Lynn Garrison stood enjoying the view from her dorm room’s balcony like she did on many occasions. Her roommate and best friend Alice Redding still lay asleep in the early morning hours. She pondered their relationship. For the most part, she followed her around everywhere she went like the way sheep follow the herder.
Truth be told, Lynn actually found her to be quite annoying when they first met during the opening ceremony. She came off as bossy (which she still found to be true) and she often seemed to ignore what others cared or thought. Her opinion of her quickly changed however. She soon realized that she was a very capable person fueled by a sad and deep conviction that stemmed from the death of her family during the war. It also became apparent that she did listen to others and was capable of caring for others than herself, especially when it came to Ryxor Borx and Drex Kozen. Despite what she said or did during their departure on missions, it was obvious that she was concerned for their safety.
Nothing disturbed the cool morning air. Outside, the trees remained still as concrete. Suddenly, the wind began to pick up and a particularly strong gust headed straight for the balcony Lynn stood at. It rustled the curtains and flew past her inside as if it had a mind of its own and knocked a picture off Alice’s nightstand.
Lynn turned to see Alice stirring in her sleep. Sweat dripped down her troubled face. She appeared to be having a nightmare. Shortly, she began to relax and the tension left her face. Coincidentally, the gust of wind ebbed away with the nightmare. Of course, it was no coincidence, Lynn thought.
Everyone has energy flowing through them, some more than others. The amount of energy that flowed through Alice however was immensely higher than that of the average person. She had so much that it was more than she could control. Sometimes, it came in outbursts like the one Lynn had just witnessed. She noted however that in the time she had known her, she was getting better at controlling at. This was due in no small part to Professor Arendale who took it upon himself to give her special lessons in controlling it.
Her thoughts shifted to the professor and of a day Alice did not remember. It happened years ago. Ryxor and Drex were there too. As it turned out, that day during the opening ceremony wasn’t the first time Alice and Lynn had met.
Ten years ago, the war was long past its turning point and it was clear that Arabi was going to be the winner. However, Agaron remained stubborn and had yet to give up. War orphans like 14 year old Ryxor Borx and eight year old Alice Redding were a common sight.
Ryxor sat on the bed in his room at the orphanage when Drex entered. Somewhere above the clouds that covered the sky, the sun was setting. “Hey, what’s up?” Ryxor said to Drex.
Drex said nothing at first. He stared at Ryxor. “Are you really going through with this?” he asked.
Ryxor got off the bed. “Of course I am!” He sounded excited. He bent over and reached under his bed. In his hands he held something covered in a sheet. “Check this out.”
Drex grabbed it from Ryxor’s hands. He didn’t need to remove the sheet to know what it was. He could feel the cold metal of the sword he held through the sheet. As if to confirm his suspicions, he uncovered the sword and held it up to the light pouring in through the window. It’s the real thing, alright. “Who did you steal this from?” he asked Ryxor. There was no question of if was his or not. For one, orphans couldn’t afford anything nice whether it was clothes, food, or weapons. Then there was the simple fact that no one would sell weapons to a kid anyway.
“Just borrowing it from the old man,” he said taking it back from Drex. The old man had to be the owner of the orphanage “Don’t sweat over it man.” After covering it back up in the sheet, he placed it under his bed again where it would lie until he needed it later that night.
“You shouldn’t do it.” His voice sounded dry and devoid of emotion, but Ryxor knew him well enough to know that that meant he was worried. Normally, he was rather cheerful, more than you’d think appropriate for someone who lost their entire family.
“Why not? Today’s the day I’ll finally kick his ass.”
“He goes to the academy now. If you’d just forget about, you’d probably never see him again.”
“Exactly. We can’t just let him go thinking he’s the best. If I know Vanen, he’s probably trying to push some poor students around just like he did to us.”
“Then why can’t you just let them deal with it? It’s not our problem anymore.” Ryxor seemed to ignore him. Drex didn’t want to give up just yet, however. “What if someone gets hurt? You guys are going to be fighting with real weapons. This isn’t just a game anymore.”
