Chapter 1: Prologue
Six years had passed since they had won their right to continue their existence. Six years had passed since they had gone their separate ways . . . six years had passed since he had learned the horrible news about the power that he possessed.
Fayt heaved a weary sigh as he lowered the axe he was using to chop firewood. At one point, his arms would have ached from the amount of abuse he was putting them through. He had been accustomed to living rather . . . luxuriously. Electricity, running water, computers and game simulators . . . anything that made life simple, he had once had within his grasp. Then things had changed. The Executioners had come and nearly wiped out everything he had grown up knowing and caring about . . .
He blinked then quickly shook the memories away. Dwelling on what had happened did not do him any good. He had made his decision a long time ago to escape from civilization. His abilities were not lost on him. Fayt could destroy anything with a single thought, and the realization of what others could use him for scared the hell out of him.
'It's for the better,' he thought, wiping his brow then picking his axe back up. 'If I'm where no one can find me, I won't be a threat to them. I won't be used . . . as the weapon that I know I am.'
One could say that Fayt was running from his problems. After all, once the final battle had been won, that was exactly what he had done. Take off and ran from the problems that had hounded him. However, Fayt knew the truth. He was a weapon, a genetically created weapon, thanks to his father . . .
Tears stung at his eyes as Fayt thought of the man who had raised him. In a burst of anger, he brought his axe down as hard as he could on the block of wood.
'I never had the chance to ask him why . . . I mean, I know why . . . but . . . there has to be more to me than just the ability to destroy . . . isn't there?'
Thunder rolled overhead and Fayt looked up. A light rain began to fall, soaking the shoulders of his clothing, but he knew that it would get worse. It was getting to be that time of the year.
Working quickly, Fayt gathered all of his firewood and put it away for later use. He just had stepped into his cabin when the heavens opened up, creating a torrential downpour. For a moment, he watched the rain come down then he smiled. Sure, his life was not exactly how he had originally planned it to be but he was happy with the way things were now. He would not change a thing and he knew it. Fayt turned away from the weather and headed for the bath. He would indulge in a simple life until he died, and he would keep all those he cared about safe from harm.
Fate, it seemed, would have other plans for him . . .
Chapter 1: Searching For Fayt
Cliff sighed in frustration as he fought back the urge to slam his fist into the computer console.
A year had passed since the Executioners had been defeated and since Fayt had pulled the greatest disappearing trick of all times. How the boy had done that, no one knew. Anyone with a strong biological scanner could tell that he was not like any other human, that he had powers beyond what a human should have. Those that had been in the know knew exactly who and what he was.
Of course, Cliff could not say that he blamed Fayt for taking off as he had. In the space of mere months, Fayt's life had been turned upside down and inside out. His father had been killed right before him after he had found out about a genetic ability the man had given to Fayt. A lot had been thrust onto the boy, and onto Maria and Sophia.
'I just wish he would have let someone know where he planned on heading to,' Cliff groused to himself. 'We could've made sure no one bothered him . . .'
"Captain . . ."
Cliff looked up as Mirage approached him, her expression serious as always. He knew what she would be telling him. It was what she had been telling him at each planet they had searched. Fayt was not there. He saw it in her eyes.
"He isn't here . . ."
"No, Captain," she shook her head. "I'm afraid not."
"We'll keep looking," he replied grimly. "We're not going to give up until we find him."
As Mirage went back to her console, Cliff leaned back in his seat. His shoulders slumped a little from defeat but he was not about to be deterred from his mission. He could not be deterred, not with what he had discovered, after Maria and Sophia disappeared as well.
Several weeks after the battle with Luther had taken place and after Fayt had vanished, Cliff had come across a very interesting piece of information on Moonbase. It was information he was sure Fayt would liked to have known before the death of his father. Since he had uncovered it, Cliff had been looking for the enigmatic boy so he could tell him, and the Klausian felt time was running out, not just for him but for Fayt as well.
'Please . . . just let us find him . . . before it's too late.'
He had to be careful. One wrong move and his quarry would get away from him. Fayt could not allow such a thing to happen. If it did, well . . . he would be living on nothing but leaves, ferns, bark, and berries for the next six weeks. While he did not mind eating the cocao berries of the owaru tree nor its leaves for they were quite filling and sustaining, Fayt liked a little variety with his meals. Cauco deer were extremely tasty (their flavour reminded Fayt of corn-fed beef from the food replicators) and tender, and there were many things he could use aside from the meat. The hide would become another blanket, the bones could be fashioned into knives and other tools, and the fat . . . well, the fat of the animal had many uses, like lamp oil and soap. He could not afford
With the greatest of ease and care, he drew back the arrow he had notched. The cauco deer he had been tracking was no longer spooked, and the creature had gone back to grazing. If he had been standing next to it, the deer's head would have been level with Fayt's, and its silver-grey coat shimmered in the pale sunlight. The animal itself had a great bulk which meant it had a good deal of both fat and meat on it; a good thing for the intrepid hunter. It seemed a little unfair to kill something while it ate, but Fayt had long ago put aside such reservations. Survival was key on backwater planets, and Fayt intended to live. He let the arrow loose . . .
And the arrow hit its mark. The deer jumped and tried to run off but it could not. Fayt's aim had been true and his arrow had buried itself deep into the animal's flesh, striking it in the heart and killing it almost instantly. Fayt smiled a little in triumph and victory before he dismissed it and went about his business. He had to get the animal back to his home before the rains hit again, and it would take Fayt at least an hour before he reached the cabin, thanks to the deer's girth.
'Oh well,' he thought, shrugging to himself. He pushed his bow to one side as he walked over to the fallen animal, sending a silent apology to the creature for having to kill it, and he immediately started to tie rope around the deer's legs, knowing what had to be bound together to make the trek easier. 'I have meat for a while. It's better than nothing.'
As he worked, Fayt could have sworn someone somewhere was watching him.
For the world of four-dimensional space, time flowed differently. While six years had passed in the Eternal Sphere, it had only been six months since Luther Lansfeld had had the honour of meeting several of his creations face-to-face. At the time, when they had first confronted him on their right to exist, the blond-haired man had not thought of the meeting as a privilege. After all, the beings before him were nothing more than characters in a game, pawns for him to do with as he pleased. He could delete them at any time he so chose, and nothing could stop him.
When Fayt Leingod and his friends had confronted him, Luther had received quite an awakening about their abilities and a rude one at that. He had been angry, furious, and, dare he admit it?, impressed. Luther had looked into Fayt's eyes for a brief moment. The blue-haired, green-eyed teen was his counterpart and exact opposite in many respects, but none were quite as obvious as their abilities. Fayt had it in him to destroy. The younger man's father had instilled the ability in him, but it had been Fayt's determination that had struck something within Luther. It had been in losing himself in those emerald depths for those brief seconds and feeling something tug at his soul as the battle had begun that Luther knew. He could not in good conscious destroy the Eternal Sphere. He then had made a decision he had been completely happy with for the first time in his life.
He had allowed the Eternal Sphere beings to defeat him. Oh sure, he had fought them with everything he had in his power. He was not about to go down without a fight, but it was a test on his part. He wanted, needed to know if they would be able to handle whatever life threw their way, and he had not been disappointed. The small group had fought with valour and honour, something that was still an alien concept to Luther. His employees did not possess such traits, and the blond had a hard time grasping the meanings.
It had been a humbling experience, too, being defeated by their hands. His counterpart had shown him mercy, something Luther had come to expect from Fayt Leingod, and their eyes had met for a second time. Luther had seen the sympathy and pity in the young man's eyes, he knew the young man had changed because of his adventures, and Luther had felt something he had never felt before. It had taken the last two months of the six for Luther to figure out what the emotions assailing him were. They were love and pride. He could not have created a perfect world in the Eternal Sphere as he had already accomplished, and he knew he would never be able to duplicate it. The Eternal Sphere was alive. Luther had created living, breathing entities capable of making their own decisions. How many in the four-dimensional realm could make such a claim?
Because of those emotions, Luther had decided to see what his creations in the Eternal Sphere were doing and how they were faring in their lives. Call it a Creator's curiosity or perhaps an obsession, but Luther felt the need to know. He simply could not stay out of their lives as they had so requested.
The first thing he had done was search for his counterpart, Fayt Leingod. He thought for sure the young man would have stayed with his friends and continued his tour across the universe, but Luther soon found it was not the case. Cliff Fittir along with Sophia Esteed, Mirage Kaos, and Maria Traydor were searching for the young man. From what Luther had learned, as soon as the group had returned back to the Eternal Sphere, Fayt had disappeared, and no one had heard from him since the final battle. Cliff, Sophia, Mirage, and Maria were now searching for the wayward young man in hopes of keeping enemies from harming and using Fayt. The rest of the group, Peppita Rosetti, Roger Huxley, Albel Nox, Adray Lasbard, and Nel Zelphyr, had gone back to their old lives, but were not succeeding in trying to be their normal selves. They had changed, much in the same way Fayt had changed. It had been expected really, but not seeing Fayt with his friends had been a disappointment for him.
