Lux Locus: The First Awakening

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The Big'Un's changes(rewritten)

The squad hurried across the bridge, opting to vault through the rubble and avoid the clear pathways strewn about. The pillars took out any puwandese in their way, but the regimentaries were left to fend for themselves. Strangely enough, the streets after the bridge were clear of any puwandese. While it was obvious, considering the flattened landscape, that the mega blok would have dealt with all the ‘locals’ and squished anything in its way, more of the aliens should have appeared by now. As such, no resistance was found at the entrance to the spire.

“Check this out,” one of the pillars called out.

The pillar and one of her comrades knelt down to have a better look at the thick metal doors and fragments of wall against the floor. There was a massive hole in the entryway of the spire, although one bent door remained dangling precariously on its hinges.

“They were blown off, don’t you think?” the pillar asked.

His comrade shook her head. “No. Look here.” She flipped a piece of metal. “The indentations here match finger marks.”

“There’s some on the doors, too,” another pillar noted. “This ’Big ‘Un’ must be quite befitting of its name to be able to cause such damage with only its hands.

“I don’t feel too good about this,” Killigan worried.

“Do not fret, niwcumen,” one of the pillars comforted. They pushed the remaining metal door off the strings of the hinge that remained, but it fell down with a loud bang with just a modicum of force applied to it. “We have experience in this sort of combat scenario...” He put a hand to the middle of his helmet. “Although I worry about the potential size of this leader.”

Another pillar looked around and pulled out a large flanged mace from the holster built into his armor’s left leg. It crackled with a bright green energy caused by the blood flowing within the tunnels that served as veins for the puwandese. “Still, we must be vigilant. This warlord seems to be smarter than those we have met yet.”

“How so?” Killigan asked.

“He preferred stealth over loud explosions to make his way inside.” He looked back at the torn chunks of metal. “Well...as stealthy as it could be.”

Another pillar checked her weapon and verified the bullet chamber held the naked slugs within. Killigan was enamored by a blue light emanating from the chamber. A hollow ‘cartridge’ was pushed into the side of the weapon, pushing the large metal bullets within and emptying the cartridge.

“What is that?” Killigan asked the woman.

“This?” she asked as she lifted the gun up. “It’s an aetgar. Standard pillar weapon.” She looked down the barrel of the weapon then readjusted the sights. “Fires naked metal slugs at the enemy by charging the bullet with kinetic energy.” She stepped forward and peaked into the spire. “It’s essentially a handheld gauss cannon. Packs such a punch that only pillars can hold them.”

Killigan felt disappointed. “But what about the magitech?”

Another pillar laughed. “We can apply spells to the chamber, and the gun maintains that spell until it runs out...which reminds me.” The pillar pushed their open palm against the top of the gun, and a bright yellow-orange light filtered through their fingers. “Need some explosives to knock some sense into those aliens.”

“Works well considering the bullets are point nine-nine-eight caliber bullets,” the previous pillar added.

The weapon itself was quite large, perhaps the size of a handheld rocket launcher for a normal human. Its barrel was round with two, hollow, triangular clamps flanking both sides of its body. With the glimpses that Killigan got of it, he could see blue energy glowing from it to the chamber socket on the right side of the main body. The main body in question was cylindrical and its trigger resided underneath it. The stock was designed like a hook. It was clear to the child that it was an emergency solution had they no melee weaponry.

“So, would I get one after this mission?” Killigan asked with a sheepish smile.

The pillars looked at each other briefly then walked into the spire. They had enough of his questions. The inside of the spire wasn’t much better looking than the outside.

“We can’t reach the upper floors,” a pillar said. “The stairs leading to them were destroyed.”

“The backup generators are on the lower floors anyways.

The entrance, shaped into a hexagon, was almost devoid of damage. Most of it had been focused on the entrance. A sculpture of sorts connected the roof and was comprised of golden metals bent and twisted into a partial spiral. Several turning and twisting, wide bands of metal swirled around a single, rounded point in the middle of the whole sculpture. There was no singular form, but it was apparent that the metal itself was twisted into a waving form while several smaller beams twisted away from the main body like vines and wrapped around the walls at the outer ends of the decoration.

“Hm. This almost looks like the symbol of the Terran Expanse,” a pillar noted. He turned to face his comrades. “Why wouldn’t the puwandese take this? I thought they liked shiny things.”

“Looks like I was right,” the female pillar said. “The Big ’Un is here for something else, but I don’t know what.” She looked around the dark entrance, her steps echoing loudly. “Never encountered a puwandese like this.”

The area was fully barren, so Killigan couldn’t figure out exactly what purpose this spire had aside from housing backup generators. Thin-but-tall windows on the highest parts of the walls served as the entrance for light into the building, but as it stood, the windows were fully obstructed either by hanging pieces of floor or debris from outside.

Killigan rubbed his forehead in relief. “Well, at least we aren’t high up this time,” he sighed.

“What are you talking about?” a female pillar asked. “This is the one-hundred-and-thirty-fourth floor’s main entrance. The city is built into a cliff. There are many more places deep below.”

The child stared into the abyss as his imagination started working into hyperactivity.

“Let’s hurry forward. The backup is a floor below us,” a male pillar said. “We don’t know if the puwandese are going to get reinforcements or not nor where the big ’un is.”

They all walked towards enormous, circular platforms built into one of the corners. The circles emitted a low humming sound and a faint pink light which seemed to fight for color dominance with the slowly rotating golden trims of the platforms.

“Go on in,” a pillar suggested.

Killigan abided. He stepped upon the platform and instantly found himself engulfed in a blue light. When it faded, he was in the lower floors where walls were barely an existence. They had been pushedoutwards, and a long trail of the ceiling was missing as well. The boy took a deep gulp when he realized it was likely the ’big ‘un’ that caused it.

He went closer to the walls to analyze the damages in greater detail. “But...this corridor is wide enough for three pillars standing side-to-side...” he whispered to himself.

One of the pillars teleporting in stared awestruck at the damages. “What happened here?” they wondered. She was distracted by Killigan putting a hand to his stomach and keeling over. “That’s magic sickness,” she explained. “You’ll get over it.”

Another passed by the boy and continued his way. “It happens on your first time. That should subside after a few minutes.”

Killigan nodded. “I hope so.”

“NO!” a voice bellowed from the distance.

Killigan was sure he recognized the voice, but he kept quiet. Without knowing for sure, there could be problems. Reacting to the sound, the pillars hurried through the halls and followed the trail of destruction left behind. Some unpleasant realizations were made by Killigan who went pale when he saw red splotches dotted throughout the corridors. They came upon a large room filled with large, cylindrical machines in the middle of the large chamber. They were covered in dust, and several heavy red cables dangled from them to a device hanging from the room. It was very reminiscent of a chandelier, and several metal poles kept it locked in place and connected to the ceiling. The cylinders themselves were covered in several plates of metal, but some had been peeled off, revealing the interior and making the armor take on a puzzle-pieces appearance. The circuits and dynamos within glowed a faint blue and hummed softly.

The chamber was surrounded by thick black walls illuminated by several bulbs held within their structure and protected by reinforced glass. It was still very hard to see, however. Despite their numbers, the bulbs were not strong. Killigan looked at the dynamo and wondered why.

To the right of the cylinders were several control desks and large monitors covering the wall. All of them had been destroyed, either by smashing, being ripped off, or being affected by bullets dotting the rest of wall’s surface.

“Two of the monitors still work, squad leader” one of the pillars whispered.

“When we assess the area, then we can attend to them and see if they’re functional.” She looked over his shoulder towards Killigan. “Niwcumen, use your gauntlets to protect our backs from any threats that are too close. We’ll stick together to facilitate coordination. Understood?” Killigan nodded and gulped nervously. “Good.”

Looking around, the pillars saw a man kneeling in front of one of the cylinders with several regimentaries and civilians dead around him. “We were so close,” he cursed behind his teeth. The man punched the ground in frustration.

“Who are you?” a pillar shouted.

The man raised his head up immediately, and his eyes lit up. “Pillars?” the man spoke with hope.

Killigan recognized the dirtied face immediately. “Jeffer!” he shouted.

Jeffer narrowed his eyes. “Killigan? I was certain you had been killed by the puwandese.” He nodded, impressed. “I saw the explosion from quite a distance. Heard it as well. Very loud.”

Killigan turned towards the pillars. “He’s a niwcumen. Like me...Well, he was a regimentary, so not completely like me,” Killigan trailed off.

“A niwcumen pillar? I see.” The squad leader turned to the others. “Check the vicinity for threats. I need to debrief this man.” The pillars nodded and carefully walked around, checking their corners and the upper floors. She stepped forward and looked at Jeffer. “What are you doing here? How did you even get here?”

The man scratched the back of his head. “Well, as Killigan might recall, I was with Yuva: another niwcumen. We were trying to find a way to the backup generators.”

The squad leader looked around then knelt down. “Were these people with you?” she pointed to them with her thumb.

Jeffer shook his head. “When I got here they were already dead.” He sighed and stood up, punching the cylinder. “These damned things were dismantled. Most of the circuitry needed for the mana flow are gone. All that’s left are the monitors over there.” He pointed to the destroyed screens in the wall. “But they were destroyed, likely in the exchange that occurred here before we arrived.”

“Where is Yuva?” Killigan asked.

The man shrugged. “I don’t know. We split off once we reached the spire’s proximity. She could be anywhere.”

The group were startled when the massive, empty wall behind Jeffer blew open, throwing dust and debris everywhere.

“Theh sparkly tubez iz ovehr heyre,” a loud and booming voice shouted. Loud stomps caused the room to tremble and everyone present to have trouble keeping their balance. A massive bluish-green puwandese pierced through the smoke cloud with his bulky frame. He was smiling, excited, and looking to something behind him. He was none to be pleased to find humans with his prizes. “Wheht eyr humes doin’ with mey sparkly tubez?” He punched his armored chest then pointed to it with his thumb. “They’re meyn!”

“Wh-wh-what is that?!” Killigan shouted.

“That’s the biggest ’Big ‘Un’ I’ve ever seen!” Jeffer shouted.

He scampered backwards and clumsily got back to his feet so he could rejoin the pillars. The Big’Un laughed at the sight.

The pillars immediately closed in upon each other and trained their guns on the giant.

“That thing is easily five meters tall,” one of the pillars said. “We don’t have anything to hurt it. Its skin will have become too dense for basic aetgar bullets to cause any significant damage.”