“Come on Drex, have a little more faith in me. Vanen’s the only one who’s gonna get hurt.”
Drex had one more stop to pull. “This is illegal, you know. No one cares about a few war orphans, but Vanen’s a student at the academy, not to mention who is father is.”
“Look, you’re not the one doing it. No one would ever think you’re involved in any way.”
“It’s not me I’m worried about.”
Earlier that day, the clouds that blocked the setting sun had only begun to form. Today’s gonna suck, Alice thought. She was one of those people whose mood seemed to match the weather. When it was bright and sunny, so was she. On rainy days though, she didn’t feel so hot. She and Drex stood outside the boarding house watching the sun disappear. That wasn’t why they were out there of course. They were waiting for Ryxor to return.
He had gone to Velvidyne Military Academy, but it wasn’t because he was a student their or because he was interested in becoming one. As a matter of fact, he was still too young to join. The minimum age was 15, one year too old for Ryxor. The real reason he had gone was to pay a visit to Vanen Travis who was a student there. And the purpose of this visit was to challenge him to some kind of game, as usual.
Ever since Vanen came to stay at the boarding house, he and Ryxor were always after each other’s throats. It was not some harmless friendly rivalry, that’s for damn sure. There were plenty of times when one played dirty and times when one of them got hurt. Most competitions ended with Vanen victorious. Ryxor got his fare share of wins in too though.
Whenever Ryxor won, he made sure to rub it in Vanen’s face. Vanen however never reacted much to his insults and when he won, he acted just the same. When Vanen won, he wouldn’t say or do much at all. Whatever he did do somehow always managed to make Ryxor furious.
Despite Ryxor’s hatred for him and Vanen’s belief that he was above Ryxor in every way, the two were actually surprisingly similar. The only real differences between the two were how they expressed their feelings, and their notions of what family is.
While Ryxor came to accept Drex and Alice as a brother and sister, Vanen could never do the same. Perhaps it was because he had yet to experience the pain of losing someone. Maybe there was another underlying cause that he could never share with someone like Ryxor.
“He’s never going to stop, is he Drex?”
“Hmm?” Drex was spaced out when Alice asked the question. “You mean Ryxor?”
“Honestly, he’s the oldest out of the three of us and yet he’s the most immature.”
“Who are you talking about?” They both looked up to see Ryxor walking over. He had finally returned. Drex looked him over. Something interesting had definitely happened. There was no trace of cuts, bruises, or anything of the sort. He may have simply backed out, but Drex knew better. Ryxor wasn’t the type to do that.
“Come on, don’t use language like that. What if the old man hears you?” Alice hopped onto his back and attempted to tackle Ryxor to the ground. “Hey! Get off.”
“So are you gonna tell us what happened or not?” Alice asked, anxious to find out.
After struggling with his attacker for a moment, he succeeded in knocking her off. “Alright, take it easy.” Alice got up and brushed the dirt of her clothes. “Tonight I’m going back to the academy for a duel.” He sounded excited, but Drex didn’t. Alice looked mildly supportive however.
“You mean where you stand back-to-back, walk 10 paces, and then turn around and shoot?” Alice asked curiously.
“Well, neither of us can get guns, so no. But we’ll use swords!”
“You mean actual swords? Cool!”
“Shut up, don’t support him. There’s no way they’d use real swords. It’d be way too-,”
“Of course we’re using actual sworrds,” Ryxor said, answering Alice’s question.
It took a while for what he just said to sink into Drex. “Wait, are you serious?”
Alice sat upright in her bed, sweat dripping down her face. At first, all she could hear was her own heavy breathing. Then she noticed the wind blowing past the curtains of the open window and rustling through Lynn’s hair who was standing in front of it. As the wind made contact with her face, it felt chillingly cool, and yet it calmed her down. The gust of wind calmed down and then died altogether, not instantly but fast enough. Suddenly, she felt overcome by feelings of sadness and melancholy.
“I see you’re up again,” she said to Lynn.
