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Monoark

By Ember

Chapter one – Cereal, Maths and Teleporting Twins

Autumn leaves fell from the majestic trees and swirled on the tarmac like a crimson carpet. The early sun pierced the sky and the first rays began to hit the only eastward window of number 11, Chiboshi Street, illuminating the room inside. It was at this moment that Karasu Akiyama chose to wake up to what she believed to be an ordinary day.

As she descended to the kitchen she glanced at the clock in the hallway and realised she was going to be late again. Karasu raced down the next flight at breakneck speed and came crashing into her brother Kyou earning her an annoyed

“Watch it” from him.

“Good morning to you too dear Apricot*” she replied before hurrying to the cupboard to discover the soggy remnants of her brothers cereal.

“There’s no cereal left.” he shouted from the living room. Fuming, Karasu stormed up behind him and tipped the bowl’s contents over her sibling’s head.

“What was that for?” Kyou asked, grinning innocently. Karasu chose not to reply, turning back to the staircase. With each step she took her anger disappeared and she began to focus on the task at hand- getting to school on time.

She hurriedly flung on her amethyst and sky coloured school uniform and tried to find her school books.

“If you’re looking for your books I packed them for you” came a voice from outside her door. Karasu grabbed the handle and swung it open to reveal a smiling Kyou holding her satchel.

“Thanks, sorry about earlier.”

“No problem. Does this mean that I can have your manga-?”

She cut him off with a hurried “No chance” before scampering out of the house and along the winding street to Awatadashii Academy.

Karasu had barely flopped into her seat when the shrill morning bell sliced through the air signalling the start of lessons. She took out her planner to find her first class was double maths. Just my luck she thought to herself. Behind her Aimi and Stacy were gossiping behind their books and to her left Youta was daydreaming with his head resting on his fists.

“All right class 9 settle down” spat Mrs Tsukino as she strode into the room and flung open a drawer. “Yes that includes you Yuzuki. Right, where was I. Today we have a test. Don’t look so surprised I told you about this three weeks ago so I expect you to all achieve high marks.”

Karasu groaned inwardly. For the last week she’d been putting off the revision and eventually forgot about it- a decision she now regretted.

“You may begin.” screeched her teacher and Karasu realised she’d been procrastinating giving the others a tiny advantage. She hurriedly turned the page to find

1) 2 + 2 = 2 + 2.5 – 0.56 = 4.5 + (-1/2) =

I’ll come back to this later she thought with a sinking feeling in her gut. The rest of the test was no easier and when the hour was up she was almost in tears and her pencil had been gnawed to a stub. As Mrs Tsukino came round to collect them Karasu averted her gaze, hoping the teacher wouldn’t recognize the despondent look in her eyes.

Her next lessons (Latin and Geography) dragged by and eventually her lunch break came. As Karasu ran from the classroom she dropped her pencil case through the banisters of the geography block, down to the storage basement. Cursing, she dropped her bag and ventured down the flight of stairs to retrieve it.

Reaching the bottom, she was overwhelmed by a surge of panic. If a teacher catches me here I’m dead she thought and took an uncertain step.

“KARASU AKIYAMA WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” came a voice from behind her. Karasu turned to see Mrs Tsukino, hands on hips and frowning. Karasu thought desperately for an excuse but as soon as she opened her mouth, the world went black.

When she awoke Karasu saw five children, two girls and three boys, looking down at her. The tallest boy extended his hand and helped her up. She took in her surroundings- empty, nothing, no boundaries or colours of any sort. Startled she began with the cliché question-

“Where am I?”

“You’re in a sub-dimension. We brought you here using our magic” replied the boy. Seeing the confused look on her face he smiled and said “It’s complicated.”

Karasu realised that something was odd and disconcerting about the others. Backing away she asked

“Why did you bring me here and who are you?”

Ignoring the first question the girl to his left spoke.

“I’m Kira and this (she indicated to the boy) is my twin brother Kuro.” They looked nothing alike. Whilst Kira had blonde hair and black eyes Kuro had black hair and grey eyes. The next to speak was a small boy with brown spiky hair and glasses.

“I’m Moru. Nice to meet you!” He was followed by a ginger girl, whose name was Hotaru, and finally the bald boy with awful eczema whispered

“Kamenosuke.”

After Karasu introduced herself Kira began to speak.

“And now we really need to move on to why you’re here. Many children were selected at birth to take part in the experiments of a company named Monoark who believe they can give you superhuman powers. ” Moru tried to interrupt but Hikari waved him away. “Your parents didn’t agree however and you managed to escape and were hidden away. Your parents forgot and moved on. Until today.”