The puwandese seen up to this point had a tendency to be about the height or slightly smaller than a pillar, but this Big ’Un towered over the humans present. Unlike other puwandese, the Big ’Un wore a plethora of different colored armor stitched and melted together ranging from reddish armor to purple cloth covering what was clearly a chunk of tank hull of his left breast. They gave the puwandese a blocky, uneven appearance, but he didn’t seem to mind at all. His grin accentuated his massive teeth, and one of his ‘tusks’ growing from his smaller, lower jaw brought attention to the screw in his left eye. His muscles were bulging and his arms and legs were both as massive as his shoulders were broad.

“Yeh gonna attack me, humes, or oy’m genna have teh dew it mehself?” He scoffed and crossed his arms. “Oy’ve been bored ’n oy fink yeh’re genna put up a wee feyt. Tae yer time if yeh think yeh ken feyt me.” He turned to the massive hole in the wall. “Get theh clampy ’andz, ya gumps!”

The squad leader looked to Killigan. “We might not be able to kill him with our guns, but the niwcumen has tower gauntlets.”

Killigan looked from the puwandese to the squad leader, a stupefied look adorning his face. “What?” he shouted.

“We have no choice,” another said. “We’ll draw him closer and you punch him with those things. I’ll try and get back up for this beast.” He fiddled with the side of his helmet energetically. “We’ll all be dead if we don’t get vehicular help.”

“Open fire!” the squad leader shouted.

The aetgar’s barrel let out deafening explosions in slow successions. Every time they would fire, the main body would glow faintly then a low hum would precede a jolt of kinetic energy dispersing from the barrel tip. Jeffer hid in the back behind the generator, doing what he could with his barb. Being a regular assault rifle using basic explosion force, it wasn’t doing much but annoying the big ’un.

The big ‘un covered his face with his bulky arms and grunted in pain. “Ow! Yeh’re annoyin’ me with thehm prickly guns.” He stomped the ground angrily, cracking it and destabilizing the pillars momentarily. “Yeh’re neh foytin’ Yeh’re jehst troyin’ teh run away!” He pointed to himself again. “Slackjaw don’t evehr let no hume run when they’s look fehr feytin’!”

He reached for a lengthy handle protruding from his back and pulled a gigantic sledgehammer out. He immediately slammed it at the pillars, squashing one of them and bursting a hole through the floor. The sight of a pillar being killed so easily caused both Jeffer and Killigan to freeze.

“A pillar dying in an instant?! I...That’s impossible!” Jeffer screamed in his head.

Slackjaw snorted angrily when he was hit again by the aetgar. “Oy! Yeh’re neht s’posed to run away! ’Ow’m I s’posed teh squish yeh?”

Smaller puwandese started pouring in from the opening behind the big ’un, forcing the pillars to split their attention.

“Bring him closer!” the squad leader shouted. “Keep the lesser rotflesh away!”

A group of five pillars made a wide berth around the big ’un who tried to crush them but found his aim thrown off by the aetgar shooting his arms. Killigan and Jeffer, however, were not contributing at all. They couldn’t understand what was happening, but while one had a reason, the other did not. However, Killigan got to see firsthand the damages that an aetgar rifle could do to a regular target. Some of the smaller puwandese were wearing bulky armor, tripling their girth. The aetgar did not care, however. They tore through everything and continued unhindered behind the victim to bore into more behind. The puwandese showed an equal amount of apathy to their state, as they would continue forward even when missing a large chunk of their bodies.

A few pillars broke through the five and rushed straight for Killigan despite the attempts by the pillars to kill them.

“Niwcumen, watch it!” one of the pillars shouted before narrowly dodging a downwards strike by the hammer.

Slackjaw grew angry and punted the man into a wall, denting his armor and destroying his gun. The young blacksmith felt his heart beat race more and more and world slow around him. The gauntlets flickered with some of his mana but could not maintain the charge. He got to his feet, ducked under the large cleaver slice by one of the puwandese and upper-cutted him in the jaw. The rotflesh was sent soaring high into the ceiling, surprising the big ’un and the other puwandese. Using the lapse in attention to his advantage, Killigan pounded the puwandese into the floor with the bottom of his fists until there was nothing left but blue blood.

Slackjaw almost smiled from the sight but cried out in pain. The source was a pillar who had struck the back of his leg with a flanged mace surrounded by green energies. It had barely singed his skin, but his armor had not fared as well. It had melted away.

“Stupid hume!” he roared. The behemoth sweeped his arm back and clipped the pillar, throwing him through the walls and into rooms further away. He rubbed the back of his leg and frowned. “I liked theht shiny skin,” he whined. “You, hume!” He pointed to Killigan. “Yeh geht sem fancy punches theh’re.” The alien clenched his hammer in both hands. “Let’s hehv eh li″le tussle

The puwandese in the back were hiding behind mounds of rubble to shoot at the pillars, but their armor coupled with mana shields prevented most damage. However, they would still be overwhelmed and pulled apart if the aliens managed to get through. The best the pillars could do was keep them back until reinforcements arrived. The pillar calling for help waved his hand to the squad leader and pointed to his helmet. He received a nod in return.

“Stupid pokey sticks!” Slackjaw yelled angrily.

He stepped back and tripped over the generators, causing him to fall to the ground. He looked up to see Killigan, his face distorted by fear, reeling his fist back. The crack caused by the contact echoed through the area, and Jeffer cheered at the sight. However, Slackjaw slowly turned his head back towards the young boy. He spat out a few teeth and brought down his palm upon the child. Killigan jumped to the side, landing on his stomach and scampering away to the best of his abilities.

“YOU HUMES MOVE TOO MEHCH!” Slackjaw shouted angrily.

Killigan tripped and fell back down. He rolled over to see the hammer coming down on him and instinctively punched upwards, pushing the weapon away and throwing the big’un off balance. This gave Killigan the time he needed to get back on his feet and punch the big’un in the stomach. The alien groaned in pain and clutched his stomach while Killigan punched him more in his legs. The puwandese grew impatient and swatted the young boy against one of the generators, partially knocking him out.

“Ey...” Slackjaw pushed himself up with the hilt of his hammer and wobbled about back onto his feet. “Yeh’re eh good punchehr, but s’gonna take more ’n a few knicks get me down.” He wiped his mouth of blue blood and spit and grinned. “Tell ya what.” He spread his arms out. “Ya gave meh eh good foyt. If’n ya live after that, I’ll be ’appy teh fight yeh again ’n maybeh die too.” He laughed heartily, his voice bellowing through the chamber.

All pillars and puwandese ceased their fighting suddenly as the sound of loud explosions and tremors shook the chamber, chasing dust off the walls and shaking loose some weakened debris. Slackjaw looked up and around and snorted.

“Ey didn’t tell anywehn teh come shootin’ ’ere. Wheht’s theht s’posed teh be?” he wondered.

Realizing what was happening, one of the pillars jumped onto Slackjaws’ chest, pointed his gun at the bottom of his jaw, then let loose three rounds. Disfigured, the giant smashed the pillar against his chest, stunning him, then grabbed him in his hand. The whole side of the puwandese’ face had been torn off, leaving a shred of blue meat. Slackjaw didn’t say anything. He only glared at the human through his helmet then started to slowly squeeze.

“NO!” the squad leader shouted.

The aetgar did nothing to free the pillar, and with his overwhelming bulk, Slackjaw crushed the man like a mere can and tossed him over his shoulder.

“I lost another!” the squad leader lamented. Her grip tightened the longer she looked at the corpse of her squad mate.

“These humes is annoyin’,” the big’un yelled at the smaller puwandese. “Wohy haven’t yeh shot ’em yet?”

“We are!” one answered “Dere just too hard teh geht threwgh.” Said puwandese was shot in the head and fell to the ground.

Slackjaw rolled his eyes and was about to intervene when several explosions covered his face, pushing him a few steps backwards.

“All these humes with theihr tricks!” he cursed.

A woman was standing above the room from a newly made tunnel in the ramparts above. She spat out a bullet kept in her mouth and grinned.

“Oy, rotflesh! I thought you were supposed to be smart.” She spread her arms wide around her. “I killed all your gunners. On my own, and I brought reinforcements!”

“Yuva?” Killigan whispered.

Slackjaw wiped the soot and red off his face and looked up with squinty eyes.

“‘N so what? Yeh’re s’posed teh spook me?” He wiggled his fingers. “So scary. Yeh got sehm more teeny humes.” He pulled out a large chunk of shrapnel from his face and angrily threw it to the ground. “Oy’m still gettin’ moy sparkly tubes!”

“Well,” Yuva started. “These aren’t regular humans, nor are they regular puwandese,” she said in a mocking tone.

A wide grin formed along Yuva’s face, and the tremors from earlier started again. Their amplification was met by a loud rumbling noise and hundreds of shells mowing down the puwandese at the opening in the wall. Those that did survive were promptly shot in the head by one bullet. Everyone stared at the opening and listened to the loud, heavy thumps of a massive metal body. It belonged to a figure easily twice as thick and big as a regular pillar’s armor despite sharing almost identical characteristics. All along its body ran blue lines wrapping around its joints and thrumming audibly with power. The helmet was a tall, tower-like object with multiple glass ‘eyes’ interspersed between spikes set along seven different horizontal axis. On its right arm was a weapon comprised of three, interlocking gatling cannons, and upon his shoulders were two blue needles held within two canisters. The canisters were comprised of thin strands of metal weaving together from a hemispherical base to a thin opening where three prongs hung just outside the reach of the needle.

“A sizeable big ’un,” the tower said. He held up his gatling cannons with his right arm and placed his left upon the long handle jutting from its side. “The bunorrastefen aetgar will take some time to dig through his flesh.” He cracked his neck. “A tower geat never opens.”

“Dig through moy--”

Slackjaw’s semi-dismissive and confused attitude to the situation ceased almost instantly the moment the barrels spun and fired their payload. Even the massive big ’un was no match for their firepower and found his armor being peeled off like wet paper. His arms wouldn’t hold out for long either.

“Fine. Oy’ll sacrifice one of theh sparkly tubes, but that’s only ’cause oy respect yer splosdy tubes.” He reached for one of the generators and, with some effort, tore it from its base. The tethering poles in the floor were bent and twisted by the force, and now the puwandese had a massive shield to protect himself. “TRY TEH SMASH THIS!”

