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Conundrum: Grims' Truth, #2

Conundrum: Grims' Truth, #2

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Conundrum: Grims' Truth, #2

Length:
438 pages
6 hours
Released:
Dec 3, 2017
ISBN:
9781622538669
Format:
Book

Description

Everything that has happened, is happening, will happen again.

WINNER: Pinnacle Book Achievement Award

The Queen's Dog, Akira, is on a mission of the utmost importance to his survival. He suffers from the affliction known as the Taint, a disease that spreads quickly and effects all in proximity.

Akira and his cat venture into a tumultuous feud, in which he finds himself caught between his mother, his love, and his fate. He travels the road of the unwelcomed and unwanted as one of the Tainted, remaining ever-diligent with his clever riddle-weaving and paranoia.

Only time will tell if his gamble pays off.

"What a magnificently woven puzzle, like a spider's web. Each strand offering a path of answers/clarity while raising even more questions. I felt like some of the answers to my questions were well hidden in plain sight... right under my nose... while raising new questions. Do YOU know who the spinner is? Are the black smokey wisps part of a web? Then who is the fly? It created a satisfying chaos of the mind. It provides an itching curiosity for Book 3." ~ Sheila D.

EVOLVED PUBLISHING PRESENTS the second book in "Grims' Truth," a truly epic series that will sweep you into a whole new universe. [DRM-Free]

THE "GRIMS' TRUTH" SERIES BY YIN & YANG:

  • Book 1: The Spinner's Web
  • Book 2: Conundrum
  • Book 3: Chaos Theory
  • Book 4: Prince of Shadows
  • Book 5: Wiser
  • Book 6: Soul of a Doll [29 Nov 2021]
  • Book 7: Lightfoot [2 May 2022]
  • Book 8: Twice Fallen [12 Sep 2022]
  • Book 9: Gilded [28 Nov 2022]

MORE GREAT FANTASY BOOKS FROM EVOLVED PUBLISHING:

  • Shadow Swarm by D. Robert Pease
  • "The Sundered Oath" Series by Ciara Ballintyne
  • The "Essence of Ohr" Series by Parris Sheets
  • The "Hellbound" Series by William LJ Galaini
  • The "Stormbourne Chronicles" Series by Karissa Laurel

 

Released:
Dec 3, 2017
ISBN:
9781622538669
Format:
Book

About the author

For as long as we (Isu Yin & Fae Yang) can remember, we have been either plagued or blessed with dreams of the vast universe we call Euphoria. The fascination and devotion we share for these dreams, and all the people inside them, has driven our artistic visions for decades. We have studied photography, linguistics, graphic art, video editing, traditional art, and literature, all with the intent of sharing this massive story and vision. Though many obstacles may lie ahead, we look forward to embarking on this journey with whomever may find a vested interest in our work.


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Conundrum - Isu Yin

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~~~

CONUNDRUM

Grims’ Truth – Book 2

Copyright © 2017 Isu Yin & Fae Yang

~~~

ISBN (EPUB Version): 1622538668

ISBN-13 (EPUB Version): 978-1-62253-866-9

~~~

Editor: Lane Diamond

Cover Artist: Cindy Fan

Interior Designer: Lane Diamond, with Image Masters by Briana Hertzog

~~~

PUBLISHER’S NOTE:

At the end of this novel of approximately 80,453 words, you will find two Special Sneak Previews: 1) CHAOS THEORY by Isu Yin & Fae Yang, the next novel (Book 3) in this Grims’ Truth series of epic fantasy, metaphysical/visionary adventures, and; 2) IN THE COMPANY OF THE DEAD by Ciara Ballintyne, an award-winning epic fantasy adventure. We think you’ll enjoy these books, too, and provide these previews as a FREE extra service, which you should in no way consider a part of the price you paid for this book. We hope you will both appreciate and enjoy the opportunity. Thank you.

