“Log… It has been two years since I walked upon this strange world, full of mysteries to pique my ever curious mind. The wonders, the colors, the sensations – nothing that my body has ever experienced before, condensed into a turbulent flow of gadgets and gizmos, all powered by what I can fathom in no other words but ‘witchcraft’.
“Ha! A scientist dabbling in the likes of magic and sorcery! What a wrench life has thrown into my fate!… But I will accept it, nonetheless. I have to. For my destiny has led me to these chambers. Remarkable, endless in its possibilities!”
Lamps shook his head for a moment, as if to clear his mind. His excitement suddenly retreated, leaving a pensive expression.
“So many possibilities… a life’s effort wasted on falling short… of trying over and over and over, just to reach new peaks, cross over boundaries, and explore where no one has ever gone before…
“But to think that they have-, ‘we’ have done it… imagine what it feels like to stumble upon an archive of things far greater than one has ever achieved… As an innovator and pioneer, how does it make me feel to realize that you have merely scaled a mountain, proud of the fact that you did it all on your own, but then… then, seeing an elevator up to the heavens.
“Past the clouds, past the stars, and to the very center of the universe. And there it is, human possibility, all before you…”
Tears sprung from his eyes, which he tried to wipe away quickly with his hand.
“I cannot help but wonder if we are better off ignorant. Or why, I alone have been called here, gazing at the secrets of this world. But still, a voice called out to me. In my thoughts, in my resting hours, it said, ‘come’, and I did… I did…
“It is by design that human beings constantly strive for better, as soon as they realize that there is something to look forward to. An entire wealth of knowledge in hiding… it would destroy the very balance of the world if such a thing were made public.
“Perhaps… perhaps, that is the duty that I was born into. The very reason the Gods need a man of learning to step upon these empty halls. A man bestowed by the gift of endless mana. Conquering an empire is no small feat, but such things enabled it. But now, I must turn to the world.
“A world united is the only way, the only way to bring back such wonders. To take back lost time, every person in this world is needed! A unified mindset to invent, to propagate, to prosper… that is the only way to gain back what was lost!”
By now, Lamps appeared frantic, almost foaming at the mouth as he yelled at the recording device. A look of desperation marred his face, like someone impatient for the results. A man hopelessly waiting as time ticked by slowly, every second stabbing into him.
One could call him mad at this point, but whatever he had seen from accessing these ruins, and the knowledge within it, he felt compelled to act.
Taking several deep breaths, he shook his head again and rubbed his face with his palms.
“This is all for humankind. We cannot persevere without advancing ourselves, no matter how unsightly our appearances may seem. There is many a time when pioneers are treated as lunatics, as heretics, and as demons. I care not for such a label. Let it be placed upon me. Let these shoulders bear that responsibility.
“I will sacrifice it all to ensure that we prosper, ensure that we prevail! Because… our time on this planet is limited. And if we should fail, then all this will be lost – buried, forgotten, ignorant to the masses – until the next one is called upon. And thus, the cycle begins once again.
“Time – even with all that we can achieve, nothing can rule over it. We are helpless before it… But because of that, we do not wish to be in repeats. Forced to forget. Forced to be puppets on a stage.”
Lamps rose from his seat, his hand hovering right up to the window.
“If man must be a puppet, then please let this be the last performance.”
With that, a hand swept over the screen, ending the transmission. A long soliloquy left by a man who tried to take the reins of mankind and force them to heed his direction, no matter what.
Lamps had spoken of a paradise on earth. An era of true peace and prosperity, even if the cost of it was our free will. His motivation had become clear to us. He had seen this possibility and despaired, realizing that this world was only a figment of what it once was. He wanted to bring humanity back to the horizon that they once reached.
“I don’t get it. Why the rush?” Wen Lu was the first to speak out. He was lost in thought, trying to understand what drove Lamps to go to such lengths. “It seemed like he was able to advance the progress of technology all on his own. The rapid development of Purnesia into a military force to be feared was proof of that.”
“Maybe he was eager to get all the juicy glory for it,” Wen Zhi replied, but it was promptly shot down.
“A man does not martyr himself and give a god full rein over something that he can achieve on his own,” Eryn interjected. “He possessed a conviction to see it through. To bear the responsibility of his decision. Even knowing that he would be seen as evil for doing so. That is not something you would simply pitch to a god and hope for the best!”
Eryn clenched her fists as she recalled the weight that she bore herself. Hundreds of years of memories caught in a hopeless cycle of a flickering identity. Giving oneself up to a god was no easy decision. And Lamps had regretted his ‘Godfall’ ritual after realizing that he was leaving behind a woman who loved him dearly.
At the very end, he might have seen another way. But we would never know. He was slain shortly afterward.
“I sense strong desperation within him… like the end grows near,” Lady Kaguya said, a shadow over her expression. “Our time on this planet is limited… I am beginning to doubt that he means his own lifespan, but rather… Claude, your dream.”
Lady Kaguya turned to me, as did the others. It looked like I had no choice but to tell them all about it. The apocalyptic world where I was the only one left standing after a gruesome battle. They stood in silence as their grave fate sunk in.
“Even the power of all of us is insufficient…,” Cornelius murmured in surprise. As she was the most junior of the Electi, it must have seemed to her that we could do essentially anything through being blessed by the Gods. Certainly, our recent battles had given off that kind of feel.
“Such fervent insistence on innovation. Perhaps, it was sparked by a necessity to overcome such a tragedy, lest our existence be erased and reset. It appears that the Gods led him here for a purpose, just like your dreams are hinting to you, King Claude. It may be our duty as Electi and Masters to take these warnings to heart and prepare ourselves… but in a way that we can all agree upon.”