He lobbed the massive machine at the tower who stopped firing his bunor aetgar. With feet planted firmly on the ground, the weapons on the pillar’s shoulder stopped wobbling and focused on the incoming danger. A frail light came from them and touched the generator, but it only took a microsecond for their full power to be unveiled. Two massive blue laser engulfed the generator then pierced through the walls behind and into the sky of the city, much to the shock and awe of the three niwcumen.

The tower should have paid more attention, as Slackjaw was not throwing the generator for fun. He had dived underneath it and took a horizontal swing at the tower. Unfortunately it wasn’t the same kind that squished the pillar earlier. Clicking a switch on the grip, the hammer head of melded metals opened up and let out torrents of flame, increasing its impact power tenfold. The tower geat was sent flying through several walls of the spire and vanished into the distance.

The big ’un laughed loudly. “Moy ’ammer is a rocket ’ammer!” His laughs stopped momentarily so he could look at the pillars. “Didn’t expect that, didja?”

Slackjaw suddenly found himself to his knees, surprising even his opponents. A flash blinded the squad leader momentarily, and she looked up towards Yuva to see two individuals in excessively slim armor holding very long rifles. Their armor, although following the pattern of pillar armor, was very thin and resembled cloth more than metal. Their helmets were solid, rounded pieces of smooth metal with no patterns or view-ports on their surface.

“A tower geat and now two tower forweall?” the squad leader noticed. She turned to face what remained of her ten-man squad. “Shoot it!” she shouted.

“But what about the tower he smacked away?” a pillar asked in concern.

The squad leader pulled several bullets from a compartment in her right thigh and fed them to her gun in a belt made from mana. “They’ll be back. Tower geats won’t be killed by just a hammer.” She pointed up. “Plus we have their help.”

The rifles of the tower forweall emitted steam from openings in the barrel exit. The body would open vents during every firing, letting free excess energy and any steam caused by the extreme heat created within the chamber. A surprisingly small amount of glass lens were raised by the towers using small levers on the sides of the barrel, giving them as precise a view as they might need. Much like the aetgar, these rifles didn’t use cartridges.

“Puwandese is in-doors,” the first whispered to his comrade. “Calculate based on room temperature and ally proximity.”

“I’m aware,” the other replied. She shot near the spine of the puwandese, but his armor kept the bullet lodged within it. “Backside armor is thicker than expected. We’ll need multiple bullets to penetrate it.”

“Understood.”

Slackjaw was growing angrier and angrier. He forced himself up despite his wounded legs, pressed the switch on his armor, then let fly his weapon into the tower to his left. The wall was caved in, and because of the already significant damages beneath caused by the tower geat flying through the wall prior, the whole structure came crashing down, leaving just a thin layer of concrete and metal of the outside layer exposed.

The towers soared through the air and hooked themselves onto one of many indentations in the walls far to the opposite of their previous location.

“An interesting use of these new designs,” the squad leader noted while shooting at Slackjaw’s head.

The barrels of their rifles receded partially into the body, alleviating the weight and allowing one-handed shooting despite the recoil. The big ’un was pushed down twice by the bullets and stood up tall afterwards.

“OY’M GETTIN’ REAL TIRED OF YEHR RUNNIN’ AWAY!” he bellowed. He looked to the remaining pillars and held his hammer towards them. “N’ OY’M GETTIN’ REAL TEYRED OF YEH ALSO! PELTIN’ ME WEF RECKS!”

The giant reflexively bent backwards as a beam of blue light carved through a portion of his chest and went through the walls to his left.

“Wheht?!” the big ’un shouted.

Pushing the rubble aside, the tower geat returned to the battlefield, his armor slightly dented on its left side.

“The deuj naegl...” he murmured. “A powerful new weapon.” He opened his left palm, revealing a hollow black opening in its middle and small blades on his finger tips. “That coupled with the new gebicfyldan fornetes upon my hand make me a new potential threat.” He clenched and unclenched his right hand several times. “I will have to make a report on these weapons.”

Slackjaw didn’t bother exchanging words. Instead, he brought his hammer down, but the tower stood his ground and shot out a blue crystal from his right deuj naegl. The item burrowed into the weapon with enough force to throw the strike down and miss the pillar. In return, the tower slammed its palm upon the arm of the giant, and an uncomfortable ear-screech preceded Slackjaw screaming in pain. His arm had been sectioned off of his hand, and yet there was no blood.

He tried his best to kill the tower, but the triple-line gatling cannons on his arm pushed the giant back, and the sniping brought by the tower forweall prevented Slackjaw from running away. With a final blow from the intact deuj naegl, the big ’un and a portion of the floors were no more. The squad leader did not hesitate to greet her reinforcements.

“Quite impressive. Thank you for the assistance,” she said.

The tower geat walked over to the hammer and started pulling the crystal out. “It is our job, he said. “we Wear these...these armors to-” His arm flew backwards from finally pulling the crystal out. “Got it!” He raised it towards the canister and let it bring the object back into its home. “To help where no one else can.”

The two tower forweall jumped down, shrunk their weapons, and placed them on their backs.

“And this was a good opportunity to test these new tower forweall armors,” the male said.

“I find them to be very light,” the female replied as she tapped the thin armor.

The first pondered. “We should warn the rest of the defenders here and call for ship reinforcements,” he said in a somber tone.

The second tower forweall nodded. “With the generators all-but-destroyed, there’s no way we can reactivate the defenses.” She hummed to herself. “Although, with the news of that thing dead,” she looked to the squad leader.

“The stronger puwandese will fight amongst themselves to try and gain the position of leader.” There was a moment of silence. “We’ll get some breathing room for a small time, then.”

Slackjaw, despite being practically just an arm and a head, reached for Killigan and tried to squeeze him to death. “Yeh’re...yeh’re theh one ‘oo ruined everythin’...Yer hehnds tired...me...”

The puwandese’s grip lessened, allowing Killigan to use his gauntlets to burst out of the remainders of the hand and watch the giant as the last of his light left his body.

“A death throe,” the squad leader said. She kicked the giant in the head. “He’s dead now.”

Killigan stared at the dead eyes staring upwards with partially closed eyelids and a maw both crooked and agape. The tower geat, however, was interested in something else. He stomped towards Killigan and grabbed his wrist so he could lift him up.

“Ow! Let me go!” the young boy shouted. “What do you want?!”

“What’s going on?” the squad leader asked aggressively.

“This boy...” The tower looked up and down. “He is using an outdated model of tower gauntlet, and is wearing unknown technology to use it.” He dropped Killigan to the floor.

“The matter of acquisition of the gauntlets matter little to me, but,” he poked the boy in the chest. “where did you get that technology?” he asked.

Killigan pulled back the gauntlets and rubbed his wrist. “I made it,” he answered. “It took me months of constant trial and error...”

The pillars remained silent until the tower spoke up. Yuva, meanwhile, had climbed down and was joining the group.

“How did you accomplish what others never succeeded at? We have had decades to make magitech work with humans.”

“I...” Killigan wanted to answer, but nothing came.

Yuva took the opportunity to get a better look at the weapons and nodded. “These are second generation tower gauntlets, no?” she asked the geat. He nodded. “That means they’re barely magitech.” She wiped her forehead of sweat. “They have tremendous technological potential with the means to improve it by strengthening themselves with mana, but they aren’t truly magitech.”

The geat crossed his arms. “Tower gauntlets use the mana fields to imbue themselves with exceptional power and abilities,” he replied dismissively. “It’s embedded into the system, and these gauntlets drain a massive amount of mana. No human could wield them without dying seconds later!”

“Adding to that their sheer weight,” squad leader added.

“Actually, I barely found any magitech in it,” Killigan interjected. “I found some orbs filled with mud and algae in the knuckles, but they weren’t doing anything so I left them there.” He shrugged. “Couldn’t really clean them without destroying the gauntlets themselves, though...” he lamented.

The male tower forweall stepped forward. “You could become a pillar craeft with that kind of creativity.”

“If he survives until he’s extracted,” the female retorted.

“Jeffer!” Yuva shouted. “What’s wrong with you? Still hiding over there?” she asked him.

The man did not react to the mockery and remained hidden. Worried, Yuva walked towards him while Killigan was still spoken to by the towers.

“I will speak of your exploits to our foundation’s bregu, ‘Golden Fist’,” he spoke respectfully.

“G-Golden Fist?” the boy repeated.

He was jabbed in the shoulder and pushed away by the squad leader’s playful elbow thrust. “Impressive. Not even a niwcumen, and already you’ve been endowed with a title.”

“By a tower, no less,” another pillar chimed in.

Killigan looked straight at the tower’s head, a mixture of fear and curiosity pushing him forward. “What’s a bregu?” he asked the geat.

“The leader of a foundation,” the tower said dryly. “You weren’t told this before your arrival?” The two exchanged stares, although Killigan’s was fearful and embarrassed. “Wh...Weren’t you two inducted several months ago?”

“No.” Killigan said. He shrunk down a bit. “I was just injected with something and then sent down here with the others. Two of us were killed in the city.”

The geat rubbed his temples in annoyance and partially lowered them to look at the squad leader. She shrugged in response.

“I picked him up on my way here,” she explained. “His gauntlets did come in handy, although, without their full power, they had no true use to us in this situation.”

A pillar put a hand on Slackjaw’s corpse and stroked the melted flesh and bone. “We should have this body given to the Imperator Niethgaest Biologic.” He turned to face the group. “They’ll be interested in how such a massive specimen came to be and how it worked.”

“That’s a good idea,” the squad leader said. She fumbled with the side of her helmet and sighed. “We’ll have to take care of this siege first, or else we won’t get this corpse anywhere.” She turned to Killigan. “Go get your friends. We’re heading out again, and need you to spot for us.”

Killigan nodded and headed back, but he was interrupted by the male tower forweall. “Be careful with those gauntlets,” he said. “There’s something odd about them. Wherever you got them...” He looked at the gauntlets in disdain. “They’ve been corrupted. Whether this bodes ill or well is for time to tell.”

He nodded slowly. The boy lingered on the tower before continuing towards Yuva and Jeffer.

“Regimentaries, we need to go,” he shouted out to them. He dodged a pit and stopped next to Yuva staring at something leaning against the intact generator. “Yuva?” he wondered. “Is there something wrong, m-m’am?” he blurted.

