Chapter 4:

What does the turtle say?

Crimson Core

Crimson Core.Bookmark here

When a Spark within the [World Within] fills to the brim with Mana, it transforms into a phenomenon called [Crimson Core].Bookmark here

Shard type one: The Stabilizer makes sure that Mana flows directly into a center of the Spark, making an implosion of bright red tones that swallow entire world.Bookmark here

[Crimson Core] has mind of it’s own just like humans often aren’t aware of true emotions that loom behind their actions, waiting to be released.Bookmark here

High levels of [Pure Mana] that radiates soon after the formation of [Crimson Core] may even resonate with the Active Shard wielders, producing unknown results.Bookmark here

“You didn’t mention any of that to him, weye?” asked Omi.Bookmark here

Ren stood in front of the door that led to neighbor classroom where the session was in progress with her arms locked together tightly.Bookmark here

“We cannot guarantee anything when it comes to [Crimson Core], or [World Within] for that matter. It is up to him to interpret everything in his own way, we just have to believe in him”Bookmark here

Alp stood still with his usual rough expression, but seemed to be even more worried than Ren.Bookmark here

“That’s Psychological Club to ya,” Omi sighed and continued to type on the keyboard.Bookmark here

“…”Bookmark here

Her giant rocket launcher made out of special kind of metal that produced no reflection, marbled with tiny plum insignias throughout the entire machinery made a steaming noise when Ume placed it on her tiny shoulder.Bookmark here

“Here they come, go watch the station and do whatevs,” Ume aimed at seemingly empty horizon.Bookmark here

“Yes!”Bookmark here

Shiki got up and stuttered while running to the place where the bench once stood.Bookmark here

Suddenly a giant honk broke the sound barrier, followed by a storming train that needed no tracks, rushed through the field while breaking rocks and bushes in it’s path.Bookmark here

It stopped violently by diving slightly into the ground and it stumbled down, breaking the windows on both sides.Bookmark here

After a couple of seconds, mass of human-sized shadows started jumping out of the windows and ran fast towards Ume.Bookmark here

Some of them carried notebooks, some of them bags, and some even had basketballs in their shady hands.Bookmark here

Shiki was perplexed beyond belief but remembered Ren’s advice to not think too much about things in here.Bookmark here

He waited for Ume’s move and a possible command.Bookmark here

“They’re not real,” Ume yelled and continued, “but they sure know how to melt!”Bookmark here

She launched a series of oversized plums with a force so strong that planted her tiny body deeper into the ground.Bookmark here

Plums flew straight towards the running shadows and suddenly they blew up above them, spraying them with abrasive liquid that turned them into orange fumes.Bookmark here

“Did ya see that?!” Ume shouted proudly.Bookmark here

I give up, announced Shiki’s mind that decided with unwavering certainty that he would not pry deeper into meaning of it all.Bookmark here

“That’s [Loose Mana] for ya, go snatch it!” Ume shouted as she prepared to make another shot.Bookmark here

“Are you crazy? I’ll die!” Shiki yelled back.Bookmark here

“And I’m here with ma’ plumzooka turnin’ shadows into plum jam, use bloody magic or something!” Bookmark here

She made another precise shot that turned more than twenty shadows into mush.Bookmark here

“How do I even, what?” Shiki’s mind boggled and fumed around the questions that go beyond the laws of reality.Bookmark here

Loud exploding sound made by plums only furthered his uselessness. With each new explosion he drowned deeper into desperation.Bookmark here

“Why did I even come here?” he held his head with both of his hands and shook fanatically as if he was trying to make the magic drop out of his ears.Bookmark here

Shadows won’t go away on their own, that’s why Ume is doing her best to eliminate them as fast as possible and the exit won’t appear on it’s own, they have to create it by completing the task ahead.Bookmark here

“But I’m a Stabilizer, not a Fighter like her, what am I supposed to do, stuck with this robust shell?” Shiki wondered while looking at the pale glow his hand emitted.Bookmark here

“I should calm down and think, Ume is counting on me,” he watched the orange fumes go up in the air and Ume running around with her weapon, taking new positions that would give her better angle for the shot.Bookmark here

“She must really like plums, just like Omi said,” Shiki calmed himself by thinking back at all the things he learned in a few day’s time.Bookmark here

“That is the same face president made that day in a greenhouse, when she was eating tomatoes that Alp gave her.” Bookmark here

For an unknown reason, of all the things he could think about, an image of a smiling tree on a rainy day appeared in Shiki’s mind.Bookmark here

“Alp is Ren’s Stabilizer, but he is so much bigger and stronger than I am, and they are part….ners….” Pages in his book started turning with a miraculous speed. Bookmark here

He remembered how they arrived into [World Within], and even after that how Ume made the train appear before them.Bookmark here

“The key that unlocks magic was hiding in that garden all along,” said Shiki as he exhaled out of relief.Bookmark here

“What are ya blabberin' out there like an edgy MC? Use that turtle brain and do something!” Ume yelled while looking far back at the station where Shiki was hiding.Bookmark here