“Monoark” Kuro took over, “have tracked you down and will release their army or mages into your hometown unless you come with us to a safe house. We’re sorry but there’s no other choice- this is the only way you can save your family and friends.”

“Any questions?” asked Kira “Good” she said cutting them all off “We don’t have time for any.”
She looked impatiently at them and then rolled her eyes.
“Don’t say you don’t believe me- how do you think you got here if not by magic?”

“Take my hand and we can teleport there” said Kuro. Moru and Hotaru were quick to comply but Kamenosuke clearly wasn’t convinced. He turned to Karasu, a questioning look on his face. She hesitated, then nodded uncertainly before putting her hand in. This appeared good enough for Him and he joined the others as the world around them began to spin and transform into a void of darkness.

***

A stranger stood upon a jagged hill watching intently for something unknown. At last he spotted what he was looking for.

“It’s time.” he muttered before turning and vanishing into the rocks. To an onlooker this would have appeared odd, but fortunately there was no such person in the desolate wasteland in question. A minute or so later the eerie silence was interrupted by the sound of a motor and a huge airship appeared from the clouds only to disappear again, just as quickly, into the night.

Chapter 2 – Traitors, Hoodies and Magic Powers

A boy sat, silent and motionless, in a filthy cell he’d come to call home. A faint noise alerted him and his eyelids snapped open to see a flickering light from the end of the corridor. Figures appeared and he could see two men in white coats dragging a seemingly lifeless girl along the ground. This was nothing new and he closed his eyes again, a little bored. It was only when he heard the jingle of keys and the moan of untreated metal that he became interested. He only realised they were leaving her in his cell when the larger man slammed and locked the rusty door and began to walk away. The other man sneered at the boy before turning on his heel and strolling back to where he’d come from.

After an hour or so the girl began to wake up. She’d been moaning and shrieking and the boy was a little unnerved. Her eyes slowly opened and he saw she was crying. She suddenly noticed him and sprung to her feet before backing away.

“Please, please don’t hurt me” her voice trembled.

“Why would I hurt you? You’re the first cellmate I’ve has since Haru – and that was 3 months ago. I’m Okami.”

She remained silent until Okami added

“And you are…?”

“Karasu.”

She shivered and looked around the cell.

“When you said you’d been here alone for three months you were joking, right?”

His face formed into what might have been a grim smile.

“I wish.”

The next few hours passed in silence and eventually Karasu lay down. She wished for her bedroom, her brother even Mrs Tsukino- anything normal. She wished to wake up and for it all to have been a bad dream. Now she had been imprisoned in a human testing centre in the middle of nowhere, in a different world as far as she knew.

After an uncomfortable attempt at sleep, the men came for Okami. Karasu waited, wondering if and when he’d come back. They left her an apple and a plastic bowl of cereal. She wolfed down the first but left the latter, finding it made here too homesick. She wandered what Kyou was doing, hoping he was safe.

Karasu didn’t remember falling asleep but when she woke up she was in a sparkling white room. A young man with Black hair and a clipboard was watching her.

“So glad you could join us” he sneered as she looked around, panicking. “Don’t look so frightened I promise I won’t hurt you- much.”

She was chained to the wall next to an intriguing contraption. Karasu suddenly realised there was a drip in her left arm, forcing a solution into her system. She began struggling but realised it was useless and turned to the man.

“What’s that?” she asked, trying not to show her fear.

“It’s an invention of mine. It gives one supernatural abilities but, and here’s the interesting thing, I reacts differently in different people. I can’t wait to see what happens with you.”

Karasu had never been more scared in her life.

“Wish I could stay but I have other matters to attend to.” He said before exiting the room.

Karasu began to hyperventilate. Keep calm she told herself.

She suddenly remembered the only time she had been almost this scared. When she was nine she had fallen from a tree and broken her leg but her parents weren’t there, only Kyou. He had to leave her to get help but she was worried about him getting lost in the surrounding woods. He told her something she’d never forget and she whispered it to herself now.

“If you can overcome your fear and beat your panic you can accomplish anything- you’re freer than the birds themselves.”

After what could have been an hour but felt like an age, Karasu was taken to a larger room. To her horror she saw around fifty other children, all in hoodies, eating a meal. In one corner sat six in multi-coloured hoodies with around ten in orange and in the middle sat around twenty in purple. Closest to her were 15 or so wearing green including Okami. The strangest thing was that it was deadly quiet. Karasu was pushed onto an empty table and given what looked like an attempt at lasagne. She ate it quickly before returning to her cell. Okami joined her a few minute later.

