Chapter VI

-There's people everywhere, barely any opening to get out through. - Said a boyish, sore voice.

-As I thought, we attracted way too much attention. Damn those guys, they were the ones with real control on things from the start...

From the corner of the small, comfortable room, Sochin gazed upon the two boys with a lifeless expression. Sitting on the floor next to a giant teddy bear, she held her right leg tight against her chest and looked down, sighing so silently none of them could hear her.

On the wood tiled floor, next to her, was a rosy purple, torn up sleeveless shirt. The front collar area had been almost completely shredded by the raw energy outburst back then. She thought it was a miracle her body took no injury from it. However, it left another kind of mark.

Her hand slipped from her knee and down her collar bone until her fingers lightly touched the middle of her chest under her clothes. Where there used to be a patch of soft, warm skin, now was an equally warm but disturbingly hard geometrical lump. It didn't stick out at all, so much that even a thin shirt could keep it hidden, but the hard cut stone felt horribly wrong. Covering the place where the Stone joined with the flesh, what appeared to be a discrete golden crest formed a frame around the four-edged gleaming stone.

Her throat felt very tight and dry as she tried to swallow down the bitter taste in her mouth and she lowered her head even more. Trying to hold back her anxiety only seemed to make the Stone gleam more intensely through her clothes.

She felt nude, completely unable to control how much others could see through her emotions.

Kuroi seemed worried as he talked to her brother. She tried to keep on pace with the conversation in order to distract herself from the new unknown element in her body.

-So, what do we do now? Or rather, what do you intend to do now? - Makoto turned to the older boy with an accusative tone and an expressionless face.

-That'll depend on what... - The brown-haired boy turned to Sochin in one decisive movement - ...SHE intends to do now.

The girl looked at him, confused.

-...I just want to get away from all this...

-I know it isn't easy. If I had known that was going to happen when they used the stone...

-You SHOULD have known!! - Makoto yelled suddenly, merging the room in a deep silence for the next few seconds. Only then his chest was struck by a painful feeling of embarrassment, as if it was going to explode, and he realized he spoke up way too loud and bluntly.

-...Although I did know this could happen, the probability for it is extremely low. I do have to apologise, though. I thought I could keep them from using the stone at all.

-Apologising isn't gonna change much now...

-Yeah, it isn't. That's why I need Sochin-san's decision as soon as possible.

-What... decision? - The girl slowly asked.

-The stone is not harmful, but hiding it for the rest of your lifetime will most likely seem like a nightmare. Physical Education classes, medical examinations... eventually you'll want to have "someone", too, right?

-W-what are you bringing up at a time like this?! - She nervously squealed as her cheeks turned red. - That's none of your business!!

Kuroi forced a sad smile.

-Indeed, it doesn't concern me. But I know you both of you trusted me in one way or another, and I still allowed this to happen. However... in Dreffel there certainly is a way to remove that Half Ibniad from your body without leaving any trace.

-I knew where this conversation was going! You had it all planned from the beginning, didn't you? - Makoto exclaimed -  Dragging us to Dreffel with you! From the moment you asked me how far would I be willing to go...

-I didn't. To be very honest, if I 'drag' you two along you'll just slow me down, and I have nothing to gain from it. When I asked you that question, I had in mind a situation in which one of you could be taken as a hostage, but they didn't even need that.

-Still, you're expecting us to rely on you again...?! How can we even be sure you're telling us the truth?

-Nii-chan... - Sochin whispered.

-Letting you come with me is all I can do to atone for my failure. It's all up to Sochin-san whether to accept it or not. Being with me may have its risks, and will take time, but in the end she will be rid of that Stone and then I'll be out of your lives for good.

-What if you fail again like you did today? What if we end up being killed while we're there? - Makoto insisted. Though he sounded like he was being rude or distrustful, the sweat drops running down his face and the hesitation in his eyes showed that he did not mean every single word.

-I won't deny, there's a chance I may fail. Just like you or anyone else may fail in certain situations.

-But if you truly had given it your all, then all this...

