Entry Writchal #1
Theme: Droplets of Time
KOMOREBI in PETRICHOR
By PrimDom & Von Grenadus
On the other side of the window pane are skies hued with gray as far as the eye can see. Thunders are rumbling with each passing minute. The downpour doesn’t seem to concede anytime soon. Hundreds if not thousands of droplets are racing against the structure, together sufficient for one to envision an army marching across their roofs.
“I appreciate your courtesy, sir.” Pratama says to the man holding the door, who immediately shuts it before he turns around.
It is the fourth residence that he comes across, and the fourth to shut its door. Darkness is already well upon him. As far as he knew, he was confident of the tokens in his pockets for the owners in turn for a stay. But none seems willing to have a touch with them.
“Another tent it is.” He says after some distance from the residence.
It is not that he minds or anything. He was once forced to live off the land in the aftermath of a cataclysmic event that devastates the world. His current condition is just that moment revisited. As long as he has his equipment with him, everything will be fine.
He just feels something off with this world. It’s been three days since the first time he treks along a particular path. So far, it doesn’t take him anywhere. No major cities in sight. Only a bunch of houses and residences which are far apart most of the time. And he often comes across small settlements in shambles. On top of it is a rain with fluctuating intensity, but never stops. If it isn’t due to his reservoir barrier, he has to make peace with the heavenly tears sticking on his clothing.
Pratama turns his gaze overhead, toward the darkness that keeps on wetting the lands with their tears, as he digs deep into his memory. He was in his office somewhere behind the frontlines, personally overseeing an operation while administering his realm. Then he took a stroll under a gloomy day to provide a much-needed respite. It’s all of a sudden that he finds himself here, all alone.
Despite all that, he doesn’t find himself concerned about his men and the operation. His mind didn’t even come up about them once during his trek. He couldn’t decide, whether it is due to the serene atmosphere embracing him at the moment, or how reliable his co-ruler is.
After a laborious march to reach a hill’s crest, he finds himself before a heavily wooded area. He heard stories of beasts and vile creatures, of witches and the wretched lurking deep within the dark woods. But pictures of them that his mind comes up with doesn’t even inhibit his pace by a bit. He still has his powers intact so even if they exist and are waiting for him in the woods, it would be them who is trapped there with him.
The woods too are silent. The noises of the critters in the dark, he doesn’t catch any as he walks past one tree and another. He turns the torch on his right shoulder off and on again within a second. The clicks still sound authentic in his ears.
Not long after he comes across a patch of concave ground with no thicket. What catches his eyes is how the area that protrudes deeper to the ground houses tens if not a hundred of flowers with blooming, glowing, golden petals.
Thinking that it’s too convenient for him, he looks around while stomping on the flower clump multiple times. Turns out it’s a solid ground. And given that there’s no one seemingly in ownership of this patch of ground, he decides to drop his backpack and his other equipment, including a military-grade shovel, on the mass of flowers. As soon as his loads are off of him, he decides to collapse and sink into the flowers.
He takes a deep breath.
Their fragrance is stimulating enough for him to think of retracting his mask so that they could reach his olfactory sense directly. He thought of deploying his foldable mattress. But with his exhaustion and the presence of an obvious facility to comfort him, he couldn’t resist the temptation of crawling deep into his dreams. That is if he still has any.
Pratama opens his eyes a few hours later, and finds himself able to see some distance away without his torch. The sun should be up. But since the skies remain in gloom, no hint of warmth is coming to reach him. As soon as he rises up…
“Good morning, mister.” He hears a voice seemingly calling for him.
He turns to the source of the voice, and finds a girl with a petite figure standing on a higher ground, looking down on him. She has waist-length chestnut brown hair, a roundish doll-like face, and gleaming red eyes. Her clothing seems like it comes from the medieval period, or from some fantasy stories he is familiar with. He couldn’t really tell.
The girl tilts her head. “I believe last night was a cozy one for you, wasn’t it?” She utters that sentence with a patch of smile on her face.
However, even fools can see what’s taking place. He knew he should have waited longer, or perhaps rest on the rim of the concave ground. But unrested men could never come with the best decision.
“How bout I give you something in turn for the damage I did?” Pratama says to the girl.
“I don’t think something would suffice.” She says, her eyes closed, her face raised and frowning. She doesn’t even glance back at Pratama. “It took me an eternity to nurture those flowers, you know? Especially when there’s no sun around to feed them.”
“You should have placed a sign or anything that warns any approaching folks of your possession.” Pratama replies.
“What kind of people wanders off to a solitary place by themselves in a world where it rains without end?” The girl exclaims.
“Sorry I have to give it to you, miss. But I don’t think I am a native inhabitant of this place.”
“Fine, anything.” He says to her.
“Eh, anything?” The girl tilts her head and puts a finger on her chin. A smirk forming in her face.
Pratama nods, confident that he could bring anything that she’d wish for. After all, what sorts of complicated things children like her could come up with? She’d probably wish for all the sweets in a candy store, or perhaps some fluffy plushies to hug given the size of her figure and the looks of her face.
“How about a three-legged flying rabbit!” She exclaimed, her face shining all the glee in the world.
Silence struck as soon as she uttered her words. Remaining in power for more than half a century has brought him various odd twists and turns. Whatever the world throws at him, he’ll know he’ll be on top of it eventually.
There is something about her request that sow doubts in him.
The girl leans toward him. “What’s wrong?” She asks. “Didn’t you promise to atone for the damage you did?”
“Perhaps you are aware that some requests are just beyond comprehension that they have to be turned down.” Pratama replies. For a moment he feels fortunate that his mask remains with him. That is so that this little girl couldn’t see how bewildered he is. Sure, she can tell. But at least she doesn’t see his face.
“But they do exist, you know?”
If there’s anything that didn’t come to his consideration is that children are still living their fantasy-world. They could pull out magical creatures with obvious otherworldly anatomy or tank designs with turrets placed for every meter across its chassis on a whim as far as their imagination is concerned.
But since this world is different, at least it seems to be thanks to the rain that never ends, he might have a shot at finding the sort of eldritch creature that she asked. Like she said, it is possible that they really exist in this world. Besides, chasing after what the little girl desires could fill the vacancy in him. One that he labored for decades to fill with success remaining beyond sight.
“Can I at least request a lead that could speed up the search process?” Pratama asks her.
“I don’t have any,” She replies indifferently. “I have been asking people around here and they don’t seem fond of me.”
Pratama turns away. “Then I don’t think there’s a stroke of luck for us to find it since they share similar sentiments toward me.”
And that is indeed the concern that has been binding his brain as he trek across this strange land. The local folks don’t seem to be welcoming anyone. Perhaps that explains why their houses
tend to be so far apart. But that doesn’t say anything about the reason they settled with such behavior.
“Yours is a lost cause.” He continues, shrugging as he utters his words.
Pratama glances back at the girl. He now finds her leaning at him with a pout, her eyes wide and glimmering, her hands tight on her chest. It’s that gesture when a child of her age is denied an ice-cream she picks up at a convenience store. He takes a deep breath, his shoulder relaxes.
“Fine. I’ll see what I can do.”
“Yay!” The girl cheered in a manner contrasting the atmosphere around. “I shall trek along with you as you proceed with your quest.” The girl chuckles, a short burst of laughter forcing her to cover her mouth with a hand.
“And I shall identify you as…” Pratama waves his hand to her direction.
“Neja, I see.” He nods. “For a girl of your age, you speak like someone of mine.” Neja tilts her head. “Oh, I’ll assure you that I am older than I look.” She winks. “Very well.”
“And you are…”
“Refer to me as Pratama, without Mr.”
Pratama begins to stride away from the tiny flower field, tracing back the path that he trekked along for days. Beside him now is a newfound companion, which follows his every step seemingly with all the glee and joy that this land is lacking. Her head sways from one side to another, in accordance with the tune that she is still humming since they begin to walk together.
For a moment, Pratama is grateful. He turns his sight above. Even though she claimed to be older than she is supposed to be, he couldn’t turn his view into submission with that claim. He couldn’t help but to keep perceiving her as some ten to twelve year old girl in her blooming period. Someone that an adult like him should protect.
But is she really worthy of his protection?
Because so far, she has only brought him inconvenience. Second, she seems to be able to handle anything by herself. The fact that she could keep walking without the care in the world implies that. He recalls the three latest girls that he took as his own daughter. Their figure is way more mature than her. Yet they still, to some degree, have this gloom over their face that his presence in their life could never lift.
Maybe he shouldn’t think about that now. Maybe he should just focus on getting over this and continue on his own business.
After some time, they find a lone walker ahead of them walking against their direction. Strapped on his back is what appears to be a hunting rifle. If that’s the case, then that is excellent news.
“Stay here.” Pratama says to Neja. “Excuse me, sir.” He waves his hand toward the walker which seems like a man in his thirties.
“I don’t have time to meddle with you.” He replies back, denying him already. “I request no favor, sir. I merely request answers.”
“I don’t care.” His tone grows louder. He doesn’t even glance back to Pratama.
Pratama then leers at Neja who remains still behind him. She just shrugs at the event. He can’t keep doing this. He couldn’t let these people just toss him like he is some eccentric human being that one should remain away from. At least, he no longer could. Because if this trend keeps waltzing, he won’t be done with his atonement to Neja anytime soon. So he clasps his right hand and marches onto the walker with his utmost vigor.
And pin him into a nearby tree trunk with his clone.
The impact is enough to shake the trunk to its roots. From the corner of his eye, he finds an astonished Neja with her mouth slightly open. Perhaps she didn’t expect him to go this far just to make these people speak. Or she is just astonished at how he could spawn a clone of him out of thin air.
“And I don’t either, sir.” Pratama says gently to the walker, who has his hands raised up. He takes a split-second to appreciate how his mask still lingers on his face, the same mask that sees countless people tremble to their knees before him.
“W-what!?” The walker yelps nervously. Pratama can see his legs slightly trembling.
“You will provide me with answers, like it or not.” Pratama says to him while pulling his shovel. “Let’s say,” He then places the sharp thermal edge of his shovel against the walker’s neck. “The consequences won’t be on your side should you refuse.”
“F-f-fine…, wh-what do you want?”
“You’re a hunter aren’t you? You seem like one with that hunting rifle.”
“Y-yes, yes, yes. I am one.” He says, stuttering. “But I haven’t caught anything.” “Perhaps you are familiar with a three-legged flying rabbit around here?”
“What?” The man suddenly stops shaking.
“I meant what I said.”
“To be fair, I don’t know about such a thing. In fact this is the first time I hear something like that.”
Pratama lowers his shovel before turning to Neja. This time she’s directing her sight somewhere else, cycling it left and right periodically. But he’s sure that she’s just avoiding eye contact with him for some reason.
“Where then, can I obtain further lead upon this ethereal creature.”
“I don’t know.” The man raises his tone. “Try the library or something.” The man then points a thumb behind him. “I think there’s one on top of a hill past these woods.”
The clone despawns, Pratama despawns them, allowing the man a space that has been briefly deprived from him.
“I appreciate your cooperation.”
The man straps his rifle tighter and begins to run away from him.
Neja approaches Pratama, her attention fixed to the hunter that has just taken a thousand steps ahead of them.
“Wow, you really went that far to make him talk.”
Pratama takes a deep breath. “My resentment for these people was at its peak. He’s just unfortunate to be on the way when that happens.”
