Prologue – The Day Our Heroes Died

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Prologue

In a world where the godlike Enhanced Lifeforms were the strongest, fastest, and deadliest fighters known to man, there were three who towered head and shoulders above the rest, whose names were spoken with reverence and dread.

Seraphiel. Sariel. Uriel.

The three of them were the ultimate warriors we all looked up to.

Until the day it all came crashing down.

That was the day our heroes died. That was the day a new hero was born.

—Israfel voiceover, opening scene of “Tales of Vesterland”

Sariel

People call us Enhanced Lifeforms or ELs. We’re an elite team of super soldiers created by the Kraej Company.

They say that from afar, ELs look like tall, well-built humans. From up close, ELs looks subtly alien because their facial features are too perfectly symmetrical. Their voices resonate in an uncanny manner. They are a little too tall, too pale, too… everything. And everyone knows our eyes have an inhuman glow.

Well, that’s b*******. Ha!

Me and my men, we’re all quite human. Sure, the Kraej scientists came to our hometowns with their needles, drugs, and anima chambers, but everyone in our respective hometowns saw us grow up, just like all the other little boys around.

We stayed with our families; we were taught in the local schools; we had a normal upbringing.

Heck, my friend Uriel’s cousins still laugh when they see me and tease me about how funny I looked when I fell off a dyr the first time I rode one.

The popular notion of inhuman ELs does irritate me, so I do take great pains with my appearance. I always sport a healthy tan because I use tanning spray. My hair is stylishly cut and brightly colored, courtesy of a very expensive hairdresser. It’s red right now but I change the color often. I don’t look like the popular image of an EL soldier. It helps that I’m only six feet, three inches tall, unlike some of the others who truly tower over everyone else.

Of course, in terms of looks, Seraphiel is the exception.

He really is too tall, too pale, too everything. His facial features are flawless and perfectly symmetrical. His famous golden eyes glow the brightest of us all. His voice resonates in a way that seems to penetrate into your very bones. His long, knee-length jet black hair dances in the wind without getting all tangled up.

The Kraej recruitment posters don’t do him justice.

Seraph, as we call him, has no family or hometown. He grew up and was trained in a Kraej laboratory. No one knows who his family are, not even Seraph himself.

He’s the first person people think of when someone says “EL.” For a long time, until Uriel and I were promoted, he was the only S-class EL.

But even Seraph’s just another human. Okay, so he’s taller, stronger, better-looking, etc. but the guy eats, sleeps, and puts his pants on one leg at a time, just like everyone else.

I’ve been on many missions with him and I’ve seen him sweaty, dirty, tired, and wounded. His blood is red and, no, it doesn’t glow. I’ve even seen him puke his guts out that time when we all got food poisoning from cafeteria food. He’s not some mythical creature whose stature renders him unreachable to the masses.

He even has weird personality quirks just like the rest of us. The man’s convinced that he’s been visited by an angel. Not in the abstract, either. He believes an angel literally came down from whatever heaven she was in and made friends with him when he was a child. Apparently, the reason why he keeps his hair long despite all the bother is because she once told him that she liked his long hair.

Uriel and I are the only ones who know about this. Both of us tried to kid him about it when Seraph first spoke about her. He was in his cups at that time. It was hilarious. I mean, auditory hallucinations aren’t an unknown side effect of the EL treatments, are they? He took our ribbing in good humor, but since then I have noticed several things.

Seraph has had zero affairs. He’s had plenty of hookups, but he’s never had even one serious girlfriend. He’s lived his entire life in the limelight, so there’s no way to hide one. For a long time, I was convinced that he had a secret lover because of the three bedroom flat he bought. He uses one bedroom. The other one was turned into a workout room. The third one was normally kept locked, but I was able to get a glimpse inside once when he was cleaning it. It was decorated in delicate pastel colors. Furnished like a wealthy woman’s bedroom, it had a large, ornate dresser and a four-poster bed with lacy curtains.

I asked Seraph about it. But all he said was that he kept it for someone he was expecting to move in with him “soon.”

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The incense is another thing. Seraph has long been obsessed with honeysuckle flowers and their scent. His rooms are filled with them when they are in season. I was there the first time Seraph entered a temple when a ritual was being conducted. We were there for a mission but Seraph went back to the temple after the mission was over because he wanted to buy the incense they used. Now he burns incense in his apartment.

Why? He told me that the scent reminded him of someone special.

He also has a peculiar habit of always carrying a small bag of candy with him. He never eats it and won’t share it with anyone. The one time one of the ELs tried to steal a piece, Seraph practically broke his hand because “this candy isn’t for you.”

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I suspect I know who it’s for.

On the eight of each month, whenever he can, Seraph sneaks out of Kraej City’s northern gate. He goes a little way out, into the desolate area dotted with scrub that surrounds every city. There are no monsters there, of course. There’s nothing there. The times when I’ve followed him out there with Uriel were extremely boring since Seraph spent the entire time walking parallel to the city walls, scanning the horizon. Every time a lone rider in a dyr approached, he would watch closely until they were near enough for him to see their facial features. Then his shoulders would droop ever so slightly. Most people wouldn’t know since they can’t read his expression but Uriel and I could tell that he was anxiously waiting for something. Or someone.

These harmless little quirks were nothing really. We’re all guilty of having those.

ELs tend to like the strange, improbable, and useless.

Take Uriel, for instance. He’s obsessed with large, unwieldy swords. EL strength allows us to use weapons far bigger and heavier than non-enhanced humans can but even he doesn’t use those monstrous swords of his. He just collects them.

Others ELs are passionately devoted to obscure (often shitty) bands, outlandish fashions, overpriced beers from little-known microbreweries, stinky artisanal cheeses, hideously impractical modular furniture, and so on.

I myself have more than a few traits that people say are too much. My trademark brightly colored leather jackets and leather pants are always paired with knee-high boots that some people say have too many buckles. It’s excessive but what’s wrong with excess, I ask you?

So what if I’m too loud, too opinionated, too flashy? We’re all just human and have our human failings.

At least, that’s what I always thought until that day.

The day the angel came.


Meili’s Notes:

  • All my life, I’ve dreamed of being a writer. Thank you for joining me in my journey to complete my life goal of writing a novel.
  • When I wrote the synopsis/description for this novel, I thought I should describe Asteria’s story. However, this is also the story of Sariel and the other POV characters.
  • This is my first time posting on Scribblehub so please let know if I did anything wrong.
  • Thank you very much for reading.

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