Chapter 9: Ajal; Shauran 20th, 344SR; 05:50

”If you don kill them… theyll just come back! ” Ajal thought about what Jack said, it reminded him of what Ava told him.

”Peace… requires sacrifice… ” Ajal murmured under his breath in thought.

Thatd never work… I know it, maybe this is the punishment I face for thinking it would at one point. Ajal glanced over his shoulder at Jack who had been following with his head down, the two hadn exchange words for a while. It was dark, the wind rustled the leaves of the trees above as Jack and Ajal made their way through the lush forest.

Jack had short hair, his light skin dry and darkened by ash, dirty beige pants and stained white shirt; it was difficult to see him in the dark. Ajal could feel his skin crawling at the touch of the unwashed clothing he received. They don have showers… how do they bathe? Ajal pulled his collar up, and sniffed it, the scent reminding him of dirty socks, it made him cringe. What kind of world is this…

They were reaching the eastern edge of the forest, the number of trees around them slowly dwindled. Come to think of it… Ajal focused his spirit to his head, Spirit Sense, his sprit pulsed from where he stood, it was a technique used to detect other spirits. Besides Jack and the people in the town, the only spirits we
e north, that of the plant life all around, and several spirits somewhere in the forest that belonged to people. There isn a single animal or insect in this forest? Forget the forest, the only animals are in one location for 250 miles? Seriously? He closed the third eye as they reached the base of a hill, the question lingering on his mind.

”Up there, ” Ajal pointed to the top of a hill.

He crouched down low, and focused his spirit into his foot, with a single kick off, he was already halfway up the hill. He effortlessly ran up the large hill in four steps, the wind brushing past his face, he reached the top in a moment and turned to see Jack at the bottom of the hill.

”There is no way I can do that! ” Jack shouted from the bottom.

”Wait there, ” Ajal ordered before he turned and looked over the hill.

He stayed behind the giant brown oak trees to avoid being seen. To the left down the hill the trail continued out of the forest towards a large building near the cliff side surrounded by a gate at least twice Ajals height Did they wheel it through here? Theres enough space for it surprisingly… why are these trees so big?

Several people stood by the front gate in white robes, the gate seemed to end just at the wall of the mountain, Ajal scanned the edges of the building before he saw what appeared to be pipes. A factory? I don see any smoke. Ajal turned and slid down the hill, the leaves rustled as he glided down the slope, stopping himself in front of Jack.

”You were right, there is something there… it looked kind of like a factory, ” Ajal pointed out.

”Whats a factory? ” Jack asked curiously.

”Its- a place where you make things… usually a lot of that thing. The path leads there, thats where my ship should be, ” Ajal continued on the original trail.

Jack and Ajal looked forward up the path which led to the dark building at the top of the hill.

”Lets go, ” Ajal ordered, Jack let out an audible gulp and followed.

Ajal walked up the path, the area was extremely dark, the only light was from two torches on the front gate.

”Alright im- ” Ajal stopped and crouched down, pulling Jack down with him.

The tall grass brushed against Ajals face, it was tall enough for Jack and Ajal to hide in the darkness.

”Why are we hiding? ” Jack whispered.

e not alone, ” Ajal said as he looked back to the top of the hill he stood upon earlier.

Jack saw it too, the silhouettes of four people, they stalked the building in the distance. The four of them charged down the hill and spread out, one ran directly towards the front gate.

”Who are you! State your name! ” the angel near the gate shouted, however the mysterious people continued to charge.

Soon the other figures broke off into multiple directions and began to approach the building.

”Shit! Theres more of them! Ifrin call for backup! ” the angel shouted in the distance.

The first member on the hill who engaged the two angels in a fight charged forward with his fist raised high and ready to strike. From the distance Ajal and Jack we
e, the two just seemed to collide with each other and engage in a fight.

”Those ones wearing white are the angels Im guessing, I thought theyd have wings? Why are they called angels again? ” Ajal whispered to Jack.

”This is the first time Ive ever seen people fight the angels… who could they be? ” Jack pondered.

Ajal pushed Jacks head down again as one of the shadows grew closer, it was a young girl, she ran towards the left of the hill while the others from the hill continued to spread out as they approached the building on the hill. The two angels drew metal staffs, as another figure approached them. As the figure approached the spotlight it reflected off his bright red hair, he connected his fist with the angels stomach, then his face, and continued to relentlessly beat the angel.

”That guy is using spirit arts surprisingly, but really badly, ” Ajal critiqued.

