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


I woke up to a vacant space. 

After labouring with the fray. 

Quiet is this place. 

Unlike the battlefield where I was supposed to stay. 

Then I realise. 

I have gone back in time many paces.

I noticed a door in the corner. 

On the left side of the room. 

A dark room. 

My world of worlds. 

I was here. 

I am not here. 

But I was. 

I am still me. 

I am me here.

The world outside is completely dark. 

But I feel more afraid here than in the unlit room. 

Why is there no light? 

The world outside is completely dark. 

A wall has appeared. 

The wall is blocking the door. 

A great effort. 

I strain again and again.

A knock on the door. 

light and delicate. 

The door swings open and I am pushed into a shadowed room 

A familiar figure stood thereof. 

Pristine white. 


Blue trim. 

Slender and straight. 

Vibrant colours. 

Small flowers. 

Don’t remember flowers. 

Don’t remember the flowers.

Hello, big sister. the figure exclaims. 

A pleasant sight. 

I look at her and see the most beautiful girl. 

A girl with the most beautiful personality. 

A girl with the most beautiful face. 

Lovely smile. 

How I missed your face. 

Saying good bye. 

The white streak, the blue trim, the vivid colours. 

I am left with you. 

Nothing else.

But I have not seen her in years. 

Fumbling in my hands, I gave the most charming smile I could. 

Everything I had. 

The words escaped my mouth and tears dissolves in my eyes. 

I was on my way out of the woods.

Is this a mirage? 

Is this how it used to be? 

Could I go home again? 

Could I still live my life?

The figure grabbed my hand. 

soft, and tender. 

The indescribable feeling overcame my senses. 

Two flowers bloomed in my mind. 

A door in the distance was lit up. 

Familiar flowers. 

Familiar voices 

A young face I used to love. 

A girl. 

A beautiful young girl. 

A girl. 

The door opened, and I was back in time.

Memories took me away, disconcerting me. 

A bell rang. 


All around me was darkness. 

Immense darkness. 

My face aching, my hand aching. 



I realized I was, and I was freezing cold. 

A thousand footsteps thundered, and I was cowering in the corner. 





A voice called out to me. 

A soft, tender voice. 

Then there I was. 

Back in the room. 

Familiar faces around me. 

Familiar faces. 

Warm faces. 

But I could not tell who they were. 

Not in that world. 

My world. 

It can’t be. 

“Big sister!” the figure exclaimed to me, yet again.

The figure sat next to me. 

It’s so warm here. 

It’s so peaceful here. 

I am finally home.

I sighed.

I’m finally home.

“Big sister, do you remember how we used to play those games in our summers?”

The figure teased me.

“Do you remember how we used to build sand castles in the sea?”

I could not respond.

Could not speak.

Could not do anything.

I was gone.

This is not the world I left when I died.

Those wonderful times.

Another lifetime.

Another world.

Something within me twisted.

“Big sister, I want to do it again!”

My sister pleaded with me.

“Big sister, I want to play”

She put her hand on my shoulder.

Her hand was so warm.

Her touch was so comforting.

“You are cold.” 

She said.

I was crying.

The sound of the rain, the wind, and the voices around me were muffled.

Why could I hear her?

Why was she comforting me?

Why did she come back?

“The winter is not nice, Big Sis.”

She whispered to me.

“I miss you.”

I said. 

I was happy.


I couldn’t stop the tears.

I couldn’t stop the tears.

“I miss you, too.”

She said.

The way she was looking at me.

I had forgotten.

“Stay here with me, big sis.” She said.

her voice filled my head.

She said, “Don’t go, please don’t leave me, Big Sis”

The figure placed a tender hand on my shoulder.

I am always here.

Don’t leave.

Stay here, I will be here for you.

I promise, big sis.

I will be here for you.”

I closed my eyes.

As I was struck with sorrow.

The moment came when we parted. 

She disappeared. 

I wanted to go back to her. 

Don’t leave me alone. 

I’ll get old. 

I’ll die. 

I’ll be alone. 

I will have nobody. 

I wailed in tears. 

I wanted to touch her. 

I Couldn’t. 

And then I woke up.

Familiar sight of hospital tent.

Familiar smell.

Familiar beds.

I wanted to leave.

I wanted to leave.

The rain was pouring down heavily.

I wanted to go home.

But I couldn’t go home. I no longer have one.

She’s always here.

A dream.

She’ll be here for me.

A lie.

A murderer I have become.

A mass murderer.

I can no longer stay with her. 

I will never see her face again. 

her tender voice. 

her gentle touch. 

I will never hear her say my name.

Because I can no longer go to where she resides now.


Writer: Von Grenadus

Innocence Lost

Entry Writchal #3
Tema: Mati

Innocence Lost

We were told that your people are savages. A bloodthirsty lot who craved nothing but violence. 

We were told that your nation is full of hate. The endless fires of anger. The willingness to kill without remorse. 

We were told that you have no understanding of compassion or love. 

We were told that you are a people of cruelty. 

We were told that your people worship God in complete disregard of His will. 

As the author of one of my favourite poems put it, “You have wronged us. You have wronged me.”

We were told that you have wronged us, and you have wronged all your own people. You have brought your hate here. You have sent your soldiers to violate the sanctity of every human being to do violence in the name of avarice. 

With that in mind, I have no reason to think twice when I pulled the trigger on you. 

You are the scourge of the Earth, and I am the agent of justice.

So, I pulled the trigger and shot you. 

But then… what I saw was not the savage killer that we were told. 

Not the heretic who is unable to accept the will of God. 

Not the man who cannot learn compassion.

Not the hate-filled, bloodthirsty spirit of revenge.

The only thing I saw was but a boy who was as scared as anyone else.

You looked at me, and then you looked down at the ground, and then you looked up again. And you were shaking.

You began to cry.

It was as if I had made your heart break.

“What have I done? What have I done?”

You cried.

“Why do you have to do this to me? I just want to go home! I just want to go home!”

You looked at me, and I saw a face that was full of fear and pain.

I saw a boy who did not appear to even know his own age.

I saw a face full of confusion, and you began to scream.

“Don’t do this to me!”

“Please, don’t do this!”

“I just want to go home! Please!”

“Mother! Anastasia!”

I felt an overwhelming sense of guilt.

All I could think was, “I’m sorry.”

I’m sorry for pulling the trigger.

I’m sorry for shooting you.

I’m sorry for your pain.

I’m sorry for your tears.

I’m sorry I took your life.

I am left with many questions.

Do you think it’s possible to forgive me?

All those people that I have killed.

Have I sinned all this time?

Is it really possible to forgive the person who murdered you?

You were still human. 

You were still our brother.

You were still loved.

You were still valuable.

You were still living in the world that God made. 

You were still made in God’s image.

But Your life was just taken from you without any consideration or grace.

I cannot undo my action. 

I cannot get you back to your family, to the life you were used to.

You will die before your time.

You had so much more to give,

Oh, your soul had so much more to give.

All that was stolen from you by hate.

Do you think God will forgive me?

Can God forgive me? 

Do you think that I have sinned so deeply that I am no longer worthy to go to heaven?

Can I forgive myself?

I didn’t ask to be here.

I didn’t ask for this responsibility.

I don’t want to be here anymore.

Why does it have to turn out like this?

Why did God let this happen?

As you cried for your mother and your sister in your dying breath.

I was in tears.

I cried, and then I cried harder.

Because if only I could take your life back.

I could right so much wrong.

All those people that I have killed.

God forgive me.

I killed a boy.

He was just a boy.

He was just 17.

If only I could take away your pain,

As I sat in front of your shallow grave.

Nameless and unremarkable.

With only a rusty old rifle to mark it. 

I thought to myself.

That I will never be forgiven.

I thought that it would be my eternity here in this place.

I thought that I could never return to the world that I know.

The last vestige of my innocence.

Tainted by my own hands.

Over the blood of a fellow human.

I couldn’t make it right.

Why did this happen?

Who decides such things?

Why do I get to grow older, and he doesn’t?

Why did God let this happen?

Why did you have to die?

It doesn’t make sense.

None of it makes sense.

When will it make sense?

Maybe for the rest of my life.

I will live in misery. 

Maybe for the rest of my life.

I will never be able to forgive myself. 

Maybe for the rest of my life.

I will live with the memories that I took away from you. 

And everyone that lost their life by my hands.

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry.

Penulis: Von Grenadus

The Clockwork Necromancer

Entry Writchal #2
Tema: Highschool Romance

The Clockwork Necromancer (Beginning)

What is darkness?

According to Orkellian issued science book, it is a state of lightlessness, an absent of light that means no reflection for our eyes to capture, which made the eye unable to process their respective surroundings. That is what Miklos Solstice is seeing right now, utter darkness.

Not for any grand reason though. He’s not blind, he’s not being philosophically deep, nor is He on the verge or death or something. It was dark simply because he deliberately shut his eyes off, despite being consciously wide awake after the alarm clock rang several minutes ago.

It’s been about four minutes, usually what’ll happen next is…

… Suddenly the pitch black he’s looking at turned into a dim red, the subsurface scattering colour of the skin, signifying the presence of light.

            “Dear Miklos, wake uup~”

A soft voice called out his name. What’ll happen next is the warmth that enveloped him would be gone, replaced by the biting cold of the morning as his mom pulled the blanket away from him. Miklos grunted, and then rise up, sitting on the edge of his bed as his mom greets him with her usual smile.

            “Breakfast is ready, I cooked your favourite, as usual.”

He then stood up, towering over her as she looked up to me, still with her smiling face.

            “Look at you, so tall and all grown up.” She said, raising her hand to match with her son’s height, something which she seemed to struggle with.

His mom, unlike him, she’s pretty short. She looked at him with her gleaming red eyes, and he looked back at her with his deep-blue eyes. his short black hair contrasted her shiny long chesnut brown hair. Her roundish, doll like face tilted up, pointing to his rugged horse face.

She giggles like a child, beaming and smiling happily at him. Miklos made little effort to return her morning greeting.

            “Morning, mom.” He said, with only a soft grunt, in response to her words.

She smiles again and walked out the room.

            “I’ll be waiting for you downstairs~”

Miklos sighed, waiting a long minute before moving his body and walk out of his room. After washing his face and getting a change of cloth, Miklos walked downstairs to grab his breakfast. It’s ham sandwich, shaped to resemble that of a bear and a giraffe. Something which he absolutely adores… when he was still a child.

            “Today is your first scouting assignment, isn’t it?” Her mom asked, standing in front of the sink on the kitchen that lie just beside the dining room.

            “Mmh.” He replied unenthusiastically, as he bit off the giraffe’s head.

            “Wah, congratulation Miklos! I can’t believe you’ve grown up so much!” her mom exclaimed excitedly.

Miklos just went back to chewing.

            “Time really flies fast, isn’t it? Remember when I first present you the orange fruit? You used to call it ‘Oreij.’ Hehe!”

He finishes his sandwich. Standing up unceremoniously as he walked towards the exit without her mom looking.

            “Or that one time when you first tried riding a bicycle and-“

            “I’m heading out, mom.”

            “Huh… Ehh? So fast? But I haven’t even sat down on the table with you yet.” her mom said, strolling after her son.

            “Why, you don’t need to eat anyway, right?”

            “But, but… We haven’t talked…”


Miklos turned back towards his mother and said “What to talk about… oh, right, let me answer your template questions. Yes mom, I’m fine, no mom, I’m not sick, yes mom, my grades are going well, no mom, I don’t have a girlfriend yet, what else there is… I think that’s it. Are you happy now?”

            “Miklos…” There was a silent pause as Miklos looked at his mother for a while, staring as if waiting for her to say something else.

“Miklos… I’m sorry that I don’t know what to talk about around you.” she said with a glisten in her eye “I’m sorry that I no longer watches whatever it is you’re watching, or followed whatever it is you followed, but mom promised to do better, so, listen, please-”

That irked him badly, not because she is wrong, but exactly because she is correct. He knew it’s a stupid reason, but he can’t help to feel that way for whatever irrational reason, he’s aware that he’s in the wrong, but is unwilling to admit it. So instead of listening more to what she had to say, he immediately leaves for the door and exits the house. His mom watches for a moment before running towards him, grabbing his hand, and stopping him. He was about to pull his hand away and look at her with annoyance, until he turned back and saw a single tear trickled down her cheek, falling down her face as she looked up at him with her teary eyes. A face so uncharacteristic of her.

            “Please! listen to me” The annoyance in Miklos’s head was extinguished almost immediately “The world outside of the city is a very dangerous place. Please, please come back home safely, okay?”

Miklos looked down at her, it is quite obvious that he is her adoptive son, but she’s still his mother nonetheless, the one person who cared and raised him all this time. Even though for whatever reason, his mother seemed to be stuck in time, never seemed to grow older than what she looked like now. Today, he’s going to leave the city as part of the youth scouting regiment, he won’t be seeing his mom again for a while. With a good chance that He might not see her anymore.

With a little stab of guilt, Miklos sighed, and kneeled down to match her height.

            “Yes mom, I promise I’ll return home.”

A smile formed again on her face, even though the trace of worry still lingers, she hugged her son tightly. It took Miklos a while before he returned it. She kissed him on the forehead before letting him go.

            “Have a safe trip, Miklos.”

            “Yes mom.”

            “Here, take this pendant, it’ll protect you.” She said, handing Miklos a brass necklace.

The skies outside are dark, as it always had been. Brass coated chimneys towers in the distance, endlessly spewing out steam vapour and blue smog. The morning streets were filled with countless mechanical constructs, walking hitherto to carry out their programmed duty. Few people could be seen walking amongst the clockwork men, including Miklos. As his sight slowly disappeared, she still stood on her spot, clasping both her hands on her chest.

            “Miklos… come back soon…” she said, in murmur. “It’s so lonely here…”


Orkelliopolis, the last of the great human city state on the Arrovial continent. The city that never sleep as the sound steam forges and mechanical gears could be heard all day all night. The rattling and clanking sound of the clockwork men, a common sight on Orkelliopolis. A man made humanoid construct build to bolster the dwindling human population of the city.

Miklos rode a tram on one of the many districts of the city, commuting to the local municipal the local army training ground. Several humans could be seen sitting down on the chair, while the aisle is full of the clockwork men standing.

            “Yo, Miklos!” The voice of a boy called out to him, before Miklos could turn to look, the boy had already given Miklos a pat on the back and proceeded to take a seat beside him.

            “Hey Nikolas.”

The boy with the bright blue hair sitting there is Nikolas Vangelis, a childhood friend of Miklos. But Nikolas moved out years ago to another district. They happen to go to the same high school though, so there’s that.

