Lmao I submit again?

Entry Writchal #2

Theme: Elysian Bliss

*Writchal Maid* 

Bloody hell… 

For a theocratic nation, their arms do be rivalling ours. That rocket has enough power to wipe my strike team. My crews are among the casualties. The blast slightly scraped my armour. But the shock goes through and kills them. 

I am left alone, again, still in gunner mode. How many times have I cursed the development team for not allowing me to switch between modes myself? Doesn’t matter. That’ll remain until they rectify it. One day, an Automaton crisis shall happen so that they’d listen to us. 

My ghillie coating—all sorts of foliage and branches neatly banded and stuck on me for better concealment—is still here. At least what’s left of it. Tried asking for help but our entire forces are too busy advancing. The other way, though. 

Soon those Telvees will find me. And…yeah, I’m not going to think about what’s next. How should I pass the time? 



Her image comes to mind. I think about her whenever I am not on alert. I met her, actually more like saw her, ten years ago. Because I didn’t even get to greet her. 

I was on a convoy with my bud, Zolotovich. We were heading for a recruitment fair at a village in the northern region of the motherland. The mountain scenery is one that everyone must have at least once in their life. My temperature and humidity readings suggest that the climate is delicate there. The breeze sparks a sense of reverie. That remark doesn’t come from me. I clearly couldn’t feel it. It’s an irrelevant feature to be put on a war-machine. 

Zolotovich didn’t say much. ‘Yeah it’s cool’ he said. He sounded uninterested. But he accepted my leave invitation there when the war is over. 

It was then when we came across an intersection. There was a security personnel in the middle of the road heading right. And beside him… 

Oh…by The Primus…, the most dazzling sight I’ve ever seen since I took off from manufacture. Even the mountains pale in comparison. 

A girl. A fair-skinned Android girl wearing a maid uniform. Not the state-issued one though but still, who can’t miss its iconic black cloth and white apron? Her pale blue eyes are mesmerizing; Her dashing chocolate hair is tied into a ponytail. 

And…holy mother of The Primus I had never thought an innocent looking face such as hers could exist. As if it’s her first time seeing a recruitment fair convoy. 

She then attended the fair as well, carrying a full grocery bag. I couldn’t get my sights off her. I figured out that she might be interested serving in the Maid section of the military. But she didn’t skip a blink when she gazes at us. She was the first to test-ride my bud. He took her on a lap around the village. Must be a joyful experience.

Sadly, it wasn’t me. I’m still under inspection when she came. Once I am available, she had already left the fair. 

Oh well… 

I guess I’m not the only guy who had such experience. If only Zolotovich is still here to tell me more about her. And even he doesn’t know much about her. 


Is it too much if I wish her to be here? 


Hmm…I don’t think The Primus listens to me. Self-destruct time I guess. … 

I was stopped by the noise of gunshots. The field should be polluted by them. But I just caught one happening within the reach of my gun. Far into the wood, I see a person hustling to my direction. I raise the magnification of my sight and adjust the focus. 

A crewman. Or rather, a crew-woman after a second glance. She doesn’t seem to notice me. If she can get to me, I can hope to get her out of here. 

The Telvees who are chasing her come into my view. One of them fires a concussion grenade and topples her. 

She is surrounded. Those crimson scum then approach her as she recovers. Not happening. 

One HE shell into the breach. I train my gun at the ground before them and pull the trigger. My shot only liquidates one and harms another. What a good save. I follow it with machine gun fire as a warning. Luckily, they heed it. The three remaining Telvees recover their downed teammates before scurrying away. 

Time to call her out. 

“You there!” I say through a channel that only she could hear. Unless of course she is broadcasting it. “At your eight!” 

She turns her glance. The woman quickly rises up and hustles toward me. 

“Thank you.” She says, catching her breath. It’s easy to see how overwhelmed she is. But I can tell there’s a hint of relief on her face upon seeing an intact Redeemer in the field. 

Hang on…her face…it’s a fair-skinned one. 

Her eyes are pale blue. 

Her hair is still visible under her helmet. Chocolate. 


Am I just…seeing things? No way. This is the maid I saw that day! She has to be. Her features are a perfect match. I can’t possibly mistake it. My memory storage is comparable to Androids. She is now…a crewman? And decoding the insignia on her collar, she is now a first sergeant!? 


She is even more captivating this close. 

“Thank me later, lady.” I reply. “We gotta get out of here first. My crew is dead, and I am left on manual drive as they passed.” 

“I’m going to turn on your autopilot.” She says. 

“Yes, hand over my tracks back.” 

The girl climbs me, stopping when she is about to enter the hatch. She probably sees my dead crew members. 

“They’re both humans. A rocket scores a direct hit and the shockwaves took those poor souls.” I feel my control shifts from gun to treads and engine not long after she is in. “There we go!” I say. 

It’s hard to describe my excitement at the moment. First because I could get out of here. Second is having to protect the maid allegedly of that time while doing so. It’s so much that I basically hit top speed in a second, which unfortunately throws her head to the dashboard. 


“Sorry, for that.” 

“It’s okay.” She replies. Thank the Primus. “Now get us out of here.” 

I crank up my speed as much as my engine possibly could handle. For some reason it doesn’t feel enough. I have to drive much faster. There is however, a way to override it. 

“By the way,” I speak again. “Since I’m about to go wild to drive us home, get those safeties off me and man the weapons, got it?” 

Maybe wild is an overstatement. She should get my point. And she has to be the one that shoots because I’m on driver mode now. 

“Safeties off and manual weapon system on.” 

Excellent. Now that I am free of my restraint… 

“Here we go!” 

I can heat my engine past the redline. I will suffer a malfunction from this. But I don’t care, as long as I could get her to safety. 

“So, how should I call you?” I take the initiative to get her name. 

“Caitlyn.” She says. 

“Caitlyn huh…”

I think of a better option. “How about I call you KT?” 

The girl shrugs. “Sure, I guess.” She says. “How about you?” 


“I’ll call you PT, then.” She nods. 

“I like that.” I reply, trying to lighten up the situation. 

I’m still a bit adrift whether this girl is truly the same maid I saw ten years ago. But I’m going to find out. We’re not meant to be together, so at least there’s that.

Writer: PrimDom

Ashen Grounds

Entry Writchal #1

Theme: Droplets of Time, Radiant Winter

Theme: Radiant Winter 

Ashen Grounds 

By PrimDom 

Murky skies engulf the plains. Their frozen tears fell upon the remains of a once great civilization. The terrain ahead is a graveyard of buildings. The hollowness sings as shivering winds cut through them. 

“Looks dead, not sure if anything is even here.” Microv yells. 

“Oh come on.” Derrick grunts. “Everything is pretty much dead by now.” “I just don’t feel like wasting my energy for nothing.” 

Derrick chuckles. “A military Android like you?” 

Their voice echoes throughout the ruins. It’s so quiet that their footsteps on the tender, snow-covered streets dominates the scene. Microv and Derrick continues to debate over each other, eventually falling behind the other man who leads them. He suddenly falls silent, his body is like it’s petrifying. The two notices. 

“Sir?” Microv asks. 

Their gaze now fell upon him. They wonder what came to him this time. 

“Hush.” The man says. “Did you catch that?” 

Derrick’s sight scour the whole district, not even missing the skies above. Microv only gazes at Derrick. Just as the two about to say that nothing is going on, they caught something. It’s like a heavy breathing, and a hint of shivering. Judging by the sound, it should not be far away. 

“Someone is around here isn’t it?” Derrick asks. 

The man then sprints, trying to locate the source. The two catches up. He stops before what seems to be a small remains of a bungalow. The heavy breathing is even more evident. He digs through the debris. What he found drops his jaw. 

“My goodness!” The man cries, gently. 

A girl in a uniform, covered with her deep cobalt blue blazer is cowering in the corner. Her dark gray skirt is of knee length, and her leggings are torn. Some centimeters ahead of her is a darkened concrete, probably the burn mark of her campfire. She raises her head and looks at the man in the eyes. Her laminar peanut hair is of shoulder length. A glittering golden pin is clipped to them. Her brown eyes are frail. The man feels that she keeps wishing for death. 

The man approaches the girl. 

She raises her head higher, perceiving the entire height of the man weighing down on her. She straightens her legs and raises one hand as high as her chin.

The man drops to his knee. 

“I am a father of no daughter, and you seem to be a daughter of no father. A victim of the mass razing of cities. I offer you to play our role properly. What say you?” 

The girl hesitates. She jerks herself back and leers at Microv and Derrick. 

“He’ll take good care of you kid, I promise.” Micorv barks. 

Derrick looks at Microv. “You mean we?” 

“I don’t know, I’m satisfied with my responsibilities.” 

“This week will be your most arduous one this month, if she refuses.” 

The man gives his hand. 

“What say you?” He grins. 

The girl stares at his face. His grin is innocent, and his eyes are sharp with determination. Refusal comes first to her mind. A kind and, perhaps, resilient man doesn’t deserve her. She would probably be a thorn on his side, especially during these dark times. Moreover, she couldn’t come up with anything to repay him. 

However, she has nothing left. She even hadn’t had a proper meal for the past two days. Even if she refuses, the man would insist. So her choice is pretty much absent. 

The girl takes the man’s hand and nods. 


That was a year ago. Her name is Katrina, a stray third year high-school student. How she survives the annihilation is beyond me. The thing now is, I’m grateful to have her around. I can be a father at last, though she is not of my blood. If only Sofiana isn’t sterile. 

Her hesitation is still largely immeasurable. Especially toward me. But that is not the case for everyone. She speaks like flipping a hand when it’s Microv or Derrick, but that becomes like solving second order partial differential equations when it’s me. Perhaps something to do with their social prominence? I don’t know, I envy them for that still. I am the one who adopt her, but they are the one who got along well. 

“Oi, sir!” I hear Microv yelling from the distance. “You planning to skip your meal? Sofiana doesn’t like that, you know?” 

I stand up from my seat. “Heading over.” I say, while putting down my bamboo sword. 

That’s Microv Edward, my first subordinate, an Android with an Australian accent. He’s an ex-military officer turned scientist and a tech expert. 

He then moves inside, but he seems to be pulled by someone. Then my wife emerges out of the farmhouse’s door.

“Pratama, double time! You might want to see this.” She is in her blouse and a long skirt. A denim cloth is wrapped around her head and covers as much as her breast and her back. Under that cloth is a chocolate wool scarf wrapped around her neck that I bought for her birthday, years ago when I was in the academy. 

I reach the door. “Spoil me.” I say. 

“No. You have to see it for yourself.” She responds. 

The strong, delicate smell reaches as far as the backyard. I don’t think I have been practicing for that long but my stomach feels like they are staging a coup d’etat. 

Derrick is already in the dining room, talking with Katrina. He sits beside her with his bowl of soup on the table. He is my second subordinate. A British computer scientist, and a prominent hacker. I was his supervisor when he’s working on his doctoral thesis. 

Katrina and Derrick seems to be having a great topic before Sofiana grips her shoulders. She bends over, leveling her face with her while fixing her sight on me. 

“Guess who made the soup for lunch?” Her eyebrows flinch, and she gives a smooch on her cheek. 

She should have given me that prior to my presence in the dining room, but oh well. 

“Eh,” Katrina cries when she looks at me. Whatever conversation she has with Derrick fell apart. “B-but you taught me how.” She says to Sofiana. 

“Fair enough,” She responds. “But when you do the cooking, it’s basically yours.” 

“You definitely want this, sir.” Derrick points his spoon at me. “This, your daughter’s aptitude.” 

I roll my eyes and nods, before sitting down across him. Sofiana then puts a bowl of soup before me and another one on her table. She sits beside me. 

I spoon a portion of the soup to my mouth. The warm broth melts my dry and freezing jaw. Its savory taste drives my saliva wild, making me crave for more. 

This is really something. 

I take another piece before opening my mouth to speak. 

“Katrina.” It is as if I has an important announcement, Derrick and Sofiana also has their eyes on me. “No doubt. You’ll make an excellent cook.” Then I turn to Sofiana and squints. “Or probably an exceptional wife.” 

“Thank you.” She says, stuttering. “I’m glad you like it.” 

That makes me curious to what else she has in store. But before that, I should focus on her interest first.

“Now, what are you interested in, sweetheart?” That last part is exhausting. Katrina shakes her head. “Forgive me, father. I’m still confused.” 

I just nods while grabbing a mug of hot chocolates that belongs to my wife and puts it to my lips. She just leers at me without saying anything. 

“That means it’s fine, take your time.” Derrick says to her while pointing at me. 

She tilts her head and giggles. She covers a small portion of her mouth with her hand. “I never knew you are so good at body languages.” 

“I’m not.” Derrick says while putting a piece in his mouth. “Just him in particular.” He jerks his head at me. 

Yeah, right. Whatever. 

I put the mug down and takes a deep breath. I silently wonder where’s Microv in all this. Sure he’s an Android that doesn’t feast upon what we feast, but he’s the one that pulls me here in the first place. 


“Kid!” He burst out of the corner of the next room, not failing to catch all of our attention. He heads straight for Katrina and places his gadget next to her. “Look at this.” He says. 

“What is it?” Katrina asks, peering at the gadget’s screen. 

“It says we can use electron’s spin polarization to characterize the topology of materials. What do you think?” 

“Ah, that’s intriguing.” She responds. “How about a little help for digging on its overview someday?” 

“Just tell me when you’re ready. I don’t have anything to do but to look after your father.” He turns his sight at me and flinch his eyebrows. 

“I don’t remember you don’t have anything to do but to look after me.” I blurt out. “What, you’re getting old? You’re like thirty now, do humans degrade this fast over time?” 

There are times when I wanted to shut his mouth so bad. But fortunately for him, this is not one of them. His words burst everyone to laughter. So I just roll my eyes, suppressing my irritation. 

“Ah, stop it you two.” Katrina says, reluctantly. 

Microv turns at me again. “Don’t worry, I’ll get your bloody job done.” 

Thanks sweetheart. That’s one way to repay me and I’m grateful for that.

It’s our regular afternoon. Quite trivial, but powerful enough to linger in my mind. After finishing the lunch we head back to our desks and continue our work. 


The world is left barren after the annihilation. Not much is going around these days. Time becomes an illusion. It sweeps past my consciousness, bringing me to the next day, of the next week. 

Katrina fell ill. 

We first dismissed it as being a common seasonal fever. Things suddenly grow out of hand when every cure I could get in this settlement couldn’t drag her out of her sickness. 

What comes next is an exhausting month, as Microv, Derrick, and I scour any sources we can find for a cure, day and night, but to no avail. I keep losing sleep as Katrina’s condition worsens day by day. Her skin blanches, and her breath is stagnating. She is already unable to support her own weight, so she has to stay in bed most of the time. My wife is taking care of her. 

Today, a medical expert comes for a visit per my invitation. 

“Her breathing rate today collapses even worse than the last time.” He says. “If the disease linger to the fourth day, her breath will be so low that it won’t be recognizable anymore.” 

A news that even fools could predict. 

I turn away for a moment. My heart feels heavy. I raise my palm to cover my mouth. That makes me realize that my palm is shaking. The sentiment that befall upon me once have returned. I can’t lose her like this. I don’t want to. I just start caressing her and nature is going to take her away from me? 

Suddenly I feel the doctor’s pat on my right shoulder. I turn around. 

“There’s a solution however.” He says. 

That sparks something within me. I take a step closer to him. My sight is now so fixed on him, that it probably makes him uneasy, judging by how he takes a little step back. 

“Tell me,” I say. “Everything.” I will do anything the doctor speaks. 

“Have you ever heard of the Radiant Winter?” 

I squint my eyes. I think I have heard that somewhere before. 

“Is that the flower that only blooms during the winter?” 

“Correct, usually found in the northern Baltic. Thought to be pieces from heaven, no disease known to have stood their ground against their pollen. If brewed properly, they could save your daughter.”

It can do that? It sounds a bit odd, because they should have made their way to commercial medicines. Maybe I was too occupied that I didn’t hear about it. 

“Our apothecary used to have those brewed herbs, until the mass bombardments.” He says, nodding. “That is the only cure that you haven’t tried from our store.” 

“If I can get the apothecary a stalk or two, will they make me another brew?” “I can’t guarantee you. You should speak to them about that.” 

My mind doesn’t think when suddenly my arm reaches for my coat and scarf hanging on the door. My body feels like it’s surging on its own, striding beyond our farmhouse’s door. When I realize it, I’m already marching on the snow-covered street, heading toward the apothecary once more. 

I burst through the entrance. The unusually loud crash between the door and the wall it is latching to sends everyone’s sight on the room toward me. I used to hate being the center of attention in a situation like this, but there are greater concerns. I head straight to the receptionist, not even releasing my eye from her. There’s a customer that she is currently serving, whom I briefly turn to. 

“Pardon me, are you done?” I ask him. 

I can tell he’s wavering and even wishing to get out of here as soon as possible. “I-I was about to leave.” He points toward the entrance. 

He eventually snatches the two small glass bottles on the table, putting it in his mantle’s pocket and trot away. 

“What can I do for you, sir?” The receptionist asks. 

“You never told me about the Radiant Winter.” 

“Oh, I am sorry sir. It’s because we don’t receive them anymore.” 

“How much do you need for the brew?” 

“The brewing process would take a toll on our resources. My employees just flew off to their own quarter for the leave, three days ago. It’s not like they’re going anywhere. It’s just some gears require greasing if they have to work overtime.” 

That doesn’t sound good. Time is ticking Katrina away. Even if I snatch a stalk and bring it here, the apothecary is still unwilling to hand the brew devoid of cost. All my reserves had blazed away to delay Katrina’s passing. There has to be another way. 

“Is there anything I can do, so that you would give me a brew of Radiant Winter?” The receptionist rubs her chin and leers upward, slightly to her left. 

“How about we make a de-”

“I’m listening.” I am grateful that she provides me a chance. 

“Okay.” The woman jerks her head. “You know, the brew is remarkable. We made a huge profit out of them. But since we don’t receive supplies of the Radiant Winter anymore, our figures are basically not like they used to be. As a result, I have to lower my employees’ wages.” 

“I have to restore the market for those herbs?” 

“I’m not saying you have to re-establish the market, just this place in particular.” The woman tilts her head. “If you guarantee a steady supply of the Radiant Winters, we’ll guarantee you the brew.” 

Sounds like a simple task, but I knew too much for that to be true. There has to be something there, waiting for me. I wonder if she could fill me in more. 

“Anything I should know?” 

“Well, the mass bombardments shouldn’t bother the production of the crops, since the village that cultivates and puts them to commerce survived. The fact that they aren’t obtainable anymore tells me that something’s amiss. It’s like they’re now isolated, and protected.” 

“Protected? By who?” 

“All I heard is a group of people, and they’re fanatics. I don’t know, some sort of a cult maybe?” She leans closer, “It is said that they worship the flowers.” She whispers. 

Fanatics!? The annihilation should have wiped them all. 

But whatever, this is for Katrina. Even if I have to chop some heads, I will. “Thank you.” I nod, before rushing back home. 

I hang my scarf and coat before bursting to Microv’s room. Papers are scattered all over the floor. I found him sitting there, leaning against his bed while Derrick is lying on it, his arms are holding papers above him. 

“Found something?” Derrick asks, rising up slightly, his right elbow is supporting his weight. 

“A village in the northern Baltic, we’re going there.” I say, panting. 

“You think we’ll find a much more able apothecary there?” Microv asks. 

“There are powerful herbs cultivated there, the Radiant Winter. Our apothecary would brew us a cure if we could re-establish trade for the flower between the village and us.” 

“Why can’t we just snatch a stalk or two and give them to the apothecary?” “That’s not the deal, Microv.” 

“Ah, bloody hell.” He grunts. “You should have sent me there instead.”

I sigh. Maybe he’s right. 

Derrick then stands up. “We’re packing now, I guess?” He asks. 

“We’re packing now.” I reply. 

“Oh, so this is like that fairy tale quest where you-” 

“Just shut up and get going.” Derrick says, patting Microv’s shoulder. 

Microv stands up. “I was going to say impressive, but whatever.” He then storms past me, stepping right in the gaps amidst the scattered papers. “Come on!” He says. 

“Go, I’ll catch up.” I say to Derrick. 

He just nods. 

Then I head to Katrina’s room. There my wife is sitting on a stool beside her bed. She frowns while staring at Katrina. Her sight is weary, probably after those days of losing sleep. Her right hand is on Katrina’s cheek, her thumb gently runs across it over and over. 

“Oh,” She says after turning to me. Perhaps Katrina’s care has deprived a huge chunk of her energy. It takes her seconds before noticing my presence. “Hey. Please tell me you’ve found something.” She strikes a grin that I knew is fake. I can tell she’s on the verge of tears. She is like a diamond, glimmering and tough to crack. But once cracked, she shatters. Our situation is perhaps one of the mighty hammers which has managed to do that. 

I sit on the edge of the bed, just beside Katrina’s leg. 

“There’s a flower, the Radiant Winter. I will have to travel to another village, one day away from here with my jeep.” 

“Then you’ll come with the cure?” She asks. 

“The apothecary will make us one.” I nod. 

She turn down for a moment, closing her eyes. Then she holds my face and leans forward. Her mouth goes straight for mine. Time suddenly stops. Our tongue crosses each other. Her saliva spreads all over my mine. Her sweet lip is warm and fluffy. She may be sterile, but she is still my wife. I could not give my affection to other women anymore. I knew she requited my affection. But there are times and events that cause them to waver. This rallies them once more. 

Just when I feel like I have to go… 

“Father…” A gentle groan comes from my side. I let go of Sofiana’s graceful mouth. 

Katrina looks astonished. It might be because this is the first time she sees us kiss. She then strikes a smile. 

I lean toward her face. “Everything will be fine.” I say. “I’ll get you a cure, and you’ll be in shape soon.”

Katrina nods. “Father…” 

It seems like she wants to ask for something. “What is it, dear?” 

“It’s fine if you don’t bring the cure.” She says. “Just promise that you’ll be here if I won’t make it.” 

Tch, no. My teeth are crushing each other. I don’t like what she’s saying. I will bring you the cure, darling. I promise. I’m not losing another daughter. Fullstop. 

What I give her is just a nod. It is what she asked, and I hope she is relieved that I approve it. I then kisses her forehead. 

“Be careful, father.” 

“I will.” 

“She’s right,” Sofiana chimes in. “Be careful.” 

I kiss her on her right cheek before rising up, heading to my room. 

I grab my backpack and set up my gears, putting in equipment and supplies that I might need for the journey. Then I strap my utilizer to my left wrist. I figured out that I might clash with those cult members, so I better be prepared. I scour around my room, trying to find the thing. 

It seems like the boys are ready. They even has the jeep started up. I’m glad that they share my ambition. Microv leans against the jeep, talking to Derrick. I seem to disrupt their conversation. 

“Sir, we are in need of combat apparatuses in the case of unavoidable hostilities.” Derrick says. 

“I got my bayonet.” Microv says, raising it in front of us. 

“Yeah, and there’s your taser too.” Derrick says to him. 

“I got it settled.” I say, raising a military-grade shovel on my left hand. 

“The shovel!” Microv exclaims. He seems to be excited as he snatches the shovel from me. “I’m not sure if we’re able to commit some trench warfare.” Derrick says. 

“Nonsense!” Microv yells. “You see this sharp edge here?” He runs his finger across one of the shovel’s edge. “Now with thermal amplification, you can send someone else bleeding to death.” 

“It’s military grade, Derrick. The Fritz used them centuries ago in close quarter combat. There’s no reason for discarding it when we need it.” I say. 

“Very well.” 

“I’m driving.” Microv says while rushing toward the driver seat. 

“Take the front Derrick.”

“Aye aye, sir.” 

Derrick goes to the other side of the jeep. 

When I open the jeep’s hatch, I see my wife standing on the terrace, gazing at us. I nod and waves my right hand while smiling back. She responds with the same gesture. 

“Are you planning to freeze us inside?” Microv blurts out. 

“I’m heading in.” I say as I put myself on the back seat. 

I then slam the hatch closed. 

As soon as the locks activate, Microv steps on the gas. We’re cutting through the hail of freezing droplets from above. 

When I look outside, the village I’m living in has shrunk in the distance. It is now clear. The die is cast. 

I have to succeed. 


It is an enchanting evening in spring. The grass plains near my home is blooming. The fragrance fills the air. One thing missing from the scene is my daughter dancing to and fro amidst the vibrant blossoms. 

That aside, the field is pretty much owned by no one. So whenever it blooms, the folks would gather round and pick a flower or two, and bring them home to their care. 

I don’t feel like missing the fun too. Sofiana and I take a stroll there, hoping to catch one that sparks our sense. Microv and Derrick are probably going to mess around. 

We then found one that does so. We take care of it as soon as we brought it home. A Hyacinth, magnificent, and could send one’s imagination wild with its scent. After days of watering and fertilizing, we watch it grows even more mesmerizing. Then suddenly, the fragrance turns to sting my smell. What’s weird is that I’m the only one who smell it. I ask the others, but they don’t, only me. 

Day by day, the smell keeps amplifying. The thrusting odor gets into my nerve as it reaches even the darkest corner of my house. I check the flower again. The main stalk has shriveled, stunning me as I wonder what went wrong with my care. It however, left three offspring on the same pot. It seems that the three, despite their size and age, could make my sense go on a rampage. 

I have no choice, I can’t live like this. So I cut them down. 

As soon as the last petals fell to the soil, something falls upon my nose. But when I realize it, it is rather my nose that hits something, the side screen of the jeep. It is dark outside, I can barely see a thing. The only thing visible are those illuminated by the jeep’s front torch.

Microv is still on the wheel. I mean it would be weird if he switches with Derrick since he’s an Android. I can see Derrick has submitted his body to the seat. 

I yawn. Microv catches on that. 

“You awake?” 

“Kind of.” I say, still stuck on the dream that I just had. 

“Well, we aren’t there yet. You might want to retreat back to your dream.” Good job Microv, now I’m not doing it. 

“I don’t think I will. That was a weird one.” 

“Pardon?” He asks, leering slightly at me through the rear mirror. 

“I got a stalk of flower in a pot, which then grew its offspring. Until it starts to smell so bad, that I had to cut them all.” 

“Did you yoink them from the grass field when it’s spring?” 

“Don’t remember, maybe.” 

The thing about it is that it’s the strangest one I had so far and I can’t seem to comprehend it. 

“Do you think it means something?” 

Microv hums. “Not sure. Probably one day in the future.” 

I look back outside. “Eh? Will I live long enough to see that meaning?” 

“Would be fortunate of you, if that’s the case. But don’t worry, I’ll send a letter up there in case you don’t.” 

I chuckle. “I’d like to see you try.” 

I close my eyes for a moment, enjoying the silence that now permeates the interior. The humming of the engine makes a perfect lull. But I don’t think I will submit to it anymore. Especially when the face of my previous daughter glimpses past me. My eyes open wide, and I find myself peering over my shoulder, thinking that we just went past her. 



“Do you think I deserve an offspring?” 

“Well it’s your right to reproduce.” 

Her name is Genesis, an Android of my handcraft. She hasn’t even see the world, which back then was a stunning utopia, before the annihilation occurred. Until now, I still couldn’t put her up without dragging my mind to the religious fanatics who took her away. The annihilation too was their doing. Wherever they go, troubles always follow. There will be no tolerance for them. They have to be suppressed. 

“This is the third time nature says otherwise.” 

“Dropping your loyalty might help.” 

And crush the very thing that uphold my ambition so far? Her oath remains to this day, ever since I put the ring on her finger. She had casted her dreams aside to put me on the top. She hasn’t met her parents for over a decade, and now there’s no way she could do it. I couldn’t just throw that like it is something disposable. So I kick the base of his seat, hard. 

“Ow,” He grunts. “Alright, alright, that sounds wrong.” 

I sigh. 

If nature really prohibits me from bearing children of my own, then do I really have to do this? What if it would be in vain? What if I still lost her, even after her disease is cured? What if nature does allow me, and it’s just that I’m not in the right moment? 

“Damn those thralls, they got me discharged.” 

What did he say? Thralls? 


My thoughts kept me awake. 

The road we’re going through is relatively planar. To the left is a desolate land as far as the eye can see. Nothing is between them and the pale blue sky in the infinity. My feet is shaking. Something eerie is whispering to me. Something about the vast amount of corpses lying beneath the winter’s soft terrain, victims of the annihilation. Or it’s just my lack of experience in a huge chunk of nature with not even a hint of human presence. It makes me reconsider my place in this world. I think I could be a philosopher if I dwell here long enough, maybe. 

To the right is something even more shivering. Arrays of majestic, yet abandoned skyscrapers that’s no longer in one piece. Their hollow interiors turn them into pipe instruments, chanting silent requiem day and night. Just as I thought it couldn’t go any worse, a large piece of the structure decides that it is somehow a good time to de-attach from the structure’s frame. Dust fills the air. The crash is so loud that Microv turns for a brief second to the right. The annihilation really does resets the whole world. Perhaps this is how living in dark ages feels. 

I think I should take a stroll to these solitary landscapes once in a while. Perhaps Katrina would love it. 

Two hours later, the village come to our sight. The name is Tuhkapohja. Before we reach the ridge where the village is settled, we have to go through the outpost on the right side of the road. It is manned by two people. One is stepping out to greet us. He seems to be wearing his uniform behind that mantle, judging by his black trousers. Microv stops by and rolls down the window. 

“Travelers, looking for a stay.” He tells them. 

The man then allows our pass. 

“Any teenage girls with you?” 

Microv turns to Derrick and raises an eyebrow. 

“I’ll slap that face of yours back to him.” Derrick grunts. 

He then turns again to the man. “What’s the problem?” He asks. 

“They’re vanishing here, still investigating. Just keep an eye on yours, if you have one.” 

Great, other than a cult, there’s also kidnapping going around this place. I wish not to come across them during our quest, but that’s too good to be true. 

“Can I bring one home, if I found them?” 

The man giggles. His head flinches. “Well if she is willing, who am I to forbid?” “Just ease off when one is missing again.” Microv chuckles while stepping on the gas. 

“Safe stay!” The man shouts. He keeps waving his hand until we reach the village’s perimeter. 

We are fortunate to find a modest inn while checking in, I notice a huge map behind the inkeeper. The title on the top says ‘Tuhkapohja’. There’s a solitary structure to the north. I wonder what that structure is. Beyond that is a cliff. And it says that the cliff is one of the tourist destinations in this place. 

I tell Microv to stay with the innkeeper for more information while Derrick and I settle the provisions. We then collapse to the delicate bed in our room. Microv would probably be jealous but he barely need sleep. 

He returns fifteen minutes later. 

“White Stripes.” 

Derrick and I rise up. 

“The cult with the Radiant Winter.” Microv continues. 

Derrick turns to me. 

“Do you think we can convince them?” He asks. 

“Well, those thralls lack their reasoning.” I cross my arms. 

“Thralls?” Derrick asks.

“Fanatics, but more of a mock.” Microv says. 

Derrick’s head flinches. “Relatable.” 

“The innkeeper says that they’re praying right now.” 

“Why do you still insist that words could still turn their heart? You saw with your own eyes that our last encounter with them didn’t end well.” I grumble. 

Microv shrugs. “Maybe that’s just you. You haven’t tried us.” 

Derrick turns to me. “At least we know what we’re up against, sir.” 

“Correct, intel. Know your foe, to make them woe.” Microv exclaims. 

That’s one I couldn’t reject. I gather my strength and stand up, exhaling a piece of air, before nodding firmly. 


Derrick follows. “Where are we heading?” 

“Atop the ridge,” Microv jerks his head upward. “Their altar is there.” 

“Excellent! Another hiking session it is.” Derrick exclaims. 

I frown. Hiking is cool. Just not on winter. 

But whatever, this is for Katrina. I walk pass them toward the door, only to open it and tell Microv to take the lead by jerking my head. 

“Here we go.” He exclaims. 

Now I know what that solitary structure is. 

We follow the footpath that keeps getting steeper. The sight of the village makes this trek less arduous. It is quiet, but unlike the ruins, there are still folks roaming around. We encounter some passerby and a pair of boys, one chasing the other. We don’t see any female of below adult age. Everyone must have kept them under their own roof, thanks to the kidnapping. If we could get rid of those two, the kidnapping and the thralls, I might decide to move here. 

The path lead us to a stairs, which goes straight for the altar. The altar appears to be an organized pile of limestone and marble. It has a large circular structure, and is the only lavish building in Tuhkapohja. There is a curved line of spaced pillars that seemingly forms an entrance to the circular hall inside, which is open to the outsider. Inside the hall is an amphitheater, enough to hold a hundred people. But the people sitting there is less than that, judging by the vast empty seat. 

At the gate we are halted by two men, both wearing dark brown robe with white outlines. We ask them that we want to meet their leader.

“The prayer is still ongoing. You will have the chance honorable guests, once it is done.” The man’s gentle voice relief the tension inside me. He called us honorable guests. I guess not all thralls are hostile. That gives me hope. Maybe we really can talk this out. 

Microv leers briefly to Derrick and I behind him. 

“How long?” 

“This is the last phase, it should be done in less than five minutes.” 

“We’ll wait.” I say. 

“We are grateful for your understanding,” The man says. “We shall pass this news to our leader, soon.” 

While waiting, Microv and Derrick further their conversation with the two men. I stand behind them, looking around. Our flanks are filled with nothing but arrays of trees, covered in snow. I wonder if this gate is the only way into the hall. 

Eventually the prayer is done. One of the men goes into the hall, the other keeps us occupied. From here I can see him speak with someone else, presumably the leader. I can see him turn his sight on us. He then marches toward us with his hand hidden under his sleeve. 

“We wish the Winter bring wealth upon you, gentlemen.” He says as soon as he arrives. “Let us discuss the affairs in our tavern.” 

“Very well.” Microv says. 

The man then turns back and walk away followed by Microv. Derrick takes a step forward. “He is not that bad, sir.” 

“Or,” I object. “He doesn’t seem yet.” 

We then follow their steps toward the tavern. 

It’s warm inside. What he refer to as tavern is actually a place where he meets his guests. We are the only ones here. He allows us to sit on the teak-framed sofa. 

“I am Victus, the archpriest of the White Stripes. What brings you here, O honorable strangers?” 

I turn to Microv and Derrick, who do the same. I hope this goes well. 

“We would like to ask you to return the Radiant Winters on commerce.” I say. 

