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Section Selection

Chapter 13: Commitment

The aircraft's flight took a short time, and brought Zachary and Alden to a whole other continent after an hour or so. The land was known as Mavus, and wasn't very populated, other than by some foreign religious gridmasks. However, the Ludusian government under the Emporer had a base or two legally placed on parts of the land.

There was a short travel through a more populated area, where some native gridmasks decided to encounter Zachary. As he passed by, they decided to throw some "fortune-telling" at him, saying some nonsense about a slayer killing his friend, and a yellow symbol of death and tyranny. Zachary told them all that he'd beware of it, though he mostly tried to forget about all that they said to him, secretly dismissing it purely as nonsense.

After a while of being dismissive, though, the others seemed to catch on, and further warned him to be wary of their prophesizing. Zachary just kept on nodding to them and pretending to listen. He also caught some word that apparently, a lot of them were there at the time because of a foretold event of the end of days that was rapidly approaching. Zachary took a bit more note of this, but still passed it off as a sort of wild coincidence that happened to occur for them.

Surely this wasn't the end, he had reasoned to himself, though half-heartedly. Things can return to normal soon enough, he thought.

Alden brought Zachary to a government base, where he would act to reveal the next plan of action of protecting Ludus to come.


Alden was leading Zachary down a number of metal-clad hallways in the facility. Alden occasionally stopped so as to open a door, or paused to talk with someone. Usually he only talked shortly and so as to note their passing through, but on at least two occasions, Zachary noticed that he stopped and talked for at least three minutes with some "old friends", likely just for the sake of catching up with them.

All the while, Zachary felt overall nervous about the events. He wanted to speak to Alden, though, for some time, he found himself unable to, in experiencing a feeling of fear and nervousness over the events that were going on.

However, in his mind, there was a clear thought that stood out and brought him to act. He knew that there was currently a dark matter invasion of Ludus happening right now.

Zachary was lucky, he thought, to notice Alden making an off mention of it. Zachary didn't catch all of what Alden said, but he knew that he at least had mentioned the dark matter attack.

"This... this isn't the first time that this has happened... to Ludus, I mean." Zachary started, having gained enough confidence now to speak.

"You mean, being under attack?" Alden blinked. "That is true..."

"No, not that... well, not exactly that." Zachary corrected himself. "I mean, more specifically. The dark matters..."

Alden's eyes narrowed, and he continued walking, though at a slightly slower pace than before. "Hm..."

"I... well, it's kind of hard to explain, but, it happened a long time ago... probably long before you were ever born." Zachary tried to explain. "Ludus was attacked by dark matters. I-I know, I was there for it..."

Zachary couldn't see the expression on Alden's face, as he was turned. For some reason, he felt anxious to know what it was. He wondered if Alden thought that he was crazy.

"This might be a bit hard to believe, or understand, but, it happened. I'm only here today because I was sent to the future. Well, the present, I guess. But I know..."

Zachary still couldn't see Alden's expression. Zachary let out a sad sigh.

"I remember it... they started out by killing so many people... it's... it was like there wasn't a place where you couldn't find a corpse. And then for a while nothing happened, but... there wasn't much to make out of the calm. So many people were dead... and then they came back... and they started destroying things."

Zachary gulped. For a moment, he had found himself almost unable to breathe. He knew that the horrors of the past were once again coming to haunt him...

"And they took us all somewhere... and enslaved us. They made us work, mining, pushing things around... fueling their dark star with all the power that we could manage." Zachary gulped. "They'd had me working for nearly one decade and a half... I was lucky enough to be saved, but I know that the rest can't be said for most every other dragonkin..."

Alden was deathly silent.

"... and, I'm kind of afraid that I'm going to see history repeat itself here again..."

"Zachary," Alden spoke suddenly, "I assure you to the best of my ability... I'll make sure nothing of the sort happens to Ludus." Alden took a more solemn tone. "Not again, as it were. Not to my Ludus..."

Alden suddenly turned around, and put a hand on Zachary's shoulder.

"Not to our Ludus, I mean."

Zachary was taken aback.

"Alden..." Zachary gulped again. "... Th-thank you, sir... b-but... how?"

Zachary had been almost afraid to ask this, what with Alden's promise and confidence. But, his fear of the dark matters had overpowered him.

"The dark matters are too strong..."

"It doesn't matter if they are as great as a god or as weak as a walker." Alden spoke. "Every power has a source. A core... if the core is destroyed, it's like pulling the plug. Their power is gone..."

Alden continued to walk as he spoke.

"... You may not know this yourself, and you may be upset that you hadn't received the information before... but, we know a lot about dark matters and how they work. We got that from studying Subject Zero." Alden quickly added. "As well as from asking some simple questions."

Zachary followed, staying silent.

