Revolutions: Moonlit Arms

Attached File: Ultimate Totem #1
「Identity」 & 「Historia」

As a short introduction to “Ultimate Totems”:

Ultimate Totems (UTs) are Totems that have been recorded to have power readings of gods. Currently, it is uncertain whether they did contain godlike beings inside, but their mana readings correspond to such.

Upon examination of the remnants of these mighty entities, Halophate researches discovered something strange an in-common about all of them:

All UTs contained at least some organic tissue in them. Mostly human tissue, but finding some remnants of animal tissue in it was not unheard of.

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Luster of Revenge 「Identity」

An Ultimate Totem that emerged during the 353AR Aleria – Kislev War. It was humanoid in shape, and stood at around 12 feet tall. Its weapons were its bandage-like appendages and its blood-formed blades on its arms.

Upon discovery of its remains, it was found that there were spiritual remains of the Great Demon Conqueror “Verka” imprinted on it. The spiritual remains were too scattered and weak though, so it’s safe to assume that _Verka_’s malevolent tether to the physical world has been severed forever.

Recreation from tales of survivors and research estimations reads that Identity is insanely fast, and is driven to kill opposition the more there are present in its sight. Therefore, dueling it or staying out of its line of sight was presumably the best way to deal with.

Survivors of Identity’s attack also notes that it bears the mark of the fire element, and had witnessed mages using ice Artes to temporarily freeze its tracks.

The most dangerous aspect of Identity, however, is the ability to brainwash and rally nearby people to fight for it, save for those on side of the survivor. It seemed to be able to rally forth followers of its host(whose identity still remains unknown)

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Paragon of Deceit 「Historia」

An Ultimate Totem that emerged in 412 AR, as told in the story of “Bright Historia”. Halophate researches have found traces of this Totem at the Northernmost icelands of Aleria. Its spiritual residue seemed to have belonged to an actual god – close to the feeling any spiritualist would feel upon entering a church in Aleria.

Among Historia’s parts found are a bunch of magicannons, missile launchers, magic emitters, etc., indicating that it is actually the closest one could get to a Totem Battlestation. At the center of its body is a strange clock-like mechanism, that seems to still be mostly unused. It is assumed that the previous user did not know or chose not to harness whatever this mechanism is. From what researches say though, this used to possess the ability to slow or hasten time. It could also be used to trap itself and its opponents in a pocket dimension.

According to the contributions of an anonymous reliable third-party researcher, Historia used its weapons to slowly decimate the terrain around it with fire and brimstone, making them unwalkable.

The same researcher also submitted a sort of note, with a drawing attached to it.

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Blue arms have to be decimated first, because not only do they never stop shooting missles, they also protect the main body anytime you attempt to attack it!

Green arms contain nanites that repair the blue arms. They are extremely fragile when they release the repair-bots, so it should go down in a few hits. Take these down too!

Yellow is the Clock. I never actually saw it in action, but I know how to deal with it. I made a similar mechanism in my free time, but not as strong. If you use Wind stuff on it and manage to land a status ailment on it, the Clock will open. You only have a short window of time to break it, so work as a team and attack it together all at once. I have a feeling that if someone uses that clock again, we won’t be so lucky…

Once the Clock is gone, you’re very welcome to pound it to death anywhere you please! Just be wary of its terrain decimation. You could get trapped in a corner!

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Mark's Letter to the Party
Re: Halophate Documents about Ultimate Totems

To Sir Isolet, Mr. Kabosom, Mr. Bonds, et.al,

I am writing sending this document and writing this letter for you in place of Mark. He would like to communicate to you himself, but he does not possess the capability to write – only to read.

Attached to this letter are files we found in the Halophate Branch at Polla, regards of Emily. These are documents about “Ultimate Totems” that were recorded throughout the ages from the birth of Halophate up to today. Mark thought you might find this information interesting, or at least, useful.

Best regards,
Hutch Ere

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Encyclopedia || DAINYDUNE CITY
Windmill Oasis in the Badlands

Dainydune City

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Geography
Dainydune City is situated on a valley in the middle of Provectas. This valley also lies in a large oasis with healthy soil, good for growing trees and flowering plants. Dainydune lies at the southernmost portions of Provectas, by the Southern Sea.

The city’s walls are lined with windmills, taking advantage of the valley’s windy nature.

Culture
Dainydune is the most developed Corseria-local town, and is a popular pitstop for drifters and travelling merchants. Its location near the sea makes Dainydune a good trading stop as well. The city is defined with its windmills, creating electricity for the town without resorting to using coal or fuels.

At the center of the city lies a beautiful park called High Noon Park, a popular date location and meet-up place. The park is filled with flowers from all parts of Corseria, including those of Alerian nature, which surprisingly grows well in foreign soil.

