Something horrid and colossal was hanging in the air in this place, even though it appeared to be almost utopic.

His wrath shall cut their ties
from this unholy filth
His wrath shall burn the skies
and burn corrupt within

- One of The Sibylla's prophecies.

α - No man, old man

An old man stepped through the gates of the city, a vintage motorcycle in his hands as he passed the security checks. Despite his appearance, with silvery hair and a simple walking cane, his stride was quite firm, and the motorcycle at his side seemed to have little effect on his speed.

The security station was behind him now, and he smiled softly.

"Poor lads. Hardly paid, yet always blamed for mishaps."

He had heard many stories of this place. Of its great skyscrapers and the suspended bridges, even entire squares and shopping streets in the air. There were stories of those below the great buildings, too: of their misery, of how they were kept in the dark over what was up there, and how they were oppressed so that those above could live their carefree and luxurious life. At this outer edge, neither of these two pictures seemed true: the skyscrapers were in the distance, and there were no particular signs of wealth or poverty here. Shaking some dust from his coat, he parked his motor in front of a little supermarket and sought to enter it, but was interrupted by a hooded individual.

"Whoa there, old man! Nobody parks here without passing the test, yo!"

With mild surprise, he replied. "A test, you say? Well, I will gladly take such a test, if you insist."

"Right. I'll need to see your identification and your bank card for that." The old man complied, apparently ignorant of the true nature of this request. Before the hooded figure could make off with the wallet, however, he received a firm whack from the old man with his cane. "Off you go, filthy scum!"

Rather than making a hasty retreat, the thief uncovered a switchblade and waved it about threateningly. "You'll be sorry you messed with me, you old piece of-" With a swift motion, the old man slapped the knife right out of his hand and proceeded to wield his cane like a quarterstaff to beat the failed criminal into submission. "That ought to teach you to resort to filthy opportunism for your income."

Leaving the lowly criminal crippled on the pavement, he finally entered the store, where he bought a box of cookies, which he put into the bag at his side. Upon exiting, he found that two of his victim's associates were awaiting him. "Ah, good morning, lads. Is there something you need?" The beefier one of the pair attempted to grab him by the collar of his coat, but his hand was harshly removed.

"Excuse me, but I'd rather you didn't touch that. It's quite bothersome to straighten it."

How dare some batty old man defy them?

"Think you can screw with us, huh?" The old man's expression didn't change in the slightest. "I propose you both go back to your own daily activities, and leave me to mine. It is clear that you do not understand why your friend just a moment ago did not get to walk back home."

The more slender of the two drew a pistol and aimed it. In some kind of blur, the weapon was no longer there, or anywhere on the ground for that matter. His sturdy counterpart chose his own fists rather than a weapon and managed to land a hit on the old man's shoulder, only to be pulled off balance and floored.

"Yargh!" He roared, brandishing his cane like a true warrior, scaring off the skinny criminal. The heavier one lunged at his knees, only to find thin air and the hard pavement. "Your mass and pure strength are not quite enough, dear boy."

When the old man left on his motorcycle, the muscular thug had disappeared without a trace.

Years before, he'd been to this city once, and had only seen one area of the world that was situated far above the ground, and he'd dressed up in a proper suit for the occasion. Up there, things were remarkably clean, and there appeared to be a lack of conflict or strife.

"Welcome, Mr. Essington."

They did not know his name, and they knew nothing of the history behind the name Leonard Essington. Sometimes, the ignorance that the masses displayed was a blessing, he noted.

"Thank you." He'd shaken hands with the building's overseer, who was apparently responsible for "ensuring the happiness and safety of the many, above and below", as he put it. Much of his time had been taken up by tours and other activities at the time. No matter where they went, everything supposedly proved the superiority of the lifestyle there. However, when he'd asked them what the people below did, and what they would say about the city, everyone merely laughed and pointed out how ridiculous this question was. He had dropped the question afterwards, and decided that it did not matter.

As of recently, however, someone had gone through considerable effort to find him. A young man, surely no older than twenty, had travelled to Faeric, apparently all the way from Neuerberg, seeking Leonard Essington. Rather than introducing himself, he had asked something about the visit. How he knew of this in the first place was a mystery. Of the City, as he had called it, though its actual name was Neuerberg City, supposedly as a counterpart to Steckenberg. Still under disguise, he'd shown relative indifference at first, but the lad did not abandon his questioning, narrowing down to one particular point. The point that he sought to explore was the question about the people below. As testified by him, that was the first time in years that someone had asked a question of that kind. However, most of the people that had asked such questions were never seen outside the city again, which was why this had caught his attention. As it turned out, Neuerberg was everything but the peaceful and undisturbed utopia that it proclaimed to be. The people below were like cattle or even slaves, working hard to ensure that all those that had a luxurious life far above ground level could enjoy a carefree time.

Of course, not all of this was a surprise to himself - the odd response to his questioning had raised his eyebrows at the time already.

The lad himself had found a place to stay on Faeric, and swore never to return to what he called a "goddamn shithole".

Now, several years after that curious encounter, the old man sought to find the source of the imbalance. The streets down here were filthy, and full of overworked people that were on breaks or heading home after their shift. Many had shifts of 10 hours, with only 4 hours of time between them. How exactly the young man that he'd spoken with knew things like these? He did not know. What mattered was that a lot of them stopped dead in their tracks when they saw him. He stopped and looked at them.

"You're that guy who took down 3 of them thugs, huh?" Apparently, the rumours were already spreading. The old man that had taken down 3 of the local criminals by himself.

"The word 'thug' does their crude and obvious approach too much credit. They lack any technical fighting ability and they're utterly unconvincing."

One of the people had a child clinging onto her coat. "Are you a superhero?" He smiled. "No, dear. I am not a superhero. In fact, I am hardly a hero at all." However, more people came closer, forming a circle of curious and hopeful spectators.

Delinius sighed. This was not what he'd bargained for when he took up the appearance of a well-aged man. "As I said, I'm all but a hero. All that I am is a stubborn old man who refuses to let lowly criminals take advantage of himself, and any others they unjustly choose as their targets." He straightened his jacket.

"Who are you, then? Are you part of some kind of clan, with that bird on your back?" This referred to the symbolic phoenix that was stitched on the back of his coat, an innocent hint about his true identity. Delinius shook his head.

"The bird's a phoenix. I don't know much about why it is on my jacket. It's simply there, since the manufacturer decided it desirable to do that. Now, now. We are causing far too much commotion here. I think it's best we all continue our day, before others begin inquiring about this conversation." The small crowd quietly dispersed. While climbing back on his bike, there was a soft tug on his coat.

"Mommy says that the cops will put you in jail. But you're nice. They shouldn't put you in jail." The little girl gave him a little hanger on a safety pin and hurried back to her mother. The hanger was clearly quite old and likely not originally on this pin, but was firmly attached nonetheless. The hanger consisted of 3 round beads of green glass, each a nearly perfect ball. He smiled. Perhaps these people were more hopeful than he had thought. He drove deeper into the city, with the glass beads as a protective charm to watch over him. Children were unspoilt and positive, he remarked to himself. Much more honest than most adults, let alone the people in the age between those two states.

