Restart Again

by

Adam Ladner

Volume 3, Chapter 13: Adventure PART 1

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A note from Adam Ladner

Another split chapter, totalling over 12K words between both parts! The ending of part 1 will definitely feel like a bit of a weird cliffhanger, but it'll be resolved in a few days!

We unloaded our belongings and rolled out our sleeping mats as the sun began to dip below the horizon. Our afternoon of travel had been far more efficient than the time spent with our friends; not only were we able to move at a magic-enhanced speed, but the lack of traffic made our progress easier as well. Foot traffic had abruptly stopped when we left the buildings of Lienna behind, switching to a steady stream of wagons that passed us in both directions.

 

“I think we’re good to go,” I said as my mana returned to me. “We’re clear out to a couple miles in every direction, and the hills should keep any noise from traveling that far regardless.”

 

Lia rolled her neck in a slow circle and stretched her arms out behind her back. “After sparring every day for a month, it’s been weird to take a few days off.” She drew her paired longswords and admired the blades in the orange pre-dusk sunlight. “You said no enhancements?”

 

“Right,” I nodded, drawing my sword in turn. “We’re well past the point of being able to go all-out in training matches. I’ve never healed anything more severe than a stab wound before, and I’d rather not try to reconstruct a fully shattered arm the night before we meet a bandit crew.”

 

“Yeah, and I’d feel bad if I hurt you that badly, too,” she smirked, twirling her swords casually at her sides.

 

“Oh, that’s very sweet of you,” I scoffed. I moved a few yards away to a comfortable starting position, then pointed my blade at her. “No enhancements means no magic shifting swords, either. Pick a form now and stick with it.”

 

“You’re no fun,” she pouted.

 

“Hey, if you want to rely on tricks to win all of your fights, be my guest,” I shot back. “But you know as well as I do that we’ve both fought people recently who were better fighters than we were. Do you want it to stay that way? Relying on enhancements and magic swords to keep you safe?”

 

“I get it, I get it,” she answered, shaking her head. “I’ve only been training for a few months, you know. I shouldn’t have to compare myself to the General until I’ve had years of practice.”

 

“That’s true. I trained almost every day for five years in Alderea before I had my first taste of real combat, and I still didn’t feel ready when the time came,” I said. “That’s the best part of practice, I think; no matter how long you work at it, there’s always room for improvement.”

 

“Is that your excuse for whenever I beat you during our sparring matches?” she laughed, dropping into a combat-ready stance.

 

“Why don’t you come and find out?” I taunted, waving her on. She dashed forward with a wicked laugh, and our blades sang out over the rolling hills as our fight started. Her bravado held some merit, as she had grown more consistently able to best me during our training matches in the past month, but the vast majority of her victories came from our sessions using combat enhancements. When her magical abilities were pushed to their limits, I found it difficult to keep up with her incredible speed in battle, and often found myself on the punishing end of a blunted longsword. On the other hand, duels that relied solely on our physical prowess rarely ended with me gaining more than a single bruise.

 

As we clashed back and forth across the campsite, I couldn’t help but smile at Lia’s progress. I could see influences from all of the notable opponents she had faced throughout her months of training: the General’s adaptability, my own deliberate and measured strikes, Marin’s aggressiveness, and even an aspect of Val’s defensive tactics. They all coalesced to create a style truly unique to Lia, and beyond that, a style which seemed to change every time we fought. Depending on which strength she leaned into, I found myself facing a different foe every night we sparred, which always kept me on my toes.

 

After a half hour of constant clashes, I called off the fight with a raspy laugh. “Well,” I said, fetching a canteen from our supplies, “I’m definitely going to feel that in the morning.”

 

“Tired already?” she called out, joining me at our bedrolls. “I could keep going all night.” She snatched the canteen from me and took a long swig, spilling a few drops down the side of her chin as her arm trembled from exertion.

 

“Mhmm,” I chuckled, lowering myself into a cross-legged position. “You’ll have to find somebody else to practice with, then. My old bones need a rest.”