"The dark matters are a hivemind kind... and they are all controlled by a single being. The Ruler... the core of dark matters." Alden informed. "If someone can kill the Ruler, then all of the drones will drop dead along with it."

"R-really??"

"That's what we've come to know... and I'm currently to believe that it's our only hope, as of now."

"You mean-?"

"I'm going to the dark star, to kill the Ruler." Alden quickly spoke.

"What?!" Zachary exclaimed. "But... how?? How are you going to fly into space??"

"That's precisely why I came here." Alden moved forward towards a door. "Come and see."

Alden opened the door. Inside was a large room, with no roof, which let moonlight shine in onto it. There were also several sources of lights along the walls of the room. In the center of the room, on a circular launch pad, was a miniature rocket-like contraption. It appeared somewhat makeshift, albeit of a number of different advanced technologies.

"Er..." Zachary gave the contraption a sideways glance. "Are you... sure this thing can even fly?"

"I'm certain of it." Alden said.

It seemed as if the rocket would barely be able to pierce the atmosphere, let alone ever get to the new dark star.

"And... you're going to go on it?" Zachary asked.

"I believe that I may very well be the only person fit to go through with the job." Alden said. "But... I am, or rather, I was, unsure whether or not I should leave..."

"What do you mean?" Zachary blinked.

"Zachary... I need to ask this of you... will you help me, and Ludus?"

Zachary stared in confusion.

"When I go off, I need someone to take my place in commanding our forces and keeping the peace..."

"Can't you do that while you're away?"

"I'm afraid not... as I am leaving Ludus for the first time, it may very well be the last time..."

Zachary's jaw dropped. "W-what are you saying??"

"Mister Isles," Alden started, "I'm asking you to try and take my place as the Handlord..."

Zachary stared at him in surprise.

"I believe that you of all people would be the one person most fit for the task..." Alden's tone was solemn.

"I... I can't... Sir-"

"But you must!" Alden insisted. "This may be the only way to keep things in peace."

Zachary gaped silently for a moment.

"... you may either take the position or turn it down, but, either way... I hope you keep in mind whatever decision will be the best for the fate of Ludus. If so, it will be as fate decided."

Zachary paused for a moment, deep in thought. Alden was right: Zach did need to think about what option would be the best for Ludus. And he realized what would be the best for Ludus, then.

"... I'll go."

"... Hm?"

"I'll do it." Zachary explained. "I'll go to the dark star."

"Y-you?? You'll-"

"I can do it. I... I'll defeat the Ruler, and end this war once and for all..."

Alden blinked, his expression conveying a clear sense of surprise.

"Well..."

"Alden... can you trust me to do this?"

Alden was silent for a while. Zachary felt a tinge of stress pervading through his being, as he awaited a response.

"... I... I know that you do care for Ludus very much... as much as I would like to believe I care for it..."

"Yes..."

"... If you truly believe that this is the best choice for Ludus, then I will allow it."

"I believe that the fate of Ludus is in our hands... and I'm going to bring it to the best future I can bring it to... so, yes."

"Very well, then..." Alden blinked. "... you may pilot the ship and do what must be done."

"Thank you, sir." Zachary saluted him.

"I'll do my best to help you get situated, now... I'll allow you and the spirit behind you do the rest of the work."

Zachary nodded, and then began walking towards the rocket.

"And, mister Isles," Alden added, "thank you, as well - for your service, courage, and commitment. Your efforts are laudable, in my eyes."

"... thank you, sir."

Zachary, for a second, considered the possibility that he may only have wished to personally put an end to the dark matter invasion because of the incidents in the past. It may very well have been true, as he knew of his own wishes to have prevented what had happened, and his newer wishes to prevent them if it ever were to happen again, and his recurring nightmares of his father's brutal offing during the invasions. A tinge of shame came across him as he considered Alden commending him, and, for a moment, he wondered if he had truly chosen the best outcome for Ludus.

But he pushed the thoughts away. He had spoken with true and complete certainty when he suggested the idea. He knew he could not go back, or devise a greater outcome. What must be done was to be done.


"Initiate launch sequence!" Alden's strong voice carried out through the room.

Zachary did his part in pressing a few buttons on the rocket. It then propelled itself upward, and began speeding into the sky, towards the dark star. Zachary gaped at the black circle that loomed before him, as the dark star flashed with red and green lightning.

In his heart, he knew, the final battle was nearing. However, he wished that he was not walking into it with such a heavy and fearful heart.

Chapter 14: Zeronius Dark Star

Zachary gazed onward as the rocket sped through dark violet clouds. The rocket then began to shake, as currents of red electricity danced across the metals of the machine, which surprised Zachary and gave him the fear that he may die from electrocution. Several warning lights went off inside of the machine, flashing even more red lights around Zachary. As clouds then no longer obscured the view, Zachary could see that the rocket was speeding towards the ground of the Dark Star, and was about to crash into it. Zachary found that the lack of safety presented from the rocket, due to the fact that it was now coursing with electricity and about to crash, was enough incentive for him to bail.

