one last check. ‘She must be in the front…’

    Breaking through finally, Yuki stood out feeling the freshness of non-stifled air around him. It cooled his face a little that built with anxiety. ‘Yumi!’ He suppressed his immediate urge to rush to her. Bound at the hands and legs with her arms restrained as well, Yumi slumped next to her brother against the well. She appeared exhausted and drained of all strength. Even sleeping seemed to be taxing for her, but still the only thing that helped her recover. ‘What happened to her? Did they already do something to her? Why didn’t Yori protect her? He’s her brother!’ The sight of Yumi made countless questions fly through his mind.

    Before Yuki had a chance for even an introduction to attempt a smooth opening, the old man in front of him took notice of Yuki not being one of the villagers. “Who are you?!” he exclaimed with a voice that bordered on unease. As expected, all of the villagers in the front took a step back or attempted to do so. The mob grew thick as they realized that a third foreigner stood in their presence. Screams and cries of panic like during the fighting renewed as strong as before.

    Yuki planned for such a reaction, but it still left him unsettled by the massive amount of hate that poured out into him. ‘Such a thick aura…even high school never felt like this…’ He took a step forward towards the old man acting like the leader. He forced his own uncertainties down so not to show weakness to the man. “I haven’t come to harm anyone. I was only trying to protect you from the harm being caused by the soldiers.” Direct intentions, Yuki hoped that cutting straight to the reasons would simplify the discussions. He still had to calm the unrest, but he needed more from them.

    Confusion came from them not expecting him to speak perfect Atlantean Greek. It managed to break through the fear. “I can understand him?”

    “Isn’t he a foreigner?”

    “He speaks so perfectly?”

    “Is he actually one of us?”

    The rumbling of the crowd grew that Yuki remained silent to let it subdue before continuing. Noticing the delay, the old man raised a hand up to the villagers to lower their voices. “You appear to know our tongue well. You wear our clothes, but your face is that of an outsider. Who are you?”

    “My name is Yuki Hayashi and I am as you see, an outsider.” Confirming their fears sent a new wave through the crowd. A calculated risk, he knew admitting to it would change them to be against him again, but lying solved nothing in his situation.

    Measuring out his words with the crowd, the old man replied back to Yuki. “I’m Paramonos, the head of the village. What’s your purpose here?”

    Yuki did not think that he would find a rational mind to speak with. He figured that the head would be just as fearful as his village. “I intend no harm to you or your people. I’m simply passing through.”

    “If that is so then why are you standing here?”

    All though Yuki saw him ask the question, it became clear the man already knew the answer. He just wanted it to be said aloud. “You’re holding two of my friends. I cannot without them.” While Yuki made no demands to any of them, the voices of the people erupted violently as though as said something offensively unreasonable to them.

    “So he is with them!”

    “He’s threatening the village as well!”

    “We need to hand him over to the South Gate too!”

    “Tie him up!”

    “You’re the reason we lost everything!”

    Remaining calm under the verbal assault for Yuki became difficult the longer they continued. He ground his hands tighter to fight through his urge to fall into reflex. Yuki did not know how much longer he could stay quiet with how ungrateful they acted. Fortunately for him, someone else had a significantly shorter fuse of patience (really, really short, but that’s not really a surprise). “You idiots!” shouted Seiji appearing from the side of the square at the end of the crowd in the front. All of the attention focused on Yuki made it very easy for Seiji to sneak in. Unfortunately for him, it also meant that after the initial startled reaction that they all had mass hysteria broke out.

    Yuki released a reluctant sigh. “You aren’t helping matters, Seiji…”

    “How could you keep listen to those ungrateful and self-centered people?! We saved them!”

    His condemnation provoked outcries from the mob. Fear no longer held back their anger to speak to Seiji. “You didn’t save us! You only made things worse!”

    “They’ll come back to finish the job!”

    “There’ll be retribution from the military for what you did to them!”

    Seiji could not take their complaining for more than a few seconds before he snapped back at them. “Shut the hell up! You were screaming and yelling when they came through tearing up your homes! And now you’re telling me that you wanted it that way!? How hypocritical can you be?!”

    Everyone began to shout and yell again at Seiji, but Paramonos interrupted them. “There are things you don’t understand.”

    “I’m not looking to understand you! I did what was right and I make no excuses for what I did! I’d do it again!”

    “Seiji!” jumped Yuki. He needed to get the situation back in control. Seiji’s methods only fueled the fire in the villagers. Yuki saw their eyes. “You aren’t helping matters!”

    “How the hell can you think to defend them!?”

    “Young man, there are certain things that are necessary to be endured for the sake of safety.”

    Seiji started to open his mind again, but Yuki threw him a piercing stare. He had to settle the situation alone. Yuki took a small step forward to the old man making his intention to speak clear. “You’re afraid that you’re village will suffer retribution from the military because of our actions. Correct?”

    Shouts confirmed his question without the need for Paramonos to speak. They knew with certainty that could not be dissuaded. Paramonos gave a nod to Yuki. “It’s likely that they’ll search our village to be certain. And next time their search wouldn’t be so polite. Your attack will make them strike down harder in their search and it’ll be my people that suffer because of your actions.”

    Disgruntled mumbling from Seiji broke Yuki’s connection for a moment. He knew that Ayumi had told him that his actions had more consequences, but he never imagined to see it happen to soon. What he did could not be undone anymore. The dice was cast and he had to live with his decision. Yuki just wished that he could do something. ‘These people did nothing wrong, but they’ll suffer because of me! I can’t stay here to protect them… What can I do? Words won’t fix this…’

    Yuki ground his fist tight in frustration. No path laid open for him. ‘It’s those bastards running things! The people that want me dead! They’re making all of this people suffer! How can they do this to their own people? They’ve accepted such treatment as normal…’ His hand turned raw from mashing his fingers into his palm. He had to stop them. ‘If they weren’t in charge…things would be different… If I…’ Yuki tilted his head up realizing suddenly his answer. “What if I could promise you that this will never happen again?!”

    “Yuki?” questioned Seiji.

    He soon had everyone staring at him trying to figure out what he meant. Seconds dragged out in silence before a voice from the crowd broke through launching a tidal wave at him. They felt insulted by him. He mocked them not understanding the situation. He knew nothing.

    Yuki exhaled a breath leaving all of the noise behind him. He closed his eyes thinking about everyone and letting them pass through his thoughts. ‘Ayumi’s going have my head for this…’ A ripple in the ground came from his feet before bursting suddenly into tall grass that filled up to the knees. Every house and object from Skoupa disappeared leaving only the residents behind. All of the yelling came to a sharply punctuating halt. They all knew very well the implications without anyone saying anything.

    Turning around to face all of the villagers, Yuki fixed them with a deep penetrating stare. Any resolve and determination he managed to muster filled his features. The staidness in his stance gave them no room for doubt. “I swear to you here that I will this stopped! I am an outsider to you and this is a foreign place to me…but this is the home of my father! My father, your King!”

    To be continued…
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  21. #111
    The Quiet One Shift Andromeda's Avatar
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    Re: Shift

    Yuki ground his fist tight in frustration. No path laid open for him. ‘It’s those bastards running things! The people that want me dead! They’re making all of these people suffer! How can they do this to their own people? They’ve accepted such treatment as normal…’ His hand turned raw from mashing his fingers into his palm. He had to stop them. ‘If they weren’t in charge…things would be different… If I…’ Yuki tilted his head up realizing suddenly his answer. “What if I could promise you that this will never happen again?!”

    “Yuki?” questioned Seiji.

    He soon had everyone staring at him trying to figure out what he meant. Seconds dragged out in silence before a voice from the crowd broke through launching a tidal wave at him. They felt insulted by him. He mocked them not understanding the situation. He knew nothing.

    Yuki exhaled a breath leaving all of the noise behind him. He closed his eyes thinking about everyone and letting them pass through his thoughts. ‘Ayumi’s going have my head for this…’ A ripple in the ground came from his feet before bursting suddenly into tall grass that filled up to the knees. Every house and object from Skoupa disappeared leaving only the residents behind. All of the yelling came to a sharply punctuating halt. They all knew very well the implications without anyone saying anything.

    Turning around to face all of the villagers, Yuki fixed them with a deep penetrating stare. Any resolve and determination he managed to muster filled his features. The staidness in his stance gave them no room for doubt. “I swear to you here that I will this stopped! I am an outsider to you and this is a foreign place to me…but this is the home of my father! My father, your King!”

    Chapter 110 – The Nobler Path

    The words from Yuki rang out through the village as though given wings to fly to the ends of the land. Shouting and yelling came to a stop almost paralyzing everyone. They did not expect Yuki say what he did to them. Most did not even know how to react. Deafeningly quiet minutes passed as though he had dragged the very voice from their lips.

    Yuki kept his eyes fixed on the crowd to see their reactions and how things changed, when they knew that they inevitably would. ‘…I said it… Mom…dad… I’m sorry…’ He avoided saying it to himself for so long. Even after he said it a sour taste lingered for him. It could not be taken back. However, he knew that he had to deal with it later. The mood in the village began to sway as they recovered. They gave him no further reprieve.

    Anger for the besmirching of their King’s name powered their voices. Had it not been for Yuki’s display that set them into confusion, they would have erupted sooner. Speaking ill of the King’s name gave them more fire and motion than anything before. They started to swarm around Yuki shouting at him for his traitor’s words. However, wind blew down around Yuki ripping up the grass spinning it around him. Only the blades of grass that tumbled through the air gave any signs of the presence of wind. Nowhere else did it interact as though stolen. Forming a barrier between the mob and Yuki he stood still defiant in their rage.

    The first couple that attempted to grab out for Yuki through the grass were repelled. They received no injuries, but found themselves gently pushed back as being politely told ‘no’ by some outside force. A few more tried to reach for Yuki before the villagers finally understood. Understanding Yuki’s untouchable state did not change their mood. They still threw words at him, even more vicious than before as though being unable to harm him mocked them.

    “You damn foreigner!”

    “You’ve got no right to talk about our King!”

    “Die for such words!”

    Yuki closed his eyes disappointed. ‘I guess I should have seen this outcome. They weren’t going to just change because of what I said. Now the situation is even more complicated…’ He looked back at the old man to see his reaction to everything. The placid features of age changed into a struggle between emotion and reason. Even the head of the village took offense.

    Bringing the crowd under control became his priority. Unfortunately, Yuki had not built in much to the field and dropping it meant being mobbed in an instant. He did the only thing he had available. The wind pushed back against the villagers giving him room. Yuki stepped back standing between the elder and Yumi, still uneasily asleep. Only Yori remained awake, but stayed understandably quiet. The wind gave him room and a little moment between the shouting, but not the attention of everyone. “Listen to me!” he shouted trying to get his voice over everyone. It worked partially. “Hate me if you wish, but also know my power. Look at your village!”

    He had their ears for the moment. A few of them gave him a little allowance and did as he said. In the chaos none of them had truly taken in the meaning. They recognized the power, but nothing more. Yuki saw he had them a bit longer. “You know the power that I use. You’re familiar with it. I can make your entire village disappear with little effort! Call me what you will, but you can’t deny what you see before you!”

    Questions and uneasy began to spread through the ranks of the villagers. Once given the time to really think about the situation that they found themselves in threatening someone with his powers, many of the Atlanteans started to back away. They did not know if he truly was the King’s son. Someone as powerful as he displayed gave them paused. They had to weigh out which they feared more.

    “I’m taking my friends and leaving,” Yuki said to the old man next to him. “Do nothing to stop us and we won’t cause you any further troubles. I promise that I will see this stopped. That I swear to you!” He saw no denial from the old man as he moved to help Yori.

    Once Yori stood up and Yuki started in on Yumi, the old Atlantean turned to them. “Why do you do all of this? You’ll be hunted by the military. All you’ve earned is fear with your words. Why would you want to help us?”

    “Do you really need a reason to help someone?” Yuki replied simply. The answer gave him no more understanding of Yuki. When Yuki finished untying Yumi and lifted her up into his arms he looked back at Paramonos. “I guess if you really need a reason then it’s the right thing to do. You shouldn’t have to suffer because of our mistakes.”

    “Such naivety…”

    “Probably, but I guess youth affords such things.” He caught sight of Seiji in the distance waiting on him. It made him recall the punch that Seiji gave him to set his head on right. “Though it’s easy to forget… Just let the military know which way we went. I don’t have the power the stop them yet. So that’s the most I can offer you now.”

    The crowded had started to disband by the time Yuki returned to Seiji. “Let’s go back to our friends.” He glanced over at Yori to know how he looked. All he saw was a mute void. Something had him distracted and entranced. Yuki wanted to stop, but they had no time to rest. They guided him back with them to the inn.

    Eudokia glared at him from the side of the inn before they even reached the steps to the door. All of them stood outside with a waiting expression on their face. The only other one that appeared upset was Saki. Waiting until Yuki got into the shadow of the building, Eukodia nearly stomped over to him. “I knew you were stupid, but even I didn’t think you were that stupid! What do you think you’re doing?!” She jabbed a finger into his face not quite touching him.

    Assaulted by her did not even turn Yuki blue or shake him. He held on to Yumi returning her fierce stare. “I took responsibility for my actions. I thought that’s what you wanted.”

    “How is declaring to everyone that you’re the King’s son taking responsibility?”

    “I won’t let this happen again.”

    “So long as we’re roaming Atlantis this will keep happening. You can’t prevent it.”

    “Then we’ll make it so that they know where we are. So they don’t have to search. Just follow us!”

    She got up in his face at that point having had enough of his childish dreams. “Are you trying to make it impossible for us to get into the capital?”

    “I’m not having them ruin anyone else’s life because of my presence! I didn’t come here to bring trouble to the people!”

    Seiji stepped up around Yuki, oddly quiet up to that point. He took up the right flank of Eudokia. “This is a fight between us and them. If they’re going to involve innocents then we need to make sure we don’t give them a reason.”

    “You’re both idiots, but I shouldn’t be surprised at this point.”

    “They’re right,” added Saki, “I can’t let them involve others that have nothing to do with our fight if we can help it.”

    Out of the side appeared Chiharu like a shadow. Unlike the rest, she remained in her black ninja attire choosing against blending in. “The more we fight them the more it’ll slow us down in reaching our destination within the time frame. It’s best to avoid detection and deal with the problems the military causes to the civilian population after we’ve dealt with the ruling party. Also it is likely that if we don’t stop in towns along the way we’ll minimize their need to search them.”

    Annoyed by her empty emotions, Seiji leaned through the group over to the girl. “You heartless little—“

    “It’s the most practical solution.”

    Yuki stepped between them to prevent them getting into a fight like in the past. He had to keep them on the topic rather than letting fist fly like Seiji resorted too often with Chiharu. “Chiharu, the practical solution isn’t always the right solution. Sometimes you have to make the choice that you know is going to be difficult, but it is the right thing to do.”

    Taking a step back, the ninja gave Yuki an aspirated sigh. She crossed her arms and turned part of the way away from his sight. “This isn’t some book where you’re the hero and everything works out in the end. The right thing to do gets people injured or killed.”

    “It’s not right to involve them.”

    “I feel the same,” Fumiko declared. Since the debated started she had been out of sight. Leaning more than standing with the inn as support, she brought the group to look at her. Fatigue only began to describe how she appeared to them. A heavy weight seemed to be dragging her features down and even her voice. “We should minimize the damage to people.”

    “That’s just wishful thinking!” snapped Eudokia.

    Seiji pressed himself into the group. “You’re the one that doesn’t understand!”

    The yelling and fighting that continued between them started to cause Yumi to stir. Her feature twisted down in pain until she jerked suddenly awake. She nearly fell out of Yuki’s arms before settling back down. As she came alive a pained scream came from her bringing everyone back to Yuki and quiet. Yumi looked about from her vantage point getting an uneasy sense in the air. She felt like she had jumped into the middle of a conversation and started talking without understand any of the context. They stared at her, some with concern and others accusatory.

    It took a few moments longer to realize that Yuki held her. ‘Yuki?! Why am I…’ She shifted around in Yuki’s arms wanting to be free. The pounding her chest became almost unbearable for her to take. “…I-I can stand now…”

    “Oh, sorry!”

    Yumi set down on the ground again patting out her clothes. Moments later, she fixed on the group. She felt the tension that lined everyone and seemed to understand the problem. “I think our first decision should be leaving the village. Everyone I think can agree to that.” They gave her a long pensive look not sure why she spoke with such certainty in her voice for having been asleep. Yet none of them could disagree with what she said. “Once we’re back on the road we can settle the next problem. Do we have all of the supplies?”

    “…yes…” replied Eudokia slowly lengthening out her answer. Hesitation still filled her, but she wanted to move on as well. So she did not fight it further.

    “Good. Since everyone seems to be here, let’s go!”

    Night still lingered unwilling to let go of its umbrella under the sun. The moon still poked through leaving the plains of Atlantis painted in green and pale blue. Amongst the endless rolling hills an array of soldiers laid out on the backs. Some of them still were unconscious and others resting to recover from their failure.

    Left with a simple patch work on his cheek and jaw, Captain Simonides sat staring with a frustrated crease in his forehead. His operation resulted in failure. Utter failure, a word that tasted poor in his mouth. He remained quiet ever since he woke not even giving his subordinates orders. Their own troubles kept them from asking anything of him. He did not understand the situation and the foe that he faced. All he had from them was confusion.

    A pained groan came from the soldier next to him. It built into an awkward lullaby of tortured moans. Slowly it subsided as the soldier finally woke up feeling even worse. “C-captain?” questioned Eusebios, but not out of confusion for his presence next to him. He looked around at his body not certain why he still lived. “Why am I not dead?”