~~~

eBook License Notes:

You may not use, reproduce or transmit in any manner, any part of this book without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations used in critical articles and reviews, or in accordance with federal Fair Use laws. All rights are reserved.

This eBook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only; it may not be resold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, please return to your eBook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

~~~

Disclaimer:

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author’s imagination, or the author has used them fictitiously.

GRIMS’ TRUTH

Book 1: The Spinner’s Web

Book 2: Conundrum

Book 3: Chaos Theory

Book 4: Prince of Shadows

Book 5: Wiser

Book 6: Soul of a Doll

...and stay tuned for more, as the series plan currently stands at an incredible 60 books!

www.GrimsTruth.com

[Original] ROTA FORTUNAE:

From the moment I picked up this book, I could tell it was different, even the texture of the cover... like a glove that fit perfectly. I was drawn in, like an unsuspecting prey in a spider’s web. Feeling confident that I would navigate thru easily. Only to discover to my delight that this book is clearly just the beginning. Wonderful foundation of fascinating characters, maps/worlds, language, clans, groups and so much more, with easy referencing at the back of book to flip to. I love being able to go to the author’s website to see what the characters actually look like! ~ Sheila D.

~~~

"I was not expecting to become so hooked on this series so quickly. I read a lot—like hundreds of books—and I’ve never come across a series so addicting as Grims’ Truth. I thought I knew epic fantasies from growing up with Harry Potter and reading Lord of the Rings. This brings it to a whole different level." ~ Sunflower

~~~

When I first started the book, I wasn’t sure what to expect. It started off slow, the mystery building with each informational chapter while making you question what is actually going on. You can tell it’s going to be a big story with a lot of information. The characters are enjoyable, each with their own unique (non-stereotypical) personalities, which brings you into the mood and tone of the story. It’s easy to get immersed in their world and enjoy things for what they are. Highly recommend this book. It is written in an interesting way that makes you think and become highly involved with the characters. Haven’t read anything this thought provoking in a long time. ~ Persephone

~~~

This book immerses the reader in the power of language, the molding of interspecies attitudes, and the daunting task of taking charge of one’s future. It will make you think deeply about culture in general! ~ Corine Ann Barnes

CONUNDRUM:

Greeeeaaatttt... book two of a series I already know I’m going to sink hours into as I read every release! More entertaining than Tolkien, Margaret Weiss & George R.R. Martin combined. ~ Mark Louis McCrea

~~~

"Holy smokes! After reading the first book, Rota Fortunae, I will admit I had some high expectations for the next installment. THESE AUTHORS KNOW HOW TO DELIVER! By telling each story through another character’s eyes, they will really have you feeling some type of way about someone, only to have you questioning everything you thought you knew in the next book. Is the bad guy really the good guy? Who gets to decide? Each book gives us a glimpse into another character’s soul, as you get to learn their truths, their story, and their interpretation of the whirlwind of events happening around them. I cannot express how unique this series is—it is, literally, other-worldly. It doesn’t make you wait too long to see resolutions to the things you want solved, and give you answers to the questions you have, but be warned: you must be skeptical. As in real life, what one character knows to be true may only be true to them, and their knowledge may change with your own as you progress through this exciting series." ~ Adrianna

CHAOS THEORY:

My suspicions are confirmed. This is not your run of the mill thunderstorm, it is indeed a Tsunami! ~ Sheila D.

~~~

Really captivating series! I’ve been following these authors since they released their first book and man! Do they know how write! Each book pushes you more into the story and right when you think you figured it out, you turn the page and BAM. Something clicks and you’re back to the drawing board. But in a good way. ~ Sunflower

~~~

Ten Stars for this amazing story continuation! Hero and Fate are back and delving into Hero’s memories. So much takes place in the story and I don’t want to give anything away so just get on with it and start reading! ~ Stephanie F.

PRINCE OF SHADOWS:

"Prince of Shadows is a powerhouse loaded with psychological & intellectual relevance, providing a roller coaster of a ride while offering a multitude of choices & satisfying reveals." ~ Sheila D.

We’re pleased to offer you not one, but two Special Sneak Previews at the end of this book.

