Nic raced through the darkened woods, his feet crunching on scattered branches and old leaves. The pounding behind him elevated his heartbeat even more. He had been careless. A Gigant Bear had heard him step on a branch a while back.
It had been asleep, but now that it was awake, it was furious. Gigant Bears are one of the many different species, now classified as monsters, that came from animal mutation during the First Irradiated Winter. While some animals fused together with humans, creating the beast people, and some were lucky to stay the same, the rest turned into monsters. For most animal races, they evolved into a single type of monster, such as with the many different types of Bears. No matter what race of bear they had been originally, they all turned into Gigant Bears in the end. Growing nearly double the size with much harder, almost armor-like, skin covering their vital points, Gigant Bears were one of the deadliest monsters a lone warrior could run into.
And Nic wasn even a warrior to begin with. To say that he was outmatched and outclassed was the understatement of the millenia.
Like most monsters, the Gigant Bear was much, much more aggressive than normal bears, who are already aggressive depending on the race. On top of that, their strength was nearly quadruple that of a normal bear.
If a Gigant Bear was spotted near a City-State like Sanum or within the borders of a Nation like Aethurius or Kyoku, then a group of at least 15-20 soldiers would be dispatched to take care of it. If they were near a rad-town, well, there usually wasn a rad-town there anymore.
The forest sped past Nic as he ran. His legs burned. His lungs did as well. Everything in him was on fire.
Despite his best effort, the Gigant Bear was gaining on him. He only had a few seconds left.
Is this really the end? I can even begin my true journey before dying.
The only weapon that Nic had on him was the beaten and worn down knife that he had been carrying since Aria and him had left the rad-town. A dull blade like that would be little more than a twig for the monster.
Nic ran straight into a branch and the level of his head. He hit the ground on his back, the air quickly leaving his lungs. As he struggled to breath, his attempts at getting up failed time and time again. He didn notice the Gigant Bear looming over him until it was too late. The monsters front legs were already falling down towards him.
He stopped his futile attempts to breathe. He closed his eyes and waited for the end to come. The only thing he regretted was his final moments with his parents. They had done so much for him, and yet the last time he had seen them, they had been arguing. It wasn even about anything significant.
"Ah, I wish I couldve at least said sorry…"
Nic heard the sound of something hitting stone hard. Opening his eyes, he found not the scene that he had closed them to, but a solid piece of rock sitting barely 5 cer from the tip of his nose. The edge of it sat right above his eyes.
Nic heard three thuds in rapid succession right above him, past the stone slab. A liquid fell over the edge of the slab, hitting Nic straight in the forehead. It was warm, sticky and currently moving down the side of his head.
He shimmied out from beneath the stone slab. Looking at the Gigant Bear, trying to make sense of what he was seeing in the nights dim light. Protruding from the stone slab he had been under were three stone spears stabbing through the Gigant Bear in different spots. One had punched through his lower stomach area. The second between its front shoulder blades. And the last one had completely removed the Gigant Bears head from its body. If it hadn died from the first two spears, the last one had certainly done it.
The most inconspicuous part of the image however, came from the stout man currently running his hands across the recently deceased Gigant Bears body. Nic couldn make out any details in the darkened night, but he could tell that the man was barely five feet tall. His hair seemed to be cut short and he was quietly humming to himself while feeling up the Gigant Bear.
"So, young boy, why are you alone in this part of the woods so late at night?" The man never bothered to turn his head towards Nic as he asked him the question. Instead, he simply continued what he had been doing before.
"Just looking for a house nearby." Nic kept his answer short, unsure of if he should tell this stranger anything.
"A house? What kind of house would be out here in the middle of the woods?"
"Who knows. All I know is that I need to find this house," Nic walked away from the stranger, cutting off the conversation before it could go anywhere.
"Oi! Hey, don just walk away from me like that. If you
e looking for a house, then that means you
e looking for that house. Right?"
Nic stopped. The mans accent of "that" meant he knew something. Sweat began rolling down the side of Nics face. Did this man know the truth? Would he try to kill Nic? How was Nic supposed to get out of this?
"I take it from the silence, you
e going to that house."
"I don know what you mean by that house. Maybe Im going there, maybe Im not. I don even know what house you are talking about." Nic quickened his pace. He wanted to get away from the man before anything else was said.
