Chapter 15:

Ep 12 - Aardig and Gem - Part 1

The Girl He Used To Know - Original HoneyFeed Version

Maka leaned in again, up to his ear this time - As the last firework made it's lonely path through the sky and erupted in a shower of red and white diamonds;

"Thank you Pierre Havelock, thank you so very much -- Goodbye, Gem Havler."


The world seemed to swirl uncontrollably around Pierre - One moment he was sat on a park bench, watching fireworks with Maka, kis-- The next it was all black.


Pierre panicked, he felt his blood quicken - Tried desperately to look around himself - Was the room pitch-black? His eye blindfolded? Was he asleep?

Before he knew it his eyes shot back open and the world re-enveloped him. His mouth moved by itself;
"Behind you, Aardig!!"

There she stood a ways in front of him, dressed in her finest plate armour, her signature red cloak and emerald battle-kilt, with her blade drawn in a fierce clash with a far less opulent foe.

She quickly took heed of Gem's warning, raising one heavy clad boot and kicking out hard against the enemy soldier's stomach - The smaller man being sent sprawling onto the floor with a pained grunt.

Before she had even finished the kick Aardig's crimson eyes glowed an even deeper red than usual. With a seamless pirouette on her heel of equal menace and elegance, to face the threat that Gem had warned of:

Charging at her was a middle-aged ferret-like man, dressed in a civilian researches clothing and clumsily charging forward with what appeared to be a soldier's short-sword.

From the way he was running, the sword was most certainly not the civilian man's but that was no reason to underestimate someone.

Just metres away from the semi-dull blade colliding with Aardig, the man suddenly stopped and collapsed to his knees - Aardig's own sword now found its way to his neck.

The reason for his stopping? Aardig had simply used her power to remove the sword from her attackers hand.
One moment the civilian had been desperately charging with all his might and resolve - The next he had looked down to see his sword had literally flown out of his hands and hit the floor with a harmless clatter.

Happy that the untrained man wouldn't try stab her in the back a second time, Aardig turned back to the man she had kicked just moments prior and starred as though into his soul.

The lightly armoured, ragged soldier had picked back up his own sword and stood with a decent stance, but Gem (Who by now had made his way to the trembling civilian, who still stared longing at his empty hands) simply hoped the enemy soldier would do the sensible thing and lay down his weapon.

As long as he did, Aardig would happily leave the man live - After all had she wanted to, she could of killed both men in meer seconds, simply turning their own swords against them - Have them fly out of their hands and into their throats or hearts or lungs or eye-sockets or....

'She still tries to avoid giving people painful deaths...'

The soldier continued to look between his tightly gripped blade and Aardig. 
The air was tense and time seemed to move slower as the man made his choice - To die what he perceived as doing his duty, or to live as a disgraced warrior.

Gem was almost about to open his mouth and try to talk down the enemy - All around them were corpses, dozens of them and more outside this building, enough for one day - But before he could, the soldier made his choice - He charged, yelling with everything his tried lungs had left to give.

Aardig stepped to the side expertly and effortlessly brought down her blade.
The enemy's head rolled off cleanly, his body following quickly after.

'Decapitation, a method of death that hurts the executor more than the victim - Except if it fails of course, nothing worse than a guillotine that stops half-way... But Aardig never fails - An instant death.'

"Nice call." Aardig said in her usual flat tone.

Gem smirked mirthlessly, in the middle of binding the civilian man's hands (Not that there was much need, watching the last friendly soldier in the room get decapitated had been more than enough to break the small man);

"Ha! Like you needed it, a man that weak hardly posed a threat and I doubt this here jester would of even scratched your armour!"

Aardig's lip curved downwards slightly, "Gem he might of had dependants - You should not be so callous."

'Dependants? Not family or loved ones, but Dependants....'

Gem had hoped getting back to the battlefield might break Aardig out of her shell a little.

The plan had gone perfectly, any plan of Aardig's always did.
A squad of ten - Himself as leader, the Golem as his second and Aardig as Empress simply 'observing' her forces in the field (least that's what they had told all the marshals who insisted it was insanity for her to enter the battlefield - Even if she had already racked up the most kills).

Along with 7 others of Gem's personal choosing, they had snuck they're way past the Alliance's army and into the Sacred City of the Ancients - Taking out more then half the local force before and alarm was even raised. 

