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The guardian's protector

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Kronii paced around her throne room in her clock tower, desperate to keep her mind preoccupied with something, anything. Anything other than whatever Mumei was doing right now. Last time they met, Kronii promised that she would come back if she was really bored. Well as expected of her, minutes after getting back to her domain, she got bored out of her mind.

The stale air was such a contrast to the open breeze and the confined space made her feel claustrophobic, even though she spent millennia here but only a couple of hours outside there. What was once normal like the ticking of the clock and the hum of the mechanisms started to get on her nerves. And Kronii couldn’t for the love of the gods figure out why.

It took every fiber in Kronii’s body to resist getting back on that chair and watch Mumei going about her day. One, she didn’t want to be a stalker. Two, she knows any glimpse of the outside world will tempt her to join Mumei in whatever she was doing. She tried her hardest to avert her focus by cleaning the tower over and over again. But eventually, the tower was completely devoid of dust and she was left with her thoughts. Egging her on to use the chair again.

There was another reason she wanted to use the power of the clockwork throne again though. Back on earth, when Mumei taught her about a lot of the little things about civilization, she felt excited. She wanted to learn more about humans and what new things they achieved since the last time she visited. Now that she knew that they were capable of great things, she wanted to learn more about what else they achieved. With that chair, she could learn that. Everything about human civilization, she could observe by using its power.

But she knows better. If she knew everything, things wouldn’t be interesting for her again. She wanted to savor this feeling, the wonder of not knowing.

At the very least she wanted to learn about it with Mumei.

“Arrrgh.” She cried in frustration, “Actually one peek at what Mumei is doing couldn’t hurt right?”

She sat at the chair and thought of Mumei, a projection appeared in front of her. It depicted the guardian, walking around with a map in her hands. The location around her was a desert, but not dry enough for vegetation to be unable to thrive. Palm trees dot the place and the river nearby had cat tails and lily pads on its surface. Mumei passed by traders, clad in thick articles of clothing fit for the desert, leading along camels carrying large quantities of various goods on their backs. She was too absorbed in the map to notice the people passing by her, a perplexed look on her face.

“Where the heck even is she?” Kronii exclaimed. It was so different to where she last saw her.

She zoomed out the view and in the distance sat a massive city made of sandstone. The standout being the large white palace in the center, with a huge water droplet shaped roof. Around the palace stood various buildings and towers of different sizes gave a great skyline of the city. Around the outside of the city are large clumps of small cube-shaped commoner houses, with a large stone wall encircling the border. Swarms of traders like the ones Kronii saw earlier filtered through the wooden doors at the front of the city.

“Woah.” She blurted out, temptation immediately getting to her. She took one look around the empty throne room. “You know what.”

“Screw it.”

 


 

Mumei kept looking between the map and her surrounding area, she swore her destination should be around here somewhere. As she scanned through her map again, making absolutely sure she was getting all of the details right, a flash of blue light blasted right in front of her. “AHHH!” she screamed as she toppled to the ground. When she got her bearings back, she saw Kronii standing over her.

“Whoa.” Kronii extended a hand over to her. “Did I surprise you?”

“Oh hey Kronii!” she took the hand offered to her and got back on her feet, “Were you getting bored?”

“What!? No!” That question flustered Kronii a little, “I just was just worried you were going to get yourself into trouble again.”

“No worries, now that you’re here, I know I’ll be safe no matter what happens!” she said gleefully.

“That isn’t reassuring at all.” Kronii replied bluntly, she took a glance at Mumei’s map, “Where do you plan on going anyway?”

“I plan on going…” she traced her finger along the map, until it landed on a small town along the river, “here!”

“Really there?” Kronii questioned, clearly disappointed by her destination, “Why not the big city like, right over there?”

“Oh, that one?” Mumei clutched the map in her hand harder, “There’s a bit too many people there. I’m kinda nervous. Something might happen.”

“But it’ll be more fun.”

“Yeah.. I guess…” then her face quickly shifted to one of confusion. “Wait, didn’t you say last time, the lesser chances to get involved with humans, the better?”

“Yeah but…” her mind frantic to come up with any excuse, “Past Kronii was dumb.”

“Besides, didn’t you say you feel safer now that I’m here?” she continued, nudging Mumei lightly, “If anything happens, I can just wipe their memories and it’ll be like nothing happened. Trust me, okay?”

After a moment of deliberation, Mumei nodded, “Alright… let’s go to the city.”

Kronii clasped her hands in excitement. She knew it was a bit childish but the city looked promising to her. The rush of being back on earth was thrilling to her. “Good, then let’s get going then.”

Kronii started marching forward before Mumei started screeching and flailing her arms about. “Wait, wait, Kronii, WAIT!”

“What, what is it?”

“Your clothes!”

“What about it? Does it look bad?”

Mumei thought the opposite actually. Her outfit was stunning, unlike anything on earth. The stark white clothing clashed beautifully with the black undershirt, sleeves and skirt. The few spots of exposed skin never failed to be tantalizing yet never excessive. Her black tights accentuating her long and slender legs. And of course, her strangest feature being the massive clock adorned behind her head. Constantly turning to fit with the time, its size honestly reminded Mumei of how halos are depicted in some artwork she saw.

