Volume III of Legacy: Black Star, Part 1 - Cover

Volume III of Legacy: Black Star, Part 1

Copyright© 2023 by Uruks

Chapter 14: Missing

The Werewolves, on the other hand, could be problematic. They still control a huge swath of territory in the Hunting Grounds that is almost comparable to the Tarrus Empire in size. This territory is often contested by the Werecats, but the Lycan race still remains a powerhouse both in terms of military and political strength. Another problem is their fierce loyalty to one another. Werewolves are extremely aggressive when provoked, especially in matters concerning their children. I shall have to proceed with caution.

“And you’re sure Ryan doesn’t suspect the true nature of this mission? He ... he doesn’t know that we’re just trying to keep him out of danger, at least for a little while?” Hannah asked for probably the tenth time.

Saria rolled her eyes, not bothering to look up from her desk as she continued writing out paper ledgers with her feathered quill. “Have you met the boy? In case you haven’t noticed, he’s a bit of a dunce, especially when Éclair’s involved.”

Hannah Lioness, the Priestess of Light, had come to visit Saria in her office. Normally, Saria would have nothing to do with the Monastery, not after they had slighted her and kept Zand’s dealings a secret from her. However, given their recent partnership overcoming the Galsin Crisis, she had begun to warm up to her old associate.

Hannah Lioness was a pretty thing, at least according to most men. She was a little shorter than Saria, but that still made her tall for a woman. She had short blonde hair, deep blue eyes, creamy skin, and an athletic build. She wore the simple white Monk robes of the Monastery, with brown leather sandals on her feet. Hannah used to be a Fire Elemental, but had left to join the Monastery many years ago. Saria had stopped talking to Hannah for many years because of that. However, she was starting to realize how silly that was as she found herself enjoying a more casual relationship with the Light Priestess yet again.

Hannah nodded at Saria’s earlier quip regarding Ryan. “I suppose that’s true. Still, he does have moments when he could almost be called cunning. Surely you’ve noticed.”

“Boys often have spurts of inspiration in times of peril,” Saria commented offhandedly. “Doesn’t make them any less dumb.”

“Well, that’s very reassuring,” Eramar grumbled as he set down more datapads on Saria’s desk. “If I said something like that about women, I’d likely get my eyebrows torched off by you.”

Saria gave a dismissive wave. “Oh, stop your moaning. I said boys, not men. Besides, you know I haven’t thought of you as a young boy in years. You’re too grisly and ugly now to be called a boy.”

“We can’t all be blessed with feline youth, now, can we?” Eramar muttered as he returned to his desk.

“I wouldn’t torch your eyebrows, anyway,” Saria said jokingly. “I’d go for your mustache.”

Hannah giggled. “I think I’d pay money to see that. Eramar’s flaming mustache. We could make a circus act out of it.”

Eramar eyed her with his glowing cybernetic eye in annoyance. “Why do women always do that double-teaming thing? And also, aren’t you supposed to be above such behavior now that you’re all holy and whatnot?”

Hannah gave another small laugh. “I’m sure the Lord Caretaker will forgive me for having a little fun at your expense, Eramar. After all, you do it so well that it must be his will for you to bless us with a laugh every now and then.”

Eramar shook his head while muttering something under his breath.

“Eramar,” said Saria in concern as she noticed something in her schedule she didn’t like. “I wanted another appointment with Sergei tomorrow. I don’t see his name anywhere, just ... just endless horrid meetings with pompous Senators and Governors.”

Eramar shrugged, not looking up. “I’m afraid it can’t be helped. You’ve been putting off too many meetings as it is. I had to pile them all up for tomorrow or they’ll never get done. And you have more matters of state coming by the day, so I rescheduled Sergei for next month.”

“A month!” Saria gasped. “How am I to survive that long with all these blasted politicians breathing down my neck? I want my massage!”

Eramar smirked. “Now, now. What did we say about moaning?”

Saria scowled at Eramar, actually considering setting his mustache on fire for a moment. Then she said, “You enjoy your little revenges against me, don’t you?”

“Immensely,” Eramar said quietly without stopping his work and still smiling.

Saria frowned, then turned her attention back to Hannah. “And how goes the border patrols? No signs of any more Shadow Elemency rituals like the one that nearly destroyed Galsin?”

Hannah shook her head. “We destroyed a major operation of theirs. The Order of Shadow likely lost a great many of their more powerful Mages in that cult you weeded out a few months ago. I suspect it will be some time before they have the courage to rear their ugly heads again.”

Saria nodded, feeling encouraged despite their recent trials. “I must admit, I do enjoy the benefits of a more solid union between the Monastery and the Fire Ministry. With your Monks aiding our patrols, my men report their powers at least doubling in strength due to their proximity with Light Elemency. It’s made containing the Space Pirates much easier.”

