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

Tanner retraced his steps and reached the stairway they’d taken up. He didn’t bother to go and investigate the sound of metal clattering he’d heard earlier. It was dark, and in his growing impatience and irritability, Piotr must have bumped into a pile of construction materials or something.

Even if it was Nova Storm who made that noise, Piotr was enough to take care of her and bring her back here on his own. The man was more thug than soldier, but that didn’t mean he was completely incompetent. Otherwise, Tanner would never have agreed to team up with him in the first place.

Tanner lit a cigarette and leaned against the wall while waiting for his partner. He quietly took pulls of smoke and breathed them out, enjoying the cool evening for a few minutes.

It was only when his cigarette was only a stubby ember hanging from his lips that Tanner thought to check his watch. The eight minutes Piotr had talked about had come and gone already. They were entering their ninth minute, now.Continue reading

I rush through Alsomn, sprinting through alleys and leaping over buildings, yet no sound betrays my passage but a slight stirring in the wind.

My destination is the castle sitting atop its stocky, gouged-out mountain.

This late at night, there aren’t many people left roaming the streets, even in the capital, but I still need to be careful. With a population this large, exceptions to the rule are bound to be more numerous than during the previous times I needed to sneak around. It wouldn’t be good to be carelessly noticed by a random passerby.

There are two ways for me to reach the castle. The first and most straightforward is the road twisting left and right, slithering up the mountain’s slope. It leads from the actual city, lying at the foot of the mountain, to the castle I need to reach. The problem is that it’s also guarded and patrolled.Continue reading

With the formations successfully disabled, I approach the walls, keeping an eye on the sentries patrolling atop them.

As expected, avoiding detection by humans who are incapable of seeing in the dark isn’t a difficult task. No problem should occur.

When I step within 100 meters of the wall, a problem occurs. Unexpectedly.

A familiar qi fluctuation, minute but noticeable, like scrambled noise in the back of my ears. As soon as I notice its presence, I grit my teeth and retract all my qi, deactivate all the spells I usually keep up – like the one giving life to my left arm – and firmly cage my soul within the bounds of my dantian.Continue reading

What a big city.

The biggest I’ve ever seen, in fact. I’m genuinely surprised. I didn’t know cities could get this big. What a strange world I live in.

(No, no. I think your sense of what is strange or not is somewhat skewed. The Planar Tower was much stranger than this, you know? And this city isn’t that big, either.)

[…You’ve seen a bigger one?]Continue reading

The construction site was as dark as Nova had expected. Only a small strip of the sun was left above the horizon, and the last of its light made the shadows almost deeper and starker than if it had been night. It was easy for Nova to hide, there.

She’d climbed the stairs up to the third floor – out of five, though steel beams had been erected on the fifth to form the foundation of a later sixth – and was hiding in the shadow of a concrete pillar rising on the edge of the half-finished building. There was no outer wall to block her sight, so Nova could watch the grounds below as five SUVs drifted to a stop next to her own discarded motorcycle, and a gaggle of masked men streamed out of them, all carrying assault rifles.

Geez, isn’t that a bit much, just to catch a little girl like me? Do they think I’m motherfucking Rambo? Why not just drop a bomb on the place and be done with it, at this point? Seriously. These fuckwits clearly don’t know how to spell ‘excessive force.’

Becoming less and less confident in her chances of getting out of this in one piece as time went on and she witnessed more of her pursuers’ resources and dedication to their mission, Nova glanced again at her bracer.Continue reading


What the hell are these two nutjobs doing? I can hear the explosions from the other side of the freaking city. Were they towing a howitzer behind their car or something? I know I asked them to be ready, but not even those two would go as far as blowing up Altera, right?

Nova had seen in her mirrors what had happened to her friends’ car. She was a bit worried about Ethan and Hiraki – no matter how much soldier training one went through, car accidents could easily be lethal – but there was nothing she could do. Or rather, there were a few things she could do, but as important as Ethan and Hiraki were to her, her own life was more important still.

Also, those two were the kind of people who wouldn’t die even if they were killed. They never seemed to take anything seriously, but they were still some of the best Viper Nest had to offer. Nova had never seen them in anything but perfect control of any situation.Continue reading