Unlike anyone back home that he considered to be unfortunate, these people deserved it. They are all detached from each other, seemingly care only of their own business. And they don’t seem to hesitate to use a hint of force to keep everyone at bay. Another force would then be the only option to make them talk.
“Ah…” The girl tilts her head to one side, her right index is pressing on her right cheek. “Anyway, I’m heading to that library.”
Pratama and Neja proceeded to continue on their journey. All along the road, they were accompanied with nothing but rain, rain, and more rain.
“Hey, hey, Mister.” Neja said, adding to the cacophony of sound surrounding them “I told you, haven’t I? And you didn’t even refer to my name.”
“Oops, sorry, force of habit, hehe.” She giggles, before continuing. “Say… you look different from everyone around here, mister Pratama.”
Pratama takes a deep breath.
“You seemed rather… mmm, clueless.”
He then looks at the figure of the girl, beaming at him with curious eyes. Well it is true that he did not come from this world, but who would believe that story if he said it that way? He had
come across countless fictional accounts of similar situations. Besides, she doesn’t need to know anyway. So he decides to settle in with a vague answer.
“Indeed, I am.”
“Ohooo, that you are.” She replied. Something tells him that she’s already aware of that from the way she intoned the answer.
On a second glance, she too doesn’t resemble the inhabitant of this world either. And there’s something about those red eyes of hers that seem unsettling. But of course, she got the headstart before he could even ask her.
“So what’s up with that mask anyway?”
“That mask of yours, it’s kind of creepy.”
He has his reason, not that she has to know.
“I have allergies.”
“Allergies? Oh no! Did you fall ill easily? We shouldn’t be standing in the rain then, you could get sick, mister!” Neja said with concern on her face
“I don’t see any spot where the rain decays anytime soon.”
“Um, um, we could find a shelter… or, or…
But why? Why is she the one concerned? Shouldn’t it be far worse for a kid like her to be standing in the rain all the time then?
Then comes the memory of his second daughter, who had a frail physique when she was about Neja’s age. He even had to make a perilous journey to save her life once. And to think now that a little girl no older than his daughter is concerned for his well-being. Add to the fact that his daughter’s visage keeps taking Neja’s place, making the sight all the more… peculiar.
“Are you sure? You won’t get ill, will you?”
Pratama was almost baffled now, it is as if he was being treated like a kid.
“Certainly not. I believe the concerns should weigh heavier on you. How you tend to favor the rain? Your underdeveloped physique would greet illness with open arms.”
The gleeful face of the girl was temporarily replaced with a wide eye and a solemn face, a completely different emotion from her childish facade from before. It was a face that reminded him of his three daughters; a face with all their glooms combined.
But for some reason, Neja bounced out of it immediately and wore that childlike demeanor again.
“Hehehehe!” she giggles “I’m fine mister, I may not look like it, but I’m pretty strong you know!” she said as she flexed her nonexistent biceps at him.
“That’s not convincing enough.”
“Eeh? But I’m plenty strong, you know!”
“Then keep up the pace. I will not turn back.” Of course, that’s a lie. How could he abandon a little girl like her if such a situation arises. Regardless of that, he thought she could have some discipline.
But of course, how could he abandon a little girl like her should an illness really bog her down? Especially when he has to get her something before he could proceed on his own. His recent statement was just a show of force, the one that should bring discipline to children of her age.
“Eeeeh, that’s mean! Hmph, but that’s fine, I won’t get ill anyway.”
Eventually they found themselves amidst a grass plain with nothing of significance to block their sight. The grasses are moist, the path is soaked and a bit muddy. The two have to put a bit more effort in lifting their feet. But that is something they could steamroll over. Mountains stand majestic in the background; their peak is obstructed by the seemingly everlasting gray. Amidst the grandeur is a solitary speck of manmade structure barely seen from within their distance. What makes it less of a labor to spot is its surrounding fields that appear to be brighter than the rest of the plains and the mountains.
Pratama looks above the structure. The cloud formation looks thinner compared to the ones above him at the moment. The result is lesser opacity, which allows higher intensity of light, as well as reduced rain intensity.
“But how is that possible?” Pratama spits a question while maintaining his stride toward the structure.
“What’s possible?” Neja asks, turning her attention to him.
Pratama points at the patch of clouds that let more light come through. “The clouds over there. They are rather less stacked up compared to the others.”
Neja’s gaze now turned to the direction Pratama is pointing. “Ah you’re right.” Neja nods. “It looks warmer over there.”
“And the way they agreed to clump within a boundary in a uniform density which is in contrast with those beyond makes it even more unsettling.” Pratama continues.
Neja gives a smirk at Pratama’s direction. “Eh, what are you talking about?” Pratama returns her gaze. “It’s just weird that nature does that.”
“Well, I thought the endless rain already gave it away for you.” Neja waves her right hand. “I think it’s in our nature to be unsettled at every odd event taking place before us.”
“Fufu,” Neja chuckled. “When you’ve been around for long enough, you’re bound to witness something peculiar once in a while.” She shrugs.
“Anyway, I believe that’s the library that the hunter told us about.”
“Double time it then?” Neja leers to Pratama with one eye.
Pratama shakes his head. “I am comfortable with my velocity.”
Neja sighs. “Gee, old men are boring. Fine, whatever.”
If his mask isn’t sticking around, this little girl would definitely see a smirk forming on his face.
As they near the structure, the path turns from wet grasses and muddy soils into a solid limestone path seemingly made to be timeless. Now that the ground no longer absorbs a portion of their footwear, their pace grows significantly better. Pratama is relieved that he is finally exposed to a warm ambience for once ever since he steps into this otherworldly land. Although not as warm as he expected it to be, he has learned to be grateful for all the small things granted to him.
There’s a gate enclosing the structure’s garden, and it’s left open. On top of it is a sign engraved with writing, ‘Warm Hide Library’. The two walk past an ebony arc overgrown with blooming flowers. Before them is a large fountain that makes Pratama reminiscent of the ones in his mansion. The path circling the fountain is flanked by rectangular bushes. And there are garden torches installed, evenly spaced alongside the path.
Pratama comes knocking at the entrance.
“I find it quite ridiculous that you have to knock for entry to a public place such as the library.” He says, turning her attention to Neja.
“Well, things like these vary from culture to culture you know?”
Pratama sighs. “And maybe they’ll deny us entry.”
“Yeah… I admit that the diversity is sometimes quite inconvenient.” Neja said
The door creaks open not long after, revealing a middle-aged man in a dashing tuxedo and a necktie. His height is about the same as Pratama, only a bit higher.
“Are we allowed to scour one or two of all the texts this place has to offer?”
The man looks at them for a while. Pratama was expecting his request to be dismissed right away. Just like his previous ones toward various people that he had encountered along the way. If that happens, he is prepared to lift his fist and break through this meager entrance.
“Why, yes. Absolutely.” The middle-aged man nods.
An answer in contrast to what Pratama was thinking. He takes a moment to glance at Neja.
“Waha! So not all of them are inconvenient after all.” Neja replies.
“Please, come inside.” The man gestures toward the room he is in. He then shuts the door gently as soon as Pratama and Neja make it in.
The two steps into a heavily brown-shaded room. The walls, the floors, and the pillars possess a wood shade with intricate wooden textures. The shelves, tables, and the chairs have a lighter shade, probably due to the nature of being made out of teak. The turbulent carvings on their frames are a sight to behold. The carpet has a hint of red hue on their evenly-spaced rectangular patterns. Even the books have brown leather hard-covers, at least most of them. In its complement is the orangish hue that fills the entire room, emanating from candles throughout the place. On the pillars, the candles are put inside a glass casing. While those on the tables are tucked on candle-holders.
“I assume you’re the librarian of this place.”
“Yes, I do possess the role that you’ve mentioned.” The man bows. “My name is Connor Wissenstein, pleased to meet you sir…” He gives out his hand.
Pratama shakes it. “Pleased to meet you too. For your convenience, you shall refer to me as Pratama as well.”
“Oh,” Pratama continues, pointing at his companion with his right thumb. “And this here, her name is Neja. We just happen to stumble upon each other.”
Neja pouts at Pratama and slams her right feet to the floor. “Hmu, let me introduce myself.”
Wissenstein chuckles. “Go ahead miss, you are very welcome.” He continues after, giving out his hand to her.
Neja’s attention turns to Wissenstein. “Oh, thank you sir.” She then shakes his hand. “My name is Neja, and I’m here to make sure this man beside me atone for the violation of my property.”
Pratama takes a deep breath.
“Such desire is what brought you all here then?” Wissenstein asks.
“How do you think this place could help?”
“I just need information concerning where a certain creature can be found, or would most likely present themselves before us.”
“Their living space perhaps?”
Wissenstein then extends his arm in a certain direction behind him. “Follow along this hall and take the first turn right. We have a complete archive on zoology and ecology over there, supplemented by various visuals that we have collected so far.”
Pratama remains still, gazing at the way pointed by Wissenstein in silence.
“That’ll be much appreciated, sir.” Neja exclaims. “Now come on,” She says, pulling on Pratama’s sleeve. “Let’s get that creature.”
“Wait a second.” Pratama says, gripping at Neja’s clothing while turning his head toward Wissenstein.
Skimming an entire shelf worth of books and codices for a piece of information is too laborious. Even for a person with a strong academic background like Pratama. In fact, he knows too well how painful and time-consuming it would be. It is therefore suggestive that one first has to have a hint that the information he’s looking for is really there. At least, narrow it down to some keywords. And one simplest and most straightforward way of doing it…
“Mr. Wissenstein.” Pratama politely addresses him.
“Yes?” The librarian nods.
“Perhaps, you have the slightest idea about a three-legged flying rabbit?”
Wissenstein remains silent, only raising an eyebrow. It takes another second for him to utter a word.
“A three-legged flying rabbit.” Pratama says each word with an even pause between them. “My apology, but I have never heard of such a thing.”
“Heyy,” Neja yells at the two adults, trying to get their attention. “They do exist okay?”
“I’d like to argue that our archives on that topic are always up to date, since I myself have a great colleague or two working on the field.” Wissenstein gently nods. “So far, they have never come up with such a bizarre creature.”
Pratama’s gaze turns on Neja. He finds the girl looking up at Wissenstein as he provides an explanation. It doesn’t take long for the gaze to turn into a stare.
“And given that our foremost ancestor is a four-limbed reptilian, it is highly unlikely that nature would just leave us with an asymmetrical motoric design and call it a day.”
And the stare turns into a glare.
Neja proceeds to put both hands on her waist and puffs out her chest.
A clock hanging on one side of the wall ticks. The three suddenly fall silent, allowing the ticking to fill the place. “Well, I’d like to argue that, for one to be acknowledged as ‘existing’, one does not have to exist… say, at one certain point. Be it in space or time.”
A clock hanging on one side of the wall ticks. The three suddenly fall silent, allowing the ticking to fill the place.
“Your point?” Pratama said, maintaining his glare
“A conjecture, if you will… For instance, one could exist on a certain plane of existence, but not on others.”
“A certain plane of existence…” Pratama reiterates the last part of her statement. “Which means…”
“Well, the three-legged rabbits do exist, but…not on this world!” Neja puts a wide smile at Pratama’s direction. “Ah, but I believe this argument could be applied to you too, mister. Because you’re not from this world, aren’t you?”
“So you knew…”
A giggle started bursting out of her. “Fufufu, I like how you literally pin a person against a tree for a patch of flowers that is not even mine…”
As her laughter fills the entire room, Pratama’s shadow looms even closer to her. And that carefree giggle of her suddenly ends when two hands pats her shoulders simultaneously. Two hands that don’t seem to belong to either Pratama or Wissenstein. Two hands that suddenly appear out of thin air.
