Chapter 4:

Soulless Steel

Lotian, City of Light

Part 1

Franklin guides Dix by the hand through the streets of North Whisper, skulking around in the early stages of the night to avoid being spotted by any patrols, it doesn’t seem like they are looking for me specifically, but i better be careful not to be recognized by any civilians also. Dix just lets him take her along, not minding where they are going or to give him any tips on how to better sneak around, she just follows him, quietly sobbing and wiping away occasional tears when they form in her eyes.


She doesn’t answer.

“Look at me.”

She refuses.

“I’m supposed to be the useless one right now, you have to help me.”

Still no response. We can’t just wander around aimlessly, he takes her under the shadow of a building, she sits back against the wall golding her knees to her chest, tears forming again in the corner of her eyes, he sits beside her.

“Listen, i know that you aren’t ok and probably just want to give up, but i gave my word to Lipa that i would keep you safe, so you gotta help me out.”

“What do you need?” She manages to gather the strength to answer.

“This Cyne guy, where would he go next? Do you have any more allies he would go after?”

Dix remains silent, watching the illusory clouds move in the fake sky as she calmly accepts the drowsiness embrace, did Cyne really betray us? She thinks to herself. Her head gradually gets lower and lower, her eyelids get heavy, she doesn’t want to cry anymore, she just wants to sleep… just sleep, she would continue to grieve once she wakes up.

“Dix!” Franklin shakes her awake, we can’t stop right now.

“I’m fine, i’m fine,” she replies.

“Is there someone that Cyne will target?”

She thinks for a while, almost falling asleep in the process.


When she doesn’t elaborate, Franklin presses her before she has a chance to fall asleep.

“Who is he? Where does he live?”

“Alley sixteen.”

He gets up, i need to keep her moving.

“I don’t even know what this means,” he pulls her by the hand, and she stands up, “take me there. There is someone we can still save waiting for us.”

Part 2

As they approach the place known as alley sixteen, their anxiety begins to spike, what if we are late? They think at the same time.

“What type of place are we searching for?”

Dix points toward an old narrow shop with a single window and door “there it is.”

Franklin looks at the sign above the shop, almost falling apart but no words are necessary to identify the single image displayed in the middle. A sword pointed down, from it’s guard prouts a tree which forms the handle and pieces of a cog on each side, giving the vague impression of wings.

“Your friend is a steel mage?” Franklin asks, shock in his voice.

“Don’t know if he is a friend.” She whispers to herself.


“Nothing,” she dismisses, “what about him being a steel mage? It’s not illegal.”

“Yeah, but still, how can you trust a group of heretics that worship things without souls?” Franklin explains, almost surprised by the disgusted tone of his voice, have i always hated them that much?

“You’ll have to endure it, it’s not like we have any other options.”

They reach the front door, dark wood with polished iron knob, lock, and lids, also a head made of the same iron, but much less polished, stands in the center portion of the door at the same height as Franklin’s own head.

Dix knocks on the front door, no response comes.

Franklin tries this time, still no response, they wait to see if they can hear the sound of footsteps, but none come.

One more time, nothing yet again, Dix’s anxiety flares in her face, she won’t be able to endure the death of one more friend, Franklin thinks to himself. He reaches for the sword on his back.

“He’s probably sleeping.” Her expression lightens up a little, as if she hadn’t thought of that possibility, “Maybe we should break in. Do you know how to pick locks?”

“You can’t pick a lock created by a steel mage.”

“Then i will bring the whole door down.” Franklin unsheathes the sword, but before he can slash the door.


The sword trajectory is interrupted mid-swing, both look around trying to identify the source of the yell. “I’m right here, stupid barbarian.” they identify the source of the voice being the face on the door, which now moves like a regular human face.

“Dix,” the voice continues, “you found yourself quite a bodyguard, strong body, but weak of mind.” She doesn’t reply.

“At least i’m not the one that worships dead metal.” Franklin spitefully replies.

“What’d you want?”

“Orim, you are… we are in danger.”

“Let us in and we will tell you the whole story.” Franklin demands.

“Give me a moment.”

They put their backs against the wall to wait for him to come open the door, but as soon as they turn around, the door opens, revealing a young man with star colored hair, that looks to be around the same age as both of them, but not as tall with a frame very different from Franklin's wide shoulders and muscular body.

“You may enter.”

“Were you waiting on the other side of the door?” Franklin asks.

“Yes, my sentries warned me you were coming this way.”