However, not finding Fayt with his friends only made the blond-haired man more determined to find his counterpart. The blue-haired man was quite capable of surviving on his own and was very resourceful, having honed his skills on his adventures. Fayt would search for a planet where no one would even think to look for him and make that his new home. Luther searched again.
Fortunately for him, finding Fayt had been a matter of typing in the right parameters for Luther. Within seconds, he had the young man's location pinpointed on another under-developed planet. Locating Fayt had been something Cliff Fittir had yet to do, and Luther could not say he was surprised at Fayt's choice for a new home. From what Luther had learned about Fayt's past exploits, he had started to adapt on Elicoor II. Fayt had truly been in his element on that planet. This new planet, one Luther called Dreamoria, would be no exception and he had not been disappointed. Fayt was doing well, hunting and gathering the materials he needed in order to survive.
Luther let out a soft sigh as he switched his monitor off, and turned away from the screen. He had been watching Fayt Leingod, probably for far too long, but it had been satisfying to see the young man again. His newfound obsession with the blue-haired man baffled him, but Luther figured it had to do with the fact Fayt Leingod was his true opposite. There was no room for anything else.
"Luther? Is everything okay?"
He glanced up as his sister entered his Workspace, and he scowled. He was still upset with her that she had aided Fayt and his friends and not him, but then she had already believed them to be alive.
"Fine," he snarled, rising to his feet. "What is that you want, Blair? I'm busy."
"I have some . . . news," she said, her tone solemn. She did not seem the least bit upset by his treatment of her. They were siblings, after all.
"Oh? What kind of news?" Like there was anything she could say that would surprise him anymore.
"Well, it isn't good," Blair murmured, keeping her gaze on him. "It has to do with Fayt Leingod."
Chapter 2: Survival and Adaptation
The moment Blair said Fayt's name, Luther's heart leapt into his throat. What could she have possibly found out about the young man that could be so terrible? He knew from her expression and her tone of voice the news was not good. She had even said the news was not good. And why the hell did he even care as much as he did? Aside from the fact he respected Fayt and cared about the young man the way a loving God would care for all of his creations, why did Blair's solemn words scare the hell out of him?
'It's more than just respect for him and caring about a creation,' a little voice in the back of his mind whispered. 'He's different, unique. Just like you are. And creation cannot exist without destruction. You know that.'
'Shut up,' Luther growled at himself. 'That isn't the case.'
'Oh, but it is. Take a deep and hard look at yourself, Luther. You're not a cold-hearted bastard. There was a time when you didn't want to destroy the Eternal Sphere. It wasn't a game. You wanted to create something special. It was everything to you. That's why Fayt was created in your image. Truly in YOUR image. The only differences between the two of you are your hair and eye colours, and your personalities. Isn't that right, Luther?'
'You know nothing.'
"What about him?"
Somehow, Luther had managed to not betray his inner turmoil to Blair when he spoke. He kept the scowl on his face, kept his tone neutral and calm, though he knew whatever she had to say might kill him. Again, the feeling baffled him.
"It seems his father gave him more than the power of destruction," Blair replied. "I did some research on the good doctor's experiments. Luther, this isn't good."
"Perhaps you should explain what you've found, Blair," Luther snarled, "instead of speaking in circles."
Blair sighed then nodded her head. "Of course, Luther." She then drew a deep breath and started to explain. "We both knew that Doctor Leingod inserted the Destruction gene into Fayt."
"Right," Luther said, becoming impatient. "The gene meant to destroy the Enforcers."
'And myself,' he added silently.
"Well, it seems Doctor Leingod intended for Fayt to do more," Blair continued. "You know the three levels of Destruction symbology? All three are genetically encoded into Fayt's body."
Luther paled at hearing those words, and a shiver traveled down his spine. The doctor had embedded all three levels of Destruction symbology? And into his own son? What the hell had Doctor Leingod been thinking?
"It gets worse," Blair murmured. "Fayt also carries enhanced genes for Transformation, one level of Creation, Paranormal, Supernatural, Zodiac, and Chaos. I don't know what Doctor Leingod was thinking when he inserted the alterations into his own son, but it's still not good. Unless he finds a way to control the abilities, Fayt's powers are going to tear him, and the Eternal Sphere, apart."
Luther did not say anything to Blair's words. His mind was processing the newfound information as quickly as it could. The three levels of Destruction. Transformation. One level of Creation. Paranormal. Supernatural. Zodiac. Chaos. And only one level of Fayt's powers had manifested. Fayt was a walking anomaly, and Luther found himself asking the question once more, what was Doctor Leingod thinking? Had he intended for Fayt to completely destroy Luther and take over as the Creator? For some reason, the blond-haired man did not think so. The Eternal Sphere's existence had depended upon Fayt more than it had Maria Traydor and Sophia Esteed, granted, but it would take a very large ego to want your own child to take over as the universe's creator. Doctor Leingod had been no egotist. He had not been created to be one. So what had the good doctor intended when he had altered his son's genes? Had he seen another threat to the Eternal Sphere, one that did involve Luther?
It was entirely possible. The beings of the Eternal Sphere had always been created to be more than just characters in a game. They were artificially intelligent beings, and they were now alive. How or why, Luther did not know and he had wanted to find out. First, though, he needed to solve Doctor Leingod's riddle, and he had a feeling the answers lay in the abilities he had given his son. Everything else had to wait.
"Who else knows about his abilities?"
Blair blinked then shrugged. "Aside from Doctor Leingod's research team, no one. At least, as far as I can tell. His friends are looking for him, though. From what I've learned, the surviving members of the Vendeeni are also looking for Fayt." She paused. "They intend to use him, Luther."
'Not if I can help it.'
"Thank you, Blair."
"Are you sure we're doing the right thing?"
Cliff glanced up from his monitor at the one who had spoken. Sophia stood next to him, fidgeting slightly and generally looking worried. He offered her a confident smirk.
"Of course we are," he said. He turned his attention back to his monitor, and typed in several coordinates at a rapid pace. "We're not going to find Fayt without them. Who knows? We may even find him among them."
Sophia's expression was one of doubt, and Cliff did not blame her one bit for it. They had passed over Elicoor II several times throughout the year, mostly to check on how Nel, Roger, and Albel were doing, but they had never detected Fayt's presence anywhere on the planet. Given the technology they had at their disposal and the fact they had Fayt's genetic code logged into the computer, the crew of The Diplo would have found him there a long time.
Still, there was always a chance Fayt had decided to leave wherever he was and head for Elicoor II. Cliff knew the younger man had been rather fond of the planet and its inhabitants. His young friend had taken the deaths of Dion and Ameena rather hard and had blamed himself for the events. To Cliff, it would make sense for Fayt to eventually make his way there.
"That's really not what I meant," Sophia murmured. Cliff lifted his head and looked at her once more. Her head had turned away from him.
"Oh? And what did you mean?" he asked, leaning back in his chair and folding his arms.
"I mean the Vendeeni . . . what if they're using us to find him? We'd be doing him more harm than good in trying to find him, wouldn't we?"
Cliff frowned at the young girl's words. She definitely had a point. It was entirely possible the Vendeeni could use them to find Fayt. The young man's destructive capabilities were enormous and there were many races other than Vendeeni who were interested in Fayt. Cliff had discovered that first hand. He absently rubbed at a scar on his upper right arm, something no one else knew about.
"I mean, I do want to find him," Sophia continued. "I really do. I miss him, more than anything, but I also want him to be happy. It was quite obvious he wasn't happy when he left."
"What makes you think that?" Cliff tilted his head towards her. She definitely had his attention.
"Well, he had changed," she said, shrugging her shoulders a little. "I don't know how to explain it but there was something different about him. It was like . . . like he couldn't come back to the life he had before. I don't know how else I can explain it."
As she spoke, his adventures with Fayt on Elicoor II returned to Cliff's mind. The young man had been adapting to the place and quickly. There had been one point when Fayt had forgotten they still had their scanners with them. That had been when they were searching for copper ore to work on the Aquarians' runological weapon, and Fayt had asked him if he knew what the stuff looked like. It should have been Cliff's first clue that the young man he had been sent after had started to change and that he would not be able to go back to his former life.
"Don't worry," he said. "You did just fine. Still, I'm not going to give up in looking for him. Sure, we may end up leading the Vendeeni to him, but there's always the chance they could find him on their own. At least if we find him and they show up, we can fight them off. On his own, he doesn't stand a chance."
"You're right, Cliff. I'm sorry."
"Don't be," he said with a wave of his hand. "You're worried about him, and you have every right to be. You two were friends for a very long time, after all. I'd say that gives you more right to be concerned. More than the rest of us."
Though he spoke confidently, Cliff certainly did not feel that way. A small part of him was jealous and angry over Sophia's devotion to Fayt. Sophia was a sweet girl, albeit somewhat clueless. How could Fayt simply leave her like he had? Hell, how could he have left any of them the way he had? Did he not know how much he was cared about and loved?