“Ehh…?” Neja reopens her eyes to a view of an azure visor glaring down to her at less than an inch.
“Kyaaaa~” The little girl’s shriek vibrates all the window panes in the library as her cheeks are being pinched and stretched as far as it supposedly could, her hands flailing around her in the process. “Ow, ow, ow, ow! What aye yu doi- tha hu’t!” She whines, as words escape her contorted mouth.
Wissenstein watches in silence with a worried grin as Pratama secures his own honor to defile Neja’s roundish doll-like face; his clones, three of them, holding her in place.
“You have such a lithe face, don’t you?” Pratama says.
“Nyooo- stohp pinching mye chyeek!” Neja said as she struggled to break free from the three doppelgangers that pinned her in place. her hands punching the clone’s arms harmlessly.
“Why? You were all giggly and gleeful just moments ago. You seem to enjoy getting on people’s nerve don’t you” Pratama said, his tone cold and unforgiving.
“Bechaus- bechaus its bworing being all alwone hwere yhou know!” Neja shouted, still unable to break free from the stunlock she’s trapped in.
Pratama was silent. He could understand the reason behind Neja’s mischievous behavior towards him. One would attempt to do anything to escape the suffocating abyss that is loneliness.
It seems that being an annoyance to someone is her way to cope with it. Unfortunately for her, she picked the wrong person to pull a prank on.
And besides, she could’ve just asked him nicely to accompany her without pulling this fake mythical beast conundrum and lying about the flower bed. He would’ve helped her anyway. But how things go now, as per his childhood teaching, the naughty kid had to be punished
“Dear kind sir, say, don’t you think you’re exerting more force than necessary to teach her a lesson.” Wissenstein, who had been watching the charade from the sideways all this time, finally said. most likely pitying the sight of the little girl being punished in front of him
“Discipline is of paramount importance. In a slightly different situation, I’d say this is far less than sufficient.” Pratama replies, his tone adamant.
“If you say so.”
But still, it’s not that he particularly enjoys doing this. Perhaps after this, He’ll try to reconcile with Neja. It was also quite intriguing nonetheless that she could calmly deduce that he’s not from this world. Her tone suggests that she is already aware of that fact from the beginning, perhaps that’s the reason why she decided to pull a prank on him. She’s bound to know a thing or two, and Pratama intends to ask her some questions. She’ll probably throw a tantrum or two after this, but more often than not, they’ll quickly fade away.
“Pwease stop it.” Neja exclaims, but then her voice suddenly reverberated an uncharacteristically crystal-clear tone, despite her cheek still being pinched “Or else.”
“Or else what?”
In a split second, Neja’s eyes flashes; Her whimpering face turns into a solid one, as if she’s suddenly filled with bloodlust. She brings her hands to meet the ones stretching her cheek and pulls them off, seemingly with no effort. She then shoves them aside; along with it is a force enough to throw the clones into the bookshelves on her flanks, toppling them.
Pratama and Wissenstein watch the event in silence while remaining in place with barely any movement.
Neja proceeds to grab the hands of the third clone and swing it overhead with one hand like a piece of cloth, sending it crashing down before her. Pratama sees his doppelganger’s legs dashing toward his face from above, so he despawns it immediately. An azure flash followed by a harmless jet of particles occurs as the clone returns to thin air.
She dusts off her hands before crossing her arms, her chest puffing out.
“Or else that.” She said, her voice returned to the soft and meek one from before.
Pratama turns his gaze to her left and right, at the toppled bookshelves with books scattered all around them.
Now that’s convincing.
It turns out she really is stronger than she looks. His clones weigh pretty much the same as him. To pull that action requires the strength of more than just a human; the strength of an Android boosted with Reservoir is still insufficient as far as he is aware of. Perhaps he could pull
a similar move. But that’s rather redundant. If he wants his victim lifeless, he could just pierce their chest with an electric saber or a shockwave gauntlet. If he wants his victim intimidated, he could apply a method similar to the one he did on the hunter.
What’s more unsettling is how her eyes flash. She is definitely not a random kid. She is something else, something that still lies far beyond the boundaries of his knowledge.
“Well, I guess a bit more tidying work won’t hurt.” Wissenstein says, clapping his hands. “Don’t worry, I’ll do it.” Pratama says to Wissenstein.
He spawns his clones again, now six of them in a pair of three for each toppled bookshelves. They erect the bookshelves back and return the books to their initial positions. For more convenience, Pratama bolsters their speed with the module of his first subordinate. Hence, an approximately ten minute task is done in less than a minute.
“Woaah.” Neja gapes in the sight of six other Pratama dashing here and there at ridiculous speed.
“It seems like I’m the only one without superhuman abilities here.” Wissenstein comments.
“There’s no need I suppose.” Pratama says, turning to Wissenstein. “I just happened to have them and brought them here with me.”
Pratama takes a deep breath as soon as his clones finish their work. They return to thin air not long after.
“Anyway, about that statement of yours saying you are all alone here…”
“That one is true, I didn’t make that up.” She raises her right index to her eye level.
Pratama raises an eyebrow. She mentioned a certain plane of existence; and how one could exist within a plane and not the others, but still be considered existing. Given that she is confident that the creature does exist somewhere, she must have an intimate knowledge of that somewhere, wherever it is. And since she acknowledges the creature to be on a different world, she has to be a native settler there. Thereby making her an alien just as he is to this world.
“So, not only you are aware that I have been brought here for some reason by some unknown divine mechanics, but you have suffered the same fate as well?”
“Ah, took you long enough to realize that. Though I’m not in control of that decision, okay? I too wish to return home.”
“I’ve told you already. I mean look at your clothes, and your mask.” Her index is now pointing at Pratama. “I’ve wandered this place quite far and wide, you know? No one has the same clothing style as yours.”
“To be fair,” Wissenstein adds. “His coat found its way to several locals here, but they can still be considered uncommon. His mask however, I’m sure no one around has the manufacturing capability to forge it.”
As he thought. His mask is an engineering feat accomplished only by his subordinate. A retractable metallic mask with filters and attached visor. Not only does it provide convenience on
the battlefields, the fear factor that comes with it has proven to be invaluable. The design worn by his soldiers, the Proxies, are derived from his. But they are manufactured with different materials to allow mass-produce, and never felt the touch of the original designer.
So far, this world has been an odd place. The endless rain, the non-uniformity of the clouds, as well as the lack of hospitality in its inhabitants. For a moment, he thought of adding the three-legged flying rabbit to the list. Even if it’s not happening, that still doesn’t nudge his conviction that this world works on a different set of physical laws. Perhaps, the rules are just the same as the ones back home. Only there is something manipulating it.
But he is not acquainted with any sort of magic. It is merely a work of fiction. The superhuman abilities he possessed is not one of them. It is rather more of a technological feat, accomplished through science and engineering.
He then takes a glance at Neja, recalling how her clothing is similar to those in fictional fantasies he had come across. Maybe she has better knowledge on that matter than him. Specifically, the art of casting one to return them home.
“Perhaps, you are aware of a method to return us home.” Pratama says to Neja. Neja puts a finger on her chin and looks to the ceilings. “Hmm.”
On second thought, asking her is probably a thing that he shouldn’t do. She has just pulled a prank on him. And that should have pummeled her credibility, academically speaking. Therefore, he proceeds with his course.
“You know what, nevermind that.” He says to her before turning to Wissenstein again. “Hey!” Neja’s voice fills the place to its corners. “I’m thinking for real here.” “How about you, Mr. Wissenstein?”
“This endless rain hints that there’s something ‘magical’ about this world.” Pratama gestures his hand. “Perhaps there is a way to manipulate their essence so that we may return to our respective homeworlds.”
“Hmm.” Wissenstein’s sight turns to his feet. “An interdimensional portal, then?” Interdimensional portal…
The phrase struck Pratama’s nerves. He suddenly turns motionless, as if his temperature suddenly reaches absolute zero. A huge blast that wipes an entire city glimpses in his sight, followed by a mass of resentful crowds. Then the world burns. And from the ashes, comes forth his mighty army; bringing pointless suffering and death as a deep malicious laughter plays at the back of his head. It takes another second for all that rustling to end.
A silence with the ticking of the clock. Pratama shakes his head, dismissing the vision he just had.
“I’m surprised that we share the same diction.” He says to Wissenstein.
“I think I’ve read that somewhere, but that was long ago. I remember that the codex is still available here. I just need to rediscover it.”
Pratama squints at that. He is about to ask him to cover that part of his trip home, when guilt suddenly halts it. In this world, he does not have the power over everyone. He couldn’t just ask someone else to do a favor for him without himself committing an effort toward that favor.
“I’ll volunteer to assist you in that, if you are willing to assist me in going home.” “I will help you, but you are not obliged to help me in that.”
Wissenstein takes a deep breath. “Very well, sir.” He accepts the deal, probably urged by the image of what Pratama is capable of inside his head; trying to save himself from the inconvenience if he willfully opposes what the man is trying to accomplish.
“Hey, I want to help too.” Neja exclaims while raising her hand.
“Not to be disrespectful but,” Pratama says to Neja. “You don’t seem to have sufficient literacy to catch up with what the scripts here are saying.”
“Mmu…, that’s disrespectful you know?” Neja strikes a pout at Pratama.
She might indeed appear to be a ten to twelve years old child. But that doesn’t shut the possibility of a skill to read complex narratives of his level. Who knows? She might actually be gifted and turns out capable of understanding them better than him. His recent statement to her is just a remainder of his irritation toward the girl. He personally wishes that there would be no more after.
“I think we should just let the little lady here come with us.”
Pratama shrugs. “Fine.”
“Yay!” Neja shouts, throwing her hands overhead. “Thank you, Mr. Wissenstein.” “Your welcome.”
Pratama takes a glance outside the window. The dark has begun to creep its way upon the world again. And thus, that time comes again.
“Mr. Wissenstein, may I ask you another favor?”
“State your words, sir.”
“Do you have a space here for both of us to stay for the night or two perhaps? I can handle the fee.”
Wissenstein stares at the two in silence. Pratama senses it. He’s going to deny him a stay regardless of the fee he is willing to pay, just like anyone else.
“I think there’s more than enough for both of you on the third floor.” Wissenstein grins. “And fee…” Wissenstein rubs his finger while looking at them. “It’s rather a later and simpler affair. Make sure you’re first comfortable with the space.”
If Pratama doesn’t have his mask on, Wissenstein could see his pupil widen. At long last, a person kind enough to allow him to stay. Of course, there has to be a token for his kindness. What matters is that he is willing to offer them in the first place. Unlike all the others who have denied him one.
“I can’t properly string a sentence well enough to describe how I am grateful for your hospitality.”
Wissenstein shrugs. “You don’t have to.”
Hours of fruitless scouring through shelves and piles of archives passed by. Pratama’s utilizer indicates that it is two in the morning. Waters dripping on the roofs, slowly sliding their way to the ground. He takes a glance through the windows as he marches into the space he rented. It’s dark outside. The time ticks in accordance with his world.
Neja went ahead of him; she returned to the living-quarters about three hours prior. She should have been entrenched deep in her dreams right now. It’s even surprising that she could last until midnight, with all that reading. A kid of her age could at best last until ten at night.
