Mary’s eyelids refused to open for a long minute, but they pushed themselves open after she put enough effort into it. The room she was in was clean, but unremarkable with walls of stone bricks and a floor very much the same. A few electrical lights were strung up along the wooden rafters that laid across the ceiling, planks of wood tightly nailed against the beams that acted as the floor above.
Around her was a mess of expensive machinery fueled by both electrical outlets and mana wires. It was a full suite of surgical tools that many doctors would kill to get. Lying on the soft bed, she closed her eyes and let her senses spill across her body. She could tell that something was different. Lifting her right arm, she found a metal one in its place.
It was not elegant, but crude and rugged with plates of strong metal welded to the forearm and upper arm. It was not slow, being just as dexterous as a normal human arm, but did not have the same power that her old arm held after fusing with Abe. While thinking about it, she heard Abe’s voice, [You’re up. Good. You’ve been out of it for about a day, so we’ll have some work to do,] he said, [You remember everything we talked about?]
She nodded to herself, feeling the connection between them, [Yeah. We fused our souls, talked about what changed, talked about the extradimensionals, and explained how you unintentionally used a part of your soul to make mana that turned you into my guardian or something. Other than that, we talked about the extra little thing Dr. Fen put into me somewhere. Can you find it?]
He chuckled in her mind, [I already have. It looks like a combination of a spying device, locator, and zombifier all in one. The countermeasures that prevent me from taking control are laughable to non-existent. Give me a half a second, and I can take full control of it. But I assume you don’t want to do that?]
She lightly shook her head, [No, not yet. The most interesting thing, honestly, is how they make the, what was it? ‘Zombifier?’]
[Yeah, yeah, I know. It’s the best name I can think of,] he said defensively, [But as for how it’s made… I’ll need a bit of practice in identifying mana types. Any tips?]
[Well, identifying is an entirely different process from enchanting in general. Basically, make a sort of feeler with mana and poke it a bit. After a while, a sort of idea should start popping into your mind. Try that and see if it will work,] she advised. Without another word, she felt him clearly nod to her and delve into his work.
After many more minutes of waiting, she heard the doorknob of the only door in the room jiggle a bit. The door opened, and Huk, Fuel, and an older man who Mary guessed was Dr. Fen walked in. She sat up a bit and gave a weak smile, waving. Huk raised an eyebrow at her and turned to the doctor, “I thought you said that she’d wake up tomorrow at the earliest,” he questioned.
The doctor took a breath and turned to Huk, “And that is what I believed as well,” he remarked, turning to her, “With the amount of damage you sustained, along with mana shock and pain shock, you should have been asleep for a few days, at least. I must ask, how did you do it?”
She continued smiling, turning to him, “I guess I just get back on my feet easier. Who are you, by the way?” she asked.
The doctor took a moment and chuckled to himself, “Ah, yes, where are my manners? I am Dr. Fennegerousocian the third. My associates simply call me Dr. Fen,” he said with a polite bow.
Mary raised an eyebrow, but did not question further. Huk sighed and pulled up a stool, sitting on it, “Alright, Mary,” he said, “I see you found out what we did.” She sighed and raised the metal arm and Huk nodded, “Look, I know you saw what happened with Cody and Rick, but please trust me here. Those two were sent to me by other lieutenants, ones that have no problems with giving them those sorts of cybernetics. I am not like them,” he said with earnest eyes, “I don’t want to ruin your life just so you can fight a bit better in this stupid war. Do you trust me?”
Mary pretended to struggle over the question, and discreetly at Dr. Fen’s eyes. In them she saw a mocking condescendence and general disdain for the demon in front of them. She made an exaggerated sigh and looked Huk dead in the eyes, “Huk… look, I will be honest with you here: What your people did to those two was the most confusing and terrifying thing I think I have ever seen. But… I trust you. You saved my life and… I don’t want to throw that away just because your allies use those sorts of things to fight the Union. As soon as I’m ready, I’ll be back out there, fighting the fight,” she said with a hint of humor.