 It was elegant and magnificent and that was exactly the problem. No human dressed like this, it was a miracle no one passed by and saw her like this yet. She didn’t know much about humanity, but she knew that if they strolled into the city like this, they would accidentally start a religion and be hailed as gods or something. And Mumei was not ready for that level of attention today.

“No you look perfect.”

“Why, yes, I know.” She smirked.

“Humans will definitely notice you!”

“I want them to notice me.” She smirked harder, “Besides I’ll wipe their memories afterwards anyways. I just want to see their reactions.”

“Kronii, pleeease.” Mumei whined.

“Ugh, fine.” Kronii conceded, can’t bearing to see her pout for any longer. “Let’s just get going already.”

She snapped her fingers and her body was engulfed in a blue light. When she emerged, she was wearing a black corset with a white undershirt similar to Mumei, only difference being that her skirt was blue. She was covered in a large dark blue cloak with gold trimmings similar to her usual cape, the underside being a royal blue layer. All fastened by the same blue ribbon on her chest present in her normal attire.

“Hrgggh! We match!” she squealed in delight, a wide, goofy smile on her face. “Oh, that’s so cute!”

“I just got the blandest outfit I could think of.”

“Oh.”

Kronii chuckled. “Just kidding. Now let’s go already.”

They started to approach the large wooden doors that barred the city from the outside world. Around them were many traders from different lands, each with vastly different clothing and culture. This was a popular hotspot for people around the globe to converge as it was in the middle of two important trading routes. They were talking amongst each other in various languages and dialects that the two of them did not understand. As they got closer however, their speech morphed in their minds into English, and now they can clearly hear the chatter of everyone around them.

“Woah.” Kronii was impressed, “I’m guessing that’s one of your powers.”

“Yeah, it’s so I can better understand every civilization. As a bonus, everything we speak now, they will hear us in their native language.”

“Well that’s going to be useful.”

They made their way through the outer area of the city. It was populated mostly by run down mud brick houses that were at most two stories high. Some of them were damaged and lacked complete roofs, patched up with colorful tarps. It was clear that this district was reserved for the lower-class citizens, yet no matter the poor condition of the area, there was still plenty of life here. Children run around in groups playing kickball while their parents cheer them on at a distance. Elderly women balance woven baskets on their heads and gossip to each other as they made their way back home. Food stalls occasionally line the road with meat being roasted over an open spit, a heavenly aroma lingered around the area.

“I feel kind of bad that these people have to stay in a place like this.” Mumei commented while they passed through. “They probably had to build all of these houses themselves.”

“Pfft.” Kronii scoffed, “Just build better houses.”

“Kronii, I don’t think it’s that simple.”

“What do you mean? They could have at least made it out of something other than hardened dirt. I could one hundred percent build something better than that.”

“Alright, Kronii.”the brunette decided to humor her a little, “If you were going to build a house, what would it be like?”

“Oooh, well.” Kronii’s tone shifted to eagerness. She didn’t admit it but back in the clock tower, she spent way too much time fantasizing about her ideal house rather than the steel box she was stuck in. “Well, first off, it’ll be underground. The sun irritates me. I’ll be alone and nobody will come bother me. Secondly, I want a farm. A huge farm, with every plant known to ma-“

“Don’t you need sunlight to make a farm?”

“I’LL FIND A WAY.” Kronii insisted aggressively, way too passionate about this topic. “Anyway, thirdly, cats. Lots of cats. They’re cute. I want one, no several. Maybe a fox also. Then I’ll be happy, inside my perfect dream home underground.”

“Would a house built underground be technically made out of dirt?”

“No, because…”

She thought about it for a full minute before responding.

“Shut up, it’ll still be one hundred percent better.”

Mumei chuckled to herself. Kronii gritted her teeth. ‘I’ll get her back for that later.’

They kept following the flow of the traders before reaching the main attraction of the area, the bazaar. The affluence of this kingdom attracts traders of lands all over, guaranteeing that goods of all types and sizes were available here. Several Merchants have set up makeshift stalls and tents with their items put on display in front of them. Their voices nearly being drowned out by the hustling between customers and sellers around them.

Kronii was expecting a crowd, but the amount of people here was starting to overwhelm her a little. She pulled Mumei towards a quieter spot so they can talk.

“Mumei, we need to come up with a plan before going in there again.” She discussed. She didn’t want to leave here empty handed, but she also really didn’t want to leave here a criminal. “Do you have any money with you?”

“Oh, yeah right…” she reached into her satchel and fumbled around a little before pulling out four gold coins. “Here!”

“Please don’t tell me you stole those.”

“What?” she said with innocence, “Why would you think that?”

“Then where did you get them?” Kronii interrogated, clearly not buying her bluff.

“Some people just gave me these to me after they found me rummaging through trash.”

“Why were you rummaging through trash?”

“To find out more about civilization.”

“Wha- You know what, never mind. What do you want to buy from here?”

“Hmmm” she looked over the busy walkways of the bazaar. The number of choices made this very difficult. Four gold coins could get them plenty from here. “Let’s go around to check.”

“Okay but follow my lead.” They blended back into the crowd, “We can’t get distracted. Or else we’ll be here forever.”

“Don’t worry, I won’t get distracte- Woah!” Something caught Mumei’s eye and she ran off to the side. Begrudgingly, Kronii followed and found her gawking in front of a cart pulling a bunch of chickens in cages. “Chickens!”