Dainydune Hall
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Dainydune Hall is large structure at the southernmost part of town, that serves as Corseria’s biggest lodge. The Hall serves as the staple lodging for most drifters, as its great food and view of the sea brings happiness to the weary.

Though rumors circulate that the lodge is actually haunted, due to it being built over an ancient Solusian burial ground. These are all rumors, however, and only a few have ever claimed such.

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Encyclopedia || DAFT TOWN
Dusty Racing Town

Daft Town

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Geography
Dusty, dry soil. Town located within a cliff region where solar surfer races are held.

Culture
Famous for its solar surfer races, dyes, stained metal, and weapon and armour tattoos. Its main exports are solar sails and hue beetling dyes and goods. The people living here are mostly uneducated, or home-schooled. Shady strangers are a common sight and a flourishing black market operates in the open. The town is controlled by a powerful family that operates like the mafia, brokering the goods that pass in and out of the black market and managing the races. Despite their intimidating reputation, the people of Daft Town look up to this family, because they keep their word and crime rate is almost non-existent because of the family’s swift and violent action towards people who break their rules.

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Hue Beetling Dye
Hue Beetlings are small colorful parasites that reside in between the chitinous plates of Magilamipedes and other large desert insects or arachnids. Hue beetling carapace come in many vibrant colors and are dried up, then crushed into powder. The powder is then mixed with other compounds such as glass or viscous substances to create paints, dyes, and popularly, stained metal, for Hue beetlings have a high immunity to fire. Weapons or armour during the smithing process can be dyed with Hue beetling powder manually or through enchantment to create gradiating colorful designs or weapon tattoos.

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Magilla Punchers
Magilla Punchers are the tough crazy bunch who delve into the maze-like smelly burrows of Magillapedes, huge centipedes that are immune to sleep, paralysis, and cold, to knock the monsters out long enough to pick off the Hue Beetlings that live on their bodies. The little parasites feed on the mold, fungi, and occasional human remains on the magillapede’s body, cleaning it, and in return the magillapede protects it. The Hue Beetlings have formed a permanent symbiotic relationship with these monsters and cannot live without them, thus Magillapedes are not killed, unless there is no choice. Yet those who do are shunned by the Magilla Puncher community for destroying a source of income.

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The puncher’s weapon of choice is the “Boomfist”, a heavy metal gauntlet that fires shotgun rounds. It’s powerful spread attack is effective in the narrow confines of the burrows, and the gauntlets have become a necessity since Magilla Punchers are often swarmed and must climb, fight, and snatch Hue Beetlings at the same time. There is a soft spot underneath the head of Magillapedes where a good blow on that area renders them unconscious.

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Encyclopedia || SONORAN
Desert Fortress City

Sonoran

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Geography
Stony, sandy soil, dry grasslands

Weather
Sonoran has intensely hot summers, and cool short winters.

Main Exports
Glass, glass containers for potions and alchemy, artistic stained glass decorations, Sonoran Silk ( highly resistant to fire and earth magic, SP regen. Highly prized by mages) , fire/earth salamander mounts, camel mounts, ingredients and parts from dessert monsters and plants.

Main Imports
Water, fish, paper, steel, construction materials.

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Culture
Sonorans prize water above gold and alcohol is illegal within the city’s borders. The center of their city is the market, a labrynthine space of alleys, stalls, and tiny shops that include shrines, and statues of stained glass that collect moisture in the air and store it as water in glass jars, which the people can then drink.

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The people are religious worshippers of the two-headed god, whose left head is named Tybalt, the god of dreams, and the second head, Hyst, goddess of time, and practice dual weapons , astral projection, dream travelling, enchanting, alchemy, and time magic. Their government is a magrocracy, where the strongest mage born in Sonoran reigns. Challengers to the throne appear monthly to duel with the Archmage. The throne is granted to the winner, while the loser lives or dies according to the will of the victor (usually dies, so that they never come back). Despite this culture, Archmages have long rulings, since noble Sonoran families have many children, and the defeat of one, can simply be remedied by another sibling challenging the victor.

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The Sonoran City Guard is composed mainly of sharp-shooters, shadow dancers, and mages who are often time mages. Offensive magic is illegal, and some adventurer gear require a permit to buy or possess. Invisible guards patrol the market place looking for thieves.

Academies
In the towers where academies are founded, much focus is spent on understanding time and dreams. The Sonoran people believe in parallel universes, other planes of existence, and different dimensions. They believe that the only way to enter these planes is by detaching the soul through astral projection since the body cannot leave the plane on which it was made, and dreams are windows to time, and other worldly places. Other countries think they are fools, of course, but the fact that Sonoran City has been building walls and fortifying itself has given rise rumors that the Sonorans have discovered something from their centuries of research, and they are keeping it secret.