“And why didn’t you open the door?” Franklin demands, annoyance slipping into his tone, he’s already getting on my nerves.

“I don’t know you, and those damned wispshapers have been searching for someone for the last few thousand taks, son of a noble murdered some people...” He takes a closer look. “Oh my--”

Franklin steps in, covering his mouth and whispering to him “did you forget? We are in danger, including you.” Orim nods and Franklin releases him.

“Come in.” Orim steps aside urging them to enter with a gesture.

Franklin drags Dix, who's been distracted during the exchange, inside the house; she doesn’t complain or resist.

“What’s with her?” questions Orim.

“That’s what we’re here to explain.”

As they enter the shop, Orim grabs Franklin by the arm and stops him, “Just so we are clear, you would not be able to break my door alright?”

Part 3

Past the shop, in Orim's living room, liten and warmed by a fireplace where flame wisps dance, which looks more like an improvised workshop. Half finished projects scattered around everywhere, three metal birds that Franklin are able to spot observe him and Dix from a shelf at the corner of the room, but haven't moved or made any noise since he spoted them, something that looks like an arrow linked to a chain lies hidden behind the couch, a glass with a liquid metal inside sits in the center table, dozens upon dozens of metal plates cut into the most varied shapes, cogs and screws in every nook and cranny of the room. The metallic smell of the room caused instant revulsion from Franklin, but he managed to hold it in, the three sit in small pockets of room where Orim managed to push the mess away.

Franklin gives a thorough explanation of the events of the day to Orim, reinforcing Cyne’s betrayal and the possibility that he will be targeted, Dix offers no opinion or complement, instead, choosing to remain silent and let herself get distracted by a small cog she found next to her.

“And what now?” Orim asks, “what exactly do you want from me? Shelter?”

“We came to save you.”

“As you can see, i’m fine, no one came to kill me.” He points to his own body.

“They will come for you, do you have any hideout we three can use? We have to get out of here.” Franklin tries to explain.

“I’m not moving out, if i had any hideout i could use i would lend it to you, but i also can’t let you stay here.”

“Believe me, they will come.” Franklin says, cold anger seeping in his voice, i’m getting tired of this.

“Why would they give you time to warn me if they intended to kill me? Doesn’t make sense.” Orim stands up.

“Why is it always like this with you steel mages, we are here to give a warning that your life is in danger and you simply dismiss us as if we are totally strangers.”

“You are a total stranger to me, mister prodigy.” Franklin’s eyes go wide with surprise, Orim continues, “you are the son of Lord Dawnlight, of course the steel mage guild knows about you. But i don’t know you personally, and since they are searching for Dix also.” He goes in the direction of the front door, “i’ll have to ask you to--”

Three heavy knocks on the door.

“Mister Orim.” comes a male voice from the other side of the door.

Orim freezes.

“If you open, you’ll be killed.” Franklin warns.

Orim hesitates, eyes shifting rapidly between Franklin and the door, more knocks on the door, the man on the other side calls again.

“Listen,” Franklin proposes, “gather your things and let's get out of here.”

Retreating from the door, Orim goes toward Dix.

“Bring this door down” the male voice orders behind the door, both eyes of the men inside widen with urgency, Franklin dashes to the living room, Orim follows.

“Gather all you need and take Dix with you.” Orim nods.

Franklin retrieves his sword, “come with me little guy.” He says to the flame wisp, bonding it. Small heatless embers form in his hair and clothes, sparks light his eyes and fire cracks form on his fingers all the way to his forearm.

In a single strike, the door is slashed in half Franklin holds the sword in a ready stance while his mouth curves into a smile due to the small irony. Three men wearing the usual wispshapers whites, darkened by the dim light of the room, step into the shop, hair wavering unnaturally, swords drawn and multiple water orbs floating behind them. Franklin focuses his attention on their eyes, not full wispshapers, just regular guards, he releases a relieved sigh.

“Gentleman, can we talk about this?” Franklin says to the Three men, the early smile reduced to a crooked one, can i fight three of them? Can i fight even one of them?

“Sure young master Dawnlight, come with us and we will talk about this.” The last of the wispshapers to enter says, the same voice that was giving orders a moment ago.

“I find myself unable to do that, at the moment mind you, if you let me, my friend and the steel mage go, i’ll come back to talk to you guys after i prove my innocence.”

“Unfortunately for you” the leader replies, “we also find ourselves unable to let you go.”

