I wake up in darkness.
I can’t feel a physical contact with anything. Everything feels weightless and unresponsive, like I’m just air without a physical body.
Where is this? I… can’t remember anything.
‘Who am I? How did I get here?’ no voice comes out as I try to speak these questions into the darkness.
My confused thoughts are getting diffused in a fog of grogginess and a dull pain spreads everywhere when I try to think or remember.
Something tells me that any intelligent being would usually get worried or panic in this kind of situation, but I don’t really have any feelings of urgency about this. Everything just feels… normal. Like it’s always been this way.
Whatever… it’s so hard to stay awake… thinking so much is bothersome and I hate this pain that spreads everywhere when I do so.
I’ll just go back to sleep.
I wake up again, still sleepy but not nearly as groggy as before.
I still can’t seem to be able to feel my surroundings or make any noise, no matter how much I try. Trying to remember anything gives me the same dull pain that spreads everywhere just like before, so I eventually give up.
How much time has passed since I fell asleep? Or since I woke up again? I don’t know, it’s really hard to estimate the passage of time in this dark and weightless space. It could be just minutes or even weeks for all I know.
Closing my eyes, I try to listen for any sounds. Not that closing them makes any difference, the surroundings are just as dark whether my eyes are open or not.
I’m not even sure if I have eyes to open and close to begin with, since I have no feeling of a physical body. At least it’s a mental image if nothing else. I feel like it helps me focus.
There’s only silence. I can’t even hear my own breath or heartbeat. It’s somewhat frustrating, but the dull pain is followed by increasing sleepiness again. I try to stay awake but with this endless darkness and no sound I have nothing to focus on and slowly lose consciousness.
The cycle of falling asleep and waking up again for indeterminate time repeats a few times. I’m not sure exactly how many times it has been.
But it feels like I’m staying awake for longer each time. The dull pain takes longer to settle in as well.
It’s getting boring and frustrating to not have any information about my condition.
I’m not going to be stuck like this forever, right?
Suddenly I hear a distant, single sound in the darkness.
Oh, there it is again. A heartbeat..?
*Thump* *Rumble* *Thump*
No, it’s deeper and too infrequent… something heavy hitting another heavy object or ground. Or are they explosions..?
I stop my idle thoughts and try to focus on the noise.
Now I can hear some mumbled voices too.
Finally something new in this intolerable silence! But it’s so distant… what is it saying?
Focusing all of my attention to the sounds, I ignore the slowly spreading dull pain and try to make out what the voice is trying to say.
“…impossible! We can’t… with this few…” the voice keeps clearing up and then gets mumbled down again. It’s a desperate sounding male voice.
‘Hey, what’s going on!? Can you hear me!?’ I try to shout out to the voice but it seems like I still can’t make any sound of my own.
“Messenger! Request for reinforcements from the capital! Tell them it’s that accursed hero again, we need more Moon mages!”
Oh, another voice! Sounds like a woman this time.
“Also tell them that our scouts reported less than an hour ago that a cavalry unit flying the theocracy’s flag is approaching our flank from the west. They will be here in less than three days. Go!”
I hear neigh somewhere, followed by the sounds of hooves start clopping, getting further away fast.
“What are the guys at Fort Dannis doing!? Did they just let the enemy through without a fight?” a new male voice shouts.
“For all we know the fort could have fallen already. We would be fine if it was just the theocracy in the west. Don’t forget they’ve also got the traitor Magisians, and they have the advantage in numbers.
"Fuck! We can’t hold this area if this goes on for much longer! And we are getting flanked. Senra, move your anti-cavalry troops to sector ‘Dove’ to greet our holy guests! I’ll send someone special to support you guys.”
The woman’s and second man’s voices are much clearer. But they are still so distant and a bit mumbled, like I’m listening from underwater.
There’s more background noise now too… a battlefield? Judging by the sounds and the shouts, some kind of fight must be going on.
I can’t just… keep floating or whatever it is I’m doing here in this weightless darkness. I could be in danger!
Frustrated, I try to focus on getting closer to the distant voices.
Ow ow ow! The dull pain is becoming not so dull at an alarming rate.