-Then what? I'm not an amazing strategist. I hardly score above the average human's intelligence. I can make wrong decisions and fail to see things sometimes. However, you're the one at fault here if you expected something from me that I never promised. - Kuroi interrupted him.

This time, the look in his eyes changed. He was much more serious.

-Your silly human concept of what a Deity is... How am I to blame for not being up to those expectations? Do you really believe there's some perfect being out there whose kindness exceeds human comprehension? Do you really believe there's such thing as perfection in this Universe?!

The boy stared at him and back at his sister, speechless.

-I'm sorry to disappoint, but this is what I'm like. A flawed, human-like being with some messed up abilities. I'm the kind of imperfection that you'll have to be trusting if your sister decides to live a normal life as if nothing ever happened. And I will be giving it my darn all while I'm at it, mind you.

The two turned to Sochin, waiting for an answer. As moments passed, the light emanating from the Stone became more intense until they could faintly notice it through her shirt.

-I'll be counting on you then, Kuroi-kun. - She replied.

-Hey, Sochin... Are you really sure about this? There's still time to remove the note we left for Mom and Dad and pretend nothing ever happened... - Makoto said, staring at the ground. - You know, they'll be home real soon after they know there was an incident at the park, since it's near our home...

He wasn't his usual self, and Kuroi knew this well. The fight from earlier had made him nervous.

-I'm scared too... - She replied, instinctively covering her chest area as she said this. - But even though it's only been roughly an hour, I know I don't want to live with this thing inside my body forever. Even if it's dangerous to go... Nii-chan, you don't have to come along.

Her words felt to the boy like being slapped on the face.

-...No, I'll go! I'm no coward, you're not gonna leave me behind just like that! - The blonde boy replied with a determined look in his eyes. All of his nervousness seemed to fade with these words.

Kuroi nodded with a faint smile of relief.

-Then it's settled.

Sochin nodded back to him and turned away from the two boys, trying to concentrate. The two siblings grabbed their backpacks from the floor and the girl's room was filled with silence for a few seconds as she tried to recall what had happened when Wyatt, the red-haired demigod who served as a backup force for Mera and Genji, forced a reaction between her and the Ibniad Stone.

"A strong enough emotion will probably do it.", she thought. "If that's the case..."

She concentrated on that moment even harder, until the terror she had felt before becoming unconscious roughly an hour ago seemed as real as if it was taking place once again. Trying to hold back a whimper, she stretched out her hands and the air between them started to distort. The Stone on her chest started glowing as brightly as before, shedding light upon the entire room.

Though he was witnessing it for the second time already, Makoto still watched in awe as the light surrounding them all condensed into a single point and grew into a glowing white spiral of particles big enough for them to enter.

-DREFFEL, YOU BETTER BE READY FOR US!! - Makoto yelled, shaking off the remaining tension in his body and mind. He took a deep breath as if he was going to dive and then jumped inside without hesitation.

Kuroi and Sochin exchanged looks, none of them really sure how to react. Kuroi shrugged and rushed into the gap after the younger boy.

Sochin took a step forward, but then stopped. She looked back at her bedroom, a neat and tidy place with a shelf for school manuals and many plush animals staring back at her. It was the one place where she ever really felt comfortable...

A sound of keys opening the front door reached her ears while she was distracted by her thoughts, and she could hear the voices of her parents. They had probably come to make sure she and Makoto weren't caught up in the incident.

Tears quickly filled her eyes. She covered her mouth tightly, holding back another whimper, and ran into the portal, hearing a soft buzzing sound as it closed behind her.

Unlike what she expected, there wasn't any land or a sky. Not even any ground to stand on. The three stood on some sort of invisible platform that did not make any sound under their feet, and around them everything was filled with glowing particles against a dark space. Makoto tried catching one of those particles, but it shattered when his hand touched it.

-Is this... Dreffel? - She asked, wiping the tears from her eyes and trying to get used to the light.

Kuroi smiled.

-This is only a passageway. You could call it the Dimensional Tissue itself, I guess. - The boy said, also discretely looking around. - It's been a long time since I've been here.