But as he is nearing his quarter, he could hear something besides the crackling embers of the fireplace. A voice, an ethereal chanting in a language he is quite familiar with. He hurries on his final steps toward the quarter. There he finds Neja sitting on a crimson pillow before the fireplace, singing ever so gently with her petite figure swaying left and right like grasses when a gust blows through them.
The rhythm is mellow. The mournful tone indicates a soul swallowed by exhaustion. But there is an odd feeling of peace. Like it is reminiscent of the past. And that allows one to rest assured even when sorrow is upon them. The memories; everything that one had went through, all gather round and caress the spirit so that they could move on the next day.
Normally, he’d just dismiss it like it’s just a breeze. But now there is something bothering him. Something that urges him to tell her to go to bed for her well-being; since her physique shouldn’t be fit for late night activities. Especially when a figure of a solitary maid who has gone through hell so that he could have a proper meal glimpses into his view.
And then the song ceased. Pratama could see her figure slowly turning towards him, revealing a pair of blood red eyes that shone brightly under the strong contrast conjured by the flame under the darkness of the night.
“Is something the matter, dad?” A soft voice spoke from the ember’s orange glow.
Pratama raises an eyebrow. It has to be another play she has up her sleeve. But even if she manages to tackle him once or twice more, he doesn’t feel like it’s a big deal anymore. A kid like her deserved all the laughs that she could get before adolescence and reality slaps her hard in the face.
“Gehehehehe,” A giggling laughter brought him back from his thoughts. “Even with that mask of yours, I still enjoy doing that.” Neja said as she flashes a mischievous smile at him.
He sighs as a reply. Pratama admits that her teasing can be annoying sometimes. Now that there’s another concern clouding his head, in addition to his lack of energy after all the scouring, he’ll just let that one pass. Besides, he also set his sights to reconcile with this girl.
“So, have we found something yet?” she asked again
Pratama rubs his fingers for a moment before glancing at her. “There is this interesting encyclopedia about some sea cockroaches.”
“After the flying three-legged rabbit shenanigans, I find it hard to believe that you’d be startled that such a thing exists here.”
Neja looks away from him. “It’s uh…, more of a…”
Pratama proceeds to an armchair by the fireplace.
“Anyway, that was an excellent performance. An admirable talent.” He said, in a similar manner to that of a parent praising their children.
“Hehe, thankyou, it’s an old lullaby from where I am from.”
It sounds somewhat gloomy, and poignant. He doubts that it is suitable to lull children, even if they sound soothing. Between the mellow and sad tone of the song, and her gleeful and outward demeanor, Pratama senses a mismatch between those two.
“It’s my favorite song. I used to sing it to my little sister every day. She really loved it, you know!” She continues.
“You have a little sister?” Pratama asked whilst inspecting her from head to toe once again. “How young is she, compared to you?”
“Oh, um, well…”
A long silence followed, Neja cast her sights down. Her eyes were blank, longing for something. Her face is still smiling, but Pratama could tell a forced smile if he sees one, and her’s is a painful one to witness. This is the second time he sees her like this, but this time, it’s far more vivid and clear. It seems that he had just inquired of something that should not have been asked in the first place, he could easily guess at the rough image.
It’s probably the equivalent of anyone asking him about his daughters.
She really is alone after all, huh.
Feeling bad, he decides to apologize.
“I’m sorry, forget I ever asked that.”
“It’s fine.” She said, as she stood up and walked towards the door.
Suddenly, a jolt went through Pratama’s head as he recalled his original intention coming in here.
“Wait, where are you going?”
“Outside, I want to get some fresh air.” She said, without turning to look at him.
That’s a single line that Pratama did not want to hear at all. He stands up in turn and conjures his clones to block the door. Though after what had happened earlier at noon, the purpose of the clones was merely to buy some time.
And it works, as Neja halted her step where she stood.
“Now what do you think you’re doing?” She said, still in her soft and meek voice. But now, Pratama couldn’t help but to feel an overwhelming aura of malice radiating from her. The built-in barometer on his visor shows a fluctuating rise of pressure in and around the room, and the temperature in the immediate vicinity suddenly dropped.
“I’m not in the mood right now…” she said again. Her voice is significantly less soft now.
He considered seceding and letting her wander off into the rain alone. But the memory of how one particular girl went through hell and back for the sake of his well-being steeled his resolve. Giving up on Neja right now would only taint his memory of that girl, and he’s not having any of that.
“I can’t let you go outside now, I’m putting you to sleep.”
That was a bad choice of words. He could see Neja turning back towards him, the readings on his visor got even more wilder, and the blood red eyes of her were gleaming with bloodlust.
“You need to have a good night’s sleep. It’s late now, your body is not built for late night activity, it could hinder your growth. Besides, it’s cold and it’s raining outside, you could get sick if you go out now.”
A minute passes. The muffled sound of endless rain from the outside perpetually playing in the background. Under the pitch-black night and what meager light the fireplace could provide them, Pratama could see Neja’s face, her eyes were wide and she looked at him with her mouth agape.
The readings on his visor slowly stabilized, and the temperature is relatively back to normal. And most importantly, that overwhelming malice of hers has vanished.
“Hmph! You reminded me of a certain old man I used to know. I don’t want to!” she said, turning away from him whilst puffing her chest and crossing her arms as she pouts. In that signature soft voice of hers.
Sensing that things had calmed down, Pratama despawns his clones.
“It’s for your own good.”
Neja did not reply. She stalwartly maintained that pose and gave him the silent treatment. Having been a father himself, this was an expected reaction for him. Even though all of his daughters were far less troublesome than Neja, when they were under his care.
What’s worse is the fact that Pratama has started to see that most of the things she did are deliberate and on purpose. And that she just wanted to see how he would react to it.
“Mr. Wissenstein had been kind enough to lend us a room with a bed in it.” No reply.
“You could take the bed, I’ll sleep on the floor.”
Still no reply.
He has encountered similar situations many times before. But they tend to result in the other side conceding, mostly because he is in control of them. Unfortunately, this is not one of those cases. There are still unknowns in the girl before him right now, those that he can’t be sure of ruling out with ease. And given the looks of her, she doesn’t seem to be concerned about his powers.
So Pratama takes a deep breath.
“Okay… what would it take for me to convince you to get some sleep?”
She lowered her arms and looked at him with a smile.
“Hmm, I always love reading and listening to stories. Could you read a bedtime story for me, please?” she said, putting an emphasis on the ‘please’ as she looked at him with renewed puppy eyes.
That was a much simpler request than Pratama had anticipated.
Perhaps that’s one of her plays again…
He nodded to her and gestured to her to go to the bed. All the while, he moved the armchair from the fireplace near the bed so that he could sit beside her. He caught a glimpse of Neja crawling inside the blanket. He was expecting her to jump into it with glee and excitement that a child of her age would exhume. But what he saw right now looked more like the motion of a tired old woman, slowly reaching out to her blanket.
“Dear me… feels like years since I last lie down.” She muttered.
Pratama takes a seat beside Neja, he raises his sight to the ceilings, recalling anything he has in mind worthy to lead this petite girl to her dreams.
He takes a deep breath…
“Once lived a maid.
Not the most popular,
But one of the most gorgeous, and obedient.
The hardest labor she tamed,
To restore what she had lost in flames. And her master, a cruel and ruthless man, Who annihilates all oppositions at hand, Towers way above.
A shining beacon she grew to love.
One day, she sees through the beacon’s light, An unholy form of blight,
Unworthy of everyone’s sight.
And inside her, something occurred
Something that has her urged,
To discipline the most powerful man in the world. When she begins her climb,
Her world starts to decline,
With comrades ditching her line,
A higher-up that shivers her spine
As well as a pincering hefty fine.
Nevertheless, she persisted.
With the voice of a boy
Who kept her uplifted
And filling her joy.
Until the beacon shakes the earth,
And her back returns to dirt.
Her master steps down.
A new guilt he found.
A maiden crippled to keep him sound. So he keeps her around,
Attending her wound,
While caring his own lawn,
Until she’s ready to hold her own.
Even against a force in deep red.
Led by her former comrade.
Supported by a harlot with a golden head.
And as the beacon’s ground left tainted,
A private property, just got violated.
But her master gave her a chance,
A vast land for her to nurture,
To fuel his thrall-thirsty lance,
In the upcoming future.
And the beacon’s light turns,
Away from her everlasting glory,
With newfound properties,
That was once a history,
Never to return.”
And with that, Pratama ends his story in silence.
“Eeeh… I was expecting a regular story, not a long poem.”
“Was that not to your liking?”
Neja stared at the ceiling blankly before pulling her blanket and rolls to the opposite side of Pratama.
“I like it, it’s pretty…” she paused for a short while, before continuing “Vivid.” “Glad you liked it, now, as promised, you must go to-”
“So, why didn’t you see her again?”
She giggles. “‘A beacon that she loves’ huh, your self-confidence is pretty high, I must say.” “So, why didn’t you see her again?”
“You’re a really perceptive one, aren’t you?”
Neja said nothing upon that remark, but he could feel her grinning on the other side of the bed.
“So, why didn’t you see her again?” she repeats.
Why didn’t I visit her again?
A question that shot him in the head. And for a second, his senses are dead.
The simplest answer would be that he was ‘busy’. But is that reason enough to leave a girl that you thought of as your own daughter for the rest of her life?
He couldn’t think of a rationale reason no matter how hard he tried. Truth be told, deep in the back of his mind, the real reason lies dormant and unspoken. Him not daring to even voice the reason in his thought.
He was afraid of meeting her. He was afraid of what she would say if she met him again. After everything he had done ever since their last meeting.
As he was lost deep in thought, he could hear the giggling sound of a girl. He looked up to find Neja stealing glances at him.
“Eheheheh, for all your outside demeanor, you’re still a bit childish inside, you know?” She said, looking at him with a smile
“You’re the last person I want to hear that from”
Neja immediately turned away from him and, in a quick gesture, hid her face behind her blanket like a child that was just got caught sneaking to steal a candybar by her parents.
“Hmuu, there’s nothing wrong with being childish you know.”
“Yes, yes. Now go to sleep. I think i’ll also need to take some shut-eyes. Talking to you have been quite tiresome.”
Neja didn’t say anything in return.
Pratama wasted no second to head towards his appointed slumbering place upon negotiation with Neja, a sad looking, brown coloured sleeping bag.
Oh well, he had it worse before.
Just as he was about to lie down on said sack of bag, he heard the voice of Neja mumbling under her breath.
“Well… being childish is okay, if it doesn’t involve people’s life that is.”
It was very low. But his enhanced binaural sensor caught her saying that.
“What did you just say?”
“H-Heeh?? You heard me? N-Nothiing! I’m going to sleep, see you tomorrow!” What a brat…
But that’s normal for a child of her age.
He finally shuts his eyes and drowns himself in his dreams, if he has any.
Pratama wakes up early. He is used to living under low sleeping hours. His Reservoir imbued body makes him more fit than how he should be given his age. He finds it convenient that he brings it into this strange world. His watch tells him that it’s four in the morning.
The little girl is still crumpled within her blanket. The room is cold. He revels in it because it gives him solitude. He stretches himself for a minute before striding downstairs. His maids should be serving him coffee and breakfast by now. But for some reason he doesn’t feel hungry nor thirsty. If there is one thing he is thirsting for, it’s the sight of his servants.
“Awake already?” Wissenstein asks as soon as he sees him. The man is sitting on a couch with a book in hand. In front of him is a small table with a gorgeous bloom. There is a cup of tea and a plate of biscuits beside it.