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Through Her Eyes: Jackie #2
Southern Ruins

Chapter I, Nice Guys. Clean Guy.

“Lucille, we can share my wardrobe.” I said to the little girl who was sitting on my bed, with the blanket drawn over her legs.

“Oh, I have my own.” said Lucille and hopped off the bed and took her travelling bag from my hands. She pulled out her clothes which were all colored black.

I was surprised and amused. I meant the wardrobe itself, not my clothes. What a young child, I thought, still prone to misunderstandings, and yet my new friend was actually a certified doctor who passed her qualification exams at the age of fourteen and was an earth mage to boot.

I met Lucille a few days ago when my team and I were exploring the Southern Ruins, a small abandoned village located, well . . . south of Cosica. It began seven days ago.

I woke on the morn’ after that day in the forest with the Kobolds. Somma summoned us and gave us our new assignment. We were to explore the Southern Ruins and report our findings within seven days. After that I went to the Atelier and discovered a box with a curved top. I didn’t know what it was, but it had buttons so I pressed one, and to my delight it was a music box!

Later that morning my teammates were complaining about Allica’s prices, so I talked to Somma again and was able to learn that Allica gives discounts to senior halophate members. So I asked a senior that we met on our first day, Mel, the lady with the awesome yellow knee-cut metal boots, to buy our items for us. She bought our stuff (with our money, of course) and was so sweet and showed that she was forgetful, that I actually liked her more.
Everyone was happy, and the Junker actually paid for three phlogistons for me. Kei bought an iron box, which even Allica didn’t know what it was for and couldn’t open it. Then they went into town.

After that I spent most of my day studying Hien’s dual weapon, creating potions and dynamite while the music box played. Something nice also happened. There was a knock on the door as I was synthesizing and Eugene came carrying a box.

“What’s in the box?” I asked, without looking. I was carefully encasing the gun powder and fuel mixture so that it won’t leak and then blow up in the dessert heat.

“Oh, these are labels for your materials. You said you were color-blind, right?” he said, smiling. He placed the box down beside me and began labelling the ingrediets in our inventory.

I couldn’t answer immediately. I was touched. “Yes.” I said, after a few seconds.

“These are from Somma- well, I told Somma and he approved of it.”

“Wow, that’s really nice of him.” I said, gratefully. “Here, let me help you-”

“Oh, no, just . . .” he said, waving me off and smiling.

I nodded and he just continued labeling. We had a chat about airships. Eugene was an airship pilot and he told me about the places he’s seen, and about the land Aleria across the desert sea. It seemed a wonderful place with its ocean and the abundance in its lands. His words suddenly gave me an inspirational idea. What better way to look for my father than in an airship of my own? So I asked him eagerly how much one costs.

“One million silvers.”

" . . . Wow . . ." I said after a pause.

“Why do you want to know?” asked Eugene.

“Because I want to see the world.” I lied. Well, it was partly a lie. It wasn’t my main reason.

“Huh.” He said chuckling. “We have the same dream.”

“That’s amazing.” I said, just trying to keep the conversation away from prying questions.

“But you know, it’s better if you build one.” Eugene added.

That was actually a good idea. When Eugene left, my mind was racing. My own airship. How can I afford it? My thoughts went to Aleca. Hmmm . . . Maybe I can use her.

Later that night I went to the stables to visit Ow, my new pet wolfie that I tamed in a the forest at the Cosica Outskirts. Kal, sleepy as ever and scratching his messy hair, met me and we trained Ow together. He now knows how to eat like a gentle-dog.

When I went back to the guild smelling like dog, with bits of Ow’s fur and saliva sticking on my clothes, I met Shen all alone in the atelier. I had met him earlier that afternoon and had asked him things I’ve wanted to confirm in my mind since I met him.

“What are you doing?” said Shen suddenly from behind me after lunch. I was creating potions in the atelier.

I jumped, startled. " You surprised me." I said, looking at him. He was looking at the mixture in my cauldron.

“What are you doing?” He repeated, ignoring my question. “Why are you mixing all those random stuff?”

“I’m making potions.” I explained, feeling annoyed. How could I be mixing random things?

He just continued looking at the cauldron with that reserved steely expression of his, his dark eyes shadowed by his hair, then, without a word, he walked to a chair, sat on it and began cleaning his pistols. When I look at Shen he seems to be surrounded by this dark-wall aura. Where he sat, even that part of that room seemed to hush as if afraid to disturb him. The way he’s always focusing on his guns always makes him look like he’s not open for conversation. But I just had to know.

After accepting the fact that I might get shot, I walked to him, then sat beside him and looked at him dead in the eye so that I could see for myself the stuff he was made of.