Cliff knew the answers to those questions. Of course, Fayt knew how much he was loved and cared about. That knowledge was the entire reason why the young man had left in the first place. Fayt knew about his father's experiments and he knew he was a target for any race wanting total domination over others. Staying with those he loved and cared about put Fayt at risk. His father's death had probably taught the young man as much, hence the greatest disappearing trick Cliff had ever seen.
Unfortunately, Fayt could stay hidden only for so long before someone found him. Cliff knew it. He felt it in his gut, and it drove him. They had to find Fayt first.
"Thank you, Cliff." Sophia smiled at him.
"Ahh, forget about it," he replied, turning back to his computer. "It was nothing."
"Maybe not to you," she said. "But it was to me."
Then she turned and walked away. From the corner of his eye, Cliff watched her go, confusion filling his mind. Was it just him or had she blushed when she had spoken to him?
Fayt let out a weary sigh as he rinsed off his tools, put them away, and then made his way towards his bathroom. His work had been hard and grueling, but it still had been satisfying. He now had enough meat to last him through the rainy season and more materials to make some much-needed necessities. The meat had been properly seasoned and smoked for preservation. Now he just needed to get the blood and grime off of him, and he could call it a day.
From the first moment he had stepped foot onto Dreamoria, Fayt knew he had to remain as far away from any villages and any people as he could. Interactions with them would lead to stories and stories would lead people to him. While he missed his friends and wondered what they were doing now, Fayt knew he could not go back to that life. He could not risk putting their lives in danger anymore. Because of his feelings of protection for his friends, Fayt chose the most secluded, most remote location with a plentiful water source on the planet, and had started from there. His time on Elicoor II had taught him how to survive against wild animals and monsters hell-bent on eating him, but he still enjoyed a little bit of luxury. The cabin he had built for himself had proven as much.
The cabin itself really could not be called a cabin. It resembled a two-story home complete with a kitchen and three bathrooms, and it was still a work in progress. There was only one bedroom in the entire place and the rest of the rooms were more for storage and work. He had spent several months sleeping in his small shuttlecraft while he had built his new home from the foundation up, but it had been worth it in the end to Fayt. The house was his and no one else could claim otherwise.
Granted, when he had first started, he had not known much about how to build something simple let alone a house. His skills had lain more in writing, engineering, and the compounding of chemicals together. He had relied heavily on the books of architecture and how to build things in the shuttlecraft's database. There had been a few poor starts and there were still some issues regarding indoor plumbing and the creation of electricity, but if there was anything that could be said about him it was how determined he was to make something work. And Fayt had been determined to make his life of solitude work. He could not afford for it to fail. So he did not have indoor plumbing or electricity. There were still ways for him to take nice hot baths and to cook his food.
And Fayt had the foresight of having the bath filled for when he was done with his preparations. He had boiled the water in advance so it would be at the right temperature for him, and he could hardly wait to sink himself into those steaming depths. A long hot bath was just what he needed to relax tense and aching muscles.
A weary sigh escaped Fayt as he stepped into the steam-filled room, and he slowly stripped out of his bloodstained clothes. Once they were off and soaking in a bucket of cool water, he entered the tub and sat down, the hot water releasing the tension in his muscles. Fayt closed his eyes and let his mind wander . . .
Chapter 3: Promises, Promises, And The Risk of Discovery
Fayt awoke with a groan. His head felt as if he had been hit with a thousand tiny hammers, and his body felt like it had been buried underneath a boulder twice his size and four times his weight. He knew it was not possible for a large stone to have landed on him. One, he did not leave near any mountains or cliff sides, and, two, he would have been dead if something that large had landed on top of him. It still felt like one had done so, and the last thing he recalled he had been in his tub. The surface underneath him felt soft, like he was in his bed.
Something about his fatigue and pain was not right, in Fayt's mind. He should not have been as tired as he was or as sore. His activities had been nothing out of the ordinary, and he had long since adapted to his new home and lifestyle. He should not have felt as exhausted as he did.
"Awake, are you? That was a rather foolish thing, falling asleep in the tub like that," a strange yet familiar voice commented. "You really are a fool, Fayt Leingod. You could have died."
Fayt blinked his eyes, and he bolted forward the moment the other person had spoken. His hand instinctively reached for his sword.
"Luther," he murmured, looking around. A figure shrouded in black and white sat on the opposite side of the room, though to Fayt's eyes, the form was a bit blurry.
"Amazing," Luther commented. Fayt had to shake his head to clear away the fog. "Your life is saved and the only way you can thank the one who saved you is to attack. It's rather amusing, actually."
"What do you want, Luther? And how did you know I was here? I thought you were going to leave us alone," Fayt demanded. He still could not shake the feeling that something was off. Luther should not have been there. The man had promised to leave the Eternal Sphere alone, and why the hell was his vision so damned blurry?
"You should take it easy," Luther said, his tone solemn and somehow soothing. "You almost drowned."
"Drowned? What are you talking about?" Another groan escaped Fayt as a wave of dizziness assaulted him. He heard more than he saw Luther walking towards him.
"You fell asleep in your own tub, Fayt, and you slipped under the water."
"And you . . . pulled me out?" Fayt blinked again and tried to focus his gaze on Luther.
"Yes." Luther sat next to him. "Call it morbid curiosity or whatever you want, but I felt the need to check on you. I'm rather glad that I did."
"And why's that?"
"You have me intrigued, Fayt, and very much so." Luther's hand touched his cheek and caressed it lightly. "Why, I cannot say. You just do."
"Hmph." Fayt was not sure how he felt about Luther's reappearance in his life. He had been living on his own for six years now, and he had been doing a fine job of surviving without any interference. The last thing he had wanted was for anyone to find him, including the Creator himself.
Still, a small part of him was grateful that Luther had shown up, especially if what the blond-haired god had said was true and he had fallen asleep in his tub. He was still alive, thanks to this man.
And this man was touching him in what seemed to be a rather intimate manner. Luther's hand felt cool against his flesh, and Fayt let out a sigh.
"How are you feeling?" Luther inquired.
"Why do you ask?" Fayt replied back. He did not care for Luther's close proximity to him. It made him uncomfortable and the man's nearness served as a reminder of how long it truly had been since he'd had any kind of contact with anyone. He was not ready to be close with anyone, not after the disasters he had endured during his time on Elicoor II. He still felt as if his heart were still healing from those trials and tribulations.
"Because I am curious. That's why. Now answer the question, Fayt. How are you feeling?"
The Creator's tone broke no room for arguing or resisting. He had demanded an answer, and he expected to receive one. Fayt knew the tone when he heard it. It was very much like the tone his father had used on him when he had been a child and getting into mischief. A pang of hurt, sadness, and anger coursed through Fayt at the thought of his father. So many things to ask but no way for him to get any answers.
"Okay, I guess . . ." His voice trailed off. "Just tired."
"Tired when you've been doing nothing out of the ordinary since coming here. How interesting." There was a momentary pause between them then Fayt felt himself being pushed back down onto his makeshift bed. "I'll get your healing elixir for you. You have a fever."
"How did you . . ."
"I did my research," Luther replied, his tone calm. "No more talking, Fayt. You need to rest. We'll talk more later."
Luther watched as Fayt dropped off into slumber once more, warm green eyes being shielded from the rest of the world. It was a bit of a disappointment, seeing those eyes shut so soon, but Luther knew such a thing could not be avoided. Fayt had nearly drowned, and he would need his rest in order to recover. If the young man was lucky, he would not develop any serious diseases, such as pneumonia. Luther knew such things were possible for the Eternal Sphere beings, having written several of the program codes himself.
'Besides,' Luther thought, 'it's better he gets his rest now. It could very well be the last chance he gets for a while.'
Before he had entered the Eternal Sphere and directly into Fayt's home, Luther had debated on whether or not he was truly going to enter and intervene in Fayt's life. He had made a promise, after all, that he would not interfere, and it had been that promise that had held him back. Blair's news of Fayt's hidden abilities could not be ignored, in spite of the promise, and Luther realised as much. He had to take some kind of an action, and intervention seemed like the best idea.
So now he sat next to his former nemesis, watching the other man sleep, and Luther found he did not have any complaints about what he saw. Fayt had remained on the slender side. It took a trained eye to notice the fine definitions of muscles on the blue-haired man's body, but notice them Luther did. To him, it meant Fayt had become a stronger person, capable of tackling whatever came his way . . . including the news that had brought Luther to Dreamoria in the first place, and Luther knew the signs. In the next several days, Fayt would suffer a series of powerful headaches, possibly terrible enough to incapacitate him for hours on end. There would also be bouts of nausea, chills, fever, and general aches as the hidden powers fought to awaken themselves. If Fayt was not careful, he would end up tearing himself apart and at least everything within a hundred miles of him, if not the entire Eternal Sphere. Luther knew he had to stay close by to his former nemesis. The stakes had become high for him to abandon the Eternal Sphere now.
"When you wake, we shall talk some more," Luther murmured to his slumbering companion. Then he glanced up at the ceiling. "I should have never made that promise."
"And there you have it."