“What was that all about?” she asked.

“You mean the man and the room with the drip? You’ll get used to that but- ” she cut him off.

“No all those children in the different hoodies.”

“It’s simple.” Okami explained, “Those in green, like me, use animal or plant magic. I’m a wolf.” he added proudly.

“The kids in Purple use element magic, like sulphur and radium. And the weirdoes in orange use original magic like telekinesis.”

“What makes them weird?” questioned Karasu.

“They chose to come here, that’s why they get the best powers. They’re known as the elite, or simply the traitors. They work closely with Llewellyn, the man who created Monoark. They’re the ones who go on recruiting missions. It was Lili who got me, she uses teleportation and telekinesis…”

Seeing Karasu’s frown he cleared his throat and continued.

“Sorry, I’m side-tracking. The rest, are the elite of the elite are the Primaries. They use the six primary forms of magic; Itsuki – Earth, Sora – air, Nureta – water, Hono – fire, Kuro – dark and Kira – light. You must be pretty special, Llewellyn sent the twin primaries to get you.”

Karasu thought about this. It just didn’t make sense to her- what possible motive would someone have to betray other who’d done nothing wrong.

“There are others, without magic who recruit people because they think they’ll be rewarded.” Added Okami.

That night a guard took Karasu to a small room, more of a closet really, and presented her with a green hoodie. She changed and was escorted back to her ‘room’. Okami looked her up and down before smiling.

“So you’re one of us.”

She smiled back despite her desperate situation; glad there was someone on her side in this world of madness. This feeling was not to last though.

The next day Karasu took tests to determine exactly what type of animal magic she had. They seemed weird to her, recognising silhouetted images of plants and animals, a three page multiple choice about her favourite weather and finally recognising meat by their scents. She ate lunch in isolation again and returned for the physical tests. Karasu ran for as long as possible (not very long) and then swum as far as she could (very slightly better). Karasu thought she would’ve done better if they had let her remove her chains.

The only real results came when Llewellyn asker Karasu to go to the window and describe the scenery. She had only uttered three words (Umm, a desert?) when he pushed her, hard, shattering the glass. She screamed and shut her eyes, waiting for the impact of a fall from the fourth floor of a building. She only opened them when she heard Llewellyn clapping. To her amazement she was floating just outside the building. Karasu turned her head and nearly fainted. She had wings.

“It’s pretty funny really.” He stated. “You’re called Karasu, meaning raven, right? And you’re magic is that of a bird.”

Karasu didn’t know what to think. On one hand this new ability was exciting as she’d always loved watching birds fly and observing their intricate wings. On the other, she was now part of an illegal and inhumane experiment which could prove fatal as far as she knew.

Karasu went to dinner in this confused state. She was finally allowed to sit with the other children in green and wasn’t sure where to sit until she saw Hotaru, Moru and Kamenosuke. Moru looked up and smiled.

“Hi Karasu.” The others looked up and saw her too resulting in an excited squeal from Hotaru and an intrigued glance from Kamenosuke. Through discussing the experiences and tests the others had endured Karasu learned that Moru was a mole, Hotaru was a firefly and Kamenosuke was a tortoise.

She was eventually forced to leave by a stern woman with greying hair. Whilst she was taken back to her cell she heard a disturbance. A boy was shouting

“YOU TOLD ME SHE’D BE SAFE, YOU PROMISED.”

Karasu felt a twinge of pain as she realized it was Kyou. She tried to walk to him and comfort him but the guard pushed her on. Not before she heard Llewellyn’s chilling reply though.

“She is more important to us than scum like you could understand. You are nothing, and I thought you might prove useful, but no. I no longer have a use for you. Take him to a cell, we begin AEOP testing tomorrow. ”
***

The airship had nearly reached its destination. As the pilot looked out over the wasteland he saw a building, sticking out like a sore thumb amongst the dunes and rocks. He landed, deciding to walk the rest of the way. Being spotted now would give the game away and the last hope would be lost.

Chapter 3 – Floors, Rebellion and Violet Ivy
Okami could tell something was wrong with Karasu as soon as he saw her. She was as white as a sheet and on the verge of tears. The guard hissed something in her ear before slamming the cell door. Karasu went straight to her futon and lay down facing away from Okami.