”What are you talking about? Spirit arts? Thats what you did to the boulder isn it? He can do that? Can I do that? ” Jack whispered in shock and surprise.

”Well, if they just did it, you probably should be able to… anyways, lets follow that girl, ” Ajal pointed up the hill.

The woman made her way up towards the wall, before she seemed to disappear over the hill. Ajal darted forward in the darkness, Jack struggled to match his speed, instead he ran out of breath a quarter of the way up the hill as he tried to keep pace. Ajal reached the top of the hill but to his surprise the girl was gone She wore black and the wall is black… Ajal looked at the wall and noticed a rope going over. Ajal turned to see Jack struggle up the hill, he breathed heavily as he reached Ajal.

”Lets go, ” Ajal grabbed the back of Jacks collar.

”Huh? ” Jack looked confused, but he suddenly jumped high over the wall, turning his confusion into terror.

Ajal landed on the other side of the gate. A door into the building was open and a yellow light escaped from within. Ajal let go of Jack, he immediatly crawled against the floor on all fours towards the wall.

”Sorry the rope was just gonna take too long, ” Ajal apologized as Jack leaned against the wall and vomited.

Ajal simply turned away with a blank expression I probably could have warned him….

”Warn me next time! ” Jack shouted with tears in the corner of his eyes.

Ajal scanned the area, he looked around where he was, the stone building was about two stories high, he looked to the right and noticed the front gate wide open. There were training dummies made from sticks and straw arranged along the wall, wagons full of dirt or stone, and baskets full of weaponry.

”Eos wasn kidding… what is this place? ” Jack pondered.

”Seems like where they train soldiers, ” Ajal pointed out. ”Lets go, ” Ajal walked towards an open door next to the barrel of weaponry.

They both peaked inside and noticed an angel unconscious on the ground, Ajal walked right past the body, Jack poked him with his foot. Another door in front of them was left open, they walked into the large room and found themselves on a stone catwalk which stretched along the side of it. At the other end of the catwalk was an open door to another section of the building, the girl from earlier could be seen running down said catwalk.

Below a large metal door was being guarded by angels who fought against the intruders, there were mixed grunts and wails from the commotion down below, Jack and Ajal looked over the edge to see the one who charged the front gate fight an three angels at once.

”Holy crap that guys intense! ” said Jack.

Thats intense? Ajal continued down the catwalk as Jack continued to watch the fight. The man let out a roar as he dodged an incoming staff, stepped forward, and planted his fist into the angels stomach. The other two each swung their staff, but he didn budge from the hit and tried to kick him away but the angel blocked the foot with his staff. The third angel used his staff to put the man in a headlock, but the red haired man ripped his arms free, two more people who wore black clothing ran into the room to assist the red haired man and engaged the other two angels.

”Come on! ” one of them roared as Ajal entered the other room down the catwalk.

What the… Ajal saw the girl from earlier tinker with the lock on a door.

She was just shorter than Jack, her hair was tucked under a black cap, and she had a round face. Ajal looked at her leg and noticed a secured knife, she wore black camo pants with a black turtleneck, and gloves. Her hair slipped out the back of her hat and she had multiple extra pockets for utility. The lock on the door clicked and she opened it, only to be met with a wall of stone in front of her.

The girl made a fist, Ajal noticed an aura surround her hand, So they are using spirit arts… just… She swung her fist forward and made a small dent in the stone wall … not properly…

”Damnit! ” she yelled.

She tried to punch the wall again and made a small dent, the impact echoing through the room. She turned around to walk back across the balcony but then saw Ajal.

”A slave… what are you doing here? ” she said.

Ajal looked down at his clothes Oh… However he noticed a purple light to his right. He turned and looked over the balcony and was shaken by what he saw. There were non-unified babies barely even a month old, their skin colors varied, but they were all resting in strange stone cradles with glass tops connected to a runic statue which had a large chunk of purple crystal embedded in it.

”What is this? ” Ajal uttered in shock.

His fingers clenched in anger, Jack ran through the door to the larger room and saw what Ajal stared at.

”Who are you? You two shouldn be here! ” the girl tried to warn Jack and Ajal.

”Those kids are… they were taken yesterday by members of house Rael… but… they shouldn have been brought here? ” Jack questioned.

”Im serious! ” the woman shouted.

”Ajal… shes got a knife, ” Jack mentioned.

”Those assholes… ” Ajal uttered under his breath as he jumped over the rail and fell towards the lower level and landed on two feet.

”Ajal? What are you doing?! ” Jack panicd.

”Why would he jump from this height, is he insane?! ” the girl yelled.

