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

Piles upon piles of papers are stacked in front of me.

Yet none of them contain what I seek.

No mention of Nerys at all in any of the records held by the Blackwood Chamber of Commerce, even though they do reach more than 300 years into the past. I even enlisted the help of the human man who opened the door to explain to me the filing system used to order the papers and then help my search.

But nothing.Continue reading

I watch through Akasha’s senses as the wall approaches in front of her eyes, almost faster than I can see. I understood what she intended to do while she ran through the tunnels for the first time, but I still can’t help but flinch when she slams into the wall. I feel cold sweat on my brow at her recklessness, but Akasha herself is imperturbable. There is absolutely no hesitation, not even a tiny scrap of fear or anxiety to be seen in her demeanor. She seems perfectly confident that, if she uses herself as a cannonball against that mountain, the mountain will be the one to shatter first.

As it turns out, she’s right.

In a single instant, she plows through a dozen meters of solid stone, shaking the entire mountain and coming out the other side, into the open air, free-falling toward the city of Alsomn below.

(Unbelievable…)Continue reading

I fling the metal door so fast it only leaves a blur in the air as it heads for its target. I wasn’t particularly accurate, so it also takes a good chunk of the wall as it passes through the doorway.

As rubble flies around in its wake, I notice that the wall of the room holding the huge demon-sealing stone is made of several different layers. Regular stone encases some sort of reddish-brown metal. This metal is covered in intricate runes, which flash once then fizzle as the metal door bursts into the room, crushing all obstacles in its way.

Some kind of protective field, most likely. I didn’t feel anything when I wrenched the door out of its hinges, but whatever spell was used to safeguard the room must have faltered ineffectually against the adamantine of my hand.

Trailing debris, the door slams into the demon-sealing stone, eliciting another flash of defensive magic. Thanks to whatever shields were set in place to protect it, the stone doesn’t shatter upon impact. Still, like the formations carved into the room’s outer wall, I threw the door hard enough to overwhelm what defenses the stone had available. The metal door bounces off the demon-sealing stone at an angle and flies off toward one side, while the stone itself is flung toward the other side, embedding itself into the wall there.Continue reading

Nova already knew the answer to her question. Or at least part of it. She’d only asked to test whether the boy would be honest about his purpose.

Divining his goal had only been a matter of listening in on his conversation with the person on the other side of his earpiece. Nova’s senses had been sharp enough to catch the voice coming from it, even from a few meters away.

While at the construction site, Sirius and his mysterious partner had talked about meeting Nova’s parents to negotiate for funding for a project of some sort. Which project was supposed to do ‘a lot of good for the world,’ supposedly.

Since they probably had no idea she was listening in, Nova felt that her savior and his friend would have had no need to lie. This comforted her in her idea that they could be trusted, to a degree.Continue reading

Shit. Wieslaw, maybe a bit of warning, next time?

Sirius cursed in his mind, but he couldn’t exactly voice his displeasure at his friend out loud, what with the two belligerent bodyguards in front of him.

“This isn’t what it looks like,” he said to them instead, blithely.

“Sure, it isn’t,” said the male bodyguard. He didn’t sound like he believed Sirius, for some reason. “Would you mind dropping the girl sleeping on your back for us? Gently, if you please.” He gestured with his grenade launcher, which he definitely couldn’t use on Sirius without also blowing his charge to smithereens.Continue reading

Sirius heard the gunfire right about the time he was slamming a man’s face into the door of his car. It left a nice face-shaped indent into it, but Sirius didn’t have a chance to admire his work.

He raised his eyes to the half-finished building and thought he could see some muzzle flashes through one of the windows there as the sounds of a firefight continued ringing.

“Did I just hear what I think I just heard?” Wieslaw asked in his earpiece.

Oh, shit!Continue reading