“Karasu?” He asked, worried.

“Go to sleep Okami.” Her voice trembled. Although he kept pressing for information, Karasu remained silent and eventually he fell asleep. Karasu wept as images of Kyou being tortured bounced around in her brain.

Monoark was divided into five floors. The first was for those with animal or plant magic, the second for the children using elemental. These consisted of many cell like rooms, a guardroom and a bathroom.

The third floor was a luxury apartment with a dormitory for the originals and private rooms for the primaries. The fourth floor was full of testing labs and also featured a gym and the dining hall. The fifth floor was Llewellyn’s floor and not much was known about it although there were some very elaborate rumours. All five of these shook as a scream of frustration sliced through the air.

Vi was shocked awake, scared by the sound. It was just a nightmare she told herself, not really believing her lie. She looked around, realising that the surprise had triggered her powers. Leaves and flowers of every kind twisted and weaved up the walls and bars, comforting her. Vi suddenly realised that this may have happened on every floor, to every inmate. There must have been a security breach; the magic proof walls suddenly didn’t work. Vi concentrated hard, pushing a leaf, changing its shape until it fit into the heavy iron lock. With a flick of her wrist it turned and she was free. Vi turned and shook her cellmate Emily, a heavy sleeper, awake. Surprised she briefly disappeared before reappearing and mumbling

“Sorry”. Vi knew about her friends’ chameleon powers but hadn’t experienced them before. She was about to compliment her before realising they might not have much time to escape.

“Come on Em, we don’t want to get caught.” Emily looked around in surprise but was quick to grasp the situation and nodded. The left the cell and saw many other children had broken out. Emily quickly took Vi’s hand and blended them both in with the crowd.

On the second floor the situation was similar. Many cellmates had broken out and were combining their powers to get past the guards. Two children, a girl with chestnut brown hair and a boy with blonde had combined their powers. The girl was using two hands and the boy was clasping them with one of his. They smiled at each other as the guards toppled over, some clutching their noses. The girl stepped forward and shouted

“And that, my friends, is how you make Hydrogen sulphide!” Those around them began to laugh until they began to smell rotten eggs and someone else shouted

“It stinks Haru, you can stop now!”

The duo was no longer laughing though and the others turned to see Llewellyn. He was smiling.

Back on the first floor Karasu was hurriedly trying to find Kyou. Corridor after corridor she ran getting deeper into the labyrinth, avoiding the animals, humans and plants all running in the other direction. She turned a final corner and there he was, standing in the thick of it all with his back to her.

“Kyou!” Karasu called, “You’re safe now, I’m here, come on let’s-”

Her beloved little brother turned to reveal a face riddled with pain, eyes burning with hatred.

“Code 11, code11. Awaiting instructions.” He said in a monotone.

Karasu, scared by this, reached out and said

“Come on Kyou, we don’t have time for games.” Kyou walked towards her and she felt a flood of relief. Suddenly he reached out and pressed his index finger to her head. Her head swarmed with pain and she saw Okami running towards them before she blacked out.

***

The stranger had reached his destination. He’d studied countless blueprints and was certain of his task. He scanned a security code and raced up the stairs to the first floor. He reached the second corridor and counted the doors until he reached the ninth. It was empty and the door was unlocked and ajar. He rechecked his map. What had he done wrong?

“VIOLET, IT’S ME, NAEGI!” he screamed and hesitated. It’s over, they’ll catch me now he thought.

“I’m sorry Violet, I’m so sorry.” He whispered and held his arms out to the approaching guards as they carried him off without a struggle. He thought he heard someone shouting in the distance but couldn’t make out what they were saying.
In just under an hour, the riot had been quashed and the children rounded up like sheep. They were in mass cells of 10 or so in the basement and Llewellyn had ordered the guards to keep them there for three days with no food.

Okami sat in the third cell, his head a blur. He hadn’t been able to save Karasu from that boy, who knew where she was now? What had she done?
Along the corridor a girl with purple hair and a girl with brown hair suddenly appeared. They were immediately caught and thrown into the cell.

“I’m sorry Vi.” The brunette mumbled. Her accomplice was crying, clearly troubled by something else.

Okami looked around at his new cellmates. Moru, Hotaru, Kamenosuke and the two newcomers in green. Two in blue, a tall boy who introduced himself as Tom and Okami’s old cellmate, a pretty girl named Haru. He had been surprised and pleased to see her as he’d thought she was dead. This feeling didn’t stretch to the final prisoner, an original named Lili. She had been the one to trick Okami into coming to Monoark and he still hated her for it. Okami found it strange she was here though, she was the only original or primary here meaning she must have tried to escape or aid the others. Lili was now wearing a brown hoodie, the colour that newcomers or those without magic wore.