Zachary quickly grabbed a helmet, and then rushed towards the glass windshield. He struck it with his sword, causing the glass to break. Even more warning lights began to flash, accompanied by some siren-like warning sounds. Zachary didn't really need any more hints that it was time to dodge out, so he then flew out of the hole left by the broken glass.

A sudden rush of air hit him, in light of his speed drastically changing. His wings stopped for a second, before he could realize, and he began to drop towards the ground. It took him a second more to realize that he was falling, and he began to use his wings once more to slow his descent.

He saw the small rocket that had gotten him this far crash onto the surface of the dark star. A small cloud of smoke resulted from the crash, and when it was cleared, the remains of the rocket were but an erratically disorganized pile of metal, with a red currant of electricity still running through it.

Zachary saw that the ground appeared as if it were made up of translucent hexagonal shapes, which were a shade of dark red, and that seemed more biological than any sort of mass substance he had ever seen. Along with that, there seemed to be the occasional flash of red or green electricity streaming throughout any odd part of the planet.

Zachary landed, and took a moment to look up at the sky. There were clouds of a dark violet color that seemed to obscure every spot of space that could be viewed, and that blocked all foreign light from reaching the body. However, there was light produced within the sky, by the lightning that shot throughout the clouds, and occasionally struck the ground in some placed. The lightning seemed to stay longer than lightning should have, almost as if it was not truly light, but some form of controlled auric energy streaming throughout the stormy clouds; and perhaps it was.

Zachary then began to make his way throughout the area. He walked for a very long time, trying to find any sign of existence, or perhaps the presence of another sapient being that may interact with him and not drain his sanity, at least not as quickly as it was being drained now, in the process. But he could find no other signs of life along the Dark Star. There were no homes along its surface, no nature, no features of any kind that were distinguishable. Zachary wondered if he had truly been traveling in circles all this time, or if, perhaps, it made no difference, in light of there being nothing to find.

The sky flickered on and off with lightning, in shades of red and green and dark grey. No matter where he walked, he failed to find anything that didn't just look dead. It seemed to him like more than just death had passed through here, but decay, and a sort of decay that occurred over eons and eons of time, to such an extent that no life remained and no life could ever come to be again.

Zachary's throat began to feel dry. His eyes began to strain from looking on in such darkness. He felt a fear stirring within his being as he pressed on. His legs felt like rubber, but he persisted to walk on. He had a sense that, perhaps, it was not of his own will that he persisted to move forward, or even of his own instinct that he moved, but rather that it was of some outside force that was willing him somewhere. Like a magnet that was pulling him forth. Like a remote-control toy, bending solely and entirely to the will of its controller.

It gave him a horrible feeling in his gut, as if something stirring inside it were jerking around and trying to escape the horrors of this foreign land. Perhaps, Zachary thought, a more experienced explorer, like Ludicrine, who had been to a plethora of planet in many universes, or maybe even Samuel, who had traveled through space what was believed to be at least three times, would have not felt as sickened by being on this new planet. But Zachary had never left Ludus in all of his life.

Zachary shook his head suddenly, trying to regain his sense and feeling. His sickness, at least, could snap him back from an element of his behavior that was contributing to it. Zachary decided to look up into the sky once more, facing the lightshow of dimly colored energies mingling among the dark clouds. This may have been a sign of some sort of distinguishable landmark across the otherwise dark and featureless landscape, if it were not a highly dynamic feature of the planet.

Zachary looked down towards the landscape once again. To his surprise, he saw something, a distinguishable feature marked among the dark red landscape. He felt a bit of joy within him; he finally would have a goal, a location to strive towards, rather than the continuous aimless wandering he had endured up to this point.

As Zachary drew closer to the door, he began to hear noises. At first, it was like a soft, continuous, and somewhat monotonous moaning noise, that persisted with some loudness. Zachary felt as if it were building up into something, something in which the tension he had built up would breach him into fear. Then, he heard the sound change, or perhaps become clearer, as it was then similar to the sound of agonized and pained screams. They continued on, ringing in his ears for some time, as he continued on towards the large door in the distance. For some moment, he wondered if he was just imagining it, and if this place had truly gotten to him at this point. Though, these thoughts drifted away as he noticed the screams becoming ever louder as he came closer to the door.

He at least felt the slightest bit of relief--that he had not been imagining the horror that he had experienced--but he still felt a nausea building up within him. He would try and wonder what may lie behind the ominous door, but he felt that if he did, he may become sick as to the point of throwing up. Though, he knew he must find out eventually; he could not sit idly and do nothing, he thought as he then stood in front of the door, which loomed before him in an almost daunting manner.