-So if we keep walking in front we will reach the other side? - Makoto risked, following another particle of light with his eyes and tucking his hands in his pockets as he followed the older one's lead.

The brown-haired boy nodded.

-But wait a second... if Dreffel is an entire World like Earth, doesn't that mean we might land just about anywhere?!

-Indeed that could be the case if every World didn't have special places where its energy is concentrated and which attract gaps. In the case of Dreffel, they are the thirteen temples scattered around the country of Suderion, the Holy Land. - Kuroi informed them. - Although there is still some uncertainty involved, we are sure to land somewhere near one of those temples... Which is a lucky coincidence, since they're precisely where I want to go.

-That's very convenient for sure, but... what about the part where you are supposed to help me get rid of THIS?! - Sochin asked, pressing a hand against her chest.

The demigod chuckled, stopped for a moment and turned to the two siblings.

-Don't worry. I won't betray you, ever. You know, since we'll be travelling, there's a fairly high chance that we'll come across someone able to help you. - He said, lightly patting the girl's head.

She pouted.

-I hope that's true!

-Like I said, very likely. We can also do some searching on the side to make things faster. And by the way, it's good to see that you're starting to act more like yourself again.

-...What's that supposed to mean?!

-Self-centered, distrustful and bratty. Truly a relief. - Kuroi replied with a smirk.

-Why you...!!

-Hey, look! Is that the other side? - Makoto interrupted them, pointing towards their front.

Once again, they saw a spiraling concentration of light particles. However, the other side was roughly visible through its center. To their eyes it appeared as little more than a blurry vision in tones of white, red and gold.

The boy sighed lightly in relief upon noticing the two had stopped teasing each other and were now focusing on reaching the other end of the passageway.

Kuroi felt a slight creep all over his body as they got closer to it.

"Finally... I'm home again!!"

Makoto and Sochin started walking a little faster, now more curious than afraid. As they got closer, the space they could see through the gap seemed to increase a little.

-Be careful now, we don't know exactly where we'll end up. We'd better stay close to each other while going out. - Kuroi advised the two, catching up to them.

As they went through the end of the passageway, they were swallowed by another near solid mass of light that blinded them for a few seconds. They heard the buzzing sound that indicated the gap was being closed, and each blinked several times before becoming well aware of the space surrounding them.

They felt suddenly even more hot than at home. It was clearly daytime, but the whole place was dark as the light entrances from the ceiling were covered by crimson cloth with golden embroideries. They were standing at the bottom of a flight of five wide, curved stairs leading to a platform where a small construction resembling an altar occupied the center, topped by a glass redoma covering a small wooden chest. In the other direction there was an equally crimson-carpeted aisle surrounded by ivory-colored stone arcs connected to the floor through simple, uncarved pillars of round base. From the arcs, curtains made of the same golden-embroidered crimson cloth hung in an elegant manner. Though the whole place seemed rather welcoming, the atmosphere was tense.

It was Sochin who broke the silence among the three.

-This place is...?

-Do not move, trespassers!! - A strict, unfamiliar male voice interrupted her. - This is a holy place. State your intentions or leave this place immediately!

From behind one of the pillars, a young man rushed towards the aisle holding an arbalest. At first he looked like any other human, but the greenish markings on his cheeks, nose, wrists and ankles gave him a rather unusual appearance. His hair was flaming orange and cut short and his eyes looked pale gray. He was clad in a white robe with crimson decorations and bore a golden pendant in a necklace. His expression seemed rather unfriendly, but his hands were shaking lightly while holding the arbalest. He was unexperienced with it.

-I repeat, state your intentions! - He reinforced. - What do you kids think you're doing, suddenly appearing next to our city's Holy Relic? Did you plan on stealing it?

-P-please calm down... Makoto asked, raising his hands.

The other two raised their hands as well, hoping to solve the situation peacefully.

-The thing is... - The blonde boy continued. - We didn't want to come here specifically! You see, we just came from Earth and...

The man's face suddenly curled up into an even more fierce expression.

-Gaians in the Temple?! THAT'S UNFORGIVABLE!! GUARDS, GET THEM!!