One of the water orbs turns into a stream, Franklin dodges with a flip to the right, almost hitting the shop’s shelf, gotta be more careful. The water stream turns into ice as it hits the ground, Franklin ducks under a second stream, ice forming on the wall and while moving his hand upward in a wide sweeping motion, he combusts the air, creating a fire explosion that disperses the third stream into steam.

The bond with the flame wisp weakens a little, the three wispshapers ready their swords and advance, the first one takes a vertical swing that gets blocked by Franklin, holding the back side of the blade in a half sword stance. The next instant, two water streams appear from behind the man, moving in on Franklin’s position. It takes a very skilled wispshaper to create fire without motion or a nearby natural source at arms reach a level of skill possessed by none present in the shop; they are trying to restrict my movement. He slides his foot on the floor, a small fire forms a trail, his hand does the same along the length of the blade, fire forming on the path. Both flames concentrate and each moves towards one of the two water streams, not enough to vaporize them, but enough to divert their trajectory.

“Smart.” The wispshaper attacking Franklin offered a compliment and promptly rewarded him with a knee to the torso that sent him sprawling on the floor. Three water streams came from above, Franklin raised both feet, using the motion to create a fire explosion below them and propel himself into a backflip to dodge. With a powerful flame explosion, he vaporized the water that just attacked him, straining his bond with the wisp, simply defending myself won’t help.

A second wispshaper soulsteps in front of the first, a vertical slash in the direction of the still low to the ground Franklin, which deflects the sword to the side and rolls backwards to a standing position. Water darts like an arrow, Franklin swings the sword in a rising slash, coated in flames, vaporising the projectile. The light of the fire dazzles him for a moment, and delays his reaction to the wispshaper in front of him, which comes with a horizontal swing. Franklin began to stumble backwards, but he was too late.

The sword cuts deep into the wall, momentum slowing down to a crawl, Franklin gladly takes the opening, stepping into the soul realm to correct his movement and deliver a devastating punch with his left arm sending the man flying backward to be catched by the first attacker.

The first wispshaper to attack dodges his companion with his own soulstep and advances once again, Franklin steadies himself, but then notices that the ice on the floor and wall was forcibly melted and relocated to where now his foot stood, binding him in place. Half Swording his blade, Franklin manages to deflect the worst part of the attacks, only receiving small cuts to his arms and legs, with a quick trust he manages to create some space between them.

The four water orbs begin to gather around the man’s arm, and then, Orim dragging Dix by the hand appears from the living room door in the direction of another door opposed to it.

“Stop!” The wispshaper leader commands them, shooting a water stream in their direction.

Shit, Franklin ignores the enemy in front of him and twists his body, adding momentum to the sword, covering it in fire and throwing it spinning, intercepting the water projectile that explodes in steam, the sword falls point first on the ground. He quickly turns around, with a fire expl, he receives a punch enhanced by a large ice gauntlet, the ice binding his foot is shattered and he flies through the wall at the end of the narrow hallway.

The dark room spins like a swirling mass of shadow around him, consciousness weak and frail, is my head still attached? Franklin begins to struggle to his feet.

“Wilhye, go after them”, a muffled voice comes from what seems like the other side of Lotian, i have to keep going.

Recovering enough awareness to assess his surroundings, Franklin notices a water filled bathtub with an acrid smell, looking in it’s direction he notices a pair of water wisps sitting at the edge, well, it’s do or die.

“Come.” He says to the wisps, not looking in any direction in particular, “help me with this.” One of them accepts his invitation.

The ice gauntlet demakes itself into the four previous water orbs, he advances towards the door where those two entered not even three taks ago. Then a stream of water shoots from inside the hole on the wall, Wilhye manages to stop it with his sword. One more, two, three, four, a multitude of streams are launched in the direction of the three wispshapers in quick succession.

Blocking the water attacks with their own, the wispshapers mange do avoid any damage from the barrage. But then their eyes widen and their mouths gape in surprise as Franklin jumps out of the hole, hair wavering as if underwater, embers in his clothes and hair, as the fire cracks in his arms are colored a bright blue, as are his eyes.

Can’t maintain this for very long, Franklin thinks to himself running in the direction of his opponents using the water of the bathtub to form a tentacle and retrieve his sword without needing to stop. Stepping into the soul realm, Franklin quickly covers the distance, but the spiritual awareness of the wispshapers gives them plenty of time to react, Wilhye blocks the sword strike and Franklin feels the backlash, can’t use soulstep anymore, or the bond will be broken. He sends a large amount of water to attack his second closest opponent, who dodges with a soulstep.