Cliff watched the assembled group before him, taking in and analyzing reactions. Gathering old traveling companions had not been too terribly difficult. Albel had taken up residence – again – with Crosell, Nel had gone back to serving the Queen of Aquios, Roger had taken up training with Adray, and Adray . . . well, he continued to be a pest for his daughter, Claire. Peppita, out of all them, had been the easiest to locate, being a galactic star in the Rosetti troupe.
Once everyone had been gathered, Cliff had proceeded to tell those who had gone back to their old lives why he had gotten them together and what was at stake. Including them had been something he, Sophia, Mirage, and Maria had agreed would be a last resort. However, the Vendeeni were not the only ones after Fayt. Another force had appeared in their universe. They called themselves the Paradisians, and they were formidable, more so than the Aldians and Vendeeni combined. The Paradisians had also made it known they wanted Fayt and they would stop at nothing until he was in their possession.
Of course, Cliff had not told anyone about the Paradisians or about the other secrets he had uncovered, the unknown powers Fayt and Fayt alone possessed. He knew that he should. They needed to be prepared for one hell of a fight, which the Paradisians were quite willing to give, but he also did not want to give them one more thing to worry over. At least, not yet.
Albel broke the silence between them first, successfully interrupting Cliff's mental debate with himself. As usual, the Glyphian's disdain could not be detained.
"The fool," he muttered. "I'm going to kill him for being such a coward."
"Coward? And how do you figure that?" Nel inquired.
"He took off, did he not? Only cowards run away in the face of adversity."
"That is true," Nel conceded, "but Fayt also knows what's been bestowed upon him by his father. Perhaps he wishes to protect those he loves and cares about."
"That's what we were thinking," Maria stated. "But the Vendeeni have regained their former strength and then some. It's only a matter of time before they find him and capture him."
"She's right," Cliff interjected. "Chances are, they've even followed us here to find him. Given your reactions, I'd say Fayt isn't here."
"You don't sound like you were expecting him to be here," Clair observed.
"We weren't," Sophia stated. "If anyone's done any searching up on him, this would be the most likely spot to look for him. He really did like it here."
"Not nearly enough," Albel grumbled. Cliff shot the Glyphian a dirty. The swordsman just did not get it, in the blond's opinion. Fayt cared too much about Elicoor II. The Vendeeni attack on the place six years ago had proven that to Cliff. Fayt would not return to a place if he felt he would be endangering any of the world's inhabitants.
'But there's more to it, too,' he reasoned. Albel had trusted Fayt, more than anyone else assembled there. The blue-haired man had been the only one who had managed to put up with Albel's sharp tongue and surly demeanor. Fayt had been the only one who had never taken Albel's threats and insults personally. Cliff also knew Fayt and Albel had been in something akin to a relationship. Cliff had walked in on the two several times while they had been intimate, but he had never said a word to anyone, not even to Sophia. He really did not want to break the young girl's heart, she cared about Fayt that much. A part of Cliff envied Fayt for Sophia's devotion. The same part wished she would show it for him.
'Can't think of that now,' he told himself. 'First thing's first. We have to find Fayt before the Vendeeni and Paradisians do.'
"Actually, I'm sure Fayt cared very much about your planet and everyone on it," Maria interjected. "He's very well aware of his powers of Destruction. If anyone knew anything about him, they'd know that Elicoor II is like home to him."
"And if they wanted him for his powers, this would be the first place they'd look," Mirage stated, her tone its usual calm. "Fayt beat himself up needlessly over the Vendeeni attack. We know he would not want to see a repeat of the same thing."
"It's true, Albel," Cliff murmured. "You weren't there to see it the last time. It was everything we could do to keep him from turning himself over to the Vendeeni."
"Whatever," Albel said with a scowl. "That is no longer here nor there. The only truth in this matter is the fool has disappeared, and you need our help to find him." The Glyphian rose to his feet. "And since that is so, what are we doing sitting here? We are wasting time."
Scarlet eyes landed on Cliff, and the Klausian barely kept his shudder from being noticed by everyone else. There was something in the look the swordsman had given him, something that scared Cliff to no end. Perhaps it was suspicion and a promise. Perhaps it was nothing. Either way, Cliff knew he had to tread carefully around Albel. The Glyphian captain was no fool. Sooner or later, he would find out and, once he did, all hell would break loose. Cliff just hoped they found Fayt before it did.
Sweat coated their bodies, and lips pressed together in a fury of passion and hunger. Fingernails dug into flesh as the room filled with the scents of sex and the sweat and the sounds of moaning and whimpering and small cries of ecstasy. Every fiber of his being ached as he drove himself into the delicious sweetness of the other pinned underneath him. It felt natural, it felt right, and he intended to make the moment last for as long as he possibly could. He had the stamina, after all, and the technique as well as a great deal of restraint to make the other cry out his name over and over again.
Leaf-green eyes met his, and neither of them could turn away. It was there, an awareness of what they were doing and why they were doing it, and it scared the other man. He saw as much, but he could not stop. They had to achieve their goal. They had to connect . . . somehow.
Fingernails dug further into flesh as warmth splashed over him, and a cry rang out in the stillness.
Luther's eyes flew open, and he lay as still as he could, the early morning light washing over him and Fayt. The blue-haired man continued to sleep, blissfully unaware of the provocative and realistic dream that had visited the blond. Carefully, Luther pushed himself in a sitting position and slid out of the only bed in the small home.
To say he had not ever dreamt of taking Fayt and making him writhe and moan in pleasure would have been a lie. Luther had watched as his former nemesis had coupled repeatedly with Albel Nox, the expression of pure joy and passion seared forever into Luther's mind. The blond wanted Fayt, and he felt dangerously close to living that dream in his current situation.
However, Fayt still burned with a fever. Luther could not, in good conscious, couple with the younger man while Fayt remained vulnerable. Should the time ever come for he and Fayt to participate in such carnal acts, Luther wanted the younger man clear-minded so no regrets and accusations could follow afterwards. It also affirmed to Luther he felt things for Fayt he had not felt for anyone else.
A tiny whimper escaped the blue-haired man as Luther crawled out of the bed. For a moment, Luther paused and focused his gaze on Fayt. The other man's skin had a slightly sallow tinge to it, and a few spots on his face were almost transparent. A rune appeared on the translucent flesh, and Luther recognized it.
"Transformation," he murmured. He felt chilled and no longer in any need for escape. With a heavy heart, Luther sat back down on the bed. "So it has begun."
Fayt opened his eyes, the brightness usually shining from emerald depths dimmed from the changes his body was undergoing. Luther placed a hand on the other man's forehead.
"I'm right here. I will not be leaving," he said.
"I don't feel so good . . ."
"I know. I can tell. Get some rest."
"I can't . . . The rainy season . . ."
"Hush . . ." Luther placed a finger on Fayt's lips. "You do not have a choice in the matter, Fayt. Rest now. While you still can. I will watch over you."
Fayt sighed, his eyes closing. He nodded his head a little.
"Rest . . ."
'You're being far too nice, Luther,' a little voice whispered. 'Just kill him and put him out of his misery.'
'And why would I do that?' he inquired back. 'I want him.'
'You want everything you cannot have.'
'I will have him,' Luther promised. 'I swear I will.'
A beeping sound interrupted his private little conversation, and Luther frowned. He recognized it as being his communicator. Blair had insisted he carry it with him should he decide to enter the Eternal Sphere and retrieve Fayt. Scowling, he pulled it out of his shirt and opened it.
"What is it, Blair?" he snarled. He despised interruptions.
"Luther, you need to get Fayt out of there now!" his sister cried out. "You've been discovered!"
Chapter 4: Crash Landings
Blair's frantic tone had been the indication. Whoever had found them was not on the friendly side. The moment she said they had been discovered and that they had to get out of there, Luther hopped out of Fayt's bed and scooped his former rival into his arms. Fayt barely made a sound as he did so, the fever rendering the blue-haired man in a near comatose state. It worried Luther to see his former nemesis so ill, even though he knew the potential reasons behind the invalid state, and the blond-haired man believed the sudden panic from his sister had only heightened his concern and paranoia. However, he refused to allow his emotions to override his senses. He never allowed his emotions to rule, not anymore.
"Blair . . ."
"First of all," he said, "calm down. Panicking will get us nowhere. Second, be prepared to receive us." Luther paused, gazing at Fayt's sweat-covered face. "Fayt is ill."
"Understood," Blair replied, her tone considerably less frantic. "I have a lock on you both."
"Open the portal."
A slight rip about his height appeared in front of Luther. Where the western wall of the house should have been, Luther saw instead his sister and her team waiting for him and Fayt. The rip widened a little more, allowing for two people to pass through. Luther stepped towards it just as the ground started to tremor. He simply scowled in response and entered his own world. Behind him, the opening sealed itself, and Luther found himself swarmed by Blair and the research team.
"Is he all right?"
"How come he's unconscious?"
"He doesn't look good."
Everyone talked at once, all wearing varying expressions of concern. Luther's scowl deepened, silencing the research team in an instant and causing most of them to back away from Luther, except for Blair. Rather, she stepped towards him.
