Into the Oblivion

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Nikki - Everything Is Expensive

Mr. Rutherford didn’t show up. Zion just assured us it was normal. The man was most likely tremendously busy due to the demands of being one of the leading intellectual driving force of a large international multi-billion company. Zion mentioned that Mr. Rutherford was the head of the multiple divisions on Research and Development. We couldn’t really demand much since we were already treated like VIPs in a private luxury unit.

But my patience was tested.

A couple of days passed by, and we still didn’t have any news when the guy would arrive. My mentor said that we needed to talk to this person because he had crucial intel on what Teios Kyr was doing. I tried doing some research on my end but came up with nothing. The only front of FordTech was its Giulia Rutherford-Bishop. Every other name that came up was unrelated.

I also summoned a dead critter in secret and made it fly. It was a small dove that I managed to summon. There was still a slim chance that my mentor would notice it. But it was all I had. Otis was almost a thousand miles away. It may take a day or two for my critter to travel. I wanted to see for myself how he was doing.

One of the things that gave me joy was the amount of fast-food I get to eat again. Zion looked at me sheepishly when he saw tears in my eyes as I slurped down a whole cup of soda. Altimeraea was magical. But there was no way it would have the more wondrous magic of American fast-food. Burgers, pizza, cookies, fries, and pasta. I had dearly missed all of it.

The other boy just commented on how our realm’s food was far tastier than his. I heard him joke around that they should bring some of their servants back in Altimeraea to learn the culinary prowess of our world.

It caused me to laugh genuinely for the first time again in months.

Zion tried to start with small talks more than a couple of times, but I was hesitant to tell him about myself. The boy didn’t give up, though. From the looks of it, he didn’t have any plans to do so. It was borderline annoying at times. His sunny personality was too much for me.

The other boy, whom he called Sir Ysverin, was silent. He behaved so similar to Mika and Yana. His consistent way of showing reverence to the other boy was so endearing. Ysverin was slightly taller than me with an athletic build, much like a soccer player or a swimmer. He had messy light blonde hair and dark blue eyes. The way he looked at me was the same way Raea did.

“Why do you call Raea and Ysverin as Sir?” I asked Zion after asking the other boy to do some errands with Raea and the professor. We were in the living room and playing on the console. For someone new in my world, he was pretty good at learning fighting games. I found myself getting beat up by the little punk every once in a while. “I find it weird.”

“Hmm.” Zion just hummed. He tilted his head slightly and paused if he should answer my question or not. Even his eyes glimmered mysteriously. “They’re both ordained knights. Both of them were assigned to protect me. Sir Ysverin is the youngest, though. But that guy is insanely strong.”

“Assigned to protect you?” I asked.

“Yeah.” The boy chirped joyfully. His moves in the game were getting more frantic. He seemed quite frustrated by the way I tried to defend myself. “I have a very over-protective father. He probably wants me to die of old age or something. That’s boring.”

“Why would that be boring? Everyone wants to die peacefully.” I gawked and looked at him. He caught me off guard from that and struck my character out of the arena. The round was his win, and the boy just grinned madly. “Hey! That’s not fair!”

“If I’m going to pick a way to die, I want to die fulfilling my duty.” He declared with confidence. His face brightened up just from saying that. It was noble. But it also sounded so naive. “There is no other honorable death other than fulfilling one’s duty to protect the people he loves.”

“You do have a point.” I replied.

“Who are you protecting, Nikki?” He suddenly asked. It caught me off guard. I felt the boulder in my guts get pulled downwards. Even my breathing stopped for a split-second. Even the tone he used to ask it was firm.

“I lost everyone I was trying to protect.” I painfully groaned. The boulder inside me throbbed as I said it. “It’s all my fault. I was not strong enough. I wasn’t wise enough. I trusted too much.”

“Oh. I’m sorry to hear that.” He replied softly. Then he paused the game and looked at me. “I don’t think it was your fault, Nikki.”

“Those people will pay. Teios Kyr will fall.” I stated coldly. A chill ran down my spine as I declared my new goal. I closed my fist, and it felt like my blade would summon itself. An image of Phineas’ dead body entered my mind’s eye, and I exerted all my efforts not to cry in front of Zion.

Zion just patted my shoulder and gripped it.

“Vengeance is a two-edged blade. Very dangerous. It destroys both the avenger and his enemies.” He uttered as if he spoke some sort of ancient proverb. I just glared at him. But Zion wouldn’t be intimated no matter how much I shot him with a death glare. “Protect the weak. Protect those who couldn’t protect themselves.”