Zachary gave an effort to open the door. It wielded to his will, surprisingly. He took a deep breath, and then stepped inside of the darkness. There was some form of inclined plane that led downward, lighted only by small orbs of reds, violets, greys, yellows, and greens. Zachary traveled onward through the corridor.

Zachary walked for what seemed to be an even longer time than he had before. The odd feeling of sickness and emptiness within him welled up even more as he traveled on and on. He soon found another door, one that appeared... fancier, than the previous one had. He had once lived in a castle himself, and he knew now what this was. This was the throne room. Beyond this door lay the ruler, Zachary knew.

Zachary entered as quickly as he could, in wanting to put an end to his quest as soon as possible. Inside of the large room, he saw... a dark matter, but one much unlike any of the others that he had seen before. While he had known the Zeronius brothers to have dark red, dark purple, or dark yellow tones of skin, he saw that this dark matter had a bright white tone of skin. He saw that this dark matter had the same large eye as the others had, though; of a bright red colour. This dark matter was of a spherical shape, with some additional geometrical parts trailing from its sides. The spherical body part had some other sorts of designs on it.

Zachary also saw that this particular dark matter was tied up and restrained, by red tentacles that appeared perhaps to be made of some blood-like substance. Some of the tentacles had torn through the skin of this dark matter, and sat inside it. A few of them acted like tubes, pumping out parts of a brighter red substance out from this dark matter. Zachary also saw that this dark matter was covered in blood.

Zachary felt something like sorrow in the pit of his stomach. He felt sorry for this dark matter, and he knew that it was in pain. He felt his heart sink as it rose up, letting out a loud moan that echoed throughout the chamber. The voice the dark matter had seemed to be feminine in nature.

Zachary shook his head once more, telling himself to toughen up. He knew he would have to be brave, and that he would have to act quickly.

"This is... the core of the dark matters. Sauphara Zeronius..." Zachary told himself. "It must be stopped..." Zachary held up his sword, and aimed it at Sauphara.

"Ghh... hhh... a-ahh..." The ruler dark matter let out a pained moan.

Chapter 15: Dark Core

Sauphara's eye widened as Zachary approached. It occurred to Zachary that perhaps she hadn't been able to see him when he was farther away. Nevertheless, Zachary continued to get closer to her, trying to act without fear or apprehension.

Though Zachary did not like to admit it, he had looked into a lot of information about the dark matters, solely because of his kind being the victim of their first invasion of Ludus. He had picked up the knowledge and name of their ruler, who the dark matters would call Lord Sauphara, or Lord Zero. Zachary also struggled to remember another name that they had given her, but, after a moment, he remembered: Dark Core.

He found the name a bit ironic, considering the circumstances. Apparently, names such as Dark Core were given to dark matters as a title besides the birth name, and were innocuous in meaning to the real name of the person. Dark, in the language of dark matters, was a word that had many, many, many words that meant the same thing, purely for the sake of the importance that it held with the species, and also to give a lot of variety with names. "Dark" was often a commonly used part of a dark matter's title. According to some sources, titles such as Sauphara's "Dark Core" were given only to dark matters who had honored themselves through enough conquest to earn such a title. However, Revelian had assured him in the past that this was not true. Revelian had also added that his own name meant both "Dark Savior" and "Dark Traitor", in some sort of word with double meaning.

Zachary's reasoning for finding the name ironic was because that was what he had known Sauphara to be. The very "core" of the dark matters, so to speak. Though, apparently, there were enough dark matters of the like to study, so Sauphara must not have been the only dark matter of her rank, but, as far as Zachary had ever known, Sauphara's clan were the only known dark matters to arise from obscurity and irrelevance to the universe.

Zachary had been even informed by Mura and Revelian that the both of them were "later" additions to Sauphara's dark matter army, made by their Lord in more recent times and with little to no cognizant presence in any of Sauphara's conquests, and separated from further instances due to disconnection to their Lord's hivemind. Though Zachary did not know it, this was, in fact, highly untrue, and only stated by the brothers, even long before they had met Zachary, so as to not arise suspicion from the Ludusians that they had held any role in the initial invasion of Ludus, or that they ever could have.

Zachary remembered that, in the past, he had long dreamed of being able to be the end of the dark matters. It had been a wish and a temptation that still had arisen a certain sensation within him, as his mind would often wander off towards the very idea. Doing something like that was not possible for him in his time, and he knew the consequences of creating another timeline in which he had done so would mean leaving his own to one where he didn't belong. However, he now thought, he would have the very chance he wished for to fulfil his innermost desire of vengeance, and not only would it come without consequence for him, it would, in fact, come with benefit.

Sauphara then suddenly let out a loud cry that filled the room, bringing Zachary back from his thoughts and to attention. Zachary jumped upon hearing it, having not expected it, but quickly regained his composure. Steadying his breath again, Zachary quickly moved forward and jabbed Sauphara with his sword.