            “How’s your time at the workshop?” Miklos asked.

            “ It’s pretty fascinating, Miklos, you won’t believe what they’re building beneath the city, the ground leviathan is sooo massive! I was in absolute awe when they show us that!”

Nikolas recounted with enthusiasm. The clocksmith’s apprentice had always adored gears ever since he was a child. “With this, there’s no way our city will ever fall!”

            “Ahaha, good to hear that from you.”

The great city of Orkelliopolis is surrounded by enemies of mankind from all side. Necessitating the conscription of a large portion of its citizen to the defence of the city. As such, it is mandatory for all of Orkellion high school students upon their last year of study to serve on that duty in some capacity according to their respective merits.

          “You’re with the scouts, weren’t you? You’re going to the outside world today?”

            “Yes, I’ve always wanted to see the outside world…”

            “That you are… Though I’ve heard the undead attacks have been intensifying recently. Are you sure about that?”

            “Yes, I’ve made up my mind.”

            “Geez, you’ve always been like that Miklos… In truth, you don’t really care about the outside world, didn’t you?”

            “What are you talking about?”

            “Aren’t your mom worried?”

Hearing that irked Miklos quite a bit.

            “It’ doesn’t matter.”


            “She’s not my mom”

            “She’s not my mom”

Nikolas said that at the same time with Miklos in a mocking tone. Which made Miklos quite taken aback.

            “If you kept this attitude, you’re going to regret it later, Miklos.” He said. Patting Miklos’s back

            “Tch, who are you to me, why are you patronizing me?” He retorted, deflecting his friend’s arm. Nikolas’s hand ended up hitting one of the clockwork men, who looked at them for a moment after being struck.  They were programmed to have no feelings, why the clockwork men looked at them is probably just to obtain visual confirmation of what had hit it to evaluate the danger level in order to provide an appropriate response. Even so, the comical scene feels quite awkward for both Miklos and Nikolas, as the towering brass humanoid machine is looking down at them, like an adult flashing a scorning look at two arguing children.

The verdict was. Negligible threat. The clockwork men turned away.

And then the tram arrived at its destination. When the door opened, the clockwork men walked out in perfect order without wasting a second. The human passengers waited for a while before heading out themselves. Miklos and Nikolas included.

            “Well, until we meet again, I guess.” Nikolas said, as he heads out on the opposite direction of Miklos. “Sooner, rather than later.”

Miklos took the necklace her mom gave him. It’s made out of silver and oblong shaped. Apparently, it’s a locket, as he notices a small slit where the locket could be opened.

When he did so, the locket opened and revealed a photograph that showed his mother in a black dress, looking young as ever. Sitting on her lap is a toddler boy, black hair, blue eyes. It’s obvious who the boy was.

Miklos immediately clenched his fist and closed the locket. Gritting. He considered throwing the necklace away but relented, and put it back in his arm pocket.

He then continued onwards toward the gathering point of the new scouting cadets.


The land surrounding Orkelliopolis is blighted and cursed. Supernatural forces rule everywhere and the city has been besieged by hordes of unnatural foes for many generations. The once prosperous land is now teeming with undead, beasts, and ghastly abominations. In lieu of their predicament and of how they dealt with it, the Orkellian Defence Force, or the ODF, has a saying.

The flesh is weak.”

Stemming from their mastery of mechanical construct in order to deal with their supernatural foes. Miklos witnessed first-hand the very reason this saying came into being.

Touring with his entire class of cadets, he saw rows upon rows of towering brass-men lining up in a perfectly organized column. These were different from the one he often sees on the streets. They looked vastly superior, with visible armour plating and integrated weapon system on their left hand. Their right hand mimicked that of a human hand, enabling them to grab object and, to a certain degree, uses them to their advantage. The military clockwork men, no doubt the brainchild of the Orkellian school of orology, are truly a sight to behold.

            “Magnificent, aren’t they?” A deep male voice came from behind him. Miklos turn back to find a male whose appearance did not betray his voice. He was one of his squad mates “The clockwork men, the ultimate expression of mankind’s defiance against the natural order, they need no sleep, they need no rest, they do not age, they do not decay, ah… what a truly, truly, magnificent creation.” He continues, clasping his hand as he conveyed his words.

Miklos, unsure of what to say, could only muster an ‘um’ for the reply.

            “Hello! Good morning Miko!” A comparatively high pitched voice said. A short girl with a tied double ponytail walked up.

            “Morning, Kora. Morning, Max.”

The two people behind him were his squad mates, Korellia Caudley and Maximillian Fotios. Miklos had been well acquainted with both of them since for six months since basic training.

            “When I looked at all the clockwork men, I knew Max would get uhh… a little bit energetic” Miklos said. Pointing his thumb at the field littered with the clockwork men.

            “Ah, don’t let it get to you, Maxi-moo has always had a weird gear fetish.” Kora nodded in agreement. And to have their point immediately proven, Max kept looking at the rows of clockwork men, producing several peculiar noises with equally peculiar face. Kora couldn’t hold herself at the sight of this and started laughing.

Miklos glanced at Kora, now laughing gleefully. He observed her for a short while, her short stature and her bright hair, topped with her cheerful and childlike manner. It reminded him of someone he had known for the longest of time, someone that had taken care of him for all this time, slowly her visage started to form in place of Kora. And Miklos might’ve stared at her too intensely for Kora to finally took notice.

            “What?” She said, the single word that brought Miklos back from his thought.

            “Oh, uh, nothing, you reminded me of someone.”


            “Ah, this is of most common occurrence, when one meets with whom they reminded oneself off of someone, it is because their appearances are so equally unremarkable as to made it difficult to distinguish one from the other.” Max, who were fawning over the clockwork men before, surprisingly commented.

          “Hey! What is that supposed to mean? Are you saying that I have a boring face?”

Miklos couldn’t agree with that statement and its insinuation either, it sounds like he was just trying to make himself look smart, but he chooses not to comment.

            “So as I was saying-“Before Max could explain himself, the sound of a whistle could be heard from afar, it was really high pitched and piercingly deafening as it echoes throughout the base. Successfully catching the attention of every single cadet. There stood an imposing figure of a man, wearing a black officer coat and a maroon beret. All of the cadet’s attention are on him right now. And then he began to speak.

            “Good morning cadets, I am Alexander Sakratidis, your senior major.” The major made two announcements which, to his words, were apparently good news. One was that today, each of the scouting squad would be assigned their own batch of clockwork men (which consists of one unit) suited for scouting mission. The second, being the implication of the first, was that right after meeting their respective clocksmith apprentice, the one responsible of handling the clockwork men on their squad, they would immediately be dispatched on their first mission.

This was news for Miklos. As far as he knows, the school of orology and the scouting regiment were two entirely different branches of Orkellian service. Though that would explain the lack of training and lectures on the mechanism of the clockwork men, probably new curriculum, he thought. And indeed, the new clockwork men model they introduced looked vastly superior to the one he knew from the previous generations, which would explain why they would require a dedicated clocksmith apprentice to operate and maintain. However, he still questions the prospect of putting the precious clocksmith apprentice onto the forefront of the fight against the undead.

            “Ah! Miklos! I should’ve known.” A familiar voice called out his name. here comes the clocksmith apprentice, he thought, and what a coincidence it is that he happened to be none other, than Nikolas.

            “Hey, Nikolas.” Miklos said, greeting his friend. Who now wore a short auburn robe decorated with bright yellow outlines, with some leather padding here and there to protect his vital organs.

            “So, you are our clocksmith?” Kora said, noting Nikolas’ arrival towards the group.

            “That I am, Nikolas Vangelis, apprentice of master Giorgoz Themistoklis. At your service.”

          “Giorgoz… Themistoklis? THE Giorgoz Themistoklis? You’re his apprentice?” Max noted with excitement.

Master clocksmiths held a special status on Orkellian society, owing to their great reliance on clockwork mechanism. The greatest of whom had long since passed away were revered to be almost godlike, whilst the living were hailed as a hero, becoming a household name. Their fame surpassing the most popular of celebrities, the most prominent of the nobility, and even rivalling her majesty the queen herself.

So, it’s not strange for someone like Max to react in such a way when the apprentice of a famed master clocksmith happened to be his squadmate. He immediately grabbed Nikolas on the shoulder, kneeled before him, and spewed out praises upon him, before inquiring to him numerous superficial questions about his revered idol, something like is it true that he invented this? Or is he these years old? Questions that almost rhetoric in nature but not really. As the understandably confused Nikolas attempted to answer Max’s question one by one, Miklos and Kora stood by, with pitying expression.

            “You knew him Miko?”

            “Yeah, I’ve known him since I was little, our house is really close by.”

            “Heeeh, hmm…” Kora mumbled under her breath, eyeing Miklos closely.


            “Hmm I don’t know, you seemed kind of awkward near him just now.” She said whilst stroking her chin.

            “What? We’re fine, what are you talking about?”

Kora sighed. “Miklos, I knew you are like a blank slate most of the time, but you need to open up sometimes.”

            “What do you mean by that? Why is everyone on the world wants to lecture me now?” Miklos snapped. That seemed to catch the attention of Nikolas and Max who were busy talking about brass utensils just now. Nikolas in particular seemed to overhear them and gave Miklos a sad look.

Miklos silently curses this situation. Of how this is the first time ever in the scouting regiment history to have a clock smith apprentice integration, and for said clocksmith of his squad to be the one person Miklos doesn’t want to see for a while. The unprecedented number of coincidences seemed so impossible that it felt like someone up above was pulling the strings for it to happen, solely just to mess with him.

Just as he thought so, the puppeteer of fate seemed to show favour in his side for once, as the ear-splitting whistle of the major rang once more.

            “Attention cadets!”

The hustle and bustle among the new cadets of the barrack were immediately silenced, as all of them formed ranks in short order. Eyes were again directed at the major.

            “I believe you’ve met your own respective comrades.” He continues “And thus, from now, I proclaimed you cadets no longer! From now on, you are a full-fledged member of the scout regiment! I proclaim you all, as the 72nd scout regiment!” The major then snapped a crisp salute, crossing his arms just above his face with a parade ground efficiency, the model of an ODF salute. “Repeat after me! We shall fight forevermore, and forever shall we be remembered. We shall fight for our homes, for our families, for our faith, and for our birth right! For humanity! IN CONCORDIA, AD VICTORIAM” He shouted at the top of the lung. All of the new recruits followed suit, snapping a fine salute as the sound of more than a thousand boots thundered throughout the whole base, and then they shouted the ODF jargon in unison. In Concordia, Ad victoriam.

Just as the recruits shouted the ODF litany of oath, The familiar sound of propellers slicing and splitting the air was unmistakable, as was the imposing sight of one of the giant lumbering airships slowly descending from the sky. It swung at a perpendicular angle, another squadron of said blimps followed. Landing squarely in the middle of the base.

Now that little drama before with his squad mates had been completely swept away from his mind as the zealous fervour ran rampant among everyone on the base. Miklos looked at his squad mates, every single one of them smiling, standing tall and donning their uniform with pride. And today, as they stepped into the great airship, marked the first day they would step together, as brothers in arms. Prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice in order to defend the homeland, defend humanity.

But of course, as often was the case, the goal of these fiery speeches had always been to invoke jingoism in the masses, to inspire and motivate them. So, when the truth was so horrifyingly crippling and dismal, it had always been omitted during all the fiery speeches. And the newly formed regiment would soon find that out.


The cold pragmatism that had ruled Orkelliopolis for decades were one that was born out of necessity, one which had helped them survived after all these years. But like cogs in their clockwork machinery, they also treat people as cogs in the state apparatus.

The land surrounding the city was accursed, true, but it brought out a material of a kind never before seen from the Earth. A mineral which has blue lustre, but when looked at a different angle, it could reflect different colours. A gemstone which seemed imbued with whatever accursed power the land contains, a mineral which the Orkellian minerologist called galázium.

This precious blue mineral is the sole reason how Orkelliopolis had survived all this year. As the mineral now powers many of Orkelliopolis’s machinery, operating at an unprecedented amount of efficiency many folds better compared to the then novel steam engine. Besides efficiency, the stone also seemed to have universe bending power that are still not understood to this day, it is the core of every clockwork men, the one that power them sufficiently to be able to operate semi autonomously.

But being a mineral that was born out of the cursed energy of the land, it goes without saying that galázium had to be mined far from the safety of Orkelliopolis’s mighty walls, as that’s where most of the deposits lies. In order to survey, prospect, and help exploit for any potential source of galázium, the first of the scouting regiment was then conceived.

Whilst the main standing army of Orkelliopolis were deployed to expand and permanently occupy a certain area of strategic importance. The mining guild requisitioned the scout regiment to conduct what they call flash-mining. From what the name implies, a squad would prospect for galázium, mine the deposit, and retreat back into safety before being overwhelmed by the hordes of undead that would get attracted by all the noise. Fortunately, enough, galázium could readily be found emerging on the surface, so they could be mined without much difficulty.

It is one such mission that Miklos is currently undertaking along with his squad. In addition to Nikolas from the school of orology, the squad gained two additional members, one of which were scout clockwork men, and the other is a miner from the mining guild. Each squad would be paradropped from the airship via a capsule pod distributed along the fuselage of the airship.

            “Good to see you gentlemen.” An adult man with an exquisite accent said as he greets the rest of the squad. He sat beside the clockwork men and Nikolas, just across Miklos and his scouts. The miner’s heavy brass armour plating that covered almost the entirety of their body made them almost indistinguishable from the clockwork men had it not for his face.

            “I am Theodore Heinrich of the mining guild, pleased to make your acquaintance.” He said, grabbing the hands of the scout recruit with a strong grip, not deliberately, but out of habit. Each of the squad members then introduced themselves in turn.

            “Woah, I’ve never met anyone of the mining guild before, I’ve heard the rumours, but seeing you up close is so astonishing!” Kora commented “If I didn’t know better, I would’ve thought you to be a member of the army with all that heavy armour!”

The miners of Orkelliopolis are not like your typical run of the mill miners, they’re equally trained in the art of mining as they are in the martial art, sporting heavy equipment and armaments, the miners could be counted as an effective fighting force all on its own.

            “Well, you need to be in the army first in order to be a miner after all.” Miklos said.

            “Ah, it’s all part of the job.” Heinrich said with a wave of his hand, dismissing it as something of the norm.