“For a little boy, you speak so wisely.” I commented.

“Little boy?” Zion laughed. I just ended up frowning at him because there was nothing funny with what I said. He was indeed a little boy. Zion was not even 5 feet tall. “My little twin brother and I are late bloomers. I just turned fifteen last month!”

“Huh? What?” I shrieked and looked at him incredulously. My voice cracked from the surprise. He would try to stop his boyish giggles but couldn’t. “Wait. You’re joking, right? But—“

“No jokes there, my friend.” The boy kept laughing. He almost teared up from I reacted. “Sorry. I just never get tired of people underestimating me because I’m small. It’s a normal reaction, don’t worry.”

“That’s insane!” I exclaimed. “There’s no way I would think you’re fifteen. Some of the kids in the lower grade levels even look older than you!”

“You know what? Let’s lighten up the mood!” He said excitedly and jumped to his feet. Then he took my arm and dragged me off. I had to follow because the boy was literally older than me. “The professor told me that I was the best mentor to teach you because we have the same kind of blade. But I was just being too lazy for the past couple of days.”

“So, that’s what she meant by the perfect mentor.” I sighed.

Zion and I entered another hidden elevator, and it moved upwards. It was probably a few floors higher. When we exited, the lights opened on their own and showed a vast, open space. It was some sort of training facility. A gun range was found in one area, and an arsenal of firearms was on the side.

The center of the floor was a spacious arena complete with a training mat. I kept looking around to see wooden dolls that can be struck. There were also a lot of bladed weapons on the wall. An archery range could also be found and a small obstacle course, but it looked hard. It looked like it was specifically designed for an intermediate parkour skill.

“Holy crap.” I moaned.

“I would train with Sir Ysverin here once a week.” He beamed with a smile and started walking towards the middle. I didn’t have much choice but to follow. “Mr. Rutherford really got us spoiled.”

“This is a better atmosphere than where the professor and I trained.” I pointed out. I couldn’t help but look around and stare at all the weaponry I could find. “Do I pick a weapon?”

“Summon your blade.” He admonished.

As I called my Nyxian Blade, Zion did the same. He stretched out his left hand. A sheathed sword like mine appeared. And the design looked luxurious. Its scabbard was white with intricate designs of gold and silver. Even the golden crossguard looked gothic and beautiful. He checked out mine as I stared at his.

“Your blade looks scary. It’s like the darkness is calling out to me.” Zion commented. His eyes never left studying my blade. “Nikki, do you have a name for it?”

“That never occurred to me.” I replied.

“Okay. Time for the first lesson. Enchanted weapons like ours need to be properly named. Perhaps we can test its strength. Then maybe we can think of a fitting name for it.” The boy explained. Then he proceeded to a stance ready for a quick-draw. Zion crouched as his left hand gripped the scabbard from his left hip and his right hand gripped the hilt. He bowed his head, and I could no longer see what he was looking. “Come whenever you are ready.”

I shifted to my stance as well and observed his. It was all new because my mentor never used that. Zion and I were both using a slightly shortened version of the English longsword. But he was wielding it like a katana.

As soon as I made my approach, he charged right at me. It was already a possible occurrence in my head, so I shifted to a defensive stance. Zion quickly drew his blade and made a quick slash motion. In reflex, I swung my blade to deflect the incoming force. But my sword didn’t meet his.

That was a surprise. Zion’s blade didn’t have an edge. No metal shaft at all.

I studied it during those split-second moments. There was nothing inside the scabbard but the rain-guard of the sword. The unexpected lack of resistance caused me to give too much swing of my blade, and he used that opportunity to attack my opening. But Zion went ahead and assaulted with a thrust to my face.

I instinctively avoid it at the last moment and felt the cold blade swiping cleanly through the surface of my cheeks and quickly drew blood. There was no visible blade, and yet it was able to wound me. Thankfully, I was able to counter before he could attack another. Zion backed away instead of deflecting it.

“This is my blade, Arondight. It’s also known as the Bladeless Blade.” Zion introduced it as if it was a person. Then he sheathed the rain-guard back to its scabbard. “What do you think of it?”

“It’s just as confusing as you are.” I replied. Then I raised my blade and got more cautious. Thanks to Professor Shiraea’s rigorous training with both blade and magic, there was a noteworthy improvement in my fighting style. “What’s going on?”

“That’s for you to find out.” He provoked as he launched another attack. I defended myself, but it was just as confusing. There were instances that our blades would clash, but sometimes it would just pass through even if I was expecting resistance. “Learn your opponent’s abilities on the spot. This is a good chance for you to hone your ability to discern the enemy’s weaknesses.”