“Cluck, cluck, cluck” Mumei playfully mimicked while Kronii just rested her hand on her face, exasperated.

What am I going to do with you, Mumei.

 She had to drag along Mumei by the hand to get her out of there. She likened Mumei’s enthusiasm to that of a puppy. Every single remotely interesting thing, Mumei spent some time marveling at it. Kronii was marveling at those things as well, just not outwardly showing it.

Some notable things they came across were a man playing a flute to lure a snake out of a basket. A man selling various bug and spiders stuffed in bottles (apparently they were meant for eating, but Kronii was wondering what kind of mad person would eat those). And some scantily clad woman coming up to them, offering to do a special ‘dance’ for them for money, Kronii hurriedly pushed the smaller girl along, her cheeks burning from the encounter. Mumei on the other hand, had no idea what that meant but she was tempted to pay just to find out.

As to not lose each other in the crowd, they had to hold hands. Kronii tried her best to ignore the rapid beating of her heart at the contact of their skin, but at points she felt herself holding on more tightly. Mumei was unphased by this and led their way, pointing out fascinations around her. Kronii subconsciously cherished these moments, just her and Mumei exploring the world.

After hours of roaming, they still haven’t found anything to spend their money on. All Kronii wanted was something to bring back to the clocktower as a souvenir from earth, but nothing really met her standards yet.

“Man, it’s really hard to find anything to buy here.” Mumei complained, “There’s too much stuff!”

“Yeah, everything here kind of sucks.” Kronii said loud enough to cause several merchants to glare at her direction. She then saw something in the corner of her eye that interested her. “Oh? Never mind I found the perfect thing.”

“Really? What is i- oh.” Her enthusiasm immediately dropped when she saw what Kronii was in front of. A stall filled with mirrors.

“Well would you look at that.” She praised herself as she posed in front of a mirror. She turned around so she could appreciate every angle of herself. “The outfit doesn’t quite suit me but I still look perfect nonetheless.”

Mumei watched as Kronii twirled around in exaggerated poses in front of the mirrors. She completely understood why. She thought if she looked anything like her, she would be doing the exact same thing. But if she didn’t stop her, they would probably be here for hours.

Good thing she was starting to understand a little about how Kronii ticked.

“Kronii, we can’t get that.”

“Why not? It really shows off my perfection.” She winked at herself in the mirror.

“Do they really? Look at this.” She pointed at the frame of the mirror, criticizing its build. “The woods already chipping. All of these are too shabby for you. At least get something that’s gold plated!”

“Hmm, you’re right. Come on Mumei, let’s get out of here.”

Mumei sighed a breath of relief. She saw the vendor stare daggers at them and she swore if they stayed for any longer, he would have stabbed her with an actual knife.

As they passed through more rows of stalls, Kronii was getting more and more weary of their aimless wandering. She asked, “Mumei, what do you even want to buy?”

“Hmmm…” Mumei pondered the question for a bit, “I’m not sure actually.”

“Okay, then you can give me all of the coins and-“

“Wait, I’m not done talking.” She said bluntly, “I still want to buy something. But I want something that will help will me learn more about civilization.”

“Learn more about civilization you say?” A grizzly voice hollered behind them. They whipped their heads around and saw a large, burly man emerge from the opening flaps of a nearby tent. He had a big bushy beard and wore a wide toothy grin. A turban was wrapped around his head and his long robes consisted of shades of reds. He held a pipe in his hand and took a huff of it in between his sentences. “I think I might have what you ladies are looking for.”

“Really?” Mumei perked up, “You do?’

“Oh I think you would find my wares most peculiar.” He advertised himself with a mysterious tone, “Come inside my tent if you want to see goods beyond this world.”

“Mumei, no.” Kronii whispered to her, “Let’s keep going, don’t bother yourself with people like these.”

“But he says his wares were peculiar. That must mean something.” She replied childishly, “Come on, it’ll be fine.”

They entered the tent and were greeted by a piece of an ancient statue. Mumei gasped in awe a little after seeing it even though it was only a fragment of something larger. It was an idol of a woman, only complete from the waist up, its face obscured by a mask and its head covered in a cat like cloak, all cast in a light brown sand stone. Only one arm is intact and, in its hand, it’s clutching a mysterious orb, multilayered as if it was comprised of many rings orbiting around a central point. Mumei could draw no parallels to any culture she knows and it was alien even to Kronii.

The seller who lured them in earlier stood before a counter, his hands steadily planted on its surface, ready for a sale. Around him were other similar oddities on sale, also only pieces of something much bigger.

“Woah!” Mumei exclaimed, her eyes wide as she ran up to it and analyzed every detail, “Where did you get these sir?”

The man crossed his arms and gave a hearty laugh. “Do you really want to know Missy? Nobody believes me when I tell my tale.”

“Do I!”

“Well…” he leaned in closer to them, his voice now hushed, “Out in the far reaches of the dunes, past the point where life can possibly live, if you go through the raging storms of the desert, you will find an ancient city completely covered in sand.”

“Woooah.”

Kronii rolled her eyes at his theatrics. She stayed a distance away from the two of them, just eavesdropping while keeping an eye on the seller. She was very much still apprehensive about the man and whatever babble he was going on about. An ancient city completely submerged in sand that no one knows about? Sounds like a scam to her. But if Mumei was interested she wouldn’t break her away from it.

