“When you meet someone for the first time, that’s not the whole book. That’s just the first page.” ― Brody Armstrong
Gazing up at the dark blue night sky Jude starts to count the bright white shining stars. However, after becoming bored within a few seconds, he decides to sit up again. The young Shifter can feel the warmth of the campfire in front of him. And, as he looks up, he can’t help but notice how an orange-red glow has covered everyone and everything around the campsite, causing the scenery around him to almost look like a painting.
While some of the knights have already gone to sleep in their tents, some are still gathered around the fire with them. Another part has gone out with Aiden and Glenn to gather some more wood.
“Has anyone else noticed how Glenn and Aiden have become really good friends during these months?” Relm points out, while poking in the campfire with a short stick.
“That’s true. It’s rather funny since they didn’t seem to be getting along at all the first few days. And they also differ so much from each other.” Nia says.
“I do not think that is completely true. Though Glenn is a bit more strict, honourable and uptight, whereas Aiden is a lot more impulsive, brutal in combat and has a laid-back temperament, they both seem to be dealing with the same kind of experiences from their pasts. I have also noticed how both have a strong desire to protect everyone around them, each in their own way.” Blake explains his point.
“Maybe you’ve been hanging around with Dyne too often, Blake.” Nia jokes.
“I think Blake is right. Glenn has suffered some great losses in his past.” Luna comments.
“Same goes for Aiden.” Relm says.
“Really? How?” Jude asks, starting to feel left out of the conversation. Even though he had become much closer with his Shifter colleagues, Teddie, Glenn and Luna, he sometimes continues to feel like the new guy in the group.
“I guess it will be story time tonight.” Relm notes with a big smile.
“Would thou like to start, Relm?” Luna asks.
“No, you should.”
“As you wish… but where should I start?” Luna thinks out loud. Though, after only a moment, she begins with the story: “You should all know that Glenn was not born in the Kingdom of Zeal. He originates from another kingdom. It used to be on the southern continent but, during the rising of the Gestahlian Empire last year, it was destroyed.”
“And Glenn was the sole survivor?”
“Yes. He had been gone that day to take care of some errands. Because of this, he was not there to help or protect his family and friends. His whole village was poisoned, destroyed and burned down. Glenn lost his colleagues, friends, wife and three-year-old daughter in just one afternoon. Now, plagued by survivor’s guilt, he has sworn to help and protect this kingdom and everyone who lives here.”
“I never thought the past could be this horrible as well.” Teddie comments.
“Yes, it’s indeed very sad. I knew Glenn before the attack… he was so different.”
“No wonder he and Aiden get along so well. They almost share the same experiences.”
“I am sorry to hear that. It must mean Aiden’s past is not very joyful as well.” Luna says.
“True.” Relm replies.
“How do you know about Aiden’s past, Relm? I have never heard him talk about it.” Nia asks.
“Well, growing up in Figera, I’ve already known Aiden since my childhood. He and Grant had fought together on the front lines and he moved to the village just a few months after the Big Rift..”
“Oh, yes. That makes sense…”
“Wait, what is this ‘Big Rift’ you speak of?” Luna asks with a confused look on her face.
Widening their eyes in panic, both Nia and Relm have lost the ability to speak. How on earth would they explain this to Luna and the knights? But after a short stunned silence it is Blake who saves them with a simple solution.
“Perhaps Aiden should be the one to tell you that.” He suggests, gesturing in the direction of the woods. As they all turn around to see what the blind Shifter is pointing at, they quickly spot the group of knights, led by Aiden and Glenn, returning with plenty firewood.
“And what has been going on here?” Aiden asks, realising everyone is focused on him and Glenn.
“Nothing, just sharing stories.” Jude answers.
“Really? Whose?” Glenn continues asking, while they sit down.
“Well, actually, yours.” Relm admits, fidgeting with the sticks she has collected.
“Mine? But… Luna.” Glenn questions before focussing his gaze on the maiden.
“Please don’t be mad at me, sir.” She stammers, head bowed.