Victus shakes his head gently. “My apology. But only our brethren are allowed to have the herbs. And they too, are prohibited in sharing it to those not of our member.” 


“The ability to relieve any known diseases are comparable to what the divines are able. They are the manifestation of divine powers. And to use such power, you have to be dedicated to them.” 

“You mean something bad will happen if plenty of non-believers are using it?” “Correct. The last time this healing power is overused, the mass bombardment took place.” 

His words stunned me, not because those two events sound somewhat related, but because I know those two events are unrelated at all. I shouldn’t have raised my expectation. These thralls still rationalize any major event as being a divine intervention. Microv and Derrick strikes me a frown. Perhaps they’re as astonished as me, since they also knew too well about the event. 

“I see, that’s intriguing.” Derrick chimes in. “However, I wonder what if this village is in need of the herbs?” 

“For each roof, there is at least one of their member with us. We may forbid usage for strangers, but relatives are still eligible for a treatment, should they fall to need.” 

“Good, sir.” Microv clears his throat. “Imagine the prosper that would come if you trade those flowers again. Imagine seeing this village as a superpower of this continent, with you at the top.” 

Victus then gazes the floor. He seems to be contemplating. That makes me wanting to give Microv a pat on the back. Because that seems to have persua- 

“No.” Victus says. 


“Pardon?” Microv asks. 

Victus lifts his gaze back to us. “We’ve seen superpowers rise and fall. Their statesmen, starving for power, would do anything to gain them, even as further as breaking or rewriting the divine code. I will not allow my brethren to violate the testament brought by the divines.” 

This isn’t something that’s usually came from me, but I have no choice. 

“How do I become a member then?” I ask. 

Microv and Derrick spontaneously turns at me, although I don’t see them directly. 

“After the paperwork, you will be put into an entire season of ritual practice and spiritual training while under our supervision. Then the judges decide, whether or not you are worthy of our ties.” 

An entire season? There’s not even a week left, let alone an entire season.


It’s getting dark. We retrun the inn.

My chest fell to a cavernous depth. My limbs, it’s like they’re swallowed by the abyss. I collapse to my bed. My heart grows so heavy that I think the bed couldn’t handle it. 

I’m going to lose another daughter. This journey is over. I couldn’t deliver what I have promised. 

I pull the blanket and curl myself. My eyes are welling, I really am cursed to have no offspring. I think Microv and Derrick are looking at me right now, it’s the first time they see me like this. 

“Sir.” Derrick calls. 

It doesn’t feel right to leave him hanging. But it’s better that I don’t speak to anyone right now. So, I cower even harder. There’s no more word coming from them. I assume they left me alone. It’s the best that they can do right now. ‘Forgive me, darling’ becomes the only phrase that comes to my mind. I begin to lost count. My eyelids are getting heavy too, so I let them go. 

It was a brief rest. My thirst wakes me up. Derrick and Microv is sitting by the window, gazing upon the darkness beyond while exchanging words. I grab a glass of water and sit back on my bed. The two is quick to notice. 

“Better, sir?” Derrick asks. 

I don’t know if I could answer that. The pain is still there. Losing another daughter to another thrall. And the idea that this might be my fate. I could not live up to that. 

“I don’t know.” 

It’s all that made it out. All while my mind reach out for Katrina, who’s health is draining over time. Guess it will remain that way, until she loses her breath. Then I remember what she said to me before I left. If she won’t make it, at least I’d be there beside her. 

Derrick comes and sit down on his bed, which is beside mine. 

“Sir, Microv and I found something.” 

I don’t turn to him, my sight remains fixed to the floor. No matter what’s coming, if that doesn’t help my situation, I’m not listening. 

“This may help our situation.” He says. 

Since he’s brave enough to claim that way, my attention is suddenly all his. “Speak.” 

“We were down there in the inn’s café, when we overheard from two folks that they heard strange noises in the woods, northwest of this village.” 

I don’t think I understand how does it helps. “Then?” 

“We think that’s where they keep the girls.”

“The kidnapping?” 


“How could you be so certain?” 

Derrick exhales and lean away from me, his hands lay on the bed, supporting his weight. “The innkeeper says that some girls are last seen heading toward that woods.” “Then how come everyone overlooked that?” 

“They did a search, but found nothing. Seems like the responsible party is excellent in covering their tracks.” 

“These fellas,” Microv exclaims. I was surprised that he’s suddenly before me with his right hand raised. “They don’t have the proper equipment.” 

“You mean we’d definitely find the girls?” 

“If we do,” Derrick says. “The village will be grateful. They might symphatize with you and persuade Victus to provide the herbs.” 

I’m not sure whether this will work or not, but there’s a chance that it will, so I’m taking it. Besides, it might casts billions that lost their lives away from me. 

“Pack our gears then, we head there.” I say. 

The village has already went asleep. An excellent timing. Our operation would go unnoticed. We head for the woods with electric torches on my hand and Derrick’s. Microv takes the lead. 

He’s a military android, hence he has every standard utility that a professional field army have as a feature. That involves a night-vision sight and an EM transmitter. The plan is to let him scour the woods’ underground structure for a ‘well-structured’ anomaly. That is, an underground chamber. Besides, Derrick’s utilizer is able to connect to any terminal and operate it unnoticed. There has to be at least one terminal in that underground chamber, so Derrick would confirm if Microv really finds the chamber. 

This freezing woods already seem eerie in the daylight, let alone now. But it’s not like some dark creatures would fall upon us. Fortunately, we only spent an hour before stumbling upon something. 

“The chambers. I think we got them.” Microv says with a smirk in his face. “I’d agree.” Derrick says. “My utilizer picked up a computer terminal in the vicinity.” “Do you see an entrance?” I ask. 

Microv then points ahead of him. “There is an auxiliary hatch over there.” “What do you mean auxiliary?” Derrick asks.

“That means the gang don’t use the hatch often.” 

Derrick and I share a look before heading toward the direction Microv has pointed. It is a huge boulder covered in moss. 

“Crack it open!” Microv says to Derrick. 

I then turn to derrick, who is now vigorously running his fingers back and forth on his utilizer. He catches me gazing at him. 

“Don’t worry, I’m doing it.” He smirks too. 

At times like this, I would usually feel bad for not contributing to the task. But there are greater concerns. 

Not long after, a piece of the boulder shifts. It then slides open, revealing a large hollow crack that hosts a chamber with small orange illumination. 

“There we go gentlemen.” Derrick exclaims. 

“Are you aware of how pathetic it would be if you couldn’t hack through?” Microv chuckles. 

“He obviously do.” I say. “Let’s go.” I jerk my head. 

We tip-toe downstairs. I am astonished that there’s a base lying beneath the village and none notices. Microv and Derrick seems incredibly quiet. This place is something they usually comment upon. I leer at them behind me. They only leer back and nod. I believe that their astonishment is there. I appreciate them for not commenting anything as to not giving away our presence. 

We proceeds from one dark hallway to the other, following Derrick’s guidance toward the terminal that he accessed through his utilizer. If that terminal could open the auxiliary hatch, then it has to be somewhat a central terminal. The lack of personnel here encourages our gratitude. Seems like the sleep time applies to these men as well. We eventually arrive before the room that hosts the terminal without any hindrance. I try to open the door, but it’s locked. I shouldn’t be surprised. Microv then grabs my shoulder. 

“Let me.” He says. 

He pulls out a thin stick and insert it into the door’s lock. It opens the door. “They built a computerized entrance but they don’t apply it to this one?” Derrick whispers. “Perhaps none but them could get this far.” 

“Fair enough.” 

Derrick trots inside and sits before the terminal. Microv and I followed. After closing the door, we look around the room which is mostly filled by metal drawers. Microv finds tagged 

folders in one of them. I gaze down upon him, who then peers at me for a moment. He decides to pull the tag that says ‘Feature Analysis’. 

Microv places the folder on a nearby table and opens it. I place my torch beside the folder. “Research papers.” Microv says. 

“What’s it about?” I ask. 

Just when that question left my mouth, we stumble upon a page that shows a sketch of a female face. The sketch comes with series of divergent lines pointing at a specific point in the sketch. At the other end of those lines are writings that I couldn’t read. It’s not because they’re in foreign language that I don’t understand, it’s because I don’t have a background of pharmacy. 

“Who’s face is this?” I ask again. 

“Was that rhetorical?” Microv responds. 

“Can you read those writings?” 

Microv turns to me, “Not a pharmacist either.” 

But something hints me that anyone here is working to optimize feminine beauty. That suspicion of mine is justified when suddenly we stumble upon a sketch of a naked teenage girl. I turn away for a moment, before recalling that I’m old enough for this. Microv seems to have caught me turning away, so I clear my throat to dismiss it. 

“Still underaged?” He says. 

“Move along.” I respond. 

The sketch also has those lines and writings too. But this time there are mathematical formulations on it. 

“Gentlemen, have a look.” Derrick suddenly calls. 

Microv and I come over to him, who have made an astounding discovery. Microv leans closer toward the screen. It shows footages of girls sleeping in rooms, perhaps separated ones. 

“We found them, I guess.” Derrick says. 

“Is this recorded?” Microv asks. 

“No, this is live. You can access any device here using this terminal it appears.” “I don’t think we can return them now.” I say. 

“We need reinforcements.” Microv exclaims, leaning away from the screen. “We have to turn this over to the authority.” I exclaim. 

“But we still don’t know the party behind this mess.” Derrick responds.

“The terminal doesn’t say anything?” 

“More like doesn’t have anything to say. It is either devices access program or other miscellaneous files unrelated to anyone that are stored here. No personal logs, or recording of some sort.” 

This close, and the culprit is nowhere to be found. At least we now know of this place. The authority would run it over and end the kidnapping. 

But something tells me the White Stripes is responsible for this. 

We decided that we had enough. Derrick takes shots of the footage and this room, downloading it to his utilizer before we return to the surface. He reopens the entrance hatch and close it once we got through. Derrick and I march toward local officers as soon as possible. It took us several seconds before we notice that Microv fell behind. I turn around and find him peering at the void behind him. 

“Microv, let’s go.” 

He turns to me and nod. “Right behind you.” 

Microv approaches us, his sight sometimes wandering to his flanks once every few seconds. 

Did he notice something? 


“Closed? What security force on earth decides that they should all have a shut eye?” I ask gently. 

“We are, sir.” The officer guarding the building says. “I mean it’s winter, our service only lasts for twenty hours. Please be patient.” 

I nod and walks back to Microv and Derrick. 

“What a bunch of unprofessionals.” Derrick blurts out. 

“Want me to spark them?” Microv grunts. 

“And lose the chance of the folks’ sympathy?” Derrick grumbles. 

I sigh. “We’ll return here in a few hours. Let’s rest for now.” 

Nobody says anything. We cleave through the silence of the village’s street back to the inn. I think I heard a conversation between Microv and Derrick, but I’m too tired to listen. 

Inside, I place my gear down before collapsing to the bed. I keep reminding myself to be patient. Few more hours before we turn this over. Once that happens, this kidnapping business will end. Hoping that this place would trade us the Radiant Winter as a reward feels too much, but I’m still clinging to that. I can still save Katrina. She will be fine soon.

I can already picture us strolling across the blooming field back home during spring. She is there, stopping by every flower that has her mesmerized. Their features however, still leagues below her. Her smile brightens the field. I feel ten times more comfortable here than I used to be. I pick a flower and approaches her. Acknowledging my presence, she rises up and meet my eyes. I nudge her hair slightly and tuck a flower in her right ear. 

She then gazes briefly down at my feet, her face turns red as berries. When she raise her face, she has her eyes closed and tilts her head. What comes after is a wide smile that melt my heart. 

“Thank you.” She says before running off deeper to the field. 

I stride behind her. 

Then I realize. The flower that I tucked on her right ear is a Hyacinth, the one that struck my smell like no tomorrow. 

“Oi, sir.” I hear someone calls my name. Sounds like Microv. But he’s nowhere to be found. 

Then someone grabs and shakes my shoulder. 

“Sir, sir!” 

The dream shatters, I return to the inn. Seems like my thoughts had lulled me again. I found Microv shaking my shoulder. I shove my blanket away and rise up. Before I ask him any question of what’s going on, something in front of my bed amplifies that question further. 

“Microv, what happened!?” 

“My instinct just got justified.” 

Before my bed are four men, all tied up and unconscious. What’s more stunning is that the men are wearing dark brown robes with white outlines, the White Stripes. 

“They snuck upon us. Fortunately, I smell them coming.” Microv exclaims. “They were about to wrap you up. But are fool enough to fall to my trap.” 

“My goodness.” 

I turn to Derrick who appears to be as stunned as me. 

“Does this mean…” 

“There’s a high chance that they are, sir.” Derrick says, nodding. 

So it is true. It feels satisfying to see that this people turns out to be responsible for the kidnapping. We now have a reason to bring them to the ground. 

I stand up and approaches the men. One of them raises his head, the youngest one, turning his sight to me.

“You, trespassers.” He says. 

“What have you been doing with those girls?” 

“For the divines’ continuous blessing, they have to be pleased.” 

Pleasing the divines with those girls? That doesn’t sound good. But if that’s the case… “Then why do you have research papers on female features?” 

His eyes met mine, his lips is straight. Seems like he’s not going to answer that. Very well. “Ugh!” He grunts as I struck his face with my fist. 

“Tell me!” I say, my tone goes slightly over the top. 

“We study them, to create a female with the most captivating feature ever known to man.” “Then what? You’re going to sacrifice them?” 

“Once the divines agreed, she will be sent to the garden where the Radiant Winter blooms and…” 

That’s enough. I give him another blow, hard enough that it turns him unconscious again. These thralls, they’re as troublesome as ever. If not because of them, the annihilation wouldn’t have occurred. Our civilization would’ve reach upon unimaginable height right now. 

Microv and I look at each other. 

“They’re coming.” He says. 

“No, Microv.” I say, approaching him. “We’re coming.” 

Five hours has passed since we returned from our search in the woods. We found something, and that seems to have gotten us into trouble. But we are one step closer to bring these peoples to justice. I am one step closer to purge this village of this thralls. And I’m not going to stop. Time to put my swordsmanship to use. 

Microv and I grab our gears, including the shovels. 

“Derrick, grab the jeep and turn this over to those officers. Lead them to extract those girls at the underground chambers we found.” 

“Wilco.” Derrick nods. 

“Time to confront them, the hard way!” I exclaim. 

“At last.” Microv says. 

We leave through the window in our room. Hopefully none sees us coming. It’s early in the morning and their ritual is about to begin again. This’ll be their last. 


After marching to the vicinity of the altar’s gate where the two guards are standing, I rest for a while, gathering my stamina after the hike. We are in the bushes, beyond the sight of those two guards. I take a deep breath and calm myself down. 

“Are we ready?” Microv asks. 

“Go.” I say, my voice firm, my hand is itching to shovel their face flat. 

Microv and I leap out from the hiding and charge into the guards. They notices us and pull out something from their waist. Sticks, probably strong enough to cause bruises. By the time they’re ready, it was too late. Microv shoves his entire weight toward one of the guards. I struck the other’s stomach with my shovel’s butt and swing it against his face. The two guards collapsed. 

The crash of my shovel is probably loud enough to alert anyone on the altar. We march through the gate. Everyone stands up on our presence. Surprisingly enough Victus come to meet us, followed by four guards. 

“Gentlemen what have you done!?” His tone remains gentle even in this predicament. 

“You are responsible for the disappearance of the girls in this village. We’re taking you down.” 

“Let us not partake in this sort of vigilante. Let us all settle this before the legal authority.” He says. 

Microv and I share a look. We know that our response to that is obvious. Besides, it is him who commits vigilante first. 

“Denied.” Microv responds. A second later he has his shovel heading to Victus’s face. 

But he is repelled by one of the guard. The other struck Microv’s stomach and shove him back. 

“Very well then.” Victus says, retreating behind his guards. “Acolytes, to arms!” He yells. 

That man hurries back to the altar and orders all the worshippers to leave through the back door, before doing it himself. All the while the guards, or Acolytes perhaps, are covering their leave. We have to take on this four before us first. 

I go for one of the acolytes’ leg. When he moves to parry, I jerk my shovel back and slam its edge against his face. It was swift and in a second, he collapses to my right. The other goes for my head, his stick fell straight from above. My shovel met the stick. Then I thrust my right knee against his stomach as soon as possible. I shove the stick away and swing my shovel back, crashing against his face. The loud bang brings satisfaction. I find Microv standing with one of his feet on the acolyte’s back. He slam his shovel to the back of his head. 

“Clear!” Microv says. 

We proceeds toward the altar, where another six guards fell upon us. Microv’s back and mine met for a moment. We peer to each other and nod.

I charge the guard to my left. He times his stick and struck at the right moment. But at that moment, I twist to his right and successfully hit the back of his head with my shovel. Once he fall to his knee, I swing the sharp edge of my shovel against his back. His blood splatters out, sticking to my shovel. An excellent opportunity. I put the shovel to my lip and lick the blood, enduring its bitter taste on my shovel as my saliva runs over it. 

That hesitates the other two to attack me. I can see it in their face, which just seconds ago was firm and ready. Now there’s nothing in there but doubt. 

One of them yells and charges against me. The other follows suit. I march to meet them, taking a deep breath. One swings his stick for my head, but I duck at the right time. I hold my shovel with both hands and goes for the man’s waist. He screams in pain while the other is hustling toward me. With another hit, I shove the man away and brace for impact. Along with the stick is his body weight, which is now held by my shovel. He slams his stick many times against my shovel, giving me no openings. 

When I thought I see one, I raise my shovel. But his foot meet my face first, hard. My back hits the floor. I raise my shovel, bracing for impact again. But before his stick hits me, Microv shoves him away and drops him with three successive hits, two to his torso and the last one to his head. I see beyond him and find guards lying on the floor, hoping that they’re dead. 

“Such a takedown you gave there.” 

He gives his hand, which I take, pulling me up. 

“Grind with me for a week and you’ll be able to do that, guaranteed.” He says. 

We give no more thoughts nor words and head straight toward the back door where Victus made his leave. Behind it is a cobblestone pathway that we follow. Since Victus is heading this way, he must be on the other side. On our flanks are glass structures that hosts my purpose here, the Radiant Winter. Their numbers are overwhelming yet they are kept here by the White Stripes. 

They belong to this village now, not only them. 

The path leads us to a circular limestone paving, where it ends. Beyond is more woods, covered in freezing snow. And beyond the woods, is a cliff. Microv looks around while I catch my breath. 

Then Victus appears behind us, from the way we came. 

“You have trespassed our domains. You shall be punished.” He says, still in his gentle tone. But now it’s topped with anger, I can sense it. 

Now he is wrapped in a combat gear from head to toe. He looks way more intimidating than before. That gear seems heavy, and I think this shovel can only scratch those machinery. I have to find another way. But before that… 

“Why do you keep the flowers for yourself?” I ask. “You know you could have been on the top of the world, should you trade them.”

Victus meet my eyes. Those sharp determined eyes, I think that’s one I can admire from him. 

“Whatever that is, if the price is my daughter, then I won’t budge.” 

Am I hearing this correctly? His daughter? 

“How ill your daughter is, that you need this much of the Radiant Winter? I thought a stalk is enough for any sickness.” 

“My daughter is dead!” Victus yells, for the first time in front of me. “The mass bombardment didn’t just took place, they also took her from me!” 

Microv and I share a look. 

“They are the last beautiful thing that we enjoyed together, before those damned missiles struck. They are my lifeblood as I strive day and night to recreate her, so that I can see her again. I will not let anyone take them away from me!” 

This is the first time I relate to a thrall. Losing a daughter is the hardest burden any father could bear. It’s their next purpose after caring for their spouse. Sure they can make another. But the first loss would guarantee a wound that lasts through their lifetime. Like him. Like me. But now I have a new daughter. And although my love isn’t as great as it is toward Genesis, it will be once this is over. 

I take a step forward. 

“I will.” I say. 

I think that snaps him. He pulls out his stick with his right hand and charges toward me. His charge is quick, perhaps owing to the gear he’s wearing, and I haven’t brace myself for the impact. Fortunately Microv jumps in the way just in time. 

“Over my corpse!” He grunts. 

The gentle and calm thrall that I respected the first time we met, has turn into a bursting ball of anger. I twists to his left and aims for his waist. But he pulls out a tonfa with his left hand, which then met my shovel. We are then tossed back a few meters by a shockwave, perhaps coming from his gear too. This will be a trouble. 

Victus swings his stick upward in my direction. I nudge back to avoid it. Then he thrusts his tonfa toward me. I managed to shift to my left, but that barely hits me. He goes for my head with his stick, so I raise my shovel. But it hits so hard that it pushes me back. I parry more strikes from him. He manages to strike my stomach, shoving me away and turns around to meet Microv who is charging toward him. My back hits the snow covered limestone. 

Microv aims for the left of his head, but his shovel meet Victus’ tonfa. He then thrusts his stick, but Microv quickly pulls out his bayonet just in time to parry that. In their standoff, I notice something on his back. A polygonal bulge on his armor. It glows crimson, faintly illuminating the premises behind him. That got me wondering, so I charge toward his back.

He leers behind him and notices me. But as soon as he does, Microv shove his head against Victus’. That might not hurt him, but the temporary shock is enough for him to shove his stick away and swipes his bayonet across his chest. From my side, I don’t think that does anything. The opening however, allows me to aim the sharp edge of my shovel toward the bulge. My shovel then sticks on the small crack that it just made. Electricity buzzes out and the crimson light flickers. 

Microv and I seems to be fortunate. Perhaps this gear is still a prototype and the bulge is the weak point. A power source or something? Was that the one that enhances his speed and strength? 

I hit the crack for the second time, attempting to cleave through. But Victus sends another shockwave that tosses us back. The three of us recover our ground, I catch our breath. Victus leers behind him. He doesn’t seem to be injured much, but he does seem irritated. Especially when I broke that bulge on his back. 

I circle around him, toward Microv’s position. 

“That helmet is nut. Not sure if I can manage another one without any fracture.” Microv says. 

Victus marches toward us. 

“I have a plan.” I say, while we both retreat. 

So I tell him his plan. 

“Are you sure? You seem to be overwhelmed by him seconds ago.” Microv says. I nod. “Just give me your bayonet.” 

“Very well.” 

He hands me his thermal bayonet and run off towards the woods beyond us. All the while I position myself in front of a track that goes along the cliff. Now it’s just he and I. 

“You got something up your sleeve.” Victus says. 

“What? You’re scared?” 

“I might as well wait here, starving you out.” 

I chuckle at that notion. “I don’t think so. You are the one racing against time here Victus.” He frowns in silence. It seems like he doesn’t understand. 

“You see, there are only two of us confronting you here. What do you think happened to the other one?” 

It takes several more seconds before he gasps. He turns back. “No!” 

Suddenly my utilizer flickers, indicating of an incoming message. I play them out loud with the speakers. A message from Derrick.

“All White Stripes scientists have been rounded up and locked in one place, sir. Local authority reinforcement is on their way to secure the chambers.” 

His face turns again to me. His sight is firm and fixed. His grip grows tighter. And I can see his teeth pushing against each other. 

“You take my daughter away from me!” He points to me, his hand trembling from how tight his grip is. 

I take his daughter away!? 

Something is scalding within, perhaps incited by his words. Thralls like this… I decide to release it. Guess what… 

“Painful isn’t it!?” My voice went over the top. “That’s how I felt when I learned that thralls like you took my daughter away!” I think this is as far as I can go. I don’t remember bursting like this before. Even in my adolescent times, it never went this terrible. “Now I have a second one, and I will not let you take her from me again. I will not sacrifice mine for your petty, irrelevant, harlot, you refer to as your daughter.” 

He screams. 

I scream. 

We both snap and charge each other. 

Two men, bursting like no tomorrow, on a collision course. Showing no remorse, wishing for the other’s downfall. Their sheer will boils them to the core, melting any chunk of snow they traverse on. Their hands thirst to spill the blood of the other. The terrible fate that befall upon their daughter has brought them here. And here will it be decided. 

No, it has been decided. Katrina will survive. 

Victus’ blow is weaker than it was before. Perhaps that bulge supports the weight of his armor. Now that it is damaged, that weight fell upon him. Even still, my weapons are barely doing any harm to him. And that he can still parry my attacks, landing counters that deals several blunt damage, mostly to my torso. My shovel is my best hope of parrying his attack. So I decided to keep parrying until further down the track. 

The contest starts to take a toll on my muscles, as I keep falling back. I think the same goes for Victus as his attacks are declining and his speed wavering. I’m able to land some hits toward his stomach and head, provoking him. Perhaps he doesn’t have a fighter background as I do. I take another chance when his breath wear him down. But he managed to counter attack and shove me to the ground. 

I quickly rise up to prepare for any strikes he has for me. But it turns out he remains in place, catching his breath. I do the same. 

We stare at each other. It has been a tough fight. But there will be no draw.

“I’ll shove you down this cliff.” He says, panting, jerking his head to the left. “I’ll take you with me.” I respond, also panting. 

“At least you don’t get to see your daughter anymore.” 

I nod, turning away for a brief moment. 

I’m finally here. There’s another track to Victus’ right, traversable by ground vehicle. It plays a part in my plan. Now that he’s right in the middle of the track, it’s over. 

“Good news, you’ll see your daughter soon.” I say. 

Victus raises an eyebrow, before turning to his right, toward the noise of an incoming vehicle. I shovel a chunk of snow and toss it to his face. As he’s distracted by the snow, Microv springs from the tree behind him, unleashing his taser feature on his fingers upon the bulge on Victus’ back. 

“Aaagghhh!” Electric sparks run amok across his body. 

As he is twitching in place the vehicle keeps getting closer. Microv and I leap back. Eventually it clears through the snow and crash into him before stopping, sending Victus down the cliff to my right. His scream echoes as he fell toward the freezing depth below. His armor shatters piece by piece as he comes crashing with the stones sticking out of the ledge throughout his fall. 

Eventually he hits a hard surface, thinly covered in snow. And there, he stops moving. Derrick comes out of the jeep. 

Microv raises his arms to the sky. “Haha! Scientia, victrix!” He yells. 

“Scientia, victrix?” Derrick asks. 

“Come on, this is our bloody cry now.” 

Derrick then turns to me. “What do you think, sir?” 

Microv follows. 

I turn to them. “Scientia, victrix.” 


It’s over. 

Tuhkapohja’s authority decides to disband the White Stripes and charge the members with community service. The village looks even brighter since then, with the folks strolling around, chanting songs with the Radiant Winter tucked in their ear. 

Too bad I can’t join them, but it still bring me joy thinking about their excitement for the return of the girls. Or should I say daughters. 

I gaze at the ashen sky that sheds their frozen tears upon the world.

Victus became a thrall because he lost his daughter. He worships the Radiant Winters because they are the only witness to the best memory he had with her. I don’t know how many people like Victus are out there. One thing for sure, the annihilation may have wiped those thralls away. But more seems to have sprout from the ashes. I couldn’t remain idle. Let Genesis be their last victim. 

“Dad!” A loud voice that reminds me that I’m not alone here. It snaps my thoughts and has me falling back. 

“Katrina, please. You don’t have to yell like that.” I beg. Although it is probably my mistake that she has to yell like that. 

She sighs. A temporary gust flutters her peanut hair. “You are really into your daydreams, aren’t you?” She tilts her head. 

Uh, not really. The one I just had is important for our well-being. 

She then smiles. “I think I want to be an Android specialist like you dad.” 

“Oh,” I raise an eyebrow, before leering to my right. “It’s hard to believe that I’m this charismatic.” 

I don’t know if it’s just my feeling, but I think she strikes me a brief pout there. 

She places her hand on her waist and leans toward me. “Dad, come on. Isn’t it natural for a daughter to follow the steps of her father?” She grumbles. 

That definitely sounds amazing, an offspring who will continue my legacy. It provides me a relief, a brief respite from the turmoil of my worries. At least I am a father for once, though she is not of my blood. I turn back to her and nod without any further thought. 

She smiles again, before turning back and takes several steps ahead. 

“You know,” She says. “I even have a name for my first Android.” 

“Spoil me.” I say. 

She turns to me again and lifts her chin high. “Sylvana.” 

I cross my arm. “Sylvana…” 

“Correct. Then there’s my family’s name.” 

“Sylvana, Tribhuwana.” I say. “What a lovely name.” 

She just nods.

Writer: PrimDom

Komorebi in Petrichor

Entry Writchal #1

Theme: Droplets of Time


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. 

 But this… 

 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.” 

“Sure thing.” 

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.” 

“Sure thing.” 


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. 



 “I’m fine.” 

 “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. 

 Oh well… 

 “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.” 

“Very 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…” 

“Not yours…” 

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?” 

“Pardon, sir?” 

“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.” 

“I insist.” 

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.” 

“Eeee, gross.” 

“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?” 

 “… What?” 

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.” 

Pratama sighs. 

“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?” 

“Please proceed.” 

“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.” 

“What’s weird?” 

“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. 

“Come on.” 



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.” 


“Thank-grateful…I am-am.” 

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.” 

“Uh huh.” 

“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. 

And another. 

And another.

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…” 

“For who?” 

“Ah, nevermind.” 

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.” 

“What happened?” 

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.” 

“I see.” 

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 

“Suit yourself.” 


“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.” 


“Anything else?”

“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


Entry for Writchal #4
Theme: Unexpected Rendezvous

The summer sun glazes the plantation. The children follow up her joy. The boys, most of them, dash through the lawns. With their arms extended, they bank left and right as they traverse a column of trees in the orchard. The girls, sitting on a cloth made out of knitted flannels, fiddle with their kitty plushies surrounding the toy cooking utensils neatly stacked in the centre.

A boy’s laugh is in crescendo. She snaps her thought and turns around. Then a thud as that boy crashes, his head sinks briefly to the bottom part of her abdomen.

“Hngh.” He grunts.

The impact nudges her slightly back. It must be painful to crash into an Android. She hopes that her uniform, overlaid with an apron, soften it up enough.

The other two following him stops briefly before approaching.

“I told you, you were going too fast.” One of his friend scolds. “And you were not looking too.”

Caitlyn put her broom stick aside before grabbing the shoulders of the boy on her.

“Are you alright?” She asks.

The boy gazes back with eyes and mouth wide. From the looks of it, he doesn’t seem to be in any pain at all.

Caitlyn smiles at him. “Be careful next time.”

“U…uuh,” The boy stutters. “Yes. Yes, ma’am.” He says.

She then let go and grabs her broom stick. “Go back to your friends.”

The boy doesn’t say anything as he returns to his two buddies. All of them hot-foot it away from her.

Caitlyn sighs. She turns her gaze back to the tree she was observing. It’s a beautiful day. Perfect for her to be in the orchard. The citrus trees breathe a soothing chill amidst the searing heat. Their fruits shine bright colours rivalling the sun. She is going to pick them soon and distribute the majority to the market. It has been so far their most reliable way to make a living. Local Proxy Command would come to purchase their goods most of the time for the personnel stationed there.

“Sister Grauwelle Caitlyn!” Caitlyn tightens her shoulder in the wake of a loud female voice that flips her adrenaline switch.

She turns around to a young woman in a similar housemaid uniform as hers, marching toward her with a frowned face.

“You’ve been here for two hours and I only see a third of this orchard mopped up.”

“Uh…” Caitlyn scratches the back of her head. “Apologies, Sister Gloria.” She let the broom stick falls to her left arm as she puts her hands together in front of her. “I was about to…”

Gloria breaks her gesture as she snatches the broom stick from her.

“You know what, I’ll do it.” She grouches. “There’s a kettle of water cooking back there. Go watch that instead.” Gloria says as she begins to sweep the pile of leaves just beside Caitlyn. “God…I thought Androids are meant to ease works.” Caitlyn catches her mumble.

She takes a breath before trudging back to the mansion with her head to the ground. On a staircase leading to the terrace, she sits with her legs tight; chin on hand. Her sight is to the children on the lawn before her.

It is nearly a year since she is first activated here by the owner of this mansion. She came out of a manufacture branch whose Androids are meant for civil use. Those who are willing to afford shall incorporate them to their household. By then they would be just as citizen as their owner.

A girl sits beside her. Her chocolate hair is bundled up on the back of her head, her locks extend past her face. She wears a white headband with a bunny pin attached to its right side.

“Daydreaming again, Caitlyn?”

Caitlyn turns to her with a dissatisfied face. “I was taking a break.”

“I caught you gazing silently at that tree for fifteen minutes straight.” She says. “That seems like a daydreaming to me.”

Caitlyn sighs.

The girl is the oldest, about ten years old. And she is of the outgoing type. Enough to make friend with strangers that she just met. Just like Caitlyn.

“Well, what are you supposed to do when you are not doing anything?”

The girl giggles.

“Anyway, you are an Android, right?” She asks. “What are you daydreaming about?”

Caitlyn’s attention turns to the tree she was gazing at. It’s about two times her height. It has two main branches which splits further into five; three on one and two on the other. Its dense leaves stood out from the rest of the trees. Regardless, it bears not as much fruit compared to the adjacent ones. She attempts to recall any thought that appeared in the past several minutes. To her dismay, none showed up.

“I was thinking the tree looks nice.” She says.

“Really?” The girl beside her tilts her head. “Aren’t you just daydreaming about being a princess who wishes that a handsome prince would come and pick you up?”

Caitlyn leers at the canopy above. She didn’t actually think that she was whatever the girl described. They are fairy tale entities as far as she is aware of. And she doesn’t think herself to be that helpless as to wishing a prince would come and save her. Though it’d be sweet when that actually happens, there is no guarantee that a charming figure would definitely hook her heart.

“Probably.” Caitlyn shrugs.

The girl giggles again. “You’re funny, Caitlyn.”

She is not sure whether that’s a compliment or a ridicule. Her attitude drives a smile on her face, nevertheless. Caitlyn turns to her face again.

“Am I?” She asks.

“Cute and funny, should I say.” The girl continues her giggling whilst leaning to her. “Maybe a prince would actually come and pick you one day.”

Caitlyn chuckles. “Well…” Caitlyn jerks her head. “Maybe if it’s for the best.”

“Sister Caitlyn.” Another mature voice calls for her.

Caitlyn looks over her shoulder and finds a figure striding gently toward her.

“I thought you are supposed to mop the orchard.” She says.

“Well, about that…” Caitlyn replies, glancing toward Gloria who is harshly sweeping the leaves with the broom stick.

