AN: Now that I've finished my other short story, I can focus entirely on this massive project fully. And yes, it's going to be a large project. Likely to be somewhere over 100k. How much is unknown. And honestly it doesn't matter. I'm having fun with this. And I hope you'll enjoy reading, also~


Chapter 3:

Eishirou had little experience being out in the fields. Being Professor Chryses's apprentice and adopted son, that was likely to come as a surprise. But Jacob was protective of him, he being the one to have raised him since he was just a child. He had heard many a tale of Jacob's adventures and exploits. Even so, he wasn't fully prepared for that sense of awe and peacefulness of leaving the bustling academy and stepping into a lush, unknown forest.

He was sure that while he was looking at their surroundings in fascination, those with him were scanning the area of any and all threats.

There were times where the egos of Elites frustrated him, but he was grateful for their presence nevertheless. They afforded him and other researchers the ability to simply look around in wonder. To look for things of interest instead of just threats.

He was also grateful that though the foliage around them was full and lush, darn near impenetrable, there were naturally formed pathways for them to use. Well, they were more like tunnels due to the spiralling roots of the trees and tall branches creating a thick canopy above their heads.

The green leafy shelter above them was so dense that only about half of the sun's rays slipped through. Still bright enough to see, obviously. But it did cast their surroundings in shadows. And it also indicated that it would be best for them to leave long before sunset so they wouldn't have to trek back through in complete darkness.

Eishirou was pulled from his silent observations when Zayne stepped in his line of sight. He stayed to the left of him, his gaze continuously scanning the brush and shrubbery around them.

"It's denser than I had anticipated," he commented as a light frown tugged at his lips. "Are you sure we're not going to get lost?"

Valid question.

Eishirou pointed toward the Jacob, specifically the device in his hand. "That handy little gadget automatically maps the area. Or more specifically, maps the surrounding area where you step. The only way to get a fully accurate map is to walk the entire area. Fortunately, we're not doing that today."

Zayne simply nodded, seemingly satisfied with the reply. He kept scanning the area with his eyes, though. Despite all their advances in technology, they still hadn't discovered a reliable way to detect ShadowDwellers. They were as different and as vast as the humans themselves. Sometimes there were warnings of their approach, as electronic malfunctioning. Sometimes they were a complete surprise, not knowing they were right behind until they attacked.

There was also little known about ShadowDwellers in general. They didn't necessarily exist in a physical sense. When they are defeated, they turn into a dark mist and just vaporise from existence. Hard to do any research on something that flickered from existence entirely.

He didn't even want to think about attempt to experiment on an alive ShadowDweller. That would be way too dangerous.

They continued to move silently, only the sound of their feet shuffling and crunching against the dry leaves that carpeted the forest floor.

As they moved through a fork in the road, choosing the left path, Eishirou hoped that Jacob's map was functioning properly. As pretty and cleansing as the foliage was, he still didn't fancy staying out at night. Not with ShadowDwellers crawling around. Though, Jacob had an uncanny sense of direction, so even if the map malfunction, there was a good chance he would still lead them out with little effort.

After a few more minutes of hiking, they finally reached a surprisingly large clearing within the forest. However, equally surprising, the canopy was as full above their heads.

"This is the place," Jacob announced.

Eishirou spent a moment just looking around at the clearing as the other members of their expedition team set out the tools and equipment they would need. While the large clearing was unusual, with the level ground and barely any wildflowers, it was the pile of stones located at the very centre of the clearing that caught his immediate attention.

The crumbled stones were a more vivid red than the photos had shown. Especially within the lush greenery around them. It was likely that the stones, rather the large stone tablet, was brought in from elsewhere and placed there.

Why? Well, that was something he needed to find out.

"Set out for patrol," Ernesta began to issue commands to her team again. "Zayne; the northern side of the camp. Rinka, Leon; the southern side. I will take the west. Tatsu, the east."

"Back to staring at trees," Zayne grumbled.

