Home » , , , , » Setting Sun Vol. I [Teaser] by Joshua K. H. Murray

Setting Sun Vol. I [Teaser] by Joshua K. H. Murray

The world of Nebulan has managed to capture my fastidious mind, an accomplishment that cannot be overlooked. I have seen many things in my long years as a scientist, but no experience or finding has demanded my attention as this place and its people do.
Setting Sun Vol. I [Teaser]
Setting Sun Vol. I [Teaser] by Joshua K. H. Murray
Their world is most unlike our planet. One distinction is their lack of water. As all of you should have already been taught, the Earth holds an approximate 80 percent of open water; however, Nebulan carries only 20 percent. The differential ratio between land mass and bodies of water is reversed when compared to ours. This is because, while Earth has many oceans, Nebulanians could only discover one ocean located adjacent to their mass of land. In fact, most of Nebulan’s denizens had to dig wells to maintain a healthy water supply. But there is more than geographic difference in Nebulan. The inhabitants within this world are quite different than we are, as well. One difference is their unique way of aging. Each Nebulanian is born with two wide markings, stretching across their cheeks to the corners of their mouth and thinning toward the area like the lining from a paintbrush. The color of these markings varies by the person’s age. Now, its colors do not provide an exact age but show instead the ranks of their age. The stages are as follows: These markings are known as either Sacred Markings or Age Lines. They are a necessity to determine one’s age simply because with a Nebulanian, you never know. Though it is rare, they can sometimes have abnormal spurts of growth that make it difficult to discern how old they truly are. Just because they may have the body of a certain age, without reading the colors of the markings, it is impossible to deduce with confidence. You see, some Nebulanians' bodies mature very quickly, some very slowly, and the recorded growth rate is sporadic—it all depends on the single Nebulanian in question. In knowing this, I can say it’s possible that mere toddlers could grow to have the body of someone in their twenties, and in turn, people in their elder years could appear like preschool kids. It is for this reason the Sacred Markings are also called Age Lines. So far, it seems to be the only thing that allows a Nebulanian to determine one’s age effectively. No matter the age, though, their bodies remain young for their entire lives—the oldest I’ve ever been able to record seemed to be in their late twenties. Upon further studies, I can say it would not be an exaggeration to claim they are capable of living forever. Desiring to broaden my knowledge on this subject, I threw caution to the wind, and despite how fervently the Hunters advised me not to, I interviewed a Nebulanian on the matter. When we broached the bit about aging, he had many things to say that only served to pique my interest all the more. Below is a dialogue of my discussion with this being: “Thank you for agreeing to this anonymous questionnaire. I’ll try not to take up much of your time. I would like to talk about your lifespan as a Nebulanian.” “That’s a pretty broad subject. We don’t have a set number per se.” “Then it is true that you do have a limit? It’s true you do not live forever?” “It’s…complicated. We get the choice to end our lives or not. My father was three hundred fifty-four years old when he decided to end his.” “Oh, dear…” “It’s not in the way you think. Technically, we don’t do anything save accept the Divine Invitation. It’s the most peaceful way to go, if you ask me.” “Divine Invitation?” “Yes. It is said to happen when our lives have reached fulfillment and a messenger sent by our God approaches us with an invitation in their hand. When we sign our names in the space below it, we are taken in to Paradise. But it’s totally consensual; we get to choose whether or not to sign it. And its not like it’s a “now or never” deal. The angel leaves the letter with the Nebulanian, and they are allowed to sign it whenever they are ready to leave. Though to stay… that comes with a cost.” “Please go on.” “To avoid overpopulation, anyone who chooses to stay longer will never be able to bear a child afterwards. To stay means you would never impregnate again.” Fascinating. Simply fascinating. Just when I thought my obsession for them had reached its optimal power over me, it expanded to new levels. With every discovery, my hunger for another grew in the pit of my being. I had to know more! I noted the Nebulanian I summoned for this meeting was a little on edge at first, though I hadn’t blamed such a reaction. Normally, humans were quick to label these magnificent creatures as their enemy, and on many occasions, hunted the poor folk down as monsters. The Hunters were certainly no exception. I was glad though to see this subject’s shoulders finally relax. After several minutes of questions concerning their culture, he seemed to calm down. Surely, he must have seen the wonder in my eyes as he spoke of his world. Perhaps he determined I was not like the other close-minded humans out there. Maybe he saw that I meant him the exact opposite of harm. My goal to learn more and his awareness of my amiable fascination served to help us reach new levels in our discussions. Now I have confirmation that, other than just age identifiers, their markings indeed work as a signal. It is believed by their kind that the markings connected the Nebulanians in powerful ways to their “Almighty”. This aspect of their markings is considered a sacred blessing; thus, this explains the other title known as Sacred Markings. They believed their Gift—a term used to explain their unique powers given to each Nebulanian—was given to them through their markings. They also believe it was their God’s Omniscient capability pouring selectively through the markings that allow them to understand every language known to creation, along with the ability to connect to each other and perform a telepathic communication called Sacred Speech. However, the communication could link only two in-range Nebulanians and only allows them to do so when both would will such an action. We even concerned the wildlife in our chat. I’ve come to find that most of the animals are exactly like Earth’s except for one crucial detail: every animal on Nebulan would eat from the grass. Only Nebulanians are considered omnivores. Some Nebulanians even keep the most ferocious animals known on Earth as pets! Truly peculiar! When I pressed for what his religion was, he had no name for it. That stumped me for quite awhile, but in retrospect, I can now comprehend why. All of Nebulan shares the same belief, so there is no need to label it. There are no sects, just one faith shared in unity. Like the Bible, they have documents they refer to, as well. But while the Bible is said to be written by men of God, these two books are believed to be written by His angels. The first book is called Eternal Truth and was written with infinite knowledge that simply could not be contained normally. With every page flipped, another page would materialize at the back of the book. It is unending. And it could not be held by just anyone. Only Nebulanians held in high regard in Heaven could open its cover; any other being would never be able to pry it open. My anonymous friend continued to talk with me and then told me of a Nebulanian named Jonathan who was called to use his Gift to make this book flip to the pages the bearer needed to read. The next book, The Book of Things to Come prophesies the end of days and how Nebulan—and planet Earth—would soon rely on the Anointed and the Chosens of Revelations. I didn’t know how to react to this final subject. I am only a believer of science after all, and this continual talk of angels and demons unnerved me a bit. I didn't consider these celestial beings as real, but behind every fabrication, there is a truth that caused birth to the legends. Whether it was from God or not, these Nebulanians do indeed have powers beyond my comprehension. Some being or energy of some sort gave them this strength, and that is why I found it very difficult to dismiss this man’s belief of how the world would end. Be it God, or demon, or another alien we have yet to discover, something is coming here, and I fear we cannot hope to be prepared for it… ******* Chapter 1 The Dream of a Nightmare to Come The sixteen-year-old's chocolate-brown eyes scanned wildly from where he stood. The scenery was unfamiliar. Its magenta mist surrounded him, glowing from the small specks of light inside it and shining like the very stars in space. The young man gave a glare of contempt into the depths of the unknown atmosphere. This place was not home, and while it did indeed have a serene countenance, it seemed unresponsive—sleeping. No, this was not his planet—not Nebulan. Nebulan thrived with life, yet this place was empty, extinguished. While all life seemed barren, Jet could still feel conflict amidst the atmosphere. As the clouds emanated a warm light of hope, the endless abyss Jet stood upon remained breathlessly silent and portrayed a bitter despair beneath. Each essence seemed to fight for dominion and clashed against the other. Strangely, though, the place seemed more like home to the Nebulanian than his own planet. He knew this conflicting essence all too well. The boy, though never seeing it until now, had always felt the abyss of that same despair. Despite the seemingly barren world, a voice called out, echoing within the empty abyss. “Jet?” the voice called within the haze of clouds as a shrouded image calmly neared the boy. Jet stood very still as his gaze glued onto the four-legged silhouette. Despite the blurry image amidst the clouds, a golden star was easily noticeable, causing Jet’s eyes to widen in a bewildered frenzy. It can’t be…there’s no way. As the being soon was within a few feet away, there was no denying the truth. A…Moon Wolf… “Jet,” it called again, earning a look of awe this time as it spoke his name. “Do you know why you are here?” After receiving nothing but a small shake of Jet’s head, the pup continued, “You’re here because of the power sleeping inside you—because of the impact you will have on this universe.” Jet’s lips fell to a frown of trepidation. “Wait, what do you mean by 'impact'…? And just who are you?” The pup’s coat of fur was dark blue. It had a bushy, gray tail; pointed, gray ears; and paws covered in white. Its eyes were amber-yellow and displayed a serious gaze toward the baffled teenager before speaking again in its usual voice, which resembled a gleeful child. “My name is Warpup. I’ve come to give you a message of the utmost importance. A divine war is soon to begin. The Keeper of Hell will come to corrupt this world. His servants, the Dark Demons, will come and attempt to devour the light of all things.” Jet stood there, his mouth gaping, trying to find some words to respond to such a horrible thought. “B-but there’s no way…Nebulan’s always been protected.” Warpup gritted his teeth in disapproval. So she still hasn’t told him. This was going to make things difficult. If the princess still kept the past hidden from the people, it was going to be very hard to explain all of what was really going on. The pup narrowed his gaze, distraught over all of the secrecy. There was no excuse for this. “That’s beside the point. Regardless of how long it has been protected in the past, it won’t be for much longer!” The pup gave a troubled sigh. Maybe it was time he gave Jet some good news. “As I have previously mentioned, power sleeps within you.” The world Jet was in had flashed before his eyes, and he soon found himself gazing in horror at the world now before him. It resembled nothing but the sheer epitome of death. Jet stood upon the edge of the roof of a tattered palace, gazing with wide eyes at the dry ground, naked-and-rotting trees, and the blood-red sky above it all. “W-what is…?” Warpup approached Jet’s side while he was gazing at the ruin in front of them, grinning not at the sight but for the truth hidden beneath. “For an entire year, your Gift has been growing in strength. It will soon be set free, and we believe your true power alone can destroy the demons.” Jet’s face fell silently as Warpup continued to speak in an enthusiastic voice, “For you are the prophesied Anointed and hold the future of all things. Soon the entire universe, along with the six others, will look to you and to the Gift dwelling inside you.” “So…” there was something in Jet’s voice demanding Warpup’s gaze. The boy’s face had fallen to the ground. His expression was hidden, but the emotion he felt came through to Warpup clearly. For some strange reason, the Nebulanian was terrified. “In other words…you believe that only my power can stop this from happening, right?” Not once through that question did Jet move his gaze from the cemented ground. Warpup didn’t answer and only growled quietly in irritation. It was a mistake to show him the believed outcome if he should fail. I knew Jet wanted power, but ever since that day, he just doesn’t believe in his own strength anymore… It was clear to Jet as to why he felt nostalgic after seeing this area. This was Nebulan…what was left of it, anyway. Obviously, this was the supposed future should he fail. After the long silence, Jet quietly spoke. “I don’t want it…” Warpup gave first a surprised then desperate gaze. “But, Jet! You have to! You’ve been selected to be the Anointed!” Jet’s eyes flared in both anger and slight fear. “You don’t understand! Why pick me? There are millions of others who would be better for the job! Ask someone else! I’m...” Jet hesitated, despising the conflicting thoughts, “... I’m just not enough!” Warpup was hurt deeply to see how far the boy’s belief in his own self fell. It was that stupid school that led Jet into feeling so insecure! Tears filled in Warpup’s eyes as he whined, “No! It is you who does not understand! This was decided long before your birth! Burner,” he softly growled, his eyes pleading. “Only you can be the Anointed, there can be no other!” Immediately after the wolf finished its emotional response, Jet was about to reply, but a loud, deep, ongoing, rhythmic alarm suddenly erupted beside him, causing him to turn and look for the noise. He widened his eyes as he looked back to Warpup who had begun to somehow float away as the area grew pitch black. Warpup looked toward the boy who was chasing after him futilely. It had taken a little while for Warpup to register all that occurred, but when he did, his desperate eyes seemed to reach for Jet. No! Not now! It can’t end like this! “Jet! Jet!” he called frantically to the Nebulanian below him. “You mustn’t lose faith! You must believe in yourself!” Warpup! Wait! Wait! Jet’s eyes slowly opened groggily. His black world soon lightened to find the surroundings different and sickeningly familiar. This was the REAL world—his planet Nebulan in its true form. He found himself too deep in thought to take note of the ongoing screech playing from the alarm clock. He gave an unenthusiastic snicker as Warpup’s last words played in the back of his head. Believe in myself, huh? he thought as he stared dully at the ceiling fan’s cycling blades. I wonder… He narrowed his eyes.... just how long has it been since I’ve been able to do that. Jet rose drowsily from his bed. He placed his finger down on the button to silence the irritating chatter of the alarm. His eyes found the time and narrowed bitterly in response. It read, "8:05," in green digital format. Despite his powerless state, he had a knack for certain things—such as sleeping through the alarm for thirty minutes straight. School had started every day at eight o’clock, and Jet was used to the routine: wake up thirty minutes late, freak out, get harassed by his family, and receive a notice of being tardy—nothing out of the ordinary. But Jet had not been the only one who noticed the time; downstairs, just below his bedroom, his mother watched the clock in disappointment with her daughter. Christiane’s brown eyes fell from the clock on the wall and directed them to her mother. “Can I now?” she whined. The mother debated for a while longer. Her daughter was only doing what she would have done herself in that age—trying to be the responsible one. She couldn’t rightly accuse her of what she would have done herself. It seemed they were similar in more than just their names. Though while there was at least a one-letter distinction in their titles, Christiana had yet to find a single difference in personality. Her eyes found the clock once more. Christiana had a meeting to go to soon. She had left for work at the usual six in the morning with her husband but had to return home. She had forgotten an important document that she had been working so hard on, and as a result, she had found herself back home with her children. Jet was getting to be a problem. She had the document in her hands, and the meeting requiring such documents was soon to begin. She had to leave. Christiane was right; she couldn’t deal with Jet right now. She simply didn’t have the time for other activities. She sighed in submission upon hearing her daughter’s request. “Fine." She watched as Christiane’s eyes grew