Hey guys! Hope this Sunday finds you happy and in wonderful condition! Christmas draws near! :D
I have no excuses this time for this long withheld chapter. I was just lazy. This chapter is a couple pages shorter than my usual. Sorry about that.
But I hope you still like it!
"SO WHAT ARE we doing again?" Aerin asked as she and Hugo walked through the crowded streets.
Hugo sighed heavily and again replied, "Well first, we're getting you a weapon. Then we'll see if we can get you some clothes and get you to a doctor."
"Okay," Aerin said. "I'm not exactly sure what you mean, but I'll just follow you. You know what you're doing, unlike me."
Hugo didn't respond, opting to continue surveying the people around him warily.
The two of them continued walking for another twenty minutes. Aerin gazed up into the sky, trying to summon memories with all of her will.
Aerin wondered what could have happened to make her like this. She could remember flashes of smells and sounds, enough to know what kind of foods were sizzling around her and how badly damaged by smoke a vendor's voice was. But no matter how hard she tried, she could never remember other people, like names and faces. Was this how she would have to live the rest of her life?
The thought terrified Aerin. How could anyone live like that? Forced to learn the world workings from others and continue on with life not knowing who or what you were before? Was it possible to develop an entirely new personality other than the one she had before? Had her personality already changed?
It was as if she was a newborn baby with a supreme mind. She had no identity, but she knew how things worked. This was a life no one should have.
Aerin was suddenly yanked out of her thoughts when she saw… "Hugo?" she said pointing. "Is that…an island floating in the sky?"
Hugo followed her finger and heaved a sigh. "I guess you could say that," he replied. "Those are the Travernea."
Floating in the sky was what looked like an island that had been ripped from the Earth. The brown chunk of rock and dirt had a jagged bottom, but was perfectly flat on top. Spires of gold and silver glittered in the sun atop the flat part of the island. Thick gray bands of cables stretched out of the edge of the floating fortress and soared into the distance, connecting to other islands that looked identical.
"Copy-cats," Aerin muttered. "If you're going to use precious metal, build it right."
Hugo stared at her. "What?"
Aerin winced as a sharp pain spiked through her right brow, disappearing as quickly as it had come. For a moment, she had hold of the wisp of a memory, but then it too vanished.
"Hey," Hugo said. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah," Aerin assured him, rubbing her forehead. "I just…never mind."
Hugo studied her with concerned eyes for a long time before he finally turned his gaze back to the single Travernea Aerin had noticed.
Aerin was grateful he hadn't questioned her further. She was also eager to change the subject. "Whose idea was it?" She asked. "The Travernea, I mean."
"Hugo shrugged. "It was an organization called Travernea. People really didn't find anything out about them before they were infiltrated by German Martial and destroyed. But they were free, they didn't really belong to any Fraction."
Aerin's curiosity piqued. "Really?"
"Yeah," Hugo said. "And I guess it worked out for them, because they never seemed to have any financial problems. They created a lot of things that really helped mankind. When they invented the Travernea, Earth was becoming overpopulated. The street were overcrowded, crime increased. People had to fight just to get food and water.
"Then Travernea introduced the 'magical floating islands' and all of the Fractions realized they'd have to accept the offer or humans would eventually end up extinct. It was that or round up thousands and execute them on the spot. So hundred of the Travernea were sent up into the air. Thing is, only the richies get to live up there. Its much cleaner up there, and a whole lot safer. After Travernea was destroyed by German Martial, every Fraction somehow got a hold of the blueprints and built more for soldiers instead."
"I feel like I should know all of this," Aerin said.
Hugo snorted. "You should."
Aerin sighed. "Where are we going?"
"A friend's place," Hugo answered. At that moment, he halted before a crumbling, gray wooden building with a slanted roof. Hugo glanced both ways down the street, then turned to Aerin and pressed a finger to his lips. He ducked into the open doorway and Aerin followed.