She turned around to face Alice and smiled. “You know me. I’m more of a night person. There’s always been something about the stars and the moon that fascinates me.”
“No. That’s not it.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I had a nightmare. You were there, but you were different. You were younger. Professor Arendale was there too and so were Ryxor and Drex.” Lynn remained silent. “What happened back then? I don’t remember and they don’t want to talk about it.” Lynn walked over and sat on her own bed. Still, she said nothing. “I know something happened. After that, I… I could do things I couldn’t do before. Things with energy that just came naturally to me, and yet I could never have hoped to do them before that.”
Lynn thought back to what Luther told her on that day. “She’s not to know what happened,” he said. “There will come a time when she’ll learn of the origin of her powers, but we’ll leave her be for now.”
“I’m not sure I’m the best person to tell you,” she said at last.
“I don’t care. The fact that you can even tell me is good enough. Just do your best please.”
Alice and Lynn weren’t the only ones up that late at the academy, or in the city for that matter. As a matter of fact some parts of the city were quite lively, almost as much as they were during daytime. Whether you chose to live a night life in during such a troubling time didn’t matter at all though. Either way you’d be in danger. Whether or not you chose to hang out in an over-crowded bar or in a deserted back alley covered by midnight’s shadows, you weren’t safe. He too was a night person, and during the night, anyone was his prey.
Matthew Thompson lay awake in his bed at the military academy. He stared up at the ceiling of the room in deep thought.
“Hey, Matt, you still awake?” his roommate asked. He knew that he was, but asked anyway.
“Yeah.” He thought for a moment if he should confide in his roommate. “I’m not sure if joining the academy was the best thing to do,” he said at last. His roommate was the first person he told it too. He hadn’t even mentioned it to his own father, though he suspected he knew his true feelings.
There had been multiple times when Auras asked his son if he was sure it was what he wanted to do. Matthew would always answer with a stern “Yes.” While not entirely the truth it wasn’t exactly a lie either. He did admire his father and the things he did. He wanted to be just like him when he was little, but now he wasn’t so sure.
“I’m not gonna bother to ask you why, but hey. At least for now you’re in one of the safest places you could possibly be. I hear living outside in the city is pretty dangerous now.”
“Why? Did something happen,” he asked intrigued by what his roommate said.
“You mean you haven’t heard? There’s a serial killer on the loose.”
Suddenly, Matthew wasn’t so intrigued anymore. Things like that scared him, but he couldn’t stop himself now. “A killer?”
“Yeah, I’m surprised you haven’t heard about it yet. You want me to tell you about the victims?”
No. “Uh, sure.”
“Extremely bloody. Extremely grizzly. The victims, that is. They say all of the bodies were brutalized beyond recognition. You want to know the worst part?” His roommate could tell that he had him now.
“The w-worst part?”
“According to the guys that examined the bodies, they must have really suffered. Tortured probably.” Matthew felt a chill go down his spine. He knew he’d never be able to sleep again until the perpetrator was caught. “And guess who he likes to go after.”
“N-n-not s-students I hope.”
“What do you mean maybe? I thought you said we were safe here!” He realized how loud he was getting and made a notable attempt to calm himself down.
“The killer doesn’t have any preferences.” Matthew’s roommate was clearly enjoying himself now. “It looks like he just goes after whoever he feels like. Maybe they all looked at him in a funny was at some point. Who knows? What you can bet on though as that once he targets you, you’re a goner.” He heard what was almost an audible whimper from Matthew. Whether or not he wanted to drop out of the academy was the least of worries now.
“T-they’re gonna catch this guy right?”
“Well, you’d think, but so far they don’t have anything on him. Hell, the killer could even be a she instead of a he. That’d definitely be interesting, don’t you think Matthew?”
He didn’t care. He didn’t want to think about it at all. He just wanted to go to sleep.
The thick clouds from earlier stayed around for nighttime, albeit you could no longer see them. Ryxor made his way to the academy, borrowed sword in hand. An underage boy like him could have gotten in a lot of trouble running around at night with a weapon, but it was a risk he was willing to take.