Couple of really fast shadows on skates were fast approaching Ume that didn’t have enough time to prepare for a shot.Bookmark here

Seeing that, he decided in a flash to burn all the analytical papers inside his head and run fast towards the shadows.Bookmark here

“I will not stop moving!” he shouted while running towards his demise.Bookmark here

Ume raised her eyebrows and bulged her eyes when she saw a turtle-like boy marching like a super hero.Bookmark here

He passed by her at an enviable speed and closed the distance with shadows. When he was close enough, he destroyed all the cramps that lurked in his stomach the entire time with a single line.Bookmark here

“I love you, Umeko!” He yelled from the top of his lungs.Bookmark here

“Huuh?”Bookmark here

Ume was blown away by the embarrassment and dropped down on all fours, accidentally launching a plum into the air.Bookmark here

He spread his arms like a souring eagle, and jumped sky high. Sign on his right arm emitted even stronger light that encircled him in a form of now greatly visible barrier.Bookmark here

The turtle shell on his back started pulsating like a fast beating heart and enlarged itself three, four, then five times of it’s original size. Bookmark here

Shiki noticed that he is able to enter the shell easily, so he did exactly that. He punched through several shadows upon landing and with help of his giant shell, started vacuuming all the fumes and pools by spinning with immense force. Bookmark here

The force of suction created by the opens in his shell was so strong it created a landspout.Bookmark here

Landspout pulled everything in it's path into the Shiki's shell, where Shadows broke down into Mana. Crevices on the inner side absorbed the Mana and stored it inside of a shell.Bookmark here

“Move away! Shiki!” Ume yelled. Bookmark here

Plum launched by her was still traveling to Shiki who realized he won’t have time to dodge it.Bookmark here

“I decided to give up, this is me giving up,” he declared as the plum ended up trapped within the landspout and sucked into his giant turtle shell.Bookmark here

“…”Bookmark here

Feeling of late summer rain caressed his frigid cheeks.Bookmark here

Smell of plum reminded him of Cyn’s perfume.Bookmark here

Pain he felt was slowly drifting away.Bookmark here

He was alone for the first time.Bookmark here

“Stay with me”Bookmark here

“Promise”Bookmark here

A whisper broke the silence.Bookmark here

Pain he felt came back with the reinforcements.Bookmark here

Cyn’s perfume perished in a form of Umeko’s scent.Bookmark here

Feeling of late summer rain added color into his frigid cheeks.Bookmark here

“…”Bookmark here

Shiki grabbed the plum within his shell and ate it without batting the eye.Bookmark here

“No..” Couple of tears slided down Ume’s cheeks when the landspout disappeared and turtle shell dropped lifelessly onto the ground.Bookmark here

Several shadows started hitting the shell, some even bit, others clawed but the shell was extremely hard so they didn’t leave a single mark on it.Bookmark here

“Leave him alone!” Ume cried out.Bookmark here

She was preparing the launcher for the next shot, but her teary eyes prevented her from doing so in a fast manner.Bookmark here

Every second counted.Bookmark here

When she looked up, a huge crowd of shadows already surrounded the shell and it’s deep green color was barely visible.Bookmark here

She pointed onto the herd with her launcher but nothing was coming out of it, The mechanism didn’t even start.Bookmark here

“Useless junk!” she threw it away and started running towards the herd.Bookmark here

She had no idea what to do without weapon, but the logic held no weight in her mind. She would do whatever it takes to help Shiki.Bookmark here

“I’m not going back to Omi, you hear me?” Ume shouted while running.Bookmark here

She punched couple of shadows with her dry fists and kicked a couple more by forcing her kitten heels onto their shadowy appearances. Bookmark here

A pair of shadows that held jumping poles pushed her onto the ground and held her in a place. She couldn’t free her tiny body.Bookmark here

“Please! Don’t leave me!” Ume’s shout pushed back the shadows.Bookmark here

She was convinced that her power scared them away, but reality was somewhat different. Bookmark here

Thundering sound in the distance made the shadows run in all directions.Bookmark here

When she straightened her back into a sitting position, Ume saw a giant turtle shell bouncing around like a volleyball, spraying the giant amounts of plum acid and melting the shadows on the field.Bookmark here

It bounced forward, then back, left and right, melting and absorbing all the fumes and pools it created.Bookmark here

Ume slapped her face with both of her hands and got back on her feet.Bookmark here

“I can’t lose to you, dummy.” Bookmark here

She grabbed the plumzooka and started violently shooting all the shadows that were running away from the turtle.Bookmark here

After a couple of minutes, not a single enemy appeared before them. Shiki’s turtle shell had already shrunk into a normal size, but glowed in a deep blue color.Bookmark here

He fell onto the plowed ground like a log and stared into the sky like he sees it for the first time in his life.Bookmark here

Ume walked slowly towards Shiki and then looked down on him.Bookmark here

“Don’t scare me like that hottie, it’s our first date!” soon after she corrected herself while kicking tired Shiki on the ground, “I mean day, gosh, why would you say such things to me!?”Bookmark here