The woman flinched momentarily at the word but did not turn around. “Jeffer,” she spoke flatly. “Come on. Let’s go. It’s dead.”

The boy leaned over to see Jeffer hiding between his knees, his whole body trembling. He was mumbling to himself nonstop.

“It killed a pillar with no effort. It was a creature. It fought towers...We needed towers for one puwandese...”

While the battle with the Big’Un had finally ended, the puwandese started fighting amongst themselves to lead the warband. Little pockets were formed all around the ruins of the city, facilitating the effort to find and burn them out. Neither the regimentaries nor the pillars were going to let the blue monstrosities acquire another big ’un and start wreaking havoc on the rest of the planet.

Killigan and Yuva were both extracted and sent somewhere else in the city for proper scouting duty, but Jeffer was extracted from the planet altogether to be evaluated and aided by the pillar flaesc. The idea of someone breaking on the field of battle scared Killigan. Everyone had a breaking point, so what was his? He was just a young boy, and that was an experienced soldier. After an Earth week of fighting, the niwcumens were extracted, once again, to the heavy cruiser lying in orbit. It had taken damage from the space battle nearby, as evidenced by a few holes in the hull, glowing shards of metal torn outwards and a few small objects floating around to repair the damages, and a damaged thruster that was sputtering flames and sparx.

There were significantly fewer niwcumen that returned compared to those that were sent out to the planet. Killigan could count himself amongst the lucky ones, it seemed. Surely there was a better way to acquire new recruits, he thought. All the remaining niwcumen were guided towards a single, circular room at the end of the ship. The symbol of the Marma Fissures was etched into the walls with a sparkling, purple material. The floor was a polished, night-blue metal reflecting the people standing on it while the walls were left black. A banner with the colors of the fissures hung on the opposite side of the entrance where a few pillars stood. Each of them had the trim colors that Levitum had on his armor. Save the people present, the room was generally devoid of any decorum, such as chairs.

Golden orbs floated in bean-shaped containers built into the ceiling. A single pillar stood in front of the few niwcumen still present. Most of the survivors were hunched, crouched over, or just sitting on the ground, exhausted. The amount of niwcumen, Killigan noticed, only needed three hands to be counted fully. He frowned and began to worry. Looking around, he saw the few pillars present in the room and felt something weigh upon him further. The boy also noticed that the giant symbols he had seen in the spire were painted into the ceiling and placed behind the Fissures’ symbol. He was unsure of what it was supposed to be.

“Niwcumen,” the pillar shouted. “You have passed your first battles, but you are not pillars yet.” He gave pause. “Until your bodies have absorbed the serum fully and you begin to adapt and grow, you are not yet niwcumen pillars. Until then,” he started tapping his open palm. “You will be sent to regular training and to other areas under our protection to perform your duties.” He tilted his head. “Befitting of your status, of course.” Two pillar magus stepped out of the room after fumbling with something in the floor behind the announcer. “The Bregu of the Marma Fissures wishes to congratulate you all from our home in the Selabi system,” the pillar finished before following his comrades.

A bright light came from a crystal in the ground just behind where the pillar stood, and from came a bubble that gradually morphed into a simulacrum of a pillar. This pillar’s helmet’s visor was replaced by two red optics occasionally shrinking and growing by way of brass rings around them turning the crystals. Unlike regular pillar helmets, this one did not have a ridge. Instead, the metal angled around the jawbones of its wearer and narrowed slightly the closer it got to his chin and remained smooth and flat, almost creating a ‘V’ with protruding, thin metal. His pauldrons were a bit larger than the normal suits of armor; and three blue veins of magic ran along their surfaces. The fingers of his gauntlets were a shiny, metallic color, reminding Killigan of his own special gauntlets. Hr didn’t know if it was just a personal color scheme, a new weapon like the tower geat used against the big ’un, or something else entirely.

Another noticeable difference, aside from the red seals placed on the intersection of shoulder and torso, was the single, solid form of the armor. It was still functioning like the regular pillar armor in the joints, but unlike their armor which required assembly in steps, this armor was a single sheet of metal.

“Niwcumen,” he bellowed. “Be proud of what you have accomplished and do not forget those comrades who were with you during this trial.” He looked down briefly then back up, his loud voice calming.” “This trial... it is a tradition, and a necessity to be put in such situations.” He extended his arm and slowly moved it from one side to the other, as though presenting everyone. “You should already notice a slight difference with your bodies as they start developing and growing.” He brought his arm back to his side. “Much like children, you still have much physical growth left, but unlike children, your mental growth is already above standards.”

He watched and waited to see the niwcumen verify if what he was saying was true, and while a few did notice a slight tightness to their clothing, there wasn’t much else for them to note. “The vast majority of you were regimentaries, and it would surprise me if any civilians survived the ordeal.”

Killigan cleared his throat. It wasn’t meant to bring attention to himself, but the timing couldn’t have been worse, especially when considering that his loudness echoed in the room due to lack of sounds. Almost all present turned to face the boy who felt himself burning red and shrink down under their gazes.

“I see,” the bregu said. “Most impressive. That is quite a feat.” He rubbed his chin then leaned forward, his voice becoming deeper and darker. “Unless you actually hid from everyone,” he suggested with disdain. “Bring the recruit forward,” he ordered with a hand gesture.

“But--”

Killigan wasn’t given time to explain the misunderstanding and was pushed forward by two pillars to face the bregu. Even if he wasn’t physically present, the hologram still emitted his imposing presence.

The bregu leaned forward to have a better look at Killigan while the optics in the helmet adjusted themselves several times. “Ahhhhhh. You’re the one Oorivat spoke of in his report.”

“O-Oorivat?” Killigan stuttered.

“Yes. A tower geat. I believe you met him in your first mission.”

“Oh. Him.”

The bregu nodded. “Yes. He says he was intrigued by your engineering feats more than your martial prowess.” Killigan dropped his shoulders, but the bregu brushed that fact aside. “Martial prowess is learned. It is only inherent for few individuals. You’re not here to have instant power and be impressive,” he explained. The bregu looked over Killigan’s shoulder to the other niwcumen. “That goes for all of you.” His optics focused back onto the boy. “As for you, the fact remains that he came to call you ‘Golden Fist’ on account of the items you carry on your wrists. Then there’s this...bizarre contraption around you.”

The boy remained silent, but a pillar standing on the sides chimed in.

“Sir,” she interjected. “A pillar who acquires a nickname is a distinguished individual amongst his peers. While it is not necessary to become known, a nickname or title can be very helpful for others to remember you.” She looked down at Killigan, and although her face was hidden by her helmet, he knew she held disdain for him. “He is but a child who rode the curtails of the more experienced to survive. He is undeserving of such an honor.”

The bregu stared at her. “Titles aren’t just to accrue respect and fame,” he explained dryly. “They can be acquired for other...reasons.” He bobbed his head left and right. “As for this boy’s activities, cross-referencing reports prove to me that he did not flee even when facing one of the largest puwandese big ’uns we have ever seen.” His voice became garbled and quiet. “Another in that same encounter was not as unfortunate.”

The pillar backed away and resumed her position against the wall, her aetgar to her chest, like her colleagues.

“An interesting complaint,” the bregu mumbled to himself. “Do not fret, child,” he told Killigan. “The simple fact that you are a civilian child that has survived let alone against a big’un has brought back some of my excitement.” He chuckled. “With my age, I haven’t seen the Terran Expanse befit its name. We have grown stagnant in our ways.” He stared at Killigan, and nodded after a few seconds. “I will have you report to Pillar Craeft Master Eriee. You will learn the basics of magitech craft from the pillar craeft.” He hummed curiously. “I await to see what creativity you will churn out.” He continued to stroke the chin of his helmet as though it possessed a beard, then turned back to face the whole group in the room. “Being niwcumen baptized by your first true battle as a pillar, you must swear an oath that will bind you to the foundations of all pillar scieldans and, ultimately; humanity. Repeat the words as I say them. You will have to memorize our traditions and oath.”

The pillars on the sides stepped forward, encroaching upon the weary niwcumen; Backs straight and heads held high.

In se ansien hléor

(In the face of mouths)

Ic cwide nā fiell aet costung

(I will not fall to temptation)

Hwonne orwénnes fæðm mec

(When despair/hopelessness embraces me)

Ness sceal béon áclíefaþ by min gewill

(They shall be parted(cleaved) by my will)

Gid ic béon cyme by se blód

(If I am approached by the blood)

Ic sceal áclænsae hit áwemmendnes

(I shall cleanse it of taint)

Min gewill sy þone manscipe

(My will is that of humanity)

“The Imperator Oferwealdend lead us, but do not direct us. Our god Mana Magis is our protection.”

Although some sentences weren’t followed completely, the bregu noted that they did their best to keep as close to the oath as they could. “Good. Good,” he spoke pleasantly.

One of the pillars stepped forward and tapped his left breast with a fist. “Bregu Malwé, thank you for honoring us with this ceremony. It is quite uncommon for you to be present in them at all.”

“That is true, but I had interest in these new recruits.” He looked to Killigan and leaned his head back some. “Not just this child.” He leaned forward to be eye-to-eye with the boy despite the great disparity in height. “You must all remember that fancy gimmicks do not make you special. War does not cherry pick.”

Malwé reached out towards Killigan, but his form suddenly became two-dimensional. He was spreading the magic with his metallic fingers, turning it into a gateway, and allowing Killigan to see details not shown by the magitech. The bregu black stripes inscribed with white runes around his pauldrons, elbows, knees, belt, wrists, and ankles. The runes hummed bright and dim as though they were breathing.

“Bregu Malwé, you cannot just come here!” the pillar protested. “There’s a war occurring. What will happen if you die?!”

“Calm down!” he shouted. The pillars all went tense. “It’s just a teleporter, and nowhere is safe to begin with.” He shook his head in disappointment and turned to facee the niwcumen. “You have all already encountered the Puwandese and I’m certain you have been taught what they are, but you were never taught what they were capable of.” He paced back and forth, analyzing the recruits. “But I will teach you what they can do precisely and how to hit them with the same finesse.

The puwandese are a barbaric group of warriors who wish to search for war whenever they can, but that is not their unique goal. What is this goal?” He shrugged. “It depends on the big’uns, the ones the lesser puwandese flock to as he always leads them to the best battles.” Malwé stopped and tapped the ground with his foot, lost in thought. “They’re not intimidated by simple aggression. It only makes them more excited for battle, which becomes a paradox when fighting them off.” He sighed. “As regimentaries, your main goal was to prevent them from grabbing any spare materials lying around, am I correct?”