bright and quickly added, “But not if he’s out of his bed already.” And with that, Christiana rushed out the door as Christiane rushed up the steps, stopping at the first golden-brown door just across the top of the stairs. She cracked it just enough to peer inside, frowning as she saw Jet’s feet on the ground. Not if he’s out of his bed already, the words of her mother echoed. Well, technically, he was still sitting on his bed. It’s not like he’s out of bed. The idiot was just sitting on his mattress, keeping his gaze on the carpeted floor in some type of daze. She watched as his eyelids closed. She smiled mischievously as she saw her chance then opened the door all the way to scream at the top of her lungs, “Time to get up!” She had inhaled a deep breath to make a high note on the word up, her octaves reaching abnormal levels, which soon squealed like the edge of nails scraping against glass. Jet had made the mistake in reflecting just for a second on the dream he had, his eyes growing wide from the sound of the feared voice. He managed to only get up and grab his blue pillows as her deep inhale was released in the word up. He clenched the pillow tight around his ears. Upon seeing the crevices formed in the glass objects within in his room, he wisely threw his pillow down. He dove into the covers of his bed, keeping his distance from the materials, such as his spherical overhead light, his TV across from the end of the bed, his glass window behind the side of his bed, and miscellaneous glass cups on the top of his dresser near the crackling window. It was not much longer until the glass in his room gave way to the cry and shattered simultaneously, filling the air in a sparkling display as the shards shot out from each other. As soon as the noise came to a stop, Jet threw the covers off and glared at his sister. “What is your problem???” he barked. “I was up!” Christiane had watched in trepidation as she saw the tiny pieces of glass fall to the ground. She must have overdone it again. Honestly, she was finding it hard to control the octaves of her squeals. Normally, in any other family, this accident would result in a strict punishment, but when you have a dad that can rewind movement, there wasn’t much to be concerned about in that department, only the worry of her actually hurting her brother was the result. She loved to annoy Jet and tease him a bit…but she never wanted to hurt him. Her worry was soon replaced by surprise. The covers around her brother shoved off, causing her to jolt in response. After hearing him say he was up, she placed her hands on her hips. “You were going back to sleep!” she argued. Jet let out an aggravated sigh. It was the same old, same old. She always managed to come at the worst times. “Just forget it!” he snapped, then snarled, “Why Lord Adonai gave you powers is a mystery!” And why He gave it to her so prematurely was another frustration all together. Here she was only ten years of age, with a power she shouldn’t have until six more years! And here Jet was, still powerless and pathetic. It’s almost been a year since he should have received his Gift. It wasn’t fair, and her blatantly using her power around him didn’t make things any better. Christiane glared. She understood it was hard for him to be so abnormal, but saying that she didn’t deserve her powers was going too far. “You’re just jealous! I’ll bet you stay powerless your entire life! So, tell me, how does it feel to be a day close to seventeen without powers?” she watched in satisfaction as Jet glared at the comment. Her words were getting to him. Victory belonged to her! “It’s all because you don’t deserve Lord Adonai’s Gift!” Oh whoa…talk about going too far. She only realized her words after speaking them. Almost immediately after the lashing, she felt the pang of guilt creep in. Jet’s gaze had fallen as he stared down quietly. “Jet, I didn’t mean—” he heard his sister try to say only for him to interrupt with a voice interlaced with pain and fury. "Get out!" Jet heard her footsteps leave the room as she quietly obeyed his request. He shook off the intense emotions and set about to prepare for the day, dressing himself in casual jeans and a short-sleeve, black T-shirt after taking his shower and brushing his teeth. Afterward, his brother Sket blocked him from the stairs once again. While Sket was a twin, he wasn't completely identical to Jet anymore. Instead of solid brown hair, he had dyed-blonde highlights on the top lengths of his bangs. Sket said he liked the look, but Jet wasn’t born yesterday. He knew the real reason for Sket dying his hair. As twins, he was always mistaken as Jet, and this was his answer for that problem. Jet growled as he futilely tried to find a way past his brother. Why Sket all of the sudden loved to be late for school was beyond him…unless of course, it was just to pick on him. After all, his brother would not be the first so hell-bent to tease him. By now, it had become an abnormality to have just one person not belittle him. “Move already! I need to get to school!” he yelled impatiently. “Race ya down!” Only a blur could be seen as Sket raced down the steps, then out the door at bullet speed. Jet slumped down the stairway and out the door—now alone on his walk to school—his mood foul and bitter. He might as well just call himself an Earthian! Now, between the Sacred Markings given to him and the beautiful world of Nebulan, there really was so much to be thankful for, but Jet just couldn’t seem to get past the one thing he didn’t receive from Lord Adonai—his Gift. It was believed by the Nebulanians that every being is given an ability that helps them accomplish their desire—that at the age of sixteen He grants everyone with a power… but yet Jet… he received no power whatsoever… no Gift. It’s all because you don’t deserve Lord Adonai’s Gift! Was that really the case; was his sister right? He wanted so badly to throw that repulsive thought aside, but for now it was his only explanation. Am I just trash… Is it me? Do I even deserve a Gift…? Ask someone else! I’m... Jet had hesitated, despising the conflicting thoughts.... I’m just not enough! It felt so real—his dream… He shook his head profusely. It was a dream and nothing more! He remained in that state of mind until the warmth of his markings grew as they brightened into a soft glow. No, my son, you must believe. Focus on your dream and its valued words. Jet stood there frozen in shock. There was no doubt their God had just spoken to him; the warmth he felt from his markings was proof enough… Nostalgia struck him as a side of him, which was burdened by the continuous rejection received at school, accepted the idea of being given a Gift. But another side of him, fearing and doubting his own capability, disliked the thought that the entire world depended on him and the choices he was to make. It was amazing how just one year could change someone so drastically. There had been a time when Jet could have easily welcomed a challenge with open arms—a time when Jet had great faith in his capabilities. But now, after feeling the sting of disapproval—after experiencing the rejection of the school, he wasn’t so sure of himself anymore. His confidence in himself shattered, and after the loathsome experience, his subconscious grew to hate his being. By now, he would shudder at just the thought of someone depending on him—the boy who could get nothing right! Jet clenched the black strap on his book bag. It was obvious the message given to him was important, but at this point…he had to wonder why their God chose such a hopeless creation. Still, a side of him kept hoping for a Gift—desiring to take back the reputation he once had in school. But the solution to his previous problem led to dealing with all the conflict in the world. These complex thoughts raced in his mind as he kept his eyes glued to the ground—time forgotten as his eyes kept on the grass, lost in a heavy contemplative struggle. Do you not trust in your God...? Jet’s eyes widened. Again, the very Creator of all things spoke to him. The tone of his Father’s voice ripped at Jet’s heart. His comforting yet firm gaze flew to the sky. NO! I trust You… I’ll always trust You! You’ve given me no reason not to. I believe in You with all my being! His gaze faltered back to the ground. I just…don’t trust in myself. It was quiet—the wind staying eerily silent, not daring to interrupt such a talk. Jet’s gaze fell to his opened hands, glaring lightly at them in disapproval as time slowly went by. You speak lies. Jet’s eyes widened then shot his gaze back up. I lie not! he cried, I meant every—but he was interrupted from his response as the voice of Lord Adonai bellowed, Don’t be a fool! Jet flinched as the wind picked up to high speeds, the trees falling victim to its vigor. The wind soon subsided, unlike Jet’s heartbeat, which still pounded furiously in response. A moment of silence fell between the two, leaving Jet to his deep breaths. It was at that moment Jet felt the familiar warmth grow against him again. This time, however, the soothing warmth had not just grown on his markings but had submerged around his entire self. It was as if his Father had actually reached out and embraced him. Jet closed his eyes peacefully, his frantic pulse slowing to a steady beat. God spoke again, His voice a soft whisper. My child… For you to trust in the Creator, you must trust in yourself. Jet’s eyes opened in shock of the truth before him. He looked toward the sky with a speechless gaze. For you to love the Creator, you must love what He creates. I am the one who made you—I have given this purpose to you. And I, in whom you say you have faith and love, now ask of you to have faith in My judgment. How will you answer to My decision? The very presence of the Almighty had purified his unfaithful thoughts and the words previously spoken had opened Jet’s eyes to a brighter world, a much more peaceful mentality—God had picked him. He could’ve picked any other child of Nebulan for the prophecy, but He picked him. Jet could almost laugh at the previously doubtful side of himself. He was a child of God. How dare he even think for a second that he wasn’t worthy enough for attention? If that hadn’t been enough, he was chosen by God, Himself, to be the Anointed. He smiled brightly, looking back up at the clouds with renewed eyes of faith as he gave a nod and smiled. You are the One who makes no mistakes… I will abide by your will. The warmth grew to an even higher level as Jet felt the smile of God shining down on him. I’m glad you have chosen My way. Lord Adonai’s warmth faded as Jet felt His solemn gaze. However, it is easier to agree with Me during times of peace. When turmoil comes, you must keep the faith you feel now. Never forget this moment. The fates of the people on this planet depend on it. Now go and focus on the dream’s precious words. A dark figure in a green cape watched the child known as Jet from the shadows of a cursed world. “He has received the words from Lord Adonai,” he said, his voice devoid of any emotion. Another man’s slender yet strong figure gave a slight sigh before replying in a silky and smooth voice. “So one of the seven hindrances is soon to awaken.” The figure watched as the green-caped being gave a calm nod. “Indeed… What are your orders, my lord?” The slender figure stood from his spot. “Tell your master of this news.” His eyes narrowed in rage and amusement. “The fool of a God can only speak once to only one of the Chosens. He no longer has a means of contacting the boy to warn him of our attack.“ “I want you to take Gabren, Murdor, and Kila as your subordinates. Sin lives in all beings, my pet…that sin lives even so in the hearts of all Nebulanians. Gather their transgressions once more and destroy Nebulan’s infernal barrier once and for all.” “But what of the Divinity? Is he not Lord Adonai’s trump card? Will he not be able to tell the boy of our invasion?” The slender figure gave a sly smile. “That obstacle was crossed long ago. He, along with other Divinities, was sealed by Ion’s power. Now, go and prepare your group.” The slender silhouette watched the green-cloaked creature give another bow in response and hover away. When the figure was completely alone, he stepped down from his throne, toward the edges of a sea of neon violet, of which the other figure had been staring into. The sea rippled vigorously. Through its tremors, an image of one golden accessory, became evident within the murky water. “Heaven’s Bracelet—without this the Chosens cannot fully awaken.” The water trembled once more, replacing the image of the bracelet with Jet leaning against a tree, looking down in deep thought. “So, Anointed,” the man’s lips slowly rose to an amused smile, “how will you do it? Will you dare to take back the bracelet?” Jet obeyed the last words God gave him and fell deep into his own thoughts that surrounded his previous dream. He remembered Warpup’s words perfectly. The problem was, the dream's totality brought a frightening message—Warpup’s words allowed Jet to assume that the reason he was going to be given a Gift was to fight these demons mentioned in the dream. “Dark Demons.” Lord Adonai spoke his last words. He was incapable of providing anymore answers for Jet. This, too, was in a well-told prophesy—that the markings of only one could bear the intense yet limited presence of Lord Adonai; any more than that limit resulted in that Nebulanian’s death. But if the Almighty couldn’t answer him any longer, how was he to find the answers? “Hey, Jet!” The abrupt noise caused all of Jet’s muscles to tense, his eyes locking onto the boy’s ocean blue ones. He sighed in relief. Just Clyde. The boy had wavy-blonde hair and bore fangs. All Gifts were given through the markings of the Nebulanian; some provided an element the Nebulanian’s could manipulate or cast, and others also spurred a transformation in physical appearance. Clyde’s unique Gift granted him with grape-purple wings and a tail, each like that of a dragon. Jet glared lightly at his only friend. “Just what are you trying to pull, Clyde?” he wheezed. “You nearly gave me a heart attack,” Jet breathed roughly. Clyde smiled apologetically after witnessing Jet’s reaction. “Sorry, but ya seemed so deep in thought. Something on your mind?” Jet smiled in appreciation, but when he opened his mouth to confide in his friend, he only closed it tightly again. To reveal such a problem, wouldn’t that only involve his friend in the same danger he now faced? No, he simply couldn’t tell Clyde. However, the task of shaking off Clyde’s investigational skills wasn’t going to be easy. Clyde always cared so much about Jet’s conflicts. And even if Jet kept it secret from him, he’d try so hard to figure it out, so he could be some help for his downtrodden friend. Sure enough, as Clyde witnessed Jet fall back into thought, he raised a brow. Something kept his friend from confiding in him. What was the number-one thing that Jet had trouble with most and was comfortable talking to him about? Bingo! Clyde’s widened eyes narrowed suspiciously. “Is it her?” Jet sighed. He and his friend went through this question almost daily. And usually, yes, it would be her on his mind. He just couldn’t believe how abruptly they had left him—she and her brother. Where did they have to go so urgently? And why have they remained there for so long? This time, though, his thoughts were on something much more ominous… As mentioned before: Clyde wasn’t the type of guy to leave a friend to worry. If he said no to the problem being her, Clyde would ask more questions until he understood the real problem. It would only be a matter of time before Jet cracked. So Jet put on his mask. “I miss her…” He sighed deeply. “It’s been close to a year. I know she’s got big responsibilities—being who she is and all, but just what could take almost a whole year of her attention?” Clyde sighed irritably. “She’s needed elsewhere. We just have to be patient, that’s all. I’m sure she misses you, too, though.” Clyde’s eyes narrowed. “Now, give me the real reason why you’re so lost in thought.” H-he knows?! …No…keep up the act just in case. “What?” Jet asked in a stupor. “That is the real reason. Why else wouldn’t it be?” Jet asked, his lips curving down to a confused frown. Clyde grinned. “You're one heck of an actor, Jet, but you are not going to fool me so easily. When asked what was wrong, you opened your mouth then closed it again. You hesitated…something you never do with me when your problems are because of her.” Now Jet was beginning to understand. Clyde was playing with him. The very second he asked Jet if it was her, he had it all planned. Should Jet answer him with no, Clyde would’ve asked more questions on what it had been, but should Jet say it was her, he’d know that Jet was hiding something. Jet grinned, to Clyde’s displeasure. While it had all been a successful attempt at psyching him out and finding how deep a secret Jet had borne in his mind, Jet had already planned on his friend doing something like this. Unfortunately for his friend, Jet had a retort saved, just in case Clyde tried to psyche him out. “So tell me,” Jet began with a smirk, "why are you so late in getting to school?” Jet watched in amusement as Clyde forcefully widened his eyes. “I’m late?” he asked in an