“Hey.” I said.

He glanced up, his gaze was icy, yet, the fear of getting shot was thrilling for me.

“Have you ever killed anyone?” I asked.

It was hard to tell what he was thinking because of his so-serious expression, but the sharpness of his reply told me he was annoyed. “No.” he said flatly. “Why, do I look like I’ve killed anyone?”

I was surprised that he hadn’t killed anyone. “Yeah, you have this face . . . You really haven’t killed anyone?”

“No.” said Shen, sharply. “But I have beaten up someone into a bloody pulp.”

I nodded, my eyes wide, trying to hide my alarm, but Shen was looking at the wall when he was saying that, and by the time he turned, I had arranged my face into a somewhat calm expression. What he said was basically a crime. It didn’t sound like it was in self-defense.

“So, you haven’t . . . commited a crime?

“Well, is making people cry a crime?”

“No.” I said, curious.

“Well, then I haven’t.” said Shen a matter of factly.

Oh my gosh, this guy is clean.

“People cry when I tell them the truth. I don’t undertand that.” he added, shaking his head.

Shen was very honest to the point of insensitivity and rudeness. But I don’t think he knows its wrong. That night, when I met him again, I wasn’t convinced he was a good person, but I ran out of questions to ask, so I just asked him. “Do you have a tatoo?”

He looked at me, and he actually didn’t look annoyed. Those steely eyes actually looked less serious. He showed me his left arm and pulled up the long sleeve of his shirt. There on his skin was the mark of a dragon I’ve only seen in Oriental books. It was a dragon that looked like it was half snake-half lizard, with the claws of an eagle and the mane of a lion. I didn’t ask him, but I wondered why he had that particular tattoo. As I went to bed, I wondered if Shen liked looking like a tough guy since dragons have always symbolized power and strength, but then why does he hide it?

Chapter 2 ,The Shirt

The next day, after reporting to Somma, we had a few hours to prepare before our departure for the ruins. My mind was back on the airship and I was thinking of a way to get more money, when an idea struck me. And after talking with Somma again I went to Allica’s shop with a plan.

“Hi there!” said Allica’s cheeful voice when I opened the shop door and the front bell jingled. Her face fell when she saw me. “It’s you! The one who stole my book.” she said accusingly, her eyes wide with suspicion.

“I have a proposition.” I said, leaning against the counter, ignoring that comment. “A business proposition.”

“Hmm, what do you have in mind?” asked Allica, her tone and expression changing.

“Me and my group are heading out to the Southern Ruins today and I was thinking of advertising your goods.”

“How are you going to that?” she asked, her finger on her chin, curious.

“Do you have a camera?” I asked.

“Yes.”

“I’ll take pictures of us using your equipment that have your store logo, and after they’re printed, we can distribute them to the people we meet when we go out again.”

Allica thought for a while. “That is actually a good idea,” she said smiling, “but what’s the catch?” she added slyly.

“A fee.”

“How much?”

I actually didn’t think of that and so was standing in thought for a while.

“Ah!” said Allica, suddenly. She had been thinking too." A discount! Forty percent! No, thirty- wait, forty . . . Thirty."

I was weighing the benefits and concluded that a discount will pool more money than a fee, since that fee will come back to her when we buy her goods. Her store’s the only general store for miles.

“Thirty.” I said, “But we’ll include the Halophate logo in the pictures.”

“Deal.” she said, smirking. We shook hands. “I’ll consider this as make up for the book.”

I didn’t comment. “Do you have shirts or tabards with your logo on them?” I said, changing the subject.

She went to the back of her store and then came out with a shirt that had her face on it. I looked at it. This was going to be embarassing, I thought in my brain, but an inner voice said, ‘Fool! Don’t insult the money bag. Smile.’

“Do you have another shirt?” I asked Allica, thinking that all of us will have to wear this.

She pulled up one from nowhere.

“Um, five?” I asked.

Allica pulled out three more shirts. Wow, this girl is prepared. After Aleca printed the Halophate logo beside her logo with a hot iron on all the shirts, lending me her camera, a pack of potions and flares, I went back to my atelier.

“Guys.” I said loudly to everyone as I opened the door.

“Where have you been?” asked Junker in that outlandish accent of his.

“To Allica’s. Listen, I got a discout from her. Thirty percent, for all of us from now on, but we have to wear these.”

I pulled up a shirt.

Junker’s jaw dropped; “What?!” yelled Hien; Kei burst out laughing. Eugene looked thoughtfully polite; Shen was absent in the room.

“I’m not wearing that!”

“Why is it a face?”

Hien gingerly picked a shirt up as if it had something nasty smeared on it.

