The pit was geographically placed on the other side of the Vorona’s main complex from the fields opened for camping in the Dnipro farmlands, so on the way back from the pit there was a brief disruption to part ways with Gabi, Mandi, and Sergeant Letitia. Isaac, Elena, Chandrakanta, Astoreth, Jin, Neasa, and Oleksandra continued on their way to Astoreth’s yurt. Isaac was still watching Oleksandra to make sure she was doing okay. She was doing better than he expected.

The Battle Angel had moved past the shock of her weapon deploying from bare skin rather quickly and that wasn’t all. It was difficult to identify and describe but Oleksandra was less apprehensive around others. On the way to the pit, whenever they encountered another pokegirl or human or some mixing of the two, she moved just a hair closer to him and away from the strangers. If the individuals were larger than her she moved more. Now though, she was still wary, she still focused her ears and eyes towards everything that was moving and every random encounter, but she did not disrupt the formation their little group was traveling in. She held her ground.

When they got back to Astoreth’s camping yurt they all sat down in the lounge area and a silence fell on the interior. Noise of activity was still coming from outside the tent. The little farm roads were still choked with too many pedestrians. After more than fifteen minutes of relative silence Chandrakanta brought up a flier that had the full schedule for all of Dnipro’s festivities. “There is another band playing in the park at the top of the hour. Would we like to go listen to them play?” No one really expressed any enthusiasm. Elena brought out her traveling notebook and started writing. Jin and Isaac sat down to teach Oleksandra some of the games they played together during down time. Neasa glanced every once in a while towards the game but otherwise spent her time inspecting the stitching holding together her quiver. Astoreth appeared to be meditating.

“There is a dinner and charity drive in fifty minutes,” Chandrakanta informed them after twenty more minutes passed. Again the proposal received no support.

After thirteen more minutes of reading through the schedule the Megami tried a third time. “Tomorrow there is a comedy performance in mid-morning. I know of this troupe, they are supposed to put on quite a lively show.”

Isaac looked around to gauge people’s reactions. There wasn’t any enthusiasm for comedy tomorrow either. “Maybe we should just go home. We could teleport back if there’s really something we don’t want to miss.” Everyone stopped what they were doing and focused on him. Then without any further communication or deliberation, everyone got up and began their allotted task for breaking down Astoreth’s camp.


Isaac looked down at the display of his academy computer. It was synchronized with three other devices that Astoreth had purchased from a refurbishing shop. The one carried by the infernal was currently indicated to be roughly four hundred and twenty meters Northwest by West from him. It was the closest blind teleport any of the big sisters had achieved so far since they’d begun practicing.

When they had explained what they were doing for the day there had been a small outburst of discontentment. Jin tried to ignore the injustice of not having a delta bond with Isaac as best she could but experimenting and training exclusively centered around them was too much to bear. “When do I get my delta bond with you,” she had asked loudly with everyone present. It wasn’t fair but there also wasn’t any way to remedy the imbalance of fortunes. None that were even remotely close to rational, anyway.

A total psychopath concerned with nothing else could probably find a way to make things ‘fair’ to their satisfaction.

She contented herself with scoring the attempts. It seemed to help witnessing the frustration as the big sisters struggled to make the most of the potent psychic bonds. “Star-nee takes the lead again at four hundred seventeen point three meters.” The statuesque infernal returned in time to hear the call, but she wasn’t any happier learning of her coming closer to success. She hadn’t attained victory yet.

Elena was sitting on the ground looking contemplative. “Candi, where did you even learn about this idea?”

Chandrakanta cast her gaze towards the heavens. “It was thirty-eight years ago in Noir. She was a tamer’s counselor from Ocean and she had heard about the possibility from a colleague in Blue.”

“Are we certain we’re not attempting the impossible based on hearsay and wishes?”

“No,” Isaac said with a confidence that caused the three big sisters to turn their heads and focus on him. “It’s definitely possible.”

“How can you be so sure?”