“You as well.” Pratama replies.
Wissenstein smiles. “These are the hours where I begin my activities.”
“They’re mine as well.” Pratama says, glancing out the window. The skies are still dark. But he can make up some views in the distance without his night-vision filter. “Perhaps we both are great worshippers of dawns. I know I do.”
“You have a fascinating choice of deity.”
“That was a figure of speech.” Pratama says, sitting down beside Wissenstein.
“I mean, you can really worship anything here.” Wissenstein chuckles. “Just be ready to defend yourself.”
“What do you mean anything?”
“An emperor, a lady, a tree, some stones, a guy wearing thorns across his body, the sun, the moon…anything.”
What a terrible world he thought. He is already struggling to repress a faith back home. Yet, here there could be hundreds if not thousands of them.
“Are there any of them who are so triggered that they water this place day and night?”
Wissenstein sips his tea. “Not really. We don’t know where this rain comes from. It’s just there for some reason.”
“Was there any attempt to stop it?”
“People just go along with it as far as I know. Or maybe I am too isolated. Regardless, none succeed if there is any.”
Pratama takes his glance around the room. The torch fire crackles. They are the only thing moving in the place. The way Wissenstein flips every page is done so well as to not create plenty of movement. If it isn’t raining outside, he would probably be listening to the beat of his heart and the ringing in his ears. He wonders why there isn’t anyone in this library.
There is a painting to his right. The width of its rectangular frame is probably half his height. Its vintage hue caught his attention. It shows a prairie on a clear day. Huge masses of clouds are cruising over, but one can see that sunlight still kisses the grasses. Amidst the prairie stands a structure. The humanoid figures drawn around it give away its massive scale. Even with all the arcane contraptions making it up, Pratama feels oddly familiar with the thing.
“Isn’t that a 3d print-” Pratama pauses as he realizes that this is not his world. “I mean, what is that?” He points his right thumb at the painting.
Wissenstein glances at the painting. “Oh,” He exclaims. “We call it The Great Spawner of Things.”
“The Great Spawner of Things.” Pratama reiterates the label slowly, as if he is astounded at what the locals came up to name it. He rubs the metallic part of his face-mask that covers his chin. “I expect it to have great significance around here.”
“You bet.” Wissenstein puts down his cup. “Would you like to know?”
“It’s a relic from ancient times. Times where crises are coupled with each other. It solves many problems of its creators, just as they intended it to. Until it doesn’t. Its unsustainability hastens the collapse of the ancients. As of this moment, we still lack the arcane knowledge to get that thing running.”
“Does it solve the problem by ‘spawning’ things?”
“And how do you know that it actually spawns things?”
“Surviving records by the people who built them.”
“Do you actually believe them without testing it or something?”
“The scholars are still debating over it, for your information. There are many suggestions. But the structure being a spawner is the most popular narrative.”
Pratama gazes at the painting again. No doubt it’s the most popular. The structure is literally a 3d printer in his world. It just looks different thanks to the gemstones stuck on it for every inch. Perhaps they have greater purposes than making the printer pleasant to the eyes.
Three hours passed and the day grew brighter. It is still gloomy overhead with droplets trickling on the windows. That’s when Pratama smells a distinct aroma in the air. Being a man that
hailed from a land rich in spices, he is well familiar with these types of aroma. It somehow brings him comfort.
“You have a cook in this library?” He nodded to Wissenstein
“No, but this library is equipped with a kitchen and a dining room on the third floor.” “Then who could be…”
Pratama instinctively walked back to the room he leased from Wissenstein and found that his suspicion was correct, the little girl in red was nowhere to be seen. Upon entering the third floor, he was greeted by a set of humble furniture. A regular wooden table sat in the middle of the room, paired with several chairs, there were six of them. He wondered whether Wissenstein received guests often that would necessitate this number of chairs. Just in front of the table was the kitchen, separated from the dining table by several wooden counters. The figure of a little girl in a pink apron could be seen, standing in front of a stove with a cast iron pot boiling over it. She could be heard humming a song in that previous unknown language, but stopped as soon as she noticed Pratama entering the premises.
“Oya? It seems I have attracted a hungry wolf.”
“I see you are awake.”
“It’s a bit weird though.”
“For the first time in the longest time, I dreamed.”
“With one whose imagination is as active as yours, I would expect dreams to be a common occurrence for you.”
“Ah, I suppose. But it usually doesn’t happen for me…” She said, continuing to mix the broth in the pot. “Maybe because in this world, I don’t have the obligation to watch over anybody…”
“Ahh, nothing. Anyway, I noticed that it was really cold. So, I figured that a bowl of curry wouldn’t be too bad right now.”
“Curry huh, no wonder the strong spices aroma. But have you…asked Wissenstein for permission?”
“Nyo- Uh, I mean… I’m sure he wouldn’t mind if I cooked for us…right?” “Neja… you…”
“Ahaha, it is okay, Mr Pratama. I wouldn’t mind lending our little chef here my kitchen.” Wissenstein said, emerging from behind the stairs. “But I have to ask… Where did you get all the ingredients to make such a delectable cuisine from? I don’t remember stockpiling anything that could produce something like this.”
“Oh, don’t worry about that, I brought my own”
“You brought… your own?” Pratama asked. “Where did you put them?”
“In my storage!”
“In your… storage?”
“Ah, that’s not important right now. Look, the curry is ready.”
She brought the hot pot off the stove, and poured it over a plate of rice with a ladle. The strong smell of spices dominated the room. She approaches the two men with the plate of curry in hand. And served it on the table.
“Here you go, please enjoy it,” She said with a smile.
“It looks delicious, little miss. You’re really good at cooking.” Wissenstein said. “Very well then, I’ll help myself to it, you should come to, Mr. Pratama. Our little chef here has gone through the trouble of making breakfast for us.”
Pratama follows Wissenstein, and takes a seat beside him. He stared at his plate, the curry does smell good, and it doesn’t look suspicious at all. Despite his reservation towards the trickster Neja, he supposed it wouldn’t hurt to try a scoop or two. He started with the curry…
“Mm, it’s good.”
In his peripheral vision, he could see Neja smiling widely. The smile was different from the usual smug smile she sports. It was a genuine happy smile.
“Is that so? I’m glad you liked it, ehehe.”
The two men then busy themselves with their respective plate. Emptying it scoop by scoop. However, the warm eyes both Neja and Pratama directed towards each other gradually degraded into that of… perplexity.
“Hey, Neja-” “Mister-” they said at the same time.
“No, me first.” Neja insisted.
Wow, the first time a female ever did that. Pratama thought.
“I noticed that you haven’t touched your vegetables at all… Why is that?” “Oh no, Not this again…” Pratama sighs. A sudden headache emerges in his head. “Hmm?”
“Look, I promise you that I regularly eat vegetables now, every day, strictly following the 4-healthy -5 perfect principle. But for now, I just want to enjoy some meat. Can a man not enjoy some meat once in a while?”
“No! That’s not good, mister. You need to eat veggies, they’re healthy, especially for you, you’re old!
“Allow me to make a retort. Where’s your plate? Why didn’t you eat with us?”
“Hya- Ah, That, that’s, uh, I can’t… I don’t really need to… I mean, I’m, I’m not hungry! Not hungry at all!”
“You’re still a kid, you have a small body. You should eat more so that you can grow more.” Pratama raised a hand and pointed at her. “That’s an order, grab a plate and eat.”
“Wah! Order? I’m not your daughter, why should I obey you?” Neja said, puffing her cheeks
“Okay, how about this, I will eat my vegetables only if you grab your portion and eat with us.”
“M-muu… Okay fine but… I only cook two portions…”
“I’ll share my portion with you.”
Neja stares blankly at Pratama for a moment. Before walking towards his chair without grabbing any plate.
“Where’s your plate?”
“You said you’d share your portion with me.”
She then proceeds to climb the chair Pratama was sitting at. And made herself at home on his lap. Pratama was quite bewildered at this development. Her petite frame meant that there’s plenty of room for her on his lap, he just never thought she’d opted for this option.
“Since you’d be sharing your plate, this is more convenient for me. Humph.” “You…” Pratama sighs again. “What next, you want me to spoon feed you?” “What? No! I told you I’m not a kid. Give me your spoon.”
Upon witnessing this event unfolding. Wissenstein couldn’t help but to crack up a laugh. “Are you sure you two are not related?”
“We’re not!” Both of them answered simultaneously.
“I see, I see, no need to get so worked up. Well then, why don’t we continue to enjoy this food for now?”
Both Pratama and Neja did not object to his suggestion, and they continued eating the curry that Neja cooked. Throughout it all, Pratama could be seen momentarily pausing every time he scooped some vegetables, while Neja gagged everytime she put the curry in her mouth, struggling to swallow every bite. After what felt like a long hour, their plates were finally empty.
“Thank you for the meal, that was delicious.” Wissenstein said, as he wiped his mouth with a handkerchief.
“Hmm? Neja, are you okay?”
“I’m… I’m fine…” Neja’s face, meanwhile, was rather pale. It looked as if she had been poisoned.
“That’s weird. I found your curry to be delicious, what’s wrong?”
“Ah, ahaha, ahahahahah… it’s okay, it’s okay. I’m fine… It’s been… a while since I last ate human food. I – uhh, excuse me for a moment. I need to go… to the restroom…” She said as she scurried away from his lap.
“Ah, it seems the young lady is not suited to spicy food.” Wissenstein suggests.
“I see.” Being a man that originates from a land where spicy food is eaten on a daily basis with little regard, Pratama had always looked down on people that couldn’t stomach them. But how come she’s able to prepare this dish in the first place if she’s unable to stomach some spices?
The clock ticks. Water continues to drip on the roof. Those that sticks on the windows trickle down to the ground. The three enjoy their meal. The warm cooking heat their insides; sparking fervour amidst the delicate atmosphere that tends to drive people to their bed. Pratama is grateful that he could have one of this meal sessions after a while. Moreover, it’s free of charge. His cooks back in his headquarter can copy the meal down to its taste. He wouldn’t spot the difference. But for some reason he is certain that what he is having right now is better compared to when his cooks brew them. Was it because of the girl that made it?
The girl walks back from the restroom. He looks up to her once he is done. She is gazing outside the window. It doesn’t take long until she turns her attention to him again.
“By the way, how about we stop the rain? I’m tired of it.” She smiles. A pleasing expression that feels natural to him. Natural and warm.
Pratama and Wissenstein share a glance.
“No.” Pratama says once his attention returns to her.
“Why not?” Neja puts a finger on her chin as she leans closer. “You wish it was bright too, don’t you?”
Pratama looks away. “Probably.”
“Then let’s do something about it.” Neja exclaims.
“No.” Pratama strikes an indifferent face toward her. It doesn’t matter anyway since it always hides behind a mask.
Their eyes meet. Pratama catches a glimpse of something on her face. It’s something that he always longs for.
“Ok fine.” He says, taking a deep breath. He has nothing better to do anyway. Neja shouts in excitement.
Wissenstein shuts his book upon learning his words. “Are you…really willing to end this rain?” He shrugs. “Pardon me, but you don’t seem to have the resources nor manpower to do so.”
“Don’t worry.” Pratama turns to him. “We’re more capable than we look. All we need is a guide.”
“Do you have a plan already?” Neja asks.
Pratama raises an eyebrow. “I think I’ve read somewhere that we could launch…water absorbing grains to the sky. These grains will absorb the water molecules accumulating in the clouds, which then reduces the intensity of the rain.”