“Cain, go with Senra’s men to sector ‘Dove’!” the woman shouts an order, now closer to me.
“Yes ma’am!” I hear myself shout with a man’s voice, which I haven’t heard before and seem to have no control of.
I still can’t see anything though.
Suddenly I recognize the woman’s voice, like I’ve known her for a long time. She’s Cassandra Alvera, the General of the Southern Army of…
It feels like the country’s name is slipping from my mind…
Without warning a sharp pain hits me, while seemingly random bits of information flood my head. The dark world I’ve got used to is filled with bright light, blinding me. I instinctively close my eyes and the shouts from the battlefield cease.
The pain goes away as fast as it came.
I now remember that the nation’s name, which I was missing previously, is Cresta.
It seems the pain was caused by a flood of pieces of knowledge about this human kingdom, whose people are exceptionally talented in use of magic, especially in the rare Moon magic.
There are many glaring holes in my knowledge though. It’s like being able to only read a few random pages from a book, with the rest of the pages having been torn off.
The kingdom has been in war alone against an alliance of three nations; one in south and two in west.
The reason or reasons for the war and the names of the enemy nations are missing, but I suppose the earlier conversations about a ‘theocracy’ and the ‘Magisians’ are hints towards that information.
After jumbling with the bits of information in my head, I notice that the sounds of my surroundings have changed into a peaceful, yet heated gabble.
Confused at the striking difference compared to the previous sounds of war, I try to slowly open my eyes.
Some kind of large hall scattered with a few large tables with maps laid on them spreads in front of me. Several people in robes of various colors and heavy looking plate armors surround the tables. They are talking heatedly with each other.
I’m standing in front of one of the larger tables, which has a detailed map with small wooden pieces, presumably representing army units, laid on top. There are eight people around the table, including me.
I seem to have no control over my body or voice, but I can look around as long as it doesn’t require turning my head.
I notice a few bandaged people who have been laid down on blankets near the walls of the hall. They look like soldiers. Some people in white robes are rushing about and are attending to the injured soldiers.
I hear the men and women around my table conversing about the movement of some mage troops with a large middle-aged man standing next to me to the right. He is clad in heavy silvery plate armor which contrasts with his dark brown beard and hair. I recognize him as the Chief Commander of Cresta’s military and the General of the Northern Army and Admiral of the Navy. He is the most decorated military man in the kingdom’s history.
A loud bang brings me back to my senses from my observations and the hall becomes quiet. Large double doors were just slammed open at the far end of the hall and an exhausted looking man in leather armor runs in.
“Reporting! Message from General Alvera: Requesting for reinforcements. It’s that accursed hero again, send more Moon mages. Scouts have also reported that a cavalry unit flying the theocracy’s flag is flanking the army from west! They are expected to reach the perimeter in less than two days! That is all!”
The messenger slowly lowers to his knees while breathing heavily, after faithfully delivering his message in a clear but exhausted voice. A white-robed man quickly brings him something to drink.
The hall, which had become so quiet you could hear a pin drop when the messenger barged in and delivered his message, seemingly explodes into life moments afterwards as dozens of people in the, I guess I’ll call it a war room, start talking over each other about what was just reported, shouting orders and running out from the hall to deliver the message further.
“Well, that sure sounds like a message General Alvera would send! I can practically hear her voice in it,” laughs a slightly obese man in some official looking attire on my left side.
“But did you hear that? The Dragonslayer is back in the frontlines again. Couldn’t leave us alone even for two months, huh?” says a thin brown-robed man, a frown clearly visible behind his eyeglasses. He’s standing on the opposite side of the table. I recognize him as the Head Sorcerer of Earth Magic Training Center, Anthon Tome.
“And what the hell is General Mondre doing, letting Theocracy’s troops through from the west? Ah, no offense, Julia. I’m sure your brother is doing the best he can, they are sieged after all! I’m just venting out my frustration at our current situation. But has he sent any words from Fort Dannis?” the Chief Commander asks while facing me.
Wait, he’s talking to me? Julia? Brother?
“None taken, General Kran. I am sorry. There has been no word from General Mondre or anyone else from Dannis Fort. I sincerely hope that the fort is still holding. There has been no news from him for a week, ever since the siege started,” I hear myself reply in a calm, feminine voice.
