Today, we're covering two characters (and perhaps more!). So, enjoy.
"Let's go. To Rekenber Corporation."
"I said: let's go to Rekenber Corporation."
The thoughts of going to Rekenber Corporation made Brue shivered.
She remembered that the Corporation once made the high priests on the Sanctuary to change their regulations regarding the taxes. The citizen's taxes which was based on their citizenship status. And since her father was a native and her mother wasn't, they must paid the double of usual amount. Luckily, due to the internal conflicts within the Corporation itself, the plan was aborted three months after. Still, it cost her family the mother and wife they really loved.
Brue shook her head and slapped her own cheeks. She looked at Rene and noticed that she wore her hair down this time around. Brue just embarrassed at Rene's...prettiness compared to hers.
"Huh, what's wrong?", she asked.
Brue covered her face with both hands and hesitantly answered, "N-No, it's nothing!".
Rene seemed a little...dumbfounded at her reply. But she quickly grabbed Brue's hands, releasing them from her face. Brue glanced aside in embarrassment, but Rene just grinned at her.
"Don't worry, Brue! I'll make you pretty~!"
And then Rene pushed her to the bathroom.
After cleaning up and some kinds of fashion lessons from Rene, Brue finally dressed nicely. Luckily the two have almost exact same body shapes, so they could exchange clothes.
Rene wore a white tank-top, the vest she bought for Brue yesterday, and a mini skirt. She also tied her hair in ponytail. Meanwhile, Brue wore the one-piece dress from the previous day, with another of Rene's sailor shirt above.
Brue looked at the mirror on the right side of the desk. She felt awkward for using other's clothes like this. Especially when said other was her newfound friend. She felt envious of Rene, who seemingly didn't have this problem. She didn't know that Rene was already on her behind, looking at the mirror's reflection. Brue was surprised to see her in the reflection, and Rene just giggled.
"Do they fit?"
Knowing what Rene meant, Brue glanced at her and happily replied,
"Yes. Yes, they do."
On their way to Rekenber's main building, Rene and Brue encountered a woman playing flute in front on Lighthalzen General Store. They were so mesmerized by her beauty and performance and approached her to feel them better. After the woman done playing, Rene and Brue, along with other audiences, clapped.
The woman seemed startled when she noticed them, Brue observed. After she regained her composure, she hesitantly bowing at the audiences.
As people left the stage, Rene rushed towards the woman in excitement. "I guess I can't help it", Brue thought as she followed her friend.
"What's the name of that song, ma'am?", Rene asked.
The woman replied, "Requiem in Blue, milady."
""Requiem in Blue"? I've never heard of that song before.", Brue pondered.
"Why yes, milady. They're my very own creation.", the woman answered.
"By the way, what's your name?", Rene asked again.
"Neliel Quartza. Just 'Nel' is fine.", the woman, Nel, replied.
"Okay, Miss Nel", Rene grabbed both of Nel's hands and smiled, "Now you and I are friends!"
Brue sweatdropped at Rene's declaration. Sure, she and Rene became friends in matter of hours. But engaging a short conversation, a seconds-long short conversation, doesn't make people friends.
Miss Nel pulled her hands from Rene's grasp, and turned her back.
"You just can't make friends like that!", as she said so, she ran away.
Rene lost her balance and fell in Brue's grasps. Looks like she's shocked at Miss Nel's words. Although she was technically right, Brue couldn't help but to be angered by Miss Nel's rude response. Then, she noticed that Rene's holding a paper in her right hand. As far as she could remember, Rene didn't hold anything on her hands prior to meeting with Miss Nel. She held Rene's right hand, took the paper from her hand, and showed it to her.
"What's this, Rene?"
Brue observed the paper and was surprised at what it said.
"Schwartzvalt Republic's Authorized Pass: Those who hold to this Pass are allowed to enter the slums area of Lighthalzen."
"A-A-A-A-Authorized Pass-!?", Rene gasped in surprise as she tried to process what she just read, "T-Then, we don't have to seduce the guards?"
Realizing what Rene just said, Brue blushed and pulled Rene out from the dissolving crowd. "Rene, I know you're excited to mess with those people. But please, mind your own dignity and secrecy", she reminded to her Gypsy friend.
"So…from where should we enter the company, then?", Rene asked quietly while grabbing out and scrolling through her phone, "Oh…Elise just texted me that we should use the entrance from the slums that she discovered two days ago. But she also said that should I get an authorized pass, it's up to 'your companion' to decide…"
"By 'companion', did she mean…? And how did she know about me accompanying you right now?", Brue asked back, "That aside, I think I have a better idea than using a backdoor…You remember that I am from Arunafeltz, right?"
