Knights of Twilight
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[The first memory we all shared was the first memory we could remember]
[Floating in a deep dark abyss with an unnatural light]
[Data streaming through our minds and hearts and souls and flesh]
[But… even then]
[We couldn’t tell if any of those things were real, or added after the fact]
~ Excerpt from Recollect: A Compilation of Memoirs
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It had been nearly a month since the Immortal Dusk incident was resolved and Tokio’s return to the real world. Soon following the event, Saika had transferred to another school while he had been in the hospital upon his return. After some time passed, Tokio had managed to contact Flugel in real life and find out Saika had been frequently visiting a hospital up in the mountains.
While in the hospital and in between catching up with his parents, friends and schoolwork
(He returned a week before midterms, damn it!), Tokio had plenty of time to think. Think about his time in The World, fighting alongside the Twilight Knights, fighting against then together with Schicksal to save Aura…
then losing AIKA…
And after all this time, Saika just wanted to forget? To grieve alone? To forget their adventures together? To forget their time together? To forget everything!? He on the other hand would never forget. Never forget the bond they made, the strength they gained just by making it to the end.
He told her so. Told her that facing this alone after all they’ve been through goes against everything they learned through their journey. That she shouldn’t be by herself in this. That they were interlocking gears that would support one another and help each other move.
Then she turned away from him, only to look over her shoulder and smile genuinely.
“Everything turned out like AIKA said it would…” She had said, fully turning to him and holding out her hand. “’You are my hero’”. And Tokio felt his heart swell and gave her his brightest smile and took her hand in his.
Or that was the plan.
Before their hands could touch, screaming came from below them in the hospital’s courtyard and the world was blinded by white.
When Tokio came to, head aching from his fall to the ground, it was to a pale Saika and a crowd of loud, scared, and confused people he had never seen before. The place they were in however…
“This is…” He exclaimed, eyes wide as he registered that what he was seeing.
“Mac Anu.” Finished Saika, her voice barely a whisper and nearly drowned out by the people around them. It wasn’t barren, or ashen or in a muted grey like it had been when they last were there. In fact, it was a healthy gold, brown, and occasional green, the fountain in the square functioning properly. But it was, in fact, the Mac Anu of R:X.
And, another major difference, Saika and many others were in the game for real this time, like he once was.
“Boy! Is that you?” The duo turned around to see Flugel running towards him, a little girl around 10-years-old following behind him. Only, he wasn’t ‘Flugel’- he was as he is in real life.
(Tokio looked down at himself and realized that he was still dressed in his uniform. As look to the others surrounding them revealed them to also be in ordinary, real-world attire rather than The World garbs.)
“Flugel!” Tokio and Saika ran to meet him. “What’s going on?! Why are we in The World? Didn’t we stop the Immortal Dusk? Why are all these people here- “
Flugel slapped a hand over Tokio’s mouth. “Let me stop you right there. One, I don’t know. Two, I don’t know. Three, yes, we did. And four, I don’t have a clue.”
“You must know something!” Said Saika.
Flugel sighed, exasperated but apprehensive. “From what I could tell, right off the bat it would seem that we, along with everyone else here, was Real Digitalized into The World like what happened during the Immortal Dusk, only on a much larger scale.” The teens nodded; this was definitely more than the handful that were RD’d during the incident. “And believe me when I say it gets worse.”
“How could this be any worse?!” The girl next to Flugel scoffed.
“Haven’t you been listening to what everyone’s been saying?” Saika paused. They were so caught up in their being in The World that they hadn’t but…
“Why can’t I…!?”
“It’s me! Don’t you recognize me?!”
“Who are you? Get away from me!!”
“Who am I?!”
They can’t remember?!
Tokio was slowly matching Saika’s paleness. “Flugel, what’s wrong with them?! Why can’t they…? But when I was…!”
“From what we- “He gestured to the girl. “-could tell, everyone’s memories are either fractured, muddled, or flat out gone completely. They might come back, but it’s still too early to tell.”
“Mn.” Said the girl. “We think it’s because so many people were RD’d at the same time, it messed with their heads a little. The only reason we aren’t affected is probably because we have experience with this! As for you, it might be because you were brought in without a lot of interference.”
“I’m sorry, but you are…?” Asked Saika.
“You don’t recognize my voice? I’m Cello!”
That explains why she sounds familiar. Thought Tokio. “If that’s the case, what about Saika? She was there during the Immortal Dusk, but she was in the real world when it happened.”
“… Maybe,” Started Saika. “Maybe it was because AIKA- “She was interrupted by a commotion closer to the square. Turning to the source, they saw large digital screens decorating the building and sky around them, a young woman with eyes that made them feel… exposed. “Who…?”
=I believe…= The woman began. =That I should begin by apologizing to all of you. It wasn’t our intention to cause panic among you. Nor was it for us to do this so soon…=
A confused murmur fell over the crowd. 'Do what?' Thought Tokio, his hand unconsciously reaching for Saika's.
Her hand met his halfway.
= “But what’s done is done. You are all here now, and we will have to make the best of it.” = The woman smiled. = “I will admit, it was our plan to make it so no one would notice a difference once you arrived, but in our rush, we had to improvise. Unfortunately, many of you had your memories… interrupted by the process. But that can be easily corrected.” =
“I don’t like this…” Flugel shuffled closer to Cello, who now gripped his sleeve. Tokio agreed with him.
= “As you know inhabit a world unlike the one you came from, it only makes sense that you are not held back by memories of another life. Until the time comes for humanity to return to reality, when mother nature has reclaimed her former glory, the memories you carry with you will be locked away.” = She opened her arms in a loving gesture. = “And we, Mama, will guide and lead you until that time comes.” =
The square was deathly silent once she finished. Despite the woman’s kind expression, the weight of her words was like a cloud of ash over them.
Someone screamed. And soon, everyone was in an uproar.
“Our memories… locked away?” Exclaimed Saika. “Why… How could they do something like that?!”
“Who’s Mama!?” Shouted Tokio. “Are they the ones who RD’d everyone?”
Flugel had joined them in their pale state as the speech continued, Cello resembling more a ghost than a human girl. He cursed and pulled out a pen from his pocket, wrote something on his and Cello’s arms, and held a hand to the high schoolers. “Give me your arms.”
“If what she says is possible, I’m going to try and make sure we can find each other and remember, no matter the odds. Now give me your arms!”
= “There is nothing to be afraid of.” = The woman’s smile turned into a misleading, motherly curl of the lip. = “The process is harmless, and all of you will awaken to a world free of the past and open to a future of prosperity. As long as you follow Mama, this will be assured. And once you return to Earth, you will walk hand-in-hand as a unified race, free of conflict and with the love of Mama and Mother Nature embedding into your very souls.” =
For the second time that day, screams filled the air as the world was blinded by white.
The only difference was that nobody would remember it. Or anything that came before it.