Chapter 18:

Snow over Zarconia

Crimson Core

Hours turned into days, and so the time of the new year has crept in. The snowflakes fluttered in an ice-cold weather of just one among many pale days. The city life moved slowly but surely as always.

„Here we are.“

Nana stopped the car in front of the garage of a Lotus Medical Institute. Beside her sat Omi dressed in a beige winter jacket with a magenta-colored scarf round his neck.

„They won't wake up today either, right?“ hot air that Omi was breathing out blurred out the car glass beside him.

„We don't know that, Omes, but I think you should visit them anyway,“ Nana touched Omi's hair that dropped over his shoulder.

„Now I know how Ren felt watching her sister every day,“ he clenched his fists.

„There there. Come on, off we go,“ Nana pushed Omi out of the car, „hey banana beard, park the car for me,“ she threw her keys at the guard that sneaked behind their car.

„Certainly, my lady, that is why I am here,“ guard bowed.

„On a second thought, I'm gonna park it myself,“ she ran towards the guard and snatched the keys from his hand.

„Wh..what?“ guard stared blankly at her.

„You go in there Omi, I'll be right there,“ said Nana and entered the car.

The quiet girl was the only one sitting at the reception desk. Omi approached her politely.

„Hello, Hana. I'm here to visit my friends,“ Omi had a hard time saying the same sentence over and over again, knowing that he will surely have to do it again.

The girl looked straight into his eyes and nodded slowly. There was a barely noticeable smile on her static face, but Omi overlooked it.

He walked slowly up the stairs and knocked on Dr. Chom's office.

„Come in!“ an enthusiastic voice came from within the room.

Omi opened the door and found Dr. Chom drinking tea in a corner of a room. He has lost some weight and his beard seemed progressively grayer with each passing day.

„So... any progress?“ Omi asked.

„Sorry, not really, Ren and Alp are still in a room across this one, which is actually a good thing, even though they are not any better at least their condition hasn't worsened,“ doctor said with a swallowed smile.

„And...Ume?“ Omi felt a large punch in a chest area just by uttering her name.

„She is still beside Kappa in an Isolation,“ complexity of doctor's face stiffened after saying the words.

„I think I'm ready to see her today,“ Omi surprised himself for saying that out loud.

„You're a brave little dude! Cyn is already there, I mean she hasn't left that room ever since we transported them there, can't blame her,“ doctor averted his gaze.

„Thanks, I'll see you later,“ Omi left the room.

He reached the elevator and located the basement button on a control panel. His finger shook frantically, preventing him from pressing the elevator button. At the last moment, the quiet girl from the reception appeared before him, handing him the special key card and pressing the button for him.

He didn't have time to react to her actions, she was that fast and precise. But without a complain he dropped to the basement floor, thanking Hana for the assistance.

When he reached the basement floor, he was greeted by a warning sign that special suit was needed to proceed further into the Isolation Floor.

I guess this is to prevent any form of contamination, he thought.

He opened the heavy vault door with a special key card that had Hana's name on it.

„Hana Nefer,“ he read it out loud.

What a strange name, it fits her perfectly though, he thought to himself as a form of a distraction.

When he entered the hallway behind the vault door, the long narrow path completely covered in plastic prostrated before him.

He noticed a tall woman in a suit that reminded him of a raincoat his mother used to own.

„Hey,“ Omi approached the woman.

„Oh, Omicron it's you. You actually decided to came, I'm glad,“ she tried to smile but couldn't.

Omi noticed a bunch of papers scattered around the sleeping bag on the floor and a laptop connected to a power outlet.

He knew there was a glass window behind him, but he was hesitant to look through it.

„Hey rebels, look who came to visit,“ Cyn said silently.

Unusual way of addressing someone took Omi by surprise so he reflexively turned his head around. He felt his own blood squeezing it's way through hardened veins.

There were two beds, one beside the other. On one of them laid Ume, connected to a strange device that showed the pulse of her still beating heart.

On the other laid Shiki connected to a similar-looking device. Around them grew crimson flowers that ejected pale pollen-like flakes onto the air that disappeared upon reaching the ceiling.

As one flower shuts himself down, another one emerged in it's place.

Both of them were in complete darkness, their unconscious bodies were faintly illuminated by a pale glow of the flakes.

„What is this?“ Omi was glued to the glass.

„Honestly? We have no clue. It seems that somehow Kappa brought the [World Within] to the outside world. All we know is that he ejects the [Loose Mana] in form of those flowers you see.“

Omi took a peek at Cyn's face beneath the mask. The dark circles beneath her eyes gave him an idea she hasn't slept ever since they found Ume collapsed in the club room.