 

“Old bones,” she snickered, sitting down across from me. “You don’t have old bones. You just have an old brain.” I raised an eyebrow in her direction, then closed my eyes and took a deep, centering breath. She giggled softly before joining me in meditation. Our campsite glowed with pulsing blue and amber lights as the energy mana and flowed within our bodies, then finally shot out in all directions.

 

“Lux?” she asked after a few quiet minutes had passed. “Do you ever think about how weird this all is?”

 

“Weird how?”

“It’s like…” she started, pausing to find the right words. “Before I met you, magic was mostly a storybook sort of thing. There was always some level of it in the Unity Church, of course, but it was mostly just little things like glowing crystals that you can buy in curio shops. Apart from the King’s Primes, it was easy to forget magic really existed at all.” I felt a fresh wave of mana wash over me as Lia expanded the range of her Detection. “Now, though, after everything I’ve learned, it feels sort of…” she paused again, then sighed, defeated. “Weird.”

 

“I see what you mean,” I said. “Magic didn’t exist at all where I was born, and it was commonplace when I first learned about it in Alderea, at least in terms of combat enhancements. I’m not sure what people thought about magic in Hedaat, to be honest. I never asked.” I stopped momentarily, surprised by the gap in my knowledge. “But here, based on the rules from Unity, I see how our powers would seem strange. Impossible, even.”

 

“Yeah, exactly!” she exclaimed. “At this point, I’m not sure anybody would believe me if I told them what we could do. I wanted to talk to Lyn about it, but...I know I shouldn’t.”

 

“I know it’s a burden. If there had been another way to keep you safe, I would have avoided bringing up magic at all, just so you wouldn’t—”

 

“What? No! No way,” she interrupted me. “Knowing what I know now, I’d still choose this life in a heartbeat. Sure, it’s not fun to have to keep it a secret, and it comes with a lot of responsibility, but I’d never give this up.” She sighed again. “I don’t know. It’s a weird feeling to have to describe, I guess. Just…”

 

“Weird,” I finished for her.

 

She smiled. “Yeah. Weird.” I felt a swirl of warm, inviting energy around me. “At least we have each other. I’m not sure if I could handle this all on my own, like you did.”

 

“I would’ve gone crazy by now if I were still alone. Well, crazier than I already am, anyway,” I laughed. “And I certainly wouldn’t have learned as much as I have about magic without you. We’re in this together, now.”

 

“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” she said, reaching out to pat my knee. A few moments passed in silence before she suddenly perked up in excitement. “Plus, we have Marin now, too! I bet she’ll help us discover stuff we never would have thought of.”

 

“Oh, I’m sure she will. She has an...interesting way of looking at things.” Our conversation faded to silence as we continued to survey the surrounding countryside. I was surprised to find the land entirely undeveloped as far as I could see in every direction; apart from the single, winding road through the hills, there was no sign that humanity existed at all in the Midlands. Small stands of trees and rows of wild berry bushes clearly showed the strength of the soil in the area, which only strengthened my curiosity. Are the Midlands really that dangerous?

 

“Do you think we’ll find the bandits tomorrow?” Lia asked, her voice softer than before.

 

“Maybe,” I answered. “If I were a bandit, I would try to wait in a spot that most wagons pass at dusk, just before they stop for the night. Hiding spots aren’t really an issue on this road, given all the hills, so they can probably set up anywhere they want.” I waited for a response, then continued when she stayed quiet. “Are you nervous?”

 

“No!” she replied immediately, opening her eyes and withdrawing her extended mana. “Not for us, at least. I don’t think we’ll find any bandits strong enough to be dangerous for us, no matter how many there are.” Her eyes fell as she continued. “I’m worried about Elise’s traders, though. I don’t understand why they’re still missing.”