overly-forced, horrified tone. Jet laughed. “Clyde, unlike me, you’re a horrible actor…” Clyde only stared in wonder. H-he’s laughing? Jet stopped laughing as he caught his friend’s stare and looked back seriously. “Besides, you’re not the type of person who doesn’t know the time. You don't get perfect attendance for nothing.” Clyde cringed as Jet continued, “So tell me… why do I get the feeling you weren’t waiting here just to meet me?” After receiving a hesitating grin from his friend, Jet spoke again. “What aren’t you telling me, Clyde?” Clyde looked away awkwardly from his friend’s suspicious gaze. “You’re so weird at times. What makes you say I know something you don’t?” He smiled mischievously. “Even if I do, you have your secrets, and I have mine. It seems fair.” An impressive comeback. He quickly read Jet’s counter and then countered that counter by saying, “I’ll tell you mine if you tell me yours." Though Jet doubted greatly that his involvement in Clyde’s secret would be more costly than the involvement he would put Clyde into, and that counter, although brilliantly thought up, had a fault. Jet folded his arms and gave a light glare. “And you actually think I don’t know what the secret involves,” he said, almost offended, Clyde’s figure becoming tense as he spoke his next words. “The fact that you’re not rushing for school tells me that the secret itself has to do with school.” Clyde opened his mouth to speak, but Jet interrupted. “And before you say you still won’t tell, keep in mind I don’t need you to.” Jet turned his back to his friend. “I’ll go myself and see with my own eyes.” It was then Jet heard the horrified cry of his friend, “No, Jet, wait!” Clyde caught Jet’s shoulder and spun him around. “You can’t go over there right now.” What was with those eyes? They seemed so desperate—so scared. An awkward silence fell upon the two. Clyde watched in concern as his friend’s gaze fell to the ground. There was only one person capable of causing that much dread to Clyde’s eyes. His friend was once strong and confident, as well, but there was one person that had besmirched his name. “It’s him, isn’t it?” Clyde’s eyes widened in surprise. “I’ll never forget what he did to you.” Clyde’s gaze softened as he recalled the humiliating and painful defeat he experienced. “What…happened to you because of me…” “Stop right there!” Clyde yelled, causing Jet to give a little jolt in surprise. “That wasn’t your fault. That was my battle to fight. I wanted so badly for things to return the way they were—for you to return the way you once were, and yet I failed to win by their terms.” “Regardless…” Jet’s gaze rose back to Clyde as he shot a determined gaze. “As of today, I will make up for that incident.” Clyde stood there speechless—half because of the amazing difference he saw in Jet’s attitude and the other half because of the tone in his voice. A part of him, a small, tiny part, thought Jet was going to face Electro alone. But that was absurd! Even Jet had his limits. However, to Clyde’s great bewilderment, Jet had turned his back to him once more. Clyde had only been able to grab the back of his shirt and pull gently before Jet had walked away. “Wait!” he beckoned. “You aren’t seriously planning—" Jet did not fight off Clyde’s pull. He bent his head back down and breathed a reply. “I must do this, Clyde. I know it’s hard for you to understand, but this is something I feel I have to do.” "Why!" Clyde screamed in frustration. “Just what is it you’re trying to prove? I told you back then that I had your back, and I meant it!” Jet pulled himself away from Clyde’s grip, pivoting back as he faced Clyde once more. His friend’s gaze pleaded with him not to go through with it—horrified at the thought of Jet turning and running from his attending side. “You can’t keep fighting my trials. They’re mine to bear…not yours.” Clyde performed an involuntary reach for his friend as he saw Jet begin to run. Jet soon stopped, his back still facing his only friend. “Should I fall, though, I’ll depend on you to pick me back up.” When Jet had approached the school, he gazed at the sight before him in disapproval. The mechanical gates that were usually kept closed during school hours were malfunctioning by an unknown neon blue surge; knowing Electro’s power, Jet believed this was the bully’s doing. Electro had blonde hair with dyed-brown streaks in front and grassy green eyes. He was a bit chubby, but most of it was muscle. He had a black shirt that he tore, causing it to look sleeveless and showing his big muscles as a warning, and black jeans that he ripped until they reached to his knees. By now, there were only three people left in line. Based on the bright-orange and ruby-red markings on their faces, Jet gathered they were twelve years of age. (See “The World of Nebulan.”) He narrowed his eyes in disgust. The nerve of that guy! It was bad enough that he bullied classmates, but to fight children who had no Gift themselves, that was lower than low! After seeing a boy try to run past, Electro jumped in front of him and kneed his stomach. A prideful smirk rose on his lips as the kid wheezed for air, his arms curled across his stomach in response. “Nice try, shrimp. Either fork up the cash or give me your lunch. You ain't going nowhere till you do either two.” “I wouldn’t be too sure about that.” Jet’s voice growled from Electro’s left. Electro turned toward the sound, having to confirm those angered words came from him. His eyes fixated on Jet's gaze. The difference he saw was extraordinary. The Jet he knew before today always looked down when present, but now Jet was looking straight at him, glaring in an intense passion. Electro gave a slight breath of laughter before letting out a chuckle of amusement. “Well, if it isn’t our infamous geek-mute. I gotta say, that look of yours is something else.” He grinned as Jet glowered from the title given. “I’m glad you came. Aren’t you glad I left the gate open for ya?” Jet’s gaze flared in anger. There was that name again: geek-mute. A name especially invented for his quirk. Electro decided one day that it wasn’t enough for him to be ostracized like a geek would, that he was a geek with a deficiency and his title reminded him of this truth every time a person used it. Rather than buckle under this oppression, he used his annoyance in the word as a tool to stoke the fires of his hatred. Both that, and Electro’s arrogance helped Jet easily speak his mind. “Still think you’re king of the world, don’t you?” he spat out. Electro smiled egotistically in response. “But it’s only a matter of time until someone knocks you off your throne!” Electro gave a raise of his brow. “Oh? And just who’s gonna try to?” he asked. Jet stared into the flickering eyes of the bully. His eyes closed, then opened as a smile rose on his lips. “Tell you what. Why don’t we make a little deal?” Electro raised a brow out of interest. “Who ever gets KO’d first loses the bet.” Electro grinned in delight. “I never knew you were masochistic,” he teased. “So it’s a Power Battle then. What are the outcomes after battle?” “If I win, you drop this 'line of work' once and for all!” “And if I win?” Electro asked in great interest. Jet gave Electro a roll of his eyes. “Then you get to knock me out. Isn’t that enough?” he asked rhetorically. Electro smiled, realizing that this battle was truly the most suicidal thing Jet could think of. Not that he cared! Bustin’ Jet’s face in sounded like enough. “Alright then.” The two stood face to face, the other three pre-teens watching in horror at the turn of events. Jet gave a smug smile, earning a furious stare. I’ve got to keep provoking him… “Well, morons first.” Electro’s eyes widened in fury, “What did you say?” he asked incredulously and ferociously. Jet just looked back, despite the danger he was in. “You heard me. You strike first. Don’t worry, I doubt you can hit me.” That did it. As planned, Electro charged angrily toward him with his ultimate attack—and loudest attack. Almost instantly, Electro struck his stomach. Electro just barely heard the last words of Jet through the screeching bolts surging from his fist. “I win.” The bolt sent the boy flying a good thirty yards back. It was his greatest attack, no doubt, using his bolt of electricity to launch Jet into a great velocity and his brute strength to knock out and disable Jet the conscious mind to land in a safe position ******* Chapter 2 Broken Promises Stay away from that thing! Clyde gritted his teeth as the students' sneers came back to him. He doesn’t have a Gift. Lord Adonai must hate him! He’ll hate you, too, if you continue to be friends with him! Clyde hated everyone attending Jet’s class. How could you? How could any of you be so cruel! He was enraged at the fact that the close friends Jet had in his life could just turn away from him. They were scum in his eyes. If God were to hate anyone, it would be you! The group had left, and it only had been the two of them. Clyde could remember clearly the teenager weeping from all the hurtful words spoken. I’m not hated! I’m not bad! I…just…can’t be! I-It’s not fair. That image of his friend weeping on his knees never left his mind. It was engraved into him, scarred against his very being. He followed Jet quietly, watching from the sidelines as he charged for Electro. Why would he do something so stupid? Why provoke such a beast as Electro? Electro didn’t take too kindly to those who underestimated him, and yet Jet was talking down to him as if begging for the strongest attack. But why? It didn’t make sense. His eyes widened. Unless… Jet was not a fan of spiteful violence, never was. Clyde doubted seriously that he had intended to fight Electro by means of physical strength. No. Jet had something up his sleeve. The question left was, what was that something? Well, if Jet were to want Electro’s ultimate attack, what benefits would it bring about? To describe it briefly, it was bright, hurt like crap, and was obnoxiously loud—so loud that it probably was heard through the whole town. The whole school! Clyde’s eyes widened as he found his answer. That stupid moron. It was a silent cry for help. Jet was going to use Electro’s attack as an SOS alert. He had no intention whatsoever of evading the bully’s blow. He was actually going to sacrifice his well being for the kids in line. By now, Clyde heard the screeching volts of Electro’s attack. He quickly looked toward the fight and dashed out in front of the incoming Jet. He winced at their impact; it had felt as if a bowling ball came crashing at his stomach. He wheezed for a moment as his back fell toward the ground. You…moron…. Despite the pain in his stomach, Clyde was glad he intervened with the nasty fall Jet was to receive. He gently moved Jet to the side and rose to his feet to speculate the damage Electro had inflicted. After seeing no fatal injuries and only an unconscious Jet, Clyde whirled around to Electro. “What is your problem! He has been given no Gift, and you still attack him! And to use that move…” He called it his Slug Striker, a move that sends his opponents flying at break-neck speeds if struck. After Electro did that trick on Clyde himself, the teachers had prohibited him from using it ever again. Electro just smirked in victory. “Aw, what's the matter, dragon-boy? This bringing back memories?” Clyde glowered in fury. “I don’t care if you are a bully. No Nebulanian should be this cruel!!” Electro just scoffed with a roll of his eyes. “Please…He’s the animal,” he hissed. “But I guess you still can’t see that.” “I don’t need to be told that from the likes of you!” Clyde snarled in disgust. “Jet hasn’t hurt anyone, and yet you…” Clyde shook his head profusely, glaring at the unaffected Electro. “Jet’s stronger than you could ever hope to be!” Electro gave another one of his aggressive grins. He felt no guilt, only amusement in hearing Clyde’s angry ramble. He stifled a laugh from Clyde’s declaration of Jet being stronger. “I wouldn’t be too sure about that, Clyde. As you can see clearly, I’m standing and he’s the one on the ground.” Electro smirked pride fully. “He was spouting the same kinda' nonsense right after I hit him. Saying he won just before passin’ out…” Electro cackled at the thought. “You two must be so pathetic that you need to lie to yourself to get by another day.” His laughter soon came to an abrupt stop, though, as he felt a cold, hard hand on his shoulder. Electro’s eyes went wide as he turned to see a woman with long, chestnut-brown hair, glaring, lime-green eyes, and white markings. “He may not have won the Power Battle,” he heard Clyde say as Electro stared at the woman in fear. “But things turned out exactly as he planned.” The woman’s voice was high pitched and very strict. She wore a white nurse's outfit, glaring at him in disapproval. “Electro Shox!” “C-Chiyu?” he gasped in surprise. The nurse narrowed her eyes. “Not very bright, are you?” she snapped. “Using your loudest move…” Chiyu grabbed hold of Electro’s earlobe, earning a pained yelp in response. “I should have known you were the cause behind the children's absences.” She started to yank his ear. “And you will address me as Mrs. Fujo! Is that clear?” The nurse’s gaze met the children. The tear-filled eyes of the three almost broke her heart. She stepped aside from the door, dragging the bully by his earlobe. “Children.” The leftover children ran inside in response to the nurse’s gesture, the bully flailing and yelping pitifully beside her. Just before she dragged Electro to the door, a voice called to the slightly agitated nurse. “Mrs. Fujo!” Clyde’s voice called from behind her. She stopped in response to the voice. “Yes, Clyde?” she answered while turning to face the pleading eyes he bore. “What about Jet? He needs your help, too,” Clyde stated, gesturing with his eyes to the unconscious boy on the ground. This confirmed it—the fact that Jet was willing to take a huge, devastating blow from the bully just to assure the children’s safety proved that he was no monster. Clyde could only hope that the nurse could see that as well. Chiyu’s eyes followed Clyde’s own to see the struck-down student. She gasped as her eyes grew wide in surprise and concern. “Oh, my! What happened to him?" Realization soon dawned on her expression. “Electro,” she growled as she turned to see him looking away stubbornly. Her eyes widened in horror. Her white markings flashed slowly as she closed her eyes and performed what Nebulanians call Sacred Speech. Principal, am I within range? A woman’s voice answered. Fujo? Did you find out what made that noise? Yes, it was Electro, as we expected. More importantly, a student got hurt by the attack. What is even worse is that this student has no Gift to defend the attack. I need to take him to my infirmary as soon as possible, but I have Electro to deal with. Got ya. And I suppose you need someone to take care of the bully? Yes. Just a sec. Help’s on the way. Chiyu’s markings dimmed to their usual color, and in a matter of minutes during their conversation, Clyde had successfully brought a stretcher to the nurse. Just as soon as Clyde came back, a mysterious man in a black jacket and jeans took Electro from her hands, bowing his head toward Chiyu before escorting the struggling Electro to the Principal's office with an otherworldly ease. Clyde followed Fujo’s every step from the moment she picked Jet up and placed him on a stretcher, wheeling him away. He spoke quietly, still feeling an unexplained chill from the encounter with the man in the black jacket. “So…who was that guy…who came for Electro? I’ve never seen his face before.” By now, they were walking in the cleared hallways that led toward the infirmary. “That’s because he’s not from our northern Sphere. He’s actually from the western Sphere, Falia.” she explained. “Creepy, isn’t he?” Clyde blinked at that. So it wasn’t just him. She was unnerved by his presence, too. She continued to speak as they made their way down the hall. “All the Falians have this weird vibe to them—like they’re not Nebulanian, like they’re something… other. I guess that’s why Falia’s now named the Land of Beasts.” She fought a shiver. “But they’re the best Nebulanians to have as an ally in a fight. So I suppose they were necessary in escorting the princess here safely,” she explained, the boy stopping in his tracks. Clyde spoke after noticing Chiyu turn to face him in concern. “She…you mean to say the princess has returned?” he asked, receiving a nod from Chiyu in response. “Yes, which is partially the reason we didn’t realize the conflict going on outside.” Chiyu explained apologetically. She gave a few glances to the boy before speaking up. “You should be heading to class now.” After seeing his quick change from awe to concern, she gave a soft, reassuring smile. “I’ll take good care of your friend. I promise.” Clyde was hesitant at first about Chiyu’s advice. Leaving Jet to someone else usually ended up in abuse, but seeing as how she was the nurse, he could trust her a bit better than he could trust his classmates. In addition, she seemed…trustworthy, like she genuinely worried for his friend’s health. She apparently cared for his safety, despite the rumors of God hating him. Clyde smiled at the thought. Clyde’s smile soon fell to a frown as he thought of the princess’ reaction to