Zachary pulled his sword back and held it before him. He now saw that his blade was covered in a bright red blood. The blood seemed very similar to his own, and perhaps to the blood of any other typical creature he may encounter, though Zachary could feel that it was different for some reason. He'd often heard that the blood of ruler dark matters held different properties than "carbon-based blood", though he had been unable to study whatever identified properties those were. He knew that it held an ominous quality to it, but he couldn't pin down exactly what. Zachary once again jabbed Sauphara with his sword, bringing his attention back to his task at hand.

"GAH!!" Sauphara let out a sound of pain. This surprised Zachary, causing him to jump back. He stood back, confused for a moment. Something was different about what had just happened, he noticed. It was then that he realized the last time he'd stabbed her, she hadn't cried out in pain. She hadn't done anything at all. It was strange to him; almost an inhuman quality, to be so devoid of reaction. Zachary looked at Lord Sauphara and felt as if she were some sort of robot for a moment. However, her reaction now clearly breathed life and cognizance into her. It even gave the thought that she held thought, feelings, a soul... things that Zachary had never considered to lie within the core of the dark matters.

Despite his better judgement, Zachary took action once again, slashing his sword towards Sauphara. However, as he delivered his latest blow, he felt something pull him away from the ruler dark matter. He realized after a moment that it was an outside force, seeing as the air around him had begun to glow with a pink aurora. Zachary wondered if Lord Sauphara had conjured up this energy. He then had his question answered, as, directly in front of the ruler dark matter, there began to form a sphere of energy. Zachary held up his arms and braced himself for the orb to hit...

Zachary felt a weak force hit him. He opened his eyes and put his arms down. He wondered what the force had been, before he realized that it must have been the attack from Sauphara. Zachary was fairly confused by this; having known the Zeronius brothers to all be extremely powerful, it was odd that their creator was somehow much weaker than them. Zachary looked off at the ruler dark matter, before he realized that the energy around him had dissipated. It had merely required him to shake it off to be free.

Zachary meekly summoned a bolt of his own indigo energy, and flung it at Sauphara. It hit her, causing her to shake, and she let out a pained moan. "Rghh... ghhaaahh..."

Zachary walked closer to Sauphara again, who met him with the glare of her tired and agitated eye. He raised his sword feebly, and pointed it again towards Sauphara. As he held it, he saw the ruler dark matter staring at him, almost with an expression of fear.

He hesitated for a moment. But, slowly, he lowered his sword, and dropped it to the ground.

"No... I can't do it." Zachary managed, his words carrying a hopeless tone. "I can't kill you..."

He saw the ruler dark matter as she slowly began to close her eye. For a moment, Zachary wondered if she was sleeping, or perhaps she had already passed. But, then, he heard a feminine voice echoing out through his head.

"Why... why have you stopped...?" The voice sounded similar to that of Sauphara's moaning, but Zachary noticed that it was different, somehow.

Though Zachary's throat felt dry, he brought himself to respond. "I... I couldn't bring myself to end you like this..."

"But... if I am to die, the dark matters will die with me..." Sauphara's voice almost sounded as if she was pleading with Zachary.

"No... It's not right. I know you're not the cause of all this. There's someone else... something more sinister behind this. And... you're just a victim of it, aren't you?"

Sauphara almost seemed to sigh. Zachary felt a strange stirring within the pit of his stomach. He couldn't bring himself to end Sauphara, despite the desire for doing so having haunted him for most of his life. And even now, with the woman practically begging for him to do it, he couldn't find himself with the heart to do it. He felt as if Sauphara was a completely different person than the monster ruler of dark matters that he had built her up to be.

And, by the very nature of himself, he knew that he couldn't kill two different people at the same time, even if one was a monster, if the other was as selfless and true enough to show such remorse as to wish for the peace of others through death. A martyr and a monster would not receive the same death, Zachary thought, if he could have anything to do with it.

"You wish to try and stop my son?" Sauphara's voice seemed to ask, with an inquisitive and almost confused tone.

"Yes..." Zachary stated, "That's the only way I can put an end to this for good."

"Then I cannot stop you..." The ruler dark matter spoke with a tone of defeat, almost. "There is an area behind my throne... it leads further towards the core of my dark star... there is a room where he lies in wait for the arrival of the one prophesied to come to him. He calls it The Rapture..."

Zachary blinked, having thought there was some sense of odd recognition in the name, before realizing a sense of confusion. It was entirely unfamiliar to him, he thought, but he felt as if it meant something in a forgotten memory.

"Thank you..." Zachary gulped. "Don't worry... I'll defeat him, and end this war once and for all."

"Mmm..." Sauphara sounded tired. Zachary knew that she must be very weak.

Zachary then began to cut the ties that bound her, which took quite some time, due to the great amount of them. Once she was freed, Zachary caught her, and slowly brought her to lay on the ground.