“What do you know about Karasu?” He asked Lili. Vi looked up and added

“And Naegi.” Lili paused and looked behind her at the guards.

“I suppose it doesn’t matter now.” She looked down at her brown hoodie. “I know a bit about Karasu but nothing about the other guy.” Vi nodded sadly and Emily put her arm around her.

“Karasu” Lili continued “Was extremely important to Llewellyn, I don’t know why although her brother, Kyou, was working for him in the hope he’d leave her alone. Llewellyn needed to get rid of Kyou so he used mind control magic on him. That’s all I know.”

“Liar, you know more.” Spat Okami “You must do.”

“Leave her alone.” Said Hotaru “She’s told us all she knows, ok.” She glared at Okami.

“It’s ok Hotaru. Okami, I know you hate me because of what I did but I promise you I’m different now, I’ve seen what monoark really is and I don’t want to be a part of it. I know I can never make up for what I did to you and so many others but at least let me try. I know this is well overdue Okami but I want to say that I’m sorry.” Lili was crying now. She held out her hand to him. He looked from it to her before hugging her instead.

“It’s ok.” He replied. Moru started clapping but was hushed by Haru.

“And for the record, I don’t hate you.”

Chapter 4 – Meetings, runaways and broken images

Karasu didn’t know where she was or what she was doing there but there was a soft blue ball of light next to her, comforting her. Broken images swam in her head, confusing her. A leaf, a cereal box, her brother, a forest. She couldn’t make sense of them but she knew they meant something to her. Karasu felt drowsy but found she couldn’t fall asleep, the harder she tried the more images came to mind. Screaming children, distraught parents, an abandoned town, a sky full of ravens. Faster and faster they came. The more she saw the more she wanted it to stop until she couldn’t take it. She reached out for the ball of light but as her hand moved forwards is flew out of reach. Karasu stepped forwards, frustrated but again it moved, teasing her. She began to run, determined to catch it, sure it would bring an end to the worsening images. She realised the darkness around her was changing, getting lighter and lighter until she was running through trees. The light was almost within reach now and Karasu sped up to a sprint. A tree materialized out of nowhere and she tripped, falling to the ground with a crash. The last image froze in her mind- two crying toddlers, one with green hair, the other with black. She looked up and saw the light had gone out. The darkness began to close in.

It had been two days since the rebellion and the normal routine had not yet been re-established. Up on floor three, the primaries and originals were growing restless. Where was Llewellyn and why was the door to the stairs locked? They hadn’t been given any food and their snack cupboard was getting emptier by the hour. When lunchtime came and the only food left was a couple of stale crackers and an apple that had seen better days, Kira called the other primaries to her room. She and her brother sat on expensive leather chairs and Sora, Itsuki, Hono and Nureta squeezed onto her bed.

“I called you here to discuss an important matter” she began “The matter of our survival.” Hono tried to interrupt but her glare silenced him.

“Llewellyn hasn’t made any contact with us for two days and the exits remain sealed, for how long I can’t say.” Kira nodded at Kuro, signalling for him to take over. He looked surprised but did as she said.

“We must prepare for the worst and take contr-”

“Hang on” tried Hono again, ignoring the look Kira sent him. “I get that Kira’s dark but aren’t you supposed to have light magic and be good? You know, good cop” He pointed at Kuro “Bad cop.” He pointed at Kira. “We must prepare ourselves for the worst isn’t very optimistic.”

“If that’s your opinion” spat Kira, left eyebrow raised “Then you really won’t like the plan we devised.” Kuro raised his hands as if to indicate he didn’t agree with his sister’s use of the word ‘we’. She elbowed him and he spoke again rolling his eyes.

“What Kira means is…” he glanced at her and began again “We are… more important that the originals so we should take the remaining food.”

Kuro surveyed the others. Sora looked scared, Itsuki angry and Hono, thoughtful. Nureta was sitting perfectly still, eyes glazed over. The trance suddenly broke and she raised her hand. Kira nodded and the usually silent girl spoke.

“How?” she whispered. Seeing the others’ confused faces she looked frustrated and explained “The originals outnumber us and we can’t use magic unless we’re in the training rooms on floor four so how can we take the food?”