this. Just how exactly was a princess of a religious nation supposed to act toward someone who was “hated” by God, Himself? Would she leave him, too? That can’t happen! If it did, Clyde could wave Jet’s confidence good-bye for good. Jet had always talked about how he missed the princess and wanted her back. If she were to reject him and cast him away, too…he’d be left broken. All those pieces Clyde had worked so hard to recover would come crashing down all over again to a point where no one would be able to pick them up. Clyde had never really thought about such a negative thing, but now that the princess was reachable, he began to worry. Lord Adonai, he quietly prayed, if You love us, please…don’t let the princess hate him, too. The nurse gazed once more at the student lying shirtless in the bed with a bandage around his waist, covering the horrid wound on his stomach. She soon turned away, feeling discouraged at his immovable countenance. Upon opening his eyes, Jet found himself staring at an unfamiliar ceiling. His body ached from head to toe. He gritted his teeth in response to throbbing pain as he forced his body to lie on its side. His attention followed the low rustle of a nurse at work with some paperwork. He met her surprised gaze with his own confused one. Where am I? The question, of course, was unspoken, but his dazed and concerned eyes seemed to imply the thought, eliciting the correct inference from the nurse. The nurse smiled lightly before she spoke. “There’s no need for concern. Your friend and I took you here, to my infirmary. Thank goodness you’re okay,” she breathed in relief. Her relief soon transformed into a bewildered fury. “Clyde told me everything. Just what were you thinking, taking on an attack like that? You’re lucky you came out alive!” Jet, though awake, still felt asleep in a way. It took a minute or so until he could process just the first sentence. Your friend and I took you here to my infirmary. Friend… Like a jolt of lightning, he sat up, shouting, “Clyde!” He instantly regretted his quick rise as he inhaled, hissing through his teeth as his body burned painfully. The nurse had waited for an answer and an explanation for the stupid thing Jet had done, but instead she received a quick jolt from the patient as he sat up quickly from his bed. Her body moved quicker than her mind could as she soon found herself pushing the boy back down gently. “You mustn’t get up yet! Your body still has not fully healed,” she chided but then offered a small, reassuring smile. “Don’t worry. Clyde is fine.” Jet frowned in guilt at his healer’s mix of concern and fear. Don’t worry, Clyde is fine. He let his body fall back onto the mattress after hearing the confirmation of his friend’s safety. The nurse breathed a sigh of relief as Jet’s body did not fight with her guiding hold. She gently laid Jet back down. “Don’t worry, you’ll be fine, too. The bandages I wrapped around your waist are not ordinary. Lord Adonai gave me the Gift of Healing. The bandages I touch can heal practically anything, given the right amount of time.” Jet nodded lightly, tightly clenching his teeth shut afterward. It was almost annoying at how the littlest of movement hurt so much. He closed his eyes, allowing the frailty of his body to support his attempts for slumber. After a few painful minutes, he fell into a numb sleep. Once Jet had taken enough time to rest, it was time to pack up and head home. Jet walked through the crowd of students in the halls toward his locker. He wasn’t wearing his original attire—just a white shirt that the nurse had given him to compensate for the shirt he once wore, the shirt that was now tattered from Electro’s attack. As he walked through the hallway, he could faintly hear the rumors beginning to grow. Word of his confrontation with the infamous bully had apparently spread throughout the whole school. “He tried to take on Electro? No way. He can’t be that dumb!” Jet heard one voice whisper to a friend. “They say he meant to get hit," another added. “What? Does he have a death wish now? What a freak.” Jet walked awkwardly past the hear-sayers, fighting with the tempting idea of running to his locker. For people who gossip, they sure were not being quiet about it. He decided it was best to just look down at the marble floor and tune out the ongoing rumors spreading about—until he neared three girls. They laughed giddily. Jet really did not intend to listen in, but nevertheless, after a hearty giggle from one of the three students, he heard her say, “Oh, my gosh. Now that the princess is back, we should so tell her about Jet’s fight!” Jet could have sworn his eyes would fall from his sockets if he had opened them any wider. The princess! As in Crystal? He was no longer tempted to run; rather, he was tempted to stop dead in his tracks. That single bit of information seemed almost physical, like a weight had magically appeared on his back the second they mentioned her homecoming. Jet dared not stop and let the three know of his unintended eavesdropping. He just kept walking—as hard as it was—at a normal and casual pace. He just needed to make it past the corner, and he would be just fine. Just a little bit more, he pushed. He had to hold back all the emotion as best he could, and it seemed the second he found himself in this conflict, the hallway had somehow extended to a greater length. Once again, Jet fought with himself from running out of the hallway. If he quickened his pace, they’d notice. He had to remain calm. His brows pulled together impatiently as he eyed the end of the hall. His eavesdropping had done more than affect his mentality and patience. In what seemed like forever, he finally reached the end of the hall and found himself now fumbling with his keys, missing the keyhole entirely as his hands were shaking constantly. “Hey, Jet.” Jet’s body shook in surprise as he exhaled a loud breath, placing a hand on his chest afterward in an attempt to comfort his poor heart’s frantic beat. He let out a long sigh as his heart rate lowered. Clyde raised a brow as he witnessed his anxious friend. “You okay? You seem on edge. Something happen?” Jet darted his gaze left to right then answered the question with his own, his voice a mere whisper. “Did you see…her today?” Clyde pursed his lips, biting it lightly as he nodded in reluctance. “But I didn’t really have any time to tell her anything.” Jet couldn’t help but notice there was a bit of relief in his tone of voice, like he was glad he didn’t get to hear her response. Maybe he was feeling the same anxiety Jet was. Perhaps he, too, thought of the disaster that would come about should she decline him. “That’s okay. I can wait…” That was no lie. He could wait. He would wait an eternity if he had the choice. While he would feel an itch of curiosity pertaining to how she would have answered, life would be at least bearable not knowing. Sadly, Jet did not have the choice. Waiting just a day seemed impossible as the two heard the nostalgic cheers of infatuation. She was nearing their corridor—Jet could tell by the huge patter of feet following her. Jet contemplated if he should run or face her. He wanted to see her again. It had been nearly a year, and all he could remember was the solemn farewells they had spoken before her departure, yet he also remembered what he had promised her. Out of pride, he had promised her he would be strong and have a Gift that no other Nebulanian had. The princess was expecting him to have extraordinary powers, when in actuality, he was almost as weak as an Earthian. How shameful. Finally, Jet decided on running, but again, it wasn’t as if he had complete control. The girl’s angelic voice called to him as he turned his back to the crowd to run, the silky voice paralyzing him on the spot. “Jet!” She squealed with excitement. How he had longed to hear that voice again. He turned to face her as he heard the girl’s footsteps nearing. Her appearance was as captivating as he remembered—long, golden-brown hair that stopped at her lower back, caramel eyes, soft and luscious lips, and skin smooth as satin. Jet gasped—along with the whole class—as she ran to him then wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled Jet into her embrace. His eyes closed in content. He missed her gentle hold. Slowly, his hands wrapped around her waist. Her hold tightened as if he would disappear if she let go. The hold concerned him a bit. “I missed you…” he heard her whisper into his ear. She held tightly, not wanting the embrace to end. It seemed like she had spent a century away from him. “I missed you, too…” she heard him reply before he, too, tightened his hold.“... Crystal.” The moment was one that Crystal never wanted to end, but sadly, her friends had a problem with her paradise. A girl called Andrika, the second-most popular girl in school, came running by and grabbed Crystal, pulling apart the warm embrace the two shared. Andrika had blond hair that stopped just a little past the middle of her back. She also had dark-red streaks on the back of her hair. She had emerald-green eyes that seemed to scold Crystal’s act. “Crystal, we need to talk,” she said as she grabbed the princess’ wrist, ignoring the look from Jet that begged her not to tell. Before Crystal could say anything else, Andrika pulled her away from the now troubled Jet. Andrika dragged an agitated and bewildered Crystal out of the school and sat on the swings, talking Crystal into sitting down as well. “Now listen, Crystal. You can’t talk to him anymore,” she said with reluctance. Crystal almost laughed at her friend’s statement. She was a good actor. Of course, this was a joke she was trying to pull—that had to be it. After all, she knew just how important Jet was to her. “This is no joke, Crystal, and I do know how important he is to you…” Andrika paused, searching for the right use of words, “but he’s different now.” Crystal’s heart caught in her throat. Different? What was so different about him? His appearance had not changed. Was it his character or something? She hoped not… “No, Crystal, that’s not it,” Andrika reassured. “He doesn’t…” Was there even a nice way of saying this? “Doesn’t what?” Andrika looked down for a moment. She cleared her throat and looked straight into the princess’ eyes. “He doesn’t have…a Gift.” Crystal speculated the face of her friend skeptically. After finding no hint of attempting deceit, she spoke through the silence. “Is that it?” Crystal asked with furrowed brows. He couldn’t be labeled bad just because he didn’t have a Gift! That was absurd. “You’re wrong. He can be bad.” Okay, now Crystal was getting a little annoyed. “And how do you figure?” she half snapped, half asked, her eyes lit with distaste. Andrika looked down in response to the slightly aggravated stare—partly to avoid the cold look and partly to disable her from hearing the raging thoughts of her friend. Very few had seen Crystal’s angry side because it was very hard to anger her, but when she did get angry, it was never a pretty sight…nor were her thoughts. “He just…He’s not…” She had to be very careful with her words now. One wrong word, and Crystal would chew her out for sure. “Lord Adonai has not given him a Gift. It was fine for you guys to be friends before his sixteenth birthday…but now, because Lord Adonai treats him so low, the school believes he’s a curse and Lord Adonai’s enemy.” Crystal did not like the words carefully chosen one bit, and she made sure Andrika knew just that. She stood from the swings, glaring at her friend. “I can’t believe you!” she barked. “So the whole time I was away, you’ve been avoiding him?” Her eyes gleamed angrily at the girl. “What kind of friends are you?” Andrika stood in defense, glaring at Crystal’s forehead, still afraid to hear the thoughts of her pissed-off friend. “Now look here, Lord Adonai gave him no type of Gift or blessing on that one birthday you missed. If he wasn’t an enemy of Lord Adonai’s, why would He do such a thing?” Crystal fumbled for an answer. What was the reason for Lord Adonai’s doing? Why didn’t He give Jet a Gift as He did with everyone else? Why would Lord Adonai do such a thing if Jet wasn’t bad? She couldn’t find the answer. They have to be wrong. They have to be! No way would Lord Adonai rebuke a kind-natured Nebulanian like Jet. That was impossible! Crystal saw Jet as an angel. There was no possible way to agree with the school. She could never think of Jet like that. She would never hate him because, in all truth, she loved him. Tears welled in her eyes. “I don’t care what anyone says. Jet… Jet is Jet, and that’s all I need to know!” “Crystal!” Andrika snapped. Crystal’s tone rose in volume, her voice slightly breaking. “I said, I don’t care! So just…” She bit her lip trying to hold in her tears. “Just shut up!” she cried as she turned and ran from Andrika. Crystal continued to run through the nearby forest and then stopped to catch her breath. She pressed her back onto a nearby tree and thought to herself, Maybe I was overreacting… She rolled to her side, still leaning on the tree. But there is nothing about Jet that would make Lord Adonai hate him so. As she began to regain energy, she pushed her body away from the tree with one of her hands. Her palms slid against the engraved wood before she gave a light whimper as a splinter pricked her skin. After having a fun time picking out the splinter, she turned her attention to the engraving that caused it, then gasped as she realized where she was. This place…when we were little… A flashback flooded Crystal’s mind of a boy climbing a tree in an attempt to meet a girl sitting on the branches of the tree. The girl smiled brightly as he sat beside her. “You climb really slow, you know that, Jet?” She giggled. “I do not!” the boy protested. “Do so!” the girl contradicted with another giggle, earning a growl from Jet. After their little argument subsided, they grew quiet and watched the sunset. “Hey, Crystal...” The girl turned to him. “What is it, Jet?” The boy turned to her. “When we get older, do you think we’ll still get to be friends?” The girl smiled brightly. “Of course, dummy, that’s why we’re here, right?” she replied cheerfully. The boy nodded then started to pull a knife out from his pocket. “So…you ready?” The girl responded with a nod, and they began climbing down to the base of the tree and then carved an engraving together into the tree. When complete, the boy smiled at their craft. “There, finished…” ‘Crystal and Jet Together Forever.’ Crystal gently pressed her hand on the carved wood. Her lip began to tremble as she kept her hand pressed to the tree. “Jet…” she breathed, then closed her eyes tightly, two hot tears rolling down her cheeks. If being the Princess of Nebulan meant rebuking the one she loved so dearly, she’d rather give her throne to someone else. If only it was that simple. Ever since her birth she was to be the next Princess of Nebulan. She was destined for that position. But did that really mean she had to stay away from Jet? This wasn’t fair. She'd kept Jet in her heart the whole time she was without him, dreaming of the day she’d return to his side…and in the end, it turned out to be just that—a dream and nothing more. Her eyes welled with more tears. Finally, she hit the point of insanity. This subject was making her mad. Without much thought, she began to beat the tree frantically with clenched fists, as if the tree was the culprit for the despicable reality she was in. Her discontented thoughts raced about as quickly as her flurry of blows. Why did the school decide this? One blow. What is so wrong with him being deprived of a Gift? Second blow. Why can’t I be with him? Third. Why wouldn’t Lord Adonai give Jet his Gift anyway? Fourth. Strangely, she felt a little better…but she wasn’t done yet. After the fourth beating, she screamed in a heartbroken cry, giving an additional blow. As much as it helped her vent her frustration, her attacks did not heal her broken heart. Her legs fell numb to all of her distress, and she fell on her knees before sobbing against the abused tree. Jet was having a bad day. First, his friend ditched him the second he reunited with the princess. Second, Andrika probably had told Crystal about his powerless state by now. And third, after just coming out of the infirmary, Electro’s fist had once again come into contact with his stomach. “Let that be a lesson to you!” the bully snarled. “If you so much as touch her with your grubby hands again, you’ll answer to me!” he growled viciously. Jet couldn’t help but smirk. Electro actually thought that his threat would work. What a laughable concept. The thought of not being able to be with Crystal was far worse than any other kind of torture imaginable. Anything Electro could do paled in comparison. Of course, the smirk did not bode well for him. Another fist of Electro’s came crashing into his jaw. He fell and hit his back against the metal locker. Electro grabbed a piece of his shirt and yanked him toward him. Electro glared with a mischievous smile that made Jet cringe. “Listen here, you little turd! You’re not the only one who’ll get punished. For your, Clyde's,” his eyes glinted with malice, “and even her safety, you’ll stay far away from the princess.” Jet’s mouth fell open slightly as he heard Crystal would be in danger, as well. He