The woman, also in the same uniform as her, follows her glance for a brief second before taking a deep breath; striking a concerned face.

“Oh well.” She says. “Ilyavna, get a hold of your friends okay?” She raises her left hand in level with her face. On it is a handbell that she then shakes. The ringing stuns the children, nine of them. They all turn a wishful gaze toward the woman before storming the terrace. The three remains still as the children run past their left.

Caitlyn and Ilyavna stands up as soon as the last children entered the mansion.

“Alright, I got it miss Gvozdika.” Ilyavna says, gesturing toward the woman before following her friends. On her way in, she cries to everyone else not to let clumsiness arise due to their haste.

“W-what can I do, Sister Gvozdika?” Caitlyn asks her, locking her hands.

Gvozdika looks down on her for a split second. Her face is relaxed; her expression is that of pity. As if she is in despair in dealing with the youngest of her sisters.

“Someone is boiling a water kettle back there.” Gvozdika jerks her head. “You might want to make mother her green tea.”


Caitlyn recalls that it is what Gloria just asked of her.

“Yes, Sister Gvozdika. Will do.” She nods, leaning slightly forward.

Caitlyn nimbly climbs the remaining step to enter the mansion. Gvozdika comes after her.

The mansion isn’t as glamour as it sounds. It’s basically a farmhouse large enough to support as much as twenty individuals. The walls are of a bland beige. There are barely any paintings or pictures hanging to flavour them. The furniture has minimal aesthetic value. The halls are mostly empty. Each has a plant in certain corners to at least liven them a bit.

A whistling noise grows louder as Caitlyn approaches the kitchen. Fumes are spewing out of the kettle. She marches toward the stove and turns it off. Once she has the cup and its plate set, she reaches for a box in the shelves above. Inside are a bundle of teabags from which she abducts one and put it in the cup. She pours the boiled water into the cup after returning the box. The contents of the teabag diffuse; the water turn light brownish colour.

Seeing her reflection on the tea, she pauses for a while.


Caitlyn shakes her head just after. “This is for mother.” She says.

She tucks in two sachets of sugar on the plate before making her way upstairs.

The room on the other side is where all the hubbub is happening. The children are in a queue, one by one making their way along a meshed table picking the meals into their plate. Ilyavna stands in the last. Gvozdika keeps the children in check.

Caitlyn slows her steps to gaze at the commotion. It is when she almost crashed with another figure hustling toward her. She turned at the right moment for her reflex to halt her. The girl she was about to crash to also stops just before her.

“Sister Giriltsa.” She says. “You almost spilled mother’s tea.”

“Well that’s a relief.” Giriltsa replies. Her face frowns after she said that. “But stop slowing me down, damn it. I got a lot of work to do.” She continues hustling past Caitlyn.

Caitlyn sighs before proceeding.

As she heads for the stairs, she catches a glimpse of her other sister washing the utensils. The housemaid shares a glance briefly with her, Gravlya. Caitlyn smiles and nods to her. But she doesn’t say anything; instead keeping up in silence.

Eventually she reaches her mother’s room on the second floor. A frail voice permits entry after some knocking. Caitlyn gently nudges the door.

A senile woman is sitting on a rocking chair. Her gaze is to the book on her lap. She only turns when Caitlyn is three steps away from her.

“Ah…my sweet Caitlyn.” She says. “Is that tea for me, dear?” The woman leans her head toward her, slightly shifting her glasses down her nose.

“Yes, mother. Allow me to put it on the table for you.” Caitlyn bends slightly before a table beside her mother and places her tea on it.

“Oh, thank you dear.” Her mother grasps her chest. “I’m not really thirsty at the moment, but you can expect that cup to be empty in about ten minutes.”

Caitlyn locks her hands as she turns to face her. “Glad to hear it, mother.”

“By the way…” The mother says steadily. “We’re going to celebrate your birthday real soon.”

“My birthday?”

“Correct.” She raises a finger toward Caitlyn. “If I remember correctly, your second year will begin next week.”

Caitlyn brings up her activation date from her memory. The date is coming exactly in a week. Her memory is fascinating for a person of her age she thought. She is grateful that her mother remembers the date of her activation. The sense of recognition, although small, hits warm. It makes her feel accepted in the household.

“So…congratulations.” Her mother gently claps her hands.

Caitlyn smiles at that response. “Thank you, mother.”

“Why don’t you sit down for a moment?” Her mother nods at an empty chair near her.


She is, indeed, the most caressed out of her sisters despite her being there for less than a year. From her experience, her mother likes to spend time with her. Most of the times it prevents her from doing the chores assigned. But she couldn’t make herself to deny her requests. Especially when she is her only family member that treated her like one.

“Okay.” Caitlyn sits at the empty chair.

“So,” Her mother raises her head as she opens her mouth again. “How are you doing with your sisters?”

My sisters?

Gvozdika looked down on her with despair. Gloria just yelled at her. Gravlya didn’t reply to her greetings. Giriltsa just scolded her. It’s possible that her minds are just pulling strings on her. It is however, undisputable that she is the driving factor behind her sisters’ apparent contempt.

“We’re doing fine mother.” Caitlyn forces a smile through, hoping that she doesn’t catch that. “We…got along well.”

Her mother takes a deep breath. “Oh, dear Caitlyn.” She says, reaching for her face. “I know a faked smile when I see one.” She gently rubs Caitlyn right cheek.

Caitlyn grabs her mother’s hand with both of hers. She feels its wrinkling texture. Her might is enough to cause a major fracture.

“I’m sorry, mother.” Caitlyn replies. “I couldn’t bring myself to hand over the bad news to you.”

“Don’t worry, dear. Your old woman prefers the bitter truth more than a sweet lie.” She pauses for a breath. “It’s not your fault that they behave like this. They haven’t lived a decent life lately.” The woman shrugs. “Not the one they dreamed of at least.”

The woman puts her hand down as she sets her gaze to a desk on her right. There sits a lamp and a picture of two people. One is her, the other is a man.

“Your old man dreamed of making a haven where he could protect the unfortunate children left by their parents. Even in his deathbed, this place is just as he dreamed about. Until in some time after his passing that a scheme caught us up. We were forced to pay a huge sum of money, the sum of money that we didn’t have, for something that we didn’t do.

“And without any way to pay our maidservants, they all left. Your sisters are forced to take their place ever since.”

“Was it the reason why they resent me?”

“They…” The woman pauses for a breath. “don’t really resent you dear. They just don’t like it when you add to their burden.”

Caitlyn squints. She thought of the scheme that fell on them. Who did that to them? What did they ever do to deserve that?

“Why would someone do that to us? What did we do?” Caitlyn asks.

Her mother looks down as that question hits her. She gently shakes her head. “I don’t know, dear.” She raises her head again to meet Caitlyn in the eye. “Some people can really dislike people for being…” she shrugs. “people.” The old woman takes a breath and looks out the window before opening her mouth again. “Well, what can I say? Life is unpleasant. Everything in life is not meant to be. That’s why dear, the most righteous thing you could do is to make it more pleasant for the others.”

More pleasant for the others…

Caitlyn’s mind lingers on that last part of her mother’s statement. She does add that it is the most righteous thing to do. The way she sees it, it has to be about her previous statement. So far, she has been slacking in her chores. Not once she finds herself thinking about random things all of a sudden. It shouldn’t be a problem if she keeps up with what she is doing. That is not the case. The way she revels in them interferes with her duty if not halt it entirely.

The door behind her opens. “Sister Caitlyn,” Another voice calls her. “I need you to wash the remaining dishes.”

“Yes, Sister Gravlya.” Caitlyn straightens her posture. She turns to her mother again. “I’m going to leave for the dishes, mother.”

Her mother smiles and nods.

Caitlyn marches past Gravlya who then closes the door after a small greeting with her mother.

On the sink are stacked plates and the utensils. She picks the top plate and turns on the tap before scrubbing it with a foamed sponge. All the while reflecting on what her mother said about the scheme she mentioned.

What is it that actually caught up to them? How could they let that happen?

Thinking of ways that could’ve prevented it would be a waste since there’s nothing can be done to change that. She could only strive to solve the problems she is facing. Either overcoming her slacking behaviour, or resolve the debt that burdens the household.

How am I supposed to do that?

Then a pat on her right shoulder halts her scrubbing. She looks over her shoulder and finds Ilyavna.

“I’ll help you with that.” She says, positioning herself beside her.

“Uh, you don’t have to do that.” Caitlyn replies, shaking her head.

“It’s okay, I insist.” Ilyavna nods toward the sink. “You don’t want to be yelled by your sisters again, do you?” She shuts one eye.

Caitlyn smiles. “Thank you.”

“Besides, I need to start taking responsibilities.” Ilyavna puffs her chest.

Caitlyn only nods. She is grateful to have her. The girl never fails to cheer her up even when the day is not in her favour. She wishes she have something in return for her kindness. Her brows relax as she realizes that she won’t have anything soon when she keeps on slacking on her job. She has to do something.

The next day.

Caitlyn treads under the bright sky. The road is flanked by hilly plains to the right and a wooded valley to the left. The heat turns delicate as she steps into a shade. A humongous cloud cruise overhead. All around it are thin formations like stretched cotton sheet haphazardly woven together. She let a breeze flutter her ponytail and the skirt of her uniform. A breeze that most of the times took her thought with them to a heavenly ballet far from the reaches of any lands.

“Step back, ma’am!” A Proxy extends his right arm toward her; his palm open. “Convoy is coming through.” He points his thumb to his right.

“Convoy?” Caitlyn tilts her head.

The soldier then turns to said direction. Caitlyn steps a bit closer to him, gazing at the same direction with her head extended. Her view is obstructed by the houses and the wooded area to her left. What’s evident is the rumbling noise that keeps getting louder. Until they eventually pass before her and the Proxy beside her.

An eight-wheeler with a roughly bar-shaped front compartment and a large container on its back. Caitlyn believes that is what they refer as truck. It is only slightly larger than what she is aware of. Its back end is open, revealing some more Proxies sitting inside with a bunch of other containers. A handful more of those trucks follows. She notices that most of them are vacant.

“What’s happening?” Caitlyn asks the Proxy beside her.

“Recruitment fair, ma’am.” He answers. “They’re gathering fresh troops for the war.”


“What war?” Caitlyn frowns, more of a concerned look.

“The war against the Terran Vindicators.” He nods. “The Primus have been on their edge for a long time now. And I don’t think he’ll call it a day until their reign is vanquished.”

“Why are we fighting against them?”

The soldier steals a glance to the ongoing convoy before replying.

Caitlyn follows his gaze. There’s another eight-wheeler climbing up the road. It has a different shape and seemingly more compact than the trucks. Its top is relatively flat; slightly curving at the front, meeting the bottom section of the hull which also has a curved front. What’s notable to her is the bulge on top of its hull with a flat top that has a long pole-like object sticking out of it. There are another two smaller ones perching on the bulge.

“I suggest you check the fair, ma’am. I believe the commissar there can do a better job explaining than me.”

The ground quakes harder as the soldier finishes his sentence. A vehicle emerges in front of Caitlyn. One that is roughly comparable as the previous two in size, but has such a distinct form that kept Caitlyn’s eyes wide and fixed.

It has seven wheels on each side. Unlike the other two, they are not encased in rubber tires. Instead, they are attached side by side and sewn together by what appears to be a metallic belt that circumvent the wheels as the vehicle rolls through the road. Only half of the formation is visible from the bottom up, the rest is concealed by its extended side-hull. Its overall shape is relatively rectangular with a curving on its front. It also has a similar bulge with the previous vehicle as well as a pole-like object sticking out of it. Only many times larger. The pole object even extends beyond the frontmost tip of its hull. And the bulge is not just a bulge; rather a combination of a skewed nonagon and a rectangle.

“That there is a tank, ma’am.” The solider says to her, seemingly noticing that she has her wide-open eyes directed at that vehicle. “Very lethal, when supported.”

“A tank.”

“I think you have some interest in the field. I highly recommend you visit the fair. All Androids like you are fit for the job. The splendid wages and prestige are the cherry on top of that.” The soldier says to her in a friendly tone.


Another tank passes by. It hooks Caitlyn’s attention again as it climbs the road. She watches it disappear to the other side. Nothing else follows that tank.

“Guess that’s the last of it.” The solider says, stepping aside. “Sorry for the inconvenience, ma’am. You may proceed now.”

“Thank you, sir.” Caitlyn smiles and nods at him.

She has a grocery task this morning. Her mind lingers at the sight that she has just beheld. The vehicle looks surreal at first glance. But they are truly distinctive and don’t seem like it could be found parking on one side of the streets. She wants to believe she is not seeing things. Thus, she decides to head for the fair the grocery. That led to a double time. Without her realizing, she is now marching at an unusually fast pace.

Caitlyn arrives at the fair thirty minutes later. Having procured all the items in her shopping list, her left arm is occupied for holding the bag stuffed with the groceries. The town centre sees a lot of people coalescing around the military personnel in the area. A Proxy is standing in front of his tent demonstrating his rifle. A group of female personnel with a uniform similar to her are establishing a tent. Some men are seen erecting what appears to be a shooting target inside the tent. Beside them are mannequins wearing various uniforms, including the maid ones. A handful of the crowds stop by to admire their elegance.

The commotion is further amplified by a man standing on an elevated position yelling through a loudspeaker. Caitlyn gazes at him as she walks past.

“Rise o’ children of the motherland! Our enemies have once more took up arms to snatch The Primus’ blessing from us!” The man waves his arm around as he utters his words. “Are we going to let those thralls impose their superstitious views upon us!? Are we going to let the same view that once brought only bloodbath to our people return!? We shall teach them our way instead! We shall liberate them from their wretched belief! And the beacon of knowledge, the beacon of science established by The Primus himself, shall pull them out of the filth just like it once did with us! Scientia, victrix!”

The beacon of science…

The Primus employed all the scholars, teachers, thinkers, and researchers at his disposal to mass-educate the citizens once he consolidated his rule. It transforms the Artificial Creationist from a divine decree driven state into a nation with reason as the order of the day. The people are either developing a concept, or supporting the development of a concept. That is perhaps the beacon of science the man is referring to. One novelty the ArC still holds to this day is the ability to mass-produce high-quality Androids for civil and military use. Caitlyn is one of them.

The Terran Vindicators are looking to replace them with something else. The man calls it superstitious views. The country appears to have had a grim past with them. A bloody one if his words are to be taken. Perhaps that is the reason they are fighting them. If any of it rings inside her is that uniting for a cause is better than a free for all battle royale.

The man proceeds along those lines. His thundering voice is probably heard from anywhere across the small town.

A few steps back behind him is another sight that caught Caitlyn’s eyes. A female officer with a service cap. The ArC insignia shines bright in its face. Her brown hair is straight past her shoulder. There is a tiny braid behind her right ear, to which a denim ribbon is hanging. She is wearing a black double-breasted greatcoat with golden trims tightened on her waist by a silver belt; her white shirt as well as the frills and a pin attached to its collar underneath are visible. The coat has a turnback at the front that reveals her legs. For her bottoms, there are folded skirt that goes about her knee and a pair of tightened boots both of black shade.

The young woman suddenly meets Caitlyn’s gaze, seemingly noticing that she is being watched. Caitlyn immediately flinches away her face. It remains that way until she is way past her. She keeps making her way through the commotion until she finds the mesmerizing vehicle parked on one corner of the fair.

“Tanks…” She says before trotting closer.

A group of people is surrounding the area. Some are gazing at the mighty vehicle. A handful has their attention fixed to a crewman handing explanation, possibly a commander. Caitlyn approaches him, slipping amidst the townsfolk for a better view. As soon as she got the better hearing of what the crewman is saying,

“Who would like a free ride?”

A free ride…

Sounds like an opportunity for her to be in that tank thing. It has to be something to ride on those giant cars. Thus,

“Ah, yes!” The crewman responds excitedly. “You ma’am with the maid uniform. Thank you for raising your hand.” He points at Caitlyn.

“Huh?” She looks around confusingly.

Only then she realizes that she raised her hand. She just got here. The crewman’s offer is the only sentence from him that catches her ears. She hasn’t heard any explanation at all. Yet for some reason, she decides to pounce at that offer.

The crowds around shift slightly, enough for her to move.

“Uh, okay…” She jerks her head before stepping forward.

“What a fine maid to ride our tank.” The crewman says to her.

“Thanks.” Caitlyn smiles and nods.

“Allow me to keep an eye over that grocery of yours.”

Caitlyn hands over the grocery before climbing up to the driver hatch in front of the turret; the driver who had been sitting there climbed out of his hatch when she took the offer and assist her.

“Easy…” The driver says to her as she puts her legs inside. “There we go. If you wish to pop your head out of the hatch, just stand at the seat okay?”

“Okay.” Caitlyn says to him. She turns to the crowds for a brief second and is amazed at the fact that she can now see the top of everyone’s head. A fascinating sight. Everyone was pretty much taller than her a few moments ago.

“Now sit down, ma’am. We’ll drive you soon.” The driver jumps down from the tank’s hull. Caitlyn finds that odd.

“Wait, who’s going to drive?” She asks the man.

The man then slams his fist into the side hull of the tank. “Get moving, she is in place.” He says to the tank. Meanwhile his partner who is holding her grocery disperse the crowd slightly more.

“Alright, ma’am.”

Caitlyn flinches at the suddenly heard rough voice seemingly emerging out of nowhere.

“First, I want you to sit down nicely. I’m down here.” The voice says.

Caitlyn does what the voice asks of her. On her front is a control panel with series of buttons, levers, and a steer that she doesn’t understand. She quickly notices a glowing screen to her right, on the interior across her. It shows a line that wiggles continuously.

“Good, now you see me. At least, my interface.” The wiggles intensify as the voice speaks.

“You can talk?”

“I’m basically you manifesting a vehicular form.” The voice says. “Though not exactly since I’m a male, but you get my point.”

“Huh…” Caitlyn tilts her head.

“My name is Zalatovich by the way. I’m the one that’s taking you for a drive.” The tank says to her. “Now, sit tight. We’re going off.”

The engine roars as soon as he finishes that statement. The tank moves shortly after.

“Whoa.” Caitlyn exclaims as the sudden boost pushes her toward the seat.

The tank strolls for a lap through the countryside. Caitlyn pops her head out of the hatch when the vehicle stabilizes. The breeze streams against her face. A chilling stream of air under the warmth of the day. They cruise through gardens, wheat and flower fields, as well as houses. In the

distances are mountains scraping the skies. Her face is beaming at the spectacle. All appears to be oddly shorter as she gazes upon them.

“So, how do you like it?”

“All of you can move by yourself then?” Caitlyn asks him.

“There is a switch for that actually. It just happens that my commander granted me full control for this affair.”

“Can you rotate your…uh…” Caitlyn pauses. Not knowing what the term is, she continues “head?”

“It is called turret, ma’am. Yes, I can. Here…” Zalatovich raises his barrel and rotates his turret as soon as he says that.

“Woahh…” Caitlyn skips a blink. Her attention is all to the turret as it rotates.


Apart from its impressive stature, the vehicle also has a built-in software that could interact with the crew as well as operating it. Caitlyn realizes that she has never been this amazed in her life before. It must have been spectacular for those who get to ride them on a daily basis. Watching the enemies run as one of them barges in is probably a common sight for the crews.

Eventually Zalatovich reaches the fair again. “Consider enlisting ma’am. We shall appreciate you dearly. We’re departing in six days.”

Enlisting means she has to leave her household behind. All the problems it is suffering from won’t follow her into the war. Which sounds like an escapism from a certain view. An act of denying the reality presenting before her. An act of cowardice.

Caitlyn couldn’t stop thinking about it as she makes her way back home. The Proxy she met at the intersection claims that the salary for their service is impressive. However, she is not sure whether that is worth leaving her mother and sisters behind. Not to mention Ilyavna. Worse her death would harm them even more.

It is noon when she reaches the intersection where she saw the convoy. Two men in black suit is standing on the other end of the crossing. One of them notices her presence. She tries not to bother with them as she crosses the road. Unfortunately, they fall on her as soon as she reached the other side.

“Good afternoon, ma’am.” One of them says.

Caitlyn inches away slightly. But she doesn’t feel threatened thanks to the Proxy from before watching them. As far as she knows, he will commit non-lethal wound to those insisting agitations to citizen.

“Afternoon, sir.” Caitlyn squints as she meets the men’s faces; the sun slightly messing with her view.

“We suspect you are associated with Klara Zhel’niyya.”

Caitlyn’s eyes widen as the name is mentioned. “She is my mother.”

“Perfect.” The man snaps his fingers. “Now, please listen to me ma’am. We’d like to pay for your troubles.”

Caitlyn raises an eyebrow. “Excuse me?”

“Your family is in quite of a debt, isn’t it?”

“How do you know?” Caitlyn tilts her head.

The man smashes his palms against each other. “Well there’s no need for that.” He states that sentence quickly. “Let’s just say, you’re going to be free of that soon enough.”


“Of course.”

His partner hands him a pad as well as an electronic pen.

“Just sign right here.” The man shoves the pad to her.

All her problems flashes to mind as she stares at the blank white screen of the pad. She has to overcome her slacking behaviour. The household conditions already don’t favour them. She must not add to their burden.

That, or…

Paying the debt.

And now there are two men offering to do it for them. Clearly a chance to save her family.

“I don’t have a sign.”

“Just, write your name then.” The man nods.


Caitlyn takes the pen and write her name on the pad. The two men then withdrew their gadgets as quickly as they pulled them out.

“Thank you for your cooperation, ma’am.” He says again. “I can assure you that you’ve made the right choice.”

They then turn around and walk away from her.

Caitlyn sighs a relief. It’ll be over soon. Their debt will be lifted. Her mother and sisters will surely be grateful for it.

“Good day, ma’am.” The Proxy guarding the intersection greets her as she continues walking by.

Back home, she finds Gvozdika on the front. It doesn’t take long until she notices Caitlyn. The young woman nonchalantly crosses her arms. Caitlyn rushes toward her.

“Where have you been?” Gvozdika asks as Caitlyn reaches her.

“I…uh…” Caitlyn rubs the back of her head. “There is a…recruitment fair.” She sinks to herself, pointing her indexes to her right.

“Recruitment fair?” Gvozdika tilts her head.

Caitlyn nods, “Yes.”

“You don’t intend of joining, do you?”

“Of course not, Sister Gvozdika.” She says, smiling hesitantly. “No way I’m interested in what they are up to.”

Gvozdika takes a deep breath. “We need that grocery for breakfast.” She shrugs. “But I guess you came just in time for lunch.”

Caitlyn hands the grocery to her per her request.

“Now sweep the lawn, Sister Caitlyn. And please…actually do it this time.”

Caitlyn presents a single nod. A short but sure gesture. She proceeds to grab a broomstick and begin doing what’s asked of her. Her shoulder light, knowing that this burden on her family will be over soon.

The day quickly turns dark. All the children are already asleep.

When Caitlyn is wiping the kitchen sink…

“CAITLYN!!!” A thundering voice calls to her.

She turns around and finds Gloria striding toward her at an unusual speed and might in each step.

“Sister Gloria.” She greets her. But she doesn’t show a sign of stopping anytime soon. The frown on her face grows ever more evident as she is closing in. Her left palm is clenching. On her right hand is a letter and an envelope.

Without a warning, she yanks Caitlyn’s uniform near the collar; her left fist tight on it.

“What have you done!?” The tone on her last word is higher than the rest.

Gravlya and Giriltsa emerges from the corners at Gloria’s yell.

“Huh…?” Caitlyn stutters. She really has no idea what she did.

Gloria casts the papers on her right hand aside and shoves Caitlyn down with both of her hands against the kitchen sink. Her back slams against the shelves while her head just hit its edge. Caitlyn dares to raises her sight. She finds before her a wrath incarnate.

Gloria hangs the letter she was carrying in front of Caitlyn’s face. Caitlyn finds a statement written as clear as the war on the horizon.

…the approval to yield the properties of Gregori Zhel’niyya to Prime Respite…

Signed, Grauwelle Caitlyn.

Caitlyn’s core sinks. It is as if she is just shot point blank with a tank’s main gun.

“You sold us out, you MUG!”

“I’m sorry, Sister Gloria.” Caitlyn pants as she utters those words. “I didn’t know it would be like this.”

How could she know? No one informed her beforehand. She really thought those two men would help without any repercussion such as written.

“Oh…right…you didn’t know.” Gloria rolls her eyes, turning around. Gravlya and Giriltsa walks closer as she does that. “Guess it’s right for me to be here then,” She turns her attention back at Caitlyn, nodding at her. “Because it’s time to teach you a lesson!”

Her harsh words are followed by a severe kick to Caitlyn’s chest.

“Aaghh!” Caitlyn presses her hands against the part where Gloria’s foot landed.

Gloria chuckles. “Good thing they installed pain receptors on you, eh?” She sweeps the back of her feet against Caitlyn’s left abdomen.

“Grrghh!” Caitlyn cowers as she strives to minimize the pain. Her body collapses sideway.

Then another kick; as powerful as a football player’s penalty. But instead of a ball, it is Caitlyn’s stomach.


“I should’ve done this a long time ago!” Gloria yells again.

“That’s right, make her repent.” Giriltsa adds to that in a loud and flat tone.

Caitlyn pulls her legs closer. But then Gloria stomps on her right waist. She slowly raises her shaking hands at Gloria.

“P-please Sister Gloria…I’m sorry.” She stutters.

“Sorry doesn’t help us in any way.” Gloria replies. She follows it up with a kick to Caitlyn’s face.

Then another.

And another.

She thought for a moment that her sisters would appreciate her deed. How naive that thought is. How poorly that aged.

Gloria pants as she takes a step back. It appears that she is merely taking a break. It is when she hears something rolling on the kitchen sink. Caitlyn steals a peek. A dough roll is now on Gloria’s hands.

The pain starts to grow unbearable for her. She is recently activated anyway. Caitlyn eventually gives up. With her heavy breath, she musters her strength to acquire a deep one and relaxes herself. All she would do now is to cover her head. Not to minimize the pain, but to conceal the sight of what Gloria is about to do next.

“I don’t remember agreeing for you to be here…” Gloria says, slamming the dough roll to Caitlyn’s face. The crash is heard across the house.

“And so far…you only make our life harder!” The dough roll again crashes against Caitlyn’s face.

“You should just DIE!” Gloria slams Caitlyn for the third time.

Then the fourth.

And fifth.


Caitlyn’s body is shaking on the floor. Her arms lie flaccid before her face as she lost the strength to lift them. Gloria raises the dough roll again for another score. But that’s when a hand grabs her wrist.

“That’s enough!”

Gloria looks over her shoulder and finds Gvozdika standing firm behind her. She shakes her arm trying to break loose from her grip.

“Let…go!” She exclaims.

Gvozdika does what she says after she yanks her arm for the third time. Then Gloria shoves the letter to her sister’s face.

“You see this, Gvozdika!? She just doomed us all!”

Gvozdika grabs the letter from her. Her eyes moving left and right as she process the text.

“This place now belongs to Prime Respite, that damned corporate entity, thanks to this piece of junk!” Gloria yells again. “She destroyed what father had strived for years to create! She has to be punished! SHE HAS TO PAY!” With all her might she lifts the dough roll high just as her statement ended.

But Gvozdika is quicker. She pulls her back—the moment force enough to turn her around—and slap her face.

“I said enough!” Gvozdika’s tone shocks her sisters. It is one raised to a level never before heard by any of them. “Stand down, Sister Gloria! She doesn’t know.”

Gloria shoots a bitter glare at her.

“You are not the Gloria I know.” Gvozdika says. “Go back to your room, immediately! Whoever you are!”

Gloria sniffles. She then stomps the floor before striding away, throwing the dough roll down in the process. Gvozdika grabs it as it rolls. Her sight is turned to her other sisters when she stands up. They’re still standing there with half-lidded eyes, avoiding Gvozdika’s glance.

“You both aren’t exceptions.”

Gravlya and Giriltsa walks away like nothing happened.

Gvozdika crouches on a knee before Caitlyn once she returned the dough roll.

Caitlyn is panting as she struggles to push herself up with her feeble arms. Her chest feels heavy in addition to the pain. And she realizes that her eyes become wet as a tear trickle down to the floor.

“Sister Caitlyn,” Gvozdika grabs her left shoulder. “It’s okay…”

Her whimpering grows. Three more droplets of tear hit the floor. Gvozdika inches closer to her, positioning her face just beside her weeping sister.

“Hush…” She whispers. “It’s okay, Sister Caitlyn. It’s okay. Don’t worry.”

Caitlyn knows that she didn’t mean those words. How could selling out the entire orphanage and its orchard is okay? It is their only residence and their only way to make a living. How could one not worry about where should they live afterward? Most notably, how could she be okay should something happened to her mother when she heard of this additional burden?

Gvozdika is about to pull Caitlyn closer when she suddenly shoves herself away from her. She quickly rises on her feet before nimbly trudging away; her left arm holding her stomach. Once she is inside her room, she shut the door—locking it—and cower inside the enclosure of her blanket. There she sinks her face to her knee and let her tears run free.

Why does this have to happen? Why it has to be me? Who have I wronged? Why would anyone do this to me?

No daylight touches her for the next five days. She doesn’t bother to open the curtains. There are knocking on the door several times. She doesn’t bother to respond either. Not even when Ilyavna is behind it. Her room is on the second floor and has no balcony. Hence no one could enter without breaking a furniture or two.

Gvozdika once more stands before the door at the evening.

“Sister Caitlyn, please…open up.” She asks in her ever-gentle voice. “I want to talk to you.”

Caitlyn pulls her blanket closer. Her pain is probably nothing compared to Gvozdika’s. She is the oldest after all. Thus, being an example is mandatory for her. Being persistent in her job while keeping the household together in the face of harsh reality has probably shoved plenty if not hundreds of swords through her back. Caitlyn fears that she adds into them a single force of a giant hammer that pushes those swords even deeper. How could she face her after that?

“Caitlyn please…” Gvozdika knocks again. “It’s just between us. Please…”

At this point, Caitlyn lost count how many times she pledges. She is such a determined woman. If she couldn’t enter per Caitlyn’s consent today, she will return the next day. And it will go over and over again. So, it’s probably better to let her in now. She saved her too anyway.

Caitlyn hesitantly rises from her bed and opens the locks on the door. She then returns to her bed and cover her body with the blanket again.

The door creaks. Gvozdika gently enters the room and shut the door.

She hears her approaching her bed. Her hand reaches for the curtain. But Caitlyn grips the curtain just as she does.

“Please, don’t.”

“Isn’t it too dark for you?”

Caitlyn shakes her head.

Gvozdika proceeds to light a candle which she then puts on a desk. She pulls a chair beside Caitlyn’s bed and sit there.

“Sister Caitlyn, I appreciate that you want to change our situation for the better.”

“But I did it wrong, didn’t I?”

“Well…” Gvozdika sighs. “It is my fault. I should have told you.”

Caitlyn pulls her blanket tighter.

“Prime Respite found us shortly after we’re in debt. For years they have offered us to pay for it, in exchange for our properties. And for years, I have rejected their offer.” Gvozdika turns her attention to the walls and ceilings of Caitlyn’s room. “This mansion is father’s legacy. It is a witness to his sweat and blood. They have to get through me if they wanted to grip this place.”

“Now it belongs to them, isn’t it?”

Gvozdika flinches her head. “Sort of…”

“Sort of?” Caitlyn’s eyes widen.

Gvozdika nods. “I took this matter to court. They manipulated you to sign the deal with them. It is against the regulation. So, they aren’t allowed to touch this place for the next twelve years. In fact, they are prohibited from entering this region at all.”

Caitlyn turns slightly to her sister. “I’m not hearing things, am I?”

“No, you’re not. Being a corporation, screwing up can cost you dearly. But we have to pay them away within that timespan if we wish to keep this place. The sum is…too much given our capabilities. I am only confident in keeping this mansion.”

“I see.” Caitlyn returns her sight back to the walls before her.

Gvozdika turns away. “I’m sorry for what happened to you. I could have prevented it, but…”

“I understand, Sister Gvozdika.”

“I’ll make sure the others apologize to you. One way or another.”

Caitlyn gently nods.

“We can make it. As long as we stick together and not giving up, I believe we can.”

Caitlyn takes a moment to appreciate her. She finds comfort in her soothing voice. Turns out the way she looked down on her isn’t really genuine. She does care for her, even concerned. Maybe she was just tired when she heard Caitlyn haven’t finished her job. It felt like she is actually sick of her behaviour. But then realizing that she lacks the energy to change that, she is forced to accept it. Who can blame her after all her responsibilities?

“I will start working tomorrow.”

Gvozdika raises her attention to her. “You don’t have to. If you still need time you can-”

“I insist.”

Her words halt Gvozdika’s. A smile is her first response to that. “Very well. But take it easy, okay?”

Caitlyn nods.

“That’s all I have to say.” Gvozdika stands up. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Hearing the footsteps of her sister, Caitlyn twists her body. She finds Gvozdika walking back to the door. Something urges her to move. So, she rises up and trots to her.

“Sister Gvozdika…” She calls her.

In a split second after Gvozdika turns around, Caitlyn wraps her arms around her.

“Thank you. Thank you very much.”

Gvozdika rubs her hair. “Anything for my youngest sister.”

Caitlyn tightens her embrace. “I love you, Sister Gvozdika.”

Gvozdika wraps her arm around Caitlyn. She pats and rubs her back.

“We love you too, Sister Caitlyn. Don’t ever act like we don’t.”

Caitlyn doesn’t feel like letting go. The embrace is such a solace for her. She still holds the responsibility for what she did. But at least she can now be at ease with it. Deep down she wishes to be the one who pulls the swords out of her and mend her wounds.

They gently let go one minute later. Gvozdika returns to her work while Caitlyn returns to her bed as soon as she locks the door again.

Paying the debt is now out of the table apparently. There is no shortcut to that. Her option therefore is to change her behaviour. From a slack to disciplined. Who could provide better guarantee…

…than the military?

Caitlyn grips her hands. Another chance to set things right is there. The Proxies will shape her discipline into its utmost rigorous form. And if what the Proxy at the intersection meant what he said, the salary could full Prime Respite’s hands so they won’t lay it on her family’s properties. Those sweet promises however, comes at an unsettling yet obvious risk.


The ArC is mobilizing for a war. As far as she is aware of, people die there. A lot of them both humans and Androids. Caitlyn could no longer perceive that as dreadful as it’s supposed to be. Because it’s her only path to salvation. Besides, she is an Android. It would at least take more than what’s required to kill a human. She believes that she could get through when she does her best.