-What?! We didn't do anything wrong!! - Makoto complained, looking around as several armored figures wearing the same white and crimson clothing came from behind the curtains and started surrounding them with polearms in hand. He tried to run through an opening, but Kuroi grabbed his arm firmly.

-Don't try to run, this will only make things worse. - He said. - We didn't do a thing, we can solve this peacefully.

The guards steadily formed a circle around the group with their polearms pointed at them. One of the guards, who had a slightly more decorated armor plate, turned his head to the orange-haired man.

-What do we do with them? They haven't done anything, but...

-Lock them up for now. - He said, slowly lowering his arbalest out of shooting position. - We will decide what to do with them when the Matriarch arrives. The fools, interfering with the Temple at a time like this...

The head of the guards nodded, and the others started moving their polearms back and forth as if telling them to move.

-Hey, there's no need for that! Just tell us the way and we'll go without complaining, alright? - Makoto exclaimed. - That's a pretty rude way of treating innocent people...

-They can't talk to us, Makoto. Temple Guards, including their captain, are under a seal that prevents them from talking to prisoners or anyone being placed under arrest. - Kuroi said as he started walking. - It prevents them from starting a conversation and getting distracted.

-Eh, that's pretty strict...

As they walked to the back of the building, there seemed to be less and less windows where light could come from. If anything, they thought, the temperature was slightly more bearable like that, but when they started walking down a narrow corridor with a stairway leading to a basement-like area they were struck by a terrible smell coming from below.

-Hey, Kuroi-kun... - Sochin whispered to him. - Can't you just tell them that you are...

-No way. I'll have to keep my identity hidden in order to avoid getting too much attention, or else we may run into danger sooner than necessary. - He whispered back.

-How is this smell not dangerous already?!

As she raised her voice, one of the guards threatened them with his polearm. They had to remain silent for the rest of the way.

Kuroi, Makoto and Sochin were slowly driven in the dark into a jail-like room by the armed Guards, under close supervision by their Captain. The only source of light was a torch held by him. While the metallic door was being locked on them, Makoto became increasingly aware that the smell was that of rotting meat and a chill went down his spine.

-Hey, at least tell us when we'll be able to get out! - He yelled at the door. - This place smells like you need to hire a cleaning lady!

-You heard Brother Samal... When the Matriarch arrives. - The Captain's voice replied from the other side. Then, from the small opening in the door, they watched as the torch's light vanished along with the sound of many footsteps up the stairway.

-...He talked.

-This isn't exactly what I was expecting for a welcoming party... - Sochin mumbled. - They didn't seem very sympathetic either, what are we gonna do if they intend on keeping us locked up in here for, say, a month?

-I didn't expect this, either... With our luck, we landed straight next to a Temple's Altar. We're gonna have to follow their indications until they can believe our innocence... Everything should be sorted out for as long as we don't try anything suspicious until their Matriarch arrives. That shouldn't take too long...

-Better not, because I'm getting hungry... - The blonde boy complained.

-How can you even get hungry while feeling this smell? It's unbearable! - His sister replied.

-Oh, please, will you two shut up?! Like I said, everything will work out fine for as long as we don't do anything suspic...

Before Kuroi was able to finish his sentence, he was interrupted by a huge impact noise coming directly from across the outer stone wall. As they became increasingly surrounded by dust and powder, they fell a gust of warm wind through their bodies and their eyes felt pain from the sudden exposure to light as the wall at the back of their cage shattered as if it were made of sugar cubes.

A rash, loud voice laughing maniacally rang through their ears as the dust finally started to dissipate and Kuroi had a terrible feeling about the situation they had just gotten into.

-So these are the gaians who tried to steal the Relic just now? You people don't look like much, but I must admit that was a pretty bold attempt! I'm impressed, you hear me? Very impressed!

-Eh, who is that guy... - Makoto mumbled, coughing up a little.

-So you ask who I am? Have you never heard of me, gaian? Very well, I shall enlighten you!! - The voice replied, apparently unaware of it being a rhetorical question. Finally, the dust settled down and they were able to see the person who had blown up their jail wall.