“Your blade is invisible.” I concluded.

“Yes.” Zion replied, then immediately strike me with a well-placed thrust. I tried to parry it, but I didn’t catch anything. My parry was close enough to the crossguard, so I was sure that it should have hit something. The boy backed away after proving his point. “But not really.”

“I don’t get it.” I said. Then I loosened my grip on the hilt and braced myself for my next series of strikes.

I inhaled deeply and thrust onwards. That was when I noticed that Zion’s invisible blade solidified right away to parry the pokes of my sword. The boy had no choice but to solidify. Then I shifted to hacking attacks. There was already that minor difference that he would let some slide.

But the experiment was dangerous.

He went for my opening that I left on purpose and tried to stab me. But I succeeded in pumping my avroi into my blade, and it morphed into a scythe, which enabled me to defend myself. I caught him by surprise. I took my chance because the scythe can quickly shift from defense to offense.

Zion moved even closer to me and covered the distance. The scythe was an exceptional weapon in terms of offensive and defensive capabilities. But an opponent that can find an opening to close the gap was deadly. It wouldn’t allow me to move the snath to gain momentum.

I morphed my scythe back into a blade to recover my ability to defend. But Zion expected it. He stepped back with a spin and used massive force to strike a finishing blow. I was barely able to guard myself. In on powerful slash, his blade clashed with mine, and I lost my grip.

My Nyxian Blade was thrown away.

Before I could look back at him, I felt the tip of his blade on my neck. It was invisible, but the cold sensation of steel was there. His eyes were suddenly menacing and stern. Zion was suddenly like a different person.

“Looks like I won, my friend. That was a neat trick you got there. I had to go serious for a split second there!” He declared and sheathed Arondight back to its scabbard. Although that looked quite funny because there’s no visible blade that went in the scabbard. “Your blade can shift into a different shape. It’s quite similar to Brastius!”

“Brastius?” I asked.

“Oh. It’s my little brother’s blade.” He grinned as he played with the sheathed Arondight in his hands. That blade was indeed a mystery. And it looked like he was not yet ready to tell me the trick behind it. “You know Nikki, you should start thinking of a name for your blade! It creates an atmosphere of respect for us swordsmen.”

“Okay.” I chirped as we went back to the middle of the floor. The other boy just stood firm before me. It was pretty confusing. He had that carefree and confident attitude but also had that stern and wise side. “I have no idea what name I should give it. Would it be insulted if I gave it a funny name?”

“It would come naturally! You look like a smart guy. I couldn’t wait to hear its name once you can think of it.” Zion assured me. Then he playfully wagged his finger at me. “And don’t even try to think of a funny name. That’s plain disrespect!”

“Let’s go for another round.” I suggested. Then I raised my blade. I couldn’t help but grip the hilt tighter and prepare to take more decisive strikes. The professor could hit me with far greater strength, but Zion’s swordplay was confusing. “I won’t stop until I get it.”

“The scythe was a still surprise. But it looked like you still don’t have a good grasp of fighting with it.” The boy commented as he went back to his quick-draw dance. I studied his posture and couldn’t figure out if his blade had the proper amount of weight on it. But with the final blow that he launched before, it was safe to say that it was as heavy as an actual sword. “You should try to spar with Sir Ysverin. He uses one as his weapon.”

“I’ll take note of that.” I said.

Zion and I went for four more rounds of sparring, and he had me mercilessly beaten every single time. For his small body frame, he was tremendously strong. I had to take charge of my reflexes because he was a very unusual enemy. And he would take advantage of opponents who would underestimate him.

The last two rounds were more onerous. I thought I learned his style already, but he would suddenly change his sword stance. In the previous round, his posture was a default overhand one. And every strike was seriously brimming with power, whether it was coming from above or below.

The boy also used his nimble body to do agile maneuvers. In the third round, he was tumbling around! He was the first person whom I’ve battled with that used a lot of gymnastic maneuvers. All in all, it was like I fought with five different people in those five different rounds. And I don’t think those were the only sword-styles up his sleeve.

What made everything worse was Arondight’s ability to pass through my attacks at times. Both the blade’s power and the user’s skill were a deadly set of combinations. I was forced into the defensive every single round.

I laid on the floor after the last match and gasped for air. There was a sharp sting as I noticed that he managed to wound me in both my limbs. I activated my mark and used a chant-less spell that hastens the healing of my wounds.