~~~

In the first preview, you’ll enjoy the First 2 Chapters of Isu Yin & Fae Yang’s CHAOS THEORY, the next installment (Book 3) in the award-winning, critically-acclaimed Grims’ Truth series.

~~~

~~~

OR GRAB THE FULL EBOOK TODAY!

FIND LINKS TO YOUR FAVORITE RETAILER HERE:

GRIMS’ TRUTH Series at Evolved Publishing

In the second preview, you’ll enjoy the First 3 Chapters of Ciara Ballintyne’s award-winning IN THE COMPANY OF THE DEAD, the first book in the extraordinary The Sundered Oath series.

~~~

~~~

OR GRAB THE FULL EBOOK TODAY!

FIND LINKS TO YOUR FAVORITE RETAILER HERE:

THE SUNDERED OATH Series at Evolved Publishing

Table of Contents

Copyright

Books by Yin & Yang

What Others Are Saying

BONUS CONTENT

Table of Contents

Dedication

CONUNDRUM

Chapter 1 – The Color of My Sin

Chapter 2 – Justice Mode

Chapter 3 – Buried Things

Chapter 4 – The Edge of Time

Chapter 5 – The More You Know

Chapter 6 – The Belly of the Beast

Chapter 7 – Limitations

Chapter 8 – Mind Fields

Chapter 9 – What Still Eyes See

Chapter 10 – The Woman I Loved

Chapter 11 – Things I’ve Broken

Chapter 12 – The Voice of Reason

Chapter 13 – Truth Unveiled

Chapter 14 – Here Beside Me

Chapter 15 – Cats are Marvelous Creatures

Chapter 16 – Masked Expressions

Chapter 17 – Consumption

Chapter 18 – A Soul’s Name

Chapter 19 – Pain

Chapter 20 – The Path Ahead

Chapter 21 – Ripples of Time

Chapter 22 – Chaos Ensues

Chapter 23 – Light

Chapter 24 – A Mortal Affliction

Chapter 25 – My Conundrum

REFERENCE GUIDE

Book Club Guide

Interview with the Authors

Special Sneak Preview: CHAOS THEORY by Isu Yin & Fae Yang

Acknowledgements

About the Authors

What’s Next?

More from Yin & Yang

More from Evolved Publishing

Special Sneak Preview: IN THE COMPANY OF THE DEAD by Ciara Ballintyne

For the misfits who believed in the New World.

Your time is coming.

You mortals live in blind faith, ignorant of the creators that formed your crumbling world. You follow scriptures of faceless authors, those which you believe without basis. To consider your geniuses wise is but an insult to those safeguarding your meager existence.

I say this only to enlighten your sad and frail mortal souls.

I am justice, a beast created by the mind of a battered and faithless child—a concept of broken fragments.

To say I am everywhere is an understatement.

If creatures like myself were spawned by a mere idea, who is to say whether the mortals are worth the time it takes to think of them, or if they simply consume energy they do not deserve? If the latter is the case, I wish nothing more than to rescind the existence of your kind.

Our worlds are interconnected, two different sides of the mirror, each part of the same flawed notion. The world intertwined with your own is under your nose, yet you heed it no mind. A war rages around you, but you simply scamper into the line of sight, blind to the struggle of your protective warriors.

I am but one of many, not a warrior, but a judge.

I exist only to serve a greater purpose, though I shall not attempt to justify my beliefs. Whether or not you deem my actions righteous is not my concern.

But watch and listen carefully. The new world is coming, and you are unwelcomed.

The computer room in ARX headquarters sat unoccupied. Each white monitor glowed in the darkness. Most of the members were off preparing for the newest mission, but their leader observed their stations from the doorway. The low hum of the sleeping computers filled his ears as he watched the specks of dust floating towards one of the tall black rolling chairs. When he’d first founded the group, he’d sat in that very chair with the poise of a confident leader.

