That put something of a damper on the whole ‘let’s cooperate amicably’ thing Wieslaw and Sirius had got going, but Nova didn’t regret saying it. She leaned back into her seat. ‘Just making things clear. Don’t want misunderstandings, do we?’

“Ah, sure…” Wieslaw said.

Sirius looked only mildly surprised at the verbal violence – he probably didn’t take it too seriously – but Wieslaw seemed more profoundly affected. It most likely didn’t mean that he was actually afraid of Nova or anything like that, but perhaps he wasn’t used to receiving death threats that rung true? A potentially significant weakness in his otherwise beneficial trait. If certain truths could disturb or disable him at a critical moment, it might be something Nova could use, if she ever needed to.

In any case, since she’d delivered her intentions, there was no need for her to reiterate her point. She continued with her next question. ‘Any information on the trials?’Continue reading

At Wieslaw’s unexpected question, all the fun Nova’d been having picking on Sirius earlier was instantly dispelled, like she’d been suddenly dunked in a tub of ice-cold water.

Though it wasn’t exactly the question which was unexpected, but rather its timing. Nova knew the subject would come up at one point or another. If nothing else, Aaron and Marian would want to know where Sirius’s unusual strength, which had been caught crystal-clear on camera, came from. They might not have pressed the point, yet, but Nova was sure they wouldn’t commit themselves to anything big without having some questions answered. Thus, it stood to reason that at least some part of the truth about the two boys would soon come to light.

What she hadn’t expected was that they would be the one to make the first move and try to get the truth about her. And at such a time, too, in the middle of a crowd, barely a minute and a half after greeting each other for the first time…

Fortunately, on this occasion, Nova’s mandatory expressionlessness was a blessing. Not a single inkling of the shock she felt inwardly ever made it onto her face.

The world around her slowed to a crawl as her brain went into overdrive.Continue reading

Sirius watched the landscape scroll past as he sat comfortably in the sidecar of Nova’s motorcycle. The thing was unquestionably a luxury item, which probably cost more than Sirius’s whole house in Verizen. Not only did Sirius have enough room to stretch his legs, but a small control screen in front of him also allowed him to deploy a roof over his head or a windshield in front of him, the latter of which doubled as an augmented reality display, turn on a heater embedded in his seat… The sidecar was probably equipped with a few machine guns and an ejector seat, too.

And there was even a beautiful woman to keep him company. Really, the only thing lacking during this trip was conversation, because the beautiful woman in question happened to be mute.

Sirius glanced to the side at Nova’s profile. She was focused on the road, her face still locked in the same blank, emotionless mask as always. At first, Sirius had thought he had done something to earn her ire, but he eventually realized that the issue didn’t come from him, because she offered the same icy countenance to even her family members. According to Lynn Storm, Nova’s sister and Sirius’s most… talkative… source of inside intel on the Storm family, Nova’s facial muscles had been paralyzed since birth. In other words, just because she wasn’t smiling didn’t mean she was angry at him.

And so, Sirius had taken the first step and started a conversation with her. He’d been somewhat surprised to discover that she was rather easy to talk to. The only difficulty was that he sometimes had to make an effort to understand what she wanted to say, since she rarely bothered to speak whole sentences.Continue reading

A therapist? Why would I need to see a therapist? I’m not crazy or anything. On the contrary, I’d say I’m a very sane person compared to most of the rest of the world…

Nova sighed, her breath pushing away a lock of hair which had gotten in her eyes. She tightened her grip on the wrench and locked the last bolt in place, taking care not to mess the alignment of the sidecar relative to her motorcycle. Once it was secured correctly, she took hold of the loose cables hanging below the frame of the sidecar and connected them to the bike’s engine block.

Brakes, propulsion, suspension…

With all the cables anchored in the right place, Nova took a step back to admire her handiwork.Continue reading

After Nova properly chastised her for using her as teasing material against Sirius, Lynn informed her that their parents had gone out early in the morning, after a messenger from Viper Nest’s airfield came to fetch them.

Nova wasn’t sure what word this messenger carried that her parents had to leave so early, but she resolved to send a notice to them as soon as she could about her suspicions on Sirius’s actions. Even if he did have nefarious intentions, Sirius probably wouldn’t act right away, but it was still better to make sure as soon as possible.

After finishing her meal, Nova returned to her room, leaving Lynn to entertain a helpless Sirius. Her computer had booted up, so she settled into the seat and cracked her knuckles.