Suddenly another surge of intense pain assaults me, this time more clearly focusing on my head. The pain is followed by a random flood of information and a blindingly bright light.
After what feels like a couple of minutes of shaking in agony with my eyes closed, the pain cedes and the light shining through my eyelids dims down.
I hear a clopping sound. ‘A horse?’
I open my eyes and am informed that I am indeed riding a horse as I thought. I seem to be riding alone at nearly full speed on a hard dirt road.
It’s daytime, but the light is obstructed somewhat by the woods on both sides of the road.
I still seem to have no control over my actions.
After a short while I exit the woods and start riding up a mild slope for some distance. Getting to the top of the slope, large green plains open up ahead of me.
The road snakes down the hill into the plains and forks a couple of kilometers ahead to lead either into a large city with high and sturdy looking stone walls or past it into the horizon to the right.
My recently gained headache inducing knowledge informs me that the beautiful city is the capital of Cresta, Estmoor.
I ride through the open gates of the capital without getting stopped by the guards.
I continue riding through the crowd while shouting ahead at the unaware pedestrians to watch out, without slowing down my speed. Sounds like a female voice again, but it is higher than Julia’s.
Despite my warnings and the loud clopping of hooves against the cobblestone road, some commoner looking woman, carrying what I assume to be groceries, doesn’t notice me in time and gets thrown to the ground violently as my horse bumps into her. ‘I’ seem to not care and continue riding ahead without apologizing, slowing down or looking back.
After another few minutes of riding and half a dozen victims later, the horse reaches castle walls in the middle of the city. I ride to the large portcullis which is currently down.
“I have urgent news to the king from Fort Dannis! Open the gate!” I hear myself shouting to the guards in a somewhat panicky tone before I stop and get off the horse in a hurry.
I’m in front of the royal castle. The two guards seem to recognize me and take a quick and worried look at each other.
My horse is absolutely exhausted and almost collapses on the spot. Poor animal, I wonder how long he’s been going at full gallop.
“Open the gate!” one of the guards shout. Almost without delay I hear a heavy clanking sound and the portcullis starts rising up. I quickly rush under the gate as soon as there’s a large enough gap for me to fit through.
“Thank you! Please take care of my horse. I’m really in a hurry!” I shout without looking back and hear the gate closing behind me.
“Yes ma’am!” I hear a reply from behind as I run deeper inside.
After running inside the castle I hear the sound of a second pair of boots running next to me and notice one of the higher ranking guards is following right next to me.
“I will inform the Royal Guards of the situation before you can enter, Captain,” the guard states, noticing my stare. I nod.
After running through the castle for a few more minutes (wow, this castle is bigger than I thought!) I can hear my breathing become heavier, but I don’t feel any exhaustion myself. I should’ve have noticed earlier, but I don’t seem to experience any physical feelings, just like how I can’t control my body or choose my words.
Eventually we arrive to large beautifully decorated wooden door guarded by two people; one mithril plate armored knight armed with a broadsword and one black-robed man with a beautiful wooden staff. The latter has leather armor peeking from under his robe.
The guard who came with me signals for me to stop some ten meters before we arrive at the door.
“Please wait a moment, Captain,” he says and runs to the Royal Guards and exchanges a few words with them. The plate armored knight glances at me, nods and knocks at the heavy door.
“Your majesty, Captain Orlan from Fort Dennis is here to deliver urgent news and requests an audience!” he announces in a loud voice after waiting for a couple of seconds after knocking.
“Let her in,” comes a voice from inside.
The guard who came with me salutes by placing his right fist on his chest while keeping the elbow pointing downwards at a perfect 45 degree angle, bows and leaves.
The knight opens the door, nods for me to get inside. I quickly rush a few steps in, followed by the knight.
The King of Cresta, Jonathan Eder Brimhel Cresta, is sitting in behind his work desk looking my way. He’s a man who looks to be in his forties, with shoulder-length auburn hair with a full beard of the same color.
I salute and kneel while facing downwards.
“Your majesty, I apologize for rushing here without prior notice, but this message is urgent.”