"Oi! What did I say about walking away from me! And even faster now, do the young have no respect for their elders in this century?" Rumbling came from beneath Nic as he heard the stranger talking behind him, getting further and further away.
A step. The stranger got quieter. The rumbling got louder.
Another step. Nic no longer heard the stranger behind him. He only heard the rumbling beneath his feet.
Another step. There wasn another step. Instead, Nics foot hit a stone wall that had suddenly appeared before him. It rose nearly half a mer above his head. Two more stone walls quickly appeared on either side of him, blocking Nic off completely. Turning around, the stranger was blocking the last segment behind him.
"So, now that you can go anywhere, are you going to that house?" Having finally cornered him, the stranger asked Nic the same question for the third time. This time, there was no running.
"I don know what house you are talking about." Feigning ignorance was Nics only play. The only way for him to get out of this situation.
"The Verilo household. Its up ahead, didn you know? Though, looking at your face, its clear you did."
Nic reached a hand up to his face. Was he really that clear to read?
"Why… why do you care if Im going to the Verilo house?" Nic gave in. The stranger had already guessed his destination. There was no reason to hide now. If this was where he died, then he would simply fight back with everything he had. He would go down fighting till the end.
"Well, you see, I happen to know that if a Verilo who can use magic goes near the house, they are going to be stopped by the houses caretaker. In the best case, they will be turned away harmlessly. But in the worst case, I hear some of the Verilos who came tried to force their way in. They were dead in less than the blink of an eye." Nics mouth parched at the words the stranger spoke. He hadn known that those who came before him had been killed before.
Nic shook the doubt out of his mind. Nothing this stranger would say would deviate Nic from his course. Unlike his ancestors, Nic had magic on his side. Even if it was weak, it should be enough to get through safely.
"The last time someone came to the house was what, 25 years ago? 20? Somewhere in there. It was a young man and a woman who followed him. Unlike you, it was midday when they came. The woman stayed far enough away that she wouldn absorb too much Irradiation in the area surrounding the house while the man talked to the caretaker. He-"
"Wait dad came to the house!? And mom too?" Nic cut the stranger off, blurting out a duo of questions without thinking. It was only when he saw a grin on the strangers face that he realized what he had said. He took a step back and hit the stone wall behind him.
"So you were a Verilo. Its only natural, seeing how you are still up despite being so close to the house."
"Who are you?" Nic finally asked the stranger for his name. This man clearly knew a lot about his family lineage and their reasons for coming to the house. On top of that, the stranger was claiming to have been there when Nics parents came to the house.
The stranger grabbed a rock off of the ground and bent a branch until it came off of a nearby tree. Nic tensed up as the stranger walked up to the opening in the walls with the two natural items that could conceivably be used to kill someone.
Clack. Clack. Clack. The stranger hit the rock against the wall, creating small sparks. It only took a few hits but the branch in his hand soon caught fire. Nic was finally able to see the strangers face clearly.
"Your eyes…" The most striking thing about the strangers face was his eyes. Those pure white eyes were completely devoid of any pupils or iris. The man should be blind, yet he walked and talked like he saw everything.
Aside from his striking eyes, the stranger had rustic orange hair, was clean shaven, and was clearly old. His face was full of a mixture of scars and lines that came with age.
"You must be wonderin how I see, right? The truth is I see through the rocks all around us. Amazin right? My name is Rust. Just Rust. And Im a Deep Dwarf." The stranger, Rust, held out a hand to Nic. Nic shook it, still a bit in shock at the eyes staring back at him.
"A Dwarf? Isn that the name given to Earth Elves? Then whats a Deep Dwarf? Ive never heard of that."
"Look at you, knowledgeable on your demi-human slang. Thats right, Dwarf was the name given to us by the rest of the land dwelling Elves. Like the Water Elves, who were later named Mermen, the Earth Elves were named Dwarves. The surface dwelling Elves think of us as another species entirely because we prefer different areas of living. As for the Deep part of me, that comes from the fact that I absorbed a much larger amount of Earth Spirits due to how close I was to Noah after the first Irradiated Winter."
"Noah…? Then you are…"
"The caretaker of the Verilo house, thats right. And yes, Im nearly 300 years old, though I don look a day over sixty if I say so myself." Suddenly a lot made sense to Nic. This was the man that Nic had to show his magic in order to be let in the house.