glared at the bully. “You wouldn’t dare,” he snarled. Electro gave a demented smirk. “Try me.” He threw the speechless Jet back against the lockers and pointed straight to him with a glare of spiteful caveat. “You stay away.” Jet bent his head down in defeat as the bully walked away. It would seem that there was something Electro could do after all. After finally having the desire to move again, he got up from his spot and made his way out the front exit. His eyes darted to the voice of a friend who had been waiting outside. “How’d it go?” Clyde asked hesitantly, unsure if he wanted to know the answer. Jet narrowed his eyes toward him. “I don’t know, you tell me!” he snapped. “Oh, that’s right, you ran, didn’t you?” Jet asked in a raging satire. Clyde was taken aback by the harsh tone in Jet's voice. He frowned as he came to a conclusion. “I’m so sorry…” he said solemnly as he placed a hand on Jet’s shoulder. Jet jerked his shoulder away from Clyde. Afterward, Jet’s gaze fell to the ground out of guilt. He had no right to yell at Clyde like that… “You’ve got it all wrong,” he heaved, breaking the awkward silence. “I didn’t get rejected. Heck,” he scoffed. “I didn’t even get to say anything.” “So…what happened?” The two sat down on the steps as Jet explained his troubles. “Andrika scooped her away from me, then Electro came—” He stopped as he saw Clyde tense at the name. It was not his intention to make Clyde feel guilty. He sighed as he decided to skip a few bits of information. It wasn’t like he was hiding anything. His cheek was bruised, and his mouth was bleeding—even someone without Clyde’s investigational prowess could figure out the rest. “In short, Electro demanded that I stay away from her, and he said if I didn’t cooperate then he would punish, not only me, but you and Crystal, as well.” Clyde growled angrily, “That’s going too far.” Was there ever a limit for that deranged beast? Jet nodded in agreement. It was going too far. If Electro attacked the very Princess of Nebulan, he’d be locked up somewhere afterward. He was dense, though, and because of that, Jet didn’t doubt for a minute that he would harm her. In the end, no matter how much it hurt, Jet had to stay away from her. After Jet spent even more time with Chiyu, his bruise healed up and his mouth stopped bleeding. He waved good-bye to Clyde before beginning his walk toward his house. As he was walking homeward bound, he heard a huge cry of pain. Worried for the girl’s safety, he ran toward the voice. He regretted chasing after it instantly when he saw the cry belonged to her. Though her face was turned, her long, brown hair gave her away. Crystal… Jet tried to pull away, he really did, but she was so discontent. Entranced by her presence, he really had no control. He stepped forward hesitantly. “U-um…Crystal?” She gasped before looking back and into his chocolate-brown eyes. “Y-you okay?” Jet asked her in a gentle voice. Jet wanted to hold her so badly—to wipe away the tears evident to come from her welled eyes—but he also wanted to run. It was an awkward feeling, each desire inflicting his conscience in a different way. If he ran to her and did as he desired, there was a chance of Electro finding out, but if he just left her there in that state, he would never forgive himself for it. The tree behind her almost ridiculed his hesitancy. The very promise etched in the bark seemed like it had been smoldering of fire, and he felt it burn at the very core of his soul. He could feel the tree pulling him—like he was the metal to its magnet. His next move cost him. He took a step closer, and she ran toward him because of it. At that moment, there was no going back. The desperation in her eyes and her frantic hold constricted him, her face falling onto his chest. “Oh, Jet,” she cried. “Why would Lord Adonai not give you a Gift?” Crystal could feel Jet’s body tense at the question. It had been a simple form of inquiry, but she gathered Jet had misunderstood. He probably thought she asked the question just to see what wretched thing he had done. He probably was thinking her tears meant disgust or something. How stupid! She couldn’t think of a single reason to be disgusted. She felt him push her away gently and watched in mourn as he looked down shamefully. His distress was unlike she’d ever seen. He used to be so happy and untamed, but now he looked inflicted, so defeated. It was a countenance she never saw before nor ever wanted to see again. “I…don’t really know.” His whisper was so faint that Crystal could barely hear it. He was fading from her. Even his tone of voice seemed to constrict itself from speaking freely in her presence. He never intended to push Crystal away, but her comforting hold soon felt too comforting, like he didn’t deserve it. He had to push her away, for her sake. He felt he had to save her from himself—from the disgusting creature he’s become and from the dangers she would be in because of that fact. The image was frighteningly clear. Electro was standing over the bruised brunette, grinning in his malignant glory. Jet closed his eyes in repulsion and breathed deeply. His disgust and anger subsided back to shame. How fitting that it would be him—that he would be to blame for Crystal’s pain. They were right to call him a monster. “Stop it!” Her voice was high; it sounded like she had been crying all over again. Upon looking up hesitantly, he confirmed that to be the case. Her tear-filled eyes seemed to peer deep into his soul and into all of his insecurities. “Stop distancing yourself from me,” she sobbed. “If you think I’m going to go along with the, 'you’re a monster' crap, you’ve got another thing coming! I missed you... I just want to be with you—powerless or not.” His gaze had fallen, and he glued it to the ground. One more look into her wounded gaze, and he would crumble. All his pulling back will have been wasted. From the corner of his eyes, he could see her sad smile, her bottom lip quivering. “Didn’t you miss me, too?” His eyes had been closed, but they had creased into a glare. That’s when she wondered, was there something she didn’t know? What could have agitated him so much? Was it her? Was he angry with her for being so far away in his time of need? “I…I did miss you.” His voice was strained, like he was fighting with himself to comfort her. The forced tone of voice sent a thousand blades through her heart. It was the stupidest question Jet had ever heard her ask. Of course, he missed her! He longed for her presence every day he was without her. That’s what he wanted to say, anyway, but the terrifying image—Electro standing over the broken girl he loved—controlled his response. There was always a possibility that what he said and what actions he made would be heard and seen. While he was thick in the head, Electro was very resourceful when it came to getting what he wanted. Jet couldn’t put it past him that he would tail Jet. It was the perfect way to confirm him truly breaking it off with her. For all he knew, he was being watched right now. His eyes absently scanned the trees behind her. Sure enough, he caught another Nebulanian staring at him, peering over a tree. One pale blue eye glared at him, the other blanketed by his violet hair. But Jet only needed to see one of them to notice the expression. The Nebulanian was shooting him a cold look of censure. Jet knew the color of that hair and eye anywhere. Shiiru—Electro’s lackey. His gaze seemed to physically speak the words Jet knew he was thinking. Finish it. Jet turned his attention back to Crystal’s dewy, pleading eyes. He could tell she was desperate for his confirmation. While he had planned on simply not answering her question, he forced out the fact that he did miss her. He had to. He didn’t want to see her broken like this. Through his selfishness, he endangered her with another reply of endearment. But he didn’t know how much he was risking then. He hadn’t a clue how close they already were to danger until now. Jet debated using Sacred Speech. He considered telling her everything through their telepathic way of communication but decided against it. While the words would be unheard, the markings would glow. Shiiru would see Jet trying to speak in this form, and know he was telling her something that would ultimately upset Electro. He would report it, and Jet didn’t want to risk the bully’s reaction to his blatant secrecy. While he confirmed he missed her, that was all he could offer her. Any more than that, and the magnetic pull would be too strong to resist—he’d selfishly inch her closer to harm's way. “But…” he heard her whimper quizzically, obviously concerned by the forced voice. This was it. If he was going to ever stop the pull, he had to now. The blades piercing her heart began to twist mercilessly as she heard his next words. “But…I think it would be best if you and I…stayed away from each other.” As Jet looked toward her, he could see it happening. The pull was fading. He could tell she was about to break, but he stood firm as he kept the image in his head. He’d rather have her hate him than see her get hurt because of his own greed. He could tell she was growing weak. It seemed like her whole body was about to collapse. She managed a hurtful glare despite the frailty he saw in her. “So…you think it would be best?” she asked him, her voice trembling. “You think us not being together is the better choice?” She had planned to yell at him, she really did, but her heart and mind thought differently. She was falling apart. She had to get away. She scrunched her face in an attempt to hold back tears that were threatening to escape. “You don’t understand! That’s not what I meant,” he tried to explain. “Save it!” Jet heard her snap. He had begun to feel the guilt creep in. He broke the pull…and also the promise they made to each other. The next few words crushed him. “Maybe, you really are a monster,” he heard her weep in her brokenness. He watched her turn from him and run from his presence. And, just like that, their polarities were reversed. ******* Chapter 3 Jet’s Dying Regret As Crystal left, Jet caught Shiiru staring directly at him. The lackey kept to his post, probably ensuring that Jet didn’t follow after her. Jet met his expression with a hateful glare of his own. They stared for a while until finally Shiiru deemed it safe to slink back to his master. He smirked victoriously before retreating in the shade of the trees. Jet didn’t really know how to take this outcome. While he did succeed in saving her from Electro’s grasp, he had broken the promise they made to each other. He was supposed to feel relieved, but now he felt even worse—if that was remotely possible. Now what was he to do? As much as he liked the idea of apologizing to her…he couldn’t. If he had given in to the desire, the sacrifices he'd made to keep her safe would've been in vain. All eyes were on her. She was the princess, after all. There wasn’t one second that they would be able to have alone. And if he tried to get close enough to explain it to her… Electro would come for her…just as he had warned. Jet cringed. Never once had he felt like this. His head was about to split in two. In the end, the girl he loved was going to be the victim of his decision—regardless of which choice he made. Her anguish seemed…almost inevitable. So…was that it? Was he just supposed to sit back and watch Crystal go through such grief? Electro’s commands were simple; he couldn’t touch her, and he had to stay far away from her. Other than that, he—rather, she—was safe. The splitting headache began to fade. Finally, there was hope. At last, it seemed there was a way to keep her safe and happy. The rules were to stay away. He could manage that. While he had to keep away from her, he could leave something for her to pick up later. All eyes were on her, after all. Why not use that to his advantage? If everyone’s attention remained on her, that’s fewer eyes watching him. Maybe he could write a letter and perhaps even give her a gift of some sort. He knew her locker combination, and so long as she hadn’t changed it recently, he could leave it in there. He could keep his distance, while still showing her his affection for her. He smiled as he found his answer. I’ll get her a present then. Jet ran from shop to shop. “Hello?” he called out in panic. No one answered. What was going on? The market he found himself in was nothing like he remembered. There was no laughter of the customers ringing in the air. Jet heard not even one salesman bellow out their product. He saw no one and heard nothing. Images of the barren dream flashed through his mind. He ran, trying to escape the nostalgic desolation. “Someone, please answer me,” he begged. Finally, someone answered back. “Fear not…you’re not alone.” Jet turned around with a jolt. The man had green eyes and blonde hair that ran down a few inches underneath his shoulders. He smiled at the boy’s surprised response. Jet, now questioning his searching capability, gazed at the man. The man had his arms folded and stood just in front of the entrance of a pitched-up white tent—a tent Jet had already passed a few seconds ago. Jet partly dismissed the subject as he opened his mouth, trying to shake his racing thoughts. “W-Where is everyone?” The man smiled, stretching his golden Sacred Markings in the process. “Where they need to be,” he answered. Then he eyed the customer with another grin.“…As are you.” Jet scrunched his nose in confusion. “What? What kind of answer is that?” The man chuckled, “The right one, of course.” He extended his hand toward Jet. “My name is Gabriel. What’s yours?” Jet’s gaze flickered between his open hand and his warm smile. After speculating on Gabriel’s friendly countenance, Jet reached for his hand. “I’m Jet,” he offered with a lost expression, Gabriel nodding with a cheerful smile. Gabriel turned his back to Jet and beckoned him to follow with the raising of his hand. “Come on,” he chirped as he began to leave the market and the meadow behind. For an instant, Jet’s feet were rooted. He didn’t want to move another step. Though he may be Gift-less, he wasn’t brainless. Here they were, all alone with no eyewitnesses. It’s a place for the perfect crime. Now, most Nebulanian’s wouldn’t have even considered the danger. Aside from Electro, his kind rarely harmed others—the only exception was Jet. He was pretty much the only one who was both physically and emotionally abused, and it was because of those terrible moments that Jet was a little more cautious than most. But, in retrospect, there was something about this person that brought him an unusual ease. Somehow, as he watched the figure lead the way, Jet knew—despite the huge possibility of this being a trap—no harm would come to him. His foot left the ground, trusting his instincts. “But…where are we going?” Jet asked as he hesitantly followed. “I already told you,” Gabriel laughed gleefully. “We’re going to where you need to be.” Not that again… Jet narrowed his eyes. Maybe he wasn’t going to hurt him. Perhaps the elder was just going to annoy him to the point of insanity. Where you need to be? What kind of answer was that??? “And where would that be?” he asked in exasperation. “Why ask me?” Gabriel inquired with a shrug. “Isn’t that up to you?” Who was this freak? “I don’t know where I need to be. I’m following you!” Gabriel laughed heartily. Jet growled irritably in response. “What’s so funny?” he snapped. The man stifled his laughter. “I’m sorry, but you just answered your own question. I couldn’t help but laugh.” The two were now halfway down the hill as Jet replied to the man’s absurd statement. “No, I haven’t…” “Oh, but yes, you did,” Gabriel contradicted. “You just told me you felt you need to be following me.” Jet had about enough of this. He stopped following the old coot and folded his arms, rooting his feet at the bottom of the hill. “All right! That’s enough. Either you tell me where I go, or I’m going to find another place to shop!” Gabriel hung his head and stopped as Jet did. He turned and revealed a rueful smile. “That’s just it, my friend. I can’t make your decisions. No one can. In the end, we all have to trust what we feel.” He paused, looking into Jet’s eyes. “What do you feel?” Jet grunted. “I feel I’ve been following a madman,” he replied in a monotone. To Jet’s surprise—and dislike—Gabriel chuckled at the reply. He seemed indifferent to the boy’s aggravation. “All right, Jet. I’ll leave you to your journey then.” And with that, Gabriel began his walk back up the hill. Who was that freak, anyway? Jet dismissed the thought, unsure if he wanted to know the answer to that. His gaze found a single building made of brick. The building was the only thing built on the wide field of green. Both the structure of the building and the area it was built in gave a surreal appearance to the shop. It seemed so out of place. After walking through the shaded glass-pane doors, the windowless shop instantly veiled the evening scarlet sun. Jet’s eyes ached at the immense contrast of light. He blinked in response to the sensation. As his eyes began to adjust to the change of lighting, Jet surveyed the area. If nothing else, it was dark. The only lights he managed to find were dim and gave their attention to the jewels encased in glass, the jewels glittering happily as if gesturing gratitude