    Simonides did not even glance at him. “We found you unconscious like the rest of the team. Only Kalliope and Philon sustained serious injury.”

    Eusebios touched his hand to his chest where he knew Yuki had hit him. He felt sore and a little pain, but nothing like he remembered. It should have killed him he knew. “…I don’t understand…”

    “…nor I…nor I…”

    “I’ll go tend to Kalliope and Philon.” Eusebios stood up staggering a little feeling the exhaustion still. He did not wait for confirmation and did not expect to receive one. The mood the Captain was in told him enough.

    ‘I’ll need to bring in all of the Whites in for this, Eusebios won’t be enough…’

    To be continued…
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  22. #112
    The Quiet One Shift Andromeda's Avatar
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    Re: Shift

    Dawn rose upon the lands of Atlantis waking tired souls that already experienced a very long night. Stationed between Skoupa and Kapni, the South Gate soldiers took up camp. Still only light in numbers the ranks slowly swelled in the morning as messages reached further away troops. The main garrison of troops at the South Gate still had half a day to reach the base and the outer stationed soldiers even longer.

    Late in the night after assessing damage and strength, Simonides ordered messages out to his entire division to mobilize. He had underestimated the strength and power of the invaders figuring on only one a small battalion to deal with the threat after the initial search party failed. Two failures changed his view. They had already penetrated further than thought possible. They had to stop them quickly and decisively, he had determined. It meant recalling all of his troops from their posts and emptying the barracks. The invaders would face the full weight of the South Gate Division.

    Since the morning had finally come one new duty befell Simonides that he did not look forward to handling. He made no outward show of it to his men, but it concerned him. Failures happened as expected, however correcting mistakes happened quickly. With how far the intruders made it so far, they would not be pleased. The actions he took would not set will either. He was no more pleased than his superior would be, but he could not have planned for such powerful opponents. Hopefully, they understood it as well. Playing politics was not his strength.

    Simonides strode through the camp still coming together. It had only begun to be set up a few hours ago as uninjured men arrived. All of the men in his squad remained unable to do much more than rest to recover from injures. Eusebios spent the remaining hours of night healing any damage they took, but fatigue and exhaustion, naturally, could not be returned. He expected them to be ready to move out when he gave them the order. They wanted their chance at settling the score as much as him.

    Arriving at a large tent he motioned to the White at the flips. “Communication field. Link into the lines so I can speak with Command.” The man straightened up a little coming to attention acknowledging the request. Rippling at the man’s feet was the last thing Simonides caught before passing through the tent flips.

    He took up a seat at a simple wooden table that held a couple metal boxes and a smooth circular disc. No wires ran between the devices, but lights began to flash signaling power being sent to them. Simonides still had to wait for the line to be established. All through the ground wires ran to all corners of Atlantis. The military communication line and emergency line made use of advanced technology compared to the rest of the land. At the time it was more advanced than the outside world, but it had since caught up to them. But unlike the rest of world, it remained inactive and inaccessible by normal means. The lines required the use of a Meso Presecho to connect to it granting security and ensuring the public did not accidentally use it. In fact, most of the public knew nothing about it.

    Leaning in the chair produced a creak of old joints rarely used. Dust still settled out from the cloth of the tent that had not seen use in decades. The only thing that kept it in use rather than burned was the quality of its make. It gave an annoying remainder of how much they fell into complacency with only routine events popping up. No one prepared for anything such as this to occur. Simonides hated the feeling of unpreparedness.

    Chapter 111 – Boiling Turmoil

    Once the line finished connecting and someone on the other end accepted the call, the disc on the table began to glow. Particles of light streamed up from disc reaching a quarter of a meter in height before cascading down. The effect created a fountain like surface tinted teal. A shape formed in the fountain taking on the appearance of Simonides’ superior.

    Simonides stiffened a little trying to withhold his surprise of who appeared before him. “General Alexander!” He had expected to be addressing one of the Majors or a Colonel stationed at Command rather than the General himself.

    The projected head and neck of Demosthenes gave a polite knowing little grin. Age gave him clarity and keener sight into reading others. “No need to be so surprised, Captain.”

    “…yes, sir...” He never knew completely how to be around the General. The aging man displayed many different emotions and personalities almost as though calling upon what was needed for the occasion. It always left him feeling like he was playing catch up to maintain the pace the man set for the room.

    “Your message sent in from the emergency line caused quite a stir. Considering the nature of our report I wanted to hear this personally.”

    The grave serious tone breaking into his words weighed on Simonides the importance of what he said. “As stated in the message there has been an incursion at the South Gate barrier. Our first attempt to capture and release failed at the barrier. More than thirty of my soldiers were knocked out in a matter of moments.”

    Not even a twitch of an eyebrow came from Demosthenes. “They were not incapacitated by the barrier?”

    “Negative, sir. Initial reports suggest that it had no affect on them.”

    “Troubling news, indeed. You have renewed your search for them?”

    “Once I arrived I mobilized the available men I had to continue the search. We found the intruders hiding in Skoupa. While conducting a search of the village we were ambushed by the intruders. They wiped out my team as well as our MP.”

    “Even your MP. They must be very formidable to succeed in taking out a MP.”

    “They were very powerful. I believe them to have at least three MPs of their own.”


    “I don’t know, but they were speaking a foreign language from one of the Asian countries. They might be exiles.”

    Demosthenes gave a small nod taking in the information. His features still maintained the same stone unflinching expression through the report. Considering his strength as a warrior and a Meso Presecho the threat could be seen as minor to him. “How many intruders have you confirmed?”

    “I’ve been able to confirm from my men five all about teenage in appearance. Three males and two females, if appearances are to be believed. I believe there to be more that have not revealed themselves.”

    “A feeling?” the General inquired.

    Simonides stiffened a little with the sense of suddenly being stared at with greater interest. Which side the interest laid upon he wondered and feared a bit. He knew a gut feeling to be ill rational, but he grew to trust it over the years of service. “…yes…sir…”

    Demosthenes gave a grin that a grandfather would have been proud to wear. “No need to be so stiff, Captain! In fact, I trust someone’s gut over something well calculated. It won’t fail you. Calculations can underestimate our opponent. You won’t be underestimating your opponent, will you Captain?”

    “No, sir! I know my actions are highly irregular, but I believe this to be the greatest threat Atlantis has faced since its founding.”

    “Indeed. Removing all of the troops off of the border patrol would normally have you before the council for recklessness and abandonment of duty. However, the situation is different. I’ve already calmed down the council, but you cannot fail again, Captain.”

    “We won’t, General! The South Gate Division will stop their invasion of our land!”

    “Glad to hear it. If you have nothing else to report.”

    “Sir!” The fountain returned back to its original shape. All of the tension in the room finally let out allowing Simonides to let out a long sigh. He leaned back in the chair letting it groan a little from the full weight he placed on it. His exhausting night had turned into a fatigued morning after his report with the General.

    Simonides stood up from the chair pausing a moment to let his thoughts collect. The sparse nature of the tent gave him the space that he needed. So much had happened in a short amount of time that he had not allowed his mind to process everything. He knew well enough the problem that he faced, but despite what he said to the General he had misgivings about some of what he reported. Something bothered him about what happened in the village.

    He thought back to the night with the two teenagers he saw. They argued with each other over something that he did not understand. ‘What was the argument about? Was it a disagreement over their plan?’ Their foreign language made him originally believe them to be young scientists. ‘Yet the strength and reflexes the one had seems too coincidental. It does make more sense to be exiles. They would have training, but exiles shouldn’t be able to return. The mark should prevent them… Does it not work?’ Considering that their exiling mark failed made him swallow painfully. He decided to reserve that possibility last as he deemed the consequences far too dangerous.

    ‘Unmarked exiles would be more likely. I can’t assume our system has failed.’ The new line of thought spun him in several directions to explain the intruders. ‘They could be dissidents from within helping outsiders…’ He could not ignore the fact that signals from the barrier reported an intrusion. Even if follow Atlanteans were involved some of the group had to be outsiders, normal humans. ‘From Kalliope and Philon’s reports the ones they face definitely had Meso Prosecho abilities. No matter how I turn the situation those are the facts. I have theories, but nothing solid.’

    He still had too many questions to feel confident to attack them in earnest. Failure was not an option for him. They had to be stopped, but he knew too little still. ‘I don’t know if we were fortunate or purposely spared. Or did they not consider us a threat worth killing? I must understand the way they think…’

    Simonides stared at the exit of the tent. A degree of certainty appeared in his eyes knowing his next move. The Atlantean Captain marched out of the tent giving a glancing nod to the White standing guard. He passed between gaps made from his men setting out small camps waiting on orders. In the distance he found the man that he sought. Closing to meet with him, Simonides came up behind him as the man finished giving out an order to a soldier. “Commander Abeiron!”

    The young man in his late twenties turned around immediately recognizing his Captain’s voice. A bit of a stiff step caught him at the end of his foot rotating around. “Captain! Do you need something?”

    “Yes, Abeiron,” Simonides said pacing out his words still finishing his thoughts. “Gather up your team. We’re moving out.”

    “Sir?” Abeiron gave him a confused look more on the part that he spoke as though the Captain was going with him. He knew the Captain preferred to be personally involved, but the entire division was moving. “You’re coming with me, sir? What about the men? Who would keep command?”

    The Captain scanned his head about the camp. They were his men and he had trained most of them since coming under his command. He trusted them. “The men will be fine. I have someone I can leave in charge. It’s more important that I see our foe fight. I must understand them to plan for the final offensive when the troops have finished gathering here.”

    Some hesitation built in Abeiron hearing the way his Captain spoke to him. Abeiron never knew him to casually toss his men into certain danger. The fear ran away from him for a few moments before he managed to wrestle it under control. ‘The way he speaks sounds like he’s got some plan in mind.’ A curious expression came upon him staring at Simonides.

    Picking up on the Commander’s stare, Simonides focused directly on him. “I’ve got a feeling about our enemy. I think I have a way to capture them, but I need your help. You with me?”

    “Of course, sir!”

    From the small communications room in the Military Command Center, Demosthenes stood up ignoring the communication disc fading out. He released his field disconnecting the line before stepping out into the hall. A raised hand to the communication officer at the door signaled him to return back into the room and his post.

    The large stone halls of Command remained as imposing as they were artistic. It almost seemed proud the way the stone stood showing off its detailed carved curves and lines. Each curve worked extra to strut and cast the most delicate shadow possible to accentuate the others form. Age only improved its appearance, much like the man that walked its hall.

    Demosthenes broke his brisk pace as the hall opened into a balcony running along the hallway. Opposite to him, a middle aged man in his late thirties surfaced from shadows. The narrow steady eyes of the man said he had business with Demosthenes. His eyes fixed him with a deep stare that worked on most individuals to instill unease and a sense of inferior within the man’s presence. Such tactics failed to work against Demosthenes, as the man knew, but in a lifestyle such as his it became habit.

    Taking up a post against the railing of the balcony, Demosthenes held to a stoic expression cutting off any chance to read him. “Good morning, Dimitris.”

    “Demosthenes,” he replied curtly, “Have made your decision?”

    “My answer is the same as it was yesterday.”

    A puff of annoyed air came from Dimitris’ lips reacting to the answer. He had been trying to wear the old General down for more than a month. Frustration from continually failing started to weigh on his reason. “You’re stalling is going to cost the kingdom gravely. Are you prepared for that on your shoulders?”

    Threatening did as much as speaking rudely to him. Demosthenes brushed it off maintain his unwavering tone. “We still have ten days left. It is Atlantean law.”

    “Still hung up on tradition. The King has no heirs and everyone knows it. There’s no need to carrying on tradition when there’s no one to take up the Kingship.”

    “In ten days. Only then can we begin the Rite of Succession. You know as well as I that Atlantis isn’t so weak to collapse without a King after a month.”

    “Stubborn fool,” snapped Dimitris.

    Demosthenes tilted his head over to the council member. “My stance will remain unchanged.”

    Tired and frustrated with the futility of debating with Demosthenes, Dimitris turned on his heel starting to leave. While still barely in ear shot of Demosthenes he let out a final insult. “I wonder if you’re really human in the cold heart of yours.”

    Focusing back on the morning horizon, Demosthenes spoke long after Dimitris left the hall. “More human than you…” He stared out at the vast green plains that stretched out over the lands of Atlantis. His eyes seemed fixed on something in the distance unseen, yet knowing with certainty that something was out there. ‘So you’ve returned Eudokia and with the child. Show me your strength… Show me that you’re worthy to be King…’

    To be continued…
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  23. #113
    The Quiet One Shift Andromeda's Avatar
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    Re: Shift

    Demosthenes stared out at the vast green plains that stretched out over the lands of Atlantis. His eyes seemed fixed on something in the distance unseen, yet knowing with certainty that something was out there. ‘So you’ve returned Eudokia and with the child. Show me your strength… Show me that you’re worthy to be King…’

    Yuki tilted his head up searching out into the horizon suddenly feeling something strange. ‘Hmm?’ He could not place the feeling, but it passed just as quickly. Giving a shrug of his shoulders, he continued on with their march through the morning hours of Atlantis’ endless grasslands.

    They had agreed on leaving Skoupa, but it certainly did not mean that they agreed on everything else. Silence became the method for voicing the discontent in the group. Both sides knew that the other disagreed as strongly as they felt, so not speaking turned into the simplest solution to not having to listen a side that they did not want to hear.

    Only Yumi and Haruo felt like they were in a third party (though it was unlikely Haruo actually felt that way). Ending the fighting in the village had succeeded for Yumi. She thought that once they left the village everything would sort itself out. The arguments before she had solved by taking command of the situation, but the same method did not work for her again. Her silence came more from unease in the tension and waiting until she found a solution to their problem. Yumi knew well enough that speaking openly without a plan would only rekindle the fighting. So silence almost felt preferred to her, even if it did delay the resolution.

    Chapter 112 – Strained Thoughts

    Late morning finally came with the first spoken word by anyone, from Yumi naturally. “…anyone hungry?” wavered Yumi, trying to keep her nervousness down. Tension among the group reached a new high at that point that she regretted even considering speaking. All of them stopped to look at her as though accusing her of interrupting something far more important (even though they simply stared at her). The longer they glared the worse Yumi became, sweating from the heat of being the entire focus for everyone. ‘…I shouldn’t have said anything after all!’ Unease dragged on even further almost seeming like they were doing it on purpose out of malice (still making things appear worse than they actually are).

    As though the torturer had his fill, Yuki broke rank and mood with a typical cheerful response. “You have no idea! I’ve been wanting breakfast for hours!” Rather than waiting for any reaction of the others, he started in on the pack he carried plopping down in the grass. Not knowing what his pack carried, he searched through pulling out anything that stood in his way or might be considered edible.

    The rest of the group fell in line almost immediately. They spoke between each other about finding the food and sort out what was meant to be eaten or saved. Yumi stood on the outside sweating a little in confusion. ‘What just happened?!’ Her mouth hung agape staring trying to understand what happened.

    With stick of something like bread popping out of his mouth, Seiji leaned around seeing that Yumi remained out of the group. “Hey why aren’t you eating?! I thought you were hungry?”


    “Yeah, the food’s great, Yumi! I’m not familiar with Greek food, but if it is all like this I might have to find a restaurant when we get back!”

    “W-well…yeah I…”

    “Then come and sit down with us!”

    “Alright…” Hesitating still, Yumi folded up her legs carefully taking up an uncertain seat next to her brother. All of the food laid out was dried goods not needing cooking. She was certain that all of the food Eudokia picked was like that, which made more sense to her as she thought about it. It still confused her watching how everyone changed suddenly. Eudokia still remained distant, but ever since revealing her true self that had been the way she acted around everyone. But the sense of thick foreboding disappeared. ‘Is it like they say, food washes away worries? I just hope this lasts…’

    Next to Yumi, Yori quietly munched on a strip of dried meat. Nothing measured fully the scale of Yori’s thought, whether the slow repetitive chewing of the difficult meat or the spaced out eyes. Most of the happenings around him went mostly ignored. He did not even realize that the group had a fight. The trouble in the village consumed all of his attention, his fight with the soldier who tried to kill him and his sister.

    Yori’s mind remained fixated on what happened in the village. He could not break free from the hold that it had on him, though no sense of wanting to stop dwelling on the matter laid within him. Questions surfaced for him frequently causing his memories to replay the scenes in the village by instinct.

    Everything blew away from Yumi when she saw Yori on the ground. Only the three of them existed for her. The village, the screaming, Yuki or Fumiko, none of it mattered to her anymore. She only saw them. ‘No! I can’t let this happen!’ Yumi ran into the middle the fight streaming tears behind her. “I’ll protect you, brother!”

    Yori’s eyes widened seeing Yumi putting her back to the soldier as he came down to swing. “No! Yumi! Get out of the way!” He tried to get up from the ground, but everything moved too slowly for him.

    The swing continued through unable to be changed. Yumi only thought of protecting when she heard the sword clang loudly. Behind her a half spherical light briefly appeared at the moment the blade struck. Sparks erupted from the blade fighting with the invisible surface before a force responded back ripping the sword free from Philon’s hand. His sword spun rapidly through the air from the force until it embedded itself into the ground out of reach.

    Long had he decided that what he saw from Yumi had to be powers like the others. After viewing his memories so many times, it came as the only conclusion. However, he realized his suspicions about Yumi even before the incident in the village. Her unusual intuition stood out as strange to him, one that she did not seem to question. He wondered if the others had taken note as he had. Initially, most of it he passed off as being lucky, but the more accurate she became the more he questioned it. ‘I can’t deny anymore that she has some power. It was so clear back then, but I ignored it.’