Unfortunately, that was what usually occurred during bodyguard missions. A few Elites actually resented these types of assignments. They had much better things to do than to indulge those weak little Passives on their little treasure hunt.

Yeah. He had heard that a few times, unfortunately.

"Now, no whining," Eishirou decided to make light of the situation. Hopefully, at least. "I'll tell you all about the discoveries later."

Zayne ran a hand through his hand and roughly scratched the back of his neck. "Ah, alright. I'll hold you to that."

Zayne seemed to be genuinely interested in what they were excavating. His teammate, Leon, appeared surprise by that curiosity, too.

"Hm?" he made a noise of surprise. "Going to hang out later?"

"He's my roommate," Zayne returned with a careless shrug.

Eishirou, however, winced in anticipation of the surprised, perhaps even pure displeasure from his new teammates. And he didn't have to wait long.

"Roommate?" Tatsu repeated incredulously, though his tone was rather disinterested. "Curious. Why are you allowing them to degrade you by forcing you to room with a Passive?"

Zayne frowned as he idly rubbed the back of his neck. "He's a Medic, too. Doesn't one negate the other?"

Tatsu's eyes narrowed a fraction, though his expression remained stoic. It was clear thought that he couldn't rightfully answer that. Again, proof that the Academy Hierarchy was stupid. So, instead he retorted with something else; "You must limit your time with Passives. They are in no way anywhere near our league. Elites, like us, have our roles. And Passives, like him, has his. It's important for you to realise that."

"Bit hard to avoid your roommate," Zayne snorted. Seemingly unimpressed.

Tatsu narrowed his eyes further, seemingly ready to snap back a retort or two. But was thankfully interrupted by Ernesta, who reiterated her orders in a sterner tone. Eishirou tried his best to ignore that short exchange. It wasn't anything new. He knew his place; stay in the background while Elites shine on centre stage. It had been that way for years.

Zayne was sure to learn the Academy Hierarchy soon enough.

Unfortunately.

Shaking his head to clear it, Eishirou tugged at his shoulder bag as he moved toward the centre of the clearing. And to the pile of red stones where Jacob stood. Some of the stones had already extracted from the pile, placed upon the grass just like the photos indicated.

Lowering himself to his knees, Eishirou began to carefully inspect the stones. They were of many different sizes, quite heavy, and the width was about thirty centimetres. So, the stone tablet was quite sturdy before it was broken.

How it was broken was a mystery. Though, from the jagged edges of the stones, it wasn't from simply toppling over. So, someone purposely damaged it. The reason for that could be anything; to keep what was written hidden, by accident, or just for shits and giggles. Vandalism was unfortunately something that had occurred throughout many eras.

"What do you think?" Jacob asked him.

Eishirou picked up to pieces and was able to fit them together rather easily. "Restoring it won't be a problem, provided that all the parts are accounted for."

"How large is it?"

Good question.

"Let's see."

By laying his hands upon the stones, Eishirou could get a mental image of how something should look like. Specifically, the dimensions of an object. Occasionally, he encountered an object with recordings. Like a video playing in his head, he could get a glimpse of information held within the object. Some videos were detailed, while others were shaky and disjointed.

His Restore skills didn't allow him to learn every little detail about an object. But enough to pique his interest or push an investigation in a certain direction.

And what the stones before him revealed was that the tablet had once been over seven feet tall. Making up of more stones than they currently had.

"Huh," he uttered as the pulled back his hand and the recording faded from his mind. "Larger than I thought. I don't think we have all the pieces."

"Hm." Jacob didn't sound remotely surprised or perturbed. Not having all the materials was something that was common, after all. "Well, best start inspecting the surrounding area."

Eishirou pushed himself to his feet as Jacob turned to regard two hard labour packers of their group. "You two; lay out a sheet and place all the stone parts upon it separately."

"You want me to start piecing it together it here?" Eishirou asked as he took a step back, allowing the other workers to do their job. They don't need him leaning over their shoulders.

Jacob nodded his head as he rolled up his sleeves to his elbows. "Yes. You work on that while I direct others to search for more materials."

