“Ashlin, report!” Officer Devin called back anxiously when he noticed the pause, as if worried his contact with Desbar had been severed as well.
“Eagle Five is lost.” A strained voice spoke up in response. On the screen, the communications officer saw the mangled corpses of the various crew members. Shadows could be seen shifting just at the corners of the screen before a long, spindly arm reached out and dragged a body away from the camera.
Officer Devin’s face went pale when he heard that. In the back of his mind, he registered a faint clicking along with a low gurgle. Driven by fear, he kicked off the ground, sending himself high into the air with the power of his ki. As he did, a fifth sword appeared, this one resting beneath his feet as he used it to aid his flight.
When Devin’s eyes looked back down, he trembled. It took everything he had not to lose control of his weapons that he had called out. “Ashlin… activate protocol Blackest Night.”
Beneath Devin’s feet was a sea of black chitin, creatures swarming like ants to his position. They were rushing in from the direction of the habitat. He could easily see thousands of these creatures, which started to pile atop one another to form a tower under him. Without any hesitation, he called back his swords, only keeping the one beneath his feet out as he used it to flee.
“Blackest Night can only be triggered on-site, sir, you know–” The voice coming through was cut off by the officer’s frantic call.
“Use the overrides! Don’t tell me that you idiots didn’t put in any fail-safes for if the habitat was lost!”
“The Allied Governments forbid such an action, sir…”
Hearing the helpless tone of the communications officer, Devin clicked his tongue in annoyance. “As the sole surviving member of Eagle Five, transfer all on-site authority. I’ll activate it myself.” Gritting his teeth, he immediately turned, guiding his sword to fly him towards the habitat.
Without the habitat or the ship, it was only a matter of time before his suit’s built-in oxygen ran out and he died. If he wanted to survive, he only had one option, which was an emergency activation of their dimensional gate. However… even if he activated it, there was no way that they would let him through while such a large threat was flooding the base.
To truly escape, he had to kill his way to safety, and activate the Blackest Night protocol. Only then would he have the chance to get through the portal before it took effect, killing everything in the area.
Sadly… would it really be so easy? It took less than five minutes for the monstrous swarm to decimate the habitat, so how could one man fight through all of that?
“Nothing here, either…” I muttered to myself, shaking my head as I stood out within the citadel’s garden. As it stood, the only worlds I had left to check were Spica and Lorek. However, the citadel’s enchantments would not function within these two worlds, so I would not be able to take this place with me.
Just as I was preparing to plane shift, I heard footsteps running towards me. “Lord Keeper, Tsubaki!” Dana called out, an expression of panic on her face. “There’s an urgent report.”
I turned my head to regard her as the two of us waited, Dana quickly straightening out her skirt as she spoke. “The Sorii terraforming colony has been lost. A large number of creatures appeared suddenly. Currently, there is only a single survivor, but he won’t last long! They’re trying to activate the Blackest Night protocols.”
Sorii… it took me a moment to remember that name. That was the planet that Desbar was working to colonize on their first manned voyage. I couldn’t help but furrow my brow as I thought about that. Obviously, I had never purchased that planet, as it was a lifeless rock. There was simply no sense in wasting the points.
Since that was the case, the planet should not have been considered my ‘territory’. Yet the report was undeniable. If the enemy did appear on an uninhabited world, perhaps it would be for the best. There would be no civilian casualties aside from those that had already been lost, and it would simply be a matter of taking the time to remove the infestation.
“Thank you.” I nodded towards Dana, before adding. “Please call Jonas here, and tell him that we’ve found our target.” After I gave that instruction, Dana bowed and ran back inside.
“Tsubaki, please explain that protocol she mentioned.” As I said that, I looked back out over the horizon. Since Desbar was the most densely populated world, I had saved it for last, as it should have been the most obvious of the various worlds in this group.
“Of course, my Keeper.” Tsubaki nodded calmly. “Blackest Night is the highest level emergency protocol given to any space voyage. By purposely destabilizing a pair of planar gates in close proximity to one another, a dimensional fissure is opened for a fraction of a second. In this time, everything within one hundred kilometers is devoured by the rampaging energies.”
“If they are activating Blackest Night, then the sole survivor has likely given up hopes of escape.” Tsubaki’s eyes glanced upwards as she said that, as if imagining the scene on the distant world.
As I let out a sigh, I heard two pairs of footsteps approaching from behind me. Turning around, I saw the familiar elven god that had just recently ascended. “This is our first time meeting. I only wish it were under less dire circumstances.”
Jonas smiled wryly as he heard that. “It is the fault of the times. How may I be of assistance, Keeper?”
“You and I will be moving to Sorii to handle this battle personally.” I could see Tsubaki look as if she were about to speak up, and so I shook my head. “There are too many enemies, even for you. I’m not planning to kill them all in one move. My goal is to retrieve the survivor, and thin the herd. For this, only another god-level combatant can join me.”