The inside wasn't much better than the outside. The wooden ceiling had caved in at a few spots and everything was coated with a thick layer of dust and cobwebs. There was no furniture, save for a little wooden table that had been half-crushed under rubble.
"There's no one here," Aerin stated.
Hugo shook his head ever so slightly and started climbing up to the huge pile of rubble that had piled up in front of the door. He disappeared over the top and Aerin cautiously followed. She slid down the other side to find that Hugo was tapping a finger on random spots in the junk pile.
"What are you-"
Hugo tapped one more time and a hollow thunk replaced the usual rapping she had been hearing. Hugo grinned, then grabbed the strange chunk of wood he had hit and yanked it out of the pile.
Hugo pulled Aerin out of the way as the entire side of the pile slid away, as if that one piece of wood had been keeping the pile sturdy. Once most of the rubble had cleared away, Aerin realized there were two pieces of metal sticking out from the thin layer of wood chunks still remaining. Hugo stepped toward them, regardless of the chunks of wood that crunched beneath his feet. He gripped the two pieces of metal and heaved, pulling outward.
The floor before them was suddenly gaping open, Hugo having just pulled open the hatch leading to the floor below.
Hugo stepped aside and motioned to Aerin. "After you," he said, grinning.
Aerin got over her initial shock and nodded, descending the steps leading below. Hugo followed behind her, closing the hatch behind himself.
Aerin found herself standing in what looked like a medieval tavern. The entire place was made of wood, even the cups. Round wooden tables were scattered throughout the room, and wooden chairs were crowded around them like pigeons to breadcrumbs. The bar stretched the lengths of the room with only a small gap to the left for the bartender to pass through. Wooden bookcases lined the walls, most used for their purpose-filled with books. Others, however, were housing countless glass bottles filled with different alcohols, and some with dirty water. Counters, cupboards, and cases covered the wall behind the bar, lined with more glasses and drinks. More filthy glasses hung above the bar and tall wooden stools sat facing the bar. People were sprinkled throughout the room, all of them men, and all of them staring at Aerin and Hugo.
"Go ahead…and sit wherever you want," Hugo told Aerin absently, gazing across the room at the bartender, a man with shaggy brown hair and large brown eyes.
Aerin nodded and headed to a table in the corner.
Hugo settled into one of the stools sitting in front of the bar and sighed heavily.
"Been a while, Hugo," the bartender said, filling up a mug with liquor and setting it in front of him.
"Yeah," Hugo replied. "It's good to see you again, Brock."
Brock grinned. "So what brings you here? Did you get in trouble with the authorities again?"
Hugo grunted. "Nah," he said, nodding to the corner. "I need a weapon."
Brock followed his gesture to see Aerin sitting in the corner with her back against the wall, surveying the room and its occupants with a critical gaze. His eyes widened.
"She's a beauty!" he exclaimed quietly to Hugo.
"She's not a merchandise," Hugo warned.
Brock looked back to Hugo. "Is she another pickup?" he asked incredulously.
"Yep," Hugo replied, popping his p and taking a slug of liquor.
Brock whistled. "Better be careful."
Hugo's gaze snapped up to his face, almost accusive. "Why?"
Brock chuckled. "She'll have every man in the market swooning for her."
Hugo glared at him.
Brock looked back towards her and raised his eyebrows. "Like now."
Hugo's head immediately snapped around to look at Aerin.
There were five burly men surrounding her table. As they watched, one of the drunken men grinned and reached toward Aerin. He tightly gripped her arm, his face only a few inches away from hers.
The man was now down on the floor on his hands and knees, Aerin having just launched him into the wall behind her. There was a sharp silence before one of the other men yelled, "Get her!"
Aerin automatically tensed as the men rushed at her. Her body shifted into a stance that she couldn't identify; but it felt right.
"Use your surroundings, Aerin!"
The female's voice rang inside Aerin's skull and her mind immediately went on overdrive. There was the table in front of her and three chairs surrounding it. There was also the cases, shelves, and bar, not to mention the loose boards in the roof.