"I'm sorry... I can't think of anything more to help you right now... I'm going to need my energy for the fight ahead. But... but I'll come back." Zachary promised her.

"... I hope that you truly can change my future..." The sound was barely above a whisper.

Zachary waited until Sauphara had left him in silence for some time, before being content with the thought that she had nothing more to say. He then went onward, towards The Rapture.

Chapter 16: Core of Nightmares

Behind the throne was a circular hallway, which seemed to lead into pure darkness. Zachary walked on through the corridor for some time, trusting in the word of Sauphara that he would be guided to his desired location.

Suddenly, Zachary fell... but not to the ground. He noticed that the corridor he had been walking down had changed somehow; it was now a circular pit that he was falling down. It took Zachary a moment to recognize that the gravity had changed on him as he had begun to near the core of the planet. Zachary flapped his wings for a moment.

The corridor then ended, cutting off into a spherical area. The gravity once again seemed to change, once Zachary had entered the area. Zachary was able to flap his wings and catch his balance once more. He looked around to see what this was.

In the center of the spherical area was a physical sphere of darkness. There appeared to be structures on the top and the bottom of this sphere. On the bottom was a large spire, with a very odd shape and a spiked tip on the bottom of it. On the top was something that appeared to be a palace of some red substance, lined with some sort of tarnished gold substance. It was a beautiful palace in its design, but the sort of horror it held about it did little to underline its beauty.

Zachary knew what this must be. The core of the dark star, and the place that was known as The Rapture. He knew that this is where he would find Revelian. So, with an air of determination, Zachary quickly began to fly towards the palace.

He landed in front of what appeared to be the front door. It was large, though Zachary was able to open it with some ease. He walked forth into a large room.

Zachary suddenly stopped, as his environment changed. The door behind him closed suddenly, and Zachary felt as if it had locked behind him. The room that he was in then began to light up with many colours, though they were dark and tarnished by hues of grey; it gave the room a sort of heavy air about it. Zachary looked forward, as he then saw something form out of the ground.

"Who's there?!" demanded Zachary, as he drew his sword.

Zachary stared on in horror as what appeared to be the silhouette of a tall, gridmaskian figure arose from the ground. Zachary realized that it wasn't a silhouette, but the being was in fact made of a black substance, that appeared to be neither gas, liquid, solid, or anything in between.

"What the hell...?!" Zachary's voice trailed off for a moment, as the figure then let out a loud, shrill screech, which echoed off of the walls of the room.

"EEEKEEEEEEKEEEEEKEEEEEEE!" Zachary closed his eyes in a bit of pain.

Zachary stared at the figure for a moment longer. Then, all of a sudden, it disappeared into thin air. Zachary stood in silence then, but gripped ever more tightly onto his sword.

The figure suddenly appeared behind him. Zachary jumped, and narrowly avoided an attack by it, in which it seemed to swipe with its long, jet-black arm. Zachary turned to face it, and slashed the figure with his sword. When Zachary's sword made contact with the figure, it felt as if he was slicing through something thick, yet not entirely solid.

The figure did not seem to have been slain by Zachary's hit. Though it did appear fazed, it then began moving; it walked towards Zachary at a frighteningly quick pace. Zachary could have easily mistaken it for running at him, before he realized that it was merely the combination of its long, long legs, and a steady pace.

Zachary then charged forward at the figure, holding his sword before him. With a swift motion, he slashed through the figures legs and charged into them, hoping that he could knock it down from how it stood, at least as a way to diminish the figure's advantage of height. As Zachary slashed, the area where he struck light up with a white light, and sent flashes of bright squares to appear all over its body, as if travelling all over it through its wound.

However, the figure's legs remained steadily a part of its form. Zachary gasped for a moment, and then found himself inside of the figure. It felt like a few seconds as he passed through it, and then slid forward. Going through the figure's legs felt like stepping through a blizzard, and for a moment, he'd thought he'd felt his heart stop. Zachary could do nothing but slide forward for a moment longer.

But the figure did not stop as he did. Rather, it quickly turned around, leaning slightly to the ground, and launched a powerful black fist to Zachary's back. Zachary almost fell to his face, and then went sliding forward.

Zachary quickly turned and faced the figure once more. He held up his sword again, and pointed it towards the figure, as it continued its fast pace towards Zachary.

"Seraph Blade!" Zachary called out for a magic he knew of to be used. His blade then began to glow with a bright light. The light from the sword could have very well put the sun to shame any day, though it would now serve as the best light that could be found within the dark star. It illuminated The Rapture and seemed to pierce layers off the form of the figure that stood ominous and tall before Zachary.

Zachary took a great leap upward, with his bright sword held above his head. With a great motion, he brought his sword to pierce the very center of the figure before him.