"Uh, Rust, sir. If you don-"
"Look kid. If you want to get into the house, thats going to be a big no. Only once one of you has learned magic will they be let in. Im sorry but you
e going to need to leave."
"No buts. You were struggling with a Gigant Bear while I easily crushed it. Do you really think you can get past me?"
Nic grabbed his old knife and brought it up in front of him in a defensive position. Rust was not going to listen to him. So Nic would fight it out. At least he would have. Instead he found himself pinned against a rock wall in an instant.
Rust reached out and grabbed the knife from Nics hand. He looked at it and grimaced.
"What a poor knife. I can see why you struggled with even just a Gigant Bear."
"Give that back!"
Rust simply looked at Nic as he yelled at him.
With that, Rust turned and the knife started flying through the air away from the two. If Nic did nothing, he would lose his only line of protection.
He reached out with his hand. He felt for the knife through the air and pulled. He pulled on the invisible force connecting him and the knife with everything he had. He pulled and pulled and pulled. He strained against the rock keeping him in place, hoping for even a cer less space between his hand and the knifes grip. A lifetime seemed to pass before Nic felt the hilt of the knife in his palm.
In actuality, it had only been a second. And in that second, the knife he had thrown started moving backwards. It had zipped by him, close enough to net him another scar in a few days time. When Rust turned around, the knife was sitting squarely in the hand of Nic.
The rock binding keeping Nic up against the wall disappeared as fast as they had appeared, dropping him to his knees. His breath labored as he stood back up. The air rushed into his lungs, helping him recover from straining too hard to use magic.
"Wind magic… this… -riael? Too…" Rust was muttering under his breath, patches of which Nic heard. It was all nonsense to him though so he ignored it.
"I have magic! Im a Verilo with magic! So will you take me to the house now?"
"This is… Its early, but this is an undeniable truth." A soft sigh escaped Rusts lips before he extended a hand to Nic. "Alright. Lets go then."
"You clearly showed magic. Theres not much I can say in the face of that."
It only took the two of them a few minutes before the forest thinned out, eventually disappearing entirely to a wide circle. It was nearly 100 Mer in diameter, and in the center was an old, falling apart, house.
Nic honestly thought that calling it simply "falling apart" was too nice. Every window had been boarded up, and then the boards had fallen off. The glass visible in those chunks was cracked beyond compare. The front door was barely on its hinges and was broken in half. The roof had collapsed in on itself, with half of it completely missing. The ground around the house was barely any better. Throughout the entire clearing, the ground was blackened. The Irradiation had completely taken over the ground. It was the sole reason for the clearing in the first place. The dirt had absorbed so much Irradiation that no trees or bush could grow on it.
Where once the forest, even at night, had been abuzz with the sounds of insects and critters, it was now dead silent. Not a living thing stayed in the clearing or near the house.
Rust led Nic through the front door. As it opened, the last half fell to the ground with a thud. Walking through the door, the air was full of dust. Nic coughed lightly as the dust entered his lungs while breathing in. The inside of the house was barely better than the outside. Broken furnishings lined the walls of rooms and hallways. Candlesticks that were once meant to give light had been snapped in half and dropped to the floor. Rugs that might have once been magnificent floor decor had been trampled on and torn enough that they barely served their original function.
The two finally came to a stop in a room just a few mer inside the door. Unlike the rest of the house, the back wall of this room was immaculate. Truly, not a speck of dust sat on the pristine shelves that lined the wall. The door sitting in the center of it was the complete opposite of the door that had led into the house. It was whole, undamaged and easily opened.
"In here." Rust led Nic through the door and down a flight of stairs. At the bottom lay a small room. No decorations adorned the walls, and only a bed and a small nightstand with a weird item atop it lay on the ground. It was simple really. It had a square base connected to a round ball by a thin pole, all of which was made from a dark wood. The weird part of the item came from the fact that it had two wooden rings hovering next to the ball part.
"Put your hand on this detector and use your magic. Once it has detected it and confirmed it, you will need to lay down on the bed." Rust explained what needed to be done while motioning to the device sitting on the nightstand. Based on his explanation, Nic assumed it to be some sort of Magic Detector, though he had never heard of such a device existing before. It might have been a device from the Aethurian Nation in the west. Aethurius was known throughout Kronul as the de facto lead in Magical developments.