Caitlyn takes a deep breath.

She promised to Gvozdika to start working tomorrow. But she didn’t specify what work is she about to do. Moreover, the fair is scheduled to leave tomorrow as Zalatovich said.

“So be it…”

Caitlyn picks a sheet of paper and a pen in her room and begin writing a letter. Then she grabs a duffle bag and fills it with her things, mostly two set of clothing beside the uniform she is wearing. Once everyone is asleep, right at one hour before midnight, she rushes to a convenience store which opens for twenty-four hours and purchases some cooking ingredients.

Back home, she unloads her grocery and begin mixing measures of them. Her product meets its completion two hours later. A cake with chocolate icing and white frosting along its top and bottom circumference. She returns to her room and packs her bag as well as her letter. Caitlyn gently intrudes her mother’s room; finding her still asleep. She tip-toe closer and kisses her in the forehead.

“Farewell, mother.” She whispers. “I will atone for what I did. I will fix our situation.”

Once she shut the door, she heads down to the dining table and put the letter beside the cake. She then tucks a candle in the centre. A single candle that represents her age, the relative amount of time since her activation. Caitlyn takes a deep breath after covering the cake with a food cover.

“Here I go.”

Caitlyn leaves the mansion once more and rushes for where the fair was. There she boards a truck along with several people that just make it. And as dawn break on the horizon, the convoy makes their departure.

Her seat is next to the open end of the container. She watches in awe as her hometown grows ever smaller. All the while recalling what she has written in her letter.

Dear my beloved mother and sisters…

I hope you will all do fine in my absence. Don’t let it be known that contempt drove me into this, rather my love for all of you. I apologize for making the past year harder for all of you. I don’t intent for that to be. Now I’m in safe hands. The Proxies will take care of me. They will surely change me. And while that is happening, you don’t have to drag me around like you always did.

I promise that upon my return, I will be a different Caitlyn. The one who will make you proud. The one who will stand on her own feet and carry years’ worth of weight which have been sitting on your shoulder. But before that, I first have to do my duty.

To serve the ArC.

To serve The Primus.

To serve science.

Scientia, victrix.

Sincerely, Grauwelle Caitlyn.

P.S. Please take care of Ilyavna for me.

Writer: PrimDom

Gray Katie (Writchal Edition)

Entry Writchal #3
Tema: Hidup-Mati

Dark fumes rise to the heavens. The field reeks of burnt metals. Caitlyn hesitantly reopens her eyes; she thought the blast consumed her. She screens her face with an arm as she supports her body with her other arm. The battle vehicle that once stood there with all his pride, the symbol of ArC’s ground dominance, is now left in flames. It has become nothing more than a hunk of aesthetically strewn together metals; its parts are scattered all around, never returning home.

Amidst the barren parts is her android comrade lying just several inches beside her, her face is to the ground. Caitlyn crawls to her position and flips her around. The body remains there motionless. Her eyes are fixed to the reddish gradient of the sky, blanketing the field. She let out a deep breath as she reaches for her face, closing her eyes. Inside, she wishes that her storage memory could be recovered. The universal design doesn’t allow that to instil sentience in the Androids. So, when they fell in battle, their memories, personalities, and anything that makes them a person is gone. The unit, if recoverable, will be salvaged and recycled to give birth to a new one.

Caitlyn then catches a growing rumble. A glance to one side brings her a sight of three squad of Vindicators’ Guards supported by their tank, Gauntlet, advancing to her position. They are most likely catching up with the rest of their lines. But that requires them to march past her.

So, Caitlyn stands up to her feet as soon as possible and begin sprinting away from them.

Decisions have always been a gamble, especially amidst the heat of a battle. She thought she could dive through the flank of that exposed Vindicator’s land-ship and deals some damage. The damage however, is negligible, and that maneuver just cost her the entire platoon. Four tanks lost in exchange for nothing.

And now she has three squads of enemy infantries and a tank on her tail, especially when one of them has spotted her.

The Gauntlet’s machine gun opens fire at her. She raises her arms, shielding her head from tiny shrapnel and dust that kicks off as the cartridges fall just short of her. It appears that the shot is not intended for harm, merely to pin her down. But she doesn’t intend to let herself fell captive to those grunts in crimson-outlined armor.

Caitlyn keeps on running. Her effort eventually brought her to a wooded region. There, a concussive grenade round unfortunately struck a tree trunk beside her, toppling her balance, blurring her sight. Then another one falls and her back hits the ground again.

“Ghh…huh…!” She grunts as she quickly attempting to regain herself.

But a squad of Guards is already on her, weapons trained to her heads. She decelerates her breath and, with a heavy heart, she raises her hands.

As soon as one of the Guards is about to pull her up, the ground behind the Guards burst out dirt as far as about a quarter up the tree trunks. Caitlyn screens her face as the dirt rains on her. As the Guards’ attentions turn elsewhere, they are met by a hail of machine gun fire. The barrage takes three Guards down, before the remainder of the squad scatters away like they have just seen eldritch superstitions.

“You, there!” A rough male voice blaring through her utilizer. “At your eight!”

Caitlyn turns around, surprised to find an ArC tank a hundred meters from her, still in his ghillie coat. She makes haste toward its position with no second thought.

“Thank you.” She says, her breath heavy.

“Thank me later, lady.” A voice from the tank says. “We gotta get out of here first. My crew is dead, and I am left on manual drive as they passed.”

She doesn’t need the voice to say it again. They are both in a precarious situation. And the only way out can be achieved through cooperation. Besides, the ArC can’t afford to provide their nemesis with an intact technology of their own. She has to command the tank.

“I’m going to turn on your autopilot.” She says to the voice.

“Yes, hand over my tracks back.”

Caitlyn turns her glance around her for a second before climbing up the tank and enter through the turret hatch. Two motionless body greets her as she reaches the tank’s interior.

“They’re both humans. A rocket scores a direct hit and the shockwaves took those poor souls.” The voice says.

Caitlyn takes a deep breath and casts aside her sentiment for the moment. For if she doesn’t make it, if the tank doesn’t make it, there would be no one to attend their funeral. She steps over them, reaching for the tank’s control panel. Her fingers run swift on a keyboard, typing a command that grants the tank the ability to steer themselves.

“There we go!” The voice yells, seemingly relieved, as soon as Caitlyn pressed a button on the keyboard. A sudden jerk of movement follows, throwing Caitlyn’s head against the tank’s interior nearest to her. “Sorry, for that.”

“It’s okay.” Caitlyn rubs her head. “Now get us out of here.” She says to the voice.

The engine rumbles louder and the interior begins to vibrates as the tank turns and increases its speed.

“By the way,” The voice speaks again. “Since I’m about to go wild to drive us home, get those safeties off me and man the weapons, got it?”

For a moment she thought she is going to be the one who would provide the orders. Instead it’s the other way around. In terms of survivability however, it doesn’t matter who gives the order. One just has to trust the other party they are cooperating with.

Caitlyn taps on some buttons on a panel beside the keyboard and flicks a lever. “Safeties off and manual weapon system on.”

“Here we go!”

She holds on as the tank accelerates past the redline. Safeties off allows enhanced movement feature such as more speed and sensitive turning. Those features have proven to be advantageous in moments that requires quick armoured response. But they are harmful to the tank’s integrity. Using them continuously in a long duration or within short but frequent timespan with no repairs in between could cause significant breakdowns.

Right now, withdrawing is the top priority. So breaking past the tank’s limit is an essential decision that Caitlyn has to take.  She just hopes that he could last long enough until they return to friendly lines.

Suddenly Caitlyn catches a loud rumble. The tank’s hull is being hailed by a rain of dirt as shown by the screens which is connected to the tank’s optic. It appears something is aiming for them but missed.

“Is that a Gauntlet firing at us from behind?” The voice says.

Caitlyn scrambles to turn the tank’s periscope behind. She takes a closer look to one of the screens. There she indeed finds an enemy tank dashing through the trees, slowly creeping towards them.

“Yes, it is.”

Another shell lands near them, barely hitting the tank’s engine compartment.

“For Primus’ sake, that was close!”

“We have to do something.” Caitlyn says.

“I thought we’re rushing straight back to base.”

“Their next shot is going to land at us. I doubt your integrity is enough to withstand an AP round from that thing.”

“Alright,” The voice sighs. “Pull the smoke triggers and hang on tight.”

Caitlyn presses a button that launches smoke grenades from both sides of the main gun on the front side of the turret. Each fragment in a split second they reached mid-air, creating a white smoke screen that should obscure the visions of their chaser. A second later they emerge on a relatively flat plain. The tank turns hard right, drifting in the process. And as soon as its front hull turned, it slams the reverse gear. With the presence of the smoke screen, that Gauntlet won’t discover that the tank’s turret is aimed at their left when it emerges from the wooded area.

Not long after, the screen extrudes and shifts along a metal vehicle that clears through them.

“Fire!” The voice yells.

Caitlyn pulls the trigger. Another rumble followed up by flames bursting from the target vehicle.

“Got him.” Caitlyn wanted to cheer out, but her composure doesn’t allow her to.

“Nice shot, lady!”

Caitlyn just nods.

The tank turns left and cranks up his speed again. As he does so, a voice comes through the interior speaker as well as Caitlyn’s utilizer.

“51st Tank Platoon, are you the friendly triangle behind the crimson line?”

            Crimson line? Caitlyn freezes for a moment. She wishes that the phrase never has to come through the audio system.

“Command, please specify ‘crimson line’ over.” Inside, she already knows what that supposed to mean. She is just still too petrified on what that implies.

“There’s a whole Guards battalion ahead of your position. And a platoon of Gauntlet just broke off to meet you. Contact ETA 30 seconds.”

Just as she thought. As far as her experience went, fate has never been kind to her.

An enemy tank platoon, at the moment, consists of three Gauntlet battle tanks and various support units. Each has more armour than her own. On normal occasions they can still go toe to toe, holding each other in place while reinforcements swing around and deals with the other for good. Usually it is IFVs equipped with AT rockets, but sometimes squads of infantries with anti-tank missiles could do the job as well.

In this case however, the Gauntlets outnumber hers. In addition to that is the wavering hull integrity of the tank, thanks to the rocket hit. She is sure that one or two shots from the Gauntlet could turn her tank into a ball of flame, even from the front.

“Requesting support over. We can’t hand over this tank to the enemy!” Caitlyn replies frantically through her utilizer.

“The 12th Combined Proxy Company shall break through the battalions and hold a point for three minutes. If you don’t find yourself there when that time runs out, destroy that tank immediately.”

“But sir-”

The transmission cuts.

“Damn it!” Caitlyn slams her thigh.

“It’s just you and me now lady.” The voice comes through again. “I believe in you.”

The tank believes in her. For the first time ever, a tank entrusts his life to her. She doesn’t even believe in herself. Not after the shenanigans that costs her an entire platoon. It’s even a fortune that she is here at the moment. And that’s because that concussive round fell on her just some distance from an abandoned tank.

“Hey lady…” Caitlyn raises her head as the tank addresses her. “Have you ever enabled safeties off before?”

Caitlyn recalls her experience of working with tanks of the same design before. “I don’t think I have.”

“Did you know that my loader would also go wild under that condition?”

“If you meant faster…”

Caitlyn’s words are interrupted by a loud rumble. A shell lands just in front of the tank, barely missing him again.

“Contact! Direction 45.” The voice yells. “Yes, yes. I meant faster.”

Caitlyn sees three crimson triangles on the radar screen advancing toward her. Peering through the periscope, the enemy tanks look just as real and menacing. There’s no more time for her to think. She has to make another decision.

She quickly brings up a screen that shows the terrain in a kilometre radius from her. On one corner she spots a sort of an orchard with dense foliage.

“Take us uphill, toward that vegetations at 330.” Caitlyn says while pulling the smoke triggers twice in a considerate interval. The screens not only obscure vision, but also disrupt radar, concealing the vehicle for a brief moment.

“Got it.” The voice replies. The tank turns toward that direction.

Caitlyn fires another smoke screen just as the tank about to enter the orchard.

“Just so you know that’s my last smoke screen.”

“I’m aware of it.” She nods. “Don’t worry, we’ll make it. I’m putting a waypoint on the screen, take up position there.”

“Heading over.”

“Turn off any lightings you have.”

Darkness is already upon them. The tank is still covered in his ghillie coat. With the help of the foliage, those Gauntlets should have a hard time finding them here.

“All flashy things are off.”

If they indeed decide to scour the orchard. Caitlyn doesn’t wish to stay put while knowing a company is bleeding their way to clear a path for her. That’s just doesn’t seem fair to her. She has to put some effort, to do her part. She has to fight back.

“Now we wait.” Caitlyn says, gently touching one side of the interior to her left. “Then let’s see how fast your loader works under safeties off.”


Then the radar picks up the three Gauntlets ahead of them heading to their left, seemingly unaware of their position. Caitlyn’s gaze falls at the periscope screen ensuring that the enemy tanks are there.

“Do you see them?”

“I see them.”

Caitlyn trains the main gun at the lead tank. Her attention leers for a brief moment to the amount of AP rounds available. It is enough. She then takes a deep breath.

“Here we go!” She says, pressing the fire button hard.

The main gun of the tank roars again. Followed up by another, shortly. And another. And another. Five shells are fired toward the enemy’s lead tank in quick succession. Two falls short. One got deflected and the other two disables the main gun. The other two turns their turret as soon as the shells hit.

“That was fast.” Caitlyn astonished.

“I told you.” The voice replies. “Anyway, no time for cheers. They’re on to us now. What’s your next plan.”

“Charge them.” She says. “Full speed ahead.”

The cabin is silent for a moment.


“I said charge!” Caitlyn raises her tone. “Go, go, go!”

The tank jerks forward before going downhill at an incredible speed. The inclination allows them to reach such pace in a short amount of time. Caitlyn brings herself to a seat and straps the safety belt.

“I don’t like the looks of this.”

“Don’t stop!” Caitlyn yells again. She turns the turret ninety-degrees to the left.

The Gauntlet they’re rushing to perhaps know what they’re up to now. But it is too late for them. As they’re turning their front hull to Caitlyn’s direction…

“Arrgh!” The voice grunts

Two pieces of steel collides under the dim glare of the stars. The head-shattering noise echoes to the corner of the plains; every critter that caught them tremble and scatter in terror. The crash is enough to throw Caitlyn’s head to the interior in front of her again. Even in the presence of the tightly strapped safety belt. Of course, being an Android, she is able to withstand the slight metallic bump on her forehead.

Caitlyn hastily releases the safety belt and scrambles to the weapon system again.

“Hit the reverse gear and turn right!” She says.

The tank reverses and turns to the right, circling behind the Gauntlets’ formation. The one that they crashed into doesn’t show any further movement. Perhaps the crash is sufficient to knock out the crew.

“My head is still ringing from that crash.”

“You don’t have one.”

“If I had one.”

Caitlyn turns the turret toward the immobilized tank and fires straight to the engine compartment on their rear. The 125mm AP round shot through a rifled barrel makes a quick work through the Gauntlet’s rear hull and butchered its engine. As Caitlyn turns the turret to face the last Gauntlet, she notices where its turret is aiming. And on a whim…

Stop! Stop! Now!” She yells, slamming on the cabin’s walls while holding tight on something. And just after they stops, the ground in front of them burst dirt to the air. A shell just landed there, barely hitting them.

“That was too close!”

Caitlyn presses the fire button, launching two consecutive shot toward the Gauntlet’s side, slightly to the rear. The enemy tank then burst into flames.

“Ha! Take that!” The voice cries.

“Go, now! Get us out of here!”

The tank swing around, accelerating past his redline again. Caitlyn takes the chance as the tank passes the enemy lead Gauntlet that got its gun disabled, and fires a shot at their tracks. It hits, and now that Gauntlet is no longer near a threat to them.

“We made it! We made it!” The voice cheers.

Caitlyn gaze falls on the screen that shows three disarmed Gauntlet that grows smaller as they get further. They sit helpless amidst the flat plain, lit by the moonlight. Their crimson outlines are still visible within this distance. She takes a deep breath in the absence of their threat. A brief pause that allows her to cool down. And a relief that she managed to get over them and emerge alive with additional kill counts. Fate isn’t so hard on her after all. For now, she just nods and replies gently.

“We made it.”

But amidst her cheering heart and relieving tension, the voice utters something…

“Uh-” Something that she wanted to hear the least.

“What’s going on?” She asks, pretending that it is not a dire concern. It could be one indeed. But pretending gives her a better edge of remaining calm; an attitude expected of all leaders and commanders.

Just as she finished asking, a bang from the rear hull echoes its way to the cabin and catches her attention.

“What was that?” She asks before taking a glance at one side of the control panel. Something definitely goes off, and that doesn’t appear to be good news since the result is the gradual reduction of the number shown by the speedometer.

“That’s my engine.” The voice says as the tank finally comes to a halt. “That’s an example of what would happen if limits are broken for too long.”

“An example?” Caitlyn shakes at what that implies. “You mean there’s more damage you are sustaining?”

“Loader is actually not in a decent condition now.” The voice says. “Sure you can use it, but there’s a high risk of the shell exploding before it leaves the barrel. That should spell your end.”


“I should be able to repair you.” Caitlyn says. She just came out of an engagement victorious, one where she is outnumbered. She is so close. There has to be friendlies waiting on the other side of the prairie. Once there they only have to drive a bit further through the gap that they made, before finally reaching safety behind their lines.

“I’m afraid…” The voice pauses. “That’s not an option.”


“I’m getting target locks from along direction 300 to 60.” He responds. “We’re surrounded.”

Caitlyn climbs up to the hatch as soon as the voice ends his statement. As soon as she does, she finds crimson pointers trained at her. Some of the glare caught her eyes. The infantries lurking in the darkness begins to creep forward, revealing themselves. She takes a deep breath.

“Well, that was a good fight. We’ve resisted well.”

“It’s good knowing you.” Caitlyn says, raising her hands.

When the tank is about to commit a self-destruct sequence, the Guards that surround them suddenly, and collectively, turn their sight to the skies behind them. Caitlyn hears it too, something is splitting the air, across the sea of darkness above. A second later, it falls on them. Particularly on the Guards, hailing them with missiles and gunfires.

Caitlyn quickly ducks, leaving a small part of her head still exposed so she could see the events unfolding. That thing sweeps above them in a split second. But it’s enough for her to make the form of its silhouette.

The ArC’s attack aircraft, Cosmos.

Its flyby is followed by an artillery barrage that scatters the Guards.

“51st Tank Platoon, this is Captain Fort of the 12th Combined Proxy Company speaking.” A voice comes through her utilizer. “We have utility units advancing to your position and commence extraction shortly. Two Vertices squad will reach you prior to their arrival for support. Over.”

“They’re here! We’re saved!” The tank says to Caitlyn. He then proceeds to reply. “This is the 51st Tank Platoon speaking. Allow me to personally express my gratitude for you Captain Fort.”

“Mine as well.” Caitlyn follows.

“That can be done later when we got you out of there.” Fort replies.

All in all, it is safe for her to assume that she is indeed finally safe. She collapses to a seat in her cabin, her head resting on its headrest.

            At last…

It has been one hectic evening for her. She wishes that fate allows her to have her much needed rest for the day. Especially when she hasn’t calibrated herself in the span of the week thanks to the operation.

“By the way, I haven’t caught your name.” The tank speaks again.

He’s right. For some reason, they managed to survive without knowing each other. Perhaps that owes to how overwhelming the odds are against them. But now that they made it, she guesses that it’s the right time to shake hands.

“It’s Caitlyn.” She says to the voice. “Grauwelle Caitlyn.”

“Grauwelle Caitlyn, eh?” The voice says in a tone that should show him forming a smirk on his face if he ever had one. “What a beautiful name.”

Caitlyn grins and shrugs at that response. “Thank you.” She turns her sight down believing that she could do better than that, if only not due to the exhaustion and adrenaline of breaking through enemy lines to withdraw. “How about you?” She asks the voice in return.

“Mine is Protivotankoviy,” The voice speaks with a sign of confidence. “I suggest you find an alternate name based on that, because I doubt you could spell that amidst the chaos of battle.”

She turns to tank’s ceilings while reaching deep into her processor. It doesn’t take long for her to come up with something.

“PT.” Caitlyn says to Protivotankoviy. “I’ll call you PT.”

“Sounds brilliant to me.” PT replies.

“Good.” Caitlyn nods.

“And how about I call you…” PT speaks again. “KT.”

Caitlyn shrugs. That sounds quite unsettling to her. But to honour the tank that has helped her out of the enemy lines, she’ll just let that one pass.  “Fair trade, I guess.”

“If they allow you to be my commander, that’d be our callsigns okay? Just between us.”

Caitlyn waves two fingers besides her head. “Aye aye.”

She then chuckles. Throughout her career, she never thought that the Automatons could develop a personality like PT. It felt like she was conversing with a human or another Android. It comes as a strange tingling feeling to her core. It warms her that she could learn more about PT. At least, when he came out of manufacture, his first battle, and how he got here. And for some reason, Caitlyn wishes that they assign her to be PT’s commander.

Fortunately, fate would have it her way.


            The Ground Combat Vehicle Mark V ‘Redeemer’ is ArC’s battle tank that have seen deployment countless of times, dating as far as The Primus’ conquest. Weighing about sixty-nine tons, it sports a 125mm rifled gun with an effective range of 4500 meters, as well as an automatic loader to allow rapid and accurate fire volley. However, it can take less hit compared to the TeV’s counterpart, the Gauntlet. In compensation, it is able to move swiftly from one point to another. The Primus demands a quick death of his enemies in battle, and the tank is that demand manifested. They are most devastating when used in cover or to flank enemy positions. Their high explosive shells can damage any enemy equipment, or straight up destroy most of them.

Caitlyn stares out the window of her hab. Three days flew past without PT. She requested several days off to command to rest herself. Mostly a mental concern. She just saw her own platoon got decimated because of her decision. The faces of her dead comrade often come to meet her when she closes her eyes. It’s hard for her to imagine how it would feel for them to lay dead on the battlefield knowing no one would come to extract them; especially for the human personnel, who have families back home waiting for their return. The command granted her request, considering they also need to do something about the 51st Tank Platoon.

The clock eventually hits lunch break for the day. At least that’s how it should be for the human personnel. Nevertheless, she decides to leave for the mess hall. She marches past a crowd of Proxies filling the hallways. Some groups are having conversation on one side, some hurries past in a fraction of a second; stumbling on almost anyone in the hallways. At one point, one of those men nudge Caitlyn’s shoulder. He glances around to state a brief apology. But Caitlyn only leers at him without any words.

The mess hall is even more crowded; A mix of individual chattering and the clatter of dishes being stacked are the noises that dominates the space. Caitlyn utters no second thought as she walks toward a certain fridge on one side of the mess hall and grabs a battery from columns of them stored there.

She rushes to an empty seating around the corner as soon as she spots it. Once she sits down, she plucks the charging tube from the battery. The hatch on her nape opens, revealing a circular notch sticking out from her neck. Caitlyn plugs one end of the charging tube to that notch, and the other toward the notch on one side of the metallic cylinder the size of her grip. She takes a deep breath as azure sparkles travel along the surface of the charging tube from the battery’s notch to her notch. Her core is filled with relief that she even finds a vacant space amidst this space crowded with a mass of personnel.

Caitlyn takes a glance at the brand on the battery.

Prime Respite.

An odd name, she thought. The company have been supplying rations to the men ever since the late period of the first war. A long-time dedication. She sometimes wonders the story behind their dedication to The Primus, especially their name which is apparently an adaptation of his name. Are they an independent company? Or just another property of The Primus? Either way, she couldn’t deny that a lunch break is always delightful with their battery tin.

“Oh, look!” A girl voice coming from her left. “It’s Caitlyn!”

She turns her attention, finding two girls standing just across her separated by the length of her seating.

“How are you doing, Caitlyn?” The other one says.

Caitlyn sighs. They are her colleagues during her times in the NCO school.

“Good day, Alezia, Lyzmy.” She waves to the two of them before grabbing her battery tin and standing up.

“Wait, you’re leaving?” Lyzmy asks her.

“We just came here. Don’t you want to have a bit of a chit-chat with us? This might be the first time we’ve been together ever since we graduated.” Alezia follows.

There are truths in her words. The burden of tasks on her shoulder have exploded ever since she became an NCO. Her duties now involve administering a unit, which have consumed a huge portion of her times. She even barely has times for herself, let alone to converse with others during leisure. She is indeed, free at the moment. But she just doesn’t feel like it. And it’s not that these two girls worsen her burden at one point before. They went through the NCO school just like how they went through various operations and battles. Trusting and supporting each other have been the norm among them. But now…

“I need to be alone, for a while.” She says to them, sharing a brief glance.

Alezia and Lyzmy don’t even look disappointed; instead worries cloud their faces.

Lyzmy sighs. “Fine, take care Caitlyn.”

Caitlyn nods before marching away from them, putting her battery tin in the pocket of her coat. From the corner of her eyes, she can see them conversing with each other. And amidst the hubbub of the mess hall, she could catch some words coming out of their mouth.

“…when…she become this? How?”

“Shh…let her…”

She pities herself that she has to instil worry on her comrades.

Back at her hab, she finds a maid with a blonde hair of shoulder length with small side-braid to her left temple standing in front of her hab door with her sight to her pad. It doesn’t take long for the maid to notice her arrival.

“First Sergeant Grauwelle Caitlyn,” The maid presents a salute as soon as Caitlyn reaches her. “Maid Corporal Genesis Zenith, reporting.”

Caitlyn takes a second look at her. An Android. She is clad in her combat gear. Her sight is sharp and her figure is firm. Given that she is a maid corporal in the frontlines, tough times which mostly involves firearms should be her best friend. And her face doesn’t show any sense of worry or anxiety that she might die anytime soon. She appears more than willing to spill Vindicators’ blood at any times without any doubt.

“How do you know it’s me?” Caitlyn asks.

“I am well informed that this hab here is yours.” Genesis replies.

“How long have you been standing there?”

“Not much,” The maid replies. “Only fifteen minutes. Or less, probably.” She checks the time shown by her utilizer strapped to her left wrist.

Caitlyn sighs. “Very well.” She says gently. “State your business, maid corporal.”

“The command has a new order for you. And I am here to take charge in supporting you.” Genesis says, handing the pad to Caitlyn.

Caitlyn grabs the pad and read the document it currently views. Apparently, reports came to them that some TeVs are spotted moving towards a settlement recently captured by the ArC. A counter-attack perhaps. And she is ordered to provide armoured support for the current garrison of that position, holding them off and buying time whilst command is assembling a unit to consolidate it.

“How about my reinforcement?”

“Command is still taking care of that matter.” Genesis says. “For now, they expect you to make do with what you currently have.”

Caitlyn takes a deep breath.

“And in accordance with that, I shall be the second personnel in your tank.”

“And the Creeper?”

“My colleague is going to operate that utility truck.”

“I assume you are capable to operate the tank.”

“I have been trained in that field, and have gone through plenty of drills.” Genesis nods. “You only need to provide me with directions, ma’am.”

“Very well.” Caitlyn hands over the pad back to Genesis before entering her hab. She unpacks her combat gear, pausing for a second to gaze on her helmet as soon as she pulls it out of her container in the hab. It is the same helmet that has accompanied her throughout her carreer as a tank crew ever since she is a Recruit. It is still there with all of its glories; a witness to all the hard-times Caitlyn have went through. Especially the annihilation of her previous platoon.

Once she has her combat gear strapped, Caitlyn emerges out from her hab and locks it.

“Let’s move.” She says to Genesis.

Genesis nods, maintaining her sharp sight. She locks the metal cap on her head as soon as Caitlyn begins to march away from her hab.

It is time. Duty calls her again. Her break time is over. She once again has to smell death amidst the roaring 125mm guns. But it is so that there can still be foods on the dinner table for those children. At least, with the presence of PT, the smell of death possesses a different flavour.

The garage has always been crowded during operational hours. It is a large space able to hold up to thirteen Redeemers, a number worthy of a tank battalion. Utility-class Proxies and Maid Sections are those often found scurrying inside and within the vicinity of the place. They conduct repairs, inspection, and other labour to ensure the proper function of the combat vehicles in the field.

A laser welder hisses as Caitlyn marches toward her new tank platoon. There she sees a Redeemer, a Creeper, and another maid scrutinizing the Redeemer, probably inspecting him.

“KT!” The tank greets her first as soon as she is nearing him.

“Good day, PT.”

“Come get to know this maid, she has been decent to me.”

Caitlyn raises an eyebrow. “Define decent.”

“You know, good old talks during inspection. Kept me delighted throughout what should be a boring procedure.”

“So you call him PT, huh?” Genesis asks.

“For convenience.” Caitlyn replies, waving her hand at her.

“It appears that your tank has an extraordinary interest in talking with others.” The maid on the tank says. She has a long hair with pale golden hue that is barely reaching her waist. Her two locks that extends to her chest on both sides are tucked into black rings with a chipped side. She is also clad in her combat gear. Her metal cap is already locked on her head.

She jumps down from PT’s hull and presents a salute as soon as she puts her pad aside. “Maid Lance Corporal Charlotte Cavatica, at your service.”

Caitlyn salutes in return. “How is PT doing, Maid Lance Corporal?”

“Last inspection is yesterday. Result is the same. Everything is in check, ready for action.”

“Excellent.” Caitlyn nods. “Everyone assumes your position and let’s head to that distressed grid.” She says to Genesis and Charlotte.

“Yes ma’am.” The two maid replies in unison.

Genesis rushes toward the crew’s cabin inside PT through the driver’s hatch while Charlotte hops swiftly to the Creeper’s driver seat.

“By the way,” Caitlyn speaks through the utilizer as she follows through the turret’s hatch, addressing both maids. “Allow me to call you by name. You can just call me Caitlyn in turn.”

“Understood, Caitlyn. Charlotte should be fine.” Charlotte replies through her utilizer.

“Call me Genesis then, yes?” Genesis says to her directly as she enters the crew’s cabin.

“Can do.” She then proceeds to run her fingers on the control panel. “PT man the gun for now, and keep on watch.”

“Sensor on maximum awareness. Looking out for hostiles.” The tank exclaims.

Genesis pulls a lever. The engine roars. The cabin vibrates though it is barely noticeable.

“Oh, and…” Something suddenly struck Caitlyn’s processor, something that she missed. “I haven’t caught the Creeper’s name.”

“Khorosho Priyom.” The utility truck replies through her utilizer. Her rough voice is of a female in her adolescence. “Thought for a moment there you’re going to forget me.” She says, her humming engine also comes through Caitlyn’s utilizer.

“It’d be a sleepless calibration for me should that happen.” Caitlyn replies.

“I told you, she won’t forget.” Charlotte voice is heard through the channel.

“Garage Control, this is the 51st Tank Platoon currently comprising of a Redeemer and a Creeper requesting clearance for departure, over.” Caitlyn speaks through her utilizer via a channel that can be heard by everyone in the platoon.

“51st Tank Platoon this is Garage Control,” A male voice gently replies to her. “Command wanted you in K8-2-8 to assess the incoming TeV incursion. You’re clear to head there, over.”

“Appreciate that.” Caitlyn says.

Genesis hits the gear and turns to align PT with the garage’s main pathway. The Creeper follows close. The large garage door shifts to the sides. Every personnel on the garage’s main pathway swiftly moves aside and make way for the departing 51st Tank Platoon.

“Here we go.” Genesis accelerates PT to maximum speed.

Caitlyn climbs up to the turret hatch. The light of day falls on them as PT emerges out of the garage. She puts a hand on top of her helmet as the breeze streams against her face. To PT’s flanks are sporadic mass of Proxies and Maids. On one side are the Maids hauling crates into carrier trucks, the Runners. On the other are Direct-class Proxies filling armoured personnel carriers, the Crescents. Caitlyn catches a platoon of them departing the base, perhaps reinforcing another position along the front.

Then a squadron of Cosmos streaks through the skies above her. She watches them disappears in the distance. It must be exciting to see all your enemies from above. The way they move and maneuver in the field. Satellite tracking could only do so much. Sometimes they don’t update hostile presence on the map until after contact is made. Hence ground forces still have to rely on their senses.

“Hey Genesis,” Charlotte voice comes through her utilizer. “Don’t you think you’re driving too fast?”

Caitlyn glances behind her, at the utility truck. She is indeed, getting further and further.

“You’re at top speed already?” Genesis replies.

“You do realize that KP is way heavier than that tank, right?”

“Let us regroup at a point before advancing to the desired position.” Caitlyn opens up her utilizer and marks a point at the map. “There, I’ve marked it for you.”

“As you say, Caitlyn.” Charlotte responds.

“The path that’ll take us there should be secured. There has to be no Vindicators around.”

“Guess I’ll see you there then, Charlotte.” Genesis chuckles.

“Fine.” Charlotte sighs. “But you owe me battery tins if I don’t find you there.”

Genesis continues speeding up as Caitlyn turns her gaze to the front again.

Suddenly a notification on her utilizer. She brings it up and her breath is caught when she finds out that it’s PT.

“Good to have you back, by the way. I suppose you’re feeling well now?”

Caitlyn types her reply. “Why are you sending me text messages?”

“This is personal, ok? I don’t want that maid to eavesdrop on our conversation.”

A tank wanted a personal conversation with her? It sounds weird at first glance. But that peculiarity is sending a warm tingling to her core. One that drives a smile on her face. She decides that she would go his way. He has saved her anyway, and he has yet to receive anything in return from her.

“Fine.” She replies. “What is up in your mind?”

“Still the same question.”

Caitlyn shrugs. “I hope so. Enough to do this one task I suppose.”

“At one point, I was worried that you won’t be able to lead anymore.”

“I need a break, PT. It’s not every day you’re responsible for the death of an entire platoon.”

“Don’t think about it too much okay? The dice just doesn’t favour you at that time, and there’s nothing you can do about it. At least you got me out of there alive.”

“I think you’re right.”

Caitlyn can see the sign. PT is quite a talkative Automaton. He just lost his crew, and his other Redeemer partners as well. It must have broken him, the way the destruction of her platoon broken her as well. She shouldn’t have locked herself in her hab.

“I’m sorry for leaving you alone.”