“Y..You told me to hug you on a I thought that magic activates when you…” Shiki turned his head around.Bookmark here

“That’s the only reason?” Ume yelled without stopping,”give me back the first love confession I ever received!” Bookmark here

She kicked Shiki’s shell unsuccessfully. It was too thick for him to even feel a thing.Bookmark here

She sat on her plumzooka beside him and admired the violent mess they made with a proud smile.Bookmark here

“There is no sun in the sky,” said Shiki while keeping track of the few clouds that roamed, “it’s so hot and sunny, but there is no sun at all!” he laughed.Bookmark here

“We should make this quick before you lose it completely.” Ume replied gentlier than usual.Bookmark here

“So,what were those… things?” Shiki asked.Bookmark here

“Shades?” Ume replied.Bookmark here

“Yes, shadows”Bookmark here

“Dunno, memories probs.”Bookmark here

“Boy’s memories?”Bookmark here

“Yeah, something like that,” Ume stood up and glanced at the train, “ya should probs ask the pres or nurse about that.”Bookmark here

Shiki didn’t say a thing.Bookmark here

The train was a fairly new model that many students used to travel to school. No matter how you looked at it, it was an average train laying down on a bare field.Bookmark here

“If I had to guess, [Spark] is probs hidden in there,” Ume pointed at the train and continued her thoughts,”Omi had the thing where he could easily notice their presence, ya feel anythin’ ?”Bookmark here

She looked at Shiki that was still laying down in a place like a stranded train.Bookmark here

“Humming,” he said.Bookmark here

“Honeying?” Ume replied.Bookmark here

“No, humming,” Shiki explained as he prepared to get up from the ground,”I found the president by following a sound of distant thunder the first time I arrived at school.”Bookmark here

“So cool! And creepy of course,” Ume threw her five cents.Bookmark here

Shiki wasn’t bothered by her remark cause he found that to be creepy as well. He walked slowly towards the train, hoping he would hear a sound. Ume took couple of steps back thinking maybe few shadows here and there were trapped within the train.Bookmark here

“I’ve got nothing, sorry,” he said.Bookmark here

“Let’s try by getting in there, ya go first!” She moved her weapon left and right, marking the exit doors at the end of the stranded train.Bookmark here

“Me? Isn’t it kind of dangerous?” he asked.Bookmark here

“Oh please, if you survived my plumzooka, this will be cakewalk,” Ume yawned.Bookmark here

“Oh right, your plum tasted delicious!” Shiki said happily while entering the train.Bookmark here

“W..what are you saying, dummy!” Ume complained by violently kicking the ground.Bookmark here

Train was unexpectedly not completely wrecked from the inside. As soon as Shiki entered, he heard a clear hum and decided to let Ume know that it is as safe as it can be to walk inside. When he turned around, she was already stepping through the entrance.Bookmark here

“It’s standing normally!” Ume let out a surprised sound.Bookmark here

“That’s not all, look through the windows,” Shiki pointed outside.Bookmark here

The train was safely parked at the train station that seemed somehow cleaner than the first one. All benches were on their natural place and the station was definitely much smaller in size than the one that looped constantly.Bookmark here

“Whatever we’re looking for is in the other wagon,” Shiki pointed at doors that separated one wagon from another.Bookmark here

He was shaking faintly, but didn’t let it escalate into something far worse since Umeko clutched her weapon while shaking even more vividly.Bookmark here

When he opened a door, the train suddenly started moving.Bookmark here

Ume quicly jumped at Shiki knocking him down.Bookmark here

“What did ya do?!” She yelled while sitting on a turtle shell.Bookmark here

The shell glowed periodically like a tiny lighthouse. For a moment color was bright as an ocean in the middle of the day and in other it was dark blue as a night.Bookmark here

Shiki heard a rather curious hum that was coming from one of the seats in a train.Bookmark here

“The sound is coming from somewhere out there,” he pointed at one of the seats.Bookmark here

Ume got off his shell and ran towards the seats Shiki pointed at. She has found the source of the humming.Bookmark here

“It’s a handheld console?” Ume wondered while holding a tiny device in her hand.Bookmark here

The 8-bit sound of thunder was indeed coming from it. Shiki got up as fast as he could and got close to Ume.Bookmark here

“Let me see what I can do,” he said with serious face.Bookmark here

“Aye aye, Kap!” Ume handed over the console to Shiki.Bookmark here

He grabbed the console with his left hand and when he realized his palm too sweaty, he put the console in his right hand while wiping the other one on his shirt.Bookmark here

“Gross! Boys will be boy I guess, here grab the napkin,” Ume handed him over a tiny piece of light purple cloth with a small palm tree engraved on it.Bookmark here

Shiki wiped his hand with the napkin and then stopped. He realized it’s the same napkin that found it’s way into his pocket few days ago.Bookmark here

“Where did you get this?” he askedBookmark here

“What? The napkin?” she replied and said, “why does it matter?”Bookmark here

“Never mind,” he shook his head. There was already too much to think about at the moment.Bookmark here

“Let’s see here,” Shiki pressed a button and the game started.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.