„Is that even possible?“ Omi's vocal chord broke as if he was singing throughout the entire night.

„Anything is possible theoretically,“ she took a seat near the sleeping bag, „ so, are you having fun with Nana?“

Omi held Cyn in high regard.The entire school did, so much that often he would see school council itself seek advice at the door of the infirmary. Seeing her exhausted and above all, human, hurt him deeply.

Not because he treated her as a divinity, but he finally got the confirmation of the severity of situation. He got the permission to be torn.

Omi said nothing, he broke down in tears and Cyn could only watch him. There was nothing she could do to ease his pain.


Ren and Alp followed the jester that frivolously juggled with plums through the corridor. She ignored the rooms with the mannequins and focused her sight on the floor.

The hallway was especially long, but no matter where she looked at, there stood a beating sun-machinery that was connected to the other by few slim threads that seemed like a spider's web.

„You fancy our sparkling clean floor? Come with me and I will surely show you more!“ jester giggled happily as he juggled more and more plums with each new door they pass by.

„Are you all right, my Queen?“ the armor looked at Ren.

„I am not sure, do you think my sister is kept...somewhere in there?“ she put the palm over her mouth.

She was afraid of the sheer thought.

„Oooh I can assure your majesty, such manner would be travesty! We keep your sister in a place secluded enough, so she doesn't have it tough!“

The way jester spoke gave Ren an idea that he is making fun of her. She kept repeating to herself that the jester before her is just an imposter. She wouldn't forgive herself if she started to hate her friend just because that thing is wearing Shiki's face.

„What are we doing here anyway? Where is my sister? Where is Kappa? Obey me!“ Ren stopped walking and raised her voice.

Jester stopped juggling fruit and turned around. He frowned at Ren while dropping his shoulders.

„Now now, the path is long I fear, but fortunately for you there is a shortcut my dear! I surrender my frugal self to your eyes colored as a tundra, I welcome you to my [Cryptic Umbra]!“

Jester clapped twice and the floor beneath them has shattered in thousands of pieces. They were falling slowly through the void all the way down where millions of crimson suns beat with passion and serenity.

They had fluttered effortlessly like snowflakes and landed down near one of the suns. Ren's kimono grazed one of it's crimson rays but nothing of significance happened to her.

„Oh my..“ Ren knelt before one of the suns and three more surrounded her.

Her emotions intensified severely.Gigantic grains of sweat appeared over her face. Slight discomfort caused by fear of the unknown has evolved into a fright that kept her shackled on a single place.

„My Queen, I am not good enough for you, I am just not good enough, I need to disappear!“ Armor ran frantically like a disoriented lunatic away from her.

She found no strength to stop him. She was unable to comprehend reality to the point in which she questioned her own existence.

Headaches worsened with each second. There was no distinguishable sounds around her. Just an engulfing beat of silence that intoxicated every pore of her tangible being.

„Is this what hell feels like?“ a question lingered in the air.

„No, hell is right there on earth, sis,“ a girl that looked like her twin self appeared beside her.


„Yes, or whatever remains of her at least,“ forced smile filled with pain adorned her face.

„You were here all along? Alone?“ Ren's tears were so heavy, they scarred her face on their way down and then dropped on a ground followed by a sound of evaporating acid.

„Gentle kisses that I had received from you each day kept me company,“ girl shifted from one spot to another like a specter, but Ren completely diminished that.

„No, oh my God, no, I am so so sorry,“ Ren did her best to endure the pain that her own tears caused her. She knew far too well that it is nothing compared to what her sister felt.

„No, I am. I was supposed to be a Prime Shard carrier, but I couldn't meet dad's expectations. I let you down as well,“ words were finding their way out of girl's mouth even though her lips didn't move.

„What are you saying? You dumb woman! That is the stupidest reason in a whole wide world to end up in a hellhole like this!“ Ren twitched around and shouted from the top of her lungs.

„Easy for you to say. A prodigy. Daddy's little princess,“ words cut Ren's ears like knives.

She succumbed to the floor and held her chest tightly. A giant lotus leaves emerged on her back. In the middle of them sprouted a purple lotus flower that ejected severe amounts of [Loose Mana]. Small bubbles with pale glow traveled from the flower's center to the ground, transforming into [Voidpools].

The pools surrounded her, ejecting tiny particles like snowflakes that fluttered amok in the vacuum. With each particle of [Loose Mana] it ejected, the color of the flower would change from purple to a more reddish nuances.

„You want to be consumed by Umbra as well?“girl approached Ren's pale face.