That was an excellent question from Elena. How was he so sure? He’d seen it done before. No, that wasn’t right. He hadn’t really seen it, someone had told him about it as well. They didn’t tell him in person, it was through a different medium. What was it? “What story was it in… It was Kerrik’s… Shikarou and his ‘Whams. Where None Has Gone Before.”

Chandrakanta’s eyelids arched upwards when she heard the name. “Isaac, what did you just say?”

Isaac’s words came out in a disorganized rhythm and were toneless with inconsistent volume. “I… I don’t know. I read it in a story. It was one of Kerrik’s stories about the Wolf family.”

Now Elena was paying rapt attention and Astoreth respected the intelligence of the other two too much not to succumb to intense interest as well. Chandrakanta cautiously coaxed Isaac into being more forthcoming. “So this character Shikarou, he had multiple Alakawham pokegirls and they were able to teleport using their delta bonds with him. How did they accomplish this?”

Isaac wracked his brain and the three big sisters were overwhelmed with the sense of something shifting deep within his consciousness. Isaac himself didn’t seem consciously aware of it but something in his mind was stirring. “Well, first of all they weren’t natural delta bonds. They had magic to make an artificial one temporarily. Kerrik’s characters weren’t human and came from a universe with a lot more developed technology, magic, and a lot of what humans used to dismiss as supernatural. Shikarou himself was a Japanese kami, or at least a hybrid. So they were capable of a lot more than a lot of other people thought they should.”

“And part of what Shikarou and his pokegirls were capable of was teleporting based on their artificial delta bonds?”

“They were experimenting with it, if I remember right. A bunch of other crazy experiments too. They crossed through time accidentally. It was all based around teleportation and the way the pokegirl teleporting visualized her destination. Actually, now that I’m really thinking about it I don’t remember if they ever did what you’re trying to accomplish in the story or if it was just a natural evolution of the concept…”

Astoreth was staring intently at him. Everyone was actually staring intently but Astoreth’s irises were slightly reflective and contrasted strongly against her black sclera. “Visualizing the destination? We’ve been trying to use our sense of your location in space. Candi, take me somewhere.” The infernal shot to her feet and stretched her hand towards the Megami. They were conducting their experiments within the public lands surrounding Elena’s property. Every test involved all four of them. He was the target and was carried by teleportation to a location chosen by rolling dice and then deriving a location based on grid coordinates that could be derived from the numbers generated. The other non-participant did the same with whoever was attempting to jump. There was a grid of ten thousand possible locations and a single coordinate took rolling four ten-sided dice and specific interpretation of the upward facing numbers to generate.

There was a risk of them eventually becoming so familiar with the grid that the three big sisters could teleport based on accumulating memories. They would just need to find a new space to train in if that was the case.

Elena took Isaac and Jin’s hands and after a minute of mental preparation she teleported them to the new location. She was being slowed both from the novelty of using teleportation in such a way and concealing the spellcraft from Jin. The discipline needed to safely teleport was far beyond what was needed to safely overcharge a Mana Bolt. Jin wasn’t happy to be denied the knowledge but her complaints were shut down quickly by Elena pointing out that they could have Oleksandra keeping score and the Witch wouldn’t be involved at all. “Candi-nee and Star-nee are one thousand, five hundred thirty-seven,” she scowled and smacked the electronics in her hand with the butt of her palm, “forty-three meters to the Southeast.”

Isaac concentrated and sent a brief empathic impulse across his delta bonds, a motivational surge to signal for Astoreth to, “Begin.”

There was a feeling across Isaac’s bond with Astoreth like the sensation of a massive engine starting to turn. He could feel her mind touching his and searching through his sensations. Bubbles of reality were superimposing themselves over his visual perception causing him to see double. One truth, one wavering illusion. The psionic motor revved faster and harder and a deep and black rage that was directed inwards started to slip across the bond. She was failing.

Astoreth hated failure.

Isaac felt her retreat from the architecture of his mind responsible for compiling his perceptions into something usable for a human psyche and she seized the directional stimuli again. She teleported.