“The professor was right. You’re a user of Life Magic! I actually doubted that because there was an extreme lack of those in Altimeraea.” The boy exclaimed. I deactivated the Asclepius mark after all my wounds healed. In a nutshell, it usually consumed more avroi than the average spell. “I wounded you on purpose to see it for myself. Sorry!”

“It’s okay. That was nothing.” I said. “You used a lot of fighting styles.”

“Well, I had more swordmasters than my little brother did.” He replied. Zion was just as sweaty as I was. Then he pulled me up to my feet. I was a few inches taller than him, and yet he did it so effortlessly. “I focused on sharping different sword-styles. And he learned every bladed weapon that could pretty much kill you.”

After clashing my blade with him, I just knew for some reason that Zion had a very noble character. It went on for a couple more days, and we continued to spar. Sir Ysverin just observed at the side but didn’t join. The other boy-knight was another mystery to me.

Zion and I would hit the showers after our sparring sessions, and then we would take a short rest in our private quarters. During one of those times, I focused my mind on reconnecting to the critter that I had sent to check on Otis.

The small bird was able to land on a branch near his bedroom window. My heart was crushed when I saw him for the first time. The first thing I noticed was the dark bags under his eyes and his loss of weight. Otis staggered as he walked into the room. Almost like he had no energy to help himself. Even his complexion was pale and sickly. His hair that had rich brown color virtually faded. That magical glint of carefree attitude in his eyes was gone.

It was snuffed out. Completely.

I commanded the critter to fly by the window to observe closer. It was around after supper time, and Otis took a set of medications. There were at least three tablets that he had to gulp down. Then he went to sleep right away. I willed the critter to enter the room through the small opening of the window and read the medications on his study table.

One of the medications was fluoxetine. Then the other two were some sort of supplements. I quickly Googled what it was and saw that it was some sort of anti-depressant for minors. I couldn’t help but bite my lip and close my fist tightly. Then the boulder in my guts felt more decadent than the usual.

I lost Phineas. And it looked like I was losing Otis, too.

All I wanted at that moment was to find a way to make it to him. To hug him. To show him I was still breathing. To let him know that everything will be alright. But that also would put him in danger. Samael was always watching. And if I remembered it right, that bastard commended Otis to join some singer club.

The only way to protect Otis was to make sure I was far from him. I was still the bigger target. But should Samael hurt a single hair on my friend, I would raise hell. That mongrel must die.

My thoughts were interrupted when there was a knock on my door. I wiped my tears and went for the door. When I opened it, I was greeted my Zion’s goofy grin. It was slightly annoying because he looked up to me as if a little brother was begging for attention.

“What’s up?” I asked.

“Let’s go walk around downtown and find something to eat! You mentioned a while ago that Japanese food is great!” The boy chirped. He looked like he was going to die of boredom. Zion was older than me, but he really had the tendency to act according to how he looked at it. “Mr. Rutherford told me one time there’s a really great ramen place nearby!”

“I’m not really in the mood, Zion.” I replied coldly. Then I attempted to close the door, but he stopped it. “Maybe next time.”

The boy grabbed my wrist right away and pleaded. “Please?”

“Fine. Let me just get my jacket.” I yielded. Zion’s eyes almost sparkled when he heard it and followed me into the room. “But I’m not sure if the professor would agree with us going out of the building.”

“Don’t worry!” He replied. “Sir Ysverin would be with us!”

When we got into the living room, the professor was on the main dining table with various spell books splattered all over the broad platform. She looked busy to be studying. I asked for permission, and she didn’t mind.

“Take this.” My mentor said as she threw me a small stone. Then she went back to reading. It looked a bit funny because she was using a magnifying glass to take a closer look. My stomach stirred when I saw the Necronomicon open on the table as well. “Just crack the stone in case you need me for an emergency.”

Zion, Sir Ysverin, and I left right away.

The boy-knight was a silent fellow, but Zion was bouncing around like a little kid. It was almost sunset, and the sky was bursting with red and orange colors. The skies in Altimeraea were far more beautiful because of the incredible amount of stars that could be seen. But I truly missed the skies of my own world.

Deep in my heart, it was still my home. And it would always be that way.

As suggested, we headed for the ramen place that Mr. Rutherford told about, so I had to check through my smartphone. Zion and Sir Ysverin had theirs as well, but they were barely using it. Both of them said it was too complicated. Mages from Fuhrstenvald would have a better chance, according to them.

Thankfully, it was just a couple of blocks away.

We entered, and the fantastic aroma had my appetite shooting up. Zion looked even more excited. And Sir Ysverin tried his hardest to keep that calm attitude. He said that it would be better for him to eat at a different table to give us privacy. I told him that he was welcome to join us, but he insisted.