 

“That is strange,” I agreed. “It’s possible that they’re being held hostage in hopes of a larger ransom, but it would be difficult to hold that many people captive at once. Maybe they’re all grouped up together, hiding out in the Midlands while they plan a mission to steal all of the caravan supplies back.” I followed suit with Lia and ended my meditation, opening my eyes to find the campsite dark. “Whatever the case may be, we’ll find out together, and we’ll deal with it together.”

 

“I know we will,” she said as she fell back onto her sleeping mat. “That doesn’t stop me from worrying, though.”

 

“If you figure out a cure for worrying, make sure to let me know,” I laughed, shrugging out of my cloak. “I haven’t been able to figure it out for the past...however long it’s been.” I fluffed the cloak out in front of me as I lay down beside her, spreading the warm fabric over us like a blanket. Lia gladly accepted the offering and drew herself close to me.

 

“Okay, I will,” she nodded as she pressed her back against my chest. I felt her laugh quietly beside me before she whispered under her breath. “Old bones.” My hand raced along her side to the small patch of exposed undershirt between her armor pieces and clamped down, roughly tickling her hip. She jolted at the sudden touch and let out a surprised yelp, slapping at my hand as she laughed. “Hey! Stop that!” she cried, trying to fight her way out of my reach.

 

I gave up the assault after a few seconds and pulled her back into my arms. She turned her head and watched me through narrowed eyes, her hand resting firmly on my wrist to combat any further attempts. Satisfied, I smiled and closed my eyes as I found a comfortable sleeping position. “I love you.”

 

After a few moments of tense waiting, I felt her relax in my arms as she prepared for sleep as well. “I love you, too.”

---

 

We broke camp at sunrise the next morning and began our first full day of travel through the Midlands. Similar to the day before, the only traffic we encountered on the road waswere trading caravans and passenger carriages, all of which sped up and gave us a wide berth when we came into sight on the road. The hard glares and white-knuckled grip of the drivers and guards we passed reinforced the idea of the danger of the Midlands, despite the fact that Lia and I hadn’t experienced anything out of the ordinary compared to our other road trips.

 

Our peaceful journey finally changed an hour before sunset. My Detection revealed a woman hidden in a bank of shrubs atop a particularly large hill a few miles away, well out of eyesight. She watched the road in our direction with a long spyglass, lying perfectly still below her leafy cover. Four men lounged at the base of the hill behind her, sitting around a large wooden chest playing a lazy game of cards. Across the road, three other brigands sat behind an equally tall hill, all sharing a roasted rabbit. A final lookout lay atop the opposite hill, keeping watch over the southern road.

 

Once we had taken a full measure of the situation, Lia and I continued towards the impending trap. When we eventually made our way into view of the lookout, she froze for a few moments, sizing us up through the spyglass, then shimmied out from her hiding spot and slid down the hill to her companions. They had a brief conversation before the entire troupe sprang to life, running back and forth in preparation for our arrival. Most took their places behind hills at the roadside, positioned in such a way that we would be surrounded if stopped in the proper place, while the scouts returned to their lookout points and resumed their watch duties.

 

An electric anticipation buzzed throughout my entire body as we approached. Not only was my adrenaline beginning to circulate in preparation for a fight, but my curiosity as to the fate of Elise’s caravans was at an all time high as each step brought us closer to our answers. I took a series of deep, even breaths as I prepared for the interaction and thought through my potential opening lines.

 

Three of the bandits stepped into view as we approached the predestined spot. Each wore a set of fine, fur-lined leather armor, all matching in make and adornment. The man at the front of their formation had a longsword belted at his hip, while the two men behind him each wore a bow and quiver on their backs. A strange, brown tar covered the same spot at the top right corner of each of their cuirasses; the repeated detail intrigued me, and I reached out with a quick pulse of mana to suffuse the substance.

 

It appeared to be a simple mixture of tree sap and dirt, but the insignia the substance covered turned out to be much more interesting: the three ringed sigil of the Elta’Sahn Company. They’re Company deserters! I thought delightedly. Not only was I filled with a sudden surge of pride at shaking the unshakable faith of Company men, but the new information completely recontextualized the nature of our encounter.

