March 23rd, Year P-132.
Colony 1’s Maximum Security Prison, Bedauern.
The Medical Wing.
Strewn out in a hospital bed, hooked up to a heartbeat monitor and an IV, was Jackson Moreno. He was still conscious, but his piercing blue eyes were brimming with rage and pain as he looked at me. HIs entire midsection was wrapped in dense bandages, and he gave me a saccharine smile.
“Your Highness,” he growled, “So glad you could make it.”
“What…what happened to you?” I asked.
“Oh, this?” Moreno asked, indicating his midsection, “Your favorite Lockheart only blasted a hole in me with a spear.”
Michael did this?
I get that he wanted to escape, but…
“Oh, yes,” Moreno seethed, “‘He won’t be dangerous’, you said. He’s just as much a killer as his grandfather was!”
“Don’t speak ill of the dead.” I muttered, “They could always be listening.”
Ruin, ever-present as always, leaned against the wall in the corner of my eye. He chuckled to himself.
“I hope he is.” Moreno snarled, “I hope he knows I’ll kill them both for what they did to me!”
I put out a hand, “Moreno,” I said, “We’ll get you healed up, it’s okay, think rationall-”
“Think rationally!?” Moreno screamed, “You have some fucking nerve, Cynd! I’m the one with a fucking hole in me! When will you stop letting the Lockhearts run-”
He gasped and started to seize, blood beginning to blossom from the bandages over his wounds.
“Let him die.” Ruin said, observing his left fist’s fingernails, “He’ll be a lot of trouble for you if you don’t.”
I watched Moreno writhe, his heartbeat monitor skyrocketing out of control.
For a moment, I considered it.
The piercing sound of the monitor flatlining brought me back to my senses.
I reached deep inside myself, surging as much Wind energy as I possibly could to the surface. It blasted through the room while Ruin shook his head in disappointment, clearly disappointed that I’d decided to save him.
“Heal!” I hissed, pressing my hands against Moreno’s chest and stomach wound.
With a surge of Wind energy, Moreno stabilized, but remained unconscious.
I collapsed to my knees, near-completely drained of my energy.
I’ve never had to heal something that severe before.
At least, not someone else.
I need more practice with Wind.
“Tuckered out already?” Ruin asked, sitting at Moreno’s bedside and looking down at me, “Such a shame, Nalia. You’re supposed to be better than that.”
I ignored him, standing to my full height and turning my back to him.
Outside of the medical wing, the warden was waiting for me.
“Is everything okay?” The warden asked, “I heard-”
“No thanks to you.” I replied shortly, “Get Moreno transferred to Alaunus Hospital. He’s likely to be disoriented when he wakes up, he just had a near-death experience.”
The warden nodded. “Yes, your Highness, I’m sorry for-”
“Don’t apologize.” I muttered, “Just do it.”
Season One: Recursion
Episode Twenty, Side B: The Man In White
March 23rd, Year P-132.
Later that evening.
The Inter-Colony Highway.
Nalia’s Escort Limousine.
My cell phone rang in the left pocket of my jeans, beneath my robes. Jolting to attention at this, I reached into my pocket as my three Royal Guard members- my escorts from before- watched me on the opposite end of the car, curiously still.
Pressing confirm and pressing the phone against the left side of my face, I asked, “Hello?”
“Hello, son.” Hector Cynd, my father, the King, said on the other end.
“Father!” I replied, “I haven’t heard from you in a whil-”
“Don’t speak.” Hector interrupted, “Listen to me for once, boy.”
I bit my lower lip but obeyed.
“As I’m sure you know by now,” the King said, “Your…friend, Michael Lockheart, broke out of prison.”
“Yes, I was just ther-”
“The prison you put him in.” Hector interrupted, “While you refused to press charges and demanded…leniency. Richter, or someone with very similar capabilities, broke him out earlier today. Your prisoner, Nalia.”
“Of course they broke out!” I said, exasperated, “He wasn’t even there for two weeks before someone tried to kill him! The warden was supposed to make sure he was safe, I-”
“The only reason he was there and not dead, as he should have been for attacking you and jeopardizing the status of the seal, was because you spared him. You gave him your blood, Nalia.” my father sighed, then growled, “You know you’re not supposed to do that.”