“Guys, it’s thirty percent!” I reasoned. “Discount. For all time. That’s already pretty huge.”

After a few minutes of laughing and criticizing, everyone in the room decided to wear it. Junker was still speechless, staring blankly into space with his mouth open with the shirt on.
We all assembled at the town gate, the Junker and Eugene late for some reason, all wearing Aleca’s shirt. Except for Shen who said loudly when I told him about the discount at the gates, “I am not wearing this shirt!” He handed it back to me. “I’d rather pay full money than wear that!” And so with all our gear packed and Ow by my side, our slightly embarassed, still complaining group set out for the Southern Ruins.

“I can’t believe I’m wearing this shirt.” said Hien.

Chapter 3, Southern Ruins. Freakin’ Ghost.

It took us a day to cover most of the distance to the Southern Ruins. The day was scorching hot as we trudged through the barren dessert, and the night was freezing cold. We met agents of the Scouting Legion, a group for hire that scouts out places and gives information about the monsters in an area. Our group had hired them yesterday and they gave us their report. In summary, their advice was to bring different weapon types: bludgeoning, piercing, slashing, and magic. It was too late to go back to Cosica now, but it was good that we had at least a single weapon for each type. We then continued our journey and on the second morning, we arrived in a patch of land with sparse dying shrubs.

Shen wanted to gather some alchemical ingredients from the dying plants, but we discouraged him. Kei went off in search for treasures and to our surprise he found a relic.

“Treasure!” exclaimed Kei.

We found a foot path that led us to a great chasm south of the shrubs that was many miles long, and about two hundred meters wide. The gaping hole opened to the skies and inside all we could see was darkness. I threw a pebble in and I didn’t hear the echo of its landing on the bottom until twenty seconds later.

“Wow, that’s deep . . .” I said.

“Yeah . . .” said Junker. “How do we get across?”

“There’s a bridge.” said Hien, pointing at a drawbridge in the distance that was pulled up.

“Then let’s cross it.” said Kei.

“The bridge is drawn up.” said Shen. “There’s a button down below. We need to press it.”

“What button?” asked Junker.

“It seems to be the mechanism that controls the bridge.” said Eugene. He pointed at a stone pillar that rested on an outcropping of rock across the hole located many meters below the surface. The shine of the sun outlined the circular form of the button on its side.

“We could make a glider.” said Eugene.

“Yeah, but with what?” I asked him.

“There may be some materials over there.” he said pointing at a grove of dead trees to the north.

Junker had not said anything for a while. Then he made one of his shields rise and was contemplating something while looking at it.

“Can I ride my shields across the gap?” he asked himself loudly. “How much energy would that take?”

“Why don’t you try it here on the ground?” I told him. “We have a lot of energy potions.”

Junker assented. One shield couldn’t hold him up, so he tried two. It worked. The shields levitated and it carried him forward, but to our disappointment, it only travelled about fifty meters before he became tired and the shields dropped with a clang.

“Well, it’s no use. Let’s just find another way around.” said Junker.

I gazed to the east at a stone Arc that was across the chasm. Beyond it was a tower that loomed over the land. The air shimmered in the heat. I could see a mirage of water surrounding the tower. Junker packed his things and together we headed north for the grove of dead trees.

The grove was called, The Gallows. Here the trees were black and brittle, and when Hien and Junker touched them, the branches dropped and collapsed into ash. There was a bald hill in the middle of the grove and all around it we saw many peculiar stone box-like objects.

“Hey, these look like my box!” said Junker.

“What is it?” asked Hien.

“It’s a totem. Oaker said that this area is a power source for totems- it’s shaking!” When Junker took out a metal box similar to the dusty boxes on the ground from his pack drone, the box was shaking violently.

We heard multiple rattles and saw that the boxes around the hill were vibrating just like the metal box.

“Oh, no.” said Junker

The sand on the hill’s crest burst forth and three totems in their active humanoid forms leaped out and landed heavily on the top of the hill. There were multiple clankings as we heard the whirring and clicking of gears as their weaponry assembled, the totems pointing them at us. From the spot where the trees were dense, a howl pierced our ears and three beasts, half machine- half dog came running out and charged at us.

“Guys, come near me! I’ll cast haste!” I shouted at them. Shen, Hien, and Kei surrounded me. Junker was assembling his gunner bot from a distance with the speed and fluid grace of experienced hands.

Shen drew first blood, the boom from his pistol ringing through the entire grove. His bullet pierced the hide of one of the beasts, but it kept coming. The three dogs split, one bounded for Junker who stood, one of the three heavy shields that he carried on his back rising; the systems of his gunner drone loading, while two attacked Hien.

Hien drew his dual blades and locked the two pieces together. Twirling it masterfully he side-stepped the first beast that reached him, ducked the murderous claws of the second, then slashed the first beast that reached him with a back cut, but it still lived.