“How much more for it, sir?”

The man smiled and revealed with no fanfare, “One hundred gold coins.”

“Eeeeh, yikes.” She reeled a little after hearing the price, “We definitely can’t afford that.”

The man chuckled, “I wasn’t expecting you to.” He took another huff from his pipe. “I just figured you girls would be the type to want to listen to the ramblings of an old man.”

Mumei pulled out her notebook, eager for another way to record this encounter, “Can I at least sketch a drawing of this statue in my notebook?”

“I can’t see how that can hurt. Go on ahead.”

“Thank you so much mister!” she turned back to her companion, “Kronii you could go ahead. This might take a while.”

“What? Mumei are you sure? I mean I could stay. “

“It’ll be fine.” She smiled reassuringly “Maybe you will find something we can actually buy.”

Kronii gave the don’t you dare do anything funny look to the seller and he nodded. When she left, the vendor gave a small laugh. “What a beautiful woman. Is she your mother?”

“Hmmm?” Mumei’s head was down, attentively drawing in her notebook. “Oh no, she’s my partner.”

“Oh.” Then his eyes widened in response as if he stepped onto something taboo. “Oh okay…”

Outside, Kronii’s interest was caught by a stall promising to sell weapons. She always had an affinity to blades. Alongside the clock tower, she was born with two ornate blades that looked like clock hands. She doesn’t quite understand why they are a part of her. But she knows she wants to be damn good with them.

Entering the stall, she was greeted by the seller. He was more lanky then the other one and he had a skinny moustache on his face. He flashed her a toothy grin, yet he looked at her with slanted eyes, as if trying to discern how much she was worth from how she looked. Kronii already didn’t like him.

“Welcome Ma’am.” He stretched out his words flirtatiously, earning a grunt from Kronii, “Are you buying something for your husband?”

Again with the ma’am?’

“No.” she flatly says while looking at what he’s offering, “Just for me.”

“Well, regardless. I’m sure you would find the greatest weapons the world can offer. Even kings would be jealous of the items on this table.”

“Really?” she raised an eyebrow at him. Looking down, the blades look like regular swords like scimitars and broadswords, but their handles were hastily dipped in gold leaf paint to make them appear more regal. Analyzing the blades themselves reveals that they were chipped and blunt in some places, surely made by some amateur blacksmith. Looking at the price, it was obvious what his intention was. She mumbled, “I wouldn’t even want my enemies to have these things. They’ll never give me a good fight with this garbage.”

“I’m sorry.” He replied bitterly, getting annoyed by her brazenness. “But I assure you these weapons are of the highest quality. You’re lucky that your enemies do not have these.”

“Really?” she asked more sarcastically. She dragged her nail across the hilt of one of the blades, much to the shock of the vendor. She chipped off a line of gold leaf, revealing the plain, dull metal underneath. She brushed off the gunk that accumulated on her glove and looked dismissively at the man. “The only thing I’m worried of dying from is paint poisoning. That or just from how awful these designs look.”

The man is getting red in the face, sweat started to pour down. He raised his voice. “Ma’am I’m going to need you to leave.”

“What. I’m just giving honest feedback.”

“You come into my stall and insult my products!” he was full on shouting by now. “Who do you think you are! What do you know about craftsmanship?”

“Oh?” she lit up a little, finding a new way to mess with him. “What do I know? Well…”

‘I’m going to blow this mortals mind.’

Behind her back, she spawned one of her blades, unceremoniously dropping it onto the table. The man couldn’t help but stare slack jawed at its magnificence. “Where did you-“

“Oh these, it’s just something I made myself. Isn’t it perfect?”

“It’s… beautiful.” He stared at the blade with awe. There truly was no other blade like it. Instead of a hilt, it had a circular handle. Only someone as lithe as her could hold it properly and only she knows the techniques to wield them effectively. The gold blades split outwards then curve back in to make a truly a beautifully intricate design. The silver tip being adorned by a blue gem in its middle. Kronii could understand his fascination. Even she finds them very strange. Yet she feels a certain kinship to them. Something only she can ever possess.

“How much do you want for them!?” the man suddenly started to beg, “This blade is too valuable to pass up!”

“Hmmm… I don’t know.” She said dramatically. She wanted to try this haggling thing humans were doing, see how far she could push it. “I thought I saw another stall outside also selling weapons. Maybe he would be a better seller.”

“Please I beg of you! I will sell off all the items in this store! I have some more valuables back at my house! Please I need to have it!”

“Really?” she smiled deviously, enjoying seeing how desperate this man was getting. Even if he did get it, she would just make it dematerialize later. What she would do to see the look on the mans face then. “Well…”

“STOP THIEF!”

A booming voice erupted from the marketplace and knocked Kronii off of her composure. She immediately rushed out of the stall, despite the man’s pleas.

‘No, no , no, no. Please don’t tell me it’s happening again.’

When she stepped outside, a figure whiffed past her. From the cape and the incoherent shrieking, she could tell it was Mumei. She took  a quick look back and saw the city guards hot on her tail. With an exasperated cry, Kronii sprinted after her companion.

“MUMEI! WHAT DID YOU DO!”