    Chewing still on the endlessly resistant meat, Yori’s hand tensed up a little responding to his thoughts. ‘I ignored it, because she’s Yumi. She’s my sister.’ Unable to see past her as his sister, blinded him to the reality. ‘If she was normal, she wouldn’t have to follow…him. If she didn’t have any powers she’d be out of danger. She’d be safe…’ Yori hoped that if she had nothing to offer in a fight that she would stay behind. Nothing dangerous would get near her. She insisted following Yuki into the danger that surrounded him and he could not stop her. He told her stay behind. Fighting and violence did not suit her. Neither of them had any experience. Yet all of his pleading failed to reach her or sway her. ‘I simply agreed to go along with her… I just saw that look…’

    Finally, the meat accepted its fate and allowed Yori to finish it off. A long quiet sigh escaped Yori’s lips as his thoughts buried himself deeper. ‘…when…’ For the first time in hours, his eyes came to focus clearly for a brief moment. Only Yumi filled his vision. She laughed along with the others enjoying the meal. ‘…when…’ Yori stared longer starting to lose his focus on her. ‘When did she change…from the little sister I knew?’ What he witnessed in the village from his sister suddenly triggered him to relive the scene again.

    Yumi slowly opened her eyes carrying with her unusually serious narrowed features on her face. She lifted up her right palm showing a small chunk of metal that suddenly shrank as though under pressure from external forces. The metal compressed until it became a small ball no more the size of an average child’s marble. “Your sword shall no longer hurt my brother,” she declared. Her iron marble floated up higher from her palm as her arm stretched out towards Philon. The ball disappeared from her possession flashing through the air spraying blood up from the impact.

    Philon screamed from the pain of his shoulder being broken by his own sword. He ground his teeth together as he pressed his hand against his wound. ‘She’s too strong for me…but if I don’t do something…’ His still good arm reached behind him pulling out a small dagger. Determination burned in his eyes knowing what he had to do.

    A glance from Yumi at his dagger ripped it from his hand floating away from him. Like his other weapon she crushed it into a ball and returned it back through his other shoulder. She glared at him looking for him to back down. “…stubborn…” Yumi remarked before waving her arm at him. Philon flew across the alley crashing into one of the houses. A nearby rock ripped itself free from the earth and came to rest hovering in her hand. The rock filled out her palm completely. “Flee. This is your last chance,” commanded Yumi with all of the lethal presence she had to break through the language barrier.

    ‘Was really my sister back there?’ questioned Yori to himself. ‘Is that what happens when she uses her power? She becomes someone else?’ He hoped that her power never activated again if she became like she did. Becoming consumed by her own power and acting out violently as she did went against everything he knew of his little sister. Such a form did not suit her. ‘But she only did that because of me… It was because I was unable to protect her… I promised her! I said that I would protect her and I failed!’ Yori clinched his fists starting to feel the numb void that had surrounded him slowly evaporating leaving behind only a deep stabbing pain in his heart. ‘What sort of big brother am I?!’

    Sitting at what seemed miles apart, Yumi tried to keep up an outward appearance of nothing being wrong. However, a persistent confusion hovered over her head. Ignoring worked for her when she had more pressing troubles immediately at hand, the group’s unity. Breakfast and the brief, hopefully lasting, reprieve from the tension gave her mind time to wander away from her. So much of the last night seemed to have happened in a short amount of time that it had turned into a blur for her. She struggled to put the night together for her. Everything felt so foreign. Even seeing Yuki fight in front of the school and witnessing all of the destruction, the chaos in the village still weighed on her. It mixed up her thoughts confusing her to what happened.

    Waking up in Yori’s arms came as her first clear memory. She remembered deciding to follow after Yuki to help him when the village came under attack, but everything in between turned into a haze for her. She hoped that while they walked they would fill in the blanks that she had questions about, but in everyone’s silence she only remained in turmoil. Yet she understood the importance of them needing to leave the village when she woke up. The certainty amidst her confusion stacked upon her like a poorly balanced pile of chopped wood waiting for the worst possible time to collapse.

    Yumi took a small bite into a bake bread filled with nuts. The others around her still seemed oblivious for the moment and enjoying themselves. ‘Yuki has so much on his mind already and I feel that the others have their own similar problems that make them dwell. I shouldn’t bother them with my problems. I need to sort it out on my own.’

    Out across the fields of grass just inside of range, Simonides stood in front of the small group of Abeiron’s had under his command. A pair of binoculars rested over his face getting a view of the band of intruders that they chased. He recognized Yuki and Seiji out of the group, but half of them had their backs to him. So he had no clear sight on the entire party. ‘Nine in total. I was right in my feeling that there were more. How many are MP users?’ He lowered the binoculars down and turned back to his soldiers.

    Amongst the group were three Whites this time and ten Blacks. He knew quite well that the squad stood no chance in success against the intruders if a fight dragged out. It had to be swift. No hard facts proved him to be correct, but the impression that he had told him not to believe in what he saw simply with his eyes. The fact that he summoned his entire division to his side stood to show his belief. However, the battle was important and very necessary. His men knew well the dangers that they faced. He already explained to them the reality of the situation and of the necessity of their mission.

    Abeiron stood in front of his team, the extra Whites added for the mission, but otherwise all his team from the initial search. During their march, he got briefed on the nature of the Captain’s plan. The young Commander looked ready and determined to carry out the orders given to him.

    Simonides returned the binoculars back to their specially fitted leather pouch at this lower back. “The enemy is within sight breaking for a meal. We’ll use this opportunity while they’re resting off guard to strike.” Slowly stepping forward, he impressed his authority upon his men. He carried himself with strict, confident steps to instill strength to them. Fear had to be removed. “You all know what you face down there. Never underestimate them for a moment. They may appear like children to you, but remember what they were capable of doing to Skoupa. We know more about the enemy this time. The same mistakes will not be made. Use what we’ve learned against them. Make them understand that their rebellion will not succeed! You are all soldiers of the South Gate and we always catch our prey! Be proud of who you are! I expect you all to come back alive!”

    “Yes, sir!” echoed everyone’s voice in trained unison. They all came to quick attention and saluted their Captain.

    “Commence the operation! Move out!”

    All of the soldiers fanned out into their assigned groups passing around Simonides with their destination Yuki’s group far down the plains. Once his men began to grow more distant to his ears, he turned around to follow the lines of battle beginning to form. With his eyes, he scanned the field setting up marks in his mind of the plan and tactics. He retrieved his binoculars once more turning into a spectator. ‘The first stage begins…’

    “Don’t you think you’ve had enough already?!” snapped Saki. She ripped the dried fruit piece out of Yuki’s hand just before reaching his mouth. The fruit found its way back to the small tied pouch. “We can’t over indulge. Do you want to keep making trips into villages for food and risk getting them caught up in our troubles?”

    “…no…” Yuki pouted a bit with disappointment.

    Fumiko let out a tiny laugh amused with the scene between the two. “You sounded like his mother for a moment, Saki!” The others smiled a little as well before the most of the group broke out into laughter, especially seeing Saki’s reddening face reacting to Fumiko. She tried to deny it, but fell upon empty ears.

    Suddenly, the light mood shattered like glass crashing to the floor. Blood sprayed up everywhere from all directions. It all happened so quickly that they stared in confusion not understanding what happened. Pain pierced them all as they found blades pierced through their chest. Yuki collapsed first his eyes turning lifeless as blood pooled out. Yumi fell last desperately reaching out for Yuki as she felt her own life fading crying as the empty shell of Yuki before her. Appearing from what seemed like the very air, Abeiron and his men with dripping swords looked down pleased in the quick completion of their mission.

    To be continued…
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  24. #114
    The Quiet One Shift Andromeda's Avatar
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    Re: Shift

    “Don’t you think you’ve had enough already?!” snapped Saki. She ripped the dried fruit piece out of Yuki’s hand just before reaching his mouth. The fruit found its way back to the small tied pouch. “We can’t over indulge. Do you want to keep making trips into villages for food and risk getting them caught up in our troubles?”

    “…no…” Yuki pouted a bit with disappointment.

    Fumiko let out a tiny laugh amused with the scene between the two. “You sounded like his mother for a moment, Saki!” The others smiled a little as well before the most of the group broke out into laughter, especially seeing Saki’s reddening face reacting to Fumiko. She tried to deny it, but fell upon empty ears.

    Suddenly, the light mood shattered like glass crashing to the floor. Blood sprayed up everywhere from all directions. It all happened so quickly that they stared in confusion not understanding what happened. Pain pierced them all as they found blades pierced through their chest. Yuki collapsed first his eyes turning lifeless as blood pooled out. Yumi fell last desperately reaching out for Yuki as she felt her own life fading crying at the empty shell of Yuki before her. Appearing from what seemed like the very air, Abeiron and his men, with dripping swords, looked down pleased in the quick completion of their mission.

    Anguished struggles from Yumi feeling the very life drain from her flailed her hand weakly to reach out. Wet thick pools of blood soaked into her clothes and smearing her cheeks. Vision blurred and the warmth in her fingers retreated. Everything turned cold. A sharp pain struck her again forcing her into the grass. It felt as though someone had cut the last branch her hand held on the edge of a cliff and all she could feel was falling, so empty. The ground came rushing up to her in an eager embrace and the crushing force blasted through her.

    Chapter 113 – Test Strike

    Yumi threw her head from the pain yelling. It startled everyone around her even snapping Yori out of his dense fog. She panted heavily slumping her back forward her eyes wide open realizing the truth. ‘I’m still alive?’ Looking around at everyone gathered in front of gave her pause for relief. ‘They’re all alive. But what was that? It was so real!’

    Standing next to Yori, Yuki leaned forward coming very close to her face trying to examine her. “What’s the matter, Yumi?”

    The impact of what she experience drained the blood from her face giving her a pale complexion. It felt as though she ran for her life unable to stop until at that moment. Her body felt sore. She tried to slow down her breathing thinking that her chest would burst. ‘I know it happened! Or it…will? What’s this feeling?’ Yumi stared up at Yuki silent and pensive never hearing his question.


    She darted her head around feeling the growing unease in the air. A dark menacing pressure surrounded her giving her a familiar sensation. ‘It’s like that dream or vision I had. Like death’s descending…’ Yumi snapped up to her feet. She did not know what happened, but she needed to warn everyone. “Something’s coming! I can’t explain it, but something’s wrong. We need to get out of here or we’ll all die!”

    “Huh? What are you talking about Yumi?”

    “Girl’s gone crazy!” remarked Seiji starting to back away.

    Doubting her abrupt case of paranoia, Yumi watched the concern that they had fall away. ‘I can’t let it happen again! I don’t care if I’m mistaken! It was too painful to ignore!’ Yumi leapt forward knocking over Yuki and scattering the others surrounding her. ‘I’m the only one that can protect them!’ She closed her eyes panicking. A pale green film appeared just beyond the circle everyone unintentionally created. Clanging of swords against the sphere echoed dully through the space.

    The noise put the group on alert not seeing anything further. No one spoke another word scanning the area out of the barrier to understand what happened. They no longer questioned Yumi. Apologizes waited however, they had their new guests needing attending.

    Simonides stared from his perch unchanged in expression. ‘A barrier…’ He made a mental note to himself as he already started making future plans based on what he saw. ‘I didn’t think a stealth attack would work, but this is a different outcome. However, it means the second stage starts earlier.’ The briefing he gave to his men ran through his mind prepping for what should happen next.

    Standing before his men, Simonides already explained the purpose of the mission he gave them. Next, he needed to give them their orders and information on the enemy. Grouped into their teams, he began with Photine first. She had been with the South Gate since completing her training at the academy unlike some Meso Prosecho, which had stations in the capital prior to border security. A woman in her early twenties still, she had little experience against any opponent other than a normal human. She kept to a strict professional regime waiting for her chance to prove her worth. Simonides saw the eagerness in her light blue eyes, that shined with their own radiance.

    Photine’s team filled out with three Blacks. Their purpose changed after the first stage of the mission. “Photine your target is one of the confirmed MP users. A teenage girl appearing about sixteen described as having short black hair and a frail appearance. The powers she has been displayed using are a repulsive barrier, telekinesis and hovering. Her barrier was strong enough to rip a sword from the hand of the user.”

    Four figures in Atlantean military uniforms appeared from thin air positioned roughly behind Yumi’s location before she leapt forward. Leading the small group was a woman with short dark blonde hair rigidly forced back, Photine. Her white uniform swayed in the breeze a moment before a small ripple echoed from her feet. Instantly, brownish-red dust billowed outward altering the grass plains into a barren wasteland of dry stone and earth. Accompanying the warm earth was jutting rocks carved out by strong winds and towering too far above to fit into the field, suddenly being cut off at the limit of her reach.

    As the dust bowl began to settle out several flashing lights appeared hazy through the windy soup. Little brief glimpses broke through giving enough pieces to discern weapons. Not granting those trapped inside a moment to consider their position, the weapons flew away in long streaks of light caught from their blades. Only leaving their sight for a second, a loud buzzing and sparking blasted over their heads. The sound changed to pounding echoing through the thin film of the barrier beating out an ominous message of doom.

    “What the hell’s happening?!” shouted Seiji over the almost deafening noise created by the weapons. In all of the confusion of the last few seconds, his world got thrown upside down. He no longer knew what was happening to him. Pounding from above became worse for his ears.

    Gathered closer to Yumi, Yuki had one eye partially closed trying to manage the pain of the ringing in his ears. “Are we under attack?”

    “I think that’s pretty obvious!” snapped Saki, covering her ears up with her hands.

    Left on the ground murmuring in pain, Yumi felt like a rope connected to her heart being yanked. She did not understand the feeling, just knew that it pulled on her invisibly. ‘…it hurts…’ All of her will power struggled to fight the urge to release her grasp and be taken away with the current. Where the force tried to drag her felt empty and wrong in a way she had no words for. While instinctively she knew remaining was correct.

    Photine stared at the barrier unflinching, waiting. ‘So your first task will be to neutralize that barrier. Her field has not been seen yet, so there is no judge on her strength yet. Make use of your weapons to drive her back and shatter her barrier.’ She concentrated on the task materializing more weapons to crush the barrier. So long as it stood a stalemate remained and their mission stalled.

    The duration that the barrier survived before the first crack appeared surprised Photine. ‘It’s only now weakening even with me dampening her field! Just how powerful is this child?’ She continued to press the attack hearing further cracks develop along the bubble’s film. Certainty in its collapse came assured, only time remained a factor.

    Yumi felt the imminent failure approaching. She still did not fully comprehend what she felt, but knew to trust her body. Staggering to her feet, she braved the pain that racked her body. With heavy panting, Yumi drew herself firm before her friends. “I can’t…hold them…off much longer! Be ready!” Almost on cue, a sound like glass shattering rippled through the chamber. Highly reflective shards still holding on to energy rained down around beginning the cascade. ‘…the pain’s gone…’ Relief rested on Yumi with all of the tension that ripped her body cut her free.

    Breaking to recover was not in the cards for Yumi. A battle cry from a guttural feminine voice directed towards her snapped her eyes around. Instinct saved her in the last moments as four long strangely shaped swords flew at her colliding against a small square of a barrier reflexively erected. The mass and velocity of the weapons knocked her back sending her careening through the air out of control. Trails of dusts drew lines through the air following her arc.

    ‘Once you bring down the barrier corner her and force her away from the rest of the group. It’s important that you remove her from the others. Keep her at a distance from the rest.’

    Watching her prey disappear from range Photine broke rank. The Blacks in her team had different orders when things reached this situation. As the Atlantean woman charged through the ragged group of teens, two walls of solid purple barriers raised dividing them and leaving her an aisle to her target.

    Turning to the next team, Simonides focused on Antipas. Youngest of the three Whites, he had much to prove to his Captain fresh from training and filled with promise. “Once Photine strikes that’ll be your signal to prepare. When the girl’s barrier comes down and she’s separated from the group you will make your move. There are still two others of concern that must be divided. Two boys, one is rough looking with dark brown hair tied back in a small ponytail while the other has roughly cut black hair. You need to use your walls to divide them. Your target is the black haired boy. He’s the only one of the group that has displayed his field. He uses a grass field and makes use of a strange physical technique that is more deadly than the physical attack. Keep out of his range and don’t give him anything to use against you.”

    Curving out blocking all of the escapes to the rear for Yuki, the light brown haired Antipas surfaced with his band of three Blacks. Besides Yuki, he caught two others on his side, but neither of them were his target. His only goal in mind was Yuki. Already cut flat by his smooth stone cobble field, the grass disappeared from nearby view. Large stone slabs groaned from behind breaking free from their place to become new walls. Each newly formed obstruction forced Yuki to step forward to keep ahead of the quickly fading ground.

    ‘Force him out away from the rest of the group as well. It’s important that these three individuals remain apart from the rest. Leave the rest of your team is to deal with the others as Commander Abeiron will take command of the soldiers.’

    Yuki silently cursed his misfortune. Everything happened so quickly that he still did not understand what occurred. Off balance, they forced him to play to their pace. He barely had the chance to see where Yumi went, keeping ahead of the thunderous stone. ‘Damn! I can’t find Yumi and the others are getting further away from me! If I could just get a second to think straight!’ His field remained down not having a chance to concentrate. Soon he found himself standing almost too far out of sight of his friends with a young man in his way. “Move,” demanded Yuki not realizing the language barrier that existed. Even still, he managed an expression that weighed equal to his words.