Neja and Wissenstein gazes at Pratama in astonishment.
“Now I’m hungry.” Neja says.
“Nevermind what I said.” Pratama continues. He then stands up. “What’s important now is to acquire those water absorbing grains that I mentioned.”
“Water…absorbing…grains…” Wissenstein rubs his chin. He gently snaps his finger seconds later. “There’s a mine that produces sand which does exactly that. People used to buy sand from there to collect the water ever since this rain doesn’t end.”
“We shall head there then.” Pratama gestures to Wissenstein. “Come with us. Take us there.”
Wissenstein puts a bookmark before shutting the book. He places it on the table. “Ok.”
The three prepare to leave the library. Wissenstein puts on a cloak that extends to his ankle. He locks the library before departing with Pratama and Neja.
By Wissenstein guide they reach the mine. There’s no one there. Not even a single hint of activity. Wind sweeps the area. The cave’s hollowness sings to them.
“Where’s everyone?” Neja asks. Her sight sweeps from one side to the other as if she is looking for a friend in a playground.
“I don’t remember this place being this empty.” Wissenstein says.
Neja walks to the mouth of the quarry. “Hello!” She shouts into the cave.
“Means we can get that sand without anyone bugging us.” Pratama states, taking the lead into the cave.
Neja and Wissenstein follow.
The cave is damp. The path inclines gradually as it should be if there are people extracting loads of rocks from the tunnels below. Putrid scent fills the air. The whole place reeks of rats. However, it’s not as bad as the pungent smell of synthetic flesh intermixed with blood, circuits and endoskeleton.
Although it’s an unauthorized entry, Pratama walks leisurely as if he owns the place. He is no stranger to that. His goal is the only thing he has in mind. If he is willing to raid an underground camp for them in absence of his power, what’s stopping him now? Deeper into the quarry, they see shadows of rats the size of a man. They walk with their hind feet while the other two are being used as hands. Its fingers move just as well as humans’ when observed closely.
“What are those?” Neja tilts her head.
“Hey!” A shrill voice shrieks from the darkness. One of those rat-man falls before them and raises their serrated sword to the party. “Man things,” He stutters as his nose sniffs. “Allow permit here, we-we do not!”
“Woah…” Neja sounds astonished.
“Fascinating.” Pratama comments.
“Rat-men,” Wissenstein says. “I suggest beware. They are not known to be friendly or negotiable to any of us.”
More comes not long after. They are all armored and armed with a serrated sword and a spiny wooden shield with a metallic outline.
“That man-man…ghh!” The same rat-man grunts. “To him, hear-listen!”
“We can’t turn back now, can we?” Pratama says. He then approaches the rat-man. “I’d like to have a portion of the sand produced by this mine.”
The rat-man sniffs. “S-sand…litter-dust! Belong-owned by the Ancient Whiskers they are are!”
“How about I pay for them? Just once.”
“Mmm…mineshaft, Warlock Frikz own-own! Buy-get with gold, man-things can’t can’t!” “We shall do this another way then.”
Pratama nimbly grabs the least sharp part of the rat-man’s sword. Electric-arcs swirl around the arm that grabbed the sword.
“GhAAAAA…!” The rat-man screams as high-voltage electricity flows through him. He then collapses. His body twitches as electric sparks emanate from it.
Seeing their dead friend on the stone-floor, the other rat-men then raises their sword.
“Man-man things danger-threat!” One of them exclaims. He turns to his comrade on his right. “To master…warn-tell him him!”
That particular rat-man instantly disengages; running deeper into the mine while banging his sword against his shield repeatedly.
“Oh boy.” Wissenstein comments.
“Heads down, Wissenstein.” Pratama tells him. Arrays of orange rings appear and envelop Pratama’s arms. They glow and revolve around his arms at a distance. Pratama doesn’t raise his hands. He just gestures with his fingers.
The serrated swords of the rat-men are freed of their grip. They float in mid-air for a second before turning their sharp end to their original user. Pratama clasps his right fist and the swords thrust toward the rat-men chests. The rat-men cry as they collapse.
Neja looks in awe. “That’s amazing.” She says to Pratama with glee.
Then masses of similar armed rat-men emerge from the tunnels below and above the three. They scurry like a horde of beasts who just met a prey after not eating for days; yelling and shrieking battle cries in their hustle.
“Oh…oh…” Neja raises her hand excitedly. “My turn.”
The girl extends her hands forward. Dark purple circles form on both of them. Similar circles immediately appear below the rat-men’s feet. They pull the rat-men in as if the ground suddenly vanishes. Neja then clasps her hands. The portal closes, severing their bodies in half. Red liquids pour from above as the bottom-half of the rat-men bodies fall from the ceiling.
“Yay.” Neja exclaims. “I got more than you.” She points at Pratama.
Pratama claps gently. “Ura.” He says in an indifferent tone that definitely doesn’t sound like someone who is cheering.
The remainder of the armed rat-men watches in terror as the severed bodies of their kin drop one by one in front of them.
“MMM!” One of them hums while sniffing. “Win-beat them, we can’t-can’t!” He yells. “Call-bring m-master…we must-must!”
They quickly retreat back to the tunnels. Then a slightly bigger rat-man emerges from the main tunnel ahead of the three. He takes gentle steps toward Pratama and Neja; meanwhile the talisman on his chest gradually glows brighter. He hisses as soon as he clears the dark side of the tunnels. His apparels become evident to the eyes.
On his right hand is the same serrated sword carried by the other armed rat-men. On his left is a worn timber staff with a glowing greenish stone on its top. His eyes are concealed by the hood of his robe which goes all the way towards his feet.
“Interrupt-bug mine quarry…who dares-dares!?” He yells.
One of the armed rat-men kneels before him. “M-mmaster…” He sniffs. “Man-thing, there…” He points at Pratama. “Killed-slaughtered us with his offspring he did-did.”
“Looks like it’s Warlock Frikz.” Wissenstein says.
“Please take care of him.” Pratama tells Neja, slightly glancing at her.
“Hmmu…no.” Neja puts her left hand at her waist and another on her chest while puffing it. “As your humble companion, I shall hand this moment to you; a moment where you could once again flex your muscle.” She says proudly.
Pratama sighs and facepalms. “Fine.”
Frikz sniffs. “Pay-responsible you will-will!” He then shrieks while raising his staff to the air. The greenish stone glows brighter.
Pratama spawns a clone of himself. It strides forward in an eerily manner. Wine clouds whiz around its bottom arms. In a second, it glitches into a figure with legs straight and arms extended outward. Then it launches forward at a breakneck speed, crashing into the big rat-man.
“AAgh!” A short grunt as the warlock is tossed fifty feet behind. He quickly collapses.
The other rat-men watches; the terrified looks on their faces are evident as they repeatedly glance at each other as if they could depend on them to save their whiskers.
“Wow, he instantly dies.” Neja exclaims.
“He isn’t human personnel. Hence, safeties are off.” Pratama comments.
The rat-men approach their master’s body. They poke it as it lies there. Nothing they could do to bring him back. One of the armed rat-men runs before Pratama. He tosses his weapons away while dropping on his knees.
“V-vanquished us…” The rat-man sniffs and stutters. “You have-have. S-spare-mercy me, I beg-beg you!” He bows.
The other rats follow his example.
“No-no-no! Spare me-me!”
“Live…l-let-allow me please-please!”
“Me-me! Die-killed, I want-will not…please!”
Pratama is fascinated by the sight of these vermin pledging their life to him. How he wished the Vindicators back home to do the same. Pratama claps his hands two times. “Listen, listen.” He says. “Since all of you are collectively asking, I shall spare all of you.”
The rat-men rejoice.
“But on one condition.” Pratama raises a finger and the crowds go silent again. “You will work for this man, right here.” Pratama steps aside to present Wissenstein before them.
“Me?” Weissenstein grabs his chest.
“If you disobey him…” Pratama addresses the rat-men crowd. “There is no telling what will happen to you. But it will be terrible.” He says.
“Yes-yes! Obey-abide, I will-will.”
“Hail Lord Wissenstein! Hail-hail!”
“Heed-answer your words words I will, Lord Wissenstein…”
Pratama turns to Wissenstein. “Now, tell them to return to their job.”
“Why are you doing this.”
“I am not a member of this society.” Pratama says. “Every gain I make will be irrelevant. It’s better to hand it out to someone else.”
Wissenstein sighs. “Okay.” He grins while stepping forward. “Alright people, get back to work.” He extends his right arm.
“L-lord Wissenstein has spoken-spoken! Work-labor we must-must!”
The rat-men crowd then disperses. Everything quickly went back to normal, except for some of the rat-men who had to dispose of the warlock’s body.
“By the way, you!” Wissenstein points at a rat-man.
He quickly approaches him. “Yes-yes, my Lord?”
“Could you get this man the water-absorbing sands, please?” Wissenstein asks him. “Sand…litter-dust! Yes-yes…bring them-them, I will!” The rat quickly hustles off.
Wissenstein glances at Pratama and Neja before shrugging. Not long after, the rat-man returns with a mine-cart full of said sand.
“Here-here, my Lord.”
Pratama walks to the minecart. He scoops a handful of the sand before walking outside. He extends his hand so that the rain droplets fall on the sand. He pulls it back and finds the sand expands on some part where the droplets landed.
“Yes, this is what I need.”
“Oooh-” Pratama catches Neja staring at something in a corner. She turns around with a gray stone inscribed with red-lines across its face. “What is this?”
“C-care!” The rat-man shrieks. “Flow-permeate…magic should-should, boom-boom it would!”
Neja is about to put it back when Pratama exclaims. “Wait.”
“We’re going to need that as well.” He says reaching for the stone.
Neja lets him have it. “What’s your plan, anyway?” She puts both hands on her waist.
“I’m going to launch these,” Pratama raises the hand with the sand. “Into the eye of the storm. They will absorb the water and the rain will stop.”
“So that’s what you meant by reducing the rain intensity.” Neja crosses her arms. Pratama nods. “Once the device is ready, we’re going to have to mass-produce it.”
Neja squints at the two entities in Pratama’s hands. “Nuh, no need.” She says puffing her chest while closing both eyes. “You just have to find a way to assemble the device from those two.”
“Hm?” Pratama tilts his head.
“Trust me.” She gazes with one of her eyes closed.
“Ok, I guess.”
Wissenstein steps in, his right hand raised in the air. “Pardon me, you’d still need help in creating your McGuffin, right?”
“I already have a plan for that.” Pratama says to Wissenstein. “Take us to where that print- ” Pratama shakes his head. “That great spawner of things is.”
“Sure thing.” Wissenstein nods. “Come.”
Pratama pulls out a cylindrical package out of his backpack and fills it with the sand. He then proceeds to put it alongside the red-lined stones he placed in his backpack.
The three then journeys to the great spawner of things, which Pratama is still convinced that the structure is one big 3d printer. Its real size is even more imposing up close. He never thought that he would see a 3d printer the size of a university complex. Pratama observes the all sorts of shapes forming around. It must have been its contraptions during its prime. He couldn’t know how long the device had been forsaken. Probably within millennia of timespan.
“This thing has been dead for ages.” Wissenstein says while having his attention fixed to the contraptions around him. “How do you plan to use it?”
“Simple.” Pratama says, cracking his knuckles and neck. He aims his palms toward the structure. Azure particles are forming around his arms. They swirl around like a flock of bugs herded by their meals; eventually gathering at his right foot. Pratama then kicks the structure gently. “Wake up.” He exclaims.
