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

*BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANG*

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

(A handshake serves as a greeting or a parting that denotes cordiality and friendship. That’s not to say it’s only used among friends, though. You might also shake the hand of a business partner before and after a successful negotiation or something like that. Do you understand?)

[…Yes.]

(Now, you’ve probably seen it happen between humans in the past, right? There are a few little subtleties to it you might have missed, though. For example, it’s customary to squeeze the other party’s hand a little. Not too hard, otherwise it’s aggressive and confrontational, but not too limp either, or it’s like you don’t actually care about the handshake. You just need to squeeze enough that people know you mean it. You can also cover the handshake with your other hand, for emphasis, if you’re especially happy or grateful or passionate about whatever you’re shaking hands for. Be careful with this, however. Using two hands makes the handshake much more intimate, so some might be uncomfortable with it, in which case you should refrain.)

[…How do I know if they’re uncomfortable with it?]Continue reading

“Haah, haah, haah…”

In a room deep below Alsomn’s royal palace, I gulp down labored breaths of air as if they’re the single most delicious thing I’ve ever tasted in my life.

Right now, they might as well be.

Large drops of sweat are flowing down my face, and my whole body is covered in it. The simple training uniform I’m wearing is sticking to my skin. I must look like I’ve just escaped a particularly rainy day and haven’t yet dried off. What wouldn’t be so easily explained by simple rain, however, are the tremors running through all my muscles. They are the reason I’m sitting; they’re so strong I would topple to the ground in a few seconds if I ever tried to stand.Continue reading

So. If I follow what Phineas is saying, once I’ve attuned to this black suit, I should be able to use it as a replacement for the maid outfit I lost during the battle in Dorn, yes?

It is something of a problem that this is going to take me years of slowly grinding at it though. Which will only start once I’ve found that energy core, even. Which I haven’t.

I wish it could be faster.

<Need. Help?>Continue reading

“Aaaaaah, fuck! Hiraki, I’m dying.”

“No shit.”

“I’m serious. I must have broken at least three toes and half a rib.”

“Good for you, jackass.”Continue reading

Eventually, Nova and Delia’s efforts managed to lift the mood, though Louis’s mind was still clearly elsewhere, and the three spent most of the day together. As Delia had told her on the phone, she and Louis recklessly put off whatever responsibility they bore to make time for her, and even Jamil and Celes, the king and queen, popped in to say hello. Of the Astias Nova knew, only Ingrid wasn’t there – she was still working at the daycare in Saltwell, presumably.

When the sun started dipping toward the horizon, Nova finally bade her farewells and left. Fortunately enough, no one assaulted her on the way out or anything like that. It looked like the day would end peacefully.

Leaning against the side of her motorcycle, Nova let out a tired sigh and glanced back at the vast palace behind her.

Even though I tried to be as definitive as possible, I wonder if that’ll be enough to convince Louis he’s barking up the wrong tree. He’s not the kind of guy to cling on for dear life and make himself a bother, but he’s also not the kind of guy who’d give up on what he wants at the first hurdle. I’m not sure what he’s going to do.Continue reading

“Miss Storm, hello and welcome,” the servant said as she opened the door. She bowed and stepped to the side, making way for Nova to enter.

The servant girl was quite pretty, but the maid outfit she wore was too modest and not at all revealing. It was plain, even. More work clothes than anything else. Nova couldn’t help but be disappointed, every time she visited this place and saw the maids working there. It seemed like Altera’s monarchy had yet to realize that maid outfits deserved the chance to shine the brilliant light of truth and goodness down upon the unenlightened masses.

Nova wasn’t going to say anything about it, though. People might misunderstand and see her as a pervert who lusted after the maids. That would be awkward.

Especially since she didn’t.Continue reading

After spending a pleasant evening with Lynn – though it was somewhat shortened by her need to return to her school group before the accompanying teachers started getting too angry at her absence – Nova returned to Ryner’s apartment to spend the night again.

The next day, she was back on her motorcycle, this time heading for the royal palace. She’d messaged Delia first, to know if there would be an opening in whatever schedule she and her brother had planned today, in order for them to meet Nova privately.

As it happened, there was indeed such an opening.

Delia and Nova easily arranged the specifics of their meeting. As for Louis, he was actually supposed to be busy at the time they’d chosen, but he’d forcefully pushed everything else off to make room for Nova.Continue reading