“We are at war. Delivery of important news from the frontline is more important than petty formalities. You are forgiven, Captain. Speak,” comes a reply in a tone which sounds a bit too casual for a king in my ears.
“Sir! Walls of Fort Dennis were breached less than a day ago. The fort has fallen or it is falling as we speak, if it has not yet done so. The Magisian army breached the walls on multiple points with the help of Theocracy’s elite Paladins. We could have held the fort for weeks, if they had not managed to breach the walls. Their numbers are too large, now that they managed to break through.
We estimate their numbers to be over 35,000 against our fort’s remaining 8,000. Sending reinforcements is likely too late. I was sent to deliver the message as I was deemed to have the best chances of surviving. It is unlikely that there will be many survivors on our side, because they have Paladins among them. That is all,” my voice delivers the report with an obviously bitter tone in it.
I lift my head slightly to take a look at the expression of the king as he’s not saying anything. He’s frowning and after a moment sighs audibly, shaking his head lightly.
“Poor Josef… it seems that we have now lost two of our four best generals,” he says in a saddened voice. “Ah, no, thank you for delivering the message, Captain. It seems that I will need to make some preparations because of this. I will discuss with General Kran about whether it is reasonable to send troops to help the fort at this point.
I will be summoning you as well later this evening, so don’t go too far. You can rest until then. It must have been tiring for you and your horse to ride over 200 kilometers without rest in such a short time, even if you are one of our best users of stamina manipulation magic.”
“Yes, sir! Thank you, sir!” I stand up, salute, bow and turn to leave the room.
The world shakes as I’m struck again by an intense headache that makes me want to scream and the blindingly bright light follows soon after.
The sounds of heels echo in silence.
Instead of the earlier light, I see darkness.
‘Did I lose my consciousness from the pain?’
Opening my eyes, I see myself walking down a dimly lit empty hallway. It’s dark outside and the hallway is lit with magical lamps.
This seems to be the same royal castle from the previous memory.
Yes, a memory.
That is the most logical explanation that I can come up with for these weird events. These are someone’s memories of what they have seen and heard, though the person seems to be different each time.
The reason for this conclusion is that I can’t feel anything the person whose eyes and ears I’m using feels and I don’t have access to all of their knowledge or any of their thoughts.
Most of the random bits of knowledge I have come with the intense headaches I have during the transitions between the memories, not from the things I see and hear directly within them.
If these are not memories, then I have no idea what else they could be.
I bring my focus back to the current memory. I’ve been walking for a while.
‘This castle really is huge.’
After walking down some stairs and taking two more turns, I see large double doors guarded by two knights.
‘Ah, that’s the grand hall which I was in earlier, the one that looked like a war room,’ my knowledge tells me, despite me not having seen the room or those doors from this side before.
The knights salute and bow to me and push the doors open. I walk in without having to stop even for a moment. The sounds of the heels quiet down as I step from the hard stone floor onto the red carpet covering the entire floor of the grand hall.
The war room is much quieter and emptier than it was last time with only a dozen or so people within the large hall.
Nine of them are gathered around the largest table placed in the middle of the great hall.
I recognize all of them. Each of them holds a powerful position in Cresta’s politics, military or both. They had turned their heads towards me as the doors opened.
“Ah! My dear daughter! We have been waiting for you. Sorry to call you here this late into the night,” King Jonathan says immediately as he sees me and smiles brightly from the far end of the table.
“Good evening, Princess Cristina,” the other eight people greet me in turn while saluting and bowing.
“Good evening, father, everyone. It is fine, father. Everyone is doing their best help the kingdom in these hard times. I will also have to do my best,” I reply in a cute voice while stopping to do a light curtsy.
“Now that everyone is here, let us get into the main topic of the night. General Kran, share with everyone here the dire state of the war. Without glossing over, if you would,” the king nods at the giant of a man in heavy plate armor to his right.
‘Does he ever remove that armor of his? It looks so heavy I can almost feel the weight on my own shoulders as I look at him’
“Sir. Everyone, as you know, we have been at war for three years now. We were prepared to fight against Morgia Empire in the south. However we were not prepared for a war on two fronts with their surprise alliance with the theocracy and Magisus kingdom. Our enemies’ numbers became too great despite our overwhelming amount of skilled mages and sorcerers. We have been pushed back slowly, year by year, and can’t request help from anyone. We have been in a naval blockade for over two years.