Those days were long gone. All that remained were the aches and pains of their journeys.

He crossed the floor and sat on the chair a final time, checking the name plates beside each station: Jackyl, Reina, Fenix, Vulpe—and lastly, his own—Akira.

He had sought to expand the team, but Time—a double-edged sword, both a blessing and his curse—had defied his wishes.

Not many knew or cared about his story, but those few who did kept him going.

One of those people entered the room, adjusting his cat mask as he passed through the doorway.

Although Akira had already seen him, the Reaper reached out a hand. Are you all right?

Yes, I’m fine. Is everyone ready?

The Reaper nodded, concern filling his cobalt blue eyes as they strolled through the long white hallway to the Portal Room.

Looking back, Akira recalled the chaos of their home. In this epic game, its inhabitants served as his wild cards, but everything else was spic and span, just the way he liked it. Still, he hesitated as they approached the portal, his thoughts filled with concern for the future.

The Reaper in the cat mask touched Akira’s hand and nudged the silver band resting on his ring finger. By touching it, the Reaper reminded Akira of their pact. Why don’t you leave this to the team?

"Mortals have a saying—a captain must go down with his ship, but I say better the captain than the ship. I must see every mission through to its end. At least... for as long as I’m able."

The Reaper stood silently.

Since his companion did not respond, Akira pressed several crystal buttons on a panel beside the large arc of the portal. He stared up at the crudely sculpted metal, inspecting the carved symbols and contemplating the options that lay ahead. Doesn’t Mayuri need you back at Sclera?

The Reaper moved his mask to the side of his head. Unmasked, he divulged both his youthful appearance and the severity of his expression. He gripped Akira’s hand tighter than before. Is this truly what you want?

Akira stared back. They’d been together for as long as he could remember. He lacked a response in such dire circumstances, so he just smiled. Such an act had two possible meanings—I’m all right or I’m afraid. He left its interpretation to his friend.

With the press of a button, a dark hole formed in the empty space at the center of the arc. The portal flashed with blue and pink light, and electricity shot out of the black hole and coiled around, creating a vortex of light pulses and the sparkling glimmer of the electrical current. After the crackle eased and the flickering dimmed, the eye of the portal opened, revealing passage to another area.

The cat Reaper returned the mask, covering his face, and they advanced into the portal towards the distant image of an old facility surrounded by trees.

Akira quickly glanced at the three white buildings that created the majority of the facility, and then looked to the path before him.

Two members of his team waited on the other side of the portal, crouched near the shadowy opening of the woods, wearing the standard Reaper black. Ocean waves swished in the distance, indicating their proximity to the coastline, but nothing could be seen through the dense forest.

Jackyl, a sullen and withdrawn Reaper who embodied the traits of the Iu clan, knelt beside a bush and watched the facility with a scowl. His ebony jackal mask hung around the side of his head, holding entangled tufts of dark, wavy hair out of his violet eyes. First to notice Akira, he turned to greet their leader with a nod.

Akira pointed at the mask to once again remind Jackyl of his bad habit. It seemed pointless to remind him of the mask at all—in fact, Jackyl wore it less than ever before.

The second member, Reina, rose from her place by the bushes, twirling a strand of blonde hair around her finger. We’re ready, Leader. She shifted her big, snake-like green eyes to the Reaper in the cat mask, and raised a brow. Not a cat today, Bes?

I’m whatever Akira needs me to be, Besil replied.

Oh my.

Focus, Akira said, scanning the area—no movement, no visual concerns... not even a sound, it seemed.

He had run scans and calculations on the facility for many months, the consistency of their variables critical to success. He reached into his blazer pocket and retrieved a small journal, embellished with a gold sun dial, and scanned past his notes written in black ink, to a special notation in red.

Oga Island. September 21, 1993. 8am.

Condition: Foggy.