The spot where Vanen and Ryxor agreed to have their duel was actually just outside the walls of the academy. Despite Ryxor’s numerous complaints, Vanen insisted that it’d be impossible for him to sneak into the academy at night. Eventually, he gave in and agreed to meet him in the back alley he now waited in.
He expected Vanen to be either really late or not show up at all. To his surprise, he actually came not long after he had gotten there. When Ryxor heard the footsteps echoing down the alleyway, his first instinct was to hide. The closer the person got though, he realized it was Vanen rather than someone out for a stroll at night.
“I didn’t think you’d show,” Ryxor said, coming out of his hiding spot.
Vanen looked unimpressed. There wasn’t a single trace of emotion on his face. In his hand he carried a katana style sword still in its sheath. “I don’t want to waste any more time with your stupid comments. Let’s get this over with.”
“Yeah, yeah, sure.” He reached back into his hiding place and grabbed the sword and removed the cloth that covered it. “Let’s do this!”
Shout a little louder so everyone knows what we’re up to, Vanen thought. Despite Ryxor’s declaration, Vanen remained unmoved. He had yet to unsheathe his own weapon. “Ready when you are.”
“What? Is that sword just for show? You think you can take me on with you bare hands, you’re narcissistic bastard?”
“At least I still have a father, unlike you.”
“Oh that does it. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!”
And with that, Ryxor was off at Vanen’s throat. Before he realized it, his sword was locked with Vanen’s. Surprise registered on his face. Vanen looked him dead in the eye, still emotionless. What the hell? When did he draw it out?
Vanen broke through and kicked Ryxor causing him to stagger backwards. He followed up with an attack with his sword, but Ryxor managed to doge it by jumping backwards. Ryxor went to attack, but before he could do so, Vanen did a horizontal slice that left a fine cut across his chest.
“Amateur. You left yourself wide open.” Ryxor gritted his teeth in anger. Before he could retaliate, Vanen used a maneuver that sent Ryxor’s sword flying away from him. Vanen brought up his knee and hit him in the chest hard enough to cause him to double over in pain. While Ryxor was still gasping for breath, Vanen struck him over the back of his head. Ryxor fell to the ground defeated.
Not wanting to accept it, he tried to get up but found he didn’t have the strength. “Don’t try to get up,” Vanen told him. “You took quite the blow there to your head.” Vanen grabbed his sheath and put his katana away and began to leave.
“Get back here!” Ryxor yelled, still struggling to get up. “I’m not done yet!” Vanen froze in his place. For a moment, Ryxor thought that he had listened to him. Then he realized why he had stopped. Just at the exit of the alley, you could hear someone holding walking over with some kind of weapon.
Before he knew what had happened, Vanen was on the move again with his sword out. He attacked whoever it was that was there, but what happened next seemed strange. Vanen took several steps back staring at the would-be assailant and then he turned around and ran past Ryxor. He tried to stop him, but Vanen just ignored him. Ryxor barely caught a glance of his sword which had blood on it.
Ryxor wasn’t sure what had happened, but he was suddenly worried. Finally finding the strength to get up, he made his way to the person lying on the ground. The closer he got, the more he realized that they were lying in a growing pool of blood. Crap, Vanen freaking killed him. However, he soon realized that he was a she. He then saw that they were younger that he initially thought. Crap, what the hell am I gonna do? I have to do something don’t I? He turned the body over to get a look at the face. Alice’s blank eyes stared back at him.
His eyes widened with shock. He had the urge to scream, but he attempted to hold it in. Oh my god! What the hell is this? What the… “What the hell is going on!!!?” He urgently put his hand on her neck and felt for a pulse. He found one but it was very feint. “Alice! Can you hear me?” There was no response. He was vaguely aware of rain drops hitting his head. “Alice? Please, do something if you can hear me!” She made no movement.
“Damn it! What the hell do I do? There’s so much blood!” After trying to cover the large wound across her chest in vain, he picked her up and started running. He wasn’t sure where he was going, but he needed to find help. Damn it all! This is all my fault. She probably followed me here, and then Vanen… Suddenly, he felt the anger returning to him in full force. If she dies he’s a dead man!