“Greetings!” the lead man called out. He had pale brown hair pulled up into a top knot, suntanned skin, and a wide smile that revealed three golden teeth. “It’s not often we meet people traveling on foot through the Midlands. What brings you out this way?”

 

I straightened my shoulders and put on my best false smile as a cool surge of confidence washed over me. “H—”

 

“Hi, boys!” Lia answered loudly, taking a step forward to position herself in front of me. “We’re going on vacation! How about you?”

 

It took every ounce of mental fortitude I could muster to stop myself from laughing. The answer seemed to take their leader by surprise as well, but he composed himself quickly and gave her an amiable chuckle. “I suppose you could say we’re vacationers ourselves! We’ve all had a recent change of employment, you see, and are taking some well deserved time off before we start our next ventures.”

 

“Oh, how exciting! We’re going to see the capital, ourselves. I hear it’s lovely this time of year!” She looked between the three men with a wide smile. “Do you greet all of the travelers on this road? That’s awfully nice of you.”

 

“That’s right,” he replied. “Seeing as you’re new to the area, I’ll let you in on a little piece of helpful information; the Midlands are dangerous this time of year. My friends and I have been protecting this road for weeks now! We heard word that there were bandits in the area, and figured we would offer our protection to travelers.”

 

Lia covered her mouth as she gasped. “Bandits? That’s terrible!”

 

“Isn’t it just?” he agreed with a grin. His eyes scanned past her and looked me over, lingering momentarily on my sword. “And who might you be, stranger? A hired hand for this dangerous trip, perhaps?”

 

I leaned out from behind Lia’s head and gave him a friendly bow of my head. “I—”

 

“Oh, him?” she interrupted again. “Lux here is my traveling companion. He may look big and scary, but he’s a real softie at heart. It’s good to travel with a friend like that, don’t you think?” She suddenly clapped and perked up excitedly. “Speaking of friends, we’re actually looking for some friends of ours that traveled down this way. If you’ve been here for weeks, you probably saw them!” I bit my lip to stop the grin that threatened to spread across my face; it was clear that Lia had decided to take control of the interrogation, and she had no interest in relinquishing any of the responsibilities to me.

 

The brow of the lead man furrowed as the question caught him off guard, and he recovered with a less-than-genuine laugh. “Well, we see plenty of people come through this way, miss. I’m not sure we’d remember—”

 

“It’s actually quite a lot of friends, now that I think of it!” Lia continued over him. “They were all traveling in caravans owned by Three Barrels Trading Company! Have you seen anybody come through this way recently that works for Three Barrels? Primes, it must have been at least...six caravans by now!”

 

The bandit leader’s hand flew to the longsword on his hip, and his backup drew their bows. “I get the feeling you aren’t here on vacation plans, miss,” he said with a snide smile. “Who are you, really? Did the trading company send you?”

 

A sudden flash of movement picked up on the edge of my Detection, and I spotted a wagon heading our direction from the north carrying a familiar group of passengers. Lia, Lyn’s wagon is coming. We should move this conversation off of the road.

 

I’m working on it! she chided me playfully. “Gentlemen, as I said, we’re simply on our way to our vacation in the capital. We certainly aren’t here at the request of Three Barrels to find their missing workers. Just as you are concerned citizens keeping the roads safe, and not Elta’Sahn Company deserters looking to shake down innocent travelers.”

 

The two bowmen in the road glanced at each other with terror in their eyes at the mention of the Company, but it only seemed to anger their leader. “We gave your caravaneers a simple choice: pay the road tax, or die. Do you know what they did?” He turned to his compatriots with a dark grin as if looking for an answer to his rhetorical question, but scowled silently as he found them with nervous, wide-eyed expressions. “They thanked us for our kindness and unloaded their cargo on the spot. Wherever they went after that is none of our concern.”

 

“So, where did you take all of the goods?” she asked, still as cheery as when the conversation had started.