“I think you’ll find you’re wrong.” Sneered Kira, smugly. “Remember the power cut two nights ago? It disabled the force field stopping us using magic. The originals don’t know this giving us the upper hand.”

Itsuki suddenly sprung up.

“I will have no part in your inhumane plan!” He went to open the door but suddenly froze. He slowly fell to the ground, as if being pushed down by an invisible force. Itsuki began gasping for breath and his eyes rolled back in his head. He lay still on the floor barely breathing. Kira smiled and got to her feet. Stepping over Itsuki she opened the door and said

“I would strongly advise you to be part of the plan.” She left with a sickly smile and Kuro quickly followed, apologising for his sister.

Nureta returned to her room in her usual silent state leaving Sora and Hono to carry Itsuki back to his room.

None of the primaries slept that night. Sora wept, Hono read a book, Nureta sat motionless on her bed and Itsuki was in too much pain to sleep. Kira lay awake scheming and Kuro wondered what had happened to his beloved sister who had once been his best friend.

***
Lili was terrified. Her joy over the new friendship with her fellow cellmates had worn off and she was sure Llewellyn would punish her.

She thought about what had happened. Lili had been having second thoughts about monoark- kidnapping was certainly illegal and morally wrong, wasn’t it? Llewelyn always seemed so cruel, why should she trust him. The scream had been the last straw and she’d suddenly snapped. Stuffing a couple of books, some clothes and a cheese toastie into her rucksack she fled from her dorm and made for the stairs leading downwards. She suddenly had an idea and she turned to the stairs ascending to floor four.

If I can just reach the training room I can teleport out of here, she thought. She sprinted all the way, afraid the guards would catch her. She grabbed the door handle and stopped. It was locked. In desperation she tried again and again but it was no use.

She heard a shout and turned to see a distant figure along the corridor. He turned away from her, arms outstretched to the oncoming guards and she screamed
“FIGHT BACK! What’s the use if you don’t fight back?” He didn’t acknowledge her though.

She suddenly realised she’d given away her position and made a run for it. Corner after corner she ran, knocking over everything in her path. One more turn and she’d have made it back to the stairs. She looked behind herself to see if anyone was following her and ran straight into Llewellyn. He smiled and indicated to the two burly guards behind him. She turned and fled but they quickly caught her. Lili bit and scratched and kicked and screamed, determined not to be caught but Llewellyn hurried into a lab and returned with a needle. He stabbed it into her arm and she bit his hand, causing wet, crimson droplets to stain her chin. It was too late. The sedative kicked in and she collapsed into a crumpled heap on the floor.

***

Naegi awoke in his four-poster bed. He checked the clock to see the time was 3:57 AM and rolled over, trying desperately to sleep before remembering the events of the previous day. He jumped up and rushed to the door. He knew it was locked but tried it anyway, unsurprised when it remained shut. Naegi hurried over to his window seat and flung back the curtains to find ugly iron bars obscured his view. He collapsed back onto his bed before noticing something glinting on his bookshelf. He walked over to it, disgusted by the amount of dust which had accumulated in his once impeccably clean and tidy room.

Naegi reached for the object and his eyed widened in horror as he realised what it was. It was an unused plaster. The message couldn’t be any clearer, after all his father had always liked symbols. Naegi’s kneed buckled and he was reduced to a sobbing wreck.

***
Llewellyn was sitting in a white room with two tables in front of him. On one lay a dark haired girl and on the other lay her brother. The boy had strange black and gold markings on his skin and the girl had a pair of sleek, black wings. They were both unconscious but the girl was beginning to stir. Llewellyn stepped towards her, about to inject her with another sedative but he hesitated. He returned to his and groped underneath for his clipboard.

He checked the strange contraption wired to her arms, head and wings and hurriedly scribbled some notes. The girl started twitching but the restraints on the table held her down. For the next few seconds she moaned and thrashed about before falling still and opening her eyes. The yellow light on the ceiling blinded her and she blinked. She struggled and tried desperately to free herself but to no avail. He walked over to her.

“Hello Karasu.” He said, cheerily. “I hope you slept well, you’re going to need all the energy you can muster.” She leaned forwards as if to hear better and Llewellyn leaned in. With a crunch she smacked her head against his and he stumbled back. Gritting his teeth he walked back towards her.

“Listen to me young lady-” Karasu spat in his face but this only angered him.
“WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO MY BROTHER?” She screamed. Llewellyn walked over to the still unconscious Kyou and checked his monitor.

