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Evermarsh’s museum was an antiquated, emptied ruin. A husk stripped clean.

Deflecting the antiquated laser security system thanks to Quasar, Mathias gave Kari and himself a safe passage through the corridors. The camera lens he disabled, distorting the light signals into false illusions, while channeling photons in his hand to make a makeshift lantern. The more he practiced, the better he got at the spell.

They passed before pictures of Cutter’s massacres of Native Americans, a statue of Lincoln getting shot, and other ghastly images. Their steps resonated across the empty stone halls.

Well, scratch that. His steps did. “How do you walk without making a sound?” he whispered to Kari.

“Training.” She moved like a cat, subtle, weightless, controlled. She wasted neither movement nor breath.

— Kari walked on the rope, trying to maintain her equilibrium. The dark void beneath called to her, death waiting at the bottom of the pit. “Focus on the path ahead,” Toshiyami-sensei spoke, waiting at the other end. With a slight touch, he sent a vibration reverberate through the rope, forcing Kari to stop so not to fall. “Your control over your breathing will make, or unmake you.” —

“Sorry,” he said, Network having fired without conscious thought. “I’m getting better at it.”

Thankfully, she took him at his word, ignoring the matter. “Professional training.”

From the Network’s flashes, Mathias didn’t envy her. “From whom? The military?” She looked too young for that. Japan had resisted harshly during the Conquest before falling like the rest; had she taken up arms then?

No. One couldn’t reach that level of skill in a seven day war.

“From Uncle. The Matsumoto descend from Hattori Hanzo, who served the Tokugawa clan during the Sengoku era.”

“Hanzo? The famous ninja and samurai?”

“Yes. My family trades in war and secrets. Uncle thought about preserving the ancient disciplines, and he thought I had the talent to learn. So he taught me.”

The sadness in her voice touched him. “He’s dead, isn’t he?”

She hesitated for a split second before re-asserting her self-control. “Yes.”

— The black horror that had been her uncle stepped through the flames of her compound, smelling of rust, of thick blood and black oil. Yet, in spite of the fire, Kari felt so, so cold. The monster picked up its severed head and put it back on its neck, soulless lights shining where his eyes should have been. —

“Stop that.”

Mathias forced himself to end the ghastly memory. He had the feeling the more he wanted to know someone else, the more Network fired up, even without his conscious agreement. “Sorry for opening an old wound.”

“It was years ago.” Yet she elicited to not speak further, the two falling into uncomfortable silence.

The more they progressed through the museum, the more Mathias felt sick. The Yellow Ministry had thoroughly removed any element that might present the times before Concordia in a good light. Tales of human ingenuity, of the Americans greatest achievements, from the Revolution to the civil rights movement, had been removed from the premise. The Concordians had gone far enough to add a painting of the United Nations signing away Earth under the watchful red eyes of their black, fearsome dragon overlord.

In time, all would remember that Concordia delivered mankind from themselves. Stories of bloodshed and oppression, of dark times that inspired nothing but despair, the government would keep on display. A warning to those who entertained a world without their iron yoke.

Everything else they would erase. Everything. The thought made him want to vomit.

“It is not enough for them to take away our present.” Kari broke the silence. “They must steal our past, too.”

“Can you read minds too?”

“No. We think the same. They did a lot of damage to Nippon too.” She pointed a finger at a panel, Mathias bringing his light glow closer to look. It showed the path to the Pacific exposition.

That wing of the museum was slightly better furnished than the previous ones, gathering artifacts from Hawaii, the Philippines, and eastern Asia. While the Ministry had taken the lion’s share, they had surprisingly left a lot behind. Shroud paused to watch strange totems, masks of wood, and even a long Japanese katana. Kari passed by them, uninterested.

Instead, she stopped before a small glass container. Stepping next to his closest ally, Mathias peeked inside it, bathing the content in his light.

What he faced was the most exquisite normal stone he had ever seen. A granite fragment no bigger than a nail, made from the most amazing natural material.

Yeah, it was really just a boring rock.

He read the description, hoping it had a better history than it looked. “The Sessho-Seki, translated as the Killing Stone.” The name alone intrigued him. “Said to have been created from the corpse of a nine tailed demon fox, it killed all those who touched it until a Buddhist Monk called Genno purified the haunting spirit. While most of the stone remains enshrined at Nasu, Tochigi prefecture in Japan, the Meiji Emperor had a fragment cut and sent to the United States in 1877. Through this gift, the Meiji Emperor intended to symbolize Japan’s attempt at renewal after a century of isolation.”