 

“The time for questions is over,” he said, tapping heavily on the pommel of his sword. “You should have—”

 

“That’s not really going to work for me, unfortunately,” Lia cut in. “I still have loads of questions.”

 

“Enough!” the man yelled, stomping his foot in childish frustration. “You’ve lost the chance for—”

 

He was interrupted again, but not by Lia. A whistle, poorly disguised as some sort of bird call, echoed down from the tall hill of the northern sentry. His eyes flicked up to the lookout’s location, then down the road behind us.

 

“Oh, someone must be coming!” Lia clapped excitedly. “Are you going to talk to them too, or will you just have the rest of your men do it?” She drew one of her swords and pointed it at the hill to our right, directly at the location of one of the hidden bandits. “I’m not sure that lady has been paying enough attention to our conversation to know what to do, and the two men waiting behind us seem just as confused.”

 

All three jaws of the men before us dropped as they stood bewildered at Lia’s seemingly prophetic knowledge. Their leader stammered incoherently for a moment, then turned to his companions. “Just shoot them and be done with this already!”

 

“Please,” Lia called out, her voice shifting to a sad, pleading tone, “don’t make us hurt you. Just run away.”

 

The warning seemed to register with the younger of the two archers, and he lowered his bow cautiously. He looked to be much younger than us, no older than twenty, with sun bleached hair and a patchy, peach fuzz beard. His eyes bounced between his leader and Lia’s sword as he waited to see what happened next. The archer to the youth’s right had no such reservations; he knocked an arrow and drew it back to the overgrown gray hair at his ear, narrowing his dark eyes and furrowing his already wrinkled brow as he did so. There was a single moment of hesitation as he took aim before I heard the telltale snap of his bowstring.

 

Lia let out an audible sigh as the arrow shot towards her, then sidestepped at the last possible moment and snatched it out of the air. She twirled it around in her fingers and spun around on the spot, whipping the arrow back towards its owner faster than it had arrived. It cracked against the center of his forehead and embedded itself up to the fletchings in his skull, and the man fell dead to the ground before he could react. “I said, run away,” Lia repeated in a menacing whisper.

 

The young bowman did as he was told, throwing his weapon to the ground as he dove for the safety of a small ditch at the roadside with a pitiful yelp. Likewise, two of the bandits hidden in the surrounding hills turned at the sight of their murdered comrade and ran off into the countryside without ever touching their weapons. The remaining reinforcements rushed to the road to join their commander, who had drawn his sword and charged at Lia with a wavering battlecry.

 

I took a few steps back from Lia and watched the ensuing mess unfold. It was difficult for me to consider the encounter a true battle, as each of the bandits only managed to launch a single attack at Lia before being quickly dispatched. She caught each blow easily on the edge of one sword, then struck out with a quick stab from her second blade that always found its way to her opponents' heart. They attacked her in single file as they arrived, all of them far too panicked or inexperienced to consider holding back and fighting as a single unit. As each bandit fell, Lia’s expression shifted from a grim sadness to one of puzzlement. The entire combat lasted only a few seconds, and ended as Lia shoved the final bandit off of her sword to land on the ground beside his dead friends.

 

When the road had grown still again, she looked at me with a raised eyebrow. “Why was that so easy?” she asked, scratching the back of her head. “They were all so slow, and clumsy, and...terrible!”

 

I gave her a firm pat on the shoulder as I walked by and began to drag the bodies off of the road. “It looks like our training was more effective than we thought.” With a small boost from my strength enhancement, I grabbed the nearest body under the armpits and tossed it to the roadside, which drew a terrified scream from the ditch where it landed. “Oh,” I said, looking up to find the eyes of the young archer peering at us, “right.”

 

“Thank you for choosing not to fight,” Lia said, giving him a warm smile. “Do you think you could answer a few questions for me?” He tried to speak, but the only noise that came from his mouth was a hoarse squeak, so he vigorously nodded his head. She hopped down from the road beside him, causing him to visibly recoil. “Come with me,” she instructed gently, leading him away from the corpse of his recently deceased leader. I trust you can handle cleaning up the road?

