Verge and Mei alone crawled out of the wreckage. Or rather, Verge holding Mei crawled out of the wreckage. What was once a great ship of Haven was now a white and gray pile of twisted metal in the midst of a place Verge had never seen.
What he saw before him, and all around him, was an endless city. Short, squat buildings made of brick and covered in advertisements surrounded his as far as the eye could see. Steel fire escapes pocked the alleys and billboards marked the main streets.
The streets themselves were paved, but even that was almost indiscernible from the thick layer of garbage littering every inch of sidewalk and road. Verge silently hopped down from the wreckage and onto a rooftop.
He set Mei down and looked up at the deep blue sky. A single white moon filled a large portion of the sky. It shone down hollow, pale light onto the dead city. Verge looked back at what was once the ship.
"Did anyone else survive?" Mei asked softly.
"Not that I can tell. If they did, they're doing a good job at hiding," he said
He turned to face the street below and tucked Mei under his arm again, with limited opposition.
"We need to get going," he said and jumped down to the street below.
He set Mei on her feet again.
"I think we should go there," he said, pointing to a taller, acorn shaped building in the distance.
"Where are we?" Mei asked.
"I'm not really sure, but from what I've heard about it, we could be in the Dead World."
Several hours of trekking later, Verge and Mei made it to the footsteps of the large building. From up close, they could see that it was the only building that still had any signs of life. There were lights where there were none in any other buildings.
Verge and Mei approached and entered the large steel doors. Verge pushed one aside effortlessly and made his way towards the inner chamber.
The inside was much like the rest of the city. It was inlaid with brick and steel. There were posters and signs hung along the inside. But this building had something else on its inside that interested Verge.
"Books," he said plainly. "It's a library."
Mei followed behind him cautiously as he ventured further into the building. Dim, yellow light came from the many lights hung seemingly at random along the vast ceiling. The shelves were arranged in a grid that set a straight path for the central desk at the very center of the building.
Verge turned to Mei and smiled darkly.
"There's someone here," he said.
He picked up his pace with Mei tagging along behind him, the contents of her old coat jingling in rhythm to here gait.
Verge approached the central desk. It was a circular wooden island in the very center of the acorn shaped building. The desk was clean, a stark contrast from the rest of the city and even the library. Then Verge caught sight of the bell sitting on the desk.
There was a sign in front of it which clearly read "Ring Bell for Service". Verge grinned.
"Don't even think about it!" Mei hissed as softly and as sharply as she could.
Verge brought his hand down on the bell's ringer.
Mei flinched as the bell's sharp ring echoed and resounded through the large hall. After a moment, a young woman poked her head over the edge of the desk. She looked at Verge and then at Mei.
"C-Can I help you?" she asked, very softly.
"I hope so," Verge said, calmly.
"We're not going to hurt you," Mei added quickly.
The woman stood up and brushed herself off. She pushed up her glasses and stepped around to one section of the desk. She lifted the bar and stepped outside of the desk.
"Who are you people? How did you get here?" she asked.
"I'm Verge and this is Mei," Verge started, "The ship we were riding crashed a few miles out. This was the only place with signs of life, so we came here."
"Your ship crashed?" the woman repeated, very surprised. "I knew it would be my turn soon enough."
Verge glanced at Mei and then back at the woman.
"So it's true then," he said, "We're in the Dead World."
"The Old World," she corrected, "and yes, you are. My name is Nora. I hope you two can get used to this place; you're going to be here forever."
Nora pulled up three chairs and motioned for Verge and Mei to sit down. She carefully poured tea into three well-kept mugs.
Mei wrapped her hands in her coat to insulate herself. Verge just held the mug. After a moment, Verge started conversation up again.
"You said you name was Nora. As in Nora Abrams?" he asked.
"Yes," she replied solemnly, "I was once one of the greatest minds in all of existence."
Verge took a sip of his tea and nodded at her. Nora glanced back at him and apparently took the hint.
"At the end of the Great Age, The Twelve Gods brought me here," she said, looking at her lap, "and made me into one of their slaves."
"Slave?" Mei asked quietly, attempting to add to the conversation.
"Yes," Nora continued. "I am an Abdal. I am bonded to the god Seshet."