He didn't look very mature, roughly being of the same age as Kuroi. His heavily tanned skin, slashed across by several blood red sharp stripe markings, highlighted the huge, bright red eyes that easily drew a lot of attention. His wavy hair was very dark gray, almost black, and most of it was covered by a large, ivory colored bandana. His fringe, long and unkempt, gave him a wild and playful look. He wore a long, blood red vest with leather and buckle closing over a white tunic with huge sleeves, a pale green short scarf covering his neck and part of his chin, a pair of wristbands of the same color as his vest, blue short pants made of a very light material and light brown leather sandals. He stood on top of the pile of debris created by the explosion with his arms crossed and bearing a triumphant look on his face.

-My name, listen well, is Hamed Al-Faahyir! King of all thieves in the vast region of Sayden and its area of influence! Though your methods are unpolished and uneffective, I must say that warping right into the temple is a style I really like. As such, I will concede to the three of you the honor of joining me as my underlings!! - He yelled, gazing upon the group like a proud father.

"Eh, we found someone louder than Nii-chan..."

"What's with this guy's attitude? Was it his ego that crushed down this wall?!"

Only Kuroi seemed too confused to face their unrequested rescuer. A jailbreaking attempt would pretty much mean having guards from the entire city out for their hide, but at the same time that meant they could not stay there any longer. To make matters more complicated, that guy's face and name seemed very familiar to him for some reason. Unable to peek beyond the remains of the wall, he looked at him and waved discretely to get his attention.

-How many men did you bring with you? Can you escort us to safety? - He asked.

-Are you really considering teaming up with this guy? - Sochin whispered to him. - He seems like the last person we want to have around if we're gonna stay out of trouble!

Ignoring her comment, Kuroi kept waiting for an answer.

-So you intend to barge out of here in style, huh? Good, I like that! - The red-eyed boy replied, pulling his fringe away from his face with a quick gesture and talking with his hands on his belt. - I came pretty much alone and I only have a dagger with me, but I can ensure you I'm the safest escorting team you'll ever have!

-Very well then, please get us out of here! Then we'll talk! - Kuroi replied.

-Senpai, are you out of your mind? This Hamed guy might have just saved us, but he said he's a thief! As if everything else about him wasn't fishy enough, going with him will mean bringing even more suspiciousness upon us! - Makoto whispered to him as they climbed up the broken wall to the outside.

After the two boys were out, Hamed offered to help Sochin up in an exaggerated gentlemanly manner.

-Don't worry. - Kuroi replied with a smile. - I've got a pretty good hunch about this.

-Eh, out of the blue...

Chapter V

The sound of a door opening interrupted Sochin and Mera as they sat on the couch talking to each other. Nervously scratching the back of his head through the tangled mess of blonde hair, Makoto dwelled into the living room.

-Eh? Kohaku-san? ...What a surprise!

Mera looked at him and smiled warmly.

-Hello! - She greeted him. - Sorry if our talking woke you up. Kuro-chan is in there, isn’t he?

Makoto nodded.

-He’s... emm... still asleep, he said he would sleep all morning.

-...What else should I expect from that guy. - Sochin uttered in a tone that wasn’t very serious.

Makoto forced a grin and casually leaned to the wall.

-Don’t you two want to hang out somewhere? Today looks good for a walk. - He said. - Besides, I don’t want to wake Kuroi up by playing any games in the bedroom.

The two girls looked at each other and then nodded.

-Such a beautiful park! I can’t believe I hadn’t been here since I moved... - Mera exclaimed, taking a deep breath.

The town park around them was filled with flowers in full bloom. In the center was a large stone fountain that sprayed fresh drops of clear water to the air. From the plateau where the town was located they could see the nearby sea soaking the land with its calm waves. The sky was clear blue, without a single cloud in sight. The entire landscape around them felt like it could fit perfectly in a touristic advertisement.

-Which reminds me... Kohaku-san, why did you move here? - The blonde boy asked, casually adjusting a pair of rectangular reading glasses on his head. He didn’t wear them very often, but couldn’t go out without having them at hand.

Mera’s expression suddenly became serious, much like Kuroi at times. She looked him in the eyes, then moved her gaze to Sochin and finally back to her front.