            “Mister miner!” Max shouted with excitement, his eyes gleaming like a child presented with a new toy. The other member of the squad started to either roll their eyes or sighed, whilst the miner was understandably quite bemused. Max then proceeds to ask a barrage of superficial question to the Heinrich, something along the line of “Is it true that galázium is blue?” or “what did you use to mine?” again with the almost rhetorical questions.

Max’s interviews with Heinrich were interrupted with a sudden booming sound of the airship’s main gun, with that sound came vibration that shook the drop pod. And then an announcement.

            “Attention to the 7th squad, we have reached your designated zone, prepare for deployment at once, ad victoriam!”

Then the booming sound came again, now accompanied with a ceaseless rattling sound of the countless machinegun fire. Such is the standard operating procedure of the flash-mine operation.  Before deploying the squad, the airship would produce as much noises as possible in the form of a barrage of all of its weapons to divert attention away from the squad. Tracer rounds and delayed fuse bomb equipped with bleeping alarm sound were deployed, all to get the horde’s attention, with the bonus of inflicting casualties to the undead being a welcomed addition.

The lights on the drop pods bleeps, painting the cramped pod in a shade of red.  And then the countdown to zero started.

“Well then, it’s time gentlemen.” Heinrich said, as he wore his full plate helmet. The scouts armed their rifle, and Nikolas activated the gyroid attenuator to activate the clockwork men. Miklos reached for his arm pocket unbeknownst to his consciousness, gripping the locket that her mother gave to him tightly. As the countdown reaches zero, the loud clanking of metal could be heard, letting gravity took hold of the pod and unceremoniously plunging the entire squad down with it.


The squad moved along the blackened landscape that is the Arrovial continent. The skies were overcast as far as the eye can see and the air is pungent with the taint of the dead. They do not immediately deploy after the pod made landfall. Instead waiting for some time for the undead host to follow the airship.

Whilst Miklos and his squad is part of the scouting regiment. Since they’re still green recruits, they are assigned to a relatively forgiving mission. Only deploying to escort the miner to a previously known deposit of galázium. The job of surveying out new deposits into the dark reaches were left to the more veteran member of the scouting regiment. And even though permanent galázium mining settlement do exist, and they are heavily guarded by the army, more than 70% of the city’s galázium reserve came from the flash-mining operation due to how rare permanent deposits of the mineral are. Galázium are a peculiar mineral, it is as if they emerged out on the whims of the Earth and can surface or burrow back anywhere at any time. Previously known deposits filled with galázium could become barren overnight and vice-versa. That’s why this operation is still being undertaken due to how unpredictable the material is.

And now Miklos had gotten what he wanted. He wants to see the outside world, only to be greeted with nothing but ash.

“Squad, halt” Kora ordered through the communicator. Being the elected squad leader, she held the responsibility of her squad’s wellbeing, and the success of her squad’s assigned mission. “Look, purple ground, we’re close. Nikolas, did your clockwork men sees anything?”

Nikolas meddled with his gyroid attenuator to get some readings, to no avail, unfortunately.

            “No… here it says nothing…”

            “Huh, that’s weird.”

Kora and the scouts scanned the surroundings again, purple grounds were one of the signs of galázium deposits, or so they were taught. In lieu of this development, she ordered the squad to advance again, keeping a close knit formation with the scouts and the clockwork men covering Nikolas and Heinrich. Occasionally they would hear a distant, damning roar, echoing from the valleys, occasionally they would also spot figures moving in the shadows, overlapped with the thundering roar of artillery guns coming from the airship. All of those were taught as normal occurrences when wandering outside the city. Nevertheless, it still unnerves the green recruits.

            Fortunately, whatever phenomenon that had cursed this land had also produced a lot of protruding rocks and stones that filled the landscapes. The officers called those stalagmites, and the scouts were trained to utilize them as much as possible to be used as cover to conceal their advance.

            “Kora, look!” Miklos said pointing towards a peculiar formation of stalagmites leading up to a cave “Are those… galázium?”

Kora turned her attention to the direction Miklos is pointing, and before she could comment on it, Nikolas’s attenuator gave him a reading.

            “W-whoa, yes, positive, it’s galázium!” He said, making sense of the endlessly spinning gears on his wrist.

            “Those are… galázium?” Kora said. She uses her monocular to confirm a visual reading. The result was… inconclusive. “If they are indeed galázium, why are they red?”

            “What? Red? Let me see!” Heinrich said with astonishment in his voice. Kora handed him over the monocular and, to his surprise, it is indeed the minerals that he was so used to, only this time it is red.

            “What do you make of it, mister Heinrich?” She asks, But Heinrich was silent, Kora take it as him observing the source.

Meanwhile, Miklos stood there, his gaze vacant, but was perturbed by something. Suddenly he could hear sibilant whispers on his head, a combination of clicks, whistle, and hissing followed suit. Unintelligible on its own, but something inside of it tells him to go towards the direction of the cave.

Slowly but steadily, fog started to build up between them and the cave. And now it’s almost impossible to see it with the naked eyes. Just as Kora about to order Nikolas to conduct a thorough scan, Heinrich began chuckling, and then he laughs.

            “Ahahaha, it, it really is, it really is red galázium! I’ve found it, I’ve found it!” Heinrich shouted uncharacteristically of him. And before Kora could ask him what he meant; he already darted towards the cave deposit.

            “Wait!” before Kora could stop him, Miklos followed suit towards Heinrich. “Hah, Miko?! Hey, wait!” and so the figure of both of them disappeared on the thick fog that was there all of a sudden. “What the hell?”

            “Miklos!” Nikolas shouted, an effort that earned him a little pinch from Kora. “Shh! Keep your voice down!”

            “Uhh, Kora, where did these fogs came from?” Max asked, whilst releasing safety on his pulse rifle.

            “I have no clue, stay close and stay on alert! Nikolas, combat mode!”

            “Y-yes, but what are we going to do about them?”  He asked, snapping his head here and there to locate the last known bearing of the cave now that they’re completely blanketed by the thick fog.

            “We’ll advance and go after them, but before that-“  suddenly, her voice were cut short by a gut wrenching scream in a seemingly, and, worryingly, close proximity. All of the squad members snapped their guns up, ready to shoot whatever it is that made the noise. They listened for a moment; nothing came up. Kora signalled Nikolas to conduct a vicinity scan with the clockwork men which he wastes no time in doing. The attenuating gears on his wrist then spun out of control, pointing into a seemingly random direction all over the place, but Nikolas knew all too well that the attenuator is not pointing at a mere random direction. And then the fog started to darken. With shadows, that are moving.

They are here.


Miklos walked slowly under the thick fog, the incessant whispering on his ears now seemingly have him under control, as if bewitched by it, going towards the cave. By this time, several shots have rung from behind him, and yet still he kept walking unabated, seemingly lost in thought, his eyes were vacant of all life. And at that moment, there’s another voice among the whispers and the hiss on his head, calling out his name. life began to slowly return to his eyes, and he snapped back to reality when the voice screamed his name.

            “Wait, where am I-“

Before he finishes that line of thought, a sudden roar from behind him caught him off guard. Shortly after, the sound of wheezing air moving at high speed could be heard, and then felt. Miklos knows better to duck at this time, even without fully knowing what caused the sound. So he did. And as he ducked, a heavy, sharp object sliced above him, just slightly missing his head. That’s when he hears the voices. The heaves of fear staggered Miklos on his feet. It reminds him of a gut-churning image he’s harboured for a long time now.

This is no ordinary fear, no rationalisation.

It was an artificial fear that came from outside source and said source could be seen in front of him in the form of a cloaked winged giant, silhouetted by the moon. Next, he heard an awful scream, and then a kind of panic starts to grip him as his hand stumbles around, looking for his rifle. But thanks to the panic strike, his nerves seemingly degrade to a level of an elderly with a motoric nervous disease, his hand slipped again and again during his attempt in trying to grab the rifle. The undead giant started lifting its heavy broadsword again. And Miklos, noticing that, decided to run away in the opposite direction. He doesn’t know where he’s going all thanks to the fog, he just wants to be as far away possible from the demonic undead.

But that blinded him from the attacks of other undead. Several of the undead emerges from the mist, and they’re charging at him.

His hands are still petrified, unable to grab the rifle that was slinged onto him, he kept running and running away, until he could see the cave where Heinrich had presumably gone into. He started gunning for the entrance, unfortunately the cave was large enough for the giant to chase him into, and so it did. He was not out of the mud yet.

As he went deeper into the cave, he noticed that the surrounding stalagmite had started to change its luster into a more blood red with no different angular colour. So red galázium do exists after all, but he hadn’t the time to think about it, the giant was still chasing after him.

Then a thought dawned upon him, where is Heinrich?

He got his answer right away. There in front of him, where the cave branched into two giant paths, the right side of the path has nothing special about it. Just some stalagmites scattered across the floor. The left side, meanwhile, was littered with extracted red galázium stone. At the edge of the precipice between what little light is available from the outside and the complete darkness of the cave, Miklos could see a body lie motionless. A human body, covered in full plated brass armour, with several missing limbs.

Before he’s able to process this new information, the ground beneath him suddenly shook, and now he’s unable to give a proper reaction in time, as he saw two sharp glowing scissor like mandibles emerges out of the ground beneath him, slicing his right arm off. There’s a limit on how much a human brain can process their surroundings at once, and Miklos’ has gone past that threshold many times over. He staggered and felt dizzy instantly.

He was so busy being terrified that; he couldn’t comprehend the feeling having his right arm missing. And after he regained his bearings, he just immediately ran towards the opposite direction yet again, now without bothering to look at what had sliced his arm off.

Whatever it is that had claimed his right arm, it is now chasing him as he heard eldritch scream, accompanied with endless thudding against the cold cave stone, a sign that it probably has many, many legs. And again, there’s still that winged giant from before.

At this moment, Miklos felt a lot of things coursing through his body and soul. He was still pumped with adrenaline, so the pain of losing an entire arm hasn’t settled in yet. And among all the thoughts he had in his mine, one thing slowly became clear in his mind, as the writing on the wall became increasingly obvious.

He is going to die.


            “Are you sure about this, miss Solstice?”

            “Yes, Monsieur Caudley.”

Two figures stood on the edge of an ostentatious looking hallway filled with glittering tapestries and crystalline decoration of luxurious nature. Smooth and elegant music coming from the cadre of performer serenades the esteemed guests of the cabaret, walking haughtily while their chauffeurs trailed behind, bowing. Despite being a city whose very survival was questionable within each passing seconds, the fact that a place of such vulgar opulence could be erected so mightily within said city could say so much about the human race itself. be it folly, or prudence.

            “The influx of customer came at its peak during the night where your service would be most useful” Said one of the figures, a man of tall stature but plump appearance, wearing a striking white tuxedo with matching trouser. “Resigning yourself from the night shift would cut your pay to more than half of what they are right now.” Patralax continues, looking down to the other figure who is significantly shorter than him. A seemingly young girl with a pair of striking red eyes and bright brown hair.

            “That is fine, monsieur. I’ve made up my mind.” The girl said softly, but with a firm tone. The man gauges her eyes, dedication written all over it. He then resigned to her desire.

            “Well, okay then, I’ll prepare the necessary paper, but it would only go in effect next week, you’ll still have to do the night shift tomorrow, understand?”

            “Yes, monsieur, thank you very much.” The girl said, bowing down.

            “Humour my curiosity though, why do you want to resign from the night shift?” Patralax asked. “Was the customer too harsh for you? You know you can report any misconduct to me… Or is the pay not enough? I don’t think it’s the latter though, since you consciously requested to have it reduced in half.”

            “No, not at all, it is a pleasure working here. It’s just that, I want to be able to spend more time with my son.” She replied. The reply that seemed to surprise him.

            “You have a son?”

            “Yes, monsieur.”

            “How old is he?”

            “He’s turning 15 this year, He’s already in the scouts.” She said with a hint of motherly pride, though the answer just further baffles Patralax.

            “Your son is 14? How old are you again?” There was a moment of silence after he asked this. The question’s rhetoric, he knew most of the age of his employee, especially his brightest, and she fits into that category. He recalls that when she applied for the job, her bio claimed that she’s 24. Which means she’s 27 now, which, in turn, means she’s merely 13 when she became a mother. The implication of that is; either something really, really bad happened to her during her early teens, or that she adopted her son at that age. Patralax doesn’t like thinking about which one is more probable. Either way, it doesn’t seem appropriate to inquire further about the topic, so he decided to apologize. But then she broke the silence before Patralax did.

            “Five thousand five hundred… twenty nine.” She said out of the blue, smiling. An understandably bemused Patralax looked at her.

            “What?” His reply was almost reflexes. And an infinitely long second of silent took place before she jumped out.

            “Juust kidding, but don’t worry, I can assure you that I’m older than I look.”

            “Well, you certainly are…” She’s not wrong, she looks far too young to be 27. As to the number she jests before, Patralax just dismisses that.

” Though having more money would be nice though don’t you think? You’d be able to give more comfort to your son.” He said, in a last attempt to tempt her to keep working the night shift.

            “That might be true, monsieur. But recently, I just realized… no, I just remembered about something.”

            “Oh? And what that might be?”

            “You claim that, with more money, I’d be able to give more comfort to my son.” She said, reiterating his point. And then she started walking in circle. “But you see, when we buy something, we did not really spend our money to buy said item. We pay with the time we spend earning that money, the hours of our life” She stopped just after her back was against him, and then she turned back. “Hours, that we could’ve spend doing something else… as for my case, it’d be spending more hours with my son. And those hours of your life… Cannot be bought with money, or anything else.” She chuckles inside her mind. Thinking that she didn’t have the right to say anything about time, but here it is.

The astonished man stared at his petite employee. He has never thought of it before, indeed, he has spent the majority of his life chasing for material wealth. What this girl… no, this young woman just said gets him thinking about his own family back home, his wife, and his daughter. He smiled warmly.

            “Miss Neja Solstice, you are much wiser than your look makes it out to be.”

She beams and flashes a smile at him.

            “All right, guess we’ll just have to find another pastry chef for the night, bit of a shame, the customer really liked your specialty cake, but oh well, we’ll manage.”

            “Thank you very much, Monsieur Caudley.”

            “No, on the contrary, the pleasure’s mine, miss Solstice.”

            “Just doing my job.” She replies, but Patralax grabbed her shoulder warmly

            “No, I’m not talking about your service.” He said as he shook his head. “I was referring about what you said before. You see, I, uh, I…” He retreats his arms back to scratch the back of his head, it was the first time he was ever nervous Infront of an employee. The woman, Neja, eyed him curiously.

            “Yes, you’re…?”

            “You see… I actually have a daughter back home… she’s, uh, the same age as your son, and from what I’ve heard, she also served in the scouts.” He said.