A drone slashed the air and a wave of violent wind rocketed towards us. It ripped through Shen.

“Ow, block!” I yelled. My pet wolf leaped and absorbed the blow.Then I finished casting. Time warped, enveloping my comrades. Their movements became quicker and so did mine. I lit a dynamite and threw it at the beasts. Flesh flew as the explosion deafened our ears for a moment. We knew the two beasts were dead.

Then we scattered to avoid getting killed together by the bombardment of the totems. With the glint of gleeful madness Kei tore an enemy with a spell of light. Shen and Hien fired and slashed at the totems, but to their surprise, their weapons did little damage to the machines.

“Eugene!” called Shen.

“I’m on it!” said Eugene, rushing to help us. He slammed his great weapon and it pierced through the armor of the totems.

We heard a crash and saw Junker’s shield ram into the remaining beast from a distance. His gunner drone fired rounds forcing the beast to shield itself.

Together we defeated our enemies. When the last totem was destroyed, there was silence. The rattling had stopped. Junker looked at his box and it too had stopped shaking like the rest. For a while no one did anything else, still alert for more enemies. After a while it seemed that all was safe.

“Treasure, treasure, treasure.” muttered Kei, then went around the hill digging holes in the sand.

The rest of us relaxed.

“What was that?” asked Shen.

“I don’t know.” said Junker.

While the others talked and kept a look out, me and Hien looted the monsters for parts we could use and we were able to dismantle one and take some metal parts. I then asked them to pose and took pictures of them drinking Allica’s potion. Then we called Kei back, who was disappointed because he didn’t find any treasure.

Monsters were a normal occurrence in places like these, and battles have become a commonplace thing.

It was getting dark. We found another path winding its way east, so our group decided to march on until we reached the stone arc that was the entrance of the ruins. It was night time when we reached it. As we approached, we heard the voices of two people. A little girl seemed to be crying, while a man was trying to soothe her.

“Who’s there?!” asked Shen sharply, drawing his gun.

Me and Junker flashed our alchemical flashlights in the direction of the voices. A little girl in a black dress was sitting in the middle of the arc weeping. A man in a white lab coat with long hair was kneeling in front of her with his hands up pleading with her to stop crying. Lying on the ground beside them were two backpacks. The man shielded his eyes when Junker flashed his light at his face.

“Who are you and what are you doing here?” Shen asked the man briskly.

" Oh, I’m training here." said the man, still shielding his face. As we came closer, I saw that he looked like he was in his thirties. “Then I found this girl, crying. I think she’s lost.”

Junker and I cared for the girl while the others interrogated the man.

“My name is Ein Liefrung. I was training in this area.”

I looked up at him, suspicious. ‘In a lab coat?’ I thought.

“Where did you come from little girl?” Junker asked.

“P-Polla” she sobbed, looking up at him. Her eyes were puffy and her nose was red.

“Wow, that’s far.” I said.

“You know that place?” asked Junker.

“Yes. It’s way up north.”

“Well, do you two have any certificates?” Junker asked Ein and the girl.

“Certificates?” repeated Ein.

“Yeah, like this one.” Junker showed them his Halophate certificate.

“Oh, yes.” said Ein. He rummaged in his pockets then took out a small card written in a language unknown to us, but the Halophate logo on it was clear. “I’m from the Halophate Guild in Aleria.”

Lucille also took out a piece of card from her bag and showed it to us. It read, ‘Dr. Lucille Alexander.’

“Wow!” we exclaimed.

Lucille was a doctor who was travelling to a place, but she forgot it’s name and where it was. Ein really did find her here and so our group decided what to do with them.

“We should take her with us.” said Junker.

“No, we’re not going to bring a child to a dangerous place.” I said.

“Ein, could you look after her?” asked Junker.

“Sure.” said Ein, surprised.

“You look like you can take care of yourself. We’ll be back.” Junker said to him and the little girl.

“We should get moving.” said Shen.

After saying good-bye to them we hiked on and came upon what looked like a quarry. The moon was already high, so we decided to camp for the night. Junker took first watch, placing his gunner drone beside him as he sat against a large boulder. Shen went to scout for a path to the tower we saw earlier which was now just a few hours march away to the east. Hien patrolled our perimeter, while Kei went in search for treasure again in the dark. I told Junker I was going to take second watch, then snuggled with Ow near the fire and went to sleep.

Junker woke me up near midnight. I patted Ow awake and we both went to where Junker’s drone still stood guard. I noticed that Lucille and Ein were in our camp. They must have followed us while I was asleep. Lucille was bent down looking at some plants at the edges of the campfire light while Hien was leaning against a rock watching her quietly. Ein was trying to sleep, but kept turning and twisting in his cot.