Ajal landed on one knee, the impact felt like nothing to him. The floor was a grey cement, Ajal could see his own breath in the air, he looked around the room and saw the wires travel from the pods to the statue.

e really using my blood to turn these kids into weapons, ” Ajal muttered angrily.

Ajal stretched his hand up into the sky, the girl and Jack were surprised to see a black shadow form in his hand and extend into a pole before Ajal spun it and took a stance, a black blade formed at the end.

”Is that a scythe? He has a gift? Then… who are you?! ” The girl turned to Jack and put her fists up. ”You can be non-unified, you
e angels aren you! ” she snapped.

”Wait wait! Im non-unified, hes not from here, calm down! ” Jack cowered.

”What do you me- ” she was cut off by the sound air swishing around rapidly below.

Ajal spun his scythe around him, dust and pebbles got picked up in the draft he created, Spirit Ignition, he gripped both hands on the scythe and swung his scythe in the air. The scythe didn reach, but the smoke in front of him split in two horizontally. The pillar at the center of all of the children split in two as well, separating the purple crystal from the pods and it fell towards Ajal as a purple light radiated off his head.

”Holy… ” Jack whispered as the statue fell towards Ajal.

He tossed the scythe to the side but before it hit the floor it dissipated into a shadow, he raised both hands and caught the crystal. Ajal grit his teeth and his third eye opened and began to glow, he threw the crystal at the ceiling at the opposite side. Jack and the girl watched with their jaws held open as Ajal fired a condensed purple beam from his forehead at the crystal. The beam engulfed the statue and blasted out of the building. A buzzing sound filled the room before it was flooded by the rumbling of the crystal disintegrating, then the rumbling of the laser colliding with the mountain. The beam disappeared as Ajals third eye closed, purple flames remained along the edge of the hole blown open in the ceiling, the crystal had been completely vaporized.

”What… in the, ” the girl uttered in disbelief.

”Now, I didn know he could do that… ” Jack told her.

She held the rail with her jaw dropped and eyes wide, before she backed up and looked at Jack in fear.

e not with the angels, uhm… my names Jack, thats Ajal, ” he tried to explain to her, but then when she heard his name her eyes seemed to become wider.

e- You
e Jack… Jack Eldritch? No way… ” she ran past him and into the previous room in a hurry.

”Huh? ” Jack uttered in confusion.

Ajal jumped up and grabbed the rail, then pulled himself up.

e getting those kids out of here after by the way, ” Ajal mentioned.

”I-Ive got no problem with that, ” said Jack.

The two of them approached the open door with a wall stone behind it.

”Who would put a wall behind a- ” Jack was cut off as Ajal kicked the wall down, it crumbled as thick pieces of rock hit the metal catwalk.

”Someone trying to hide something, ” said Ajal.

This room was a bit smaller, the catwalk extended around all sides of the room in another large space, but there it was, or at least what was left of it. Pieces of Ajals ship we
e scattered around the lower level of the room.

”Dammit, ” Ajal cursed.

His ship had been torn piece by piece, and scattered around the room along with some other mechanical junk the two of them didn recognize. Along the walls of the room we
e individual pieces of glossy white armor, and strange weaponry Ajal didn recognize So there is some decent technology…

”I can put this back together… I don even know if all the pieces are here, ” Ajal groaned.

Ajal could see the inside of the exposed hanger, a skeleton of the ships hull was all that remained, the engine missing, only one of the thrusters remained. Scraps of torn steel and blue plates were littered around the room. I don have the tools to put everything back together… Ajal looked down in disappointment. Jack looked down at all the pieces.

”Looks cool… and complicated… maybe we can use the scraps? ” Jack suggested.

”No… whoever scrapped this knows what they
e doing. All the important stuff is gone, those kids take priority for now I guess, ” Ajal walked back into the previous room and continued down the catwalk.

”Are you okay? ” Jack asked as he followed Ajal.

”These angels, theyve managed to annoy the hell out of me today on more than one occasion, thats impressive. ” he chuckled with an angered expression.

”Yeah… they
e good at that, ” Jack muttered.

Ajal and Jack made their way back to the first room where the man fought those angels, they returned to see a very different scene. The girl on the catwalk from earlier was on the ground unconscious, two other people who wore similar attire to her were trapped in stone, and appeared to be knocked out, the man from earlier was in combat with someone different.