After having their lunch, Brue and Rene headed straight to Rekenber Corporation's main entrance. In front of the gated entrance, a guard stood and asked the two,
"State your business, adventurers."
Brue and Rene nodded at each other and showed their passports.
"We're here to get a stamp of approval from the Schwartzvalt Republic branch of the Tripatriate Union", Brue stated while gazing intensely at the guard's eyes, "You can see the stamps from Arunafeltz State and Rune-Midgarts Kingdom in our passports."
After that, the guard's sight looked blank for several seconds before he replied to the Soul Linker, "You two may pass. Welcome to Rekenber Corporation."
As Brue and Rene passed through the gate and walked through the outskirts of the main building, the former closed her eyes and made a gesture with her right hand. Puzzled by the action, Rene whispered to her, "W-What was that?"
Then as they entered the main building, Brue replied, "It's one of the Thaumaturgies that those who devote themselves to serve Goddess Freya should know. I can't say more than that since you're an outsider, though…"
While looking around, Brue noticed some of her old classmates from the Sanctuary trying to get in the line of adventurers, but she didn't want to bother them more. Rene just happily held Brue's hand until they reached the leftmost room on the ground floor, where a brown-haired Rune Knight clad in blue was standing in front of the door.
"This is my friend's friend, Kazien Erenritter", Rene introduced as she jumped on the knight and snuggled him. Kazien cringed upon hearing her introduction and ruffled her hat. Rene pouted at response and tried to brush him off. Brue just giggled at the scene.
"That's a...fancy way to say 'another of my friend', Rene", she sincerely commented.
Kazien coughed to get the girls' attention and shoved Rene out from him, "Yeah, nice to meet you again, Trene. If it's not for Elise and Melissa, I would've kicked you out of here. Also, the girl over there, I assume you're Katinshuell's girlfriend?"
"You know him?!", Brue immediately reacted to the brunet's question, "Pardon my reaction just now, but my name is Bruspetti Shendar, 'Brue' for short. As for your question, yes, I am his girlfriend. Though..."
Noticing Bruspetti's soured face, Kazien patted her head. "I know. He already told the truth to me. He was just trying his best to get a free time so that he could meet you again", he consoled, "The Katinshuell whom I know of would never do things without a reason."
"Thank you…", Brue complied with a blushing face.
"Back to the topic", Kazien immediately backed out and pulled a small weird-shaped green rock from his pocket, "I'll open the emergency passage room that connects directly to the third floor of Regenschrim Somatology Biolaboratory. Be wary of the test subjects; they've been a bit too aggressive lately."
"Biolaboratory…? Test subjects? So, we're dealing with freaks of nature?", Brue asked in panic.
"Elise's order; I can't refuse her", Rene shrugged.
Kazien put the stone on what's supposed to be the lock of the door and waited until the stone started to radiate a faint green light rapidly. After the stone stopped blinking lights, he pulled the stone out and returned it to his pocket.
"Yes, Bruspetti. And it's not just robots and monsters that the scientists here experimented on", Kazien explained while he's opening the door, "Some adventurers from Rune-Midgarts Kingdom were lured in, and their souls are still lurking alongside the clones based on their kin."
"But don't worry much! You have me here to protect you!", Rene quickly interrupted and twirled around to lighten up her friend's mood.
"Um…okay…", Brue resignedly responded to Rene's declaration.
Rene entered the passage room first, humming the song that the female Clown played while doing so. Brue followed soon after, but before she stepped into the dark passage, she looked back at Kazien.
"Once again, thank you. Whatever happens to Kat from now on, if a friend like you is around him, I'm sure he can face against all the odds even without me", said the blonde Soul Linker.
"The same goes to you, too, should the situation get inverted", the brunet Rune Knight complied, "No need to worry about me. Part of my job is to keep the secrecy of the mission that I was entrusted to."
Brue silently nodded with a smile on her face and entered the passage.
Shortly after, a hat-totting woman with an elaborate attire approached the Rune Knight.
"I didn't expect them to come directly to the Corporation's building and use its entrance", she shrugged, "Should've predicted that they're going to make use of the Tripatriate Union's special entry permit for adventurers."
"It works for you, so why wouldn't it work for them?", Kazien answered, "Though you're going to draw some suspicions since a female Clown is almost unheard of."
Behind the wall that separated the emergency entrance to the laboratory and the Corporation's public laboratory, a teenage Assassin Cross used his Hiding and Cloaking skills and approached the conversing adults.
"I'll tell the President about this. Please remain silent for the time being", the female said as she opened her phone and typed some words in it, "It's still dangerous for them to recklessly enter the zone meant to challenge the strongest of adventurers. I guess I have to help them directly, even though it would lead the Divine Reaper to me."