    Antipas brought up further walls between them and the rest of the party completely isolating the two. He had no words for Yuki other than the actions that he made. A clear sign made as his answer to Yuki’s order.

    Spinning around his head side to side, Seiji tried to take in everything that happened around him. The scene kept changing so fast for him that he had no time to figure things out. Worse now, half of them disappeared from his sight. “Where the hell’s everyone?! What’s going on here?” Not thinking much longer than to speak, Seiji turned on his feet towards the strange purplish wall that separated him from the others. He rammed his fist into the wall making it ring out as a wailing bellow. Resisting his first punch only made him force his other fist to come up. The second felt like he made an impact.

    A third and final set of shadows appeared behind Seiji’s back. “That last team is yours Miltiades,” spoke Simonides, facing the remaining soldiers made up of Miltiades, Abeiron and the remaining Blacks. A small and light appearing man, Miltiades had a little age behind him that came in experience. He had a patience method that Simonides thought worked to match his opponent. “Your target is the rough appearing teen. The only thing he has displayed so far is a surprising strength that is enough to take any normal person done in a single punch. It is best to remain distanced from him and keep him off balance so that he can’t connect.”

    Rippling at Miltiades’ feet signaled his readiness to begin. The wall of purple back to disappear as Antipas drew Yuki away and Miltiades acted in the same instant. Covering up the grass, a debris filled ground with random tossed junk, metal, wood and rock all working to be a complete blanket over the desperate blades of grass that fought to poke through. Aside from looking like a breeding ground for disease and tetanus, the appearance gave off an almost benign mood. However, serenity lasted for only a second as a large log jutted out of the ground at an angle to Seiji.

    Managing to dodge the attempt made against him, Seiji leapt away moving closer to the Atlantean. A few more rose up making Seiji evade them to keep from being clipped by jagged edges on untrimmed logs. After the series of attacks (in his mind), Seiji had enough of the games. He had a target in front of him and made straight for the man. Sprinting forward with his fists raised, Seiji locked onto the young man with blind rage. He saw the soldier starting to retreat from him, but he stayed his course knowing that he eventually would catch up. However, when he felt that he came into range a wide trunk burst through the ground in front of him making him collide with it.

    Simonides watched from his vantage point of the drawn battle lines. Each target was forced out from the others. “They’re divided now. If they stayed too close together it would only serve weaken Photine, Antipas and Miltiades.” While rarely ever used in more than a single MP user, battles that involved more than one MP user on the same side required different tactics in battle. They could not be placed near together or they would end up hurting their comrades in battle. So any time two or more were fielded in a battle they divided out keeping their fields from intersecting. As a MP user, they understood this well, but he still emphasis the need to keep apart as none of them experienced real combat with another MP or group of them. The last time a MP uprising happened was before their births.

    “Now draw out their powers. I must know everything about them if they are to be stopped.” Glancing down at the now smaller groups left behind of regular Blacks and the remaining intruders, Simonides judged each of them. “In desperation anything you’re trying to hide will be forced out. Let’s see if there are anymore MPs hiding in your group.” The plan progressed into the next stage. He waited in anticipation of what came next.

    To be continued…
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  25. #115
    The Quiet One Shift Andromeda's Avatar
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    Re: Shift

    A heavy atmosphere pervaded the plains of a late Atlantean morning. The sense of imminent danger almost felt like it created an audible deep thud across the entire battlefield. Lines already drew up with Yuki, Yumi and Seiji isolated from the others. Surrounded by soldiers, with no intention of being merciful, forced them to face their immediate problem. No aid would be coming.

    While the others stood on edge with unease about their situation, Chiharu glanced around lazily noting all of the soldiers. ‘All of these soldiers are just normal humans. The special ones divided up the weaklings. A standard divide and conquer tactic, but the enemy doesn’t understand the capabilities of those that they’ve surrounded.’ She had seen enough of Saki’s strength to know that the soldiers stood no chance. A sense of annoyance for being seen as weak enough to be deal by a few soldiers went buried by her, not wishing to admit to it. “This is boring,” Chiharu lightly commented, “There’s not anyone strong enough to hold my interest.” She stepped away from the circle before vanishing from sight.

    Saki and Fumiko turned around only just realizing what she said. They were too late. Once five a moment before, they became four. Abandoned, Saki clinched her fist in frustration. “This isn’t about fighting strong opponents!” Slight moment from one soldier hit her hair trigger she carried at the moment. In an instant, the man laid on the ground and Saki back at her spot. She laid into all of them with a fierce stare making them hesitate.

    Chapter 114 – Awaking Mind

    Arching through the air with dust trailing from the ends of her cloths, Yumi sped away uncontrollably. Her mind did not notice when she reached the edge of the field generated by the woman and the weapons that attacked her disappeared. Even without the force, she still careened away from everyone. The cold blistering wind beat against her skin chilling her. ‘…so cold…’ Her eyes refused to open. ‘What’s happening to me?’ Yumi fought to move, but found herself weighed down. ‘Why do I feel so numb?’

    Sailing through the air had to come to an end, gravity saw to that fact. Cast like a forgotten doll, Yumi slammed into the grass sparking a green flash briefly before bouncing back into the air. Left behind from the impact, dirt and grass broke into the air from the force. A second bounce soon came with a smaller cloud of debris along with two flashes of green. Her body still had speed to it and the ground gave her rotation. Flipping carelessly across the earth, Yumi left sparks and dirt clouds in her wake. Finally, her body slide along the ground losing enough momentum making it impossible to return to the air. Scrapping along the grass threw up green sparks all around her carving out a lengthy path of destruction.

    Still having to run under her own strength, Photine could not help her own surprise at the scene. Had she had not watched everything with her eyes she never would have believed it. ‘I figured I caught her by surprise, but I shouldn’t have knocked her back with that much force. Even the most skilled Meso Prosecho couldn’t have survived such a fall!’ While reeling through her disbelief, part of her mind worked through all of the details. She knew that a normal human would have died, yet what she saw told her that Yumi remained very much alive. A worrisome fact, that Photine struggled to explain.

    Replaying through the fall, Photine noted something strange. She remembered the flashes of green light that appeared every time Yumi collided with the ground. ‘The barrier she created was colored green as well. It looks similar…’ When her weapons attacked her after shattering the barrier something blocked them from getting through. ‘…I saw a green light then as well… Was that an automatic defensive law in her field? Could that be the light I saw?’ The distance between them closed quickly, Yumi’s body starting to return to clarity in her sight. ‘Is that how she survived? Using the barrier to dampen the blow?’

    Wind carved stone pillars and dried cracked earth swallowed up the grass around Yumi. Thick streams of dust blew through filling the air with a tan haze. No movement came from Yumi the longer that Photine closed. She continued to play cautious as the strength of the child remained unknown to them. Rushing in for the kill could have triggered a trap. The fight had to be smart. ‘Is she unable to move perhaps?’ Still air and silence left her questioning what she saw and wondering if the first strike succeed more than she hoped.

    Her numb feeling from before felt as though it had managed to increase twofold, something that she still struggled to figure out. Only her mind seemed to be functioning at a normal speed. Her sight blurred and slowed failing to give her any clue to her surroundings or condition. Movement from her body lost all connection. ‘Is this another dream?’ questioned Yumi.

    If she dreamed, she knew that something more would be happening. Nothing seemed to be occurring to her. All was still. ‘What’s wrong with me? What happened?’ Yumi rolled through her mind remembering the desperation that she felt only a minute before. The tugging she felt before no longer weighed on her. She sought out what happened in the last instance before she felt numb. ‘It happened so fast… Something…someone?’ A vague imagine of a woman crossed her vision briefly.

    ‘A woman? She…attacked me…attacked?’ Pieces began to fall into place for Yumi. She recalled the force of something breaking through and the shattering. Weapons came from her with such force that she thought she should have died or maybe she had. ‘Am I dying? I can’t felt anything because I’m on the verge of death?’ Fearful confusions built up for Yumi as she wanted to know why she felt so numb.

    That fear caused her to her to stir and ignite life back into her body. It took her a few seconds to understand that she needed to fear no more. Her eyes finally opened once more giving her a gaze at the blue sky. Yumi laid on her back in the dried dirt. Her clothes appeared dirty, but unharmed as did her body. Pulling herself up quickly in surprise, Yumi examined her body not certain why she had no injuries from what happened. A glance away from her took in deeply how far away her friends stood. The distance she covered and her condition quickly became clear to her. ‘I was thrown more than fifty meters?! How is this possible?’ Still confused, Yumi slowly started to stand up, not realizing the danger that closed upon her.

    Through the haze Photine took sight of Yumi recovering. Her eyes widened a bit finally getting a look at Yumi. ‘Unharmed?! Can her defenses be that perfectly time to have protected her? I must be careful…’ Cautious as she was in her approach, knowing that Yumi still breathed and appeared uninjured by her attack made her prepare her next strike.

    Out of the air of the brisk wind dirt spun around into increasingly tighter spirals. More dirt pulled in making it denser until it seemed to become solid. Forming a short cylinder shape first, the wind grew in form building out until the shape became clear. A wide bladed sword, a meter in length, solidified from the dirt. Cast away particles fell from the sword revealing well polished steel and an edge that nearly hummed. Accompanying the sword, another sword materialized quickly, but took on a different shape than the last. This weapon had a visible serrated edge and thin. Its length came up only to two-thirds of the other. Both hovered in the air gleaming with eagerness. ‘Let’s test that barrier…’

    Yumi still tried to get her footing and balance back that she did not notice the weapons prepared for her. The weapons launched through the air with tremendous speed. A slight jab in her side like someone trying to her attention knocked into her. It pulled her eyes away and towards the two swords. Having to take the time to process what she saw delayed her reactions down. Fear snapped into place forcing her eyes closed. In a reactionary move, her hands came out in front of her crossing over as a futile effort to protect her body.

    A loud pounding clang reverberated around her to crushing effect. Yumi felt the weapons pierce her for a moment in tune with the impact. She staggered back reflexively responding. However, as the seconds slipped on she realized that she remained unharmed. Cautiously opening her eyes she saw the weapons rattling against a pale green wall standing between them. ‘What’s going on? Why’d they stop?’

    ‘Fast reaction, but something feels off…’ thought Photine. Watching Yumi made her question some of the things she took for granted from another MP user. ‘If it’s as strong as before it’ll take more than that to break. Need to find the right amount of force…’ A flick of her eyes summoned four more weapons ranging from rapiers to pikes.

    Rattling on her barrier, the two swords began to sound like chainsaws pressed against a brick wall trying to cut through. Rising to a discordant symphony, Yumi thought that the noise could not become any worse. Photine’s four newly created weapons joined the assault. Sound turned to utter chaos made amplified by the dome. Yumi felt the sound waves creaking through her bones making her knees shake. ‘Make it stop! I can’t take it any longer!’

    ‘Then do something about it!’ shouted a voice within Yumi’s mind.

    She turned around in her mind trying to face the direction of the voice. However, no where that she looked could the person be found. The space remained empty. ‘Am I hearing things?’ Gripping pressure slammed into Yumi’s chest suddenly making her weaken further. She knew that she could resist no more.

    ‘Stop closing your eyes!’

    ‘Who are you?’

    ‘Face your reality!’

    ‘My reality?’

    Taken in by distraction, the barrier holding back the weapons weakened. The blades of the weapons broke through so fast that the sound of the wall cracking did not make it to her in time. Slowed down only be passing through the crumbling the green field, the weapons disappeared in a streaking flash through Yumi too fast for her eyes to follow.

    Yumi staggered back not completely sure what happened. She thought everything had passed and nothing wrong happened, but a feeling inside her told her otherwise. Looking down at her body she caught the delayed release of thin trails of blood arcing through the air in the wake of the weapons. Small shallow wounds opened up on both of her shoulders, outer sides of both upper thighs and sides of her waist. Yumi bit through the sudden pain she felt, though not deep the feeling of being injured was not familiar to her. ‘It hurts…so much…’

    “Damn…” cursed Phontine, monitoring her success from a distance. “I made it through, but a secondary defense split up my weapons at the last moment. Only managed a glancing blow.” She had only seen it for a second, but a flash of green light alerted her in the middle of her strike. ‘I haven’t seen her other techniques used yet… Is she holding them in reserve for a more desperate situation?’

    Wanting time to nurse her wounds, Yumi stepped away from the woman. Fear built up thick inside Yumi finally realizing wholly that she found herself in a real battle against someone and she was alone in her struggle. ‘…I’m all alone…’ None of her friend could help her, trapped in their own battles too far away from her.

    Those seconds of peace granted to her ended on a punctuated moment feeling something ominous behind her. Something told her to fall. Acting upon the urge, an instant later a spear whizzed over her shoulder. Yumi caught herself on one knee stared wide eyed in shock at the spear embedded in the ground, the wooden shaft shaking a little from the left over force being bled off. ‘…if I hadn’t…’

    ‘I had her blind spot and I still missed!? What powers does she have?’ Shaking off the uncertainty, Photine straightened up and concentrated back on Yumi. She knew giving Yumi a moment reprieve was too long. New weapons appeared in the air ready for the next strike. ‘I’ll have to attack from multiple sides to get a shot in…’

    Yumi caught the spear disperse into the haze. It suddenly vanishing made her startle. ‘…this woman…’ She fought to keep her shaking under control as she strained to see through the thick wind at the Atlantean. ‘She’s like Yuki… Not a normal human… But I’m just a regular high school girl… What can I do!?’

    ‘Damn it! Stop thinking that way!’ yelled the voice in her head, nearly feeling as though her brain rattled in her skull from the volume.

    ‘Who are you?’

    ‘Focus on yourself! Fight to live!’

    ‘But I can’t…’

    ‘Stop it! You’re going to get your ass handed to you thinking like that!’

    The harsh voice made Yumi shrink in its invisible presence. She did not dare to think her own thoughts to herself for fear that the voice would snap at her. Invaded by a voice from within consumed her. So little made sense to her already and the voice only complicated matters. Yumi feared that she was going insane.

    ‘Pay attention! She’s coming for you again!’


    ‘Fight back this time! Prove your worth to him that you’re so desperate for!’

    The voice’s words triggered a revival in Yumi’s heart. Clarity came to her mind. “…I have to do this for Yuki…” Yumi turned her head up and straightened up her back. Blood that slowly trickled down her cloths sat ignored with the dull pain that accompanied it. “…I…have to…fight…”

    ‘Damn, right! Use your powers!’

    “Powers? I have…powers…abilities…” Her words turned into a chant that strengthened her body and mind. Yumi took a slow sluggish step forward into the tan haze. Another step rang out in the ground. Then another as well, each became stronger and more resolute. Her eyes narrowed slightly feeling the boldness of determination that swelled in her heart.

    ‘Yes! Fight!’

    Thick soup like wind rolled in nearly obscuring the woman from Yumi’s view. Grayed silhouettes multiplied in the space around them. The count seemed to grow beyond the numbers used previously. A fierce attack leaned on the edge as streaks of shadows flew about. Photine’s weapons lined up all around the unaware Yumi.

    ‘Trust yourself!’

    “Yes!” responded Yumi, as a battle cry to herself in preparation. The tension of the imminent moment tried to taunt her again, but she held fast. As though realizing its futility, the weapons released from their hold. Loud clanging and massive impacts shuck through the dust cloud. Allowed to thin, more than twenty weapons, appearing as though randomly ripped from a weapon smith’s shelves, surrounded all sides of Yumi. So closely knit, in the low visibility Yumi appeared to be pierced by all of the weapons in a horrific sight.

    Yumi’s soft brown eyes still held a strong defiant look. Viewing clearly, a patched work of three barriers layered upon each other protected her. Blades sat held in place pierced through the layers within centimeters of her body. “Yuki will see my strength!” The barriers disappeared suddenly and the weapons rapidly shrank crushed under massive forces. All the finely made instruments turned to small balls of metal in mere moments. “This ends now!”

    To be continued...
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  26. #116
    The Quiet One Shift Andromeda's Avatar
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    Re: Shift

    “This ends now!” shouted Yumi, through the dusty wind. Her opponent barely remained visible to her eyes, but it gave her enough of a target. All of the crushed weapons from Photine rotated around Yumi increasing in speed until blurring into a ring. Yumi directed her hand out away from her pointing at the woman sending each metal ball back at its owner as it came around Yumi. Each fired off in succession like an automatic rifle. The custom-made bullets blasted through the wind punching holes from the speed and clearing out pockets of air.

    Photine widened her eyes in shock at seeing her weapons completely halted and then turned upon her. She instinctively dodged out of the line of fire. In addition, she summoned up more weapons hanging vertically in the air in front to act as a shield for her. The defensive thinking ended up saving her as one of the projectiles failed to be evaded by her and slammed into her wide bladed bastard sword. Relief did not come to her though as the sword was instantly severed in two by the force and the metal chunk continued through. It had bought her the save she need with the angle deflected to a shallow near miss over the edge of her shoulder.

    Given no pause by Yumi, Photine noticed the remaining pieces that she avoided still locked onto her and turning around. ‘Damn… Caught me off guard…’ Frustrated and embarrassed that her own weapons turned against, she dropped all of them from her mind.

    Her tools taken away from her, Yumi dropped her hand back down. It took her a bit by surprise, but she forgot the sort of person that she was confronted with. ‘Right, she’s like Yuki. Everything in their space they control. Somehow, I doubt I’m going to get another chance like that…’ Yumi stared across at Photine trying to figure out her next move. She had powers, but no idea what she could do with any of them. Instinct guided her hand before, but she felt like she stood in control. It relied on her now. “I won’t give up!”

