Chapter 3:


Silver Heart

“Failure means suffering. It grabs your mind, eats away at your conscience, and tears your very soul apart. Fear of failure is normal. Failure does not mean expulsion, on the condition that you recover from it. Turn your fear into motivation and annihilate all the barriers in your path. Do exercise caution, for once fear grips your heart, it will not let go quickly.”


The world continued moving around, except for me. Left behind, I was deep in thought, standing in the dirty party room where my failure arose. An hour had passed since then.

Cybers guarded the door and the broken window in which it came and left. Small robots, consisting of a square and triangle placed next to each other, scooped around the entire dirtied floor.

The metallic figure, the expansion suit, had kidnapped Albus, a government official, while present at a party held by CLEAR and guarded by me. By me.

I failed miserably…

I let down my guard and didn’t expect an expansion suit would destroy everything.

Were the intruders just a distraction?

Was this all part of their strategy?

Could I have done something to prevent this from happening?

I could have run to the party room while using the camera’s traps from a safe distance, instead of luring them towards me…

I could have tried to shoot the expansion suit with my EMP gun… even if I stunned the expansion suit for a split second, that would have been enough, that should have been enough.

I could have sent some cybers to defend the room, yet I was too preoccupied with what was in front of me.


Someone shook me violently. I snapped out of my thoughts and looked at the person who was screaming my name.


“Are you okay?” Rai said from behind him.

“I’m fine. Don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine,” I said, more to myself than to them, “how are you two holding up?”

“....frustrated…” was all Akihiro managed to say through his gritted teeth.

“Disgraced and embarrassed,” Rai responded while trying to cover her eyes with her long hair.

“It’s alright… you two don’t have to worry about it, I… I will take full responsibility for this failure,” I said, lowering my gaze.

“You weren’t even on duty. This is my locale, the place I’M supposed to guard with you, and I failed.”

“The same thing could be said about me. You asked me to take over Erity, but I couldn’t guard the party that you asked me to protect.”

“I asked you to fill in Rai. As the head of security, the actions of those who I ask to fall in for me are my responsibility. I’m the one who’s supposed to know everyone’s abilities. And Akihiro, you did great. You were even willing to overstep your personal beliefs to protect CLEAR. So take those pitiful expressions off your face and recover from this failure,” I said as firmly as I could.

They both nodded in agreement, and we shared our thoughts about this attack.

Akihiro seemed to think this attack was staged by Mythical, but that the soldiers who invaded us were merely collaborators, mercenaries maybe, or some other group that hates us.

Rai thought this attack was partly unplanned. She believed that the intruders were heading to the server room, one floor below the room where the party was held, and that the expansion suit belongs to another group.

A Xenos was found by a Cyber, interrogated by me, and killed. That Xenos wanted to steal and sabotage our research about cybernetic enhancements. Another Xenos had been found by Kanaye and they wanted the same thing.

Rai may be correct. There’s also the possibility that everyone behind the attack isn’t from Mythical.

“At least we’re not as bad off as Mana…” Rai said whilst staring at the ground.

“...She’s been taken to the hospital,” I said, “when the expansion suit entered, shards of glass were launched everywhere. She protected Isao in exchange for her well-being…”

“Akihiro, Rai,” Isao said as he walked up to us, “I hope you know that this occurrence is being kept a secret. Luckily, this party was only for important CLEAR supporters, so we should be able to convince them to keep their mouths shut. Erity, tomorrow, you and I are going to a government building on the 7th level. Despite this blunder, we should still do things properly to ensure our support from the government. Also,” he said, as he turned his gaze to Rai and Akihiro entirely, “you two should report everything you know to me. We’ll talk in an office nearby.”

“What about Erity?”

“...She has already reported everything…”

Isao walked off and I thought I heard Akihiro say “that’s not what I meant” under his breath. Rai and Akihiro followed Isao, and I went back into my head. Thinking.

I need to fix this.

I need to fix this.

I have to fix this.

I placed my thumb between my teeth and started biting it softly. Occasionally tussling my hair, possibilities kept creeping up in my mind.

Top priority would be to gather information about the expansion suit. Which group does he belong to and what are his motivations? Next, I need to find a way to gather information about potential whereabouts. If Albus is alive, I need to recover him.

What do they want from him? Information about internal affairs on the board of directors? Intel on enemies within the government? Military power? Secret projects?

There’s also a possibility he’s just being used for ransom.

Why Albus specifically? Why him and not someone else?