“I am not…” He replies as she lifts her head again.
“We were just talking about how you and Aiden have become such good friends and how it might have been because of your past experiences.” Jude explains.
“Could be true. So why have you only told his story? Am I not important enough?” Aiden jokes while tossing more wood into the campfire.
“Well, I was about to… but then we stumbled across a little problem.” Relm begins.
“And what might that be?”
“The ‘Big Rift’… They don’t know about it, about all of it.”
“Oh, yes. That hasn’t happened yet, as it?” Aiden realises.
“Big Rift?” Glenn asks, just as confused as the knights and Luna.
“I just suggested that you should tell them Aiden. Is that all right with you?” Blake informs.
“Guess Ted and I are the only two of this group who have actually fought through that hell on earth. Though it wasn’t even during the same one. So… Yeah, I’ll tell.”
“Tell us what?” Glenn and Luna ask simultaneously.
“I think it’s time we told you the truth about us. About who we really are and how we ended up here.” Jude says as his expression hardens.
“Let’s start at the beginning.” Aiden begins to tell…
After a long explanation Jude looks around the campfire once more. But the only thing he sees now are the shocked faces and dropped jaws of all the knights around the campfire.
“So, just to sum things up… The creatures that have been helping the Empire are called ‘shadows’. They originate from the ‘Otherworld’ and devour human souls to become stronger. You are all Shifters from the future, a group of warriors that fight these threats with their personal Mitama, which are the souls of fallen heroes. Both you and the shadows have been using these ‘Rift holes’ to travel between worlds but now you think they have actually been using them to travel through, and distort, time. Due to the holes becoming unstable you have been thrown through time two times now and this is also how you met Teddie, who’s from an even more distant future and not even human but an android. Lastly, the shadows have been able to invade earth on two occasions, which you call the ‘Big Rifts’. They come with thousands at once and in less than a few days they destroy everything and everyone in their way. As a result of the second Rift, the humans in 3528 now live in harsh conditions and your goal is to stop it from taking place.” Luna tries to summarize the whole story.
“That is correct. Upon ending up in this era, we have come to the conclusion that this was the first time the shadows entered our world and probably the same time that the Shifter organization was established.” Blake adds one last thing.
“I think my brain is going to explode.” Jude hears one of the knights mumble to his friend.
“I think we should let it all sink in.” Nia suggests.
“Agreed.” Jude says.
“But we’ve already seen what a few low-level shadows can do here. How terrifying was it when they all attacked at once and brought even stronger ones with them?” Another knight asks.
“Let’s just say that both Rifts have had a really big impact on everyone. They left some deep scars.” Jude answers for the team after a short silence.
“I think we should all go to sleep. It’s getting late and I have a feeling it will be a big fight tomorrow.” Relm proposes before yawning.
“Good idea. You’ll get to hear our stories another time, if you still want to.” Aiden replies.
“All right… Good night, everyone.” Luna says as she and the other knights walk to their tents.
And after they agree upon letting Glenn take the first shift to guard the camp, the rest of team also decides to lie down and rest their tired eyes.
Once asleep, grey spots begin to cloud Jude’s vision again. He can hear the voices of his Mitama but there are just too many speaking at once.
“Hello? Young Shifter?” The voice of one of the Mitama then echoes through his mind.
“Yes?” Jude responds.
“I see you have been doing well with freeing Mitama, we are very grateful for that.”
“But we don’t have much time, we have managed to warn you for the first two encounters with these large shadows, however, I am afraid a third one is near.”
“So you mean they will call upon a higher lever shadow tomorrow?”
“Exactly, we are saddened to bring such bad news. This shadow seems even stronger than the ones you’ve faced before.”
“Stronger? Do you know anything else about it?”
“I am afraid we do not. You will have to find out yourself…”
“Wait! I still wanted to-” Jude desperately calls out as the voice begins fading. Before he can receive an answer, the grey spots start to appear again and when he opens his eyes he’s back in his tent.
“You can’t end a conversation just like that.” Jude mumbles to himself.
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