“I… understand, my Keeper.” Tsubaki nodded, clearly not wanting to question me in front of others. I could already imagine the complaints she would have once this was all over, but hopefully it would help convince her to advance more quickly to join me in such battles.
“I’m afraid that my travel ability is limited to people that I have met before, Keeper.” Jonas spoke up, shaking his head. “I won’t be able to send the two of us to Sorii, as I have never met a member of its crew.”
“That’s fine. I’ll be handling the transportation this time.” As I said that, I formed a golden mirror behind myself, the image of a certain pink-haired halfling held within. “Mirror the Wanderer.”
As the mirror shattered, I suddenly felt my perspective shrink, my body reduced to that of a halfling. “Well, let’s get going!” I called out, finding that I was suddenly far more energetic. Jonas blinked at that, seeming deep in thought as golden mists wrapped around us.
A moment later, the two of us could feel sand blowing across our face, the air stale. If we needed to breathe, we’d be in trouble… Looking down, I let out a low whistle. “Man, that’s going to be troublesome.” Despite my words, I felt my lips curving upwards in a small smile.
Focusing my divine energy, I shattered my ‘reflection’ of Aurivy, returning to my former self. It was the middle of the day, yet these creatures were so active… they must have deemed this area as their nest after having been sent here. With Aurivy’s energy having left me, I let out a small sigh. “Tell me what you can do, Jonas.”
“I think it would be better to show you, sir.” Jonas said with a mysterious smile, before his body seemed to blur. A phantom image stepped out from his body, and then another, each appearing to be a completely different person. These figures seemed to walk aimlessly through the air, as if they were simply going down the street.
More and more phantom images began appearing, each one coming faster than the last. Soon, it seemed as though there were an endless stream surging out of Jonas’s body. “All for one, and one for all. The primary power of my Community domain is for me to build a community with those that I have influenced.”
Seeing where this was going, I gave a small nod. “And then you can summon your community to aid you in battle. So that’s why you said you specialize in siege battles… you’re a walking army.”
“That’s right.” Jonas admitted, the stream of phantoms finally stopping. Countless people now wandered before us, before they all lifted their heads at once. In unison, they turned, moving to line themselves up orderly before Jonas. “However, if any phantom is slain, that person is removed from my community.”
In a way, it was similar to my own ability to mirror others. Only… I had the feeling that Jonas’s power was unable to call the phantoms of gods. Not yet, at least. There were a different set of restrictions in place, but this was still a powerful ability, one arguably more suited for large scale battles than my own domain.
After I gave him a subtle signal, the phantoms all turned to face downwards. The chitinous horde had all but covered the habitat, using their bodies as shells to fully enclose it. Was this how they created their nests?
Cards were lifted, spell diagrams were drawn in the air, and runes were spoken. Swarms of spells rained down upon them, eliciting pained screeches as green blood splattered.
While he was launching the initial bombardment, I conjured a handheld mirror. If I was going to save the lone survivor, it would likely be best to do so before Jonas destroyed the entire area.
Within the mirror, I could see one man wielding… seven swords as he ran through the hallways. Two were held in his hands, while five more lashed out around him in midair. The style was actually quite similar to my own Thousand Arms, Ten Thousand Threads, so it was somewhat refreshing to see firsthand.
Still, I was doing this for a reason, after all. Focusing my divinity, I slowly turned the mirror in my hand.
“Almost there…” Officer Devin grit his teeth, slicing through another monster with his silver blade. There seemed to be no end to these creatures, ever since he cut his way into the main habitat. Their bodies filled the hallways, forcing him to push past them and hope that the ones he was shoving aside had truly been slain. Already, both of his wings had been torn, patches of bloody membrane hanging loose from the holes.
Suddenly, he heard a crashing sound from above. One that seemed to startle the rest of the creatures in the hall. And then another… suddenly, his presence seemed insignificant, the monsters turning and leaving. “Not another meteor shower…” Naturally, the demon had no way to know what sort of battle was taking place above him.
The distraction did, however, give him a chance. He stepped forward to advance, ready to charge at the control room before a brief wave of disorientation hit him. He felt as if his vision had been flipped suddenly. The hall ahead, which was supposed to turn left, now faced right. No… that wasn’t right, the words on the wall to serve as guiding marks had been flipped as well.
I looked down at the mirror, seeing the confused expression on the man’s face. As long as I kept him in my mirror realm, there was no need to worry about his safety. Well, unless he did something to himself of course. But if that were the case, then there would truly be nothing I could do to stop it.
Synopsis: Somewhere in the universe, there was an altar. On it, laid a bloody eye as big as the sun itself. It burst with light and bathed the entire star system in red.
"The aura of an ancestral artifact!" Someone's voice rose in surprise.
The Great Galactic Era had begun.