    Chapter 115 – A Fighting Mind

    Reassessing her situation, Photine felt the change in the winds of battle. The mood altered so quickly on her that it threatened to leave her behind. ‘She so different now. She’s acting serious now… I can tell… Was she not seeing me as a threat before?’ She stiffened her pose taking a rigid stance trying to fortify her mind. A new approach had to be taken with the changing scene.

    New weapons materialized in the air as the wind became thicker, nearly impossible for anyone with normal eyesight to see through. As a benefit of it being her field, she had complete clarity through the dust-filled air. She manipulated the density to hid her blades and disorient her opponent. Disguised within the veil, a massive sword hovered effortlessly despite the weight it should have had. Accompanying the great sword, three small daggers, dwarfed by mere size, floated about at the hilt.

    Still walking forward, Yumi remained unaware of the new attack mounted against her. Her determined face looked ready to take anything on with fearless resolve. Putting that to the test, the daggers flew at her taking a direct line for her. Each attacked from a different side forcing her barrier to take them, with obvious ease. However, a trap laid in wait for her as she carelessly moved forward uninterested in the daggers.

    Coming from the left of Yumi, a terrible ripping roared out as if something stubbornly resisted being torn apart. Joining the sound to mix was a deep groan of a rigid surface scraping and grinding. The depth of the groan made it clear that it had great weight behind it. Ominous noise turned to rumbling in the earth vibrating through to Yumi’s feet. She needed no hint of intuition to know that she had to move. Unfortunately, her escape came too late. All the foreplay ended and fell through the dust, blasting out a wide wake in its path, one of the wind carved rock columns broke through the thick haze. ‘It’s too big! I’m too late!’ Reflex spared her for the moment, her barrier split down a vertical seam and opened up growing denser and more opaque the moment the massive rock slammed into Yumi.

    Weight alone crushed Yumi into the ground. Her hand stretched out strained to give support to her barrier, while she laid prone on her side. ‘…so heavy…it’s crushing me!’ She did not know how long her body could withstand the pressure that ran through her. The hand that futility struggle to give support to her barrier already felt numb from the stress. Her shoulder mashed into the hard earth not giving her any room as the column of rock groaned over her. Each second the struggling continued Yumi felt like her bones pulverized and shot out tiny needles out of her arm. The weight was too much. She collapsed completely rammed into the earth tossing up a small cloud and bits from her impact. ‘…can’t take much more…’

    The edges of the barrier cut into the ground bracing for support lost by Yumi. Cracks began to appear along the surface growing louder and longer by the moment. However, above was not the only problem. An alert from outside turned Yumi’s head and eyes up away from her trouble to the incoming weapon, the large sword, seeking to strike where her barrier no longer reached. ‘It’s too much!’ Her eyes widened and pupils shrank in realization at the opening that she left herself. She had not the strength to change the barrier with the weight that she supported. ‘If only I…’

    It gave her no chance to finish her thought. Photine’s sword flew straight for her head hovering only centimeters above the ground. Dust from the cracked earth parted and failed to cling to the guard building thin streams in its wake. In the shadow of the pressing stone column, everything disappeared in a thunderous blast of dirt and earth blanketing the area where Yumi was trapped.

    Slowly billowing out from the impact, Photine’s vision only penetrated the thick wind she created. Her field’s environment covered the area masking the certainty of her kill. She weighed her options. ‘If I remove it now I may be releasing her, yet leaving her hidden could be giving her the time she needs for a counterattack. I must remain cautious…’ If Yumi remained alive the fight continued, which presented less risk than an unknown counter. Photine waved her hand wiping away the cover.

    Through the unimpeded haze, she found Yumi flattened to the earth with her barrier severely bent. Accompanying Yumi laid the sword partially hidden by Yumi’s body, not clear to the damage. The traitor was very much alive still. More to her surprise, though Photine to keep it from becoming visible on her face, she saw how Yumi survived. A smaller square of the barrier sat at a steep angle off Yumi’s shoulder with the blade of the sword resting against it. ‘She deflected it enough by creating an angle with her shield!’ Photine’s hand shook slightly in boiling frustration. ‘Her defense is strong and flexible…’

    Yumi coughed shallowly against the pain from the metal that her skin hugged. ‘So much…pain…’ Her eyes darted to the sword giving it a push with her thoughts, finally freed from the strain. A moment later, the unwieldy sword gasped a quick groan of stress before completely compressing into a four-centimeter sphere of dense iron. Before anything more could happen to it, the sword disappeared. Another cough exhaled from Yumi as though to respond to the removal of her weapon.

    The stone column returned in towering declaration. “I won’t let you use that technique against me again! So don’t even try!” Photine took a couple steps forward summoning more swords up with a new attack prepared.

    A frail hand forced her body away from the dirt and towards the direction of the voice. ‘It’s so thick… I can’t figure out where she’s hiding…’ Yumi turned over sitting down, her chest heaving from all of the new sensations. ‘…how am I supposed to…’

    ‘You can’t rest!’

    ‘Huh?’ Yumi instinctively looked up as though the voice in her mind stood in front of her. One moment lasted for a minute it felt like for Yumi. She saw the array of weapons streaming at her. Cutting through the clouds, the swords gave her no time to react. Reflex brought up one barrier close to her, but came too late for her. Yumi gagged on the blood that pooled in her mouth as shock filled her shrinking eyes. Blades ran her through from all sides. Shown to her, the barrier revealed to her lacked the strength to take the assault. Cracks echoed through the semi-opaque screen as Yumi’s eyes unfocused.

    ‘Pay attention!’ shouted the voice.

    ‘What?!’ Yumi snapped awake forced to process everything in seconds as she came to the realization of what happened to her. ‘Another dream? Like before?! That means—!’ She cut off her own thought. Strength returned to her legs charged by her dire feelings. Time ran out for her she knew. The whistling of the blades sailing through the air tickled her ears and urged her forward. Yumi stumbled in her run, balance still uneasy from the wound along her right arm left by the sword. She forced a barrier up around her feeling the weapons in coming. The barrier snapped around her in where the blades penetrated, but they disappeared before staying. Yumi paused.

    As an ice pick rammed with purpose into a slab of ice, more weapons appeared in turn besieging her barrier on all sides. She froze. The strength she had just a moment before drained away. ‘I’m not fighter!’ Yumi knelt down. Barriers cycled subconsciously rotating in two layers to keep her safe. ‘…I can’t do this…’ Her right arm felt numb and her fingers did not budge for her. ‘…I’m not like Yuki and the others…’

    The dreadful crackling of her barrier ran a ripple of chills through her body each time they sounded off. Her whole body nearly crystallized from the pressure left on her cold interior. She felt as though a thousand deaths had poured through each equally terrifying as the last. Yumi needed to crawl away from it all.

    ‘Stop whining because things are difficult!’

    Once more, the voice distracted her from the world before her. ‘I shouldn’t be here!’

    ‘Damn it! Shouldn’t or should ain’t the thing you should be thinking about!’ The voice seemed to carry a weight to it that forced itself upon Yumi applying pressure.

    Yumi shook her head. It was all just a dream. No voice shouted in her head.

    ‘The only way out is forward! Behind is destroyed to hell! There’s nothing!’

    Nothing spoke.

    ‘You can’t ignore the situation like me!’

    Loud snapping rolled around Yumi from her barrier shattering. The world returned to her eyes painfully abrupt. Her transition felt like she took whiplash jerking around. ‘Is this it?’ Yumi stared slowly on in awkward wonderment as the shards of her protection rained down around her.

    ‘If you have enough time to stare, you have enough time to act! Borrow from me for your strength!’

    ‘Who are you?!’

    ‘One that walks at your side…’

    ‘…walks beside me?’ No further thoughts were allowed. Warmth bloomed inside Yumi, a familiar feeling that she knew she experienced before. Out of her grew a three-layered barrier that halted the swords that struck for their final blow. Yumi stood up. The weight that shackled to her legs disappeared. ‘So strange…yet so normal…’ Heightened senses from Yumi detected the next wave that arrived upon realizing the last’s failure. The soft brown eyes of Yumi flashed with a glow before everything around her felt tremendous gravity crushing it. Further attempts met the same fate even faster.

    Photine’s features narrowed watching all of her attacks failing. ‘Her crumbling defenses are back to full strength. And there’s that resolve in her eyes…again… What’s happening?’ Her teeth ground together as she dug deeper. ‘I won’t lose!’ A massive array of all imaginable weapons appeared, possible or not. More than fifty individual armaments clustered overhead in an arch. The swarm hovered around like an army of angry hornets. Her face began to sweat feeling the strain on her mental resources. The fight dragged on far too long for her.

    Searching out through the dirt soup, Yumi walked around for Photine. Her senses tapped into the potentials that existed plucking at each thread feeling out the vibrations. The unnatural grasp that she suddenly had on her powers almost flew past her. She knew the knowing feeling of acting with great understanding than she possessed. It happened before. Somehow, she knew as much. ‘My mind was foggy then…trapped away…but now I’m looking with my eyes and not through them…’ She had to survive. She had to get back to Yuki. ‘All I have is my resolve… I’m not strong or smart… But for someone like me that is enough! I want to change myself!’ A small hint of Yuki’s presence rested on her shoulder giving her encouraging words as he had done before for her.

    Yumi broke out into a sprint letting her mind guide her feet. The pain in her arm no longer mattered to her. She threw out her hands placing out barriers to block the incoming attacks. The desperation of her opponent was palatable as far as she was away. All the storm of weapons did only confirmed that fact. Sections of the barrier disappeared and rotated around quickly responding to her needs. Overlapping layers from the barrier turned razor sharp cutting through embedded weapons and cast aside. Yumi continued her charge undeterred from her goal. ‘I’ll change myself for you!’

    The barrage continued thickening the air with metal from all angles. Particles and chunks of the barrier flew away on the wind replaced just as quickly. Her protection found itself on a quickly downward path of attrition. She needed a new plan other than running. A glance to the ground as she stopped made her mind discover a new idea. Yumi slammed her hands against the ground producing a five layered dome wall around her larger than she had been using. The exertion finally set in to the energy consumption she had been using, however she shook her head and focused on the earth. ‘This will work!’ she silently thought for encouragement.

    Another two barriers erupted from Yumi even while her defense took hastening damage, two layers nearly destroyed. Time ran out for hesitation. The recent two domes did not come close to the outer wall, but further inside spaced apart from themselves with nearly half a meter of room. Yumi closed her eyes concentrating of the two domes. Vibrations and shifting emitted from barriers, but nothing more.

    Yumi sighed in relief and allowed herself a small smile. ‘It worked!’ The two barriers disappeared as she stood up from the ground moving her arms away from her sides straight out. Her feet lifted from the dried earth hovering centimeters.

    The last barrier defending Yumi shattered letting in the weapons. Yumi looked up at the points of the blades screaming at her. A massive explosion and cloud smoke blasted from Yumi masking her from sight, even for Photine.

    ‘Why can’t I see the girl?’ questioned Photine, sifting through the layers of her dust cloud. She pulled out the pieces from her thoughts letting them disappear. The deeper she went the same view remained. A darkness over the spot where Yumi should be. The last layers peeled away and Photine understood.

    Broken chunks of earth floated around Yumi with the assorted weapons from Photine pierced through. Below a perfectly cut hemisphere in the ground stood as the answer. When the Atlantean attempted to remove the earth she realized what happened. ‘The girl dug up the ground as a defense! Since it’s real and not created by my field I have no power over it. Damn it! I’ll just have to use my weapons then…’ Her eyes focused directly on the area around Yumi calling to her blades, yet they only vibrated in groans unmoved. She moved her hands in front making use of them to increase the strength, but nothing still. ‘I can’t move chunks of rock with my weapons! She’s holding them…’

    Yumi’s eye narrowed upon her target through the gap of earth. ‘I can see her now!’ Specks of dirt and stone fell from the floating masses of earth as life returned to them. The opening volley began. Sent hurdling like fastball from a pitcher, the chunk sped towards Photine. All of the weapons disappeared from around Yumi just before the target had impact. Earth exploded upon the woman showering a curtain of dirt around her body. The aftermath made Yumi’s features sharpen.

    A shining heavy sword hovered centimeters in front of Photine’s body. The force of the mass split on the blade leaving the woman only slightly dirty from the encounter. However, the counterattack did not end with a single lob from Yumi. Three more streamed through the air for Photine only to end in a similar manner. Undeterred, the attack continued filling the once metal dense air with earth. Ammunition for Yumi’s attack quickly disappeared. ‘I just have to keep up my defense and she’ll be out of chunks to throw at me soon. Then I’ll end this finally…’

    Hovering over the ground Yumi closed her distance. She relinquished the last of her supply. In the wake of the final shots, Yumi motioned with her hands as if she was trying to cut the very air. Brought forth from her hand, green light gathered quickly already in action. Once they put a meter between Yumi, the shape completed itself. An elongated arch of energy shaped to an edge along its length. Four of the green crescents formed roaring at twice the speed the earth flew at nearly over taking the swarm.

    Photine cut through the final piece already preparing for her own counterattack with the last chunks. However, her eyes grew in shock to see the earth explode in front of her without hitting her weapons. A green light surrounded her before she knew what was happening. Instinct saved her from the first attack. The green arch split on the sharp edge and dug into the ground at her sides exploding. The second strike proved to be better. Her sword cleaved in two, cast aside. All of the remaining weapons surrounded her, but all met the same fate.

    Metal shattered around her blasted behind her. A few shards dug through her skin before fading. The three arcs slammed into her body knocking the wind from her and forcing up a mixture of blood and saliva. Photine’s eyes grayed out with her consciousness fading. She did not feel her body hitting the ground or she her field disappear. No thought entered her mind. Only shock remained on her face.

    Yumi lowered to the ground collapsing to a sweating, heaving pant. “It’s over…”

    To be continued…
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  27. #117
    The Quiet One Shift Andromeda's Avatar
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    Re: Shift

    Far from clear sight of Yumi’s battle, a strange forest of oddly cut trunks stood erect from the surface. Spread out across the ground was a vast junkyard that no one would wish to stand in. The air held an awkward, thick and stale odor that did not manage to have a single identifiable smell, but simply a horrid reek left as enough to distract and no more.

    All of the countless wood columns rose out of easy reach. Therefore, Seiji had to stay on the ground. The bump on his face from the crash he made early still annoyed him, left as a very pronounced angry vein. His opponent was making a fool of him. The scrawny creep never left his annoying perch. Seiji wove around the logs keeping his eyes up at his target, anger raging through his eyes and voice. “Get down here and fight like—“ Yet another low angled trunk blasted out from the ground at him slamming into his shoulder. It would have pinned him to the adjacent wood pillar had he not staggered back.

    Frustration forced his fist to ram into the wood still growing out. “Damn you!” Seiji pounded against the wood a second time bothered that he had yet to even get close to the man after all of the time. “You can’t stop me!” He jumped up on the wood that had just tried to take him out and started sprinting up it as though a ramp to the next flight. More columns quickly rose up around him looking at him for targets. Seiji bound out to the closest one latching tightly onto the flat top. He legs wrapped around the width for support.

    Once it came to a stop Seiji scrambled up to the top less than skillfully, nearly falling twice. He managed to fit both of his feet on the small surface and stand tall finally staring down with the Atlantean ten meters away from him. “No more games!” declared Seiji with an eager look returning to his face, “It’s time for a straight fight!”

    Chapter 116 – A Tall Tree in the Forest

    Across the leafless canopy, Miltiades crouched on a conveniently level trunk with perfect unwavering balance. All the strong wind could do to him was play with his shortly trimmed red-orange hair. The wind seemed to have no other influence on him. The white lightweight jacket he wore pushed up to the elbows covering his simple blue shirt seemed to exist outside of the space not budging as if great weights pulled on it. Yet it was far lighter than contemporary materials.

    Miltiades judged the teen in front of him and keeping the warnings in mind. ‘I’ve got to keep him from closing with me. Well this is why I was chosen…’ He removed the column that Seiji stood on dropping down, but a little impressed by his stubbornness.

    Seiji sweated a little clinging to the neighboring pillar. “What the hell did you do with my tree?! This is supposed to be a fair fight, not one with cheap tricks!” He had no more time to complain though as that tree disappeared on him too. Since he had not been paying attention while talking, he had not chance to move. Dropping the couple of meters, he landed on the angled log he had previously used as a ramp.

    Not thinking, but just acting on wanting to get close, Seiji ran along it leaping out for the next column. Closer he was, but he had no further hope. The wood was already disappearing. Seiji knew enough to keep going and already put himself in motion before it happened. He jumped and flailed around the middle of the trees trying to close their distance. However, every time it seemed that he was making progress he had to turn.

    “I’m closing in on you!” Seiji shouted with a hopeful tone seeing his current progress. However, as he was about to make the next hand hold the entire area of pillars disappeared. He had nothing to grab and was not even allow a reflective moment on his fate. Seiji crashed the five meters to the ground kicking up an aged cloud of debris and dirt from his impact.

    The twenty-five year old Atlantean leaned over watching to know the outcome of his foe. He did not know the powers that the kid possessed and thus waited. ‘How injured is he from that fall? As someone with a normal human body, unless he had some defensive fields it should hurt him a lot.’ Miltiades hung over the pillar intently waiting for the smoke to clear. He preferred not to control too many elements as his heavy field manipulation already took such concentration to maintain. It meant waiting out the boring moments of anticipation without know an answer. ‘Is he gravely injured? I’d expect him to make a counterattack…’

    A pity-giving wind blew through the ground casting out the cloud. Beneath the cover, Seiji stood a little worse for wear, but otherwise unfazed by the fall. Oddly enough, the ground actually looked more damaged than he did. The only thing that looked different on Seiji was that he was angrier than before (which is relative at this point already). “Enough with the stupid tricks!” Seiji yelled thrusting his fist into the air towards the young man above him. “Fight me like a real man!”