“I’ll leave here as soon as I finished eating.” He said and went to sit at another table. It looked like Zion wanted him to stay, but he stopped himself. “I won’t be far, my Lord.”

“You could have stopped him.” I said as Sir Ysverin was out of earshot.

“No. It’s okay.” Zion said sadly. Then started choosing his choice of food. “It’s his way of showing his unwavering loyalty to me as a servant. None of them wanted to be too overfamiliar with me.”

“Just who are you, Zion?” I asked with a straight face.

“I’m just the son of my over-protective father.” He quipped.

“I don’t buy that.” I retorted and called for the waiter. We gave him the food that we picked from the menu. “I know you’re far more than that.”

“Whatever.” Zion replied playfully. I just looked away and tried to ignore his attempts to annoy me. “But I just want to check why you’re feeling down.”

“It’s nothing.” I asserted. “Don’t even think about it.”

“I disagree.” The boy pressed on with a more forceful tone. He even sounded like a spoiled brat. “That didn’t look like nothing. I know a worried person when I see one.”

“I said it’s fine. It’s nothing.” I repeated. “None of your business.”

“Fine. But what if I want to trade?” He asked haughtily. “I’ll tell you who I really am, but I want to know what’s the deal with you. It’s not like High Magus Shiraea to take care of a stray.”

“Not interested.” I quipped.

Just in time, the ramen that we ordered came. Zion pulled a different topic instead. His aggressive vibes were gone in a blink of an eye. That caused me to relax a little. But he was right. I was worried about Otis. And I didn’t what to do to help him without putting him in danger as well.

Zion and I talked about the differences in our worlds. But most of what he shared was already covered during my lessons with the professor. She gave me a comprehensive course on how life works in that alternate dimension. Zion noticed that right away, so he shifted to asking questions about my world instead.

There were a lot of questions. The first set of queries were about politics. But it was not really my field of interest, so I only gave what was taught in school. Next was about technology, which I had an idea at least. Zion had a hard time trying to get a good grasp of how things work. So far, the only he figured out was the game console in the main living room.

The two of us hit it off. Zion was still older than me, but he was incredibly helpful in making me feel at home again. The homesickness was still hitting me hard but in a completely different way. At the end of that dinner, I was positive that we got closer. I found a slight difference between Eran and Zion.

Both of them had the air of mystery to them. But Eran tried to repel me away no matter how much I wanted to befriend him. Zion, on the other hand, was a bit cautious and acted the other way around. It was me who tried to repel him for the past couple of days.

I just couldn’t bring myself to trust him yet.

When we got back to the apartment unit, everyone was inside the room. A tall blonde man was in the middle while all our companions were seated. Both Zion and I stopped in our tracks and studied the man. He was there, yet there was no presence of life at all.

“You must be Nikki.” He spoke directly to me. His voice was a little bit robotic and dull for some reason. A bit static even. Plus, the man was slightly glowing, yet there were no traces of avroi on his body. “Please, sit down.”

Zion and I promptly sat down.

“My name is Mr. Rutherford. I’ve gathered you here so that you will have a better grasp over what’s going on.” The man introduced. His accent was heavily British, and his voice was modulated. It was as if he was speaking through a microphone. I couldn’t help but react in my facial expression. My eyes narrowed as I observed him further. “Yes, I am but a hologram. I am currently in Hong Kong to assess some damages to one of our facilities. The connections of Teios Kyr here in this realm had started to move, too. You have all been fooled. They have been here on Earth for more than a decade according to some intel.”

We listened in silence. Zion’s finger twitched a little, and I saw a bead of sweat rolled down the side of his face. Even Sir Raea and Sir Ysverin had shock painted on their face. Only Professor Shiraea looked unbothered by the revelation.

“And yes, I will not be revealing my full name. It’s been the company secret ever since it rose to power.” The man added. His eyes studied each of us carefully as if he was calculating us. “You may try to research it, but I don’t think you have the intellectual capability to discover my real identity. Even if you’re one of the best mages of the other realm. Your brains are simply not wired to comprehend the technology of this world.”

I stirred in my seat, which he took notice of right away.

“That includes you, Mr. Ellison. You may be a child prodigy in your magical skills and even disobeyed your mentor’s orders not to approach your friend, Otis Chase, but you are still lightyears behind what I can do.” Mr. Rutherford egged me on. I felt High Magus Shiraea’s eyes pierce the back of my neck. This man was a high-level stalker. What I did was good enough to avoid my mentor’s eyes. But not this man. “Moving forward, do you have any questions about Teios Kyr?”