toward the light’s company. Attachable leather shelves were clinging to every unseen wall, boasting the jewels they possessed by use of their clear glass frame. Jet counted eight clear-glass, black-framed, wooden tables—four on his left, and four on his right. Each table stood on top of the tan-colored carpet with long, slender legs. The two rows stood parallel to each other on either side. The farthest rows of tables from the walkway stood behind the spaces in between the rows near to Jet. This setup provided space to move while still giving the sense of luxury. The air was cool—thanks to a single fan hard at work above Jet—and refreshing. A pleasant fragrance lingered in the area as Jet followed the russet-colored carpet that led to the front counter. A man with the body of someone in their mid-twenties was scrubbing the top of the front counter, humming to himself. He had a unique marking of a crescent gold moon on the right front side of his neck. He had naturally curly, brown hair, being so dark that it almost seemed black, and river-blue eyes, a mustache, and a full goatee over his white Sacred Markings. Jet’s eyes flickered right to left, eyeing jewelry after jewelry. He soon felt something pull his gaze to the bottom shelf inside the front counter. Despite their being quite a lot of gifts to choose from, Jet’s attentive gaze seemed glued on one item. It wasn’t the best of the litter—in fact, the outer appearance paled in comparison to almost every other—but his gaze still remained on that one necklace. Almost instantly Gabriel’s words seemed so wise. Were his feelings telling him he needed to buy that item? Jet kneeled down in front of the front counter. He dared not take his eyes off the necklace, believing in the strong feelings he had encountered. The cashier stopped his humming, his washcloth coming to a slow as he caught a glimpse of the boy’s fixation. His lips rose to a smile. “Well, I’ll be…” he murmured to himself, smiling slightly. He leaned over and spoke to the transfixed boy. “You have a good eye to come to this one.” The boy had kept his gaze glued to the accessory, earning a chuckle from the cashier. “One of the Crosses of Conscious—Legend says that this jewel was forged by a powerful black smith as a promise to the first Princess of Nebulan.” This time, Jet looked up at the cashier. “A promise?” That sounded eerily familiar. “What did he promise to her?” The man smiled as he saw the boy’s interest in the story. “Well, you see, most people don’t know—the only exception is the Royals.” Jet frowned. “Oh…” The cashier smiled softly, offering his hand. “Name’s Jacob.” Jet slowly reached for another hand, praying the wielder of this one wasn’t about to speak riddles as well. “Jet.” “Do you really want to know the story?” Jet’s eyes widened with a mixture of surprise and delight. “You mean you know it?” he chirped in excitement. Jacob nodded as he hunched down to pick the necklace up. “You see, kid, I was given the Gift of Prophesy,” he explained, pulling the silver necklace out of the glass frame. “This Gift allows me to dream of the story behind any object I touch.” Jet watched as Jacob closed his eyes and clutched on to the necklace. His eyes were still drawn to the magnetic pull, being glued in anticipation on the object Jacob held. Audible visions flashed in Jacob’s mind; he heard and saw the sound of hooves, horse cries, citizens in a rage, the cry of the princess, the clanging of a talented blacksmith and craftsman at work, and a sweet promise made by two Nebulanians in love. His lips curved into a soft smile. “Ah, now I remember.” He breathed peacefully as he opened his eyes, looking to the necklace and back to the impatient gaze of Jet’s. “The foreigner and the princess were always pulled apart by the villagers. The princess was scared that the foreigner would leave her because of this uproar in the kingdom, so the blacksmith created two silver cross necklaces. “Each was placed around their necks. The promise was that no matter what force was against them, their lives would never be severed from each other.” Jet gave an awestruck stare. The legend sounded so much like the conflict he was having with Crystal. He didn’t even have to think twice. “Sold!” he said hastily, then realized something he hadn’t before. “But…where’s the other one?” The cashier frowned. “We don’t know. Many who know the legend say it went with its owner.” Jet hung his head in defeat. “I see…” It seemed that even if he did give the necklace to her, it wouldn’t be a complete promise. But still, Jet couldn’t help feeling this was meant to be—that he was meant to buy the necklace for her. Jet gave a weak smile. Now came the difficult part. “How much?” Jacob gave a bright smile, relieved that he hadn’t upset his customer. “It’s for free,” he replied as he placed it in Jet’s hand wholeheartedly. Jet’s eyes widened with joy. “Really?” he asked hopefully, praying that he wasn’t just hearing things. Jacob gave a nod and began placing the necklace in a small, black jewelry box. “Here you are,” he said as he placed the box in the boy’s hands. Jet narrowed his eyes, looking down at the box. “Wait…what’s the catch?” The cashier laughed. “No catch here.” Now Jet was puzzled. If it was so special, why was he giving it to him for nothing in return? After some time had gone by, Jet raised his head back up and spoke. “Then why, on Nebulan, are you giving it to me for free?” he asked, feeling dumbfounded by this generosity. Jacob’s usual carefree aura altered to a serious one. “Because…I feel as if I should. I can’t explain why, but I feel as if it were meant for you.” Jet’s eyes widened at the cashier’s remarks. Jacob had been saying exactly what he was experiencing. The demand for his attention from the necklace had not faded; rather, it had only grown stronger. Jet gave a slight bow of appreciation. “Thank you so much. You have no idea how much this means to me." He smiled brightly, placing the little box in his pocket as he turned and began his walk toward the door. Jet’s joy wasn’t meant to last. His smile fell as the air around him changed drastically. He felt the pleasantries of the shop fade. His skin began to crawl, and he itched in every place imaginable. His heart raced with what could only be described as fear. He stopped dead in his tracks. Something was wrong, but what? There was no doubt in his mind he was afraid…but just what exactly was he afraid of? His cautious gaze glued to the exit to the shop. Something’s out there. Not a minute after scrutinizing the door did it burst into thousands of shards. The object responsible for such damage flew toward Jet, knocking him off his feet, causing Jet to grunt with surprise. Jet opened his eyes, staring at the object that had knocked him over. His eyes grew wide as he observed its appearance. There on top of him laid an injured pup. The pup had dark-blue fur; a bushy, gray tail; pointy, gray ears; golden-yellow eyes; and white paws. What astonished Jet the most was that on its forehead was a yellow star. Jet halfway picked himself up from the floor, the breathing creature now lying in his lap. “War…pup?” he questioned in both an incredulous and awestruck tone. It couldn’t be… Warpup was just in a dream, right? That’s it! It’s all just a dream! That would explain so much—the empty market, the crazy Gabriel, the free legendary necklace, and the pup. Still, if it were a dream, this had probably been the most elaborate—not to mention most realistic—dream he had ever experienced. “Are you okay?” came Jacob’s cry from behind as he ran toward the two. A voice then erupted from outside the doors. The voice was cold and sinister and caused the hairs on the back of Jet’s neck to stand up. “No, he isn’t,” it laughed in a malicious growl. Their gaze shifted to the short silhouette, its gleaming violet slits for eyes glaring at Jet. “Only the Chosen of Salvation knows who Warpup is!” It squealed with a child-like voice—a far contrast from its previous blood thirst. “It’s so good to see you in one piece. Now I get to...” its voice altered back to a blood-lustful snarl, “...rip you apart myself!” Jacob glared at the shadowed being. “They’re here,” he whispered to himself, and before Jet could even inquire about his comment, Jacob ran to his office, shouting, “I’ll be back!” Jet crawled farther back from the door as fear struck him. Just what was going on now? Did Jacob just leave him to die? Yet he said he’d be back, didn’t he? Now more than ever, Jet wished this was a dream and that he would wake from it soon. “W-Who are you?” Jet sputtered, failing in his attempts to veil his trepidation. “What do you want with me?” he asked in a quaky voice as he scooted farther back. He paused as he remembered the title the creature used to address him. “Wait. What’s a 'Chosen of Salvation?'” he recited curiously. The beast walked inside the store, revealing its figure. It had narrow, purple eyes and wild, dark-green hair. It was short—half-Jet’s size, even—but its size did little to remove Jet from his terror, for the creature had long and sharp fangs. Its skin was a light-ivy green, and little, black thorns were sprouting from it, plus it had long and sharp fingernails like claws from a beast. “Don’t play stupid with me, boy!” It screeched maliciously. Jet’s eyes widened at the figure’s grotesque image. Never before had he experienced such a fear. Just looking into its malevolent eyes almost paralyzed him on the spot. What was this thing? A beast? A demon? Or… Jet placed the battered pup beside him, summoning the utmost courage to stand to his feet and face such a terror. “Y-You’re a Dark Demon, right?” Jet felt like such a fool. What could he possibly accomplish by standing against a beast like that? Despite those who insisted he had power dormant inside him, Electro had crushed him so easily. If he could not beat a classmate, how could he possibly beat this creature? If he really was destined to fight such demonic beings, he was doomed. He had been told he had power sleeping in him. If that was so, then why couldn’t he wake it? It wasn’t sleeping—it was in a coma! His distressed contemplation ended as he heard the voice of the creature. “My name’s Gabren!” it chirped as it moved to the center of the shop, its eyes gleaming with malice. It arched one of its arms back. “And I’ll be your killer for today!” it snarled as it released its arched arm. The arm, while being swung, extended into a green ivy whip. Jet, despite his paralysis of fear, ducked right in time to have the spiked whip collide into one of the frames of the attachable shelves. The glass, as if alive, made a bloodcurdling cry as it shattered into tiny shards. These shards flew apart in what seemed like blind vengeance—a torrent of them charging toward Jet’s face. Jet reacted to the incoming shards poorly. Instead of dodging the oncoming fragments, he curled his arms in front of his face. One large piece of glass succeeded in its pursuit of revenge as it stabbed into the flesh of Jet’s arm. Jet let out a horrible scream as he felt the edge of glass embed itself inside his skin. Jet’s blood began to ooze from the opened flesh, the blood trickling against the clear glass as Jet hunched over in agony, then fell backward into a sitting position, his back resting against the front counter. Clueless on how to fix such a wound, Jet clutched his arm tightly, his teeth clinched together. The excruciating pain was almost too much to bear. Should I pull it out? Won't that just make me lose more blood? Although, leaving it in didn’t seem too beneficial, either. Gabren chuckled in utter amusement. Murdor and Kila had told him not to underestimate The Chosen of Salvation—or rather the Anointed. And he hadn’t planned on underrating the boy. But to think someone said to be so mighty could be beaten by one piece of glass. How pathetic! The Anointed was nothing more than a joke. This was going to be a piece of cake. “If glass is enough of an opponent for you,” he said while Jet watched helplessly as the beast pulled his arm over his head, “then you’re wasting your time.” Gabren smirked. “The way I see it, I’m doing you a favor. The death I’m about to give you is one of mercy compared to the brothers’ methods.” Jet’s eyes closed in defeat. There was just no way. It all had to be a big misunderstanding. How could anyone see him stand against these beings? Jet had to face reality. He was a failure. Even now, he wasn’t fulfilling his purpose. It had only taken a shard of glass to take him down. How weak! “Rest in peace, Chosen!” Jet dared not open his eyes as he heard the whip come for him. But then he heard an animal snarl, followed by a cry from Gabren. Curious to the unexpected mixture of sounds, Jet opened his eyes. His gaze glued to the mid-air pup. The pup’s fangs had penetrated the incoming ivy whip, sinking into the demon's skin. Blood spurted from the demon’s whip-like arm, staining the pup’s fangs with its purple blood. Gabren’s cry evolved into a screech as it tried to yank its arm out of the pup's mouth, but Warpup’s jaw was clenched shut on it. The pup dangled in the air as its penetrating fangs scraped a new spot by the use of its weight. The Dark Demon then used its free arm, transforming it and swinging it to whip at the pup. The pup only gave a small cry and sunk its teeth deeper into the demon with every lash it felt from the ivy whip. Gabren shrieked in agony as the tips of the pup’s fangs sunk in deeper. “You little mongrel!” Gabren squealed as he flailed the pup around with his wounded arm. “How dare you interfere with my prey!” He clinched his teeth tightly shut as the pups fangs scraped against his raw flesh. “You meddlesome mutt!” he growled, then hollered, "Let me go!” as he slammed the pup into the remaining glass frames, the pup letting out a loud whimper as it was crushed between crashing glass and Gabren’s whip, thus releasing its hold. Jet—finally escaping his awestruck daze—watched in horror as the pup fell limply to the ground. Warpup! Out of innate reaction, Jet began a slow crawl toward the pup, biting his lip continuously as his wound repeatedly screamed in defiance with every stretch. The pup’s fur was stained red by its blood, its body having been battered from the merciless thrashings it had endured. In some of the wounds, fragments of glass were protruding—four in its back and four in its ribs. The sight was horrific. Jet, fighting through his pain, called to the pup. “Warpup!” he beckoned. “Warpup, are you okay?” Jet’s heart raced as a time of silence passed. Was he too late? Is Warpup really… “Warpup! Answer me!” Jet only recalled the presence of the demon after hearing its wicked chuckle from behind him. He looked back slightly to see Gabren had transformed one of its arms and began encircling that ivy whip around one of the glass-frame tables beside him. Gabren hoisted the table above its head, ready to smash Jet like a flyswatter to a bug. Jet responded by facing away and placing his palms on the wall, protecting the pup as best he could from the attack. He smiled. Now this was a good way to die. “This is where it ends.” Gabren chuckled as it arched its whip-like arm further back. The box containing the necklace seemed to bulge in rebellion, and Jet reached in his pocket to clutch it tightly as he thought of his one regret. I’m sorry, Crystal. I’ve always loved you. Midway from crushing the pathetic Chosen, the sound of gunfire echoed through the room. A millisecond after that sound, Gabren felt a bullet skim past his outstretched stomach, drawing purple blood from its scrape. He lost his grip on the table, squealing in both surprise and pain. The demon clenched his teeth together as the table of glass made a deafening crash. “That bullet…” he whispered through grinding teeth. Gabren's gaze turned to Jacob, who was standing behind the desk, now holding a ruby-red sniper gun. “A Celestial Arm,” he growled in resentment. Jacob glared at the demon. “That’s right. Leave now. Else, I assure you...” He cocked his gun, ready to fire again if need be. “The next one won’t miss.” Gabren wisely fled the area—getting shot wasn’t part of the plan after all. Having expended his chance of getting to kill the Chosen himself, the demon had only one more objective left: tail Jet. He put as much distance between them as his senses would allow before following Jet silently in the shadows of the moonlit forest. It had taken awhile for that worm to come out from the shop. The man with a Celestial Arm finished putting a gray, long-sleeved jacket on Jet, attempting to cover the bandage wrapped around the gash on his arm. How Gabren wished he could go back in time—to see and hear the cries of that weakling as Jacob removed the embedded glass. Now that would've been amusing. Jet’s protector began to speak. “Are you certain you won’t need an escort?” Jacob pressed for the third time. “Gabren could come back at any moment.” As a sane Nebulanian should, Jet had to reflect once more on that offer. After a long pause, Jet shook his head gently, regretfully. “It would look suspicious. I want to keep my family out of this as best I can. They mustn’t know.” That arrogant piece of... If Gabren hadn’t been given direct orders not to initiate an attack this go round, he’d prove underestimation as the Chosen’s fatal mistake. Alas, he was only