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Excerpt from ???

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An excerpt from a thing that might be happening soon. Who knows.


Gray tried to suppress a shiver as she watched the entrance at the far end of the hallway.

As always, the ruins around her were uncomfortably warm. Only a dull, muted sunlight managed to penetrate this deep within the temple, meaning most of the light in the chamber came from the two makeshift torches set up at either end. The torches, burning merrily away in contrast to Gray's own apprehension, cast a harsh orange light across the originally grey-brown monotony of the temple walls, leaving the crowded mosaics that lined them barely visible between the flickering shadows, their details undiscernable.

Yet despite the warmly burning torches, the muggy air, and the thick cloak she wore over her clothes, it still took everything she had not to openly tremble. The eerie quiet of the temple, relieved only by the crackling of the torches, did nothing to help her nerves.

That quiet was soon broken by the sound of soft footsteps, causing Gray to involuntarily jump.


With a flick of her wrist, the cage carrying Add flew out from underneath her cloak, and in only moments had snapped open, unravelling into the familiar shape of a scythe. Holding the weapon in front of her in a white-knuckled grip, she strained her eyes on the entrance, where the footsteps were coming from.

"...Add...?" Unable to keep a small tremor from her voice, she spoke to the weapon again, but no response came. Of course, the weapon was functional whether Add was willing to cooperate or not, but the fact that even the fast-mouthed, eager to heckle Add was silent added yet another layer of unease to what was now becoming an open fear. With her master in the depths of the temple, and Lady Reines guarding the other approach, she was already more alone than she was comfortable with - if even Add was going to refuse to speak to her...

She had no time to speculate as to the Mystic Code's sudden quiet however, as the approaching figure reached her field of vision.

Walking with unhurried footsteps, not attempting to conceal his presence at all, the cloaked figure walked out from the dark and into the clear light of the torches before stopping, locking his eyes on Gray. A heavy black cloak, not all that different from her own, concealed most of his features. Barely visible beneath it were similarly dark clothes, reinforced here and there with black leather. Though his hands were empty, he stood with his right side twisted slightly forward, the pale white bandages concealing his right arm a stark contrast to the rest of his outfit.

Peering out from the hood of his cloak were unreadable eyes - a gaze that reminded her of raw iron, determined yet passionless.

"...please turn back," Gray managed to squeeze out, not quite keeping the tremble from her voice. "There's no reason for us to fight now."

"You know I can't do that," the assassin replied, his soft voice somehow more intimidating coming from his entirely veiled expression.

"...I don't want to fight you," she tried again, despite knowing the futility of it. Even to her it was obvious, and that her protestations were little more than a child's whining.

The man shrugged. "Then step aside."

No one cares whether you want to fight or not, Reines' words came back to her. Fight or die. That's how the Clock Tower works, no matter what kind of neutrality you try and cover with.

It seemed like this was the same. There was no way her master would simply stand aside and let this man do as he wished, which meant Gray had only two options. Leave her master to die by this assassin's blade...or fight him herself. But even then...

Gray took a deep, shaky breath, lifting her scythe in front of her as if that alone could ward off her opponent.

"Gray..." Finally, Add broke his silence. It would have helped her calm down, had it not been for the obvious concern in his voice. " get it, right?"

In response to Gray's tensing up, the man drew a dagger from behind his back with his unbandaged hand. As usual, the surface of the blade shimmered and steamed as it came into contact with the thick, mana-saturated air. Unhurried, almost as if he was preparing for an ordinary session of sparring practice, he settled into a combat ready stance, never moving his eyes from hers.

Seeing him take his stance, something clicked in Gray's own head. The fear did not abate, yet she felt herself crouch slightly into a combat stance of her own, her weapon tilting to take a wide guarding position.

He was just an ordinary man.

He was no magus. He had no reinforcement like she did.

By all accounts, she was stronger, faster, and likely better trained. Even with that dagger, and whatever secret was concealed in his right arm, she had all kinds of experience fighting supernatural opponents. In every way imaginable, she had the advantage. And yet...

"...there's no way you can beat this guy. You get it, right?"

In response to Add's uncharacteristically somber voice, Gray could only nod.

As she did, she felt herself calm down slightly. As if hearing the words out loud, as if confirming that undeniable truth for herself had cut through the tension that was pulling every muscle in her body taut, she felt every part of her relax slightly.

There was no way she could win. There was no way she could survive a fight with this man.

Survive, Gray. At any cost. By any method. Sacrifice all of us if you have to, but whatever happens...survive.

Reines' instructions once again resurfaced in her mind, but this time she could only shake her head. At any cost, by any method. But there was no method. Even a child could understand, looking in this man's eyes. Though they held no anger, no enmity, they were as an open window into a soul of tempered steel. Even if she were to throw down her weapon and cower in a dark corner somewhere, he would cut straight through to the heart of a coward like her. There was no way he would leave her to potentially stab him in the back later.

And that meant her only option was to fight him here. Fight an opponent she knew she couldn't beat, and who would show no mercy.

"Well, as long as you put on a good show. Don't embarrass me out there, kid." The faintest trace of Add's usual mockery returned to his voice as he gave her what she could almost think of as encouragement. As adrenaline began to steal the place of the terror holding her limbs frozen, it was almost enough to make her smile.

"I'll try my best."


  1. Zurvan's Avatar
    I'm intrigued