“One hundred thirty-three point seven meters.” No one else here would understand the joke Isaac wanted to make when he visualized the numbers Jin read out. Astoreth was above them and still fuming.

Twigs snapped and the infernal landed with enough force to shake the ground around her landing after dropping through the trees. Her suit was torn up and had a stick poking through the jacket’s breast. Angry red bleed lines could be seen peeking from under the ends of her sleeves and the hems of her trousers. Isaac went over and began to use his first aid spell on the worst of the cuts and scrapes. Astoreth jerked her arm away. “I can heal myself.”

“I know you can and I know you think you always have to so you can heal yourself when you really need it but you didn’t need to land like that just to pointlessly hurt yourself. No one here doubts your ability to recover from a bunch of scratches, Star.” Isaac’s tone seemed a bit angry. It was certainly firm. No one else noticed it but there was an imperceptible flicker where, in the same instant, the infernal began and aborted the transformation to reduce herself to her passive form.

“I couldn’t get enough of a sense of where you were based on your knowledge of your surroundings. I should have been able to make the jump but… I couldn’t.”

Chandrakanta appeared after a third successive teleport. She could summon angelic wings using an inborn technique of the Megami breed but she wasn’t the most aerodynamic creature and her conjured wings didn’t grant her any sort of flight speed enhancement. She also had demonstrated the least success with the blind teleporting experimentation so far. “Can you explain why you couldn’t, Star?”

Astoreth was staring into Isaac’s eyes. She had an answer but she didn’t want to share it. She didn’t want to out of consideration for him. And since Astoreth didn’t want to, she didn’t. Isaac felt something click in his own mind though. “It’s because I don’t know what she needs to know to teleport. Is that it?” Astoreth’s eyes got minutely larger for a fraction of a second.

“It, yes. Yes, that was it. I had a clear vision of where Isaac was but… It wasn’t enough information.”

Isaac shrugged. “I’ll have to learn about teleportation too. That should make Jin happy.”

Jin beamed over Isaac’s computer. “That should make Jin happy.”

Elena’s somber mood flowed across the delta bond. “I might be able to make the jump. Because I had a delta bond with Izaak as well. I… had a lot of practice sensing what was going on around him. You can telepathically piggyback if it helps, Star.”

Chandrakanta cleared her throat. “That may need to wait. There’s something important we need to talk about. All of us. Star, did your former teacher have anywhere protected from scrying we could access? I would like the additional security if so.”

Astoreth’s eyebrows rose high enough to bunch the corrugator muscles of her forehead up around the base of her horns. “Yes, there’s a room I’ve managed to breach while preserving all of the warding enchantments.” She stopped speaking audibly and switched to direct telepathic communication. “Why the need for secrecy, Candi?”

“Something Isaac said. Remember that we discovered evidence of at least two authors? Isaac named one of them, Kerrik. Kerrik Wolf was the identity of the author responsible for destroying Jenova and Sanctuary, the capital Sanctuary. And what Isaac knew from that story you nearly proved viable, even if you couldn’t execute on it just yet.”


The splendor of the Seychelle islands was much more obvious under the glory of the tropical daylight sun. The sand gleamed and the weathering lines and the rich patterns created on the volcanic boulders that littered the beaches were plain to see and easy to marvel at. Inland the island glowed with verdant greenery, except for the looming compound in the distance. Neasa scowled at the cluster of buildings. Oleksandra cautiously wandered a few steps from Isaac and picked up an oddly shaped coconut formed by two lobes. It gave the distinct impression of a woman’s underside, and a rather convincing one at that.

“That is the fruit from a Coco de Mer tree. Apparently they were thought to come from underwater trees before these islands were discovered in the 18th century Ano Dominai.” Astoreth offered the explanation without prompting. She’d found the coconuts captivating as well when she first encountered them. Apparently ancient sailors found them equally enticing. The tree had an archaic taxonomy that translated roughly to, ‘beautiful bottocks.’