"I've taken the liberty of alerting the hospital unit," she said. "They're expecting you and Fayt."
"Why?" Luther inquired, even as he headed for the transport. He had different ideas, however. "There is not much they will be able to do for him."
"You said he's ill. There's still something they can do for him," she countered. "Even if it's just to get his fever under control."
Luther snorted his disdain for the doctors and Blair's faith in them and continued on his way. He still had no intentions of taking Fayt to the hospital unit, especially to try and get the younger man's fever under control. It was not a natural fever anyway, and his former nemesis required rest more than anything else, something he would not get with several people poking needles into him and prodding him with whatever the hell instruments they had.
Luther glanced at Fayt's prone form and slightly grimaced expression. The blue-haired man slept on, but Luther saw a slight difference in him than what had been in his expression before they had left the Eternal Sphere. Seeing that small change got Luther to thinking, and his thinking caused him to walk faster until he was racing through the corridors. As he ran, a smile lit his features. If his theory was correct – and Luther believed that it was – then he knew just what to do and where to take Fayt. All that remained was the final test.
What he gazed at, he was unsure, but it was a fascinating sight nonetheless. Red and orange danced together like fire, and they rolled like water, crashing over one another much like waves in an ocean, and he found he could not tear his gaze away from the beautiful sight.
From what he had seen a few minutes before, a ship had been in the same place of the colours, a rather large ship. He had watched in a detached fashion as small explosions surrounded the vessel and then as the vessel exploded into its own fiery state. The shockwaves rocked The Diplo as she tried to maneuver out of the line of fire. He smirked as he observed the destruction wrought upon the enemy at the same time frustration raged through his blood. Oh, how he yearned for the battlefield and for an opponent worthy of his blade! Oh, how he desired a partner he could trust, someone with skill on both the battlefield and in the bedroom, the thrill of conquering pliant flesh in every sense! He'd had all of that in Fayt when the blue-haired man had been around and at his side, but never again since Fayt disappeared. Albel missed it, wanted all of that back and then some.
He released a small portion of his frustration out as a sigh and a bang against the shatterproof glass with his metal-encased hand. He had half a mind to do a little sabotage work on The Diplo's engine so the ship could crash land on the nearest planet. As he understood it, the one they were closest to was an underdeveloped planet, much like his home of Elicoor. In Albel's twisted form of logic, if it was like he were had grown up and become a man, there would be something on this planet for him to kill that no one would miss.
However, there was only one problem with his plan. Albel did not know how to sabotage the ship well enough to make it crash on some uncharted planet. For all he knew, that Marietta wench would have the damage repaired before they even saw dirt, and then he would really be aggravated.
Then Albel noticed something, and he tilted his head at the puzzling sight. The planet in question was growing considerably larger. He could almost discern things like clouds, water, and landmasses, and he pressed himself closer to the glass. Was he seeing things? Then Maria's voice came over that blasted intercom thingy, causing Albel to jump and reach for his sword.
"Hold on, everyone. We're making an emergency landing. Things are going to get a little bumpy."
"Looks like I didn't need to do anything after all," he said to himself, smirking and relaxing. A feeling of anticipation flooded his senses, and Albel flexed his clawed hand. He was finally going to get the chance at a real fight, and he also sensed something important was going to happen on this planet, this Maepyria.
At his side, the Crimson Scourge hummed its agreement, eager for a battle. It, too, wanted to taste some blood. Albel stepped away from the glass to prepare himself, his smirk still in place.
It was about damned time something happened.
Fayt awoke to the scents of lavender oil and chamomile tea. His entire body ached, and his head felt fuzzy. The last thing he recalled was passing out again with Luther in close proximity, and he wondered where the blond-haired man had found the lavender and chamomile. Dreamoria, or at least the area Fayt resided in, had no such herbs. Luther would have had to travel to the furthest village or back to the four-dimensional world for such things.
"You're awake. Again. This is a good sign," he heard Luther comment.
"And how do you figure that?" Fayt asked with a groan. He still felt as if a boulder or something else of equal size and mass had buried him.
"Simple logic, of course. It means your powers are not getting the better of you," Luther replied. The Creator entered Fayt's field of vision and sat next to him. A white cloth was in his hands. "And just so you are aware, we are no longer on Dreamoria."
Fayt tilted his head, frowning. If they were no longer on Dreamoria, where were they and why had Luther taken him from his home? Fayt did not understand.
"We were discovered by some new alien race," Luther said, as if he sensed Fayt's questions. "They were looking for you so I brought you here, to Maepyria."
"An alien race? The Vendeeni?" Fayt asked, feeling more than a bit alarmed. Luther shook his head.
"No. They are called Paradisians, and I am guessing they were searching for you because of your powers. They apparently intend to use you for some nefarious reason or another."
"Paradisians? After me for some unknown reason? Why did you create them then if you helped me to escape them?"
"I didn't create them," Luther replied. "They're a virus from another gaming company."
It had taken Fayt a few moments to recover from the shock of Luther's words, but recover he did. He wanted to know more about this Paradisians Luther had mentioned, but Fayt had discovered his current surroundings were more fascinating than the threat the new aliens presented.
The two of them were walking around in a village called Maentah, and being there remind Fayt of walking around Peterny on Elicoor II. The buildings were composed of bricks, wood, and thatched roofs, and the place had two forges as well as a couple of bakers and fruit shops, herbalists and several butchers roasting meat in the early morning hours. There were some differences, however. While both Peterny and Maentah were places on underdeveloped planets, some of the weaponry on Maentah was far more sophisticated and advanced. Fayt had seen lasers among crossbows and grenades hanging on the belts of the village patrol. The weapons were out of place yet the inhabitants knew what they were and how to use them properly.
Luther apparently caught on to Fayt's curiosity, and he smiled. He leaned over and whispered, "This is not my doing. This is how Maepyria is supposed to be."
Fayt blinked at this revelation, which caused Luther to laugh. Then the blond led him out of the village and into a field of strange flowers.
"Allow me to explain. While the Eternal Sphere is my creation, Maepyria and its inhabitants are not. Rather, this place is the dream child of two programmers at Sphere."
"They wanted a place filled with mixed technology?"
"In a manner of speaking, yes," Luther replied. "Here, there are programs you would recognize as gods and goddesses. They walk among the inhabitants and "lend" them aide and special gifts in return for allegiance and worship. There are also varies creatures of myth residing on this planet, and they are most difficult to defeat."
"Why'd they do that?" Fayt bent over to pick a flower.
"I am sure you understand what it takes to create a character for a simulation game, yes?"
Fayt paused for a moment then nodded. A blue flower with a white stem was in his hand.
"Yeah, I've done so myself a few times."
"Well, the two programmers in question are not ones for god-like characters, like the ones many in my world like to create," Luther answered. "They had been working on Maepyria in book and art form then turned everything they dreamt into a reality for them to play. Most from the four-dimensional world do not come to Maepyria unless they are seeking a challenging form of play. Such people want their god-like creations, and it simply is not possible to have them here."
"Is that why you brought me to this place?"
"Partly," Luther said. "We are still researching these Paradisians, but Maepyria is the best place to keep you safe."
"How do you figure that?"
"You forget, Fayt. The Eternal Sphere is constantly evolving and adapting to new threats and new scenarios, something I doubt my competition has taken into consideration. To them, the Eternal Sphere is just a computer game, something that can be corrupted whenever they choose."
"Oh . . ."
Fayt fell silent for a moment, staring at the flower he held in his hand. There was something more Luther was not telling him, but Fayt did not know how to approach the man with his inquiry. Then Fayt slid the flower into the tunic Luther had given him earlier. He rather liked its appearance, and its fragrance was not overbearing, like some flowers were. His mind still remained on this unknown Luther was keeping secret.
'He'll tell me when he's ready,' Fayt reasoned. 'I hope.'
The Diplo had definitely seen better days, Albel decided as he gazed at the ship. Dents and gashes peppered the metal vehicle, and both steam and smoke rose from more than one location. He smelled something burning, an indication something had caught on fire, and the crewmembers were undoubtedly busy in trying to get all sparks and various other hazards under control. Most of the damage might have been superficial, but then Albel was not one of the ship's diagnosticians. What he thought and what they thought were different things entirely. Albel also did not care about the ship's damage, and he tore his gaze from The Diplo's battered form to take in the local scenery.
Trees, as tall as they were thick in girth, surrounded the crash site. Some of the trees had slender leaves, pale green on the upper half and dark amber on the underside. Violet-coloured blossoms mingled in the branches of those trees, and the silver bark hinted at ominous things. Other trees looked like the ones he, as a child, had climbed, their bark colours ranging from light to dark brown, the leaves large and green. Ferns and wildflowers of pink, white, and yellow hues grew among the tree roots, and the swordsman caught hints of raspberries and blueberries growing close by. The scenery reminded Albel of his home world, only the sense of danger was stronger on this world than on Elicoor.