“Tell us what you know.” Zion erupted right away. His voice was cold and dominating. I saw a slight smirk on Mr. Rutherford’s face. “How long have they been planning this?”

The man paused in his thoughts. That was when I took my time to study his body language. The first thing I noticed was that he was barely moving. His hands were in his pocket. The man was 6 feet tall, and his body frame was very athletic. He stood up as if he was Bruce Wayne or Tony Stark. Full of confidence.

Mr. Rutherford had that silvery blonde hair that was almost white. Samael’s hair was more pale compared to his. Then there was his facial hair around his mouth that were well-trimmed stubbles. The man’s thick glasses also looked heavy but also nerdish.

“The information is not free. Sure, your stay here is free because an elephant doesn’t mind if small flies land on its back.” The man quipped. I gritted my teeth at how this man would throw words like that so carelessly. Yet I couldn’t say a word. Mr. Rutherford was well-informed about all of us. I wouldn’t be surprised if he knew the situation with my mother. “But I’m afraid the flies must work really hard to give something worthy of trade to the elephant.”

“Name it.” Zion bargained right away.

“I only have one price.” Mr. Rutherford stated.

Both Zion and Mr. Rutherford studied each other carefully. Even my mentor was silent and observing how it was turning out to be. But I noticed that her left eye gave a slight glow. She was using Divination Magic on Mr. Rutherford.

“I said name it.” Zion repeated.

“Absolutely loyalty and alliance from your kingdom. That’s my price. Nothing more and nothing less.” The British man dropped the bomb. And it perplexed me why he would demand that from Zion. I just didn’t get it. “Pay the price, and you will be constantly updated on what we discover from Teios Kyr.”

“You know very well that it’s not my choice.” Zion argued. But the British man was smirked. “That’s a steep price to give. I cannot give an assurance this early on.”

“Who said you have to pay the price right now?” Mr. Rutherford asked.

“Are you willing to bet on a promise?” Zion retorted.

“I want you to make that oath to me as insurance.” The British man smirked at the boy. Zion’s eyes widened for a moment. “Besides, I am sure with someone of noble character like you, you will be a man of your word.”

“If I don’t?” The boy gritted his teeth.

“It will be too late. My resources will be strong enough at that time to wipe out most of your nation.” Mr. Rutherford provoked. “I am also capable of going to your world. I just chose to stay here because I am well aware of my priorities. Unlike you dimwits who had been playing in the hands of Teios Kyr for a whole decade. The battle where the Black Sorceress died was simply a ruse for Altimeraea to be in a false peace.”

“You dare threaten my country?” Zion growled. He summoned Arondight in his hands and stood up immediately. “I don’t take threats lightly.”

Then the man took out his hand and snapped his finger. The room darkened, and magical letters lit up all over the place. They all glowed green, and most of the alphabet were unrecognizable.

“Zion!” High Magus Shiraea urged quickly. She even walked forward in the middle of the room and tried to de-escalate the situation. “Stop this at once! Those are disruptor seals. Even I won’t be able to protect everyone with this many traps!”

“Money can buy the best assassins the world can offer. From my world. And even yours.” Mr. Rutherford suggested. He had that smirk on his face that said he was a big jerk all over. “Besides, don’t forget that I’m not even here. I can give the signal, and you will all die.”

The man raised his hand once again, and red dots appeared on our heads. I knew what they were. But my companions don’t. They just looked at the dots with question marks on their faces. I checked the windows right away and were in an open space. Snipers had a clear shot of us.

“Stop!” I exclaimed. “You’re not serious, are you?”

“Your father should have taught you that you should not make idle threats when you’re in the middle of the enemy’s palms.” Mr. Rutherford lectured. His hand moved downwards, and the red dots on our chests disappeared. As soon as the man put back his hand in his pocket, the room returned to normal. My stomach churned at the thought that the whole unit was rigged with traps. “Don’t get me wrong here. I am not interested in making enemies. What I’m offering is an alliance. That is all.”

Zion calmed down, and Arondight vanished.

“In this realm and era, information had become far more powerful than sheer battle prowess.” Mr. Rutherford continued, and then thoughtfully walked around the massive living room. “Our realm is still at war but not in the kind of war that you mages do in Altimeraea. Nikki’s world and mine are in a war of ideologies. One kind of conviction would battle against another. And Teios Kyr is well aware of that.”

“But the Black Sorceress never struck us as someone who would scheme that far.” Zion commented. “Based on what I heard, she was a power-crazy individual who wanted to converge all dimensions together.”

