Right in the middle of a scrapyard, Amelia was about to begin her first real fight in months.

All this time, she had been anticipating this moment with fevered excitement, and now that it was here she could hardly stay calm enough to actually prepare to fight the four men surrounding her. One dwarf and three humans. That included the well-dressed cretin Theo and his little suit, little glasses. The others were so far gone into the recesses of obscurity that Amelia could not even summon a face to match their appearances.

It would not be enough that these thugs were angry. Amelia had enough fury inside her to match theirs a hundred times over. And, unlike them, she would actually live long enough to unleash it.

Last chance to speak,” Amelia said. “Any useful info and I’ll spare you all.”

Theo laughed. “Really brave for someone who’s about to die. We ain’t tellin’ you nothing.” His callous words were only matched by the cowardice in his shaking body. That stupid mustache on his face quivered like a man who knew he was about to perish to her might.

She turned to the other men surrounding her. Faceless, formless. “I don’t know how much he's paying you, but it’s not enough for this. Go on and live.”

None of them fled, except into the background of Amelia’s mind.

She scowled. “I wasn’t really going to spare you anyway. That wouldn’t be any fun.”

Just as Theo’s goons rushed her, she launched her stone fist. It shot off from her arm and collided right with the dwarf’s forehead, so hard it audibly cracked. Then, like a boomerang, it came right back to her.

The dwarf was flung through the air—

Then stopped.

Frozen, unmoving in mid-air as the life rushed out of him. Her fist, too, was seemingly stuck on nothing. Sound frozen, echoing into some void around all of them. The whole scrapyard went dim.

Amelia stepped forward, trying to gain a better look at what was going on with the frozen man.

By the time she reached the dwarf, though, he was no longer the faceless being she had dealt with all those months ago. Now, in his place, there were white scales, small wings, and a tail.

She stared at Phelia’s snout, eyes wide with fear, anguish, and imminent death. Unable to perish, stuck in a single moment of time. A gashing wound from her forehead that refused to bleed.

Amelia stepped back. Her soul ached, but it always did in these sorts of dreams. Nothing out of the ordinary.

Then, with an opportunity arising, the other men rushed her. The other nameless, formless humans attacked. She activated [Slice], and cleaved them in half by the waist. One by one, their bodies fell, and in their place came the departed souls of so many she knew.

Mino. Hummer. Ed’s father. All dead, looking up at her with remorse. As if they were the ones to be guilty.

Then a sharp pain—

Straight through the back, piercing her soul gem and going through to the other side. Her own right arm, ripped from her and stabbed into her.

She turned around. Theo watched, laughed, and said garbled words that amounted to, now I’ve got mine, and kicked her in the stomach.

Her fading body crashed back-first into the piles of scrap behind her, burying her under a sea of—

A sea of rubble.

Amelia opened her eyes. The room was dark, as it always was.

Three days had passed like this. The overwhelming pressure of floor and ceiling weighed down on her. Her flesh filled with dried-out cuts and soon-to-be scars.

Everything hurt. It hurt every moment of every day, every single time her system shoved her into this memory.

Slowly, relentlessly digging her way out of the rubble and wreckage of her former home. The basement had been locked, the failsafes triggered. Her soul gem rations dwindled. A healthy supply turned into a perilous handful. Every part of her begged to give up, to wait until some nebulous help might arrive. To sleep and give the peaceful darkness a try one more time. But she ignored all of it. Made her way through, climbed that rickety, half-broken ladder. She beat and sobbed and screamed her way out, just tore through it with all her strength.

Until, finally, she reached the surface, with the kitchen destroyed and mementos gone. Ed had run away. Nothing left behind. Not their photographs, not her glove, not even a note.

It was intentional. She had left on her own accord. Surely she had not been caught in the blast. It was obvious. Clearly. The evidence was tenuous, but her mind would not allow another possibility.

Amelia had not even had the strength to consider what had happened. Only the strength to keep persevering, to keep surviving.

But once she left the farm, covered in overgrowth and wild animals, and went to the village, her remaining perseverance was sapped away.

She saw the ashes on the streets. The bombed-out buildings. No trace of glossal life. No trace of any life.

Amelia fell to her knees and took in the smell of smoke. Let herself soak in the misery.

Let that smoke stoke the embers of rage in her soul.

The only thing on her mind became the North Sunwell Company. Revenge for what they had done. Ed had vanished, but the mission—their promise to save the continent together—continued even still.