“You should be thanking me” He replied. “I’ve given him the powers of a king.” Smiling he turned to leave the room, Karasu’s screams still ringing in his ears.

Chapter 5

The night after the primary’s meeting, Sora went to check on Itsuki. His room was on the far right of the descending stairs and hers was on the far left, meaning she had to pass Kira’s room. Sora was afraid and crept along the hall, praying nobody would leave their room and catch her. When she reached his door she breathed a sigh of relief and reached out to knock. She suddenly felt a hand grab her shoulder and, stifling a scream, she turned to see a small girl who she vaguely recognised. The girl was crying quietly, tears streaking down her face and dripping off her chin onto the ground with a drip. Sora bent down, shocked, and asked
“What’s wrong?”

The girl looked deep into her eyes, as if weighing the decency of her soul and deciding whether to trust her.
“T-they… they…” she began, still crying “They s-said Saskia was… was a m-monster…” She flung her arms around Sora and began to wail.

Sora picked her up and carried her to her room, worried the girl’s crying would alert Kira. She lay her in an armchair and tucked her up in a blanket. Once the girl had calmed down Sora began again.
“Who’s Saskia?” The girl looked confused, as if the answer was obvious. In exasperation she pointed to herself.
“Why would they say that?” Inquired Sora but Saskia was crying too hard to speak now. As she cried her body convulsed and the blanket fell from her lap. Sora saw, to her horror, the little girl was covered in cuts, bruises and burns.

Books began tumbling from the shelves and the light began to flicker. The windows slammed open-shut-open-shut and Sora’s desk tipped onto its side, spewing its contents across the room. More and more scars were appearing on the now screaming Saskia, covering her entire body, engulfing her in a sea of crimson blood. The door was flung off its hinges and the very fabric of the world seemed to tear until…..

Nothing.

Everything had stopped. Sora opened her eyes, thinking she was dead and saw total darkness. She stood up and walked slowly forwards, arms outstretched. Where were the walls? She began to run, desperately searching for something, anything. She came to an abrupt stop and bent to feel beneath her. There was no floor. How could there be no floor? She must be flying- no, that implied movement. More like floating, she thought.

She sensed something behind her and spun around, afraid. A featureless, glowing body appeared before her and began to morph into shape, into Saskia. Her eyes snapped open but they were hollow, black and lifeless. She parted her cracked lips and rasped.
“It doesn’t hurt anymore

***

Later that night, Llewellyn visited Naegi. They sat in silence for a few minutes, Naegi pointedly avoiding his gaze. After a few failed attempts at a conversation, the man got to the point. Leaning forwards in his chair and pushing his glasses further up the bridge of his nose he asked

“Naegi, why did you run away?” but the boy ignored him. He thought about telling him everything, about Luna and the NLO but decided against in. Things are different now, he thought. Llewellyn tried again, a kinder note in his voice.

“I’m not the same as before, you can trust me now. Everything I did, I did for you.”

 

Naegi gave a dry laugh.

“You mean to say you killed your wife, my mother for ME? You kidnapped Violet and many other children for ME? And you ask why I ran away!?” Hot tears ran down his flushed face, gleaming in the lamplight. Llewellyn looked hurt.

“I gave Violet a new start in life, and your mother-” Naegi cut him off.

“HOW CAN YOU SAY THAT- HOW CAN YOU LIE TO YOURSELF! YOU’RE THE SAME AS BEFORE, THIS IS WHY I RAN AWAY!” Llewellyn looked angry.

“One day you’ll understand Naegi. The world is dying, its people corrupted. I had been studying your mothers’ extraordinary, otherworldly cells for years when I developed the ‘magic’ serum. I have to test it out a bit but once the formula is complete I can sell it to the world and a new and improved race can rule the world. I didn’t mean for your mother to die Naegi I really didn’t.”

 

“You sicken me!” spat Naegi who turned to the bathroom and locked himself in. Llewellyn put his head in his hands, shrugging of the guard who came to comfort him.

“Do you think he knows what I did to him?” He sobbed. The guard looked around, unsure if his superior was addressing him.

“Yes sir, I do. He’s just too proud to admit it. The best thing to do, in my opinion, is to take him to floor three and include him in the SOTF project.” Llewellyn looked shocked.

“I couldn’t do that to him, he’s my son!” The guard shook his head sadly.

“Sir, if he doesn’t survive it he won’t survive in your new world.” Reluctantly his superior agreed and the pair returned to the level two guard room to plan their next move.