“Concordia destroyed the original stone three months ago, before I could touch it. Vaporized it. This fragment escaped their attention, for now.”

Mathias waved his hand at the glass protection, causing a hole to open through it. “That’s why you came to Evermarsh in the first place, am I right? I thought you liked Samantha.”

“I do.” She grabbed the stone fragment. “My Lock’s name is Oversoul.”

Mathias had the gut feeling he would get a private demonstration.

Kari’s body began to glow like a candle, Yellow Flux rising from her feet to envelop her like a protective cocoon. The Blue Sorcerer just had to wonder if she would gain spiky blond hair at the end of the process, as the energy brightened further and further. Soon Kari’s own body appeared to turn white under the blazing light.

The stone fragment she wielded whitened as it bathed in her primal energy. It soon expelled thick purple gas, making Mathias step back as it gathered into a spiraling column around Kari.

The stone turned to useless dust, dispersing one last bit of miasma. Now clearly animated by a will of its own, the gas gathered into a cloud above Kari’s head. Drawn in a sort of trance, Kari ignored the phenomenon, her golden aura taking the shape of a powerful man, then another. The fluctuations stabilized, as if she tried many roles before settling on one.

The cloud, as if Kari had satisfied an unknown test, descended to the ground and condensed into a fox shape. Then, much to Mathias’ amazement, it turned into the spectral image of a flesh and blood red fox, whose tail bifurcated into nine. Its red eyes glared maliciously at the programmer with uncanny intelligence.

Not that it frightened him. “Quiet, or I will make shoes out of you.” The fox must have understood his words, because it contemptuously stuck out its tongue at Mathias. “Smartass.”

The creature let out a yap before vanishing into thin air, leaving only dust behind.

The aura receding into her body, Kari stood there, raising her head as if hearing an invisible sound. Mathias instantly put two and two together. “You just fulfilled a Quest, didn’t you?”

“A side quest.” She seemed different somehow. Sharper, stronger. “Mathias-san, do you believe in reincarnation?”

He put a free hand on his side, pensive. While he hadn’t believed in afterlife or spirits, but the fiery horror that Brown had summoned made him willing to reconsider. “I entertain the idea.”

“You should. A soul can move from a life to another, if anchored by a strong purpose. Mine has experienced many mortal coils.” She raised her chin, as if drawing on an old, buried memory. “Oversoul allows me to connect to my past lives when I touch items that belonged to them. I gain their knowledge, their skills, their spiritual power.”

“So you were the monk who purified that fox spirit?”

“No.”

The golden aura surrounded Kari once more, but this time it took a different shape. Sharp claws of light grew out of the girl’s nails, and nine long tails grew out of her back like a peacock. The specter of a monstrous beast seemed to layer over her, like a coat.

“I was the beast itself.” She examined her new claws with interest. “The more power I draw from Oversoul, the clearer the visions of the past. One day, I will fully know myself. One day.”

“Why did Concordia blow up the stone? To prevent you from accessing it?” It would imply they were aware of her.

“Spirits, gods, demons, and nature have no place in Concordia’s vision.” Her voice brimmed with righteous anger. “They are relics to be destroyed instead of honored.”

“That implies magical beings used to live on Earth,” Mathias pointed out. “So why didn’t we see any of them before the Conquest?”

“They left our world, or they died. Magic used to be strong on Earth, long ago. It vanished and came back when the towers rose from the ground, spiriting Earth away.”

“Why? Why did it vanish in the first place? Human activity? Global warming?”

She shrugged her shoulders. “One day I will remember. One day.”


Party Stats

Spell of the Day

Doom Sense

Affinity: Yellow
Dot: 1
Price: 3-5
Activation: Passive, App Switch.

The user gains a subconscious perception of their own death, allowing them to intuitively sense lethal dangers before it happens.
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About the author

Void Herald

Bio: I'm a European warlock living in the distant realm known as France, spending half my time writing and the other half managing magical websites. I post Magik Online on my main website and RR both on Wednesday, and Vainqueur the Dragon twice to thrice weekly.

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