"Someone reported about an old man beating up 3 thugs trying to mess him up. Not sure what part of it is true, but they say the man's a wizard or martial artist or whatever."

The eye witness was a shopkeeper, of a shop where the old man had bought some cookies. Not much stood out about him: his hair wasn't particularly long or short, his accent was from Faeric, and he had been wearing fairly normal clothing. Only one detail was significant, however, as there was a bird of some sort on the back of his leather coat.

"As far as the thugs are concerned, the guy sounded fearless. We might have to track him down before he starts stirring up more dust." She sat down and wrote out an apprehension order based on what information she had.

"How old are you, really?" Delinius smiled at this question. "Older than you could imagine. Well over a century, in fact." He left up for debate how old this exactly was. "What's an old man doing in a place like this?"

They'd been talking for hours, about what was wrong about this place and how strongly unequal it was. As they ate and drank in this modest pub, he had listened, and given them some advice on occasion. After a while, however, they started asking him questions, especially once he'd begun suggesting new approaches.

"I mostly seek to explore this area, and find what people like you do. And, when I can, offer to share some of my knowledge to your benefit."

Paul, the one who had asked him about this, seemed unconvinced. "Really? That's all you're here for?" After a quick sip of his drink, he continued in a much quieter voice. "Doesn't sound like what you're looking for, if those 3 criminals you messed with are anything to go by."

Delinius raised his hands in apology. "Alright, perhaps I do strive to rid the streets of criminal filth as they cross my path. Do not let that fool you, as I'm not here to replace the faulty law enforcement, much as I wish I could do that." Everyone else abruptly stopped talking.

Paul stood up. "We're not talking about just the criminals. This isn't just some friendly gathering." All the other people present stood up, and so did Delinius.

"Nobody, and by that I mean nobody who lives to tell the tale, picks a fight with those thugs without paying for it. The fact that you dare means that you're either really stupid, which I doubt, or much stronger than you pretend. Am I right?" He pointed at Delinius' coat, which was hanging from a chair. "That bird on your back is a phoenix. Nobody uses that bird as a symbol in this city, and few people outside of it do." Delinius expressed honest surprise, hoping that this was not a threatening situation.

"Is that so? Perhaps. I have a fondness for it as a symbol." Paul shook his head. "Truly? Come on, old man. This evasion game has been going on for long enough. We know who you actually are, and you don't have to worry about it." Delinius sighed and let the disguise appearance go.

"Very well then. Nobody is to know of my presence, however. I am supposed to be a hermit, a man who does not interfere with the large world of Ludus. I am more than tired of the commotion that has to accompany my name, and I have been for centuries, as you might gather from my disguise."

He smiled grimly. "Now, the reason that I did venture out here was the combination of a rather curious visit to the world above with a young lad's distressed story of a vile dystopia. That world above is full of lies, deceit and misinformation. This world below is full of poor conditions, but also full of honest work and honest people."

He coughed. Everyone was silent.

"Not even the greatest of towers will prove safe against my ire when the filth above is sent to its demise. The filth below must be cleared or at least subdued beforehand, however."

A quiet, but heartfelt applause followed. However, Delinius shook his head.

"I did not reveal myself to recieve applause, no matter how well it is meant. The filth down here is not very strong, but it is organised, to my knowing. With a lifetime that spans centuries, I dare say that at least street criminality and its gangs underwent no fundamental change throughout my time."

Paul replied. "And that's exactly what we are here for. You see, we look like more of the same in this dull grey world, but that's what we'd like everyone to see. It's exactly what you were trying to achieve with your disguise, while still maintaining something that could be recognised. We aren't vigilantes or revolutionaries." He took something from his pocket and showed it to Delinius. "I'm pretty sure you might know what this icon is about."

This was something he hadn't expected, and least of all in a city like this. It was the same icon that was embedded on an old coat of his father, and something that he'd seen sporadically throughout time. The legacy of the Chipper Crew. They were here, and they knew him. Even now, they existed and worked ever so quietly to bring the ideals that were once part of the Chipper Crew to light, and to spread them. How many centuries had they been going? Was the lad that had sought him perhaps part of these fellows, too?

Many questions passed through the ancient Soul Flame's mind, but he was given no time to ask any further. "You could be exactly who we need to tear this system down. We're disciplined and you seem intent on taking on the leaders of the rich life above. What do you say?" Paul's tone was harsher than Delinius expected, and it put him off to some degree. "Perhaps, my friend. Perhaps. I must see more of this place, however. That is, after all, what I came here for, was it not?" He had expected Paul to understand this humorous remark, but he apparently didn't .

"Do you think this is a joke?" Delinius shook his head. "Listen, dear Paul. Much as I admire the fighting spirit that you show to possess, this is not a matter of simply getting a way up there to allow everyone access. Tell me honestly, what were to happen when you and this little group did reach the heights? You would at first fight, perhaps have great success at first, but that world and its luxuries would eventually capture you and make you part of it. That is not an insult or a lack of belief in your strength, it is a certainty. You can believe this old fossil when he states that their systems are ruthlessly efficient, and that they refuse to acknowledge the people living here as more than their labour."

Everyone had sat down again, but Delinius rose to his feet and put on his leather jacket. "Where the hell are you going?"

"You are highly intent on making the luxury spread more evenly, but that will spread it to the filth that lives under here as well. It is that step that I wish to take care of, and I will do so myself." As he headed for the door, Paul angrily shouted. "If you had real courage, you would fight those rich assholes! You're attached to them, aren't you?"

Delinius instantaneously stood right next to Paul, his face inches away from Paul's. "I suggest you keep your narrow-minded plans to yourselves, or your little equality ideal will be brutally slain by their luxuries. I have seen such people. Those that disappear are not killed in a back room, they are turned into careless luxury-livers. Above all, you seem to ignore the fact that I am not some idealistic freedom fighter like some tales would place me. I do not work with immediate confrontations. I work with my knowledge and what people consider my convincing manner of speech. Those two gifts are my true weaponry, and they will aid me in getting all the people of a decent nature to work for this cause." He stepped back. "How I will bring all these people together? With strategic rumours. You shall have no part in it, and you will be sorry if you choose to deem otherwise. May it be clear that I am here on my own behalf, and not specifically yours or that of any other rebellious groups in this city." He walked out, his appearance returning back to an old man.

Unknown subversive #102

Reported initially as an old male with grey shoulder-length hair and a brown leather coat. Subversive apparently harassed by street criminals, who were subdued with a walking cane according to eyewitness reports.

Second appearance of subversive recently during a mugging, where he caused the death of several criminals before absconding with their possessions, which proved to be stolen goods that he returned. Theorised to be a typical equality fighter; elimination through the Aperture protocol suggested as a non-violent strategy.