“I saved his life, Father,” I insisted, “I serve my peopl-”
“No.” Hector interrupted, “If you served your people, you would have let him die so that he wouldn’t continue posing a risk to the people of Trine. Thanks to your negligence, my father’s seal has never been in more danger of being broken.”
I blinked tears out of my eyes.
I’d never heard my father sound this angry and disappointed in me.
“I don’t trust your judgement on this matter anymore.” Hector said, “I’m sorry, son, but it’s time for you to come home. I’ve already told your driver to come back to the palace, and your guard to prevent you from escaping.”
“Father, just let me-”
“No!” Hector screamed, “You’ve done enough! You let the Lockhearts live and now you’ve jeopardized the lives of everyone on The Mainland! You will return home an-”
I hung up.
The three Royal Guard members sitting opposite me stared back into my eyes, still as statues, waiting for the moment I’d do something.
Ruin was sitting on the floor, cross-legged, to my left.
“What will you do, your Highness?” he asked, sneering up at me, “Will you fight your way out? Or will you be a good little boy and do as daddy says?”
Shut up and let me think-
“I can tell you where they are.” he continued, “Same way I told you where Michelle was before. First time we met, do you remember that?”
I remembered the cave clearly. The way he sat down in front of the waterfall. The way he smiled at me.
“They’re in a safehouse somewhere in Colony…51, I think,” Ruin continued, “And Michelle is close by, you wouldn’t believe what’s going on with her-”
“Wait.” I said, interrupting him, “Wait.”
Ruin stood between me and the Guard members on the opposite side of the limousine, then looked down at me from behind those scarlet bandages and smirked. “What is it, your Highness? Ready to admit that you’re losing it? That you should go home?”
“I didn’t know where the Site of Sealing was.” I realized, “I didn’t know any of the things you just told me. How could you know any of the things you just said if-”
In a flurry of white feathers, Ruin spun, his white, handleless blade sprouting from his right sleeve as he did so. It cleaved through the limousine with ease, decapitating my Guard and my driver, blasting off the roof of the vehicle in one smooth, horrific motion.
I tried to jump at him, but before I could, two white spikes materialized from the air around him and blasted forward, stabbing into my shoulders and keeping me still as I howled with agony, the wind rushing through the vehicle as the car began to spin out of control.
Ruin’s wicked grin fell, turning sad, then failing to show any emotion at all.
“So you finally figured it out.” he muttered.
The spikes in me pulled upward, lifting me into the air, the wind rushing by us as the car continued to blast forward at max speed, spiraling out of control-
I looked down at him and struggled to break free-
“Of course I’m real.” the man in white said, finally breaking into that psychotic smirk again, “That you allowed yourself to believe otherwise is exactly what makes you weak.”
Releasing a surge of Light energy into the night, I blasted toward Ruin, crashing into him as we were sent flying out of the car, off a bridge on the highway, onto the top of a moving train hurtling toward a destination unknown.
As we rolled apart from each other, I grit my teeth and pulled the spikes out of my shoulders with all the force I could muster, barely managing it and growling in pain as I did so.
Ruin only sneered at me as I did. He had dispelled his sleeve-blade, and was now just watching me, the moonlight above glinting off of his white teeth.
I grabbed the handle of Michael’s white claymore, Murzim, on my back and brandished it in his direction.
“Who are you really?” I demanded.
“I told you already.” Ruin replied, flexing his arms outward, forming the shape of a cross, “I am The End.”
Pure, white blades without a handle burst from his sleeves as he said this, extending seemingly without end.
“Why am I the only one who can see you?” I demanded.
“I wouldn’t worry about that right now, Nalia Who Sinned.” Ruin replied, seemingly breaking off the blades and holding them outward like normal, albeit very large, swords, “I’d worry about if anyone’s ever going to see you again.”
Moving almost faster than I could perceive, Ruin threw his right-hand blade at me, which crackled with Howl’s scarlet lightning as it blasted past me.
Lunging forward with his left-hand blade, Ruin slashed for my right side with full force. I channeled Light energy into my eyes, my vision becoming tinted with a red glow as my perception and reaction times were kicked into overdrive, allowing me to keep pace with Ruin’s repeated strikes with his left-hand blade.