Ten against a hundred is not such bad odds when you have the element of surprise and a knife in the dark. Maybe not the most honourable way but if they should succeed today they would save alot more blood in the long run.

And yet rather then being pleased at their victory, Gem felt uneasy.
More and more lately he felt it.
It was many years since he had been the hapless boy at the battle of 10,000 - Since that day when he had been unable to even stand by her side - Now he knew he could atleast guard her, he knew he was the best swordsman on the continent - Only Aardig herself could best him with a blade.

And yet the more years went by, the more that felt irrelevant.
Here was his oldest friend, speaking through an almost blank face, with the words of a machine rather then a person.

'What the hell is happening to you Aardig? How do I help you?'

Before he could apologise for his comment on the dead soldier, one of the other from their party came charging in.
Youngest of the group the boy had been automatically picked as squad goffer, the one tasked with running messages despite a heavy set of armour on his back, underneath a camouflage cloak.

"Sir Havler, My lady." He said, immediately going down on one knee to bow.

Gem saluted back, "What is it lad? Speak freely."

"Yes Sir. The Sarg-- I mean Lord.Golem Sir, he says the main alliance army has started to move in our direction - 30 minutes before their forces are on top of us Sir.
Even less for scouts."

Gem cussed under his breath - 'A Golems Eyes Are Never Wrong' - before looking over to Aardig. She nodded before speaking;
"Teams of two, check each building quickly. We have this one."

The younger man glanced up at Gem as though for more elaborate orders.

"You heard her didn't you? Pair up in teams of two, atleast one sensitive or Magi in each group.
One team to each of the smaller temples, me and the Prin- Empress will take this central building.
If you find something do not try and activate it without reporting back to us first. Relay that to the Golem, he'll handle the pairings and co-ordination - Understood Son?!"

The Sacred City of the Ancients lived up to its name - For miles around there was the rubble of ancient houses and other building, but central of all was the five temples.

Four of them surrounding a fifth.

The four were three layers of metre-tall stone work in height. Each individual block carved with intricate masonry detail and massive sections of inlaid metals and rare gems.

But the central temple was the most impressive of all. It dwarfed the already impressive height of the other four, spanning up into the clouds.
Like the others it was made of large square-stone layers - Ridging into a pyramidal shape as each square was narrower than the last.
Even more gems and metals lined this temple and large fine-worked staircases tracked up each side.

Aardig lead the way up these stairs to the top level of the Pyramid, Gem close behind dragging his prisoner by bound hands.

They entered the top floor with haste, the Golem's warning of an incoming army fresh on their minds. The top floor was different to the others, if for no other reason then it was empty.

Everyone had obviously left when the alarm, a serious of massive bells, was raised - Probably all lying dead on the floors below - But aside from that the room was also empty of objects.

In it's centre was a blinding pillar of white light, presumably let in by a window in the roof for sunlight to be magnified through in some manner.
Along the walls were terminals of glass or precious rocks? Gem wasn't entirely sure.

Other then that, there was almost nothing, even the researchers didn't seem to of left anything behind. That wasn't to say everything was 'normal'.

There was a warm hazy feel to the place, possibly because of the sunlight pouring in. Further there was an odd taste to the air, a faint oxide to it.

"You feel it to?" Aardig asked after a moment.

"Yup, looks like this place is definitely 'Magical' and probably the source of the 'weapon'."

At the mention of weapon, the small man Gem had been dragging about suddenly became lively again - Speaking for the first time in the same language as his captors;
"W-we-Weapon! No, no, no. No Weapon! Danger, Dangerous!"

Gem's eyebrows rose a fraction, "So your finally awake? And yes, dangerous is the general idea of gaint cannons that turn armies into smouldering craters. Hey Princess, you want to check out these panel things while I have a little 'chat' with our friend here?" 

Aardig nodded her approval and the two set to work.


"Well you get all that?" Gem asked white gesturing his head towards the now unconscious and somewhat more bruised prisoner.

"Summarize." Aardig said back.

Gem sighed,
"Alright. From what I could gather, this is the cannon's control room.
It takes two Magi to fire, one standing like a lemon in the column of light - The other having to focus their mind, imagining the place they want to shoot at I think.
And bam, you got yourself a new lake on the map." 