I have to say, I'm unsure if this is truly a seventy-year old man beating muggers and other street criminals into submission or even death. I feel like the 'sun bird' mentioned in some reports is something familiar, but I have yet to find any sources about its meaning. That being said, keep an eye out for more reports. We might have to deploy some plainclothers if the man proves too durable for street gangs.

The file was swiftly uploaded onto the database, and he sat back. Davies would have his skin for breakfast if they didn't find out more about this subversive man. He took a look at the latest report, filed only yesterday. He'd circled one name in particular: Langton. It was a common last name, but there were quite a few notable ones in history. There was one in particular that could in theory be linked, but it was so unikely that he hardly dared think of it: Delinius Rupert Langton. He was not confirmed to have died, and was known for his great tact. It was all the more likely that it was just some young and insignificant magician who was hoping to make some fame by lifting on the success of another.

Putting all the reports back into his desk, he calmly walked out of the office to get his lunch. There were too many subversives every year to consider it natural, especially with the many regulations and measures that were supposed to keep the populace below ignorant and docile. Some things cannot be tamed and controlled entirely, perhaps.

"Hey, since when are you taking lunch breaks again?" His colleague had joined the table silently. "The work's not really piling up for once. We're already well past the subversives threshold as usual." She laughed her usual relaxed smile. "Haha, right. What's our newest arrival going to be like?" He shrugged.

"I'll be honest, we have no idea. Hardly know the man's name. No records of him, so he's either been invisible for all his life, or he isn't from here. Still makes you wonder how and why he got in to visit the belowside, especially because he hasn't been recorded as a topside visitor or even seen at the gates before. I mean, we're not known for the world below across Ludus."

"The mysterious ones are at least interesting. So many of the obvious ones just want to burn the world and skin us alive." That was right: most of these so-called 'subversives' were simply people who had anarchistic world views and were disposed off quietly. They generally weren't missed by anyone who knew them. The same applied to strangers that only lingered a few days, but this man had been around for weeks now. He'd probably made a few acquaintances, maybe even a few friends. How much popularity would he gain, especially because of his age?

"No. I do not require any help, thank you." For over half an hour, a peculiar fellow had kept up with him as he walked, trying to convince him into letting said fellow carry his bag as help. While it was obvious that this was yet another trick, the lad apparently knew better than to try to make off with the bag itself. And so he had been wasting his own time, and not that of the old man, who calmly continued his walk - he had given the motorcycle in custody and threatened to off the keeper's head if it was not in one piece when he returned. For that purpose, he'd briefly equipped his axe, only to revert to the walking cane briefly after.

"Come on, let me carry it. I swear, I'm not going to steal it. Would you expect an honest citizen to run off with your bag, sir?" Delinius swept the lad's feet off the pavement with his cane. "This city has no honest inhabitants that follow people around to 'help out' endlessly."

Before he could cross the road, a black van stopped in front of him. One of the blinded windows slided down, and a finely dressed man with sunglasses appeared. "What up, old man! This dude givin' ya trouble?" He was, in every way, one of those 'bro' types that were renowned for their expensive tastes and loud bass music.

"Oh, no. I am quite lost, however. Could you get me to the nearest rail station, perhaps?" A sliding door at the middle opened. "Hop on right in, yo! The whole crisp ain't clean 'till you've seen this dream leave the scene!" Inside were several more of the stereotypical figures, most of which were having a go at some alcohol, while one of them was busy flirting with a scarcely-dressed woman next to him. Typical? Perhaps, but Delinius had a particular trick up his sleeve. Opening his bag revealed not only the box of cookies that he'd bought earlier, but several bottles of one of his best-kept secrets: the highly refined liquor distilled from perished Cactus monsters in the desert that he had named Desertblaze. "Yo yo yo, what you got there, my dude my bro?" The old man smiled. "At my age, all the nasty consequences of alcohol that people are warned about have no use. After all, old people die after a while." He opened a bottle, filled a cup, and offered it to taste for the type that had offered him the ride in the first place.

"Oh damn, this shit's hot!" It was a pleasant heat, however, and soon the alcohol-chugging passengers were enjoying the bottles of Desertblaze too. However, the rail station Delinius had asked for soon emerged from the fairly confusing surroundings. "Yo dude, dat rail's over here! You sure you don't wanna chill with us?" He seemed quite sad to see his newly-acquired friend go already, hoping they would meet again another time.

Delinius smiled mysteriously. "Oh, but don't you worry about that. You will see me again eventually, my friend."

Before they knew it, he'd disappeared into the station, perfectly blending into the crowds.

"Damn, he gone? Like a hot-damn wizard, yo."

β - Old man, miraculous man

"Don't appreciate my privilege? Deal with it, old man." Delinius still refused to let the man push forward through the line. "You shall have to deal with my refusal, boy. There is no other way, I'm afraid."

Not unlike many other muscular thugs that he'd encountered, this man tried to lift him up by the collar, only to burn his hand on it. "That is what you get for your selfish behaviour!" He proceeded to push the big fellow back with his cane until he was in fact all the way to the back of the line, near the entrance. When he'd finished this, everyone stood aside for him, and let him pass through, instead.

"Now, now. Everyone has their place in the queue." Bits of murmuring in disagreement filled the area.

"You do! You do!" Cheering shouts joined these words, and a gentle but notable force from the crowd pushed him into the underground. It was clear that there was significant support to his actions, and that there could be more thugs about in these stations: a protective ring of people followed him for the entire time. "I don't suppose this is a typical habit of any of you, is it?" Nobody replied, though their protection proved more than symbolic soon after they'd exited with him: half a dozen individuals of varied appearance opposed his return to the surface.

"End of the line, old man!"

"No getting out now, ya know it. What you did to our buddies, we're gonna do right back to you."

Much of the crowd quietly dispersed, but the ring of people around Delinius remained where they were, determined. Delinius pushed them aside and stepped forward. "I certainly do admire the sheer courage you have, grouping against one lonely old fellow."

Before anyone else could speak a word, the six appeared to be struck by some unseen force. They all fell to the ground and displayed behaviour that was strikingly similar to a typical reaction to being on fire. After several minutes, in which none of them made any sound, all of the assailants had stopped moving entirely, and were considered dead.

"An old charm shan't let you hurt innocent people now. Rest in peace, scumbags!" The crowd had been jeering towards the six that had been writhing in pain, and now shouted complimentary phrases. Slowly, however, this transformed into a universally chanted "Old man, old man" that was surely audible at a great distance.

Several police officers had apparently been dispatched over reports of an altercation, and instead found a cheering crowd around an old man and six deceased people, all of which were obvious thugs.

"Hey hey, break it up, people!" The officer fired a warning shot from his sidearm. At once, the cheering was interrupted for the most part, and everyone turned towards the law enforcement.

"Please, everyone, we need not-" Before he could finish his sentence, a second officer apparently took aim at him and fired. Though he missed Delinius, the bullet struck a feeble old man in the crowd, who expired shortly after mumbling something regarding the newspaper he would not be able to read. The shooter immediately realised what he had done, and his two colleagues shared the awestruck expression.