We are running out of everything: resources, soldiers, and the citizens’ goodwill. We lost Fort Dennis and General Mondre in the west a week ago and the Morgian hero returned to the southern front less than a fortnight ago. As things stand, the Empire will reach the capital within two months and we will lose the Tower of Magic Research to Theocracy of the Sun within the same time,” Kran points a location some 400 kilometers north from the capital on the large map, which shows the whole country. The capital is located close to the middle of the kingdom.
A grim silence fills the room.
“If we lose the Tower, it will be all over for us. We can’t let them get there no matter what,” speaks Count Cain, the second most powerful Moon sorcerer within the kingdom, who was summoned to the capital just two days ago.
‘That’s a familiar voice. Cain? Isn’t that the guy whose memories I first heard?’
“That is correct. And that is why I have decided to authorize the use of Wave of Death, the most powerful area spell left by our ancestors,” the king states grimly.
Gasps could be heard from everyone in the room, mine included.
“Are you sure, your majesty? That is a forbidden spell which takes the life of its caster! And if I am not wrong, casting it would require so much mana that we would have to sacrifice dozens of our best sorcerers for it to work!” panics Crewell, the Vice-commander of Moon Magic Corps.
“I am sure, Crewell. We do not really have any other choice. We will lose this war if we cannot turn the tide of this war soon! And it will be all over for the citizens of this kingdom if that Theocracy finds out the secrets behind our high rate of strong mages and sorcerers and spreads the information out to other human nations.
I would rather try everything we can than simply wait and suffer longer only for all of us to eventually perish regardless. If that ‘everything’ encompasses sacrificing the lives of few strong individuals for the lives of everyone else, I am prepared to pay that price. Sacrificing a hundred in exchange for the lives of all the citizens of our country is acceptable. Do you all not agree?”
My surroundings brighten up suddenly.
‘Oh shit, here it comes again!’ I grimace, preparing for yet another excruciating headache and a blinding light.
These weird flashbacks, floods of memories and swaps between people have already repeated so many times I’ve lost count and I’m really sick of it. I stopped counting after it had happened 22 times.
I have no control over any of this and can’t ask anyone to let me out.
It’s hard to say for how long this has been going on, but I’ve definitely experienced several days’ worth of memories if I just tie all of them together.
Estimating from what I’ve seen and heard so far, the memories themselves cover a timeline of about a month and a half. They seem to go in a chronological order for whatever reason but that’s convenient for me, as it at least lessens my confusion to some extent.
But can I please stop this somehow?
Each transition from a memory to another gives me more knowledge about the world of these memories, but the pain is so unbearable every time!
It’s so suffocating, not being able to shout nor cry even when I want to!
I feel like I’m slowly losing my mind.
An explanation would be nice, anyone?
If there is a god, researcher, whoever or whatever, responsible for this and can hear my thoughts, please enlighten me.
And let me hit you in the face as hard as I can, at least a few times!
Opening my eyes for the nth time to a new memory after the agonizing headache and irritating light, I see a dark room with no windows. The only source of light seems be far above: it’s the bluish glow of this world’s second moon.
I can’t see any exits; it’s too dark to take notice of such details.
This seems to be the Tower of Magic Research I’ve heard of so much in my previous memories.
The walls are so high that the moonlight only hits a large circular inlay on the floor. The inlay seems to be filled with some grey stone and blue gems to form a picture of the two moons of this world; Bless and Lunea.
The circular border of the inlay glows with dark blue magical light.
There are dozens of people, me included, standing in a circle around the floor’s inlay. All of us are standing outside the inlay so that the moonlight doesn’t hit us directly.
It is hard to make out details because of the darkness, but with the moonlight’s reflection from the surface of the floor and the inlay’s border’s blue glow, I can see the faces of half of the people who are the closest to my position.
Aren’t these people the ones whose memories I’ve been seeing so far? I’m sure I’ve seen at least some of them.