Catching up to her, she saw a bunch of berries around her palm and Kronii immediately felt a sense of dread. Mumei managed to get out some words while sprinting through the crowd. “I accidentally stole some berries!”

“How do you ‘accidentally’ steal something!?” Kronii shouted to her while they dodged and shoved through unsuspecting customers. Several guards behind them were hindered by the crowd of people.

“I forgot you had to buy them!”

“DANGIT MUMEI!”

They whipped past a corner to an empty alleyway, breaking sight from the guards. Kronii found an empty stall front selling pots and vaulted over the counter, Mumei following her. They crouched silently as the guards passed by them.

“Mumei.” Kronii whispered to her, “We need to come up with a plan to get out of this.”

“Alright.” She replied back in hushed tones. Then she snickered a little. “Heh, ‘Owl’-right.”

“Mumei, now’s not the time for puns!” Kronii scolded quietly, though she did admit it was a good pun.

“Right, sorry.” She thought for a second, “What if we just stayed here and hope they don’t find us.”

“Mumei, that’s an awful plan.”

“Hey, it’s a plan.”

Kronii shook her head and peeked over the counter, she saw a tower off in the distance that was secluded and far away enough that it might be a good enough hiding spot.

“Okay Mumei, you see that tower over there?” Pointing at the tower in question, “We wait it out there. Then we could see the entire city and see when the coast is clear for us to leave.”

“Woah, that’s smart.”

“I know I’m very smart.” She whispered confidently. One last group of guards pass by, signaling to Kronii that now’s the time. “Alright, let’s go. But we need to move very quietly.”

“Don’t worry. I’m a master of stealt-“ then Mumei knocked over a pot that toppled over another pot which toppled another pot. The sound echoing through the alley as the pots rattled on the ground.

Kronii couldn’t help but facepalm so hard the impact also caused an echo.

“Okay that definitely gave us away.” Mumei commented.

“I’M THE ONE WHO GAVE US AWAY!?”

“There you are!” The guards from earlier turned around and surrounded them. Kronii raised her hands in resignation, a dead look on her face. Mumei blindly copied her. They made their way out of the alleyway while the Guards trailed them from behind. Outside, the fruit vendor who Mumei stole from confronted them.

“You.” The man pointed a finger at the small girl. “You’re the thief who stole my berries!”

“No I didn’t!”

“Then how do you explain the berries in your hand right now!”  a guard questioned her in a stern voice.

“I bought them.” Mumei answered plainly.

“No she didn’t!” The seller shouted.

‘Mumei’s never getting out of this herself,’ Kronii thought to herself disappointedly, ‘Welp, time to use my powers again.

She concentrated and reached the deepest parts of her mind. Harnessing the power of the clocktower, her memory extended further than her own and she could reach into the memory of everything that came before this moment. She could have looked into the far edges of the past if she wanted to but all she needed right now was a collective memory that happened a few minutes ago. She concentrated, focusing her vision until she saw the moment she was looking for.

She could see Mumei absentmindedly reaching for a berry at a stall run by the man in front of her. That was the truth of the moment.

Mumei stole the berries.

So, Kronii thought of a different outcome. She thought of Mumei, passing a few coins to the vendor. She thought of another girl, not really specifying her face, just that she was wearing a cloak similar to Mumei’s and every other detail was obscured. That mystery girl sneaking her hand to snatch the berries. With that she implanted her own thoughts into the collective memory of the universe.

Mumei paid for her berries.

Mumei A different girl stole the berries.

She returned to the present to see the man still confronting Mumei about stealing berries.

“What do you mean? She did pay for those berries.” Kronii interjected.

“No! She –“ Then a dumbfounded look flashed across his face. “No wait. I’m sorry.”

“What’s wrong sir?” a guard asked the man.

“This – this is the wrong girl.” He admitted weakly, “I was wrong, there was a different girl with a cloak.”

“Then that means the real thief is still out there!” The guards stormed out of the alleyway, starting their search for a girl that did not exist.

“Right.” The vendor gave one last look back at the two. “I’m sorry for everything.”

He ran off, leaving them in silence.

“What just happened?” Mumei stared back at Kronii.

“Hmm? Oh right you’re not affected.” Kronii’s sure if she focused hard enough she could use this power on other concepts, but she never really tried and doesn’t think she’ll ever have a reason to. “I used my power on them.”

“Oh right the memory thing.” Mumei responded, they started walking through the market place again. “That’s awfully convenient.”

“Yeah well. Can’t use it all of the time. Those guys are probably pulling their hair out right now finding some girl I made up and he’s short of the couple of coins that you didn’t give him.”

“Yeah…” she said meekly. Her head bent down, kicking a pebble along the way.

“Hey, what’s wrong? If it makes you feel any better that guy looked pretty wealthy so I’m sure a few coins is nothing to him.”

“Oh no, it’s just that-“ she stared back at Kronii with a frown, “I’m supposed to be the guardian of civilization, yet all I’ve done is steal from people. What’s worst is that I don’t even get punished for it.”

“I mean, I could like stop erasing people’s memory if that’s what you want-“

“Oh no keep doing that, I don’t want to go to prison.” That earned a laugh from Kronii, making Mumei smile a bit. It quickly faded and she brought her head down low again. “I just can’t shake the feeling that I’m going to do more harm than good, you know?”