The chains were loose: the entire crowd participated in a lynching of the three law enforcers, leaving little more than the undergarments untouched - perhaps out of a sense of decency. Once everything had gone relatively calm, Delinius spoke.

"Six harmful people died today. However, the innocent old man that lost his life also ended in the death of three law enforcers. Perhaps they had not died, had they responded more calmly. May they be left to be collected and sent to their families: that much they deserve nonetheless." He cast a strict glance at a few adolescents that were visibly eager to do otherwise. "We shall march wherever criminal filth hides, rising in numbers to root them out."

'Old man' seems to have gotten out of hand now. Not only did he kill 6 criminals that threatened him, but a lynching of three law enforcers belowside seems to be due to their slightly panicked reaction. Aperture is off the table, the man is too well-known. Next phase is going to be the Archer protocol, though we might be too late with that already. Given the fact that people are giving their lives for Old Man, we might not even be able to clean this up covertly. At least his acts haven't spread to other districts yet.

I want as many digital devices down there secured as we can. Nobody is to spread news about this commotion across districts, or who knows what mess we're going to have on our hands.

There were a few abandoned docking ports here, from the time when the first 'balcony' extensions were attached to the sides of then-new skyscrapers that now served as central supports for the truly high platforms. For some reason the area had never been closed off, and it was too low to be re-integrated into the modern networks. All the more convenient, especially if you shared traits with the man that was stirring up unrest on the streets below.

Welcome, profaneGrapher (Pelutius).
-25 new messages
-New firmware workaround available: v92.0.15 (Current version: v89.5.12)
  [AD]: Eyyy dude
  [AD]: Guess what, that old guy whos a big deal actually came by my block just now
  [PG]: Yooooo that's pretty great right
  [AD]: Dunno tbh, hes got this massive crowd following him and its noisy af man
  [PG]: You check the new firmware patch yet? 
  [AD]: Nah its garbage
  [AD]: At least compared to 89 3 20
  [PG]: 5 12 isn't that bad either actually
  [AD]: 5 12 is for people who are obsessed with legacy access points
  [AD]: Oh wait, I forgot
  [AD]: I guess youd care about that where youre sitting
  [PG]: It's neat when you can peek a bit into what sort of crap is lying around there
  [PG]: Pretty sure the majority of it is really restricted and regulated though
  [PG]: I guess that's why they dumped the older tech with us
  [AD]: Yeah
  [AD]: Though tbh if someone could crack the stuff thatd be sick
  [PG]: Well afaik what few things do make it down are accidents
  [PG]: Above tries to pick em back up pretty hard
  [AD]: Arent there people who actually manage to snag some things
  [AD]: And they like repair stuff and break locks on them
  [PG]: Yeah, but have you seen how much those cost?
  [PG]: And that's just for a piece that's probably only going to like
  [PG]: Have half of its functionality back online
  [AD]: Fair enough but but but
  [AD]: Im pretty sure we could go on the lookout and grab some
  [PG]: Most of that doesn't happen on this side though
  [PG]: Not enough kids dropping their stuff bc theyre drunk or just stupid
  [AD]: Still though its possible
 [PG]: I guess it is but I gotta dip up there so cya for now
  [AD]: Aight dude stay cool
 [PG]: You too my sis and don't let the bugs bite

Well, of course it was possible. Just not very likely. He logged off of the sheer spamflood of messages - those would come later. He'd already done his daily chat with Liz, who was the only one he ever discussed his trips into the network of the people up high with. She was into the hacking 'sort-of-community' that revolved mostly around what further advanced technology fell into people's hands down here, and how to exploit the otherwise tightly locked devices. For now, it was time to make another trip into what areas of the topnet he could access with so-called 'legacy commands'. After a quick check, he poked his way through the otherwise perfectly shielded network and into one of the quieter chatrooms that had been left running on an old server. He found his usual friends, as far as that could apply.


TL/7724: Yeah, it's painful to see mistakes in people's Common.
TL/7724: Found a newsbit with errors in it yesterday. Like, please.
LF/8625: I know, right? People get so sloppy nowadays with their language.
LF/8625: Because everyone spends too much time chatting.
LF/8625: Yo, Pel!
PM/2122: Heyo people, what's up there today?
VM/8491: Hey there dude. Not too much today, sorry. Weather's been kinda crap.
VM/8491: Though you probably know that too :)
TL/7724: Helc yeah, it's Peludius.
PM/2122: Haha, yeah. Stuff's been a little weird lately, Liz had some news.
TL/7724: Liz? Must be important right?
PM/2122: There's a pretty unusual rebel since a month or two, some old man.
PM/2122: Thing is, he actually kicks the loving crap out of bandits and other scumfolk.
VM/8491: Sounds like usual stuff to me.
PM/2122: All while seemingly being a man of 70 or something.
LF/8625: Old people die hard, man.
--LitFortress8625 dabbles
PM/2122: You'll be surprised how many of your old memes still float around where I'm at.
LF/8625: It's why I've been trying to find a way to break out of this net.
LF/8625: Into what's down there.
LF/8625: You're chill, so everyone probably would be, right?
PM/2122: Yeah, though you'd need to get hold of an old machine that still runs pesterChat.
PM/2122: Not sure how common those are. Also wouldn't advertise where you're from too much.
PM/2122: Let's say some people will be salty ducks at any moment they see a reason.
VM/8491: Wait, who is this?
LE/444444444: It would seem I am not the only one who still knows legacy commands.
PM/2122: How did you find this room? It's pretty secluded and stuff.
LE/444444444: Experience. I have been to Neuerberg before.
LE/444444444: That that was a visit to the upper part, however.
LE/444444444: The largest resistance at the time was a creaky door.
LF/8625: Still, who the literal sandbrick are you?
LE/444444444: If we were to judge by age, let's say I'd be unusual.
LE/444444444: Though this lists me as a derivative of Leonard Essington, that is not my name.
LE/444444444: 'Old Man' won't do as a proper pseudonym, however. Even so, I am the old man.
LF/8625: The real deal?
VM/8491: But who is the old man really?
LE/444444444: Let us say we would discuss that. Would all of you adhere to keeping it secret?
LE/444444444: The man is considered dead by all standards despite being alive.
LE/444444444: And if not, I suppose a little rumour can't hurt.
LE/444444444: After all, the authorities searching for me are too late as it stands.
LE/444444444: You may all want to find as many options to leave Neuerberg as you can.
LE/444444444: There will be a lot of unrest in the foreseeable future.
LE/444444444: No innocent lives need to be lost to cleaning out the corrupt division of wealth.
LE/444444444: The man everyone wishes to know is Delinius Rupert Langton.
--LingererExtraordinaire/4444444444 has changed his name to DisillusionatelyLimiteless/0202
DL/0202: There, that loses the horribly stretched string of fours.
PM/2122: Wait a second. What exactly are you going to do? Is it like what Liz told me?
DL/0202: If your dear Liz spoke of uprooting this city's entire authority, I am afraid it is.
DL/0202: You especially would know the incredible inequality that exists.
DL/0202: I'm quite certain all 4 of you would like it to be reduced by a reasonable amount.
TL/7724: So you're an equality fighter, or...
DL/0202: I am the worst individual Neuerberg's secretive units will ever know.
DL/0202: The filth of the streets below will perish as much as the filth above.
DL/0202: Now, if you'll all excuse me, I may need to stop some enthusiastic crowd members.
DL/0202: Lest they begin dismembering a criminal's body.
DL/0202: Much as I understand that they would, I do still have a sense of decency at my old age.
- DisillusionatelyLimiteless/0202
VM/8491: And then he just leaves.
PM/2122: I don't know what to say. I'm going to take a break, see you later.
LF/8625: Stay safe.