The figure once again let out a loud, shrill screech. "AAAAAAAAAAAAAHAAAAAAAAAAHAAAAA!"

This time, its screech was one that sounded with a clear feeling: pain. The light from Zachary's blade seemed not only to pierce the form of the figure, but rather, it seemed to cause it to begin fading away. The shadow that the figure was began to be driven out by the light. The figure collapsed and fell to the ground, as Zachary remained to keep his illuminating blade within it. The figure died as it let out its loud screeches.

Zachary dropped his blade, as it began to lose its light. The figure was now nowhere to be found. Zachary began panting a bit, still shaken up by the experience of an unexpected battle. He sighed for a moment, and then bent over to pick up his sword. He knew that he would have one more battle to fight before the day was over.

Revelian's waiting for me, Zachary thought, somewhere in this palace. I need to find him.

Zachary then went on to the next room of The Rapture, ready to go room after room until he found what he was looking for. However, he was surprised at what he saw in the next room. It was enormous, and had only one entryway, being the one he had just entered.

"The whole palace is just two rooms?" Zachary mumbled to himself out loud. "Are you kidding me...?"

"Oh, shut your damn mouth, swine. It's better than anything you could ever build." A familiar voice with a hint of a robotic tone suddenly filled the room. Zachary could feel the coy smirk that now crossed the face of the man he'd come for. "Welcome to The Rapture... Zach."

Bonus Chapter: Feasting

Earlier...

Lazro opened the door to the automotive. Inside, the driver was still sitting in her seat, holding on to the wheel and looking on at the scene. As the others had cleared out, she turned to look at Lazro.

The driver was a good friend of Lazro's from his school days, who had stuck around as a friend due to involvement with LDZX. To Lazro, she was a mysterious figure, even to the daily interactions between them and the mention of her, due to the focus on lack of knowledge in presentation to a question. Lazro occasionally knew the answer to the question without needing to ask, a bit of insightful nature within him, though it was always there.

She was a gridmask, about Lazro's height. She had dark hair in a bob-cut style, almost icy blue eyes, and a smooth face with a fair complexion. She wore a dark green suit with highlights reminiscent of her aura's color, along with a pair of glasses. She also had mutations on her form which appeared as a cat's tail and ears of a light colour.

This was Amygea Moriam, more commonly known by the nickname Mori.

"Yo, Amy," Lazro started, "you mind driving me home?"

"Sure." Mori gave a playful, cat-like smile. "Just you?"

"Yeah. Well, Rev already flew off-"

"Good." Mori started the automotive.

"... Lud and Zex are gonna fly back to HQ, and Sam's gonna summon Ecast and ride home on him. I don't really wanna bother any of them to help me home, either." Mori turned the vehicle around and began driving back.

"Ah, but you're alright with bothering me. I see." Mori mused in a mocking tone.

"Hey, now,"" Lazro laughed a bit, "I don't mean it like that."

"Mhmm." Mori giggled.

"And it would be easier for you, right?"

"Your home isn't exactly on the way to mine..."

"Er, I guess not, yeah..." Lazro laughed awkwardly, and then turned to look out the window.

Mori gave yet another playful smile. "Oh, it's alright. I'll get you home, Lazro."

"'Kay. Thanks." Lazro laughed again. "I'll owe ya' one."

"... Another one?" asked Mori.

"A-another one?" Lazro stammered, "What do ya' mean?"

"I don't know about you, but I'm keeping a tally of how many times you've said that."

"W-what?" Lazro looked both worried and confused. "Have I said it that much??"

"Only about thirty times. Thirty-one, now." corrected Mori.

"What?? Really??"

"... oh, I'm just kidding."

"... oh. Aheh..." Lazro laughed shyly.

"... actually, if it's alright, should I just drop you off at the train station?" Mori asked. "It would be a lot shorter of a drive if I did that, you know. At least for me, that is." Mori quickly added.

"Uh... sure... I guess..."

"... Or, would you rather spend more time with me?" Mori asked with a smile.

"... a little bit." Lazro answered, eventually.

"Is that so?" asked Mori.

"Well, it beats having nobody around." Lazro mumbled.

"Sure, then. I guess I can hang out with you more..."

Mori glanced over in Lazro's direction, as a smile formed on her lips.

"... though, I kind of would like to know exactly what's going on with you guys."

"... Huh?" Lazro blinked.

"Oh, come now. Don't play with me like this, Lazro." Mori requested.

"I'm not--uh, what exactly is it that you want to know?" Lazro asked.

"Well, you do know that I sort of just randomly up and helped three of you out, and then you as well, but I have yet to receive any sort of explanation as to what you were all doing." Mori stated. "It's not that I find you all suspicious or anything; I can presume you're within your rights jumping out of a ship and blowing it up and all. I merely curious as to what's going on, exactly..."

"Oh, well, uh..." Lazro rubbed the back of his neck. "It's kind of... secret business, I guess. You know how it is..."