Oleksandra turned the large hard rinded fruit over in her hands. It was the size of the throw pillows on Elena’s couch but quite a bit heavier. “Fruit? Is it edible?”

Astoreth shrugged. “It’s a coconut if you consider coconut edible.” Oleksandra lifted the huge seed pod up to her face and scraped her teeth against the hard shell. She didn’t appear impressed.

“You need to crack it open, Leksya. The part you can eat is inside.” Isaac offered the explanation to his feral born Battle Battle Angel. She held it out in front of herself again and pressed a thumb straight through the rind and then used the hole as leverage to split the entire thing in two. The inside was hollow and rotted out and Oleksandra’s ears dropped sadly.

Neasa was still giving the artificial features of the island a baleful look. “Who built such ugly stone husks on such a beautiful island?”

“That would have been the former mistress of this island, the most powerful spell casting pokegirl to ever exist. The legendary Hild, Sukebe’s Sorceress Supreme.”

Neasa was gawking at Astoreth, desperate for her to reveal the punchline to what had to be a joke. It never came. Everyone else was accepting the claim at face value as well and now that she was paying attention to it the entire island was… touched. Powerful and dark magic had been worked here for so long the very air and land was fouled. “Won’t it be dangerous if we’re discovered here?”

“No.” Astoreth responded flippantly. “She’s dead. Before I brought you all here I was the only one alive that knew of this place. I learned from her but not enough to truly claim this place for my own. I would have needed to work together with all of her other students for that. I tried proposing cooperation but they had other things in mind.

“However, we can make use of one of her vaults. It has some of the strongest protection against scrying you can find on the planet. This way.” She led them to a singular massive stone and pressed her palm against it. Arcs and glyphs spread from the contact and traced a round entry portal into an underground chamber. “Don’t touch anything. I’m slowly working on examining what I can but everything in here has some sort of curse that will activate if handled improperly.” There was a pile of dismantled items made of glass, ceramic, and soft metals close enough that the light from outside fell on them. “Most everything in here is not really something that should have ever been made anyway. That’s what I’ve managed to reclaim for materials.” Astoreth ducked her head down to fit inside. Isaac, Jin, Oleksandra, and Chandrakanta all followed. Neasa was stopped at the door by Elena however.

The Grandelf sighed. “Neasa, I’m afraid what we’re going to be discussing is sensitive information. You haven’t yet committed yourself to our group so-”

“So I’m not safe to share with. I get it.” Neasa said curtly. “What am I supposed to do while you talk? Why did you bring me here?” She assumed a stand-offish posture and glared.

“You asked to be brought along.” Neasa grimaced as she fought to keep a stronger reaction in check. “If I had time to spend here, I think I would study some of the trees. Remote islands like these sometimes have unique species found nowhere else.”

“What about ferals? I’ll be alone out here.”

Elena frowned and ducked her head inside and said something muffled by the stones and drowned by the echoing acoustics. Astoreth said something in reply. “Astoreth says she’s swept the place for ferals multiple times since we first came here. There’s nothing threatening and she can monitor outside of the vault. You may even speak with us if you press your hand against the doorway.”

Neasa’s scowl was deeper than her resting expression but she made no other complaints. Elena put a hand on her shoulder before turning and ducking down into the vault. The young Elf took a few steps towards the nearest tree she couldn’t identify. It was a small broadleaf tree that reminded the East European Elf of a willow. On the ends of the stems were seed pods that had recently burst open. Because she’d never seen a jellyfish, Neasa couldn’t know that the tree’s common namesake came from the believed resemblance between the dehisced pods and the aquatic invertebrate. Having it be there, alive, centuries after the world had been turned on its head was just as miraculous as when it had been rediscovered from presumed extinction in the 1970s. She whispered to herself or possibly the jellyfish tree, “What are you?”