A feral grin lit the swordsman's features. The world smelled and felt painfully familiar to him, though he was certain any of beasts presenting the threats would be unlike anything he had ever seen. His hands itched for battle, and Albel's feet moved, as if something tugged at them and prompted them into action. Smoke curled in the distance to the south, a sign of civilization, and Albel knew beyond any doubt he needed to go there. Fayt was there and someone else, too. An image of blond hair and blue eyes flashed in Albel's mind, someone as familiar to him as Fayt.
"Albel, where are you going?" Maria inquired. She hurried to catch up with him and fell into step with him as she spoke. "We need to stay here."
"No," he replied. "You need to stay here. I do not. I am not bound to you."
The swordsman would not admit to her that he sensed Fayt's presence on this planet. Albel and Maria never really cared for each other, and it was mostly because of Fayt. Maria desired to be Fayt's bride, and he always noticed when she grew jealous of others when Fayt paid them any attention. Albel was the one who had dashed all of her hopes and dreams of marriage and producing heirs by becoming Fayt's lover. Those facts were still huge sources of contention for the two, though now, to Albel, it seemed as if Maria wanted to control him. He was not about to allow her any such privileges.
"Albel . . ."
"Just think," he said as he stepped into the forest, mindful of the silver-barked trees. He could not say why, though. "This time you didn't land in the middle of a city."
"That isn't funny!"
"On the contrary, I find it quite humourous."
By this point, they were not alone. Cliff, Mirage, Rodger, Peppita, Sophia, Nel, Clair, and Adray were following them into the forest. Albel felt their questioning stares boring into his back, but he refused to say why he was leaving. They were fools and maggots in his opinion, anyway, and he felt he did not have to answer to any of them. He chose to follow their lead until his estimated time for parting arrived.
With Fayt close by, perhaps the time for goodbyes had come.
Luther watched as Nikoli, a humanoid of indeterminate origins and age, instructed Fayt on how to use a bow. While no one argued that Fayt did not know how to use the weapon, Nikoli felt the blue-haired man's required a little tweaking and improvement as well as an approach to some more techniques, and it was as clear as a crystal as to how well Fayt was improving under Nikoli's tutelage. Fayt's lessons had only started, and the younger man was able to his mark with better precision than he had before. Luther nodded in approval.
So far, his plans were progressing accordingly and at the times he wished, which coincided with the emergences of Fayt's new powers. The blue-haired man now knew about them, and his frustration over the news was still evident on his face. Like Luther, Fayt wanted to know why his father had gifted him with additional powers. They were now preparing for a journey so they could ask Robert Leingod those same questions.
When Luther first told Fayt the reasons why he was feeling so fatigued and fevered, the blue-haired man looked shocked and crestfallen. He demanded to know why, even though it was obvious Luther did not have the answer. After several moments of pacing and questioning, defeat finally settled over Fayt.
"What does it matter?" he eventually had said. "It's not like I can ask him that myself."
"Why not?" Luther had countered. Fayt blinked then tilted his head, curious yet hesitant.
"What do you mean?"
"There is a temple we can travel to, a place where those with great need can communicate with the dead or with a loved one. Nikoli knows how to get to this place."
"Will he take me there?"
"Yes," Luther had answered. "Reluctantly but he will. He will understand the need for you to go there, and he will guide you to the best of his abilities."
"That sounds ominous," Fayt had commented.
"Because it is a very dangerous journey. Most who seek this particular temple never return to their homes." At Fayt's questioning expression, Luther had simply shrugged. "The programmers are fond of classic fantasy-style role-playing stories. It's only natural for them to have included an ominous place from which a select few ever return."
"Oh . . . I guess that makes sense . . ."
"Master Luther . . ."
Nikoli's voice cut through Luther's reverie, and the blond-haired man blinked to see the silver-haired warrior standing in front of him, a slightly concerned and troubled expression on his face. Behind Nikoli stood Fayt, the younger man still practicing his new technique. Luther sensed something had been bothering the warrior since Fayt's lessons for the day had started, but Nikoli had not been able to say anything as of yet.
"What is it, Nikoli?"
"Scouts have reported seeing a strange object landing in the forest to the north of here. The village chief wishes for me to investigate as soon as I can."
"And it could interfere with your ability to leave with us, correct?"
"Yes," Nikoli confirmed. "The strange object is at least a day's ride out, though it could be further. It was seen within the last several hours." The silver-haired man paused. "I do not wish to break my promise to Master Fayt yet I cannot ignore any potential threats to my home."
"Hmmm . . . The object is to the north . . . Which direction is the temple we must go to?" he asked.
"It is southeast," Nikoli replied. "It is located within the Plains of Havalia."
"And if I recall correctly, the Plains are another continent."
"Yes. There is only one shipmaster who will even sail to this continent, and he only ports in Teneltha. It is a lengthy journey, to say the least, and such a fact deters most folks from traveling there in the first place," the silver-haired man said. "Not unless the need to go there outweighs all risks."
"Which is the case for us." Luther frowned. "Southeast to Teneltha, you said?"
"And we are to travel by boat."
"Yes. Flying and spell-casting would be quicker," Nikoli murmured, "but there are no guarantees you'd reach the temple using those methods. The Gods are very protective and very particular of this temple. They have wards in place to keep those who would abuse its gifts out."
"Which is understandable," Luther murmured. Nikoli nodded.
"Yes. I would not want to see some idiot running off to ask his grandfather about where he fished, or some other inane and ridiculous request."
"Of course . . . Hmmm." Luther frowned in contemplation. He knew what he needed to say next, but he wanted to give Nikoli the idea he was thinking over a potential solution.
"Why don't we set out ahead of you?" Fayt inquired. Both men glanced at him as the blue-haired man notched another arrow and let it loose. "That way you can check out that strange object for the village chief. When you're done, you can catch up with us using that one spell you were talking about. Would that work?"
"It could . . ." Nikoli began to saying, sounding a bit doubtful and hesitant.
"It most definitely could," Luther said. He had already planned to suggest the same thing as Fayt. They were not leaving for another day. There were a few more things Luther wanted Fayt to learn before they left, namely spells and to copy the ones he could not get a grasp on right away. Since Nikoli already said they needed to charter a ship to take them to the desired continent, they could wait for Nikoli at a specific location. Nikoli raised an eyebrow at Luther's words.
"We need to be here for one more day," Luther said. "He may not look like the type, but Fayt can cast as well as use a sword in battle. There are some spells in the archives I feel will be most beneficial if Fayt learns them, and they are spells that can only be found in this village."
"You are well-informed, Master Luther. Perhaps you have been speaking with Ryan and Victorea."
"Indeed, I have. I felt it prudent to consult with them before coming here," Luther replied. 'I am no fool. This is their world to play in, not mine.'
"Will they be joining us?"
"I do not know. They are whimsical at best. If they do wish to join us, however, I will not object. Their insight will be most useful."
"What you have said is true." Nikoli paused. "Very well then. If this is what you believe is best, I will go with it. I do not like it, but it is a better alternative than breaking my promises. Please excuse me. I must depart within the hour."
The silver-haired warrior bowed then hurried off. The entire time the conversation carried on, Fayt continued to practice the technique Nikoli had demonstrated. He stopped as soon as Nikoli left, turning to face Luther.
"It's really bothering you to be here, isn't it?" he inquired, his tone soft. Luther shrugged, trying to appear nonchalant. His abilities were dampened, thanks to the restrictions placed on him by Ryan and Victorea, and it was frustrating for him to not be able to do as he wished, such as teleporting himself and Fayt to this temple.
However, Luther knew for a fact Ryan and Victorea abided by the rules they had set forth for Maepyria. Though they were the programmers and essentially the "Creators" for this particular universe, the couple had started out as level-one players, working their way through the ranks to obtain new powers and abilities. There was no way he could argue against their restrictions on him, not that he would have done so anyway. Both programmers were granting him lenience as far as what he could do, which they would not have done so in a normal situation.
"It's part of the adventure," he replied. "Like you, I must learn as I go. It is simply fortunate for me I have some insight."
"Makes sense, especially if god-like characters aren't allowed." Fayt regarded Luther for a moment, his expression one of curiosity. "That object Nikoli was talking about . . ."
"It's The Diplo," Luther replied. "Blair contacted me when they crashed in the forest, and she is with the crew now, trying to get the repairs done as quickly as possible. Your friends, though, are on their way towards the village. They will eventually meet up with Nikoli and undoubtedly join us."
"But we can't wait for them."
"No." Luther closed the distance between them. "Timing for us is very important, Fayt. When I asked her, Victorea informed me if we wish to speak with your father at the temple, we cannot delay for a single moment. She is the one arranging this for us, which is going to be tricky, even for her. We must start out on a certain day. If we arrive at the temple after a certain time, we will never get another chance."
Fayt sighed, an understanding sadness in his eyes.
"They really are classical fantasy storyline lovers, aren't they?"
"Yes. Very much so. It does not help the Eternal Sphere is still out of control in terms of anomalies and such."