Amelia left the village that day, never to return. Never to see the beautiful mountains and rivers of Rockmund again. She was now on a brand-new path. And she was alone.

But, this was just her memories. Unaltered, no nightmarish replacements. Just the nightmare itself, as it replayed over and over, unceasingly grim.

Gray faded into black.

Power-saving mode had finished.

Amelia woke up, the sun not beaming through her eyes because the broken window in her bedroom had been covered up in tape and thick cloth. It was almost as dark in this room as underneath the rubble in her old home.

She shivered.

The last two days had given new context to that event, that ultimate change in Amelia’s life. Now that she had reunited with her girlfriend, now that she had a clear path to achieving her goals. Capture Castien, fix her girlfriend’s untold issues. It seemed easy.

And yet nothing could have been further from the truth, she knew. Ed told her basically nothing. Had openly deceived her, and asked her to trust her even through that. Amelia did trust her, wholeheartedly, to fight for justice and to fulfill their promise. However, she did not trust her to do the right thing. Ed was obsessive, secretive, and it was clear that she had fallen into a dark hole from which she could not escape.

And so, when Ed had deceived her, Amelia had deceived her in return. She did not depart the city like she promised. Did not even consider it.

Her pleas for Amelia to leave Fleettwixt sounded less like concern for a lover, and more like pushing her away so she could suffer alone. She knew all too well the appeal of fighting it alone, of forsaking companionship in favor of a solo crusade. But after a torturous year alone, after thawing into friendship with the people in the hostel, she realized how foolish she had been.

Being lonely was not a way to make one’s resolve stronger. It was a way to lose one’s resolve altogether.

Ed had not explained why she left. Nor what, precisely, caused North Sunwell to discover and destroy the village in its horrific tests. That she was gone suggested she knew about it, that she detonated the failsafes in the house to trap Amelia, to protect her. But if she knew ahead of time, then why did she let the village be destroyed? Why did she return to Fleettwixt and rejoin her old team? Why did she continue to work there on some unmentionable projects that risked her very life to discuss?

She would not tell Amelia, except that Amelia’s own path risked ruining what she had built. Risked revealing Amelia to the world after her false demise all those years ago. Whatever Ed was doing, it was bad. But it was, perhaps, the only way she saw herself fulfilling that promise to save Sunwell. To save the world, even. Amelia’s acts of destruction were open, public, and deadly, while Ed’s acts were so secret that none knew of them but her. Two methods destined to collide.

There were only two options, Amelia thought; either Ed was doing the wrong thing for the right reasons, or Amelia was doing the right thing for the wrong reasons. If both were true, then tragedy and disaster were inevitable, maybe imminent. But if only one were true, then that side would surely win out in the end. Amelia simply had to trust in herself that her reasons were right. That her path was worth following.

They were right. It was worth following.

But if she was wrong, it would mean the end of everything she loved or cared about.

She sighed and got out of bed.

Then, as she came downstairs to brush her teeth and wash her face, she saw that Mino and Phelia were here in the house, eating. But it was not breakfast—it was lunch.

She had slept clear through the entire morning, like a moody adolescent.

Amelia never had an adolescence, or a childhood, or an infancy. She came into the world fully-formed. So, in no world should she have ever been sleeping in until an hour where the sun had already begun its descent. How embarrassing.

Top of the morning to you,” Phelia said, eating a sandwich on the couch. “Wait, afternoon. Top of the afternoon? That sounds weird.”


Mino, sitting at the service counter with her own sandwich, smirked in Amelia’s direction. “Our girl was out partying real hard, Phelia,” she said. “We should be proud of her.”


I saw her come in at six in the morning! Barely even sobered up by then. Crazy, huh?”

Wow, I thought Amelia didn’t drink,” Phelia said. “I wonder what it was like. I’ve only been to parties with Aeo before, and she always abandons me, so they’re kind of boring and nobody talks to me. That’s where I met Philip, though.”

I don’t drink. Mino’s joking.”

Am I? Am I really? You did come home at six in the morning, right?”


And why else would you do that except a party? Right?”

Amelia understood the nature of her prying, but unfortunately, just like Ed was not at liberty to divulge her secrets, Amelia was not at liberty to divulge hers, either. “It was a mission.”

Yeah... Sure it was...” Mino’s smirk refused to go away. Maybe she should have responded to Mino differently this morning than telling her “I feel amazing.”