“I’m glad to hear that,” Hannah said with a respectful bow. Then with the utmost sincerity, she added, “I also have enjoyed renewing our friendship these past months.”

Saria went on before Hannah’s comment elicited too many touchy-feely emotions from her. “The Ministry of Water has certainly helped improve things as well. They’ve always had the trust of the people more than any other Ministry. Our ties to certain aspects of the bureaucracy are already improving if some of the media coverage is to be believed. They help us with local relationships, we help them cultivate Demihuman allies, and meanwhile, our new trade agreement actually turns a profit despite Chissler’s increased taxes.”

Saria paused, unable to help a small chuckle. “This is all his doing, isn’t it? We were in dire straits only a few years ago. Now, with the renewed bonds we’ve only recently cultivated, we have a chance to turn things around. As much as it annoys me to admit, I doubt any of this would’ve been possible without him.”

Hannah gave a satisfied smile as she held her hands behind her back in quiet contemplation. “It’s not just him. Everyone here has done their part. He would say that he simply helped guide us a little to find the part we needed to play. And of course, we have a certain team of youngsters to thank as well.”

Saria found herself rolling her eyes, but she still continued to smile. “I find myself almost envious at times when I think of the potential those children have at their fingertips, and they don’t even know it. Still, my envy is immeasurably eclipsed by my pride. Especially for Rachel. She’s already grown so much, not just in power, but as a woman.”

Hannah walked forward, leaning onto Saria’s desk, and saying quietly, “You should tell her that sometime.”

Saria sighed. “I will. It’s just ... it’s difficult separating the warrior from the grandmother in me. Sometimes, I feel like she needs my strength more than my love. She has others who can love her better than I ever could anyway.”

Hannah gave a small chuckle. “Now I don’t believe that for a second.”

The Light Priestess then tapped her fingers together as she said with concerned interest, “Speaking of daughter figures, I was wondering how young Torsha is adjusting. She was one of my favorite students for a long time. I was remiss to lose her, but Zand and I both felt it would be good for her and Squad 99.”

Saria grinned. “She’s a mischievous one, I’ll say that much. I wouldn’t have expected that from a Light Monk. She seems to have a lot in common with Ryan, though I suppose that’s one of the reasons you picked her, so she could be one of his connections to the Light. That too is an aspect of his nature that I sometimes forget. And she seems to have been the source of some adolescent relational drama I hear. But the others have accepted her as one of their own. She’s part of the family now, and I’m not just saying that.”

Hannah sighed in satisfaction. “I’m glad. Family was always important to her. I suppose that’s to be expected given how she never knew her own. She was content at the Monastery, but I think this is the first time she’s ever been truly happy now that she seems to have found peers.”

Eramar cleared his throat, drawing Hannah’s and Saria’s attention. “I am sorry to interrupt, but I just received notice of a matter that might be urgent.”

His apology sounded genuine, so Saria curbed a flash of annoyance. She forgot how nice it was to speak so candidly with Hannah Lioness again. The Priestess used to be her favorite student after all. In fact, Hannah was like a daughter to her at some point. A part of Saria still felt wounded that Hannah left the Fire Ministry to be a Monk. But given everything Hannah had become and accomplished, Saria was beginning to accept the choice.

“Very well. If you feel the need to disrupt our bonding time, then it must be urgent.”

Eramar just stared in confusion, uncertain of what she meant.

“That means continue, Eramar.”

Eramar shook his head. “The convoy being led by the Testament has failed to report in. This is the first time they have been late, but it is possible they are simply meeting with interference, perhaps from a solar storm or a drifting nebula.”

Saria did feel a tad concerned now as she said, “That’s the same convoy we sent to investigate the disappearances of ships in the Zeta Way Galaxy around the Black Star Systems, correct?”

Eramar only nodded, somewhat grimly.

Saria bit her thumbnail as she considered. “I may be overreacting given how long since there’s been any trouble in that part of the universe, but I’m not sure if I can afford anything else as far as Black Star is concerned. If the convoy fails to report in soon, I want a fleet ready just in case of-”

Suddenly, a bright flash of white light illuminated the office. Her vision blurry from the light, Saria gave a quiet cry of surprise as she sprang to her feet, summoning her battle gauntlets already alight with orange flames.

“WAIT, SARIA!” warned Hannah.

That warning was the only thing that kept Saria from lashing out with her considerable destructive powers. When the white light dimmed, she saw Eramar was up too, his flaming rapier already drawn and at the ready.

There was a new figure in the room. It looked like a man, but it was a man that seemed to be made of pulsating energy in differing shades of white and gray. And he ... he appeared to have four glowing green eyes, Dragon-like wings, and a tail made of white light. Saria had rarely felt such power. As a Vessel connected to a Celestial Beast, she was one of the most powerful Elementals in the universe, but she felt that even Tava’s strength paled in comparison to this being.