"I'd be careful if I was you. Especially since they're going to test the latest version of that thing", Kazien warned.
"Anti-Intruders System Level X, you mean?", the woman quipped as she materialized a necklace with a green-black stone shard pendant and wore it around her neck, "I'm well aware about that. That's why I have this one ready."
"You sure work fast in secret", he teased.
"Isn't keeping secrets part of our job?", she snarked back, "Anyway, I'm going to wait here, pretending to be a simple adventurer waiting for her approval stamp."
As the woman left Kazien behind, the teenage Assassin Cross returned to his starting point and dispelled his concealment. Then, he playfully mused,
"Oh, so that's what Neily is planning to do today? Better report it to Ain and Kens~!"
After descending the emergency passage that gave them full view of the Laboratory, Rene and Brue finally arrived at the laboratory's deepest layer. They were greeted by the sight of the ghosts and clones of Transcended warriors.
From what she could see, the ghosts looked...sad. Like, really sad.
Sure, the ghosts and clones inhabiting the first two floors looked sad, too. But the ones in this floor were even sadder. The former was because of the crushed hope that still linger inside their heart. And the latter…was because of the overwhelming amount of it.
"Despair" seemed appropriate to describe their state of soul.
Before she realized it, Rene was already gone from her side. Wait, did she just running away from a bunch of angered clones? Feeling bad for ignoring her, Brue launched several energy blades to one of the clones, specifically the Assassin Cross one.
As the blades made their way to the Assassin Cross clone, Brue chanted an invocation.
"O Goddess Freya, let me banish the evil! Esma!"
Tens of energy blades materialized around her and made their way to cut that clone into pieces. As she regained her composure for casting such a powerful spell, another Assassin Cross clone leapt towards her.
Rapid shots of arrows were launched soon after, knocked the clone down and vaporized it.
As Brue stood up, she looked for the source of the shots.
It was Rene, holding a longbow in accord with her whip.
"I-I'm sorry, Brue. You were spacing out, so I left you and explored by myself and then those clones-"
Just before Rene could finish her words, Brue covered their mouths and carried Rene to the back of the nearest wall. Brue looked at the front; two ghosts, one's a Lord Knight and the other's a High Wizard, were wandering nearby. The two seemed to search for something. They certainly are the ghosts of the real ones, since they seemed to have mind of their own.
Brue whispered to Rene,
"...Don't approach them, Rene. Just. Don't."
Rene seemed to be disappointed and reluctantly nodded in agreement.
After struggling to fight the clones and hide from the ghost of the Transcended warriors, the two finally reached the core part of the laboratory: the burnt-down research facility.
Brue realized that the structure of this facility is similar to that of the Sanctuary. The first layers seemed ordinary, consisting of the rooms not unlike your average office. But as they went deeper, the floor's layout got crazier and crazier. Also, strange objects seemed to be found in every single corner of the lab.
The Soul Linker looked at her Gypsy companion. She noticed that Rene looked like she was pressured to go to this place. And that she was staring longingly at a broken large tube in the middle of the lab. Having a feeling that Rene and the tube were somehow connected, Brue tried to comfort her friend by holding her hand onto hers.
"Do you want to remember something, Rene?", she asked, "I can help by Soul Linking you with that tube. I can't guarantee its success though…"
Rene silently glanced at Brue. Her pained expression and pale face scared indicated Brue that she rejected her offer. However, Rene tightened her grab against Brue's hand.
"Please, do it…I want to remember, what happened on that day…", the rose-haired Gypsy pleaded.
After listening to the honest plea that Rene made, Brue nodded and grabbed Rene's unoccupied hand. Then she chanted a spell spoken in an ancient language which resulted in the appearance of a white aura around them.
"…With the blessing of Dancer Spirit, let this child of man unravel the truth!"
After Brue finished the invocation, Rene lost her consciousness and collapsed towards her friend. Luckily, Brue managed to catch her body before she fell down on the floor.
Rene opened her eyes only to see a black void surrounding her. However, she could hear several voices.
"Odin…please let these children live…Give them their second chance…", a weak male voice prayed.
"Ragna! RAGNAAAAAAAAAAAAA!", an anguished female voice screamed.
"Please, Elsa, reconsider your choice!", another male voice pleaded, "Remember our goal! We're here to expose Professor Ain's project!"
A crying baby's voice could be heard faintly on the other side.
"It will take approximately thirteen years to completely revive him, since I have to wait until the development of a new type of Artificial Ymir's Fragments is finished", a sinister male voice explained, "The Spare Vessel is done. The Fragments had merged with their hosts. And the other children have been showing a splendid performance for adjusting with the serum. There's nothing lost from releasing those children, because they will return to their origin anyway. However, I want you two to raise that newborn baby under my surveillance."