“What happened?” It was Drex waiting just outside the alley. Ryxor stopped at the sound of his voice. When Drex walked over, he realized immediately what he was holding. “Ryxor…” He was at loss for words.
“It was Vanen. He attacked her.” Drex didn’t know what to say. “Come on! We have to find help.” He started running again with Drex in tow. It began raining harder. Water splashed up from the ground with each step they took.
“Where are we going?”
“I don’t know. The boarding house is too far away.”
“I saw a light on in a house just down the street.”
“All right. We’ll go there!”
Luther Arendale was sitting at the table in his study reading a book when he heard someone pounding on the door of his house urgently. Who the hell could that be at this hour? He almost decided to ignore whoever it was. However, he gave in when they wouldn’t stop. He wasn’t prepared at all for what was about to happen.
“What the hell do you-,” he began as he opened the door. He stopped when he saw the teenage boy holding a young girl who appeared to be dead.
“Please, you have to help us! She can’t die! There’s gotta be something you can do.” Luther didn’t really have choice. He wasn’t about to turn down someone dying and tell them to try the next house. He motioned for them to come in and slammed the door behind him. “Follow me up stairs now!” They did as they were told and were led to a bedroom. He instructed Ryxor to set her down on the bed and leave while he got to work, but both he and Drex were reluctant to do so. “There’s nothing you can do now!” he shouted at them at last. “The last thing I need are some little brats getting in my way. Now wait outside.” Luther slammed the door behind them no softer than he did with the front door.
What followed were some of the longest hours in either Ryxor or Drex’s life. By now they were both pretty tired, but they refused to go to sleep. Neither of them was until they had word that Alice would be okay.
Sometime later, a door down the hall opened up. A small girl around the same age as Alice poked her head around the corner. By then, Ryxor who was almost asleep looked up to see what the noise was. He almost mistook her to be Alice at first but quickly realized it was not. Whoever it was noticed the blood covering his clothes.
She crept out of the room and walked over to them like a cat. “What’s going on?” she asked them curiously. She seemed to disregard their appearances entirely. Neither of them gave a response. “My name’s Lynn, what’s yours?”
“Ryxor,” he said.
“Mine’s is Drex.”
At that moment, the door opened up and Luther stepped outside. He closed it gently behind him.
“Is she alright?”
“Is she gonna be okay?” Both Ryxor and Drex jumped up instantly. All traces of sleep and drowsiness were gone.
“Follow me down stairs,” he said. “Go back to bed Lynn.” Ryxor couldn’t help but notice that he sounded noticeably weaker and looked paler than before. After they were seated at a table in the kitchen, Luther made them some hot coffee. “That’s all I have unless you want water.” Neither of them so much as took a sip from their cups. It wasn’t that they didn’t like coffee. They just weren’t thirsty. All they cared for at the moment was Alice’s condition.
“Is she gonna be fine now?” Ryxor asked.
Luther took a long breath before beginning. “You boys know what energy is, right?”
“Yeah, it’s our life force. People can use it do things.”
“Well that’s partially correct, but do any of you know how our bodies produce energy?” They both shook their heads. “It’s a complicated process, but basically in each of us resides an entity. Let’s just call it your soul. The soul radiates energy. In other words, the soul is you source of life. Should the soul perish, you’re a goner. Using too much energy at once also damages the soul, permanently. One can also damage the souls of others by using their own energy. In addition to her severe wounds, this is what happened to your friend.
“Her soul was almost damaged beyond repair. Were she in the care of lesser hands she very well may have died.” Ryxor and Drex’s face lit up almost immediately. She was still alive. “There’s more. Her soul was so badly damaged that traditional methods alone were not enough.” He paused for moment. “In this case I was forced to use a considerably dangerous method. I ripped out part of my own soul and transfused it with hers.” He stopped to let what he said sink in. When they didn’t say anything, he began again.