Facility #3—a scientist leaves the building where they store their injections. Take those stores. The subjects are trained to react to doses of adrenaline.

You have one chance to break out Tatsura and Sera. If you fail, you cannot save Besil, so don’t be arrogant. Allow them to save themselves.

Akira glanced at Besil, and the Reaper gazed back, his eyes glinting with curiosity.

Akira’s lungs grew heavy as he recapped the details of the note written in his journal. He ran his fingertips over the handwriting, closed it, and placed it back in his pocket. I’ll go in first. Even if something goes wrong, you have to hold your ground.

Jackyl moved his mask to the side again. I know it’s a bit late to be saying this, but I’m not so sure this is a good idea. Wouldn’t it be better to send someone more... stable?

Don’t question your leader.

First and foremost, I’m your friend.

For once, we agree, Besil said.

Akira sighed. This isn’t the time or place to argue. I’m going in. He took a step forward and, in a flash, appeared deeper within the encampment. Small wisps of black smoke rose from his jacket and pants as he slipped into the shadows.

A group of scientists passed by and entered one of the white buildings.

Akira crept behind a stack of crates and watched for his target. From a distance, he spotted the man in one of many concrete blocks barred by thick metal. He sneered at the so-called building, which he deemed as little more than a cage.

He moved closer, pressing his side against the wall to conceal himself, and waited for the man to exit. His fingers twitched in anticipation. Sometimes the variables changed—such was the life of a Reaper. Whenever they moved through time and space, it created a ripple that often led to unpredictable changes in history. The closer he drew to the end of their journey, the more essential their successes became. Now, he fought to ensure the safety of his loved ones. They’d already lost so many in the battle for the balance.

He shook all needless thoughts from his head.

As fortune had it, a man in a white coat exited the building.

Akira clenched his fist and expelled a stream of black smoke that shot upward, spinning together to form a scythe. The instant the man passed by, Akira swung with remarkable skill, allowing it to dissipate into smoke as it moved through the unsuspecting target.

The man stopped with a horrific expression, alerting Akira to his success, and all without a drop of blood.

Akira spun on his toes, released his scythe, allowed it to return to black smoke, and caught the man before he fell. In a snap, he dragged the man behind the crates and removed his coat.

After stealing the coat and studying his victim, he conjured an illusion of the man over himself. His brow broke out in a cold sweat, as the miasma strained his body more than ever before. Each of his fingers tingled with the threat of collapse, which left him feeling torn, but duty called, so he shook off the impending storm to reclaim his focus.

At this point, he had to trust the notes in his journal to proceed. Once again, time would either aid or destroy his plans.

He entered the third facility building and scanned the room, which contained a single stretcher between cabinets of medicine, several lights, and a tray of needles and tools. He dug through the drawers of the cabinets and pocketed several vials of adrenaline and two syringes.

The illusion flickered over his hand.

Stop it. Not now.

He moved swiftly outside towards the cells that contained the facility’s test subjects.

His objective lay inside one of the prisons—a small boy of twelve, a genetic experiment, and one of the few chosen survivors.

Akira knelt down and weakened the illusion. Wake up.

The dark-haired boy stirred slightly, battered and still fighting for survival. His small arms lay limp at his sides, his wrist chafed raw from trying to remove the shackle that administered the drugs, which were potent enough to weaken him.

Likewise, Akira’s own strength wavered and lacked the reliability to break them out on his own. Take this, he said, slipping a vial and a syringe through the bars.

The boy forced himself upright. The magician....

Akira glanced at the ring hanging from a chain on the boy’s neck, and smiled faintly. Use the strength you have to escape. After he finished, he went to another prison holding a young Caeles girl.

She reacted less than the boy.

Wake up.

There was no response.

Akira reached through and patted her arm. Sera.

This time, she awakened. The Spirits... they said you’d come for me.