to follow, not to fight. “What about the pup? I could carry him for you,” Jacob practically begged. The boy shook his head yet again. “I’m fine carrying him. That anesthetic you gave both of us will last long enough to make it home. I appreciate your concern, but we’ll be fine.” Jet offered the man a smile of gratitude. “I appreciate all you’ve done. You saved my life, and I won’t forget that. Thank you so much.” Jacob let a sigh escape from his lips. “Well, it looks like nothing will change your mind on this,” he said resentfully. “Just promise you’ll head straight home.” Jet gave a nod. “Promise. Gabren just took me by surprise. I’ll be ready this time around.” Again, Gabren wanted to wring that little neck. Apparently, Jet had yet to understand the horror that lay in store for him. But Gabren need not worry; that pipsqueak would see the truth soon enough. The walk home was indeed a long one for Jet. His head was about to split apart at all the questions swarming inside. Jacob had tended to Jet’s wounds by use of a health kit he kept in his office. Jacob walked with Jet to his office and explained that his real alliance lay in a group called the Demon Fighters, and what seemed like abandoning Jet was actually his attempt to find his weaponry to help. Jet accepted his apology. After all, Jacob had saved his life. Jet figured that was enough compensation. Still, there were so many questions unanswered. What exactly were the Dark Demons? How was it that he’s never heard of the Demon Fighters? Why did Gabren keep addressing him as the Chosen of Salvation? Wasn’t he the Anointed? What did those titles mean, anyway? Just what role was he to take? Jet walked in his discontentment. The problem hadn’t been whether or not the questions would be answered. Jet knew they would in due time. The real question was, would he like those answers soon to be given? ****** To Be Continued… Want more? Purchase the full edition at http://joshuakhmurray.com/index.php/store About the Author: Joshua K. H. Murray was born in Gainesville, Georgia and moved to Mount Pleasant, South Carolina after two years. He began to earnestly write at a surprisingly young age, beginning his seven novel series career at the age of twelve and was nominated top 50 for his online poem, "The Lamb and the Land" at the age of fifteen. Joshua's “Anointed” saga was supposed to be a graphic novel but when he attempted to draw, he was later on diagnosed with a condition that caused his fine motor skills to be lacking. Dedicated in having his world seen, he tried writing it as literature. While this was a halfhearted attempt at the start, people began reading pieces of his work and demanding more of it. This was the moment when he grew the conviction to become a writer. Joshua spends most of his free time writing, “Anointed” and reading books that pertain to supernatural aspects. He also likes to play video games and watch anime when he's not working on his novel. He currently works part-time with his father, tending to patients as a Chiropractic Assistant. His love of the arts, both writing and acting, has entertained many who crossed paths with him. So many people to thank! Might as well get started on that. This book wouldn’t have been without them. Without question, credit goes to my God: You have always been there for me since the very beginning. You are a strong foundation that’s never faltered holding me up when life got difficult. You’ve brought me from the darkest stretches and lead me to a hope I can’t even begin to fathom. Above all else, I give You the glory in guiding me to this path. To my family: Mom, you’ve always been there for emotional support and inspiration regarding my work. Your encouragement has always invoked strength within me. There is no greater friend to have on my side. You’ve become a compassionate and strong woman who’s capable of carrying people in their worst moments. When you’re not too busy humili-fying them, that is. Dad, thank you for all of your suggestions and unrelenting support, financially and vocationally. You’ve always been cool enough to be like a best friend. I am blessed to have an adventurous father who values his children above all else and ensures we part ways with some awesome memories. You’re a joy to have around. We’re like two peas in a pod! And even you, dear sister. Ali, while you may think you haven’t done anything to support my work, your love of the arts and your decision to pursue the many talents you have, inspired me to not squander my own. To my love: Mary, you are a huge blessing—the kind that surpassed all my expectations. Your love for my work and me has both perplexed me and spurred me into the man I am now. To my friends: Tara and Donna, you guys were instrumental in getting my work out there! I can’t thank you enough. Your prompt support and know-how in the writing field gave this book the ground to run off of! Thank you for being my publishers! Stacy, although it took longer than I expected, it was worth the well polished copy-editing. Thank you so much for your hard work. Todd Simonis, your words of encouragement and sincere belief in my calling stirred me to press on down this path. Thank you for helping me believe in myself. Geneva, you’re enthusiasm in my work kept me going. You were always so eager for the next chapter and I always looked forward to our discussions. Josh Blanton, thanks for hooking me up with a free headshot for my author bio. I’ll be sure to use it soon. Michael Clark, you are my comrade-in-arms in getting my work out there and one of my closest friends. You are just as much charismatic as you are whimsical. Denise, thank you for your encouragement—for pushing me through and always being there through my journey. You’re like the sun that lights up the day. Your outgoing attitude has always had a positive effect on me. Ms. Parsons-King, your love for the concept helped me push through. CeeJam, you stayed and critiqued my query letter until it was perfect. I know that if it hadn’t been for your great suggestions, I wouldn’t have landed my wonderful publisher. To all the people that first purchased the book and gave their honest reviews, thank you for taking the time to speak your mind. You’ve helped me reach other readers because of your enjoyment in this saga. But if you think the first volume was high pace, wait until volume two comes out! Last but in no way the least, credit goes to all my readers—to all my fans: Thank you! You all helped me get this far, and though I have a long journey ahead of me, with your support, I’m going to make it. For all my Anointed Fans!!! Got something to say to me? Want to share your love for a certain character? Or maybe you just want to support the movement. Here are ways you can both contact me and encourage my work as an author. Like at: https://www.facebook.com/AnointedSettingSun Pin it on: http://pinterest.com/pin/569564684095068082/ Follow me on: https://twitter.com/JetAeroBurner Follow, Like, and Reblog on: http://jetaeroburner.tumblr.com Add me as a connection on: http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=265904340&trk=nav_responsive_tab_profile You’re Not Alone (Author Testimony) First off, I’d like to thank you all for choosing to read my work. You should know that this next section is not composed with sugar canes and rainbows. How this book came to be and what I had to go through might surprise you. You’ve been warned. I’m actually forcing myself to write this as I feel it could reach out to those who are struggling. Because, let’s face it, we all need something to look up to when we’re hurting. If you’re going through heartache, if you believe you’re in a hole so deep there’s no climbing out, I want you to read this part. I want those out there who are fighting what had to, to keep fighting—to know there’s more to life than the staggering, stifling, pain. Even though the odds may seem against your favor, don’t you dare lose hope. Keep throwing your punches and you will win. I know I did. So let me tell you about me. Believe it or not, I didn’t even know how this book would unravel. I put my faith in my God and He supplied—simple as that. I’ve always had an unprecedented imagination even as a child. Everyone said I was given this gift. I did not master this ability, however, without a price. I sank into some really low places, more so than you would expect on a joyful face like mine. There were days I fumbled for an answer as to why the heck I was here, times when I’d think I should just stop the pain and be rid of the uselessness I believed to have. And I have the courage and humility to admit there were times I came close to ending it all. Yet through my suicidal attempts, threats I made, and the total rejection I felt from others, hope was not lost. My God broke through the black shrouds of my life. Or perhaps, even the muck in my life was part of the plan given to me by Him as well. Maybe He was simply breaking eggs to make an omelet. When I trace back to my past life filled of dread, I can finally say I’m glad I went through such trials. I remember the night where I wept for hours. I felt broken, created without purpose, and so very alone. But that loneliness I felt haunt me actually was the first step in breaking through the darkness. Because of it, I made a world of my own, filled with my own friends and my own laws of reality. As the people abandoned me at school, I simply jumped into that world. What really amuses me about my past is that I loathed writing as a child. The teacher would tell me to write essays or make up stories, and I’d stare at that paper like it was the Devil in disguise. But see, my Father must have been at work in the shadows. As the other children ostracized me, I had to use my imagination to get through the day. It started with just one imaginary friend. Then he had friends—and then they had enemies, and next thing I knew, another world had begun to evolve in my mind. Images upon images were planted into my world—visions of struggles and villains that my people went through and fought. Through my ignorance as an adolescent, I still kept demanding the God who made me to make my life have purpose; still oblivious to the blessing I was given through my trials. While I can’t recall when, I finally realized what this imaginary world symbolized and grew an overwhelming desire to share to this world, my own. Writing this book gives me a chance to say the words I never could when the world pushed me away. Because of Anointed I have a way to reconnect to you all. I have the tools to make up for all those years of silence, and I’ll not let this chance slip by me. Now, I love to write. I love writing my feelings in poems, my ideas and beliefs in journals, and sharing my imagined world through the stories I make. All I am is in this book—my feelings, my personality, and my strongest beliefs reside in this saga. God bless all you who read this. And never forget that no one lives in this world without a purpose to either make or find. Never give in, my friends, to the darkness in this world. Where darkness lies, the light can shine. Trudge through the darkness until you find that light. Carry on and find your calling. Many blessings to you all, Joshua K. H. Murray Anointed SAGA’s Glossary Greetings Earthians. I imagine the world of Nebulan can be a little overwhelming. Let’s face it: there are many sects, ranks, and species that you’re not going to find in your Webster dictionaries. Therefore, I have provided my readers this glossary. If at any time you guys forget a word or a rank—or whatever else may come your way—this section will keep you up to date on all that infuriating lingo. Aren’t I just the best? NOTE to those who have completed the book: You may want to peruse through this anyway. You might just find some additional information that wasn’t mentioned in the story, and you could very well stumble upon some clues for future additions to come. But, hey, it’s your choice… Age Lines/Sacred Markings —The Age Lines or Sacred Markings are the markings every Nebulanian on their face. They are bold lines running across the jaw horizontally and thin near the corners of their lips, like it was done with a paintbrush. While both terms refer to the same subject, they have different connotations. When they use the term Age Lines, it is to express the different colors they take on during their growth. Each color displays a certain age range that helps the Nebulanians roughly determine how old they are. (For a more in-depth view of the Age Line process and multiple reasons for their usefulness, refer to Dr. Gerald’s notes located in the Preface.) Sacred Markings refer more to the blessings these markings produce. They believe the markings actually work as a signal that can connect, not just to each other, but to Heaven, as well. It is believed their God’s omniscient knowledge is poured selectively into the Nebulanians' markings—that this is how they are capable of speaking every language of every lifeform. The Nebulanians also believe the markings are responsible for enabling their God a way to send His Gifts. Aspirations Avatar—This refers to the realm of dreams, for now. There are other uses, but Jet has yet to discover them. The Aspirations Avatar is the body that manifests inside a dream. It is said to be the reason why people can interact with their five senses even when dreaming. It is also said to be the closest thing to a persona of the dreamer’s subconscious mind. Astral Force—Not much light has been shed as to what this piece of energy truly originates from, but what we can be sure of is that it symbolizes one’s level of strength. It comes from the pores of a powerful being and pulses out in beats constantly, like it's breathing. Depending on the emotional condition of the wielder, it can become a physical force that pushes what’s around them. As mentioned, it has been used to estimate the amount of power one wields. The parameter for these measurements is called PSI (sI). Feral Force is known to be Hell’s counterpart for it. Astral Wave—A move that takes the Astral Force and uses its push for the wielder’s advantage. The Astral Wave is caused by focusing on one area of the body and projecting its force as a type of thruster effect. As to how this is done, we have yet to uncover. It’s very useful for when you need to shove something back or perform advanced aerobatics when off your feet. Its evil counterpart is named the Feral Wave. Blesseds—This term refers to the Blessed Markings. It is the word used when describing one who has pledged his life to their beloved. Blessed Markings—Nebulan’s version of a wedding ring. But instead of a trinket expressing their eternal love, there is a marking placed on the back of their right hand—an evergreen triangle outlined in a bold gold. But these markings do more than just display their partnership. They go a step further than that. They connect them even more so together—more so than they would prefer at times. There are NO secrets. The memories, thoughts, and feelings of a Blessed are laid bare for their counterpart to experience. The only secrets that can be successfully kept from them are things that were going to be revealed to them anyways. Furthermore, because of the markings, Blesseds are capable of using their partner's Gift. Blessing’s Request—Refers to the Blessed Marking. Blessing’s Request, however, is the action done to receive the marking. Ever heard people say, don’t say you love someone and not mean it? Well, Nebulanians don’t have a chance of doing that. If a Nebulanian confesses their love for someone, it is said their God hears it and judges if they’re right for one another. The confession of love is Blessing’s Request. Most Nebulanians who only want to date someone use the word like in place of love—until they are ready to take it to the next level. As if worrying over the girl’s rejection wasn’t nerve-wracking enough, they actually have to consider how the very God of their creation would feel about their decision… And His word is law. The Book of Things to Come—The book speaks of a prophecy where one among the planet would take on the image and purpose of the messiah. The child would gather six others, handpicked by God, to go out in the time of Revelations and fend off the most frightening of demons. This book is so highly revered that when pulling a single word from it, Nebulanians feel inclined to put them in small caps, e. g., Chosen, Dark Demon, Anointed. Celestial Arms—These are weapons used by the Demon Fighters, ranging from small knives to artillery equipment. During manufacturing, each tiny gear or metal piece is first dipped in holy water and blessed by a prophet’s prayer before construction. There hasn’t been much use for a lot of them yet, but with the Dark Demons' invasion not even a day away, the time of their need draws ever closer. The Chosens of Revelations—Only time will tell who all these people are. Most of their existence for now remains a mystery. However, they are mentioned in a Nebulanian prophecy found in the Book of Things to Come. Be warned: only a Nebulanian prophet can see all of its text clearly. Any attempt to read of a Chosen that has yet to be introduced will most likely be in vain. The future titles of Chosens may remain encoded to the normal eye. They are broken into two groups. The