I don’t know the face of each and every person whose memories I’ve been experiencing, since not many of them have had mirrors around during the memories.
But by connecting the names and conversations I’ve seen and heard, and combining them with the knowledge I’ve painfully learnt during the transitions between the memories, I can recognize most of them.
Glancing to my left I recognize five people from the war room, including Anthon Tome and Julia Mondre.
Wait, isn’t that Princess Cristina five people away to my right!?
And I’m pretty sure that’s Cain and Crewell on the far left.
So everyone here is a top mage within the kingdom, huh?
But why can’t I see the king or the queen anywhere, or any other important political figures, if I exclude the princess? They should all be in the top of the magical power hierarchy within the kingdom.
Well, I guess it’s a given, now that I think about it. They can’t send all the leaders of the country away from the capital during war to perform some risky last-ditch magical ritual.
Even if it’s the last lifeline of the country, someone has to lead the country in the meanwhile, or in case something goes wrong. I’m surprised that family-loving king would sacrifice his only daughter for this though, assuming that this spell really does take the life of its caster.
I guess they really are out of options.
Well, I can sort of understand why they would want to resort to this kind of thing, considering what they have been hiding for centuries. I’m quite sure the rest of humanity their own citizens included, wouldn’t like the truth they learn if Theocracy of the Sun gets their hands on Cresta’s secret behind their high ratio of Moon mages and sorcerers. Moon magic is borderline taboo almost everywhere outside of Cresta anyway.
So the memories I’ve seen so far are all from the people who are performing this… spell, which the king ordered to be cast?
I can count… 56 people including the person whose memories I’m viewing now.
It’s all starting to make sense now! Well, not really. But at least I can connect all of these memories to something common; it all originates from this room.
I feel like I’m still missing something crucial as I have no clue why I keep seeing these memories. But the truth should be getting closer!
The people in this room right now can all be considered to be among the best of human sorcerers. And all of them are supposedly sacrificing their lives for this.
This must really be some insane magic!
Well, they want to target all of the enemy soldiers within the kingdom’s territory with Death magic, without harming their own people. I suppose something of this scale is a must.
Killing over a hundred thousand enemy soldiers while protecting their own citizens or soldiers, which is a significantly larger number of people overall, both of them within the same area.
The population of Cresta was something like 900,000 before the start of the war three years ago, so it’s probably around 700,000 now? Maybe less, I don’t really know the casualty count, but they have lost about 35% of their territory.
I have gained a huge amount of information about this world and its magic, and more specifically about this continent, its history and its people from these… I assume 55, because I stopped counting at 22… short flashes of memories and the painful transitions between them, but I don’t know any large area magic of any element that allows the targeting of specific people on such a grand scale, not to mention Death magic which is a sub-element of Moon magic.
Could it even be magic of the Sixth Tier? Isn’t that already in the realm of gods?
Judging by the expressions in the room, I guess the super spell is about to be cast.
Everyone in the room is gathering mana into their magic cores.
Ooh, I’m actually getting a bit excited here!
After a moment, all 56 people in the circle start chanting in unison.
“O’ Mother of the World, Goddess of the Moon,
One of the Two Creators and of the Seven Guardians,
Protect thy Children from the Corruption of Night,
And Shield them from the Evil of Darkness,
Bring Death to these Enemies of mine,
As I offer mine Blood to be the Shield,
Wave of Death!”
Time seems to have had stopped to me for a moment there.
‘Uwah..! Somehow I feel like I’m getting the goosebumps and shivers down my spine when I hear myself chanting those lines! Even though I can’t even actually feel anything! And it’s not even actually me chanting it! I’ll never want to experience something that embarrassing!’
The moment the chant is over, all of the 56 sorcerers release their gathered Moon element mana into the circle.
A swirl of pitch black mist gathers in the middle of the circle, expanding rapidly. The entire tower starts shaking and cracks appear on the floor. The casters start falling down one after another to the floor, probably dead. A couple of seconds after casting, my point of view falls to the floor as well. At this same moment the black mist suddenly expands with the loudest bang I’ve ever heard and everything goes pitch black and quiet.
Oh, hello darkness, my old friend.