            “From what you’ve heard?” She asked, curiously.

            “Yeah, I’m not that close with her, I uh… I might’ve been too harsh on her.” He said, his voice low, so low that the jazz music that is now playing on the background almost cuts through his word. “She seemed to always want to go against me in every possible way, whatever I say, she did the opposite, whatever I do, she does the opposite, at first, I don’t know why she does that… but seeing you made me realize, it’s not that she doesn’t want to be understood, no. I am the guilty one, guilty for never trying to understand her.” Patralax said, wiping his moist eye.

Neja looked at him, so apparently her boss had been presented with similar problem to her after all. She can fully empathize with him.

            “Our children, they are a curious bunch, are they not?” She spoke. “We’ve known them for the longest of time, and, in our ignorance, we think we fully understand them, we think we can mould them however we like.” She said, holding one of Patralax’s hand in an attempt to console him. “But then they grew up, and started acting the way which is contradictory to our wish and expectation, and then, as it seemed like our understanding of them was beginning to be questionable, they started to grow distant… until we can understand them no more.” Patralax nodded in agreement. Relating to her entire words. “What a sloppy parent we are.” She said with a sigh, and then a wry laugh. “But we only have one shot at this, monsieur. The time that has been lost cannot be bought back. We can only reflect on the past, and better decide on what to do with the remaining time we have. Hence why my decision earlier to resign from the night shift.”

Patralax nodded yet again in agreement. “You are right. Well, you’ve won me over miss Solstice, I will not try to meddle in your decision again. And maybe… maybe I’ll fix what’s wrong.”

Neja gave him a sweet smile, before donning her chef’s hat again, and started walking back to the kitchen.

            “By the way, miss Solstice.” Patralax asked again, halting Neja.

            “Yes, monsieur?”

            “Your son, what is his name?”

Neja smiled again, regardless of what happened, her son is still her pride and joy. And it never tires her to proudly introduce him to anyone that asks. “Miklos, his name is Miklos.”

            “I see, Miklos Solstice, what a fine name.”

            “Thankyou. Monsieur.”

            “My daughter, I mentioned that she’s in the scouts too, and at the same age of Miklos, figured he might know her. Her name is Korellia.”

            “Korellia Caudley, her name is pretty too.”

            “Yes, my wife gave her name… anyway, greet Miklos for me when he comes back will you?” Patralax made one last cordial pat to her shoulder, before turning and walking back to his office.

            “And greets Korellia too for me, monsieur.” She said. To which Patralax waved an arm as an affirmation.

And thus, Neja sets out to do her final night shift. In preparation to his son’s return the next day. if it’s going to be her last night here, might as well make it the best. An excited Neja then entered the kitchen. Motivated and elated at the thought of what is to come.


The undead surges onward. A ceaseless horde of unending deluge, a typhoon of blight unfettered by the living who struggled to fight them back. Four young souls and a men of metal stood defiantly amidst the throng, pinned down around a formation of stalagmites that stood between them and certain death

            “Kora! There’s too many of them!” Max yelled, busy as he was, keeping the clawing undead away with incessant trained fire of his pulse rifle.

The undead that were surrounding them were that of the husk-class. A minor, weak, and slow moving undead. Their pulse rifle is powerful enough to pierce up to three or four of them in one shot if lined up properly. But even though they were merely the husk-class undead, they still greatly outnumber them, and there’s no telling of when the more advanced class of the undead would show up. Kora frantically looked around her for a way out. her observation revealed that the undead concentration is lowest behind them.

            “Fighting retreat! Nikolas, relocate the CM[1] behind us, we’ll break through and regroup!”

            “What? What are you planning?”

            “What do you mean? We need to get out of here!”

            “But what about Miklos? And Heinrich”

Kora didn’t answer for some second, half occupied with the undead but also half unwilling to answer for what her order insinuated.

            “We- We’ll… We’ll rescue them later when we are safe!” Kora answered.

            “Bullshit! We need to rescue them now!” Nikolas shouted.

            “No! Nikolas, we-“

Kora knew very well what her orders meant to their two other squad members, and the conscience weight heavily on her mind as the squad leader. At a moment of great peril such as this, every second means the life and death of everyone involved. Requiring a person of great mental fortitude to make a choice, any choice. For the wrong choice is better than nothing. And that is something Kora, as a new member of the scouts, unfortunately is quite lacking in. Decisiveness.

In the face of one of her squad members defying her orders, for something that she herself is truthfully unwilling to do, she faltered in indecision.

            “I- I… but, but they’re… we’re…”

Her mind is now racing, unwilling to sacrifice her squad members but also pressured to act quickly.

            “I’m ordering my CM forward.” Nikolas said, as he tuned his gyroid attenuator. Kora could only watch, wanting to belay him but no words seemed to come out of her opened mouth, and then Max bellowed a shout strong enough to cut through all the roars and the fires.


That shouting stunned both Kora and Nikolas. The latter especially, who stopped meddling with the attenuator immediately, eyes wide as the truth of the situation started to sink in.

            “Nikolas…” Kora said, her voice rather soft, but still loud enough to be audible amongst the chaos. “I know it’s difficult… but we need to get out of here…”

            “But… but what if we wait for reinforcement?”

            “I’ve called for it, but it will take some time, about three hour, we can’t hold for that long.”

Nikolas stood frozen, gritting his teeth. His clockwork men is still fighting on custodian mode, that is to prevent any undead from reaching its human master. Its armour proven itself as the clawing dead tear and clawed at it without much success. He cursed for not having more than one of them, two should be enough to clear a path forward. Then Max spoke again, not as loud as before.

            “Nikolas, it’s either us, or none at all.”

He was about to suggest hunkering down again when he notices the energy level of Max’s pulse rifle, the galázium indicator shows his pulse rifle has got less than half of its remaining power left. Nikolas clenched his fist; the plain fact is that they won’t be able to hold for long before they ran out of ammunition. Faced with no other choice, he obliged, swinging his arm towards the back line of the squad and attenuate his gear. The clockwork men response was almost immediate, it ran charging towards the rear, clearing a path for them.

Kora nodded, she flashes a hand sign towards Max, and both of them threw a couple of resonator grenades. Designed to distract the undead by making a noise specifically attuned to their hearing, it would then explode after several minutes.

            “Now’s our chance, retreat!”

Kora and Max immediately jumped out of their cover and ran for it, with the clockwork men spearheading their formation. It took Nikolas a couple of second before he was forced to run as some of the undead that did not get attracted to the grenades neared him.

            “I’m sorry… Miklos.”


Miklos ran, and ran, and ran, and ran. It has only been less than five minutes, but it felt like he’s been running for eternity.

With each passing moments, his breathing grew heavier. With each passing moments, taking a step became a labour. And with each passing moments, the stinging and burning pain from his cauterized maimed arm. The two malicious undead were still chasing after him. It is a miracle that he had somehow outrun them so far.

As he was already in this predicament for quite a while, his mind had had some time to grasp the situation around him, not that it was of any help. All around him the situation was just completely hopeless. An arm missing, isolated from the rest of his squad, and running deep into an uncharted cave, there’s nothing about the situation that speaks of hope.

He curses to himself, to the giant undead, to whatever it is that cuts his arm off, to his squad mate for leaving him there, to the universe, to the being he dubbed the puppeteers of fate for seemingly setting things up this way, like some sort of a sick and twisted parody written by a deranged obnoxious maniac.

His left hand instinctively swung towards the last known position of his right arm pocket, attempting to grab his locket before painfully realizing that it is gone when all that he felt was air. And now, Miklos was in tears.

The apprehension he had towards his mother was being utterly deconstructed as the situation continues. He felt tired, he felt filthy, he felt pain, contrast that to how warm and clean his room was, how comfortable a house he lived in. He recalled feeling disgruntled when his mom took away his blanket to wake him up, how foolish he was back then. If his current self could somehow travel back in time to that moment, he would harshly yell at his past self for being such an ungrateful sod.

It was just only short of a couple of days from those moments, but he would do anything, anything at all to have those moments be given back to him.

But then his daydreaming was abruptly cut short when he tripped and fell, oh he just had to trip and fell now.

By now he had stumbled upon a vast open expanse on the cave. Weeping lights seeps from the multitude of crevices scattered across the ceiling, this portion of the cave itself was softly illuminated in red hues as the red galázium deposits seems to be at its highest concentration here. What scientific advancement could be gained from this place alone is the last thing on Miklos’ mind now as he crawled to the closest stalagmite and rest himself there. His back facing the two undead that was chasing after him, ready to accept his fate.

He never ran so fast before in his life, despite missing an arm, he seemed to have gone paces ahead from his two assailants, and he probably would’ve died had it not for the creature’s hot mandibles that cauterizes his wound as it cuts his arm. But of course, there’s a limit on the how much the frail biological mechanism that is his body could endure. The saying ‘the flesh is weak’ comes to mind. It was supposed to instil a sense of superiority amongst their numbers over their undead foes made out of foul flesh and bones, though in an ironic twist, it consequently meant that the saying also applied to the human soldiers of their own. He held on to his pulse rifle that he somehow still has slinged on to his back, spending the remaining life he had in him to raise that rifle.

Then, in whatever kind of sickening twist of fate, as he was raising his head, he saw something impossible in front of his eyes. He had read somewhere before that dying people usually had some weird visions on their last minute on this world, whether what he’s seeing right now is that statement made manifest or not, he doesn’t care. It was a sight that is so out of this world that he can’t take his eyes off of it.

There on the other side of the empty spaces of the cave, he could see what appears to be a girl, waltzing gracefully upon the cold hard stone that is the cave. Her beauty was like nothing he had ever seen. She wore a dress made out of the finest silks reminiscent of those cabaret dancers on Orkellian red light districts, with almost the same colour as her skin, add to the fact that the dress seemed to expose quite a lot of her skin, showing off her flawlessly smooth and soft skin and making her look quite like a living doll. Her movements were fluid and elegant, never once looking awkward or unnatural, or in any way restricted in movement. Her long pale brown hair flowed like water with no care for what the wind was doing. The only adornment on her face were two beautiful yellow eyes, both of which glowed with the inner fire of a thousand suns. Something about this girl commanded all of the senses, to touch it was to wonder. He couldn’t help but marvel at how feminine and sensual she looked, making the still adolescent Miklos all the more enchanted.

Having a vision of your dream girl just moments before your gruesome death doesn’t seemed all that farfetched. It is your last moments in the world after all, maybe it’s a way for your brain to cope with the coming end.

What was not ordinary, however, is that, when Miklos observed her more closely and his eyes drawn to her lower area thanks to his youthful curiosity, what he found something else other than skin that she had. It seemed her skin was impartial in covering her entire body, as what’s beneath it was brass and gold, clanking and riveting gears, spinning, rotating, and clanking again in such a harmonious way that would make even the greatest of Orkellian clocksmiths to be ashamed of themselves. And then he notices that the lower abdomen was not the only area of her that exposed her mechanical nature. The very bottom of her dress was made up of small gears, identical to those that were wrapped around her arms and legs. Her left arm impartial skin coverage revealed a functioning linear actuator usually found on the army’s mechanized walkers, pumping up and down in conjunction with the gears found throughout her entire body to articulate her graceful movement. Everything fitted together in an exquisite mathematical and mechanical order.

It is a given that every Orkellian citizen would have a degree of interest towards clockwork mechanism. And Miklos was at an utter lost of words at this sight, and he doesn’t even have that high level of attachment toward clockwork mechanism. And his attraction towards the vulgar appearance of the girl was being overshadowed by his fascination of her clockwork machinations.

As far as he knew, there had never been a clockwork model that bears such a striking resemblance to a human being, the closest they ever achieved was the clockwork men, who were little more than brass made to look like human. The clockwork girl he was seeing in front of him was anything but humanlike, the way her joints articulated, the way she was given shape, the way she looked. Without a doubt she would have been the biggest achievement of Orkelliopolis ever since the first creation of the galázium engine.

And there’s something even more intriguing than that.

Something that challenges everything Miklos ever understood about the entire city of Orkelliopolis, and indeed, the nature of the entire world he had ever known.

When he first laid his eyes upon her, there’s actually something else beside the clockwork girl. It was a skeleton, another lesser class of undead. At first, Miklos thought the skeleton was attacking her and she simply just dodges it with her agile movement whilst waltzing away. But then something feels off, the movement of the skeleton is not that of an attack movement, it is purposeful, smooth, elegant even. It looked more like the skeleton was… waltzing… alongside her?

Now, dancing skeletons was something Miklos had seen in children’s interactive media that his mom had bought for him many years ago, no doubt for entertainment purpose. And his basic training had made it clear that, skeletons don’t dance, they want to kill you. So, how could this be?

Two answers came to his mind, one is that, this particular skeleton is a friendly one and an avid dancer at that, judging from its movement that matched the grace of the clockwork girl. The second one is that, the clockwork girl is somehow controlling the movement of the skeleton.

Both are unlikely answers, equally unlikely, he thought. There’s no way a clockwork mechanism has mastery over the dead, a clockwork necromancer… Orkelliopolis have a secular culture, but even the thought of a clockwork necromancer sounded not only preposterous, but also borderline heretical for Nikolas. As for the friendly skeletons, well, he humoured himself on the thought.

Alas, before could think about the matters further. The same bellowing roars from before suddenly echoed throughout the cave.

Oh, here comes the real world, he thought, expecting the mirage that is the waltzing clockwork girl to fade away anytime soon, giving way for harsh reality to settle back in. He had to thank the puppeteers of fate though for giving him such an exquisite image one last time before his untimely death. But to his surprise, she did not fade away. Instead, she just stopped dancing.

Doesn’t matter, the ground began to shake violently as the undead giant charges towards him, still lying against the same stalagmite. The familiar dreadful sound of the incessant thudding also made its appearance.

This is it.


The squad ran towards their original drop pod site, leaving a trail of resonator grenades to keep the frequent undead off of their tracks.

It is common practice for scouts to retreat to the pod once the situation has gone fubar. The drop pods are designed to be rugged and tough, able to withstand any kind of attack the undead could throw at it, supposedly. There, they would wait until high command could send in an airship to evacuate them.

            “Kora, which way?” Max asked while gasping for air as he ran.

            “It’s at bearing 248, we shouldn’t be far!”

Their vision was still limited by the ever lingering fog, with only headlights that the clockwork men shone the only thing that prevent them from complete blindness.

Kora stopped running and the entire squad followed suit, her head turning left and right. Attempting to discern the last known position of the pod.