Arkians—The three leaders that guide the Chosens. The name is derived by the combination of the first letter for all of their names in Angelic Tongue. Like the lower ranked Advocates, Arkians wield a certain characteristic of God. Unlike them, however, Arkians also portray the three main purposes of God’s existence. Advocates—Those that obey the Arkians. They represent one of the seven characteristics of God. As expected, the Chosen’s titles seem encrypted. Perhaps they will start to reveal themselves upon each of their awakenings. Crosses of Conscious—Enchanted trinkets used long ago between two people who loved each other greatly. Their names were Jerich and Anaia. Their love life was looked down on from their people as he was a lowly blacksmith and she was the princess of their world. Anaia was worried that the people's animosity for Jerich would split them apart, so Jerich—as a way to relieve her distress—made the two silver cross necklaces. These necklaces had the capability of connecting to their counterpart whenever the wielder thought of the other. It made them aware of each other even when they were far apart, linking them almost as effectively as a Blessed Marking. Dark Demons—Frightening demons, usually humanoid. They are empowered by sin and only continue to grow in strength if transgression is done upon them—that includes killing them in the normal ways. While Demon Fighters do have certain tools to subdue them, only Chosens are capable of ending their existence. Dark War—This time period refers to the first demonic invasion of their planet that included the fearsome demonic breeds called Dark Demons. Demon Fighters—They protect the world from lower ranking demons that manage to get past the barrier. All Demon Fighters are Sacreds, or were before their powers were sealed. Any that attempted to join them were required to make the transition, as well. Being a Demon Fighter and not a Sacred was not tolerated. The ranks are as follows: Celestan—The leader over an entire Sphere of Demon Fighters. They are the ones that make the most important of decisions. All of the Demon Fighters are to obey the Celestan’s choices. They can be identified by the… (Has yet to be revealed…) Lunestal—The elite class of Demon Fighters. Their recognized skills lead them to either handing down the Celestan’s orders or making a few themselves to benefit what their leader wants. They are either found as lieutenants over a squad or teachers guiding the lower classes through their urges and abilities. They can be spotted by the golden markings on the front right side of their neck shaped like a crescent moon, which is tilted upward at a slight angle. Constellics—The lowest rank of Demon Fighters. Their jobs are simple: do exactly as they’re told and never miss a training session. As they are at the bottom of the class, it's not surprising that some have trouble with their Thirst and are usually found tagging along with a Lunestal in times of distress. They can be identified by three five-pointed gold stars that are lined up in a triangular formation, on the front right side of their neck. Divinities—They are the creatures that serve under Lord Adonai and provide a helping hand to those He calls His children. Most have not been needed for millennia and have yet to make their appearance. Eastern Sphere—The City of Deris. That’s right. A city. Molded by marble stone, the Nebulanians have managed to make hundreds of makeshift skyscrapers. The place is known for its crowded streets and technological advancements. One of the most well known of landmarks in Deris is an enormous coliseum that housed challenges and fights to Nebulanians who wished to test their strength. Jet has always watched the tournaments on TV and traveled there with his family at times for big events. He has always wanted to go back. He should be careful what he wishes for. He might just get to. Euphorits—This handy gadget comes customary with every Demon Fighter apparel. It’s a grey wristwatch, but it doesn’t just tell time. It can contact other Demon Fighters, as well as many other things that have yet to be displayed. Gift—A Nebulanian term for the powers they receive at the age of sixteen. They revere the Gifts given to them and consider it their God’s way of blessing their existence. They would abhor any Nebulanian that does not have this confirmation, like Jet for instance… Heaven’s Bracelet—The prophesied instrument that would bring a Chosen to their true form. When a Chosen takes on their full form, they lose the wounds and ailments that they had in their original form. A word of caution: once the energy of a Chosen is used up or once the form takes on enough damage, they return to their previous body—and their previous injuries. While in their full form, they’re able to actually die in it. Their death will cause an explosion to occur around them, and they will return to their original appearance. But once this is done, the bracelet needs time to recover the second body from the thrashing it took. If a Chosen were to attempt to return to his true form prematurely, they run a risk as they do not know how badly injured their form may still be. Infernals—Almost like pets to Dark Demons. They come in all shapes and sizes—some humanoid, and some in the form of monstrous creatures, but each bears a reversed star on their foreheads. When a Dark Demon tears off their flesh, the Infernal is born by it. It does what its Dark Demon orders it to do and has what seems to be a telepathic connection to its master. They are known to bear similarities between its appearance and its master’s—some are obvious and others are subtler. Ingesting—A term used by Sacreds to define the taboo act of consuming sinister blood. Kingdom Academy—A gigantic hexagonal school-ground known for the versatile housing of all grades. All levels of education are taught in this one building and every floor traveled upward is another grade level higher. It has one ringlet of an elevator that runs along the entire length of the enormous cafeteria room. The cafeteria room is smack dab in the middle of Kingdom Academy and can be found on the very first floor. From kindergarten to college, all Nebulanians of all ages eat their lunch among one another. Middle Sphere—Nuel. This place has never been discussed. All I can say is that it was a place where Nebulanians from every Sphere used to gather. As to why, perhaps we’ll find out later in the series. Moon Wolves—The most loyal of Divinities. They stayed with the world even in its times of peace in case they were needed. A Moon Wolf is a legendary being passed on through Nebulanian history. They are capable of physically slipping through a dream and reality. They are believed to be holy messengers. They wait until the people rest, then howl throughout the night. While this would be seen as disturbing their sleep, the sound of their cries actually help a Nebulanian fall deeper into relaxation. The howls are said to carry a divine message for the one needing to hear it. But Moon Wolves are also well known for effective abilities in battle. It is believed in Nebulan that there truly is no limit to the amount of power a Moon Wolf can have. Below is a list of techniques we’ve learned: Active Avatar—Not widely believed possible, nor really deemed necessary—but this was during the time when Moon Wolves could slip between reality and dreams, not when they were imprisoned from their actual bodies. This ability enables pretty much the reverse of Aspirations Avatar. Instead of a body being built to inhabit dreams, this is a body fabricated in the real world. This is done by the sheer will of one who remains in the Dream Realm. The technique was an old folklore legend among Moon Wolves. It is said that there would be one who made an Active Avatar and commanded it in a time of crisis. Destructor Dome—This technique was originally used to destroy the constructs of one’s nightmares. The stronger the Moon Wolf, the wider its barrier can span. The white barrier emerging from them burns away negative energy and can alternatively be used to stave off demonic creatures. Gazing Grace—This move is accessible to the young and the old. Their eyes glow golden, and those who are fortunate enough to be in its line of sight are healed from all of their wounds. The catch, however, is that the Moon Wolf must remain still for Gazing Grace to work. Oh, and if one were to die in a realm beyond reality, this gaze can literally revive them from their death. Talk about man’s best friend. Sealing Star—This move is aptly named as it uses the star found on young Moon Wolves to halt objects in motion; this includes the gravity that would cause said object to go down. Whatever the Divinity focuses on becomes a stream of gold and freezes in its place. It is advised that the Moon Wolf in question sticks to small objects. The bigger and heavier an object is, the greater the strain is when using it. Shining Shift—A highly advanced technique that causes telekinetic abilities. Whatever objects these animals focus on are covered in a white-hot fire and can move to the Divinty’s liking. Webbed Wall—A trick used to seal doors and passage ways. Most commonly used in dream realms and nightmares to prevent the subconscious from opening doors they shouldn’t open just yet. Northern Sphere—Purington. The largest city that dwells in the middle of forests and meadows. Purington houses many vivid colors of plant life. It has a huge market set up along the width of its entire meadow. The market sells essentials but many tapestries and cloths, too. With so much natural beauty in one place, it’s no surprise most of its residents grow to be environmentalists. Puringtonians also develop a love of self-expression and many grow up to either serve Project: Eden (an organization dedicated to protecting and sustaining Nebulan’s life) or become famous artists. It has a gigantic school that holds all grades of educational levels. And it, last but not least, has a palace that the princess of the entire planet inhabits. Pentses—Nebulanian form of currency. They seem almost like gold quarters except for their slightly smaller size. Whatever number is inscribed onto the plate determines its worth. Power Battle—As the name implies, it refers to a fight using the Nebulanians’ Gifts as a form of combat. Usually a Power Battle is brought about when two people have opposing ideas or quarrels to settle and need to achieve some sort of closure. This method was made popular by the Coliseum in Deris, who’s founder invented the title as it is known today. Regular demons—These are the easiest to kill and there are no restrictions in doing so. It is uncommon for them to take on a humanoid shape, but not unheard of. Most, though, resemble twisted versions of animals. Sacreds—The full potential of a Nebulanian desiring to combat the demons. Their bodies get faster and stronger. Their enhanced abilities rival a demon’s own. They are known for their deft grace and their blinding speed. It’s not all fun and games though. There are three weaknesses every Sacred must be mindful of. They are as follows, in order of severity: Thirst—For reasons yet explained, the Sacreds have a desire to perform what is called Injesting—consuming the sinister blood of a demon. With regular demons this desire is not so costly, but fighting creatures empowered by sin can lead to terrible consequences. Emotions—Everything is intensified and accelerated for a Sacred, and that includes the whimsical nature of emotions. If they’re not careful, they can let these emotions get the best of them. If they don’t keep themselves under lock and key, they have a tendency of acting out and doing something they later on regret. Attention span—Heard of ADHD? Well, that affliction's got nothing on them. Being a creature of heightened senses, the world around them expands and every little thing becomes not so little anymore. If they’re not careful, they could wind up too focused on one particular thing and grow oblivious to a glaring truth right before them. A Sacred lacking the proper training usually winds up being a Sacred lacking another day on their planet. Sacred Markings/Age Lines—The Sacred Markings or Age Lines are the markings every Nebulanian bear on their face. They are bold lines running across the jaw horizontally and thinning near the corners of their lips, like it was done with a paintbrush. While both terms refer to the same subject, they have different connotations. Sacred Markings refer more to the blessings these markings produce. They believe the markings actually work as a signal that can connect, not just to each other, but to Heaven, as well. It is believed their God’s omniscient knowledge is poured selectively into the Nebulanians' markings—that this is how they are capable of speaking every language of every life form. The Nebulanians also believe the markings are responsible for enabling their God a way to send His Gifts. When they use the term Age Lines, however, it is to express the different colors they take on during their growth. Each color displays a certain age range that helps the Nebulanians roughly determine how old they are. For a more in-depth view of the Age Line process and multiple reasons for their usefulness, refer to Dr. Gerald’s notes located in the Preface. Sacred Speech—A technique Nebulanians are capable of since their birth. It allows a telepathic communication through their Sacred Markings. If the other Nebulanian accepts the reach out, the Sacred Markings of the person reaching out and the person being reached would glow with every syllable they pronounce. In the early years of a Nebulanian's life, they would use this ability solely to communicate to their parents. But as a Nebulanian grows older, they start to reach out to others, as well. Sky Sensors—They are machines programmed to do one thing and one thing alone—inform. These hovering spherical objects have a lens on their front that feeds what they see directly to the Demon Fighter’s HQ. It was determined that the barrier, because of their puny power levels, did not recognize some demons, allowing them to inconspicuously invade. Setting up these smart cameras in the sky was their answer for this problem. Now, whenever a demon finds its way there, the cameras notices their evil aura and sends a GPS signal for the Fighters. This allows them to pinpoint the demons' location and deal with the invaders accordingly. Soulless Beings—No matter what kind of enemy that comes from Hell, they are the same in one department: their soul—or lack, thereof. They have no soul to depend on and therefore, only feel what they’re created to feel. They have no choices and no ability to defy Hell. And without a soul, they couldn’t care less about this. Southern Sphere—Piore. This Sphere is said to be a place where the heat of the sun never seems to wane. The Nebulanians here are the closest to the Great Depths, the name of the planet’s single ocean. Pioreians are well known for their taste in seafood and laid-back attitudes. Many fishermen come to Piore to make their living. It is said that Heaven’s grace reflects on the body of water and unconditionally grants every fisherman a bounty of some sort. Sphere—In short, it’s a Nebulanian term for the area they live in, e.g., Northern Sphere, Western Sphere, etc. It’s regarded like the Earthians regard a continent. St. John—Standard handguns given to the Demon Fighters when they join their cause. They are used for combating any threats that have the misfortune of stumbling onto Nebulan territory. Thirst—For reasons yet explained, the Sacreds have a desire to perform what is called Injesting—consuming the sinister blood of a demon. The desire of devouring unholy blood and the burning squeeze to a Sacred’s throat for it is called their Thirst. With regular demons, this desire is not so costly, but fighting creatures empowered by sin can lead to terrible consequences. Turbo-Powered Sky Board—Or for short, Sky Board. It’s a mode of transportation that’s all the rage on Nebulan. It has a way of getting into the brain when the board is stepped on, and I mean that quite literally. It also connects the rider to itself, to the point where it truly feels like another part of the rider’s body. The owner can even move it with their mind. It operates only after verifying their memories and their DNA. When it acknowledges them, it uses an ability to keep their feet on the board without ever having the need for straps. Nebulanians are baffled as to how this feature works. But Jet might figure it out one day—and this knowledge may just prevent him from falling into a sticky situation. Western Sphere—Falia. Recently dubbed the “Land of Beasts”. If the name isn’t enough of a hint, this place isn’t a warm and fuzzy spot to go on vacation. Ever since the Dark War, Falia is known for a mysterious breed of Nebulanians that seem almost invulnerable. Their attitudes have been known to get them into many disputes, letting the simplest things separate them. The Falians live in dome-shaped buildings, and instead of a market, they have monthly hunting tournaments to bring home game and food. The winner with the most gets to sit amongst their Royals and share a feast with them. Not one Falian has ever come back empty-handed.


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