“That’s what she wanted you to think.” My mentor interjected. Her eyes were looking at me for some reason. “She was trained by Solus Magus and came into the organization as a special case because of her sheer potential. And she worked very hard to gather as much as we know.”

“First, I doubt that even the kings and the leaders of Altimeraea know about the involvement of Teios Kyr in this realm.” The man pointed out. His eyes lingered for a second on my mentor, then moved on. “Based on the movements there in your realm, it’s safe to conclude that Altimeraea is making light of what the Black Sorceress’ left behind. Only the Ministry of Solus Magus had hints of her plans, but they are not even sure.”

“That is true.” High Magus Shiraea confirmed. There was a hint of pride in her voice for some reason. “She was especially talented in cracking the principles behind inter-dimensional travel. And that’s what led to her madness, too.”

“How come we don’t know her real name?” Zion asked.

Mr. Rutherford coughed uncomfortably. He was obsessed with protecting his real identity. There’s a good chance that this person didn’t really look that way. He may even be a woman in real life, and we wouldn’t know. Or maybe some kind of boy genius. The British man was not entirely trustworthy.

“She used a different name when she introduced herself as a young woman to the Ministry of Solus Magus. The Black Sorceress already discovered spells that could alter her looks back then despite her youth. A true prodigy.” The professor explained. I looked at her, but I noticed that Zion and Mr. Rutherford looked at me from my peripheral vision. “That woman was very interested in seeking more power from other dimensions. But it was something that the mages of Altimeraea never bothered on.”

“Altimeraean mages think of themselves as superior. They called us Tidians for lacking magic, but they are not well aware of our ability to innovate.” Mr. Rutherford butted in. His tone was bitter. “The only reason why you wouldn’t see our technology in Altimeraea is that they deemed it that our world’s power would bring impurity to the magical atmosphere of your universe.”

“Except Fuhrstenvald.” My mentor retorted. And her indignance poisoned the tone of her voice. That secretive country was mentioned by my mentor during my first week of stay with her. It had become a mighty nation and posed a threat against the balance of their world. “They have borrowed the power of men from this world. Shameful.”

“Correct.” Mr. Rutherford affirmed. “Fuhrstenvald suddenly closed its borders more than ten years ago and had been hiding ever since. That’s one of the reasons why I knew that they were involved in our world.”

“That is why you capitalized on technology to even further spy on movements of Teios Kyr in this world.” I suddenly asked. “You’ve been busy in dispensing your AI technology all over the world to expand the spider web. It was a trap that was being set over the past couple of years.”

“Maybe you’re not as hopeless as I think you are.” Mr. Rutherford quipped. I dismissed his remarked and raised one of my eyebrows in defiance. “This game with Teios Kyr would take time. The Black Sorceress is cunning and delegates a lot of the plans to her son, Samael. That is why I put no pressure on getting the alliance with Zion’s future kingdom right away.”

Future kingdom. That took my attention away.

“Samael doesn’t look like he’s smart.” I commented sheepishly. “If he’s the mastermind, then how come he’s not well hidden. That bastard is posing as a teacher in my school.”

“Both of them loved to play dumb, but they’re both liars. The apple didn’t really fall far from the rotten tree.” Mr. Rutherford added. Then his gaze turned even more intense. If my dad was like him, I would have attempted to run away from home multiple times. Mr. Rutherford was a bit scary. “You were being observed by Teios Kyr because they were after the Necronomicon. That’s why Samael was there in close quarters. You were essential to their plans.”

“But it still doesn’t make any sense that he would leave everything else for my sake.” I pointed out. The man paused in his thoughts and looked like he was going to bargain.

“Have you ever heard of the Six Fallen Archangels?” The man asked.

There was silence. Not even High Magus Shiraea had an answer. And that made me even more worried. She was the most knowledgeable in the room, and yet she was silent about it. But props to her for not showing that she was surprised.

“I figured.” Mr. Rutherford concluded. “Samael is just one of the six. Five others had special assignments from the Black Sorceress. One of them was responsible for sabotaging my timeline.”

“By now, you should have already penetrated the big corporations. You have a lot of privacy laws that you by-passed for the sake of this game. But you still don’t have a complete picture of what’s really going on.” I reasoned out. The man just smirked as if he was proud. “Why?”

“Finally! Someone else aside from me has a brain in this room. It’s not much, but at least it’s being used.” Mr. Rutherford chuckled arrogantly. “That’s why I asked Zion to communicate with you. I need competent people that can infiltrate that one cursed country.”

“What makes you think we’re going to help?” I argued.