Mino, strangely, did not seem particularly concerned about the arrow that had literally crashed through one of their windows in the middle of the night, nor the fact that Amelia had left afterwards and not come back for over a day. She seemed to assume Amelia had solved the problem, and there was nothing out of the ordinary from there. To an extent, she might have been right.

Well, sun’s burning out,” Mino said. “What will you plan to do with the rest of your day, Amelia?”

I don’t know. Do I have any mail?”


Korath had not yet sent his letter, which meant the meeting was still not ready. It had only been two days, but her patience had already grown extremely thin.

I guess I’ll work in the vegetable patch. The potatoes are almost ready.”

I already checked on everything,” Mino said. “Don’t worry.”

You could come shopping with us,” Phelia said. “I’m off work the next three days, so me and Mino are gonna go back d—” Mino threw a pen at Phelia and hit her in the forehead. “Ow!”

Amelia’s dream flashed back in her mind. Phelia, sitting there in her tall chair eating lunch, transformed into the corpse floating in mid-air, the shock still in her eyes as Amelia looked down on her. The destruction she herself had wrought.

She pushed it out of her mind—had to. A dream was a dream. Just focus on the moment...

What did you do that for?” Phelia whined. “I was just telling her about the—Ow!”

Shush,” Mino said.

Oh, I get it. You don’t want Amelia to know we’re g—Ow! Why?”

Amelia bobbed her head. “I get it.”

You do?” Phelia asked. “You get that Mino doesn’t want you to go with us in the dungeon—Ow! Stop throwing pens at me!”

Mino sighed. “Sorry, Amelia. Blabber-snout here is really misremembering everything I told her, or just being an idiot.”

I’m not an idiot...”

I know you’ve been under a lot of stress lately, Amelia, with healing from your injuries and taking all these big secret trips, so I didn’t want to pressure you into thinking you had to go with us on our new dungeon dive. It’s just something small, smaller than the last one. Just us two this time. Really, no pressure.”

If it had been anyone but Mino, Amelia would have assumed this was all some passive-aggressive sarcasm, that she really was being pressured into joining. However, because it was Mino, she knew the words were coming with genuine care, and it honestly touched her. Of course, she could not tell her about the real reason for these secret trips, about the plans to capture Castien, or her fateful reunion with her long-lost girlfriend. But knowing she cared was enough.

Phelia, on the other hand, seemed utterly incapable of expressing anything but enthusiasm. “But Mino, we totally want her to come. That’s what you said when... Don’t throw it, please.”

Just sit around and relax if you’d like, Amelia.” Mino said.

Okay. I will.” She sat down on the couch to signal her willingness to, well, sit around and relax. She placed herself on the opposite side from Phelia, but of course the cuddly kobold quickly bounced herself over to brush against her. Amelia begrudingly accepted it. “And I also want to come with you.”

Mino’s eyes lit up, though she tried to hide it. “Really?”

Yeah. It’ll be fun.”

Phelia grabbed Amelia’s hand and squealed. “Yippee!”

Just tell me the plan, and I’ll be there.” She hesitated, then added, “I won’t have my issues anymore, with being sick and that. I’m feeling great.”

She caught a curious look in Mino’s eyes, before she settled back into pleasantness. “Seriously, you’re really okay with this?”

Yeah. I want to explore the dungeon again.”

No ulterior motives?” Mino asked, knowingly.

Amelia shrugged. “Not really.”

Then we’d love to have you.” Mino and Phelia both beamed so brightly it made Amelia know she made the right decision. A quick adventure like this would bring her no closer to revenge, but... She needed to spend time with her friends while she could. While there was still little risk of putting the whole hostel in danger.

Why just you two, though?” Amelia asked. “Where’s Hummer and Aeo? Gruzut?”

Hummer’s off to Portside for a couple days,” Mino said. “She’s meeting with some Saxonian dignitaries and whatnot, preparing for her to go back in a big royal procession. I think that’s about two or three weeks away.”

Yeah...” Phelia’s head and wings drooped. “I really want her to stay. Bums me out.”

She’s really going,” Amelia said with a wisp in her voice. After everything they had been through in the first dungeon dive, she was genuinely surprised to see the woman sticking to her original plans so stubbornly.

And Aeo, she’s probably—”

The front door barged open, with the tattooed sun elf herself making a grand flashy entrance while carrying several bags of goods. “Got some souvenirs!”

From where?”

Uh, let me check... One batch from Bradholm, never heard of that, but it’s some cute little metal buttons. Oh, and here’s a truck’s license plate from all the way out in Rockmund Province. I thought all that was out there was wheat fields and forests. Apparently, people too!”