Lady Kaguya, being most attuned to such prophecies, was particularly keen towards these messages. They were sermons connecting man to the divine. However, that didn’t mean that she supported Lamps’ method. It was often man’s own error in how he acted upon such knowledge.
“We should look through the information here. Maybe there’s something that we can do. I mean, why else are we here? In my dream, I saw all of us together. That has to be some clue. A way for us to power up or something, assuming that there’s something beyond ‘Ascended’. Like… ‘Ascended Super’!”
Hopefully, our white auras wouldn’t suddenly turn yellow and cause all of us to become blue-eyed and sprout long tresses of golden hair, but if it came down to protecting everyone, then there was no choice.
We scoured through the remaining windows that Lamps had brought up last time, hoping for that clue. Sifting through designs, scrolling through hard-to-understand reports, and viewing video logs – there was an entire room to look over. And likely, that only scratched the surface.
There had to be a better way.
“Yo, console, terminal, computer AI, whatever you call yourself! Can we do a search?” I touched the podium and asked.
“Affirmative. What do you wish to find?”
“Electi, Their powers and such.”
“I do not comprehend. There is no such term in the database.”
I ground my teeth, wondering what else to search for.
“Wait, did that not refer to you as an ‘Apostle’? Try that,” Lady Kaguya said.
“Apostle – a designated being bestowed power from the divine ones. Messengers that carry their will. Number of known apostles – 11. Would you like to see their profiles?”
Suddenly, screens popped up, displaying statistics for each one of the Electi, with a naked mannequin model accompanying it. I found and stared at my own, noting how similar the layout looked like the status window that we possessed.
“That’s not me…,” I heard Ludmila say.
Turning toward her, I saw a much older, fuller body next to her window. Though it had no hair, the model had the fuller curves of an adult body.
“My current stats don’t line up with these…,” Saki said next.
Pulling up my status window and placing it next to the report, sure enough, the numbers were off. But in this case, the report had much lower numbers, so my initial thought was that it hadn’t been updated.
“My stats are lower than the reports,” Ludmila said next, throwing that guess out the window.
“I dunno if any of you noticed, but this report says that I kicked the bucket. Bro also.”
We each looked through the report, coming to a line that read ‘Status’. My finger froze as it rubbed over the adjacent word of ‘Deceased’ next to ‘Apostle of Critical’.
“Oh dear, I’ve been snubbed as well. How sad,” Cornelius said with an exaggerated tone of mourning before shifting pitch. “But it is strange. These are the curves of a man with a different name.”
“Huh, it says I’m deceased also,” Eryn said with confusion.
We looked at the others.
Apostle of Luck – Deceased
Apostle of Proficiency – Deceased
Apostle of Dexterity – Deceased
Apostle of Mana – Alive
“Ah, that’s right. Lamps was the Apostle of Mana, wasn’t it? But that doesn’t make any sense. Why would it say that Lamps is alive while everyone else is dead?”
But before I could ponder more about it, a meek voice spoke out.
“I’m alive. On here.”
We huddled around Saki, seeing that, in fact, the report showed that she was also an exception. I ran back to the podium and touched it again.
“Search ‘Apostle of Mana’ and ‘Apostle of Attack’ please.”
“Apostle of Mana – a total of 3,509 progress reports found. Would you like to open them?”
“Uhhhh, not right now.”
“Apostle of Attack – one transmission involving the subject found. Would you like to display the video?”
“Playing, ‘Distress Call from Site 304’.”
We huddled around the lone screen that popped up, which immediately showed a modern city like what we were in. However, the sight of fire and smoke filled the surroundings. Bodies were strewn upon the ground, crushed by debris or missing limbs. It was obvious that they were dead.
A minute passed by. Explosions shook the camera’s view periodically as more damage to the city happened in the distance. We couldn’t make heads or tails as to what was going on, that was… until a lone figure marched forward, slowly coming into view.
Power rippled from the person’s body, and with a swing of a telephone pole, the building that was struck exploded into a spray of debris. A white glow made it difficult to see who it was, but given our search topic, our eyes slowly turned toward a nervous Saki.
Certainly, the movements were similar. With another swing, the figure in the video made another building crumble like child’s play. And it wasn’t until several steps closer toward the camera did we see the same face as Saki staring right towards us. Despair, grief, and anger – all written there.
I never forgot how she looked, when driven by the darkness. Only this time, a white glow covered her. But the madness was still there. The thirst for blood. The figure slashed at the camera, ending the transmission.
The air in the room grew ice cold. I knew I had to do something to warm it up. I wrapped my arms around Saki, reassuring her that I was on her side. Ludmila was right in step with me, taking her other side.
“That’s not you! How can it be? That must be someone that looks like you, right?! I mean, this whole thing is strange, isn’t it? It’s like we keep finding different versions of ourselves out there.”
“Sister Saki would not harm unnecessarily.”
That made the most sense to me. We were looking at files of another time, another person. Lamps had hinted at a ‘failed cycle’. And that aligned with the memories I had of dying while protecting Eryn, only for the God of Life to possess her and slip into another one.
“Thank you, you two. I’m fine. I don’t recall any of this, so I wonder if it is even real. You all have given me confidence in who I am. The question is, where is this site 304?”
I repeated that question to the podium, as it seemed like only I carried the right credentials. If we wanted to find out what exactly happened and how we were connected, then we had to go there ourselves. Immediately, a world map popped up with a glowing dot marking the spot. Drawing a circle where Sistina was, my finger traced northwest to it.
“Huh? Wait, isn’t this-”
“The Forbidden Lands. Where no person can survive.”
Cornelius drew a line where the territory of Sistina ended. The dot was firmly outside the world map that I had grown used to. And wondering why it suddenly just cut off, everyone I asked told me the same thing.
All who walked upon that earth were instantly drained of mana and perished.