    Japanese went beyond Miltiades, as he was not using a translation law in his field, but the intent came across clearly to him. The remark left less of impact on him. Rather, it was the fact that Seiji came out nearly completely unharmed by the fall that had him concerned. ‘The Captain said to be careful of this one, but he never said anything about the powers he possessed. Though the reports sounded like he never released his field… Is this what his field is truly capable of?’ Questions kept surfacing for him and he knew that the only way to answers would be to continue the fight. The Captain watched his fight, he knew, and everything would have meaning to his plan.

    “You stay right there!” Seiji burst up jumping with his legs before springing off two adjoining trunks. The motion gave him the direction he needed to sprint up the sheer surface of the wood straight towards his target. “Don’t you move!”

    The act took the soldier a little by surprised. While he was not expecting it all he had to do was slide down a little out of the way, hanging by one hand, as Seiji blew past him into the air. Miltiades was not sure if the foreigner was running off guts or powers, but it seemed a little too incredible for him. ‘What is he? Is that even possible?’ His questions had to wait as Seiji finally lost his upward thrust and came down.

    Somehow, he managed not to waste the effort and turn a blunder into his advantage. Seiji had his fist aim down to where Miltiades hung. The fire in Seiji’s eyes looked fierce enough to burn the entire faux forest on glare alone. Yet he would have to wait. In the last moments, the man leapt effortlessly away to the next trunk that perfectly accepted him. Seiji’s fist rammed into the flat of the column splintering it a little and leaving an embedded dent. “Damn you! Scrawny little bastard!”

    A slight widening of Miltiades’ eyes leaked his surprise. ‘Such strength… I understand why the Captain said to keep away! A punch like that would be enough to kill me!’ Miltiades leapt back another couple of pillars to keep the original distance. He knew that he could not let that ever happen again.

    The battle took a new turn with the new discovery. Seiji resumed his futile chase for Miltiades while never making enough of a difference in their distance. All it managed to do was make him even angrier than before. He kept trying the same thing of leaping around in the hopes of reaching the Atlantean. Each time the columns disappeared on him. It forced him to go around or to make quick leaps away.

    In the last bout of jumping, several wood pillars disappeared all around Seiji. ‘This is the closest I’ve managed to get to him in a while! I’m not letting a simple jump get in my way!’ He put all of his strength in his legs to send him over the gap with his fists out ready to pummel.

    Hardly surprised anymore, Miltiades lower the trunk he rested on allowing Seiji to fly over him and miss his target. ‘He’s getting more persistent and adapting to the situation… I have to slow him down…’ Miltiades rotated around slowly looking for the frustrated teen, but did not find him where he planned. He caught his screaming voice almost above him coming back from the opposite, rebounded off another trunk.

    “What?!” Miltiades exclaimed as his first words spoken since the fight started.

    Seiji smirked pleased to see the shocked expression on the man’s face. “I’ve got you this time!” His fist was mere centimeters from reaching his target, the face. He was going to make it this time. He knew it. If his swing connected, all of his rage would flow away. Then the moment passed. Seiji carried on completely missing. “Huh?” He came to rest on the trunk staring back. His moment of surprise came then when he saw Miltiades. “What are you?! A monkey?”

    Miltiades crossed his arms looking up at Seiji with a narrowed face. ‘I can’t believe he forced me to use it. I guess I’ll have to be serious about winning this fight…’

    “Stop staring at me, ya monkey!”

    ‘Hmm…I haven’t ever been forced to use this by anyone outside of training… I guess I should have known fighting another MP user…’

    “Are you just gonna keep standing like that? You’re creeping me out!”

    The wood column appeared to be holding Miltiades in an impossible position. While the rough and jagged edge of the truck could have been used for hand holds he did no such thing. His hand gave him all of the support he needed stuck to the side of the wood. The dark leather gloves, that completely covered his hands up to the wrist, gripped the surface stronger than any hold possibly could. As though providing further support, the white strips attached at the end gloves wrapped firmly around his arm up to the elbow. On his feet, his sandal like shoes attached to the wood with equal ferocity. Banded around his feet and to his ankle the straps transitioned smoothly into the same white cloth as his arms fastening up to his knees.

    His position on the column made it look like he was standing almost perpendicular with the column denying gravity with almost a taunting arrogance. He looked affixed with only a little lean to his body as though he was only slightly off his balance. Even worse for Seiji, his head tilted up at an awkward angle staring like being upside down and not even looking challenged.

    “I’ve had enough of that stare!” Seiji crouched down on his perch building up his strength to put him back into the fight. He was not going to let him make a fool of him any longer. When he noticed the wood disappearing on him he made his leap straight for the man still hanging without a worry. His fist crunched into the bark tossing shards of wood into the air, his target missed again.

    Dodging to the next column, Miltiades landed with ease standing on the side of the pillar for only a moment before jumping over to the next. He saw Seiji closing to catch up. From higher up, Seiji leapt from top to top trying keep up while Miltiades jumped a meter down from him as though he might have been skipping along the ground.

    Seiji managed to use his strength to leap ahead of Miltiades predicting his position. He took the chance to jump down at the incoming man. The timing unfortunately was slightly off as the soldier made his landing in time and back flipped down the trunk to get out of the way. However, Seiji was still falling towards him with fists ready. “I’ve got you this time!” shouted Seiji eagerly.

    As he came to a landing, he let one of his feet off the trunk and suddenly started to slide down before rotating into a run. He focused at the ground knowing the impeding mass of Seiji. ‘I have to make this count!’ Miltiades bought his time out waiting for the last second to act.

    The distance of Seiji closed rapidly as running could not out pace his falling velocity. He almost had the Atlantean in reach. Another second and he finally would finish everything. However, in the last moments Miltiades spun around the circumference of the trunk just as a new larger chunk of wood blasted up scrapping the bark as it came for Seiji.

    He had no time to react. Only the wide-eyed shock managed to be seen the instant before a crushing thud echoed through the area. The column of wood flew past Miltiades sending Seiji into the air after the trunk halted, with a piston like action. Seiji sailed unmoving through the open sky like a doll ripped free from the tight grip of a child. He disappeared down to the bottom in another puff of smoke in uncertain silence.

    In a light jog back to a lowering pedestal, Miltiades took a moment to recover and learn the fate of his opponent. He was feeling more certain of the last attack he made would combine to leave some injury. ‘Unless his defense is automatic then I should have been able to break through… It felt like I connected…’ His waiting game continued with well-measured patience. He had to remain cautious. A little slip against his foe would be disastrous.

    A shadow emerged from the concealing clouds slowly freeing themselves from its grip. “Damnit! I’ll get you eventually!” Seiji flung his arm up towards Miltiades with his index finger extended. His breathing became a little haggard, but still strong as ever. There was a few rip and frayed threads in the tunic he worn, but he otherwise had an unharmed appearance. His spirit did not seem diminished only fueled on by his continuous frustration of failing to reach his target. He had never dealt with someone so difficult to grab. None of his past fights had presented him with such a challenge. Seiji would have preferred a straight up bare-knuckle fight to the cat and mouse game. He could enjoy that even if he was losing. “Don’t think this is over!” Seiji charged back up for his target.

    Miltiades felt a little awe struck by the resilience of the teen. ‘How is he continuing to come out without any injuries? Is his power that great? But he acts so blind in his fight…’ A further conversation with himself had to be delayed. He carried on leaping casually through his forest staying ahead of Seiji while sending obstacles and trunks at Seiji. Nothing seemed to slow him down. The determination only seemed to get stronger. He knew that he needed to do something more definitive to turn the battle. There seemed to be no fatigue showing Seiji, a worrisome factor for Miltiades.

    He lured Seiji down dancing vertically along the wood never losing his perfect footwork. Many of the outer logs disappeared from movement for the building attack. ‘I’ve almost freed up enough for the attack… Just need to get him a little lower…’ Miltiades came with a meter or so of the ground dodging around the trunks gripping on to the next while Seiji bounced off striking out with his fists when he thought he came close. Each motion moved in deliberate actions to guide around as the forest shrank and lowered. The focus that Seiji bore on the Atlantean worked into his plan. A last slide around the trunk as though attached to the bark put him in his position. ‘Now!’

    Seiji came in feeling confident of a strike finally. The red-orange haired man had slipped up rotating too far back into his striking range. “I’ve got you now!” He launched out his fist with all of his strength planning to put an end to the fight once and for all. However, the head he was aiming for disappeared. His fist rammed into the wood blasting bark everywhere while cracking the trunk. Before he could look around for his opponent, several logs rose up at an angle for him.

    All around him, thick columns raced towards him already in motion before he had finished his punch. He could not even fall in time before they all slammed into him. Even after the first barrage finished, another round at the same angle ripped from the earth crushing and pounding into the already crowded center burying Seiji. Miltiades landed on the ground casting his gaze up. ‘Can’t leave this to chance…’ The final wave came from the ground straight up as a thick gathering of pillars piercing through the constructed canopy. Shattered wood shards flew everywhere and mixed among the splinters blood coughed up.

    Still caught in the debris cloud, blood slowly trickled down the massive tree construct. Seconds squeezed out cautiously in waiting. Yet it hung around unwilling to be split. Thinning out a little spared no preview to the fate of Seiji until a motionless bloodied arm surfaced resting on the wide platform created from the dozen trunks pressed together.

    To be continued…
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  28. #118
    The Quiet One Shift Andromeda's Avatar
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    Re: Shift

    An awkward breeze strode through the jagged forest. Settling groans from the wood were all the sounds that left. Gathered in the cluster, a mass of wood concealed an uncertain answer within their husks. Nearly everything from the surroundings disappeared in order to create the strange giant tree. The only signs gave were the trails of blood from several points streaming away from the center complex.

    Miltiades raised a hand out in the air as a log rose from the ground. His hand attached firmly to the side pulling at his body until his feet no longer held contact with the ground. A swing of his leg latched onto the pillar and brought him to a greater height. The tenacity of his opponent had forced his hand to unleash a stronger attack than he planned. ‘Did he survive after all of that?’ He knew that he could not let things end until being certain of his enemy’s defeat.

    The thought of approach to confirm Seiji’s fate played through his mind. He knew that even a reckless action during this moment could be fatal for him. Caution had to remain paramount. Miltiades tapped his feet along the surface of the trunk and leapt up to the top.

    From the top, his view did not improve any, but it was not as though he expected it to be easier. ‘He doesn’t seem to be the type to play a feint… Maybe after all this time he is actually…’ A rolling tap of his gloved fingers signaled the release of the upper canopy of logs. Protesting and complaining, the trunks pulled away and disappeared. His view gave him a clear eye on Seiji, laying on the platform of wood. Miltiades’ eyes widen in shock at the sight. ‘It can’t be!?’

    Chapter 117 – Blind Swings

    Blood painted the uneven surface of the wood that held Seiji. It coated through his course tunic and tendrils down his arms, legs and face, one would only think Seiji to be dead or mortally injured. Yet from all appearance by Miltiades he saw only torn cloth. Only numerous cuts and gashes existed from everything sent at him.

    Miltiades subconsciously leaned back a little taking it in. ‘I caught him off guard! How did he get his defenses up in time?’ A flicker of movement by Seiji sent Miltiades retreating a few more poles. He needed his room.

    “Urgh…” groaned Seiji planting his hand to his head feeling dazed. “Damn that really hurt…” He caught the heavy copper smell in the air from his arm and focused on the blood. The sight took a little by surprise for a moment. “Where’d all this blood come from?” However, the corner of his vision found Miltiades and his single-track mind found the lost path. “…right…” His pedestal shrank to the ground leaving him to stand back on his feet.

    Seiji looked up in the distance at Miltiades with a bit of a different look in his eye. He rotated his arm at the shoulder a little stretching and warming up a bit. A narrowed stare filled with intent covered him. “You know I had a thought. I’m not getting anywhere trying to chase after you. Which had me thinking how I’m going to catch you when you’re jumping around like a monkey? And then it hit me! You see I don’t need to play your game. It’s time I make you play my game!” A grin accompanied by a knowing look grew in Seiji along with a little pride in himself.

    The forest had mostly returned already with the dozens of pillars surrounding him. He stepped forward to the next trunk placing his hand on it. His hand patted the rough bark as though it were a pet. Seiji glanced back over at Miltiades through the weaving swarm. “The others don’t think I’ve figured it out, but I’ve noticed. I know my body isn’t the same anymore. The last attack by you gave me the final wakeup call I needed. My body’s tougher than normal, but more than that…” His body focused back on the column giving its full attention. Seiji coiled back his muscles with his striking arm pulled. “I’m stronger too!” He released his fist with his arm rocketing towards the trunk in front of him. Streaking through the air the percussive blast and ripping a deep gong sound shot out before it was clear his fist rammed into the wood.

    Bark flew up along with splinters. The entire column shook for a moment before settling out. As the ringing settled out, it seemed all was for show and naught. Seiji fist rested with a firm dent in the wood and nothing more. A sparkling glow flashed for a brief moment from the carved up tree. It signaled another ripping even deeper than the last. The sound bounced off the logs making it back to Miltiades, still confused. His understanding came too late.

    The pillar tilted and then leaned before collapsing to the ground. Seiji bent over resting his hand back on the felled tree. A thinned glance out of his eyes met with his opponent. “It’s time to change the rules!” He pulled out his other hand gripping both hands on either side of the base and began to lift.

    ‘Impossible! Even if he has a cutting power that tree belongs to me! The weight and density are determined by my field and laws!’ Sheer stunned awe forced Miltiades to watch what played out before him. He could not believe he was witnessing Seiji hefting the ten-meter long trunk by nothing but his strength. ‘How can he be lifting it?!’

    Seiji lifted it up to a resting position on his shoulder with a smirk that grew wider. The drying blood on his arms only added to the imposing stature of Seiji at that moment. “Let the games begin!”

    It took him a full minute for it all to finally sink in for Miltiades that he could react. However, in that time he had lost his advantage and position. The giant hammer like swing from over head came down. A moment before impact, the looming shadow from the trunk darkened out Miltiades. He fell back as he looked up seeing the mass of wood slamming down. It was all that saved him. Miltiades dropped over the column as it pounded into the top like a hammer to a nail.

    Splintering wood and showering bark came from above as Miltiades fell woke him fully. He latched on to the surface of the column getting his feet in place to slide down spiral around. The force from Seiji’s strike split the wood sending the force down through the pillar. Miltiades rode out the shockwave like burst with the trunk falling apart all around him turning into a downpour of wood chips.

    Just before reaching the ground Miltiades used the rotation and speed he built up to launch himself away. He took hold of the pillar and scrambled away. ‘How is that possible? What sort of laws is he using?!’ Miltiades panted, more from surprise than exhaustion, from his dangling perch. He stared down at Seiji trying to figure the teen out. ‘I can’t let him do that again…’

    Miltiades closed his eyes for a moment concentrating. ‘Guess it’s good that I planned ahead. Didn’t think he’d push me this far…’ The wood pillar that Seiji held disappeared first and then all of the pillars starting to grow dark losing all definition until being perfectly round. The black forest swallowed up the light around becoming almost glowing. ‘He won’t be able to catch me or do anything more now! I’ll slowly pound him down until he’s defeated. I can’t allow their chaos to go on anymore!’ Out of the formless appearance, the harsh features of the columns gave way to light. They began to shine out strongly reflecting the light of the sun.

    Seiji stood before a new obstacle, one with dreading doom. He let a flinch of annoyance slip as he stared. However, it would not let it detour him. Seiji flung his hand out pointing up at his opponent. “This won’t stop me! I’m going to get you! Keep changing things as much as you want!”

    A slight twitch from Miltades came in response to listening to the foreign words. Even with the language barrier, the determined look from Seiji came across as clear as Miltiades needed. ‘He still thinks he can win? I’ll prove to him how wrong he is…’

    The new change to the forest came as metal poles. Thick, well polished and strong as steel, the poles gave a resistant and stoic stance. Miltiades jumped down gripping on to the pole coming to a quick stop maintaining his usual unnatural hold in spite of the smooth surface. He walked around the pole the same as he would on the ground building momentum until lunging for the distant pole. Continuing his motion, he leapt to the next. All the while, he kept his eyes on the center where Seiji stood. The forest changed and moved with renewed life.

    Cracking the ground a pole shot up for Seiji. He opened his arm in time not to take the hit, but it caught his tattered cloths and ripped through. Stiff from thick drying blood, the tunic tore free from his shoulder and arm exposing the right side of his chest. The remaining material held delicately together. His exposed skin revealed the countless scars from fighting and well-toned body built from pushing his muscles to their limit.

    An excited glow came about Seiji. He felt the danger and grinned. “Maybe this won’t be so boring after all!” Seiji leapt forward taking to an angled pole as he had done in the past. However, he had to keep his sights open. His peripheral noticed the incoming attacks. Everything became much clearer in his mind. “If I just think of them like fists…” Seiji flipped forward pounding both his fists at two poles from opposite sides. “Then I can treat this like a real fight!” The metal poles bent further down the shaft not meant to be taking such force over the length. Both came to a stop.

    Slight unease filled a corner of Miltiades’ mind watching Seiji. He knew he just needed to press the attack harder. The teenager was strong, but not invincible. ‘He’s no different than me…’ He called for several poles to attack Seiji. Increasing the ferocity of the strikes began to counter Seiji’s momentum. Removing his footing knocked him off balance.