“Well. At least you still have the memory of what actually happened.” She replied softly to reassure her, “The best you can really do is learn, move on and hopefully not make the same mistake again.”

“Yeah but what if I forget?” she looked back at Kronii , her frustration evident through her voice, “I did the same thing as I did last time because I forgot my lesson.”

“Yeah, I’ve noticed you have a habit of forgetting things.” Kronii playfully kicked another pebble. “Well, I guess it’s up to me to remind you if you ever forget.”

Mumei whipped her head to face Kronii, “You would do that?”

“Of course, I would,” Kronii gave her a confident smile, “We’re friends right?”

“Oooh, Kronii.” She squealed with delight. She had to look away to hide her blush. “My heart feels funny.”

Kronii was giggling a little, finding the reaction adorable. “Speaking of remembering things. We still have those coins to spend.”

“Oh, right.”

They took a look around but realized most of the stalls were packing up for the night already. They didn’t even realize it was evening already. Too much was happening today. In the search for anything to spend their money on, they came across a pair of orphans. They were begging and malnourished on the streets. Their pleading eyes were tugging on Mumei’s heartstrings. The guardian gripped the gold coins tightly, knowing what she had to do.

Kronii caught on what her intention was and stopped her, “Come on, Mumei. It’s not our fault they are homeless.”

“I mean I am civilization, so it kind of is… I think.” She said confusingly.

“Here you go guys.” Mumei gently placed the coins in front of them, their eyes widening at the sight as four gold coins for them was able to get them meals for days. “Stay safe, okay?” Upon getting the money, the two scurried off around a corner. Faint laughter could be heard as they ran off.

When she reached back with Kronii, she raised an eyebrow back at her. “You really used up our gold coins for that?”

“They need it more than us anyway.”

“Their just going to waste that money in a few days anyway.” Kronii dismissing the plight of humans again. “There are millions of other people like them. A few coins won’t change anything.”

What she didn’t tell Mumei was that she knew those coins wouldn’t amount to much. Around her, she could feel the chains of destiny tied across every single mortal. The chains of those two children were running short. Signifying their time was almost up. She figured that was the case anyway. Two lone children left to fend themselves on the streets? So many things could go wrong that would lead their lives to tragedy.

Those two lives will probably end soon anyway. No matter what we do.’ She thought inwardly, her nihilism creeping in again. Everything was bound by fate. If it was their fate to die soon, there’s nothing they could do about it.

“Yeah but there is a small chance their lives could improve from this.” Mumei kept up her optimistic attitude. “Four gold coins can get a lot for them.”

“I mean we could have used that money to buy a gold plated mirror, but no we had to-“

“Hey! They still need that money you know?” Mumei affirmed to her, her sudden vigor shaking Kronii a bit. “As a guardian of civilization, I need to look out for everyone, even the smallest of lives.”

Kronii looked surprised. She can’t believe she was being stood up to. But she kind of liked that determined look on Mumei’s face right now. “Wow, I can’t believe you’re actually doing your job.”

“Yeah! Well.” Mumei still on the adrenaline rush of standing up to Kronii, “It’s not like I ever see you guard time or whatever-“

Then she faced Kronii, perplexed, “Wait, what do you actually do?”

“What do you mean?” Returning the look back at her.

“As a warden of time, do you like guard time or do you like – make… time.”

“Mumei, that doesn’t make any sense.”

“You don’t make any sense.”

Dismissing the remark, Kronii had to think carefully about how she answered that question. She didn’t want to admit to her that all she did in the clock tower was laze around and sweep floors. Mumei would never look at her the same way again, she had a reputation to uphold as the ‘cool’ one of the council.

“For your information, I control the flow of time. Because I say so, time proceeds, if I so wanted, the flow of time itself will stop, heck if I tried hard enough, I’m pretty sure I could even reverse the flow of time. Without me, the universe would come to a standstill and-“

“Then why didn’t you do that earlier?” Mumei interjected.

“What?”

“When we were running, why didn’t you stop time or something?”

“Well…” her eyes widened as her mind scrambled for a response to that question. If she answered truthfully, she would say she forgot in the heat of the moment. But that would be embarrassing to admit, especially to Mumei. So she answered pridefully, “I wanted to give them a chance, you know? It was more fun when we’re on equal terms. And I still won anyway, so … you know… I’m good…at running.”

A moment of silence passed between them.

“Did you so happen to forget?”

“What no!?” Kronii was getting flustered again.

“It’s okay Kronii, we all tend to forget things sometimes.” What’s worse for Kronii was that there was no hint of slyness to Mumei’s smile at that moment. She still maintained that same blissful poise that she always had.

“You’re one to talk.” Kronii replied defensively.

“It’s okay, I’ll just have to remind you if you ever forget.” That actually left Kronii at a loss for words. She just used her own words against her. She was just left struggling to get a reply out as Mumei kept walking onwards past the emptying streets of the city. She didn’t know if she felt offended, impressed or intimidated. For now, she just feels confused.

They made their way past the gates of the city, back into the outside world. Large fields of wetland crops plaster the environment around them. The sky was steadily shifting from light blues to warm orange. Walking along a barren path, Mumei suddenly stopped in her tracks. When Kronii turned to ask her what’s wrong, she just pointed to a sight not too far away from them.