"I thought so." Fayt smiled, albeit with the same sadness as before. "Okay . . . since those are the rules, what are these spells you want me to learn?"
Chapter 5: New Arrivals
Fayt let out a grunt of pain as he dodged, yet again, a spear that appeared to have been dipped in poison. Rather than be a shiny steel or a flat stone colour, the spear head glistened with a greenish purple sheen, and its wielder took the necessary precautions of making sure her weapon never touched her flesh as she whirled it around her body. Fayt could also smell something disgustingly sweet each time the spear neared his face, so it was a fair guess the edges were coated with some kind of toxin.
Of course, his opponent appeared to have a better advantage in their fight than what Fayt possessed. She danced around him like a professional ballerina, and she kept Fayt from reaching his sword or his bow and arrows. She leapt from whatever large rock she could find – and there were plenty of them lining the road he and Luther were traveling – and her gaze never left him each time she changed her vantage point. As a result, Fayt never averted his attention away from his foe for more than a second or two at a time. From what he could hear, Luther was also in a similar situation.
They had left Maentah two days prior, and they had left at the time Luther designated. The blond-haired man kept telling Fayt their timing for everything was important. It was how Maepyria itself was designed. Reaching the port city a day earlier than planned would be beneficial since they could take the time to restock their provisions and rest for a short while. At least, that was what Luther had told him as they were riding out of the village's main gates, and the blond-haired man also believed they would be attacked from time to time along the way. Maepyria contained every fantasy adventure element possible including strange-looking and intelligent thieves and highwaymen. The enemies would be stronger than the ones Fayt encountered on Elicoor II and even the Executioners and robots from Sphere 211.
At first, Fayt thought Luther was being too detail-oriented and beyond the point of controlling. Leaving and arriving at specific times to specific places, carrying a certain amount of food and weaponry, and learning new spells as they traveled were a bit much in the blue-haired man's mind . . . until that particular moment and they were under attack.
His opponent whirled her spear around in a wide arc and at a furious pace. Her light green eyes glinted with malice and with what Fayt believed to be the urge to kill. Since he already surmised the tip of her weapon had been dipped in some kind of poison, he felt confident in his guess as to what she truly wanted to do to him. Around her, more warriors appeared with spears at the ready and arrows pointing directly at him.
A cruel smirk graced her features for a split second then she lunged towards Fayt one more time. The blue-haired man's eyes widened when he saw her poison-tipped spear aimed at his heart. Fayt scrambled to his feet as quickly as he could, sidestepping the spear's tip at the last possible moment, and he grabbed the spear's shaft in a last ditch effort to wrest her weapon away from his enemy. Sweat beaded along his forehead and dripped into his eyes, blurring his vision slightly, and his heart hammered in his chest as he struggled with the woman warrior, but Fayt refused to relinquish his hold on her weapon. He had to continue fighting, not for just his sake, but for those who were in danger. His father had gifted him with the powers, something Robert Leingod would not have done if no threat existed. Fayt fought, not for himself, but for the sake of others, including the woman currently trying to end his life. He strengthened his resolve and prepared himself to send her flying.
However, the moment Fayt grasped his enemy's spear and stood in a defensive stance, the woman let out a pained howl. She immediately released her hold on the spear and collapsed to the ground, an arrow protruding from her back. Her companions stared at her in wide-eyed shock then turned their gazes in the direction from which the arrow had come. A few of them brandished swords and spoke in a language Fayt could not quite understand. Several more arrows flew from a thicket of darkwood trees, landing next to the women. They shrieked out Fayt believed to be several strings of profanities, but, rather than run towards the thicket and attack their attackers, the women retreated, grabbing their wounded comrade as they fled.
Once they were gone, Fayt fell to his knees, and he gasped for air. His ribs ached from landing on the ground too often, his lungs burned, and his legs felt as if they were made of almond jelly instead of flesh, bones, and muscles. The arrows continued to fly around Fayt, landing in a circle around him, but he found he did not care in that moment. He felt hot, like he had walked through the Urssa Lava Caves and the Mosel Desert at the same time, and he half-imagined he heard his blood coursing through his body. The sound filled his ears until he thought he might go deaf.
Luther's voice sounded fainted, as if he were buried underground and not standing several feet away. Fayt glanced in the other man's direction and saw energy. He saw a great deal of energy surrounding Luther, violet in colour but steady, like a force shield. A scream tore itself from Fayt as pain exploded throughout his entire body, and he doubled over as every nerve, every muscle and even the hair on his head felt like it was being doused with ice and with fire. The pain left him in an instant, leaving him shaky and nauseous. He sensed a breeze tickling his insides, caressing his stomach, but he felt neither heat nor cold from the sensation. Fayt then averted his attention away from Luther, found it landing on his hands, and he started trembling when he saw the ground through his palms and his fingers.
"What the . . . what's going on?" he cried out, fear overtaking his senses. "What's happening to me?"
"Fayt, remain calm," Luther intoned. He sounded so calm. How could he be calm when Fayt was literally disappearing from sight? "You are manifesting again."
Even as he spoke, Fayt saw the symbols glowing on his flesh, and he recognized them. They were the signs for Zodiac, a power meant for rewriting the stars, if he recalled his lessons correctly.
Fayt, however, sensed more to Zodiac than what the books he had read told him. He saw Luther's energy, his aura, and it was strong. Luther commanded both fear and respect, even from those who were attacking them. No arrows touched the ground around Luther. They were all around Fayt, trapping him.
Fayt also saw the energies belonging to the foes hiding in the thicket of trees, creatures that resembled orcs and kobolds from the books he read as a child. They were hunting together for food and valuables. They cared not who the attacked, though Fayt did not understand why the women fled as they had. Some were chasing the women who had ambushed Luther and him. As he gazed at the enemies, a sign appeared over each orc and kobold, signs from the Greek astrology. Fayt's eyes narrowed as he focused on those signs, and he sent a wave of energy towards the creatures. The power would not be enouh to kill the orcs and kobolds, but it would be enough for them to flee and leave Luther and Fayt alone, licking their wounds as they ran.
As he sent the energy forth, exhaustion started to overwhelm Fayt. His limbs felt heavy, his tongue felt thick, and his eyes refused to remain open any longer. Unable to stay in an upright position any longer, Fayt closed his eyes and remembered no more.
Maria Traydor was not used to following orders. For the last nine years, she led Quark, the anti-Federation group founded by Klausian Cliff Fittir. As a result, she was accustomed to people obeying her, though she never went on power trips. It was simply how Quark seemed to operate. The most powerful and the most capable and intelligent led so it stood to reason she would hate being called a follower after she took over leadership responsibilities from Quark. She never even took orders from Fayt when they traveled together, and Fayt was more of a natural leader than she. Maria possessed more experience, and it was her experience she liked to cling.
Only now, her abilities seemed to mean nothing to their newfound guide, a silver-haired man of indeterminate origins, a man by the name of Nikoli. The Maepyrian had found Maria, Albel, Cliff, Mirage, Nel, Adray, Rodger, Clair, Sophia, and Peppita as they were heading for what they believed to be a village. Well, Albel was the one traveling to the village. The rest of them were trying to keep the Glyphian swordsman from harming someone as he went. A strange gleam had appeared in the swordsman's eyes the moment he saw the smoke rising in the distance, and he had become hell-bent on reaching the village. Nikoli was from the place Albel was heading for, and he, from what Maria understood, had been sent by the village's leaders to investigate The Diplo's crash site.
It was in meeting Nikoli that Maria and the others learned Fayt was in the silver-haired man's village. At least, Fayt had been in Maentah when Nikoli left for The Diplo's crash site. From what the man said, Fayt would be leaving the village before too much longer, embarking on an important journey, and he would be leaving with none other than the Creator himself, Luther Lansfeld.
'Why did this have to happen?' Maria wondered. They were less than half a day's travel from Luther and Fayt's current location, and the journey from Maentah had been trying at best. Nikoli issued most of the orders, including to Maria, and all but she and Lieber obeyed without hesitation. She balked every time he told her to do something, but she eventually complied, telling herself it was only because Nikoli knew the area better than she. While she had her quad scanner to inform her of terrain and anything else she needed to know, Maria decided against using it simply because they were on an underdeveloped planet. The UP3 was still in place. Maria decided she could live with her decisions so long as they were her decisions.
However, following Nikoli's lead was not her only issues. There was also the fact that, in order to catch up with Fayt and Luther, they were required to ride horses. To the blue-haired woman, horses were an outdated form of transportation, one for underdeveloped planets like Elicoor II and Maepyria. Out of everyone in the group, she and Lieber were the ones with difficulties. Neither of them could ride well, and they were riding the same horse together. As such, her entire body ached from riding on top of the creature's back, especially since Nikoli would wake them before the sun appeared in the east and not rest until an hour or so after the sun had set. They never pitched any tents, they carried bedrolls, and they looked for firewood as they rode. They had only left Maentah a day and a half prior.