"Doesn't much explain how it works or where its shots from. Maybe this place is connected to heaven or something? The blast that comes down is from the Gods maybe? Makes as much sense as anything." Gem finished unenthused.

"Gem, you are not religious." Aardig, in what might of been a taunt, said back.

"Princess you really shouldn't say that out loud, you're 'a Saint' remember?"

She shrugged, "Magi Amplification."

"You gonna' explain that a bit more?"

Aardig shrugged again and Gem sighed once more;
"Welp don't matter to me how it works, let's just get it going eh? I'll hop in the light here and yo--"

A grip like iron took hold of Gem's wrist;
"He said it was dangerous."

Gem grinned - 'So you were listening?' - "He was just trying to stop us using it on his mates. Anyway you're the one with the perfect memory right?
You can fire this thing close enough to the Alliance's main army, without hitting them.
If me or one of the others were the one to fire it, we would probably end up blowing up some small town by accident!"

Gem pulled his wrist free and stepped forward again, only for Aardig to lay a hand on his shoulder.
"Use him?" She said looking at their captured researcher.

Gem politely removed her hand - "He ain't a Magi, you of all people would sense it if he was."

"One of the others." - It wasn't a question.

"Excuse me?" Gem said, his voice growing harsher.

"I can sense one coming, 60 seconds."
Aardig proclaimed completely causally.

"That one of my subordinates you mean?
Princess I ain't about to go throwing some kid into this thing you hear? I'm your bodyguard, It's my job to do the risky stuff - I don't need you to protect me!"

Aardig's face took on a faint hint of frustration;
"Irrational, your value nets higher than your subordinates."

Gem's face flushed with anger, "How dare you talk like that about our troops!
Some of those guys have been on multiple campaigns with us, crossed entire contents beside you and me! They aren't units on a board, can't you talk like a human for just a friggin second?!"

Aardig cast her gaze down to her feet, not saying a word.

Gem rubbed loosely at his scalp;
"Sorry that was... sorry. Look we will be fine, ok? Only you can safely fire this thing and even if the researchers were afraid of the light, that doesn't make it deadly or they would of put up like, I don't know, a 'Do Not Cross This Line' sign, ya know?"

Gem leaned over and took Aardig's head in his arms, unable to remember the last time they had touched one another like this. A gasp from her confirmed she was thinking much the same thing;

"I haven't been a very good friend have I?
When we get back, let's, my dear Sola let's talk properly, when we get back eh?
Once we have this cannon we're done right?
No one else in the world can oppose your Empire, even this magic of the ancients didn't stop us! 
So let's talk properly about things when this is done, ok? And I'm sorry, for leaving you alone for so long, Right now let me do this much for you atleast."

And like that he rapidly pulled away and jumped into the pillar of light before Aardig could grab him a third time, he could of sworn he saw her mouth the words;
"But you're already the one who's always been here for me, I'm--" - Before the blinding white obscured his vision.


'Gem, or no, is it Pierre?' - Floated in a seemingly borderless, white corridor.

'What was I doing? Right Aardig, helping.... Maka? Wasn't I with? No the void, the white pillar, the ancient's cannon!

I stepped in and then it all went.... To Fireworks? Maka or Aardig? Wait aren't they the same? No there different I'm sure of that, right?

Red Eyes.

Where am I? Aardig? That isn't even her name is it? Not Really. Maka Umit.....What does that name mean to me now?'

A car horn sounded loudly and finally reality flooded back to Pierre. The horn was so familiar, an old Ford Van;
'Right, I stepped in and next thing I knew I was in the middle of a London street being yelled at by the driver of a van. But that was 30 years ago and that memory - How could I of forgotten it, or had I?'

Pierre rubbed his forehead trying to get his bearings. He was splayed out on the park bench, around him there was just street lights and in the distance the sound of car horns, the very thing that had woken him.

"I fell asleep? Damn I really am getting old, napping on a date."
He grumbled standing up and stretching his arms awkwardly, "Maka? Maka you around here? She hardly left for home without me?"

"Thank you Pierre Havelock, thank you so very much -- Goodbye, Gem Havler."

The words rang through his head. "Maka, MAKA!!"