"Got it." Nic did as he was instructed. Once he put his hand on the device, he felt a pull on his hand. Closing his eyes, he slowly pushed out with his magic until he heard a beep come from the device. The once wooden ball on the top of the device was now glowing a verdant green. The hue of the glow extended out to the two rings that had been floating on the side.
As if on cue, the two rings quickly moved to two different points along Nics arm before quickly shrinking to the point that they would be difficult to remove.
"Huh!?" A surprised welp came out of Nics mouth as the rings tightened around his arm. Drowsiness quickly took him over. Nic looked over at Rust, only to see him pointing towards the bed in front of him. He had to sleep now, which didn seem like it would be too hard.
Falling onto the bed, Nic found himself falling asleep far faster than he thought possible. His eyelids quickly got too heavy to keep open. The darkness took him quickly. It would only be later that he learned that Rust left the room as soon as Nic fell asleep.
Aria ran through the forest, the morning sun peeking through the treetops. After finishing the journal that Nic had brought with him, she ran towards the Verilo household in the distance. While most people didn know the name of the old house in the forest, it was easy to figure it out after reading the journal.
She understood why Nic had gone there. It was painfully obvious why he had lied multiple times to her. Why he had withheld the truth. He was scared. Scared of rejection. Why wouldn he be? He was one of the hated "Verilos" whose progenitor, Noah Verilo, caused the first Irradiated Winter and created Irradiation itself.
If Aria was being honest with herself, she shouldve run away when she read the book. Yet after two years of working with Nic, trying to teach him magic, she had grown to understand something important about him. He wasn a bad guy. There was something in her that warmed up whenever she was with him. She couldn explain it. But she knew that it was there.
She was near the blackened area that surrounded the house. As she grew closer, a gruesome sight stopped her in her tracks. In front of her was a stone platform with three stone spikes jutting out of it. However the thing that stopped her was the monster atop the spikes.
A Gigant Bear had been impaled. Whoever had done this was a pro. Even Aria could tell that. The kill had been clean. Three impales was all it took. Just a few mer away was a 3 way room created by stone.
Her heart beat in her chest, harder than it had been before. Sweat trickled down her forehead as she cautiously moved around the scene. The blackened clearing was just in front of her now. Maybe 20 mer. She could easily cross the threshold. At least. She would have been if not for the man standing at the edge of it.
e you?" Aria posed her question with ice in her voice. No matter who stood in her way, she was going to find Nic.
"I should be the one asking that question, miss. Only select people are allowed beyond this point."
e one of them?"
"Thats right. Im the caretaker of these grounds. I decide who comes in and who leaves." As the man finished his statement, the ground around the clearing became massive, 5 mer tall, walls made of stone. It perfectly aligned itself with the edges, creating a smooth wall. It was clear that this man was an expert at Earthen Magic. Aria actually thought him to be either a Dwarf or the Earthen Spirit King of the current era. Only someone of that caliber would be able to manipulate rocks so smoothly, so quickly. "The names Rust. Whats yours?"
"Aria." Threatened by the massive stone walls, and the impaled Gigant Bear she had seen earlier, Aria had begun weaving the air around her. Rocks of all shapes and sizes lifted up in her vicinity. Directly behind her she readied the largest rock that she could pick up.
"So, Aria, why are you here?"
"I have reason to believe someone that I care about is in that building doing something very stupid. Stand aside and neither of us have to get hurt." Her mouth was dry. Dryer than a hot desert. Despite that, she stood her ground.
"And do you know who that young man is? Or I guess I should ask do you know what he is?"
Aria sucked in her breath.
"Nic. Nic Verilo."
"So you know what he is. And yet you are willing to risk everything to stop him from doing what he is supposed to do?"
"Suppose to do?! If he goes through with what he is planning, the only thing that will happen is he will become a slave to the wishes of his ancestors! What about his own wishes, his own desires!" Arias hands shook as she talked. Her voice rose higher with each word. Her heart beat against her breasts with the force of a mad cow. Every part of her rejected the idea that Nic wanted this to happen. Even if it was a lie, Aria couldn believe that his wish to bring his future offspring a better future was completely false. If he went through with this plan, that wish would be forfeit.