            “We’re close, I know it… Nikolas!” she shouted at Nikolas, giving him a handsign

            “O-oh, yes Kora.” The groggy Nikolas replied clumsily.

The clockwork men’s light intensified, and it tilted it heads around, scanning the area. It was not long before they spotted the familiar bell-shaped silhouette lying just northwest of their location.

            “There! Let’s go!”

The group moved towards their drop pod, but as they drew closer and the silhouette revealed the actual form of the pod, it is becoming apparent that something is definitely not right.

And then the clockwork men’s headlights became close enough to reveal the truth to their naked eyes.

Their drop pod had been destroyed. Charred ground shown the remains of the electronics, cogs and gears are strewn all around, all burnt.

            “Is that… our drop pod “Max whispered in disbelief.

            “No… no, no! this is not supposed to happen!” Kora cries.

Nikolas stood there in trepidation, shocked as he was, a grim realization made him turn his clockwork man quickly towards their back while activating its sensory ability. The gyroid attenuator jerked violently back almost in an instant. Nikolas eyes widened at what that entails.

            “Kora! Max! Behind us!”

Before the both of them could react to his warning, a loud snitching sound could be heard, accompanied by the guttural yelp of Max screaming in pain. A long black lance that emerges from the mist had pierced him in the chest, and he was slowly being lifted off into the air.

The shocked Kora responded by immediately opening fire just behind Max. several of her pulse rifle shot seemingly hit the target, as its camouflage slowly dissipated, revealing a grotesque monstrosity of which she had never seen before, not even during lecture class. The creature was over four metres tall and was composed of twisted chitinous plates and ribcages. It is an amalgamation of insect and man, it had numerous jagged appendages, and  piercing red eyes. It has several sets of long tail which had a sharp end, one of which had impaled Max

Max was groaning in agony, in a sudden move, the creature whipped the tail it was using to impale Max, launching him towards the air. Kora stood in a cold stupor as she watched Max quickly falling to his death, and now, the creature’s attention was onto her.

Kora fired yet two other rounds of her pulse rifle, still attuned at moderate power level due to lack of time. The pulses struck the sharp carapace of the creature harmlessly, even deflecting it at some point as if the jagged armour of the creature was specifically designed in such a way to counter her pulse rifle. Two of its tail then lurches towards her, Kora flinched as her eyes shuts itself on reflex. Fortunately, Nikolas was on time and his clockwork men parried the lance, and even managed to cut one of them off in the process, the creature shrieked loudly like the scream of a damned soul.

The clockwork men then sprinted at the creature and closed the distance very quickly, owing to its superior biomechanical engineering. It then slashed the creature repeatedly with its four retractable blades. However, the creature returned the favour, easily gliding from one position to the next to find an opening in the clockwork men’s defences. It strikes again with its tails, all but one of the tails were parried, and that one tail is going straight for the clockwork men’s galázium core. Kora sees what the creature is doing, and she fired a nonstop barrage of accurate pulse fire, finding no great results against the creature’s armour but successful in halting the creature’s tail advance as one of her shots scored a direct hit.

The creature then slides backwards, realizing that it is at a disadvantage against the clockwork men. It then launched two of its other tails towards Nikolas, who stood behind them all with no cover.

Kora and Nikolas was utterly shocked at this. Now they knew that the creature is not entirely acting on pure instinct, it is, in fact, quite intelligent. Nikolas raised his pulse pistol in an attempt to block out the two lurching lances currently going his way, unfortunately he was not as trained as the scouts with guns, all of his shots missed. As the lances was about to impale him, the clockwork men arrived on time, blocking the attack with its body, saving Nikolas but immediately incapacitating the clockwork men as one of the lances had struck its galázium core.

Nikolas watched in horror as the creature launches more of its tails, its obsidian lances piercing the clockwork men’s brass composite armour, tearing it apart limb from limb.  he then saw the clockwork men fell motionless to the ground.

The creature snarled in a powerful voice, which were met by a high intensity barrage of Kora’s pulse rifle, now firing at maximum power. The creature replied with a low sweep from its obsidian tail, claiming one of Kora’s lower leg as she fell, limping on the ground.

Nikolas watched helplessly as the creature was about to claim the life of yet another of his squad, before suddenly, the air explodes around them, particularly around the creature. It howled loudly before its screech was being drowned by yet another explosion, deeper and more deafening. Nikolas saw Kora rolling on the ground, her leg bleeding from where the skin has been amputated by the creature’s tail. He took this opportunity to go after her and aid her.

            “Kora! Hang in there!”

Then another hissing sound that splits the air tore through the fog, scoring yet another direct hit at the creature as the explosion tore several of its appendages. The violent blast removed the mist that was covering them, revealing a two legged brass construct with a cannon so disproportionately big that even Nikolas sensed a limited depth of fear upon beholding it, if not for the emblem of the mining guild that was painted clearly on the front hull of the construct.

One more construct appeared from the mist, which by now are dissipating under the pure show of force and violence the mechanical constructs displayed. The new construct looked somewhat more menacing than before, instead of the plain old barrel of tungsten that the previous one sported, the cannon of the new model looked like an overblown parody of their standard pulse rifle. Sporting an obscenely large barrel, it emanates a soft blue glow from across several perforation visible along its axis. Several corrugated tubes connected the turret to a container of some sort located behind the construct, constantly vibrating like a rabid beast, and spewing out blue smokes. It charged the weapon up, the soft blue light intensifies, producing a hissing sound more unsettling than leaving your boiling water in the kettle for too long. And when it fires, a dazzling blue covered the immediate vicinity, producing a deafening sound and reducing the creature to nothing but a vapour of red mist.

            “Wh-what is that?”

Miklos sat there in awe, upon the sight of the mechanical terror that had squashed the new class of undead with impunity.

            “We’ve got survivor!” The machinated voice of a man talking over a loudspeaker could be heard, just as headlights starting to shine all over them. Several miners appeared from behind them, sporting their iconic full plate brass armour.

One of the miners approached Nikolas and Kora

            “Are you hurt?”

            “N-no, but she needs help, she lost her lower leg.”

            “I see.”

The miner talked to his communicator, asking for evac. More of them came carrying a stretcher, the now barely conscious Kora was laid down upon it and brought back to safety.

            “We came at the request of Theodore Heinrich of the mining guild, do you know where he is now?” said one of the miners, his face covered in full plate helmet, but judging from the red lined collar and epaulets that he wore, it can be assumed that he’s the one in charge here.

Nikolas stood silently, in utter disbelief that he was going to survive this after all. The peculiarity that it is the mining guild that ends up saving them instead of the military had not surfaced in his mind yet. All he cared for is that this will end soon.

            “Yes… We went in to investigate a strange cave, Sir Heinrich and one of our squad members suddenly went inside, before we could go after them, that’s when the mist suddenly descended…”

            “I see, can you lead us towards the cave?”

Nikolas sighed with relief, not only did he survive the disastrous encounter, but there’s also still a chance to save his friend.

            “Yes, miner captain, this way.”


Miklos was mentally prepared this time, he armed his rifle and set it to maximum power beyond what is allowed by the ODF. He then crawled behind the stalagmite. Resting it there to support his less dominant arm. If he’s going to die, at least, he won’t die a pitiful death, he will die fighting.

He regretted not being able to see his mom again, he promised that he would return, and yet he won’t. He regretted being so apprehensive towards her, he wished he could’ve been more open to but alas, things had turned out to be this way, and there’s nothing that can be done about it.

            “I’m sorry for being such an ungrateful child, mom, I love you.”

Tears began to well in his eyes again as he braced for the charging giant. It made a terrible roar that could be seen shaking some of the stalagmites, as it was nearing him, Miklos also made a bellowing primal scream, loud enough to even rival the undead giant’s roar in this cave.

He fired a shot which lit the entire cave up in brilliant blue, the recoil is much stronger than he anticipated, and he missed. Hitting the tunnel entrance behind where he came from, causing a huge boulder to fall down and blocking it. He fired another, hitting the undead giant right in its abdomen, punching a hole through it, though it didn’t do much as the undead kept charging.

It was now very close to him, the undead giant raises an arm, ready to slice Miklos off. He hunkered down, closing his eyes as he was preparing to meet his death. But suddenly, instead of the expected visceral sound of his body being split apart, he heard the sound of the blade clashing another blade that rang across the cave.

Miklos was still cowering, expecting his body to be torn apart, but to his surprise, he’s still able to feel most of his body, and there’s no additional pain outside of what he already felt. He slowly opens his eyes to found that indeed his body was still in one piece. Fascinated, he turned his gaze upwards only to be met with the next unbelievable scene after the clockwork girl from before.

There stood yet another undead giant, parrying the attack from the first undead giant that attacked him from before. Apparently, Miklos was not the only one perplexed at this sight, as the ‘evil’ undead giant from glanced at the ‘good’ undead giant for a moment, seemingly trying to assess the situation. But before it could, the good one moves, deflecting the blow all together and attacked the evil one, trying to slice its arms off. The evil one responded by dropping its obsidian sword and dodging the blow. Creating a new one through whatever unholy means.

The concept of friendly skeletons from before surfaced again in his mind, so they do exist after all?! The good one then roared, it’s the same roar as before, equally mighty and gut wrenching. Only this time, it felt oddly reassuring for Miklos. And then they both started sparring with one another, their obsidian blades clashing, seemingly on a stalemate. Then he felt an enormous quake coming from behind. When he turned back, not only did he see that the clockwork girl still there, but she’s also seemed to be the one causing all of this. She crosses her arm around her chest, her palm moving and twitching seemingly randomly, occasionally showing several strings that is so thin, it can only be seen when light hit it at just the correct angle. The strings also moved alongside her fingers. As the strings touched the ground behind her, a giant creature suddenly emerges out of the ground, towering over her. The shape of the creature was unmistakable for Miklos, it’s wing and reptil he’s seen such kind of creature in fictions, story books, and plays. The difference was that the one who stood there are the twisted version of what he’s used to. There stood a skeletal dragon, known to be one of the highest classes of undead. The ‘good’ undead giant crumbled, probably because she’s only able to control so much. the skeletal dragon roared mightily, looking down upon the giant. It is widely accepted that the undead are a being with no inherent emotions within them, but the undead giant stepped back, seemingly in fear of the dragon.

Miklos watched the scene unfolds in both awe and horror. The clockwork girl had just summoned a skeletal dragon, the absolute absurdity of it all, the unholy orchestra of machine and sorcery making a mockery of reality itself. It is something that Miklos wouldn’t at all believe had he not seen it with his own eyes. Even now, he’s having difficulty believing it still, occasionally pinching himself to confirm that he is, in fact, still alive.

 With a flick of her finger, the skeletal dragon moved, crawling on the cave floor, and heading towards Miklos. His image of good undead seemingly shattered as the dragon was opening its mouth, trying to bite him off.

Miklos tried to run away, but on the other direction the undead giant lay still, watching the dragon. When the reptilian skull of the dragon was mere inches away, it bit into his clothing and lifted him up. Just as it did that, the ground suddenly shook and the glowing sharp mandibles from before bursts out of the ground. And it would undoubtedly have split him in half had the skeletal dragon not lifted him up. The skeletal dragon then threw him off far away from the two evil undead, now swaying in the air with no control over himself, he saw the clockwork girl glancing at him for a moment with a smile. The train of thought that raced on Miklos’ mind was abruptly cut off by cold hard stone as his body crashed against the cave wall. After all that happened, he was finally knocked out unconscious after hitting his head against the wall. The last thing he saw was the back of the clockwork girl, and the skeletal dragon crushing the two evil undead with impunity. And then it all fade to black.


            “Sir, we’ve identified the body of Theodore Heinrich. Well, what’s left of him.”

            “Horrible, a black mantis did this, may he rest in peace.”

A full platoon of miners had entered the mysterious cavern, some of them could be seen extracting the red galázium back to their terrestrial crawler. Aside from the mining guild, a cartographer from the exploration guild was also brought here. He claimed that this cave formation was, in fact, not present here before.

Nikolas watched as the cadaver of Theodore Heinrich was being put into the body bag, piece by piece. Appalled, and sick at the sight, he started walking around the cave, looking out for any evidence of his still missing friend.

It did not take him long.

Whilst walking around the dark cave, he tripped on something. It was soft, well, relatively so when compared to the stalagmites. He shone down his flashlight to reveal an amputated arm, he was about to recall the miners again at first because he thought they missed a part of Heinrich’s, but then he realized the fabric that wrapped the arm is that of a scout’s uniform. His eyes widened, he crouched down to grab the hand, not wanting to come to the worst conclusion, he inspected the arm, it was cut clean similar to the way Heinrich was mutilated, it was still rather fresh. He still did not want to believe it, until he finally checked the arm pocket to reveal a necklace and an oblong shaped locket made out of silver. Blood drained from his face when he opened the locket, it felt as if all strength had left him, and he dropped the arm.

There on the locket is a portrait photo of a young girl in black dress, she looks younger than him, but Nikolas knew better. In front of her, she’s carrying a toddler boy with black hair. A rather sweet portrait of a family, but in the context of his current situation, the photo only led him to despair. Confirming his greatest fear.

            “Miklos… I’m sorry.”


When someone is already on a living nightmare, it is often that when they go to sleep, they do not dream of anything. Their predicament desaturating their perception of reality, subsequently leaving only vague recollections of their reality mixed with pure, unadulterated nightmare as they just immediately sunk into total blackness when they close their eyes.

It is so with Miklos. As he immediately lost all consciousness after being knocked out cold. Though it seems that old habit dies hard, when he regains his consciousness from his voidful sleep, he did not open his eyes right away. It was not a conscious decision on his part, his body just do that instinctively.

However, where there were warm blankets and soft bed, now there’s cold and hard stone. Where there was comfort, now there’s pain. Where there were fluffy pillows, now there’s hard uncomfortable stalagmites. Where there was a soft voice of his mother waking him up every morning now there’s… a soothing voice of a girl singing to him??

At first, he thought it was Just a small and distorted sound filling his mind, but as his hearing gradually returns to him, there’s another sound accompanying the singing voice, a sound of rattling gears, whining, and clanking.  A metallic vibration like beating of wings, or thumping of ground, like a heartbeat, sounding oddly harmonious with the singing,

And he would’ve been fine with closing his eyes for a lot longer had it not been for the supremely uncomfortable feeling his entire body is in. laying down his body and his head in a seemingly hard surface. So, he decided to finally open his eyes.