-It’s about time you knew, I assume... Kuroi most likely told you about Dreffel already... our home world.

Sochin stared at her with surprise. Makoto waited for what she was going to say next.

-Yes, I was born there just like him. - She continued, looking around to make sure no one was listening to her words. - This might sound ridiculous, but the two of us are demigods who got banished from Dreffel simply for being born. There are more people like us, too.


Makoto’s heart skipped a beat.

Is that what Kuroi-senpai is?

-N-no way! Even if what you’re saying is true, what do we have to do with it? - Sochin asked, at the same time fascinated and terrified.
Unlike Kuroi, Mera had yet to reveal any sort of special ability. Her presence, however, was now so strong the girl could swear she would be able to feel it from the other side of the park.

Mera slowed down her pace as she looked for the right words to answer.

-Eleven years ago, the Nymphs of Dreffel who gave birth to us demigods perished from an unknown cause. Kuroi’s mother, my own mother... After being stripped of their power for falling in love with humans, we believe their life force slowly disappeared with time as a consequence. All that is now left of them are what is known as the Thirteen Relics, physical vessels containing the essence of their power. But...

-But? - Makoto asked.

-...Although we are supposed to claim those relics in order for our power to become complete and continue our mothers’ mission as guardians of Dreffel, Kuroi has different plans for the vessels. He’s out to destroy as many of them as he can for his own, selfish purposes and prevent us all from completing the mission we were born for. That is why I cannot allow him to return to Dreffel before all of us have claimed the Relics to ourselves... and that means keeping him away from any Medium he might come across.

Sochin kept listening to her words, not sure how to react. She didn’t trust Kuroi, but didn’t see him as an evil person.

-Just like me and my companions, his powers are weakened on Earth and he cannot open a portal on his own. He needs a human Medium and an Ibniad Stone, a powerful magic catalyst that can only be found in our world, in order to open a gap in the Dimensional Tissue leading to Dreffel. He probably intends to steal a stone from me as soon as he convinces one of you to help him... Which is why I came to you in the first place.

-To make sure we don’t help him? - Sochin finally dared to ask.

-And to offer you a deal. If you two tell me which one of you is the Medium and agree to open a portal for me and my companions, we promise to keep Kuroi away from you and that you will never hear about this entire issue again. You’ll be able to continue with your lives just like any other human.

What if we refuse?

The question popped up in Makoto’s mind, but he stayed silent. He had a feeling the answer would not be very pleasant.

As they continued walking, Sochin seemed to ponder over the deal. Who was she going to trust? Could she trust either of the two demigods? Were they even demigods, like Mera claimed, or was it all just a bluff to scare the two siblings? And who were the “companions” she kept mentioning?

The amber-eyed girl seemed to notice the hesitation in her expression and grabbed something from her handbag.

-Here. - She said, discretely showing the two an unusually-shaped gem that seemed to change color depending on the angle it was seen from. It had a gentle gleam that was definitely not from any place on Earth, and seemed to radiate some sort of mysterious energy.

-It’s... it’s beautiful... - The younger girl uttered.

-This is the purest form of an Ibniad stone. If you touch it, you’ll be able to know what I just told you is the truth.

Makoto placed a hand on his sister’s shoulder, as if trying to warn her to be careful.

-There is nothing to fear. - Mera said with a voice that was quiet but filled with conviction, almost a daring whisper.

Sochin slowly approached her right hand to the Stone and watched in awe as it seemed to glow more powerfully as she got closer to touching it. Makoto bit his lip and looked around nervously. Mera’s expression seemed to change to a satisfied grin for a moment.

Yes, show me what you can do, Medium!!

In a flash, something struck Mera’s hand and made her drop the jewel and take two steps back. It resembled an energy sphere, but it was pitch black and something felt awfully empty about it for the second it lasted.

As the three turned their heads to the direction it came from, the figure of a young man dashed towards the fallen Ibniad Stone and snatched it from the ground between them, then turning back around and revealing his face while stuffing it in his pocket. Framed by waves of wild reddish brown hair, Kuroi’s green eyes sparkled with anxiety as he stared at the three with a mix of relief and disappointment.