Huk’s and Fuel’s faces lit up in blinding smiles while Dr. Fen’s eyes gave a look similar to that of a predator. She ignored the look in Fen’s eyes and returned the smiles with one of her own. Fuel walked to the corner of the room and picked up a long rifle, placing it on her bed, “We were able to save your gun, but something definitely broke. Luckily, it just seems like the mana storage on it, so not much was wasted. After you get a day of rest, we’ll get you a better battery to use for this thing. And don’t worry, I’m not going to ask how you turned this glorified artillery cannon into a usable firearm,” she said with a grin which Mary returned. \
Huk coughed a bit and drew her attention, “Anyway… you’re really lucky. You know that? I can count the amount of people that forced the Crusader Order Leader to use that enchantment and survive on one hand. I can confidently say that I am among those, and you can say you are as well. I will just say this: that man is a savage fighter and an even more savage fanatic. I could tell you every story of what he has done, but I probably should hold off until you’re in good health,” he said, “But… I do have a question.”
She nodded, “Yeah, what is it?”
“Well…” he trailed off, “Will you be in fighting shape by tomorrow night? There is a big group of refugees in an underground fighting and gambling racket called the-”
“Ring? Yeah, I know them. Richard, right? He’s a pretty interesting guy. I mentioned you and he let me have the rifle and my mace for free,” she noted, “Damn, I lost my mace… I hope it sank to the bottom of the ocean.”
Huk sighed, then laughed, “Don’t worry about that one; Fuel made sure that the ship was up in flames while you fought the damn Order Leader. Anyway, yeah, The Ring. They have a bunch of refugees there and we’re preparing an evacuation for them. I was wondering if you could join us. But… I won’t push you. You somehow survived a clean chop from the Order Leader, so you’re entitled to at least a few days of rest. So, what’s the plan?”
She thought for a moment, “Sorry, I don’t think I can. I may have been healed-”
“Not entirely,” Dr. Fen interrupted, “The healing process has been accelerated to the point that she will be able to heal by tomorrow. As an… unlicensed medical professional,” he said quickly, “I would recommend that Ms. Grant rests for the next two days. In the best case scenario, she will be able to enchant her weapons and make new ones after she mostly heals tomorrow.”
Huk and Mary looked at him, both sighing, “Fine,” Huk groaned, “I’ll let her stay here for now.”
The doctor gave an exacerbated smile, “Thank you for that. As for you, Ms. Grant, I have to recommend another day of rest. Is that alright with you?”
Nodding, she took the rifle and looked it over, “I will, doctor. I just want to gather some thoughts about this thing,” she said.
“That is fine. Just be sure to get some sleep. Alright, the patient needs some time alone, so let us make ourselves scarce,” Dr. Fen declared, shooing the other two out of the room. After nodding to her, he closed the door behind him.
Silence reigned in the room, but not in Mary’s mind, [Alright, I figured this out.]
[Well, don’t leave me hanging, tell me,] she said, smiling.
[Alright, here’s what I can see: there are two types of mana at work here, a greenish black mana and an orange mana. The greenish mana seems to have affiliations with animation, movement, life, and death, while the orange mana has ties with thought, learning, and control. If what I’m seeing here is correct, then the orange mana learns how your body moves and the greenish black mana follows the instructions of the orange mana to move your corpse in an effective way. I suppose this is what happens when someone uses multiple types of esoteric mana to achieve an effect in a small space. Hmm… I wonder…] he hummed quietly.
Raising an eyebrow, she turned to the side, [What’s wrong?]
She felt him mentally shake his head, [Nothing, really. I was just wondering if I could derive a singular effect from the multi-colored mana… That’s a project for later, though. For now, I’m going to regulate the spying device and only mess with it if we’re doing something important.]
She nodded, sitting up a bit more, [Yeah, that’s a good idea. For now, let’s think up a way to upgrade the design of this gun.]
Abe gave her a mental smile through their link, [I’m in,] he said. She smiled, and they spent some time drafting a redesign for the former ‘armtaker.’
The man bowed his head in shame, “Your eminence… I have failed you,” he said in full acceptance of the consequences.
The Pope turned from his stack of papers and looked the Order Leader up and down. He sighed and slid the document he was working on to the side, “I know, Tristan. You don’t need to be so formal with me in my own office. So, get up and tell me what happened,” Pope Helix the First told him.