“Destroying the enemy’s fortress of intel will surely hasten your revenge against Teios Kyr. Do it for that unfortunate boy, Phineas Smith. Don’t you hear his cries of pain?” He countered. I almost summoned my Nyxian Blade on the spot. The way he used my best friend’s name. “Your attempts alone was already in vain since you killed him for nothing. You need my help more than I need yours. Don’t ever forget that.”

“Fuck you!” I barked and stood up to him. Zion had a worried look on his face and grabbed my wrist. The two knights didn’t shift in their seats. And High Magus Shiraea was still wearing her flawless poker face. “How dare you!”

“Fuck me, indeed.” Mr. Rutherford scoffed. My hand shook from the way he provoked me. The British man was cunning because he knew he had the upper hand against us. And I hated it. “Teios Kyr was able to block my attempts to penetrate their communication lines. The codes could only be used by mages who can use technology for it to be efficient. And they could only be found in Fuhrstenvald.”

“We will be thinking over this first.” Zion interjected before things would turn for the worse. “Would you give us a few days?”

“I will be back in a week. I want your alliance and cooperation to bring down these barbarians from invading our respective realms.” Mr. Rutherford stated flatly to all of us. “You are all dismissed.”

Then he vanished into thin air.

The first thing I did was storm out of the living room. My blood boiled from the last part of the conversation with Mr. Rutherford. He was an arrogant bastard. Zion ran after me but stopped himself because I slammed the door. I immediately went to sleep after that.

It was awkward for the next couple of days. The professor was gone as well, and no one told me where she went. She’ll probably inform me once she gets back in the unit. Zion broke the ice by inviting me to spar with him and brought Sir Ysverin along to learn the basics of using the scythe more efficiently. He told me that he was quite concerned with how I handled Mr. Rutherford’s provocation.

But he also regretted that the man got to him as well.

Sir Ysverin’s scythe was made out of some darkened gold, and there were no parts that can be disassembled. It was like a whole metallic alloy molded into the shape of an exotic scythe. There were engraved symbols on the belly of its blade when I took a closer look.

He taught me how to continuously use the momentum, and he fought against me savagely. I was readily overwhelmed by the sheer power of its attacks. The whole thing was a blur as he twirled it around his body like a golden tornado. It was as if he was fighting with nunchucks.

No matter how much I defended myself, my blade would be jolted out of my hands. His assaults were both fast and effective. I never had the opportunity to get in closer, like what Zion did to me before. Sir Ysverin never gave me a chance. His scythe, Evaine, looked dazzlingly beautiful due to its shimmering colors. But for some reason, I never got to figure out its powers. Heck, I still didn’t get how Arondight actually worked.

Zion and Sir Ysverin sparred as well. But despite that latter’s overwhelming power, the former still won. He showed before me his superiority of speed. Since he had parkour-like skills, he could comfortably avoid the scythe’s range with flips and spins. I was also surprised when Zion caught the snath in the middle of the spin and didn’t flinch.

In the next couple of days, Sir Ysverin mentored me in the scythe, and Zion helped me with my speed. It was quite productive in pulling me away from my rage against Mr. Rutherford. That guy was more provocative than Samael ever could. I really doubted that he was an ally.

But during one of my afternoon training sessions with Sir Ysverin and Zion, an armored knight barged into the arena floor. He wore a full body armor that looked heavy as if he was pulled out of a medieval movie. The knight immediately knelt before us and bowed his head.

“We have received some urgent news, My Lord.” He stated politely.

“Tsk. I told you not to call me that way.” Zion whined. “You may speak.”

“Apologies.” The knight even bowed lower. His voice went grave. But Zion seemed unfazed Looks like the boy was used to bad news. Even the tension in his eyes changed from the bright persona into a stern, killer-like glare. “We have received intel and confirmed that Teios Kyr will be attacking the Zidanian capital.”

“Then we will join the battle to defend Gyroseus.” Zion commanded with noble dignity. Then what he said next surprised me. “As the crowned prince of Sevel, this will be our way to rebuild our ties with the Federation of Zidania.”

“Yes, Your Highness!” Sir Ysverin, Sir Raea, and this other knight all erupted and knelt with pride before Zion. “For the glory of the crown!”

“Ju-just, who are you?” I stammered.

“My name is Zion Synarius Voltanis zi Aleksandri, the Eleventh.” He replied and looked at me in the eye with fierce courage and intensity. The small boy gave off so much strong presence that I reflexively stepped back. That childish side of him vanished without a trace. “And I am the heir to the throne of the Kingdom of Sevel.”

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