"How do you know this isn his wish as well?"
The man, Rust, continued to verbally deny her truth. No matter what she said, he would continue to deny it, to deny her. So she made up her mind. If he wouldn move voluntarily, she would move past him by her own methods.
In an instant, the rocks that had all been floating around Aria shot towards Rust. Each one covered the distance between the two in a mere second, propelled by the wind Aria commanded. Every single one that hit Rust drew blood, whether it was in a straight line from a grazed shot, or the holes left by the rocks that hit him dead on. The biggest rock that she had lifted stayed behind her.
The ground beneath Arias feet rumbled. Sensing imminent danger beneath her, Aria propelled her legs forward, sprinting at Rust. Three spikes made of stone, similar to the ones that had impaled the Gigant Bear, sprouted from the ground beneath where she had been just moments prior.
The larger stone that had been floating behind Aria now suddenly appeared in between her and Rust. Instead of using it for offense, Aria used it as a foothold instead. Jumping onto the rock, she propelled herself up. Jumping at the zenith of the rocks trajectory, Aria soon found herself falling behind Rust.
Catching her own fall with a cushion made of air, Aria stood up on the ground. Without a moments notice, she had begun moving towards the dilapidated house once again.
Upon reaching the door, her breath was ragged. Her muscles were tired. Her mind, foggy. She raised one arm to push open the door, only to stop once she saw her arm. Black veins ran across her arms, running the entirety under her skin. She knew what this was. Black veins were a clear sign of Irradiation Sickness. And yet, she shouldn have gotten it so quickly.
Aria pushed on, hoping that it was a mere hallucination on her end. She pushed through the main hallway, coming into a large family type room. The much nicer wall on the backside caught her eye. In its center was a clean door.
She pushed through the door, stumbling down the staircase behind it. At the bottom she found a much smaller room. The person she was searching for was laid out on the bed. Two circular wooden items were attached to his right arm. Her legs gave out as she reached the bed. Her upper body lay across Nic as she struggled to keep her eyes open.
The Irradiation Sickness quickly took over her body, rendering her unconscious.
When Nic opened his eyes, he was in an unfamiliar place. It was blindingly bright, everything a pure white as far as the eye could see. Every step he took resounded like he was walking on stone, yet underneath him was simply more pure white.
The only hint of color in the entire space was Nic himself and the clothes that he was wearing. Not a speck of color could be seen anywhere else in this strange place.
"Hello?" Nics voice rang out. He awaited a response only to receive none. His voice simply echoed an answer to itself over and over again.
Nic walked forward. He had no sense of direction, so it was the only way he could truly go.
A wall. This space was finite. The wall was the same pure white as the floor, making them indistinguishable from each other. Keeping one hand on the wall he had found, Nic walked to his left until he hit another wall. Turning around, he walked in the other direction until he hit a third wall. Following that wall, he found a fourth wall. It seemed that the place was an enclosed cube.
Looking around again, Nic saw a small black sphere floating in the enclosed space. The fact that it was black contrasted with the pure white all around them had made it stand out too much for Nic to ignore.
He walked up to the sphere. His heart beat faster the closer that he got to it. He started to feel some sweat beads on his forehead as he reached out for the sphere.
"I wouldn do that if I were you."
Standing across from Nic was an older gentleman. He looked vaguely like Nics father if he had been ten to twenty years older.
"Who… are you?"
"Noah Verilo." Nic stood there, mouth agape, as he tried to process what the man had said. While he could accept it based solely on his appearance, Noah Verilo died nearly three centuries ago. Nic wondered if this was the work of this weird space he had found himself in. But if that was the case, what was this place truly?
"Well, I can see you
e confused, so let me explain a bit more. To be accurate, I am like a memory of Noah Verilo. I was locked into the Verilo blood that is passed down through the generations. Once one of my descendants learned to use magic, like you, and put their hand on the magical implement I left with Rust, I would become conscious again."
"So you are… a memory of my ancestor? What purpose do you serve? Why are we in this place? What is this black orb?" Nic fired off his questions rapidly, trying to gain some knowledge that made sense.
"Thats right. As for my purpose, well that and this black orb are tied with my lifes story. As for this plane, its basically a small room inside your head that I created so we could talk freely. Now, let me ask you this, what do you know about me?"