He had a large belly but his muscles were well defined despite his size, his hands were armed with stone gauntlets he swung viciously at the red haired man. He wore a white dress shirt with a green insignia of a fist on his chest. He wore an armor made from stone which covered his body in various areas, Thats not normal armor? The red haired man channeled spirit into his fist and punched the stone armor, the crack of his bone was audible and he pulled his hand back, wailing in pain.

”Thats Bruno! Hes Alexander Raels first lieutenant, why is he here? ” Jack wondered.

Ajal continued to observe the fight.

”That Bruno guy has a gift which manipulates earth… however that red haired guy hes fighting knows a thing or two about spirit arts… this should be interesting, ” Ajal observed.

”You keep saying that, what the heck is spirit arts? ” Jack asked.

Just as he asked the red haired man dodged Brunos fist and slapped his palm onto the ground next to Brunos feet and the ground seemed to rumble, and shook Bruno off his feet, the man roared as he tackled Brunos leg and pushed him onto his back.

”I won let you take my team! ” he spat, his red beard seemed darker around his mouth.

Is that blood? How long have they been fighting?.

”Just you try it, I won let you take this place… the demons need to be stopped! You
e a fool if you can recognize the threat they pose! ” Bruno shouted.

The two of them hadn noticed, only Ajal and Jack. A woman flew in quietly and spread her wings out. She wore similar clothes to Bruno, but was much slimmer and seemed much more dignified. Two of the feathers on her wings bent towards the red haired man.

”Again with the bullshit! It gets old you know… the demons haven attacked for- ”.

”Look out! ” Ajal shouted as the two black feathers hit the red haired mans ankle.

Hes gonna lose! Ajal thought as he jumped over the rail. The red haired man cried in pain, and Bruno kicked him in the chest to knock him off. He struggled to hold his stance and fell over, but the rock underneath his feet pushed him back in for a finisher.

”This is it! ” Bruno stated.

Stones floated towards Brunos fist and encased it in more stone. Ajal grasped the rail and jumped over, he leaned off the edge and kicked off towards the two.

Bruno swung the mass of rock but before he could connect Ajal pressed his foot into the large angels side, his foot crashed through the stone armor. An audible crack in Brunos ribs could be heard as he was launched out of the front entrance of the building. Bruno flew backwards and bounced off the ground, his large body tumbled and slid against the dirt, until he collided with the wall of the outer gate. He grit his teeth in pain as he grasped his side and writhed on the ground Ah crap was that too hard?

The slim woman with black wings flew to his side, she also had the green insignia of a fist above her chest. These angels have gifts from the celestial… but their clothes… are they a similar rank?.

”Agh! ” Bruno coughed up blood.

”Bruno! Are you alright! ” she cried.

”Thats Vivian! Shes also a member of house Rael! ” Jack shouted from the catwalk.

The red haired man pulled the feathers out of his legs.

”Thank you… who are you? Howd you do that? ” he asked curiously.

Ajal ignored him and walked toward the two lieutenants.

”Are you the ones in charge of this place, ” Ajal asked, his eyes gave off an intense pressure.

e… a demon? No… but those clothes? State your name heathen! ” Vivian shouted.

She stood up and her wings extended outwards ?, the wings were at least twice the length of her arms.

Ajal noticed two feathers on her wings bend, Its coming, Ajal moved his body as she shot the feathers at a high speed. He weaved between the two of them effortlessly.

”What! ” she said in shock as she saw him dodge the high speed projectiles.

”The names Ajal, ” he said calmly as he walked towards her.

”How did he dodge that… ” she whispered to herself with wide eyes.

”Vivian… don fight hi- ” Bruno coughed up blood which spilled out of his mouth into the palm of his hand. He grit his teeth and put his palm on the ground, the ring on his hand glowed a yellow light and a pillar of stone beneath the two erupted and lifted them up. Vivian lifted Bruno up under the shoulder and jumped off the pillar, her wings spread and flapped rapidly as she tried to escape. Ajal ran towards the pillar and his third eye flashed purple as his body was engulfed in a black and white aura, he ran into the shadow cast by the pillar and ran into it.

”What is he doing now? ” Jack asked himself as he ran out the building the same way he came and Ajal had entered, he couldn just jump down to the lower floor how Ajal did.

A dark mark on the shadow moved towards the top of the stone pillar and Ajal slipped out of the mark and pulled himself onto the top of the pillar, he immediately crouched and jumped with all his force at Vivian who glided away. Its a good thing that guy is heavy! Ajal grinned as he descended down from the sky, his scythe formed in his hand and he prepared to strike. Vivian turned to see Ajal right above her but it was too late as he sliced one of her wings off and descended to the ground.