“... and so, since you also demonstrate some of those powers and you mentioned the name Kerrik on your own, I thought it was time to make sure you knew what we had found out.” Chandrakanta was studying Isaac carefully after finishing her explanation.

“Kerrik… He died?”

“That is what we believe, yes.”

“Kelvin too… Maybe more. Probably more.” There was no furniture in the vault so Isaac lowered himself to sit cross legged on the floor. “What- what the- they were just- we just wrote stories.”

“So you also wrote these stories?”

“I did, but not as much as either of those two. Kelvin’s writing was really difficult to follow but you could always tell that he had really interesting ideas. He would play word games with Kerrik, just one pun after another and they’d go on for minutes without reusing a single one. It was inspiring. Kerrik… Noone wrote more than Kerrik seemed to write and on top of that he was always encouraging others to write as well. He had a rough persona but he was also someone I considered a mentor. One of the proudest memories I had about writing was when I managed to put out a comparable number of words in a week as him. Honestly I may have pushed myself too hard that week considering how my output dropped afterwards.”

“You all gathered together?”

“No, it was all online, over the internet. Just profile pictures and text mostly, there was a little while where we were using something with voice but most people didn’t have a microphone and... I could barely remember any of this before… Why do I have to remember just to learn that they’re dead?” Chandrakanta rushed over to drop beside him and wrap Isaac up in her arms. Sometimes Isaac worried that he’d lost the ability to cry so the weight of emotions needed to push tears to the corners of his eyes was immense.

“Fucking… undead too. Dead legendaries. Dead pseudo legendaries. The entire capital of Sanctuary and the High Council…” Isaac almost started to ask ‘what happened’ but as he started formulating the question in his mind an answer started to emerge and Isaac locked the manifesting knowledge away so it wouldn’t become fully realized. He couldn’t bear anymore right now, his ego was screaming for a respite. Everyone else dropped down to the floor around him and leaned in to offer bodily comfort. They were all trying to assure him, trying to give him the safety to confront what he was feeling but it didn’t matter how much he expressed his distress. The problem that was distressing was still there, still unresolved. Still completely unknown how he might even start trying to resolve it.

Some things couldn’t ever be resolved and those tragic circumstances would hopefully be accepted, in time.

He wouldn’t ever really feel better though if the situation didn’t change, at least in some minor way. It was progress towards a goal that produced the sensation of happiness, even if he hadn’t articulated the goal his more essential self knew what it was. The goal was to survive and thrive, the threat to the goal was the vast and terrifying unknown. The first step to resolving this crisis was obvious.

Elena’s mind was prompted to recall when she and Isaac’s consciousnesses became stuck in his otherly realm, the way he seemed to totally even himself out with nothing more than the application of deep breathing and will. There was nothing remarkable about the strategy for managing emotions but he wielded the technique like a master, at least when his heart was assaulted by intense emotion like now. He showed far more resolve in a state of total crisis than would be expected observing him while things were tranquil. It sent a shiver down her spine and not in a way she found revolting. He spoke again and his voice held none of the emotion that he’d been overcome by seconds ago. “What happened? How did we, the authors, get here?”

Chandrakanta was marveling at him and blinked owlishly before she answered. “All I have been able to determine is that it was a project executed by Sanctuary and her allies. The Limbec Pirates and the Celestial Alliance may have been involved.” It was unusual to feel deep sorrow from across the delta bond with Chandrakanta. Isaac felt deep sorrow that originated from her when she mentioned the coalition of Megami. A grief for the lost, but not those lost to death.

Isaac sighed. Every time he thought of the situation he was confronted with a vague sense of danger. “We need to learn more but… Please be safe when you’re investigating, Nel, Star, and especially Candi. It sounds like you did a lot of the leg work.”

The Megami clasped her hands together on top of her knees. “It was only going and speaking with some people. I actually had been wanting to visit the continent again myself. It is terrible what happened to her cities.” She looked around in Hild’s old vault. “Speaking of terrible, shall we be free of this gloomy place?”

(-[|]-) End 9.2 (-[|]-)