Amelia kept her mouth shut.

Oh, oh, oh. This is the best one. A bunch of tiny little toys. You can rotate their gears and they’ll move around, all cute and stuff. It’s from the land of... Let me look... Tobasia. Wow, that’s not even on Sunwell, I don’t think. Look it, souvenirs from another damn continent!”

Where the hell did you buy all this?” Mino asked.

Moe’s is closing up,” Aeo said. “They had a lot of trinkets they put on the wall to make the place feel all cozy. They assumed it was from visitors who donated stuff over the years, but of course they didn’t remember or anything. I thought we could hang some of it up on the walls. You know, give us some extra I feeling in the BICLH, am I... right... Mino, are you okay?”

Mino’s ears had fallen and she had folded her arms. “Moe’s, of all places? Can’t Beechhurst get a break? That place has been open three hundred years. It’s the best restaurant in the whole neighborhood.”

I know. Sucks. But at least we get some stuff.”

Yeah. Some stuff to attract all those new visitors who might want to stay. All five of them.”

Mino was officially in a bad mood, and prolonging the conversation was now essentially impossible.

Amelia,” Aeo said, “let’s go take this stuff into the storage room.”

Why did she need her to help?

Whatever, Amelia thought, taking one of the bags and walking past the laundry room, to the small, oft-neglected storage room.

When Aeo was certain they were out of earshot, she whispered, “Hey, Amelia. I know something about you.”

Amelia shuddered. “Yeah?”

You’ve got a hit out on you,” she said. They entered the storage room, musty and cluttered, and Aeo closed the door behind her. “Found the listing this morning. Young woman, human, light skin. ‘Strange features,’ the contract said. Frequently targets synth dealers. No known associates. Reward is dead only. No alive. Can’t be anyone but you.”

Not surprising.”

What I mean to say, Amelia...” Aeo stepped up very close to Amelia, as if to lean in for a kiss. “I’m in the contract business. It’s a side gig. I only take out bad people, that’s my promise. But I still get all the open listings, and yours is the highest I’ve ever seen. Someone really wants you dead.”

I’m aware of it.”

That arrow from the other night, was that part of it?”

No. The arrow wasn’t bad. It was good.”

A good arrow. Okay. That makes sense.” Aeo leaned in even closer, so much so that their foreheads pressed against each other. Aeo’s warm breaths pushed against Amelia’s face. “I’m not sure you should stay here.” Amelia tensed up. Activated her Combat Module. Silently, activated the [Slice] skill while Aeo was still unaware.

I see.”

Do you now? Do you really?”

Amelia did not respond. Kept her feet planted and ready to lunge at the slightest stray movement.

The only reason I don’t kill you where you stand,” she said, “is because Mino really likes you. It’d hurt me a lot to see you die.”

You wouldn’t succeed.”

Aeo ignored the taunt. “The money is really, really good. I’m an idiot for passing it up. But if you bring any violence into this hostel, I won’t hold back.”

And finally, Amelia blinked first. Pushed away her forehead and stepped away. “I swear, this hostel will be safe.”

I hope so.” Aeo bounded back and her lackadaisical posture resumed. “Be careful, alright?”

Will do.”

Anyway, just put those bags anywhere. Nothing gets sorted in this room, so I’ll remember where they were. Thanks for the help.”


A note from B. A. Baker (Thedude3445)

Sorry for the late update. It slipped my mind because time zones confuse me lol. 

Please vote on Top Web Fiction this week:

And, Royal Road Writathon plans update: I'm mentally getting prepared for a ton of Golemancer work, which is hopefully gonna be super intense as long as real life interferes. The plan is: I will post a chapter every single day, as long as I write a chapter that day. Not EVERY day will succeed, but out of the ~35 days, I'm hoping to post at least 25 chapters! This will NOT count bonus lore chapters and such, which will come out randomly whenever there's good lulls in the main story. The goal to win the Writathon is 55,555 words in 5 weeks, but I'm aiming for at least 70,000 words, myself.

The Patreon backlog is basically gone and due to Writathon I won't make any effort to update it in November. Please support if you like the series, though. It helps my self-esteem.

Today's Shoutout: Stormstruck! A spicy supernatural GL book that I'm personally quite excited to read. I'm still waist-deep in that extremely long book about that one Heather girl, but Stormstruck is definitely up there on my list.


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About the author

B. A. Baker (Thedude3445)

Bio: I like to watch movies.

Avatar art by Andrew Hussie

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