This was impossible. He quickly opened up his chat with Liz.

 [AD]: Eyyy dude
 [PG]: Yo Liz, guess what I just found out
 [PG]: Old man is actually going to fuck with the big shots.
 [AD]: Everyones been calling that yeah
 [AD]: Why you so sure?
 [PG]: He literally not kidding got into our chat
 [AD]: Lemme guess he doesnt want anyone to know who he is right
 [AD]: Everyone who Ive asked says that hes a mystery person
 [PG]: Yeah he made that clear
 [PG]: His actual name is Delinius Rupert Langton
 [AD]: That one who appears in history books?
 [AD]: Daaaaaaaamn
 [AD]: Some pretty noble visitor
 [PG]: Hey I think we should spread this across the net at least
 [PG]: Tell people to get into a quiet corner unless they want to pick a fight
 [PG]: History books probably did get his power right
 [AD]: Right gonna go and push this to some folks ok
 [AD]: If the shit goes down by the way
 [AD]: Would you be okay if I came hide with you
 [AD]: I dont trust any other wackos I know for that sort of thing
 [AD]: Besides youre the only one Id want to sleep in one place with
 [PG]: Oh uh
 [PG]: Yeah definitely if you want to
 [AD]: Good seeya in a few weeks then
 [AD]: Old folks wont miss me anyway lmao

Her question had caught him off guard. Of course, she was his best friend, but she was also a girl. Pelutius rubbed his eyes. It was quite late.

"Do I disturb with my presence?

He nearly launched into the ceiling.

"Who the f-" The old man raised his arms to show he meant no harm.

"Please don't fret over this old man. After all, you have looked him in the eye digitally now." He smiled as he noticed that Pelutius looked significantly less disturbed.

"It's you?"

"Yes, it is the scary Delinius Rupert Langton. What I said applies to you and dear Liz too, if she can come with you. You seem quite self-reliant out here; I suppose you would be able to take care of yourself. To my knowing, you are the only example of unity between these two otherwise completely separated worlds, which is why I have taken this effort. When you hear that the towers are breached, find the abandoned arcade hall and locate the motorcycle within. By that time, there ought to be a complete lack of control at the borders, and you must ride out. Not to worry, you can essentially dump the entire contents of this room and even the equivalent of two more such rooms into the old thing's pockets. It is one of my old motorcycles, so there is quite some magic involved. Heed my advice and do not stay to watch everything collapse, for it will not be pretty."

After dropping a leather bag on the floor, he vanished in a burst of flames.

Take care, Pelutius. Although I do not know you well, I will consider you a nephew of mine that I want to be safe.
This dagger will only harm anyone who tries to hurt you, or anyone you care about.
No proficiency in knife-stabbing is required, rest assured. You will survive the purge of Neuerberg.
- Delinius

γ - Miraculous man, angry man

This is exactly what I mean. If that asshole isn't just some really fit old man, we're basically dead. Even if we manage to rally every single rat in this sector together, he'll just wave us all away like the god he would be in that case. We need to tear him and these little folks around him apart before he manages to sweep all of us under the rug for everyone to walk on.

Get together whatever the hell wants to survive this. Moles, junkbirds - everyone.

"Oh hell no!" His battle cry was in vain: the old man mowed many of his fellow scumbags down with his cane as if they were all made of cardboard. Even the crude bows that some of the lunatics carried didn't phase him in the slightest: as if inherently aware, he would block all the shots fired at him with seemingly supernatural precision.

"And die with your broken weapons, filth."

Unexpectedly, the cane in his hands transformed into a worn battleaxe. The greying in his hair disappeared, and the ragged hair took on more of a healthy appearance, though it was still messy.

Delinius Rupert Langton calmly gazed across the street from the roof of a small truck, revealing himself to be even more of a grim opponent than the lowlife criminals in the area had already fought. Quite a few of them stopped: while they had no idea of his name's meaning for their lives, or the fame associated with it in the past, they were quite aware that the very transformation from a seemingly old and feeble man to one that was at the very height of his life was something to be worried about.

"Now, taste the bitter and unforgiving pain of flames."

From the street in front of the truck, what appeared to be a multitude of ethereal monsters appeared. While their fiery nature made it impossible to see what they actually were, they were very fast, engulfing their enemies in flames as they sped forth.

"Wait, that's no old man..."

"They were right about who it really was?"

"Depends on who you mean by that."

"Impossible... He would really just cast away the entire act like that?" Paul could hardly believe it.

Meanwhile, one of the beefier criminals proved quite able to repel the ethereal creatures, extinguishing them using blasts of cold air. "Pff, is this it, huh?"

From above him, an angry Delinius came down, slamming his axe into the ground. This caused the area around the impact to be covered in flames, including the airblaster. "Bloody wrong." His axe wasn't heavy so much as he was incredibly agile in wielding it, and the thug fell to its swift strike just like many others before him.

By chance, a squad of law enforcers had been dispatched, along with fire fighters. While the latter were left wondering why the flames on the street weren't spreading at all, the law enforcers soon discovered that the subversive they were trying to catch did not respond very well to threats of any kind.

"Lay down your weapon and surrender! This is your first and final warning!"

An agitated Delinius appeared right before them. When they grabbed for their sidearms, the weapons proved too hot to the touch to handle, slipping out of their hands in the process. "It would seem that not I, but you must drop your weaponry. Turn back and leave, lest you be caught in the flames too. The fire will not harm anyone other than those I intend it for."

Instead, two of them pulled out their batons - which were not susceptible to any tricks in regards to heating - and attacked. One found that axes are quite unhealthy for the limbs, while the other discovered the skull-splitting capabilities that such weapons had. Before either party could act or speak any further, though, the law enforcers were overrun by a crowd of supporters, apparently not of the kind who feared someone who could kill without hesitation.

There were many kinds: the otherwise peaceful labourers that had taken up their tools as weaponry, eager adolescents that took along whatever weapons they had as contraband or stolen wares, and a few truly capable rebels who had managed to capture firearms and equipment of law enforcers.

"That's it. This guy's clearly aware of our system if he starts killing off ground-level law enforcement. Wait, what about that face?" She instructed the camera operator to zoom in on the head. It matched what archived photos remained of their suspect. This was, as far as anyone could tell, Delinius Rupert Langton.

"Drop down no less than 3 full units, and as many as you can bring down on short notice. Make sure they have something against the flames. Bring in the extinguishers and water cannons, come to think of it."