    Blunt ends of metal slammed into Seiji trying to crush his bones. Dodging the first couple only put him out of position forced to take the remaining attacks. He sailed back down to the ground crashing into the junkyard once again. As though knowing the futility of it, only a modest cloud kicked up from him. Seiji stood up on one knee leaning forward. Bruises covered his arm and chest with his legs only freed by fortune. He wiped away some of the blood that dripped from his cut cheek. “You’ve got some pretty strong punches, but nothing like Yuki! No one can compare to the punches he could throw!” Seiji pressed his feet into the ground, the rubble crunching a little under weight, standing up fully. “So you don’t stand chance!”

    ‘…such a confident look…’ Miltiades worked to keep his focus. He had to remain undaunted by Seiji. The next swing gave him pause and a moment to breathe. His fatigue mental and physical became more acute to him, but fought to keep it suppressed. ‘…I can’t let it end like this…’

    New attacks broke free from the ground. Seiji did not have a chance to dodge or counter the sudden strike. He managed to block himself with his arms, but even that knocked him back. His back slammed into the wall behind him halting his fall. ‘I don’t remember a wall…’ thought Seiji turning his head around.

    Distracted from the fight for a moment was all that Miltiades needed to follow up. More poles burst from the earth aiming too high to actually hit Seiji, however at his feet a new platform rose up pushing him into range. Seiji only realized what happened too late and could not move in time. In his trying to dodge the attack, he avoided the worst. Yet the metal rods still met a target in Seiji. They pinned Seiji right arm to wall with his support for his feet disappearing. The full weight of his body bore down on his shoulder while the flat edges worked to pulverize his bones.

    Seiji yelped a reluctant groan. All the hits he had taken before felt nothing like what he had felt in his arm. “Damn you!” he shouted through ground teeth. He pounded his free fist into the metal repeatedly trying to budge it free. Each hit only seemed to transfer into his arm stronger until finally there was a spray of blood and terrible crack. The sound alone made Seiji face go pale for a second before the pain reached him. Seiji screamed unrestrained as the crushing press rammed bone into muscle tearing his arm up from the inside.

    Suddenly Seiji became deathly quiet with a dark shadow cast over his hung face. Even as the metal pressed his arm into the wall of metal poles, no other movement came from him. His body jerked slightly with each hammering blow treated like a spent doll of no more interest to its owner.

    Miltiades judged the sight carefully. He had seen the teenager not react before after a strong offense. ‘Is he really giving up? Was I able to bring us one step closer to peace again?’ Several more metal rods came from the ground pinning the other arm and his legs to the wall. The last piece rose up hovering centimeters from his chest waiting for orders.

    ‘…did my arm really break?’ A haze hung in Seiji’s mind. He felt confused. ‘…I can’t feel it anymore… does that mean it was just a dream?’ Everything in his body felt numb. Seiji never knew such a feeling. ‘…he thinks he’s won…but I’ll…’ In all of his fights, his body never felt so cold or distant to him. He did not like the feeling, not at all. ‘…bastard… Bastard! The only one that can beat me… Only he can…’

    A flash of sparks around the metal that restrained Seiji alerted Miltiades to a new change. He leapt back keeping a safe distance to see what was coming. The metal the pressed against Seiji sparked again. Faint light glowed around Seiji before disappearing. The ends of the rods dented and bent away from Seiji releasing him from their hold. Dropped back to the debris-filled earth Seiji landed on his legs. His right arm dangled at his side coated with fresh blood.

    Seiji leaned backwards a little as though under stress from his weight. His raised left arm held firm out in front of him. “I only need one arm for you!” Charging forward blindly, Seiji struck out at the metal pole near to Miltiades with enough force to bend it. Metal sparked against metal crashing and shaking the support that Miltiades used.

    Taken a little aback by Seiji, Miltiades hovered by his spot before returning to his senses. ‘He’s not any different… He’s still just fighting as stupidly as before…fueled by rage… Time to put an end to this!’ He launched a new series of attacks at Seiji to force him back. Miltiades stopped with his swinging games. He focused on the mental strength to end their fight.

    The fight turned against Seiji again as he could not deal with all of the objects coming at him with only one arm. Valliant efforts bore inventive methods to keep in the fight for Seiji. He kept his fist in the action, but would switch up to use his legs to block or divert him away from attacks. It allowed him to stay in the fight longer, yet it was becoming clearer the futility of it. He refused to acknowledge or even notice it.

    More strikes broke through his defenses pushed back further away from his opponent. His shoulder took another blow turning crimson with blood. Another block by his legs sent him flying back unable to keep support followed by a tearing of muscle. Seiji cratered into the pile of junk kicking up a cloud around him. However, he punched his fist into the ground casting his body into the air forcing him back into the fight. ‘I won’t lose!’

    ‘I won’t lose!’ Miltiades continued to keep up his assault no longer waiting. The fight became important to him. He no longer thought about proving himself to the Captain or his squad. He was not trying to find his place among his new comrades that still did not trust him. Miltiades’ heart burned to his desire and passion. ‘I’ll protect all of Atlantis from rebels like you! I must! So that it never happens again…’

    The most recent series of blunt strikes rammed Seiji’s back horizontally into an adjacent pole. His body slid down slowly. Two more poles came up looking to force him to wrap around the pole. Seiji saw it coming but discovered his strength left him. His eyes widened in shock as he realized he no longer had anything left. He was done. “Damnit! I won’t lose!”

    In the next instant, the sound of cloth tearing and metal sparking ended it all. Miltiades came to rest upon his platform letting out a sigh. It was over. He could not feel happy about it. It was what he had to do. “I wish—“ A shifting shadow on the top of the nearby pillar alerted him away from where Seiji was.

    Rested atop the metal rod a black figure remained crouched withholding its true form. Hung from the side a bloody figure held motionless at its side. The draped figure came back to life quickly pulling up, but failing. “Let me go!”

    “I don’t know why I bothered…” remarked the shadow. A small puff of air came out as it looked like it turned away from Seiji.

    Seiji muster his strength to raise his head to stare at the one that pulled him out of his death. “Don’t interrupt my fight! I still have to—“

    “You lost. Face reality.”

    “I haven’t lost! I won’t ever lose! No one can beat me except—“

    “You lost to someone better than you. Accept it like the type of man you claim to hold yourself to.”

    Stunned shock washed over Seiji as he finally heard the words. ‘I lost? I lost?’ Seiji’s body became relaxed almost limp as it settled in.

    ‘So you lost again, huh?’ a younger Yuki said staring down at a younger Seiji left motionless in the alley. ‘You know they say you learn something from losing too…or some crap like that… What did you learn this time?’

    Seiji grinned up at Yuki no longer feeling the soreness of his muscles. ‘To punch harder!’

    ‘Figures you’d say that…’

    Seiji felt the painful breeze blowing against him suspending in the air. Across him Miltiades stood towering over him. ‘Yuki…I lost again…’

    To be continued…
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  29. #119
    The Quiet One Shift Andromeda's Avatar
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    Re: Shift

    Seiji felt the painful breeze blowing against him suspending in the air. Across from him, Miltiades stood towering over him. ‘Yuki…I lost again…’ The words tasted bitter to him, but it was less about sourness and more the fact of their familiarity to him. He hated it. It was a terrible, rotten, sour taste that buried itself first in the nose. Then just when he thought the stench was gone, it sank down into his throat. Growing in weight like a kilo of lead the putrid smell rested in his stomach. A rank, ill odor decayed in his belly churning an awful stink lingering for days until it could not be bared.

    He hated it.

    Chapter 118 – The Depth of Loss

    A cold day or a hot day, neither mattered anymore. It was both that day for him. The day was so frigid that all he wanted was to be held by something warm and tell him everything would be fine and work out. The day was so unbearably sweltering that sweat soaked into his cloths with such paralysis that even moving felt like an impossible feat.

    Seiji, age eight, stood in his bare foot with a simple shirt and shorts wrinkled heavily looking like he had just woken up from bed. Had he had partially closed eyes; he would have passed the test of being sleepy. Yet he was unable to close his eyes even a little. They were wide-awake, so wide it was painful. He stood in the doorway to his mother’s room, a room that he was accustomed to walking into in the morning to greet her as she tidy the room.

    Her room was a place only for her. He had never known his father to be there, even in the house at all. He hardly remembered the face of his father. It was only because she smiled warmly picking him up and told him that he was his father that Seiji even knew. It was his mother’s room and she was always there. Every morning he counted on seeing her there. Every morning he could see the warm smile. Every morning she would let him helped her making breakfast. Every morning grandfather spent time telling stories while she held on to him.

    Every morning he knew it was going to be warm.

    It was so cold that morning.

    Little Seiji’s eyes could not even budge from looking forward. The shell shock that had hit him minutes ago did not fade away. Her room was empty. She was not there. The smell of her perfume no longer hung around. The sheets on the bed were unmade and tossed half on the floor. Drawers in the dress hung low or cast to the corners upside down.

    Each piece in the room was hot and festering. The tears and cracks all bore emotions so strong that even Seiji, as young as he was, could feel. Viewing the whole room as a scene, it all played as a blurred fast-paced movie to his eyes. He saw it all. The heat made him sweat, nothing that tears could calm.

    Ten minutes passed before Seiji’s mind even functioned or his lips tried to utter a sound. When his foot stepped into her room rigid and weak almost making him collapse, it felt like he had ran a marathon with all of his strength. He reached out his hand still catching faded images of her going about cleaning. “…mom?” He followed her around the room trying to keep up, but always just out of reach. “Stop! Mom! Come back! …come…back… Mommy!” Seiji dropped to the floor no longer able to see her in his mind.

    As time in the room crept onward a faint scream from another room wound its way to Seiji. He snapped his head up realizing immediately the sound. “Shoji!” Seiji darted for the hall, but paused looking back at the room. “I…I…can’t…” He rushed to see what was wrong with Shoji tending to his needs, but when he finished he returned to the room. The empty room loomed before him.

    Seiji spent his morning cleaning up the room. He put all of the things back into place. He remembered watching her and helping with the small things. It had to go back. It had to be the same. The longer that he worked the more certain he became. “I can’t let him see!” It was her room. She was still here.

    He finished with the room and stood back to take it in. It felt as though a bit of the warmth had returned, but it still felt bitter and empty. Seiji could not look at it anymore. His feet made him flee back to his room. A short distance, but his lungs heaved and heart pounded in his ears. He slid down to the floor forced to catch his breath. “…mom…”

    Not until he heard the whining from Shoji again did Seiji dare to move. Once he heard his brother though, he discover new energy and stood. When he reached his little brother, still an infant at two years ago, Seiji watched confused. All Shoji did was cry at him, but he was not sure what was the matter. He had already finished what made the most sense and it seemed too soon to be that again, maybe. “What do you want? I don’t understand!” A growl came from Seiji’s stomach. “Oh…I forgot to about breakfast…”

    Lifting Shoji out of his crib, Seiji wobbled a little with the size of his little brother. Once he had him in his arms to carry, he started walking out of the room. “Let’s go see mom! I bet she making—“ Seiji came to a sudden stop and the weight of Shoji disappeared for him. Absent to his mind, his legs had resumed walking him through the hall. Eventually, he found himself in the kitchen with his little brother seated in the chair staring up at him with the expectation of food.

    Countless thoughts crowded into his mind. The dizzying torrent of questions without answers paralyzed him again. However, all it boiled down to the same thing each time. He stared back at Shoji regaining his focus. ‘I’m his big brother! I can do this!’

    Watching someone else cook did not seem that hard to Seiji to duplicate to him. If she had been able to do it, he should be able to just as well. A half hour later, a scolding from their grandfather and burns and cuts made him realize the difficulty of cooking.

    Life moved on around the shrine whether Seiji wanted it to or not. Shoji, he knew was too young to understand. Therefore, he could not blame him for not acting any different. Yet it frustrated him that he seemed to be the only one that noticed. In spite of understanding, his heart kept hoping and drawing him to her room each morning with the expectation of her being there with a smile as always, like it had all just been a terrible dream. He wanted to wake up from the nightmare that only he experienced.

    Rumors in school soon circulated around him. They isolated him repeatedly having found something to sink their teeth into, the boys. He only had three surrounding him. “Is it true that she couldn’t stand you and left in the middle of the night?” The other two snickered and laughed.

    “Hey, I bet he couldn’t stop wetting the bed! So she left such a bad child behind!” added the second boy finally finding a pause between laughter.

    The third boy slapped his hand on Seiji’s desk looking at him with a wicked expression. “She probably took one look at him and regretted she was his. Isn’t that right?”

    The boys laughed moving closer to him. Any light or salvation closed behind them. “Well Seiji? You little momma’s boy? You chased her way didn’t you?”

    “Yeah, she got sick of hearing you whining all the time for her!”

    “Even his daddy knew better than to stick around!”

    Seiji’s head tilted down with a deep impenetrable shadow over his eyes. Sweat built up along his neck and face. His hands clinched in his lap pressing together painful. He wanted to say something, anything, but his mouth would not open. All he did was take in all of the laughter and their twisted looks. It was his new routine, no longer spending time in the warmth of her light.

    He returned home that day having received another round of verbal abuse after school before they let him leave. It left a boiling set of emotions primed on the surface. He nearly reached the limit of his endurance. Seiji slowly walked the stone path to the shrine. Their grandfather stood out front removing stray weeds from the grounds.

    When his grandfather took notice of Seiji arriving he stopped his work and half turned to face him. “Shoji’s been calling for you. I think he’s hungry.”

    Any other day, Seiji would have continued to walk without a second thought in mind, but not that day. He knew well enough that Shoji never called for him, he was still too young. All he ever said was ‘mama’, a painful reminder. Seiji snapped with a fierce glare through thinly narrowed eyes, “I’m not his mother! Why don’t you go find her for him, if you can pick weeds all day!?”

    Not expected such a venomous retaliation, it took him a moment to recover. “There is no one to find,” he responded curtly and sharply with a snapping tone mixed in attempting to put an end to the discussion immediately, “He has none.”

    “Yes, he does! She’s out there right now!”

    His grandfather turned his full body to face Seiji, no longer content to give him half of his attention. The full height and stature bore out through his words. “There is no one! We are the only family! End of discussion!”

    Seiji felt shaken in the presence of his grandfather. All of the anger that he felt meant nothing before him. He had never seen him or heard him raise his voice to him. Seiji was at a loss. Any more words came out muted, barely audible. He just marched on into the shrine wanting to get out of sight as quickly as possible.

    The rest of the night followed in relative silence. Seiji had no words to say still taken back and his grandfather spoke nothing to him. Only Shoji spoke and it still came out as broken Japanese. In the morning, Seiji thought the atmosphere improved, but the moment he saw his grandfather it all came back to him. All of the emotions and words that he held back rose to the surface. Awkwardly functioning, he made breakfast and left for school. Class returned him into the familiar abuse from the other boys, which he could not act upon. However, when school ended something happened. Something changed for Seiji on that day.

    The leader, of the roughly grouped elementary school boys, shoved Seiji up against the wall of the school. Through the day, Seiji tried to ignore them as usual, it only seemed to make them more annoyed with Seiji. “Where do you think you’re goin’ Seiji? You’ve got no one to return to so quickly!”

    “Right!” the second boy piped up, “Stay and let’s have some fun!”

    “Yeah, you’ve got no one anyway!” the third chimed.

    A twitch in Seiji’s eyebrow responded to the words. Within his mind, the words echoed repeated. ‘There is no one!’ His grandfather’s words pounded against his head making him ache. Seiji forcibly grasped the side of his head wanting it out. ‘He has none!’ The voice became louder and louder until he could not even hear the children.

    His other hand rose to hold down the pressure he felt. ‘Stop it! I do! Don’t tell me I don’t!’ Seiji shook his head a little trying to fight his grandfather’s voice. A sweat along the back of his neck and shoulders built up as heat from inside his body grew. ‘Shut up!’ The pain in his head spread further making his arms shaking and spun a terrible odor in his stomach.

    The stronger it grew the more he hated it.

    He hated it!

    Laughter from the kids broke through for a moment when Seiji opened his eyes. His eyes narrowed viciously fueled by the endless emotions stored inside. Seiji lunged forward, the leader’s arm brushed away in the motion, tackling the boy to the ground. The other two boys stepped back surprised that Seiji, always quietly taking their abuse, had acted out for the first time. Seiji let his fist fly without even thinking. ‘I do! I do!’ Each punch came backed with his thoughts.

    After the initial surprise finally wore off for the two they grabbed Seiji up off the kid and threw him backwards. Seiji stumbled and slid a little on the grass, but his rage ignored everything that happened. He went after the next boy in his sights without thought to the others. His hands grasped for the kid grappling for a hold when his friend came in behind and grabbed Seiji. Seiji strained at their hold savagely reaching for anything. ‘Don’t tell me I don’t! Don’t you!’

    Seiji’s back slammed into the dirt again taking several more hits from the boys. He wrapped his legs up around one of the boy’s legs while his arms went after another. The kids did not know how to react to the wild manner of Seiji’s struggle. They fought to peel him off them. In the confusion, Seiji managed to pin one down and lay in a few more hits before tossed off. He took his beatings and broke free again landing on top of the leader running his fist into him. Drops of tears built up in his eyes the longer he went. “I have a mother!” he screamed, his voice carrying through the entire schoolyard.