“That’s not the main goal,” one of the niwcumen corrected. “But yes. It’s an important part of fighting them.”

Malwé bowed his head partially. “Thank you for the correction I don’t...keep up to date with most things nowadays.” He shook his head. “Regardless of my issues, the puwandese grab any materials they can find to turn into their own bizarre creations. Any victims are stripped and added to their machines, and nothing they make works the same.” He huffed. “They’re construction methods are an enigma that we still haven’t elucidated, and some reports describe some warbands with tech we know not the origin of. Unfortunately, we can’t study them as the puwandese have so destroyed them--”

“That their inner functions ended up resembling how the rest of their tech works despite having unique properties,” Killigan interrupted.

Malwé looked at him from the side of his eyes and remained silent. “Yes. A good conclusion.” He cracked his neck, displaying the stretching metal and its glowing orange sections. “There’s also the Joros Daman we have encountered, but...we don’t know much about them aside from their aquatic properties and traveling amongst massive cephalopod that sports tentacles and legs when it reaches a planet’s surface.” The bregu paced around a bit on the stage and started thinking.

“I would very much wish to speak of Blumarak: God of blood, bone, and marrow, but you need only know to ignore him and destroy any threats by him.

A pillar stepped forward “Bregu Malwé. Haven’t you always said ignorance is dangerous?”

The bregu nodded reluctantly. “I’m not in a position to speak of that considering the hypocrisy I would create.” He looked back to the group. “There are, however, puwandese part of his following, and they’re much larger and paler than the average, so be on your guard if you see them.” His voice quieted. “They’re much harder to kill thanks to the tainted blood flowing in their veins.” Malwé stood up straight and started emitting an aura of intimidation amongst those present. It was just a little nick in the back of their subconscious, but it was enough to keep them bound to the floor. His voice also took on a deep, partially silenced tone filled with raw anger. “Join him, or any other of the forbidden gods as defined by the Magus Imperators,” He raised both of his hands and slowly joined the palms. “and I will crush your skulls myself. There will be no escape from me, even in his reality.” He straightened himself and put his arms behind his back. “And even if you do escape, the Magus Imperators will hunt you down.”

“You mean by the prosecutors?” Killigan asked curiously.

The pillars around him nodded and the boy’s heart sank. Imagining someone like Zenith chasing him was a terrifying though. He didn’t know of his capabilities, but he knew the man was dangerous.

“It is because of threats like these that we, pillar scieldans, were created. We use the regimentaries as the stepping stones to reach the enemies of humanity. Together, we have no enemy that cannot be stopped.

Killigan tilted his head to the side. “What do you mean by ‘stepping stones’?” he asked.

The heavy armor of Malwé creaked with every movement. “Regimentaries are numerous, which means that their deaths are a commodity. Their existence is given to the expansion of the Terran Expanse and progress of our people.”

“They aren’t sacrifices!” Killigan retorted. “They’re our comrades! Fellow humans!”

The bregu shook his head. “Look upon your comrades from the regimentarium.” He stretched out an open hand to the survivors. “They don’t oppose the notion.” Killigan clenched his fists after seeing the vacant expressions of those who were to be his comrades. “You are young, boy. You will learn in your time with us.”

Killigan expected a more aggressive response, but was somewhat relieved that the hand placed on his shoulder was not clenching, and moved just as quickly as it had appeared. He did not appreciate the thought patterns on regimentaries, however. It was...disheartening and frustrating, to say the least. For now, he had to do as he was told and learn of the inner functions of a pillar foundation.

Despite his age, the boy was not a special occurrence within the foundation and was mostly treated like a child. He found a new home within the pillar craefts and eagerly studied under their tutelage, learning about new technologies, mana infusions, and tools to craft mana within receptive materials. Arcane forging allowed him to make leaps and bounds in his exo-suit’s functions, but magitech and normal technology were worlds apart. It would take him eleven Earth years to manage to adapt it to the use of the charged golden gauntlets.

The issue, however, lied in his growth as a pillar. Size and muscle mass were affected, causing redesigns almost every week. A pillar was a busy person under a lot of stress and pressure, allowing the serum to take effect and adapt them even further. The boy was no longer a tiny thing that barely reached his father’s shoulders. He was now two meters and seventy-four centimeters tall, dwarfing Barlatan easily. Now he was big. Now he couldn’t be thrown around like in his younger days, and it only took fifty years.

Fifty years of constant training, studying, and fighting. The once timid and curious boy was now a hardened soldier versed in magitech and warfare with the puwandese. His face was no longer thin. It was now much more rugged and with a strong jawline and chin. However, the features of his skin, although damaged by constant fighting, were still pale. His skin had not changed at all. His hair remained unchanged as well; Shoulder-length, blonde, and well maintained. He cared little for what his superiors would tell him about it. He didn’t know why he cleaned it and kept it that length. He would often ponder it during his moments of peace. A memento, good luck? He couldn’t tell. He just felt comfortable with his long hair.

Being a new pillar craeft, Killigan had already made a name for himself. Killigan still amused himself with his fists and had grown to use them and only them in battle rather than any sort of ranged weaponry. A disadvantage, to be sure, but he modified them to create shields of pure magic from their knuckles which now glowed a pristine orange shade. It drained their mana reserves drastically, but some protection was better than nothing, and his inability to advance in magic hampered his combat performance. He was no Mana Craeft. Killigan preferred, instead, to find new forms of tech to better his connection with the realm of Mana Magis and enhance his mana regeneration. He and the other pillar craeft could not manage such a thing, however. Not yet, at least.

The man would sigh often. A pillar could live almost infinitely if maintained by the Imperator Flaesc. Three hundred without, and in just fifty years, Killigan had grown weary of his task. A constant battle with an enemy unchanging and unbound, he wanted change, but he never applied it. Because of his almost repetitive fighting style and complete disregard to magic, he had become a moderately known veteran within the foundation. This day, the romp continued. He stood upon yet another mound of puwandese bodies with flaming and destroyed buildings around them. They were standing within the remains of a large fort within a plateau. Tall trees with blue, semi-liquid leaves dug deep into the blue ground beneath. Other plants around them were fully green with chlorophyll and sported round extensions from their tops, their forms warping between fern and long trunks with leaves growing from them. Cement and stone lay about the ruins, their ruined forms being cooked by the unhampered sun in the sky, hiding any regimentaries and civilians under their girth. Only a few walls and one tower in the corner still remained, but in presence only. Their forms were destroyed and pierced. Killigan’s comrades were searching the ruins for any survivors...from both sides. The surrounding area had been stripped clean of resources, creating a small ring of barren, dry land around the fort.

“Killigan,” a pillar called out. “There’s something that just broke the atmosphere,” he said while pointing up. “Is it one of ours or theirs?”

The culprit was a strange, wide shape at best guess, but it was too high up to distinguish properly. Instead of the form approaching the group, the loudening noise of a vyrde’s turbines came ever closer, before stopping near the fort and landing some distance away. Killigan silently gestured his comrades to hide in the rubble to ambush the potential threat. No one was safe from suspicion, and he learned this the hard way several times in the past. He walked towards a hole in the way to await the newcomers. They turned out to be regimentaries and a somewhat familiar person between them. However, once reaching the giant man, the familiar person could only barely stand above Killigan’s stomache.

“I’m looking for Killigan Ghor,” he said. “I learned of his presence here.”

“I am him,” Killigan responded. He took off his helmet and placed it underneath his arm. His weary and battered face was now exposed for all to see.

“You’ve grown quite a bit since last I saw you,” the man noted. “Do you remember me? I am Zenith Canka.”

Killigan’s tired eyes lit up, and a smile broke through his façade. “Yes! I remember you!” he shouted. He grabbed the man’s mechanical hands and shook them energetically, causing Zenith’s articulations to crack in protest. “You helped me become a pillar.”

The other pillars mumbled to each other and came out of hiding when Killigan gestured to them. They all rushed to Zenith and stood to attention, aetgar in hand.

“At ease,” Zenith ordered. “I’m here for Killigan.” He looked at the man and became suspicious. “You seem weary.”

“Yeah?” Killigan responded somewhat challengingly.

“Are you regretting the path I gave you and you chose?”

The pillar shook his head. “No. It’s the interminable fighting that is getting to me.” His gauntlets detached from a ring of locks around his wrists and locked onto the back of his forearms. “My only respite is building and designing.” There was a moment of silence with Killigan nodding to himself. Zenith did not react. “So why are you here for me?” the pillar craeft asked.

“To take you back to the Calaghi System,” he responded calmly.

Killigan raised an eyebrow. “What exactly for? I’m slated to go there with a contingent of Marma Fissures very soon.”

Zenith nodded. “Yes, but there are...other elements in play here. It is unfortunate, but it’s not a call you can refuse. We will be having it within my vessel.”

The other pillars looked to Killigan crossing his arms and becoming agitated and angry. “Who exactly is calling for me?” he asked aggressively.

The man stared the pillar straight into his eyes. “The Imperator Oferwealdend,” he said seriously.

Killigan audibly tensed up. “Why do they want to see me? They only ever speak with the heads of the many groups pushing humanity forward.”

“Science and math have their place, but...” He looked around to the other pillars and regimentaries. “I will tell you more when we go upon my ship.”

The pillar craeft thought a moment then waved his arm to the side. “Secure the perimeter and continue on our initial mission. Onfer, you’re the new squad captain.”

Onfer nodded. “Yes, sir,” she said.

“I can leave as soon as you’re ready, sir,” Killigan said.

“Then let’s leave now,” Zenith replied. He turned around, causing his coat to flap.

Killigan scratched the back of his head. “Will a vyrde manage to carry us all? Even me in this bulky armor?”

“Of course. It might be an old model, but it’s still as strong as the newest vyrdes,” Zenith assured him. He raised an arm and waved his hand forward. “Come.”

Killigan’s weight caused the vyrde to tilt and metal to screech in pain until it managed to adjust to the change. Because of his new size, he could not sit upon the chairs which Zenith and the other regimentaries used, forcing the man to stand.