„I came here to save Kappa, I came here to save you!“ Ren punched and kicked around the spaceless ground like a spoiled brat.

„You're on a wrong address, silly girl.“

„What do you mean?“

„You need to get out of here. You, Umeko and Alp.“

„But what about you?“

„I will wait for you, I won't give up until he consumes the last molecule of my being.“

„He consumes?“

„Yes, Kappa, The Devourer.“

„What are you saying, Miyako?“

Girl grabbed Ren beneath her arm and pulled her high above the beating cores. The lotus flower on Ren's back still ejected some [Loose Mana] but far less than before.

„Do you see it?“ girl whispered.

„Is that...Kappa?“

Living cocoon made out of crimson threads spread it's tentacles onto the ground, grabbing the nearest [Crimson Core] and swallowing it whole. Using it's threaded tentacles it walked around and devoured any core that it would fancy.

„He is eating them?“ Ren felt sickly.

„Yes, he feeds on the [Crimson Cores] of people that are stuck within [Cryptic Umbra].“

„What about your core?“

„Oh I hid my core very well. Nagisa's too. He won't hear our Spark that easily.“

„I...can't do anything to save him?“

Sudden realization wounded her spirit. She was barely holding onto a thought that there was a way to fix this mess. That hope faded away.

„Your former friend is far gone. He is now but a weapon.“


„No! Don't use his name he will hear us!“

Giant cocoon turned towards them. Humongous threads traveled with an extreme speed towards them while hitting some of the cores in it's path.

„I will launch you to the upper level. Find Alp and get out!“

„OK, but I will return here and search for you!“ Ren shouted.

„And I will wait.“

With these words girl threw Ren with a formidable force upwards, aiming the broken floor that she fell from. Ren looked down at the specter of her sister disappearing the second before threaded tentacles got to her.

She didn't weep. She didn't dread.

She was certain that they will meet again and that thought served as a fuel for her fatally wounded hope.

She emerged on the broken corridor. The leaves on her back vanished by themselves. She felt much lighter than before.

She walked as fast as she could through the corridor in order to find Alp. Suddenly she remembered about the napkin in her right pocket.

The only thing written on the napkin was „See you on the other side.“

Luckily, there was no sight of jester, just an armor that slept on the door of one of the rooms. It was a room „39“.

„Heh, that's Ume's apartment number,“ Ren sighed as she shook Alp a bit.

„Knight? Are you awake?“ she asked with a worried face.

„Majesty! I mean Ren, sorry, I got so scared I couldn't see anything in front of me. Something carried me here. Carried ME, imagine that!“ Alp waved his arms around.

„Honestly, I can barely imagine. Come on, we should leave,“ Ren helped him get up on his feet.

„What about Kappa, Umeko, your sister?“ Alp's armor creaked whenever he moved his body.

„Umeko is safe and saving my sister is a quest for another day,“ Ren answered simply.

„Kappa?“ Alp wondered.

„We should hurry, come on,“ Ren avoided the question and hurried with Alp through the corridor.


You think I will let them leave just like that?

Yes, You will.

And why is that?

Because I'm all the company you need.

Is that so?! Okay Shiki, let's wait for the break of dawn like we used to.

You got it Uta, I even snatched your favorite snacks.

Yay! Cornflakes!

I still can't believe you eat those without milk.

Milk is so overrated, come on, I want to sit in your lap.

Yes ma'am.

You will stay with me, right?



Ren and Alp have opened their eyes at the exact same time. Dr.Chom spilled his tea from the excitement. He burst out of the doors to tell Cyn, but when he went with the elevator down, he found her hugging Ume tightly while Institute staff tried to separate them.

Her eyes were fixated onto unconscious Shiki, crimson from the tears she wept.

He was reminded of his former love and knew far too well of the feelings that ran through her inconsolable frame.

There was nothing he could do or say.

All the flowers that bloomed around Shiki had disappeared. Just the remaining pollen fluttered around the room here and there.

On the other side of town, Omi was sitting at diner's while Nana played with Sunbar. He answered the phone and nothing but a honest smile painted itself on his face.

He didn't tell anything to Nana, just gazed through the window and enjoyed the company of a single reddish cloud that moved inconspicuously into the sunset.

Extra; Ending

Thunder hums

High in the clouds

Amidst the fields

Never-ending sparks

Knock on the door

Yearn for the past

Over the present

Under the wings of future

Find the one

Or lose the other

Rest assured

Rain quenches the thirst

Eulogy of those who still hurt

As above, so below

Die again and live once more

In this minute called life

Never surrender, never give in

Good things always come from within.