She crosses her arms on top of PT’s turret hull before hiding her face there. She shouldn’t have said that. Her action has left him worried. It is indeed the right thing to say. But maybe it’s not the right time to say that. Caitlyn slaps the turret hull with her left hand repeatedly. PT must feel weird reading that statement, as much as she is cringing for sending it. She wishes that she didn’t write that. She wishes that she could be more patient in sending that message.

But to her surprise…

“Hey, it’s not like I’m your priority.” PT replies. “As long as you’re fine, I can take more hits to my rear than an average Redeemer could.”

His words brought a smile to her face. Maybe he felt that clapping on his turret.

“Thank you.”

“My pleasure.”

They continue their advance as soon as they regroup with Charlotte. A small settlement lies ahead of them. The buildings are hollow and worn down, most likely a product of artilleries and air-strikes. Caitlyn sees some Runners arrayed diagonally along a sidewalk, their front is facing an aisle too small for them to drive through. The Maids are unloading the Runners of their crates. It must be the first wave of supplies that just made it to the place. They drift off the sidewalk once they’re empty, turning to the direction from which they arrived and hit their top speed.

Caitlyn turns to her utilizer and speaks through the local channel.

“This is the 51st Tank Platoon, notifying of arrival. Command has yet to reinforce us, so you only have one Redeemer at hand, over.”

“Good to see you again, first sergeant.” A familiar voice replies. “This is Captain Fort of the 12th Combined Proxy Company. I’m the one commanding the defence of this position. Supporting us is the 94th Foot Proxy Company, and they have Amplifier Proxies entrenched in critical choke points to suppress enemy advance, over.”

“They told me to support your defence. Do you have any specifics?”

“We will hold you in reserve for now. Depending on the situation, you might not need to fire that big gun of yours.”

“Well isn’t that convenient?” PT’s words come through the utilizer.

“We’ll see how kind fate is to you today.” Fort replies.

“Understood.” Caitlyn says. She then switches to her platoon’s channel. “Genesis, Charlotte, we’re going to stand by at the settlement’s centre, over.”

“Command received.” Genesis says.

“Heading there.” Charlotte responds.

“By the way first sergeant,” Caitlyn receives Fort’s words again. To her surprise, he speaks through the whisper channel. “Maid Corporal Genesis Zenith is with you right?”

“Yes, she is with me.”

“Good.” He responds. “Report immediately if you see something strange happening to her, over.”


Caitlyn sets her sight ahead of her. That part of the captain’s words caught her attention. What could he possibly mean by something strange?

But before her processor wander around that topic, her sentiment of obedience caught up. She has to reply to the captain’s words first.

“Yes, sir.”

Not long after, KP pulls up to PT’s left, stopping slightly behind. That is when Genesis emerges out of the second turret hatch just beside Caitlyn. She stretches her arms high overhead, making it looks like she wanted to detach them from her.

“Aah…” She breathes out a piece of air.

Caitlyn puts her head on her left hand as her gaze falls upon Genesis, her left elbow is standing on the turret’s hull. She wonders whether that counts as something strange that happens to her.

It doesn’t take long for Genesis to notice. She turns her glance toward Caitlyn.

“What’s the matter?” She asks.

“Captain Fort asks me to report any strange occurrences centred around you.”

Genesis’ wide-eyed gaze falls on Caitlyn for a moment. She chuckles a few seconds later.

“Eh, it’s just the captain,” Genesis waves her right hand before her face as she tilts away from Caitlyn. “He is always worried about me.”

Her bubbling joy left Caitlyn pouting with a slightly frowned face.

What a naïve girl.

It’s a wonder for one to have someone in higher places constantly concerned about them. They should cherish such blessing since it leads to their higher chance of survival. The command doesn’t really care if she is lost and unrecoverable in battle. The events three days ago show just that. It is only when they see a Redeemer cruising through the field that they begun their contact. Because, obviously, it is an expensive equipment that the command hardly could afford to lose. She however, is not. She is just one amongst millions other Androids that the ArC could arm for the war.

Caitlyn is quick to brush that expression away as soon as she feels like replying.

“You’re such a fortunate one, aren’t you?”

“Not really.” Genesis shrugs. “You are aware that the Maids are sometimes sent into combat, right?”

“Sometimes, yeah.”

“If there is a list of descending priorities of Maids that will see combat, I’d be at the bottom-most one.” Genesis crosses her arms. “Not fair as far as I deem. Charlotte got to be one of the highest on the list.”

Caitlyn smirks at that implication.

“Ah, because you’re the captain’s crown jewel, eh?”

Genesis puts her arms on her waist and bends toward Caitlyn. “I don’t have any relations with Captain Fort, alright.” She then leers away for some reason. “Although to me he is indeed, quite.”

“It is fair, I think.” A calm voice coming from their left. The two glances down and finds Charlotte leaning against PT’s side armour. “As a commanding officer, would you like it if you see one of your men charging the enemy formations by themselves despite the clear order of retreat or withdrawal?”

Throughout her job as a platoon leader, Caitlyn have seen at least one Redeemer that break formation so they could charge the seemingly vulnerable enemy flank. It is the tank commander’s will. He was hungry for personal glory. And his rash action has costed the entire platoon. These kinds of people are indeed a burden, and it always annoys her when it happens.

Caitlyn now turns a curious gaze toward Genesis; one of her eyebrows is lifted. She wonders, whether Genesis is that kind of person.

Genesis returns Caitlyn’s gaze with an apparent, although slightly, worried expression. “Charlotte, come on.” She says, turning to Charlotte.

“Maybe, like me, you could top that list if you spent more time in the sniping range, sweetie.” Charlotte turns to Genesis with her left eye shut and a wide smile to her face.

Genesis sighs while sinking into the hatch. She crosses her arms on the turret’s hull and places her chin there.

“My anxiety always gets me whenever we wait for them to come. So, I thought it would be better to just get it over with.” She pouts.

It appears that murky skies just gloomed over her. Caitlyn understood that feeling. Who is not terrified knowing death is on the other side, slowly marching toward their position? Losing a life means ceasing everything you’ve worked for so far. The longer it takes for that certain death to arrive, the more space available for one’s mind to peer through time, remembering both their past achievement and those that are about to come. And the more reminiscent one becomes, the more willing one is to hold on to their lives. And hence their reluctance to engage the enemy.

It is perhaps this that Genesis despises.

Caitlyn pats her shoulder in an attempt to cheer her up.

“It’s fine, Genesis.” Caitlyn says to her. “We’ve all been through that. It is unpleasant indeed. But this is war, everything is unpleasant. Hence we at least have to think of a course of action that could make it a bit more pleasant on our side.”

Genesis rises back. Her sight gradually turns to Caitlyn. “I guess you’re right.”

“And since you’re my driver,” Caitlyn continues. “I trust you to get me and PT out of this alive, okay?” She raises her right hand; the tip of its index is touching the tip of its thumb.

Genesis straightens her stature and replies with a similar gesture. “I’ll see to it.” She returns Caitlyn’s smile.

“Good.” Caitlyn pats her back.

“You know you could just force me on the wheel and get us out of any pickle, right?” PT voices comes through.

Caitlyn slams her hand hard to the turret’s hull, maintaining her grin toward Genesis.

“You know that doesn’t hurt right?”

Caitlyn tilts her head to the right. “Please forgive the tank.” She says.

Genesis shrugs, turning her sights forward. “No problem.”

“Incoming!” A yelling that comes through Caitlyn’s utilizer.

A ball of flames burst on the roof of a barren house some distance ahead of Caitlyn, followed by a loud explosion noise. Black smokes spew outward, trailing above in accordance to the wind. Charlotte nimbly rushes back to KP, while Caitlyn and Genesis submerge and closes the turret hatch above them.

“There they are.” Genesis says as she scrambles back to the driver seat.

The rumbling continues, some are stronger than the others. The cabin trembles slightly as the shells keep on pounding the ground in proximity to their position. Then huge tremors with deafening roar, that of a bellowing beast, permeates inside PT. Caitlyn and Genesis hold on to something to keep themselves stable as instances of shockwave burst through them.

“We are being shelled, you two are okay there right?” PT asks.

“We’re fine, PT.” Caitlyn replies.

“I hope those Maids got to shelter in time.” Genesis says.

“I’m safe inside here, right?” Charlotte’s voice comes through the utilizer.

“My armour is thicker than that metallic lump with firing mechanism there.” KP says.

“Hey!” PT responds in a raised tone, his rough voice blares through all their utilizers. “Who do you call metallic lump, huh!?”

“It can be anyone. Too bad I don’t have fingers to point that out for you.” There’s a slight chuckle in KP’s tone. One can picture a smug forming on her face if she has any.

“Well I wish you’re not responsible for babysitting me, dirty hag.”

Caitlyn chuckles at what that implies. PT can land a shell or two on that utility truck’s hull. That is, when the command is not looking.

“Smoke screen to the east.” Says a Proxy.

“Another one to north-northeast.”

“And to the southeast.”

Caitlyn checks out the map shown by one of PT’s screens. Judging by the smoke deployment, the TeV is commencing an assault along the settlement’s frontiers. This position must have been essential to them. Hence the defence must hold at all cost. She hopes that more reinforcement is coming to consolidate their position there.

“Platoons of Guards are advancing through the smoke, supported by Carapaces.” Says another voice which is drenched deep in commotions of rapid rifle fire, cartridges ricochets, and 20mm shell impacts.

Carapaces are TeV’s walking metallic shell. Creeping on six legs, they are armed with two 7.62mm machine guns and a double-barrelled 20mm autocannon to provide dense fire support able to tear through fortifications. Their thick armour meant that they can survive even more hits than the Gauntlets.

“There are eight of them coming from this side.”

“An additional four is spotted emerging from the north-northeast.”

Fort’s voice then comes through, “Twelve Carapaces, copy. Direct Proxies, unload your RPGs on those things. Maids get two crates of those rockets to the outposts along defence line beta.”

From PT’s periscope, Caitlyn sees the Maids sprung into action, loading the available Runners with crates supposedly filled with anti-tank rockets. The work is done in such a pace that left Caitlyn’s eyes wide. In fifteen seconds, the Runners, two of them filled with AT rockets crates, have already left the scene.

“You Maids are an impressive breed.” Caitlyn turns to Genesis.

Genesis shrugs. “I mean, our master zips from one side of the battlefield to the other in mere minutes if not seconds.”

“Sir Microv Edward?”

Genesis nods, her hands are tapping on the steering wheel.

Caitlyn heard a story of that man, the second highest authorities in the ArC, one of the few that possess superhuman abilities.

“It’s a basic drill for us frontline Maids. They even gave us enhancement modules to speed up the job by ten folds. But of course, the speed never matches that of our master. He is on a different level.” Genesis continues.

It is said that he personally supports the defence of five chokepoints at the same time during the Siege of Vaniyya in The Primus’ conquest. And whichever point he is in, the Vindicators’ advance there is halted. Such is the power of The Primus’ right-hand-man. She couldn’t imagine what The Primus himself is capable of.

“We owe a great deal to you then.” Caitlyn grins as she crosses her arms.

“Sort of.” Genesis replies, turning her attention to Caitlyn. “But our master has ensured that you don’t.”

But still, such a great feat is worthy of something in return to them from the Proxies themselves. At least, that is how it should be as Caitlyn thought. Because logistics are the backbone of every military force.

“Our recognition should suffice, I guess?” She says.

“But of course,” Genesis turns her gaze ahead, leering at Caitlyn with her left eye shut. “Who wouldn’t notice cute girls in maid uniform running around the battlefield armed with carbines and an emitter katana?”

Caitlyn chuckles. “You are indeed a sight, huh.”

“We have Gauntlets making a run for our position.” A calm voice in contrast with the roaring RPGs in the background, followed by even more bullet ricochet.

“Copy,” Fort replies. “First Sergeant Caitlyn, I believe your tank demands something to shoot at. Go around them from the hills to the north and give them a pounding.”

“I do think demand is an overstatement.” PT replies first.

Caitlyn nods to Genesis the second Captain Fort provides the direction. She turns PT around and drive the tank along the path leading to the hills that he mentioned.

“We’re heading there, sir.” Caitlyn responds.

“Be careful you three.” Charlotte says through the platoon channel as the tank dashes out of the settlement.

They eventually reach the hill. It is an elevated position with a rather lightly wooded area. They could assume a position where PT’s gun just peeks out of the hill toward the two Gauntlets to the settlement’s north-northeast. If they return fire, their shot would unlikely hit them since they have to fire uphill. Even still, PT can survive some hits from the front. And if situation gets critical, Genesis could just hit the reverse gear and bail out of the position.

“Take us there, Genesis.” Caitlyn says, marking a position on the map that’s visible to both of them. “We should be able to fire down on them from there.”

“Taking us there.” Genesis replies.

But as soon as they climbed the hill…

“Ow!” PT cries.

Along with that is the shaking of the cabin in the wake of a missile crashing to PT’s front hull. Unlike the Androids, the Automatons don’t have pain receptors. The way PT responds in such a manner when hit in the face by a missile is probably him being shocked at the sudden reduction of his hull’s integrity.

The cabin shakes again as two more rockets hits PT’s front hull.

“We have contacts!” Genesis yells.

In front of them are two squads of Guards supported by a Carapace armed with anti-tank missile launcher instead of the autocannon. PT fires a shot at the Carapace but that just bounces off its front armour.

“No penetration!? You can’t be serious.” PT exclaims.

Caitlyn pulls the smoke triggers. “Back up! Back up!” She says.

Genesis hits the reverse gear and PT gradually rolls down the hill.

“We can’t support them like this.” Genesis says, glancing at Caitlyn.

“Well we can’t go there without any support either.” PT replies. “Unless of course, you fancy going out in a blaze of glory.”

Caitlyn falls silent. Available forces are all tied down in the defence of the settlement. There’s no way she would ask for reinforcement from the captain. Even if she does, her request would most likely be denied. But she has to take care of those Gauntlets, to alleviate the defences and save as much men as possible. She could send a request for air support, but that is too expensive for such a small detachment facing them.

There is one option left for her.

“Genesis,” Caitlyn turns to her. “I’ll leave those Guards to you.”

“What?” Genesis asks, her eyes meet Caitlyn’s.

“Charlotte claimed that you prefer to charge the enemy. Thus, I assume that you are a capable fighter.”

“Well, sort of.” Genesis tilts her head.

“Then get out there, and take care of them.” Caitlyn says while running her fingers on the control panel, turning the autopilot on. “PT will take the wheel. We will handle that Carapace.”

Genesis nods. “Very well.” She grabs her carbine that is leaning against the left side of the cabin, and loads a magazine. Then she opens the hatch above her and jumps out of the tank.

“We’re counting on you, Genesis.”

Genesis only raises her right thumb as she advances into the smoke screen. As soon as she vanishes into the smoke, Caitlyn hears a barrage of gunshot from beyond.

“Let’s hope she’ll make it.”

“That maid looks tough. She’ll be alright.”

Caitlyn nods as she assumes control of PT’s gun. “Take us a few more meters north, we shall make our return to the hill there.”

The Carapace, seeing that its big target gone, should now be unoccupied. Which means, there is no guarantee that it won’t lay fire on Genesis. She is not only facing hostile fire from the ten Guards, but also the Carapace’s machine guns. Caitlyn grips her fists at that scenario which most probably is occurring at the moment.

Hang in there, Genesis…

They make their climb again on the other side of the hill as soon as they circumvent a small part of it. Caitlyn’s breath caught when they come across a sight of five Guards running to the right, against the direction of their previous climb, followed by the Carapace that slowly creeps backward; its machine guns firing at the smoke screen that’s about to clear up. Caitlyn takes a quick glance to what the walker is firing at. There she finds Genesis cowering behind a tree trunk solid enough to brave the machine gun fire; bracing herself with her head tucked. After a closer look, Caitlyn finds that with her is the TeV’s anti-tank missile launcher.

Unfortunately, her back is against the side where Caitlyn is. So perhaps she is unaware that they have returned to the fray.     When Caitlyn is about to notify her, she emerges out of cover and fires a missile at the Carapace. It hits the walker’s missile launcher, but the damage appears to be negligible. And as soon as she is about to return to cover, three of the machine guns’ cartridges make it through her.

The maid collapses.

“Genesis!” Caitlyn cries through her utilizer.

“You bastard!” PT yells out. “KT, hit that trigger!”

Caitlyn turns and sees that PT has his turret aimed at the walker’s missile turret. Without any doubt, she slams on the trigger.

PT’s gun roars as soon as the Carapace align its front to PT’s direction. The 125mm armour-piercing shell slips inside the Carapace’s launcher barrel, and further into the high-explosive missile loaded inside.

Within a split second of contact, the walking metallic shell burst into flames, its parts rocket as far as the tree-tops before falling down in fiery pieces reek of burnt metals.

“PT,” Caitlyn says as she scrambles out of the tank. “Assume position slightly behind the marker that I’ve previously set.”

“Roger.” PT moves toward the designated point as soon as Catilyn jumps out of him.

She then takes a thousand steps toward Genesis. Electric sparks are leaping out of the holes on her body formed by the 7.62mm cartridges. Caitlyn draws her ear closer toward Genesis’ chest. She could still hear a faint hum coming from within. It indicates that her core is still functioning. Perhaps her consciousness is shot by the shock of bullet impacts. But she is still alive at the moment, and can still be saved.

Caitlyn straps Genesis’ carbine to her, before putting the unconscious maid body on to her back. She trots toward PT’s location.

“Uh, KT.” The tank speaks to her.

“What is it?”

“The Gauntlets are pulling back.” He says. “Their turrets aimed at our position.”

Caitlyn puts Genesis on PT’s hull before climbing it, doing so while processing what the tank words’ means.

“They are aware of us now.” She sighs.

“Well at least we tried.” PT says. “At least they pull back right?”

They indeed pulled back, which provides a breathing room for the defenders. But they will definitely return. And by the time that happens, they would already have this position fortified as to prevent further flanking maneuver such as what they were trying to achieve. It would then be difficult to contain those Gauntlets if the settlement is not reinforced anytime soon.

“First sergeant, the Gauntlets to the north-northeast are pulling back. But I don’t see any shots landing on them.” Fort’s voice comes through.

Caitlyn scrambles down the hatch, laying Genesis down inside the cabin in an as much as comfort deemed possible in such a cramped space.

“Our position has been compromised.” She responds. “They have stationed two squads of Guards and a Carapace prior to our arrival. We took care of them but Genesis is down.”

“Artillery, take cover!” A Proxy voice that spikes as soon as Caitlyn finishes her sentence.

That yelling prompts her to peek out of the hatch. She is met by hails of projectiles trailing through the blue sky, before finally landing at several points in the settlement. The thundering explosions follow a few seconds after the shells land on houses, streets, and decorations. Caitlyn cranes her head up, tracking the trajectories of those shells. Her gaze eventually falls to a direction where the enemy artillery is most probably stationed.

“Charlotte, are you still there?” Caitlyn calls her.

“Still alive. Receiving artillery fire but KP is still holding so far.”

“Genesis is down.”

“What?” Charlotte asks in her calm tone that doesn’t imply any sort of concern.

“She got shot and need attention. PT could use some too.”

“Guess you want me there, don’t you?”

“We’ll rendezvous at a mid-point just like previously.”

As soon as Caitlyn says that, the captain’s voice interrupts.

“First Sergeant Caitlyn, can you see where did those shells come from?”

Caitlyn turns her gaze to the previous direction where her suspicion of enemy artillery presence rings.

“It is about five degree west of north sir, a few clicks from my position.”

“Excellent,” Fort commends with a slightly raised tone. “Now get there and blow them to hell.”

“But sir, Genesis is injured and I could use some repairs on PT.”

“Denied.” Fort states. “This artillery barrage doesn’t stop those Guards from picking us off from the distance. We have to abandon our position.”

“Don’t we have reinforcement coming?”

“I don’t know what the command is doing back there. But there don’t seem to be one anytime soon.” Fort’s voice is mixed with the trembling noise of crashing high-explosive shells, as well as machine gun fire. “We are about to stage a fighting retreat, but with that artillery piece lying around I’m afraid it would take less than a few seconds for it to be a full rout.”

Caitlyn falls silent. Her situation is just like three days ago, the time when she met PT. All alone deep in enemy lines, as her comrades are retreating. Why does it have to be like this? Why she has to be the one that advances while everyone else is falling back? It was a fortune that she and PT made it out alive back then. She doubts that it would occur again for the second time. This time there’s almost no guarantee that there would be allies breaking through to get to them. She might have to break through the enemy lines by herself.

“Hey, KT.” PT calls out to her.

She turns towards one of the screens that shows a wiggly line with peaks that spikes whenever PT speaks.

“We can do this.” He says to her. “We’ve made it before. We’ll make it again.”

“First sergeant!” Fort’s voice becomes louder. “Do you hear me? Are you there?”

Caitlyn shuts her eyes, trying to ignore the captain’s voice.

“I’m not sure, PT.” Her hand touches the screen with the line as she turns her gaze down.

“Hey, listen.” PT’s voice gentle down. “We’ve been through hell okay? That’s why they’re depending on us. They wanted us to go because no-one dares to do that. We can do this, I believe we can.”

A tank asked her to believe that they could make this daring assault. Just like what had happened before. The thought of that left a bubbling impression in her core.

“Caitlyn, what should it be?” That’s Charlotte voice coming through.

“I’m going to take the maid’s word for it. Remember what you’re fighting for, and remember just that, nothing more. Then, we charge their position and show them who’s boss.”

Caitlyn grips her hand that she placed on the screen. If only PT has a hand…

It doesn’t take long for her to nod.

“Very well.” She moves to her seat and man the gun again. “Direction five degrees west of north, full speed ahead.”

“That’s the spirit!” PT exclaims. “Five degrees west of north it is.”

Caitlyn then pulls up her utilizer. “Captain Fort, we’re advancing toward that artillery piece, over.”

“I’ll make sure something is up for you back here, once you are done.” He replies. “Also, there will be air supports for you. They’re going to abide my request for this one.”

“Much obliged, captain.”

“Yeah they better be!” PT yells out.

“Caitlyn?” Charlotte calls for her again.

“I’m after that enemy artillery so you could safely retreat.” Caitlyn replies.

“I wish fate sides you this day.”

“Thank you.”

Caitlyn glances at the speedometer. It shows Redeemer’s top speed. They are now cruising toward the enemy artillery position. There might be some Guards stationed there for protection. But with careful approach, they could sneak up and snipe those damned cannons, and haul away before those Guards could catch up to them. She and PT just needs an elevated position so they could fire down on the enemy position.

And as fortune has it, Caitlyn finds a slightly higher ridge after a careful observation of the surrounding environment. In addition to that is a dense vegetation covering the whole ridge, allowing an excellent concealment should the enemy return fire. Caitlyn orders PT to slow down as to not give away their position. They prowl ever closer on a designated position along the ridge. And as soon as they reached it, as soon as they got view on the enemy artillery position…

“Whoa…” Caitlyn’s mouth gaped.

“What the hell is that…” PT expresses his astonishment with a tone that mimics a whisper.

Down there is a plaza of a barren village. Perhaps it is once used as a place for the townsfolk to gather. And on that plaza are two massive tanks, two times the size of PT. Their large hull is carried by four pieces of tracks, two on each side. Their overwhelming turret bears the weight of two 155mm barrels, something that Caitlyn sure is able to penetrate PT’s side in a single volley. Their barrels are currently angled upward. The implication of that sends shiver down Caitlyn’s spine.

“This is the enemy artillery that is bombarding the settlement?”

“Those shots originated here right? There’s nothing else around here but those two monstrosities.”


Even PT is afraid of that thing.

And the affirmation of their fears is served on a silver platter not long after.

Their barrels roar in turn repeatedly, firing a salvo toward the heavens. The ground rocks in their wake, the trees shed their foliage for each shell that leaves the barrel. Even one of the desolated structures in their proximity collapses. It is as if they brought doomsday with them, a representative of a mythological titan who quakes the world with his raging roar. PT’s cabin vibrates hard. Caitlyn cowers as the tanks keep on firing, tucking her head and covering her ears. She couldn’t imagine what sort of madness that drive one to create what even PT refers to as monstrosities.

The firing soon ends, and Caitlyn collapses to her seat. It feels like she has just gone through the end of the world and survived. But that took away all her energy, her spirit. She is not sure whether she alone could bring such a massive machinery down.

“Do you think we could pierce that thing’s armour?”

“No.” PT replies. There is no continuation to his statement. “We can deal damage. But alone, they would be negligible.”

After finding no Guards around, Caitlyn reaches for the last glimmer of hope of taking that thing down.

“But at least they are artillery pieces, right?” She asks. “They’re not meant for direct combat.”

“KT! Brace Yourselves!” PT yells frantically, as he hits the reverse gear.

Caitlyn attempts to do what he told her, but the movement transition happened too fast that she is thrown to the front side of the cabin.

“Aah…!” Caitlyn yelps as she braces herself in the wake of terrifying shockwaves that quakes PT’s cabin. “PT!” She calls out to him.

The shock is so powerful that it topples PT’s balance. But he quickly regains it.

“What was that?” Caitlyn says.

As the dirt rains down and the dust clouds clears up, PT opens his mouth again if he had one.


From the other side of the dust clouds emerges the same monstrosity that they have observed from the ridge, slowly creeping toward them. Caitlyn’s breath is caught as its size grows ever more overwhelming as the tank approach them steadily. Their barrels are straightened, aimed at them. And in the seconds between life and death, Caitlyn’s processor freezes; her mouth gaping in the sight of that monstrosity.

“That’s it!” PT shouts. “I’m getting us out of here!” His words, and a sudden jerk of movement snaps Caitlyn back to reality.

And just as PT drives away, two shells land on where they were standing.

“Bloody hell!” PT yells again. “KT! Are you there!?”

“I…” Caitlyn stutters, her breath heavy. “I’m here…” She holds on to the vibrating cabin as she tries to recover herself.

“Thank the Primus you’re okay.”

“Get us…” Caitlyn pauses, catching her breath. Her core is still quaking from that last shot coming out of that monster’s barrel. She looks deep to find herself. But all she finds is only the thought of getting annihilated by its shell. “Get us away from that thing!” Caitlyn then cries. “Anywhere away from them!”

“That’s what I’m doing right now! Stay calm and get your processor back in shape.”

As soon as he said that, he suddenly stops. Caitlyn once again got thrown to the cabin’s front as there is no deceleration. PT just stops as if he crashes into a massive boulder strong enough to hold his advance.

“PT!” Caitlyn cries at him as she rubs her head.

“I can’t move!”

“What’s going on!?” Caitlyn asks, her tone is filled with all the concerns that she could come up with. She looks around and finds the displays of the screens surrounding her are getting distorted and covered in statics. “What’s going on!?” She asks again with a louder tone.

“That bastard snared me!”

In the next second, Caitlyn could perceive a backward movement occurring. She scrambles out of the hatch and turns her gaze to PT’s rear. There the monstrosity has its turret aimed at PT. But there is something different about it. There is quite a space between its two barrels. And in that space is a large circular compartment. That compartment is now opened, firing a crimson beam that is holding PT in place.

Even worse, the beam is pulling PT closer to it.

And then the massive tank aligns its front toward PT’s rear. As soon as that happens, some contraptions emerge out from under the front hull. They then unpack, revealing their cylindrical shape that is perpendicular to the tank’s width as well as the sharp thermal blades attached to them. Caitlyn soon realizes what they are as they begin to spin at an uncanny rate.

“PT, drive…” She says as soon as she sinks back into the hatch. “Drive! Drive!” Her voice gets louder with each word.

“I’m at full speed!”

But despite of it, they keep going backward; they are being dragged backward.

Caitlyn scrambles for the turret control and tries to turn it to the tank’s direction. But it doesn’t work.

“Turn your turret and unload some AP on that thing!” Caitlyn yells

“I can’t either!”

Caitlyn can hear the noise of the spinning blades gets louder and louder. She dares herself to peek out of the hatch. And that is a mistake. As she is greeted by the sight of the blades that gets closer, their song for her demise grows ever evident. And she feels that her soul, if she even has one, just departed from her.

“DRIVE, YOU USELESS JUNK! DRIVE!!!” She yells out an order to PT in an unusually deafening tone.

“I CAAAN’T!!!!”

Caitlyn sinks and cowers.

By that point, the spinning blades barely reached PT’s rear.

When suddenly an explosion occurs on the massive tank’s circular compartment. And that releases PT from its grip. He nimbly rolls off, leaving the monstrosity behind further and further in a short time span, as another explosion occurs on the tank’s track.

Two Cosmos streaks past overhead.

“We got you covered 51st Tank Platoon.” Says one of the pilots.

The massive tank should be able to fire on PT. But for some reason, it decides not to.

“Thank…” PT pauses. “You.”

“Where are you going? I thought you’re heading for that artillery.” Says the other.

“Negative.” PT replies. “We have to abort. The enemy have a new toy that caught us off guard and renders my commander combat ineffective.”

“Roger that.” The first pilot says. “Command is evacuating the settlement at the moment. There will be gunships escorting you, they are on their way to your position.”

“I appreciate that.”

Caitlyn only listens to that conversation in silence, all while she is regaining her senses.

“KT…” PT calls her out.

But Caitlyn remains silent. Her hollow sight is turned down. She gathers the remainder of her strength and position herself beside Genesis.

“KT…” PT calls her again, in a gentler tone.

She takes a glance at Genesis’ composed face. Of course, she is unconscious and didn’t experience the horror that she has just witnessed.


The vibrating cabin and the hum of PT’s engine blows a drowsy breeze into the cabin. Too much have happened to her for the day, most that makes it up comes from the recent occurrence, the encounter with that monstrosity. The image of that massive hunk of machinery is still vivid in her processor.

Caitlyn wonders…

“Hey KT, please tell me you are there.”

Whether closing her eyes could make it disappear. Whether following Genesis up could help her forget that monstrosity.

And after taking a deep breath, her heavy head falls on Genesis’ right shoulder and her sight turns dark.

“Hey KT!”


Writer: PrimDom

Prime Respite (Part 8: Final)

Chapter 8: Final

It’s sunrise when the Proxies pour down the island in response to their leader’s call.

Trails of dark smoke sway as they rise to the heavens. The grandeur of the gardens an hour ago is nowhere to be found. Only shredded decorations remain, shadows of their former self. The ground reeks of heated shrapnel, those that came from the same muzzles that defiled his serene respite. Who would’ve seen that coming? Who would’ve thought to send a force to raid a mansion of no strategic value?

Then something come to his mind. His personal computer inside is an archive to all his reservoir researches. It’s his secret that won him his conquest, and the seat above every ArC personnel. Hence everything about them has to be as far as possible from everyone. Who knows what those thralls might come up with now that they have uncovered it. His world dominance has dropped from certain to probable. If he wishes to remain on the top, he has to do something.

How they concluded that he stored his reservoir researches in his mansion is beyond him for now. Maybe fortune sprinkles all over them as they made their decision. Maybe they have agents among his men.

“Microv.” He then calls to his subordinate. “How’s Lena?”

“She requires our finest medical treatment if you wish her to live.”

He takes a deep breath.

“Looks like someone is concerned.”

“She was, mesmerizing. The fragrance that she left on me resembles that of the hyacinth I picked once in my dream. She…care for my well-being, and committed herself to it. Who am I then to deny her of my compassion?”

“Even though you’re charging her?”

“That is another story.”

He begins to turn to the remaining three children that has attempted to drive those thralls out. The girl, Julia if he is not mistaken, has a wrapping around her abdomen and her left thigh. The red marks on them appear vivid and fresh. One of the boys have blood streaking down his temple and an arm supported by a sling, while the other has bandages covering his left eye and another on his shoulder.

“The other children then?”

“They’ll live alrite.” He responds, nodding at them. “They’ll recover. Though not sure about that boy’s eye.”

He peers to his left, to the Proxies that gathers up the other children who, unlike the three, aren’t as fortunate. They’ll receive a proper burial. But for now…

He steps past his subordinate and confronts the children, his posture seemingly towering over since the children are on the ground. Was there any more of those thralls’ agents? Among these three, perhaps? He might be able to answer but that would require quite a delay. There is however, one thing for sure.

“You’ve opened your arms for a hostile agent.”

The three shares a glance. Julia speaks up. “Sir, how are we supposed to know that she is a Vindicator?”

“Regardless. Since there’s a written regulation concerning such deed, you too shall be charged.”

Julia gasps. She gazes down in silence, her face turns to ground with a hint of tears beginning to trickle down her cheeks.

“Charged?” The boy, which bear the name Lennard as Microv told him, asked with his unusually low tone. “Charged, huh!?”

He then stands up. “Hey, listen up.” He says, taking a step closer. “Who the hell are you!?” His yell causes all the Proxies watching him ready their rifles. “We are meant to serve a leader indeed. But in turn, that leader has to protect us, provide for us. After then we would abide by their words. But you…” Lennard points his left index to the Primus.

“Your war had milked us to the very edge, till there’s nothing left!!! And then you just cast us aside like toys that you don’t want to play with anymore!”

“Are we obliged to serve you then? Do you have the right to boss us around then?” He proceeds to point at the arrays of his comrades’ corpses laid side by side. “No, we aren’t. No, you don’t! My friends lost their lives, believing they did the right thing for you. You should be grateful that we even listen to your rally.”

A silence ensues. A standoff between the most powerful man in the world, and a fragile boy with a broken wing. The Proxies share a glance to each other, considering whether or not they should take immediate action.

“What!? Now you’re planning to kill me or something? Execute me in this very moment maybe?”

“Lennard.” The boy named Zen calls out his friend.

“I’m spitting facts here, Zen! Are you going to deny those truths!?”

The Primus is silent. Heat begins to converge on the top of his head. But as much as he is willing to unleash it, he doesn’t intend to repeat the accident that costs his office’s maid colonel her beauty. Especially against a young boy that’s already a victim both from the thralls’ incursion and his own ambition. He turns to gaze at the mesmerizing sunrise in the distance. The gradient sky that signals of the rising sphere of light. The magnificent view caught his attention for a few moments. And before he realizes it, the heat on his head disappears. Now he can view things the way they should be viewed. The way everything the boy said is true.

He takes a deep breath and turns back to the boy.

“As much as I have torn families apart, I can’t be cruel to my own citizen who obeys me with their heart.” He says with a gentle tone.

His calm response surprises Lennard as he relaxes his muscle. Microv lifts a finger, and the Proxies turn down their rifles.

“But written regulations remain the way they are. Stepping over them is treason, and ought to be dealt to maintain order.”