Azure lines streaks across the printer as well as its massive contraptions. Electricity sparks across the complex. Power up noise sings across the premises. The contraptions whirr in the next second. The printer’s mechanical parts are turning at an increasing rate.
“What did you do, mister?” Neja asks.
“I politely ask him to wake up.” He answers.
“I am fascinated by your definition of polite.” Neja comments, leaning toward him. “Don’t be, nothing to gain over that.” Pratama then flicks his right index. “Now, let’s see.”
“Did you just…” Wissenstein says, looking astonished at the complex machinery that has been dead for millenia now operating like nothing is wrong. “…turn it on? I mean, just like that?”
Pratama gestures. “You shouldn’t be surprised after everything we’ve been through.”
“No, no I meant…” Wissenstein rubs his head. “Uh…this thing is like a force of nature itself. How could you…”
“It just works.” Pratama says. “As long as it does, no need to question it. Unless you’re working in pure science fields.”
Wissenstein takes a deep breath. “Fair enough.”
Pratama then flicks his right index. “Now, let’s see.”
The printer opens a slot; one sizable enough to contain a handful of palm-sized materials. Pratama deploys his backpack and reaches for the sand container and the red-lined stones. He places them gently side-by-side in the slot. Another flick of his right index and the slot closes.
“One Cireng X missile please.” He says while carrying his backpack again.
The printer’s beams displace. They grow in height, adjusting to the size of the product they are about to print. The gears accelerate as if they’re about to bring the sun down. Its emitters project the holographic view of the missile. A certain propeller which is held by the connectors of the beams extends its rotor length. It then spins above the product deck. Gust spews outward while it works. The clamor sounds like thousands of rockets being fired consecutively. The propeller gradually rises along the vertical beams as the missile is taking form; solid white materials fill up the frame projected by the printer.
The machine proceeds with its labor. Pratama personally hopes that it doesn’t attract any curious eyes as it progresses. Once it’s done with the tip of its warhead, the missile shatters into azure particles that disappear into thin air. The propeller restores its rotor length and returns to its original position above the product deck. The beams follow.
Pratama walks closer and observes the deck. There he sees a cube with round edges of black color and white outlines. He strides up the ramp towards it. The cube is as tall as his knees.
“I assume…” Pratama tilts his head. “The missile is in here.” He says slowly.
“Yes, yes.” Wissenstein quickly approaches him. “It is in fact how this great spawner of things works. The spawned products came in packages such as this in order to ease its transport.” He then points at something on the cube. A line of azure light that seems to be part of the cube. “If you run your finger across this line, the package will unpack and the spawned product will emerge from within.”
Pratama doesn’t utter a single word as he carries the cube into a flat-open space somewhere within the printer complex. He then swipes the gleaming azure line on the cube with his right fingers. The light emitted by the line flickers. Aware of the size of the product that he asked the
printer to print, Pratama steps back. The cube’s edges detach themselves. And sure enough, the missile emerges to its intended size as the cube cracks open.
“Ah, fascinating.” Pratama comments. “Wait a minute…” He then remembers how he has to carry the missile into the eye of the storm. He believes that it is possible to do so given his powers. But the inconvenience still stands. “Damn, I shouldn’t have done that.”
Neja then walks in, clapping her hands. “Well…well…well, looks like this is the part where I took over.”
She raises her left hand. The same portal she used to sever the rat-men appears and engulf the missile.
“Where’s that thing taking it to?” Pratama asks.
“My storage.” Neja says proudly with a hand on her chest.
“You’ve said that before, but I don’t think I understand what that is.” Pratama comments. “Well…no need.” Neja glances at Pratama with one eye. “Nothing to gain over that.” Silence as Pratama raises an eyebrow.
“Look,” Neja sighs. “The point is…I promised I’d take care of the mass-producing right? The thing is, I can use everything in my storage repeatedly. So yeah, I took care of it.” She crosses her arms.
Pratama shrugs. “Fine.” He said carelessly.
He just hopes that she is still aware that all of this is for her sake. She might be a child figure. But he believes that she realizes it would be to her inconvenience as well if she were to screw this up. Hence why he just goes along.
“Now, to the eye of the storm.” Pratama says while turning his gaze above him. “And unfortunately…that is a matter I am not an expert of. Wissenstein?”
Wissenstein puts a hand on his chin. “Maybe we could visit a weather specialist. They would have the necessary spells to locate the eye of the storm.”
Neja glances in a certain direction.
“No need.” She says gleefully to the two. “Let’s head this way.” She points to the direction she glanced at.
Pratama tilts his head while staring at her. “Do you really expect to find the eye of the storm just by walking in a random direction?”
Neja nods confidently.
The three then proceed; Neja leads the way. They eventually see what they’re looking for. The part of the world where the rain is the least powerful. A place where huge masses of clouds twirl in a fashion where they would never fall to the center.
“See I told you, the eye of the storm.” Neja exclaims while pointing at it
“Impressive. We actually found it.” Pratama claps his hands gently.
“Of course!” Neja puts her arms on her waist again. “I have godlike luck.” “That you are…” Pratama says, gazing at the eye of the storm.
Hail of sharp downpour rain down upon the three with intermittent lighting striking the near vicinity, as if announcing that they are not welcome. Pratama deployed a cyclonic barrier to block the rain, extending the courtesy to Wissenstein, while Neja… She just takes the rain head on.
“May I congratulate both of you as the individuals who is the first to gaze upon the eye of the vortex ever since it’s creation?” Wissenstein clapped his hand, though the sound was drowned by the thunderstorm.
“Now, only the launch remains.”
“How would you plan to launch the projectiles?” Wissenstain asked. Gazing upon the roaring vortex. “The storm is quite big. It’d be difficult to find a stable launching pad.”
Pratama gazes to Neja. She proudly puffed her chest.
“Leave it to me.”
“You are just one box full of convenience, aren’t you?” Pratama said.
“Hehe, not used to it?”
“It just feels odd.” Pratama shrugs. “For the first time, a divine hand is on my side. One that keeps my goals within arm’s reach.”
“Divine hand huh. Well… there’s a sliver of truth in there. But you’ve led a tough life huh, mister.”
“I wouldn’t say a tough life. Just one that happens to be tough.”
“I see. Well, things weren’t always easy for me too, you know! I just happen to have overcome the hardest challenge, looong ago.”
“I believe you. There’s no way power such as yours are gained without great effort.”
Neja smiled proudly at that statement. “I usually used them at a moderation, it wouldn’t make for a fun story if everything is easily solved otherwise.”
“Fun, huh…” What Neja said irked Pratama quite a bit. Reminiscing about the tragedies that happened to him in the past due to factors that were beyond his control. It could have been solved through power and power alone. Power he did not posses at the time. Power he wished he
had. And yet Neja dismisses having too much power as ‘not fun.’ As if this world was one big blank novel for her.
“If one possesses sufficient power to overcome a certain problem, one is obliged to utilize such potential to its full extent to solve said problems, that’s what I believed.”
“So, I found your idea of limiting your potential for the sake of spectacle to be quite distasteful.”
It doesn’t matter whether it’ll make for an interesting tale or not, the universe doesn’t care, the universe is cruel. He would prefer to have an overwhelming power to solve a problem, rather than being powerless for meaningless spectacle.
“Ahaha, I see. Well then, let me make an exception this time, and show you one more convenience trick I have up my sleeve.”
Within a second after she finishes that sentence, a pair of feathered wings emerges from her back. She immediately blasts into the sky, toward the eye of the storm in what appears to be positive multiplication of the speed of sound. Pratama watches as she quickly becomes a dot in the sky. In his bewilderment, he thought to himself.
“She can fly?”
“Now that is convenient, alright” Wissenstein adds.
The petite girl stops mid-air. She stretches her limbs wide. Hundreds of dark purple portals spawn around her. The missiles slowly emerge from those circular gates. They are all pointed toward the eye. The scene seems uncanny for Pratama, he was sure he had seen this kind of spectacle before in his world, a memory from a distant past…
Pratama catches a flash from one of them. A trail of smoke left behind. An explosion follows shortly after. It burst the sand outward. They fall at a gradual but increasing rate.
The rain doesn’t show any sign of stopping.
“Ahahaha! I see, this must be the work of some other gods of this world huh. How nostalgic, well, have at it then!”
So, the girl proceeds with another missile.
Pratama observes in silence as the firework show begins. From the ground, he could only see blinding flashes that occurred repeatedly at a blistering pace. The explosions of the missiles fill the sky with a bright red hue. The thundering noises overlap. As if hundreds of giant drums are being beat haphazardly. They were at first unbearable, but slowly they go overhead as more missiles saturate the heavens. At one moment he thinks he catches the girl laughing. But he dismisses it considering how improbable it is to hear it from here given all the commotions.
Eventually the rain concedes. And not only that. The cloud formation starts to withdraw. Slowly but surely. The sun leaks through.
“Huh… That was easy…” Pratama thought to himself.
“Is it… really over? The vortex that had plagued our world for the longest of time… gone that easily…” Wissenstein adds, his voice full of disbelief.
The noise ends. Pratama finds Neja descending on the field before him in an angelic fashion, those depicted by mankind at least.
“So, are you done?” He asks.
The girl gleefully turns around. “I don’t know. Am I?”
“You’re the one who wanted all this. It doesn’t make sense if you doubt that.”
“Oh…right…” Neja looks upward while putting an index on her chin. She then shrugs. “Well, the rain stops. So there’s that.”
“Most impressive… you two actually stopped the rain.” Wissenstein said, clapping as he approached the two.
“Though it’s only within this vicinity of our spectacle.”
“Well, let us find a more agreeable place to converse. I know of a place that was said to be beautiful before the rain started.”
“Oh! Sounds good to me.” Neja adds.
Pratama gazes went upwards again. The gap in the clouds grows wider. In seconds, the whole premises find themselves bathed in the sun. The leaves above him sway in the advent of the missiles’ shockwave. The sunlight that comes through dances alongside them. Or rather, those leaves make them seem to be shifting in an elegant manner. The smell of the soil as they walked drove his mind wild. It feels like he is living in his dream world. For the first time, ignoring the noises, he is at peace. Though he hasn’t ruled out the return of the rain; though he knows that it doesn’t clear the skies for the entire world, it doesn’t matter for him.
“Right, so about your speech on power before…” Neja turns to Pratama. “How do you feel about the story ending just like this?”
Pratama shrugs. “I’m satisfied with it. I would rather it end as quickly as possible, who, on their right mind, would want to be subjected to extra inconvenience?”
“I see… So, what if, hypothetically speaking, you were me, and, hypothetically speaking again, you could end this storm right after we met, what would you do?”
“I would end it as soon as I have a reason to.”
“You wouldn’t mind?”
“I stood by my statement.”
“Gee, what if, hypothetically speaking, someone is keeping a record of our journey, and when they published the record, the readers found its resolution to be underwhelming?
“Screw them I’ll take an easy life any day, any time if I could.”
“You’re not fun mister!”
“Well, what about you? You kept insinuating that you held such great power. Why held back?”
“Well… there’s actually more to it than fun. If every possible problem is fixed without batting an eye, if the world would be free from all trouble, where you don’t have to worry anymore, what do you think would happen? Everyone will be happy? Utopia? No more suffering? No more pain?” Neja’s tone changes as quickly as the scenery changes after the rain stopped. “No, mister, it would be the end of the world.”
“I’m afraid I don’t understand.”
