Chapter 10:

Chapter 10 - The Night Before, Part 2

Of Heroes and Royals

It was quiet, in the resistance's library. The occasional sound of turning pages, of distant voices and various clatter, was all that could be heard. It was also rather empty - every now and then someone would come in and request a book, but it was only Apollo and Mirri that remained a constant presence in the room. Each was where the group had left them earlier, meaning Apollo was still diving into unread magic books to find out more regarding the Wild Card, and Mirri was sat behind her desk reading a novel of her choosing.Bookmark here

Some time passed, and Apollo sat back in his chair. He let out a sigh. He had flipped through a number of the books he had picked out, reading relevant passages, and he found himself frustrated at the lack of information on The Wild Card. There was some, of course - it seemed that the Wild Card was something Lumèrian scholars were widely aware of, but in-depth knowledge or studies on the subject seemed to be lacking.Bookmark here

"All of them talk about it as just this catch-all for anyone that manifests a Signature Spell that doesn't fit into the other categories..." Apollo muttered to himself. "But that tells me nothing about what Capri meant by a curse!"Bookmark here

Finding the sudden urge to take a short break, Apollo got out of his chair and walked over to Mirri's desk. She was sat facing away from him and hadn't noticed the young man approach.Bookmark here

"Hey there." he quietly called out, leaning over the desk and tapping the girl on her shoulder.Bookmark here

This took Mirri completely by surprise, and she became very flustered. Apollo noticed her take a pair of glasses off her face and slip them into her pocket before turning around, her cheeks flushing red for reasons Apollo couldn't quite grasp.Bookmark here

"Y-Yes?" She responded.Bookmark here

"Whatcha reading?" Apollo asked with a smile on his face.Bookmark here

"Oh, this? It's an old book on Lumerian folklore. I've read it before, but the stories always seem to put a smile on my face." Mirri explained, placing the book on the desk for Apollo to see.Bookmark here

The young man was certainly intrigued. In schools, it was more often the history of Stratus that was taught, so he hadn't the opportunity to read many old folktales. "What kind of stories are they?"Bookmark here

Mirri opened the book and flipped through some of the pages. Some of them were decorated with rather abstract artwork of people and certain large creatures. "Well, they're about people interacting with magic, or beasts, or gods. Oh, and, there's even a few about the first King of Lumière."Bookmark here

"The first King, huh...? Wonder what he was like." Apollo pondered. "So, any truth to those stories, you think?"Bookmark here

The girl nodded. "Well, sure. I'm not sure about the specific stories themselves, but... the Old Gods were real. They're written about in a bunch of the other books. At least they were real until Stratus went around and killed them all, one by one, as a way of testing their technology."Bookmark here

"Stratus... killed gods with their technology?! But that's... that's just... how is that even possible?" Apollo exclaimed, clearly shocked.Bookmark here

"Well, I'm not an expert on technology. But... they did manage to defeat the last King, and everyone knows that the Kings and Queens of Lumière all had immense godlike power. So it's not really that surprising." Mirri said with a frown.Bookmark here

Before the pair could continue their conversation further, two gentlemen - dressed in tactical looking gear, with stains of what seemed to be oil all over them - walked into the library. One of the men, who was dark-skinned and wearing an orange bandana around his neck smiled at Mirri as he entered, and the other, a white man who had headphones around his neck, turned his attention toward Apollo.Bookmark here

"Oh, hey, you two." Mirri welcomed them as she noticed them enter. "What do you need?"Bookmark here

"Nothing much," the bandana-wearing man answered. "We're clocking out, figured we'd say hi. This guy... is he one of the new recruits?"Bookmark here

As he finished talking, he turned his attention toward Apollo much like his colleague.Bookmark here

"Hey there, I'm Apollo." the young man introduced himself, reaching out toward the stranger for a handshake.Bookmark here

"Nice to meetcha, I'm Benson," he answered, warmly returning Apollo's handshake with a smile. "My friend here is named Wallace. Sorry about our, uh, appearance. We're the resistance's technicians, you see. Some people specialise in magic, and others like to use more traditional weapons. We make sure they're battle-ready, and make repairs if need be. If you have a weapon yourself, bring it to us."Bookmark here

"I take care of melee weapons and other tools, and Benson takes care of firearms. He's not so good at shooting them himself, though." Wallace chimed in, crossing his arms as he spoke.Bookmark here

"Hey! I'm not... terrible. And how's your performance with a blade, huh?" Benson retorted.Bookmark here

"Gah!"Bookmark here

Upon seeing the pair argue, Mirri began to chuckle. Wanting to prevent the two from arguing further, Apollo interjected. "Heh, well, it's nice to meet you both. I'm not really a weapon user myself, nor do I know many... but I guess I know who to come to in future if that changes."Bookmark here

The pair nodded.Bookmark here

"Say, Mirri, what's your take on that mountain, huh?" asked Wallace, abruptly changing the subject.Bookmark here

"Uh... I'm not really sure. The most logical answer would be some new Stratus technology, or perhaps a really powerful magic user brought it up out of the ground... but why?" Mirri wondered in an uncertain tone, scratching her cheek as she spoke. "What does creating a mountain behind one of the most popular tourist towns in the country accomplish?"Bookmark here

"Mountains don't just pop up out of the ground, magic or no magic." Apollo interrupted sharply. "There are too many factors to account for, and something would've tipped you off as to the cause. So perhaps, we need to ask the question of whether that's really a mountain at all."Bookmark here