Standing and creating a large contrast between his size and that of the regular humans, Killigan watched the ground below shrink, reminding him of when he was a young child being taken to the capital of his home planet for the very first time. High in the atmosphere he could see a figure growing gradually. It was the one spotted earlier. “What ship is that?” the pillar asked. “I have never seen its like.”

Zenith took a long look at it through the ‘windows’ of the discus and cleared what was left of his throat. “That is my personal ship. A personalized escort destroyer that I dubbed a ‘hoc’.” He sat back down and leaned his back against the wall. “It’s a new type of ship for prosecutors that I was asked to test out.” He scratched the top of his head. “So far it’s served me well.”

The regimentaries looked to each other but kept quiet. The vessel in question was quite small regardless of the lack of ships nearby to use as a comparison. Killigan knew enough ships of the Terran Expanse to determine the size comparative to how much room it took up in his sight in a set amount of time. Unlike pillar ships, the ships of the regimentarium navy were far more smooth. The front portion of the vessel was shaped like a cone and painted a pure white with strange, jagged blue shapes etched into the metal. The lower third of the metal was wrapped around an angular, hexagonal hull whose bridge was situated in the highest ‘half-cone’ of the hull body. Three thrusters were placed in the rear for propulsion, and a few cannons were embedded into the inner corners of the ship’s hull.

The most notable feature of the destroyer was the hook-shaped extension pointing forwards and rotating along an axis in the hull of the ship. The pale blue mana on the hook tip was rendered almost invisible due to the amount of sun overwhelming its light.

“What is the purpose of that contraption jutting out of the ship?” Killigan pointed to the hook.

“It’s a mana hook. Grabs stray mana during travel. Fills up the tanks and allows for sharp turns during travel.”

Killigan crossed his arms “So it takes the leftover mana that leaks into our universe from Mana Magis’ reality, and then it hooks onto that mana when traveling through it?” Zenith nodded in response. Killigan was perplexed and furrowed his brow. “Does it...do you swing around with it?” he asked.

“Yes,” Zenith replied dryly.

Killigan looked back out to the vessel then back to Zenith. “Seems like it would only work for fighters and destroyers.” His eyes moved left and right in small spurts. “Any small craft, really.”

“Yes, but I think it’s to the benefit of our smaller craft. It would prevent dependence on bigger and bigger vessels.”

The pillar snorted at the concept. “You shouldn’t tell that to Eriee.”

“Who?”

Killigan leaned against the wall. “The master pillar craeft of my foundation. She’s obsessed with making bigger and bigger ships.” He looked to the side and spoke more quietly. “One of her projects wasn’t approved, however, and so she’s become more...antsy, so to speak.”

Once more, no words were exchanged, creating a deathly silence, but Zenith was analyzing Killigan while he looked outside towards the prosecutor’s ship.

“You seem...weary, Killigan.” He spoke with a concerned tone.

“Well, experiences can change people.” He looked at the prosecutor without moving. “We’ve both seen our fair share, haven’t we?”

“Perhaps, but I am five hundred years old. You are barely pushing into your sixties, if I’m not mistaken.”

The pillars eyes widened and his face contorted with shock. “Five hundred?! How?”

The prosecutor tapped his metallic body with the side of his fist. “This isn’t just to improve my looks,” he joked in a bland tone.

The discus docked with the destroyer onto its outer hull. After entering the ship through the docking gate, the prosecutor and pillar were escorted through the narrow halls of the vessel to the communications room. Just like the hallways, the communications room’s floor was covered in a black, velvety carpet, and along two horizontal lines of the walls were several light bulbs placed in diamond-shaped sockets. A small, rectangular table place horizontally from the entrance’s standpoint, sat in the middle. The appearance of the room was modest. There were nothing but dark colors ranging from black to silver, from the chairs surrounding the table to the unlit monitors. A beam of pale, white light jutted out of the ceiling bathed the room in a dim white light.

Zenith gestured for Killigan to sit and waited before seating himself. Much to the pillar’s surprise, the chairs were the right size for him and did not protest in the slightest to his weight. Zenith dropped himself fully and drooped against the back of the chair, taking the moment of relaxation in all of its splendor. He didn’t take long to move again, and lifted a hatch covering all of his face below his eyes to reveal several cables of varying size and colors held within black metals. some were rusted and others wobbled as fluids and mana rushed through them. Upon where his nasal cavity and bones rounding underneath his orbits were several small openings letting air in and various gases out. Just underneath the vents were three small vials filled with a viscous, green liquid, which he promptly removed and placed in a pouch within an chamber opening on his left hip. He took out three clean ones and spun them into place before clapping the hatch shut.

The pillar craeft was both enamored and disturbed by the sight, and tapping the table with his fingers faster didn’t help in stomping out the question he needed to ask.

“What was that?” Killigan asked.

“Filtration fluids.” Zenith said as he readjusted himself in his chair. “This is the consequence of living so long and needing to be modified so extensively.” He massaged his throat then the back of his neck. “Machinery and flesh were never meant to meld to such an extreme. My body creates a mixture due to the mana reactions that is acidic and fatal to me.” He tapped his hatch. “This contraption is meant to filter it all.”

“I don’t understand. Why would you do this to yourself?”

Zenith only looked at Killigan from the corner of his eyes then tapped a finger on the table. A beep sounded and the lights dimmed while the entire wall opposite the two became engulfed in a scurrying cover of mana that fizzled violently until it stabilized into a screen. The screen displayed six individuals, each wearing incredibly sophisticated and heavy cloth robes of varying colors and patterns, although each only had two colors total on them. Their faces were hidden by the darkness of the chamber they were in, causing the screen’s natural light to highlight their clothing. Their important positions were anchored by the throne-like chairs they sat on which matched the colors of their unique outfits.

Behind them was the complex decoration found in the spire back when Killigan was sent on his first mission. However, he now knew what it was. It was the symbol of the Terran Expanse known as the ‘Bealucraeft Blostm’. It was the primary symbol for the Expanse. There were far too many additional minor and secondary symbols to describe them all, and Killigan could barely remember ten of them, let alone their names.

“Zenith Canka, Prosecutor of the Magus Imperators; And Killigan Ghor who has acquired the title of ‘Golden Fist’ amongst his kind within the Marma Fissures foundation.” A man wearing crimson bowed to the best of his abilities, displaying mostly a head tilt and barely a bend in his back. “I am pleased to see you already.”

Killigan leaned forward, trying to get a better view of the people before him. “And who are you?” Killigan asked.

“We must apologize for never appearing in public,” a woman wearing mostly wasp yellow and royal purple interrupted. “We prefer our faces to remain unknown to all but the most important figures.” She spun a hand in a circle and hummed. “You have importance, but you don’t have enough for us to warrant such an extreme,” she explained.

The pillar nodded. “I understand. I would need to work intensely to just be granted that.” He gave pause then looked to the group with a smile. “But I am satisfied that you have even considered speaking to me at all. Thank you for this privilege.”

The woman chuckled. “Such politeness,” she mused. “Far different from the extreme militaristic behavior we are accustomed to amongst your kind.”

“As for who we are, well, we are the Oferwealdend Eaht of the Imperator Oferwealdend,” a man wearing olive green and baby blue explained in a tired and raspy voice.

“Wait...I thought the you WERE the Imperator Oferwealdend,” Killigan said.

Killigan would have never seen the one in crimson shaking his head if it weren’t for the bit of light hitting his chin and neck. “No. We rule over the Imperator Oferwealdend. They are the heads of the many cnyttels that push humanity forward.”

“And If you must call us by names, use the first letter of the main colors present on our garbs,” the man in green and blue added. “We HAVE been nicknamed ‘The Colored People’ because of our clothes.”

A woman wearing coal black and sunset orange raised a hand. “It is an easier alternative, as our names are lost to even us,” she lamented.

The pillar hunched over, inciting Zenith’s curiosity. “Why summon me?” the pillar asked.

A man wearing mostly golden threads with dabs of emerald green leaned forward. His voice was tired and slurred.

“We know of the deal you made with Zenith Canka, Killigan. You were to be sent back to your home system to see your father after you became a pillar, but you were also told you would be installed there in a Marma Fissure battalion, correct?”

“Something along the lines, GE.” Killigan’s voice fluttered in saying it. He started sweating, and his muscles trembled slightly at saying the ‘name’.

GE harrumphed. “Then you must know that you could potentially bring in an entire new foundation to the Calaghi System, making it the foundation’s native system.” Killighan’s eyes bolted towards GE. “I thought that would grab your attention.”

“And where would these pillars come from? Who would lead them?

GE looked to his right. “YS?” he called quizzically.

A woman, longer and thinner than the others and wearing a garb of dandelion yellow and seafoam green, pointed at Killigan, leaving him perplexed and searching for his words.

“Why are you pointing at me?” he asked.

“Because you will be the source of the new pillars,” she replied immediately.

“Wh-what?! How? My genetics have not mutated to such a degree and I haven’t proven myself worthy to lead a foundation.”

GB swiped his arm across the air aggressively, dismissing Killigan’s statement. “Whether or not you consider yourself worthy is not for you to decide. It is for us to decide!” He slammed his fist on the chair.

YP looked at her colleague and shook her head at his unwarranted anger. She heaved a heavy sigh before speaking again. “Do you recall when you had the genetic serum of the pillar scieldan injected into your body?” YP asked.

Killigan responded by rubbing the back of his neck and grunting slightly. “An uncomfortable memory.”

“Well, there was an error with the serum used. It was not Marma Fissure genetics but a new substance taken from another group of pillars that the Niethgaest Biologic acquired during routine genetics acquisition and scanning. In--”

“In essence,” YP interjected, interrupting GE. He leaned back in his chair, leaving her to speak unhindered. “You are a new foundation. During the routine extraction of genetic fluids from your spinal columns, it was discovered that your genetic template did not match the Marma Fissures, and so we came to the conclusion that the mutation given to that foundation fifty years ago was the ‘missing vial’.” She scoffed. “The pillar flaesc responsible won’t be escaping their punishment so easily.”

“I really wish you would stop interrupting us,” GE mumbled under his breath.

“Then...I would become a pillar bregu?” Killiga

“Well,” Zenith started. “That is entirely up to you to decide.”

“There are no bad sides to any answer you give us,” CR said. “If you say yes, you go to your home system and create a new foundation there to protect your people. You will have your own foundation with which to enforce your ideals and teachings.” He shrugged. “They will be, in essence, a ‘foundation’ of your will.” CR straightened himself up. “If you refuse, you will still be sent to the Calaghi system to see your father and become part of a battalion there, but it will never have the full protection and installations for a Foundations Headquarters.”