“Ah, you don’t have to. But the most important thing is, if I had solved everything in the beginning, we wouldn’t get to meet each other, and we wouldn’t have this journey. Hehe!”
“I wouldn’t mind. No, in fact, that would be preferable.”
“Ah muu!” Neja pouted as her face redden in annoyance.
“Now now, please calm down. We have arrived.” The group stopped as Wissenstein proudly introduced them to a vista of rolling hills and luscious forest. All around them, sceneries of green surrounded them, it is as if the forest had suddenly sprung back to life as soon as the rain stopped. Indeed, the entire thing felt like a scene out of a fairy tale.
Pratama eyed an old bench beneath one of the trees. It was wet, but he paid little mind to it. He places his backpack on his feet and lets himself collapse on the bench Neja followed and made herself comfortable besides him.
“Say… Are you not satisfied with how everything turned out?” It’s not often for him to start up a conversation. But he can’t help to ask after what she had said before.
“Oh, no no, I’m satisfied alright.” She extends her arms upward. “The sun is shining on us once more.” She places her hands on the bench and dangle her legs. “Though I’m not sure the same can be said for…”
She gazes up on the skies, welcoming the warm embrace of the sun. “I wish Neia is here…” She sighs.
It didn’t take seconds for him to arrive at a conclusion. “Neja… Neia, so that’s your sister’s name.” “Hehe, wasn’t that hard, right?”
Pratama looks up again. It’s over. He helped her fulfill her wish. Now that she is satisfied, he could think of something else that he should look forward to.
“By the way…” Neja speaks up again. “I appreciate what you are doing.”
“Hm?” Pratama leers at her.
“Thank you for helping me bring the sun back.”
Pratama nods gently. He doesn’t help people often ever since he declared war on his rival faction. If he helps anyone at all.
“Take it as my gratitude for the breakfast you made us.” He says.
“Oh oh oh…” Neja exclaims.
Pratama strikes a curious gaze at her.
“I’ll give you something for that.”
“Really? I was practicing my kindness once in a while so I don’t think it’s necessary.”
“I insist, mister.” Neja says, leaning closer. Her smile is now a hand-length away from Pratama’s face.
Considering how she is more powerful than him, he decides that it would be better to concede. “Alright.” Pratama sighs. He just wishes that it won’t bring him any more inconveniences. “Close your eyes…it would be a surprise.”
Pratama does what she says.
“There, you can open your eyes now.”
Neja gestures toward the puddle just before him. Pratama bends himself to gaze at his reflection on the puddle. His mask now has new markings. Two circles on the cheeks and a double-u at the mouth position.
Neja chuckles. “Look at you!” She pauses to continue her little laughter. “Now you don’t look creepy anymore.”
Pratama takes a deep breath. For some reason it doesn’t bother him. Either he is too tired to consider it a problem, or he is relieved that he could appear friendly once more. He prefers the latter. And that drives a smile on his face. But pity that the girl couldn’t see that.
“Thank you.” He says to Neja.
“Wait, you like it?”
“I’ll grow in love with it.” Pratama replies. “But if that’s too hard for you to grasp, yes I like it.”
“Heeehhh…” Neja strikes that smug again at Pratama, like she always did. “By the way mister, are you from Sol 3? Are you from Terra?”
“By Terra you mean a planet.”
“Are there any other Terra?” She tilts her head asking the question.
“My archenemy has Terra in their name, for your information.”
“But I’ll assume you meant the planet. Yes, I do.”
“Waah, how is it over there? I for the longest of time really want to visit it.”
“Well it’s your average terran world. Mountains, they come in lush, barren, and freezing. Desert, some are only sands, some are populated by dry grasses. Plains, forests, jungles, snowy wastelands, and many more biomes. I haven’t even scratched the waters yet.” Pratama shrugs. “I really can’t describe them all without turning it into a lecture. The details are too staggering. It’s just a wonderful place to live in sometimes.”
“Heeh, you mean there are times where it’s a horrible place to live in?”
“When you’re around people, for example.”
“Fufufu,” Neja laughs. “You’re still grumpy!” She points at him.
Pratama shrugs. He doesn’t really mean those words. Some people annoy him. But that doesn’t happen all the time. He even mostly finds good companions around strangers these days. He just feels like cracking a joke for her to laugh at.
“Well, you see, Sol 3 used to exist in my world. But it’s long gone.”
For the first time since meeting her, she actually said something that piqued his interest. Sol 3 was, after all, the planet Earth that he called home. Theories about the existence of multiverse had crossed his ears multiple times, of which he dismissed every single one of them. But there’s a merit in that theory now that he’s experiencing it for himself. And when Neja reveals that mother Earth does exist on her world, and of the fate that befallen her, a slight concern crosses his mind.
“How did that happen? How did Earth- I mean Terra, get destroyed?”
Neja was silent for a second before glaring at him. It was an unusually serious face for her.
“I’m sorry, but I cannot tell you that.”
His younger, more scholarly self would’ve pressed for more answers from her. But with age comes wisdom, and he’s aware that this is one of the things he shouldn’t pry off of her. Besides, he’s well aware of the powergap between them. Questions upon questions crosses his mind, did she come from the same universe as him, only in the distant future? If yes, is there a way to avert the impending doom? If not, would his Earth suffer the same fate? There’s too little information, too little data, for all he knows, she could be born billions of years in the future, long after the sun had turned into a red giant and swallowed everything. Countless whats, whys, whens, whos, and how’s ran amok like a rush hour traffic on a Terran metropolis. In the end, all he could do was just that, speculate.
Still, it was quite a shame, for should the same fate befall his Earth, that would mean everything he had worked for so far would be undone.
He shrugs. “But that’s nature I guess. You can never be strong enough against them.” “Ahahahaha” Neja gave out a dry laugh. “I suppose you’re right.”
And then out of nowhere, she bounced out of the bench, and turned towards him in the usual Neja manners.
“So! Because Sol 3 is long gone in my world, and it’s still around in yours, can I go visit your world?”
His answer was immediate, there was no input delay between the end of her query and the beginning of his reply.
“Ehh? Outright rejection! But why?”
“Do I need to tell you why? Your presence alone would pose an existential threat for the universe”
“Aww, come on, I promise that I’ll help you out with any problems you have! You seem to be the type of person that has many problems, mister.”
Pratama flinched for a fraction of a second. He entertained the idea of employing Neja to exterminate his arch nemesis, life would definitely be much easier for him.
While the potential was there, as of now, there’s no guarantee that he would return to his world. So, in an effort to quiet Neja down as one would of a pleading child, he nonchalantly obliged
“So…” Wissenstein walks in. “What are you two planning to do now?” He smiles at them. “I think I’m going to take a nap.” Pratama says. “Wake me up in an hour, yes?”
“Fufufu,” Neja laughs again. “Old man is going to sleep.”
“Shut up.” Pratama ignores her laughter as he sinks into the bench. He relaxes himself and lets his head loose. His drowsiness kicks in. In a moment he is already in deep sleep.
Meanwhile, Neja’s face reverted back to the serious face from before. She inches closer to the bench, and takes a seat on what little space is left available.. “Geez, you really have a tendency to sleep wherever you please, don’t you.” She said.
“Mister. Do you really wish to go home? Do you love your world? Even if it causes you so much pain? Even if it has taken so much from you? Even if… it’s going to take you away soon… ” No replies were given, but still she continues. “Ah, knowing you, it would probably be some vague answer like ‘oo, I don’t know whether I love my world or not, but I must go back because there’s something I have to do, some unfinished business I have to attend, mu mu mu, na na na..’” She said, attempting to mimic his tone for the quotation.
Despite having no need to draw any breath, she let out a long sigh, and stood up. Her offer to help him was only half a joke, she had grown quite fond of him. But alas, it was not meant to be after all.
“Ehehe, this has been an interesting journey. I haven’t had this much fun in centuries.” She turned back to look at Pratama for one last time, placing the golden flowers that made their encounter possible in the first place beside him. “Goodbye, mister grumpy face. May you find peace in the end.”
She turns to the other men in the area, who so far had only been watching. “Wissenstein.”
“What’s the matter, young lady?”
“Thanks for bringing me here.”
“Oh? And what makes you think it was my doing? Young lady?”
“Hmm? Was it not obvious? You led us to this nice picnic spot after the rain stopped.” Wissenstein was silent.
“Ahhh wait, were you, perchance, referring to something else? Something like… bringing me and Mister grumpy face here into this world?” She turns back, grinning towards him.
A moment of silence followed between the two. And then Wissenstein let out a chuckle. “Oh my, what they said was true after all. Appearance can be deceiving indeed.”
“Ehehe, I’ll take that as a compliment.”
“So? What will you do?”
“What will I do? Why, that’s obvious isn’t it?” She said, crossing her arms proudly. “I’m going home.”
Pratama wakes up on a bed. A blanket is covering him. He reaches for his neck. It’s hot, boiling hot. Something is pounding on his head and he doesn’t feel like getting out of his bed. Though he feels languid, he decides to sit up and look around. It’s his usual bedroom where he rests every night. He reaches for his head.
“What a weird dream…” He thought to himself.
There’s a trolley on his left with two water bottles and a bell. He takes one and guzzles half of its content. He then rings the bell.
A young woman with a maid outfit comes inside and bows. “Yes, sir?”
“Antibiotics, please.” He says to her.
“Right away, sir.”
“Oh, and get Sir Edward on my line.” He adds just as the maid is about to leave, which prompts her to halt her step.
She bows again before leaving. The maid returns a minute later with strips of antibiotics. “Sir Edward is now on the line, sir.” She bows.
“Thank you. Please leave me.”
“Sir.” She complies.
His utilizer then blips. A voice comes from the other side. “What’s up? Feeling better?” “Not really.” He replies. “Any interesting developments?”
“We just encountered a new Telvee toy at the Vlizimo axis.”
“What’s with that?”
“It shook our men due to how terrifying they claim it to be. Heck, even the girl that got to greet them first passes out. And she is an Android.”
Hearing his statement, he takes a deep breath. The Vindicators are at it again. These thralls have once again demonstrated their willingness to keep their faith alive. A faith to a divine that they couldn’t prove existed. Looks like it’s going to take some time again before his armies could push forward again. Either a new tactic is needed, or a new tech. Or perhaps something else. He couldn’t decide that now due to his condition.
“Get down there and sort them out, would you?”
“As soon as I can.”
“That’s it. Just keep me updated.”
“Speaking of which, she is with the girl that passed out too you know?”
She. The daughter of his creation. His own offspring. One that returned from the dead. “Thought you’d like to know.”
“I appreciate that.”
The comm channel shuts. The Primus collapses to his bed again. He slept day and night yesterday. He probably couldn’t afford to do the same today. But his head still feels like holding a main battle-tank on its own. So he just lies there gazing at the ceilings covered with a tapestry that shows his realm’s insignia.
“I wonder who that little devil is…”
Dreams are meant to be filled with things that he had experienced. That’s what he understood. He, however, never once met that petite girl before. It could be one of the unfortunate children he encountered on the field. But he recalled that none of their features match her.
He puts a hand on his face. His mask isn’t there. It sits on a small circular table to his left. He was about to put it on but his hands were held by an odd occurrence. Besides the mask is a flower with golden petals, a flower that he doesn’t remember bringing in. On top of it is something on his mask that he is certain wasn’t there before. White markings of two circles on the cheeks and a double-u on the mouth.
Writer(s): PrimDom & Von Grenadus