After finishing school for the day, my dad drops me off at his dojo and leaves for the supermarket.
I slowly wander my way to the outdoor training area of the dojo and see Anya dancing with her bamboo practice sword.
Anya turns towards me as she lowers her sword.
“Are you okay?”
Wanting to cry, I drop my school bag onto the floor and run to Anya. Once I’m close, I jump at her as she drops her equipment to catch me.
Anya holds me close to her as she pats my head. Once I found comfort with my sister, I start to tear up a little.
“Hard day at school, Polya?”
I nod my head as I start sobbing. After a while of silence, I let go of Anya, and she slowly moves towards the wooden deck near the side doors to the dojo while tapping her hand on the surface next to her. I sit next to Anya and lay on her lap when she starts patting my head again.
“I lost, Anya… I lost to some stupid boy in my club… And now I can’t represent my school in the next interschool chess competition…”
“You’ve tried your best in that competition, right?”
“That’s what matters. You gave it your all.”
“I was so close, Anya… I was so close…”
“I know how you feel, Sis. The victory is right at your fingertip.”
“But you know, that means you have to train even harder now, Polya! And next time, you’ll definitely get it. I know you can! I’ll even play with you!”
“Do you know anything about chess?”
“Yeah… I know the… Queen is your strongest piece, with the pawns being the weakest… And you must protect the king at all costs.”
“Actually, Anya. I would say that the king is the weakest piece since even the pawns can be promoted into a queen. And without the others, the king will not win.”
“But yeah… We still have to defend that weak piece…”
“Hhhgh… I still wish I have won the event… I know the next one isn’t that far off, but still… I could have won it… You know, Anya?”
Not only was there no response, but Anya also had stopped patting me on the head.
I look up at my sister and find that her whole face has been replaced with something eerie and spine-chilling. I instantly roll away from her and stand up. Instead of staying anything, she only stares at me with her red hand-drawn eyes above a single V-shape line for her mouth as if she’s from an old Russian or Czech animation. She then tilts her now two-dimensional head and walks to me like a zombie as if she’s stuck in a paper cut-out stop motion world moving at two frames per second.
“What have you done to my sister?”
As the world around me starts to break and blacken out of existence, I walk backwards in terror. Until I unknowingly step beyond where the floor reaches and start falling into the endless void.
While trying desperately to grab onto something, I see my sister looking down at me for a moment before turning around and walking away from the ledge of the broken floor.
“Anya! Nooo! Sis! Don’t go! Anya!”
The deeper I fall, the darker it becomes as even the ledge I fell from disappears from sight. Suddenly, the floor appears below me as I slam my back onto it. Before I could ease my pain, pieces of building materials ranging from stone walls to metal bars started falling onto the floor, constructing a familiar room from the bottom up.
“That looks like it hurts.”
I dart up and find myself awaken in the same cold and dark prison-like cell where I escaped from. During this time, I see Silren and Vytra exiting the cell door after speaking to Styx, who’s leaning against the wall with his arms crossed.
“So, is that what you think of a King?”
“Welcome back, kid.”
I quickly try to send a cluster of light-bombs and teleport away, but nothing happens as I sit there with my arm up like a fool in front of Styx.
“Looks like someone can’t fight anymore…”
Styx takes out what seems to be three flashbangs from his back and tosses them at me.
“But don’t worry, this is for you.”
The flash grenades explode once they bounce off the floor. I crawl up into a ball, consumed by the constant ringing in my ears, but at the same time, I can feel charged up by the flashes.
I try my best at targeting my right hand up at Styx while still having my left on my head. After failing to hit Styx with my light bolt, I cease my attack in defeat and stare at the Styx’s mocking grin. Once I recover, I take aim at Styx again while trying to stand up straight.
“Why did you decide to recharge my powers?”
“Because I need you… Well, your powers, to be exact.”
I charge up for a much stronger attack at the unworried Styx, who’s still leaning against the wall.
“I mean, you can try escaping again. It’s only a matter of time for us to catch you…”
Styx looks up at me as shadowy strings come up from the ground, wrapping around my arms and legs. They seem to have nullified my abilities as the charged attack I was about to launch at Styx disappears. Suddenly, the strings tighten themselves, tying my arms and hands behind my back and my legs together, causing me to fall onto my knees. But that isn’t the end as the rope starts tugging me upwards.
“But I don’t want to do that.”
Once I am lifted until my legs can’t touch the floor, the strings vanish, causing me to drop back to my knees. Styx gives me a hand when he’s nearby, but I slap it away.
“I don’t want your help.”
I get back up to my feet and stare at Styx.
“So, what do you want?”
“Before we get into that, I heard you created a distortion spell… That is fascinating… Even your mother couldn’t do that.”