"Secret business with the higher-ups of LDZX, you mean?"

"Yep. Pretty much."

"Oh, come now... you can tell me about it." Mori insisted. "I'm a friend of the company, and I have been almost as long as you have."

"I'm... not sure. Well, I'm not sure if it's actually a secret at all, or if we're like never supposed to talk about it with anybody or something, but it might be best that no one hears about it. I forget what we agreed on?"

"They don't have to know if you don't tell them, Lazro." Mori tempted. "Come on... I can keep it a secret. I just want to know; no harm done in the end."

"... uh... oh, whatever. I guess you're gonna press on it until I tell you, anyway... and I kind of don't want to make my ride home angry."

"That's very wise." Mori smiled.

"So... recently, pretty much, we've been allowed to start fighting terrorists, and I guess this Dr. Sand guy was one of them that we're supposed to help out with. We were allowed to help out by taking out his ship and getting whatever we can out of it. Which was nothing, really..."

"Hm..."

"Oh, and Dr. Sand's the guy that's been petrifying all the stuff in sand recently... isn't it weird that his name is the same as what he--I'm sure you get it yeah."

"So, your mission was a success, then?"

"I guess? Though he probably has other ships that he can use... we may have won the battle, but the war's still raging..." Lazro sighed.

"... Interesting." Mori spoke.

"I guess you can say that about it..." Lazro rubbed his head. "Not really as fun when you're involved with it, though. I mean... this Dr. Sand guy's got loads of high-tech stuff to throw at us, and he made it all himself, which is pretty scary."

Mori seemed to lift her head at the mention of Sand's technology. "... are you scared, Lazro?"

"Uh... a little bit, but, not really?" Lazro answered. "Like, I know it's kind of a big deal and all, but I kind of also have a feeling that I don't care and I'm going to get involved with it all anyway, so... I guess I'm not scared enough for it to matter."

"... that's good, I guess. Though, there are a few things that you should know to be scared of, for your own safety..."

"Oh, trust me, there are more than a few things I'm scared of..." Lazro sighed. "... like the Oni. That thing might be, like, my biggest fear, honestly... creepy thing still gives me a nasty feeling. Even though it's dead."

"Hm... I guess you must wish that Revelian never got you involved with that, don't you?" Mori inquired.

"... a little bit." Lazro admitted. "The whole situation kind of made us stronger, though."


"Alright, here you are." Mori said, as the automotive slowly came to a stop.

"Thanks." Lazro smiled. "I appreciate it."

Mori grabbed Lazro's hand, lowered her head, and slowly pressed the back of the palm against her forehead.

"Ah, I appreciated the time, friend." Mori said with an unseen smile, before releasing Lazro's hand.

"... alright. Thanks again." Lazro said, before slowly exiting the vehicle. He closed the door behind him.


Now...

"I never thought it would be so easy..." Mori whispered, barely above a breath. He was unable to contain the words from being released by his mouth. It was like pressure building up and being released all of a sudden; it couldn't be contained. Almost as if Mori felt like his actions were supposed to be a secret, or as if a tinge of guilt had been applied to it. Alas, none of this could be seen on Mori's face at the time. Only intrigue currently could be discerned from Mori's expression.

Mori was currently gazing upwards, as, just beyond the sight of most, a sea vessel was floating in the clouds.

"Everyone's evacuated, so no one will know or see..." A smiled formed upon Mori's lips.

The remains of the Grim Reaper were currently being levitated from above the capital building of Universe City, as strings of a dark green aura seemed to cover it like an ethereal net. The Grim Reaper had crashed into the capital building, and left the city in devastation. How unfortunate, Mori thought, the city was just getting back on their legs after the Kuipter incident.

However, the airship was still full of technology. This was technology that was advanced for gridmasks, and could be utilized if recovered. Utilization of such technology, of course, was precisely the purpose of securing the Grim Reaper's remains.

"Hm... let's hope they won't miss this one too much... they do have two others, after all." Mori couldn't contain the smile that was forming on his lips.

Mori more feared that someone would find out about the excavation of the Grim Reaper before it could be done, thus blowing his cover, or revealing where the Grim Reaper could be found later on. However, it was believed that in the chaos of the invasion, everyone would be too distracted to notice a ruined ship being taken from a ruined city, until it was far too late.

The excavation of the Grim Reaper was definitely the most important action in capturing any piece of technology that had arisen in recent times. In truth, it was the most advanced of the airships that Dr. Sand had developed, and it had received even more developments from dark matters workers. And its parts would be perfect for Mori to utilize and discover for many "future projects" that Mori would undertake. This was such the reason why Mori had personally brought it up to his mentor, Caledonia, to utilize her cosmic sorcery and transportation vessel.

"Aheheheh." Mori giggled, almost impishly.

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