“You.” He pointed at Ryxor. “You were the one that carried her hear, yes?”
“I need to talk to you in private.”
“What about me?” Drex asked.
“No way! I’m not going until Alice is better.”
“Leave this room,” he said irritably. “There’s a couch in the study and a blanket. You can sleep there.” Reluctantly, Drex did as he was told and left for the study.
“What do you want with me?” Ryxor asked.
“The stunt I pulled shortened my life span considerably.” Ryxor thought he knew where Luther was going.
“I don’t have any money. I’m just an orphan. All three of us are.”
“While that does come as a surprise to me, money is not what I’m interested in. What I want is for you to become my apprentice.”
“What?” He was at a loss for words.
“I know, you’re not the choice I wanted to go with either, but as is you’ll have to do.”
“Apprentice? What are you talking about?”
“I have at my disposal knowledge that I’m not willing to take with me to the grave, most of which was taught to me by a great man no longer with us.”
“But why me?”
“You didn’t notice? By the time I got to her, her physical wounds were already almost completely healed.”
“How?” Again, he was at a loss for words.
“It was you.”
“But I didn’t do anything.”
“In your time of need, your energy subconsciously poured out of your soul and healed her wounds. As I said before, they were only mostly healed. Not quite the level of genius I was hoping for in an apprentice.”
“You’re wrong! I didn’t do a damn thing. It’s my fault Alice ended up like this in the first place.”
“Inside you is raw untapped potential. Powers like the one you used tonight are rarely accomplished by untrained professionals. For a kid like you to accomplish it, you would need something truly traumatic to push you. In this case, it was the near-death of someone very dear to you.”
Ryxor was silent for a long time. Luther stared at him waiting for a reply. At long last he got it. “If I become your apprentice, can I protect the people I care about it?”
During the following days, Ryxor and Drex remained at Luther’s house. During that time, Alice began to wake up and come back to her senses. Her memory of what happened however was almost gone. Almost immediately, Luther began training Ryxor. Sometimes, Drex would watch and other times, he would hang out with Lynn. It wasn’t until the manager of the orphanage started looking for the three of them that they returned. Before they left though, Luther made Ryxor swear that he would join the military academy when he was old enough.
On the day they left, Luther sat down at the kitchen table with Lynn. “She’s not to know what happened. There will come a time when she’ll learn of the origin of her powers, but we’ll leave her be for now. It’s best to let her live her childhood as normally as possible. However, I’m certain she will eventually enroll in the academy as well. When that time comes, you need to enroll too and keep an eye on her as best you can.”
“How many times have I told you to stop calling me sir?” He seemed rather annoyed by it. They both went silent for a while. Luther could tell she was worried. “Don’t worry. I maybe weaker now, but I’m not gonna let the bastard who killed your parents get away. We’ll find him some day.”
Alice could hardly believe what she was hearing. How could I block something like that from my memory? Now, she remembered it clear as day. She remembered getting Drex to go with her and follow Ryxor. She remembered a sword landing in front of her and picking up. She remembered the look on Vanen’s face when… Hold on. What she a remembered was an entirely different Vanen. One whose eyes were filled with shock, fear, and remorse over what he just did.
“Then the reason you’re always up at night is because of me?” she asked.
“Yes. I need to make sure nothing happens.”
Alice felt horrible. She wanted to apologize, but she didn’t exactly know what to apologize before. “Lynn.”
“What is it?”
“Go to sleep. I don’t care how much harder I have to try. I’ll get strong enough so you no longer need to waste your time watching over me.” Alice lay back in her bed and fell fast asleep. Lynn stayed up a little while longer. A smile came across her face. She certainly did care for those around her whether or not she always showed it. Lynn did as Alice recommended and fell asleep.
Elsewhere, the night wasn’t nearly as peaceful. There was a scream perhaps, but no one seemed to notice it or care. Out of the shadows, a dark figure walked out leaving a trail of bloody footsteps. They grasped a bloody dagger in one of their hands. Staring up at Velvidyne Military Academy, a thick smile formed on his face.