Vivian screamed as she lost control of her flight, she flailed in the air, her wing stretched outwards as she attempted to flap, but couldn generate the force or balance to stay in the air. Ajal descended back down and his body was engulfed in the black and white aura once more With all these trees I have enough shadow to keep launching myself in the air with momentum, its a good thing the sun hasn risen yet.

His body covered itself in shadows once more and he slipped through the ground, this time appearing out of a different shadow in the tree and flying directly at Vivian and Bruno once more. She watched in horror as Ajal flew directly towards where she would fall, he channeled his spirit into the back of his scythe and he slammed the two of them down to the ground with it. Vivian let go of Bruno as the two of them fell into the hill not too far from the building. Ajal landed on the grass, and he slid slightly down the slope of the hill. Vivians last wing dissipated, before she mustered all her strength to conjure them again.

”Vivian… run… ” Bruno stuttered, he was barely conscious. ”You can escape with me… hes too strong… just… go- ” he coughed up even more blood. ”Get… Alexander! ” Bruno uttered at the edge of consciousness.

Vivian nodded with a look of fear in her eyes as Ajal approached, she wasted no time as she spread her wings and took flight, she wobbled slightly in the air as she was injured but she reached a high speed quickly. Theres no way I can get her if shes moving that fast… Ajal thought as he walked up the hill.

”Damn, ” said Ajal.

”Serves you right… damn… demon… ” Bruno uttered.

”Demon? ” Ajal turned to Bruno.

However he was already unconscious. I might have gone overboard… I think I broke his ribs… shit I hope he isn dying… Ajal lifted Bruno by the collar and dragged him back into the building, Jack came around the side.

”Dude… youve got to tell me everything you can do… cause I am never ready for you to start doing things, ” Jack shouted before he looked down and saw the first lieutenant of house Rael unconscious being dragged by the collar.

”Holy shit, you killed the first lieutenant of a noble… I thought you didn want to kill anyone? ” Jack recounted.

”Hes not dead… that girl got away, ” Ajal mentioned.

”He looks de- Wait what… shes gonna get Alexander Rael! And any other nobles available! ” Jack shouted in terror.

”Yeah that sucks, ” Ajal replied nonchalantly and dropped Bruno on the dirt and walked back into the building.

”Tie him up or something, ” Ajal asked Jack.

e doomed, ” Jack put his palm on his face, ”Where am I gonna get the rope? ” he pondered.

”There some buy the wall we jumped over, ” Ajal replied as he walked into the building.

The red haired man who fought Bruno tried to wake the girl up from earlier who was unconscious, Ajal walked past them towards the large stone door which led to the room with the children in it. He grasped the crack of the door and jammed his fingers between them, he channeled his spirit into his fingers tips ,then pried it open with his bare hands.

”That was… what Arken taught us, but so refined… who are you…? ” Reinhardt commented on Ajals use of spirit arts with an expression of shock.

Ajal walked into the room and looked around.

”My name is Ajal and thats Jack over there, we came here looking for my ship, I found it, it was torn apart and stripped. So now im here to help these kids. Who are you and why are you here? ” Ajal returned the question, somewhat annoyed with constantly answering that.

”Im a non-unified member of the resistance- Jack… did you say Jack?! ” the mans jaw dropped as he turned and looked back at Jack while he tied up Bruno.

”Him!? You!? You
e… You
e Jack Eldritch! ” the man shouted in shock.

He stood up quickly despite his injuries, his feet wobbled slightly.

e… you
e… ” tears came out of his eyes and fell into his beard.

e the one… who stood up the angels, you brought Alexander Rael to his knees, ” he uttered.

His tone was that of doubt and shock.

”But… you
e just a child… ” the man continued on with a passion Jack and Ajal couldn recognize.

”My name is Reinhardt Yojic, you…. ” the man bowed his head at Jack until it touched the cold floor.

”If it wasn for you… the resistance would never have regained hope! ” he grit his teeth while tears and mucus poured onto the ground.

Ajal raised his eyebrows, before he looked at Jack whose eyebrows were also raised. Jack looked over at Ajal and shook his head left and right repeatedly as if he tried to tell Ajal he had no idea what was going on. As Ajal stared at Jack he took notice of the change in the sky behind him, a blue gradient which darkened from east to west, the light descended over Jack and one of his eyes squinted slightly as he shielded himself from the sunlight. His hair short and a greasy dark brown, his white skin darkened from asphalt and dirt, He scratched his head awkwardly and looked at Ajal like a child who didn know what to do next. It was the dawn of a new day, one no one was prepared for.

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