Across a path parallel to them, there was a line of slaves being pushed along by traders behind them. Each one, emaciated and hands bound by chains linked to each other. Bloodied wounds etched on their backs. The crack of whips ripple through the air as the slave traders jeer at the poor souls. It was a truly abhorrent sight.

Yet, Kronii didn’t really see what was so special. “What? It’s just a bunch of slaves.” She stated plainly, “You could see them anywhere.”

“Yeah exactly!” Mumei was getting heated, “It’s messed up that they are everywhere!”

“That’s because they’re effective. Making people work without having to pay them? And with that many slaves? You got to respect their management skills.” She praised the traders instead, making Mumei grimace a little.

She doesn’t blame her. Kronii was an eternal being whose seen so much compared to the meager amount of time Mumei spent on Earth. Something like this was nothing to the cosmic scale that Kronii was accustomed to. She also gets why slaves were even here. It pains her to admit, but a lot of the achievements currently done were only possible through slaves. No matter how cold Kronii was being, in a way she was still right.

But just because she understands, doesn’t mean she can accept it. Maybe because she is the concept of civilization that she feels responsible for everyone. Both the slaves and the traders. She feels awful that the slaves have to suffer and horror that the traders are able to sleep at the night doing these things. In her mind, everyone is the same, human. So why are they treating each other like this?

In her travels, she has seen this sight over and over again. But it affects her the same every time. And every time, she felt too weak to intervene, both physically and mentally.

Then a flash of inspiration struck through her head. She may be weak, but there was someone with her who was strong.

“Yeah, they’re actually doing a really good job.” Mumei half-heartedly agreeing, “A much better job than you actually.”

“I’m sorry, what?” Kronii baffled by yet another slight against her.

“You’re supposed to be the warden of time, right? And the chains of time are binding us all together, right? But I feel rather free right now. But those guys aren’t going anywhere. The traders have a pretty good hold on them.”

“Oh I see what you’re doing here.” Kronii’s signature tone of superiority returning, thinking she was ahead of Mumei this time. “You’re trying to make me free those slaves for you. Well it’s not happeni-“

“Is it because you can’t do it?”

“What.” Kronii baffled again.

“Do you feel intimidated by them?” she replies again calmly, still very much on top in this situation.

“Of course not! I’m the warden of time and they’re just peasants!”

“I didn’t see anything that impressive from the warden of time yet.”

“Oh!” Kronii having an idea, not yet realizing she was being played with again, “You want to see something impressive?”

“Do I!” Mumei answering excitedly, both that her plan somehow worked and that she gets to see Kronii show off.

“I’ll show you something impressive, Mumei!”

Using her powers, she felt herself grasp the flow of time itself and halt it. Now, she was in her state, where nothing moved except for her. Her companion was frozen in place, Mumeis face stuck in a big dumb grin. Kronii kind of like it stuck like that. Around her, dragonflies stayed suspended in midair and everyone else was posing like a statue. Frozen in this moment. Kronii walked casually up to the slaves, having all the time in the world.

In her hands, she spawned both of her blades. She didn’t feel the need to use them on the traders, no mortal was worth tarnishing these blades for. But she needed to break these chains somehow. With one clean strike, she effortlessly slashed through a link in the chains. Sparks flew up but stayed in place after some distance. The chains stayed afloat with only the slightest gap between the two ends. No sound was made as no air can travel. Running through the line of slaves, she broke through every single chain binding them. When she was done, sparks floated around the slaves like pausing a fireworks show. Feeling the need to give the slaves a head start, she kicked the legs of each of the traders. The impact causing ripples in their clothing but their legs only travelling a fraction of what they should have.

After admiring her handiwork, Kronii resumed time. Large snaps filled the air instantaneously as the impact of everything happened at once, every chain falling slack in unison. The traders fell to the ground after being struck by an unknown force. There was confusion among the slaves at first, but upon realizing their chains were broken, they made a mad scramble towards the horizon. The traders could only groan in pain as they watched their commodities escape.

Mumei was clapping in glee after seeing that. What she just saw defied reality, just as she expected from Kronii. The warden gave a playful bow back to her. But stuck in that position, she didn’t notice the trader behind her throwing back their whip.

“Kronii look out!” she tried to call out, but it was too late. A loud crack shot through the air as the tip snapped down and –

Kronii wasn’t there.

“You didn’t really think that would work, did you?”

Terror flashed across the man’s face as he turned back before a flying leg knocked him back to the ground. Kronii stood over him, her lips curled in a smug smile. Another man charged after her, bringing down his fist while her back was turned. Suddenly, pain erupted in his ribcage as a fist connected. He looked up to the see Kronii above him. In a panic, he swung his other fist at her direction, but only swinging at air as another punch tore through his face, knocking some teeth out as he fell.

Another one down, Kronii looked back to see two brutes rushing towards her. Much larger than her, but Kronii wasn’t worried.

Mumei watched in awe as Kronii effortlessly dodged and blocked each of their attacks. One second, she was deflecting one of their blows to the side, the next she was roundhouse kicking their gut, causing them to fold over. No one could lay a hand on her as she practically warped around the place. Her new cloak flowed with her movements beautifully as they end abruptly as she ended up in another location, pummeling her opponents in strikes from every angle. Mumei had a good laugh as one man tried to do a full blown tackle towards her, only to run into his buddy, knocking them both to the ground.