“How did you use that technique!?” I demanded.
“This isn’t a questionnaire, boy!” Ruin shouted, “You’re fighting to live!”
Ruin pulled back, grasping his left-hand blade with both of his hands and bringing it down onto a raised knee, breaking the weapon into two rough daggers. His left-hand dagger began pulsating with my mother’s White Darkness energy, while the right-hand blade crackled with Cyria’s scarlet lightning.
This shouldn’t be possible!
Wielding the weapons with a reverse grip, Ruin lunged at me. I channeled White Darkness through Murzim’s blade and slashed the Howl-blade away, before meeting the left-hand dagger with Michael’s claymore. I hissed at Ruin as I struggled against our blade-lock, before finally deciding to channel Earth and Gravity energy to force him away from me.
Ruin’s daggers shattered as he leaped backward, beginning to float in the air.
He sneered down at me.
“You’re a quick thinker.” Ruin remarked, beginning to walk on the air casually, ignoring the laws of physics entirely, as well as the train blasting through the night beneath us, “But are you quick enough to keep up with this?”
There wasn’t even a blur. It didn’t even feel like speed. In a single instant, I saw Ruin in several places at once, suspending his blades in the air, each one pointing at me. In the next instant, he vanished in a flurry of white feathers and the blades all shot for me at once.
I puffed my chest out and screamed, releasing a pulse of Gravity energy to repel the blades.
It didn’t work.
In another instant, I was impaled from all sides by several different blades, each as long as I was tall.
In unimaginable pain, I collapsed to my knees, Murzim falling from my hand and stabbing into the train beneath me.
Ruin, still floating in the air, looked down at me through his bandages, his typical sneer fading to what almost looked like…disappointment.
“It’s a real shame.” he muttered, “I thought you would have figured that out by now.”
He gently floated down to the surface of the train, conjuring another blade from his right sleeve and holding it at his side as he advanced on me.
“I expected more from you, Nalia Who Sinned.” he muttered.
He raised his blade for the final blow.
“Like I told you before,” Ruin said, smirking as I struggled against the blades impaled through me, keeping me in place, “I am The End.”
“Your Highness!” shouted a familiar voice.
Ruin paused, then sighed.
“Saved by the bell, kid.” Ruin observed, dispelling the blade he held in his hands. “Looks like you get to live after all.”
I heard the sound of rushing footsteps behind me as I gasped, blood pouring from my mouth, my every synapse still screaming in agony.
“Oh, right.” Ruin observed, “Forgot about those.”
He snapped his fingers and each of the blades snapped in half, the halves inside me remaining as the rest disintegrated into the air.
“That should be enough to keep you from chasing me for a little while.” Ruin said, beginning to walk backward and dissolve into white feathers, “See you around, your Highness.”
And he was gone.
As I began to lose consciousness entirely, I heard the voice of Michelle Lockheart.
March 24th, Year P-132.
I came to with a desperate heave, my body still in agony but otherwise functioning normally, my regeneration having finally started.
I looked around the room.
I was splayed out on a wooden kitchen table, stripped down to all but my boxers, the daggers of Tsukimono bloodied and resting on a chair beside me, alongside the many, many spikes that Ruin had left inside me before he disappeared. Across the room and to my right was a de-facto living/dining room, including two couches, a TV, and quite a few people looking at me with an extremely potent blend of fear and utter confusion.
I pushed myself to a sitting position and then off the table. Michelle Lockheart stood against the wall opposite me and froze as I approached her.
“Nalia-” Michael interjected, standing in my path and raising a hand to stop me.
“Quiet, Lockheart.” I muttered, brushing past him.
I stopped in front of Michelle and looked directly into her white eyes, behind streaks of light brown hair.
“I don’t know what happened,” I admitted, “But thank you, Michelle.”
She nodded. “Least I could do, your Highness.”
“So…” Michael said, crashing onto the couch behind me, “News on TV said that you uh…went rogue. Mind…mind explaining that?”
I sighed and sat beside him, still very half-naked, and turned to my left to face him.