Damage control is also necessary. Isao can shut the guests up all he wants, but that intruder who took Albus, and his team if he has one, could start any rumors they want.

We’ll lose some support from the government, not to mention our reputation in the middle and lower levels will worsen…

Those scums do like to talk about things that don’t concern them and things that they barely know anything about…

…Perhaps some use could be found for them. Someone on the lower levels could know about that expansion suit…

I could tell Isao and have him send someone there… but what if he sends me there for this failure? I don’t want to be there for even a second. That place disgusts me, only insects and trash live there.

Should I just not tell him?

No, no, no, no.

Withholding information would be the same as betraying CLEAR. I have to tell him…

Maybe if I beg I won’t be sent down to that hell…


The middle levels. They consist of levels 4 to 7 and are generally filled with large cities, factories, commercial centers, and a lot of people.

This building was different from those around it. I could see the large buildings towering over the highest floor of this governmental building, which was mostly horizontal instead of vertical.

I stood outside in a private courtyard normally only accessible to workers within the government, but since Isao and I came to visit, we had access for the time of our stay. The courtyard had stone paths that started from each of its four entrances and intersected in the middle to form a small square. In the middle of the square was a compass that pointed toward each entrance. The corners of the square were filled with fountains and benches, one of which I was seated upon.

Isao had gone to meet with Malcolm and some other workers that support CLEAR to formally apologize. In the meantime, I was free to wander the building. After some time, I ended up here, thinking.

My thoughts still focused on my failure from yesterday. My concentration wandered often, but each time I forced it back.

I felt a bit weak.

My eyes were closed as I imagined that scenario over and over again in my head.

If I’m not careful I could lose everything again.

“......Excuse me!” someone called out to me.

I opened my eyes and took a look at the person who stood close to me.

“I’m not a worker here. If you need anything I would advise going to the reception at the entrance,” I said, closing my eyes once again to focus on my thoughts.

“Did that defeat of yours at the party frustrate you that much?” The person said.

I opened my eyes slowly and glared into the eyes of the person in front of me. Her eyes were green colored and her face seemed familiar to me.

“Excuse me,” the woman said, sitting down beside me.

I looked at the woman from head to toe. Her hair was shoulder length and blonde, but lost all of its colors at the tips, turning a similar shade of white as mine. She was wearing a silver necklace around her neck with a phoenix pendant resting on her chest. She was wearing a grey turtleneck sweater, along with some black leggings and black boots.

“My name is Shina. It's a pleasure to meet you. You are Erity right?” the woman said as she turned towards me.

“I am. How do you know about me and the incident?”

“I work for the government, more specifically, for a department that deals mostly in intelligence gathering. For now at least. Soon I’ll be moved over to another department that deals with CLEAR, VOID and SPEAR,” she said, her face a bit strained, “putting that aside, I was there at the party.”

Her face did seem familiar. Maybe I did see her face at the party, I can’t think of any other instances where the two of us could have met.

“Are you going to be okay Erity?” she asked softly.

“Why wouldn’t I be?”

“I had the idea that if an employee failed as much as you did, they would get sent to the lower levels.”

My face strained a little when I heard that. I did know that was the normal course of action, but things seemed to have changed slightly.

“If I had to guess…” Shina said as she went silent for a moment as if for dramatic effect, “you have been given a second chance because you’re so valuable to CLEAR. They see potential in you… That makes me happy.”

“Why does it matter to you?” I asked, trying to think of all kinds of possibilities.

“Hmmm… I guess you’ll find out in a week or so,” she said as she placed her right hand on her cheek, “Anyways, rumors have started spreading in the lower levels, you know? Is CLEAR going to be okay with letting them run rampant?”

“I’m sorry, but CLEAR’s course of action is not something you should be concerned about,” I tried to say politely, according to company policy. To me, it just sounded artificial.

“It does concern me. Have you already forgotten that Albus was kidnapped? Need I remind you he’s a part of the government’s workforce? And since I mostly deal with intel… ”

I tsked and stared at the ground. Closing my eyes once more, I tried to continue my thoughts. Despite that Shina still insisted on talking.

“I’m not blaming you or anything. You’re planning to head to the lower levels aren’t you?” Shina said softly.

She knows too much. She knows about the party because she went there, she knows about my second chance because I’m still present. She shouldn’t have known about the lower levels. If people could avoid them, they always would. I guess the lower levels might be a bit too standard of a play if you want information on criminals.

I continued to remain silent, as Shina tapped my shoulder repeatedly. Was she trying to annoy me?