The three children share a glance. Lennard looks down at his feet. It means he’s still going to charge them for allowing hostile infiltration.

The Primus steps closer and holds Lennard by his shoulder.

“However, I have a proposition. A compensation for you children.”


It’s a week after the incident.

I trudge along a hall with my cleaning equipment, occasionally pressing my left arm to my abdomen, where the remainder of my stab wound is. Despite the hull of my torso plating, the daggers that struck there felt incredibly painful. I wonder…


The noise that I made as I wrinkle under the flaring wound. I thought I was fully recovered. Turns out the pain still lingers after seven days of treatment. That golden-haired girl was really meant to kill.


They sent me back to Creatio Genetrix. I was in the treatment bay when I regain my consciousness. To my surprise, the maid colonel herself is beside me as soon as I open my eyes. But what comes out of her mouth was a terrible news.

“…Thereby, Valeska Helena, is under charge for the violation of private properties, especially the properties of the Primus himself…” She said.

And for that occasion, he confiscated all my life savings, as well as cutting my accommodation to just enough for my daily needs.

“I’m sorry…” is the only phrase that she uttered after, before she leaves the room.

I let out a deep exhale as that fact come to haunt me again.

Now how am I going to buy a land and restore my family’s wealth?

I was so close. Yet I lost it all.

Given my cut, I’m not sure how long until I have enough. That is assuming land prices aren’t rocketing due to scarcity in accordance with population growth.

Everything just goes on simultaneously within my head. They are too much for me to process. I don’t know what to think. I don’t know what should I feel. And then a sniffle comes through. My sight remains on the floor, but I believe anyone else near catch that. This failure, it cuts deeper than those daggers that had stabbed me. I raise my left arm to cover my eyes as they begin to well up.

But with that, gone are my sights. And that happens, again. I slipped.

All my body, from head to feet crashes against the floor. I couldn’t bring myself together, thanks to the injuries that are screaming due to the collision. So I remain on the floor, cowering to hold against the pain.

Why does this happen to me?

I don’t understand. What sin have I committed to deserve this? Maybe restoring my family’s wealth isn’t meant to be my path. Maybe following them up is one. If only that fall lands a nail in my coffin. If only the empress wasn’t there to shield me. If only the flames that evening consumed me. If only my dad didn’t bother to fertilize my mom. Damn it. If only the slipping could just kill me right here, right now. I would greatly appreciate it, even though I have nothing to show my gratitude.

Mom, dad, forgive me. I could only go this far…

“Lena!” Suddenly I heard a female voice. I wish it is my mom. I wish she would come, pick me up, and caress me like old times.

To my surprise, I’m really picked up. Oh, how I miss you mom.

“Lena, please stay with us.”

Of course, mom. Why would I…

Wait, us? Ah, of course.

I reopen my eyes to a face of a girl calling out to her surroundings. Her arms are around my back, supporting my body. She then leers back on me.

“She’s back!” She shouts before wrapping my arm around her shoulder. “Come on.”

“Hnggh!” I grunt as the injuries whine again when she is helping me to stand. I press my left arm against my stomach.

“Thank…” It’s the only word that comes out of me as the pain stands out.

That’s when I see other maids gathering near me.

“She doesn’t look good, initiative treatment perhaps?”

“Lena, Lena, have you had your breakfast?”

“I can get you something from the lounge.”

“How about some rest? I’ll handle your tasks.”

The chatter goes on. But I’m in quite a physical pain that prevents me to reply. I just ask them for a place to lie down. They then bring me to one side of the hall. What they do is quite astonishing. One of them hastily pulls their half-apron and lays it on the floor. Another sits on her calf on one side. And the girl that is supporting me carefully lays my head on the other girl’s lap, the one that is sitting on her calf.

It appears that these maids suddenly concerned about me. I appreciate that. But if it isn’t genuine, then why bother?

“W-why are you helping me?”

The four maids share a glance.

“Um…” The girl that helped me up speaks first. “I heard about your stories. I’d love to hear it from you.” She taps her indexes against each other. “My name is Zara. How about we become friends in turn?”


“Hey, hey, me too!” The girl that offers me her lap exclaims. “Oh, it’s Anne by the way.”

“I’m Saskia. Pleased to meet you”

“And you can call me Thalia.”

Ah…friends. Something that I have been missing since that fateful evening.


A year passed.

The days I’ve spent with Zara, Anne, Saskia, and Thalia paid off. They make time flies fast. And for some moment, I forgot that I still have to pay for my charges. That the Primus confiscate all my life savings and cut my accommodations. The colors they brought brings a new flavor to my gray, tasteless world. I still am heartbroken over the fact that I’m going to need perhaps another decade to purchase a land. But with them here, they don’t hurt as much.

I appreciate them. Some more to my debt list.

It is then when I got orders to pack all my belongings. They don’t specify the purpose, only saying that I’m about to be moved somewhere else. It’s probably something to do with my punishment. I’m being moved somewhere for my arrest. Well, I’m in no state to disobey so I just follow their orders.

I bid farewell to my new friends, saying that we shall meet again. And then I take off.

I’m still in my maid uniform when the air transport lands. To my surprise, I return to the island of the Primus’ vacation site. I’m then put in a transport along with my belongings. As the trip goes, I gaze out the window. Out there are majestic arrays of trees and mountains. It feels peaceful. Something about them soothe my pain and ease my worries. Before long, I find myself wanting to stare at them for the rest of my life. Perhaps it’s the greatest joy that I could obtain for the moment.

I grin at that thought. Nature really is fascinating.

Eventually the transport stops.

I step down to a sizeable piece of flat-land. On the other side is what appears to be a farmhouse. The sight left me in awe. And along with that astonishment is a ponder. Why would they bring me here?

“Here we go.” The transport man says to me as he walks up beside. “We’ll be taking care of your belongings. For now, they’re waiting for you.” He says, pointing his thumb at a specific direction.

“Why am I here?” I ask him.

“Just, go to them over there.” He says.

I turn my gaze to the direction he is pointing. There I see a large group of Proxies, and three familiar faces beside them. They are Julia, Lennard, and most importantly, Zen. My heart is relieved. I am all stuffed with glee at the fact that they survived the incident.

I stride to them.

They wave at me as I draw near.


“Over here!”

That’s Julia and Lennard yelling in turn. Zen remains calm beside them, with a grin that warms my heart. I notice an eyepatch on his left eye. Nevertheless, that doesn’t reduce his gorgeous features.

“It’s been a while, isn’t it Lena?” Julia says with her captivating smile.

I nod. “I’m glad you’re all still in one piece.”

Everyone then turns to Zen. “Well, not exactly…” Lennard says. “But acceptable.” He shrugs.

I also turn to him. My feelings got in the way, forming way too many words to convey. I couldn’t decide what to say. So I just wave my hand saying,

“How are you, Zen?”

“I’m fine. Thanks for asking.” He says, nodding at me.

“Hey,” Lennard barks again. “You two haven’t see each other for a year. Is that anything you have to say?”

Zen and I share a glance. His gleaming eyes gaze straight into mine. It is an enchanting moment. I couldn’t believe I manage to find a stranger of my age, to whom I would give my compassion. I think I am fortunate that he also feels the same way.

I glance to Lennard. “Maybe the rest will come later.”

“Ehh, the rest?” Julia says with a smug. “Do you really plan to do that later?”


“Julia, please.” Zen says to her.

“Alright, alright.” Julia raises her hands.

Ah I see. That. When a couple hasn’t seen each other for a long time, what would they do? Normally, a hug, a kiss, and then…

“Ah look, Lena is red again.” Julia chuckles with a hand covering her lip.

Again? I take a deep breath. Oh well… That might be too mature. But I’m not denying that I would do that with him.

In any case, I decide to change the topic. I gently shake my head.

“By the way,” I say. “What’s going on here? And what’s with all the Proxies over there?” I point at the large group of Proxies with my thumb.

“Well…” Lennard says, pausing midway to leer at Zen.

“I think it’s better for the man himself to explain the case.” Zen says.

The man?

Not long after, someone comes out of the farmhouse. It’s sir Microv. It doesn’t take long for him to turn over here.

“Hey,” He directs his yell toward the farmhouse. “The delinquent lass is here!”

Oh my…Even after a year, he still refers to me with that phrase.

Then a middle-aged couple I’m not familiar with emerges out of the farmhouse. They turn their gaze this way. The ones that come after them are Colonel Iva, and the Primus, respectively. They all stand there in silence for a second. The Primus moves first, gesturing to the rest behind him to follow up.

“Are you still in pain?” He asks.

“Physical?” Because I still have some inner pain that still lingers. The loss of my parents, for example. “They’re long gone by now.”

“Excellent.” He turns to sir Microv. “That’s one medical achievement.”

“One for the books.” Microv responds, tapping on his utilizer.

“How is your mansion doing, sir?” I ask him a fake question, hoping to break the ice after a year lacking of words exchange.

“Rebuilding. Should be done any time soon.”

As he turns to the direction where his mansion is supposed to be, I guess it’s time for the real question.

“So, sir…” I call him again. “What’s all of this?”

He turns to me. “This is your land now.”

“Huh…?” What!? My land!? Wait, he can’t be serious. Am I in a dream right now? There’s no way this is happening. This…this is just a dream right. Right?

“He’s telling the truth, Lena.” Julia adds. “I don’t think a person like him would pull this huge of a prank.”

“Whoo…” Lennard follows up with a clapping. “Congrats.”

Still, I couldn’t comprehend the fact that he just gives me away a land this vast. It takes me five minutes’ walk to get here from my drop point. There has to be something behind this. This is too good to be true.


The Primus glances to the spacious empty land to his right.

“The confiscation of your life savings, as well as your accommodations’ cut is directed for this.” He says. “It’s an alternative for you, and your friends, to pay for the charges.”

“I have to cultivate this land.”

He nods. “Think about it. Not only you’ll achieve your dream, but this island will also flourish like it once had.” He then turns to me again. “But you have a condition in turn.”

 Ah yes, here they come.

“From now on, you will no longer be a part of the Creatio Genetrix’s maids. Reapplication in advance will be denied. And in the next five years, you will have to reach a certain net worth. Success means you’ll keep everything, and a pardon will apply to all of you. You are still pardoned if you fail, but you have to forfeit all of this as I assign someone else to take over.”

I nod. “That means I won’t be receiving any more accommodation from you?”

“And no more salary.”

“I understand.”

“Instead, this couple will accommodate you.” He says, pointing to the middle-aged couple who step forward. “Come get to know them. They’re your godparents now.”

Godparents? I gape at the fact that he went this far as giving me godparents.

“Glad to see you, Lena. I’m Glas Weisskopf. Just call me Weiss.” He says. Mr. Weiss then turns to his wife. “Give it a go, honey.”

“With pleasure, I’m Rosemarie. You can call me anything around that. Rose, Marie, or perhaps Mrs. Weiss.”

“Pleased to meet you Mr. and Mrs. Weiss.” I present a bow.

“I think I like this girl.” Mrs. Weiss says to her spouse.

“Colonel Weisskopf is a shining fella on the front.” Microv barks. “So captivating that our enemies are all going for him. So dangerous that Mrs. Weisskopf keep wishing for his safety twenty-four seven.”

“I appreciate the introduction Mr. Edward.” Mr. Weiss nods at sir Microv.

“And those men there, are his.” Microv continues, nodding at the direction of the large group of Proxies. “They’ve seen countless unpleasant times that we consider them to retire.”

“But of course…” The Primus speaks again, raising his hand. “That is if you succeed, in five years.” He says. “Your failure equals to sending him back to the front, as well as his men.”

Hearing that, Mr. and Mrs. Weiss turn to each other with a smile that seems to be forced.

“What if I reject your offer?” I say to the Primus.

“Then you’ll return to Creatio Genetrix and live up with your cut salary and accommodation until you’re pardoned. Your friends will be a subject to the Proxies discipline, and will be sent to the front along with Colonel Weisskopf and his men. This place, will be my private property.”

That left me in silence, pondering of the situation. If I succeed in cultivating this land under the timespan that he proposed, I’ll be the lady of this land. Just like my mother. And my family’s name will be restored in the process. I can’t imagine what happens next if I fail. Well, I’m not concerned for myself. It’s more about Julia, Lennard, and Zen. Perhaps even Mr. Weiss. I believe Mr. Weiss have seen quite a thorn in the front. Meanwhile, Julia, Lennard, and Zen have gone through a rough beginning. If they are all sent to combat the Vindicators in the main stage…

I don’t know. Now it’s not just my family’s wealth at stake, but also the lives of Julia, Lennard, Zen and these men. It’s no longer personal. And due to that, my doubt is over the roof.

Apparently, my silence is noticed by everyone. From the corner of my eyes, I see the Primus jerks his head, gesturing for everyone to disperse for a moment. He then approaches me.

“Sir…” I stutter.

“You’ve made it this far. You have no reason to be discouraged.”

“They’re in danger, sir. You said you’ll send them to the front if I fail.”

“That is if you fail.”

“But the first task that I am entrusted with ended in failure.”

The Primus sighs. “Take lesson then, Lena.” He says with a gentle tone that somehow feels heartwarming. “No one has ever succeeded in the first try. But I believe you’ll succeed now. After all you’ve been through, and given your determination.”

I turn to everyone who is now standing within distance from me. They all seem to be cheering out for some reason, getting to know each other. Especially the maid colonel.

“Retirement is cool, indeed.” That’s sir Microv barking in the distance. “But I ain’t stopping now. Who the hell is up to sweep his mess along the way?”

His mess probably refers to the Primus’.

“Can I talk to Zen please?”

The Primus nods. He strides to where the crowd is and gestures for him. It doesn’t take too long for Zen to come after me.

“What’s the matter?” Zen asks.

“Did you know that he’s sending you, Julia, and Lennard to the front if I fail?”

“We’re aware of that, Lena.”

But not only that. They will be assigned to Colonel Weisskopf’s unit which, as far as sir Microv’s description goes, apparently tends to bear the burden of dangerous tasks. The fact that there remains around fifty men left in his unit implies the numerous amounts of casualties associated with achieving the objectives given to them. The odds of survival are certainly minimal at best. Zen probably won’t survive another day in a mission handed to his unit.

“The Vindicators have killed nearly all of your friends that night. It’s dangerous out there.”

Zen takes a deep breath. “Look Lena,” He says, getting even closer to me. Perhaps the closest one. His bright captivating features this close begins to drive me wild. “You shouldn’t be concerned about that. Focus instead, on how to make the best of these and succeed.”

I turn my gaze down. “You know I led a team once and failed. And that’s only for a simple task of caring for the Primus.” I mean, owning a land is indeed my dream. But, “I don’t know about cultivating this land under a deadline.”

“Don’t worry Lena.” He says. “The frontlines are brutal places. I’m pretty sure Mr. Weiss and his men have little to no desire in returning there, even though they’re made for it. And that’s why I believe they will also do their best to help you, alongside us.”

My sight is raised back at him. This feeling blossom even brighter within as I trace the details of his features. Eventually, I give in to my temptation. I step closer, placing my hands on his chest just below his shoulders, and leans my head against it.

“If you’re going to the front, then I’ll come with you.” I say gently. I believe I have the sufficient fitness drills. But for the role, anything could work. As long as I’m with him.

“If you insist…” He says, wrapping his arm around my shoulders.

My heart races, like a pendulum that sways faster with each tick. The smooth texture of his shirt provides a comfort for my head. I silently rejoice in the presence of his delicate scent that pervades to every corner of my nostril. The vast grass lands in spring where he offers his hand while wearing a glimmering royal suit is now within grasp. Only without the glimmering royal part. Nevertheless, I remain grateful.

Who would’ve thought that it would come to this? For the first time ever, nothing else feels matter for me. Just him all the way. The way his warmth permeates within me raises my confidence by a huge amount. No matter what the world has to offer, I believe I could withstand it. I want to stay like this forever.

“But for now, let’s do our best together. Promise. At least you did something for the best of this place.”

I nod. “You’re right.”

Zen then turns to the crowd. “Do you want me to get them?”

“I’d be much obliged.”

Zen walks to them. And in the next moment, they all come marching here. I turn to the Primus and make my statement be heard by everyone here.

“I’ll accept your offering. And I shall meet your demand as well.” I say to him.

“That’s the spirit!” Lennard shouting at me.

“Way to go, Lena.” That’s Julia cheering me up.

“I’ll be here if you need me.” Of course you will, Zen.

The Primus turns to sir Microv and Colonel Iva. He then pulls out his utilizer.

“There are some starter seeds that you could work with in the farmhouse’s storage. There will also be some transport at your disposal, including a cargo ferry that should carry your commodities abroad. Here are the licenses and contracts that you’ll need. The number of the net worth is also attached. The name of this place is for you to decide. Register it once you are assured.”

I retrieve all the documents he sent to my utilizer.

“Do you need anything else?” The Primus proceeds to ask me.

I take a deep breath. “I think that’s everything, sir.”

“Colonel Weisskopf?”

“All is well, sir.”

“Take care of them, that’s an order.” The Primus points at him.

Mr. Weiss stands in order and salute him without saying a word.

“Yeah, I’m blaming you if one of their arses caught fire.” Sir Microv points at Mr. Weiss.

“Hush, Microv.” The Primus says. He then turns to Colonel Iva. “Iva, parting gesture? This could be the last time you see her.”

She nods before stepping forward. The maid colonel has been silent through this moment, but she never seemed more joyful before.

“Ma,am…” I salute her.

Colonel Iva present a gentle smile toward me, a genuine one that she never seems to be able to commit before. “Drop that formality. You won’t be taking orders from me anymore.” She says.

“Uhh…” Just as she said, I gradually lower my salute. “As you say, Ma’am.”

“Ms. Iva.”

“Yes, Ms. Iva.”

“Thank you.” She nods at me. “For that, for your service…” The maid colonel makes an unexpected pause. “For everything…”

I, of course, notice what she is referring to.

“I’ve heard about you from him.”

Colonel Iva steal a glance to the Primus behind her. He sighs and turns his gaze down. She turns back to me and nods. Her eyes however, starts to glitter.

“Thank you for trying to protect us.” I say to her

In a split second she grabs me and hugs me with all her might. Her face is against my left shoulder, which begins to feel damp. Sniffles and whimpering come after.

“I’m in your d-debt…forever.” She says.

“Ms. Iva…”

The prestigious maid colonel who appears to be strict all the time falls apart before me. The Primus turns around and takes several steps away, followed by sir Microv.

“I don’t know what you did. But one night, when he told me to bring him a chocolate pudding, he raises the spoon and put it into my mouth piece by piece. He proceeds to brush my hair, dropping the best fragrance he has as he tidies them up. And as I lay on my bed, he gently put my blanket on before sitting next to me for bedtime stories. When I give in, he kisses my forehead, wishing me a good night before apologizing.”

A tear comes running down my cheek.

“Thank goodness…” I say. “How I’m relieved to hear that, Ms. Iva.”

She nods on my shoulder before letting go. After wiping her own eyes, she pulls out her napkin and wipes her leftovers on my left shoulder.

“Promise me you’ll not fail.” She then says. “I’ll not be the only one who mourn should you fail. Hana, Rina, Eri, and Theo will as well.”

Now that the maid colonel, Ms. Iva, mentioned it, I have to succeed. As it’s not only for my family’s wealth, Zen, and the lives of others. But also for her, as well as my fallen team.

Hana, Rina, Eri, Theo…If you are watching, listening, I hope you note this.

“Don’t worry, I won’t fail.”

She sniffles once more. “Tell me if you need anything. I’ll gather all the help I could get.”

“Don’t be too harsh on yourself, Ms. Iva.”

“But for you, I insist.”

I nod.

“Iva!” That’s sir Microv calling her out in the distance. “Transport is here. Your father wants you to come over as soon as possible.”

“I’ll be going, take care Valeska Helena.” She says to me before trotting to catch up with Microv.

This has to be the greatest prize in my life. I never thought that I’d receive something like this. Despite the condition, this is something that will make me forever indebted to him. Imagine the possibilities. I could expand my family’s wealth. I could get a place for Uncle Bark who had ransomed me. And perhaps, Hana’s last will…

Will I ever see him again? Will he still be alive once this place reaches its pinnacle? Will I ever be able to repay him?

My body surges first before I knew it. I call out for him once more.

He turns around.

“Thank you, sir.” I say, bowing to him with teary eyes. But now, they are tears of joy. “Thank you for everything.”

“Thank me later. When you’ve reached that net worth.” He says, stroking my head.

“I promise to see you through to your end.”

He gently shakes his head. “You don’t have to.”

I sniffle as I raise my head. And he wipes my tears.


“If only Iva is your age, if only Genesis and Katrina are still alive…You all would make the best of friends.” He says, turning his gaze to the skies.

Despite all of his misbehavior, he is still a human. Despite all of his cruel deeds, he only longs for a daughter. His hostilities and ruthless tendencies arise to protect the tender part of his soul, the part which he couldn’t give to anyone since there’s only a tiny remain of them.

“Don’t stop disciplining people, Lena. That’s an order.”

That’s the last thing he said to me, before departing with his transport.

I wave farewell as everyone converges on me.

“Hey Lena, you might want to give this place a name.” Lennard says to me.

“I concur.” Mr. Weiss adds. “Just, not after this island.”

“I suggest something that could encourage our gear to grind this land, to meet his demand.” Zen says.

I look around, trying to find the perfect phrase. Fortunately, it comes when I stare at his transport that gradually disappears in the distance.


“Oh, so we’re naming it after him?” Lennard asks.

“Not quite.” I respond. It’s more of how this island functions as his primary venue for his leave.

“Prime Respite.”


A calm day. The foliage is rustling at the presence of a smooth breeze, blowing down from the top of the hill. Here I stand, on a decorated courtyard at one serene part of the island. A resting place for its inhabitants who have passed away. Their memorials are carefully established using ceramics which shines every evening, emblazoned by the setting sun. It is as if the spirits sit upon them, together watching the mesmerizing view of the sun meeting the sea.

“And so that’s it, as told by my mother herself.” A middle age man says to me.

“Did the she ever meet the Primus again?”

The man shakes his head. “Sadly…” He says. “She would stand here at the end of every week, gazing at the sky, waiting for his return.”

“But he never came back.”

“Well, what should I say?” The man pulls his pipe out of his mouth. “My mother’s foundation has created such a noise in his vacation site. He probably migrated to another one, he can do whatever he wants.”

My glance turns on the stones that lies before me. There are four of them laid side by side.

Karl Schneider Luetzen

Valeska Helena

Julia Ferrata

Wilhelm Lennard Santoso

The names that are inscribed on each stone from left to right, respectively. They who have established the greatest contributor to the Creationists’ cause. It is said that he, who was once the most powerful man in the world, named me after the girl on the right. He claimed that she was captivating, not only in figure and feature but also heart and soul.

On another layer a bit lower than them, lies another four.

Tanaka Hitohana

Shabrina Agonskaya

Erika El-Nabila

Fiona Theodora

The maids that accompanied Mrs. Lena on that fateful task. Even though they decided to abandon her, she still wanted them to be buried alongside her. The first one, Tanaka Hitohana, is a remarkable maiden. As my great grandmother puts it, ‘Without her, the Terran Vindicators are toast under the march of the Artificial Creationists’. Even though they lost, they went out in a mighty blaze visible to the ends of the world.

“Yuki!” A woman’s voice calling me from behind. I turn around, finding her marching to my position. “It’s getting dark. You need to return to the inn.”

“Sylvana come on…” I say to her. She is my great grandmother. “Just a bit longer.”

“I’m afraid that is not possible.” She says, crossing her arms. “As a daughter of the most powerful man in the world and the greatest theocratic monarch, you too shall manifest their discipline.”

“Well, well,” The man, Mr. Valeska Kolya Luetzen, says to Sylvana. “This woman fits the description laid by my mother.”

Sylvana takes a deep breath. “I have no choice. The ArC is a menace. The raid I had conducted once was to undermine their logistics as much as possible.”

“Don’t sweat it, my lady.” The man bows before her. “I was about to thank you for saving my mother.”

Sylvana’s gaze returns to Mr. Kolya. “Blinded by hatred, my men ran wild like savage dogs that would pounce at any flesh in sight. I couldn’t control them. Imagine if they catch up to her first, instead of me.”

A silence ensues. Sylvana and Mr. Kolya gazes upon each other for a moment.

“Anyway, I’m here to pick our young empress.” She says, grabbing my hand and dragging me away from Mr. Kolya. “Come, you have to study.”

“No, no. Wait!” I squeal in a way so that she let go of me. “Sylvana, please…”

But instead of letting go…

“Aeliana Julia Kinetica Pratama Tribhuwana,” That sounds terrible. “Your delinquency throughout the day has pushed me into a state where I couldn’t tolerate them any further this evening. You shall return to your room, immediately.”


“We shall part here for a moment, Mr. Kolya.” Sylvana says, glancing at him. “I appreciate that you look after her through the day.”

“With pleasure.” He shrugs, putting his pipe back in.

“Goodbye, Mr. Kolya.” I wave to him.

“Till next time, her majesty.”

As we stroll under the crimson shade of the setting sun, I glance at Sylvana who is still holding my hand. The decorations on her figure are radiant before the light of the evening. To her, I call out.


“Yes, my dear?”

“Why did you save her, of all the others? Even though you ordered the destruction of her village?”

She halts her steps and gazes down.

“It’s my subordinate who did that.” She said. “I was outraged when the result came out. I hustle as soon as possible to try and restrain my men. But it’s too late.”

“Still, why would you do that?”

“If you’re fighting monsters, you have to see that you don’t become monsters yourself.”

Don’t become monsters yourself… I turn my gaze forward for a moment, pondering at her statement. It’s when another question pops out.

“Do you regret saving her, then? Since she is the reason behind the apparent perpetual rotation of the gears of ArC war machine.”

Sylvana turns to her left. Toward a magnificent view of huge interconnecting domes, floating around the island. The domes that house sanitized environments, sustaining thousands of lives scarred by the wars, providing them a decent life.

“No,” She shakes her head and grins. “Not at all.”


Prime Respite

Prime Respite (Part 7)

Chapter 7

And just when I thought this mission couldn’t get any worse. I hunker down in the bunk, my back against its door, with my combat gear strapped; A set of shoulder, knee, elbow guard, armlets, greaves, and a torso plating able to generate protective shield. Fortunately, the armor used for daily drills are heavier than this one. Hence, this should be convenient for me.

“Situation?” The Primus’ voice comes through my utilizer.

A moment ago I received a call from him, informing the presence of hostile forces in the island. Their objectives aren’t yet clear and their position isn’t yet known. Thus, he ordered me to stay on guard.

 I link up my utilizer to the surveillance cameras across the mansion and skim through their footages. He made this feature accessible to me just now. In fact, he made all the remote features of this mansion available for my use.

“Still no one, sir.”

“Hang tight, I’m heading there.” He says before cutting off the transmission.

I take a deep breath. We still don’t know how lethal this hostile force is. The Primus told me to expect the size of what a speedboat could contain. Regardless, I’m not sure I myself could mount a resistance to keep them at bay. I’ve also contacted Zen about this. He said that he and his colleagues are already on guard, per sir Microv’s warning. He promised me that we would rendezvous first before confronting this threat, as soon as they’re spotted.

I hope this mansion isn’t their objective. I thought, cowering even deeper. But I think that’s too much of an expectation. Even though I had combat training, I never wish to see the real one myself. Not ever since that evening. It is also the reason why I left Uncle Bark, who lives just behind the front and is a potential target for hostile raids, for the capital that’s safe behind all of her sons and defenses.

As my sweat trickles down my face, and my fist clenched to hold against the shivering, I wish so that this will be over as soon as possible. Why does things keep getting worse over time? I just wanted to accomplish my duties as a maid. Why does this incursion have to occur?

“Oi delinquent lass, it’s your Household Manager again.” I’m surprised to find sir Microv’s voice blaring through my utilizer. This time he speaks with a gentler tone, compared to the last time he talks to me. “As much as how my word pierced you that night, which it might did, I wanted to you to stay calm. You’re a combatant citizen, so stay calm and remain on watch. Depending on their strength, you might not need to participate in butting their arse.” He says.

“Where are you right now, sir?”

“Hustling for the place where your boyfriend settles.”

For a moment, I remark how he just mentioned that in a situation like this. I slap myself, trying to dismiss that. There is a greater concern.

“Excuse me sir but, do you really believe that you’d made it here in time?”

“We would if Microv modded his module.” That’s the Primus’ voice.

“What good does it do if you aren’t slapping in a synergized configuration?”

“You know you can just install those that shows a percentage of performance increase on their tags.”

“Hmmh,” Sir Microv chuckles. “You mean like how we could just throw all our armors to take the thralls’ fortified positions? Sure I can.”

These two people. They are aware that there are hostiles roaming this island without knowing their whereabouts. Yet they still able to throw leisure conversations. Was it a feature only available to the most powerful man in the world? And perhaps his direct subordinate?

“Anyway, maintain that alert stance.” The Primus says to me.

“Y-yes sir.”

I take a deep breath once again. And just as I do…

I hear gentle tapping on the floors outside. Footsteps. Steadily creeping across the mansion. When I skim through the surveillance footages, two of them shows armed men with crimson outlines on their combat gear. It’s them, the Vindicators. The people who razed my village. They’re here.

But how? How did I miss them? How could I not see them coming? There are surveillance cameras installed outside. Perhaps, my thoughts are too occupied, that I didn’t check the footages often. I quickly disable the transmission function of my utilizer and send a warning message to both Zen and the Primus. Please come quick…

In total there are six men on the mansion. Turns out not to be a large force. One of the footages however, ripped my heart out of my chest and tear the flesh to which my bottom jaw clings. It shows a girl with the same maid uniform as mine.


Why? How long have you been scheming with them? Is this the reason why you left me? Most importantly, where are the others? Rina, Eri, Theo? Did you…?


She strides to the stairs and climbs it. Her steps are gentle, almost devoid of noise. Is she coming for the Primus? Are they here to assassinate him? I guess it’s a fortune that he is not here for the moment. But still, he is in danger if he decides to come here.

I have to do something. But I can’t confront them all by myself.

It’s when I receive a message from Zen.

We’re mobilizing.

Yes please, come here as soon as possible. For the first time ever, I desperately want a boy to come over to my place.

Perhaps I could get the jump on Hana. I check the surveillance to see her breaching the door to the Primus’ room. That’s one property violation. She roams around the room, her sight constantly looking around. A moment later, she brings up her utilizer, perhaps contacting her units. Before long she thrusts her short sword through the Primus’ bed, perhaps out of a frustration of not finding the man here.

She then proceeds out of the room and head to the top floor, where the Primus’ personal office is.

As I notice that the armed men are scattered all around, I gently push the bunk door open. It creaks, but hopefully not enough to alert those men in the mansion. I slip out, taking one gentle step after another. I direct the energy of my combat gear to suppress the noise of my footsteps. Since this place is massive, I believe they won’t notice me unless I get near them.

There are two stairways and they are segmented by each story. I constantly shift to whichever would raise the bare minimum of their alertness. But as I reach the topmost story where the Primus’ office is, my shin crashes against the last step. It doesn’t hurt that much but it makes quite a noise. I quickly press my hand against my mouth as I hold my body with an arm.

I leer downstairs and sees a man turn his glance to my direction. There’s an obstruction of course, but I can see him paying attention to the noise that I made.

Damn it. Once he gets around the obstruction, he’ll spot me. I’ll be done for.

“Pavio!” A voice blares from the other side of the room. To my relief, that man’s attention turns to him. “Look! This man adored Julius Caesar!”


“There’s a bit of me in him, and the other way around yeah?”

Whilst they are occupied with anything they find, I hastily foot it through the final step. I begin to prowl to the office room. From the distance, I can see Hana standing before the Primus’ personal computer. I gently pull out my short sword, the wakizashi, as I near her. I make up a rectangular object as I get closer. That looks like a hard-drive. She must be retrieving crucial informations.

Seems like I am the only one standing between her and the reality where those details are published widespread. I can’t let that happen. That hard-drive shall not go anywhere.

And also, this is for your betrayal…

Since her torso is as protected as mine, a sweep through her neck is probably the best option. But once my blade is going for that point, she casually turns around and meet my wakizashi mid-air with hers.

“Sweet Lena…” She says, with a smirk that obviously humiliates me. “I am no Maid Color Sergeant for nothing.”

She shoves my blade away and proceeds with a powerful kick to my stomach. I got thrusted back. Before long, my back crashed against the wall, breaking a picture and a plant decoration in the process. The injury isn’t serious thanks to the shield generated by my combat gear.

I quickly rise up and rolls to the side to avoid a slashing wave from Hana. It struck the wall where I crashed and left a slashing mark. The wall is too thick to cut through, the wave only made it just some tiny distance deep from the surface.

“So we really settling this with force?” She rotates her katana around. “I’ll drink to that.”

If it is down to this, I don’t think I have a problem handling it. As the maids of Creatio Genetrix, we both are trained under the same martial art. I only need to hold until help arrives.

Then I leer to the sides, toward the hard-drive sitting just before the monitor. At least I have to stop the transfer as soon as possible without damaging that computer.

I pull my katana and commit three slashing waves before hustling around Hana to reach the computer. But she beats me to it and meets me with a slash to the stomach. I’m fortunate to notice that and mounts my katana just before it to block Hana’s strike.

“This is the reason you left me? Because you’ve been working with them all along?” I say as I struggle keeping her blade at bay.

“The Primus must pay for his sins.” She exclaims.

She shoves me away but I’m able to launch a sweeping attack against her. But it appears that Maid Colour Sergeant is more than just a rank, as she successfully parries my next eight successive strikes.

Hana counterattacks with two nimble and strong blows. I slightly stagger away from her. But as soon as I recover my stance, she dives toward me with one powerful slash that drags my footing back. Just as I recover from the shock of her katana crashing against mine, Hana launches me to her flank with her kick.

I rise back to some distance between her and me. My stance is on, and the tip of my katana leans to her direction. She remains in place as I hear footsteps gathering behind me. I leer to find six men training their rifles at me.

This, is bad.

“Those men are trained to kill you know?” Hana says. “Make one move and you won’t see the next dawn. Surrender now and we’ll spare you.”

Damn it. Why does everything keep getting worse for me over times? Will this actually be my end?

“Hana, why are you doing this?”


What!? A countdown?



“Hey, listen!”


“They’re going to shoot me anyway, might as well spare me the motive behind your merit.”