He was running now, he wasn't sure when he had started running but he had no intention of stopping.
Unlike the park the rest of town was busy with Valentine's couples on their way to dinner or heading home for the evening.
Some even pointed at Pierre recognising him from interviews and such-like on his books.

Through the alleys and past the shops they had frequented everyday now for two long weeks. Two fun weeks of banter and quibbling and endless questions.

Two glorious weeks he hadn't known he needed so badly.

He rounded the final corner into his own street, the long broad place of expensive three story townhouses. 
And there in front of his own house.... A squad car with two young police officers standing by his front door, one talking into his radio receiver, as though asking for backup.

'The fireworks! Damn they got here fast, or was I asleep that long?'

Pierre didn't dwell on this inconvenience long, he edged along the house to one of the many tall windows of the first floor - One he deliberately left unlocked for if he forgot his keys or if the front door stuck-closed.

Careful closing it behind him, he found himself inside the parlour and there on the coffee table lay a note, a letter really.

Pierre's heart sank.

He shakily picked it up, reading it in the dim glow of one of the streetlights shining through the window.
It was long and written in a somewhat scribbled way, indicative of a rush - Pierre traced his finger along the words, skipping between paragraphs;

"...Sorry to put you to sleep like that but all going well you have now remembered our final moments together..."

"...You were right, about those 'Aztecs', they didn't just build similar temples to our worlds 'Ancients' - The two are one and the same. The ancients disappeared one day, the entire race, To Earth...

"...I'm sorry it took so long, I used the Empire, the one we built - Found people from all across it to research the temple, to find a way to get you back!..."

...But there simply isn't one Gem....... No Magite on Earth. It's impossible.

They got stuck, just like you..."

"...Eventually we learned...the temple's...original purpose, not as a gun or a teleporter but a looking-glass!...A way to look out at distant stars and worlds, like Earth. In a sense...A primitive version of the NTME....Gone wrong..."

"...Two weeks, that's all that can be done now. There isn't enough magic left here.

For Every Magite sword I bring here, I gain perhaps a second or two's worth more time with you....."

...Using my own magic I was able to get two weeks out of what's left but after that the portal may never open again..."

"...You must understand, Maka is me and I am her. She is simply a side of me I never got to show you back then, she is the idealised version not from your head but mine.
She is the way I wish I could of looked, the way I wished I could of talked with you.

She is a projection of me, that the temple gave life..."

"...I must return now - It will not do to leave my Empire unattended any longer, even if it's for you..."

"...Oh and don't hold it against young Maka, she...knew nothing.

Like you, she had dreams, hints of...real memories but...really believed herself to be a younger me - One from before things got so complicated..."

"...Me and her have fully combined now, hence my writing this letter.
Do not mourn her...she will always be within me, in fact she insists...We visit her, my, favourite place one last time. She'll wait until you enter the house and then leave..."

"My reasons Gem, for all this are simply ones, selfish ones. I have spent years fearing what happened to you, hoping against hope you were not dead but also that if you lived, you moved on..."

"...My last request of you is therefore that you don't let this be the end.

Take what Maka showed you and live your life my old friend!

Go out there and find someone...My wish dear Gem, is that if this temple still has any power left - That in one year's time I can look in at you...on a Valentine's date, that I can know you won't spend the rest of your days alone because of me..."

"...I hope you understand. I hope this experience was for the best, that the good Maka did will outweigh the hurt I know you must be feeling now..."

"And to prove once and for all this is me, I shall sign with my true name.
Dear Gem please live well and long - All my love, Farewell,

Pierre's voice caught as he read the final lines. He wiped the tears from his eyes, scrunched up the note and stormed over to the fireplace.

"You damn idiot!" He roared as he slammed his first against the mantle piece - As the heavy impact landed, a faint click sounded and the wall of the fireplace slid slowly back.

Pierre reached up into his hidden compartment, retrieving two old and tarnished steel shoulder pieces, a worn leather breastplate and a scabbarded sword.
"Your not going anywhere that easy."
He muttered as he put on the gear for the first time in quite some long, long decades.

And with that he charged over to the front-door and swung it open with the determination to bring - 'Aardig, Sola, Maka or whatever damn name she's going by, back this very instance.'

The door opened.
At the bottom of the steps, the now eight police officers (four of which looked suspiciously like armed police) stared up at Pierre.
Pierre closed the door.

"Ah, right..... Bollocks."