Then her mind went blank and it was just her body's actions.
The first man that she had thrown behind her stood and swung a fist at her. She ducked and he barreled past her. He tried to punch her again, and she caught his fist. Then she slammed the heel of her hand into the back of his elbow. There was a loud crack and the man howled in pain. Aerin kicked him in the stomach, then kneed him in the nose when he doubled over. He collapsed to the floor, and the other men-who had been waiting for him to overpower her-rushed forward after a moment's hesitation.
Two of them came forward at once, so Aerin swept a leg out under the table, knocking out the two legs farthest from her. Aerin gripped the edge and flipped the table on its side. The two men rammed straight into the flat side and reeled backwards.
Aerin hopped onto the edge of the now-sideways table and gripped a loose board in the ceiling. She swung forward using the board and slammed feet-first into the face of one of the recovering men. As he fell to the floor, Aerin picked up a chair by a single leg. She whirled around, swinging it into the other man's head. The chair exploded into splinter on contact, leaving Aerin with a single piece of wood from the leg she had been holding.
The third man fell as well, and the fourth rushed forward. Aerin knocked away a punch with her newly created stick. She whapped him across his knees and hips before hitting his gut. He doubled over and Aerin slammed him in the ear, knocking him out.
As the final man rushed at her, Aerin threw her makeshift weapon at him. It slammed into his nose ad he went down with a sickening crunch.
Aerin stood rigidly, breath hard, observing the wrecked scene she had created. She lifted her head to see everyone in the room staring at her. Aerin relaxed, letting her shoulders drop.
Hugo sat heavily into the stool again, his face a mask of shock. Then a slight smile came to life on his face and he turned to Brock.
"So how about that weapon?"
Brock forced his gaze away from Aerin and looked at Hugo. "Sure," he said. "I'm just afraid of what she could do with it."
So only an hour later, Aerin found herself tapping the hilt of her new adamantine dagger. Against both Brock and Hugo's opinions, Aerin had stubbornly insisted on rejecting all of the iron daggers and sticking to the adamantine one like glue.
"Why were you so set on that one?" Hugo asked as the two of them walked past stalls filled with food, heading back towards his house.
"Adamantine is the hardest metal on Earth," Aerin murmured absently, gazing at one of the Travernea in the sky.
Hugo's eyes narrowed. "How do you even know that?"
"Are you getting memories?"
Aerin looked up at him. "No," she answered. Then she looked back down at the ground. "It more like…They're more like dreams you know you had, but no matter how much you try, you can't seem to remember what they were about."
"Troublesome," she heard Hugo mutter.
Aerin giggled. "You're weird."
"You're one to talk," Hugo shot back.
Aerin froze in her tracks.
Hugo kept walking before he realized she had halted. He too stopped and looked back, eyebrows raised. "Something wrong?"
Aerin found herself staring at another one of those TV screen built on the side of a building just to her right. The screen was showing two men fighting at extreme speeds. It was obvious they were fighting in a cage, situated in the center of what looked to be an arena filled to the brim with a cheering crowd of grungy-looking men and women. In the corner, another picture showed two men, obviously commenting on the fight. Words darted across the bottom of the screen.
"Hugo," Aerin said, feeling a strange sense of nostalgia. "What is that?"
"Oh, that?" Hugo questioned, stepped up beside her to look at the screen. "That the Leander Tournament."
"It was originally created by a rich dude who lived on the streets still instead of on one of the Travernea. His name was Kreg Leander. It's an underground tournament that's pretty much illegal. But Russia hasn't got the time to hunt the participants, and they haven't even found the location of the tournament itself yet. But all of us on the streets know where it is. Why? What are you thinking?"
And Aerin knew in an instant why she was asking.
"I want to join."
That's it! Thanks for reading! Please tell me what you think!
PICKLES FOR THE WORLD!
This has been a word of wisdom from the Praetor of the First Legion of Jelly Crabs.