 

Naegi sat on the rim of the bathtub, shaking. He had heard everything his father had said. What was the SOTF project and why was it so dangerous? He unlocked the door and went to his wardrobe, flinging the door open. His coat was still there. Surprised, Naegi reached for the left inner pocket and his fingertips brushed against the sleek metal of his gun. He was ready.

***

The inhabitants of floor three had finally heard from Llewellyn, but his message didn’t reassure them of their safe rescue. A message had been received when the broken television in the snack room had flickered back to life bearing a script in sleek green letters. It read as follows-

 

‘There is no space for weaklings in the new world. I need an army of three; their magic will be upgraded. Nobody leaves until there are only three left. Good luck.’

 

The primaries and originals stood, startled until a small boy piped up

“There’s an after note!” The congregation leaned in and read the last sentence.

 

‘You’d better hurry up, there’s only enough food left to sustain you all for a day at best. Oh and there are many weapons behind Nureta’s wardrobe.’

 

The mentioned girl blushed and then rushed back to her room, locking the door. Nureta sat on her chest of drawers, pressed up against the door. The other children were still desperately trying to get in but she was confident they would eventually stop.

 

She sighed in exasperation and elegantly hopped down, praying the chest was heavy enough to protect her. Nureta went to her wardrobe, in the corner of her room, and groped behind it. Her hands brushed intricate metalwork and her fingers closed around the handle of a dagger. She had five in total. Once she had retrieved them all she opened her window and threw the first four out, one by one. Nureta hesitated, she wanted to live. Removing the silk ribbon from her left hair bunch she tied the dagger to her thigh, hidden by her skirt.

 

She was terrified. This was a new emotion for her and her usually collected thoughts were pushing and scrambling to be heard. Confusion enveloped her like a blanket. She strode over to her bathroom and gripping the toilet seat, threw up.

 

Wiping her mouth on her sleeve, Nureta shivered and flushed. She stumbled to the sink and splashed her face with cold water. She turned to the mirror, an antique, full-length number. She wasn’t surprised to see that she looked terrible. Her usually pale complexion was flushed, almost garish, her eyes were bloodshot and her slender fingers trembled. She reached for her dagger, un-tying the ribbon, and held it out, as if it were a bomb. Memories haunted her and she dropped the knife, cutting her finger.

 

A bead of crimson blood grew, trickling down her palm. She fell backwards, slamming her head against the wall and falling to the floor. Her head was bleeding, obscuring her vision and all she felt was pain.

 

I deserve to suffer, she thought, maybe then I’ll finally know what they felt in their last moments.

 

Nureta had killed before, at first for survival but soon she found she couldn’t stop. She had become addicted and was wanted by multiple police forces. It scared her afterwards though and every time she’d sworn to never touch the dagger again.

 

But she had.

 

Over time she realised she had two distinct personalities- a ruthless killer and an intelligent schoolgirl. Nureta had sought the help of a therapist, bending the truth and telling him she had murderous intent. He had diagnosed her with dissociative identity disorder.

 

She remembered asking if the police would arrest her and her therapist’s smile.

 

“They probably will.” he’d said, “Unless you come with me. I’m starting an institute where children can start again and improve their lives.”

 

Nureta had been wary at first and left, returning to her ‘normal’ life. Her next victim had scared her into changing her mind.

 

It was a warm October morning and Nureta was hungry and tired. She’d been living rough for a few weeks after killing her foster parents, eating out of bins to survive. On this particular day she was sitting on a park bench when a flustered mother with a pushchair strolled up. Her baby was screaming which scared Nureta.

 

She’d had a baby brother, once. After their parents died she’d tried to look after him but the streets were no place for children. Every time her brother cried it would attract the attention of vandals, murderers and thieves. For a while she’d let them beat her, taking her food and money but she grew tired of the purple bruises which decorated her body. She’d abandoned her brother on the steps of a fancy orphanage and hunted them down, killing the one by one.

 

Crying always led to a beating in her mind. Whilst the mother rummaged around in her bag for a dummy, Nureta had killed her child. The next hour was a blur. She was arrested, locked away and her therapist had come to visit her with two other children. She’d woken up at monoark and left her old life behind. She changed her name to Nureta, abandoning her real name (Mizumi) and her criminal name (Dekishi). The name Nureta was plain and simple- perfect for blending in.

 

Nureta had never wanted to kill again but she had kept the daggers. They scared her but something in the back of her mind wouldn’t let her let them go.

 

Now she had to kill again or she would die- but could she do it?

 

 

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