“The pillars with your mutational genetics will be distributed amongst the foundations requiring new members as well,” YG added. “They are ready for either choice.”

“Can I...ponder over this?”

YG nodded and tilted her open hand slightly, but she squeezed it quickly after and pointed to the ground. It was her way of saying “Go ahead, but don’t take too long or we will become angered’.

Killigan was stressed by the multiple possibilities, responsibilities, and consequences that would arise from his decisions. If he accepted, he would be showered with much information that would be required to properly control his foundation and maintain it. The administrative requirements would certainly take a toll on his mental wellbeing, but it was better than constant warfare, and he could protect his home as he saw fit. Plus, there were the other bregus he could receive advice from.

On the other hand, if he refused, his system would never be fully and properly protected but he wouldn’t be overloaded and would be able to focus specifically on fighting any threats.

He took a deep breath and exhaled.“I made a decision.”

The six eaht straightened moved about in curious anticipation of his response.

The pillar stared straight at the screen with a firm, serious expression on his face. “I accept your offer.”

“I am glad for this decision,” CR said. “But there are many things you will need to take care of first.”

“Well, I’ll never achieve what I want without putting in some effort,” Killigan mused with a smirk. “What is the name of this new foundation that I am to lead?” he asked.

YG and CS chuckled almost inaudibly. “That is one of the many elements you need to solve on your own,” CS explained.

The destroyer of Zenith reached Calagh and entered its atmosphere, making a nice flash of burning light in a sky dominated by the sunset. The rocking of the destroyer slowly ceased, indicating it had stabilized itself into the atmosphere. Zenith, Killigan, and a handful of regimentaries boarded the same discus to reach the capital city that the pillar last saw as a young boy.

Looking out the window, Killigan spotted something rather perplexing and disturbing to him; A gigantic, castle-like construct with six towers ending in sharp ends bending towards and over the central citadel floated calmly above the lands below. Its main body was made of simple stone whereas the base took on the appearance of freshly ripped out land covered in a blue tint. The only thing people would see below would be massive stalactites of dirt.

Several symbols depicting a half-open eye between two open palms were etched into the outer walls of the towers as well as being all over the central citadel. Judging by its position, it was slowly moving as well.

“What in the world is that abomination floating above my world?” Killigan shouted angrily at Zenith.

“That, my fresh bregu, is an Inquisitorial Finger,” Zenith said with half-lidded eyes.

Killigan spoke with a low-volume, unamused voice and a raised brow.“Really? Inquisitorial finger,” he ended in a tired exhale.

“Yes. There were more fanatics spotted on your world, but we dealt with their lair.” He fiddled with some wires in his left arm. “It’s staying here for a few more days to be certain that no more followers are hiding around.”

Killigan glared at Zenith and looked back outside the window to analyze every minute movement the ‘finger’ performed. The prosecutor looked at the pillar a moment before nodding slowly to himself then lying back in his chair and letting his limbs go limp.

“We’re going to land on one of the platforms where we’ll enter the main spire of the capital and where the pillars will await you.” Zenith tilted his head slightly to the side and put his arms on his lap. “The city also grew somewhat since you last saw it. Remain near me. You might be a pillar, but you’re sure to be lost if you aren’t careful.”

Looking down, Killigan immediately realized what he had subconsciously ignored. The city, once just about a thousand kilometers in diameter, was now about ten times that, and the amount of spires having risen into the sky had grown exponentially. In fact, there was now a central spire rising to the stratosphere where several transport ships docked at various levels. The capital was even more so a myriad of buildings at various sizes, designs, and colors, although gray and yellow were prevalent. The abilities of humanity always marveled Killigan. So much possible in whatever spectrum one could think of.

Regardless, everyone set down upon a platform, checked in with the controller, and departed into the city. The streets were crowded with a plethora of different people walking through the streets. Men and women of various different statuses; various clothing ranging from plain shirts and pants of just one color and textile; To highly decorative, noble attire made of various different cloths and furs with just as numerous a color and texture. Even the policing groups, encased in black armor and green clothes underneath them escorting some ne’er-do-wells across the streets. However, the presence of a pillar AND a prosecutor caused all to step to the side in fear.

“All are equal before us, it seems,” Zenith mused. His mood turned sour when he heard the musings of the populace during his passing.

’Is that a sawol vice?′ some pondered. ‘Be careful. They’ll detain you if you get too close’ and ‘What is a sanctified one doing here?’ others murmured.

Zenith clenched his fists and would’ve grinded his teeth together if he still had any. Around these people, the walls were covered with posters of pillars from various different foundations trying to attract potential recruits, promising adventure, power, respect, or all of those things at once, while others demanded people respect Mana Magis and go to its temple of prayer at least once a week. Others were various advertisements leading from scrap salesmen and job prospects to...less salubrious messages.

More signs hung from the higher walls of the capital, attracting one’s attention with various, flashing, neon colors. One of them bothered Killigan who couldn’t help but point it out.

He pointed to it. “What’s with that sign?” he asked.

Zenith stopped and turned around. “Which sign?”

The pillar pointed towards one surrounded by a serpentine square of red lights. A rather enticing looking man covered with a thick, red cape flanked by white fur was leaning over and suggesting one approach him with a static finger movement. His hair was black, his eyes a dark-brown, and he sported a smug grin. Above him were the words:

“Blue? Our moniker is red, and red is money, and money is power and a better way of living,” the sign shouted. “Bring your yellow and receive gold!”

The prosecutor pressed a button where his right ear should be and started to speak. “We found another one. Yes. The usual areas, it seems. He is likely hiding in a richer part of the city but we’ll never know until we can investigate without causing a panic.”

Zenith resumed his pace and invited Killigan to follow. The pillar saw several discus as well as a sharp, three-pointed jet-powered vehicle fly above them. They had the eye symbol on their hulls.

“You understood that meaningless dribble?” Killigan asked.

“It’s not meaningless dribble to the desperate or the gamblers,” Zenith sighed. “It’s something to deal with when you’re a bregu.

“Isn’t it just a scammer, then?” the man shrugged.

“A scammer can be tracked and dispatched to prison.” Zenith growled. “This one is no ordinary scammer. He has more...outworldly connections,” Zenith mused poetically.

“Okay...” Killigan shook his head and looked back to the aircraft flying away. “And what is that symbol with the eye that I’ve been seeing everywhere?”

Zenith expelled gas from the vents around his hatch. “I suppose that is normal that you haven’t seen the symbol of the Magus Imperators,” he sighed. “It is the Adeaf Faegere: The Deaf Eye.” The pillar blinked slowly. “It means that we can see and hear you when you think we can do neither.”

The pillar opened his mouth in a shape for ‘ah’ then resumed his following of the prosecutor. Not much else of note occurred aside from noticing the many changes. It was quite a sight to see a prosecutor and a pillar. In fact, some of the regimentaries of the Calaghi System dotting the streets had overheard the tale of a potential new foundation being made just for the Calaghi sector. To have one’s own foundation meant a colony had become extremely important and valuable to the Terran Expanse. An honor that no one could recreate.

The base of the primary spire was far larger than any Killigan had seen. This one’s base occupied, on its own, about fifty-two blocks. It was designed with the same, rounded-to-sharp architecture as most everything humans seemed to build. The group entered and used a large teleporter to send them just below the highest floors.

After teleporting, Killigan found himself before one thousand pillars wearing gray armor. They punched their chests in salute to their new bregu. The room was completely barren with only gray marble floors splattered with white specs, gray metal walls, and a few windows on the right wall. Due to the sun setting, the windows were practically useless and only let through some of the lights down below. The regimentaries stepped to the sides, weapons still in hand, creating a path for the new bregu and the prosecutor.

“Why do they only have gray armor?” Killigan asked as he walked past the pillars. “Is that our foundation’s color?”

“Of course not. This is the ‘factory-new’ coloration. The metal has yet to be painted.” Zenith explained matter-of-factly. He looked around to see the faces of every man and woman ready to become part of Killigan’s foundation. “As I mentioned before, everything about this foundation is yours to design and mold to your every desire and ideal.” Zenith shoved a finger at Killigan’s lower jaw. It was difficult, considering the size difference. “There are limits, however. Do not test my patience in this matter,” he threatened.

Zenith’s eyes; One of the only thing still ‘alive’ about him, made the bregu uncomfortable. He was deadly serious, and Killigan knew better than to test the patience of this man.

“I understand fully your thoughts. I wouldn’t try and make harder the life of one who helped me along the pathway I yearned for.”

The prosecutor’s eyes softened, and he stepped back, gesturing the man to continue forward. Killigan did just that, stepping upon a large platform and clapping his gauntlets together, unintentionally creating a resounding thunderclap deafening nearly everyone in the compact chamber.

“You are all pillars of the Terran Expanse, and you have been trained among some of the best humanity has to offer,” he spoke in a bellowing tone. “But you are no longer with that foundation.” His voice softened and he began to emulate actions with his hands. “However, you all have different thought patterns, knowledge, tactics, and strategies.” Killigan emphasized this by poking the middle of his palm with a finger. “We will come together with those in time and create our own strategies and tactics, but we are still a fledgling foundation. Our stones have yet to be laid, and we are the masons.

We have much more to work on before we become a proper, fully functioning and invincible army for the Terran Expanse!” he cheered. His joy was stifled quickly, as a realization came about. “But first...” He rubbed his chin and paced about the platform/ “As a foundation, we need a name. We will be called...The Emperor’s Guard.”

Now that he had namedhis foundation, Killigan had many things to take care of first, but he had new counselors step forward and present themselves as the heads of certain aspects of his organization. The first to step forward was someone the pillar already knew.

“I’m certain you already know who I am, Killigan,” the woman said in a bland-yet-amused tone.

“Eriee!” Killigan cheered. He grabbed the woman in a hug and patted her back, something she did not reciprocate. The man momentarily forgot that Eerie was not like the other men and women he served with. “I didn’t think you would leave the Marma Fissures.”