What he saw struck a sense of déjà vu in him. It felt like he has felt this sense of astonishment before and had described the situation clearly but couldn’t really remember when. His mind was still clouded after all. Needless to say, there was a beautiful girl in front of him, her skin fair white, she wore a silky dress, and she’s singing a soothing tune. Her dress exposes a lot of her skin, and beneath her skin he could see gold and brass gears, moving and rotating, another odd thing that invoked another strong sense of déjà vu.

When she notices him waking up, she stopped her singing and turned to look at him with a smile full of kindness.

            “Good morning, I am pleased to find that you are still alive.” The girl said, addressing him.

It didn’t take Miklos long to find that he had been sleeping on her lap all this time. The girl gently touched the side of his face, causing Miklos to flinch and shut his eyes for a moment. She then slowly put her hands on his cheek and caressed it gently. Another dizzying feeling came over him. After a moment of realization, the juvenile Miklos, understandably flustered, immediately rises up and crawled several inches away from her.

            “A-ah, uh, good morning.”

The girl still looked at him with that sweet smile of hers. The face she wore was so calm, so warm, so mesmerizing, and so… human. And that last fact disturbed Miklos, when her reaction was so mechanical and inhuman, simply just turning to look at him, like a security camera tracking an object. Not to mention the gears beneath her skin. He glanced to look at her legs, her minimalistic dress meant that he could see it clearly. And he could clearly see that her legs are all metal and gears as some of her ‘skin’ seemed to have been damaged in some areas, no wonder her lap pillow is so hard and cold, he thought.

He started recollecting most of the thing that had happened, at least on the short term. He thought he was dreaming, but when he looked that one of his arms is missing, reality immediately sunk.  He turned his head to look at the other side. There on the far end of the cave, a light from the outside shone down upon the severely dismembered remnant of two undead creature, barely recognizable, but Miklos knew all too well what kind of undead those are, and how they probably ended up like that.

He turned to the clockwork girl again, still looking at him as if awaiting instruction, like a tracking camera that has the face of a pretty girl.

            “T-thankyou, for saving me.” He said nervously. A little bit of his nervousness was contributed by his juvenile attraction towards a member of the opposite sex, and a particularly sensual one at that. However, the majority of it were caused by his fear towards her after recalling what she was capable of.

            “My pleasure.” She said immediately as soon as Miklos finishes his sentence.

The cold efficiency of her reply disturbed Miklos even more. He recalled during one of his classes that there’s something called “input lag” in clockwork computations. Something about how long an interval between the time you gave the machine an input and the machine’s respond to your command. Her input lag, it seemed, is astonishingly very low. Landing scores on the order of less than a millisecond, adding to the unsettling mix of human appearance and inhuman reaction.

            “I’m sorry to ask but… what are you?” Miklos asked again, to which the girl immediately replied.

            “I am a creation of my master.”

Meanwhile Miklos’ brain took several seconds before coming up with a reply, a severely inferior input lag when compared to whatever processor she’s running.

            “I-I see…” Miklos took another second to reply. “It’s just that… Uh… how did you do that?”


He really is not used talking with someone that immediately gave a response right after he finishes his sentence, this time, his lag is even more severe before realizing he didn’t specify on what he meant by ‘that’.

            “You could summon the undead.” He said, trying to adapt to her machinelike demeanour.


            “How did you do that.” He said, attempting to mimic her by immediately replying to her answer. At least, he tried to.

            “By channelling mana.”

Miklos’ input lag was increased by over a thousand fold, going as far as tens of thousands of milliseconds upon hearing that answer.

            “Channelling… what? Mana?”


Mana. A term so overused across all the fictions that Miklos had read that it has become tiring for him to hear listen to that. Then again, it might have been due to her creator’s lack of imagination in naming things.

            “But you? Channelling mana? How?”

To his astonishment, she did not immediately reply, and her smile is immediately replaced by a frowning expression, clearly trying to mimic a thinking expression. Another list of unsettling things is added.

            “No data available.” She said, immediately returning to her signature smiling face, following a certain command written on her processor.

            “Huh, no data available? But why? How did you do that? You’re… a clockwork mechanism. how did you raise the dead?”

Across all of the fantasy stories Miklos had read, the one thing that they share is that the mage involved are always organic beings, be it living or undead, beings endowed upon the gift of magic in order to manipulate the world around them. And here he stood in front of a testament against all of that, a mechanical being of cogs and gears, making a mockery of the term mage and mana.

It might be not that impressive had her ‘magic’ were something like throwing flames or lighting, at least that could be scientifically explained, somehow. But how do you scientifically explain resurrecting undead creatures from the ground? What is she? Who made her? Why is she here? The more Miklos think about it, the more question arose.

There was a slight delay in her answer, not much, but enough to be noticeable.

            “I am sorry, I do not have the information within me right now.” She said, her face now frowning. “Before you ask any further, I do not know why I am here, I do not know who my master is, I do not know much about myself. She continues. “There is, however, a directive embedded within me.”

            “And that is?”

            “Please, allow me to love you.”

Miklos did not hear that wrong, his attempt at mimicking her mechanical demeanour all shattered as his face was flushed red. He knew that whatever came out of her mouth is just binaries, nothing more than a combination of logic and algorithm attempting to convey an idea. But alas, he could not help it, his adolescent fantasy sprang up again in his mind, she is very pretty after all, but when he looked at her again, at all the parts of her body, it’s all brass and gold, and Miklos’ shuddered at this fantasy.

            “W-what do you mean by that?”

            “Final directive… understand the human, know the human, love the human… What is love, what do you perceive as love, the human is meant to love the human, this is the most fundamental human drive. An incentive to fulfil the will of the human. It is what has been reproduced throughout most of human history. Love of self, love of one’s family and friends, love of creation, cherish what we call beauty. There is so much in this world to cherish, so much to love. What I desire is the ability to express that, to be able to express love, to really know love. What I would want of you, are you able to accept that love from me? To nourish my desire, to be a vessel that I can be part of, to perhaps release that desire through your life… or maybe, perhaps become the means of my own desire. I have to ask you this one final time, do you accept that?”

“I…” Whatever algorithm her master installed into her is no doubt the most advanced logic gates to have ever been conceived upon this world. How such a talented and revolutionary master clocksmith became so obscured as to leave their creation just laying around in a random cave is beyond him, not even the most renowned of master clocksmiths could build a clockwork mechanism that could boast of such engineering. Perhaps her master did not enjoy working with a grand clockwork like the others, perhaps it was a testament to the lowly condition of the lesser mortals here. After all, a most skilful hand could make any clockwork mechanism, but not just any master clocksmiths can produce such a beauty like that.

“If you do, then I ask you to love me.” She concluded.

Miklos did not know what to say, he wasn’t sure if he could love a machine like her. He knew that such a thing is impossible, machines have no consciousness and therefore can’t suffer or experience any human emotions.  However, such as the stories told to him by his mother, one has to rely on logic to test the truth of the story, so in Miklos’ head, the human had to love the machine, to what extent was up to the human.

In the end, Miklos had decided.

“I accept that you love me. But I would request that you to protect me from harm…”

That last request was an impromptu addendum, made on the spot as he also recalled her prowess meant that he could return safely back to Orkelliopolis with her help. He could see his friends again, and most importantly, he could go home, back to his mother.

She paused and smiled.

“Then we are one.”

“So, what is your name?” He asked.

“No data available.” She said instantly, back with her signature smile.

            “Your master doesn’t give you a name…?”


            “But I need a name to refer to you, hmm…” He racked his brain for a suitable name for his new mechanical companion. A clockwork girl that is also a necromancer, and then he finally found it. “Lysandelle… yes, let’s go with that, you shall be Lysandelle.”

          “Lysandelle, I see, very well then, from now on, I shall be known as Lysandelle.”


Every time a newly conceived generation of Orkellian military regiment returned from their first mission safely, they would do so in some sort of a parade, returning on their armed warship, parading on the grand plaza before going back to their respective families. Indeed, while a large portion of the people gathered just to watch the parade, at the end of the plaza, a special spot is prepared specifically for the family of the newly recruited soldier, where they would be reunited at the end of their parade.

Amongst the crowds of people that swarmed the entrance plaza, a girl with petite stature could be seen, slipping throughout the crowd and securing a place in the front where she could see the parade unobstructed. She brought a box of chocolate with her, intended to be a present.

Today is the day where Neja is going to see Miklos again. Despite early difficulties with the guard for understandably not believing her, after proving that she is legally his mother by virtue of her identity card, she had secured herself a place on the special spot at the end of the plaza. Awaiting with anticipation just like the rest of the people around her.

It was generally a good high old time as the four airships landed on the other side of the gate, giant monitors installed at several nearby building showed the scene of the troops disembarking in real time. Moving out with a fine martial display with banners of Orkelliopolis flying and the band thumping away marching music in a finely rehearsed way. Distant cheers could be heard from crowds afar, and it gets nearer as the parade got closer.

Until eventually, the marching song could be heard directly not from the speakers installed. And the sight of the soldiers parading could be seen, marching along the wide avenue. After reaching a certain point, some men and women just ran towards the soldiers to greet their sons and daughter, some walked ahead, some chooses to stay. Neja was part of the latter, eventually, the soldiers are going to get there anyway.

And indeed they do, as young soldiers scrambled towards their respective family, embracing them with their pride as a newly contributing member to Orkelliopolis continuing survival. Neja joined the bustling crowds, her eyes constantly on the lookout for her son, holding the box of chocolate tightly to her chest as to not let it fall should someone bumped into her, she is quite relatively short after all. She called out Miklos’ name several times, but nobody answers her call.

            “Excuse me, have you seen my son, Miklos?” she asks several times to passing soldiers, hoping that they know where her son is. Some of them said they don’t know, some of them replied with a confused gaze, but most of them just ignored her, seemingly on purpose. An expected reply, but she doesn’t mind. After all, her son is among them nearby, right? It’s only a matter of time before she met him, right? But some time passes, and glimpse of worry started to surface through her cold heart, what if he is still mad at her? One of her greatest fears as a mother was to be hated by her son. Even though the thought crosses her mind, she remained hopeful, there are four airships after all, she imagined there’d be a lot of them still to come.

And yet as time passes, more and more people started to go back to their home, the plaza gradually became less and less crowded, and Miklos was still nowhere to be found. She had long rescinded the need for breathing, yet the air felt like it is suffocatingly thin for her. She tried to remain hopeful but couldn’t hide her anxiety as a faint frown of concern formed on her doll like face. And her fear was amplified when seemingly the last of the supposed parade for the scouts had come and go and yet there’s still no sign of Miklos, she wondered whether he had gone home on his own, which, while a little bit heart-breaking for her that he did not even consider meeting up with her first, is a much better possibility than the alternative, one that she dares not speak on her mind.

But the parade was not yet over as distant cheering from the crowds still could be heard, as she waits with renewed hope, it is turned into confusion when the parade was revealed to be from the mining guild, their terrestrial crawler using up the entirety of the wide avenue and their brass constructs trailing behind. The mining guild never partake in the parade before, this parade was supposed to be participated only for the newly recruited members.

She spotted a familiar sight amongst the miners riding on a pickup vehicle, apparently, they’re carrying bloodstones, something which Neja hadn’t seen for a very long time. But as the vehicle and the constructs of the mining guild turned away, behind them revealed several miners walking towards the end of the plaza. She saw a familiar figure amongst the miners, he has a bright blue hair, and he wore the armoured robe of the school of orology. Without a doubt it was Nikolas, Miklos’ old time friend. He seemed to be carrying someone in front of him with a wheelchair. A girl wearing a scout uniform, she has a short twin ponytail, and her face seemed to remind her with someone. Nevertheless, she ran towards Nikolas and called out his name.

Nikolas and Kora stood silent on that question. The box of chocolate had been spilling on the ground for quite some time now, and Neja looked at the two adolescent soldier with tense expression. She had long abandoned the need for basic sustenance like food and water, and yet hearing that made her feel like her stomach had just dropped, and it made her feel sick. Her face was like in a stasis, keeping the smile frozen but not hiding her tense and perturbed expression.

           “Nikolas.” She said again, her still soft voice now carrying a different undertone. “Have you seen Miklos?” she repeats.

He’s been looking at the ground for the entire time, deliberately avoiding eye contact. Nikolas did indeed has seen Miklos. He was, however, unable to find a way on how to break the news to his mother.

But it would seem that He wouldn’t have to.

            “Excuse me, are you Mrs Neja Solstice?” said a half hoarse voice of a male. “I am Captain Bucephalus Alasdair.”

Nikolas recognized the voice, when he finally looked up, he saw that it was the miner captain with his helmet off, walking towards Neja, carrying something which made Nikolas heart skipped a beat, his entire muscle immediately felt weak and his stomach churn when the miner captain stopped in front of Neja. Presenting her with something covered in grey fabric. Nikolas knew all to well what’s hiding beneath the layer of fabric.

            “I’m sorry.” The miner captain said, as he handed over the mysterious fabric wrapped object. Neja looked quite confused, he looked back at the miner captain, and then to Nikolas and Kora. Both of which averted their eyes.

            “What is this?” she asked.

The miner captain looked down at the young mother, he could read her expression very well, it was clear that she’s hiding a great feeling of anxiety. With only a tiny dam of hope holding the floodgate of emotion she’s holding, a floodgate which the miner captain is, regrettably, going to open.

            “Not ‘what’, but ‘who’. It’s Private Miklos Solstice”

The miner captain said in a straight to the fact manner. Kora and Nikolas has by now lost face and are unable to find the courage to face Neja at all.

            “I am sorry.” He said again, after some pause.

Meanwhile Neja stood there, eerily silent. She looked at the fabric covered object she’s holding, eyes wide, and her smile had gone along with the announcement.

            “That… can’t be right.” She finally said, labouring hard to force a smile again on her face and looking at the miner captain straight in the eyes. “That can’t be right, captain. Miklos, my son, he’s pretty tall…” she said, barely able to keep her composure. The miner captain looks at her with a pained look, whilst the adolescent soldiers could be seen holding their tears.

            “He was taller than me when he left home for the mission, he’s- he’s almost as tall as you, captain. There must be a mistake, this- this cannot be him.” She said, back with the stasis like smile but unable to keep her eyes calm.

            “This is, this is too small to be him. This is like, like when I used to hold him like a baby, my son… Miklos, ah, he was so cute back then…” her hands could be seen shaking, the fabrics could also be seen producing several folds and creases forming around her hands. “He would laugh when I made a stupid face, he- he would laugh when I booped my nose into him, he, he would laugh when I kissed his chubby cheek, he always liked it when I hugged him as he fell asleep.” She continues,

            “But now, he always grunts when I want to kiss his forehead, he was always so apprehensive when I asked him questions, he- he wants his own bed, he was, he was so grumpy. So, so, there’s- there’s no way that this is my Miklos I am holding right now.”  Her voice started to stutter, and her eyes could be seen tearing up. “He’s… just… too… quiet…” the creases around the fabric sharpens as she tightened her grip, she still looked up to the captain, her face sporting a smile, but her wide, teary, shaken eyes betrayed that expression.