Then, she froze mid-motion, the thought popping into her head that she needed to put her dirty clothes and bedsheets in the washing machine. She’d practiced laziness and procrastination enough in her past life, so despite cursing inwardly, she diligently got up, picked the pile in her arms, went downstairs to the washing machine, put the clothes and bedsheets inside it, closed the lid, started a washing cycle, and went back upstairs to her room, pointedly ignoring the murmur of conversation coming from the kitchen, where Lynn was making Sirius’s life difficult again.Continue reading

When Nova woke up, she was in her bed, in her room. Sunlight filtered in through the window blinds and stabbed mercilessly into her eyes.

She rolled over onto her belly and buried her face into the pillow to escape the light. Her head felt blurry and heavy. The sheets were soaked with sweat, and so were her pajamas.

Huh? Pajamas? Why am I wearing pajamas?

Nova usually didn’t wear anything at all while sleeping. It seemed strange for her to suddenly do so. However, since she had just woken up and her thoughts were still murky, she didn’t bother thinking about it any further about it and laboriously crawled out from beneath the covers.Continue reading

The car slowly coasted to a stop before the front gate of the Storm family’s house, and everyone disembarked. Considering the amount of power – and incidentally, money – Sirius knew they possessed, the house didn’t fit his expectations. It certainly wasn’t a worthless, ramshackle dump, but neither was it a large manor. It was just a normal, though sizeable and modern, upper-class house. It also had a lovely garden, dotted with small lamps whose light outlined pebbled trails that led off the main path and around the estate, cutting between trees and bushes and decorative boulders. A tall, closed fence surrounded the garden entirely, preventing prying eyes from seeing what was inside. Even this late at night, the house’s windows were brightly lit, but Sirius couldn’t see anyone in the few rooms he idly checked.

Before their group of four could reach the front door and enter, it opened on its own, and a middle-aged woman came out to welcome them. She was tall, her hair and eyes too dark to mark her as a native of Altera. And although she wasn’t particularly physically imposing, she moved with the kind of deadly precision that told Sirius it would be a very foolish idea indeed to underestimate her.

Marian Storm didn’t pay attention to anyone else and pounced on her daughter as soon as she saw her, hugging her with such enthusiasm that, if he hadn’t known any better, Sirius might have interfered in this attempt to choke the girl to death.

“Nova,” she said, then hesitated, as if not knowing where to even start, before simply deciding to cover the basics. “Are you all right?”Continue reading

Is this an offensive formation or is it just supposed to trap me in here until someone strong enough can catch up and kill me?

And just when I was thinking I’d successfully escaped Alsomn, too…

Well, no matter what, this isn’t good. I need to get out of this formation. It shouldn’t be too difficult, I think, but I don’t want to take this lightly. Some formations can be truly lethal, even to the highest-ranked gods.

The easiest way out would be to kill the caster of this formation.Continue reading

I look down the hole in the mountainside.

Far below, the residential district of Alsomn lies, its surface pockmarked by the debris of AK-A-13’s exit from the tunnels. A good part of these tunnels is now in ruins. The room that contained the demon-sealing stone is unrecognizable. The frozen and shattered corpses of the palace’s guards litter the grounds everywhere; it’ll most likely be impossible to piece them back together again for a decent funeral.

And the city really suffered, too. From here, it doesn’t look like much. Only a few irregular spots breaking the maze of streets and alleys below. But I’m sure that, at ground level, the devastation is another spectacle altogether.

How many people died beneath these boulders? They were peacefully sleeping alongside their loved ones, their families, when all of a sudden, disaster struck. How many parents lost their children? How many wives lost their husband? How many households lost all their possessions, crushed beneath the stone?Continue reading

“Fuuu… Haaa… Fuuu…”

The room is utterly silent save for the sound of my breathing. In and out, regularly. Carefully controlled as I bear the strain my training puts on me.

With each inhalation, the amount of qi in my dantian replenishes. I then immediately send it flowing into my meridians. Once it’s evenly distributed throughout my whole body, I let it slowly seep into my muscles, my bones, my flesh, my organs. Stabs of pain shoot out as all my cells tremble. Beads of sweat, sometimes tinted red with blood, leak out of my pores. My brows crease and my teeth clench as I bear with this suffering.

But it’s worth it. Each cycle strengthens me minutely.Continue reading