A fortnight and a day later, with some assistance from Mira and Kakane, Serena finally completed the Pure Soul Puppet Core. Finally, after almost a year of hard work, she could nearly call project REAN finished. The core was blue, glowing, active, and everything Serena could have asked for. Kakane seemed especially excited, laughing and grinning like a maniac.
“Gods, this took forever!” he bellowed. “But now we can finally see REAN open its eyes! I have looked forward to this for gods knows how long!”
Serena nodded, not saying anything as she stared at the glowing puppet core in front of her. Her heart was practically trying to leap out of her chest and into her throat. She was almost scared to touch the Pure Soul Puppet Core. What if it broke? Or worse, didn’t work? Nothing could go wrong, could it?
“You better not be chickening out now.” Kakane grabbed the Pure Soul Puppet Core, lightly tossing it with one hand. Serena’s eyes bulged and she shrieked for Kakane to set it down. “It’s now or never, Serena. Let’s get this over with.”
Knowing he was right, Serena nodded and took the core from Kakane. She turned to REAN010, whose body was laying across a wooden work table. She started walking towards it, only to realize that her knees were crashing into each other and her hands were shaking violently. Her throat and mouth were dry and she was sweating.
What if it doesn’t work?
Will everything have been in vain?
If it fails, am I still… Nothing more than the elder’s puppet?
Everything I had hoped for… Is it just a pipe dream?
Kakane folded his hands around Serena’s, gently squeezing them.
“It’ll be alright,” he murmured. “There’s no way it wouldn’t work; you’ve worked too hard for it to fail now. Trust me.”
Serena wasn’t convinced, but as the one who had stayed by her side for this long, she had to have faith in Kakane.
Kakane guided Serena to REAN010, where, together, they lowered their hands onto its chest. The compartment was wide open, with a large indent in the center where the core was to be placed. Slowly, they inserted the Pure Soul Puppet Core into REAN010’s chest and secured it. The chest compartment closed immediately, with blue veins spreading throughout REAN010’s body. Serena could clearly see her core at work, pumping life into her creation. It was slow at first but gradually quickened until it was beating like a true heart.
REAN010’s body flared with blue light and its golden eyes flickered to life. Its fingers gradually curled into a fist as a blue glow engulfed its body. Serena and Kakane stared at it in awe; it was like watching a glowing crystal shatter amidst a starless, moonless night sky. Sparks flew from REAN010’s joints, and the beat of its heart gradually subsided into a gentle lull. After a short, tense moment, the puppet sat up slowly, blinking and taking in its surroundings.
It first looked at Serena. Then at Kakane. Then it blinked again. It cocked its head curiously, long ocean blue hair falling into its golden eyes.
“Oh… Oh, my gods…”
“It works!” Serena shrieked. She fell to the floor in a heap, sobbing violently.
“H-Hey!” Kakane knelt beside her, awkwardly stroking Serena’s back.
She continued to cry, ugly crying, where her nose ran with mucus and her tears pricked at her eyes and turned them red. She was constantly sniffling, and when it seemed as though she would stop she dissolved into even more bawling.
REAN010 had turned to her and was waving its hands in the air in a frenzy. The look in its eyes told Kakane that it was worried that it had done something wrong, though it didn’t seem to be aware of its emotions. It looked to be on the verge of a panic attack.
“Hey, Rean.” The puppet turned to Kakane. “Chill out. She’s just hyperventilating; she’ll be over it in a jiffy. It’s an emotional moment for her; she’s just really happy is all.” REAN010 nodded slowly, though it didn’t seem convinced. It opened its mouth but no sound came out. Kakane recalled Serena mentioning this.
Because REAN was supposed to be kept a secret, she neglected to give it vocal cords. Puppet voices were loud, gravely, and sounded as though two rusty gears were constantly grinding against each other. Even on Atlantis, none of the expedition teams were able to find records that told of how to give puppets strong, clear, human-like voices. Thus, REAN010 was mute.
It didn’t seem troubled by this as it crouched down to meet Serena’s eyes. It blinked in wonder at Serena’s tears but seemed disturbed when she looked up at it and immediately started crying harder.
“Is it working? Oh, gods, it’s working!” Mira rushed into the room. She shined a light into its eyes and began prodding REAN010 all over. “Joints in working condition, corneas are able to pick up light, everything seems connected, and nothing is malfunctioning! You did it, Serena, you did it!”
REAN010 seemed disturbed by the sudden attention and grabbiness of everyone around it and slowly moved away from Mira.
“Guys, the stupid thing just woke up. Give it a break,” Kakane said. Mira cleared her throat.
“Right… Apologies. That reminds me, Serena asked me to do a favor for her.”
Mira took several sheets of paper and a book off of a shelf. She took the pen stuck behind her ear and beckoned REAN010 to a desk. Curious, the puppet watched as Mira shoved everything off the table, flinching at the sound they made when they clattered onto the floor. She began to write something on the paper, which caught REAN010’s interest. It approached cautiously but instantly became fascinated by the letters and scripts Mira was writing down. REAN010 pointed to the paper and Mira nodded.
“Listen, Rean, because you lack a voice, it is imperative that you learn how to read and write so that you may communicate with other people. Serena asked that I teach you. Come here.”
Mira pulled up a chair and gestured for REAN010 to sit down. It did so, albeit awkwardly. It constantly fidgeted around, looking uncomfortable, but all of its worries instantly faded away as Mira began to explain the Eyuthian writing system to it. There was a sparkle in its eyes as it looked over the letters, nodding its head along to what Mira was saying.
“You alright?” Kakane asked Serena. She nodded, sniffling.
“Yeah… I’m sorry you had to see me so gross and ugly like this,” she said. “But… I’m happy. I’m so, so happy𑁋 Wait, where did it go!?” Kakane jerked his thumb behind it.
“You asked Mira to teach it how to read and write so that’s what she’s doing.” Serena immediately relaxed, sighing.
“Right… I did request that.” She took a deep breath before standing up, brushing some dust off her dress. “I’ll go help her. Better than sitting around and crying my eyes out. Sorry about that, by the way.” Kakane rolled his eyes.
“You already apologized once. There’s no need to do it twice. By the way, once you’re done with your language lesson, turn Rean over to me. A combat puppet should know how to fight. Once I’m through with it, it will fight in a manner befitting of a king!”
REAN010 overheard this and froze up, seemingly terrified. Serena went over to it as Kakane frowned, watching the white-haired girl comfort her puppet. He muttered something about “wimps” and “spineless idiots” before exiting the room. Serena turned her attention to REAN010, who was messily trying to write letters.
“Is this the progress you’ve made so far?” Serena asked, looking over the paper in front of REAN010. The puppet blinked. “This is really good! You learn fast.” Serena smiled at it. It blinked again, a blank expression on its face, but it seemed happy. “I hope you grow up and learn lots of things, Rean.”