    Enough time had passed in the fighting, that the reporting of it finally had results. Two teachers came running out shouting ahead of them breaking up the small group of on looking students. Bruised and a bit bloody, the three boys paused in their kicks making a calculated decision. They immediately let Seiji go and ran off to stay ahead of the teachers. Seiji was in no shape to flee, his strength finally leaving him with his rage disappearing. One teacher continued after the boys while the other stayed to take Seiji back into the school.

    A nurse visit and a phone call later, Seiji faced his grandfather and principal of the school. He heard little of the words between them, but the results left him with a day suspension for fighting. Another yelling from his grandfather came when they got home, which Seiji also hardly heard. Inside, something had changed for Seiji. Since that day, he always felt his emotions close to the surface, but unable to bring them out. However, he felt them as if they mixed into his skin. A slightly numb and tingling feeling surged through him. He did not understand the sensation.

    Nothing was ever the same again for Seiji. The school punished the boys as well, but none of it actually stopped the abuse. It delayed it a little, but they resumed quickly. Yet Seiji no longer allowed them to get away with their talk. He struck back at them each time. Elementary school became violent for Seiji, but it was not until junior high school that truly became dark for him.

    When junior high arrived Seiji left behind the kids that tormented him, but he came out of it rougher and stronger. The few that followed him to his school stayed away from him. Rumors circulated, but most did not know of his family situation. His reputation as a violent student carried with him. It brought an unease and fear through most of the junior high, as no one wanted anything to do with him. The lack of fights left him with anger resting on the surface with no outlet. He started looking for trouble out of school from anyone. A strange look would be enough for him a trigger. Everyone was making fun of him in his mind and he needed to show them all.

    One day after school, another day that would change Seiji came. A more superstitious person might have considered the important meeting fate or destiny. For Seiji, the day was the happiest he had ever been in years.

    Seiji, age thirteen, stood looking proudly cliché with his school jacket unzipped and wild hair casting a shadow an alley. Opposite him looking uninterested, but no less ready for a brawl, was a short thin looking kid his age wearing a different uniform. Seiji knew immediately from looking at him walking on the sidewalk that something was different. He raised his fists cracking his knuckles displaying his strength. “The moment I saw your eyes I didn’t like you!” roared Seiji with barely managed raged. “That look thinking you’re better! Don’t look down on me!”

    Still uninterested, the young teen raised a tired eye to Seiji. “I haven’t said anything. What’s with the anger? We’ve never meet.”

    “It doesn’t matter! Your eyes said everything I needed to hear!”

    “I think your eyes need to be checked, because the only thing mine are right now are bored.”

    “See you do think you’re better than me! I’m going to show you how wrong you are!”

    The boy had a little trouble dealing with the illogical pattern of rational coming from Seiji. He ran his hand through his hair sighing to himself a little. A bored glance through his fingers at Seiji gave him his attention. “Who are you?”

    “I’m Seiji Tsuji and you can’t tell me I have no one!” Seiji threw out his hand with his index finger pointed out at the teen in declaration.

    “Huh? I haven’t said that.” Another sigh came from him. “Well whatever, I guess you’re looking for a fight and I’ve definitely been itching for something. I doubt your thick head will remember it, but Yuki Hayashi is the one that has beaten you!”

    “Don’t go making assumptions until the fight’s finished!” Yuki and Seiji charged at each other fists ready. After the first few blows most of the details to the fight disappeared for Seiji. He just remembered the feeling. The feeling was unlike any of his other fights before. All his fists ever felt was a dull pain burning with heat that made his stomach churn long after which only cure was another fist. Against Yuki, his fists ran cold. All of the rage disappeared in those moments. It was pure.

    At the end, Seiji laid on the ground looking up at Yuki with the sunlight cracking between the buildings. It darkened Yuki’s face leaving only an offered hand in sight. “…I lost?” ask Seiji, smiling.

    To be continued…
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  30. #120
    The Quiet One Shift Andromeda's Avatar
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    Re: Shift

    “Don’t go making assumptions until the fight’s finished!” Yuki and Seiji charged at each other, fists ready. After the first few blows most of the details to the fight disappeared for Seiji. He just remembered the feeling. The feeling was unlike any of his other fights before. All his fists ever felt was a dull pain burning with heat that made his stomach churn long after which only cure was another fist. Against Yuki, his fists ran cold. All of the rage disappeared in those moments. It was pure.

    At the end, Seiji laid on the ground looking up at Yuki with the sunlight cracking between the buildings. It darkened Yuki’s face leaving only an offered hand in sight. “…I lost?” ask Seiji, smiling. While most would not smile in such an utterly one-sided defeat, Seiji did not smile because of his loss. He smiled because he had found something that he thought he had lost.

    Chapter 119 – The Birth of a Man

    Yuki looked down at Seiji on the ground a little confused by the reaction. “You’re a strange one. You’re the first one I’ve beaten that actually smiled afterward. You some masochist?” The helping hand remained extended out to Seiji.

    It was the first time that Seiji looked with his eyes unclouded. He saw nothing in Yuki’s face, just another person. Yuki held no judgment or even an interest in the personal matters that plagued him. It was simply pure. (It should be noted that this a flashback generated entirely from the memories of Seiji and as such, there are likely distortions in the facts.) Seiji sat up still nursing his pain from his ribs. “No, I just saw something.”

    A flat expression came over Yuki in response to Seiji. “I’m not that sort of guy.”

    “Neither am I!” shouted Seiji. He coughed several times dealing with the sudden pain. “You don’t understand. It’s not like that!”

    Yuki’s features returned to normal. “…whatever…”

    “Damnit! You’re ruining the image!”

    “I said I’m not like that!”

    “And I said you’re mistaken!”

    The two stared at each other for a while locked in their last position. They slowly calmed back down and remembered the situation. Yuki looked at Seiji. “You ever going to take my hand?” he said as a side comment. “I was right. You’re very strange.” When Seiji finally accepted the offer and stood up with the grin still emblazoned on his face.

    After his first meeting with Yuki, Seiji was never the same again. He had found a new a purpose in his life. While he still fought, there was something different powering his fist. The rage he had disappeared. A new fuel replaced it. He had a goal.

    Seiji stood over the unconscious body of a student from some school that he did not recognize. He held out his fist tightening it. “This is not it! I must find it!” With his decision, Seiji turned around and walked out, forgetting about the kid he just pummeled.

    The search that Seiji made lasted forever. It took him many opponents to finally reach the goal that he sought. So many scars and bruises, but he had it in front of him. He stood out in front of the gate of a junior high school that he did not recognize, even though he sought it. The goal was within his vision. It was near.

    “I found it!” he declared with enough volume that everyone in the schoolyard heard him and turned. Seiji threw out his arm pointing it at Yuki, who stood leaning against the opened gate to the school. “It took me years and countless foes, but I’ve found you once again!”

    Lazy and uninterested, Yuki cast his flattened eyes toward Seiji. “It’s been one week… You really are strange.”

    “Time is meaningless!”

    “Can’t understand it, huh?”

    “Yuki! I’m sorry!” shouted a girl coming out from opposite of the school building. She closed the distance quickly without missing a beat. “The coach needed me get the new list! I hope you weren’t waiting long!”

    Yuki turned away from Seiji, but still kept the same attitude. “It’s fine, Saki. You ready?”

    She gave him a quick nod and started for the entrance. When she caught sight of Seiji she came to a stop. “Who’s this, Yuki? Someone you know?”

    “Just a strange person.” Yuki gave Seiji no further thought and started walking out. “Let’s go, Saki.” He disappeared behind the fence, not waiting for Saki.

    Seiji held a blank stare completely taken aback. Yuki ignored him. The goal that he searched so long for left without any acknowledgement. Some of the students murmured comments to themselves about the state of Seiji, but he did not hear them. He closed his fists and looked up to the sky. “I must have to prove myself! He won’t acknowledgement until I’m his equal! That’s it!” Upon his decision, Seiji ran off in search of Yuki. Unfortunately, he had no clue where to look for him and ended up wandering the town until the night came.

    The following day he returned to Yuki’s school with the same determination. He challenged Yuki to a fight, which Yuki reluctantly accepted. The outcome remained the same as before and Yuki left Seiji no further in his progress. Similar meetings for them occurred continuously after school for several of weeks. Seiji refused to see any differently in his path and Yuki gave him what he wanted.

    However, one day on his way to meet with Yuki he was interrupted. In his eagerness for another chance to prove himself to Yuki, Seiji did not see the arm that reached out to cloths line him. He dropped to the ground almost flipping in the process. His head smacked into the concrete sidewalk painfully. “…damn…what was that?” Seiji looked up while holding the back of his head. The arm that had knocked him flat reached down to pick up him and dragged him back to the alleyway. The stranger threw him to other wall waking him up. When the older teen came for another blow, Seiji rammed his knee into his stomach getting to back off. “Who the hell are you?”

    The rough boy stood much taller than Seiji and ground one hand into the palm of the other. “The big brother.” With no further exchange, another fist came at Seiji catching him in the lip. A little blood did not stop Seiji from dropping down for a tackle to slam his shoulder into the boy’s stomach. The older brother’s back pounded against the brick forcing a small grunt from him. It did not do enough to slow down the teenager. He gripped both hands together to slam down on Seiji’s back followed by a knee to his stomach as well.

    Seiji lost his hold staggered by the quick combo. He almost fell to the ground, but the kid did not allow enough time for that. Seiji’s face took another blow in the cheek flopping him around and to the ground. Once he hit the dirty and moist alley ground, a foot came to meet his ribs. He only allowed a single strike to get through without response. Seiji latched onto the leg when he returned for a second kick with his arms. Momentarily grappled at the leg, he threw his own leg up to kick him in the waist, trying to drop the boy.

    When Seiji’s leg came in, a loose grapple caught him as well. The two threw themselves into a strength check falling over, but Seiji came out the loser. His opponent kicked him free from him and Seiji rolled over against the wall. Seiji coughed and panted feeling the fatigue starting to build with pain. He threw himself back into the fight quickly taking swings at the taller boy. A few managed to connect, but Seiji’s face and chest received more. “…damnit…” he uttered under his breath leaning against the wall.

    It had been a while since he felt that himself losing. His fights with Yuki always ended in a quick loss, but he never felt like it was a loss so much as a learning experience. Any other fight he had been in he came out the victor. It had truly been a while since someone left him completely outclassed and went the extra distance to prove it.

    Seiji could only feel the pounding against his ribs from the ground, where he lied. He struggled to try to stand back up, but his strength disappeared. The beating he took gave him no quarter, as well. ‘…damnit, I can’t do anything!’ Then the echoed pulsing ceased through his body. Seiji turned his eyes up to see the sun shining down blinding him.

    Only a black figure, shorter than the older brother, stood before Seiji. Seiji looked around painfully until he finally found the unconscious body of his opponent. He turned back to stare up again at the one that succeeded where he failed. “…Yuki…” rang Seiji, building a little grin on his face. It was not a hope or a wish, but a certainty for Seiji. He rolled on this back starting to see him more clearly.

    “So you lost again, huh?” Yuki turned his head looking up at the sky, but continued to speak. “You know they say you learn something from losing too…or some crap like that… What did you learn this time?”

    The soreness in his body faded away with the sight of Yuki. His goal stood before him. “To punch harder!” he declared throwing up his arm to the sky.

    Yuki knelt back down and stared for a moment in silence. “Figures you’d say that…” He offered out his hand to Seiji, already half way there. Seiji took the offer and stood up once more.

    It felt lighter for him suddenly, but he did not know why. He glanced over at Yuki with a question. “Why did you come?”

    “I didn’t…” Yuki replied, turning away his head to look forward, “I was simply passing by after school. I just don’t like people who beat up someone’s already lost.”

    Seiji broke away from Yuki and jumped out in front of him blocking his way out of the alley. “I didn’t lose! He just caught me by surprise!” He threw out his arm point his finger at Yuki, as though it strengthened his argument.

    “Honorable or not, a loss and it still a loss regardless of how it happened. Just accept it.”

    “A real man declares his intent before the battle!”

    A low snicker came out from Yuki. He dug his hands a little deeper into his pant pockets. “A real man, huh? Are you claiming to be one?” Yuki leaned a bit forward managing to cast a fairly ominous shadow for not trying too hard.

    Imposing or not, Seiji felt his determination waver a bit. He knew the truth and he had a long way to go. It was a goal still. “…no…” Seiji lowered his head with his face darkening out completely. However, his hands balled up into a fist and he raised his head back up. “But I will be one day! I promise you!”

    Another chuckle came from Yuki. “Strange indeed. Well, if you plan on being a real man. Then a real man admits when he’s lost and owns up to it. A real man doesn’t run away from it.”

    Seiji staggered having not thought about that angle. He held his reply to stand in silence taking it in. The truth that Yuki spoke sank into him and struggled with the thought. “I lost?”

    “Yes, you did.”

    “…I lost…”

    Yuki patted Seiji on the shoulder and passed by him. Once he reached the end of the alley, he stopped, still not facing Seiji. “However, when you stand together with those you trust…” Yuki began walking away hearing the call of Saki in the distance. “…you never lose.”

    The words barely made it to him, but Seiji engraved them upon himself. “I’ll never lose? Together?”

    A painful breeze blew over Seiji lighting up all of his wounds. The searing pain was enough to wake him back up from his daydream. He coughed in response while trying to bite back from being overwhelmed. ‘So strange remembering that now…’ Seiji looked up from his uneasy perch and saw Miltiades holding off from an attack, no doubt cautiously trying to understand the new situation.

    The shadow that held him let out a bothered sigh. “Even in your flashbacks you’re annoying and don’t make any sense. You wasted so much time on unnecessary background that you ruined the whole point.”

    “Hey, listen here!” yelled Seiji, but he started to cough almost immediately after his words. Fresh blood dripped down his chin to remind him of his condition. Seiji forcibly calmed himself down a little (a surprising feat, maybe he’s learning). “I don’t want to hear criticism from someone I don’t even know!”

    Another sigh came from the shadow. It seemed that the shadow would become fatigued from annoyance sooner than combat. “You really are worthless. You haven’t figured it out yet. I’m not even masking my voice, moron.”

    Seiji narrowed his eyes, forgetting his pain in the moment, suddenly remembering the snarky tone. “The little runt ninja-wannabe?”

    Shade pealed back revealing Chiharu’s masked face with only her eyes visible. Even with only her eyes visible, the furrowed brow and pulsing vein leaked her mood. “I’d speak more carefully to the one that holds you.” Her shoulder suddenly gave away as well as the supporting arm. Seiji dropped off her and fell a short half meter before snapped back. Chiharu’s hand held onto the back of what remained of Seiji’s tunic.

    More blood spurted out from his arm and chest. Seiji flailed his arms weakly not wanting to face the jagged grounds of Miltiades’ field. “Alright, alright!”

    Miltiades had waited in expectation of a counterattack with the arrival of the new fighter. He knew nothing of their potential and the fatigue he felt made him reluctant to find out. However, he either a supporter or rebel they threatened the peace of Atlantis. As a threat, he had to do his duty in learning more. ‘The new one looks like a child, but the way they appeared… I didn’t even notice them enter my field… If they are another MP user then the Captain needs data. I don’t know how much longer I can go, but I must!’ He straightened himself out on the top of the metal pole. Many of the poles disappeared to reduce the mental fatigue.

    A metal pole shot up at an angle for Chiharu and Seiji. The pole ran through the shadow at increased speed catching both off guard. Several more poles came up to join. Sparks flew as metal groaned in response to the clash. Miltiades watched closely trying to figure out the outcome, but his eyes widened suddenly. He felt a strange presence behind him, followed by a voice.

    “I know you can’t understand me, but I think my intention should be clear. Retreat now.” Chiharu stood on the very same pole as Miltiades, her back to his. Barely enough room for air to pass through was all the gap she gave.

    He felt a cold chill down his neck, the likes which only his Captain and drill instructor managed to instill. His eyes did not dare to turn or his head to confirm what he already knew. All stared forward where he knew the two to be, at least he thought. ‘So fast! I didn’t even see the movement! What laws are they using?!’

    “You’re in no shape for a worthy fight. Leave.”

    Miltiades fought to keep his body from sweating from the uncertainty that consumed him. His eyes darted around looking through his field for any other possibility, an illusion or feint. He caught his mouth opening when he found Seiji nearly forty meters away lying outside of his reach. ‘Is this real?! It can’t be! It must be a trick! I just have to figure it out!’ Miltiades unlocked his knees and loosened his body to spin around throwing back his leg. When he completed his half turn, the space was empty as though nothing had ever occupied it. “Huh?”

    “This is a pointless fight,” remarked Chiharu from behind Miltiades standing on the nearest pole. He turned back in response and she saw him fighting his surprise. Disappointed in him, she dodged with effortless ease as he came for her. She lightly bounced around the tops of the poles.

    ‘I can’t reach! I’ll just make them disappear!’ Switching tactics, he began to remove poles from Chiharu’s reach while continuing his offensive. However, Chiharu danced through the landing softly on the length of the pole. ‘I have them now! My special gloves will give me the advantage!’ Miltiades, in his confidence, leapt out to strike at Chiharu. She slid down the pole as one would a slide in perfect control of her body. He had missed, but chased after her in his usual gliding fashion. When the moment came, he sent poles up from the earth to attack her.

    Miltiades halted to a stop hanging on to the pole at the intersection. ‘Gone again!? Is it really an illusion?’ The feeling of someone behind him surfaced again and he knew. He spun around the pole making for Chiharu, but missed. She appeared behind him again leaning out from the nearby pole. Miltiades felt the cold sweat returning. A dark blade rested against his neck, close enough for him to feel the edge when he swallowed.

    “I told you this was pointless. The fight’s mine. Now leave.”

    To be continued…
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