-Excuse me, but I’ll keep this.

-Give the Stone back, you damned thief! - Mera yelled out, suddenly losing her composure. Her amber eyes gleamed fiercely under the sunlight that filtered down on them from the trees above, and the two siblings could swear they were feeling heat emanating from her body as she spoke.

-Thief? I’m probably no worse than whoever sold this Stone to you, Mera. Now if you want to continue tricking those two humans into trusting you, you’re gonna have to take this Ibniad Stone from me first.

-’Sez who? - An unfamiliar voice rang from behind Makoto and Sochin. As they turned around, a boy that was little older than Kuroi and Mera appeared from behind a large bush. He wore a light leather jacket and his dark brown hair was pulled back away from his forehead with the help of a headband and he smirked victoriously. Next to him was another young man, seemingly a bit older, whose red hair was neatly tied back in a short ponytail. Despite the weather, he was wearing a long brown raincoat over his t-shirt and jeans and his expression was somewhat indifferent. The latter seized Kuroi’s moment of surprise to hold Sochin still, at the same time as Mera retreated to immobilize Makoto. The boy in the leather jacket stood in front of them with his hands in his pockets, and analyzed Kuroi with his sharp hazel eyes.

-This time you’ve really done it, Seishin. Not only did you establish contact with a Medium, you even had the nerve to snatch that Ibniad stone right under our noses. But what do you think you’ll achieve from that?

Behind him, the two siblings struggled to get free from the demigods’ grasp, but in vain. Makoto attempted to kick Mera, but she noticed his movements and punched the back of his head with surprising strength and nimbleness for such a delicate-looking girl. He fell on the ground, stunned.

-Makoto! - Kuroi yelled as he watched the boy drop nearly unconscious. - Leave those two alone, I’m the person you’re after!!

-Are you really that dumb? - The other young man asked with the same smirk. - Give us the Stone, and we might consider letting them live after we get the pretty girl to open a portal for us. As for you... That will depend on how well you behave.

-Genji, quit the chat and retrieve the Stone! If we don’t hurry, someone might show up! - Mera complained, joining him in front of Kuroi.

-Ladies first. - He replied, shrugging his shoulders with disturbing calmness.

Mera nodded and stretched both of her hands out for an instant before a circle of flames appeared around her feet and quickly devoured the ground towards Kuroi. He was barely able to dodge the flames by jumping to one side.

The girl shortened the distance between them and quickly threw a fireball that Kuroi dodged once more. Just as he was about to regain his stance, Genji sneaked up from behind him and dealt a powerful kick to the chest.

Sochin watched, powerless, as he fell on his back. She was in shock, having clearly seen Kuroi’s opponent vanish from one spot and immediately reappear on another as if he had teleported.

As Genji assumed a rigid stance before Kuroi, still on the ground, the ground around them began to shake slightly. Suddenly, a column of rock emerged from the ground and struck the green-eyed demigod from below, launching him up a couple of meters. As Mera prepared to launch another fire attack, Kuroi swiftly turned around in mid-air and vanished, reappearing right behind his adversaries and raiding them with two more blasts of black energy. Mera countered the one directed to herself with the fireball she was preparing, but Genji was hit by the other one.
At first it appeared that the attack had had no effect on him, but his legs suddenly bent and he fell down, robbed of his strength.

-That does it, I’m getting that Stone back right now! - The black-haired girl exclaimed, starting to run just before disappearing like the other two and reappearing next to Kuroi with a fireball in her right hand, ready for a close strike.

Kuroi attempted to turn around and block the attack, but all he managed to do was put his left arm between him and Mera fast enough to dissipate the flames on the impact. The attack was weakened enough to cause nearly no injury, but it burnt through his left sleeve revealing a two-stroke black marking on his forearm skin which he had so carefully kept hidden until then. However, it did not matter anymore. He didn’t know if he would still be on Earth the day after, nor if he would even be alive by then. The only thing in his mind was the urge to protect the Stone and release the two siblings from his enemies.