Kronii was having just as much fun toying with them but she knew it was time to put this to an end. After the two men struggled to get back on their feet, Kronii paused time again. She launched a flurry of blows on each one, like hitting a wall, none of them budged. Yet the impact ripples tell that every hit was registering. Before she resumed time again, she noticed a lone purple flower by the side of the road. Seeing one more opportunity to impress her companion.

In Mumeis vision, just as the men stood up, they were sent flying as all of Kroniis punches happened at once. They landed in the wet farmlands with a loud splash. Mumei then saw Kronii, right in front of her, with a flower in her outstretched hand.

“Flower for you.” She said suavely, looking off at the side to make herself seem more cool.

“Woah, that’s smoo-“

“Smooth? I know.” Before Kronii could continue flirting, the man she sucker punched got back up. “Oh wait, there’s still one more.”

The man clutched his stomach as his other hand fumbled for the dagger on his hip. The woman walked calmly towards him, and utter terror filled his entire body. What she was doing was impossible. He couldn’t even comprehend what she was doing. She was beyond speed; she was disappearing and reappearing all over the place. With trembling hands, he raised the dagger towards her and-

“Wow, you guys really are stupid.”

He stared at his hand. There was nothing there. He looked back at the woman and there it was. His knife in her hands. That was it. He stumbled back in fear. Whatever he was fighting wasn’t human. He made a mad dash away from her, he sprinted as hard as he could. He didn’t know where he was going, just anywhere but here. Suddenly, a figure appeared before him. He couldn’t even let out a cry before he blacked out.

“Alright let’s go.” Kronii brushed some dust off her shoulder, signifying a job well done. The bodies of the men were scattered about the area. “I’m sure they’ll be fine.” She assured Mumei. “I think.”

Mumeis mouth was still agape as she struggled to find the right words to express her awe. “That was the coolest thing I’ve seen in my entire life.”

“Well I am the coolest person you know.” Reveling in her own feat. She never really got to show off like that to anyone, her reputation being held together only by her own big mouth. It felt great to feel proud of something she just did and see someone feel great with her. “Hey let’s find somewhere to rest.”

They found a nearby hill for Kronii to collapse on. After a day like that, she was exhausted, physically mentally and spiritually all at once. Using her power like that took a lot out of her, it was like holding a pull up but instead of her body it was the timestream that she was holding in place. The sand beneath her was course but made for a good enough cushion. Mumei sat cross legged nearby her head.

There was another thing bothering her, however. Messing with those mortals earlier altered their destinies severely. Those slaves were now free and those traders got plenty of new broken bones. The timeline itself giving her a headache, alerting her that something was wrong. Luckily for her, she knew that fate had a way of course correcting itself. Those slaves would probably get captured by some other group and those trader’s wounds will heal and they will go about their usual business eventually. Mumei probably thought they did some good that day, but Kronii knew better. It was futile to resist destiny. Kronii would never tell that to her face though.

They watched as the sun descended on the horizon with layers of orange turning to purple. Just like the day they first became friends. The sun perfectly framing the city, golden rays filtering through the towers and palace. It was a picturesque moment. Yet Mumei wasn’t focused on that, her eyes were solely on the purple flower Kronii gifted her earlier.

She noticed this. Too tired to come up with anything witty, Kronii turned to her side to face her and simply said one word, “Flower.”

“Flower.” Mumei repeated.

“Flower.” She said more monotone.

“Flower.” Mumei’s lips curling up to a smile.

“Flower.”

“Flower.” And that did it. Mumei began on another laughing fit.

They kept this up and before she knew it, Kronii was laughing as well. She knew it was stupid but that didn’t stop her.

Dare she say it, in this moment, she was happy.

After a while, they calmed down. Enjoying a moment of silence between them, Kronii was the first to speak up. “I had a lot of fun today.”

“I had a lot of fun too!” Mumei echoed her thoughts, which made Kronii glad.

“You better not forget today.” She demanded half jokingly, half seriously.

“I don’t think I can ever forget that!”

“Good.” For Kronii, she’ll be sure to etch every detail in the back of her head. When she was in isolation, everyday seemed to blend together. Nothing to anticipate except the end of everything. But today was different, every moment was a new experience and she had so much fun. She felt wonder. She felt annoyance. She felt joy. She felt something. And she couldn’t have done it without Mumei there alongside her.

Watching the sun descend, bookending this perfect day. A desire arose within Kronii. A desire for everyday to be like today.

“Oh wait a minute!” Mumei stood up suddenly, waking Kronii from her bliss. “I just remembered something!”

“Wait what?”

“Fauna is waiting for me!”

“Wait what!?” Kronii felt way more awake now, “Fauna!?”

“Oh yeah, I live with her now, I forgot to mention that.”

“Since when!?”

“Sorry Kronii.” Mumei said hurriedly, itching to leave, “But I really need to get going by now.”

She turned her back towards Kronii and engulfed herself in a bright light. Her shape condensed itself until it emerged into the form of a barn owl. Her feathers the same shade as her hair. She raised her wings and took flight. As she flew off, the flower floated towards the ground. Before dropping right in front of her.

And Kronii was left alone again.