Raising his head, he nodded, “Alright. Well… I had a problem with the new cybernetic those Rats are using. Their dead coming back to life as savage beasts is one thing. Their dead coming back to life while you have an X-1000 Deathbell trained on you is another…”
Raising an eyebrow, the Pope worked his jaw a bit, “They’re willing to throw away good soldiers just to use a Deathbell? There was not a single sign that you would be on that ship, so how…” he trailed off, thinking.
Tristan, in his traditional armor, shook his head, “No, they didn’t throw soldiers away. The one that used it kept her arm. And used it again not long after. The only thing that went wrong was something on the side of the gun exploding, but that’s negligible in the face of the firepower of a Deathbell,” he explained, causing the Pope’s eyes to widen.
“Someone fixed it…” he muttered, “Who figured it out!?” he nearly shouted in fascination.
Sighing, Tristan handed Helix a piece of paper, “It was Mary Grant… All I could do was nearly kill her. I’m… sorry,” he mumbled.
Helix went from boiling anger to relieved peace to nervousness in an instant, “No, no. Don’t blame yourself for this. From what else I could determine from your report, that demon, Huk, was there as well. The only thing worse than savage corpses attacking you with a Deathbell trained on you is an experienced fighter with highly enchanted armor attacking you with a Deathbell trained on you,” he assured.
Tristan sighed in relief, “Thank you for understanding me here. Is there anything else that is of importance?” he asked.
Mulling it over, the Pope nodded, “Yes. There is. I am moving the sweep up to a week from now. The only thing we were waiting for was the water-attuned steel, but now that we are sure we cannot get it… we will have to accept that a few rats will slip through the cracks. However, tomorrow night, we will be eliminating that risk. We received intelligence from a prisoner that a group of hiding demi-humans will be attempting to escape from the island. You will cleanse them. There is a chance that the Rats will send reinforcements, so you will bring a squadron of Crusaders with you during your task. Am I clear?” The Pope asked, his eyes trained on the Order Leader.
Saluting, he bellowed, “Yes, Your Eminence!” With his task given, he marched out of the room and off to prepare.
Night fell, and Gus sighed. “Alright, time to close shop,” he said to the two extradimensionals he was housing.
The man, Kain, nodded, “Alright. I’ll take care of the front. Luna, you make sure that every other door is locked while I do that.”
The young teen, Luna nodded, “Okay, Big Brother!”
He chuckled at their antics. He had thought that every being from beyond his world would be like Her; a pillar of power and a force that could demolish any before Her. Instead, he found in them two relatively normal people trying not to die and trying to not go on a killing spree to do so. To him, they were extremely admirable; while She promoted strength and relentless pursuit, he still found the desire to not exercise that strength admirable. After all, why would She need the help of a mere mortal like him if she could simply get what she wanted by force? She was simply abstaining from using her power. He turned to the two, “Alright, I’m going to be… ‘restocking our special products.’ You two can go down and do what you want,” he said, barely paying mind to the affirmations he got in reply.
Walking into the back room, he opened an innocuous wooden door and stepped inside, closing it behind him. Within, there was an altar. At the center, a large gear made of a brass-like metal hung from the wall with silently hissing pipes snaking around the room. In the center of the altar, a small furnace sat, connected to the pipes. The furnace glowed with a faint power, purple mana runes glowing on the brass-like surface.
He knelt reverently, clasping his hands together in prayer. There he kneeled, praying, when he heard the Voice, [Disciple,] she said, the runes of the furnace glowing with every word that dominated his mind, [You have done well. You have but one task remaining.]
He did not raise his eyes, simply murmuring to the furnace, “What is it that I must do, Great Goddess of the Clock?”
[Their souls. Upon midnight on the twelfth day of the twelfth month, kill them. Their souls will be used to fuel my crusade. You will perform your duties or die trying.]
“Yes, Goddess En’gem’ia,” he answered. The runes of the furnace faded back into their standard, dull glow. He stood and looked at the calendar, reading it to be the fifth day of the twelfth month. He turned and opened the door, “Seven days, and She will know my devotion,” he prayed, leaving.