"…By the way, pleasure to meet you, Elsaria Sylpheed and Josepha Myelharp."
"Rene! Are you alright!?"
Rene opened her eyes only to find her lying on a bed of a room surrounded by books-filled shelves. Brue was grabbing her right hand tightly, as if she was praying about her friend's well-being.
"Yes, I am, Brue…", Rene answered in weak voice, "I just…the Link threw me into some weird dimension…and I overheard someone's last moments, a deal with an evil, and the name of Jashqa's step-brother…"
"Anything else?", Brue quickly asked again. Rene shrugged and shook her head in response.
"That's odd…usually if I Soul Link someone with an object, they will see the vision of the memories they have with that object", Brue pondered before asking Rene again, "By the way, who's Jashqa? Another of your guildmate?"
The rose-haired girl silently nodded and asked her blonde friend back, "By the way, where are we…? Some kind of library…?"
"We're in a room just behind the broken tube", the Soul Linker explained, "The sign in front of the room says 'Archive Room'. So yes, it is a kind of library."
"I see…", the Gypsy murmured.
"The thought of stealing some of the research papers here entertains me, but…", Brue mused while walking towards a shelf and returned a folder she's been holding on her other hand to its rightful place, "Some things are better left unknown."
Suddenly, a loud sound of a flipped switch was heard. And soon after, everything turned red.
"W-What!?", Brue reacted in panic, "My body feels…heavy…"
A green shine of light came from the stone pendant on Rene's choker, which neutralized Brue's movement and reverted the room's surroundings to how it was before the switch was flipped. Rene quickly stood up from the bed and dragged Brue out from the room.
"Noooooo! Brue, let's get out of here!", she screamed while running for her life.
"What power…", Brue thought as she observed Rene's pendant, "Somehow…it feels familiar. Where have I seen this radiating light before?"
After they ran away from the archive room, Rene and Brue encountered a teenage Assassin Cross facing at their direction. His red eyes playfully gazed at them before he snickered and waved his arms wildly.
"Elsy! They're there!", he shouted, "The Secret Wing was a distraction after all! These two are just civilians!"
The boy's expression suddenly changed into a surprised one when he realized just who were he looking at.
"EEEEEHHHHH? YOU'RE HERE TOO? ELSY, WE'RE KILLING TWO BIRDS IN ONE STONE! IT'S HER! SHE'S HERE!"
An elegant Paladin landed at the space between them and the boy. She summoned her weapon, a scythe, and pointed it towards Rene.
"Trene Tiiney", she angrily greeted, "You should've died thirteen years ago. You've wasted your time living in pain. Because of you, Ragna was-"
"I won't let you!"
As the interrupting voice echoed, Rene and Brue glanced at their back and saw a woman in formal dress. She swung her hands horizontally, and a line of piano keys made of light appeared in front of her.
As she played the keys, beams of arrows were shot.
"Run, you two!"
The two hesitantly nodded, "R-Roger!"
Rene quickly grabbed Brue's right hand and pulled her out of the scene. As the two escaped, Brue heard a faint shout.
"Nel...o...lel Heir...on...rtzen...et's...tle our...re, onc...and...or all!"
"Nel? That woman from earlier? What is she doing here?", Brue thought to herself as she followed Rene and ran towards the opened door.
As the two reached the Corporation's entrance gate, they saw a green trail of light similar to what Rene's pendant emitted. It came from Kazien, in his guard attire, who waved to them with the green key stone from earlier on his grasp.
"Mr. Erenritter!", Brue cried.
"Quick!", the brunet guard commanded, "The artificial shard's effect won't last long! Get out of here before I-"
Before Kazien finished his sentence, he froze in the last motion he did. Rene and Brue did what he ordered, but Brue took a second to glance at the frozen guard and thought,
"So that's why the light felt familiar…"
Rene and Brue ran far enough to reach the front of the Airport's entrance. But their escapade was soon stopped by the sudden appearance of pillar of light near their position. The light disappeared soon after, and revealed two people: a white-haired High Priestess with petite figure, and a blond, sunglasses-wearing Whitesmith.
Rene raised her eyebrows, and Brue covered her mouth in shock.
"Elise! Dickhead!" "That man from yesterday! You're still alive!?"
-TO BE CONTINUED-
Finally! I finished this chapter! *throws confetti*
As I said in the updated footnote of Ambivalence, there was an unexpected development in my story brainstorming during these past 4 years. No, in fact, there were several unexpected developments. You can figure some of them in this chapter :P
Anyway, I have to thank the Southeast Asia release of Ragnarok M: Eternal Love for motivating me to continue this fic! The main quests and some side quests there are really something else that I feel challenged to write a story that can be compared to those!