"Whoa, you're pretty smart," commented Benson.Bookmark here

"Nah. It's just a hypothesis, and it doesn't really answer the question. I think the only way we'll get answers is if someone goes and climbs it." Apollo responded humbly.Bookmark here

Wallace began to chuckle. "I think you're gonna fit in well around here, recruit."Bookmark here

"Oh, he's fitting in just fine," Mirri added.Bookmark here

In his usual eccentric manner, Apollo took a bow and the group descended into laughter. Shortly after, Benson and Wallace left to go get some rest, leaving Apollo and Mirri as they were. Both continued reading their respective books.Bookmark here

A little more time passed, and it was just a couple hours after midnight. Mirri was starting to become tired, so put down her book and went to sit with Apollo.Bookmark here

"It's getting late, you know. You should go rest." the young man told her.Bookmark here

"Nope, I'm sitting here as long as you are," Mirri responded adamantly.Bookmark here

"But I was kinda planning on this being an all-nighter," Apollo said with some concern in his voice.Bookmark here

Mirri yawned and sat back in her chair. "Oh, that's alright. I'll sit here all night too. I have to make sure you don't take any books."Bookmark here

"That so? You really care about your books, don't you?"Bookmark here

"It's my duty..." Mirri answered, pausing to let out another long yawn. "I have to protect the books. It's all we have left of our culture."Bookmark here

The two descended into silence as Apollo continued reading the books on magic he had picked out earlier. With it being so late, the base as a whole was much quieter, as people had gone to sleep for the night. Mirri leaned on the table, quietly watching the man before her turn page after page of her precious books.Bookmark here

Every now and then, Apollo would look up and smile at her, and she would smile back. No words were spoken, they simply engaged in a quiet appreciation of each other's company.Bookmark here

With how warm and quiet the library was, it didn't take more than an hour for Mirri to succumb to exhaustion and fall asleep.Bookmark here

On the occasion that Apollo looked up to see the girl had dozed off, he put his book down and stared at her for a few moments. Her sleeping face made his heart melt, and her brown hair looked so, so soft. He thought about what had led up to this situation, having a beautiful brunette - one that was a bookworm like himself, too - sleeping next to him.Bookmark here

"From the bottom of my heart, I thank you, mistress destiny."Bookmark here

And there the two remained. Mirri, the sleeping librarian, and Apollo, the ever-diligent scholar. She would still be asleep, and he would still be studying, when that dreadful day began. But neither would ever forget the quiet time they spent together, the night before.Bookmark here

Meanwhile, in the central room of the base, the Captain was still scratching his head monitoring the status of the mystery mountain. He had stared at the infographics on the monitors for hours, had countless discussions with his colleagues, tried to gather information from informant networks, but none of their efforts had borne fruit. They still were no closer to an answer.Bookmark here

There was only one thing they knew for sure.Bookmark here

Stratus was involved, some way or another.Bookmark here

"If they weren't, then they would've sent a whole team out here to investigate. Our favourite Doctor General, especially, would've been all over it. And yet, it was the Fiorir local authorities that had to restrict access to the area." he had theorised.Bookmark here

And now, it was the early hours of the morning. They had no new leads, and nothing had changed on or around the mountain.Bookmark here

"All of you, go and get some rest. I'll stay here and keep an eye on things," he told his colleagues, in a firm yet warm voice. "There's not much more we can do now. Tomorrow, Akio and I will go check things out in person."Bookmark here

The resistance members that had been with him said good night and left, leaving the Captain alone to ponder the current state of things in an empty room.Bookmark here

"I just don't get it," he thought to himself. "How on Earth can we have no idea how a mountain appeared overnight? All we can tell is that thing has tons of magic flowing right through it. But that doesn't tell us anything. Magic power flows through everything."Bookmark here

With a grunt, the Captain grit his teeth.Bookmark here

"I didn't mention it to the others, but what worries me most is that I haven't heard from Elaina or Heizei. We knew there was something going on in Ombra, but could it really be that bad...? Could it be related to this? Either way... if they were here, we'd be a lot more equipped to deal with any sudden threats."Bookmark here

He let out a sigh. The Captain was well aware by now that letting his thoughts get out of control would help no one.Bookmark here

All he could do now was sit and wait.Bookmark here

And while he did so...Bookmark here

Elsewhere...Bookmark here

A Medic and a Castle were fighting with all their might to reach Fiorir by daybreak.Bookmark here

Through a dark city they ran, darting down alleyways to try and evade their pursuers. And if any got too close, the Castle would bring them down in an instant. Escaping the laboratory had been easy, leaving the city was proving to be difficult, and both knew the journey from Ombra to Fiorir was bound to be even harder.Bookmark here

"We're never going to make it in time!" the Medic, a blonde-haired girl cried.Bookmark here

"So? We still have to get back! Better late than never, right?!" the Castle yelled in response, the old man striking down another group of soldiers as he did so.Bookmark here

Even despite all their might, despite what they had learned, they would be too late to stop it. Such was what destiny had decided. The pair wouldn't reach the cherry blossom town in time, and they wouldn't be able to warn their precious friends.Bookmark here

Because was once the sun began to rise...Bookmark here

...once that night finally turned to day...Bookmark here

...with all the pieces in their places...Bookmark here

...Operation Terra was destined to begin.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.