"About you? As in Noah Verilo?" The memory of Noah nodded. "You were the creator of Irradiation, around three hundred years ago. You were born with no magic, and wished for it every day. When you eventually got magic, it wasn like you wanted. You were unable to control the massive amount of Irradiation that was growing in your body, so it was forcefully expelled out of you. It went on to cover most of the world, creating the first Irradiated Winter."
"Thats right. And what about what happened after that Irradiated Winter?"
"After that… I only know this from the journal you kept, but you regret what happened right? You wanted to fix your mistakes. Eventually you met a few people that were able to stand near you without getting acute Irradiation Sickness. With their help you set out to find a way to get rid of Irradiation right? But at some point, the group split apart for some reason."
"One of the members of my group, the Wind Spirit Progenitor, Aeriel, stated that humanity must survive five hundred years of Irradiation before they could be freed. That is what broke us apart."
"Five hundred years? But its only been three hundred right? Then why am I able to be here?" Nic was confused by that small difference. Why had he been allowed in two whole centuries before the stated time?
"Can you try using your magic?"
"Huh, ok." Nic was unsure why the memory was asking this of him. His magical capabilities should already be approved thanks to the magical apparatus in the real world. He held out his hand and tried to push the air in front of it. He only tried because it didn work. He pushed once again to find the same results waiting for him.
"Why won it work?"
"Thats simple. Its not your magic that you are using." The memorys statement confused Nic. How had he gotten here if it wasn his magic? Whose magic was it? Where did it come from?
"The magic you used to get in here was a spirits magic. It was most likely a lesser wind spirit that was told to help you."
"A… spirits magic? But then, shouldn I have been barred from entering this place?" Everything the memory said confused Nic. He thought it all contradictory.
"Remember what we just went over? Three hundred years ago, the Wind Spirit Progenitor, Aeriel, said that humanity would need to wait a full five hundred years before the Irradiation would be removed." The memory began to move while he talked. His hands became a second way of communication as he used them to emphasize certain words.
"I remember that, yes."
"Well, Aeriel said that we would know that it was time because he would give us a sign." The memorys eyes peered at Nic, digging straight through his soul. "And what did I just say about your magic?"
Nic raised his hand to his head as he mentally went through everything the memory had said in the past few minutes.
"Uh, you said it was a lesser spirits magic… And that it was… told to help me? Told to?" As he said it out loud, the cogs in Nics mind began turning, faster and faster as he began making the links. "If a lesser wind spirit was told to help me… then the person or thing that told it to, that would have to be a greater wind spirit or the wind spirit progenitor."
"Correct. That is why you are here. Even if the magic may not be yours, Rust and I believe this to be the sign that Aeriel said he would give. Even if it is a few hundred years early."
That was the answer. As he heard that, Nic let out a long breath, relieved to have learned the truth.
Eventually his eyes once again came to lay upon the black orb floating in front of him. It was the final mystery involved with this space that Nic and the Memory of Noah were meeting in.
"So, this orb… it has to do with the fact that Aeriel sent me as his sign that it was time?"
"Thats right." The memory finally put his hand out, resting it under the orb. His face was contorted, multiple emotions flashing across it at the same time. Resentment, anger, loathing. But also relief and acceptance. Nic had a feeling he knew what it was. "This orb right here is a small orb of Irradiation."
Nic had assumed right. While he had never seen Irradiation before, it normally was invisible to the naked eye, he imagined that it would look something like this. Nic was unsure as to why he could see it though. The easiest answer was that this was all in his mind. But it might be possible that enough Irradiation packed into a small area would look like this to everyone.
"What should I do?"
"Reach out your hand. Grab it. Once you do, it will be like pulling something in with the wind magic you have been using. Absorb the Irradiation into your body."
Nic extended his hand. As his fingers touched the orb of Irradiation, there was resistance. It felt like a ball made of wood, hard to the touch. Maybe it was due to this being his mind. He was subconsciously not letting himself absorb Irradiation, even if it was weak. Or maybe it was his body and blood. Maybe that stopped him from absorbing it. Either explanation worked, and worked against him at that.