 

I laughed at her voice in my head. As you command, I replied snarkily. I kept close track of them through my Detection as I worked on hiding the bodies out of view of the road, and my Heightened Senses enhancement flickered to life enough to hear any conversation they might have. They stood together quietly for a few minutes as the young deserter calmed down enough to speak, which I spent clearing the roadway and kicking dirt over the bloodstained earth. I finished my task and joined Lia moments before the southbound wagon carrying our new friends drove past, blissfully unaware of the ambush that had awaited them just minutes before.

 

“So,” Lia continued once I arrived, sitting cross-legged in the grass, “was your leader telling the truth earlier?”

 

The young man blinked at her silently for a moment, then shook his head. “N-no. We are, or, uhm, were, bandits.”

 

Lia threw her head back and laughed. “That wasn’t exactly what I meant, but thank you for your honesty. I was referring to what he said about the Three Barrels caravans; did you really let them all go unharmed?”

 

“Yes,” he answered quickly. “Jakob thought that maybe, if we didn’t hurt people, or scare them too bad, or take all of their stuff, nobody would send any guards, or any, uhm…” he trailed off, looking between the two of us at a loss for words.

 

“So, you haven’t hurt anybody the entire time you’ve been out here?” she asked, tapping her fingers against her leg. “Not even a little?”

 

“No, I swear!” he shouted. “Nobody ever gave us trouble. I think, maybe, everyone was expecting us to be...meaner? And when we only, uhm, demanded a little bit of money, or just some of the supplies, people were relieved, and just gave them to us.”

 

Lia pursed her lips and sat quietly, chewing on the information. “Where did you take all of the stuff you stole?” I asked, filling the silence.

 

“Uh, there’s a safehouse, that the...uhm,” he stammered, lowering his voice to a whisper before continuing, “the Company used to use. It’s just a few miles off the road, that way.” He pointed off vaguely to the east, through the hill beside us. “You can see it from here, if you’re on the lookout hill.” His voice continued to grow more unsteady as he spoke, and tears began to form in the corners of his eyes. “There’s...there’s not much, uhm, there, right now, b-but you can…”

 

The sound of a quiet sob brought Lia out of her introspection, and she looked over the bandit with concern. “What’s wrong?” She punched my shoulder and narrowed her eyes at me. “What did you do?”

 

“Nothing!” I said, holding up my hands to intercept any further punches.

 

She paused as she read the truth on my face, then leaned closer to the crying youth. “What’s wrong...oh, I never got your name. I’m sorry.”

 

He shook his head and scooted away from her. “P-Patrick,” he managed to whimper as he wiped the tears from his face.

 

“Patrick,” she repeated quietly. “What’s wrong, Patrick?”

 

“It could be that most of his friends are—” My thought was cut short as I swatted away a second punch.

 

“Not. Helpful,” she muttered, poking at my chest. I held a hand over my mouth and raised my eyebrows expectantly, and she smiled. “Better.” She turned back to Patrick and folded her hands neatly in her lap. “Patrick, what can I—”

 

“Are you going to kill me?!” he shouted suddenly, his whole body trembling.

Lia recoiled. “What? No! Primes, no! Why would you...well, alright, I can understand why you would think that. But you didn’t try to hurt me, so I don’t have any reason to hurt you, right?” She reached out carefully and put a hand on his shoulder. “You’ve been really helpful, Patrick. I don’t have any more questions for you, so whenever you’re feeling up to it, you can leave and go wherever you want.”

 

“You’re still young, Patrick. You’ve got a long life ahead of you,” I added. “If you go find yourself some real, honest work, you’ll get a chance to see it.” I stood up from my place in the grass and brushed off my cloak. “Just make sure you avoid the Company from now on, hmm?”

 

He slowly turned to look in my direction, his eyes glassy and uncomprehending. “I’m...uhm, I’m going to sit. Just sit here, for...a while, I think.”

 

“Okay,” Lia nodded. “Good luck, Patrick. Be safe.”