The worst scenario unfolded: a highly powerful magician in the middle of Neuerberg, intent on first taking on its criminality issues before unfolding some scheme using the public's loyalty from this act.

"Yes, that means right now, you imbecile. And yes, it includes the standby units and all the ones we've been keeping on the shelf for whatever reasons. Yes, heavily armed and equipped with something that resists fire."

"Hey, Lex?" Pelutius looked up. "Yeah?"

The sound of many sirens slowly increased in volume before seemingly dissipating into the distance. There had been a massive purging throughout the week: a few of their friends had fallen to it too. Well, digital ones. They had been involved in a few shady deals that had come to light now, and paid a high price for it. However, the majority of the lynchings and public murders were reserved for the true scum.

"You sure you can ride a motorcycle, right?" He shook his head. "We don't really have time to find out, Liz. We'll just have to get going. Let's hope the way to the arcade isn't the death road album in reality."

Liz laughed. "Hey, look." When he looked her in the eyes, she pressed a quick kiss on his lips. "I'm happy we can get out of here as just you and me." She grinned at the incredibly overwhelmed expression on his face. "What? You're really cute when you look at people like that."

"Hey, who's there?" He rose from his comfortable desk chair and checked his work space. There was nobody there, as far as he could tell.

However, when he turned around, a silent murder took place. The culprit wiped a bit of dust from his coat and proceeded with his plans.

eval baseline_integrity
×ERROR: You do not have permission to run this command.
setmode legacy
!WARNING: Legacy command support is not guaranteed. Continue? [Y/N]
>Command input mode set to legacy access.
checkfor value rootline_integrity
>Value rootline_integrity = 96
checkif uplink true
>Parameter uplink = true
setparam uplink false
>Parameter set.

An incoming communication from the engineering command interrupted his work.

[ComEval]: Hello tower 255, I see the uplink is down through legacy commands?
[ComEval]: Don't know how you've learned those, but please set it back up.
[EngT255]: A little testing to see if I can establish an alternative uplink path,
in case of an infrastructure break.
[ComEval]: Given the recent developments...
[ComEval]: I see what you mean. Proceed, then.
[EngT255]: As an additional thing, gonna seal any side routes.
[EngT255]: Info security is big, after all.
[ComEval]: Right then. Take care.

With this explanation, the mainframe's command would suspect very little until it was too late.

direct com05 22 7 381
>Channel redirected.
override auth 053a-8953-a7fd6-1229
>Override recognised. Welcome, Mr. Langton.

The mainframe's overseers had little time to check in on all the maintenance crews and operators that resided in the many high buildings that formed the backbone of the upper city, and they would not keep their observers trained on the same tower for long once they had ascertained that there was nothing to worry about.

He docked the relevant electronic device to the terminal and allowed it to load its relevant contents.

>Advanced routing interface detected.

He disconnected the device and placed it back in his bag.

"Code pink?"

It had been years, probably even decades, since the last case this code had been assigned to. While code red signified a threat to the mainframe's integrity from the outside, pink indicated a hostile presence within.

"Worse still, Tower 255 was checked minutes before and it was fine. Just some testing of legacy access in case of infrastructure failure. As well, it seems the person behind this dug a little deeper than just the tower." With a few lines of code, he navigated to the relevant files. "All of these are based off of the same authorisation code, but the code itself was never issued to anyone, or by anyone. Either someone below has had years of training in the hacking of our systems, or our subversive's just broken into the network."

The Escape of Pelutius Gracca

[SY]: Duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuude
[SY]: Someone's broken into a tower!
[SY]: Breaking news and all shit!
[PG]: Oh okay
[PG]: Dude I'm telling you you better get out of here
[PG]: This place will be a fucking battleground trust me
[SY]: Wait, you heard it from the dude himself right?
[PG]: Yeah man tough shit
[SY]: Fuck, how much time is left?
[PG]: Not much
[PG]: He said it was time to go when the towers were breached
[PG]: So basically only take everything you really need
[PG]: Gather some folks and steal a car or something
[SY]: And you?
[PG]: Already got hold of a motorcycle
[PG]: Will see if I can ride one now
[PG]: Take care dude
[PG]: We all can meet some other time

The words Pelutius had written in chat, or whatever his real name actually was, resonated in his head. If this was true, it was basically the end of their world. But what they hell did any of them know about what was outside the City? Nothing. He'd probably just enjoy the ride, wherever it would lead.

"Hey, what did Pelutius say?"

"Basically he says everything's going to go to hell here, so he's bailing. He even stole a motorcycle I think, from wherever the heck you find those."

He closed out of the window and looked at Liz. "We have everything, right?" She sighed in a very obvious way to indicate that he was fussing too much. Lex and Liz, something that sounded so fitting it sounded like some dumb heroic team.

"You've checked everything three times already, duh."

"Guess we'll get going."

So they did, onto the busy streets. Although few people actually paid attention to them, their incredible luggage was probably a real sight to see in the middle of the mass riots. A decently organised rebel crew had formed, guiding the sometimes wild crowds in the right direction. One of these guides took notice of them, wondering why they would be packing so much to go anywhere.

"What's all this luggage about?" Liz shrugged.

"We're moving all our crap elsewhere, since this is going to be a total mess, yeah?"

The guide did not seem very convinced, until he spotted the knife that Lex was carrying with him. "Oh, okay. Well, good luck getting past the gates." He ran off at the sound of a storefront window being shattered.

"Right, let's get moving." She pulled Lex along to what had once been the Mayhem Arcade. Neither of them had ever seen it open, seeing it had closed decades ago, long before either of them had been born. Even so, they did know a fair amount of myths about the place that were mostly nonsense.

Breaking in through the poorly locked side entrance, they found themselves back in the dusty garage to where they'd at least managed to drag some of the furniture of both their rooms. Exactly as Delinius had promised, it strangely vanished into the motorcycle's side bays with a comical plopping noise. After packing the last few things, either into the bays or into their bags, Lex dusted off the helmets that were hanging from the motorcycle's steer. These weren't the typical helmets you'd sometimes see in street gangs that applied motorcycles to their operations: they looked a little vintage, with a significantly thicker shell and a simple strap to keep it attached to the wearer's head.

"Not really into new stuff, I guess. Look at these goggles, wow." They were indeed something out of an ancient adventure film, except that these were quite real. When he put the helmet on, Liz began laughing uncontrollably. "You look like... like one of those people flying planes without any idea what they're doing."

However, she looked even more hilarious with the helmet on her head, as it nearly covered her eyes, and she was quite aware. "Right then, motor boy. Let's bust a few fences with this thing." The motorcycle started loudly, and they sped off through the mostly empty streets.

δ - Angry man, flaming man

"Someone break the damn contact with 255!" Impossible, they said: seeing as the connection wasn't established through the regular channel, they couldn't stop it without severely disrupting the rest of the network. In fact, they couldn't stop the man at all. Their advanced command lines were incapable of sufficiently blocking Langton's entry attempts: legacy commands didn't trigger extensive logging mechanisms, simply because many automated systems worked with them. Since they'd been phased out for manual use over a decade ago, few people knew any of the old commands that had once been the only thing allowing direct interaction with electronic systems.