"I'm not familiar with the concept," Verge said bluntly.
"It's a person who a god uses as their physical tie to reality. The gods watch out for their abdals and make sure as little harm comes to them. Because of the Twelve Gods, I have been trapped here for thousands of years."
She began to cry softly. Mei put down her tea and moved to comfort the woman.
"I wish I could say I can't remember how long I've been like this," she sobbed, "but the truth is I remember every day."
"Nora," Verge began, "do the gods communicate with you at all?"
Nora was silent.
"Perhaps a portal?" Verge began to look around furiously. "I doubt they severed their ties with this world completely, especially if they put you here."
"This isn't the time, Verge," Mei hissed.
Verge scanned the surroundings for another moment.
"No," he said, sounding quite worried, "This is exactly the time."
His change in tone jerked Mei out of the drama that was unfolding and back into reality. She looked at Verge expectantly.
"He's here," Verge said.
Nora jumped out of her seat and let out a scream, flinging Mei to the floor. Verge glanced back at the young woman.
"He's been killing us all, one by one," she stuttered out, "There is only one more after me."
She broke down crying and fell to the floor.
Verge turned his attention to the growing blotch of darkness creeping up behind him. There was a reason why he hadn't been able to sense that demi-nanite until just now: Eye.
"My, my Verge," his voice cackled from behind, "It seems you've done all my work for me."
Verge didn't turn around. He knew what Faustave had become.
"Faustave," Verge said coldly, "I knew you wanted revenge, but I had no idea you were willing to walk down the same path I once did."
"Walk down the same path as you?" Faustave roared back, his voice full of a dark laughter. "Your footprints ended a long time ago!"
Verge went to move but he was too slow. An instant later, he found himself in a pile of books with the words "Thanatos promised me he would tear you apart for all eternity" ringing in his head.
Verge's head was throbbing, but he forced himself out of the books. He walked towards the center of the library as his body made its hasty repairs.
He looked around but some of the lights had gone out. It was a lot darker. Almost too dark for him to see. At his feet, next to the circular desk, the body of Nora Abrams lay, a single clean cut in her throat.
Verge thrashed his head back and forth, searching for Mei and Faustave. Where were they? He caught something out of the corner of his eye.
A the far wall of the building a small door was slightly ajar. Blue light poured out of the crack and Verge focused himself on it. He ran towards it. A door? they travel to this world using a door?
As he got closer to it, he realized the door was made of wood. It was stained black and had golden leaf embedded in the frame. A polished brass doorknob sat on the left side of the door. The light was getting dimmer.
Verge rushed and grabbed the door as it was about to close, jamming his fingers in the frame. He bit his lip and pulled the door open again, slowly.
Verge knew that behind that door was the realm of the Twelve Gods, few mortals had ever been there before. Even fewer returned. Verge also knew that behind that door Mei and Faustave were waiting. There was no choice.
He took a deep breath and ran inside.
The transition was seamless. The floor ceased to clack under his shoes like cement and simply released a muffled clop with every step. Verge covered his eyes and tried to adjust.
It seemed as if the world was comprised of light and the color blue. He tried to continue forward, discerning between various shades of bright blue and brighter blue. His eyes began to adjust to the radiance and he came to a massive, open chamber.
The cavernous chamber was cone shaped, with small paths snaking their way around. There were calm pools and white pillars seemingly placed at random. At the center was a light so bright, Verge could not look at it directly. He heard shuffling and voices begin to gather around him. It was them.
"Virgil!" one shouted, "You must stop him! He'll destroy everything!"
"You must," pleaded another. "He's killed the abdals. There's nothing stopping him from killing the demon anymore. You have to hurry to the center."
Verge trudged onward, picking up his pace as he began to move downhill.
"Virgil!" another shouted from almost out of earshot, "Your reward shall be greater than anything you can imagine."
Verge wasn't listening. He ran down the slope as fast as he could toward the impossibly bright blue light. He knew that's where he would find Mei and Faustave.
Verge charged down the impossibly steep hill until finally he made it to the bottom. He landed with a soft thud as hit jumped the last few feet onto the flat platform at the very center.