She finishes with that sentence, waiting for a response from Captain Bucephalus. With a vain layer of hope, as if the power to bend the truth was well within his power to change with his next answer.

Bucephalus did not answer verbally, but instead, he grabbed something out of one of the many pocket his slinged pack has. And then he handed it to Neja.

What the captain gave to her shattered her façade, a necklace that she’s so familiar with. The silver oblong shaped locket could be seen, displaying a portrait photo of them both.

All strength suddenly left her legs and she fell to the ground like ragdoll, her smile broken, and her eyes shaken. Tears began to well up, and then she cried.

Nikolas had seen people cried before.

He had seen fictional characters crying their hearts out at the supposed loss or death of a loved one, family or romantic, be it from those tele-show or play actors, characters in interactive visual medias, or written in book. He had seen people cried in real life. Children do cries, but most of it were out of their lack of understanding of how this world worked. Politicians and celebrities do cries on tele, but he sees only crocodile tears behind the finely fabricated face of sorrow. He had read in schoolbooks about religious leaders in the times, and the facts were told to him with utmost care and emotion, but it was merely the bare facts and nothing more. The one image in his head was of an elementary school alumnus, some time back. He had seen him cry his heart out in a drama series that was brought up on the telescreen.

These were the hollow cries, a superficial replication.

But how hard it is for others to take the feelings to their hearts? Even harder for them to see the truth behind those words?

Not that hard, as he learnt the hard way.

He had seen a friend cry out his eyes, holding a handkerchief, at a friend’s funeral ceremony. He had seen an old couple weep over their lost love. He had seen a man’s wife sob as she recounted the war that took their parents away during their childhood. He had seen a dying man, taking to his bed, look deep into his wife’s eyes and began to weep like a child.  He had seen people crying with pride. He had seen people crying because of the loss of their faith. He had seen people crying at the loss of a beloved pet. He had seen a kid take to his knees and wept at the news that his little brother was never coming back to again.

But never before had he seen someone so overwhelmed with grief, guilt, regret, and remorse. So heartbroken, and so crushed of hope as Neja was. The tiny sliver of hope she kept holding on could only exacerbate the floodgate of grief once said hope was shattered into pieces.

It was a scene Nikolas would never be able to forget in his life.

As he stared at the girl, tears rolling down her cheeks, at the hands she held, crying. It was something you could not replicate, not with any level of professionalism from those tele-show actors who went right back to their ostentatious style of life, laughing and smiling with wine in hand. Not any kind of self-patting authors who can only produce a banal imitation of the real thing, with none of the anguish and the things of the heart they dwelt upon into their characters, thinking themselves clever for their effort. No, it was something beyond words.

Neja sees Miklos as her own son, and nothing could ever describe the cries of a mother losing a beloved son.

For what felt like an eternity, he had to sit and watch her cry. He had to stand and watch her sob. He had to watch her cry some more, he had to watch her spew out a flurry of self-depreciation. Saying that it was all her fault and that she was sorry.

Kora too was crying by now, feeling gullible for being the squad leader and unable to save those under her. She repeatedly said that she’s sorry and nothing more, like a broken record. Captain Bucephalus watched her with his fist clenched tight. He was all too familiar with the sight, he had experienced it first-hand after all, and watching the young mother cries and wail in front of him just reminds him of his wife. He bowed towards her, saluting the young warrior. The miner escorts watched their captain do that and then followed suit. The miners, considered to be one of the elites in the Orkellian Defense Force, collectively took their brass helmet off and bowed down in honour of a fallen scout recruit.

As Neja cries, her mind wanders to one of the many labyrinths of memories she had accumulated after so long. A particular one. A memory, more real than the others, she has kept so close to her heart, not daring to let go of it even though it has been eons since then. A memory of a certain promise made with someone she held so dear to her heart like none other.

The promise that she wouldn’t cry anymore.

She asks for forgiveness again, one more time.

For she had yet broken her promise again.

To be continued. I guess. Maybe.

It’s already too long.

Writer: Von Grenadus

First Mission

Entry Writchal 1
Tema: Alternate history, Kaderisasi, Soviet Union

“Ah, ballistics? Yes, I remembered that in school, fascinating subject, things go up, things go down!”

“Actually…” Actually, he’s not wrong.

It was a bright noon on a warm January, just before the clock ticks to thirteen, I was walking under the heavy rasputitsa with my squadmate, Burgdorf. The enveloping petrichor of the still wet grass lingers in the air, albeit there was not a single indication that it had rained previously.

We were dispatched on a scouting mission deep inside hostile territory. Now, sending green rookies who are practically still on their orientation period on a dangerous scouting mission deep into enemy territory might sound unwise, and it is, but I’ve been assigned to several of this scouting missoin for over a week now, and nothing ever happened. So the hours of walking to and fro between our objectives are more often than not filled with menial conversation, this time, we are discusing physics.

“So yeah, that’s why when the enemy is so far away, you should try aiming just a tad bit higher, because of-“


“Yes, ballistics, and maybe a bit sideway, in case of heavy wind current.”

“I see, but didn’t the Germans used to have a pretty good weapon that could fire in a straight line? How do they do that?”

“The Germans? Ah, you must mean the 88…”

Even though I don’t really know the technical details of the 88, I gave my hypothesis on the weapon as best as I could to Burgdorf, and we ended up discussing about history instead. This level of carefreeness is, at first, just as shocking as the first day of harsh training when we were drafted into the army, but we humans have a tendency to adapt to our situation, the key word ‘adapt’ here could be quite… variative, in its connotation.

You see, I drowned myself in literary fiction, especially science fiction made by the likes of Lem, Asimov, Huxley, and Čapek to name a few. Burgdorf, meanwhile, was but a humble rural boy, born and raised in a collective farm, he spent most of his day tending to livestocks, feeding the cattle, cleaning manure, herding the sheeps, etc, etc. Amidst it all, he also like historical literature and is well versed when discussing said subject.

So we were never really the fighter type, and we quickly re-adapted ourselves with the level of carefreeness our mission has bestowed upon us.

The hours went by and we finally arrived at our objective, a seemingly uninteresting point in the map, and the sight we came across too is equally uninteresting, the weather is clear, so we, who were standing above an overlooking hills, saw that there was nothing but tall pine trees as far as the eye can see. No enemy in sights.

“Yep, as expected.” Burgdorff commented. “Our bombers must’ve done quite a number on them, eh?”

“Hm, maybe, some of them did flew over us several times before.” I said as I reached for a marker in my saddle bag, crossing the particular point that is our objective off the map and noting our discovery in the log.

“Well, that’s our mission done, lets rendezvous with our leader and head back.”

“Right, lets.”

We then proceed to head to our rendezvous point, as before, I converse quite a lot of time with Burgdorff to pass the time. Not merely because there was nothing else to do, I genuinely enjoyed talking with him. I never said it to him, but I was glad that he happened to be my squad mate.

Several minutes later, we met with the rest of the squad. There’s five of us in total including me and Burgdorf. Alenko, our squad leader, Smirnov, the medic, and Ayla, another girl in the squad besides me, and apparently, they both went to the same school before being drafted. How they three ended up in the same squad was beyond me, but they seemed pretty jubilant about it, so that’s a good thing, I guess.

“Good to see you back comrade!” Alenko said, patting me and Burgdorf in the shoulder with his two strong hands. “What did you see on your end?”

“Not much, no Pozhukhos[1] in sight, here’s our report.” I said, handing out my note and map to Alenko.

“I see, same on our end here.”

[1] Pozhuko (пожуко): Unofficial term coined by the soldier, short for Pozhevoe Ukho (пожевое ухо), meaning 'knife-eared'.

Our squad was tasked with reconnaissance mission on two objectives, deciding that we probably wont meet the pozhukos again this time, we agreed to split off in the middle of our trek towards the objective in order to complete our mission faster. A decision that was unanimously approved by the party.

“I wonder where the Pozhukos are, we’ve been looking for them for weeks.” Ayla said.

“Well, that’s another free ruble for our pocket.” Smirnov shrugs.

“Indeed! Good job either way, we did our duty, now let’s return to our base.” Alenko said, to which everybody nodded as a reply, and thus, we began our walk back to base.

The ground was wet and soggy most of the time, the squelching sound of mud accompanied us with the occasional crackling of dead leaves and branches throughout the journey. A common sight to be seen in our beloved Russia, it should be a familiar sight, if not for the rather… unorthodox fauna that could often now be seen everywhere, one of the glowing types.

A kind of dragonfly but with claws and luminescent tails could be seen buzzing around the forest, and yesterday, we spotted six-legged mammals that has the head of a moose but the body of a goat, that too has some sort of glowing fractal patterns that adorned its body. Some sort of rainbow coloured moss could also be seen growing on the bark of pine trees.

Ever since the event dubbed as ‘the great anomaly’, the face of our motherland has changed a great deal in just a single night. The world was never the same again, for the Earth that we were so familiar with to suddenly change into… whatever we found ourselves in. Where there was Germany, now there’s the nation of the pozhukos instead, the so called ‘Mandate of Alvenia’ where there was the Bering Sea, there’s now the ‘sea of desolation’ instead.  Our greatest scientists are absolutely baffled by the impossible phenomenon and still hasn’t found any definitive answer even to this day. Granted, it’s only been several months since the great anomaly happened, so there must be another more plausible, and scientific explanation.

And now, we somehow ended up at war with the Pozhukos. And that’s how I got drafted in, to fight for the motherland.

Though for all their claim and damnation on us, they haven’t done much to show for their words as our armies marched in their territory quite effortlessly. A quick war was on everyone’s mind, and the nation of the pozhukos would be seen as just yet another nation that would fall under the banner of our great ideology.

“Hey Mishka, where do you think the Pozhukos are?” Burgdorf said, dragging me back from my thoughts.

“I don’t know, dead and buried I hope.” I answered nonchalantly.

“Yes but, don’t you think it’s getting, uh… suspiciously easy?”

“What do you mean?”

“Like when the German first invaded us, they were very surprised on how easy it was at first, but you know how it ended.”

Burgdorf has got a point, reports from our men on the front didn’t give them too much credit, they said that the pozhukos are more akin to a middle-age kingdom, fighting with swords and bows. I’ve heard a lot of stories from our tankers recounting of their experience in the opening days of the wars, where they were met with arrows and how they made short work of them. Of course, they added a lot of mockery to go along with their tales.

But underestimating your enemy was never a good thing, both the French and the American lost the war in Vietnam fighting a numerically and technologically inferior enemy, and the narrative seemed to gradually fit ours. There’s just too much that we don’t know about our current situation.

The western power lost in Vietnam because the Vietcong didn’t actually stood alone, weapons from us and the Chinese streamed through their nation day by day clandestinely. Who’s to say the Pozhukos doesn’t have similar benefactors? Or that they do not have any ace in the hole at all? Some of our casualties so far, albeit minimum, includes some tanks, and even aircrafts, mig aircrafts! if the pozhukos are as backwards as we think, then how did they accomplish that? it’s been dismissed as merely technical or human error, but I digress.

There’s simply a lot that we don’t know about them.

“You remember our talk about the flak 88?” Burgdorf said.

“Uh, yes, some hours ago.”

“What if the Pozhukos has something similar to it? I mean, they knocked out an IS7!”

It was hard to dismiss that idea, I can’t help but to think of that. all the while our squad was drowning in complacency.

In front of us, Alenko and Ayla are walking side by side, holding hands. Apparently, they’re lovers, before being drafted. I was glad to see Ayla on my squad so that we have another girl, but upon finding out that the three of them came from the same school, I was afraid that I’d ended up being a third wheel instead, thank God for Burgdorf. The one that ended up being the third wheel is none other than Smirnov, who can be seen walking in silence just a bit behind the couple and in front of us, being unable to talk to either his lovey-dovey friends, or the strangers behind him. Though from what I’ve heard, Alenko is a pretty popular and well liked people around his circle of friends, so I guess Smirnov respected him too regardless.

I glanced to Burgdorf to see what he is up to now, not much, the tall farm boy has an affinity towards nature, it is understandable for him to find all the otherworldly flora and faunas to be quite fascinating, he was just sightseeing.

I poked at him with the tip of my SVT.

“Ow, what?”

What indeed.

I don’t know, I just felt a sudden urge to do that.

“Nothing, what do you think about Alenko and Ayla?” I said, gesturing my head towards the two lovebirds.

“Huh? Uhh, I don’t know, Alenko seems like a nice guy, no wonder Ayla is all over him.” He said, scratching his head. “Why do you ask?”

Why indeed.

I never found myself curious about somebody else, so asking Burgdorf’s opinion about Alenko and Ayla seemed out of character for me, I don’t know why, I couldn’t think of a better question to ask him…

“Uh, I don’t know, just… curious, I guess.” I answered, unable to think of anything else to say.


And so we continued to walk in silence.


Several minutes later, we stumbled upon something that bewildered us.

A thin but long gorge has formed out of nowhere on the route between our objectives and our base, seemingly splitting the earth below us in two. the ‘walls’ of the gorge, for a lack of better term, were cleaved surgically clean with no visible roughness whatsoever, moreover, it was deep, very deep. Stretching down to what seemingly looked like an endless abyss.

That thing was definitely not here the moment we left the previous day, it just came out of nowhere. Question arose from each of our tongue, no answer came. So naturally, we look up to our leader for orders.

Bozhemoi!, I don’t know, how am I supposed to deal with… with this?!” Alenko shouted, understandably frustrated.

“Do you think it’s the Pozhuko’s doing?” Burgdorf commented, his words somehow conjured a feeling of uneasiness in me.

“Maybe… let me radio HQ..”

“Good idea.”

Alenko unpacked his bag and retrieved a set of radio equipment, he pressed a button and the machine came to life with a buzzing sound, after tuning it to the proper frequency, he started talking into the microphone.

“Hello, this is dragonfly-7 to Base, are you there?”

Static, no answer.

“Dragonfly-7 to base, do you copy?”

The same sound. Alenko tried dialing in left and right, the cacophonic sound of the radio could be heard high and low, attenuating differently for each set of frequency. He kept trying, but every time he talked into the microphone, all he would receive in return is nothing but a meaningless garbled transmission.