Cruel of them to say so and do nothing. Quickly, awaken. He handed her a vial of adrenaline and a syringe. Use that. They’ve trained you to be explosive, so... explode. He stood, left, and returned moments later. I meant that figuratively.

The illusion rose again as he strode through the facility, checking for familiar faces. Most of the children had been impaired by genetic experimentation.

By the time he’d finished his investigation, the first explosion detonated. He followed a swarm of panicking scientists and medics to a sea of flames that had engulfed the destroyed prisons.

Amidst the crowd, a Callidae woman stood, looking strangely regal next to all the destruction. As the lead scientist, she feasted her eyes on the obliteration of her research. She seemed to contemplate for a moment but turned and left.

He took great measures to slip into the facility undetected. If he veered too close to her, all his effort would be for naught. He watched with extreme caution, waiting for her to give her orders in an attempt to protect what little remained.

She shouted as she scrambled to collect the stray papers. Her eyes scoured the area, no doubt, using her extensive abilities to track the culprits, but he knew well enough how to evade her detection.

After she hurried off to survey her other areas of import, Akira slipped small metal rings onto his fingers.

The remaining scientists struggled to put out the fire, unaware of the danger disguised in their ranks.

Akira lifted his hands and cracked the rings together. The shrill sound reverberated through the air, and the scientists covered their ears. Blood spurted from every orifice of their bodies, crystallizing in the misty air.

Horrific. Must you be so sadistic? Besil said, approaching from behind.

Akira removed all but the ring Besil had given him from his fingers, slid his hands into the pockets of the white coat, and turned. The scientist illusion dispelled as he spoke, revealing his true self. Did you catch her?

Jax and Reina did. They’re off doing clean-up with the Erasers. I’ve taken care of the rest of the children.

You’re the most tactful.

Besil pulled the white coat off Akira and tossed it aside. You’re not like them. You never were.

Sometimes I’m not sure, Akira said, looking towards the woods.

Did the children escape?

We’ll find out soon enough.

An explosion flashed throughout the facility, the ground rumbled, and their teammates sprinted across the expanse.

Jackyl gripped Akira’s blazer as he ran by. Mistake!

Akira ensured that Besil was following before running along. The ground rumbled again. One after another, the buildings exploded behind them.

With a wave of his hand, Besil opened a portal, the eye sparked and spit out a bolt of electricity, and finally revealed the way back to Niall.

The team moved quickly towards their escape, but before they could reach the safety of the portal, a loud boom shook the ground shook as the main building exploded, propelling the fleeing team through the opening.

Jackyl shot through first, striking his chin against the concrete outside of the barracks before he tumbled to a stop.

Reina landed on top of him, knocking the breath from both with a thud.

Besil and Akira were caught in the portal’s spin, sending them through the air at high velocity.

Akira gripped Besil’s shirt as they plummeted to the ground, in an effort to stop his friend’s roll, but, in turn, he ricocheted off the ground twice, rolled across the pavement, and skidded to a stop on his hands and knees. The impact jolted him more than it had the other members. He staggered onto his feet, glimpsing the new tears on the pants he had earlier borrowed from Jackyl.

Aki! Besil jumped up from the ground and ran to Akira’s aid.

Jackyl wiped the blood from his chin, sounding as though he may cry, though he rarely did so. Ow!

This seemed the perfect opportunity for Akira to point and jeer. That’s why you should wear your mask!

Reina inspected her torn tights. Nice going, Jackass. Despite her commentary, she rose from the ground and tended to her partner. Come on, you big baby. Let’s get you bandaged up.

I’ll replace your tights, Jackyl said, accepting her hand. They hobbled away, bickering whilst they went.

Besil grasped Akira by the arm and swiftly led him towards their room in the barracks. Hurry, we must disinfect your wounds.