As if heard by the man, his prodding into the network suddenly stopped. Instead, the majority of all screens across the sector were overridden.

The PHOENIX protocol is now active. Please leave the sector at the earliest convenience.
All electronical devices not disconnected from their ports will shut down in 20 minutes.

"How does he know that ever existed?"

The PHOENIX protocol had once been designed for the unlikely scenario where a ground-level rebellion breached the many security measures and posed a threat to the populace up here. Its main purpose was to permanently disable all devices and other technology in the sector, to be recovered once the breach was contained. All of this was in order to prevent those living at ground level from gaining further development in technology on their own, thus keeping them dependent on the superior systems above them.

Delinius' motives slowly became clear out of these actions. His motive was not so much to simply wreak havoc upon this sector: he was going to occupy it and install a new rule, possibly with himself at the head of the new order. While it was still a completely ridiculous idea, it was far less violent than had been suspected beforehand, especially given his rather harsh treatment of petty thieves and other criminals.

"I suppose you may fear for your lives here, and you would be right to do so. However, your life may continue elsewhere, if you choose to leave now. While this may seem a terrible ordeal, it is several times less unpleasant than the angry hordes that will surely seek to output their frustrations physically. I advise you to leave, not out of spite, but out of genuine concern for your safety otherwise."

After a brief moment of silence, he jumped off of the table and ran off, apparently to warn more people about the imminent danger.

Unlike most people there, she didn't move at first. In fact, Vanessa was much calmer than she'd expected of herself. Once the idea that she had to leave everything behind had settled in, she made peace with it. While her options for travelling weren't excessively limited, there was something frightening about leaving her home city of Neuerberg for good despite the fact that she knew nobody from outside it.

Once she'd gotten home, she found the old server's chatroom still intact.


TL/7724: Hey Nessa. Have you seen Larry?
VM/8491: Nope. Hopefully he isn't stupid enough to want to see it.
VM/8491: The riots, you know. Our big mystery man just went by here.
TL/7224: What did he say? Did he mention something about violence?
VM/8491: Basically, yeah. If Larry doesn't show up soon, I think we'll have to just...
TL/7224: We're not giving up Larry so soon.
VM/8491: But we can't wait forever. Delinius seems to be in a hurry.
VM/8491: I think he might not have expected the crowds to break through so quickly.
VM/8491: There you are! Where were you?
LF/8625: Had a bit of a talk with Delinius.
LF/8625: Moral stuff and all, but he had an interesting idea.
LF/8625: According to him, there's this cool place where we'd probably fit right in.
VM/8491: Think about it, though. We'll have to work for a living outside of here.
TL/7724: We'll make it. I might be able to get somewhere in law, if they let me.
LF/8625: No, seriously. If we mention his name in the right places, he said.
VM/8491: You're putting plenty of trust in that guy. I'm not sure we really should.
LF/8625: The alternative is probably getting killed here. 
LF/8625: We're probably not the only ones he's been handing tips for safe places to.
VM/8491: I guess. Let's go, if nobody's angry about that.
TL/7724: The only people who will be are those people below.
Shutting down...

"Wooooooooo!" Her excited yelling summarised the feeling of breaking through the security checkpoint, right out of Neuerberg. "So long, folks!" Pelutius was more focused on remaining on the road, especially because Liz was shaking her fist at the city behind them and swaying to the side while doing so.

The roads were, as usual, fairly empty. Every now and then, they passed another lone vehicle packed full of people and personal belongings, others who had decided against waiting for a radical change, instead taking this opportunity to find their fortune elsewhere.

After a while, the sound of sirens emerged from behind them. He briefly looked back to see several vehicles, both cars and motorcycles, pursuing the two of them. For whatever reason, part of Neuerberg's police force had decided to stubbornly remain on duty, and that included pursuing anyone trying to leave.

"Don't they have anything else to do aside from chasing people who decided to leave the city?" Elizabeth yelled into his ear. "We can figure that out later! The only way out is forward!" She poked his ribs, causing him to speed the bike along faster. This was not enough to stay ahead of the police vehicles, though.

"Hurry up, they're gaining!" Lex shook his head irritably. "It doesn't go faster!"

The sound of loud bass music, as well as the sounds of metal objects colliding followed by screeching tires, alerted them to the fact that something was stirring behind the police cars. A fairly heavy-looking van was ramming the cars aside with thick bumpers and a hefty dose of loud bass noise.

"Yo yo yo, incoming cavalry of cool, dudes!" They were clearly rich enough yet also rebellious enough to choose the road out in style. Lex raised a hand in gratitude.

"Hey, thanks!" The van accelerated and eventually disappeared, leaving them to ride on alone into the night.

"Hold the line!" Many shouts echoed in the confusion. Between residents fleeing, Neuerberg's troops trying to control the situation and the swarms of rebels, blasts of magic rained fire on everyone. While there was such a thing as collateral damage, the caster of this magic didn't particularly worry about that: even if some of the casualties were the rebellious people from the ground levels, they could have died to enemy gunfire or the rare enemy magician of some variety in a similar fashion.

Delinius gazed across the turmoil, trying to find something that particularly needed his attention. Fact was, however, Neuerberg's security forces were no longer proportionate to the amount of people the giant city oppressed on the streets below, and such had been the case for years already. It was not so much Delinius doing all the fighting in order to get the upper hand as it was the simple act of granting the masses below an opportunity to manifest their dissatisfaction on their oppressors. A simple act for someone who had several centuries of life experience and other knowledge to back them up, perhaps, but nearly impossible for a mere resident on either side of the division.

When a squad of heavily armored soldiers arrived with flamethrowers, he chuckled. With a soft rushing noise, he glided towards them, manipulating their own weaponry to harm them instead of anyone else. This was, considering how little Neuerberg's authorities could put into the fight, very much a game to the old man. Perhaps too much a fun one, he thought. It was time to end the issue entirely for this sector. While it was quite possible the rest of the city would begin to ready against his rebellion, there were few ways by which anyone was able to travel between sectors. Their boundaries were armed with an automated defense system, preventing even its wealthy residents from travelling elsewhere without any authorisation. Heavily guarded checkpoints locked the passages on the ground.

This battle would soon be over. What was essentially a civil war would soon break out. How much of the population on the ground level would choose to side with him? Which ones would be sufficiently indoctrinated to do the opposite?

Alright, this is the first time I've heard any amount of news about Neuerberg in years. I don't know what happened in the meantime, but they've all got to be there still, somehow. Whatever it'll cost me, I have to go there, understand? I'm sure there's a way to make it work. There are still a few trains left that could take me there.

I have to find our family. Don't miss me too much.

As she read the note, she knew that her friend wasn't coming back. Neuerberg was too far away, and even if he did make it, he'd get trapped before he knew it. First their parents and the rest of the family got stuck there, and now her brother went back there himself, leaving her all alone.