Eishirou reached into his bag for his archaeological tools. "I can't fully restore it without all the parts, but I can arrange what we have and show you how much is left to find." He turned to follow the workers moving the stones to a more suitable location and waved a hand over his shoulder. "Good luck."

Dropping his bag to the ground but keeping it close, Eishirou crouched down as he began to carefully sort through the red stones. Moving rocks wasn't how he had expected to spend his day, and he was fairly certain that he was going to get a sore muscle or two out of this exercise. But it wouldn't be the first time.

He decided to first outline the estimated size of the tablet. And from there, it was much like a jig-saw puzzle; pick out the stones that made up the boarder and then fill in the middle by grouping together the stones that fitted with each other.

Hmm…strange. The stones that made up the outer boundary seemed to be all accounted for. And most of the inner stones were missing. The stones that held most of the writings. A little odd.

The words that were on the remnants they had didn't make much sense.

Humanity…illuminating light…lily…

Hopefully, when they find the rest of the stones it would start to make sense.

"Eishirou!" Jacob's voice pulled Eishirou's musings. "When you're free, there's something I want you to inspect."

"Hm?" he lifted his head and looked over in Jacob's direction. "Find something else?"

In the far-right hand edge of the clearing, Jacob nodded his head. "Right. It's a wooden chest. Has no sign that it is connected to the tablet, but a discovery is a discovery regardless."

Wooden chest, huh? Would make things interesting if it was an ancient treasure chest.

"Sure, just give me a minute."

Just let him document the stones he had gathered and their relationship to each other. Photos definitely help him keep track of him.

As Eishirou snapped a couple of quick photos, he heard footsteps moving in his direction. He looked up, half expecting Jacob to be standing there. Instead he found Zayne who's own gaze was directed toward the stone remnants.

"This is that tablet thing from your notes?" he asked.

Eishirou nodded as he set up for another photo. "Parts of it at least. What's the area like?"

"Dense and quiet for the most part," Zayne answered nonchalantly. Honestly sounding rather bored. "No sign of ShadowDwellers so far."

"Good." Eishirou sent Zayne a quick smile as he finished another photo. "Still, better be ready to pack up right quick."

"Can you read the writing?" Zayne unexpectedly asked, his tilted to the side in curiosity.

"Hm, some of it," Eishirou answered honestly, before he scrunched his nose slightly. "Though, it's a bit…jumbled. It should start to make sense when I restore it."

"How are you planning on doing that?"

Man, he was full of questions, wasn't he? Eishirou didn't mind, though. Better enjoy it while he could before Zayne was enlisted in the Academy Hierarchy.

"It's a skill that I have, you could say. I'm able to restore anything infused with mana back to its original form. Provided all the parts are accounted."

"Huh. Sounds useful." Zayne actually sounded impressed. "What else can you do?

Was he just asking him questions because he was bored? Or was he genuinely interested? Maybe it was just an effort to get to know his new roommate?

"Well, I'm a medic. There's that." He already knew that, however. "But I can also pull information from relics and objects that are infused with mana."

Zayne blinked. "Pull information?"

"Zayne!" Leon called out before Eishirou had a chance to reply. "We need to do another patrol."

Zayne looked genuinely annoyed, disappointed even. "Ah, alright," he said as he made to turn to leave.

A loud, high-pitched static noise suddenly resonated around the area. The noise made Eishirou jump and wince at the sound.

Zayne, on the other hand, had a far harsher reaction. He buckled forward, his hands flying up to clasp frantically against his ears. He then began to release this strangled, choked scream. A scream of intense pain.

And he was accompanied by the pained shouts of others.

Eishirou whipped around to frantically look over at everyone else within their expedition group. Literally everyone within the area were desperately clutching their heads, withering and screaming in pain.

"That noise…?"

A disruptive resonance. A sound of a lower frequency. Devastating to Indigo Children.

No…everyone had been compromised! He needed to find the source of the noise before…before someone did something desperate to stop the pain!