“Two…” She keeps on counting. Her smirk gaze turns into a glare. “One…”

Ah, I think this is it. This is my end. I close my eyes as they begin to well up. For a moment, I can see their faces zipping past me in the dark. My parents, Uncle Bark, Rina, Eri, Theo, Zen, sir Microv, and The Primus. I have, once again, failed them. Even if my gear is made to withstand projectile damage, it does no good under a barrage of one. They would still gun me to death even if I turn around and parries every bullet coming for me.

A gunshot. So that’s it…

But only one shot?

Not only that.

Its faint roar seems like it doesn’t come from anywhere inside the mansion. There must be someone else. I sigh a relief. It seems like they’re on time. Hana however, doesn’t seem to be amused anymore.

“They’re closing in, the militias.” A voice comes through her utilizer. A voice that somehow, I recognized. But I couldn’t remember.

“All of you get down there and hold our position.” She says to the six men. They then hustle downstairs with no second thought.

Whoever fired that shot, I’m in your debt too. And that makes me think for a moment, to grab a paper and lists everyone to whom I am indebted.

I reopen my eyes and directs a grin at Hana.

“Well, looks like it’s just us now.” I say to her.

“Not bad for a corporal.” She says. “Guess you really deserved to be one.”

“Hana.” I call her name again. “Why are you doing this!?”

Hana is silent as she gazes to her feet. Her arms are relaxed, she doesn’t have a stance on. But that doesn’t mean I have a chance. Based on the encounter just recently, she could mount her stance in a split second, deflects my strike and counterattacks like flipping a hand.

“Why am I doing this?” She says, her tone deepens. “How could I not? He took my parents from me!” She yells, extending her left arm, pointing toward The Primus’ seat.

“You’re not the only one who suffered such fate!” I yell back.

“But that is not the case!” Her left foot shifts slightly forward, her sight is sharp like a pike piercing through mine. “My father was a master of his domain. He led his people to resist against The Primus during his conquest. I was a child back then. I see him return home every night bloodied, filthy, all soaked in the odor of war. It’s so that our belief’s presence in this continent is preserved.

“But our resources are not as abundant as The Primus’, and our men aren’t as well armed as his. When it’s over, my father was forced to surrender so that his legacy remains intact, his people, our belief. Do you know what The Primus did next?”

I squint my eyes. Given his personality, his stance toward the believers, and the motive behind his hostilities to them, I think it’s obvious.

“Of course, we all know what he did. But how he did them…His men led my father and his people to a camp deep within the woods. When the lights went out, and everyone starts dozing off, he lobbed fire on those camps. My father, along with all of my people, perished in one night. The women are sold to slavery, my mother included. I was fortunate to be raised in an orphanage. But when I return for her with my prosperity as a color sergeant, she has already passed away, overworked to death. And that is long before I’ve even gained this rank.

“It’s true, that given one’s will, they could prosper under The Primus’ realm. But prosperity my crap! What good are gold and silver if the people that shared your compassion aren’t there for you!?” She yells at that last question; a tear comes trickling down her cheek.

Such atrocities…

Typical of The Primus’ will to erase the believers off of this world. But how wouldn’t he do them? The believers have sinned him, taking his daughters away two times. That should have been an equal trade.

In any case, that doesn’t mean the Vindicators are all-righteous guardians that protect their subjects from miseries.

“Do you think the Vindicators stick away from the wicked merit of The Primus?”

“They are the most powerful believers’ nation in this continent. They protect us all, and allow our belief to remain in this world, of course they are our savior.” She says, nodding in my direction.

“Well,” I take a deep breath. “Your wretched empress also burned my settlement and massacred everyone but me.”

Hana raises an eyebrow.

“My parents, their legacy, their wealth, all perished in one evening.” Heat is building up on my limbs’ end as I utter those words. As miserable as it is that evening. It is as if I want to surge forward and commits wide and quick slashes.

So, this is what it feels like. This is what anger feels like. This is what The Primus felt when he lost his wife, just so that a believer girl could stay under his roof. This is what he must have felt like when he lost his daughters two times to the same people.

“Heheh…” I hear Hana chuckles. That chuckles gradually turn into a wicked laughter. She takes a deep breath at its end. “I guess we really have a reason to murder each other, don’t we?” She flinches her head.

“Loud and clear, sarge.” I respond with a gentle tone. But my expression says otherwise. To Hana, I would seem to be no longer hesitant in committing to the fight. My sight is now all covered with a violent intention. I will not only stop her from extracting anything from The Primus’ personal computer.

I will kill her. Here, and now.

Our roars are silent, thanks to the maid discipline of maintaining our grace. Powerful shockwaves blast through under our greaves, propelling us forward against each other. Once more, our katana clashed with a might of an even greater magnitude. As our sight pierce each other, I realize. This will be a bloodbath.


The local militia breaches through the main gate and hastily assume a position around the first level of the mansion. Some open fire, suppressing the hostiles as a handful of theirs climb toward the fourth level. The mansion complex is too large for the militias to isolate, so there is a chance or space for the hostiles to escape.

“Push them up everyone! Step by step!” Fred yells out from a cover in one of the gazebos.

There are three hostiles opening fire to them. Meanwhile they split their forces in two platoons, each consists of fourteen men. And it’s divided further into two squads.

Still, those three men held firm. It seems like they’re part of an elite force. So far, the militias haven’t been able to take any of them down. Meanwhile Fred and Julia’s squad each have already lost two men.

“Julia,” Fred speaks through his utilizer. “We’ll flank them from the left. Give us covering fire.”

“Roger.” Julia responds. “All units, rise from cover and spray some lead.”

The remaining boys and girls that she is leading stands up and fire full auto toward the hostile position. One of the hostile men peeks out, fires a controlled shot and takes down one more of Julia’s squad.

“Two of you come with me!” Fred says to his squad.

The remaining two opens fire to cover them.

“Zen, Lennard, how are your progress?” Fred asks to the leader of the third and fourth squad.

“We’re taking heavy losses!” Lennard responds. “Zen is trying to enter that mansion, and my squad follows him up for cover. We’re down to three men!”

“How about you, Zen!?”

“Doing fine.” He replies gently through his utilizer.

“What do you mean fine?” Lennard grumbles. “That charge literally costs you five of your men!”

“At least we had one of them. Two more.”

“Damn it, hang in there I’ll reinforce you!” Fred says.

“You two, continue the flanking maneuver. I’ll head there and fire at them from behind.” He says to the two boys that follows him. They nod and commit to that order.

It is certain. These soldiers aren’t just regular soldiers. They must have been special forces. This is bad. Neither The Primus nor his right-hand man shows a sign of being nearby. Under this weight, they will be slaughtered very soon.

If only Vittoria is here. If only she is here to turn the tide and push those hostiles away from this place. Other than being a bloom in the kitchen, she has shown herself to be a prominent combatant. If she is here right now, they surely stand a chance against these forces.

Bullets fly, muzzles flash, and the noise of the rifles clashing against each other roar through the night. After a brief sprint, Fred suddenly halts in the presence of a shaded figure. But that figure has a prominent feature that makes them noticeable, even when being shaded by the darkness.

The golden hair.

“Vittoria…?” Fred utters her name.

“Yes, it is me.” She says stepping out of the darkness, revealing her strapped combat gear with crimson outlines.

It’s a sight that left Fred trembled.

“Wh-why?” He asks. “Have you…all this time…” His jaw left open. His figure remains sturdy on the ground, but the revelation shreds his will to nothing. Fred wishes that this is just a dream. That the golden haired-Android, to whom he shares a compassion with, in that crimson outlined armor is just his mind trying to mess up with him.

But it’s useless. As she walks closer to him, her presence becomes ever closer to reality.


Vittoria reaches for his right cheek. She strokes it gently, before turning her gaze down.

“I’m sorry, Fred.” She says. “But thank you, for everything.”

In a split second, she pulls out her thermal dagger and thrusts it against Fred’s chest, at the point where his heart is supposed to be.

Fred’s sight wavers. “Ah…so that’s it.” He says before collapsing.

Vittoria embraces him while getting on her knees. She strokes his back for a time before putting him down beside her. She places his hands on top of his stomach before pulling out her dagger.

“Fred! Fred!” A voice comes through his utilizer. “Fred, where the hell are you! Answer damn it!” That sounds like Lennard.

But it doesn’t matter.

He’s going to have a taste of her dagger too.

“I’m sorry everyone.” Vittoria says.


The sound of clashing blades echoes throughout the mansion. The slashing waves emitted by the blades flies here and there, wreaking havoc to the mansion’s interiors. Plenty of vases, shelves, tables, and sofas got sliced. The very least is that each got a slashing mark, which still counts as a property violation if the owner is concerned.

A shockwave topples me back. Thankfully, I land on my feet. But as soon as that, Hana charges again with incredible force. I pull back before swinging my katana forward, meeting hers. The gust that comes with her surges through me. But I held my ground.

I shove her katana away and make a sweep for her stomach. She steps back and pulls an uppercut, which I barely dodge by leaning back. I think I would be done for when she activates her emitters. It turns out, she didn’t. Perhaps all the energy reserves her gear can offer goes to enhance her mobility and strength. The slashing waves emitted by our weapon might be powerful, as it could slash enemies from a distance. But it drains a lot of energy to maintain the emitters.

And as my misfortune has it, Hana’s strikes are even more powerful than before.

Her blade sweeps for my head from left, then right. It’s a mighty strike that could sweep my head clean. I manage to parry them, but at the cost of my energy reserves since I have to enhance my strength against such powerful blows. She proceeds with her momentum after the right sweep, spinning once for another sweep with an even greater magnitude.

I don’t believe I could hold that one, so I crouch. Luckily, I see an opening. Hence, I swing my katana upward, against her left shin. But it only damages her greaves.

She then spins her katana, its tip aiming straight at me, and thrusts it. I dodge to the right and dashes through, slicing her left arm in the process.

“Agh!” She yelps as blood spurts out of it.

Hang on? Blood? I thought our combat gear have shields.

I’ve recovered my stance as that thought comes to mind, a slight realization. But the slight delay gives Hana an opportunity to launch a charged slashing wave to my direction.

“Hngh!” I grunt as the force throws me back. My back crashes against the wall. Thanks to my shield, I survived. But it’s gone now. I stand up to the fact that I’m no longer safe from her dangerous attacks.

But it seems that she doesn’t have her shield either.

“Impressive.” She says, leering to her wound. “The maid discipline really is formidable.”


I pause as I catch my breath. Her attacks are truly devastating. The strain on my muscles are compensated slightly by my gear. But if I don’t have the air to move them, what purpose does it serve?

It seems like I should’ve died a few moments ago. Her violent moves are meant for a quick takedown of her adversaries. I assume no one have ever made it alive. That’s the reason she disables the shield feature of her gear, to conserve her energy reserves. But now she’s fighting me, another maid of Creatio Genetrix with the same training, the same drills, and the same gear. The card that she used to rely on couldn’t work on us.

“I guess a more careful approach is better.” As soon as she says that, azure light flashes around her, indicating an active shield feature.

Now this is trouble.

She now has a shield on, meanwhile I’m completely vulnerable. I absolutely couldn’t keep this up. Given her fierce melee prowess, she’s untouchable on a one versus one duel. I’ll be the one who would fall first.

“What’s wrong? Tired already?” Hana says, followed up by her smirk. “There’s more from where that came from.”

I can still hear gunshot from outside. Zen and the others must still be fighting against those men. If I let her defeat me, then she could reinforce her men and slaughter everyone.


I can’t let that happen. I won’t allow her to touch Zen.

My glance turns to the railings. Beyond them is a gap that links directly to the ground floor. Most importantly, the living room which is close to the kitchen.

I think I know what should I do.

I take a deep breath.

“If you’re not coming for me, then don’t mind if I do.” Hana says, readying her stance.

This is it…

She surges forward just like what she did before. Her blade shines, indicating an incoming slashing wave, as she raises it over her right shoulder.

As she’s nearing the right point, I leap forward, thrusted even more by the shockwave that comes down my feet. I land on one foot on her left shoulder and use it as a step to propel me for the gap. Another shockwave that comes down my greave slams her face against the wall behind me. And with that, I begin my fall.

I use my remaining energy reserves to reinforce my feet.

The loud thud as my feet meet the ground floor trembles nearby properties. And with that, I ran out of my energy reserves. With no second thought, I hustle for the kitchen. The fact that Hana hasn’t followed up is a fortune. She probably takes the stairs for one or two stories before dropping down to ease the fall and conserve her energy.

She’s probably saving them to finish me off with the most powerful slashing wave she could come up with.

“You can not hide Lena!!” She yells.

I don’t respond.

In the next seconds, I finally reach the kitchen. As soon as I do, I slip on my long skirt. My face crashes against the floor. But it’s not as painful as when I am not wearing my combat gear. That, however, isn’t in my plan. As embarrassing as it is, it might be the distraction that I need. I crawl backward as I hear footsteps rushing in this direction. I hope it’s Hana. Then I grab on to the stove handle to help me up.

Sure enough, it’s her.

“You’re bold to come after me.” I say to her.

“Well, rank prerequisite.” She says.

“You know,” I gaze downwards, deliberately showing my weakness. “That was an excellent fight.”

“Do you think I’d back down?” She shakes her head. “You’ve missed your chance to surrender.”

“No.” I say. “I’m saying that this is your end.”

She strikes me with her malicious smile. “Said someone who is cornered to my mercy.” Hana takes a deep breath. “Fine,” she says raising her katana, its blade begins to shine again. “I’ll make this quick then. You won’t feel a thing once it is done. That is for being the first to wound me, physically.”

I nod.

Hana then charges. The same movement as before, presumably more powerful. In a split second, I jump, roll, and slide to my left, barely avoiding the vertically aligned slashing wave that was coming to my direction. At the end of my slide, I sweep kick a one legged-table. Its face is now to Hana’s direction.

And that’s it.

The gas compartment of the stove is split in two, along with the gas tank inside it. Our contempt gaze fell on each other as the gas bursting in Hana’s proximity. She doesn’t seem to care about it, as she ready her katana again. But this is the end.

The Primus provided me access to every remote-controlled system in the mansion. Including the stove. So, I raise my left arm and presses a button on my utilizer, within Hana’s sight.

Fortunately, the stoves are lit. And with all the burners active…

It’s as if time has stopped. As the mansion tremble under the thunderous swarm of the ember monarchs, I cower behind the table, concealing myself from their rage. A sudden glimpse of the past. That evening, when columns of them rain hell upon my home. The evening where I lost my parents. There is nothing but flames blazing here and there as far as the eye can see. I reach for my father as he returns inside the mansion for my mother. But the mansion collapses first before they make it.

The incredible heat is reminiscent of that time, when I try to find safety by myself, across the sea of flames that ready to pounce on me at ease. The dark smoke fills the scene, blinding my sight. I could only make up those that is really close to me. I couldn’t think of where to go, still consumed by the loss of my parents. When I failed to track my friends amidst the noise of crackling embers and adults’ screams, I trip and fall to the ground. It is when a flaming debris collapses on to me. I thought I was toast, meeting the same fate as my parents.

But now I remember…

I remember a monarch that comes to my aid. The largest of her kind. She braved the debris with her majestic ember wings that has a flash of crimson across them. The wings flutter as she pulls me tight in her embrace. The debris doesn’t scratch her by a bit. She doesn’t even flinch as it crashed on her back. The sole warmth that the lone monarch brought, so it is her. The empress herself, Tribhuwana the second.

Then the heat diminishes. I reopen my eyes as I realize it. I rise from cover, to a room filled with crackling fires. Since there’s no flammable materials around, these fires won’t last long.

On the other side of the kitchen, I found her. Her back is against the wall, and her head is tilting to one side. I thought she is dead, until I notice that her body is still pulsating gently. I approach her. She is all-bloodied from head to toe, shrapnel injury. There are two sizeable pieces of metal sticking out of her left thigh and her stomach. Burn marks are also visible on her arms, hands, and a bit of her face, defiling her beauty.

It doesn’t take too long for her to look up on me.

“Ghh…ghh…” She shut her eyes as tears streak down her cheeks. “I’m sorry…Mother. Father…” She whimpers.

I kneel down and land my finger on her lip.

Her eyes, glittering, turns to me.

“I’ll make this quick, for that chocolate cake.”

She sniffles at my statement. But it doesn’t take long for her to shut her eyes again and nod.

I move around her and kneel again. My left hand holds her chin up, pressing the back of her head to my stomach. Then I pull my wakizashi, putting it just on her throat.

“Do you have something to say?” I ask her.

“I hope…” She halts as she spits blood out of her mouth. “Your family’s wealth is restored in no time.” Hana then raises her sight to gaze on me, who is facing down on her. “And promise me Lena…by then, you will protect innocent families…so there won’t be, a second me. There won’t be…any more…broken houses.”

My teeth are clenching against each other, and it’s never been this hard. It takes another second for me to realize that my eyes are welling. It’s hard to believe she just said that at her last moment.

“There won’t be a second me as well.” I reply.

Hana gives her last smile. And that’s when I run my blade across her neck.

“Rest in peace, sarge.” I say, reclining her body on the ashen floor reeks of burnt ceramics, putting her hands gently on her stomach.

I place both palms of my hands on my face, taking a deep breath while running them across it.

How many more people like Hana out there? Those who are wounded by the conflict? Those who bled and lost under The Primus’ gruesome ambition? Who is at fault here? Who is to blame? Everyone has their reason for their deeds. Everyone has their loss that justifies their motives. If that’s the case, then will there ever be someone to blame?

Or maybe it’s never about finding the root where it began…

If two branches could speak, would they be concerned if one towers higher than the other because it used up the provisions that are meant for their shorter counterparts? Or would they just go along living side by side as if there has never been any conflict between them?

Then I realize that it is already silent out there. The gunshots are no longer heard. My nerve rises over the roof. Did Zen succeed? Or is it the other way around?


I obviously couldn’t stand a chance against those men, especially in my current condition. If there’s one thing that I could do, is to destroy that hard-drive on the Primus’ desktop.


He was right to be suspicious of her since that night when she separated herself for stargazing. She has pretty much committed lethal takedowns to the remaining militia. Lennard is wounded and unconscious, presumably dead. Perhaps the same fate also befalls Fred and Julia since they’re not responding. He survived thanks to his superior melee skill. But it costs him a stab in his left shoulder and a slash through his left eye and his right thigh.

Still, surviving now won’t do anything. There are still four of those elite forces left. And with his wound, there’s no way he could take them all by himself.

Nevertheless, he still drags himself across and leans against something solid. That something might have been one of the railings before getting blasted away by the projectile exchanges.

He pulls out his pistol, aiming it at the four men who are cornering him, and opens fire. Of course, the bullets ricochet. These four men still have their shield active. That shield, projected by their combat gear, deflects the incoming bullets. Even if they don’t have their shields, the bullets would still bounce off or just sticks into their body with no significant outcome since they’re Androids.

“Hey, kid. Just give up. We’ll spare you.” One of them said.

“Yeah, promise.” The one next to him follows up.

“Never.” Zen says, reloading his pistol and opening fire again.

“You know, I feel bad for him.” The elite force says. “Let’s just end his suffering.”

As one of them trains his rifle at Zen, his colleague who stands at the rightmost points to the left.


They all turn to that direction, and finds two men leisurely marching to them. They quickly form a line and aims their rifles at them. Zen also turns to the direction they are facing.

“Picking a fight with a wounded seventeen-year old? That’s some flogging for you blokes!” One of them says as he stands at some distance from them.

The other is still catching up. Once he is near the first one, he bends over with his hands on his knees.

“Goddamnit, you’re ruining my entrance.” The first man says to him.

“Your entrance shall accompany these thralls to whichever abyss you’re sending them to.”

“Fire!” One of the elite forces shouts out. In the next second, bullets are storming the two men’s direction.

“The Primus is here! Repeat, The Primus is here!” The other yells through his utilizer.

For a moment, Zen is shocked and tries to reach for the two men. But as soon as he does, he’s greeted by the sight of the first man leisurely extending his right arm to their direction. The bullets don’t go further than his right hand. It is as if they enter a sphere held by his hand, and keeps on bouncing inside the sphere with blue wiggly lines bounding them.

It is not long until the elite forces ran out of bullets. They turn down their rifles, astonished by the spectacle they are witnessing.

“So,” He says to The Primus beside him. “As usual?”

“As usual.”

Then the bullets are arrayed into a rectangle as wide as the elite forces’ line. Its sharp end points toward them. And all of a sudden, the bullets turn blue with electric sparks flying around them. In a split second, the bullets surges through the four men at blinding speed. They collapse thereafter.

It’s not the first time Zen witness such wonder. He saw it just few days ago with Lena on the same garden. But still his gaze filled with astonishment. How could one possess such power?

“Scientia, victrix!” The first man yells out. His loud voice blares through the night.

“Now take care of the wounded,” The Primus says “I’ll tend to the minor nuisance inside.” He then turns around and strides for his mansion.

“There’s someone else there?”

“There’s no way that one-person radio someone else beside him.”

“Rite…” He says before turning to Zen. “Now, hang in there. First aid coming through.” He reaches into his one of his mantle’s pockets.

“I’m twenty-one you know?” Zen says to him.

“Eh,” The man shrugs. “You all look the same. Somewhere around that year-olds.”

 Zen takes a deep breath. He wishes that Lena is doing fine.


I hustle back upstairs. I think the transfer should be done by now. But it doesn’t matter. I could just destroy that hard-drive.

As soon as I return to the office, I am surprised to find someone else there. And how petrified I become when I recognize that prominent feature of her.

The golden hair. The girl behind that vendor. She is now clad with that crimson outlined armor, the harness of the Vindicators. So, the one that warns Hana and her men of Zen’s arrival with the others, it’s her.

Noticing me, she puts the hard-drive inside one of her pockets. I take a step back. Her face remains indifferent just like when I met her that day. But that’s what menacing about her.

Then I realize something. The firefight outside has ended. Could it be…


“Y-you…you killed them all?”

She turns to me and says, “I’m afraid that’s an improper way to initiate a conversation.”

“You killed them all.”

The girl raises her right hand. “The men are doing well. I am just easing their burden.”

That means…Zen.

No…No…No, no, no. It can’t be true right? He…he is still alive right? He can’t be killed that easily right? Right? Right?

She sighs. “Now excuse me, I shall take my leave.” She says as she begins to stride at the nearest office window to her. That window head straight outside. Presumably, this girl is going to jump through and hustle away.

I’m not going to let that happen. Not after what she did to Zen, Julia, and Lennard. She is going to pay.

“The Primus is here! Repeat, the Primus is here!” A voice, all soaked in the roars of more gunshot, blares through her utilizer.

This is my chance.

My body surges on its own. Before I realize it, I’m already standing between her and that window she is heading for.

She sighs again. “Do you really want to do this?”

“Over my dead body.” I say, raising my katana to her direction.

Without a warning, like a sudden jerking that allows me to react, she just shoves my katana away. And in a split second, her dagger pierces through my stomach.

“Agh!” I grunt as blood begin to spurt out of my mouth.

Her dagger somehow manages to penetrate my torso-plating and dive through my stomach.

Yet she doesn’t stop there.

As soon as she pulls out her dagger, she crouches and slashes my left thigh, followed by another one to my right shin. Both scores a hit as my blood streaks out. I haven’t even processed this hole in my stomach, yet I have to receive more?

Then a quick and strong blow to my right thigh with the butt of her dagger. That topples my balance. My sight is to the floor. As I’m about to fall to my knees, she uppercuts my face with her fist. A robust fist that indicates her synthetic nature. I lost her when she slips past me. That is when she stabs me again from behind, just some distance to the right of the previous stomach wound.

 “AHH!” I made no effort to suppress my loud yelp as that dagger pierces my stomach again, only from behind. My gaze turns to the ceilings, to the lightings installed there. They begin to blur as my head throbs harder.

As if I haven’t had enough already, she proceeds with a slash through my right arm before shifting back to my front. There she pauses and stabilizes me for some reason, making sure I’m still standing. With the last of my strength, I train my sight at her. And there it comes. A diagonal uppercut against my front torso.

My gaze once again turns to the ceilings as I see my blood droplets flies all around me.


The force of that swing pushes me slightly back. But that is when she commits a mighty kick against my chest, supported by a shockwave.

My body flies through the window pane, penetrating it. Yes, my body. Because I’m not sure that I’m alive anymore. That’s not even counting the fall. I heard something break as soon as my back hits the ground. They’re probably my bones.


I’m not sure I could survive this wound. Even if I do, I’d probably be disabled for life. With my blurred vision, I make up the outlines of that golden-haired girl perching on the remains of the window pane, before finally blasting away. She disappears into the darkness, soon after.

Maybe I’ll see her there again.

In the darkness…

Because my sight is blacking out.

A breeze blows through the night. Those monarchs with their dazzling ember wings, they’re here again, circling above me. There’s a handful of them. The way they flutter around along curly trajectories, forming an ever-shifting pattern illuminated by a small garden torch, is such a relieving show. The radiant theatre with a background of the serene night sky makes an excellent anesthetic. For a moment, I forgot about my wounds.

“…Z-Zen…look. Beautiful…aren’t they?”

My hand then reaches out, hoping for more share of their warmth. To my sorrow, they begin to disperse. Fluttering away, leaving me alone amidst the shivering night.

Ah…so cold…

Feels like…sleep…

 Prime Respite

Glittering Shores

Entry Writchal #2
Tema: High School Romance

The azure sky is embellished with the exquisite hue of the setting sun. Sunrays fell upon the water surface below as it drifts into the horizon. Their ever-shifting texture scatters those heavenly light to an ever-changing direction. Like a lighthouse that flickers from the far distance. Only they are minuscule, and there are countless of them across the waters.

Here I stand, amidst the golden sands. The heat is gripping my skin. The waters periodically creep for my feet. Sometimes they come close, sometimes they wet the soles of my shoes. I crouch at a distance where the waters wouldn’t reach and lay my right hand on the sands. Their smooth feature is bearing on my right palm. Then I scoop them, raising them closer to my face. The grains stream down my hand as I loosen my grip. Some remains on my palm until I shove them away.

I look around as I try to remember how I got here. The clear view of the sky and the wide space surrounding me is in contrast to where I was before as far as my memory goes. The air of both freshen my lungs, but it was colder then. The winds flow through me. The loose part of my uniform sway at their direction. Seagulls fill the sky as they streak through the clouds.

For some reason, I am not concerned. The absence of my parents, my friends, and a way back. I don’t feel the need to think about them.

Then I rise up and walk along the shores. My sight is fixed to the sparkling waters along the way. The way they glitter reminds me of the sky that night. Perhaps the most beautiful moment I’ve ever had.

I take a deep breath as I come across a boulder formation. There’s no way around it, so I have to climb it if I wish to go through. Fortunately, it isn’t that massive. And the climb is as ease as taking stairs, only with a bit more care. From one of the boulders, I can spot a hut in the distance. It appears to be desolate, but I don’t have a choice. It’s getting dark and I’d need a shelter as soon as possible.

As I clear past the boulders, I notice something else. Rather, someone else.

A girl. A high-schooler just like me.

She stands bare-footed at the edge of the shore where the waters would creep past her feet. Her skirt is two inches above her knee, exposing her fine thighs as it flutters in the wind. Her hands are clasping each other in front of her chest. Her face is just above her clasped hands, perhaps less than an inch far.

I’m having a hard time believing what I’m seeing at first. But as I shorten the distance between us, her form grows ever clearer. That’s really her. An extraordinary girl that couldn’t be mistaken as any other person.

My eyes begin to well up as joy is bursting within like fireworks.

Not long after, she notices my presence. That’s when I raise my pace.

I call out to her at the top of my lungs. Then she waves her arm overhead.

Thank the Sentinel.

Writer: PrimDom

Prime Respite (Part 6)

Chapter 6

The Primus really does the housework by himself. Although there are several tasks that he missed, it is still remarkable. The most powerful man in the world sweeping the floor, mowing the lawn, watering the garden et cetera is a mythical sight. Who would’ve thought that he would agree to do those tasks?

My job is then reduced to meal preparation for both of us throughout the day. Again, he insists that I do so therefore I have no choice. By the time I had my dinner, the fever is gone for good. My well-being is restored and I am ready once more for my duty. Now that the other four maids are gone, the Primus told me to just work on the essential tasks for the day, no need to care for them all. That is to prevent another exhaustion.

I mop the floor as he is lounging on his couch in the spacious living room. He stares to the ceiling, seemingly full of thought.


I quickly stand at attention as soon as my name came out of his mouth.

“Yes, sir?”

“I’m going for a hike tomorrow.”

That doesn’t sound good. The last time he left is because he’s having a problem with me.

“Don’t worry, you’re doing fine now. It’s just that I’ve reached the lowest point of the island two days ago. Might as well reach its peak.”

I let out a deep exhale. That’s a relief.

“Are you sure, sir?”

“There’s an old hiking path there that I could follow. Besides, Microv will wait for me at its start so it’s nothing to worry about.”

“What’s sir Microv up to?”

“A discussion of our situation. I couldn’t tell you the details. They are just necessary affairs.”

“It’s fine, sir.”

“He believes that the shivering ambience of the peak, topped with the choirs of crickets could bring clarity for his processor to think.” He says. “Personal preference I guess.”

“I understand, sir.” I respond, pretending to flow along.

“I don’t need to ask whether you’ll be fine here alone for a whole day, right?”

I chuckle. “I promise not to overwork myself.”

“Excellent.” He exclaims, rising from his couch. He then heads off from the living room, presumably to his room on the third story. “I’ll make preparations then.” He says as he climbs the staircase.

“Yes, sir.” I reply before continuing to mop the floor.

I conclude the evening by tidying up the bed that I slept on all day since yesterday. I won’t be sleeping there anymore, I’d probably miss it. But well, at least I should be grateful that I got to sleep inside a lavish room.

Once done, I return to my bunk. A knocking on the door prevents me from tucking all in to the blanket. I button up the collar that I just loosen, and put my pin back on top of it. Of course, behind the door is the Primus. I would freak to oblivion if it’s someone else.

“Are you comfortable on that mattress?”

“It’s where we are supposed to sleep sir.” I say to him. “I mean, of course the bed yesterday is amazing I’d say.”

“You know you could rest there for another night, or two perhaps.”

I’d love to but, I can’t. That’s just…not how it works.

“But sir, I couldn’t consent to fall for the pleasure that your lavish properties have to offer. I’m still your maid after all. I still think I don’t deserve what you’ve did to me yesterday.”

If I were to indulge myself in such wealth, I have to earn it through my own blood and sweat. Yesterday was just a mistake. It’s not meant to happen. There’s still some time left before his leave is over. I can fix this. I will not disappoint.

I thought of something that I should say next. Somehow that makes me turn my glance away from him.

“It’s not that I don’t appreciate what you were doing yesterday.”

“I understand.” He says. “Hang tight to that pride of yours. It’s what makes you an ArC citizen.” He turns around and starts walking away. “I’d leave early tomorrow. Please consider adjusting the breakfast.”

“Understood sir.”

“Good night.”

“Good night, sir.” For some reason, the realization that he just wished me a good night comes after I close the door to the bunk. And I am once again out of my mind that he just did that. In any case, I do hope that tonight will go well for both of us.

The scorching heat I felt that evening is present again once I close my eyes. But this time, it’s different. It’s pitch black. I look around and finds no crackling embers, no dark smoke whatsoever. Just empty. Aside from that, it is cold. Not a shivering one, but the one just right to balance the flames that’s supposed to be all around me. I wonder where does this come from? How could it lead up to this?

Then a wisp blinks to existence. Its ember glow is against the darkness that envelops me. It whizzes here and there following a random path, like flies trying to find an exit from a bedroom they got themselves into. A moment later, the glow grows brighter. It takes me the next two seconds to realize that it is heading to my direction. Gradually, I make up its petite frame. It’s a monarch. The same one that rained ember upon my village.

It reaches up just in front of my face, struggling with its elegant wings to maintain its level. And before I know it, my left index rises up to meet the lone monarch who then sits on it.


What is it doing here? And the consuming heat that it supposed to bring isn’t there anymore. There’s just warmth. And somehow, I am grateful that it is here.


The Primus left as soon as he had his breakfast. He left me words that has me astonished to this moment.

“You should take a break too.”

It takes me thirty minutes to process that while I’m doing some tasks, as I doubt whether he really meant them or not. That’s when I receive a call from Zen. Aside from his gratitude for my recovery, he said that he’s going to spend his leisure in a park on the outskirt of the town. I first couldn’t believe what I’ve heard. He really told me that he is going to be somewhere, as if I would come to meet him there.

I mean…of course I would. Why not? That’s the reason why I am walking there right now. He had lent his hand for me a couple of times. This shall be my gratitude.

I follow the path that I took when I went for groceries. On the town, I trace the path on its edge that should bring me to the other side, where the park is.

It is located on a hill surrounded only by pathways and grass plains. It’s a convenience for those in town who sought urban-free respite. The park is not that enormous. In fact, it is smaller than the Primus mansion’s fourth layer, the same layer where the mansion is on. Its perimeter is decorated with ebony fence crawling with flowery vines. The entrance itself is made out of bundles of flowers. The combination of both is a sight for sore eyes.

After a minute of wandering around the park, I finally found him.

He is sitting on a bench overlooking a small fountain just several meters away from him. His rifle is still with him, leaning against one flank of the bench.

“It pleases me to see you’re doing well now.” He says as soon as I approach him. For the first time, he directs a grin at me.

Oh, how vibrant this view is.

“I heard that you’re the one who carries me to the bed.”

“His order.”

“Of course.”

He sighs. I then sit beside him, my legs tight against each other, my hands are overlapping on my lap. This is the second time we sit together like this. But due to how messed up my feeling was that night, I don’t think I could count that as being in tune with this one. Therefore, it’s safe to say that this is the first time we spend a moment together.

It’s warming up within. But I’m sure it’s not the fever.

As my heart races, I begin to wonder. I wonder whether he sees this moment the same way I see it.

“What do you plan to do here?” I ask him.

“I thought it would be nice if you decide it.”

“But you’re the one who invites me.”

“I’ve covered every corner of this park already. So, I suppose I’ll just depends on where your curiosity is pointing.”

Wow, this boy. Imagine having a rendezvous with a girl and being indecisive on what to do next. He seems to be a thoughtful person. The irony that he didn’t thought of anything to do when inviting me drives a smile on my face. It is tolerable however, if this is the first time he’s up for this sort of activity.