“Yes. When I heard you became the new bregu and a member of the Imperator Flaesc came to us asking for potential counselors and guides to teach a new foundation, I thought it would be interesting to see it grow from the ground up.” The claws on the back of her suit clamped multiple times before setting back into their sockets. “Do not worry about me. I will remain with this foundation even after it is deemed that my teachings are no longer required.” She straightened herself and stared at the bregu through the visor of her helmet. “I am Eriee, counselor Pillar Craeft of the Emperor’s Guard, hoping to become its head one day.”

Another stepped forward and bowed. His hair was black and his face a pale white, worse than Killigan’s. It was a pasty white complexion, devoid of any color. His hair was longer on his left side than it was on his right. Despite his pale and frail looking complexion, he was very calm and still displayed positivity.

“I am Oodravos and I will be the counselor Pillar Flaesc of the Emperor’s Guard.” He put a fist to his sternum and bowed slightly. “I herald from the Cwildeseten foundation where we specialize in battles within the darkness of space and night.” He straightened himself. “I would be more than happy to help you develop stealthy approaches to any situation as the need arises.”

“I am glad that you are joining us.” Killigan pushed his gauntlets to the side and shook the man’s hand. “I can actually think of several ways to use your knowledge in this matter. I will keep the thought of your talents in mind.”

“Thank you,” Oodravos said before stepping back.

Another pillar, slightly shorter than Killigan, presented himself. He also had blonde hair, although it was not as long as the bregu’s. In fact, it was cut so short that one would have mistaken the man for being bald.

“I am Fodr. I have been appointed as your tactical advisor and temporary supreme commander until you see fit to replace me or install me as permanent supreme commander. I come from the Eye of Sarl foundation.” His voice and mannerisms were very formal and professional.

“Thank you for your dedication, Fodr,” Killigan said. The tactical advisor nodded once in response. “Are there anymore that need to introduce themselves?” the bregu asked.

“Not yet,” Zenith replied. “In the mean time, you should discuss what your first steps as a new foundation are.” He brought up a holographic list from his left forearm and started reading through the contents. “I have other duties to attend to, but I believe you have someone to visit first, correct?” Zenith pondered quizzically with a raised brow.

The bregu nodded. “You’re right.” He pointed to his counselors. “You three, start discussions on what you believe are the strict necessities for this foundation. I’ll hear them and discuss their possibilities when I return.”

“Yes, sir!” the three replied in unison.

Although it took some time, Killigan was transported back to his old home town on a discus and was more than happy to see it had expanded quite a bit, although it seemed to have gone through the many acres of dry forest behind it and had stopped just inches from the swamps. The town was still only comprised of small houses rather than the tall, multi-story buildings piled on top of each other like in the capital, but it was a quaint, rural area nonetheless.

Leaving his transport and the regimentaries behind, the bregu approached the old house where he had lived fifty years ago to notice that it hadn’t changed much, save for the workshop being much more translucent within. Killigan had to duck to get into it, and noticed that there was nothing but equipment for magitech inside. There was a bigger version of what his his father first used to forge a pistol using magitech. There were now several large glass canisters filled with brought blue liquid mana, and the walls had various, horizontal lines of runes painted onto them and behind the tool racks. A smell of clay and something sweet permeated the air, followed by the peppery, burning smell of soot and dust.

“So that’s what was making that light,” Killigan thought.

He started fumbling about with the tools and different materials organized around the forge to get a better understanding of what his father had been doing up to this point. Blocks of shiny metal of various sizes and thickness hung on a stronger, thicker wall of concrete to the immediate left of the entrance. The blocks’ surface was almost consistent with liquid, but their sides remained solid nonethless. Killigan poked and prodded them several times before putting them back, confused. While he knew that they were adaptive molds for a variety of tools, decorations, and weapons, he didn’t know from where they came or how his father had acquired them.

Killigan left the workshop after reminiscing of the years of work there and decided to knock on the wooden door to his house, with the foresight to remove his tower gauntlets to his forearms, of course. Once again, he was far too tall for the entrance made for a human of average size. He could easily reach over and touch the roof if he wanted to. The door opened up to an elderly octogenarian with gray hair and trembling hands using the door handle as support.

He strained his neck to look upwards. “Y-yes?”

“Dad?”

“Dad?” The man leaned in for a closer look at the giant before him and wiped his nose. “Killigan?!”

He stepped out of his home to embrace his son around his waist while Killigan could only gently tap his back in return.

“I would hug you, but...I might accidentally break you,” Killigan joked.

His father looked at him angrily. “I’m not that fragile!” He looked back to his house and huffed. “But the house is,” he chuckled. He looked back to his son with a wide smile. “It’s been fifty years since we last saw each other. I thought you were never going to come back!”

The man rubbed the back of his neck. “Yes. It’s been...different.” While Killigan shrugged off the comment, Barlatan noticed his son’s expression fade partially when he looked away, but he kept silent about it. For now. “So what have you been up to these past few decades?” Killigan asked.

“Well,” the man scratched his chin. “I didn’t become a famous smithy as I was hoping, but I did become one of the best magitech forgers on Calagh. Number four, actually, and this technology was NOT easy to master!” he shouted. “In fact, I wouldn’t have gotten to where I am now without your messages.” He gave Killigan a light punch on the leg, likely hurting himself more than his son. “Thank you, son.”

Killigan gave his father a soft smile, something inconsistent with a giant his size. “You’re welcome.”

There was a long, awkward pause until Killigan’s father broke the ice again after sitting on the porch of the house. “So how have you been yourself? I see you’ve been drinking your soup, and...” He pointed to Killigan’s gauntlets. “You still have those things.” He pursed his lips and nodded. “Quite impressive that you kept them functional for so long.”

“Hm.” Killigan decided to sit down, on the ground, next to his father and tap his knuckles against each other. “Well, I became a Pillar Scieldan, that you can see.” He gestured to himself. did a lot of fighting, became an official pillar craeft thanks to all the forging skills you taught me, and now I’m back here to install my own foundation.”

Barlatan blinked a few times in disbelief. “What?”

The bregu nodded. “Yes. I am here to install a new foundation for the Calaghi System.”

“Then--”

“I am a Bregu of the Emperor’s Guard foundation for the Calaghi System.”

Barlatan jumped up in joy. “That’s incredible!” He shouted. His voice started quieting. “So at least one of us will go down in history.” He placed a hand on his son’s massive shoulder. “I’m glad that the one to realize their dream was my son.”

“Hey, you’re my father, so, by reciprocation, you will also be part of history,” Killigan reassured comically.

Barlatan snickered at the comment and continued smiling. “But not of my own volition or hard work.”

“Dad,” Killigan sighed. “Without you I would have never become what I am now. You should be proud of this work you created and how far it has gone, shouldn’t you?”

The old man nodded, but he knew what Killigan was doing.

“Nice try, son.”

The bregu raised his hands in defense. “Hey, it’s not anymore a lie than it is the truth. You did sculpt me, after all.”

“And the material was rough to use. Maybe of poor quality?” the old man teased.

The pillar frowned. “Aha. Funny.”

The two just observed the village and the bright city far on the horizon. “So, what are you going to do now? I know that pillars can live practically forever if properly maintained, but I don’t have that benefit. I am not long for this world.”

Killigan heaved a loud sigh. “I know, but I can’t join you and mom in the Streams of Mana until I have fulfilled my duty, and I have many more things to do until then.”

“I understand.” The old man nodded approvingly. “I won’t hold it against you.”

“Thank you, dad.”

Barlatan looked up to Killigan to see his features darken. “So,” he started. “You’re hiding something from me.” Killigan didn’t respond. “The weight of your responsibilities is weighing heavily upon you?”

Killigan looked away a moment, cracking his jaw and contemplating what to say but dropped his head in defeat. “I wonder why I should keep fighting sometimes, and yet I’m not bothered by it because I know why I’m doing it.” His father nodded. “Will we all eventually die or will we survive?”

Barlatan massage his neck before answering. “Humanity grows the more it perseveres and the more challenges are thrown its way. If aliens are being competitive with us, then we’re likely to take them up on it and push them back.” He nodded to his words and tapped Killigan several times on the back. “Wait here. I have something to give you.”

Killigan’s father returned to his home and took several minutes to return outside with a picture in his hand.

“Here,” he said as he handed it to his son. “This is a picture of you, your mother, and I. It was taken when you were four.”

The giant grabbed the picture that was nearly engulfed in his palm and looked at it for a very long moment. He sniffed in response and wiped his eyes.

“Sometimes I wonder what would’ve happened had I convinced your mother not to go on that mission with the regimentaries, but...That is how this life spun out, and I would rather live through one I recognize and have regrets than one that confuses me and where everything went ‘perfectly’,” he mocked. He stood up and hugged his son again.”

“Thank you, dad. I will keep this well protected.” He tapped his foot against the ground a few times from something aggravating him. “There’s a thought that bothers me, though.”

“What?”

“Well, a few things, actually. Why didn’t you move into the capital when you became the fourth best magitech forgesmith in the system?”

“Oh, I did,” he responded absently.

Killigan was taken aback. “You did?”

“Of course I did! But...”

“But?”

“Life in the Spire Cynesetl, let alone Spire Conglomerates, is not one that I enjoyed, so I returned here.”

The bregu nodded. “That seems understandable. Fights against the Puwandese led me to various areas in the conglomerates and I saw things that had not been touched by those aliens that should have otherwise been something they would have done themselves. That, and I wanted to know if you witnessed more of those barbarians here after that day.”

Killigan’s father shook his head. “No. I did hear that there were a few cults and societies that were discovered and dismantled viciously, but that’s about it.” He shrugged and cracked his shoulders, grunting painfully. “We haven’t seen them here,” he wheezed.

“Are you okay?” Killigan worried.

The man waved down the concern. “It happens a lot.”

The pillar shook his head and laughed to himself. “Why would they attack us, though?”

“Probably because we’re a small community with not many defenses. Easy pickings, I suppose.”

Killigan nodded. “That makes sense.” The two continued exchanging words for hours before Killigan took his leave to the discus, but he needed to say one last thing. “Please wait for me within the streams. I will be back when my duties have been fulfilled.”

Barlatan nodded. “I know, and we will be watching you, then, and making sure that you do indeed fulfill your duties. I might not be able to experience what you make directly, but I will be able to see it unfold like magic essence within my creations.” Killigan tightened his grip on the picture and felt his throat become tighter and his body heavier, something he hadn’t felt in decades. “Your mother was a proud regimentary. Become a pillar and make her prouder,” Barlatan shouted. “You’ve already succeeded at that with me.

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