Seizing the moment right after the impact, he teleported himself close to the fountain and shattered its valve with one single punch. Water sprayed everywhere around, soaking both him and Mera just about enough to weaken her fire offensive.

Sochin couldn’t breathe for a second, though, watching as the Ibniad stone jumped out of Kuroi’s pocket, blown away by the impact from the punch. At the same time, Genji regained part of his strength and stood back on his feet, running towards the magic gem. Completely forgetting her position, she yelled out.

-Watch out, the Stone!!

The red-haired man quickly covered her mouth with one hand and grasped her even more tightly with the other, making her feel extremely uncomfortable. She tried to struggle, but he whispered something that resembled a chant and her entire body felt very weak and tired, almost as if she could sleep right there.

Kuroi dashed by Mera in hopes of getting the Stone back, but it was too late. Triumphant, Genji held it tightly in his hand. Stomping once on the ground, he made several columns of rock appear around Kuroi, locking him, and then threw the Stone to the hands of the boy with the raincoat.

-All yours, Wyatt! Use her to create the portal before she wakes up!

-Roger that!

Catching the Ibniad Stone with one hand, he held an inanimate Sochin with his free arm and started a different chant, this time in a loud voice. Approaching the jewel to her chest, he kept repeating the chant as its glow increased. Suddenly a white aura engulfed the girl and the air next to them appeared to be distorted. Ripping through space, a breach big enough for three adults to fit through appeared from thin air. Its inside was made of diffused light spiraling around at an irregular pace.

Kuroi, however, didn’t take his eyes off the sleeping girl. Her body was still glowing together with the Stone despite the portal being finished, and Wyatt’s expression showed just how awestruck he was. As he let go of the stone, a shattering sound was heard and the girl’s face contorted in pain. Makoto, still on the ground and facing up, tried to slowly open his eyes but the light forced him to blink several times before he was able to see what was going on.

-The Stone! It’s... it’s...

-Wh-what’s this, Genji?! - Mera asked, visibly alarmed.

-She probably still had a bit of her consciousness left and tried to fight back! - He replied, running in their direction. - Wyatt, get the Stone away from her!

The red-haired boy searched with his hands for the jewel, but as he finally grabbed it he realized only half was in his hand. As the light dissipated, the other half became visible attached to the girl’s chest through her ripped clothes, as if it had always been a part of her body. Makoto tried to get up, but the shock made him freeze in place like a statue.

Genji grabbed Mera’s arm and pulled her with him next to the portal. Staring at Wyatt, he cut through the air firmly with one hand.

-It doesn’t matter, taking half of it with us is enough to make the gap close after we enter it! Let’s go, before Seishin’s cage weakens!

The two other demigods nodded and immediately entered the distortion, which swirled even faster as each of them went through it. Genji went last, and the portal closed right as he vanished through it. All of a sudden, the area was filled with nothing more than dust and a thrilling silence.

Feeling the rock that surrounded him finally lose its magic protection, Kuroi punched through the columns with his knuckles already bleeding from breaking the fountain. Makoto dragged himself next to his sister, hurting with anxiety. He gently placed a hand on her neck to check if her heart was beating, and sighed in disturbed relief. As he suddenly felt her move, he jumped back with surprise.


The girl yelled as her eyes opened widely and stared into the sky of the same color with an expression of terror. Kuroi instinctively covered his ears as he heard her high-pitched scream, but quickly recovered his cool and ran towards her, worried.

-Sochin-san, please calm down! - He told her, kneeling down next to the two siblings and holding her hand while she pulled her ripped shirt up to cover her chest. Tears flowed down her eyes, quickly dissolved in the water that was still spurting from the broken fountain, and she was shaking uncontrollably. The faint glow that remained in the half Ibniad on her chest showed through the holes in the clothing and blinked every time she trembled, gradually losing intensity until it was completely gone.

-Sochin... Are you feeling alright? Do you need anything? - Makoto immediately asked, holding her in his arms.

As she slowly managed to calm down, she turned to her brother and hugged him tightly.

-Nii-chan... I’m scared... What’s gonna happen to me?!