Franklin changes direction of his water attack, to the man in front of him, who blocks it with his remaining four orbs. They trade blows, delivering mutual shallow wounds to each other, i can’t run the risk of blinding myself with fire again. Franklin dodges a sneak water bullet thrown by their leader, but the momentary distraction forces him to block an ice punch that sends him sliding on the hallway.

“Change of priorities men,” the leader shouts, “let’s capture our little lordling and retreat, we can deal with the other two later.”

The other two nod.

“Capture action ‘A4’.” He commands.

A4, or capture action water type number four, Franklin was familiar with this one, he practiced it with his colleagues, it was their best course of action in such a tight space, and the reason that he was now worried. The seven water orbs remaining combined to form a larger one that moved in Franklin’s direction, i can’t dodge it. Straining his bond with the wisps to the limit, he widened the distance between his feet sliding them on the floor and generating a blue flame from the motion, and controlling it, the fire rose to the sword embedding itself in it to create a bright blue blade. Franklin positions itself in a quickdraw stance and swings.

The motion, aided by the fire blade created a pale blue flame that clashed with the seven orbs worth of water, the steam explosion that ensued destroyed the shop portion of the house and threw two of the wispshapers in the street outside, but no lights began to illuminate the windows around, no one would dare to risk being witness to anything in this part of the city. Franklin got flung across the corridor, his bond barely holding together, Wilhye got thrown to the sidewall of the shop.

Both retrieve their swords from the ground and run to attack one another, short slashes, trusts, blocks, dodges and parries follow, neither of them having an edge either in physical strength or speed. And that’s where Franklin's lack of combat experience proves to be his downfall, he gets disarmed by Wilhye, his sword flies from his hand into the living room. He dodges under a slash, and tries to make it to his sword but Wilhye grabs him by his coat and flings him into the wall on the opposite side. Franklin sees his opponent moving in for a decisive trust, and using the last of his bond, creates a large explosion of blue fire, cracking and sinking the wall supporting his body, his head hits hard against the stone wall and his vision darkens for a moment. His opponent is sent flying away in the living room, when he doesn’t get up, Franklin assumes him to be unconscious, just two more… i guess.

He walks toward his sword, trying to conserve as much energy as he can, Franklin picks it up in time to see his opponents arrive at the living room. They released their bonds, i have to finish this quickly before they are able to bond the flame wisps.

The wider space puts Franklin in more of a disadvantage, fortunately for him, the messy room also makes it difficult to move around. Fighting defensively won’t do me any good, Franklin concludes and kicks the center table up sending the weird liquid metal splashing on the leader’s eyes. He dashes to the other one, swords whistling as they cut the air, Franklin tries a different approach to his attack but gets pushed back nonetheless, retreating, he jumps over a horizontal slash, landing behind the couch.

His opponent gives him no quarter and kicks the couch, sending it flipping over Franklin’s head, who ducks under it. He grabs the arrow with a chain that was tucked away behind the couch and throws it at the wispshaper, the sword moves in a slash, but before the blade makes contact with the rope, it springs into action as if it was alive, binding the man.

Franklin moves to finish his opponent off but is forced to retreat due to a strike from the leader. They exchange blows, Franklin gets pressured, he is much better than the other two, and quickly retreats into a defensive tactic but still gets injured by small cuts. The other wispshaper manages to get somewhat free from the chains and upon seeing Franklin with his attention focused away from him decides on a sneak attack.

Swords clash, sending sparks flying in the room lit only by the fireplace, Franklin doesn’t notice the approaching enemy, the leader goes for a big slash.

“BEHIND YOU!!!” A screechy voice comes from the corner of the room.

The leader and Franklin hesitate, he looks behind him and gets out of the way of the blow, both wispshapers stop awkwardly mid swing, giving Franklin the perfect opening. He strikes the leader with the dull part of the blade, making him unconscious.

One more, Franklin thinks to himself, moving to keep his momentum, the other man still struggling to free himself from the chain isn’t able to put up much of a fight and Franklin is able to knock him out with the same attack as the other one.

I did it, Franklin thinks to himself while he stands at the center of the living room huffing intensely, two unconscious wispshapers around him, i never asked where they were going. He stumbles toward the backdoor.

“You’re welcome” comes the same screechy voice from before.

He turns around to see one of the metal birds standing on a shelf at the room’s corner, the other two being no longer there.

“We’re waiting for you at the ghost woods.” Says the bird.


“Bring the bird with you.”