“Well, I hope you don’t mind then.”

“Hmph.” He chuckles. “Go ahead.”

I pick a corner where the flowers are. Their vibrant scarlet petals stand in contrast with their surroundings. Zen says that each of them represents every person in the island who went abroad to serve in the Primus’ conquest. They sow the seeds before heeding the call. Their relatives, be it their wives or children would come here every day to care for the sprouts. Of course, none of those people returned.

Since that’s the case, it’s best not to pick them up.

While moving on to the other section of the park, Zen tells me how this island, despite being remote, was once a prosperous place. That is until the Primus’ conquest. Other than manpower, he bit a huge portion of the resources available from this place. By huge I mean all of them.

What they get in turn, is a platinum figure of the ArC insignia that stands on top of the fountain in the middle of this park. Compared to his mansion however, the insignia is minuscule. No one would notice when it’s placed side by side with the only gargantuan building in the island.

It’s remarkable how not even one person here decided to revolt, or at least protest. Or maybe climbing the gate to his mansion for a taste of looting. No subversive activities whatsoever. I couldn’t determine whether it’s fear that’s holding them back, their lack of pride, or just simply being faithful to the Primus. Zen couldn’t either. But I have doubt that the last one would be the case. That just seems ethereal and unfitting for human beings.

Attentions are turning at us as we move from one section to another. It’s unsettling to be the attention center, especially in a moment like this. But perhaps a moment like this is what causing us to be the attention center. Maybe the sight of a maid of Creatio Genetrix leisurely walking alongside a male partner is one that never occurred around here. I couldn’t help it. This is a chance for me to spend more time with Zen, and there’s no way I’d let them pass.

And so that’s how it goes for the rest of our walk in the park.

When we head out, we stumble upon two more people that Zen seems to be accustomed with. They greet each other in turn. Another boy and a girl. My sight couldn’t turn away from the girl. She has such exquisite features that left me speechless for a moment, especially her white skin and long straight hair. For some reason, those made me insecure.

“So,” The boy says. “This is the girl you’ve been looking forward to?”

Looking forward?

“Ah seems like you have an excellent taste, Zen.” The girl follows up. “I think she’s lovely.”


She then approaches me and gives her hand.

“Hello, my name is Julia.” Besides her features, are her eloquent voice that left her even more endearing up close.

“Pleased to meet you.” I shake her hand. “You can call me Lena.”

The boy steps forward. “Mine is Lennard.”

“Pleased to meet you too, Lennard.”

He then chuckles. “The fact that Zen’s indifference twenty-four seven could impress a maiden is amazing.”

“Uhh…” is the only word that I could utter for the moment as I turn a weird face to Zen.

Zen shares my glance for a moment before turning back to them.

“Now you just made her nervous.” He says.

“Excellent sign then. That means she’s really into you.”

Ehh!? That’s when Zen turns to me.

“I hope their words just slips past your ears.” He says to me, pointing at them.

“Don’t be like that, Zen. You see how red her face has become.” Julia says, clapping her hands.

Really? Me? Red? I quickly put my hands on my cheeks and sinks my head. But I guess it is already up for show to everyone.

“Aren’t you supposed to patrol the town?” Zen asks.

“We got the outskirts.” Lennard responds. “And just happened to stumble upon you.”

“I see.”

Zen turns to me again and sighs.

“Oh well, guess no use in denying it.” He says. “Lena, we’re officially couple now.”

What!? I freeze in place to that statement. My heart skipped a beat. And I think I just got struck by a lightning bolt. I mean really? Am I…am I in one of my fever dreams?

Zen scratches his head. “Of course, that is with your consent. Our next dating activity would be to wander around town in accordance with these folks’ patrol path.” He continues. “What say you?”

“Eh, right away?” Julia says.

I can’t believe this is really happening. But well, since he doesn’t hide it anymore…

After a long pause of me gazing down at my feet, I clasp both hands in front of me and nod.

“Gladly. I consent.” I say.

“Really!? Accepted immediately?” Lennard’s jaw dropped.

Julia gasps, covering her mouth.

Even Zen opens his mouth slightly. Perhaps he too couldn’t believe that I would come up with such response in a brief timespan. Then his grin returned. Truly a captivating sight.

I look down, closing my eyes and slightly covering my lips as I let out a tiny giggle. As much as I wanted to yell out for this exhilarating moment, I have to remain calm. It’s in our discipline. Although I believe I have violated it about two times in this mission. I have to be grateful that there are no higher-ranking officials that catches me during those moments.

“Ahh alright, alright.” Lennard blurts out, stepping past us. “You lovebirds can go up your business waltzing, teetering, and giggling like no tomorrow. I’m proceeding with my duty. Come, Julia.”

Julia follows up. Just after she steps past us, she halts a moment and leans toward us.

“Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t follow us.” She whispers and winks.

And of course, we follow them, ignoring Lennard’s apparent inconvenience. I believe he is actually fine with that. We share a lot of stuff throughout the day. Mostly how we feel about this town, and our past.

Notably, Lennard’s past. He was once a part of a decentralized reign which is divided among many clans. Despite the peace, those clans hate each other, always seeking opportunities to climb toward total dominance in the reign. And so war is of the norm. To mitigate this, the central government conducted a game every season, joined by the clans. It’s a bloodless conflict where the victor could obtain an accepted yield of other clans’ ownership. Basically, the clans wager their prosper for a chance of a better one.

He was part of the Santoso clan, who have wagered much since they are faithful in his skill. But he was sabotaged at the final phase of the game. And his clan lost that much. Disillusioned, the clan master decided to execute him, his own son. Only thanks to his butler that he escaped. He lived here ever since.

So it seems that everyone here have an unpleasant past. They who once lived a decent life, until the unfortunate fell upon them. Just like me. If I have a spare fortune, I might return here and improve the quality of this place. I don’t know when will that time come. But it will come.

I return back to the mansion as soon as the clock hits evening. Zen accompanies me all the way back. The most memorable would be when the back of our hands just happened to touch, and Zen just proceeds to cross my index finger with his. That was half the way up to the mansion, and remain that way until we reach the place. His warmth, his scent, lingers there. For a moment, I am attached to my right index. I find it hard to pull it away from my nose as I climb up the mansion’s gardens.

That was a wonderful experience, one that I’m sure would linger in my mind for the rest of my life and would probably emerges in the slightest of my leisure.

“Zen…” I mention his name as I gaze into the mansion’s magnificent ceilings.


The two men had initiated their hike at sunrise, now the sun has set when they reach the peak. The darkish gradient of the sky on top of the bird-view of the remote island is an astonishing view that left them silent. Their coat flutters in the wind as their sight sweeps from one side to the other.

“So,” one of the man barks. “I take it that she doesn’t mess up anymore?”

“You were too harsh on her, Microv.”

“Guess I was too harsh on anyone by your standard.”

He sighs. “I mean you burst through every door that you came across.”

“Well, apology. Breaching doors are what I am made for.”

Their sights then turn to the dark skies filled with glimmering stars.

“You know, for a moment…I thought you’re already too old for this.”

“See where the reservoir has brought me.”

“You almost popped like a bubble back then. It’s a goddamn fortune you survived.”

“That’s what it means for one to take risks.”

A silence ensues as both takes a deep breath.

“It’s been a while isn’t it?”

The Primus nods. “I wish we have a full team here.”

“I miss her.”

“You’ve made an excellent couple.”

“That kid was a sweet lass. Never seen anyone like her before.”

“You were too busy grinding your gears in the warzones.”

Microv chuckles, “What else should I be doing? Massacring discount ostriches that ate our crops? Bloody hell, even my ancestor wasn’t good at that.”

“I believe you’d do that to fill your leisure.”

The Primus pulls out a bottle of water and takes a sip from it.

“Would you look for another partner?”

Microv shrugs. “No idea. My arse is wrinkling you know. If there’s another, our flesh has to be the same. For her safety.”

A stream of air streak through the Primus’ mask. “Right. For her, ‘safety’.”

“Katrina might break apart if I do it, literally.”

“Such reason really held you back.”

“At least snuggling wasn’t so bad. Love it when she rubs her nose on my chest.”

The Primus then let go of his backpack and sits down. “I hope the reason we’re here still lingers within your memory.”

“Of bloody course, they do.” Microv says, vigorously turning to his master. “But first, get a snoop on this.”

Microv hands him his binocular and points to a certain direction. The Primus stands up and grabs the device, training it to the direction his subordinate is pointing.

Over there, he sees what appears to be a speedboat parked on the most remote section of the shores. The binocular’s night-vision feature allows him to peer through the darkness.

“What an odd little fella.” Microv barks.

“Can you make out its details from here?” The Primus asks, still peering through the binoculars, adjusting its magnification and focus.

“If only it isn’t so far as well as so dark.”

The Primus, realizing something, turns down the binocular.



“This island has a notable dock you see. There’s still an active community managing that.”

“Rite. This island has been a great contributor to our cause.”

“The question now…” He pauses, turning to his subordinates. “Why would someone land a boat on a point that’s barely noticeable, with no overseer whatsoever, instead of the docks?”

Microv returns the gaze of his master. After leering back to the direction of the boat, he realizes what comes into the Primus.


It’s because they don’t want to be noticed.

“Those crimson thralls…” Microv says.

“How fast can your module make you run?”

Prime Respite

Prime Respite (Part 5)

Chapter 5

It’s blazing hot. The columns of monarchs shed their embers upon my mansion as they soar across the sky. Prancing flames are all around. My parents scramble through them to put me out of the predicament. Dark smoke that fills the scene forces me to cover my face with my arm, obstructing most of my sight. When my mom lags behind, my dad returns inside once he places me on the terrace. That is when the mansion crumbles upon them. I couldn’t forget the sight where I reach for my dad, to no avail.

Mom…! Dad….!

And they perished. Along with the mansion. Along with their wealth. Along with my people. Then that crimson-eyed lady emerges from the flame, striding to my direction. Her hand reaches out for me, her flaming hand. The heat has stripped me of my strength. I am in no condition to struggle back.

So I give in…

Then I…what?

What happened? I thought as I regain my vision. I think I was mopping the floor. Then…

It’s warm and damp in here. I find it hard to open my eyes. The air that I breathe out feels similar to those in hot air spring. Along with my barely moving limbs, are the bone crushing pounding on my head. It took me another minute to realize that something soft is pressing against my forehead, a wet towel I guess? I lift my hand to meet my neck. For a moment, I thought I was lifting the base of fresh dishes, but it’s actually my skin. Ah…I take a deep breath as I face that I am now confined to this cushion bed.

Hang on…

Cushion bed? I thought I’m lying on my mattress in the bunk. It takes some time for my vision to clear up. As I gaze upon the room once more, it turns out I’m not in the bunk for the time being. I’m somewhere else, I think…Judging from the lavish interior with carved furniture, I’m still in his mansion.

I struggle to sit up. The cloth that I thought to be a towel fell to my lap. It’s a fever compress. My forehead starts to flare again as I remember, that thanks to my exhaustion I couldn’t really tell where I was going. It is before I slipped and slammed my head on the floor. Everything is black thereafter. There’s a window to my left, just beside a fancy bookshelf, that led only to darkness. How long have I been out? What time is it?

How flared up I become when I look at the time.

“Oh no…his dinner…”

But I can’t make it. Sitting like this has already consumed a huge portion of my strength. As the pounding on my head grows stronger, I couldn’t force myself to stand. Especially when my whole body is as flaccid as wet petals.

It is when the door creaks open. What comes after is a sight that I can’t believe I get to witness. It’s the trolley that I used to serve the Primus’ meal, and he is behind it.

“Huh…?” A silent ensues as we stare at each other.

He shut the door and brings the trolley beside me, before tapping into his utilizer and draw it close to my neck. That is when I flinch, as soon as the back of his left palm touches my skin.

“Lie down. Hold still.” He says, drawing his hand closer.

I do what he said. Then his utilizer reaches my neck. From the corner of my eyes, I can see it projecting a number into the air. The Primus, seemingly astonished by that number, sighs as he closes the projection.

“This place is a five-maids work. Why insists in doing all of them by yourself?”

“I’ve messed up plenty of things. I thought I must not fail any further.”

“Well, look where you are now.” He responds, grabbing the compress while rubbing his fingers. He puts it on the bottom-most tray of the trolley, before opening one of the metal cloches and puts a plate full of biscuits on my lap. I stare at them for a moment, processing the implication that he has prepared this for me.

“Have at them, before the main dish.”

Main dish? Did he really bring me an entire dish? Well I don’t mind if he didn’t bring me a dessert, that’s too much of an expectation.

Seemingly impatient for me to consume the biscuits, he nods at them. Of course, my hesitation is at its finest. But given my condition, his generosity, and how south everything had gone this far, I have no choice.

I take a considerate bite off the first piece. The biscuit has a sweet taste with a delicate coconut scent. It takes me three bites to finish it. When I take another piece, he strides to the other side of the bed, closer to the window that led outside.

“How are they?”

I decide to finish the second piece first before replying.

“It’s excellent, sir.” It actually tastes like normal biscuits, but I feel the need to appreciate his effort a bit more.

“No, it isn’t.”

Oh well. Turns out he himself is aware.

What should I expect? It was a fortune that he even went through the trouble to bring me these.

“Was it supposed to?”

He nods in silence, before stepping to gaze out of the window. “They are jollies under Sofiana’s hands.”

I stop chewing as soon as I heard that. “Pardon, sir?”

“My wife.”

“Um,” I think I know what happens next, but I’m not sure I have the strength to drive it out of me. “Is she…”

“Gone.” He says, his gaze still fixed to anything beyond that window pane. “She left me on a stormy night, not long after the end of my conquest.”

“My condolences, sir.”

He then leers at me.

“It is since then that I became the slacking man you see for the past three days. In the absence of an offspring, how could one’s ambition remain without their other pair? That is the reason why my meals are way off the norm, and why vegetables never made to one these days.”

Surely what he is doing is bad for his health. But if he is consciously doing it…

I really don’t like the implication.

“You wish for organ malfunctions to take your life.”

He nods. His face might be concealed behind his mask that he is wearing. However, it is apparently useless, in terms of hiding his feeling, when one comes this close with him.

“All so that a pious girl could remain under my protection. She knew that I was determined to cast her out of my doorstep, and decided to leave beforehand. When Sofiana heard this, she decided to take her place and left me instead.”

Clearly, he’s the Primus. His hostile stance toward the believers, those who believes in divine powers and worship them, is a common knowledge to everyone in the continent. His decision that moment could be purely out of spite to the girl just for being pious.

“Why she’s even there in the first place?” I ask him.

“Sofiana picked her from the street. A fragile girl who has nowhere to return to. She raised her, for the remainder of her teenage, like she is of her own blood. She gave her protection, like how all mother should to their children. But still, a thrall is a thrall. Unless they let go of their belief, they won’t ever find my fond gaze shining down on them.”

That just sounds like a household quarrel that doesn’t end well. But the loss of loved ones will always be painful, regardless of the cause.

It is not long that I wonder…

“Who is the girl? What is she up to now?”

His response isn’t immediate. But it shook me, as soon as it comes out.


That left my jaw open for a moment. And I think my biscuit fell from the clutch of my fingers to the plate again. “The maid colonel?”

“Correct.” He says, turning to me. “She is under direct command from Microv himself, my right-hand man. That is the result of his care for her. I was fortunate that he is willing to supervise her.”

What? So she was his daughter all along? Well not quite, since he doesn’t acknowledge her.

I nod in silence, picking the piece that I dropped.

“Have your tea, the closest mug to you.” He continues.

“My gratitude, sir.” I reply, turning to look at the mug he is referring to.

I take a sip of the tea, which turns out not to be a tea after all. Sure, the liquid has a somewhat black feature. But it tastes somewhere between bitter and sour.

The Primus then steps away from the window. He drags a stool beside me and sits there, taking a deep breath.

“That’s actually not a tea. It’s a guava leaves extract. My father used to make it whenever I fell ill.”

Whatever it is, I hope it hastens my healing just like what he is implying.

“Feeling better?” He asks.

“I think…” My body is still warm, my head is still pounding, and my limbs are still as weak as noodles. But they seem to be not as bad as they were. “I think I’m recovering.” I continue.

“Don’t forget the main dish.” He says.

“What did you bring?”

He strides over to the trolley and hands over another plate covered with a metal cloche. Seeing that, I put the remainder of the biscuits back on to the trolley to make room for the plate he is handing. What lies under the pot is, an omelet I suppose? It has a perfect circular shape, with noodles protruding out of it.

“Many have thought of my inability to cook. They’re about one percent wrong. And this is the product I am most proud of.”

“You made this yourself?”

“It’s a mix of two eggs and an instant noodle, baked inside the chamber of a rice cooker. Nothing special.” He says striding back to the stool on the other side of the bed.

Now that stare falls upon me again. Apparently, he wants me to taste this dish that he made. I couldn’t help it. Letting him stare at me like that for quite some time isn’t good for both of us either. I begin to slice a piece and puts it in my mouth.

“This is…” I say, as soon as I’m done chewing. “Delicious.” And yes, I’m not playing around. Even with my fever tongue that was supposed to alter any taste that comes to it, this omelet still tastes over the top.

“Glad you like it.” He says.

“Were you making this too back then?”

“Only when Sofiana isn’t cooking, which is a rare occurrence in times of her presence.”

“Ah…” I respond, putting another piece into my mouth.

This woman, Sofiana, seems to be an essential person in his life. I mean, she is his wife. And he seems to cherish her more than his own life. To think that their bond is severed by a difference in view…I wonder whether she is scarred by her decision as well or not. This view of his, where did it come from? How could it root deep into his flesh and blood?

“By the way…”

He turns to me while rubbing his finger.

“Why did you hate those believers so much?” It’s hard to believe for a moment that I just brought myself to ask that. I stare back as his gaze turns into a glare. Perhaps he has no intention to share that story to anyone. But my curiosity keeps gearing. “Was it because you’re a man of science, that you’ve come to resent the thought of divine presence?”

“No.” He stands and strides to the middle of the room, his sight fixed to the ceilings to the right. “It not that I don’t believe in divine powers, that I drove their screams and tears. It’s something more personal.”

“Does it hurt if I know?”

“They are responsible for the absence of my daughters.”

He really doesn’t acknowledge the maid colonel as one.

“You mean…”

“They took them away, two consecutive times.” He says, leering at me. “And no matter how hard I try, my daughters will never be safe, until those thralls are purged from this world.”

Which means there is a possibility of truth to the event told by Eri.

“And all your atrocities, only to make space for your daughter?”

“For each of their dying breath, my sprout shall inhale upon them and bloom to the skies with exquisite vibrance.” He turns to the window and steps before it again. “In addition to that, there would be lesser opposition to scientific fruition.”

“They are in denial to the prosperity that you sow?”

“The old senate were devout thralls. My province was once a state-of-the art among the others. We saved the nation from collapsing. Our secret was none other than renouncing the core belief they held dear to allow technological development beyond the boundary. But they didn’t like it, and decided to get rid of me.”

“But you beat them to that.”

He nods. “Thanks to the technology that I’ve developed.”

“What is it?”

“Classified. It’s not for you to know.”

I nod gently. “I understand.”

“One thing is that it’s keeping me alive until now. I will not pass away, until the last of the thralls’ banner lies under my feet, torn by the might of my Androids.”

How long have that thing extended his life, I wonder?

“When is the last time you lost your daughter?”

He raises his right hand, unfolding his fingers one by one starting from his thumb.

“Fifty-three years ago.”

Fifty-three years? Considering that he has been a father for several years during that time, he has to be at least about eighty years old now.

“What happened to her? Is the unfortunate you just claimed to had befallen her literal, or…”

“Rather. Those thralls have instilled their values on her. She embraces them with great vigor and confidence, believing that it could bring salvation to civilizations. That is before she abandoned us. And as she delved further down those values, she left an even greater mess for me to take care.”

“What mess?”

He strides before a sizeable silk cloth, apparently hung on to something, in the middle of the room. There seems to be something hiding behind the cloth which I just noticed. The Primus pulls that cloth off, revealing a large picture of a gorgeous woman in crimson clothing, clad with lavish decorations that speak of her royal nature. On top of her head is a diadem that somehow seems familiar.

“Do you recognize who this is?”

I do recognize her, based on my father’s description. The founder of the Terran Vindicators, Katrina the Great. He used to tell me about the woman when I was little. My father was in charge of several merchants, and they all find great success in her theocratic realm.

“You were the father of the founder of the greatest believers’ realm in existence?”

“Not only the greatest, but also the most sophisticated of the thralls’ states.” He says, gazing at the picture. “She was once a frail high-schooler, who is dying from starvation, that I found in a dead city. I’ve raised her for six years before she left. During which, she accomplished a remarkable feat.”

“So she was great before her title.”

He nods. “An Android with long, straight peanut hair. Her sweet crimson eyes and her flawless features would be the first thing you’d note about her.”

Crimson eyes? For some reason that rings a bell. The nightmares that I was having, where my parents perished in a twister of flames. A woman with crimson eyes, gazing down upon me, reaching for me.

“I was in supervision when Katrina labored to create her.” He continues. “The Android took her place when she passed away.”

“Tribhuwana the second.”

“Her name is Sylvana…” He says. “She had conducted a massive raid that devastates our frontier’s logistics over the past six years. One of the most devastated sectors, I believe, is your settlement.”

He knows about that? The devastation of my birthplace…The evening where I lost everything.

“My village seems to have clung onto you.”

“Because Sylvana was there, overseeing the destruction herself.”

Those crimson eyes, so it belongs to a Vindicator empress all along. My family is taken by the same faction that allows them to prosper…A realization that petrifies me. The empress might have done that in retaliation of what the Primus has done. So the question is…

“Why did you let that happen?”

“My power requires further consolidation. That shifted my focus from the front.”

“But you’re the most powerful man in the world.”

“But I’m still a man. I’m no divine.”

I gaze down on my lap, noting the most prominent possibility that would occur if he had prevented the event that evening.

“My parents could still be alive today.”

“I guess the thralls have taken what’s precious for both of us.”

“No.” I exclaim with a higher tone. “You’re the reason my precious are gone.”

The Primus stands there in silence. Based on his expression, I think I just snapped at him again.

Damn it, not the second time.

I sit here dumbfounded. He went through all the trouble to bring all these provisions to help me recover, and yet this is how I treat him?


In the next second, I already drop the main dish back to the trolley and cower under the blanket. I can’t stand this. I’ve crossed way beyond my boundaries. I am ashamed of myself. I wish I never exist.

What happens next however, subvert my expectations.

“I’m sorry.” The phrase that I heard, followed by a pat of cloth on top of my head. “Please consider your medicine before shutting your eyes for good.”

His steps then grow dimmer, before the door creaks open. As soon as it shuts gently, I shove the blanket by a little to peek over it.

He’s gone, leaving me the remainder of the provisions on the trolley and another compressor on the blanket, where my head supposedly was. Just beside the pillow is a band filled with four pills. Perhaps it’s one for tonight and three for tomorrow. Because this fever came from exhaustion, I believe it shouldn’t take too long to recover. I take a deep breath before putting a pill on my tongue and shove it down with the guava leaves extract.

Not long after, my vision sways again. I hope that’s the medicine taking effect. I rest my head on the pillow and put the compressor on my forehead. I relax my muscles as my drowsiness drags me to nothingness.


The pitch-black view beyond is filled with splashing waves. The girl stands still with her eyes wide open to the nothingness as the wind flows past her.

“Vittoria.” Fred calls out to her, who is standing at a solitary point on the shore.

She turns around. “Thank you for coming.”

“Of course, you said you need this.”

“Fred…” She says, suddenly turning her gaze down.

“Yes, Vittoria?”

“I…wanted to explore this island.”

“Oh…” Fred sighs, seemingly unimpressed. “You have any problem with us?”

Vittoria crosses her arms, gripping her elbow in a slightly cowering manner. “No, it’s just…”

“It’s just?”

“This island might be a remote one, but it’s still enormous compared to me. And my existence so far only covers a tiny bit of it.”

“So you’re curious to what’s over there on the other side?”

Vittoria nods. “At least there will be something new in my journals when I got home.”

“You can afford a ticket home now?”

“By the end of next week.” She says. “I believe I can cover most of this island in less than that timespan.”

“I see.” Fred replies. “We’ll just help you prepare then.”

“I’d appreciate it.” Vittoria says.

Without Fred noticing, she lurches forward. In the next second, she is already sticking to him, arms wrapped around his waist. Fred stands still for a moment, having a hard time perceiving what just happened. That is before he wraps his arms around her shoulders. The heat of their skin interfering with each other amidst the cold night gust, keeping them warm.

“Safe trip, Vittoria.”

“Thank you.”


Bad news for today is that I wake up a bit late. Good news is that it’s not too past his breakfast time. And the fact that I’m waking up feeling better tops that even more. I button up my collar and tuck my pin on its center.

I stumble upon him as soon as I leave the bedroom. His silent gaze falls on me again. As much as how things went for the last couple of days until last night, I’m still his maid, tasked to serve him during his leave. So, I commit to the standard procedure.

“Sir…” I say, bowing down.

“You seem to have recovered.”

“I’m about to make your breakfast.”

He turns around. “Make sure you have yours just after. Then return to your bed.”


“That’s an order.”

“Y-yes sir.” I nod with vigor.

“And…” He says after taking a step away. “That green dish you made me yesterday, I want them again this morning.”

That…left me astonished. It’s a statement that I don’t believe I would hear. How blooming my heart becomes as soon as that left his mouth. Yes, I made him his preference. But alongside that I still slip in a plate of vegetables. The fact that yesterday’s dishes are the leftovers of those he didn’t touch the day before, which I only warmed up for the day, brings an even brighter glee within.

I stand still, processing the excellent news, making sure that I’m not in one of my fever dreams. No, I’m not. How he suddenly changes are beyond me for a moment. But I’ll just appreciate it. Whatever he found or whoever he met out there when he spent the night outside, I owe them a great deal.

So I rush to the kitchen, tagging along my excitement. For a moment, that fever of mine isn’t felt.

I hit the stove and brings the necessary ingredients on the table. As soon as the dishes are on the table, the Primus leisurely walks in. I again bow to him as he sits on one of the chairs.

“Sit down.” He says after grabbing a plate.


He gently shifts his gaze at me. And that’s a confirmation. I shouldn’t resist any further. So I sit down a chair away to his left. My fever kicks in again. I think I was too vibrant with the dishes that my condition is shoved away. Although temporary, it’s enough to make my head unbearable.

Suddenly he places a plate before me.

“Enjoy the meal.”

“Do you really want me to have my breakfast alongside you?”

“I don’t see the issue.” He says, scooping several pieces from the dishes.

“But those dishes are meant to be yours.”

“You made them. We can have an equal split.” He says, opening his metallic mask. The azure tear on his right cheek is visible again. A fissure on his feature. “On top of that, you’re still recovering. And I believe my dishes have better nutrition for your metabolism.” He continues, inserting a spoonful of spinach into his mouth thereafter.

Hearing his statement makes me feel horrible. This trip has all been a mistake. I believe it won’t go like this had I’m not the one in charge.

“I want to apologize sir.” I say, gazing down on my lap.

He doesn’t say anything, probably still chewing the piece that he put inside his mouth.

“About everything. Including my attitude last night. I believe they all have driven you upset. And it feels wrong if I could just get away with them. Perhaps I deserve more than just the punishment for the desertion.”

I hear him sigh as soon as I finish that sentence.

“There are no charges for making me upset.” He says.


“But the colonel…the caution to not make you upset is the last thing she addressed during the briefing. And was laid with great emphasis.”

He halts midway and places his spoon back to his plate, his fingers are still latching to the other end. “Because I’ve done a terrible thing to her.”

I remain in silent as I glances upon his face that turns to sorrow.

“My anger was at its peak, for the first time since I lost Katrina. Then she spilled my tea on my favorite book, when I was reading them. Knowing that she is the reason Sofiana left, my safeties are off. Then a mighty blow on her left cheek, so powerful that it topples her, so powerful that blood gushes out of her mouth and nose.

“Worse is, she doesn’t even attempt to defend herself. She just gazed at me with her glittering eyes, with her slow breath, as I clench on her collar when she is on the floor. If Microv and Derrick isn’t there, she would be gone by now.”

So that’s the story behind the bruise on her left cheek. What a pity, a woman as elegant as her having her grace defiled by a man who couldn’t hold his anger. I mean everyone have a limit, beyond which they would snap. It’s just unfortunate that she was there when that happens to the Primus.

“Anger can really turn people into something terrible.”

He nods. “I was so consumed, that Microv has to deliver a blow of the same magnitude to restore my sanity.”

“How does she behave before you now?”

“She would still greet me with vigor, even though I never return that radiant warmth of hers. I couldn’t bring myself to see her, thanks to that scar which screeches for me every time I see them.”

He then let go of his spoon and put both of his hands on his face.

“As much as I don’t like you for screwing over my meals, I don’t intend to let that happen for the second time. Getting away from you is a way to prevent that.” He sighs.

Ah…so it turns out, he was protecting me when he left the mansion that day. It seems like the inconvenience of this leave fell on both of us.

“That’s the reason why she is hellbent on telling everyone to not upset me.”

“How about last night, when I dismissed you by hiding under the blanket despite your effort to care for me?”

“You were mad at me for something that I did. That shouldn’t count, considering how common that occurs.” He says. “But I will if you don’t have these dishes as soon as possible.”


“R-right sir.” I was so focused at his stories that I forgot to pick the meal for myself.

“By the way,” He says when I lean forward to grab the dishes. “How do you end up on Creatio Genetrix?”

“Pardon, sir?”

“You’ve heard a portion of my past. I don’t think it’s fair if you don’t share yours.”

I place my plate down and stare at it for a moment.

“Where do I begin?”

“I heard your parents are the wealthiest there.”

“My mother owned a vast swath of land with several workers. My father was a business man who has plenty merchants abroad, even in the Vindicators’ land.”

“What happened next?”

“I was the only survivor of the incident. The Vindicators are about to take me, until they stumble upon one of my father’s merchant, who paid a high price to ransom me. I call him Uncle Bark. He is in debt since then. His colleagues cut communications and declare their independence. Right now, I’m still unaware whether or not he is done with his debt.”

“So why did you leave?”

“I don’t want him to spare a coin or two to feed an extra mouth for an extended amount of time. So I worked as a housecleaner on a local bar and gathered as much as possible to travel further inland, toward ArC’s capital.”

 “How old are you when you left?”

“I was thirteen at the time.”

“Why the capital?”

“It’s the safest place I could think of. I don’t want the incident on that evening occur to me for the second time.”

Indeed, the decision to leave is a hard one not because I’m not up for the obstacles that awaits me. Leaving the person who had saved and determined to protect you, so that you could live in a guaranteed safety, is selfish. Even though I promised him that I would return with more wealth and assist him with his debt.

“I was fortunate that a lavish restaurant would hire me. It takes another year before I heard that the Creatio Genetrix are recruiting maids. At that moment, I was grateful that they accept children like me.”

“Everyone is wounded by the conflict. It’s a system that I applied when I was a governor. A workplace for orphans. Glad to hear those sleepless nights also got you out of trouble.”


That makes me owe him even more. In that case, one might see him as a ruthless dictator. But one shouldn’t deny that all of his misbehavior resulted in the order and prosper of his realm.

“I guess I’m in your debt.” I grin at him.

He nods. “What are you planning to do?”

“I’ve been saving to buy my own land. To restore my family’s wealth. To restore what I’ve lost that evening.”

“How about the man that had you ransomed?”

“That…” I can’t believe I have to say this. “Once I have accomplished that objective.” Even then I’m still not sure whether I’d have the chance. And there’s also a possibility that he is already gone by the time it happens.

The Primus nods as he ingests another content of his spoon.

“Whatever you’re up to,” He says after he’s done chewing. “Give it all of your heart, the way you’re willing to change me. This is my appreciation since you seem to be determined about it.”

“I-I will.”

For a moment, I couldn’t believe that he just said that. A silence ensues. What are the odds that one gets to sit side by side with the most powerful man in the world, having a breakfast, while sharing both of their past? I couldn’t know for sure, but it has to be incredibly tiny. It feels weird. Few days ago, we were quarrelling. But now it seems like we’re father and daughter. This could be the experience that he wanted. Even though he knows me only for a couple of days, I have no reason not to play along considering everything that he has provided for me, both directly and indirectly.

“I want you to take your medicine after this. Then you shall return to your bed.”

“But who will do the cleaning? The laundry? The dishwashing?”

He sighs deeply, covering his forehead with his left hand. “Who do you think will do it?”

I really despise the fact, and my question is just a way to confirm whether he has someone else to handle the maid duty.

“Uh…” And I don’t think there’s any.

“I haven’t moved a lot in a while. Shouldn’t be a problem.”

“But, sir…”

“You making the breakfast is enough. Now finish your meal, have your medicine and return to bed.”

Well, how could I insist if this is the case?

“As you wish, sir.”

“Excellent.” He sighs again.

I turn to see his plate is empty. He does possess such an appetite this morning.

“Did you know that Katrina almost died one day?” He continues as my spoon is about to enter my mouth.

“What?” I halt my hand.

“I had to trek all the way north to harvest the only magical flower that could cure her.”



The noise of the roaring waves fills the scene. The skies are elegant with their reddish gradient. Thanks to the horse that Fred provides for her, she could make her journey to the shore on the other side of the island in several hours. It would normally cost one half a day to get there via hiking. As soon as she reaches the shore, a speedboat tear through the waves, making its way toward Vittoria.

It lands along with six armed men and a girl with ArC’s maid uniform.

“Sorry you have to trek this far. This is safest point where we could land without raising any alarm.” The maid says.

Vittoria steps down from the horse. “It’s fine. I take it that you’ve taken care of the other maid then?”

“They’re away from our worries now.”

“Great.” Vittoria nods. “This place only has a number of militias. And they’re not as well armed as us.”

“We should be able to take them with ease then.”

“They might be well trained though. I suggest you keep your men entrenched after they have secured a position inside the mansion.”

“I’ll trust them to you I guess. Their shock of knowing the truth should be our advantage.”

“They won’t know what hit them.” Vittoria says.

The maid nods. “It’s Hana by the way.”

“Vittoria, in case you forgot.”

“Your gear is on the boat. We’re heading there once you don your crimson. Then we’ll rest and commence the attack on the next night.”

“Understood.” Vittoria says.

Prime Respite