Finally, the most worrisome was the knowledge of Luther and Fayt traveling together. The news did not sit well with Maria, and she kept asking herself 'why.' Why was Luther involved? The blond-haired man had promised to leave the Eternal Sphere alone if they were able to defeat him, which they had done. Luther should not have interfered. It also bothered Maria to know Fayt was with Luther willingly, after everything the Creator had forced them to endure.
"Leader, is everything all right?" Lieber inquired. He sat behind her on the horse as Maentah's elders were not about to spare extra animals so each person could ride solo. Somehow, she and Lieber were assigned to the same beast. While she appreciated the Klausian's loyalty, she did not care for his standoffish behaviour towards Fayt and his exuberance towards her. Fortunately, for the moment, they were not riding, and Maria could breathe a little easier.
"Yes, I'm fine, Lieber," Maria said. She started to say more – she hated how Lieber worried more than what he should over her and yet not care so much about others - when Sophia gasped and cut her off.
"What is that?" the younger woman asked. Maria looked at Sophia, who pointed in the direction they were heading. She glanced in time to see a flash of blue-white light appear on the horizon. It vanished half a minute later.
Maria blinked, and a sensation of dread washed over her. She recognized the light for what it was, and the potential power behind it. At least, she believed she did.
"Oh no . . ."
"He's manifesting . . . again," Cliff stated, his tone flat.
"Then we must hurry," Nikoli said. "If what you have told me about power manifestation is true, Master Luther will be without a companion for at least a day or so, and that by itself can prove deadly around here."
Maria wanted to retort back that Luther could take care of himself. He was the Creator, after all, and there was not much that could harm the blond. However, she refrained, more out of her worry for Fayt than anything else. She did not know how much control Fayt possessed over his powers of Destruction, but even a small expenditure could be draining. He would be unconscious for at least one day and therefore he would be vulnerable to anything and anyone. The group hurriedly packed their gear they had pulled out for their midday break. At the same time, Nikoli doused their small campfire with a water-based spell.
As they were preparing to leave, Maria saw, from the corner of her eye, the empty space between her and Nikoli warp. It grew large enough for a person to walk through, and she paused to observe this anomaly. The others also noticed the black hole opening, and they, too, stopped to star. Albel drew his sword.
A man with short, black hair and deep blue eyes stepped out of the opening a minute or so later. To Maria's surprise, Nikoli approached the newcomer in greeting, a smile on the silver-haired man's face. The opening then closed.
"Master Ryan," he said, bowing a little. "I had wondered if you and the Lady Victorea would be joining us on this little adventure."
"We come whenever we get the chance," the man said. "Though Torie is meeting up with Luther and Fayt rather than accompany me right this moment. Apparently, Fayt has some interesting powers."
"So Master Luther has said," Nikoli murmured. "That is the reason for their journey. I am guessing you spoke with Master Luther before he brought Fayt here?"
"He spoke with both of us," Ryan replied. "And we decided we'd better help as much and for as long as we're able. Are all of you ready?"
"Ready?" Sophia asked. "Ready for what?"
"To catch up with Luther, Fayt, and Torie," he answered. "Because once we catch up, we're going to put a lot of distance behind us. I know Torie. Once she gets it in her head to start moving, she doesn't kid around. She makes a lion look tame."
"We need another moment," Nikoli said. "Then we will be ready. Can you wait?"
"Since we'll be in their current location in half an hour?" Ryan shrugged. "Sure. I can wait."
"In half an hour?" Maria echoed. "That's impossible! Even if we rode the horses hard, we still wouldn't be able to catch up to them that quickly."
"It isn't if you're using a specific spell," Ryan said. "Very few people can learn it. It's very time-consuming, but once it's learned, leaping distances is no problem. Now we've got to hurry. Torie's told me our timing is of the greatest importance."
"And why is that?" Cliff asked.
"Because of where we're heading. Fayt is trying to reach the Temple of Night. When we catch up with Torie and Luther, we'll explain it in detail as to why. In the meantime, let's focus on reaching them," Ryan said. "The fighting isn't over yet."
Luther glanced up the moment he saw a flash of blue-white light. Since the battle's end, one of his subordinates had joined him, and they were trying desperately to prepare for departure as they waited for the rest of their . . . party to join them. Unfortunately, Fayt remained unconscious, and he and Victorea continually stopped to be sure the other was safe.
The instant he stopped in his preparations, a tear warped into sight, and Ryan appeared. Following behind him were Nikoli, and the members of Fayt's original traveling party. While he retained mixed emotions about the group's uncanny ability to show up, especially Maria Traydor and Albel Nox, Luther believed they would be more helpful than troublesome in the days to come. He nodded to them and resumed his packing. It was hard and tiring work, but Luther enjoyed the challenges.
"I need someone to watch over Fayt," he heard Victorea say. Before anyone could volunteer, she continued with, "Ryan, could you do that for me?"
"Sure thing, Torie. When do we need to reach the port city?"
"Before the end of the week," she replied. "The shipmaster won't wait beyond that. The Dragon Ocean isn't always the most pleasant for sailing."
In hearing this, Luther paused in his work. It was not a good sign, and he felt fairly certain he knew what their words meant. He then turned his attention to the couple.
"What has changed?" he asked.
"We're not sure," Victorea replied as she saddled Fayt's horse. "However, I think I know what caused the change in the first place."
"The viruses from our competitors," Luther murmured. He glanced in the rest of the party's direction. Most of them knew the truth of their origins. They did not care for the truth, but it was a truth nonetheless. There were some that did not, however, and Luther needed to be careful in what he said and how loud he said it. Fortunately for him, most of them were still trying to adjust to sitting on a horse's back, and Nikoli's gaze was on the horizon.
"That's my guess," Victorea said. "They're already creating havoc in other areas. It only makes sense Maepyria would adapt to this new threat."
"So why exactly are we here?" Maria interjected. The programmers glanced in her directions. "He," she gestured to Ryan, "said something about Fayt heading for some place called the Temple of Night, but he didn't say why."
"I said it would be explained once we reached you and Torie," Ryan said, his gaze on Luther. "And I meant it, too."
"So tell us already," Maria demanded. "And why are you here, Luther?"
"Such impatience," Luther said. "He hadn't even finished talking yet, Maria Traydor. How rude and very unbecoming of a leader such as yourself. Very well then. We are heading for the Temple of Night so Fayt may speak with his father about his powers. The Temple of Night is one of a few places in the entire universe where the souls of the dead can gather and speak with the living. It is a long and perilous journey, one that many never live to see through. As for why I am here, that is truly none of your concern."
"Why not just revive Professor Leingod," Cliff inquired. "Ask him that way."
"For one," Victorea said, "that would be very cruel to both Fayt and his mother. It's been six years since his death. To see him alive again would be ultimately traumatizing and confusing for the two of them."
"Not to mention we can't revive the dead," Ryan added. "We can't even rewrite the codes so that Robert Leingod's death doesn't happen. To attempt it could be very catastrophic in the end."
"Why not?" Maria demanded, yet again.
"Because of the way the software is designed," Luther growled. "To attempt to rewrite the codes would cause the mainframes to malfunction and overload, leading to a system wide failure. Sphere would be vulnerable to attacks, and the world as you know it would definitely cease to exist. That is why."
"It's better to let things flow the way that they should," Ryan said, his tone gentler than Luther's. "As sad as it sounds, Robert Leingod was meant to die protecting his son from Biwig. For it to end any other way . . ." He shook his head.
"Ah, the whole flow of time thing," Cliff murmured. "Gotcha. So everything needs to happen for a reason."
"A lesson I needed to learn," Luther muttered to himself. His ire at Maria had not vanished, but he managed to shove it to the side for the moment. He then shook his head. "We can continue this conversation on our way to the ship. We must be on our way. Our window of opportunity will not be open for long."
"We can't go anywhere with Fayt unconscious!" Maria protested. "He'll fall off the horse! We need a wagon or a stretcher to carry him."
"Luther can ride with him," Ryan said. "Torie and I will share a horse."
"We're almost ready to go, too," Victorea said. "I just need to toss one more thing onto Fayt's horse, and we'll be set. The sooner we leave, the better off we'll be in the end. And before anyone asks, no, we cannot simply appear at the Temple of Night. That's breaking the rules, and the magicks in this world will prevent us from doing such a thing. For those of you into gaming, it's called cheating, and the way we wrote the program codes doesn't allow for it. Maepyria is a place for adventure. It's how Ryan and I wanted it to be. We're not about to change that now."
"Nor will anyone ask you to change it," Luther said. Already, he was walking to Fayt's horse, the blue-haired man slumped across its back. He also noticed the scathing look given to him by Maria, and Luther could not help but wonder why. As quickly as his curiosity came to him, it vanished. There were probably many reasons for her heated and hateful stare, but Luther was not about to think upon them or even speak with Maria about her reasons. In his mind, there were more pressing issues at hand. Reaching the Temple of Night with Fayt safe and alive at the right time was first and foremost. He slid onto Fayt's horse, mindful of his unconscious companion. Luther reached over, his fingers touching upon silky, blue locks.
"Don't worry," he murmured. "We will have answers, and we will have them soon. I promise you as much."