“Father doesn’t trust me to handle this anymore.” I said, “So he demanded I come home. And I was going to, but then this…this guy showed up.”
“Is that who attacked you?” Michelle asked.
“Yeah,” I replied, “He’s…I don’t know what he is. But only I can see him. I thought…”
I leaned forward and placed my elbows on my knees, then my face in my hands, “I thought I was going crazy. I was seeing him everywhere, and he was constantly…constantly taunting me. But I realized…he knew stuff that I had no way of knowing. Hell, he…he knew where all of you were, told me as much right before he murdered my escort and tried to murder me.”
“Except it…our fight led me right to you, Michelle.” I realized, staring up at her.
She frowned and bit her lower lip.
“Are you involved with this guy?” I demanded.
“Not…” Michelle replied, “Not that I’m aware of, no. Until about a week ago, I was still under Vincent’s control…I remember scattered little things sometimes, but the rest of the time…nothing. Maybe he interacted with Vincent through me, but I don’t think I’ve ever met the kind of guy you’re talking about.”
“What’s his name?” Michael asked.
“He calls himself Ruin. Or The End, whatever that means.” I muttered, “I thought of him as the man in white before he gave me a name. When we fought, he…he was able to channel my mother’s White Darkness. And your father’s Howl.”
Michael blinked slowly before responding, “That doesn’t make any sens-”
“I know.” I interrupted, “Nothing about him does. He’s fast. Faster than you. Faster than anything I’ve ever seen. It’s like…it’s like he’s not even moving. There’s no blur or afterimage when he teleports, he’s just…he’s just there.”
Richter, leaning against the wall to my right (is that just a Lockheart thing?), placed his left hand to his chin, deep in thought. “He led you here on purpose.” he concluded, “Everything he’s done so far has been to manipulate you. How far back does this go?”
“I…” I sighed, “It started right after Michael and I fought. I woke up in a cave. He had brought me there. He told me…he told me where the Site of Sealing was.”
“So you could meet with me and Michelle there.” Michael said, “So we would fight, and put each other out of commission.”
“While Vincent got away in my body.” Michelle finished, frowning a lot more intensely now.
Aiko leaned back in another seat casually, hands placed behind her afro as she bit her lower lip. “I don’t know if I’m following everything here,” she admitted, “But I’m pretty sure the reason he’s doing all this is related to the seal somehow.”
“Well, he brought us together.” Michael noted, “Maybe it’s one of those…stealth mentor kind of things?”
“No.” I shook my head and bit my lower lip, “No, no, no. He manipulated me so that I’d always be chasing you three around, and now…now we’re hours away from the seal, even by plane. He didn’t bring us together so we could protect the seal, he brought us together so…”
“So we couldn’t.” Richter continued, “And since he can channel White Darkness and Howl…”
“He has everything he needs to break the seal, and nobody in a position where they can stop him.” I finished.
My heart sank into my stomach. Every synapse in my brain fired at once, as if screaming in utter panic. What I was feeling, almost as if on queue, was more than just sensing an energy signature. I could feel it. Untold levels of power, intense and ancient and angry, as if I were staring into an abyss.
Looking into the eyes of the other people in the room, I could tell that they had felt it, too.
Moving instinctively, Michael turned on the TV.
Percy Alizarin, the newscaster, stopped like a statue. The brown-haired brunette looked like he had seen a ghost.
Interrupting his own story, he asked the world, “What…what was that?”
After a few moments of silence, Percy lifted his microphone to his lips as the image on the green screen behind him changed to a live video feed of the Grand Diamond Lake. He seemed to be trying to form words, but was as speechless as the rest of us at what was going on.
The waters of the Grand Diamond Lake were rising skyward, and beginning to slowly descend through the clouds were each of the floating islands, including Lamass, starting to glow with a blinding white light.
“They’re in the Grand Diamond.” I realized, “They were always…the Site of Sealing is in the islands. The actual seal is Blusk. It was…it was right under us the entire…”
The front door exploded as a larger, wilder, older man blasted through it with a surge of Light energy, holding a familiar, hapless bartender at his side. He looked remarkably like Richter, and shared the same amber eyes as Michael.
“It’s happening.” Cyria panted, “It’s happening right now, we need to go!”