She was not going to go after him. It couldn't be worth it.

"What is he doing?"

Delinius was standing there, gazing up at their command center. The automated defenses did not respond to his presence, but he was not moving either.

"I think we've been following a fake image all this time."

When several people turned to see who had said this, they only saw the same man. He was standing here, yet he was standing down there too.

"It's a common mistake, don't worry. I have centuries' worth of experience that you couldn't be expected to match, let alone overcome."

Some grabbed for their sidearms, but it was too late for everyone in the room.

"Good bye."

The decoy exploded in a large fireball, incinerating all those present in the room. The force of the blast also caused shards of glass from the windows to rain down, fortunately only lethal for those around the building itself.

"Did he just take out the HQ? Run for it!"

Panic showed in their ranks as they scattered, each soldier of a dying regime trying to make a run for it as best they could. Some were caught, either in the crossfire of the entire fight or by crowds of rebels and thrown off walkways to a gruesome death.

ε - Flaming man, no man

When the battle was over, the revolutionary movement had steamed on, only barely guided by its supposed head. A civil war spanning years followed, with sectors destabilising once the news started spreading. The sector where it had begun was reclaimed by both sides numerous times, each time with great bloodshed.

The working masses below either joined the fight or simply went on, as neither master proved to make any changes. After some time, it wasn't even clear where the 'starter' of this entire bloodshed had gone, or if he was even still there in the first place.

And now it was all over. The government of Neuerberg had fallen, a band of important revolutionaries had proclaimed a new era to be coming, and it had all died down.

He sat down in the cramped metro. While you could consider yourself lucky to have survived the civil war if you were from the high side of the city, it might as well have been a death sentence, considering the fact that the revolution had changed nothing except for a lot of lost lives and destruction.

"Excuse me. I do believe I have seen you in another time and position before."

Nobody noticed the man, except he himself, now that Delinius had addressed him.

"Wait... you? Why are you back?"

Delinius coughed, though he seemed fairly careless otherwise.

"Nothing in particular. I am a tourist, but I am disgusted by what has happened."

If that was so, he wondered, why did the man not go out to correct it?

"It was never my idea to form Neuerberg into a perfect state. Such a thing is impossible, unless I were to devote the remainder of my lifetime to it. There is a reason that I have convinced the world that Delinius Rupert Langton has died of old age. That aside, I am not someone of this time. What do I know of all the social rules that have formed? What do I know of the language of the streets these days?"

"So the point was never to bring any amount of justice? You just came and threw everything to pieces because... that seemed like a good idea?"

He was quite upset to hear this. Delinius chuckled.

"Indeed, there was no such thing as a sense of justice involved, or particular sympathy for the population on the ground of Neuerberg. Much as it may surprise you, I merely came to uproot the larger evil. The lesser evil is one you must fight yourself: it is quite simply your own potential greed and hunger for power."

The man seated on the other side of the subway car wasn't the saint that some had made him, or the deranged man with completely alien beliefs that others had described. He was, excepting his exceptional age, power and knowledge, surprisingly ordinary, and incredibly tired of fighting the bad things that existed in the world.

And yet, he could not help but put himself to the task, again and again.

"If the legends about a man like you are true, you have centuries of wisdom, though. There's even a famous quote by you where you noted how street thugs haven't changed all that much. You could still show up, take your place, and turn this into a good state."

However, Delinius shook his head.

"You forget that there are numerous myths about bad acts of mine from throughout the ages, few of which have truly died out. Let me be an invisible scapegoat to be forgotten and remembered by many, and leave me to live out my days in peace throughout my centuries. I grow tired of societies as quickly as they discover who I am. The fight to remove the myth surrounding me is a lost cause, and I will have none of all this strange attraction to the ridiculous stories about myself."

Just as he started to fade from view, he smiled.

"Not to worry, though. There are more such people as me that might be capable of setting things right."

And as the man wondered what this might mean, Delinius disappeared. Nobody would believe him if he told them what he'd just heard. Or perhaps some would, and it would be yet another myth to be added to the pile. There were whole book series about the man's mythological status, and that was sometimes just about a single myth. It was possible to fill multiple bookshelves with works about him - he was famous, yet considered dead by public opinion. Anyone of the Dwinian religion would maintain that he'd retreated into a peaceful old age without specifying where he was, and some said that Delinius was alive, disguised among everyone.

He now knew that all of it was true in some way. By being outside the view of society, he was considered dead by most, but he was, just as the Dwinians would say, having a quiet old day. And sometimes, if there was something that he wanted to involve himself in, he would disguise himself and move through the crowds, whether as an old man, a charming young one, or something in between.

"And that's how everyone who wanted escaped from Neuerberg got a way out. I hear it's pretty bad still, maybe even worse off. Sometimes it takes more than a change of government."

Lex shrugged.

"You know, I think it's best if the world forgets all the rumours that Delinius was sighted in Neuerberg. I'm pretty sure that was just nonsense, and I've seen the riots myself. He wasn't seen even once, no matter what people still claim today."

This was the end of the interview. A kind old man waited until the crowds had dispersed, then approached him.

"What an interesting view to give to the world indeed, especially for a man who once graphed the occurrence of profanities on the walls."

While the somewhat odd vocabulary stood out in itself, Lex immediately knew who it was. The old man grinned.

"Suppose you should know of anything more than wall-scribbled words, you might find me again. It is not common for someone to have your wisdom at such an age, even considering who you are yourself."

He shuffled closer, and quietly muttered: "There will perhaps be a time when you, too, will find yourself wanting to be rid of the world. Find me then and tell me, if that time comes for you, that your graphs are complete. I will bring you to a place that knows not of Ludus beyond the silent mountains around it, invisible for any ordinary soul's eyes."

What did he mean? Delinius merely grinned.

"I hope to see you again, Lex. You really are a good fellow. Thank you for understanding a silly old man's whims."

Lex watched as he turned around and slowly walked back. And yet, when Lex blinked, he was gone, with only a small flash of light where his feet had been to indicate that he had even disappeared to begin with. He would always remain something of a mysterious man, all the way up to the moment when he finally revealed the information you'd been trying to get out of him.

Ageless indeed, but timeless like a good piece of clothing or furniture could be. Ever adapting to the circumstances, without losing himself in the process. Eccentric, not contrarian, and by all means not an example to follow by in every way. To Lex, though, Delinius was a bit like an uncle with endless tales about adventures and travels.

"Look who's back. So, how much of a metropolis is left for now?"

Delinius kissed her on the cheek, and shrugged.

"Cares only a fool for it. Perhaps at a later time I will come to see it."

The two looked out over their surroundings. When Lyka finally spoke, Delinius already knew her question.

"I'd love to-"

"But of course. In a day or two. Allow me to sit down to write down some things I need to remember."

Lyka frowned. "And what of that one Soul Flame? Lex, right?"

"Come a time for him to want escape, too, dear. And perhaps you should like him very much when you meet him, for he is the first we will visit on our little tourist façade. You will see why I made note of the fellow."

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