He gripped the orb. It fit snugly into his hand. He felt the flow of the orb in his hand. He closed his eyes and pulled on the orb, just like he had brought his knife back to him. The orb in his hand softened, then began to shrink. He felt something foreign enter his hand. It quickly moved up his arm before dissipating.
By the time the foreign substance in his body had dissipated, the orb was gone from within Nics hand. He opened his hand to find nothing but emptiness there. He looked over his arm, finding nothing out of the place visually.
"Good. Now for t-- ---d p--t." The memory started talking, only to begin cutting out. In front of Nics eyes he was wavering in and out of thin air. Even the memory seemed confused as he looked at his own hands, confusion covering his face.
A black shadow covered the two, forcing them to simultaneously look up. The once pure white ceiling was now marbled with black stains running throughout it. The stains were blotting out the whiteness of the room. It wouldn be long before they had covered everything.
"S--one i- -nterr---ing us?" The memory turned to Nic and stepped towards him. His outstretched hand passed through Nic as it turned incorporeal once again. The memory stopped moving, his mouth shut as his eyes were glued to his hand. "Go!" The moment he was corporeal he shouted that single word at Nic with as much force as he could. His face was twisted, from what, Nic didn know.
"What about the rest? Weren you going to show me everything?" Nic refused to believe what he had been shown was it. That foreign substance in his body, Irradiation, was most likely still there even if he didn feel it. No matter what he did, there was bound to be a limit to how much he could hold within his own body.
"T--re i- -ore --me. Yo- -ust le--n th- -est on yo-re ow-. --od Luc-." With a final broken sentence, the memory faded away. Nic reached out after him only to catch nothing. Once again he had been left alone.
His entire life, no one supported him, no one taught him, no one cared about him. Not even his parents. They had always been against Nic trying to learn magic. They said it was easier to live a lie of a life than to try for the impossible. Even them, the people he wanted to support him the most, the people who should have; knowing just how much they had gone through because of their blood, they refused to.
No one was on his side.
Brown hair passed by his face, causing him to look up. He looked around for a vision of Aria, only to find the darkening emptiness around him. He heaved a sigh as his chest tightened.
He had a single person on his side. One person that he felt comfortable saying he trusted. One person that he felt would support him. Listen to him. Wait for him.
Nic looked around for the exit from his own mind. He wanted to leave. To find her. To tell her the truth, finally. He believed she would help him find a way to finish what had been started here.
Slowly, his vision blackened and he lost consciousness for just a second.
When he opened his eyes again, he was back in the room in the Verilo house. The bed underneath him was the same, the walls and ceiling had yet to change. The only change in the room was the fact that there was a weight on top of Nics chest.
Sitting next to the bed was Aria. She was leaning over the side of it, her head resting on Nics chest. She was facing away from Nic, so he could only see the light brown hair on the back of her head. But even that was enough for him to know.
"Aria…?" Nics first thoughts were questioning what he was seeing. Why was she there? She should have been back at the campsite on the hill. How was she staying safe? If what Rust had said was true, she shouldn have been able to survive in the vicinity of the house. Where was Rust? The caretaker of the house was nowhere to be seen.
Aria softly stirred as he said her name. Pushing herself up on shaking arms, she looked around randomly, like she couldn see a thing.
"Nic?" Her voice wavered, a whisper Nic barely heard above the pounding of his own heart as he saw her face. Black lines, dark as the darkest nights, covered her body. Each one was a blood vein under her skin. Nic knew what it was. Irradiation Sickness. Bad Irradiation Sickness at that. At this stage, it would result in her death within the hour if something wasn done.
Why was she like this? The last time Nic had seen her, before he left the campsite, she had been perfectly fine. The only change that had happened in that time was the house they were in. The area around it had been killed, similar to what happened in areas known for Irradiation.
Nic caught Aria as she collapsed once again. Her breathing was ragged, her body light as a feather yet heavy as a brick. Nic grabbed her, forcing himself out of the bed. He had to get her out of the vicinity of the house.
As he ran up the stairs, into the broken main room of the house, the two wooden rings on his arm snapped in half, clattering to the floor.
Outside of the house, Nic was met with a stone dome covering the entire dead area. It was the work of Rust. At some point he had to have created the dome to stop someone from entering the premises. There was no discernable exit to the dome.