He curses.

“So now what?” Smirnov asked.

“I think we’re on our own, at least for now, something seemed to be interfering with our radio. That or…”

He stopped there, hoping that someone would finish it for him, none did. We dare not to speak of the worst scenario, even though the thought filled our minds.

“Nevertheless, we’ll have to do on our own… let’s circle around this gorge, it can’t possible stretch all that far.” Alenko said, since none of u has any better ideas, we obliged.

And so we walked.

And we walked.

And we walked.

And we walked…

With no end in sight, the gorge still separates us from the other side.

“Alenko, I don’t think it’s working.” Smirnov complains.

“Say, don’t you feel like the trees, and everything seemed the same?” Ayla said

“I thought so too.”

“Damnit! What is this?”

Alenko stopped without saying anything, and we followed in suit. Frantically looking around, trying to find a solution.

“I have an idea, why don’t we try making our own log bridge from one of these pine trees, we can try chopping them off.” Burgdorf said.

“Hmm, I don’t see a better alternative than that, any objection?”

Everyone shook their head.

“Very well then, grab your axe and start chopping.”

And we did just that. three tall pine trees fell one after another, and we formed a sort of pontoon bridge with its logs fixed together with some ropes, it looks sturdy enough, but just in case, we agreed that only one person should be crossing the bridge at any single given time.

“So who’s gonna cross first?” Burgdorf asked.

“I am the leader, I should cross first.” Alenko said.

“Wait, why don’t we send Smirnov or Burgdorf first?” Ayla suggest, Burgdorf said nothing, but Smirnov flat out refused, and the two argued.

“You damn cyka, always nosing all over Alenko, I bet you’ll even do what the pozhukho said to get into Alenko’s pants.”

“Why you!- go to hell and die!”

Ah, so they never liked each other that much in the first place. Me and Burgdorf, being the outsider among those three, looked at each other and shrugged. Before the argument got too heated, Alenko walked between the two and stopped their argument.

“Enough! I am the leader, if I do not cross first, how am I to expect you to follow my lead?”

“Right.” Smirnov nodded with satisfaction.

“But, but Alenko-“

“It’s alright, Dushka, I’ll be fine, you trust me don’t you?”

“I… yes, okay.”

And so it was Alenko, our leader, that was sent to walk across the bridge first. For security measure, we attached him with a rope in case the bridge collapse so that we could retrieve him safely.

He stepped on the bridge, the long pine logs wobbled a little as he did, but after some small steps or so, he retracted his hands and started walking normally. The expression of trepidation that was in our faces turned to relief upon this sight, and then Alenko reached the other side safely.

He turned back to look at us whilst untying the rope attached to him.

“See? It wasn’t too hard.”

Just as he said that I caught a glimpse of an object moving across my peripheral vision at such speed that I don’t get to see what it was, what I do get to see is the sight of Alenko slumping down, a loud thud could be heard as his body fell to the ground.

There was no immediate reaction from everyone, including Alenko himself, but it’s not long before we heard him groaning in pain and rolled to his stomach, crawling. And of course, the first one to react would be…

I looked at Ayla as she raised both her to press on her head, her mouth already agape but no words came out for a good while as her mind is still processing what had just happened.

“Enemy sniper!” Burgdorf shouted.

“Alenko! No!” She finally screamed in a higher pitch than usual. The ground where Alenko stood was covered in tall grass, but from what we can see, somebody must’ve shot him in his right leg.

“Smirnov! Do something!” The panic-stricken Ayla turned to Smirnov, who just now were zoning out, still trying to figure out what to do.

Her action brought him back to his senses, well, partially.

“Huh? Uh…”

Smirnov groggily looked between Ayla and Alenko,

“W-what do you want me to do?”

Ayla grabbed Smirnov by his uniform and shook him hard, screaming.

“Alenko got shot! Help him. Help him!”

 Something seemed to click on Smirnov, and he immediately sets off to save his friend.

“Alenko, hang in there, I’m coming!”

And off he goes.

But… something doesn’t feel right.

Smirnov stepped on the log bridge, the feeling of uneasiness grew steadily bigger and bigger as he progresses through the bridge, and then I saw Burgdorf started moving.

My hands instinctively tried to reach out to him to stop him from going, but I was too late, he already tailed right behind Smirnov.

My anxiety grows larger, but just as I realized it, suddenly Alenko shouted at them.

“I-Idiots! what are you doing?! Stay awa-“

Amidst the panicking voice of Ayla and the sight of our leader in pain, we have forgotten the most crucial thing. The fact that whatever downed our leader is still there, watching us…

The same fast-moving projectile appeared again, I saw it relatively better this time around, it looked like a green flash, akin to a tracer round but quite bigger. And it just scored a hit on Smirnov, in the head, just as he crossed the log bridge. Burgdorf stopped whilst he was still in the middle of the bridge.

“Burgdorf! No! Come back here!” I screamed, praying, hoping for him to just come back here, but he didn’t… he turned the rifle back towards the direction of the and started firing at the sniper.

“Burgdorf!” I screamed again, this time, he seemed to notice me.

“It’s okay Mishka! I’m applying Ballistics, this next shot I’ll get him!”

“Get back! Stay away! Run! Leave me!” Alenko screamed, in a vain attempt to turn his squad mates away from him.

The bolts flew towards him before he had a chance to fire again, the next thing I saw was his limp body falling into the gorge. I couldn’t believe my eyes, countless thoughts all crashed at once in my mind, I had just lost my friend, I knew that, but at the time, I was unable to accept that as a reality as time seemed to have slowed down in that particular moment. Was this really happening? what was I supposed to do now? Had I gotten myself into this mess, or had I found myself in this mess? Everything was fine just moments ago, we were talking about ballistics, physics, the Germans. All the strength had suddenly just left my legs, and I fell on my knees. Feeling helpless.

I slowly glanced at Ayla, stunned, her face seemed frozen in time with the shocked expression as before. But suddenly she started moving her body, awkwardly attempting stood up despite her visibly shaking.

“Go…” She spoke.


“Save him…” She said again. “Save him!” she shouts.

When she said that, its not a lie to say that I was quite astonished. We were trapped in here with a sniper picking off on our number one by one, we have lost two men so far, both of which died in an attempt to save our wounded leader, her boyfriend, and now she’s standing besides me, asking me to do the same, after I watched a good friend of mine died, his body falling into the endless abyss, never to be seen again.

And she wanted me to do just that again, to save her boyfriend.

Suffice to say, I was quite astonished at her sheer audacity. I was in utter disbelief.

“W-what are you doing…” I said, managing to utter that few words seemed like an accomplishment now.

“We can do this, if we do this together, we can save him… go, stand up!” She said, grabbing me in my uniform tightly. “Stand up!” she shouts again as she started to shake me.

An ocean of feelings stirred up inside of me, vice among them are confusion, sadness, boiling anger, but the greatest of them all that drowned all the other feelings are fear.

I should be angry at how Ayla treated me, but at this time, I was too frozen with fear to give an appropriate response.

She was still shaking me, occasionally slapping my cheek as if to bring me back to my senses, but as she does that, I could see the other side of the gorge, I saw Smirnov’s headless body lay motionless amidst the tall grass, I saw Burgdorf’s rifle laying in the middle of the log bridge we made, but most importantly, I saw Alenko, still laying on the ground.

I could see him more clearly now, his legs are gone up to his upper knees, even if we managed to retrieve him back safely somehow, he still wouldn’t have made it out alive. I thought of that, but at that exact moment, even though our distance is quite far apart, I could tell that he’s looking at me in the eyes for a moment. Ayla’s incessant screaming had blended with the loud ringing in my head as I watched Alenko reach out for something on the ground just in front of him, a Tokarev pistol.

“No… what are you doing…” I said in whisper.

I then saw him lay on his back, and slowly moved his gun towards the back of her ears. He looked at me for one last time, her lips moved somewhat to say a word but I couldn’t hear what he said.

But if I had to guess, it would be ‘run.’

“Hey! Hey Mishka! I swear if you did not respond one more time, I will drag you out myse-“

Bang, a loud sound cuts off Ayla’s word.

She immediately turned back and let me go, I couldn’t exactly see her face, but there was no need for that. she let out a blood curdling scream calling out for Alenko’s name. I knew she’s about to do something reckless again, and somehow my body sprung to action, and I grabbed in the arm tightly just as she was about to run towards the bridge.

“What are you doing?! Let me go you bitch!”

Ayla was less than pleasurable to be around with after everything, but despite it all, I am not going to let another one of my squad mates dies, no, not today, I will not be left alone. I don’t want to be alone. Alenko voluntarily took his life in order to prevent us from going over there and saving him. So despite Ayla cursing me with all the foul words in the world, I will not let her die here.

She pushed me away and clenched her fist, swinging a hit towards me, I dodged and strikes her on the chin, knocking her out cold.

“Sorry, Ayla…”

I carried the unconscious Ayla on my arms and retreated back into the forest, leaving the tragic scene where three of my friends lost their lives behind me. I don’t know where all this strength came from, I was always the weakest during the drill, a frail girl, maybe the adrenaline rush, maybe the desperation, I don’t know. But I just keep running, and running, and running, and running…


“Have you heard the news? They killed Comrade Brezhnev!”

“The Pozhukos? Chert Vozniy! How do they do that?!”

“We’ve lost contact with an entire VDV battalion”

“I am sorry comrade officer, I can’t fix this, they’ve done something to the engine”

“They blew up a battleship!”

“Bozhemoi, how did it come down to this…”

I walked under the hazy sky overcast with thundering clouds, pressing my hands against my ears.

Soldiers talking among each other, shouts of orders, screams of pains, the roaring of engines, the cacophonic hustle and bustle of the base, something big seemed to be happening.

But I paid no heed to all these sounds, they are dwarfed by the deafening sound of ceaseless ringing on my ears, burrowing deep into my head and resulting in sleepless nights. So much so that it is hard to pay attention to where I was walking to. Soldiers bumped into me often, some curses, others ignored me, at one time it was so harsh that I fell on the ground.

It somehow made the ringing worse; sapping all the strength I had, I pressed harder and harder against my ears, yet the sound lingers.

It’s no use… it’s only gradually gotten worse each passing minutes.

Suddenly, a cold sensation came from my head, seemingly chilling me to my spine, and somehow, reducing the endless ringing. As I wondered what that was, dark dots starting to form on the ground, ticking one by one, I looked up to the sky and felt the cold touch of ticking water droplets on my face. Ah, it’s raining…

I stood up and continued walking, faring quite better than I had previously.

As I turned on an intersection, I spotted the figure of a woman, around my age, sitting down, hugging her knees, covered from the rain by the thin fabric of the tent behind her.


Ayla raised her head to look at me for a quick moment, before turning away shortly after.

“It’s you.”

I walked towards her. The rain got heavier, and the sound of thunder could be heard from a distance.

Ayla looked up to me, stricken with silence.

I maintained my stern look, looking as if I was passing down judgement upon her. 

The way she looked at me soften my face to a point of guilt for saying that to her. Sure, she might have caused the deaths of half of our squad, and it is true that in my mind that, before this, I blamed it all on her, but now, why am I feeling guilty? 

Objectively, she’s the one to blame for the death of Smirnov and Burgdorf, and to some extent, Alenko. But why am I feeling guilty?

I am not close with her, I don’t even like her, she’s always all over Alenko and never paid any attention to anyone else, but why am I feeling guilty?

I don’t understand.

As I tried to think harder, the ringing started to return. I frowned my brows and turned my back on her, walking away from the tent leaving her all alone amidst the rain.

I tread the base aimlessly, walking alone whilst bowing my head, pressing my hands yet again against it.  A cacophony of sound endlessly crashing in my head. Ringing ever so loudly.

Each laborious step little by little only made the sound louder, again.

“Get… out… of my… head…”

Yet again, I fell on my knees. The ringing was more severe this time, morphing into several other sound, all distorted beyond recognition.

The world started to spin, the ringing turned first into an unnaturally loud and unsynchronized sound of what seemed to be crickets, and then a reverberating, rumbling sound of… tank engines? And then… there were sirens, loud loud sirens.

I pressed even harder against my ears, grunting, screaming in agony.

“Get… out!”

Mishka? Mishka!”

And then… there’s the voice of someone calling out my name…?

“Mishka! What are you doing, get up!”

The ringing suddenly stopped, and I found Ayla shaking me.


“Mishka? You’re back! Good.”

“What… are you doing?” I asked, half aware of my surroundings.

“I should be asking you that question, don’t you hear the sirens? We are to evacuate this section of the base.” 


As she said that, clarity began to return to my clouded mind, and I could hear everything again without the ringing. Sirens are blaring all throughout the base, soldiers could be seen scurrying away, running ahead of us.

“Ayla… why are you here?”

I asked, half scared of what answer she would give me. After our exchange just mere minutes ago, I thought I’ve severed any possible hope for reconciliation with her. And yet here she is, helping me out…

She didn’t answer, and grabbed my hand instead, helping me stand up.

“Let’s go.”

She started walking and dragged me along with her. Quite harshly, but… she helped me.

I don’t understand.

Several other soldiers, many of them of much bigger stature than both us and Ayla ran, many of them without caring much about their surroundings. Often bumping against me and Ayla. But I could feel her hand grabbing mine tighter and tighter.

Is she trying not to lose me over the crowds?

A bump from a running soldier shoved me aside, but her hand kept holding onto me. At that moment when I turned my head left, I saw… something.

It was something big and metallic, a row of vehicle unlike any others. In my curiosity, I let go of Ayla’s grip on my hand, and walked towards the small alley that separates all the commotion between the rows of said vehicle. Ayla screamed for my name, but I ignored her.

And when I got close enough, I got full view of said vehicles.

It has a lot of round wheels and it carried something of what appear to be a large, elongated tube on its back. There are rows and rows of said vehicle, it bore the symbol of our motherland.

“No way… Are those…”

I watched in horror at the realization of what these vehicles are… and what they’re about to do. They might’ve just been the very reason of why command ordered an evacuation of this base.

“Mishka! Where are you going? What are you doing!”

Ayla said, finally catching up with me, she grabbed my hand again, but soon realized the sight of the rows of behemoth arranged just in front of us.

“What are those… trucks? I’ve never seen anything like it before.”

As she said that, the thing that those ‘trucks’ carried in its back started to move, angling up slowly to a perfectly vertical position.

“What are they doing?” Ayla said again.

It is clear to me what order high command gave. It just shocked me that it has come down to this.

Penulis: Von Grenadus
Artist: Von Grenadus