I sat against a boulder and took out my guitar. Ow placed his head on my lap and closed his eyes as if to sleep, but his ears were pricked up and turning every now and then at a sound I couldn’t hear. I patted his head. Shen returned, and without a word went to sleep. I began to strum my guitar softly, singing sweet nothings into the wind.

Half an hour later, Ein joined me in my watch. We talked for a while. I learned that Ein used to be a courier, but he got injured and then rested for a year. After that period he just wasn’t the same so he quit his job and through some circumstance came here to Corseria.

The monsters he’s encountered were fascinating. I asked him in a roundabout way if he’s ever heard of King Vauclain, he sais he hadn’t. I was dissapointed. I’ve asked so many people since I’ve left home, but ever since that information I received about a sighting in the Sea of Sand, my researches have turned out nothing. In the end Ein asked me if I knew a song about King Vauclain. I did in fact. The people of Sonoran composed songs af him and so did I. I sang a song I made for my father. It was a sad song. Ein listened to it quietly the whole time.

The next day we broke camp early. I was getting nervous since we had only a few days left to explore the ruins and return to Halophate. Junker and Eugene reassured me that we had enough time. After saying good-bye once more to Ein and Lucille, Shen led us to the tower which was empty. Even Kei couldn’t find anything. He and the others were gazing at the land below where a cluster of small huts lay in the north, and beyond that the sillhouette of a church, when he suddenly gave an exclamation.

“What is it?” asked Junker. “Do you see something?”

“There’s something interesting in the church.” said Kei, his eyes gleaming. “And there’s treasure in the huts.”

We came down and made our way to the huts. It was eerily silent and as we came nearer, we saw that there was a red mist surrouding the huts. Kei was becoming more and more restless, whispering, “Treasure, treasure, treasure!” loudly over and over again. Junker told us that the red mist was blood, and it’s used to attract predators. The mist also amplifies sound.

“Will you keep quiet?!” Shen hissed at Kei.

“Treasure! Treasure! Treasure!” Kei whispered again and again like a mantra.

We heard a familliar howl echo through the red mist, then everyone looked at Kei, pissed, but it was not the time to argue. We immediately climbed up one of the huts as the same type of beasts, half-machine, half-dog came bounding to the spot where we were standing just minutes before. They sniffing the ground eagerly, growling as they searched for us.

“Treasure, treasure!” said Kei.

I saw something shiny and gelatinous slide across the ground towards us. Next thing I knew, something smashed through the hut like a cannon, sending us tumbling to the ground with all the debris. I couldn’t hear anything through the crashing stones. A large slime leapt over me and enveloped Kei’s head who was behind me. He tumbled down. The white blob’s transparent insides blossomed red and I knew that it was eating Kei’s head on the spot.

Through the dust I saw and heard the beasts snarling and yowling at our direction. We retaliated. I threw dynamite at the hounds as Shen, Junker, and Eugene slashed and bashed them. Hien slashed the blob and it came off Kei, then attacked again. It took us an intense half-hour to destroy them all. After that, and after drinking a potion, Kei just went off and looked for treasure again. I actually forgot my anger towards him when I and Hien found a new type of alchemical ingredient called “spice” from the slime. I told the others that we should look for more slimes since, according to the alchemy book I borrowed from the guild, spices can be used to create cures for physical and mental aillments.

I asked the guys to pose again with Alica’s potions and took their pictures.

“Jackie, why don’t you pose? Come over here.” said Junker.

“Oh.” I thought that if my picture started circulating in public, my mother, the queen, would know where I was and then that’s good-bye to my wonderful life. “No, someone has to take the pictures.” I said.

“Let him do it.” said Junker, pointing at Kei, who actually came back victorious with another lost relic in hand.

“Yeah.” said Shen.

“No, I don’t want anyone else to use Alica’s camera. Do you know what would happen if I broke it?” I added, even though the morning before we left I asked Somma if he could enchant the camera to be durable, and he said that it already was and proved it by bashing it with his fist. It didn’t even get a dent.

“You’d be in debt.” said Shen.

“Yes. Do you know how scary that is?”

In the end, Hien posed for me. We continued our exploration up north and after climbing a hill, we found ourselves in front of the church.

“Guys, I need someone to pose for me. Hien, do you want me to take a picture of your back?”

“Okay.” said Hien, shrugging.

I sat on the ground to take a worm’s-eye-view picture so that the entire church could be seen and clicked. The camera flashed then spewed out the photo. I looked at it-my hair stood on end-a ghost was standing beside Hien.

“Guys there’s a ghost!” I blurted.

They all looked at me.