“Rumors have indeed started on the lower levels, but I don’t know if the attackers are from there too. They did have an Expansion Suit, a piece of tech normally kept a secret amongst the highest of employees of the largest corporations. Wouldn’t it be more likely that the attackers are from VOID and SPEAR?”

Normally that would have been the case.

In CLEAR I’m only aware of there being five fully functioning Expansion Suit users, but I know nothing else. The only user whose identity I know is Kanaye’s. SPEAR and VOID should have fewer users since the Expansion Suit is CLEAR’s greatest treasure and secret.

The attackers aren’t from SPEAR and VOID.

“The attackers wouldn’t be from SPEAR and VOID if they had come in with a flying car, right? SPEAR and VOID would be able to use other weaponry than just grunts who could be killed by mere standard assault rifles.”

How much does she know, how much doesn’t she know? Did she already know everything from the beginning or is she reading me somehow? I’m not even reacting. My expression is the same, my eyes are closed, and even my breathing has been constant, so how?

“You must have at least found out they aren’t from SPEAR. Their weapons, specifically the assault rifles, used an OS that locked the weapons when they are in a SPEAR building. That locking mechanism would be a bother to test new weaponry…”

She shouldn’t have known about that. She couldn’t have known about that. Only Rai, Akihiro, Mana, Isao, and CLEAR’s board of directors know about that.

“Are you going to head to the lower levels to gather intel, Erity?” she asked me, I could feel her gaze on me.

I didn’t respond. The more you talk, the higher the chance of saying something unnecessary. The only reason I’m still listening to her rambling is to see how deep her intel went. How much does the government know about CLEAR’s affairs? Depending on the answer, we might have to take certain measures…

“You won’t, right? You’re afraid of the lower levels after all. I doubt you would go there even if you were ordered,” Shina said, not asking, but confident. She was 100% sure about that statement.

I wanted to ask where she heard about me being afraid of the lower levels. I wanted to ask, but remaining quiet would be better. I could feel my face straining a little.

“I’m worried about you Erity,” Shina said as she grabbed my hand. I opened my eyes to look at her hand which held mine caringly. Her voice was softer than it was before, and her gaze was filled with pain… “After all…” she started saying before she went quiet

Her expression, tone, and way of acting disturbed me. How much does she know about it? How can she know about it??! She shouldn’t have been able to. Only CLEAR superiors should know that, so how does she know? How could she…

I yanked my hand out of her soft grasp and stood up from the bench. She turned her gaze to me. I scoffed and walked away to the nearest entrance.

I could hear her say: “Erity, wait!” but I continued walking.

She placed her hand gently on my shoulder, but I turned the hand away.

“What do you want?” I tried to say as calmly as I could.

“Please take this,” she said as she took off her phoenix pendant, grabbed my hand, placed it on it, and balled it up into a fist.

“Why would I?”

“As an apology,” she said, it almost seemed like tears would start to flow.

I sighed and walked away, the silver pendant clutched in my right hand. I could hear her say: “Take care” from behind me.

I walked towards where Isao was having his meeting, hoping that he was done. The earlier we leave this place the better. I need to find intel regarding Albus. To do that, we need to send someone to the lower levels. I can’t go down there… luckily I’m the head of security. That should protect me from going there…

How does she know?!

I bit my right thumb and clenched my left hand into a fist, my nails digging into my skin.

“Erity,” Isao said a bit ahead of me.

He was standing in front of an open door, talking to someone. Hoping that he was saying his goodbyes, I walked toward the pair and lowered my head to greet Isao and the other man.

“Thank you for your understanding, everyone. Please continue to support CLEAR,” Isao said to the man in the doorway and those further inside.

“If our agreed compensation arrives, then we shall have no problem. My regards to you, CLEAR, and your bodyguard Erity,” the man in the doorway said.

Isao said one final goodbye. I thanked the man and the other people inside for their time and attention, and then Isao and I both went on our way.

We stepped outside and walked to a building near the government. The hospital. There, Mana had been taken in and treated for her wounds. To ensure that her caretakers wouldn’t kill her during treatment, CLEAR nurses and doctors had been specially assigned to her along with a noise-proof room the hospital conceded to us.

“Isao. How much of the incident does the government know?”

“They just know that Albus had been kidnapped during the party by an Expansion Suit. They know what the suit looks like, but nothing more.”

“Then I have something worrying to report.”

Isao stopped walking and looked me in the eyes.

“Let’s talk about this inside Mana’s room,” was all he said.