“Do you want to know what it does?”
I start backing away from Styx until my back hits the wall.
“Hahaha… That wasn’t a question.”
Styx teleports one of his servants onto where his hand is, and he grabs onto their neck. Unlike any other guards I’ve seen, this Spirit seems to have cuffs around his arms and legs and no armour.
As the Spirit dangles by his neck, Styx recreates a distortion spell with ease and forces it onto the Spirit. Once the spell is completely merged with the Spirit, he screams in pain as his body starts to distort, snapping each joint into position and hardening into a crystal-like shell.
“Poor soul, he just died, and he now died again. Hahaha… Right, now onto the reason you’re here…”
Styx snaps his focus at me and throws the crystallised body.
“We saw you brought the girl back. So do the same.”
“I… I… I… can’t… I only brought the soul of the girl back and nothing else.”
“And that is exactly what we need.”
Styx takes out a crystal that is glowing purple in colour.
“Do you know what this is?”
I shake my head.
“Food. Once. When my parents were alive on the throne. These Soul Crystals aren’t… the best.”
Styx throws the crystal at the body. When they collide, the crystal reacts violently with the body as it glows purple and shatters into million of pieces in front of me.
“What… What… I need to at least have the body to bring him back…”
“What? Oh him? Oh no, that was a joke. Anyone or thing whose soul was distorted cannot be brought back. We can bring a soul back to the body, as you suggested. Or a body with the soul. But what can you bring back if there is no soul? Hmm? Hahahaha…”
“Now take this human I just grabbed.”
A human appears the same way as the Spirit he just killed as he hangs from his neck. Styx then constructs a sword and thrusts it at the human.
As the sword pierces through the guy’s body, it turns into liquid and vanishes away.
“Hahaha… Don’t worry. I’m not trying to get myself in trouble again. I’m sure… Hmmm… Amos… will remove me from this world harder than what your mother has already tried.”
“… Why me?”
“You know. Resurrection is a rare talent. Even with your half resurrections, it still comes in very handy. And now we also know that you have the ability to distort souls. Hah. For someone so young to know the two extreme sides of the spectrum is truly extraordinary, Polya.”
“But because you lack proficiency. It’s up to us to perfect it. And I have the ideal person in mind.”
“Styx… Vytra said… you needed me…”
“Ah, speak of the living nightmare, and she shall appear.”
A woman with long greenish-black seaweed-like hair floats towards Styx. She seems to be wearing an extremely loose and torn-up black nightgown that reaches to her calf on her back as the front covers only her chest. To solve that issue, she has loose sleeping pants under her short-sleeved dress. In addition to her tattered outfit, there is also a hooded cape on her back that drags on the floor even as she is floating. Her messy look and outfit make it look like she had been stuck in an eternal loop of combat.
“Now, now… Some of those comments about how I look… are just harsh… My messy hair… doesn’t look like seaweed, okay…? But you’re not wrong about the other thing… I could go into a deep slumber now… But I can’t…”
The woman ends her yawning and looks at me with her bright yellowish green eyes above her deep eye bags. She then puts on her hood and wraps her cape around like a blanket.
I look at the woman as she weakly smiles at me and points her finger at her mind as her voice starts speaking in my head.
“Heh… You can’t hide anything from me… Or Vytra… Please excuse my yawns… I-”
“Hm…? Sorry… Do you need me for something, boss?”
Styx points at me.
“I need a little training session for her. Think you can do it?”
“A training session? For what?”
“To practice her resurrection skills.”
“… I think Gunnar could do it…”
“Isn’t he like… a reanimated… thing…?”
“You plan to kill him again and have the girl resurrect him?”
“No… I mean… couldn’t his powers also work with her…”
“… Let’s make a deal then, Styx.”
“I’m sorry, what?”
“If I agree to this. This will be the only job and nothing else.”
“What else do you even need to do…? Whatever, I will have the others to cover for you.”
The woman named Maria gives off a tired yet proud grin at Styx and starts walking towards me.
“Sorry about this… But you heard the man… Anything reasonable to get less work… Besides, let me get you out of Nawia… I’m sure my home realm is wayyy better than here. Well… At least for me… But don’t worry… I, Mara, or I guess Maria, will take good care of you. So, let’s also get you some sleep before the main event.”
Before I fall into the forced slumber, I see Maria open a portal of sorts before turning to Styx.
“You coming too?”
“Right behind you.”
“Oh, yeah… Can you carry the girl, Styx?”
And soon, I doze off while Styx carries me in his arms as we disappear into Maria’s portal.
― Anya… Hey Anya… It’s Polya… Where are you…? Are you coming to get me yet? Please… wherever you are now… I hope you haven’t forgotten about me… I… I wish you are with me now… Sister…