Nic ran out to the stone itself. He had to find an exit so he could leave. Even if it meant running the outer edge in its entirety. He could feel Arias breath getting weaker every second she was in the dome. If he could just get out of the dome, he could absorb the Irradiation from her. Just like he had learned from the memory of his ancestor.
Like it had read his thoughts, the stone in front of him broke away from the rest of the dome, sliding back into the ground. A door now stood in front of him. Nic took the opportunity to leave. He ran away from the dome for a while longer, making sure to put a good amount of distance between Aria and the source of the Irradiation now flowing through her body.
"Ughhh." Aria let out a small groan as Nic gently laid her down on the ground. Kneeling next to her, Nic put his hands on her stomach. Her body felt just like the orb of Irradiation Nic felt inside his mind.
He repeated what he had done there, pulling the Irradiation into his body. Aria had much more within her than the small orb he had absorbed earlier. A sickly feeling ran through his body. It was the Irradiation, Nic knew that. But even still, how it felt to absorb Irradiation unsettled him. He wondered if he would be able to absorb it all without going into the same state that Aria was currently in.
Aria tried to remember what she had been doing just a few seconds ago. Everything was a jumble in her brain. Nic and her had been traveling to the hill where she first awakened her magic, she remembered that. She also remembered that Nic had left. She had found a black book, an old diary of Noah Verilos, in his possessions. That was when she had learned that Nic was a Verilo himself.
It had been a shock to realize that. It really had. But at the same time, for Aria, it explained a lot about how Nic acted. It also let her know that he had lied to her multiple times the past two years that they had spent together. No matter how one looks at it, she should have left him to do his own thing and gone back to the village.
When, well if he returned, she would simply ignore him and continue to live out her life like she planned. She would turn seventeen in less than two weeks. At that point, she would head back to Sanum, where she had once lived, and be reunited with her childhood friends. They would go to school at the Sanum University. They would stay a group forever, this time no one being forced to leave the other two.
Yet she hadn . She had run to him. Thats right. Thats what had happened. She had run to Nic. And in doing so, she had entered an area she shouldn have. Her body had quickly gotten unwieldy and as she had found Nic, she had collapsed.
A sigh escaped her… lips? Wherever she was now, it seemed like she had a body. She tried to get up, only to find her body far heavier than it had any right to be. It was like an entire house was tying her down. She was stuck.
"Ah, so another one succumbs to Irradiation? I do wish more would come to meet me from other means, its so annoying removing Irradiation from ones soul. Alas, I guess it can be helped." A female spoke from somewhere nearby. She had a deep voice, one that carried with it the weight of many lifetimes. Whoever was speaking, they had seen or done a lot.
"Im fraid I can let you take this one. Shes under my protection." This time a males voice spoke. Aria somehow felt reassured hearing him. She felt like she had heard this voice before, but she couldn place where. When he spoke, a verdant green light filled the space that Aria was in.
"Under your protection… Really? I thought you weren supposed to do that for a while longer?"
"I decided to go against my fathers wishes. Its as simple as that." The two continued to talk to each other. Aria wondered if they even knew that she could hear them. She craned her neck, trying to catch a glimpse of the two. She saw two things in the distance. One seemed to be human, but they wore a large cloak that obfuscated their looks. The other… Aria didn know what to call the other. It was a green orb that was floating in front of the cloaked individual.
"Ha ha ha ha! You plan to go against him? Thats great. That really is. Fine, if thats what you want, I won get in your way." The one who laughed was the cloaked individual. Which means that they were the female voice. That also meant that the other one, the orb, was the male voice.
"Really? I somehow don trust you."
"Really, I promise! I won even say anything to him either. All I ask is that I start to see non Irradiated individuals more often soon. Got it?"
"Yeah yeah. I got it." As the orb was speaking once again, the area seemed to get brighter. "It looks like this is it for this conversation." The area got brighter and brighter until Aria could no longer see anything but whiteness.
When Aria could see again, she could also hear. The sounds of many insects and the trees of a forest filled her ears. She was back in the forest. And above her, with a tear in his eye and a twisted expression on his face, was Nic. She was glad that he was here. He was worried about her. She knew he hadn changed at all.
She reached up to wipe away the tear from his eye. It was only then that she learned how wrong she was.
"Why?!" Her hand was slapped away. The twisted expression on his face had never been worry. It was anger. "Why were you there?!"