Then the being morphed to become solid, slowly taking on the form of Zanderius Alastar. It was the first time she had seen him in the flesh in almost seven years. He was old and young at the same time. His skin was fair and lacked both the smoothness of youth as well as the wrinkles of age. He had a short, well-trimmed white beard, but no mustache. Bright green eyes hid behind grandfatherly spectacles, and he had mid-length snow-white hair done in a ponytail. Despite his mature face, his body was lithe and strong beneath silver armor with glowing white symbols of the ancient language carved into the metal framework. A white cape hung around his armored shoulder pads.

Saria dismissed her Psionic Weapons as she regarded him. Zand looked haggard. He was breathing heavily, his eyes wide with what seemed like shock. Saria had never seen Zand like this, at least not for a long time. Nothing ever fazed him. Nothing ever shook him. How could anything affect a man strong enough to bend stars to his will?

“Zand?” Saria said softly in confusion, pushing down an unwanted feeling of longing as she forced herself to be annoyed at his intrusion. “What the devil are you doing here? Chissler is still looking for you! If he knew you were here, he’d-”

“Get a tracking unit to Sector-56701 now!” he said firmly, broaching no argument.

“What? Five, six...” Saria stopped and gasped, realizing the significance of those coordinates. “The Commandment!”

Zand let out a shuddering breath. “It’s been attacked. You should receive the report within the hour. I found out myself in a vision moments before the raid occurred ... and by then it was already too late.”

Saria forgot how to breathe for a moment. As stunned as she felt, Hannah looked even more so as her face paled, and her features grew haunted.

But I ... I tried so hard to protect them this time ... to keep them away from danger! How ... how could this happen? How did...

Saria found herself glaring at Zanderius. “I only sent them there because you wanted them somewhere safe and out of the way for the time being! How did you not foresee this, oh wise one?! How did you not-”

“I HAVE TO PROTECT THE WHOLE UNIVERSE FROM HIM, SARIA! EVEN I MAKE MISTAKES! EVEN I CAN’T SEE EVERYTHING!” Zand shouted, his eyes flashing with anger as a dangerous white light emanated from his body.

Saria found herself instinctively flinching back. In all the years they had known each other, she had rarely seen Zanderius become angry, and when he did, it was always a shock. In that moment, she felt like she could see a few of the burdens he had been carrying as Prime Minister for millennia now.

Zand drew in a sharp breath as his features lost their heat. “I’m sorry. You’re right. This is my fault. I ... I honestly thought they’d be alright this time. The Laws of Balance had been satisfied on our end. All the portents foretold they would have an uneventful trip, after which I had planned to start Ryan’s training. I don’t understand how he...”

Zanderius trailed off as his eyes widened in realization. “He must have put a causality into play.”

“A what?” Saria asked, tentatively moving to the side of her old comrade.

“A causality. Those of us versed in the field of prophecy use it to refer to a decision that starts a domino effect which cannot be fully predicted by any prophet. He would ... he must’ve made the decision on impulse, completely without any preparation or forethought. It’s the only way I didn’t see this attack coming, because he never planned to arrange it. He must’ve seen something that I didn’t, and then immediately acted on that knowledge regardless of what it might cost him, setting into motion a random set of events previously unforeseen.”

All this talk of future events and portents made Saria’s head spin, but she didn’t shy away from the discussion this time. She needed to understand where they went wrong. To a lesser extent, she wanted to understand Zand himself.

“What do you mean ‘what it might cost him’? He made out quite well I should think considering that he has them both now.”

Zand shook his head. “No. He doesn’t have them. I had contingencies in place just in case he tried to capture them again, contingencies that he knew of. That’s why I thought he’d simply leave them alone this time. Instead, he had the ship destroyed. Not even I could’ve predicted he’d do something like that.”

Saria’s eyes widened in shock. Hannah gasped, putting both hands to her mouth as she trembled. Eramar simply stood in stunned silence, his sword hanging limply at his side.

“You mean,” started Hannah hesitantly, nearly at the point of tears as she kept a hand to her trembling lips. “You mean they’re-”

Realizing what he just said, Zand silently moved to Hannah’s side almost too quickly for Saria to see. She reckoned that he moved faster than the speed of light in that moment, a speed she and a handful of Elementals could match, but not without some difficulty. Though many Elementals could react at lightspeed to counteract lasers, not many could move continually at those speeds like Zand could. Saria knew that Zand had to concentrate hard to move at a normal speed and interact with people, otherwise, he’d be moving so fast that few beings in the universe could even perceive him.

Zand took Hannah’s hands, stroking them gently to keep her calm. “No. No, they’re not dead. I would’ve felt it if they were. He wouldn’t kill them. They’re too important to his plans.”

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