“It’s standing beside Hien!” I said pointing. I looked at my picture again, and to my shock the ghost disappeared from the photo. “What? . . . It disappeared. . .”

“I will purify this place!” cried Kei. Kei began chanting words unknown to me. He was enveloped in a warm glow of golden light. Sometimes I can’t believe this perverted crazy mage had good magic in him. He released the spell, and at that moment, a heavy feeling was lifted from my shoulders, something I never noticed, and I could breathe easier.

Believing the evil spirirts in the church were vanquished, we entered the dilapidated building. I noticed some candles on an altar that were leaning to the side. I thought the wind may have bent them, then Junker, who was looking at the candles too, pushed them. We heard multiple clicking sounds. I thought it was a bomb and ran out of the church. The others just stayed, then I peered through the ruined doorway and saw that the altar was parting, it’s stone slabs grazing the floor to reveal a dark narrow underground passageway. The others were excited and they immediately descended the passageway. I stood rooted to the spot.

“Jackie?” Junker asked, looking back at me. He must have seen my nervous expression. "What’s wrong?

“I-I’m sorry guys, I don’t like closed spaces . . . They give me panic attacks. Especially since there’s a lot of people. . .”

My teammates looked at each other.

“Well, let’s not force her guys.” said Junker. “Here.” he added as an after thought. He set up his gunner drone beside me.

“Thanks.” I said.

They all descended and me and Ow were left alone. I thought of the monsters and wanted to be in a good position to fight if ever some turned up. There was a balcony in the church, so I climbed up and told Ow to keep a lookout. Junker’s gunner drone followed me.
After a while I heard Junker’s voice echoing up the passage asking if I was fine. I said I was. The minutes passed slowly by and I wondered if they were okay.

“I pray that my teammates will be alright. And that they won’t fight.” I prayed to the god of the church.

“Suuuuure.” said a deep voice behind me.

I whirled around in alarm, gripping my guitar. No one was there.

“WHO’S THERE?!” I shouted. “I HAVE A GUITAR!! AND I HAVE DYNAMITE!!!” I was almost out of my mind with fear. “WHO’S THERE?!” I repeated. There was no reply. “Ow, find this joker!” I said angrily to my pet. Ow sniffed around, but he didn’t seem to find anything. Then I heard soft “wooooooo” coming from below the balcony.

“WHO’S THERE?!” I repeated. “I have dynamite!”

Suddenly Kei popped up from the stairs and I realized he was trying to sneak up on me and that it was he who was saying, “Wooo.”

I slapped him in the face. “Are you CRAZY?!” I yelled at him. “I COULD HAVE KILLED YOU!! I was ready to throw dynamite at you and Junker’s drone could have shot you!”

He looked annoyed that I slapped him and just muttered. “Shen wants to borrow the camera.”

“What for?” I asked, my anger subsiding.

“There’s a mural in there. He needs to take a picture of it.” he said in the same monotone.

“Okay.” I said. As I took off the camera strap, the camera suddenly leapt from my hand and the same deep voice filled the church laughing. The camera was bobbing in the air above the pews.

“Catch it if you caaaaan!” teased the deep voice. Kei immediately went after it. I was paralyzed, then all of a sudden I thought if that camera broke and Alica charges insanely high prices, how much would I have to repay her?! I chose to face the ghost than be in Alica’s debt.

“Hey, stop it!” I yelled at the invisible ghost.

Me and Kei tried to snatch the camera but we missed. Then I flanked it as Kei tried again and this time I was able to latch on the strap, but it was like the camera was stuck in the air, then the ghost started swinging it around with me holding on to it.

“Hahaha!” boomed the ghost. “Isn’t this fuuuun?!”

“Stop iiiiiit!” I yelled, as it swung me around.

“Okay.” said the ghost suddenly and dropped me abruptly. " You don’t know what you’re missing down there." it said in jolly humour. I didn’t care. I gave Kei the camera and he went down. The sooner they take that picture the sooner the guys would come back. After a few more jibes, the ghost became quiet and I had this feeling that it actually left. I was still scared and annoyed so I just stood rooted to the spot listening with my dynamite ready.

The guys came back and I told them what happened. They didn’t think the ghost was a threat and immediately changed topic by showing me the pictures of the mural they took. It was actually interesting. It was about a lady who was crowned with a crescent moon who was being worshipped by what looked like villagers of the ruined town, but among the crowd there was a man who stood higher than the rest. I knew it meant something, but I didn’t know what it was.

It was almost sunset when we arrived back to the tower. Ein and Lucille greeted us and we camped together for the night. The only interesting thing that happened was Junker setting off one of Alica’s flares so that I could take a picture of him using it. After that we journeyed together with our two new friends back to Halophate. And that was the end of our adventure in the Southern Ruins.

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