 

“You...too?” he said, staring straight ahead as we walked by him. We left him behind his small hill as we returned to the road and climbed to the spot where the southern lookout had been hidden. As Patrick had said, a black shingled roof was visible on the horizon, nearly invisible in the lengthening shadows of the evening.

 

“I guess that solves the mystery of where the supplies went,” Lia sighed. “Still no lead on the employees, though.”

 

“Hopefully, our lead is hidden somewhere in that safehouse,” I said, taking a step towards the building. “If we head there now, we’ll make it before dark. There might even be beds; those bandits had to be sleeping somewhere, right?” She nodded in agreement and followed behind me as we made our way across the hilly expanse.

 

I pushed out a wave of energy to scan our destination and our surroundings as we walked. “You know,” I started, grinning, “you did a great job back there. Controlling the conversation, fighting off all of the bandits, the interrogation, everything. I do have to admit, it was difficult not to laugh at the start; hearing you do my bit was definitely—” I hissed as a sudden pain sprouted in my temples, and I staggered to the side as I clutched my head.

 

“Lux?” Lia asked, placing a concerned hand on my arm. “Lux, what’s wrong?”

 

My head swam as I fought to piece together the source of the pain. There was a strange buzz around the image in my head which seemed to emanate from a point to our south, fartherfurther down the main road. I sent a fresh scan towards the edge of my mental map, and winced as the pain renewed itself. When the mana reached the edge of my current vision, it felt as though it were sucked away beyond the ill-defined border and out of my control. “I...don’t know. Something to the south.”

 

I saw a brief flash of amber light as Lia’s own mana raced out along mine, and the audible gasp beside me confirmed that she felt the same interference. “What is that?” she whispered. “Why is that happening?”

 

“I don’t know,” I repeated. As I continued to fight against the interference, details of the oddity began to reveal themselves. The mana I sent out had continued to spread in every direction that wasn’t blocked, and soon completely encircled the field of darkness. The gap it left in my Detection was nearly two hundred yards wide, and seemed to be moving in a straight line across the countryside; it stole my extended energy wherever it went, plunging new parts of my vision into darkness while revealing others where it had been moments before. “Whatever it is, it’s moving. Fast.”

 

“We should...investigate that, right?” she asked between grunts of exertion.

 

“Yes. Elise’s boxes can wait. Whatever that is, I don’t want it to get away before we can—” My breath hitched in my throat as a faint echo registered in my still heightened sense: the remnants of a blood-curdling scream in a familiar voice. “Lyn,” I managed to say before my mind emptied and my enhancements flared. Every cell in my body screamed to life as I rocketed away to the south, immediately pushing my body far beyond its normal limits for the first time in months.


Lia appeared at the corner of my vision a moment later, sprinting full tilt alongside me. A tight band of energy wove between us as we approached the disturbance, and I felt my consciousness spilling over into hers as our minds connected. As opposed to the normal mental communication we had developed during our training, my messaging to her was wordless and instinctual, imparting multiple concepts simply by feeling them myself. Unknown danger. Civilians. Hold nothing back. A ping of acknowledgement echoed between us, and we drew our weapons in unison.

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About the author

Adam Ladner

Bio: Hi there. I'm Adam, the author of the "Restart Again" series. I started this writing project in the spring of 2019 as a fun creative outlet, and much to my surprise, I actually stuck with it! Fast forward to a year later, and here I am with the first book completely finished, and the second well under way. It's been a great experience, and I'm glad I have a chance to share it now!

I'd never heard of this site until recently, when one of the Amazon reviews for this book suggested I share it here as well. I'm not entirely familiar with how the site works, and whether or not it's frowned upon to just come here to share fully finished products that exist on other sites. With that in mind, I plan to drop a chapter on here every Sunday and Wednesday until the entire book is posted. If you enjoy it, hop over to my website to find the latest news on the project, and a link to the Amazon page where you can buy the eBook/paperback. I hope you enjoy it!

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