Besil crawled under Akira’s arm to offer his support, and Akira, worse for the wear, humbly accepted as he looked out over the vast and growing Reaper city. Luminous blue orbs of ether rose up from cracks in the ground and drifted towards the top of the cave far overhead. In the distance, millions of tiny glowing pods lined every crevice of the rock surface, making the ceiling and walls swim with a delicate light. In the city, Reapers hurried to portals wearing their signature animal masks, as they embarked on the next attempt to resolve the Mortal Realm’s various glitches both historical and universal. As a result, Niall, the Shadow Realm, was the only place a misfit clan of time jumpers could call home.

The growing city made Akira smile. No matter how his body and soul ached, Niall brought him peace because here, anything was possible.

He looked up again at the cavernous rock far above the electric sparks of the portal towers, and the slow-moving ether clouds. Everything in Niall moved at its own pace and, when in Niall, Akira moved as he liked. The blue glow of life filled the immense cave with a gentle sparkle, reminding him of quieter times. The stagnant air filled his soul with a calm that only Niall provided. Curious as it may be, Niall was his home.

Besil ushered him through the city, toward the living quarters, and into their room. He sat Akira on the couch and then scurried into the bathroom.

Akira shook his head. Arguing with Besil only led to further frustration and, ultimately, ended with Besil getting exactly as he wished. He lay back against the cushion wondering how things had gotten to this point. The rules of isolating those with miasma poisoning were absolute, yet, not only Besil, but Jackyl also managed to share his living quarters. As much as he protested, he secretly enjoyed their company.

I feel like a kid again, Akira said, watching Besil bandage his knees.

You act like one. You’re mischievous, facetious, and downright infectious.

Infectious? Like an illness?

Besil thought for a moment, then smiled. That must be it. I’m infected by my love for you.

I’m not sure if I should be flattered or concerned.

He picked a piece of lint off Akira’s red blazer, pressed his hand over the fabric, and frowned. Is this really your last mission with ARX?

They’ll be fine on their own.

That’s not what I asked.

Lady Heqet has summoned me to the Capital. I need to attend to my duty as Lady Fate’s mentor.

Are you there for Lady Heqet or Lady Fati?

Akira slithered his way out of answering with a smile of his own, which he knew full-well Besil could spot through the mask. Are you jealous?

Akira—

Don’t worry. This isn’t about Fate or Fati. It’s about my duty to the Queen.

Besil shook his head. You don’t follow anyone, not even me. Three turns is far too long to be in the Spinner’s presence. You know this well. Don’t make a mistake. You’re ill. If you just stay with me—

Bes, that’s enough. Thank you. Akira checked his pocket watch, which matched the time back at the Capital.

He still needed to make a final notation before returning, so he took out the journal again and jotted down a note.

Oga Island. September 21, 1993.

Helped Tatsura and Sera break out of their prisons.

ARX member, Jackyl, caused irreparable damage to the research facility. He grows stronger every day. Keep his emotions in check or there could be serious trouble.

Besil observed the entire process. He might’ve even seen Akira’s notations.

When he finished, Akira sighed and closed the journal. With this, the past, present, and future are almost perfectly aligned. I can finally be at peace.

Don’t say such things with ease.

He dropped the journal into his blazer pocket.

Besil always had a way of seeing through him, he didn’t know if it was because of the Vem’s unique vision, their pact, or because he loved Akira so dearly.

Only one of those things had the power to stop Akira in his tracks.

They left the room and traveled through the glimmering blue orbs and wafts of darkness that covered Niall. The long halls of the barracks and the other buildings all looked too similar—straight and dull.

Akira hated the way the stuffy confines impeded the natural beauty of the Abyss. It seemed a shame to waste its elegant design. He glanced at the bench that rested at the edge of the chasm and longed to take a break from his duties, to just sit and watch the phantoms swim. He wished this so much so that it weighed heavily on his soul, and a gradual, yet persistent, resentment arose. After stewing in his loathing of Hero for a moment, he returned his attention to Niall. If he lingered too long in negative thoughts, the miasma would spread and Besil would notice.

He climbed the steps of a platform that held a portal to the

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