His eyes had adjusted to the light. He could finally see it: Source. Above the Chi are the Fates, beings whose presence and will governs reality. Before him was Source; the captive Fate, the Blue Light.
Surrounding it was an intricate lattice of pearl-colored shackles. Far in the distance, right in front of Source, Verge could see two beings fighting. One was Faustave. The other was something else.
He began to run towards the three when something caught his eye. It was a tiny brown lump on the ground. It contrasted completely from everything else so much, Verge was unsure why he hadn't seen it earlier.
It was Tom's jacket. And underneath that–Verge didn't have to look to know. The blood on the ground was enough.
He focused himself back on the three; two now. Whatever stood in Faustave's way was dead as well.
As he approached, Faustave turned around slowly and showed a twisted smile full of razor-like teeth.
"You've finally showed up," he said calmly, his voice like rust.
Verge was speechless. Before him was Source, the center of everything. Beside him was something that Faustave killed. Behind him was Mei. Faustave stood in the middle of it all. His form was twisted. Thanatos had chosen a new incarnation.
"I can feel what you're thinking Verge," he said. "Eye is no more. Thanatos has chosen me. I was more convenient. He had it all planned out perfectly. He told me where all the abdals were. All I had to do was kill them!"
"Even knowing that, you accepted?" Verge said.
"Don't be so naive," Faustave hissed. "We both want the same thing. Once I free Source, everything will be molded the way I want it."
"That's the same greed that bound the twelve to this small world. Do you really think she'll come back if you do this?"
Faustave shook his head and laughed quietly to himself.
"Verge," he said, "Even after being a Nanite, you still don't understand the way things work."
"No," Verge said. "I understand plenty. She'd puke if she saw you. You've become me."
Faustave stood silently for a moment, then began to scream. His voice was full of anger, rage, regret.
"You!" he shouted, his voice crackling with the sound of hatred. "I hate you!"
Verge sighed softly.
"I know," he said quietly. It was more an admission to himself than anything else. But as Faustave charged towards Verge, strength welled up inside of him. He knew what he had to do.
The clash seemed to last for hours. Verge and Faustave flew about each other, crashing and exchanging blows. Attack after relentless attack, Faustave stuck Verge down. Verge returned his strikes in equal strength and soon, the two faced each other, barely able to stand.
Faustave coughed and began to buckle before he rushed Verge again. This was it.
Verge could barely stand. He felt like he had no strength left. Somehow he had survived this long. No, he had matched Faustave.
The world started to spin and he felt himself loosing consciousness. His limbs started going numb and the world lost its shine. Things were going black. Faustave was closing in.
Verge took up his strength. There was barely any left. He focused it into his arm. Faustave was in front of him. He was blind. He struck with everything.
For a moment there was nothing.
He felt it connect. He felt the sickening crunch of his opponent's body collapse. He felt his arm shatter. He felt his body hit the ground. He lay there, barely conscious; barely alive.
Verge gathered his strength and opened his eyes. He could see Source standing in front of him; still bound by the lattice of her prison.
He slowly tried getting to his feet. After a few attempts, he managed to get on to his knees. His left arm was shot. It hadn't healed and he was bleeding pretty badly.
"Get up," Source said.
It was a cool night on a tiny planet out on the frontier. Far away form all the bustle and business of the Center, the people of this tiny place spend their time gossiping at the local pub. Except they don't call it that. Men don't gossip.
"And he up an' split after that," one man continued. "Got 'is body back from Zero un and left: Ne'er to be seen again."
"An' jus where is he now then?" another piped up.
A third man chimed in.
"He's back at your house," he said, "Showin' your sister a good time!"
The group burst out in laughter while the second man angrily took a long drink from his mug.
A young, silver-haired man got up from his seat in the corner and dropped a few coins on the bar as he headed out.
One of the men reached out a hand towards him in an attempt to draw the joke out even further.
"Ey kid," he called out, "Where da you think he is?"
"Probably kickin' around somewhere," he said and walked out the door.
The laughter faded behind him as he walked further into the cold night. He finished buttoning up Tom's old jacket and took a deep breath. Of course it fit him perfectly. Of course.
Virgil walked further into the frozen night. A pale moon hung in front of him. He smiled and quietly chuckled to himself. He wondered if they would ever realize...